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Title: Mrs Peixada
Author: Luska, AKA Sidney, Harland, Henry
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mrs Peixada" ***

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MRS PEIXADA

By Henry Harland (AKA Sidney Luska)

Author of “As It Was Written,” etc., etc.

Cassell & Company, Limited, 739 & 741 Broadway, New York.

1886



CONTENTS

MRS. PEIXADA.

CHAPTER I—A CASE IS STATED.

CHAPTER II.—“A VOICE, A MYSTERY.”

CHAPTER III.—STATISTICAL.

CHAPTER IV.—“THAT NOT IMPOSSIBLE SHE.”

CHAPTER V.—“A NOTHING STARTS THE SPRING.”

CHAPTER VI.—“THE WOMAN WHO HESITATES.”

CHAPTER VII.—ENTER MRS. PEIXADA.

CHAPTER VIII.—“WHAT REST TO-NIGHT?”

CHAPTER IX.—AN ORDEAL.

CHAPTER X.—“SICK OF A FEVER.”

CHAPTER XI.—“HOW SHE ENDEAVORED TO EXPLAIN HER LIFE.”

CHAPTER XII.—“THE FINAL STATE O’ THE STORY.”



MRS. PEIXADA.



CHAPTER I—A CASE IS STATED.

ON more than one account the 25th of April will always be a notable
anniversary in the calendar of Mr. Arthur Ripley. To begin with, on that
day he pocketed his first serious retainer as a lawyer.

He got down-town a little late that morning. The weather was
superb—blue sky and summer temperature. Central Park was within easy
walking distance. His own engagements, alas, were not pressing. So he
had treated himself to an afterbreakfast ramble across the common.

On entering his office, toward eleven o’clock, he was surprised to
find the usually empty chairs already tenanted. Mr. Mendel, the brewer,
was established there, in company with two other gentlemen whom Arthur
did not recognize. The sight of these visitors caused the young man a
palpitation. Could it be—? He dared not complete the thought. That a
client had at last sought him out, was too agreeable an hypothesis to be
entertained.

Mr. Mendel greeted him with the effusiveness for which he is
distinguished, and introduced his companions respectively as Mr. Peixada
and Mr. Rimo. Of old time, when Arthur’s father was still alive,
and when Arthur himself had trotted about in knee-breeches and short
jackets, Mr. Mendel had been their next door neighbor. Now he made
the lawyer feel undignified by asking a string of personal questions:
“Vail, how iss mamma?” and “Not married yet, eh?” and “Lieber
Gott! You must be five-and-twenty—so tall, and with dot long
mustache—yes?” And so forth; smiling the while with such benevolence
that Arthur could not help answering politely, though he did hope that
a desire for family statistics was not the sole motive of the brewer’s
visit.

But by and by Mendel cleared his throat, and assumed a look of
importance. His voice modulated into a graver key, as he announced,
“The fact is that we—or rather, my friends, Mr. Peixada and Mr.
Rimo—want to consult you about a little matter of business.” He
leaned back in his chair, drawing a deep breath, as though the speech
had exhausted him; mopped his brow with his handkerchief, and flourished
his thumb toward Peixada.

“Ah,” replied Arthur, bowing to the latter, “I am happy to be at
your service, sir.”

“Yes,” said Peixada, in a voice several sizes larger than the
situation required, “Mr. Mendel recommends you to us as a young man
who is smart, and who, at the same time, is not so busy but that he can
bestow upon our affairs the attention we wish them to have.”

Notwithstanding Arthur’s delight at the prospect of something to
do, Peixada’s tone, a mixture as it was of condescension and
imperiousness, jarred a little. Arthur did not like the gratuitous
assumption that he was “not so busy,” etc., true though it might
be; nor did he like the critical way in which Peixada eyed him.
“Indeed,” he said, speaking of it afterward, “it gave me very much
such a sensation as a fellow must experience when put up for sale in the
Turkish slave market—a feeling that my ’points’ were being noted,
and my money value computed. I half expected him to continue, ’Open
your mouth, show your teeth!’.rdquo; Peixada was a tall, portly
individual of fifty-odd, with a swarthy skin, brown, beady eyes, a black
coat upon his back, and a fat gold ring around his middle finger. The
top of his head was as bald as a Capuchin’s, and shone like a disk of
varnished box-wood. It was surrounded by a circlet of crisp, dark,
curly hair. He had a solemn manner that proclaimed him to be a person
of consequence. It turned out that he was president of a one-horse
insurance company. Mr. Rimo appeared to be but slightly in advance
of Arthur’s own age—a tiny strip of a body, wearing a resplendent
cravat, a dotted waistcoat, pointed patent-leather gaiters, and
finger-nails trimmed talon-shape—a thoroughbred New York dandy, of the
least effeminate type.

“I suppose the name, Peixada,” the elder of the pair went on, “is
not wholly unfamiliar to you.”

“Oh, no—by no means,” Arthur assented, wondering whether he had
ever heard it before.

“I suppose the circumstances of my brother’s death are still fresh
in your mind.”

Arthur put on an intelligent expression, and inwardly deplored his
ignorance. Yet—Peixada?

Peixada? the name did have a familiar ring, of a truth. But where and in
what connection had he heard it?

“Let me see,” he ventured, “that was in—?”

“In July, ’seventy-nine—recollect?”

Ah, yes; to be sure; he recollected. So this man was a brother of the
Peixada who, rather less than half a dozen years ago, had been murdered,
and whose murder had set New York agog. In a general way Arthur recalled
the glaring accounts of the matter that had appeared in the newspapers
at the time. “Yes,” he said, feeling that it behooved him to say
something, “it was very sad.”

“Fearful!” put in Mr. Mendel.

“Of course,” Peixada resumed, in his pompous style, “of course you
followed the trial as it was reported in the public prints; but perhaps
you have forgotten the particulars. Had I better refresh your memory?”

“That would be a good idea,” said Arthur.—To what was the way
being paved?

With the air of performing a ceremony, Peixada rose, unbuttoned his
coat, extracted a bulky envelope from the inner pocket, re-seated
himself, and handed the envelope to Arthur. It proved to contain
newspaper clippings. “Please glance them through,” said Peixada.

The Peixada murder had been a sensational and peculiarly revolting
affair. One July night, 1879, Mr. Bernard Peixada, “a retired Jewish
merchant,” had died at the hands of his wife. Edward Bolen, coachman,
in the attempt to protect his employer, had sustained a death-wound for
himself. Mrs. Peixada, “the perpetrator of these atrocities,” as
Arthur gathered from the records now beneath his eye, “was a young
and handsome woman, of a respectable Hebrew family, who must have been
actuated by a depraved desire to possess herself of her husband’s
wealth.” They had “surprised her all but red-handed in the
commission of the crime,” though “too late to avert its dire
results.” Eventually she was tried in the Court of General Sessions,
and acquitted on the plea of insanity. Arthur remembered—as, perhaps,
the reader does—that her acquittal had been the subject of much
popular indignation. “She is no more insane than you or I,” every
body had said; “she is simply lacking in the moral sense. Another
evidence that you can’t get a jury to be impartial when a pretty woman
is concerned.”

“She was bad,” continued Peixada, as Arthur returned the papers,
“bad through and through. I warned my brother against her before his
marriage.

“‘What,’ said I, ’what do you suppose she would marry an old man
like you for, except your money?’ He said, ’Never mind.’ She was
young and showy, and Bernard lost his head.”

“She was doocedly handsome, a sooperb creature to look at, you
know,” cried Mr. Rimo, with the accent of a connoisseur.

“Hainsome is as hainsome does,” quoth Mr. Mendel, sententiously.

“She was as cold as ice, as hard as alabaster,” said Peixada,
perhaps meaning adamant. “The point is that after her release from
prison she took out letters of administration upon my brother’s
estate.”

“Why, I thought she was insane,” said Arthur. “A mad woman would
not be a competent administratrix.”

“Exactly. I interposed objections on that ground. But she answered
that she had recovered; that although insane a few months before—at
the time of the murder—she was all right again now. The surrogate
decided in her favor. A convenient form of insanity, eh?”

“Were there children?” Arthur inquired.

“No—none. My nephew, Mr. Rimo, son of my sister who is dead, and I
myself, were the only next of kin. She paid us our shares right away.”
Then what could he be driving at now? Arthur waited for enlightenment.

“But now,” Peixada presently went on, “now I have discovered that
my brother left a will.”

“Ah, I understand. You wish to have it admitted to probate?”

“Precisely. But first I wish to find Mrs. Peixada. The will isn’t
worth the paper it’s written on, unless we can get hold of her. You
see, she has about half the property in her possession.”

“There was no real estate?”

“Not an acre; but the personalty amounted to a good many thousands of
dollars.”

“And you don’t know where she is?”

“I haven’t an idea.”

“Have you made any efforts to find out?”

“Well, I should say I had—made every effort in my power. That’s
what brings me here. I want you to carry on the search.”

“I shouldn’t imagine it would be hard work. A woman—a widow—of
wealth is always a conspicuous object—trebly so, when she is handsome
too, and has been tried for murder. But tell me, what, have you done?”

“You’ll be surprised when you hear. I myself supposed it would
be plain sailing. But listen.” Peixada donned a pair of gold-rimmed
spectacles, opened a red leather memorandum-book, and read aloud from
its pages. The substance of what he read was this. He had begun by
visiting Mrs. Peixada’s attorneys, Messrs. Short and Sondheim, the
firm that had defended her at her trial. With them he got his labor
for his pains. They had held no communication with the lady in question
since early in January, 1881, at which date they had settled her
accounts before the surrogate. She was then traveling from place to
place in Europe. Her last letter, postmarked Vienna, had said that for
the next two months her address would be poste restante at the same
city. From the office of Short and Sondheim Mr. Peixada went to the
office of his sister-in-law’s surety, the Eagle and Phoenix Trust
Company, No.—Broadway. There he was referred to the secretary, Mr.
Oxford. Mr. Oxford told him that the Company had never had any personal
dealings with the administratrix, she having acted throughout by her
attorneys. The Company had required the entire assets of the estate to
be deposited in its vaults, and had honored drafts only on the advice
of counsel. Thus protected, the Company had had no object in keeping
the administratrix in view. Our inquirer next bethought him of Mrs.
Peixada’s personal friends—people who would be likely still to
maintain relations with her—and saw such of these as he could get at.
One and all professed ignorance of her whereabouts—had not heard of
her or from her since the winter of ’80—’81. Finally it occurred
to him that as his brother’s estate had consisted solely of stocks and
bonds, he could by properly directed investigations learn to what corner
of the world Mrs. Peixada’s dividends were sent. But this last
resort also proved a failure. The stocks and bonds, specified in the
surrogate’s inventory, had been sold out. He could find no clew to the
reinvestments made of the money realized.

Peixada closed his note-book with a snap.

“You see,” he said, “I’ve been pretty thorough and pretty
unsuccessful. Can you think of any stone that I have left unturned?”

“How about relatives? Have you questioned her relatives?” asked
Arthur.

“Of relatives—in America, at least—Mrs. P. has none. Her father
died shortly after her marriage. Her mother died during the trial.”

“But uncles, aunts, sister, brothers?”

“None to my knowledge. She was an only child.”

“Her maiden-name was—?”

“Karon—Judith Karon. Her father, Michael Karon, used to keep a
jewelry store on Second Avenue.”

“About what is her age?”

“She was twenty-one at the time of the murder. That would make her
twenty-five or six now.”

“So young, indeed? Have you a photograph of her?”

“A photograph? No. I don’t know that she ever sat for one. But I
have these.”

Peixada produced a couple of rough wood-engravings, apparently cuttings
from illustrated papers, and submitted them for examination.

“They don’t look any thing like each other,” said Arthur. “Does
either of them look like her?”

“Not much,” Peixada answered. “In fact, the resemblance is so
slight that they wouldn’t assist at all in identifying her. On the
contrary, I think they’d lead you quite astray.”

Said Mr. Rimo, “Bah! They give you no more idea of her than they do of
Queen Victoria. They’d answer for any other woman just as well.”

Arthur said, “That’s too bad. But I suppose you have brought a copy
of the will?”

“Oh, yes, here’s the original. It is in my brother’s handwriting,
dated a month before his death, and witnessed by two gentlemen of
high standing. I have spoken to each of them. They acknowledge their
signatures, and remember the circumstances. I made a search for a will
right after Bernard died, but could find none. This I unearthed most
unexpectedly. I was turning over the leaves of my poor brother’s
prayer-book, when, there it was, lying between the pages.”

The will was brief and vigorous. In the name of God, amen, (on a
half-sheet of legal-cap), it devised and bequeathed all the property,
real or personal, of which testator should die seized or possessed, to
his dearly beloved brother, Benjamin Peixada, and his dearly beloved
nephew, Maurice Rimo, for them to hold and enjoy the same, in fee
simple, share and share alike, absolutely and forever, provided that
they should pay annually to testator’s widow, (until such time as she
should re-marry, or depart this life), the sum of three hundred dollars.
It was attested by a well-known Jewish physician and by a well-known
Jewish banker.

“It would seem from this,” said Arthur, “that your brother got
bravely over his illusions concerning his wife. It’s lucky he had no
real estate. She would be entitled to her dower, you know, as a matter
of course.”

“Yes, I know; and I guess that was the reason why my brother converted
all his real estate into personalty shortly after his marriage—so that
he could dispose of it as he chose. The reference to real estate here in
the will is doubtless an inadvertence. He was probably following a form.
He couldn’t trust his wife. She made his life wretched.”

“Well,” Arthur began—but Peixada interrupted.

“I want you,” he said in his dictatorial way, “to name a sum for
which you will undertake to continue this investigation and bring it
to a successful issue; that is, find Mrs. P., have the will proved,
and compel her to refund the property—upwards of one hundred thousand
dollars, unless she has squandered it—that remains subject to her
control.”

“Oh, I can’t name a lump sum off-hand,” replied Arthur, “neither
can I guarantee success. I would of course do my utmost to succeed, but
there is always the chance of failure. The amount of my compensation
would be determined by the time I should have to spend, and the
difficulties I should have to encounter.”

“That sounds reasonable. Then suppose I should agree to defray all
expenses by the way, pay a fee, as you suggest, proportionate to your
service at the end, and now at the outset give you a retainer of—say
two hundred and fifty dollars; would you be satisfied?”

Arthur’s heart leaped. But to exhibit his true emotions would be
unprofessional. He constrained himself to answer quietly, “Yes,
I should be satisfied.” It was, however, with a glow of genuine
enthusiasm for his client that he folded up a check for the tidy sum of
two hundred and fifty dollars, and tucked it into his pocket.

Said Peixada, “I shall trust the entire management of this business
to your discretion. Only one thing I shall suggest. I think an adroitly
worded advertisement in the principal newspapers of this country and
Europe—an advertisement that would lead the reader to suppose that we
felt friendly toward Mrs. P.—would be a wise measure. For instance, a
notice to the effect that she could learn something to her advantage by
communicating with you.”

“Oh, that would be scarcely honorable, would it?”

“Honorable? In dealing with a murderess—with a woman, moreover, who
is enjoying wealth not rightly hers—talk about honorable! All means
are fair by which to catch a thief.”

“But even so, she would be too shrewd to take the bait. An
advertisement would merely put her on her guard. Mustn’t bell the cat,
you know.”

“That’s one way of considering it. On the other hand—However, I
simply offer the suggestion; you’re the pilot and can take whatever
course you please.”

“Well, then, we’ll reserve our advertisement till other expedients
have failed. The first thing to do is—” But Arthur stopped himself.
He did not clearly know what the first thing to do was. “I’ll think
about it,” he added.

“Good,” said Peixada, rising; “there’s nothing further for me to
detain you with to-day.”

“Give my regards to mamma, when you write, Arthur,” said Mr. Mendel.

“I leave you my memoranda,” said Peixada, laying his note-book upon
Arthur’s desk.

“Take care of yourself,” enjoined Mr. Rimo, smiling and waving his
hand.

The three gentlemen filed out. Arthur remained seated in his arm-chair
a long while after their departure, his eyes fixed upon the wall,
his fingers busily twirling his mustache. For three years he had been
enrolled among the members of the bar. This was the first case he had
received that seemed really worthy of his talents.



CHAPTER II.—“A VOICE, A MYSTERY.”

ARTHUR RIPLEY—good-natured, impressionable, unpractical Arthur Ripley,
as his familiars called him—dwelt in Beekman Place. Beek-man Place,
as the reader may not know, is a short, chocolate-colored, unpretentious
thoroughfare, perched on the eastern brink of Manhattan Island, and
commanding a fine view of the river, of the penitentiary, and of the oil
factories at Hunter’s Point. Arthur and a friend of his, Mr. Julian
Hetzel, kept house in the two upper stories of No. 43, an old German
woman named Josephine acting as their maid-of-all-work. They had a
kitchen, a dining-room, a parlor, two airy dormitories, a light closet
which did duty for a guest-chamber; and over and above all, they had
the roof. Upon the roof Hetzel had swung a hammock, and in earthen pots
round about had ranged an assortment of flowering shrubs; so that by
courtesy the roof was commonly styled the loggia. Here, toward sundown
on that summery April day mentioned in the last chapter, the chums were
seated, sipping their after-dinner coffee and smoking their after-dinner
cigarettes. They could not have wished for a pleasanter spot for their
pleasant occupation. By fits and starts a sweet breeze puffed up from
the south. Westward the sun was sinking into a crimson fury. Eastward
the horizon glowed with a delicate pink light. Below them, on one side,
stretched the river—tinted like mother-o’-pearl by the ruddy sky
overhead—-up which a procession of Sound steamboats was sweeping in
stately single file. On the other side lay the street, clamorous with
the voices of many children at sport. Around the corner, an itinerant
band was playing selections from Trovatore. Blatant and faulty though
the music was, softened by distance, it had a quite agreeable effect. Of
course, the topic of conversation was Arthur’s case.

Hetzel said, “It will be slow work, and tedious.”

“On the contrary,” retorted Arthur, “it seems to me to furnish
an opportunity for brilliant strategy. I must get a clew, you know, and
then clinch the business with a few quick strokes.”

“Just so; after the manner of Monsieur Lecoq. Well, where do you
propose to strike your clew?”

“Oh, I haven’t started in yet. I suppose I shall hit upon one soon
enough.”

“I doubt it. In my opinion you’re booked for a sequence of wearisome
details. The quality you’ll require most of, is patience. Besides,
if the lady should sniff danger, she’ll be able to elude you at every
turn. You want to make it a still hunt.”

“I am aware of that.”

“What’s the first step you mean to take?”

“I haven’t made up my mind. I need time for deliberation.”

“There’s only a single thing to do, and that’s not the least
Lecoq-like. Write to the place where she was last known to be—Vienna,
did you say?—to the consul or postmaster or prefect of police, or
better yet all three, and ask whither she went when she left there.
Then, provided you get an answer, write to the next place, and so on
down. This will take about a hundred years. So, practically, you see,
Peixada has supplied you with permanent employment. The likelihood
that it will ultimately succeed is extremely slim. There is danger of a
slip-up at every point. However, far be it from me to discourage you.”

“What do you think of Peixada’s plan—an advertisement?”

“Gammon! You don’t fancy she would march with open eyes into a
palpable trap like that, do you? I suspect the matter will end by your
making a trip to Europe. If Peixada knows what’s what, he’ll bundle
you off next week. You could trace her much more effectively in person
than by letters.”

“Wouldn’t that be jolly? Only it would involve my neglecting the
other business that might turn up if I should stick here.”

“What of it? What other business? What ground have you for believing
that any other business will turn up? Has the past been so prolific?
Besides, isn’t the summer coming? And isn’t the summer a lawyer’s
dull season? You might lose a couple of two-penny district-court
cases; but suppose you did. See of what advantage it would be to your
reputation. Somebody calls at your office. ’Is Mr. Ripley in?’
’No,’ replies your clerk, ’Mr. Ripley is abroad on important
business.’ ’Ah,’ thinks the caller, ’this Ripley is a
flourishing young practitioner.’ And mark my words, nothing hastens
success like a reputation for success.”

“Such a picture sends the blood to my head. I mustn’t look at it. It
would make me discontented with the reality.”

“If you’re diplomatic,” Hetzel went on, “you can get a liberal
education out of this Peixada case. Just fancy jaunting from town
to town in Europe, and having your expenses paid. In your moments of
leisure you can study art and languages and the manners, costumes, and
superstitions of the hoary east.”

“And all the while, Mrs. Peixada may be living quietly here in New
York! Isn’t it exasperating to realize the difficulty of putting your
finger upon a given human being, when antecedently it would seem
so easy? Nevermind; up-hill work though it be, it’s sure to get
interesting. A woman, young, beautiful, totally depraved, a murderess at
the age of twenty-one—I wonder what she is like.”

“Oh, probably vulgar to the last degree. Don’t form a sentimental
conception of her. Keep your head cool, or else your imagination will
get the better of your common sense.”

“No fear of that. But I shall go at the case with all the more zest,
because I am anxious to view this novel specimen of womankind.”

“You’ll find she’s a loud, flashy vixen—snapping eyes, strident
voice, bediamonded person. Women who resort to powder and shot to get
rid of their husbands in this peaceable epoch of divorce, are scarcely
worth a respectable man’s curiosity.”

“Hello!” cried Arthur, abruptly. “What’s that?”

“Oh, that,” answered Hetzel, “that’s the corner house—No.
46.”

Hetzel spoke metonymically. “That” was a descending musical
scale—fa, mi, re, do, si, la, sol, fa,—which rang out all at once
in a clear soprano voice, from someplace near at hand; a wonderfully
powerful voice, with a superb bugle-like quality.

“Fa, sol, la, si, do, re, mi, fa,” continued the songstress. .

“By Jove,” exclaimed Arthur, “that’s something like.” Then
for a moment he was all ears, and did not speak. At last, “The corner
house?” he queried. “Has some one moved in?”

“Yes,” was Hetzel’s answer; “they moved in yesterday. I had this
all the morning.”

“This singing?”

“Exactly, and a piano to boot. Scales and exercises till I was nearly
mad.”

“But this—this is magnificent. You were to be envied.”

“Oh, yes, it’s very fine. But when a man is trying to prepare an
examination paper in the integral calculus, it distracts and interferes.
She quite broke up my morning’s work.” Hetzel was a tutor of
mathematics in a college not a hundred miles from New York.

“Have you seen her?” Arthur asked.

“No, they only took possession yesterday. A singular thing about it
is that they appear to confine themselves to one floor. The blinds are
closed every where except in the third story, and last night there was
no light except in the third story windows. Queer, eh?”

Arthur approached the verge of the roof, and looked over at the corner
house across the street. The third story windows were open wide, and
out of them proceeded that beautiful soprano voice, now practicing
intervals—fa-si, sol-do, and so forth. “Well,” he affirmed,
“this is a regular romance. Of course a woman with such a voice is
young and beautiful and every thing else that’s lovely. And then,
living cooped up on the third floor of that dismal corner house—she
must be in needy circumstances; which adds another element of charm and
mystery. I suppose she’s in training to become a prima donna. But who
are they? Who lives with her?”

“How should I know? I haven’t seen any of them. I take it for
granted that she doesn’t live alone, that’s all.”

“Hush-sh!” cried Arthur, motioning with his hand.

The invisible musician had now abandoned her exercises, and was fairly
launched upon a song, accompanying herself with a piano. Neither Arthur
nor Hetzel recognized the tune, but they greatly enjoyed listening to
it, because it was rendered with so much intelligence and delicacy of
expression. They could not make out the words, either, but from the
languid, sensuous swing of the melody, it was easy to infer that the
theme was love. There were several verses; and after each of them,
occurred a brilliant interlude upon the piano, in which the refrain
was caught up and repeated with variations. Arthur thought he had never
heard sweeter music in his life; and very likely he never had. “That
woman,” he declared, when silence was restored, “that woman,
whoever she is, has a soul—a rare enough piece of property in this
materialistic age. Such power of making music betokens a corresponding
power of deep feeling, clear thinking, noble acting. I’d give my right
hand for a glimpse of her. Why doesn’t some mesmeric influence bring
her to the window? Oh, for an Asmodeus to unroof her dwelling, and
let me peep in at her—observe her, as she sits before her key-board,
unconscious of observation!” Even Hetzel, who was not prone to
enthusiasms, who, indeed, derived an expert’s satisfaction from
applying the wet blanket, admitted that she sang “like an angel.”

Arthur went on, “Opera? Talk about opera? Why, this beats the opera
all hollow. Can you conceive a more exquisite mise en scene? Twilight!
Lingering in the west—over there behind the cathedral—a pale, rosy
flush! Above, a star or two, twinkling diamond-like on the breast of the
coming night! In our faces, the fragrance of the south wind! Below
us, the darkling river, alive with multitudinous craft! Can your Opera
House, can your Academy of Music boast any thing equal to it? And then,
as the flower and perfection of this loveliness, sounding like a clarion
from heaven, that glorious woman’s voice. I tell you, man,
it’s poetry—it’s Rossetti, Alfred de Musset, Heinrich
Heine—it’s—Hello! there she goes again.”

This time her selection was the familiar but ever beautiful Erl Konig,
which she sang with such dramatic spirit that Hetzel himself exclaimed,
when she had finished, “It actually made my heart stand still.”

“‘Du liebes Kind, komm geh mit mir!’” hummed Arthur. “Ah, how
persuasively she murmured it! And then, ’Mein Vater, mein Vater, und
horest du nicht?’.—wasn’t it blood-curdling? Didn’t it convey
the entire horror of the situation? the agony of terror that bound the
child’s heart? Beekman Place has had an invaluable acquisition. I’ll
wager, she’s as good and as beautiful as St. Cecilia, her patroness.
What do you guess, is she dark or fair, big or little?”

“The odds are that she’s old and ugly. Patti herself, you know, is
upwards of forty. It isn’t probable that with her marvelous musical
accomplishments, this lady is endowed with youth and beauty also. I
wouldn’t cherish great expectations of her, if I were you; because
then, if you should ever chance to see her, you’ll be so much
disappointed. Better make up your mind that her attractions begin
and end with her voice. Complexion? Did you ask my opinion of her
complexion? Oh, she’s blonde—that goes without saying.”

“Wrong again! She’s a brunette of the first water; dusky skin, red
mouth, black, lustrous eyes. You can tell that from the fire she puts
into her music. As for her age, you’re doubly mistaken. If you had the
least faculty for adding two and two together—arithmetician that you
are—you’d know at once that a voice of such freshness, such compass,
and such volume, could not pertain to a woman far beyond twenty. On
the other hand, no mere school-girl could sing with such intelligent
expression. Wherefore, striking an average, I’ll venture she’s in
the immediate vicinity of twenty-five. However, conjectures are
neither here nor there. Where’s Josephine? Let’s have her up, and
interrogate her.”

With this speech, Arthur began to pound his heel upon the roof—the
method which these young bachelors employed to make known to their
domestic that her attendance was wanted. When the venerable Josephine
had emerged waist-high from the scuttle-door, “Josephine,” demanded
Arthur, “who is the new tenant of the corner house?”

But Josephine could not tell. Indeed, she was not even aware that the
corner house had been taken. Arthur set her right on this score, and,
“Now,” he continued, “I wish you would gossip with the divers and
sundry servants of the neighborhood until you have found out the most
you can about these new-comers, and then report to me. For this purpose,
you are allowed an evening’s outing. But as you prize my good-will, be
both diligent and discreet.”

As the twilight deepened into darkness, Arthur remained posted at the
roof’s edge, looking wistfully over toward the third-story windows of
the corner house. By and by a light flashed up behind them; but the
next instant an unseen hand drew the shades; and a few moments later the
light was extinguished.

“They retire early,” he grumbled.

“By the way, don’t you think it’s getting a little chilly up
here?” asked Hetzel.

“Decidedly,” he assented, shivering. “Shall we go below?”

They descended into their sitting-room—a cozy, book-lined apartment,
with a permanent savor of tobacco smoke upon its breath—and chatted
together till a late hour. The Peixada matter and the mysterious
songstress of No. 46 pretty equally divided their attention.

Next morning Hetzel—whose bed-chamber, at the front of the house,
overlooked the street; whereas Arthur’s, at the rear, overlooked the
river—Hetzel was awakened by a loud rap at his door.

“Eh—er—what? Who is it?” he cried, starting up in bed.

“Can I come in?” Arthur’s voice demanded.

Without waiting for a reply, Arthur entered.

Hetzel’s wits getting out of tangle, “What unheard-of event brings
you abroad so early?” he inquired.

“Early? You don’t call this early? It’s halfpast seven.”

“Well, that’s a round half hour earlier than I ever knew you to rise
before. ’Is any thing the matter? Are you ill?”

“Bosh! I’m always up at half-past seven,” averred Arthur, with
brazen indifference to the truth.

He crossed the floor, and sent the curtains screeching aloft; having
done which, he established himself in a rocking-chair, facing the
window, and rocked to and fro.

“Ah, I—I understand,” said Hetzel.

“Understand what?”

“The motive that impelled you to rise with the lark.”

“You’re making much ado about nothing,” said Arthur. But he
blushed and fidgeted uncomfortably. “Any body would suppose I was an
inveterate sluggard. Grant that I am up a little in advance of my usual
hour—is that an occasion for so much talk?”

“The question is, rather,” rejoined Hetzel, with apparent
irrelevancy, “are you rewarded?”

For a moment Arthur tried to appear puzzled; but as his eyes met those
of his comrade, the corners of his mouth twitched convulsively; and
thereupon, with a shrug of the shoulders, he laughed outright.

“Well, I’m not ashamed, anyhow,” he said.

“I’d give a good deal for a glimpse of her; and if I can catch one
before I go down-town, why shouldn’t I?”

“Of course,” replied Hetzel, sympathetically.

“But don’t be secretive. Let’s have the results of your
observation.”

“Oh, as yet the results are scanty. The household seems to be
asleep—blinds down, and every thing as still as a mouse.—No, there,
the blinds are raised—but whoever raises them knows how to keep out of
sight. Not even a hand comes in view.—Now, all’s quiet again.—Ah,
speaking of mice, they have a cat. A black cat sallies forth upon the
stone ledge outside the window, and performs its ablutions with tongue
and paw.—Another! Two cats. This one is of the tiger sort, striped
black and gray. Isn’t it odd—two cats? What on earth, do you
suppose, possesses them to keep two cats?—One of them, the black one,
returns indoors. Number two whets his claws upon the wood of the
window frame—gazes hungrily at the sparrows flitting round
about—yawns—curls himself up—prepares for a nap there on the stone
in the sun.—Why doesn’t she come to the window? She ought to want a
breath of the morning air. This is exasperating.”

The above monologue had been delivered piecemeal, at intervals of a
minute or so in duration. At its finish, Hetzel got out of bed.

“Well,” he cried, stretching himself, “maintain your vigil,
while I go for a bath. Perhaps on my return you may have something more
salient to communicate.”

But when he came back, Arthur said, “Not a sign of life since you
left, except that in response to a summons from within the tiger-cat
has reentered the house; probably is discussing his breakfast at this
moment. Hurry up—dress—and let us do likewise.”

At the breakfast table, “Well, Josephine,” said Arthur, “tell us
of the night.”

Josephine replied that she had subjected all the available maid-servants
of the block to a pumping process, but that the most she had been able
to extract from them was—what her employers already knew. On Thursday,
the 24th, some person or persons to the deponents unknown, had moved
into No. 46. But two cart-loads of furniture, besides a piano, had been
delivered there; and the new occupants appeared to have taken only one
floor: whence it was generally assumed that they were not people of very
great consequence. Arthur directed her to keep her eyes and ears open,
and to inform him from time to time of any further particulars that she
might glean. This she promised to do. Then he lingered about the front
of the house till Hetzel began to twit him, demanding sarcastically
whether he wasn’t going downtown at all that morning. “Oh, well, I
suppose I must,” he sighed, and reluctantly took himself off.

Down-town he stopped at the surrogate’s office, and verified the
statements Peixada had made about the administration of his brother’s
estate. Mrs. Peixada had taken the oath to her accounting before the
United States consul at Vienna, January 11, 1881, Short and Sondheim
appearing for her here. It was decidedly against the woman—added, if
any thing could add, to the blackness of her offense—the fact that she
was represented by such disreputable attorneys as Short and Sondheim.

From the court house, Arthur proceeded to Peixada’s establishment in
Reade Street near Broadway. He had concluded that the search for Mrs.
Peixada would have to be very much such an inch by inch process as
Hetzel had predicted. He could not rid his mind of a feeling that
on general principles it ought to be no hard task to determine the
whereabouts of a rich, handsome, and notorious widow: but when he came
down to the circumstances of this particular case, he had to acknowledge
that it was an undertaking fraught with difficulties and with
uncertainties. He wanted to consult his client, and tell him the upshot
of his own deliberations. The more he considered it, the more persuaded
he became that he had better cross the ocean and follow in person the
trail that Mrs. Peixada had doubtless left behind her. Probably the wish
fostered the thought. As Hetzel had said, he would not run the risk
of losing much by his absence. A summer in Europe had been the fondest
dream of his youth. The very occupation of itself, moreover, was
inviting. He would be a huntsman—his game, a beautiful woman! And
then, to conduct the enterprise by letters would not merely consume an
eternity of time, but ten chances to one, it would end in failure. It
did not strike him that this was properly a detective’s employment,
rather than a lawyer’s; and even had it done so, I don’t know that
it would have dampened his ardor.—Meanwhile, he had turned into Reade
Street, and reached Peixada’s place. He was surprised to find it
closed, until he remembered that to-day was Saturday and that Peixada
was an orthodox Jew. So he saw nothing for it but to remain inactive
till Monday. He returned to his office, and spent the remainder of
the day reading a small, canary-colored volume in the French
language—presumably a treatise upon French jurisprudence.

He dined with a couple of professional brethren at a restaurant that
evening, and did not get home till after dark. Ascending his stoop, he
stopped to glance over at the corner house. A light shone at the edges
of the curtains in the third story; but even as he stood there, looking
toward it, and wishing that by some necromancy his gaze might be
empowered to penetrate beyond, the light went out. Immediately
afterward, however, he heard the shades fly clattering upward; and then,
all at once, the silence was cloven by the same beautiful soprano voice
that had interested him so much the night before. At first it was very
low and soft, a mere liquid murmur; but gradually it waxed stronger and
more resonant; and Arthur recognized the melody as that of Schubert’s
Wohin. The dreamy, plaintive phrases, tremulous with doubt and tense
with yearning, gushed in a mellow stream from out the darkness. No
wonder they set Arthur’s curiosity on edge. The exquisite quality
of the voice, and the perfect understanding with which the song
was interpreted, were enough to prompt a myriad visions of feminine
loveliness in any man’s brain. That a woman could sing in this
wise, and yet not be pure and bright and beautiful, seemed a
self-contradictory proposition. Arthur seated himself comfortably upon
the broad stone balustrade of his door-step, and made up his mind that
he would retain that posture until the musical entertainment across the
way should be concluded.

“I wonder,” he soliloquized, “why she chooses to sing in the dark.
I hope, for reasons of sentiment—because it is in darkness that the
effect of music is strongest and most subtle. I wonder whether she is
alone, or whether she is singing to somebody—perhaps her lover. I
wonder—ah, with what precision she caught that high note! How firmly
she held it! How daintily she executed the cadenza! A woman who can
sing like this, how she could love! Or rather, how she must have loved
already! For such a comprehension of passion as her music reveals, could
never have come to be, except through love. I wonder whether I shall
ever know her. Heaven help me, if she should turn out, as Hetzel
suspects, old and ugly. But that’s not possible. Whatever the style
of her features may be, whatever the number of her years, a young and
ardent spirit stirs within her. Isn’t it from the spirit that true
beauty springs? I mean by the spirit, the capability of inspiring and of
experiencing noble emotions. This woman is human. Her music proves that.
And just in so far as a woman is deeply, genuinely human, is she lovely
and lovable.”

In this platitudinous vein Arthur went on. Meanwhile the lady had
wandered away from Schubert’s Wohin, and after a brief excursion up
and down the keyboard, had begun a magically sweet and thrilling melody,
which her auditor presently identified as Chopin’s Berceuse, so
arranged that the performer could re-enforce certain periods with her
voice. He listened, captivated, to the supple modulations of the music:
and it was with a sensation very like a pang of physical pain that
suddenly he heard it come to an abrupt termination-break sharply off in
the middle of a bar, as though interrupted by some second person. “If
it is her lover to whom she is singing,” he said, “I don’t blame
him for stopping her. He could no longer hold himself back—resist the
impulse to kiss the lips from which such beautiful sounds take wing.”
Then, immediately, he reproached himself for harboring such impertinent
fancies. And then he waited on the alert, hoping that the music would
recommence. But he waited and hoped in vain. At last, “Well, I suppose
there’ll be no more to-night,” he muttered, and turned to enter the
house. As he was inserting his latch-key into the lock, somebody below
on the sidewalk pronounced a hoarse “G’d evening, Mr. Ripley.”

“Ah, good evening, William,” returned Arthur, affably, looking
down at a burly figure at the bottom of the steps.—William was the
night-watchman of Beekman Place.

“Oh, I say—by the way—William—” called Arthur, as the watchman
was proceeding up the street.

“Yassir?” queried William, facing about.

Arthur ran down the stoop and joined his interlocutor at the foot.

“I say, William, I see No. 46 has found a tenant. You don’t happen
to know who it is?”

“Yes,” responded William; “moved in Thursday—old party of the
name of Hart.”

“Old party? Indeed! Then I suppose he has a daughter—eh? It was the
daughter who was singing a little while ago?”

“I dunno if she’s got a darter. Party’s a woman. I hain’t seen
no darter. Mebbe it was the lady herself.”

“Oh, no; that’s not possible.—Hart, do you say the name is?”

“Mrs. G. Hart.”

“What does G. stand for?”

“I dunno. Might be John.”

“Who is Mr. G. Hart?”

“I guess there ain’t none. Folks say she’s a I widder.—Well,
Wiggins ought to thank his stars to have that house taken at last.
It’s going on four years now, it’s lain there empty.”

Mused Arthur, absently, “An old lady named Hart; and he doesn’t know
whether the musician is her daughter or not.”

“Fact is,” put in William, “I dunno much about ’em—only what
I’ve heerd. But we’ll know all about them before long. Every body
knows every body in this neighborhood.”

“Yes, that’s so.—Well, good night.”

“Good night, sir,” said William, touching his cap.

Upstairs in the sitting-room, Arthur threw himself upon a sofa. Hetzel
was away. By and by Arthur picked up a book from the table, and tried to
read. He made no great headway, however: indeed, an hour elapsed, and he
had not yet turned the page. His thoughts were busy with the fair one of
the corner house. He had spun out quite a history for her before he had
done. He devoutly trusted that ere long Fate would arrange a meeting
between her and himself. He whistled over the melody of Wohin, imitating
as nearly as he could the manner in which she had sung it. When his
mind reverted to the Peixada business, as it did presently, lo! the
prospective trip to Europe had lost half its charm. He felt that there
was plenty to keep one interested here in New York.

All day Sunday, despite the fun at his expense in which Hetzel liberally
indulged, Arthur haunted the front of the house. But when he went to bed
Sunday night, he was no wiser respecting his musical neighbor than he
had been four-and-twenty hours before.



CHAPTER III.—STATISTICAL.

MONDAY morning Arthur entered Peixada’s warehouse promptly as the
clock struck ten. Peixada had not yet got down.

Arthur was conducted by a dapper little salesman to an inclosure fenced
off at the rear of the showroom, and bidden to “make himself at
home.” By and by, to kill time, he picked up a directory—the only
literature in sight—and extracted what amusement he could from it, by
hunting out the names of famous people—statesmen, financiers, etc.
The celebrities exhausted, he turned to his own name and to those of
his friends. Among others, he looked for Hart. Of Harts there were
a multitude, but of G. Harts only three—a Gustav, a Gerson, and a
George. George was written down a laborer, Gerson a peddler, Gustav a
barber; none, it was obvious, could be the G. Hart of Beekman Place. In
about half an hour Peixada arrived.

“Ah, good morning,” he said briskly. “Well?”

“I am sorry to bother you so soon again, Mr. Peixada,” said Arthur,
stiffly; “but——”

“Oh, that’s all right,” Peixada interrupted. “Glad to see you.
Sit down. Smoke a cigar.”

“Then,” pursued Arthur, his cigar afire, “having thought the
matter well over——”

“You have concluded—?”

“That your view of the case was correct—that we’re in for a long,
expensive, and delicate piece of business.”

“Not a doubt of it.”

“You see, beforehand it would strike one as the simplest thing in
the world to locate a woman like your sister-in-law. But this case is
peculiar. It’s going on four years that nobody has heard from her.
Clear back in January, 1881, she was somewhere in Vienna. But since then
she’s had the leisure to travel around the world a dozen times. She
may be in Australia, California, Brazil—or not a mile away from us,
here in New York. She may have changed her name. She may have married
again. She may have died.—The point I’m driving at is that you
mustn’t attribute it to a lack of diligence on my part, if we
shouldn’t obtain any satisfactory results for a long while.”

“Oh, certainly not, certainly not,” protested Peixada, making the
words very large, and waving his hand deprecatingly. “I’m a man
of common sense, a business man. I don’t need to be told that it’s
going to be slow work. I knew that. Otherwise I shouldn’t have hired
you. I could have managed it by myself, except that I hadn’t the time
to spare.”

“Well, then,” said Arthur, undismayed by Peixada’s frankness,
“my idea of the tactics to be pursued is to begin with Vienna,
January, ’81, and proceed inch by inch down to the present time. There
are two methods of doing this.”

“Which are——?”

“One is to enlist the services of the United States consuls. I can
write to Vienna, to our consul, and ask him to find out where Mrs.
Peixada went when she left there; then to the consul at the next
place—and so on to the end. But this method is cumbrous and uncertain.
The trail is liable to be lost at any point. At the best, it would
take a long, long time. Besides, the consuls would expect a large
remuneration.”

“Well, the other method?”

“I propose it reluctantly. It is one which, so far as my personal
inclinations are concerned, I should prefer not to take. I—I might
myself go to Vienna and conduct the investigation on the spot.”

“Hum,” reflected Peixada.—After a pause, “That would be still
more expensive,” he said.

“Perhaps.”

“Sure.—It seems to me that there is a third method which you
haven’t thought of.”

“Indeed? What is it?”

“Why not engage the services of an attorney in Vienna, instead of the
consul’s? You can easily get the name of some reliable attorney there.
Then write on, stating the case, and offering a sum in consideration of
which he is to furnish us with the information we want.”

“Yes, I might do that,” Arthur answered, with a mortifying sense
that Peixada’s plan was at once more practical and more promising than
either of those which he had proposed.

“Better try it, anyhow,” his client went on. “Attorney’s fees,
as I chance to know, are low in Austria. Fifty dollars ought to be ample
for a starter. I’ll give you a check for that amount now. You can
exchange it for a draft, after you’ve decided on your man.”

Peixada filled out a check. Arthur took up his hat.

“Oh, àpropos,” said Peixada, without explaining what it was
àpropos of, “I showed you some newspaper clippings about Mrs. P.’.
trial the other day—recollect? Well, I’ve got a scrapbook full of
them in my safe. Suppose you’d find it useful?”

“I don’t know. It could do no harm for me to run it over.”

Peixada touched a bell, gave the requisite orders to the underling who
responded, and said to Arthur, “He’ll fetch it.”

Presently the man returned, bearing a large, square volume, bound in
bluish black leather. Arthur bowed himself out, with the volume under
his arm.

The remainder of the day he passed in procuring the name of a
trustworthy Viennese attorney, drafting a letter to him in English,
and having it translated into German. The attorney’s name was Ulrich.
Arthur inclosed the amount of Peixada’s check in the form of an order
upon an Americo-Austrian banking house. At last, weary, and with his
zeal in Peixada’s cause somewhat abated, he went home.

In the course of the evening he dropped into a concert garden on
Fifty-eighth Street. He had not been seated there a great while before
somebody greeted him with a familiar tap upon the shoulder and an easy
“How are you?” Looking up, he saw Mr. Rimo.

“Ah,” said Arthur, offering his hand, “how do you do? Sit down.”

Mr. Rimo had an odoriferous jonquil in his buttonhole, and carried a
silver-headed Malacca cane. He drew up to the table, lit a cigar with a
wax match, and called for Vichy water.

“Well, Mr. Ripley,” he questioned solicitously, “how are you
getting on?”

“Oh, very well, thanks. I saw your uncle this morning.”

“That so? Any news?”

“You mean about the case? Nothing decisive as yet. It’s hardly time
to expect anything.”

“Oh, no; of course not. I’ll tell you one thing. You’ve got a nice
job before you.”

“Yes, and an odd one.”

“What I was thinking of especially was the lady. She’s a specimen.
Not many like her.”

“It’s to be hoped not. You of course knew her very well?”

“No, I can’t say as I did. I can’t say as I knew her very well.
She wasn’t an easy woman to know. But I’d seen a great deal of her.
It was a mere chance that I didn’t marry her myself. Lucky, wasn’t
I?”

“Why, how was that?”

