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Title: The Mysteries and Miseries of San Francisco - Showing up all the various characters and notabilities, - (both in high and low life) that have figured in San - Franciso since its settlement.
Author: Californian
Language: English
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              THE MYSTERIES AND MISERIES OF SAN FRANCISCO.



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



                                  THE

                         MYSTERIES AND MISERIES

                                   OF

                             SAN FRANCISCO.

                           BY A CALIFORNIAN.

 SHOWING UP ALL THE VARIOUS CHARACTERS AND NOTABILITIES, (BOTH IN HIGH
            AND LOW LIFE) THAT HAVE FIGURED IN SAN FRANCISCO
                         SINCE ITS SETTLEMENT.


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


                               NEW-YORK:

                       GARRETT & CO., PUBLISHERS,

                           NO. 18 ANN-STREET.


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



        Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1853, by

                              GARRETT & CO.,

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



                                  THE
                         MYSTERIES AND MISERIES

                                   OF

                             SAN FRANCISCO.



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



                               CHAPTER I

                    The Alarm—The Flames—The Ladder.


San Francisco, on the marge of the sea, with towering hills behind her,
lay basking in the sun like a serpent by the side of a rock.

The dwellings of the more fortunate classes loomed pleasantly on the
side of the large round hills in the distance, and might with the aid of
a little fancy, have been metamorphosed into the castellated domains of
the feudal barons whose reign succeeded that of absolute barbarism in
Europe. Those quiet dwellings amid the solitude of nature, present a
vivid contrast to the stirring scenes of the town below, and accordingly
all who possess taste and the means of gratifying it, rear a building
among the hills to which they can retire, after the fatigues of the day,
and solace themselves with the comforts of domestic retiracy, and the
grand simplicity of nature.

In giving a _coup d’œil_ at the scene, from the city itself, one is
struck by the pointed roof rising above a range of hills which lie to
the south west of the noble harbor, and which crowns a dark pile that,
on a nearer approach, seems to lean against the side of a mountain upon
whose peak linger the last beams of the setting sun. This extensive
edifice is the dwelling or homestead of the wealthy and far-famed Senor
de Castro, an old resident of the country, and one of the proudest of
the ancient lords of the soil. His horses are the best, his table the
most sumptuous, and his servants the most numerous of any ranchero in
the regions round about California.

It was early on one afternoon in June, 18—, that several young men,
mostly Americans, were conversing around a table in one of the principle
Cafes in the young city of San Francisco; a stout robust man nearly
forty years of age, and dressed partly in the English style and partly
in that of the country, with leggings and heavy blunt spurs, and a red
sash about his middle, was discussing the merit of the auguadent sold in
Santiago, a city of Chile, and having become very eloquent on this
important topic, he set down his glass upon the table so violently as to
shatter it to atoms.

‘Give me your good old-fashioned horn tumbler,’ cried he, with an oath,
‘and leave these baby-toys to the women and children!’

‘You like to take your liquor in a horn?’ said a young American clerk to
a provision dealer, ‘now I prefer a glass, if it were only for the
cleanliness of the thing,

                           Yes, by the mass!
                           Give me a glass
                           To toast a lass,
                       In horns should never be,
                           Remembered when
                           We married men
                       Quaff denty or chee chee.’

‘You married men!’ exclaimed the stouter disputant, laughing.

‘A marriage extempore,’ muttered a saturnine young American, with an
enormous head of black hair. ‘When are you going to send that little
girl back to her mother?’

‘Silence, Pothook!’ cried the other, ‘you know that you would have given
all the old shoes in your locker to have got one smile from her,
yourself—’

‘Yes, envious Pothook,’ cried another youth, whose accent betrayed the
Cockney, ‘if Cardwell has a notion to settle down in the calm of
domestic life, and—’

‘Settle! Ten thousand blunderbusses!’ laughed the stout man, ‘When did
you ever know Cardwell to settle anything but his grog bills—them’s the
settlements he is most accustomed to.’

‘But I mean,’ added the Cockney; ‘that he is not running around after
every pretty face like—like some people, always excepting the present
honorable company, as a matter of course.’

‘Oh! of course!’ said Pothook feelingly.

‘Yet,’ remarked a tall, pale young man, who seemed to have recovered
from some dangerous illness—‘Yet, let me tell you that Cardwell is not
so innocent after all, as he seems to be. I saw him, the other day,
stand for half an hour, looking up at a certain house in Clay street
with all the eyes in his head, and meaning no offence to the gentleman,
I don’t by any manner of means dispute his taste.’

‘Oh! the young villain!’ cried the stout man, roaring with laughter.

In the midst of his jollity and noisy vociferations, a young fellow from
‘the States’ who had been silent until then, demurely asked—‘Do any of
you know what is good for rats?’

This made the stout man laugh still louder—‘You had better inquire what
is _bad_ for rats,’ said he at length; ‘for to judge by their sleek
hides and plump bellies, I should think they had already had enough that
was good and wholesome—perdition catch the born devils! Last night,
about an hour before morning—’ the speaker stopped, as the sound of a
bell rang violently, and the cry of ‘fire’ at once arose in the streets.

‘Never mind, go on!’ said the Cockney.

‘Never mind the bell,’ said Cardwell. ‘We can’t be disturbed in our
pleasures by these domestic affairs.’

‘Why, by the noise,’ said the stout man, ‘it would appear that there was
a polite invitation given to all citizens that their presence might be
required in the adjoining streets, and as the wind is coming up fresh—’

‘There is no time to be lost, my good fellows!’ cried a tall, elegantly
formed youth, rushing into the apartment from an adjoining room. ‘Half
the city is in flames!’

So saying, the youth hastened away, followed by the revellers.

The whole town was in an uproar. As they gained the street, they were
met by the strong sea breeze that filled the air with dust, and
betokened no good to those whose property was at that moment encircled
by the flames.

The Sansome Truck Company, with their hooks and ladders, were rushing
by, their scarlet coats powdered with dust, and making the welkin ring
with their shouts. The elegant youth of whom we have spoken was one of
the first that reached the fire. Already was the house of Senor del
Castro completely enveloped by sheets of flame, and from the windows of
some of the adjoining buildings the streams of fire darted forth, and
moved swiftly off toward the South on the wings of the gale.

Several persons, among whom were Cardwell, and the stout man of the
cafe, busied themselves in tearing up the planks in the immediate
vicinity of the conflagration, for the streets being laid down with
plank, instead of stones, aid greatly in the spread of the flames. The
firemen had brought streams of water to bear on the principal building,
when suddenly there appeared at an upper window, a fair and youthful
female form, evidently belonging to one of the higher classes of the
country, whose dark hair fell in rich masses about her shoulders, and
partly concealed a face in which the snow and the rose contended for
mastery.

For an instant every one paused in astonishment, nor was her
overmastering beauty unheeded in that moment of fearful excitement; for
the cry that a woman was in the house now rose shrilly on the air, and
was echoed in every street in the city. The ladders were hurried to the
spot by men frantic in their haste to save so fair a specimen of
mortality from a dreadful death, while the object of all this interest,
the lovely cause of the wild confusion that pervaded the masses below,
simply placed one little white hand to her eyes as if to shut out the
sight of the surrounding horrors, and steadied herself with the other by
placing it on the sill of the window.

In the moment that the ladder was placed against the side of the house,
a shrill cry was heard in the rear of the firemen, and a stately form
was seen forcing itself through the throng with giant strides, and
thrusting aside everybody and everything which opposed its progress. One
glance was sufficient to convince the spectators that the father of the
imperilled girl was rushing to her rescue. His hat was gone, and his
dark but silvered locks floated on the breeze, the sweat stood in beads
upon his broad forehead, and his face, though bearded and mustachioed
according to the custom of the country, was pale with anxiety and
horror.

‘Oh, for the love of God!’ cried he, ‘my daughter! my daughter!’

As he reached the front of the building, the flames gushing from the
lower windows drove back the brave men who had charge of the ladder. The
Senor del Castro clasped his hands, and uttering a cry of despair, would
have rushed into the house, the lower part of which was completely
filled with flames. The stout man of the cafe threw himself upon the
distracted father, and by the timely aid of Cardwell and the Cockney,
succeeded in dragging him out of the reach of danger. But the fire
companies had not been idle while these events were transpiring. They
had brought the ladder to the building at another place. They had placed
it firmly against the side of the house, when a man, addressing an
officer of the Fire Department, exclaimed in a tone of despair, ‘Oh, my
God! Charley, the ladder is too short. It don’t reach anywhere near the
window!’

Quicker than thought, Charley placed himself in front of the window at
which the girl stood, and bade them place the feet of the ladder on his
shoulders. In an instant, this was done, one foot of the ladder resting
on each of his shoulders. The elegant youth of the cafe then sprang
forward—

‘That’s right, Monteagle,’ cried Charley, ‘climb right up by me and then
on the ladder; bring down the young lady or never live to tell of your
failure.’

But before these words had been fairly uttered, the daring youth was
half way up the ladder. All eyes were now fixed on the adventurer. For a
moment all seemed silent except the hysteric wailings of the anguished
father, and the awful roaring of the flames, as the wind swept through
every aperture of the building, and added ten-fold to the fury of the
conflagration.

Before Monteagle had reached the lower sill of the window, he was
discovered to be on fire; but at almost the same instant, a stream of
water from the pipe of an engine drenched him to the skin. Then both the
youth and the girl were entirely hidden from view by the rolling forth
of a dense volume of smoke streaked with flame. One cry—one general cry
of despair burst from the throng below, and the Senor, not doubting that
both his daughter and her deliverer had perished, gave a deep groan and
sunk senseless to the earth. But loud rose the voice of Charley upon the
air at the awful crisis—‘They are alive yet! Don’t be frightened, man, I
feel the weight of both of them on my shoulders, now—now—the ladder
shakes! they are coming down!’

Several men with large _ponchos_ were crowded around the bottom of the
ladder to smother the flames, in case the young lady should be on fire,
by wrapping her tightly in these ample garments, and they looked up on
hearing the cheerful exclamations of Charley. The feet and legs of a man
were discerned below the smoke that had enveloped the upper part of the
ladder, then the bottom of a lady’s robe, and finally the face of
Monteagle begrimed and blistered looked down upon the trembling
expectants. The head of the girl reclined on the shoulder of the gallant
youth, her black hair flowing down his back, while her arms hung
listless by his sides—she was in a state of insensibility.

As soon as Monteagle and his lovely burthen were within reach of the
multitude a dozen hands grasped them, and while the friends of the youth
bore him off on their shoulders to administer such healing remedies as
his case required, for a part of his hair—his heavy brown locks—was
burnt off, and a blister on his forehead showed too plainly that a
moment longer would have consigned both the young lady and her deliverer
to the realm from which no returning spirit has come back to describe
the final parting of the soul from its material envelope.

The girl herself was carried to the arms of her father, who, just
awaking from his swoon, cried in a gasping voice ‘Inez! Inez! where is
my Inez?’ and plucking a sharp-pointed dagger from his breast, he was
about to end his agony by thrusting it to the hilt in his heart. Quicker
than lightning, the man who was called Charley grasped the wrist of the
desperate man, and holding it like a vice in his stalwart grasp, pointed
with the other hand to the girl, and said in his rough masculine voice:

‘None of that! If I’d thought you would take it so hard that we had
saved your daughter’s life, but we would have—no, not that exactly, for
she’s worth saving on her own account!’

While Charley was delivering this speech, the cinders were raining down
on his head, and he shook them off as a lion would have shaken great
flies from his forehead, but others were not so insensible to a shower
of fire-brands, and the Senor was dragged farther from the scene of
ruin.

When the Senor perceived that his Inez was really by his side, he gave
vent to the most extravagant exclamations of joy. Rushing to the Chief
Engineer, whom he supposed to be the savior of his child, he clasped the
sturdy fireman in his arms, called him every name that is flattering to
the pride of man, emptied his pockets of all his gold, and tried to
force into his hands a precious ring that he wore on his finger, and
which was said to contain a diamond of great value. Charley said that
his duty called him elsewhere, and we next saw him plunging into the
thickest of the throng to bring up his forces to the principal point of
attack, and to expedite the tearing up of the planks on the street, for
they had become thoroughly ignited in some places, and the flames were
marching through the slight wooden buildings of the town with the
imperious step of a conqueror.

No sooner had the young lady recovered consciousness, than she raised
herself to her feet, and looked anxiously on every side as if in search
of some object which she could not find.

‘Here comes your father,’ said Cardwell, who had been the most officious
in bearing off the girl to a place of safety, and applying cold water
and other restoratives to her face and temples.

Inez took the hand of her father, but still her eyes wandered through
the throng as if seeking another, and while she was led away by the old
Senor, she walked listlessly and thoughtfully, as if something pressed
heavily upon her mind.

By this time every gambling-house, every drinking shop, every pulperie,
and every thieving den had poured out its crowds upon the streets of San
Francisco, and a vast proportion of the inhabitants of the city were
thronging around the scene of conflagration. Here was a gang of thieves,
pretending to be very officious in removing the goods from a store-house
that had just kindled, while the eager glancing of their eyes, and the
half-shy, half-brazen way they shouted to each other, by way of
encouragement to preserve and to hasten the work, sufficiently denoted
that they had come to purloin whenever an opportunity offered, and that
their zeal was merely intended to blind the eyes of others, and lull
suspicion in regard to their ulterior purposes; and it would seem that
no lack of opportunity was here, for such was the excitement, such was
the confusion, the tumbling of men upon others, the running hither and
thither, the cries of alarm and distress, the shriek of the wind, and
the roaring of the flames as they went leaping, darting, and whirling
from house to house, from corner to corner, and from street to street,
that the cautious thief whose heart was marbled against human
sufferings, and thought only of turning the disasters of others to his
own advantage, might carry on his nefarious trade with almost as much
impunity as that of the burrowing mole, who treasures his stolen grain
under the earth while the plain above is rent by the tempest’s fury.

Yet, even in the general whirl of reason and reflection attendant upon
these rapid conflagrations, there sometimes chances to be an eye
unengaged for a moment which may light upon the plunderer in the very
nick of time, and when least expected by himself. Such was the case now,
just as the flames had reached Montgomery street, and were reaching
forth their long red tongues towards the pile of stores on Jackson
street, the Cockney mentioned at the commencement of this narrative saw
a fellow hugging to his bosom a little iron safe, and stealthily
escaping under cover of the smoke, along the street towards the harbor.

He raised the cry of ‘_Stop thief! Picaroon! Coquin!_’ and in as many
other languages as he could bring to his aid, he gave the alarm to such
individuals as were within the reach of his voice. The merchants
themselves who were near the spot, joined in the chase, and in less than
two minutes more than a hundred persons were at the heels of the man
with the safe. He headed directly for the water, and had nearly reached
it, when a couple of Chinamen in blue nankeens threw themselves across
his path. The desperate wretch dashed the iron safe into the face of one
of them, still retaining hold of it, however, and he fell covered with
blood, and then, with one hand, the thief grasped the long cue of the
other and jerked him to the ground. He then darted forward again,
leaving the two disastered Fee-fo-fums sitting upright in the middle of
the street, and uttering the most doleful lamentations. Amain the crowd
came sweeping down to the water’s edge, tumbling the two Chinamen over
and over, who cried out most piteously while rolling in the dust under
the feet of the pursuers. The thief perceiving no way of escape on the
land, sprang into a skiff and pushed off from the shore. For a moment,
his foes stood panting on the shore like baffled tigers, eyeing the man
as with two small oars he ploughed through the waves and receded farther
and farther from the strand. At length a loud hail was heard from a
point farther down, some three hundred yards from the spot where the
pursuers were clustered, and on turning their eyes in that direction,
the crowd beheld a slender but well-formed youth tugging at a heavy
boat, which lay partly on the shore and partly in the water, and vainly
endeavoring to get it afloat.

With a yell that rang on the air like the onset cry of a troop of wild
Indians, the whole body of pursuers ran towards the boat.

‘Hah! Monteagle, is that you?’ cried our Cockney, who arrived first at
the spot—‘It was I who gave the alarm! How much is there in the safe?’
‘That is best known to my employers,’ returned Monteagle evasively,
‘enough, you may be sure, to warrant the most vigorous endeavors in
getting it into our hands. Those who take the thief will be well
rewarded.’

‘Come then! heave O! heave, ahoi!’ cried three or four lusty fellows who
had now come up, and applied their shoulders to the boat in good
earnest. It began to move, and as it finally slid roaring into the
waves, Monteagle, and a dozen others leaped on board. A few strokes of
their long oars cleared them from the beach and gave free play to their
motions as they sunk the blades of their oars deep into the brine, and
threw themselves far back at every stroke; a movement which to the
practised eye of the mariner at once announced that whatever experience
they might previously have had in this line, was not in the service of
the nation, but had been acquired in the pursuit of that marvellous fish
which swallowed Jonah.

The winds were unusually violent that afternoon, and the water was very
rough. This circumstance was much in favor of the large boat, and
although the robber was a powerful man, and exerted his utmost, yet his
pursuers continually gained upon him. He was obliged to stop a few
moments to bail out his skiff, using one of his boots for that purpose;
and this fact at once convinced Monteagle and his men that he labored
under great disadvantages in a sharp, combing sea such as was then
driving into the harbor before the screaming gale. The thief himself
seemed to give up all hope of escape and relaxed his efforts, no doubt
husbanding his strength for exertions of a different character.

‘Now, my brave fellows,’ cried Monteagle, ‘lay back and give it to her!
do your prettiest and you can make the old barge hum, and we’ll soon
come up with that picaroon yonder; and understand that I am authorized
to promise a high reward.’

‘Oh, never mind the reward,’ interrupted a stout Irishman,
magnanimously. ‘It’s for the pure honor of the thing that we are
working, sure, and to support the laws.’

‘Yes, to support the laws!’ cried a short, stout, red-faced fellow, of
such equivocal appearance, that one might have taken him for a beardless
youth or a man of sixty years, for a native or a foreigner, a cunning
knave or a natural fool. He carried an enormous head on his broad round
shoulders, upon which were only a few scattering hemp-like hairs, but
his cheeks were fat and smooth, and his eyes always seemed ready to roll
out of their sockets.

‘Yes, to support the laws!’ said the strange being, in a smothered tone
that seemed to proceed from the bottom of the abdomen, while his heavy
goggle eyes seemed to be thinking of something altogether foreign from
the subject, and the continual working of his enormous mouth led
Monteagle to say to himself that the fellow was ‘chewing the cud of
sweet and bitter fancy.’

But now they were within two oars’ length of the villain in the skiff,
when the latter ceased rowing, and starting upon his feet, brandished
one of his oars in the air as if it had been the mace of an ancient
knight, and shrieked out in a tone of fury, that he ‘would dash in the
skull of any man that laid a flipper on him!’

As Monteagle stood up in the head of the boat, this threat might be
considered a matter more directly appertaining to himself than to any
other person present. Yet, every one uttered a shout of defiance, and
half a dozen strokes brought the barge up to the skiff. The head of the
large boat struck the skiff a-midships, square off and on, and for an
instant it seemed as if the latter would have turned bottom up. The
thief, however, balanced his boat well, at the same instant that he
struck a terrible blow with his oar at the head of Monteagle. The youth
evaded the falling oar, by jumping dexterously aside and, at the same
moment, drew a pistol from his breast. Before he could fire, he was
surprised by a powerful blow on the side of his head which came from
behind. Turning his head, he saw the big Irishman who had so gallantly
disclaimed all interested motives, with both fists double and ready to
repeat the blow which had nearly deprived him of recollection. This,
however, lasted but an instant, for all was confusion now. The Irishman
was choked down by an English cooper; the man with the big head and wide
mouth came to the aid of the Irishman, while the robber in the skiff
dashed his oar into the faces and brought it down lustily on the heads
and backs of his adversaries in the barge.

The diversion which had been made in favor of the robber, plainly
announced that the Irishman and the big head were accomplices of the
former, and had entered the barge and joined the pursuit in order to
render him efficient aid in time of need.

The fight became general. Big Head and the Irishman fully engaged the
attention of Monteagle and two men of the barge’s crew, while the
robber, determined not to be taken alive, fought with a desperation not
to be imagined by any who have never seen a man resolved upon death or
escape.

‘Blast me!’ cried the Cockney, ‘but these Sydney ducks are hatched out
in the wrong nest,’ as he received a kick in the face from Big Head
while the latter was struggling under a thwart and using both hands and
feet to defend himself against the loyal portion of the barge’s crew.
This melee had lasted some time, during which the pistol of Monteagle
had passed into the hands of the big Irishman, who falling a second time
from the effects of a chance blow dealt by his accomplice in the skiff,
pointed the weapon at Monteagle as he fell, and pulled the trigger. The
charge took effect on the youth; everything grew suddenly dark around
him, and he fell senseless into the bottom of the boat. The battle,
however, was still waged with relentless fury on both sides. The robber,
cheered by the hope of final victory, now sprang from his skiff into the
barge, and stamping on the head of Monteagle as he lay insensible under
the thwarts, he used his oar, now broken into a convenient shape and
size, about the heads of his enemies. To say that blood flowed, would be
nothing new, as there was scarcely a man in the boat who had not
received a wound already; but now heads and arms were broken; sometimes
Big Head and the Irishman were both down at a time, and then victory
seemed certain to the loyal party; then the former would be up again and
fighting desperately. But three men against eight or nine could not hold
out forever, and the big Irishman, at length, reeled and sank, overcome
by fatigue and loss of blood. Big Head was then silenced by a rap on the
skull with a tiller, and after a most desperate resistance, the robber
himself was bound hand and foot.

The crew then sat down to take breath, and next proceeded to wash the
blood from their faces. On their way to the shore they were met by
another boat that had put off to their assistance, and in her was
recognized Mr. Vandewater, one of the firm that had been robbed.

‘Where’s Monteagle?’ was the first inquiry of this gentleman as the two
boats met.

The boat’s crew started and looked about them, discovered the youth
lying senseless in the bottom of the boat. Smarting under their own
wounds, and hot with the late contest, they had entirely forgotten the
lad who led the charge. ‘Oh!’ said the Cockney, binding a handkerchief
about his scarred head, ‘I had like to have forgotten him, sir. It was
he that first got hold of the barge—I was the one that saw the thief
take the safe—I gave the first alarm, sir.’

Mr. Vandewater by this time held the head of young Monteagle on his
knee, and was examining into his condition, but, looking up a moment, he
replied to the Cockney,

‘And the safe, where is it?’

‘There, now,’ ejaculated the robber as he wiped the bloody foam from his
mouth against his shoulder, ‘what a fool I was that I didn’t cast the d—
thing into the drink, God! they’ll get it.’

Mr. Vandewater assisted in removing Monteagle to the other boat, and
telling the men in the barge to call in the morning at his house, he
told the rowers in his own yawl to pull for the skiff. The little bark
was soon reached, and the safe was found in its bottom. Mr. Vandewater
took possession of his property, and returned speedily to the shore with
Monteagle, whose situation, if he were indeed alive, required immediate
attention.

When the barge reached the landing, there was no lack of welcomers on
the beach, for the latter part of the battle in the boat had been
observed by many spectators. The robber, who had escaped injury better
than could have been expected, was handed out of the barge amid the
shouts of the populace, and taken possession of by the police; but,
strange as it may seem, the Irishman and Big Head were suffered to go
among their friends; perhaps it was judged by their appearance that they
had suffered punishment enough already.

The devastations of the fire had been wide and fearful. In an incredible
short time, a large portion of the city had been laid in ruins.—Houses
and streets had suffered alike, the planking of the thoroughfares
rendering them equally combustible with the buildings.

On the day succeeding these events, a pale youth, with a bandage about
his temples, lay in a darkened room some two miles from the town of San
Francisco, seeming to be asleep; and yet the almost marble whiteness of
the features might have led a casual spectator to suppose that the
coroner was required in his case, rather than the surgeon. The bed upon
which he lay, as well as the chaste elegance of the furniture about the
apartment, betokened that the master of the mansion had eminently been
successful in the general struggle for wealth, and also that he
possessed a liberal taste which enabled him to employ his means for the
embellishment as well as for the support of life. The windows of the
chamber looked out upon an extensive garden, nicely arranged and kept,
and romantically varied with rocks and underwood of natural growth. The
house itself was an elegant edifice standing on a hill-side, and
commanding a fine view of the surrounding country.


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



                               CHAPTER II

         The Breaking Heart—A Scene of Tenderness and Despair.


The pale slumberer lay perfectly still, and a close observer could
scarcely have perceived that he breathed. Thus had he lain a few
moments, when a side door slowly opened, and a fair feminine
countenance, a perfect blonde, surmounted with a profusion of flaxen
ringlets, was thrust gently into the apartment. Then the door opened
wider, and the symmetrical form of a young girl of seventeen years stood
in the aperture. She listened a moment, and then advanced one tiny foot
into the chamber; then the other; and finally she stood within the
apartment, but with the door left open behind her. There stood the
beautiful sylph trembling and pale, and sometimes looking back, as if
hesitating whether to proceed or return. At length she stept lightly
forward and fixed her eyes upon the countenance of the slumberer. She
instantly clasped her hands across her bosom, raised her large blue eyes
to heaven, and an expression of deep agony rested on those sunny
features, like a heavy thunder cloud passing over a beauteous landscape
in midsummer.

Her timidity seemed to have fled with the first glance that she had
bestowed upon the invalid. Turning her back towards him, she even
murmured aloud, ‘And all this he has suffered for the preservation of my
uncle’s property. Oh! why could he not have delegated that duty to
others more fitted for such rude work? Already had he performed a deed
sufficient to gild his name with perpetual glory—in saving an
accomplished—an—an—in saving human life; for it matters not who she was.
To save a life is enough, and at the risk of his own.’

She turned and looked once more at the sleeping youth; again she pressed
her hands against her heart, and, this time, she sighed deeply. A
footstep was heard in the passage way, approaching the door that opened
into the hall, and gliding through the one at which she had entered, the
young girl had retired, just as two other individuals entered the sick
chamber. One of those who now approached the couch of the invalid was a
tall, slender, middle-aged man, elegantly attired, and yet with a sort
of graceful negligence which drew the attention of the observer rather
to the manners and bearing of the gentleman himself, than to the garb in
which he was arrayed.

The other gentleman wore a plain suit of black, was of middling height,
with light hair and eyes, and probably thirty years of age.

‘Yes, doctor,’ said the latter gentleman, as they entered the room. ‘It
is as I tell you.’

‘But, sir,’ returned the other, ‘recollect the acquaintantship—female
timidity and the gentleness of the sex’s nature. To see one whom she had
so long known dangerously wounded, brought suddenly into the house, with
a mind unprepared; remember all the attendant circumstances, Mr.
Vandewater, and you will not be astonished that the poor girl exhibited
symptoms of agitation.’

‘Oh, yes, yes, my dear sir. Otherwise she would not be woman,’ replied
the merchant. ‘Agitation, sympathy, pity, all these were to be expected.
But, sir, she would have been frank in the expression of her sympathy if
all had been well. Instead of that, she strove to hide her concern. She
became as pale as chalk—as white as milk, sir; and moved off without
uttering a syllable, or making the least inquiry, and if my wife had not
followed her and supported her to her chamber, she would have fell
lifeless to the floor.’

‘His pulse is better,’ said the doctor, whose thoughts now ran in the
line of his profession, and who had taken the youth by the wrist. ‘He
will escape a fever—it was that I dreaded.’

‘And then her aunt has remarked her deportment while in the presence of
the young man.’

‘A fine constitution, sir. You must not throw him away—don’t give him up
yet. I think he will be restored to you, after all.’

‘She is the daughter of a beloved brother, whose death, some ten years
ago, occasioned me the most poignant distress, and I shall take care of
her as if she was my own child.’

‘You must not let him be disturbed, sir, and I will leave something to
be administered to him as soon as he wakes.’

‘I don’t think you heard my last observation, sir.’

‘Oh, yes—I heard, sir. You remarked that she was the daughter of your
esteemed brother: but, pray, sir, if the young people love one
another?—’

‘You don’t understand me, sir,’ was the quick _coup de parole_ of the
merchant. ‘I did not say that the young people loved each other.’

‘Ah! now I understand,’ said the surgeon, looking really concerned. ‘I
see—you wish to preserve your niece’s happiness, not to prevent it!’

‘Exactly, sir. There is not a man in the world to whom I would sooner
marry my niece, than to him who lies before you. Of unquestioned
integrity, candid, honorable, devoted to my interests, of elegant
manners, without being effeminate, humane as he is brave, well educated,
and of respectable parentage. I find no fault in Lorenzo Monteagle—none
at all, sir. But my niece shall be forced upon no man, sir. The king’s
son is not good enough for her, when it comes to that.’

‘But will he not, in time, admire Miss Julia, sir. It appears to me,
that if I were a bachelor—’

‘You shouldn’t have her if you were, sir—‘interrupted Vandewater with a
burst of laughter that made the wounded man start in his sleep, ‘would I
have a son-in-law or a nephew-in-law, think you, that carries about with
him such awful weapons—those horrible saws, gimlets, I know not what you
call them, I should never feel sure of my legs and arms one moment,
while he was in the house—ha! ha! ha!’

‘However that may be,’ said the other, ‘if I were a young swain like
your paragon here, I should deem my self but too happy to try to win a
smile from that fair niece of yours, and if you are really willing that
the match should take place—’

‘It will never be,’ returned the merchant, gravely interrupting the
surgeon—‘Monteagle is very fastidious, even in his friendship. He is a
singular young man. It must be a particular woman that strikes his
fancy, possessed of decided qualities; none of your pretty faces and
piano songs will steal away his heart. Of that I am too well assured.
More than one young lady has tried her utmost skill—’

‘But has the man no heart?’

‘So decidedly one that it must have a decided choice,’ cried the
merchant, ‘before it can consent to own itself the property of another.
He likes the society of ladies; but he does not prefer one to another. I
am persuaded that he has never seen the woman he can love. He has known
Julia more than two years, and has never treated her differently from
other women. But it matters not. So you think the young man is fairly
out of danger?’

‘It might be going too far to say so, sir—but I think he will recover. I
would not be afraid to stake a hundred ounces on the event.’

‘Glad to hear that. I don’t doubt your skill, Doctor, so let us walk
below and finish that old Madeira before it gets any sourer.’

After another brief examination of his patient, the surgeon followed Mr.
Vandewater down stairs; and in half an hour afterwards might have been
seen mounting his horse and winding over the hills and through the
valleys towards the town of San Francisco.

Several days had passed since the occurrence of the events mentioned
above, when on a fair morning, a pale youth sat in a recess at the
bottom of the merchant’s garden. A staff stood by his side, an evidence
that he was not yet able to walk without support, and his white
attenuated hands were pressed together in his lap, while his large blue
eyes, which looked nearly black when contrasted with his white brow,
were fixed upon some object in the distance. His gaze rested on the
dwelling place of Senor del Castro; but what were his reflections, we
cannot pretend to divine; nor was he long permitted to indulge them
without interruption.

From behind a cluster of bushes near, sailed out a figure in a white
dress, which floating gently towards the invalid, placed one hand upon
his arm, and caused him to turn suddenly towards her.

‘Mr. Monteagle, I’m glad to see you abroad once more. Oh! it looks so
much more natural to see you up and stirring, that it really reminds me
of old times.’

With a smile slightly sarcastic, the youth replied—‘I am but too happy
to be the cause of reviving pleasant reminiscences in the mind of Miss
Vandewater.’

A deep blush passed over the cheek and brow of the fair girl as she
replied: ‘You are very severe, sir. I will say then, in downright
English, since I must, that I am rejoiced to see you improved in health,
with a fair chance of recovery. Now, Mr. Critic, are you satisfied?’

‘Oh! no doubt I ought to be, since Miss Vandewater has used the commonly
approved phrase which custom has made necessary for all like occasions.’

‘Nay, then I will send Inez del Castro to you: no doubt she will do the
honors of the occasion better—at least her mode will be more _original_
than mine.’

Miss Vandewater uttered the latter part of the sentence in a quick,
hurried manner, and in spite of herself, delivered the word ‘original’
in a tone of considerable bitterness. The tears rose to her eyes, and
she blushed deeper than ever. It was plain that she would have given
much to recall her words and manner; but it was too late. The youth
looked down and sighed.

The young lady heard that sigh, and it seemed to restore her to all her
dignity. She lifted her head and shook back the flaxen curls from her
snowy brow. ‘I know that you are not acquainted with Inez, though
she—fainted in your arms! It was very romantic.’

Monteagle had great self-possession; but he was obliged to turn his face
partly aside to conceal an expression of surprise and sorrow at the
broad raillery into which the young lady suffered herself to be betrayed
by feelings too palpable to be mistaken. The many instances in which she
had evinced jealousy of any attention showed by Monteagle to other
ladies, had long since let him into the secret—if secret it could be
called.

‘Miss Vandewater,’ said he, at length, ‘I have seen the daughter of
Senor del Castro but twice in my life, and have spoken to her, but on
one occasion. When I stood at the top of the ladder enveloped in flame,
I asked her to trust herself in my arms, and without betraying any
affected delicacy, yet with great feminine dignity she placed her foot
on the ladder and reclined upon my shoulder.’

‘And did she say nothing?’

“She said, ‘thanks, thanks, generous American—my father will bless your
name at the altar of his God!’ It was all she said, and the next moment
the smoke stifled her, and she became insensible on my bosom.”

‘And, oh! Monteagle!’ cried Miss Vandewater, clasping her hands and
looking upwards, ‘we heard that you were nearly perishing in the
flames!’

As she uttered these words, the tears gushed from her eyes, and throwing
herself upon a rock near the feet of the invalid, she covered her face
with her hands and wept aloud at the recollection of that bitter moment.

‘Ungrateful wretch that I am, how unworthy of this more than sisterly
interest which she takes in my welfare!’ said Monteagle to himself, and
placing one of his hands upon the head of the unhappy girl, he said—‘Oh!
it was not so bad as that a stream of water soon removed all
inconveniences, and a very trifling burn was all that I suffered.’

The girl looked up, seized the hand that had been extended to her,
kissed it vehemently, and fled, blushing, to the house of her uncle.

‘If the sacrifice of my life could make her happy!’ ejaculated
Monteagle, brushing the tears from his eyes which he could no longer
restrain.


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



                              CHAPTER III

            The Dance House—The Bella Union—The Last Stake!


The night was dark in San Francisco—that city far away on the confines
of the Pacific. And far other scenes and other deeds are witnessed there
than it ever entered into the imagination of the dwellers on the
Atlantic sea-board to conceive of. Description is at fault; words cannot
paint the mingled web, and fancy has no colors sufficiently vivid to
depict the peculiar state of society in the newly-risen metropolis of
California. Naturalists describe the state of the world long before man
became a dweller upon the earth, and the fossils which they procure tell
of strange animals that once existed here unlike anything which the
world now presents.

In Pacific street—named after the ocean that rolls her floods to the
very doors of the Californian traders—there are several houses in which
congregate the lower class of ruffians and pleasure-seekers, where the
tamborene and fiddle are seldom allowed to rest, where the merry dance
is kept up the live-long night by men of all nations, all complexions,
and all professions. Here may be seen the Lascar, the Mulatto, the
Chilean, the Brazilian negro, the Nantucket whaleman, the escaped
convict from Botany Bay, the red-faced Englishman, the native of the
soil, the Mexican; and every other class and nation is here represented.
Men of standing, wealthy people here flock promiscuously with the lowest
classes of all countries.

It was in one of these dance halls, where the usual throng was engaged
in beating the floor with their feet to the tune of the most simple
instruments of music. Now a tall smooth fellow of jet blackness asked a
light-haired Yankee to touch glasses with him, while a little infirm man
in a blue nankeen jacket, who had once been the mate of a ship, could
find nothing better than to explain to a Chinese sailor, in one corner,
the way in which a Turk’s head-knot was made upon a rope. But for the
most part, boisterous mirth prevailed, some danced as if they had been
bitten by a tarantula, while others roared out snatches from such songs
as ears polite are not often saluted with.

Whatever was done was thoroughly done, done with a vengeance, without
restraint and without fear of disturbing the neighbors.

On the night which we have mentioned, the noise and confusion was
unusually great, the throng was more numerous than common from the fact
that one watch was on shore from a whaleship in the harbor, and they had
all blundered into this hall to drink and be merry.

‘Keep it up!’ cried one long-legged, broad-shouldered fellow, throwing
up one of his feet to the very wall and then dancing with a violence
that threatened to bring down the roof about his ears.

‘He’s a boatsteerer,’ said one of the ship boys—‘he’s great at striking
a whale,’ and he gazed with admiration on this specimen of Nantucket
enterprise.

‘Keep it up!’ shouted the boatsteerer making his long legs fly about the
room as if he was under the influence of a galvanic battery.

‘Keep it up!’ screamed he again, as he caught a short Englishman by the
arm and tried to inspire him with a portion of his own enthusiasm.

‘Yes, yes,’ said the Englishman, biting off the end of a tobacco plug,
and walking off to the other side of the room to get out of the wind of
those formidable legs.

‘Keep it up!’ bawled the boatsteerer to a couple of Irishmen who
happened to enter at the moment; and so it appeared that the sum and
substance of all that was in this man’s cranium could be expressed in
those simple words ‘Keep it up,’ a phrase that he continued to utter
periodically throughout the entire evening.

But neither the Englishman nor the two Irishmen obeyed the summons on
this occasion. They had ‘kept it up’ too often and too long to be
peculiarly enthusiastic at the sound of a fiddle. The two latter
especially seemed to have other matter in hand, and seating themselves
upon one corner of a bench near the door, they thus exchanged thoughts
in a sotto voice which, in the uproar that prevailed, was completely
inaudible to any but themselves.

‘Have you aver seed him since then?’ was the question propounded by the
shorter of the two.

‘Faith! and only once, and then I drawed a trigger on him from behind
the bush, Patrick, but a lump of a gal com’d out and stood in the way,
or I’d kilt him at wunst; but there was no use of getting up a yell from
the gal that wud have brought all the payple in the house about my
ears.’

‘An’ I b’lieve you are right, Jamie, for them Vigilance Committees is
kaping a bright look-out, now, for the like o’that; and I seed one of
’em up in the Boomerang jist when I was cooming down—’

‘Ay, faith, Patrick, and it’s on account of Montgomery that they’re
shying around this way, I’m thinking; but they will look a great while
before they—’

‘Ah! hush jist now! don’t name it, for yees don’t know what ears is
open, if you was only to spake of the sand hills—’

‘Hush, noo, Patrick! would ye be after revaling it all, and we sworn on
the howly ’vangellers too?’

‘But as for the Monteagle there, Jamie, there must something be done,
for Montgomery swears he’ll have his life, for the taking the safe from
him, the bloody robber!’

‘Faith, boy, make yourself parfectly easy, then, for there’s another way
to kill a cat besides the putting of a slug into her countenance, sure,’
and Jamie winked sagaciously. ‘You’ll know then that Mister Blodget is
going to undertake for him.’

‘Och, thin, don’t you belave the bit of it—one of these gintlemen will
never shoot another. Wolf won’t ate wolf—’

‘Niver fear that, boy. It’s not the shooting I’m coming at; but Mr.
Blodget is one of ourself, the same as you and I, only it is in a more
dacenter way, and didn’t he promise to get him into wosser trouble up at
the Bella Union—’

‘Arrah, but when will he cotch him there, think you, and Montgomery all
the time perishing, the poor boy, for want of his revinge! And the loss
of the safe too that weighs heavy upon his sperrits like a leaden sinker
all the time—Och, the bloody robber!’

‘Och! the murtherer,’ cried the other, ‘and didn’t I see the pistol in
his hand when he stood up in the barge, and in a minnit Montgomery would
have been come to his nat’ril end by foul means, but I jist chucked him
under the ear a bit and he lighted down in the bottom of the boat like a
breaker full of water.’

‘Bad luck to the likes of him, Jamie, the unspakable murthering
scoundrel! It’s the like of him that spoils the counthry entirely, and a
poor man like you and me is scragged for trying to get a dacent living
in our own way.’

‘Och, botheration! don’t spake to me Patrick, for I’m as mad as my skin
can hold now, when I think that I didn’t put the could lead into his
bowels, but it was all on account of the slip of a gal that would have
given the ala-r-m if I had shot him, jist.’

‘You shot him once, Jamie, and if—’

‘Ah, boy, if I had took a fair aim in the boat, but my head was lower
than my heels, as I was tumbling over like a duck wid one wing, and the
ball jist touched him in the ribs, like—but no matter, Patrick,
Montgomery will come to his revinge through Master Blodget who pretends
to be a gentleman like hisself, though he’s one of us sacret like, for
the benefit of the society, jist.’

Here the two amiable interlocutors were interrupted by a squabble that
had grown up between the long boat steerer and some Chilean new comers
whom he had desired to ‘keep it up,’ and not satisfied with applying
‘moral suasion’ to the case, he had taken the liberty to drag one or two
of them into the middle of the floor by their long ear locks. Not caring
to dance on compulsion, they struck long-legs with their fists, and he
gave them battle. He kept them at a distance a few moments with his long
arms, but they made up for this by drawing their _cochillars_.
Brandishing their knives they rushed upon him with great fury. The other
whalemen interfered in behalf of their shipmate, while all the _cholars_
present took sides with their countrymen. The battle threatened to be
serious, and blood had already begun to flow, when the door opened and a
stout, broad-shouldered man entered the apartment.

‘Charley, is that you?’ shouted the master of the house.

‘Yes, what is the muss?’ cried the new-comer, whom the reader will
recognize as the hero of the fire who took the ladder on his
shoulders—‘Hullo! here! knives out! daggers drawn! Down, you rascals!’

Charley then seized two of the most forward of the combatants in his
Herculean grasp, and hurled them against the wall, while the rest,
recognizing the famous engineer, fell back, breathing heavily and eyeing
their adversaries with murderous spite.

Patrick and Jamie, who had thus far taken no part in the affray, felt
themselves aggrieved by the presence of an official whom they had no
particular reasons for admiring, and whose presence had more than once
been a check upon their professional labors. They first began to grumble
together in a low voice, and finding that they could do this with
impunity, they felt emboldened to proceed still farther.

‘The boys has got to be very civil in these times,’ said Patrick.

‘Oh! it was nothing but a little spree like, they was having—no harm at
all, at all, in a free country, just for a lark like,’ returned Jamie
carelessly.

‘But the laws is very strict for all that,’ said Patrick, nodding
graciously.

‘Oh, murder, yes,’ returned Jamie, ‘its English laws they are like more
than like what it used to be, before their—’

‘You mane the Vigilance Committee, Jamie; oh! bad luck to ’em, they is
no lawful powers any how. There’s niver been any good in the place since
they began to meddle with the payple.’

Several of the company drew near the two Irishmen and seemed to be
interested in their discourse, while Charley, in conversation with the
keeper of the den, eyed them at a distance.

In the mean time, the two orators, believing they were at the head of a
considerable party, got on their feet, and began to swagger about the
hall and swing their fists in close proximity to such persons present as
they supposed to be unfavorable to their views. Jamie was particularly
violent until he happened to graze the shoulder of Charley who, shooting
out a fist that would have startled an ox, struck the big Irishman under
the ear and felled him to the floor.

What would have been the result of this demonstration, if the door had
not opened at the moment, we cannot say, but all eyes were turned upon
the individual who now made his appearance. This was a man of youthful
appearance, some thirty-five years of age, rather tall and well made,
with red whiskers and moustaches and a very good set of teeth. He was a
little pock-marked though not enough to injure his chance with the
ladies, and his manner was both brisk and ostentatious. He was dressed
in the extreme of fashion, with a profusion of rings on his fingers, and
his entrance filled the dingy apartment with the scent of musk.—Taking
out a blue silk handkerchief with which he made as if he would have
wiped his face, and which he then flourished about the room a moment, he
thrust out a leg as if to exhibit a boot of patent leather, and planting
his heel jauntily on the floor, he put the question—

‘Well, boys, has Monteagle called here for me, to-night?’

Without waiting for an answer he clapped his hands familiarly on the
shoulder of Charley, saying—‘How about that prisoner of yours? all safe,
eh?’

‘Montgomery, do you mean?’ asked Charley in his deep base voice.

‘Ah! that _was_ his name I believe. He’ll be triced up, I take
it—scragged, as the Botany boys call it. Ha! ha! ha!’

‘You must have heard that he has escaped, Mr. Blodget?’

‘Escaped! Ah!’ cried Blodget, with a start of real or pretended
surprise—‘the devil! Got loose, eh? No man is safe while such fellows
are abroad,’ and he placed his hand on the guard of his gold watch—‘but
how did it happen, Charley? Come, boy, how did he get away, the
villian?’

‘If you haven’t heard,’ returned Charley, looking circumspectly at his
interrogator, ‘I’ll enlighten you on that subject.’

‘Do, do, I’m all impatience.’

‘So I _per_-ceive,’ announced the Engineer. ‘You must know that
Montgomery, the thief, was placed in the room of the Vigilance
Committee, and Peter was set over him as a guard: that is, the door was
locked and Peter was on the outside.’

‘Yes, yes, I understand; and so he jumped out the window.’

‘No, not that exactly, for the windows were barred and fastened; but he
made a hole through the plastering above, and getting on a table and
some other lumber he climbed up into the room above and so he got
clear.’

‘Oh! the villain!’ roared Blodget, at the same time rubbing his hands
very unlike a man who was indignant at the escape of a felon.

Charley observed the strange inconsistency of Blodget’s conduct, and
when, a moment afterwards, Monteagle thrust his head into the open
window and hailed Blodget by name, the Engineer cast a rapid glance
first at the latter and then at the former while a cloud came over his
brow as if he was sorry to see the youth in such company.

With an almost imperceptible wink to the two Irishmen, Jamie and
Patrick, the gay young man rushed out the door and confronted ‘his
friend’ Monteagle.—‘Upon my word you look vastly improved,’ said Blodget
as he drew Monteagle towards Kearney street, and pressed his arm
cordially. ‘I was afraid it was all day with you, one while, and I can
assure you that Mr. Vandewater was deeply concerned about you. That man
holds you in high esteem, Monteagle; you may depend upon that. He fairly
lost flesh when you were considered dubious.’

‘I believe, sir, that my employers place entire confidence in me,’
returned Monteagle, ‘and that is all that I expect of them. But, pray,
where are you bound to-night? After my long confinement, I should like
to see a little pleasure. I feel a great inclination to wander on the
sea shore, or go on a little boating excursion.’

‘Done, sir. I will go with you on Sunday, or whenever you please; but,
for the present, suppose we just drop in here at the Belle Union and see
some of these enterprising gents lose a few slugs, and the wry faces
that they make.’

‘I’ve heard sad stories of that place,’ returned the youth, but
suffering himself to be led in the direction of the gambling house. ‘I
have heard that more money has been lost there than ever changed hands
in the hells of Baden, at the saloons of the Palais Royal, or at
Crockford’s. I have a strong dislike to every species of gambling.’

‘So have I. Thunder and Mars: I think it no better than highway
robbery,’ cried Blodget with a great show of virtuous indignation—‘that
is—except you know—where for mere amusement one takes a cue with a
friend. By the bye, are you good at shoving a ball, Monteagle?’

‘Billiards you are speaking of. Oh, I like that game well enough, for
exercise. I cannot call myself a proficient, though I can once in a
while put something in a pocket.’

‘But you don’t believe in putting something into your own pocket—ha, ha.
Nor in taking something out of your neighbor’s. Well it is robbery. It
makes me so mad sometimes to see how these things are done: but here we
are at the Bella; let’s just in and overlook the game.’

They entered a very large apartment where all the conveniences and
implements for gambling were found arrayed according to the most
approved style. Nothing was wanted to render this establishment equal to
its ‘illustrious predecessors’ in the old world and in the Atlantic
cities.

Here were refreshments offered to all comers free of cost. Wines were
freely poured out and segars presented, so that ‘good old-fashioned
hospitality’ was never displayed in these degenerate days so bountifully
as Monteagle saw it exhibited at the famous Bella Union.

A large table devoted to the game of Rouge et Noir invited the attention
of our two friends. A Californian of swart countenance and sinister
aspect, here deals Monte for the benefit of the greenhorns who throng
around the golden piles in momentary expectation of seeing them flit
into their own pockets, but though riches have wings, they do not fly in
that direction. In lieu of that the few acres which the ‘Squatteroez’
have left them, go rapidly out of their possession. Then the Faro
players were thronging around the table, certain of a change of luck
_next time_, and verifying the poet’s declaration that ‘man never _is_,
but always _to be_ blest.’ Each sagacious adventurer fancies himself a
perfect La Place or Newton in calculation, and believes that he has, at
last, mastered the complex elaboration of chances, and shall eventually
‘bust the bank.’ Unmitigated ass! Even though your power of calculation
surpassed that of Zerah Colburn, you would be sure to lose, even
admitting that the game was fairly played.

But watch with the eyes of an Argus, and think with the profundity of a
Fourier, and that placid, smooth-tongued arbiter of Fortune, will look
you in the eyes and cheat you out of every farthing you have got.

On all the tables except the last which we have described, piles of
yellow _oro_, like veritable offerings upon these altars of Mammon, make
the heart of avarice ache, ay, and infect those who are not very greedy
of lucre with a touch of the _yellow fever_. Gold in dollars, gold in
five dollar pieces, gold in ten dollar coins, gold in twenty dollar
pieces, gold in slugs, gold in lumps, gold in bars, gold in dust—gold in
every and any shape meets the dazzled eyes of visitors, look where you
will; and those bland gentlemen who cry ‘Make de game, gentlemens—No
moe, the game is made,’ and who so liberally furnish the sparkling wine
gratis, stand ready to hand over to you any or all of those glittering
piles _as soon as you win them_!

During all this time, bursts of delicious music float through the
apartment, the harmonies of Bellini and Mendelsohn contrasting strangely
with the hoarse oaths of some loser not yet grown sufficiently hardened
to stifle his emotions as he thinks of his poor wife and little children
whom he has robbed of their support by his last venture.

Monteagle looked with a shudder at the scene presented to his eyes, as
he entered this spacious apartment devoted to the goddess of Ruin, and
glittering with gilded baits to serve the purposes of those who, in the
worst sense of the terms might be called ‘fishers of men.’

An impression far from agreeable was made upon the mind of the youth
when he noticed that Blodget who had been recommended to his attention
by the junior member of the firm in whose service he was—not only
evinced no emotion at the fearful scenes enacted before him, but that he
also replied to the familiar addresses of the practical gamblers like
one who had long been on terms of intimacy with them. But the impression
gradually wore off under the influence of the music, to the soothing
effects of which Monteagle was peculiarly susceptible, and a glass of
excellent wine tendered him by an attendant contributed to fortify his
spirits and prepare him for at least, enduring the strange events that
were taking place around him.

One very genteel middle-aged man, apparently a Mexican, passed by them
with a smile upon his countenance, on his way to the door. Pride was
evidently struggling with despair, for he had just lost his all, and
that smile sat upon his cadaverous features like a sunbeam upon a
charnel house. Nevertheless, he walked erect, and maintained a certain
air of dignity, till he passed the portal, as some men have done while
going to the scaffold.

That sight would have been sufficient of itself to have inspired
Monteagle with a horror of gambling; but he was destined to see other
sights than this. The working of the countenances which fell under his
eye, the sudden flush of hope, the blood receding from the features and
leaving them white as death—all these things the youth saw, and inly
cursed the wretches whose bland smiles and tempting wines were leading
on the hardworking laborer to deposit the last grain of gold dust in
their greedy coffers.

There were some poor gold-diggers, who longed for even a more sudden
shower of wealth than the mines afforded them; men from the States who,
while losing their gettings at faro as fast as they won them from the
soil, were writing home to their wives, that gold was hard to get on
account of the drought—more rain was required. Alas! if it had rained
gold slugs, they would only have gathered the treasure to dissipate it
all in games of chance.—But even of these all were not equally reckless.
One unfortunate creature had, by long and arduous labor, secured about
five thousand dollars worth of gold dust. He had written to his family
in the State of Vermont, in high spirits, assuring them that he should
be at home in a short time; should buy some land and stock it, and that
their days of poverty were over. But coming to San Francisco in order to
embark for home he had been beguiled into the belief that he could
double his money at the Bella Union. He was playing when Monteagle
entered, and although ignorant of his history, the youth’s attention
was, at once, drawn to him by the emotion of his manner, and the intense
anxiety which he betrayed as heap after heap of his treasure departed
from him. Having lost part of his gold, he seemed desperately bent upon
winning it back or losing the whole. He bent over the cards with
blood-shot eyes, he scarcely breathed, except when some one spoke to
him, and then with a short hysteric laugh and words half uttered, he
replied as if not doubting of ultimate success, while his manner and
tone gave the lie to his pretended confidence. But his last venture had
been made, and with eyes fixed and glassy, he watched the process which
ended by rendering him penniless and a beggar. He fell back, gasped for
breath, and in the next moment, he lay upon the floor a corpse!

Monteagle flew to the spot, but he stood there alone, as nobody seemed
to think the event worthy of their attention. Finally, however, the body
was removed. But who shall describe the patient watching and waiting of
that poor wife, the anxious inquiries of the little children when their
father’s promised coming was delayed week after week, and month after
month—or the anguish of the bereaved family when at length they learned
the truth, and instead of moving to a snug little farm, in the enjoyment
of a comfortable independence, they were carted off to the Alms House
friendless and despised?

Blodget was evidently troubled by these practical illustrations of the
evils of gambling, which occurred at a very unfortunate time for his
purposes. He, however, contrived to make Monteagle swallow several
glasses of liquor which was not without its effects, and served in a
great measure to deaden his sensibilities. The music, too, floated
through the apartment, like a syren beckoning with her white and
jewelled hand the thoughtless to their doom.

It was midnight—Monteagle, reclined on a settee, which overlooked the
table of rouge et noir, and feeling the soothing effect of music and
wine, said to Blodget—

‘After all, Blodget, there is a certain amount of evil in this world,
and I do not know that one can make it less. It is like filling up part
of a lake—the waters only retire to another part.’

‘Yes,’ interrupted the other carelessly—as he adjusted his cravat—‘and
the ministers have been preaching for eighteen centuries, and what have
they accomplished? They have only changed the character of sins,
occasionally, while the same _amount_ remains.’

‘True,’ said Monteagle, who was in a condition to be pleased with a
congenial mind—‘the Puritans, for instance, were too pure to eat mince
pies or kiss a child on Sunday; so they made up for that by murdering
Quakers and witches.’

‘And what are speculators of all kinds but gamblers?’ continued the
tempter; ‘forestalling markets, laying up grain, and other necessaries
of life to increase the price and wring the last cent from the hard
hands of the laboring poor.’

There was so much truth in all this that Monteagle began to entertain a
higher opinion than ever of his companion, without reflecting that the
man who spoke thus would not scruple to do these very things himself,
and much worse.

‘It is as you say,’ returned Monteagle quite warmly—‘your views coincide
with mine exactly. It is singular, but I had supposed you to be a man of
less reflection and philosophy. I now perceive that you are a man of
thought—a—’

‘Oh! I have my views as well as others, that’s all. You must know that I
was intended for a minister, and went to Andover. But come, just for
amusement let’s try our luck a little here. You can stop when you
please, you know.’

The proposition was rather sudden; Blodget saw the flush that shot into
Monteagle’s cheek, and quickly added—‘To be a man of the world it is
absolutely necessary to know a little about playing, even if you don’t
practice. All the natives play, and let me tell you that a spirited
_Margaritta_ regards a young man as a milk-sop who never lost or won a
slug.’

Something struck the mind of Monteagle at that moment, and he remained
for a couple of minutes in a brown study, and seemed wholly unconscious
of the presence of Blodget. The latter turned his face aside and smiled.
It was a self-satisfied smile.

At length said Monteagle, looking up, ‘How long have you known Mr.
Brown, the partner of Vandewater?’

‘Oh, these dozen years. He and I have met here often.’

‘What! does Mr. Brown play?’

‘He! Bless your soul—’suddenly checking himself—‘he plays the same as
you and I might, just a little for sport.—That’s all: he’s not a heavy
player; or, I might say it is more for amusement than anything else that
he occasionally—very seldom, though—lays down a slug.’

There are two classes of people who are quick at detecting villainy, the
accomplished rogue and the honest, simple-hearted man. The sight of the
latter is the more clear of the two as far as it goes, while the former
measures more correctly the _extent_ of the intended deception. But
Monteagle was, at this moment, disposed to interpret every thing in the
most favorable manner, and fancied that he saw in Blodget’s hesitation a
generous endeavor to conceal the picadilloes of Mr. Brown, his employer.
He felt convinced that Blodget knew more than he was willing to tell,
and there rushed upon his recollection several little circumstances of a
somewhat equivocal character connected with the conduct of Mr.
Vandewater’s partner.

Just then, a stout, rude, and hairy man, nearly as broad as he was long,
with large goggle eyes, and a low, retreating forehead, came swaggering
up to Blodget, followed by a large and very savage-looking dog.

‘Good night—good night—my old boy,’ cried he in a rough and loud tone.
‘Ha! ha! glad to see you.’

Blodget stared at the fellow as if he had some trouble in recognizing
him.

‘No savez, eh! No savez!’ cried the man. ‘Oh, well, any other time will
do. I understand—a pigeon there—don’t want to be known, ha! ha! I’m just
from Sacramento, old boy. Plenty of dust—’

At this moment, the dog, who had been smelling about Monteagle, braced
himself opposite the youth and gave a horrible growl, during which he
showed his fangs. The youth, believing that the animal was about to
spring upon him, drew a small revolver, and prepared to defend himself.

‘Eh—youngster!’ bellowed the brutal owner of the dog. ‘Love me, love my
dog, you know. Don’t hurt that dog, sir.’

‘Certainly not, unless he attempts to hurt me,’ returned Monteagle.

‘Afraid of a dog, eh? Ha, ha!’

‘No, not afraid of a dog,’ returned Monteagle, highly incensed, ‘for you
may observe that I don’t act as if I was afraid of _you_, do I?’

‘Seize him, Boatswain!’ shouted the scoundrel, and the dog, nothing loth
sprang at the young man, and before he could place himself on his guard,
had fastened his teeth in his vest. At the same instant, Monteagle,
sparing the brute, aimed his pistol at the owner and snapped the
trigger. The ball just grazed one of the fat cheeks of the rascal, who,
thereupon, threw himself upon the youth and begun to pummel him with his
fists. It must be remembered that Monteagle had not yet recovered from
his wound. Nevertheless, he defended himself bravely. But Blodget, as
soon as he saw the conduct of the wretch, gave him a blow on the side of
his head that felled him like an ox. At the same time, the dog left
Monteagle and seized Blodget. Monteagle threw his pistol at the dog, and
hit him in the side without doing him much damage; but Blodget turned
quickly and drove a short, sharp dagger to the hilt in the animal’s
breast. That finished the business for the dog. But his savage owner was
about stabbing Blodget in the back with a long, two-edged knife when
Monteagle gave him a sudden push, which sent him reeling to the distance
of several paces. Blodget and his enemy then encountered each other face
to face, and as both were armed with deadly instruments, the issue would
have been bloody had not several of the crowd, which had by this time
clustered around the combatants, plucked them asunder. The stout man
swore and threatened vengeance, and as he struggled hard to get away
from those who held him, he was finally thrust out of doors with some
violence. He was heard, for some time, prowling outside and threatening
all manner of vengeance against Monteagle and Blodget, especially the
latter whom he charged with all manner of crimes, and who, he said,
would long since have been hanged if half his offences were known to the
public.

All this passed for the ravings of baffled rage; and although it seemed
to excite anger of Blodget, nobody else seemed to deem it worthy of the
least notice.

The gallant manner in which Blodget had espoused his cause, completely
won the confidence of Monteagle, and when he said to the youth, ‘Come,
now that rascal of a Sintown has been turned out, we will just amuse
ourselves here, if you have no objection.’

‘Sintown, is his name? it seems to me that I have heard that name. Was
he not once arrested for robbing a Mexican?’

‘Something of that sort, I believe,’ returned Blodget, glancing
stealthily at the youth, ‘but there was no proof of his guilt.’

‘Proof—there is proof enough in the scoundrel’s eye and, indeed, in all
the rest of his features, to hang a dozen men.’

Blodget smiled pensively and drew Monteagle to the table. After playing
a little while, Monteagle lost a couple of slugs, when Blodget took his
arm and said, ‘Come, my good fellow, the luck goes against you to-night.
You must wait till Madame Fortune, who, according to Bonaparte, always
favors the young, is in a better mood.’

Monteagle had already become fascinated by the game, but he did not care
to evince greater devotion to the gambling table than his companion;
therefore he announced his readiness to depart.

They had scarcely gone a dozen paces from the door, when a man stepped
lightly up to Blodget, and clapping his hand on his shoulder, said, ‘You
are my prisoner, sir.’

Monteagle started; but Blodget very coolly turned his face towards the
man and let the segar-smoke stream from his mouth directly into the eyes
of the officer.

‘You will go with me,’ cried the officer angrily.

‘Will I? In—deed. Something of a prophet too—’

At this the officer began to tug at the coat-collar of his prisoner.

‘Now, Oates, ain’t you ashamed of yourself?’ asked Blodget, loosening
the hand of the other from his collar.

‘Why should I be ashamed?’ asked Oates, looking about him, as if to
summon aid.

‘Simply, to impose upon my good nature in this way. Don’t you know that
with one blow of my fist I could send you reeling, to say nothing of my
friend here.’

‘Your friend. What? You threaten me with a rescue, young man?’ to
Monteagle.

‘I have said nothing,’ replied the youth.

‘But I don’t like your looks, sir,’ said the officer, trying to put
himself in a towering passion.

‘Bah!’ cried Monteagle, ‘Come along, Blodget, before you frighten this
poor gentleman to death. You see that he is ready to drop with fear
now.’

‘Very well. This is pretty conduct—pretty talk to a police officer,’ was
the reply of Oates, ‘but I’ll report you to your betters. I know you
both and I’ll report you.’

‘Take something along with you first, or you’ll have nothing to tell,’
cried Blodget, seizing the official by the back of the neck, as he was
about to make a hasty retreat, and giving him three or four vigorous
kicks.

‘Murder! help!’ cried the police officer. ‘Oh, don’t murder me, and I’ll
tell you all about it. It was Sintown who made the complaint. He said
that you was—’

Before he could finish the sentence, which, for reasons of his own,
Blodget did not care to hear at that moment, he was thrust into the
middle of the street, and having picked himself up, the valorous officer
ran around the first corner as if a legion of imps were at his heels.

‘Now,’ said Blodget to Monteagle, as they resumed their walk, ‘if the
fellow had showed any pluck, I would have given him enough to keep him
drunk for a week, in order to have the appearance of buying myself off.
As it is, he feels so much disappointment at having received ‘more kicks
than coppers’ that he will go home to his masters with a horrible story
of an attempt at assassination, of being attacked by forty thieves at
once, and the whole town will be at our heels in less than ten minutes.
Therefore, here we part. Do you drop in at your friend’s in
Montgomery-street, which is but a few steps from this spot, while I will
shift for myself as I best may.’

The wisdom of this proposal was evident to Monteagle, who walked
straight to a house where he had sometimes lodged when in town, and
gaining an entrance after some little trouble, he felt himself safe from
pursuit.

Meanwhile Blodget, directing his steps towards the sand hills, was very
soon out of sight.

Shortly after the town was in an uproar. The quick tramp of feet was
heard in the streets, cries and shouts resounded through the air, and
many people threw up their windows to see what was the matter. Finally,
nobody could get at the secret; the noise died away, and San Francisco
lay silent and dark on the shores of its glorious Bay.


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



                               CHAPTER IV

                     The Footsteps of the Tempter.


He stood in the Plaza, Lorenzo Monteagle, head clerk to the house of
Vandewater & Brown. Down into the sparkling waters of the Western main,
the king of day was slowly sinking, like the glorious Constantine
submitting to Christian baptism at the moment he was bidding the world
adieu. Monteagle surveyed the throng that was passing hither and thither
on the different streets bordering the neglected public square on which
he stood. They were all personable, able-bodied men, who walked and
spoke as if there was no enterprise of which they were not capable, no
adventure too daring for their powers. The absence of children and the
scarcity of women gives a singular aspect to the city of San Francisco,
and this was realized by Monteagle, as he now stood gazing upon the
hardy representatives of every country on the globe, as they moved
before him on the great public square of the city.

As the evening shades began to gather around the black rigging of the
vessels in the bay, and gloom upon the distant waters, the youth looked
about him as if seeking for some individual whom he expected to meet on
that spot. A man passed near him, nearer in the opinion of Monteagle
than there was any occasion for. He grazed the youth’s elbow as he went
by, and appeared to do it on purpose.

Monteagle turned to look at the man, and the latter turning also,
clapped his hands on his hips, and with a swaggering air, looked the
former saucily in the face. Monteagle thought he had seen the fellow
before; he was dressed much as an ordinary laborer, large in size, with
big coarse features that glowed with the effect of frequent potations.

Monteagle was about to turn away from the man in disgust, when he
said—‘I think yees will know me when yees sees me again.’

‘Why so?’

‘Bekase yees trying to look off the countenance of me, I believe.’

‘I shall look where I please, and as long as I please,’ returned
Monteagle.

‘That’s unfortunit agin,’ said the Irishman, ‘for yees will see nothing
but a jintleman, and that’s what yees not used to seeing inside of the
looking-glass.’

‘What is the object of these insults, you scoundrel?’ cried Monteagle,
still in the belief that he had fallen in with the fellow before, but
where he could not recollect.

‘Oh—no object at all, at all. But if I is a scoundrel, there’s more than
one on the Plaza jist, and he’s not beyond the raitch of my fist,
nythur.’

This was rather too much for Monteagle’s patience, and accordingly he
rushed upon the intruder and saluted him with a violent blow in the
face. The Irishman staggered backwards a few feet and then recovering
himself approached the youth in a boiling rage. As they met and
exchanged blows, the people came crowding to the spot, apparently bent
only upon seeing the fight, as no one attempted to interfere. Monteagle
was a pupil of Frank Wheeler’s and the science he had acquired from the
teachings of that accomplished gymnast enabled him to bother his bulky
antagonist a good deal. This rendered the latter exceedingly angry, and
a cry was raised by the by-standers, as they saw a Spanish knife in the
hand of the Irishman, which he had dexterously drawn from some part of
his dress, and with which he rushed upon the youth with the evident
design of finishing him and the battle together. At that moment, and
just as the youth had caught a glimpse of the steel flashing before his
eyes, a powerful hand was laid upon the shoulder of the Irishman, and he
was drawn violently backwards. Some of the crowd began to murmur, but
the Irishman looked into the countenance of the intruder, and both he
and Monteagle pronounced the word ‘Blodget!’

