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Title: In the Dead of Night. Volume 1 (of 3) - A Novel
Author: Speight, T. W. (Thomas Wilkinson)
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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     1. Page scan source: The Internet Web Archive
        https://archive.org/details/indeadofnightnov01spei
        (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)



IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT.

A Novel.



IN THREE VOLUMES.

VOL. I.



LONDON:
RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON.
1874.

(_All rights reserved_.)



CONTENTS OF VOL. I.

CHAPTER

     I. OVER THE CLIFF.

    II. THE HERMIT OF GATEHOUSE FARM.

   III. THE FOUNDATION OF A FRIENDSHIP.

    IV. GOLDEN TIDINGS.

     V. EDITH WEST.

    VI. FIRST DAYS AT PARK NEWTON.

   VII. KESTER ST. GEORGE.

  VIII. A MIDNIGHT INTRUDER.

    IX. MR. PERCY OSMOND.

     X. MASTER AND MAN.

    XI. IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT.

   XII. TOM BRISTOW'S RETURN.

  XIII. A DINNER AT PINCOTE.

   XIV. AT ALDER COTTAGE.



IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT.



CHAPTER I.
OVER THE CLIFF.


A hot, windless August day had settled down into a dull, brooding
evening, presageful of a coming storm. It was nearly dark by the time
Lionel Dering was ready to turn his face homeward. The tide was coming
in with an ominous muffled roar; the wind, unfelt all day, was now
blowing in fitful puffs from various points of the compass, so that
the weathercock on the green, in front of the Silver Lion, was more
undecided than usual, and did not know its own mind for two minutes at
a time. The boatmen were busy with their tiny craft, making everything
fast for the night; and the bathing men were dragging their machines
high and dry beyond reach of the incoming tide. Many of the
excursionists--those with families chiefly--were already making their
way towards the railway station; but others there were who seemed bent
on keeping up their merriment to the last moment. These latter could
be seen through the wide-open windows of the Silver Lion, footing it
merrily on the club-room floor, to the music of two wheezy fiddles. A
few minutes later there comes a warning whistle from the engine. The
music stops suddenly; the country-dance is left unfinished; pipes are
laid aside; glasses are quickly emptied; and the lads and lasses, with
many a shout and burst of laughter, rush helter-skelter across the
green, to find their places in the train.

"We shall have a rough night, Ben," said Mr. Dering to a man who was
coming up from the beach.

"Yes, sir, there's a storm brewin' fast," answered Ben, carrying a
finger to his forehead. "If I was you, Mr. Dering," he added, "I
wouldn't go over the cliffs to-night. It ain't safe after dark, and
the storm'll break afore you get home." But Mr. Dering merely shook
his head, laughed, bade Ben good-night, and kept on his way.

The old boatman's words proved true. The first flash of lightning came
just as the last houses of Melcham were lost to view behind a curve of
the road, and when Lionel had two miles of solitary walking still
before him. The thunder and the rain, however, were still far out at
sea.

By this time it was almost dark, but Mr. Dering pressed forward
without hesitation or delay. The cliff road, dangerous as it would
have been under such circumstances to any ordinary wayfarer, had for
him no terrors. He knew every yard of it as well as he knew the walk
under the apple-trees in his own garden. It was not the first time by
any means that he had traversed it after nightfall. As for the
lightning, it was rather an assistance than otherwise, serving every
two or three minutes, as it did, to show him exactly where he was. It
was a bad road enough, certainly. Unfenced in several places, with
here and there a broad, yawning chasm in the direct path, where some
huge bulk of the soft earthy cliff, undermined by fierce winter tides,
had broken bodily away and had gone to feed the ever-hungry waves. But
to Lionel every dangerous point was familiar, and he followed the
little circuitous bends in the path, necessitated by the breaks in the
frontage of the cliff, instinctively and without thought.

He had been thinking of Edith West--his ladye-love, whom he might not
hope ever to see again. In his long solitary walks both by day and
night she was almost always in his thoughts. Not but what Lionel, this
evening, had an eye for the lightning, so beautifully terrible in its
apparently purposeless vagaries. Fast following one another, came the
blue, quivering flashes, lighting up, for one brief moment at a time,
the barren skyward-climbing cliff, and the still more barren waste of
sea.

"Like my life--like my life," murmured Lionel to himself, his eyes
still bent on the wide tract of moorland, which had just been lighted
up by a more vivid flash than common. "Barren and unprofitable.
Without byre or homestead. Left unploughed, unfenced, uncared for. Of
no apparent use, were it not that a few wild-flowers choose to grow
there, and a few birds, equally wild, to build their nests there. But
over it, as over more favoured spots, the free breeze of heaven blows
day and night, and keeps it sweet; and the sea makes everlasting music
at its feet."

These thoughts were still in Mr. Dering's mind when a sudden turn in
the pathway brought him in view of the lighthouse, whose gleaming
lantern, although full half a mile away, shone out through the coming
storm like the cheery welcome of a friend.

The thunder was coming nearer, bringing the rain with it. The flashes
were becoming more vividly painful. The sea's hoarse chorus was
growing more loud, and triumphant. Lionel had paused for a moment to
gather breath. A flash--and there, not fifty yards away, and coming
towards him, was a man--a stranger! It was the work of an instant for
the lightning to photograph the picture on his brain, but that one
instant was enough for him to see and recognize the deadly peril in
which the man was placed. He was marching unknowingly to his death.
Not six yards in front of him yawned the most dangerous chasm in the
whole face of the cliff.

In another moment Lionel had recovered his presence of mind. "Stop!
stop for your life!" he shouted at the top of his voice. "Don't stir
another step." It was too dark for him to see whether the man had
heard and understood his warning cry. He must wait for the next flash
to tell him that. The words had hardly left his lips when the thunder
burst almost immediately overhead, as it seemed, and the first heavy
drops of rain began to fall. Lionel, meantime, was making his way as
quickly as he could round the back of the chasm. Two minutes more
would bring him to the very spot where he had seen the stranger. But
while he had still some dozen yards or more of the dangerous path to
traverse, there came another blinding flash. It had come and gone in
the twinkling of an eye, but that brief second of time was sufficient
to show Lionel that the man was no longer there. An inarticulate cry
of horror burst from his lips. With beating heart and straining
nerves, he pressed forward till he stood on the very spot where he had
seen the man; but he was standing there alone.

The storm was at its height. The forked flashes came thick and fast.
One crack of thunder was followed by another, before the echoed
mutterings of the last had time to die away. A wild hurricane of wind
and rain was beating furiously over land and sea. Utterly regardless
of the storm, Lionel lay down at full length on the short, wet turf,
and shading his eves with his hands, peered down into the black gulf
below. It was a dangerous thing to do, but in the excitement of the
moment all sense of personal fear was forgotten. He waited for the
flashes; but when they came they showed him nothing save the wild
turmoil of the rising tide as it dashed itself in fury against the
huge boulders with which the beach was thickly strewn. It would be
high water in half-an-hour. Already the base of the cliff was washed
by the inrushing waves. Lionel shouted with all his might, but the
wind blew the sound back again, and the thunder drowned it. He stood
up despairingly. What should he do to succour the poor wretch who lay
there, dying or, perhaps, already dead, at the foot of the cliff? What
_could_ he do? Alone and unaided he could do nothing. He must seek the
help of others. But where? The nearest point where he could hope to
get assistance was the lighthouse, and that was nearly half-a-mile
away. But long before the lighthouse could have been reached, and help
brought back, the rising tide would have completely barred the passage
along the foot of the cliffs, and would, in all probability, have
washed the body out to sea. At the point where he was standing, the
cliff had a sheer descent of a hundred feet to the beach. But suddenly
Mr. Dering remembered, and it seemed to him like a flash of
inspiration, that no great distance away there was a slight natural
break in the cliff, known as "The Smugglers' Staircase." It was merely
a narrow gully or seam in the face of the rock, not much wider than an
ordinary chimney. If it had ever really been used by smugglers in
years gone by as a natural staircase, by means of which access could
be had to the beach, they must have been very active and reckless
fellows indeed. But what had been made use of by one man might be made
use of by another, Lionel thought, and, with some faint renewal of
hope in his breast, he made his way along the cliff in the direction
of the staircase. If he could only get down to the beach before the
tide had risen much higher, and could succeed in finding the body, he
might, perhaps, be able to obtain some foothold among the crannies of
the cliff, where he would be beyond reach of the waves, and where he
might wait till daybreak, and the ebbing of the tide, should give him
a chance of seeking help elsewhere.

But here he was at the staircase--a place, of a truth, to try a man's
nerve, even by broad daylight. Although Lionel had never ventured
either up or down it, he was no stranger to its peculiar features.
More than once, in his rambles along the cliffs, he had paused to
examine it, and to wonder whether the jagged, misshapen ledges of
protruding rock from which it was supposed to derive its likeness to a
gigantic staircase, were the result of nature's handiwork or that of
man.

Lionel had lost no time. From his first sight of the stranger till now
was not more than five or six minutes. Pausing for a moment on the
edge of the staircase, he flung his hat aside, buttoned his coat, and
then, instinctively, turned up his cuffs. Then he went down on his
hands and knees, and was just lowering one leg over the edge of the
cliff; when his collar was roughly seized, and a hoarse voice growled
in his ear: "In heaven's name, Mr. Dering, what are you about?"

For the moment, Lionel was startled. Next instant he recognized Bunce,
the coastguardsman--a very worthy fellow, to whom he was well known. A
few rapid words from Lionel explained everything. "All the same, Mr.
Dering, you can't bring the dead back to life, do how you will," said
Bunce, "and that man's as dead as last year's mackerel, you may depend
on't. Let alone which, the tide's right up to the bottom of the cliff.
No, no, Mr. Dering--axing your pardon--but one live man is worth
twenty dead uns."

"Bunce, you are a fool!" said Lionel, wrathfully. "If I were not in a
hurry, I would prove it to you. Take your hand off my collar, sir. I
tell you I am going down here. If you choose to help me, go to the
lighthouse and get Jasper to come back with you, and bring some ropes
and a lantern or two, and whatever else you think might be useful. If
you don't choose to help me, go about your business, and leave me to
do mine."

"But you are going to certain death; you are indeed, Mr. Dering,"
pleaded the coastguardsman.

"Bunce," said Lionel, "you are an old woman. Goodbye." There was a
flash, and Bunce caught a momentary glimpse of a stern white face, and
two resolute eyes. When the next flash came, Lionel was not to be
seen. He was on his perilous journey down the Smugglers' Staircase.

"A madman--a crazy madman," muttered Bunce. "If he gets safe to the
bottom of the staircase, he'll go no farther. Not as I'm going to
desert him. Not likely. Though he did call me a old woman."

Going down on one knee on the wet grass, he put both his hands to his
mouth, and shouted with all his might: "I'm going to the lighthouse
for help, Mr. Dering." He listened, but there came no answer.
Presently, with a little quaking of the heart, he rose to his feet.
"He needn't have called me a old woman," he muttered. With that he
pulled his hat fiercely over his brow, and set off for the lighthouse
at a rapid walk, which soon quickened into a run.

How Lionel got down to the bottom of the staircase he could never
afterwards have told. He only knew that when about half way down his
foot slipped. The next thing he remembered was finding himself among
the rocks at the bottom, bruised, bleeding, and partially stunned. A
larger wave than usual, which dashed completely over him, gave him a
shock which helped to revive him. Not the least perilous part of his
enterprise was still before him. Already the tide was two feet deep at
the foot of the cliff. Fortunately, the wind had gone down, and the
rain had in some measure abated; but had it not been for the
lightning's friendly flashes, Lionel's task would have been a hopeless
one. The road he had to take was thickly strewn with huge boulders,
and gigantic masses of rock which had fallen--some of them centuries
ago--from the cliffs overhead. Between and over these Lionel had to
make his way to the point where the stranger had fallen. It was a work
of time and peril, more especially now that the tide was coming in so
dangerously fast, beating and eddying round the rocks and dashing over
them in showers of stinging spray. Lionel saw clearly that, in any
case, it would be quite impossible for him to return by the way he was
going till ebb of tide. He must find some "coign of vantage" among the
fallen rocks, or high up in the face of the cliff, beyond reach of the
waves, and there wait patiently for further help. But first to find
the stranger.

Manfully, gallantly, Lionel Dering set himself to the task before him.
Foot by foot, yard by yard, he fought his way forward. The lightning
showed him at once the dangers he had to contend against, and how best
to avoid them. Over some of the rocks he had to clamber on all fours;
round others he had to pick his way, waist-deep in water. Now and
then, a larger wave than common would seize him, dash him like a log
against the rocks, and then leave him, bruised and breathless, to
gather up its forces for another attack. But Lionel never faltered or
looked back. Onward he went, slowly but surely nearing the object of
which he was in search. Nearly exhausted, all but worn out, at length
he reached the heap of débris formed by the falling of the cliff--or
rather that portion of it which the sea had spared. He was terribly
anxious by this time. If the body of the stranger when it fell had
been caught by any of the ledges or rough projecting angles of the
débris, and had lodged there, there was just a faint possibility that
the man might be still alive. But if, on the contrary, it had rolled
down to the foot of the cliff, the waves would long ago have claimed
it as their own.

The storm was passing away inland. The lightning was no longer either
so frequent or so vivid. Lionel's difficulty was to find the exact
point of the cliff from which the stranger had fallen. At the most he
could only guess at it. Still, here was the mass of fallen cliff, and
the body, unless washed away by the tide, could not be far off.

Having accomplished so much, he had neither long nor far to search.
Putting out his hand in the dark to grasp a projecting ledge of rock,
which the last flash of lightning had shown to him, his fingers
touched a clammy ice-cold face. He drew back his arm with an
involuntary shudder. Next moment his heart gave a great throb of
relief, and he felt that, whether the man were alive or dead, his
labour had not been entirely in vain.

The body was lying among a heap of jagged rocks, half in and half out
of the water. Lionel's first idea was that the man was stone dead. But
a more careful examination, which he made as soon as he had dragged
the body beyond reach of the still-rising tide, convinced him that
there were still some flickering signs of life--just the faintest
possible pulsation of the heart. The forehead was marked by a thin
streak of blood, which Lionel tried to stanch with his handkerchief.
For the rest, he made out, by the momentary glimpses which the
lightning afforded him, that the man was young, fair, slightly built,
and, to all appearance, a gentleman. Feeling some hard substance,
Lionel put his hand into the stranger's pocket, and drew from it a
small travelling flask. It contained a little brandy, with which
Lionel moistened the unconscious lips, but the stranger's teeth were
so firmly set that he found it impossible to open them. What more
could he do? he asked himself, and he was obliged to answer, Nothing.
If Bunce had not deserted him, help would be forthcoming before long.
Otherwise, he must wait there for daybreak and the ebbing of the tide.

But faithful, good-hearted Bunce had not deserted him. He had roused
up Jasper, the lighthouse-keeper, out of his first snooze--Jasper's
two mates being on duty--and had brought that individual, still half
dazed, but responding manfully to the call, together with a quantity
of stout rope, and a couple of ship's lanterns, not forgetting a
blanket and a nip of cognac, and was back again on the cliffs only a
few minutes after Lionel's search was at an end.

Never had human voice sounded so welcome to Lionel as did the
coastguardsman's hoarse shouts that August night. They soon made each
other out, and then the rest was comparatively easy. A rope was slung
round the body of the still unconscious stranger, which was then
hauled up by the two men with all possible care to the top of the
cliff; a process which was repeated in the case of Lionel.

"I never thought to see you alive again, Mr. Dering," said Bunce, with
tears in his eyes, as Lionel grasped him warmly by the hand. "Where do
you wish to have the gentleman taken to?"

"To Gatehouse Farm, of course," said Lionel. "Jasper, you run into the
village, and borrow a horse and cart, and some straw, and another
blanket or two, and get back again as if your life depended on it."

And so about midnight the stranger, who had never recovered
consciousness, was laid in Mr. Dering's own bed at Gatehouse Farm.
They had found a card-case in his pocket, the cards in which were
inscribed with the name of "Mr. Tom Bristow," but that was the only
clue to his identity. Dr. Bell, the local practitioner, was quickly on
the spot.

"A serious case, Mr. Dering--a very serious case," said the little
man, two hours later, while pulling on his gloves and waiting for his
cob to be brought round, "But we have an excellent constitution to
fall back upon, and, with great care, we shall pull through. We have
dislocated our left shoulder; we have broken three of our ribs; and we
have got one of the ugliest cuts on the back of our head that it was
ever our good fortune to have to deal with. But with care, sir, we
shall pull through."

Somewhat comforted in mind by the doctor's assurance, Lionel went back
upstairs, and having taken a parting glance at his guest, and
satisfied himself that nothing more could be done for the present, he
lay down on the sofa in the next room to catch an hour's hurried
sleep.

He had no prevision of the future, that August morning: there was no
voice to whisper in his ear that the man whose life he had just saved
at the risk of his own would, before many months were over, repay the
obligation by rescuing him, Lionel Dering, from a still more bitter
strait, and be the means of restoring him both to liberty and life.



CHAPTER II.
THE HERMIT OF GATEHOUSE FARM.


Lionel Dering at this time was twenty-eight years old. A tall,
well-built, fair-complexioned man, but bronzed by much exposure to the
sun and wind. His eyes were dark gray, very steady and penetrating. He
had a habit of looking full into the faces of those with whom he
talked, as though he were trying to penetrate the mask before him. It
was a habit which some people did not like. He had never shaved in his
life, and the strong, firm lines of his mouth, betokening immense
power of will, and great tenacity of purpose, were all but hidden by
the soft, flowing outlines of a thick beard and moustache, pale golden
as to colour. His free, outdoor life, and the hard work to which he
had accustomed himself of late years, had widened his chest and
hardened his muscles, and had ripened him into a very tolerable
specimen of those stalwart, fair-bearded islanders whose forms and
figures are familiar wherever the English language is spoken. For
three years past he had been living the life of a modern hermit at
Gatehouse Farm. His reasons for choosing thus to isolate himself
entirely from the world of his old friends and associations, to bury
himself alive, as it were, while all the pleasures of life were still
sweet to his lips, will not take long to explain.

Lionel Dering came of a good family on both his father's side and his
mother's. Unfortunately, on his father's side there was little or no
money, and his mother's side never forgave the marriage, which was one
of those romantic run-away affairs of which people used to hear every
week at a time when the blacksmith of Gretna Green was a legal forger
of matrimonial fetters.

After nine years of married happiness, Godfrey Dering died, leaving
his widow with two children, Lionel, aged eight, and Richard, aged
six. Mrs. Dering found herself with an annuity of six hundred pounds a
year, which her husband's care and prevision had secured to her. For
the future, this would be the sole means of subsistence of herself and
children. Her own family had repudiated her from the day of her
marriage, and she was too proud to court them now. She sent her two
boys away to a good school, and while still undecided where she would
permanently fix her home, she went to live for a while with some of
her husband's friends at Cheltenham--and at Cheltenham she stayed till
the day of her death. The Langshaws, under whose roof she found a home
during the first year of her bereavement, were worthy well-to-do
farmers, distant relations of Godfrey; who seemed as if they could
never do enough for pretty Mrs. Dering and her two fatherless boys.
After a time she took lodgings in the town itself, where her money and
her good looks, combined with her amiability and easy, cheerful
disposition, soon attracted around her a wide circle of friends and
acquaintances. She had several offers of marriage during the ten years
of her widowhood, but she remained steadily faithful to the memory of
her first love, and when she died her husband's name was the last word
on her lips.

His mother died when Lionel Dering was eighteen years old, six months
after his younger brother, Richard, had gone to India to carve out for
himself that mythical fortune which every youthful enthusiast believes
must one day infallibly be his.

Lionel had been brought up to no business or profession. While still a
youth at school, a great part of his holidays had been spent at the
Langshaw's farm, three miles out of Cheltenham, where he was always a
welcome guest. Here he learned to ride, to drive, to shoot, and to
take an interest in all those outdoor avocations which mark the due
recurrence of the seasons on a large and well-managed farm. But when
his school-days were really at an end, both Lionel and his mother were
utterly at a loss to decide in which particular groove the young man's
talents--genius Mrs. Dering called it--would be likely to meet with
their amplest and most speedy recognition.

Truth to tell, the widowed mother trembled at the idea of parting from
her favourite boy, of letting him go out unprotected into the great
world, so full of wickedness and temptation, of which she herself knew
so little, but about which she had heard such terrible tales. So week
passed after week, and month after month, and Lionel Dering still
stayed at home with his mother. An inquiry was made here and there, a
letter written now and then, but all in a half-hearted sort of way,
and Mrs. Dering never heard the postman's knock without trembling lest
it should be the herald of a summons which would tear Lionel from her
side for ever. When, at last, the dreadful summons did come, in the
shape of the offer of an excellent situation in India, Mrs. Dering
declared that it would break her heart if Lionel left her. She was a
very delicate little woman, be it borne in mind, and Lionel, who loved
her tenderly, fully believed every word she said--believed that her
heart would really break if they were separated--as in all probability
it would have done. "I won't leave you, mother--I won't go away to
India," said Lionel, as he kissed away her tears.

"You might let _me_ go, mother, instead of Li," said Richard, as he
too kissed her. "If you love me, mother, let me go."

So Richard went to India in place of his brother, and Lionel still
stayed at home. Six months later, Mrs. Dering, who had been a partial
invalid for years, died quite suddenly, and Lionel found himself,
after the payment of all expenses, with about fifty pounds in ready
money, and no ascertainable means of earning his own living.

In this emergency, a certain Mr. Eitzenschlager, a German merchant,
who had met Mrs. Dering in society some five or six years previously,
and had fallen in love with her to no purpose, came to the rescue by
offering Lionel a stool in his counting-house, at Liverpool. But to
Lionel, with his outdoor tastes, the thought of any mode of life which
involved confinement within doors was utterly distasteful. He
preferred taking up his quarters for a time with his old friends the
Langshaws, and there waiting till another opening should give him an
opportunity of joining his brother in India.

When Dorothy St. George ran away from home to marry Godfrey Dering,
she never afterwards saw her father, nor any member of her family,
except her youngest brother, Lionel--the brother after whom her eldest
boy was named. He was a soldier, and shortly after Dorothy's marriage
he was ordered abroad, but he wrote occasionally to the sister whom as
a boy he had loved so well, therein disobeying his father's express
command, that no communication of any kind should henceforth be held
with the disgraced daughter of the house. But many years passed before
Lionel St. George had an opportunity of seeing his sister--not, in
fact, till some time after their father's death: not till he had won
his way up, step by step, to the rank of general, and had come back
from India, a grizzled veteran, with a year's leave of absence in
which to recruit his health, and pay brief visits to such of his
relatives and friends as death had spared. His sister Dorothy was one
of the first whom he made a point of seeing. For Lionel he contracted
a great liking, chiefly, perhaps, because his nephew was named after
him, and because in the tall, bronzed young man he saw, or fancied
that he saw, many points of resemblance to what he himself had been in
happy days long gone by. It was a pity, the general said to himself,
that such a fine young fellow should be kept tied to his mother's
apron string. So, after he got back to India, he brought his influence
to bear, and an eligible opening for Lionel was quickly found. But, as
we have already seen, Lionel did not avail himself of his uncle's
offer. Richard went to India in his stead, and Lionel was by his
mother's side when she died.

Left thus alone, it seemed to Lionel that he could not do better than
join his brother, and he wrote his uncle to that effect.

But before he could possibly get an answer from India, something
happened which changed the whole current of his life. Mr.
Eitzenschlager, the German merchant, died, and left Lionel a legacy of
twenty thousand pounds.

What a fund of quiet, unsuspected romance there must have been in the
heart of the old Teuton! At fifty years of age he had fallen in love
with pretty Mrs. Dering; but Mrs. Dering had nothing but esteem to
give him in return. Once rejected, he never spoke of his feelings
again, but went on loving in secret and in silence. Had Mrs. Dering
outlived him, the twenty thousand pounds would have been left to her.
As it was, the money was left to the son whom she had loved so well.

An unexpected legacy of twenty thousand pounds is enough to upset the
calculations of most men. It upset Lionel's. The idea of going out to
India was abandoned indefinitely. Now had come the time when he could
carry out the cherished wish of his life. Time and money were both at
his command, and he would travel--travel far and wide, studying "men
and manners, climates, councils, governments." When he was tired of
travel, he would buy a little estate somewhere, and settle down
quietly for the remainder of his days as a gentleman farmer. Such were
some of the daydreams of simple-minded Lionel--daydreams which the
future would laugh to scorn.

Hitherto Lionel had escaped scathless and heart-whole from all the
soft seductive wiles prepared by Love to ensnare the unwary. But his
time had come at last, as it comes to all of us. He saw Edith West,
and acknowledged himself a lost man. Nor could any one who knew Edith
wonder at his infatuation. She was an orphan and an heiress. She lived
with her uncle, Mr. Garside, who was also her guardian. Lionel saw her
for the first time in a railway carriage, when she and Mrs. Garside
were travelling from London to Cheltenham. There was a slight accident
to the train, and Lionel was enabled to show the ladies some little
attention. Three weeks after that chance meeting, Lionel proposed in
form for the hand of Mr. Garside's niece.

Lionel's proposal was very favourably received, for Mr. Garside was
prudence itself, and young men worth twenty thousand pounds are not to
be met with every day. Very wisely, however, he stipulated that the
lovers should wait a year before fastening themselves irrevocably
together.

So Lionel, after spending two months in London, where he had an
opportunity of seeing Edith every day, set out on his travels. In ten
months from the date of his departure he was to come back and claim
her for his wife. He left the Continent and the ordinary lines of
tourist travel to be done by Edith and himself after marriage, and
started direct for America. Cities and city life on the other side of
the Atlantic did not detain him long. He panted for the wild, free
life and noble sports of the prairies and mountain slopes of the Far
West. He spent six happy months with his rifle and an Indian guide on
the extreme borders of civilized life. Then he crossed the Rocky
Mountains, and found himself, after a time, at San Francisco. There
letters from home awaited. One of the first that he opened told him of
the failure of the bank in which the whole of his legacy, except a few
hundred pounds, had been deposited. Lionel Dering was a ruined man.

One morning, about three months later, Lionel was ushered into the
private office of Mr. Garside, in Old Broad Street, City. The rich
merchant shook hands with him, and was polite but freezing. Lionel
went at once to the object of his visit. "You have heard of my loss,
Mr. Garside?" he said.

"I have, and am very sorry for it," said the merchant.

"I have saved nothing from the wreck but a few hundred pounds. Under
these circumstances, I come to you, as Miss West's guardian, to tell
you that I give up at once, and unreservedly, all pretensions to that
lady's hand. I absolve her freely and entirely from the promise she
made me. Miss West is an heiress: I am a poor man: we have no longer
anything in common."

"Very gentlemanly, Mr. Dering--very gentlemanly, indeed. But only what
I should have expected from _you_."

Lionel cut him short somewhat impatiently. "You will greatly oblige
me--for the last time--by giving this note to Miss West. I wish her to
understand, direct from myself, the motives by which I have been
actuated. This is hardly a place," looking round the office, "in which
to talk of love, or even of affection; but, in simple justice to
myself, I may say--and I think you will believe me--that the feelings
with which I regarded Miss West when I first spoke to you twelve
months ago, are utterly unchanged, and, so far as a fallible human
being may speak with certainty, they will remain unchanged. I think I
have nothing more to say."

But Lionel's note never reached Edith West. When Mr. Garside had
finished recounting to his wife the details of his interview with
"that strange young man," he gave her the note to give to Edith; but
the giving of it was accompanied by a look which his wife was not slow
to comprehend. The note was never alluded to again between husband and
wife, but somehow it failed to reach the hands for which it was
intended. Edith was simply told by her guardian that Mr. Dering, with
a high-minded feeling which did him great credit, had broken off the
engagement. "He is a poor man--a very poor man, my dear," said Mr.
Garside, "and he has the good sense to know that you are not
calculated for a poor man's wife."

"How does he know that--or you--or anybody?" flashed out Edith. "But
Lionel Dering never made use of those words, uncle. They are an
addition of your own."

