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Title: The Detective's Clew - The Tragedy of Elm Grove
Author: Adams, O. S. (Old Hutch)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                         The Detective’s Clew


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  Illustration: HE STEPPED AROUND TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE
                MOTIONLESS FORM.



                  THE SECRET SERVICE SERIES――NO. 14.

                         A Monthly Periodical,

             DEVOTED TO STORIES OF THE DETECTION OF CRIME.

    SUBSCRIPTION PRICE, $3 PER YEAR.              =DECEMBER, 1888.=
    _Entered at the Post Office, New York, as Second-Class Matter._


                         The Detective’s Clew:


                       THE TRAGEDY OF ELM GROVE.

                                  BY

                             “OLD HUTCH.”


                               NEW YORK:
                      STREET & SMITH, Publishers,
                            31 Rose Street.



        Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1888,
                          BY STREET & SMITH,
   In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, D. C.



                          Table of Contents.


      I. THE BROTHER’S MESSAGE.

     II. GEOFFREY HAYWOOD.

    III. “SEVEN O’CLOCK.”

     IV. A FIGHT AND A FLIGHT.

      V. THE WRONG MAN.

     VI. UNDERGROUND.

    VII. IN STRANGE QUARTERS.

   VIII. THE ARREST.

     IX. GEOFFREY HAYWOOD’S MOVEMENTS.

      X. THE PRISONER AND HIS CAPTORS.

     XI. THE EXAMINATION.

    XII. THE NEW YORK DETECTIVE.

   XIII. STRANGE DISCOVERIES.

    XIV. THE CUSTOM-HOUSE DETECTIVE.

     XV. FREE.

    XVI. A REFUGE.

   XVII. A GLAD MEETING.

  XVIII. GEOFFREY HAYWOOD’S SECRET JOURNEY.

    XIX. THREE INTERVIEWS.

     XX. AN ADVENTURE THAT BEFELL THE REV. MR. WITHERS.

    XXI. FLORENCE DARLEY.

   XXII. THE NEW MUSIC-TEACHER.

  XXIII. A STRANGE REVELATION.

   XXIV. DANGER AND MORE EXPOSURE.

    XXV. GEOFFREY HAYWOOD AT WORK――A MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE.

   XXVI. A DARK NIGHT’S WORK.

  XXVII. ON THE TRACK.

 XXVIII. VICTORY.

   XXIX. CONCLUSION.



                         THE DETECTIVE’S CLEW.



                              CHAPTER I.

                        THE BROTHER’S MESSAGE.


The little steamer Neptune plowed through the water, sweeping past
lovely scenes of green verdure and jutting rocks, almost making her
passengers regret that their journey’s end was so near. And, in truth,
the approach to Dalton did form a most delightful close to a journey
of some forty miles from one of the principal cities on the New England
coast. The trip could be made by rail, but the Neptune had been fitted
up by a company of enterprising men, who offered comfort and pleasure
in opposition to speed and dust. The project succeeded well, the
little steamer receiving its fair proportion of passenger traffic.

On she sped, cutting the water cleanly, and rapidly drawing near the
wharf.

Two young men stood on the deck in a position where they could
best view the town. One of them was a trifle below the medium height,
but his form was well proportioned, and his features indicative of
individuality and character. His complexion was rather light, and so
was his hair, but his eyes were black, deep-set, and luminous. He had
a frank expression, which was marred, however, for the moment by a look
of uneasiness and a shade of sadness.

His companion was a fair sample of the young American of the present
day. He was a trifle taller than his companion, well built, with brown
hair and blue eyes, a dark mustache overhanging a well-cut mouth,
erect in carriage, deliberate in his motions, his general appearance
designating him to the casual observer as a “man of business.” You
would naturally feel that he would be equal to any emergency――that his
self possession would not be likely, even under trying circumstances,
to desert him. Very different in this respect was he from his companion,
who was plainly excitable, and whose total “make-up” suggested that he
might not at all times be master of himself.

The latter spoke:

“I don’t know how my uncle will receive me, Leonard,” he said. “I
almost tremble at going into his presence.”

“Nonsense!” said the other. “I should not tremble at all. All you have
to do is to tell your story, and then, if he doesn’t behave himself,
quietly bid him good-day.”

“Ah, I know that would be your way,” was the reply, “but I could not do
it. He is my father’s brother.”

“Yes, and a model brother, too. His course has entitled him to so much
respect that I should think you would be considerate of his feelings.”

The tone was impatient and ironical.

“But I am here for reconciliation, you know. They have been like
strangers so long――never holding any communication with each other――and
on his dying bed my father enjoined me to go to him and tell him how
it all came about――how Geoffrey Haywood produced, by his lies and
misrepresentations, an estrangement between two brothers that had
always been so fond of each other. They were both passionate, and
neither would seek explanations. Haywood was cool and calculating,
and knew how to approach both of them.”

“And Haywood now lives in Dalton?”

“Yes; he still keeps on the right side of Colonel Conrad, and, I
suspect, owes all his prosperity to his influence and aid.”

“When did your father discover that Haywood had been the means of the
feud?”

“Nearly a year ago. His health was at that time poor, and he was unable
to leave Europe, where he was traveling. He wrote to his brother, but
the letter came back unopened. My father never grew better. He thought
that, if I could see my uncle and lay the case before him, he might go
down to his grave without the old hate rankling in his heart.”

The youth grew excited, and paced up and down the deck. Then he
continued:

“I am to see this savage monster――this irate beast, as I have learned
to regard him――and run the risk of hearing the memory of my father
reviled, and his name insulted. It seems as if I could not bear it. His
living face is yet too fresh in my memory. But the mission is intrusted
to me, and I must fulfill it. I will tell him the facts, and my duty
will have been done.”

Leonard Lester looked upon his cousin as he spoke, and smiled a pitying
smile.

“It is rather tough,” he said, “to be obliged to get down on your knees
to such an individual as I imagine your, or, rather, _our_ uncle, to
be――for I suppose he must be my uncle, since you and I are cousins,
although I have never seen him. But I believe I am to accompany you,
and if he lets off too much steam, I will let off some, too. I can do
it, when there’s occasion.”

His eyes proclaimed the truth of what he said.

Leonard Lester and Carlos Conrad were distant cousins, and cherished
a strong regard for each other. Carlos was the son of Anthony Conrad,
who, years before, had married a Spanish girl. Her dark beauty had won
the affection of the American, and they had lived together ten years,
when she died. The only fruit of the union was a boy, whom they named
Carlos. He inherited the warm and voluptuous nature of his mother,
and the firm and stable, though somewhat passionate, character of
his father. And there was within him a vein of delicate sensibility,
peculiarly his own, which added to the refinement of his nature,
though it might at times render him weak and irresolute. A considerable
portion of his life had been spent in Europe, near the home of his
mother, and in other portions of the Continent.

His father had died but a few weeks before the time at which this
chapter opens, and had charged Carlos with a mission which, as we have
seen, he was about to undertake.

Leonard Lester was connected with a large importing house in New York.
He had been abroad on business for the firm several times, and had met
Carlos in Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and other places. The cousins seemed
to gravitate toward each other, and a warm affection sprang up between
them.

On this occasion they were going together to the residence of Anthony
Conrad’s brother, Colonel William Conrad, whose home was in the suburbs
of the beautiful village of Dalton.

The steamer bumped against the dock, making everybody give an
involuntary pitch forward, and was soon fastened to her moorings. The
plank was thrown out, and the passengers thronged ashore.

Leonard and Carlos stood looking about for a moment, endeavoring to
decide which way to turn.

“Shall we go to a hotel?” asked Leonard.

“Yes, by all means,” quickly responded Carlos. “We will not intrude on
his hospitality until we know what our reception is to be.”

“It will be all right, I will venture,” said Leonard, cheeringly. “If
you have proofs of what you are about to say, he surely will not be so
unreasonable as to turn you off.”

Carlos sighed, but did not reply, as they stepped into a hack. They
were driven rapidly through the lively streets of the busy village,
and conveyed to a hospitable-looking hotel. A pleasant room, which
commanded a fine view of the ocean in the distance, was placed at their
disposal.

After an hour’s rest and a good supper, they approached the hotel clerk,
Leonard saying:

“I believe that Colonel Conrad is a resident of this place?”

“Yes, sir, he is,” replied the clerk.

“Can you inform me where he lives?”

“He lives on his place――Elm Grove――about a mile out of the village.”

“In what direction is Elm Grove?”

“Straight north, on this street――Main street it is called.”

“Thank you.”

And the cousins stepped aside.

“I wonder what they can want of ♦Colonel Conrad?” mused the clerk,
staring after them.

After discussing the matter, Carlos and Leonard determined not to
visit their uncle until the next morning. So, after spending an hour
in rambling about town, and by the shore of the bay, they returned to
the hotel and retired at an early hour.

The next morning they set out for Colonel Conrad’s residence. The walk
was dusty at first, but soon merged into a pleasant avenue, shaded on
either side by ancient and noble trees. Then there was a gentle ascent,
a slope downward, and a short distance farther, situated on a rise of
ground, was Elm Grove, the residence of Colonel Conrad.

The heart of Carlos beat nervously, his step was hurried, and his
motions were quick. Not so with Leonard. He was cool and composed, and,
as the two passed through the open gate, and up the broad gravel walk,
he said:

“Come, now pick up courage. Think of your father, be a man, and defend
him from insult, whoever it comes from.”

The words had their desired effect. A look of resolution came into
Carlos’ face, which Leonard regarded with satisfaction.

They ascended the steps and rang the door-bell.

A servant appeared.

“Is Colonel Conrad at home?” asked Carlos.

“I think he is,” replied the servant. “Shall I take your names?”

They handed him their cards. Carlos’ was edged with black. Soon the
servant returned, and said that Colonel Conrad would see them.

They were ushered through a wide hall, on the left side of which was
the room where Colonel Conrad awaited them.

The servant bowed them in.

The room was not a large one, but it was fitted up with elegance and
taste. On one side was a row of shelves, on which were ranged books of
all sizes and colors.

It was the colonel’s library, and a choice one it was, too, valuable
principally for the age and rarity of some of the volumes.

There was a fire-place, a writing-table, a closed desk, heavy, rich,
and antique in pattern, a huge clock, reaching from the floor to the
ceiling, a smaller case of book-shelves near it, a couch, and a few
chairs.

All this was taken in at a glance, as was also the figure of the
proprietor of the mansion, seated in an easy-chair, with an open book
lying on the table beside him.

Never were two persons more surprised than were the cousins at the
appearance of Colonel Conrad. They had expected to see in their uncle
a large, frowzy, ferocious-looking monster in human form, with a face
expressive of malice, and that peculiar expression that always belongs
to lips given to invective and denunciation.

Instead, there sat before them a man not above the medium size, with
hair thickly tinged with gray, and a careworn, studious, thoughtful
face. His eyes were blue, and, in contrast with his appearance
otherwise, were bright as those of a youth of twenty. His brow was
wrinkled irregularly, suggesting inward conflict and mental anxiety.

He sat and looked at his nephews steadily without speaking. Carlos
gazed earnestly and apprehensively into his face, while Leonard stood
in an easy attitude, apparently not in the least discomfited.

At length the uncle bent his gaze more particularly on Carlos. It was
impossible to tell the thoughts that occupied his mind. Finally he said:

“You’re his son?”

“I am your brother’s son,” replied Carlos.

“I suppose it is unnecessary to ask what that means?” said Colonel
Conrad, holding up the card edged with black.

“You can readily imagine,” said Carlos, with difficulty controlling his
emotion.

The old man bowed his head for an instant, and then looking up again,
said, impatiently:

“Well, well, why don’t you be seated? What are you standing up for?
There are plenty of chairs.”

The cousins smiled, and acted on the hint thus conveyed.

“I’m a wonderfully forgiving man,” began Colonel Conrad; “if I were
not, I wouldn’t so much as suffer your presence in sight of my house.”
He was addressing himself to Carlos. “You know the old saying is that
the sins of the fathers shall be visited on the children, and I ought
to visit the sins of your father on you; for you know how he deeply
wronged me, or at least you ought to know it, for if he didn’t confess
it on his dying bed I should have but little hope for his future――――”

“Colonel Conrad,” interrupted Carlos, endeavoring to control himself
so as to appear calm, “you must not talk in that way. I’ll not hear
it――no, not even from you. Your dead brother was a good man, and I, his
son, will not hear his name traduced.”

“Y-o-u’-l-l not h-e-a-r his name tr-a-d-u-c-e-d!” repeated Colonel
Conrad, in a prolonged, contemptuous tone, staring at Carlos with his
piercing eyes. “I’d like to know what you are going to do about it?”

“I’ll defend him, sir, with my right arm,” said Carlos, rising to his
feet. “I’ll call out the first man who dares to slander him. He was a
good and true man, and I am here to prove it.”

“You had better sit down, young man,” said the colonel. “I suppose you
have come here begging, but you’ll not gain anything by such behavior,
I can tell you.”

“I am no beggar,” retorted Carlos, angrily, “and I will accept none of
your money. But I have an errand to do, and after it is performed, I
will leave you. It is a message from my father.”

“Well, Carlos,” said his uncle, suddenly assuming a nonchalant manner,
“I see you have pluck, and I like you for it. But too much pluck is not
always a good thing. I have had too much of it in my day, so has your
father, the vil――but no, I’ll not call him names now; let him rest in
peace.”

After a pause and a moment’s dreamy silence, he resumed:

“I have seen much sorrow in my time, boys, and have gone through some
hard experiences. There was that quarrel with my brother――we were both
hasty, and have not seen each other since. There was my wife――bless her
memory!――who died many years ago, leaving me no children. Yes, I have
passed through some sad experiences, and all I have to do in my old age
is to sit still and think about them. I tinker a little with one thing
and another――bother my head over machinery and philosophy――and that
is about all I have to relieve the tedium of my life. But no, there’s
Florence――she’s a good girl.”

The last words he spoke rather to himself than to his listeners.

“You have a nephew living in Dalton, have you not?” said Leonard, who
had as yet taken no part in the conversation.

“A nephew? Oh, yes――Geoffrey Haywood, I suppose you mean. He is a very
good man――very pious and very honest. He has met with great success in
his business. Yes, Geoffrey is my best friend.”

He glanced up, as he spoke, in a slightly defiant manner, as if he
expected to be contradicted; but seeing no such purpose on the part of
his auditors, he ceased speaking, and drummed nervously on the table.

“Well, Colonel Conrad,” said Leonard, “Carlos has come here on an
errand, and he wishes, though he dreads, to open the subject. It
is from your dead brother, Anthony. Carlos knows of the enmity that
existed between you and him, but he hopes and I hope that you will hear
him through.”

The old man shook his head.

“No good can come of any talk about my dead brother,” he said, sadly;
“but he may speak. I will hear what he has to say, for if his father
left with him a message, it is his duty to deliver it.”

“Thank you for those words, uncle,” said Carlos, “for now I can go
on and tell the story untrammeled. It is a tale of deep wrong, which
should bring curses on the perpetrator. The quarrel between you and my
father was the work of a villain, whose heart must have been black and
rotten――whose sordid desire for wealth must have made him forget all
that was noble and manly within him.”

Carlos then began at a period dating years back, giving the details
of a plot that had separated Anthony and William Conrad, filling them
with hate and venom toward each other. There was one who had caused it
all――who had studied his plans well, and carried them out with fiendish
precision; and who was now reaping the harvest of his mischief by
living near Colonel Conrad, enjoying his friendship and――his gold.

“Need I mention the name of the villain?” asked Carlos. “Is not one,
and only one, person brought to your mind, and that Geoffrey Haywood?
Stop! do not interrupt me now. I must finish, and then I will go or
stay, as you bid me. My father learned all the facts a year ago. He
wrote to you, but the letter was returned unopened――――”

“I never received it,” said Colonel Conrad, huskily.

“Ah! that is some more of Haywood’s work. My father’s health was poor,
and he never left Europe after writing the letter. But a few weeks ago,
on his dying bed, he told me about it, and charged me to come to you
and inform you how you had both been wronged. He gave me this package
to deliver to you, which he says contains convincing proofs. He died
reconciled to you in his heart, and wished you to forgive him while he
yet lived on this earth. Take the package and examine it impartially,
for the memory of the love which you once cherished for your brother.”

Carlos laid the package down and ceased speaking. He had performed his
duty.

Colonel Conrad’s head was bowed, and he appeared to be in deep thought.
A hard, impenetrable look came across his features, and he said, in a
perfectly calm voice:

“Carlos, your story is a strange one. If true, it is indeed a terrible
record of wrong. You have done your duty, and I cherish no ill-will
toward you. But I am lost and perplexed. Don’t you think it would
stagger any man? I must think. You must leave me for the rest of the
day――or rather I must leave you, for you will, both of you, be my
guests. I must shut myself up. I will read the papers contained in the
package, for that will be no more than an act of simple justice.”

“Thank you, my uncle,” said Carlos. “But I shall not consent to
share your hospitality at present. As yet, you are my father’s enemy,
and may continue to be so. We will remain at a hotel until you have
investigated the matter and rendered a decision.”

“Yes,” said Leonard, “Carlos is right. For the present our
abiding-place shall be the hotel.”

Colonel Conrad was not in a condition to dispute their decision or urge
them to stay. His mind seemed to be under a cloud, and he made no reply
to their remarks.

He did not rise, nor speak, but simply bowed, as they bade him good-day
and took their departure.



                              CHAPTER II.

                           GEOFFREY HAYWOOD.


No. 32 Main street was the most elegant store in Dalton. Silks
and laces, arranged in perfect order and taste, graced its windows;
the counters bore a new and polished look, and everything about it
betokened unwearying care and constant watchfulness on the part of
its proprietor. The clerks had a subdued look, and moved about in an
automaton-like manner, like horses thoroughly broken in, or trained
dogs going through with their parts. When their master passed through
the store, their submissive expression was augmented, if possible; and
if his keen eye detected nothing to disapprove, they shot glances of
mutual congratulation at each other.

Geoffrey Haywood was not called a hard employer, nor an illiberal man,
but those under him well knew that every cent they received was well
and dearly earned. Nothing remiss was ever overlooked――no neglect of
duty forgotten. When pay-day came, every inattention and inadvertence
was found faithfully recorded against the delinquent.

Mr. Haywood himself was not bad-looking. With an erect,
well-proportioned form, a luxuriant black beard and mustache always
neatly combed and brushed, a fair complexion and black eyes and
hair, he was called a handsome man. He had a fine set of teeth, which
glistened brightly through his beard when he opened his mouth to smile.
We say when he opened his mouth to smile, yet he seldom smiled. When
occasion seemed to call for a look of pleasure, he would part his
lips and show his teeth, but no other feature of his face altered its
lines; his eyes shone no brighter――there were no crows’ feet at the
corners; the embryo smile was nipped in the bud, it vanished into
space, it diffused itself behind the glossy beard, and buried itself
in the unfathomable depths of the glistening eyes. This movement of the
mouth, this attempt at a smile, answered many purposes. It terrified
delinquent debtors; it took all the starch out of a clerk whom it was
desirable to awe; it sent beggars away abashed at their own audacity;
it even said to the minister, “Keep on in your humble efforts, and you
may possibly win my approval some day or other.”

On the day that Carlos Conrad and Leonard Lester arrived in town,
Geoffrey Haywood chanced to be looking from the door of his store
across the street at the hotel just as the hack drove up. He saw
at once that the cousins were strangers, and that they were rather
distinguished-looking.

Consequently he put on his hat and walked slowly over to the hotel,
at his even, cat-like pace. No unnecessary noise did he ever make; his
boots never creaked, and his cane never thumped the sidewalk or floor.

He saw on the young men’s trunk the initials “L. L.,” and “C. C.,”
and read on the hotel register the names, “Carlos Conrad” and “Leonard
Lester.”

The only evidence of surprise which he gave was a half-whistle, which
he suppressed almost as soon as it escaped him. He immediately returned
to his store and shut himself up in his private office. There he sat
down and reflected as follows:

“What can this mean? Carlos is the son of old Anthony, and the colonel
hates him worse than death. It can’t be that they’ve become reconciled.
That would be impossible. The game was played too well and has gone on
smoothly too long for that. But what can his son be doing here? and his
cousin with him, too!”

Mr. Haywood’s manner, now that he was unobserved, lost something of its
calm and unruffled exterior. He got up and paced the room, evidently
much disturbed in mind.

“By Heaven!” he thought, “I must find out the object of this visit.
There is too much at stake to be off guard a moment. If the old man
should find out the part I took in his quarrel with his brother, I
would in all likelihood be disturbed in my present snug berth. That
cannot be the object of Carlos, though. The colonel will never see
him. He will not speak to him when he finds out that he is Anthony’s
son. Ha, ha! my young boy, if you have come here expecting to win favor
from Colonel Conrad, you are most grandly mistaken. I can give you that
information without your taking the trouble to walk out to his house.
I’ll watch you.”

The next day he observed, of course, that the two cousins called at
Elm Grove, and it was with a feeling of almost terror that he noticed
that they did not return for more than two hours. So disturbed with
conjectures and suspicions was he that he resolved to call on Colonel
Conrad at once, to satisfy the burning curiosity that tortured him.

Accordingly, in the afternoon, he set out for Elm Grove, not hurrying
in the least, although so tumultuous were the feelings that raged
within his breast that he would have run at the top of his speed
had he acted on his natural impulse. But to act on impulse was not
part of Geoffrey Haywood’s life. His policy was to be always calm,
self-possessed, and unapproachable, except so far as he chose to be
approached. Consequently he walked with his usual stately gait, and
when he presented himself at the door of Colonel Conrad’s mansion,
his manner betrayed naught but complacency and a kind of obtrusive
quietness.

To the servant who answered his ring, he said:

“Ah, Barker, good afternoon. Is your master in?”

Barker said he would see, and in a few moments returned with the
intelligence that his master was indisposed, and could see no one.

“Go and tell him that it’s I, Barker,” said Haywood, with some
loftiness.

Barker departed again, and again returned.

“He sent me out of his room and locked the door, sir, and said as how
not to disturb him no more.”

“What――ahem――are you sure you understood him aright, Barker?”

“Yes, sir, sure,” said Barker, smiling, as he thought of the very
emphatic manner in which the speech had been given, which he had
repeated in a somewhat modified form to Haywood.

“Is Miss Florence in?” asked the merchant.

“No, sir, she left early this morning for a visit to the Cummingses.”

Haywood stood and reflected a moment. Then he said to Barker, who had
turned to depart:

“Well――ah――Barker, wait a moment. Did two young men visit your master
this morning?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Could you tell me their names?”

“Well, not knowing ’em, I couldn’t.”

“Did he see them?”

“Yes, sir, they were in his room with him more’n an hour.”

“Ah! You don’t know what their business was, of course? That is, you
didn’t happen to overhear any of their conversation?”

“No, sir, only at first there was some pretty loud words passed between
them, and afterward there was a good deal of talking in an ordinary
tone.”

“Yes. Well it’s nothing in particular to me. I thought possibly they
might be a couple of friends of mine whom I expect to visit me. And, by
the way, Barker, you needn’t say anything about what I’ve been asking
you. Here’s a dollar. I’ve been intending to make you a present for a
long time.”

Barker stared in astonishment, for it was the first instance of
liberality he had ever witnessed on the part of Mr. Haywood. He stood
speechless while that august personage moved slowly down the path and
into the street.

“A little tight!” was the laconic comment as he pocketed the dollar.

Haywood walked to his store, and entered in silent meditation, almost
forgetting the stereotyped glance which he was wont to cast around at
his clerks, seeming to say to them:

“I suspect you――every one of you. It’s useless for you to attempt
to evade my scrutiny. It would be worse than folly for you to try to
deceive me.”

This was with no appearance of inquisitiveness, but with a calm
assertion of omniscience into their every thought and action as
connected with his business.

No one ever knew how long he remained in his private office that
night――how he pondered and sat in a brown study for hour after hour. If
his rascality were to be exposed now――if Colonel Conrad should cast him
off――what would become of him? Years before he had risked reputation,
honor, everything, to get on the right side of his uncle, and become a
partaker of the benefits of his wealth. He had succeeded. Anthony and
William Conrad were taught to hate each other, and Haywood made the
latter believe that he was his best friend.

William Conrad had been a colonel in the Mexican ♦war, and during his
military career had made acquaintances who subsequently induced him to
invest a large portion of his means in gold mines. The investment was
a profitable one, and brought him a large annual income.

And now, Haywood, who had acquired wealth and position through the aid
of Colonel Conrad, was greatly disturbed at the visit of Leonard and
Carlos. It suggested to his mind complete disgrace and utter ruin.

Besides, his uncle’s refusal did not add to his comfort. All in
all, he was in a terribly perplexed and ♦apprehensive state of mind.
He determined to call again at Elm Grove the next morning, and,
accordingly, on the following morning presented himself at the door.

“Oh, good-morning, Miss Florence. Is my uncle in?”

“Yes, Mr. Haywood, he is in, but I doubt whether he is disengaged at
present. He has been very busy yesterday and to-day.”

“Indeed! But I think he will see me. I wish to talk with him for a
moment on a matter of business.”

“I will ask him,” said the girl, “although he has given me strict
orders not to be disturbed. Will you walk into the parlor in the
meantime?”

He signified his assent, and she led the way. He stopped on the
threshold for an instant in surprise, as he saw two young men in the
room.

“Mr. Haywood,” said Florence, “permit me to introduce you to Mr. Carlos
Conrad. This is Mr. Lester. Please excuse me for a moment.”

And she gracefully retired from the room, leaving the gentlemen to make
the acquaintance of and entertain each other.

It was an awkward meeting. Haywood, for once in his life, was lost for
something to say. Carlos eyed him steadily, and betrayed agitation.
Leonard endeavored to open a conversation.

“We are on a visit to Dalton,” he said, “and called this morning to
see our uncle, but he is indisposed, and we are forced to forego the
pleasure of an interview with him.”

“Ah!” was Mr. Haywood’s sole comment.

“Yes, but we have had the pleasure of spending a few moments with the
very lovely girl who just left us. I judge that you are acquainted with
her. May I ask whether she is a relative of Colonel Conrad?”

“She is an adopted daughter of Colonel Conrad, who, as you doubtless
know, never had any children. Her name is Florence Darley.”

“She has a beautiful face,” said Leonard.

“Yes,” said Haywood, showing three of his teeth, “everybody admires her
beauty.”

At this moment the object of their conversation returned. She said:

“Colonel Conrad will see you for a moment, Mr. Haywood.”