“Well, it was this way. You see, one evening while she was still Miss
Karon, I called on her. Who should sail in five minutes later but
Uncle Barney? She was right up to the top notch that evening—devilish
handsome, with her black eyes and high color, and as sharp as an IXL
blade. When we left—we left together, the old man and I—when we
left, I was saying to myself, ’By gad, I couldn’t do better. I’ll
propose for her to-morrow.’ Just then he pipes up. ’What is your
opinion of that young lady?’ he asks. ’My opinion?’ says I. ’My
opinion is that she’s a mighty fine gal.’ ’Well, you bet she
is,’ says he; ’and I’m glad you think so, because she’s apt to
be your auntie before a great while.’ ’The devil!’ says I. ’Yes,
sir, says he. ’I’ve made up my mind to marry her. I’m going to
speak to her father about it in the morning.’ Well, of course that
settled my hash. I wasn’t going to gamble against my uncle. Narrow
escape, hey?”

Having concluded this picturesque narrative, Mr. Rimo emptied a bumper
of sparkling Vichy water, with the remark, “Well, here’s to you,”
and applied a second wax match to his cigar, which had gone out while he
was speaking.

“Who were her people?” asked Arthur. “What sort of a family did
she come from?”

“Oh, her family was correct enough. Name was Karon, as you know
already. Her old man was a watch-maker by trade, and kept a shop on
Second Avenue. I guess he did a pretty comfortable business till he got
struck on electricity. He invented some sort of an electric clock, and
sent it to the Centennial at Philadelphia. It took the cake; and
after that Michael Karon was a ruined man. Why? Because after that he
neglected his business, and spent all his time and all the money he
had saved, in fooling around and trying to improve what the Centennial
judges had thought was good enough. He couldn’t let well alone. Result
was he spoiled the clock, and went all to pieces. He was in a desperate
bad way when Uncle Barney stepped up and married his daughter. Hang a
man who’s got an itch for improvement. What I say is, lay on to a good
thing, and then stick to it for all you’re worth.”

“He died shortly after the marriage, didn’t he?”

“Yes—handed in his checks that fall. She had had a tip-top
education; used to give lessons in music, and this, that, and the other
’ology. She was the most knowing creature I ever saw—had no end
of chochmah. Don’t know what chochmah is? Well, that means Jewish
shrewdness; and she held a corner in it, too. But such a temper! Lord,
when she got excited, her eyes were terrible. I can just imagine her
downing the old man. I’ll never forget the way she looked at me one
time.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Oh, there ain’t much to tell—only this. Of course, you know,
it’s the fashion to kiss the bride at her wedding. But I happened to
be on the road at the date of their wedding, and couldn’t get back in
time. I didn’t mean to lose that kiss, just the same. So when I called
on them, after my return, ’Aunt Judith,’ says I, ’when are you
going to liquidate that little debt you owe me?’ ’Owe you?’ says
she, looking surprised. ’I didn’t know I owed you any thing.’
’Why, certainly,’ says I; ’you owe me a kiss:’ She laughed and
shied off and tried to change the subject. ’Come,’ says I, ’stepup
to the captain’s office and settle.’ ’Yes,’ says Uncle Barney,
’kiss your nephew, Judith.’ ’But I don’t want to kiss him,’
says she, beginning to look dark. ’You kiss him,’ says Uncle Barney,
looking darker. And she—she kissed me. But, gad, the way she glared!
Her eyes were just swimming in fire. I swear, it frightened me; and
I’m pretty tough. I don’t want any more kisses of that sort, thank
you. It stung my lips like a hornet.” Mr. Rimo drew a deep breath, and
caressed the knob of his cane with the apple of his chin. “It was an
awful moment,” as they say on the stage, he added.

“Who was that—what was his name?—the second of her victims,”
inquired Arthur.

“Oh, Bolen—Edward Bolen. He was Uncle Barney’s coachman. After
the old boy got married and retired from business, he set up a team, and
undertook to be aristocratic. The theory was that when he and she began
rowing that night, Bolen attempted to step in between them, and that she
just reminded him of his proper place with an ounce of lead. She never
was tried for his murder. I suppose her acquittal in the case of Uncle
Barney made the authorities think it wouldn’t pay to try her again.
Every body said it was an infernal outrage for her to go free; but
between you and me—and mum’s the word—I was real glad of it. Not
that she hadn’t ought to have been punished for shooting her husband.
But to have locked up her confoundedly pretty face out of sight in a
prison—that would have been an infernal outrage, and no mistake. As
for hanging her, they’d never have hanged her, anyhow—not even if
the jury had convicted. But I don’t mean to say that she was innocent.
Sane? Well, you never saw a saner woman. She knew what she was about
better than you and I do now.”

“How do you account for the murder? What motive do you assign?”

“Most everybody said ’money’—claimed that she went deliberately
to work and killed the old man for his money. Some few thought there
must be another man at the bottom of it—that she had a paramour who
put her up to it. But they didn’t know her. She had a hot temper; but
as far as men were concerned, she was as cool as a Roman punch. My own
notion is that she did it in a fit of passion. He irritated her somehow,
and she got mad, and let fire. You see, I recollect the way she glared
at me that time. Savage was no word for it. If she’d had a gun in her
hand, my life wouldn’t have been worth that”—and Mr. Rimo snapped
his fingers.

“I must say, you have contrived to interest me in her. I shall be glad
when I have an opportunity of seeing her with my own eyes.”

“Well, you take my advice. When you’ve found out her whereabouts,
don’t go too close, as they tell the boys at the menagerie. She’s
as vicious as they make them, I don’t deny it. But she’s got a
wonderful fascination about her, notwithstanding, and if she thought it
worth her while, she could wind you around her finger like a hair, and
never know she’d done it. I wish you the best possible luck.”

Mr. Rimo rose, shook hands, moved off.

Arthur’s dreams that night were haunted by a wild, fierce, Medusa-like
woman’s face.

At his office, next morning, the first object that caught his eye was
the black, leather-bound scrapbook that Peixada had given him yesterday.
It lay where he had left it, on his desk. Beginning by listlessly
turning the pages, he gradually became interested in their contents.
I shall have to beg the reader’s attention to an abstract of Mrs.
Peix-ada’s trial, before my story can be completed; and I may as well
do so now.

The prosecution set out logically by establishing the fact of death. A
surgeon testified to all that was essential in this regard. The second
witness was one ’Patrick Martin. I copy his testimony word for word
from the columns of the New York Daily Gazette.

“Mr. Martin,” began the district-attorney, “what is your
business?”

“I am a merchant, sir.”

“And the commodities in which you deal are?

“Ales, wines, and liquors, your honor.

“At retail or wholesale?”

“Both, sir; but mostly retail.”

“Where is your store situated, Mr. Martin?”

“On the southwest corner of Eighty-fifth Street and Ninth Avenue.”

“Was the residence of the deceased, Mr. Bernard Peixada, near to your
place of business?”

“It was, sir—on the next block.”

“What block? How is the block bounded?”

“The block, sir, is bounded by Eighty-fifth and Eighty-sixth Streets,
and Ninth and Tenth Avenues, your honor.”

“Many houses on that block?

“None, your honor; only the house of the deceased. That stands on the
top of a hill, back from the street, with big grounds around it.”

“Had Mr. Peixada lived there long?

“Since the 1st of May, this year.”

“Now, Mr. Martin, do you remember the night of July 30th?”

“Faith, I do, sir; and I’ll not soon forget it.”

“Good. Will you, then, as clearly and as fully as you can, tell the
court and jury all the circumstances that combine to fix the night of
July 30th in your memory? Take your time, speak up loudly, and look
straight at the twelfth juryman.”

“Well, sir, on that night, toward two o’clock the next morning—”

(Laughter among the auditors; speedily repressed by the court
attendants.)

“Don’t be disconcerted, Mr. Martin. On the morning of July 31st?”

“The same, sir. On that morning, at about two o’clock, I was outside
in the street, putting the shutters over the windows of my store. While
I was doing it, your honor, it seemed to me that I heard a noise—very
weak and far away—like as if some one—a woman, or it might be a
child—was crying out. I stopped for a moment, sir, and listened. Sure
enough, I heard a voice—so faint you’d never have known it from the
wind, except by sharpening your ears—I heard a voice, coming down
the hill from the Jew’s house over the way. I couldn’t make out no
words, but it was that thin and screechy that, ’Certain,’ says I to
myself, ’that old felley there is up to some mischief, or my name’s
not Patsy Martin.’ Well, after I had got done with the shutters,
I went into the house by the family entrance, and says I to my wife,
’There’s a woman yelling in the house on the hill,’ says I.
’What of that?’ says she. ’Maybe I’d better go up,’ says I.
’You’d better be after coming to bed and minding your business,’
says she. ’It’s most likely a way them heathen have of amusing
themselves,’ says she. But, ’No,’ says I. ’Some one’s in
distress,’ says I; ’and I guess the best thing I can do will be to
light a lantern and go along up,’ says I. So my wife, your honor, she
lights the lantern for me, and, ’Damminus take ’em,’ says she,
to wish me good luck; and off I started, across the street, through the
gate, and up the wagon-road that leads to Peixada’s house. Meanwhile,
your honor, the screaming had stopped. Never a whisper more did I
hear; and thinks I to myself, ’It was only my imagination,’ thinks
I—when whist! All of a sudden, not two feet away from me, there in the
road, a voice calls out ’Help, help.’ The devil take me, I thought
I’d jump out of my skin for fright, it came so unexpected. But I
raised my lantern all the same, and cast a look around; and there before
me on the ground, I seen an object which, as true as gospel, I took to
be a ghost until I recognized it for Mrs. Peixada—the lady that’s
sitting behind you, sir—the Jew’s wife, herself. There she lay,
kneeling in front of me and when she seen who I was, ’Help, for
God’s sake, help,’ says she, for all the world like a Christian. I
knew right away that something wrong had happened, from her scared face
and big, staring eyes; and besides, her bare feet and the white rag she
wore in the place of a decent dress—”

At this point considerable sensation was created among the audience by
the prosecuting attorney, who, interrupting the witness and addressing
the court, remarked, “Your honor will observe that the prisoner has
covered her face with a veil. This is a piece of theatricalism against
which I must emphatically protest. It is, moreover, the jury’s
prerogative to watch the prisoner’s physiognomy, as the story of her
crime is told.”

Recorder Hewitt ordered the prisoner to remove her veil.

“Go on, Mr. Martin,” said the prosecutor to the witness.

“Well, sir, as I was saying, there I seen Mrs. Peix-ada, half
crouching and half sitting there in the road. And when I got over the
start she gave me, ’Excuse me, ma’am,’ says I, ’but didn’t
I hear you hollering out for help?’ ’Faith, you did,’ says she.
’Well, here I am, ma’am,’ says I; ’and now, will you be kind
enough to inform me what’s the trouble?’ says I. ’The trouble?’
says she. ’The trouble is that there’s two men kilt up at the house,
that’s what’s the trouble,’ says she. ’Kilt?’ says I. ’Yes,
shot,’ says she. ’And who shot them?’ says I. ’Myself,’ says
she. ’Mother o’ God!’ says I. ’Well,’ says she, ’wont you
be after going up to the house and trying to help the poor wretches?’
says she. ’I don’t know but I will,’ says I. And on up the road to
the house I went. The front door, your honor, was open wide, and the
gas blazing at full head within. I ran up the steps and through the
vestibil, and there in the hall I seen that what Mrs. Peixada had said
was the truest word she ever spoke in her life. Old Peixada, he lay
there on one side, as dead as sour beer, with blood all around him; and
on the other side lay Mr. Bolen—whom I knew well, for he was a good
customer of my own, your honor—more dead than the Jew, if one might
say so. I, sir, I just remained long enough to cross myself and whisper,
’God have mercy on them and then off I went to call an officer. On the
way down the hill, I passed Mrs. Peixada again; and this time she was
laying out stiff in the road, with her eyes closed and her mouth open,
like she was in a fit. She had nothing on but that white gown I spoke
of before; and very elegant she looked, your honor, flat there, like a
corpse.”

Again the district-attorney stopped the witness.

“Your honor,” he said, “I must again direct your attention to the
irregular conduct of the prisoner. She has now turned her back to the
jury, and covered her face with her hands. This is merely a method of
evading the injunction which your honor saw fit to impose upon her with
respect to her veil. I must insist upon her displaying her full face to
the jury.”

Mr. Sondheim, of counsel for the defendant: “If the Court please, it
strikes me that my learned brother is really a trifle too exacting. I
can certainly see no objection to my client’s holding her hands to her
face. Considering the painfulness of her situation, it is no more than
natural that she should desire to shield her face. I must beg the Court
to remember that this prisoner is no ordinary criminal, but a lady of
refined and sensitive instincts. A little indulgence, it seems to me, is
due to her on account of her sex.”

The district-attorney: “The prisoner had better understand once for
all that her sex isn’t going to protect her in this prosecution. The
law is no respecter of sex. As for her refined and sensitive instincts,
if she has any, I advise her to put them into her pocket. This jury has
too much good sense to be affected by any exhibition that she may
make for their benefit. I submit the matter to the Court’s good
judgment.”

The recorder: “Madam, you will turn your chair toward the jury, and
keep your face uncovered.”

The district-attorney: “Well, Mr. Martin, what next?”

The witness: “Weil, sir, I hurried along down as fast as ever I could,
and stopped at my own place just long enough to tell my wife what had
happened, and to send her up to Mrs. Peixada with a bottle of spirits
to bring her around. Then I went to the station-house, and informed
the gentleman at the desk of the state of affairs. Him and a couple of
officers came back with me; and they, your honor, took charge of the
premises, and—and that’s all I know about it.”

Martin was not cross-examined. Police Sergeant Riley, succeeding
him, gave an account of the prisoner’s arrest and of her subsequent
demeanor at the station-house. “The lady,” said he, “appeared
to be unable to walk—leastwise, she limped all the way with great
difficulty. We thought she was shamming, and treated her accordingly.
But afterwards it turned out that she had a sprained ankle.” She had
answered the formal questions—name? age? residence?—in full; and to
the inquiry whether she desired to make any statement or remark relative
to the charge preferred against her, had replied, “Nothing, except
that I shot them both—Bernard Peixada and Edward Bolen.” They had
locked her up in the captain’s private room for the rest of the night;
and the following morning she had been transferred to the Tombs.

The next witness was Miss Ann Doyle.

“Miss Doyle, what is your occupation?” asked the district-attorney.

“I am a cook, sir.”

“Have you a situation, at present?”

“I have not, sir.”

“How long have you been idle?”

“Since the 31st of July, sir.”

“Prior to that date where were you employed?”

“In the family of Mr. Peixada, sir.”

“Were you present at Mr. Peixada’s house on the night of July
30th?”

“I was not, sir.”

“Tell us, please, how you came to be absent?”

“Well, sir, just after dinner, along about seven o’clock, Mrs.
Peixada, who was laying abed with a sore foot, she called me to her,
sir, and, ’Ann,’ says she, ’you can have the evening out, and you
needn’t come home till to-morrow morning,’ sir, says she.”

“And you availed yourself of this privilege?”

“Sure, I did, sir. I came home the next morning, sir, in time to get
breakfast, having passed the night at my sister’s; and when I got
there, sir—”

“Never mind about that, Miss Doyle. Now, tell us, was it a customary
thing for Mrs. Peixada to let you go away for the entire night?”

“She never did it before, sir. Of course I had my regular Thursday and
Sunday, but I was always expected to be in the house by ten o’clock,
sir.”

“That will do, Miss Doyle. Miss Katharine Mahoney, take the stand.”

Miss Mahoney described herself as an “upstairs girl,” and said
that she, too, until the date of the murder, had been employed in Mr.
Peixada’s household. To her also, on the evening of July 30th, Mrs.
Peixada had accorded leave of absence for the night.

“So that,” reasoned the district-attorney, “all the servants
were away, by the prisoner’s prearrangement, at the hour of the
perpetration of the crime?”

“Yes, sir; since me and Ann were the only servants they kept. Mr.
Bolen staid behind, to his sorrow.”

In the case of each of these witnesses, the prisoner’s counsel waived
cross-examination, saying, “If the court please, we shall not take
issue on the allegations of fact.”

The prosecution rested, reserving, however, the right to call witnesses
in rebuttal, if need should be. The defense started with a physician,
Dr. Leopold Jetz, of Lexington Avenue, near Fifty-ninth Street.

“Dr. Jetz, how long have you known Mrs. Peix-ada, the prisoner at the
bar?”

“Ever since she was born. I helped to bring her into the world.”

“When did you last attend her professionally?”

“I paid her my last professional visit on the 1st of August, 1878;
eight days before she was married.”

“What was her trouble at that time?”

“General depression of the nervous system. To speak technically,
cerebral anemia, or insufficient nourishment of the brain, complicated
by sacral neuralgia—neuralgia at the base of the spine.”

“Were these ailments of long standing?”

“I was called in on the 29th of May. I treated her consecutively till
August 1st. That would make two months. But she had been suffering
for some time before I was summoned. The troubles had crept upon her
gradually. On the 8th of August she was married. She had just completed
her nineteenth year.”

“Now, doctor, was the condition of Mrs. Peixada’s health, at the
time your treatment was discontinued, such as to predispose her to
insanity?” (Question objected to, on the ground that the witness had
not been produced as an expert, and that his competence to give expert
testimony was not established. Objection overruled.)

“In my opinion,” said Dr. Jetz, “at the time I last saw her
professionally, Mrs. Peixada was in an exceedingly critical condition.
Although evincing no symptoms of insanity proper, her brain was highly
irritated, and her whole nervous system deranged; so that an additional
strain of any kind put upon her, might easily have precipitated acute
mania. I told her father that she was in no wise fit to get married;
but he chose to disregard my advice. I think I may answer your question
affirmatively, and say that her health was such as to predispose her to
insanity.”

By the district attorney: “Doctor, are your sentiments—your personal
sentiments—for the prisoner of a friendly or an unfriendly nature?”

“Decidedly, sir, of a friendly nature.”

“You would be sorry to see her hanged?”

The doctor replied by a gesture.

“Or sent to State Prison?”

“I could not bear to think of it.”

“You would do your utmost—would you not?—to save her from such a
fate?”

“Eagerly, sir, eagerly.”

“That’s sufficient, doctor.”

An alienist of some distinction followed Dr. Jetz. He said that he had
listened attentively to the evidence so far adduced in court, had
read the depositions taken before the magistrate and the coroner, had
conferred at length with the preceding witness, and finally had made a
diagnosis of Mrs. Peixada’s case in her cell at the Tombs. He
believed that, though perfectly sane and responsible at present, she
had “within a brief period suffered from a disturbance of cerebral
function.” There were “indications which led him to infer that
at the time of the homicide she was organically a lunatic.” The
district-attorney took him in hand.

“Doctor, are you the author of a work entitled, ’Pathology of Mind
Popularly Expounded’—published, as I see by the title page, in
1873?”

“I am, sir, yes.”

“Does that book express with tolerable accuracy your views on the
subject of insanity?’

“It does—certainly.”

“Very well. Now, doctor, I will read aloud from Chapter III., page
75. Be good enough to follow.—’It is then a fact that there exists
a borderland between pronounced dementia, or mania, and sound mental
health, in which it is impossible to apply the terms, sane and insane,
with any approach to scientific nicety. Nor is it to be disputed that a
person may have entered this borderland may have departed from the realm
of unimpaired intelligence, and not yet have attained the pandemonium
of complete madness—and withal, retain the faculty of distinguishing
between right and wrong, together with the control of will necessary
to the selection and employment of either. This borderland is a sort of
twilight region in which, though blurred in outline, objects have
not become invisible. Crimes committed by subject? in the state thus
described, can not philosophically be extenuated on the ground of mental
aberration.’—I suppose, doctor, you acknowledge the authorship of
this passage?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And subscribe to its correctness?”

“It expresses the opinion which prevails among the authorities.”

“Well and good. Now, to return to the case at bar, are you willing
to swear that on the night of July 30th, the ’disturbance of cerebral
function’ which, you have told us, Mrs. Peixada was perhaps suffering
from—are you willing to swear that it had progressed beyond this
borderland which you have so clearly elucidated in your book?”

“I am not willing to swear positively. It is my opinion that it
had.”

“You are not willing to swear positively. Then, you are not willing to
swear positively, I take it, that Mrs. Peixada’s crime did not belong
to that category which ’can not philosophically be extenuated on the
ground of mental aberration?’.rdquo;

“Not positively—no, sir.”

“It is your opinion?”

“It is my opinion.”

“How firm?”

“Very firm.”

“So firm, doctor, that if you were on this jury, you would feel bound,
under any and all circumstances, to acquit the prisoner?”

“So firm that I should feel bound to acquit her, unless evidence of a
highly damaging character was forthcoming.”

“Well, suppose that evidence of a highly damaging character was
forthcoming, would you convict?”

“I might.”

“Thanks, doctor. You can go.”

Having thus sought to prove the prisoner’s irresponsibility, the
defense endeavored to establish her fair name. Half-a-dozen ladies and
two or three gentleman attested that they had known her for many
years, and had always found her to be of a peculiarly sweet and gentle
temperament. Not one of them would believe her capable of an act of
violence, unless, at the time of committing it, she was out of her right
mind. As the last of these persons left the stand, Mr. Sondheim said,
“Your honor, our case is in.”

“And a pretty lame case it is,” commented the district-attorney.
“I beg leave to remind the court that it is Friday, and to move for
an adjournment until Monday, in order that the People may have an
opportunity to produce witnesses in rebuttal.” The motion was granted.

On Monday a second alienist, one whose renown quite equaled that of the
first, declared it as his opinion, based upon a personal examination of
the accused, that she was not and never had been in the slightest degree
insane.

“Is Dr. Julius Gunther in court?” called out the district-attorney.

Dr. Gunther elbowed his way to the front, and was sworn.

“Dr. Gunther,” the prosecutor inquired, “you are a physician in
general practice—yes?”

“Yes, sir, I am.”

“You were also, I believe, up to the time of his death, physician to
the family of Mr. Bernard Peixada?”

The doctor nodded affirmatively.

“Did you ever attend the decedent’s wife—Mrs. Peixada—this woman
here—the prisoner at the bar?”

“On the 20th of July last I began to treat her for a sprained ankle. I
called on her every day or two, up to the 30th.”

“You were treating her for a sprained ankle. Did you make any
observation of her general health?”

“Naturally.”

“And you found it?”

“Excellent.”

“How about her mental faculties? Any symptoms of derangement?”

“Not one. I have seldom known a smarter woman. She had an
exceptionally well-balanced mind.”

“That’ll do, doctor,” said the district-attorney. To the other
side, “Want to cross-examine?”

“Is a well-balanced mind, doctor,” asked Mr. Sondheim, “proof
positive of sanity? Is it not possible for one to be perfectly rational
on ordinary topics, and yet liable to attacks of mama when irritated by
some special circumstances?”

“Oh, speaking broadly, I suppose so. But in this particular instance,
no. That woman is no more crazy than you are.”

“Now,” said the prosecutor, “now, as to my lady’s alleged good
character?”

A score of witnesses proceeded to demolish it. Miss Emily Millard had
acted as music teacher to the prisoner when she was a little girl.
Miss Millard related a dozen anecdotes illustrative of the prisoner’s
ungovernable temper. Misses Sophie Dedold, Florentine Worch, and Esther
Steinbaum had gone to school with the prisoner. If their accounts
were to be believed, she was a “flirt,” and a “doubleface.” At
length, Mrs. George Washington Shapiro took the stand.

“Mrs. Shapiro, were you acquainted with Mr. Bernard Peixada, the
decedent?”

“Well acquainted with him—an old friend of his family.”

“And with his wife, the prisoner?

“I made her acquaintance shortly before Mr. Peixada married her. After
that I saw her as often as once a week.”

“Will you please give us your estimate of her character?”

“Bad, very bad. She is false, she is treacherous, but above all, she
is spiteful and ill-humored.”

“For example?”

“Oh, I could give twenty examples.”

“Give one, please.”

“Well, one day I called upon her and found her in tears. ’My
dear,’ said I, ’what are you crying about?’ ’Oh,’ she
answered, ’I wish Bernard Peixada’—she always spoke of her husband
as Bernard Peixada—’I wish Bernard Peixada was dead.’ ’What!’
I remonstrated. ’You wish your husband was dead? You ought not to say
such a thing. What can you mean?’ ’I mean that I hate him,’ she
replied. ’But if you hate him,’ said I, ’if you are unhappy
with him, why don’t you wish that you yourself were dead, instead of
wishing it of him?’ ’Oh,’ she explained, ’I am young. I have
much to live for. He is an old, bad man. It would a good thing all
around, if he were dead.’.rdquo;

“Can you give us the date of this extraordinary conversation?”

“It was some time, I think, in last June; a little more than a month
before she murdered him.”

The efforts of the prisoner’s counsel to break down Mrs. Shapiro’s
testimony were unavailing.

“Mr. Short,” says the Gazette, “now summed up in his most
effective style, dwelling at length upon the prisoner’s youth and
previous good character, and arguing that she could never have committed
the crime in question, except under the sway of an uncontrollable
impulse induced by mental disease. He wept copiously, and succeeded
in bringing tears to the eyes of several jurymen. He was followed by
Assistant-district-attorney Sardick, for the People, who carefully
analyzed the evidence, and showed that it placed the guilt of the
accused beyond the reach of a reasonable doubt. Recorder Hewitt charged
dead against the fair defendant, consuming an hour and a quarter. The
jury thereupon retired; but at the expiration of seventeen minutes
they returned to the court-room, and, much to the surprise of every one
present, announced that they had agreed upon a verdict. The prisoner
was directed to stand up. She was deathly pale; her teeth chattered; her
hands clutched at the railing in front of the clerk’s desk. The formal
questions were put in their due order and with becoming solemnity. A
profound sensation was created among the spectators when the foreman
pronounced the two decisive words, ’Not guilty.’ A vivid crimson
suffused the prisoner’s throat and cheeks, but otherwise her
appearance did not alter. Recorder Hewitt seemed for a moment to
discredit his senses. Then, suddenly straightening up and scowling at
the jury-box, ’You have rendered an outrageous verdict; a verdict
grossly at variance with the evidence,’ he said. ’You are one and
all excused from further service in this tribunal.’ Turning to
Mrs. Peixada, ’As for you, madam,’ he continued, ’you have been
unrighteously acquitted of as heinous a crime as ever woman was guilty
of. Your defense was a sham and a perjury. The ends of justice have been
defeated, because, forsooth, you have a pretty face. You can go free.
But let me counsel you to beware, in the future, how you tamper with
the lives of human beings, better and worthier in every respect than
yourself. I had hoped that it would be my duty and my privilege to
sentence you to a life of hard labor in the prison at Sing Sing, if not
to expiation of your sin upon the gallows. Unfortunately for the public
welfare, and much to my personal regret, I have no alternative but to
commit you to the keeping of your own guilty conscience, trusting that
in time you may, by its action, and by the just horror with which your
fellow-beings will shun your touch, be chastised and chastened. You are
discharged.’ Mrs. Peixada bowed to the court, and left the room on the
arm of her counsel.”

Undramatic and matter-of-fact though it was, Arthur got deeply absorbed
in the perusal of this newspaper report of Mrs. Peixada’s trial.
When the jury returned from their deliberations, it was with breathless
interest that he learned the result; he had forgotten that he already
knew it. As the words “Not guilty” took shape before him, he drew a
genuine sigh of relief. Then, at once recollecting himself, “Bah!”
he cried. “I was actually rejoicing at a miscarriage of justice. I am
weak-minded.” By and by he added, “I wish, though, that I could get
at the true inwardness of the matter—the secret motives that nobody
but the murderess herself could reveal.” For the sake of local color,
he put on his hat and went over to the General Sessions court-room—now
empty and in charge of a single melancholy officer—and tried to
reconstruct the scene, with the aid of his imagination. The recorder
had sat there, on the bench; the jury there; the prisoner there, at the
counsel table. The atmosphere of the court-room was depressing. The four
walls, that had listened to so many tales of sin and unhappiness,
seemed to exude a deadly miasma. This room was reserved for the trial of
criminal causes. How many hearts had here stood still for suspense!
How many wretched secrets had here been uncovered! How many mothers and
wives had wept here! How many guilt-burdened souls had here seen their
last ray of light go out, and the shadows of the prison settle over
them! The very tick-tack of the clock opposite the door sounded
strangely ominous. Looking around him, Arthur felt his own heart grow
cold, as if it had been touched with ice.



CHAPTER IV.—“THAT NOT IMPOSSIBLE SHE.”

AT home that evening, on the loggia, Hetzel said, “I have news for
you.”

“Ah?” queried Arthur.

“Yes—about your mystery across the way.”

“Well?”

“She’s no longer a mystery. The ambiguity surrounding her has been
dispelled.”

“Well, go on.”

“To start with, after you went down-town this morning, carts laden
with furniture began to rattle into the street, and the furniture was
carried into No. 46. It appears that they have taken the whole house,
after all. They were merely camping out in the third story, while
waiting for the advent of their goods and chattels. So we were jumping
to a conclusion, when we put them down as poverty-stricken. The
furniture was quite comfortable looking. It included, by the way, a
second piano. Confess that you are disappointed.”

“Why should I be disappointed? The divine voice remains, doesn’t it?
Go ahead.”

“Well, I have learned their names.—The lady of the house is an
elderly widow—Mrs. Gabrielle Hart. She has been living till
recently in an apartment-house on Fifty-ninth Street, facing Central
Park—’The Modena’.”

“But the songstress?”

“The songstress is Mrs. Hart’s companion. She is also a Mrs.—Mrs.
Lehmyl—L-e-h-m-y-l—picturesque name, isn’t it?”

“And Mr. Lehmyl—who is he?”

“Perhaps Mrs. Lehmyl is a widow, too. She dresses in black.”

“Ah, you have seen her? Describe her to me.”

“No, I haven’t seen her. But Josephine has. It is to Josephine that
I owe the information so far communicated.”

“What does Josephine say she looks like?”

“Josephine doesn’t say. She caught but a meteoric glimpse of her, as
she stood for a moment this afternoon at her front door. Like the woman
she is, she paid more attention to her costume than she did to her
features.”

“Well, any thing further?”

“Nothing.”

“Has she sung for you since I left?”

“Not a bar. Probably she has been busy, helping to put the house to
rights.”

“Let us hope she will sing for us to-night.”

“Let us hope so.”

But bed-time stole upon them, and their hopes had not yet been rewarded.

The week wound away. Nothing new transpired concerning the occupants of
No. 46. Mrs. Lehmyl sang almost every evening. But neither Arthur
nor Hetzel nor Josephine succeeded in getting sight of her; which, of
course, merely aggravated our hero’s curiosity. Sunday afternoon he
stood at the front window, gazing toward the corner house. The two cats,
heretofore mentioned, were disporting themselves upon the window-ledge.

Hetzel, who was seated in the back part of the room, noticed that
Arthur’s attitude changed all at once from that of languid interest
to that of sharp attention. His backbone became rigid, his neck craned
forward; it was evident that something had happened. Presently he turned
around, and remarked, with ill-disguised excitement, “If—if you’re
anxious to make the acquaintance of that Mrs. Lehmyl, here’s your
chance.”

It struck Hetzel that this was pretty good. “If I am anxious to make
her acquaintance!” he said to himself. Aloud, “Why, how is that?”
he asked.

“Oh,” said Arthur, “two ladies—she and Mrs. Hart, I
suppose—have just left the corner house, and crossed the street, and
entered our front door—to call on Mrs. Berle, doubtless.”

Mrs. Berle was the down-stairs neighbor of our friends—a middle-aged
Jewish lady, whose husband, a commercial traveler, was commonly away
from home.

“Well?” questioned Hetzel.

“Well, you ought to call on Mrs. Berle, anyway, you know. She has been
so polite and kind, and has asked you to so often, that really it’s no
more than right that you should show her some little attention. Why not
improve this occasion?”

“Oh,” said Hetzel, yawning, “I’m tired. I prefer to stay home
this afternoon.”

“Nonsense. You’re simply lazy. It’s—it’s positively a matter
of duty, Hetz.”

“Well, you have so frequently asserted that I have no sense of duty,
I’m trying to live up to your conception of me.”

After a minute of silence, “The fact of the matter is,” ventured
Arthur, “that I too owe Mrs. Berle a visit, and—and won’t you go
down with me, as a favor?”

“Oh, if you put it on that ground, it’s another question. As a favor
to you, I consent to be dragged out.”

“Hurrah!” cried Arthur, casting off the mask of indifference that he
had thus far clumsily worn. “I’ll go change my coat, and come back
in an instant. Wasn’t I lucky to be posted there by the window at the
moment of their exit? At last we shall see her with our own eyes.”

Ere a great while, Mrs. Berle’s maid-servant ushered them into Mrs.
Berle’s drawing-room.

Mrs. Lehmyl was at the piano—playing, not singing. Arthur enjoyed a
fine view of her back. My meaning is literal, when I say “enjoyed.”
Impatient though he was to see her face, he took an indescribable
pleasure in watching her back sway to and fro, as her fingers raced
up and down the keyboard. Its contour was refined and symmetrical. Its
undulations lent stress to the music, and denoted fervor on the part
of the executant. Arthur can’t tell what she was playing. It was
something of Rubenstein’s, the title of which escapes him—something,
he says, as vigorous as a whirlwind—a bewitching melody sounding
above a tempest of harmony—it was the restless, tumultuous, barbaric
Rubenstein at his best.

At its termination, the audience applauded vehemently, and demanded
more. The result was a Scherzo by Chopin. Afterward, Mrs. Lehmyl rose
from the piano and fanned herself. Every body began simultaneously to
talk.

Mrs. Berle presented Hetzel and Arthur in turn to the two ladies. Of
the latter she was kind enough to remark, “Dot is a young lawyer
down-town, and such a goot young man”—which made him blush profusely
and wish his hostess a dozen apoplexies.

Mrs. Hart was tall and spare, a severe looking woman of sixty, or
thereabouts. She wore a gray poplin dress, and had stiff gray hair, and
a network of gray veins across the backs of her hands. A penumbra upon
her upper lip proved, when inspected, to be due to the presence of an
incipient mustache. Her eyes were blue and good-natured.

Mrs. Lehmyl’s manner was at once dignified and gracious. Arthur
made bold to declare, “Your playing is equal to your singing, Mrs.
Lehmyl—which is saying a vast deal.”

“It is saying what is kind and pleasant,” she answered, “but I
fear, not strictly accurate. My playing is very faulty, I have so little
time to practice.”

“If it is faulty, a premium ought to be placed upon such faults,” he
gushed.

Mrs. Lehmyl laughed, but vouchsafed no reply. “And as for your
singing,” he continued, “I hope you won’t mind my telling you how
much I have enjoyed it. You can’t conceive the pleasure it has given
me, when I have come home, fagged out, from a day down-town, to hear you
sing.”

“I am very glad if it is so. I was afraid my musical pursuits might
be a nuisance to the neighbors. I take for granted that you are a
neighbor?”

“Oh, yes. Hetzel and I inhabit the upper portion of this house.”

“Ah, then you are the young men whom we have noticed on the roof. It
is a brilliant idea, your roof. You dine up there, do you not?”

“Let’s go into the back room,” cried Mrs. Berle; and she led the
way.

In the back room wine and cakes were distributed by a German Madchen in
a French cap. The gentlemen—there were two or three present besides
Arthur and Hetzel—lit their cigars. The ladies, of whom there were
an equal number, with the exception of Mrs. Lehmyl, gathered in a knot
around the center-table. Mrs. Lehmyl went to the bay-window and admired
the view. It was, indeed, admirable. A crystalline atmosphere permitted
one to see as far down the river as the Brooklyn Navy Yard; and
leagues to the eastward, on Long Island, the marble of I know not what
burying-ground glittered in the sun. An occasional schooner slipped past
almost within stone’s throw. On the wharf under the terrace, fifty odd
yards away, an aged man placidly supported a fishing pole, and watched a
cork that floated immobile upon the surface of the water. Over all bent
the sky, intensely blue, and softened by a few white, fleecy clouds. But
Arthur’s faculties for admiration were engrossed by Mrs. Lehmyl’s
face.

I think the first impression created by her face was one of power,
rather than one of beauty. Not that it was in the slightest degree
masculine, not that it was too strong to be intensely womanly. But at
first sight, especially if it chanced then to be in repose, it seemed
to embody the pride and the solemnity of womanhood, rather than its
gentleness and flexibility. It was the face of a woman who could purpose
and perform, who could suffer and be silent, who could command and be
inexorable. The brow, crowned by black, waving hair, was low and broad,
and as white as marble. The nose and chin were modeled on the pattern
of the Ludovici Juno’s. Your first notion was: “This woman is calm,
reserved, thoughtful, persistent. Her emotions are subordinated to
her intellect. She has a tremendous will. She was cut out to be an
empress.” But the next instant you noticed her eyes and her mouth: and
your conception had accordingly to be reframed. Her eyes, in color dark,
translucent brown, were of the sort that your gaze can delve deep into,
and discern a light shimmering at the bottom: eyes that send an electric
spark into the heart of the man who looks upon them; eyes that are
eloquent of pathos and passion and mystery. Her lips were full and
ruddy, and indicated equal capacities for womanly tenderness and for
girlish mirth. It was easy to fancy them curling in derisive laughter:
it was quite as easy to fancy them quivering with intense emotion,
or becoming compressed in pain. Insensibly, you added: “No—not an
empress: a heroine, a martyr to some noble human cause. It was like this
that the Mother of Sorrows must have looked.”

She was beautiful: on that score there could be no difference of
opinion. Her appearance justified the expectations that her voice
aroused. She was beautiful not in a pronounced, aggressive way, but in
a quiet, subtle, and all the more potent way. Her beauty was of the sort
that grows upon one, the longer one studies it; rather than of the sort
that, bullet-like, produces its greatest effect at once. Join to this
that she was manifestly young, at the utmost five-and-twenty, and the
reader will not wonder that Arthur’s antecedent interest in her had
mounted several degrees. I must not forget to mention her hands. These
were a trifle larger than it is the fashion for a lady’s hands to
be; but they were shaped and colored to perfection, and they had an
unconscious habit of toying with each other, as their owner talked
or listened, that made it a charm to watch them. They were suggestive
hands. Arthur felt that, had he understood the language of hands, he
could, by observing these, have divined a number of Mrs. Lehmyl’s
secrets; and he bethought him of an old treatise on palmistry that lay
gathering dust in his book-case up-stairs. Around her wrist she wore a
bracelet of amber beads. She was dressed entirely in black, and had a
sprig of mignonette pinned in her button-hole.

As has been said, she admired the view. “I am so glad we have come
to live in Beekman Place,” she added; “it is such a contrast to the
rest of dusty, noisy, hot New York.”

“To hear this woman utter small talk,” says Arthur, “was like
seeing a giant lift straws. I half wished that she would not speak at
all, unless to proclaim mighty truths in hexameters. Still, had she kept
silence, I am sure I should have been disappointed.”

She was much amused by the old fisherman down on the wharf; wondered
whether he had met with any luck; and thought that such patient devotion
as he displayed, merited recognition on the part of the fishes. She was
curious to know what the granite buildings were on Blackwell’s Island.
Arthur undertook the office of cicerone.

“Prison and hospital and graveyard constantly in sight,” was her
comment; “I should think they would make one gloomy.”

“A memento mori, as one’s eyes feast on sky and water. On moonlight
nights in summer, it is superb here—quite Venetian. Every now and
then some dark, mysterious craft, slowly drifting by, reminds one of
Elaine’s barge.”

“It must be very beautiful,” she said, simply.

At this juncture an excursion steamboat made its appearance upon the
river, and conversation was suspended till it had passed. It was gay
with bunting and black with humanity. It strove its best to render day
hideous by dispensing a staccato version of “Home, Sweet Home” from
the blatant throat of a Calliope—an instrument consisting of a series
of steam whistles graduated in chromatic scale.

“How uncomfortable those poor people must be,” said Mrs. Lehmyl.
“Is—is this one of the dark, mysterious craft?”

“It is a product of our glorious American civilization. None but
an alchemist with true American instincts, would ever have thought of
transmuting steam to music.”

“Music?” queried Mrs. Lehmyl, dubiously.

Arthur was about to qualify his use of the term when the door opened and
admitted a procession of Mrs. Berle’s daughters and sons-in-law.
An uproar of greetings and presentations followed. The men exchanged
remarks about the weather and the state of trade; the women, kisses and
inquiries concerning health. Bits of news were circulated. “Lester
Bar is engaged to Emma Frankenstiel,” “Mrs. Seitel’s baby was
born yesterday—another girl,” “Du lieber Gott!” “Ist’s
moglich?” and so on; a breezy mingling of German with English, of
statement with expletive; the whole emphasized by an endless swaying of
heads and lifting of eyebrows. The wine and cakes made a second tour of
the room. Fresh cigars were lighted. The ladies fell to comparing notes
about their respective offspring. One of the gentlemen volunteered a
circumstantial account of a Wagner concert he had attended the night
previous. It was a long while before any thing resembling quiet was
restored. Arthur seized the first opportunity that presented itself to
edge back to Mrs. Lehmyl’s side.

“All this talk about music,” he said, “has whetted my appetite.
You are going to sing for us, aren’t you?”

“Oh, I shouldn’t dare to, in this assemblage of Wagnerites. The sort
of music that I can sing would seem heresy from their point of view.
I can’t sing Wagner, and I shouldn’t venture upon any thing so
retrograde as Schumann or Schubert. Besides, I’m rather tired to-day,
and—so please don’t introduce the subject. Mrs. Berle might follow
it up; and if she asked me, I couldn’t very well refuse.”

Mrs. Lehmyl’s tone showed that she meant what she said.

“This is a great disappointment,” Arthur rejoined.

“You don’t know how anxious I am to hear you sing at close quarters.
But as for your music being retrograde, why, only the other night I
was admiring your fine taste in making selections. Wohin, for instance.
Isn’t Wohin abreast of the times?”

“The Wagnerites wouldn’t think so. It is melody. Therefore it
is—good enough for the uninitiated, perhaps—but not to be put up
with by people of serious musical cultivation. The only passages in
Wagner’s own work that his disciples take exception to, are those
where, in a fit of artistic obliquity, he has become truly melodious.
Here, they think, he has been guilty of backsliding. His melodies were
the short-comings of genius—pardonable, in consideration of their
infrequency, but in no wise to be commended. The further he gets away
from the old standards of excellence—the more perplexing, complicated,
artificial, soporific, he becomes—the better are his enthusiasts
pleased. The other day I was talking with one of them, and in the
desire to say something pleasant, I spoke of how supremely beautiful
the Pilgrim’s Chorus is in Tannhâuser. A look of sadness fell upon
my friend’s face, and I saw that I had blundered. ’Ah,’ she cried,
’don’t speak of that. It makes my heart ache to think that the
master could have let himself down to any thing so trivial.’ That’s
their pet word—trivial. Whenever a theme is comprehensible, they
dispose of it as trivial.”

Arthur laughed and said, “It is evident to what school you belong.
For my part, I always suspect that when a composer disdains to write
melodies, it is a case of sour grapes.”

“Yes, he lacks the inventive faculty, and then affects to despise
it,” said Mrs. Lehmyl. “My taste is very old-fashioned. Of course
every body must recognize Wagner’s greatness, and must appreciate him
in his best moods. But when he cuts loose from all the established laws
of composition—well, I heard my sentiments neatly expressed once by
Signor Zacchinelli, the maestro. ’It is ze music of ze future?’ he
inquired. ’Zen I am glad I shall be dead.’ Smiting his breast he
went on, ’I want somezing to make me feel good here.’ That’s the
trouble. Except when Wagner abides by the old traditions, he never makes
one feel good here. The pleasure he affords is intellectual rather than
emotional. He amazes you by the intricate harmonies he constructs, but
he doesn’t touch your heart. Now and then he forgets himself—is
borne away from his theories on the wings of an inspiration—and then
he is superb.”

“I wonder,” Arthur asked, by and by, “whether you can tell me what
it was that you sang the evening I first heard you. It was more than a
week ago—a week ago Friday. At about sunset time, we were out on our
roof, and you sang something that I had never heard before,—something
soft and plaintive, with a refrain that went like this——” humming
a bar or two of the refrain. “Oh, that? Did you like that?”

“I did, indeed. I thought it was exquisite.”

“I am glad, because it is a favorite of my own. It’s an old
French folk-song, arranged by Bizet. The title is Le Voile d’une
Religieuse.”

“I wish I could hear it again. I can’t tell you how charming it was
to sit there in the open air, and watch the sunset, and listen to that
song. Only, it was so exasperating not to be able to see the songstress.
Won’t you be persuaded to sing it now? I’m sure you are not too
tired to sing that.”

“What? Here? I should never be absolved. The auditors—I dare not
fancy what the effect upon them might be. That song, of all things! Why,
it is worse than Schubert.—But seriously,” she added, gravely, “I
could not bear to expose any thing so dear to me as my music is, to the
ridicule it would provoke from the Wagnerites. It hurts me keenly to
hear a song that I love, picked to pieces, and made light of, and
tossed to the winds. It hurts me just as keenly to hear it praised
insincerely—merely for politeness’ sake. Music—true music—is
like prayer. It is too sacred to—you know what I mean—to be laid
bare to the contempt of unbelievers.”

“Yes, indeed, like prayer. It is the most perfect vehicle of
expression for one’s deepest, most solemn feelings—that and——”

“And poetry.”

“How did you guess that I was going to say poetry?”

“It was obvious. The two go together.”

“So they do. Do you know, Mrs. Lehmyl, if I were to try my hand at
guesswork, I think I could name your favorite poet.”

“Indeed; who is he?”

“Robert Browning.”

Mrs. Lehmyl cast a half surprised, half startled glance at Arthur.
“Are you a mind-reader? Or was it simply a chance hit?” she asked.

“Then I was right?”

