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Title: Under Lock and Key, Volume III (of 3) - A Story
Author: Speight, T. W.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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        (Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)



UNDER LOCK AND KEY.
---------
VOL. III.



UNDER LOCK AND KEY.


A Story.



BY
T. W. SPEIGHT,
AUTHOR OF "BROUGHT TO LIGHT," "FOOLISH MARGARET,"
ETC.



IN THREE VOLUMES.
VOL. III.



LONDON:
TINSLEY BROTHERS, 18, CATHERINE STREET, STRAND.
1869.
[_All rights of Translation and Reproduction are reserved_.]



LONDON:
SAVILL, EDWARDS AND CO., PRINTERS, CHANDOS STREET,
COVENT GARDEN.



CONTENTS
OF
THE THIRD VOLUME.


CHAP.

       I. THE THIRD REPORT CONTINUED.
      II. GEORGE STRICKLAND'S QUEST.
     III. AT THE "ROYAL GEORGE."
      IV. A LITTLE DINNER FOR THREE.
       V. CLEON REDIVIVUS.
      VI. PASTILLE-BURNING.
     VII. CHASING "LA BELLE ROSE."
    VIII. THE CAVE OF ST. LAZARE.
      IX. THE VERDICT OF MR. VERMUSEN.
       X. HAUNTED.
      XI. THE ARRIVAL OF THE DIAMOND AT DUPLEY WALLS.
     XII. DE MORTUIS NIL NISI BONUM.
    XIII. THE DEPARTURE OF SIR JOHN POLLEXFEN.
     XIV. THE TARN OF BEN DULAS.
      XV. ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL.



UNDER LOCK AND KEY.



CHAPTER I.
THE THIRD REPORT CONTINUED.


"Five minutes later, Captain Ducie and your hopeful son slunk out of
Bon Repos like the thieves we were, and treading the gravelled pathway
as carefully as two Indians on the war-trail might have done, we came
presently to the margin of the starlit lake. There was no lack of
boats at Bon Repos, and soon I was pulling over the quiet mere in the
direction of Bowness. We managed to find the little pier without much
difficulty. There we disembarked, and then chained up the boat and
left it. By this time the first faint streaks of day were brightening
in the east. There would be no train from Bowness for three or four
hours. Captain Ducie's impatience could not brook such a delay. At his
request I roused the people at one of the hotels. Even then we had to
stand kicking our heels for half an hour before a conveyance and pair
of horses could be got ready for us. But when we were once fairly
under way, no grass was suffered to grow under our horses' feet. The
captain's object was to catch one of the fast up trains at Oxenholme
Junction, some fourteen miles away. This we succeeded in doing, with a
quarter of an hour to spare. A portion of that quarter of an hour was
occupied by me in sending a certain telegram to my respected _pater_.
The day was still young when Captain Ducie and I alighted at
Euston-square.

"I did not know whether it was the captain's intention to give me my
congé as soon as we should reach town, but I certainly knew that it
was not my intention to part from him quite so readily. He had
insisted on my travelling up in the same carriage with himself, and I
had had the free run of his cognac and cigars. During the early part
of the journey he had been silent and thoughtful, but by no means
morose. As the morning advanced, however, his shoulder had begun to
pain him greatly, and by the time we reached London I could see,
although he uttered no complaint, that the agony was almost more than
he could bear. Consequently, I was not surprised as I helped him to
alight from the railway carriage, to hear him say:--

"'Jasmin, my good fellow, I find that it will not do for me to part
from you just yet. This confounded shoulder of mine seems as if it
were going to make a nuisance of itself. You must order a cab and go
with me. I will make your excuses to M. Platzoff.'

"'Right you are, sir,' said I. 'Where shall I tell cabby to drive to?'

"'To the Salisbury Hotel, Fleet-street.'

"Captain Ducie was such an undoubted West-end swell that I was rather
surprised to find him going east of Temple Bar. But my place was to
obey, and not to question his behests.

"'Get into the cab: I want to talk to you,' said he. 'On one or two
points it will be requisite that I should take you into my
confidence,' he began, as soon as we were out of the station. 'And I
have less hesitation in doing this because, from what I have seen of
you, I believe you to be a perfectly trustworthy and straightforward
fellow.'

"It is very kind of you to say so, sir,' I answered respectfully.

"'Now, for certain reasons which I need not detail, I do not want my
presence in London to be known to any one. I am going to an hotel
where I have never been before, and where I am entirely unknown. While
stopping at this hotel I shall pass under the name of Mr. Stonor, a
country gentleman--let us say--of limited means, who is up in town for
the furtherance of some business of a legal character. Can you
remember Mr. Stonor from the country?'

"'I shall not forget it, sir--you may trust me for that.'

"'Yes, if I had not felt that I could trust you, I should not have
brought you so far, nor have taken you so deeply into my confidence.'

"Father! for the first time these dozen years your son blushed.


"On reaching the hotel Mr. Stonor seemed to care little or nothing
about the size or comfort of the rooms that were shown him. He was
particular on one point only. That point was the fastening of his
bedroom door.

"After rejecting three or four rooms in succession he chose one that
had a stouter lock than ordinary, and that could be reached only
through another room. In this other room it was arranged that I should
sleep, so that no one could obtain access to Mr. Stonor without first
disturbing me.

"Is not this another proof that I acted judiciously in leaving Bon
Repos, and that Captain Ducie, above all men in the world, is the man
I ought to stick to?

"We had no sooner settled about the rooms than Captain Ducie was
obliged to go to bed. He would not allow me to help him off with any
other article of dress than his outer coat. Then he sent me for a
doctor, and when the doctor and I got back he was in bed. The doctor
pronounced the wound in his shoulder to be not a dangerous one, but
one that would necessitate much care and attention. The captain was
condemned to stay in bed for at least a week to come.

"There is no occasion to weary you with too many details. A week--ten
days, passed away and I still remained in attendance on Captain Ducie.
For the first four or five days he did not progress much towards
recovery. He was too fidgety, too anxious in his mind, to get well. I
knew the form which his anxiety had taken when I saw how impatient he
was each morning till he had got the newspaper in his fingers, and
could be left alone to wade through it. At the end of an hour or so he
would ring his bell, and would tell me with a weary look, to take
'that cursed newspaper' away.

"I was just as impatient for the newspaper as he was, and did not fail
to submit its contents each morning to a most painstaking search.

"After the sixth day there was a decided improvement in the condition
of Captain Ducie, and from that date he progressed rapidly towards
recovery. It was on the sixth day that my search through the newspaper
was rewarded by finding a paragraph that interested me almost as much
as it must have interested Captain Ducie. The paragraph in question
was in the shape of an extract from _The Westmoreland Gazette_, and
ran as under:--


"'_The Dangers of Opium-smoking_.--We have to record the sudden death
of M. Paul Platzoff, a Russian gentleman of fortune, who has resided
for several years on the banks of Windermere. M. Platzoff was found
dead in bed on the morning of Wednesday last. From the evidence given
at the inquest it would appear that the unfortunate gentleman had been
accustomed for years to a frequent indulgence in the pernicious
habit of opium-smoking, and the medical testimony went to prove that
he must have died while in one of those trances which make up the
opium-smoker's elysium. At the same time, it is but just to observe
that had not the post-mortem examination revealed the fact of there
having been heart-disease of long standing, the mere fact of the
deceased gentleman having been addicted to opium-smoking would not of
itself have been sufficient to account for his sudden death.'


"There are one or two facts to be noted in connexion with the
foregoing account. In the first place, it is there stated that M.
Platzoff was found dead in bed. When I saw him soon after midnight, he
lay dead on the divan in the smoke-room. But it is possible, that the
use of the word 'bed' in the newspaper account may be a mere verbal
inaccuracy. In the second place, there is not a word said respecting
Cleon. Now, had the valet disappeared precisely at the time of M.
Platzoff's mysterious death, suspicion of some sort would have been
sure to attach to him, and an inquiry would have been set on foot
respecting his whereabouts. Such being the case, the natural
conclusions to be derived from the facts as known to us would seem to
be: First, that Cleon was not out of the way when the body was found,
and that the statements made at the inquest as to the habits of the
deceased were made by him, and by him alone. Secondly, if any fracas
took place between Cleon and Captain Ducie on that fatal night, as
there is every reason to suspect, the mulatto has not seen fit to make
any public mention of it. Captain Ducie's name, in fact, does not seem
to have been once mentioned in connexion with the affair, and if Cleon
either knows or suspects that the captain has the Great Diamond in his
possession, he has doubtless had good reasons of his own for keeping
the knowledge to himself. That some curious underhand game has been
played between him and the captain there cannot, I think, be any
reasonable doubt.

"As soon as I had read the paragraph above quoted, I took the
newspaper up to Captain Ducie, and pointed out the lines to him as if
I had accidentally come across them. I wanted to hear what he would
have to say about the death of Platzoff.

"'Some strange news here, sir, about M. Platzoff,' I said.
Here is an account of----.'

"He interrupted me with a wave of his hand. 'I have seen it, Jasmin, I
have seen it, and terribly shocked I was to have such news of my
friend. So strangely sudden, too! I always suspected that he would do
himself an injury with that beastly drug which he would persist in
smoking, but I never dreamed of anything so terrible as this. I
suppose it will be requisite for you to go down to Bon Repos for a
time, Jasmin. There will be your wages, and your luggage and things to
look after. What articles of mine were left behind I make you a
present of. I hope to be sufficiently recovered in the course of three
or four days to be able to spare you, and I will of course pay your
fare back to Westmoreland, and remunerate you for the time you have
been in my service. For myself, I intend spending the next few months
somewhere on the Continent.'

"I replied that I was in no hurry to go down to Bon Repos; that,
indeed, there was no particular necessity for me to go at all that the
amount due to me for wages was very trifling, and that my clothes and
other things would no doubt be forwarded by Cleon to any address I
might choose to send him.

"But the captain would not hear of this. I must go down to Bon Repos
and look after my interests on the spot, he said; and he would arrange
to spare me in a few days. His motive for taking such a special
interest in my affairs was not difficult to discover. He wanted
thoroughly to break the link between himself and me. By sending me
down to Bon Repos he would secure two or three clear days in which to
complete whatever arrangements he might think necessary, and would,
besides, insure himself from being watched or spied upon by me. Not
that he doubted my fidelity in the least, but it seemed to me that of
late he had grown suspicious of everybody; and, in any case, he was
desirous of severing even the faintest tie that connected him in any
way with M. Platzoff and Bon Repos. Such, at least, was the conclusion
at which I arrived in my own mind. But it may have been an erroneous
one.

"Although Captain Ducie was desirous of getting rid of me, I did not
mean to lose sight of him quite so readily. Each day that passed over
my head confirmed me more fully in my belief that he had the Great
Mogul Diamond concealed somewhere about his person. I had no one
strong positive bit of evidence on which to base such a belief. It was
rather by the aggregation of a hundred minute points all tending one
way that I was enabled to build up my suspicions into a certainty.

"If he had made himself master of the Diamond, he had done so
illegally. He had stolen the gem, and I should have felt no more
compunction in dispossessing him of it than I should have felt in
picking a sovereign out of the gutter. But the prospect of making the
gem my own seemed even more remote now, if that were possible, than
when I was at Bon Repos. Nothing went farther towards confirming my
belief that the captain had the Diamond by him than the fact of his
taking so many and such unusual precautions to insure himself against
a surprise from any one either by day or night. As already stated, I
slept in the room that opened immediately out of his, so that no one
could reach him except by passing through my room. Then, he always
slept with the door of his bedroom double locked, and with his face
turned to the window, the blind pertaining to which was drawn to the
top, leaving the view clear and unobstructed. In addition, Captain
Ducie always kept a loaded revolver under his pillow, and I had heard
too much of his skill with that weapon to doubt that he would make an
efficient use of it should such a need ever arise. What chance, then,
did there seem for ce pauvre Jacques ever being able to coax the
Diamond out of the hands of this man, who had no more right to it than
had the Grand Turk? Still, I put a good face on the matter, and would
not allow myself to despair.

"After the sixth day Captain Ducie improved rapidly. On the tenth day
he said to me: 'This is the last day that I shall require your
services. You had better arrange to start by the nine forty-five train
to-morrow morning for Windermere.'

"The captain was not the sort of man to whom one could say that one
did not want to go to Windermere, that one had no intention of going
there. The slightest opposition from an inferior in position only
confirmed him the more obstinately in his own views. All, therefore,
that I said was: I am entirely at your service, sir, to go or stay as
may suit you best.' All the same, I had no intention of going.

"What I intended was to bid farewell to Captain Ducie, take a cab to
the station, go quietly in at one gate and out at another. But the
captain spoiled this little plan next morning by announcing his
intention of going with me to the station. He was evidently anxious to
see with his own eyes that I really left London, and this of course
only made me the not more determined to go. I had only a few minutes
in which to make my arrangements. It was necessary that I should take
some one at least partially into my confidence, and I could think of
no one who would suit my purpose better than Dickson, the one-eyed
night-porter at the hotel. He was fast asleep in bed at that hour of
the morning, but I went up to his room and roused him. He was a
quick-witted fellow enough where anything crooked was concerned, while
in the simple straightforward matters of daily life he was often
unaccountably stupid. His one eye gleamed brightly when I put half a
sovereign into his hand, and told him what I wanted him to do for me.
I left him fully satisfied that he would do it.

"A cab was ordered, my modest portmanteau was tossed on to the roof,
Captain Ducie was shut up inside, and with myself on the box beside
the driver, away we rattled to Euston-square. The captain went himself
and took a ticket for me to Windermere. He had already given me a
handsome douceur in return for my services from the date of our
leaving Bon Repos. He now saw me safely into the carriage, gave me my
ticket, and nodded a kindly farewell. He did not move from his post on
the platform till he saw the train fairly under way. So parted Captain
Ducie and your unworthy son.

"At Wolverton, which was the first station at which the train stopped,
I got out and gave up my ticket, with a pretence to the railway people
that I had unfortunately left some important papers in town and that I
must go back by the first train. Back I went accordingly, and reached
Euston station in less than five hours after I had left it.

"My first object was to thoroughly disguise myself: no very difficult
task to a person of my profession. My first visit was to the peruquier
of the Royal Tabard. Here I was dispossessed of the charming little
imperial which I had been cultivating for the last month or two, and
from which I did not part without a pang of regret. Next, I had my
hair cut very close, and was fitted with a jet-black wig that could be
termed nothing less than a triumph of mind over matter. When my
eyebrows had been dyed to match, and when I had purchased and put
on a pair of cheap spectacles, and had arrayed myself in a suit of
ultra-respectable black, I felt that I could defy the keen eyes of
Captain Ducie with impunity. Having exchanged my portmanteau for one
of a different size and colour, I took a cab, and drove boldly to the
Salisbury Hotel. It was satisfactory to find that Dickson passed me
without recognising me, and I shall never forget the puzzled look that
came into the fellow's face when I took him on one side and asked him
for news of the captain.

"The captain had ordered his bill, Dickson told me when he had
sufficiently recovered from his surprise, and had himself packed his
own luggage, but without addressing it. A cab was to be in readiness
for him at half-past eight that evening. I ordered a second cab to be
in waiting for me at the corner of the street at the same hour.
Meanwhile I kept carefully out of the captain's way.

"At 8.35 p.m. my cab was following that of the captain down the
Strand, and in a little while we both drew up at the Waterloo
terminus. Ducie's luggage consisted of one large portmanteau only,
which the cabman handed over to one of the porters.

"'Where shall I label your luggage for, sir?' asked the man: it was
too large to be taken into the carriage.

"The captain hesitated for a moment, while the man waited with his
paste-can in his hand.

"'For Jersey,' he said at last.

"'Right you are, sir,' said the man. 'Bill, a Jersey label.'

"I went at once and secured a ticket for that charming little spot.

"I did not lose sight of the captain till I saw him fairly seated in
his carriage and locked up by the guard. I travelled down in the next
compartment but one.

"I need not detain you with any account of our journey by rail, nor of
our after-voyage from Southampton to St. Helier.

"The fact of my dating this communication from a Jersey hotel is a
sufficient proof of my safe arrival. We reached here yesterday
afternoon, the captain never suspecting for a moment that he had James
Jasmin, his ex-valet, for a fellow-passenger. We are lodged at
different hotels, but the one at which I am staying is so nearly
opposite that of the captain, and has so excellent a view into the
private sitting-room where he has taken up his quarters, that I see
almost as much of him, both indoors and out, as I did during the time
I acted as his valet. His reasons for coming here are best known to
himself; but be they what they may, I do not feel inclined to alter my
opinion one jot that he has brought the G. M. D. to this place with
him.

"Whether, after all this time and trouble, I am any nearer the object
for the attainment of which you first engaged me, remains for you to
judge. In any case, send me instructions; tell me what I am to do or
attempt next. Or do what would be infinitely better--come here in
person, and talk over the affair with

     "Your affectionate son,

          "James Madgin."



CHAPTER II.
GEORGE STRICKLAND'S QUEST.


The strange story told by Sister Agnes in her confession, when
combined with her hinted suspicion that the account of Mr. Fairfax's
death had no foundation in fact, opened up a series of questions
which, under any circumstances, Janet would have felt herself
incompetent to deal with alone. Major Strickland was the person of all
others to whom she would have gone for counsel and assistance, even
had no injunction been laid on her to that effect. That with him
should be associated Father Spiridion, could only be another source of
gratulation to Janet. She had learned to love and reverence the kindly
old man before, but now that she knew him to have been her mother's
constant friend and adviser through many years of trouble, he seemed
to have a thousand more claims on her affection. Into his hands and
those of Major Strickland she committed her cause without reservation,
feeling and knowing that they would do the same by her as if she were
a child of their own.

It was in her relations towards Lady Pollexfen that Janet felt most
the burden of the secret that had been laid upon her. To know that she
was the granddaughter of that imperious old woman, and yet to be
supposed not to be aware of the fact; to be able to walk down the
long, dim picture gallery at Dupley-Walls, and say with a proud
swelling of the heart, "These were my ancestors;" to look up from the
garden at the gray old pile, and then away across the wide-stretching
park, and hear the unbidden whisper at her heart, "This is my rightful
home:"--in all this there was for Janet a strange sort of fascination
which she could not overcome. But even had she not been bound by her
promise to Sister Agnes not to reveal to Lady Pollexfen what had been
told her, there was a sufficiency of stubborn pride in her composition
to keep her from ever acquainting the mistress of Dupley Walls with
her knowledge of a fact which that lady had persistently ignored for
so many years. As simple Janet Holme she would go on till the end of
the chapter, unless Lady Pollexfen should herself break the seal of
silence and acknowledge her as the daughter of the woman she had so
cruelly wronged.

One of Major Strickland's first acts in his capacity of adviser to
Miss Holme, was to ask permission to make a confidant of his nephew,
Captain George, in all that related to his young ward's affairs. The
request was granted as a matter of course. Had it been made in behalf
of any other than George Strickland, it would have been at once
acceded to, but with how much greater pleasure in his case, Janet
herself could alone have told. Between Janet and Captain Strickland
there had not been the remotest attempt at love-making in the common
acceptation of the phrase; and yet, by one of Love's subtle
intuitions, each read the other's heart, and knew of the sweet secret
that lay hidden there. Any intentions that Captain George might have
formed in his own mind as to the propriety, or necessity, of making
mention of his love to her whom it most concerned, were put aside for
the time being in consequence of the death of Sister Agnes. He only
laid them aside for a little while, because, as far as he then knew,
there was no relationship between Sister Agnes and Janet. But when he
came to learn from his uncle, as he was not long in doing, that Miss
Holme was the daughter of Sister Agnes and the granddaughter of Lady
Pollexfen, he was obliged to thrust his intentions very far into the
background, and it seemed doubtful to him whether they would not have
to remain there for ever. The granddaughter of Lady Pollexfen was a
very different person from Miss Janet Holme, with no prospects to
speak of, and not a penny, beyond her quarter's salary, to call her
own. To have wedded the Miss Holme he had supposed Janet to be, would
have made the happiness of his life; but to propose to Miss Holme as
he now knew her was a very different affair. Captain Strickland was a
poor man, but his pride was equal to his poverty; and to marry Lady
Pollexfen's granddaughter without Lady Pollexfen's consent was more
than that pride would allow him to do. Happily, the future might
reveal to him some plan, by means of which his love and his pride
might be reconciled, and walk together hand in hand. Till that time
should come, if come it ever did, his love should remain hidden and
dumb.

It was not till nearly a fortnight after the reading of Sister Agnes's
Confession that any decision was arrived at by Major Strickland and
Father Spiridion as to what steps, if any, should be taken with the
view of unravelling the mystery in which the antecedents and fate of
Mr. Fairfax were involved. The old soldier and the older priest, with
Captain George to strengthen their consultations, met again and again,
and discussed the question, as far as the data they had to go upon
would allow of it, from every possible point of view. They all felt
that underneath the veil which they longed and yet were half afraid to
lift, might be hidden some disgraceful story, some dark mystery, which
it were better that neither they nor any one should become acquainted
with. For Janet never to know who her father really was, and to remain
in doubt as to whether he were alive or dead, might be painful to her
feelings as a daughter, but for her to learn the truth might be more
painful still. From Janet no positive expression of opinion could be
elicited. She would be guided, she said, entirely by the wishes of
those to whom the affair had been submitted. If they decided that no
action whatever had better be taken in the matter, she was quite
content to let it rest where it did. If, on the other hand, an
investigation were decided upon, she would not shrink from an
exposition of the truth, however painful it might be.

At length a definite course of action was resolved upon by the three
gentlemen, and Major Strickland wrote to Janet by post:--


"Meet me at the King's Oak to-morrow afternoon at three.

"Bring with you the certificate and the miniature."


Janet was there at the time appointed, and there she found the major
and Captain George.

"I have asked you to meet me here," said the major after the usual
greetings were over, "to inform you that Father Spiridion and myself
have decided that, with your permission, an investigation ought to be
made into the circumstances connected with your mother's marriage, and
the supposed death of your father. We think that it would be in
accordance with your mother's secret wishes that such an investigation
should be entered upon after her death, and we think that, in justice
to yourself, the mystery, if mystery there be, should be cleared up
and set at rest for ever."

"You have my full and entire sanction to whatever plan of proceeding
you may think most advisable," said Janet.

"In that case," resumed the major, "George here shall start for
Cumberland to-morrow morning, for it is there that our investigation
must begin. Father Spiridion and I are both old men. George is young,
active, and energetic, and imbued with a thorough zeal for the
furtherance of your interests. Have you sufficient confidence in him
to entrust your cause into his hands?"

"My cause could not be in safer keeping," said Janet with a blush and
a smile. "I already owe my life to Captain Strickland. To that
obligation he is now about to add another. How shall I ever be able to
repay him, and you, and dear Father Spiridion, the thousand kindnesses
I have received at your hands? Indeed, and indeed, I never can repay
you!"

Janet's eyes as she ceased speaking went up shyly to those of Captain
George. In the deep, earnest gaze of the young soldier she read
something that caused her to tremble and blush for the second time,
something that seemed to say, "There is one way, and one only, by
which you can repay me."

"Tut! tut! poverina mia," said the major, with a flourish of his
malacca, "we are all three your bounden slaves, and never so happy as
when we are fulfilling your behests. We will go back a part of the way
with you, only we must not let her ladyship's lynx eyes see us
together, or she will suspect that we are hatching some conspiracy.
Last time you were at my house I had some difficulty in gaining her
permission to allow you to come."

Captain George offered Janet his arm. The major walked beside them,
flourishing his cane, and talking on a score of different topics. So
they went slowly through the sunlit park, back towards gray old Dupley
Walls. George and Janet were mostly silent. What little they did say
was nearly all addressed to the major: they scarcely spoke a word
directly to each other. Still, strange to relate, they both afterwards
declared to themselves that they had never had a more delightful walk
in their lives.

Early next morning Captain Strickland started for Cumberland. There
was an unwonted feeling of sadness at his heart which he could not
overcome. He knew that if his quest were successful in the way his
uncle and Father Spiridion hoped it would be, he and Janet would in
all probability be farther divided than they were now. That is to say,
if Miss Holme's father should prove to have been a man of family, or
simply a very rich man, it was not improbable that his relatives might
wish to claim her, in which case she would be lost to him for ever;
and even the consolation of seeing her occasionally, on which he could
count so long as she remained at Dupley Walls, would be his no longer.
Such thoughts as these, however, would have no deterrent effect on his
actions. He was fully determined to do all that lay in his power to
bring the task that had been laid upon him to a successful issue. It
had been decided that should Captain Strickland's investigation bring
to light any facts in connexion with her father, which it would be
better for Janet's happiness and peace of mind that she should never
know, such facts should be carefully withheld from her. Major
Strickland and Father Spiridion reserved to themselves a certain
discretionary power as to what should be told her, and what had better
remain unsaid.

Before Captain Strickland had been two hours in Whitehaven he had
hunted out the little church where the marriage of Edmund Fairfax and
Helena Holme Pollexfen had been solemnized twenty years before. He
compared the certificate he had brought with him with the original
entry in the register, and he found them to tally in every particular.
He inquired here and there till he had ferreted out the daughter of
the woman who had been pew-opener at the church a quarter of a century
before, and had been one of the witnesses to the marriage; but the
woman herself had been dead a dozen years.

When he had got so far, Captain Strickland went back to his hotel and
ordered a bed for the night. Whitehaven could furnish him with no
further information. On the morrow he must go to Beckley. One
important point had been proved: that the certificate in his
possession was a bona fide copy of the register.

As soon as breakfast was over next morning he took a post-chaise and
was driven to Beckley. It was eleven miles away, but there was no
difficulty in finding the place. Since the date of Miss Pollexfen's
residence there, quite a little hamlet had sprung up close by in
connexion with some extensive iron-ore works which had now been in
operation for several years. Beckley Grange was now tenanted by the
manager of these works. Miss Bellenden, the aunt with whom Miss
Pollexfen had lived for so long a time, and from whose house she had
run away to get married, had been dead these eighteen years. Captain
Strickland was shown her tombstone in the village church.