Haywood rose from his seat, cast a barely perceptible look of triumph
at the two young men, and left the parlor. He proceeded directly to his
uncle’s room, and knocked. He was bade to enter.

He opened the door, expecting to see Colonel Conrad stretched out on
a couch, with his dressing-gown on, a bottle of medicine by his side,
and other indications of illness. But instead, there was the old man
seated upright in his chair, with papers and writing material before
him, staring at his visitor with an irritated expression, and looking
the very reverse of weak.

“Ahem! Uncle Conrad,” began Haywood, “I called yester to see you,
but――――”

“Yes, I know you did,” replied the colonel, curtly. “You say you wish
to see me on a matter of business. What is it?”

“Yes, it was a small matter, and not of so very much consequence.
Yesterday, when you sent word that you were ill, I was quite troubled
about you. So I thought I would step up this morning――――”

“Oh, then you haven’t any particular business with me. I’m perfectly
well now, if that is all you want; never was in better health.”

Haywood’s thick beard concealed the flush of vexation that arose to his
face. It was something new for him to meet with such a reception. But
he had for a long time exercised a certain control over his uncle, and
he could not give it up without a struggle. So he did not take the hint
that his presence was no longer desired, but still lingered, and said:

“Two nephews of yours are in town. I was surprised at your receiving
the son of――――”

“What is it to you, sir?” asked the old man, in wrath. “My brother is
_dead_. Our love or hate can no longer affect him. And if I choose to
see his son, I suppose it is my right, is it not?”

“Oh, certainly. And your brother is dead, is he? Dear me, how sudden!
Well, it quite overcomes me. Ahem! Very sad that he should have
departed without making restitution. But I was going to ask you if you
could accommodate with a thousand dollars this morning.”

“No, nor a thousand cents. But stay――I expect a dividend to-morrow
or next day from California, and then I may let you have it.
_Good-morning._”

This was delivered in a very emphatic tone, and left no pretext for
hesitation. So, with outward serenity but inward vexation, Haywood
left the room. He did not enter the parlor again, being in no mood to
converse with those who had caused him so much disturbance of mind. He
passed silently through the hall, a little faster than his usual pace,
and was soon on his way back to the store.

No one but himself knew the terrible agony of suspense and fear that
agitated his darkened soul.



                             CHAPTER III.

                           “SEVEN O’CLOCK.”


Carlos Conrad and Leonard Lester remained for a few moments after
Haywood’s departure in conversation with Florence Darley. As their
remarks were commonplace, we will take this opportunity to give a brief
sketch of the young lady.

She was an orphan whom Colonel Conrad had adopted ten years before
the opening of our story. He had educated her, lavished on her all the
tender love and care of a heart that had no other object on which to
bestow its affections, and made her all that a daughter could be to him.
She had paid him by tender devotion and a deep regard.

In person she was a beautiful girl. She was neither tall nor short,
but her form was one of rare symmetry in its proportions, being rather
slim, but round and full in development. The principal attraction of
her face was not the regularity of its features, but rather the soul
which looked out of the beaming eyes, and the atmosphere of light
which seemed to be cast around her. Every one felt the gentle influence
of her presence, and her manner was charming, oftentimes even unto
fascination.

Carlos Conrad felt this, and he gazed at her in such a spell as he had
never known before, even when associated with the dark Spanish beauties
among whom he had been thrown. He could scarcely utter a word, so deep
were the feelings stirred within him as he gazed on the lovely Florence.

Leonard noticed this, and a half smile played about the corners of his
mouth, while Florence must have observed it, for a slight blush rose to
her cheeks.

But the young men did not linger long. They felt that ♦their presence
beneath that roof was out of place for the present――that they should
forego intruding on their uncle’s hospitality until the issue of their
visit of the preceding day was made known.

So after a short time they rose and announced their intention of
departing, bidding Florence Darley good-day. They left the house and
made their way toward the village. Carlos was taciturn, and spoke to
his cousin only in monosyllables. His mind seemed to remain at Elm
Grove, even though his footsteps carried him from it.

“So soon, eh?” laughed Leonard, gazing around into his face.

“What do you mean?” asked Carlos, starting.

“Why, you haven’t seen her half an hour yet.”

“Pshaw!” exclaimed Carlos.

He made no further reply, nor could his cousin induce him to enter into
conversation during their entire walk to the hotel. Little did Leonard
care for this. He whistled merrily, and walked along in undisturbed
spirits.

When they arrived at the hotel he asked the clerk if there were no
sources of amusement in Dalton――it was insufferably dull.

“Well,” replied the clerk, “you can play billiards, or you can hire
a horse or buggy and drive to Rocky Beach, some four miles off, where
there’s splendid fishing.”

“Just the thing!” exclaimed Leonard. “I’ll go off and make the
arrangements at once.” He turned around to speak to Carlos, but he had
disappeared. “I won’t wait for him,” thought Leonard, “he’ll be ready
enough to go after I have made arrangements.”

And straightway he proceeded to a livery stable to engage a horse.

Carlos, meantime, had strolled down the street, and stepped into a
news-room. Here he picked up a daily paper, and read an announcement of
a concert by a celebrated artiste, to take place in a neighboring town
that evening.

He was a passionate lover of music, and had studied the art himself.
Here was an opportunity he had long wished for, and he determined to
embrace it.

Briefly, then, Leonard Lester set off in one direction, on a fishing
excursion, and Carlos Conrad in another, to hear the celebrated Madame
P―――― sing.

Now, if both could have foreseen what was to take place within the next
twenty-four hours, they would probably have materially changed their
course; for a great tragedy was about to be enacted――the whole village
was to be thrilled through and through with excitement.

The road which Carlos took was the same which led to Elm Grove; so
that, in making his journey, he was obliged to pass the residence of
his uncle.

Carlos drove swiftly along until he came near Elm Grove, when he
brought his horse to a walk. He noticed an express-wagon in front of
the gate, and two men carrying a small but heavy box in between them.
He looked curiously at this, and the driver of the wagon, who remained
on his seat, holding the horse said:

“Prob’ly you don’t know what’s in that box, bein’ a stranger in town?”

“No,” answered Carlos; “I certainly do not know what it contains.”

“Ha, ha! Thought so. Well, I’ll tell you. It’s gold.”

“Gold!”

“Yes. Colonel Conrad owns a mine out West, and about three times a year
they send him a box full of gold. You saw, didn’t you, how strong the
box was ironed together?”

“Yes, I noticed it.”

“There’s about thirty thousand dollars in it, I’m told.”

“Indeed!” laughed Carlos. “That’s more than one man deserves, I should
think.”

And he whipped up his horse to a brisk trot, as he had by this time
passed the expressman, and could only talk to him by dint of shouting.

We will pass by the visit of Carlos to Knoxtown, which was his
destination, the concert, his enthusiastic admiration of the singer,
and the general excitement of applause.

At a late hour in the night he set out on his return. It was starlight,
and the air was sultry. He gave himself up to deep thought. What to
conclude in regard to his uncle he knew not. He had been agreeably
surprised at the reception he had received, for he had expected a storm
of reproaches and immediate dismissal.

However, the fact that his uncle had since refused to see him, and at
the same time had admitted Haywood, their common enemy, into his own
private room, filled him with misgiving. Had he told Haywood the story,
and shown the documents to him, so as to give him a chance to explain
it all away? If the artful intriguer and mischief-maker were thus early
to be allowed the opportunity to justify his conduct, and speciously
smooth over his wrong-doing, then indeed had Carlos’ journey been in
vain. Thus he thought, and his reflections made him gloomy as he sped
on the road to Dalton.

It was past twelve o’clock when he came in sight of his uncle’s
residence. It was but natural that he should drive more slowly, and
look at the house and grounds.

He approached from the north side. Everything was quiet and gloomy. The
air was still and clear, with not a breath of wind stirring. Silence
reigned, broken only by the stepping of the horse, and the creaking of
the wheels on the ground.

As he passed the house, and looked back at the south side, Carlos gave
an involuntary start at seeing one room brilliantly lighted. This was
so unexpected, and seemed so out of keeping with the general solitude,
that he pulled up his horse and stopped.

He turned around in his seat, and regarded intently the window from
which came the light. A careful scrutiny and calculation enabled him to
conclude that the room must be his uncle’s study. It was on the ground
floor, and, as near as he could judge, in that portion of the house to
which he and Leonard had been conducted on their first interview with
Colonel Conrad.

What could he be doing at that late hour? Surely, all the rest of the
household were abed; and if Colonel Conrad were indisposed, it was, to
say the least, curious that he should be occupied reading or studying
at that hour. Perhaps he was so ill as to be unable to leave the room
or summon assistance.

Suddenly Carlos discovered a dark form hovering stealthily in the
shrubbery near the window. This sight decided him. He leaped from the
buggy, tied his horse to a stump on the side of the road, and proceeded
cautiously toward his uncle’s house.

Slowly he went, climbing over the fence, and making as little noise
as possible. He avoided the gravel paths, but kept on the green lawn,
which was velvet-like in its softness.

He arrived by the clump of rose-bushes, and thought he heard a rustling
among them. He stopped and listened, holding his breath that no sound
might escape his ear. Nothing was discernible to break the silence,
however, and he resumed his way toward the house.

Finally he stood on the greensward, about a rod from the window he
sought. The light was shining brightly still. But another circumstance
increased the surprise of Carlos. The window was a long one, extending
to the floor, and protected on the outside by blinds.

The blinds were open, and the lower sash of the window was raised.

He again stopped and listened, but still could hear no sound. He crept
slowly up to the window and looked in.

There sat Colonel Conrad by the table, his head bowed over on it,
motionless, and apparently asleep. The lamp stood beside him, burning
brightly.

Carlos looked earnestly in at the figure of his uncle, debating what
step to take next. Should he speak or depart, silently as he had come,
leaving him to awake at his leisure?

But even as he looked something sent a choking, sickening sensation
through him. He gasped for breath, and nearly fainted away, as he saw
on the floor beside his uncle a dark-red pool.

It lay there, a glistening, horrible, fascinating puddle. Carlos
stood rooted to the spot, for the moment thrown into a dumb, helpless
lethargy. But the spell passed from him, and he suddenly roused himself
into action.

He sprang into the room, approached his uncle, and touched his
shoulder. The figure moved not. Carlos shivered from head to foot. Then
he looked about him furtively. He stepped around to the other side of
the motionless form, and saw in the neck a bloody wound, as if from a
single vigorous deep thrust of a dagger. All this was so sudden and so
awful that he could not realize its horror for the time being.

  Illustration: HE STEPPED AROUND TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE
                MOTIONLESS FORM.

Again he walked around to the other side of the table. The face of
the dead body was bent over, out of sight; one arm was extended out
straight, and the other was bent and the fingers clutched tightly
together. Carlos could see that within this hand was a fragment of
white paper. He seized hold of the fingers, not yet cold and stiff, and
unclasped them. The paper was crumpled and wrinkled from the tightness
with which it had been grasped. Carlos straightened it out, pulled
it smooth, and examined it. It was irregular in shape, with two edges
smooth and the other rough and jagged, as if it had been torn from a
sheet. On it were two words, in the colonel’s handwriting. The paper
and the writing were as follows:

  Illustration: (‡ hand-written note.)

On the table was an envelope, addressed as follows:

                      “TIMOTHY TIBBS, Esq.,
                                      “Att’y,
                                        “Dalton.”

Carlos merely glanced at the envelope, and then his gaze immediately
returned to the piece of paper he held in his hand.

“Seven o’clock,” he repeated, and uttered the words over and over again
in a low, husky voice. “Good Heaven! how horrible!”

But in the midst of it all he was calm enough to reflect.

“This paper,” he thought, “is a fragment of something my uncle was
writing. Where is the other part?”

And he looked on the table and on the floor. His search was fruitless.

But again the pool of blood met his eye, and again the sickly, deathly
feeling passed over him.

“Murdered!” he exclaimed, “in the night! Ah, who could have done it?”

At that instant he heard a sound without――it was unmistakable this
time――and then he suddenly realized his position. What if he were
discovered there at that hour, alone with that dead body, which had so
recently been living, acting, moving? There could be but one conclusion.
He would be accused of being a murderer.

Horrified at the thought, he leaped from the window, only to be met
by the stalwart figure of a man, large in stature, and threatening in
aspect, bearing in his hand a long, gleaming knife. He had on a black
mask, and was advancing slowly, his hand raised as if to strike at an
instant’s warning.

Carlos stopped in terror, regarding the mysterious figure in silence,
and awaiting its onslaught.

A conflict seemed inevitable, and, gazing for an instant heavenward,
he prayed for strength. Then, with sudden resolve, he stood erect, and
braced his nerves for whatever might follow.



                              CHAPTER IV.

                         A FIGHT AND A FLIGHT.


Carlos and the stranger paused, regarding each other with the quick
calculation of antagonists measuring their opponents’ strength.

“You killed my uncle,” said Carlos, in a low tone.

“Your uncle! No――you killed him!”

“I?”

“Yes; you’re the only one that’s been here to-night. Nobody has seen me
in or near Dalton.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s lucky that you did happen along here, for I think I can fasten
the deed on you. Stop! Don’t move nor speak aloud.”

Carlos had started to leave the spot, but the long knife was presented
at his breast in a manner that threatened instant death if he stirred.

“Great Heaven! who are you and why did you kill him?”

“Silence!” was the reply, given in a fierce whisper, and accompanied by
a terrible oath. “Don’t repeat that. I say you killed him. And here’s
the evidence of it.”

He wiped the dagger, which was still bloody, on Carlos’ coat and vest,
leaving great red stains.

“What is that for?” asked Carlos.

“You’ll find out when the spots are discovered. They’ll be pretty bad
evidence against you. Ha! that makes you wince. But there is one thing
more. I have been watching you, and I want that piece of paper you took
from the old man’s hand. Fork it over.”

“What do you want of it?” asked Carlos.

“It belongs to this letter, and the letter is useless without it,” said
the man, drawing a white paper partially from his pocket. “Come, give
it up, and we will both leave this place quietly.”

But Carlos, seeing that the villain was off his guard for an instant,
darted forward with the quickness of lightning and dealt him a powerful
blow between the eyes.

The effect might have been serious had not the man been protected by
his mask. As it was, it blinded him for a moment, and caused him to
drop his dagger.

Carlos stooped to pick it up, but his antagonist recovered quicker than
he had expected. He felt a blow on the side of the head that sent him
reeling for a distance of two or three yards, and then he fell to the
ground. The man was after him, but he was on his feet in an instant,
and the two closed.

The man was large, and possessed great muscular strength. Carlos though
smaller in stature, had well-developed muscles, and was, moreover,
lithe and active. His antagonist soon discovered this, and found that
his work was not so easy as he had anticipated.

They struggled and rolled over on the grass, each striving to obtain
an advantage over the other. They seemed to be equally matched. But
Carlos soon saw that in endurance he would fail. He felt his strength
departing from him while the ruffian seemed to be fresh and unwearied.
He must end the fight soon, or be beaten.

These thoughts passed rapidly through his mind, and at that instant
he saw his opportunity. He suddenly ceased his efforts, and relaxed
his struggles, throwing his antagonist off guard for a moment. Then he
doubled up quickly, bringing his knees to his breast, and letting his
heels fly out violently against his adversary’s stomach.

This mode of proceeding was entirely unexpected. The ♦villain rolled
over and uttered a deep grunt.

Carlos was free. He sprang to his feet and fled. He was instantly
pursued, however, and if he had not been fleet of foot, would have been
overtaken. He ran to the fence, cleared it with a bound, and then went
directly to his horse and buggy.

He was almost to the carriage, the ruffian in hot pursuit. He saw that
he would not have time to untie the horse, and so, running, he took out
his pocket knife and opened the blade. When he came up to the horse he
cut the halter, leaving it dangling to the stump.

Then he sprang into the buggy, applied the whip vigorously, and drove
rapidly down the road.

Near by was a clump of trees, in the shade of which he saw a horse
standing, saddled. Wondering at this, he still drove on, but looked
back.

When on the brow of a little hillock he saw his pursuer stop and untie
the horse.

“Ha!” thought Carlos, “he is coming after me on horseback. His horse
may be fleeter than mine, and in that case he’ll surely overtake me.
Ah, here’s a chance to circumvent him!”

He had come to a narrow street branching off from the main road, and
into this he turned. As he was about a quarter of a mile ahead, and it
was rapidly growing cloudy, he could neither be seen nor heard.

He urged his horse to a quicker rate of speed, and flew along the
road blindly, recklessly. At first he passed farm dwellings frequently,
and in one or two of them dim lights were burning. Dogs ran out to the
gates and barked as he sped by, alarmed at the unusual noise. Again and
again he lashed his horse, until the beast was covered with foam.

It now began to grow dark rapidly. Clouds shut out the stars from view,
and thunder rumbled in the heavens, mingled with flashes of lightning.
Then the rain began to fall in large drops.

Carlos was in a state bordering on delirium. The shock of coming so
unexpectedly on the murdered body of his uncle would have been too
much for the nerves of a much stronger man than he. The threat of the
murderer of fastening the crime on him had filled him with apprehension.
Then came the struggle, the pursuit, and the escape; all these
following one another, produced on him a terrible state of excitement.

Not until he had driven four or five miles did he once halt or slacken
his speed, or reflect that he was beyond the reach of his pursuer. By
that time the rain was falling in torrents, loud peals of thunder rent
the air, and vivid flashes of lightning came in quick succession.

The rain falling on his heated brow had the effect of cooling his
excitement somewhat, and he began to reflect. He stopped urging his
horse, and the poor beast dropped into a walk, enjoying the shower
falling on his steaming flanks.

Carlos endeavored to look around him, but it was pitch-dark. Where was
he? How far from Dalton? How near any human habitation? He knew not.
Then he thought:

“Why this flight? I am guilty of nothing. My pursuer is off my track. I
should be pursuing _him_, not he me. Where has he gone? Why did he kill
my uncle?” Carlos shuddered as he thought of the body leaning over the
table, and the pool of blood on the floor. “I must quickly return to
Dalton, or in truth I may be suspected. The villain wiped his dagger
on my coat, but I apprehend the rain has washed it all off. Besides,
I could have no motive, and nobody saw me near the house. I must arouse
the officers, and the murderer must be found.”

Alas! that these thoughts had come so late!

He then stopped the horse and began to consider the best mode of
proceeding. He was in a lonely, unknown road, and finally decided to
let the horse take his own course. So, dropping the lines, he commanded
him to go forward.

The animal obeyed, stepping slowly and cautiously, his feet splashing
and sinking deep in the mud at every step, and drawing out with
difficulty.

The rain now was falling with less violence, and the thunder and
lightning were not so frequent. Carlos was wet through to the skin,
and the water ran from each side of his horse in little streams. Both
animal and man were chilled and shivering. They plodded on slowly
through the darkness, which was so dense as to seem almost like a
material substance. Carlos gave himself up to a gloomy despondency,
for, although innocent, he had a foreboding that the events of the
night would bring evil and misfortune to him.

Suddenly the horse altered his course and turned quickly to the right.
As he proceeded, the hub of one of the buggy wheels came in contact
with some object――not with such force, however, as to stop the vehicle;
and in a moment Carlos no longer felt the rain beating down upon him,
but heard it over him, striking some intervening object. They were
under a shelter. The horse had turned into a farm-yard and walked under
a shed. He stood still, evidently determined to postpone the remainder
of his journey until an improvement in the weather should take place.

This was a new and vexatious phase of affairs, and Carlos was
confronted with the prospect of remaining in his strange quarters until
daybreak.

He had not, up to this moment, heard a sniffing, smelling noise, which
came from a large watch-dog, who had been walking around the buggy
silently and regarding the new arrival with suspicion. The darkness
had prevented him from seeing and the rain from hearing the animal. But
now, as he was about to step from the buggy to tie the horse and make
things secure for the night, a low growling arrested him. He stopped
and listened, and knew that a large dog was in close proximity.

He leaped to the ground notwithstanding, and instantly the growls
deepened and a shaggy body sprang against his breast. The dog had aimed
for his throat, but seized his coat-collar instead.

Carlos did not lose his presence of mind, but seized the brute suddenly
around the lower jaw, holding it with a vise-like grip. There was all
the energy of a life-struggle in his grasp, and so tightly was his jaw
held that the dog could not bring his teeth together. He was a large,
heavy animal, and he bore Carlos to the ground. There they lay, and
♦struggled and floundered, the dog uttering howls of rage, but Carlos
never once relinquished his grasp.

The noise aroused the inmates of the house, which was near by. Soon a
voice was heard:

“Tige! Tige! what’s the matter out there?”

It was a man who spoke.

“Help! for God’s sake!” cried Carlos.

“Who are you?” asked the voice.

“Call the dog off!” cried Carlos. “My strength is nearly gone!”

The man advanced, carrying a lantern, and peering cautiously ahead
of him. He seemed in no hurry to relieve Carlos from his unpleasant
position, but looked around as if to assure himself that no one else
was about. Having become satisfied on this point, he exclaimed:

“There, Tige, get off. Get off, I say!” giving him a savage kick in the
side.

Carlos let go his hold, and the dog, giving a short yelp, ran under
the buggy, and seated himself on his haunches, glaring out at them with
hungry eyes.

Carlos sank back on the ground and fainted.

“Well, who be you, anyhow?” asked the man.

Receiving no reply, he bent over the prostrate body, and, seeing that
it was unconscious, he said:

“I’ll call Kit. Here――go into the house, you hound!”

The dog slunk on ahead of his master, peering backward, first one side,
and then the other, with wicked eyes. On arriving at the door, the man
roared:

“Kit! Oh, here you are. I should have thought the infernal noise would
ha’ ’woke you.”

“It did,” responded a female voice. “What is the matter?”

“A young chap’s out here on the ground that has had a tussle with Tige.
He’s gone clear away, and we’ll have to bring him in, I s’pose?”

“Oh, yes! It’s a dreadful night. You carry him in, and I will get some
lights and make a place for him.”

Carlos was soon deposited on a couch, with a rough man staring at him,
and a young girl, not so rough, endeavoring to restore him.

The man was tall and dark, with a shaggy beard covering nearly his
whole face, and heavy eyebrows, overhanging a pair of deep-set, small,
restless-looking eyes. He was large as well as tall, and his build
betokened great strength. His position was not erect, but his gait was
slouching, his look sullen, and his manner that of one at odds with all
the world.

The daughter was also large of frame, but she did not share the
devil-may-care look of her father. To be sure there was danger in those
black eyes when her nature was once aroused, but there was the _woman_
in them――womanly care, womanly softness, womanly passion.

As she bent over the form of Carlos, she overflowed with pity, and used
gentle means to restore him.

And when her efforts were rewarded with success she stared at him
eagerly, with a loud beating heart, and tears just ready to fall.
Then for the first time her hand trembled and her steadiness of nerve
forsook her.

Carlos slowly opened his eyes, pressed his hands to his forehead for
a moment, and then looked his thanks at the being whose hands were
deftly making him comfortable. Beneath his gaze she trembled violently
and blushed a deep red. Her face was half averted, and she could find
neither words nor voice to express her joy.

Her father saw that Carlos was returning to consciousness, and, going
to a chair on the opposite side of the room, said, gruffly, as he sat
down:

“He’ll do well enough now.”

At that Carlos sprang up suddenly, saying:

“Yes, I’m all right, and I must go. How far is it to Dalton?”

“Oh, sir,” said the girl, finding her voice, “you must not go to-night.
You can’t.”

“Yes, I must,” said Carlos. “Can you tell me how far it is to Dalton?”

“A matter o’ four mile,” replied the man.

“Yes, it’s four miles, and it’s a bad road, with ever so many turns,”
said the girl.

Carlos stepped to the door and looked out. It had nearly stopped
raining, but the darkness was intense, and the water could be heard
rushing in torrents in the ditch beside the road.

“If I only knew the way,” he said, straining his eyes in the vain
endeavor to discern surrounding objects; “if I only knew the way, I
would not hesitate a moment.”

“If you don’t know the way,” said the girl, “you couldn’t possibly find
it. No, it wouldn’t do for you to try. You will have to stay with us
until daylight.”

This seemed to be the only alternative, and Carlos reluctantly
submitted. A fire was built for him to dry his clothes by, and the room
was abandoned to his sole occupancy.

He was agitated, and bewailed the necessity of inaction.

“To remain away all night will make them suspect me,” he thought.

But he was exhausted, and, lying down on the couch, he sank into a
troubled sleep. His dreams were disturbing, and he flung his arms and
talked wildly as he slept.

Not till morning dawned and the sun was up did he awake. He sprang from
the couch, and it took him some moments to recover full consciousness
of his situation. Then with a groan he commenced dressing, and was soon
in a presentable condition.

The father and daughter were already up, and in the next room had a
breakfast prepared, although it was not yet six o’clock.

“We thought you ought to have something to eat before setting out,”
said the girl, greeting him with a smile.

“I thank you very much,” replied Carlos. “I will take a cup of coffee,
and then must be off.”

During the meal he inquired the names of his host and hostess. The man
was Jake Heath, and the girl was his daughter Kate.

“Thank you,” said Carlos. “I will remember you, and repay you some time,
if I ever have an opportunity.”

He shrank from offering money, as he instinctively felt that it would
offend Kate. So, after again and again expressing his gratitude, he
took leave of the two, shaking hands with them heartily.

Kate stood and watched him, a new light coming into her eyes, and a
sigh escaping her, coming from the profoundest depths of her nature.
The seeds of a hopeless passion had been planted in her heart.

Carlos’ thoughts were different. As he turned toward Dalton he was
filled with terrible though vague apprehensions. Although he drove
rapidly, he approached the village with fear and trembling, and felt
that he was rushing into the jaws of death. And even at the early hour
at which he entered the town, he saw that there was an unusual stir.
The few that were out, instead of going quietly about their usual
business, were talking with one another in excited tones, with sober
looks and blanched faces.

Well did he know the terrible nature of their half-whispered words and
low-spoken discussions.



                              CHAPTER V.

                            THE WRONG MAN.


The masked stranger tore through the shrubbery in mad ♦pursuit after
Carlos, uttering the most fearful imprecations.

He strained every nerve to increase his speed, and groaned in
desperation as he saw Carlos jump into his buggy and drive off. He ran
on to the spot where his horse was stationed, and, once mounted, there
was a chance that he might overtake the object of his pursuit.

But Carlos drove rapidly, and, by the time the assassin was mounted,
was out of sight.

The man applied the spurs and whip, and his horse galloped along
swiftly, making the dirt and stones fly far behind him.