“Yes, you were right, though I ought not to tell you so. You ought not
to know your power, if power it was, and not mere random’ guesswork.
One with that faculty of penetrating another’s mind must be a
dangerous associate. But tell me, what hint did I let fall, that made
you suspect I should be fond of Browning?”

“If I should answer that question, I am afraid you might deem me
presumptuous. I could not do so, without paying you a compliment.”

“Then, leave it unanswered,” she said, coldly.

At this moment Mrs. Hart rose and bade good-by to Mrs. Berle; then
called across to Mrs. Lehmyl, “Come, Ruth;” and the latter wished
Arthur good afternoon.

He and Hetzel left soon after. Mrs. Berle said, “If you young
gentlemen have no other engagement, won’t you take tea here a week
from to-night?”

“You are very kind,” Hetzel answered; “and we shall do so with
great pleasure.”

Upstairs, “Well, how did you like her?” inquired Arthur.

“Like whom? Mrs. Berle?”

“No—Mrs. Lehmyl, of course, stupid.”

“That’s a pretty question for you to ask; as though you’d given me
a chance to find out. How did you like her?”

“Oh, she’s above the average.”

“Is that all? Then you were disappointed? She didn’t come up to your
anticipations?”

“Oh, I don’t say that. Yes, she’s# a fine woman.”

“But her friend, Mrs. Hart, is a trump.”

“So? Nobody would suspect it from her looks. Her austere coloring
inspires a certain kind of awe.”

“She’s no longer young. But she’s very agreeable, all the same. We
talked a good deal together. She asked me to call. You weren’t a bit
clever.”

“No?”

“No, sir. If you had been, you would have devoted yourself to Mrs.
Hart. Then she would have invited you to call, too. So you could have
cultivated Mrs. Lehmyl at your leisure.”

“But you and I are one. You can take me to call with you, can’t
you?”

“I don’t know about that. She asked me to drop in informally any
afternoon. You’re never home in the afternoon. Besides, you’re old
enough to receive an invitation for yourself.”

“Nonsense! You can arrange it easily enough. Ask permission to bring
your Fidus Achates.”

“I’ll see about it. If you behave yourself for the next week or two,
perhaps I’ll exert my influence. By the way, how did you like Mrs.
Lehmyl’s playing?”

“She played uncommonly well—didn’t you think so?”

“Indeed, I did. Execution and expression were both fine. She has
studied in Europe, Mrs. Hart says.”

“Did you learn who her husband is?”

“I learned that he isn’t. I was right in my conjecture. She is a
widow.”

“That’s a relief. I am glad she is not-encumbered with a husband.”

“Fie upon you, man! You ought to be ashamed to say it. He has been
dead quite a number of years.”

“Quite a number of years? Why, she can’t be more than twenty-four or
five years old—and besides, she’s still in mourning.”

“I guess that’s about her age. But the mourning doesn’t signify,
because it’s becoming to her; and so she would naturally keep it up as
long as possible.”

“That introduces the point of chief importance. What did you think of
her appearance?”

“Oh, she has magnificent eyes, and looks refined and
interesting—looks as though she knew what sorrow meant, too—only,
perhaps the least bit cold. No, cold isn’t the word. Say dignified,
serious, a woman with whom one could never be familiar—in whose
presence one would always feel a little—a little constrained. That
isn’t exactly what I mean, either. You understand—one would always
have to be on one’s guard not to say any thing flippant or trivial.”

“You mean she looks as though she were deficient in levity?”

“Well, as though she wouldn’t tolerate any thing petty—a dialogue
such as ours now, for example.”

“I don’t know whether you have formed a correct notion of her, or
not. Cold she certainly isn’t. She’s an enthusiast on the subject
of music. And when we were talking about Wagner, she—wasn’t exactly
flippant—but she showed that she could be jocose. There’s something
about her that’s exceedingly impressive, I don’t know what it is.
But I know that she made me feel, somehow, very small. She made me feel
that underneath her quiet manner—hidden away somewhere in her frail
woman’s body—there was the capability of immense power. She reminded
me of the women in Robert Browning’s poetry—of the heroine of the
’Inn Album’ especially. Yet she said nothing remarkable—nothing to
justify such an estimate.”

“You were affected by her personal magnetism. A woman with eyes like
hers—and mighty scarce they are—always gives you the idea of power.
Young as she is, I suspect she’s been through a good deal. She has had
her experiences. That seems to be written on her face. Yet she didn’t
strike me as having the peach-bloom rubbed off—though, of course, I
had no chance to examine her closely.”

“Oh, no; the peach-bloom is there in abundance. Well, at all events,
she’s a problem which it will be interesting to solve. By the way,
what possessed you to accept Mrs. Berle’s invitation to tea?”

“What possessed me? Why should I have done otherwise?”

“It will be an insufferable bore.”

“Who was it that somewhat earlier in the afternoon preached me a
sermon on the duties we owe that identical Mrs. Berle?”

Arthur spent the evening reading. Hetzel, peeping over his shoulder, saw
that the book of his choice was “The Inn Album” by Robert Browning.



CHAPTER V.—“A NOTHING STARTS THE SPRING.”

ANOTHER week slipped away. The weather changed. There was rain almost
every day, and a persistent wind blew from the north-east. So the loggia
of No. 43 Beekman Place was not much patronized. Nevertheless, Arthur
heard Mrs. Lehmyl sing from time to time. When he would reach home at
night, he generally ensconced himself near to a window at the front of
the house; and now and then his vigilance was encouraged by the sound of
her voice.

Hetzel, of course, ran him a good deal. He took the running very
philosophically. “I admit,” he said, “that she piques my
curiosity, and I don’t know any reason why she shouldn’t. Such
a voice, joined to such beauty and intelligence, is it not enough to
interest any body with the least spark of imagination? When are you
going to call upon them?” But Hetzel was busy. “Examinations are now
in full blast,” he pleaded. “I have no leisure for calling on any
one.”

“‘It sometimes make a body sour to see how things are
shared,’.rdquo; complained Arthur. “To him who appreciates it not,
the privilege is given; whereas, from him who would appreciate it to its
full, the privilege is withheld. I only wish I had your opportunity.”

Hetzel smiled complacently.

“And then,” Arthur went on, “not even an occasional encounter in
the street. Every day, coming and going, I cherish the hope that we may
meet each other, she and I. Living so close together, it would be but
natural if we should. But I’m down in my luck. We might as well dwell
at the antipodes, for all we gain by being near neighbors. Concede that
Fate is deucedly unkind.”

“I don’t know about that,” said Hetzel, reflectively. “Perhaps
Fate is acting for the best. My private opinion is that the less you see
of that woman, the better for you. You’re a pretty susceptible
young man; and those eyes of hers might play sad havoc with your
affections.”

“That’s just the way with you worldly, practical, materialistic
fellows. You can’t conceive that a man may be interested in a woman,
without making a fool of himself, and getting spoony over her. You
haven’t enough spiritualism in your composition to realize that a
woman may appeal to a man purely on abstract principles.”

Hetzel laughed.

“You’re a cynic,” Arthur informed him.

“I don’t believe in playing with fire,” he retorted.

Thereafter their conversation drifted to other themes.

Well, the week glided by, and it was Sunday again; and with Sunday there
occurred another change in the weather. The mercury shot up among the
eighties, and the sky grew to an immense dome of blue. Sunday morning
Hetzel said, “I suppose you haven’t forgotten that we are engaged to
sup with Mrs. Berle this evening?” To which Arthur responded, yawning,
“Oh, no; it has weighed upon my consciousness ever since you accepted
her invitation.”

“I wouldn’t let it distress me so much, if I were you. And, by the
way, don’t you think it would be well for us to take some flowers?”

“I suppose it would be a polite thing to do.”

“Then why don’t you make an excursion over to the florist’s on
Third Avenue, and lay in an assortment?”

“You’re the horticulturist of this establishment. Go yourself.”

“No. Your taste is superior to mine. Go along. Get a goodly number of
cut flowers, and then two or three nosegays for the ladies.”

“Ladies? What ladies?” demanded Arthur, brightening up. “Who is to
be there, besides us and Mrs. Berle?”

“Oh, I don’t say that any body is. I thought perhaps one of her
daughters, or a friend, or—”

“Well, maybe I’ll go over this afternoon. For the present—”

“This afternoon will be too late. The shops close early, you know, on
Sunday.”

Arthur issued forth upon his quest for flowers.

What was it that prompted him, after the main purchase had been made, to
ask the tradesman, “Now, have you something especially nice, something
unique, that would do for a lady’s corsage?” The shopkeeper replied,
“Yes, sir, I have something very rare in the line of jasmine. Only a
handful in the market. This way, sir.”—Arthur was conducted to the
conservatory behind the shop; and there he devoted a full quarter hour
of his valuable time to the construction of a very pretty and fragrant
bunch of jasmine. What was it that induced this action?

When he got back home and displayed his spoils to Hetzel, the latter
said, “And this jasmine—I suppose you intend it for Mrs. Berle to
wear, yes?” To which Arthur vouchsafed no response.

They went down stairs at six o’clock. Mrs. Berle was alone in her
parlor. They had scarcely more than made their obeisance, however, when
the door-bell rang; and presently the rustle of ladies’ gowns became
audible in the hallway. Next moment the door opened—and Arthur’s
heart began to beat at break-neck speed. Entered, Mrs. Hart and Mrs.
Lehmyl.

“I surmised as much, and you knew it all the while,” Arthur gasped
in a whisper to Hetzel.

His friend shrugged his shoulders.

The first clamor of greetings being over with, Arthur, his bunch of
jasmine held fast in his hand, began, “Mrs. Lehmyl, may I beg of you
to accept these little——”

“Oh, aren’t they delicious!” she cried, impulsively.

Her eyes brightened, and she bent over the flowers to breathe in their
incense.

“But I mustn’t keep them all for myself,” she added.

“Oh, we are equally well treated,” said Mrs. Hart, flourishing a
knot of Jacqueminot roses.

“Yes, indeed,” Mrs. Berle joined in, pointing to a table, the marble
top of which was hidden beneath a wealth of variegated blossoms.

“Nevertheless,” said Mrs. Lehmyl. And she went on picking her
bouquet to pieces. Mrs. Hart and Mrs. Berle received their shares;
Hetzel his; and then, turning to Arthur, “Maintenant, monsieur”
she said, with a touch of coquetry, “maintenant à votre tour.” She
fastened a spray of jasmine to the lappel of his coat. In doing so, a
delicate whiff of perfume was wafted upward from her hair. Whether it
possessed some peculiar elixir-like quality, or not, I can not tell; but
at that instant Arthur felt a thrill pierce to the very innermost of his
heart.

“It is so warm,” said Mrs. Berle, “I thought it would be pleasant
to take supper out of doors. If you are agreeable, we will go down to
the backyard.”

In the back-yard the table was set beneath a blossoming peach-tree. The
grass plot made an unexceptionable carpet. Honeysuckle vines clambered
over the fence. The river glowed warmly in the light of the declining
sun. The country beyond on Long Island lay smiling at the first
persuasive touch of summer—of the summer that, ere long waxing
fiercely ardent, was to scorch and consume it.

Mrs. Lehmyl looked around, with child-like happiness shining in her
eyes. Arthur looked at her.

“Permit me to make you acquainted with my brother, Mr. Lipman,” said
the hostess.

Mr. Lipman had a head that the Wandering Jew might have been proud of;
snow-white hair and beard, olive skin, regular features of the finest
Oriental type, and deep-set, coal-black eyes, with an expression in
them—an anxious, eager, hopelessly hopeful expression—that told the
whole story of the travail and sorrow of his race. He kissed the hands
of the ladies and shook those of the gentlemen.

“Now, to the table!” cried Mrs. Berle.

The table was of appetizing aspect; an immaculate cloth, garnished by
divers German dishes, and beautified by the flowers our friends had
brought. Arthur’s chair was placed at the right of Mrs. Lehmyl’s.
Conversation, however, was general from first to last. Hetzel
contributed an anecdote in the Irish dialect, at which he was an adept.
Arthur told of a comic incident that had happened in court the other
day. Mrs. Lehmyl said she could not fancy any thing being comic in a
courtroom—the atmosphere of a court-room sent such a chill to the
heart, she should think it would operate as an anaesthetic upon the
humorous side of a person. Mr. Lipman gave a few reminiscences of the
Hungarian revolt of ’49, in which he had been a participant, wielding
a brace of empty seltzer bottles, so he said, in default of nobler
weapons. This led the talk up to the superiority of America over
the effete monarchies of Europe. After a good deal of patriotism had
asserted itself, a little criticism began to crop out. By and by the
Goddess of Liberty had had her character thoroughly dissected. With
the coffee, Mrs. Berle, who had heretofore shone chiefly as a listener,
said, “Now, you young gentlemen may smoke, just as if you were three
flights higher up.” So they lit their cigars—in which pastime Mr.
Lipman joined them—and sat smoking and chatting over the table till it
had grown quite dark. At last it was moved that the party should adjourn
to the parlor and have some music. There being no Wagnerites present,
Mrs. Lehmyl sang Jensen’s Lehn deine Wang, with so much fervor that
two big tears gathered in Mr. Lipman’s eyes and rolled down his
cheeks. Then, to restore gayety, she sang La Paloma, in the merriest way
imaginable; and finally, to bring the pendulum of emotion back to its
mean position, Voi chi Sapete from the “Marriage of Figaro.” After
this there was an interim during which every body found occasion to
say his say; and then Mrs. Berle announced, “My brother plays the
’cello. Now he must also play a little, yes?”

Mrs. Lehmyl was delighted by the prospect of hearing the ’cello
played; and Mr. Lipman performed a courtly old bow, and said it would
be a veritable inspiration to play to her accompaniment. Thereupon they
consulted together until they had agreed upon a selection. It proved to
be nothing less antiquated than Boccherini’s minuet. The quaint and
graceful measures, wrung out from the deep-voiced ’cello, brought
smiles of enjoyment to every face. “But,” says Arthur, “what
pleased me quite as much as the music was to keep my eyes fixed on the
picture that the two musicians presented; that old man’s wonderful
countenance, peering out from behind the neck of his instrument, intent,
almost fierce in its earnestness; and hers, pale, luminous, passionate,
varying with every modulation of the tune. And all the while the scent
of the jasmine bud haunted my nostrils, and recalled vividly the moment
she had pinned it into my buttonhole.”—In deference to the demand
for an encore, they played Handel’s Largo. Then Mrs. Berle’s maid
appeared, bearing the inevitable wine and cakes. By and by Mrs. Hart
began to make her adieux. At this, Arthur slipped quietly out of the
room. When he returned, half a minute later, he had his hat in his hand.
Mrs. Hart protested that it was quite unnecessary for him to trouble
himself to see them home. “Why, it is only straight across the
street,” she submitted. But Arthur was obstinate.

On her door-step, Mrs. Hart said, “We should be pleased to have you
call upon us, Mr. Ripley.”

He and Hetzel sat up till past midnight, talking. The latter volunteered
a good many favorable observations anent Mrs. Lehmyl. Arthur could have
listened to him till daybreak.—In bed he had difficulty getting to
sleep. Among other things, he kept thinking how fortunate it was that
Peixada had disapproved of the trip to Europe. “Why, New York,”
he soliloquized, “is by all means the most interesting city in the
world.”

He took advantage of Mrs. Hart’s permission to call, as soon as
he reasonably could. While he was waiting for somebody to appear, he
admired the decorations of Mrs. Hart’s parlor. Neat gauze curtains at
the windows, a rosy-hued paper on the wall, a soft carpet under foot,
pretty pictures, pleasant chairs and tables, lamps and porcelains, and
a book-case filled with interesting looking books, combined to lend the
room an attractive, homelike aspect; for all of which, without cause,
Arthur assumed that Mrs. Lehmyl was answerable. An upright piano
occupied a corner; a sheet of music lay open on the rack. He was bending
over it, to spell out the composer’s name, when he heard a rustling of
silk, and, turning around, he made his bow to—Mrs. Hart.

Mrs. Hart was accompanied by her cats.

Arthur’s spirits sank.

“Ah, how do you do?” said Mrs. Hart. “I’m so glad to see you.”

She shook his hand cordially and bade him be seated. He sat down and
looked at the ceiling.

“Why didn’t you bring your comrade, Mr. Hetzel?” she asked.

“Oh, Hetzel, he’s got an examination on his hands, you know, and has
perforce become a recluse—obliged to spend his evenings wading through
the students’ papers,” explained Arthur, in a tone of sepulchral
melancholy.

Mrs. Hart tried to manufacture conversation. Arthur responded
absent-mindedly. Neither alluded to Mrs. Lehmyl. Arthur, fearing to
appear discourteous, endeavored to behave as though it was to profit
by Mrs. Hart’s society alone that he had called. His voice,
notwithstanding, kept acquiring a more and more lugubrious quality.
But, by and by, when the flame of hope had dwindled to a spark, a second
rustling of silk became audible. With a heart-leap that for a moment
rendered him dumb, he heard a sweet voice say, “Good evening, Mr.
Ripley.” He lifted his eyes, and saw Mrs. Lehmyl standing before him,
smiling and proffering her hand. Silently cursing his embarrassment,
he possessed himself of the hand, and stammered out some sort of a
greeting. There was a magic about that hand of hers. As he touched it,
an electric tingle shot up his arm.

All three found chairs. Mrs. Hart produced a bag of knitting. One of the
cats established himself in Mrs. Lehmyl’s lap, and went to sleep. The
other rubbed up against Arthur’s knee, purring confidentially. Arthur
cudgeled his wits for an apt theme. At last he got bravely started.

“What a fine-looking old fellow that Mr. Lipman was,” he said. “It
isn’t often that one sees a face like his in America.”

“No—not among the Americans of English blood; they haven’t enough
temperamental richness,” acquiesced Mrs. Lehmyl.

“Yes, that’s so. The most interesting faces one encounters here
belong to foreigners—especially to the Jews. Mr. Lipman, you know, is
a Jew.”

“Naturally, being Mrs. Berle’s brother.”

“It’s rather odd, Mrs. Lehmyl, but the more I see of the Jews, the
better I like them. Aside from the interest they possess as a phenomenon
in history, they’re very agreeable to me as individuals. I can’t at
all comprehend the prejudice that some people harbor against them.”

“How very liberal,” If there was a shade of irony in her tone, it
failed of its effect upon Arthur, who, inspired by his subject, went
gallantly on:

“Their past, you know, is so poetic. They have the warmth of old wine
in their blood. I’ve seen a great deal of them. This neighborhood is
a regular ghetto. Then down-town I rub elbows with them constantly.
Indeed, my best client is a Jew. And my friend, Hetzel, he’s of
Jewish extraction, though he doesn’t keep up with the religion. On the
average, I think the Jews are the kindest-hearted and clearest-minded
people one meets hereabouts. That Mr. Lipman was a specimen of the
highest type. It was delightful to watch his face, when you and he were
playing—so fervent, so unselfconscious.”

“And he played capitally, too—caught the true spirit of the
music.”

“So it seemed to me, though of course, I’m not competent to
criticise. Speaking of faces, Mrs. Lehmyl, I hope you won’t mind me
saying that your face does not look to me like and American—I mean
English-American.”

“There is no reason why it should. I’m not’ English-American.”

“Ah, I felt sure of it. I felt sure you had Italian blood in your
veins.”

“No—nor Italian either.”

“Well, Spanish, then?”

“Why, I supposed you knew. I—I am a Jewess.”

“Mercy!” gasped Arthur, blushing to the roots of his hair. “I
hope—I hope you—” He broke off, and squirmed uncomfortably in his
chair.

“Why, is it possible you didn’t know it?” asked Mrs. Lehmyl.

“Indeed, I did not. If I had, I assure you, I shouldn’t have put my
foot in it as I did—shouldn’t have made bold to patronize your race
as I was doing. I meant every word I spoke, though. The Jews are a noble
and beautiful people, with a record that we Gentiles might well envy.”

“You said nothing that was not perfectly proper. Don’t imagine for
an instant that you touched a sensitive spot. I am a Jewess by birth,
though, like your friend, Mr. Hetzel, I don’t go to the temple. Modern
ceremonial Judaism is not to me especially satisfying as a religion.”

“You are not orthodox?”

“I am quite otherwise.”

“I am glad to hear it. I am glad that there is this tendency amoung
the better educated Jews to cast loose from their Judaism. I want to see
them intermarry with the Christians—amalgamate, and help to form the
American people of the future. That of course is their destiny.”

“I suppose it is.”

“You speak as though you regretted it.”

“No; I don’t regret it. I am too good an American to regret it.
But it is a little melancholy, to say the least, to see one of the most
cherished of Jewish ideals being abandoned before the first step is made
toward realizing it.”

“What ideal is that?”

“Why, the hope that cheered the Jews through the many centuries of
their persecution—the hope that a time would come when they could
compel recognition from their persecutors, when, as a united people,
they could stand forth before the world, pure and strong and upright,
and exact credit for their due. The Jew has been for so long a time the
despised and rejected of men, that now, when he has the opportunity, it
seems as though he ought to improve it—show the stuff he is made of,
prove that Shylock is a libel upon him, justify his past, achieve great
results, demonstrate that he only needed light and liberty to
develop into a leader of progress. The Jew has eternally been
complaining—crying, ’You think I am such an inferior style of
personage; give me a chance, and I will convince you of your error.’
Now that the chance is given him, it seems a pity for him quietly to
efface himself, become indistinguishable in the mass of mankind. I
should like him to retain the name of Jew until it has grown to be
a term of honor, instead of one of reproach. However, his destiny is
otherwise; and he must make the best of it. It is the destiny of the
dew-drop to slip into the shining sea.’ Probably it is better that it
should be so.”

“But how many Jews are there who would subscribe to your view of the
case—who would admit that amalgamation is inevitable?”

“Doubtless, very few. Most of them have no views at all on the
subject. The majority of the wealthier Jews here in America are
epicureans. Eat, drink, be merry, and lay up a competence for the rainy
day, is about their philosophy. But among the older people the prejudice
against intermarriage is wonderfully strong. We shall have to wait for
a generation or two, before it can become common. But it is a prejudice
pure and simple, the offspring of superstition, and not the result of
allegiance to that ideal I was speaking of. The average Jew of a certain
age may not care a fig for his religion, but if he hears of an instance
of intermarriage, he will hold up his hands in horror, and wag his head,
and predict some dire calamity for the bride and bridegroom. The same
man will not enter a synagogue from year’s end to year’s end, and
should you happen to discuss theology with him, you’d put him down for
an out-and-out rationalist at once. But then, plenty of people who
pride themselves on being freethinkers, are profoundly
superstitious—Gentiles as well as Jews.”

“No doubt about that. In fact, I think that every body has a trace
of superstition in his makeup, no matter how emancipated he may fancy
himself. Now I, for example, can’t help attributing some uncanny
potency to the number seven. There are more things in heaven and earth
than are dreamed of by modern science; and perhaps superstition is
a crude way of acknowledging this truth. It is the reaction of the
imagination, when confronted with the unknowable.”

“It seems to me that much which passes for superstition in the world,
ought not to be so called. It is, rather, a super-sense. There is a
subtle something that broods over human life—as the aroma broods over
a goblet of old wine—a something of such fine, impalpable texture,
that many men and women are never able to perceive it, but which
others of more sensitive organization, feel all the time—are forever
conscious of. This is the material which the imagination seizes hold of,
and out of which it spins those fantastic, cobweb shapes that practical
persons scoff at as superstitions. I can’t understand, however, how
any body can specialize it to the extent of linking it to arithmetic, as
you do, and as those do who are afraid of thirteen.”

“What you have reference to falls, rather, under the head of
mysticism, does it not? And mysticism is one form of poetry. You come
rightfully by your ideas on this subject. A strain of mysticism is your
birthright, a portion of your inheritance as a Jewess. It’s one of the
benefits you derive from being something more than an American.”

“Oh, but I am an American, besides. It is a privilege to be one.”

“I meant American of English ancestry. We are all Americans—or more
precisely, we are all immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. But
those of us that have an infusion of warmer blood than the English in
our veins, are to be congratulated.”

“It seems to me that Ripley is an English name.”

“So it is. But my father’s mother was a Frenchwoman.”

“A ruddy drop of Gallic blood outweighs a world of gold,” parodied
Mrs. Lehmyl.

“Oh, you may make fun of me, if you like,” cried Arthur; “but
my comfort in thinking of that French grandmother of mine will remain
undiminished. I wonder,” he added, more gravely, “I wonder whether
you have ever suffered from any of the indignities that your people are
sometimes put to, Mrs. Lehmyl. I declare I have been tempted to wring
the necks of my fellow Gentiles, now and then.”

“Suffered? I have occasionally been amused. I should not have much
self-respect, if any thing like that could cause me suffering. Last
summer, for instance, Mrs. Hart and I were in the mountains, at a hotel.
Every body, to begin with, was disposed to be very sociable. Then,
innocently enough, one day I said we were Jewesses. After that we were
left severely alone. I remember, we got into an omnibus one afternoon to
drive to the village. A young man and a couple of young ladies—guests
at the same house—were already in it. They glared at us quite
savagely, and whispered, ’Jews!’ and signaled the driver to stop and
let them out. So we had the conveyance to ourselves, for which we were
not sorry.”

“I wish I had been there!” cried Arthur, with astonishing energy.

“Why?” asked Mrs. Lehmyl.

“Oh, that young man and I would have had an interview alone,” he
answered, in a blood-curdling key.

“He means that he would have given that young man a piece of his
mind,” put in Mrs. Hart.

The sound of her voice occasioned Arthur a veritable start. He had
forgotten that she was present.

“I hope not,” said Mrs. Lehmyl. “To resent such conduct would lend
undue importance to it.”

“All the same it makes my blood boil—the thought that those young
animals dared to be rude to you.”

The pronoun “you” was spoken with a significant emphasis. A
student of human nature could have inferred volumes from it. Mrs. Hart
straightway proceeded to demolish her own claims to be called a student
of human nature, if she had any, by construing the syllable in the
plural number.

“I’m sure we appreciate your sympathy,” she said. “Ruth, play a
little for Mr. Ripley.”

Was this intended as a reward of merit? Contrariwise to the gentleman in
Punch, Arthur would so much rather have heard her talk than play.

“Shall I?” she asked.

“Oh, I should be delighted,” he assented.

She played the Pathetic Sonata. Before she had got beyond the first
dozen bars, Arthur had been caught up and borne away on the strong
current of the music. She played with wonderful execution and perfect
feeling. I suppose Arthur had heard the Pathetic Sonata a score of times
before. He had never begun to appreciate it till now. It seemed to him
that in a language of superhuman clearness and directness, the subtlest
and most sacred mysteries of the soul were being explained to him.
Every emotion, every passion, that the heart can feel, he seemed to
hear expressed by the miraculous voice that Mrs. Lehmyl was calling into
being; and his own heart vibrated in unison. Deep melancholy, breathless
terror, keen, quivering anguish, blank despair; flashes of short-lived
joy, instants of hope speedily ingulfed in an eternity of despond;
tremulous desire, the delirium of enjoyment, the bitter awakening to
a sense of satiety and self-deception; intervals of quiet reflection,
broken in upon by the turbulent cries of a hundred malicious spirits;
weird glimpses into a world of phantom shapes, exaltation into the
seventh heaven of delight, descent into the bottom pit of darkness;
these were a few of the strange and vague, but none the less intense,
emotional experiences through which Mrs. Lehmyl led him. When she
returned to her chair, opposite his own, he could only look upon her
face and wonder; he could not speak. A delicate flush had overspread
her cheeks, and her eyes shone even more brightly than their wont. She
evidently misunderstood his silence.

“Ah,” she said, with frank disappointment, “it did not please
you.”

“Please me?” he cried. “No, indeed, it did not please me. It was
like Dante’s journey through the three realms of the dead. It was
like seeing a miracle performed. It overpowered me. I suppose I am
too susceptible—weak, if you will, and womanish. But such music as
that—I could no more have withstood its spell, than I could withstand
the influence of strong wine.”

“Speaking of strong wine,” said Mrs. Hart, “what if you should try
a little mild wine?” And she pointed to a servant who had crossed the
threshold in the midst of Arthur’s rhapsody, and who bore a tray with
glasses and a decanter.

“In spite of this anti-climax,” he said, sipping his wine, “what I
said was the truth.”

“It is the fault, no doubt, of your French blood, Monsieur,” said
Mrs. Lehmyl. “But I confess that, perhaps in a moderated degree, music
has much the same effect upon me. When I first heard La Damnation de
Faust, I had to hold on to the arms of my chair, to keep from
being carried bodily away. You remember that dreadful ride into
perdition—toward the end? I really felt that if I let go my anchorage,
I should be swept off along with Faust and Mephistopheles.”

“I remember. But that did not affect me so. I never was so affected
till I heard you play just now.”

“I don’t know whether I ought to feel complimented, or the
reverse.”

“What is the feeling we naturally have at perceiving our power over
another human being?” Mrs. Lehmyl changed the subject.

“That was an exceedingly clever guess you made the other day,”
she said, “that I was a lover of Browning. I can’t understand what
suggested it.”

“I told you then that I dared not enlighten you, lest I might be
deemed presumptuous. If you will promise me absolution, beforehand—”

“But you, too, I take for granted, share my sentiments.”

“What I have read is unsurpassed. ’The Inn Album,’ for example.”

“And ’The Ring and the Book.’.rdquo;

“I haven’t read ’The Ring and the Book.’.rdquo;

“Oh, then you must read it at once. Then you don’t half know
Browning. Will you read it, if I lend it to you?”

“You are very kind. I should like nothing better.”

Mrs. Lehmyl begged to be excused and left the room. Arthur followed the
sound of her light, quick footsteps up the stairs.

“Browning is her patron saint,” volunteered Mrs. Hart. “She spends
her time about equally between him and her piano.”

Mrs. Lehmyl came back.

“There,” she said, giving him the volume, and smiling, “there is
my vade mecum. I love it almost as dearly as I could if it were a human
being. You must be sure to like it.”

“I am sure you honor me very highly by entrusting it to me,” he
replied.

At home he opened it, thinking to read for an hour or two before going
to bed. What interested him, however, even more than the strong, virile,
sympathetic poetry, and, indeed, ere long, quite absorbed his attention,
were the traces of Mrs. Lehmyl’s ownership that he came across every
here and there—a corner dog-eared, a passage inclosed by pencil
lines, a fragment of rose-petal stuck between the pages. It gave him a
delicious sense of intimacy with her to hold this book in his hands. Had
not her hand warmed it? her hair shadowed it? her very breath touched
it? Had it not been her companion in solitary moments? a witness to the
life she led when no human eye was upon her? What precious secrets
it might have whispered, if it had had a tongue! There was a slight
discoloration of the paper, where Pompilia tells of her miseries as
Guido’s bride. Who could say but that it had been caused by Mrs.
Lehmyl’s tears? That she had loaned him the book seemed somehow like
a mark of confidence. On the flyleaf something had been written in ink,
and subsequently scratched out—probably her name. He wondered why she
had erased it. Toward the close of Caponsacchi’s version, one of the
pages had been torn clear across, and then neatly pasted together with
tissue paper braces. He wondered what the circumstances were under which
the mischief had been done, and whether the repair was her handiwork. A
faint, sweet perfume clung to the pages. It had the power of calling her
up vividly before him, and sending an exquisite tremor into his heart.
And, withal, had any body suggested that he was at the verge of falling
in love with her, he would have denied it stoutly—so little was he
disposed to self-analysis.

But ere a great while, the scales fell from his eyes.

By dint of much self-discipline, he managed to let a week and a day
elapse before paying his second call. While he stood in the vestibule,
waiting for the opening of the door, sundry bursts of sound escaping
from within, informed him that a duet was being played upon the piano.
Intuitively he concluded that the treble part was Mrs. Lehmyl’s;
instinctively he asked, “But who is carrying the bass?” On entering
the parlor, it was with a sharp and significant pang that he beheld,
seated at Mrs. Lehmyl’s left, no less redoubtable a creature than a
Man. He took a chair, and sat down, and suffered untold wretchedness
until that duet was finished. He could not see the man’s face, but the
back of his head indicated youth. The vicissitudes of the composition
they were playing brought the two performers painfully close together.
This was bad enough; but to poor Arthur’s jealous mind it seemed as
if from time to time, even when the music furnished no excuse, they
voluntarily approached each other. Every now and then they hurriedly
exchanged a whispered sentence. He felt that he would eagerly have
bartered his ten fingers for the right to know what it was they said.
How much satisfaction would he have obtained if he had been stationed
near enough to overhear? All they said was, “One, two, three, four,
five, six.” Perhaps in his suspicious mood he would have magnified
this innocent remark into a confidence conveyed by means of a secret
code.

When the musicians rose Arthur experienced a slight relief. Mrs. Lehmyl
greeted him with marked kindness, and shook hands warmly. She introduced
her co-executant as Mr. Spencer. And Mr. Spencer was tall, lean, gawky
and bilious-looking.

But Arthur’s relief was of short duration. Mr. Spencer forthwith
proceeded to exhibit great familiarity with both of the ladies—a
familiarity which they did not appear to resent. Mrs. Hart, indeed,
reciprocated to the extent of addressing him as Dick. His conversation
made it manifest that he had traveled with them in Europe. He was
constantly referring to people and places and events about which Arthur
was altogether ignorant. His every other sentence began: “Do you
remember?” Arthur was excessively uneasy; but he had determined to sit
Mr. Spencer out, though he should, peradventure, remain until sunrise.

Mr. Spencer did indeed remain till the night had got on its last legs.
It lacked but a quarter of midnight when, finally, he accomplished his
exit.

Said Mrs. Hart, after he had gone: “A Boston man.”

“We met him,” said Mrs. Lehmyl, “at Aix-les-Bains. He’s a
remarkably well-informed musician—writes criticisms for one of the
Boston papers.”

“He came this evening,” went on Mrs. Hart, “to tell us of the
happy termination of a love affair in which he was involved when we last
saw him. He’s going to be married.”

At these words Arthur’s spirits shot up far above their customary
level. So! There was no occasion for jealousy in the quarter of Mr.
Spencer, at any rate. The reaction was so great that had Mr. Spencer
still been present, I think our hero would have felt like hugging him.

“A very fine fellow, I should judge,” he said. “I have outstaid
him because I wanted to tell you that Hetzel and I have devised a jolly
little plan for Sunday, in which we are anxious to have you join us. Our
idea is to spend the afternoon in the Metropolitan Art Museum. You know,
the pictures are well worth an inspection; and on Sunday there is no
crowd. Hetz has procured a Sunday ticket through the courtesy of
the director. Then, afterward, you are to come back with us and take
dinner—if the weather permits, out on our roof. Mrs. Berle will be at
the dinner, though she doesn’t care to go with us to see the pictures.
We may count upon you, may we not?”

“Oh, certainly; that will be delightful,” said Mrs. Hart.

“Then we will call for you at about three o’clock?”

“Yes.”

“Good-night.”

His hand was hot and trembling as it clasped Mrs. Lehmyl’s; a state
of things which she, however, did not appear to notice. She gazed calmly
into his eyes, and returned a quiet good-night. He stood a long while
in the doorway of his house, looking across at No. 46. He saw the light
quenched in the parlor, and other lights break out in the floors
above. Then these in their turn were extinguished; and he knew that the
occupants were on their way to the land of Nod. “Good angels guard her
slumbers,” he said, half aloud, and climbed the stairs that led to his
own bedchamber. There he lay awake hour after hour. He could hear the
waters of the river lapping the shore, and discern the street lamps
gleaming like stars along the opposite embankment. Now and again a
tug-boat puffed importantly up stream—a steam whistle shrieked—a
schooner glided mysteriously past. I don’t know how many times he
confessed to his pillow, “I love her—I love her—I love her!”

The next day—Saturday—he passed in a fever of impatience. It seemed
as though to-morrow never would arrive. At night he scarcely slept two
hours. And on Sunday morning he was up by six o’clock. Then, how the
hours and minutes did prolong themselves, until the hands of his watch
marked three!

“What’s the matter with you?” Hetzel asked more than once.
“Why are you so restless? You roam around like a cat who has lost her
kittens. Any thing worrying you? Feeling unwell? Or what?”

“Oh, I’m a little nervous—guess I drank more coffee for breakfast
than was good for me,” he replied.

He tried to read. The print blurred before his eyes. He tried to write a
letter. He proceeded famously thus far: “New York, May 24, 1884.—My
dearest mother.—” But at this point his pen stuck. Strive as he
might, he could get no further.

He tore the paper up, in a pet. He smoked thrice his usual allowance of
tobacco. Every other minute he had out his watch. He half believed that
Time had slackened its pace for the especial purpose of adding fuel
to the fires that were burning in his breast. Such is the preposterous
egotism of a man in love.

When at length the clock struck half after two, his pulse quickened.
This last half hour was as long as the entire forepart of the day had
been. With each moment, his agitation increased. Finally he and Hetzel
crossed the street. He had to bite his lips and press his finger-nails
deep into the flesh of his hands, in order to command a tolerably
self-possessed exterior.

Arthur says that he remembers the rest of that Sunday as one remembers a
bewildering dream. He remembers, to begin with, how Mrs. Lehmyl met him
in Mrs. Hart’s drawing-room, and gave him a warm, soft hand, and spoke
a few pleasant words of welcome. He remembers how his heart fluttered,
and how he had to catch for breath, as he gazed into her unfathomable
eyes, and inhaled that daintiest of perfumes which clung to her apparel.
He remembers how he marched at her side through Fiftieth Street to
Madison Avenue, in a state of delirious intoxication, and how they
mounted a celestial chariot—Hetzel says it was a Madison Avenue horse
car—in which he sat next to her, and heard her voice mingle with the
tinkling of silver bells, like a strain of heavenly music. He
remembers how they sauntered through the galleries, chatting together
about—oddly enough, he can not remember what. Oddly enough, also, he
can not remember the pictures that they looked at. He can remember only
“the angelic radiance of her face and the wonderful witchery of her
presence.” Then he remembers how they walked home together through the
Park, green and fragrant in the gentle May weather, and took places
side by side at the table on the roof. “What is strangest,” he says,
“is this, that I do not remember any thing at all about the other
people who were present—Hetzel and Mrs. Berle and Mrs. Hart. As I look
back, it seems as though she and I had been alone with each other the
whole time.” “But we were there, nevertheless,” Hetzel assures
me; “and one of us enjoyed hugely witnessing his young friend’s
infatuation. It was delightful to see the big, stalwart, imperious
Arthur Ripley, helpless as a baby in the power of that little woman. One
not well acquainted with him might not have perceived his condition; but
to me it was as plain as the nose on his face.”—“There was a full
moon that evening,” Arthur continues, “and I wish you could have
seen her eyes in the moonlight. I kept thinking of the old song,


’In thy dark eyes splendor,

Where the warm light loves to dwell.’.rdquo;


“I dare say you’ll think me sentimental, but I can’t help it.
The fact is that those eyes of hers glowed with all the tenderness and
pathos and mystery of a martyr’s. Pale, ethereal fires burned deep
down in them, and showed where her soul dwelt. They haunted me for days
afterward. Days? No—months. They haunt me now. My heart thrills at
this moment, thinking of them, just as it did then, when I was looking
into them. I tell you it hurt here”—thumping his chest—“when I
had to part with her. It was like—yes, sir; you needn’t smile—it
was like having my heart wrenched out. My senses were in confusion. I
walked up and down my floor pretty much all night. You never saw such a
wretched fellow. At least I fancied I was wretched. The thought of how
hopeless my case was—of how unlikely it was that she would ever care
a farthing for me—drove me about frantic. All the same, I wouldn’t
have exchanged that wretchedness for all the other treasures of the
world.” In this exaggerated vein, he would gladly babble on for the
next twenty pages; but to what profit, since it is already clear that he
was head-over-ears in love?

Of course Arthur had no idea of making a declaration. That she should
cherish for him a feeling at all of the nature of his for her, seemed
the most improbable of contingencies. So long as he could retain the
privilege of seeing her frequently, he would be contented; he would not
run the risk of having it withdrawn by revealing to her a condition
of affairs which, very likely, she would not sanction. His supremest
aspiration, he derived a certain dismal satisfaction from fancying,
would be realized if he could in some way become useful and helpful to
her, no matter after how lowly a fashion. Henceforward he spent at least
one evening a week in her company. ’She never received him alone;
but Mrs. Hart’s presence was not objectionable, because she had the
sensible custom of knitting in silence, and leaving the two younger
folks to do the talking. Their talk was generally about music and
literature and other edifying themes; rarely about matters personal.
Arthur got pretty well acquainted with Mrs. Lehmyl’s views and tastes
and habits of thought; but when he stopped to reckon up how much he had
gathered concerning herself, her family connections, her life in the
past, he acknowledged that it could all be represented by a solitary
nought. Not that she was conspicuously reserved with him. She made it
unmistakably evident that she liked him cordially. Only, the pronouns, I
and thou, played a decidedly minor part in her ordinary conversation.

He experienced all the pains and pleasures of first love, and all the
strange hallucinations that it produces. The man who looks at the world
through a lover’s eyes, is as badly off as he who looks at it through
a distorting lens—objects are thrown out of their proper relations;
proportion and perspective go mad; big things become little, and vice
versa. Especially is it remarkable how completely his notions of time
will get perverted. For instance, the hours flew by with a rapidity
positively astounding when Arthur was in Mrs. Lehmyl’s presence. He
would sit down opposite her at eight o clock; they would converse for a
few moments; she would sing a song or two; and then, to his unutterable
stupefaction, the clock would strike eleven! On the other hand, when he
was away from her, time lagged in an equally perplexing manner. He
and Hetzel, to illustrate, would finish their dinner at half past
seven—only a half hour before he would be at liberty to cross the
street. But that half hour! It stretched out like an eternity, beyond
the reach of Arthur’s imagination. Life had changed to a dream or to
a delirium—it would be hard to say which. The laws of cause and effect
had ceased to operate. The universe had lost its equilibrium. Arthur’s
heart would swing from hot to cold, from cold to hot, without a pretense
of physiological rhyme or reason. He became moody and capricious. A
fiber in his composition, the existence of which he had never hitherto
suspected, acquired an alarming prominence. That was an almost womanish
sensitiveness. It was as if he had been stripped of his armor. Small
things, trifling events, that had in the past left him entirely
unimpressed, now smote his consciousness like sharpened arrows. Sights
of distress in the streets, stories of suffering in the newspapers,
moved him keenly and profoundly. He had been reading Wilhelm Meisler. He
could not finish it. The emotions it occasioned him were poignant enough
to border upon physical pain. The long and short of it is that Love
had turned his rose-tinted calcium light upon the world in which Arthur
moved, and so made visible a myriad beauties and blemishes that had
lain hidden in the darkness heretofore. Among other things that Arthur
remarked as curious, was the frequency with which he saw her name,
Lehmyl, or other names resembling it, Lemyhl, Lehmil, etc., on
sign-boards, as he was being whirled through the streets on the elevated
railway. He was sure that he had never seen it or heard it till she had
come to dwell in Beekman Place. Now he was seeing it all the time. He
was disposed to be somewhat superstitious anent this circumstance, to
regard it as an omen of some sort—but whether for good or evil, he
could not tell. Of course its explanation was simple enough. With the
name uppermost in his mind, it was natural that his attention should be
caught by it wherever it occurred; whereas formerly, before he had known
her, it was one of a hundred names that he had passed unnoticed every
day. And yet, emerging from a brown study of which she had been the
subject, it was a little startling to look out of the window, and find
Lehmyl staring him in the face.

Now and then, if the weather was fine, he would go up-town early and
accompany her for a walk in Central Park. Occasionally he would tuck a
book into his pocket, so that when they sat down to rest he could read
aloud to her. One day the book of his selection chanced to be a volume
of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s shorter tales. They had appropriated unto
themselves a bench in a secluded alley; and now Arthur opened to “The
Snow Image.”

But before he had proceeded beyond the second sentence, Mrs. Lehmyl
stopped him. “Oh, please—please don’t read that,” she cried, in
a sharp, startled tone.

Arthur looked up. He saw that her face had turned deathly pale, that her
lips were quivering, and that her eyes had moistened. Thrusting the book
into his pocket, he stammered out a few hasty words of anxiety. She was
not ill?

“Oh, no,” she said, “not ill. Only, when you began to read that
story—when I realized what it was that you were reading—I—it—it
recalled disagreeable memories. But—shall we walk on?” She was
silent or monosyllabic, and her face wore a grave expression, all the
rest of their time together. At the door of her house she gave him her
hand, and looked straight into his eyes, and said, “You must forgive
me if I have spoiled your afternoon. I could not help it. You know how
it is’ when one is happy—very happy—to be reminded suddenly of
things one would like to forget.”

Arthur’s heart went out to her in a mighty bound. “When one is
happy—very happy!” The phrase echoed like a peal of gala bells in
his ears. He had a hard struggle to keep from flinging himself at her
feet there in the open street. But all his love burned in the glance he
gave her—an intense, radiant glance, which she met with one that threw
his soul into a transport. She knew now that he loved her! There
could be no doubt about that. And, since her eyes did not quail before
his—since she had sustained unflinchingly the gaze which, more
eloquently than any words, told her of the passion that was consuming
him—might he not conclude—? Ah, no; he would trust himself to
conclude nothing till he had spoken with her by word of mouth.

“Good-by,” she said.

“May—may I call upon you to-morrow?”

“Yes.”

He relinquished her hand, which he had been clinging to all this time,
and went his way.