‘How now, sir. What are you doing with that knife?’ cried Blodget in a
peremptory tone.

‘You see it’s the thafe himself, the bloody robber!’ said the Irishman,
passionately, though evidently cowering under the gaze of Blodget.

‘Who told you he was a thief? Begone, sir!’ cried Blodget, ‘Mr.
Monteagle, I find you in bad company. Is that an acquaintance of yours?’
continued Blodget, with a gay laugh, as he turned to our youth, and
pointed at the retreating form of the Irishman.

‘Not of _mine_, exactly,’ said the youth placing considerable emphasis
on the word.

‘Oh—yes—a-hem. I have known the rascal some two or three months. We had
his services in cleaning out a cellar and on several other occasions.
Devil take the fellow—did he hurt you much?’

‘Better ask if I hurt _him_,’ returned the youth, ‘for I think he would
have carried away a piece of malleable metal with him, but for your
opportune deliverance.’

‘If he had not been too quick for you—he’s dexterous in the use of the
knife.’

‘Is he, indeed?’

‘You wonder how I found out that fact. I have heard of his encounters
with the natives. His name is James, commonly called Jamie, and there
are many stories extant as to his prowess.’

‘Strange he should have taken so much pains to insult _me_,’ said
Monteagle.

‘He seemed to have something against you,’ answered Blodget. ‘Cannot you
remember of ever seeing him before?’

Blodget watched the countenance of Monteagle narrowly, as the youth
replied, ‘I have some faint recollection of the fellow’s face. His nose,
that seems to have been knocked out of its proper shape, struck me like
an old acquaintance, but where, and under what circumstances I have seen
it before, I am unable to determine. But let him go. You and me are met
now for another purpose.’

‘Let us walk along towards Dupont street,’ said the other, musing.

‘Well, on then. But what engages your thoughts at this moment?’

‘As for that, Monteagle, what would you give to know?’

‘It’s not very important, I’ll be sworn. Some love affair doubtless.’

‘You are a wizard,’ replied Blodget. ‘It is a love affair, but one that
interests you much more than me.’

‘Interest _me_?’ said the youth, much surprised.

‘It is a great secret, sir,’ and Blodget squeezed the arm of his
companion.

‘If it is a secret you are bound to keep it close. Is it not so?’

‘Not exactly. But come into this shantee with me, and I will explain
matters to your full satisfaction.’

Monteagle followed his friend into the wine shop, nothing loth; for
though he assumed an indifferent air, he could not feel altogether
uninterested in an affair of this kind. Besides, like all young men on
such occasions, his curiosity was powerfully excited.

Blodget sat down in one corner and beckoned to the host to set on a
bottle of champagne. He then pressed Monteagle to drink who, at first,
refused, but being in haste to hear the news, he finally tossed off a
glass in order to hurry on the recital which Blodget had in store for
him.

‘It is a strange story,’ said Blodget, smacking his lips—‘good wine—’

‘But this queer business—the love story—some Mexican squaw, I suppose,
has—’

‘No—no. You are a lucky dog, Monteagle.’

‘Very likely.’

Here Blodget poured out another glass and nodded to his companion—‘Take
another, and then to business.’

Monteagle drank to save time, and said; ‘Go on with this wonderful
story.’

‘Well,’ said the other, ‘I think your chance is good. The firm hold you
in high estimation—’

‘Fudge! no more of that—’

‘But I must tell the story in my own way. I say that you are a lucky
dog, Monteagle. Come, one more glass and then to business.’

Monteagle drank, and motioned impatiently to Blodget.

‘My friend, if you work your cards right, there is a fortune in reserve
for you.’

A thought struck Monteagle, and for a moment he was agitated. He drank
to hide his emotion.

‘Good wine, is it not, Monteagle?’

‘Yes, indeed, but we are coming to the end of the bottle before we get
to the beginning of the story.’

‘Oh, but I’ve told you the most important part—that is the _fortune_.
Now with regard to the young lady, she is a perfect angel.’

‘Of course—all angels till after marriage.’

‘No, but you’ve seen her.’

‘Have I, indeed?’

‘The old man is rich—counts his money by tens of thousands. You have
seen him, too. Landlord, another bottle.’

‘I’ve seen him, too!’ and the youth swallowed another glass, for his
heart throbbed violently.

‘The girl is beauty personified—accomplished—lovely as a seraph—eyes of
the—the—’

‘The blackest jet, of course.’

‘Well, I’m not so certain of that.—But they are—’

‘Oh, deuce take the description, now to the point.’

‘Well, Monteagle, she loves you, loves you to distraction.’

Monteagle started to his feet.

‘Sit down, friend of mine, and let us finish this bottle.’

‘Certainly. But who told you this?—My God! who told you that she loves
me?’

‘Her own eyes ought to have told you that long ago.’

‘Her own eyes!’

‘Yes, ha! ha! ha!’ roared Blodget, ‘why, man alive, did you never hear
of the tell-tale eyes which reveal what passes in the heart?’

‘But who told you?’

‘It is a secret, you know; you will not betray me.’

‘Honor bright, of course.’

‘I’ll trust you. Brown told me.’

‘What Mr. Brown, our partner?’

‘Yes, indeed.’

‘But how could Mr. Brown know anything of this affair, eh! You astonish
me.’

‘Not at all; easy enough. Vandewater told the doctor, and the doctor
told Brown; so now I have betrayed all the three. You see it is
authentic. The girl has confessed her love to Vandewater himself.’

‘To Vandewater?’

‘Yes, why not?’

‘She must be in earnest, then. She loves me beyond a doubt.’

‘She has loved you many months, now Monteagle is a chance—’

‘She loved me many months! But—’

‘Fact, sir, fact? She confessed it to Vandewater, who tried to persuade
her to conquer her passion.’

The youth started to his feet.

‘I’m much obliged to him. _He_ try to—_he_ interfere in a case of this
kind.—But that exceeds his authority.’

‘Tut! tut! work your cards right and the girl is yours, and then
Vandewater’s fortune, you know—’

‘What have I to do with Vandewater’s fortune?’ cried the youth
surprised.

‘What has _she_ to do with his fortune? what is hers is yours, you know,
if you come together.’

Monteagle looked mystified.

‘You know,’ continued Blodget, ‘that Julia is—’

‘Julia?’

‘Yes, Mr. Vandewater’s niece—’

‘What have you been talking about?’ cried Monteagle.

‘She loves you! Fact! Don’t stare at me so incredulously. See, my boy—’
clapping him on the shoulder—‘the game’s in your own hands if you only
play your cards right.’

Monteagle sank back in his chair looking listlessly upon his
half-emptied glass, while Blodget went on for a considerable time
descanting on the merits of Julia Vandewater, and the brilliant
prospects that would open upon Monteagle if he married her.

‘No matter,’ said our youth, carelessly. ‘That doctor must be a regular
gossip, and deserves to be called out for publishing family secrets with
which he has been entrusted.’

Blodget gazed at Monteagle in amazement. He wondered that the young man
who had been so anxious to hear the disclosures which he had to make,
should seem so little affected at a fact which would have occasioned no
small triumph to himself. But the reader is already informed that this
marvellous secret was no news to Monteagle; who, so far from triumphing
in the conquest which he had made of Julia’s heart, was deeply grieved
that he could not return her affection. But Monteagle had taken more
wine than usual, and Blodget seemed to be perfectly satisfied with that
circumstance at least. Monteagle followed him out mechanically, and
suffered himself to be led wherever Blodget might choose to convey him.


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



                               CHAPTER V

     Our Hero Treads Forbidden Ground—The Mansion in Dupont Street.


They walked but a short distance before they reach a splendid house in
Dupont street. Monteagle had heard the character of this building, but
had paid but little attention to it. He was now in a condition to enter
almost any house where amusement was to be obtained, for in addition to
the champagne which he had taken, he had experienced no small
disappointment upon learning the whole extent of Blodget’s wonderful
_secret_. As they entered this elegant mansion it began to grow dark.
The interior was far more imposing than the outside. They passed through
a wide hall lighted by an elegant chandelier, which hung in golden
chains from the ceiling. Other furniture betokened abundance of wealth.

Blodget opened a door that led to a large apartment, carpeted in the
most fashionable style—fashionable in a land where ostentatious wealth
may be deemed excusable. Rich sideboards, tables, chandeliers and
ornaments of the most elegant form and costly materials here greeted
Monteagle on every side.

On a sumptuous sofa of the richest Genoese velvet, sat two young ladies,
whose costly dresses were admirably fitted to their forms, and so
arranged as to betray their charms to the most casual observer. One of
them, to whom Blodget addressed himself on entering, was not tall in
stature but of exquisite symmetry. Her complexion, though that of a
brunette, was so transparent, and the rose on her cheeks was so
brilliant, that one would scarcely have noticed that she was darker than
her companion. A pair of lustrous large black eyes beamed from beneath a
profusion of raven tresses, and the clearly defined, arched eye-brows
appeared to have been drawn by the pencil of a skilful painter. The
upper moiety of two well rounded globes was displayed by the low dress,
while the little foot and beautiful ankle were not covered by the long
drapery in vogue with the daughters of a more northern clime.—Whether
her mouth was made for speaking or kissing, might have been a question
with naturalists and men of _vertu_; but most men would have decided
practically in favor of the latter view. It was, indeed, a mouth that
spoke eloquently while silent, like one of those sea shells which one
sometimes finds in the Orient, ruddy and of voluptuous form.

‘Mr. Blodget is come again. Very welcome Mr. Blodget,’ said the fair
creature. ‘I wait much for see you, and never see you no more.’

But while addressing Blodget, she fixed her speaking eyes on Monteagle
and surveyed his features and fine form with evident admiration.

The other girl was taller and fairer, with a majestic neck, blue eyes,
and brown hair, the ringlets bursting from her head dress and showering
over her well-turned shoulders. She smiled and showed pearls, she walked
and exhibited grace and voluptuous proportions. She spoke and music fell
from her lips.

Monteagle, aided by the champagne that he had drank, made himself
agreeable very soon—sooner than propriety would have required had not
his fair friends been accustomed to impromptu friends and acquaintances.

The sound of voices and occasional laughter in a neighboring apartment
gave evidence that there were more of the fair consolers in the house,
and that other men, beside Blodget and Monteagle, were regaling their
eyes with feminine loveliness.

A few moments conversation sufficed to show that the dark eyed girl was
a native of South America, while the other had been born and brought up
in the land of Johnny Bull, though her accent betrayed that her earlier
days had been spent in the ‘North Countrie.’ She was one of Burns’
beauties, and how so fair a flower, who, even now seemed to have
retained some portion of her modesty, should ever have found her way to
a house of this description on the distant shores of California, was a
problem which Monteagle found difficult to solve.

Throwing himself on a sofa and putting his arm around her slender waist,
Monteagle said—‘Were not you and I acquainted in the old country?’

Although this was merely common place nonsense, the girl slightly
blushed before she replied—‘Nae doubt, sir, they be all frae Scotland
that speaks to me, sir.’

‘You did not know that I was descended from the noble house of—’

‘Douglas?’

‘No, but of—of—’

‘Oh! the Bruce it must be—’

‘No—stop—the—house of Monteith.’

‘_Monteith!_’ cried she, removing herself farther from, and affecting
horror at the name.

‘Yes, that noble ancestry I claim, and you shall be my bonny bride, and
we will return together to Scotia’s shores, and live near the Highland
cot in which you were born and reared.’

‘With a _Monteith!_ with a Monteith, think you?’ and she stared
curiously at the youth—‘take off your shoes, sir, did I ever think I
should ever set my twa een upon one of that family? Tak off your boot
and let us see if ye have not a cloven foot, at least?’

Blodget had sent for wine, which was procured at twenty dollars the
bottle—an excellent article, however; and now conversation, raillery,
repartee, and compliments flowed freely. The two girls were entirely
unlike those whom we find in houses of resort in the Atlantic cities.
They had evidently received a good education, more especially the
dark-eyed one, and their conversation was conducted in a style more
usually heard in a fashionable drawing-room than in an establishment
sacred to the Paphian Goddess.

This way the evening was spent, and the hour had become late. Other
girls of various degrees of beauty were in the apartment. Music of a
high order—added to the charm of the occasion. The men at this house
were generally of the higher classes, or those who assumed to be so; and
the utmost harmony prevailed. The wines sparkled—wit flew from mouth to
mouth—and few things were said or done which might not have passed in
the saloons of Mr. Vandewater himself.

Blodget had the air of a blase, and after having talked a little, in a
tone of listless indifference, with the Spanish girl, he turned to
another. At the close of the evening, Monteagle found himself in
conversation with the lively and intelligent Spanish maid, who told him
that she came from Santiago, a city of Chile, and where, from some words
that accidentally dropped from her, he was made to believe that she had
moved in a circle differing, in many respects, from that with which he
now found her. He became more and more interested in Maria, as she was
called. With all her liveliness there was a certain delicacy about her
which enchanted him; and as she moved about to different parts of the
room, her rounded form and voluptuous limbs could not escape his
watchful regards. His imagination exalted by rich wines and fascinated
by the beauty and the manners of Maria, Monteagle was in a condition to
overlook the demand of prudence, and the whisperings of conscience.
Blodget certainly exhibited no regret at observing this.

The saloon was full of visitors, and young ladies, and some of the
latter knew the young clerk well by reputation. They became much
interested in the flirtation that was going forward between Maria and
Monteagle, and although they were too well bred to betray their
interest, they saw and heeded all that passed between them. Some were
much surprised, and others thought it very natural, while some few, no
doubt, rejoiced in the opportunity for scandal, which would enable them
to ‘entertain company,’ by the hour or the subject of youthful
proclivities, and the danger of placing too much confidence in these
‘promising young men.’

This was a moment of danger for Monteagle, and yet hundreds of other
youths were in the nightly and even daily habit of visiting
gambling-houses and places of debauchery, upon whose conduct no remark
was made. The reason of this may have occurred to the reader. Monteagle
was highly esteemed by his employers, and an opinion had got about that
he was something better than common. All men are said to respect virtue,
and consequently the aberration of Monteagle was very comforting to such
as had previously regarded him with a sentiment approaching to envy. We
may as well say, also, in this place, that the love of Julia Vandewater
had been won as much by the unusual sobriety and decorum of Monteagle’s
conduct as by his personal and intellectual endowments. She regarded him
as a very _uncommon_ young man; and it may be perceived by the
importance which Blodget attached to his ‘secret,’ that Julia was
regarded as a great prize, and one not to be aspired to by every young
fellow in San Francisco. Julia Vandewater could have commanded the
admiration of any bachelor in California, whatever might have been his
talents and acquirements, with the one exception of Lorenzo Monteagle,
who, while he regarded her with the affection of a brother, had lived
under the same roof with the young lady long enough to know that he
could never feel toward her as he ought to feel towards the woman whom
he made his partner for life. But this conclusion had not been formed
upon any improprieties in the conduct or conversation of the young lady.
Had Monteagle a brother who was enamored of Julia, he would have
rejoiced to have seen a union take place between them: but there was the
important point—it was necessary to be enamored first, for without that
he believed that respect and friendship could not insure a happy
marriage. On her part Julia loved sincerely, and for nothing more than
for the virtuous and circumspect deportment of Monteagle.

I have said that our youth had been fascinated with Maria. He was in
high spirits; he was pleased with the idea of having gained so pretty
and genteel a mistress, for she had in the tenderest manner, consented
to be exclusively his as long as he might feel disposed to keep her.
Patting him on his bump of benevolence with her taper finger, she had
said, ‘Pretty American lad, I love you much. I love your face. I love
your figure, and your voice. I shall be much please with you to-day and
to-morrow all the same. Oh, you is one pretty. Come up to my room and
you shall see how I love you, mine friend.’

Monteagle obeyed this tender request. From such lips and enforced with a
voice ringing like a silver-bell, it was impossible for him to disobey
the command. Blodget saw and heard it all; and when the enamored couple
shut the door behind them, he placed his jewelled finger on one side of
his nose, and winked to the Scottish-girl who appeared to fully
understand it.

For the last half hour that Monteagle had remained in the saloon, he had
overheard a lively conversation between three pretty French girls,
carried on in their vernacular, which had for its object a lady
apparently from Lima, as she was dressed in their peculiar attire. Her
dress was dark, fitted to the form in a peculiar manner, so as to show
the swell of the hips, without being wide and flowing like the dress of
our ladies. Her form was entirely hidden, except that a small aperture
permitted her to look abroad with one eye. This dress is singular, and
yet it is worn by all fashionable ladies in certain parts of South
America.

This lady had spoken little since her entrance, while she seemed to be
an attentive observer of all that passed. The French girls were
wondering who she was. Their observations were piquant and full of wit;
and as Monteagle was a perfect master of the French language, he was not
a little entertained by their funny remarks. To him, however, the
presence of the strange lady was a matter of very little interest. As
her face was invisible, she might be a perfect fright for all that he
knew to the contrary, and in the few half-understood words that fell
from her lips, he discovered no more than the most common-place
observations. He did, however, observe that the mistress of the
establishment—a very beautiful and accomplished woman herself—treated
the incognito with marks of the highest respect.

Scarcely had Monteagle placed his foot on the stairs to follow Maria to
an upper apartment, when the unknown appeared in the hall, and having
thrust a billet into the hand of the girl, turned and left the house
immediately.

Maria laughed slightly.

‘What is this?’ said she, in her broken English. ‘One letter to read!
Oh! very good; I shall read you a letter, mine friend. So much the
better. I shall see.’

Pausing a moment, Maria opened the note, and read it by the light of the
chandelier. The paper dropped from her hand, and she stood a moment as
if transfixed with astonishment.

‘She! Oh! She! the holy and devoted one!’ cried Maria, at last, clasping
her hands. ‘She, here—she come to this place—and all for me—for me—’

‘Come, come,’ cried the impatient youth. ‘Come, my beautiful one, and
let us enjoy—’

‘Enjoy nothing. Not to-night; some other time. I can do nothing
to-night. So she has remembered me. She has not forgotten those days of
innocence. Ah, me—they are gone _now_!’

These words were spoken in Spanish; but Monteagle found no difficulty in
understanding them, and they partially restored him to a sense of his
present plight. But who was this ‘holy and devoted one?’ Some nun, no
doubt, who had stepped between him and his enjoyments.

Monteagle, whose passions were much excited, stood looking at the fine
form and swelling graces of the Spanish girl; her tapering limbs, her
little feet, her large dark eyes, and lovely mouth.

‘Surely,’ said he, ‘you will not be so unkind—’

‘Hush!’ cried Maria, clapping her hand on his mouth. ‘I am nothing this
evening. _Her_ hand has written this, and I cannot see you to-night,’
and here the girl sat down upon the stairs, and fell into a deep
reverie.

‘What shall I do?’ thought Monteagle, ‘If I speak to another girl, every
eye will be upon me; all sorts of surmises. No, no, I have it. I will
consult Blodget.’

He then slipped a slug into the hand of Maria, who seemed to be almost
unconscious of the act, and stepping to the door of the saloon, he
opened it, and called to his companion.

Blodget was lazily conversing with the mistress of the house upon some
topic of general interest, and though surrounded on all sides by the
most fascinating beauties of almost every civilized country—who threw
out their lures to entrap him, he appeared as unconscious as a pair of
tongs in a china shop. When he heard Monteagle pronounce his name, he
looked up surprised: he fairly started, and seizing his hat, quickly
came out to him. They passed into the street together.

‘What have you done with Maria?’ said Blodget.

‘She has received a note from somebody, and has retired alone to ponder
upon its contents,’ answered the youth.

‘Oh! I know—I think, at least, that the lady who followed you out—the
lady in the mask—ha! ha! ha! I think that she must have brought the
note. But did she not make you acquainted with its contents?’

‘No. But whatever its contents were, they made a deep impression upon
her.’

‘Ah,’ exclaimed Blodget, stopping as if to think. ‘I have heard
something of this. I think I understand something of it. You must know
that Maria received her education at a convent in Santiago, about a
hundred miles from Valparaiso, an old-fashioned city where religion
flourishes. This is a _religieuse_ who came to the house enveloped in
the costume of that city; and I think I have learned that Maria was the
bosom friend of a young lady of fine promise, and very devout habits,
before she _took to the road_.’

‘The road?’

‘Yes that broad road that we read of.’

‘These are singular girls,’ said Monteagle. ‘Instead of mere hacknied
mercenaries they seem to be women of sentiment and feeling.’

‘Well, I can show you a few such—’

A heavy sigh breathed by some person near them caused Monteagle to turn
around.

The lady incognito was near them, and the sigh must have come from her;
but whether it had any relation to their conversation or not they were
unable to determine. She did not look towards them, as she passed.
Perhaps that the sigh had some connection with the unfortunate Maria.
Still as her dark form receded from view, Monteagle could not but
remember that it was immediately after Blodget’s proposition to show him
other females, when this sigh was breathed.


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



                               CHAPTER VI

                 The Ruined Wife—The Banker’s Marriage.


They walked forward amid the darkness till they came to a house in
Sacramento street, where instead of the sound of merry voices which they
had expected, their ears were saluted by the most violent oaths and
denunciations.

‘How is this?’ said Monteagle, ‘is it a ring fight to which you are
conveying me?’

‘You may well ask that,’ replied Blodget, stopping to listen; ‘these are
unusual sounds to proceed from this house. Here seems to be more of Mars
than Venus.’

As they came to the door it was violently thrown open, and several
females ran screaming into the street.

‘Go in there!’ cried one of the girls, recognizing Blodget; ‘for God’s
sake go in, or there will be murder done.’

Blodget and Monteagle hastened to the apartment from which the noise
proceeded, and there they beheld a table overturned and China ware
scattered about the floor, while a stout, middle-aged man, with every
appearance of a gentleman, lay on the floor, and another, equally
respectable in appearance, was kneeling on his breast, with a revolver
in his hand, and aimed at the throat of the prostrate man.

‘What! gentlemen!’ exclaimed Monteagle, ‘forbear!’ and he was proceeding
to the relief of the fallen man when Blodget caught him by the arm, and
whispered, ‘Let them alone. It is all right. I know them both!’

‘You know them?’ cried Monteagle, struggling to throw off his friend’s
firm grasp, ‘but is that any reason that they should murder each other?’

‘That fellow seduced his wife!’ cried Blodget.

‘Promise, villain! promise!’ roared the man with a pistol. ‘Promise, or
I finish you on the spot.’

‘Help, I say,’ cried the undermost man, frothing with rage and pale with
terror—‘Release me from this madman.’

‘Madman!’ cried he with the pistol. ‘Is it mad that I am when I claim
that you shall marry the woman whom you have stolen away from home and
happiness. Gentlemen, you see here a villain—a banker of this city—who
bloated with pride, and presuming on his wealth, seduced my wife and
brought her to this city. I procured a divorce in such a manner that my
ruined wife can marry again. I followed her and her paramour to this
city, and here I find him rioting in a house of ill fame, while the
woman that he has blasted—my late wife—pines in solitude at home, where
she is scarcely allowed the necessaries of life. Now, you villain, see
if these gentlemen will aid you.’

‘No,’ said Monteagle. ‘We cannot interfere here; but pray don’t shoot
the villain in cold blood.’

‘His life is safe, if he promises to marry the woman,’ cried the wronged
husband; ‘Otherwise he dies! Promise!’ and he thrust the muzzle of the
pistol against the seducer’s forehead.

‘Murder—help!’ cried the man, struggling desperately to regain his feet.

‘Promise, rascal, promise to marry the woman, and I release you.’

Perhaps with the hope of making his escape if he consented, the banker
at length said, ‘Let me up, and I will marry the—’

‘Call no names for she is your wife.’ cried the other, suffering the
banker to regain his feet, but no sooner was he up than he made a rush
for the door—the outraged husband levelled a pistol at his head, and in
order to save his life, Monteagle and Blodget seized the seducer, and in
spite of his struggles, held him fast. The divorced husband then begged
our two friends to lead the banker forward. Being concerned for his
life, and thinking their presence necessary to his safety, Monteagle and
Blodget led the man down the street, the husband leading the way, pistol
in hand. In an obscure street, they entered a low-roofed building, where
they found the unfaithful wife attended by a clergyman.

The banker started, as this vision met his gaze, and he would fain have
retreated; but he was held by his two conductors as in a vice.

‘Here,’ said the injured husband to the seducer—‘here is the woman whom
you are to marry. I have procured a divorce from her, and left her free.
You took her from me—from a good home—you have had her as long as it
suited your convenience, but have now almost entirely cast her off in a
strange land.—You shall marry her.’

The clergyman and all the others present said that it was no more than
justice. Finding there was no other way, the banker yielded and married
the woman whom he had seduced.

After witnessing the ceremony, and receiving the hearty thanks of the
late husband, Blodget and Monteagle withdrew.

‘What do you think of this scene?’ said Blodget to Monteagle, as soon as
they were alone together in the street.

‘I think it is a hard case in every view of it,’ returned the youth.
‘The man has lost his wife—the seducer has married one whom he cannot
love, and the new wife will doubtless have a hard time of it with the
fellow.’

‘The husband was bent on revenge,’ said Blodget, ‘and in riveting the
two criminals together, I think he has punished both. It is not likely
the wife will ever live to inherit the banker’s wealth. He will either
dot her or kill her with unkindness.’

‘But shall we not go back to the house?’ inquired Monteagle.

Blodget perceived that the young clerk’s feelings had been too highly
wrought up by the contemplation of female beauty to admit of his
returning peaceably home without first becoming better acquainted with
one of the inmates of the house which they had last visited. He was not
averse to returning to the temple of pleasure, and accordingly he
replied in the affirmative.

But on returning to the house, they found the light out, and the parties
retired for the night, for the dawn of day was not far off.

It was enough for Blodget that he had inducted Monteagle into the
downward path. He did not doubt that, hereafter the young man would take
rapid strides towards the point whither he was so desirous of directing
his steps.

Monteagle separated from his companion and returned home, where he was
soon in the land of dreams.

He awoke late in the morning and felt a little confused after his
night’s career; for while he was not really intoxicated, he had been a
little merry, and even that was a rare thing for Lorenzo Monteagle. His
employers were not Puritans, and consequently they observed nothing
peculiar in his manner or appearance. Mr. Brown, however, was very
sociable with Monteagle on that day, and the latter imagined that he
knew the cause. He supposed that the young man was in a fair way to
marry Julia, and accordingly the former rose in his estimation. Brown
was one of those worthies who worship the rising sun. He as well as
Blodget thought that Monteagle was ‘a lucky dog.’ Indeed, he would have
been glad to be in his place. Monteagle saw into all this, but did not
act as if he perceived it.

In his hours of calm reflection, after dinner, Monteagle thought upon
the events of the preceding night, how he had twice been prevented from
associating with one of the seductive young girls at the houses of
pleasure to which Blodget had conveyed him. In the first instance, a nun
or something of the kind, had come to snatch Maria from his arms,—at the
second house, the affray occurred between the banker and the injured
husband. But he had also had a singular dream during the night, which he
had scarcely had time to think of during business. It now came up
vividly to his recollection. The details were as follows: He seemed to
be sitting with Julia Vandewater, in her father’s garden, in pleasant
conversation, when suddenly the heavens became overcast and the thunder
rolled heavily over his head. Julia started up and bestowing upon him a
contemptuous frown, exclaimed, ‘I love you no longer. I will tell my
uncle of you and get you discharged from his service.’ She then abruptly
left him, while he was much revolted and displeased by the revengeful
and unladylike look that she cast back at him as she retired. Still the
lightning flashed and the thunder rolled, till, immediately after a
tremendous crash, he observed that the mansion of Mr. Vandewater was on
fire. It had been struck by lightning. For a time all was confusion in
his mind, till he seemed to be again ascending the ladder to rescue a
young lady from the flames. Again he heard the shouts of the intrepid
firemen below him, and the roaring of the flames as he approached the
window where, as he supposed, Julia Vandewater was standing. But no
sooner had he reached her than she proved to be the nun who had given
the note to Maria at the house of assignation. He seized her around the
waist, and then the stifling smoke seemed to smother him. His mind was
again confused till he found himself in a wilderness, fainting with
heat, and seeking for a refuge from the burning sun. No shade was near,
and he was about to lie down and surrender himself up to death, when
_Inez Castro_, riding on an elephant, came that way, attended by a large
number of very black slaves. On seeing him, Inez immediately descended
to the ground, and commanding a huge basin to be brought, bathed his
temples with a cooling and refreshing liquid, which restored all his
powers and filled him with unspeakable pleasure. Soft music floated
around him, the atmosphere was filled with the most delightful odors,
and he finally sank into a sweet slumber upon the rounded bosom of the
beautiful maid.

Such was his dream, and he now pondered upon it deeply, for it seemed to
be fraught with meaning, as if it was something more than the effects of
his night’s adventures.

But the more he reflected, the more he became puzzled, for there seemed
to be no rational interpretation to a dream so fraught with
contradictions, and split up into separate portions, which seemed to
have no agreement with each other. ‘It is one of those jumbled visions
caused by excitement and champagne,’ said he—‘late hours caused it; but
I must give up late hours and be more steady—’ he paused, for he knew in
the secret of his heart that he should hail the appearance of Blodget
with pleasure, and that he had more than once looked at the sun
declining in the West. Once, at least, he must solace himself with
beauty.

The hour had nearly arrived for leaving off all business, and shutting
up store, when Mr. Brown, who had been absent a couple of hours, thrust
a note into Monteagle’s hand. He opened it and read—

‘Friend M,—Unexpected business will prevent me from waiting on you this
evening, as was agreed upon. To-morrow night I shall be free to attend
you.

_Ever yours, BLODGET.’_

‘The deuce!’ cried the youth, ‘then I will go alone.’ He paused, and
smiled as he remembered the good resolution he had been on the point of
forming when he had no doubt of Blodget’s coming. The feeling of
disappointment which he experienced convinced him that it would be no
easy matter to put his good resolution in practice.

He slowly crawled over the hill toward the house of Mr. Vandewater. When
he sat down to supper with the family, he observed that Julia was in
much better spirits than usual. Instead of regarding him with that
heavy, mournful look that had been habitual to her for some months past,
he caught her in glancing covertly towards him several times, with
sparkling eyes and something like a glow of excitement on her cheeks.

‘Mr. Brown called this afternoon, I understand,’ remarked Vandewater in
the course of conversation.

‘Yes, sir,’ returned his lady; ‘he made himself very agreeable to your
hopeful young lady here.’

‘Now aunt, you are provoking,’ said Julia, with an ill-concealed smile
of pleasure. ‘I was thinking if he was a jug what a fine handle his huge
Roman nose would make.’

Vandewater roared as usual on such occasions. Monteagle smiled. A
thought, however, had instantly struck him. He knew that Brown was a
great talker, and like many great talkers, often said those things to
his listeners which he thought would interest them rather than those
things which were founded in fact. He imagined that in the glances which
Julia had given him, at the supper table, there was a look of triumph as
well as pleasure. Could it be that Brown, knowing Julia’s secret, had
made up a story about himself—had told her that Monteagle was truly in
love with her, but only played shy for fear of the uncle? Was it not
quite possible that Brown had misunderstood the doctor; and that he
believed Vandewater was opposed to the match, and had advised his niece
to conquer her passion on _that_ account, instead of doing it because
her passion was hopeless?

Nothing seemed more likely to Monteagle than this, especially as Blodget
had so understood the matter, and Blodget had received his information
from Brown. Besides, might not Brown have seen Blodget that day, and as
the youth had become suddenly silent when the ‘great secret’ was told
him, had not Blodget interpreted this silence as despair of success and
consequently melancholy, and so reported it to Brown?

All that evening, Julia was extremely lively, and sometimes her aunt
regarded her with surprise if not disapprobation, so piquant were her
sallies and so pointed was her ridicule. Monteagle was more than usually
grave; not only from his want of sleep on the preceding night, but
because he thought he had detected the source of Julia’s gaiety, and the
mistake under which she labored.

At length, when Monteagle rose to retire, Julia contrived to place
herself near the door, and as he went out, half asleep, and feeling very
dull, she softly whispered the one word ‘Hope!’

Monteagle started as if struck by an arrow at this confirmation of his
fears. The poor girl had mistaken his gravity and dullness for that
despair which Brown had taught her to believe he was laboring under, and
had ventured to tell him that he might hope!

As Monteagle hurried off to his chamber, he knew not whether to laugh or
cry.

There was something very comic in this mistake. The blundering Brown,
with his big nose, getting hold of his story at the wrong end, and
hurrying off to banter Julia about her conquest was ridiculous enough:
but then the unfortunate girl who had suffered herself to be so readily
deluded into the belief that her love was returned, and undertaking to
cheer his supposed melancholy by a kind word, called forth his sincerest
sympathy.

In the morning early, Monteagle met Julia in the garden.

‘You are an early riser, sir,’ said she, ‘as well as myself. I think the
morning is the best part of the day.’

‘I am of your mind,’ returned Monteagle, ‘and so are many others, who
rise early to get their morning bitters.’

‘So I have been told,’ said Julia, with a gay laugh. ‘Am I to understand
that Mr. Monteagle—’

‘Oh, no. I am not one of them,’ replied the youth. ‘Instead of bitters,
I fall in with _sweets_, it seems.’

‘Yes, the flowers are fragrant,’ said Julia, looking about her, and
evading the compliment with the pleased and rather triumphant air of one
who, _now_, felt secure of the affections of him who offered it.

Monteagle observed all this and condemned himself for having
inadvertently helped along the deception; yet it seemed too cruel to
dash her new-fledged hopes to the ground, as he might have done by a
single word. Candor would have dictated an immediate explanation,—but
the youth gave heed to the more tender pleadings of mercy, and even said
to himself—‘Time may cure her partiality for me; and another lover may
supplant me in her affections; so I will let her rest in happy
ignorance. I have no prospect of marrying at present, and why should I
dispel a vision which, although baseless, pleases the poor, deluded
girl?’

At the breakfast table, the liveliness of Julia, and her merry laugh,
drew the attention of Mr. Vandewater, who looked first at his niece and
then at Monteagle, as if he supposed an explanation had taken place
between the young people, and that all was as Julia desired it to be.

On reaching the store, Monteagle was surprised to see a crowd of people
about the door. Officers were there asking questions and noting down the
replies.—Mr. Brown was flying about among the spectators, making himself
so very busy that the youth almost suspected he had lost his wits.

‘Oh, Monteagle, is that you? Where’s Mr. Vandewater?’

‘I left him conversing with Julia in the breakfast parlor.’

‘Ah, yes—yes—fine girl that!’ cried Mr. Brown, tapping the youth
jocosely on the shoulder. ‘But do you know what’s happened?’

‘Heavens! No!’

‘Robbed!’

‘The store been robbed, do you say?’

‘Yes,’ replied Brown, ‘it was robbed early this morning.’

‘At what time?’

‘Why, at about four—at what time do you ask? Well, to judge of the exact
time in which the store was broken open, you must, I think, inquire of
those who were here. Ha! ha! ha!’

‘They cannot have taken much,’ said Monteagle, ‘or you could not be
so—that is, you could not speak so lightly on the occasion.’

‘That safe’s gone!’

‘What! the little safe that we rescued the other day?’

‘The same which was taken from the skiff by Vandewater himself.’

‘Why, Mr. Brown, that’s a serious loss. There was money in that safe—’

‘Or the thieves would not have carried it off, to be sure, ha! ha! ha!’

‘But how did he get in?’

‘That’s the puzzle,’ said Charley, coming up and joining in the
conversation. ‘Nothing is broken. The rascals must have had false keys.’

‘Rather _true_ keys, than false ones,’ replied Monteagle, while Brown
gave a sudden start and slightly colored.

‘Ha! ha! Yes, true ones, or they would not have answered the purpose,’
said the latter.

‘Yet it is strange,’ continued Monteagle, ‘for the doors were otherwise
secured, as you know, Mr. Brown, by certain secret fastenings which must
have been broken before any one could have got in from the outside,
unless he was well acquainted with the premises.’

‘Oh, the Sydney ducks make themselves well acquainted with all these
matters,’ cried Charley. ‘All we have to do now is to trace out the
villains—’

‘And begin by searching the police,’ said Brown. ‘Half the thefts and
robberies are committed by them.’

Mr. Vandewater arrived soon after, and was also surprised to find his
store robbed without the rupture of a single fastening. He advised an
immediate search of the premises, as the robbers might have left
something behind them that would have led to their detection. Some
persons who had gone into the loft to search, soon came running down
with the intelligence that a man was up stairs, fast asleep. All ran up
at once, and there Monteagle discovered, between two bales, the bulky
form of the Irishman, Jamie. He was snoring melodiously, and seemed to
have no idea that the sun was already up.

Mr. Vandewater uttered an exclamation of joy and surprise, for he
thought discovery of the whole affair was now certain.

Monteagle shook the sleeping man with his foot. Jamie slowly opened his
eyes, and on perceiving there were persons present, said
hastily—‘How—what—is time, Mr. Brown? Is it time?’

As Mr. Brown was not present, the by-standers were puzzled by these
singular words.

‘What do you want with Mr. Brown?’ said Vandewater sternly.

The Irishman rubbed his eyes, and perceiving in whose presence he stood,
answered, ‘Why, Jim Brown, to be sure, the eating-house man, he was to
call me up in time to go down the Bay.’

‘Indeed! and so you slept here, did you?’ said Mr. Vandewater sternly.
‘But how did you get in?’

‘How did I get in, is it? Och, and wasn’t I working for Jim all day, and
took a little of the mountain dew, and comed in here in the
afternoon—and where is it, sure, that I am? Can you tell me at all, at
all?’

‘Who is this Jim Brown?’ said Vandewater turning to Charley. ‘Can you
lead me to him?’ asked Vandewater, quickly.

‘Och, faith, and it’s I can do that, same,’ put in Jamie. ‘I’ll take you
to him, right off, jist, if you’ll show the way out of this—what do yees
call it? A church is it?’

The Irishman affected such blind stupidity that Vandewater was inclined
to believe that his being in the store on the night of the robbery was
altogether accidental—that he had blundered in while drunk and got
asleep. Nevertheless, he said to Monteagle, ‘Keep that fellow in custody
till I return.’

As Mr. Vandewater went out with Charley, he descried Mr. Brown, his
partner, examining the fastenings, and he observed that the face of the
latter was very pale.

‘Poor fellow,’ thought Vandewater to himself, ‘he takes this matter
hard.’

On arriving at the shop of Jim Brown, that worthy was found at home,
although he had just returned from some expedition, and was covered with
dust.

Charley introduced Mr. Vandewater.

Jim hung down his head a moment as if brushing the dirt from his
leggings.

‘I want to ask you, Mr. Brown, if you have contemplated an excursion
lately?’

‘Sir?’ said Jim with a stare.

‘He don’t savez—give me leave, sir,’ put in Charley. ‘Jim, we want to
know if you have had any business out of town, lately?’

Jim looked first at one and then the other. He was a little short man,
with squint eyes, and looked as if he had not shaved in a month.

‘I goes sometimes to see my folks that I trade with. I was at a rancho
yesterday.’

‘How late did you stay, Jim?’

‘I am but just got home.’

‘What time did you start to go away?’ ‘I didn’t look at the clock,’
replied Jim, in a surly manner.

‘Come as near as you can, Jim, and give us a true answer as you value
the safety of your bacon,’ said Charley sternly.

Jim looked up rather fiercely, but he saw that Charley was in earnest,
and replied, ‘Well, I don’t know what time it was. It may be ’twas
eleven o’clock and may be it was only ten.’

‘And you have just returned?’

‘I told you so once before.’

‘So you did. When have you seen Irish Jamie, last?’

Jim looked keenly at his interrogators before he replied, ‘Well, I can’t
rightly tell. Not in a fortnight, I should say p’raps, three weeks.’

‘It’s all a cock and a bull story, that of Jamie,’ said Charley. ‘You
see there’s no truth in it. He must be arrested.’

Jim Brown turned away his face and his manner was suspicious upon
hearing these words.

As Vandewater and Charley walked back to the store, the latter said. ‘We
must see the keeper of the rancho and find out from him if Jim Brown has
been there.’

‘Why do you suspect this Brown of having been engaged in the robbery?’

‘It is strange,’ said Charley, ‘that the Irishman, before he had time to
think, should have addressed Brown as one that had agreed to call him at
a certain hour. We must make sure that Brown was at the rancho; and if
he was, a Philadelphia lawyer would be puzzled to account for Jamie’s
exclamation when starting out of a sound sleep, and expecting to find
Brown at his side.’

‘True,’ said Vandewater.

‘Leave it to me,’ continued Charley. ‘I will find out what ranch Jim
Brown visited yesterday. I will call there, and learn when he arrived,
and when he left, if the fellow was there at all.’

On returning to the store, they found Jamie standing outside the door,
and surrounded by Monteagle, Mr. Brown and several of the neighboring
dealers.

‘So, sirrah,’ said Vandewater, ‘that Brown you spoke of, says that he
hasn’t seen you for a fortnight, and he has just returned from visiting
a friend out of the town.’

‘Och, the lying villain,’ exclaimed Jamie, in a tone of virtuous
indignation. ‘Och, the lying, thaving, murthering scoundrel, and wasn’t
it his own silf that tould me to go into the store and take a nap till
mornin’, and—’

He was interrupted by the appearance of Jim Brown himself, who rushed
into the crowd, and confronting Jamie, cried ‘How’s this? What have you
been telling about me?’

‘About _you_, is it?’ cried Jamie, with all the assurance imaginable,
‘and is it you, you thafe o’ the w-o-r-r-r-l-d, that’s come to lie me
down, and try to hang his friend widout judge or jury, and widout
binifit of clargy, too. Och, you thunderin’ wilyun! didn’t you tell me
to go in here, and slape a bit, just till the morning, when you was to
call me up, sure?’

‘Sir,’ said Jim Brown, addressing Vandewater, ‘When you called at my
shop, I didn’t understand your object, and as your questions seemed very
odd, I wasn’t well pleased with them; but I’ve been told since that this
man pretends I had an engagement with him. It is a lie. I’ve no
intercourse with the man when I can help it.’

‘Hear the lying thafe,’ cried Jamie, in a towering passion, and before
he could be prevented, he had slipped a long knife out of his sleeve,
with which he rushed upon Jim Brown and stabbed him to the heart.

Brown fell dead at the feet of Monteagle. The murder was committed so
quick and unexpectedly that it was some minutes before the people
collected there were apprized of what had happened! No sooner had the
sad tale been told than the inhabitants came running in from all
directions; a large mob was collected, a rope procured, and it was with
great difficulty that Charley and his aids could prevent the populace
from hanging up Jamie on the spot.

Mr. Brown also tried hard to rescue Jamie from the fangs of the incensed
and vindictive crowd.

‘Let the law take its proper course!’ vociferated he, while Jamie kept
crying, ‘Och now, be aisy, you spalpeens—for there’s more nor me you’ll
have to hang, when yees once begins that game, and some that’s your
betters, too, and as good as—’

‘Let the law take its course!’ roared Mr. Brown, so loudly as to drown
the voice of the Irishman. ‘Take him away, Charley, as soon as possible.
See what a crowd is collecting around here. I’m afraid of a riot.’

Jamie was finally carried down the street, in the centre of a tumultuous
mob, some pushing one way, and some another, with fierce hootings,
yells, and hisses, that were fairly deafening.

A singular impression was left upon the mind of Monteagle by these
proceedings, and he commenced the business of the day with a
determination to watch closely every thing which was transpiring near
him, and to propose to Mr. Vandewater that, in future, some person
should sleep in the store every night.

Jamie, who had at length, completed the circle of crime by the
committing of murder, was lodged in prison, and Monteagle felt somewhat
relieved on account of it, as he believed that the man was for some
reason, his deadly enemy. He had not yet recognized this man as the one
who shot him down in the barge.

On that evening, Blodget called upon Monteagle, and appeared to be more
affable than ever, talked with him about the robbery and made very
minute inquiries about Jamie, whom he thought innocent of any intent to
rob.

‘It is not possible that a man bent on robbery should lie down and get
to sleep in the store, or that he should be left by his accomplices,’
said Blodget; ‘and with regard to his stupid lie about Brown, the man
whom he killed, it was probably told because he did not know anything
else to say.’

‘But,’ replied Monteagle, ‘in that case why did he address somebody as
Brown when first starting from his sleep, and before he had time for
premeditation?’

‘There is something in _that_,’ said Blodget, fixing his eyes very
keenly upon those of Monteagle. ‘It would seem as if he expected to be
called at a certain hour by this Brown.’

‘And why should he have been worked up to such a pitch of madness as to
murder this Brown, if he did not feel that he was playing him false—’

‘No—no—Monteagle. You are reasoning for civilized people now. You don’t
know these wild, unscrupulous fellows, who like Jamie had prowled about
in the wilderness where no moral or religious instruction can reach
them. I tell you that a man left wild, a prey to passions, is more to be
feared than the tiger or the catamount.’

‘You seem to think very hard of this Irishman,’ said Monteagle.

‘Is he not a murderer?’

The youth was silent. Many things rushed upon his remembrance, and all
through there was running a thread of mystery which induced him to say
to himself, ‘How little do you know of what is going on in the world.’


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



                              CHAPTER VII

                  The Ruined Nun—The Mysterious Note.


That evening Monteagle accompanied Blodget to one of those gay houses in
Dupont street, already mentioned.

Wit, wine, and beauty sparkled on every side, and again was the
imagination of Monteagle bewildered by the transcendent loveliness of
Italian, English, North American and South American beauties, who,
although accounted frail daughters of Eve, were a much more
intellectual, sentimental, and educated class than is to be found in the
halls of pleasure in any of the older cities.

While Blodget and Monteagle were thus spending the evening in converse
with the nymphs of the town, the latter several times observed Blodget
to pause a moment, and sit with lips apart and absent eye, as if
listening for some sound in the street.

He was under the impression that Blodget looked for the arrival of some
other person. At length a confused murmur was heard as of a crowd at a
distance. The sound approached nearer, and at length, in full cry, burst
upon the air, such exclamations as ‘Stop him! stop thief! Broke away!
There he goes! Knock him down,’ and this was followed by the discharge
of fire-arms, and then came the trampling of many feet, and a confused
roar as of a mighty concourse in motion.

Every one in the house flew to the windows and doors; but nothing was to
be seen except a crowd of people hurrying along with loud outcries.

‘What is the matter?’ inquired Monteagle of a person whom he knew, and
who just then paused opposite the window.

‘Oh, nothing much, sir,’ was the careless reply. ‘A fellow confined for
murder has broken loose; but that we shall always have while such a
police exists.’

‘There’s next to no law in San Francisco,’ observed Blodget, ‘but do you
think, my good man, that the Irishman,—that the prisoner—will get
clear?’

‘I don’t know,’ said the other, moving on, while Monteagle quickly said,
‘So, you think it’s Jamie?’

‘Who else can it be?’ said Blodget, ‘he is the man who has been arrested
for murder.’

‘Of course,’ returned the youth, and yet he thought it strange that
Blodget had hesitated when he first mentioned the Irishman, and he
connected it with the fact that Blodget had seemed to be listening all
the evening as if in anticipation of some such occurrence.

These reflections were, however, soon swallowed up by the gay
conversation that succeeded, and the pleasures of wine, music, and an
interchange of sentiments with beings who, if virtuous, would have
graced any drawing-room in the country. Still Monteagle was occasionally
drawn to the contemplation of his friend who seemed quite restless and
listened to every noise in the street.

Monteagle had attached himself to an Italian girl, who might be nineteen
years of age. Round and plump—with black amorous eyes and good teeth,
she seemed to be all alive, and wholly made up of kindness and
affection.

Her history was somewhat romantic, as Monteagle learned it from another
of the inmates of the house. She was called Loretto, but whether a real
or a feigned name was not known. She had taken the vows of a nun from
the purest and most sincere motives, but after being two years in the
convent, she found it impossible to fulfil her vows. She was naturally
formed for love, and could no longer endure to exist without yielding to
the demands of an ardent nature, inflamed by a continual contemplation
of imaginary love scenes, which always presented themselves to her mind
when she would ponder upon more sacred matters.

She made her escape from the convent and returned to her father’s house;
but found no rest under the paternal roof.—Her parents upbraided her,
and were proceeding to have her returned to the convent, when she
pretended to go to her chamber for repose. She escaped by the window,
and as she fled through the garden she met a handsome young Englishman
to whom she at once told her story. He took her under his protection,
without the least hesitation, and they lived together, in a retired part
of the country several weeks. This young man was of a warm temperament,
and here comes the strangest part of the story. He was so smitten by her
charms that they upset his reason, and he went raving mad. Though she
was actually at his disposal, he imagined that she was some great
princess whose love he had sought in vain, and under this strange
belief, he, one day threw himself from a cliff into a bed of rocks on
the sea-shore and was killed.—She took possession of his mangled body
and his effects, found out his friends and delivered them into their
hands.

She mourned long and bitterly for the loss of her lover; but her
passionate nature again prevailed, and she accepted the offers of a
native Count, who was soon killed in a quarrel.

Believing that a fatality attended her in her own land, and learning
that spies had been placed upon her actions by her relatives, she came
to Brazil, and from thence, soon afterwards, to San Francisco. Such was
Loretto, the Italian maid, whose fervid passions were kindled by the
manly graces of Monteagle.

She appeared to be all life and soul, and she made a lively impression
upon our youth.

As the evening waned, and while he sat conversing with Loretto,
Monteagle heard three distinct, though very low taps, on the outer door.
At the same time, he saw Blodget raise his head and listen. Then he
conducted himself as if nothing had happened, and conversed carelessly
with the woman to whom he had attached himself. But in a very few
moments, he arose and whispering in the ear of Monteagle, said—‘I must
quit you for a little while. I have forgotten something: but I will
return before long.’

Blodget then departed and soon afterwards, Monteagle withdrew with
Loretto. He saw no more of Blodget on that night. In the morning, he
learned that Jamie, the murderer, had made good his escape in a somewhat
mysterious manner. He had disappeared behind the sand-hills although
surrounded by several hundred men.

‘The earth must have opened and swallowed him up,’ said Mr. Brown, the
junior partner.

‘I think that he was not the robber of our store,’ said Mr. Vandewater,
thoughtfully, ‘for he would scarcely have remained here all night, if he
had shared in the booty.’

‘What could have been his errand?’ said Brown.

‘The fellow might have blundered in here, in a fit of intoxication and
gone to sleep,’ said Monteagle.

‘But why did he kill that tripeman?’ inquired Mr. Vandewater.

‘Oh, the fellow would kill anybody,’ said Monteagle.

Mr. Brown looked very mysterious, and finally seeming to muster
up courage, he pulled a note from his pocket, and said to
Monteagle—‘Perhaps you can tell why this note addressed to _you_ was
picked up on the very spot where the murderer was sleeping.’

‘How!’ cried Vandewater. ‘What’s in the note?’

‘I have not taken the liberty to break the seal,’ returned Brown. ‘Its
contents will be known to Mr. Monteagle whenever he chooses to do so.’

Brown handed the note to Monteagle. It was written on fine, gilt-edged
paper, and directed to “Mr. Lorenzo Monteagle, Montgomery street.”

The astonished youth broke the seal, and opened the note. On the top was
marked “_Strictly Private_.” It read thus:

    ‘Dear Sir: You may think it strange that you and I were
    separated so suddenly on that evening in Dupont street; but a
    particular friend of mine was the cause, as you saw. If you are
    at liberty this evening call without fail to see me, but not at
    that house. You know the cliff near which lies the English
    barque St. George. I will be under that cliff, on the sea-shore
    at 8 o’clock precisely. This is very private. Let no one see it.
    It is sent by a man who will hand it to you, privately if he has
    an opportunity. Come if you can.

                                                             MARIA.’

‘Ah—it is too late!’ said Monteagle aloud, and putting the note into his
pocket.

‘It would seem that we are not to be edified by the contents of your
note,’ said Mr. Brown, looking at Vandewater.

‘What shall I do?’ said the youth to himself. ‘This is something
important, without doubt.’

‘Private is it not?’ inquired Vandewater.

‘Sir!’ said Monteagle, rather surprised at the question.

‘You must know that this is a peculiar occasion,’ said Mr. Brown,
rightly interpreting Monteagle’s surprise. ‘At any other time, it would
be highly improper to express any curiosity with regard to the purport
of that note.’

‘This note is nothing,’ said the youth. ‘It is strictly confidential and
has no relation to the robbery whatever.’

Vandewater looked at Mr. Brown, and the latter raised his eye-brows and
slowly shook his head. The grimace was not observed by Monteagle, whose
thoughts were with the young lady beneath the cliff.

‘You will observe, Mr. Monteagle,’ said Brown, in a very gentle and yet
distinct tone, ‘that a heavy robbery has been committed. An atrocious
malefactor is found asleep in the store that has been robbed; a letter,
evidently dropped by him bears your address upon its back. If he is
taken and brought to trial, of course that letter will be needed.’

‘So far I can satisfy your curiosity,’ said Monteagle. ‘It appears that
Jamie was employed as messenger to bring me this letter. It is probable
that he came here drunk and fell asleep.’

‘That seems to account fully for the man’s presence. It is as I thought,
that he is guiltless of the robbery,’ said Vandewater.

Brown compressed his lips, partly nodded, partly shook his head, raised
his eye-brows, and turned away, like a man who is only half convinced,
and who has made some discovery that he hesitates to unfold.

At supper that evening, Julia Vandewater was as gracious as usual; but
when he arose to go abroad, she said to him as he passed the door, ‘You
keep very late hours, Sir Lorenzo; I must take you in charge, myself.’

Although this was said in a tone of raillery, yet there was the
slightest possible air of reproof in it, enough to make Monteagle feel
that the deluded girl considered herself entitled to express an opinion
upon his conduct.

As he travelled over the hills towards the town, the youth said to
himself—‘Would it be more cruel to break this bubble at once, or suffer
it to collapse of itself in due time? Surely a flame that is never fed
won’t burn long, and I have given Julia not the least reason to suppose
that I regarded her with partiality.’

He had arrived at a thick clump of bushes, at a considerable distance
from any house though a small rancho was in plain sight, when he heard
something stir among the leaves and branches. He drew out his revolver.

‘Will you shoot me?’ inquired a silver voice, and in another moment,
Maria stood before him.

‘Ah! Good night. I wanted to see you,’ said Monteagle. ‘I received your
note—’

‘When?’

‘Not till to day,’ replied the youth, ‘although it must have been
written two or three days ago.’

‘He’s longer than that,’ replied Maria, ‘I waited for you nearly all
night.’

‘At the place you designated—under the cliff?’

‘Yes.’

‘Then your business must be important. I am sorry that I did not get the
note in time.’

Maria remained silent some moments. At length, she began—‘My errand is
no great things. I wanted to see you.’

The youth laid his hand on her shoulder kindly.

‘No—’said she—‘You don’t understand. All you, gentlemens, think girls
love you always. Nothing to do but love man, when man laugh at her,’ and
she shook her locks independently.

‘But I am glad to see you at any rate,’ said Monteagle.

‘Oh, yes, you are very glad to see me—some—but you are more glad to
see—’

‘Whom?’

‘You know best.’

Monteagle thought of Loretto, whose witching graces and rich personal
charms had, indeed, wrought powerfully upon his imagination.

‘Come tell me where she lives,’ said he.

‘You have just come from there,’ returned Maria.

‘No, upon my honor, I have not been there since last night.’

Maria started, and her eyes shone brilliantly as she gazed into his
face.

‘Not been home to-day?’ cried she.

‘Ah, yes, I have just come from the house of Mr. Vandewater.’

‘And who lives _there_?’ inquired she, fixing her eyes keenly on the
face of the youth.

‘Mr. and Mrs. Vandewater, their niece and the servants,’ replied he.

‘The niece! the niece!’ cried Maria. ‘What of _her_?’

‘A very fine young lady, I believe.’

‘Very fine? Yes, very fine—you find her so? Very fine.’

‘Maria,’ said he, in a decisive tone, ‘if you have been told that I love
Julia Vandewater, or that I have ever given her the least reason to
suspect so, you have been told a downright falsehood.’

‘You not love Julia? No? Not a little bit?’ and she seized his hand and
gazed into his face earnestly.

‘No, Maria, I do not love her.’

Maria was silent, and looked much puzzled. She trotted her foot; she
looked at Monteagle, and then she fixed her gaze upon the ground for
several minutes.

Suddenly lifting her head, she said to Monteagle in a brisk tone, ‘You
tell me one very big lie!’

‘No, upon my honor.’

After a moment’s silence, she said, ‘Where you have been last night?’

‘I can’t tell you that, Maria.’

‘Ah! I find you out. You love one pretty lady: you see her last night,
and you say I not tell you where I go last night.’

‘No, Maria, I have answered one of your questions; but cannot answer the
other.’

Maria looked down, and breathed a deep sigh.

Monteagle’s pride was a little touched. He said, ‘I do not know that I
shall ever marry, Maria. But if I happened to fall in with a congenial
spirit—a _virtuous_, _chaste_, respectable girl, I don’t know what might
happen.’

Maria threw back her head, shook her raven tresses fiercely, and her
nostrils dilated as she answered—‘What thing is men! they think of
nobody but himself. Woman got soul for somebody besides herself,’ and
she struck her breast forcibly, so much so that Monteagle heard a dagger
rattle in its scabbard.

‘Oh, yes, Maria, I have feeling for others,’ returned Monteagle. ‘I have
feeling for you, and although I may not wish to marry you—’

The girl whirled completely round on one foot, and interrupted Monteagle
by a shout of laughter that might have roused the inmates of the distant
ranch.

He looked at her surprised. Scarcely deigning him a glance, she began
again, and laughed till her breath failed her.

‘Man is so fool!’ said she at length. ‘Here,’ she continued, taking a
string of costly pearls from some place where they had been concealed
about her person, and laying them on his hand. ‘You think that poor
Maria give you these? You think I buy?’

Monteagle examined the precious gift by the twilight, and perceived that
it was, indeed, too magnificent to have come from the poor nymph, and
that it must be a gift from some unknown individual.

He perceived the drift of Maria’s questionings. He believed that this
was the gift of some wealthy lady who was kindly disposed towards him;
and that Maria had been commissioned to sound him on the subject of his
reported attachment to Julia.

Here was an adventure, indeed, and his imagination was at once set on
fire.

‘Tell me, Maria, the name of the lady?’

‘What lady?’

‘The lady who sent me these pearls.’

‘A Lady—ha! ha! ha! It was not a lady. It was one big gentleman.’

Monteagle’s vanity fell ninety degrees, at hearing these words.

‘Who was the gentleman?’ inquired he, impatiently.

‘Who is your lady that you saw last night?’ questioned the wilful girl.

‘Oh, nobody—nothing at all. Nobody that I shall ever fall in love with,
I promise you that.’

‘Not fall in love? Where you go to-night?’

Monteagle smiled at this close question, for he felt a little caught. He
was bound to Loretto when he met Maria.

The girl turned and began to leave him.

‘Stop, Maria, tell me more about these pearls. Who is the gentleman who
sent them to me?’

‘Who is the lady you see last night and go to see to-night too?’
demanded she retreating.

Monteagle pursued, when she quickened her pace and finally fled with the
fleetness of a fawn. Not caring to be seen chasing a woman by several
travellers, whom he had observed coming that way, Monteagle slackened
his pace. Maria was soon out of sight, and Monteagle was besieged by a
thousand ideas at once.

‘She tells me that this valuable gift came from a man—a wealthy
nabob—and yet she inquires as closely into the state of my heart as if
she was the agent of one of her own sex who had an interest in knowing
whether I was in love with Julia Vandewater or not. At any rate, she
has gone off in the belief that I have a lady in view—That I am in
love with her, with whom I spent last night and to whom I am now
going!—Perhaps—yes, perhaps, after all, this is a present from a lady,
and that Maria was charged not to tell that fact unless she should
discover that my heart was disengaged, and that believing it to be
otherwise, she feigned that these pearls came from a rich old fellow
who had nothing to do with his wealth but to send it about the country
by the hands of ladies of pleasure begging young men to accept of it!
No, no, that won’t do. This gift has come from a lady.’

He thought of the veiled female, supposed to be a nun, who brought Maria
the note. ‘Might not she be the giver?’

‘But no, her errand was to the girl, not me.’

A moment’s reflection taught him, that it would be improper to go with
his valuable prize to the house whither he was bound, as Loretto might
suppose, in case she discovered it that it was intended as a gift to
her, and would experience a disappointment when informed that such was
not its destiny.

He turned on his steps to return to the house, and a moment afterwards
heard quick footsteps behind him. He turned, at the same time placing
his hand on his revolver; but the two men who now approached him seemed
to be peaceably inclined.

‘A fine night, sir,’ said one of the strangers.

‘It is indeed,’ replied Monteagle.

‘Have you seen anything of a large brown goat, hereabouts, sir,’
continued the man who had first spoken.

‘I have not,’ was the reply, and Monteagle, bidding them ‘good evening,’
turned to take his way to the city. At this moment his arms were firmly
pinioned to his sides by one of the men, while the other quickly and
adroitly drew his revolver from his pocket, and passed a strong cord
several times tightly round his arms. The man who had heretofore held
him in his iron gripe, in spite of his determined struggles, suddenly
tripped up his heels, and he fell heavily upon the hard beach.

The sudden shock for a few seconds deprived him of his senses, and when
recollection returned he found himself still lying on the wet shore,
from which the tide had but just receded. His arms were tightly lashed
behind his back, and his eyes closely bandaged.

For a few moments no sound was heard but the low murmuring of the small
waves as they rolled upon the beach, and his own heavy breathing, for he
had violently resisted the ruffians in their attempt to bind him; but
the assault had been too sudden and unexpected for his efforts to be of
any avail.

He now attempted to unbind his arms, but all his attempts were perfectly
futile.

‘I hope you’re having a good time of it, casting off them stoppers.
Nothing’ll open them lashings but a sharp knife, and if you get one at
all it will be through your blasted ribs, if I had my way about it.’

‘Who are you, sir; and what means this rascally violence?’

‘Take it coolly, my young game-cock, and bless your stars you haven’t a
brace of bullets through your bloody heart,’ said another voice, which
he recognized as that of the person who had questioned him about the
goat.

Monteagle revolved in his mind all the occurrences which had transpired
in the last few days, in order to account for this strange outrage. At
first he thought robbery might be their object; but this idea was put to
flight when he remembered that while he lay senseless no attempts had
been made to deprive him of the little gold he had about him.

Another person now joined the party, and he heard the three in low and
apparently earnest consultation. Soon they ceased talking, and
approached him.—Two of them raised him to his feet, and one of them said
in a rough, brutal tone, ‘Now, stir your stumps, and walk where we lead
you.’

‘But how if I refuse to walk?’ said Monteagle.

‘Then we’ll take you by the neck and drag you over the beach, if the
sharp stones scrape the flesh from your cursed bones.’

‘Release me; or my cries shall bring assistance,’ said Monteagle,
resolutely.

‘Speak one loud word, and the contents of this crash through your
scull,’ said the last comer, in a firm calm voice, and our hero felt the
cold muzzle of a revolver pressed against his temple, and at the same
instant the sharp click announced it was at full cock.

Monteagle had as brave a heart as ever beat in mortal bosom; but here
was a dilemma that would have made even Jack Hays pause for reflection.

But little time was given Monteagle for thought.

‘D—n,’ cried one of his captors, impatiently, ‘let’s be moving. We’ve
got a long road, and a heavy night’s work before us yet.’

‘By —, you’re right, old hoss,’ said one of them, ‘there’s been fooling
enough already.’

So saying, he seized Monteagle by the collar with no gentle grasp.

The latter seeing that resistance would only lead to his being dragged
along by main force, if not to his instant death, told them to unbind
him, and he would walk peaceably along with them.

‘That’s right, youngster, you’ll save us the price of a couple of
bullets, and the trouble of reloading,’ said the fellow with the
revolver.

After proceeding alongside the beach for some hundred yards, they
clambered up the almost perpendicular face of the cliff, by the
assistance of the dwarf trees and jutting rocks. Monteagle being aided
by two of the men, who each held one of his arms.

Before gaining the summit of the cliff, one of the party gave a low,
peculiar whistle, somewhat like the cry of a curlew. It was immediately
responded to and they set out in the direction from whence proceeded
what was evidently the pre-concerted signal.

‘All right, Jimmy,’ said one of Monteagle’s captors.

‘The divil a bit of noise I hear, I heard only the barking of them
cursed lane wolfs that the uncivilized graysers call key-oats. And the
d—d half starved things made me feel a bit afeard, for they sounded like
a dog howling, and you know when a dog howls it’s sure some one that
hears him is soon going under the sod.’

‘Shut up your Murphy-trap, Jim, or just open it, and take a swallow of
this: I got it at the Sazerac as I passed, thinking you might need a
little Dutch courage, and that brandy would put pluck into even John
Chinaman’s chicken heart.’

‘Come, come, let’s mount and be off.’ This order was given by a voice
which Monteagle recognized as that of the man who placed the pistol at
his head, and who appeared to be the leader of the gang.

Monteagle was placed upon a horse, and with a mounted man on each side
of him, one of whom held the lariat of his steed. The word was given to
proceed, and they all started at a brisk trot.

‘What way?’ said Jimmy.

‘Right straight for the hut!’ was the response.

Monteagle and his assailants had just disappeared in a deep hollow, when
a man suddenly emerged from the thick shrubbery that enclosed the spot
from which the party had departed. He was a short, powerfully built man.
Even in the moonlight one could see that there were more white than
black hairs in the abundant locks that fell upon his variously colored
blanket; but his eye-brows were coal-black, and bent over eyes as bright
and keen as the point of a dagger.

‘Holy Barbara!’ ejaculated he in Spanish, while his hands almost
mechanically made the sign of the Cross. ‘What in the name of _San_
Diabolo are they going to do with that youth? But I must be off, or it
will be too late to save him. No wonder our dear mistress Donna Inez
loves him. I owe him a good turn, too, for he certainly saved my life
when them two ‘Pike’ hombres were going to give me ‘hell,’ as they
called it, because I was sober on the Fourth of July.’ Thus
soliloquizing, the Californian, for such he was, withdrew once more into
the thicket, and in a second returned, followed by a noble looking
steed, black as midnight.

‘You shall have a good run now, my handsome Cid,’ said the old
Californian, as he patted the mane upon the forehead of the noble
animal, as gently as a father would the curls that clustered on the brow
of a favorite daughter.

Without touching foot to stirrups, he vaulted lightly into the saddle,
shook the reins, and the next instant Cid was bearing his rider through
the hollows and over the hills that lay between them and the Mission,
near which was the rancho inhabited by the father of Donna Inez.