Nevertheless, the one great bitter fact still remained, that her lover
had given her up. "If he had only called to see me--or even written!"
she said to herself. But days, weeks, months, passed away, and there
came no further sign from Lionel. So Edith locked up her love, as some
sacred thing, in the innermost casket of her heart, and the name that
was sweeter to her than all other earthly names, never passed her lips
after that day except in her prayers.

Lionel was not long in making up his mind as to his future course. He
had still two or three hundred pounds in ready money, and one small
plot of ground that he could truly call his own. The tiny estate in
question was known as Gatehouse Farm, and consisted of nothing more
than an old-fashioned, tumbledown house, terribly out of repair; an
orchard of tolerable dimensions, and about twenty acres of poorish
grass-land; the whole being situated in a remote corner of the
north-east coast of England. This modest estate had been his father's
sole patrimony, and for that father's sake Lionel had long ago
resolved never to part from it. He had visited it once or twice when
quite a boy, and from that time it had lived in his memory as a
pleasant recollection. To this spot he made up his mind that he would
retire for awhile. Here he would shut himself up from the world, and,
like King Arthur, "heal him of his wounds." He confessed to himself
that he was slightly hipped; a little at odds with Fortune. The
ordinary objects and ambitions of his age, which, under other
circumstances would probably have found him an eager partizan, had,
for the present at least, lost their savour. He was not without
friends--good friends, who would have been willing and able to help
him on in any career he might have chosen to adopt, but just at that
time all their propositions seemed equally distasteful to him.
Ambition for the moment was dead within him. All he asked was to be
allowed to drop quietly out of the circle of those who knew him, and
cherish, or cure, in a solitude of his own seeking, those inward hurts
for which Time is the sole physician.

As it happened, the tenant of Gatehouse Farm was lately dead; there
was, consequently, nothing to stand in the way of its immediate
occupation by Lionel. It was neither a very picturesque nor a very
comfortable residence, but sufficiently the latter to satisfy its
owner's simple wants. Its upper story consisted of four or five
bedrooms. Downstairs was a large and commodious kitchen, together with
a house-room, or, as we should call it, a parlour. This latter room
was chosen by Lionel for his own particular den. It had white-washed
walls, and two diamond-paned windows of dull thick glass, but the
floor was made of splendid oaken Planks. The walls Lionel left as he
found them, except that over the fireplace he hung a portrait of
Edith, and his two favourite rifles; but on the floor he spread two or
three skins of wild animals, trophies of his prowess in the chase. In
a corner near the fireplace, handy to reach, were the twenty or thirty
authors whom he had brought with him to be the companions of his
solitude. In the opposite corner was the only article de luxe to be
found in the house: a splendid cottage piano, of Erard's build.

The dead and gone builder of the house, whose initials, with the date
1685, were still conspicuous on a tablet over the front door, had
never been troubled with that mania for the picturesque in nature and
art about which we moderns are perpetually prating. In its own little
way his house was intensely ugly, and he had persistently built it
with its back to the only fine view that could be seen from its
windows in any direction. Even after all these years, there was not
another house within a mile of it. The only point of habitable life
visible from it was the lighthouse. But it was this solitariness, this
isolation from the world, which formed its great feature of attraction
in the eyes of Lionel. One other attraction it had for him. You had
only to cross a couple of small fields, and follow, for a hundred
yards or more, a climbing footway that led across a patch of sandy
common, and then, all at once, you saw spread out, far and wide before
you, the ever-glorious sea.

To this place came Lionel Dering in less than a month after writing
his last letter to Edith West, and here he had since stayed. Two farm
labourers and one middle-aged woman constituted the whole of his
household. What further labour he might require in his farming
operations, he hired. He rose at five o'clock in summer and at six in
winter. From the time he got up till two o'clock he worked as hard as
any of his own men. The remainder of the day he claimed for his own
private uses. He ploughed, he sowed, he reaped. At one time he planted
potatoes, at another he dug them up; and nowhere within a score of
miles were such fine standard-roses to be seen as at Gatehouse Farm.
He found some land to let conveniently near his own small patch, and
he hired it. At the end of his second year at the farm he calculated
his profits at one hundred and eighty pounds, and was perfectly
satisfied.

Lionel saw no company, and never went into society. He was well known
to the lighthouse keepers and to most of the boatmen. With them he
would talk freely enough. Their racy sayings, their homely, vigorous
diction, their simple mode of life, pleased him. When talking with
them he forgot, for a time, himself and his own thoughts, and the
change did him good. Not that there was anything of the melancholy,
lovesick swain about Lionel--any morbid brooding over his own
disappointment, and troubles. No one ever saw him otherwise than
cheerful. He was perfectly healthy both in mind and body.
Nevertheless, his solitary mode of life, and his persistent isolation
of himself from his friends and equals, all tended to throw him back
upon his own thoughts, and to make him habitually self-introspective,
to confirm him in a growing habit of mental analysis.

Whatever the state of the weather, Lionel hardly ever let a day pass
without taking a long, solitary ramble into the country for eight or
ten miles. Then he had his books, and his piano--which latter was,
perhaps, the greatest consolation of his solitude--and the luxury of
his own lonely musings as he sat and smoked, hour after hour, with
unlighted lamp, and marked how the glowing cinders shaped themselves
silently to the fashion of his thoughts.

Two years had by no means sufficed to tire Lionel Dering of his
solitary life. In fact, he grew to like it better, to cling to it more
emphatically, every day. It satisfied his present needs and ambitions,
and that was all he asked. Calmly indifferent, he allowed himself to
drift slowly onward towards a future in whose skies there seemed for
him no bright bow of promise--nothing but the unbroken grayness of an
autumn day that has neither wind, nor sunshine, nor any change.



CHAPTER III.
THE FOUNDATION OF A FRIENDSHIP.


Notwithstanding Dr. Bell's hopeful hopeful prognostications, it seemed
very doubtful whether Mr. Tom Bristow would ever leave Gatehouse Farm
alive. "I did not think his hull was quite so badly damaged as it is,"
said the worthy doctor, who had formerly been in the navy, to Lionel.
"And his figure-head has certainly been terribly knocked about, but
he's an A 1 craft, and I can't help thinking that he'll weather the
storm."

And weather the storm he did--thanks to good nursing and a good
constitution. When he once took a turn for the better, his progress
towards recovery was rapid. But September had come and gone, and the
frosts of early winter lay white on meadow and fold, before the
doctor's gray pony ceased calling at Gatehouse Farm on its daily
rounds. Long before this time, however, a feeling of more than
ordinary friendship had grown up between Lionel Dering and Tom
Bristow. The points of dissimilarity in the characters of the two men
were very marked, but it may be that they liked each other none the
less on that account. In any case, this dissimilarity of disposition
lent a piquancy to their friendship which it would not otherwise have
possessed.

But who and what was this Mr. Tom Bristow?

The account which he gave of himself to Lionel, one afternoon, when
far advanced towards recovery, was somewhat vague and meagre; but it
more than satisfied the master of Gatehouse Farm, who was one of the
least inquisitive of mortals; and, for the present, it will have to
satisfy the reader also.

They were sitting on a rustic bench just outside the farm porch,
basking in the genial September sunshine. Lionel had his meerschaum
between his lips, and was fondling the head of his favourite dog,
Osric. Tom Bristow, who never smoked, was busy with a piece of boxwood
and a pocket-knife. Little by little he was fashioning the wood into a
capital but slightly caricatured likeness of worthy doctor Bell--a
likeness which the jovial medico would be the first to recognize
and laugh at when finished. Tom was a slim-built, aquiline-nosed,
fair-complexioned, young fellow; rather under than over the ordinary
height; and looking younger than he really was--he was six-and-twenty
years old--by reason of his perfectly smooth and close-shaven face,
which cherished not the slightest growth of whiskers, beard, or
moustache. Tom's first action on coming to his senses after his
accident was to put his hand to his chin, just then bristling with a
stubble of several days' growth; and his first words to the startled
nurse were, "My dear madam, I shall feel greatly obliged by your
sending for a barber." His eyes were blue, full of vivacity, and
keenly observant of all that went on around him. He had a very
good-natured smile, which showed off to advantage a very white and
even set of teeth. His hands and feet were small, and he was rather
inclined to be proud of them. His dress, while studiously plain in
appearance, was made of the best materials, and owed its origin to one
of the most famous of London tailors.

"Dering," said Tom suddenly--they had been sitting for full five
minutes without a word--"it is five weeks to-day since you saved my
life."

"What a memory you have!"

"Seeing that one's life is not saved every day, I may be excused for
remembering the fact, unimportant though it may seem to others. It is
five weeks to-day since I was brought to Gatehouse Farm, and during
all that time you have never asked me a question about myself or my
antecedents. You don't even know whether you have been entertaining a
soldier, a sailor, a tinker, a tailor, a what's-his-name, or a thief."

"I didn't wait to ask myself any question of that kind when I went
down the cliff in search of you, and I don't see why I need trouble
myself now."

"As a matter of simple justice both to you and himself, the
mysterious stranger will now throw off his mystery, and appear in
the commonplace garb of real life."

"I wouldn't bother if I were you," said Lionel. "Your object just now
is to get thoroughly well. Never mind anything else."

"There's no time like the time present. I'm ashamed of myself for not
having spoken to you before."

"If that's the matter with you, I know you must have your say.
Proceed, worthy young man, with your narrative, and get it over as
quickly as possible."

"I was born at a little town in the midland counties," began Tom. "My
father was chief medical practitioner in the place, and attended all
the swells of the neighbourhood. His intention from the first was to
bring me up to the law; so, as soon as I was old enough, he had me
articled to old Hoskyns, his bosom friend, and the chief solicitor in
the little town. I didn't like the law--in fact, I hated it; but there
seemed no better prospect for me at that time, so I submitted to my
fate without a murmur. My father died when I was seventeen, leaving me
a fortune of six thousand pounds. I stayed quietly on with Hoskyns
till I was twenty-one. The day I was of age, the old gentleman called
me into his private room, congratulated me on having attained my
majority, and asked me in what way I intended to invest my six
thousand pounds. 'I am not going to invest it: I am going to speculate
with it,' was my answer. The old lawyer looked at me as if I were a
madman. 'Going to speculate in what?' he asked faintly. 'Going to
speculate on the Stock Exchange,' was my reply. Well, the old
gentleman raved and stormed, and talked to me as though I were a son
of his own, even hinting at a possible partnership in time to come.
But my mind had long been made up, and nothing he had to say could
move me. It seemed to me that in my six thousand pounds I had the
foundation of a fortune which might in time grow into something
colossal. It is true that the course I had laid down for myself was
not without its risks. It was quite possible that instead of building
up a large fortune, I should lose the little one I had already. Well,
should that black day ever come, it would be time enough then to think
of going back to Hoskyns, and of settling down for life as the clerk
of a provincial lawyer.

"My father's death left me without any relations, except some far-away
cousins whom I had never seen. There was nothing to keep me in my
native town, so I set out for London, with many prophecies of coming
ruin ringing in my ears. I hired a couple of cheap rooms in a quiet
city court, and set up in business as a speculator, and to that
business I have stuck ever since."

"Which is as much as to say that you have been successful in it," said
Lionel.

"I _have_ been successful in it. Not perhaps quite so successful as my
sanguine youthful hopes led me to believe I should be; but still
sufficiently so to satisfy myself that in choosing such a career I did
not choose altogether unwisely."

"But how is it possible," said Lionel, "that you, a raw country lad of
one and twenty, could go and settle down in the great world of London;
and, without experience of your own, or any friendly hand to guide
you, could venture to play at a game which exercises some of the
keenest intellects of the age--and not only venture to play at it, but
rise from it a winner?"

"The simplest answer to that question would be, that I did do it. But
really, after all, the matter is not a very difficult one. I have
always been guided by three or four very simple rules, and so long as
I stick to them, I don't think I can go very far amiss. I never invest
all my money in one or even two speculations, however promising they
may seem. I never run great risks for the sake or problematical great
profits. Let my profits be small but sure, and I am quite content.
Lastly, I put my money, as far as possible, into concerns that I can
examine personally for myself, even though I should have to make a
journey of three hundred miles to do it. See the affair with your own
eyes, judge it for yourself, and then leave it for your common sense
to decide whether you shall put your money into it or no. In all such
professions, natural aptitude--the gift that we possess almost
unconsciously to ourselves--is the grand secret of success."

"Success in your case means that you are, on the high road to being a
millionaire?"

"Now you are laughing at me."

"Not at all. I am only judging you by your own standard."

"And is the standard such a very poor one?"

"Not a poor one at all, as the world goes. I should like very much to
be a millionaire."

"To say that I am not richer to-day than I was the day I was
twenty-one would not be true," said Tom, with a demure smile. "I am
years and years, half a lifetime at the very least, from being a
millionaire--if; indeed, I ever live to be one. But I no longer live
in two cheap rooms in the city, and dine at an eating-house for
fifteen pence. I have very nice chambers just out of Piccadilly, where
you must look me up when you are next in town. I belong to a club
where I have an opportunity of meeting good people--by 'good people' I
mean people who may some day be useful to me in my struggle through
life. Finally, I ride my hack in the Park two or three afternoons a
week during the season, and am on bowing terms with a duchess."

"I can no longer doubt that you are a rising man," said Lionel, with a
laugh.

"My head is full of schemes of one kind or another," said Tom, a
little wearily. "Or rather it was full of them before I met with that
confounded accident. In one or the other of those schemes the duchess
will play her part like any other pawn that may be on my chess-board
at the time. There is no keener speculator in the whole City of London
than her Grace of Leamington."

"What a martyrdom it must seem to you to be shut up here, in this dull
old house, so far away from the exciting life you have learned to love
so well!"

"A martyrdom, Dering? It is anything but that. Had I been well in
health, I can't tell what my feelings might have been. I should
probably have considered it a waste of time to have spent a month,
either here or anywhere else, in absolute idleness. But being ill, and
having just been dragged back, by main force as it were, from Death's
very door, I cannot tell you how grateful, how soothing to me is the
quietude of this old spot. If, now and then, when I feel better and
stronger, there come moments when I long to glance over the money
article of 'The Times,' or to write a long, impatient letter to my
broker in London, there are days and nights when such things have no
longer the faintest interest for me--times when bare life itself seems
a burden almost too heavy for endurance, and all my ambitious schemes
and speculations nothing more than a tissue of huge mistakes."

"Your old interest in everyday matters will gradually come back to you
as you grow better," said Lionel, "and with it will come the desire to
be up and doing."

"I suppose you are right," said Tom. "It would never do for a little
illness to change the plans and settled aims of a lifetime."

"No chance of your settling down here at Gatehouse Farm as Hermit
Number Two?"

Tom shook his head and laughed. "Do you know, Dering," he said, "that
you are one of the greatest riddles, one of the most incomprehensible
fellows, it was ever my fortune to meet with! But, pardon me," he
added hastily. "Of all men in the world, you are the one to whom I
ought least to say such words."

"Nothing of the kind," said Lionel, with a smile. "I like your
frankness. I am aware that many people look upon me as a sort of
harmless lunatic, though what there is so incomprehensible about me I
am at a loss to imagine."

"You will forgive me for saying so," said Tom, "but to me it seems
such an utter pity to see a man of your education and abilities
wasting the best years of his life in a place like this, with no
society but that of fishermen and boors: to see a man, young and
strong in health, so utterly indifferent to all the ordinary claims of
civilized life--to all the aims and ambitions by which the generality
of his fellow men are actuated, to the bright career which he might
carve out for himself, if he would but take the trouble to do so."

"Ah, that is just it, mon ami: if I would but take the trouble to do
so! But is the game really worth the candle? To me, I confess that it
is not."

Tom shrugged his shoulders.

"I know that you can afford to pity me--that you look upon me as a
sort of good-natured imbecile."

"No--no!" in energetic protest from Tom.

"But what have you to pity me for?" asked Lionel, without heeding the
interruption. "I have enough to eat and drink, I have a roof to cover
me, and a bed to sleep on. In these important matters I should be no
better off if I had ten thousand a-year. As for the society of boors
and fishermen, believe me, there is more strength of character, more
humour, more pathos, more patient endurance of the ills of this life,
and a firmer trust in Providence, among these simple folk than I ever
found among those whom you would term my equals in the social scale.
Then your ambitions and aims, dignify them with what fine names you
will, what are they, nine times out of ten, but the mere vulgar desire
to grow rich as quickly as possible! So long as I can earn my bread by
the sweat of my brow, and owe no man a penny, I am perfectly
satisfied."

"Argue as you will, Dering, this is neither the place nor the position
for a man like you."

"So long as the place and position suit me, and I them, we shall
remain in perfect accord, and no longer," said Lionel. "I never said
that it was my intention to live a hermit all my life; but at present
I am perfectly satisfied."

Again and again, before Tom Bristow's enforced stay at Gatehouse Farm
came to an end, was the same subject broached between him and Lionel,
but always with the same result. As Lionel often said to himself, he
was utterly without ambition. He was like a man whose active career in
the world was at an end; who knowing that life could have no more
prizes in store for him, had settled down quietly in his old age,
content to let the race go by, and wait uncomplainingly for the end.
It is probable, nay, almost certain, that had his uneventful life at
Gatehouse Farm been destined to last much longer, old desires and
feelings would gradually have awakened within him; that in time he
would have found his way again into that busy world on which he had
turned his back in a transient fit of disgust, and there have fought
the fight before him like the good and true man he really was at
heart.

As days went on, Tom Bristow's strength gradually came back to him,
and with it came a restlessness, and a desire to be up and doing that
was inherent in his disposition. Long before he was allowed down
stairs, he had discovered that the old case clock in the kitchen had a
trick of indicating the hours peculiar to itself, sometimes omitting
to strike them at all, and sometimes going as high as a hundred and
fifty; besides which, its qualities as a timekeeper were not to be
depended on. To Tom's orderly and accurate mind the old clock was a
great annoyance, so the very first day he came down stairs he took the
works entirely to pieces. Then, little by little, as his strength
would allow him, he cleaned them, put them together again, regulated
them, and finally turned the old clock into so accurate a timekeeper
that Mrs. Bevis, Lionel's housekeeper, was quite disturbed in her mind
for several days, because she had no longer any mental calculations to
go through before she could be really sure as to the hour. Then, after
he had got still stronger, Tom went systematically through all the
locks in the house, repairing and putting into thorough working order
all that required it. Then he mended the kitchen window, and put up a
couple of shelves for Mrs. Bevis in the dairy--all done as neatly as
any workman could have done them. In little jobs of this sort Tom took
great delight now that he had so many leisure hours on his hands.

But presently there began to arrive at Gatehouse Farm an intermittent
stream of letters, newspapers, pamphlets, and blue books, the like of
which had never been known within the memory of the oldest man in the
village. Lionel himself stared sometimes when he saw them, but they
all had a business interest for Tom, who now began to spend a great
portion of his time in receiving and answering letters. Such books as
there happened to be in Lionel's small library that had any interest
for him--and they were very few indeed--he exhausted during the early
days of his illness. How a sensible man could possibly prefer Browning
to the money article of "The Times," or an essay by Elia to the
account of a great railway meeting, was matter of intense wonderment
to Tom. Poets, novelists, essayists, should be left to women, and to
men whose fortunes were already made: but for men with a career still
before them; for pushing, striving men of the world, such reading was
a sheer waste of valuable time.

But let Tom Bristow be as worldly-minded as he might be, Lionel Dering
could not help liking him, and it was with sincere regret he saw the
day drawing near when he and his new-found friend must part. With all
Tom's shrewdness and keen love of money-getting, there was a rare
unselfishness about him; and it was probably this fine trait of
character, so seldom found in a man of his calibre, that drew Lionel
so closely to him. As for Tom, he had never met with anyone before
whose character interested him so profoundly as did that of Dering.
Out of that interest grew a liking almost brotherly in its warmth for
the strange young hermit of Gatehouse Farm. When the day came for
these two men to part, they felt as if they had known each other for
years. At the last moment they shook hands without a word. Tears stood
in Tom's eyes. Lionel would not trust himself to speak for fear of
breaking down. One long last grip, then the horses sprang forward, and
Torn was gone. Lionel turned slowly indoors, feeling more lonely and
sad at heart than he had done since the day his darling Edith was lost
to him for ever.



CHAPTER IV.
GOLDEN TIDINGS.


Days and weeks passed over before the feeling of loneliness caused by
Tom's departure from Gatehouse Farm quite wore itself away--before
Lionel got thoroughly back into his old contented frame of mind, and
felt again in the daily routine of his quiet homely life that simple
satisfaction which had been his before the night of the storm. But as
the lengthening days of autumn deepened slowly onward towards
Christmas, the restlessness and gloom that had shrouded his life of
late began to vanish little by little, so that, by-and-by, as Mrs.
Bevis joyfully told her husband, "Master was beginning to get quite
like his old self again."

The farm preparations for winter were all made. Lionel, looking
forward to a long period of leisure, had decided to begin the study of
Italian. He had been into Melcham to buy the necessary books, and got
back home just as candles were being lighted. On the table he found
two letters which had arrived by the afternoon post. One of the two
was deeply bordered with black; the other he recognized at once as
being from Tom Bristow. He opened Tom's letter first.

In a few hurried lines Tom told Lionel how he had been laid up again
from a severe cold which had settled on his chest, and how the doctors
had ordered that he should start at once for Algeria with a view of
wintering there. He wrote rather dolefully, as one whose business
concerns would be altogether disarranged by this imperious mandate,
which, nevertheless, he dare not disobey. "I hope to come back next
spring with the swallows, thoroughly rejuvenated," he wrote; "when I
will not fail to look you up at dear old Gatehouse Farm."

Lionel took up the second letter with some curiosity. But when he saw
that it bore the Duxley post-mark, he guessed in a moment the tidings
it was about to tell him. Nor was he mistaken. It told him of the
death of his uncle, Arthur St. George, of Park Newton, near Duxley,
Midlandshire--and contained an invitation to the funeral, and to the
subsequent reading of the dead man's last will and testament.

"This letter is written by my uncle's lawyer," said Lionel to himself.
"Why couldn't my cousin Kester write to me?"

It was hardly to be expected that Lionel could either feel or express
much sorrow for the death of an uncle whom he had never seen; whom he
only knew by reputation as a man thoroughly selfish and hard hearted;
who had persistently slighted and ignored his, Lionel's, mother, from
the day she ran away from home till the day of her death--and who had
been heard to declare, again and again, that neither his sister nor
any child of hers should ever touch a penny of his money. Knowing all
this, Lionel was surprised to have received even the acknowledgment of
an invitation to his uncle's funeral. His cousin Kester was the heir,
and would inherit everything. For him, Lionel, to attend as a mourner
at the solemn ceremony was to make a hypocrite of himself by assuming
a regret which he could not feel.

This Arthur St. George who had just died was Dorothy Dering's eldest
brother. He had lived and died a bachelor. The second brother,
Geoffry, had died many years before, leaving one son, Kester, who was
adopted by Arthur, and always looked upon as his uncle's heir. Of the
youngest brother, Lionel, we already know something. He, too, was a
bachelor. He it was who, when over from India on leave of absence, had
called upon Mrs. Dering, and had subsequently got that appointment for
Lionel which his mother was not willing that he should accept.

While in England, General St. George, who did not believe in family
feuds, contrived to bring his two nephews, Lionel and Kester,
together. The result was, to a certain extent, a failure. The two
young men had never met each other before; and when, after a week's
intercourse, they bade each other goodbye, it is greatly to be
doubted whether either of them cared about seeing the other again.
Kester, who could make himself very agreeable when he chose to do so,
was, as his uncle's heir, inclined to look down upon Lionel, and to
treat him with a certain superciliousness which the latter could not
readily brook. There was no open rupture between them, but from that
time to the present they had never met again.

Before Lionel had quite made up his mind whether he would attend the
funeral or not, there came a second note from Mr. Perrins, more
imperative than the first one:--"Your cousin, Mr. Kester St. George,
is away on the Continent. I am doubtful whether my notification of
your uncle's death will reach him in time to allow of his being at the
funeral. You and he are the late Mr. St. George's sole relatives,
except General St. George, who is in India. If neither you nor your
cousin attend the funeral, your uncle will be followed to the grave by
no one of his own blood. But that apart, it is highly desirable that,
as a near relative of the deceased gentleman, you should be present at
the reading of the will, which is fixed to take place in the blue
drawing-room at four o'clock on the afternoon of the day of
interment."

After this there was nothing left for Lionel but to go.

It was not without a strange commingling of various feelings that
Lionel Dering found himself under the roof of a house which had been
the home of his ancestors for two hundred years. A stately and
venerable old pile, truly. He had often heard his mother talk about
it, but till this day he had never seen it. It was something to feel
proud of, that he was the scion of a family which could call a place
like Park Newton its home.

He was received by Mr. Perrins with a cordiality that was at once
grave and respectful. Kester St. George had not arrived; neither had
there been any message from him. They waited till the last possible
moment, but he did not come. Thus it happened that Lionel found
himself in the novel position of chief mourner at the funeral of a man
whom he had never even seen. He was glad when the ceremony was over.

Then came the reading of the will. "I wish to goodness my cousin would
come, even at this the last moment," said Lionel to the lawyer as they
walked together towards the blue drawing-room.

"I don't really know that it matters greatly," replied Mr. Perrins
with a significant smile. "I dare say we shall get on very well
without Mr. Kester St. George."

Ten minutes later Lionel understood the meaning of the lawyer's
strange remark. Ten minutes later he found himself the owner of Park
Newton, and the possessor of an income of eleven thousand pounds a
year.

It was even so. Everything, with the exception of a few trifling
legacies to old servants, that Arthur St. George possessed in the
world he had bequeathed without reservation to his nephew, Lionel
Dering. The name of Kester St. George was not even mentioned in the
will.

"The Park Newton estates have never been entailed," said Mr. Perrins
in parenthesis, as he folded up the will. "It was quite competent to
the testator to have left the whole of his property to St.
Bartholomew's Hospital, had he chosen to do so."

For the moment Lionel was overwhelmed. But when Mr. Perrins had
congratulated him, and the doctor had congratulated him, and the
butler and the housekeeper, old servants of the family, had followed
suit, he began to feel as if his good fortune were really a fact.

"Now I can marry Edith," was his first thought.

"It seems more like a dream than anything else," said Lionel to Mr.
Perrins a little later on, as the latter stood sipping a glass of dry
sherry with the air of a connoisseur.

"I should very much like to dream a similar dream," answered the
lawyer.

"But about my cousin Kester St. George,--he was adopted by my uncle
after his father's death, and was brought up at Park Newton, and it
was understood by everybody that he was to be my uncle's heir?"

"It is entirely Mr. Kester St. George's own fault that he does not
stand in your position to-day."

"I fail to understand you."

"For years your uncle's will was made in his favour. Everything was
left to him as absolutely as it is now left to you. But about nine
months ago your uncle and your cousin had a terrible quarrel. As to
how it arose, or what was the cause of it, I know nothing. I can only
surmise that your cousin had done something which your uncle felt that
he could not forgive. But be that as it may, Mr. Kester St. George was
turned out of Park Newton at ten o'clock one night, and forbidden ever
to set foot across the threshold again--nor has he ever done so. Next
day your uncle sent for me, and in my presence he tore up the old will
which had been in existence for years, and substituted in its place
the one which I had the honour of reading this afternoon."

That same night saw Lionel Dering in London. He felt that he could
neither go back to Gatehouse Farm, nor make any arrangements
respecting his new position, till after he had seen Edith West--till
after he had seen her and told her that his love was still unchanged,
and that there no longer existed any reason why she should not become
his wife.