On they flew, swifter and swifter. Like an arrow they shot by the road
where Carlos had turned. It was well that the latter adopted this ruse,
or he would inevitably have been overtaken, for his pursuer’s horse was
a fleet one.

Soon the rider began to grow uneasy.

“I should have come up with him by this time,” he thought. “There’s no
horse in the Dalton livery-stable that mine ought not to have run down
before this.”

He strained his eyes to look ahead, but the gathering clouds prevented
him from discerning objects at any distance. Then he halted and
listened. A faint rumbling of wheels greeted his ear, but it was not
sufficiently distinct for him to determine from what direction it came.
He concluded that it must be toward the village, and again lashed his
horse and urged him ahead.

  Illustration: HE STRAINED HIS EYES TO LOOK AHEAD, BUT COULD NOT
                DISCERN OBJECTS AT ANY DISTANCE.

As he entered the streets of Dalton he began to feel a misgiving that
he had been outwitted. But not a single chance must be cast aside, and
he neither turned nor slackened his pace. Down the main thoroughfare,
and around the corner of a street which led to the livery-stable, he
proceeded, and there he saw a horse trotting briskly along, drawing a
buggy containing a single occupant.

“Ha! my man,” he thought, “you’re too sure! You thought you were so far
ahead that I couldn’t come up with you, but I’ll show you in a moment
your mistake!”

Speaking a word to his horse, he dashed on with renewed speed, and
was soon but a rod or two behind the buggy. He thought it strange that
his approach was apparently not noticed, that there was no attempt to
distance him, or avoid him in any way. He whom he supposed to be Carlos
Conrad simply looked around once, and then drove on, neither slackening
nor increasing his speed.

“Ah, I have it,” thought the pursuer. “He doesn’t know I have a horse.
He didn’t see him under the shade of the trees. He thinks I am a mile
off, and that some innocent cove is following him. I’ll tackle him now.”

Acting promptly on this theory, he galloped up to the side of the buggy
supposed to contain Carlos.

The clouds by this time were quite thick, and rendered everything
indistinct to the vision. The pursuer hailed his man:

“Hallo, stranger, hold on!”

The stranger looked around, and said:

“What do you want?”

His apparent unconcern startled the murderer, who, with a sudden
impulse, leaped from his horse’s back into the buggy. The action was
so quick as to meet with no repulse. The lines were jerked from the
driver’s hands, his neck was encircled with a strong arm, and he was
quickly chocked into submissiveness. The horse was reined in and stood
still. The murderer’s horse, a well-trained animal, also halted and
stood motionless.

“Now,” said the assailant, “if you’ll give up that piece of paper, I’ll
let you go.”

“What do you mean?” gasped the victim, whose throat was firmly held.

“No fooling,” was the reply, given in an angry tone. “Just hand it over,
or it will be the worse for you.”

“Hand what over?”

“The paper.”

“What paper?”

“You know as well as I,” was the reply, accompanied with a curse. “I
saw you take it out of his hand.”

“I do not understand you.”

And the victim struggled to free himself. It was in vain. He was held
in a vise-like grip.

“Are you not Colonel Conrad’s nephew?” asked the assailant, beginning
to cherish doubts as to having hold of the right man.

“Yes, I am Colonel Conrad’s nephew,” was the reply.

“Then do as I wish, or you’ll be murdered, too.”

“I murdered, too! Please explain yourself. And I’ll thank you to
give me a clear idea of what you want. If it is my watch, take it. I
am helpless; and to have my throat in the embrace of your arm is far
from comfortable. You can have my pocket-book, too, although there is
precious little in it. At all events, I wish you would transact your
business, whatever it is, and then release me.”

Further words were cut short by a blow on the head from a small bag of
shot, and Leonard Lester sank back on the seat of the buggy unconscious.
For it was he. He had started to return from his fishing excursion
at Rocky Beach past midnight, and had arrived in Dalton just in time
to fall in with the villain who was in pursuit of Carlos, and to be
mistaken for his cousin.

When he first noticed the horseman approaching, he thought it rather
strange that he should be out at such an hour, and, of course, did
not suspect his object. And when he accosted him, and leaped into
the buggy, and made the strange demand for that “piece of paper,” of
course Leonard was bewildered. He dared not struggle violently, for the
ruffian had him in such a manner that he could, by a contraction of his
powerful arm, have easily broken or dislocated his neck. Consequently
he was powerless to resist.

On the other hand, the murderer of Colonel Conrad did not dare risk
a prolonged struggle in the public street, even at that late hour, to
obtain the fragment of paper he so coveted. There was too much danger
of making a noise and rousing the dwellers in the neighborhood.

So he adopted the expedient of rendering Leonard insensible for the
time being.

By this time the rain-storm had come up. The thunder began to roar and
the lightning flashed through the sky.

The ruffian bound Leonard’s hands, and then, lifting him up and placing
him astride of his horse, he joined his feet by a cord, drawing it
firmly and tying it securely. All this was effected with much trouble,
as Leonard was helpless, and was by no means a light weight to handle.

His captor mounted behind him, and, placing his arms around him, held
him in position, at the same time grasping the bridle with his hands.

“Now get up, Bill,” he said, “and take us home in short order.”

And he brought his heels violently against the sides of his horse. The
animal sprang forward with a snort, and dashed through the streets of
the town, amid the driving rain and deafening thunder. The horse and
buggy used by Leonard were left behind to take care of themselves as
best they might.

On drove the strange couple, one bewildered and confounded by his
situation, and the other destined to be scarcely less so, for what
would be his emotions on discovering that his prisoner was not the
man he had pursued from the grounds of Colonel Conrad?

After a time Leonard returned to consciousness, the jolting ride and
the drenching rain arousing his nerves into action. He attempted to
struggle, but soon found that the effort was futile. He could move
neither his hands nor his feet, and, as he only maintained an upright
position by the aid of his companion, he conceived the idea that it
would be policy to remain quiet.

On recovering from the effects of the blow he had received, he had
immediately comprehended his situation, and was aware that he was being
carried rapidly out of town for some purpose――though what he could not
imagine.

“Where am I?” he asked; “and who are you?”

“Ah, you’re awake, awake, are you?” was the reply. “You’ll find out who
I am soon enough. I’ll take you to a place where you’ll come to terms,
I’ll be bound. If you had been reasonable, and given me what I wanted,
you might have been abed and asleep by this time. Now I’m afraid it
will go a little hard with you.”

“Oh, you’re still harping on that, are you?” said Leonard. “Well, I’ll
give you all the pieces of paper I’ve got, if you will leave me one
ten-dollar bill for present necessities.”

“Too late now; you ought to have made that offer when I first came up
with you. You must go with me now, and I’m thinking you won’t come back
in a hurry either.”

“Why? What do you mean?” asked Leonard, in some alarm.

“Oh, nothing, only it will be necessary to take you to a place that you
probably never dreamt of; and if we should let you go, it might be the
ruination of us.”

“If you should let me go! And don’t you mean to let me go?”

“We can tell better about that pretty soon. By the lightning, how it
does pour down! Get up, Bill!”

For as much as half an hour longer they went on their lonely road, now
through thick woods, now by open fields. At last the murmur of the sea
was faintly heard. They were approaching the shore of the ocean.

Leonard kept a sharp lookout.

Their course was now over rough places and through jagged paths. Every
moment the roar of the sea grew more distinct.

At length Leonard’s captor reined in the horse. He took a small
instrument from his pocket, placed it to his mouth, and gave three long,
shrill whistles.

After a moment’s pause, the signal was answered. Then they pushed
forward again, and after riding a short distance, halted.

Leonard could just discern in the darkness a high mass of rocks near
him, while the washing of the waves on the shore could be heard close
at hand.

“Now,” said his captor, “I’m going to take you down from the horse,
and you’ll have to walk a spell. But I warn you that there’ll be no use
in your trying to escape――you can’t do it. So look sharp and mind your
footing, and keep close to me.”

He took a knife and cut the cords that bound Leonard, for they were so
swelled with the rain that it was impossible to untie them.

Leonard leaped to the ground, and stretched his limbs, for they were
cramped and painful.

“Now walk ahead of me,” was the command, and the two proceeded forward,
Leonard’s mind being active and on the alert for some means of escape
from his strange custody.

They were walking parallel with the edge of the water, some rods
distant from it.

Suddenly, Leonard turned abruptly to the right and fled. He rushed
directly toward the murmuring waves, and stumbled across a small skiff.

A yell of warning followed him, but he leaped into the boat, seized the
oars, and rowed rapidly from the shore.

The man reached the water’s edge just too late. With an exclamation of
baffled rage, he fired two pistol shots.

Leonard rowed vigorously, and soon put quite a distance between himself
and the shore. He hoped, in the darkness, to confuse and outwit his
pursuer.

But all at once he heard a suspicious sound, and paused to listen.

It was the sound of oars.

The strokes were quick and strong, and were made by more than one pair
of arms. They came from more than one direction, too.

The conviction flashed upon Leonard’s mind that other boats were at
hand, and that he was pursued. He threw all his energy into his work,
and rowed rapidly. Even as he did so, he was conscious that the odds
were against him, but his spirits did not sink, nor did his efforts
abate. Although the bow of the little skiff cut the waves gallantly,
and shot a stream of seething foam out either side, she was rapidly
gained upon. Soon Leonard could hear the strokes of the pursuing oars
even while his own were in motion, and they gradually but surely grew
more distinct.

Even when it became a certainty that he must be overtaken, he calmly
awaited the course of events, not without fear, but still cool and
self-possessed.



                              CHAPTER VI.

                             UNDERGROUND.


Leonard had scarcely left the shore two rods behind him when his
pursuer reached the point where he had leaped into the boat.

Pausing a moment and retracing his steps, he ran to the base of a high
cliff of rocks, and again blew his whistle.

“Ratter! Beattie! Hawkins! Out here, quick! There’s work to do.”

“Hi! Snags, what is it?” responded a voice apparently coming from the
depths of the rock.

“I had a prisoner and he has flown. He is in a boat now, rowing for
dear life.”

“In a boat! How in thunder did you come to let him get a boat? Who is
he, anyhow?”

“Do not ask any questions, but be after him as quick as you can. He
must not escape!”

“Well, I’ll call the boys.”

“Confound it, you should not have to call them. Why didn’t you get
ready for action when you heard my first whistle?”

“Didn’t suppose there was going to be any trouble of this kind. You
ought to have watched him more careful――――”

“Well, well. Never mind that now. He is pulling away fast, and every
moment is precious.”

“Yes, we’re coming. Can’t you tell a fellow what kind of a job it is,
Snags?”

“No, not till I see Roake. I don’t know much about it myself yet. Only
it’s life or death to get that chap that’s leaving us so fast.”

By this time four men had emerged from an aperture in the rocks, and
were hastening to the shore.

“Take two boats, branch out, head him in――be sure that you catch him!”
shouted Snags, and before he had fairly ceased speaking, the pursuers
were pulling from the shore.

They rowed rapidly, and with a certainty and confidence that betokened
an intimate knowledge of the locality.

Snags now turned toward the perpendicular ascent of rock and entered
the aperture from which the men had emerged. He stepped into what was
apparently a small fissure in the rocks, overhung by a projecting crag.

He proceeded for some distance through a dark passage, and then emerged
into a large apartment, dimly lighted by a high, swinging lamp.

It was a cave, the walls of which on all sides were of dark-colored
rock, rough and uneven, with moisture oozing out here and there. The
ceiling was high, and from it was suspended by a wire the lamp, which
cast a ghostly and uncertain glimmer about.

Going directly across the apartment, he came to an opening which
branched off in the form of a long, narrow hall. This hall he traversed
for some distance, and finally halted before an iron door, over which
swung a small lamp.

He knocked. Receiving no answer, he knocked again, louder.

A volley of oaths greeted his ear, uttered in an angry tone.

Waiting until the storm had subsided, he said:

“Roake, let me in. It is I――Snags. Open the door.”

“What the duse is the matter?” uttered the voice, somewhat more mildly,
but still with vexation in the tone.

“I’ll tell you when I’m alone with you.”

A rattling at the latch was now heard, and the iron door swung open
heavily. It disclosed an apartment fifteen or twenty feet square,
which, like the rooms through which Snags had already passed, was
feebly illuminated.

On one side was a bed, and there were tables, chairs, a couch, and a
cupboard, in different parts of the room. Everything bore an untidy,
disorderly look.

As Snags entered, Roake said:

“I suppose everything worked all right――didn’t it?”

Instead of replying, Snags said, cautiously:

“I suppose the ♦‘Boss’ isn’t around, is he?”

“No, of course not. Why?”

“Nothing, only I’m afraid he wouldn’t be over and above pleased with
what I’ve had to do to-night.”

“What have you had to do?” said the other, sharply.

“Well, you see,” said Snags, drawing a long breath, “I got up to the
grove about twelve o’clock, and went to the window mentioned. There was
a light in the room, and there sat the colonel, writing. I could just
see this through a corner of the curtain, which was turned up a little.
He wrote more’n an hour, and I out there waiting for him to get through.
But he didn’t get through, and I was revolving in my mind a change of
tactics, when he got up.

“He went to the other side of the room, where I couldn’t see him, and
was gone quite a few minutes. Then he came back to the table and sat
down, and I’m blamed if he didn’t go to writing again. Says I to myself,
Snags, this ain’t a going to do. It’ll be daylight before you do your
work, and if you’re seen in Dalton things may work wrong. I thought,
too, that he might be writing on the very document that was wanted. So
I made up my mind to crawl in behind him and see what I could see. I
moved along to the other window, so as to be directly behind him, and
pulled open the wooden shutters. The sash was raised, and so was the
curtain, part way, so that all I had to do was to crawl in pretty quiet.

“Well, I got inside, and stood up and looked over his shoulder. Good
Lord! you can’t guess what I saw on the table. A jolly old heap of gold
coin, and there it is, too!”

Snags reached down into the depths of a huge pocket, and drew out
several handfuls of eagles and half eagles. He threw them down on the
table, and the eyes of both the men sparkled.

The face of Roake expressed a greedy joy, but he said in an impatient
tone:

“Well, what next? What did you do then? How did you get the gold?”

“I was going to say,” resumed Snags, “that just as I was feasting my
optics on the shiners, the old man noticed my shadow, and looked up. He
saw me standing there, and I think you’ll own it was rather a ticklish
place. I hadn’t but one thing to do. You know yourself that I ain’t
very fond of it, and confound it, it wasn’t my fault――it couldn’t be
helped――I had to stick him――――”

“You fool, you! Did you――――”

“Yes, needn’t say the word, I did it, but upon my word I didn’t intend
to let the life out of him. I only meant to quiet him for a few moments,
while I got the booty.”

Snags hesitated as if at a loss how to proceed further. He glanced
furtively at his companion, and evidently feared his displeasure. But
the other only said:

“Well, what then? You got the booty, that’s one good thing. Did you get
anything else?”

“No, and I’ll tell you why. The minute I run it into him, I heard a
carriage coming along the road, and so I grabbed the gold and jumped
out of the window. I hid in the bushes, and presently a young cuss come
stealing into the yard, looking about as if he thought things wasn’t
all right. I watched him, and he went into the house, right where the
old man was leaning his head on the table, and the blood on the floor
by his side. He seemed mighty scared at the looks of things, and took
from the old man’s hand a scrap of paper he was clutching even when
dead. I crept close up to the window, so as to see well, when the young
chap come out. I held up this joker,” and Snags drew the long knife
from his breast and laid it on the table, “and told him to wait a
minute, I wanted to see him. I told him he must give up that paper he
had taken from the colonel’s hand, but he vowed he wouldn’t. He called
the old man his uncle, and asked me what I killed him for.

“But I couldn’t stop to waste no words with him, and so we got into a
tussle. By gum! he was a wiry chap, if he was little; and he got away
from me, too. He ran into ♦the road, jumped into his buggy, and drove
like mad into the town. But I had Bill all saddled, under the trees,
and I got on him as quick as I could, and went after him. Thunder!
how he did go! But I caught him just as he was going up toward the
livery-stable, and had to knock him in the head; for it wouldn’t do,
you know, to raise a muss, and make a noise right in the village.

“I put him on the horse in front of me, and streaked it for this spot.
When we’d rode as far as we could, I took him down and made him walk;
and――would you believe it?――though I followed him up close, he gave me
the slip again, and ran like split down the shore, jumped in a skiff,
and rowed off.”

“The devil he did,” said Roake. “You’ve made a pretty mess of it, all
around. You ain’t so sharp as you used to be. And so the fellow has
escaped, has he?”

“I hope not,” said Snags. “Rattler and the others are out with two
boats after him, and as he didn’t get much of a start I think they’ll
catch him. It’ll be mighty serious business if they don’t.”

“How’s that?”

“He’ll bring officers here, and they’ll burst up the whole nest of us.”

“That would be a bad job. And you can have your cursed blundering to
thank for it. Just think of it; to kill a man when it was not in the
game, and then to let a prisoner escape from you so easily.”

“Don’t blow, Roake. I couldn’t help it. There is one thing we can do;
if our man is not caught we can leave this place, and take a journey
that leaves no trail.”

“I hate to do that.”

“So do I. But self-preservation, and so forth, you know.”

Both men were silent for a short time, when Snags said:

“I’m mighty hungry, Roake, and dry as a fish. A man must eat and drink
after such a job as I’ve been through.”

“You’ll find what you want in the cupboard there,” said Roake.

He lit a pipe, and smoked furiously, muttering:

“I don’t know what the boss will say.”

Snags proceeded to eat with a voracity that attested a good appetite,
and a mind untroubled, for the time, by the bloody scene in which he
had so recently been the chief actor.

The men conversed no more together, but each occupied himself with his
own thoughts, and anxiously awaited the appearance of Leonard Lester,
who at that moment had nearly abandoned all hope of eluding the four
men who were pursuing him with their boats.



                             CHAPTER VII.

                         IN STRANGE QUARTERS.


Snags, when his appetite was in a measure appeased, grew impatient. He
was anxious lest Leonard Lester should make good his escape, and felt
a sort of responsibility concerning the securing of the captive. More
than that, he apprehended that his carelessness would bring him into
discredit among his comrades, should Leonard not be retaken.

And still further, there was something he had not chosen to tell Roake,
namely, the contents of the paper he had torn from Colonel Conrad’s
hand. He had read it hastily before the arrival of Carlos on the scene,
and it fell just short of conveying some very desirable information.
That information, he was sure, could be supplied by the missing
fragment, and this he was eager to obtain. But he decided that Roake
must know nothing of all this, at least for the present.

Growing more and more anxious concerning the recapture of his escaped
prisoner, Snags at length left the apartment of Roake, and made his way
through the rocky passages to the beach again.

Here he listened for the sound of returning boats. For some moments he
waited, and at last his heart rose in glee as he heard the splashing of
oars.

“They would not return so soon unless they had succeeded,” he reasoned.

And he was right.

The boats soon came ashore, and Leonard Lester was in the hands of the
ruffians.

“Ha!” exclaimed Snags. “Here you are. You see we know our business. You
might as well give in first as last.”

“I always give in when I am obliged to,” replied Leonard; “never
otherwise. And now I’d like to know among what sort of a crew I have
fallen, and what the whole thing means?”

“Oh, it won’t be long before you’ll have all the information you want,
and more too. Now come with me. Step along.”

Leonard hesitated, and looked around him――the light of the lantern held
by Snags enabling him to take a dim view of his surroundings.

“One, two, three, four, five,” he counted. “If there were not more than
three of you, I think I could see what my muscle is good for. But five
are too many. Yes, I’ll go. Be on your guard, though, for I warn you
I’ll not be a tractable prisoner.”

“Yes, you’ve taught us that,” laughed Snags; “we sha’n’t give you too
much leeway.”

Leonard was conducted into the rocky cave, and through the passage past
Roake’s door. Then a sudden turn to the right brought them to three
descending steps, after which there was a rocky ascending passage some
forty feet in length.

Having traversed this, they came to a wider opening, in an obscure
corner of which a concealed door was opened. Through this Leonard was
led, and found himself in a large apartment of irregular shape, whose
walls, ceiling, and floor were of rock. The place was moist, chilly,
and gloomy.

“Well, how will this room suit you?” asked Snags.

“I don’t suppose it makes any difference whether it suits me or not,”
replied Leonard. “You seem to have the game all in your own hands.”

“Yes, I should say we had. And if you’ve made up your mind to that,
it’s all the better for you. Now, boys, this ’ere chap’s my prisoner,
and I’d like to see him alone for a few minutes. S’pose you leave us,
and keep within calling distance.”

In obedience to this suggestion, Snags’ comrades withdrew, closing the
heavy door of the apartment behind them.

Snags drew a revolver from his pocket, set his lantern on the floor,
and addressed Leonard. The two were some five yards apart.

“In the first place,” said Snags, “don’t move from your tracks; if
you do, I’ll shoot you dead. You’re a wiry chap, and I don’t want the
trouble of another tussle with you. In the next place, answer all the
questions I ask you, prompt and true. Will you?”

“I probably will,” said Leonard; “though I don’t know of any subject
upon which I can give information that will be likely to interest you.”

“We’ll see presently. To begin with, Where’s that piece of paper?”

“What piece of paper?”

“Curse you!” exclaimed Snags, in a fury. “Are you trying to dodge that
yet? Come, tell me, before I――――”

And he clutched his pistol threateningly.

“I declare to you,” said Leonard, earnestly, “that I don’t know what
you mean. And that is all I could say if you held a knife to my throat.”

Snags looked at him in wonder.

“You’re a game one!” he muttered; “or else I’ve made an unaccountable
blunder.”

“The latter is probably the case,” said Leonard; “for what earthly
object you can have in capturing me and bringing me ♦here, is more than
I can imagine. If you’ll just tell me what you want, and then release
me, I’ll be greatly obliged.”

“Well, you know, after he was killed――――”

“Who?”

“Who! Why, Colonel Conrad, of course.”

“Colonel Conrad killed! When? Where?”

“Oh, but now this is going too far. Do you honestly mean to say that
you’re not the man who had a tussle with me, right under the window of
his room, where he sat dead?”

“I mean to say that I never saw you until you attacked me in Dalton,
and that all your allusions since the attack have been mysterious. This
I will declare on my oath, if necessary.”

“Well, you don’t look nor act as if you were lying, and so I’ll go over
the whole ground. Between twelve and one o’clock this morning Colonel
Conrad was murdered――――”

“This is terrible! Who did it?”

“That’s neither here not there,” said Snags, uneasily. “The matter will
be looked into, doubtless, and somebody will swing for it. But just
listen a moment. When the blow was struck he was holding in his hand a
paper which he had just written. That paper was taken from him, but he
held one corner so tight that a piece was torn off and left in his grip.
The party that did the deed speedily found out that the paper was good
for nothing without the piece that was torn off, for there was a word,
or some words, on it that must have furnished a very valuable piece of
information. While he was hiding in the bushes near the house, another
man came along, and peeped into the room where the dead man sat. He
took from his hand the missing fragment of paper, and read it. Then he
put it in his pocket, and was going off with it, when the first party
stopped him and demanded of him to give it up. He refused, and then
they clinched and had a rough-and-tumble fight of it. The second man
was quick and wiry, and got away. He ran like the wind, jumped into the
buggy by the road-side, and drove off like mad, the first man after him
on horseback. But I――that is, he missed him, some way, and on arriving
in the village, captured, as it seems, the wrong man.”

“Ah,” exclaimed Leonard, “_I_ am the man who was captured, and
you――_you_ are the one who murdered my uncle!”

“Your uncle! So he is your uncle, then. The other one said he was his
uncle!”

“True――it must have been Carlos. We are cousins. Colonel Conrad is our
uncle.”

“Was your uncle, you mean. He’s nobody’s uncle now; he’s dead.”

“Yes, so you said before. How did it come about? Why did you do it?”

“Oh, never mind that. I don’t know but I’ve told you too much now.
There’s one thing, though. You’ll never get out of here to be a witness
against me.”

“What!” exclaimed Leonard, in some alarm, “you don’t mean to say
that――――”

“I mean to say that you’ll stay here as long as my name is Snags, or
until I get away from this infernal crew, and am in some quarter of the
world where I can’t be found.”

“Then I am to be a prisoner, to shield you? Suppose I make a promise
not to reveal anything that could harm you?”

“I don’t think you would keep such a promise. You wouldn’t let your
cousin be hanged for my sake, would you?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean,” replied Snags, “that I have a sort of an idea that the thing
will look bad against him. There’ll be blood stains on his clothes,
which I put there when we were struggling――I had the bloody dagger,
you know――and it isn’t likely that he could get home without somebody
seeing him come from the direction of Colonel Conrad’s house. I may
be wrong, but people like to fasten such crimes on somebody, you know,
without being particular whether the evidence is positive or not. So,
to shield your cousin, you’d be very likely to peach on me.”

Leonard bowed his head in dismay. Snags was clearly right. No promise
could be made that would bring such a ♦disaster on Carlos. He stood in
silent reflection for a few moments, and then said:

“This piece of paper that you took comes very near conveying some
information, you say, that would be complete if the fragment my cousin
has could be obtained. What is that information?”

“You are asking too much now. I can’t tell you; or rather, I won’t.”

“Of what nature is it?”

Snags shook his head and refused to answer.

“Another question,” said Leonard. “If you could obtain it, would my
cousin and myself be insured from harm?”

“I don’t know,” replied Snags, slowly. “In fact,” he added, “I don’t
know much about the thing yet. I haven’t had time to think, you see.
But I will say one thing. There was no plot or intention to kill your
uncle. It came quite accidental, but it had to be done.”

“I don’t understand you.”

“Well, never mind. But now I’ve got one thing to ask of you. You must
own that I’ve been very frank with you, and now I want you to make a
promise. The man that is at the head of this gang now is one Captain
Roake; but there’s a boss that’s over us all. I don’t want Captain
Roake to know anything about this paper. I prefer to tell the boss
about it with my own mouth. So you keep mum. When Roake comes to see
you, which he will, don’t let on that you know anything. Just say that
you’re the wrong man, which is true, and pretend to be ignorant of
what I mean when speaking of the paper. I’ll explain to Roake in my own
way. It’ll be better for you and all of us to do as I say. Roake has a
temper of his own, and is apt to tear around considerable when riled.
Will you do as I wish?”

Leonard hesitated.

“Because,” continued Snags, “I’m next in command to Roake, and shall
have you in charge. And if you defy me I sha’n’t scruple at emptying
this into you.” He extended his pistol.