Sanchez, for such was the name of the horseman, never drew rein until he
stopped abruptly at the gate of his mistress’ domicile. Here he
alighted, entered the house, and sought an interview with the beautiful
daughter of Signor Castro.


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



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                       The Lone Hut—The Torture!


Return we now to Monteagle. The ruthless gang of fellows who had made
him prisoner rode on in almost total silence over the vast treeless,
shrubless, sand bank which lies between the bluff headlands and the
little laguna, where the pig-eyed votaries of Confucius perform the
scrubbing, dipping and pounding of linen, dignified with the misnomer of
_washing_. As if anything immersed in that chocolate-hued fluid could
emerge purer than it entered. Skirting the shore of the laguna, the
party soon reached a tolerably good road. This they followed for about
half a mile. One of the party riding some distance in advance in order
to give notice of the approach of any unwelcome intruder. No person
appeared, however, to interfere with their plans and they soon struck
off into the sand hills, where their persons were hidden from view by
the scrub oaks and wild lilac bushes that covered these lonely spots,
since dotted with neat little cottages and smiling gardens. Heaven grant
that they may ever be the abode of prosperity and happiness, as they
have always been of open-hearted hospitality.

Half an hour’s more riding brought them to the place of their
destination. It was a rude hut or cabin, such as ‘squatters’ put up when
taking possession—peaceably if they can, forcibly if they must. This hut
was erected at the bottom of a deep dell, surrounded on all sides by
hills so abrupt that they were forced to leave the horses tied above,
while they made the descent on foot.

Both externally and internally this looked like the ordinary abode of a
new settler. But no sooner had the gang entered with their prisoner,
than a light was procured, and one of the party, moving a mattress,
lifted a trap door that gave entrance to a subterraneous apartment of
some extent. It was probably a natural cavern, the entrance to which had
been accidentally discovered by these desperadoes. Its isolated
situation suggested its usefulness to them as a secret place of
rendezvous, and a receptacle for plunder. One of them had accordingly
squatted on the place and put up the hut.

Monteagle was handed down into this apartment, his eyes still
blindfolded—but the close, damp air informed his senses that he was in
an underground apartment of some kind. The more he reflected the more he
became mystified in his endeavors to ascertain the motives that had
prompted these ruffians to take him prisoner in this most unaccountable
manner. He had recognized the voice of the man called ‘Jimmy’ as that of
the villian found asleep in Vandewater’s store, and who had been
arrested for murder, and afterwards escaped from justice. But this
discovery did not explain why he had been thus kidnapped. His suspense
was, however, soon ended, as shall presently be shown.

The cavern was of large dimensions, yet was more than half filled with
silks, broadcloths, laces, and velvets of the costliest descriptions
piled promiscuously together. Upon these heaps lay goblets, salvers and
ladles of gold and silver ware, some showing signs of use, but most
appearing bright and untarnished as when they glittered on the
jeweller’s shelves. These things were evidently the result of successful
robberies and explained why the neighboring city had been swept by so
many conflagrations.

In one corner of the cavern a small, thin, sharp-visaged man bent over a
large crucible, the flickering flames beneath which shed a red glow upon
his swarthy, anxious countenance. At the first glance this individual
might have been mistaken for one of those alchemists who, in the dark
ages, sought to transmute the baser metals into gold, or discover an
elixir that would give to mortal man eternal vigor and immortal youth.
He of the crucible was engaged in no such visionary employment. Beside
him stood dies and other mechanical contrivances for the manufacture of
coin, while a large box full of glittering ‘octagons’ showed that he was
busy ‘augmenting the currency,’ by fabricating spurious ‘slugs.’

Monteagle now once more demanded the cause of his detention.

‘Your employer, Vandewater, lately sold a vessel on account of a New
York merchant, for thirty thousand dollars, which sum he received in
gold. That money was placed in your safe—’

‘Then you are the robbers!’

‘Silence, and listen! When we opened the safe, it only held a few
thousands belonging to the firm. You know where the thirty thousand is
placed. Inform us, and you shall be liberated, and if we obtain the
money, you shall have five thousand dollars for your share.’

‘I’ll die first,’ indignantly cried Monteagle.

‘No—you’ll confess first, and maybe die soon after,’ said a voice which
Monteagle to his surprise and joy recognized as that of Blodget.

‘What, Blodget, my friend, you here? Then this is all a joke. But it has
been carried much too far,’ said Monteagle, his cheek flushing as he
thought of the violence he had been subjected to.

‘If it’s a joke, youngster, you’ll think its a d—d poor one before we
get through with it. But enough of this fooling! Tell where the money’s
to be found, or by h-ll we’ll make you!’

‘Never—so help me heaven!’ said Monteagle, determinedly.

‘Just hand me that little vice,’ said Blodget, in a cool, business-like,
tone.

‘Is it this?’ said Jimmy, bringing over a small, portable iron vice,
from among the tools by the furnace.

‘That’s right,’ said Blodget. ‘Now, lads, hold him fast.’ Monteagle was
suddenly prostrated upon the damp floor, and firmly held there by the
ruffians, although he put forth lion-like strength in his struggles to
shake off his enemies. ‘Now, then, we’ll try his nerves,’ said Blodget,
and immediately proceeded to adjust the vice on one of Monteagle’s
thumbs. ‘Will you tell where the money can be found?’ said Blodget.

Monteagle made no reply.

Blodget gave the vice a couple of turns but Monteagle gave no signs of
feeling except an involuntary shudder and a heavy sigh.

Again his heartless tormentor gave the vice a turn. Still the brave
youth remained silent, although the pain was fearful, and he could feel
the hot blood gushing from under his nail.

‘Knock out the stubborn divil’s brains,’ cried Jimmy, waxing impatient
at the delay.

‘Keep cool, Jimmy,’ said Blodget. ‘It is money we want, not brains.’

Another turn of the vice—but Monteagle, save by a low, involuntary
groan, gave no token of the agony he suffered.

‘Curse the fellow, it’s as hard to extract gold from him as to crush it
out of quartz rocks. He’s so devilish stubborn, I see he will die, as he
says, before he’ll tell where the gold is placed. Now, boys, what’s to
be done?’ continued Blodget, looking around inquiringly into the
villainous faces of his companions.

They were all silent, for some seconds. At length the man that we have
described as being employed over the furnace, broke silence, saying,
‘Let me manage him, and I’ll promise to make him tell, not only where we
may find this gold, but reveal far weightier secrets, if such he knows.’

‘Go a-head! Signor Maretzo,’ said Blodget, ‘but remember that we have no
racks and wheels, or any of those other ingenious contrivances so common
in your precious country.’

‘My country is what tyrants and priests have made it;’ returned the
Italian. ‘Even the accursed act I am now about to practice I learned in
the dungeons of the _holy_ inquisition. There my heart was turned to
marble, and every drop of pity congealed forever.’

‘Let the blessid church alone, or you and me’ll have a row, old
black-beard,’ said Jimmy, quite fiercely.

‘That ‘Sazerac’ brandy has awakened Jimmy’s religious feelings. But,
come, come—there’s been too much of this fooling. Maretzo, if you can
make this stubborn devil talk, do so at once!’

Maretzo made some arrangements about his furnace, and joined the party
gathered around Monteagle—who still lay, bound and blind-folded, upon
the dungeon floor.

The Italian then took up a piece of linen from one of the piles of dry
goods, and placed it smoothly and tightly over Monteagle’s lips and
nostrils. He then took a glass of water, and poured a few drops upon the
linen. The poor youth could draw breath with difficulty through the dry
linen, but when its threads became swollen by absorbing the water his
respiration was almost entirely prevented. His breast heaved by
involuntary muscular expansion—great drops of sweat started from every
pore, while the veins of his neck and forehead grew swollen and purple.
It required the united force of all the scoundrels that surrounded him
to retain his writhing body on the earth.

Poor Monteagle’s convulsive and spasmodic efforts, however, soon
subsided, and it appeared as if his tormentors had gone too far, and
that death had stepped in and snatched their helpless victim from
further cruelties.

Maretzo removed the cloth, and after a few heavy and painful attempts at
breathing, Monteagle’s low groans and sighs told how dreadful had been
his sufferings.

‘Now, G—d d—n your stubborn soul will you tell us where to find the
money,’ said Blodget.

Heavy, deep-drawn sighs, were the poor youth’s sole reply.

‘Give him another dose,’ said one of the heartless ruffians, ‘he likes
the medicine so well.’

At this instant the trap door was lifted, and one of the gang, who had
been stationed on the neighboring hill as a look-out, cried:

‘I see a party of horsemen making right for the hut, at full gallop. We
must have been followed. Let’s be off, at once, or we’re sure to be
taken!’

‘Sure an’ let’s have a brush wid ’em,’ said Jimmy.

‘Never fight till you’re obliged to,’ said Blodget.

‘Lay hold of this fellow,’ said Maretzo, ‘and carry him to a horse, then
let’s all start down towards the Heads. I know of a cave there, that has
never had any dwellers except seals. There we can keep this youth, and
wring the secret from him, or, failing that, put him where he’ll tell no
tales.’

No more words were wasted; this striking the whole party as the best
plan they could pursue under the circumstances. Accordingly, a couple of
men seized hold of Monteagle, and bore him up the stairs, through the
hut, and then to the summit of the acclivity where the horses were
tethered. The rest of the party followed, bearing with them all the most
valuable and portable articles they could get hold of in their haste.

By the time the whole gang were in the saddle and ready for a start, the
approaching party of riders had got to within a quarter of a mile of the
hut. They were coming from the direction of the Mission.


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



                               CHAPTER IX

                     The Maid—the Robber—the Race.


The reader will remember that we left Sanchez at the house of Signor
Castro, whither he had ridden with speed, upon hearing the directions
given to convey Monteagle to the solitary hut, with the whereabouts of
which he was well acquainted.

Leaping from his horse, Sanchez merely cast the reins upon his neck, and
the well trained animal stood almost motionless awaiting the return of
his rider.

Upon entering the house the first inquire of Sanchez was for his young
mistress, Donna Inez. She had gone to the Mission Church, to attend the
vesper services, and had not yet returned.

Again Sanchez was in the saddle, and in a few moments reached the square
fronting the rude antique edifice in which many generations of
Californians have been christened, wedded and buried. Here he again
dismounted, entered the church, and catching the eye of his mistress,
motioned her to follow him, and then withdrew from the church. No sooner
had they passed from beneath the sacred roof, than Sanchez related to
her all that he had witnessed on the beach, when Monteagle was seized.

The youthful maiden’s lovely cheek now paled till it was white as
alabaster, then crimsoned till its flush rivalled the ruddiest rose, as
she listened to the rude but graphic description given by Sanchez of the
violent seizure of the gallant youth who had bravely rushed into the
flames and saved her from a dreadful death.

Donna Inez directed Sanchez to go to a small hotel, on a road that leads
into the Mission Plaza, and inquire for one Joaquin. If he saw him, he
was to say the lady desired to meet him instantly, at her father’s
residence.

Sanchez did the bidding of his young mistress with due diligence. He
found Joaquin busy at a game of billiards; but no sooner did he receive
the message than throwing down his cue he rushed to the door, and leaped
into the saddle of a splendid looking horse, which was quietly standing
untied at the door. Bidding Sanchez to follow, Joaquin struck the spurs
deep into the flanks of his fiery steed, and proceeded at a gallop
towards the dwelling of Signor Castro.

When Joaquin arrived in front of the mansion, he found the young and
lovely lady standing in the portico. She was attired in the rich garb of
a Mexican cavalier. But neither the large topped boots, nor the ample
poncho could disguise the matchless symmetry of that perfect form: rich
in every grace that renders woman resistless. Her rounded bosom heaved
wildly beneath the folds of her poncho as Joaquin lifted his hat before
her, at the same moment reining in his foaming steed with such a sudden
and powerful effort, that the spirited animal was forced down almost on
his haunches.

‘_Buenos noches_, Donna Inez,’ said the robber, for such he was,
respectfully.

‘Thank you—thank you, Joaquin, for your promptness. You are indeed
grateful,’ said Donna Inez.

‘My dear lady,’ replied Joaquin, ‘give me I beg of you, an opportunity
to prove my gratitude in some more difficult shape than in riding a
short distance on a fine evening.’

‘I will Joaquin. I desire this night, to have your aid in an enterprise
full of difficulty; nay, of absolute danger,’ said Inez.

‘Danger!’ cried the robber, and his bright black eyes dilated and
sparkled like those of a war-horse when the clangor of trumpets smites
his ear. ‘Let the enterprise be full of danger and I will execute it for
the danger’s sake—much more willingly however, if I also serve you, my
dear, my noble young lady. Oh, never can be effaced from my heart your
kindness to my poor, darling Carmencitto, after those fiends had—’ the
robber paused, his swarthy visage became of ashy hue, and his strong
frame trembled with some violent emotion. ‘Enough of this—I live but for
two purposes—gratitude to you, and revenge on them hell-born
villains—then welcome death in any shape; for what have I more to do in
this world, when my poor Carmencitto lies in her cold grave?’

Inez, who knew how cruelly this man had been treated, waited ere she
again addressed him. When he became somewhat calmer, she said:

‘Joaquin, some villains have seized the brave young man who saved my
life, and carried him to the lone hut over among the sand-hills. I am
determined to rescue him, and need your aid, and that of some of your
friends.’

‘Most willingly,’ replied Joaquin, and placing a small silver bugle to
his lips he blew two notes, so sharp and loud that their echoes could be
heard reverberating from the distant hills. But awakening the echoes
were not the only effect. In a few moments, coming from different
directions, nearly a dozen horsemen could be seen drawing towards the
spot where the sounds proceeded.

Meanwhile, Sanchez, in obedience to the directions of his mistress had
saddled her favorite horse, and led him to the front of the house; when
Inez, declining assistance, vaulted lightly into the richly mounted
saddle _en cavalier_, and as the fiery animal bounded and curvetted, her
full but exquisitely moulded limbs yielded gracefully to each movement
of the animal she bestrode, while she tried to check his impatience by
patting his coal black neck with her little hand, whiter than the pearls
that zoned her taper fingers, and speaking to him in those soft
endearing expressions of which the Spanish is so full.

No sooner had the horsemen, summoned by the bugle of Joaquin, all
assembled, than they started at a brisk pace, led by Sanchez, through
the bridle-path that led in the direction of the hut.

It was the approach of this party which induced the gang who had
captured Monteagle, to leave the hut in such haste.

Monteagle was so exceeding weak when he reached the spot where the
horses of the thieves were tied, that, even had he wished to do so, he
could not have retained his seat, in the saddle a moment. So, after
placing him astride a horse, they lashed him in his seat with one of
those ever-present and ever-useful lariats.

No sooner was this done than away they started in the direction of the
Presidio Road, the pursuing foe, being less then a third of a mile
behind them.

‘Who the deuce can they be?’ said Blodget, who rode on one side of
Monteagle, to Jimmy, who rode on the other side.

‘It’s more nor I can conceive,’ replied Jimmy.

‘They can’t be police, nor even the vigilance committee, or why come
from the Mission instead of the city?’ said Blodget.

‘They surely can’t be a pleasure party,’ replied Jimmy. ‘For the
huntsman of Howth, that followed a hare to h—l, wouldn’t gallop over
those sand-hills for fun.’

‘And most certainly not at such an hour,’ said Blodget. ‘’Tis very, very
strange. They still follow us,’ he continued, as he turned in the
saddle, and looked back at the approaching party.

By this time they had gained the road that—running almost parallel with
the shore of the Bay—passed the Presidio, and went on toward the rugged
promontory which forms one side of the famous Golden Gate.

For a few moments they proceeded on in silence; occasionally glancing
back to see if the party that so alarmed them, continued the pursuit.
What they had thus far feared was soon turned to certainty, for they saw
the whole party, numbering nearly a dozen, emerge from the shrubbery,
turn into the road, and follow after them at a good round pace.

‘As long as we keep this distance from them, don’t force your horses,
and we may yet contrive to escape them. Their nags must be pretty well
blown, as they had a long ride before they reached the hut; and ours
started fresh, after a good long rest,’ said Blodget to his companions.

Leaving the gang of thieves to pursue their way, let us return to Inez
and the party accompanying her.

‘They have all left the hut,’ said Sanchez, as they drew near it, ‘and I
think that is the young American, between the two that ride in advance
of the party.’

‘Oh, for heaven’s sake, let us spur on, and save him. Who knows what
bloody purpose is in their cruel hearts!’ cried Inez.

‘We must spare our horses over this uneven ground, if we hope to catch
the villains,’ replied Joaquin.

‘Be it as you say,’ rejoined the maiden, reluctantly checking her eager
steed who seemed impatient to leap forward.

While these conversations were proceeding, both parties had reached a
fine piece of level ground that stretched away before them in the
direction of the Presidio.

‘Now,’ cried Joaquin, ‘urge your horses to the utmost!’ and suiting the
action to the words, his long spurs were buried into the side of his
charger, who bounded forward like lightning.

Keeping leap for leap with his fleet steed was the gallant animal that
bore Inez on his back, while the rest of the party were but a few rods
in the rear. The vigilant Blodget soon observed that the pursuers had
increased their speed, and were fast lessening the distance between
them.

‘Let your horses do their d—est!’ cried the profane fellow, as he struck
the rowels deep into the already bleeding sides of his courser.

His followers quickly obeyed his commands, and the pursuers and the
pursued were soon scouring over the plain, at the very utmost speed of
their respective horses.


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



                               CHAPTER X

                          The Chase Continued.


Inez and Joaquin had now arrived almost within pistol-shot of the gang,
which had concentrated around Monteagle.

‘They’ll catch us sure, if we don’t cast this fellow adrift,’ said one
of the party.

‘He’ll never live to see one of us hung, at any rate,’ said Jimmy,
drawing a revolver, and raising it towards Monteagle’s head.

‘Liar!’ shouted Joaquin, as he raised himself in his stirrups, and cast
his lasso, which had been for some seconds whirling round his head.

Before Jimmy had time to touch the trigger the unerring noose was fast
around his neck. Joaquin’s horse halted suddenly, bringing Jimmy to the
earth with such violence, as to break his neck.

‘Don’t mind, Jimmy, but spur for your lives,’ cried Blodget, as he urged
on his own steed, and that to which Monteagle was lashed. Maretzo
instantly taking the place just before occupied by Jimmy.

The lassoing of Jimmy necessarily caused some delay to the pursuing
party, which the pursued made good use of to increase the distance
between them.

Joaquin sprang from his horse to disengage his lasso from the neck of
the fallen man, and in turning the body for that purpose, brought the
face of the villain into the full light of the moon.

‘Holy Virgin. Thanks, thanks. A golden candlestick shall grace your
shrine,’ and his eye sparkled, and a gleam of joy shot over his swarthy
visage.

‘Gracious Heavens!’ exclaimed Inez. ‘Why Joaquin, though the holy saints
know how thankful I am that your skilful arm saved the life of my dear
preserver, still I cannot conceive why you can take such pleasure in
looking upon such an awful sight as the face of that wretched man,’ and
Inez turned her face aside sickened to the very heart.

‘My gracious young donna,’ replied the robber, ‘too seldom have I prayed
to the holy saints, and to the still holier ones. But of late I have
thrown myself before every crucifix I saw and with tears begged that the
ravishers of Carmencitto should fall by this hand, and this hand only.
And the holy saints have heard my prayers.’ As he spoke, he drew a long
sharp blade from its sheath, and plunged it to the hilt in the still
warm breast of his prostrate foe. ‘And now, fair lady,’ he exclaimed,
‘once again I am at your service.’

‘Let us ride like the wind, Joaquin,’ said Inez impatiently.

Joaquin was in his saddle, and his horse at full speed in an instant.

But the few moments that had elapsed had sufficed for Blodget and his
troop to be almost out of sight.

‘They will surely escape us,’ cried the maiden.

‘No donna,’ said Sanchez respectfully. ‘They have turned down to the
beach, and before they ride a quarter of a mile they will reach a rock
that runs out into the sea, round which they cannot pass but at low
tide, and even then with great risk.’

While Sanchez was speaking, Blodget and his comrades had reached the
point alluded to.

‘By G—d,’ cried Blodget, ‘here we are, brought up, all standing,’ as he
reined his horse, and gazed angrily upon the white breakers that dashed
against the base of the high and jagged rock.

‘This that you fear will ruin us, will prove our safety,’ said Maretzo.
‘I know this spot well. Though close at the foot of the cliff the water
is deep, a little way farther out, it is comparatively shoal, and the
blue water will hardly reach our horses’ girths, though the foam and
spray of the breakers may dash over our heads. Follow me closely,
deviate not a single inch right or left, and my life for it, I’ll bring
you safely through.’

So speaking, Maretzo, taking the horse of Monteagle by the bridle, rode
fearlessly into the seething and foaming cauldron that roared around the
projecting rocks.

He was followed by Blodget and the rest of the party, and though the
stoutest of them quailed when the tumbling waves reached their knees,
and the cold spray dashed blindingly in their eyes, yet they continued
on, seeing that the steeds of Maretzo and Monteagle kept their footing
in the yeasty waves.

When Inez and her friends reached the point around which Monteagle had
disappeared with his capturers, their first impulse was to follow, but
Joaquin commanded his party to halt, till he first attempted the
dangerous passage. Inez, however, refusing to let him risk the attempt
alone, spurred her steed and dashed boldly into the roaring and foaming
waters with him.

They naturally kept as close to the face of the cliff as possible,
supposing they would there find the shoalest water, but before they had
proceeded many paces the horse rode by Inez began to plunge and rear
frantically, frightened by the noise and dash of the waves. The maiden
lost all control of the terrified animal, when Joaquin, seeing her peril
seized the rein of her steed, and by a sudden and powerful jerk turned
his head in the direction of the shore they had just left, where he
quickly regained sure footing.

‘Donna Inez,’ said the robber, ‘to pass here is impossible. Either those
fellows know some secret ford around this rock, or else the tide has
risen unusually fast since they passed. At all events we cannot follow
them. The tide is rising and it will be many hours before it will be
possible to pass here. Before that time they will be beyond our reach.’

‘Cannot we ascend these cliffs, and thus cut them off,’ said Inez.

‘No, donna,’ replied Sanchez, ‘we must go back for a long distance
before we meet with a place which even a rabbit could get up.’

Reluctantly Inez admitted the force of these remarks, and slowly turned
her horse’s head in the direction of the city.

‘They have some motive, beside murder, in going to all this trouble,
else had they killed him when they first met him.’

‘What motive could they have?’ asked Inez.

‘Perhaps, to keep him concealed, until they could obtain a heavy ransom
for his release.’

‘But from whom could they expect such a ransom; for the youth is neither
rich himself nor has he rich relatives, at least not in this country.’

‘May not some of the desperadoes with which the city abounds, have heard
of the gallant manner in which the youth rescued you from the flames,
and trust to obtain from the generosity of your father a round sum for
the ransom of the savior of his daughter.’

Inez admitted the plausibility of this supposition, and inwardly
resolving that all her own and her father’s wealth should be expended,
if necessary, to release Monteagle, she silently rode towards home.

When Maretzo, leading the horse of Monteagle, and his comrades, had
safely passed around the cliff, they found themselves on a clear,
crescent-shaped beach of some extent, the opposite end of which was
bounded by a rocky headland, similar somewhat to the one they had just
rounded, but still farther overhanging the flood that dashed into foam
against the huge fragments strewed at its base.

‘We are now safe from pursuit,’ said Maretzo. ‘Even I, would not venture
to retrace our steps, now that the tide has risen so much.’

‘Well, old fellow, we had a d—d tight squeeze of it, that’s a fact. I
thought at one time we were all going to a place where you wouldn’t have
to spend much for fuel for your furnace, eh, Maretzo?’

The Italian merely made some stale joke about the improbability of
Blodget’s ever dying by water while there was any rope in the world.

‘How far yet to this cavern?’ inquired Blodget.

‘It’s under yonder head,’ was the reply of the Italian, as the party
moved forward.

‘But, deuce take it,’ said Blodget, ‘we shall perish of cold and hunger
before morning. I’ve got a touch of the ‘chills’ already.’

‘As to the cold, the beach is strewn with drift wood, and we can soon
have a fire,’ said Maretzo.

‘But is the beach strewn with provisions?’ asked Blodget.

‘I have provisions for a month in the cave,’ said Maretzo.

‘Come, come, old hoss,—none of that Robinson Crusoe gammon. It’s bad
fooling with a hungry man.’

‘I’ll explain to you. During the last great fire, I happened to be near
the end of Long Wharf. A lighter full of goods had just been made fast.
All the hands rushed up the wharf, probably to assist in putting out the
fire. They hadn’t stopped even to lower the sail of their boat. The
temptation was too strong. I leaped on board, set the sail, and was
flying before a stiff breeze right for this cove, where I beached her.
Her cargo, instead of rich goods, as I had hoped, proved to be
provisions of different kinds, packed in tins. These I carried to the
cave. That night it blew hard, and the lighter went to pieces. But, here
we are at our journey’s end.’ So saying, Maretzo, again taking the lead,
went boldly in among the breakers.—Blodget followed, leading the horse
of the young man, and the remainder of the party brought up the rear.
For a few moments, they proceeded on; now turning to the right hand, now
to the left, to avoid some vast rock that blocked their way, or to
escape falling into some hole in the bottom. The water meanwhile was at
times so deep that the horses barely kept their footing, and their
riders found great difficulty in making them proceed amid the dashing
breakers and the horrid din.

Maretzo, at length, turned sharply to the left, and the next moment the
whole party were in utter darkness, in a vast cave, through which they
could hear the wind soughing and the roar of the sea reverberating.

‘Stand fast, where you are, till I get a light,’ said Maretzo, and
dismounting, he groped about until his hand rested upon a box of
candles, part of the cargo of the lighter. Half a dozen of them were
soon burning, and by their glimmer the party fastened their jaded
horses.

Monteagle was released from his Mazeppa-like bonds, and placed on the
floor of the cave, more dead than alive from the cruel way in which he
had been tortured and afterwards lashed to the horse.

A roaring fire was soon kindled, and by its lurid flames the party could
see the vast size of the cavern. Maretzo pointed out where the
provisions were stowed, and each man bountifully helped himself, and
then they all assembled around the blazing fire.

One of the gang less unfeeling than the others, gave Monteagle a
biscuit, and a drink out of his flask, which tended to relieve him
somewhat.

‘What think you, Maretzo,’ said Blodget, drawing the Italian aside,
after they had recovered from their fatigue, ‘is there any more use
wasting our time with this chap?’

‘I fear not,’ replied Maretzo. ‘He is now so weak that he would probably
faint under any fresh torture, and insensibility would baffle us.’

‘Then we must be off. Brown was to try to find out, by some other means,
where the money was placed, and if he has succeeded, we must be on hand
before daylight to get hold of it. For the absence of Monteagle may
excite suspicion, and our sport be spoiled.’

‘What shall we do with our prisoner? Knock him on the head, and give the
crabs a feast?’

‘No. Brown has some old scores to settle with him. You had better stay
here to-night with him, and in the morning I’ll ride out here and report
progress.’

‘Be it as you say. I shall not be sorry to have a few hours rest,’ said
Maretzo.

‘But how are we to get out of this trap?’

‘You can easily get out of here on the side opposite to that by which we
entered. By following the beach awhile you will strike a road that leads
over the hills to the City. By that road return in the morning. I’ll be
on the look out for you!’

‘Pick up, boys,’ cried Blodget, and in short time they had departed,
piloted by Maretzo, leaving Monteagle alone in the cavern.

While taking him from the horse the bandage had been partially removed
from his eyes, and he had been a witness of all that went on.

No sooner had they all quitted the place than he at once determined to
make a desperate attempt to escape before their return, as he felt that
that was his only chance.

Approaching the fire, he seized a piece of wood with his teeth and
applied the blazing end to the cords that bound his arms. For some
seconds it resisted the action of the fire, but at length it blazed, and
was soon so weakened that with the energy of despair the youth snapped
it, and had his hands again at liberty. He next looked around for some
weapon, and luckily found a hatchet which Maretzo had used to open the
cases. Thus armed, he stationed himself at the entrance of the cavern
with the determination to fell the ruffians to the earth as they
attempted to enter, and then endeavor to make his escape. In a few
moments Maretzo appeared and received a blow that sent him reeling and
senseless to the ground. Monteagle waited a few moments, but no one else
appearing he stepped out of the cavern, and fortunately took the
direction in which the gang had just proceeded. At times the waves
reached his arm-pits but by moving forward cautiously he at length
reached the beach safely.


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



                               CHAPTER XI

                              The Robbery.


It was about two o’clock of the morning following the night in which so
many events were crowded. The moon had gone down, and great masses of
black clouds completely hid the stars. The wind blew violently from
seawards, and the waves dashed furiously against the massive piers which
the enterprise of the San Franciscans have carried far into the bosom of
their glorious Bay.

‘Well, if this ain’t a hell of a night, I’m d—d,’ said a powerfully
built man, who might have been recognized as Montgomery had it not been
so dark that a negro could not have been discerned from an albino.

‘By Vere in ’ell is Blodget a keepin’ hisself,’ said his companion,
whose unmerciful treatment of the v’s and w’s announced him to be a
genuine Cockney, and such he was; but previous to visiting California,
he had paid Botany Bay a flying visit, his wrists graced with these
bracelets, so much more useful than ornamental.

These two men were in a large yawl, under a wharf near Davis street.

‘Boat a-hoy!’ cried Blodget, on the wharf.

‘All right!’ responded Montgomery from beneath it.

‘Vere’ve you been this jolly long vile,’ said the cockney, as he opened
the slide of a dark lantern, while Montgomery drew the boat along to a
place where an opening in the planking admitted Blodget’s dropping into
the boat.

‘Hold her steady,’ said Blodget, as he leaped square into the centre of
the boat.

‘Who else is vith ye?’ said Jobson, the Londoner.

‘Step down here, Belcher,’ said Blodget.

As he spoke a man leaped lightly into the boat. To the casual observer
there was nothing in the appearance of this individual to attract
particular attention, but one accustomed to gauge men’s figures by the
eye, could not have failed to be struck by the broad shoulders, the full
rounded chest, the muscular limbs, and the easy grace of every movement.
Pity that a form so full of manliness should hold so black a heart.

‘Pull straight for the big wooden store, at the foot of Sacramento
street. Old Vandewater, thinking he was d—d sharp, had the kegs of
specie, packed in barrels of mackerel by Monteagle and put in the old
store, thinking some of us might hear of the sale of the steamer, and
break into his store. Brown, to-day, accidentally overheard the carman
speak of moving some mackerel, and as it tallied with the day the money
was moved, guessed the rest. We can easily get into the store,’
continued Blodget.

‘Give way!’ said the man we have called Belcher, and at the same moment
he dipped the blades of a pair of oars into the water and the yawl flew
forward.

Few words were spoken, although there was small chance of their being
overheard, so loudly howled the gale.

When they reached the wharf upon which stood the store, they proceeded
between the piles until all chance of their light being observed was
destroyed. An auger was now produced, a hole bored in the planking, then
a sharp well greased key-hole saw was introduced and in less than a
quarter of an hour a hole sufficiently large to admit a man, was made.

Belcher Kay easily raised himself by his muscular arms into the store;
he then assisted Blodget up. The others remained in the boat.

A very few moments sufficed for Blodget and his companion to saw the
hoops of the mackerel barrels, and thus get possession of the boxes of
gold.

They were quickly lowered into the boat, and the thieves got safely off
with their booty.

‘Vell if old Wandevater don’t svear in the morning, I hopes I may never
see old Hingland again,’ cried the patriotic Briton as he saw the Golden
ballast stowed in the bottom of the boat.

‘Pull for Mission creek,’ said Blodget, ‘they’ll give Sydney Valley an
awful searching to-morrow.’

The robbers made good their escape, with the thirty thousand dollars in
specie, that had been so ingeniously hidden as Mr. Vandewater supposed.

Great was the surprise of the worthy merchant, when summoned, early in
the morning, by the storekeeper and informed that the store had been
entered.—‘But,’ said his informant, ‘they gained nothing by all their
trouble, and out of spite destroyed the few barrels of mackerel that
were brought to the store the other day.’

‘Then they have got all the money.—Where’s Monteagle?’ cried Mr.
Vandewater.

‘I tried to find him at his lodgings,’ said the man, ‘but he had not
been at home all night, I was told.’

At this moment Brown, Mr. V’s partner, entered, and expressed great
surprise at the fact of the money being in the store of which he had not
been informed. ‘’Tis very remarkable that Monteagle should be out all
night, the very time of the robbery. Was Monteagle aware of it being
concealed in the barrels, and placed in the store?’ continued Brown
interrogatively, to Vandewater.

‘He is the only person to whom I entrusted the matter. As it was funds
with which the firm had nothing to do, I did not deem it necessary to
trouble you about the affair. Indeed, it was Monteagle that suggested
the mode and place of concealing the money,’ said Mr. Vandewater.

‘Why this is the most remarkable set of coincidences I ever heard of. A
letter addressed to him, evidently brought by that fellow who afterwards
stabbed a man—he proposes a way and place of hiding the money—the money
is stolen, and on the very night of its being taken, he, Monteagle, is
absent all night. Yet, he _may_ clear himself,’ said Brown.

‘It is too clear,’ said Mr. Vandewater sorrowfully. ‘I would have
trusted that youth with my life, and feel at this moment far less regret
for the loss of the money than losing all faith in the integrity of my
fellow-men.’

‘We have both, I fear, been greatly deceived in Monteagle. Within the
last few days I have heard that he gambled heavily, and was in the
constant habit of visiting houses of ill-fame,’ remarked Brown.

‘Well, what steps had we best take in regard to this unfortunate
affair,’ said the merchant.

‘There are suspicious circumstances sufficient to warrant the arrest of
Monteagle,’ replied Brown.

‘No—no—I cannot think of that.—He has been misled by others, and though
I never wish to employ, or even see him again, I would not wish him to
be arrested. So justly indignant are the citizens at the numerous
robberies and fires that have lately taken place, that his conviction
would be closely followed by his execution. The respectability of his
position would be no bar to this, for the Vigilance Committee have
determined to make an example of the first man that is fairly proven
guilty.’

‘Be it as you will, sir,’ said Brown, inwardly congratulating himself
that in this manner all inquiry would be stopped with respect to the
robbery.

‘Let nothing more be said about this unfortunate affair, Mr. Brown. Let
the store-keepers version pass as the true one—that thieves finding no
booty in the store, departed after destroying some of the goods which
were of too little value for them to remove.’

Leaving Mr. Vandewater to make arrangements for replacing the stolen
money, let us return to Monteagle, who, the reader will recollect, we
left safe on the beach after his escape from the cavern of the robbers.

It was with the greatest difficulty, that he continued to drag his
wearied limbs along over the hills and through the valleys that lay
between him and the city, and it was late in the morning before he
appeared at the counting house of his employer, who was conversing with
his partner at the moment.

‘And this you think is Monteagle’s cap,’ said Vandewater.

‘I know it to be his, and saw it on his head last evening, as he passed
up Pacific street,’ responded Brown.

‘Ah, yes—yes. Too true—too true! Here are his initials, under the
lining, in his own writing. This destroys my last hope of his innocence.
And you say it was found close by the hole by which the robbers effected
an entrance to the store.’

‘Yes; it was handed me by the storekeeper. It was evidently dropped in
the hurry and forgotten when too late. But here is the young gentleman
himself,’ said Brown, not a little surprised and alarmed at the
appearance of Monteagle, whom he had supposed safely secured in the
cavern.

‘Mr. Monteagle,’ said Vandewater, in a stern voice, slightly tremulous,
however, with regret, ‘Your services are no longer needed in this
establishment, nor do I ever wish you to tread upon the threshold of my
house again. Great God! what an escape poor Julia has had. It was to
this man I wished to entrust the keeping of your happiness!’

Before Monteagle could recover from his surprise, Brown broke in: ‘But
perhaps, after all, Mr. Monteagle will explain from whom he received the
note the other day, and what was the nature of the appointment it made.’

Monteagle blushed, hesitated, stammered but knew not how to
reply.—‘This, then,’ thought he, ‘is the cause of my dismissal. Mr.
Vandewater has learned of my associating with wantons, and justly
dismisses me from his confidence.’

Meanwhile, Mr. Vandewater who had been closely watching him, and with
sorrow saw what he supposed were convincing evidences of Monteagle’s
complicity in the robbery. Not giving the youth time to recover from his
confusion, he waved him out of his office with a cool, haughty gesture,
which roused Monteagle’s pride, as he thought that he was not worse than
thousands of other young men. And this feeling of hurt pride was greatly
increased as he reflected upon the manner in which he had suffered, the
previous evening, all but death sooner than divulge the secret of this
man who now treated him so ungenerously. Turning upon his heel he slowly
withdrew from the office, and wended his way to his lodging.


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



                               CHAPTER XI

                      How Joaquin became a Robber.


It was one of the loveliest mornings of the loveliest of seasons in
California—early summer—when two equestrians might have been seen
cantering over a level plain not far from San Jose.

‘Surely, Joaquin, this is the sweetest country upon earth, and we the
happiest people in it,’ said one of the riders, a young girl of some
seventeen summers. As she spoke the glance of her dark lustrous eyes
rested lovingly upon the face of the noble-looking man that rode beside
her, and whose passionate gaze of admiration told how ardently he loved,
nay, worshipped his beautiful companion.—And worthy, right worthy was
she of all the love of his passionate nature; for seldom has a more
bewitching form graced the earth with its presence, than that of
Carmencitto; who had but a few days before become the wife of the youth.

Joaquin was the proprietor of a small ranch, a portion of which they
were now riding over. He was gifted by nature with a muscular form, and
was reputed to be the most daring rider, and the most skilful herdsman
in the country. Carmencitto was the daughter of a wealthy Californian,
and had been engaged to Joaquin from childhood.

‘You say truly, dearest,’ replied the horseman. ‘Ours is a goodly land,
and it needed not that its rivers should roll over sands of gold to make
us love it.’

They were just passing a clump of dense shrubbery as he spoke, and
hardly had the last word left his lips ere his spirited steed reared,
and had he not been a matchless rider, he must have been hurled headlong
from the saddle. As it was, before he fully recovered his seat, a lariat
was thrown over his head, and his arms firmly secured to his side. While
two men, armed with revolvers, held his horse firmly by the reins—their
weapons pointed at his breast.

‘Make a single attempt to escape, and we’ll riddle your carcase with
bullets,’ shouted one of his assailants.

‘Shoot the d—d greaser, at once’t,’ cried a low-browed, villainous
looking fellow.

‘Curse the yellar skinned devil, I believe he’s glued to the saddle,’
said the first speaker as he tried in vain to pull Joaquin from his
seat, the latter meanwhile urging his horse forward but in vain, so
firmly was he held by the man who had seized his horse by the head.

The assault had been so unexpected that for a brief instant the young
Californian had forgotten Carmencitto, but now a wild piercing shriek
recalled her to his mind, and turning round he beheld her dragged from
her horse to the earth. His arms were bound, but his feet were at
liberty, and he dashed his heavy boots into the face of the men who held
his steed. But the same moment a brace of bullets whizzed through the
air, and after a few convulsive clutches the young man fell heavily to
the earth.

Leaving him, where he had fallen, the men rushed to the assistance of
the fellow who had dragged the lady from her steed.

‘For God’s sake, gentlemen, don’t kill Joaquin. He has never injured
you.’

‘Don’t fret, honey, ’tisn’t Joe Quin we’re after. ‘Tis your own elegant
self,’ said one of the ruffians.

‘So, you d—d stuck-up thing, you wouldn’t dance with me at your
outlandish fandango, the other night. Now, my lady, you shall dance to
other music;’ and as he spoke he seized her brutally, and inflicted
several fierce kisses upon her reluctant lips. Fired by her charms and
her resistance, the villain was proceeding to further outrage, when, all
her woman’s nature flashing from her indignant eyes, she drew a small
thin-bladed stiletto, and sent its bright blade straight to the heart of
the ravisher. For a moment, and but for a moment, the villains were
appalled at this prompt and terrible retribution. But even the thought
of their guilty comrade hurried out of the world in the very act of
perpetrating the most heinous offence, could not make them pause in
their infernal intentions, for seizing the hapless woman, now become
insensible, they bore her into a clump of bushes from which they had
sprung upon Joaquin and his bride.

Hours after, when Joaquin returned to consciousness, he found himself
bound hand and foot, with strips of green hide. His horse and that of
Carmencitto both gone.

Joaquin’s first impulse was to call aloud upon the name of his young
wife. But all was silent. ‘Holy Virgin!’ he exclaimed, as recollection
began fully to return to him. ‘Where art thou, Carmencitto?’ he shouted.
A low, faint moaning was heard in the neighboring shrubbery. Again, and
again, the wretched youth called loudly on Carmencitto. But the only
replies he received were the faint moanings, which his foreboding heart,
rather than his ear, told him came from the lips of Carmencitto. His
suspense became insupportable. He would—he must—learn all. Even though
that all confirmed a horrid suspicion that chilled the blood to his very
heart.

With the fierceness of a starving coyote he gnawed the green hide that
confined his arms, and they once released he soon entirely disengaged
himself. He sprang to his feet, and rushed in the direction from whence
the sounds of distress proceeded. Better had he been smitten with
eternal blindness than ever have gazed upon that sad, sad spectacle.

Carmencitto lay almost senseless upon the grass. Her modest garments
torn to shreds, exposed her fair young bosom, slowly heaving, as if with
the latest sobs of expiring life. Her cheeks were colorless. Her lips
white as chalk, except where they were dabbled with the crimson blood,
that was slowly oozing at every respiration of her heaving breast! In
one of her little pale hands she clutched a small gold crucifix, which
the villains had overlooked in their lust or haste.

As Joaquin burst through the thicket and stood before her, the closed
lids of her black eyes slowly opened, and she cast one look full of love
and sorrow upon her heart-broken husband.

Tearing his black locks he flung himself on his knees by her side, and
tenderly raising her, he pressed her to his heart and while he wiped the
blood from her lips, his tears fell thick and fast upon her upturned
face.

‘Speak to me, oh! speak to me, Carmencitto. My life! My love! Speak! Oh,
God, what have I done to deserve this? Speak, dearest Carmencitto,’ and
he pressed the form of his young wife again and again close to his
heart. But no reply came from those dear lips.

Near at hand ran a babbling rivulet. To this Joaquin rushed, and
scooping out some water in the hollow of his joined hands, laved with it
the face of Carmencitto. But all in vain. Life had forever left that
darling form, dearer to him than all the gold that strews the placers of
his native land.

When Joaquin became certain that she was indeed dead, his grief at first
found vent in the most pathetic lamentations; but suddenly pausing, he
dashed the teardrops from his eyes, and drawing a dagger from its
sheath, he swore upon its cross-hilt eternal vengeance on the ravishers
and murderers of his Carmencitto.

Then decently arranging her disordered garments, he lifted her sacred
form in his arms, and bore it to his home—henceforth forever desolate.

From the hour in which he saw the rude tomb raised over the ashes of his
murdered wife, Joaquin left forever the home that promised to be such a
happy one, and went forth an altered man. The crucifix of poor
Carmencitto _on_ his heart—revenge rankling in it.

From that time strange rumors began to circulate through California of
daring robberies and frequent murders, and although no proofs of the
guilty party could be obtained; yet when men spoke of them their pale
lips almost involuntarily muttered ‘_Joaquin!_’

When Inez returned to her father’s residence at the Mission, her first
resolve was to acquaint her parent with the circumstances, but she found
that he had been hastily summoned to a place at some distance, in
consequence of a dispute between one of his tenants and a squatter.

Joaquin, whose advice she asked, recommended that she should wait the
coming of morning, when if Monteagle was not liberated, the authorities
should be informed of the matter, and by their interference his
liberation would no doubt easily be effected. But Joaquin had his own
private reasons for not visiting the city.

In the morning Inez accordingly rode to the city, and almost the first
person she passed was Monteagle, who was just then repairing to the
store of Mr. Vandewater. Of course there was no occasion for Inez to
interfere farther in the matter. Her first impulse was to ride up to him
and congratulate him on his escape, but maidenly pride checked her, and
she proceeded on, leaving Monteagle in entire ignorance of the deep
interest she felt in his fortunes, and of the efforts she had made to
rescue him the previous evening.

Monteagle, meanwhile, sought his home to take a few hours rest, for both
mind and body were terribly racked by the sufferings he had undergone.

The day after the robbery of Mr. Vandewater’s store, a group of some
half-dozen men were assembled around a fine fire kindled on the ground,
in the midst of a dense thicket, at the foot of the mountains, on the
Contra Costa side of the Bay of San Francisco.

‘He’s a daring young devil, and with pluck, quickness, and a little
science, I’m d—d if I don’t think he could whip any thing of his weight
in the world.’

This remark was made by Belcher Kay to Blodget, as Maretzo, who was one
of the party, finished narration of Monteagle’s assault upon him, and
his consequent escape.

‘Curse his pluck, and your science Belcher. If ever I draw trigger on
either of you all your science wouldn’t save you from a quick trip to
‘kingdom come.’ But, the deuce take it, I dare not show my face in the
city; for Monteagle will surely denounce me to that devilish Vigilance
Committee, and then my fun’s up,’ said Blodget.

‘Well, old fellow,’ said Kay, ‘I’ll see that you’re well supplied with
everything needful, till this thing blows over. You stay out here and
make yourself comfortable. If we could only get this Monteagle out of
the way, all would go right. For from what Maretzo learned in the city,
none of us are suspected except you, and you only because you kept
Monteagle’s company. Well, if that ain’t a good ’un, I’m blowed,’
continued Belcher Kay, laughing heartily at the idea of Monteagle’s
leading Blodget astray.

‘I am this Monteagle’s debtor for that blow he gave me,’ said Maretzo,
and his dark eyes flashed with vindictive hate. ‘I’ll get him out of the
way.’

‘Have a care, Maretzo, that knife of yours will bring us all into
trouble some of those days,’ said Blodget.

‘This time it will not be the knife, but something even surer still,’
and as he spoke, he exhibited a small bottle. ‘A drop from this vial,
and his tongue will never harm us again.’

‘Well,’ said Kay. ‘We’ll think over this matter. But just now let’s
split the swag.’

And forthwith the thieves proceeded to apportion out the thirty thousand
dollars equitably between them, not forgetting a share for some who were
absent but who belonged to the gang, and were entitled by their rules to
a share of the plunder obtained in the course of their marauding
expeditions.

For some days after Monteagle’s dismissal he was too unwell to leave the
house, but when he was sufficiently recovered to walk the street, he was
surprised to find that all his former friends and associates either
passed him with a slight nod of recognition, or gave him the cut direct.
He was entirely at a loss to account for their conduct. Being out of a
situation was not such an unusual thing in San Francisco, as to make a
man’s friends shun him. Nor could it be the fear that he might be
transformed from a lender to a borrower, for no where are men more ready
to assist a friend or even a stranger than in this country. Monteagle
was not aware that from certain vague hints which Brown contrived to set
afloat respecting the robbery that Monteagle’s name was in some manner
mixed up in the affair. The very indefiniteness of the rumor being the
reason of its never reaching Monteagle’s ear.

So that he who was most deeply interested in it, was almost the only one
in the whole city who had not heard of the accusation. Of course his
sudden dismissal from Mr. Vandewater’s employ gave an appearance of
truth to the story, which was more strongly confirmed by Vandewater’s
declining to assign any cause for Monteagle’s dismissal when questioned
on the subject.

Monteagle, whose generous disposition but little fitted him for hoarding
money, was now by his sudden and unexpected loss of employment thrown
entirely destitute on the world.

At first he resolved to depart immediately for the mines. Reflection
however made him abandon this purpose. As he was hourly in expectation
of a letter of credit from his home in the Atlantic States, which would
place him in possession of ample funds, with which it had been his
intention to buy a share of Mr. Vandewater’s business.

There was another and far more powerful motive, however, that prevailed
upon the young man to refrain from leaving San Francisco. In the hurry
of business as in the allurements of pleasure one form was ever present
with him. Need we say it was that of the lovely maiden whom he had borne
in his arms from the devouring flames.

Although he avoided meeting Inez Castro, and her father, it was not that
he did not ardently wish to meet with her; but his delicacy shrank from
seeming to take advantage of the fact that he had conferred so great an
obligation on them, and he feared that gratitude would induce Inez to
betray a preference for him which he would fain owe to love alone.

One evening soon after Monteagle’s discharge from employment, and after
all attempts to procure a situation had proved futile, he wandered about
the streets in that sad, dejected mood which comes over one, when
friendless and moneyless in a great city.

Following a large crowd, he found himself in an extensive bookstore
adjoining the Post Office. This was the general rendezvous of merchants,
and others, while awaiting the tardy operations of Uncle Sam’s
officials. Huge stacks of daily, weekly, and ‘California edition’ papers
were rapidly disappearing in supplying the clamorous demands of the
eager throng anxious to hear from ‘the old folks at home.’

Monteagle moved among them like a perfect stranger. He felt as though a
brand was upon him; but the reason was to him a perfect mystery. Every
eye, however open and direct its glance for others, became cold and
averted when it met his.

He was about turning to leave the store, his sad feeling legibly
expressed on his fine features, when he felt a hand upon his shoulder
and turning quickly he confronted Mr. G—, one of the proprietors.

‘Ah, good night, Monteagle. Here’s your Herald, and the rest of your
papers.’

‘Thank you, Mr. G—, but,’ and Monteagle lowered his tone, while his
cheek was flushed, ‘I’ll come in again—in fact—I’m penniless.’

‘Never mind that,’ replied the bookseller. ‘Here take the papers,’ and
as he spoke, he slipped a twenty dollar piece into his hand.

‘Thank you—thank you,’ cried the grateful youth. ‘I expect a remittance
from home to-morrow, and then I will repay you.’

But had Monteagle seen the expression of the bookseller’s manly face, he
would have known that he was repaid already. His own noble heart
approved the generous, and with him by no means unusual act.

On the morning succeeding, Monteagle had early taken his place in the
Post Office line, (as extensive as that of Banquo’s issue which flitted
before the eyes of the Scottish regicide,) awaiting the delivery of
their letters.

This line is one of the most singular sights in the world, composed not
only of representatives from every section of our own country, but from
almost every nation on the face of the globe.

Monteagle was disappointed. There was no letter for him.

Only those who have been thousands and thousands of miles away from
home, can understand the full effect of this crushing disappointment.
Instantly the mind conjures up many dismal reasons as the cause of the
non-arrival of the expected letters. What can be the matter?—Have our
friends forgotten us, has sickness wasted the hand that used to seize
the pen with such avidity to tell us all the warm feelings the writers
entertained for us? Or has death forever stilled the beatings of those
hearts we dearly loved?

Months we know must elapse ere these questions can have a response, and
in the meanwhile we must experience all the bitterness of hope deferred.

Monteagle left the Office almost envying the lucky ones who were tearing
the envelopes from the missives they had received and with eager eyes
scanning the lines. But could Monteagle have narrowly watched the
different readers, he would have seen that in the majority of instances
the letters brought news that had better never reached the recipients.
Here a splendid looking fellow, the very embodiment of manly beauty,
read a letter that informed him that the girl, in hopes of wedding whom
he had left home to win a fortune in California, had been married to a
man with no other recommendation than a hundred thousand dollars. There
might be seen a stalwart man, his rough cheek blanched and the tears
gushing from his eyes, as he read that his only daughter—the cherished
idol of his affections, had gone to the narrow house, appointed for all
the living. But we need not pursue the theme, any one who has noticed
attentively the ‘line’ we speak of has seen matter for much and
melancholy meditation, even if he has been fortunate enough to
experience none of those bitter disappointments himself.

Belcher Kay and his fellow-rogues soon expended the money they obtained
by the robbery of Vandewater’s store in riotous living. So a new crime
was determined on.

But it was necessary that he should be quick in his plans, for his means
were daily becoming more limited, and he was well aware that success
depended in a great measure upon promptitude. But what was he to do when
his pecuniary resources were entirely exhausted.

This was a troublesome thought, and one which he was unable for some
time to answer satisfactorily in his own mind. Money he must have by
some means or another, or he would not have it in his power to carry on
his nefarious projects with any chance of success, and the bare idea of
being reduced to poverty, after the life of indolence, luxury, and
extravagance he had led, made the villain shrink with dread. No—no—such
a fate must not be his, and he determined to avoid it, even if the means
he should have to adopt in doing so, he should have been compelled to
adopt the most desperate and dangerous schemes.

From any crime, however revolting, it might be, it has been very clearly
shewn to the reader that Kay would not shrink; and, after deliberating
for a short time within himself what was next to be done, he at last
came to the determination of going for a few nights on the highway, and
thus trying his fortune. If in adopting this guilty resolution, the
villain should have to perpetrate murder, he would not have foreborne to
do it, sooner than he would have been disappointed of his object.

Accordingly, on the following night, after he had come to this
resolution, Kay, well armed, secretly quitted the hotel where he was
lodging, and took his way to a lonely road, that led to the Mission,
which was, notwithstanding, much frequented. Here he secreted himself,
and eagerly watched the approach of some traveller who might possess the
means about him of satisfying his wants.

Belcher had taken good care to strengthen his determination by drinking
deeply, before he started on his guilty purpose, and he now felt fully
prepared for whatever might happen. Money he had made up his mind he
would have at all hazards, and therefore it was not a trifle that was at
all likely to move him from his purpose.

The place which Kay had chosen to conceal himself, was just at the
entrance of a dark and dismal lane, which branched off the road, and was
a very convenient place for the perpetration of a deed like that he
contemplated.

Here then he seated himself upon the ground, where he could have a
distinct view of the road for some distance, and every person that
approached.

It was a very fine night; the moon shone brightly in the heavenly arch,
and countless myriads of stars added their twinkling lustre to her
radiant beams.

Kay sat there for some time in a state of apathy, his thoughts wandered
to no particular objects, but still his mind intent upon the desperate
crime he had resolved to perpetrate if the opportunity should be
afforded him.

At last, however, becoming impatient, and feeling rather cold, for the
night air was keen, he arose, and walked for some distance along the
road, taking care to keep close to the bushes, that separated it from
the adjoining fields, and where he was less likely to be observed.

In the course of a conversation which Belcher had overheard between the
landlord of the hotel and his wife after they had retired to bed, (for
they slept in the next chamber to him, and the rooms only being parted
by a very slight partition of canvas, he could hear every word they
uttered,) he had learnt that a drover, who invariably called at their
house, and who usually had a large sum of money about him, was expected
there that day, and he was also enabled to ascertain that this was the
road he always came; but he could not think of making an attempt to
commit a robbery in the open daylight, and when his detection would be
almost certain to follow, and thus his nefarious wishes would be foiled.
But then, as he understood that the drover usually slept at the hotel,
the villain thought there might still be a chance left of his being
enabled to rob him in the night.

This, however, would be attended with considerable danger, for suspicion
would, in all probability, light upon him, and should he abandon the
place, it would, undoubtedly, be a direct confirmation of his guilt, and
would put him to great inconvenience in having to quit the neighborhood.

Reflecting therefore, in this manner, Kay was constrained to give up all
thoughts of plundering the drover, although it was with much reluctance
that he did so, for he had no doubt but that he should from him have
been sure to have got a very rich booty.

The day which succeeded the night on which Kay had overheard the
conversation we have spoken of, was passed by him in a state of great
agitation and uncertainty, and at one time he would determine upon some
daring scheme, which the next moment would make him abandon all idea of.

The drover, however, did not come to the house that day, but Kay
gathered from the conversation of his host, that he would sure to be
there that night, so that he might be in time for the market on the
following morning. Kay caught at this information, and his hopes once
more revived; he resolved to lay wait for him, and make a desperate
attempt to rob him as he had at first designed.

Kay was no coward, as that which has been already related, will fully
prove, and he was, therefore, prepared for any resistance which his
marked victim might make, and he had made up his mind not to be defeated
easily. But from what he could learn, the drover was an old man, and one
who was not very likely to offer much resistance, especially when he saw
that the individual who attacked him was well armed, and a determined
man, and, therefore, Kay calculated that his success was almost certain.

He had taken the precaution to provide himself with a mask and poncho,
so that he might be fully enabled to disguise himself, and these were
the more indispensable for the villain’s safety, as he intended to
return to the hotel after the perpetration of the robbery.

Impatient and gloomy, Kay continued to traverse the road for some time,
but still he saw no signs of the traveller or of any other person, and
he began to despair. The place was sufficiently quiet and lonely to
inspire no very pleasant reflections in the mind of Kay, and so rapidly
did they crowd upon his brain, that he had not strength to endure them,
and he almost made up his mind to abandon his villainous project, and
return to the hotel to seek that society which might alone banish such
fearful thoughts.

At length the solemn booming of the Mission bell vibrated on the air,
tolling the hour of ten, and Kay, whose patience was now quite tired
out, and whose disappointment could only be equalled by chagrin,
resolved to wait no longer but to return to the hotel.

He had just turned round for that purpose, when the low trampling of
horses’ hoofs, at a distance, arrested his purpose and rekindled his
hopes.

The sounds proceeded from behind him, and looking eagerly along the road
as far as his eyes could penetrate, at first he could not perceive
anything, but at length he beheld a horse trotting slowly along the
road, in the direction of the place where he was standing, and bearing
on his back a person who he was unable at present, to observe,
distinctly.

‘It must be him!’ muttered Kay to himself, and hope once more elated and
nerved him. His mind was fully made up; he would have all the money the
grazier had about him, even, if to obtain it he had to embrue his hands
in his blood.

Quickly the miscreant glided cautiously along the darkest and most
overshadowed part of the road, and he once more reached the entrance to
the lane which the traveller must pass; and which appeared to him to be
the most convenient spot for the perpetration of the deed.

‘But—but—’muttered Kay, ‘I will not harm him—no—no—I will not harm him,
if I can avoid it! I do not want his blood, but his money, it will be
his own fault should he lose his life.’

Nearer and nearer the rider approached, and at length he had got to
within a very short distance of the place where Kay was concealed, and
by the bright light of the moon, he was enabled to have a distinct view
of his person.

He was a thickset man, about sixty, and carried with him a short whip
with a very heavy handle. He was whistling merrily along the road,
apparently, quite happy and unsuspicious of any danger, and what Kay
could perceive of his features, he looked like a man who was not likely
to be easily intimidated. Again he muttered to himself,—

‘I hope he will resign his money easily; I hope he will not make any
resistance; I would not have his blood upon my conscience, but his money
_I will_ have.’

The man had now got to within a very short distance of the lane, and Kay
had no doubt from the description which had been given of him, that this
was the grazier.

He clenched his fist nervously, and involuntarily placed his other hand
on one of the pistols which he carried with him.

‘I will let him pass me,’ thought Kay, ‘I will let him pass me before I
pounce out upon him, and then I shall take him more by surprise, and he
will be less likely to offer any resistance.’

The traveller had now left off whistling, and had broke into a negro
melody, which he sang in self-satisfied tones, but which were anything
but harmonious.

‘Your money or your life!’ cried Kay in a disguised voice, rushing up to
the traveller, from his place of concealment, and laying hold of the
horse’s bridle.

The old man, was of course, rather startled, but he collected himself in
a moment, and with the utmost coolness, said:—

‘I tells thee what it is, young man, you’re on a bad errand, and I
advise you let go the bridle, and go about your business, before harm
come to you.’

‘There, there, no nonsense,’ replied Kay, in an impatient tone; ‘I am a
desperate man and must have money.’

‘D—n you, you are a daring rascal,’ cried the traveller, ‘let go of the
bridle, or it may not be long ere I make you repent thy job. Leave go of
the bridle, I again tell you! You won’t, then, d—n me, if I don’t soon
make you, and that’s all about it.’

With these words the traveller flourished his heavy whip, and aimed a
blow at the head of Kay with the butt-end of it, which if he had not
stepped quickly aside and avoided would, in all probability have
deprived him immediately of farther power.

‘Old idiot!’ cried the enraged ruffian, ‘you will urge me to that which
I would rather avoid; will you deliver up your money, I say, once more?’

‘No,’ promptly replied the old man; ‘I’ll see you d—d first, and all
such scoundrels.’

‘Then, by h—ll! you will have to pay for your obstinacy with your life!’
cried Kay, hastily groping about beneath his poncho to get out one of
the pistols.

The old man immediately guessed at what he was about, and sprang from
his horse’s back with the agility of a youth, and the moment that Kay
got out his pistol, and before he could cock it, he closed with him, and
being a strong, powerful man, the struggle threatened to be a determined
one.

Kay, however, was wound up to a pitch of desperation, for it was a
moment of life or death, and he was taken somewhat by surprise, as, from
the age of the traveller, he had not expected such an antagonist.

Kay was a very muscular man, and had youth on his side, and he, of
course, mustered up all his strength for this occasion, and endeavoured
to get his hands at liberty; but the old man had pinned them with such
an iron grip, that all his efforts were ineffectual, and maledictions
the most terrible escaped his lips, as the danger of his situation
became every instant greater; for, as his strength decreased, so did
that of the traveller appear to increase, and he expected nothing less
that he must be overpowered.

The struggle lasted several minutes, the traveller having pinched the
hands of Kay so tightly, that he was compelled to drop the pistol to the
ground, and which the former was afraid to secure, for fear that, in
resigning his hold of the robber, he should lose the advantage he had
gained. But at length the foot of Kay caught in something on the ground,
and he fell, dragging the old man with him.

Fortunately, the traveller did not fall upon him, or his weight would
have quickly decided the combat, and Kay would have been defeated, but
he fell by his side, and consequently was obliged to leave go his hold;
and Kay, seeing the moment of advantage, and probably the only
opportunity of saving his life, jumped to his feet with the speed of
lightning, and snatching the pistol from his bosom, he sprang upon the
old man, knelt upon his chest,—he pressed the fingers of his other hand
tightly in his throat until the old man was nearly strangled, he
presented the pistol at his head as he exclaimed—

‘You deserve to lose your life for your infernal obstinacy, and it is at
this moment in my power; but I do not wish to harm you if I can help it.
Now, then, your money.’

The old man who was quite overpowered by the pressure on his chest, and
the violence with which Kay pressed his knuckles into his throat, he
tried to speak, but could only make a sign to his coat-pocket, which Kay
understanding, released the old man from the hold which he had taken of
his throat; and, putting his hand into his pocket, to which he had
directed his attention, he drew forth a canvas bag apparently well
loaded, and depositing it carefully in his bosom, he secured both the
pistols, and, rising from the ground, he said to the still prostrate
traveller—

‘Beware! you see that I have all the power of your life or death in my
hands; if you move a step to pursue me, until I am out of sight, that
instant you die!’

The old man did not make any reply, for he had not yet recovered from
the effects of the combat, and was unable to utter a word; and Kay,
having satisfied himself that he had secured all the money in his
possession, hastily retreated from the spot, and springing into the
fields, threw away the poncho, and made the best of his way towards the
hotel, which he reached in an almost inconceivable short space of time,
and, without betraying any emotion, entered the bar, as was his usual
custom, and taking his seat called for a mug of ale.

He had not been there long, when he heard a loud shouting and hallooing
outside the house, and he immediately recognized the tones.

‘Why,’ said the landlord, laying down his pipe, ‘that certainly is the
voice of a friend; what the deuce can be the matter with him?’

Kay felt a little alarmed; but he concealed his agitation, and continued
with apparent unconcern, to smoke his pipe, and to be completely
absorbed in the enjoyment of that and his ale. He would have been glad
to have retired to his chamber, so that he might have escaped all
observation, but he was fearful that he might, by so doing, probably
excite suspicion, and he therefore kept his seat and pretended to take
no notice of what was passing.

The landlord having hastened to the door of the house to meet his guest,
and to inquire what was the matter with him was quickly heard returning
accompanied by the old man, who was grumbling, and swearing all the way.

On entering the bar, the drover gazed round upon the different persons
there assembled, but appeared to take little notice of Kay, whose
assumed color, no doubt, removed every idea of his being the robber from
his mind.

‘He was a most desperate scoundrel, whoever he is,’ said the drover,
‘and I feel the effects of his d—d knuckles on my throat, now. I wish I
could only meet with the fellow, and I warrant me he’d not escape from
my clutches again, very easily.’

‘This is a bad job, a terrible bad job,’ said the landlord.

‘Aye, it is indeed a bad job,’ said the drover, ‘two thousand dollars is
no small sum to lose as times go.’


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



                              CHAPTER XII

       The Ride—the Midnight Fright—the Corpse—The Secret Burial.


Kay took no part in the conversation which followed, the staple of which
consisted of denunciations of the scoundrels who infested the city of
San Francisco and its vicinity, perpetrating with impunity the most
daring robberies and even more atrocious offences.

Kay was slightly known to several of the ‘crowd’ who had been drawn to
the bar by rumors respecting the robbery, and as Kay sauntered out of
the room one of these persons whispered a few words to the drover, who
turned and closely scrutinized the robber’s person. Kay bore his fixed
gaze apparently unmoved. But he inwardly determined that the drover
should never bear witness against him!

A few evenings after this robbery, Inez had taken a long ride, and on
her return was overtaken by a sudden and violent storm. She immediately
put her horse to the run. Inez was too much accustomed to heavy rains
and violent storms of wind to be much alarmed, as she knew her fleet
steed would soon bear her home in safety. But scarcely had our heroine
proceeded a couple of hundred varas when her horse fell heavily.
Fortunately, however, Inez was but little injured. Her horse she soon
discovered was unable to rise. Of course no alternative was left her but
to proceed homewards on foot.

Notwithstanding, however, she sought all that was in her power to
strengthen this idea, many doubts, fears, misgivings, and apprehensions
would steal into her bosom, and every blast of wind which howled around
her seemed to come fraught with the moanings of despair. She had
travelled about three miles from the place at which she had lost her
horse, and was upon a dreary waste, where there was nothing to protect
her from the fury of the blast and the fast falling rain which drifted
around her. It was a most awful spot, and in spite of her resistance to
fear, she felt the most indescribable sensation of horror creeping
through her veins.

‘Holy Mary!’ she exclaimed, ‘my weary and benumbed limbs will not
support me much further, and yet, if I pause, nothing but death stares
me in the face. How awful is the darkness around, and here am I placed
alone, and fated to endure all this toil and wretchedness. Could I but
hear the sound even of a human voice, methinks it would be transport to
my soul. This silence is appalling. Whenever I have had occasion to
cross this wild spot, I always felt the most irresistible terror; it is,
indeed, a fit place for the perpetration of the bloody crimes which
report says have been committed here, and I do not wonder that people
should shun it after nightfall in dread, my God! do not desert me in
this dreadful moment. Oh! I remember there is an old house not far from
this spot; could I but reach that, it would afford me shelter until my
recruited strength will enable me to proceed. The storm increases; what
will become of me? The rain falls faster than ever; I must proceed.
Protect me, heaven!’