“When one is happy—very happy,” he repeated again and again. “So
she was happy—very happy!—until I opened that ill-fated book.
What can the associations be that darkened her mood so abruptly? But
to-morrow!”



CHAPTER VI.—“THE WOMAN WHO HESITATES.”

RIPLEY, attorney, New York:

“Draft accepted. Begin immediately.

“Ulrich.”

Such was the cable dispatch that Arthur got a fortnight after he had
mailed his letter to Counselor Ulrich of Vienna. A fortnight later
still, the post brought him an epistle to the same effect. Then ensued
four weeks of silence. During these four weeks one question had received
a good share of his attention. The substance and the solution of it,
may be gathered from the following conversation held between him and
Peixada.

Arthur said, “Suppose the residence of your sister-in-law to be
discovered: what next? Suppose we find that she is living in Europe:
how can we induce her to return hither and render herself liable to the
jurisdiction of our courts? Or suppose even that she should turn out to
be established here in New York: what’s to prevent her from packing
her trunks and taking French leave the day after citations to attend the
probate of her husband’s will are served upon her? In other words,
how are we to compel her to stand and deliver? Ignorant as we are of
the nature and location of her properties, we can’t attach them in the
regular way.”

Peixada said, “Hum! That’s so. I hadn’t thought of that. That’s
a pretty serious question.”

“At first,” said Arthur, “it struck me as more than serious—as
fatal. But there’s a way out of it—the neatest and simplest way you
can imagine.”

“Ah,” sighed Peixada, with manifest relief.

“Now see,” continued Arthur. “Mrs. Peixada shot her husband—was
indicted—tried—acquitted’—yes?”

“To be sure.”

“But at the same time she also took the life of a man named Edward
Bolen, her husband’s coachman—eh?”

“She did—certainly.”

“Was she indicted for his murder as well as for the other?”

“She was indicted, yes, but——”

“But never arraigned for trial. Then the indictment is still in force
against her?”

“I suppose it is—unless the statute of limitations——”

“The statute of limitations does not apply after an indictment has
once been found.”

“Oh.”

“Well, I was thinking the matter over the other day—confronting that
difficulty I have mentioned, and wondering how the mischief it was to
be surmounted—when it occurred to me that it might be possible to
interest the authorities in our behalf, and so get Mrs. Peixada under
lock and key.”

“Splendid!”

“I went over to the district-attorney’s office, and saw Mr. Romer,
the senior assistant, who happens to be a good friend of mine, and told
him the sum and substance of our case. Then I asked him whether for the
sake of justice he wouldn’t lend us the machinery of the law—that
is, upon our finding out her whereabouts, cause her extradition and
imprisonment under the indictment in re Bolen. I promised that you would
assume the entire expense.”

“And he replied?”

“That it was a rather irregular proposition, but that he would think
it over and let me know his conclusion.”

“Well, have you heard from him since?”

“Yes—yesterday morning I received a note, asking me to call at his
office. When I got there, this is what he said. He said that he had read
the indictment, and consulted his chief, Mr. Orson, and pondered the
matter pretty thoroughly. Extraordinary as the proceeding would be, he
had decided to do as I wished. ’Because,’ he added, ’there’s
a mighty strong case against the woman, and I shouldn’t wonder if it
would be worth our while to try her. At any rate, if you can set us on
her track, we’ll arrest her and take our chances. We’ve made quite
a point, you know, of unearthing indictments that our predecessors
had pigeonholed; and more than once we’ve secured a conviction. It
doesn’t follow that because the jury in the Peixada case stultified
themselves, another jury will. So, you go ahead with your inquiries;
and when she’s firmly pinned down, we’ll take her in custody. Then,
after you’ve recovered your money, we can step in and do our best
to send her up to Sing Sing.’—I declare, I was half sorry to have
prepared new troubles for the poor creature; but, you see, our interests
are now perfectly protected.”

“A brilliant stroke!” cried Peixada. “Then we shall not merely
rescue my brother’s property, but, indirectly at least, we shall
avenge his death! I am delighted. Now we must redouble our efforts to
ferret her out.”

“Precisely. And that brings me to another point. I have had a long
letter—sixteen solid pages—from Ulrich, the Austrian lawyer. He has
traced her from Vienna to Paris, from Paris to London. He’s in London
now, working up his clew. The last news of her dates back to May, 1882.
On the 23d of that month she left the hotel she had been stopping at in
London, and went—Ulrich is trying to discover where. I think our best
course now will be to retain an English solicitor, and let him carry the
matter on from the point Ulrich has reached. With your approval, I shall
cable Ulrich to put the affair into the hands of Mr. Reginald Graham,
a London attorney in whom I have the utmost confidence. What do you
think?”

“Oh, you’re right. No doubt about that. Meantime, here.”—Peixada
handed his legal adviser a check for one hundred dollars. “This is to
keep up your spirits,” he said.

The above conference had taken place on the forenoon of Wednesday,
the 25th of June. It was on that afternoon that Arthur started to read
“The Snow Image” to Mrs. Lehmyl.

Next day, after an eternity of impatience, he rang her bell.

“Mrs. Lehmyl,” said the servant, “is sick in her room with a
headache.”

“What?” cried Arthur, and stood still, gaping for dismay.

“Yes,” repeated Bridget; “sick in her room.”

“Oh, but she will receive me. I call by appointment. Please tell her
that I am here.”

“She said that she could receive no one; but if you’ll step into the
parlor, I’ll speak to Mrs. Hart.”

Mrs. Hart appeared and corroborated the maid’s statement. A big lump
gathered in Arthur’s throat. He had looked forward so eagerly to this
moment—had hoped so much from it—and it had been such a long
time coming—that now to have it slip away unused, like this—the
disappointment was bitter. He felt utterly miserable and dejected. As
he dragged himself down the stoop—he had sprung up it, two steps at a
stride, a moment since—he noticed a group of urchins, standing on the
curbstone and grinning from ear to ear. He fancied that they had guessed
his secret, and were laughing at his discomfiture; if he had obeyed his
impulse, he would have wrung their necks on the spot. He crossed the
street, locked himself in his room, and surrendered unresistingly to the
blue devils.

These vivacious sprites played fast and loose with the poor boy’s
imagination. They conjured up before him a multitude of unlikely
catastrophes. They persuaded him that his case was worse than hopeless.
Mrs. Lehmyl cared not a fig for him. Why, forsooth, should she? Probably
he had a successful rival. That a woman such as she should love
an insignificant young fellow like himself—the bare idea was
preposterous. He was to blame for having allowed the flower of hope to
take root in his bosom. He laughed bitterly, and wondered how he had
contrived to deceive himself even for a moment.

It was trebly absurd that she should love him after so brief and so
superficial an acquaintance. Life wasn’t worth living; and, but for
his mother and Hetzel, he would put an end to himself forthwith. Yet,
the next instant he was recalling the “Yes” that she had spoken
yesterday, in response to his “May I call to-morrow?” and the
fearless glance with which she had met his eyes. “Ah,” he cries,
“it set my blood afire. It dazzled me with visions of impossible
joy. I could almost hear her murmur—oh, so softly—’I love you,
Arthur!’ You may guess the effect that fancy had upon me.” It is
significant that not once did he pity her for her headache. He took for
granted that it was merely a subterfuge for refusing’ to receive him.
But her motive for refusing to see him— There was the rub! If he could
only have divined it—known it to a certainty—then his suspense
would have been less of an agony, then his mind could have borrowed some
repose, though perhaps the repose of despair.

Well, he got through the night after a fashion. A streak of cold, gray
light lay along the eastern horizon, and the river had put off the
color of ink for the color of lead, before he fell asleep. His sleep was
troubled. A nightmare played frightful antics upon his breast. It was
broad day when he awoke. The river sparkled gayly in the sunlight, the
sky shimmered with warmth, the sparrows outside quarreled vociferously.
A brief glow of cheerfulness was the result. But memory speedily
asserted itself. Heartsick and weary he began his toilet. “What had I
to look forward to?” he demands. He climbed the staircase, and entered
the breakfast room. Hetzel sat near the window, reading a newspaper.
Hetzel grunted forth a gruff good-morning, without looking up. I doubt
however, whether Arthur knew that Hetzel was there at all. For, as he
crossed the threshold, his eye was caught by something white lying upon
his plate. He can’t tell why—but he guessed at once that it was a
note from Mrs. Lehmyl. His lover’s instinct scented the truth from
afar.

He snatched the letter up eagerly. But he delayed about opening it. He
scrutinized the direction—written in a frank, firm, woman’s hand.
The paper exhaled never so faint a perfume. Still he did not open it. He
was afraid. He would wait till his agitation had subsided a little. He
could hear his heart going thump, thump, thump, like a hammer against
his side. He had difficulty with his breath. Then a dreadful possibility
loomed up before him! What—what if it should not be from her after
all! This thought endowed him with the courage of desperation. He tore
the missive open.

He was standing there, one hand grasping the back of his chair,
the other holding the letter to his eyes, when Hetzel, throwing his
newspaper aside, got up, turned about the room, then abruptly came to a
halt, facing Arthur.

“Mercy upon me, man,” cried Hetzel, “what has happened? Cheeks
burning, fingers trembling! No bad news? Speak—quickly.”

But Arthur did not speak.

Hetzel went on: “I’ve noticed lately, there’s been something wrong
with you. You’re nervous, restless, out of kilter. Is there a woman in
the case? Is your feeling for our neighbor something more than a passing
fancy? Are you taking her seriously? Or, are you simply run down-+-in
need of rest and change? Why not make a trip up to Oldbridge, and see
your mother?”

By the time Hetzel had finished speaking, Arthur had folded his letter
and stowed it away in his pocket.

“Eh? What were you saying?” he inquired, with a blank look.

“Oh, I was saying that breakfast is getting cold; coffee spoiling,
biscuit drying up—whatever you choose. Letter from home?”

“Home? No; not from home,” said Arthur.

“Well, draw up, anyhow. Is—is—By Jove, what is the matter with
you? Where are you now? Why don’t you pay attention when I speak? What
has come over you the last week or two? You’re worrying me to death.
Out with it! No secrets from the head of the house.”

“I have no secrets,” Arthur answered, meekly; “only—only, if you
must know it, I’m—” No doubt he was on the point of making a full
confession. He restrained himself, however; added, “There! I won’t
talk about it;” applied himself to his knife and fork, and preserved
a dismal silence till the end of the meal. He went away as soon as
ordinary courtesy would warrant.

No sooner had he closed the door behind him, than his hand made a dive
into his pocket, and brought out Mrs. Lehmyl’s letter. He read it
through for perhaps the twentieth time. It ran thus:

“46 Beekman Place,

“Thursday evening.

“Dear Mr. Ripley After a sleepless night, my head is aching cruelly.
That is why I was unable to receive you. But, since you had told me that
you were coming, I feel that I must write this note to explain and to
apologize. I should have sent you word not to come, except that until
now I have been too ill to use my eyes. The only help for me when I have
a headache like this, is solitary confinement in a darkened room. I have
braved the gaslight for an instant, to write you this note, and already
I am suffering the consequences. But I felt that I really owed you my
excuses. You will accept them in a lenient spirit, will you not?

“Sincerely yours,

“Ruth Lehmyl.”

I think Arthur’s first sentiment on reading this communication, had
been one of disappointment. It was just such an apology as she might
have written to anybody else under similar circumstances. He had nerved
himself, he thought, for the worst before breaking the seal—for
a decree forbidding him future admittance to her presence, for an
announcement of her betrothal to another man—for what not. But a
quite colorless, polite, and amiable “I beg your pardon,” he had not
contemplated. It produced the effect of a wet blanket. From the high and
mighty heroic mood in which he had torn it open, to the unimpassioned
sentences in which it was couched, was too rapid a transition, too
abrupt a plunge from hot to cold, an anti-climax equally unexpected and
depressing.

But after a second perusal—and a second perusal followed immediately
upon the first—his pulse quickened. With a lover’s swift faculty for
seizing hold of and interpreting trifles light as air, he discerned what
he believed to be encouraging tokens. Under what obligation had Mrs.
Lehmyl been to write to him so promptly? At the cost of severe pain, she
had hastened to make her excuses for a thing that there was not really
the least hurry about. If she were quite indifferent to him, would she
not have deferred writing until her headache had passed off? To be sure,
it was just such a note as she might have written to Brown, Jones, or
Robinson; but would she have “braved the gaslight” and “suffered
the consequences” for Brown, Jones, or Robinson? Obviously, she had
felt a strong desire to set herself right with him; the recognition of
which fact afforded Arthur no end of pleasure.

By the time he had committed Mrs. Lehmyl’s note to memory, he was in a
fair way to recover his wonted buoyancy of spirits.

Of course he rang her door-bell in the afternoon.

“How is Mrs. Lehmyl to-day?” he inquired of the maid. “I hope her
headache is better.”

“Oh, she’s all well again to-day—just the same as ever,” was the
reply.

An idea occurred to him. He had intended merely to inform himself
concerning her health, leave the bunch of flowers he held in his right
hand, and go his way. But if she was up and about, why not ask to see
her?

“Is—is she in?” he questioned.

“Oh, yes; she’s in.”

“Will you please give her my card, then?”

He walked into the parlor.

The parlor was darkened—blinds closed to exclude the heat—and
intensely still. The ticking of the clock on the mantel-piece was the
only interruption of the silence, save when at intervals the distant
roar of a train on the elevated railway became audible for a moment.

Mrs. Lehmyl entered, and gave him her hand, and looked up smiling at
him, all without a word. She wore a white gown, and an amber necklace
and bracelet; and my informant says that she had “a halo of sweetness
and purity all around her.” For a trice Arthur was tongue-tied.

At length, “I have brought you a few flowers,” he began.

She took the flowers, and buried her nose in them, and thanked their
donor, and pinned one of the roses at her breast.

“I hope you are quite well again,” he pursued.

“Oh, yes,” she said, “quite well.”

“It was very thoughtful of you to write me that letter—when you were
in such pain.”

“I owed it to you. I had promised to receive you. It would have been
unfair, if I had not written.”

“I—I was quite alarmed about you. I was afraid your headache
might—” He faltered.

“There was no occasion for alarm. I am used to such headaches. I
expect one every now and then.”

“But—do you know?—at first I did not believe in it—not until
your letter confirmed what Mrs. Hart and the servant had said.”

“Why?”

“I thought perhaps—perhaps you did not care to see me, and had
pleaded a headache for politeness’ sake.”

“You did me an injustice.”—A pause.—“I did care to see you.”

A longer pause. Arthur’s heart was beating madly. Well it might. She
had pronounced the last sentence with an emphasis calculated to move a
man less deeply in love than he.

“Do you mean what you have just said?” he asked presently. His voice
quivered.

“Yes.”

“I suppose you knew—I—I suppose you knew what it was I wanted to
say to you—what it was I would have said, if I had been admitted.”

“Yes, I knew,” she answered, in almost a whisper, and bowed her
head.

Arthur sprang toward her and grasped her hand. “You knew—then, you
know that—that I love you—Ruth!”

She withdrew her hand, but did not raise her head. He waited for a
moment, breathless; then, “Ah, speak to me—won’t you speak to
me?” he begged, piteously.

She raised her head now, and gazed into his eyes; but her gaze was not
one of gladness.

“Yes, alas, alas, I know it,” she said, very slowly.

Arthur started back.

“Alas, alas?” he repeated after her.

“Oh, yes,” she said, in the same slow, grave way; “it is very,
very sad.”

“Sad?” His eyes were full of mystification.

“I mean that it is sad that you should care for me. If I had only
foreseen it—but I did not. You knew so little of me, how could I
foresee? But on Wednesday—the way you looked at me—oh, forgive me.
I—I never meant to make you care for me.”

“I do not understand,” said Arthur, shaking his head.

“That is why I wanted to see you. After what passed on Wednesday, I
felt that it was best for us both that I should see you and tell you
what a mistake you had made. I wanted to tell you that you must try hard
to forget about it. It would be useless and cruel for me to pretend not
to have understood, when you looked at me so. It was best that we should
meet again, and that I should explain it to you.”

“But your explanation puts me in the dark.”

“You would not want to love a woman unless there was hope that some
day you might marry her. Would not that be a great unhappiness?”

“It is not a question of want. I should love you under any and all
conditions.”

“But you never, never can marry me.”

“I will not believe it until—”

“Wait. Do not say things that you may wish to unsay a moment hence.
You never can marry me, for one sufficient reason—because—” She
hesitated.

“Because?” There was panic in Arthur’s heart. Was she not a widow,
after all?

She drew a deep breath, and bit her lip. Her cheek had been pale. Now a
hot blush suffused it. With an air of summoning her utmost strength,
she went on, “You never can marry me, because you never would marry
me—never, unless I should tell you—something—something about
my life—my life in the past—which I can never tell—not even to
you.”

“Oh!” cried Arthur, with manifest relief. “Is that all?”

“It is enough—it is final, fatal.”

“Oh, I thought it might be worse.”

There befell a silence. Arthur was mustering his forces, to get them
under control.. He dared not speak till he had done this. At last,
struggling hard to be calm, he said, “Do you suppose I care any thing
about your past life? Do you suppose that my love for you is so mean
and so small as that? I know all that it is needful for me to know about
your past. I know you, do I not? I know, then, that every act, every
thought, every breath of your life, has been as pure and as beautiful
as you are yourself. But what I know best, and what it is most essential
for me to know, is this, Ruth, that I love you. I love you! I can not
see that what you have spoken of is a bar to our marriage.”

“Ah, but I—I would not let you enter blindfold into a union which
some time you might repent. Should I be worthy of your love, if I would?
But, what is worse, were I—were I to tell you this thing—which I can
not tell you—then you—you would not ask me to marry you. Then you
would not love me. The truth—the truth which, if I should become your
wife, I could never share with you—which would remain forever a secret
kept by me from my husband—it is—you would abhor me if you should
find it out. If you should find it out after we were married—if
somebody should come to you and tell you—oh, you would hate me. It is
far more dreadful than you can fancy.”

“No—no; for I will fancy the worst, and still beg of you to become
my wife. If I loved you less—if I did not know you so well—the hints
you utter might prompt some horrible suspicion in my mind. Will you take
it as a proof of my love, that I dare assert positively, confidently,
this?—Whatever the past may have been, so far as you were concerned in
shaping it, it was good beyond reproach. Whatever your secret may be, it
is not a secret that could show you to be one jot or tittle less noble
than I know you to be. Whatever the truth you speak of is, it is a truth
which, if it were understood in its entirety, would only serve to shed
new luster upon the whiteness of your soul. And should I—should I by
accident ever find it out—and should its form seem, as you have said,
dreadful to me—why, I should say to myself, ’You have not pierced
its substance? You do not understand it. However it may appear to you,
you know that your wife’s part in it was the part of a good angel from
first to last 1’—Now do you think I love you?”

“But if—if you should find out that I had been guilty of sin—do
you mean to say that—that you would care for me in spite of that?”

“I mean to say that I love you. I mean to say that no power under
heaven can destroy my love of you. I mean to say that no power under
heaven can prevent my marrying you, if you love me. I mean to say that
my heart and soul—the \ inmost life of me—are already married
to you, and that they will remain inseparably bound to you—to
you!—until I die. More than this I mean to say. You speak of sin. You
sin, forsooth! Well, talk of sin, if you like. Tell me that you have
been guilty of—of what you will—of the blackest crimes in the
calendar. I will not believe it. I will not believe that you were
answerable for it. I will tell you that it was not your fault. I will
tell you that if your hand has ever done any human being wrong, it was
some other will than your own that compelled it. For this I know—I
know it as I know that fire burns, that light illuminates—I know that
you, the true, intrinsic you, have always been as sweet and undefiled
as—as the breath that escapes now from your lips. There are some
things that can not be—that no man could believe, though he beheld
them with his open eyes. Can a circle be square? Can black be white? No
man, knowing you as I know you, could believe that you in your soul were
capable of sin.”

He had spoken with immense fervor, consuming her the while with his
eyes, and wrenching the hand he held until it must have ached in every
bone. She, again as pale as death, had trembled under his fierce, hot
utterance, like a reed in the wind. But now that he had done, she seemed
to recover herself. She withdrew her hand from his, and moved her chair
away.

“Mr. Ripley,” she began, “you must not speak to me like this. It
was not to hear you speak like this that I wished to see you to-day. You
make it very hard for me to say what I have to say—what it was hard
enough to say, at the best. But I must say it, and you must listen and
understand. You have not understood yet. Now, please try to.”

She pressed her hand to her throat, and swallowed convulsively. It
was evident that she was nerving herself to the performance of a most
painful task. Finally she went on, “I have told you frankly that I
understood the other day—understood what you meant when you looked at
me that way. After you were gone, I thought it all over—all that I had
learned. I thought at first that the only thing for me to do would be
never to see you again—to refuse to receive you when you called—to
avoid you as much as I possibly could. That, I thought, would be the
best thing to do. But then I thought further about it, and then it
seemed that that would not be right. To break off in that sudden way
with you, and not to explain it, would be wrong and cruel. So I put
aside that first thought, and said, ’No, I will not refuse to receive
him. I will receive him just as before. Only I will act in such a manner
toward him that he will not say any thing about caring for me. I will
act so as to prevent him from saying any thing about that. Then we will
go on and be friends the same as ever.’ But by and by that did not
seem right either. It would be as cruel as the other, because, if you
really did care for me, it would be a long suspense, a long agony for
you; and perhaps, if nothing were said about it, you might get to caring
still more for me, and might allow yourself to cherish false hopes,
hopes that could never come true. So I decided that this course was
as far from right as the first one. And, besides, I distrusted my own
power—my power to keep you from speaking. It would be a long, long
battle. I doubted whether I should have the strength to carry it
through—always to be on my guard, and prevent you from speaking.
’No,’ I said, ’it is bound to come. Sooner or later, if we go on
seeing each other, he will surely speak. Is it not better that I should
let him know at once—what waiting will make harder for him to hear
and for me to tell him—that I can never become his wife? Then, when he
knows that he has made a mistake in caring for me, then he will go away,
and think of other things, and see other women, and perhaps, by and by,
get over it, and forget about me.’ I knew that if I told you that it
was impossible for us to get married, and why it was impossible, I knew
that you would give up hoping; and I thought that this course was the
best of all. It was very hard. I shrank from the idea of speaking to you
as I have done. Your good opinion is very precious to me. It was hard to
persuade myself to say things to you that would, perhaps, make you
think differently of me. But I felt that it was best. I had no right
to procrastinate—to let you go on caring for me, and hoping for what
could never be. Then I decided that I would see you and tell you about
it right away.”

She paused and breathed deeply; but before Arthur had had time to put in
a word, she resumed: “I do not believe that you have meant to make
it more difficult for me to-day than it had to be; but it has pained me
very much to hear you speak as you have spoken. You have not understood;
but now you understand—must understand. I never can be your wife. You
must try to get over caring for me. You must go away, now that I have
explained, and never come any more.”

She had said all this in a low tone, though each syllable had been
fraught with earnestness, and had manifestly cost an effort. Arthur,
during the last few sentences, had been pacing up and down the room. Now
he came to a standstill before her.

“And do you mean to say,” he demanded, “that that is your
last word, your ultimatum? Do you mean to say that you will send me
away—banish me from your presence—forbid me the happiness of seeing
you and hearing you—all for a mere paltry nothing? If there were a
real impediment to our marriage, I should be the first to
acknowledge it, to bow before it. But this thing that you have
mentioned—this—well, call it a secret, if you will—is this empty
memory to rise up as a barrier between your life and mine? Oh, no, no!
You have spoken of cruelty—you have wished not to be cruel. And yet
this utmost cruelty you seem willing to perpetrate in cold blood. Stop,
think, reflect upon what you are doing! Have you not seen how much I
love you? how my whole life is in my love of you? Do you not know
that what you propose to do—to send me away, all on account of this
miserable secret—is to break my life forever? is to put out the light
forever from my sky, and turn my world to a waste of dust and ashes? Can
you—you who recoil from cruelty—be as wantonly cruel as this? Have
I not told you that I care nothing for your secret, that I shall never
think of your secret, if you will only speak one word? Oh, it is not
possible that you can deliberately break my heart, for a mere dead thing
like that! If it were something actual, something substantial, something
existing now and here, it would be different. Then I, too, should
recognize the size and the weight of it. I should accept the inevitable,
and resign myself as best I could. But a bygone, a thing that is past
and done with, how can you let that stand between us? I can never resign
myself to that. Can’t you imagine the torture of my position? To want
a thing with all my soul, to know that there is no earthly reason why I
should not have it, and yet to know that I can not have it—why, it is
like being defeated by a soap bubble, a vapor. Of what use is all this
talk? We are merely confusing each other, merely beating about the bush.
I have told you what you did not expect to hear. You thought that I
would be swerved from my purpose when you said that you had a secret.
You thought I would go away, satisfied that it was best for us not to
marry. But, you see, you did yourself an injustice. You did not guess
the real depth of the love you had inspired. You see, I love you too
much to care about the past. Confess that you did not consider this,
when, you made up your mind to send me away. But this talk is of no use.
All the talk in the world can not alter the way we stand. Here are the
simple facts: I love you. I love you! I ask you to be my wife. I kneel
down before you, and take your hand in mine, and beg of you not to spurn
my love—not to be guided by a blind, deluded conscience—not to think
of the past—but to think only of the present and the future—to think
only of how much I love you—of how all the happiness of my life is now
at stake, for you to make or to destroy. I ask you to be merciful. I
ask you to look into your heart, and let that prompt you how to act. If
there is one atom of love for me in it—you—”

He broke off sharply; drew a quick, hard breath. Something—a sudden,
furtive gleam far down in her eyes—a swift coming and going of color
to and from her cheek—caused his heart to throb with an exultant
thrill, that for an instant deprived him of the power of speech. Then,
all at once, “Oh, my God! You do love me. You do love me!” he cried.
He caught her in his arms, and strained her rapturously to his breast.

For a moment she did not resist. Her face lay for a moment buried upon
his shoulder. It was a supreme moment of silence. Then she broke away.
There were tears in her eyes. She sobbed out, “It is wrong, all
wrong.”

But Arthur knew that he had gained the day. Her first sign of weakness
was his assurance of success. Protest now as she might, she could no
longer hide her love from him. And if she loved him, what had he to
fear? There was much further talk between them. She tried to regain the
ground she had lost. Failing in this, she wept, and spoke of the wrong
she had done him, and said that she had forfeited her self-respect. But
Arthur summoned all his eloquence to induce her to look at the matter
through his eyes, and in the end—Somewhat later an eavesdropper
outside the parlor door might have caught the following dialogue passing
within:

Ruth’s voice: “It is strange, Arthur, but a little while ago it
seemed to me that I could never tell that—that thing—I spoke about,
to any living soul; yet now—now I feel quite otherwise. I feel as
though I could tell it to you. I want to tell it to you. It is only
right that I should tell you every thing about my life. It is a long
story; shall I begin?”

Arthur’s voice: “No, Ruth. Shall I let the happiness of this hour be
marred for you and me, by your thinking and speaking of what would pain
you? Besides, I prefer that you should keep this—this thing—this
secret—as an evidence of my unwavering confidence in you. Why should
we trouble ourselves about the past at all, when the present is at hand,
and the future is waiting for us? You and I—we have only just been
born. The past is dead. Our life dates from this moment. Oh, it is to
the future that we must look!”

“But it seems as though you ought to know—ought to know your
wife—ought to know who she is, and what she has done.”

“But I do know her. I do know who she is and what she has done. I
know it all by instinct. I want her to have this constant proof of my
love—that I can trust her without, learning her secrets.”

“But you will not forget—never forget—that I have offered to
tell you, will you? You will remember that I am always willing to tell
you—that whenever you wish to know it, you will only have to ask
me.”

“Yes, I will remember it; and it will make me happy to remember it.
But if you wish to tell me something now that I should like to hear,
tell me on what day we shall be married?”

“Oh, it is too soon to fix that—we can wait about fixing that.”

“No, no. It must be fixed before I take leave of you to-day. Every
thing must be finally settled. When?”

“Whenever you wish.”

“To-morrow.”

“Of course I did not mean that.”

“As soon, then, as possible.”

“Not sooner than—”

“Not longer at the utmost than a month.”

“A month? It is a very short time, a month.”

“But it is a month too long. Make it a month, or less.”

“Well, a month, then: this day month.”

“This day month—to-day being Friday—falls on Sunday. Say, rather
this day four weeks, the 25th of July.”

“How shall I get ready in that interval?”

“How shall I live through that interval?”

“What interval? Talking about music, as usual?” said Mrs. Hart,
entering at this moment. “Mr. Ripley, how do you do?”

“I am the happiest man in the world,” he answered.

“I congratulate you. Have you won a case?”

“No; I have won a wife.”

“I congratulate you doubly. Who is the lady?”

“Let me present her to you,” he laughed, taking Ruth by the hand.

Mrs. Hart dropped every thing she held—scissors, spectacles,
knitting-bag—struck an astonished attitude, and uttered a sharp cry of
surprise. Ruth blushed and smiled. For an instant the two ladies stood
off and eyed each other. Then simultaneously they rushed toward each
other, and fell into each other’s arms; and then there were tears and
kisses and incoherent sounds.

Finally, “I congratulate you trebly,” said Mrs. Hart, turning to
Arthur.

For a while every body was very happy and very sentimental.

When, toward midnight, Arthur returned to his own abode, Hetzel asked
him where he had spent the evening.

“In heaven,” he replied.

“And with what particular divinity?”

“With Mrs. Lehmyl.”

“So?”

“Yes, sir. And—and what do you suppose? She and I are going to be
married.”

“What?” cried Hetzel.

“Yes; we are engaged, betrothed. We are going to be married.”

“Engaged? Betrothed? Married? You? Nonsense!”

“Nothing of the kind. Our wedding day is fixed for the 25th of next
month.”

“Oh, come, be rational.”

“I am rational. Why should I jest about it?”

“Have you suddenly fallen heir to a fortune?”

“Of course not; why?”

“Why? Why, what are you going to get married on?”

“How do you mean?”

“I mean who’s to foot the bills?”

“I have my income, have I not?”

“Oh, your income. Oh, to be sure. Let’s see—how many thousands did
it amount to last year?”

“It amounted to fifteen hundred.”

“Fifteen hundred what?”

“Hundred dollars.”

“Is that all?”

“It is enough.”

“Do you seriously intend to marry on that?”

“Why not?”

“Why, it won’t keep your wife in pocket handkerchiefs, let alone
feeding and clothing her.”

“I hadn’t thought about it, but I’m sure we can get along on
fifteen hundred—added to what I can earn.”

“What was her opinion?”

“I didn’t mention the subject.”

“You asked her to marry you without exhibiting your bank account.
Shame!”

“We love each other.”

“When poverty comes in at the door, what is it love’s habit to
do?”

“Such love as ours waxes greater.”

“And—and your mother. What will she say?”

“I’m going to write to her to-night—now.”

“Has your mother much respect for my judgment?”

“You know she has.”

“Well, then, tell her from me that you’ve just done a most sensible
thing; that your bride’s an angel, yourself a trump, and each of you
to be envied above all man and woman kind.”



CHAPTER VII.—ENTER MRS. PEIXADA.

THE four weeks had wound away. I shall not detain the reader with a
history of them. The log-book of a prosperous voyage is apt to be
dull literature. They were four weeks of delightful progress toward a
much-desired goal—four weeks of unmitigated happiness. The course of
true love ran smooth. Time flew. Looking forward, to be sure, Arthur
thought the hoped-for day would never come. But looking backward from
the eve of it, he was compelled to wonder whither the time had sped.

On Thursday, the 24th of July, in the office of
Assistant-district-attorney Romer, were seated Arthur, Peixada, and
Mr. Romer himself. Arthur held an open letter in his hand. The letter,
written in a heavy, English chirography, was signed with considerable
flourish, “Reginald Graham.” Arthur had just finished reading it
aloud. Said he, folding it up and putting it into his pocket, “So all
trace of her is lost. We are back at the point we started from.”

Said Peixada, “Well, we shall simply be obliged to adopt the plan that
I suggested in the first place—advertise.”

Assented Romer, “Yes, an advertisement is our last hope.”

“A forlorn one. She would never answer it,” croaked Arthur.

“That depends,” said Romer.

“Upon what?”

“Upon the adroitness with which the advertisement is framed.”

“Well, for instance? Give us a sample.”

“Let me think,” said Romer. After a moment’s reflection, “How
would this answer?” And he applied pen to paper. Presently he
submitted the paper for inspection to his companions. Its contents were
as follows:

“Peixada.—If Mrs. Judith Peixada, née Karon, widow of Bernard
Peixada, Esquire, late of the city of New York, deceased, and formerly
administratrix of the goods, chattels, and credits of said decedent,
will communicate either personally or by letter with her brother-in-law,
Benjamin Peixada, No.——-Reade Street, New York, she will learn
something affecting the interests of her estate greatly to her
advantage.”

“That, I think,” said Romer, “ought to be inserted in the
principal newspapers of America, England, France, and Germany.”

“That’s what I call first-rate,” was Peixada’s comment.

Arthur held his peace.

“Well,” demanded Romer, “how does it strike you?”

Arthur deliberated; at length said, “Candidly, Romer, do you regard
that as altogether square and above-board?”

“Why not? It’s a decoy. The use of decoys in dealing with
criminals—this woman is a criminal, mind you; a murderess and
practically a thief as well—the use of decoys in such cases is
justified by a hundred precedents.”

“What’s the matter with you?” asked Peixada. “Nothing’s the
matter with me,” retorted Arthur, a bit sharply; “but I must say, I
think such a proceeding as this is pretty low.”

“Oh, come; no, you don’t,” urged Romer.

“I do. And what’s more, I won’t lend myself to it. If that
advertisement appears in the papers, Mr. Peixada will have to retain
another man in my place.”

“But, goodness alive, it’s our last resort. Would you rather have
the whole business fall through? Be reasonable. Why, it’s a ruse the
daintiest men at the bar wouldn’t stick at.”

“Perhaps they wouldn’t; but I do.”

“Well, what else is there to be done?”

“And besides,” said Arthur, not heeding Romer’s question, “you
make a great mistake in fancying that she would be deceived by it. If
that woman is any thing, she’s shrewd. She’s far too shrewd to bite
when the hook’s in sight.”

“How do you mean?”

“I mean she’d sniff danger at once—divine that it is—what you
have called it—a decoy. What under the sun could her brother-in-law
have to communicate that would be to her advantage?”

“All right,” said Romer, shrugging his shoulders; “suggest a more
promising move, and I’ll be with you.”

“I’ll tell you what,” said Arthur, “I’m not too squeamish. I
won’t connive at downright falsehood; but I’m willing to compromise.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow—it goes against the grain—but I’ll
consent to something like this. Let me take your pen.”

Arthur scratched off a line or two.

“Here,” he said.

“Peixada.—If Mrs. Judith Peixada, née Karon, widow of Bernard
Peixada, Esquire, deceased, will communicate with her brother-in-law,
Benjamin Peixada, No.—— Reade Street, New York, she will confer a
favor,” was what Arthur had written.

“This,” he added verbally, “will be quite as likely to fetch her
as the other. Its very frankness will disarm suspicion. Besides, it’s
not such an out-and-out piece of treachery.”

“What do you think, Mr. Peixada?” inquired Romer.

“Oh, I think she’d sooner cut her thumbs off than do me a favor. But
I leave the decision with you lawyers.”

“I may as well repeat,” volunteered Arthur, “that in the event
of your employing the form Mr. Romer drew, I shall withdraw from the
case.”

“Well,” said Romer, “I’m not sure Ripley isn’t right. At any
rate, no harm giving his way a trial. If it should fail to attract
our game, we can use sweeter bait later on. Who’ll see to its
insertion?”

“I shall have to beg you to do that,” said Arthur, “because
to-morrow I’m going out of town—to stay about a fortnight. I
shall be on deck again two weeks from Monday—August 11th. Meanwhile,
here’s my country address. Telegraph me, if any thing turns up.”

Telling the story of his morning’s work to Hetzel, he concluded thus,
“I suppose it was a legitimate enough stratagem—one that few lawyers
would stop at—but, all the same, I feel like a sneak. I should like to
kick myself.”

Hetzel responded, cheeringly, “You’ve made your own bed, and now
you’ve got to lie in it. You ought to have observed these little
drawbacks to the beauty of Themis, before you dedicated yourself to her
service.”

Next day in Mrs. Hart’s parlor, Arthur Ripley and Ruth Lehmyl were
married. Besides themselves and the clergyman who tied the knot, the
only persons present were Arthur’s mother, Mrs. Hart, Julian Hetzel,
and a certain Mr. Arthur Flint.

This last named gentleman was Arthur’s godfather, and had been a
classmate of Arthur’s father at Yale college. He was blessed with a
wife, a couple of married daughters, and a swarm of grandchildren of
both sexes; despite which, he had always taken a more than godfatherly
interest in his namesake. For whatever business Arthur had to do, prior
to his connection with Peixada, he was indebted to Mr. Flint. It was
but natural, therefore, that he should have apprised Mr. Flint of his
matrimonial projects as soon as they were distinctly formed. He had
visited him one day at his office, and asked him to attend the wedding.

“The 25th of July?” cried Mr. Flint. “At such short notice? And
my wife and Sue and Nellie away in Europe! It’s a pity I can’t call
them home by the next steamer, to wish you joy. It’ll break their
hearts not to be present at your marriage. However—however, where are
you going on your wedding-journey?”

“I haven’t made up my mind. We were thinking of some place on the
New Jersey coast.”

“The New Jersey coast is all sand and glare. It would spoil your
bride’s complexion. I’ll tell you what you’d better do.
You’d better go and pass your honeymoon at my cottage in New
Hampshire—Beacon Rock. It’s shut up and doing no one any
good—consequence of my wife’s trip to Europe. Say the word, and
I’ll wire Perkins—my general factotum there—to open and air the
house, start fires, and be ready to welcome you with a warm dinner on
the 26th.”

“You’re too kind. I don’t know what to say,”

“Then say nothing. I’ll take yes for granted. You’ll find Beacon
Rock just the place for a month’s billing and cooing. Eastward, the
multitudinous sea; westward, the hardy New England landscape; and all
around you, the sweetest air it will ever be your luck to breathe. Look
here.”

Mr. Flint opened a drawer of his desk and extracted a pile of
photographs.

“Here’s Beacon Rock taken from every available point of view. Here
are some glimpses of the interior,” he said.

Divided between delight and gratitude, Arthur could only stammer forth
broken phrases.

“Oh, by the way, what’s her address?” demanded Mr. Flint, as
Arthur was on the point of bidding him good-by.

“I thought I had told you. You’ll be sure to call soon, won’t you?
No. 46 Beekman Place.”

“Now, mum’s the word,” proceeded Mr. Flint.

“I don’t want you to breathe a syllable of this business to your
sweetheart. Lead her to suppose that you’re going to some Purgatorial
summer hotel; and then enjoy her surprise when she spies Beacon Rock.
Oh, yes, I’ll call and pay her my respects—likely enough some night
this week. Good-by. God bless you.”

Mr. Flint called, pursuant to his promise. On the stoop, as he was
leaving, he clapped Arthur upon the shoulder, and cried, “By George,
my boy, your Jewess is a jewel!”

Three days later came a paper parcel, addressed to Mrs. Lehmyl. It
contained a small purple velvet box. To the outside of the box was
attached a card, bearing the laconic device, “Sparks from a Flint.”
Inside, upon a cushion of lavender silk lay a gold breastpin, from the
center of which a cluster of wondrous diamonds shot prismatic rays. It
was the sole bit of jewelry that adorned Ruth’s wedding-gown.

“Immediately after the ceremony,” says Hetzel, in a letter written
at the time, “they got into a hack, and were driven to the Fall River
boat. We, who were left behind, crossed the street and assembled upon
the loggia. There we waited till the Bristol hove in sight down the
river. Then, until it had disappeared behind Blackwell’s Island, there
was much waving of handkerchiefs between the travelers—whom we
could make out quite clearly, leaning against the rail—and us poor
stay-at-homes. Afterward, Mrs. Ripley and Mrs. Hart adapted their
handkerchiefs to other purposes.”

A week elapsed before the bride and groom were heard from. Eventually
Hetzel got a voluminous missive. Portions of it read thus:

“In Boston, as our train didn’t leave till noon, we sought the
Decorative Art Rooms, and spent an hour or so coveting the pretty things
that they are full of. At the depot I had a slight unpleasantness with
the potentate from whom I bought our tickets—(confound the insolence
of these railroad officials! Why doesn’t some ingenious Yankee
contrive an automaton by which they may be superseded?)—but despite
it, we got started comfortably enough, and were set down at Portsmouth
promptly at three o’clock. She enjoyed the drive in an open carriage
through the quaint old New England town immensely; but when we had
reached the open country, and were being whisked over bridges, down
leafy lanes, across rugged pasture lands, on our way to New Castle, her
pleasure knew no bounds. There is something peculiarly refreshing in
this keen New Hampshire air, compounded as it is of pine odors and the
smell of the sea, and something equally refreshing in this homely New
Hampshire landscape, with its thorns and thistles growing alongside
daisies and wild roses.


’The locust dinned amid the trees;

The fields were high with corn,’


as we spun onward behind the horses’ hoofs. Now and then, much to her
consternation, a brilliant striped snake darted from the foot-path
into the bushes.... I had given her to believe, you know, that
our destination was the * * * hotel, a monstrous barracks of an
establishment, perched on the top of a hill in this neighborhood;
and when we clattered past it without stopping, she was altogether
mystified. I parried her questions successfully, however; and at the
end of another half mile Beacon Rock rose before us.... For a while we
did—could do-nothing but race around the outside of the house, and
attempt by eloquent attitudes, frantic gestures, ecstatic monosyllables,
to express something of the admiration which it inspired. Mr. Flint had
shown me photographs of the cottage before I left New York; but he
had shown me no photographs of the earth, sea, and sky by which it is
surrounded—and that is its superlative merit. It falls in perfectly
with the nature round about. It is indigenous—as thoroughly so as the
seaweed, the stone walls, the apple trees. It looks as though it might
have grown out of the soil: or as if the waters, in a mood of titanic
playfulness, had cast it up and left it where it stands upon the shore.
Fancy a square tower, built of untrimmed stone, fifty feet in height and
twenty in diameter, springing straight up from a bare granite ledge—
which, in its turn, sprouts from a grassy lawn, which, in its turn,
slopes gradually down to the rocks at the sea’s edge. This solemn,
sturdy tower is pierced at its base by divers sinister looking
portholes, which suggest cannon and ambushed warriors, but which,
in point of fact, perform no more bellicose a function than that of
admitting daylight into the cellar. Above these there are deep-set
windows, through which the sun pours merrily all day long. I am seated
at one of them, writing, now. . . . The tower faces the sea, and defies
it. Behind the tower, and sheltered by it, nestles the cottage proper,
a most picturesque, gabled, rambling structure of wood, painted terra
cotta red... . . I don’t know how long we stood around outside.
Finally, Mr. Perkins, a native who, aided by his wife, cooks and
’chores’ for us, suggested the propriety of entering. We entered;
and if the exterior had charmed us, the interior simply carried us away.
I shall not attempt an itemized description of it, because probably I
shouldn’t be able to make the picture vivid enough to be worth your
while. But imagine the extreme of aestheticism combined with the extreme
of comfort, and you will get a rough notion of our environment. There
are broad, open fire places, deep chimney corners, luxurious Turkey
rugs, antique chairs and tables, beautiful pictures, interesting
books—though we don’t read them—and every thing else a fellow’s
heart could desire. There is no piano—the sea air would make short
work of one—but I have hired a guitar from a Portsmouth music dealer,
and she accompanies her songs on this.... Our mode of existence has been
a perpetual dolce far niente, diversified by occasional strolls about
the country—to Fort Constitution, a ruin of 1812—to the hotel, where
a capital orchestra dispenses music every afternoon—or simply
across the meadows, without an objective point. We can sight several
light-houses from the tower windows; and a mile out at sea, in
everlasting restlessness, floats a deep-voiced, melancholy bell-buoy,
which recalls all the weird creeping of the flesh we had in reading the
shipwreck in L’homme qui rit.. . . Of course we have written a glowing
letter of thanks to Mr. Flint. She, I forgot to tell you, could not at
first believe her senses—believe that this little earthly paradise was
meant for our occupation. When at last the truth was borne in upon her,
you ought to have witnessed her delight.... Oh, Julian, old boy, you
can’t form the least conception of the great, radiant joy that fills
my heart. I am really half afraid that it’s a dream from which I shall
presently wake up. I don’t dare to verify it by pinching myself,
lest that misfortune might indeed befall me. My happiness is so much in
excess of other men’s, I don’t feel that I deserve it; and sometimes
I am tormented by a morbid dread that it may not last. Just think, she
is actually my wife! Ah, how my heart leaps, when I say that to myself,
and realize all that it means!.... I have tried to put business quite
out of my mind; but now and then it recurs to me, despite myself. I feel
more and more uncomfortable about that advertisement. I have no doubt
the woman richly deserves the worst that can happen to her, and all
that, but nevertheless I can’t get rid of a deucedly unpleasant qualm
of conscience, when I think of the trap I have helped to set for her.
Between ourselves, I derive some consolation from the thought that the
chances are ninety-nine in a hundred that she will decline to nibble at
our bait.... Unless I telegraph to the contrary, expect us to breakfast
with you to-morrow week—Saturday, August 9th.”