He had not expected to pick up much information that would be of use
to him at Beckley; it can hardly therefore be said that he was
disappointed at finding every trace, except the epitaph, of a past
state of things so entirely swept away. There was not even an old
servant to be found, with a memory that would stretch back for a
quarter of a century, from whom he might have gathered some
reminiscences of Miss Pollexfen's life at Beckley, such as would have
had a special interest for Janet, although they might have had no
bearing whatever on the case he, Captain George, had in hand.

Sister Agnes, in her Confession, had made no mention by name of the
particular village or place at which Mr. Fairfax was staying at the
time he made her acquaintance. Consequently for Captain Strickland to
have gone inquiring among all the villages in the district respecting
a certain Mr. Fairfax who might or who might not have lived there for
a few weeks some twenty years ago, would have been an almost hopeless
task, and one that need not be resorted to till every other chance
should have failed. The person called Captain Laut in the Confession,
and he alone, if he were still alive, could clear up the mystery in a
few words.

The first point was, where to find Captain Laut. The second, whether,
when found, he would tell all that he was wanted to tell.

Captain Strickland left Whitehaven next day by express train for
Loudon. The first thing he did after reaching town was to deposit his
portmanteau at the station hotel and then take a Hansom to his old
club, the Janus, where he was sure to meet several brothers in the
profession of arms to whom he was well known. After dining he went to
consult some files of Army Lists. In a List twenty years old he found
the name of a Captain Laut as belonging to the two-hundred-and-fourth
regiment, at that time in garrison at Portsmouth.

Captain Strickland belonged to a younger generation of military men
than that which had been in vogue at the Janus twenty years
previously. But the father of one of his most particular friends was
not only an old military man, but an old club man and bon vivant into
the bargain--a man who knew something good or bad--generally the
latter--about everybody of note for the last quarter of a century. To
this gentleman went Captain George. After explaining that he wanted to
find out whether Captain Laut, who, twenty years previously, had
belonged to the two-hundred-and-fourth Foot, were still alive, and if
so where he could be found--he asked the favour of the old soldier's
advice and assistance.

After turning the matter over in his mind for two or three minutes,
the old gentleman said: "Put down on a slip of paper the particulars
of what you want to know, and leave the case in my hands. You shall
hear from me, one way or another, in the course of a few days."

Three days passed away without bringing any news, but on the morning
of the fourth Captain George found the following note at his club:


"Major Gregson presents his compliments to Captain Strickland, and
begs to inform him that Captain (afterwards Colonel) Lant, formerly of
the two-hundred-and-fourth Foot, is still living. Colonel Lant's
present residence is Higham Lodge, near Richmond, Surrey."


Captain George suffered no grass to grow under his feet. That very
afternoon he set out in quest of Higham Lodge. It was about two miles
from Richmond, and he found it without difficulty. The footman who
answered his ring told him that Colonel Lant was at home, but was only
just recovering from a dangerous attack of gastric fever, and would
hardly see any stranger at present. All the same, he would take
Captain Strickland's card to his master.

Presently he returned. Colonel Lant would see Captain Strickland. So
George followed the footman across the hall and up the wide shallow
staircase, and was ushered into the sick man's room.

"Good morning, sir," said Colonel Lant--a white-haired sharp-featured
man, with a brick-dust complexion that was somewhat toned down at
present by illness--"a brother in arms is always welcome. Had you
belonged to any other profession I had not seen you."

"I must apologize for my intrusion," said Captain Strickland. "Had I
been aware that you were ill I would have put off my visit till a
future date. My errand, in fact, is entirely of a private nature, and
is not so pressing but that it will stand over till another time. With
your permission, I will call upon you again this day week or
fortnight."

"Not a bit of it, my boy, not a bit of it," said the colonel. "Now
that you are here, we may as well cook your goose and have done with
you. May I inquire as to the particular object which has brought you
so far from town?"

"My object was to ask you whether, once upon a time--say twenty years
ago--you were acquainted with a gentleman of the name of Fairfax--Mr.
Edmund Fairfax, to be precise?"

The sick man coughed uneasily, raised himself on one elbow, and stared
fixedly at his visitor. "And pray, sir, what may be your object in
asking such a question?" he said at length.

"That I will tell you presently," answered Captain George. "May I
assume that you were acquainted with Mr. Edmund Fairfax?"

"You may assume what the deuce you like, sir," answered the peppery
colonel. "It seems to me that there is a great deal too much
assumption about you. But go on. What are you driving at next?"

"The Mr. Edmund Fairfax to whom I allude, was married at Whitehaven to
a certain young lady, Miss Pollexfen by name. If I am rightly
informed, you were a witness to that marriage. Mr. Fairfax and his
wife went abroad. A year later, Mr. Fairfax was unfortunately drowned
in one of the Swiss lakes. You were the bearer of the news of his
death to his widow, who shortly after that event returned to England.
I hope, sir, that you follow me thus far?"

"Oh, I follow you easily enough, never fear!" replied the irascible
old soldier. "You tell your tale as glibly as if you had learnt it by
heart beforehand. But you have not done yet. When you have come to an
end, I may, perhaps, question the truth of your statements in toto."

"From the date of her arrival in England up to the time of her death,
which event happened a few weeks ago, Mrs. Fairfax lived in the utmost
seclusion--in fact, she lived under an assumed name. But, sir, she had
a daughter. That daughter is now grown up, and is acquainted with her
mother's story. It is as her advocate that I am here to-day."

"A youthful Daniel come to judgment!" sneered the colonel. "Well, sir,
granting for the sake of argument that there may be some slight
residuum of truth in what you have just told me--what then? You have
something still in the background."

"Simply this, Colonel Lant. Mrs. Fairfax never knew, nor beyond a few
questions put to you on a certain occasion did she ever seek to know,
anything concerning the antecedents and social position of her
husband. When once her husband was lost to her, all minor
considerations were regarded with perfect indifference. But as
respects Miss Fairfax, the case is very different. Those who have her
interests most at heart--that is to say, my uncle, Major Strickland,
and another old friend of Mrs. Fairfax, who is associated with him in
this matter--are naturally anxious that Miss Fairfax should no longer
be left in doubt as to her parentage and proper position in the world.
I am their envoy to you. You alone can tell them where and how to look
for that which they want to find."

"And so pretty Mrs. Fairfax is dead," said the colonel after a pause.
"Ay! ay! each of us must go in turn. I had a narrow squeak myself a
few days ago, I can tell you. Sweet Mrs. Fairfax! and dead, you say?
Twenty years have gone by since I saw her last; but I have often
thought about her, and always as being young and pretty. I never could
think of her as touched by Time's finger: as having grey hair, and
wrinkles, and all that, you know. For ever sweet and young. I was half
in love with her myself, and should have been wholly so had not
Fairfax been beforehand with me. But she was far away too good for
him, and for me too, for that matter. And now, dead!"

Colonel Lant had wandered so far back into the past that he was near
forgetting the presence of Captain Strickland. The latter sat without
speaking. The sick man's half-conscious revelations were sufficient to
prove that he was on the right track. At length the colonel came back
with a sigh and a start to the practical present.

"A daughter, did you not say--a grown-up daughter? Dear me! And in the
interests of this daughter you want to know something about the
antecedents and history of Ned Fairfax. Well! well! it was a bad piece
of business, and some reparation is certainly due."

"I tell you, sir, that some reparation is certainly due," re-asserted
the colonel, in his most peppery style. "And I'll e'en make a clean
breast of it while I've a chance of doing so--though, mind you,
whether Ned Fairfax would approve of such a step on my part, is more
than I can say. Probably he wouldn't. But that don't matter. If he
knew I lay dying, he would not trouble himself to come twenty miles to
see me. Then why should I study his interests so particularly? I may
tell you, Captain What's-your-name, in confidence, mind, that when I
lay here a few days ago, so ill that I was doubtful whether I should
ever get round again, this very business of which we have been
talking, and of which as yet you don't know all the particulars, stood
out very black in my memory, and troubled my mind not a little. Now,
I'm not going to die this time, but while I've the chance I'll rub out
that little score, so that when my Black Monday really does come, it
may not crop up against me for the second time, and stare me in the
face with the ugly look of an unrepented wrong."

Captain George sat without speaking. It was quite evident to him that
Colonel Lant was one of those people who love to hear themselves talk,
but who pay small regard to the wishes or opinions of others. Left to
himself, the colonel would probably let fall more valuable information
of his own accord than could be elicited from him by the keenest
cross-examination.

"An ugly piece of business!" resumed the colonel. "Many a time since
then have I felt sorry that I allowed myself to be talked into doing
what I did by Ned Fairfax's plausible tongue. For one thing, I owed
him money at that time, and he might have made it hot for me had I
refused to comply with his wishes. The marriage itself was all right
and proper, but the story of the drowning in one of the Swiss lakes
was a pure forgery. You may well look surprised. Ned Fairfax was no
more drowned than I was: in fact, to my certain knowledge he was alive
only three months ago."

The colonel paused to refresh himself with a pinch of snuff, and then
went on again. "When Edmund Fairfax married Miss Pollexfen, the fact
of such a ceremony having taken place was most jealously guarded from
all his people. His expectations at that juncture might be said to
depend upon his remaining a bachelor. But he saw Miss Pollexfen and
fell in love with her, and he was not a man to let anything thwart him
in the gratification of his likes or dislikes. He married Miss
Pollexfen and risked the future. All went well with the young couple
for a year or more. They lived a quiet, secluded life, and were
tolerably happy: not that Fairfax was a man who would have been happy
for any length of time in the quiet trammels of domestic life. But he
had not had time to get thoroughly tired before the thunder-cloud
burst. He was summoned back to England by his uncle, to marry the
young lady, a great heiress, who had been set down for him in the
family programme. The predicament was an awkward one, but Fairfax was
equal to the occasion. At that time he was close upon five-and-twenty
years of age. He had spent one fortune already, and he was booked to
come into another on his twenty-fifth birthday. He would come into
another, that is, provided he were willing to change his name from
Fairfax to that of the old lady, a distant relation, by whom the
fortune was bequeathed. Fairfax had no foolish predilection for one
name over another when there was money to be got by the change. His
plan was to come to England, leaving his first wife abroad; to wait
for the birthday which would at once give him a fortune and allow him
to change his name; after that to marry the heiress with all
convenient speed. The story of his death was cleverly concocted, and,
with my assistance, as cleverly carried out. Mrs. Fairfax believed the
story, and Ned knew her gentle nature too well to fear that she would
ever make any inquiry as to his history or family, they being topics
on which he had declined to enlighten her when he was supposed to be
alive. The result of the plot as regards Mrs. Fairfax, you probably
know better than I do. She accepted her fate, and disappeared from her
husband's path, which was precisely what he wanted. The result as
regarded Fairfax himself was something different from his
expectations. He changed his name, and he came into his fortune, but
his bride that was to have been, died two months before the day fixed
for the wedding. Fairfax bore his loss with great equanimity. He
smoked more cigars than before, and bought a commission in a marching
regiment. A few months later he was ordered out to India. Before
leaving Europe he set on foot a private inquiry, having for its object
the discovery of the whereabouts of Mrs. Fairfax. But the inquiry
elicited nothing beyond its own heavy expenses, and it is possible
that Fairfax was quite as well pleased that it did not.

"Well, sir, my friend Edmund proceeded to India, and there he remained
for several years. He worked himself up to a captaincy, and he might
have done exceedingly well had not the cursed spirit of gambling eaten
into his very soul. But he was and is a born gambler, and will be so
till the end of the chapter. He would gamble for the nails in his own
coffin if he had nothing else to play for. His second fortune went as
his first had gone. Just as he was on the verge of ruin some
unpleasantness in connexion with a gambling transaction induced him to
sell out and return to England. Since that time how he has contrived
to live and appear like a gentleman is a problem best known to
himself. And now, sir, I think I have told you all that it concerns
you to know respecting my friend Mr. Edmund Fairfax."

"All but one thing, Colonel Lant, and that a most essential one."

"What is it?"

"You state that Mr. Fairfax changed his name some time after his
marriage with Miss Pollexfen. By what name is he now known?"

"He is known as Captain Edmund Ducie, and his London address when I
last heard from him was 2A, Tremaine-street, Piccadilly."

These particulars were duly taken down by Captain Strickland in his
pocket-book. It must be borne in mind that the name of Ducie sounded
quite strange in his ears. He had never heard mention of the Great
Mogul Diamond.

"As I said before, I don't know whether my friend Fairfax, or rather
Ducie, would altogether approve of my telling you so much of his
history and private affairs," said the colonel; "but I don't care
greatly whether he approves or does the other thing. I've eased my
mind of a burden, the weight of which I have felt several times of
late; and since there is a child, it is only right that she should
know her father."

After some further conversation, in the course of which he elicited
from the old soldier sundry minor particulars having reference to his
errand, Captain Strickland took his leave and returned to town.

The day was still early, and George drove direct from the terminus to
2A, Tremaine-street, Piccadilly. But Captain Ducie had removed from
Tremaine-street nearly two years ago, and George was directed to a
much humbler locality but no great distance away. Here the rooms were
still held in Captain Ducie's name, so George was told, but the
captain himself had not been seen there for nearly six months. The
gentleman had better go down to the Piebalds, which used to be Captain
Ducie's club, and there he might perhaps learn where the latter was
now living. So spake the janitress, and to the Piebalds Captain
Strickland repaired.

Here Here he got what he wanted when the porter had "taken stock" of
him, and had satisfied himself that he could not possibly be a dun.
Captain Ducie's present address, he was told, was the Royal George
Hotel, St. Helier, Jersey.

That night's post took a long letter addressed to Major Strickland.
George waited in London for an answer to it. One came sooner than he
expected. It was in the shape of a telegram:--


"Start for Jersey at once. I will write to you there by next post."



CHAPTER III.
AT THE "ROYAL GEORGE."


On the sixth day after the arrival of Captain Ducie at St. Helier, the
Weymouth boat brought over two passengers who had attracted more
attention from their fellow-travellers than any other two people on
board.

The elder of the two was a white-haired venerable-looking gentleman
who wore gold-rimmed spectacles and was richly dressed in furs. A cap
made out of the skin of some wild animal, with the tail hanging
down behind, fitted his head like a helmet, and gave him quite an
un-English appearance.

His companion was a very beautiful young woman of three or
four-and-twenty, richly, but quietly attired: evidently his daughter.

When, on the arrival of the boat, the luggage was fished out of the
hold, several adventurous spirits pressed forward to read the label on
the young lady's boxes. This was what rewarded their curiosity:--


     MISS VAN LOAL,
     Passenger to Jersey.


"Drive to the 'Royal George,'" said the old gentleman as he and his
daughter stepped into a fly on the pier, and several of the curious
who had taken him for a foreigner were surprised to find that he spoke
English like one to the manner born. But had any inhabitant of
Tydsbury chanced to be on the pier that evening, he would have
recognised in the foreign-looking gentleman and his superb daughter,
two townsfolk of his own,--to wit, Mr. Solomon Madgin and his daughter
Mirpah. With what object they had come so far from home, and under an
assumed name, we shall presently learn.

Captain Ducie, cigar in mouth, was lounging at the door of the "Royal
George" when the fly drove up in which Mr. and Miss Van Loal were
seated. Mirpah's beauty took his eye. He removed his cigar, stepped
back a pace or two, and gazed. Mirpah's eyes met his. She had a
presentiment that she saw before her the Captain Ducie of whom she had
read so much in her brother's Reports from Bon Repos, and in whose
possession the Great Mogul Diamond was said to be. Mirpah's eyes fell,
a faint tinge of colour came into her cheek, and she and her father
passed forward into the hotel.

"By Jove!" was Captain Ducie's sole comment aloud. Then he pulled his
hat farther over his brows, resumed his cigar, and lounged off towards
the pier.

This scene had been witnessed by a pale-faced, spectacled young man
from a window of Button's Hotel on the other side of the way. As soon
as Ducie had disappeared round the corner, this young man left his
place of espionage, came out into the street, and crossed over
to the "Royal George." Here he asked for and was conducted to the
sitting-room of Mr. Van Loal, but he sent the waiter back and opened
the door of the room himself.

"My dear James!" "My dear brother!" were the exclamations that greeted
his entrance.

"Hush! not quite so loud, if you please," said cautious James with a
warning finger in the air. Then, having carefully closed the door, he
shook his father warmly by the hand, and turned to embrace his sister.
Whereupon a long conversation ensued among the three which need not be
detailed here.

Instead of dining in his own room as he had hitherto done, Captain
Ducie made his appearance at the table d'hôte this evening. He went
down early, and there, just as if it had been pre-arranged that they
should meet, he found Mr. Van Loal and his daughter.

The evenings were growing rather chilly, and a small fire had been
lighted. Mr. Van Loal, now stripped of his furs and appearing in
ordinary evening dress, with the most expansive of shirt-fronts and
the stiffest of white neckcloths, had got as near the fire as he well
could, and was warming his thin white hands over the flickering blaze.

Mirpah, with one elbow resting on the chimney-piece, was standing near
him, looking, Ducie thought, even more beautiful in her black filmy
evening dress than she had looked in her travelling costume. One thing
Ducie could not help noticing--that on the hands both of father and
daughter there glittered several very magnificent rings. Other
jewellery they wore none.

As Captain Ducie advanced up the room, Miss Van Loal crossed over to
the other side to look at some stuffed birds. Accidentally or
purposely she dropped her handkerchief. It had scarcely touched the
ground before Captain Ducie had recovered it. With a smile and a bow
he gave it back to its owner.

The ice had been broken, and presently Mr. Van Loal and the captain
were conversing easily and confidentially about the island, its
scenery, its history, and its climate. Mirpah glided back to her
father's side. She did not join in the conversation, but once or twice
Ducie caught her eyes fixed on his face with an expression in them
that was flattering to his vanity.

When dinner was announced he did not fail to secure for himself the
chair next to that of Mirpah. There was something about this dark-eyed
beauty that took his fancy amazingly. His powers of fascination were
in danger of growing rusty from disuse. He was glad that an
opportunity had arisen which would allow him to prove, were it only
for his own satisfaction, that his old prowess with the sex had not
quite deserted him.

Here was no fashionable young lady, the butterfly of a hundred
drawing-rooms, to subdue; but something far more unconventional: a
woman altogether unused to so-called fashionable life, as his critical
glance had told him in a moment; but still an undoubted lady, and the
possessor of a pair of the most unfathomable eyes that his own had
ever gazed into. Therefore he sat down to the siege he had proposed to
himself with an alacrity that was infinitely refreshing to him after
his long severance from the delights of female society.

Later on, Captain Ducie proposed a stroll along the pier. Mr. Van Loal
and his daughter at once assented.

The night was warm and a full moon was sailing through the sky. Faint
strains of music came wafted from afar, and mingled with the plash of
the incoming tide. Could anyone have questioned Captain Ducie on the
point, he would have declared that his "spooning" days had come to an
end twenty years before, and he would have believed his own statement.
Men in love he was in the habit of regarding with good-natured
cynicism as though they were in a state of temporary insanity
superinduced by their own folly, and were not to be held accountable
like ordinary mortals. But to-night, what with the moonlight, the
music, the rhythmic beat of the waves on the sands; and the
propinquity of Mirpah Van Loal, Captain Ducie felt the first delicious
symptoms of a fever to which his blood had been a stranger for years.

After he had parted for the night from Van Loal and his charming
daughter, and was in the solitude of his own bedroom, he laughed aloud
to think how very like a greenhorn who had fallen in love for the
first time he had felt that evening. He recognised the feeling, and
was contemptuous of himself even while revelling in the unaccustomed
sweetness. It was a sweetness that waited on his dreams all the night
long, and when he opened his eyes next morning he felt as though
Time's finger had moved back the figures on the dial of his life, and
that he was not only a boy in years again, but also--and that would
have been the greater miracle of the two--once more a boy at heart.

But he was a middle-aged cynic again the moment he put his foot out of
bed. There is no disenchanter like the clear cold light of morning. It
was not that he deemed Mirpah one whit less beautiful than she had
seemed in his eyes the previous night. He was savage with himself for
allowing any woman, however fascinating she might be, to touch his
cold heart with the flame of a torch that for him had long been
quenched in the waters of Lethe.

Nevertheless, by the time he had discussed his breakfast, he was by no
means sorry to remember that he had an engagement at eleven o'clock to
drive Mr. Van Loal and his daughter to Grève-de-Lecq. It would really
be a pleasant mode of spending the lazy autumn day, and he would take
very good care that Mademoiselle Van Loal's witching eyes did not cast
a spell round him for the second time.

Forewarned is forearmed, and, after all his experience of the sex, it
would be a pitiful tale indeed if he allowed himself to be entangled
by any young lady, however charming she might be, of whom, as in the
present case, he knew next to nothing.

Having made this declaration to himself, he looked at his watch to see
how near the time was to eleven.

"Curious name, Van Loal," he muttered. "Is it Dutch? or Belgian? or
what is it? It smacks of the Low Countries. The man who bears such a
name ought never to drink anything weaker than Schiedam. In the
present case, however, both the old boy and his daughter must be
English, whatever their ancestors may have been: they speak without
the slightest foreign accent. Mademoiselle talks about the old fellow
having just retired from business. What business was he, I wonder?
There is something cosmopolitan about him that makes it difficult to
guess in hat particular line he has made his money. A few indirect
questions may perhaps elicit the required information: not that it
matters to me in anyway--not in the least."

The day was a pleasant one. Captain Ducie drove Mr. Van Loal and, his
daughter to some of the prettiest spots in the island. They had an al
fresco luncheon in a sheltered corner of a lovely bay. After the meal
was over, Mr. Van Loal wandered away to botanize by himself. Captain
Ducie and Mirpah were left to entertain each other.

Said the latter: "It is quite amusing to see papa so enthusiastic
after rare ferns and mosses. It is a pursuit so totally opposed to the
previous occupations of his life that on this lovely island, and amid
such quiet scenes, I can almost imagine that he would gradually grow
young again, as people in fairy tales are sometimes said to do, and
that in this botanising freak we have the first indication of the
change."

"We cannot quite afford to have him changed into a young prince," said
Ducie, "or else what would become of you? You would have to diminish
into babyhood, and however pleasant a state that may be, I for one
cannot wish you otherwise than as you are."

"You must have graduated with honours in the art of paying
compliments, Captain Ducie. Long study and the practice of many years
have been needed to make you such an adept. I congratulate you on the
result."

Captain Ducie laughed. "A very fair hit," he said, "but in the present
case totally undeserved. Had I been a young fellow of eighteen I
should have blushed and fidgetted, and have thought you excessively
cruel. But being an old fellow of forty or more, I can enjoy your
retort while being myself the butt at which your shaft is aimed. It
speaks well for the purity of Mr. Van Loal's conscience that in the
intervals of a busy life, and one which has doubtless its own peculiar
cares and anxieties, he can yet enjoy so refined an amusement as that
of fern hunting."

"That remark ought to elicit some information from her as to the old
boy's métier," added Ducie under his breath. "Is he a retired grocer?
or a sleeping partner in some old-established bank?"

"Papa's life has indeed been a busy one," answered Mirpah, "but for
the future, I hope that he will have ample opportunity to indulge in
whatever mode of passing his time may suit his fancy best. With the
real business of life, that is, with the money-making part of it, I
trust that he has done for ever. What his occupation was you would
never guess, Captain Ducie. Come, now, I will wager you half-a-dozen
pairs of gloves that out of the same number of guesses you do not
succeed in naming papa's business--and it was a business, and in no
way connected with any of the learned professions."

"Done!" exclaimed Ducie eagerly, holding out his hand to clench the
bet. The tips of Miss Van Loal's fingers rested for an instant in his
palm, and Ducie felt that he could well afford to lose.

He was silent for a minute or two, pretending to think. In the end,
his six guesses stood as follows: He guessed that Mr. Van Loal had
been either a banker, or a stock-broker, or a brewer, or a drysalter,
or an architect, or some sort of a contractor.

"Lost!" cried Mirpah in high glee, when the sixth guess was
proclaimed. "Papa was none of the things you have named. You, have not
gone far enough a-field in your guesses: you have not sufficiently
exercised your inventive faculties. No, Captain Ducie, my father was
neither a banker, nor anything else that you have specified. _He was a
Diamond Merchant_."

Mirpah allowed these last words to slide from between her lips as
quietly as though she were making the most commonplace statement in
the world; but their effect upon Captain Ducie was apparently to
paralyse his faculties for a few moments. All the colour left his
face; his eyes, full of trouble and suspicion, sought those of Mirpah,
anxious to read there whether or no she had any knowledge of his great
secret--whether the stab she had given him was an intentional or an
accidental one. Involuntarily his hand sought the folds of his
waistcoat. He breathed again. His treasure was still there. In the
dark luminous eyes of the beautiful girl before him he read no hint of
any crafty secret, of any sinister design. It was nothing more, then,
than a strange coincidence. He had been fooled by his own fears. Had
this Van Loal and his daughter by some mysterious means become
acquainted with his secret, and had they come to Jersey with any
ulterior designs against himself, the fact that Van Loal had been a
diamond merchant would have been something to conceal as undoubtedly
provocative of suspicion. The very fact of such a statement having
been made was his surest guarantee that he had nothing sinister to
guard against. He had frightened himself with a shadow. The
magnificent diamond rings worn by the old man and his daughter were at
once accounted for.

"I am afraid that you regret having made such a reckless wager," said
Mirpah, with an arch look at the captain. "But, indeed, you ought to
pay your forfeit, were it only for having guessed that poor papa had
been a drysalter--whatever that may be. I suppose it has something to
do with the curing of herrings or hams. A drysalter!" and Mirpah's
clear laugh rang out across the sands.