Trembling in every limb, and her knees smiting each other, Inez forced
her way as well she was able, in the direction of the old house, which
she at length perceived at no great distance from her, and so completely
exhausted was she, that had she had to have proceeded many yards further
she must have sunk to the earth. It was an old building, broken in many
parts.

An old story gave the place a kind of fearful interest; and there was
one period when Inez would not have ventured within its precincts, but
now she thought nothing about it; she thought only of her weary and
exhausted state. She reached the wretched place, and found no
obstruction to her entrance, the door having long since been torn off
its hinges, and she, therefore, staggered into the place, and threw
herself, exhausted and breathless, upon a heap of rubbish in one corner,
to rest herself for a few minutes, ere she could see what was best to be
done for her accommodation for the night. The house was divided into two
compartments, and one of these was in much better condition than the
other. There, then, Inez determined to remain till daybreak; and
gathering together some pieces of old boarding which had fallen from
different parts of the building, and a heap of straw, which she found in
one corner, she retired into it, contrived to make herself up some kind
of a rude pallet, piled all the old rubbish she could find against the
door which opened into this division of the house, and then imploring
the protection of Heaven, she wrapped herself closely in her cloak, and
laid down.

Completely wearied out, it was not long ere she was about to sink off to
sleep, when she was suddenly alarmed and astonished by hearing a noise
outside the building, and soon after, a light glimmered between the
crevices, and the horror and amazement of Inez may be easily conjectured
when she caught a glimpse of the shadow of two men, bearing something
which seemed to be very heavy between them. They moved stealthily and
cautiously round by the side of the building towards the entrance, and
Inez had not the least doubt but that they were coming there; in another
second her conjectures were confirmed, and she heard them deposit their
burthen in the adjoining shed to that in which she was.

How shall we attempt to portray the terror of Inez at this circumstance?
She did not venture to breathe scarcely, and screwed herself into the
smallest possible compass in the corner, for fear that the men should
discover her there; but, from a small hole in the boards, she could
perceive what was passing.

‘My God!’ she thought, ‘what can be the purpose of these men? Certainly
no good, at such an hour.’

Inez placed her eye to the hole in the boarding, and perceived that they
were two powerful men, dressed in ponchos, and as the rays of the light
fell upon their countenances, she shuddered at their aspects.

They had placed the sack upon the floor, and began digging up the earth
with a couple of spades which they had brought with them. A deadly chill
fell upon the heart of Inez when she beheld this, and she could scarcely
repress a scream, as a dreadful idea shot through her brain.

‘Horror! horror!’ she reflected, ‘the wretches have surely been
committing murder, and have come hither to bury their unfortunate
victim.’

‘There, we shall soon be able to make a snug lodging for him,’ said one
of the villains, taking up a spade and preparing to begin to dig, ‘and
no one will ever know what has become of him. How nicely we gammoned the
old fool to take up his lodging with us.’

‘You’re right,’ said the other, ‘it was very well done, and I must give
you the credit of doing the best part towards it. If the friends of the
old drover look for his return home, how woefully deceived they will
be.’

‘Ha! ha! ha!’ laughed the first villain, ‘indeed they will. Well, we
have got a very tidy booty for this job.’

‘Yes, it will pay us for the trouble we have been at,’ was the answer;
‘but I’ll warrant that we shall circulate the blunt a little more freely
than the old fellow would have done. We must not be in the city many
days.’

‘As soon as the job’s over we will quit the spot,’ returned his
companion, ‘and it will be many a long day ere we shall revisit this
neighborhood again. We couldn’t have fixed a much better place than this
to deposit the old fellow’s remains in; but, I say, there is a door
yonder, which seems to lead to another part of the house; suppose we
examine that, and see whether it will serve better to conceal the body
of the murdered man in than this.’

‘Great God!’ thought Inez, ‘I am lost; they will discover and murder me.
By what horrible fatality were my footsteps guided to this place?’

‘Psha! what’s the use of talking in that manner, Kay?’ said the other
ruffian, to whom this proposition was addressed; ‘we have no time to
spare; besides, we have half dug the grave here, and I dare say the old
chap will lie as contented here as he would a foot or two off. Come,
come, let’s finish the business and begone, for I am almost tired of it,
and if we remain here much longer, there’s no knowing but that we might
be discovered.’

‘Oh, very well,’ said Kay, as the other man had called him, ‘it matters
very little, so let’s go to work, and get done as quick as possible.’

‘I think we have given him depth enough,’ remarked the other wretch,
‘and he’ll not pop up again in a hurry by himself. Come, out with him,
and let’s finish the job at once.’

This, as may be imagined, was a moment of unutterable horror to our
heroine, who had watched the proceedings, and listened to the
conversation of the assassins with the most breathless attention; and a
shuddering seized upon her frame which she found it impossible to
resist.—It would, however, be useless to attempt to describe the relief
she felt when she heard the observations of the first ruffian, by which
he was persuaded from entering the place in which she was concealed; but
every moment that they prolonged their stay increased her terror and
anxiety, for fear that her infant should awake, and, crying loud, betray
her.

After having untied the mouth of the sack, they drew it nearer to the
edge of the grave they had been digging, and turned out the body of a
stout but aged man, whose long grey locks were matted together with
large clots of blood that had issued from several deep wounds in the
skull.

Horror enchained all the faculties of Inez, and with distended eyelids,
she fixed her straining eyeballs upon the dreadful spectacle.

Her blood seemed turned to ice, and her heart seemed almost to cease its
pulsation. Should the wretches find out that she was there concealed,
and had been watching them, and overheard the acknowledgement of their
dreadful crime, the death of herself would be certain to follow.

These reflections passed rapidly in the mind of Inez, as she watched, in
a state of the most breathless suspense, the actions of the murderers,
as they, in the most callous manner, tossed the body of their wretched
victim into the grave they had dug for its reception, and commenced
filling it up, occupying the interval during the disgusting scene, with
the most ribald conversation, which smote the heart of our heroine with
horror, as she listened to it.

‘There,’ exclaimed Kay, as he placed the last spade-full of earth on the
grave of their murdered victim, ‘that job’s finished, and a long and
sound rest to the old drover. The business has been performed throughout
in a tradesman-like manner, and no suspicion can ever attach itself to
us.’

‘Suspicion,’ reiterated the other with a laugh, ‘oh no, we might almost
as well imagine that somebody has been watching us all this time in this
lonely place, as to suppose that even the shadow of an idea of we being
the murderers of the old man could attach itself to us.’

‘Ah!’ exclaimed Kay, ‘your observation have started an idea in my head,
and, had you attended to my suggestion in the first instance, we should
have been secured from any danger of the sort.’

‘What mean you?’

‘What mean I:—why, that door, which, as I before observed, no doubt,
communicates with some other part of the house, and it is not at all
unlikely that some weary traveller may have taken up his lodging there,
or sought shelter from the storm, and been listening to our discourse
all this time. Should such be the case, we shall not go far without
falling into the hands of the Vigilance Committee, depend upon it. I’ll
examine the place.’

‘Bah! why, you are growing worse than a child, Kay,’ said the
miscreant’s companion, ‘I never heard such improbable ideas to strike a
fellow in all my life. Do you think any person could be within here all
this time without betraying some signs of terror?’

‘You may laugh at me as much as you like, Blodget,’ returned Kay, ‘but I
am generally pretty correct in what I fancy, and I don’t think I shall
be far out in this instance. Here goes for to see.’

We must fail here to portray the feelings of our heroine, as the
ruffian, Kay, approached the door, and tried it.

Such was the violence of her agitation, that cold drops of perspiration
stood upon her forehead, and it was only by a complete miracle that she
could prevent herself from screaming.

Kay tried hard to push the door open, and swore when he found the
obstruction; and at that moment, when Inez had nearly given herself up
for lost, some noise on the outside of the building, arrested the
attention of both the villains, and Kay immediately quitted the door,
much to the relief of our heroine.

‘Hist?’ muttered Blodget, in a cautious tone, ‘did you not hear a noise
outside, Belcher?’

‘I fancied I did,’ was the reply.

‘Extinguish the light,’ commanded the other, ‘and I will reconnoitre.’

Kay immediately did as his companion directed him, and Blodget
cautiously opened the door and looked out. As he did so, Inez could hear
that the storm had increased in violence, and immediately afterwards she
heard the voice of Blodget, observing,—

‘Oh, the coast is quite clear, as far as I can see, and, therefore, it
could only have been fancy; but, notwithstanding, Kay, I do not see the
policy of remaining here. We had much better, on the contrary, make our
escape as speedily as possible, while we have the opportunity; for,
should we be discovered here, and the fresh earth upon the new made
grave, we should be bowled out to a dead certainty. It’s madness to
suppose that anybody but ourselves have been here during the time we
have been performing the funeral obsequies for the old man. Come, come,
no more of this foolery, but travel’s the word.—’

And ‘travel’ was not only the word, but the action of the wretches, much
to the relief of our heroine, who had almost given her mind to despair;
and after a short time had elapsed since they had quitted the place, and
Inez, by attentive listening, had assured herself that they were not
near the spot, first, with eyes brimful of tears, having returned her
thanks to Providence for her deliverance from that death which she at
one time imagined inevitable, she removed the rubbish which she had
piled against the door, and left the place in which she had been
concealed.

What an inexpressible feeling of terror smote her breast, when she
passed the grave of the murdered man!—Her limbs trembled so violently
that it is surprising how she was enabled to support herself, and she
mentally offered up an involuntary prayer for the repose of his soul,
and that his barbarous assassins might be brought to punishment for
their inhuman violation of the laws. It was a second or two before she
ventured to quit the place, but having listened at the door, which the
ruffians had closed after them, and hearing no other sounds than those
caused by the fury of the storm, she ventured to open it and look forth.
The scene was awful enough, as a pitchy darkness obscured all around,
save when, at intervals, the flashes of lightning succeeded the
deafening thunder-peals. The rain also descended rapidly, and all around
presented a scene of the most appalling horror. But, awful as it was, to
Inez it presented not half the terrors of the old outhouse, which now
contained the mangled remains of the poor old man, whom the monsters had
buried.

Inez, trembling in every limb, left the place where she had witnessed
such horrors, and with difficulty made her way in what she judged to be
the direction of her father’s house. This she would never have had
strength to reach, had she not fortunately met with a party of her
father’s herdsmen, who had been sent out in quest of her. She was soon
after joined by her father, and being placed on a horse, arrived safely
at home, suffering greatly, however, in both body and mind from the
anguish she had experienced, and the terrible scenes that had been
enacted before her young eyes.

Leaving the maiden safely in the abode of her parent, we will now return
to Monteagle. Day after day, he had called at the Post Office, but the
same brief response ever met his inquiries,—‘None, sir.’ Disappointment
was working a sad change in his appearances, and his broken fortunes
were growing hourly more desperate.

As he was one day leaving the Post Office, and strolling down Clay
street, he overheard a person addressing another, thus: ‘Jake, you
needn’t go to the Post Office, up here, any more for letters. A couple
of cartloads have just been found down under Long Wharf; which it seems,
the Postmaster uses as a place of general delivery.’

Monteagle stayed to hear no more, but hastened to the place indicated.—A
great crowd was assembled, every member of which was justly indignant at
this infamous betrayal of trust in the Post Office officials, and while
some talked of carrying their complaints to Washington; others suggested
the rather less mild but somewhat more effective action of tying the
Postmaster up in one of his mail bags, and dumping him where he had
deposited their letters—in the Bay.

Monteagle sprang down beneath the wharf, the tide having fallen, and
left the sand bare. Here he found a large number of letters, and
newspapers: the directions of many being wholly or in part obliterated.
But among all that number, he could find none addressed to him. While he
was turning over the letters, he saw one addressed to a young lady, whom
he recollected as having been pointed out to him by Blodget when
visiting the house in Dupont street. She was called the ‘English Girl,’
and Monteagle remembered having been particularly struck by the lovely
though pensive expression of her fair face. He took the letter and
immediately proceeded to the house where she resided. As soon as the
usual greetings were over, the young lady opened the letter, but had
scarcely glanced at its contents before she fell heavily to the floor.
Monteagle summoned assistance, and after some time she was sufficiently
restored to converse with our hero; who deeply sympathised with her
evident distress. The poor girl, in answer to Monteagle’s inquiries,
gave him the following account of her previous history:

‘My father was a farmer, in comfortable circumstances, which he gained
by his own industry and exemplary conduct. I will not attempt to
describe him, for I should fail to do justice to his merits, eloquent,
doubtless, as my affection for him would make me. Let it suffice that he
was a man of superior education, having formerly moved in a different
state of life, from which he had been driven by a long series of
misfortunes, and his numerous virtues even by far exceeded his
accomplishments. My mother was a complete counterpart of her husband,
and never were two beings better formed to meet together. I was their
only daughter, myself and a brother being the only offspring they ever
had. Every indulgence that child could wish, or parent could think of,
was bestowed on me;—my every thought seemed to be studied by them, and
there was not a single happiness which they had it in their power to
grant, which they seemed to think too great for me.’

‘Our home was the happiest in the neighborhood, and it was the envy and
admiration of all who knew it. Again, when I think upon it, and how
different my situation is now, I cannot help giving vent to my feelings;
indeed, it is to indulge them that I have sat down to record the events
of my life, although, in all probability, no other eyes but mine may
ever behold it. Home, sweet home; there cannot be a theme upon which the
mind of sensibility pauses with more peculiar delight than this. It is
the cradle of our infancy and our age.’

‘The seaman, amidst storm and tempest, in fair weather and foul, thinks
of his native village; the soldier that fights for kings; the merchant
that dives for gain, are, alternately, stung with the thoughts of home;
while the wanderer, who has followed pleasure, but found it a shade—that
has bartered the humble content for splendid misery, thinks of home with
a self-accusing regret, that renders even a return to its enjoyments
full of bitterness and remorse. Sensibly do I feel the force of these
observations, and, therefore, have I digressed from my simple narrative
for the purpose of indulging in them.’

‘I will pass over the early part of my life, which was passed in almost
uninterrupted happiness, and come at once to that unfortunate
circumstance which was the cause of my indiscretion, and occasioned me
all that anguish I so severely felt afterwards.

‘An accident brought Captain Darian and his friend, the Earl Mansville,
to our house, from which the latter was unable to be removed for several
weeks. Alas! it was a fatal day for me; the earl was young, handsome,
insinuating, and the very first moment I beheld him, my heart felt a
sensation it never before had experienced, and too soon I was compelled
to acknowledge to myself that I had become deeply enamoured of him.
Fatal attachment! had I not been unpardonably thoughtless, I should at
once have seen the folly, the danger, the hopelessness of indulging, or
encouraging a passion for one so far above me, and who would, probably,
not feel for me a mutual sentiment, and have stifled it in its infancy.
But it was not to be: I was to be taught reason by dear-bought
experience. At length, the earl being restored to convalescence, quitted
our house, but I felt convinced it was with reluctance, and I noticed
the looks he fixed on me, with a sentiment of mingled delight and
astonishment. The glances he bestowed on me, were those of admiration—of
love! How my heart bounded at this idea, I need not tell; but, alas! it
should have been its greatest cause of anguish, and my pleasure was
greatly increased when I learned that Mansville having expressed his
delight at the neighborhood, had taken up his abode in it for a short
time; but Captain Darian had made his departure some days previous to
another part of the country. I frequently saw the earl, and he seemed
anxious to say something to me, but had not an opportunity, as I was
mostly in the presence of my parents; but I needed no interpretation of
his thoughts; my own sentiments fully elucidated them, and the warmth of
the glances he bestowed upon me. If it required anything to strengthen
the affection with which Mansville had inspired me, it was the amiable
character he soon acquired in the neighborhood, his chief pleasure
appearing to be the performing of acts of benevolence and philanthropy,
and the blessings of the poor were amply lavished upon him. Rash,
thoughtless, girl that I was. I should have made my parents acquainted
with the real state of my feelings, and sought their advice upon the
subject, but, for the first time in my life, I was anxious to conceal my
thoughts from them, and continued to encourage and strengthen those
passions which reason ought to have convinced me could never have been
requited by the object who had inspired me with them.

It was about a month after the Earl Mansville had quitted our house,
that I arose rather earlier one morning than was my usual custom,
induced by the fineness of the weather. I descended from my chamber, and
entered the garden, which was beautifully and tastefully arranged, and
in which, as well as my father and brother, I took much pleasure. My
attention, however, was particularly devoted to a rose tree, which I had
frequently heard the earl express his admiration of it while he was
remaining at our house. Could I but get him by any means to receive one
how happy should I have been. This day I had resolved to make my father
and mother a little present of some of these roses, which I knew they
would receive with more delight than the most costly gift, coming as
they did from me.

‘How sweetly my roses have opened,’ I soliloquized; ‘they seem to know
that they are destined to be gifts of affection, and to smile with the
delight I shall feel in bestowing them on those I love so dearly. So
this for my father, and this for my mother.’

I plucked two of the most beautiful, and had scarcely done so, when my
father entered from the house, and greeted me with his usual affection.

‘Ah, father,’ I exclaimed, ‘I have such a nice gift for you and my dear
mother.’

‘Indeed, my child,’ returned my father, smiling fondly on me.

‘Yes,’ replied I, placing one of those roses which I had plucked in his
hand, ‘there,—is there a painting in any mansion in the country half so
beautiful? What a name a painter would get who could only give a perfect
copy of these roses, and, you see, I give you the originals for
nothing.’

‘Dear girl, dear girl!’ ejaculated my father, his eyes glittering with
fondness.

‘And yet I do not give them to you for nothing, my dear father,’ I
added; ‘for you give me in exchange those sweet smiles of affection,
which are to me of more value than anything else in the world.’

‘Darling child,’ cried my father, raising his hand above his head, and
invoking a blessing upon me; ‘the look of affection will always reward
innocence.’

‘After having thus spoken he was about to depart, when I ran towards
him, saying:

‘What! leave us so soon, my dear father? Prithee stay till the air grows
cooler.’

‘My child,’ answered my affectionate parent, ‘these locks have withered
in the hot sun. I have passed many years in toiling for others, and have
never shrunk from its beams; and now, when it is partly for my darling
girl I toil, the balm and comfort of my life, I cannot feel fatigue, and
every drop that rolls down my weather-beaten forehead in such a cause,
makes my old heart the lighter.’

I threw myself once more into his arms, and he embraced me fervently,
after which he hastened away. As soon as he had gone, I was joined by my
mother, who, hearing my voice in the garden, had come to summon me to
the morning repast.’

‘So, my dear,’ she remarked, ‘old Mrs. Weston is likely to be better off
than ever; instead of being ruined by the burning of her cottage, the
Earl of Mansville is going to rebuild it at his own expense, and has
made her a handsome present into the bargain.’

At the mention of the earl’s name I blushed, and a sensation filled my
bosom which no other name could have excited.

‘Indeed, my mother,’ I observed, in reply to what she had stated; ‘bless
his kind heart! The whole village rings with his charities; and,
whenever I see him, my heart beats so.’

‘Ah, child,’ said my mother, ‘It is a very bad sign when a young girl’s
heart beats at the sight of a good-looking young man. When that happens,
she ought at once to get out of his way.’

I felt uncommonly confused, and know I must have blushed deeply.

‘Nay, my dear mother,’ I at length answered, ‘to me a warning is
superfluous; your daughter’s affections live in her home. Is it possible
she will find elsewhere what home will yield her?’

As I afterwards learned, the earl and one of his attendants had watched
the departure of my father, and at this moment the former descended from
the bridge, and approached towards us. I started at his presence, and
was much confused, especially as we had just before been talking about
him; but, putting on one of his most affable smiles, he said:—

‘Pray don’t rise. Don’t let me disconcert you. Is Mr. Heywood within?’

‘He is but this moment gone into the fields yonder, my lord,’ answered
my mother.

‘Indeed,’ said the earl, with apparent disappointment, ‘that is
unfortunate, I have just now urgent occasion to speak with him.’

‘Urgent occasion,’ repeated my mother, aside to me; ‘what can it be? My
lord, then I’ll hasten after him; pray have the goodness to wait one
moment.’

‘Nay,’ said Mansville, ‘I am ashamed to give you the trouble; but, being
of importance—’

‘I’ll make the best speed, and bring him to you immediately,’ returned
my mother, hastening away, and leaving me and the earl alone.

Scarcely had my mother disappeared, when the earl, fixing upon me a look
in which admiration and delight were blended, took my hand, and, in a
voice of rapture, exclaimed:—

‘Clara, beauteous Clara! behold before you one who loves you to
distraction.’

Although my own feelings and observations had prepared me for this
scene, I was so flurried and confused, that I could scarcely contain
myself. My bosom heaved—my heart palpitated. Crimson blushes, I am
certain, mantled my cheeks; but yet I was unable to withdraw my hand
from his hold, which he pressed vehemently to his lips and then
continued:—

‘Lovely Clara, pardon this abruptness; often have I longed for this
opportunity, but in vain; never before have I had it in my power to
declare how the first glance of that enchanting face—’

‘Oh, my lord,’ I faltered out, in tremulous accents, ‘I must not listen
to this—leave me, I beseech you.’

‘Leave you, angelic creature!’ replied the earl, emphatically, and still
retaining his hold of my hand; ‘leave you! oh, there is madness in the
bare thought! I cannot, I will not quit your presence till you have
uttered some word of consolation—blessed me with some ray of hope!’

‘I scarcely knew how to answer;—I could not behold the object of my
love, kneeling at my feet, and soliciting my sanction to his vows
unmoved; the cold dictates of prudence would have told me instantly to
give him a decisive answer, and to force myself from his presence, but
my heart pleaded against its rigid rules. The earl noticed my emotion,
and doubtless saw his triumph, for he continued in more fervent and
emboldened terms.

‘But surely the gentle Clara cannot be so cruel as to bid one who is her
devoted slave, despair? No—no—she will impart to him a hope—’

‘Hope, my lord,’ I interrupted, recollecting myself, and the remembrance
of my mother’s words, and my own assurance, rushing upon my mind; ‘I am
a poor girl, the daughter of an humble farmer, and have no right to
listen to a man like you. Even were I no longer the mistress of my
heart, I trust I am not yet so lost to principle, my lord, as to avow it
where it might not be confessed with honor.’

The earl arose from his knee, relinquished my hand, and walked away a
few paces in much apparent agitation; then suddenly returning, he said
in tones of mingled regret and reproach:—

‘Do you deem me capable of deception? Clara, it is to make you my wife,
to give you rank and title, that I came. One word of yours can give
splendor to the home you love, and make the heart that lives but in your
kindness, happy!’

As he spoke thus, his manner became more energetic, and I felt my heart
gradually yielding!—I trembled, and longed, yet dreaded the return of my
parents; while the earl seeing the hesitation of my manner, urged his
suit with redoubled determination.

‘Clara,’ he exclaimed, ‘there is not a moment to be lost!—Can you doubt
the sincerity of my protestations? Think you that I could be the base
villain to deceive one in whom my very soul, my existence is wrapped up.
Say but the blissful word; tell me that you will become my bride, the
empress of my heart and fortune;—give me this sweet assurance, and—’

‘Oh, my lord,’ I interrupted, in a state of confusion, and agitation, I
will not attempt to describe, ‘spare me, I implore you!—I—I—’ and unable
to finish the sentence, I turned away my head, and burst into tears. The
earl again seized my hand rapturously, and encouraged, by the emotion I
evinced, his countenance became lighted up with an expression of
delight, as he exclaimed—

‘Oh, blessed moment! those tears convince me that I am not hated by her
who hath taken possession of my whole affections. Blissful assurance!
Ere another morn, my Clara, my loved, my adored Clara, will be my
bride!—But time passes, we must away from this spot instantly.’

And the earl attempted to place his arm around my waist, but surprised
at his words and demeanour, I recoiled from him, and looking upon him
with astonishment, I demanded:—

‘My lord, what mean you?—Leave this place!—Why, wherefore?’

‘Nay, my dearest Clara,’ returned Mansville, ‘be not surprised, or
alarmed; my proposals are honorable; reasons of rank require that we
retire to my villa; our marriage must be secret and immediate or it may
be prevented. Once mine, I will lead you back in triumph.’

‘What,’ I exclaimed, ‘leave my parents in doubt, in misery?’

‘Banish these childish scruples,’ said the earl, ‘your parents will
applaud you when they know the truth. Come to a lover who adores you!
Come to the altar which will pour forth blessings on those who love so
dearly! Come, Clara, come!’

As the earl thus impatiently urged his suit, he attempted to lead me
towards the bridge;—I felt my resolution getting weaker—I trembled—and
could offer but a faint resistance.

‘Urge me no more, my lord,’ I cried, endeavouring to disengage myself
from him;—‘let me go—I dare not listen to you—farewell!’

‘Still inflexible,’ ejaculated the earl, turning away from me, with a
look of the most inexpressible anguish and despair, ‘then is my doom
sealed. I cannot, will not live without you, and thus I—’

While thus speaking, he snatched a pistol from his bosom, and presented
it towards his head! With a wild shriek of terror, I rushed into his
arms, and arrested his fatal purpose. Some spell, some horrid spell came
over me. I remember the last cloud of smoke curling over our ancient
trees.—I—I’ve no further recollection. When my senses were restored, and
reason was permitted again to resume its sway,—I found myself an inmate
of the earl’s villa, and far away from that home I had rendered
wretched. Oh, God, how dreadful, how agonizing were the thoughts that
first crossed my brain! I upbraided myself for a wretch unfit to live—as
one who had disgraced herself and destroyed the peace of the most
affectionate of parents for ever, and which ever way I turned, a curse
seemed to pursue me.

Mansville tried all his eloquence could effect to console me; renewed
his most tender asseverations, and repeated his promise to make me his
bride. Strange infatuations!—I believed him;—I became tranquil—and if
the thoughts of my parents and the name I had abandoned ever returned to
my memory, they were quickly banished by the soothings, and fond
protestations of the earl. Day after day passed away, and still he
promised, but failed to keep his word. My humble dress was now exchanged
for fashionable finery and Mansville visited me every day, repeating
each time with greater energy the vows of love with which he had at
first seduced from my home. Every luxury—every enjoyment that could be
wished was at my command; but could they yield me real happiness? Oh,
no. The splendour I was now placed in, was purchased with agony; and my
own feelings constantly reproached me for that offence of which I had
been guilty. Some fated spell must have been upon me, or I must have
soon been convinced that St. Clair was not sincere in his promises, or
he would not day after day evade the fulfilment of them. But it was my
fate dearly to purchase experience of my own weakness and of the earl’s
treachery. Several weeks elapsed in this manner, and still did the earl
neglect to fulfil the promises he had made me, while, at the same time,
the ardor of his passion seemed to increase, and the excuses he made for
delaying our nuptials, were so plausible, that I was deceived by them.
Alas! the woman whose heart has been sincerely attached to any
particular object, is made an easy dupe! Let me pass hastily over the
time, until the anniversary of the day of my birth, at once the height
of my misery, and the means of restoring me to reason and to peace. On
that occasion, Mansville had made the most extensive preparations, for
celebrating it in the most spirited manner. Numerous guests were invited
to the villa, and the peasants in the neighborhood were also permitted
to share in the rejoicings. Among other things, for my especial
entertainment, the earl had engaged a troop of itinerant players, who
were in the neighborhood, to perform a play in the grounds of the villa,
which deserves particular mention, as it was the means of restoring me
to reason, and saving me from that gulf of destruction, upon the brink
of which I stood.

Seldom had I felt so melancholy as I did on that occasion; home and all
its tranquil pleasures, came vividly to my recollection, and my heart
was heavy. There was a song which was a great favorite in the village
where I was born, and which described the pleasures of home in simple
yet forcible language, and as it now came fresh upon my recollection, I
could not help repeating the words. When I had concluded, I perceived
that Celia, my waiting-maid, had entered the room, and had apparently
been listening with much attention and admiration to me.

‘Bless me, Miss,’ said the loquacious girl, ‘what a pretty song that
was, and how prettily you sang it. Where might you have learnt it, Miss,
if I might make so bold?’

‘Where I learnt other lessons I ought never have forgotten,’ replied I,
with a deep sigh; ‘it is the song of my native village—the hymn of the
lowly heart which dwells upon every lip there, and, like a spell-word,
brings back to its name affection which e’er has been betrayed to wander
from it. It is the first music heard by infancy in its cradle; and the
villagers blending it with their earliest and tenderest recollections,
never cease to feel its magic power, till they cease to live.’

‘How natural that is,’ returned Celia; ‘just like my nurse used to nurse
me to sleep with a song, which I have never heard since without
nodding.’

‘Has the earl been inquiring for me, Celia?’ I asked.

‘He has been here this morning, and has only just gone,’ replied the
maid; ‘but only see what lovely things he has left you, Miss!’

‘And Celia displayed a costly dress, and several articles of jewellery,
of which I expressed my admiration. But suddenly, gloomy thoughts again
came over me, and while tears trembled in my eyes, I ejaculated:—

‘But can these baubles make me happy? Ah! never! The heart that’s ill at
ease is made more wretched by the splendor which laughs in awful
mockery, around its dreariness.’

‘The presence of Celia embarrassed me; I wished to indulge in melancholy
thought alone, but she seemed determined not to take my hints for her to
leave me, and at last I only got rid of her by requesting that she would
fetch me a book that I had been reading the day previously. When she had
left the room, with much agitation, I unlocked my cabinet, and took out
the plain village dress, I had worn when I quitted my home. The sight of
this tortured my brain, and while deep sobs of anguish almost choked my
voice, I thus soliloquized:—

‘And shall I remain here, dazzled and betrayed by the splendor with
which I am surrounded? Shall I still rack my parent’s hearts, and—I—will
escape! Escape! no, no—I can brave the shocks of fate, but not a
father’s eye: to expose myself to his wrath—no, no! my heart’s not
strong enough for that.’

‘I was interrupted by the return of Celia with the book, who, on seeing
the village dress in the chaise, expressed the utmost astonishment.’

‘Lor’ bless me, Miss!’ ejaculated the girl, ‘what’s this dress doing
here?—Whoever could have put such trumpery in the way?’

As she spoke, she snatched it up, and was going to throw it aside when I
sprang forward emphatically, and hastily took it from her.

‘Give it back!’ I cried, ‘that humble dress was mine;—I cast it off—the
splendor that has replaced it, is the source of the most bitter
misery!—Oh, my forsaken parents;—Come hither, Celia;—I have no one here
of my own sex to talk to—no one to listen to my sorrows. I—’

‘Pray speak freely to me, Miss,’ observed Celia; ‘though humble, you’ll
not find me insincere.’

‘Celia,’ I remarked, ‘if you knew what a home, what parents I had left,
you’d pity me.’

‘I do pity you, Miss,’ replied Celia, ‘indeed I do. Better days will
come; you’ll be as happy as when you left them.’

I sighed, and shook my head with a look of despair, and then detailed to
Celia the particulars of my flight from home, and the promises which the
earl had made, but had hitherto failed to keep his word.

‘Be of good cheer, Miss, I pray,’ said Celia, ‘he will keep it, depend
upon it.’

Celia spoke this with such a tone of confidence, that it forcibly struck
me, and eagerly I exclaimed:—

‘Will he, Celia?—Now, don’t trifle with me—tell me the worst at
once!—Better is present death, than hope deferred; still lingering on,
still doomed to be deceived.’

‘My dearest young Mistress,’ returned Celia, ‘there is plenty of time
before you think of dying; and, as a proof that the earl don’t mean to
deceive you, look here.’

And with these words, Celia presented me with a miniature of the earl,
elegantly set round with diamonds, at the same time, adding:—

‘On a chamber-maid’s penetration, this nothing more or less than an
earnest of the original.’

I took the miniature with transport, and my eyes became riveted upon it
with admiration. Nothing could be more true than the delineation.

‘Ah!’ I observed, ‘precious to the fond one, is the semblance of the
object held most dear. ’Tis the enchanter’s wand, which gathers around
it in a magic circle, sweet recollections and feelings which make memory
a paradise!—No, no!—treachery could never dwell in such a face!—I’ll
trust him still. He cannot mean me false.’

‘Shall I put this away, Miss?’ asked Celia, pointing to the village
dress; ‘I am sure the earl would be hurt to see it here.’

‘Yes, take it away, Celia,’ I replied, ‘I would not, for the world, do
anything to make him uneasy.’

Celia immediately obeyed, and she had not been gone many minutes, when
St. Clair entered the room, and advanced joyfully to meet me.

‘Ah, sir,’ I ejaculated, ‘why overwhelm me with gifts like these?—My
humble habits shrink from such magnificence! This (pointing to the
miniature,) is the only one I prize, the herald of a gift to follow,
which shall restore me to my friends, my self-esteem;—my poor
heart-broken parents.’

The earl turned away his head, doubtless to conceal the embarrassment
which my words occasioned him, and then, in a tone which showed that he
wished to change the subject, said:—

‘This is your birth-day, Clara.’

That word tore my wounds open! Oh! what a joyous day was it when I was
at home! The farm seemed to be one smile of joy;—the sacred halo of a
parent’s blessing descended on me with the morning sun; and even my
birds, my flowers, my young companions,—all seemed to have a livelier
look, and lift their heads rejoicing. These thoughts were too painful
for my feelings, and I burst into tears.

‘Nay, Clara,’ observed the earl, ‘cheer thee, love!—banish that woe;
discard that dread; rely upon my promise.’

‘Heaven’s smile repay that word,’ I exclaimed fervently; ‘the weight
which pressed me to the earth is removed, and all around me breathes
ecstasy.’

‘It delights me to hear thee say so, my dearest Clara,’ replied the
earl, ‘go, sweetest, and put on your richest dress to celebrate this
joyous day.’

‘That day,’ I added, with enthusiasm, ‘that day which gives me back to
honor. It shall be done, my lord.’

The earl kissed me affectionately, and left the room; and once more a
cheering hope brought consolation to my heart, and assured me of future
happiness and joy. Alas! how soon was I to be awakened to the greatest
agony! To more misery than I had ever before experienced.

The festivities of the day passed off most brilliantly until the play
commenced. The gardens in which it took place were brilliantly
illuminated, and the temporary theatre was formed among the trees in the
back. Just as the performances were about to commence, a servant entered
and delivered to the earl a letter, upon perusing the contents of which,
he excused himself to me and the numerous guests, it being necessary
that he should be absent for a short time; but he begged that his
absence might not interrupt their pleasure, as the village actors would
amuse them with their humble efforts; and ere they had ended, he would
return.

When the earl had gone, I beckoned Celia over to me, and the play
immediately commenced; but what were my feelings of intense agony as it
proceeded, when I perceived that the plot, and every incident of the
piece, so corresponded with my own circumstances, that it seemed as if
they had actually chosen me to sketch the heroine from. A nobleman wooed
a peasant girl; he vowed the most unbounded affection for her;—promised
her marriage, if she would but elope with him;—she was persuaded;—she
sunk senseless in his arms, and was conveyed away.

During the time the piece was being played, my anguish was
insupportable, and I was so worked upon by the power of each scene, that
I could scarcely persuade myself but that it was reality.

‘Fatal resemblance,’ I ejaculated, at the passage where the seducer
bears his victim away; ‘has there before been such another deluded
being?’

‘Be calm, dear mistress, be calm,’ said Celia, ‘it is only a play.’

But my thoughts were too intently fixed upon the scene which followed,
to pay any particular attention to her words. The parents of the
betrayed one, as represented in the piece, upon hearing the screams of
their daughter, rushed on to the stage, the father demanding of his wife
the meaning of the alarm, and the cause of the cries he had heard. The
mother looking round, and finding that her daughter was not there,
exclaimed:—

‘My child! my child!—A mere pretence—our darling—lost—escaped! Ah!
there! there! behold the seducer bearing her away!’

‘Ah!’ cried the father, frantically, ‘what fled? given up to shame?—Oh,
art beyond belief! Have all your fond professions come to this? Oh,
well-laid plan!—Lost! lost!—Oh, viper!—hypocrite!—I tear you from my
bosom!—I sweep you from the home you have disgraced!—A father’s curse—’

With a wild shriek, as the actor gave utterance to these words, I rushed
upon the stage, and falling at his feet, I vociferated, in tones that
made the place re-echo again:—

‘Hold! hold!—curse her not! She is not lost! She is innocent!’

At this moment the earl entered, and the whole of the spectators seemed
petrified to the spot with astonishment.

‘Ah!’ cried Mansville, ‘what do I see?—What is the meaning of this?’

Celia raised me from the posture I had assumed, and by the commands of
the earl, whose confusion and chagrin was evident, she led me to my own
chamber, while the guests quickly dispersed, and the entertainments
abruptly ceased.

After I had been taken to my own apartment for a few minutes, by the
kind attention of Celia, I recovered myself, and addressing myself to
her, said:—

‘Thanks! thanks! a thousand thanks!—I grieve to have troubled you
thus—’tis over now; ’tis nothing.’

‘The earl, Miss! the earl!’ exclaimed Celia, and the next moment
Mansville stood before me. There was an expression of sternness upon his
brow which I had never seen before, and he seemed greatly agitated. I
was alarmed, and advancing towards him, said:—

‘Oh, my lord, how shall I apologize for—’

‘No more of that,’ he interrupted; ‘’tis past.’

‘My lord,’ ejaculated I, surprised.

‘Leave us, Celia;’ commanded the earl, and when the former had retired
from the room, he turned to me, and the indignation of his looks seemed
to increase.

‘Oh, Mansville,’ I observed, ‘how have I deserved this indifference? Is
it my fault that my feelings overcame me? Is it my fault that the scene
revived my sense of duty? Oh, my lord, it is those fatal feelings that
have made me what I am.’

‘I am weary of this parade of sensibility,’ replied the earl,
impatiently; ‘you have called up against me the laugh of my tenantry and
domestics—let that content you.’

‘What does the change portend? This freezing look—this language of
reproach?’ I inquired.

‘For your own sake and mine press me no farther, Clara,’ replied the
earl; ‘I would not have had the scene which has just past occur for
millions. If you have placed yourself in unpleasant circumstances,
common policy should at least teach you to shun the sneers of the world;
but it is over and nothing can now be said which will not increase,
instead of diminishing our mutual uneasiness.’

A burning pang shot through my brain as Mansville gave utterance to
these words, and emphatically and hysterically I exclaimed—

‘Am I deceived?’

‘I cannot tell what childish hopes you may have indulged,’ returned the
earl, with the most freezing coldness, ‘and I am only sorry that you
should have been weak enough to deceive yourself.’

‘Oh, no, my agitation has shaken my senses,’ cried I deliriously, and
clasping my temples; ‘he could not—no, no, Mansville! in the name of all
that you have professed, and I have believed, in the name of those vows
that are registered on high, however man may slight them; and in that
holiest name of all, the name of Him, whose bolt hangs o’er the
hypocrite, dispel these doubts and this suspense; restore me at once to
my parents, or at once name the hour for that ceremony to pass, when,
before the world, you acknowledge me as your wife!’

‘Clara,’ replied the earl, ‘since you will force me to be explicit, is
it not strange that a mind so intelligent should fancy for a moment that
it was possible for one in my rank to marry a girl in yours?’

‘The oath!—the oath!’ I cried, almost choking with emotion.

‘My heart is ever yours,’ returned he, ‘but, of my hand, I have no power
to dispose. Nay, you pass not hence.’

‘Are there no pangs, that, like the dagger, kill the heart they pierce,’
ejaculated I; ‘I cast me at your feet in agony! ’Tis Clara kneels and
supplicates! not for herself, but for the racked souls, and the gray
hairs of age! For your honor and eternal peace, restore me to my
parents.’

The earl seemed suffering the most acute mental agony, and for a moment
averted his head.

‘Clara,’ he said, in faltering accents, ‘believe my heart unchanged—my
unceasing love—’

‘Monster!’ I interrupted in delirious tones; ‘darest thou still profane
that sacred word? No, my lord, the mask is torn away,—the attachment
which was my pride is now my disgust; ’tis past! I know myself deceived,
but, thank Heaven, I am not lost! To you, my lord, the bitter hour is
not yet arrived; but, ’tis an hour that never fails to guilt. At some
unexpected moment, the blandishment of pleasure will lose their
force—the power of enjoyment will be palsied in your soul; it will awake
only to remorse. In that hour of retribution think of these words of
warning,—think of the hearts you’ve broken—think, my lord, and tremble.’

Without waiting to give utterance to another syllable, I rushed from the
room, but the voice of the earl, tempted me to stop at the door and
listen. He was apparently pacing the apartment in the most violent state
of agitation, and thus soliloquizing:—

‘The fatal truth curdles my blood like poison! I feel the hell in my
bosom. Oh, what a heart I’ve lost? Why, splendid slavery of rank, must
virtue be thy victim; why must affection be sacrificed to thee? The
peasant mates him where his heart directs, and to his lowly bride brings
happiness; his lord must fret, chained to some high-born fool; or either
pine in vain for humble loveliness, or make its innocence a martyr to
his choice. I was not born to be a betrayer. Wed! I cannot cease to
love!’

The words recalled my scattered reason, and I was almost tempted to
return to the apartment; but a feeling of pride restrained me, and
bursting with anguish, I hurried away to my chamber, where I was soon
afterwards joined by Celia, who was sent by the earl to watch me. I was
at first insensible to her presence, and sat like a statue, with my eyes
fixed upon the earth, and buried in deep and agonizing meditation. The
poor girl spoke to me, but, overcome with my emotions, I burst into
tears, and threw myself on the couch, and Celia, probably thinking that
I should fall into a slumber, left. My mind being so dreadfully fatigued
by the sufferings I had so recently undergone, I did gradually fall to
sleep, from which I was aroused by hearing some person moving in the
adjoining apartment. The door was partly open, and I perceived it was
Celia. Anxious to ascertain for what purpose Celia was there, I still
pretended to slumber, and shortly afterwards, she stole softly to the
door which opened upon my chamber, and peeped in.

‘Yes, she sleeps,’ she said. ‘Poor lady, my heart bleeds for her. Why,
this strange, unlooked-for adventure has created a fine confusion among
all of us; for see—if one wouldn’t think, by the state this room is in,
that it had turned the heads of the whole family. Scarcely a piece of
furniture in its place, and my mistress’s toilet, too. Here’s confusion.
But hold, Celia, that’s your affair, so no complaining. I declare I’m
almost worn out with this bustle. Heigh-ho! I’m ordered by the earl to
watch my mistress here; but I’m sure I don’t know what I shall do to
keep awake, suppose I finish the new drawing the Lady Clara honored my
humble talents by so much admiring—that’s just the thing.’

Celia placed the drawing-stand before her, and sitting down, applied
herself to her task; but it was evident, by her frequent nodding, that
her words would soon be verified, and I was most anxious for it to
happen so, as I had formed a resolution to make my escape from the villa
that night by some means or other. She once more approached the couch,
and having apparently satisfied herself that I still slept, she returned
to the drawing.

‘Oh, dear,’ she exclaimed with excessive weariness, ‘oh, dear, my
eyelids are so very heavy, they stick together whenever I wink, and I
can scarcely force them open again. My poor drawing will never get
finished at this rate. However, I must try once more what it will do to
keep me from sleeping at my post.’

She again endeavored to keep herself awake, but her efforts were all
useless, she nodded, and nodded, until at length she fell back in her
seat, fast asleep.

I now hastily arose, and attired myself in the village dress I had gazed
at with such feelings of pain and regret in the morning. I approached
Celia on tip-toe, and being certain she was really asleep, I
soliloquized—

‘Yes, she sleeps! Now is the only moment! I thought I could not brave a
father’s eyes; but there is courage in despair, which makes the weak
frame wonder at itself. I have written this letter to the earl, and here
are all his gifts—his diamonds, his detested wealth. Now, methinks, my
heart feels lighter. Yes, like the prodigal, I will turn my steps where
a child may always look with confidence. I have been imprudent, but am
not guilty. Heaven receives the offering of the sincerely penitent, and
can a parent’s blessing be denied when Heaven forgives?’

The apartment upon which my chamber opened, and in which Celia was, was
a magnificent one. On one side was a large French window, through which
the distant country could be seen far beyond. Outside was a balcony
overhanging the road. I undrew the curtains softly, and opened the
window. It was a fine moonlight night, and the distant landscape could
be seen as distinctly as at broad day. I took a scarf from the shoulders
of Celia, which she wore, fastened one end of it to the balcony railing,
then returned, made an appeal to Heaven for protection, and blew out the
candles. With more firmness than might have been expected, I then began
my perilous descent, and gradually letting myself down by the scarf,
alighted in safety below. Fear of being re-taken lent speed to my feet,
and I flew with the greatest rapidity across the country to which,
however, I was complete stranger.

I scarcely abated my speed in the least for the distance of five miles
or more, when I was obliged to pause, in order to rest myself. I looked
fearfully around me to see whether or not I was pursued, and then
reflected upon what course I should pursue. I feared to travel at that
hour, and, indeed, it would have been most dangerous, to a young girl
especially; I therefore resolved to proceed for some distance further,
and then to seek shelter at some cottage till the morning. I then
resumed my lonely journey in a state of fear and agitation, it is
unnecessary for me to describe. After walking for above an hour longer,
I arrived at a small and obscure hamlet, and by the light which I
perceived in several of the cottage windows, I was satisfied that some
of the inmates had not retired to rest.

Here, again I paused, for uncertain of the reception I might meet with,
I almost feared to knock. At length, I approached the first one, and
having first listened at the door, and hearing only the voice of an old
woman, apparently in prayer, I became more confident, and having waited
till she had ceased, I knocked, and shortly afterwards, the voice of the
old woman demanded who was there, and what they wanted. I informed her,
and begged that she would admit me. It was some time before she
complied, and seemed to be consulting within herself the propriety or
safety of doing so, but having put several more questions to me, as to
whether I was alone, &c., she at last ventured to open the door, and
eyed me narrowly from head to foot. She was a very clean,
motherly-looking woman, whose appearance called the tears to my eyes,
she was so much like the parent to whom I was returning.

‘Good gracious, child,’ she said, ‘what causes you to be out at this
time of the night and from whence do you come?’

‘I am a stranger in this part of the world, my good dame,’ I replied; ‘I
have recently made my escape from villainy, and crave a shelter in your
cottage till the morning. I have sufficient to reward you for your
trouble.’

‘As for reward,’ returned the old woman, ‘I require none; and if your
story is true, you are heartily welcome to the humble bed I have to
offer you.’

I thanked the poor woman most sincerely for her kindness, and entered
the clean little parlor, where the remains of her humble repast she had
been partaking of, was still upon the table, and of which she requested
me to eat, but I declined. Judging from her manners and appearance that
she was one in whom I could confide, I gave her a brief account of my
situation, and upon what purpose I was bent. She listened to me with
evident commiseration, and applauding the resolution I had formed, after
some conversation, she conducted me to the room in which she was able to
accommodate me, and after bidding me good night left me to myself.
Fatigued with the events of the day, it was not long ere I fell asleep,
and I did not awake until the old woman aroused me late in the morning.

Having been prevailed upon by her to partake of her humble meal, and
offered her some remuneration for her kindness which she persisted in
declining, I took leave of her, and made my way to the coach office, to
which she had directed me. I met with no interruption on the road, and
succeeded in obtaining a place in one of the coaches just starting for
my native village. I alighted from the coach a short distance from my
place of destination, having made up my mind to walk the rest of the
way.

I cannot adequately portray the nature of my feelings as I approached
the home where I had never known anything but happiness until my meeting
with Mansville; alternate hopes and fears racked my bosom. It was a
beautiful morning; the sun shone forth in fall meridian splendor, and
all nature seemed to wear a smile of gladness. When I came within sight
of the village, my heart felt ready to burst, and suddenly the sound of
pipes and tabors vibrated on my ears. Presently afterwards, a bridal
procession approached towards the spot where I was, and stopped before
the doors of one of my female companions, Ellen Greenley, and George
Ashburne, who had long been her acknowledged lover.

George Ashburne having thanked his friends for their kindness, the
father of Ellen joined them.

‘Good morning to you, my dear child,’ said Mr. Greenley, kissing his
daughter affectionately, and smiling upon his son-in-law elect, kindly;
‘may this prove a blessed day to you both. Go, lads and lasses, and
gather the flowers to celebrate the ceremony.’

The villagers departed, and Mr. Greenley continued—

‘I’ll try if I can’t prevail upon Mr. Heywood, the unfortunate father of
Clara, to come to your wedding; poor fellow! he may be compared to the
ruined wing of the crazy old mansion-house he was converted into a farm,
that looks down in gloomy silence upon the bright and smiling landscape
which everywhere surrounds it. Ah! that sad girl! the flowers they go to
gather are less frail than she has proved. My children be virtuous if
you would be happy.’

Thus saying, the old man re-entered the cottage, but his words had been
so many daggers to my heart.

‘Clara’s father,’ observed Ellen, when her father had left them, ‘ah! if
our poor Clara herself were only here now, how her heart would rejoice
in our happiness.’

‘Don’t name her, Ellen,’ said George, ‘don’t name her; a virtuous girl’s
lips ought not to be sullied by the mention of her name.’

‘Ah! George,’ replied Ellen, ‘pity becomes the virtuous, and the more
she has fallen, the more she deserves to be pitied.’

‘Psha!’ cried George, ‘can’t you talk about something else?’

‘A sad day it was when she went away,’ continued Ellen, ‘everybody was
downcast, as if some great affliction had befallen the village.’

‘More fools they,’ was George’s abrupt retort; ‘if you or I had gone,
indeed, it might have afflicted them; now, Ellen, you shall not talk any
more about her. Come, come, let us be going.’

Suddenly accumulating all my fortitude, I emerged from the place where I
had concealed myself, and called upon Ellen by name. Both her and her
lover started, and the former exclaimed in a tone of astonishment and
alarm:—

‘Bless us! what’s that?’

‘As I live,’ said her lover, ‘it is Clara Heywood, or her ghost!’

‘Do not be alarmed, Ellen,’ I said, ‘but one word with you.’

‘No, it’s she herself, as I’m alive,’ ejaculated Ellen: ‘but oh, how
changed she is.’

‘One word, dear Ellen,’ I repeated.

‘I am not satisfied upon this subject,’ said the timid George, ‘so, as
you seem resolved to stay here, I shall be off.’

‘Ellen,’ I repeated, as soon as George had departed ‘Have you forgotten
me?’

‘No, Clara, no,’ answered the affectionate girl, ‘nor never shall forget
you. I was even talking about you, as you called. Ah! Clara, you’re
sadly altered; and so is everything since you went away. Such a day as
it was, when you left us!—There wasn’t a dry eye, nor a cheerful word
spoke in the village. Your poor father—’

‘Well—well!’ I hurriedly interrupted.

‘I see it grieves you,’ said Ellen; ‘I didn’t mean to make you sad—you
look as if you had suffered enough. This is my wedding-day, Clara.’

Ellen sighed, and for a moment averted her head.

‘Yes, Ellen,’ I resumed, ‘I wish to see my mother, and to see her
privately. She would not, perhaps, admit me to her presence, if she was
not forewarned. You can oblige me greatly, if you will induce her to
come to me, by saying that a stranger desires to speak with her,
immediately.’

‘That I will, with all my heart,’ said Ellen, ‘and may it turn to good.
Oh, may all the realization of her hopes attend the returning wanderer.
But where shall I find you?’

‘I’ll follow you,’ I answered, ‘go round to the front door; I’ll take
the opposite side, and meet you at the gate. And Heaven will help the
heart, determined to retrace the paths of rectitude and honor,’ I cried,
as with a heart beating with hope and dread, I made my way towards the
house of my beloved parents.

Oh, never shall I forget the feelings with which I entered at the gate.

‘Here is my home!—my blessed, blessed home!’ I reflected; ‘a frowning
form appears to guard the threshold, shrieking in my ear—‘Hence! thou
shalt not enter!’ But can I linger here?—I seem to tread the earth like
a criminal. I must, and I will approach! Now, now now!’

Having at last made a violent effort to conquer my emotions, I rushed
down the steps into the yard, and then exclaimed triumphantly—

‘Once more I am surrounded by all that is dear to me!—Father!
mother!—your unhappy child, sorrowing, imploring, returns to you!—And
hark! I hear the song of my childhood floating on the air. How acutely
doth its accents strike upon my heart in such a scene as this, around
whose every tree and flower some recollection of infancy’s entwined.’

My heart rose in my mouth, as I ventured, seeing the coast clear, to
approach the house, and even to peep into the parlor-window. I trembled;
and an indescribable pang shot through my frame, as I noticed everything
that well-known room contained, and which had not undergone any
alteration since I last beheld it. But how shall I describe my feelings,
when immediately afterwards, the door of the inner apartment was thrown
open, and the next moment my mother appeared with the breakfast things.
With what eager fondness did I gaze upon her revered countenance, and
yearn again to be enfolded in her embrace; and most severely did I
reproach myself when I noticed the heavy marks of care that were upon
her brow. The casement was partially open, so that I could hear all that
passed, and my mother, having placed the breakfast things on the table,
sighed heavily and observed—

‘There, there!—There’s the breakfast ready for my poor husband, and now
I wish he would return. He has been out since daylight with his gun; the
only thing that seems to attract his attention. At home, all day he does
nothing but sigh, or,—if he thinks he is not observed,—weep. Oh, Clara!
unthinking girl you have too much to atone for. How long he stays.’

My heart was ready to burst as these words reached my ears, and it was
with the greatest difficulty I could avoid betraying myself. My mother
now came to the door and looked anxiously out, but a little thatched
summer-house close at hand concealed me from observation. Again she
entered the house, and I overheard her, in tones of the deepest anxiety,
exclaim—

‘No, I cannot catch even a glimpse of him, yet my mind is never easy in
his absence; his despondency sometimes makes me fear that—ah! surely
yonder I see him moving mournfully among the trees. Yes, ’tis he—he is
just at the bridge;—he comes!’

‘Never shall I forget the sensation with which I strained my eyes in the
direction which the observation of my mother instructed me in, and I
thought I should have sunk to the earth with mingled feelings of the
most intense anguish and awe, when my eyes once more beheld my father.
But oh, how altered was he! Care had deeply imprinted its furrows on his
cheeks, and his form was bent and attenuated. He walked with a feeble
step, and at least twenty winters seemed to have passed over his head
since I had last beheld him.

‘My God!’ I mentally ejaculated, ‘and are these the terrible
consequences of my imprudence? Oh, my poor mother, truly did you say
that I had much to atone for!—How can I ever make sufficient reparation
for the misery I have occasioned.’

My father at length reached the house, and my mother ran affectionately
to meet him.

‘You were wrong to have wandered so far,’ she said, ‘you seem quite
exhausted.’

‘No,’ replied my father, ‘’tis only exercise that can divert the mind
from gloom; When the mind’s disturbed, the body does not feel fatigued.
I’m late, I hope you haven’t waited breakfast for me.’

‘I would not certainly breakfast without you,’ returned my mother; ‘but
you are too much heated to sit in this parlor; the breeze is too keen
for you; we will go into the inner apartment. Go, and I will take the
breakfast things for you.’

‘Well, well, as you please,’ said my father, ‘where is Edwin?’

‘He has gone to make one of the wedding party of Ellen and George,’
answered my mother.

‘A wedding!’ said my father, with a sigh, ‘ah.’

My mother had by this time hastily gathered up the breakfast things, and
left the parlor.

‘Poor, bereaved mother,’ sighed my father, looking after her with the
most poignant sorrow, ‘she struggles with her grief, and endeavors to
impart a joy which neither can feel; which we neither can know
again.—No! no! peace of mind fled with my guilty daughter—never to
return! Why did I repair the ravages time had made in this old mansion?
Why strive to give an air of comfort to my habitation?—Because I deemed
it would be the abode of bliss. She—my child, hath made it the abode of
despair!—But, no matter, a few years of neglect, desolation will spread
around, and hearth, roof, and tree will be ruined, like my happiness,
and broken as my heart!—My daughter!—my Clara! Oh! misery! misery! She
is gone! she is lost forever!’

As he thus spoke he rushed from the room, and my agony was so great that
I could not help groaning aloud.

‘Oh! God!’ I exclaimed; ‘what will become of me?—I shall go mad!—Would
that I had not ventured hither; I shall never be enabled to withstand
the scene!—Never can I find resolution enough to meet his reproaches.
Alas! he is too strongly prejudiced against me, ever to be persuaded
that I am guiltless!—But where is Ellen?’

I had scarcely given utterance to the words, when the latter approached,
and before I had time to speak to her, entered the house observing me,
however, and motioning me to remain where I was, and to wait patiently.
I cannot do justice to the anxiety of my feelings during the time I was
waiting there. A thousand doubts, hopes and fears, flashed across my
brain, and every moment seemed to be an hour. At length, I heard Ellen
in joyful accents exclaim, as she came from the house,

‘Joy, Clara, joy!’

I sprang forward with rapture to meet her.

‘I have succeeded, my dear Clara, said the generous-hearted girl,
exultingly; ‘she’ll come to you. Wait in the summer-house, and she’ll be
with you presently.’

‘Thanks! thanks!’ cried I, ‘a thousand thanks, my dearest Ellen.’

‘She’s coming,’ observed Ellen, eagerly; ‘go, quick. I pray for your
success from the bottom of my soul.’

Scarcely had I time to enter the summer-house, when my mother
approached. Now was the moment of my trial at hand; a deadly sickness
came over me, and it was with difficulty I could save myself from
fainting. The next moment my mother entered the summer-house, and she no
sooner beheld me, than she uttered a loud scream of astonishment, and
became, as it were, paralyzed to the spot.

‘Mother! mother!’ I cried, in frantic tones, ‘if I may still call you by
that dear name;—oh, pardon your imprudent, but not guilty daughter!’

I could say no more, but sank at her feet. A pause of several moments
ensued! my mother being too much overpowered by her emotions to speak;
but at length, in a voice choked with agony, she exclaimed:—

‘Wretched girl! dare you again to approach that home, those parents
whose hearts you have rendered desolate? Guilty, miserable girl—’

‘Oh, no, no,’ I interrupted hastily, ‘imprudent, cruel, I have been,
dear mother, but your child returns to you as pure as when she left you.
I appeal to heaven to attest my innocence. Oh, my mother, pardon the
poor prodigal, who erred alone through youth and inexperience, and who
is now ready to make all the atonement in her power.’

‘Can this be true? Have you indeed not endeavored to deceive me?’
ejaculated my mother, eagerly, and her eyes beaming, fixed with a
penetrating glance upon my countenance, as though she would read all
that was passing in my soul. ‘But no, it is impossible. How can you be
innocent, uncontaminated? did you not abandon your home, your parents,
and throw yourself into the arms of a villain, who—’

‘Oh, mother, believe it not,’ I returned, with the tears at the same
time streaming down my cheeks. ‘I acknowledge that by the most base and
subtle means, and in a moment of thoughtlessness and imprudence,
Mansville got me into his power, and bore me far away from my home. But
I thought that he meant to act honorably towards me. He told me he would
make me his bride. I was too ready to believe him, and day after day he
made some plausible excuse to postpone the fulfilment of his promise.
Think not, however, that I suffered nothing. That you were ever absent
from my thoughts, or that the fondly cherished recollections of my home,
that home I had quitted, ceased to torture my mind. Bitter, indeed, were
the pangs I endured. Ofttimes would I have fled the place and returned
hither, but I dreaded to meet the reproaches of my parents. When,
however, Mansville threw aside the mask, I overcame that dread, and your
unhappy daughter has come back to solicit your forgiveness, with her
virtue as unsullied as when she left you.’

During the time I was speaking, the agony evinced by my mother needs no
description, and when I had ceased, in a paroxysm of delirious
transport, she snatched me from the earth and enfolded me in her arms,
exclaiming—

‘My child—my long lost Clara! Yes, I do indeed believe you, and pardon
you, Oh, this is a happiness that I never expected!’

‘Mother, dear mother!’ I cried, in a tone of gratitude and delight which
I cannot adequately describe, ‘to be suffered once more to speak to you
in this place—to hear those blest words—to know myself pardoned. My
heart is so full. Thus, thus only can I thank you.’

Again I threw my arms around her neck, and pressing vehemently to her
bosom, she wept tears of joy.

‘Unfortunate girl,’ at length she said, gently withdrawing herself from
my enthusiastic caresses, ‘I believe you innocent; but a mother’s heart
is more indulgent than the world. And, ah! there is yet one to be
appeased. Hark! I hear footsteps. It is your father. Softly—stand out of
sight! He comes, but must not know you yet.’

Hastily throwing a veil over me, my mother urged me into the
summer-house, and the next moment my father and the father of Ellen came
from the house. They were in conversation, and by the words which I
overheard, it seemed that the latter had been endeavoring to persuade my
father to join the wedding party.

‘But at any rate,’ said he, ‘for half an hour you might.’

‘No,’ returned my father mournfully, ‘I should only mar the festal hour.
I am the scathed tree of the heath that cannot drop. The bolt that
struck off my branches has left my old trunk erect in wretched
loneliness.’

‘’Tis a shame, neighbor,’ observed his companion, ‘it is a shame, I say,
for a strong mind like yours to give itself up to sorrow in this way.
You might as well put a pistol to your head at once, for you will be
sure to kill yourself by it, sooner or later, and self-murder in one
form is quite as criminal as in another.’

‘When you have seen the being for whom you’ve lived,’ retorted my
father, ‘the object of every solicitude—the child you’ve reared with
unceasing watchfulness, wrenched from you by a villain’s grasp, then
come to me and talk of patience, and I’ll listen.’

‘Well, well, I’ll not weary you any longer,’ observed Mr. Greenly; ‘from
my soul I’m grieved to see you thus abandoned to fruitless sorrow.
Farewell, my friend, and may days be at hand when we shall see you smile
once more.’

Thus saying, and grasping the hand of my father most cordially, the
father of Ellen retired through the gate.

‘Smile,’ soliloquized the former, as his friend left him; ‘smile! Oh,
happy father!—happy to see his daughter safe in her native
innocence—safe from the bane of wealth. I once hoped that such a fate
would beam on me; but fate was jealous. Lost, lost, wretched girl!’

While my unhappy father was thus speaking, my mother entered the
summer-house, and leading me forth, she placed her finger on her lips to
enjoin me to silence. We stood aside, and watched him, unobserved.

‘As I gaze there,’ he continued, ‘methinks I see her in her days of
innocence, when first her little steps began: laughing, she ran, with
arms extended towards me; then I trembled lest her young feet should
fail, and she should fall. But she passed through those fearful times
unharmed. She escaped those thousand dangers. Now she falls—falls to the
earth, never to rise! She’s gone—she’s lost! My Clara! Oh, my child!’

My heart was ready to burst, and I was almost choked with endeavouring
to repress the heavy sobs that heaved my bosom. My father threw himself
into a chair, and my mother advanced towards him, and touched him on the
shoulder.

‘A tear,’ she observed, in gentle accents. ‘Did I not hear our Clara’s
name too? Did not your lips utter the name of our child?’

‘No, no,’ he replied, hastily rising; ‘let us, if possible, not think or
speak of her again.’

‘Well, well, dearest husband,’ returned my mother, ‘I will not urge it
now; but here is a poor creature, the daughter of—’

‘Away—away!’ hastily and vehemently interrupted my unhappy parent. ‘I
have no daughter now.’

‘No,’ replied my mother; ‘but this repentant child, the daughter of a
neighbor, is on her way to ask forgiveness of her offended father. She
faints with shame and grief, and dares not meet him. Do speak a word or
two of comfort to her, and teach her in what words she should address
him to gain his blessing, and to sooth his anguish.’

‘None,’ replied my father, hastily, and his eyes beaming wild, ‘none.
Let her not dare to look upon him. Let not her presence insult the home
her infamy has disgraced. Perhaps, too, she had a mother, rich in every
virtue. Let her shun that mother, for contamination is in her touch.
Virtue can hold no intercourse with vice, though vice, with double
baseness, kneels affecting reverence for virtue.’

I found it impossible to help groaning aloud, as I listened to my
father’s observations, and I threw myself into my mother’s arms. He
turned his eyes steadily upon me for a minute or so, and then resumed—

‘Yet hold! I will not judge too harshly; for there are shades of guilt,
and hers, perhaps, may not be of so deep a dye as to preclude
forgiveness. Perhaps her father was not affectionate—Perhaps (poor
child!) he was morose and frigid. Perhaps neglectful, cold,
unindulgent.’

‘Oh, no!’ I sobbed, and sank on my knees before him with clasped and
upraised hands, ‘he was most kind, affectionate, and good.’

‘What,’ eagerly demanded my poor parent, ‘did he love you better than
all the world?—did he rear you in domestic tenderness, and train you in
the paths of virtue?—did he clasp you to his doting heart, and in his
foolish pride proclaim his child the paragon of earth?—and did you then
blast all of his fond hopes, and clinging to another, leave him in his
storm of grief?’

Again I groaned with the almost insupportable power of my anguish, and
still remained on my knees before him.

‘Dearest husband,’ said my mother, ‘do not aggravate the dear child’s
misery. She is repentant—she is the shorn lamb, temper the storm to her
affliction, but do not add another wound to a heart already too much
lacerated.’

‘Well, well,’ returned my father, ‘be it so. I will forget my own, and
try to sooth her sorrows. Young woman, rise.’

He raised me from the earth, and taking my hand tenderly, continued:—

‘What your miseries are, I well can guess; but what your father’s
sufferings are I too well know. You fear to meet his eye; you dread to
hear his curse. A father’s curse is heavy; shall I paint this agonizing
suffering to you, child! I can do so; for I have felt it. I have it now.
I once had a daughter.’

‘Oh, sir, do not name her!’ I cried, with a feeling of agony, too
powerful for utterance.

‘Oh, how I doted on that daughter,’ he continued, and his countenance
betrayed the terrible mental agony he was enduring. ‘How I adored her,
words cannot tell; thoughts cannot measure! Yet—she sacrificed me to a
villain,—her ingratitude has bleached this head,—her wickedness has
broken this heart, and now my detestation is upon her! Oh, do not you
resemble her,—remain not a moment longer from your father,—fly to him
ere his heart give way, as mine does now—ere he curses you as I now
curse—’

‘Oh, no more!’ I interrupted, darting forward in excessive agitation;
‘in mercy, oh, no more.’

‘Ha!’ groaned my father, as he recognized me and retreated from me,
‘away! away! away!’