“I’ll promise this,” replied Leonard, “not to say anything to Roake
without first consulting you.”

“All right,” said Snags. “That’s satisfactory. I must own that I rather
like you, and should hate to put an end to you. But at the call of duty
I shouldn’t let my own feelings interfere.”

And he grinned at his own wit.

“Now I guess I’ll leave you. When the boss comes around, which may be
to-morrow, and may not be in a month, you’ll know more of what’s going
to be done with you. Until then I’m as ignorant as yourself.”

He turned to go.

“Wait,” said Leonard. “Would any sum of money be an inducement to you
to get me out of here?”

“I am afraid not,” replied Snags. “Money wouldn’t amount to much if I
should happen to get a rope around my neck.”

After a pause the murderer withdrew.

Leonard was left to his own thoughts, which were of a very confusing
character. He was ignorant of the exact locality of his place of
confinement, and was at a loss to conjecture the character of his
captors. That they were lawless desperadoes of some sort he did not
doubt, but beyond this his thoughts took no form.

He examined the apartment in which he was confined. The walls were
of solid rock, and there was apparently no means of egress except
the door by which Snags had just left, and this was closed securely,
presenting a resistance evidently as solid and invulnerable as the
rocks themselves. There was nothing for him to do but to await further
developments.



                             CHAPTER VIII.

                              THE ARREST.


Carlos drove into Dalton terribly depressed and apprehensive. In the
rain-storm he had turned up the collar of his coat and buttoned it
tightly, thus shielding from the rain a portion of the blood stains. He
saw that these were not entirely washed off. The words of the murderer
in regard to fastening the crime on him still rang in his ears.

“If I could have returned immediately,” he thought, “instead of waiting
until morning, it would have been better. What will people say? They
are talking about it now.”

In a misery of doubt and despondency he drove up the street.

Some one caught sight of him, and uttering an exclamation to a little
knot or men, pointed at him.

Still Carlos drove on, determined to encounter whatever might come.

Five or six men rushed to the carriage, and one, seizing the horse’s
head, stopped him.

“That’s the man!” exclaimed one.

“Yes, that’s one of the nephews,” said another.

“Where’s your cousin?” demanded a third.

“Yes, tell us that! Where were you both all night?”

Others ran to the spot, until there was a crowd around the carriage.

“Gentlemen,” said Carlos, “I know what you are talking about, but I am
innocent――――”

“Oh, yes, of course. But you were not in bed last night, as a peaceable
citizen should be!”

“I went to Knoxtown to a concert――――”

“Yes, he looks like a man that has been to a concert, doesn’t he?”

“Wait till I explain. I returned by the road that passes Colonel
Conrad’s house, and saw a light in his window. I went to see what it
meant, and horror-stricken――――”

At this juncture a tall, keen-eyed man, who had not joined in the
sagacious exclamations that had come from others in the crowd, stepped
up and said:

“See here, young man, you are excited and agitated. But you are not on
the witness stand. You are not obliged to answer any questions or make
any explanations here. You can see enough to know that the people think
you have murdered Colonel Conrad. My advice is that you keep silent.
You will be arrested and examined, and then will be time enough to talk.
It isn’t best to say too much now.”

The man seemed to be moved to compassion at his distressed face, and
spoke kindly though decisively.

“Thank you, sir,” said Carlos. “I will act on your advice. Where is the
officer? I am ready to give myself up.”

He leaned back in the carriage seat, folding his arms.

Some of the crowd grumbled, but the man who had spoken reminded them
that the street was not a court-room, and that there was a manner
provided by law for proceeding in the case.

At this juncture two policemen approached and jumped into the carriage.
One of them slipped a pair of handcuffs on Carlos, and the other took
the reins. They drove to the jail, where Carlos was conducted into a
cell and locked up, and left alone.

The excitement under which he had labored, and which had subsided into
depression, now deepened into intense gloom. That his uncle should die
immediately after he had delivered the message from his father, and
before the result was made known, was a sufficiently deplorable event.
The manner in which he had met his death was still more terrible. But
that Carlos himself should be accused, with apparently good reason, of
being the murderer, seemed to be the culmination of misfortune. He gave
way to the burden that was cast upon him, and for hours his mind was in
a hopelessly torpid state.

He made no reply to the question as to whether he desired counsel, and
so dead did he seem to everything passing around him, that the jailer
deemed it best to call in a physician.

Dr. Davison was summoned. He was the tall, keen-eyed man that had
offered the timely counsel to Carlos when he was besieged by the crowd.

When he entered the cell the prisoner was apparently unaware of his
presence.

The physician felt of his pulse, looked at his face critically, and
examined the eyes that refused to direct their glance at him.

“He is in a kind of stupor now,” he said. “His trouble has overcome him.
I will come again in an hour.”

Toward noon he returned, and gave the prisoner something stimulating.
Carlos looked up; a flash of intelligence passed across his face.

“Ah,” he said, “you are the gentleman that gave me advice this morning.
What are you doing here now?”

“I am a physician,” replied Dr. Davison. “In that capacity I am your
friend. How do you feel?”

“I scarcely know. My head seems confused. I can hardly think.”

“But it will be necessary for you to think. You are now ill. You have
some fever, and are discouraged. But, with the help of my medicine and
your own resolution, you must be aroused. You are resting under a grave
charge. It is not for me to say whether you are guilty or innocent――――”

  Illustration: “IT IS NOT FOR ME TO SAY WHETHER YOU ARE GUILTY
                OR INNOCENT.”

“Before God, I am innocent!” exclaimed Carlos. “I can explain――――”

“Yes; but you must not explain now. Do not say anything to me. I don’t
want to have to repeat words in court that may damage you. You must
employ a lawyer, and a good one. Pardon me, but I feel an interest in
you. You don’t look like a ruffian.”

“Thank you. Those few words encourage me. I know the evidence that is
against me, and it is strong. But it is surely impossible for me to be
convicted, when I am innocent. Such a wrong cannot take place.”

“Any wrong may take place,” said the doctor, quietly, “if no effort is
made to stay it. But I have no right to talk to you. My duty relates
only to your health. You will be all right if you will follow my
directions. You will probably employ a lawyer, and, as the examination
will take place this afternoon, you had better have a consultation as
soon as you feel able to endure it. Take one of these powders every
half-hour. Good-day.”

“Good-day,” said Carlos. “I am greatly obliged to you.”

After Doctor Davison was gone, he meditated for some time upon the
course he should take. He finally sent for the jailer, and inquired the
names of the legal profession of Dalton.

“Well,” said the jailer, “there’s Squire Bailey; he’s an old one, and
been pretty lucky; there’s McDonald, who is just busy all the time with
civil suits, though I don’t think he’s had much to do with criminal
cases; and there’s Royalton, who, though a young man, has served one
term as district-attorney. He, of course, has had some experience in
prosecuting, and might know better how to meet the case on that account.
He is death on badgering a witness and can make a jury think almost
anything he has a mind to.”

“I suppose he stands well in the community?”

“Oh, bless you, yes. One of the leaders of society; goes to church
regularly; and just now very popular on account of taking sides against
a railroad company that’s trying to cram a pretty big dose down the
people’s throats.”

“Well,” said Carlos, “I think I’ll retain him, if possible. Will you be
so kind as to send for him?”

“Certainly; can I do anything to make you comfortable?”

“No, thank you. I would like to have Mr. Royalton come as soon as
possible.”

In less than half an hour the lawyer was conducted into the presence of
Carlos. The two were left alone.

Mr. Royalton was rather tall, of erect stature, and commanding presence.
A dark mustache and flowing side-whiskers graced a face of intelligence
and decision. His eyes were dauntless and searching in their expression;
and his whole countenance and general air indicated a man of energy
and deliberate promptness, so to speak, in pursuing any undertaking
in which he might be engaged.

He bowed courteously to Carlos. The latter spoke at once:

“My full name,” he said, “is Carlos Conrad. And yours――――”

The lawyer handed him a printed card, which read as follows:

                          “CHAS. H. ROYALTON,
                    ATTORNEY AND COUNSELOR AT LAW,
                              _Dalton_.”

“I am here under a terrible charge,” said Carlos.

“Yes,” said Mr. Royalton. “Do you wish to retain me?”

“Certainly, if you will consent to act in my behalf. As a preliminary,
permit me to advance this.”

He extended a hundred-dollar bill, which Mr. Royalton accepted, with a
bow.

“I have a bank account in New York of three thousand dollars, on which
I can draw in case of necessity,” said Carlos.

“Very good,” said Mr. Royalton. “And now you must state to me, without
reserve, all circumstances connected with this affair. Whether you are
committed for trial or not, we must make as good a show as possible at
the examination. Let me have your perfect confidence.”

Carlos then related to Mr. Royalton the arrival of himself and Leonard
in Dalton, and told every circumstance of their stay up to the fatal
evening. Of the occurrences associated with the murder he gave a
detailed account. The lawyer listened attentively, and made occasional
notes on an envelope he took from his pocket. His countenance did not
change during the entire recital, and at its close Carlos could not
discern his thoughts concerning the aspect of the case. He meditated
for a moment, and then asked:

“What was the nature of the misunderstanding between your uncle and
your father?”

“It was a family matter,” replied Carlos, “in which Geoffrey Haywood
was, as I have said, the prime mischief-maker.”

“Have you any evidence of this?”

“None but that contained in the accounts I left with my uncle.”

“That is unfortunate. Haywood stands well in Dalton.”

“I do not think there will be any necessity of bringing it up,” said
Carlos. “It has no bearing on the case. I would prefer that it be not
mentioned.”

“Why?”

“First, because it is strictly of a private nature, and, now that the
brothers are both dead, is of no concern to any one. My only errand
was to convince my uncle that he had no cause for enmity against my
father. Whether I succeeded in this I do not know, and probably never
shall. Second, my unsupported word would probably go for little against
that of Haywood. He would probably make the old enmity operate against
me. If the matter is alluded to at all, the house of the late Colonel
Conrad ought to be searched, and the documents found and exhibited in
full.”

“You may be right,” said Mr. Royalton. “We will let that point drop,
since you desire it. Where is your cousin, Leonard Lester?”

“I do not know. I supposed that he would return from his fishing
excursion last evening, but from what some one in the crowd said this
morning, I infer that he did not.”

“He ought to be found. His testimony may be wanted.”

“On what point? He knew nothing of the murder.”

“The question might arise as to the character of the interview with
your uncle――whether there was any quarrel or misunderstanding.”

“There was no quarrel, unless――――”

“Unless what?”

“He at first attempted to slander my father, and I used some high words,
perhaps. But it soon passed over.”

“Humph! We will hope that nobody was within hearing distance!”

Carlos stared a moment, and then a shade passed over his face. He saw
the force of the lawyer’s remark.

“I have been thinking of one thing,” he at length said, “and that is
what the murderer could have wanted of the slip of paper I took from
my uncle’s hand. It contained only the words, ‘seven o’clock,’ which
certainly have no meaning in themselves.”

“Have you it here now?”

“Yes, here it is.”

The lawyer took it and examined it.

“It is a torn fragment,” he said.

“Yes,” replied Carlos, “and I judge from the envelope lying on the
table that my uncle must have been writing. He was, perhaps, holding an
unfinished letter in his hand and looking it over. The murderer jerked
it hastily, and tore it, leaving this piece in his victim’s grasp. Now
whether it contains the finishing words of some information conveyed
in the larger part, is more than I know. But that is the only theory by
which I can account for the villain’s anxiety to obtain it.”

The lawyer considered for a moment. Finally he said:

“I will think about it. This point may be worthy of special attention.
But say nothing about this, or any other feature of the case, to any
living person. Keep your mouth resolutely closed against all ears but
mine.”

Carlos promised to observe this caution.

“And now,” said Mr. Royalton, “listen. First, for fear that my words
may discourage you, let me declare my belief in your innocence, and
assure you that not an effort shall be left unmade in your behalf.
But the case has a bad look. Colonel Conrad received thirty thousand
dollars in gold, yesterday, and _that cannot be found_. Leonard Lester
is missing, and people have jumped at the conclusion that he is your
accomplice, and that his fishing excursion was a ruse, and that he has
made off with the gold to some point where you intend to join him.”

“Good Heaven!” ejaculated Carlos. “_You_ do not believe this?”

“Certainly not. But you see again the importance of your cousin being
here.”

“Yes. I am at a loss to think what can have delayed his return.”

“We will hope that he will appear in due time. And now you must put
yourself entirely in my hands. You see what a coloring circumstantial
evidence can give an affair. Your own consciousness of innocence will
go for naught against it. Everything depends on shrewd management and
careful working. I must now leave you and study over my plans. As for
yourself, be ready at the examination to follow whatever course I may
indicate. I will now say to you, confidentially, that I believe this
murder was committed with some other object than that of robbery――that
there is some _dark unknown purpose at the bottom of it_. If you ask
me why, I must decline to tell. Perhaps I could not reply in terms
sufficiently definite to be satisfactory and convincing to you.”

“I leave everything to you,” said Carlos.

“That is right. Good-day.”

“Good-day.”

After the lawyer was gone, and the stimulus of mental occupation no
longer remained, Carlos began to feel ill again. A languor seized him,
followed by a chill, which was in turn succeeded by a paroxysm of fever.
Doctor Davison was again summoned, and on the strength of his report
of the prisoner’s condition, the examination was postponed to the
following day.



                              CHAPTER IX.

                     GEOFFREY HAYWOOD’S MOVEMENTS.


One circumstance occurred on the morning of the murder that might have
appeared strange had the excitement that prevailed permitted any one’s
attention to be directed to it.

It was the presence of Mr. Geoffrey Haywood in the street at an
unwontedly early hour. About five o’clock he might have been seen
standing on the sidewalk in front of his store, looking up and down the
street. He was not his usual composed self. He appeared expectant and
anxious. He turned to and fro impatiently, and occasionally paced the
sidewalk in evident agitation. What was he waiting for?

His manifestations of anxiety were instantly suppressed as he saw a man
approaching him.

The man was walking rapidly, and was evidently in extreme agitation.
He came from the direction of Elm Grove. It was Barker, the servant of
Colonel Conrad.

Mr. Haywood gave no sign of recognition. But a spasm of apprehension
passed over his face, followed instantly, however, by a look of
resolution. He continued his pacing to and fro.

Barker hurried up to him.

“Oh, Mr. Haywood――――” he began.

“Ah, good-morning, Barker. I felt unwell during the night, and thought
a morning walk might do me good. What brings you down town at such an
early hour?”

“Oh, sir, something terrible has happened at Elm Grove!”

“You astonish me. What is it? Is somebody ill?”

“Much worse than that. Colonel Conrad has been murdered.”

“_What!_”

Mr. Haywood’s astonishment was genuine. His face blanched with horror.

“We found him dead in his study, with an awful cut in his neck.”

“Barker, you terrify me. Tell me all about it. How did it happen?”

“No one knows how it happened, sir. It was done in the dead of night.
Miss Florence is fairly wild, and the two women-servants are nearly
frightened to death. I called in Tom to stay with them, while I ran
down town. It’s lucky, sir, that I happened to meet you.”

“Well, well, it is awful. I am nearly overcome. Find some officers,
quick, and I will go up to the house.”

“Yes, sir. I think you’d better go there as quick as you can. I’ll find
the officers, and will go to the hotel and rouse the two young men――his
nephews――who came to see him yesterday.”

“No, no, do not――but I don’t know――yes, you may call them. And do not
lose any time.”

Barker and Haywood separated, each walking as fast as his footsteps
could carry him.

Haywood found the household at Elm Grove plunged in woe. Florence
Darley was hovering about the fatal room, alternately half entering and
recoiling again. When she beheld Haywood she pointed to where the body
of Colonel Conrad reclined, and then sank into a chair and covered her
face with her hands, giving way to violent weeping.

Haywood spoke some words of sympathy in a low tone, and hastily entered
the study of the late master of Elm Grove. The corpse still sat in the
chair, leaning over the table. No one had disturbed it. Haywood took
careful note of its position and surroundings, and then called Tom,
the stable-keeper whom Barker had mentioned, bidding him also observe
closely the situation of things. The two together then lifted the body
and placed it on a couch, and, obtaining a sheet, covered it. They were
careful not to change the position of any article of furniture.

They then left the room, closing the door after them, and went into the
hall where Florence still remained.

Haywood was composed and cool, and had assumed his usual unruffled
manner. Tom was silent, though his breath came short and tremulously,
and his rough face exhibited grief. He stood ready to render any
service that might be required.

“Miss Florence,” said Haywood, “this is truly terrible. But we must be
calm. It is scarcely possible that we will not discover the perpetrator
of this deed. Officers will be here soon, and they will decide upon the
proper course of investigation. I entreat you not to give way to your
feelings. This violent sobbing will injure you, and perhaps interfere
with your being of some service. I will remain here until the officers
arrive.”

He walked through the hall, and out on the piazza, where he took a seat
on a rustic chair. He sat perfectly still, and seemed to be lost in
meditation. So absorbed was he that he did not notice the approach of
Tom, who also came out and stood near him. When, at length, on looking
around, he discovered him, he gave a start, and his brow ruffled into
a scowl. But he repressed a rising exclamation, and rose and walked to
the other end of the piazza.

In a few moments Barker arrived, accompanied by two officers and a
coroner. The coroner was Doctor Davison, the physician who, later in
the day, paid the professional visit to Carlos.

Haywood rose to meet ♦him.

“Your arrival is welcome, gentlemen,” he said, “though on such sad
business. Where are the two young men, Barker?”

“They couldn’t be found, sir. They left town yesterday, and have not
returned.”

“Did you go to the hotel?”

“Yes――they have not been seen there.”

Haywood mused, but kept his thoughts to himself.

“What sort of young men were they?” asked one of the officers.

“They were strangers to me,” replied Haywood. “I believe they claimed
to be nephews of Colonel Conrad.”

“Well it looks mighty queer. A horse and carriage that one of them
hired yesterday was found standing by the door of the livery-stable
this morning.”

“Indeed! How did you ascertain that?”

“I passed by the stable coming up, and the hired man told me.”

“Um-m――doesn’t that look suspicious?”

“How?”

“Oh, never mind. I don’t wish to bring any accusation against them, but
a thought happened to pass through my mind.”

He looked at the officer significantly, and then turned away suddenly,
as if dismissing the matter.

But the shadow of a hint was not without its effect. The officer nodded
his head knowingly.

“I now propose,” said Haywood, “that you three gentlemen remain here
and take charge of the premises, and, with the aid of Barker and Tom,
look around and see if any evidence or clew can be discovered. I will
go down town. Tom, can you let me have a horse and buggy from the barn?
I am not feeling well this morning.”

The stable-keeper assented, and Mr. Haywood, as soon as the conveyance
was ready, drove in the direction of the village.

On arriving in the business streets, he met the express driver, with
his horse and wagon, on his way to the depot to catch the early train.
Others were also moving about, for the news had spread rapidly. Through
the hotel it had gone like wild-fire; and in numerous residences,
servants, up and about their morning duties, had heard the intelligence
and communicated it to the inmates. Consequently, there were perhaps
fifty people up and on the alert, all in a state of excitement, and
inquiring eagerly for the particulars of the tragedy.

The express driver stopped and accosted Haywood, who also reined in his
horse. A knot of men instantly gathered around them.

In reply to an avalanche of questions, Mr. Haywood replied to the crowd
in general:

“Yes, it is true. Colonel Conrad was murdered last night. His dead body
was found this morning. That is all there is of it at present. Nothing
whatever is known as to how or by whom the deed was committed.”

“Is any of his gold missing?” asked the express driver.

“No investigation or search has been made yet.”

“I delivered one of those boxes yesterday.”

“A box of gold?”

“Yes; said to contain thirty thousand dollars.”

“Ah!” said Haywood. “Perhaps some one saw you deliver it, and was
tempted to commit burglary.”

“I don’t know of but one person that took particular notice of my
delivering it, and that was one of the young men who arrived in town
two or three days ago, and have been stopping at the hotel. He was
riding by the house at the time, and we exchanged a few words about it.”

“What was said?”

“Oh, nothing in particular. He remarked, as he drove on, that it was
too much good fortune for one man, or some such words.”

“Then he knew that the box contained gold?”

“Oh, yes; I told him. The colonel, you know, made no secret of
receiving such packages.”

Mr. Haywood knit his brow, and said, as if speaking half to himself:

“That is another singular circumstance.”

“What?” asked some one in the crowd.

“Why, it seems that this young man knew of the presence of the gold
in the house, and he cannot be found this morning. His companion (they
claimed to be cousins) is also missing, and a horse and buggy that he
hired yesterday were found before daylight this morning standing in
front of the livery-stable.”

“Ha!” exclaimed one. “It would be well to watch for these young men,
and make them give an account of their movements.”

This sentiment found instant echo in the crowd, and was immediately
taken up as the burden of their discussions.

Geoffrey Haywood’s solemn expression of countenance gave way, for a
mere instant, to a look of satisfaction. But he said, with a sigh:

“Well, gentlemen, I must be moving on. I have enough on my hands this
morning. The affair must be probed to the bottom.”

As he drove away, one of the listeners said:

“It’s lucky that the Conrads have such a man as Haywood for their
friend. _He’ll_ sift the thing.”

Mr. Haywood’s prowess, and his ability to carry through whatever he
undertook, were themes of remark and admiration by numbers of his
fellow-citizens.

After leaving the crowd he turned from the main thoroughfare to a
street on the left, then to the left again, and finally to the right.
He was now on the same street through which Carlos had taken his mad
ride in the storm. Looking cautiously around, he muttered to himself:

“Things have taken an unexpectedly fortunate turn. If this crime can
be fastened on these two rascally cousins, it will be a most effectual
mode of getting them out of my way.”

Then he urged his horse along rapidly, and, after more turns in the
road, brought up at the residence of Mr. Jacob Heath――the place where
Carlos had so unwillingly staid in the darkness.

Mr. Heath was engaged in some occupation in the back yard, but came
around to the front as the carriage stopped. He stared at his visitor
in surprise.

“Good-morning, Jake,” said Mr. Haywood.

“Good-morning,” replied the one addressed, with a look of curiosity.

Mr. Haywood, without further ceremony, asked a most singular question:

“_Have you seen Snags?_”

“No,” replied the other, with a start.

At this juncture Kate Heath appeared at the door.

The conversation between her father and Haywood was therefore carried
on in whispers. It lasted some ten minutes.

Finally Haywood said, in a loud voice, with the evident intention that
it should be heard by Kate:

“Well, get the sheep all washed as soon as you can, for we want to
shear and get the wool in market before the prices drop.”

He then drove off at a furious speed.

“Did you tell him about the stranger that stopped with us during the
night?” asked Kate.

“None of your business, girl! You shouldn’t ask questions that don’t
concern you.”



                              CHAPTER X.

                     THE PRISONER AND HIS CAPTORS.


Leonard Lester had no means of knowing when morning arrived, save by
consulting his watch. The light of day could not penetrate into that
dismal place. The hours of six, seven, and eight o’clock came, and a
lantern that Snags had left shed its feeble rays with dim steadiness.
Leonard grew weary and impatient, but still his opportunity for
meditation was uninterrupted. He chafed under his confinement, and was
oppressed by the utter silence and loneliness that reigned. But he had
only to wait.

He knew that Colonel Conrad had been murdered; he was conscious that
the circumstances were likely to involve Carlos in some way; but of the
exact form or extent of the danger that threatened his cousin, he was
ignorant. He longed to be free, so as to offer him aid.

Could he have seen and foreseen all that was taking and was destined to
take place, he would have blessed the stars that made him a prisoner.

About the middle of the forenoon he heard a noise at the door. It was
soon opened, and a frowzy-looking man entered. He was short, thickset,
with uncombed hair and beard, and blear eyes. His face was infinitely
more ferocious and devilish in its expression than that of Snags. He
was dressed in common, rough garments, and was armed with a pistol and
a knife. The door was closed after him, and, advancing, he scrutinized
the prisoner.

“Captain Jeremiah Roake, at your service,” he finally said. “Your name?”

“Leonard Lester,” replied the prisoner.

“Correct. Now we know each other. My stay must be short, for I come
simply to ask you a question. What is it about this infernal piece of
paper that Snags has been blowing about?”

“I don’t know,” said Leonard. “What are you talking about?”

“Snags must have asked you for it. Tell me what he said.”

“I have nothing to tell. What do you suppose I know about it?
You are aware that Snags captured the wrong man when he took me. Find
the right one, and seek the information of him.”

“I believe that you are lying――that you know more than you will tell.”

“I can’t help what you believe. Search me, if you wish, and see if you
can find anything you want.”

Roake paused, apparently, in doubt what course to pursue. At last he
said:

“Well, your cousin has been arrested. The whole town thinks him guilty
of murdering Colonel Conrad. He is to be examined, and then he will
probably show it.”

“Show what?”

“The paper, if he has any.”

“Very well, let him. I don’t see what harm can come to him, or what
good to you, by his showing any paper he is likely to have. At all
events, you will not gain anything by bothering me about it.”

Leonard was not in the slightest degree disposed to violate the promise
he had given to Snags. He did not care to have Roake know that the
fragment supposed to be in the possession of Carlos was of any value.
But Roake’s words awoke in him a feeling of concern.

If what Snags had said was true, then indeed would the murderer have
just the information he wanted in the event of Carlos making public the
contents of the missing fragment.

At that instant he wondered if he could not convey a caution to Carlos
in some way. But he did not betray these thoughts to Roake. Despite the
fact that his brain was suddenly beset by a new train of reflection, he
maintained his indifferent air.

Roake finally turned to go saying:

“If he does show it, I’ll know what there is of it. I read the papers.”

Leonard called him back.

“I should like to get a message to my cousin, in some way. I’ll give
you ten dollars if you will have it delivered.”

“Ten dollars!” contemptuously. “That’s nothing to me, young man. I made
a haul of a thousand last night. No, you shall send no message to him!”

Roake refused to listen to the urgent appeal that Leonard was about to
make, but went from the apartment quickly and left the prisoner alone.

“This affair grows in mystery,” thought Leonard. “Where am I, and who
are these ruffians to whom intelligence of the arrest of Carlos comes
so quickly? There must be some secret villainy going on right under the
very shadows of orderly society. I’ll find out all I can about it.”

He then reflected long and intently, striving to devise some plan of
conveying a message to Carlos. That his captors could serve him in
this way, if they chose, he was convinced. It was evident that they had
some means of quick communication with Dalton, else how could they so
soon have learned that Carlos had been taken into custody? But he was
equally sure that they would not permit him to send any message that
would expose or implicate themselves, or put Carlos on his guard. Still
he was powerless without their aid, and must contrive some way to bribe
or deceive them. The former, he felt would be impossible; the latter
might be accomplished.