"I own the wager fairly lost," said Ducie, as he prepared to light a
cigar, "and will cheerfully pay the forfeit. Had I guessed for a week
it would still have been lost. I hardly knew that there were such
people as professional diamond merchants in this country."

"They form a small corporation, it is true, but by no means an
unimportant one in their own estimation. The professed jewellers, the
men who keep the magnificent shops, would be but poorly off without
the diamond-dealers to fall back upon. We--the Van Loals--have been
members of the guild for three centuries--not in England, but in
Amsterdam, where our name is a name of honour. Papa was born there,
but he came to England when he was a young man and married an English
girl, and from that time he has lived in the country of his adoption.
He has promised that next spring we shall visit Amsterdam together:
then, for the first time, I shall see the land where my ancestors
lived and died."

Mr. Van Loal came up at this juncture, and the semi-confidential talk
between Mirpah and Captain Ducie came to an end.

At the table d'hôte that evening Ducie sat between father and
daughter. He exerted himself to the utmost to make an agreeable
impression on both of them. After dinner the two men had a smoke and a
stroll on the pier. They were both men of the world, and had a score
of topics in common on which they could talk fluently and well.
Ducie's easy languid far niente style of looking at everything that
did not impinge on his own personality formed a piquant contrast to
the shrewd calculating matter-of-fact way of looking at the same
subjects which distinguished the soi-disant Van Loal. They kept each
other company till a late hour.

When Ducie got to his own room he bolted the door and lighted a last
cigar. He wanted to meditate quietly for half an hour. No man could be
more clear-sighted than he was as regarded his own faults and follies
in all cases where his conscience was not brought into question.
To-night, he at once acknowledged to himself that he was more deeply
in love with Mirpah Van Loal than he had thought ever to be with any
woman again. He had sneered at himself, before setting out in the
morning, for his infatuation of the previous night, but now the second
night had come, and he was twice as much infatuated as before. He did
not sneer at himself to-night, but he set himself critically to
consider why he had fallen in love, and whither this new disturbing
influence in his life was likely to lead him.

But the why and the wherefore of the cases that have to be adjudicated
before the tribunal of Love can seldom be argued coolly by either
of the parties chiefly concerned. Their statements are sure to be
ex-parte ones, their arguments to be coloured by personal feeling,
while the philtre that is working in their blood obscures their logic
and clouds their brains. In stating the case before himself, the first
question Ducie asked was: "What is the particular charm about Miss Van
Loal that has induced me to make such a fool of myself at my time of
life?"

"Well," he answered himself, leisurely puffing, with hands buried deep
in pockets--"that there is a peculiar charm about Miss Van Loal is a
fact which I, for one, cannot dispute. She does not belong to the
monde, and never will belong to it, for which I like her none the
worse. She is fresh and unconventional, and much better educated than
most ladies of fashion. There is no mawkish sentimentality about her.
She is not a boarding-school miss, but a woman, intelligent and full
of clear, calm, good sense. Good-tempered too, unless I am greatly
mistaken, and that goes for much with a man of my years. Lastly, she
is very nice-looking; beautiful would not be too strong a word to
apply in her case, and her beauty is of a kind one does not see every
day. She is in good style, too, and with a little training would hold
her own anywhere.

"As to whither this new passion is leading me?--If at the end of
another week I like Miss Van Loal as well as I like her now, I shall
make her an offer of marriage. It is by no means certain that she will
accept me, but should she do so I suppose my people will say that I
have made a low marriage, and will cut me accordingly. Well, I should
rather enjoy being cut under such circumstances. There's not one of
the whole tribe that would give me another sovereign to save me from
starving. Thanks to one little fact, I shall never again have occasion
to ask them for a sovereign. Why, then, should I not marry Miss Van
Loal? I have an idea that I could be happier with her as my wife than
I have ever been before. I should no longer feel the sting of poverty.
I could afford to live a life of thorough respectability, and I would
never look on a card again. There are some lovely nooks on the
continent, and--but, bah! why pursue the dream any farther? That it
will prove to be anything more than a dream I dare scarcely hope."

He rose and flung away the end of his cigar, and began to prepare for
bed. "By what singular fatality does it happen that Mr. Van Loal, a
dealer in diamonds, has been brought en rapport with me who hold in my
possession one of the finest diamonds in the world? In any case, I
have made his acquaintance most opportunely. Through his assistance I
may be enabled to find a purchaser for my gem."



CHAPTER IV.
A LITTLE DINNER FOR THREE.


Two or three days passed quietly away without any particular incident
that need be recorded here. Captain Ducie was much with the Van Loals.
Each day they went on an excursion together, and on these occasions
the Captain always acted the part of charioteer. As they were driving
back into St. Helier one afternoon, said Ducie: "I have ventured to
order a dinner for three in my rooms for this evening. May I hope that
you and Miss Van Loal will honour me with your company?"

"We will accept your invitation with pleasure," said the old man, "on
condition that you dine with us to-morrow in return."

"A condition that I shall be happy to comply with," answered Ducie. "I
have something of a very rare and curious nature to show you after
dinner: something respecting which I wish you to favour me with your
opinion."

"You may command my humble services in any way," answered Van Loal.

At seven to the minute Mr. Van Loal, his daughter, and Captain Ducie,
sat down to a well-served dinner in the sitting-room of the latter.
Mirpah looked very lovely, but paler than ordinary. She seemed anxious
and distraite, Ducie thought, and was more than usually silent during
the progress of the meal. In the delicate curves of her mouth Ducie
fancied that he detected a lurking sadness. He felt that he would have
given much to fathom the cause of her unwonted melancholy. What if
this incipient sadness were merely a symptom of dawning love? What if
she were learning to regard him with some small portion of the same
feeling that he had for her? Hope whispered faintly in his ear that
such might possibly be the case, but he was not essentially a vain
man, and with an impatient shrug he dismissed the seductive whisper,
and turned his attention to other things. On one point his mind was
quite made up. The very next opportunity that he should have of being
alone with Mr. Van Loal he would ask that gentleman's permission to
put a certain question to his daughter, and if anything might be
augured from a man's manner, his request would meet with no unkind
reception. The opportunity he sought would hardly be afforded him this
evening. Captain Ducie's sitting-room would, on this occasion, have to
fill the offices both of dining and drawing-room. There would be no
occasion for Miss Van Loal to retire after the cloth should be drawn.
The gentlemen might smoke their cigars on the balcony. What Captain
Ducie had to say in private to Mr. Van Loal would very well keep till
morning. He had something particular to say to Mr. Van Loal this
evening, but it was something that did not preclude the presence of
Mirpah. When the time drew near that he had fixed on in his own mind
as the proper time for introducing this one special topic--about half
an hour after the withdrawal of the cloth--he hardly knew in what
terms to begin. He could think of no periphrastical opening by means
of which he could introduce the all-important topic. In sheer despair
of any readier mode he at length plunged boldly into the breach.

"I have been informed, Mr. Van Loal, that you are a diamond merchant,"
he said, "and that you have a wide knowledge of gems of various kinds,
and can consequently form a trustworthy opinion as to the value of any
that may be submitted for your inspection."

"Well--yes--" said Van Loal with a slow dubious smile, "I am, or
rather was, a dealer in diamonds, howsoever you may have ascertained
that fact."

"It was I who told Captain Ducie, papa," said Mirpah in her quiet
clear tones.

"Quite right, my love. I am not ashamed of my profession," answered
the old man. Then turning to Ducie, he said: "Any information that I
may be in possession of on the various subjects embraced by my
experience I shall be most happy to afford you."

"My object in introducing the topic is to ask you to do me the favour
to appraise a certain Diamond which I have in my possession: to let me
have your opinion as to its qualities, good or bad, together with an
estimate of its probable value."

Mr. Van Loal whistled under his breath. "Diamonds are very difficult
things to appraise with any degree of correctness, especially where
there is any particular feature about them, either in size, colour,
water, or cutting, that separates them from the ordinary category of
such things. Is the Diamond to which you refer an ordinary one? or has
it any special features of its own?"

"It has several special features, such as its size, its colour, and
its extraordinary brilliance. But I will fetch it, and you shall
examine it for yourself. Pardon my leaving you for one moment."

With a smile and a bow Captain Ducie rose from his chair, crossed the
floor, and disappeared within an inner room. Mr. Van Loal and his
daughter exchanged glances full of meaning. The pallor deepened on
Mirpah's cheek: she toyed nervously with her fan; and even the old
man, ordinarily so calm and self-contained, looked anxious and brimful
of nervous excitement. His fingers wandered frequently to his
waistcoat, in one pocket of which there seemed to be some object of
whose presence there he needed frequently to assure himself.

Ducie returned after an absence of two minutes. He too seemed to have
caught that contagion of nervous excitement which marked the demeanour
of his two guests. Was he warned by some subtle instinct that one of
the great crises of his life was at hand? Or was he merely a prey to
that vulgar fear which all who practice the art of illegal
conveyancing must or ought to feel when the proceeds of their
nefarious deeds are submitted for the first time to the common light
of day?

"This is the gem which I am desirous of submitting for your
inspection."

He held out his right hand, and there on his open palm the Great Mogul
Diamond sparkled and glowed, a chrysolite of pure green fire. An
exclamation of surprise and delight burst simultaneously from the lips
of Mirpah and her father.

"In the whole course of my experience I have never seen anything to
equal this," said Van Loal, as he donned his spectacles. "May I take
it into my own fingers to examine?"

"Certainly; I have brought it in order that you may do so."

Speaking thus, Captain Ducie dropped the Diamond into the extended
palm of the supposed dealer. Some inward qualm next moment made him
half put out his hand as if he would have reclaimed the Diamond there
and then. But the lean fingers of Van Loal had already closed over the
gem, and Ducie's arm dropped aimlessly by his side.

Mr. Van Loal rose from his seat and went close up to the lamp that he
might examine the stone more minutely. There he was joined by Mirpah,
whose curiosity quite equalled that of her father. They both stood
gazing at it for full two minutes without speaking.

"Wonderful! Magnificent!" exclaimed Mr. Van Loal at length. "Words
fail me to express the admiration I feel at sight of so rare a gem.
Can it be possible, Captain Ducie, that you are the fortunate
possessor of such a treasure? I should think myself one of the most
favoured of mortals did such a Diamond belong to me."

"It is mine," answered Ducie, calmly and deliberately. "It has been in
the possession of our family for two centuries. Originally it came
from the Indies, and is said to have been worn by the great Aurungzebe
himself."

"If the Great Mogul never did wear it, he ought to have done so. Even
among his remarkable treasures he can have possessed but few stones
equal to this one. You can never be called a poor man, Captain Ducie,
while you retain this in your possession. Mirpah, my child, what say
you?"

"What can I say, papa? I am not enthusiastic, as you know, nor given
to indulge in notes of admiration. I can only say that in my poor
experience I have never seen anything to equal it. Diamonds as large,
or larger, I have seen several times, but they were all white, or of
inferior water. I have never seen a green one at all comparable to
this one either for size or brilliancy, and I think, papa, that even
your wider experience will, in this respect, tally with mine."

"Completely so," answered the old man. "I question whether, among all
the crown jewels of Europe, there is a green diamond that can in any
way match it, either for colour or brilliancy. Captain Ducie, your
treasure is almost unique."

"Can you furnish me with anything like an estimate of its probable
value?"

"I am doubtful whether I can. Were it an ordinary white diamond the
value could be easily calculated when once the weight was known. But
with a green diamond the case is very different. In addition to what
its value would be as an ordinary diamond, it would command an extra
or fancy price in the market, from the rarity of its colour in
conjunction with its size. This additional value is a most difficult
thing to gauge accurately. Even among professional dealers you would
hardly find two who would name the same figure, or the same figure
within a very wide margin, if called upon to estimate the worth of
your green diamond."

"Still," said Ducie, "I should like you to furnish me with some
approximate estimate of its probable value."

"What is its weight?"

"Nearly eighty-five carats."

"In that case you may estimate its value somewhere between one hundred
and forty and two hundred thousand pounds."

The Diamond had been passed on by Mr. Van Loal to his daughter for
examination.

"A gem fit for an empress to wear!" was Mirpah's remark as she handed
the stone back to her father.

"Observe the mode in which this Diamond is cut," said Van Loal. "It
has been done in the Indies after a style which has been handed down
from father to son for a thousand years. You should let it be operated
upon by our Amsterdam cutters. They would turn it out at the end of
six months, less in size it is true, but so greatly improved in every
other respect, that you would hardly know it for the same gem. May I
ask whether it is your intention to dispose of it by private treaty?"

"It is my intention ultimately so to do," answered Ducie.

"I suppose you have no objection to my trying the temper of your
Diamond on the window?"

"None whatever," said Ducie, with a shrug. "You may write your name on
every pane in the hotel if you please."

"That would indeed be a painful exhibition of vanity," replied Van
Loal, with a weak attempt at a pun.

Speaking thus, he rose from his seat, and crossed the floor, holding
the Diamond between the thumb and finger of his right hand.

Curtains of crimson damask draped the windows. One of these curtains
Van Loal drew noisily aside. A second or two later those in the room
could hear the slow scratching of the Diamond on the glass.

Mirpah's cheek grew still paler as the sound met her ears.

Just then Ducie was thinking as much of the beautiful girl before him
as of the Diamond.

"I hope you have not forgotten our engagement to visit Elizabeth
Castle to-morrow," he said. "It will be low water at noon, and we an
either walk across the sands to it or ride, as may seem best to you."

"I have not forgotten," said Mirpah, softly, and from her eyes there
shot a swift, half-sorrowful glance that thrilled him to the heart.

"I must make my opportunity to-morrow and propose to her," he said to
himself. "I never thought to love again, but I love Mirpah Van Loal,
and will make her my wife if she will let me do so. Perhaps the future
may have a quiet happiness in store for me, such as I never dreamed of
in all the wild days that have come and gone since my father turned me
out of doors, and I first thought myself a man. I begin to think there
is something in life that I have altogether missed."

This thought was working in his mind when Mr. Van Loal came back from
the window still holding the Diamond between the thumb and finger of
his right hand. He deposited it lightly in Ducie's palm.

"A wonderful gem, my dear sir--a truly wonderful gem!" said the old
man. "I envy you the possession of such a treasure. In all my
experience I have never seen or heard of its equal. But you must allow
me to say that I think it very unwise on your part to carry so
valuable an item of property about with you on your travels. Let me
recommend you to deposit it with your banker, or in some other safe
custody, as soon as ever you get back to England; unless, indeed, you
may wish to dispose of it, in which case allow me to offer my humble
services as negotiator of the transaction for you."

"No one on the island, save yourself and Miss Van Loal, is aware that
I carry such an article about with me; consequently there is no fear
of its being stolen. As it happens, I am desirous of disposing of the
Diamond--in fact, I should have sold it some time ago had I known how
to conduct such a transaction without running the risk of being
egregiously duped. Your kind offer of your valuable services has
disposed of that difficulty, and, with your permission, we will
discuss the matter in extenso to-morrow."

He had risen while speaking, and he now went away into the inner room,
carrying the Diamond with him. As soon as his back was turned a quick
meaning glance passed between father and daughter. There was a look of
triumph in the eyes of Van Loal which told Mirpah that the object
which had brought them all the way from their Midlandshire home had
been successfully achieved.

No word passed between the two, and Ducie came back in less than a
minute. Conversation was resumed, and still the theme was diamonds and
rare gems. As was only to be expected from one who called himself a
dealer in such merchandise, Mr. Van Loal showed himself to be deeply
versed in all matters relating to precious stones. Captain Ducie was
greatly interested. The little company did not break up till a late
hour.

"At noon to-morrow. You will not forget?" said Ducie, as he held
Mirpah's hand for a moment at the door of his room. She made him no
answer in words, but again that strange half-sorrowful look shot from
her eyes to his, and her soft hand clasped his in a way that it had
never been betrayed into doing before. Then they parted. Captain
Ducie's dreams that night were happy dreams.

Mirpah Van Loal must either have forgotten her overnight promise to
Captain Ducie, or have held it in small regard, seeing that she left
St. Helier by the Southampton boat at six forty-five next morning. She
was accompanied by her father, and by a clean-shaven young gentleman,
dressed in black, who had been living a very secluded life for some
time past at Button's Hotel.

As the boat steamed slowly out of the harbour, Mirpah threw a last
searching glance among the crowd with which the pier was lined. "Poor
Captain Ducie!" she murmured half aloud. Her father who happened to be
standing close by, peered up curiously into her face and saw that her
eyes were wet. He did not speak, but moved further away, and left her
to her own thoughts.

They had an excellent passage, and Mirpah bore up bravely. Some time
after leaving Guernsey, an English steamer bound for the Islands
passed them a few hundred yards to leeward. The clean-shaven young
gentleman in black was watching the stranger keenly through his glass
when an expression of surprise burst from his lips. "What is it,
James? What is it that you see, my boy?" asked Mr. Van Loal.

"On yonder boat I see an old acquaintance of yours and mine."

The old man took the glass and scanned the passing ship, the
passengers of which were scanning the Southampton boat eagerly in
return, and had their faces turned full towards it. The old man laid
down the glass after a minute's silent observation.

"James," he said in a solemn tone, "unless my eyes deceive me greatly,
the mulatto, Cleon, is on board yonder ship."

"You are right, father. Cleon _is_ on board that ship. He was not
killed, then, after all, in his encounter with Captain Ducie."

"Such a fellow as that takes a deal of killing. On one point we may be
pretty sure: that by some means or other he has discovered Captain
Ducie's whereabouts and is now on his track."

"Wants his revenge, perhaps."

"Wants to recover the Great Mogul Diamond, mayhap."

Madgin Junior laughed. "He will hardly succeed in doing that, father.
Mr. Van Loal has been in the field before him."



CHAPTER V.
CLEON REDIVIVUS.

When Madgin Junior averred that he saw Cleon, the mulatto servant of
the late M. Platzoff, on board the steamer which would be due in
Guernsey some two hours later, he stated no more than the truth. That
dusky individual was there, looking as well as ever he had looked in
his life; sprucely, even elegantly dressed; and having a watchful eye
on his two small articles of luggage: a miniature portmanteau, and a
tiny black leather bag. At Guernsey he quitted the steamer, and
waiting on the pier till he saw it fairly under way again for the
sister island, he entered at once into negotiations with some of the
hardy boatmen generally to be found lounging about St. Peter's port.
The result was that a pretty little skiff was brought round, into
which Mr. Cleon and his luggage were carefully stowed, the whole being
taken charge of by a couple of sailors who at once hoisted their sail
and stood out in a straight line for Jersey. The wind was in their
favour, but the tide was against them nearly the whole way, and it was
quite dark before they got under the lee of the lighthouse and found
themselves safely sheltered in the little harbour of St. Helier. It is
quite possible that Mr. Cleon may have had some motive in not wishing
to land by daylight, at all events he seemed in nowise dissatisfied by
his late arrival, but paid his boatmen liberally and dismissed them.

Skirting the head of the harbour cautiously, with his coat collar
turned up and his hat well slouched over his eyes, Cleon entered the
first low public-house to which he came and called for a glass of rum.
A number of men, sailors chiefly, and loafers of various kinds, passed
in and out while he stood at the bar, at each one of whom he glanced
keenly. He waited nearly half an hour before he found the sort of face
he wanted--one in which low cunning and intelligence were combined. He
took the owner of this face aside and held a private parley with him
for full ten minutes. Then the man went away and Mr. Cleon ordered a
private room and some tea.

He was still discussing his chop when the man got back.

"Well--what news? Make your report," said the mulatto.

"All right, captain," with a touch of his forelock. "Found out all you
wanted to know, right slick away. Make you no error on that point. I
promised to do it, and I done it. Oh, yes. There's no flies about what
I'm going to tell you. Captain Ducie is stopping at the 'Royal
George,' and has been stopping there for the last ten days. Up to last
night most of his time was spent with an old gentleman and a young
lady, father and daughter, of the name of Van Loal. But they went away
by this morning's boat, and Captain Ducie has been mooning about all
day, seeming as if he hardly knew what to do with himself. Just now he
is up the town at one of the billiard saloons, and is not expected
home before eleven."

"You know all the billiard rooms in the town. Go and find out at which
one of them Captain Ducie is engaged, and whether he is so fixed that
he is likely to remain there for some time to come."

In less than a quarter of an hour the man was back. "The Captain is
playing pool with a lot more swells at Baxter's rooms, and seems well
fixed for another hour to come."

The mulatto had already paid his bill, and was ready for a start. "Now
show me the 'Royal George' Hotel," said he.

The hotel was pointed out and the man paid and dismissed. Cleon
entered the hotel with the air of a proprietor, and asked to be shown
a private sitting room. He was shown into one on the first floor. It
was small but comfortable. He expressed himself as being perfectly
satisfied with it, and then he ordered dinner.

While the meal was being got ready, Mr. Cleon stated that he should
like to see such bedrooms as were disengaged. He was rather
fastidious, he added, in the choice of a bedroom, and should prefer
making his own selection. He was very pleasant and jocular with the
chambermaid who showed him round.

In all there were five bedrooms in want of occupants, and Mr. Cleon
was not satisfied till he had looked into each of them. "Come, now,"
he said, after peeping into the fifth and last, "if I am rightly
informed, you have a military gentleman stopping in the house, a
Captain----."

"Ducie," added the girl as the mulatto stopped as if in doubt.

"Ah, that is the name. Captain Ducie. Now, soldiers generally know how
to pick out the best quarters, and if I were to choose a bedroom on
the same floor as the captain's I could hardly go far astray. Now, I
dare say you could tell me the number of Captain Ducie's room?"

"The captain's room is number fourteen. Number ten, the next room but
three to it, is empty, and you can have it if you choose."

"I engage number ten on the spot," said Mr. Cleon, emphatically.
"See that the sheets are properly aired, and here are a couple of
half-crowns for your trouble."

Mr. Cleon ate his dinner in solitary state, and retired to his bedroom
at an early hour. To his bedroom, but not to bed. After about five
minutes his candle was put out. A minute or two later the door of his
room was noiselessly opened, and showed him standing on the threshold,
tall and black, like a spirit of evil in the dim starlight. After
listening intently for a little while, he stole gently along the
corridor from his own room to the door of number fourteen. This door
he tried, and found that it yielded at once to his hand. He opened it
a little way and peeped in. The room was dark and empty. Still
listening, with every sense on the alert, he struck a noiseless match.
The tiny flame, bright and clear, and lasting for about half a minute,
was sufficient to enable him to photograph on his memory the position
of every article of furniture in the room. It was also sufficient to
enable him to note something of much greater importance: that there
was not only a stout lock on the door of number fourteen; but that the
door could be still further secured on the inside by means of a strong
bolt. He smothered the malediction that rose to his lips when he saw
this, and then he stole back to his own room with the look of a
baffled wild beast on his face.

Even now he did not go to bed, but sat waiting in the dark, with his
door slightly ajar, for the coming of the tenant of number fourteen.
Upwards of an hour passed away before he heard Captain Ducie's step on
the stair. He seemed to draw back within himself as he heard it: to
crouch as if getting ready for a spring. But the moment Captain Ducie
entered number fourteen, Cleon was at the door of his own room and
listening. He fell back a pace or two and shook his fist savagely in
the air as he heard what he had felt almost sure he should hear. He
heard Captain Ducie double lock the door of number fourteen, and then
shoot home the brass bolt, as though still further to secure himself
against intruders. The mulatto's sharp white teeth clashed together
viciously as the sound met his ear.

"Only wait!" he whispered down the dark corridor. Then he went in, and
shut and locked the door of his own room.

Next morning he ordered breakfast to be taken up to bed to him. He was
very unwell, he said, and should not be able to leave his room all
that day. But his illness, whatever it might be, did not seem to
affect his appetite. Luncheon, and afterwards dinner, were sent up to
him in due course. At nine o'clock he rang his bell and ordered a
bottle of claret. At the same time he instructed the waiter that he
should not want anything more till morning; and that he must on no
account be disturbed till that time.

He had been singularly uneasy and watchful all day, listening
frequently, with his door slightly ajar, to the downstairs noises of
the hotel, sometimes even venturing a few yards down the corridor when
the house was more than usually quiet, but retreating quickly to his
den at the slightest sound of an approaching footstep. Once he had
even penetrated into Captain Ducie's room for a few seconds. "Ah,
scélerat! I shall have you yet," he muttered, as he shut himself out
of the room after his brief survey.

Now that daylight had faded into dusk, and dusk had deepened into
night, his proceedings were still more singular. After finishing his
bottle of wine, he proceeded to take off his ordinary outer clothing,
and in place of it to induct himself into a tight-fitting suit of some
strong dark woven stuff that fitted him like a glove. Round his waist
he buckled a belt of dull black leather, and into this belt he stuck a
small sheathed dagger. Pendent from the belt was a tiny pouch made of
the same material, into which he put some half dozen allumettes, and
two small cones of some red material, each of them about four inches
in height. This done, his toilette was finished. After a last glance
round, he put out the candles, opened the door, and halted on the
threshold for a moment or two to listen.

The night was clear and unclouded, and through the staircase window
the stars shone brightly in. The corridor was filled with their
ghostly light. Midway in it stood the mulatto, black from head to
foot, except for his two ferocious eyes that gleamed redly from under
his heavy brows like danger signals pointing out the road to death. A
pause of a few seconds and then he shut and locked the door of his
room--locked it from the outside and put away the key in the tiny
pouch by his side.

The quiet starlight seemed to fall away from him affrighted as he
moved down the dusky corridor. Now that the door was shut behind him
he went on without hesitation or pause. He had only a few paces to go.
On reaching the door of number fourteen, he turned the handle, went
in, and closed the door softly behind him.



CHAPTER VI.
PASTILLE-BURNING.