It was past ten o'clock before he got into London. His mind was too
much excited either to allow of his going to bed or of his sitting
quietly in the hotel. So he lighted a cigar, and set out for a quiet
ramble through the streets. After a time he found himself on
Westminster Bridge. He stood awhile watching the river as it flowed
along so dark and mysterious--watching it, but with thoughts that
were far away. Suddenly he became conscious of a dull, confused noise,
like the far-away murmur of a great crowd. Swiftly the murmur grew,
growing and swelling with every moment, till it swelled into a
mighty roar from a thousand throats. Then, all at once, there was a
flashing of lights, and the trampling of innumerable feet, and three
fire-engines went thundering past with yells, and shouts, and hoarse,
inarticulate cries from a huge mob that followed hard and fast behind.
Lionel stood back to let this crowd of desperadoes pass,--when all at
once, among them, but not of them--borne helplessly along by the press
from which he was struggling in vain to free himself, he saw his
cousin, Kester St. George. There was a lamp close overhead, and their
eyes met for a moment in recognition across a seething mass of the
crowd. It was but for a moment, and then Kester was carried away; but
in that moment there flashed into his eyes a look of such deadly,
fiend-like hate as thrilled Lionel from head to foot. It was a look
that once seen could never be forgotten. It chilled Lionel's heart,
and, for a time, even blotted out from his thoughts the sweet image of
Edith West. He walked back to his hotel, gloomy, ill at ease, and
oppressed with strange presentiments of some vague, far-off evil. Even
after he fell asleep that look on his cousin's face oppressed him and
would not be forgotten. He dreamt that Kester was pursuing him from
room to room through the old house at Park Newton. As Kester came in
at one door, with that terrible look in his eyes, he, Lionel, passed
swiftly out at the opposite door, but on each door-handle, as he
touched it, he left behind a stain of blood. The oppression of his
dream grew at length too great to be any longer borne, and he awoke
shivering with dread, and thankful to find that the blessed daylight
was at hand.



CHAPTER V.
EDITH WEST.


The London clocks were just striking midday as a gentleman drove up to
the door of No. 6, Roehampton Terrace, Bayswater. It was Lionel
Dering. He had reached London two days previously, but he would not
venture to call on Edith West without first writing to her aunt and
obtaining the requisite sanction. Mr. Garside had been dead nearly a
year, but Edith and her aunt still continued to live together. In his
note to Mrs. Garside, Lionel simply said that by a sudden change of
fortune he was again in a position to pay his addresses to Miss West,
and he solicited her permission to allow him to do so. Mrs. Garside
was only too happy to bid him welcome to Roehampton Terrace. Indeed,
it is by no means improbable that she would have welcomed him had he
gone to her on the same errand without a shilling in the world. She
had discovered long ago that Edith was too faithful to the memory of
her first love for there to be much hope that a second one would ever
find a place in her heart. As Mrs. Garside had said to herself a score
of times since her husband's death, "It would be far better for Edith
to marry Mr. Dering without a penny than for her never to marry at
all. Edith's fortune, if managed with economy, would suffice to keep
them in tolerable comfort--not in London, perhaps, but in some quiet
country place, or in some cheap corner of the Continent; and Edith is
one of those girls who can make themselves happy anywhere."

Under these circumstances, it is hardly to be wondered at that Mrs.
Garside was very glad to see Lionel Dering under her roof again, more
especially as he did not come to her in the disagreeable guise of a
poor man. Tears came into her eyes as she held out her hand to
him--genuine tears, for Mrs. Garside was one of those women who can
weep on the slightest provocation. "It will be like new life to our
darling Edith to have news of you once more," she said.

"Then she has not quite forgotten me?" said Lionel, eagerly.

"Forgotten you, Mr. Dering! How little you know of our sex if you
think it possible for us so soon to forget those to whom our young
affections have once been given."

"Is she--is Edith here in the house?" asked Lionel.

"She was in her own room only five minutes ago. I can understand your
impatience, Mr. Dering, and will not keep you from her. I have
refrained from saying a word to her about either your note or your
visit. You shall yourself be the bearer of your own good tidings."

Three minutes later Lionel found himself in the presence of Edith.
Mrs. Garside opened the door and ushered him in. The room was a very
pleasant one, furnished with books, pictures, and curiosities of
various kinds. At the farther end it opened into a small conservatory,
which looked one dazzling mass of bloom as you entered the room. And
there, sweetest flower of all, sat Edith, her face and figure clearly
defined against a background of delicate ferns.

"Edith, dear, I have brought a long-lost friend to see you," said Mrs.
Garside, as she and Lionel entered.

Edith dropped her book, and started up in surprise. Lionel was half
hidden behind Mrs. Garside, and for the moment Edith mistook him
for a stranger. But he had not advanced three paces before she saw
who he was, and in a moment she was as one transformed. Her mouth
dimpled into smiles, tears came nestling into her eyes--tears of
happiness--her heart beat fast, her cheeks flushed to the tint of the
wild rose when its petals first open to the sun, and with a little
inarticulate cry of joy she sprang forward to greet her lover. She
sprang forward, and then she halted suddenly, while a look of sadness
clouded her face for a moment. With a sigh that ended in a half sob
she held out her hand. Lionel grasped it in both his.

"How long you have been away!" she said, as her eyes met his. Mrs.
Garside slipped discreetly out of the room, and shut the door softly
behind her.

Lionel lifted Edith's hand to his lips and kissed it. Then he looked
at her with the same eager, anxious gaze that she had bent on him--he
looked and was satisfied. His heart told him that he was still loved
as fondly as ever he had been. Edith, too, after that first hungry
look, veiled her eyes modestly, but there was a wild whirl of
happiness at her heart. Lionel drew her face up to his, and kissed her
twice very tenderly. Then he led her to the sofa, and sat down beside
her.

"Yes; I have been a very long time away," he said at last. "But
I am come to-day, Edith, to ask you to keep me by your side through
life--never more to let me wander from you."

Edith, in the first shock of her surprise, was too happy to speak. But
her fingers tightened almost imperceptibly on his hand, and her face,
resting on his shoulder, where he had placed it, nestled still closer;
her silent answer was more eloquent than any words.

"Edith, I left you--my letter told you why," went on Lionel. "But all
through the long dreary time when I was separated from you, my love
for you never faltered, never wavered for one single moment. If I had
never seen you again in this world, my heart's last breath would still
have been yours. Yesterday I was poor--to-day I am rich. Once more I
can ask you, as I asked you three years ago, to be my wife. Do not
tell me that I am asking for more than you can give."

Edith's faith in Lionel was so full and complete, her love for him so
deep-rooted, that she never paused--as many young ladies would have
done--before giving him back the affection which had all along been
his, to demand from him the reason for his apparent desertion of her
three years before. In that first flush of new-born happiness it was
enough to know that her lover had come back to her: the why and the
wherefore of his leaving could be explained afterwards.

"You know, Lionel, that my love is yours always--that it has been
yours for a long long time," said Edith, in accents that trembled a
little in spite of herself. "But I never received any letter from you
after that last one dated from some far-away town in America."

"No letter!" exclaimed Lionel. "Not one explaining my reasons for
releasing you from your engagement?"

"Never a single line, Lionel."

"But I gave the letter into your uncle's hands," returned Lionel. "He
promised faithfully that he would give it you."

"He did not give it me," answered Edith.

"Perhaps he kept it back because he thought it better that I should
not see it."

"He had no right to do anything of the kind," said Lionel, sternly.
"The letter was sacredly entrusted to him, and ought as sacredly to
have been delivered to you.

"Lionel, my uncle is no longer with us," said Edith, gently. "You and
I are together again. That redeems all. Let us never say another word
about the letter."

"What a villain, what a mean wretch, you must have thought me," cried
Lionel impulsively, "to break off my engagement without assigning you
any reason! Without even a single word of explanation!"

"I thought you nothing of the kind," said Edith, with decision. "I
knew you too well not to feel sure that you must have good and
sufficient reasons for acting as you did. Although you did not tell me
what those reasons were--whatever may have been my disappointment at
your silence--my faith in you never wavered."

"But when weeks and months passed away, and you never heard from
me----"

"I felt then that all was over between us; felt it in a despairing,
hopeless kind of way. But I cherished no resentment against
you--none."

"But surely your uncle and aunt had some explanation to offer?"

"They told me that, through the failure of a bank, you had lost the
whole of your fortune, and that, consequently, you had resigned all
pretensions to my hand."

"And you?"

"I thought that you might have called to see me; or, at least, have
written to me. I could not understand why, if you still continued to
care for me, you should choose to give me up simply because you had
lost your fortune."

"You could not understand it?"

"Indeed I could not. And I fail to understand it now. If you were
poor, I was rich. What greater happiness could I have than to endow
you with my plenty? When I gave you my love, it meant that I gave you
everything I could call mine."

"You look at the question from a woman's point of view, Edith: I, from
a man's."

"If I had lost my fortune as you lost yours, would you have given me
up?" asked Edith.

"Certainly not."

"Nor I you. With me, to love and to be loved is everything. In
comparison with that all else is as nothing."

"Edith, I could not come to you penniless, and ask you to become
my wife. When I found myself a poor man, I had no profession to
fly to; I was acquainted with no business. I was a great hulking
good-for-nothing, able to plough and reap, and earn a bare crust by
the sweat of my brow, and that was all. How was it possible for me to
become a dependent on you for my daily bread?"

"You would not have been a dependent, Lionel. My money would have been
yours, just as my love was yours."

"Still a woman's view, my dearest," said Lionel. "The noblest and the
best, I at once admit. Only, the world would never have believed that
I had not married you for your fortune."

"You and I together, Lionel, could have afforded to set the world's
opinion at defiance."

Lionel ended the argument with a kiss.

A fair, sweet English face was that which nestled so lovingly on
Lionel's shoulder. Edith West had large liquid dark brown eyes. Her
eyebrows and eyelashes were nearly black, but the thick wavy masses of
her hair had no shade deeper than that of chestnuts in autumn. The
tints of the wild rose dwelt in her cheeks. About her there was a
freshness, a sweetness, and a delicate grace, like that of a breezy
morning in spring, when flowers are growing, and birds are singing,
and all nature seems glad at heart.

"You are in mourning, Lionel," said Edith, suddenly.

"Yes; I have just lost my uncle, Mr. St. George, of Park Newton."

"I never remember to have heard you speak of him."

"Probably not. I never even saw him, never had any communication with
him whatever. Nevertheless, it is to him that I owe my fortune."

"It has come to you unexpectedly?"

"Entirely so. Three days ago I should have laughed at the idea of
being my uncle's heir: now they tell me that I am worth eleven
thousand a year."

"It sounds like a fairy tale," cried Edith. "What a strange man your
uncle must have been!"

"When the will was read," returned Lionel, "my first thought was of
you. I said to myself, 'Has Edith forgotten me? Has she given me up?
Am I too late?' I trembled to think what the answer might be. Now I
tremble no longer."

"It is sweet, Lionel, to have you here, and to know that you are my
own again," replied Edith. "But how much sweeter it would have been if
you had come to me when you were poor, and had trusted everything to
my love!"


A week passed away, each day of which saw Lionel Dering a visitor in
Roehampton Terrace. Edith and he were much together. It was the
happiest time they had ever known. All the freshness of their recent
meeting was still upon them; besides which, their long separation had
taught them to value each other more, perhaps, than they would have
done, had everything gone smoothly with them from the first. The
weather, for an English winter, was brilliant, and they rode out every
morning into the country. Of an evening, Edith, Lionel, and Mrs.
Garside had the drawing-room all to themselves; and although an
"exposition of sleep" generally came over the elder lady after dinner,
the young people never seemed to miss her society, nor were they ever
heard to complain that the time hung heavily on their hands.

They were very happy. They had so much to tell each other about the
past--so many golden daydreams to weave of what they would do in the
future! Edith could never hear enough about Lionel's life at Gatehouse
Farm, and about his adventure with Tom Bristow; while Lionel found
himself evincing a quite novel interest in the well-being of sundry
ragged-schools, homes for destitute children, and other philanthropic
schemes of whose very existence he had been in utter ignorance only a
few days before.

But everything must come to an end, and after a time there came a
summons from Mr. Perrins. Lionel was wanted down at Park Newton. The
old lawyer could go on no longer without him. So Edith and he were
compelled to bid each other farewell for a week or two. Meanwhile, the
post was to be the daily medium for the interchange of their vows and
messages.



CHAPTER VI.
FIRST DAYS AT PARK NEWTON.


The dining-room at Park Newton. A cosy little table, with covers set
for two people, was drawn up near the fire. The evening was cold and
frosty. The wax-candles were lighted, the logs on the hearth burned
cheerily. A large Indian screen shut in this end of the room from the
wilderness of gloom and desolation beyond; for the dining-room at Park
Newton would accommodate fifty or sixty guests with ease. The clock on
the mantelpiece pointed to ten minutes past seven. Lionel Dering was
growing impatient.

"Perrins is generally punctuality itself," he said. "What can have
detained him? I hope he is not ill."

He was on the point of ringing the bell, and sending the servant with
a message to the lawyer's room, when Mr. Perrins came in. With many
apologies for being late, he sat down to table; but Lionel saw at once
that he was bursting with some important news. As soon as the first
course was served, and the servant had left the room, Perrins began.

"I have some very startling information for you, Mr. Dering," he said.
"My late arrival at table is owing to a certain discovery which I made
about an hour ago."

"I hope you are not going to tell me that my eleven thousand a year is
all moonshine," said Lionel, as he helped the lawyer to some clear
soup.

"No, no, Mr. Dering. The news I have to tell you is not quite so bad
as that, and yet it is bad enough in all conscience. While going
through some of your uncle's papers this afternoon--you know what a
quantity of them there are, and in what disorder he kept them--while
engaged upon this necessary duty, I discovered--what think you, sir?
what think you?"

"Another will, I suppose," said Lionel, slowly.

"Not another will, but a codicil, sir; codicil to the will with whose
provisions we are already acquainted; in the handwriting of the
testator himself, witnessed in due form, and dated only three months
ago!"

"And what may be the contents of this important document?" asked
Lionel, as he crumbled his bread with apparent indifference.

"The contents are these: Should you, Lionel Dering, die unmarried, or
without lawful issue, the whole of the property bequeathed you by your
uncle's will reverts to your cousin, Mr. Kester St. George, or to his
children, should you be the longer liver of the two."

"Is that all?" said Lionel, with a sigh of relief.

"All, sir! Quite enough, too, I should say, if I were in your place."

"Nobody can touch the property as long as, I live."

"Certainly not."

"Then a fig for the rest! Shall I send you a sole or some stewed
eels?"

"It is quite a relief, to me to find how coolly you take my news;
though it is true your uncle could not well have made the contingency
of your cousin's inheriting a more remote one."

"Tell me," said Lionel, "have you either seen or heard anything of
Kester since my uncle's death?"

"I have heard from him, but not seen him. He wrote to me a few days
after your uncle's funeral, asking me to send him an abstract of the
contents of the will. He gave an address in Paris, and I answered his
letter by return of post."

"An address in Paris!" exclaimed Lionel. "That is very strange. I
never felt more positive of anything than that my cousin Kester passed
me on Westminster Bridge on the very night of my uncle's funeral."

"A coincidence, my dear sir, nothing more," said the lawyer,
cheerfully. "Such things happen every day in London. It would
almost seem as if every man had his double--a sort of unknown
twin-brother--somewhere in the world."

Lionel pursued the subject no farther, but he was none the less
convinced in his own mind that it was Kester, and no one but him, that
he had seen. Could he ever forget the look of undying hatred that
shone out of his cousin's eyes?

"You have not yet advised Kester of the contents of the codicil?" he
said at last.

"I have not had time to do so. I purpose writing to him this evening:
unless you wish me to defer doing so until you have satisfied yourself
as to the authenticity of the document."

"My dear sir, if you are satisfied that the document is genuine, that
is enough for me. Write to my cousin, by all means, and as soon as
possible. By-the-by, you may as well give me his address. I shall
probably drop him a line myself."

"I may as well tell you," said Mr. Perrins, as he gave the address,
"that the balance of six thousand and odd pounds, which I found to
your uncle's credit in his bank passbook at the time of his decease,
represents, with the exception of a few shares in one or two public
companies, the accumulated savings of Mr. St. George's lifetime."

"What! out of an income of eleven thousand a year?"

"Even so. When your uncle died, everybody who had known him, and who
knew his simple, inexpensive mode of life, said: 'He must have saved a
hundred thousand pounds at the very least.' But the reverse of that
has proved to be the fact. In going through Mr. St. George's papers, I
found numerous receipts for very large donations made by him to
different charities. He seems to have received his rents with one hand
and to have given them away with the other. In fact, your uncle was
one of those unknown philanthropists of whom the world hears nothing,
but whose wealth, like a bounteous stream, diffuses countless
blessings among the sick and poor."

"And yet," said Lionel to himself, "this was the man who refused to
forgive his own sister because he fancied that she had married beneath
her!"

Mr. Perrins went off to bed at an early hour, after indulging in a due
modicum of choice old port; but Lionel sat up till far into the small
hours, with no companion but his favourite meerschaum.

His musings were very pleasant ones. How could they be otherwise? Not
till to-day had he seemed to realize to the full all that was implied
by his sudden change of fortune. In London he was nobody, or next to
nobody; one rich man among ten thousand. Here, at Park Newton, he was
lord and master of everything. This gray old mansion, with its wide
sweep of park, and its noble trees which might be counted by hundreds,
were all his, with many a fair and fruitful farm that now lay sleeping
under the midnight moon. To the gracious shelter of that stately old
roof he would in a little while bring his bride. There would their
lives gradually wear themselves away in a round of daily duties, edged
with a quiet happiness that never tires. In one or other of those
rooms their last breath would ebb away; in the long gallery upstairs
two more portraits would be added to the line of dead and gone
ancestors. And then would come the day when a new master, his son,
would reign at Park Newton, who would, in his turn, bring home a fair
young bride, and would dream, perchance in that very room, in the dim
years to come, dreams the like of those which the brain of Lionel
Dering was shadowing forth to-night among the smoke-wreaths that
floated slowly upward from his pipe.

But before that time should come there was, he hoped and thought, a
long and happy future in store for himself and Edith. As he passed
with his candle through the dim picture-gallery on his way to bed,
each one of the old portraits seemed to greet him with a grim smile of
welcome. With a queer, half-joyous, half-superstitious feeling at his
heart, he turned at the gallery door. "Bon soir, messieurs," he said,
with a bow to the silent crowd that seemed watching him so intently,
"I hope--after a time--to form one of your pleasant society."

Lionel was up betimes next morning, and took a stroll round the house
and shrubberies before breakfast. Park Newton dated from the era of
William and Mary, and had little to boast of in the way of
architectural magnificence. It was built of brick, with a profusion of
stone copings, and mullions, and twisted chimneys. But its walls were
now gray and venerable with age, powdered with lichens and delicate
fairy mosses, and clasped about here and there with clinging tendrils
of ivy. Everything about it was old and homelike. It had an air of
stately comfort which seemed to carry back the mind instinctively to
the days of periwigs and ruffles, of clouded canes and buckled shoes;
before we English had become the gadabout race we are now; when a
country gentleman's house was his home the year round, and country
roads were altogether impassable in bad weather.

Lionel had not been many hours at Park Newton before he began to have
visitors. The county families and neighbouring gentry who had known
the late Mr. St. George either called or left their cards. Lionel was
young and unmarried, and would be a decided acquisition to the limited
circle of Midlandshire bachelors: that is to say, of eligible
bachelors. Of ineligible bachelors there were always enough and to
spare. But the advent of such a possible prize--of a bird with such
splendid plumage as the new owner of Park Newton--was enough to send a
pleasurable thrill through all the dovecotes within a circuit of
twenty miles. Of the existence of a certain young lady, Edith West by
name, nothing, of course, was known or suspected.

One of the first to call at Park Newton, and introduce himself to
Lionel, was the Reverend John Wharton, the vicar of Duxley. Mr.
Wharton was an octogenarian, but hale and hearty; as far as
appearances went, he seemed likely to last for another twenty years.

"My having known your uncle, the late Mr. St. George, must be my
apology for intruding upon you so soon," he said, as he shook Lionel
warmly by the hand. "And not your uncle only, but your grandfather
also. And now I should like to know you."

"You are very kind," said Lionel. "And I appreciate the honour you
have done me."

"There was another member of the family, too, whom I recollect very
well," said the vicar, as they sat together in the library. "I refer
to your mother."

"Did you know my mother?" asked Lionel, eagerly.

"I did indeed. I remember her first as a sweet slip of a girl, playing
and romping about the house and grounds. Then I missed her for three
or four years while she was away at school. Then she came back, a
sedate young lady, but very, very pretty. How fond your grandfather
was of her! But he never forgave her for running away and marrying
your father--never, that is, until he lay dying."

"Do you mean to say, sir, that my grandfather ever did forgive my
mother?"

"Certainly he forgave her, but not till he lay on his deathbed. I was
in the room at the time and heard his words. Taking your uncle's hand
in his, your grandfather said--and his words came very slowly and
feebly:--'Arthur, life and its duties look very different, as I lie
here, from what they did when I was in health. It lies on my
conscience that I never forgave poor Dorothy. It's too late to send
for her now, but send her my blessing after I'm gone, and say that I
loved her to the last.' He shut his eyes, and was silent for a little
while. Then he spoke again. 'Arthur,' he said to your uncle, 'is it
your intention ever to marry?' 'I shall never marry, father,' was the
answer. 'Then who's to have Park Newton, after your time?' 'It will
not go out of the family, you may depend upon that, father,' said your
uncle. 'Some time or other it will have to go to one of the two boys,'
resumed your grandfather; 'either to Dorothy's boy, or to Geoffry's
son, Kester. Now I don't want to tie you down in any way, Arthur, but
I confess I should like Dorothy's lad to have Park Newton. He could
change his name to St. George, you know. Young Kester might have a
life allowance out of the estate of two or three thousand a year, and
there would still be enough left to keep up the old place in proper
style. I feel that I have acted wrongly to Dorothy. There is some
reparation due to her. If I thought that her boy would one day have
the estate, I think I should die happier.' 'Father, it shall be as you
wish,' said Arthur St. George, solemnly."

"A promise that was made only to be broken," said Lionel, bitterly. "I
have heard my mother say that the first intimation she had of my
grandfather's death was derived from the columns of a newspaper.
Further than that, my uncle Arthur never wrote a single line to my
mother; never would even see her; never hold any communication with
her, direct or indirect, to the last day of her life."

"You shock me," said the old clergyman. "Can that indeed be true?"

"I tell you, sir," said Lionel, "that this is the first time I ever
heard of any such wish having been expressed by my grandfather. Two
months ago I had no more expectation than you had of ever coming into
the Park Newton property. My cousin Kester was always looked upon as
the heir."

"He was, greatly to my surprise, knowing what I knew. Your uncle
adopted him and brought him up as his own son."

"And, had it not been for some mysterious quarrel that took place
between my uncle and my cousin, Kester St. George would undoubtedly at
this moment have been the owner of Park Newton."

"What you say seems only too probable," said the vicar. "And yet I
always looked upon Mr. St. George as one of the most conscientious of
men, as he was, undoubtedly, one of the most charitable."

"A pity that in this case his charity did not begin nearer home," said
Lionel. "That must have been a terrible quarrel," he added presently,
"which could induce my uncle to alter the determination of a lifetime,
and leave the property away from my cousin."

"True," said the vicar. "I have often wondered of what nature it
could be. But Mr. St. George never spoke of it to any one. He was a
very close man in many ways."


There was much food for thought in what Mr. Wharton had just told
Lionel. "My grandfather intended me to have Park Newton, and I've got
it," he said to himself, after the vicar had gone. "But it was also
his wish that Kester should have two or three thousand a year out of
the estate. I'll write to Perrins to know how it can be done."

Mr. Perrins had gone back to London a few hours previously. Lionel
wrote to him by that night's post. Next morning but one he had the
following answer: "By the terms, of your uncle's will and codicil you
have no power to make any such allowance out of the estate as the one
suggested by you. You can, of course, make any allowance you may
please, and to anybody, privately, and as a gift out of your own
pocket; but it is not competent for you to burden the estate with any
charge of such a nature."

Would his cousin accept three thousand a year from him as a gift? It
was a delicate proposition to put to a man circumstanced as was Kester
St. George.


Lionel had not been many days at Park Newton when he was called upon
by Mr. Cope, the banker, with whom came Mr. Culpepper of Pincote.

Mr. Cope was the senior partner in the firm of Sugden and Co., the
well-known, bankers of Duxley. The late Mr. St. George had had an
account with the firm for twenty years, which account Mr. Cope was
desirous of still retaining on his books, with nothing but a simple
alteration of the customer's name.

Squire Culpepper was a friend of Mr. Cope, and had been an intimate
friend of Mr. St. George; consequently, it was only natural that he
and the banker should drive over to Park Newton together. Lionel gave
them a hearty welcome. The banker was successful in the particular
object of his visit, and was further gratified by Lionel's acceptance
of an invitation to dine with him, en famille, the following day.

"Pincote ought by rights to have been your first place of call," said
Mr. Culpepper to Lionel as he was bidding him goodbye. "But Cope here
has stolen a march on me, as usual. However, I'll forgive him if
you'll come and see us at Pincote before this day week."

Lionel laughed and promised.

Mr. Cope was a heavily-built, resolute-looking man of middle age, with
a brusque business manner, which had become so confirmed in him by
habit that he could not throw it off in private life. He had neither
the education nor the manners of a well-bred gentleman, but he
inspired respect by the shrewdness of his intellect, and a certain
innate force of character which made itself felt by all with whom he
came in contact. His father had originally been office-boy to the firm
of Sugden and Co., but, in the course of thirty years, had gradually
worked his way up to the honourable post of managing clerk.
Ultimately, three or four years before his death, he had been elevated
to a junior partnership. Already young Horatio Cope, although merely
filling the position of an ordinary clerk in the bank, had displayed
such natural aptitude as a financier that, when his father died, the
vacant post was at once given him, and the firm had never had reason
to regret the choice thus made. As time went on, the two oldest
members of the Sugden family died within a few months of each other.
Two or three years later the youngest of the three brothers was
accidentally drowned. Of the original firm there then were left but
two young men, of three or four and twenty, cousins, who knew little
or nothing about the business, who were rich enough to live without
it, and who preferred a life of ease and pleasure to the cares and
toils which must devolve on those who would successfully steer a large
financial concern through the troubled waters of speculation. In this
crisis all that could be done was to fall back on Horatio Cope. He was
master of the situation, and he knew it. The result was that he was
offered a partnership in the firm on equal terms with the two cousins.
They were to supply the capital necessary for the conduct of the
business, but the entire management was to devolve on him. All this
had happened several years ago; and in Duxley and its neighbourhood
few men were better known, or more generally esteemed, than Mr. Cope.

He was a very proud man, this heavy, awkward-looking, middle-aged
banker. His secret ambition was to obtain a footing among the county
families of Duxley and its neighbourhood, and to be treated by them,
if not exactly as an equal, yet with as near an approach to that
blissful state of things as might be. But, somehow, notwithstanding
all his efforts, the old plebeian taint seemed still to cling to him.
The people among whom it was his highest ambition to live and move
simply tolerated him, and that was all. He was rich, and, to a certain
extent, was still a rising man. He could be made use of in many ways.
So he was invited to their state-dinners, and sometimes to their more
private balls and parties; but, for all that, he felt that he did not
belong to them--that he never could belong to them--that he stood
outside a magic circle which to him must be for ever impassable. It
was only by slow degrees, and after a long time, that these
disagreeable truths were brought fully home to the banker's mind. But
when he did realize them, he bethought himself that he had a son.

Mr. Cope's stanchest friend and best ally was, undoubtedly, Squire
Culpepper, of Pincote. It had been the banker's good fortune, some
thirty odd years ago, to be in a position to do an essential service
to Titus Culpepper, at that time an impecunious young man, without a
profession, and with no prospects in particular; and the squire, when
he afterwards came into his property, was not the man to forget it. At
Pincote the banker was ever a welcome guest; and if any one had asked
the squire to point out the man whom he believed to be his best
friend, that man would undoubtedly have been Horatio Cope.