In a wild delirium of agony, I followed him on my knees, exclaiming, in
frantic accents,—

‘Your vengeance cannot make you deaf to the agony of a despairing child;
behold me on my knees; I bring the sacrifice of a broken spirit. I do
not ask your love till you know I am worthy of being loved. I do not ask
your confidence till you feel I can be trusted; but do not deny me the
shelter of your paternal roof.’

‘My father spurned me violently from him, and as he did so, he cried, in
hoarse tones,—

‘Hence! hence!—I know you not! My sight rejects you—spurns you! If you
have wasted all the spoils of guilt, there—there’s gold! Your idol,
gold! for which you bartered all your hopes of bliss!’

He dashed a purse furiously to the earth as he spoke, and hastened
towards my mother, fixing upon me looks of scorn and hatred. Oh, Heaven!
how each glance penetrated to my soul! How every word burnt to my heart!
It was wonderful that reason could retain her empire in that trying
scene.

‘Father! father!’ I implored, with redoubled vehemence, ‘hear me, I
beseech you.’

‘Husband, dearest husband!’ supplicated my mother, ‘hear her, she is
innocent.’

‘Innocent!’ he reiterated, ‘she innocent! No, no, impossible!—she left
us; left her happy parents—her happy home—to follow a villain!’

‘Father, dearest father!’ I cried, ‘temper mercy, I pray you, with your
severity. I am not the poor, guilty, degraded being that you suppose me
to be. Your child is still virtuous—still unpolluted; her only crime has
been in loving one too fondly, who sought to betray her! In the name of
Heaven, I assert my innocence, and if I speak not the truth, may its
most awful vengeance descend upon my head! But you cannot, you will not,
longer doubt me. I see you will not! Oh, bless you for this, father,
father!’

I could say no more; but sobbing convulsively, I threw myself into his
arms! He wept;—yes, I could feel his chest heave with the power of
mental anguish, and the big round tear of sorrow fell from his eye upon
my cheek; he pressed me with all the fervour he had ever been wont to do
to his heart, and ere he pronounced it, I knew that I was forgiven.

‘My child! my Clara!’ he at last cried, ‘is it possible that I again
hold you innocent to my bosom? But no, the bliss is too great to be
real! And yet it is her! yes, it is my child; it is her lips that have
asserted her innocence and appealed to Heaven to attest it, and I can no
longer doubt! Oh, happiness supreme! My long-lost, reclaimed child!
Receive a parent’s thanks.’

He could say no more for a minute or two, but again did he clasp me with
ecstasy to his bosom, and weep tears of gratitude upon my cheek. Then he
would, withdrawing himself from me, with an expression I find it
impossible to describe, gazed in my countenance, and clasping his hands
together, raised them towards Heaven, in humble thanksgiving for its
goodness in restoring me, uncontaminated to his arms; while my poor
mother’s emotion was equal to his own, and she gazed on the scene with a
sensation of the deepest gratitude and joy.

‘But where is the villain who has been guilty of this outrage?’ he at
length demanded; ‘let me hasten to him, and demand satisfaction for the
wrongs he has done us; the many days and nights of bitter misery he has
caused your unfortunate parents! Tell me to what insult, what anguish
did he expose you? I am mad to hear the guilty tale!’

‘Pray defer it, my dear husband, till your feelings are more composed;’
said my mother.

‘No, no, no,’ hastily ejaculated my father, and with the greatest
impatience depicted in his countenance. ‘I will hear it now! I will no
longer hesitate!’

In as few words as possible, I complied with my father’s request, and
related all the particulars of the earl’s conduct to me during the time
I was in his power. During the recital, the violent agitation of my
father was plainly visible, and when I had concluded, he walked
backwards and forwards for a short time, with disordered steps, and
muttering incoherent sentences to himself.

At length he turned to me, and clasping me vehemently to his bosom,
exclaimed:—

‘My child!—my own one!—my still innocent Clara!—Can I longer doubt you?
Oh, no! you are restored to my arms; guiltless as when in a moment of
imprudence you were snatched away from your paternal roof! Oh! God! I
thank you for this! The trial has been a heavy one! But my child has
withstood the temptation, the artifices of the libertine, and the
tempter, and I am again happy! Bless you, bless you, my Clara!—Oh, I was
too severe to imagine for a moment that you could be the guilty being I
supposed you to have become!—Bless you again!—Here in this fond
embrace!—This kiss of fervent affection, let me at once seal your pardon
for the indiscretion of which you were guilty. We will never again part,
till death shall interpose between us.’

Thus saying he snatched me fervently to his heart, and imprinted warm
kisses upon my cheeks, my lips, my temples! How shall I describe the
feelings that rushed through my veins at that moment? Language is by far
too weak to do justice to them. They must be left to the warm
imagination of the susceptible reader!—I was unable to return any
answer; emotion choked my utterance, and stifled the words of ecstasy
that would otherwise have flowed from my lips. Again I felt the ardent
embrace of that father whose forgiveness I had despaired of ever being
able to obtain; once more I felt the glow of his kiss upon my lips, and
heard him pronounce his forgiveness for the many, many hours of bitter
agony, of doubt, of fear, I had caused him.—Surely an age of anguish
would have been trifling to purchase such a few moments of bliss, of
exquisite transport, as those I then experienced. Again and again he
enfolded me to his heart, and wept: like a child did the poor old man
weep tears of inexpressible joy and gratitude upon my bosom. My mother,
too; what pen could sufficiently depict her emotions upon that
occasion.—She joined my father in the embraces he bestowed upon me, and
then we all three knelt, and with hearts of sincerity, poured forth our
gratitude to that Omnipotent being who had thrown the Almighty shield of
His protection around me in hours of such eminent peril, and restored me
innocent to the home wherein I had passed so many days of virtue and
happiness, and which the wily seducer had endeavored so artfully to make
me disgrace for ever!

‘But I will seek out the villain,’ cried my father, in vehement tones,
after the first ebullitions of our joy and gratitude were over;—‘yes I
will go to him and upbraid him for his base and brutal conduct, and
demand of him all the satisfaction he can afford!—The feelings of
affectionate parents are not to be racked and insulted with
impunity!—No, by Heaven, he shall find, that in spite of his rank, he
shall not escape the just indignation of those humble individuals whom
he would have disgraced and rendered eternally wretched. To-morrow I
will repair to the titled rake, and demand—’

‘Oh; my dearest parent,’ I interrupted, ‘pray do not think of such a
thing; rather leave him to his own conscience, which, depend upon it,
will sooner or later, be a severe monitor to him, and amply punish him
for his guilt. The journey is too long, at your time of life, and
besides, the result of such an act, without affording any satisfaction,
might be such as I dread even to think upon.’

‘Clara!’ observed my father, ‘think you I can tamely brook the injuries
I have received from the Earl Mansville? Oh, my child, did you but know,
could you but form the least conjecture of the intense agony your
disappearance, and the fears, the suspicions, that naturally resulted
from it, caused both me and your poor mother, you could not thus
advise.’

‘Alas! my dear father,’ I returned, ‘you do me an injury to suppose that
I have not keenly, severely, felt the misery yourself and my dear mother
must have undergone; in the midst of the luxury and magnificence that
were displayed to ensnare me, it would rise in such vivid colors to my
imagination, that many a time it surprises me how I can have retained my
senses. Then would suspicion of the truth of Mansville rush tumultuously
upon my brain, and only that I had dreaded to meet your reproaches, long
ere this I should have made my escape from him, and return to your
fostering arms. Not able to form any conjectures of your suffering?—Oh,
my father, the imagination constantly haunted me;—sleeping or waking, it
was ever present to my mental vision; but the deceptive art of
Mansville, of which he is so consummate a master, never failed to use
all the powers of his eloquence to soothe me, and by specious promises,
day and day to quiet my apprehension—I will own my weakness;—such was
the powerful ascendancy he had obtained over my heart, that I was too
ready to listen to him; too willing to believe that he spoke the
truth—Oh, my beloved parents, do me not the injustice to suppose that I
could for a moment learn to become insensible of the imprudence I had
committed, or of the consequent anguish that I knew it would involve you
in.’

‘And do you not love Mansville now, my child?’ demanded my father,
looking earnestly in my face.

‘Love him,’ I repeated, and a blush of indignation mantled my cheek as
he spoke;—‘Oh, how degraded, how fallen I should be, could I now feel
anything but the utmost disgust and abhorrence for one who has acted
with such duplicity to me, and who would have destroyed the happiness of
my parents for ever! No, my dear father, the youthful passions that are
more powerfully excited in favor of any particular object, are more
likely to become changed to those of hatred and scorn, when it is
discovered that the being who has created them, has acted the part of a
heartless traitor,—the vile deceiver,—It is thus with me, Mansville is
torn from me forever; the place which his image occupied once, is now
replaced by the deepest scorn and detestation.’

‘Darling child!’ cried my father, clasping me again in his arms. ‘There
is sincerity in every word you utter. Oh, how could I ever suspect that
you’d yield to the temptations of the guilty, and abandon the paths of
virtue, in which you were brought up? This—this indeed is a joyful day;
such a one as I never expected to experience again.—Come, come, child,
into the house; let the blissful news be conveyed to all our neighbors,
that this day restores a daughter, imprudent once, but guiltless, to her
doting parents’ arms.’

‘And let the past be forgotten in the happiness of the present,’ said my
mother, tears of ecstasy starting to her eyes:—‘oh, Clara, you have
returned at a time when joy predominates in the bosoms of those dear
friends, with whom we have been so long associated. Little did Ellen
expect such a happy occurrence on the day of her nuptials.’

Encircling my waist with their arms, my parents led me affectionately to
the house, and in a short time I was seated at the breakfast table, and
about to eat of the repast beneath the roof in which I had been reared,
and from which I had been so near being discarded for ever.—How shall I
describe my feelings on that occasion, or those, it was evident, were
passing in the minds of my parents.—I could scarcely believe that I had
undergone what I had;—that I had ever even for a moment quitted my
parental roof. Everything seemed as it was on the eventful morning when
I had been borne away, and the whole seemed like some vision to warn me
from the imprudent step I had actually been guilty of. The change
effected in my father and mother in so short a time was most
astonishing. The heavy care, the anguish of my father seemed dissipated,
and was succeeded by joy and gratitude; looks of love and intense
feeling which he constantly beamed upon me; while my mother could
scarcely control her happiness within bounds of reason.

It might be imagined that my heart was too full—but it was not so—on the
contrary, I partook of the repast with a relish I never before enjoyed
since I had quitted my paternal home. I was again at home! in the home
of my childhood restored to the love of my parents; and never was the
contrast of the comforts of a virtuous home, with the empty luxuries of
wealth and magnificence, presented more powerful to my mind.

Never shall I forget the felicity I enjoyed on that day. In the course
of an hour or two my brother returned to the farm. He embraced me
affectionately, but his indignation against Mansville was equal to that
of my father.

It appeared that both my father and brother, had been indefatigable in
endeavoring to trace the earl, but without success.

The day passed away, and at night, for the first time in some months, I
retired to my chamber with the blessings of my parents. What ecstatic
feelings thrilled through my veins, when I entered the little room where
for so many years I had slept, and gazed upon every well known object,
which had undergone no perceptible change since I had before reposed in
it. It seemed indeed, to have been unoccupied since the time I had been
from home; and every article I looked upon, appeared not to have been
disturbed. There was the same little clean bed, with its furniture
arranged with such admirable care and precision—the humble toilet—and
everything the same as when I had last used it. There was the prayer
book, the one which had been presented to me by my father many years
before, and in which was inscribed his name, with the leaf turned down
at the particular prayer I remember to have used the night before my
elopement. With a heart overflowing with gratitude, I knelt down, and
fervently breathed that prayer, and to it added one of thanks to Heaven,
for the manner in which I had been saved from the sorrow and disgrace
with which I had been threatened, and invoked its blessings on the heads
of my parents and my brother. Then, with a lighter heart than I had
experienced for many a day, I retired to my couch, and soon fell off
into a calm slumber. No painful vision haunted my imagination that
night; my dreams were those of bliss. Of the joys of home, and the
affection of adoring parents; and in the morning I awoke to a renewal of
that happiness and content, which had ever been mine before I became
acquainted with the Earl of Mansville.

But what were my sentiments now as regarded Mansville? Need I try to
portray them? I am certain that I need not! They were fully embodied in
the observations I had made use of to my father. The mask which the
deceiver had thrown off, having shown me his character in its real
light, I thought of him only with disgust and abhorrence, and had he
even then offered to make all the reparation in his power, by bestowing
upon me his hand, I felt confident that I should have rejected it with
scorn. Great as had been my trial, and painful as had been the
circumstances by which it had been attended, I felt I had no cause to
regret it now, but, on the contrary, to feel, in a manner thankful that
it did occur, as it had taught me a lesson I shall never forget, and had
afforded me that experience in the deceptive practices resorted to by
the wealthy and unprincipled of mankind, which would prevent me for the
future from approaching the precipice of destruction, down which I was
so near being plunged.

I arose the following morning at the early hour to which I had been
accustomed, and found my father, mother, and brother, already assembled
in the little parlor, and the morning’s repast spread upon the table. I
could perceive, as soon as I entered, that they had been discussing
something particular, and it was not long ere I was made acquainted with
it. I found that my father and my brother had come to the determination
of going to the Earl Mansville, in spite of my entreaties, and the
observations I had the previous day made use of, to induce them to
abandon their design, and such was their eagerness to see Mansville, and
demand an explanation of him, that they had resolved not to delay any
longer than the following day.

‘I fully appreciate your motives, my dear child,’ said my father, ‘but,
after mature deliberation, I cannot consent to comply with your wishes.
Were we to suffer the matter to rest where it is it would be yielding a
cowardly submission to guilt, which my heart revolts from; and,
moreover, would give the foul tongue of slander an opportunity of
propagating surmises derogatory to your reputation. No, nothing will
satisfy me, but a plain acknowledgment of his guilt, and your innocence
from his own lips, and a sufficient apology to satisfy the world at
large. Were I to seek reparation in a court of law, his wealth and high
rank would be a sure protection for him.’

‘It would,’ coincided my brother, ‘and I see no other means of obtaining
any satisfaction than the course we are about to pursue.’

In this opinion, my mother coincided, and, much as I dreaded the
consequences that might attend it, I was at a loss for arguments to
combat their resolutions. This day passed away in the same manner as the
previous one, and the following morning, after a most affectionate
farewell, my father and brother took their departure by the coach, for
the mansion of the Earl Mansville.

After my father and brother had left, my mind underwent several gloomy
presages, and though I perfectly agreed with the propriety of the
arguments my father had made use of, I could not but sincerely regret
that they had not abandoned their design.

My mother endeavored to sooth me by all the arguments in her power; and
said that, doubtless Mansville, for his own credit’s sake, would be
ready to make all the reparation that was in his power.

‘Alas!’ thought I, ‘what recompense can he make me for the injury he has
inflicted on my peace of mind? Nothing can make amends for the pain of
discovering that the only object upon which we have placed all our young
heart’s warmest affections is base, treacherous, and unworthy of that
passion; and I now as thoroughly despised Mansville as I had before
loved him, for that he had thrown a blight upon my mind from which I
could never thoroughly recover.’

We expected the return of my father and brother in about three or four
days from the time they had left home, as they would have nothing to
detain them after they had obtained the interview they sought with the
Earl Mansville, as they were fully aware that if they protracted their
presence, it would excite our utmost alarm. The fourth and fifth day,
however, elapsed, and still they remained absent. Our apprehensions
began to be excited in the utmost degree, and all the fearful
forebodings that had before haunted my mind, returned with redoubled
force.

In spite of all her efforts to appear to the contrary, the fears of my
mother, were, if possible, more excited than my own, and conjecture was
exhausted in vain, to endeavor to account for the procrastination of
their return.

Another day elapsed in this manner, and yet we heard nothing of them,
and then, indeed, our terrors were aroused to an almost insupportable
pitch, and we no longer sought to disguise from each other the real
state of our feelings upon the agonizing subject. I expressed to my
mother all those forebodings I had before indulged in, and she could not
but admit the too great probability of them. Now did she join with me in
deeply regretting that my father and brother had not yielded to my
advice, or that she should have made one to urge the propriety of the
course they had taken. What step to pursue we were at a loss to
conceive.

‘I cannot wait in this horrible state of suspense any longer,’ my mother
ejaculated, when the seventh day dawned, and we heard no tidings of
them; ‘I’ll instantly take G—m, and learn at once the cause of this
mysterious delay, and whether or not anything has happened to them. This
dreadful state of doubt and suspicion is worse than the most terrible
certainty.’

She had scarcely given utterance to these words when a knock was heard
at the outer door, and a letter was presented to my mother, which she
knew immediately to be in the hand-writing of her husband. Trembling
violently with apprehension, she broke the seal, but had not read more
than two lines when, with a piercing scream, she fell senseless to the
floor. I flew to her, raised her in my arms, and then, taking up the
fatal letter, began to read the contents. The commencement of it was
enough to smite my heart with horror; and it is marvellous how, under
such trying circumstances, I retained possession for an instant of my
faculties. My unfortunate father and brother were in gaol, accused of
murder—of the murder of my deceiver, the Earl Mansville!

My frantic cries soon brought the servants of my father to the room, who
immediately conveyed my mother to her chamber, while I was reduced to
such a state by the shock which my feelings had sustained, that it was
found necessary to call in medical advice to me, as well as the former.
I remained in a state of almost utter unconsciousness for several days,
during which period I continually raved of the murdered Mansville, and
the awful charge which I would fain have believed my unhappy parent and
brother were innocent of; but which, under peculiar circumstances,
seemed, alas! but too probable.

My mother had been restored to comparative composure much earlier than
might have been anticipated from the violence of the shock her feelings
had received; and when I regained my senses, I found that she had
started, the day following the one on which she had received the fatal
letter, for G—m, to seek an interview with her wretched husband and son,
and to obtain an explanation of the horrible circumstances. The person
who attended me had the utmost difficulty in persuading me not to follow
her; and it was only by the determined tone in which the medical man
spoke, stating that the consequences of such a journey, in my then state
of mind, might be productive of the most fatal results, that I was
prevented from putting my wishes into effect.

Too soon, alas! the horrible particulars reached my ears, which I will
proceed to relate as they were afterwards detailed by my father.

It appeared that after my father and brother had left home, they
immediately repaired to the coach-office, where they had booked their
places the evening before, and took their departure for G—m, whither
they arrived the evening without anything occurring worthy of being
particularly noticed. As it was rather late, they resolved not to visit
the earl till the morning, and accordingly took up their lodgings at an
inn in the place. Not feeling disposed to go to rest for the present,
they thought they would take a bit of a walk in the neighboring fields
previous to supper, and accordingly they walked forth, and instinctively
directed their footsteps towards the mansion of Mansville. They had
proceeded across several fields, and had entered upon a dark and gloomy
lane, which, they had been informed, led to his house, when suddenly
they beheld, by the dim light of the moon, the shadows of two men before
them, one of whom was a short way in advance of the other. They did not
take particular notice of this at first, as there was nothing at all
extraordinary in the circumstance; yet, when they perceived that one of
them still kept in the rear of the other, and that he was evidently
fearful of being seen, they determined to watch his actions more
narrowly. They, therefore, kept as close to the hedge as possible, so
that they might not be observed, and yet cautiously kept advancing
towards the two men, and taking particular notice of their actions. The
one in advance made a motion as though reflection was almost too
dreadful for him would turn round, when the other immediately stepped
aside so that he could not be seen; and it then became very clear that
he was after no good purpose, or why appear so anxious for concealment?
My poor father and brother, therefore, redoubled their speed,
entertaining strong suspicions that the fellow was a highwayman, and
that they might be the means of preventing, probably, robbery and
murder.

They had not proceeded far when a turning in the lane hid them from
observation, and directly afterwards the report of a pistol vibrated on
their ears.

Fearful, from all they had observed, that murder had been committed,
they now ran with all their speed in the direction which the two persons
had taken; and having arrived at a dark and lonely spot, to which they
were attracted by groans of agony, they beheld, by the faint light of
the moon, whose rays now penetrated through the thick foliage above
their heads, the form of a man elegantly attired, stretched upon the
earth and weltering in his blood, while by his side lay the pistol with
which the fatal and cruel deed had been committed, and which the
assassin had left behind him.

My father raised the unfortunate man in his arms, and the moonlight
streaming full upon his countenance, my brother suddenly exclaimed, in a
voice of mingled astonishment and exultation—

‘Ah! by Heaven, retribution has overtaken the guilty! It is the villain,
the betrayer, Mansville!’

The fatal words had scarcely escaped my brother’s lips when a party of
men, who had also been attracted by the report of the pistol, rushed to
the spot; and having overheard what he said, and seeing the wounded
nobleman stretched upon the earth, and my father and brother standing
over him—the latter with the weapon of death in his hand, believed them
to be the perpetrators of the bloody deed; and accusing them
accordingly, and seizing them, in spite of their remonstrances and
solemn protestations of their innocence, they bore them away to the
nearest prison, while the wounded Mansville was conveyed to his mansion.

My God! how my very soul trembles when I recall to my memory this
dreadful event, and my blood freezes in my veins with the most
indescribable sensation of horror. Alas! who shall say that my
sufferings have not indeed been severe!—It is really wonderful how I
have found strength of mind to endure them all; how one so young, and,
until lately, a complete stranger to misery, should be able to bear up
under such an almost unprecedented accumulation of horrors. But my
troubles were far from being yet complete.

The unfortunate Mansville was mortally wounded, and breathed his last
before morning, never having rallied from the first, and having been
unable to speak after he was first discovered. And here must I pause to
reflect upon the terrible fate of the Earl Mansville; as I do so, the
remembrance of his faults, and his conduct towards me, are forgotten in
the one strong and irresistible feeling of pity which inhabits my
breast. His fate was marked by the most signal retribution of Heaven.
The week following that of his assassination, he was to be united to a
young, beautiful, and wealthy heiress, to whom he had been paying his
devoirs, at the same time he was pleading the most powerful passion for
me, and most solemnly protesting, from time to time, that he would make
me his bride. Ill-fated, but guilty Mansville! Heaven pardon you for the
deception of which you were guilty, as I now do.

My father and Edwin underwent several examinations before the justices,
and evidences of their guilt appeared so numerous, that few, if any,
attempted to defend them.

It was well known in what manner they were related to me, and the
circumstances under which I had been placed with the murdered Mansville,
and, therefore, what had brought my father and brother to G—m, but to
seek revenge? Besides, it was proved by the landlord of the inn where
they had taken lodgings, that they had left his house at a late hour in
the evening together, and, that, previous to doing so, he had a
conversation with them, in course of which they had asked several
strange questions respecting the deceased Earl Mansville, which were
quite sufficient to strengthen the suspicions that were already excited
against them; and more particularly they had made several inquiries as
to the nearest way to the murdered nobleman’s mansion, and had been
directed the exact way in which they had been discovered. An inquest was
held upon the deceased, the jury upon which unhesitatingly returned a
verdict of wilful murder against my father and brother; and ultimately
they were committed to the assizes for trial.

This was precisely the state of the affair, when we received the letter
which was from my father; need it, therefore, excite any astonishment
that our feelings were almost maddening?—The circumstantial evidence
against them was very strong, and alas! how many innocent persons had
suffered under far less suspicious circumstances?—The idea was enough to
freeze the blood with horror, and here again did I find cause most
bitterly to reproach myself for one act of indiscretion which had thus
been productive of this awful misery, and might be the occasion of
bringing my father and brother to an awful and ignominious fate, for a
crime of which they were entirely innocent.

The day after this, I received a letter from my mother, in which she
described, in language I should fail to do adequate justice to, were I
to try, the interview she had had with her husband and son at the gaol
in which they were confined, but sought to inspire me with hope that
something would take place to establish their innocence, and bring the
real perpetrators of the horrid crime to justice. I tried to think so
too. Never, I reflected will the Almighty suffer two innocent beings to
suffer for the sanguinary crime of the real assassin! They will be
saved, and the monster who has committed this atrocious crime brought to
that punishment which his guilt merits.

These were but for a short time my reflections, then would the heavy
weight of circumstantial evidence, which would be adduced against them
on their trial, recur to my memory, and despair would again begin to
settle upon my heart.

My mother mentioned in her letter that the assizes were expected to
commence in about a fortnight, and that, until the result of this awful
affair was known, she intended to reside near the gaol, so that she
might be enabled to visit the unfortunate prisoners every day. She
added, that, if I thought myself capable of the task, and able to
support an interview, I might also repair to the spot, leaving the farm
for the time we were absent to the care of Ellen and her husband. To
remain where I was, alone, with no one but Ellen to offer me the least
consolation or advice, I felt would be worse than death; and, therefore,
having made a powerful effort to conquer my emotions, I arranged the
business with Ellen and her husband, and with the prayers of my friends
for the happy termination of the trial, I set forward upon my melancholy
journey.

What tongue could give utterance to the intense agony of my feelings,
when the coach arrived at G—m, the place which I had so lately quitted
to seek the forgiveness of my parents. Alas! under what different, what
horrible circumstances did I now return to it. He who had first tempted
me to act wrong had met with an untimely fate, and my father and brother
the inmates of a prison, accused of his assassination.

The day after my arrival at G—m, I had an interview with my unfortunate
relatives, but I must pass over that deeply agonizing scene; I cannot
recall it to my memory without harrowing up my feelings. They both,
however, attempted to appear more composed than I might have expected
them to have been, and endeavoured to inspire me and my mother with the
most sanguine hopes as to the result of the trial. We, however, could
see but very little to excite any such ideas, and although, for the sake
of calming their feelings, we pretended to place some reliance in what
they said, we were very far from actually entertaining any such
feelings.

I will pass over the time which intervened previous to the trial, and
come at length to the morning on which the fate of all my family, I
might say, depended. The hall of justice was densely crowded, and the
trial excited the most uncommon interest. Myself and my mother were
accommodated with seats near the dock in which the accused were, and
whenever, by chance, I happened to look up, I caught the eyes of the
spectators fixed alternately upon me and my mother; but in the brief
glance which I suffered myself to take, I beheld that the expression
with which they contemplated us was more of pity than any other feeling.

I know not how it was, but I felt a degree of firmness on that awful
occasion which I never thought it would be in my power to assume, and my
mother was perfectly calm and resigned. As for the prisoners, their
whole demeanour showed the dignified firmness of perfect innocence, and
a firm reliance on the goodness of Providence for the issue.

The jury having been called over and sworn, the trial commenced, and the
charge having been made, my father and brother both answered in a firm
voice to the usual interrogatory put to them, as to whether they were
guilty or not guilty—

‘Not guilty!’

The trial then proceeded, which is quite unnecessary for me too
recapitulate.

The jury retired to consider their verdict—and oh, God! what a moment of
horrible suspense was that! All eyes were turned alternately upon me and
my mother, and then the prisoners in the dock. But the latter were as
firm as if they had only been spectators themselves, and frequently
turned upon me and my poor mother glances that were meant to encourage
us.

The jury were absent about twenty minutes, which seemed as many hours to
those who were so deeply and painfully interested in this important
trial, and at length they returned into the court.

The foreman of the same, in a deep voice said—

‘GUILTY!’

An appalling shriek followed the pronunciation of the verdict; it
proceeded from my mother, who sank insensible in my arms. It seemed at
that time as if I were endowed with superhuman power; my faculties were
all restored to me, and I was enabled to support with firmness that was
most extraordinary. The verdict had fallen upon my ear, in a manner of
speaking, with complete indifference, and it appeared as if a voice at
that moment whispered to me hope instead of despair. But I feared to
look at my father and his unhappy son. I was apprehensive that their
bare glance of horror and despair would be sufficient to deprive me of
my senses. The judge then proceeded to pass sentence of death, but ere
he had uttered half-a-dozen words a gentleman suddenly arose from his
seat, and with his whole frame convulsed with emotion, exclaimed—

‘Hold my lord!—proceed not to sentence men who are entirely innocent of
the charge.’

After the lapse of a minute or two for the court to recover themselves
from the confusion into which this event had thrown them, the judge
demanded of the gentleman the meaning of his interruption.

‘In a few words, it is this,’ said the gentleman, ‘you behold before you
an unhappy wretch, who ought to have been placed in the dock now
occupied by those much injured, and wrongly accused men. Nay, you may
well be surprised, and it will doubtless be increased, when I tell you
that in me you behold the actual murderer of the Earl Mansville, and I,
therefore demand that justice be done upon me!’

Nothing could now equal the extraordinary sensation which prevailed, and
it was at first, no doubt, imagined by many that the gentleman’s
feelings who had thus denounced himself had been worked upon and excited
by the circumstances of the trial, and that insanity had suddenly seized
upon his brain; but they were soon convinced of the contrary, for the
self-accused having paused awhile to suffer the excitement to subside,
continued—

‘It was this hand which perpetrated the hellish deed upon the
unfortunate Mansville, the pistol which was found by the side of the
deceased will be seen to have my initials engraven upon it.’

The pistol was here handed up to the judge, when the initials were
found.

‘The awful tale is soon told,’ continued he.

‘The late Earl Mansville and myself had been companions at college. Soon
after our return from the university, I formed an attachment to a young
lady, and was permitted to pay my addresses to her. This courtship went
on for a period of two years, when it was suddenly broken off. In vain I
sought an explanation. Nothing more relative to this affair transpired
until about a month ago, when, judge my resentment and surprise, to
learn that the late Earl Mansville, was the admitted lover of the lady,
and that their nuptials were actually fixed to take place on a certain
day. On ascertaining the truth of this, I demanded an explanation of
such extraordinary conduct; but all that I obtained in return, was the
most provoking raillery! I quitted the unfortunate nobleman vowing the
most dreadful vengeance. On the evening that I committed the hellish
crime, I quitted my own house, with the pistols now produced in my
possession, fully bent to way-lay and murder my rival. Once he turned to
look round, and then I jumped into a dry ditch, and concealed myself. He
resumed his journey, and acting under the influence of a sudden impulse,
I presented the fatal weapon at him, and fired, just as he prepared to
walk on. What followed has already appeared in the evidence brought
against those two men, most wrongfully accused. As the day of trial
approached, so did my agony increase. Could I be guilty of a three-fold
murder? I could not; so, this day, I resolved to be present, and
confess. I admit, that my resolution failed me so much, that I was
unable to put this into effect, until after the trial had proceeded to
the present length; but I have now acquitted my conscience of that
additional and heavy sin, and I feel content to abide by the
consequences. I repeat that the men in the dock are entirely innocent,
and that I only am the murderer of the late Earl Mansville. I demand
that justice be done, and thus give myself up to this tribunal to be
tried and punished by the laws of my offended country.’

A murmur of surprise, horror, and satisfaction ran through the court at
this remarkable confession, and for a few moments, the business was
entirely suspended. My mother had recovered, and overheard all that had
passed. But suddenly, the court was aroused by all the judges rising,
and declaring it as their unanimous opinion, that the two individuals
who had been tried had been charged and convicted by the jury of the
murder of the Earl Mansville, were now shewn to be clearly innocent,
that the court, therefore, annul the verdict, and ordering them to be
discharged out of custody, command Richard Archibald Holland, to be
placed at the bar and indicted, upon his own confession, for the wilful
murder of the said Horatio, Earl Mansville.

My father and brother were immediately released from the dock, while,
the real assassin was placed at the bar.

But misfortune and I had still got to be longer acquainted; and too soon
her heavy afflictions came upon me with overwhelming force. The shock
which my mother’s feelings had undergone by the recent events had made
fearful inroads on her constitution, and it soon became too alarmingly
apparent, that she was sinking under a rapid decline. All the medical
resources were of no avail, and she at length yielded to the fearful
malady.

My father and all of us, were inconsolable for her loss.

Only three months after my poor mother’s death, my brother was seized
with a violent typhus fever, which my father quickly caught of him. A
few short months only, consigned those two dear relatives to the grave
also. Would that it had pleased the Almighty to take me also, then I
should not have had to undergo the miseries, the degradations I have too
much reason to fear it is yet my lot to suffer. Illness and incessant
trouble had involved my father’s affairs in difficulties, from which I
found it impossible to extricate them. Let me draw my melancholy recital
to a conclusion. Hard necessity drove me at last to seek the protection
of relatives, whose jibes and cruelties drove me to the life I now lead,
and the letter you brought me was from the clergyman of our parish, who
having learnt of my whereabouts, addressed me an exhortation to
repentance; recalling all the incidents of the bitter past. Here Clara
burst into a fresh flood of tears, and owned her intention to quit her
present shameful mode of life.

‘And now, Mr. Monteagle,’ continued Clara, ‘to prove to you that I am
really penitent; I will divulge to you a contemplated crime, which was
planned in this very house, and this night it is to be carried into
effect. Belcher Kay and Blodget one night killed a rich old drover, and
buried him in an old adobe hut. They have since learned that Inez, the
daughter of old de Castro, had taken shelter in the building from a
storm and witnessed all their proceedings. The Vigilance Committee are
already apprised of the facts, but in Miss de Castro’s terror at the
fearful scene, she forgot the names by which they addressed each other;
but she is convinced that she will know their persons if ever she meets
them. You know these villains will never consent to live in hourly fear
of arrest and punishment. They have, therefore, determined to attack the
mansion of de Castro, at the Mission, rob it, and I fear kill his
daughter to prevent her appearing as a witness against them.’


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



                              CHAPTER XII

                           INEZ CARRIED OFF.


In a public room of a tavern in Pacific street, we shall find Belcher
Kay. It is night, and through the thick haze of cigar smoke which filled
the room the candles glimmer like distant lights seen through a fog. The
close atmosphere of the dirty room is laden with the odor of the said
tobacco smoke, and with the fumes of rum and whiskey, and through the
hum of noisy conversation and over the occasional bursts of laughter may
be distinguished the ‘Hagel und donner’ of the Dutchman, the ‘sacre’ of
the Frenchman, and the imprecations which the Englishman invokes upon
his visual organs and the crimson tide that circulates through his
veins.

At one table sat half a dozen sailors, bronzed by the tropical sun of
Java, and smoking long pipes with enormous bowls. At another table sat a
group of English, French, American and Portuguese, similarly engaged,
while two other tables were surrounded by Lascars and Malays, who being
worshippers of the one race of Brahma, the other of Boodha, choose to
sit and drink apart. Mingled with the men at each table were a number of
Kanaka and Chilean women, dark-eyed, seductive creatures; all well
formed, lithe, and graceful, and of all ages varying from twelve to
eighteen years, for beneath the scorching sun of the tropics woman
advances towards maturity as quickly as the rich fruits are ripened and
the gorgeous flowers expanded into beauty. These lost and degraded
creatures sat by the side or on the knees of their lovers of the hour,
their long, shining black hair falling in plaits or ringlets upon their
dusky shoulders, and their bosoms very much exposed, and many of them
smoked cigars with their male companions.

Kay sat apart from the revellers, smoking a cigar, with his arms folded
across his breast, a moody and sombre expression upon his countenance,
and his eyes bent upon the dirty floor. He was thinking of the
past—thinking, amid the riotous din of jests and oaths, laughter and
song, of all that he had been, and of what he might have been, of time
misspent, and golden opportunities lost, of talents misapplied and
energies misdirected. It was a mournful retrospect for the man not
wholly lost, his heart was not entirely corroded, nor all indurated by
vice and profligacy, the powers of his mind had not become sapped by the
vicious excesses in which he had indulged; he was capable of forming a
sound judgement of human actions, both his own and those of others; and
to look back excited for these reasons, feelings, sombre and mournful.
The past of his life was a dreary waste to look back upon; he was fully
conscious of the fact, he was able to discriminate between the right and
the wrong, and to perceive his errors, and he felt at that moment all
the dreariness, the moral void, of the vista upon which he turned his
mental vision. True, the desert was not entirely without its oases;
there were green spots breaking the gloomy monotony of its arid and
cheerless aspect, but these only deepened by the contrast the impression
made by the general barrenness.

He was roused from his reverie by the words of a song sung, or rather
shouted by one his countrymen—an Englishman—a sailor belonging to a
vessel then lying in the harbor. There was nothing to interest him in
the words themselves, but they seemed familiar to him, like a voice
heard in our youth and half forgotten, which we hear again after a long
interval of time, and they struck upon his mind by the force of
association. In his boyhood he had heard that song, which had been a
favorite chant with a schoolfellow, and the words now called up a
thousand recollections of the time when he had first heard them, just as
the remembered sound of the church-bells of our native place will recall
such memories when we hear them after long absence from the scenes of
our early existence. To the mind of the robber, predisposed to
reflection, the words of the song recalled the school-room and the
play-ground, with many a reminiscence of merry companions and boyish
games; and from these his heart wandered to the home of his childhood,
to the little garden into which he had transplanted primroses and
cowslips from the woods to the rippling brook upon which he had launched
his tiny ships, to the darkly shaded seat under the old elm tree on
which he had rested when weary, to the innocent and smiling faces of his
fair-haired sisters.

It was not for the first time that Belcher Kay thought of these
things—it was not the first time that they had drawn a sigh from his
breast; but, now at that distance of space from the scenes which he
visited in thought, the tide of memory rolled over his brain with
redoubled volume and force. A melancholy pleasure might have been
experienced in travelling over in thought the scenes of his youth, but
for the reflection that between the past and the present rose darkly and
frowningly one of those barriers of crime and folly, which such men
build up with far more perseverance than they would exert to acquire a
fame that would endure as long as truth and virtue command respect and
admiration. Such a barrier had Belcher Kay raised with a diligence and
energy which he had never displayed in aught worthy of praise, and from
it he now looked back upon the Eden which he had abandoned, with such
feelings as may be imagined.

He was still sitting in the position which has been described when
Blodget entered the room, and, coming up to him, clapped his hand upon
his shoulder. Kay started, but looking up, he was reassured by the
recognition of his fellow criminal, and extended his hand, which Blodget
grasped with friendly fervor.

‘Come!’ exclaimed Blodget. ‘I have been seeking you everywhere. Let us
get away from this.’

‘I am ready,’ responded Kay, rising.—‘What’s in the wind now, mate?’

Blodget made no reply, but led the way into the street, followed by Kay.

In a few minutes they had left the city behind them, and could hear the
hoarse roar of the sea as its waves, after chasing one another over the
wild expanse of the Pacific ocean, broke upon the shell strewn beach,
and the sighing of the night wind among the bushes. The moon was
sinking, and the shadows prevailed over the lights, but it was
principally the land which lay in shade, while the ocean spread out like
an illimitable sheet of silver.

After crossing the hills which surmount the city the two men gave a loud
shrill whistle which in a few moments brought three more desperadoes to
assist them in their scheme. This was no other than an attack upon the
mansion of Senor de Castro with the intention of making themselves
masters of the money and plate to be found on the premises, and for
another purpose which will appear in the course of the narrative.

When the five robbers arrived in the vicinity of the house Blodget
proceeded towards it, for the purpose of carrying their plot into
execution, while the rest of the party lay closely concealed ready to
hasten to the assistance of their associate the moment such service
should be required.

‘Yes, there is the window; I wonder, now, if she will look out to
night?’ said Blodget to himself as he cautiously drew near the house.

Blodget took a good look at the window and then slowly glided away under
the shadow of a wall.

With great tact, Blodget as he did so glided along, kept the little
window with the balcony in sight.

Now, the little window of the room in which Inez resided, was not very
far from the ground.

That is to say, at all events, the lower portion of its balcony
certainly was not above twelve feet from the green sward actually below
it.

The idea struck Blodget, then, that through that window he must get, and
through it again he must make his way out with his captive.

How he meant to overcome the very many difficulties that still stood in
his way, it is impossible to conceive; but he had not come totally
unprepared with the means of action.

Coiled up in the pockets of the clothes which he had worn all the latter
part of the day, he had had a couple of ropes of silk, with a hook at
the end of each of them.

He expected, and not without reason, too, that they would be to him of
the very greatest possible assistance.

It took him some little consideration before he would venture to cross
the bit of lawn that separated him yet from the house; and, strange to
say, while he was so considering, another circumstance began to operate
in his favor.

A soft, but rather thick and penetrating rain began to fall.

‘Aha’ he said, ‘this is capital. This will clear the ground of all
loiterers. This is providential.’

Letting the rain continue for some five minutes or so until he
considered it had had all its effect, Blodget crossed the lawn, and
stood beneath the balcony of the window.

Blodget was very acute in his sense of hearing, and he now bent that
faculty to the very utmost to listen if any one were moving in the rooms
above.

All was as still as the very grave.

‘She has gone to bed,’ thought Blodget. ‘Well, I don’t care. I must take
her away, and take her I will.’

A very dim light was close to the window.

‘I wonder,’ thought Blodget, ‘if she will scream before I can get a gag
put into her mouth? If she does, I may have dangers to encounter; but I
never yet abandoned an enterprise on that account, nor will I now.’

Truly dangerous was a climate in which such a man as Blodget lived.

He now looked carefully to the right and to the left of the place of
which he was, so as to assure himself that no sentinel was close at
hand, and then he boldly flung up the cords to which the hooks were
attached, to the balcony.

It took him three or four efforts before he succeeded in getting the
hooks to hold fast, and then he found that the cords easily suspended
him.

This was rather a ticklish part of the business to climb up to the
balcony now with the possibility, if not the probability, that some one
might see him; but yet he meant either to do it or abandon the whole
affair at once, so he set about it with a feeling that might be said to
approach to recklessness.

He reached the top of the parapet of the balcony, and rather rolled over
it than stepped over, so that he exposed himself to observation to as
small an extent as, under the circumstances, it was at all possible so
to do.

There he lay crouched up in the balcony, pretty well shaded by its stone
work and parapet from any further observation from without.

He breathed in rather an agitated manner for a few moments, for he had
undergone, to tell the truth, very great personal exertion.

Soon, however, he recovered sufficiently to assist him in going on in
his enterprise; and accordingly, sidling along very carefully till he
got quite close to the window, he cautiously tried if it were fast.

No. It yielded to a touch.

‘More good fortune,’ thought he.

Slowly, for it took a good five minutes to do, thinking that any noise
now occasioned by precipitation would be fatal to him and his project,
he got the window open about a couple of feet.

He put his hand into the room, and felt that there was a table close to
the window.

By carefully moving his hand and arm horizontally from left to right and
from right to left, he found there was nothing on the table but a glass
of water, in which were some flowers.

In order to get it out of the way, he lifted the glass into the balcony,
and placed it carefully in one corner out of the way.

Then it was that the audacious Blodget, like an oily snake, slid into
the room through the partially open window, and was fairly within the
apartment.

His next step was to remove the table from before the window, and to
open the window itself very much wider—in fact, as wide as it would
possibly go.

Then it was that he saw where the faint light had come from that was in
the room.

A little oil night-light was on a bracket fixed to the wall of the room.

That light, although very small in itself, was yet sufficient to
dissipate the darkness that was in the place, and by it Blodget with
great satisfaction looked around him, and was quite convinced that he
was in the suite of rooms in the occupation of Inez.

There was one circumstance that to him was quite convincing on that
head, for on the chimney-piece was a small but finely painted miniature
of Monteagle.

‘Yes,’ whispered Blodget, as he drew a long breath, ‘I am on the right
scent now.’

Immediately opposite to the window there was a door that seemed to lead
to the next apartment. It was a very ticklish thing indeed to open that
door.

Before he could at all make up his mind to do so, he tried to peep
through the key-hole of it, but, unfortunately, there was on the other
side a piece of pendant brass that blocked it up, so he saw nothing.

Delay, though, to him now was something worse than danger—it might be
fatal; so with a feeling almost of desperation, he turned the handle of
the door and opened it.

It led into a room that was, like the last one, dimly lighted by a
night-lamp in a niche in the wall.

‘She is fond of light,’ thought Blodget.

There was a door in the side wall of this room, and that door was a
little way open.

Through it Blodget could see the bed-curtain.

The room in which she was, constituted the dressing-room to the bed-room
further on.

Blodget, with eyes like a hyena, cast a glance round the room. A silk
dress was upon a couch, and on the dressing-table were various articles
of female apparel and jewelry.

He approached, on tip-toe, the door of the bedchamber, and listened most
intently.

The sound of one breathing rather heavily in sleep, came upon his ears.

‘She sleeps,’ muttered Blodget, ‘and my task is consequently all the
easier of performance. Yes, she sleeps, and soundly too.’

He now took from his pocket a gag made of cork and string, and so
constructed that if once fixed in any one’s mouth it would be out of the
question for them to utter an articulate sound.

This, with a silk handkerchief, which he intended to fix around the head
and face of his prisoner, were the implements with which he hoped to
capture Inez, and by the aid of which so to terrify her that he might
get away in safety with her.

‘Now for it,’ he said.

He took another step towards the door of the bedchamber, and then he
hesitated.

‘A good thought,’ he muttered. ‘I will put out both the lights, and then
no curious eye will see me emerge from the window with my prize.’

He crept back and blew out each of the little oil lamps that were in the
separate rooms.

All was darkness then; but it was evident there was another lamp in the
actual bedchamber itself.

It was convenient for Blodget that there should be, at all events for a
brief space, a light there.

‘Now courage and impudence assist me,’ he muttered.

As he spoke he on tiptoe glided into the bedchamber in which he would
have wagered his life that Inez now slept.

The difficulty, though, he thought was really and truly at an end, when
he, as he fancied, found himself so far successful as to be actually in
the sleeping chamber of the young lady.

No wonder that even he, accustomed as he was to all sorts of escapades
and strange eventful proceedings, felt a little affected at his own
temerity when he set foot within the sacred precincts of that chamber.

The idea of what Monteagle would think and say when he heard of this
evidence of unexampled audacity came across the mind of the unscrupulous
villain, and for a moment he hesitated.

It struck him that, after all, such an outrage was of so diabolical and
daring a character, that it would be difficult to say what might be the
result of it.

But it was not for long that such a man as Blodget ever hesitated about
the completion of an act of atrocity, or boldness or baseness.

‘Let him take it how he may,’ thought Blodget, ‘I’ll carry out my
designs; and if danger should come to Inez in the carrying it out, that
is her own fault.’

He listened intently.

The regular breathing of some one in a deep sleep still came upon his
ears.

Now the chief difficulty was to get away with his captive without noise,
and there was but one way of doing that. It was so to terrify Inez, that
for her life’s sake and that of her father she would obey the directions
he might give her.

But, then, upon the first impulse of finding some one in the room, he
considered that she might utter some cry that to him, would be full of
danger; and to guard against that was the first step he took.

There came through the window of the sleeping chamber a faint light,
which just enabled him, after a few minutes, when his eyes had got
accustomed to it, to look about him, and see the outlines of one object
from another.

To be sure, these outlines were but dim ones, but still they served to
enable him to avoid encountering any piece of furniture, and so making
noise enough to awaken his victim from the sound sleep she was in.

To tie a silk handkerchief in such a manner around her mouth, and then
another over her head, so that the possibility of uttering anything but
a faint sound would be out of the question, was Blodget’s idea.

Indeed, he had prepared himself with the means, as will be recollected,
of completely enveloping the head of his prisoner, so that if any
attempted alarm was tried, the sound of it would not penetrate far
enough to be successful in reaching the inmates of the house.

It was a very delicate and ticklish job, though, so suddenly to envelope
the head and face of a sleeping person in a silken bandage as to prevent
them from uttering a single cry until the operation was complete.

But that was just what had to be done, and so he did not shrink from it.

He only waited a few moments longer, in order that his eyes might be
accustomed to the very dim light that found its way into the chamber.

During those few moments, too, he turned his head aside to listen if the
whole attention of his faculty of hearing could detect the sound of any
one stirring in the mansion; but all was as still and silent as the
tomb.

‘Now for it,’ said he to himself.

In a half-crouching posture he approached the bed.

If what he was about to do was to be done at all, it was only by the
very excess of boldness in the attempt to do it.

When he reached the side of the bed, he rose to his full height, and
slipping adroitly his left arm right under the head of the sleeper, he
in one moment lifted it from the pillow, and with his right hand he
placed the silken envelope over the head and face, and drew it close
round the neck.

‘Utter one sound of alarm,’ he said in a low, clear voice close to the
ear of the bewildered occupant of the bed, ‘and it is your last upon
earth. Be quiet and submissive, and no sort of harm is intended you. On
the contrary, everything possible will be done to render your situation
as agreeable as possible, and you’ll be treated with delicacy and with
every consideration.’

A gasping sort of a sob was the only reply.

‘Hush!’ said Blodget. ‘Your fate is in your own hands. I am compelled
for my own sake to remove you from the mansion; but you will be treated
with all the respect and all the consideration becoming your sex and
rank, unless you by your own conduct, force an opposite condition of
things.’

Some muffled sounds, that might be considered to mean anything, came
from beneath the covering of silk.

‘Am I to comprehend,’ said Blodget, ‘that your own good sense enables
you to see the necessity of submitting to circumstances that are beyond
your control entirely?’

A something was said; or attempted to be said.

‘Let me assure you,’ added he, ‘that I am well aware of the love your
father has for you, and that he will spare no means to liberate you from
me. It would be quite an insult to your understanding to attempt to
deceive you for one moment with regard to the object of thus making you
a prisoner. It is simply in order to get money from him who loves you
beyond all the world beside. Do you hear me?’

‘Yes.’

The tone in which the yes was spoken was very consolatory to Blodget,
for it let him think that Inez saw the inutility of attempting any
resistance to him.

‘You are reasonable, I feel,’ he said, ‘and I can assure you upon my
word, lightly as you may think of that word, that where I am trusted I
know how to behave myself with honor. The readiness with which you
succumb to circumstances that now surround you will have the greatest
effect in inducing me to make this as agreeable to you as possible. Do
you comprehend me?’

‘Yes.’

‘Will you, then,’ he said, ‘quietly come with me to a place of safety
away from here?’

‘I will.’

‘You will?’

‘Yes.’

‘Then I have to compliment you upon your conduct in this affair, and I
know that by saying that for your sake I will not contrive aught against
the life of him who loves you, I shall be bestowing upon you the
greatest recompense that’s in my power.’

‘Yes.’

‘Then we are equal. Allow me to hope that you will arise and follow me.
Here are various articles of clothing about the room. You have the use
of your hands, and if I hand the things to you, one by one, will you
then put them on?’

‘Yes.’

‘I am very sorry to place you in such a position as this—very sorry
indeed.’

Blodget was so pleased at the compliance of Inez with all his plans,
that he really felt a kindness for her, and he was determined,
therefore, to behave to her with all the delicacy that the transaction
could possibly enable him to practice.

He caught up various articles of female apparel, and with his back
towards the bed.

‘Be as quick as you can,’ he said, ‘for the fact is that I am in danger
here, though you are in none.’

‘Yes, yes,’ said the voice.

‘Upon my life, she must be terribly frightened to give way to me in this
manner.’

One by one he kept handing articles of clothing, and they were put on,
till at last he said—

‘I should think you are ready to leave the house now, along with me, are
you not?’

‘I am so.’

‘Then follow me, if you please; but let me again assure you before I go
that I am only going to make a kind of hostage of you, and that as soon
as I have you in safety I will send to your father and let him know; and
upon his promise not to molest me for the future, I will release you.’

‘Yes.’

‘You are quite content with that arrangement, then, may I hope?’ said
Blodget.

‘Oh, yes, quite.’

‘Then come on at once, if you please.’

Inez felt that resistance would be useless, and would probably put in
peril the life of her father, without availing to save her. She,
therefore, quietly yielded to circumstances, knowing that her father
would cheerfully pay any ransom to rescue her.

As soon as Inez was dressed, Blodget led her to the window, and giving a
low whistle was quickly joined by his confederates. By their aid Inez
was swiftly and noiselessly conveyed from the house, carried into the
adjacent shrubbery, and placed upon a horse, stolen, like those on which
the robbers were now mounted, from a neighboring corral.

The whole party immediately dashed off at full speed, and never once
halted until they arrived at a solitary rancho, some eight or nine miles
distant from the home of Inez.

Monteagle, meanwhile, had started at full gallop for the Mission, in
order to frustrate this villainous plot, but just as he was turning the
sharp angle at the turnpike road, his horse stumbled, and Monteagle was
violently thrown over the animal’s head. He remained insensible in the
road, just where he had fallen, until daylight, when he was discovered
and hospitably cared for by the inmates of a neighboring cottage.


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



                              CHAPTER XIII

                         A DESPERATE BURGLARY.


Leaving Inez in charge of some of his trustiest confreres, Blodget
hastened to the city, to disarm suspicion as well as to attend to an
important robbery which he had already planned.

A previous arrangement with some of the principal members of the gang
had assured Blodget that he should find plenty of aid in carrying out
his views on that particular evening.

It was two o’clock as Blodget reached the door of the house that was
connected with the gang, and a drizzly rain was beginning to fall which
he saw and felt with pleasure, for he knew that it would materially aid
him in his plans, as it would tend to clear the streets of stragglers,
as well as to muffle any sounds that might otherwise betray the presence
of himself and his companions.

‘All is well,’ he said. ‘This is my old good luck. Who knows but I may
yet do a good stroke of business.’

Blodget was soon in the old house along with some half dozen of the most
desperate and knowing thieves in San Francisco.

A dim light burned in the place, which was only just sufficient to let
them see each other’s faces.

The falling of the rain upon one of the windows was the only sound that
the night brought forth.

‘All’s right,’ said one of them. ‘Here’s Blodget.’

‘Yes,’ said another, ‘we shall now no doubt have a job to do.’

‘Yes, my lads,’ said Blodget, assuming an air of reckless jocularity,
which he often thought proper to put on—‘yes, my lads, you will have a
little job to do, and it is one that you will like too.’

‘Bravo!—bravo!’

‘You know me, and that it is not likely I should send you on a
profitless expedition; but there are a few little arrangements to make
before we start.’

‘Name them.’

‘I will. They relate, in the first place, to who is to have the command
of these little expeditions?’

‘Oh, you, of course.’

‘Is that then thoroughly understood and agreed?’

‘Yes, yes.’

‘Very well, then. The next point is as regards the division of the
spoil.’

‘Yes, that should be well understood.’

‘It must be well understood or I am off to find some others to help me
in the matter. I have thought over my terms, and I do not, I assure you,
intend to flinch from them.’

‘What are they?’

‘Listen, then. Let all the plunder be fairly divided into two parts, I
will then take one part to myself and my friend, Kay, and you can divide
the other among you in equal shares.’

The thieves looked rather blank at this proposition, and Blodget seeing
that, added—

‘Well, if you don’t like that you have but to say so, and our bargain is
at an end; but if I get all the information, and put up a robbery in the
safe and quiet way that I can do it, I think myself entitled to the
share I speak of, and I will have it too.’

‘Be it so, then,’ said the spokesman of the party, ‘I agree, and I’m
sure I can say the same for my friends here. We all agree to it.’

The others seconded the words of their spokesman, so that Blodget found
he had made a pretty good bargain with the thieves, and he set to work
arranging the robbery with all the tact and all the ingenuity he could
bring to bear upon such an enterprise.

When such an accomplished hand as Blodget took so much trouble, the
result was all but certain.

‘Meet me, all of you,’ he said, ‘in half an hour’s time by the corner of
Jackson- and Commercial-streets, and I will take you to the place. There
will be no difficulty at all about it if you take care to comprehend
what I wish each of you to do, and take care to do it as promptly as you
possibly can.’

‘Trust us for that,’ said one. ‘We know we can depend upon you, so you
have only to say what you wish and you will soon see it accomplished.’

With this understanding, then, Blodget left them to proceed to a junk
store which he knew was always open, to a particular knock, at any hour
of the night.

There Blodget bought a complete set of skeleton keys, besides such other
little implements used in the art or profession of housebreaking, and
concerning which the people of the shop asked him no questions.

Thus provided, then, he took his way to the corner fixed on, there to
wait the arrival of his confederates.

He had not to wait long.

In the course of two or three minutes the four men that he had deputed
there to wait him were upon the spot.

‘You are punctual,’ said Blodget.

‘We ought to be.’

‘How it rains,’ said one.

‘Yes; but that is all the better for us, you know,’ said Blodget.

‘It is indeed.’

‘I say,’ said another, ‘there is a watchman coming, and holding his hand
before his lantern so as to get a good look at us.’

‘Confound him!’

‘Step aside,’ said Blodget, ‘I will confront him.’

A watchman who happened to be wakeful had chanced to see them all meet
at the corner, and had hurried towards them, expecting that they were
after no good.

‘Hilloa—hilloa!’ he said. ‘Come now, what do here at this time of
night?’

‘What’s that to you?’ said Blodget.

‘What’s that to me?’

‘Yes.’

‘Why, don’t you see who I am?’

‘Yes, that’s seen in a moment; you are a troublesome fool, but I don’t
know why I should be bothered with you.’

‘Curse me, then, if I don’t lock you up. Come along, will you? Don’t
resist, now. Come along.’

Blodget snatched the lantern from the hand of the watchman, and with one
blow of it on the top of his head not only smashed the lantern but
nearly stunned its owner, who lay sprawling on the ground, and calling
out murder.

‘Jump on him!’ said Blodget.

‘Take his lantern,’ said one of the thieves, ‘and his rattle.’

‘Ah, his rattle,’ said Blodget, as he suddenly stood upon the fallen
watchman, and nearly squeezed the life out of him. ‘I have it, and now
come on. It seems to me as if he could not very well move now.’

This was the fact. The brutal assault that had been committed on the
unfortunate watchman had really for a time deprived him of all power of
speech or movement, and Blodget and his gang went on with perfect ease
and composure.

‘This way,’ said Blodget, as he crossed the road to the back of some low
stores. ‘This way.’

‘Hilloa!’ said another watchman, ‘did I hear a row?’

‘Yes,’ said Blodget, as he struck him such a blow in the face with the
butt of a revolver he had in hand that he fell like a corpse.

‘He’s quieted,’ said Blodget.

The four thieves really looked at each other with some alarm, and one of
them said—

‘You have a good kind of way of quieting people, Mr. Blodget, I rather
think.’

‘Yes. But don’t call me Mr. Blodget; call me Captain, if you please; but
if you use my name it may reach ears that it is not intended for.’

‘That’s right, Mr. —, Captain I mean. Are we near the place, though?’

‘Yes, close to it.’

‘Ah, what is that?’

The sharp whistle of a watchman broke upon the stillness of the night
air.

‘This way—this way,’ said Blodget. ‘Let us hide for a moment or two.’

The five got under a doorway, and there they hid and let no less than
four watchmen run past them in the direction of the sound of the
whistle.

No more of the guardians of the night seemed to be coming that way, so
that Blodget came forth from the hiding place with his friends and went
quietly on.

All was dark, the guests had departed, and the street in which the lady
resided was restored to its usual equanimity for the night.

There was not the least appearance of any light in any of the windows in
the front of the house; but Blodget hardly supposed that such a
residence would be left entirely without light in any of the rooms, so
he fully expected that some of the back windows would no doubt show
symptoms of the apartments being in some degree illuminated.

‘Halt! This is the house,’ he said.

‘All right, captain.’

‘Now attend to me all of you, and you will know what you have to do—I
will manage to open the door, and then you will remain just within it on
the watch.’

‘Yes, captain.’

‘You will take charge of the pantry, which I will point out to you, and
possess yourself of all the portable plate.’

‘I’ll do it, captain.’

‘You, then, will ransack the rooms on the first floor.’

‘All’s right.’

‘And you will follow me.’

‘I’ll do it, captain. Now we know what we have all got to do, and can do
it well.’

‘You can if you will; and remember that we all assemble here in the hall
again as soon as possible, and that if the one who is to keep guard at
the door sees proper to give an alarm, it shall be with a whistle such
as no doubt in the night time will be distinctly heard by all of you.’

‘I have a whistle in my pocket,’ said the fellow, ‘that I’ll warrant you
will all hear.’

‘Then that is settled; so now let us go to work.’

Blodget himself commenced the attack upon the door, and he did so with
amazing tact.

With one of the picklocks he had in his possession he easily turned the
lock of the door, and then he found that he was impeded by a couple of
bolts and a chain.

To most persons these would have been rather insurmountable
obstructions, but to him they only required a little time and skill and
perseverance to overcome them.

With a fine and exquisitely tempered saw, which was so thin that he got
it between the door and the joist, he managed to saw them both in two in
a very short space of time.

The door was now only fastened by the chain.

‘Is it done now?’ asked one of the thieves.

‘Not yet.’

‘Soon?’

‘Yes. Why do you ask?’ said Blodget.

‘I think—I may be mistaken though—but I think some one looked out at one
of the windows of the house opposite rather more earnestly than they
ought to have done.’

‘The devil they did.’

‘Yes, I think so.’

‘A man or a woman?’

‘It is too dark to say.’

‘Curses on them, be it whom it may!’

‘Amen to that, captain.’

‘But you are quite sure you saw some one, be it man or woman?’

‘Yes, I am.’

‘Then go over two of you to the door, and wait there for a few moments
while I work at this chain.’

‘And if any one comes out?’

‘Well?’

‘What shall we do?’

‘Do you ask me what you shall do while you have the use of your hands?
It won’t do to make a noise, so I should say that the only thing open to
you to do is to throttle any one who should appear.’

‘Throttle!’

‘Yes, and why not? Pray what business have the people opposite to
interfere in my affairs, I should like to know?’

‘Well, certainly—but—but—’

‘Do you hesitate?’

‘No—no. Don’t be in a passion, captain. If it must be done, why, it is
no use saying anything more about it, and it just will be done.’

‘I should imagine so.’

The two men who had been thus ordered over the way by Blodget went upon
their errand; and although it is true they had at first rather started
at the idea of throttling somebody who might be so very interfering and
imprudent as to come from the opposite house, it is yet difficult to say
whether after all, this admonition of Blodget was not very greatly
increased by the off-hand manner in which he proposed to get rid of
obstacles to the progress of the particular little enterprise upon which
he was.

‘Curses on it,’ muttered Blodget to himself, ‘it seems as if I were
fated to be thwarted to-night.’

He saw his two companions take up their station on the opposite
door-step, and then he set to work upon the street-door chain.

It was rather a peculiar process by which he, Blodget, got rid of the
obstacle to his progress.

Having sawed the bolts and opened the locks he could just get the
street-door open as far as the slack of the chain would allow it to go,
but although that was not above a couple of inches in all, yet it was
sufficient for his purpose, as will be very quickly seen.

He took from his pocket a very peculiar shaped iron instrument, capable
of very great extension as regarded length by other pieces fitting into
it like the joints of a fishing-rod, only that the sockets were squared,
so that they fitted quite tight and would not turn.

One end of this instrument he fixed in a link of the chain, and then he
lengthened it about two feet, and fitted a cross piece on the end, so
that he had a very good amount of leverage to work with.

Blodget gave this instrument about three rapid turns, and then the iron
chain broke in two or three places and hung uselessly from the door in
the passage of the house.

‘It is done,’ he said, ‘Come in.’

The two thieves who were still with him now crept into the hall, and at
that moment Blodget heard a noise opposite.

He who had seen a head project from an opposite window had not been
deceived. A man at the house opposite had chanced to see the persons on
the door-step, and being a very cunning sort of individual, instead of
giving a noisy alarm at once, which would have had the effect of scaring
the thieves off, he thought he would gently slip out, and run to the
nearest policeman and tell what he had seen.

With this view he had hurriedly dressed himself and slipped down stairs.
He opened the door with the utmost caution, and then made a dart into
the arms of the men, who were there waiting for him so quietly and
patiently.

This sudden capture of the man from the opposite house was the noise
that Blodget had heard opposite just as he had succeeded in removing the
last obstacle to getting an entrance to the hall of the house.

The attack upon the man was so sudden, and withal so totally unexpected
by that individual, that, for the moment, he was too terrified to cry
out.

That moment was precious to him, for before he could recover presence of
mind sufficient to have the least idea of what best to do, one of the
thieves had him by the throat with such a clutch that he began to get
black in the face.

Blodget ran over from the other side of the way in another moment.

‘Who is it?’ he asked.

‘Somebody going, no doubt, to give an alarm,’ said the man who had hold
of him.

‘Now is that possible?’ said Blodget.

‘It is, captain.’

‘Dear me, what interfering people there are in the world, to be sure.
Has he a cravat on?’

‘Yes, captain.’

‘That will do.’

Blodget took the unfortunate man’s cravat from his neck, and in another
moment wound it round again so tightly and tied it in a knot behind,
that his doing more than just slightly breathe was out of the question.

‘Now,’ he added, ‘one slight tap on the head just to make him remember
us, and all is well.’

The tap on the head that Blodget so facetiously called a slight
remembrancer consisted in a severe blow with an iron jemmy, beneath
which the victim fell to the ground as if he had been struck dead.

‘Push him into his own passage,’ said Blodget, ‘and then close his door
quietly. It will be quite a pity to disturb the, no doubt, highly
respectable family to which he belongs.’

This was done, and with so little trouble, too, had the whole affair
been accomplished that the man was disposed of, and Blodget was back
again to the house before one would have thought it possible to do so
much.’

‘Now, come in all of you,’ he said.

‘Yes, captain.’

‘You did that well, captain.’

‘Hush, we will talk about that another time, when we have plenty of time
to do so, for we have none now.’

‘Yes, captain.’

‘You know your separate directions now. Here we are in the house, and
our grand object is, of course, to do our work here and then to get out
of it as quickly as we can.’

‘Yes—yes, that’s it.’

‘A light!’

One of the thieves—it was the one whose appointed duty it was to go up
stairs with Blodget—lit a loco foco match, and then as it burned up they
all started, for one of the first things they saw was a servant
apparently fast asleep, but, in reality, dead drunk in a huge chair.

‘Confound the rascal,’ said Blodget, ‘who now would have supposed he was
so near to us?’

‘He sleeps.’

‘Are you sure of that? Is it a cat’s sleep?’

‘No, captain, that is a sound sleep.’

‘It looks sound.’

‘He is as drunk as blazes, captain, I can see. Ah, he has been at the
decanters and bottles after the guests have gone.’

‘No doubt about that,’ said Blodget, with a smile; ‘and I don’t mind
saying that it was a part of my calculation in this little affair, that
the servants would be mostly drunk, and so in too deep a sleep to hear
us, or to mind us if they did hear us.’

‘Ah, captain, you know how to act about it, if any one in the world
does.’

‘What is to be done with this fellow?’ said one of them.

‘Nothing: let him be. Now furnish yourselves with lighted tapers, and
let us set to work.’

Each of the thieves in the course of another moment had a little piece
of lighted taper in his hand, and it had the advantage that it could be,
by a little pressure of the finger and thumb, stuck on any convenient
place in an instant.

‘Now, quick, all of you,’ added Blodget, ‘and you follow me.’

He spoke to the one whose appointed duty it was to do so, and then at
two steps at a time Blodget ascended a staircase.