In the midst of his thoughts the door was again opened, and Roake
thrust in a plate of food and a can of water. This done, he quickly
withdrew and closed the door.

The sight of the food reminded Leonard that he was hungry, though his
occupation of mind had prevented him from thinking of it before. He ate
of the coarse fare, and afterward took a cigar from his pocket and lit
it.

He felt refreshed and strengthened, and his mind became more clear and
active. Reclining on the pile of rough bed-clothes which lay in one
corner of the apartment, he smoked and pondered.

At length his countenance was illumined by a sudden thought.

“I have it!” he exclaimed.

He forthwith took a number of letters from his pocket. A few were from
Europe, his business relations having led him to engage in foreign
correspondence, and were written in the German language. He selected
one which occupied about two pages and a half.

Then, taking a gold pen and a portable inkstand from another pocket,
he composed himself to write. He reflected for some moments before
beginning, for he wished to comprise as much intelligence as possible
within a few words.

Having arranged his thoughts into satisfactory shape, he began. First
erasing the signature of the letter, he wrote an apparent continuation,
in the German language, on the lower blank half of the third page. To
this he appended another signature, so that the letter looked, in its
new form, like a complete whole.

“So far so good,” he murmured; “and now for a visit from Snags. It
won’t do to approach Roake. Snags, if anybody, will do the _small_
favor I shall ask.”

The day wore wearily on. There was absolutely nothing to relieve the
tedium of the passing hours. Leonard alternately walked, lay down,
endeavored to sleep, and examined his prison. He fumed in impotent
irritation at the sense of confinement.

Not until the day was gone, and the hands of his watch indicated the
hour of nine in the evening, was he disturbed again.

This time his hopes were realized. Snags was his visitor.

“Have you heard anything more from Carlos?” asked Leonard, eagerly.

Snags smiled.

“You seem mighty anxious about him,” he said.

“Of course I am. Tell me all you know.”

“Oh, I know enough. I have heard several things. Some of them might not
please you, though.”

“Never mind. Go on.”

“Well,” said Snags, “he’s in jail, and will be tried to-morrow.
Everybody is aroused against him, and if he’s let off the people would
lynch him; at least that’s the talk among some. But it isn’t likely
that he’ll be let off. Another thing, people have got it into their
heads that you were his pal in the murder, which was done for burglary,
and that you made off with the spoils, and that he knows where you are.”

“What consummate absurdity.”

“Oh, no. Things look that way. The evidence will show that it’s not
unlikely. I don’t know but that it would be a good plan to take you out
of here and drop you somewhere where you’d be sure to be caught, and
then both of you would go to prison, or something worse.”

“No,” said Lester, “that wouldn’t work. I was at Rocky Beach until one
o’clock in the morning. The man that attends to the boats could testify
to that.”

“Rocky Beach!” exclaimed Snags, with a peculiar look of surprise. Then
he added: “But the man that ’tends the boats is deaf and dumb. He’d be
a nice one to testify.”

“So I observed. But he could write his testimony.”

“How do you know?”

“I suppose he can write.”

“Well, perhaps he can,” said Snags, with a furtive smile.

“But _can’t_ he?”

“What do you suppose I know about him?” Then, changing his tone, Snags
said: “But there’s no use in talking about that. I guess, after all, we
will keep you here for a while. By the way, your cousin has engaged a
good lawyer.”

“Who?”

“Royalton――Charles H. Royalton――a mighty sharp fellow, they say. If
there is any loop-hole, he’ll pull him through. But I don’t think there
is any.”

“You don’t?”

“No; the case is strong against him.”

“See here, Mr. Snags,” said Leonard, “I would like to know how you keep
so well posted about matters in Dalton. I shouldn’t think you would
dare show yourself there.”

“Why not? Perhaps I don’t――but never you mind. You mustn’t be too
curious.”

There was a lull in the conversation.

Leonard now made up his mind that the time had come to make his appeal.

“Snags,” he said, earnestly, “I want you to do a favor for me――two
favors, in fact. It is intolerably dull in here. I want something to
occupy my mind. Can’t you bring me a newspaper once in a while? Bring
me the papers containing accounts of the trial. I should like to read
about it. I’ll pay you well.”

“I don’t know but I might do that,” replied ♦Snags. “Yes, I will.”

“Thank you. And now another thing. My cousin is a nervous young fellow,
easily discouraged, and all that. Won’t you take a message to him from
me?”

Snags’ countenance instantly assumed a forbidding look.

“Not much of a message,” continued Leonard, ♦urgently, “only a few
words. You may see me write them.”

Snags hesitated.

“Nothing that can do you any harm or afford a hint as to where I am.”

“What do you want to send it for, then?”

“Only to let him know that I am alive. That might do him some good.”

“Well,” said Snags, slowly and doubtfully, “let me see what you want to
write.”

Leonard drew the letters from his pocket, and, selecting one,
apparently at random, tore off a piece, one side of which was blank. It
is needless to say that it was the portion on which he had previously
written his message in German.

“This old letter is of no use,” he said, crumpling the other half in
his hand and throwing it on the floor.

Snags picked it up, and glanced at it idly. He saw it was in a language
he did not understand.

“Dutch?” he asked.

“Yes,” replied Leonard. “I am, or was, connected with an importing
house in New York.”

“Queer writing, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” replied Leonard.

He was apparently absorbed in preparing his message, but he was really
in the utmost trepidation lest his ruse should be detected.

But Snags had no suspicions. He threw the portion of the letter on the
floor again, and waited patiently.

The following was what Leonard submitted to him:

  “I am a prisoner, but unharmed. I have learned of your situation,
  and pray that you may be safely delivered from it. Do not
  concern yourself about me. I am guarded closely, but treated
  well enough. I am helpless to serve you.

                                                            L. L.”

Snags read it carefully.

“I don’t see anything objectionable about that,” he said. He gave a
cursory glance at the other side, and saw that it was covered with
German characters. “Yes, I’ll deliver it, or see it delivered. Perhaps
I had better put it in the post-office. I could do it secretly, and no
one would know where it came from.”

“If you do that, direct it like this: ‘To Carlos Conrad, or his
attorney, Charles H. Royalton.’ Then it will be sure to reach its
destination.”

“Yes.”

“And do it as soon as possible.”

“I will.”

“Thanks. And now take this.”

He extended to Snags a five-dollar gold piece, which was accepted.

“Mind,” said Snags, “that you don’t say anything of this to Roake. I
know it can’t hurt us any, but he’s as contrary as a mule.”

“I’ll be silent,” said Leonard.

“Here’s some more victuals,” said Snags, producing a slice of cold meat
and a loaf of bread; “and something to cheer you up,” drawing from his
pocket a bottle of wine.

“Thank you, Snags; you’re very kind. You will lose nothing by it.”

Snags opened the door to leave; but, before withdrawing, he turned his
head and said, in a low tone:

“See here, Mr. Lester, the colonel is the first man I ever stuck, and
I’m blamed if I ain’t kept awake nights thinking about it.”

In another instant he was gone.



                              CHAPTER XI.

                           THE EXAMINATION.


Geoffrey Haywood, as has been seen, had been quick to seize upon
circumstances, and to take advantage of them by judiciously dropping
remarks that directed the excitement against Carlos Conrad. Perhaps the
circumstances themselves would have been sufficient to do this; but his
well-timed though brief comments had given aid in that direction.

The examination was set down for Friday morning at ten o’clock, and
long before the appointed hour the street in front of Justice Bean’s
office was crowded with people eager to be witnesses of the proceedings.

About half-past nine Mr. Royalton visited Carlos in his cell.

As soon as they were left alone, the lawyer said:

“I have a letter for you.”

“A letter!”

“Yes. As it was directed to ‘Carlos Conrad,’ or his attorney, I opened
it.”

Carlos regarded the speaker intently. It was evident from his manner
that he had something of importance to communicate.

“The letter is from your cousin. It is very brief.”

He handed it to Carlos, who read it eagerly.

“He is a prisoner, but unharmed. He is safe, but cannot help me. Oh,
where can he be?”

“That is more than I can even conjecture. There is some mystery about
it. I cannot help thinking it is connected in some way with the murder.”

“How can he have found out about the murder and my arrest? He cannot be
very far away.”

“It is all a riddle.”

Carlos read the few words again. He turned the paper over.

“It was written on the back of one of his old German letters. BUT HOLD!
Here is something more!”

“More!”

“Yes――see! the signature is erased, and Leonard has written something
in German!”

Mr. Royalton gave close attention.

Carlos translated the words into English as fast as he read them.
Their sojourn in Europe had made the German language as familiar to
the cousins as their own tongue.

“This is what Leonard says: ‘I have hit on a stratagem, which you will
at once perceive, to give you a warning. Do not show the paper you
took from Colonel Conrad’s hands. It will give the murderer information
which he desires above all things to possess. Do not let the paper
appear in the testimony.’”

“Well, well! This is a startling phase of affairs,” said Mr. Royalton.
“It confirms my idea though, that the murderer of your cousin has a
hand in the non-appearance of Leonard.”

“Yes,” replied Carlos, “but it makes the mystery more incomprehensible
than ever. How dark everything looks.”

“One thing is settled,” said Mr. Royalton. “The existence of the
paper must be kept secret. It is difficult to determine whether its
exhibition would work for or against you at the examination. But
this note makes our course plain. It shall not be shown unless future
developments seem to make it desirable. It is now locked up in my
private safe.”

The hour of ten had by this time nearly arrived, and the prisoner and
his lawyer made preparations to attend the examination.

Two officers soon entered. One of them handcuffed his left wrist to
Carlos’ right, and led him from his cell into the main hall. The other
walked behind with Mr. Royalton, and in this order they marched to a
carriage which was waiting outside the jail door.

A restless, noisy crowd hustled around the little procession as soon
as it reached the open air. The policeman behind warned the people
off, but not before a small slip of paper was thrust into Carlos’ hand
by some unknown person. Carlos grasped it instinctively, and looked
quickly up in surprise. No one had seen the action. He himself was
ignorant of who had done it. He looked at the paper furtively. It
contained only these words:

“Look for help. It will come.”

“Another message from Leonard?” he thought. And he marveled greatly.

By this time they had reached the carriage, and all stepped in.

As they were driven rapidly to the justice’s office, a noisy throng of
old and young followed, some running, and many talking busily.

Having reached their destination, they proceeded up a flight of stairs
to the office of Justice Bean. It was a room capable of containing not
more than fifty persons, and was filled in a moment.

Watching his chance, Carlos secretly slipped the message he had
received into Mr. Royalton’s hand.

All were quickly arranged in their proper positions. Pending the actual
commencement of proceedings, Mr. Royalton occupied himself apparently
with consulting some memoranda. But Carlos saw him read the message he
had received from the unknown hand, and watched to see what effect its
perusal would have upon him. It had this effect: Mr. Royalton scowled,
and tore the paper into minute fragments, letting them fall on the
floor.

The justice rapped on his table. Order and attention were at once
secured. After going through the usual preliminaries, the examination
of witnesses began.

Barker, the servant at Elm Grove, was first called, and testified as
follows:

“My name is Miles Barker. I am a servant employed at Elm Grove, the
residence of the late Colonel Conrad. Yesterday morning I got up about
five o’clock, to build the kitchen fire, and do some other chores. I
went into the garden for something, and noticed that the blinds and
window of my master’s study were open. Wondering what he could be doing
so early in the morning, I took a turn around that way. I looked in
the window and saw him sitting in his chair with his head leaning over
on the table. I thought, perhaps, he had fallen asleep there, while
writing the evening before, and went close to the window. I saw some
blood on the floor, and jumped in. I then found that he was dead. I
roused the rest of the house, and then ran down the street to find
Mr. Haywood. I found him in front of his store, and told him about it.
He went up to the house, and I went to find some officers, and the two
young men――the prisoner here, and his cousin. Did not find the young
men, but found the officers, and went back to the house with them.”

                 _Cross-Examined by the Prosecution._

“I first saw the prisoner on Tuesday last. He called with another young
gentleman to see Colonel Conrad.”

“Did Colonel Conrad see them?”

“Yes; they went to his study. The door was shut.”

“Did you hear anything that was said?”

“No, not any words. Once, when I passed through the hall, I heard some
loud talking.”

“Did it sound like a quarrel?”

“There might have been some disagreement. I should judge there was.
Could not say for certain.”

“How long did the young men stay?”

“I did not take particular notice of the time. Perhaps an hour; perhaps
more.”

“Did they call again?”

“Yes, next day; but the colonel was busy, and refused to see them.”

“That is sufficient.”

                  _Cross-Examination by the Defense._

“Why did the fact that the windows and blinds were open yesterday
morning excite your curiosity?”

“Because Colonel Conrad is always particular to have everything closed
securely before going to bed.”

“Did you see him the night before?”

“Yes; I took a glass of water to him in his study about nine o’clock.”

“What was he doing?”

“Writing.”

“Did you see him after that?”

“No; I went to bed soon after.”

“Were you disturbed by any noise during the night?”

“No; I sleep in a room up stairs on the other side of the house.”

“After the interview with Colonel Conrad on Tuesday, did the prisoner
and his cousin show any signs of excitement?”

“Not that I could see.”

“Was there anything in their actions, or in those of Colonel Conrad
afterward, to lead you to think that they had quarreled?”

“No, I can’t say that there was.”

“Did any one else call on Tuesday?”

“Yes; Mr. Haywood called, but the colonel did not see him. He was very
busy, and――not to speak ill of the dead――quite snappish.”

“Then he refused to see Mr. Haywood?”

“Yes; but the next day Mr. Haywood called again, and this time the
colonel saw him. It was when the two young men were there. They were in
the parlor, talking with Miss Florence. This was on Wednesday.”

“You know nothing that passed between Colonel Conrad and Mr. Haywood?”

“No; they were in the study, and I went out of doors, in the garden.”

“Do you know anything about the box of gold that Colonel Conrad
received on Wednesday?”

“No. He had it taken into his study, and afterward went in himself and
locked the door. That is the way he always does.”

“Where does Colonel Conrad keep his gold?”

“I don’t know. Perhaps in his desk. It is always locked. Sometimes he
goes to the bank. Maybe he deposits it there.”

“How do you know he keeps the desk locked?”

“I have been in the study often, and have never seen it open except
when he was sitting at it. Before leaving, he always shuts it and turns
the key.”

Numerous other questions elicited nothing further of importance, and
Barker was dismissed.

Thomas Mullen was called, and testified as follows:

“I am employed as stable-keeper at Elm Grove. I went to bed as usual
Wednesday night in my room in the barn. About one o’clock in the
morning I awoke, and thought I heard a noise in the yard. I thought
nothing of it, as the dog made no fuss. He is a good watch-dog, and
doesn’t allow any one to prowl around. Soon after I heard another
noise, and got up and looked out of the window. I saw two men run
across the yard and into the road. I thought they were some chaps
stealing melons, or something of that sort, and, as they had a good
start, I did not give chase. I thought it strange that the dog made no
alarm, but concluded he must have wandered into the orchard the other
side of the house. Then I heard the rattling of a buggy down the road.
I did not get up, and knew nothing of the murder until Barker awoke me
in the morning. He told me about it just as he has told you. We found
the dog lying dead on the ground. He had been poisoned.”

George Johnson, policeman, was sworn, and testified that on the morning
the murder was discovered he made an examination of the premises. He
found nothing out of the way, and made but one discovery of importance.
That was a strap tied to the hitching-post on the road-side. The strap
had been cut, and was dangling to the post.

The livery-keeper testified that the cousins had hired horses of him
on Wednesday, and that one of the horses was found, without a driver,
standing by the stable door the next morning. It was the one hired by
the companion of the prisoner. The horses that Carlos had borrowed, and
with which he had returned on Thursday morning, showed signs of having
had a hard drive. The hitching-strap was cut, and hanging to the bit.

The portion that the policeman had found tied to the post, and that
which remained attached to the horse, were produced, and were found to
match exactly.

This portion of the evidence told strongly against Carlos. A buzz went
through the room, and there were whispers that this settled the fact of
his guilt. The justice rapped for order.

Witnesses were next examined regarding the unaccountable absence of
Leonard, but no light was thrown on the subject. His note, stating that
he was a prisoner, was exhibited, and, after a copy of it was made, it
was returned to Carlos. It only served to mystify matters more, and was
rather damaging than otherwise to the prisoner’s case. Nothing could be
learned as to who put it in the post-office.

Myers, the other policeman, testified that he, in company with Mr.
Haywood and Florence Darley, had made a thorough examination of Colonel
Conrad’s study, as well as of the whole house, and that no money could
be found. In the colonel’s private desk were nothing but papers and
documents of no particular value.

Florence Darley confirmed this; and also testified that during the
night she had heard the sound of a buggy in the road, but had thought
nothing of it.

Mr. Haywood also confirmed Myers’ statement; and testified also that,
during his interviews with Colonel Conrad on Wednesday, the colonel
had alluded to the two young men, expressing his opinion that they were
impostors, and that he feared their errand boded no good to him.

This testimony was the subject of close cross-questioning by both the
prosecuting and defending attorneys, but Mr. Haywood could say nothing
more definite, nor could he be drawn into making any inconsistent
replies. Having thus perjured himself, he took his seat with an air of
relief.

The cashier of the bank swore that Colonel Conrad had made no deposit
for more than a month past.

After all the witnesses were examined, Carlos was invited to make his
statement, which he did briefly, relating everything in detail as it
had occurred except the matter of the paper containing the words “seven
o’clock.” This he omitted, for reasons already known.

The summing up of the attorneys was short. The counsel for the
prosecution analyzed Carlos’ statement, characterizing it as absurd,
and reviewed the evidence carefully, making out a strong case against
the prisoner. His eloquent portrayal of the terrible crime of murdering
in cold blood a well-known and respected citizen need not be reproduced.

Mr. Royalton simply said that he would omit reviewing the evidence at
present. He had no hope, and scarcely any desire, to have the prisoner
discharged. He expected that his client would be held to await trial
at the next general term, and he believed that at that time evidence
would be produced that would honorably acquit him. That evidence could
not be submitted in a complete form now; more time was required to
make desired investigations. His client declined to be examined, and
was ready to submit to the decision of the court. But he warned the
people against allowing their prejudices to get the better of their
judgment――not to render a verdict, even in their secret thoughts, until
a fair, full, and complete trial could be had.

“For then,” he concluded, “revelations may be made that will surprise
all of us. Instead of wrath there may be sympathy, and the prisoner
before you instead of receiving your condemnation, may be proved
innocent, and not only innocent, but the victim of a foul conspiracy.”

Mr. Royalton’s effort was evidently a disappointment to many. A
powerful appeal in behalf of the prisoner had been looked for――a speech
abounding in eloquence and flights of oratory. Numerous precedents had
led to this expectation. It was evident, however, to a close observer,
that Mr. Royalton’s course was not inspired by discouragement, or a
consciousness of weakness; yet his face was absolutely unreadable, save
that there was an expression in it that told of determination, stern
purpose, and a cool confidence in his resources.

The verdict of the court was that Carlos be committed to appear before
the grand jury.

It was now after seven o’clock in the evening and Carlos was to be
taken to Hillsdale on the night train. It must be mentioned that Dalton
was not the county seat, and that the stone jail at Hillsdale was a
much more secure receptacle for prisoners than the small “lock-up” at
Dalton. So, in accordance with the law, he was to be immediately placed
in the county jail at Hillsdale.

His own feelings had undergone no particular change. He was cast down,
more by a sense of disgrace than anything else. He felt no particular
terror; the blind confidence of innocence led him to believe that he
would eventually be acquitted.

When he was conducted from the justice’s office to the jail again,
a noisy, disorderly crowd followed; and when, two hours later, he
proceeded to the railroad depot, handcuffed to the officer, another
throng was in attendance. At the depot it was larger than ever, so that
the officer and his prisoner had some difficulty in making their way to
the waiting-room.

Here another strange and unlooked for circumstance occurred. An unseen
hand was thrust quickly into the side pocket of Carlos’ coat, and
instantly withdrawn. Carlos felt by the weight that something had been
left in the pocket.

This time he was on his guard. He manifested no surprise, but looked
deliberately and searchingly around. His scrutiny failed to discover
the perpetrator of the act.

And now the brief message promising aid came to his mind with startling
suggestiveness. Was a plot in progress to effect his escape? With
outward coolness and with inward burning impatience, he waited and
watched.



                             CHAPTER XII.

                        THE NEW YORK DETECTIVE.


The ten or fifteen minutes that elapsed before the train passed the
station at Dalton, were occupied by the assemblage at the depot in
talking about the murder and the prisoner.

Carlos felt himself the object of scrutiny and remark. He bore the
ordeal as best he could, averting his eyes from the staring, chattering
crowd.

There was one stranger present――a man rather below the medium size,
with a black mustache, and wearing a light-colored business suit. In
appearance he was gentlemanly and unobtrusive. Yet, notwithstanding his
rather retiring manner, he managed to get into conversation with the
officer who had Carlos in charge. After some introductory remarks he
said:

“I am a little in your line myself.”

“Is that so? How?” asked the officer.

“I am connected with the New York detective service,” and he lifted
the lapel of his vest, thus disclosing a glistening police shield
underneath.

“Ah! Are you working up a case here?”

“Oh, no! I wouldn’t let my occupation be known if I was. I am off duty,
and thought I would run up and take the country air for a few days.”

“Yes? Well, you’ll find Dalton a very pleasant stopping-place.”

“So I should judge. You people here have ♦managed this case very well.”

“The murder of Colonel Conrad, you mean?”

“Yes. There is not a doubt that the prisoner is guilty. Excuse me, my
dear fellow”――to Carlos――“for speaking so plainly, but I can see it in
your eye. Can’t you?”――to the officer.

“Yes, indeed! I said so all along.”

Officer George Johnson was flattered at the idea of holding converse
with one so high up in the business as to have reached the station of
a New York detective. He began to swell with gratified vanity.

“It seems to me I’ve seen the prisoner before. You know we detectives
get to be pretty familiar with faces of most of the rascals in the
country?”

“Yes, I suppose so,” replied Mr. Johnson.

“I beg your pardon,” said Carlos. “You cannot be very familiar with my
face. I have been in the country only a short time――――”

“You keep your mouth still,” commanded the officer.

“Oh, let him talk,” said the detective, pleasantly. “It’s amusing to
hear the stories these fellows will make up. But you know we take them
for what they are worth.”

“Certainly,” assented Mr. Johnson, with a wise look.

“Let’s go and take something before the train comes along,” said the
detective. “Just one glass, you know, for good-fellowship.”

“I’m not particular,” said the officer.

“Will you join us, gentlemen,” said the detective, turning to four or
five of the bystanders.

They were willing enough, and all entered a room adjoining the depot,
and stepped up to a bar.

Glasses and bottles were set on the counter.

The detective filled a glass, looked at the liquor critically, and said,
suddenly:

“Isn’t this whisky?”

“Yes, sir,” replied the barkeeper.

“I ordered gin. Perhaps you will take this, Mr. Johnson, if you wish
whisky?”

“Yes, my drink is whisky always. Certainly I’ll take it,” replied the
officer.

He seemed to think it an honor to oblige the detective, who pushed the
glass toward him and filled another for himself.

“By the way,” said the detective, before Mr. Johnson had emptied his
glass, “if your prisoner is the man I think he is, he had a scar, left
by a pistol-shot, on his left wrist. Would you mind my examining it,
just for curiosity?”

“Certainly not,” replied Mr. Johnson. “Go ahead.”

While Officer Johnson was finishing his whisky the detective approached
close to Carlos, and taking hold of his hand, rolled up the sleeve of
his coat. While thus engaged he whispered to him quickly and softly:

“As soon as you are seated in the car pretend to be tired out, and make
believe to go to sleep.”

Then he said, aloud, to Carlos’ custodian:

“I may be mistaken; I don’t seem to find the scar. No, this can’t be
the man, but there is certainly a wonderful resemblance!”

Carlos was simply paralyzed with astonishment. Was this New York
detective a friend in disguise? A flood of wondering mental questions
was cut short by the whistle of the approaching train.

Hurry and bustle quickly ensued. Officer Johnson and the detective
shook hands and bade each other good-by, and then, the cars having come
to a halt, Carlos was conducted on board. It was an express train, and
scarcely were he and the officer seated, still handcuffed together,
before it was again in motion.

They were in the only ordinary passenger-coach on the train, it
consisting mainly of drawing-room and sleeping cars, and being designed
chiefly for the accommodation of through travelers. It stopped only
once between Dalton and Hillsdale――the places were thirty-five miles
apart――and that was at a small watering-station.

There were only five other passengers in the coach――a woman with a babe,
an old man asleep, with his hat over his eyes, and two drunken fellows
who were too stupid to attend to anything but each other’s gibberish.

Carlos obeyed the strange advice of the detective. He yawned, stretched,
and sighed, and then, laying his head against the back of the seat,
appeared to fall asleep. Meanwhile he put his hand in his coat pocket,
and endeavored to ascertain, by feeling, what had been placed there.

There was a small bag, made of oil-silk or some similar material,
inclosing some soft substance. There was a pair of iron or
steel-cutting nippers, apparently of considerable strength. There was
attached to the bag a slip of paper.

Carlos breathed heavily and regularly, but kept close watch of officer
George Johnson. That gentleman seemed to be uneasy. One moment he would
bow his head as if drowsy, and the next he would suddenly straighten up
and look at his prisoner. Then he would subside into indolence again,
again to rouse himself and make sure of the safety of Carlos.

“Beats the duse how sleepy I am!” he once muttered to himself.

Still Carlos feigned deep slumber.

At last Officer Johnson took a careful survey of him, examined the
handcuffs cautiously, and then peered intently into his face.

Finally, either from a sense of safety, or in consequence of an
uncontrollable drowsiness, he leaned his head against the casement of
the car window, and went into a sound sleep.

Now was Carlos’ opportunity. With as little movement of his arm as
possible, he tore the slip of paper from the bag, drew it from his
pocket, and read as follows:

  “In the bag is a sponge soaked in chloroform. When the officer
  goes to sleep, hold it to his mouth and nose. Then take the
  steel cutting-nippers and free yourself. Do all this when you
  hear the first long whistle, which will show that the train is
  near the watering-station. You can get off there and escape. If
  this plan fails, we will try another. But if you don’t get away,
  you will be convicted and hung, sure.