It was a great step in Mr. Cope's favour to be so taken in hand by a
man like Mr. Culpepper, who, although only moderately rich, and a
commoner, was the representative of one of the most ancient and
respected families in the county, and could, in fact, show a pedigree
older by two centuries and a half than that of the great Duke of
Midlandshire himself. Squire Culpepper had only one child, a daughter;
and it seemed to Mr. Cope that it would be an excellent thing if a
match could be brought about between his son and the young lady in
question. By marrying Miss Culpepper, his son would at once secure a
position in society such as he himself could never hope to attain; and
if, in addition, the young man could be smuggled into parliament, and
could succeed in making one tolerably good speech there, why, then he
thought that the great ambition of his life would be as near
fulfilment as it was ever likely to be in his time. By what occult
means Mr. Cope succeeded in inducing the squire to so far overcome the
prejudices of caste as to agree to the marriage of his daughter with
the grandson of a man who had lighted the fires and swept out the
offices of Sugden's bank, was best known to himself. But certain it is
that he did succeed; and the match was arranged, and the pecuniary
conditions agreed upon, before either of the two persons most
interested so much as knew a word about it.

Squire Culpepper, at this time, was from fifty-five to sixty years
old. He was a short, wiry, keen-faced man, with restless, fidgety
ways, and a firm belief in his own shrewdness and knowledge of the
world. Except when dressed for dinner, his ordinary attire was a
homely suit of shepherd's plaid, with thick shoes and gaiters. His
head-gear was a white hat, with a black band, generally much the worse
for wear. The squire's shabby hats were known to everybody. His tongue
was sharp, and his temper hasty, but he was as sweet and sound at
heart as one of his own Ribstone pippins.


Mr. Cope had a fine, handsome modern-built house just outside Duxley.
When Lionel arrived, he found his host in the drawing-room waiting to
receive him. The squire had not yet come. When he did arrive, he was
half-an-hour past his time. He apologized, on the ground that he had
been to a sale of cattle some twenty miles off, and had not been able
to get back earlier. It was obvious to Lionel, and doubtless to Mr.
Cope also, that the squire had been drinking--not inordinately, by any
means, but just enough to make him more merry and talkative than
usual. After dinner, some splendid old port was put on the table; and
it seemed to Lionel that the banker, while drinking nothing but an
innocuous claret himself, kept pressing the decanter of port on the
squire's attention oftener than was at all necessary, and seemingly of
set purpose. The squire, nothing loath, smacked his lips, and drank
glass after glass with evident gusto. As a consequence, he became more
merry and communicative than ever. Had Lionel known at the time what a
very rare occurrence it was for the squire to allow himself to become,
even in the slightest degree, the worse for wine, he might have asked
himself whether the banker's object was not to obtain from him, while
in that talkative mood, certain information which it would have been
hopeless to expect him to divulge at any other time. But Lionel,
knowing nothing of this, was entirely in the dark as to what Mr.
Cope's object could possibly be.

"Did you buy any stock at Cottingly, to-day?" asked the banker.

"Not a single hoof," answered the squire. "The prices were ruination.
I'll keep my money in my pocket, and wait for better times."

"You know Cottingly, don't you?" he asked presently of the banker.

"Pretty well," answered Mr. Cope.

"Do you know Drake and Harding, the architects?"

"I've heard of the firm--nothing more. But if you want an architect,
there's a clever young fellow here in Duxley."

"I know him. His name's Beakon. He's quite a fool."

"Quite a fool, is he?" said the banker, equably. "So be it."

"I've proved it, sir--proved it. No, Drake and Harding are the men for
my money. Everything's settled. They'll bring the plans over to
Pincote on Wednesday afternoon. If you have nothing better to do, you
may as well drive over and help me to decide on the most suitable
one."

"The plans! What plans?" said Mr. Cope, in astonishment. "You forget
that I'm altogether in the dark."

"Why, what plans could I mean but the plans for my new house?" cried
the squire, as he refilled his glass. "I thought I had told you all
about it weeks ago."

"This is the first time you have ever hinted at such a thing. But you
don't mean to say that you are going to pull down Pincote!"

"I mean to say nothing of the kind," said the squire, peevishly. "But,
for all that, I may be allowed to build myself a new house if I choose
to do so, I suppose?"

"Certainly--certainly," said the banker, with a look of deprecation.

"I know what you think."

"I beg your pardon."

"I say, sir, that I know what you think," repeated the squire, with
half-sober vehemence. "You think that because I've reduced my balance
during the last six months from nine thousand pounds to somewhere
about three thousand, and because I've sold all my stocks and
securities, that I've been making ducks and drakes of my money, and
don't know what I'm about. But you never made a greater mistake in
your life, Horatio Cope."

"You do me a great injustice, my dear squire. No such thought ever
entered my mind."

"Don't tell me. I know what you bankers are."

Mr. Cope shrugged his shoulders and looked, at Lionel with the air of
an injured man.

"You don't believe in any speculation unless you've a finger in the
pie yourself," continued the squire. "But other people have got their
heads screwed on right as well as you. Why, man, I tell you that in
less than six months from this time, I shall be worth an extra hundred
thousand pounds at the very least."

"I'm truly delighted to hear it," said the banker, heartily. "No man
will congratulate you with more sincerity than I shall."

"And you ought to be delighted to hear it, seeing that my daughter and
your son will soon be man and wife. But, mind you, I don't mean to
turn miser with it. I intend to build, and plant, and dig. You know
Knockley Holt, that bit of scrubby ground just outside the park?"

"I know it well."

"That's the spot where I intend to build my new house. The young folk
can have Pincote. I don't intend to pull the old place down. After I'm
gone, of course the new place will be theirs as well. And, if I live,
I mean to make it a place worth having."

The squire refilled his glass. Mr. Cope, deep in thought, was absently
drumming with his fingers on the table.

"Pincote is a very old place, is it not?" asked Lionel.

"It was built three hundred and fifteen years ago, and it's still as
weather-proof as ever it was. But because one's great grandfather six
times removed, chose to build a house, is that any reason why I
shouldn't build another? At all events, I mean to try what I can do."

"The speculation you have hit upon must be something remarkable," said
the banker, holding up a glass of wine before the lamp.

"It is. Something _very_ remarkable," said Mr. Culpepper with a
chuckle. "You would like to know the ins and outs of it, wouldn't you,
now?"

"I should, indeed. It's too bad of you to keep such a good thing all
to yourself."

"Ha! ha!" laughed the squire, in high glee. "I thought you would say
that. You'll know all in good time, I dare say. But at present--it's a
secret. That's what it is--a secret."

"Must have found a silver mine on his estate," said Mr. Cope, with a
sly look at Lionel.

"Or a coal mine, which would be pretty much the same thing," returned
Lionel.

The squire laughed loud and long. "Ah you're a sharp lot, you
bankers," he cried. "But you don't know everything." And then he
winked at Lionel.

Lionel was not sorry when the evening came to an end, and he found
himself on his way back to Park Newton. "My first introduction to
Midlandshire society is not very promising," he said to himself. "I
hope to find it a little more entertaining by-and-by."

The squire, after being safely helped into his dog-cart, was driven
home by his groom.

Mr. Cope, after his guests were gone, stood for a full quarter of an
hour with his back to the drawing-room fire, ruminating over the
events of the evening. Judging by the settled frown on his face, his
meditations were anything but pleasant ones. "My worst fears are
confirmed," he said to himself. "Culpepper has been induced to
speculate on his own account. His balance at the bank yesterday was
only two thousand and odd pounds,--and every security disposed of!
Some swindler has got hold of him, and the result will be that he will
lose every penny that he has invested. Build himself a new mansion,
indeed! Unless he's very careful, the Court of Bankruptcy will soon be
the only mansion he can claim the right to enter."

At this moment his son, Edward, entered the room.

"Have you been to Pincote to-day?" said the banker.

"I have just returned from there," answered the young man.

"If I were you, Edward," said Mr. Cope, looking steadily at his son,
"I wouldn't allow my feelings to become too closely entangled with
Miss Culpepper. You're only on probation, you know, and I wouldn't--in
short, I wouldn't push matters so far as to leave myself without a
door of escape, in case anything should happen to--to--in short, you
understand perfectly what I mean."

"You mean to say, sir----" stammered the young man.

"I mean to say nothing more than I've said already," interrupted the
banker. "My meaning is perfectly simple. If you cannot understand it,
you are more stupid than I take you to be. Good-night." At the door he
turned. "Remember this," he added. "When you enter an enemy's country,
never burn your boats behind you. Bad policy." And with a final nod,
the banker was gone.

"Now, what on earth does he mean with his 'enemy's country,' and his
'burning boats'?" said Edward Cope, with a comical look of despair. "I
wish some people would learn to talk plain English."



CHAPTER VII.
KESTER ST. GEORGE.


Although Lionel Dering had obtained Kester St. George's address in
Paris from Mr. Perrins, he had not yet written to him. He put off
writing from day to day, hardly knowing, in fact, in what terms to
couch his letter. He could not forget the look he had seen in his
cousin's eyes during their momentary recognition of each other on
Westminster Bridge. Were they to be as friends or as enemies to each
other in time to come? was the question Lionel asked himself times
without number. At last he decided not to write at all, but to wait
till Kester should return to England, and then see him in person.

After a fortnight at Park Newton, Lionel ran up to town. As a matter
of course, his first visit was to Edith. His second was to Mr.
Perrins. From the latter he ascertained that a copy of the codicil had
been duly sent to Kester at Paris, but had not yet been acknowledged.
Lionel's next visit was to the Dodo Club, in Pall Mall, of which club
he had ascertained that his cousin was a member. "Yes, Mr. St. George
was in town--had been in town for some days," said the hall porter, in
answer to his inquiry. "Most likely he would look in at the club in
the course of the afternoon or evening." On the spur of the moment,
Lionel sat down and wrote the following note, which he left at the
Dodo for his cousin: "Dear Kester, I am in town and should much like
to see you. Drop me a line saying when and where I can have the
pleasure of calling."

A few hours afterwards he had the following answer: "Old fellow--Come
and breakfast with me to-morrow. Eleven sharp. Shall be delighted to
see you."

The address given was 28, Great Carrington Street, West, at the door
of which house Lionel's cab deposited him as the clock was striking
eleven next morning.

Kester St. George's chambers were luxuriously fitted up. They seemed
an appropriate home for a man of wealth and fashion. Kester, attired
in a flowery dressing-robe, with a smoking-cap on his head, was
lounging in slippered ease before a well-furnished breakfast table.
While there was no one to see him, he looked careworn and gloomy. He
held an open letter in one hand, the reading of which seemed to have
been anything but a source of satisfaction to him.

"Won't wait more than another week, won't he!" he muttered. "Not to be
put off with any more of my fine promises, eh? If I were cleared out
to-morrow, I couldn't raise more than a bare two fifty--just an eighth
of the two thousand Grimble says he must have out of me before seven
days are over: and he means it this time. If I could only raise
five hundred, that might satisfy him till I get a turn of luck. I
wonder--as I've often wondered--whether Dering knows of that little
secret down at Park Newton. How fortunate that he's coming here this
morning! I'll pump him. If he knows nothing of it--why then, we shall
see what we shall see. What with the diamonds and one thing or
another, it ought to be good for five or six hundred at the very
least. That must be Dering's knock."

"Dear boy! so pleased to see you! so glad to find you have not
forgotten me!" were Kester's first words, accompanied by a hearty
shake of the hand. All traces of gloom, and depression had vanished
from his face. He looked as if he had not a care in the world.

"I am not likely to forget you, Kester," said Lionel. "I should have
hunted you up weeks back, but I heard that you were in Paris."

"So I was in Paris--only got here three days ago. What will you take,
tea or coffee? I've something fresh here in potted meats that I can
strongly recommend."

Kester St. George at this time was thirty-three years old. He was a
tall, well-built man, with something almost military in his bearing
and carriage. He had bold, well-cut, aquiline features, a clear, pale
olive complexion, and black, restless eyes. Black, too, jet black,
were his thick eyebrows and his heavy, drooping moustache: but
already his hair had faded to an iron-gray. He had one of those rare
voices--low, soft, and persuasive, but perfectly clear, which are far
more dangerous to a woman's peace of mind than mere good looks can
ever hope to be. It was a voice whose charm few men could resist. Yet
it was so uniformly dulcet, it was pitched so perpetually in a minor
key that some people came at last to think that through all its
sweetness, through all that pleasant flow or words which Kester
St. George could command at will, they could detect a tone of
insincerity--the ring, as it were, of counterfeit metal trying to pass
itself off as good, honest gold. But, then, some people are very
fanciful--ridiculously so: and the majority of those who knew Kester
St. George were satisfied to vote him a capital talker, and very
pleasant company, and neither wished nor cared to know anything more.

"It must be eight or nine years, Li, since you and I met last," said
Kester, as he helped his cousin to some coffee.

"Yes, about that time," said Lionel.

"You are so altered that I should hardly have known you again."

"I suppose so," answered Lionel. "But I should have known you
anywhere."

"How?"

"By your eyes."

"Ah!" A pause, while Kester leisurely chipped an egg.

"Have you had any news lately from Uncle Lionel?"

"I have not had a letter from India for over six months."

"What a fine old boy he is! Do you know, Li, I was quite jealous of
the way he took to you; making such a pet of you, and all that? He
must be getting old now."

"I believe he is either fifty-nine or sixty."

"Quite time he left the service, and settled down at home for the
remainder of his days. He must have made a pot of money out there,
eh?"

"I don't think Uncle Lionel is one of the money-making kind."

"He must have some scrapings somewhere. I only hope he won't forget
his graceless nephew Kester, when he comes to make his will.
By-the-by, you have a brother out there, haven't you?"

"Yes. The only brother I have."

"Doing well?"

"Very well."

"Ah, here comes Pierre with a couple of Digby chicks. Famous relish.
Try one. And how do you like Park Newton, Li?"

"I get to like it better as I become more familiar with it. It grows
upon one day by day."

"Sweet old spot! For years and years I never dreamed that any one
other than myself would be its master after my uncle's death."

"We all thought the same," said Lionel. "You will give me credit for
sincerity when I say that no one could have been more surprised than I
was by the contents of Uncle Arthur's will."

"I know it; I know it. From the day I quarrelled with my uncle, I felt
that my chance was gone for ever. It was only right that you should be
made the heir, vice Kester in disgrace. If there had been no such
person as you in existence, the property would have been left either
to your brother or to Uncle Lionel. If they had both been dead, Park
Newton would have gone to some hospital or asylum. In no case would a
single shilling have ever come to me." Kester spoke with exceeding
bitterness, and Lionel could not wonder at it. But his gloom did not
last more than a minute or two. He shook it off lightly. "Che sarà,
sarà," he said, with a shrug and a laugh. Then he rose, and got his
cigar-case. "Let us have a smoke," he said. "After all, life in
Bohemia is very jolly. It is pleasant to live by one's wits at the
expense of other people who have none. Fools fortunately abound in
this world; while they are plentiful, men of brains need never
starve." This was said with a sort of defiant cynicism that it pained
Lionel to hear.

"Kester," he said, "something was told me the other day that I never
heard of before; something that affects you."

"Something that affects me! What was it?" His tone was abrupt and full
of suspicion.

"Mr. Wharton, the vicar of Duxley, told me that when my grandfather
lay dying, he expressed a wish that if Uncle Arthur should die without
children, the estate should come to me; but that an allowance of three
thousand a year should be paid out of it to you as long as you lived."

"I have heard my uncle say many a time that my grandfather was in his
dotage for months before he died," said Kester, contemptuously.

"Whether he was in his dotage or no, there is no doubt that such a
wish was expressed by him. Strangely enough, his wish has come true as
regards myself: why should it not come true in your case also?"

"Lionel Dering, what is it that you mean?"

"Simply this: Three thousand a year out of the Park Newton property
belongs morally to you, and----"

"And you want to settle that sum on me?"

"I do."

"You propose, in all seriousness, to give me, Kester St. George, three
thousand a year out of your income of eleven thousand?"

"In all seriousness, that is what I propose to do."

Kester's face flushed deeply. He got up, walked across the room, and
stood looking out of the window for two or three minutes.

"No! a thousand times no!" he exclaimed at last with startling
abruptness. "I cannot accept your offer."

"Is not the sum large enough?" asked Lionel.

"Not one penny piece, Lionel Dering, will I ever accept at your
hands!"

"But why not? What is your objection?"

"Do not ask me. I would not tell you if I could. Let it suffice that
my objection is insuperable and--let us never talk about this again."
He rang the bell violently. "Pierre, cognac and seltzer. Do you do
anything in the racing line?" asked Kester in his lightest tone as
Pierre left the room.

"Nothing. I'm as fond of a horse as any man, but I'm profoundly
ignorant of racing, and I never bet."

"That's a pity, because I could have put you up to one or two good
things for the spring meetings. Fine institution--betting," added
Kester, as he lighted another cigar. "It is one of the pleasantest of
our vices, when judiciously pursued. When we win, it is a source of
double gratification: we not only put money into our own pockets, but
we take it out of the pockets of other people."

"And when you lose?" said Lionel.

"To bear one's losses like a man of the world and a gentleman is to
prove that the teachings of philosophy have not been in vain."

"May I venture to hope that, as yet, you have had no occasion to seek
consolation in the teachings of philosophy?"

"I won four thousand over the last St. Leger."

"For the present, then, the Stoics are at a discount.--Kester," said
Lionel, abruptly breaking off the subject, "you won't object to come
and see me at Park Newton?"

Kester was leaning back in his easy chair, watching the smoke-wreaths
as they curled idly upwards from his cigar. His thick black eyebrows
came together in a deep, meditative frown as he heard Lionel's
question. For a minute or two he did not answer.

"Frankly, no. I'll come and see you," he said at last. "Why shouldn't
I? It will pain me at first to go back to the old place as guest,
where once I thought that I should be master. But, thank Heaven, I'm
not one of the most impressionable of men, and the feeling will soon
wear off. Yes, Lionel, I'll come and see you."

Lionel was pleased that he had succeeded so far. "Perhaps, after a
time," he thought, "I may be able to persuade him to accept the three
thousand a year."

"You will keep up the old place in proper style, I suppose?" said
Kester presently.

"I shall live very quietly--at least for some time to come," said
Lionel.

"Which means, I suppose, that you will see very little company, and
not rest satisfied unless you can save two-thirds of your income. That
you will breakfast and dine in that ugly little parlour which
overlooks the fishpond, and snore by night inside the huge four-poster
in the Griffin-room."

Lionel laughed his careless, good-hearted laugh. "To one count of your
indictment I can plead guilty," he said. "I certainly have both
breakfasted and dined in the parlour overlooking the fishpond. But, on
the other hand, I have certainly never slept in the Griffin, which has
been locked up ever since Uncle Arthur's death."

"Ah!" sighed Kester, and it sounded so like a sigh of relief or
thankfulness that Lionel could not help noticing it. "No wonder you
don't care to sleep in the Griffin," he added, after a brief pause.
"With its oak-panelled walls, and its plumed bedstead that always put
me in mind of a hearse, it used to give me a fit of horrors whenever I
went into it; and yet my uncle would never sleep anywhere else."

It should be mentioned that the bedrooms at Park Newton were each of
them individualized with a name--generally that of some bird, fish, or
animal. Among others, there were the Dolphin, the Pelican, and the
Griffin. Such had been the whim of one of the former owners of the
place, and none of his successors had seen fit to alter the
arrangement.

After a little more desultory conversation, Lionel rose to go. As he
stood with his elbow resting on the chimney-piece, his eye was
attracted by a brace of duelling pistols which hung on the wall close
by. They were old-fashioned, clumsy-looking weapons, but deadly
enough, no doubt, in efficient hands.

"With permission," said Lionel, as he took one down to examine. Kester
took down the other. The one Lionel had taken was unloaded; the one in
Kester's hands loaded--a fact of which Kester was quite aware. The day
was dull, and Lionel took his pistol to the window, that he might
examine it more closely. Kester stood by the chimney-piece on the
other side of the room. As he stood thus, a terrible temptation took
possession of him. "What if you were to kill him where he stands!"
something seemed to whisper in his ear: and for a moment his whole
being shrank back aghast. But for a moment only.

"I could shoot him dead on the spot, put the discharged pistol into
his hand the moment after he had fallen, and no one could say that he
had not shot himself. Park Newton would then be mine, and I should be
revenged."

These thoughts flashed like lightning through Kester's brain. The
room and everything in it seemed to recede and fade into
nothingness--everything except that silent black-clothed figure by the
window. Kester's heart beat strangely. His breath came in hot gasps.
There were blood-red motes in his eyes--blood-red motes falling
everywhere. Mechanically, and without any conscious volition on his
part, his right arm went up to a line with his shoulder. The barrel
was pointed straight at Lionel's head.

He paused and trembled. In another moment, for good or for ill, would
have come the climax. Suddenly, and without warning, Pierre, the
velvet-footed, flung open the door. "A telegram for you, sir," he
said. "The messenger is waiting."

The pistol fell from Kester's nervous grasp Lionel looked up and was
saved.



CHAPTER VIII.
A MIDNIGHT INTRUDER.


Lionel Dering found himself back at Park Newton three days earlier
than he had intended. Mrs. Garside's sister in Paris having been
suddenly taken ill, Mrs. Garside was telegraphed for to go over. She
begged of Edith to accompany her. Lionel ran down with them as far as
Dover, saw them safely on board the steamer, and then bade them
goodbye.

There being no longer any attraction for him in London, he decided to
go straight through to Park Newton, as several matters there claimed
his attention, and he went accordingly. He reached home about seven
o'clock in the evening, much to the consternation of Mrs. Benson, his
housekeeper, who had not expected him till the end of the week, and
who was in the midst of a high festival of scrubbing and scouring.
Among other places, Lionel's bedroom was in a topsy-turvy condition,
and altogether unfit for occupation; so that Mrs. Benson, with many
apologies, was compelled to ask him whether he would object to sleep
in another room for that night only. Lionel, who was the most
good-natured of men with his servants, made no objection to the
change.

After his simple dinner was over, Lionel spent an hour among his
letters and papers, and then took a cigar and his travelling cap with
the intention of having a quiet smoke in the shrubbery. The night was
clear and cold. There was no moon, but the stars were shining
brightly. The footways were dry and pleasant to walk on, and Lionel
lingered outside for nearly an hour, winding in and out among the maze
of walks, and the thick clumps of evergreens, wherever his vagrant
footsteps led him. His thoughts were with Edith. He was thinking of
the time, so soon to come, when they should pace those pleasant walks
together; when that dim old pile, which looked so majestic in the
starlight, should call her mistress. There would be their home through
all the happy years to come. His heart was full of solemn joy and
gratitude: unbidden tears stood in his eyes: he felt that Heaven had
been very kind to him. Then and there he registered a promise that the
sick, the aged, and the poverty-stricken on his estate--and he knew
already that they were many in number--should be made the special care
of Edith and himself.

He was slowly retracing his steps when, as he turned the corner of a
thick clump of holly only a few yards from the house, to his utter
surprise he nearly stumbled over a man, who started up, from under his
very feet as it seemed, and plunged at once into the depths of the
shrubbery on the other side. For the moment Lionel was too much
startled to think of pursuit, and a second thought convinced him that
it would be useless to attempt any. The trees were thickly planted
just there, and that part of the grounds was quite strange to him;
besides, would it be worth his while to follow the intruder? The man,
whoever he might be, had evidently been hiding, and had certainly no
business there; but, in all probability, he was merely some young
fellow from the village who had been sweethearting with one of the
servants at the Hall, and had stayed beyond his time.

Nevertheless, when Lionel reached the house, he decided that, for
once, he would look after the fastenings of the windows and doors
himself. When he had satisfied himself that everything was secure, he
took his candle and went off to his bed in the Dolphin. He was very
tired and soon fell asleep. But Lionel had a trick--begotten of the
time when he lay camping out in the wilds of North America, and had to
sleep with his loaded rifle resting on his arm, and in constant dread
of a surprise by hostile Indians--of waking up at the slightest noise
at all out of the common way: waking up in a moment, completely,
fully, and with all his wits about him. The old instinct did not
desert him on the present occasion. He had been asleep for a couple of
hours or so, when he was recalled in a moment from the land of dreams
to life the most vivid and conscious, by the overturning of some heavy
piece of furniture in the room immediately over that in which he was
sleeping. He sat up in bed and listened with all his senses on the
alert. But all was again as silent as the grave.

After two or three minutes he lay back in bed, still listening, but
not so keenly as before; and trying to make out, from his knowledge of
the house, which particular room it was from whence the noise
proceeded that he had just heard.

All at once it struck him--and the thought sent a chill through his
heart--that the room in question was none other than the Griffin--none
other, in fact, than the room in which his Uncle Arthur had died. The
more he thought of it, the more certain he felt that he was right. It
was the Griffin without doubt But what could any living being be doing
in that room of all others, and at that hour of the night? The room
had been left untouched since his uncle's death, and, as far as he,
Lionel, was concerned, was likely to be so left for some time to come.

It was always kept locked, too, although the key was not taken away
but left outside the door; and all the servants, from Mrs. Benson
downwards, had a superstitious dread of entering it. How, then,
account for the noise he had heard, which certainly came from that
room and from no other? With such thoughts in his mind, to sleep
again, for some time to come, was out of the question. A quarter of an
hour, or it might be twenty minutes, passed thus, and the silence was
still unbroken. Then there came a sound, and Lionel started
involuntarily as he heard it. It was the faint sound of footsteps--the
noise made by some one moving slowly and cautiously across the floor
of the room above. It was so faint, so muffled, so subdued, that at
any other time than the middle of the night, and to any ears less keen
than those now listening with all their might, it would have been
altogether inaudible. If, for a moment, he had shivered at the
recollection that it was in that very room his uncle had breathed his
last--if, for a moment, some vague ghostly fancies had flitted across
his mind, it was for a moment only. Involuntarily, and without any
consciousness on his part, his mind seemed, in some strange way, to
connect the dim half-seen figure that had melted before his eyes into
the shrubbery, with the mysterious footsteps overhead.

It was the work of a very short time for Lionel to slip out of bed,
light his candle, and partially dress himself. He had no weapon of any
kind in his room, but, man against man, he was not afraid of any one;
and that there was more than one person upstairs seemed highly
improbable. He opened his room door as noiselessly as possible, and
stole out into the corridor. He had to traverse one long passage,
ascend a flight of stairs, and there, at the end of another passage,
was the door of the room he was in quest of.

It was the state bedroom of the house, this room called the Griffin.
None of the rooms near it were occupied: the servants all slept in the
opposite wing. Had Lionel slept in his own room that night, the
unknown intruder would have had one whole wing of Park Newton entirely
to himself--a fact that was probably well-known and calculated upon.
Along the chilly corridor and up the oaken staircase, lighted candle
in hand, stole Lionel step by step, slowly and without noise. At the
top of the staircase he paused and listened. Two or three minutes
passed in silence the most profound. Had not his senses deceived him?
he asked himself. Was it, indeed, the sound of mortal footsteps that
he had heard? or nothing more than some of the vague, unaccountable
noises, born of night and the darkness--moans, whispers, the creaking
of doors, the rustling of ghostly garments--such as may be heard
during the mute hours of sleep in any old house in which several
generations of people have lived and died?

Some such thoughts as these were wandering through his mind--he was
still listening intently--when the candle he was carrying dropped down
into the socket, flared up suddenly for a moment, and then went out.
Stooping to place the candlestick on the ground, and turning his head
as he did so, what was his surprise to see a thin, faint streak of
light shining from under the door at the end of the corridor! The
sight of this braced his nerves like a tonic. A few swift strides
brought him to the other end of the passage. It was the work of a
moment to turn the key and fling wide open the door.

The late Mr. St. George's bedroom was a large but gloomy apartment,
panelled with black oak, and having in one corner a huge
funereal-looking bedstead, plumed and carved, and with a quantity of
faded gilding about it, that matched well with the faded colours of
the painted ceiling overhead. When Lionel flung open the door, an
exclamation of surprise burst involuntarily from his lips. The cloaked
figure of a man, with his back towards Lionel, and holding a dark
lantern in one hand, was standing in front of a small cupboard or
recess in the panelling--a hiding place evidently; but what he was
doing there Lionel had not time to see. A moment later and the lantern
was shut, and he and the stranger were alone in the dark.