Hetzel carried his letter across the street, and gave it to Mrs. Hart.
She, not to be outdone, read aloud fragments of one which she had
received from Ruth by the same mail. Among the paragraphs in the latter
which she suppressed was this:

“I have offered twice to tell him the whole story. I very much want
to do so—to have it off my mind. It doesn’t seem right that I should
keep it secret; and he is so kind and tender, I feel that I could bring
myself to tell him every thing. But with characteristic generosity, he
declines to listen—bids me keep my secret as a proof of his confidence
in me. Perhaps, then, it will be just as well for me to wait till we
get back to town. Sooner or later—and the sooner, the better—I shall
insist upon his allowing me to speak. A regret grows upon me daily that
I did not insist upon that before we were married. Though I know so well
that he loves me, my heart stands still when I stop to think, ’How may
he feel towards me when he knows it all?’ or, ’Suppose before I have
explained it to him, he should hear it from somebody else?’ Oh, it is
not possible that he will cease to care for me, is it? I wish I could
go to him this instant, and tell him about it, and then for good and all
know my fate. Why did I wait till we were married? I could not bear to
have him change in his feelings toward me now. Oh, I wish this miserable
secret were off my mind—it tortures me with such terrifying doubts.
But perhaps I had best not interrupt the happiness of his holiday by
introducing a subject which he appears anxious to avoid. Do you agree
with me? I say, I wish I could go, and tell it to him; and yet when the
time comes for doing so, I am afraid my tongue will cleave to the roof
of my mouth. If it should destroy his love for me! make him despise
me! If for a single moment, as I was speaking, he should recoil from
me!—withdraw his hand from mine! Oh, God, why can not the past be
blotted out? I must speak to him before any body else can do so. If some
one of his acquaintances should recognize me, and tell him, what might
he not do? He thinks he would not care. He says no matter what the past
has been, it is totally indifferent to him. But perhaps he would not
feel that way if he really knew it. God bless him and keep him from all
pain!”

Saturday morning, surely enough, the truants came home, and took up
their quarters at Mrs. Hart’s, where for the present they were to
remain. They hoped to set up a modest establishment of their own in the
spring.

Late Monday forenoon Arthur screwed his courage to the sticking place,
and tore himself away from his wife’s side. Reading the newspapers on
his way down town, he had the satisfaction of seeing himself in print.
The Peixada advertisement occupied a conspicuous position. He went
straight to his office, where he found a number of letters waiting for
him. These he disposed of as speedily as might be; and then he sallied
forth to call upon Mr. Flint. He got back at about halfpast two
o’clock. Less than five minutes later, his office-boy stuck his head
through the doorway, and announced, “A gentleman to see you.”

“Show him in.”

The gentleman appeared. The gentleman wore the garb of a porter. “I
come from Mr. Peixada, sir, with a note,” he explained.

Arthur took the note and broke it open. The gum on the envelope was
still damp.

The note bore evidence of having been dashed off in haste. Here it is:

“Office of B. Peixada & Co.,

“No.———Reade Street,

“New York, Aug. 11, 1884.

“Dear Sir:

“If you are in town, (and to-day was the day fixed for your return),
please come right over here at your earliest convenience. Mrs. P. is in
my private office! I am keeping her till your arrival.

“Yours truly,

“B. Peixada.”

Arthur stood still, his eyes glued upon this sheet of paper, long enough
to have read it through a dozen times.

“Any answer?” Mr. Peixada’s envoy at last demanded.

“Oh—of course—I’ll go along with you at once.”

His heart was palpitating. The prospect of a face to face encounter
with the redoubtable Mrs. Peixada caused him unwonted trepidation. The
tidings conveyed in Peixada’s note were so unexpected and of such
grave importance, no wonder Arthur’s serenity was ruffled. Striding up
Broadway at the messenger’s heels, he tried to picture to himself the
impending scene. The trap had sprung. What manner of creature would the
quarry turn out to be? Poor woman! There was a lot of trouble in store
for her. But it was not his fault. He had done nothing but that
which his duty as an attorney had required of him. He would exert his
influence in her behalf—try to smooth things down for her, and make
them as comfortable as under the circumstances they could be. Still for
all slips of hers, she was one of Eve’s family. He felt that he pitied
her from the bottom of his soul.

Peixada was nervously pacing back and forth in the show-room.

“Ah,” he cried, catching hold of Arthur’s hand and wringing it
vigorously, “you have come! What luck, eh? I can scarcely believe it
is true. I’m quite put about by it, I declare. She walked in here, as
large as life, not half an hour ago, and asked to see me. I had no idea
the sight of her would upset me so. I told her that my business with her
was of a legal nature, and I guessed she’d better wait while I sent
round for my attorney. But I was desperately afraid you hadn’t got
back. She acted just like a lamb. I tell you, that advertisement was
a happy thought, wasn’t it? Pity we didn’t advertise in the
first place, and so save all that delay and money. But I’m not
complaining—not I. I’d be willing to spend twice the same amount
right over again for the same result. Now we’ll get a round hundred
thousand; and I won’t forget you.”

“Have you notified Mr. Romer, too?”

“Oh, yes; of course. Sent word for him to come with his officers.
She—she’s in my private office—there—behind that door. Won’t
you go in, and tell her about the will, and keep her occupied till they
get here?”

“I—I think it would be best to wait,” said Arthur, his voice
trembling.

“No—no. She’ll begin to get impatient. Please go in now. It’ll
relieve my agitation, anyhow. I’m really surprised to find myself so
shaken up. Here—this is the door. Open it, and go ahead in.”

“Oh—very well,” consented Arthur.

He put his hand upon the knob, fortified himself with a long breath, and
entered the room. Peixada, sticking his head in behind him, rattled off,
“Here, madam, is the gentleman I spoke to you about. He’ll explain
what we want you for,” and withdrew, slamming the door.

Peixada’s private office was scarcely more than a hole in the wall—a
small, square closet, lighted by a single grimy window, and destitute of
furniture except for a desk and a couple of chairs.

In one of these chairs, with her back toward the door, and engaged
apparently in looking out of the window, sat a lady.

Standing still, a yard beyond the threshold, Arthur said, “I beg your
pardon, madam—Mrs. Peixada.”

The lady rose, turned around, faced him.

The lady was his wife.

A slight, startled smile crossed her face. “Why—Arthur—you—?”
she began in atone of surprise, her eyes brightening.

But suddenly a change; a look of perplexity, followed by one of
enlightenment, as if a dreadful truth had burst upon her. The blood sank
from her cheeks, her lip curled, her breast fluttered—a terrible fire
flashed from her eyes. She drew herself up. She was awful, but she was
superb.

“Ah,” she said, “I see. So you have been prying into my secrets
behind my back—you, who were too magnanimous to let me tell them to
you! It was for you that Mr. Peixada bade me wait. This is the surprise
he spoke of—a surprise of your contriving. You have found out who I
am. I hope you are—-”

She broke off. Her voice had been very low, but had vibrated with
passion. Now, the flaming, contemptuous eyes with which she covered him,
spoke her mind more plainly than her tongue could.

He, upon her first rising and facing him, had started back, gasping,
“Good God—you—Ruth!” Since then a chaos of emotions had held
him, dumb.

But gradually he recovered himself in some measure.

His face a picture of blank amazement, “For heaven’s sake, Ruth,
what does this mean?” he cried.

She did not hear him. Her anger of a moment since gave way to a paroxysm
of pain.

“Oh, merciful God,” she moaned, “how I have been deceived! Oh, to
think that he—my—my husband—Oh, it is too much! It is more than I
can bear.”

She broke down in a torrent of tears and sobs.

An impulse carried him to her side. He put his arm around her waist,
drew her to him, bent over her, stammered out broken syllables of love,
comfort, entreaty.

His touch rekindled her wrath, and endowed her frame with preternatural
strength. She repulsed him—flung him away from her, over against the
opposite wall, with as little effort as if he had been a stick in her
path. This fragile woman, towering above this stalwart man, her cheeks
now burning scarlet, her limbs quivering with strong emotion, cried,
“How dare you touch me? How dare you speak to me? How dare you insult
me with your presence? Is it not enough what you have done, without
forcing me to remain in the same room with you? Are you not content to
have consorted with Benjamin Peixada—to have listened to the story
of your wife’s life from that man’s lips—without coming here
to confront me with it—to compel me to defend myself against his
accusations. Wasn’t it enough to put that advertisement in the paper?
Haven’t you sufficiently punished me by decoying me to this place, as
you have done? What more do you want? What new humiliation? Though you
hate me, now that you know who I am and what I haye done—you, who
talked of loving me in spite of every thing—can you not be merciful,
and leave me alone? Go—out of my sight—or, at least, stand aside and
let me go.”

Her words were followed by a prolonged, convulsive shudder.

Exerting his utmost self-control, dazed and bewildered as he was, he
began, “Ruth, will you not give me a chance to speak? Will you not
listen to me? Can’t you see that this is some—some frightful error
into which we have fallen—which we can only right by speaking? You are
doing me a great wrong, Ruth. You are wronging yourself. I beg of you,
subdue your anger—oh, for God’s sake, don’t look at me like that.
Try to be calm, Ruth, and let us talk together. Let me explain to you.
Explain to me, for I am as hopelessly in the dark as you can be. Let us
have some understanding.”

His plea passed totally without effect: I suppose, because his wife was
a woman. The tumult and the violence of the shock she had sustained had
shattered her good sense. Her perceptive faculties were benumbed. Her
entire vitality was absorbed by her pain and her indignation. I doubt
whether she had heard what he said. But she caught at the last word, at
any rate.

“Understanding? What is there to understand? I understand—I
understand quite enough. I understand that you have sought information
about me from Benjamin Peixada. I understand that it was you who got
me here by false pretenses—by that advertisement. I understand that
you—you think I am—that you believe what Benjamin Peixada has
told you—and that—that the love you protested so much about, has
all—all died away—and you—you shudder to think that I am your
wife. Well, you may understand this, that I too shudder. I shudder to
think that you are my husband—to think that you could have done this
behind my back—that—that you—even when you were pretending to love
me most, and telling me that you did not care about my secret—even
then, you were fraternizing with Benjamin Peixada! You may understand
that, however base you may believe me to be, I believe you to be baser
still. Oh, if you would only go away, and never, never intrude yourself
upon my sight again!”

Completely undone, he could only press his hands to his temples, and
murmur, “Oh my God, my God!”

So they stood: he, hanging his head, deserted by his manhood, crushed as
by a blow from out the skies; she, erect, scornful, magnificent, all her
womanhood aroused, all her unspeakable fury blazing in her eyes: so they
stood, when, the door creaking open, two new personages advanced upon
the scene.

He did not recognize them; but an instinct told him who they were. He
was petrified. It did not occur to him to interfere.

“Mrs. Peixada, I believe, ma’am?” said one of them, with a smirk.

He had to repeat his query thrice before she deigned to give him her
attention.

Then with supreme dignity, bending her neck, “What do you wish with
me?” she asked.

“Here, ma’am, is a bench-warrant which I have the honor of serving
upon you—matter of the People of the State of New York against Judith
Peixada, otherwise known as Judith Karon, charged with murder in the
first degree upon the person of Edward Bolen, late of the City, County,
and State of New York, deceased. Please come along quiet, ma’am, and
make no resistance.—Donnelly, get behind her.”

The officer delivered himself rapidly of this address, and thrust his
warrant into the prisoner’s hand. The man spoken to as Donnelly, took
a position behind her, obedient to orders. His superior opened the door,
and pointing toward it, said, “Please move along fast, ma’am.”

She, flinging one last, brief, scorching glance at her husband, bowed to
the officer, and swept out of the room.

For an instant Arthur remained motionless, riveted to the spot where she
had left him. All at once his body quivered perceptibly. Then, realizing
what had happened, he dashed headlong through the show-room—heedless
of Romer, Peixada, and a score of Peixada’s clerks, who stood still
and stared—and out into the street, calling, “Ruth, Ruth, come back,
come back,” at the top of his voice.

On the curbstone, hatless, out of breath, stupefied, he halted and
looked up and down the street. Ruth was nowhere to be seen.

Here he was joined by Romer and Peixada.

“What is it—what has happened?” Romer asked.

“What has happened?” he repeated, dully. “Did—didn’t you know?
She is my wife!”



CHAPTER VIII.—“WHAT REST TO-NIGHT?”

PUT yourself in his place. At first, as we have seen, he was simply
stunned, bewildered. His breath was taken away, his understanding
baffled. His senses were thrown into disorder. It was as if a cannon had
gone off under his feet, all was uproar and smoke and confusion. But by
degrees the smoke lifted. The outlines of things became distinct.

One stupendous fact stared Arthur in the face. Its magnitude was
appalling. Its proportions were out of nature: The sight of it froze his
blood, sickened his heart, turned his brain to stone. Judith Peixada,
the woman whom he had pursued, insnared, betrayed; the woman whom he had
delivered over to the clutches of the law, whom the officers had just
dragged away from him, who even at this moment was under lock and
key for a capital offense in the Tombs prison; the woman whom he had
heretofore regarded as an abandoned murderess, beyond the pale of human
pity, but whom he knew now, all appearances, all testimony, to the
contrary notwithstanding, now at the eleventh hour, to be somehow as
guiltless as the babe unborn: this woman was identical with his wife,
with Ruth, with the lady whom he had wooed and married! He had been
groping in the dark. He had brought his own house crashing down around
his ears.

The vastness of the catastrophe, its apparent hopelessness, its grim,
far-reaching corollaries, and the bitter knowledge that he might have
prevented it, loomed up before him like a huge, misshaped monster, by
which his earthly happiness was irretrievably to be destroyed. Add to
this his consciousness of what she thought of him, and the sternest
reader must pity his condition. She believed that, surreptitiously, he
had been prying into the story of her life—a story which on more than
one occasion she had volunteered to tell him, but to which, with feigned
magnanimity, he had refused to listen, preferring to gather it covertly
from other lips. She believed that, once having discovered her identity,
he had ceased to love her, and had entered ruthlessly into a conspiracy
whose object it was to lure her within reach of the criminal law.
Unnatural, impossible, enormous, as such baseness would be, she
nevertheless believed it of him. Ignorant of the circumstances,
too indignant to suffer an explanation, she had jumped to the first
conclusion that presented itself, and had gone to her prison, convinced
that her husband had played her false.

His sensations, of course, were far too complicated, far too turbulent,
to be easily disentangled. Senseless hatred of Peixada for having
crossed his path; senseless hatred of himself for having accepted
Peixada’s case; self-reproach, deep and bitter, for having forbidden
her to share her secret with him; a wild desire to follow her, see
her, speak to her, force her to understand; an intense wish to be doing
something that might help to remedy matters, without the remotest notion
of what ought to be done; a remorse that bordered upon fury, in thinking
of the past; a despair and a terror that bordered upon madness, in
thinking of the future; a sense of impotence that lashed him into
frenzy, in thinking of the present; these were a few of the emotions
fermenting in Arthur’s breast. His intelligence was quite unhinged. He
had lost his reckoning. He was buffeted hither and thither by the waves
of thought and feeling that smote upon him, like a ship without a rudder
in a stormy sea. He wandered aimlessly through the streets, neither
knowing nor caring whither his steps might lead him: while the people
along his route stopped to stare and wonder at this crazy man, who,
without a hat, with eyes gleaming vacantly from their sockets, with
the pallor of death upon his cheek, hurried straight forward, looking
neither to the right nor to the left. His blood coursed like liquid fire
through his arteries. There was the hubbub of bedlam in his ears. The
sole relief he could obtain came from ceaseless motion.

Toward four o’clock that afternoon Hetzel, who lay prone upon his
sofa, glancing lazily at the last issue of his favorite magazine, heard
a heavy, unsteady footfall upon the stairs. Next instant the door flew
open, and Arthur stood before him, hair awry, clothing disordered,
countenance drawn, haggard, and soiled with dust and perspiration.
Hetzel jumped up, and was at his side in no time.

“What—what is the matter with you?” he demanded.

Arthur tottered a short distance into the room, and sank upon a chair.

It flashed across Hetzel’s mind that his friend might possibly be
the worse for drink. He laid hold of an ammonia bottle, and held it to
Arthur’s nostrils.

“No—no; I don’t need that,” Arthur said, waving Hetzel away.

“Well, then, speak. Tell me, what is the trouble?”

“Oh, Julian, I am ruined. If—if you knew what I have done!”

Arthur buried his face in his hands.

“Is—has—has something happened to your wife?”

“Oh, my wife, my wife,” groaned Arthur, incoherently.

Hetzel was perplexed, puzzled as to what to do or say; so, very
sensibly, held his tongue. By and by Arthur began, “My wife—my
wife—oh, Hetzel, listen.”

Then, brokenly, in half sentences, with frequent pauses, he managed
to give Hetzel some account of the day’s happening, winding up thus:
“You—you see how it is. She had offered to tell me that secret she
said she had, but I wouldn’t let her. I wanted her to keep it, to show
her how much I loved her. At least, that’s what I thought. But I—I
know now that it was my cowardice. I was afraid to hear it. We were so
happy, I didn’t want to run any risk of having our happiness
lessened by—by thinking about unpleasant things. My ignorance was
comfortable—I dreaded enlightenment. I was afraid of what it might be.
I preferred to keep it entirely out of my head. God, that was a terrible
mistake! If I had only had the courage to let her speak! But I was
a coward. I went to work and persuaded myself that I was acting from
motives of generosity—that I wanted to spare her the pain of talking
about it—that I loved her too much to care about it—and all that.
But that wasn’t it at all. It was weakness, and downright cowardice,
and evasion of my duty. I see it plainly now—now, when worse has come
to worst. And she—she thinks—she thinks that I made inquiries behind
her back, and found out what it was, and got to be friendly with Peixada
in that way, and then went and put that advertisement into the papers
just for the sake of—of humiliating her—oh, God!—and she thinks
it was I who arranged to have her taken to prison. She actually believes
that—believes that I did that! She wouldn’t listen to me. Her
indignation carried her away. She doesn’t see how unreasonable it is.
She hates me and despises me, and never will care for me again.”

Hetzel himself was staggered. Arthur’s tale ended, there befell a long
silence.

Finally Arthur broke out petulantly, “Well, why don’t you speak? Why
don’t you tell me what there is to be done?”

“It—I think it is very grave. You must let me consider a little
while.”

Another long silence. Hetzel, with bent head, was walking up and down
the room. At length, coming to a standstill, he began, “Yes, it is
very serious. But it is not—can not be—irremediable. There must be
a way out of it—of course there must. I—I—by Jove, let’s look
it squarely in the face. It will merely make matters worse to—to sit
still and think about how bad it is.”

“What else is there to do?”

“This,” answered Hetzel. “We must get her \ out of prison.”

“That’s very easy to say.”

“Well, we’ll do it, no matter how difficult it may be. She mustn’t
be left in the Tombs an hour longer than we can help. After that, it
will be time to make her understand your part in the business. But now
we must bend every muscle to get her out of prison. Whom do you know who
will go bail for her?”

“That’s the worst of it. They don’t take bail in—in—murder
cases,”

“They don’t? Are you sure? Is it never done? We must move heaven and
earth to induce them to, in this case.”

“It’s their rule. Romer might depart from it, she being—who she
is. But I am afraid not.”

“Well, we must try, at any rate, and without dillydallying. Whom can
you get to go upon her bond?”

“The only person I know would be Mr. Flint.”

“Then we must see Mr. Flint at once. Where does he live? Every minute
is precious. We’ll ask him to be her bondsman. Then we’ll seek out
Romer, and persuade him. If he’s got a grain of manhood in him,
he won’t refuse. If we make haste, there’s no reason why she
shouldn’t be free before sundown to-night. Come—let’s be about
it.”

Hetzel’s speech really inspired Arthur with a certain degree of hope
and confidence. At all events, it was a relief to feel that he was doing
something to repair the mischief he had wrought. So, in a hat borrowed
from his chum, he led the way to Mr. Flint’s residence.

On the way thither he began, “To think that it was I who started the
authorities upon her track—-I who urged them to prosecute her! And to
think how the prosecution may end!”

Hetzel retorted, “End? I wish the end had come. I’m not afraid
of the end. I know nothing of the circumstances of the case, but I do
know—and you know, and we all know—that she never was guilty of
murder. I know that we can prove it, too—establish her innocence
beyond a shade of suspicion. We shall only need strength and patience to
do that. You needn’t worry about the end.”

“But the meanwhile, then! Meanwhile, fancy what she thinks of me!
Fancy her despair! Meanwhile, she—she may die—or—she may go
mad—or kill herself.”

“You little know your wife, if you think that. She’s altogether too
strong a woman to succumb to misfortune like that, altogether too noble
a woman to do any thing of that kind. And as for her opinion of you,
why, it stands to reason that she’ll see the absurdity of it, as
soon as the first shock has passed off. Just as soon as she’s in
a condition to use her mind, and think things over, she’ll say to
herself that there’s something which she doesn’t understand, and
she’ll ask you to explain. Take my word for it.”

As they mounted Mr. Flint’s steps, Arthur said, “Will—will you
do the talking? I don’t think I could bear to go over the whole story
again.”

Mr. Flint had but just got home from down-town. He was now in his bath.
He sent word to the callers that he would dress and be with them as
quickly as he could. They waited silently in the darkened drawing room,
and listened to the ticking of an old-fashioned hall-clock. In about ten
minutes Mr. Flint joined them.

Hetzel stated their errand. Of course, Mr. Flint was horrified and
amazed. Of course, he agreed eagerly to do every thing in his power to
aid them.

“Now then, for Romer,” said Hetzel. “Where shall we find him?”

“I don’t know,” said Arthur. “We must look in the directory.”

They stopped at an apothecary’s shop, noted Romer’s address, and
started for the nearest elevated railway station.

Half way there Mr. Flint halted.

“No,” he said, “we can’t depend upon the cars. We must have a
carriage. There’s no telling how much traveling we shall have to do,
before this business is completed.”

They engaged a carriage at a hack-stand hard-by; and in it were jolted
over the cobble-stones to Mr. Romer’s abode.

Mr. Romer was not at home!

For a moment they gazed blankly into each other’s faces. Finally Mr.
Flint said, “Where has he gone?”

“I don’t know,” returned the servant.

“Is there any body in this house who does know?”

“His mother might.”

“Well then, we want to see his mother.”

The servant left them in the vestibule, and went up-stairs. Presently
she returned, accompanied by a corpulent old lady.

“Did you desire to see Mr. Romer upon official business?” inquired
the old lady.

“We did, madam—important official business,” said Mr. Flint.

“Then, gentlemen, you can’t see him till to-morrow morning at his
office. He don’t see people officially after office-hours. If he did,
he’d get no peace.”

Mr. Flint accepted the situation, and was equal to it.

“I understand,” he said; “but this is business in which Mr. Romer
is personally interested. We must see him to-night. To-morrow morning
will be too late. If you know where he is, you’d better tell us.
Otherwise, I shan’t answer for his displeasure.”

“Oh, in that case,” said the old lady, quite deceived by Mr.
Flint’s white lie, “in that case, you’ll find him dining at the *
* * Club. At least, he said he should dine there, when he left the house
this morning.”

“Thank you, madam,” said Mr. Flint. In the carriage, “Bless my
soul!” he added. “It couldn’t have fallen out better. I’m a
member of the * * * Club, myself.”

They entered the club-house. Mr. Flint led Arthur and Hetzel into
the reception-room, where, for a moment, he left them alone.
Shortly returning, “Mr. Romer,” he announced, “is in the
bowling-alley—hasn’t yet gone up to dinner. I’ve sent him my
card.”

In due time Romer appeared, his face flushed by recent exercise.
Catching sight of Arthur, “What, you—Ripley?” he exclaimed.
“I’d fust been telling the fellows down-stairs about—that
is—I—well, I—I’m real glad to see you.”

“Mr. Romer,” said Mr. Flint, plunging in medias res, “I have
ventured to disturb you in your leisure for the purpose of offering bail
in the case of Mrs. Ripley, who, I am informed, was taken in custody
to-day by your officers.”

“Oh,” said Romer, “a question of bail.”

“Yes—we want to give bail for the lady at once—in any amount
that you may wish—but without delay. She must be out of prison before
to-morrow morning.”

“Hum,” mused Romer, “I don’t see how you’ll manage it.”

“Manage it? What is there to be managed? I offer bail; it only remains
for you to take it.”

“Oh, excuse me, but I have no authority in the matter—no more than
you yourself. Mr. Orson, my chief, is the man for you to see, and he’s
out of town. We don’t take bail generally in murder cases; and I
can’t make an exception of this one—though I’d like to, first
rate, for Ripley’s sake. Perhaps Mr. Orson might do so—in fact I
should advise him to—but, as I’ve said, he’s not on hand.
Then, the amount would have to be determined, the papers drawn, the
proceedings submitted to a magistrate—and on the whole, it couldn’t
be arranged inside of a day or two, at the shortest.”

“The devil you say!” cried Mr. Flint.

“I’m very sorry, I’m sure. But that’s about the size of it,”
said Romer.

“And is—is there nothing to be done? Is this lady to remain
indefinitely in the Tombs—a common prisoner?”

“Until you can bring the question before Mr. Orson, at any rate.”

“Well, where is he, Mr. Orson?”

“He’s on his vacation—down at Long Branch.”

“What hotel?”

“The * * *.”

“Good. Will you go with me to Long Branch to-morrow morning?”

“To-morrow morning? No, I can’t go to-morrow morning.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’ve got a calendar on my hands.”

“When can you go?”

“I might arrange to run down to-morrow night, and come back Wednesday
morning.”

“For mercy’s sake, then, do so. On what train will you start with me
to-morrow night?”

“Call at my office at four o’clock in the afternoon, and I’ll let
you know. You may count, Ripley, upon my doing all I can for you.”

Mr. Romer went back to his bowling.

Mr. Flint said, “Well, I don’t see that we can go any further
to-night.”

“I suppose we’ll have to reconcile ourselves to waiting and
hoping,” said Hetzel.

“Good God! Is she to—to pass the night in prison?” cried Arthur.

“Come, come, my dear boy,” said Mr. Flint.

“We must make the best of it.” Turning to Hetzel. “Where are you
going now?” he asked.

“I think—it has just occurred to me—that we ought to see Mrs.
Hart,” Hetzel returned.

“Well then, set me down at my house on your way up.” And Mr. Flint
gave the necessary instructions to the driver.

Mrs. Hart was posted on her stoop, peering anxiously up and down the
street, as the carriage containing Hetzel and Arthur rumbled into
Beekman Place. When she saw that the carriage had stopped directly in
front of her domicile, she made a rush toward it, pulled open the door,
and cried, “Ruth, Ruth—at last you have come back! I was so much
worried!” Then, discovering her mistake, “Oh, it is not Ruth? Where
can she be?”

“She is perfectly safe,” said Hetzel. “Come into the house.”

“You have seen her?” questioned Mrs. Hart. “She has been gone such
a long time! I was frightened half to death. Tell me, why doesn’t she
come home? What—?”

Mrs. Hart faltered. By this time they had reached the parlor, which was
brilliantly lighted up; and at the spectacle of Arthur’s face, livid
enough at best, but rendered doubly so by the gas-jets, Mrs. Hart
faltered.

“Let me reassure you. Mrs. Ripley is perfectly safe,” repeated
Hetzel.

“But then—then, why does he look like this?” pointing to Arthur,
and laying a stress upon each syllable.

“Sit down,” said Hetzel, “and compose yourself; and he will tell
you.”

To Arthur, “Now, Arthur, try to command your feelings, and tell Mrs.
Hart all about it.”

As best he could, he told Mrs. Hart as much as was needful to make her
comprehend the state of affairs.

Mrs. Hart was nervous enough at the outset. As Arthur’s story
proceeded, her nervousness became more and more ungovernable. When she
learned that Ruth had been carried off to prison, she cried, “Oh, take
me to her at once. I must go to her at once. She must not be left alone
there all night.”

“It would be impossible to obtain admittance at this hour,” said
Hetzel.

But saying it did not suffice. Mrs. Hart insisted. “Oh, they would
surely let me in. She—she will die if she is left there alone.”

Hetzel undertook to comfort her, and to bring her around to reason.
Finally she was sufficiently calm to listen to the rest of what Arthur
had to say.

His tale complete, Hetzel took up the sequel, explaining how they had
tried to have her liberated on bail, how Mr. Flint was to visit Mr.
Orson at Long Branch to-morrow night, and going on to express his
assurance that in a week’s time at the furthest the storm would have
blown over, and made way for calm and sunshine.

For a long while Mrs. Hart could only cry and utter inarticulate
syllables of grief.

By and by Hetzel asked, “Can you tell us how she came to go down
there—to Mr. Peixada’s place?”

“Oh, yes,” said Mrs. Hart. “It was my fault. I advised her to. You
see, this is the way it happened. After Arthur had left the house
this morning, Ruth picked up the newspaper. She was just glancing over
it—not reading any thing in particular—when all at once, she gave a
little scream. I asked her what it was; and she said, ’Look here.’
Then she showed me the advertisement that he has spoken of. ’Would you
pay any attention to it?’ she asked. I read it, and considered, and
then asked her what action her impulse prompted her to take. She said
that she hardly knew. If there was something they wanted of her, which
was right and proper, she supposed she ought to do it; but she hated
to have any dealings with Peixada. ’I thought Judith Peixada had been
dead two years,’ she said; ’but now she comes to life again just
when she is least expected.’ I suggested that she might write a
letter. But on thinking it over she said, ’No. Perhaps the best thing
I can do will be to go at once and beard the lion in his den. I shall
worry about it otherwise. I may as well know right away what it is.
After lunch I’ll go down-town and call upon Mr. Peixada; and then
I’ll surprise Arthur in his office, and bring him home.’ Then I—I
said I thought that was the best thing she could possibly do,” Mrs.
Hart interrupted herself to dry her eyes. Presently, “You see, it was
my fault,” she resumed. “I ought to have suspected that they meant
foul play; but instead, I let her walk straight into their pitfall.
Right after lunch, at about halfpast one, she started out. She promised
to be home again by four o’clock. When she didn’t come and didn’t
come, I began to get more and more anxious about her. I was almost
beside myself, when at last you arrived.”

Hetzel said, “It is bad enough to think of her being locked up in
prison, but that is not the worst. I’m sure we can get her out of
prison; and although I don’t know the first thing about the case,
I’m sure that we can prove her innocence. The trouble now is
this. She’s suffering all manner of torments, because she totally
misconceives her husband’s part in the transaction. Our endeavor must
be to put her husband’s conduct before her in the right light—make
her understand that he acted all along in good faith, and without the
faintest suspicion that she and Judith Peixada were one and the same.
She was so much incensed at him this afternoon, that she wouldn’t let
him justify himself. We must set this mistake right tomorrow morning.
I think that you, Mrs. Hart, had better visit her as early to-morrow as
they will admit you, and—”

“Of course I will,” interpolated Mrs. Hart.

“—And tell her Arthur’s side of the story. When she understands
that, she’ll feel like another woman. Then he can see her, and talk
to her, and find out the facts of the case, and lay them before the
authorities. It seems to me that this is the plain course to take.”

“And meanwhile, meanwhile!” cried Arthur, wringing his hands.

“Come,” said Hetzel, “show your grit. Look at Mrs. Hart. See how
bravely she bears up. Do you want to make it harder for every one by
your example?”

“Mrs. Hart isn’t her husband,” Arthur retorted.

Then he bit his lip and kept silence. Mrs. Hart sat bolt upright,
staring at vacancy, with brows knitted into a tight frown. Hetzel tugged
away at his whiskers, and was evidently thinking hard.

By and by the door-bell rang. A servant entered.

“Here is a note, ma’am, a man just left,” she said to Mrs. Hart.

Mrs. Hart read the note and passed it to Hetzel. It was written upon a
half sheet of paper, headed in heavy black print, “City Prison.” It
was brief:—

“My dear, dear Friend:—You must be anxious about me. I have tried
hard to get word to you. At last they have found a messenger for me. You
see by this letter-heading where I am. The advertisement was a trick.
But it was worse, much worse, than you can fancy. If I could only see
you! Will you come to me to-morrow morning? I am too heartsick to write,
Ruth.”

Hetzel was returning the note to Mrs. Hart, when Arthur stretched out
his hand for it.

“Am I not to read what my own wife has written?” he demanded
fiercely.

He took in its contents at a glance. Even this sheet of common prison
paper was sweet with that faint, evanescent perfume that clung to
everything Ruth’s fingers touched. Letting it drop to the floor, “I
can’t stand it,” he cried in a loud voice, and left the room.

They heard the vestibule door slam behind him.

“He is mad,” said Mrs. Hart. “He will do himself an injury.”

“No, he won’t—not if I can stop him,” said Hetzel; and he
hurried forth upon Arthur’s track.

But he came back in a little while, panting for breath.

“I ran as far as First Avenue,” he explained; “but he had
succeeded in getting out of sight. Never mind. He’ll come home all
right. No doubt he needs to be alone.”

Once out of doors, Arthur dashed blindly ahead. It was a sultry night.
The odor of ailanthus trees hung heavy on the air. Many people were
abroad. On the door-steps of most of the houses, the inmates sat,
chatting, smoking, dozing, airing themselves. The city had given itself
over to rest and recreation. Through open windows escaped bursts of
song and laughter and piano playing. Young girls, dressed in white,
promenaded on the arms of young men who puffed cigarettes.

Arthur had no fixed destination. He walked, because walking was a
counter-irritant. He walked rapidly, and took no notice of the sights
and sounds round about him. He remembers dimly that he left the
respectable quarters of the city far behind, and entered a maze of
crooked, squalid, foul-smelling streets. Then, he remembers that all at
once he looked up and wondered where he was. And there, a blot upon the
sky, there loomed the prison that held his beloved.

He remained within eyeshot of this dismal structure till daybreak, when
at last he went back to Beekman Place.



CHAPTER IX.—AN ORDEAL.

ARTHUR ran up the steps of Mrs. Hart’s house, and, opening the door
with his latch-key, entered the parlor. The gas was burning at full
head. Hetzel was stretched at length in an easy-chair, his hands thrust
deep into his trowsers-pockets. At sight of Arthur, he rose and advanced
on tip-toe to meet him.

“Hush-sh,” he said, putting his finger to his lips. He pointed to
the sofa, upon which Mrs. Hart lay, asleep. Then he took Arthur’s
arm, and led him through the hall into the back room. There they seated
themselves.

“I didn’t expect to find you up,” said Arthur.

“We haven’t been abed,” said Hetzel.

“I suppose nothing new has happened? You haven’t heard from her
again?”

“No.”

They remained silent for some time.

Hetzel began, “After you left in that abrupt way, Mrs. Hart, who
had borne up wonderfully, quite went to pieces. She has been in a half
hysterical condition all night. I persuaded her to lie down about an
hour ago, and now she’s asleep.”

Arthur vouchsafed no comment.

“We have had a lot of reporters pestering us, too,” Hetzel went on.
“Of course I refused to see them, one and all.”

At this Arthur started.

“Then I suppose the whole thing is in the papers, curse them!” he
cried.

“I am afraid so.”

“Haven’t you looked to see?”

“It isn’t time yet. The papers haven’t been delivered yet.”

Arthur pulled out his watch.

“Not going—run down,” he said; “but of course it’s time. It
must be seven o’clock.”

“Oh, I didn’t know it was so late. I’ll go see.” Hetzel went
away. Presently he returned, saying, “Surely enough, here they are.”

“Well?” queried Arthur.

Hetzel undid the newspapers, and commenced to look them over.

“Yes, it’s all here—a column of it—on the front page,” he
groaned.

“Let me see,” said Arthur, extending his hand.

But the head-lines were as much as he had the heart to read. He threw
the sheet angrily to the floor and began to stride back and forth across
the room.

“Sit down,” said Hetzel, “or you’ll wake Mrs. Hart.”

“Oh, to be sure,” assented Arthur; and did as he was bidden.

By and by, “Do you know at what hours visitors are admitted?” Hetzel
asked.

“I—I think between ten and four.”

“Well, then, we’ll want a carriage here at halfpast nine. I’ll
send out now to order one.”

For a second time Hetzel left the room. When he got back, he said that
he had dispatched a servant to the nearest livery stable.

At this juncture Mrs. Hart appeared, very old and gray and pallid. She
came in without speaking, and took a chair near the window.

“I hope your nap has refreshed you,” Hetzel ventured.

“Oh, yes,” she replied dismally, “I suppose it has.—Where have
you been, Arthur?”

“Nowhere—only out of doors.”

All three held their peace.

Presently the servant returned from her errand, and told Hetzel that the
carriage would be on hand at the proper time.

“Bridget,” said Mrs. Hart, “you’d better brew some coffee, and
serve it up here.”

When Bridget had gone, “You have sent for a carriage? At what hour are
we to start?” Mrs. Hart inquired.

“At half-past nine.”

“Then, if you will excuse me, I’ll go up-stairs and get ready.”

“Certainly,” said Hetzel. “And while you’re about it, you’d
better put a few things together to take to her, don’t you think?”

“Why, she won’t need them. She’ll be with us again to-day, will
she not?”

“You know, Mr. Flint can’t see Mr. Orson till this evening. So, it
seems to me——-”

“Oh, yes, I had forgotten,” said Mrs. Hart, gulping down a sob, and
left the room.

During her absence, Bridget brought in the coffee.

“Take a cup up to your mistress,” said Hetzel.

Then he poured out a cup for Arthur. He had to use some persuasion to
induce him to drink it; but eventually he prevailed. Having swallowed a
portion for himself, he lighted a cigarette.

“Better try one,” he said, with a woful attempt at cheerfulness,
offering the bunch to Arthur. “There’s nothing like tobacco to brace
a man up.”

But Arthur declined.

Half-past nine was leisurely in arriving. At last, however, they heard
the grinding of carriage-wheels upon the pavement outside.

They climbed into the carriage. The coachman cracked his whip. Off they
drove.

That drive was a purgatory. At its start their hearts were oppressed by
a nameless terror. It had intensified into a breathless agony, before
their drive was over. Their foreheads were wet with cold perspiration.
Their lips were ashen. As they turned from Broadway into Leonard Street,
and knew that they were nearing their journey’s end, each of them
instinctively winced, and gasped, and shuddered. When the carriage
finally drew up before the prison entrance, not one of them dared to
speak or to stir.

At last Hetzel said, “Well, here we are.”

No answer.

After an interval, he went on, “Mrs. Hart, you, of course, will go in
first. You must explain to her about Arthur, and induce her to see him.
You can send word, or come back, when she’s ready to.”

With this, he opened the carriage door, dismounted, and helped Mrs. Hart
to follow. Arthur remained behind. He closed his eyes for a little,
and held his hands to his forehead. His hands were cold and damp. His
forehead was now dry and hot; and he could count the pulsations of
the arteries in his temples. His throat ached with a great lump. He
mechanically watched the people pass on the sidewalk, and wondered
whether any of them were as miserably unhappy as he. The myriad noises
of the street smote his ears with a strange sharpness, and caused
him from time to time to start and turn even paler than he had been.
Gradually, however, he began to lose consciousness of outward things,
and to think, think, think. He had plenty to think about. Pretty soon,
he was fathoms deep in a brown study.

He was aroused by the reappearance of Hetzel and Mrs. Hart. They got
into the carriage. The carriage moved.

“What—what is the trouble now?” Arthur asked.

“Damn them for a set of insolent scoundrels!”

Hetzel blurted out, forgetful of Mrs. Hart’s sex. “They wouldn’t
let us in.”

“Why not?”

“Oh, they insist on a tangle of red-tape—say we must have passes,
and so forth, from the district-attorney.”

“Well?”

“Well, we’re on our way to procure them now.” But at the
district-attorney’s office there was fresh delay. The clerk whose duty
it was to make out the passes, had not yet reached his post; and none of
his colleagues seemed anxious to play the lieutenant’s part.

Hetzel lost his temper.

“Come, what are you lazy louts paid for, I’d like to know?” he
thundered. “Where’s your master? Where’s Mr. Romer? I’ll see
whether you’re to sit around here in your shirt-sleeves, grinning, or
not. I want some one of you to wait on me, or I’ll make it hot for the
whole pack.”

He got his passes.

They drove back to the Tombs. This time Mrs. Hart encountered no
obstacles to her entrance.

Hetzel rejoined Arthur in the carriage. A quarter-hour elapsed before
either spoke.

Arthur said, “She—she’s staying a long while.”

“Oh,” responded Hetzel, “they’ve got such a lot to talk about,
you know.”

At the end of another quarter-hour, more or less, Arthur complained,
“What under heaven can be keeping her so long?”

“Be patient,” said Hetzel. “It’ll do no good to fret.”

By and by Arthur started up. “By Jove, I can’t wait any longer. I
can’t endure this waiting. I must go in myself,” he cried.

But just at this moment Mrs. Hart issued forth.

Hetzel ran to meet her.

She was paler than ever. Her eyelids were red.

“We may as well drive home,” she said. “She won’t see him.”

“For heaven’s sake, why not?” asked Hetzel.

“I’ll tell you all about it, as we drive along.”

“But how—how shall we break the news to him?”

“You—you’d better speak to him now, before I get in.”

Hetzel approached the carriage window.

“Arthur,” he began, awkwardly, “try—try to keep quiet, and
not—the—the fact is—”

“Is she ill? Is she dead?” cried Arthur, with mad alarm.

“No, no, my dear boy; of course not. Only—only—just
now—she—”

“She refuses to see me?”

“Well—”

“I was fully prepared for that. I knew she would.”

His head sank upon his breast.

They had covered half the distance between the Tombs and Beekman Place,
when at length Arthur said, “Please, Mrs. Hart, please tell me about
your visit.”

Mrs. Hart shot a glance at Hetzel, as much as to ask, “Shall I?” He
nodded affirmatively.

“There isn’t much to tell,” she began. “They led me down a lot
of stone corridors, and through a yard, and up a flight of stairs, and
across a long gallery, past numberless little, black, iron doors; and at
last we stopped before one of the doors, and the woman who was with
me called out,’.eixada, alias Ripley’—only think of the
indignity!—and after she had called it out that way two or three
times, a little panel in the door flew open, and there—there was
Ruth’s face—so pale, so sad, and her eyes so large and awful—it
made my heart sink. I supposed of course they were going to let me in;
but no, they wouldn’t. The prison woman said I must stand there, and
say what I had to say to the prisoner in her presence.”

Mrs. Hart paused, and swallowed a sob.

“Well, I stood there, so frightened at the sight of Ruth’s face,
that I didn’t know what to do; till by and by she said, very softly,
’Aren’t you going to kiss me, dear?’ Oh, her voice was so sweet
and sad, I couldn’t help it, but I burst out crying; and she cried,
too; and she put her face up close to the open place in the door; and
then we kissed each other; and then—then we just cried and cried, and
couldn’t speak a word.”

The memory of her former tears brought fresh tears to Mrs. Hart’s
eyes. Drying them, she went on, “We were crying like that, and never
thinking of any thing else, when the prison woman said, ’If you have
any communication to make to the prisoner, you’d better make it right
off, because you can’t stay here all day, you know.’ Then I began
about Arthur. I said, ’Ruth, I wanted to tell you that Arthur is down
outside, and that he wishes to see you.’ Oh, if you could have seen
the look that came upon her face! It made me tremble. I thought she was
going to faint, or something. But no. She said, very calmly, ’It would
do no good for me to see Arthur. It would only pain him and myself. I
do not wish to see him. I could not bear to see him. That is what she
said.”

“Go on, go on,” groaned Arthur, as Mrs. Hart paused.

“She said she didn’t want to see you, and couldn’t bear to. I
said, ’But, Ruth, you ought to see him. You and he ought to speak
together, and try to understand each other.’ She said, ’There is
no misunderstanding between us. I understand every thing.’—’Oh,
no,’ said I, ’no, you don’t. There is something which he wants
to explain to you—about how he came to be associated with Mr.
Peix-ada.’—’I don’t care about that,’ said she. ’There are
some things which he can not explain. I am miserable enough already.
I need all my strength. I should break down, if I were to see
him.’—But I said, ’Consider, him, Ruth. You can’t imagine
how unhappy he is. He loves you so much. It is breaking his
heart.’—’Loves me?’ she said. ’Does he still pretend to love
me? Oh, no, he does not love me. He never loved me. If he had loved me,
he would never have done what he did. Oh, no, no—I can not see him, I
will not see him. You may tell him that I said it would do no good
for us to see each other. Every thing is over and past between him and
me.’ She had said all this very calmly. But then suddenly she began to
cry again: and she was crying and sobbing as if her heart would break,
and she couldn’t speak a word, and all I could do was to try and
soothe her a little, when the prison woman said I must come away. I
tried to get her to let me stay—offered her money—but she said,
’No. It is dinner time now. No visitors are allowed in the building at
dinner time. You must go.’—So, I had to leave Ruth alone.”

“It is as I supposed,” moaned Arthur. “She hates me. All is over
and past between us, she said.”

“Nonsense, man,” protested Hetzel. “It is merely a question
of time. Mrs. Hart simply didn’t have time enough. If she had been
allowed to stay a half hour longer, your wife would have loved you as
much as ever. She does love you as much as ever, now. But her heart
is crushed and sore, and all she feels is the pain. It’s less than
twenty-four hours since the whole thing happened; she hasn’t had
time enough yet to think it over. We’re going to have her home again
to-morrow; and if between the three of us we can’t undeceive her
respecting your relations to Peixada—bring her to hear and comprehend
the truth—I’ll be mightily surprised.”

They drove for some blocks in silence.

“Did you give her her things, Mrs. Hart?” Arthur asked, abruptly.