When they got to the first floor landing, Blodget and the man who was
with him both stopped, and sitting down on the stairs, they drew rapidly
over their boots, each of them a pair of thick worsted socks, so that
their footsteps were really quite inaudible after that.

Neither did they leave any signs of footmarks any where, which
otherwise, coming out of the wet street, they might have done; and any
attempt to trace them beyond the first floor, after they had put on the
socks, would have been very difficult indeed.

‘This a good dodge,’ whispered the thief to Blodget.

‘Yes, but still be as quiet as you can.’

‘I will.’

‘This way. This way.’

The thief was of rather a loquacious order of men. Perhaps, after all,
he was a little terrified at the situation in which he found himself,
but certainly he could not, or would not, obey Blodget’s injunctions to
silence.

Blodget would, under any other circumstances, have quarrelled with him
for his contumacy, but just then he did not think proper to do so, as he
could not tell what emergency might arise in which he might require the
best services of his companion, with good will to render them; so did he
answer him, although it was as shortly as he possibly could, to be at
the same time at all consistent with civility.

They made their way up to the second floor of the house, on which the
sleeping apartments were situated.

On a gilt bracket, fixed about twelve feet high in the wall of the sort
of corridor which ran the whole length of the house, Blodget saw a night
lamp burning, and by its aid he was able to distinguish the different
doors of the sleeping portion of the house.

The man who was with him, and who was named Ben, saw Blodget looking
about him.

‘Don’t you know the room?’ he said.

‘Yes—oh, yes; all’s right.’

‘Well, that’s a comfort. Do you know, captain, that it ain’t pleasant to
be so far off in the street?’

‘Why so?’

‘Because, if there should be a row, how are we to get off?’

‘Pshaw! I never contemplate anything of the sort.’

‘Oh, you don’t?’

‘No; and if you will but be a little cautious and careful in what you
say, we shall do well enough.’

‘Trust me for that.’

‘Curse you,’ thought Blodget to himself, ‘for a chattering parrot. It is
the last time I will take you with me upon an expedition of this sort.’

Blodget carefully now laid hold of the handle of the bed-room door, and
gave it a quick, sharp turn at once. He knew that that was the best way
to prevent it from making any rattling or squeaking sound.

The door remained fast.

Blodget turned the handle again to its proper position, and stood quiet
for a moment.

It was quite clear that the bed-room door was fast on the inside in some
way, and if it was a night bolt, the difficulty of getting rid of such
an obstruction was rather serious.

That is to say, it was serious as regarded time, for he was well
prepared with any means for getting over such an obstacle, if he had but
the time given him to do it in.

‘Step this way,’ he whispered to the man who was with him.

‘Yes—yes.’

Blodget led him to the top of the staircase, and then added—

‘You will stay here till I come to you again—keep your eyes and your
ears open. There is a night-bolt to the room door, and I have the job of
cutting my way to it. It will take me five minutes.’

‘Yes—yes.’

‘Be vigilant and quiet.’

‘I will, Captain.’

‘And don’t stir from this spot.’

‘Trust me for that. I will sit down on the top stair here.’

Not a sound came from whoever slept in that apartment, and Blodget
congratulated himself upon having got so far without his giving the
smallest possible alarm.

Passing his arm through the little hole in the door, now, he carefully
lifted the night-bolt, and the door was, in a moment, open.

‘It is done,’ thought he.

As he now paused for a moment he took a half mask of black crape from
his pocket and put it over his face, so that he was effectually
disguised and then he stepped back to the stair head where he had left
his assistant, Ben.

Ben was still sitting on the topmost stair, and leaning forward to catch
any sounds that might come from the lower part of the mansion.

Blodget placed his hand upon Ben’s shoulder, and whispered in his ear
the one word—

‘Now!’

Ben started, and turning his head, the first thing he saw was the black
mask, and not expecting it he gave such a start of surprise and terror
that he was on his feet in a moment.

No doubt he thought his infernal majesty had all of a sudden found him
out.

‘Murder!’ he said. ‘Oh, Lord; no!’

‘Silence, idiot!’ muttered Blodget, as he placed his hand over Ben’s
mouth and cautioned him to quietness.

The sudden consternation of Ben all evaporated before the sounds of
Blodget’s voice.

‘You cursed fool,’ said Blodget in his ear, ‘what do you mean by
uttering an exclamation of that sort?’

‘I—I didn’t know.’

‘You didn’t know?’

‘No, captain; I think I was in a sort of a brown study, you see, and so
I—’

‘Silence!’

‘Yes, captain.’

‘Who is there?’ said a voice from the room, ‘who is there?’

‘Hush,’ said Blodget as he clutched the arm of Ben, and they both stood
like statues.

Ben shook in every limb.

‘Did you speak?’ said the voice again.

‘Be still,’ said Blodget. ‘Don’t move, on your life, Ben.’

‘I won’t. Oh—oh! It’s all—’

‘What?’

‘Up with us.’

‘No, fool, it is not if you keep yourself quiet.’

‘I will.’

Blodget ran back to the door in a moment, and he drew it close shut.

‘I’m sure I heard a voice,’ said the same person. ‘Kitty—Kitty, I say.
The wench is fast asleep. Kitty, I say.’

‘Yes, madam,’ said a sleepy voice, and a door opened from the lady’s
room into another smaller one that adjoined it, and a young girl, in her
night dress, appeared.

‘Did you hear anything?’

‘Yes, ma’m.’

‘What?’

‘You call me, ma’m.’

‘Tut—tut! I don’t mean that; but did you hear anything else before I
called you?’

‘No, ma’m.’

‘Well, I thought I did.’

‘You was a dreaming, ma’m, I suppose.’

‘I suppose I was. See if the night-bolt is all right, Kitty, before you
go to bed again.’

‘Yes, ma’m.’

‘I feel so nervous to-night; I don’t know why.’

Blodget felt there was danger now unless he could adroitly put the
night-bolt in its place again. The difficulty to do so without being
seen, and in a hurry, too, without making any noise, was very great, but
if any man living could do that, that man was Blodget.

Kitty, fortunately for him, was half asleep, and she shuffled along the
floor in such an odd, devious kind of way, with her eyes scarcely open
enough to see at all where she was going, that she gave Blodget every
chance.

It happened, too, that as she went she completely obstructed the lady’s
view of the door.

Blodget put his hand in the little orifice he had cut in the panel, and
replaced the night-bolt.

He was only just in time.

‘Is it all right?’ said the lady.

‘Oh, yes, ma’m.’

‘You are sure?’

‘Yes, ma’m.’

‘Then it could not have been anything surely; I was dreaming. But it is
no matter, you can go to bed again, Kitty. Dear me, what are you about
now?’

Kitty had, in her half sleepy state, ran against the foot of the bed and
shaken it well.

‘Eh? Oh, ma’m, I beg your pardon, I think I am a little drowsy, you see,
ma’m.’

‘A little drowsy indeed! Plague take the girl, she is dead asleep. Go to
bed directly.’

‘Yes, ma’m.’

Kitty did manage to steer herself now clear of the various articles of
furniture in her mistress’s room, and to pass through the door that led
to her own, and in another moment she was again fast asleep.

‘Dear me,’ said the lady, ‘I do feel nervous to-night, to be sure, and I
don’t know why.’

Ting—ting—ting! went the little bell of her repeater watch as she
pressed the spring of it.

‘Three o’clock,’ she said. ‘Well, I’d better try to go to sleep, I
suppose, while I can.’

She did not utter another word, and in a few moments the most deathlike
silence was in the room again.

Blodget put his hand in the little circular hole in the door, and drew
up the bolt once more.

‘Curses upon all this delay,’ he said to himself, ‘we shall have the
daylight upon us soon.’

This was indeed so, as another hour would without doubt bring the dawn,
and then the situation of Blodget and his companions in iniquity would
be rather perilous.

There were many other circumstances which rendered it desirable to be
quick about the affair.

In the first place the collision with the watch had no doubt been, by
that time, communicated, and no doubt the police were active.

Then again, as the man in the house over the way had after all only been
stunned, there was no saying when he might sufficiently recover to give
an alarm.

From all these reasons Blodget felt the necessity of bringing the job to
a speedy end, and with such a determination he then crept very quietly
into the lady’s bed-room.

In the dim light of the bedchamber, he looked like some evil spirit as
he stood casting a broad shadow on the bed and its occupant.

For a moment, he considered what to do, and then he stepped up to the
bedside and said:—

‘Give any alarm and you die—be still and you live! Be quiet—quite quiet,
for your life’s sake.’

The terrified woman opened her eyes and uttered a faint cry.

‘Yes, ma’m,’ said Kitty from the next room.

‘Curse you!’ cried Blodget.

He took a revolver from his pocket, and held it to her head, saying in a
calm tone:—

‘If you wish to save your life you will be quiet. It is your jewels,
plate, and money I come for, not your life, but if you place it as an
obstacle in the way, that obstacle must be removed. You understand me.’

‘A robber?’

‘Yes.’

‘A house-breaker?’

‘Just so.’

‘Yes, ma’m,’ said Kitty, blustering into the room with her eyes half
shut as before. ‘Did you call me?’

‘Yes,’ said he, stepping up to her, and placing his hand right over her
mouth; and then in her ear he said—

‘Kitty, if you speak one word or utter one scream, or make the least
noise, I will cut your throat from ear to ear this moment.’

Kitty stopped short, and looked as if she had been suddenly turned to
stone. Blodget placed her in a chair, and catching up a handkerchief, he
tied it in her mouth, and round the back of her head, and so on to the
back of her chair, like a bit.

‘Now be quiet,’ he said.

Kitty sat profoundly still; indeed, her faculties had received such a
shock that it would be some time before she’d recover again.

The lady sat up in bed.

‘You wretch! What on earth do you want?’

‘Plate—jewels—money.’

‘There is my purse on the dressing-table—the plate is in the pantry down
stairs.’

‘And in the little secret cupboard at the back of this bed, you know it
is, madam.’

The lady uttered a groan.

‘I will trouble you to get up.’

‘Oh, no—no!’

‘But I say, oh, yes—yes. Now if you please.’

Without any further ceremony, Blodget took her by the arms, lifted her
out of the bed, and put her on the floor. He then went to the door and
cried, in a low tone—

‘Ben!’

‘I’m coming,’ said Ben, as he entered the room.

‘Keep watch over this lady, Ben.’

‘Oh, yes.’

‘And if she tries to get away, or if she gives alarm, you will be so
good as to cut her throat, Ben.’

‘Oh, yes.’

‘And don’t make a bungling job of it while you are about it. If you have
to do it all, do it with humanity—that is to say, do it at once and
effectually.’

‘Oh, yes; trust me for that, captain.’

The lady was now really alarmed.

Ben took from his pocket a large clasped knife, the blade of which he
opened in a ferocious kind of way with his teeth, and with that in his
hand, he kept an eye upon her.

Blodget now sprang upon the bed, and tearing down some of the hangings
from the back part of it, he saw a small square door in the wall. It was
not fastened.

No doubt the secrecy of the position of that receptacle for valuables
was much more relied upon by the lady than any sort of lock or
fastening.

The fact was, that when once it was found out that that was the hiding
place for the valuable property that could be put in it, the security
was gone.

No lock or bolt could for many moments have added to it in any shape or
way.

Blodget saw at once when he pulled open the door that he had received
correct information. Immediately within the little square door were some
shelves built in the thickness of the wall, and upon them a heap of
property of a valuable and portable nature.

Bracelets—rings—necklaces—watches—spoons—gold quartz—and jewellery of
all descriptions, met the gaze of the robber as he glanced upon the
shelves.

‘All right,’ said he.

The lady was a bold woman, and she had kept her eye upon Blodget, and
when she heard him say ‘All right,’ the thought that he had discovered
all her most valuable property drove her to an act of defiance.

‘Thieves!’ she said, and she raised a loud scream.

‘Kill her!’ said Blodget.

Ben had sprung to his feet, and made for the door of the room, although
he had his knife in his hand. The fact is, this fellow wanted the nerve
to be a murderer when any one resisted at all. He might have been an
assassin, but he had not the courage to engage in a struggle.

‘Kill her, I say!’ cried Blodget.

‘No, no!’ said the lady, and springing to her feet, she with a rush made
her way into the servant’s room; and slammed the door shut in Blodget’s
face.

‘Curses on her! you have let her escape.’

‘I could not help it,’ said Ben.

‘Here, there is no time to be lost now—she will rouse the neighborhood.
Take this pillow-case, which I have filled with the swag. We must be
content with it. I will see to her and be with you in a moment.’

‘Yes—yes, I will go—’

‘No further than the head of the stairs, though.’

‘No—no.’

Blodget made a rush at the door of the room into which she had
retreated; but it was too strong for him, and by great good fortune
there had chanced to be some very effectual mode of fastening it on the
inside. Blodget heard a lumbering noise in the room, that he could not
make out.

He called aloud,—‘No harm is intended you, and I will compromise the
matter with you, if you will be quiet.’

Something rolled upon the floor, and then hit the door a great knock
that shook it.

‘Confound her,’ said Blodget, ‘I know what she is doing now. She is
piling the furniture against the door, and that was the bedstead. I
say!’

Blodget heard a window thrown open, and then a voice calling out,—

‘Help!—help!—thieves!—thieves!—Murder!’

Blodget turned from the door. His eyes fell upon the young girl who was
tied to the chair, and in a moment he rushed up to her and untied her
head. Then shaking her to and fro, he said—

‘Listen to me. Do you hear me?’

‘Ye—e—es.’

‘Go to that door and call to your mistress that I have gone.’

‘Ye—e—es.’

‘At once, or I will cut your throat.’

The girl tottered to the door of the inner room, and called out in a
loud voice,—

‘Mistress, they have gone now. They have gone now. Open the door. It is
only me, Kitty.’

Kitty, in her fright, had done even more than Blodget had asked her. The
dread of death had sharpened the wits of the girl, so that she had seen
fully what was wanted of her, and she was willing at that moment to
think that self-preservation was indeed the very first law of nature,
even if it was taken in its most extended signification, and involved
the destruction of another.

‘That is right,’ said Blodget, as the girl tapped upon the panel of the
door of the inner room, and called to her mistress; ‘call her again, or
you die!’

‘Mistress!’

‘Who calls?’

‘It’s me, ma’m!’

‘Kitty?’

‘Yes, ma’m!’

‘How came you free?’

‘Oh, they have run away, ma’m!’

‘Open the front window, then, and call out for the police at once, do
you hear?’

‘Yes, ma’m!’

‘Tell her to open the door,’ said Blodget, ‘or mind your throat.’

‘Open the door, ma’m!’

‘No.’

‘Implore her to do so. Say you are hurt.’

‘Oh, I am hurt, ma’m! Do open the door.’

‘Hurt?’ said the lady, ‘You don’t mean that?’

Blodget heard from the voice that she must be just outside the door, or
rather, we may say with more precision, just on the other side of it.
Full of revengeful thoughts at the idea that she had endangered his
safety by her obstinate, and what we would call heroic, resistance to be
robbed, he determined on her destruction.

Placing a revolver within a couple of inches of the panel of the door,
and close to the side of the face of Kitty, although at the moment the
girl was too confused to see it, he fired.

The report was very stunning.

Kitty fell to the floor from fright with a loud scream.

‘Hush!’ said Blodget, as he held up his hands, in an attitude of
listening. ‘Hush!’

All was still.

A deep groan came from the inner room.

‘Ha! ha!’ cried Blodget. ‘I have hit her!’

It was at that moment that a shrill whistle sounded through the house,
and Blodget at once recognized it as the alarm that he had told the man
whose duty it was to stay at the outer door of the house to give in case
of danger.

‘It is all over,’ said Blodget, ‘and it will be a close touch now as
regards escape.’

He made his way to the door of the room, and was out in the corridor in
a moment.

‘Ben? Ben?’

‘Here I am, captain. Oh, Lord!’

‘What’s the matter?’

‘Nothing—only—only—’

‘Only what, idiot?’

‘I thought I heard somebody in trouble.’

‘How so?’

‘A pistol shot, captain, from your hands, I take it, is reason enough
for that.’

‘No, it is not. When you hear a pistol-shot from me again do not take it
into your head that somebody is in trouble.’

‘No?’

‘Certainly not; but you may pretty safely conclude that somebody’s
troubles are over.’

‘Oh, Lord!’

‘Come away at once now—there is no time to lose. Take care of the
bundle. Have you it?’

‘All safe.’

‘Follow me then.’

Blodget ran down stairs as quickly as he could, and by the time he got
to the hall he found that the whole four of the thieves he had brought
with him had assembled there, and were looking at each other by their
little pieces of lighted taper with something like consternation.

‘What is the matter?’ said Blodget.

‘Oh, captain, it’s all up.’

‘What is all up?’

‘All up with us. There is a force in the street of police. They don’t
seem to know which house it is, but they are on the look-out about
something being amiss at one or other of the houses on this side of the
way.’

‘Humph! What do you mean by a force?’

‘About a dozen of them.’

Blodget bit his lips.

‘Yes, and they are close outside too.’

‘No!’

‘Yes they are.’

‘I will satisfy myself. If it be only the ordinary watch I don’t think a
couple of dozen of them ought to stop us from proceeding, and I will not
permit them doing so either; but if they are some of these cursed
Vigilance fellows, it is another affair.’

Blodget acted promptly. Nobody certainly could accuse him of want of
courage or decision. He knew that the only way of discovering who were
without was to take a good look himself; so, to the consternation and
surprise of his comrades, he opened the street door and coolly looked
out into the street.

A sudden rush was made at the door by a couple of men, and Blodget soon
saw ten or twelve others not far off.

‘Hold hard there, hoss,’ said one of them. ‘Don’t shut that door again,
my fine fellow, if you please.’

‘Ah, indeed!’ said Blodget, as he closed the door; but he was not quite
quick enough, for a stick that one of the officers had with him had been
pushed through the opening, and prevented the door from closing.

‘Ha, ha! it won’t do,’ cried the officer.

Blodget laid hold of the stick and called upon the others to do so. By
their united force they pulled it out of the officer’s hand, half
dislocating his wrist as he did so, for he had tied it with a strip of
dry hide to his arm.

The door was closed in another minute, but it was only held by the lock,
for Blodget had cut the bolts and had broken the chain, so that his
situation with his four companions was anything but a very agreeable
one.

‘Oh!’ said Ben, ‘I do begin to think as we have all dropped in for it at
last.’

‘Not at all,’ said Blodget.

‘Not at all, captain? Why how the deuce are we to get out of this mess?’

‘I don’t call it a mess. There are two ways out of a house; one at the
street door, and the other at the roof. Follow me.’

‘What, upstairs again?’

‘Yes, to be sure. Remember you are under my orders, and you may as well
remember why, too.’

‘Why?’

‘Yes, why. Was it not because I knew more than you did, and could so
take the command with more advantage to you as well as to myself? Come
on; I will yet see you all safe out of this affair, you may depend upon
it.’

They accordingly proceeded up stairs, where as Blodget anticipated, they
found a scuttle affording an exit to the roof—through this they escaped,
and scampering over the flat roofs of the adjacent houses, got safely
off with their blood-bought booty.


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



                              CHAPTER XIV


We must now retrace our steps in order to introduce a different phase of
life in the Golden City.

Among the many hundreds of passengers who landed one drizzly day from
one of the Panama steamers, was a young and very handsome female.

Her personal attractions had excited the attention and admiration of
many of the male passengers, who would fain have improved the chance of
becoming more intimate with her, had they not been kept aloof by the
distant manners of a gentleman, under whose protection she appeared to
be, and, perhaps, even more by the young girl’s reserved ways and
apparently sad expression of countenance.

Who this lady was will appear in the course of our tale. Her companion
called her Fanny—but whether she was his wife or not, was unknown to the
rest of the passengers.

About a fortnight after Fanny arrived in San Francisco she rose from her
slumbers, broken by unquiet visions, with pale and gloomy looks, for she
had not yet decided upon the course she would adopt in her present
extremity, and her sombre countenance and spiritless manners attracted
the notice of her landlady.

‘Mr. Edwards has gone to Sacramento, I hear,’ said she, as she placed
the breakfast equipage upon the table.

‘Yes.’ replied Fanny, coldly.

‘He did not say anything to me about the rent,’ observed the woman, in a
doubtful and hesitating tone. ‘He engaged the apartments, you know; but
if you pay the rent when it is due, of course it is all the same.’

‘You have always received your rent from me, Mrs. Smith,’ returned
Fanny, somewhat haughtily, ‘and as long as I occupy your apartments I
shall continue to pay for them. I hope you do not doubt my ability to do
so?’

‘Oh, no,’ said her landlady. ‘Only as Mr. Edwards engaged the
apartments, and has now left without saying anything about the matter, I
did not know how matters might be; but I meant no offence, I am sure.’

Mrs. Smith whisked herself out of the room, and Fanny was again alone to
contemplate the dread realities of her position. Still undecided, still
reluctant to adopt either of the alternatives which she had canvassed
over, but keenly alive to the necessity of a speedy decision, she yet
sought to avert the crisis, if only for a few days; and having made a
bundle of a silk dress and a handsome shawl which Edwards had given her,
she left the house to obtain the means of liquidating the week’s rent,
that would be due on the ensuing day.

‘Mrs. Edwards,’ said a female voice behind her, as she stood before the
window of a pawnbroker’s shop, unable to summon courage to enter; and
turning round she beheld a young girl, stylishly dressed and possessed
of considerable pretensions to beauty, whom she instantly recognized as
a fellow-lodger with whom she had once or twice exchanged civilities
when they had met upon the stairs or in the passage.

‘I have renounced that name forever, Miss Jessop,’ said she ‘and would
forget all the associations belonging to it.’

‘Ah, I heard that Mr. Edwards had gone to Sacramento,’ observed Miss
Jessop.

‘You knew it, then, before I did,’ returned Fanny, with a slight
bitterness of accent.

‘Indeed!’ rejoined Miss Jessop. ‘But do not think of going to the
pawnbroker’s, for I am sure that is where you are going.—’

‘Who told you that I was going to the pawnbroker’s?’ inquired Fanny,
coloring, and speaking in a tone of mingled vexation and surprise.

‘Nay, do not be angry!’ said Miss Jessop, whose manner was kind and
conciliating. ‘I was sure of it, as soon as I saw you, and you cannot
deny it; but do not look vexed because I have penetrated your
intentions. I see that you want a friend, and it was because I felt
convinced that you were going into the shop that I accosted you.’

‘I do indeed want a friend, Miss Jessop,’ returned Fanny, sighing, ‘I
never felt the want of one so much as at this moment.’

‘Then come home, if you have no where else to go to, and we will have a
little chat together,’ said Miss Jessop, in a very friendly tone. ‘I am
older than you in years, and still older in experience, for all that you
now see dimly louring upon the horizon, I have long ago passed through.’

Fanny was in that frame of mind which prompts the seeker after guidance
or consolation to be communicative and to give confidence wherever
friendship is proffered, and she walked home with Miss Jessop, whom she
invited into her own sitting-room.

‘You are very comfortable here,’ said the young lady, as she glanced
round the apartment. ‘I hope you do not think of leaving?’

‘I have thought of many things, but as yet have been able to decide upon
nothing,’ returned Fanny, with a faint smile.

‘And yet you were about to do the most foolish thing imaginable, if I
had not prevented you,’ observed Miss Jessop. ‘For whatever course you
decide upon, it would be foolish to make away with your best clothes,
and the money you raised by so doing would only serve to avert for a few
days the decision that you would have to come to at last. For instance,
if you decide upon returning home to your friends, where would be the
use of delaying your return until you had eat up all your clothes? Again
if you determined upon receiving the visits of any other gentleman,
would it not be foolish to delay accepting of his proposals until you
were penniless? If you will take the advice of one who has been in the
same position, you will do at once, whatever you decide upon doing, for,
however desperate your position may be, procrastination will only make
it worse.’

Fanny felt the force of her new friend’s reasoning, and after reflecting
upon it for a moment, frankly disclosed her position, signifying the
repugnance which she felt to returning home.

‘You see that I understand your position as well as if I had been
acquainted with it,’ said Miss Jessop, with a smile. ‘If you will go out
with me this evening I will introduce you to a banker who is sure to be
delighted with you. He is very liberal, and I know he admires your dark
style of beauty above all others.’

Fanny’s curiosity and vanity were both excited by this flattering
description, and as reflection had confirmed her in her determination
not to return home, little persuasion was needed to induce her to assent
to her new friend’s proposition.

Night found Fanny and Miss Jessop seated in a temple dedicated equally
to Venus and to Bacchus. The former was surprised by the scene which met
her gaze, and the appearance of the females who promenaded the saloon,
or were seated by the side or on the knees of gay gentlemen, enlightened
her both as to the character of the place and that of her companions, if
indeed there had been in her mind any doubt as to the latter, previous
to her introduction to that flowery scene of vice.

‘There!—that is the person of whom I spoke to you,’ said Miss Jessop, in
a whisper, as the banker entered the saloon, and as the roue caught the
eye of Fanny’s companion, and saw by her side a beautiful young female
whom he had never seen before, he advanced towards the table at which
they were seated, and sat down opposite to them.

‘You look blooming to-night, Miss Jessop,’ said he, eyeing Fanny as he
spoke. ‘Champagne, waiter. Who is your handsome young friend?’

Fanny blushed at the compliment, and her companion answered, with a
smile, ‘A young friend of mine whom I have promised to introduce to you,
Mr. Edwards.’

Fanny and the banker were soon upon the most friendly terms. He invited
the ladies to take wine with him. Fanny’s reserve vanished by degrees
under its influence, and the compliments of the banker appealed to her
vanity. She was soon induced to accompany him to a house in the
neighborhood. Fanny had committed herself to the tide of destiny,
suffering it to bear her wither it would, and she entered into the
house, of the character of which her inexperience allowed her to form no
conception. But when they were conducted by an attendant into a
bedchamber, she was recalled all at once to the nature of her position,
and she blushed deeply; her companion, however, found means to remove
her scruples, and she left the house, in company with Miss Jessop,
richer indeed in purse, but bankrupt in honor.

It was near midnight,—some weeks after Fanny’s fatal resolution—the gay
votaries of pleasure were leaving the Jenny Lind Theatre, some few in
equipages, but a greater number on foot; beyond the immediate
neighborhood of the theatre, however, the bustle was little increased,
for the bar-rooms, the Arcade, the El Dorado, the Lafayette, and the
Bella Union, received the human tide almost as fast as its waves ebbed
from the portico of the theatre.

One female form alone lingered under the portico!

She was a lovely dark-eyed girl, rather below the middle height of
woman, and wore a silk dress, faded and stained, a mantle of the same
material, creased and much worn, and a velvet bonnet modish in form, but
worn and faded, and adorned with a black feather in the last stage of
decay. Her complexion was dark, and dissipation and late hours had not
yet banished the last tinge of rose from her cheeks; her bright eyes
were shaded by long jetty lashes, and her black hair was glossy as the
pinion of the raven; her lips seemed formed of coral by the art of the
turner, and her form was symmetrical and attractive in the highest
degree. A little while before those dark eyes had beamed with simulated
passion, and those vermeil lips had been wreathed with the most winning
and wanton smiles; but as the last hack drove away from the front of the
theatre, the expression of the girl’s countenance, which seemed to have
been stamped there as with a searing iron, by the vivid consciousness of
shame and degradation. The change was like the removal of the garland
and veil from the skull of the skeleton guest at the banquet of the old
Egyptians. A light rain was beginning to fall, the pavement was becoming
wet and clammy, and the girl looked down with a sigh and a shudder at
her thin shoes.

Then she stepped upon the pavement, shivered for a moment on the edge
and crossed the slippery street, to where the large lamp over the door
of a large cafe threw its yellow glare upon the wet sidewalk. A tall,
well-shaped man came out of the tavern at the moment she approached the
door, and between him and the young girl there passed glances of
recognition.

‘Blodget!’ she exclaimed, in a low gasping tone.

‘Ah! why it is little Fanny!’ said he, in a tone between a recognition
and surprise.

‘Yes,’ returned the young girl, with a look at once appealing and
reproachful, ‘It is Fanny—your victim.’

‘Humph,’ said Blodget, averting his countenance from the girl’s earnest
gaze, and biting his lip. ‘Have you been looking for me?’ he inquired,
after a moment’s pause, and still without looking upon the girl’s wan
countenance, as if he felt that her looks would reproach him, even
though she uttered not a word.

‘No,’ returned Fanny. ‘I knew not that you were in this city. I am glad,
Mr. Blodget, to perceive that you have still so much virtue left, that
you cannot look upon the face of the girl you have wronged and deceived,
that you shrink from the contemplation of your work of evil.’

‘Don’t let us quarrel,’ said Blodget, in a low voice, and with an
evident uneasiness of manner. ‘Come in, and we will go up stairs, and
have a bottle of wine.’

‘Never, with you, Blodget!’ exclaimed Fanny, energetically.

‘Your baseness has reduced me to a depth of degradation to which I would
not at one time have believed possible for me to fall, but never will I
sit down in a public room with the author of my ruin.’

‘Well, where do you live?’ said Blodget in a tone of vexation. ‘I cannot
stand talking to you in the street—besides, it rains.’

‘Ah, you are ashamed of me?’ returned Fanny in a tone of bitterness,
though her voice trembled and her lips quivered as she spoke. ‘Why were
you not rather ashamed to become the destroyer of my happiness, my
innocence, perhaps, my soul?’

‘Pooh, nonsense, Fan,’ returned Blodget, the glow of conscious guilt
mantling upon his cheeks, in spite of his assumed nonchalance. ‘You are
in a melancholy mood to-night, and if you mean to stand here talking
like that, I shall rush off. It is getting late, and you had better go
home.’

‘Home!’ ejaculated Fanny, with a bitter intonation, and hot tears
gathered in her dark eyes, and trembled on her black and silken lashes.

‘Bill!’ said Blodget, to a pale, shabby dissipated-looking young man,
who came out of the bar-room at that moment—‘bring a hack!’

In a few minutes the vehicle rolled up to the spot, and the driver
jumped from his seat to open the door. Fanny allowed her seducer to hand
her into the hack but her thoughts were wandering, and she felt a slight
degree of surprise when Blodget got in, and seated himself by her side.

‘Where to, sir,’ said the driver, as he closed the door.

Blodget looked at Fanny, who mentioned the name of the street in which
she lived, and in a few minutes the hack was dashing over the miry road.
Fanny leaned back in silence, and when her companion passed his arm
around her waist, she shrank from his touch, and he instantly removed
it.

‘What is the use of your being angry with me, Fanny?’ said he, in a
deprecating tone. ‘What has passed can never be recalled, and had better
be forgotten. Let us—’

‘Forgotten?’ exclaimed Fanny, raising her dark eyes sadly and
reproachfully to his countenance, as he saw by the light of a lamp which
the coach passed at the moment. ‘Do you think that I can ever forget
what I have been or what I am now? That I can forget there was a time
when I was innocent and happy, and cease to contrast that time with the
wretched present?’

‘Why are you not happy now?’ inquired the roué.

‘Can you ask me why I am not happy now, Blodget?’ returned Fanny, in a
tone of deep and touching emphasis. ‘Ah, do not affect what you do not
feel. Do not make me think you so thoroughly heartless as such a
question would imply. You know that I am not and cannot be happy.’

Blodget was silent, and in a few moments the hack stopped opposite the
house that had for some weeks been the abode of the lost and degraded
Fanny. Blodget sprang out, assisted Fanny to alight, and having
discharged the hack, followed the young girl up the court and into the
house in which she lodged. She ascended the stairs, permitting Blodget
to follow her, and when they had entered a small bed-room of the most
wretched appearance. She closed the door, set the light which she had
received on entering the house, upon a pine table, and sinking upon a
chair by the side of the bed, buried her countenance in the clothes.

‘How long have you been in such a place as this?’ inquired Blodget, as
he threw a quick glance round the wretched chamber.

‘I permitted you to come here, that you might form a faint idea of the
depth to which you have plunged me,’ said Fanny, raising her head from
the bed.

‘Reproaches are useless,’ returned the man, gloomily: ‘I am sorry for
what has passed, Fanny, and now let us be friends again.’

‘On what terms?’ inquired Fanny.

‘Oh, never mind the terms.’ returned Blodget, sitting on the side of the
bed, and taking the young girl’s hand. ‘Kiss me, Fan, and we will have a
bottle of wine up here—no, not here,’ he added, again casting his eyes
around the miserable chamber. ‘Come away with me to a house of
accommodation.’

‘And to-morrow?’ said Fanny, doubtfully and inquiringly.

‘To-morrow we shall be as good friends as ever we were.’

‘Blodget,’ said Fanny, in a deep and even solemn tone, while she raised
her dark eyes to his countenance, with an expression of profound
earnestness, ‘I would rather die than continue to lead the life which I
have lived since you so unkindly deserted me. Indeed, I know not why I
have not long since sought death in preference to such a life of shame,
and misery and conscious degradation. Tell me whether you mean to atone
for all that you have made me suffer by making me your wife?’

‘You cannot expect it,’ returned Blodget, dropping her hands, and taking
a hasty turn across the room. ‘You have seen enough of life by this
time, I should think, to see the foolishness of such an expectation.’

‘My experience of life has been bitter enough, God knows,’ said Fanny,
heaving a deep sigh, while tears again gathered in her dark eyes. ‘Why
did you ever seek my love? Was it honorable to do so, and to win my
heart, and then, when I had given you the tenderest proof of love that
woman can bestow, to cast me from you as you might a flower that you had
plucked for its beauty and fragrance, and when it had ceased to charm,
you cast upon the footway to be trodden upon and to mingle with the
mire? That is what you have done—that has been my fate.’

‘Well, it cannot be helped now, Fan,’ observed Blodget, some twitchings
of remorse giving a slight degree of impatience to his tone. ‘Will you
come away from here and have a bottle of wine with me? Nay, if you like
it better, for once I will stop here.’

‘Never again, Blodget, will I press the same bed with you, unless as
your wife,’ exclaimed Fanny, with solemn earnestness. ‘I would rather
lay down in some secluded spot, and die of hunger; or seek a refuge from
the shame and misery that are killing me, in the waters of the bay.’

‘Good night, then,’ returned the seducer. ‘I am off! I will do the
generous, though.’

The libertine’s tone and manner were hurried and uneasy. He took a slug
from his purse and laid it on the table, but Fanny rose immediately, her
dark eyes flashing and her cheeks glowing, and taking up the coin, threw
it at his feet.

‘Not from you, sir!’ she exclaimed vehemently. ‘I will neither sell
myself to you, nor have it thought that I have done so. You sought me,
and you gained me, and I do not blush for what has passed; but my fond
and trusting heart betrayed me, and not such a paltry bribe as that.
Would you have me despise myself more than I do already?’

‘Fanny,’ said Blodget, in a tone which evinced considerable agitation,
for the words, look, and tone of the poor girl had at length penetrated
to his heart. ‘Let us be friends, as we were before I left New-York.
Forgive me for what you have suffered, and kiss me.’

‘No! no!’ returned Fanny, extending her hand to ward him as he
approached her. ‘I forgive you, and now leave me; but remember that
there is One besides whose forgiveness you have to seek, and whose
pardon is of more consequence than mine.’

‘You will not kiss me, then—not even as a sign of your forgiveness?’
said the libertine, who thought that if the young girl suffered him to
hold her in his embrace he should be able to win her to a more agreeable
termination to their interview than appeared likely otherwise.

‘No,’ replied Fanny, firmly. ‘You have ceased to love me, and I should
loathe myself were I to suffer any approach to a renewal of our former
intimacy.’ Blodget lingered a moment longer, glanced toward the slug
which still lay on the floor, where the indignant girl had thrown it,
and then quitted the room.

When the door had closed upon her seducer, Fanny threw herself upon the
bed, and hiding her countenance in the clothes, burst into a flood of
bitter and scalding tears. Oh, how agonizing were the reminiscence, how
bitter the reflections, evoked by the accidental meeting with the man to
whom she owed all the unhappiness she ever knew. The thought of her
home, of the poor, but honest parents whom she could never look in the
face again, of the companions of her childhood, in the village of her
birth, and from these subjects of reflection her thoughts wandered to
the beginnings of her ill-starred acquaintance with Blodget, and the
sudden dissolving of the dream of happiness she had had, so bright and
blissful, but, alas, so transient.

Her tears ceased to flow, without having brought her any relief, and
seating herself by the bedside, she grew by degrees more calm, but it
was an unnatural calmness, not the tranquility which speaks of peace
within, but a mere lull in the tempest of human passions. She glanced at
the glittering coin upon the floor, but she felt that to pick it up and
appropriate it to her own use, would be to accept a money compensation
for her wrongs, and though husbands in the upper classes of society are
accustomed to accept such compensation from the seducers of their wives,
yet the purer soul of that crushed violet of the pavement, revolted at
the thought.

Yet must she have money; she was penniless, and for her there was no
alternative between a life of infamy and degradation, and the unblessed
grave of the suicide. Moreover she could not bear to be alone with her
heart-crushing brain-searing, maddening thoughts: she felt that she must
fly from them, or, madness or suicide would be the result. The thought
of surrendering herself to the embraces of a stranger was less repugnant
to her mind, in the mood which had come upon her, than that of selling
to her seducer for money the favors which he had once enjoyed through
her love; if she must sin, she resolved that it should not be with him,
to those arms she had originally gone pure and chaste.

Leaving the money upon the floor, she went down stairs, darted past a
stout red-faced old woman in a faded silk dress, whom she met in the
passage, in order to avoid an explanation, and rushed through the miry
court into the street. A misty rain was still falling, and there were
few persons in the streets, but she knew there were yet plenty of
loungers and revellers in the taverns about Commercial Street, and
thitherward, she retraced her steps. She had nearly reached the crossing
of Montgomery Street, when she saw a young man come out of the corner
bar-room and walk down towards the wharf, with a reeling gait, as if
under the influence of liquor. Thinking that he might be easily induced
to accompany her home, she followed him, but before she could overtake
him he entered another bar-room.

Fanny lingered for a moment on the clammy pavement, but the deserted
appearance of the streets speedily decided her, and she turned into the
house and entered.

The young man was sitting at one of the tables over which he was
leaning, with his head leaning on his arms, and his countenance
concealed: but no one else was in the room. A glass stood on the table.
The man did not move when she entered, though she knew he could not be
asleep, having only entered the house a moment before.

‘What a disagreeable night,’ Fanny ventured to observe, in the hope of
attracting the young man’s attention.

At the sound of her voice he started from his seat as if he had received
a shock from a galvanic battery, and gazed with mingled wildness and
earnestness at her. Fanny started also, and staggering backwards, sank
upon a bench, and covered her face with her hands, for she had
recognized Robert Jervis, her affianced lover, in the days of her
virtuous happiness. Jervis was pale, and the unexpected meeting with one
whom he had once loved so ardently had given to his countenance an
expression of wildness and extreme agitation.

‘Has Fanny sunk so low as this? and so soon, too,’ said he, in a low
voice, rendered hoarse by the agitation of his feelings. ‘Has she who
ran away from her home become in so short a time a midnight frequenter
of overcharged, and the common associate of the vicious portion of a
class, the reputable members of which she once looked down upon with
disdain?’

‘Spare me, Robert,’ said Fanny, in a faint and broken voice, and without
removing her hands from her countenance, ‘You know not what I have
suffered—what I am suffering now.’

‘I can easily believe that,’ returned Robert, surveying her with a look
of mournful interest. ‘You have made me suffer, too—more deeply than I
can find words to express; but I will not reproach you. While you have a
heart to feel, if vice does not harden it to the core, you will find
reproaches there which I cannot spare you.’

‘I do,’ exclaimed Fanny, sobs choking her voice, and the pearly tears
trickling down her hands. ‘You cannot reproach me more severely than my
own heart does at this moment. If you knew all that I have endured and
am enduring you would pity me.’

‘Pity you!’ said Robert, who had become perfectly sober the moment he
recognized the lost girl upon whom he was now gazing. ‘I have never
ceased to pity you since the moment of my return to reason after that
hour of madness that ruined both myself and you.’

‘It was all my fault,’ sobbed Fanny, weeping as if her heart would
break.

‘It matters little now, whether the fault was wholly yours or partly
mine,’ said Robert, taking a hasty turn up and down the room. ‘It was
more the fault of that villain Blodget: may heaven’s avenging lightnings
scathe and blast him! May his own happiness and peace of mind be wrecked
as ours have been!’

Fanny sobbed bitterly, and dared not raise her eyes to Robert’s agitated
countenance. The young man took two or three turns up and down the
bar-room, and then he became a little calmer, and pausing near the table
at which he had been sitting, threw a furtive glance towards the weeping
Fanny.

‘And you have really fallen so low as your presence here seems to
imply?’ said he, endeavoring to steady his voice, though it was low and
tremulous, and his lips quivered as he spoke.

‘Imagine the worse, and you will know all,’ replied Fanny, in a broken
and faltering voice. ‘I have wished a hundred times that I were at the
bottom of the bay, but I cannot do it. I pray for death, that I may be
spared further misery and sin, and yet I live.’

‘Heaven have mercy on us all, for we have need of mercy!’ exclaimed
Robert, in a tone which betrayed the emotion that he felt, and leaning
with his elbows on the table, he buried his face in his hands.

He heard Fanny sobbing, but for some moments neither of them moved or
spoke. Then he heard a slight rustling, and he removed his hands from
his pale and agitated countenance, and slowly raised his head. Fanny was
hurriedly leaving the room; it was her mantle brushing the door as she
passed out, which he had heard. He sighed heavily, and then he dropped
his head upon his hands again, and sat silent and motionless, until
roused by the entrance of the bar-keeper who, thinking that he was
asleep, shook him, and bawled that he was going to close the house. Then
he arose, quitted the house, and walked slowly, and with an expression
of misery and despair upon his pale countenance. The rain had now
degenerated into a thick fog, through which the lamps twinkled dimly,
and the pavement was covered with thin mire of the color and adhesive
quality which distinguishes the mud of San Francisco, except where the
broken condition of the pavement of the footway permitted the turbid
water to lay in large puddles, dimly reflecting the street lamps.
Regardless of the puddles, Robert walked on, now with his eyes fixed
upon the miry pavement, and now looking forward with contracted brow and
moving though silent lips; and when he reached a lane, he went straight
on and entered a house. Thither we will not immediately follow him.

On leaving the bar-room, where she had encountered Robert Jervis, Fanny
had hurried down to the wharf, where she began to walk more slowly, the
terrible excitement which had until then impelled her onward, beginning
to subside. But though she walked more slowly, she kept towards the bay,
and still walked slowly onwards. About the hour of one, she advanced
towards steps leading down to some water. It was not the first time
since she had added herself to the thousands of unfortunate women who
seek the wages of sin, that she sought the bay with suicidal purposes,
but there was something so terrible and so awful to her mind in the
thought of death, that she had never dared to attempt the execution of
it.

‘It must be done,’ she murmured, as she approached the steps. ‘I can
endure this dreadful life no longer.’

She descended the steps hurriedly, but on the lowest that was uncovered
by the water, she paused, and gazed upon the dark bosom of the flood
that rolled with a hoarse dull murmur.

‘Death! What is it?’ murmured the miserable girl, clasping her small
white hands, and looking down upon the water that rolled darkly at her
feet. ‘Awful mystery, which I wish, yet fear, to solve! Is it but the
intermediate state which mortals pass through to free the soul from the
grossness which clogs it during its sojourn on earth, and fit it for a
higher and happier state of existence? or is it a long sleep—a night
without dreams, and to which no morrow comes? Is it, as some say, the
chrysalis state from which we emerge into new life, like the butterfly?
Unfortunate analogy!—the repugnance to the soul’s annihilation, this
longing after immortality? Oh there must be something beyond the grave,
though what I cannot say. It cannot be worse, whatever it may be than
the life I am leading.’

She paused in her muttered soliloquy, thinking she heard soft and
cautious footsteps behind her, but on casting a look up the steps, she
saw no one; indeed the fog prevented her from seeing more than a couple
of yards.

‘It is nothing,’ she muttered. ‘Now to end a life of which I have long
been weary! It is but a plunge—a splashing of the water—a circling
ripple on the surface—and all will be over!’

As she murmured these words, the poor girl threw herself into the dark
waters, adding to the long list of man’s perfidy and inhumanity—‘One
more unfortunate victim.’


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



                               CHAPTER XV


We must now return for a space to Inez and her captors. The unfortunate
girl had but a very confused idea of where she was being conveyed. When
the party reached the ranch she was taken from her horse, and carried
rather than led, into the building.

She was taken down a narrow flight of steps into what appeared to her to
be a subterranean apartment. And such, in fact it was, for the dwelling
to which she had been taken had formerly been a portion of one of the
old mission establishments, which are so numerous in California. The
vaults beneath it, had doubtless been excavated as a place of retreat in
case of attacks from hostile Indians, or as a depository for the sacred
vessels of the church.

At length they reached the bottom of this subterranean flight of stairs,
and then she was borne along a narrow passage of considerable length,
the footsteps of her ruffianly abductor raising dismal and prolonged
echoes. Her brain began to reel before the appalling idea that she was
being carried into the bowels of the earth, perhaps to be immured for
life in some dungeon, where the atmosphere would be close and damp—where
moisture would trickle down the green and slimy walls—perhaps, to be
deprived of life; or, maybe, and the thought made her shudder
convulsively, subjected to the brutal lusts of some vile miscreant whose
crimes had made him shrink into gloomy vaults from the light of day and
the arm of retributive justice.

Her bearer seemed to be fatigued with her weight for he twice set her
down and rested a few moments. At length the end of the journey appeared
to be reached, and she was now laid down upon some blankets, and the gag
removed from her mouth, and the covering from her head, and when she
cast a glance of terrified apprehension around the place to which she
had been brought she was alone and in profound and impenetrable
darkness.

Almost frantically the unfortunate maiden gave vent to her
long-suppressed emotions in a piercing shriek, and then sank into
insensibility.

How long Inez lay in that state of insensibility which came upon her
when she found herself alone and in utter darkness, in the place to
which she had been borne, she had no means of ascertaining; but at
length consciousness returned to the bewildered maiden by slow degrees.
Back from the memory cells of her brain came the recollection of her
retiring to bed the evening previous beneath her father’s roof, then the
midnight abduction, the long and fearful ride, and her falling
insensible in the dark and gloomy chamber in which she now was.

‘Where was she? Why was she brought there?’

She rose from the floor, and groping with her hands to avoid coming in
contact with any projecting article of furniture, she made a few
cautious steps in the direction of the door, by which she had been borne
into the room by her abductor, but her hands encountered no tangible
indication of an entrance.

The secret door, the darkness that seemed palpable, all must be parts of
some infernal contrivance to shroud in secrecy and mystery some
diabolical outrage, from the contemplation of the probable nature of
which she shrank in horror. Through that concealed door which she could
not discover, but which she yet knew to exist, the perpetrator would
enter—those walls would shut in every sound, and deaden every
shriek—that palpable darkness would veil the crime, and guard from the
chance of future recognition the criminal! It was dreadful for one so
innocent, so defenceless to stand there alone, enveloped in darkness,
anticipating all that was horrible and revolting to her pure mind, and
fearfully conscious of her utter powerlessness to evade her impending
doom.

She clasped her hands, and though in darkness, her eyes wandered round
the room, and could any one have seen her countenance at that moment, it
would have been seen pale and impressed with an aspect of mingled
wildness and despair. A new thought suddenly struck her, and partly
stilled the tumult of her mind; she would pray—it was impossible, she
thought, that God would forsake her, if she prayed to Him, for succor
and deliverance. In obedience to this impulse, she knelt down upon the
thick carpet, and prayed long and fervently that He whose name was Love,
and whose attributes were Power, Wisdom, Justice and Mercy, would
deliver her from the doom which was impending over her, whether that
doom was a violent death, or dishonoring outrage, which she dreaded
most. This act of devotion exercised a tranquillizing influence over her
mind, and she rose from her knees considerably comforted and
strengthened.

While Inez was still pondering upon her condition she heard a door open
and close. The person who entered ignited a match and lit a lamp, and
confronted the trembling girl. Judge of her horror when she recognized
one of the villains whom she had seen engaged in burying the murdered
man in the old adobe building. Although her knees trembled with fright
she mustered courage enough to ask him, ‘What means this outrage, sir.’

‘It means this,’ said Blodget, for it was that miscreant himself who
stood before her. ‘It means this,—that you take the oath which I shall
administer, swearing in the most solemn terms never to reveal aught that
has happened since you left the mission last evening. The second is,
that you become my mistress.’

‘Then I reject your conditions with scorn and abhorrence!’ exclaimed
Inez turning away.

‘Reflect well, my charmer,’ said the villain.

‘Cease, sir!’ exclaimed Inez. ‘Say no more! I reject your offers with
disdain.’

‘I thought to find you more reasonable,’ said Blodget after a pause.
‘However, if you hold out a week, you will be the first who ever did.
There are some slices of fowl and ham, and some bread, and a pint of
wine, in the basket; and in the evening I shall visit you again.’

As he turned to leave the room, Inez bent her gaze steadily upon the
door, in the hope of detecting the means by which it was opened, but it
had only the appearance of a portion of the wall, revolving upon hinges,
and undiscoverable on the inside when closed, from the uniform
appearance which the entire wall then presented alike to the eye and the
touch. The door again rolled noiselessly on its hinges, it closed with a
click, and Inez was alone in the pitchy darkness of her prison.

Satisfied that there must be some means of acting upon the concealed
mechanism connected with the door, she ran her hands over the inside,
and pressed every square inch with her fingers, in the hope of touching
something which would set in action the secret spring. This manipulation
producing no result, she next treaded the floor near the door in the
same manner, but still without making any discovery. It then occurred to
her that the spring might be situated above her reach, and instantly
mounting upon the wicker basket which Blodget had brought her, she felt
over the upper part of the door, and the wall around and above it as far
as she could reach.

An indescribable emotion of joy and hope thrilled through her bosom, as
her fingers all at once encountered a small knob or button, about six
feet from the floor, which yielded to the pressure, and acting on some
concealed mechanism, caused the heavy door to revolve slowly and
noiselessly upon its hinges. Stepping from the basket, she peered into
the semi-obscurity of the lobby upon which the door opened, and
discovering an ascending flight of stairs, she felt half inclined to
venture up them; but on reflection, she thought such a step would be
imprudent, and satisfied with possessing the means of opening the door
at pleasure, she closed it to reflect, at leisure, upon the way in which
she should make her discovery available for the purpose of escape.

The impression that the door which she had discovered was not the one by
which she had been borne into the chamber by her abductor still
lingering in her mind, she resolved to examine the opposite wall in the
same manner; and, setting the basket against the wall, she stood upon it
as before, and passed her hand over the wall in every direction. To her
great joy she was not long in discovering a knob similar to that which
communicated with the secret spring of the other door, and pressing upon
it, a door opened like the one by which Blodget had entered, and the
rush of cold air which fanned her cheek, and the continued darkness,
called to her mind the recollection of the subterraneans through which
she had been borne the preceding night.

She hesitated for a moment, and then she advanced her right foot
cautiously, and found that she stood at the head of a flight of steps
leading downward. She descended two or three, and then she returned to
her chamber and closed the door, resolving to wait until night before
venturing into the subterraneans, so fearful was she of having her
evasion detected before her escape was complete, and of steps being
taken to preclude the possibility of a second attempt. The cravings of
her stomach now began to demand attention, and feeling that some degree
of vigor would be required to enable her to complete her escape, she sat
down, and taking the provisions from the basket, ate a portion of the
bread and meat. She hesitated as she afterwards raised the wine to her
lips, lest it should be drugged, but reflecting that such a step was
little likely to be resorted to after the open violence to which she had
been subjected on the preceding night, she took a small quantity, and
then began to reflect upon the course which she should pursue.

By deferring her attempt to escape until night, as she had determined,
she would be exposed, she now reflected, to a repetition of the outrage
of the preceding night; and would likewise be less capable of
ascertaining correctly the house in which she was a prisoner than she
would be should she escape by daylight. She therefore opened the door by
pressing upon the knob which communicated with the secret spring, and
cautiously ascended the dark flight of stone stairs. She reached the top
in safety, groped her way along a passage of considerable length, and at
the end was involved in as pitchy a darkness as before.

At length she knocked her head against a flat stone which appeared to
seal up the subterranean staircase, and almost reeled under the
concussion; but recovering from the blow in a few moments, she
endeavored to raise the stone by pressing upward with her hands and
shoulders. The stone was heavy, but at length she succeeded in raising
it on end, and when thus poised it was easily removed from the aperture,
and she emerged into a large gloomy vault or cellar, which was little
less dark than the stairs and passage which she had traversed, or the
chamber from which she had escaped. The only light came from a rude
doorway in one corner, where she could see the bottom of a flight of
rough steps, towards which she hurried; but at the moment she put her
foot upon the lowermost step she heard rough voices.

No sound from the underground chambers in which Inez was imprisoned
could by any possibility reach the outside of the building, even had
there been neighbors in the vicinity, but the place was far remote from
any other human habitation. She had no means of marking the flight of
time, and could not even distinguish between day and night. But her
persecutor had told her that he should visit her again in the evening,
and she resolved to be in readiness to fly the moment the first warning
sound of his intrusion struck upon her listening ears. At length when
she heard the click of the secret spring, she ascended with
precipitation the stone stairs which led, as she thought, to liberty.

She had scarcely reached the top, when she heard hurried footsteps
behind her, and, without casting a look backwards, she fled in terror
along the subterranean passage. Her rapid footsteps were echoed by those
of her pursuer. She had nearly reached the top of the stone stairs
leading to the place in which she had found a lamp, and the means of
lighting it, when she stumbled over a stone, or some other impediment,
and fell prostrate upon the ground, a scream bursting from her lips, and
the lamp falling from her hand.

By this untoward mischance, the lamp became extinguished, and before she
could recover her feet, she heard the footsteps of her pursuer close at
hand; and in another moment she felt herself clasped round the waist,
and all her faculties succumbing to the force of terror, she became
insensible.

It was Blodget who had pursued her, and he was greatly alarmed lest she
should escape.

As he was bearing her insensible body into the chamber, a new cause of
alarm presented itself. One of his accomplices in guilt rushed in to
tell him that a party of horsemen, apparently Californians, had
dismounted in a neighboring grove, and that two of their number were
reconnoitering the ranch.

Blodget paused for a moment to think, and then speedily determined how
to act.

The party of which the man spoke was composed of Monteagle, Joaquin, and
a few Californians, who, after infinite pains, had discovered a clue to
the course pursued by the capturers of Inez, and had traced them to the
ranch in which she was a prisoner.—Joaquin and Blodget had approached
the house in order to determine the best course to pursue in order to
capture the villains and release Inez.

‘Listen,’ said Blodget to his accomplice. ‘If they find me here, I may
be recognized and arrested, if not for this, for other trifling affairs,
which may end in neck-stretching. They can have no proof of our carrying
off the girl, unless the wench is found. That is not possible, as no one
can have any suspicion of the underground room.—They will search the
house, and finding their search in vain, must leave the place. I will
try to get off unobserved through the ravine at the back of the ranch,
and catch the first horse I can find and make for the city. Let me hear
from you as soon as they go, and we will concert future measures about
the girl. I will be at our old place in Jackson street.’

As the villain concluded speaking, he drew and cocked his revolver, and
noiselessly moved from the back of the house towards the ravine of which
he had spoken.

Hardly had the ruffian entered the ravine ere he was descried by
Monteagle, whose party had been placed so as almost to surround the
ranch.

‘Stop! or I fire,’ cried Monteagle.

Blodget burst through the thicket, and Monteagle leaped his horse after
him, but the fugitive turned sharply round the moment the horse’s hoofs
touched the turf, and discharged his revolver. The darkness and hurry in
which he fired prevented him from taking aim, and Monteagle remained
unscathed, but the bullet crashed through the head of the horse, and the
animal reared up, and then fell upon its side and expired.

Blodget fled precipitately, and as soon as Monteagle could extricate
himself from his dead horse, he rushed after him, calling loudly on his
friends. Two of them followed him, but Blodget kept the advantage which
he had gained by shooting the horse, and sped across the meadows with
the swiftness of a hunted coyote. Beyond the ravine there was a high
steep hill, thinly wooded, and on the farther side of the hill a thick
and extensive wood. If he could gain this wood, he doubted not that he
should be enabled to baffle his pursuers, and he made for the hill with
the speed of a grayhound.

He threw a hurried look behind him as he reached the foot of the hill,
and then dashed up the ascent, for he heard behind him the shouts of his
pursuers and the voice of Monteagle urging the two men to come on
faster. The hill was steep, and, except where a scanty vegetable soil
had been formed during successive winters by the decay of moss and
leaves, its rugged side was covered with smooth pebbles, in which the
fugitive’s feet sunk and slipped as he toiled upward. Until Monteagle
reached the hill, therefore, Blodget lost ground, but when his pursuers
commenced the fatiguing ascent they were again upon an equality.

The pursuers and pursued were unable to see each other, and could only
discover their relative positions by pausing to listen, and then only by
such sounds as the slipping of pebbles under the feet, the rolling down
of some displaced stone, the rustling of brambles and brakes, or the
snapping of boughs. The hill became steeper as the robber and his
pursuers approached the summit, and they had to grasp the boughs of
dwarf oaks to assist them in the ascent, and sometimes to drag
themselves over the smooth faces of bare brown rocks, polished by
atmospheric influences, clinging to roots of trees which appeared above
the soil, and inserting their toes into crevices, or setting them upon
projecting points.

Near the summit Blodget paused to rest, to listen, and to look behind
him; below him he heard the voices of his panting pursuers, the rustling
of bushes and brakes, and the grating sound of their footsteps in the
loose pebbles. He wiped the sweat from his brow, and then he resumed his
clambering progress, still hoping to find a refuge in the wood on the
other side. The summit of the hill was sharp and bare, the brown rock
coming to the surface uncovered by the scantiest layer of soil, and its
bald crest passed, he had little fear of his ultimate escape. A glen, or
ravine, the sides of which were clothed with breaks or ferns, led from
the summit down to the wood, and the shortest way of gaining access to
the glen from the side which he was ascending, was through a gap or
cleft in the rocky crest of the hill. In the bottom of this gap laid a
large fragment of rock, nearly flat on the upper side, and rounded at
the edges by the abrading influence of rain and fog; probably it had
originally been disruptured from the crags which arose on either side,
and remained in that position for ages. It partly overhung the steep
acclivity which Blodget was now clambering up, and by pausing a few
moments to recruit his strength, and then clinging with his fingers to
the fissures in the rock, he drew himself up until he reached its top in
safety.

He felt the stone move as he crawled over its smooth flat top on his
hands and knees, and as he paused for a moment in obedience to the
instinct of self-preservation, he heard some stones in which the large
rock was imbedded, roll down the hill, chinking against the pebbles, and
bounding onwards, until arrested in their course by the boughs or roots
of dwarf oaks and wild lilacs which grew upon its side. It was clear
that the impulsion which his weight had given to the stone, had
displaced these small fragments, chipped from itself or the crags which
it laid between when it first fell there, and he hesitated in the fear
that in quitting the stone he should cause it to topple over, and be
crushed by its falling upon him.

In this dilemma he determined to leap from the middle of it, in order to
avoid overbalancing it, and, standing upright for a moment, he measured
the leap with his eye as well as the darkness of the night would permit,
and bounded forward like a mountain goat. He cleared the edge of the
stone, and alighted in safety below it, on the other side of the hill;
but again some fragments of rock rolled down, and he sprang aside, lest
the whole ponderous mass should slip from its position and hurl him
before it down the hill. But the massive rock moved not, and he sped
down the hill with the speed of a deer.

Monteagle had made slower progress than the robber up the steepest part
of the hill, and his companions did not engage in the chase with equal
vigor. Hence they allowed Monteagle to keep the lead; and, on coming
near the summit of the hill, they diverged from the track which he was
following in order to reach the glen on the other side without passing
over the large stone which has been described. Monteagle had caught a
glimpse of Blodget as the dark figure of the latter was for a moment
dimly defined against the lighter darkness of the sky, when he stood
upon the stone to leap into the glen, and shouting, ‘There he is!’ he
strained up the steep acclivity direct for the gap in the hill’s bare
and rocky crest.

He was not aware until he reached it of the obstacle presented by the
massive stone; but, as Blodget had passed over it, he thought he could
do the same; and, clinging to it with both hands, drew himself up, and
succeeded in reaching the flat top; but scarcely had he done so when
there was a rustling fall of stones from beneath, the massive fragment
of rock slid from its place, and a shriek of terror burst from the lips
of Monteagle as he found himself falling backwards, and the stone with
him.

His two friends heard the cry, and for a moment stood silent and
motionless on the steep hill-side, with their hands still holding the
boughs and roots which they had grasped to aid their ascent. They heard
the great stone rush with a dull hoarse sound a few yards, and then
bound down the hill, crashing through the dwarf oaks and clumps of
lilac, snapping the tender trunks of the mountain trees, and grating
over the loose pebbles which filled the channels made by the rapid
descent of water during heavy rains; but that cry of horror and affright
was not repeated, and in a few moments all was still upon the dark and
lonely hill.

‘It is the great stone!’ said one with bated breath.

‘Poor fellow,’ ejaculated the other, with a shudder. ‘If it has fallen
on him, he is crushed!’

‘Let us look for him,’ said the first. ‘Hush! I thought I heard a
groan.’

They listened, but heard nothing, save the sighing of the night wind
among the trees, and they went towards the spot from which Monteagle had
fallen, and followed the track of the displaced stone, which was marked
by broken boughs and torn herbage, down the hill. About fifty yards down
they found our hero lying against a bush, which had arrested his further
progress. The night was too dark for them to perceive the full extent of
the injuries which he had received, but the inertness of the body when
lifted from the ground, gave but faint hope that vitality remained. A
rude litter was made of boughs, and the crushed body being placed upon
it, was borne down the hill and across the meadows to a little ranch not
far from the place.


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



                              CHAPTER XVI


A rude chorus that was being sung, or rather shouted by several coarse
and desperate-looking men, who were seated around a table in a back room
of a very low cabaret, and which was never visited only by the most
depraved persons who resided in, or resorted to the neighborhood. They
were thieves, and if anything could be judged from their countenances,
they were capable of doing the most desperate deeds. The table was
covered with glasses containing gin, rum, and brandy, and of which they
had all been evidently partaking very freely, and they were smoking as
hard as they were able.

There was a large wood fire upon the hearth; and the red glare it cast
upon their features, gave them almost a supernatural appearance, and
altogether the scene was as effective as one of those that are often
represented in a melodrama. Obscene jokes and songs had been freely
indulged in, and it did not seem as if they were inclined to leave off
for some time. It was night, and the wind blew boisterous without, but
the ruffians were making such a riot, that they heeded it not; and they
were evidently determined to enjoy themselves to the most unlimited
extent.

‘Drink away, my lads,’ said one Mike, raising the glass to his lips as
he spoke;—‘drink away; we ought to be merry, for Fortune never smiled
more brightly upon us than she has done for some time past.’

‘Ay, you say right, Mike,’ observed a tall, dark whiskered man, whom the
thieves called Joe; ‘but leave us alone for doing business, and for
availing themselves of fortune’s favors when they are to be obtained.
Cap’n a toast!’

‘Ay, a toast; a toast;’ responded the others.

Mike raised a large glass, filled to the brim in his hand, and said;—

‘Well, my lads, I will give you a toast, and that shall be, Success to
our dare-devil gang!’

‘Bravo! bravo!’ shouted the thieves. ‘Here’s to the dare-devil gang!’

‘A capital toast,’ said Mike; ‘and well responded to. With your leave, I
will propose another.’

‘Ay, ay, a toast from Mike,’ shouted two or three of the thieves,
amongst whom he was a particular favorite; ‘a toast from Mike.’

‘Fill your glasses then, my boys,’ said Mike; ‘bumpers! bumpers!’

The thieves needed no second invitation to do as Mike desired, and the
glasses were very quickly replenished.

‘Here’s confusion to the Vigilance Committee!’ was Mike’s toast; and it
was followed by loud shouts from every one in the room; the landlord of
the house at that moment entering, and joining loudly in acclamation of
it.

‘Ah!’ observed Joe,—‘they have found us rather troublesome customers to
deal with, and will again if they should venture to attack us.’

‘I don’t think that there is much fear of that,’ returned Mike; ‘for we
keep too well out of their clutches, and have met with such a career of
success, that we may set them at defiance!’

‘Ay, ay,’ answered Mike; ‘and may we be always able to do so; and all
those daring fellows, who will run the risk to live a free life.’

‘But Jenkins,’ asked Mike, ‘do you not think that it was a very foolish
thing for us to loose so much time in affecting the accomplishment of
this plot of Blodget’s?’

‘Certainly not,’ returned Jenkins; ‘Blodget has well rewarded us, and it
will ultimately pay us much better than a trip to the mines would have
done.’

‘How?’ demanded Mike.

‘Why, Blodget must continue to do the thing that’s liberal, or else his
game will be up,’ replied Jenkins. ‘The lady is in our power, and we
must continue to keep her so; if Blodget does not come to our terms,
why, Old de Castro, no doubt, will, and, therefore, we are sure of a
reward one way or the other.’

‘Yes, the gallows!’ observed one of the thieves, who had been sitting
apart from the rest, and smoking his cigar heartily, did not seem to
feel any particular interest in what was passing.

‘There’s Ben at his croaking again,’ said Mike; ‘he seems to take a
delight in—’

‘Speaking the truth,’ added Ben, in a quiet tone; ‘it is very unpleasant
to hear it sometimes.’

‘Pshaw! don’t make yourself a fool, Ben,’ exclaimed Jenkins; ‘any one
would suppose, to hear you talk, that you had become tired of a thief’s
life. But what think ye of my determination, my lads?’

‘It is a famous one,’ answered Mike, ‘and cannot fail to work us good.’

‘It must add much to our coffers one way or another,’ resumed Jenkins;
‘and I take no small credit to myself for the thought; besides, you know
that we have the fellow, Blodget, entirely in our power, that murder,
which—’

‘Right, right,’ interrupted Mike; ‘if that were known, it would not be
long before Mr. Blodget would swing upon a gallows.’

‘Indeed it would not,’ returned Jenkins; ‘and he knows that, and dreads
us. The lady is a beautiful woman, and I almost envy him his prize; but
something may yet happen to place her in my possession instead of his,
and I do not know that I should be over nice about availing myself of
such an opportunity.’

At this moment, between the pauses of the blast, they heard a loud
knocking at the door, and they looked at each other suspiciously, and
starting involuntarily to their feet, placed their hands upon their
revolvers, and prepared for action in case they should be surprised.