Rarely had Captain Ducie felt in a pleasanter frame of mind than when
he went down to breakfast in the course of the forenoon following the
evening on which he had shown Mr. Van Loal and his daughter the Great
Mogul Diamond. Several circumstances had combined to render him more
than ordinarily cheerful. He had fully made up his mind to propose to
Mirpah Van Loal that very day, and he felt little fear that his suit
would be rejected. Once married, he would cut his old associations for
ever, would probably leave England for several years, and in some
remote spot would, with his lovely wife, lead a life such as one
sometimes reads of in idylls and romances but rarely sees reduced to
practice in this work-a-day world. Mr. Van Loal had appraised the
Diamond at a very tolerable sum, and through his influence he would
doubtless be able to dispose of it quietly, and in a way that would
give rise to no suspicion as to the mode by which it had come into his
possession. The proceeds of the sale, judiciously invested, would be
productive of an annual income on which it would be possible to live
in comfort wherever he might choose to pitch his tent. Lastly, all
apprehension as to any results which might possibly have accrued to
him from the sudden death of M. Platzoff, and the subsequent events at
Bon Repos, had utterly died away. He had got by this time to feel as
if the Diamond were as much his own as though it had been given to him
or handed down to him as a family heirloom. If any uncomfortable
thought connected with the death of Platzoff and his appropriation of
the Diamond ever crossed his mind, it was dismissed with ignominy,
like a poor relation, almost as soon as it made itself known. Captain
Ducie was not a man to let his conscience trouble him whenever it
wished to question him respecting any transaction the results of which
had proved prosperous to himself. In such cases he bade it begone,
turning it out by main force, and shutting the door in its face. But
whenever it stole in and began to reproach him for his conduct in any
little affair that in its results had proved disastrous either
socially or pecuniarily, then did Edmund Ducie bow his head in all
humility before the veiled monitress, and cry mea culpa, and bewail
his naughtiness with many inward groans, and promise to amend his ways
in time to come. But it may be doubted whether in the latter case his
regret did not arise less from having done that which was wrong, than
because the wrong had proved unsuccessful in compassing the ends for
which it was done.

Be that as it may, Captain Ducie's conscience did not seem to trouble
him much as he came downstairs this pleasant autumn morning, humming
an air from the Trovatore, and giving the last finishing touches to
his filbert-shaped nails. He rang the bell for breakfast, and turned
over, half contemptuously, the selection of newspapers on the side
table.

"Has Mr. Van Loal come down to breakfast yet, do you know?" he asked
when the waiter re-entered the room.

"I will ascertain, sir, and let you know."

Two minutes later the waiter came back. "Mr. Van Loal, sir, and Miss
Van Loal, left this morning by the Southampton boat."

"What!" shouted Ducie, jumping to his feet as though he had been shot.

The waiter repeated his statement.

"Either you are crazy or you have been misinformed," said Ducie,
contemptuously, as he quietly resumed his seat. "Go again, and
ascertain the truth this time."

Presently the waiter returned. "What I told you before, sir, is quite
true. Mr. Van Loal and his daughter left this morning by the early
boat."

A horrible sickening dread took possession of Ducie. He staggered to
his feet, his face like that of a corpse. Was it--was it possible that
by some devil's trick the Diamond had been conjured from him? His hand
went instinctively to the spot where he knew it ought to be. No--it
was not gone. He could feel it there, just below his heart, in the
little sealskin bag that hung from his neck by a steel chain. He had
replaced it there after taking it from the fingers of Van Loal the
preceding night, and he had not looked at it since.

Greatly relieved, he turned to the waiter with a face that was still
strangely white and contorted. "What you have just told me is almost
incredible," he said, "in fact, I cannot believe it without further
proof. Go and bring to me some one who was an eye-witness of the
departure of Mr. and Miss Van Loal."

The waiter went. Ducie was still unnerved, and he poured himself out a
cup of coffee with a hand that trembled in spite of all his efforts to
keep it still. But his appetite for breakfast was utterly gone.

Then the waiter came back and ushered into the room, first, the young
lady who kept the accounts of the establishment; secondly, the boots.
The young lady advanced with charming self-possession, made her little
curtsy, and broke the ice at once.

"I am informed, sir, that you wish to have some particulars respecting
the departure of Mr. and Miss Van Loal," she said. "They dined with
you last evening in your own room, if I am not mistaken. Yes. Well,
sir, about eleven o'clock, just as I was closing my books for the
night, I was surprised by a visit from Mr. Van Loal. 'Oblige me by
making out my little account,' said he; 'and include in it to-morrow's
breakfast. I am recalled to England by important letters, and must go
by the first boat. You will further oblige me by making no mention of
my departure till after I am gone. I have several friends to whom I
ought to say good-by, but I do not feel equal to the occasion, and
wish to slip quietly away without saying a word.' Mr. Van Loal waited
while I made out the account. Then he paid me and bade me good-night.
When I got up this morning, I found that he and his daughter had gone
by the early boat. James, here, took their luggage down to the pier
and saw them start."

"Did you with your own eyes see Mr. and Miss Van Loal start by the
Southampton boat this morning?"

"I did, sir. I was instructed to look after their luggage this
morning. I took it down to the boat and saw the old gentleman and the
young lady safe aboard. They went below deck at once, and two minutes
later the steamer was off."

"A very clear and conclusive narrative," said Ducie. "You are the man,
I believe, who looks after the letters and attends to the post bag?"

"I am, sir."

"Were there any letters by the afternoon post yesterday for Mr. Van
Loal?"

"No, sir, not one. I can speak positively to that."

Left alone, Captain Ducie sat down in a perfect maze of perplexity.
That Van Loal and his daughter were gone he could no longer doubt. But
why had they gone without a hint or word of farewell? They must have
known at the time they were dining with him the previous evening that
they were about to sail on the following morning, and yet they allowed
him to plan and arrange for the day's excursion as though any thought
of change were the last thing in their minds. And Mirpah, too--what of
her? What of the woman whom it was his intention to have proposed to
that very day? Had she merely been playing with him all along in order
that she might jilt him at last? He could not understand the thing at
all. He was mazed, utterly dumbfounded, like a man walking in a dream.
The more he thought of the affair, the less comprehensible it seemed
to him. His amour propre was terribly wounded. More intolerable than
all else was the sense there was upon him of having been outwitted, of
having in some mysterious way been made the victim of a plot with the
beginning and ending of which he was utterly unacquainted. He had been
hoodwinked--bamboozled--he felt sure of it: but how and for what
purpose he was quite at a loss to fathom. His Diamond was perfectly
safe; he had never gambled with Van Loal; whatever his looks might
have conveyed, he had never spoken a word of love to Mirpah, so that
it was impossible she could have taken offence with him on that score.
What, then, was the meaning of it all? He rang the bell to inquire
whether Mr. Van Loal had left no note, or message of any kind for him.
None whatever, was the reply.

"What a preposterous idiot I must have been," murmured Ducie, "to
fancy that this woman whom I proposed to make my wife, cared for me
the least bit in the world! She is like the rest of her sex--neither
better nor worse. From highest to lowest they are false and
fickle--every one."

He spent a miserable day, wandering aimlessly about, he neither knew
nor cared whither; nursing his wounds, and vainly striving to
understand for what reason he had been struck so mercilessly and in
the dark. A thousand times that day he cursed the name of Mirpah Van
Loal. Once he paused in his pacing of the lonely sands, and not
satisfied with the evidence of his fingers that the Diamond was safe
in its sealskin pocket, he took it out of its hiding-place and gazed
on it, and pressed it to his lips, even as M. Paul Platzoff had done
in his time, and as, in all probability, hundreds had done before him.

"Fool! after all my experience of life and the world, to believe in
the chimera of woman's love!" he said bitterly to himself. "Man's only
real friend in this world is money, or that which can command money.
The rest is only a shadow on the wall, gone ere it can be clutched."

He had been wandering about all day without food, and when night set
in he felt nervous and dispirited.

He made a pretence of eating his dinner as usual, but he sickened at
his food and sought consolation in a double allowance of wine. Later
on he strolled out with a cigar, and made his way to a certain
billiard-room where he was not unknown. He was too nervous to touch a
cue himself, but he found his excitement in betting on other men's
play. After having lost five sovereigns he went back to his hotel.
This was the night of Cleon's arrival at Jersey.

His mood next day was one of sullen bitterness. It was a mood that,
under other circumstances, might have incited him to do something
desperate, were it only to find a safety-valve for his pent-up
feelings. In such a mood, had he been on active service, and had the
need arisen, he would have gloried in offering himself as the leader
of some forlorn hope. In such a mood, had he been a burglar, it would
have fared ill with any one who stood up in defence of that which he
had made up his mind to take as his own. Happily, or unhappily, in
such crises of everyday life we have no choice save to eat our own
hearts, and drink our own tears, and wear the mask of comedy to the
world, while hiding that other mask of tragedy under our robe, which
we venture to don only when we are in secret and alone.

Captain Ducie, behind the mask of comedy which he presented to the
world, hid a heart that in a few short hours had become surcharged
with gall, and that would never again, however long his life might be,
be entirely free from bitterness. He felt like one of those savage
caged creatures who, when they have nothing else to war against, will
sometimes turn and rend themselves. He felt that he should like to do
himself some bodily injury: to put his foot under the car of
Juggernaut, had he been a Hindoo; or to have swung, with a hook
through his loins, above the populace of some Indian fair.

All day long he loafed about in this savage mood, smoking innumerable
cigars and twisting the ends of his moustache viciously.

He was only anxious for one thing, and that was for the arrival of the
afternoon post. It is possible that he expected some line of
explanation from Van Loal. If so, he was disappointed. That day's post
brought him no letters.

After dinner he joined a whist party in the coffee-room. Later on the
quartette composing the party adjourned to a private-room upstairs.
Captain Ducie was ordinarily an abstemious man, especially when cards
were on the tapis, but to-night he was reckless and took more wine than
was good for him. It was nearly one o'clock when the party broke up,
and Captain Ducie never afterwards remembered how he reached his own
room.

That he reached his room in safety cannot be doubted, because he found
himself safely in bed when he awoke next morning. But before that time
arrived a strange scene had been enacted in Captain Ducie's bedroom.

As before stated, it was nearly one o'clock when he reached his room,
and five minutes after getting into bed he had fallen into a broken
troubled sleep in which he enacted over again the varied incidents of
the evening's play. After moaning and tossing about for more than an
hour, he woke up, feeling parched from head to foot and with a pain
across his forehead like a fiery hoop that seemed to be slowly
shrivelling up his brain. He got out of bed and emptied the decanter
on his dressing-table at a draught. Then he plunged his head into a
large basin of water, and that revived him still more. His head still
ached, but not so violently as before. He went back to bed, cursing
his folly for having taken so much wine. The night-light was burning
as usual--dim and ghostly; barely sufficient to light up the familiar
features of the room--for Captain Ducie had a strange superstitious
horror of sleeping in the dark. He lay on his back, with his hands
clasped above his head and with shut eyes. Sleep did not come back to
him at once. His imagination went wandering here and there into odd
nooks and corners that it had not visited for years. By-and-by he slid
into a state of semi-unconsciousness, in which, without entirely
losing all knowledge of time and place--of the fact that he was lying
there in bed with a beastly headache--he yet mixed up certain scenes
and events from dreamland, interfusing the real and the imaginary in
such a way that for the time being the line of demarcation between the
two was utterly lost, and where one ended and the other began, he
would just then have found it impossible to determine. He was playing
cards with one of the huge stone images that guarded the gates of
Memphis, and was yet at the same time conscious of being in bed. He
could see the grotesque shadows thrown by the night-light on the wall,
and he could hear the ticking of his watch in the little pocket a few
inches above his head. In his game with the stone image, in whose eyes
he seemed to read the garnered patience of many centuries, he was
aware that unless he could succeed in trumping his adversary's trick
with the five of clubs, the game would be irrevocably lost, and he,
Ducie, would be condemned to be buried alive for five hundred years in
the heart of the great Pyramid. The twentieth deal would be the last,
and if the five of clubs were not forthcoming by that time, the game
would be lost and the dread sentence would be carried into effect.

Deal after deal went on, and still the five of clubs did not show
itself. Even in the midst of his perturbation he heard and counted the
strokes of a clock in the silent house. The clock struck three, and in
the act of deliberating which card he should play next, Ducie remarked
to himself that it still wanted two hours till daybreak.

From minute to minute his perturbation increased. He did his best to
maintain a calm front before his calm adversary. As he peered into
those terrible eyes, he knew that he must expect no mercy if he failed
in producing the magic card. Forgiveness and revenge were alike
unknown to the inexorable being before him, who was the embodiment of
Law, serene and passionless, neither to be hurried nor hindered,
keeping ever to the simple white line traced out for its footsteps
from the beginning of the world, and as utterly regardless of human
joy or human sorrow, as of the grumbling of the earthquake or the
fiery passion of the volcano.

Slowly but surely the game went on. Ducie's adversary marked
off every deal with a hieroglyph on a huge slate by his side.
Fifteen--ten--five--the number of deals diminished one by one, and
still the magic card was not forthcoming. Ducie went on playing with
the quiet courage of despair. Five--four--three--two--one. The last
deal had come but the five of clubs was still hidden in the pack. As
he thought of the terrible fate before him his soul was utterly
dismayed. Suddenly he heard a faint whisper in his ear: "Give me the
Great Mogul Diamond and I will save you." "It is yours," he replied in
the same tone. In a fainter whisper than before came the words: "Feel
up your sleeve for the five of clubs."

Ducie put his hand up his sleeve and drew forth the magic card. As he
dashed it on the table, cards and image melted silently away, all but
the great calm eyes, which seemed to recede slowly from him while
gazing at him with an inexorable gentleness that awed him, and crushed
out of him all expressions of joy at his escape.

He had been conscious all this time of being in his own room at the
Royal George, and without being thoroughly awake, this consciousness
was still upon him when he found himself left alone. Was he really
quite alone? he asked himself. Some voice had whispered in his ear
only a minute ago, and a voice implied a bodily presence. But whose
presence?

He would doubtless know before long, when this unknown being would
come forth to claim the great Diamond.

Well, better part from the Diamond than be made a living mummy of, and
be buried for five hundred years among dead kings and priests in the
great pyramid.

Was it Shakspeare who talked about "dusty death?" It did not matter.
He had been saved from a dreadful fate, and a long peaceful sleep for
one hundred and five hours, fifteen minutes, and ten seconds--neither
more nor less--was needed to compensate him for the mental and bodily
torture from which he had just escaped.

Even while this fancy was simmering in his brain, he was aware of a
strange, subtle odour which seemed to rise from the floor in faint,
cloud-like waves, rising and spreading till every nook and cranny of
the room was pervaded by it. It was a mist of perfume--a perfume far
from unpleasant to inhale--heavy, yet pungent, odorous of the East,
inclining to sleep and to visions of a passionless existence,
undisturbed by all outward influences--such visions as must come to
the strange beings whose most central thought is that of future
absorption in the mystic godhead of the mighty Brahma.

Empires might change and die, the world might split asunder and chaos
rule again, it mattered not to him. Only to rest, to lie there for
ever, self-absorbed, indifferent to all mundane matters--that was the
utmost that he craved.

The mist of perfume thickened, becoming from minute to minute denser
and more penetrating. By this time it seemed to have permeated his
whole being. It filled his lungs, it mingled with his blood, it
saturated his brain; it glowed in him, a slumberous heat, from head to
foot. The shadowy past of his life, the real present of his
surroundings, grouped themselves in his brain like blurred
photographs, which it was impossible for him to regard with anything
more than a vague and impersonal interest. Nothing seemed real to him
save the noiseless involved working of his own mind, working in and
out like a shuttle with a fantastic thread of many colours, and with
self for ever as the central figure.

While his mind had been growing thus strangely active, his body had
been slowly losing--or rather suspending--its vitality. Slowly and
imperceptibly his limbs had grown utterly powerless and inert, till
now, if a kingdom had been offered him, he could not have raised hand
or foot two inches from the bed. Not that he had any desire to move
hand, or foot, or head, or tongue; only to lie still for ever,
thinking his own thoughts, weighing the universe in the balance of his
own mind and finding it wanting. Grant him but that, ye powers of
earth and air, and for the rest, the word "nihil" might be written,
and all things come to an end.

Suddenly through the mist of perfume that filled the room he saw, or
seemed to see, a black and threatening figure rise from the floor
close by his bedside.

"Surely," he thought to himself, "this must be the presence belonging
to the voice that whispered in my ear as I was playing cards with the
Memphian image. He has come to claim his pledge--he has come for the
Mogul Diamond."

To him, just now, the Mogul Diamond was as valueless as a grain of
sand. That black and threatening figure by his bedside might take it
and welcome.

"Strange," he thought, "that the minds of men should ever grow to such
trifles."

The power of despising others thoroughly, but without emotion, is one
of the final products of pure intellect: and to that serene height he
had now attained.

The black figure bent over him. In one hand it held a dagger.

Ducie felt no alarm. Such a human emotion as fear affected him not,
nor quickened the equable pulses of his being.

As the face pertaining to the figure bent nearer to his own, he
recognised it as the face of Cleon the mulatto. Even then he was not
surprised. The mulatto made as though he would have struck Ducie to
the heart, but stopped the dagger when it was within an inch of his
breast. He passed his other hand across his forehead, and seemed to
stagger.

Was it possible that the powerful odour was affecting him as it had
affected his victim? He hurriedly replaced his dagger in its sheath,
and putting his hand to Ducie's neck, as if he knew instinctively that
such a thing was there, he felt for the chain from which was suspended
the sealskin pouch that held the Diamond. He had no difficulty in
finding the chain, nor the sachet, nor the Diamond. He extracted the
great flashing gem from its hiding-place, even as Ducie had extracted
it a few weeks before from the head of the Indian idol. He held it up
between his eye and the night-lamp, and muttered a few guttural words
to himself.

Then for the second time he passed his hand across his forehead and
staggered. As if warned that he had not a moment to spare, he stuffed
the Diamond into his mouth, gave a last scowl at the helpless figure
before him, and disappeared behind the curtains that fell round the
head of the bed.

Ducie was left alone.

All that had just taken place had affected him no more than if he had
witnessed it as a scene out of a play. The Great Diamond was gone, and
not even a ripple disturbed the waveless serenity of his mind.

But the subtle odour that had filled the room was slowly fading out,
and as it grew fainter, so did the strange spell that had held Ducie
captive begin to lose its power. His thoughts lost their crystalline
clearness, becoming blurred and unwieldy. They no longer arranged
themselves in proper sequence. Some of them became so cumbersome that
they had to be dropped and left behind, while those that were more
nimble strayed so far ahead as to be almost beyond recall. Then the
nimble ones had to come back and try to pick up the unwieldy ones,
till they all became jumbled together and lost their individuality.
Finally, sleep came to the rescue and laid her mantle softly over
them, and for a little while all was peace.



CHAPTER VII.
CHASING LA BELLE ROSE.


It was broad day when Captain Ducie awoke. Even before his eyes were
open, or he was conscious of where he was, there was upon him the
overwhelming sense of some great calamity.

His gaze wandered round the familiar room, and as it did so, he asked
himself what it was that had befallen him.

Before he had time to consider the question, or even to answer it, a
great shock went through his heart, and with a loud cry he sprang from
his bed on to the floor.

"The Diamond!"

He felt for it. It was gone. Even before his fingers had time to touch
the sealskin pouch his instinct told him that it was not there. He
turned as white as a man at the point of death, and sank into a chair
with a deep groan. His chin dropped on his breast, and two great tears
rolled slowly from his eyes and fell to the ground.

A disarrangement of the carpet attracted his eye. It had been turned
back for the space of a yard or so, leaving the boards bare. On this
bare patch was a tiny cone of white ash.

Ducie's suspicions were aroused in a moment. He stooped and took up a
pinch of the ash and smelt at it. It emitted a faint odour, similar to
that more powerful odour which had overcome him so strangely in the
course of the night.

No recollection of his dream, or of that still more singular vision in
which Cleon had acted so prominent a part, had touched his memory
since waking. But now, by one of those peculiar mental processes with
which all of us are familiar, although we may not be able to explain
them, the faint perfume that still pervaded the ash he had taken up
between his fingers brought vividly back to his recollection every
scene, real and imaginary, in which he had acted a part during his
sleeping hours.

The five of clubs and his game of cards with the Memphian statue--he
remembered that, and he at once put it aside as nothing more than a
dream of a somewhat bizarre character. After that, the strange odour
that filled his room, precisely similar to that of the ash in his
hand; the sudden apparition of Cleon; the dagger, and the rape of the
Diamond: were those things dreams or realities? Dreams, nothing but
idle dreams, he should have replied at any other time, but with the
sense of his irreparable loss eating into his very soul, he could only
acknowledge that for him they made up a bitter reality.

Cleon had been there in person, and had succeeded in stealing the
Diamond.

With a terrible string of imprecations on the mulatto's head, Ducie
flung open the casement, and let in the sweet morning air. There were
two more tiny cones of white ash, similar to the first, on other parts
of the floor.

"That fiend of a mulatto has obtained access to my room," muttered
Ducie to himself. "The powerful odour which had such a strange effect
upon me must have been emitted by the pastilles, the ashes of which
are before me. The pastilles were doubtless compounded of some strong
narcotics, probably of certain Oriental drugs with the qualities of
which Cleon was acquainted. I have been the victim of an infernal
plot."

That Cleon had been there could not be doubted; but where was he now?
Ducie halted in his troubled walk as this question put itself to him,
and turned to examine the door. It was unbolted, but otherwise shut.
His custom was to bolt it every night before getting into bed; but did
he really bolt it last night? He could not recollect. Considering the
state in which he was when he came to bed, was not the probability in
favour of his having left it unfastened? In any case, that was now a
point of little consequence. The Diamond was gone, and Cleon was
doubtless gone with it. The mulatto was not such a fool as to remain
in the neighbourhood of a man whom he had mortally offended,
especially when his interests imperatively demanded that he should get
safely away. Between him and Ducie the case was now one of life and
death.

A fresh thought struck him and he turned to look at his watch. It was
a quarter past six. The Southampton boat did not sail till a quarter
to seven. Was it not most probable that Cleon, calculating on his,
Ducie's, not awaking till after that time, would attempt to leave the
island by the early boat? It was most probable that he would do so.
"But if he leaves Jersey, I leave it with him," murmured the captain.
"I shall certainly kill him the first opportunity I have of doing so."

Captain Ducie's window commanded a view of that end of the pier from
which the steamer started. He could see a knot of passengers and their
luggage already assembled. It was hardly likely that the mulatto would
be one of the lot, still Ducie thought that he might as well satisfy
himself on that point. On his dressing-table was a very powerful
field-glass. Ducie took it up and directed it full on the clump of
people at the end of the pier. His eye ranged over the component parts
one by one, but no Cleon was to be seen. He was hardly disappointed,
because he had not expected to find the mulatto there. Before putting
down the glass, with an instinct that to him was like second nature,
he swept the horizon of sky and sea with it. Elizabeth Castle and the
whole expanse of St. Aubin's Bay were visible to him. The morning was
clear--deceitfully clear--and Ducie's experienced eye told him that a
change of weather was at hand. Coming back from the horizon his eye
took in the features nearer home. One or two pair-oar boats were
paddling lazily about just outside the harbour. Beyond them were three
or four sailing boats with their white wings outspread to catch the
light and fickle breeze which seemed this morning as if it could not
make up its mind to blow steadily from one point for more than five
minutes at a time. The outermost of the sailing boats was tacking out
of the harbour with every inch of its tiny sails spread to catch the
wind. In this boat were three men, two of them sailors, the third
evidently a passenger, probably some visitor to the island going out
on a fishing excursion. Such would have been Ducie's natural
conclusion had he cared to think about the matter at all. The boat
came for a moment within the range of his glass, and in that moment
one of the three men turned his head as if to see what progress had
been made from land. He turned his head and Ducie gave a start and a
cry. The man who had looked back was none other than the mulatto.

One more steady look at the boat and its occupants and then Captain
Ducie went on dressing with all speed. He understood the case in a
moment. Cleon would not venture to leave the island by the steamer,
fearing, probably, that she might be boarded by Ducie before leaving.
His plan had been to hire a smack to take him either to the French
coast or to Guernsey, and had it not happened to be dead low water
about the time he ought to have got away, and the boats to be all
lying high and dry in the harbour, two facts which had probably never
entered into his calculations, he would have been a dozen miles from
St. Helier by this time, and might have set pursuit at defiance.

In five minutes Captain Ducie was ready to start. His field-glass was
slung over his shoulder. In one pocket of his gray shooting-jacket he
carried a Colt's revolver, and in the other a flask containing brandy,
and a few biscuits.

"Unless I am greatly mistaken," muttered Ducie to himself as he made
his way with rapid strides towards the basin, "my friend Martin's
little _Demoiselle_ will outsail yonder clumsy craft on a light wind,
in which case Mr. Cleon and I may have an earlier reckoning than he
dreams of."

Captain Ducie was fortunate enough to find his friend Martin smoking
an early pipe by the edge of the basin, and watching his tiny craft
with a loving eye as she curtsied lightly to the incoming tide. Martin
was a handsome stalwart young fellow whose ancestors for five hundred
years back had followed the same occupation in the same place. Ducie
had employed him several times on fishing excursions, and the two were
sufficiently well known to each other. His boat, _La Demoiselle_, was
famed, in the hands of her master, as being one of the fleetest little
craft on the island.

A few words sufficed to let Martin understand what was required of
him, and three minutes later the Demoiselle with outspread wings was
skimming saucily over the crests of the tide in pursuit of the other
boat, which Martin pronounced to be the _Belle Rose_. Martin's
assistant had been left behind in order that the _Demoiselle_ might
sail as lightly as possible, Ducie himself engaging to assist in
working the little craft.

_La Belle Rose_ had got a clear half-hour's start, and was working out
nearly due south, that being her best tack for sailing as the wind
then was. "She'll take a turn sou'east before another ten minutes is
over," said Martin. "You see, sir, if she don't; and then she'll make
straight for the Normandy coast."