“No,” said Mrs. Hart; “they wouldn’t let me. I forgot to tell
you that they made me empty my pockets before they led me to her. The
prison woman took the things, and said she would examine them, and then
give her such as were not against rules.”

“And—and it was a regular prison cell in which she was confined?”

“Oh, yes; it was horrible. The walls were whitewashed, and there was
only one little bit of a grated window, and the floor was of stone, and
the bed was a narrow iron cot, and she had just a wretched, old, wooden
stool to sit on, and the air was something frightful.”

“Did you tell her of our efforts to get bail for her?” asked Hetzel.

“Dear me, I forgot all about it.”

“Perhaps you’d better write her a note, when we get home. I’ll
send a messenger with it.”

“All right, I will,” acquiesced Mrs. Hart.

But in Beekman Place she said to Hetzel: “About that note you spoke
of—I don’t feel that I can trust myself to write. I’m afraid I
should say something that—that might—I mean I think I couldn’t
write to her. I should break down, if I tried. Won’t you do it,
instead?”

“One word from you would comfort her more than a dozen from me.”

“But—it is such hard work for me to keep control of myself, as it
is—and if I should undertake to write—I—I—”

“Oh, very well,” said Hetzel. “Can you let me have pen and
paper?”

What he wrote ran thus:—

“My dear Mrs. Ripley: I only want to send you this line or two, to
tell you that your friends are hard at work in your behalf, and that
before this time to-morrow we mean to have you safe and sound at home.
Meanwhile, for Arthur s sake, try to bear up and be of good cheer. The
poor boy is breaking his heart about you. All I can do for him is to
promise that in a few hours, now, he shall hold you in his arms again. I
should like to make clear to you in this note how it was that he seemed
to have had a share in the trickery by which you were betrayed; but I am
afraid I might make a bungle of it; and after all, it is best that you
should hear the tale from his own lips, as you surely will to-morrow
morning. I beg and pray that you will strive hard not to let this thing
have any grave effect upon your health. That is what I most dread. Of
other consequences I have no fear—and you need have none. If you will
only exert your strength to bear it a little while longer, and come
home to us to-morrow sound and well in health, why, we shall all live
to forget that this break in our happiness ever occurred. I think I feel
the full pain of your position. I know that it is of a sort to unnerve
the staunchest of us. But I know too that you have uncommon powers at
your command; and I beg of you, for your own sake, for Arthur’s, for
Mrs. Hart’s, to call upon them now. Weather the storm for one more
night, and then I vouch for the coming blue skies.

“God bless you and be with you!

“Julian Hetzel.”

“I want to add a postscript,” said Arthur, when Hetzel laid down his
pen.

“Do you think you’d better?” asked Hetzel, dubiously.

“Let me have it, will you?” cried Arthur, savagely; and held out his
hand for the paper.

Hetzel gave it to him. On the blank space that was left he wrote:
“Ruth—my darling—for God’s sake, overcome your anger against me.
Don’t judge me before you have heard my defense. Be merciful, Ruth,
and wait till you have let me speak and justify myself, before taking
for granted that I have been guilty of treachery toward you. Oh, Ruth,
how can you condemn me on mere appearances?—me, your husband. Oh,
please, Ruth, please write me an answer, saying that you have got over
the anger you felt for me yesterday and this morning, and that you will
suspend judgment of me till I have had a chance to clear myself. I can
not write my explanation here, now. I am not calm enough, and it is too
long a story. Oh, Ruth, I shall go mad, unless you will promise to wait
about condemning me. Write me an answer at once, and send it by the
messenger who brings you this. I can not say any thing else except that
I love you. Oh, you will kill me, if you go on believing what you
told Mrs. Hart—that I do not love you. You must believe that I love
you—you know I love you. Say in your answer that you know I love you.
I love you as I never loved you—more than I ever loved you before.
Oh, little Ruth, please cheer up, and don’t be unhappy. If this thing
should result seriously for your health, I—I shall die. Dear little
Ruth, just try to keep up until to-morrow morning. If you will only come
home all right to-morrow morning, then our sufferings will not count.
Ruth!”

Hetzel said, “I’ll run out to the corner, and find some one to carry
this to her.”

He went off. Mrs. Hart and Arthur sat silent and motionless in the
parlor. In due time Hetzel got back. He too took a seat and kept his
peace. So the afternoon wore away. No one spoke. Their minds were busy
enough, God knows; but busy with thoughts which they dared not shape in
speech. The clock on the mantel-piece ticked with painful distinctness.
Street-sounds penetrated the closed windows—children’s voices, at
their games—the cries of fruit venders—hand-organ music—the noise
of wheels on paving stones—and reminded the listeners that the life of
the city was going on very much as usual. Now and then a steam-whistle
shrieked on the river. Now and then one of our tongue-tied trio drew a
deep, audible sigh. Ruth’s piano, in the corner, was open. On the rack
lay a sheet of music, and with it a tiny white silk handkerchief that
she had doubtless thrown down carelessly, and left there, the day
before. When Arthur perceived this, he got up, crossed the floor, took
possession of it, and tucked it into his pocket.

Towards six o’clock the door-bell rang. All three started violently.
The same notion occurred to all three at once.

“It—it is from her. It is her answer,” gasped Arthur, and began to
breathe quickly.

Hetzel went to the door. After what seemed an eternity to those he had
left behind, he returned.

“No,” he said, replying to their glances; “not yet. It is only
your office-boy, Arthur. He has brought you your day’s mail.”

Arthur apathetically commenced to look over the envelopes. At last he
came to one which he appeared on the point of opening. But then abruptly
he seemed to change his mind, and tossed it to Hetzel.

“Read that, will you, and tell me what he says,” was his request.

Hetzel read the following:—

“Office of

“B. Peixada & Co.,

“No.—Reade Street,

“New York, Aug. 12, 1884.

“Dear Sir:—In view of the extraordinary occurrence of yesterday
morning, I presume it is needless for me to say that your further
services as my attorney can be dispensed with. Please have the goodness
to transfer my brother’s will and all other papers in your keeping,
in reference to the case of my late sister-in-law, to Edwin Offenbach,
Esq., attorney, No.—Broadway. I don’t know if you expect me to
pay you any more money; but if you do, please send memorandum to above
address, and oblige,

“Respectfully Yours,

“B. Peixada.

“A. Ripley, Esq., attorney, etc.”

“He wants you to transfer his papers to another lawyer and render your
bill, that’s all,” said Hetzel.

“Oh, is that all?” Arthur rejoined. “Well, then, let me have his
note.”

Arthur put Peixada’s note into his pocket. The trio relapsed into
their former silence.

Again by and by the door-bell rang. Again all three started. Again
Hetzel went to the door.

Arthur leaned forward, and strained his ears. He heard Hetzel take down
the chain; he heard the door creak open; he heard a boy’s voice, rough
and lusty, say, “No answer. Here, sign—will you?” And then he sank
back in his chair.

Hetzel staid away for some minutes. Coming back, “It was the
messenger,” he said; “but he had no answer. The prison people told
him that there was none.”

It was now about seven o’clock. Presently Bridget appeared upon the
threshold, and asked to speak with her mistress. Mrs. Hart stepped into
the hall, where for a time she and the servant conversed in low tones.
Re-entering the parlor, she said, “Dinner.—She came to tell me that
dinner is ready. I had forgotten it. Will you come down?”

Hetzel rose. Arthur remained seated.

“Come, Arthur. Didn’t you hear what Mrs. Hart said? Dinner is
ready,” Hetzel began.

“Oh, you don’t suppose I want any dinner, do you? You two go down,
if you choose. I’ll wait for you here.”

“Now, be sensible, will you? Come down-stairs with us. Whether you
want to, or not, you must eat something. You’ll get sick, fasting like
this. We’ve got enough on our hands, as it is, without having a sick
man to look after. Come along.”

Hetzel took Arthur by the arm, and led him out.

But their attempt at dinner was pretty doleful. Despite their long
abstinence from food, none of them was hungry. Hetzel alone contrived to
finish his soup. Mrs. Hart and Arthur could swallow no more than a few
mouthfuls of bread and wine apiece.

Afterward they went back to the parlor. As before, Arthur sat still
and nursed his thoughts. Hetzel picked up an illustrated book from
the table, and began to turn the pages. Mrs. Hart said, “If you will
excuse me, I think I’ll lie down for a little. I have a splitting
headache.” She lay down on the sofa. Hetzel got a shawl, and covered
her with it.

The clock was striking ten, when for a third time the bell rang. For a
third time Hetzel started to answer it. Arthur accompanied him.

Hetzel opened the door. A telegraph-boy confronted him.

“Ripley?” the boy demanded.

“Yes—yes,” said Arthur, and seized hold of the dispatch that the
boy offered.

But his courage forsook him. He turned white, and leaned against the
wall for support.

“Some—something has happened to her,” he gasped. “Read it for
me, Hetz, and let me know the worst.”

“No, it isn’t from her. It’s from Mr. Flint,” said Hetzel, after
he had read it.

“Oh,” sighed Arthur.—“Well, what does he say?”

“Here.”

Hetzel put the telegram into Arthur’s hands. Its contents were:—

“Victory! Meet me to-morrow morning, 10:30, at district-attorney’s
office. Every thing satisfactorily arranged. Absolutely nothing to
fear.—Arthur Flint.”

“There,” Hetzel added, “now I hope you’ll brace up a little.”

“I suppose I ought to,” said Arthur. “Anyhow, I’ll try.”

Mrs. Hart was much relieved. Indeed, her spirits underwent a
considerable reaction. Her eyes brightened, and she cried, “Oh, to
think! The dear child will be home again by luncheon-time to-morrow!”

“And now,” put in Hetzel, “I would counsel both you and Arthur to
go to bed. A night’s rest will work wonders for you.”

“Yes, I think so, too,” agreed Mrs. Hart. “But you—you will not
leave us? You will sleep in our spare room?”

“Oh, thank you. Yes, perhaps I’d better stay here, so as to be on
hand in case any thing should happen.”

All three climbed the staircase. Mrs. Hart showed Hetzel to his
quarters, and inspected them to satisfy herself that every thing was
in proper order for his comfort. Then he escorted her back to her own
bed-chamber. Arthur was standing in the hall. Mrs. Hart bade them both
good night, and disappeared. Thereupon Hetzel, turning to Arthur, said,
“Now, old boy, go straight to bed, and refresh yourself with a sound
sleep. Good-by till morning.”

But Arthur stopped him. In a voice that betrayed some embarrassment, he
began, “I say, Julian, I wonder whether you would very much mind my
sleeping with you. You see, I—I haven’t been in there”—pointing
to a door in front of them—“since—since—” He broke off.

“Oh, of course. You don’t feel like being left alone. I understand.
Come on,” said Hetzel.

“Thanks,” said Arthur. “Yes, that’s it. I don’t feel like
being left alone.”

The sky was overcast next morning, and a cold wind blew from across the
river. Hetzel and Mrs. Hart were up betimes; but Arthur, who had tossed
restlessly about for the earlier half of the night, lay abed till late.
He did not show his face downstairs till nine o’clock.

“We want to start in about half an hour, Arthur,” said Hetzel.
“That will give us time to stop at your office, before going to the
district-attorney’s.”

“What do we want to stop at my office for?”

“Why, to attend to the matters that Peixada wrote you about—return
the will—and so forth.”

“Oh, yes. I had forgotten.”

“Then, I suppose, Mrs. Hart, that we shall be back here for luncheon,
and bring Ruth with us. But if we shouldn’t turn up till somewhat
later, you mustn’t alarm yourself. There’s no telling how long the
legal formalities may take.”

“You speak as though you were going to leave me behind,” said Mrs.
Hart.

“Why, I didn’t think you would want to go with us. The weather is
so threatening, and the district-attorney’s office is so unpleasant a
place, I took for granted that you would prefer to stay home.”

“Oh, no. I should go wild, waiting here alone. You must let me
accompany you. I want to be the first—no, the second—to greet
Ruth.”

Hetzel made no further opposition.

They went straight to Arthur’s office. There he did the Peixada
documents up in a bundle, directed the same to Mr. Edwin Offenbach, and
told his office boy to deliver it to Mr. Offenbach in person. Then
they proceeded on foot up Broadway and down Chambers Street to the
district-attorney’s.

The identical lot of supercilious clerks with whom Hetzel had had it out
the day before, were lolling about now in the ante-room. “We wish to
see Mr. Romer,” Hetzel announced.

Nobody seemed to be much impressed by this piece of intelligence.

“Come, you fellow,” Hetzel went on, addressing one young gentleman
in particular, who appeared to have no more weighty duty to perform
than the trimming of his finger-nails; “just take that card into Mr.
Romer—will you?—and look sharp about it.”

The young gentleman glanced up languidly, surveyed his interlocutor with
a mingling of pity and amusement, at length drawled, “Say, Jim, see
what this party’s after,” and returned to his toilet.

Hetzel’s brow contracted.

“What do you want to see Mr. Romer about?” demanded Jim, leisurely
lifting himself from the desk atop which he had been seated.

Hetzel’s brows contracted a trifle more closely. There was an ugly
look in his eyes.

“What do I want to see Mr. Romer about?” he repeated. “I’ll
explain that to Mr. Romer. What I want you to do is to conduct us to
Mr. Romer’s office; and I want you to do that at short notice, or, I
promise you, I’ll find out the reason why.”

Hetzel had spoken quietly, but with an inflection that was unmistakable.

“Well, step this way, then, will you?” said Jim, the least bit
crestfallen.

They followed him into Mr. Romer’s private room.

Romer was seated at his desk. Mr. Flint was seated hard-by at a table,
examining some papers. Both rose at the entrance of the visitors.

“Ah, Arthur, my dear boy,” Mr. Flint exclaimed, “here you are.”
He clapped his godson heartily upon the shoulder, and proceeded to pay
his compliments to Mrs. Hart and Hetzel.

“How do, Ripley?” said Romer. “Glad to see you.”

Thereupon befell a moment of silence. Nobody seemed to know what to say
next.

Finally Mr. Flint began. “I think,” he said, “I ought to tell you
that Mr. Romer is to be thanked for all the good luck that we have met
with. Except for his intercession, Mr. Orson would not have considered
the bail question for a moment. As it is, Mr. Romer has persuaded
him—But perhaps you’d better go on,” he added, abruptly turning to
Romer.

“Well,” said Romer, “the long and short of it is that Mr. Orson
agrees to accept bail in twenty-five thousand dollars. You know, Ripley,
it’s our rule not to take bail at all in cases of this sort; and so he
had to fix a large amount to ward off scandal.”

“And here are the papers, all ready to be signed,” said Mr. Flint.

“But where——” Hetzel began.

“Yes, just so. I was coming to that,” Romer interposed. “We’ve
sent for her, and she’ll get here before long. But what I was going
to say is this: Mr. Orson makes it a condition that before bail is
accepted, she be required to—to plead.”

“Well?” queried Hetzel.

“Well, you see, she must put in her plea of not guilty in—in open
court.”

“What!” cried Arthur. “Subject her to that humiliation? Drag her
up to the bar of a crowded court-room, and—and—Oh, it will kill her!
You might as well kill her outright.”

“Is this absolutely necessary?” asked Hetzel.

“Mr. Orson made it a sine qua non,” replied Romer; “and if
you’ll listen to me for a moment, I’ll tell you why.”

He paused, gnawed his mustache for an instant, at length resumed, “You
know, Ripley, we never should have gone at this case, at all, except for
you. That’s so, isn’t it? All right. Now, what I want to make plain
is that we’re, not to blame. You started us, didn’t you? Well and
good. We unearthed that old indictment, which otherwise might have
lain moldering in its pigeon-hole till the day of doom, we unearthed
it simply because you urged us to. We never should have moved in the
matter, except for you. I want you to confess that this is a true
statement of the facts.”

“Oh, yes; it’s true,” groaned Arthur.

“All right, Ripley. That’s just what I wanted to bring out. Now I
can pass on to point two. Point two is this. I suppose you’re very
sorry for what’s happened. I know we are—at least, I am—awfully
sorry. And what’s more, I feel—I feel—hang it, I feel uncommonly
friendly toward you, Ripley, old boy. Don’t you understand? I want to
do all I can to get you out of this confounded mess. And so, what I went
to work to do with Mr. Orson was not only to induce him to take bail,
but also, don’t you see, to get him to drop the case. What I urged
upon him was this. I said, ’Look here, Mr. Orson, we didn’t start
this business, did we? Then why the deuce should we press it? The
chances of conviction aren’t great, and anyhow we’ve got our hands
full enough, without raking up worm-eaten indictments. I say, as long
as she has turned out to be who she is, I say, let’s leave matters in
statu quo.’ That’s what I said to Mr. Orson.”

“By Jove, Romer, you—you’re a brick,” was the most Arthur could
respond. There was a frog in his voice.

“Well, sir,” Romer continued, “I put it before Mr. Orson in that
shape, and I argued with him a long time about it. But what struck him
was this. ’What’ll the public say?’ he asked. ’Now it’s got
into the papers, there’ll be the dickens to pay, if we don’t push
it.’ And you can’t deny, Ripley, that that’s a pretty serious
difficulty. Well, he and I, we talked it over, and considered the pros
and cons, and the upshot of it was that he said, ’All right, Romer. I
have no desire to carry the matter further than is necessary to set us
right before the public. So, what I’ll consent to do is to have bail
fixed in a large sum—say twenty-five thousand dollars—and then she
must plead in open court. That’ll satisfy the reporters. Then we’ll
put the indictment back into the safe, and let it lie. As long as
we’re solid with the public, I don’t care.’ That’s what Mr.
Orson said. So now, you see, she’s got to plead in open court, to
prevent the newspapers from raising Cain with us, and the bail’s
got to be pretty considerable for the same reason. But after that’s
settled, you can take her home, and rest easy. As long as we’re
in office the charge won’t be revived; and by the time we’re
superseded, it will be an old story and forgotten by all hands.”

“You see,” Mr. Flint said, “how much we have to thank Mr. Romer
for.”

“And I hope Mr. Romer will believe that we appreciate his kindness,”
added Hetzel.

“I—I—God bless you, Romer,” blurted out Arthur.

“Well,” said Romer, “to come down to particulars, we’ve got a
crowded calendar to-day, and so the court room is likely to be full of
people. I wanted to make this pleading business as easy as possible for
her, and on that account I’ve sent an officer after her already. Just
as soon as the judge arrives, she can put in her plea. Then we’ll all
come back here, and have the papers signed; and then you can go home
and be happy. Now, if you’ll follow me, I’ll take you into the court
room by the side entrance.”

“Oh, we—I don’t want to go into the court room. I couldn’t stand
it. Let us wait here till it’s over,” whimpered Arthur, through
chattering teeth.

Romer looked surprised. “Just as you please,” said he; “but
prisoners generally like to see a friendly face near them, when
they’re called up to plead.”

“Ripley doesn’t know what he’s saying,” put in Hetzel. “Of
course we will follow you into court.” In a lower tone, turning to
Arthur, “You don’t mean that you want her to go through that ordeal
alone, do you?” he demanded.

“Oh, I forgot about that,” Arthur confessed.

“But—but,” asked Mrs. Hart, “can’t we see her and speak to her
before she has to appear in court?”

“I don’t think that could be managed,” replied Romer, “without
some delay. You know, I want to have her plead the moment she gets
here, so as to avoid the crush. It’ll only take a few minutes. You’d
better come now.”

They followed Romer out of his office, down a long, gloomy corridor,
along which knots of people stood, chatting and smoking rank cigars, and
into the General Sessions court room—the court room that Arthur had
visited a few months before, out of idle curiosity to witness the scene
of Mrs. Peixada’s trial.

There were already about forty persons present: a half dozen lawyers
at the counsel-table, busy with books and papers; a larger number
of respectable looking citizens, who read newspapers and appeared
bored—probably gentlemen of the jury; and a residue of damp, dirty,
dismal individuals, including a few tattered women, who were doubtless,
like those with whom we are chiefly concerned, come to watch the fate
of some unfortunate friend. Every body kept very still, so that the
big clock on the wall made itself distinctly heard even to the farthest
corner of the room. Its hands marked five minutes to eleven. The
suspense was painful. It seemed to Arthur that he had grown a year older
in the interval that elapsed before the clock solemnly tolled the hour.

Romer had chairs placed for them within the bar, a little to the right
of the clerk’s desk, so that they would not be more than six feet
distant from the prisoner, when she stood up to speak. Then he left
them, saying, “I’ll see whether the judge has got down. I want to
ask him to go on the bench promptly, as a favor to me.”

Soon afterward a loud rapping sounded upon the door that led from
the corridor, and the officers who were scattered about the room,
simultaneously called, “Hats off.”

The judge, with grave and rather self-conscious mien, stalked past our
friends, and took his position on the bench. Romer followed at a
few paces. He smiled at Arthur, and crossed over to the
district-attorney’s table.

There was a breathing space of silence. Then the crier rose, and sang
out his time-honored admonition, “Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye, all
persons having business with this court,” etc., to the end.

Another moment of silence.

The clerk untied a bundle of papers, ran them over, got upon his feet,
and exchanged a few whispered words with the judge. Eventually he turned
around and faced the audience.

Ah, how still Arthur’s heart stood, as the clerk cried, in rasping,
metallic accents, “Judith Peixada, alias Ruth Ripley, to the bar!”

There were by this time quite seventy-five spectators present. Every
one of them leaned forward on his chair, and craned his neck eagerly,
to catch a good glimpse of the prisoner. In the distance, somewhere,
resounded a harsh click (as of a key turned in a stiff lock), succeeded
by a violent clang (as of an iron door opened and slammed to, in haste).
Then, up the aisle leading from the rear of the court room, advanced the
figure of a lady, dressed in black. She had to run the gauntlet of
those seventy-five on-lookers, more than one of whom was bold enough to
obtrude himself upon her path, and stare her squarely in the face. She
had no veil.

But she marched bravely on, looking fixedly ahead, and at last reached
the railing where she had to halt. She was terribly pale. Her features
were hard and peaked. Her under-lip was pressed tight beneath her teeth.
Her face might have been of marble. It contrasted sharply with the black
hair above it, and the black gown underneath. Her eyes were empty of
expression, like those of one who is blind. She appeared not to see her
friends: at any rate, she gave them no sign of recognition. Yet they
were only a few feet away, and almost exactly in front of her. She stood
motionless, with both hands resting on the rail.

What must have been Arthur Ripley’s feelings at this moment, as he
beheld his wife, standing within arm’s reach of him, a prisoner in a
court of law, prey to a hundred devouring eyes, and recognized his utter
helplessness to interfere and shield her!

“Judith Peixada, alias Ruth Ripley,” began the clerk, in the same
mechanical, metallic voice, “you have been indicted for murder in the
first degree upon the person of Edward Bolen, late of the first ward of
the City of New York, deceased, and against the peace of the People of
the State of New York, and their dignity. How say you, are you guilty or
not guilty of the felony as stated?”

The prisoner’s hands clutched tightly at the railing. She drew a deep
breath. Her pale lips parted. So low that only those within a radius of
a yard or two could hear, she said, “I am guilty.”

The clerk assumed that he had misunderstood. “Come, speak up
louder,” he said, roughly. “How do you plead?”

A spasm contracted the prisoner’s features, She bit her lip. Her hands
shook violently. She repeated, “I plead guilty.”

The clerk’s face betrayed a small measure of surprise. Speedily
controlling it, however, he began to recite the formula, for such case,
made and provided: “You answer that you are guilty of the felony as
charged in the indictment, and so your plea shall stand record—”

“One moment, Mr. Clerk,” the judge at this point interrupted.

Mr. Flint and Hetzel were looking into each other’s faces with blank
consternation. Arthur’s head had dropped forward upon his breast. Mrs.
Hart sprang to her feet, ran toward the prisoner, grasped her arm, and
cried out, “Oh, it is not true. You don’t know what you have said,
Ruth. It is not true—she is not guilty, sir,” directing the last
words at the clerk. The on-lookers shifted in their seats and conversed
together. The court-officers hammered with their gavels and commanded,
“Order—silence.” Mr. Romer stood up, and tried to catch the
judge’s eye.

“One moment, Mr. Clerk,” the judge had said; then addressing himself
to the culprit, “The plea that you offer, Judith Peixada, ought not,
in the opinion of the court, to be accepted. The penalty for murder
in the first degree is fixed by law, and that penalty is hanging. No
discretionary alternative is left to the magistrate. Therefore to permit
you to enter a plea of guilty of murder in the first degree, would be to
permit self-destruction. It has never been the custom of our courts
to accept that plea; though, naturally, they have seldom enough had
occasion to decline it. If I remember rightly, the Connecticut tribunals
have in one or two instances allowed that plea to be recorded; but,
unless I am misinformed, the statutes of Connecticut empower the
sentencing officer to choose between death and imprisonment for life.

“I can not consistently and conscientiously violate our precedents,
and for that reason I must decline to entertain the plea that you have
offered. If, however, you are in your heart persuaded of your guilt, and
wish to spare the People the expense and labor of a trial before a jury,
I will accept a plea of murder in the second degree, the punishment for
which, I must beg you to recollect, is confinement at hard labor in the
State Prison for the term of your natural life. The clerk will now put
the question to you, Judith Peixada, and you are at full liberty to
reply to it as you deem fit.”

“If the court please,” said Romer, “I should like to make a brief
statement, before these proceedings are continued.”

“Certainly,” said the judge. “You can wait, Mr. Clerk, until we
have heard from the district-attorney.”

Every man and woman in the court-room, save only two, strained forward
to catch each syllable that Romer might pronounce. The two exceptions
were the prisoner and her husband. He sat huddled up in his chair,
apparently deaf and blind to what was going on around. She leaned
heavily upon the railing in front of her, and the expression in her eyes
was one of weary indifference.

“Will you kindly see that a chair is furnished the prisoner?” Romer
asked of the clerk.

An attendant brought a chair. The prisoner sat down.

“If your honor please,” said Romer, “I desire to state that, in
case the prisoner be allowed to plead to murder in the second degree,
it will be against the protest of the People. The evidence in support of
the indictment is of such a nature as to admit of doubt concerning the
prisoner’s guilt; and, if it were submitted to a jury, I think the
chances would be even whether they would acquit her or convict her. The
People feel that there is evidence enough to justify a trial, but they
are reluctant to—become accessories to what, in their judgment, may
be the hasty act of an ill-advised woman. It is the duty of the
district-attorney to endeavor to secure a conviction—it would be his
duty to consent to a plea—when fully convinced in his own mind of the
accused person’s legal guilt. But when he is doubtful, or at least not
entirely satisfied, of that guilt, as I confess to being in the case at
bar, it is his duty to submit the question for arbitration to a jury.
That, your honor, is the stand which I am compelled to take in these
premises. I entertain grave doubts of the prisoner’s guilt—doubts
which could only be set at rest by a verdict rendered in the regular
way. I protest therefore against the entry of a plea such as your honor
has suggested; and, if the court please, I desire that this protest on
the part of the People be made a matter of record.”

Mr. Flint and Hetzel breathed more freely. Mrs. Hart fanned herself with
manifest agitation.

The judge replied: “The clerk will procure a transcript of the
district-attorney’s remarks from the stenographer, and enter the same
in the minutes. In response to those remarks, I feel called upon to say
that it is to be presumed that the prisoner at the bar, better than any
one else, is competent to decide upon the question of her own guilt or
innocence. She certainly can not be in doubt as to whether she committed
the felony charged against her. The court has already enlightened
her respecting the sentence that will be imposed in the event of her
pleading guilty of murder in the second degree. Whatever evidence might
be adduced in her behalf at a trial, is certainly not to be weighed
against her own voluntary and unconstrained confession. It would be
contrary to public policy and to good morals for the court to seal the
prisoner’s lips, as the district-attorney appears anxious to have it
do. The clerk will now put the necessary inquiries to her; and if she
elect to offer the plea in debate, the court will feel obliged to accept
it.” Romer bowed and sat down.

The clerk forthwith proceeded to business. “Judith Peixada, stand
up,” he ordered. Upon her obeying, he rattled off, “Judith Peixada,
do you desire to withdraw your plea of guilty of murder in the first
degree, and to substitute for the same a plea of guilty of murder in the
second degree, as charged in the second count of the indictment? If so,
say, ’I do.’.rdquo;

Mrs. Hart cried, “No, no! She does not. Don’t you see that the child
is sick? How should she know whether she is guilty or not? Oh, it will
be monstrous if you allow her to say that she is guilty.”

“Order! Silence!” called the officers. One of them seized Mrs.
Hart’s arm and pushed her into a chair.

The prisoner’s lips moved. “I do,” she whispered.

“You answer,” went on the clerk, “that you are guilty of the
felony of murder in the second degree, as charged in the second count of
the indictment; and so your plea shall stand recorded. What have you
now to say why sentence should not be pronounced upon you according to
law?”

Romer stepped forward.

“If your honor please,” he said, “the People are not yet prepared
to move for sentence. In the absence of counsel for the prisoner, I must
take it upon myself to request that sentence be suspended for at least
one week.”

“The court suspends sentence till this day week at eleven o’clock
in the forenoon,” said the judge; “and meanwhile the prisoner is
remanded to the city prison.”

The prisoner was at once led away.



CHAPTER X.—“SICK OF A FEVER.”

ROMER drew near to Mr. Flint.

“I did all I could,” he said.

“Things look pretty desperate now, don’t they?” Mr. Flint
returned.

Hetzel tugged at his beard.

Mrs. Hart started up. “Oh, for mercy’s sake, Mr. Romer, you are not
going to let them take her back to—to that place, are you?”

“I don’t see how I can help it. Bail is out of the question, after
what has happened, you know.”

“But can’t I see her and speak to her just a moment, first?”

“Oh, certainly; you can do that.”

Romer stepped aside and spoke to an officer.

“Unfortunately,” he said, returning, “they have already carried
her off. But you can drive right down behind her.—Hello! What’s the
matter with Ripley?”

They looked around toward Arthur. A glance showed them that he had
fainted.

“When did this happen?” asked Romer.

No one could tell. No one had paid the slightest attention to Arthur,
since the prisoner had first appeared in court.

“Well, we must get him out of here right away,” said Romer.

Mr. Flint and Hetzel lent a hand apiece; and his three friends carried
the unhappy man out of the room, of course thereby creating a new
sensation among the spectators. They bore him along the corridor,
and into Mr. Romer’s office, where they laid him upon a sofa. Romer
touched a bell.

“I’ll have to send some one to take my place in court,” he
explained.

To the subordinate who appeared, “Ask Mr. Birdsall to step here,” he
said.

Mr. Birdsall came, received Romer’s orders, departed.

“There, now,” said Romer, “I’ve got that off my hands. Now,
let’s bring him around. Luckily, I have a flask of brandy in my
desk.”

He rubbed some brandy upon Arthur’s temples, and poured a drop or two
between his lips.

“You fan him, will you?” he asked of Hetzel.

Mrs. Hart proffered her fan. Hetzel took it, and fanned Arthur’s face
vigorously.

Mrs. Hart looked on for a moment in silence. At length she said,
“Well, I can’t wait here. I am going to the prison.”

“Oh, to be sure; I had forgotten,” said Romer. “I’ll send a man
to obtain admittance for you.”

“May I also bear you company?” inquired Mr. Flint.

Mrs. Hart replied, “That is very kind of you. I should like very much
to have you.”

Romer rang his bell for a second time. A negro answered it.

“Robert,” said Romer, “go with this lady and gentleman to the
Tombs, and tell the warden that they are special friends of mine, and
that I shall thank him to show them every courtesy in his power.”

Then he returned to the sofa, on which Arthur still lay inanimate.

“No progress?” he demanded of Hetzel.

“None. Can you send for a physician? Is there one near by?”

A third stroke of the bell. Hetzel’s acquaintance, Jim, entered.

“Run right over to Chambers Street Hospital, and tell them we want a
doctor up here at once,” was Romer’s behest.

“Our friend’s in a pretty bad way,” he continued to Hetzel.
“And, by Jove, his wife must be a maniac.”

“I don’t wonder at him,” said Hetzel. “I feel rather used
up myself, after that strain in court. But her conduct is certainly
incomprehensible.”

“The idea of pleading guilty, when I had things fixed up so neatly!
She must be stark, raving mad. Insanity, by the way, was her defense at
the former trial. I guess it was a bona fide one.”

“No doubt of it. But I suppose it’s too late to make that claim
now—isn’t it?—now that the judge has ordered her plea of guilty to
be recorded. Yet—yet it isn’t possible that she will really have to
go to prison.”

“We might have a commission appointed.”

“What is that?”

“Why, a commission to inquire into, and report upon, her sanity.”

“We might? We will. That’s exactly what we’ll do. But how? What
are the necessary steps to take?”

“Why, when she’s brought up for sentence, next week, and asked what
she has to say, and so forth, you have an attorney on hand, and let him
declare his conviction, based upon affidavits, that she’s a lunatic,
and then move that sentence be suspended pending the investigation of
her sanity by a commission to be appointed by the court—understand?
Our side won’t oppose, and the judge will grant the motion as a matter
of course.”

“Ah, yes; I see.—Mercy upon me, I never knew a fainting fit to last
so long as this; did you?”

“Well, I’m not much posted on fainting-fits in general, but it’
does seem as though this was an uncommonly lengthy one, to be sure.”

Arthur’s face betrayed no sign of vitality except for the gentle
flutter of his nostrils as his breath came and went.

“Poor fellow,” mused Romer, “what an infernal pickle he’s gone
and got himself into! It’s the strangest coincidence I ever heard of.
There he was, pegging away at that case month after month, and never
suspecting that the lady in question was his wife! And she—she never
told him. Queer, ain t it? As far as we were concerned, we never should
have lifted a finger, only I was anxious to do Ripley a good turn.
He’s a nice fellow, is Ripley, and I always liked him and his father
before him. That’s why we took this business up—just for the sake of
giving him a lift, you know. As for his client, old Peixada, we’d
have seen him hanged before we’d have troubled ourselves about his
affairs—except, as I say, for Ripley’s sake. And now, this is what
comes of it. Well, Ripley never was cut out for a lawyer anyhow. He had
too many notions, and didn’t take things practically enough. Why, when
the question of advertising first came up, he was as squeamish about it,
and made as much fuss, as if he’d known all the time who she was.”

“Here’s the doctor, sir,” cried Jim, entering at this point.

Jim was followed by a young gentleman in uniform, who, without waiting
to hear the history of the case, at once approached the sofa, and began
to exercise his craft. He undid Arthur’s cravat, unbuttoned his shirt
collar, placed one hand upon his forehead, and with the other hand felt
his pulse.

“Open all the windows, please,” he said in a quiet, business-like
tone.

He laid his ear upon the patient’s breast, and listened.

“When did this begin?” he asked at length.

“I should say about half an hour ago,” Romer answered, looking at
his watch.

“Is—is there any occasion for anxiety?” Hetzel inquired.

The doctor shrugged his shoulders. “Can’t tell yet,” was his
reply.

He drew a leather wallet from his pocket, and unclasping it, disclosed
an array of tiny glass phials. One of these he extracted, and holding it
up to the light, called for a glass of water. Romer brought the water.
The doctor poured a few drops of medicine from his phial into the
tumbler. The water thereupon clouded and became opaque. Dipping his
finger into it, the doctor proceeded to moisten Arthur’s lips.

“Each of you gentlemen please take one of his hands,” said the
doctor, “and chafe it till it gets warm.”

Romer and Hetzel obeyed.

“Want him taken to the hospital?” the doctor inquired presently.

“Oh, no,” said Hetzel. “As soon as he is able, we want to take him
home.”

“Where does he live?”

“In Beekman Place—Fiftieth Street and the East River.”

“Hum,” muttered the doctor, dubiously; “that’s quite a
distance.”

“To be sure. But after he comes to, and gets rested, he won’t mind
it.”

“Perhaps not.”

“Why, do you mean that that he’s going to be seriously sick?”

“Unless I’m mistaken, he’s going to lie abed for the next six
weeks.”

“What?”

“Sh-h-h! Not so loud. Yes, I’m afraid he’s in for a long illness.
As for taking him to Beekman Place, if you’re bound to do it, we must
have an ambulance.”

“I think if he’s got to be sick, he’d better be sick at home. What
is it necessary to do, to procure an ambulance?”

“I’ll send for one.—Can you let me have a messenger?” he asked
of Romer.

Romer summoned Jim.

The doctor wrote a few lines on a prescription blank, and instructed
Jim to deliver it to the house-surgeon at the hospital. Returning to
Arthur’s side, “He’s beginning to come around,” he said; “and
now, I think, you gentlemen had better leave the room. He mustn’t
open his mouth for some time; and if his friends are near him when he
recovers consciousness, he might want to talk. So, please leave me alone
with him.”

“But you won’t fail to call us if—if—” Hetzel hesitated.

“Oh, you needn’t be afraid. There’s no immediate danger.”

“You’ll find us in the next room,” said Romer, and led Hetzel out.

Whom should they run against in the passageway but Mrs. Hart and Mr.
Flint?

“What! Back so soon?” Romer exclaimed.

“She refused to see me,” said Mrs. Hart.

Romer pushed open a door. “Sit down in here,” he said.

“Where is Arthur?” asked Mr. Flint. “How is he getting on?”

Romer explained Arthur’s situation.

“Worse and worse,” cried Mr. Flint.

“But how was it that she refused to see you?” Hetzel questioned,
addressing Mrs. Hart.

“She sent me this,” Mrs. Hart replied, holding out a sheet of paper.

Hetzel took it and read:—

“My dear one:—It will seem most ungracious and ungrateful of me to
send word that I can not see you just now, and yet that is what I am
compelled to do. My only excuse is that I am writing something which
demands the utmost concentration and self-possession that I can command;
and if I should set eyes upon the face I love so well, I should lose all
control of myself. It is very hard to be obliged to say this to you;
but what I am writing is of great importance—to me, at least—and the
sight of you would agitate me so much that I could not finish it. Oh,
my dear, kind friend, will you forgive me? If you could come to see me
to-morrow, it would be a great comfort. Then my writing will be done
with. I love you with all my heart, and thank you for all your goodness
to me.

“Ruth.”

“Don’t blame her too severely, Mrs. Hart,” said Hetzel. “She is
probably half-distracted, and scarcely knows what she is doing.”

“Oh, I don’t blame her,” replied Mrs. Hart; “only—only—it
was a little hard to be denied.”

“Have you any idea what it is that she is writing?”

“Not the remotest.”

“Perhaps it is an explanation of her conduct today in court.”

“Perhaps,”

Mr. Flint said, “Well, Mr. Romer, the bright plans that we were making
last night have been knocked in the head, haven’t they? But I won’t
believe that there isn’t some way out of our troubles, in spite of
all. It isn’t seriously possible that she’ll be sentenced to prison,
is it?”

“As I was suggesting to Mr. Hetzel, a while ago, her friends might
claim that she’s insane.”

“Well, insane she must be, in point of fact. A lady like Mrs.
Ripley—to plead guilty of murder—why, of course, she’s insane.
It’s absurd on its face.”

“You don’t any of you happen to be posted on the circumstances of
the case, do you?” Romer asked. “I mean her side of the story. I’m
familiar with the other side myself.”

“I know absolutely nothing about it,” said Mr. Flint.

“All I know,” said Hetzel, “is what Arthur has let drop in
conversation, from time to time, during the last few months. But
then, you know, he was looking at it from the point of view of the
prosecution. I should imagine that if any one would understand the true
inwardness of the matter, it would be Mrs. Hart.”

Mrs. Hart said, “I know that she is as innocent as the babe at its
mother’s breast. When she and I first met each other, in England, two
years ago, and became friends, she told me all about it; but it was a
long and complicated story, and I can’t remember it clearly enough to
repeat it. You see, I always regarded it as a dark bygone that had best
be forgotten. I believe that as far as the mere bodily act went, she
did fire off the pistol that killed her husband and that other man. But
there were some circumstances that cleared her of all responsibility,
though I can’t recall exactly what they were. But it wasn’t that she
was insane. She never was insane. I think she said her lawyers defended
her on that plea when she was tried; but she insisted that she was not
insane, and explained it in some other way.”

“Oh, that don’t signify,” said Romer. “When defendants really
are insane, they invariably fancy that they’re not, and get highly
indignant at their counsel for maintaining that they are. At any rate,
lunacy is what you must fight for now. As I told Mr. Hetzel, you want to
retain a lawyer, and have him move for a commission when the case comes
up next week. You’ll have your motion granted on application, because
we shan’t oppose.”

“And in the event of the commission declaring her to be insane?”
queried Mr. Flint.

“Why, then, her plea will be rendered null and void.”

“And in case they say that she’s of sound mind?”

“There’ll be the devil to pay. Sentence will have to be passed.”

“And she will—will actually—?”

“I wouldn’t worry about that. The chances are that they will report
as you wish. And if they shouldn’t—if worse came to worst—why,
there’s the governor, who has power to pardon.”

“The ambulance has arrived,” said the doctor, coming into the
room. “Some one had better run on ahead, and get a bed ready for the
patient. Please, also, prepare plenty of chopped ice, and have some
towels handy, and a bottle of hot water for his feet. By the way, you
didn’t give me the number of the house. How’s that? No. 46? Thanks.
We’ll drive slowly, so as not to shake him up; and consequently
you’ll have time enough to get there first, and make every thing
ready.”

“Well,” said Hetzel, rising, “good-by, Mr. Romer, and I trust that
you know how grateful we are to you.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” said Romer. “Don’t mention it.
Good-by.”

In the street Mr. Flint said, “I’ll invite myself to go home with
you. I want to see how badly off the poor boy is.”

In Beekman Place they made the ’arrangements, that the doctor
had indicated for Arthur’s reception, and then sat down in the
drawing-room to await his coming. By and by the ambulance rolled up to
the door.

They hurried out upon the stoop. A good many of the neighbors had come
to their windows, and there was a small army of inquisitive children
bivouacked upon the curbstone. Mrs. Berle ran across from her house, and
talked excitedly to Mrs. Hart. Of course, all Beekman Place had read in
the newspapers of Judith Peixada’s arrest.

The doctor, assisted by the driver, lifted the sick man out. He lay at
full length upon a canvas stretcher. His face had assumed a cadaverous,
greenish tinge. His big blue eyes, wide open, were fixed upon the empty
air above them. To all appearances, he was still unconscious.

They carried him up the stoop; through the hall, and into the room
above-stairs to which Mrs. Hart conducted them. There they laid him on
the bed.

“Now,” said the doctor, “first of all, send for your own
physician. I must see him and confer with him, before I go away.”

Mrs. Hart left the room, to obey the doctor’s injunction.

“You, Jake,” the doctor went on, addressing the driver, “needn’t
wait. Drive back to the hospital, and tell them that I’ll come as soon
as I can be spared.”

“Here, Jake, before you go,” said Mr. Flint, producing his purse.

“Oh, thanks. Can’t accept any thing, sir,” responded Jake, and
vanished.

“Now, gentlemen,” resumed the doctor, “just lend a hand, and help
undress him.”

Following the doctor’s directions, they got the patient out of his
clothes. He seemed to be a mere limp, inert mass of flesh, and displayed
no symptoms of realizing what was going on. His extremities were
ice-cold. His forehead was hot. His breath was labored.

“A very sick man, I’m afraid, isn’t he, doctor?” asked Mr.
Flint.

“I’m afraid so.”

The doctor covered him with the bed-clothes.

“What do you think is the matter with him?” Mr. Flint pursued.

“Oh, it hasn’t developed sufficiently yet to be classified. His
mind must have been undergoing a strain for some time, I guess; and now
he’s broken down beneath it.”

“He’s quite unconscious, apparently.”

“Yes, in a sort of lethargy. That’s what makes the case a puzzle.
Won’t you order a hot-water bottle, somebody?”

Hetzel left the room. In a moment he brought the bottle of hot water.
The doctor applied it to Arthur’s feet.

“And the chopped ice?” Hetzel inquired.

The doctor placed his hand upon Arthur’s brow.

“N—no; we won’t use the chopped ice yet a while,” he answered.

By and by a bell rang down-stairs. A little later Mrs. Hart came in.

“Our doctor—Dr. Letzup—is here,” she announced.

Dr. Letzup entered.

“I suppose you medical men would like to be left alone?” said Mr.
Flint.

“Yes, I guess so,” said the hospital-doctor.

Mrs. Hart led the way into the adjoining room. There our friends
maintained a melancholy silence. Mrs. Hart’s cats slept comfortably,
one upon the sofa, the other upon the rug before the mantelpiece. The
voices of the two physicians, in earnest conversation, were audible
through the closed door.

Presently Mr. Hart jumped up.

“What—what now?” Mr. Flint questioned.

“I heard one of them step into the hall. Perhaps they need
something.”

She hurried to the threshold. There she confronted the hospital-doctor.
He had his hand raised, as if on the point of rapping for admittance.

“Ah, I was looking for you,” he explained. “I am going now. I
don’t see that I can be of any further use.”

“How is Arthur?”

“About as he was. Dr. Letzup has taken charge of him. Well, good
day.”

“Oh, you shan’t leave us in this way,” protested Mrs. Hart. “You
must at least wait and let me offer you a glass of wine.”

“I’m much obliged,” said the doctor; “but they are expecting me
in Chambers Street.”

Mrs. Hart, flanked by Mr. Flint and Hetzel, accompanied him to the
vestibule. All three did their utmost to thank him adequately for the
pains he had taken in their behalf. Returning up-stairs, they were
joined by Dr. Letzup.

“Well, doctor?” began Mrs. Hart.