                         Your cousin,

                                                            L.”

“Here is deliverance!” was Carlos’ first thought.

Yet he was puzzled greatly. Although the note was signed “Your Cousin
L,” the handwriting bore no resemblance to that of Leonard. And he was
at a loss to conceive how Leonard, if he was a prisoner, could concoct
this plan and supply him with the materials for carrying it out.

While inwardly debating, another thought struck him.

Would not an attempt to escape, whether it succeeded or failed,
be regarded as an evidence of guilt? If he met the trial quietly
and fearlessly, would it not go far toward convincing people of his
innocence? But then he thought of the wide-spread sentiment against
him, of the strong array of evidence, and of the dreary confinement in
jail that must ensue before the trial.

Suddenly, while conflicting arguments were flitting through his brain,
the engine pealed forth its whistle.

Now or never!

With sudden impulse he tore the oil-silk bag open. The odor of
chloroform arose. Looking quickly around the car, and seeing that no
observant eye was upon him, he applied the sponge to his companion’s
face.

The officer gave a little convulsive twitch, but Carlos held the
sponge tighter, and he was immediately quiet, and quickly lapsed into
unconsciousness.

Then Carlos seized the nippers, and, with their powerful, sharp jaws,
severed the chain that held his wrist to that of the officer.

He was free!

He walked quickly to one end of the car, and as he passed him,
exchanged hats with the man who was asleep.

The speed of the train had by this time slackened, so that as soon as
he reached the platform of the car he jumped to the ground.

The train passed slowly along, and halted at the water-tower, some
twenty rods distant.

Now came a brief period of suspense. Would his flight be discovered
before the train started again? The chances were against such discovery,
for no passengers were likely to get on or off. He concealed himself
behind a clump of bushes and waited.

Soon the whistle sounded the signal for starting. The engine began
to puff, and the red lights on the rear car to recede. There was no
disturbance, no alarm.

Faster and faster went the train, until it rounded a curve, and Carlos
was left solitary and alone.

The handcuff was still on his wrist, with the short fragment of chain
dangling to it. To possess himself of some implement by which to rid
himself of this incumbrance was the next desirable step.

After reflecting a moment, he made his way cautiously toward the
water-tower. On coming within a few yards of it, he stopped suddenly
and fell flat on the ground. A man emerged from the door of the
structure. It was the keeper.

He walked across the track, and then down by its side a short distance,
coming to an old freight-car, which he entered. It was his dwelling.

Resuming his cautious walk, Carlos soon reached the tower. He
pushed the door open and stepped within. Lighting a match, he looked
searchingly around.

Yes, there was what he sought――a box of tools. Fumbling among them,
he succeeded in finding a file. Taking possession of it, he stepped
outside again, and around to the rear of the structure.

The file was a large, clumsy instrument, but by dint of twenty minutes’
industrious work, he freed himself of the handcuff. He cast it into a
ditch by the side of the track, and then replaced the file where he had
found it.

This done, he again walked to a safe distance from the water-tower. He
stood alone in the night air, divested of the most dangerous mark of
recognition.

What next?



                             CHAPTER XIII.

                         STRANGE DISCOVERIES.


On the day of the examination of Carlos, strange things happened in and
near Leonard Lester’s subterranean prison.

Leonard awoke early in the morning, after a night of fitful sleep. His
first thoughts were, of course, of Carlos, and of the message he had
sent him. He wondered whether it would reach him in time, and, if it
did, whether the important words in German would catch his attention.

There were some remnants of his previous evening’s supper remaining,
and also a portion of the wine. On these he made a breakfast, and
afterward walked about, impatiently awaiting whatever might ensue.

It might have been nine o’clock when the door was opened with
considerable haste and noise. Snags stepped in hurriedly, threw down
a newspaper and a loaf of bread, and immediately rushed out again.
The door was closed with a bang, and Leonard was left alone, somewhat
astonished at the hurried action of Snags, who had not spoken a word.

In a moment afterward he was startled by a new and strange noise. He
had thought that any noise would be welcome in that silent place, but
this was of such a peculiar and unusual character that he listened in
alarm.

It was like the sound of rushing water, as if a torrent had broken
loose, or a cascade suddenly sprung into existence, very near him. Yet
he could see nothing.

Had some underground stream burst its confines and made its way to
the rocky cavern? Was some convulsion of nature about to precipitate
destruction upon him?

It was natural that such questions should cross his mind, for the noise
continued, and its volume of tone in nowise diminished.

He stepped to the door of his apartment. The torrent seemed to be just
outside and very near, and little streams of water ran along on the
ground at his feet.

He shouted, but there was no response.

Was he to be ingulfed by the water and drowned in that dismal cave,
with no one in the outside world the wiser for it?

The thought was enough to fill one with dismay. He walked from side
to side of his prison, with the faint hope that there was some means
of escape that had hitherto escaped his attention. His search was
fruitless.

He stood still and listened again. The sound had not abated. He scanned
the rocky floor. The water was not running in to any great extent,
there being only two or three small trickling streams.

Perhaps there was no danger, after all. At any rate, he had no choice
but to wait and see.

The sound of the torrent continued with dull monotony all day, but no
harm came to Leonard. He was puzzled beyond measure.

At nightfall it ceased as suddenly as it had begun.

In a moment after Snags entered.

“What on earth has been going on out there?” cried Leonard.

“Why?” asked Snags.

“I should judge that Satan had been taking a shower-bath.”

Snags laughed.

“Oh, that’s one of the tricks of our trade. Visitors have been around
to-day.”

“Visitors?”

“Yes; they come occasionally. The cave is quite a curiosity in its way,
and once in a while somebody takes it into his head to explore it. That
was the case to-day, and so we let the water on.”

“Let the water on?”

“Yes; the existence of this room is a secret, known only to us. There
is an underground stream which empties over the rocks by the sea, and
we have a sort of dam or gate by which we can turn the water over the
door here. It’s a very simple arrangement, but it prevents discovery.”

“Discovery of this room, you mean? Why do you wish to keep its
existence a secret?”

“Well, there’s a very good reason just now――you’re here.”

“Yes, I know; but at other times?”

“That I mustn’t tell you.”

“No? Well, it is very strange. I should think you would have to keep a
pretty sharp lookout for visitors.”

“Yes, we do,” replied Snags, with a smile.

“What has become of those other fellows that were here the night you
captured me? You sent them in pursuit of me when I tried to escape with
the boat.”

“Oh, they’re gone. They don’t stay here much of the time. They only
happened to be at hand that night. It was lucky, too.”

“Who are they, and what is their business?”

“Now you are asking too many questions again,” said Snags. “I can’t
answer.”

“I presumed not. What of my cousin?”

“The examination is going on. Your note was put in the post-office
early this morning.”

“Thank you again for that.”

“Oh, never mind. I don’t know whether I am sorry or glad that I did it.
But no matter, it’s done.”

There was silence for a moment, and then Snags said:

“I’ve brought you another bottle of wine. I thought your nerves might
need bracing up after hearing the din of that waterfall all day.”

“Thank you,” replied Leonard; “but I guess my nerves are all right.
Besides, the other bottle is not empty yet.”

“Oh, isn’t it? This is a better article, though. Just try it. I’ll take
the other bottle away.”

There was something peculiar in Snags’ manner. He seemed awkward and
ill at ease. He ♦alternately regarded Leonard intently and dropped his
eyes to the ground.

“What’s up?” thought Leonard. “This man is playing some game, and he’s
not very good at it, either. However, I must not betray any suspicion.
But it is plain that he has some object here other than bringing the
wine.”

He took a swallow from the bottle Snags had brought.

“Excellent!” he exclaimed. “It _is_ better than the other.”

A look of satisfaction instantly overspread the face of Snags. He
picked up the first bottle he had left, now half-emptied, and started
for the door.

“Take a good drink,” he exclaimed, “it will do you good. Good-night!”

And he left precipitately, without giving Leonard a chance to speak
another word.

The latter stared at the closed door, and stood for a moment in
meditation.

“I wonder what Snags was driving at,” he murmured.

He took another sip of the wine and smacked his lips as if to test its
flavor.

“It has a peculiar taste,” he muttered to himself. “I wonder if it’s
drugged. Perhaps they want to poison me. I wonder if I have already
taken enough to harm me.”

He resolved to wait and see if it produced any effect on him, first
taking the precaution to pour a considerable quantity of it in a
crevice in the rocky floor, so that if they should examine the bottle
it would appear that he had drank freely of it.

The effect of the small portion he had taken soon manifested itself
in a feeling of drowsiness which took possession of him. It was not a
natural fatigue, but rather a numbness such as might have been produced
by a powerful opiate.

“I don’t believe I have taken enough to cause serious results,” he
reflected. “I will take a little exercise and see if I cannot work it
off.”

He walked rapidly to and fro in his apartment, first taking the
precaution to remove his boots so that his footsteps might not be heard.

He soon had the satisfaction of feeling wide-awake and clear-headed.
Indeed he was keener and more alert than ever, for his suspicions had
made him watchful and nervous.

In order to arrive at a complete solution of his captors’ plans,
however, he lay down with the bottle near him, and prepared to feign
deep sleep on the approach of either Snags or Roake. It was some hours
before he was disturbed, and he improved the time to take occasional
exercise, so as to make sure that sleep should not overtake him.

About midnight his quick ear detected a movement on the other side of
the door. He immediately composed himself in a reclining position, with
one arm thrown partially over his eyes.

When the door was opened he was breathing heavily.

Snags advanced stealthily into the room and scrutinized him attentively.
He lifted the bottle and examined it.

The voice of Roake came in a hoarse whisper from the half-open door.

“Has he drank the wine?”

“Yes,” replied Snags, laying the bottle down again, “enough to keep him
quiet till morning.”

“Good!”

Both men withdrew and soon returned, bearing a ladder. They hoisted
it toward the ceiling, and with the end of it pushed aside a small
trap-door, painted to represent the rocks so exactly that the closest
observer would fail to detect its presence. They then planted the
ladder on the floor, with its upper end projecting into the opening
thus made. There was evidently an apartment above, to which access was
gained in this way.

They took another look at Leonard, and, apparently satisfied that he
still slept, ascended the ladder. One of them carried a small lantern.
They both disappeared through the opening, and then Leonard could hear
them moving about and talking in low tones.

Soon a rope was lowered, and directly afterward Snags descended. He
stepped to the door and blew a peculiar whistle. A faint reply was
heard from without, and Snags immediately reascended the ladder.

In a few minutes a man entered, bearing a bundle on his shoulder. It
was enveloped in brown sacking, and had a compact look. There were
strange-looking foreign marks on the outside. The man attached the
bundle to the rope, and it was drawn above. Soon another man entered
bearing another bundle, and then a third one came, similarly laden. All
of the packages were disposed of as the first one had been.

Then these three men journeyed back and forth, bringing boxes, and
bales, and bundles, some of which were light and easy to carry, and
others of which required the united efforts of the three to handle.

Leonard was at first astonished. The proceeding was inexplicable to him.
But he soon arrived at a solution of the mystery. He concluded that his
captors must be smugglers. The rocky cave, its secret apartments, its
proximity to the sea-shore, its retired location, were all favorable
to the carrying on of the unlawful business. He was excited by the
discovery, yet he remained quiet, for to expose his wakefulness would
be instant death, he felt. Occasionally one of the men would step near
him and scan his face, but he was always on his guard, and kept up the
semblance of deep sleep.

For two hours or more the smugglers continued their labors, and at
the end of this time their work seemed to be finished. They stood
about, wiping the perspiration from their brows, and brought in no
more packages.

“Is that all?” inquired Snags from above.

“Yes,” replied one of them.

“Is he still sleeping?”

“Sound as a log.”

“All right. Come up here, all of you.”

They ascended the ladder, and the five men above occupied themselves,
as Leonard judged, in arranging in order the articles that had been
hastily drawn up.

Leonard was alone, and believed to be unconscious. Here was a tempting
opportunity. The door was ajar, and why could he not escape?

He resolved to make the attempt.

He rose softly, taking his boots in one hand and the wine-bottle in the
other, to be used as a weapon in case his progress was opposed.

He stole silently across the room, and into the outer passage. Here he
paused and listened. The voice of Roake said:

“Did you close the door?”

“No,” replied one of the men.

“You had better go down and do it.”

“All right. Wait till I get the box rolled over here.”

Leonard hastened on. The passage was dimly illumined, as before, by a
lamp hanging from the ceiling. He remembered the route perfectly, and,
making his way as rapidly as possible, he was soon in the open air by
the sea-shore.

Here he paused for an instant in utter amazement. He recognized the
place as Rocky Beach. It was here that he had come on a fishing jaunt,
the day before the murder. The bright starlight revealed the place and
its surroundings to him. There could be no mistake.

But he must not linger. His captors might be upon him in a moment.

Two yachts were moored near the beach with sails ready to hoist. One of
them was small enough for one man to manage. A fresh breeze was blowing,
and, as Leonard was an experienced yachtman, his course was decided
upon immediately.

Springing into one of the boats, he pushed it from the shore and
hoisted the sail. It caught the wind, and was soon cutting through the
water.

He looked back. There was as yet no movement on the shore. He had a
good start, and believed he could not be overtaken, even if his flight
were made known at that moment.

Heading the yacht toward the open sea, he now had leisure, as it sped
along rapidly, to consider his situation and to form his plans.



                             CHAPTER XIV.

                      THE CUSTOM-HOUSE DETECTIVE.


As has already been mentioned, Leonard Lester was an experienced
yachtman. He had for years belonged to a boating club in New York,
and the knowledge and experience he had thus gained proved of great
practical value in the situation in which he found himself after
escaping from the underground retreat of the supposed smugglers.

The yacht he had taken possession of proved to be of good build and
excellent sailing qualities. In the course of half an hour Rocky Beach
was left several miles behind, and all danger of successful pursuit was
for the time being past.

Leonard now conceived the idea of making for the port of Boston. New
York would have suited him better, but was too far off.

The sky was clear, the wind was fresh and steady, and no sudden storm
or squall seemed likely to arise. The condition could not have been
more favorable.

So, calculating his bearings as nearly as possible, he guided his
craft in what he deemed the proper direction. The voyage was without
noteworthy incident――in fact, it was rather monotonous. Soon after
daybreak he had the satisfaction of beholding the spires of the distant
city, and about ten o’clock he entered the harbor.

Before approaching the crowd of ships that lay near the wharfs and
docks, he bethought himself to examine the yacht thoroughly, and see if
he could discover any clew to ownership, or the movements of those who
had so recently had it in their possession.

His search resulted in his finding nothing but two cards in a small
locker. One of these was printed, and read as follows:

                              JACOB RUSH.
                     _9 ―――― Street, Jersey City._

On the other was written, in a scrawling hand: “32 Main street, Dalton.”

These he decided, with a purpose which will appear hereafter, to leave
where he had found them.

Then, setting sail directly for the city, he sought a convenient place
for landing.

He was accosted by no one save a man in a small boat, who proved to be
a custom-house officer. The man asked him some questions, scanned the
yacht closely, and then moved off again, satisfied that he was not a
runner in of smuggled goods.

Leonard selected a vacant place alongside a low dock, and springing
ashore, made his boat fast by a rope.

He looked around him, and saw in the long line of dingy buildings a
narrow alley. Through this he made his way, and soon emerged into a
busy wholesale street.

His first step was to proceed to a barber’s shop and have his mustache
shaved off. Then he purchased a hat and coat of different patterns from
those he had been wearing, and donned them. The garments of which he
divested himself he tied in a bundle and carried in his hand.

These transactions occupied but little time; they were for the purpose
of avoiding ready recognition, for he remembered Snags’ assertion that
he was regarded as an accomplice in Carlos’ supposed crime, and it was
possible that his appearance and dress had already been telegraphed to
officers who might be on the lookout for him.

Next he found his way to the custom-house, and inquired of one of the
clerks for the superintendent, or some person in authority.

The clerk silently pointed to a man seated within an inclosure of
railing. The man was busily engaged with some papers, and scarcely
looked up as Leonard accosted him.

“Can I have a few words with you, sir?”

“Yes,” was the reply, delivered with the air of one whose time was
precious.

“I presume there is a secret detective service connected with this
department?”

“Yes.”

“Can you direct me to some reliable, shrewd person engaged in that
service?”

The man slowly turned a pair of dull-looking eyes full on Leonard. Yet
it was evident that the owner of those dull-looking eyes was accustomed
to reading character and forming prompt conclusions. He withdrew his
gaze after a moment, and said:

“Second story. Inquire for Mr. Stark.”

He then turned to his work again, and was apparently oblivious of his
surroundings.

Leonard proceeded as directed, and found Mr. Stark alone in a small
room. The room was compact, neat, and orderly in appearance. On
one side was a telegraphic apparatus, and on the other was a desk,
surmounted by a case of pigeon-holes, containing letters and papers
tied up in bundles. There was a couch and two chairs in the room. One
window looked upon the street, and a closed door concealed an adjoining
apartment.

Mr. Stark was a man small in stature and unpretending in aspect. His
face was smooth, with thin lips, a firm-set mouth, and cool, gray eyes.
He was dressed with neat precision.

“Mr. Stark?” inquired Leonard.

“Yes, sir.”

“You are, I believe, connected with the secret detective service.”

“I am.”

“Can I confer with you in reference to engaging your services?”

“My services are not exactly open for engagement,” said Mr. ♦Stark,
smiling. “I am in the employ of the government.”

“Pardon me,” said Leonard. “Perhaps I did not put the case as I should.
There is a matter that interests the government――a smuggling case, I am
convinced――but it requires to be managed with caution.”

“We are accustomed to manage things with caution,” was Mr. Stark’s
reply.

“Certainly――I am aware of that――but this case is so complicated with an
affair of an entirely different character――and in which I have a deep
personal interest――that I must be exceedingly cautious as to whom I
take in my confidence.”

“If you know anything, young man,” rejoined Mr. Stark, “about the
illegal running in of any foreign goods, it is your duty to reveal such
knowledge.”

“That may be,” replied Leonard; “but I have other duties, too. One
of them is self-protection. Another is to look out for my friends.
I must be assured of the hearty co-operation of whoever I take into
my confidence, in an endeavor to solve a mystery on which hangs the
life of a near and dear relative, as well as to bring to justice these
supposed smugglers. The two cases cannot be separated――they must be
investigated conjointly. And it may take time.”

“You speak with a good deal of self-confidence, sir. May I ask who you
are?”

Leonard handed him his card, and then asked:

“Do you know the firm of Duncan & Mishler, New York?”

“Yes――an importing house. You don’t mean to say that they are the
parties?”

“Bless you, no!” exclaimed Leonard. “They are as straight as a string.
I am connected with that firm.”

“Let me see,” said Stark, opening a large book, consulting an index,
and turning to a particular page. “Yes――Duncan & Mishler――Leonard
Lester, European agent. Well, I guess, if you are connected with that
firm, you can trust me. Go on with your story.”

“It must be confidential, and no steps must be taken without consulting
me.”

“I agree to that.”

“And do you promise not to reveal my identity, or my presence in
Boston?”

“I promise. But you are very cautious.”

“You will see that I have reason to be.”

Leonard thereupon narrated to Mr. Stark the journey of himself and
Carlos to Dalton, of their visit, their interview with Colonel Conrad,
his own excursion to Rocky Beach, the departure of Carlos in an
opposite direction to attend a concert, the capture of himself by Snags,
his subsequent experience in the cave, and his escape. He concluded by
saying:

“My cousin is now doubtless in jail. The evidence would probably be
sufficient to hold him for trial, whether it finally convicted him
or not. Snags is the guilty man, though my evidence might not be
sufficient to establish that. But he had some object other than robbery.
This is proved by his anxiety in regard to the missing fragment of
paper. He spoke of a ‘boss’ to whom both he and Roake were subordinate.
Who this ‘boss’ is, is the mystery. He is undoubtedly the chief guilty
party; for Snags and Roake are not the men to push smuggled goods on
the market.”

“No, you are right there. And in regard to the murder, I agree with you
in thinking that it was done for some motive that does not appear on
the surface.”

“And, by the way, those cards in the locker of the yacht,” said Leonard;
“do you know anything of Jacob Rush, of Jersey City?”

“No, but I will inside of twenty-four hours.”

“Thirty-two Main street, Dalton, which was written on the other card,
is, as I mentioned, the address of Geoffrey Haywood’s place of business.
I remember the large gilded sign very well. You don’t suppose _that_
villain has anything to do with the smuggling business, do you?”

“I don’t know, I am sure. Every clew is worth following up. Why did you
leave the cards in the boat, instead of bringing them with you?”

“For two reasons. First, I thought I would leave the yacht in your
charge, and let you advertise for an owner, stating that the cards were
found in the locker, and mentioning the addresses on them. Some one
implicated ♦might then appear to claim it. Second, the taking of the
cards would betray the fact that interested parties had the boat in
charge. For who would go to the trouble of taking them except somebody
that regarded them as of special significance?”

“Well, you are partly right. I will advertise the yacht, but will say
nothing about the cards. That might put the parties on their guard.
We will let them think they have not been noticed. If the right person
answers the advertisement, you may be sure that he will search for
them when he comes to examine the boat. And I’ll have all his movements
watched.”

“Perhaps,” said Leonard, “we can kill two birds with one stone――capture
both the murderer and the smugglers.”

“We’ll try,” replied Mr. Stark. “And now, what do you propose to do
next?”

“I want to go to New York, and see my employers, Duncan & Mishler.”

“But not as you are.”

“Why not?”

“Because, if you are regarded as an accomplice in the murder of Colonel
Conrad, you may be arrested at any moment. Your description is probably
in the hands of officers now.”

“True. But what is to be done?”

“I’ll disguise you. If I am not mistaken you have taken some steps in
that direction already. You have had your mustache shaved off, and you
are wearing strange clothes.”

“How do you know?” exclaimed Leonard, in astonishment.

“You move your upper lip nervously, as if experiencing an unusual
sensation, and the coat and hat you have on are new. Besides, there is
that bundle under your arm.”

“You are right,” said Leonard, “but I never would have dreamed――――”

“Oh, never mind. We have to train our observing faculties. You won’t do
at all, now. I’ll fix you.”

And he conducted Leonard into the room adjoining his office.

When they returned Leonard was transformed into a sanctimonious-looking
individual, with gray side-whiskers and hair, a pair of silver-bowed
spectacles, a long, well-worn coat, and a hat of the last season’s
pattern.

“There!” said Mr. Stark, admiringly, “I’ll risk you anywhere. If
anything unlooked-for happens, you are the Reverend Mr. Withers, living
at No. ―――― 12th street, New York. Here, take this cane and volume of
commentaries. Ha! ha! you look like a natural-born missionary!”

At this moment there was a knock at the door.

“What’s wanted?” demanded Mr. Stark.

“Here’s your morning paper, sir,” came in a boy’s voice.

“Why didn’t you bring it in sooner?” asked Mr. Stark, opening the door.

“The clerks were reading it, sir.”

“Couldn’t they find anything else to do?”

Without waiting for an answer, he closed the door in the boy’s face,
and then ran his eyes down the column of telegraphic reports.

Suddenly he turned to Leonard.

“You say you last heard from your cousin through Mr. Snags, on the day
the examination was in progress.”

“Yes,” replied Leonard.

“Read that.”

Leonard took the paper, and, at a spot indicated by Mr. Stark’s thumb,
saw among the latest dispatches the following paragraph:

  “HILLSDALE, Aug. 29.――Charles Conrad, charged with the murder
  of Col. Wm. Conrad, of Dalton, made his escape while coming here
  on the cars last night in charge of a constable. He is slightly
  below the medium height, with blue eyes and a light mustache.
  A large reward is offered for his capture.”

Leonard stared at these words in dumb amazement. He read them over
twice before speaking. Then he turned to Mr. Stark.

“What is to be done?” he asked.

“Nothing, by you,” replied the gentleman, quite composed, “except
to give me a very particular and exact description of his personal
appearance.”

Leonard having given the desired description, Mr. Stark said:

“Now leave everything to me for a short time. My chance of capturing
your cousin is as good as that of any one else. I’ll send telegrams to
some of my associates, and he may come to no harm. But whatever may be
the result, you can do nothing. Remember that, and go on to New York.
Of course you must tell Duncan & Mishler everything, and I hope they
are discreet men. It might be well for you to drop around to No. ――――
12th street to-morrow morning, and, if I have occasion to communicate
with you, you will find a message there for the Reverend Mr. Withers.
They’ll know you. And now, good-day. I have other business on hand.
I think the next train will bring you to New York about eight o’clock
this evening.”

Leonard passed out of Mr. Stark’s office, went down stairs and into the
street, and made his way to the railroad depot.

He took the train for New York, where he arrived in due time. Here a
great surprise awaited him.



                              CHAPTER XV.

                                 FREE.


What next?

That was the question with Carlos Conrad, as he stood alone by the
railroad track, the cool night air blowing softly about him. The moon
shone brightly, and objects on which the light fell stood out in bold
distinctness, while those in the shadows were rendered doubly obscure.

He stood in irresolution. He did not know which way to turn, for with
daylight would come pursuit, and probably capture.

He half regretted the step he had taken. He had no refuge to fly to,
no friends to conceal him, no means of disguise. To the right and left
were the long lines of railroad track, in front and behind were fields,
and woods, and distant farm-houses. He felt friendless and almost
hopeless.

While standing thus in gloomy reflection, he saw a bright light far
down the track. It was the head-light of a locomotive just coming
around the curve. It was coming from the direction of Hillsdale, and
must have met the train which Carlos had so recently quitted. As it
approached its speed slackened, and, moving slower and slower, it
finally drew up at the tower to take in a supply of water.

Obeying a sudden impulse, Carlos ran back into a field, took a circuit
around the water-tower, and came up beyond it to the track where the
passenger cars stood.

The whistle sounded, the bell rang, and the train started. He sprang
unobserved on the platform of one of the cars, opened the door, and
walked coolly in. He took a vacant seat, pulled his hat down over his
eyes and settled himself into a comfortable position.

The train was soon under headway and tearing along at the rate of forty
miles an hour toward Dalton.

Carlos realized that he was incurring a great risk. He might be rushing
into the very arms of pursuers; for that there would be pursuers was,
of course, not to be doubted. It was even possible that the officer
from whom he had escaped had discovered his loss in time to transfer
himself to the returning train, the one on which Carlos was now riding.
He might lay his hands on him at any moment.

Carlos was aware that he faced this possibility, as also that of there
being those present at the Dalton depot who would recognize him. This
latter danger, however, he considered not to be imminent, on account of
the lateness of the hour.