As Lionel sprang forward to seize him, the stranger turned to fly. As
he did so, there was a noise of money falling to the floor. Lionel
seized him by the cloak, but that came away in his hands. Then he
grasped him again, this time by the shoulder, and held him firmly.
With a growl like that of a wild beast suddenly trapped, the stranger
turned on Lionel, and before the latter could guess what he was about,
or could defend himself in any way, he jerked his right arm free, and
swinging it round with all his strength, brought the butt-end of the
pistol, which it held, crashing down on Lionel's head. Twice in quick
succession was the terrible blow repeated, and then Lionel fell
heavily to the ground and remembered nothing more.



CHAPTER IX.
MR. PERCY OSMOND.


"We shall not be able to leave Paris for five or six weeks." So wrote
Edith West to Lionel Dering at Park Newton.

Mrs. Garside's sister--her sister by marriage only--was dead. The
house, plate, and furniture were to be sold, and Mrs. Garside had much
to do. Edith, as a matter of course, must stay with her aunt. Lionel,
if he wanted to see his promised wife, must go to Paris: and to Paris
he decided that he would go.

The same post which brought him this letter brought him one from
India, written by his uncle, General St. George. The old soldier's
letter ran as under:


"My Dear Nephew,

"Allow me to congratulate you on your good fortune, the news of which
followed close upon the intimation of my poor brother's death. I can
safely say that there is no one in whose hands I would sooner see the
family estates than yours. I contracted a very warm affection for you
during my last visit to England, and that feeling has not diminished
with time. But you must change your name, my dear boy. I know that you
are a St. George at heart, and you must be one in name also. However,
that is one of the things that we can discuss fully when I see you
again. Please Heaven, that will be before either you or I are many
months older.

"Yes, my dear nephew, it is even so. The old horse is nearly worn out
at last. People begin to whisper that he is no longer equal to his
work; and although the sound of the trumpet and the clash of arms have
still their old charm for his ears, the day must shortly come when he
will hear them for the last time. In brief, Lionel, putting aside what
other people may think, I feel myself that I am getting creaky and out
of repair, and a great longing has come over me to spend the few
remaining days that may be left me somewhere near the dear old
homestead where I first drew breath.

"I will write you full particulars in a week or two. Your brother
Richard is in good health, and is prospering. I had a letter from him
only a few days ago. As things have turned out, it is perhaps quite as
well that he came out to India instead of you.

     "Your affectionate uncle,

          "Lionel St. George."


"He shall live with us at Park Newton," said Lionel to himself as he
folded up the letter. "It will be like finding a second father to have
dear old Uncle Lionel come and share our home."

A few days later Lionel received a note from Tom Bristow. It was
addressed to Gatehouse Farm, and had been sent from thence to Park
Newton, Tom not having heard of Lionel's change of fortune. It was
dated from Egypt, and was written with Tom's usual brevity. "Health
much improved. Hope to be back in England in about three months from
now. Shall take early opportunity of looking you up. The dear old days
at the farm are not forgotten." That was nearly all.

"He will be here in time for the wedding," said Lionel, as he read the
note. "I should like Tom Bristow to be my best man on that important
occasion."

Nearly a fortnight passed away before Lionel Dering was able to leave
the house. The wound on his head was a very severe one, and for the
first two days and nights he lay in bed, to all outward seeming more
dead than alive. As soon as he was in a condition to do so he sent for
the Duxley superintendent of police, and told him confidentially all
that he knew of the affair. Lionel was strongly averse to all
unnecessary publicity, and was especially desirous that no mention of
the case should be made in the local newspapers. Had he been asked to
state his reasons for wishing to keep the matter so private, he would
perhaps have found it difficult to do so. Nevertheless, the feeling to
act thus was strong upon him.

It was proved, on investigation, that the intruder, whoever he might
be, had obtained, access to the house through one of the library
windows. One of the panes had been cut out with a diamond, and the
window then unfastened. Next came the discovery of a secret passage
from the library to the late Mr. St. George's bedroom. Those among the
servants who had been at Park Newton under the old regime denied all
knowledge of the existence of any such passage, and their statements
might well be true.

The passage in question was one of a kind by no means uncommon in
houses built a couple of centuries ago. It was simply a very narrow
staircase, built in the thickness of the wall, and leading from the
ground floor to the floor above. The entrance to it was behind a
sliding panel in the bedroom; but both exit and entrance were so
carefully hidden that a person might pass his whole life at Park
Newton without ever suspecting the existence of such a place. One of
Lionel's first acts, after a thorough exploration of the passage had
been made, was to send for the bricklayers and have both entrance and
exit walled up.

But the little closet or cupboard in the bedroom had still to be
considered. It was nothing more than a small square opening in the
wall; and, like the staircase, it was hidden behind the panelling, and
secured still further by means of a secret spring. It was evident that
the late Mr. St. George had known the secret of the cupboard, and had
used the place as a safe depository for money and other valuables. It
was equally certain that this latter fact must have been well known to
Lionel's assailant; and there could be no doubt that the object of the
midnight raid had been to rifle the cupboard of its contents. Some
testimony as to the quality of those contents had been unavoidably
left behind in the hurry of flight. Three or four small diamonds, and
a couple of sovereigns of recent coinage, were found scattered on the
floor: but as to the further value of the property stolen there were
no means of judging.

Lionel had no reason for suspecting any of the people immediately
about him, nor did such a thought ever find a lodging in his mind. The
more he considered the matter, the more certain he felt that the man
of whom he had caught a glimpse in the shrubbery was really the thief.
But even granting such to be the case, the mystery was no nearer
solution than before. Whoever the man might be, he had got clear away
without leaving the slightest clue behind him by which he might be
traced.

Lionel's first visit, when he was able to get out of doors again, was
to a little cottage on the outskirts of Duxley, where lived an old
man, Joseph Nixon by name, who had been body-servant to the late Mr.
St. George, and to his father before him. Nixon was now living on a
pension granted him by the family; and it seemed to Lionel that he
would be more likely than any one else to have a knowledge of the
hidden staircase, and the cupboard in the bedroom wall. He found the
old man infirm in body but clear in mind. Yes, he said, in answer to
Lionel's inquiries, he knew all about the staircase in the wall, and
the little closet behind the panelling in his old master's bedroom.
Mr. St. George, who was somewhat peculiar in his ways, was in the
habit of keeping a considerable amount of ready money in the house,
and used the cupboard as a secure place of deposit, known to himself
and Nixon alone.

"But was there nothing besides money ever kept there?" asked Lionel.

"Yes, sir; there was a diamond necklace, and some other things as
well," answered Nixon.

"It was rather a strange place in which to keep a diamond necklace,
was it not?"

"Well, sir, this is how it was. When Mr. Arthur St. George was a young
man, he was engaged to be married to a handsome young lady. The
wedding day was fixed, and everything ready, when he made her a
present of a diamond necklace. She wore it once only--at a grand ball
to which he took her. Next day she was taken ill; a week later she was
dead. Her friends sent back the necklace, and my master seemed as if
he could never bear to part from it after that time. Many and many a
time I've known him to sleep with it under his pillow."

Here was a page of romance out of his uncle's life that was quite
fresh to Lionel.

"He was one o' the old-fashioned sort of lovers, was Mr. St. George,"
added Nixon. "He didn't know what it was to change."

"And are you certain that my uncle and yourself were the only two
people who knew of the existence of the staircase and the cupboard?
Try to remember. Think carefully before you answer."

"It's not in my knowledge," answered the old man, slowly, "that
anybody knew about either of them places but my master and myself.
Unless, maybe----"

"Yes--unless what?"

"Unless Mr. Kester St. George happened to know about them."

"And do you really think that my cousin Kester does know that there
are two such places in existence?" asked Lionel after a pause.

"Now I come to think of it, sir, he does know about the cupboard.
Going suddenly into the bedroom one day, without knowing that he was
there, I found him standing by the cupboard, with the door open, and
the diamond necklace in his hand. It was not my place to say anything,
and it seemed no more than likely, at that time, that some day the
necklace would be his own property. But, as regards the staircase,
sir, I don't know as Mr. Kester was ever told about that."

 There was nothing more to be learned, so Lionel took a kindly leave
of the old man, who seemed as if he could not sufficiently express his
delight at not having been forgotten by "the new master."

Lionel neither could nor would believe that Kester had had any hand in
the midnight robbery. Nevertheless, he sent word next day to the chief
constable of Duxley not to proceed any further with his investigation
of the affair. In his letters to Edith he had been careful not to
mention the matter in any way. It would only have frightened her, and
could have done no possible good.

As soon as he was thoroughly recovered he set out for Paris. He had
not seen Edith for several weeks, and longer separation was
unendurable.

One morning there came a letter to Edith, in which Lionel stated that
he should be in Paris twelve hours after the receipt of it. What a day
of joyful expectation was that! Edith could neither read, nor work,
nor even sit quietly and do nothing. All she could do was to wander
absently from room to room, touching a few notes on the piano now and
again, or gaze dreamily out of the windows, or feed the noisy troop of
sparrows that assembled daily on the window-sill for their accustomed
bounty. She sent out for a Railway Guide that she might be enabled to
follow Lionel step by step on his journey. "Now he is at Dover," she
said to herself. A little while later, "Now the steamer is nearly at
Calais." Later still, "Now he has left Calais. Half his journey is
over. In six more hours he will be here."

"Come and have some tea, child," said Mrs. Garside. "I declare you
look quite worn and anxious. Mr. Dering will think I've been working
you to death."

Mrs. Garside was very glad on her own account that Lionel was coming
The forms and processes of French law in connection with the property
left her by her sister troubled her exceedingly. She knew that she
could count on Lionel's good-natured assistance in extricating her
from sundry perplexities into which she had fallen.

How slowly the hours went by; as hours, when they are watched, always
seem to do! Mrs. Garside began to prophesy. "Perhaps the train will be
delayed," she said. "Perhaps he will think it too late to call.
Perhaps we shall not see him till midday to-morrow." To all which
Edith could only respond with a doleful "Perhaps."

"But for all that," said Mrs. Garside, "we will have dinner ready for
him to the minute. Men are never good-tempered when they are hungry.
Always bear that little fact in mind, Edith, when you get married."

So a choice little repast was prepared, and Edith went out and bought
some flowers with which to decorate the table; then the candles were
lighted; and after that they could only sit and wait.

By-and-by a cab came rattling into the courtyard. Then there came the
sound of welcome footsteps on the stairs, and next moment Lionel was
with them.

What two happy hours were those before the time came for them to bid
each other good-night! But, then, what a little suffices to make us
happy when we are in love! Kind-hearted Mrs. Garside was happy in the
happiness of Edith, and in the freshness and change which Lionel's
welcome arrival brought with it. Edith and Lionel asked nothing more
for the time being than to be able to see each other, and speak to
each other, and to spell out that silent language of the eyes which
has often a meaning far more deep and heartfelt than any words can
convey.

In Paris that year the spring seemed to come earlier than usual.
Already the Bois was beginning to clothe itself in a mantle of
tenderest green. The daylight hours were warm and bright; hardly a
cloud was to be seen in the sky. All the gay world of Paris was on the
qui vive. It was a splendid moving panorama, framed with flowers and
softest buds just bursting into leaf. To the fancies of Edith and
Lionel it almost seemed as if all this glamour and brightness had
been devised by some kind fairy godmother for their especial behoof,
simply because they were under love's sweet witchery, and that it
would all vanish like a dream the moment they two should have quitted
the scene. They spent hours in the Louvre looking at the pictures.
They spent more hours on the pleasant Boulevards, jostled by troops of
pleasure-seekers. But it is more than probable that, as sightseers,
they saw very little indeed. They moved like dreamers in the midst of
a crowd, like denizens of a more etherealized world, who breathed, as
of right, a finer atmosphere, and in whose veins flowed the only true
elixir of life. It was a season of happiness, pure and unalloyed. They
saw nothing--not even in their dreams had they any prevision--of the
huge black cloud whose edge already touched the horizon, whose sable
folds would soon shut out the sunshine and the flowers, but whose
thunders would smite in vain the strong pure rock of their mutual
love.

By the end of a fortnight, thanks to the assistance given by Lionel,
Mrs. Garside's legal difficulties were at an end. After a few last
lingering days in Lutetia the Beautiful, they went back to London
together. Lionel saw the two ladies safely housed in Roehampton
Terrace, and then bade them farewell for a little while. The marriage
was to take place in June, and there was much to be done before that
time.

Having some purchases to make, Lionel stopped in London for a few
hours, after leaving Edith, before continuing his journey home. He had
kept telling himself, as he came along in the train, that he must not
fail to call on Kester before going back to Park Newton. He wanted his
cousin to fix a date for his promised visit. But when London was
reached and his business done, he still felt unaccountably reluctant
to pay the call. He shrank from making any inquiry of himself as to
the origin of this strange reluctance, but its existence he could not
dispute. Was it possible that some half-formed and unacknowledged
doubt was at work in his mind as to whether the man who had so
brutally struck him down was any other than Kester St. George? If so,
it was a doubt that never clothed itself with words even to himself.
But, be that as it may, four o'clock was reached; his train started at
five, and Great Carrington Street was still as far away as ever.

His irresolution was brought to a sudden end at last. He was gazing
absently into Colnaghi's window, when a hand was laid lightly on his
shoulder, and his cousin's musical voice fell on his ear.

"What! in town again, old fellow? You might have let one know that you
were coming."

All Lionel's half-shaped doubts vanished in a moment under the
influence of his cousin's genial smile and hearty grasp of the hand.
As he stood there his conscience pricked him that he should have
wronged Kester for a moment even in thought.

"I have only just got back from Paris," he said. "I am glad to have
met you, because I want you to fix a date for your promised visit to
Park Newton."

Kester was not alone. His arm was linked in that of another man.
"Before fixing anything," he said, "I must introduce to you my
particular friend, Mr. Percy Osmond.--Osmond, my cousin, Li Dering, of
whom you have frequently heard me speak."

The two men bowed.

"Is it possible," asked Lionel, "that you are a brother of the Mr.
Kenneth Osmond whom I met when in America?"

"Kenneth Osmond and I are certainly brothers," answered the other.

"Then I am very pleased to make your acquaintance. Your brother and I
travelled together for six months through some of the wildest parts of
North America. I never met with a man in my life whom I esteemed more
or liked better."

"Look here," said Kester. "We can't stand jawing in the street for
ever. My club's not three minutes away. Let us go there and wet the
talk with a bottle of fiz."

Mr. Percy Osmond was about eight-and-twenty years old. He was of
medium height and slender build, and of a somewhat effeminate
appearance. He had good features, and had rather fine black eyes, of
which he was particularly proud. But there was a shiftiness about
them, a restlessly suspicious look, as though the man at one time had
been haunted by some terrible fear, and had never been able to forget
it.

His face was closely shaven, except for a thin, silky, black
moustache, which he wore with long waxed ends. He was foppishly
dressed in the latest fashion, and displayed a profusion of jewellery.
But there was something about him so arrogant and self-opinionated,
something so coldly contemptuous of other men's feelings and opinions
whenever they chanced to clash with his own, that Lionel had not been
ten minutes in his company before he said to himself that Mr. Percy
Osmond was very different from Mr. Percy Osmond's brother, and could
never be included by him among the few men he numbered as his friends.

"So you want to pin me down to a date, do you?" said Kester as they
sat down in the smoking-room at the club.

"I should certainly like, to fix you, now that I am here," answered
Lionel.

"How would this day fortnight suit you?"

"No time could suit me better. And if Mr. Osmond will honour me by
coming down to Park Newton at the same time, I need hardly say how
pleased I shall be to see him there."

"Very kind of you, I'm sure," said Osmond. "Glad to run down to your
place, especially as St. George is going. Am thinking of buying a
quiet little country roost myself. Town life is awfully wearing, you
know."

Kester laughed aloud. "Osmond would commit suicide before he had been
in the country a month," he said. "He is one of those unhappy mortals
who cannot live away from bricks and mortar. The shady side of Pall
Mall is dearer to him than all the county lanes and hayfields in the
world."

"You do me an injustice--really," said Osmond. "Some of my tastes are
quite idyllic. No one, for instance, could be fonder of clotted cream
than I am. I never shoot, myself--haven't muscle enough for it, you
know--yet I have a weakness for grouse pie that almost verges on the
sublime."

"Or the ridiculous," interposed Kester.

"By-the-by, I hope you are not without a billiard-table at your
place," said Osmond, with that affected little cough which was
peculiar to him.

"We have a table on which you shall play all day long if you choose,"
said Lionel.

"Then I'll come. Country air and billiards charming combination! Yes,
you may expect to see me at the same time that you see St George."

He made a memorandum of the date in his tablets; and after a little
further talk, he shook hands with Lionel and went, leaving the two
cousins together.

Kester looked after him with a sneer. "There goes another gilded
fool," he said.

"I thought you introduced him to me as your particular friend," said
Lionel.

"I called him my particular friend because he is rich. I can't afford
to call any poor man my friend."

"My reason for inviting him to Park Newton was partly because I
thought it would please you to have him there at the same time as
yourself, and partly out of compliment to his brother, whom I respect
and like exceedingly."

"Don't mistake me. I am glad you have asked him down to the old place.
As I said before, he is rich, and some day or other he may be useful
to me. All the same, he's an awful screw, and thinks as much of one
sovereign as I do of five."

"How long have you known him?" asked Lionel.

"For a dozen years at the least. When he was twenty-one he came in for
a fortune of twelve thousand pounds. This he contrived to get through
very comfortably in the course of a couple of seasons. Then came the
climax. For two years longer he managed to pick up a precarious crust
among the different friends and acquaintances whom he had made during
his more prosperous days. Then, when everybody had become thoroughly
tired of him, he crossed the Atlantic. For the next four years he was
lost sight of utterly. When heard of again, he had sunk to the
position of marker in a billiard-saloon at New Orleans. After that, he
was heard of in several places, but always in dreadfully low water.
Then came the story of a murder in which he was said to be somehow
mixed up, but nobody on this side seemed ever to get at the truth
about it; and the next thing we heard about him was something
altogether different. An old maiden aunt had died and had left the
scapegrace eighty thousand pounds. Such as you saw him to-day, he
turned up in London three months ago. Bitter experience has taught him
the value of money. Still he has his weaknesses. What those weaknesses
are it is my business just now to find out."



CHAPTER X.
MASTER AND MAN.


"Shall I shut the window, sir? The evening is rather cold."

It was Pierre Janvard, the body-servant of Mr. Kester St. George, who
spoke. The place was a room at Park Newton, for Kester had come there
on his promised visit. The same suite of rooms had been allotted to
him that had been his during his uncle's lifetime--the same furniture
was still in them: everything seemed unchanged. "Do you hear the
bells, sir?" continued Pierre. "The village ringers are having their
Wednesday evening practice. They always used to practise on Wednesday
evenings, sir, if you remember. It seems only like yesterday since you
left Park Newton."

To all this Mr. St. George vouchsafed no reply. He was dressing for
dinner, a process to which he always attached much importance, and was
just at that moment engaged with the knot of his white tie. He was
evidently in anything but an amiable mood--a fact of which Pierre was
perfectly aware, but did not seem to mind in the least.

"Do you remember, sir, talking to me one evening when you were
dressing for dinner, just as it might be now, of what you would do,
sir, and what alterations you would make, when Park Newton was all
your own? You would build a new wing, and a new entrance-ball, and cut
a fresh carriage-drive through the park. And then the stables were to
be rebuilt, and the gardens altered and improved, and----"

"Pierre, you are a fool," said Mr. St. George, with emphasis.

The ghost of a smile flickered across the valet's staid features, but
he did not answer.

Mr. St. George looked at his watch. It still wanted half an hour to
dinner-time. He felt in no humour for seeing either Osmond or his
cousin till they should all meet at table. He would stroll as far as
the little summerhouse on the Knoll, and look once more on a scene
that he remembered so well. He put on a light overcoat and a soft
hat, and, going leisurely downstairs, he went slowly through the
picture-gallery and the conservatory, and let himself out by a side
door into the grounds at the back of the house. Every step that he
took was haunted for him with memories of the past. His heart was full
of bitterness and resentment that Fate, as he called it, should have
played with him at such a terrible game of cross purposes, and have
ended by winning everything from him. "If I had never been brought up
to look upon it as sure to be one day my own," he said, "I could have
borne to see it another man's without regret. Pierre is right: I did
dream and plan and say to myself that I would do this thing and that
thing when the time came for me to be master here. And now I, Kester
St. George, am nothing better than a pauper and a blackleg, and am
here on sufferance--an invited guest under the very roof that ought in
justice to be mine!"

He took the winding path through the plantation that led to the summit
of the Knoll. The summerhouse was unlocked as usual. He went in and
sat down. The scene before him and around him was very pleasant to
look upon, lighted up, as it was just then, by the fading splendours
of an April sunset. The Hall itself, clasped tenderly round with
shrubberies of softest green, lay close at his feet. Far and wide on
either side stretched the Park, with its clumps of noble old trees
that had seen generation after generation of the St. Georges come and
go like creatures of a day, and still flourished unchanged. Away in
the distance could be seen Highworth and other prosperous farms, all
part and parcel of the Park Newton estate.

"All this belongs of right to me," muttered Kester to himself, as his
eyes took in the whole pleasant picture; "and it would have been mine
but for----"

He did not finish the sentence even to himself, but the gloom on his
face deepened, and for a few moments the unhappy man sat with drooping
head, seeing nothing but some terrible picture which his own words had
conjured up.

He roused himself from his reverie with a sigh. The sun was nearly
lost to view. Eastward the glooms of evening were beginning to enfold
the landscape in their dusky wings. Blue curls of smoke wound slowly
upward from the twisted chimneys of the Hall. A few belated rooks came
flying over the Knoll on their way to their nests in the wood. The
picture was redolent of homelike beauty and repose. "Only one life
stands between me and all this," he muttered, as his eyes drank in the
scene greedily. "Only one life. If Lionel Dering were to die to-night,
I should be master to-morrow of all that I see before me."

He rose and left the summerhouse. He could hear the clanging of the
dinner-bell. It was time to go.

"Only one life. And what is the value of any one particular life among
the thousands that are born and die every day? Who would miss him--who
would regret him? No one. He is an isolated link in the great chain of
humanity. He might die to-night, or to-morrow, or next day. Stranger
things than that have happened before now."

He pulled his hat over his brows and went slowly down the pathway, and
was presently lost to view among the gloomy depths of the plantation.

Left alone, Pierre Janvard settled himself comfortably in an easy
chair to enjoy the perusal of one of Mr. St. George's yellow-backed
French novels. He was a thin, staid-looking man of fifty, decidedly
more English than French in appearance. He was partially bald, and was
closely shaven, except for two small whiskers of the kind known as
"mutton chop." What hair he had was thickly sprinkled with gray, and
was carefully trained and attended to. He had a good forehead, a
rather large aquiline nose, and thin, firmly-cut lips. In his suit of
well-brushed black, and his spotless white tie, he looked the model of
a respectable and thoroughly trustworthy servant. He looked more than
that. Had he been set down at a public dinner among a miscellaneous
assemblage of guests, a stranger would probably have picked him out as
a banker or a rich merchant, or might even have asked, and have been
pardoned for asking, whether he were not some celebrated lawyer, or
member of the Lower House. He spoke English with a French accent as a
matter of course, but he could express himself as readily in one
language as the other. He had a particularly quiet, noiseless way of
going about his duties that many people might have liked, but which
would have been intolerable to others. You never seemed to know that
he was near you till you found him at your elbow.

Such as he was--this smug, respectable-looking valet--his antecedents
were somewhat peculiar. His grandfather had been one of the
sub-executioners of Paris during the terrible days of the Great
Revolution. Later on, his father had for many years held the post of
public executioner in one of the large towns in the south of France.
Pierre himself had been intended for the same profession, and had,
when a youth, assisted his father On more than one occasion in the
performance of his ghastly duties. But the death of Janvard père
brought a change of prospects. The widow was persuaded to come over to
England and invest the family savings in the purchase of a small
blanchisserie at the West End of London; and from that date Pierre's
connection with his native country was a broken one.

Kester St. George's tastes were all luxurious ones. One of the first
things he did after he came of age was to look out for a valet. Pierre
Janvard was recommended to him by a friend, and he engaged him at
once. The Frenchman had served him faithfully and well, had travelled
with him, and had lived with him at Park Newton up to the date of
Kester's quarrel with his uncle. But when the whole of Kester's income
was swept away at one blow, and he was thrown on the world without a
sovereign that he could call his own, then Janvard and he of necessity
parted. Their coming together again was quite a matter of accident. It
so happened that, a few days after Kester had won heavily on a certain
race, he encountered Janvard in the street. The Frenchman touched his
hat, and Kester stopped and spoke to him. The result was that Janvard,
who was out of a situation at that time, was re-engaged by St. George,
whose old, luxurious tastes cropped up the moment he found himself in
abundant funds. Those funds could not last for ever, and a season of
impecuniosity had again set in; but the bond between master and man
had not again been broken.

Janvard stayed on with Mr. St. George. He was thoroughly trustworthy,
or so Kester believed; and he probably knew more of his master's
secrets--more of certain shady transactions that were never intended
to bear the light of day--than any other man living.

Janvard had one relation in England--a sister--with whom he was
on terms of close and affectionate intercourse. Both he and his
sister were unmarried, and they both intended to remain so. Madame
Janvard--she was called madame out of compliment to her age, which was
nearer fifty than forty--kept a small boarding-house for her
countrymen in a narrow street no great distance from Leicester Square.
She had saved money, had madame. So had her brother. And the secret
ambition of the two was to unite their fortunes, and start together as
proprietors of a first-class hotel.

Pierre's holidays and leisure time, when he was in town, were always
spent with his sister, in whose house one little cockloft of a room
was set specially apart for him, and was full of his property. Here he
kept a few boxes of choice cigars for his own private smoking, and a
varied assortment of French novels and plays, together with sundry
articles of bric-à-brac which he had picked up during his travels.
But, in addition to these articles, the room contained several
remarkable mementoes of the Great Revolution, which had come down to
Pierre from his grandfather. In one corner hung the veritable pair of
shoes worn by Charlotte Corday on the day that she stabbed Marat. In a
little glass box on the chimney-piece was a lock of hair shorn from
the head of Marie Antoinette after execution. Near it was a
handkerchief that had belonged to the Princess de Lamballe. On a
bracket opposite the window stood a life-size bust of Marat himself,
the hideous head crowned with the bonnet rouge, and inscribed below,
_Le Génie de la Révolution_. Near at hand was a working model of the
guillotine, made by the redoubtable hands of old Martin Janvard, and
close by it a model of one of the tumbrils in which the condemned were
conveyed to the Place de la Grève. In this room Pierre and his sister
had many pleasant little banquets all to themselves, and many a long
chat on matters past, present, and to come. Not having her to talk to
to-night, he was going to write to her, which was the next best thing
he could do. So when he had yawned through a couple of chapters of the
novel, he took pen and paper, and sat down at Mr. St. George's table,
being perfectly aware that he was safe from interruption for another
hour at the least. Judging by what Pierre Janvard wrote, there would
seem, this evening, to have been a strange similarity in the trains of
thought at work in the minds of master and man.

"We are once again back in the old place, chère Margot," wrote the
Frenchman. "Was it only yesterday, or is it more than a year ago,
since we were in these rooms last? Everything seems as it used to be,
except that the old master's voice is heard no longer. He lies cold
and quiet in the churchyard. Nothing else seems changed, and yet how
changed is all! For a new master now reigns at Park Newton, and that
master is not Monsieur Kester St. George. Of course we have known of
this all along, but not till we came here did we seem to realize all
that it means. One man, and one man only, stands between my master and
all this vast property. That man, as you know already, is his own
cousin. He is not married, but he may be before long. If he were only
to catch a fever and die--if he were only to commit suicide--if he
were only to fall into the river and be drowned--ah, my faith! what
luck would then be ours!