“Well, Mrs. Hart,” the doctor replied, “our friend in the next
room has been exciting himself lately, hasn’t he? What he wants now
is a trained nurse, soothing medicines, and perfect quiet. The first two
I’m going to send around, as soon as I leave the house. For the last,
he must depend upon you. That is equivalent to saying that he will
have it. Therefore, so far as I can see, you have every reason to be
hopeful.”

“What do you take his trouble to be, doctor?” asked Hetzel.

“Oh, I don’t know of any special name for it,” said the
doctor. “The poor fellow must have been careless of himself
recently—worrying, probably, about something—and then came a shock
of one kind or another—collapse of stock he’d been investing in,
or what not—and so he went under. We’ll fetch him up again, fast
enough. The main thing is to steer him clear of brain fever. I think
we can do it. If it turns out that we can’t—if the fever should
develop—then, we’ll go to work and pilot him safely through it. Now
I must be off. Some one had better stay with him till the nurse comes.
Keep him warm—hot water at his feet, you know, and bed-clothes tucked
in about his shoulders. When the nurse turns up, she’ll give him his
medicines. I’ll call again after dinner.”

Mr. Flint left a little later.

“I suppose I shan’t be of any assistance, but merely in the way,
by remaining here. So I’ll go home. But of course you’ll notify
me instantly if there should be a change for the worse,” was his
valedictory.

After dinner the doctor called, pursuant to his promise. Having visited
his patient, and held an interview with the nurse, he beckoned Hetzel to
one side.

“Don’t be frightened,” he said, “but I’m afraid it’s going
to be brain fever, after all. He’s a little delirious just now,
and his temperature is higher than I should like. The nurse will take
perfect care of him. You’d better go to bed early and sleep well, so
as to be fresh and able to relieve her in the morning. Good night.”

“Good night.”

“What did the doctor say to you?” inquired Mrs. Hart.

Hetzel told her.



CHAPTER XI.—“HOW SHE ENDEAVORED TO EXPLAIN HER LIFE.”

THURSDAY morning it rained. Hetzel was seated in Mrs. Hart’s
dining-room, making such an apology for a breakfast as, under the
circumstances, could be expected of him, when the waitress announced
that Josephine was in the kitchen, and wished to speak with her master.

“All right,” said Hetzel; “ask her to step this way.”

Josephine presented herself. Not without some embarrassment, she
declared that she had heard what rumor had to say of Mrs. Ripley’s
imprisonment and of Mr. Ripley’s sickness, and that she was anxious to
learn the very truth of the matter from Hetzel’s lips. Hetzel replied
good-naturedly to her interrogations; and at length Josephine rose to go
her way. But having attained the door, she halted and faced about.

“Ach Gott!” she exclaimed. “I was forgetting about these.” She
drew a bunch of letters from her pocket, and deposited them upon the
table beside Hetzel’s plate.

Alone, Hetzel picked the letters up, and began to study their
superscriptions. One by one, he threw them aside without breaking their
seals, till at last “Hello!” he cried, “who has been writing a
book for me to read? Half an inch thick, as I’m alive; looks like
a lady’s hand, too; seems somehow as though I recognized it. Let me
see.—Ah! I remember. It must be from her!”

Without further preliminary, he pushed back his chair, tore the envelope
open, and set out to read the missive through.

“Dear Mr. Hetzel: I received a very kind note from you last night,
and I should have answered it at once, only I had so much to say that I
thought it would be better to wait till morning, in order to begin
and finish it at a sitting. The lights are turned off here at nine
o’clock: and therefore if I had begun to write last evening, I should
have been interrupted in the midst of it; and that would have rendered
doubly difficult what in itself is difficult enough.

“I have much to explain, much to justify, much to ask forgiveness for.
I am going to bring myself to say things to you, which, a few days ago,
I believed it would be impossible for me to say to any living being,
except my husband; and it would have been no easy matter to say them to
him. But a great change has happened in the last few days. Now I can not
say those things to my husband—never can. Now my wretched failure of a
life is nearly ended. I am going to a prison where, I know very well, I
shall not survive a great while.

“And something, which there is no need to analyze, impels me to put in
writing such an explanation of what I have done and left undone in this
world, as I may be able to make. Perhaps I am prompted to this course by
pride, or if you choose, by vanity. However that may be, I do feel that
in justice to myself as well as to my friends, I ought to try to state
the head and front of my offending so as to soften the judgment that
people aware only of my outward acts, and ignorant of my inner motives,
would be disposed to pass upon me. I have ventured to address myself to
you, instead of to Mrs. Hart, out of consideration for her. It would be
too hard for her to have to read this writing through. You, having read
it, can repeat its upshot to her in such a manner as to make it easier
for her to bear. I know that you will be willing to do this, because I
know that both she and I have always had a friend in you.

“For my own assistance, let me state clearly beforehand the points
upon which I must touch in this letter. First, I must explain why,
having a blot upon my life—being, that is to say, who I am—I allowed
Arthur Ripley to marry me. Then I must go on to perform that most
painful task of all—tell the story of the death of Bernard Peixada and
Edward Bolen. Next, I must justify—what you appear to misunderstand,
though the grounds of it are really very simple—the deep resentment
which I can not help cherishing against your bosom friend, my husband.
Finally, I must give the reasons that induced me to plead guilty of
murder an hour ago in court.

“But no. I have put things in their wrong order at the outset. It will
not be possible for me to explain why I consented to become Arthur’s
wife, until I have given you the true history of Bernard Peixada’s
death. I must command my utmost strength to do this. I must forget
nothing.

“I must force myself to recount every circumstance, hateful as the
whole subject is. I must search my memory, subdue my feelings, and as
dispassionately as will be possible, put the entire miserable tale in
writing. I pray God to help me.

“I am just twenty-six years old—ten months younger than Arthur. My
birthday fell while he and I were at New Castle together—August 4th.
How little I guessed then that in ten days every thing would be so
altered! It is strange. I trusted him as I trusted myself. I could not
conceive the possibility of his deceiving me. He seemed so sincere, so
simple-minded, so single-hearted, I could as easily have fancied a toad
issuing from his mouth, as a lie. Yet all the time—even while we were
alone together there in New Castle—he was lying to me. That whole
fortnight—that seemed so wonderfully serene and pure and light—was
one dark falsehood. Even then, he was having my career investigated here
in New York, behind my back. And I—I had offered to tell him every
thing. Painful as it would have been, I should have told him the whole
story; but he would not let me.

“He preferred to hear Benjamin Peixada’s—my enemy’s—version
of it. Even now, when I have—plenty—to remind me of the truth, even
now, I can scarcely believe it.

“But I must not deviate. As I was saying, I am twenty-six years old.
More than six years ago, when I was nineteen, nearing twenty, my father
said to me one day, ’Mr. Peixada has done us the honor to ask for your
hand in marriage. We have accepted. So, on the eighth of next August,
you will be married to him.’

“You can not realize, Mr. Hetzel, a tithe of the horror I experienced
when my father spoke those words to me, until I have gone back further
still, and told something of my life up to that time. At this moment, as
I recall the occasion of my father’s saying that to me, my heart turns
to ice, my cheeks burn, my limbs quake, my nature recoils with disgust
and loathing. It is painful to have to go over it all again, to have to
live through it all again; yet that is what I have started out to do.

“You must know, to begin with, that my father was a watchmaker, and
that he kept a shop on Second Avenue, between Sixth and Seventh Streets.
He was a man of great intelligence, of uncommon cultivation, and of
a most gentle and affectionate disposition; but he was a Jew of the
sternest orthodoxy, and he held old-fashioned, orthodox notions of the
obedience children owe to their parents. My father in his youth had
intended to become a physician; but while he was a student in Berlin, in
1848, the revolution broke out; he took part in it; and as a consequence
he had to leave Germany and come to America before he had won his
diploma. Here, friendless, penniless, he fell in with a jeweler,
named Oppenhym, who offered to teach him his trade. Thus he became an
apprentice, then a journeyman, finally a proprietor. I was born in the
house on Second Avenue, in the basement of which my father kept his
shop. We lived up stairs. Our family consisted only of my father and
mother, myself, and my father’s intimate friend, Marcus Nathan.
Mr. Nathan was a very learned gentleman, who had been a widower and
childless for many years, and who acted as chazzan in our synagogue.
It was to him that my father confided my education. It was he who first
taught me to read and write and to care for books and music. How good
and loyal a friend he was to me you will learn later on. He died early
in 1880.... I did not go to school till I was thirteen years old. Then
I was sent to the public school in Twelfth Street, and thence to the
Normal College, where I graduated in 1876. I studied the piano at home
under the direction of a woman named Emily Millard—an accomplished
musician, but unkind and cruel. She used to pull my hair and pinch me,
when I made mistakes; and afterward, when they tried me in the court of
General Sessions for Bernard Peixada’s murder, Miss Millard came and
swore that I was bad.

“Bernard Peixada—whom the newspapers described as ’a retired
Jewish merchant’—was a pawnbroker. His shop was straight across the
street from ours. I never in my life saw another structure of brick and
mortar that seemed to frown with such sinister significance, with such
ominous suggestiveness, upon the street in front of it as did that
house of Bernard Peixada’s. It was a brick house; but the bricks were
concealed by a coat of dark gray stucco, with blotches here and there
that were almost black. The shop, of course, was on the ground floor.
Its broad windows were protected, like those of a jail, by heavy iron
bars. Within them was exhibited an assortment of such goods and chattels
as the pawnbroker had contrived to purchase from distress—musical
instruments, household ornaments, kitchen utensils, firearms, tarnished
suits of uniform, faded bits of women’s finery—ex voto offerings at
the shrine of Mammon. Behind these, all was darkness, and mystery, and
gloom. Over the door, three golden balls—golden they had been once,
but were no longer, thanks to the thief, Time, abetted by wind and
weather—the pawnbroker’s escutcheon, swayed in the breeze. Higher up
still—big, white, ghastly letters on a sable background—hung a sign,
bearing a legend like this: B. PEIXADA.

MONEY LENT ON WATCHES, JEWELRY, PRECIOUS STONES, AND ALL VARIETIES OF
PERSONAL PROPERTY.

“And on the side door, the door that let into the private hallway
of the house, was screwed a solemn brass plate, with ’B. Peixada’
engraved in Old English characters upon it. (When Bernard Peixada
retired from business, he was succeeded by one B. Peinard. On taking
possession, Mr. Peinard, for economy’s sake, caused the last four
letters of Bernard Peixada’s name on the sign to be painted out, and
the corresponding letters of his own name to be painted in: so that, to
this day, the time-stained PEI stands as it used to stand years ago, and
contrasts oddly with the more recent word that follows.) As I have
said, the shop windows were defended by an iron grating. The other
windows—those of the three upper stories—were hermetically sealed.
I, at least, never saw them open. The blinds, once green, doubtless, but
blackened by age, were permanently closed; and the stucco beneath them
was fantastically frescoed with the dirt that had been washed from them
by the rain.

“I think it was partly due to these black blinds, and’ to the queer
shapes that the dirt had taken on the wall, that the house had that
peculiarly sinister aspect that I have spoken of. At all events,
you could not glance at its façade without shuddering. As early a
recollection as any that I have, is of how I used to sit at our front
windows, and gaze over at Bernard Peixada’s, and work myself into a
very ecstasy of fear by trying to imagine the dark and terrible things
that were stored behind them. My worst nightmares used to be that I was
a prisoner in Bernard Peixada’s house. I never dreamed that some time
my most hideous nightmare would be surpassed by the fact.

“But if I used to terrify myself by the sight of Bernard Peixada’s
dwelling, much keener was the terror with which Bernard Peixada’s
person inspired me. Picture to yourself a—creature—six feet tall,
gaunt as a skeleton, always dressed in black—in black broadcloth, that
glistened like a snake’s skin—with a head—my pen revolts from
an attempt to describe it. Yet I must describe it, so that you may
appreciate a little what I endured when my father said that he had
chosen Bernard Peixada for my husband. Well, Bernard Peixada’s head
was thus: a hawk’s beak for a nose, a hawk’s beak inverted for a
chin; lips, two thin, blue, crooked lines across his face, with yellow
fangs behind them, that shone horribly when he laughed; eyes, two black,
shiny beads, deep-set beneath prominent, black, shaggy brows, with the
malevolence of a demon aflame deep down in them; skull, destitute of
honest hair, but kept warm by a curling, reddish wig; skin, dry
and sallow as old parchment, on which dark wrinkles were traced—a
cryptogram, with a meaning, but one which I could not perfectly
decipher; these were the elements of Bernard Peixada’s
physiognomy—fit features for a bird of prey, were they not? Have you
ever seen his brother, Benjamin? the friend of Arthur Ripley? Benjamin
is corpulent, florid, and on the whole not ill-looking—morally and
physically vastly superior to his elder brother. But fancy Benjamin
pumped dry of blood, shrunken to the dimensions of a mummy, then
bewigged, then caricatured by an enemy, and you will form a tolerably
vivid conception of how Bernard Peixada looked. But his looks were not
all. His voice, I think, was worse. It was a thin, piercing voice
that, when I heard it, used to set my heart palpitating with a hundred
horrible emotions. It was a dry, metallic voice that grated like a
file. It was a sharp, jerky voice that seemed to chop the air, each
word sounding like a blow from an ax. It was a voice which could not be
forced to say a kind and human thing. Cruelty and harshness were natural
to it. I can hear it ringing in my ears, as I am writing now; and it
makes my heart sink and my hand tremble, as it used to do when I
indeed heard it, issuing from his foul, cruel mouth. Will you be
surprised—will you think I am exaggerating—when I say that Bernard
Peixada’s hideousness did not end with his voice? I should do his
portrait an injustice if I were to omit mention of his hands—his
claws, rather, for claws they were shaped like; and, instead of fingers,
they were furnished with long, brown, bony talons, terminated by black,
untrimmed nails. I do not believe I ever saw Bernard Peixada’s hands
in repose. They were in perpetual, nervous motion—the talons clutching
at the air, if at nothing more substantial—even when he slept. The
most painful dreams that I have had, since God delivered me of him, have
been those in which I have seen his hands, working, working, the fingers
writhing like serpents, as they were wont to do in life. Oh, such a
monstrosity! Oh, such a wicked travesty of man! This, Mr. Hetzel, was
the person to f-whom my father proposed to marry me. There was no one to
plead for me, no one to interfere in my behalf. And I was a young girl,
nineteen years old.

“How could my father do it? How could he bring himself to do this
thing? It is a long story.

“In the first place, Bernard Peixada was accounted a most estimable
member of society. He was rich; he was pious; he was eminently
respectable. His ill-looks were ignored. Was he to blame for them?
people asked. Did he not close his shop regularly on every holiday? Who
was more precise than he in observing the feasts and fasts of the Hebrew
calendar? or in attending services at the Synagogue? Was smoke ever to
be seen issuing from his chimneys on the Sabbath? Old as he was, did he
not abstain from food on the fast of Gedalia, and on that of Tebeth, and
on that of Tamuz, as well as on the Ninth of Ab and on Yom Kippur? Had
he not, year after year, been elected and re-elected Parnass of the
congregation? All honor to him, then, for a wise man and an upright
man in the way of the law! It was thus that public opinion in our small
world treated Bernard Peixada. On the theory that handsome is that
handsome does, he got the credit of being quite a paragon of beauty.
To be sure, he lacked social qualities—he was scarcely a
hail-fellow-well-met. He cared little for wine and tobacco—he abhorred
dominoes—he could not be induced to sit down to a game of penacle; but
all the better! The absence of these frivolous interests proved him to
be a man of responsible weight and gravity. It was a pity he had never
married. Perhaps it was not yet too late. Lucky the girl upon whom his
eye should turn with favor. If he had not youth and bodily grace to
offer her, he had, at least, wealth, wisdom, and respectability.

“Bernard Peixada had been the black beast of my childhood. When
I would go with my mother to the Synagogue, and sit with her in the
women’s gallery, I could not keep my eyes off Bernard.. Peixada, who
occupied the president’s chair downstairs. The sight of him had an
uncanny fascination for me. As I grew older, it was still the same.
Bernard Peixada personified to me all that was evil in human nature.
He was the Ahriman, the Antichrist, of my theology. He made my flesh
creep—gave me a sensation similar to that which a snake gives
one—only incomparably more intense.

“Well, one evening in the early spring of 1878, I was seated in our
little parlor over the shop, striving to entertain a very dull young
man—a Mr. Rimo, Bernard Peixada’s nephew—when the door opened,
and who should come gliding in but Bernard Peixada himself? I had never
before seen him at such close quarters, unless my father or mother or
Mr. Nathan was present too; and then I had derived a sense of security
from realizing that I had a friend near by. But now, here he was in the
very room with me, and I all alone, except for this nephew of his, Mr.
Rimo. I had to catch for my breath, and my heart grew faint within me.

“Bernard Peixada simply said good evening and sat down. I do not
remember that he spoke another word until he rose to go away. But for
two hours he sat there opposite me, and not for one instant did he take
his eyes from off my face. He sat still, like a toad, and leered at me.
His blue lips were curled into a grin, which, no doubt, was intended
to be reassuring, but which, in fact, sent cold shivers chasing down my
back. He stared at me as he might have stared at some inanimate object
that had been offered to him in pawn. Then at last, when he must have
learned every line and angle of my face by rote, he got up and went
away, leading Mr. Rimo after him.

“I lay awake all that night, wondering what Bernard Peixada’s visit
meant, hoping that it meant nothing, fearing—but it would take
too long for me to tell you all I feared. Suffice it that the next
afternoon—I was seated in my bed-room, trying to divert my imagination
with a tale of Hawthorne’s—the next afternoon my father called me
into his office behind the shop, and there in the presence of my mother
he corroborated the worst fears that had beset me during the night.

“‘Judith,’ he said, ’our neighbor, Mr. Peixada, has done us
the honor of proposing for your hand. Of course we have accepted. He
designates the eighth of August for the wedding-day. That will give you
plenty of time to get ready in; and on Sundays you will stay at home to
receive congratulations.

“It took a little while, Mr. Hetzel, for the full meaning of
my father’s speech to penetrate my mind. At first I did not
comprehend—I was stupefied, bewildered. My senses were benumbed.
Mechanically, I watched my father’s canary-bird hop from perch to
perch in his cage, and listened to the shrill whistle that he uttered
from time to time. I was conscious of a dizziness in my head, of a
sickness and a chill over all my body. But then, suddenly, the horror
shot through me—pierced my consciousness like a knife. Suddenly my
senses became wonderfully clear. I saw the black misery that they had
prepared for me, in a quick, vivid tableau before my eyes. I trembled
from head to foot. I tried to speak, to cry out, to protest. If I could
only have let the pain break forth in an inarticulate moan, it would
have been some relief. But my tongue clove to the roof of my mouth.
I could not utter a sound. ’Well, Judith,’ said my father, ’why
don’t you speak?’

“His words helped me to find my voice.

“‘Speak!’ I cried. ’What is there to say? Marry Bernard Peixada?
Marry that monster? I will never marry him. I would a thousand times
rather die.’

“My mother and father looked at me and at each other in dismay.

“‘Judith,’ said my father, sternly, ’that is not the language
that a daughter should use toward her parents. That is not the way a
young lady should feel, either. Of course you will marry Mr. Peixada.
Don’t make a scene about it. It has all been arranged between us; and
your betrothed is coming to claim you in half an hour.’

“‘Father,’ I answered, very calmly, ’I am sorry to rebel against
your authority, but I tell you now, once for all, I will not marry
Bernard Peixada.’ ’Judith,’ rejoined my father, imitating my
manner, ’I am sorry to contradict you, but I tell you now, once for
all, you will.’

“‘Never,’ said I.

“‘On the eighth of August,’ said my father.

“‘Time will show,’ said I.

“‘Time will show,’ said he, ’in less than fifteen minutes.
Judith, listen.’

“It was an old story that my father now proceeded to tell me—old,
and yet as new as it is terrible to the girl who has to listen to it.
It does not break the heart in two, like the old, old story of Heine’s
song: it inflames the heart with a dull, sullen anguish that is the
worst pain a woman can be called upon to endure. My father told me how
for two years past his pecuniary affairs had been going to the dogs;
how he had been getting poor and poorer; how he had become Bernard
Peixada’s debtor for sums of money that he could never hope to pay;
how Bernard Peixada owned not only the wares in our shop, but the very
chairs we sat on, the very beds we slept in, the very plates off which
we ate; how, indeed, it was Bernard Peixada who paid for the daily bread
that kept our bodies and souls together. My father explained all this to
me, concluding thus: ’I was in despair, Judith. I thought I should go
crazy. I saw nothing but disgrace and the poor-house before your mother
and you and me. I could not sleep at night. I could not work during the
day. I could do nothing but think, think, think of the desperate pass to
which my affairs had come. It was an agony, Judith. It would soon have
killed me, or driven me mad. Then, all at once, the darkness of my—sky
is lightened by this good man, whom I have already to thank for so much.
He calls upon me. He says he will show me a way out of my difficulties.

“I ask what it is. He answers, why not unite our families, accept him
as my son-in-law? and adds that between son-in-law and father-in-law
there can be no question of indebtedness. In other words, he told me
that he loved you, Judith; that he wished to marry you; and that, once
married to you, he would consider my debts to him discharged. Try,
Judith, to realize his generosity. I—I owe him thousands. But for
him we should have starved. But for him, we should starve to-morrow.
Ordinary gratitude alone would have been enough to compel me to say yes
to his proposition. But by saying yes, did I not also accomplish our own
salvation? Now that you have heard the whole story, Judith, now, like a
good girl, promise to make no opposition.’

“‘So that,’ I retorted, indignantly, ’I am to be your ransom—I
am to be sacrificed as a hostage. The pawnbroker consents to receive
me as an equivalent for the money you owe him. A woman to be literally
bought and sold. Oh, father, no, no! There must be some other way. Let
me go to work. Have I not already earned money by giving lessons? I will
teach from morning to night each day; and every penny that I gain, I
will give to you to pay Bernard Peixada with. I will be so industrious!
I would rather slave the flesh from my bones—any thing, rather than
marry him.’

“‘The most you could earn,’ my father answered, ’would be no
more than a drop in the bucket, Judith.’

“‘Well, then,’ I went on, ’there is Mr. Nathan. He has money.
Borrow from him. He will not refuse. I know that he would gladly give
much money to save me from a marriage with Bernard Peixada. I will ask
him.’

“Judith, you must not speak of this to Mr. Nathan,’ cried my father,
hastily. ’He must not know but that your marriage to Mr. Peixada is
an act of your own choice. I—to tell you the truth—I have already
borrowed from Mr. Nathan as much as I dare to ask for.’

“To cut a long story short, Mr. Hetzel, my father drew for me such
a dark picture of his misfortunes, he argued so plausibly that all
depended upon my marrying Bernard Peixada, he pleaded so piteously, that
in the end I said, ’Well, father, I will do as you wish.’——

“I do not think it is necessary to dwell upon what followed: how my
father and mother embraced me, and wept over me, and thanked me, and
gave me their benediction; how Bernard Peixada came from his lair
across the street, and kissed my hand, and leered at me, and called me
’Judith’ in that voice of his; how then, for weeks afterward, my
life was one protracted, hopeless horror; how the sun rose morning after
morning, and brought neither warmth nor light, but only a reminder that
the eighth of August was one day nearer still; how I could speak of
it to no one, but had to bear it all alone in silence; how at night
my sleep was constantly beset by nightmares, in which I got a bitter
foretaste of the future; how evening after evening I had to spend in
the parlor with Bernard Peixada, listening to his voice, watching his
fingers writhe, feeling the deadly light of his eyes upon me, breathing
the air that his presence tainted; how every Sunday I had to receive
people’s congratulations! the good wishes of all our family
friends—I need not dwell upon these things. My life was a long
heart-ache. I had but one relief—hoping that I might die. I did not
think of putting an end to myself; but I did pray that God, in his
mercy, would let me die before the eighth of August came. Indeed, my
health was very much broken. Our family doctor visited me twice a week.
He told my father that marriage would be bad for me. But my father’s
hands were tied.

“The people here tell me that there is a man confined in this prison
under sentence to be hanged. The day fixed for his execution is the
first Friday of next month. Well, I think that that man, now, as he
looks forward to the first Friday of September, may feel a little as I
felt then, when I would look forward to the eighth of August—only he
has the mitigation of knowing that afterward he will be dead, whereas I
knew that I should have to live and suffer worse things still. As I
saw that day steadily creeping nearer and nearer to me, the horror that
bound my heart intensified. It was like the old Roman spectacle. I had
been flung ad bestias. I stood still, defenseless, beyond the reach of
rescue, hopeless of escape, and watched the wild beast draw closer and
closer to me, and all the while endured the agony of picturing to myself
the final moment, when he would spring upon me and suck my blood: only,
again there was this difference—the martyr in the arena knew that
after that final moment, all would be over; but I knew that the worst
would then just be begun. Yet, at last—toward the end—I actually
fell to wishing that the final moment would arrive. The torture, long
drawn out, of anticipation was so unbearable that I actually wished the
wild beast would fall upon me, in order that I might enjoy the relief
of change. Nothing, I felt, could be more painful than this waiting,
dreading, imagining. The eighth of August could bring no terror that I
had not already confronted in imagination.

“Well, this one wish of mine was granted. The eighth of August came. I
was married to Bernard Peixada. I stood up in our parlor, decked out in
bridal costume, holding Bernard Peixada’s hand in mine, and took the
vows of matrimony in the presence of a hundred witnesses. The canopy was
raised over our heads; the wine was drunken and spilled; the glass was
broken. The chazzan sang his song; the rabbi said his say; and I,
who had gone through the performance in a sort of stupor—dull, half
conscious, bewildered—I was suddenly brought to my senses by a clamor
of cheerful voices, as the wedding-guests trooped up around us, to
felicitate the bridegroom and to kiss the bride. I realized—no, I
did not yet realize—but I understood that I was Bernard Peixada’s
wife—his wife, for good and all, for better or for worse! I don’t
remember that I suffered any new pain. The intense suffering of the last
few months had worn out my capacities for suffering. My brain was dazed,
my heart deadened.

“The people came and came, and talked and talked—I remember it as I
remember the delirium I had when I was sick once with fever. And after
the last person had come and talked and gone away, Bernard Peixada
offered me his arm, and said, ’We must take our places at the wedding
feast.’ Then he led me up-stairs, where long tables were laid out for
supper.

“A strange sense of unreality possessed me. In a vague, dreamy,
far-off way, I saw the guests stand up around the tables; saw the men
cover their heads with hats or handkerchiefs; heard the voice of Mr.
Nathan raised in prayer; heard the company join lustily in his ’Baruch
Adonai,’. and reverently in his final ’Amen’ saw the head-gear
doffed, the people sink into their seats; heard the clatter of knives
and forks mingle with the tinkling of glasses, the bubble of pouring
wine, the uproar of talk and laughter; was conscious of glaring lights,
of moving forms, of the savor of food, mixed with the perfume of flowers
and the odor of cologne on the women’s handkerchiefs: felt hot,
dazzled, suffocated, confused—an oppression upon my breast, a ringing
in my ears, a swimming in my head: the world was whirling around and
around—I alone, in the center of things, was motionless.

“So on for I knew not how long. In the end I became aware that
speeches were being made. The wedding feast, that meant, was nearly
over. I did not listen to the speeches. But they reminded me of
something that I had forgotten. Now, indeed, my heart stood still. They
reminded me that the moment was not far off when Bernard Peixada, when
my husband, would lead me away with him!

“The speeches were wound up. Mr. Nathan began his last grace. My
mother signaled me to be ready to come to her as soon as Mr. Nathan
should get through.

“‘Judith,’ she said, when I had reached her side, ’we had better
go up-stairs now, and change your dress.’

“We went up-stairs. When we came down again, we found Bernard Peixada
waiting in the hall. Through the open door of the parlor, I could hear
music, and see young men and women dancing. Oh, how I envied them! My
mother and father kissed me. Bernard Peixada grasped my arm. We left my
father’s house. We crossed the street. Bernard Peixada kept hold of my
arm, as if afraid that I might make a dash for liberty—as, indeed, my
impulse urged me to do. With his unoccupied hand, Bernard Peixada drew
a key from his pocket, and opened the side door of his own dark
abode—the door that bore the brass plate with the Old English letters.

“‘Well,’ he said, ’come in.’

“With a shudder, I crossed the threshold of that mysterious, sinister
house—of that house which had been the terror of my childhood, and was
to be—what? In the midst of my fear and my bewilderment, I could not
suppress a certain eagerness to confront my fate and know the worst at
once—a certain curiosity to learn the full ghastliness of my doom. In
less time than I had bargained for, I had my wish.”

Thus far Hetzel had read consecutively. At this point he was interrupted
by the entrance of Mrs. Hart.

“Are you busy?” she asked. “Because, if you’re not, I think you
had better go up-stairs and sit with Arthur. The nurse wants to eat
her breakfast and lie down for a while. And I, you know, am expected by
Ruth.”

“Oh, to be sure,” Hetzel replied, with a somewhat abstracted manner.
“Oh, yes—I’ll do as you wish at once. But it is a pity that you
should have to go down-town alone—especially in this weather.”

“Oh, I don’t mind that. Good-by.”

Hetzel gained the sick-room. The nurse said, “You won’t have much to
do, except sit down and keep quiet.”

Arthur lay motionless, for all the world as if asleep, save that his
eyes were open. The room was darkened. Hetzel sat down near to the
window, and returning to Ruth’s letter, read on by the light that
stole in through the chinks in the blinds. The wind and rain played a
dreary accompaniment.

“To detain you, Mr. Hetzel, with an account of my married life would
be superfluous. It was as bad as I had expected it to be, and worse. It
bore that relation to my anticipations which pain realized must always
bear to pain conjectured. The imagination, in anticipating pleasure,
generally goes beyond the reality and paints a too highly colored
picture. But in anticipating suffering, it does not go half far
enough. It is not powerful enough to foretell suffering in its complete
intensity.

“Sweet is never so sweet as we imagine it will be; bitter is always at
least a shade bitterer than we are prepared for. Imagination slurs over
the little things—and the little things, trifles in themselves, are
the things that add to the poignancy of suffering. Bernard Peixada had
a copy of Dante’s Inferno, illustrated by Doré, on his sitting-room
table. You may guess what my life was like, when I tell you that I used
to turn the pages of that book, and literally envy the poor wretches
portrayed there their fire and brimstone. The utmost refinement of
torture that Dante and Doré between them could conceive and describe,
seemed like child’s play when I contrasted it to what I had to put up
with everyday. Bernard Peixada was cruel and coarse and false. It did
not take him a great while to fathom the disgust that he inspired
me with; and then he undertook to avenge his wounded self-love. He
contrived mortifications and humiliations for me that I can not bring
myself to name, that you would have difficulty in crediting. Besides,
this period of my life is not essential to what I have set myself
to make plain to you. It was simply a period of mental and moral
wretchedness, and of bodily decline. My health, which, I think I have
said, had been failing before the eighth of August, now proceeded
steadily from bad to worse. It was aggravated by the daily trials I had
to endure. Of course I strove to bear up as bravely as I could.

“I did not wish Bernard Peixada to have the satisfaction of seeing how
unhappy he had succeeded in making me. I did not wish my poor father
and mother to witness the misery I had taken upon myself in obedience
to their behests. I said, ’That which is done is done, and can not be
undone, therefore let it not appear what the ordeal costs you.’ And in
the main I think I was successful. Only occasionally, when I was alone,
I would give myself the luxury of crying. I had never realized what a
relief crying could be till now. But now well, when I would be seized by
a paroxysm of grief that I could not control, when amid tears and sobs
I would no doubt look most pitiable—it was then that I came nearest to
being happy. I remember, on one of these occasions—Bernard Peixada
had gone out somewhere—I was surprised by a sanctimonious old woman, a
friend of his, if friendship can subsist between such people, a certain
Mrs. Washington Shapiro. ’My dear,’ said she, ’what are you crying
for?’ I was in a desperate mood. I did not care what I said; nay, more
than this, I enjoyed a certain forlorn pleasure in speaking my true mind
’for once, especially to this friend of Bernard Peixada’s. ’Oh,’
I answered, ’I am crying because I wish Bernard Peixada was dead
and buried.’ I had to smile through my tears at the horror-stricken
countenance Mrs. Shapiro now put on. ’What! You wish Bernard Peixada
was dead?’ she exclaimed. ’Shame upon you! How can you say such a
thing!’—’He is a monster—he makes me unhappy,’ I responded.
’In that case,’ said Mrs. Shapiro, ’you ought to wish that you
yourself were dead, not he. It is you who are monstrous, for thinking
and saying such wicked things of that good man.’—’Oh,’ I
rejoined, ’I am young. I have much to live for. He is an old, bad man.
If he should die, it would be better for every body.’—This was, as
nearly as I can remember, a month or two before the night of July 30th.
As I have told you, it was a piece of self-indulgence.

“I enjoyed speaking my true sentiments; I enjoyed horrifying Mrs.
Shapiro. But I was duly punished. She took pains to repeat what I had
said to Bernard Peixada. He did not fail to administer an adequate
punishment. Afterward, when I was tried for murder, Mrs. Shapiro turned
up, and retailed our conversation to the jury, for the purpose of
establishing my evil disposition.

“It was in the autumn after my marriage that my father was stricken
with paralysis, and died. It was better for him. If he had lived, he
could not have: remained ignorant of his daughter’s misery; and then
he would have had to suffer the pangs of futile self reproach. Of course
he left nothing for my mother. The creditors took possession of every
thing. Bernard Peixada had been false to his bargain. Instead of
canceling my father’s indebtedness to him, as he had promised, he had
simply j sold his claims. Immediately after my father’s death, the
creditors swooped down upon his house and shop, and sold the last stick
of: furniture over my mother’s head. Mr. Nathan generously bought in
the things that were most precious as keep-sakes and family relics, and
returned them to my mother, after the vultures had flown away. Oddly
enough, they did not appear to blame Bernard Preixada—did not hold him
accountable.

“They continued to regard him as a paragon of manly virtue. Perhaps he
contrived some untruthful explanation, by which they were deceived I had
naturally hoped that now my mother would come to live with us. It would
have been a great comfort to me, if she had done so. But Bernard Peixada
wished otherwise. He cunningly persuaded her that she and I had best
dwell apart. So he supplied her with enough money to pay her expenses
and sent her to board in the family of a friend of his.

“Well, somehow, that fall and winter dragged away. It is something
terrible for me to look back at—that blackest, bleakest winter of my
life. I not understand how I managed to live through it without going
mad. I was a prisoner in Bernard Peixada’s house. My mother and Mr.
Nathan came to see me quite frequently; but Bernard was present during
their visits and therefore I got but little solace from them.

“The only persons except my mother and Mr. Nathan whom Bernard Peixada
permitted me to receive, were his own friends. And they were one and all
hateful to me. To my friends he denied admittance, I was physically very
weak. My ill health made it impossible for me to forget myself in my
books. The effort of reading was too exhausting. I could not sit for
more than a quarter of an hour at the piano? either, without all but
fainting away. (Mr. Nathan had given me a piano for a wedding-present.)
At the time I am referring to—when I was unable to play upon
it—Bernard Peixada allowed me the free use of it. But afterward—when
I had become stronger, and began to practice regularly—one day I found
it locked. Bernard Peixada stood near by, and watched me try to open it.
I looked at him, when I saw that I could not open it, and he looked at
me. Oh, the contortion of his features, the twisting of his thin blue
lips, the glitter of his venomous little eyes, the loathsome gurgle in
his throat, as he laughed! He laughed at my dismay. Laughter? At least,
I know no other word by which to name the hideous spasm that convulsed
his voice. The result was, I passed my days moping. He objected to my
leaving the house, except in his company. I had therefore to remain
within doors. I used to sit at the window, and watch the life below
in the street, and look across at our house—now occupied by
strangers—and live over the past—my childhood, my girlhood—always
stopping at the day and the hour when my father had called me from the
reading of that story of Hawthorne’s, to announce my doom to me. But
I am wasting your time. All this is aside from the point. I did survive
that winter. And when the spring came, I began to get better in health,
and to become consequently more hopeful in spirit. I said, Why, you are
not yet twenty-one years old. He is sixty—and feeble at that. Only
try hard to hold out a little longer—a few years at the most—and he
must, in the mere course of nature, die. Then you will not yet be an
old woman. Life will still be worth something to you. You will have your
music, and you will be rid of him.’ Wicked? Unwomanly? Perhaps so;
but I think it was the way every girl in my position would have
felt. However, the consolation that came from thoughts like this, was
short-lived. The next moment it would occur to me, ’He may quite
possibly live to be ninety!’ And my heart would sink at the prospect
of thirty years—thirty years—more of life as his wife.

“In March, 1879, Bernard Peixada spoke to me as follows: ’Judith,
you are not going to be a pawnbroker’s wife much longer. I have, made
arrangements to sell my business. I have leased a house up-town. We
shall move on the 1st of May. After that we shall be a gentleman and
lady of leisure.’

“Surely enough, on the 1st of May we moved. The house he had leased
was a frame house, standing all alone in the middle of the block,
between Eighty-fifth and Eighty-sixth Streets and Ninth and Tenth
Avenues. It was a large, substantial, comfortable house, dating from
Knickerbocker times. He had caused it to be furnished in a style which
he meant to be luxurious, but which was, in truth, the extreme of
ugliness. The grounds around it were laid out in a garden. We went to
live there punctually on the 1st of May.

“Bernard Peixada now began to spend money with a lavish hand. He
bought fine clothes and jewels, in which he required me to array myself.
He even went to the length of purchasing a carriage and a pair of
horses. Then he would make me go driving at his side through Central
Park. He kept a coachman. The coachman was Edward Bolen. (Meanwhile, I
must not forget to tell you, Bernard Peixada had quarreled and broken
with my mother and Mr. Nathan. Now he allowed neither of them to enter
his house.) I was in absolute ignorance concerning them. Once I ventured
to ask him for news of them. He scowled. He said, ’You must never
mention them in my presence.’ And he accompanied this injunction with
such a look that I was careful to observe it scrupulously thereafter. I
received no letters from them. You may imagine what an addition all this
was to my burden.

“But it is of Edward Bolen that I must tell you at present. He was a
repulsive looking Irishman. It is needless that I should describe him.
Suffice it that at first I was unsuspicious enough to accept him for
what he ostensibly was—Bernard Peixada’s coachman—but that ere
a great while I discovered, that he was something else, besides. I
discovered that he and Bernard Peixada had secrets together.

“At night, after the household had gone to bed, he and Bernard Peixada
would meet in the parlor, and hold long conversations in low tones.
What they talked about, I did not know. But this I did know—it was not
about the horses. I concluded that they were mutually interested in
some bad business—that they were hatching some villainous plots
together—but, I confess, I did not much care what the business was, or
what the plots were. Only, the fact that they were upon this footing of
confidence with each other, struck me, and abode in my memory.

“One afternoon, about a fortnight before the thirtieth of July,
Bernard Peixada had taken me to drive in Central Park. As I was getting
out of the carriage, upon our return, I tripped somehow, and fell,
and sprained my ankle. This sent me to my room. Dr. Gunther, Bernard
Peixada’s physician, attended me. He said I should not be able to
walk, probably for a month.

“More than a week later, toward sunset, I was lying there on my bed.
Bernard Peixada had been absent from the house all day. Now I heard his
footfall below in the corridor—then on the stairs—then in the hall
outside my door. I took for granted that he was coming to speak with me.
I recoiled from the idea of speaking with him just then. So I closed my
eyes, and pretended to be asleep.

“He came in. He approached my bedside, kept my eyes shut tight.
’Judith,’ he said, did not answer—feigned not to hear.
’Judith,’ repeated. Again I did not answer. He placed his hand upon
my forehead. I tried not to shudder. I guess she’s sound asleep,’ he
said; ’that’s good.’ He moved off.

“His words, ’that’s good,’ Mr. Hetzel, frightened me. Why was
it ’good’ that I should be asleep? Did he intend to do me a mischief
while I slept? I opened my eyes the least bit. I saw him standing
sidewise to me, a yard or so away. He drew a number of papers from the
inside pocket of his coat. He ran them over. He laid one of them aside,
and replaced the others in his pocket. Then he went to the safe—he
kept a small safe in our bed-chamber—and opening the door—the door
remained unlocked all day; his habit being to lock it at night and
unlock it in the morning—he thrust the paper I have mentioned into one
of the pigeonholes, pushed the door to, and left the room. I had seen
him do all this through half closed eyes. Doubtless this was why it was
’good’ for me to be asleep—so that he could do what he had done,
unobserved.

“I suppose I was entirely reprehensible—that my conduct admitted of
no excuse. However that may be, the fact is that an impulse prompted me
to get up from my bed, and to possess myself of the paper that he had
put into the safe. I did not stop to question or to combat that
impulse. No sooner thought, than I jumped up—and cried out loud! I had
forgotten my sprained ankle! For an instant I stood still, faint with
pain, terrified lest he might have heard my scream—lest he might
return, find me on my feet, divine my intention, and punish me as he
knew so well how to do. But while I stood there, undetermined whether
to turn back or to pursue my original idea, the terror passed away.
I limped across the floor, pulled the safe door open, put in my hand,
grasped the paper, drew it out, swung the door back, regained my bed.

“There I had to lie still for a little, and recover my breath. I had
miscalculated my strength. The effort had exhausted me. My ankle was
aching cruelly—the pains shot far up into my body. But by and by I
felt better. I unfolded the paper, smoothed it out, glanced at it..
This was all I had earned by my exertions:—’R. 174.—L. 36s.—R.
222.—L. 30.’ This was all that was written upon the paper. And what
this meant, how could I tell? I made up my mind, after much puzzling,
that it must be a secret writing—a cipher of one sort or another. I
was not sorry that I had purloined it, though I was disappointed at its
contents. I felt sure that Bernard Peixada could scarcely mean to employ
it for good ends. So it was just as well that I should have taken it
from him. I was on the point of destroying it, when I decided not to.
’No, I had best not destroy it,’ I thought. ’It possibly may be of
value. I will hide it where he can not find it.’ I hid it beneath the
mattress on which I lay.

“How absurd and unreasonable my whole proceeding had been, had it not?
Much ado about nothing! With no adequate motive, and at the cost of much
suffering to myself, I had committed an unnecessary theft; and the
fruit of it was that incomprehensible row of figures. The whim of a sick
woman. And yet, though I recognized this aspect of the case with perfect
clearness, I could not find it in me to repent what I had done.

“That night Bernard Peixada and Edward Bolen talked together till past
midnight, in the parlor.

“I don’t know whether you believe in premonitions, in presentiments,
Mr. Hetzel. I scarcely know whether I do, myself. But from the moment
I woke up, on the morning of July 30th, I was possessed by a strange,
vague, yet irresistible foreboding that something was going to
happen—something extraordinary, something of importance. At first this
was simply a not altogether unpleasant feeling of expectancy. As the day
wore on, however, it intensified. It became a fear, then a dread, then a
breathless terror. I could ascribe it to no rational cause. I struggled
with it—endeavored to shake it off. No use. It clutched at my
heart—tightly—more tightly. I sought to reassure myself, by having
recourse to a little materialism. I said, ’It is because you are
not as well as usual to-day. It is the reaction of body upon mind.’
Despite the utmost I could say, the feeling grew and grew upon me,
till it was well-nigh insupportable. Yet I could not force it to take
a definite shape. Was it that something had happened, or was going to
happen, to my mother? to Mr. Nathan? to me? I could not tell—all I
knew was that my heart ached, that at every slightest sound it would
start into my mouth—then palpitate so madly that I could scarcely
catch my breath.

“I had not seen Bernard Peixada at all that day. Whether he was in
the house, or absent from it, I had not inquired. But just before
dinner-time—at about six o’clock—he entered my room. My heart
stood still. Now, I felt, what I had been dreading since early morning,
was on the point of accomplishment. I tried to nerve myself for the
worst. Probably he would announce some bad news about my mother.—But I
was mistaken. He said only this: ’After dinner, Judith, you will call
the servants to your room, and give them leave of absence for the night.
They need not return till to-morrow morning. Do you understand?’

“I understood and yet I did not understand. I understood the
bald fact—that the servants were to have leave of absence for the
night—but the significance of the fact I did not understand. I knew
very well that Bernard Peixada had a motive for granting them this
indulgence, that it was not due to a pure and simple impulse of
good-nature on his part: but what the motive was, I could not divine.
I confess, the fear that had been upon me was augmented. So long as our
two honest, kindly Irish girls were in the house, I enjoyed a certain
sense of security. How defenseless should I be, with them away! A
thousand wild alarms beset my imagination. Perhaps the presentiment
that had oppressed me all day, meant that Bernard Peixada was meditating
doing me a bodily injury. Perhaps this was why he wished the servants to
be absent. Unreasonable? As you please.

“‘Is this privilege,’ I asked, ’to be extended to the coachman,
also?’

“‘Who told you to concern yourself about the coachman? I will look
after him,’ was Bernard Peixada’s reply.

“I concluded that the case stood thus:—I was to be left alone with
Bernard Peixada and Edward Bolen. The pair of them had something to j
accomplish in respect to me—which—well, in the fullness of time I
should learn the nature of their j designs. I remembered the paper that
I had stolen. Had Bernard Peixada discovered that it was missing, and
concealed the discovery from me? Was he now bent upon recovering the
paper? and upon chastising me, as, from his point of view, I deserved to
be chastised? Again, in the fullness of time I should learn. I strove to
possess my soul in patience.