"Martin," said Captain Ducie impressively, "on board yonder boat is a
man who has robbed me of that which was of more importance to me than
all else in the world."

"Master!" exclaimed Martin, in surprise.

"What I say is true. Now, listen. I want my revenge--as you would want
yours were you in my place--eh?"

Martin nodded his head gravely, and drew a knife in pantomime.

"Consequently," resumed Ducie, "I want you to catch _La Belle Rose_.
She has got a long start. Can you come up with her?"

"Master, I will try. The _Demoiselle_ has never failed me yet when
I've put her to the proof, and I don't think she will fail me to-day.
We must steer more easterly, and not as if we were following the other
boat; and then when she tacks, as she must do soon, we shall have
gained a full half mile on her."

Ducie was steering, and he saw that by following the sailor's advice,
the _Demoiselle_ would cut off a large slice of the angle which must
necessarily be made by the _Belle Rose_ before she could touch the
nearest part of the French coast. Besides which, such a course would
divert suspicion from their real intentions, and in a stern chase that
goes for something.

Ducie lighted a cigar, and passed his flask forward to the young
sailor. "We shall have rain and more wind, sir, before the day is
three hours older," said the latter.

"So much the better," answered Ducie, quietly. "A gloomy deed should
have a gloomy day. Martin! either the man in yonder boat or I will
never see another sunrise. Perhaps neither of us may."

The young sailor gave his companion a look that was not unmixed with
admiration. There was something that touched his wild notions of
Justice in the idea of a man being his own Avenger.

Captain Ducie really meant what he said. He was thoroughly impressed
with the belief that either for himself or Cleon that would be the
last of earthly days. There was an element of gloom at the bottom of
his nature--a dark abyss that had never been thoroughly sounded till a
few hours ago. But the loss of his Diamond, preceded as it was by the
unaccountable desertion of Mirpah Van Loal--Love and Fortune both gone
in a few short hours--had served to raise a demon in his soul of which
he had heretofore been thoroughly master. Now it mastered him, and he
gave himself up to it without a struggle. But the grand calm of a
thoroughbred Englishman did not desert him even now. The young sailor
discerned no change in him from the Captain Ducie who had gone out
fishing but four days before, save, perhaps, that his eyebrows seemed
to come down a shade lower, and that the eyes themselves were a shade
darker, and that his voice was somewhat graver than common. Otherwise
there was no outward sign to tell of the change within, and yet Jean
Martin had an instinctive sense that he had a desperate man aboard his
tiny craft--one determined to carry out his own will to the end,
however terrible that end might be.

Captain Ducie sat in the stern and steered the _Demoiselle_, taking
the word occasionally from Jean Martin. His glass was beside him, and
now and then he took a peep at the chase. The different tacks on which
the two boats were steering would have seemed, in a landsman's eye, to
be hopelessly widening the distance between them, but when the _Belle
Rose_ suddenly yawed round and began to steer nearly due east of her
previous course, Ducie saw the wisdom of Martin's advice. The two
boats had, so to speak, been sailing down the opposite sides of a
triangle. The Belle Rose had completed her side, and having turned the
corner, was now sailing along the line of the base. But before she
could reach the opposite end of the base, she would be intercepted by
the _Demoiselle_.

Up to this time the progress of the _Demoiselle_. seemed to have been
unheeded by the people in the _Belle Rose_. But as soon as it became
evident to those in the latter that the two boats were rapidly
nearing, and must in a few minutes cross each other's line within
speaking distance, a slight commotion was visible on board the _Belle
Rose_. Suddenly Martin, who had Ducie's glass to his eye, cried out,
"They are getting suspicious of us. They are taking stock of us
through their glasses--and--no--yes, by the nightcap of St. Jaques!
there's a black man on board the _Belle Rose!_"

"He is the man of whom I am in pursuit," said Ducie, from the stern.
Then he added:

"Keep your eye on them, Martin. Watch every movement, and tell me all
you see."

"They have not seen your face yet, master, and they seem easier in
their minds. But the black man keeps his glass to his eye. Ah, thief!
scélérat! Jean Martin would like to have his fingers round your
throat! Do you wish me to run close up to the _Belle Rose_, master? In
five minutes you may, if you like, have you black hound in your grip."

"Come you to the tiller now, Martin, and steer to within twenty yards
of the _Belle Rose_, but no nearer unless I tell you."

So the two men changed places, and Ducie went forward with the glass
in his hand. Cleon on his side was watching every movement on board
the _Demoiselle_. Up to the present time the person of Captain Ducie
had been in great part hidden by the sail, but now that he came
forward he was plainly visible. The moment Cleon's glass showed him
that stern pale face, he fell back on his seat with an exclamation of
terror, and seemed for a moment or two like one utterly paralysed. But
the mulatto was by no means deficient in a sort of dogged animal
courage, and the extremity of his peril left him no time for anything
but immediate action. The two boats were now within fifty yards of
each other, the _Demoiselle_ bearing down like an arrow on the track
of the _Belle Rose_. The mulatto took one more peep through his glass
at Ducie. In the hand of the latter was an ugly-looking revolver.

Cleon could not doubt for what purpose it was intended, and he was
too well acquainted with Ducie's undoubted skill with the weapon,
having seen him practice with it several times at Bon Repos, not to
know that his chance of life would hang on the merest thread if Ducie
were once to pull the trigger. One look at the revolver was
sufficient. Cleon spoke to the man at the tiller. The course of the
boat was at once altered. The sail lost its wind, flapped for a moment
or two against the mast like the broken wing of a bird, then caught
the breeze on the opposite tack, and the Belle Rose coming sharply
round through the hissing water turned her nose nearly due west and
began to retrace the way she had come. Captain Ducie smiled grimly.
"If the cur thinks to escape me by going back to St. Helier and
claiming the protection of the law, he will find himself mistaken. I
will shoot him through the heart the moment his foot touches the
pier."

Straight as a hawk after its quarry the _Demoiselle_ at once followed
up in the wake of the other boat. The _Demoiselle_ had still some
canvas to spare, and had she spread it, could easily have come up with
the _Belle Rose_. But it was not Ducie's aim to do so.

Somewhat to Ducie's surprise, the _Belle Rose_ instead of turning
northward and so making for the harbour of St. Helier, kept on her
westerly course, and shot clean past the entrance, and so kept on till
Elizabeth Castle was passed on the right, and both the boats found
themselves skirting the outer edge of St. Aubin's Bay and Normont
Point could be seen stretching out a rocky hand as if to bar their
way. Ducie was puzzled, but said nothing. Could it be the mulatto's
intention to skirt the western side of the island and make for
Guernsey? But he would be no better off there than at Jersey. He,
Ducie, would follow him to the very gates of Perdition.

Martin's prediction had been verified. By this time the morning had
clouded over, the wind was freshening, and a light drizzling rain had
begun to fall. It would be no pleasant voyage, truly, on such a day to
cross the thirty miles of broken water between the two islands, and in
so frail a craft. But what the _Belle Rose_ dared do, that also dared
the _Demoiselle_.

Normont Point was quickly passed, and soon St. Brelade's romantic Bay
opened into view. Martin still steered, and Ducie still crouched like
a wary sentinel in the fore part of the boat. The mulatto was no
longer to be seen. He had probably stretched himself out at the bottom
of the boat, dreading lest Ducie might take it into his head to fire.
Why Ducie had not already fired was probably a source of surprise to
him.

La Moye Point which shuts in St. Brelade's Bay on the west, was neared
and passed, and there, no great distance away, were the dread Corbière
rocks wading out into the sea to entrap unwary mariners, smitten by
the great waves and shrouding themselves in clouds of showy spray. And
now the head of the _Belle Rose_ was turned northward, as if she were
about to make for the shore. Ducie saw that the mulatto was about to
take one of two courses: either to run full on the beach and so try to
lose his pursuer among the rocks and caves which abound on that part
of the island or else to run his boat through some of the narrow and
dangerous passages between the Corbières, on the chance of the
_Demoiselle_ not venturing to follow, and so gain sufficient headway
by means of the short cut to render further pursuit hopeless. Ducie
smiled to himself to think how futile the mulatto's efforts would be
in either case.

It soon appeared that the hunted man had decided to take to the land
as affording the best chance of escape. Close by was a small sandy
nook that was sheltered between two protruding spurs of rock from the
full swing of the tide. Into this tiny cove the _Belle Rose_ shot with
furled sail, and before her keel had fairly touched the sand, the
mulatto was out of the boat and scrambling up the shelving beach with
the agility of a tiger cat. He just passed out of sight behind a
broken fragment of rock as the _Demoiselle_ shot round the spur and
followed the _Belle Rose_ into the little bay. Ducie pressed two
sovereigns into the palm of Jean Martin and then leaped ashore.
Cleon's footprints were plainly visible in the soft sand, and he
followed them up with the instinct of a bloodhound.



CHAPTER VIII.
THE CAVE OF ST. LAZARE.


Captain Ducie had one immense advantage over the man of whom he was in
pursuit: he knew the Island thoroughly, having lived on it for several
years when a boy at school. With that portion of it especially which
stretches from St. Brelade on the south to Greve-de-Lecq on the north,
he was intimately acquainted. Without much exaggeration it might be
said that he knew every yard of the ground. Accordingly, when he had
tracked the footprints of the mulatto to a point where the sandy beach
ended and the shelving rock began, he troubled himself no further
about them, but climbing straight up the face of the cliff with an
agility that few men of his years could have imitated, he neither
halted nor looked back till he had reached a small overhanging bluff
that commanded the entire range of the precipice up which he had just
clambered. This range of rock was only about a hundred yards in
extent, and was shut in at the opposite end by another bluff which
stretched out so far that its foot was already covered by the
advancing tide.

From the smaller bluff, which Ducie had chosen as his eyrie, he could
see every living thing larger than a rat that might move either along
the sands or attempt to climb the rock. At the foot of this rock where
it touched the sands there were several fissures large enough for two
or three men to hide in. In addition to these there was a still larger
opening known as the Cave of St. Lazare. Now, it was quite evident to
Ducie that the mulatto must be in hiding either in one of the minor
fissures or in the cave itself, so that all he had to do was to wait
patiently till Cleon should choose to quit his lair.

It is true that he might have gone down to the sands and have sought
an encounter with the mulatto at close quarters. But he had an ugly
recollection of Cleon's skill with the knife; besides which he had
something of that feeling which induces a cat to play with a mouse
before finally putting it out of its misery. So he crept forward on
his hands and knees over the wet grass to the edge of the bluff, and
there ensconced himself behind a thick clump of brushwood whence he
could see, without being seen, everything that might transpire on the
sands.

His first care was to satisfy himself as to the condition of his
revolver. When he had made his mind easy on that score, he took a pull
at his brandy flask and munched a biscuit, but still keeping a wary
watch for the faintest movement below.

The _Demoiselle_ and the Belle Rose had disappeared already, those in
charge of them being intent on getting back to St. Helier as quickly
as possible, for the weather was threatening. A drizzling rain was
still falling, and Ducie was by no means sorry that such was the case:
no prying tourists would think of visiting the cave on such a day.

The grim Corbière  rocks were lashing themselves with whips of spray,
like monks doing penance, and a heavy tide was rolling rapidly in. The
strip of sand at the foot of the rocks was growing narrower from
minute to minute, and soon the whole of it would be hidden.

"He must come out of his den before long, if he does not wish to be
drowned like a rat in its hole," muttered Ducie to himself as he
marked the creaming billows frothing up almost to the foot of the
rock. "I shall not have long to wait."

In fact, only two courses were left open to the mulatto: either to
show himself and climb the rock under cover of Ducie's revolver, or
else to remain in hiding till the tide swept up and drowned him. From
Ducie's post of vantage the narrow entrance to the cave--so narrow
that only one person could enter at a time--was clearly visible.

The advancing tide had completely swallowed up the strip of sand and
was licking the foot of the precipice before the slightest sign of
human life was discernible below. Ducie crouching behind the bushes,
with his hand on his revolver, and every nerve in his body on the
alert, watched and waited in silence. The first thing that he saw was
a yellow claw protruded from the interior of the cave. This claw
grasped the edge of the rock, and next moment a yellow face was pushed
out, the two terror-stricken bloodshot eyes of which roved frantically
around as in search of some unseen foe. But there was nothing to be
seen save the inrushing tide, the barren rock above and around, and a
clump of brushwood on the cliff bending before the wind. Apparently
reassured, he crept wholly out of hiding, and after another cautious
look round, he turned his face to the cliff and began to climb. But he
had not made more than two steps upward when the sudden ping of a
pistol smote his ear, and the same instant a bullet struck the rock
about two feet above his head, breaking off some fragments which
rattled down into the sea. The mulatto gave utterance to a wild yell
of terror, and loosing his foothold, he slipped back into the water
which now reached up to his knees. Another moment and he had
disappeared within the cave. Better run the risk of being drowned than
again put himself in the way of that terrible revolver. It is doubtful
whether he was aware that every high tide completely filled up the
cavern. He may have thought that by climbing on to some of the higher
ledges inside he would be safe till the subsidence of the water, by
which time his enemy might probably be tired of waiting for him, or
salvation might come in the shape of help from others. In any case, to
venture outside the cave was certain death; to stop inside may have
seemed to afford some chance of ultimate escape. But Ducie was well
aware that to stop inside was certain death. When firing his revolver,
his intention had been to frighten Cleon back into hiding, not to
wound or kill him. It would be so much pleasanter if Cleon would allow
himself to be quietly drowned in the cave, instead of compelling him,
Ducie, to put a bullet through his head. There might be people foolish
enough to construe such a transaction as the one last named into
wilful murder. The former could be put down as nothing more than an
ugly accident.

So Ducie watched and waited, fully determined that by one mode or the
other Cleon should that day come by his death. The tide rose higher
and higher, but no yellow horror-stricken face was seen again outside
the entrance to the cave. Then Ducie knew what would happen within. By
and bye the green lips of the waves kissed the roof of the doorway.
Then Ducie knew that all was over, and that he had only to wait for
the subsidence of the tide. He finished the brandy in his flask, and
lighted a cigar, and waited.

It was considerably past mid-day before the water was low enough for
him to venture into the cave. When he did venture in the water came up
to his waist. He waded slowly in, grasping the slippery rock carefully
at each step that he took. He knew what he should find inside, and for
the first time a feeling of awe crept over him. At length he stood in
the middle of the cave and ventured to look round. A dim green light
pervaded the place, too faint to discern anything that might be there.
Ducie was not unprepared for such an emergency. He had brought with
him a small box of the wax matches he sometimes used for lighting his
cigar. He struck one of these on the bottom of the box and held it
aloft. It burned for a minute, and that minute served to show him a
black shapeless heap of humanity lodged high up on one of the ledges
of rock. To that spot the mulatto had climbed in the vain hope of
escaping the ever-rising tide.

There was another ledge close to the one on which the body lay. On to
this ledge Ducie climbed, and by kneeling on one knee and leaning over
he could touch the dead man. He wanted to ascertain whether he had the
Great Mogul Diamond hidden anywhere about his person.

"What if he has swallowed it? What if he has thrown it into the sea?"
Ducie asked himself. Then his hand touched the dead man's cheek, and
he shuddered from head to foot.

He paused for a moment or two, and with an intense effort steadied his
nerves to go through the task he had set himself to do. It was gone
through carefully and thoroughly, but the Diamond was nowhere to be
found. At length Ducie paused in sheer despair.

"He has evidently made away with the Diamond when he found that he
could not escape, and so has carried his revenge beyond the grave,"
muttered Ducie.

Suddenly a thought struck him. Once more he bent over the dead man,
and with both hands wrenched open his mouth. Another instant, and he
had found the Diamond hidden away under the tongue that would never
speak more.

Strong man though he was, the revulsion of feeling was almost more
than he could bear. Tears of joy came into his eyes. He needed a
minute or two to recover himself. As soon as his heart began to beat
more calmly, he wrapped the Diamond in his handkerchief and stuffed
the whole into an inner pocket of his waistcoat. Then he leaped down
on to the sandy floor of the cave, and leaving the dead man on his
rocky bed, he waded out by the way he had come; and having breasted
the hill, he set out at a sharp pace across the moorland on his way to
St. Helier. His clothes had been soaked through and through in the
course of the day, but just now he was not in a frame of mind to give
any thought to such a trifle.



CHAPTER IX.
THE VERDICT OF MR. VERMUSEN.


Captain Ducie had a long wet walk back to his hotel, and by the time
he reached it he felt thoroughly exhausted. He had a bath, and dined,
and spent a quiet evening in the smoke-room, with no company save that
of his own thoughts.

There was a deep underglow of satisfaction in his heart at recovering
the Diamond, but there was one pressing question that required his
immediate decision.

The body of the mulatto would in all probability be found on the
morrow, or, at the latest, in the course of the following day.
Although there could be little doubt that his death would be set down
to pure accident, still an inquiry would be set on foot as to his
name, position in life, &c., and the affair would be a nine days'
wonder in the little island. The boatmen would naturally state that
he, Captain Ducie, had been seen in the mulatto's company only a few
hours before he came by his death; justice, in the persons of a
coroner and twelve jurymen, would take cognizance of the affair; and
he would be called upon to state the reason of his persistent pursuit
of the mulatto, and what passed between them after landing at the bay
of St. Lazare. Such an inquiry would be distasteful to him in every
way, and it seemed to him that the wisest thing he could do would be
to start for England by the morning steamer. He would spend a couple
of days in London, and then set out for Paris.

Once in the French capital, he must look out for some means of
disposing of his Diamond. That was a negotiation which could not much
longer be delayed.

His available funds were within a few sovereigns of being exhausted,
and all his well-to-do friends had turned their backs on him long ago.
But all his well-to-do friends might go hang. For the future he should
be independent of them and their charity.

He should take up his permanent residence abroad: continental life was
so much freer and more sociable than our cold-blooded insular mode of
wearing out existence.

He was still very sore on the subject of Mirpah Van Loal, and he would
be so for some time to come. He winced mentally whenever her image
crossed his mind. His self-love had been terribly wounded by her
desertion of him; but beyond that there was an element of mystery
about the sudden disappearance of herself and her father that puzzled
him exceedingly.

Change of scene might be beneficial to him in more senses than one: he
had better get away from the island as soon as possible.

He called for his bill and settled it, so that it might not delay his
departure in the morning, after which his balance of ready money was
reduced to a trifle. He must raise a few sovereigns on his watch when
he got to London, otherwise he would hardly have sufficient to take
him across the Channel.

As the clock struck ten, he took his bed-candle and went upstairs. He
put back the Diamond in the place from which it had been taken by the
mulatto--that is to say, in the sealskin pouch that hung by a steel
chain round his neck.

Before getting into bed he did not fail to subject his room to a
careful examination, nor to satisfy himself as to the security of his
door. He was terribly tired, and in five minutes after putting his
head on the pillow he was soundly asleep.

He awoke all in a moment.

The night-lamp in his room, burning dim and low, just served to show
that all was still dark outside. He awoke all in a moment, with the
terribly vivid sensation of a cold wet hand laid heavily across his
mouth. He started up in bed with a shudder that shook him from head to
foot. He expected to see something near him--what, he could not have
told.

The sight of the familiar features of his own room swept away his
fright at once, but he could not quite so readily get over the
sensation of sickness and disgust, which affected him as deeply as if
the hand had been a real one. His lips felt dry and parched, and he
put out his tongue to wet them.

Again he shuddered. His lips tasted of salt water--tasted as if he had
been drinking seawater, and had allowed the salt to dry on them. The
hand that had been laid across his face was cold and wet, and smelled
of the sea.

He leaped out of bed, feeling utterly upset. On looking at his watch
he found that it was just four o'clock. There would be no daylight for
another hour.

"Serve me right for eating that lobster," he said. "A man at my time
of life has no business with suppers of any kind. If people will
trifle with their digestive organs, they must expect to suffer for
their folly."

He did not get into bed again, not caring to risk a repetition of that
terrible sensation. Instead, he wrapped himself in a warm overcoat,
selected a comfortable chair, lighted his meerschaum, and smoked away
till day had fairly broken, and it was time to wash and dress in
readiness for the steamer.

He was turning over some toilet appurtenances when his eye caught the
corner of a letter protruding from under the looking-glass. He drew it
out and found that it was addressed to himself, and that it bore the
London post-mark. It had doubtless been laid on the table with the
view of catching his eye, and then by some accident had got slipped
under the glass. He opened it with some curiosity, saw that it was in
a man's writing, and then glanced at the signature before beginning to
read it.

The colour mounted into his cheek as he read the signature, "Solomon
Van Loal," and with eager curiosity he turned back to the beginning.

The letter began without either date or address, and ran as under:--


"Sir,--The most cunning people are apt to deceive themselves at times,
and few people are so easily gulled, when their suspicions are not
aroused, as those who make a point of preying upon others. You, sir,
in your own person, afford a conspicuous example of the truth of the
above remarks.

"In extreme cases, where, for instance, a great wrong has to be
righted, it sometimes becomes necessary to fight Fraud with its own
weapons. If it is smitten, shall it cry out? if it is outwitted and
compelled to disgorge its ill-gotten gains, shall it make a noise in
the market-place? Let it rather fold its cloak decently about its
head, and go on its way in silence, thankful that its shoulders have
escaped the whip of justice for a little while longer.

"I speak in no unmeaning parables, Captain Ducie. More underlies my
words than may at first sight appear. If you do not understand my
meaning when you read this, you will not long remain in ignorance of
it.

"One word of warning in conclusion. Much of that which you believe to
be locked up in your own bosom is known to me in all its details.
There are certain episodes, having reference to your sojourn at Bon
Repos, which you would hardly care to have made public. Take the
advice of him who writes this letter, and keep a discreet tongue in
your head, otherwise you will make an implacable enemy of one who can
work you more harm than you are aware of, and who now signs himself,

"Yours as you may prove to deserve it,

     "SOLOMON VAN LOAL."


"What, in the fiend's name, does it all mean?" asked Captain Ducie,
when he had read to the end of the letter. "Is the man mad, or am I
drunk?" His face was very white, but then was an ugly frown on it, as
he sat staring at the letter as if he could hardly believe it to be
anything more than a foolish hoax. "By heaven! if I had the writer of
it here I would twist his neck, old as he is!"

Then he read the letter carefully through again, weighing it sentence
by sentence. When he had done, he put it back into its envelope, and
looked up with quite a frightened expression in his eyes.

"What does the old fool mean by 'fighting Fraud with its own weapons?'
and by 'compelling me to disgorge my ill-gotten gains?' In what way
has he 'gulled' me? He has taken nothing of mine, unless----"

He was too sick at heart to finish the sentence even to himself, but
with a hand that trembled like that of an old man, he drew forth his
sealskin sachet, opened it, and took out of it the Great Mogul
Diamond. He took it out with the thumb and forefinger of his right
hand, and laid it on the palm of his left. There it rested, lustrous,
glowing, unmatchable, absorbing the purest rays of the morning into
itself, and then flinging them back intensified a thousandfold. The
colour came back to Captain Ducie's cheek, his heart resumed its
equable beating, and nothing save an almost imperceptible trembling of
the hand betrayed the crisis of feeling through which he had just
passed.

"What a precious idiot I must be to allow myself to be frightened
by the riddles of an old ass like Van Loal! The fellow must be
crazy. No doubt he felt an attack coming on, and that was the reason
why he left so abruptly. And so enough of him. Not even for the fair
Mirpah's sake could I tolerate a lunatic father-in-law. Ah! my
beauty," apostrophising the Diamond, "so long as I have you, or the
worth of you, what care I how the world wags? You are my only true
consolation--my only real friend! Come, _amigo mio_, let you and I,
for the benefit and information of such persons as may tenant this
chamber in time to come, write down Mr. Solomon Van Loal as an ass. On
the middle pane of the middle window, in prominent letters, we will
write him down an ass."

The conceit pleased him, and he crossed the floor with the Diamond in
his hands, and a malicious smile on his lips, to work out his poor
morsel of revenge. He selected the spot with care, right in the centre
of the middle pane. He gave a preliminary flourish with his hand, and
was about to make the first stroke, but paused. "I'll put my initials,
E.D., under it," he said, and the malicious smile deepened as he
spoke, "so that if the old rascal ever comes here again he may know to
whom he is indebted for his brief immortality."

Then he gave his arm a second flourish, and essayed the first stroke.

With one of the facets of the Diamond he made the first curve of the
letter S. But no mark followed.

Again he essayed to make the stroke, and again the glass remained as
free from scratch or mark as if he had striven to write on it with a
common quill. A mist came over his eyes, and he sank, half fainting,
into the nearest chair.

"Ruined! irretrievably ruined!" he cried aloud in a voice of utter
anguish. "That consummate villain has stolen the real Diamond, and has
left me a worthless imitation in its place! Now--now I understand his
letter. Now I understand why I was befooled by his daughter."

The worthless gem had dropped from his fingers, and lay unheeded on
the floor. He sat staring at it with lacklustre eyes for a full
half-hour. All his patience, his ingenuity, his underhand working--the
death of Platzoff, the stealing of the Diamond, the murder of
Cleon--had ended in this, that he had been outwitted by one more
cunning than himself. And could he complain that he had been otherwise
than rightly punished for what he had done? But he did not complain.
Hope had died out utterly in his heart; and when that is the case with
any one, he is beyond vain repinings. The future? He dared not look at
it. The dull, dead present was quite as much as his brain could dwell
on just now.