‘Who is there?’ demanded the landlord.

‘It is only I, Blodget,’ was the answer, and being satisfied that it was
his voice, the door was cautiously opened, and the villain entered. He
greeted them all heartily, and then, by the invitation of Jenkins,
having taken his seat at the table, the mirth of the gang was resumed,
and carried on with increased spirit, Blodget joining in with as much
freedom as if he had been one of the gang.

‘Well, Mr. Blodget,’ asked Jenkins, ‘and don’t you think I managed this
business very well for you?’

‘Aye, Jenkins,’ answered Blodget; ‘you did everything that I could wish;
but think you she will be safe where she is?’

‘Safe!’ repeated Jenkins; ‘as safe as when she was buried deep in the
bowels of the earth. Gordon is just the man who will take care of her.’

‘That is well,’ replied Blodget; ‘but it is not unlikely that I shall
not have any occasion to trouble him long.’

‘Why, you would never be such a fool as to attempt to remove her from a
place of security?’ demanded Jenkins.

‘Circumstances may compel me so to do.’

‘I understand you; but we must see about the best means of preventing
all chance of that,’ said Jenkins; ‘you have been a lucky fellow,
Blodget, to get the lady in your power and at your mercy; it is glorious
revenge.’

‘It is, it is!’ answered Blodget; ‘but not sufficient to gratify me.’

‘No?’

‘No!’

‘What would you, then?’

‘I would have the life of Monteagle.’

‘Ah! would you, then, again commit murder?’

‘Hold!’ said Blodget; ‘mention not my former crime; I cannot think of it
without horror.’

‘And yet you can contemplate another deed equally as sanguinary?’

‘Yes, the death of the detested Monteagle I can contemplate, coolly
contemplate; and I shall never rest satisfied until it is accomplished.’

‘And would you dare to perpetrate it yourself?’ asked Jenkins.

‘I dare,’ answered Blodget; ‘were he to cross my path; but were I to
follow him to the Mission, or wherever he may be, I should in all
probability be discovered, and taken prisoner, and then all my schemes
would at once be frustrated. If any one would undertake to commit the
crime, I would not fail to reward them handsomely.’

‘I see,’ said Jenkins; ‘you would have me or one of my men perpetrate
the deed of blood!’

‘I care not who it is, so that it is a man on whom I can depend.’

‘And the reward?’

‘A thousand dollars!’

‘It shall be done.’

‘Ah! say you so? when?’

‘Come, come, you are in too much of a hurry; and there is never anything
done well where so much precipitation is used. We must first ascertain
where Monteagle is.’

‘And that we may have some difficulty at present in finding out,’ said
Blodget, ‘for, doubtless, he has gone in search of Inez. My heart throbs
impatiently for the accomplishment of the deed, and I shall not rest
until I am sure that Monteagle is no more.’

‘On your promise of the reward you have mentioned, the deed shall, by
some means or other, be despatched,’ replied Jenkins; ‘but you must wait
with patience, and we will not lose any time or opportunity to discover
where he is, and to put our plans into execution.’

‘This assurance gratifies me, and I am satisfied that you will not
deceive me!’

‘You have had no reason to doubt me hitherto,’ returned Jenkins; ‘and,
therefore, there is no occasion to do so now, I believe.’

‘But have you any idea how to proceed?’ asked Blodget.

‘In the first place,’ returned Jenkins—‘It will be the best plan to send
one of the gang to the Mission, in disguise. He may be able to learn the
proceedings of Monteagle, and probably find out where he is.’

‘I agree with your design,’ said Blodget, in reply; ‘and should it meet
with success, I shall not be very particular in giving a few additional
dollars to the sum already promised. But Inez, for whom I have run such
a risk, still remains obstinate; and I do not think I shall be able to
conquer her aversion in a hurry.’

‘And of what consequence will that be as she is in your power, she must
yield to your wishes, or you can gain your desires by force.’

‘Force! but I would rather that persuasion would prevail; as
notwithstanding my passion, I cannot bear the idea of violence.’

‘Why, true, it would be much better if it were avoided,’ observed
Jenkins, ‘but come, drink!’

‘Here’s success to all our undertakings,’ said Blodget; and he quaffed
off the contents of his glass.

‘Success to all our undertakings,’ responded the thieves and the toast
was drank tumultuously.

‘You have been a fortunate fellow, Blodget, throughout your whole
career, and have, no doubt, accumulated some money.’

‘Why,’ returned Blodget, with a self-satisfied grin; ‘I have not much
cause to grumble. But then I have had to depend upon my own wit and
ingenuity.’

‘Well, certainly, Blodget, you are a most perfect villain.’

‘I believe I may lay some slight claim to the character.’

‘Not a very slight one either,’ remarked Jenkins.

‘You pay me a very high compliment.’

‘Ha! ha! ha!’

‘But who among your gang will undertake the murder?’

Jenkins looked round upon his fellows, but in not one of their
countenances, reckless and determined as they were, did he notice any
signs of a desire to undertake the sanguinary deed.

‘Who among ye is willing to earn this reward?’ he asked.

There was no answer. Blodget became impatient.

‘What! are ye all silent?’ asked Jenkins.

No one offered to speak.

‘What say you Mike?’

‘I like not the shedding of human blood when it can be avoided,’ he
answered; ‘if, however, Jenkins, you order me to perpetrate this crime,
although it is against my inclination, I will obey you: if I am
permitted to use my own free will, I say I will not commit the crime.
Will that answer suffice?’

‘It will,’ said Jenkins; ‘but Joe, you will not refuse the thousand
dollars?’

‘I would not stain my hands with innocent blood for twenty times one
thousand dollars, unless it was by your command,’ was the answer.

‘And Ben, what say you?’

‘I am a robber, ready to defend myself and my comrades from an attack;
but I am not a cold-blooded deliberate murderer;’ replied Ben.

‘Damnation!’ cried Blodget, fiercely; and he arose from his seat and
hastily traversed the room.

‘Be patient,’ said Jenkins; ‘this matter will be arranged, quicker than
you could possibly expect. You see, Blodget, although they are desperate
men, they are not quite such atrocious monsters as they have been
thought by many.’

‘They are cowards if they shrink from the—’

Before he could finish the sentence, the thieves were all upon their
feet, and by their menacing looks, threatened vengeance.

‘Hold!’ cried Blodget, and they all immediately resumed their seats,
although it was very evident that the observations of Blodget had
greatly enraged them, and there were many scowling brows, which
convinced the villain that he had proceeded almost too far.

‘Blodget,’ continued Jenkins, after a pause; ‘you should be cautious in
what you say, my men are not used to hearing such terms applied to them,
nor do they merit it.’ If Jenkins thought he had a coward amongst his
gang, he would hang him up to the first tree he came to.

‘I was wrong; I was wrong;’ hastily apologized Blodget; ‘and I hope they
will pardon me.’

‘That is enough,’ observed Jenkins; then turning again towards his men,
he demanded—

‘And, so you all refuse to do this deed?’

‘We do;’ was the answer from them all; ‘we shed not human blood only in
our own defence.’

‘One amongst ye shall do the deed, since I have promised this man, and
will not recall my word;’ said Jenkins peremptorily.

There was a discontented murmuring arose from among the thieves.

‘What means this murmuring?’ demanded Jenkins, and his eyes glanced
fiercely upon them; ‘is there one among ye who would dare to disobey my
commands?’

‘I will answer for all my comrades, and say, no,’ said Ben; ‘but we
would avoid an unnecessary deed of blood, and especially under the
circumstances.’

‘I have given my word, and it shall be kept;’ said Jenkins firmly; ‘you
must cast lots!’

The thieves still looked dissatisfied at this determination, and glanced
significantly at each other, but they did not say a word. They scowled
upon Blodget, who, however, did not take much heed of them, certain as
he was, that while the captain of the gang was on his side, he had
nothing to fear from any act of violence they might otherwise
contemplate towards him.

Reluctantly they were about to cast lots, when there was the well-known
signal heard at the room door, which being opened, Gordon was admitted.

‘Ah!’ exclaimed Blodget, ‘you have just come in time, Gordon; I have a
proposition to make to you.’

‘Name it,’ answered the ruffian.

Jenkins repeated the question he had put to the others. Gordon appeared
to catch at the idea, and the thieves eagerly awaited his reply, anxious
to be released from the perpetration of a crime, from which they all
revolted.

Gordon did not make any immediate answer, and he appeared to be
meditating upon the proposal.

‘Do you also hesitate, Gordon?’ inquired the captain;—‘you were not
always so particular.’

‘I do not hesitate, only for one reason;’ returned the miscreant.

‘Name it!’ said Blodget.

‘Let Blodget give two thousand dollars, and the deed shall be
accomplished,’ was the villain’s answer.

‘It shall be yours,’ ejaculated Blodget.

‘Enough!’ said Gordon, ‘I have your word that the money shall be paid,
and Jenkins, no doubt, will be answerable that you do not fly from your
agreement?’

‘I will,’ returned the captain.

‘There is no occasion for it,’ observed Blodget, ‘if you do not deceive
me, I will not deceive you.’

‘You had better not,’ said Gordon, with a sinister look.

‘You have good security for my keeping my promise,’ added Blodget; ‘let
the deed be done, and the money shall immediately be yours.’

‘But if I should fail?’

‘If you do not wilfully fail, then one half the money shall be your
reward for your trouble,’ said Blodget.

‘Enough,’ replied Gordon, ‘then the bargain is sealed; I will undertake
the hazardous deed.’

‘Thanks, thanks!’ said the blood-thirsty Blodget; ‘perform your task
well, and you will have my eternal gratitude.’

‘Pshaw!’ cried the ruffian, with a sardonic grin; ‘of what use is
gratitude to me? It is not a marketable commodity. But what about the
care of Inez?’

‘Blodget will reside in the house during your absence, and I will leave
Joe to assist him in his charge,’ replied the captain.

‘That arrangement will do,’ said Gordon, after a pause.

‘When will you start on your expedition?’ inquired Blodget.

‘Immediately. There is no necessity for delay,’ answered Gordon.

‘’Tis well,’ observed Blodget; ‘but you will go disguised?’

‘Oh, leave me alone for that,’ returned Gordon. ‘I have more reasons
than one not to wish to be known; or the first news that you heard of me
would, in all probability be, that I was the inmate of a prison. I will
so disguise myself that it must be a penetrating eye, indeed which could
recognize me.’

‘To-morrow, then?’

‘I quit this place, and make my way for the Mission,’ rejoined Gordon.

‘True; and to meet with success, I trust.’

‘It shall not be my fault, if I do not.’

‘You will forward us intelligence when you arrive there; for I shall be
all impatience till I hear from you;’ said Blodget.

‘I will,’ replied Gordon, ‘unless I see that there would be any danger
in so doing.’

‘Certainly.’

‘And now that this business is settled,’ observed Jenkins, ‘let us
proceed to enjoy ourselves—come, my lads, replenish your glasses.’

The thieves obeyed this order with hilarity, and the villain Blodget
being satisfied with the inhuman design he had formed, and the atrocious
wretch who had undertaken to accomplish it, joined heartily with them in
their revelry, which they kept up for more than an hour afterwards, when
Blodget, Gordon, and Joe returned to the house, and the captain and the
rest of the thieves departed.

Blodget felt a savage sensation of delight fill his bosom, at the
prospect of the full consummation of his most diabolical hatred and
revenge against Monteagle; and he entertained the most sanguine
anticipations of the success of his plot. Gordon was a deep, designing,
and determined villain, and he had no doubt but that the reward which he
had promised him, would induce him to exert himself to the uttermost.

‘Yes,’ he soliloquized, when he was alone in his chamber, after parting
with Gordon and Joe for the night; ‘I feel confident that Gordon will
not fail, and, that ere many weeks have elapsed, my hated foe will be no
more. Oh, this will be goodly revenge. Inez, too, will then be securely
mine, and nothing will release her from my power!’

The wretch paced his chamber, as he thus spoke, and his eyes sparkled
with exultation. He pictured to himself in imagination, the unbounded
bliss that was in store for him in the gratification of his sensual and
disgusting passions, and he determined that but a short time should
elapse, ere he would have the full accomplishment of all his wishes. He
slept but little that night, for thinking upon his villainous
stratagems, and when he reflected that he was beneath the same roof with
the unfortunate Inez, and had it in his power to force her to an
immediate compliance with his wishes, he could with difficulty keep his
ecstasy within the bounds of reason.

In the morning Gordon, after having so disguised himself that no person
could by any possibility recognize him, and having received some fresh
instructions and injunctions from Blodget, took his departure on his
inhuman errand, and Blodget and Joe, with an old woman, were left alone
in the house.

We need not inform the reader of the distracting hours of misery Inez
had undergone since her incarceration in the house. Her sufferings were
almost too powerful for human endurance, and it was wonderful how she
could retain her senses. Her agonizing thoughts were divided between her
own situation and that of her father, and her disordered imagination
pictured them, if possible, more dreadful than they actually were.

‘I shall never behold him again,’ she sighed, and scalding tears chased
each other down her pale cheeks; ‘alas! I am torn from them forever. Or,
if we should be again destined to meet, under what circumstances may it
not be? Myself, perhaps, dishonored—heart-broken; my poor father a
raving maniac. Oh, Heavens! the picture that arises upon my imagination
is too horrible for contemplation.’

She wrung her hands, and traversed her gloomy chamber with a trembling
step.

‘To be beneath the same roof with a murderer, too,’ she added, ‘and
that, too, a murderer of the blackest dye! Oh, God! have I not good
reason to be distracted? That terrible night when I overheard the
wretches conversing upon the monstrous crime of which they had been
guilty—when I saw them inter the mangled body of the poor white-haired
old man, their unfortunate victim, comes fresh upon my memory as if it
had only been just enacted. My heart seems chilled to ice; oh, surely
the misfortunes that have since attended me have been a curse upon me
for not having given such information of the circumstance as might have
led to the apprehension of the assassins. The unfortunate old man’s
bones moulder in unhallowed ground, and his blood calls to Heaven for
retribution.’

She trembled violently, and almost imagined that she heard a melancholy
sigh breathed close to her ear. She staggered to a chair and leant upon
it for support, fearing to look around her, lest she should encounter
the ghastly and blood-stained face of the murdered man.

All was profoundly still in the house, and the miscreants who inhabited
it seemed to be locked in the arms of sleep. Sleep! how could wretches
whose consciences were burthened with such a heavy weight of crime,
sleep?

The light in the lamp burnt dim, and imparted a still more gloomy
appearance to the chamber; and the wind howled dismally without,
increasing the horrors of that solemn hour. Inez seated herself by the
side of her bed, and, after a pause, did once more venture to look
around the room, but nothing but of an ordinary description met her
observation.

‘What dreadful crimes may they not have perpetrated in this house! in
this very chamber!’ She once more reflected, and again her terrors arose
to a pitch almost insupportable.

The light in her lamp, which had for some time only been faintly
glimmering, now suddenly died away, and our heroine was left in utter
darkness. How she longed for the morning, and that she had some female
companion near her in that dismal place, if it was only the repulsive
old woman; some one to whom she could speak; but silent and dreary was
everything around her, it was like being confined in a tomb. She had
kept the embers of the fire together as long as she could, but that had
also become extinguished, and the room felt cold as it was dismal and
cheerless.

At length she crept into the bed with her clothes on, and covered her
head with the counterpane, filled with a sensation of terror, she found
it utterly impossible to conquer. She endeavored to sleep; but her mind
was too much distressed to suffer her to succeed, and she tossed to and
fro in a state of agitation, which no one but those who have been placed
in a similar situation, can form an adequate idea of. The interview she
had had with Blodget, rushed upon her memory, and she recollected every
word that he had spoken, and which had given her every reason to
apprehend the worse consequences from his determination. Even the sight
of that inhuman man inspired her with a feeling of horror no language
can do justice to, and she dreaded a meeting with him as much as she
would have done the most fearful calamity which could have befallen her.

‘But I will be firm,’ she reflected; ‘I will muster up all my woman’s
fortitude, strong in the defence of her honor, to meet him, and oppose
his importunities in a manner that shall deter him from proceeding to
violence. Providence surely will not forsake me in this moment of bitter
trial, but will throw its protecting shield over me, and defeat the
brutal designs of the libertine and the miscreant! Yes, I will put my
trust in Heaven, and prepare to meet my heavy trials with a firmness and
resolution becoming of me!’

These thoughts somewhat composed her spirits, and after a short time
spent in further rumination, she did at last sink into a disturbed
slumber, in which she remained until the sun had risen in the eastern
horizon.

She arose, not in the least refreshed, and had not been up many minutes
when she heard the key turning in the lock, and soon afterwards the old
woman entered with the breakfast.

She placed them on the table, and then fixed upon our heroine a
scrutinizing look, and shook her head.

‘Well,’ said she, in her usual disagreeable tones;—‘pale cheeks and red
eyes; no sleep again, I suppose, it puzzles me how you young women can
live without rest? when I was your age, nothing could ever prevent my
sleeping.’

‘When the mind is oppressed with such unprecedented and heavy sorrows as
those that disturb mine,’ answered Inez—‘if it is not entirely
insensible, sleep may be courted in vain.’

‘Pho! how very melancholy and dismal you do look, to be sure,’ answered
the old woman; ‘any one would imagine that you had experienced all the
troubles in the world; but stop till you become my age, and then you may
have cause to complain.’

‘Some person’s troubles,’ returned Inez; ‘are brought on them by
themselves; by their own vices, and—’

‘Ah!’ interrupted the old woman, snappishly; ‘no doubt you think that a
very pointed and sarcastic observation, but, as the cap don’t happen to
fit me, I shall not wear it. Mr. Blodget will pay you a visit presently,
and perhaps you may deem it prudent to behave a little more civil to
him.’

Inez shuddered.

‘Oh, tell me,’ she said; ‘is he in the house?’

‘Oh, yes, to be sure he is,’ answered the old woman; ‘for he has taken
up his quarters here altogether now, and therefore you will have plenty
of his company.’

‘Living in the same house,’ muttered our heroine to herself, and she
trembled more violently than before; ‘alas! what will become of me?’

‘Oh, no doubt he will take plenty of care of you, young lady,’ answered
the old woman, with a bitter sneer.

‘He shall find,’ said Inez, mustering up sudden firmness, and speaking
in a tone that astonished and abashed the old woman, ‘he shall find that
I have both the spirit and the virtue to resist his importunities, and
Heaven will aid me to defeat his design. The guilty wretch; surely for
his many crimes a terrible retribution must be now pending o’er his
head.’

‘The spirit you boast of, young lady,’ said the old woman, ‘I have no
doubt will be very quickly turned, or Mr. Blodget is not half so
accomplished as I take him to be.’

Inez darted upon her a look of disgust and indignation, but she could
not make her any reply, and after making two or three observations of a
similar description, the old woman quitted the room.

We need not attempt to describe the feelings of our heroine when the old
woman had gone: the disgusting observations of the old woman, and the
fearful prospects which was before her, filled her bosom with the utmost
consternation, and although she tried very hard to rally her spirits,
and prepare to meet Blodget with fortitude, it was some considerable
time before she had it in her power to succeed. To know that Blodget was
an inmate of the same house with her, was sufficient of itself to excite
the greatest agony in her bosom; and when she reflected that it was not
probable that he would longer be able to restrain his wild, unbridled
passions, and that any resistance on her part, would be completely
futile, she became almost distracted.—Alas! she thought, how much more
preferable would death have been to the state of agony in which she was
thus constantly kept. It was only for the sake of Monteagle and her
father, whom she could not entirely despair of beholding again, that she
clung to life, and had she not had them to occupy her thoughts, and her
heart’s warmest affections, she would have met death with fortitude,
nay, even pleasure. What had been the last few days of her life, but of
misery? All mankind had seemed arrayed in enmity against her, and few
indeed were the real friends she had found. Her tears flowed fast at
these thoughts, and they gave relief to her overcharged bosom.

At length she struggled with her emotions, and so far regained her
composure, that she was enabled to partake of the repast which the old
woman brought her, and to prepare to meet Blodget, whom she had no
doubt, and indeed the old woman had said he would, visit her in a short
time.

She had but just risen from her knees having implored the protection of
the Holy Virgin, when she heard footsteps ascending the stairs, and
directly afterwards, her room door was unlocked, and the object of her
fears and detestation entered.

He stood in the doorway for a minute or two, and it was hard to perceive
whether he was awed and abashed by the calm dignity and firmness of her
demeanor, or lost in admiration of her superlative beauty—still most
exquisite, although her once blooming cheeks were pale and wan with
heavy care.

Inez had mustered up uncommon fortitude, and, as Blodget entered, she
fixed upon him a look which was sufficient to penetrate the most
insensible breast. It was one of the most cutting reproach, while
resentment, and a firm reliance upon the strength of her own virtue, and
the protection of heaven, shown predominant in the general expression of
her resistance, and approaching her with a look of admiration which
could create no other sentiment than one of hatred in her breast, he
attempted to take her hand and press her lips, but she hastily withdrew
it and, spurning him scornfully away from her, exclaimed—

‘Begone, sir, your presence is disgusting to me. Dare not thus to insult
the victim of your guilt.’

‘Who’s the master, now, fair Inez?’ demanded the villain, and a look of
exultation overspread his features; ‘who triumphs now?’

‘Oh, villain—heartless villain!’ cried Inez, her bosom swelling with
agony, ‘can you stand there and talk to me thus? Are you not afraid that
the vengeance of the Almighty will immediately descend upon your head,
and render you powerless to do further harm?’

‘I scorn it.’

Inez shuddered with horror at the words of the wretch; who, however,
presently altered his tone, and once more endeavoring to take her hand,
which she successfully resisted, he assumed an insinuating smile, and in
a voice of gentle persuasion, said—

‘Pray pardon me, beauteous Inez, if I have been led into the expression
of words that have caused anguish to your feelings; but the injuries I
have received from Monteagle—’

‘’Tis false!’ scornfully replied our heroine, and her brilliant eyes
appeared to flash fire; ‘Monteagle never injured you, but you was ever
the serpent in his bosom, waiting an opportunity to destroy his peace,
and you have yourself acknowledged the same, and expressed your inhuman
exultation at the misery which you have caused him.’

‘Well,’ returned Blodget, with the utmost coolness, and the boldness of
his manner increasing, ‘I will not deny it, because there is no
necessity for my so doing, as the power is now mine. I have already had
a terrible revenge, but still it is not complete, and never will I rest
until it is wholly accomplished.’

‘Oh, Blodget!’ ejaculated Inez, her fortitude failing her when she saw
the villain’s recklessness and determination, and reflected that she was
entirely in his power, and left solely to his mercy, or the
interposition of Providence, ‘will nothing induce you to relent in your
cruelty?’

‘Nothing,’ answered Blodget, ‘until I have gained the full gratification
of my wishes, and the consummation of all my hopes. Then only shall I be
satisfied.’

‘What mean you?’

‘You will behold Monteagle no more.’

‘Oh, God!’ ejaculated Inez, and her heart throbbed heavily against her
side, her cheeks turned ashy pale, and her limbs trembled violently as a
dread of something terrible about to take place, through the guilty
machinations of the wretch who stood before her, darted upon her brain;
‘cruel as you are, surely you would not seek his life?’

A grim and sardonic smile passed over the features of Blodget as she
gave utterance to these words, but he returned no answer; his looks
spoke more than words, and had a thunderbolt at that moment descended
upon her head, Inez could not have felt more paralyzed and awe-struck
than she did at that time. With distended eye-lids, she fixed upon him a
look which was sufficient to have penetrated even the most obdurate
heart, and to carry awe to the guilty soul; her features became stern
and fixed; her lips parted but she uttered no sound, and, suddenly
approaching the astonished Blodget, she grasped his arm vehemently, and
looked full upon him. Blodget could not help, in spite of all his
hardihood, shuddering beneath her gaze, and the singularity of her
behavior, but he was not a minute before he completely recovered
himself, and looking coolly and indifferently upon her, awaited what she
had got to say without first offering any observation of his own.

‘Blodget!’ at length ejaculated our heroine, in a solemn tone of voice,
and with her brilliant and expressive eyes still fixed with the same
earnestness of expression upon his countenance; ‘Blodget, in the name of
that Almighty power who guides all our actions, and before whose dread
tribunal you must some time or the other appear, however much at present
you may despise His name—by all your hopes of forgiveness for the many
and heinous crimes you have committed, I charge you tell me—solemnly
tell me, what are your wicked designs?’

‘Psha!’ cried Blodget, and a fearful smile again overspread his
countenance.

‘Nay, I command you, in the name of the most High, to set my horrible
fears at rest, and tell me,’ demanded Inez, and her heart throbbed more
violently than ever, and her whole soul seemed to be wrapped up in the
answer which Blodget would return to her; and she appeared as if she
would drag the secret from his heart with her eyes.

‘Enough of this,’ at last said Blodget, ‘I came not here to talk upon a
subject like this, and—’

‘Heartless miscreant!’ interrupted Inez, ‘too well can I read in your
dark and portentous looks the base design you have in contemplation. But
Heaven will interpose to prevent the execution of your infamous
intention, and to save Monteagle from your monstrous machinations.’

‘We shall see,’ returned Blodget, with the same consummate coolness he
had before evinced; ‘we shall see. But hear me, Inez—’

‘I will not listen to you, until you have answered my question,’
observed Inez ‘your very words are as poison to my soul.’

‘But you must and shall hear me,’ exclaimed the other, with a determined
air, and once more endeavoring to take our heroine’s hand; ‘you are
securely in my power, and think you that I will be frightened from my
purpose by an obstinate woman’s heroics. I come to offer you my love;
you reject it, but that shall not avail you, for force shall make you
comply with my wishes. As for Monteagle, I tell you once again you will
see him no more.’

The courage of Inez completely failed her, tears gushed to her eyes,
and, sinking upon her knees, with clasped hands, she supplicated the
ruffian’s forbearance; but she pleaded to a heart callous to every sense
of feeling: he gazed upon her emotion with indifference, and he exulted
at the manner in which he had subdued her spirit, and flattered himself
that, in time, she would be entirely conquered, and made to yield
subserviently to his will. However, he endeavored to disguise his real
feelings, and, assuming as mild an expression as he could, he raised
Inez from the posture in which she had been kneeling, and affected to
smile kindly upon her. For the moment she was deceived by his looks, and
hope suddenly darted upon her mind.

‘You will relent,’ she ejaculated, ‘that smile assures me that you will.
You cannot, surely, be so cruel as to seek the life of Monteagle. Has
not the anguish you have already caused him, and the miseries he is at
present undergoing, all through you, been the means of sufficiently
appeasing your vengeance? Oh, Blodget! repent ere it is too late, and
restore me to my friends, and again I promise you that you shall receive
my pardon and that of those who are dear to me, although the injury you
have inflicted on them and me is almost irreparable. If there is one
spark of humanity in your breast, if there is the smallest portion of
that feeling remaining in your heart, towards that sex who claims
protection from every man, I shall not supplicate in vain; you will
accede to my request, and once more open to me the doors of liberty; and
suffer me to fly once more to the arms of my father—my poor bereaved
parent!’

‘Beauteous Inez,’ returned the wretch; ‘this is madness, and a silly
waste of time. Think you, then, that after all the trouble I have taken,
the risks I have run, and the plans I have laid down to get you in my
power, that I will now quietly resign you? Think you that I would place
myself at the mercy of my enemies? No, no! you must give up all idea of
such a thing, and, henceforth, look upon me in the same light as your
husband, for you and I must not again easily separate! You must yield to
my wishes, and that speedily; I would have you do so of your own free
will; but if, after a given time you still remain foolishly obstinate,
then must I, however much it may be against my wishes, use force.
Resistance, you perceive, will be in vain, and therefore, I advise you
to make up your mind to assent without it; then shall you receive every
attention from me, and I will behave in a manner that shall leave you no
cause to regret your separation from your father.’

‘Fiend in human shape,’ ejaculated Inez, ‘leave me! My soul freezes with
horror as I listen to you! But I will not entirely despair, although you
have bid me to do so; Heaven will interpose to prevent the execution of
your base threats.’

‘Did Heaven interpose to prevent my getting you in my power?’ inquired
Blodget, with a sardonic grin. ‘Once more I tell you, you shall be mine,
and nothing shall save you!’

‘Never, villain!’ cried Inez.

‘Be cautions what you say, lady, lest you exasperate me,’ returned
Blodget, with a threatening frown, which made our heroine tremble; ‘you
forget that I could this day—this very moment—force you to a compliance
with my wishes, and where is there one near at hand who could come to
save you?’

‘By Heavens I would die first!’

‘Bah!’ sneered Blodget; ‘but I am tired of this useless contest of
words; you know my determination, and rest assured that I will only
await a very few days for your answer, and then, if you do not consent,
you know the consequences.’

‘Once more I pray your mercy,’ said the distracted Inez, with clasped
hands, and looks of earnest supplication; ‘beware! oh, beware! ere you
proceed to extremities.’

‘You have it in your power to move me to pity and love, fair Inez,’
returned Blodget; ‘one smile from you, one word of affection from those
ruby lips would act with the influence of magic upon me and make me
quite a different man. Blodget would then live alone for love and you;
and there should not be a pleasure which it should not be my constant
endeavor to procure you.’

Inez turned from the villain with a look of the utmost disgust, and she
groaned aloud in the intensity of her anguished feelings. Blodget
advanced nearer to her, and sought to put his arms around her waist, but
the action immediately aroused her, and retreating to the further end of
the room, she fixed upon him such a look as awed him into immediate
forbearance.

‘Still madly obstinate!’ he exclaimed; ‘but time must alter this proud
beauty, and you must yield to the desires of Blodget, however repugnant
it may be to your feelings. At present I leave you, but shortly you will
behold me again, and then I trust that you will see the policy of giving
me a more favorable reception than you have done this morning.’

As he spoke, Blodget fixed one glance of expressive meaning, and then
quitting the room, he securely fastened the door after him.

‘The perverse woman,’ he soliloquized, as he walked away; ‘but she must
be subdued;—she must be subdued; Blodget cannot much longer endure her
resistance. Oh, did she but know the plot I have formed against the life
of Monteagle—but I said quite enough to arouse her fears, although I now
wish that I had not done so, as it would be sure not to promote my
wishes. I wish not to have to use violence, or I could do so directly;
no, my greater triumph would be to prevail upon her to give her own free
consent, and that would add to the gratification of my revenge. Blodget,
if you fail in this, it will be the first time that you have failed in
any of your undertakings.’

The villain walked away, and after giving strict injunctions to Joe to
keep safe watch over his charge, he bent his footsteps towards the
cabaret, at which he and the thieves had been the night before
carousing, and where, in a back room, he could commune with his own
thoughts, without any fear of interruption.


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



                              CHAPTER XVI

                  The Critical Move—Attempted Escape.


When Blodget had retired from the room, our heroine gave vent to the
painful feelings which her interview with him had excited in her bosom;
and hope seemed to have faded entirely away from her mind; for if the
villain remained obstinately resolved to put his diabolical threats into
execution, what means had she of resisting him? None! Then again the
hints he had given convinced her that he had some base design in his
mind.

She was aroused from these reflections by the entrance of the old woman
who had come to do something in her apartment, and whose disagreeable
looks assured our heroine that she took a pleasure in tormenting her,
and saying anything which she thought might excite her feelings, and
Inez, therefore, determined to avoid conversing with her, as much as she
possibly could. The old woman, however, appeared to be determined that
she should not escape so easily; for the words she had so pointedly
directed to her in the morning, remained in her memory; and after having
eyed her with an insolent glance for a second or two, she ejaculated, in
her usual harsh but querulous tones:—

‘I hope your ladyship feels happier after the interview you have had
with your lover, and that the observations he has addressed to you, have
met your approbation. Oh, he is a very nice gentleman! He! he! he!’

And the disgusting old woman croaked forth a laugh, which could scarcely
have been imagined to have been uttered by anything but a witch; and
appeared to think that she had spoken very wittily and sarcastically.
But Inez did not deign to condescend her any answer, and she averted her
eyes, for there was something so remarkably disagreeable in the woman’s
face, that she could not bear to look upon it.

The old woman saw plain enough that her observations annoyed Inez, and
although she felt rather vexed and disappointed that she did not answer
her, she determined to follow them up.

‘It seems that you have lost your tongue since your interview with Mr.
Blodget,’ she said; ‘but that is of very little consequence, I can talk
enough for you and I too, and as Gordon has left the house, you will, in
all probability, have a little more of my company than you otherwise
would have done.’

‘Gordon left the house?’ repeated our heroine eagerly; ‘thank Heaven!’

‘Indeed!’ said the old woman; ‘then, if his absence affords you
pleasure, I can tell you that it will not be of long duration;—he is
only gone some distance on a secret mission, for which he is to receive
a handsome reward from Mr. Blodget!’

‘Ah!’ cried our heroine, turning very pale, and a feeling of horror
coming over her; ‘on a secret mission for Blodget? In what fresh plot of
villainy is he engaged?’

‘Oh, that I do not know; and if I did, it is not very likely that I
should inform you. It is something of importance I dare say, or else
Gordon would not have been employed; and no doubt concerns you.’

Inez felt her horror increase, and she trembled so that she could
scarcely stand. The old hag observed her emotion with much satisfaction,
and a savage grin overspread her features.

‘Something that concerns me;’ she exclaimed, and her terrible
forebodings convinced her that the old woman did not make use of these
observations without good reason.

‘Oh, my dear friend!’ she added, as she recalled to her memory the dark
hints which Blodget had given utterance to, and covering her face with
her hands, she sobbed hysterically. ‘Oh, my unfortunate rescuer;’ she
continued, ‘I tremble for you; surely this is some dark plot against
you. Heaven protect you and avert the evil fate destined to you by your
implacable enemy!’

‘If Blodget only plays his cards successfully, as he has hitherto done,
I do not think that there is much chance of your seeing your _poor
unfortunate_ lover again;’ said the hag with a sneer, and a look which
was perfectly hideous.

Poor Inez gazed upon the unnatural old beldame with a look of horror and
disgust.

‘Inhuman woman;’ she ejaculated, ‘thus to take a pleasure in tormenting
one of your own sex, who has never offended you, and whose misfortunes
and oppressions ought to excite your pity and sympathy.’

‘Pity and sympathy,’ repeated the woman, with bitter sarcasm; ‘they are
qualities that none but fools would retain possession of; I never
experienced them from any person yet, and I have banished mine from my
breast many years since.’

‘I do believe you,’ sighed Inez; ‘but I can sincerely pity _you_, for
there will be a time come when you will be brought to a terrible sense
of your iniquities, and awful will then be the punishment you will have
to undergo.’

‘Hey day!’ exclaimed the beldame; ‘I declare you’re quite an adept at
preaching a sermon, but its beauties are entirely lost upon me; and I do
not think that you will find Mr. Blodget any more ready to approve of
them than I am.’

‘Leave the room,’ said Inez, in a tone of resentment, ‘and let me alone
to my reflections; your language is brutal, and I will not listen to
it.’

‘But I am afraid you will have to listen to it very frequently,’
returned the old woman, ‘as disagreeable as it may be. As for leaving
the room, you will please to recollect that you are not mistress here,
consequently I shall not attend to your orders until it pleases me.’

Inez walked away, and throwing herself into a chair, once more covered
her face with her hands, determined not to pay any future attention to
what the old harridan might say. The latter laughed sneeringly, and
after muttering a few spiteful remarks that our heroine did not hear,
she applied herself more assiduously to the task she had to perform in
the room, and at the same time hummed, in discordant tones, snatches
from different vulgar songs, which fell listlessly upon the ears of
Inez, who was too deeply engaged by her own melancholy thoughts to pay
any attention to them.

At length having, much to the satisfaction of our heroine, completed her
domestic duties in the room, the woman fixed upon Inez a spiteful look,
and then retired from the apartment. When she had gone, our heroine
immediately sunk upon her knees, and, with upraised hands, she implored
the mercy of the Supreme Being, and that He would protect her father and
her lover from any danger by which they might be threatened. She arose
more composed and confident, and endeavored to hope that, after all, the
wicked designs of Blodget might be foiled, and that something would yet
transpire to release her from her present incarceration, and the future
persecution of the villain Blodget, for whom no punishment could be
adequate to the different crimes he had been guilty of.

Frequently did her thoughts revert to home, and she could well imagine
the grief experienced at her mysterious disappearance. The idea of the
deplorable condition of Monteagle was maddening nay, perhaps he was no
more, and she was not present to receive his last sigh, or to enfold him
in a dying embrace.—The thought was almost past endurance; and it was a
fortunate thing for our heroine that a torrent of tears came to the
relief of her overcharged heart.

Three weeks elapsed without any material change taking place in the
situation or prospects of Inez. Blodget visited her every day, and she
was annoyed by his disgusting importunities; and frequently was he so
worked up by the opposition which she offered to him, that he was half
tempted to proceed to violence; but a secret power appeared to restrain
him, and to watch over his unfortunate victim.

Blodget was in a state of considerable anxiety and suspense, for he had
not yet heard anything from Gordon, and sometimes he was fearful that he
had been detected and was in custody; but again he thought, if he had
been so, he should see some account of it in the newspapers, and he,
therefore, at last endeavored to conclude that Gordon thought it prudent
not to write to him, and that he was in a fair way of being ultimately
successful in his blood-thirsty designs.

The thieves had made several successful hauls, since the departure of
Gordon, and they were not less anxious than Blodget was to know what had
become of him, and whether he was safe, for Gordon was acquainted with
many circumstances that might greatly endanger them, should he be
tempted to divulge them. Such is the doubt and suspicions that ever
exist between the guilty.

At length, however, after another fortnight, a message arrived at the
ranch of Gordon, which came from him, and it may well be imagined with
what eager haste Blodget broke the seal, and glanced his eyes over the
contents. They afforded him the most unbounded satisfaction.

‘Ah! by the infernal host! this is capital,’ exclaimed Blodget, when he
had concluded perusing the letter; ‘my vengeance will soon be complete;
and I have no doubt that Gordon will shortly be able to discover
Monteagle, and to accomplish the deed for which my soul pants.’

He immediately sought out Jenkins, who was at his usual place of resort
when he was not on his expeditions, and showed him the letter from
Gordon. The robber captain perused it with satisfaction, and his
apprehensions were now at rest.

‘What think you of the suggestion which Gordon has made?’ asked Blodget,
when Jenkins had finished reading the letter.

‘Why, that it is a very excellent one,’ answered the captain.

‘True,’ coincided Blodget.

‘You will avail yourself of it, then?’

‘Why, think you not I should be foolish to miss such an opportunity?’

‘I do.’

‘Gordon deserves an extra reward for this.’

‘He is a shrewd fellow.’

‘And one who does not stand particular about trifles.’

‘No, crime and he are familiar. But how would you accomplish this
design?’

‘I have not as yet had time to consider it properly,’ answered Blodget;
‘can you give me any advice, captain?’

‘Gordon I do not think can do it without assistance.’

‘Probably not.’

‘If I and a crew run the risk of going in a boat to Mission Creek, and
bring the fellow away, of course you will reward us?’

‘Certainly; but that course will be attended with much danger, for
should the real character of your boat be known—’

‘Oh, I can manage it so that there will be no danger of a discovery
taking place,’ replied Jenkins.

‘Ah, then, be it so, and we will not fall out about the reward.’

‘Agreed,’ answered the captain, ‘an answer must, therefore, be
despatched to the place where Gordon is staying, acquainting him with
our intentions, so that he may make the necessary preparations for
carrying our designs into execution.’

‘It shall be done immediately. But think you that success is at all
likely?’

‘It is all but certain.’

‘And had Monteagle better be brought to the house where Inez is
confined?’

‘That you can use your own pleasure in,’ replied Jenkins.

Blodget reflected for a few moments.

‘No,’ he at last said, ‘it shall not be so at present; I think it would
be as well not to let Inez know anything about it for a short time.’

‘Why so?’

‘Why,’ returned Blodget, ‘in the first place, the sudden shock might be
attended with fatal consequences to her; and in the next, I think it
would be better to break it out to her by degrees, and make the
circumstance subservient to my designs upon her.’

‘That is my opinion,’ remarked Jenkins, ‘but you are a fool, Blodget, to
delay the indulgence of your desires so long, when you have it in your
power to gratify them immediately. If you wait until you prevail upon
the lady to consent, I think you will be likely to tarry a long while.’

‘That is your opinion?’

‘It is.’

‘Mine is a different one.’

‘You must have a very high opinion of your powers of captivation, if
that is really your belief,’ returned Jenkins.

‘Perhaps so,’ said Blodget, ‘but time will show; and now that I have the
prospect of getting this fellow into my power, I am the more disposed to
wait patiently and give my plans a fair trial.’

‘And wait until de Castro or his friends discover the retreat of the
lady, force her from your power, and bring you to punishment,’ rejoined
Jenkins.

‘If Gordon is successful, there will be no fear of that.’

‘Maybe so; but you remember the old proverb—“a bird in hand is worth two
in the bush.”’

‘At any rate, I have made up my mind to run the chance of it.’

‘Well, of course, you are at liberty to do as you think proper,’
observed the captain; ‘but if you succeed in getting this youngster in
our power, where do you think of placing him?’

‘Know you of any person that can be trusted with him?’

‘I do.’

‘And does he reside far from this place?’

‘Close upon the spot.’

‘Is the place obscure?’

‘It is little frequented.’

‘And who is he?’

‘One of my gang; you may depend upon him.’

‘’Tis well; and you think he will accept of the charge?’

‘I am certain of it; he would do it gladly.’

‘Perhaps you will see him and make the proposal; it would come better
from your lips than mine.’

‘I will do so.’

‘You have my thanks, captain.’

‘’Pshaw! I don’t want them. But, mark now, he must be well paid for his
trouble, and keeping the secret.’

‘I have no objection to that.’

‘This will be an expensive job for you.’

‘Were it to cost me twenty times as much, I would not begrudge it to
gratify my revenge.’

‘You are a most implacable foe.’

‘So my enemies have good reason to say.’

‘But come, there is no necessity for delay; have the letter written and
forwarded to Gordon as quickly as possible.’

‘It shall be done.’

‘In the meantime I will go down to Kitson, and make the proposal to
him.’

‘Ay, do; and do not be afraid to promise a most liberal remuneration.’

‘I will do so, depend upon it.’

‘And when do you propose starting on this expedition?’

‘By the night after to-morrow, at the latest.’

‘Your promptitude pleases me.’

‘Delay is dangerous; that is always my motto.’

‘And a very good one; I will adopt it on this occasion; farewell.’

‘Good night; although I shall probably see you again.’

‘Well do, if you can, for I shall be anxious to know whether or not this
Kitson, as you call him, will undertake this charge.’

‘Oh, there is very little doubt but that he will do so.’

Having arrived at the conclusion of this brief colloquy, the two
worthies separated, and Blodget bent his way to the ranch, to write the
letter to Gordon; elated at the prospect of the success of his
diabolical stratagems, and determined at any expense or danger to
prosecute them.

In the epistle he gave Gordon all the information he could require, and
highly praised his indefatigability, at the same time encouraging him to
further exertions, by the promise of rewarding him accordingly.

The letter was immediately forwarded to the proper quarter, and had not
long done so, when Jenkins returned.

‘Well, captain, how have you succeeded?’ asked Blodget.

‘As I anticipated.’

‘Then the man is willing.’

‘He is.’

‘And think you we may depend upon his secrecy?’

‘There is no fear of that!’

‘Did you not bind him by an oath?’

‘There was no necessity for that! Kitson’s word is his bond.’

‘And did you make him acquainted with the particulars?’

‘I was compelled to, to enable him to be more upon his guard.’

‘Ay, true! And you mentioned the reward?’

‘It is not so much as I anticipated.’

‘What is it?’

‘He demands two hundred dollars.’

‘It shall be his freely, immediately the fellow is placed in his care,
one hundred more to that, if he well perform his task, and keeps the
secret inviolable.’

‘I tell you again, there is no fear of his not doing that.’

‘Then all, so far is well,’ observed Blodget.

‘It shall be so; and now we will have a glass or two together, to drink
success to this undertaking.’

‘With all my heart,’ replied the captain; and taking his seat, bottles
were immediately placed upon the table, and they proceeded to drink with
much alacrity, toast after toast following each other in rapid
succession, while the deep potations which they quaffed, took but a
trifling effect upon them, so accustomed were they to habits of
intemperance.

‘Perhaps,’ said Blodget, after a pause, ‘it would have been much more
satisfactory had Gordon succeeded in despatching him.’

‘I like not the unnecessary shedding of human blood.’

‘Then you have never felt the sentiments that I do.’

‘You know not that; but, villain as I am, and have been from a boy, I
never yet shed the blood of my fellow man, unless it was in a fight and
in self defence.’

‘And yet you would have insisted up on one of your fellows committing
murder, had not Gordon undertaken to do it.’

‘Because I had pledged my word to you that it should be done, and
nothing would have induced me to break it.’

‘Ha! ha! ha!’ laughed out Blodget; ‘there’s honor for you, in the
captain of a desperate gang of robbers.’

‘Ay you may mock me, if you think proper, but I have spoken the truth.’

Blodget made no further observation, but walked away, and Jenkins
rejoined his companions at their rendezvous.

In the meantime Inez’ situation was just as helpless as ever, and
Blodget daily continued to annoy her with importunities, and hourly
became more bold and confident in his manners towards her, and she
noticed it, and could not help thinking that something had happened to
occasion this alteration in his behavior, and at times her mind felt
some severe misgivings, which she found it impossible to comprehend.
Blodget had not, however, yet mentioned anything, and, therefore, she
could not entertain any positive suspicion.

So well secured was every place, that our heroine had long ago given up
all idea of escaping, and rested her only hope of deliverance upon her
friends discovering her place of confinement; but a circumstance, a
short time after this, happened, which gave her some reason to hope.

Notwithstanding the utter disgust which our heroine ever evinced in the
company of the old woman, she persisted in obtruding her society upon
her at every opportunity, and, as we have before stated, it was very
evident that she felt a pleasure in making Inez miserable. Guilt is
always envious of the virtues it never possessed, and feels a delight in
evincing its hatred of its possessor in every possible way. This,
however, she concealed from Blodget, well aware that he would not
approve of it, and Inez considered it too contemptible to take any
notice of it, and if she had, she would not have troubled herself to
mention it to her persecutor, who might feel little disposed to trouble
himself in the matter.

The woman would make any excuse to be in the same room with our heroine,
and when she was tired of talking to her, Inez seldom condescending her
a reply, she would sing portions of vulgar songs, in a manner which
would have done honor to Sydney Valley in its darkest days. The mind of
Inez, however, was so fully occupied with her own thoughts that she
seldom paid any attention to her, and not unfrequently was she almost
entirely unconscious of her presence.

It was one evening, a short time after the events which we have been
recording had taken place, that the hag paid our heroine her accustomed
and unwelcome visit, and, as soon as she entered the room, Inez could
perceive that she had been drinking and was quite intoxicated. This
circumstance rather alarmed her, for she was afraid that the old woman
being thus excited, might be guilty of some excesses; but still she
reflected, she had nothing to apprehend from her, as the persons who
were in the ranch would be sure to come to her aid, and thus she was in
safety. But to be alone, and in the power of wretches who cared not what
crime they committed, was sufficient of itself to fill her mind with
terror, and she had great difficulty in supporting her feelings.

The old woman staggered to a seat, for she could scarcely stand, and
having dropped into it, she raised her blood-shot eyes towards the
countenance of our heroine, and fixed upon her a look expressive of her
usual malevolence. Inez averted her head, and, taking up a book,
pretended to be reading; but the old woman was not to be diverted that
way, and, after several ineffectual attempts to speak, she stammered
out—

‘They are all gone out but one man, and he has fallen asleep by the
fire, and so I thought I would come up stairs and keep you company, you
are fond of my company, I know.’

This speech was accompanied by sundry hiccups, and the disgusting old
woman rolled about in the chair apparently in the most uncomfortable
manner. Inez trembled, but she endeavored to conceal her fears as much
as possible, and pretended to be continuing to read the book she held in
her hand, and did not make any reply.

‘Mr. Blodget is a very foolish man,’ continued the old woman—‘he is a
very foolish man, or he would not stand shilly-shallying and
dilly-dallying with you, my fine lady, in the manner he has. Such
squeamish minxes, indeed; poh!’

We need not attempt to describe the feelings of our heroine, while the
old woman was thus proceeding; she endeavored to close her ears to the
words she was giving utterance to, but in vain, and the disgust which
she felt was most unbounded.

‘Why don’t you answer me?’ demanded the beldame in a surly tone; ‘I
suppose you think yourself above me, don’t you? But I can tell you you
are not. You are a prisoner, but I am not, and—’

A very long yawn stopped the old woman’s tirade, and her head dropped
upon the table. She muttered two or three incoherent words, and shortly
afterwards her loud snoring convinced our heroine that the effects of
the liquor she had been drinking had overpowered her, and that she had
fallen off to sleep.

Inez laid down her book; a sudden thought darted across her mind, and
her heart palpitated with emotion. She remembered what the woman had
said about there being but one man in the house, and that he was asleep
below.—The room door was open—the old woman slept soundly, and she was
not likely to be awakened easily—a famous opportunity presented itself
for her to attempt to make her escape. The chance was worth encountering
any danger in making the effort, and she determined to avail herself of
it.

Hastily putting on her shawl, Inez mentally invoked the assistance of
Heaven, and then, with noiseless footsteps, approached the chair on
which the old woman was sitting, to make sure that she was not assuming
drunkenness and sleep, and she was soon convinced that she was not. She
now lightly stepped on to the landing, and closing the door gently upon
the unconscious old woman, locked it after her, and thus left her a
secure prisoner. She then leant her head over the bannisters, and
listened attentively, but hearing no noise below, she was in hope that
all was right, and ventured to begin to descend the stairs.

Having passed down one flight, she once more paused and listened
attentively, but all remained as still as death, and her hopes became
more sanguine.

At length she reached the door of the parlor, which was closed, and Inez
hesitated, and her heart beat so vehemently against her side that she
could scarcely support herself.

‘Courage, Courage!’ she whispered to herself, ‘this is the critical
moment. Let me be firm, and I may escape.’

Her trembling and hesitation decreased as these thoughts crossed her
mind, and she laid her hand on the handle of the door. It opened with a
creaking noise, which again excited her fear, lest it should arouse the
man; but her alarm was, fortunately groundless. A light was burning on
the table, and the fire cast forth a cheerful blaze, and by their light
our heroine beheld a ruffian seated in the chair, his arms folded across
his chest, and fast asleep.

Inez’s heart bounded, and hope was strengthened tenfold. The near
prospect of liberty excited in her breast a feeling of extacy which may
be conceived but cannot be described. The moon shone brightly in at the
window, and its silvery beams seemed to smile encouragement upon her.
Another moment, she reflected, and she might inhale the pure air, and be
as free. The thought nerved her on; and knowing that every moment was
fraught with danger, she determined to act with promptitude. But the
sleeping ruffian was so seated that she could not gain the door without
passing him closely, and then she must act with the greatest caution or
she might arouse him. She advanced one step, but hastily retreated
again, hearing him yawn, and he seemed as if he was about to awaken. She
stood in trembling suspense, but it was not for long; the man having
stretched out his arms, and yawned two or three times, sunk back on his
chair again, and his loud snoring soon convinced her that he was again
asleep.

She now once more commended herself to the protection of Heaven, and
again advanced towards the door. She had passed the sleeping ruffian—the
door was in her hand, and liberty was just before her; when there was a
loud noise, like that of some heavy weight falling, from the room above;
and Inez was so alarmed that she had not the power of moving one way or
the other, but stood at the door trembling violently.

The noise immediately aroused the man, and, hastily starting to his
feet, he rubbed his eyes, and stared eagerly around the room. They
instantly rested on our unfortunate heroine, and, giving utterance to a
dreadful oath, he rushed towards her, and seizing her fiercely by the
arm, dragged her back. Inez sunk upon her knees, and in terrified
accents exclaimed—

‘Oh, mercy, mercy! spare me—save me, for the love of Heaven, save me!’

‘Ah! you would escape?’ exclaimed the ruffian; ‘speak, answer me—how did
you contrive to leave the apartment in which you have been confined?’

The ruffian looked ferociously upon her while he spoke, and Inez
trembled more violently than before when she gazed upon the frightful
features of the man. Her lips quivered, and in vain did she endeavor to
articulate a syllable.

‘Speak, I tell you again!’ demanded the villain; ‘how came you hither?
By what means did you contrive to leave the room?’

‘The door was left unfastened,’ faltered out Inez; ‘oh, do not harm me.’

‘The door left unfastened?’ repeated the man; ‘who left it so?’

‘The woman.’

‘Ah! the old hag—if she has done this she shall answer for it. But where
is she?’

‘In the room I have just quitted, and asleep,’ replied Inez.

‘Ah! I see how it is; myself and her have been indulging ourselves
rather too freely, and both are equally to blame; we must be more
cautious for the future. Come, my girl, you must allow me to escort you
to your old quarters, and depend upon it, you will not have such another
opportunity as this. Come!’

‘Oh,’ supplicated our heroine, not thinking in the despair of the
moment, of the uselessness of appealing to the flinty heart of the
wretch, ‘do not consign me, I beseech you, to that dismal apartment
again, take pity upon me, a deeply injured woman as I am, and suffer me
to escape. Believe me, you shall be amply rewarded for such an
inestimable service.’

‘Oh, no,’ returned the ruffian and a malignant grin overspread his
countenance; ‘it won’t do, I’m not to be caught in that way; I can very
well understand what my reward would be, but they must catch me before
they give it me. Ha! ha! ha! Come, come, you must come with me, or I
must use force—that’s all about it.’

Poor Inez clasped her hands in the intensity of her grief, and finding
that it would be useless to entreat any further, with a despairing
heart, she slowly retraced her footsteps to the chamber from which she
had so recently escaped, followed by the wretch.

On opening the door they found the old woman stretched at full length
upon the floor; and it was evident that it was from her that the noise
had proceeded, which so unfortunately aroused the man, and prevented her
escape, at the very moment when the chance was before her.

It was some time before the thief could arouse the old woman to
sensibility, and when she did so, he commanded her sternly to follow
him.

‘Hey day!’ cried the hag, rubbing her eyes, and looking with stupified
amazement at our heroine, who had sunk despairingly in a chair, and
leaning her elbow upon the table, and her head upon her hand, was
weeping bitterly; ‘what’s the matter now?’

‘What’s the matter!’ reiterated the man, ‘why, that through your
infernal stupidity, the bird had nearly flown.’

‘Ah—what, do you mean to say that she had nearly escaped?’ croaked forth
the old woman, and she looked more savage than ever at Inez.

‘Yes, I mean to say that she would have escaped,’ replied he, ‘and a
pretty scrape we should then both have got into.’

‘Why, where was I at the time?’

‘Fast asleep, and a safe prisoner in this room, locked in.’

‘Locked in!’ ejaculated the beldame, ‘oh, I see it all now, that
confounded gin got the better of me, and you too, I think, and,
therefore, one is as much to blame as the other. We ought to thank our
lucky stars that it has turned out as it has. But the artful jade, to
lock me in, to—to—’

‘There, that’s enough,’ interrupted the fellow, ‘you would stand talking
here all night. We will leave the lady to her own reflections, which,
doubtless, will not be very pleasant. Blodget will be home shortly, I
expect, and, should he find us together, he might suspect something
wrong. Good night, my lady, and when you next try to escape, you had
better use a little more expedition with your caution. Come, we must see
and arrange this business somehow or another.’

The old woman fixed upon Inez one more malicious look, and appeared to
exult in the agony she was undergoing at having been thwarted in her
attempt, and then following the wretch, they both quitted the room, and
secured the door after them.

They both congratulated themselves when they had got below, that Inez
had not been successful, and were determined to be more cautious in
future. Another moment, and our heroine would have been at liberty, and
they trembled when they reflected upon the consequences that would have
been certain to follow her escape. They both, however, considered that
it would be better for them not to mention anything about it to Blodget
or the others, as it would only excite his suspicions that all was not
right, and probably deprive them of his confidence and friendship,
which, as he was very liberal, was not to be treated lightly. Thus the
affair was amicably arranged between the two worthies, and the old
spitfire determined to annoy our unfortunate heroine more than ever, for
the ‘audacious’ (as she termed it) attempt she had made to escape, and
moreover, for her unparalleled presumption and atrocity, in having
actually made her a prisoner in the very place where she had been
herself confined.

As for poor Inez, she was completely overwhelmed with the intensity of
her anguish and disappointment, and for some time after the man and the
old woman had left her, she remained in almost a state of
unconsciousness.

‘Alas,’ she at last ejaculated, beating her breast, ‘fate has conspired
against me, and I am doomed to perpetual misery. Am I never to escape
from the power of these wretches? Has the Omnipotent Being entirely
forsaken me? Oh, God! let me die rather than live to endure this
succession of miseries and disappointments.’

She clasped her burning temples, and arising from her chair, traversed
the room in the greatest possible agony. If Blodget should become
acquainted with the circumstance, she could not help thinking that he
would be induced to adopt even more stringent measures towards her; but
then she consoled herself with the reflection that it was not likely
that the man or the old woman would let him know anything about it, as
they would be blamed for neglect, and Blodget would deem it prudent to
remove her to some other place of confinement. She passed two or three
hours in the greatest state of agitation, and could not venture to
retire to rest, but listened to the slightest sound which proceeded from
below, fearing to hear the villain Blodget return home.

At length all was still in the house, and tired out with thinking, Inez
committed herself to the care of Providence, and undressing herself,
hastened into bed, and, in spite of the state of her mind, after the
painful event which we have been detailing, she was so weary, that it
was not long ere she sunk to sleep.


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



                              CHAPTER XVII

                         The Seducer Resisted.


We left our heroine in a calm slumber, into which she had sunk after the
fatigue of thinking and the anguish of her mind. She continued in it
until a storm arose, which awoke her, and jumping up in the bed, she
scarcely knew where she was. Confused thoughts darted across her
perturbed imagination, and she had in an instant a foreboding, a
presentiment, that something particular was about to occur to her. She
heard no one but the old woman moving below, and recollecting that she
had seen Blodget quit the house at an early hour in the morning, she
thought it was probable that he had not yet returned, and she became
rather more composed. Then, however, she remembered some dark hints
which the hateful old woman had thrown out to her in the morning, and
again were her utmost apprehensions of some fresh misery excited.
Sometime she continued in this manner, when she heard a confusion of
voices from below, among which she distinguished that of a female and
Blodget’s, but she could not understand a single word that they gave
utterance to.

She now endeavored to calm her feelings, and prepare for the meeting
which she had no doubt would take place between her and Blodget; who she
resolved to meet with all the fortitude she could possibly muster. She
knelt down, and supplicated the aid of the Almighty; and implored that
He would frustrate the designs of the wicked, and not suffer her to fall
a victim to the diabolical stratagems of the miscreant who at present
held her in his power.

As it ever is the case, when the sincere heart breathes its prayers to
Heaven, our heroine felt almost immediately more tranquil and prepared
to meet her oppressor, and she arose from her knees with a determination
to support herself with an air of fortitude, which should abash rather
than encourage the villain’s nefarious hopes.

She had not long come to this resolution, when she heard a footstep
ascending the stairs, and shortly afterwards the door of her apartment
was unbolted, and the door was opened, and the object of her hatred and
her fears presented himself before her. She met his looks firmly, and
with an air of becoming dignity, and it was evident, although he
endeavored to disguise it, that something of more importance than usual
occupied his thoughts.

He stood for a second or two in the doorway, and seemed anxious to
address her, yet at a loss how to begin. Then he seemed abashed at the
calm dignity of Inez’s manner, and at the same time lost in admiration
of her extreme beauty, which, although much impaired by the ravages of
care, was still most superlative.

Notwithstanding the firmness which she assumed, Inez felt a trembling
apprehension of the interview; and had much difficulty in conquering her
feelings.

At length Blodget advanced nearer to our heroine, closing the door after
him, and after several ineffectual attempts to speak, he observed, in as
insinuating tone as he could assume—

‘Beauteous Inez, after a temporary absence from your presence, which has
appeared an age to me, I again come to bask in the sunshine of your
beauty—again to solicit a return of that passion which I so ardently
feel for you.’

‘Villain!’ ejaculated Inez, ‘receive my answer in the utter contempt,
disgust, abhorrence I feel for you; and rest assured that no other
feeling can ever inhabit my breast towards a wretch who has proved
himself destitute of every feeling of humanity.’

‘This violence is useless,’ returned Blodget; ‘I have given you plenty
of time to consider: this day I come hither to decide: I have waited
patiently long enough.’

‘Monster!’ cried the distracted lady, and her eyes at the same time
beamed an expression which seemed as if it would penetrate to his soul;
‘where is my poor father, from whom you have so mercilessly torn me? Can
you recollect the unparalleled act of cruelty you have been guilty of,
and yet stand there and talk to me, the affianced bride of another,
about love?’

‘To all these passionate expressions I pay little or no attention; for
they affect me not,’ returned the hardened villain. ‘It is enough that I
have fixed my mind on you; I have labored hard, and risked much, to get
possession of you—you are now in my power, and mine, in spite of all
entreaties and tears, shall be!’

‘Oh, heartless miscreant.’

‘Nay, think not that I would willingly resort to violence,’ observed
Blodget, in a milder tone of voice; ‘no, I would win you by my actions;
by my love;—I would be to you the most ardent and affectionate companion
that woman desire; I—’

‘Cease!’ interrupted Inez, in a commanding tone of voice, which seemed
to enforce immediate obedience; ‘I will not listen to your guilty
language, it disgusts me. Your presence makes me feel as if a fiend,
instead of a human being, were standing before me; begone! and leave me
again to the solitude of my unjust confinement.’

‘Not yet, fair Inez,’ returned Blodget, with a supercilious smile; ‘you
and I must not part until we understand each other.’

‘I perfectly understand you, sir,’ said Inez, ‘and depend upon it, all
that you can say will but add to the utter abhorrence which I bear
towards you.’

‘But you must yield!’

‘Never!’

‘How can you save yourself? Are you not in my power?’

‘True; but I have a friend in Providence who will not suffer me to fall
a victim to the nefarious designs of a diabolical villain like you.’

‘Upon my word you are very liberal with your compliments;’ said Blodget,
with a half-sneering laugh, although it was very plain to be seen that
he was very much chagrined at the manner in which our heroine addressed
him.

‘Is there any epithet strong enough that I can apply to a man like you?’
demanded Inez. ‘Has not your conduct proved you to be a miscreant, too—’

‘Come, come,’ interrupted Blodget, and a slight scowl passed over his
brows, ‘I do not mind a little flattery, but when it proceeds to
extremes, I must acknowledge that I have not a stomach to take it. Any
epithet that you may apply to me, you must be aware cannot have any
other effect than that of exasperating me to that which I might
afterwards be sorry for. But how can you be so foolish as to remain thus
obstinately opposed to the wishes of a man who would make it his
unceasing study to render you happy?’

‘Happy!’ exclaimed Inez, ‘and dare you talk to me of happiness, when I
am torn from all that renders life desirable? Wretch, unnatural monster
you must think me, to be capable of listening to the licentious vows of
a man who has been the author of all my miseries! Talk to me of
happiness, and keep me confined in this awful house, surrounded only by
the votaries of guilt, who would not hesitate to dye their hands in my
blood.’

‘They dare not; they act alone by my orders,’ answered Blodget. ‘But why
thus delay the time in conversing on matters of no immediate interest?
Again, Inez, I solicit your love. Say that you will be mine, all but
that which the idle ceremony of wedlock can make you, and there is not a
pleasure which gold can purchase, or this world supply, which you shall
not have at your command. We will hasten far from hence, and in a place
where we are unknown, forget that there are others than ourselves in
existence.’

Inez shuddered with horror at the coolness and effrontery with which the
libertine uttered these expressions, and she could scarcely believe that
she was standing in the presence of a human being.

‘Oh, no,’ replied Blodget, ‘think not that I can be induced to leave you
so soon this day, at any rate. Upon your determined answer your fate
depends.’

‘You have already had my answer,’ returned Inez.

‘Will nothing persuade you to alter it?’

‘Nothing, by Heaven!’

‘Beware! take not an oath!’

‘I can with safety, for nothing would induce me to swerve from it.’

‘You had better bethink yourself.’

‘I have thought sufficiently, and I am decided.’

‘Recollect that, if you refuse, I shall be compelled to resort to
force.’

‘I will die first.’

‘You will not have the means.’

‘Almighty God surely, will never suffer so black a deed.’

‘Bah!—that is all idle cant. Think, too, that if you refuse, you will
still be kept here a prisoner, deprived of every comfort, and yet
subservient to my wishes.’

‘Oh, horror! You cannot surely be the monster!’

‘I would not willingly, but you would drive me to it.’

‘Oh, repent, repent!’

‘Pshaw! Will that gratify my desires?’

‘It will afford me a far greater gratification.’

‘I shall not try it.’

‘Alas! you are indeed a guilty miscreant.’

‘Thank you, again, for your compliment; I have pointed out to you the
horrors that will attend your refusal; say, shall I point out to you the
happiness that will attend you, if you comply with my request?’

‘I want not to hear them, they cannot make any alteration in my
determination,’ answered our heroine, covering her face with her
handkerchief, and sobbing aloud with her disgusted and wounded feelings.

‘Still must I think that you will change your mind;’ returned Blodget
with the same guilty expression of countenance in which his features
were almost constantly clad—‘remember the sweets of liberty will then be
yours.’

‘And of what use would liberty be to me, when it would be purchased by a
life of infamy?’ demanded Inez; ‘could anything ever reconcile it to my
conscience, to become the base paramour of a guilty being like you? The
bare thought fills me with a sensation of the utmost dread, and death in
its most horrible form would be preferable to such a course of life.’

‘But is there nothing that could prevail upon you?’

‘Nothing;’ answered Inez, with a look of the greatest disgust and
horror.

‘Think again!’

‘I have nothing more to say upon the detested subject.’

‘If, by so doing, you could purchase the life of Monteagle—’

‘Ah!’ grasped forth Inez, turning deadly pale, and clutching the arm of
Blodget, and with distended eye-lids;—‘what mean you? Speak! speak!—I
know you have something of a particular nature to impart to me! Reveal
it! I beseech you, and keep me not in suspense!—Oh, Blodget if you have
indeed any regard for my feelings, tell me, what of Monteagle?’

‘Calm your feelings!’

‘You rack me!’

‘Compose yourself!’

‘Talk not to me of composure!’ shrieked Inez.

‘He is in my power.’