"And yet, somehow, little one, I feel as if I should hardly like to
change places with this Monsieur Dering. I don't know why I feel so,
but there the feeling is, and I tell you of it. Life is so strangely
uncertain, you know; and it seems to me more uncertain still when you
stand so terribly in the light of another man. Perhaps you will say
that I am superstitious. So be it. But can any man say where
superstition begins and where it ends, even in his own mind? I can't.
All I know is this: that if I were Monsieur Dering, the last man in
the world whom I would ask to cross my threshold would be Monsieur
Kester St. George."

A fortnight had come and gone since the arrival of Kester St. George
and Percy Osmond at Park Newton. Another week would bring their visit
to an end, and Lionel Dering was fain to confess to himself that he
should not be sorry when that time had arrived. This was more
particularly the case as regards Osmond, of whose company he had grown
heartily tired. There was, indeed, about Osmond little or nothing that
could have any attraction for a man like Lionel Dering. The points of
difference between them were too great for any hope to exist that they
could ever be bridged over. Friendship between two such men was an
impossibility.

With Kester St. George the case was somewhat different. Lionel would
gladly have clasped his cousin's hand in friendship, but he had begun
to find out that beneath all Kester's geniality, and easy laughing way
of dealing with everything that came before him, there existed a
nature cold, hard, and cynical, against which the white wings of
Friendship or of Love might beat in vain for ever. He was always
pleasant, always smiling, always good-tempered: yet it seemed
impossible to get near him, or to feel sure that you knew him better
at the end of a year than on the first day you met him. Then, too,
Lionel was not without an uneasy sense that not only the servants at
the hall, but his own social equals in the neighbourhood, looked upon
him in some measure as an interloper, and seemed to think that he
must, in some inscrutable way, have defrauded his cousin out of his
birthright. No wonder Lionel felt that it would be a relief when the
visit should have come to an end.

He took an opportunity one day, when Kester seemed in a more
confidential mood than usual, of again hinting at the pleasure it
would give him if his cousin would only accept that three thousand
a-year out of the estate which it had been his grandfather's manifest
wish should be Kester's share of the property. But Kester froze the
moment the subject was broached, and Lionel saw plainly how utterly
useless any further persistence in it would be.

Both Squire Culpepper and Mr. Cope had called at Park Newton as soon
as they heard that Kester St. George was down there on a visit, and a
day or two later Lionel invited those gentlemen, together with several
other old friends of his cousin, to a dinner at the hall, in honour of
the occasion. Three or four return dinners had been given by different
people, and now the day was come when they were all to go and dine
with the squire at Pincote--Lionel, Kester, and Mr. Percy Osmond.

The afternoon was cold and gloomy, with frequent showers of rain.
Luncheon was just over, and Kester St. George, who had been out
riding all the morning, was sitting alone before a cozy fire in his
dressing-room, keeping the unwelcome company of his own thoughts. In
his hands was a cheque, which Osmond, who had just left him, had given
him, in settlement of a long-standing debt at cards.

"The greedy hound!" he muttered to himself. "It was like drawing blood
from a stone to get even this paltry strip of paper from him. And yet
if this were made out for eight thousand pounds instead of for eight
only, it would be honoured. Ay, if it were for six times eight
thousand pounds, and there would then be a little fortune left. One
thing's very certain. I must raise a couple of thousand somewhere
before I'm many hours older, or else I shall have to make a bolt of
it--have to put salt water between myself and the hounds that are for
ever baying at my heels. If Nantucket had only pulled off the Chester
Cup, I should have landed three thousand at the very least. Just like
my luck that she should fall lame twelve hours before the race. I must
have two thousand," he went on as he rose and began to pace the room,
"or else submit to be outlawed. Osmond could lend it to me and never
feel the loss of it. Shall I ask him? As well try to move a rock. He
knows that I'm poor already. If he knew that I was a pauper he'd cut
me dead. No great loss as things go; still, I can't afford to lose
him. Shall I ask Dering to help me out of my difficulties? No, never!
never! Let ruin--outlawry--suicide itself come, rather than that!"

He sat down again, still twisting and turning the cheque absently
between his fingers. "Only a miserable eight pounds! It's like
offering a quarter of a biscuit to a man who is dying of starvation.
Mr. Percy Osmond doesn't seem to have paid much attention to the art
of calligraphy when he was young. Upon my word I never saw a signature
that it would be easier to imitate. All that a clever fellow wants is
a blank cheque on the same bank. With that, what wonders might be
wrought! I've heard Osmond say that he always sleeps with his keys
under his pillow. Once obtain possession of them, the rest would be
easy. But how to get them? Suppose he gets drunk to-night at Pincote,
as he is nearly sure to do--why then----"

His pale face flushed, and a strange light came into his eyes. He
mused for a minute or two, then he got up and rang the bell. Pierre
answered it.

"Ascertain at what hour the next train starts for London."

In a couple of minutes Pierre came back. "The train for London passes
Duxley station at four thirty-six," he said.

"Good. You will just have time to catch it," said Mr. St. George. "You
will reach London in two hours and a quarter after you leave Duxley.
Take a cab. Find out Boucher. Tell him to telegraph me first thing
to-morrow morning, so that the message will reach me here not later
than eight o'clock. His telegram must be to this effect: _You are
wanted in town immediately on most important business_. Do you
understand?"

"Yes, sir."

"An hour in London will be enough for you. You will be able to catch
the eight o'clock down train, and ought to be back in this room by
eleven at the latest. In fact, I shall expect to find you here when I
return from Pincote."

"Yes, sir."

"And don't say a word to any one about your journey."

Pierre bowed and left the room.

"Invaluable fellow, that," said Kester aloud.

The excitement that had stirred his blood so strangely a few minutes
before was still upon him. He was like a man who had screwed himself
up to some desperate resolve which he was determined to go through
with at every cost.

He began slowly and deliberately to dress himself for dinner.

"There's an old saying, 'Nothing risk, nothing have,'" he muttered to
himself. "The risk, in this case, seems to be nothing very desperate.
If I fail, I shall be no worse off than I am now. If I succeed----"
His face blanched as suddenly as if he had seen a ghost.

"I forgot that!" he whispered. "Dering sleeps in the next room to
Osmond. What if he should be awake? Even when he does sleep, I've
heard him say that the noise of a strange footstep is enough to rouse
him. That is a difficulty I never thought of--the biggest difficulty
of all."

He was still pondering over this difficulty, whatever it might be,
when Osmond burst suddenly into the room.

"Not ready yet?" he said. "What a dilatory fellow you are! We shall
have Dering in a devil of a temper if you don't make haste. I'll wait
for you, if you don't mind my having a whiff meanwhile."



CHAPTER XI.
IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT.


"Say, Dering, it ain't twelve o'clock yet. You'll give me half an hour
in the billiard-room before going to roost?"

Percy Osmond was the speaker. He was getting out of the brougham which
had brought the three gentlemen back from Pincote, where they had been
dining. His voice was thick, and his gait unsteady. It was evident
that he had been indulging too freely in Squire Culpepper's old port.

"You've surely had enough billiards for one night," said Lionel,
good-humouredly. "I should have thought that the thrashing you gave
young Cope would have satisfied you till to-morrow morning."

"I want to thrash you as I thrashed him."

"You shall thrash me as much as you like in the morning."

"This is what they call country hospitality!" said Osmond, turning to
Kester. "Condemned to go to bed at eleven-thirty, like so many
virtuous peasants in an opera. No more brandy, no more cigars, no more
billiards. Nothing but everlasting bed. How very good we are in the
country!"

Kester laughed. "I told you that you would soon grow tired of the
rural districts," he said.

"The rural districts themselves are all very nice and proper. I've
nothing to say against them," said Mr. Osmond, as he sat down
deliberately on the stairs, for they were all in the house by this
time. "It's the people who live in them that I complain of. To send
your guests to bed at eleven-thirty against their will, and to decline
a simple game of billiards with one of them because you're afraid to
acknowledge that he's the better player of the two--can this be your
old English hospitality?"

"My dear Osmond, I will play you a game of billiards with pleasure, if
your mind is so set on it," said Lionel. "I had no idea that you were
so entêté in the matter. Come along. I dare say the lamps are still
alight."

"Spoken like a nobleman," said Osmond, with tipsy gravity. "I accept
your apology. Just order up some brandy and seltzer, there's a good
fellow. St. George, you'll come and mark for us?"

"With pleasure," said Kester. "I'll join you in two minutes." He left
them at the top of the stairs, they going towards the billiard-room.
He was anxious to know whether Pierre had got back from London.

Yes, there sat Pierre in the dressing-room, quiet, watchful, and alert
as ever. "Everything gone off all right?" said Mr. St. George.

"Everything has gone off quite right, sir," said Pierre.

"There will be no hitch as regards the telegram to-morrow morning,
eh?"

"None whatever, sir."

"You need not sit up for me."

"Very well, sir."

"And yet--on second thoughts--you had perhaps better do so."

"Yes, sir."

Kester took off his dress-coat, put on an old shooting-jacket and a
smoking-cap, and then went off to the billiard-room.

"Monsieur St. George means mischief to-night," said Pierre, smiling to
himself, and rubbing his hands slowly. "It is not very often I see
that light in his eye. When I do see it, I know it means no good to
somebody."

Kester found the two men chalking their cues. A servant was mixing a
tumbler of brandy-and-seltzer for Osmond.

"I'll play you one game, a hundred up," said Osmond, as soon as the
servant had left the room; "and I'll back my own play for ten pounds."

"You know that I never bet," said Lionel.

"I wouldn't give the snuff of a candle for a fellow who hasn't the
pluck to back his own play, or his own opinion," said Osmond, with a
sneer.

"I don't mind taking you," said Kester, quickly.

"Done!" said Osmond.

Lionel could not repress a movement of annoyance.

Both he and Osmond were good billiard-players, but he was the better
of the two.

This however was a point which Osmond, who was proud of his ability
with the cue, would never concede. With Lionel billiard-playing was an
easy, natural gift; with Osmond it was the result of intense study and
application.

With the former it seemed the easiest thing in the world to play
well--with the latter one of the most difficult. They had played much
together during Osmond's visit to Park Newton, but Osmond could never
lose with equanimity. He became disagreeable and quarrelsome the
moment the game began to go against him, and, rather than have a scene
under his own roof, Lionel would often play carelessly and allow his
opponent to win game after game. Such had been his intention in the
present case till Kester foolishly accepted Osmond's bet. After that,
to have lost the game would have been to lose Kester's money also;
and, foolish as was the bet, Lionel did not feel disposed to let
Osmond benefit by it. Besides, to win Osmond's money was to touch him
in his only vulnerable point, and it seemed to Lionel that he fully
deserved to be made to smart.

The game began and went on with varying success. Osmond had drank far
too much wine to play well, and Lionel, in a mood of utter
indifference, missed stroke after stroke in a way that made Kester
groan inwardly with vexation. Lionel, in truth, was disgusted with
himself and disgusted with his opponent. "I'd far sooner follow the
plough all my life on Gatehouse Farm, than be condemned to associate
very much with men like this one," he said to himself. "And yet the
world calls him a gentleman."

"Call the game, St. George," cried Osmond, in his most insolent tone.

"Seventy-five--fifty-two, and your royal highness to play," said
Kester.

"None of your sneers," said Osmond. "Seventy-five--fifty-two,
eh?--Well, put me on three more--and three more--very carefully. A
miss, by Jove! Ought to have had that middle pocket."

"Fifty-two--eighty-one," called St. George. "How does your ten pounds
look now, eh?" asked Osmond, with a chuckle.

"Not very rosy, I must confess," said Kester, with a shrug of his
shoulders, and an appealing glance at his cousin.

"I hope you are prepared to pay up if you lose," said Osmond,
insolently.

Kester started to his feet, but Lionel laid a hand on his shoulder.

"The game is not lost yet, Mr. Osmond," he said, coldly, but
courteously.

"I guess it's in a dying state as far as you're concerned," said
Osmond, coughing his little effeminate cough.

Lionel played and made a brilliant break of thirty.

"Eighty-one--eighty-two," called Kester, and there was a triumphant
ring in his voice as he did so.

Osmond, white with the rage he could not hide, said nothing. He laid
down his cigar, chalked his cue carefully, played, and missed.

"Just like my luck!" he cried, with an oath. "Dering, you might give a
fellow something decent to smoke," he added, as he flung his cigar
into the grate.

"The cigars are good ones. I smoke them myself," said Lionel, quietly.

"Anyhow, they are not fit to offer to a gentleman,"

"I did not offer them to a gentleman. _You_ helped yourself."

"Of course I did," he answered, not comprehending the irony of
Lionel's remark. "And deuced bad smokes they are."

Lionel played and ran his score up to ninety-eight.

"Two more will make you game," said Kester.

"Two more would not have made him game if he hadn't played with my
ball instead of his own," said Osmond, his lips livid with rage.

"I have not played with your ball instead of my own, Mr. Osmond."

"I repeat that you have. After the second cannon in your last break,
you played with the wrong ball. You cannoned again, and then resumed
play with your own ball."

"You are mistaken--indeed you are," said Lionel, earnestly.

"Oh, of course!" sneered Osmond. "It's not to be expected that you
would say anything else."

"Did you see the stroke, Kester?" appealed Lionel.

"Certainly I did. You played with your own ball and not with Mr.
Osmond's."

"Of course, Kester is bound to back up all we say! Our bankrupt
relation can't afford to do otherwise. He has ten pounds on the game,
and----"

"By Heaven, Osmond!" burst out Mr. St. George. Lionel again laid his
hand on his cousin's shoulder.

"Mr. Osmond is my guest," he said, impressively. "In a moment of
temper he has made use of certain expressions which he will be the
first to regret to-morrow. Let us look upon the game as a drawn one,
and, if need be, discuss it fully over breakfast in the morning."

"You have an uncommonly nice way of slipping out of a difficulty,
Dering, I must confess. But it won't wash with me. The moment I find a
man's not acting on the square, I brand him before the world as a
cheat and a blackleg."

"Your language is very strong, Mr. Osmond."

"Not stronger than the case demands."

"I assure you again, on my word of honour, that you are mistaken in
saying that I played with the wrong ball."

"And I assure you, on _my_ word of honour, that I am not mistaken."

"Even granting for a moment that, in mistake, I did play the wrong
ball, you cannot suppose that I would knowingly attempt to cheat you
for the sake of a paltry ten pounds."

"But I can and do suppose it," said Osmond, vehemently. "The fact of
your being a rich man has nothing to do with it. I have known a
marquis cheat at cards for the sake of half a sovereign. Why shouldn't
you try to cheat me out of ten pounds?"

"Your experience of the world, Mr. Osmond, seems to have been a very
unfortunate one," said Lionel, coldly.

"Perhaps it has, and perhaps it hasn't," said Osmond, savagely.
"Anyhow it has taught me to be on the look-out for rogues."

"Osmond, are you mad, or drunk, or both?" cried Kester.

"A little of both," said Lionel, sternly. "If he were not under my
roof, I would horsewhip him till he went down on his knees and
proclaimed himself the liar and bully he really is."

Osmond was in the act of lifting a glass of brandy-and-seltzer to his
lips as Lionel spoke. He waited, without drinking, till Lionel had
done. "You called me a liar, did you?" he said. "Then, take that!" and
as he spoke, he flung the remaining contents of the glass into
Lionel's face, and sent the glass itself crashing to the other side of
the room.

Another instant and Dering's terrible fingers were closed round
Osmond's throat. This last insult was more than he could bear. His
self-control was flung to the winds. Osmond's nerveless frame quivered
and shook helplessly in the strong man's grasp. He was as powerless to
help himself as any child would have been. His eyes were starting from
his head, and his face beginning to turn livid, when Kester started
forward.

"Don't choke him, Li," he said. "Don't kill the beggar quite."

"You mean, contemptible hound!" said Dering, as he loosened his grasp
and flung Osmond away: who staggered and fell to the ground, gasping
for breath, and hardly knowing for the moment what had befallen him.

With a few wild gasps and a tug or two at his cravat, he seemed to
partially recover himself. Raising himself on his left elbow, he put
his right hand deep down inside his waistcoat, and from some secret
pocket there he drew out what looked like a toy pistol, but which was
a deadly weapon enough in competent hands. Before either Kester or
Lionel knew what he was about, he had taken pointblank aim at the
latter, and fired. But drink had made his hand unsteady, and the
bullet intended for Lionel's brain passed harmlessly through his hair,
and lodged in the panelling behind.

Kester sprang at him, wrenched the pistol from his hand, and flung it
to the other end of the room. As he did so, the thought passed through
his mind: "If that bullet had only been aimed two inches lower, what a
difference it would have made to me!" "Osmond, are you going to turn
assassin?" he said. "You must come with me." He helped him up from the
ground, took his right arm firmly within his, and led him towards the
door.

"That is the way we serve those who insult us out in the West," said
Osmond. "Only: for once, I missed my aim. But I'll fight it out with
him to-morrow, anyhow he likes."

"To-morrow we will settle our little differences as gentlemen of
honour should settle such things," said Kester, soothingly. And with
these words he led him from the room.

Lionel sank back on a chair, sick, weary, and disgusted; and so sat
without moving till Kester came back, some ten minutes later.

"What have you done with Osmond?" he said.

"I have given him in charge of my man, who won't leave him till he has
seen him safely in bed. He would insist on having more brandy. In ten
minutes he will be sleeping the sleep of the drunken."

Lionel rose with a look of pain, and pressed one hand to the side of
his head.

"Got one of your bad head aches?" asked Kester.

"Yes: about the worst that I ever remember to have had."

"Is their no cure for them?"

"None but patience."

"But, surely, they may be alleviated?"

"I have tried remedies without end, but to no purpose."

"Will you let me make you up a mixture from a prescription of my own?
I have all the materials at hand. If I make it up, will you promise to
take it? I don't say that it will cure your headache, but I do believe
that it will give you relief."

There was a strangely anxious, almost haggard look on his face as he
spoke thus, and yet his eyes were never once bent on Lionel. He had
picked up one of the cues, and seemed to be busily examining it. When
he had done speaking, he waited for his cousin's answer with parted
lips, in a sort of breathless hush.

Lionel laughed a rather dismal laugh.

"Well, if you have any faith in your mixture, I don't mind trying it,"
he said. "It can't make the pain worse, and there is just a faint
chance that it may ease it a bit--or that I may fancy that it does,
which is pretty much the same thing."

The cue dropped from Kester's fingers and rattled on the floor. "What
was that?" he said, suddenly, looking round with a shiver. "I could
have sworn that somebody touched me on the shoulder."

"There is no one here but ourselves," said Lionel, languidly. The pain
was almost more than he could bear up against.

Kester recovered his equanimity after an impatient "Pish" at his
folly, and the two men went slowly out of the billiard-room together.
Outside the door Kester whispered in his cousin's ear, "I will go and
fetch the mixture, and be back again in two minutes." Lionel nodded,
and Kester was gone.

"Why need he have whispered to me?" asked Lionel of himself. "There was
no one to overhear him. There's something queer about him to-night. A
little touch of the blues, perhaps; and yet he never seems to drink
very hard."

Lionel went off to his rooms--a bedroom and sitting-room en suite,
next to the rooms occupied by Osmond. He took off his coat and tie,
and unbuttoned his waistcoat, and then sat down with his feet on the
fender, waiting for Kester.

Lionel Dering had been troubled with occasional headaches of a very
distressing kind ever since he could remember any thing, and he had
quite made up his mind that he must be so troubled till the end of the
chapter. He had no faith in his cousin's proposed remedy, but he would
take it simply to oblige Kester.

Kester was not long away. He entered the room presently, carrying a
small silver tankard in his hand.

"I can't tell you bow sorry I feel for this night's work," said
Lionel.

"What have you done that you should feel sorry for?" asked Kester, as
he put down the tankard on the table.

"I ought to have left the billiard-room instead of flying at poor
little Osmond in the brutal way I did. He was half drunk to-night, and
didn't know what he was about. He would have apologised in the
morning, and then everything would have come right."

"Considering the provocation you received I think that you acted
throughout with the greatest forbearance. Osmond, to say the least of
it, is not worthy of any serious consideration."

"But you will see him in the morning, won't you, and act as peacemaker
between us, if it be possible to do so?"

"Certainly, if you wish it."

"I do wish it. The brawl was an utterly disreputable piece of
business. I ought not to have let my temper overmaster me. I ought,
under no circumstances, to have forgotten that Percy Osmond was my
guest."

"Well, never mind all that now. We can discuss the affair fully in the
morning. See, I have brought you the mixture I spoke of for your head.
I think you will find that it will do you good."

He held out the tankard as he spoke. His pale face looked paler than
ever to-night--his black moustache blacker than ever; but his restless
eyes seemed to fix themselves anywhere rather than on his cousin's
face. Lionel took the tankard from Kester's hand, and drank off the
contents at a draught. Then he wiped his lips with his pocket
handkerchief, and having no coat on, he stuffed the handkerchief
carelessly under his braces for the time being.

"And now I'll leave you to sweet slumber and happy dreams," said
Kester, as he took back the empty tankard. "Your head will be better
by morning, I do not doubt. Good night."

"Good night," responded Lionel, languidly, from his chair by the fire.

Kester went softly out, and closed the door lightly behind him.

Ten minutes passed away, and then Lionel awoke with a start to find
that he had unconsciously fallen into a doze over the fire. The pain
in his head certainly seemed a little better already. But when he rose
to his feet, he found that he could hardly stand. His limbs seemed too
weak to support him, and he was overcome with a dull heavy drowsiness
such as he had never felt before. The room and everything in it began
to rock slowly up and down like the cabin of a ship at sea. There were
only two candles on the table, but Lionel seemed to see a dozen.
Sleep--sleep of the deepest--seemed to be numbing both his heart and
his brain. Consciousness was fast leaving him. He staggered rather
than walked to the couch on the opposite side of the room. He reached
it. He had just sense enough left to fling himself on it, and then he
remembered nothing more.

He remembered nothing more till he awoke next morning. It was broad
daylight when he opened his eyes. He had to gather his wits together
and to think for a minute or two before he could call to mind how and
why it was that he found himself lying there, on his dressing-room
couch, instead of in his bed as usual. Then all the events of the
evening flashed across his mind in a moment: the quarrel in the
billiard-room; the pistol-shot; the pain in his head; the draught
given him by his cousin, and the strange effect it had upon him. "It
must have been a very powerful narcotic," said Lionel to himself.
"But, at all events, it has cured my headache."

By turning his head he could see the timepiece on the bureau. It was
nine o'clock, an hour and a half past his usual time for rising. But,
late as it was, he felt a strange disinclination for getting up. He
felt as if he could lie there all day without moving. His mind was
perfectly clear; the pain had left his head; but his limbs seemed
heavy, useless, inert. He would stay there for just ten minutes
longer, he said to himself, and then he would positively get up.
Kester would be waiting breakfast for him, and he was anxious to know
how Osmond was this morning, and what recollection he retained of the
fracas overnight.

But Osmond was up already. He could hear him moving about the next
room. So far all was well. But what would be the result of their
quarrel? Osmond must leave Park Newton, and at once. No other course
was---- Now that he listened more particularly, he could hear the
footsteps of more than one person in the next room--of more than
two--of several. And there were footsteps in the corridor, passing to
and fro as if in a hurry. There was a whispering, too, as if close
outside his door; then the hurried muttering of many voices in
Osmond's room; then the clash of two doors far away in the opposite
wing of the house.

What could it all mean? Was Osmond ill? Or was he simply having his
luggage packed, with the view of leaving for London by the forenoon
train? Lionel sprang to his feet without another moment's delay.
The sudden change of position made him dizzy. He pressed his fingers
over both his eyes for a moment or two while he recovered himself.
Again there was a noise of whispering in the corridor outside. Lionel
made a step or two forward towards the door, and then came to a dead
stop--horror-stricken by something which he now saw for the first
time. The pocket-handkerchief which he had stuffed carelessly under
his braces overnight had fallen to the ground when he sprang from the
couch. As he stooped to pick it up, he saw that it was stained with
blood. But whose blood? It could not be his own--there was nothing the
matter with him. But if not his, whose?

Now that he looked at himself more closely, there were crimson streaks
on the front of his shirt where the handkerchief had rested against
it--and on his wristbands there were other streaks of the same ominous
colour.

He had picked up the handkerchief, and was gazing at it in a sort of
maze of dread and perplexity, when there came a sudden imperative
knocking at his dressing-room door. Next moment the door was opened,
and, lifting up his bewildered eyes, Lionel saw clustered in the
doorway the frightened faces of five or six of his own servants.

"What is the matter?" he asked, and his voice sounded strangely
unfamiliar both to himself and others.

"Oh, if you please, sir--Mr. Osmond--the gentleman in the next room!"
gasped Pearce the butler.

"What is the matter with Mr. Osmond?"

"He has been murdered in the dead of night!"

Lionel caught at the edge of a table for support. His brain
reeled--all the pulses of his being seemed to stand still in awful
dread.

"Murdered! Percy Osmond murdered!" He breathed the words rather than
spoke them aloud. Then for the first time he saw that all those
frightened eyes clustered in the doorway were fixed, not on him, but
on the terrible token which he was still holding in his hand. He
dropped it with a shudders and strode forward towards the door. They
all shrank back as though he were stricken with the plague.

"Great Heaven! they cannot suspect that I have done the deed!" he
whispered to himself. "We must see to this at once," he said aloud.

No one spoke. There was a dead, ominous silence. The crimson stains on
his shirt were visible, and every eye was now fixed on them. Lionel
paused for a moment at the threshold to gather nerve.

As he stood thus, Pierre Janvard came quickly out of Osmond's room,
carrying some small article between the thumb and finger of his right
hand. His face was paler than usual, and his half-closed eyes had a
sort of feline expression in them which was not pleasant to look upon.

"If you please, sir, is this your property?" he said, addressing
himself to Lionel, and displaying a small jet stud set in filigree
gold.

Lionel's fingers went up instinctively to his shirt front in search of
the missing stud.

"Yes, that is my property," he said. "Where did you find it?"

"I found it just now, sir, clutched in the hand of Mr. Percy Osmond,
who lies murdered in the next room."



CHAPTER XII.
TOM BRISTOW'S RETURN.


"What can be sweeter or more charming than an English May-day? I
declare I've seen nothing in the East at all comparable to it."

The speaker was Tom Bristow; the person addressed was a casual
compagnon de voyage, whose acquaintance he had made during the Channel
passage; and the scene was a first-class compartment in the mail train
from Dover to London.

"You wouldn't be so ready to praise an English May-day if you had been
here last week, as I was," was the reply. "No sunshine--not a gleam;
but, in place of it, a confounded east wind that was almost keen
enough to shave you. Every second fellow you met spoke to you through
his nose; and when you did happen to get near a fire, you were frozen
through on one side before you were half warmed through on the other."

"Well, it's pleasant enough now, in all conscience," said Tom, with a
smile of easy content.

Tom Bristow, who was very thorough in most of his undertakings, had
remained abroad--extending his travels into Palestine and Egypt--till
his health was completely reestablished. But, as he said to himself,
he had now had enough of sands and sunsets; of dirty Algerines and
still dirtier Arabs; of camel-riding and mule-riding; of beggars and
bucksheesh; and he was now coming back, with renewed zest, to the
prosaic duties of everyday existence, as exemplified, in his case, in
the rise and fall of public securities and the refined gambling of the
London Stock Exchange.

By the time he had been a week in London he had made himself
thoroughly master of the situation again, and almost felt as if he had
never been away. "I have been so long used to an idle life," he said
to himself, about a fortnight after his return, "that very little work
seems to knock me up. Why not take the five o'clock train this
afternoon, and run down as far as Gatehouse Farm, and spend a couple
of days with old Li Dering? Where in the wide world is there any air
equal to that which blows across the sandhills of the old farm?"