He rose after a while and picked up the Diamond; and going to the
window, he again essayed with one facet after another to make even the
faintest scratch on the glass. But his latter efforts were as futile
as his first had been. Then the thought struck him, and it was a
thought that sent a brief glow of hope to his heart, that there might,
perhaps, be something peculiar in the cutting of the Diamond which
precluded it from marking the window; that its angles might be too
much rounded, or something of that sort. The only way by which he
could satisfy himself whether he had been duped or no--whether the
Diamond was a real or an imitation one--was to take it to some one
thoroughly conversant with such things, and obtain his verdict
thereon. Even while this thought was in his mind, it came into
his memory that he had seen a quaint little shop, in a certain
out-of-the-way street in St. Helier, with this legend painted over the
window: _H. Vermusen, Lapidary, and Dealer in Precious Stones_. He
remembered it from thinking at the time that he might, perchance, call
some day on Mr. Vermusen, and show him the Diamond.

To this man he would at once go. These alternations of hope and fear
were killing him. He would put off his departure from the island till
to-morrow. Even if Cleon's body had been already found, it would take
more than another day to so complete the chain of evidence as to bring
home the fact that he, Ducie, had been in any way concerned in the
mulatto's death. He was safe for another twenty-four hours.

He looked at his watch. Time had flown rapidly. It was now a quarter
past six. Would the lapidary's shop be open at that early hour?
Hardly. He would finish dressing, and go out on to the sands, and
there wait till the clock should strike eight.

As the church clock struck eight, Captain Ducie opened the door of Mr.
Vermusen's shop. Mr. Vermusen himself came out of a dark inner den to
wait upon his early visitor. A spectacled, high-nosed old gentleman,
in a black velvet skull-cap, and a faded velvet dressing-gown.

"In what can I have the pleasure of serving you, sir?" he asked with a
slow rubbing of his lean hands and a sharp glance over his spectacles
at Captain Ducie's pale haughty face.

Ducie had thoroughly made up his mind during his solitary walk along
the sands to bear whatever the diamond-merchant might have to tell
him, whether it were good news or bad, without any outward tokens
either of elation or dismay. When, therefore, he answered Mr.
Vermusen's question his voice was even more low and equable than
usual, but he could not altogether hide the anxiety that lurked in his
eyes.

"You are a lapidary and dealer in precious stones, I believe?" Mr.
Vermusen bowed.

"I have here an object--a something--the value of which I wish to
ascertain. It was found a few days ago by a sister of mine at the
bottom of an old oak chest that had not been opened for quite forty
years. The chest was full of old family papers--leases, title deeds,
what not--none of which had been needed for a very long time. Having
occasion, however, to look for some missing document, the chest was
emptied, and, as already said, this article was found at the bottom.
My sister has sent it to me with the view of ascertaining its value."

While speaking, the thumb and finger of his right-hand had been
inserted in his waistcoat pocket. They now brought out the Great Mogul
Diamond (or its imitation) and dropped it gently into the skinny palm
of the old lapidary. A low sigh which he could not repress told with
what anxiety Captain Ducie awaited the verdict of Mr. Vermusen.

Grave and immovable as a judge, the diamond-dealer received the
glittering gem in his palm. A moment he looked at it through his
spectacles; then by a gentle up and down movement of his hand he
seemed to be testing its weight as in comparison with its size. Then
he fixed a small microscope in his eye and surveyed the facets
carefully through it. Then he put it in his mouth and rolled his
tongue round it three or four times. Lastly, he put it into a pair of
tiny brass scales and weighed it. Then he looked up and spoke.

"Paste, sir--paste," was all he said.

There was a chair close by where Captain Ducie was standing. He sank
into it, as it seemed without any volition on his part. For a few
moments he did not speak. Then he said very quietly: "You are quite
sure that it is nothing more than paste?"

The old lapidary's thick white eyebrows went up in quiet disdain. "I
am not in the habit, sir, of making assertions which I cannot maintain
by proof," he said, drily. "With your permission, and by the aid of
this little file, I will prove to you in a still more effectual way
that I have stated nothing more than a simple fact."

"Thanks. No. I ask your pardon for seeming to doubt your word. I am
satisfied." He paused, and Mr. Vermusen looked as if he thought the
interview ought to end there. But presently Captain Ducie spoke again.

"I presume that you are a dealer in all sorts of gems, both real and
factitious. Have you any objection to purchase this one of me at your
own price?"

"Such a purchase would be of no use whatever to me. Your gem is too
large for setting either as a genuine stone or an imitation one, and
to break it up would be to render it still more worthless than it is
now. I must decline to purchase it at any price."

Captain Ducie put the glittering impostor back into his pocket. Then
he rose, lifted his hat, bade Mr. Vermusen a courteous good-morning,
and so quitted the shop without another word.

When he got into the street he hesitated for a moment or two which way
he should turn. But all ways were now alike to him. Instinctively he
took the road leading to the sea.

As he reached the bottom of the street a heavy broad-wheeled waggon
laden with stone was on the point of turning the corner. A sudden
impulse came into his mind, and he acted on it without giving himself
time for a second thought. He took the Diamond out of his pocket,
stooped down, and placed it full in the track of the waggon wheel.
With indrawn breath and tense muscles he stood watching the ponderous
wheel roll slowly forward. One more turn, and the Diamond was hidden
for ever. A faint crunching noise, a tiny heap of glittering dust, and
all was over. With a sigh and a shrug of the shoulders, Captain Ducie
went his way.



CHAPTER X.
HAUNTED.


For full three hours Captain Ducie wandered by the lonely shore. A
train of wild and incoherent thoughts, like torn fragments of cloud in
a windy sky, chased each other brokenly across his mind. One thought
alone--to which all the rest were subsidiary--found a permanent
resting-place in his mind, shutting in the horizon of his life on
every side as with a sombre pall. It was the thought--or rather, the
knowledge,--that he was irretrievably ruined.

In the common parlance of the world he had been "ruined" twice before.
But on both those occasions he had had something to fall back upon:
rich relations, powerful friends; a windfall, on one occasion, from a
wealthy aunt who happened to die just at the time when her cash was
most needed; and under all, at the bottom of the casket, had lain
youth and hope. But now! Well: his relations were hopelessly
alienated; one by one his powerful friends had all turned their backs
on him; his character, like an old piece of electro-plate, would have
looked all the brighter for a little polishing: he was without money,
without youth, without hope. Work he could not, and to beg he was
ashamed. Such being the case, what was there left for him but to throw
up the sponge, cry quits, and go under as soon as possible?

The clear bright morning had settled down into a raw drizzling day.
Captain Ducie paced the sands for full three hours, heedless of the
wet and cold. Then he went into the town and pawned his watch for ten
sovereigns. Thence he wandered back to the hotel. He could not eat,
but the power of drinking was still left him. He had a fire lighted in
his bedroom, and ordered up a bottle of cognac. He was ill, not only
mentally but bodily. He was suffering from the reaction consequent on
the excitement of the last few days. But it was more than any common
reaction, it was the dull dead apathy of one who sees himself
hopelessly cut off from all that makes life worth the having. In
addition to this, as the day went on, he began to suffer from the
first symptoms of a sort of low fever brought on by the severe cold he
had caught during his many hours' exposure on the cliffs while hunting
down the mulatto. His head ached, his eyes throbbed, all his pulses
seemed to be on fire. But to deaden the still more weary ache at his
heart he kept on resorting every now and again to the bottle of cognac
by his bedside. For he had gone to bed as soon as his fire was
lighted, and there he lay all through the dreary afternoon and the
still drearier evening, and till far into the night, tossing and
turning from side to side, courting the sleep that would not come.

But it came to him at last. He had counted the weary chimes one
after another till now midnight was here. In the act of counting the
twelve strokes as they were doled out slowly one by one from some
near-at-hand church, he sank off quietly to sleep, and for a little
while both head and heart were at rest.

He had slept for some two hours or more when suddenly he started up in
bed with precisely the same sensation that had awakened him the night
before--the sensation of a cold wet hand pressed heavily across his
mouth and nostrils so as utterly to stop his breathing. As before, he
woke up in the most extreme terror, and with great drops of agony on
his brow. Instinctively he put out his tongue and passed it across his
lip. Again he fancied that he could detect upon them the taste of
seawater. For him, that night, there was no more sleep.

The fever still held him like a burning vice. He lay tossing and
groaning in its hot embrace, looking ever with impatient eyes for the
dawn that was so long in coming. It came at last, as all things come
in their turn. Then Captain Ducie rose, washed and dressed. Despite
his illness, he was thoroughly bent on quitting the island by that
morning's boat. He hungered to be back in England, in London, among
the busy haunts of men. The terrible Hand which had broken his sleep
for two nights in succession would hardly follow him into the heart of
London. There he would lie by till he was better mentally and bodily,
and could afford to face the gloomy future with some degree of manly
fortitude. He had known fellows as utterly bankrupt and ruined as he
was, who had yet managed to survive their difficulties, seeming,
indeed, to float none the less gaily along the stream of life,
although they might not have a sovereign to call their own. He had
relations rich and many, who had one and all declared that if he were
begging his bread they would turn him empty from their doors; but now
that the grim reality was so near, when begging his bread would soon
be his only portion unless help were granted him by some one, they
would surely concert together, and, were it only for the sake of the
family credit, would arrange amongst themselves a life pittance for
him, on which, in some quiet Continental nook where there was good
scenery and good society, he might vegetate not unpleasantly for the
remainder of his days.

He went down to breakfast, but could not touch a morsel, although he
had not tasted food since the day before yesterday. A close carriage
took himself and his luggage to the steamer. The morning was cold,
wet, and stormy, with a nasty cross sea. He was not displeased to find
that very few passengers were going over. He wanted to be as much
alone as possible. The fever that had parched him up all night had now
been succeeded by a chill that made his teeth chatter, and caused him
to tremble in every limb. He went below deck and lay down in a berth
and got the steward to heap a lot of wraps about him, and to bring him
some hot brandy, but for a long time he felt as if he should never be
warm again. All his life he had been a good sailor, he never
remembered having been seasick. But to-day the boat had hardly got
clear of the harbour before he was attacked. By the time the steamer
reached Guernsey he had little or no power of volition left in him. He
beckoned to his friend the steward. "Let me be put ashore here," he
whispered. "I will wait for fairer weather before going on."

So he was carried ashore by three or four stalwart sailors, and
deposited in a fly, and driven off to the hotel "Pomme d'Or." He was
exceedingly ill, and he went off to bed at once. The people at the
hotel wanted to have a doctor called in, but he would not hear of such
a thing. It was only that confounded _mal-de-mer_, he said, and he
should be better in the morning.

But he was not better in the morning. If anything, rather worse.

Again he was woke up in the middle of the night by feeling a wet hand
laid across his mouth. This persistent disturbance of his sleep,
together with the very want of sleep itself, was beginning to tell
upon his nerves. When was the terrible persecution to end?

The sensation was so horrible as utterly to banish sleep for the time
being, and again he lay tossing to and fro, waiting with impatient
eyes for the dawn. About eight he rose and made a show of eating some
breakfast. After breakfast he sat in his easy-chair before the fire,
and while thus sitting he felt a sweet drowsiness steal through all
his limbs. It was broad daylight now, and with the darkness some
portion of the fear inspired by the Hand had vanished. He could almost
afford to smile at his fright of the last three nights. In any case,
he let the drowsiness have its way, and so in three minutes more he
was fast asleep before the fire.

But he had not been more than ten minutes asleep when he was disturbed
in precisely the same way that he had been disturbed before. And, if
his senses did not deceive him, he heard the echo of a low malignant
laugh close at the back of his chair. He stared round half expecting
to see he knew not what. But every nook and corner of the room was
plainly visible. There was no one there but himself. He shuddered from
head to foot, and sank back in his chair, and burst into tears.

To-day the weather was even stormier than yesterday: a higher wind,
more rain. He was not hurried for time, and to cross either to
Southampton or Weymouth in the condition in which he then was, would
be sheer madness. He would have medical advice while thus laid up in
ordinary at the "Pomme d'Or," and would get cured of his cold, and
have an opium mixture to make him sleep, and would wait for fairer
weather and a gentler sea before attempting to continue his voyage. If
he could only recover the lost tone of his nerves, he felt thoroughly
convinced that he should never more be haunted by that nightmare Hand.

Captain Ducie had always held the whole tribe of doctors in
abhorrence. He had not been under the hands of one of the brotherhood
for more than twenty years, and nothing could have been more strongly
indicative of the state to which he was now reduced, than the fact of
his determining of his own free will to call in medical advice. He
was, in very truth, wretchedly ill, thoroughly woe-begone.

The doctor came, saw him, listened to what he had to say, and
prescribed. Ducie entered into no details as to the mode in which his
sleep was broken. He merely said that he was unable to get his proper
rest in consequence of being so frequently troubled with nightmare,
and he begged of the doctor to provide him with a powerful opiate.
Medicine came: two bottles: one for the improvement of his cold, the
second to be taken just before getting into bed.

Ducie spent a doleful day enough. He had no heart left to read either
a newspaper or a magazine, and the very thought of a cigar turned him
sick. This latter he regarded as a very bad sign. "When a fellow gets
past his smoke, he's not of much account in this world," he said to
himself with a sigh. Still, he did not fail to derive some grains of
comfort from the hope that with the assistance of his friend the
doctor he should succeed in cheating that terrible nightmare which
seemed bent on slowly pressing his life out an inch at a time.

He waited with desperate patience without any further attempt at sleep
till he heard the people below stairs shutting up the hotel for the
night. Then he got into bed, and marking off, with his forefinger on
the bottle, a dose and a half of the draught, he swallowed it more
gratefully than he had ever swallowed the choicest wine, and then lay
down.

Hardly, as it seemed to him, had his head touched the pillow before a
delicious languor stole through all his limbs, and with a half turn
over to the other side, he was gone.

He was gone, and in a deeper sleep, probably, than he had ever been in
before. But it was a sleep that did not last above an hour. At the end
of that time it was broken precisely as it had been broken before.
Only, this time, as if on account of his being so soundly asleep and
therefore more difficult to arouse, he seemed closer to the point of
actual suffocation than he had been before. He gasped for breath, and
gurgled in his throat, and the veins of his forehead stood out thick
and blue as though the circulation were on the point of being
violently stopped for ever. Again his returning senses seemed to catch
the sound of a low mocking laugh, and again there was the taste of
saltwater on his lips.

His terror this time on awaking was, if such a thing were possible,
more extreme than it had ever been before, inasmuch as he felt that he
had been closer to the verge of death. "Another half-minute, and I
should have been gone past recovery," he said to himself as he
wiped the great drops of agony off his brow. "Devil!" he muttered
aloud--"yellow-skinned son of the bottomless pit, so this is your
revenge, is it?" There was a sort of stony despair in his set
colourless face, but a wild, almost insane defiance lashed from the
hollow caverns of his eyes. "You may win the day, perhaps: I cannot
help that," he cried. "But the victory shall be in my fashion--not in
yours!"

From that moment he seemed to accept the fate which he saw looming
before him as a foregone conclusion from which it was impossible to
escape.

Unconsciously to himself, perhaps, he was somewhat of a fatalist in
his ideas: the maxim, that "What is to be, must be," was one that was
often in his mind if seldom on his lips. He felt like one of those
doomed beings whose tragic woes the Greek dramatists loved to sing; he
was pursued by a shadowy Nemesis, from whose relentless grasp there
was no escape. He could only bow his head in silence and submit.

He got out of bed and made himself some chocolate, and sat brooding
over the fire for the remainder of the night.

Two or three times he fell off into a broken doze, which lasted for
only a few minutes each time, and each time his brief slumber was
broken by the menace rather than the reality of the terrible Hand.

The access of terror through which he had passed early in the night
had the effect of rendering him comparatively callous to these minor
visitations. Still they all had their effect in helping to wear him
out, both in body and mind.

After breakfast--which with him was a mere pretence of a meal--he
ordered up pens, ink, and paper, and sat down to write.

With a few intervals of rest he kept on writing through the day, and
did not finish till an hour after candles had been brought up. He put
what he had written into two different envelopes, which he sealed up
and addressed. Then he burned several old letters which lay at the
bottom of his despatch box, and, lastly, he took a long, brown, silky
ringlet, which he had not looked at for years, from its resting-place
in a tiny satin-lined case, and after pressing it passionately two or
three times to his lips, he dropped that too into the fire. After that
he sat for a full hour gazing with sorrowful eyes into the smouldering
embers without stirring a limb.

The doctor had called about noon, whereupon Ducie had assured him that
he had passed an excellent night, and felt himself very much better
than on the previous day.

The medico looked rather dubious, but could not get over his patient's
assurances that he was rapidly improving. Indeed, to-night, after he
rose from his seat by the fire and began to pace his room, there was a
brightness in his eyes, and an amount of energy in his manner, that
might have deceived an inexperienced person into thinking that the
morrow would find him perfectly recovered.

A little later on he took a bath and perfumed himself, and ordered up
a choice supper, of which he partook with more appetite than he had
shown for several days past. Then he began to prepare for bed.

But before retiring for the night, he dived deep into his portmanteau
and fished up from its depths a long, thin Damascus dagger of blue
steel, with an inlaid haft. He wiped it carefully and felt its point,
smiling cynically the while, and then he laid it on the little table
by his bedside.

He was soon asleep, but only to be awakened a couple of hours later,
as he had been awakened before, by the pressure of a cold wet Hand
across his mouth and nostrils, and by feeling that he was on the verge
of suffocation. It took him two or three minutes to recover his
equanimity. Then he got out of bed, put on his dressing-gown, lighted
the candles, and wheeled an easy-chair up to the fire.

The wind was roaring down the chimneys of the hotel and shaking the
windows, and he could hear the heavy dashing of the sea against the
granite walls of the pier.

A wild, eerie night--a night on which the spirits of the dead might
easily be supposed to come forth and wander round the places they had
loved best on earth.

Captain Ducie drew the little table close up to his easy-chair, and
then sat down before the fire and rested his feet on the fender. On
the table were a bottle of cognac, a wineglass, and the "bare
bodkin." with the inlaid haft.


         *         *          *          *         *         *


It may be recollected that after George Strickland obtained Captain
Ducie's address from the porter at the Piebalds Club, he telegraphed
to Major Strickland at Tydsbury. The reply to his message was a
request that he would proceed to Jersey without delay, and there, if
possible, bring his search to a definite conclusion.

On reaching St. Helier, he went at once to the "Royal George," and
inquired for Captain Ducie. In reply he was told that Captain Ducie
had left by the Southampton boat four days previously. George was
excessively chagrined, for he had quite made up his mind that he
should find Ducie at St. Helier. All that he could now do was to go
back to London and there wait till a fresh address should be sent by
Ducie to the Piebalds, and then follow him up from that point. So he
stayed that night at the "Royal George," and started for England by
next morning's steamer.

He was standing on the bridge of the steamer, gazing on what looked
like a bank of cloud in the distance, but which someone had told him
was Guernsey, when the captain and one of the passengers came up and
halted close by him. They were talking earnestly together, and George
heard the name of Captain Ducie twice mentioned by the captain. He
moved away out of earshot till the two men separated. Then he went up
to the captain. "I accidentally heard you mention the name of Captain
Ducie," he said. "May I ask whether you are acquainted with that
gentleman, and whether you can tell me his present address?"

"I am not acquainted with the gentleman in question," said the
captain, "but I can tell you his present address. If you choose to
inquire at the Pomme d'Or,' in St. Peter's, you will find him lying
there, stark dead, stabbed to the heart by his own hand."

George was inexpressibly shocked. In answer to his question, the
captain supplied him with these further particulars: Ducie had been
stopping at the "Pomme d'Or" for the last two or three days, very much
out of health. He had been seen by a doctor, who had pronounced him to
be suffering from a species of low fever, brought on through having
contracted a severe cold; his nerves, too, seemed to be very much
shaken and out of order. There seemed nothing, however, but what a few
days' rest, with due attention to the doctor's prescriptions, would
have set right. Yesterday morning, on being called, there was no
answer, and on the door being forced, Ducie was found dead, having
evidently stabbed himself some time in the night with a small dagger
that was found on the ground not far away.

George landed at Guernsey, and hurried up to the "Pomme d'Or," where
every particular which the captain had given him was confirmed. It was
clearly proved that the act must have been premeditated, seeing that
the uppermost thing in the dead man's writing-desk was a slip of
paper, on which was written a request that in case of anything
happening to himself his cousin, the Honourable Egerton Dacre, should
at once be communicated with. This request had been complied with
before George reached the hotel, so he made up his mind to await the
arrival of Mr. Dacre, and detail to him the circumstances which had
led to his taking such an interest in the fate of Captain Ducie.

The Hon. Mr. Dacre arrived in due course, and after the funeral was
over George introduced himself, and told his story. "It is just the
sort of thing Ned would be likely to do," said Mr. Dacre; "to contract
a secret marriage, and afterwards to separate from his wife. I am,
however, pleased to find that the lady to whom he gave his name came
of so excellent a family. As regards his daughter, I know of no reason
why she should not be received as such by all of us. I am sure my
mother will be delighted to find that Ned has left a child whom she
may acknowledge without a blush. Of course you are aware that Ducie
has died as poor as a rat, so that in the way of worldly goods the
young lady must not expect anything from our side of the house, unless
she be in want of a home, in which case we will gladly welcome her. I
must, however, lay the whole case before Ned's elder brother, with
whom, as being the head of that branch of the family, the settlement
of all future details must rest."

Such were the tidings that Captain George Strickland took back with
him to Tydsbury.



CHAPTER XI.
THE ARRIVAL OF THE DIAMOND AT DUPLEY WALLS.


Mr. Solomon Madgin had not failed to inform Lady Pollexfen from time
to time of the progress that was being made in the attempt to recover
the Great Mogul Diamond. This he had done without entering into any
minute details of the case, of which, indeed, her ladyship cared to
hear nothing. It was enough for her to be told every few days that Mr.
Madgin still held the clue in his fingers, and that each step which he
took would, to the best of his belief, bring him so much nearer the
object the attainment of which they both had so deeply at heart.

Lady Pollexfen had of course been apprised that Mr. Madgin's presence
in Jersey was needed for the furtherance of their scheme; but when he
had been gone a week and no news of any kind had been received from
him, she began to grow not only impatient, but uneasy lest Mr. Madgin
should in any way have come to grief. She could neither eat nor sleep
as she was wont to do, but wandered aimlessly up and down the great
empty rooms at Dupley Walls, leaning on Janet's arm, and either
muttering to herself about people who had long been dead, or
complaining querulously that Mr. Madgin, the man whom she had trusted
above all others, had also failed her in her time of need.

To Janet that was indeed a season of heart-weariness. She had not had
time to recover from the crushing blow which her mother's death had
inflicted upon her. Many a time she woke up in the night and found
herself in tears, for not even in sleep could she forget the loss of
her whom she had learned to love so dearly, while still ignorant of
the tie that bound them so closely together.

With nerves unstrung, and a heart that was ill at ease, it is not to
be wondered at that even from the very quest which George Strickland
had gone upon her mind seemed to draw in and gather to itself certain
premonitions, vague and faint, of further unhappiness to come. She
longed for and yet dreaded the coming of each post. Major Strickland
sometimes wrote to her, and any morsel of news was precious to her
that had any reference, however remote, to Captain George. And yet she
never opened one of the major's notes without trembling lest it might
contain some news of a hitherto unknown father who might, perchance,
come and claim her, and take her away for ever from a spot which her
mother's memory made sacred to her, and from those faithful friends to
whom her young affections clung so tenaciously.

Janet's life at Dupley Walls was one of which few people would have
envied her. From the date of Sister Agnes's death, Lady Pollexfen had
grown more exacting in her requirements, more capricious in her moods,
more difficult to please than she had ever been before. There was a
terrible wakefulness about her. What sleep she had was intermittent
and of short duration; and Janet herself never got to bed without
being wearied out both in body and spirit with her long attendance on
the strange old woman. Often, when she had not been asleep more than a
couple of hours, Lady Pollexfen's bell would ring violently, and then
Janet had to rise and dress herself and hasten to the old woman's
room, to find that she was wanted to read aloud, or, it might be, to
play écarté, while her ladyship sat up in bed with a gay Indian shawl
thrown round her shoulders, her withered face bent keenly over her
cards, and an occasional hollow chuckle issuing from her lips. At the
end of a couple of hours or so she would go off to sleep almost as
suddenly as if she were an automaton whose eyes were made to shut at
the touch of a spring. Then Janet would creep back shivering to bed,
only to begin another day's dreary round a few hours later.

During the last few weeks Lady Pollexfen had seemed as if she could
scarcely bear to let Janet out of her sight. Not that she was in any
way more affectionate towards her than she had ever been. Her manner
was still as hard, her tongue was still as caustic as of old. But she
seemed now as if she could not bear to be alone: as if constant
companionship with Janet's fresh and sweet young nature were needed to
keep alive the slowly decaying embers of her life. Be that as it may,
Janet's time was so fully occupied that it was all she could do to
steal one short hour out of the twenty-four for a solitary ramble in
the park: but without such a walk she felt that she should soon have
broken down under the exactions of her life at Dupley Walls. A visit
to Major Strickland at Tydsbury was now entirely out of the question.
As already stated, the post now and then brought her a brief note from
him. As the tenor of these notes was invariably affectionate and
reassuring, they were cherished by her as the chiefest grains of
comfort by which the dreary passage of time was brightened at Dupley
Walls.

As previous chapters have already told us, George Strickland was still
busy with his quest at the very time that Mr. Madgin was on his way
back to Dupley Walls with the Great Mogul Diamond in his possession.
Consequently, Captain Ducie was still among the living, and George
Strickland had not yet left London in search of him, when on a certain
morning a telegram sent by Mr. Madgin from Southampton was brought to
Lady Pollexfen, it was brief and to the purpose:--


"Thoroughly successful. The Great Mogul is travelling with me. His
Highness will reach Dupley Walls to-morrow."


Lady Pollexfen was sitting up in bed drinking her chocolate when the
message was taken in to her. She requested Janet to read it aloud. The
cup and saucer dropped from her fingers as Janet read. She turned
quite white and faint, and for a minute or two was unable to speak.
After smelling awhile at her salts she revived, and asked Janet to
read the message a second time.