Poor Inez tried hard to speak, but she could not; she was transfixed to
the spot, and gazed upon Blodget with a look in which the greatest
astonishment and horror were depicted. The announcement of Blodget came
like a thunderbolt upon her, and her faculties seemed to be all bound up
in the suddenness and unexpectedness of the circumstance.

‘If you are not a monster of the blackest dye,’ exclaimed Inez at
length, ‘you will not delight in thus harrowing my feelings! but tell me
have you spoken the truth? Do not keep me in suspense! Oh, do not! Have
you indeed said that which is true?’

‘I have,’ answered Blodget;—‘Monteagle is now in my power.’

‘Are you bent to drive me mad?’ exclaimed the frenzied Inez, as, with
clasped hands, she gazed vehemently and supplicatingly in the
countenance of her oppressor.

‘No, no! I would restore you to happiness,’ replied Blodget.

‘Happiness!’ groaned Inez; ‘oh, cruel mockery to talk to me thus; and to
continue to keep me in this state of agony and suspense.’

‘Compose yourself,’ again remonstrated Blodget, in a gentler tone, than
he had before spoken, and at the same time venturing to approach her
closer; ‘compose yourself. Consent to my wishes, and Monteagle shall at
once be free.—Refuse he dies!’

‘Never, miscreant!’ cried Inez, and fell powerless to the floor.

Blodget was alarmed,—so still and marble-like did the fair girl lie. No
motion of her white bosom gave the slightest evidence that she breathed.

The villain trembled, and for an instant remorse touched his heart. But
no sooner did a slight convulsive shudder show that she still lived,
than he turned and left the apartment.

Blodget sent the old woman to Inez, who succeeded in restoring her to
consciousness.

The next morning Jenkins returned. He seemed in haste.

Sending for several members of his gang he was soon engaged in earnest
conversation.

‘Gordon, say not a word to Blodget,’ said Jenkins.

‘Should he try to escape?’ said Gordon.

‘Shoot him, as you would a mad coyote,’ said Jenkins.

‘Had we not best confine him?’

‘No,—wait my return. He will probably send for Kay, Maretzo, and others
of his old cronies. If he tries to bribe one of you to take a message
for him to them affect to be won over by his gold, carry the message for
him, and then hasten to me at the Mission.’

‘But where are you to be found, captain?’

‘Joaquin will inform you of my whereabouts.’

‘But, captain, why do you wish Kay and the rest of them to be engaged in
this affair?’

‘In order that they may be captured in the actual commission of a daring
crime—as they will doubtless hasten to assist Blodget to carry off the
lady.’

Jenkins then visited Blodget.

To the great surprise of Blodget, Jenkins instead of greeting him with
friendly warmth, rejected his proffered hand, and addressing him
sternly, said: ‘I am about to leave this place for a few days, if during
my absence you insult Miss Inez by word or look, or ever approach the
rooms she occupies, you shall as surely die as my name is Jenkins!’ Then
turning to a young girl, who had accompanied him to the house, the
robber-captain addressed her thus: ‘Alice, you will I know do all you
can to make this poor young lady as happy as possible while I am away. I
do not promise you any reward, for I know your own goodness of heart has
induced you to volunteer to be her friend and companion.’

Jenkins then gave the old woman instructions to obey Alice on every
point, and whispering a few words to Gordon, Jenkins left the apartment,
and soon after the house.

Blodget was astounded at this change in the behavior of Jenkins, and
concluded that he had informed upon him, and thus made his own peace
with the authorities. He was confirmed in this, when he went to step
from the house, for Gordon stepped up to him, and placing a revolver at
his breast, threatened to shoot him if he crossed the threshold. Finding
an attempt to escape would only lead to his instant death, Blodget
determined during Jenkins’ absence to consummate his intentions on Inez,
and then devise some mode of gaining Gordon to allow him to escape.

The girl whom Jenkins had addressed as Alice, had seen some seventeen
springs, the apple-blossoms of which were not more beautifully tinted
than her fair cheeks; nor their skies a deeper blue than her love-lit
eyes. Her form was perfect—her step light and springy as an antelope’s.
Her name was Alice Hewlett, and she was known in the neighborhood as
‘the Squatter’s Daughter.’ She had heard of a lady’s being confined in
Gordon’s house, and readily availed herself of the request of Jenkins to
be the fair captive’s companion, until she could be restored to her
friends.

Alice immediately went to Inez.

‘My dear young lady, I come to stay with you.’

Inez gazed inquiringly upon her fair, ingenuous face.

‘You may safely trust me, Miss.’

‘I do—I do—dear girl. Vice never wore so fair a front.’

‘Lady, I will not leave you, but at your request.’

‘Oh, thanks, thanks. You know not what a load you’ve taken from my sad
heart.’

Jenkins went to the old crone, and gave her some directions, adding
sternly, ‘Mind and do as I have told you!’

The old woman muttered an obedience to his orders, and he immediately
quitted the room.

He had not been gone many minutes, when she retired to her own little
closet, where she always had a bottle or two of ‘the best,’ and was soon
in a fair way to enjoy herself, and to become entirely unconscious of
all that was taking place; and Blodget hailing the so long-looked for
opportunity with pleasure, he ascended the stairs on tiptoe, and having
reached the rooms appropriated to the use of Inez, he knocked.

Alice, probably thinking it was the woman, quickly opened the door, but
started back with no little amazement, when she beheld the villain
Blodget.—He instantly stepped into the room, and Inez hearing the
exclamation which Alice had given utterance to came from her room, but
on seeing Blodget, she turned very pale, and trembled so violently that
she could scarcely prevent herself from sinking on the floor.

The forbidding features of Blodget relaxed into a smile, which he meant
to be one of kindness, but he could not conceal his exultation, and the
guilty passions that raged like a tempest within his bosom, and turning
to Alice, he said, in an authoritative tone—

‘Leave the room.’

Alice hesitated, and looked at our heroine.

‘Do you hear?’ demanded Blodget, in a louder tone;—‘begone, I’ve
something to say to this lady, which must not meet your ear.’

‘You should have nothing to say to me, sir, which should be kept a
secret from a second person. Alice, I desire you to remain where you
are; Mr. Blodget can have no authority for obtruding his hateful
presence upon one whom he has already so deeply, so irreparably injured.
Do not depart, Alice!—I desire you!’

‘These mandates are of no avail,’ cried Blodget; ‘I have long sought
this interview, and I will not now be foiled. Begone, I say!’

‘I’ll remain where I am, sir, while it is the wish of the lady,’
returned Alice, in a firm tone.

‘Ah!’ exclaimed Blodget; his eyes expressive of fierce anger, ‘dare
you?—Then you must go by force.’

Immediately seizing Alice, as he spoke, by the shoulders, he pushed her
violently from the room, and closing the door, locked it, preventing her
return. He advanced towards Inez, who, upon the impulse of the moment,
was in the act of retreating to her chamber, and fastening herself in,
when the villain sprang quickly forward, and seizing her vehemently by
the arm, he drew her back.

‘Unmanly ruffian!’ cried Inez, ‘unhand me, or my cries shall reach the
ears of those who will punish you for your boldness and cruelty! What is
the meaning of this savage outrage?’

‘It means, fair Inez,’ replied Blodget, forcibly throwing his arm around
her waist, and drawing her towards him, ‘that, finding I have too long
been a forbearing fool, when I had you in my power, I am determined that
I will no longer wait for the gratification of my wishes. I have
condescended to sue to you, where I might long since have enforced your
compliance; I have made you every reasonable proposal, and have
submitted patiently to your scorn, and contemptuous rejection of my
suit, but I am now roused to a full sense of my folly, and am determined
at all hazards, that you shall be mine!’

‘Brutal monster!’ exclaimed Inez, violently struggling; for the
expressions of Blodget, and his determined demeanor, filled her with the
utmost terror—‘are you not satisfied with probably having murdered my
unfortunate father, and inflicted upon me a series of miseries almost
unparalleled in the annals of inhumanity, but that you would now add to
your barbarity by so atrocious a crime as you threaten? Oh, help!
help!—Holy Virgin, I call upon thee for thy protection!—Oh, save me!
save me!’

As the distracted and terrified lady thus screamed, she struggled
violently to extricate herself from the embraces of the ruffian Blodget,
but her efforts were for some time entirely ineffectual, and with every
endeavor she made, the passions of Blodget increased, and his cheeks
glowed and his eyes flashed with the guilty desires that raged within
his breast. He sought, however, to stifle her cries, but in vain.

‘Nay,’ he cried, ‘you scream for help in vain; there is no one at hand
to interpose to save you! The triumph so long protracted, now is mine!
This hour; this very moment gives you to my arms!’

‘Almighty God! protect me! save me!’ again shrieked our heroine, in the
most frantic accents, and, with a desperate effort she released herself
from Blodget’s hold, and retreated to the farther end of the apartment,
where, on a table, was a knife. Scarcely knowing what she did, she
snatched it up, and, as Blodget approached towards her, she flourished
it menacingly, and exclaimed:

‘Villain! advance but an inch towards me, and this knife shall stretch
me a bleeding corpse at your feet!’

Blodget was completely staggered by the determined air which Inez
assumed, and he was transfixed to the spot whereon he stood, not knowing
what course to pursue.

Our heroine still flourished the knife menacingly, and kept the villain
at bay.

‘You see I am resolute,’ she cried; ‘and, by Heaven, sooner than I will
be dishonored, I will put my threat into execution! Death is preferable
to the dreadful, the disgusting fate which you have threatened me. Nay,
nothing can move me from my purpose! Quit the room, miscreant; unless
you would have my death to answer for, in addition to your other
numerous crimes!’

‘Inez,’ ejaculated Blodget, offering to approach her; ‘hear me!’

‘Not a word,’ firmly replied Inez; ‘nothing whatever can shake my
resolution; begone!’

At that moment a loud noise was heard at the chamber door, and
immediately afterwards the voices of several persons.

Blodget turned pale and trembled.

‘Ah!’ he ejaculated.

‘Open the door, or it will be worse for you,’ now demanded the voice of
Gordon.

‘Never!’ cried Blodget, desperately, and placing his back against it as
he spoke.

‘Then we must use force,’ returned Gordon; ‘now, lads, your aid.’

In an instant the door was burst open, and Gordon, followed by three
rough-looking men, entered the room.

‘Seize him, my lads; and bear him hence!’ cried Gordon, and in a moment
the men rushed upon Blodget, who made a desperate resistance, but was
quickly overpowered, and was conveyed, struggling, swearing, and foaming
at the mouth, from the room, and being dragged to one of the dark vaults
underground, was, by the orders of Gordon, locked in, and left to his
own reflections, the nature of which may be readily conjectured, but
cannot be properly described.

Alice, immediately on being thrust out of the room by Blodget, had
hastened below, where, ascertaining that Gordon was from home, although
it was very reluctantly that the old woman furnished her with the
information, she made the best of her way to the cabaret, where she
fortunately found him, in company with the men before mentioned, and
having informed him of the perilous situation of our heroine, he left
the place, and, as has been shown, arrived just at the critical
juncture, to save her from destruction.

Blodget had no sooner been forced away from the room, than our heroine,
overpowered by her feelings, and the unusual excitement she had
undergone, fainted, and Alice Hewlett was once more left alone with her,
and immediately set about the means of restoring her sensibility.

It would be impossible to portray correctly the disappointment and
ungovernable rage of Blodget, when he found himself not only foiled in
his diabolical attempt, but made a prisoner in that gloomy vault. He
raved; he stormed; he cursed and swore, and breathed the most fearful
maledictions against Alice, Gordon, and Jenkins. Then he made the place
re-echo again with his cries to be released, but the hollow
reverberations of that subterranean place, were the only answers he
received, and he traversed the limited space in which he was confined,
in a state bordering upon madness. He now at once saw that he was
caught, trepanned, defeated, and all his well laid schemes rendered
abortive, and himself left entirely at the mercy of Jenkins and his
associates, and when he recollected the threats which the former had
held out to him, if he should make any attempt against the peace of
Inez, during his absence, he felt that he had every reason to apprehend
the most terrible consequences through his mad impetuosity. All the
horrors of an ignominious death rushed upon his mind, and his anguish
was so great, that he completely sunk under it. He crouched down in one
corner of his cell, and became the image of despair. It appeared as
though his career of guilt was fast drawing to a close, and, that fate
had destined, that every attempt he should in future make should be
frustrated.

In this state he remained for more than two hours, without any one
appearing to interrupt him, when he heard some one unbolting the door of
his cell, and immediately afterwards it was thrown back on its hinges,
and Gordon, accompanied by one of the men who had been his companions in
the seizure, entered.

He brought with him a stone pitcher, containing water and a loaf, which
he placed on the ground, and then eyed Blodget with a look of the most
malignant exultation.

Blodget sprang to his feet; fury gleaming in his eyes, and advancing
towards Gordon, he cried, in a hoarse voice:—

‘Dastard!—why am I thus seized and made a prisoner in this dismal
place?’

‘Recollect your recent conduct,’ said Gordon coolly, ‘and you are
answered.’

‘And what authority has either he or you for detaining me?’ demanded
Blodget.

‘Upon that point I dare say you will be satisfied at a future time,’
returned Gordon, in the same deliberate and careless tones.

‘But you will not dare detain me?’

‘That has to be proved.’

‘Villain! you will have to answer dearly for this,’ said Blodget.

‘Previous to which,’ retorted Gordon, ironically, ‘you will probably be
called to a slight account for the abduction and unlawful detention of
the lady, also for a certain crime since, and—’

‘Confusion!’ interrupted Blodget;—‘am I then placed in the power of
every wretch? Oh, Jenkins! Jenkins! for this, my heaviest malediction
light upon your head.’

‘Trusting that you may soon feel at home in your new apartment,’ said
Gordon, with a most provoking grin, ‘I will now leave you to the
enjoyment of it. Come on.’

And thus saying, before Blodget could give utterance to another
syllable, although his looks evinced the torturing feelings of chagrin,
disappointment, and resentment he was undergoing, Gordon and his
companion quitted the cell, and slammed and bolted the door after them,
leaving Blodget involved in utter darkness, for they had not supplied
him with a lamp.

Blodget threw himself on the hard ground, and he groaned aloud with the
agony of his feelings, but his present suffering was nothing compared
with the horrors of anticipation, and he dreaded the return of Jenkins,
fearing that the terrible result would be that which he promised him.

Three days and nights passed away in this manner, and Blodget was still
kept a prisoner in the subterranean vault, and was daily visited by
Gordon, who came to bring him his scanty allowance of provisions, and to
taunt him with his degraded and altered situation. The unhappy wretch
was at length completely subdued in spirit, and was incapable of
answering the ruffian, and he was at last so humbled as to entreat
Gordon’s mercy, and to pray that he would release him from his present
place of confinement to one less dismal. This request, however, Gordon
only treated with scorn and derision; so true it is that none feel
greater pleasure than the guilty in torturing one another. Although
Blodget had never given the ruffian the least cause for offence, but, on
the contrary, according to his own admission, had liberally rewarded him
for the nefarious actions in which he had employed him, he now felt the
most savage delight in adding to his misery as much as possible; and the
more he saw him suffer, and the more humbled he was, the greater did he
exult. He had no doubt he should receive great praise, and something far
more substantial from Jenkins for the manner in which he had acted, and
he anticipated his return with much impatience. He was not made
thoroughly acquainted with Jenkins’ intention as regarded Inez, but he
had not the least doubt it was to restore her to her friends, and he
imagined he would ensure from them a rich reward, in which he also
expected to become a sharer to no small amount for the services he had
rendered. How far his expectations were realized, will be seen anon.

When our heroine had quite recovered from the shock which she received
from the behavior of the villain Blodget, she returned her most
heartfelt thanks to the Almighty for her preservation, and for the
fortitude with which she had been imbued to resist him. She then
expressed her warmest acknowledgments to Alice, to whose presence of
mind in hastening for the aid of Gordon, she might, in a great measure,
attribute her preservation. The conduct of Gordon, who, there could not
be the least doubt, acted entirely by the orders of Jenkins, left her no
longer any room to doubt but that the latter was really the friend and
protector he had told her was, and now that Blodget was thrust into
confinement, from which they were assured he would not be released until
the return of the captain, our heroine felt that she was safe.

‘What ready means guilt often unthinkingly takes to defeat its own
designs:’ observed Alice; ‘Blodget thrusting me out of the room, was the
very cause of bringing about his own confusion, and frustrating his evil
intentions; for, had he placed me in another room, and confined me
therein, he might easily have silenced the old woman, had she been
inclined to oppose him, and thus he would have been almost certain to
have obtained his object.’

‘Oh, no,’ returned Inez, ‘my mind was made up; never did I feel more
determined, and he perceived it; I would have plunged the knife to my
heart, sooner than he would have triumphed in his disgusting and
diabolical purpose!’

‘Oh, Miss,’ said Alice, ‘the idea of that makes me shudder with horror!
Heaven be praised, that preserved you from such a dreadful and untimely
end. But the wretch will no doubt be amply punished for his crimes, and
for all the sufferings that he has inflicted upon you.’

‘And how think you that Jenkins will dispose of him?’ interrogated Inez.

‘Deliver him up to the Vigilance Committee,’ replied Alice.

‘How can he do so without getting himself into trouble?’

‘Oh, there is no doubt but that he will readily hit upon a plan,’ said
Alice; ‘I dare say that he has already arranged that, without knowing
anything of the late circumstance. Clear up, Miss, for depend upon it,
your troubles are fast drawing to a close, and not many days will elapse
ere you will be again restored to your friends.’

‘Alas,’ ejaculated Inez, tears gushing to her eyes, ‘perhaps I have no
dear friends to receive me! Oh, how my poor heart chills at the
thought.’

‘Pray, Miss,’ said Alice, ‘do not encourage fears which, after all, may
prove unfounded. Great, no doubt, as has been the sufferings of
Monteagle and your father, I firmly believe that they are still living,
or Jenkins and the others would have heard of it.’

‘My unhappy lover may have been able to withstand the severity of his
accumulated and unparalleled calamities,’ observed Inez, ‘but, my poor
father; oh, well am I convinced that his mind must have now become a
wreck, in which case, it would be a mercy if the Almighty should be
pleased to take him to Himself. Poor grey-haired old man, fondest of
parents, best of human beings, shall I ever again be enfolded to thy
paternal bosom, with the conviction that thou art conscious it is thy
poor persecuted daughter thou dost embrace?—Alas! I fear never!’

‘Oh, yes, Miss, you will,’ ejaculated Alice, energetically, ‘Heaven in
its infinite mercy will not deny you such a blessing after the many
afflictions you have so undeservedly undergone. Have you not every
reason to place the firmest reliance upon its goodness, after the manner
in which you have ever been preserved in the moment of the most imminent
danger?’

‘Yes, my good girl,’ replied our heroine, drying her tears, ‘indeed I
have, and it is ungrateful in me thus to give way to despair. But my
mind is so continually tormented, that I scarcely know what I am
saying.’

‘At any rate,’ observed her companion, ‘now that Blodget is made a
prisoner you may rest yourself secure, and Jenkins, I dare say, will not
be long before he returns; when you will speedily be made acquainted
with intentions, which, as I have all along predicted, depend upon it,
will be all in your favor.’

The ideas of Alice were too reasonable to be rejected by Inez, and she
looked forward to the return of Jenkins with the greatest anxiety.

A fortnight had now waned away, and still Jenkins and his companions did
not return, and Gordon, who did not expect that they would be gone so
long, was fearful lest some accident should have befallen them. He still
kept the wretched Blodget confined in the same place, and he now became
the complete victim of despair. His form had wasted away, and his
countenance betrayed the deep, the intense agony which perpetually
tortured his mind. How dreary were the days and nights passed in that
dark cell, where he had nothing to commune but his own dreadful
thoughts, and where the horrors of his own guilty conscience constantly
brought to his imagination the many crimes he had committed. Conjecture
cannot form but a weak picture of the mental sufferings of that man of
crime. Oh, who would be guilty, did they but think upon the horrors that
must sooner or later overtake them?—For the gratification of some moment
of sensual pleasure; for the transitory indulgence of some ambitious
wish, the unhappy wretch falls into crime, to pay for it by years of
mental suffering, and ignominious death, and an eternity of torment!—Oh,
how fearful the price, would but erring mortals pause and think!

It was on a stormy midnight, when nearly three weeks had elapsed since
Jenkins had left, when a party who were in company with Gordon in the
little back room, smoking, were suddenly aroused by hearing a shrill
whistle. The cigars were removed from their lips in an instant, and they
jumped hastily to their feet.

‘Jenkins’s signal, by all that’s fortunate;’ exclaimed Gordon, advancing
towards the door, ‘they have come back at last, and all safe, I hope!’

‘This has, indeed, been a long trip captain,’ said Gordon, ‘and I had
began to fear that you were never going to return.’

‘Better late than never,’ answered Jenkins; ‘but how is all at the
house?’

‘Quite safe, captain,’ replied Gordon, with a peculiar grin, ‘the lady
is in her own apartments with her companion, Alice, and that arrant
scoundrel Blodget, confined in one of the vaults underneath, where he
has been since two or three days after your departure.’

‘Ah!’ exclaimed Jenkins, ‘has he then dared to scorn the warning that I
gave him?’

Gordon briefly related what had taken place between Blodget and our
heroine.

‘Why, the damned villain!’ cried Jenkins, passionately; ‘after the
strict injunctions which I laid upon him, and knowing that he was placed
entirely at my mercy. But he shall pay dearly for it; his doom is
sealed.’

‘I did not know whether you would approve of the lodging I had given the
fellow,’ answered Gordon.

‘You have acted perfectly right,’ said Jenkins; ‘and I commend you for
what you have done. Blodget shall quickly have another berth, and his
career he may reckon at an end. And is the lady quite well?’

Gordon answered in the affirmative.

‘I am happy to hear that,’ said Jenkins; ‘she shall not much longer
remain in the position she is now placed in.—Poor lady, I shall for ever
regret having been instrumental in any way towards her unhappiness; but
I knew not who she was, or the villain Blodget should not have retained
possession of her. However, his time of shame is fast approaching, and
bitterly will he have to pay for all.’

‘It is, then, your intention to restore the lady to liberty?’ asked
Gordon.

‘Certainly,’ answered Jenkins, ‘and to her friends.’

‘But you will run a great risk in so doing, will you not?’

‘No; leave me alone for that; I have arranged everything in my own
mind,’ said Jenkins.

‘But how do you propose to dispose of Blodget?’ inquired Gordon.

‘I have not exactly made up my mind, although I did threaten him with
death,’ answered Jenkins. ‘To-morrow night, or the next, I shall convey
the scoundrel far away from hence.’

‘You would not deprive him of life?’

‘No,’ replied Jenkins, ‘not by my own hands; besides it would be a pity
to deprive the hangman of a job.’

Gordon did not return any answer to this, for when he recollected the
crimes of which he had himself been guilty, he thought that it was not
all unlikely that he should himself afford employment for that
functionary, sooner or later.

In the morning early, the robber captain was traversing his way along
the vaulted passages, and at length stopped at the door of the vault in
which Blodget was confined. There he paused and listened, for he could
not help feeling that he was only justly punished for the part he had
played towards the unfortunate Inez and her friends.

At length he withdrew the bolts, and entered the cell. The dim light
which was emitted by the lamp which Jenkins carried, could but faintly
penetrate the gloom of the miserable place, so that Blodget did not at
first perceive who it was that had entered, and no doubt, did not think
that it was any one else than Gordon; and the robber stood contemplating
him for a minute or two in silence, but resentment was strongly
portrayed in his countenance.

‘So, villain,’ he at length said, ‘you have dared to brave my threats,
to disobey my injunctions, and have again offered to—’

He was interrupted by a loud exclamation from Blodget, who, upon
recognizing his voice, sprang forward, and in the most abject manner
knelt at Jenkins’s feet, and looked up in his face with the most earnest
supplication.

‘Oh, Jenkins,’ he cried, in the most impressive tones; ‘spare me;—pity
me;—pardon me!—I will own my guilt;—I will acknowledge I was wrong; but
let the agony I have for the last fortnight endured in this place
satisfy you, and do not, oh, do not proceed to extremities.’

Jenkins fixed upon him a look of the utmost contempt, as he replied:

‘And have you, then, the effrontery to crave pardon, after setting all
my injunctions at defiance? I gave you sufficient warning of what the
consequences would be, did you not obey me; you have scorned it, and
those consequences you must abide by.’

‘No, no;’ groaned the poor terrified wretch, still remaining on his
knees, and looking the very picture of death, with the excess of his
fears; ‘you will not surely do as you say?—You will not deliver me up to
justice?—Consign me to an ignominious and violent death! Pause ere you
do so!—My death will avail you nothing. Suffer me therefore to live to
repent, and I promise you that neither Inez or her friends shall receive
any further annoyance from me!’

‘I will take especial care that they do not;’ returned Jenkins with a
sarcastic grin.’

‘My life will at any time be in your hands,’ added the poor, trembling
coward; ‘should I again break my word, Jenkins, I beg of you, I
supplicate to you, in the most humble manner do not doom me yet to
death!’

‘Despicable scoundrel!’ ejaculated Jenkins; ‘so dead to the sufferings
of others; and yet so fearful of suffering himself. Wretch! you deserve
to die the death of a dog, and you will do so.’

Blodget groaned and covered his face with his hands.

‘Prepare yourself to depart from here in my custody to-morrow night,’
said Jenkins, as he moved towards the door of the cell.

‘Whither, Jenkins, and for what purpose? Oh, tell me! tell me!’
entreated Blodget, his whole frame violently convulsed with the power of
his emotions. Jenkins looked at him for a moment in silence, and then
replied,—

‘You will know soon; at present I shall leave you to form your own
conjectures, and to ask your conscience what ought to be your destiny.’

‘Stay, Jenkins, I beseech you!’ cried the unfortunate prisoner, in
delirious accents; but Jenkins had immediately quitted the cell, and
securing the door was quickly far out of hearing.

‘inquire whether Miss Inez will do me the favor to grant me an
interview,’ said Jenkins, addressing himself to Gordon, soon after he
had entered the parlor, after he quitted the place in which Blodget was
confined.

Gordon, without offering any observation, hastened to do as he was bid,
and quickly returned with an answer in the affirmative. Jenkins then
hurried up stairs, and knocking at the door, was ushered into the
presence of Inez.

He paused at the door, and bowed to our heroine with an air of the
utmost respect, and he was altogether lost in the admiration of Inez’s
beauty. Her cheeks had become flushed immediately on her hearing the
message from Jenkins, and her heart palpitated violently against her
side with rekindled hopes.

‘Miss,’ at last observed Jenkins, in a respectful tone of voice; ‘I have
no doubt suffered much in your opinion, from the part which I at first
unfortunately enacted in the plot against you by your enemy, Blodget.’

Our heroine attempted to reply, but she was too much confused to do so,
and Jenkins continued,

‘I am now, however, anxious to make all the reparation in my power, by
restoring you to liberty and your friends!’

Inez uttered an exclamation of mingled delight and gratitude, and
instantly sunk at the feet of Jenkins, and while the tears gushed from
her eyes, she sobbed:

‘Oh, thanks! thanks! kind sir, for this—’

Jenkins interrupted her, and gently raised her from her knees.

‘Nay, my dear lady,’ he said, ‘I merit not your thanks; for, probably,
had it not been for a certain discovery I by accident made, I might
still have taken no interest in your fate.’

‘A discovery!’ repeated Inez, with a look of astonishment.

‘Ay,’ answered the captain; ‘that you are the daughter of one who once
befriended me.’

‘Know you then my dear father?’

‘Lady,’ answered Jenkins, in peculiar accents, ‘I have reason to know
him, to be unceasing in my gratitude towards him.’

‘Oh, say, does he still live?’

‘He does!’

‘Heaven receive my thanks!’ cried our heroine, fervently, clasping her
hands, and raising her eyes.

‘Miss de Castro, I will at once inform you the nature of the kindness
your father did me, and you will then see why from being the accomplice
and abetter of Blodget, I have become his enemy and your friend. Some
three years since, I crossed the plains from Missouri. By the time we
had crossed the mountains our teams had given out—our provisions were
exhausted—and many of our people dead. It was at this time that your
father, with a party, met with us, and not only aided us with mules and
provisions, but remained several days attending my children who were
prostrated by fever. It was only during my last visit to the Mission
that I met your father and learned that his name was de Castro, and that
you were his child. I managed to have word conveyed to him that his
daughter was safe, and would soon be restored to his arms. I have now
hastened here to carry you back, and devise means to give Blodget up to
Justice. This cannot be done so speedily or easily as I could wish, for
the villain is master of too many secrets involving perhaps the lives of
members of my band, for me to proceed rashly in the matter. Meanwhile be
cheerful, Alice will remain with you, and in a few days you will be with
your father.’

Inez fervently thanked Jenkins, and throwing herself on her knees poured
out her fervent thanks to that power that had shielded her from outrage
worse than death.


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



                              CHAPTER VIII


The scene we are now about to describe was in a room of a hotel; the
time, five o’clock in the morning—the persons present were Belcher Kay,
Maretzo, and two or three other noisy and dissipated revellers, whose
flushed countenances, blood-shot eyes, and other equally striking
symptoms, showed plainly enough that they had been ‘making a night of
it.’

Kay and the Italian appeared to be the most sober of the company, not
that their potations had been less deep or frequent than their
companions, but that constant practice had so inured them to the wine
cup, that it was long ere they showed any ill-effects from it.

They certainly were particularly noisy and merry, and their companions
lent their aid to the conviviality, by knocking down everything the
aforesaid said or did, in the most tumultuous manner.

One individual, in the classic language of the drunkard, was ‘quite done
up,’ and was stretched at full length upon the floor, under one of the
tables, with his hat for a pillow, and a portion of the carpet for a
coverlid; and every now and then he added to the general tumult by a
loud snore of the most hoggish description.

The proprietor of the hotel had several times requested the party to
_break up_, but as the said party threatened to _break his head_
instead, if he interfered with them, he thought it was best to desist
from his importunities, and after supplying them with enough wine for
the night, he retired to his own chamber, and left them, very
reluctantly, to the indulgence of their noisy revels.

At the time we have thought proper to open this scene, it was, as we
have before stated, about five o’clock in the morning, and the landlord
of the hotel had arisen, and his servants also, and the usual bustle in
such places prevailed, but still the debauchees continued their riotous
mirth, and it appeared as if they had fully made up their minds to make
another day of it, at least.

‘The song, Kay, the song, the song; we will have no excuses;’ shouted
Maretzo.

‘Ay, ay, the song, the song, we will have no excuses;’ chorused three or
four voices, and the man under the table gave a loud snore.

‘Oh, the song, ah! well I don’t mind trying one, just to keep up the
conviviality;’ said Kay, who was seated on rather a high chair, with his
legs negligently deposited on one end of the table, and twiddling a
fine-flavoured cigar in his finger and thumb. ‘The song—let me see—ah,
what shall it be? Oh, I have it—very good I think you will admit.’

And then without any further ceremony, Kay, who had an excellent voice
commenced singing.

The demonstrations of applause that greeted this bacchanalian display,
were of the most uproarious kind, and by the time the companions of
Maretzo and Kay had given full scope to the exuberance of their delight
and approbation, they were one and all ‘done up,’ and one by one dropped
off to sleep, leaving the two above-named gentlemen to the uninterrupted
enjoyment of their own society.

‘Ha! ha! ha!’ laughed Maretzo; ‘they are regularly floored, poor
devils!’

‘Completely finished and done up,’ coincided Kay;—‘ha! ha! ha!’

‘They are not half fellows to be done up with one night’s carouse, poor
devils ha! ha! ha!’ observed Maretzo.

‘Poor weak creatures to be knocked down with a dozen or two of wine; ha!
ha! ha!’ again laughed Kay.

‘Not like you and I, Kay;’ added Maretzo.

‘Not a bit of it.’

‘No comparison.’

‘A loco-foco to the moon.’

‘Half a pint of beer to a pipe of wine.’

‘They cannot stand anything!’

‘Positively nothing!’

‘They’re twaddlers!’

‘Drivellers!’

‘Noodles!’

‘Boobies!’

‘Nincompoops!’

‘Humbugs!’

It may be as well to observe here that these compliments were bestowed
upon the party at large, who had been liberally carousing Maretzo and
Kay, without expecting the latter to pay a cent of the reckoning, and
consequently they may be considered fully entitled to the elegant
epithets that were lavishly bestowed upon them.

‘You and I are the fellows to do it, Maretzo,’ said Kay.

‘Positively the very fellows,’ coincided his friend.

‘We are no skulkers while there is plenty of good wine before us,’ added
Kay.

‘Never think of such a thing.’

‘It would ruin our reputation, if we were known to do such a thing.’

‘And that would be a most melancholy thing.’

‘Positively awful!’

‘We will never let the enemy beat us.’

‘No, d—n!’ returned Spangle;—‘but down with it, down with it, and at it
again.’

‘At it again! Hah! ha! ha!’

‘We are wine proof!’

‘Full proof?’

‘Above proof, by —’

‘But talking about women,’ observed Kay, ‘That Blodget was a devilish
fortunate fellow.’

‘Cunning rogue!’ replied Maretzo; ‘he managed his business famously, and
has contrived admirably to elude the vigilance of Monteagle and the
lady’s friends.’

‘They have not heard anything of them yet, I believe?’

‘Nothing!’

‘Poor Monteagle! Ha! ha!’

‘Ah! poor fool!’

‘I wonder what has become of Monteagle?’

‘Oh, he is doubtless still making every inquiry after the lady.’

‘And it is my firm belief that Inez will never live to see her father,
her lover, or her friends again.’

‘I am of the same opinion; a sensitive, high-minded woman like her, will
never be able to survive long the misery and degradation which Blodget
has heaped upon her.’

‘He positively must be a smart scoundrel.’

‘I never heard of one equal to him.’

‘Such a systematic way as he went to work to accomplish his villainy.’

‘The ingenious and complicated plot he devised to bring about the
gratification of his wishes.’

‘The artful manner in which he contrived to make the simpleton, Jenkins,
his dupe, too; the ready tool to further his deep-laid stratagem.’

‘He must have had his education in the school of art and vice,
certainly.’

‘Yes, and been a ready pupil, too.’

‘But is it not strange that every stratagem has failed to find the
slightest clue to the place of retreat?’

‘Wonderful!’

‘And then the attempt upon Monteagle’s life.’

‘Doubtless by some ruffian employed by him.’

‘There cannot be a doubt of it.’

‘To be sure. Revenge has incited him to it.’

‘He is a dangerous fellow to offend.’

‘A very devil.’

‘At any rate, he does not fail to play the very devil with those who
excite his enmity.’

‘True.’

‘But he must be defeated at last.’

‘Certainly there is not much prospect of it at present.’

‘Oh, no doubt he will be caught in some of his own snares by and bye.’

‘But do you think he has ruined the girl?’

‘He is villain enough for anything.’

‘He must be a monster, indeed, if he could perpetrate such a crime as
that. I must have another glass of wine.’

‘Do you think that he who did not hesitate to attempt the life of the
father, and the violation of the daughter, would shrink from any thing.’

‘But, then, her youth—her innocence.’

‘Psha!—he is a stranger to such feelings as they ought to inspire.’

‘Why, to be sure, from his general conduct, we have an undoubted right
to suppose that he is.’

‘And yet I think that he has had some other motive for getting the girl
in his power; that he has found her necessary to advance his base
schemes.’

There was a pause.

‘But that Blodget is really a most terrible fellow,’ said Kay.

‘Every stratagem, every scheme of rascality, I do believe, that that
rascal of rascals is up to.’

‘Positively every scheme,’ said Maretzo, ‘but this is a dry subject, and
I must have another glass of wine.’

‘I feel to want one myself, too,’ observed Kay, filling his glass from
the decanter: ‘Well, here’s wishing that Blodget may soon be here.’

‘And Inez restored to her lover and friends,’ exclaimed Maretzo.

‘Quite safe.’

‘Quite safe,’ repeated Kay.

‘And yet I am afraid there is not much chance of that.’

‘Nor I.’

‘Leave that consummate scoundrel, Blodget, alone for that.’

‘Ay, ay.’

‘He would not fail to enforce his wishes.’

‘To be sure he would not.’

‘And what resistance could she make?’

‘None at all.’

‘She is so completely in his power.’

‘Completely.’

‘Without a friend at hand to fly to her rescue.’

‘Not a friend; and besides no one knows, or can form the least
conjecture whither he has taken her.’

‘Not the least shadow of an idea,’ said Kay.

‘Any person would positively imagine that the fellow had some dealings
with the devil,’ added Maretzo, ‘and that she was conveyed away by
magic.’

‘That they certainly would,’ observed Kay.

‘I would not mind a hundred dollars to know where the fellow is.’

‘Why, that would be rather awkward, I imagine, Maretzo,’ returned Kay,
with an expressive grin.

‘Ha! ha!’ laughed Maretzo, clapping his hand significantly to his
pocket; ‘finances rather queer, you think? Ha! ha! ha! I understand!’

‘Funds low.’

‘Ha! ha! ha!’

‘It is not a very laughable matter though.’

‘Very unpleasant.’

‘To be straightened for a few hundreds.’

‘Very disagreeable.’

‘And people have no faith in the word and honor of gentlemen,
now-a-days.’

‘But we must do something to raise the wind.’

‘That is very evident.’

‘Quite certain.’

‘Quite.’

‘We must make good use of these boobies,’ said Kay.

‘To be sure. Leave us alone for that,’ replied Maretzo.

‘Oh, yes, I am certain of that.’

‘They are very easy.’

‘Poor devils.’

‘Fit sport for us.’

‘Just the sort of game we like to hunt,’ returned Maretzo.

‘They have got a few thousands, which they seem bent upon wasting.’

‘And we might as well reap the benefit as any other persons.’

‘To be sure.’

‘And we will too.’

‘Oh, there is not the least doubt of that; ha! ha! ha!’

‘By the by, we ought not to feel much obliged to Blodget for that
affair—’

‘No, that was a d—d bore.’

‘Remarkably unpleasant.’

‘A few hundreds out of our way.’

‘Yes.’

‘We have mingled in some strange scenes together.’

‘You may say that.’

‘We have been in luck together.’

‘In debt together.’

‘In prison together.’

‘Damme! we have shared all the smiles and frowns of fortune, and may we
soon be on more friendly terms with her than ever.’

‘Bravo!’

The two friends quaffed off glass after glass, with as much gusto as if
they had only just commenced a night’s carouse; and then each crossing
their legs in an indolent and careless manner, remained silent for a
short time. The sleepers were snoring in concert, and did not seem
likely to awake for some time, but to monopolize the coffee-room for a
chamber, for that day at least.

After the lapse of a short interval, Maretzo looked up with an
expression of countenance, half solemn, and half humorous, and,
addressing himself to Kay, says:

‘Kay, my boy!’

‘Well, my dear fellow,’ said Kay.

‘I have been thinking, Kay.’

‘And what have you been thinking?’ interrogated his dissipated
companion.

‘Why, that we have been a pair of d—d scoundrels!’

‘Ha! ha! ha! what a discovery!—why, I have known and felt that long ago,
Maretzo,’ returned Kay.

‘We have taken that which did not belong to us,’ added Maretzo, ‘and
borrowed that which we never repaid.’

‘And never meant to repay;’ observed Kay, with a laugh.

‘We have diddled our tailor; broken the fortunes, and the hearts of
innumerable bootmakers, hatters, frizzeurs, laundresses, and other
creditors.’

‘Very true,’ remarked Kay, ‘and we are likely enough to break the hearts
of a great many more, if they are silly enough to trust us.’

‘Ah!’ ejaculated Maretzo, and he fetched a very deep sigh, reflectively.

‘Ah!’ mimicked Kay; ‘why, confound me, if you are not getting
melancholy.’

‘I am becoming penitent,’ replied Maretzo, in a tone still half serious,
‘I am becoming penitent, Kay.’

‘Penitent!’

‘Yes, downright compunctious.’

‘Ha! ha! ha!’

‘Don’t laugh, I feel a touch of the serious,’ remarked Maretzo, ‘I think
it is high time that we began to think about a reformation, Kay.’

‘Well, positively.’

‘Ah! it may be well, positively,’ repeated Maretzo, ‘and, positively, I
wish it to be well.’

‘And what is your plan of reformation?’ inquired Kay.

‘Why, matrimony.’

‘Matrimony?’

‘Ay, sober wedlock,’ answered Maretzo, ‘it would be advisable for us to
do the steady and the amiable for some time, until we can meet with a
favorable match; a handsome sum in the shape of a wedding dowry, and a
handsome wife, and then we may settle down into two worthy gentlemen,
very patterns of domesticated virtue.’

‘Not a bad plan,’ said Kay, smiling, ‘but it is almost too soon to think
about that, yet.’

‘Not at all.’

‘That is only your opinion.’

‘And I have no doubt, as we have hitherto generally agreed, that it will
be your opinion also.’

‘I cannot make up my mind to be shackled just yet, my dear fellow,’
replied Kay.

‘Nonsense, you may let the opportunity go by, and then you would repent
it, take my word for it.’

‘Probably, I might,’ said Kay, ‘but I shall e’en trust fortune a little
while longer.’

‘But fortune will not trust you—we owe her too large an account
already,’ observed Maretzo.

‘But I am determined to jilt the jade still further, yet.’

‘Mind you do not deceive yourself.’

‘Leave me alone for that.’

‘After all, if a pretty girl, with a handsome portion is thrown in your
way, I do not fear but that I shall be able to make you a convert.’

‘Well, we’ll leave that till the opportunity offers itself.’

‘Be it so.’

‘But you are really serious?’

‘Cursed serious.’

‘Ha, ha, ha! we must have another glass of wine after that,’ laughed
Kay, ‘here’s fortune and matrimony.’

‘Fortune and matrimony,’ responded Maretzo, raising the glass to his
lips; and then another pause of a few minutes took place.

‘I have been thinking, Kay,’ at length Maretzo broke silence, ‘that,
after all, the whereabouts of Blodget, and Inez may not be so difficult
for Monteagle to trace out as hitherto it has proved.’

At this, the door opened, and the landlord entered, saying that a man
wished to speak to Kay.

‘Tell him to come in. Who the deuce can it be?’ said Kay.

‘Doubtless one of our fellows,’ said Maretzo.

The man now entered.

‘Well,’ said Kay. ‘I’m the person you asked for.’

The visitor went to the door, and turned the key. He then said, in a low
tone, ‘Is your companion to be trusted?’

‘True as steel,’ said Kay.

‘Blodget is in trouble and needs your assistance. He is at Gordon’s
house.—Jenkins has informed on him, and he can’t leave the house without
almost certain death. He wishes you and a person he called Maretzo, to
be there to-night. With your aid he can get off, carrying the lady with
him. He says he won’t mind a couple of thousand, if you can get him out
of this scrape.’

‘Now, my good fellow, how do we know that this isn’t all gas. A trap,
may be?’ said Kay.

‘He told me to tell you, if you doubted me, to remember _the old man in
the old house_!’

Kay started, but quickly recovering himself said, ‘All right, we’ll be
on hand.’

The man left the house, and mounting his horse rode to the Mission. At a
small house near the church he found Joaquin, by whom he was conducted
to Jenkins, who was in company with Monteagle and some Californians,
friends of Inez and her family.

The party speedily set off across the country towards the house where
Inez was confined. But speedy as they were, they found they had been
anticipated by Kay and Maretzo, who had set off to aid Blodget the
instant the man had left. On arriving at the house they knocked boldly
at the door. Gordon opened it, but upon seeing who the visitors were he
attempted to slam it in their faces, but ere he succeeded a long Spanish
knife was driven to his heart by Maretzo, and the wretch fell a bleeding
corpse on the floor. Blodget was soon released.

‘Bear a-hand,’ cried Kay. ‘We must be out of this d—d quick. If Jenkins
or any of his gang arrive, we’re gone chickens.’

‘One moment,’ cried Blodget. ‘I’ll have this d—d stubborn Spanish b—h if
I have to carry her corpse across my saddle!’ as he spoke he sprang up
stairs.

Alice had overheard what passed for she was sitting by Inez’s bedside
watching her slumbers.

The brave girl instantly determined to save Inez, even at peril of her
own life.

She extinguished the light, and throwing the veil of Inez over her head,
and her mantle over her shoulders, she stood with beating heart, as she
heard the villain Blodget’s steps upon the stairs.

‘Inez!’ cried the ruffian, as he opened the door of the chamber.

‘Who calls me?’ said Alice, imitating the voice of Inez.

The ruffian made no reply, but seizing her shrinking form in his arms,
he bore her to the front of the ranch, where Kay and Maretzo stood ready
to mount, holding a spare horse that they had brought to facilitate
Blodget’s escape. The ruffian sprang to his horse’s back, dragging Alice
up before, and dashing the rowels into his horse’s flanks, flew off at
full speed, followed by Kay and Maretzo.

They had not been gone many moments, ere Jenkins, Monteagle, and their
friends arrived. The bloody body of Gordon, which first arrested their
attention at the threshold, filled them with dreadful forebodings.

Lights were procured, and Monteagle sought the chamber in which he was
told he would find Inez. He burst into the room. A lady lay on the bed.
‘Inez!’ he shouted.

The lady turned her head, and his eyes fell upon her countenance!

‘Gracious Heaven!’ he almost shrieked; ‘is this some beauteous vision
got up to torture me to madness? Inez!—My Inez!’

A wild shriek answered him!—It was no delusion! He sprang forward with
delirious speed, just time enough to clasp the fainting form of his
long-lost betrothed in his arms!

How shall our weak pen essay the task to describe the scene which
followed this strange, this unexpected meeting?

Insensible, Inez was conveyed to an apartment in the cabaret, whither
Monteagle followed, and could not be persuaded to leave her sight for an
instant.

Again and again he enfolded her in his arms; pressed warm kisses on her
lips, her cheeks, her temples, and laughed and wept like a child, by
turns!—Then he threw himself upon his knees, clasps his hands vehemently
together, and poured forth an eloquent prayer to the most High!

Joaquin began to entertain a fear that the sudden surprise, and so
powerful a shock as it must be to his feelings, would have a fatal
effect upon his senses; and he did all that he possibly could to calm
his emotions.

His efforts were, however, for some time unavailing, but at length he
became more tranquilized, and resigning Inez to the care of the persons
who had been called in to attend her, he sank into a chair, and covering
his face with his hands, gave full vent to the emotions that overflowed
his heart, in a copious flood of tears.

Joaquin in this did not attempt to interrupt him, for he well knew what
a relief it would be to him, and he turned his eyes from Monteagle to
watch the progress which was being made towards the recovery of Inez.

His joy was scarcely less than that of Monteagle, although it did not
exhibit itself in so violent a manner, and his heart teemed with
gratitude to the Almighty, who had brought about their restoration to
each other in so miraculous a manner.

It was not long before Inez was restored to animation; and, looking
eagerly around her, she exclaimed:—

‘Where is he?—Was it a dream?—Oh, where is Monteagle?’

‘He is here, my love, my long lost one!—My only hope!’ cried Monteagle,
and again they were enfolded to each other’s hearts, while further
utterance was denied them by the power of their emotions!

We must hastily draw a veil over that scene which the imagination of our
readers can depicture far better than any language of ours, however
powerful, we could describe it!

Those moments were a foretaste of Heaven, succeeding the torment of
purgatory! Their extacy was so great, that they could scarcely believe
the evidence of their senses. It was some time ere they could satisfy
themselves that they spoke, they breathed, or that they were still
inhabitants of this sublunary scene!

But when, by the joint efforts of Joaquin and others, they became more
tranquilized, the scene which followed was affecting in the extreme.
They rested for a few hours, as they were not sufficiently composed to
resume their journey to that home in which they had not together met for
so long a period, and where they had never expected to meet again; and
their friends, after a short time, left them to themselves, to enter
into that mutual explanation, they were each so anxious to obtain.

With what feelings of horror, disgust, and indignation, did Monteagle
listen to the recital of his love, but how did his heart overflow with
gratitude, when he heard of the manner in which Inez had been enabled to
resist the diabolical attempts and importunities of the villain Blodget;
and as he pressed her to his heart, he again poured forth his thanks to
the Almighty for her preservation from such accumulated and fearful
dangers.

‘The monster! the fiend!—for he cannot be anything human, although he
bears the form of man,’ cried Monteagle, speaking of Blodget; ‘oh, how I
regret that he has been suffered to escape my vengeance!’

‘But he will not that of Heaven, dearest,’ ejaculated Inez; ‘oh, most
assuredly that will ere long overtake him in its most terrible form, for
the many, the almost unequalled crimes of which he has been guilty!’

‘True, my love,’ returned Monteagle, and his eyes sparkled with rapture
as he gazed upon that dear countenance he had never expected to behold
again; ‘and oh, if ever atrocity deserved punishment, dreadful will be
his doom. To concoct so infernal a plot, by which he tore you from my
arms.’

Inez smiled beautifully through her tears, and throwing her fair arms
around the neck of Monteagle, the kisses she so fervently pressed upon
his lips, convinced him powerfully of her affection.

‘Say no more upon that painful subject, my dearest,’ she ejaculated;
‘let it from this joyful moment be for ever buried in oblivion.’

‘It shall, it shall, my sweetest,’ replied Monteagle; ‘but oh, what a
debt of gratitude do I owe to your generous preserver, Jenkins. Would
that I could see him, that I might to himself express the power of my
feelings. Nothing can ever sufficiently reward that man for the
inestimable service he has rendered me.’

‘I need not assure you,’ rejoined Inez, ‘that I most warmly concur in
your feelings; and I trust that at some future period, Jenkins may be
able to visit us, and receive the demonstrations of our mutual
gratitude, and, moreover, be persuaded to quit the life he is at present
leading.’

‘Pity it is that he should, by some cursed fatality urging him on to
crime, be driven from it,’ observed Monteagle; ‘but I dare say that his
offences have never been so heinous as to exclude him from all hope of
earthly pardon.’

‘No, I cannot believe that they have,’ replied Inez; ‘but he is so much
attached to his present wild life of freedom, and his reckless
associates, that I am doubtful whether he will ever be induced to
abandon them.’

‘My influence and exertions to induce him to do so, shall not be
wanting,’ said Monteagle. ‘Still I am sorry that he should have changed
his first determination, namely, to deliver the wretch Blodget into the
hands of justice. While I know that villain to be living and still at
large, my mind cannot be entirely at rest, for, however watchful and
vigilant we may be, after what we have experienced from his villainous
artifices, have we not reason to fear that he will devise some means of
further annoying us, and gratifying his demonical revenge?’

‘Do not, I beg of you, my love,’ said our heroine, ‘harass your mind by
apprehensions.’

‘Heaven grant that your surmises may prove correct, Inez,’ observed
Monteagle; ‘but I candidly own that I cannot entirely divest my mind of
the fears which I have described; and should anything happen again to
you, my love, all my manly fortitude would entirely forsake me, and I
should never be able to survive the shock!’

‘Pray, Monteagle,’ urged Inez, ‘if you would not make me miserable,
endeavor, struggle to banish such gloomy imaginings from your bosom, and
trust to the goodness of Providence which has hitherto so mercifully
preserved us, when the darkest snares of villainy sought to ruin and
destroy us.’

‘For your sake, my own love,’ replied Monteagle, once more
affectionately and passionately kissing her cheek, ‘I will endeavor to
do so; still you surely will not blame me for not placing too much
confidence in our security, which might prevent me from being watchful
and wary to defeat any base plans that might be devised against our
future peace?’

‘Oh, no, in that you will only act with prudence and wisdom, although, I
must repeat that I sincerely trust there will not be found to be any
necessity for that precaution. But my poor father—what of him?’

‘He is well in body.’

‘But how has he supported my absence?’

‘Oh, he suffered terribly.’

‘Did he give himself up to grief?’

‘At first he did—he was as one struck to the earth by a sudden, violent
blow. Joaquin, however, roused him from his despondency, by urging the
absolute necessity of pursuing the abductors. Thus urged, your father
shook off his despondency, and appearing to forget his years, joined in
the search for your abductors with all the ardor of youth. Indeed it
became almost necessary forcibly to restrain him, lest he should become
totally deranged.’

‘_Totally_ deranged! Then his mind was affected by my loss?’

‘Oh, my love,’ ejaculated Monteagle, ‘Would that heaven had spared me
that painful task; but pray be calm and bear the melancholy intelligence
with fortitude and resignation.’

‘Speak on, speak on; I’m prepared for the worst,’ ejaculated our
heroine— ‘Tell me of my poor father.’

‘When I left your home the physicians hoped he might recover, as at
intervals reason seemed returning, when he would call for his daughter
Inez, and then relapse into unconsciousness.’

‘Oh, let us hasten to my poor dear father.’

They were soon in their saddles, and on road to the Mission.


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



                              CHAPTER XIX

                      The Seducer’s Terrible End.


A few nights after Blodget’s escape found him walking the streets of San
Francisco, but disguised as he thought too effectually to be recognized
by any eye, however sharp.

There was a cloud upon Blodget’s brow as he emerged from the court into
the semi-obscurity of Montgomery street, and his mind was evidently ill
at ease. He tried to hum a fashionable opera air when he had walked a
little distance, but there seemed something in his throat which choked
him, and the sounds died upon his lips. Then he quickened his pace, when
a young female emerged from a street which he was passing, and laid her
hand upon his arm. He turned his head, and beheld Carlotta.

She was thinner than when he had seen her last, and looked as if she had
recently been ill; but her dark eyes were as lustrous as then, and there
was the same gloss upon her raven hair. At the moment that she emerged
from the shade of the court, and laid her hand upon his, there was a
strange and almost indescribable expression upon her dark countenance,
but it passed away as quickly as a flight of birds over a stream, and
when Blodget’s eyes met hers, they read nothing therein but pleasure at
meeting him again.

‘Ah, my little wild rose of the islands!’ said he, ‘what are you doing
at this hour of the night, when all such pretty wild birds should be in
their nests.’

‘Well, I can’t say I was looking for you,’ returned Carlotta, ‘but I am
glad that I have met you, nevertheless. But I should ask you where you
have been wandering, you naughty man?’

‘Oh, I have been to the theatre, and then walked this way with a
friend,’ returned Blodget. ‘But where are you staying—can you take me
home with you?’

‘Fie!’ said Carlotta, playfully.

‘I really cannot part with you, my charmer,’ said Blodget. ‘If you
cannot take me to your quarters, wherever they may be, you must come
somewhere with me.’

‘You must not think of going where my people are,’ observed the Chilean
girl, ‘remember how near the detection of our amour was costing our
lives.’

‘Then come with me, my beauty,’ said Blodget. ‘There is a house not far
from here which will suit our purpose, and I shall not part with you
until daylight.’

‘Then I go with you, Blodget,’ said Carlotta. ‘Promise me that you will
not seek to detain me more than an hour, and I will not refuse you the
happiness you covet.’

Blodget promised, and the Chilean girl accompanied him to an
accommodation-house in the neighborhood, where they were conducted to a
neatly furnished bedchamber on the first floor.

‘We shall have time to drink a bottle of champagne in the hour that you
have promised to remain with me,’ observed Blodget, and he gave the
girl, who had preceded them with a light, some silver to procure it.

They sat down, and Blodget threw his arm round the waist of his
dark-eyed companion, and drawing her towards him, impressed a kiss upon
her lips. She smiled upon him, but her lips did not give back the kiss,
and there was a glitter in her night dark eyes at the moment which was
not the radiance which springs from happiness or love. Blodget, however,
failed to detect anything unusual or peculiar in the expression of that
glance. The wine was brought, and placed upon a small round table
convenient to Blodget’s hand, and he filled the glasses, handing one to
Carlotta and taking one himself.

‘The sparkling juice will bring back to your dark cheeks a glow that
seems wanting there,’ said he, as he sat down the glasses and
immediately refilled them.

‘Come, drink,’ he cried.

‘It will be the last time we’ll drink together.’

‘Why, what the deuce makes you think so?’ said Blodget.

‘I don’t know,’ replied the girl, ‘but I have said it, and you’ll see if
it don’t come to pass.’

‘D—d nonsense,’ cried Blodget, laughing, and then he drew his companion
on his knee, and kissed her repeatedly and eagerly.

Carlotta was silent, but she reclined her dark cheek against her
seducer’s, and quietly and adroitly drew from her pocket a little phial
containing some liquid. Concealing the phial in her hand, she then threw
her arm over Blodget’s shoulder, and noiselessly drawing the tiny cork,
poured the contents of the phial into his glass.

‘Another glass of champagne, my glow-worm,’ said Blodget, ‘and the soft
delights of love, the thrilling joys of warm and impassioned nature are
ours.’

Carlotta removed her arm from his shoulder as he turned slightly to
reach his wine, and while she kept her eyes upon the glasses to observe
that he gave her the one that she had drank from before, she returned
the empty phial to her pocket.

‘I suppose nothing unpleasant came of our dalliance?’ said Blodget, in a
half interrogative tone, as he handed the girl her glass.

‘Why do you suppose so? Ought you not rather to suppose just the
reverse? Was not something unpleasant naturally to be expected?’

‘Well, perhaps I might have supposed so,’ returned Blodget,
deprecatingly, and a little disconcerted by the girl’s reply.

There was a moment’s pause, and both sat with their glasses in their
hands, Blodget’s eyes fixed upon the floor, the girl surveying the
countenance of her seducer, as if she were trying to read his thoughts.

‘Well, what was it?’ Blodget at length inquired.

‘A boy,’ returned Carlotta. ‘It died, and I was glad of it, for if it
had lived it might have been as faithless as his father.’

‘Do you want to quarrel?’

‘No.’

‘For heaven’s sake cease,’ exclaimed Blodget, suddenly raising the
wineglass to his lips, and emptying it at a draught.

Carlotta drank her wine quickly as he spoke, and rose from his knee,
where she had contrived to sit while upbraiding him with his inconstancy
and duplicity. Her dark eyes were fixed upon his countenance, which
changed the moment he had swallowed the wine, his lips becoming white,
and the expression of his features becoming ghastly and cadaverous.

‘You are a dead man and I am avenged!’ exclaimed the girl in a hissing
whisper; and then she glided towards the door, and turned the key in the
lock.

A faint groan which seemed to struggle feebly and faintly upwards, was
the only sign of vitality which Blodget gave, and then his head fell
upon his breast and his arms fell powerless at his side.

Quickly and silently Carlotta drew the sheets from the bed, knotted them
together, and then fastened one end securely to the bedpost nearest the
window; this done, she noiselessly raised the sash, and looked out. The
night was dark and foggy, but she could see that there was a small yard
below, with a door in the wall, which opened into a court at the rear of
the house. Dropping one end of the sheets from the window, she
immediately got out upon the sill, and grasping the sheet firmly with
both hands, descended in safety into the yard. She could hear laughter
and the tinkling of glasses in the back parlor, but the shutters were
closed, and noiselessly unbolting the door in the yard fence, she
hurried swiftly out, and in a few minutes was far away.


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



                               CHAPTER XX

                       The Return to the Mission.


Let us now rejoin Inez and Monteagle whom we left on their road to the
Mission.

What powerful sensations of unspeakable delight rushed through the veins
of Inez, and monopolized every feeling of her heart, when those scenes
which she had never expected to behold again, once more burst upon her
vision. The tumult of rapturous and conflicting ideas that darted to her
brain, were almost overwhelming, and, although her tongue was eager to
give expression to her sentiments, the strength of her emotions would
not permit her to give utterance to a single syllable. She looked in the
countenance of her lover with an expression of the most unbounded
affection and delight, and she fully perceived that he reciprocated her
feelings. Tears filled his eyes, and taking her hand he pressed it to
his lips with eloquent silence.

Not the slightest change appeared to have taken place in everything upon
which the eyes of our heroine rested, since last she had gazed upon
those well known scenes. The bright beams of a silvery moon were shining
serenely upon every thing around, and a melancholy silence, so consonant
with her own state of mind, prevailed. But, alas, she reflected, what a
change had taken place in the home of her childhood! That home which had
once abounded in every happiness that the human mind could wish for, was
now the abode of sorrow; that fond parent, whose every joy and hope were
centered in her, was a maniac and would be insensible to the felicity of
her restoration to his arms.

This last thought was too afflicting for endurance, and overcome by her
emotion she leant her head upon the bosom of Monteagle, and burst into
an hysterical flood of tears.

In vain did Monteagle endeavor to tranquilize her feelings, he felt how
powerful was the cause she had for sorrow, and the anguish he endured
was scarcely less than her own.

Joaquin exerted himself to the utmost to calm the feelings of them both,
and he at length succeeded.

Monteagle, we should have mentioned before, had taken the precaution to
send forward a person to the Mission, with a letter, making them briefly
acquainted with the fortunate meeting which had taken place between him
and our heroine, and of their coming, so that the surprise might not be
too sudden for them; and they were, therefore, fully aware that they
would exert themselves to the utmost to meet the unexpected pleasure
which awaited them; the more especially as the precarious and lamentable
situation of Senor de Castro rendered the greatest care necessary.

At length the elegant, but unostentatious, mansion, burst upon their
vision, and Providence imbued the mind of Inez with a calm feeling of
joy, which she had never experienced before. Everything seemed to dance
before her eyes to welcome her return to that once happy home, and the
horses appeared to move with the most tedious slowness, as they cantered
along the road which led to the garden gates.

They reached those gates; they were already open, and standing to
receive them were beings endeared to them by every affectionate and
grateful feeling.

Let not the too presumptuous pen attempt to describe the scene which
followed, language is by far too weak to convey any idea of it. Tears,
sobs, and broken sentences of unbounded transport, burst from the
overcharged bosoms of each individual; and then Inez felt herself led
along the avenue which conducted to the hall.

Although her eyes were dimmed by tears, and her thoughts were so fully
occupied, our heroine could yet behold several of the old domestics
standing in the path, who, as she passed, raised their hands and eyes
towards Heaven, and gave utterance to their simple, but forcible,
exclamations of gratitude to the Most High for the restoration of their
‘dear young lady’ to her home and friends.

Another moment and Inez found herself in the well known parlor, endeared
to her by so many fond remembrances and associations; and sinking on her
knees, she clasped her hands fervently towards Heaven, and gave full
vent to the expression of her ardent and spontaneous ejaculations of
thanksgiving to the Almighty disposer of all events for her deliverance.

No one offered to interrupt her, they were also too much occupied with
the feelings of astonishment and unspeakable delight that filled their
bosoms. But at length, Inez having ended her solemn prayer, suddenly
arose from her knees, and looking eagerly around the room, she said:

‘But where is he? He is not here! Where is the poor old man—that he is
not present to snatch his unfortunate daughter once more to his heart,
and weep his tears of joy upon her bosom! My father—my poor, dear
father; where is he?’

‘My dear Inez,’ replied the Padre; ‘I can fully appreciate the anxiety
of your feelings; but pray endeavor to restrain them. Your father has
retired to his chamber and sleeps—do not disturb him lest—’

‘And think you,’ interrupted our heroine, with the most violent emotion
depicted in her countenance; ‘think you that I can rest calmly one
moment without beholding that unfortunate, that doting parent from whom
I have been so long and so cruelly separated? No—no—no—I will go to him;
not an instant—’

Quickly up the stairs which led to the well known chamber of her father,
our heroine bounded, but when she arrived at the door, she paused; a
deathlike faintness came over her, she breathed short, and she was
unable to move a step further.

Monteagle and others entreated her to return to the parlor, and to defer
the trying scene till the morning, but she answered them by a look which
fully convinced them of her determination, and they therefore desisted.

In a few moments she partially recovered herself, but still she had not
sufficient courage or resolution to enter the chamber.

She stood and listened, supported by the arm of her lover, and her ears
caught the sound of the breathing of the patient, every respiration
going to her heart like a stream of fire.

In a moment the breathing sounds ceased, and all was still as death.

‘He sleeps, he sleeps, and probably dreams of her who—’

‘Hark! hark!’ hastily interrupted our heroine; ‘those sounds—do
listen;—those words—those words—my heart will burst!’

They listened with breathless attention, and Monteagle supported the
form of Inez, in a state of agony too powerful for description. In low
and plaintive tones, sufficient to draw tears from the eyes of the most
insensible individual, the unfortunate de Castro was singing, apparently
in his sleep, the words of a song Inez had so often sung to please him,
and which brought to the memory many powerful and agonizing
recollections.

‘God! God! support me!’ gasped forth Inez, clinging to the arm of her
lover, and her whole frame convulsed with anguish.

‘Father! father! dear, dear father! I can bear no more,’ cried Inez; and
tearing herself from the hold of Monteagle, she rushed into the chamber,
and darted to the side of the bed.

Senor de Castro was sitting up in the bed when Inez entered the room,
and was staring vacantly around him. His countenance had undergone
little or no perceptible change; the ruddy glow of health was on his
cheeks, and so calm and serene was its expression, that it seemed almost
impossible that his mind could be in the deplorable condition in which
it was.

On beholding Inez and the others enter, he exhibited emotion, but when
his eyes rested upon the former, a sweet smile irradiated his features,
and laughing with all the joyousness of a child, he exclaimed:—

‘Beautiful!—oh, how beautiful!—what a bright and lovely vision!—Her very
self!—So like her!—But ’tis only fancy—only fancy—ha! ha! ha!—How
beautiful!’

‘Father! father!—dear, dear father! Do you not know me? Oh, God! what a
bitter trial is this!’ frantically sobbed forth the distracted Inez, as
she threw her arms around the poor old man’s neck, and pressed warm and
delirious kisses upon his lips.

In a few moments Senor de Castro began to regain his scattered senses,
and gazed round him like one slowly awaking from a fearful dream.

He at length fully recognized his child. Then followed a scene too
affecting for pen or pencil to describe.

But one subject remained to cloud their happiness. It was the absence of
Alice Hewlett, of whose abduction, by Blodget, they learned from the old
woman at the ranch. Bitterly did Inez deplore the sad fate which had
befallen the lovely ‘Squatter’s Daughter.’

Brown fled upon hearing of the arrest of the gang.

Monteagle was of course cleared of all complicity in the robbery of the
store, by this confession, and Mr. Vandewater gave him a share in his
business as some recompense for his unjust dismissal.

The little church at the Mission was soon after gaily decorated, and
before its humble altar the hands of Inez and Monteagle were united.
Their hearts had been so from the day our hero bore the fainting maiden
in safety from the flames.


                                THE END.


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



 ● Transcriber’s Notes:
    ○ Some chapters are not numbered sequentially. They left as they
      were printed.
    ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was silently corrected.
    ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected (capitalization,
      spaces inside words, incorrect hyphenation, duplicated words) were
      silently corrected.
    ○ Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent only
      when a predominant form was found in this book.
    ○ Text that was in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).





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