Between nine and ten o'clock on Sunday morning Tom Bristow knocked at
the well-remembered door. After sleeping at the Station Hotel, he had
walked leisurely across the fields, his heart beating high with the
expectation of shortly being able to grasp his friend by the hand.
Everything seemed as if he had left the farm but yesterday, except
that then it was autumn and now it was spring. Mrs. Bevis answered his
knock. She started at the sight of him, and could not repress an
exclamation of surprise. "Yes, here I am once more," said Tom, with
his pleasant smile. "Don't tell me that Mr. Dering is not at home."

Mrs. Bevis's answer was a sudden burst of tears.

"What has happened, Mrs. Bevis?" cried Tom, in alarm. "Not--not--?"
His looks finished the question.

"Oh, Mr. Bristow, haven't you heard, sir?" cried Mrs. Bevis through
her sobs.

"I've heard nothing--not a word. I have only just returned from
abroad."

"Mr. Dering, sir, is lying in Duxley gaol, waiting to take his trial
at the next assizes."

"His trial!" echoed Tom in amazed perplexity. "Trial for what?"

"For wilful murder, sir!"

"Can this be true?" cried Tom, as he sank back, with blanched face and
staring eyes, on the old oaken seat in the porch.

"Only too true, sir--only too true!" moaned Mrs. Bevis. "But I'll
never believe that he did it--never!" she added emphatically. "A
kinder heart, a truer gentleman, never drew breath."

"I'll say amen to that," replied Tom, earnestly. "But Lionel Dering
committed for wilful murder! It seems an utter impossibility."

"Why, all England's been ringing with the story," added Mrs. Bevis.

"And yet I've never heard of it. But, as I said before, I've only just
got back from the East, where I was two months without seeing a
newspaper.

"I couldn't bear to tell you about it, sir. My heart seems almost
broken as it is. But I've got the newspapers here with all the account
in. Perhaps you would like to read them for yourself, sir."

"I should indeed, Mrs. Bevis. But did I understand you aright when you
said that Mr. Dering was in Duxley gaol?"

"That's the place, sir."

"Duxley in Midlandshire?"

"The very same, sir."

"But what was Mr. Dering doing so far away from home?"

"Law, sir I'd forgotten that you were a stranger to the news. Master's
a rich man now, sir. His uncle died last autumn, and left him a great
estate close by Duxley. He's been living there ever since."

"You astonish me, Mrs. Bevis. But what is the name of the estate?"

"Park Newton. But may I ask whether you know Duxley, sir?"

"I know Duxley very well indeed. I was born and brought up there."

"To think of that, now!"

"Then the name of Mr. Dering's uncle must have been Mr. Arthur St.
George?"

"That's the name, sir. I recollect it quite well, because it put me in
mind of St. George and the Dragon. But I'll fetch you the newspapers."

She brought the papers presently, and left Tom to himself while he
read them. The case was as Mrs. Bevis had stated it. Lionel Dering
stood committed to take his trial at the next assizes for the wilful
murder of Percy Osmond.

Mrs. Bevis, coming back after a quarter of an hour, found Mr. Bristow
buried deep in thought, with the newspapers lying unheeded by his
side.

"You don't believe that he did it, do you, sir?" she asked, with
tearful earnestness.

"I would stake my existence on Mr. Dering's innocence!" said Tom,
emphatically.

"God bless you, sir, for those words!" cried Mrs. Bevis. "There must
surely be some way to help him--some way of proving that he did not do
this dreadful thing?"

"Whatever friendship or money can do shall be done for him. That you
may rely upon."

"Mr. Dering saved your life, sir. You will try and save his, won't
you?"

"I will--so help me Heaven!" answered Tom, fervently.

"It is strange," mused Tom, as he walked sadly back to the station,
"that in all our long conversations together Dering should never have
mentioned that he had an uncle living within three miles of Duxley,
and I should never have spoken of the town by name as the place where
I was born and reared. And then to think that Tobias Hoskyns, my old
governor, should be the man of all men into whose hands Dering has
entrusted his case! But the whole affair is a tissue of surprises from
beginning to end."

Next morning, at nine o'clock, Mr. Tom Bristow, after a preliminary
knock, walked into the private office of Mr. Tobias Hoskyns, of
Duxley, attorney-at-law.

Mr. Hoskyns was a frail-looking, spare-built man of some fifty-five or
sixty years. He was rather short-sighted, and wore gold-rimmed
spectacles. He had gray hair, and gray whiskers that ended abruptly
half-way down his cheeks, as though too timid to venture farther. He
was dressed with a certain old-fashioned precision, that took little
or no heed of the variations of fashion, but went on quietly repeating
itself from one year's end to another. He was very fond of snuff, which
he imbibed, not after the reckless and defiant manner affected by some
lovers of the powdered weed, but in a deferential, half-apologetic
kind of way, as though he were ashamed of the practice, and begged you
would make a point of forgetting his weakness as speedily as possible.
He carried an old-fashioned silver snuff-box in his waistcoat pocket,
and in another pocket a yellow silk handkerchief of immense size,
bordered with black. In short, Mr. Hoskyns was a clearly individualized
figure, and one might safely say that, by sight at least, he was
known to every man, woman, and child in Duxley.

He was very pleased indeed to see his quondam clerk. "Then you do
still manage to keep your head above water, eh?" he said, as he shook
Tom warmly by the hand.

"Yes. The waters of speculation have not quite swallowed me up," said
Tom, demurely.

"Ah, you know the old proverb, 'a rolling stone,' et cetera. You
should have stuck to your stool in the outer office, as I advised you
to do. You might, perhaps, have been junior partner by this time,
and--this in your ear--the business gets more lucrative every year;
it does really. Ah, Tom, Tom, you made a great mistake when you left
Duxley! Thought you were going to set the Thames on fire, I know you
did."

"Experience, sir, is said to make fools wise. Let us hope that I shall
have gathered a little of the commodity by-and-by."

"Well, you must come and dine with me this evening. Can't stay now.
I'm due at the gaol in fifteen minutes."

"That's the very place to which I want to go with you."

"Eh? Bless my heart, what do you want to go there for?"

"To see the same man that you are going to visit--to see my dear
friend, Lionel Dering."

"Why, good gracious, you don't mean to say----" and Mr. Hoskyns took
off his spectacles, and stared at Tom in blank amazement.

Then Tom had to explain, in the fewest possible words, how it happened
that he and Lionel Dering were such excellent friends. Five minutes
later they were on their way to the gaol.

As they passed through the lawyer's outer office, Tom glanced round.
With one exception, the faces of all there were strangers to him. The
exception was not a very inviting person to look at, but Tom went up
and shook hands with him. He was a tall, big-boned, loosely-built man
of five and forty, dressed in very rusty black--an awkward, shambling
sort of fellow, unshaven and uncombed, with grubby hands and bleared
eyes, and with a wild shaggy mop of hair which had once been jet
black, but was now thickly sprinkled with gray. The man's features
were wanting neither in power nor intellect, but they were marred by
an air of habitual dissipation--of sottishness, even--which he made no
effort to conceal.

"Jabez Creede is still with you, I see," said Tom, as he and the
lawyer walked down the street.

"Yes, I still keep him on," answered Hoskyns, "though, if I have
threatened once to turn him away, I have a hundred times. With his
dirty, drunken ways, the man, as a man, is unbearable to me; but, as a
clerk, I don't know what I should do without him. For engrossing, or
copying, he is useless, his hand is far too shaky. But in one other
respect he is invaluable to me: his memory is like a prodigious
storehouse, in which he can lay his hand on any particular article at
a moment's notice. He knows how useful he is to me, and he presumes on
that knowledge to do things that I would submit to from no other clerk
in my employ."

There was no difficulty in passing Tom into the gaol. In the case of a
prisoner of such distinction as Mr. Dering, some of the more stringent
of the prison regulations were to a certain extent relaxed. Besides
which, Mr. Hoskyns and the governor were bosom friends, playing whist
together two or three evenings a week the winter through, and
wrangling over the odd trick, as only old companions can wrangle; so
that the lawyer's word soon placed Tom inside the magic gates, and
after he had been introduced to Mr. Dux, the aforesaid governor, he
might be said to be duly possessed of the Open Sesame of the grim old
building.

"This is kind of you, Bristow, very kind!" exclaimed Lionel, as he
strode forward to greet his friend. "When we parted last we little
thought that our next meeting would be in these halls of dazzling
light." He laughed a dismal laugh, and pressed Tom down into his own
chair.

For a moment or two Tom could not trust himself to speak. "There's a
silver lining to every cloud, you know, old boy," he stammered out at
last. "You must bear up like a brick. Please Heaven, we'll soon have
you out of this hole, and everything will come right in the long run,
never fear." He felt that it was not at all what he had intended to
say, but, somehow, his usual ready flow of words seemed dried up for a
little while.

Lionel Dering had been nearly a month in prison. Confinement to a man
of his active outdoor habits was especially irksome, and Tom was not
surprised to find him looking pale and more careworn than he had ever
seen him look before. He was extraordinarily cheerful, however; and
when Tom told him that it was his intention to stay at Duxley till the
trial was over, he brightened up still more, and at once proposed that
they two should have a game at chess, there and then, as in the old
pleasant days at Gatehouse Farm.

"Dux is very good to me," he explained. "He comes to see me for an
hour most evenings. He and I have had several games together. The
turnkey will fetch his board and men in five minutes."

Mr. Hoskyns was somewhat scandalized. "I cannot get my client," he
explained to Tom, "to evince that interest in his trial, and the
arrangements for his defence, that the importance of the occasion
demands. It really almost seems as if Mr. Dering looked upon the whole
business as referring, not to himself, but to some stranger in whose
affairs he took only the faintest possible interest."

"My dear Hoskyns," said Lionel, "you pumped me dry long ago of every
morsel of information that I could give you respecting this wretched
business. You can get nothing more out of me, and may as well leave me
in peace. Employ whom you will to defend me, if defence I need. That
is your business, not mine."

So Tom and Lionel had their game of chess, and a long talk together
afterwards, and when Tom at last left the prison, it was with a
promise to be there again at an early hour next morning.

Lionel Dering's first care after his arrest was to write to Edith
West, in order that she might learn the news direct from himself, and
not through a newspaper or any other source.

"My darling Edith," he wrote, "a terrible misfortune has befallen me.
A gentleman, Mr. Percy Osmond by name, one of my guests at Park
Newton, has been foully murdered, and I am accused of the crime. That
my innocence will be made clear to the world at my trial, I do not
doubt. Till that day comes I must submit, with what patience I may, to
be kept closely under lock and key in this grim building from which I
write. You see that I write quite calmly, and without any fear
whatever as to the result. My greatest trouble in the matter is my
enforced deprivation of your dear society for a little while. I will
write you fuller particulars to-morrow. I am afraid that it will be
necessary to fix the date of our marriage a month later than the time
agreed upon, but certainly not more than a month. That of itself is
very annoying. I beg that you will not fret or worry yourself on my
account. This is but a little trial which will soon be over, and
which, years hence, will shape itself into a seasonable story to be
told round the Christmas fire."

Lionel saw from the moment of his arrest that the evidence against him
was far too strong to allow him to hope for any other issue than a
commitment for trial at the assizes. And he was right. The
magistrates before whom he was taken could not do otherwise than
commit him for wilful murder. The jet stud found in the dead man's
hand, the saturated handkerchief, the streaks of blood on his
shirt--damning proofs all, which Lionel Dering could neither explain
nor extenuate--left them no other alternative.

And that, to the public at large, seemed the strangest feature of the
case: Mr. Dering either could not or would not offer any explanation.
If it seemed strange to the outside world that no explanation was
forthcoming, how much stranger did it seem to Lionel himself, that he
was utterly unable to offer any How and by what means had those
terrible evidences of guilt come there? Day and night, night and day,
during his first week in prison, he kept on asking himself the same
question, only to acknowledge himself utterly baffled, and as far from
any satisfactory answer the last time he asked it as he was the first.
All that he could say was, that he knew absolutely nothing; that his
mind was an utter blank from the moment he flung himself, half
stupefied, on his dressing-room sofa till the moment he woke next
morning and found his handkerchief saturated with blood. Heartsick and
brain-weary, he at length gave up all effort to solve a problem which,
as far as he was concerned, seemed incapable of any solution; and set
himself to face the inevitable with what patience and resignation he
could summon to his aid. He could only trust and hope that on the day
of the trial, something would turn up, some proof be forthcoming,
which would exculpate him utterly, and prove once more the fallibility
of even the strongest chain of circumstantial evidence. If not--but
the alternative was not a pleasant one to contemplate.

As already stated, Lionel's first act after his arrest was to write a
note to Edith West. Twelve hours later, Mrs. Garside and Miss West
stepped out of the train at Duxley station. The newspapers had told
them that Mr. Dering's case was in the hands of a certain Mr. Hoskyns,
and the first person they accosted after leaving the station, directed
them to that gentleman's office. Fortunately, Mr. Hoskyns was at home.
They told him who they were, and that their object in coming to Duxley
was to see and be near Mr. Dering.

"I shall see Mr. Dering this evening," said the lawyer. "I will
tell him that you are in Duxley, and should he prove willing to see
you--which I do not doubt that he will--you can accompany me to the
prison at ten o'clock to-morrow morning."

Lionel was overjoyed to learn that Edith was so near him, and could
not find in his heart to blame her for coming, however injudicious
such a step might have seemed to many people. But even he, as yet, had
conceived but a very vague idea of the infinite capabilities of a
character such as hers.

On the morrow they met, and it was a meeting that made even Hoskyns,
case-hardened though he was, remember for a moment that, many, many
years ago, he himself had been young.

The moment the door was opened Edith sprang to Lionel's arms, utterly
indifferent to the fact that Mrs. Garside and the lawyer were looking
on from the background. "My life! my love! my husband!" she murmured,
between her tears. "At last, at last!--my own, never to be lost to me
again. And this is your home--this miserable cell! It shall be my home
too. If they will not let me stay with you, my heart, at least, will
be with you day and night--always."

"Now I feel that you love me," was all that Lionel could say for the
moment.

"I cling to you because you are in trouble," said Edith. "My place is
by your side. I have a right to be here, and nothing shall keep me
away. To-morrow, or next day at the latest, Lionel, you must make me
your wife."

"What, marry you here, Edith! In this place, and while I am a prisoner
charged with wilful murder!"

"Yes; in this place, and while you are a prisoner charged with wilful
murder."

"My darling child, what are you thinking of?" in mild protest from
Mrs. Garside.

"Aunt, I know perfectly well what I am thinking of. I have been
Lionel's promised wife for some time. I am now going to be his wife in
reality. I am only a weak woman, I know; I cannot really help him; I
can only love him and watch over him, and do my best to lighten the
dark hours of his life in prison."

"But suppose the worst comes to the worst," said Lionel, very gravely,
"and such a result is by no means improbable."

Edith shuddered. "You only supply me with one argument the more," she
answered. "The deeper your trouble--the greater your peril--the closer
must I cling to you. It is hard to see you here--hard to know of what
you are accused--but you will break my heart altogether, Lionel, if
you drive me from your side."

Gently and gravely, Lionel argued with her, but to no purpose. It is
possible that his arguments were not very powerful ones; that they
were not very logically enforced. Who could have resisted her loving,
passionate plea? Not Lionel, whose heart, despite his outward show of
resistance, went out half-way to meet hers, as Edith's own instinct
too surely told her.

Three days later they were married in the prison chapel. Mr. Hoskyns
made a special journey to London and brought back the licence. One
stipulation was made by Lionel--that the marriage should be kept a
profound secret, and a profound secret it was kept. The witnesses were
Mrs. Garside, Hoskyns, Mr. Dux, and the chief warder. Beyond these
four, and the chaplain, the knowledge did not extend. Even the
turnkeys, whose duty it was to attend to Lionel, had no suspicion of
what had taken place.

Three weeks had come and gone since the marriage of Lionel and Edith
when Tom Bristow first set foot inside the gaol.



CHAPTER XIII.
A DINNER AT PINCOTE.


Lionel Dering was blessed with one of those equable dispositions which
predispose their owner to look always at the sunny side of everything;
and even now, in prison, and with such a terrible accusation hanging
over him, no one ever saw him downhearted or in any way distressed.
There was about him a serenity, a quiet cheerfulness, which nothing
seemed able to disturb; and when in the company of others he was
usually as gay and animated as if the four walls of his cell had been
those of his own study at Park Newton. The ordeal was, in any case, a
very trying one; but it would have been infinitely more so but for the
sweet offices of love and friendship which he owed in one case to his
wife, and in the other to his friend. Either Edith or Tom saw him
every day. But when all his visitors had gone, and night and silence
had settled down on the grim old prison--silence so profound that but
for the recurring voice of a distant clock, as it counted the hours
slowly and solemnly, he could have fancied himself the last man left
alive in the world--then it was that he felt his situation the most.
He had been so used to an active, outdoor life, that he could not now
tire himself sufficiently to sleep well.

It was these hours of darkness, when the rest of the world was abed,
and the long, long hours of daylight in the early summer mornings
before it was yet awake, which tried him more than anything else. At
such times, when he was tired of reading--and he had never before read
so much in so short a space of time--he could do nothing but lie back
on his pallet, with his arms curled under his head, and think. The
mornings were balmy, soft, and bright. Through the cell-casement,
which he could open at will, he could hear the merry twittering of
innumerable sparrows. He could see the slow shadows sliding, inch by
inch, down the gray stone walls of the prison yard, as the sun rose
higher in the sky. Now and then the sweet west wind brought him faint
wafts of fragrance from the hay-slopes just outside the prison gates.
Sometimes he could hear the barking of a dog on some far far-off farm,
or the dull lowing of cattle; sounds which reminded him that the great
world, with its life, and hopes, and fears, lay close around him,
though he himself might have no part therein. At such moments he often
felt that he would give half of all he was possessed of for an hour's
freedom outside those tomb-like walls--for one hour's blessed freedom,
with Edith by his side, to wander at their own sweet will through lane
and coppice and by river's brim, with the free air of heaven blowing
around them, and nothing to bound their eyes but the dim horizon,
lying like a purple ring on woods and meadows far away.

Little wonder that during these long, solitary hours a sense of
depression, of melancholy even, would now and then take possession of
him for a little while; that his mind was oppressed with vague
forebodings of what that future, which was now drawing near with sure
but unhasting footsteps, might possibly have in store for him. He had
just won for himself the sweetest prize which this world had in its
power to offer him, and his very soul shrank within him when he
thought that he had won it only, perhaps, to lose it for ever in a few
short weeks. Bitter, very bitter--despairing almost--grew his thoughts
at such times; but he struggled bravely against them, and never let
them master him for long. When the clock struck six, and the tramp of
heavy feet was heard along the corridors, and the jingling of huge
keys--when the warders were changed, and the little wicket in his cell
door was opened and a cheerful voice said, "Good-morning, sir. Hope
you have slept well," Lionel's cheery response would ring out, clear
and full, "Good-morning, Jeavons. I've had an excellent night, thank
you." And Jeavons would go back to his mates and say, "Mr. Dering's
just wonderful. Always the same. Never out o' sorts."

Later on would come Hoskyns, and Edith, and Tom. It was impossible for
Edith to visit the prison alone, and the lawyer would often make a
pretence of having business with his client when he had none in
reality, rather than withstand the piteous, pleading look which would
spring to Edith's eyes the moment he told her that there would be no
occasion for him to visit the gaol that day. While he lives Hoskyns
will never forget those pretty pictures of the lover-husband and his
bride, as they sat together, hand in hand, in the grim old cell,
comforting each other, strengthening each other, and drawing pictures
of the happy future in store for them; deceiving each other with a
make-believe gaiety; and hiding, with desperate earnestness, the
terrible dread which lay lurking, like a foul witch in a cavern, low
down in the heart of each--that, for them, the coming months might
bring, not sunshine, flowers, and the joys of mutual love, but
life-long separation and the unspeakable darkness that broods beneath
the awful wings of Death.

On these occasions, Hoskyns never neglected to provide himself with a
newspaper, and, buried behind the huge broadsheet of "The Times," with
spectacles poised on nose, he would go calmly on with his reading,
leaving Lionel and Edith almost as much to themselves as though he had
not been there. The sterling qualities of the old lawyer, and the
thorough sincerity of his character, gradually forced themselves on
the notice of Lionel and his wife, both of whom came, after a time, to
regard him almost in the light of a second father, and to treat him
with an affectionate familiarity which he was not slow to appreciate.

As Tom Bristow was turning the corner of Duxley High Street, one
afternoon about three days after his arrival from London, he was met,
face to face, by Squire Culpepper. The squire stopped and stared at
Tom, but failed for the moment to recognize him.

"Good-morning, sir," said Tom, heartily. "Glad to see you looking so
well."

"Why--eh?--surely I must know that face," said the squire. "It's young
Tom Bristow, if I'm not mistaken."

"You are not mistaken, sir," answered Tom.

"Then I'm very glad to see you, Tom--very," said the squire, as he
shook Tom warmly by the hand. "Your father was a man whom I liked and
respected immensely. I can never forget his kindness and attention to
my poor dear wife during her last illness--never. He did all that man
could do to preserve her to me--but it was not to be. For your
father's sake, Tom, you will always find Titus Culpepper stand your
friend."

"It is very kind of you to say so, sir."

"Not at all--not at all. So you're back again at the old place, eh?
Going to stop with us this time, I hope. You ought never to have left
us, young sir, but have settled down quietly in your father's shoes.
Vagabondizing's a bad thing for any young man."

"I quite agree with you, sir," said Tom, in a tone of assumed
simplicity.

"Glad you've come round to my way of thinking at last. Knew you would.
Well, if I can do anything for you in the way of helping you to get a
decent living, you may command me fully. Think over what I've said,
and come and dine with me at Pincote to-morrow at seven sharp."

"It would be worth something," said Tom to himself as he went on his
way, "to know what the squire's opinion about me really is; to have a
glimpse at the portrait of me in all its details which he has evolved
from his own inner consciousness. Strange that in a little town like
this, where everybody knows everybody else's business better than he
knows his own, if a man venture to step out of the beaten track
prescribed for him by custom and tradition, and is bold enough to
strike out a path for himself, he is at once set down as being, of
necessity, either a lunatic or a scapegrace--unless, indeed, his
lunacy chance to win for him either a fortune or a name. And then how
changed the tone!"

Next evening Tom found himself at Pincote. The squire introduced him
in brief terms to his daughter, and then left the room for a few
minutes, for which Tom did not thank him. "What can I say to Miss
Culpepper that will be likely to interest her?" he asked himself.
"Does she go in for private theatricals, or for ritualism and pet
parsons? Does she believe in soup kitchens and visiting the poor, or
would she rather talk about the new prima donna, and the last new
poem?"

Miss Culpepper had sat down again at the piano, and was striking a few
chords now and then, in an absent-minded way. She was by no means a
pretty girl in the ordinary acceptation of the term. Her face was a
good one, without being strikingly handsome. She had something of her
father's shrewd, keen look, but with an underlying expression of
goodness and kindliness, difficult to define, but unmistakably there.
She had large blue-gray eyes and magnificent teeth. Her complexion,
lily-clear during the winter months, was already freckled by the warm
May sunshine, and would be more so before the summer was over.
Finally, her hair was red--not auburn, but an unmistakable red.

But Tom Bristow had rather a weakness for red hair--not perhaps for
the deep, dull, fiery red which we sometimes see. He accepted it, as
the old Venetians accepted it--as one of the rarest types of beauty,
as something far superior to your commonplace browns and blacks. And
then he did not object to freckles--in moderation. He looked upon them
as one of the signs of a sound country-bred constitution. As Jane
Culpepper sat there by the piano, in the sunny May eventide, in her
white dress, trimmed with pale green velvet, with her red hair coiled
in great hands round her little head--with her frank smile, and her
clear honest-looking eyes, she filled up in Tom's mind his ideal
picture of a healthy, pure-minded English country girl, and it struck
him that he could have made a very pleasant water-colour sketch of
herself and her surroundings.

Jane spared him the trouble of finding a topic that would be likely to
interest her by being the first to speak. "Do you find Duxley much
changed since you were here last?" She asked.

"Very little changed indeed. These small country towns never do
change, or only by such imperceptible degrees that one never notices
the difference. But may I ask, Miss Culpepper, how you know that I am
not a stranger to Duxley?"

"Oh, I have often heard papa speak of you, and wonder what had become
of you."

"And heard him blame me, I doubt not, for running away from the
friends of my youth, and the town of my birth."

"I cannot say that you are altogether wrong," answered Jane with a
smile. "Papa is a little impulsive at times, as I dare say you know,
and judges every one from his own peculiar standpoint."

"Which means, in my case, I suppose, that because I was born in
Duxley, I ought to have earned my bread there, died there, and been
buried there."

"Something of the kind, doubtless. Old-fashioned prejudices you would
call them, Mr. Bristow."

"I dare say I should. But they are worthy of respect for all that."

"Is not that somewhat of a paradox?"

"Hardly so, I think. Men like Mr. Culpepper, with their conservatism,
and their traditions of a past--which, it should not be forgotten, was
not a past, but a present, when they were young people, and is,
consequently, not so very antiquated--with their faith in old
institutions, old modes of thought, old friendships, and--and old
wine, are simply invaluable in this shifty, restless, out-of-breath
era in which we live. They are like the roots of grass and tangle
which bind together the sandhills on a windy shore. They conserve for
us the essence of an experience which dates from years before we were
born; which will sweeten our lives, if we know how to use it: as
yonder pot-pourri of faded rose-leaves sweetens this room, and
whispers to us that, in summers long ago, flowers as sweet bloomed and
faded, as those which blossom for us to-day and will fade and leave us
to-morrow."

"When you are as old as papa, Mr. Bristow," said Jane, with a laugh,
"I believe you will be just as conservative and full of prejudices as
he is."

"I hope so, I'm sure," said Tom, earnestly. "Only, my prejudices will
differ in some degree from his--as his would doubtless differ in
degree from those of his father--because I happen to have been born
some thirty years later in the world's history."

At this moment the servant ushered in Mr. Cope the banker, and Mr.
Edward Cope the banker's son. Jane rose, and introduced Tom to them as
"Mr. Bristow, a friend of papa's." The banker's son stared at Tom for
a moment, nodded his bull head, and then drawing a chair up to the
piano, proceeded to take possession of Jane with an air of
proprietorship which brought the colour for a moment into that young
lady's face.

The banker himself was more affable, in the pompous way that was
habitual with him. He never remembered to have heard the name of
Bristow before, but being a friend of the squire, the young man was
probably worth cultivating, and, in any case, there was nothing lost
by a little politeness. So Mr. Cope cleared his throat, and planting
himself like a colossus before the vacant grate, entered with becoming
seriousness upon the state of the weather and the prospects of the
crops. When the squire came in, five minutes later, Tom and the banker
were chatting together, as if they had known each other for years.

They all went in to dinner. Over the soup, said the squire to Mr.
Cope: "You were telling me, the other day, that one of your fellows at
the bank died a week or two ago?"

"Yes: young Musgrave. Clever young man. Great loss to the firm."

"Well, if you have not filled up the place it might, perhaps, suit our
young friend here," indicating Tom, "if you like to take him on my
recommendation. I don't know whether Jenny introduced him properly,
but he's the son of Dr. Bristow, who attended my wife in her last
illness. I respected his father, and I like the lad, and would gladly
do something for him."

The banker was scandalized. It might almost be said that he was
horrified. To think that he had been invited to meet, and, worse than
that, had talked on terms of perfect equality with, a young man who
was in want of an ordinary clerkship--who would, doubtless, be glad of
a stool in the back office of his bank! It was monstrous--it was
disgusting! But it was just the sort of inconsiderate conduct that
might be expected from a man like Culpepper. His manner towards Tom
froze in a moment.

"What say you? Can you do anything for him?" urged the squire.

"Why--ah--really, you know--should be most happy to oblige you, or to
serve Mr.--Mr.----"

"Bristow," said the squire.

"Bristow--thank you--but you see--ah--young Musgrave's berth was
filled up a week ago, and I'm sorry that I've nothing else just now at
all likely to suit the requirements of your--ah--protégé. I'll take
another spoonful of clear soup, if you please."