"That good Madgin!" she exclaimed. "What a thing it is to be served
faithfully!" Then turning to Janet: "See, child, what can be
accomplished by intelligence and perseverance!" she cried. "When
Sergeant Nicholas came here and told his story, how hopeless it seemed
to expect that my poor boy's Diamond would ever be recovered for me:
and yet, behold, it is here, and the wicked are brought to confusion!"

During the whole of that day her ladyship was very much elated, and
correspondingly gracious and good-tempered towards Janet. In the
afternoon they drove to Tydsbury, and there her ladyship was pleased
to buy a set of bog-oak ornaments for Miss Holme: an almost
unprecedented piece of liberality on the part of the mistress of
Dupley Walls.

Late the same night came a message from Mr. Madgin stating that he
should be at Dupley Walls at ten o'clock the following morning.

By that hour next morning her ladyship was up and dressed, ready to
receive company. Had Lady Pollexfen been going to a dinner party at
Langley Castle she could not have been got up more elaborately than
she was on the present occasion. Her choicest coiffure, her stiffest
silk, her most ancient lace, her largest diamonds, together with an
extra streak of rouge and an extra touch of the powder-puff, had all
been employed to dignify and render memorable the approaching
ceremonial. Her ladyship was too much excited to partake of breakfast,
but when everything was ready she called for a small glass of curaçoa
and cream, and then taking Janet's arm, and supported on the other
side by her gold-headed malacca, she descended the shallow staircase
with slow and stately steps, and reached the great hall just as the
clocks were striking ten.

She knew that Mr. Madgin was punctuality itself. She had reached the
centre of the hall as the clocks ceased striking, and the same instant
there was a loud knocking at the grand entrance. Mr. Madgin's fine
instinct had told him that on this occasion, if never again, he must
enter Dupley Walls as if he were a visitor of state, and not by the
modest side-door through which his entrances and exits had heretofore
been made. One of the two faded servitors in faded livery whom Lady
Pollexfen still retained flung wide the door. Mr. Madgin in his Sunday
suit of black, with white neckcloth and gold-rimmed eyeglass dangling
across his waistcoat, advanced slowly into the hall, removed his hat
and bowed profoundly. Lady Pollexfen, on her side, made her most
stately and elaborate curtsey. Mr. Madgin came forward; Lady Pollexfen
advanced a step or two and held out her hand. Mr. Madgin carried the
lean and ancient fingers respectfully to his lips.

"I return from fulfilling your ladyship's behests," he said. "I also
bring with me a trifling memento of my journey, of which I humbly
request your ladyship's acceptance."

Speaking thus Mr. Madgin produced from one of his pockets a tiny
casket of imitation Byzantine workmanship which he had bought while
passing through London. Touching a spring, the lid flew open, and
there, on a cushion of white satin, lay the glittering source of so
many hopes and fears, of so much happiness and misery--the Great Mogul
Diamond.

For a moment or two Lady Pollexfen stood perfectly still, eyeing the
glittering bauble, without speaking. Breathing a little faster than
she was wont, she at length put forth a trembling hand and received
the casket and its contents from Mr. Madgin.

"Follow me," she said in a voice that was shaken by emotion. Then she
turned, and discarding for once the assistance of Janet's arm, and
carrying the open casket before her, she began to retrace her way
slowly and painfully towards her own apartments. Miss Holme and Mr.
Madgin followed at a respectful distance.

On reaching her private sitting-room Lady Pollexfen sat down in her
high-backed chair of carved oak, and motioned to Mr. Madgin first to
shut the door, and next to take a seat.

"Mr. Madgin," said her ladyship after a few moments, "any formula of
thanks which I could put into words would be totally inadequate to
express my feelings towards you for the great service you have just
done me. I can only say that you are no longer my servant but my
friend."

"Madam, I am overwhelmed by the honour you have just conferred upon
me," answered Mr. Madgin, as he rose, laid his hand on his heart and
bowed. "Such a recognition of my humble merits is far beyond my
deserts."

"Mr. Madgin," resumed Lady Pollexfen in her most stately manner, "if
you will honour me by accepting my friendship, it is yours."

"Too much honour, really," murmured Mr. Madgin in a distressed voice.

Lady Pollexfen waved her arm, as if that portion of the subject were
beyond the pale of further discussion. "At the same time, Mr. Madgin,"
she resumed, "you must not for one moment imagine that I wish you to
forego the least portion of that pecuniary reward which was promised
you when you first took in hand the remarkable inquiry which you have
this day brought to such a successful issue. I have here, ready made
out and signed, a cheque for the sum agreed on. I am quite aware that
to a man of your noble and disinterested character the mere pecuniary
part of the affair will seem of small account in comparison with that
other gift which I have just conferred upon you."

Mr. Madgin's face had brightened wonderfully during the last minute or
two. With his hand he mechanically smoothed the gray hair across his
forehead before he answered. "What a remarkable knowledge of character
your ladyship displays," he said deferentially. "How well you
understand the disposition of Solomon Madgin. Money does indeed seem
dross when weighed against the golden gift of friendship." He coughed
slightly behind his hand, and looked a little anxiously at her
ladyship.

"Take the cheque, Mr. Madgin," she said as she handed him the magic
slip of paper. "You must come and dine with me to-morrow. At the same
time bring me an account of the expenses incurred by you over this
affair, and a second cheque shall at once be given you for the
amount."

Mr. Madgin was nearly overcome, and could only murmur a few indistinct
words in reply.

"Perchance, Solomon Madgin, you look upon me as nothing better than a
mercenary old woman." Mr. Madgin vehemently disclaimed any such idea.
"But I tell you," resumed Lady Pollexfen, with emphasis, "that I value
this magnificent gem less, infinitely less, for its pecuniary value,
than because I know it to be a true and veritable relic of my dear
dead son. His fingers have held it; his eyes have looked on it; it was
in his keeping when he died; it was his parting gift to me, his
mother, who held him in her heart of hearts as dearer to her than all
else the world could offer. In that fact lay the root of my strong
desire to possess this stone. And now that I have it I can hold it but
for a little while. Soon the day will come, when---- But why pursue
the dreary suggestion any further? Enough for the day is the evil
thereof. Let the morrow take care of itself. And now, again thanks,
and then good morning. To-morrow you will dine with me."

"One word before I go," said Mr. Madgin as he rose. "May I venture to
express a hope that it is not your ladyship's intention to retain so
valuable a gem in your personal possession? Think of the risk you run
of its being lost or stolen. Let me entreat you, that without any
unnecessary delay your ladyship will give it into the custody either
of your banker, or of some other person who has the means and the will
to keep it safely."

"There is sense in what you say, Solomon Madgin, but I cannot persuade
myself to part from my dear boy's relic almost as soon as it has come
into my hands. For the present I shall certainly retain it in my own
custody. I will take very good care not to lose it, and as for its
being stolen, there is no one save yourself and Miss Holme who knows
that I have such an article in my possession. And I think I can trust
both of you to keep my secret."

Mr. Madgin saw that it would be impolitic to urge the point any
further at present; so, after bidding her ladyship a respectful
farewell, he withdrew without further remark.



CHAPTER XII.
DE MORTUIS NIL NISI BONUM.


Lady Pollexfen was obliged to go to bed almost immediately after the
departure of Mr. Madgin from Dupley Walls. Now that the long-coveted
gem was in her possession, the excitement that had upheld her during
the ardour of pursuit at once died out, leaving her utterly prostrate
and to all appearance half-a-dozen years older than when she rose in
the morning. The reaction was too much for her enfeebled health, and
she lay in bed all that day and all the following day, speaking little
to any one, but often talking disconnectedly to herself, and seeming
sometimes as though she were addressing imaginary persons by her
bedside. During the whole of this time she held the Diamond, now in
one hand, now in the other, often gazing at it, sometimes kissing it
and talking to it as though it could understand everything she said.

But whatever might be the mental hallucinations of Lady Pollexfen at
this time, her perception of the real events that were happening round
her, and her criticism of those in attendance on her, were in no
degree impaired. She had never exacted more attention from Miss Holme:
had never been more difficult to please. She would not allow her
invitation to Mr. Madgin to be countermanded. That gentleman,
accordingly, dined in solitary state in the great saloon, waited on by
the solemn butler, and treated in every respect as a guest of
distinction. Her ladyship sent down her compliments by Miss Holme,
with an expression of regret at her inability to join Mr. Madgin at
table. The next day she was somewhat better, and the day following
that she was up and about again, wandering restlessly to and fro
through the stately but silent rooms, or on to the warm south terrace
for a few minutes in the middle of the day. But it seemed to Janet
that the old woman's arm rested more heavily on hers than it was wont
to do, that she walked more slowly, and had to halt more frequently to
rest. That strange wakefulness which would not allow her to sleep
except by fits and starts, was still upon her. She had caused Janet's
bed to be removed into a corner of her own large room, so that Janet
might be more immediately within call. Many were the nights that Janet
never got into bed at all, but had to satisfy herself with flying
snatches of sleep in a large armchair by her ladyship's bedside.
Sometimes Lady Pollexfen would lie awake for two or three hours in the
middle of the night with wide-open eyes fixed solemnly on the canopy
over her head, requiring no attendance, and never speaking except when
she perceived signs of drowsiness in Janet, who was stationed where
she could be seen by a mere turn of the eyes. Then would her
ladyship's voice ring out clear and sharp: "Miss Holme! Miss Holme the
devil is behind you, about to cut off your hair with a pair of
shears." Or perhaps, "Miss Holme! Miss Holme! there is a large grey
rat staring at you out of the corner. Do make haste and frighten him
away."

Janet had neither seen nor heard anything of Major Strickland for more
than a week. Her fears were beginning to overmaster her. She had a
prevision that there was ill news in store for her. Would the errand
on which George Strickland was gone bring her happiness or misery? was
the question which she was continually putting to herself. Had she a
father alive? and if alive, would he prove to be a friend--a
protector? Or, would he prove to be one whom she could neither love
nor reverence?--one who by his conduct to her mother had shown of what
falsehood and treachery his heart was compact? Hard and dreary as was
her life at Dupley Walls since the death of Sister Agnes, it was still
redeemed by occasional flying gleams of sunshine--sunshine which left
some portion of its warmth in her heart after its brightness had
passed away. What she dreaded was that George Strickland's quest might
so result as to deprive her of even this consolation; that it might
result in proving her to be the daughter of some ruined and disgraced
man who would claim her as his own, and sever with a merciless hand
all those sweet tendrils of love and friendship from which her heart's
sole nourishment was derived. At length the suspense grew intolerable.
She wrote and despatched a brief note to Major Strickland, begging
earnestly for news of some kind. This note crossed the major on the
road, who was on his way that very morning to Dupley Walls with the
view of telling Janet the news, or such portions of it as he might
deem advisable, with which his nephew had reached home over night.

So jealous and exacting had Lady Pollexfen become of late, that the
major could not go boldly into the house and ask to see Miss Holme. To
have done so would have entirely defeated the object of his visit, and
would have simply resulted in making Janet for the time being a closer
prisoner than ever. But the major was diplomatic. Making his way
through the side entrance to Dolly Dance's room, he contrived to get a
whispered message delivered to Miss Holme; but even then he had to
wait upwards of two hours before Janet could steal away for a few
minutes to listen to what he had to say.

The story which George Strickland had to tell after his return from
Jersey was a far more surprising one than the major had expected to
hear. Many of its details were of too painful a nature ever to be
communicated to Janet.

How could it benefit any one to tell the dead man's daughter that her
father had been a gambler and a roué, and that he had ended a
disgraceful career by committing suicide? Why pain a tender heart by
such details? It would be pained sufficiently to know that the father
it had hoped to find had only been found when it was too late for him
to look upon his daughter in this world--too late even to know that
there was a creature so near akin to him in existence. Therefore, as
he walked slowly through the park on his way to Dupley Walls, the
major conned over and over the story he had made up his mind to tell,
and it was a story which he needed to repeat many times to himself
before telling it aloud, for the old soldier was a bad hand at
concealments of any kind.

Janet's tears came the moment she set eyes on Major Strickland. She
was worn out with anxiety and the long vigils she had had to keep of
late. The major drew her towards him and kissed her tenderly on the
forehead. Then her sobs came unrestrainedly, and for a little while
she could not give utterance to a word. The major placed her in a
chair and sat down beside her, and gazed at her with anxious eyes,
rubbing one of her hands tenderly between his own withered palms, till
Janet had in some degree recovered her serenity.

"George reached home last night from his journey," the major ventured
to say at last.

Janet's heart began to beat hurriedly. She looked up into the major's
eyes, and read something there that turned her cheek even paler than
it was before.

"You have some bad news to tell me," she said in a low voice, while
her hand squeezed that of the major tightly.

"My poor child! you have neither a mother nor a father," said the
major, with a returning pressure of the hand.

Janet sighed.

"I am no poorer off than I imagined myself to be," she said quietly.

"I have not told you all. Unknown to you, unknown to your mother, your
father has been alive all these years. He was living at the time your
mother died, and had not our search for him been delayed so long after
that event, he would have learnt that he had a daughter grown up to
woman's estate whom he had never seen, and who had never seen him. But
when George found him he was deaf to all earthly sounds. Poverina mia,
your father died nine days ago."

On Janet's face, as the major said those words, came a look of pain
and bewilderment pitiful to see.

"Poor, poor papa!" she murmured. "Only two short weeks ago, and I
might have seen him and spoken to him, and have told him how dearly I
would love him. If we had but known! If we had but known!"

She was crying quietly and pitifully by this time, in a way that made
the old soldier's heart ache to witness.

"Great heaven! what a treasure that man missed when he missed the love
of this dear child," said the major to himself.

"You must please tell me all about it," said Janet after a little
while. "What you have just stated seems so utterly strange to me, that
at present I can hardly realize the fact that I have not really been
the fatherless girl I have all along believed myself to be. Ah! dear
Major Strickland, how much I owe to you and other kind friends! Had it
not been for your efforts in my behalf, I should never have known what
you have told me to-day."

"It would perhaps have been as well for your peace of mind if you
never had known it."

"Indeed, dear Major Strickland, you must not say that. The truth can
never injure us. But now you will tell me, will you not, all that you
know or have heard respecting this father whom I shall never see on
earth?"

But it was not the major's intention to tell Janet all that he knew
respecting Captain Ducie. The story he did tell her was a mild version
of the one that had been told him.

He could not conceal from her the fact that Captain Ducie had
purposely abandoned his wife, nor that he had led her to believe that
he had been drowned in order that the tie between them might be more
completely severed. But he softened both circumstances in the telling,
and made as many excuses for the dead man as if he had been a brother
of his own.

On Captain Ducie's after-career he dwelt lightly and tenderly,
contriving to leave on Janet's mind the impression that her father had
been more sinned against than sinning.

Finally, he altogether suppressed the fact of Ducie's suicide, and
left Janet to suppose, that although her father's death had been a
sudden one, it had proceeded from causes that were natural and
entirely beyond his own control. What information he had gathered
respecting Captain Ducie's relatives and connexions he left to be told
at some future time.



CHAPTER XIII.
THE DEPARTURE OF SIR JOHN POLLEXFEN.


But now the day was drawing near which had been fixed by Sir John
Pollexfen in his will as that on which his body should be committed to
the vault where the bones of several generations of his ancestors
already reposed. Sir John would soon have been dead twenty years. On
the twentieth anniversary of his decease, his body would leave Dupley
Walls for ever.

That this day had long been looked forward to by Lady Pollexfen, Janet
was well aware.

The fierce old woman had often declared that not till the dead body of
her husband should be removed from Dupley Walls, would the curse that
had rested on the house from the day of his death be lifted off it,
and rendered powerless for further harm.

In one of the galleries was a portrait of Sir John, which during the
last twelve months had been visited daily by Lady Pollexfen. Every
time she visited it, she made a practice of sticking a pin through
some part of the figure, and leaving it there.

"One day less, Sir John, before the worms claim you as their own," was
her usual remark on these occasions.

And then she would nod her head and jeer at the painted semblance of
her dead husband.

"We shall have quite a little jubilee the day you leave us, by which
you may judge how grieved we shall be to part from you. Another pin.
Oh! that you could feel them, and that I could thus repay you in part
for some of the thousands of heart-aches you caused me when you were
alive!"

After she began to recover from the state of mental and bodily
prostration into which she had sunk when no longer sustained by the
excitement consequent on the search for the Diamond, she was not long
before she was about again, apparently as well and strong as she had
been for the last year or two. But to Janet it seemed that much of her
strength was factitious, and that it did not arise from any real
improvement in her health, but rather from the necessity which seemed
to sit so heavily upon her of being up and doing on the day of Sir
John's departure. To be lying weak and ill in bed on such a day would
have seemed like an acknowledgment of regret for the departure of her
husband to which her proud spirit could by no means submit.

She spoke nothing but the truth when she said that she so thoroughly
detested the memory of the man, that it would be a day of jubilee for
her when his body was borne out of her sight for ever.

She was probably influenced in her determination by another reason,
but one which she would have been slow to acknowledge even to herself.

Her mind was powerfully impressed with the idea, that not only was the
lifeless body of her husband under the roof of Dupley Walls, but that
the house was haunted by his incorporeal presence; that, in fact, his
spirit was doomed to wander unrestingly in and about the old house so
long as his body--in accordance with his own foolish wish--remained
unburied and unsanctified by the rites of Christian sepulture.

Hence the strange habit into which she had fallen of addressing her
husband as though he were standing, an invisible presence, close by
her elbow, and was cognizant of all she said.

It could not be other than a source of satisfaction to Janet to know
that her midnight visits to the Black Room were so soon to come to an
end. The duty she had there to perform was one which not even the
custom of years could have rendered otherwise than distasteful to her.
She never could quite conquer the superstitious thrill which touched
her from head to foot every time she opened the door of the dreaded
room. She never could quite get over the feeling that an unseen pair
of eyes was watching her from behind the funereal drapery that clothed
the walls. She could never descend the stairs on her way back to the
habitable regions of the house without a nervous shiver at the thought
that perhaps some shadowy hand was being put forth to clutch her from
behind, Janet could not, therefore, be otherwise than pleased to think
that the silent tenant of Dupley Walls would so soon have to find
another and a more permanent home.

Lady Pollexfen had named the date a month beforehand which was fixed
for the removal of Sir John.

At length the last midnight arrived. Janet had been reading to her
ladyship, and when the clock pointed to five minutes to twelve she
shut the book and rose to go.

"I will go with you to-night," said her ladyship, who to all
appearance had been dozing for the last half hour, although Janet had
not on that account been allowed to lay down her book.

So arm-in-arm the two went slowly up the long staircases with many a
halt to gather breath. At length the door of the Black Room was
reached and opened. Preceded by her ladyship Janet went in. While she
went about her customary duty, Lady Pollexfen stood sternly erect,
resting her crossed hands on the head of her cane, and gazing with
hard unmoved countenance on the coffin of her dead husband.

Janet in her twilight walk through the garden a few hours previously
had found a couple of late roses. These she had plucked and had
fastened them into the bosom of her dress: she now took them out of
her dress, and laid them reverently on the coffin.

"What are you about, child?" cried Lady Pollexfen in her most
imperious tones. "Flowers are not for such as he. Take them away. For
him you should bring the deadly nightshade and hemlock, and all plants
that are hurtful to human life. There are some men, child, that, like
the fatal upas tree, have power to blight and poison all who come
within their influence. Such a man was he who is nailed up in that
box. He blighted my life; he poisoned my son's life, and drove him
abroad to die in a strange land; he withered the lives of my two
daughters, and not content with the evil which he did while living, he
left his dead body as a curse that should haunt my life for twenty
wretched years. That term is now at an end, and after to-morrow I
shall grow twenty years younger, feeling and knowing that neither in
time nor in eternity will his baneful presence ever haunt me again."

Suddenly she clutched Janet by the arm, and drew the girl closer to
her. "He is there!" she said--"there, behind the black curtains,
watching me, listening to every word that I say--as he used to watch
and listen when he was alive. There is the same meanness, the same low
trickery about him now that he is dead that marked him when he was
living. He often visits me--often talks to me--and although he will
not acknowledge it, I know that when once his body shall be laid in
the vault at Dene Folly, I shall have seen and spoken with him for the
last time. To-night, child, you must sit by my bedside all night long,
and read aloud from some godly book. Then he will have no power to
come near me or harm me. But you must not go to sleep nor cease your
reading till you see the first streaks of daylight in the east: after
that we are safe. I said he was there. See how yonder curtain stirs
and flutters. He will not show himself because you are here. It is
only I, I who was his miserable wife for twenty-three long years, that
he cares to torment. But come. Let us tarry here no longer. This is
his last night, thank heaven! beneath the roof of Dupley Walls."

They went downstairs together as they had come, arm-in-arm, her
ladyship shaking her head and mumbling to herself all the way as she
went. Then she got into bed, and Janet sat by her side all night,
reading aloud from a "godly book," while the old woman lay without
stirring, with wide-staring solemn eyes that seemed to be gazing on
some far-away picture, the subject of which was known to herself
alone.

To Mr. Madgin was entrusted the charge of conveying the body of Sir
John Pollexfen to its final resting-place at Dene Folly, forty miles
away; and Mr. Madgin was to be the sole "mourner" on the occasion. So
Lady Pollexfen willed it. The body was to leave Dupley Walls at
midnight, and be conveyed to the nearest railway station. After a
journey of thirty miles by rail it would be met by another hearse and
mourning-coach by means of which the third and last stage of the
journey would be accomplished.

At a quarter to twelve precisely a hearse and mourning-coach drew up
before the main entrance to Dupley Walls. The door was thrown open,
and Mr. Madgin--solemn, dignified--glided in, followed by a number of
familiars in black. Still led by Mr. Madgin, they trooped up the grand
staircase like so many birds of evil omen hastening to some unholy
feast. Not long were they away. Presently they reappeared, carrying on
their shoulders the burden for which they had come. Slowly and
carefully they descended the stairs, and were just crossing the hall
on their way out, when an imperious voice commanded, them to halt.

There, in the opposite gallery, stood the weird figure of Lady
Pollexfen, her palsied head working awfully, her skinny hands
trembling with nervous excitement, and the gems on her fingers
scintillating in the lamplight. She was attired in her bridal dress of
white satin and lace--a dress which she had not worn for forty-three
years. Her black wig was gaily trimmed with flowers and scraps of
lace, and in one hand she carried a large bouquet. A foot or two
behind her stood Miss Holme.

She had commanded the bearers to halt, and they now stood gazing with
wonder on this strange apparition. "In that shell lies the body of my
husband, Sir John Pollexfen," she began, speaking in clear high-bred
tones that could be plainly heard by everyone there. "He died twenty
years ago this very day. When he died, there was not even one eye to
weep for him, or one heart to mourn for him. All who had known him
were glad that they should never see him more. By a most unholy will
he devised that his body should be kept unburied for the space of
twenty years, and that under whatever roof I might choose to reside he
also should there find a resting-place for the time being; the dead
and the living were, in fact, to keep each other company all that
time. Should I fail in carrying out his commands, the whole of the
property left thus conditionally to me, was to pass away to others. I
have carried out his commands; but here, to-night, in presence of you
strangers, and with my eyes fixed for the last time on that coffin, I
say to you, deliberately and solemnly: Would that I had never been
born rather than have married that man! Would that I had died on my
wedding-day rather than have had children to call him father! Would
that I had died on the day that he died rather than have undertaken
the burden which his wicked commands laid on my shoulders! I hate
myself because I bear his name. I hate this house because it has
sheltered him. Take his wretched body away out of my sight for ever!"

The procession moved slowly forward across the hall, and out through
the great door. A minute or two later, and hearse and coach set out on
their midnight journey through the park. Then the great door was shut
and locked by the solemn butler; and the same moment Lady Pollexfen
staggered, and would have fallen to the ground had not Janet sprung
forward in time to catch her as she fell.



CHAPTER XIV.
THE TARN OF BEN DULAS.


Lady Pollexfen recovered sooner than might have been expected from the
fainting fit into which she had fallen just as the hearse containing
the body of Sir John Pollexfen moved away from Dupley Walls. She was
very wakeful and restless all night, talking much, sometimes to Janet,
sometimes to herself. Soon after daybreak she turned suddenly to
Janet.

"I have decided to travel," she said. "A change will do me good. I
have been confined to Dupley Walls for so many years that I almost
forget what the outside world is like. This Indian summer will last a
few days longer, and we will take advantage of it. We will go, in the
first place, to North Wales, which I have not visited since I was
eighteen. As soon as we are tired of Wales we will set out for London,
and after a few days there we will take wing for the South of France
and there winter. Yes, we will start at once,--this very day. Order my
boxes to be packed, and ascertain at what hour this afternoon there is
a train that stops at Tydsbury by which we can get on to Chester."

"If your ladyship will allow me to make a suggestion," said Janet.

"I will not allow anything of the kind," answered Lady Pollexfen.

"Considering the state of your ladyship's health, I think it highly
advisable that you see Dr. Jones and obtain his sanction before
undertaking so arduous a journey."

"And pray, Mademoiselle Coasseuse, who gave you power to dictate under
this roof? It is mine to command, and yours to obey. Carry out the
instructions I have given you, and trouble yourself not at all about
my health, which was never better than it is this morning."

That night Lady Pollexfen and Miss Holme slept at Chester. Next
morning they took train for Bangor, at which place they designed to
stay for a few days.

Lady Pollexfen's opinion that a change of air would prove beneficial
to her seemed to be borne out by the result. It was almost as if she
had taken a fresh lease of life. Her appetite improved, her strength
increased, her vivacity was unfailing. Day and night Janet was her
constant attendant. Had not Janet's constitution been of the best, and
had she not been full of energy and spirit, she must have broken down
under the ordeal which at this time she had to undergo. Besides having
the entire personal charge of Lady Pollexfen, the whole of the
travelling arrangements (they had three servants with them) were under
her supervision and control. Each evening she had to furnish her
ladyship with a detailed account of the day's expenditure, and had to
be admonished that this charge was excessive, or that one unnecessary,
and be querulously scolded if the dinner happened to be bad, or the
beds uncomfortable; or be asked to explain why she, Lady Pollexfen,
had been dragged to the "Crown Hotel," when anyone with an atom of
common sense might have seen that the "Red Lion" over the way would
have been both more economical and more comfortable to stay at. Later
on came the long weary readings aloud--readings which were often
prolonged till far into the small hours.