But he was in a reckless mood, and was not dismayed by the prospect.

The conductor came through the car and touched him on the shoulder, at
the same time peering into his face.

“Did I see your ticket, sir?”

“No; I have none. Can I go through on this train to New York?”

“Yes. Where did you get on?”

Carlos hesitated.

“At Hillsdale,” he said, after a pause. “I did not have time to buy a
ticket. What is the fare?”

“A dollar and sixty cents to the Junction,” replied the conductor.
“There you change cars.”

“Where is the Junction?”

“Thirty miles beyond Dalton.”

“Will there be any delay?”

“About five minutes.”

The fare was paid and the conductor passed on.

Carlos now ventured to look around the car. No one appeared to be
taking particular notice of him. Many were asleep, a few were trying
to read by the flickering light of the lamps overhead, and others were
staring patiently into vacancy.

There was nothing alarming in the aspect, and now, seeing that
he was not pursued, Carlos began to feel anxious and nervous again.
The certainty of calamity is not nearly so disquieting as a sense of
proximity, with a possibility of escape. The suspense attendant on this
latter condition was soon augmented by the approach to Dalton. He had
begun to feel that he might possibly reach New York unmolested, and in
that city he hoped to find a safe retreat. Hope and apprehensiveness
struggled for the mastery within him, and when the cars drew up at the
Dalton depot the conflict was at its height. But, by a violent effort,
he calmed himself and betrayed no anxiety.

An incident now occurred that filled him at first with surprise and
terror, and afterward with wonderment and perplexity.

Geoffrey Haywood stepped aboard and entered the same car Carlos
occupied.

The emotions of the latter may be imagined better than described. He
watched the new-comer spell-bound.

But Mr. Geoffrey Haywood seemed to be occupied with affairs of his
own. He dropped into the first seat that presented itself, and, looking
neither to the right nor the left, buried himself in meditation.

And after the cars had started again, and were fairly under weigh, it
became apparent that the presence of Carlos was in the furthest degree
remote from his thoughts.

With intense relief, Carlos furtively watched his further movements.

Mr. Haywood’s journey was not a long one. He got off at the next
stopping-place, still preserving his pre-occupied air. Carlos marveled
greatly at his action. What could be the object of this short journey
at such a time of night? He could devise no solution to the query, and
so, endeavoring to dismiss the subject from his mind, he congratulated
himself on the fact that his greatest danger was now past.

The journey to New York was accomplished without further incident.
At the junction, where the change was made, there was the usual bustle
and hurry, but no one was as yet on the track of the escaped prisoner.
About seven o’clock in the morning the train reached the city.

Immediately on alighting, Carlos astonished a vociferating hackman by
promptly accepting his tender of a conveyance.

“I want you to take me, as quickly as possible, to Duncan & Mishler’s,
No. ―――― Broadway. Start immediately, without waiting for any other
passengers, and your pay shall be five dollars.”

“Yes, sir,” responded the hackman, with alacrity. He sprang to his seat,
while Carlos drew back in the carriage, concealing himself as well as
possible from the observation of outsiders.

In obedience to a word and a crack of the whip, the horses sprang
forward, and rattled through the noisy streets at a good pace.

About half-past seven they halted before one of those palaces devoted
to trade that abound in all their glory on the principal thoroughfare
of the city of New York.

Duncan & Mishler were importers, as has been mentioned, and this was
their wholesale store.

Carlos paid the hackman, and, walking up to a short flight of
stone steps, met a porter with a feather duster in his hand. He was
just about finishing his work of sweeping and dusting the store in
preparation for the day’s business.

“Good-morning,” said Carlos. “I suppose Mr. Duncan is not here yet this
morning.”

“No, sir,” replied the porter. “He won’t be down till nine o’clock.”

Carlos paused a moment in hesitation.

“Did you have a good trip, sir?” asked the porter.

“A good trip?” echoed Carlos, not certain of the man’s meaning.

“Yes, sir. I mean did you sell many goods?”

It immediately struck Carlos that the porter mistook him for one of the
traveling agents, or “drummers” of the establishment. He resolved to
humor the error.

“Oh, I had fair success,” he replied, carelessly.

“Mr. Carter came in from the West day before yesterday,” said the
porter, “and said he found trade mighty dull. He started out again last
night.”

“Ah,” replied Carlos, “I hope he’ll have good luck. But I wish to see
Mr. Duncan particularly. I wonder if there would be any objection to my
waiting in his private office. My business is very urgent.”

“I guess you can wait there, sir,” replied the porter. “You’ll find
last evening’s paper on the desk.”

“Thank you,” replied Carlos.

He passed through the store, and walked up a flight of steps to an
elevated portion in the rear end. Here he opened a door, and entered a
small, elegantly furnished apartment, which was the private sanctum of
Mr. Duncan, the senior partner of the firm.

A brief retrospect is here necessary. Carlos had arrived from Europe
but three days before the visit of himself and Leonard to Dalton. He
had immediately called on his cousin, to whom he announced the death of
his father, and confided the errand on which he was bent. Leonard had
introduced him to Mr. Duncan, who had invited the cousins to his house.

For Leonard, in his capacity of foreign agent for the firm, enjoyed
not only the business confidence of, but the warm personal friendship
of his employers, and Mr. Duncan, being of a genial, social nature,
delighted in nothing more than extending the hospitality of his house
to his friends.

Mr. Mishler, the junior partner, was perhaps equally pleasant and
sociable in his way, but he was unmarried, exceedingly industrious, and
was constantly occupied with certain details of the business that were
intrusted to his special supervision. Carlos had only met him once or
twice casually.

Consequently he waited in Mr. Duncan’s private office, feeling that
that gentleman was the only acquaintance in the great city to whom he
could go in the present trouble. Indeed, there was no one else to whom
he would feel at liberty to apply for any service whatever.

He patiently awaited Mr. Duncan’s appearance, glancing over the
newspaper to which the porter had made reference, but taking no heed
of the words over which his eyes wandered.

Promptly at nine o’clock Mr. Duncan arrived. He seemed surprised to
find Carlos sitting there, but after an instant’s hesitation recognized
him, and with a cordial exclamation advanced toward him with extended
hand.

Carlos sprang past him and closed the door, and then turned and took
the proffered hand.

“I beg your pardon,” he began, and then stopped.

“How do you do! How do you do!” exclaimed Mr. Duncan.

His words and voice were cordial, though he looked sharply at Carlos,
as if puzzled at his demeanor. He was a tall, portly man, with a ruddy,
though fair complexion, and a clear, pleasant eye. His face was smooth,
with the exception of gray side-whiskers, and he had a high, noble
forehead. He stood looking at Carlos, inquiringly, and the latter began
to speak hurriedly and rather incoherently.

“I am in great trouble,” he said, “and I have come to you. I scarcely
know why. I thought that you might not believe――that is, that you would
be willing to listen――at all events that you would shield me for a few
hours, and not pronounce judgment too hastily.”

“What do you mean?” asked Mr. Duncan, in astonishment.

“Mr. Duncan,” said Carlos, suddenly stepping back a pace, and speaking
slowly and distinctly, “are you aware that you have just shaken hands
with one who is under accusation of _murder_?”

“Good heavens, no! I am not aware of that. Please explain yourself.”

“You won’t turn me off and deliver me into the hands of the officers?”

“I don’t understand you. No, of course I won’t do anything of that kind.
You are a friend of Leonard Lester, and his friends are my friends.
Come, sit down here.”

Mr. Duncan took a chair, and Carlos sat in another near him.

“Yes, I will tell you all. But, first, are we in danger of
interruption?”

“None whatever. But wait.”

He stepped to the door and locked it, and returned to his seat again.

“There. Now out with your story. I see you are in trouble. Let me hear
what it is.”

Thus commanded, Carlos gave a faithful account of the terrible
experience he had passed through since the Monday on which he
and Leonard had set their feet in Dalton. He omitted no important
particular, and concluded by relating the unexpected means of escape
that had been offered him, and his night journey to New York.

Mr. Duncan evinced considerable excitement during the recital. He rose,
stared at the narrator, uttered an exclamation or two, and finally sat
down, planted his hands on his knees, and drank in every word.

“Well, upon my soul, this is marvelous!” he exclaimed, vehemently, on
the conclusion of the narrative. “I never heard the like.”

Carlos sat in silence. He had finished his tale, and his first anxiety
was to know the reception it would meet with.

He waited to hear what Mr. Duncan would have to say after his
wonderment had found vent. But that gentleman, although excitable when
his surprise or sympathy was aroused, said nothing at all for some
moments.



                             CHAPTER XVI.

                               A REFUGE.


“This is marvelous!” repeated Mr. Duncan, when he finally spoke again.
“And now, what do you intend to do?”

“That I cannot tell. I have formed no plans whatever. I have even
doubted the wisdom of my flight.”

“I don’t know about that. Perhaps you did right, perhaps not.”

“Do you doubt my innocence?”

“No, I can’t say that I do. You don’t look like a man capable of
performing such a deed. And Leonard gave a very good account of you.
No, I haven’t the least doubt of your innocence. But if you had stood
the trial, and been acquitted, it might have been better.”

“That is what I thought,” said Carlos. “But the evidence is strong, and
everybody in Dalton believes me guilty; at least everybody except the
secret few who know better, and I do not expect they will come forward
to criminate themselves in order to save me.”

“You believe, then, that the real murderer lives in Dalton?”

“Yes, or some one associated with him. The murder was done by parties
who knew something of my uncle, and who had some secret purpose to
serve――else why the anxiety to obtain that fragment of paper bearing
the finishing words to something that he had written?”

“It might have been for fear it would furnish a clew to detection.”

“No――the only way in which it could be used in that way would be to
match it to the larger paper from which it was torn, and that could
easily be destroyed.”

“True; but it is strange. The words ‘seven o’clock’ do not amount to
much. They probably have only a casual meaning.”

“Perhaps; but I must caution you not to repeat them where they will be
heard. Leonard said in his note, as I told you, that they would give
the murderer all the information he wanted.”

“Yes; I had forgotten that. But it is utterly inexplicable.”

“It is, indeed.”

“Let me see,” said Mr. Duncan. “Have you many acquaintances here in New
York?”

“I have none at all. Most of my life has been spent across the ocean,
except a few years, when I was a good deal younger than I am now; and
during the three days I was here, previous to going to Dalton, I made
no acquaintances, except in your own family. I do not think that I
was even in the store here often enough for the clerks to know me. The
porter mistook me for one of your traveling agents.”

“Did he? That circumstance may be used to advantage. We will not
undeceive him. Let him think that you are a traveling agent, and he’ll
tell no damaging tales.”

“Ah! you are inclined to befriend me, I see. How can I thank you?”

“Yes, I am inclined to befriend you, and, as for thanks, never mind
them now. You are a stranger here, and in Dalton. These facts are
fortunate. Will any one there be apt to conclude that you have come
to me?”

“I think not. No one there knows enough about me to form such a
conclusion.”

“Do not be too sure of that. It would be strange if something did not
appear at the examination that would throw the scent this way.”

“Yes, I had forgotten about that. But I do not remember much about the
testimony. I am rather stupid, I think.”

“Well, there is not much cause for immediate alarm on that score, I
apprehend. It will take time for the Dalton authorities to communicate
to the New York police what they know about you and your connections,
and before such communication is had, I think we can find a safe
hiding-place for you.”

“Where will it be?” asked Carlos.

“Oh, I don’t know yet. I believe,” musingly, “that I will consult
Mishler.”

“He is your partner. Is he a safe man?”

“Safe? I should say so! And closed-mouthed as a mummy. The course I
have named seems the only available one just now. And then I shall wait
for Leonard to turn up. He knows how to take care of himself, and I do
not doubt that he will put in an appearance soon.”

“Possibly. But he wrote that he was a prisoner, and helpless.”

“Yes, I know; but my conviction is as I have stated. It is not easy to
outwit Leonard.”

The merchant’s eyes twinkled, as if experience had filled him with
confidence in the pluck, shrewdness, and good judgment of his foreign
agent.

“I’ll call Mishler now. You sit in the corner here and look in this
ledger.” Mr. Duncan opened a large account-book and spread it on a
small writing-table. “If any outsider comes in, you can pass as an
accountant in my employ. Don’t look up from your work, and nobody will
see your face.”

Carlos took a seat before the table, with his back toward the door,
and prepared to bury himself in the columns of figures before him on
an instant’s warning.

Mr. Mishler soon entered in obedience to a call from Mr. Duncan. And,
as soon as the latter had ♦briefly stated the leading facts of the case,
the two great merchants were absorbed in a discussion as to the best
means of secreting a fugitive from the law.

A conclusion was at length reached.

Mr. Duncan introduced Carlos to Mr. Mishler.

“You need trouble yourself to make no explanations,” said the
latter; “I understand all. I am going out, and in ten minutes you will
please follow me and step into a close carriage which will be standing
outside.”

Carlos, at the end of the time named, proceeded as Mr. Mishler had
directed, and the two were soon riding up Broadway, amid the crowd and
bustle of that ever busy street.

But little was said by either gentleman. Mr. Mishler was habitually
a silent man; he was thoroughly devoted to business, and seldom spoke
unless he had something to say, and then his words were few and his
sentences compact. He was a German, but his English pronunciation
would not have betrayed the fact. Carlos had already told his story to
Mr. Duncan, who in turn had imparted it to Mr. Mishler; so there was
little occasion for conversation.

After a lengthy drive up Broadway, the carriage turned on a cross
street, and in a short time drew up before a brown-stone front which
had nothing to distinguish it from its neighbors except the number over
the door.

“Some German friends of mine live here,” said Mr. Mishler. “They
let rooms to single gentlemen. A musician named Werner, who has just
arrived in this country, occupies an apartment in the third story.
I will put you in his charge. He is trustworthy.”

“And what about the other occupants?”

“It is none of their business; but they will think you have come to see
about taking piano-lessons of Mr. Werner.”

“Yes, that will do, for I am something of a musician myself.”

A servant admitted them in answer to a ring at the door-bell.

Mr. Mishler led the way to Mr. Werner’s room, and in a moment they were
in the presence of the musician. He was about the same age as Carlos,
and was tall, slim, and straight as an arrow. He had delicate though
manly features, a pale complexion, and deep eyes, which bespoke an
intense and romantic nature.

Mr. Mishler addressed him rapidly in German for a few moments,
explaining briefly that Carlos had reasons for wishing to be unknown
for a few days, and requesting Mr. Werner to give him the shelter of
his room for a short time.

There were a few questions and answers, and then, the matter being
decided, Mr. Mishler took his leave.

“I speak German,” said Carlos, addressing the musician in his own
language, “probably better than you do English.”

“Ah, I am glad,” replied Mr. Werner. “I have been in this country only
a month, and know very little of your tongue yet.”

“We will get along very well together.”

“Yes. Have you been speaking disrespectfully of your emperor――or
president, as they call him――that they desire to imprison you?”

“Oh, no,” replied Carlos, smiling. “They do not imprison people for
♦political offenses in the United States. Ours is what we call a free
country. But I am accused of a crime of which I am innocent, and am
secreting myself because it is difficult to obtain evidence that will
acquit me. I hope to overcome the difficulty before long.”

“Yes? You have my sympathy. Where did you learn to speak German so
well?”

“In your own country. I was there for some years, and at one time
attended the music school at Stuttgart.”

“Indeed! There is where I was trained in the divine art. Will you play
for me?”

And he opened the piano.

“I should much prefer to hear you. I am tired and weak from travel and
anxiety. It would gratify me much if you would consent to let me be the
listener.”

Mr. Werner good-naturedly complied, and played, of course, from
Beethoven. It was one of those grand sonatas which are the peculiar
glory of that great master. The performance was a fine one, and Carlos
expressed his approval enthusiastically. Then, on further invitation,
he seated himself at the piano and played a short, solemn extract from
the same composer.

“You play as well as I do,” cried Mr. Werner, “or, at least, you have.
But you are not in practice.”

“No,” replied Carlos.

“You shall be my pupil,” said Mr. Werner.

“Willingly,” replied Carlos. “Indeed, that must be my excuse for being
here, if any inquiries are made.”

“A capital arrangement,” declared Mr. Werner.

The day was passed very pleasantly. Mr. Werner was a frugal liver, and
frequently purchased his own provisions, taking his meals in his room.
On this occasion a double supply was bought, which Carlos shared with
him. Afterward they had a pleasant smoke and chat together.

About two o’clock Mr. Werner went out to give a lesson, for he already
had two pupils, and was patiently waiting for more.

During his absence Carlos found occupation in looking over some piles
of music, of which Mr. Werner had a valuable collection, embracing most
of the standard compositions, as well as many quaint gems not so well
known. Thus employed, the time passed rapidly.

When Mr. Werner returned they talked more, comparing their likes and
dislikes in musical matters; and in the evening the same occupation was
renewed, varied by playing some duets.

At length, by some casual remarks, each discovered that the other could
play chess, and as this was a favorite game with both of them, they
were soon absorbed in a friendly contest.

While thus engaged, a knock came at the door. Both players sprang to
their feet. They had been so intent on the game that they had not heard
any footsteps on the stairs.

Carlos turned pale with an apprehension that naturally rushed on his
mind.

Mr. Werner quickly interpreted his expression, and his eyes flashed
with excitement.

“I will see who it is,” he said.

Opening the door to the extent of a mere crack, he ejaculated a
question in German.

Carlos heard a familiar voice say:

“It’s all right. I want to see the young man you have caged in here.”

“Vot you say? I no understand English mooch.”

It must be recollected that all the conversation between Carlos and
Mr. Werner had been carried on in German.

The voice rejoined:

“Bring young Conrad to the door, then. He’ll understand me.”

“It is Mr. Duncan,” cried Carlos; and then he added, in German: “Let
him in; he is my friend.”

“Ah,” said Mr. Werner, opening the door, “your pardon, Mein Herr.”

Mr. Duncan entered, an unaccountable expression of joy beaming from his
face.

He was followed by a solemn, rather seedy-looking gentleman, with gray
side-whiskers, who wore spectacles, and carried a cane. Carlos regarded
him with a doubtful look.

“Allow me,” said Mr. Duncan, his eyes twinkling, “to introduce you to
my friend, the Reverend Mr. Withers. Mr. Withers, this is Mr. Conrad.
And this is Mr. Werner.”



                             CHAPTER XVII.

                            A GLAD MEETING.


The Reverend Mr. Withers expressed his pleasure in a hollow, sepulchral
tone at meeting the gentlemen.

Carlos replied rather stiffly.

Mr. Werner contemplated the proceedings curiously, yet courteously.

Mr. Duncan seemed struggling to suppress an exhibition of merriment.
In this he was not successful, for he soon burst into a fit of hearty
laughter.

Then it was that the Reverend Mr. Withers went through with a most
surprising performance. He seized Carlos by both shoulders, shook him
violently, and exclaimed:

“Don’t you know me, old boy?”

Carlos sprang back in amazement, and gazed at the speaker as if he
would look him through and through.

“Know you?” he faltered. “Your voice seems familiar.”

“Does it? I should think so. I’ll let you hear it again. Now do you
know me?”

A look of intelligence and gladness gradually crept over the face
of Carlos. He could not be mistaken; he was not. It was his cousin,
Leonard Lester.

The reader has already recognized the disguise in which Mr. Stark, the
detective in the Boston custom-house, had arrayed him.

The violent hand-shaking and extravagant ejaculations of joy which the
cousins indulged in, need not be here recorded.

When the first greetings were over, Carlos hastily informed Mr. Werner
who Leonard was, and explained his enthusiastic welcome of his
appearance.

Mr. Werner smiled brightly, and offered a brief congratulation.

“Where did you come from, Leonard, and what are you fixed up in this
ridiculous style for?” asked Carlos.

“I came from―――― Where _did_ I come from, Mr. Duncan?” appealed Leonard
to his employer.

“You will have to tell the whole story to answer that question,”
replied Mr. Duncan.

“I suppose I will. And though you have just heard it from my lips, I
suppose I must satisfy Carlos at once.”

“Certainly.”

“But first tell me why you are rigged out so outlandishly?” cried
Carlos.

“Outlandishly!” repeated Leonard, in a tone of mock reproach. “I
thought I presented a highly respectable appearance. But wait. I’ll
come to it in the course of my story. I will be very brief now, and
give only the main points. The details I will relate when we have more
time.”

It is not necessary to repeat Leonard’s story, as the reader knows it
already. It will be remembered that when we left him he had made the
journey from Boston to New York. We will take up the thread of his
narrative at that point.

Carlos had already apologized to Mr. Werner, saying:

“You will pardon us for speaking in English; we can talk more readily
and to the point. All shall be explained to you afterward.”

“I arrived in New York,” said Leonard, “about two hours ago――it is now
ten o’clock, I believe. I at once proceeded to Mr. Duncan’s house, and
requested to see him alone, giving my name as the Reverend Mr. Withers.
It is perhaps not surprising that he failed to recognize me at first,
but I soon made myself known. And, as he had already heard your story,
you are prepared to believe that he gave me rather a warm reception.
Well, I told my story. While I was telling it I saw he had something on
his mind that he was impatient to reveal, but you may judge that I was
unprepared for the first question he asked, which was ‘if I would like
to see my cousin Carlos?’ ‘Of course I would,’ I replied, not dreaming
what was to follow. But you know what followed. He brought me here, and
here I am. It is safe to say that nothing more surprising ever happened
during the whole course of my life. And now here we are, all together,
with business of the most important kind before us.”

“Yes, business of the most important kind,” repeated Mr. Duncan,
emphatically. And he muttered in an under-tone, half to himself: “And
I’ll wager that he’ll carry it through. I said it wasn’t easy to outwit
him.”

“After a good night’s rest we will proceed upon it in earnest,”
continued Leonard.

“After a good night’s rest!” exclaimed Carlos, who seemed anxious to do
something at once.

“Yes,” replied Leonard. “We all need it; or, at least, you and I do.
And there is nothing to be done to-night.”

The wisdom of this course was apparent, and was soon admitted by all.

“I suppose you are safe enough here,” said Leonard to Carlos. “I shall
go to a hotel. It will be prudent, perhaps, for you and I not to be
seen together, at all events until I have consulted with Mr. Stark.
What connection can you, a pupil of Mr. Werner, be supposed to have
with me, the Rev. Mr. Withers?”

“Just so,” said Mr. Duncan. “You are right.”

“And,” resumed Leonard, “I should like to stop where there is a
telegraph office near at hand.”

“There is a telegraph office in the United States Hotel,” said
Mr. Duncan.

“Very well, I will put up there. And now good-night, Carlos. I will see
you to-morrow, probably. _Gute nacht_, Herr Werner.”

They separated, Carlos remaining with Mr. Werner, Mr. Duncan going to
his own home, and Leonard proceeding to the United States Hotel.

The next day was Sunday, but, feeling that no time must be lost,
Leonard dispatched a message to Mr. Stark, early in the morning. It
bore the following cautious wording:

  “MR. STARK, Custom House, Boston:

  “The property is found.

                              “(Signed)

                                                  REV. MR. WITHERS.”

He had confidence that its meaning would be understood by Mr. Stark;
and he was not mistaken.

In an hour a reply came, which read as follows:

  “REV. MR. WITHERS, U. S. Hotel, N. Y.:

  “I will be with you to-day. Meet me at the place where I told you
  to call.

                                                            STARK.”

Leonard estimated that Mr. Stark would have to make some preparations
before leaving Boston, and that he would reach New York in the evening,
on the same train that had brought “Rev. Mr. Withers” the night before.
So he was in no haste to show himself at the appointed place.

He passed most of the day in his room, reading the daily papers, and
reflecting on the matters in which he was so immediately concerned.

He reviewed the situation, formed plans to suggest to Mr. Stark, and
arranged his thoughts to be submitted to the detective in the most
concise manner possible. He sent a note to Carlos, informing him that
matters were progressing, but stating that he thought it not best to
call on him during the day.

In the latter part of the ♦afternoon he walked to No. ―――― Twelfth
street.

He was met at the door by a woman, who instantly smiled, and greeted
him cordially.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Withers! We will be glad to see you. Please walk
in.”

She was a comely woman, aged about forty years, rather portly, and had
a wholesome, shrewd-looking face. She was dressed in black.

Leonard evinced some surprise at her ready recognition of him, though
he remembered that Mr. Stark had predicted that he would be known.

The woman urged him not to delay going in, and as soon as he had
entered the hall, she closed the door and locked it.

“Mr. Stark sent you, of course,” she said. “You are to wait in this
room, and we are not to have any conversation with you until he comes.
Do you wish a lunch?”

“No, thank you. That is, not at present. I will wait until Mr. Stark
comes, and then we can take it together.”

“Very well. I hope you will pass the time pleasantly. There are books
and papers.”

Leonard had been shown into a room adjoining the hall, and here the
woman left him alone. He reflected, with wonder and admiration, on
Mr. Stark’s system of arrangements, and patiently awaited the arrival
of the detective.

The latter made his appearance shortly after eight o’clock. After brief
greetings, a lunch was brought in, and the two were left together.

“You say you have found him,” said Mr. Stark, immediately entering on
the business in hand.

“Yes; he is staying with a musician named Werner, not a great distance
from here――perhaps ten minutes’ walk.”

“How did he escape?”

Leonard related briefly the adventures of Carlos.

Mr. Stark made no comment.

“What steps have you taken?” asked Leonard.

“None, except to advertise the yacht.”

“Have you much confidence that the owner will put in an appearance?”

“We must wait and see,” was the non-committal answer.

“Some measures ought to be put in operation at once.”

“Undoubtedly. Have you anything to suggest?”

“Yes,” replied Leonard, after some deliberation. “This Snags, of whom I
told you, will probably take alarm at my flight and get out of the way.
Besides, as I further mentioned, he and Roake are probably the tools of
others whom they would not betray. So it is desirable to do something
more than merely arrest them, and seize the smuggled goods――even if the
former could be accomplished.”

“Go on,” said Mr. Stark, as Leonard paused.

“This deaf and dumb fellow who attends to the boats at Rocky Beach
is evidently in the employ of the villains, and he is a poor ignorant
devil. My idea is that they have got possession of him in some way, and
impressed him with the belief that he is in a sense their property. He
has a hang-dog look, like one without ambition, or at least without the
knowledge that there is any possibility of changing his condition. Yet
there is a discontented expression about his face, and he has a bright
eye, and not a bad head.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Stark, as Leonard again paused.