Tom's face was a study all this time. "I'm in for it now," he said to
himself. "The banker will never speak to me again."

"Ah, well," said the squire, "I'll see McKenna, the electioneering
agent, to-morrow. I dare say he'll know of something that will suit
our young friend."

"Pardon me, Mr. Culpepper," said Tom quietly, "but I'm afraid there's
a slight mistake somewhere. I am not aware that I ever expressed
myself as being in want of a situation, either in Mr. Cope's bank, or
elsewhere. My business, such as it is, lies in London. I have only
come down to Duxley to see a few old friends."

"Why, bless my heart," said the squire, "I thought you told me
yesterday that you were in want of something to do!"

"A misunderstanding, I assure you, sir. Many thanks to you all the
same."

"And what the deuce is your business, if I may make bold to ask?" said
the squire, testily.

Tom hesitated for a moment. "I believe, sir, I might describe myself
as an individual who lives by his wits--such as they are," he said at
last.

"And can you manage to make money by your wits?" asked the squire,
with ill-concealed contempt.

"A little, sir," answered Tom. "Enough to find me in food and clothes.
Enough to satisfy my few and simple needs."

The squire gave a grunt of discontent, and turned towards the banker,
who, ignoring any further notice of Tom, at once broached the
interminable subject of local politics--a subject that had a
fascination for the squire which he was never able to resist. Tom
revenged himself by turning his attention to the opposite end of the
table, where sat Miss Culpepper, with her faithful squire, Mr. Edward
Cope, in close proximity to her. "They are engaged, I suppose," said
Tom to himself, "or else she wouldn't let him sit so near her, and
glare at her so with those pig's eyes of his. But I'll never believe
that she can care for a fellow like that. She's just the kind of
girl," he went on mentally, "that, if I were a marrying man, I should
like to win for myself--and, by Jove! he's just the sort of fellow
that I should glory in cutting out. Has he a word of any kind to say
for himself, I wonder? At present his whole soul seems given up to the
pleasures of the table."

Certainly, Mr. Edward Cope was no Adonis; but he might have been
accepted as a very tolerable representation of Bacchus clothed in
modern evening dress. For a young man, he was abnormally stout.
Already, at three-and-twenty, he had no waist worth speaking of. What
he would be ten years hence was a mystery. His dress was usually a
compromise between that of a horse trainer and a gentleman. He turned
his toes in when he walked, and he had a fat, vacuous face, which,
in his case, was a fair index to the vacuous mind within. He was a
crack whip, and a tolerable shot--pigeon shooting was his favourite
pastime--but much farther than that his intellect did not carry him.

He did venture on a remark at last. "I gave Beauty a new set of shoes
this morning," he said. "She didn't at all like having them put on,
and kicked out furiously. Ferris did not half like the job, I can tell
you; especially after she sent him sprawling into a corner of his own
smithy. I never laughed so much in my life before."

"I can't see what there was to laugh at, Edward. I hope the poor man
was not much hurt."

"Oh, we got some brandy into him, and he came round all right in about
ten minutes. I'm going to try Beauty to-morrow in the new dog-cart.
You might let me call for you about eleven."

"You may call for me, if you like, but only on one condition: that you
drive me over to see how poor Ferris is getting on.

"All right. I'll call. But you women do make such a jolly fuss about
nothing."

"What a beautiful sunset, is it not, Mr. Bristow?" said Jane, turning
to Tom.

"Beautiful, indeed--for England; but in no wise comparable, in point
of sheer splendour, to the sunsets of the East."

"From which, I presume, we may infer that you are not unacquainted
with the East."

"Three months since I was living in the desert as the guest of an Arab
scheik."

Jane brightened up in a moment. Here was a chance at last of hearing
about something that would interest her. Question and answer followed
each other in quick succession, and in less than five minutes the
conversation had drifted away into regions far beyond the reach of
Edward le Gros, who sat glowering at them in a sulky silence, which
remained unbroken till the cloth was drawn, and Miss Culpepper left
the gentlemen to themselves.

"Draw up, boys--draw up closer," said the squire. "Jenkins, bring in
two bottles of the blue seal."

Edward drew his chair up closer to the squire, who was totally unaware
that everything among his guests was not on the pleasantest possible
footing. Both the banker and his son had evidently determined to
ignore Tom utterly, but Tom accepted his fate with unbroken serenity.

After a little time, the conversation turned on the probability of a
new line of railway being made before long to connect Duxley with a
certain manufacturing town about forty miles away. Mr. Culpepper was
strongly opposed to the scheme, but Mr. Cope was rather inclined to
view it with favour.

"One thing is quite clear," said the banker. "Sir Harry Fulke will do
his best to get the bill smuggled through Parliament. The proposed
line would just cut through the edge of his estate, and the money he
would get for the land would be very useful to him just now--as I
happen to know."

"Pardon me," interrupted Tom, "but if Sir Harry Fulke's word is worth
anything at all, he is as strongly opposed as Mr. Culpepper himself to
the line in question."

"And pray, sir," asked the banker, with considerable hauteur, "may I
be allowed to ask how you happen to know Sir Harry's opinion on this
important point?"

"Because I had it from Sir Harry's own lips," answered Tom, simply.
"We were talking together on this very subject, only a few evenings
ago, at Lord Tynedale's."

Mr. Cope stared at Tom as though he could hardly believe the evidence
of his own senses.

"Ah, well," said the squire, with a chuckle, "if Sir Harry's opposed
to the line, we may make our minds easy that we shall hear very little
more about it."

"I'm not so sure on that point," answered Tom. "I know for a fact that
Bloggs and Hayling, the great engineers, are very much interested in
getting the scheme pushed forward, and they are generally credited
with knowing pretty well what they are about."

"As you seem, sir, to be on such intimate terms with Lord Tynedale,"
said the banker, with a sneer, "you can, perhaps, tell us the real ins
and outs of that strange gambling transaction with which his
lordship's youngest son was so recently mixed up."

"I cannot tell you the real facts of the case," answered Tom. "I
presume that they are known only to the parties most concerned. But
this I can tell you, that I and Mr. Cecil Drake, the young gentleman
in question, lived together for three months in Algeria on the most
intimate terms; and from my knowledge of him, I feel perfectly sure
that his share of the transaction you allude to was that of a strictly
honourable man."

The banker blew his nose violently. This Mr. Bristow was a very
strange young man, he said to himself. There was evidently a mistake
somewhere. Probably the squire had blundered as usual. In the
meantime, it might be just as well to be decently civil to him.

When the evening came to an end, and the banker was putting on his
overcoat in the hall, he whispered in the squire's ear: "I suppose you
know that your balance is seventy pounds overdrawn?"

The squire's face for a moment turned quite ghastly, and he clutched
at a chair for support. He recovered himself with a laugh. "I knew it
was very low, but I didn't know it was overdrawn," he whispered back.
"But I know what I'm about, never fear. Just mark my words: before you
are two months older, you'll have a bigger balance to the credit of
Titus Culpepper than you've ever had yet. Oh yes, I know perfectly
well what I'm about."

"I'm very glad to hear it, I'm sure," said the banker with a dubious
cough. "I think we shall have some rain before morning. Good-night,
Mr. Bristow. Very pleased to have made your acquaintance. Hope we
shall meet again."

The banker took counsel with himself as he was being driven home by
his son. "I think it will be advisable to send Edward to New York for
a couple of months," he thought. "In case the worst comes to the
worst, the affair can then be broken off without scandal. The squire's
playing some underhand game which will bring him to grief if he's not
very, very careful. Meanwhile, all I can do is to wait and watch."

Strange to say, Tom Bristow's dreams that night were of Jane
Culpepper. "I wonder whether she dreamed about me," he murmured to
himself next morning as he was stropping his razor. "Not likely. And I
was no better than a fool to dream about her."



CHAPTER XIV.
AT ALDER COTTAGE.


Tom Bristow seldom let a day pass over without seeing Lionel Dering.
Sometimes he accompanied Mr. Hoskyns to the prison, sometimes he went
alone. The lawyer and he held many long consultations together as to
the probable result of the trial. They could not conceal from
themselves that there was grave cause for apprehension. The weight of
circumstantial evidence that would be brought to bear against Lionel
was almost overwhelming; while, on the other hand, not a single tittle
of evidence was forthcoming which tended to implicate any other
person. Notwithstanding all this, Tom was as morally convinced of his
friend's innocence as he was of his own existence. Mr. Hoskyns, in his
way, was equally positive. He felt sure that Lionel had not knowingly
committed the crime, but he thought it possible that he might have
done it in a fit of mental aberration, without retaining the least
recollection of it afterwards. In the annals of criminal jurisprudence
such cases are by no means unknown. And this was the supposition on
which the eminent counsel whom he had retained for the trial seemed
inclined to base his argument for the defence. Hoskyns had engaged a
detective from Scotland Yard, and had left no stone unturned in his
efforts to lift at least some portion of the dreadful weight of
evidence from off his client's shoulders, but up to the present time
all such efforts had been utterly in vain. That there might possibly
be some foul conspiracy on foot to get rid of Lionel was an idea that
for a little while found a lodging in the lawyer's mind. But in all
the wide world, as far as he knew, there was only one person who would
be benefited by the death of Lionel Dering. That person was Kester St.
George, and of evidence implicating him in the murder there was
absolutely none. It was currently reported that he was lying seriously
ill in London, which accounted for his not having been seen in Duxley
since the day of the inquest.

The shock of his friend Osmond's dreadful death, taken in conjunction
with the terrible accusation against his cousin, and the fact that he
himself had been called upon to give evidence at the inquest, was
considered by the gossips of the little town amply sufficient to
account for Mr. St. George's illness. It was to be hoped that his
health would be restored before the day appointed for his cousin's
trial, he being one of the chief witnesses who would be called on that
important occasion.

Tom Bristow was obliged to confess himself beaten, as Mr. Hoskyns had
been beaten before him. There was a mystery about the case which he
was totally unable to fathom. His conviction of his friend's innocence
never wavered for a single moment, and yet when he asked himself: How
came the jet stud into Osmond's hand? How came the stains on Dering's
shirt? he felt himself utterly unable to suggest any answer that would
satisfy his own reason, or that would be likely to satisfy the reason
of a judge and jury. It was very easy to say that Dering must be the
victim of some foul conspiracy, but unless some proof, however faint,
could be advanced of the existence of some such plot, his assertion
would go for nothing, or merely be set down as the unwarranted
utterance of a too partial friend.

Tom had not been half an hour in Lionel's company before he knew all
about his friend's marriage, and next day he called on Edith with a
note of introduction from her husband. Edith had beard so much, at
different times, about Bristow, that she welcomed him with unfeigned
gladness, and he, on his side, was deeply impressed with the sweet
earnestness and womanly tenderness of her disposition. He was not long
in perceiving that Edith altogether failed to realize the full measure
of her husband's danger. She talked as if his acquittal were a matter
that admitted of no dispute; and on one occasion, Tom found her busy
sketching out the plan of a Continental tour for Lionel and herself on
which they were to start the day after the trial should be over. It
made Tom's heart ache to see how sanguine she was; but, as yet, the
necessity for undeceiving her had not arisen.

Mrs. Garside and Edith were living in quiet lodgings in a quiet part
of the town. They had brought one servant with them--Martha Vince by
name, from whom they had few or no secrets. Martha had been Edith's
nurse, and had lived with her ever since, and hoped to stay with her
till she died. To the world at large she seemed nothing more than a
shrewd, hard-working, money-saving woman; but Edith knew well the
faithful and affectionate heart that beat behind the plain exterior of
Martha Vince.

The life led by the two ladies was necessarily a very lonely one, and
they had no wish that it should be otherwise. They never went out,
except to the prison, or to take a walk for health's sake through the
quiet fields at the back of the town. They were always closely veiled
when they went abroad, and to the people of Duxley their features
were absolutely unknown. Mr. Hoskyns and Tom were their only
visitors--their only friends in those dark hours of adversity.

"I am going to make a very singular request to-day," said Tom one
afternoon, when he called to see the ladies as usual. "It is to ask
you to give up these very comfortable rooms and transfer yourselves
and baggage to Alder Cottage, a pleasant little furnished house, not
more than half a mile from here, which just now happens to be to let."

"But my dear Mr. Bristow--" began Mrs. Garside.

"One moment, my dear Mrs. Garside," interrupted Tom. "I have another
request to make: that you will not at present ask me my reasons for
counselling this removal. You shall have them in a week or ten days
without asking. Can you trust me till then?"

"Implicitly," answered Edith, with fervour. "When may we go and view
our new home?"

"Now--to-morrow--any time. Only take the cottage, and don't be more
than a week before you are installed there."

They were installed there in less than a week, despite Mrs. Garside's
mild protestations that she couldn't, for the life of her, understand
why that strange Mr. Bristow should want them to give up their
comfortable apartments for a dull old house that looked for all the
world as if it were haunted, and was built in such an out-of-the way
place that to live there was really very little better than being
buried alive. But Edith's faith in Tom was not to be shaken. She felt
sure that he would not have asked them to take up their quarters in
Alder Cottage without having good reasons for proposing such a
removal. What those reasons were she was naturally somewhat anxious to
know, but she hid her impatience from Tom, and waited with smiling
resignation till it should please him to tell her the secret which she
felt sure was lying perdu in his brain. That there was a secret she
could not doubt, because Tom had stipulated that she should not even
hint to Lionel that the change of residence had been instigated by
him.

Tom was not at all like his usual self about this time. He was
restless and uneasy, and seemed to have lost all relish for the
ordinary avocations of his everyday life. There were days when he
seemed as if he would give anything to get away from the company of
his own thoughts, when he would hunt up some acquaintances of former
years, whom he would invite to his rooms, and keep there with pressing
hospitality till far into the small hours of morning. At other times
he would lie on the sofa for hours together, brooding in darkness and
solitude; and his landlady, going in about midnight with a light,
would find him lying there, broad awake, with a look in his eyes which
told her that his thoughts were far away.

Strange to say, the person whom Tom Bristow most frequently invited to
his rooms was Jabez Creede, Mr. Hoskyns' dissipated clerk. As already
stated, Tom had known Creede when he himself was a youth in the same
office, but the two men were so dissimilar in every respect that that
of itself did not seem sufficient to account for the intimacy which
now existed between them--an intimacy which was evidently of Tom's own
seeking.

Creede, whose life seemed to be one chronic round of debt and
dissipation, would have been friendly with anybody who would have used
him as Tom used him--who would have played cribbage with him so badly
that he, Creede, always rose from the table a winner; and who would
have treated him to unlimited supplies of tobacco, and innumerable
glasses of Irish whiskey, hot and strong.

Tom would never allow Creede to leave his rooms till he was
intoxicated, not that the latter ever seemed particularly anxious to
go before that happy consummation was arrived at. But Tom was so
abstemious a mortal himself that the fact of his encouraging Creede to
drink to excess was somewhat singular. "What a beast the fellow is!"
he muttered, as he watched Creede go staggering down the street after
one of their evenings together. "But he will answer my purpose better
than any one else I could have chosen."

During the three weeks preceding Lionel's trial, Tom went to London
about half-a-dozen times. He used to go up in the morning and come
back in the evening. One morning he called at Alder Cottage on his way
to the railway station. "I'm going up to town to-day," he said, "and
while there I mean to buy and send you a certain article of
furniture."

"Very thoughtful on your part, Mr. Bristow," said Edith with a smile.
"But would you mind telling me what the article in question is?"

"It is a mahogany wardrobe, and it has been made to fit into the
recess in your dressing-room."

"But I am not in want of a wardrobe, whether made of mahogany or any
other wood," said Edith, with a puzzled look.

"That doesn't matter in the least. I shall buy it and send it all the
same. The fact is I ordered it when I was in London a fortnight ago. I
got Martha Vince to give me the measurement of the recess in which I
want it to be fixed."

Edith was mystified, but she had such implicit faith in Tom that she
never demurred at anything he either said or did.

Two days later the wardrobe arrived. Tom in person had superintended
its removal from the truck to the van at the railway station, and he
was at Alder Cottage to receive it. The porters, by Tom's
instructions, carried it as far as the landing upstairs, and there
left it.

"It now remains to be unpacked," said Tom, "and then Martha and I,
with Mrs. Dering's permission, will try to fix it in the corner it is
intended to occupy."

"But why not have kept the railway men to unpack and fix it?" asked
Mrs. Garside.

"Because there is a little secret connected with this wardrobe,"
answered Tom, "of which we four alone must possess the key."

"I like secrets," said Mrs. Garside. "It is so delightful to know
something that nobody else knows."

So the wardrobe was unpacked, and proved to be a very handsome and
substantial piece of furniture indeed. It tested their united strength
to move it into the position it was to occupy, but when once there
they found that it fitted the recess exactly.

"Now for the secret!" said Mrs. Garside, as she sat down panting on a
chair.

"Suppose we adjourn downstairs," said Tom. "I have much to say to
you."

His tone was very grave. The colour faded out of Edith's cheeks as he
spoke. Her sensitive heart took alarm in a moment.

As soon as Mrs. Garside, Edith, and Tom had entered the parlour,
Martha Vince discreetly shut the door upon them, and went back to her
work in the kitchen.

"First of all," began Tom, "I must ask whether your servant, Martha
Vince, has your entire confidence."

"My full and entire confidence," answered Edith, without a minute's
hesitation. "There is no more faithful creature breathing."

"My own idea of her exactly," said Tom.

"Such being the case, it would be as well that she should hear what I
have to say to you."

So the bell was rung, and Martha was summoned to join the consultation
in the parlour.

"Some of my proceedings must have appeared very strange to you, Mrs.
Dering," said Tom, addressing himself to Edith. "If, at times, I have
seemed over-intrusive, I must claim your forgiveness on the score of
my thorough disinterestedness. In all that I have done, I have been
actuated by one motive only: that motive was the welfare of my dear
friend, Lionel Dering."

"I believe you, from my heart," said Edith, earnestly. "But indeed, no
such apology was needed--no apology at all."

Mrs. Garside coughed a dubious little cough. Really, that strange Mr.
Bristow was more strange than usual this afternoon.

"In all the affairs of this life," went on Tom, "it is best never to
expect too much: it is good to be prepared to face the worst."

"Ah!" said Edith, with a quivering, long-drawn sigh, "now I begin to
understand you."

"The day fixed for Dering's trial is at hand: the weight of evidence
against him is terribly strong: no human being can say what the result
may be." He spoke very slowly and very gravely, and the faces of his
listeners blanched as they heard him.

"And I--heaven help me!" faltered Edith, "was foolish enough to think
that, because he is innocent, he could not fail to be acquitted!"

"Of his innocence we are all perfectly satisfied. But the jury will
also have to be satisfied of it. And therein lies the difficulty.
Unless some strong evidence in his favour be forthcoming at the trial,
it is just possible--mind, I only say just possible--that--that--in
short, that it may go somewhat hard with him."

"My darling child, this is indeed a dreadful revelation!" sobbed Mrs.
Garside.

But Edith neither sobbed nor spoke. She sat perfectly still, with
white, drawn face, and with staring, horror-full eyes, that, gazing
through the wide-open window, far away into the peaceful evening sky,
seemed to see there some terrible vision of doom, unseen of all the
others.

"Oh dear! dear!" cried Mrs. Garside, "what a pity it is that you would
insist on getting married!"

The words roused Edith from her waking trance. "I thank heaven doubly
now that I was enabled to become the wife of Lionel Dering! If--if I
must indeed lose him, he will still be mine beyond the grave. Our
parting will not be for long. We shall----" She could say no more. She
rose hastily, and went to the window, and stood there till her
composure had in some measure come back to her.

"You have something more to tell me, Mr. Bristow," she said, as she
went back to her chair after a little while.

"How sorry I am to have distressed you so much!" said Tom, with real
feeling.

"Do not speak of that now, please. You have told me the truth, and I
am grateful to you for it. I have been living too long in a fool's
paradise."

"But you must not give way to despair. Dering's case is by no means a
hopeless one, and I should not have said what I have said to you this
afternoon, had I not been compelled to do so by another and a most
important reason."

Edith looked at him rather wearily, as if anything that he might now
say could have only the faintest possible interest for her.

"As I said before," resumed Tom, "it is always wise to prepare for the
worst, although that worst may possibly never come. And this was the
object I had in view, firstly, when I induced you to leave your
lodgings in Duxley and come to live in this lonely little house; and,
secondly, when I had that piece of furniture made for you which we
have just unpacked upstairs."

Edith's attention was keen enough now. "You speak in parables!" she
said with pitiful eagerness.

"In one moment I will enlighten you," said Tom. He leaned forward and
spoke slowly and impressively, so that every word might be heard by
his three auditors. "If I find that the result of the trial is likely
to be adverse to Lionel Daring, it is my fixed intention to assist him
to escape from prison, and to hide him from pursuit in this very
house!"

Mrs. Garside and Martha sat staring at Tom when he had done speaking
as though they believed him to be mad. Edith's heart gave a great sob
in which hope, and joy, and fear were commingled.

"The first thing was to get you out of lodgings," resumed Tom. "While
you were there, it would have been impossible for you to hide anybody.
Fortunately, this house was to let. It is secluded, and not overlooked
from the windows of any other house, and consequently admirably
adapted for the purpose I have in view. But in the house itself it was
necessary to find some special hiding-place--some nook that would be
safe from the prying eyes of the most acute and experienced police
officer. Many were the hours I spent in cogitating over one scheme
after another. The result was that I could think of no safer place in
which to hide an escaped prisoner than my mahogany wardrobe."

"Hide him in a wardrobe!" exclaimed Mrs. Garside, in dismay. "Why,
that would be one of the first places a police officer would look
into."

"Precisely so," said Tom. "He might look into it a dozen times if he
liked, and still he should not see all that it held. But we will go
upstairs again, and the mystery shall be elucidated."

So they went upstairs again to Edith's dressing-room, and Tom flung
wide open the doors of the wardrobe. The ladies had seen similar
articles of furniture scores of times before, and this one seemed in
nowise different from any other. There was a shelf near the top; and
below the shelf were the usual pegs on which to hang articles of
clothing: and that was all. Disappointment was plainly visible on
every face.

Tom smiled, and gave one of the brass pegs a downward pull. As he did
so, they could hear the click of a little bolt as it shot back into
its socket. Then the back of the wardrobe, from the shelf downwards,
yielding to Tom's hand, opened slowly outwards on hidden hinges,
disclosing, as it did so, a space sufficiently large for a man to
stand upright in between itself--when shut--and the real back.

In order to illustrate thoroughly the use to which it was intended to
put it, Tom stepped into the recess, and pulling the false back
towards him, shut himself in. Seeing the wardrobe thus, no one would
ever have suspected that anything was hidden in it. By pulling a ring,
the person inside could open the door of his temporary prison, so that
any one could step in and out at will, and almost as easily as if were
simply going out of one room into another. Tom then explained the
mechanism of the wardrobe, so that there could be no possible mistake
should the necessity for using it ever arise. The recess in which the
wardrobe stood was a very deep one, and this it was which had first
given him the idea of utilizing it in the way described.

"This is the place in which I intend to hide Lionel Dering," said Tom,
as he shut the wardrobe doors, "should his innocence not be proved at
his trial, and should I succeed in effecting his escape from Duxley
gaol."

"But about his escape," said Mrs. Garside. "May I ask----" and then she
stopped.

"Don't ask me anything at present, my dear madam," said Tom. "My
scheme is hardly clear to my own mind as yet." Then, turning to Edith,
he added, "But for all that, I hope that a day or two more will see it
thoroughly perfected. Time enough then to trouble you with whatever
other details it may be necessary for you to know."

"Some people say that the grand old days when Friendship was something
more than an empty name are dead and gone for ever. I will never
believe them when they tell me so in time to come."

So spoke Edith to Tom as they stood together for a moment at the door
ere the latter took his leave.

"Dering saved my life," answered Tom, simply. "But for his brave
heart, and his strong arm, the hand you now clasp in yours, and the
body to which it belongs, would be mouldering at the bottom of the
sea, or else have been buried by strangers in some nameless grave. Can
such a service be readily forgotten?"

As Tom was walking through the town towards his lodgings he overtook
Hoskyns. They walked down the street together, talking about the
trial, which was fixed for the following Monday. Mr. Baldry, the wine
and spirit merchant, was standing at the door of his counting-house as
they approached. Judging from the appearance of Mr. Baldry's face,
most people would have concluded that he was rather too fond of his
own stock in trade, and most people would have been right in their
supposition. Hoskyns stopped to speak to him, and proffered his
snuff-box as usual. Tom nodded to him.

"You can send me another dozen of that claret--the same as the last,"
said Hoskyns. "That is if you, have any of it left in stock."

"I'll make an effort to find enough for an old friend," said Baldry,
facetiously. "By-the-by," he added, "since how long a time is it that
you have taken to rambling by moonlight along lonely country roads
after ten o'clock at night?"

"I have not the remotest idea, Baldry, what you are talking about,"
said Hoskyns, little stiffly.

"Oh, come now, among old friends that won't do, you know. Whether
you're in love or not is best known to yourself: But it certainly did
strike me as something out of the common way to see you walking all
alone, between ten and eleven last night, under the lime trees on the
Thornfield road."

"You speak in riddles," said Hoskyns. "I have not set foot on the
Thornfield road for months."

Baldry stared at the lawyer, then rubbed his eyes, and then stared
again. "Draw it mild, old friend," he said quietly. "Don't think for
one moment that I want to pry into your private affairs, but I
certainly thought there was no harm in my mentioning where I met you
last night, especially as you seemed to make no secret of it yourself."

"I tell you again that I don't understand what you are driving at,"
said Hoskyns, testily. "I tell you again that I have not set foot on
the Thornfield road for months."

"Look here," said Baldry, and an angry flush overspread his face,
making it redder than before, "do you mean to stand there and tell me
in cold blood that you didn't stop me on the Thornfield road last
night, as I was driving home between ten and eleven? That you didn't
shout out to me, 'Hullo, Baldry, is that you, old boy?' That I didn't
stop the mare for five minutes, while we talked about the weather and
such like? That you didn't offer me your box, and that I didn't take
out of it a pinch of that identical snuff which nobody but you in all
Duxley makes use of? Do you mean to stand there and tell me all that?"

"Baldry," said Hoskyns, "for you to make such a statement as that is
to prove that last night you must have been either crazy or drunk.
Last night I never left the house after eight o'clock: as my servant
could certify on oath. And as for the Thornfield road, I tell you once
more that I have not set foot on it since last Christmas."

"Ned," shouted Baldry to some one inside, "come you here a minute."

The summons was responded to by a yellow-haired youth of sixteen.

"At what hour did I reach home last night?" asked Baldry.

"The clock had just struck eleven as you drove into the yard,"
answered Ned.

"Did I tell you, or did I not, that I had stopped and spoken to some
one a few minutes previously?"

"You said that you had just parted from Lawyer Hoskyns. That you had
had five minutes' talk with him, and a pinch out of his box," answered
the lad without a moment's hesitation.

"There! what did I tell you?" said Baldry, triumphantly.

"Baldry, I give you my word of honour," said Hoskyns, "that I was not
out of the house after eight o'clock, and that I never met you
yesterday at all--indeed, I've not seen you to speak to you for nearly
a week."

"Evidently a case of mistaken identity," said Tom.

"Mistaken identity be hanged!" said the irate wine merchant. "How
about the snuff-box? Could I be mistaken in that? Not likely. No--no.
I respect old friends, but I'll take the evidence of my own senses in
preference to any man's word, however long I've known him." And with
these words, Baldry retired into the recesses of his counting-house,
and shut the door behind him with a bang.

Hoskyns and Tom resumed their walk down the street.

"An extraordinary circumstance, very," said the lawyer. "I am quite at
a loss how to explain it."

"Baldry was always noted as being fond of his own spirits, wasn't he?"
asked Tom.

"He was indeed, poor man: and I am afraid the habit clings to him
still. He must have been in liquor last evening. That is the only way
in which I can account for his hallucination."



END OF VOL. I.



-----------------------------------
BILLING, PRINTER, GUILDFORD, SURREY





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