To Janet's surprise--although one could hardly be surprised at
anything so eccentric a person might choose to do--Lady Pollexfen
brought the Great Mogul Diamond with her on her travels. It was a most
injudicious thing to do, and much of Janet's time and attention were
taken up in seeing that her ladyship neither lost the precious gem nor
had it stolen from her. This was a duty that came in a little while to
weigh so heavily on Janet that she could not get her thoughts away
from the Diamond even when asleep, but would start up in bed fancying
she heard stealthy footsteps crossing the floor, or that someone
outside was trying the door of her ladyship's room.

In the daytime Lady Pollexfen carelessly carried the Diamond in a
small leather satchel that she wore buckled round her waist. At night
it was either laid under her pillow, or else held tightly in her hand
while she slept. Once or twice Janet ventured gently to expostulate,
but was immediately silenced, and told to keep her observations to
herself for the future.

As Lady Pollexfen told Janet, she had not been in North Wales since
she was eighteen years old. Now that she had come back to it in her
old age her intention was to revisit each scene that was hallowed in
her memory as having been in some way connected with her first visit.

What it was that made this first visit to Wales one of the happiest
recollections of an unhappy life, Janet could not quite make out; but
that the recollection was a happy one there could be no doubt. Lady
Pollexfen said nothing directly to Janet which would throw any light
on the point; but she was continually muttering to herself, with a
happy smile on her face, and mentioning the names of the places they
had visited, or were about to visit, in connexion with the names of
people that Janet had never heard of before.

From Bangor they went to several places, some of them on the sea
coast, some of them in the interior, but seldom stopping longer than a
day in each. One evening when Janet went to her ladyship to obtain the
next day's route, said the latter: "To-morrow we will go to Ben Dulas.
If the place is like what it used to be, the accommodation is limited,
consequently the servants may as well await our return here. Order an
open carriage for nine to-morrow morning. We shall be one night away."

By a few minutes past nine next morning Lady Pollexfen and Miss Holme
were on their way to Ben Dulas. The road was a rugged one, winding and
ascending through a picturesque and hilly country for nearly a dozen
miles. Habitations of any kind were few and far between, and the last
mile or two of their journey was through the wildest and most desolate
tract of country that Janet had ever seen. Their road lay at the
bottom of a narrow valley, but of a valley that stood high above the
level of the sea. On both sides they were shut in by grey precipitous
rocks that towered far above them, and which here and there were riven
and smitten as if by some terrible throe of Nature in ages long gone
by. At length this narrow valley debouched on to a small grassy
plateau about a mile in circumference, which, in its turn, was shut in
by hills still higher than those which had formed the walls of the
valley. At the upper end of this plateau stood a grim moss-grown old
building of considerable size, half farm house, half country inn. At
this place they halted, and in answer to Janet's enquiries were told
in broken English that they could be accommodated for the night.

Lady Pollexfen was in high good humour. "This place is changed the
least of any that I remember as a girl," she said. "It might only have
been yesterday that I was here, for any difference that I can discern.
Ah! what a happy time it was. But let us rest and have luncheon, and
after that we will go and see the tarn of Ben Dulas."

So, when luncheon was over, and her ladyship was sufficiently rested,
Janet rang the bell and, as instructed, asked for a guide to the tarn.
The guide, who was indeed the landlord of the house, was ready in five
minutes, and after waiting till her ladyship was duly shawled for the
excursion, they set out, Lady Pollexfen and Janet being each mounted
on a small sure-footed pony, while the guide trudged along on foot.
The road they took was a gloomy and narrow defile that wound
precipitously up among the further hills. It was scarcely wide enough
for four pedestrians to walk along it shoulder to shoulder. Here and
there the rocks on either hand overhung the road, so that a mere
ribbon of sky could be seen between them. Here and there the road
wound under rude archways that had been hewn out of the rock in years
long gone by. The profound silence was broken only by the clatter of
their ponies' hoofs on the flinty roadway. Anything so desolate and
lonely Janet had never seen. After journeying thus for a mile and a
half they reached a small circular opening among the hills, in the
middle of which, like a table of black steel, spread the darkling
waters of Ben Dulas tarn.

"You can come for us in an hour," said Lady Pollexfen to the guide as
she and Janet dismounted.

"Give me your arm, child," added her ladyship. Then they walked slowly
down to the margin of the tarn, which was set about with thick coarse
rushes, and seated themselves on two large boulders, as round and
smooth as if they had been worn by the action of the waves for a
thousand years.

The place was wild and desolate in the extreme. On every side it was
shut in by great hills, bare, treeless, solemn--giants who for
unnumbered ages had stood there with furrowed brows as if guarding the
entrance to some holy place.

Janet had brought her sketching apparatus with her, but she sat
without attempting to make use of it, overcome by the solemnity of the
scene. When Lady Pollexfen spoke, the interruption was almost a
relief.

"I daresay you have wondered, Miss Holme, what can be my motive for
dragging you and myself about, with such apparent caprice, during the
last fortnight. Not, indeed, that your wonder would be a matter of any
moment either to me or to any one else," added her ladyship,
ungraciously.

"And yet my madness, if you like to term it such, has not been without
a method. The only idyl with which my life was ever beautified was
enacted among the scenes which you and I have lately visited together.
And at this spot, at this gloomy tarn of Ben Dulas, was enacted the
crowning scene of all. On this very spot I first heard the sweet
whisper of love, and from one whom I loved passionately in return,
although my pride would not let me avow it. Yes, here, by the marge of
this Avernian lake, he told me that he loved me, that I was the star
of his life, and that if I would only wait for him and promise to be
his, he would carve for himself a name and a fortune that I should not
be ashamed to share. I was young and handsome then, rich and admired,
and I smiled Graham coldly down, although my heart was burning towards
him. He went his way and I went mine. He went out as an explorer to
the wilds of Africa, and was never heard of more. For me, I married a
man rich and well-born, but whom I hated; and I gradually became
the--well, the wretched being you see me now."

Her ladyship ceased. What could Janet say--what answer could she make
to so strange a confession? Probably none was required. In any case,
Janet sat without speaking, gazing with melancholy eyes into the black
depths of the tarn. Lady Pollexfen, too, was silent. Janet glanced at
her face. All its lines were fixed and stern. Her eyes seemed bent on
the tops of the opposite hills, but they saw nothing unless it were
some vision of inner things--some bit of salvage rescued by memory
from the wreck-strewn shores of the past.

They sat thus a long time without speaking, and were only disturbed at
last by the approach of their guide with the ponies. In silence they
rode back to the hotel.

All that evening Lady Pollexfen's thoughts seemed more abstracted than
usual--farther away from the people and things immediately surrounding
her. Still, she seemed cheerful and in good spirits, and, after
partaking of a light supper, she retired about ten o'clock. Janet sat
with her till midnight, reading aloud Beckford's "Vathek." At twelve
she was dismissed, and at once went to her own room, which was
immediately adjoining that of her ladyship, the door of communication
between the two rooms being kept open all night, so that Janet might
be within hearing in case she were called.

Janet went off at once into the sound healthy sleep of the young.

The first grey light of dawn was just penetrating through the blinds
when she awoke. The instant she opened her eyes she jumped out of bed,
under the vivid impression that Lady Pollexfen had called her. The
well-known tones seemed ringing in her ears as she hurried out of her
own room into that of her ladyship.

Without giving a single look round, she at once hurried to the
bedside, and drew back the curtain with a gentle hand.

The light as yet was so faint and dim, that for a moment or two she
did not realize the fact that the bed was without an occupant. She
looked and looked, but no one was there.

Then she gazed round with startled eyes, half expecting to see Lady
Pollexfen sitting in the easy-chair by the window. But she was not in
the easy-chair by the window, nor in any of the other chairs, nor in
the room at all, as Janet quickly ascertained.

It sent a shock to Janet's heart to see standing wide open the door
which led into the corridor, and thence by a flight of stairs to the
lower parts of the house.

Whither could her ladyship have gone? and what could be her motive for
going at all? That she had been deceived in thinking she had been
called, she now felt convinced. It was not the first time she had
dreamt such a thing, although the impression had never been stamped so
vividly on her brain before.

On instituting a more systematic search, she found that her ladyship
must have completely dressed herself before leaving the room. Her
bonnet had not been taken, but a grey waterproof cloak with a large
hood was missing.

In five minutes from the time of her first awaking, Janet was equipped
ready to start in search of Lady Pollexfen.

Had her ladyship been ten years younger, and in tolerable health, such
a vagary could have concerned no one but herself. But she was so old
and infirm, so subject to fits of prostration after any sudden
excitement, that Janet could not but feel most seriously alarmed by
her unaccountable absence. Hurrying downstairs, she found that there
were no signs of anyone belonging to the household having yet arisen.
But the front door was unfastened and ajar. She opened it and passed
out. The morning was brightening rapidly. The tops of the hills stood
out clear and sharp against the intense blue of the sky, but here and
there the lower spurs were still wrapped in mist. Janet looked
anxiously around, but nowhere was there a soul to be seen. What should
she do? Whither should she look for Lady Pollexfen?

These questions were still in her mind when she heard a heavy footstep
descending the stairs inside the house. It was the landlord, their
guide of the previous day, who was rising thus early. Janet was on the
point of appealing to him, but he spoke first.

"Your mistress must be a queer old lady," he said, with a strong Welsh
accent, "to be up this hour of the morning, and rambling over the
hills all by herself. I saw her a while ago from my bedroom window
trotting along as comfortable as possible, and as if she had known the
way from a child."

"In which direction was she going?" asked Janet, eagerly.

"Why, the road that we went yesterday; the road that leads to Ben
Dulas tarn."

"Her ladyship is too weak and ill to come back on foot, and alone,"
said Janet. "I will hasten after her, and do you get out the ponies
and follow as quickly as possible. I will engage that you shall be
well remunerated for your trouble."

"In that case, miss, I'm at your service. I wont be five minutes
behind you. A strange old lady, to be sure!"

Janet hurried off without another word, taking the narrow defile that
led to the tarn. She ran with winged feet, and eyes that never swerved
from their forward gaze. There was a vague sense of the beauty of the
morning upon her, but her brain took in no distinct impressions of the
time or the place.

At length she surmounted the last rise in the rocky road, and there
before her lay the gloomy valley, peopled with dim shadows and fleecy
fragments of mist. There, too, lay the steel-black waters of the
lonely tarn.

Janet's eyes roving eagerly about rested before long on a dark
huddled-up figure close to the margin of the lake. Anyone less
sharp-sighted might have taken it for one of the grey boulder stones
of which several were scattered about. But Janet was not deceived. She
ran forward with a little cry, and stooping over the recumbent figure,
tried to raise it in her arms. But she quickly found that this was
beyond her strength. Lady Pollexfen could give her no assistance. She
had been stricken with paralysis, and the use of her left side was
entirely gone. Janet, however, contrived to raise her ladyship's head
and shoulders so that they rested against her knee, and thus she
awaited the arrival of the old guide.

"Is that you, child?" said Lady Pollexfen in a voice strangely broken
and altered, as Janet tried to lift her up. "If it had not been for
you I think I should have been dead long ago; but now I know that my
time is drawing near."

She spoke again with her head resting on Janet's knee. "Was it a token
that came to me just as day was beginning to break? Or what was it? I
cannot tell. I only know that when I woke up it was with Graham's
voice sounding in my ears--I told you about Graham yesterday--as
plainly as ever I heard the voice of anyone. I rose and dressed, and
still the voice called me, seeming as if it came from a long distance
and yet sounding quite close at hand, if you can understand such a
thing. These were the words it said: 'Come! come! I am in trouble. You
alone can give me ease. Come! and bring with you the Great Mogul
Diamond.' These words were repeated over and over again, and each time
my heart answered back: 'I am coming, dear love, I am coming.' Guided
by the sound of the voice, I followed it down the staircase and out of
the house, and along the rocky defile until I reached the edge of the
tarn. All the way the voice kept close before me, and I followed it
without question or doubt. Only to hear those never-forgotten tones
was to make me feel young and strong and a girl at heart again. When I
reached the edge of the lake, my heart said, although I question
whether the words framed themselves aloud on my lips--'How are you in
trouble, Graham? And in what way can I help you?' 'I am a prisoner in
the hands of the demon of this lake,' said the voice. 'He will keep me
for a thousand years unless I shall be ransomed by one who loves me.'
'I love you, Graham. Tell me how I can ransom you,' I said. Then came
the voice. 'Fling into the middle of the lake the rarest thing you
have, and I shall be held captive no longer.' Then I knew why I had
been told to bring the Great Mogul Diamond with me. 'Because of the
love I have for you, your bidding shall be done,' I said. With that I
kissed the Diamond once for the sake of my dead son, and then I flung
it with all my strength into the middle of the tarn. The moment the
stone touched the water there fell upon my ear a strain of music so
exquisitely sweet and joyful that I felt at once that Graham had been
set free. And then I remember nothing more till I felt your arms round
me trying to lift me up."

All this was spoken brokenly and with evident pain.

Janet was much shocked. "Are you sure, dear Lady Pollexfen, that you
really threw the Diamond into the water?" she asked.

"As sure as ever I was of anything in my life," she answered. "Yes,
the Diamond is gone, but I do not regret it. Had Graham said,
'Sacrifice your life to set me free,' I should have done it."

At this moment the guide came up with the two ponies. Janet explained
to him as much as it was requisite that he should know. Then, between
them, and with the aid of one of the ponies, they contrived to carry
her ladyship slowly back to the inn. The local doctor was immediately
sent for, and Janet despatched a telegram to Chester for the best
medical aid that city could afford. Another telegram summoned Major
Strickland and Mr. Madgin. The local doctor looked upon Lady
Pollexfen's case as a hopeless one from the first, and the greater
authority when he came merely confirmed that opinion, although they
both agreed in thinking she might possibly linger on for several
months to come.

But Lady Pollexfen was saved from that. Her life gradually sank out
and died, as a lamp dies, for lack of fuel. She was unconscious before
the major and Mr. Madgin could reach Ben Dulas, and a few hours later
she breathed her last.

Her last conscious words were addressed to Janet. "Child," she said,
speaking in a thick troubled whisper, "I have been unjust to you, and
now I regret it. I was too proud to let my love for you be seen, but
you have been to me as the apple of my eye. You are my granddaughter,
and Dupley Walls will be yours when I am gone. I have been unjust to
you--I say it again. Kiss me once, Janet, and tell me that you forgive
me. Perhaps we shall meet again where no clouds intervene. Then you
will know how truly I have loved you."



CHAPTER XV.
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL.


Mr. Madgin was more like a madman than any reasonable being when Janet
told him what had become of the Diamond. His first idea was to have it
dived for in the same way that pearl oysters are obtained. But suppose
the diver found it and hid it under his tongue, and came to the
surface empty-handed? Then Mr. Madgin decided that he would employ a
diving-bell, in which he and some man conversant with that peculiar
business would go down together, and together they would search the
bottom of the lake. But farther inquiry elicited the fact that the
tarn was far too deep to allow of either of Mr. Madgin's plans being
put in operation. The country people averred that it had no bottom, or
that if it had a bottom it was at such an extreme depth, that no
soundings ever taken would succeed in reaching it. This Mr. Madgin
declared to be all humbug, and at once proceeded to test the depth of
the tarn with such rude appliances as he could command in that
out-of-the-way spot. But with all Mr. Madgin's efforts he could not
succeed in finding the bottom, and in so far the opinion of the
country people proved to be correct. But Mr. Madgin was a man not
easily defeated. He went up to London, only to reappear at Ben Dulas
three days later with a couple of men and an apparatus nearly similar
to that used for taking deep-sea soundings. With this apparatus the
bottom of the tarn was at last found, but at a very great depth. After
careful soundings over nearly the whole surface, and repeated careful
examinations of the greased leaden cup, sent down for the purpose of
obtaining specimens of the bottom, the chief of the two men in charge
of the apparatus gave it as his opinion that the entire under-water
area was thickly covered with large boulders, similar to those which
lined the margin of the tarn, and that consequently any small object
which might sink to the bottom would almost be sure to find its way
between the interstices of the stones, and would so be lost beyond any
possible recovery from above. Reluctantly, and with a sad heart, Mr.
Madgin at length gave orders to discontinue an attempt which had
become so evidently hopeless. There, in the unsunned depths of the
tarn of Ben Dulas, the Great Mogul Diamond still lies, and will
doubtless continue to lie through ages yet unborn, till Time, working
through one of his mighty cycles, shall again bring it to light, to
shine, perchance, on the breast of some king, the foundations of whose
empire are not yet laid, and for whom not even tradition shall have
preserved the name of Aurengzebe the Great.

If it was a great surprise to Major Strickland, and such it
undoubtedly was, to be told the story of the Mogul Diamond, so far as
it was known to Mr. Madgin, it was an equal surprise to the latter to
find that Miss Holme was Lady Pollexfen's granddaughter, and the
future mistress of Dupley Walls. He had never taken much notice of the
quiet, pale young lady whom, since the illness and death of Sister
Agnes, he had seen in attendance on Lady Pollexfen. He had a vague
recollection of having been told by someone that Miss Holme was a very
distant connexion of the family, but as it was a matter that seemed to
have no bearing on his interests, he had never troubled himself
further about it. But, behold, by one of those kaleidoscopic changes
which occur oftener in real life than most people imagine, this
mild-eyed young lady had stepped into the position of his mistress, a
mistress in whose power it lay to deprive him at one stroke of
two-thirds of his income--by severing the connexion which had existed
for so many years between himself and Dupley Walls. Mr. Madgin was
excessively chagrined to think that he had not had sufficient
foresight to discern the aureole of coming greatness on the brow of
Miss Holme. Like a wise man, he at once determined that nothing should
be lacking on his part to make himself an indispensable item of the
new _régime_.

Lady Pollexfen's body was conveyed to Dupley Walls, and there
buried--in accordance with her own written request--in the little
church at the east end of the park. After the funeral her will was
read aloud in the presence of all whom it concerned by Mr. Boulton,
the family lawyer. Major Strickland was named as one executor, a
certain Dr. Schofield, of London, was the other. With the exception of
a few trifling legacies, "My granddaughter, Janet Fairfax, commonly
known as Janet Holme," was made sole legatee. In addition to the
mansion and estate of Dupley Walls, with sundry farms appertaining
thereto, and a considerable quantity of house property in the parish
of Tydsbury, the income of which in the aggregate amounted to about
two thousand pounds a year; in addition to all this, Janet came in for
Lady Pollexfen's accumulated savings during the last twenty years of
her life. These savings, which were invested in scrip and shares of
various kinds, amounted to the very comfortable sum of eighteen
thousand pounds. Janet was placed under the sole guardianship of Major
Strickland till she should reach the age of twenty-one. Meanwhile a
liberal annual income was set aside for her use.

Dupley Walls being far too large for Janet's modest requirements, was
shut up and left in charge of a couple of trusted servants, with Mr.
Madgin to look after the whole. A pretty cottage _ornée_ on the banks
of the Thames, a few miles from London, was taken, and thither Janet
went to live with Major Strickland and Aunt Felicité--a quaint,
tender-hearted old lady, whom Janet had long ago learned to love
dearly. Captain George Strickland was in lodgings in Bloomsbury, that
he might be near the Museum. His "Narrative of Personal Adventure in
India" was finished, and on the eve of publication. He was now engaged
on a "Treatise on Fortification," and he spent a considerable part of
his time in the Museum reading-room. He dined at the cottage once a
week; but otherwise its inmates saw little or nothing of him. Janet
appreciated his delicacy, knowing well that it was on her account that
he was not a more frequent visitor. She said nothing, but bided her
time. No word of love had been spoken between Captain George and Janet
when the latter was known to the world as a poor dependent of Lady
Pollexfen, although both had felt intuitively how dear they were each
to the other, and George had only waited for a favourable opportunity
to press his suit. But now that Janet had become a person of wealth
and consideration, George's pride fought with his love, and chained it
down, and commanded it to be dumb for ever.

In his intercourse with Janet since she had come to live at the
cottage, he was the Captain George of old times--but with a
difference. His manner toward her was more guarded and ceremonious
than of old; there was perhaps a shade more of deference, and just a
touch of that quiet coldness which men who are at once proud and shy
often put on when they are in the company of those whom they deem
their superiors in station. Janet smiled to herself and bided her
time.

That time came about four months after Lady Pollexfen's death. On
coming to the cottage one evening, Captain Strickland brought with him
the news of his approaching departure from England. In the interests
of the book on which he was engaged he was going to visit personally
all the great fortifications of Europe. The time was mid-winter, and
both his uncle and Janet endeavoured to persuade him to put off his
contemplated journey till spring; but George was good-naturedly
obdurate and would not give way to their wishes. The major's sister
was not at home that evening, and later on the major himself was
called downstairs on business. Janet and Captain George were left to
their own devices. He was seated at the table absently turning over a
book of photographs which he had seen a hundred times already; she was
seated on an easy-chair near the fire, toying in an idle mood with a
curious Chinese fan. Neither of them spoke for full five minutes after
the major had left the room. Janet was the first to break a silence
that was becoming oppressive.

"Then you have really decided to start next week?" she said, looking
shyly at Captain Strickland over the top of her fan.

"Yes--really decided," replied George. "I can get no further with my
book till I have personally visited the places I wish to describe. Why
rest here in idleness, waiting for pleasant weather? My uncle himself
would be the first to scorn doing such a thing were the case his own."

Another pause and then another question in a voice hardly above a
whisper. "Do you travel alone?"

"Alone? Yes. Where should I find anyone who would care to be my
companion on such an erratic tour?"

Another pause. Then shyly but distinctly: "You might ask me to
accompany you."

Captain Strickland gave a great start, and a sudden light leapt to his
eyes as he turned them on Janet. Her blushing cheeks were hidden by
her fan, but over the top of it his eyes met hers, and in them he read
something that love interpreted for him aright. In another moment he
was on his knees by her side and smothering her hand with kisses.

As Janet afterwards explained to the Major: "You see, George would not
propose to me. My money frightened him; so I was obliged to exercise
the privilege which Leap Year gives our sex, and propose to him; and
when once the ice was broken, I found him not at all shy."

The marriage did not take place till after the expiration of Janet's
year of mourning. Then they went abroad, and did not return to England
till Janet was turned one-and-twenty. Since that time Dupley Walls has
been their home. The Major lives with them, and enjoys a green and
hearty old age.

Janet has long known that it was her singular likeness to a younger
sister of Lady Pollexfen, to whom the Major, when a young man, was
engaged to be married, that made so deep an impression on the old
soldier when he saw her first, and that first endeared her to his
heart.

Janet's relatives on her father's side were not slow in making
advances to her when they discovered that she was Lady Pollexfen's
heiress. Janet responded graciously enough, but she was not long in
discovering that the new circle of connexions into which she had been
introduced, was one in which she should never feel thoroughly at home.
It was too worldly and too fast in every way to please Janet's simple
tastes. Her new relations would gladly have taken her in hand with the
view of educating her up to their standard, and would have found her
some horseracing, gambling scion of the house for a husband. But any
such pleasant family arrangement was rendered null and void by the
simple fact of Janet choosing a husband for herself in the person of
penniless Captain Strickland. Still they could not afford to give
Janet up entirely. They find Dupley Walls a convenient visiting house
during the dull season, and bashfulness being a quality unknown to any
of the tribe, they do not fail, when there, to make themselves
thoroughly at home. Janet bears the infliction with much sweetness.
She says that you cannot have aristocratic connexions without paying
for the privilege in one shape or another.

It is scarcely necessary to state that Mr. Madgin's position at Dupley
Walls was in no wise affected by the death of Lady Pollexfen. Janet is
too fond of the old man to curtail even one of his privileges or
emoluments; nor does she forget his great services in connexion with
the recovery of the Diamond. Neither Mr. Madgin nor Captain Strickland
has ever ventured to tell Janet that the man who stole the Diamond
from M. Platzoff, and from whom it was afterwards recovered by means
of a clever ruse, was none other than her own father. That is a
passage of family history of which she still remains happily ignorant.

Madgin Junior is rising in his profession. He has a lucrative
engagement at one of the West-end theatres. His rendering of the
character of Doxy in the grand sensation drama of _From Belgravia to
Newgate_ was highly spoken of by the press, and vociferously applauded
by the pit. Madgin Junior being of a sanguine temperament, sees no
reason why he should not in the course of time develope into a "star"
of the first magnitude.

Mirpah the superb still remains unmarried, and will in all probability
so remain till the end of the chapter. Several individuals have
expressed a desire to take her for better or worse; but in each case
Mirpah seemed to see the "worse" so clearly, and the "better" so
indistinctly, that she declined the offers one and all. It is probable
that no one so nearly touched her heart as Captain Ducie.

"Only think," she will sometimes say to her father, "had I been so
minded, I might now have been stepmother to the present mistress of
Dupley Walls!"

She still keeps her father's books and accounts, and as years creep
over Mr. Madgin, so do Mirpah's labours increase. In those labours and
in the hoarding of money, Mirpah Madgin, to all appearance, finds the
great happiness of her life.

Lady Pollexfen did not forget Sergeant Nicholas in her will. A
comfortable annuity was settled on the old man. He resides in
Tydsbury, and not unfrequently of an evening he goes to smoke a pipe
with Mr. Madgin. At these meetings we may be certain that over and
over again, in all its details, one or the other of them often tells
the strange story of the Great Mogul Diamond.



THE END.





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