“Bernard Peixada left me. One of our servants brought me my dinner. I
told her that she might go out for the night, and asked her to send the
other girl to my room. To this latter, also, I delivered the message
that Bernard Peixada had charged me with.—When they tried me for
murder, Mr. Hetzel, they produced both of these girls as witnesses
against me, hoping to show, by their testimony, that I had prearranged
to be alone in the house with Bernard Peixada and Edward Bolen, so that
I could take their lives at my ease, with no one by to interfere, or to
survive and tell the story!

“The long July twilight faded out of the sky. Night fell. I was alone
in the house—isolated from the street—beyond hope of rescue—at the
mercy of Bernard Peixada and his coachman, Edward Bolen. I lay still in
bed, waiting for their onslaught.

“And I waited and waited; and they made no onslaught. I heard the
clock strike eight, then nine, then ten, then eleven. No sign from the
enemy. Gradually the notion grew upon me—I could not avoid it—that I
had been absurdly deluding myself—that my alarms had been groundless.
Gradually I became persuaded that my premonition had been the
nonsensical fancy of a sick woman. Gradually my anxiety subsided, and I
fell asleep.

“How long I slept I do not know. Suddenly I awoke. In fewer seconds
than are required for writing it, I leaped from profound slumber to wide
wakefulness. My heart was beating violently; my breath was coming in
quick, short gasps; my forehead was wet with perspiration.

“I sat up in bed, and looked around. My night-lamp was burning on the
table. There was no second person in my room. The hands of the clock
marked twenty-five minutes before one.

“I listened. Stillness so deep that I could hear my heart beat.

“What could it be, then, that had awakened me so abruptly?

“I continued to listen. Hark! Did I not hear—yes, certainly, I
heard—the sound of voices—of men’s voices—in the room below.
Bernard Peix-ada and Edward Bolen were holding one of their midnight
sessions. That was all. .

“That was all: an every-night occurrence. And yet, for what reason
I can not tell, on this particular night that familiar occurrence
portended much to me. Ordinarily, I should have lain abed, and left them
to talk till their tongues were tired. On this particular night—why,
I did not stop to ask myself—swayed by an impulse which I did not stop
to analyze—I got straightway out of bed, crept to the open window, and
standing there in the chilling atmosphere, played the eavesdropper
to the best of my powers. Was it woman’s curiosity? In that event,
woman’s curiosity serves a good end now and then.

“The room in which they were established, was, as I have said,
directly beneath my own. Their window was directly beneath my window.
Their window, like mine, was open. I heard each syllable that they spoke
as distinctly as I could have heard, if they had been only a yard away.
Each syllable stenographed itself upon my memory. I believe that I can
repeat their conversation word for word.

“Bernard Peixada was saying this: ’You know the number. Here is a
plan. The house is a narrow one—only twelve feet wide. There is no
vestibule. The street door opens directly into a small reception-room.
In the center of this reception-room stands a table. You want to look
out for that table, and not knock against it in the dark.’

“‘No fear of that,’ replied Edward Bolen.

“‘Now look said Bernard Peixada; ’here is the door that leads out
of the reception-room. It is a sliding door, always kept open. Over
it hangs a curtain, which you want to lift up from the bottom: don’t
shove it aside: the rings would rattle on the rod. Beyond this door
there is a short passage-way see here. And right here, where my pencil
points, the stairs commence. You go up one flight, and reach the
parlors. There are three parlors in a line. From the middle parlor a
second staircase mounts to the sleeping rooms. Now, be sure to remember
this: the third step—I mark it with a cross the third step creaks.
Understand? It creaks. So, in climbing this second flight of stairs, you
want to skip the third step.’

“‘Sure,’ was Edward Bolen’s rejoinder.

“‘Well and good. Now you have finished with the second flight of
stairs. At the head you find yourself in a short, narrow hall. Three
doors open from this hall. The front door opens into the spare bed-room,
now unoccupied. The middle door opens into the bath-room. The last door
opens into the room you want to get at. Which of these doors are you to
pass through?’

“‘The bath-room door.’

“‘Precisely. That is the door which your key fits—not the door
that leads straight into his room. Well, now observe. Here is the
bath-room. You unlock the door from the hall into the bath-room,
and—what next?’

“‘I lock it again, behind me.’

“‘Very well. And then?’

“‘Then I open the door from the bath-room into the room I’m after.
That’ll be unlocked.’

“‘Excellent! That will be unlocked. He never locks it. So, finally
you are in the room you have been making for. Now, study this room
carefully. You see, the bed stands here; the bureau, here; a sofa, here;
the safe, here. There are several chairs. You want to look sharp for
them.”

“‘I’ll be sure to do that.’

“‘All right. But the first thing will be to look after him. He’ll
probably wake up the instant you open the door from the bath-room.
He’s like a weasel, for light sleeping. You can’t breathe, but
he’ll wake up. He’ll wake up, and most likely call out, “Who’s
there? Is any one there?” or something of that sort. Don’t you
answer. Don’t you use any threats. You can’t scare him. Give him
time, and he’ll make an outcry. Give him a chance, and he’ll fight.
So, you don’t want to give him either time or chance. The first thing
you do, you march straight up to the bed, and catch him by the throat;
hold him down on the pillow, and clap the sponge over his face. Press
the sponge hard. One breath will finish his voice. Another breath will
finish him. Then you’ll have things all your own way.—Well, do you
know what next?’

“‘Next, I’m to fasten the sponge tight where it belongs, and pour
on more of the stuff.’

“‘Just so. And next?’

“‘I’m to light the gas.’

“‘Right again. And next?’

“‘Well, I suppose the job comes next—hey?’

“‘Exactly. You have learned your lesson better than I’d have given
you credit for doing. The job comes next. Now you’ve got the gas lit,
and him quiet, it’ll be plain sailing. The safe stands here. It’s
a small affair, three, by three, by two and a half. I’ll give you the
combination by and by. I’ve got it up stairs. But first, look here.
Here’s a plan of the inside of the safe. Here’s an inside
closet, closed by an iron door. No matter about that. Here s a row
of pigeon-holes, just above it seven of them—see? Now, the fifth
pigeon-hole from the right-hand side—the third from the left—the one
marked here with red ink—that’s the one that you’re interested in.
All you’ll have to do will be to stick in your hand and take out every
thing that pigeonhole contains—every thing, understand? Don’t you
stop to examine them. Just lay hold of every thing and come away. What
I want will be in that pigeon-hole; and if you take every thing you
can’t miss it. Then, as I say, all you’ll have left to do will be to
get out of the house and make tracks for home.’

“‘And how about him? Shall I loosen the sponge?’

“‘No, no. Don’t stop to do that. He’ll come around all right in
time; or, if he shouldn’t, why, small loss!’

“‘Well, I reckon I understand the job pretty thoroughly now. I
suppose I’d better be starting.’

“‘Yes. Now wait here a moment. I’ll go upstairs and get you the
combination.’

“As rapidly as, with my sprained ankle, I could, I returned to my
bed. I had scarcely touched my head to the pillow, when Bernard Peixada
crossed the threshold. I lay still, feigning sleep. You may imagine
the pitch of excitement to which the conversation I had intercepted
had worked me up. But as yet I had not had time to think it over and
determine how to act. Crime, theft, perhaps murder even, was brewing. I
had been forewarned. What could I do to prevent it? Unless I should
do something, I should be almost an accomplice—almost as bad as the
conspirators themselves.

“Bernard Peixada went at once to the safe, and swung open the heavy
door. I lay with my back toward him, and was unable, therefore, to watch
his movements. But I could hear his hands busy with rustling papers. And
then, all at once, I heard his voice, loud and hoarse, sounding like the
infuriated shriek of a madman, ’I have been robbed—robbed!’

“Like a lightning flash, it broke upon me. I knew what the paper I
had stolen was. I knew what the mysterious figures it bore meant. I
had stolen the combination that Bernard Peixada had come in quest of!
Without that combination their scheme of midnight crime could not be
carried through! It was indispensable to their success. And I had stolen
it! I thanked God for the impulse that had prompted me to do so. Then
I lay still and waited. My heart was throbbing so violently, I was
actually afraid that Bernard Peixada might hear it. I lay still and
waited and prayed as I had never prayed before. I prayed for strength to
win in the battle which, I knew, would now j shortly have to be fought.

“Bernard Peixada cried out, ’I have been robbed—robbed!’ Then
for a few seconds he was silent. Then he ran to the entrance of the room
and shouted, ’Bolen, Bolen, come here.’ And when Edward Bolen had
obeyed, Bernard Peixada led him to the safe and said—ah, how his harsh
voice shook!—said, ’Look! I have been robbed. The combination is
gone. I put it in there with my own hands. It is there no longer. It
has been stolen. Who stole it? If you did, by God, I’ll have you
hanged!’

“I had slowly and noiselessly turned over in bed. Now, through half
closed eyes, I could watch the two men. Bernard Peixada’s body was
trembling from head to foot, as if palsy-stricken. His small, black
eyes were starting from their sockets. His yellow fangs shone hideously
behind his parted lips. His talons writhed, writhed, writhed. Edward
Bolen stood next his master, as stolid as an ox. Edward Bolen appeared
to be thinking. In a little while Edward Bolen shrugged his massive
shoulders, lifted his arm, pointed to my bed, and spoke one word,
’Her.’

“Bernard Peixada started. ’What—my wife?’ he gasped.

“‘Ask her,’ suggested Edward Bolen.

“Bernard Peixada seemed to hesitate. Finally, approaching my bedside,
’Judith,’ he called through chattering teeth..

“I did not answer—but it was not that I meant still to pretend
sleep. It was that my courage had deserted me. I had no voice. I
clenched my fists and made my utmost effort to command myself.

“‘Judith,’ Bernard Peixada called a second time.

“‘Yes,’ I gathered strength to respond.

“‘Judith,’ Bernard Peixada went on, still all a-tremble, ’have
you—have you taken any papers out of my safe?’

“What use could lying serve at this crisis? There was sufficient evil
in action now, without my adding answered, ’Yes—I have taken the
paper you are looking for.’

“Bernard Peixada had manifestly not expected such an answer. It
took him aback. He stood, silent and motionless, glaring at me in
astonishment. His mouth gaped open, and the lamplight played with his
teeth.

“Edward Bolen muttered, ’Eh! what did I tell you?’

“But Bernard Peixada stood motionless and silent only for a
breathing-space. Suddenly flames leaped to his eyes, color to his
cheek. I shall not an ineffectual lie to it. I drew a long breath, and
transcribe the volley of epithets that I had now to sustain from his
foul mouth. His frame was rigid with wrath. His voice mounted from
shrill to shriller. He spent himself in a tirade of words. Then he sank
into a chair, unable to keep his feet from sheer exhaustion. The veins
across his forehead stood out like great, bloated leeches. His long,
black finger-nails kept tearing the air.

“Edward Bolen waited.

“So did I.

“But eventually Bernard Peixada recovered his forces. Springing to
his feet, looking hard at me, and pronouncing each word with an evident
attempt to control his fury, he said, ’We have no time to waste upon
you just now, madam. Bolen, here, has business to transact which he must
needs be about. Afterward I shall endeavor to have an understanding with
you. At present we will dispose of the matter of prime importance. You
don’t deny that you have stolen a certain paper from my safe. I wish
you at once, without an instant’s delay or hesitation, to tell us what
you have done with that paper. Where have you put it?’

“I tried to be as calm as he was. ’I will not tell you,’ I
replied.

“A smile that was ominous contracted his lips.

“‘Oh, yes, you will,’ he said, mockingly, ’and the sooner you do
so, the better—for you.’

“‘I have said, I will not,’ I repeated.

“The same ominous, sarcastic smile: but suddenly it faded out, and
was replaced by an expression of alarm. ’You—you have not destroyed
it?’ he asked, abruptly.

“It seemed to me that he had suggested a means for terminating the
situation. This time, without a qualm, I lied. ’Yes, I have destroyed
it.’

“‘Good God!’ he cried, and stood still, aghast.

“Edward Bolen stepped forward. He tugged at Bernard Peixada’s elbow.
He pointed toward me. ’Don’t you see, she’s lying?’ he demanded
roughly. Bernard Peixada started. The baleful light of his black eyes
pierced to the very marrow of my consciousness. He searched me through
and through. ’Ah!’ he cried, with a great sigh of relief, ’to
be sure, she’s lying.’ His yellow teeth gnawed at his under lip: a
symptom of busy thinking. Finally he said, ’You have not destroyed it.
I advise you to tell us where it is. I advise you to lose no time. Where
is it?’

“‘I will not tell you,’ I answered.

“‘I give you one more chance,’ he said; ’where is it?’

“‘I’ll will not tell you.’

“‘Very well. Then we shall be constrained—’ He broke off, and
whispered a few sentences into Edward Bolen’s ear.

“Edward Bolen nodded, and left the room. Bernard Peixada glared at me.
I lay still, wondering what the next act was to be, fortifying myself to
endure and survive the worst.

“Bernard Peixada said, ’You are going to cause yourself needless
pain. You may as well speak now as afterward. You’ll be as docile as a
lamb, in a minute or two.’

“I held my tongue. Presently Edward Bolen returned. He handed
something to Bernard Peix-ada. Bernard Peixada turned to me. ’Which
one of your ankles,’ he inquired, ’is it that you are having trouble
with?’

“I did not speak.

“Bernard Peixada shrugged his shoulders. ’Oh, very well,’ he
sneered; ’it won’t take long to find out.’ With that, he seized
hold of the bed-clothes that covered me, and with a single motion of his
arm tossed them upon the floor.

“I started up—attempted to spring from off the bed. He placed his
hands upon my shoulders, and pushed me back, prostrate. I struggled
with him. He summoned Edward Bolen to re-enforce him. Edward Bolen was a
strong man. Edward Bolen had no difficulty in holding me down, flat upon
the mattress. I watched Bernard Peixada.

“Bernard Peixada took the thing that I had seen Edward Bolen give
him—it was a piece of thick twine, perhaps twelve inches in length,
and attached at each end to a transverse wooden handle—he took it, and
wound it about my ankle—the ankle that was sprained. Then, by means of
the two wooden handles, he began to twist it around and around—and at
every revolution, the twine cut deeper and deeper into my flesh—and at
last they pain became more horrible than I could bear—oh, such pain,
such fearful pain!—and I cried out for quarter.

“‘I will tell you any thing you wish to know,’ I said.

“‘As I anticipated,’ was Bernard Peixada’s comment. ’Well,
where shall we find the paper that you stole?’

“‘Loosen that cord, and I will tell you—I will give it to you,’
I said.

“‘No,’ he returned. ’Give it to me, or tell me where it is, and
then I will loosen the cord.’

“‘It is not here—it—it is down-stairs,’ I replied, inspired
by a sudden hope. If I could only get down-stairs, I thought, I might
contrive to reach the door that let out of the house. Then, lame
though I was, and weak and sick, I might, by a supreme effort, elude
my persecutors—attain the street—summon help—and thus, not only
escape myself, but defeat the criminal enterprise that they were bent
upon. It was a crazy notion. At another moment I should have scouted it.
But at that moment it struck me as wholly rational—as, at any rate,
well worth venturing. I did not give myself time to consider it very
carefully. It made haste from my mind to my lips. ’The paper,’ I
said, ’is down-stairs.’

“‘Down-stairs?’ queried Bernard Peixada, tightening the cord a
little; ’where down-stairs?’

“‘In—in the parlor—in the book-case—shut up in a book,’ I
answered.

“‘In what book?’

“‘I can not tell you. But I could put my hand upon it, if I
were there. After I took it from the safe—you were absent from the
house—I—oh, for mercy’s sake, don’t, don’t tighten that—I
crawled down-stairs—ah, that is better; loosen it a little——I
crawled down to the parlor—and—and shut it up in a book. I don’t
remember what book. But I could find it for you if I were there.’ In
the last quarter hour, Mr. Hetzel, I, who had recoiled from lying at the
outset, had become somewhat of an adept at that art, as you perceive.

“Bernard Peixada exchanged a glance with Edward Bolen; then said to
me, ’All right. Come down-stairs with us.’

“He removed the instrument of torture. A wave of pain more sickening
than any I had yet endured, swept through my body, as the ligature was
relaxed, and the blood flowed throbbing back into my disabled foot. I
got up and hobbled as best I could across the floor, out through
the hall, down the stairs. Edward Bolen preceded me. Bernard Peixada
followed.

“At the bottom of the stairs I had to halt and lean against the
bannister for support. I was weak and faint.

“‘Go light the gas in the parlor, Bolen,’ said Bernard Peixada.

“Bolen went off. Now, I thought, my opportunity had come. The
hall-door, the door that opened upon the grounds, was in a straight
line, not more than twenty feet distant from me. I looked at Bernard
Peixada. He was standing a yard or so to my right, in manifest
unconcern. I drew one deep breath, mustered my utmost courage, prayed
to God for strength, made a dash forward, reached the door, despite my
lameness, and had my hand upon the knob, before Bernard Peixada appeared
to realize what had occurred. But then—when he did realize—then in
two bounds he attained my side. The next thing I knew, he had grasped my
arm with one hand, and had twined the fingers of the other hand around
my throat. I could feel the sharp nails cutting into my flesh.

“‘Ah!’ he cried—a loud, piercing cry, half of surprise, half of
triumph. ’Ah!’ And then he swore a brutal oath.

“At his touch, Mr. Hetzel, I ceased to be a woman; I became a wild
beast. It was like a wild beast, that I now fought. Insensible to pain,
aware only of a fury that was no longer controllable in my breast, I
fought there with Bernard Peixada in battle royal. Needless to detail
our maneuvers. I fought with him to such good purpose that ere a great
while he had to plead for quarter, as I had had to plead up-stairs a few
moments ago. Quarter I gave him. I flung him away from me. He tottered
and fell upon the floor.

“Now I looked around. This was how things stood: Bernard Peixada
lay—half lay, half sat—upon the floor, preparing to get up. Edward
Bolen, his dull countenance a picture of amazement and stupefaction,
was advancing toward us from the lower end of the hall. And—and—on
a chair—directly in front of me—not two feet away—together with
a hat, a pair of overshoes, a bunch of keys, a lantern—I descried my
deliverance—a pistol!

“Quick as thought, I sprang forward. Next moment the pistol was mine.
Again I looked around. The situation was still much the same. Clasping
the butt of the pistol firmly in my hand, and gathering what assurance
I could from the feeling of it, I set out once more to open the door and
gain the outside of the house.

“I thought I was victress now—indisputably victress. But it
transpired that I had my claims yet to assert. I slid back the bolts of
the door, unhindered, it is true; but before I had managed to turn the
knob and pull the door open, Edward Bolen and Bernard Peixada sprang
upon me.

“There was a struggle. How long it lasted, I do not know. I heard the
pistol go off—a sharp, crashing, deafening report—once, twice: who
pulled the trigger, I scarcely knew. Who was wounded, I did not know.
All was confusion and pain and noise, blood and fire and smoke, horror
and sickness and bewilderment. I saw nothing—knew nothing—understood
nothing. I was beside myself. It was a delirium. I was
helpless—irresponsible.

“In the end, somehow, I got that door open. Through it all, that idea
had clung in my mind—to get the door open, somehow, at any cost. Well,
I got it open. I felt the fresh air upon my cheek, the perfume of the
garden in my nostrils. The breeze swept in, and cut a path through the
smoke, and made the gas jets flicker. Then I saw—I saw that I was
free. I saw that my persecutors were no longer to be feared. I saw
Edward Bolen and Bernard Peixada lying prone and bleeding upon the
marble pavement at my feet.

“I have explained to you, Mr. Hetzel, the circumstances of Bernard
Peixada’s death. It is not necessary for me to dwell upon its
consequences. At least, I need merely outline them. I need merely
tell you that in due order I was taken prisoner, tried for Bernard
Peixada’s murder, and acquitted.

“I was taken prisoner that very night. Next morning they brought me
here—to the same prison that I am again confined in now. Here I was
visited by Mr. Nathan. I had sent for him, addressing him in care of the
sexton of our synagogue; and he came.

“I told him what I have told you. He said I must have a lawyer—that
he would engage a lawyer for me. He engaged two lawyers—Mr. Short and
Mr. Sondheim. I repeated my story to them. They listened. When I had
done, they laughed. I asked them why they laughed. They replied that,
though my story was unquestionably true, no jury would believe it. They
said the lawyer for the prosecution would mix me upon cross-examination,
and turn my defense to ridicule. They said I should have to plead
lunacy. I need not detain you with a rehearsal of the dispute I had with
Messrs. Short and Sondheim. Eventually—in deference chiefly to the
urging of Mr. Nathan—I consented to let them take their own course. So
I was led to court, and tried, and acquitted. It would be useless for me
to go over my trial again now in this letter. I shall say enough when I
say that it was conducted in the same room that I had to plead in this
morning—that the room was crowded—that I had to sit there all day
long, for two mortal days, and listen to the lawyers, and the witnesses,
and the judge, and support the gaze of a multitude of people. If it had
not been for Mr. Nathan, I don’t know how I should have lived through
the ordeal. But he sat by me from beginning to end, and held my hand,
and inspired me with strength and hope. My mother, meantime, I had not
seen. Mr. Nathan said she was away from the city, visiting with friends,
whom he named; and added that it would be kinder not to let her know
what was going on. After my release, Mr. Nathan confessed that, thinking
I had already enough to bear, he had deceived me. My mother had been
sick; while my trial was in progress, she had died. Well, at last the
trial was over, and the jury had declared me not guilty, and the prison
people let me go. Mr. Nathan and I went together to an apartment he had
rented in Sixty-third Street. Thither came Messrs. Short and Sondheim,
and made me sign numberless papers—the nature of which I did not
inquire into—and after a while I understood that I had inherited a
great deal of money from Bernard Peixada—more than a hundred thousand
dollars. This money I asked Mr. Nathan to dispose of, so that it might
do some good. He invested it, and made arrangements to have the income
divided between a hospital, an orphan asylum, a home for working women,
an industrial school, and a society for the protection of children who
are treated cruelly by their parents. (I have just now received a paper
with a red seal on it, from which I learn that Bernard Peixada left a
will, and that the money I have spoken of will have to be paid over to
his brother.)

“That winter—the winter of 1879-80—Mr. Nathan and I spent alone
together. For the first time since the day on which my father had told
me I must marry Bernard Peixada, for the first time, I began to have a
feeling of peace, and repose, and security. Mr. Nathan was so good to
me—oh, such a good, kind, tender friend, Mr. Hetzel—that I became
almost happy. It was almost a happiness just to spend my time near to
Mr. Nathan—he was so gentle, so strong; he made me feel so safe,
so far away from the storm and the darkness of the past. Was I not
tormented by remorse? Did I not repent having taken two human lives? Not
for one instant. I held myself wholly irresponsible. If Bernard Peixada
and Edward Bolen had died by my hand, it was their own fault, their own
doing. No, I did not suffer the faintest pang of remorse. Only, now and
then I would remember—now and then the night of July 30th would re
enact itself in my memory—and then I would shudder and grow sick at
heart; but that was not remorse. It was disgust and horror. Of course
I do not mean that I was happy in a positive sense, this winter. Real
happiness I never knew until I met Arthur. But I was less unhappy than I
had been for a long, long while.

“But in the early spring Mr. Nathan died. The last person I had left
to care for, the last person who cared for me, the man who had stood as
a rock of strength for me to lean upon, to whom I had perhaps been too
much of a burden, but whom I had loved as a woman in my relation to him
must needs have loved him—this man died. I was absolutely alone in the
world. That was a dreary, desolate spring.

“Soon after his death, I received a paper something like this paper
with the red seal that I have received to-day. I found that he had made
a will and left me all his money. My doctor said I needed a change. I
went to Europe. I traveled alone in Europe for some months, trying to
forget myself in sight-seeing—in constant motion. At last I settled
down in Vienna, and devoted myself to studying music. I staid about a
year in Vienna. Then a spirit of restlessness seized upon me. I left
Vienna and went to London.

“In London I met Mrs. Hart. We became friends at once. She was about
to make a short trip on the Continent, before returning to America. She
asked me to accompany her. I said I would go to the Continent with
her, but that I could not return to America. She wanted to know why. I
answered by telling her a little something of my recent history. I said,
’In America I am Judith Peixada—the notorious woman who killed her
husband. Here I am unknown. So I will remain here.’ She asked, ’How
old are you?’ I said, ’Twenty-three, nearing twenty-four.’ She
said, ’You are a child. You have a long life before you. You are
wasting it, moping about in this aimless way here in Europe. Come home
with me. Nobody shall recognize you for Judith Peixada. I will give you
a new name. You shall be Ruth Lehmyl. Ruth Lehmyl was the name of my
daughter who is dead. You may guess how dearly I love you, when I ask
you to take my daughter’s name. Come home and live with me, Ruth, and
make me happy.’—As you know, I was prevailed upon. After a month
or two spent at Aix-les-Bains, we came back to America. We dwelt for a
while in an apartment on Fifty-ninth Street. Last April we moved into
Beekman Place.

“This brings me to the second point. Why, with that dark stain upon my
past—why, being Judith Peixada, for all my change of name—why did I
consent to become Arthur Ripley’s wife? Oh, Mr. Hetzel, it was because
I loved him. I was a woman, and I loved him, and I was weak. He said
that he loved me, that it would break his heart if I should refuse him;
and I could not help it. I tried hard. I tried to act against my heart.
I told him that my life had not been what he might wish it to be. I
begged him to go away. But he said that he cared nothing for the
past, and he urged me and pleaded with me, and I—I loved him so the
temptation was so strong—it was as if he had opened the gates of
heaven and invited me to enter—I caught a glimpse of the great
joy—of the great sorrow, too, of the sorrow that would follow to him
and to me if I sent him away—and my strength was insufficient—and we
were married.

“I am very tired, Mr. Hetzel. I have been writing for so long a time
that my fingers are cramped, and my back aches from bending over, and my
body has become chilled through by sitting still in this damp place, and
my head is thick and heavy. Yet I have some things still left to say.
You must pardon me if I am stupid and roundabout in coming to the point.
And if I do not succeed in making what I have on my mind very clear to
you, you must excuse me on the ground that I am quite worn out.

“As I have said, I was frank with Arthur Ripley. I warned him that my
past life had been darkened by sin. I said, ’If you knew about it, you
would not care to marry me.’ He retorted, The past is dead. You and
I have just been born.’ It did indeed seem so to me—as though I had
just been born. I allowed myself to be persuaded. We were married. But
then, Mr. Hetzel, as soon as I had yielded, I said to Arthur, ’It is
not right that I, your betrothed, should keep a secret from you. I
will tell you the whole story.’ I said this to him on more than one
occasion before we were married. And I repeated it again and again
afterward. But every time that I broached the subject, he put it aside.
He answered, ’No. Keep your secret as a reminder of my unwavering
confidence and perfect love.’ I supposed that he was sincere. I
marveled at his generosity, and loved him all the better, because of it.
Yet what was the truth? The truth was that in his inmost heart? he could
not help wishing to know what his wife’s secret was. But he played
the hypocrite. He forbade me to tell it to him—forbade me to unseal
my lips—and so got the credit for great magnanimity. Then, behind
my back, he associated with Benjamin Peixada, and learned from his
lips—not my secret—no, but the false, distorted version of it, which
Bernard Peixada’s brother would delight to give. What Benjamin Peixada
told him, he believed; and it was worse than he had bargained for. When
he understood that his wife had committed murder, that his wife had
stood, a common criminal, at the bar of the court of General Sessions,
lo! all the love that he had boasted, died an instant death. And
then—this is what is most infamous—then he contrived a cruel method
of letting me know that he knew. Instead of coming to me, and telling
me in a straightforward way, he put that advertisement into the paper.
That, I do think, was infamous. And all the time, he was pretending that
he loved me, and I was believing him, and treating him as a wife treats
her husband. I read that advertisement, and was completely deceived
by it. I went to Benjamin Peixada’s place. ’What do you wish with
me?’ I asked. He answered, ’Wait a little while, and the gentleman
who wrote that advertisement will come and explain to you. Wait a little
while, and I promise you a considerable surprise.’ I waited. The
gentleman came. The gentleman was Arthur. Not content with having
decoyed me to that place in that way, he—he called me by that
name—he called me Mrs. Peixada! The surprise was considerable, I
confess. And yet, you and Mrs. Hart wonder that I am indignant.

“Oh, of course, I understand that Arthur had no share in causing my
arrest. I understand that all he intended was to confront me there in
Benjamin Peixada’s office, and inform me that he knew who I was, and
denounce me, and repudiate me. But Benjamin Peixada had a little plan of
his own to carry through. When Arthur saw what it was—when he saw that
Benjamin Peixada had set a trap for me, and that I was to be taken away
to prison—then he was shocked and pained, and felt sorry for what he
had helped to do. You don’t need to explain that to me. That is not
why I feel the deep resentment toward him which, I admit, I do feel.
The bare fact that he pried into my secrets behind my back, and went
on pretending to love me at the same time, shows me that he never truly
loved me. You speak of my seeing him. It would be useless for me to
see him. He could not undo what he has done. All the explanations and
excuses that he could make, would not alter the fact that he went to
work without my knowledge, and found out what I had again and again
volunteered to tell him. If he suffers from supposing that I think he
had a share in causing my imprisonment, you may tell him that I think
no such thing. Tell him that I understand perfectly every thing that he
could say. Tell him that a meeting between us would only be productive
of fresh pain for each.

“Mr. Hetzel, if you were a woman, and if you had ever gone through the
agony of a public trial for murder in a crowded court-room, and if all
at once you beheld before you the prospect of going through that agony
for a second time, I am sure you would grasp eagerly at any means within
your reach by which to escape it. That is the case with me. I am a
woman. I have been tried for murder once—publicly tried, in a crowded
court-room. I would rather spend all the rest of my life in prison, than
be tried again. That is why I pleaded guilty this morning. If there were
any future to look forward to—if Arthur had acted differently—if
things were not as they are—then, perhaps—but it is useless to say
perhaps. I have nothing to live for—nothing worth purchasing at the
price of another trial.

“Does any thing remain for me to say? I do not think of any thing.
I hope I have made what I had to say clear enough. I beg that you will
forgive me, if I have trespassed beyond the limits of friendship, in
writing at such length.

“Yours sincerely,

“Ruth Ripley.

“Mr. Julian Hetzel, 43 Beekman Place.”



CHAPTER XII.—“THE FINAL STATE O’ THE STORY.”

ON Thursday, August 14th, at about half, past one in the afternoon,
Assistant-district-attorney Romer was seated in his office, poring over
a huge law-book’, and smoking a huge cigar, when the door suddenly
flew open, and in came, or more accurately, in burst Mr. Julian Hetzel.
In one hand Hetzel carried a dripping umbrella; the other hand was
thrust deep into the breast of its owner’s coat. Hetzel’s face wore
an expression of intense excitement.

Romer lifted his eyes from off his law-book, removed his cigar from
between his lips, and ejaculated, “Hello! What’s up now?”

Hetzel hurried straight ahead, till he had reached the edge of Romer’s
desk. Then, extracting a ponderous envelope from the inner pocket of
his coat, he threw it emphatically down upon Romer’s blotting pad, and
cried, “Read that—will you?—and tell me what you think of it.”

Romer picked the envelope up, looked inquiringly at its superscription,
inserted thumb, and forefinger, drew out its contents, unfolded the
same, turned to the beginning, scanned perhaps the first dozen lines,
stopped, ran the pages rapidly over to the end, found the signature,
then glanced up, and asked, “Are you in a hurry? Have you plenty of
time to spare? Because it’s a pretty serious undertaking—to read
this through.”

“Here—give it to me,” returned Hetzel. “I’ve been over it
once, and got familiar with the handwriting. I’ll read it to you.”

Hetzel read Ruth Ripley’s letter aloud to Romer. The reading consumed
rather more than an hour. Not once did Romer interrupt, or Hetzel pause.
At the end, the two men looked at each other in silence. By and by
Romer’s lips opened.

“By—by God!” was all he said.

Then he began to pace uneasily to and fro across the room.

“Well,” asked Hetzel, “do you think that that’s the sort of a
woman to be left locked up in the Tombs prison?”

“Heavens and earth!” cried Romer; and continued his promenade.

“But the question is,” said Hetzel, “whether she’s to be left
there in the Tombs. In view of what she has written down in those
papers, can’t we get her out? I want to take her home before nightfall
to-day. It seems to me, it’s an outrage upon humanity for her to
remain locked up an hour longer. You’re acquainted with the practical
side of this kind of thing. Now, give me your opinion.”

Romer knitted his brows, and kept on moving back and forth, up and down
the room, Gradually, pendulum-fashion, the space covered at each turn
shortened somewhat; until finally coming to a standstill, Romer said,
“Yes, by Jove! You’re right. She sha’n’. spend another night in
that place if I can help it; and I think I can.”

“Good and the less time lost, the better.”

“What I mean to do,” said Romer, “is this. I mean to take a pretty
big responsibility upon my shoulders, but I guess I’m safe in doing
so. I’m sure Mr. Orson would approve, if he were here; and as long
as he isn’t here, I’m going to act on that assumption, and run the
chances of getting his approval after the fact. The homicide that that
woman committed—why, it was a clear case of self-defense. And what
I’m going to take the responsibility of doing is this. I shall send
down to the Tombs and have her brought up here—to my office—without
a moment’s delay. While the officers are gone after her, I’ll run
into court and speak privately to the judge. I’ll lay these facts
before him, and tell him that we, the People, are convinced that it
was a plain case of justifiable homicide; and I’ll ask him to let her
withdraw her plea of guilty, and enter one of not guilty, right away. He
can’t refuse, if I put it on that ground. I’ll ask him, moreover,
as a personal favor to me, to have the court-room cleared of people, so
that she? won’t be obliged to face the music again to-day, as she was
yesterday. I can’t promise that he’ll agree to this; but it isn’t
at all impossible. Well and good. I’ll make these arrangements before
she arrives. When she does arrive, I’ll talk to her. You leave me to
do the talking. Then we’ll go with her into the judge’s presence,
and have her do what’s necessary there. And then, in your sight and in
hers, so that all doubt on that score will be cleared away for good
and all, I’ll nolle the indictment! That is to say, I’ll render the
indictment null and void by indorsing upon it a nol. pros., together
with a memorandum to the effect that the district-attorney is persuaded
of the defendant’s innocence. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” said Hetzel, “I think I understand. And if you can only
succeed in doing this, we—we’ll—” Hetzel’s voice broke. Before
he was able to recover it, Romer had left the room.

Half an hour, or thereabouts, elapsed. Hetzel waited as patiently as
he could—which is not saying much. Every five minutes, he had out his
watch. It was nearly half past three when at last Romer reappeared.

“Well?” Hetzel made haste to inquire.

“Well,” said Romer, “congratulate me! The judge agrees to do every
thing, just as I wished. At first he was disposed to hesitate. Then I
read him that part where she describes the application of the torture.
That finished him. They’re just winding up a larceny case at this
moment. He’s on the point of sentencing the prisoner. After that’s
over, he’ll have the court-room emptied, and be ready for us. She
ought to get here any minute now, and—” Romer paused; for, at this
moment, the door of his office opened, and Mrs. Ripley entered the room.

She halted just across the threshold, looked from Romer to Hetzel, bowed
slightly to the latter, and then stood still in passive attendance.

Romer advanced toward her, and said, very gently, “I beg of you, Mrs.
Ripley, to come in and sit down. I have something to say, and I
shall thank you very much if you will listen. Sit down here in this
easy-chair.—There.—Now, when you are ready, I’ll speak.”

“I am ready,” she said. Her voice was faint and weak. She leaned
back in her chair, as though feeble and exhausted. Her face was
intensely white—snow-white beneath its coronet of raven hair. There
were large, dark circles under her eyes.

“Mrs. Ripley,” began Romer—then hesitated—then began anew,
“Mrs. Ripley, I—that is, Mr. Hetzel—Mr. Hetzel has given me the
letter you wrote him yesterday, and I have read it. I dare not trust
myself to—to say what—to say any thing about it, more than this,
that we—the district-attorney’s office—that we are sorry, very,
very sorry for all that has happened—for all that you have been made
to suffer these last few days, and that—that we are anxious to do
every thing in our power to make amends. Of course I know we never
can make amends in full. I know that. We can’t undo what has been
done—can’t cure the pain that you’ve already had to bear.
But—but we can spare you—we can save you from having to suffer any
more pain, and—and then, you know, being ignorant of the real truth,
as we were, it wasn’t altogether our fault, was it? No; the original
fault lay with your lawyers, Short and Sondheim, when you were first
tried, years ago. They—they ought to have been strung and quartered,
because, if they had had you tell your story to the district-attorney
then, and if you had told it in its completeness, as you have in this
letter, why—why, nobody would have doubted your innocence for a
moment, and you would have been spared no end of trouble and sorrow and
mortification. But that’s neither here nor there. It’s too late to
complain of Short and Sondheim. They have an inborn antipathy to the
truth, and always fight as shy of it as they can. There’s no use
raking up bygones. The point is now that we want to set you at liberty
as quickly as possible. That’s the most we can do. We mean to nolle
the indictment against you—which will be as complete an exoneration as
an acquittal by a jury and an honorable discharge by a judge would
be. That’s what we intend to do. But first—before we can do
that—first, you know, you will have to untie our hands by withdrawing
the plea that you put in yesterday, and by entering in place of it a
plea of not guilty. Then you’ll be a free woman. Then you can go home
with Mr. Hetzel, here, and rest assured that you’ll never be troubled
any more about the matter.”

Ruth sat perfectly still in her chair. Her great, melancholy eyes were
fixed upon the wall in front of her. She made no answer.

“Now,” Romer said, after having waited in vain for her to speak,
“now, if you will be so good, I should like to have you come with me
into the court room, in order, you know, to do what I have said.”

At this, Ruth winced perceptibly. “Oh,” she said, very low,
“must—must I go into court again?”

“Oh, this time,” explained Romer, “it will not be as hard for you
as it was before. There’ll be, no spectators and no red tape. You’ll
tell the judge that you withdraw your plea of guilty, and plead not
guilty, and he’ll say all right; and then you’ll see me nolle the
indictment; and then it will all be over for good; and, as I’ve said,
you’ll go home with Mr. Hetzel.”

Ruth rose, bowed to Romer, and said, “I am ready to follow you.”

“Is there any objection to my accompanying you?” Hetzel asked.

“Oh, no; come along,” said Romer.

Every thing befell substantially as Romer had predicted. They found the
judge presiding over an empty court-room. His honor came down informally
from the bench, bade Mrs. Ripley be seated, said laughingly, “I’ll
act as clerk and judge both,” went to the clerk’s desk, possessed
himself of pen, ink, and paper, rattled off sotto voce, “You, Judith
Peixada, do hereby”—mumble, mumble, mumble—“and enter in lieu of
the same”—mumble, mumble—“upon the indictment;” threw down his
pen, got up, added in a loud, hearty voice, “That’s all, madam: good
day,” bowed, and left the room.

A few minutes later Ruth was seated at Hetzel’s side in a carriage;
and the carriage was making at top-speed for Beekman Place. After they
had driven for half a dozen blocks in silence, Hetzel began, “Mrs.
Ripley, I am sorry to disturb you. I suppose you are so tired that you
would rather not be talked to. But there is something which you must
hear before we reach home; and I must beg of you to give me permission
to say it now—at once.”

“Say any thing you wish. I will listen to any thing you wish to
say.” Her voice was that of a woman whose spirit has been quite broken
and subdued.

“Well, then, the upshot of what I have to say is just this.
Don’t for a moment imagine that I mean to reproach you. Under the
circumstances—considering the shock and the pain of your situation
last Monday—you weren’t to be blamed for jumping to a false
conclusion. But now, at last, you are in a position to see things as
they truly are. What I want to say is what Mrs. Hart wanted to say when
she visited you on Tuesday. It is that Arthur—that your husband—had
no more idea, when he put that advertisement into the papers, that you
were Judith Peixada, than I had, or than the most indifferent person in
the world had. When you fancy that he had been trying to find out your
secrets behind your back, you do him a—a tremendous injustice.
He never would be capable of such a thing. Arthur is the frankest,
honestest fellow that ever lived. He doesn’t know what deception
means. The amount of the matter was simply this. He had been retained
by Mr. Peixada to hunt up his brother’s widow. In order to accomplish
this, he resorted to a device which, I suppose, precedents seemed
to justify, though it strikes me as a pretty shabby one,
notwithstanding—he advertised. And when he went to meet Mrs. Peixada
in his client’s office, and found that she and you were one and the
same person, why, he was as much astonished as—as I was when he came
home and told me about it. There’s the long and short of the story in
a nutshell. The detail of it you’ll learn when you talk it over with
him.”

Hetzel waited, expecting Ruth to speak. But she did not speak for a long
while. She sat rigid in her corner, with pale face and downcast eyes.
At last, however, her lips opened. In a whisper, “Will—will he ever
forgive me?” she asked.

“Forgive you?” repeated Hetzel. “He doesn’t feel that he has
any thing to forgive you for. On the other hand, he hopes for your
forgiveness—hopes you will forgive him for having refused to let you
speak. It was a coincidence and a mistake. He loves you. When that is
said, every thing is said.”

For another long while Ruth kept silence. As the carriage turned into
Fiftieth Street, she straightened up, and drew a deep, tremulous breath.
After a brief moment of hesitation, she said, “I—I suppose he is
waiting for us—yes?”

“Well,” Hetzel answered, “that reminds me. You—you see, the fact
is—”

And thereupon the poor fellow had to break the news of Arthur’s
illness to her, as best he could. Beginning with that hour, the trained
nurse had an indefatigable companion in her vigils.



One morning Ruth said to Hetzel, “To-day is the day fixed for the
probate of Bernard Peixada’s will. Do you think it is necessary that I
should go to the court?”

“I don’t know,” replied Hetzel, “and I don’t care. You
sha’n’. do so. I’ll be your proxy.”

He went to the surrogate’s office. When he returned home, he said,
“Well, Mrs. Ripley, the enemy has had his Waterloo! The orphan
asylum and the home for working-girls will continue to enjoy Bernard
Peixada’s wealth.”

“Why, how is that?” Ruth questioned.

“The will fell through.”

“Fell through? Was it a forgery? Or what?”

“No, it wasn’t a forgery, but it was a holograph. That is to say,
the testator was rash enough to draw it himself—without the assistance
of a lawyer; and so he contrived to make a fatal blunder. It seems that
the law requires a person, upon signing his will, to explain explicitly
to the witnesses the nature of the document—that it is a will, and
not a deed, or a contract, or what not. And that is precisely what Mr.
Peixada fortunately omitted to do. The witnesses swore that he had said
nothing whatever concerning the character of the instrument—that he
had simply requested them to attest his signature, and then had folded
the paper up, and put it into his pocket. The lawyer—Arthur’s
successor—pressed them pretty hard, but they weren’t to be shaken;
and the clerk thereupon declared that the will was void and valueless;
and then there was a lot of excitement; and I came away; and that’s
how the case stands at present.”

“And so the money will remain where it is?”

“Precisely; though I should think the man to whom it once belonged
would turn in his grave, at the thought of the good it’s doing. This
is the sort of thing that helps one to believe in an avenging angel,
isn’t it?”



One Sunday afternoon, toward the middle of September, Ruth was very
happy. The crisis of Arthur’s illness, Dr. Letzup vouched, had passed.
His delirium had subsided. He had fallen into a placid slumber. With
proper care and vigilant guarding against a relapse, the doctor thought,
he ought to be upon his feet within a month.

So, it was natural that Ruth’s heart should sing.

But, especially when one is a songstress by birth and training, a
singing heart is apt to induce sympathetic action on the part of the
voice. Ruth was seated at the window in the room adjoining Arthur’s,
listening to her heart’s song, when, most likely without her being
conscious of it, a soft, sweet strain of melody began to flow from her
lips. It was very low and gentle, and yet, as the event proved, it was
loud enough to arouse the invalid from his much needed sleep. The nurse
came bustling in from the sick room, with finger raised in warning,
and exclaimed in a whisper, “Hush—hush—sh—sh! You’ve gone and
waked him up!”

Was it possible that she had so far forgotten herself? Oh, dear, dear!
Her regret bordered upon despair. Yet, with the impetuosity that is
characteristic of her sex, she could not stop there, and let bad enough
alone, but must needs be guilty of still further imprudence, and march
bodily into the sick man’s presence, and up close to his bedside.

He lay with open eyes looking straight ceiling-ward. But at the moment
of her entrance he turned his gaze full upon her, and a happy smile
lighted up his wan, wasted face. He did not attempt to speak. Neither
did she. But she bent over him, and kissed him once upon the forehead,
and rewarded his smile with a glance of infinite tenderness.

Then his lips moved. “Was—was it all a dream—my meeting you in
Peixada’s office, and all the rest?” he whispered.

“Yes—all a dream?” she answered.

He closed his eyes and went to sleep again. When Dr. Letzup called that
evening, “Better and better!” he cried. “What panacea have you
been administering during my absence?”



On Saturday, October 18th, the steamship Alcibiades, Captain Gialsamino,
of the Florio line, sailed from its berth in Brooklyn, and pointed its
prow towards Naples. Inscribed on the passenger-list were the names:
“M. and Mme. A. Ripli.” Monsieur and Madame Ripley were bent upon
wintering in Italy. They have remained abroad ever since. Arthur talks
in his letters of coming home next spring, though what he will do when
he gets here, I don’t know, for he has registered a solemn vow never
again to practice law. THE END.





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