“Well,” resumed Leonard, “if we could get possession of him, and cheer
him up, and make him believe he is somebody, perhaps he could impart
some valuable information. He must be possessed of some. And there
would be no use in pumping him where he is, for I believe he stands in
a sort of terror of his masters.”

“Can he talk in any way, either by the dumb signs or by writing?”

“That I don’t know.”

“The experiment may be worth trying. We will consider it. And now I
have something to propose. Has your cousin plenty of nerve?”

“Yes,” replied Leonard, smiling, “when he is set on in the right way.”

“What can he do?”

“In the way of business do you mean? Not much, I am afraid. His father
brought him up very indulgently. But he is a good musician.”

“Just the thing. We’ll fix him up as a young Dutchman. I believe you
said he spoke the language?”

“Like a native.”

“We’ll send him to Dalton as a music teacher, and let him take
observations.”

Leonard was not prepared for this novel proposition, and he considered
a moment before replying.

“Do you think it would be safe?” he asked.

“Yes, if he has a respectable amount of tact. Can’t you take me to him?”

“Yes. As I said, it is only a short walk to where he is stopping.”

“Then come on.”

So Leonard and Mr. Stark started out and turned their steps in the
direction of Mr. Werner’s place of abode.



                            CHAPTER XVIII.

                  GEOFFREY HAYWOOD’S SECRET JOURNEY.


Leaving Leonard Lester, Carlos Conrad, and Mr. Stark together,
concocting their plans, we will turn again to Dalton and its
neighborhood.

Every one believed Carlos guilty. The evidence (of which only the
merest apology for a synopsis was given in the chapter devoted to that
purpose) pointed to no other conclusion.

Consequently the sentiment on the subject was well-nigh unanimous,
unless exception be made of the few whose sympathies were excited by
the prisoner’s pale, refined face, and those who attached importance
to Mr. Royalton’s closing speech, hinting at new and surprising
developments.

Mr. Geoffrey Haywood, when the examination was concluded, passed
through the crowd with the air of one who had done his duty, and with
an expression of very becoming and impressive sadness.

He proceeded to his store, which was of course closed, and the doors
and shutters of which were draped in black. He stepped within, and soon
emerged, bending his footsteps in the direction of Elm Grove. He paid
Florence Darby, the late Colonel Conrad’s ward, a short visit, offering
words of consolation, and informing her that he had made arrangements
for attendants during the night upon the remains of Colonel Conrad,
which lay in state in the parlor.

He suggested that she permit him to send Tom, with a horse and buggy,
to bring her friend, Mabel Cummings, to bear her company for a few
days during her loneliness and sorrow. To this she assented, and then
Mr. Haywood took his departure, announcing that he would call during
the forenoon of the succeeding day.

It was now after eight o’clock in the evening. Mr. Haywood again
proceeded to his store, and locked himself within, where he remained
for some time.

He heard the train arrive and depart which was to convey Officer George
Johnson and Carlos to Hillsdale. Another hour passed.

Then Mr. Haywood emerged from his store again, carrying a small satchel
in his hand, and proceeded to the railroad depot.

Within ten minutes he was on board the train which was carrying Carlos
from Hillsdale and on to safety. But, as has been before stated, he had
no knowledge or suspicion of the presence of the escaped prisoner.

The station at which he alighted was perhaps a mile from the village
which it was designed to accommodate. At that late hour there was no
hangers-around present; they were only the baggageman, switch-tender,
and an old woman who climbed aboard the train.

Mr. Haywood alighted at the opposite side of the track from which
the depot stood, and quietly stepped beneath a shed. After the train
departed again, the baggageman and switch-tender went within doors, and
no living soul was in sight.

Then Mr. Haywood stepped cautiously forth, and, after a glance all
around, walked briskly down a road that led in an opposite direction
from the village. It was a road that was but little traveled, as was
indicated by the thrifty growth of grass.

He proceeded half a mile, and then climbed a fence and made his way
across a field. Another field was traversed, and then there appeared
a thick clump of woods. Mr. Haywood plunged into the woods, and, with
a readiness which indicated that the locality was familiar to him, made
his way to an immense tree.

With surprising and undignified activity, he caught hold of a
low-growing bough and swung himself up on one of the thick branches.
At this elevation there was an aperture in the trunk of the tree which
afforded access to a capacious cavity. Producing a small dark lantern
from his pocket, and drawing the slide from the glass, Mr. Haywood
proceeded to make a change in his toilet.

He divested himself of his black coat and donned a long linen duster
which he took from the satchel. For his glossy “beaver” he substituted
a rough-looking slouch hat. Then, after taking a brown mask from the
satchel, he put therein the discarded garments, and thrust the satchel
into the hollow place in the tree. The dark lantern he disposed of in
a similar way. Next he tied his long whiskers back under his chin and
fitted the mask over his face.

These preparations being completed, he descended to the ground.
Resuming his walk, he soon emerged from the woods, and came to an open
space.

He was near the sea-coast, and the sound of the wind and the waves
could be distinctly heard. He walked with caution, listening and
peering intently in every direction.

Soon he came to the edge of a high bluff, and began a steep,
precipitous descent. This brought him to the ocean’s edge.

He now had a walk of a mile before him, and proceeded at a rapid pace,
feeling secure against unwelcome meetings.

In fifteen minutes he was at Rocky Beach.

Why he should have taken this circuitous, laborious, and secret route
to reach a point that was a pleasant four miles’ ride from Dalton, will
duly appear.

He halted within a few rods of the rocky cavern, and blew a signal on a
small, shrill whistle.

No answer came.

He blew again, and the signal remained unregarded, to his evident
vexation.

The next instant he was startled by the sound of rapid footsteps.
Roake and Snags came running from the cave, uttering cries of anger and
alarm. They came almost upon Haywood.

“Here he is!” shouted Snags.

“What’s the matter, boys?” asked Haywood, in a low tone.

“That’s the boss, you fool,” exclaimed Roake.

Both the men stopped suddenly, uttering suppressed imprecations.

“What is the trouble?” demanded Haywood.

“Trouble enough,” replied Roake. “The bird has flown.”

“What! you don’t mean Lester?”

“Yes; that’s just who I mean. He has given us the slip.”

“How in Satan’s name did that happen?”

“Why, we had to get in the goods, and there was no place to keep him
except――you know where. We gave him some wine that was fixed, and he
went to sleep. But the effect passed off sooner than we expected, and
while we were all up in the loft he stepped out.”

“Curse the luck! How long was it before you discovered that he was
gone?”

“I don’t know. I told Ratter to go down and shut the door, but he
waited some little time, being hard at work. When he did go down he
yelled up the news to us, and Snags and I rushed out, leaving the
others up there. But here we are talking, when we ought to be after
him. I wonder which way he went.”

The three men commenced an active search in various directions. In a
moment Snags exclaimed, with an oath:

“One of the boats is gone!”

All three rushed to the spot.

“Yes,” exclaimed Roake, “and it’s the Gull――the fastest one we’ve got.
There’s not another yacht here that can catch it. There is no use in
pursuing him.”

“It won’t do to give up that way,” replied Haywood. “He can’t have gone
a great distance. Take the other boat and go after him.”

“I tell you it’s no use.”

“And I tell you nothing must be left untried. Go!”

Haywood was evidently the “boss” in earnest, for Roake instantly
prepared to start.

“I’ll take the little Fleetwing,” he said, “for I can’t do anything
with this unwieldly old hulk here.”

He referred to the larger yacht that stood close to the one that
Leonard had taken. The Fleetwing was one of the regular boats kept at
Rocky Beach for the accommodation of visitors.

Roake ran up the beach a few rods, sprang into the Fleetwing, and set
sail, leaving Snags and Haywood on the shore.

Snags soon spoke.

“Boss,” said he, in a mysterious tone, “I must know who you are
to-night. I must see you without that mask on, too.”

“What do you mean?” demanded Haywood.

“I mean that I’ve worked in the dark long enough. I have never seen
your face, nor heard your real name. You have given all your orders
to Roake, and all your confidence. He has been the favored one.”

“Well, Snags,” said Haywood, soothingly, “you know I cannot be too
cautious. A secret is best kept by a few.”

“Not if those who have a right to know it are kept in the dark.
However, we won’t argue that. I’ve got something to tell you. I haven’t
told Roake yet. I preferred to wait and see you. Roake sent me to Elm
Grove that night, by your order, not to do what I did do, but to see
what was going on. I was to steal into the house, open Colonel Conrad’s
private desk, and see if I could find any papers of importance――a will,
for instance. I know why I was sent. It was because Roake had not the
courage, and, besides, he wouldn’t know a will from a search-warrant.
Is not this all true?”

“All true,” assented Haywood.

“The murder was not in the plan,” continued Snags, with a shudder.
“I did it in self-defense, for the colonel saw me and turned on me. I
had nothing to do but the thing I did do, and it will haunt me all my
life. But never mind that. What I have to tell you is that I did find
something.”

“Ah!”

Haywood was betrayed in the act of showing surprise.

“Yes, I found something that you would like to see.”

“Was it a will?”

“No, it was a letter, or part of one. But I think he had made a will――a
new one.”

“Why do you think that?” asked Haywood in agitation.

“Because the letter spoke of it, among other things. It was addressed
to Timothy Tibbs Dalton.”

“Yes, his lawyer. And there was an envelope directed to him on the
table.”

“Was there?” said Snags. “I didn’t notice that. The letter was what I
saw, and secured.”

“You took it, did you? Where is it now?”

“That is the secret that I offer in exchange for yours.”

“That of my identity――my name and face, you mean.”

“Yes.”

Haywood reflected.

“How am I to know that the letter will be of any value to me?” he asked.

“You can take my word for it, or I will repeat part of its contents to
you. I have read it often enough to remember it pretty well. But first
I must tell you that it is not complete. In pulling it from his hand I
tore it, leaving a fragment in his grip. He was holding it and reading
it over. That missing piece contains some important words, too, but
probably they can be guessed at.”

“Well, well, I haven’t much time to spare. Repeat the contents of the
letter, as nearly as you can remember.”

Snags thereupon whispered a few words in Haywood’s ear, to which the
latter ♦listened with great intentness. They seemed to be of vital
import, judging from their effect on Haywood.

“Give me the letter!” he exclaimed. “And the fragment torn off――where
is that?”

“Carlos Conrad has it.”

“Ah! Why did you not take it from him?”

“Because he was too lively for me. Roake has told you of his flight and
my pursuit, and my catching the wrong man?”

“Yes.”

“Well, you see the secret of Colonel Conrad’s last message lies between
Carlos Conrad and myself. Put what I know and what he knows together,
and something will be revealed that you want to know. My share is for
sale at the price I have named.”

“Very well. You have told Roake nothing of this?”

“No.”

“Then give me the letter.”

“The price first.”

Snags drew the letter from his pocket and held it aloft.

“My name is Geoffrey Haywood. Now look at me.”

Haywood tore away the mask and turned his face full on Snags. The
light of the moon enabled the latter to take a satisfactory view of
the countenance of his hitherto unknown “boss.”

He made no comment, but silently delivered the letter. Haywood,
replacing the mask, put the letter carefully in his pocket, and said:

“You got all the goods in?”

“Yes.”

“Good! You had better send the men off, and set the cataract going
immediately. I must be off. I have less than an hour to reach the
station and catch the train that will take me in Dalton before daylight.
If you wish to see me at anytime, drop a note in the post-office,
mention the time and place, and sign your name Bullfinch. Good-night.”

And Haywood hastened down the beach, to retrace his steps through the
fields and woods, and make his return trip to Dalton.

He was unconscious that a skulking form followed him, watching his
every movement, and that when he stopped in the woods to cast off his
disguise, a pair of eager eyes were fixed upon him.

He accomplished his return safely, and, as he supposed, secretly, and
breathed a sigh of relief, when, after passing through the silent and
deserted streets of Dalton, he locked himself within his own store.



                             CHAPTER XIX.

                           THREE INTERVIEWS.


It must be remembered that the examination of Carlos had taken place
on Friday, and that on that evening followed his escape, as well as the
secret visit of Geoffrey Haywood to Rocky Beach.

On Saturday morning the news of the prisoner’s flight spread like
wild-fire through Dalton. Officer George Johnson was not a hero on that
occasion. The time of the townspeople was divided between commenting
on his inefficiency and lack of vigilance, and the probability of
the recapture of Carlos. It was almost universally agreed that, since
Leonard Lester had succeeded so well in obliterating all traces of his
movements, Carlos had like means of making his way to parts unknown.
Still all efforts were made to trace the fugitive. The surrounding
country was scoured, and brief telegrams were sent to the police of
the different cities.

The body of Colonel Conrad was still lying in the mansion at Elm Grove.
The funeral was appointed to take place on the following day――Sunday.

During Saturday Geoffrey Haywood was full of business. This was to be
expected, considering the importance of the case and the emergencies
that had arisen. And what was more natural and proper than that Mr.
Haywood, the nephew of Colonel Conrad, and the intimate, trusted friend
of the family, should be active in all measures which the exigencies of
the occasion called up? He was his usual, calm, serene self, dignified,
guarded, and forbidding in manner.

During the forenoon he called on Timothy Tibbs, Esq., the lawyer to
whom the envelope was addressed that had been found on Colonel Conrad’s
table. Lawyer Tibbs was somewhat advanced in years, and long devotion
to business had rendered his face an impenetrable array of clear-cut
features. He was called a hard business man, yet one of strict
integrity. He had been Colonel Conrad’s confidential attorney and
counselor.

“You will pardon me,” said Haywood, “for introducing the subject
of my lamented uncle’s affairs so soon after his melancholy death.
But circumstances have occurred, as you know, that render immediate
investigation and action necessary.”

“You refer to the escape of young Conrad?”

“I refer to the escape of the murderer. You had charge, I believe, of
some of the business matters of the late Colonel Conrad.”

“I had the honor, I may say, of conducting whatever legal transactions
he was engaged in.”

“Exactly. You drew up his deeds, mortgages, conveyances, and――his will.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You are aware, I suppose,” said Haywood, “that on the morning of the
discovery of the murder, an envelope directed to yourself was found on
his table.”

“I am aware that such was the case.”

“But it contained no letter.”

“It contained no letter,” said Mr. Tibbs.

“Had he consulted you lately on any business matters of importance?”

The lawyer coughed slightly, as if he did not quite approve of the
question. He replied:

“As to what you might regard as a business matter of importance I
have not, perhaps, a clear idea. And the term ‘lately’ is rather an
indefinite one.”

“Well, we will say within a week,” said Mr. Haywood, ignoring the first
clause of Mr. Tibbs’ remark.

“I have not seen him within a week.”

“And have you had no intimation that he wished to consult you? Has he
sent you no message? Has he sought no advice――or aid――in reference to
making――in reference to the disposal of his property?”

The lawyer looked at Haywood sharply before replying. Then he said,
slowly and distinctly:

“Colonel Conrad, the day before his death, requested the loan of a
book containing forms and directions for making wills, and I sent such
a book to him. I have had no word from him since.”

Haywood felt an inward thrill as he heard these words, but repressed
any outward manifestation. He had obtained the information he was
seeking, and proceeded at once to cover his tracks.

“You mistake what I am trying to get at, Mr. Tibbs,” he said. “I trust
I am not so mercenary as to have any thought concerning his will thus
early. I am thinking of the box of money he received. It cannot be
found about the house, nor was it deposited in the bank, and I imagined
that you might possibly know something concerning its disposal, as you
have aided him in placing several of his investments.”

“I know nothing about the money,” replied Mr. Tibbs, coldly. “If I had,
I should have appeared at the examination to testify in regard to it.
Is it not supposed that the murderer or his accomplice made way with
it?”

“Yes; such, I believe, is the supposition,” said Haywood,
apologetically, “but the inquiry I have made suggested itself to my
mind this morning, and――well, there certainly is no harm done. However,
I will not detain you longer, Mr. Tibbs. Good-morning.”

“Good-morning,” returned the lawyer.

As Haywood left he congratulated himself on his shrewd management of
the conversation; but Mr. Tibbs was not entirely blinded. He muttered
to himself:

“I wonder what Haywood was driving at. His concern about the box of
gold was a pretense to cover something else. Can it be the colonel’s
will that he is worried about?”

And Mr. Tibbs resolved to be guarded and watchful toward Haywood.

Haywood next called on Mr. Royalton, the lawyer, who had acted in
behalf of Carlos at the examination.

“So your client has escaped, Mr. Royalton,” he said, as he entered the
lawyers’ office.

“I understand that he has,” was the reply, delivered with a cool bow.

“A very unwise proceeding, I should judge, if your boast yesterday
amounted to anything.”

“To what boast do you refer, sir?”

“Why, to those remarks in your closing speech to the effect that the
natives were to be astonished by some very startling developments that
would shield the young villain from harm. But, perhaps, the escape was
the grand stroke of policy you referred to.”

“If you intend that as a jest, Mr. Haywood, we will consider it a witty
one, and let it pass.”

Haywood bit his lips at this rejoinder, and looked askant into
Mr. Royalton’s face, which certainly did not bear an expression of
warm cordiality.

“Well, Mr. Royalton,” he said, after a moment, “I have come to ask
you a question. You are aware that an envelope directed to Mr. Timothy
Tibbs was found on Colonel Conrad’s table, and the supposition is that
it was intended to convey a letter or message of some kind. What I want
to ask is, if your client made mention of discovering any such letter
when he com――when the murder was committed.”

“Has it struck you, Mr. Haywood, that it is rather an absurd proceeding
for a man to question a lawyer concerning his client’s admissions or
actions?”

“But this is nothing that need criminate him or affect his prospects
one way or the other,” said Haywood, uneasily.

“Of that you will allow me to be the judge. However, I have no
objection to answering your question. Young Conrad found no letter.”

“Nor any portion of one?”

This was an incautious question. Haywood’s eagerness had led him to
overstep himself. The lawyer was upon him in a moment. With a piercing
glance and a sharp voice, he asked, quickly:

“Why do you say ‘_portion of one_?’ Mr. Haywood?”

It was only on rare occasions that Geoffrey Haywood found himself
confused. This was one of them. He had made a blunder, and was for the
instant alarmed. He stammered forth:

“Why, because――that is, for no particular reason; but every little clew
is worth following up.”

“Clew to what?” demanded Mr. Royalton, with an offensive voice and
frown which he knew well how to assume.

“Why, to his guilt, or to Colonel Conrad’s last wishes. As a friend to
him and his family, you know, I am bound to take all measures to serve
their interests.”

“And, sir, as my client’s attorney, I am bound to serve his interests
in every proper way. I am free to say, however――overlooking your
singular presumption in trying to pump me――that I believe his flight
was an unwise proceeding; for I am confident that in the end we should
have _beaten you_.”

“I don’t believe it,” retorted Haywood, angrily, rising from the chair
in which he was sitting. “I will bid you good-day, Mr. Royalton.”

“Ha, ha!” chuckled the lawyer, when Haywood was gone. “Two points made;
I frightened him and provoked him. My dear sir, you ♦mustn’t leave such
plain tracks, or the hounds of justice will soon be upon you.”

Haywood left Mr. Royalton’s office in no very amiable mood. But his
serene demeanor, when once in the street, betrayed no disquieting
emotions.

His next visit was to Elm Grove. After passing a few moments with
Florence, uttering well-chosen words of consolation and condolence,
he sought Barker, the servant, found him walking idly about the
garden, pulling a weed now and then, or removing a stone from a choice
flower-bed. He seemed downcast and forlorn.

  Illustration: HE PASSED A FEW MOMENTS WITH FLORENCE, UTTERING
                WELL-CHOSEN WORDS OF CONDOLENCE.

“Good-morning, Barker,” said Mr. Haywood, joining him in his walk.
“This calamity affects you as well as the rest of us. Colonel Conrad
was a man we all loved.”

“Yes, sir, that he was,” replied Barker.

“And you have been very faithful and considerate in this time of
trouble, Barker.”

“Thank you, sir. I don’t know as I’ve done more than my duty.”

“To do one’s duty well is praiseworthy,” replied Mr. Haywood. “And
now, Barker, I want to ask you a few questions. There is a great deal
of mystery surrounding the affair, and the escape of young Conrad will,
I am afraid, complicate matters still worse. I want to know if Colonel
Conrad seemed to have any important business on hand shortly before his
death.”

“Well, sir, I think he did. He was writing all the day before, more
especially after you called. He didn’t allow any one to see him or
speak to him except when he wanted some little service of me.”

“You were in his room, then? Did you see him writing?”

“Yes, sir; and perhaps I should say that once toward evening he called
me and Polly, the kitchen girl, in, and made us sign something.”

“Ah!” Haywood was evidently affected by this information. He was silent
for an interval before trusting his voice to speak again. “What was it
that you signed?”

“That I couldn’t say, sir. I didn’t read it.”

“Are you sure it was not a receipt for wages he had paid you?”

“No, sir, it was not that. There would be no occasion for Polly’s
signing such a receipt with me. And I hope you don’t think I shall be
asking for any wages that have been paid once. He might never take a
receipt, and I wouldn’t do that.”

“No, no, Barker, I had no such thought. Even if you were disposed to
such a course, which I know you are not, I could put you beyond the
necessity for it.”

“How, sir?”

“I will tell you presently. But just try to recollect something about
the nature of the document you signed.”

“I can’t do that,” insisted Barker. “I tell you I didn’t read it. Polly
and I, the colonel said, were to be witnesses, whatever that meant.”

“Did you notice whether the colonel had signed it?”

“Oh, yes, sir. He wrote his name right before our eyes.”

“So that you would know that it was his signature?”

“Yes, sir, that was it.”

“Well, Barker,” said Mr. Haywood, after a pause, “would you like to
earn a hundred dollars easily?”

“Of course I would, sir.”

“Listen, then. You can do it by solemnly promising, in the eyes of your
Maker, that you will never breathe a word to any living soul concerning
that document you signed.”

“That won’t be much of a job, sir.”

“But wait; how about Polly? She must remain silent, also.”

“I think I can manage her,” said Barker, with a grin. “I caught her
stealing some of the silver plate once, and since that time she has
been――well, she’s sort of under my thumb. She won’t dare do anything
I forbid her.”

“So much the better. Tell her not to breathe a word, and give her any
reason you like.”

“I’ll see to it”, replied Barker. “Were you going to do as handsomely
by her as you have promised to do by me?”

“I don’t know. It won’t be necessary now.”

“You might give me her share,” said Barker, with a leer.

“Oh, ho!” laughed Haywood. “You would be getting a double portion in
that case.”

“I know it,” replied Barker; and his leer transformed itself into an
impudent stare. “But isn’t it worth it to you?”

“To me?” said Haywood, uneasily, for Barker’s humble demeanor had
changed to something that looked very much like a disposition to
grasp at a real or fancied advantage. “I don’t know as it is to me
personally.”

“Oh, sir, I am sure it is. You had better give me the two hundred
dollars.”

His tone was that of a demand, rather than a suggestion. He had
immediately divined that Haywood had some secret object in view, and
was evidently resolved not to sell himself too cheaply.

Haywood took a look at the man, and read him.

“All right,” he replied. “The money shall be yours. Here are one
hundred dollars, and I will give you the balance on Monday.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“And mind you keep the secret well.”

“As close as the lips of the dead man in the house, sir.”

“And if you ever want any little service done, Barker, come to me.”

“I will, sir,” replied Barker, grinning significantly, after Haywood’s
back was turned.

The two men then separated, having completed their evil compact.

On the morrow, under the solemn Sabbath skies, they were to appear
as mourners in the train that was to convey the body that lay in the
stricken house to its last resting-place, one bowed in humble grief,
as befitted his station, and the other in ostentatious, stately sorrow.



                              CHAPTER XX.

            AN ADVENTURE THAT BEFELL THE REV. MR. WITHERS.


Four days after the meeting between Carlos and Leonard, the latter
was seated with Mr. Stark, the detective, in his office in Boston.
They were reviewing the measures that had thus far been taken, and
discussing plans for future action. Leonard still retained his disguise,
and we shall know him, for the present, as the Reverend Mr. Withers.

“There is no mistake about Haywood being the man who claimed the
yacht?” said Stark.

“No,” replied Mr. Withers. “I recognized him from my post of
observation instantly. And the man you left in charge of the boat was
positive that he took the cards from the locker, and put them in his
pocket.”

“Well, that is something. And he claimed that the yacht belonged to
some poor devil at Rocky Beach, who makes a living by letting boats?”

“Yes. He took a very compassionate interest in his affairs, saying
that, being in Boston, on a business trip, he had consented to perform
the errand.”

“All this is suggestive, but not conclusive,” said Mr. Stark. “I
have found out that Jacob Rush, No. 99 ―――― street, Jersey City, is
a wholesale dealer, in a small way, in imported goods. If there is
anything wrong about him, I have failed to discover it. However, a
watch shall be kept on his establishment, and, if he has any connection
with Haywood, or with the smugglers, we will know it.”

“Do you hope to accomplish anything speedily?”

“No; to tell the truth, I do not. It is going to take time. This ‘Boss,’
of whom Snags spoke, will, of course, keep himself in the dark, and to
discover him must be one of our main purposes.”

“With that discovery,” said Mr. Withers, “the secret of Colonel
Conrad’s murder ♦will be brought to light.”

“Undoubtedly――if we ascertain the whole truth.”

“And the meaning of the words ‘seven o’clock.’”

“Yes, if they have any meaning.”

“What shall be the first step?” inquired Mr. Withers.

“I have decided,” replied Mr. Stark, “to adopt the plan you suggested,
of getting possession of the deaf mute who is employed at Rocky Beach.
I will lay before you my manner of accomplishing it.”

The mode of operation described by Mr. Stark shall be made known by
relating how it was carried out. The two remained in consultation
for some time; and two days afterward a stranger appeared in Dalton,
registering his name in the hotel as the Reverend Mr. Withers. He
represented himself to be in pursuit of recreation and health.

He took pedestrian excursions about the surrounding country, and was
enthusiastic in his praises of the beauties of the scenery. In his
meanderings through the streets of Dalton he met Haywood a few times,
who seemed the embodiment of respectability and serenity. One of his
excursions on foot led him past Elm Grove; and, on inquiring at the
hotel concerning the ownership of that elegant residence, he was
regaled with a full account of the murder of Colonel Conrad, and the
attendant circumstances.

He gave polite attention to the story, and expressed a hope that the
murderer would be brought to justice.

Finally, one pleasant afternoon, he walked to Rocky Beach, remarking,
on starting, that the exercise of making the journey on foot would be
agreeable and beneficial to him.

On arriving at his destination, he took note of the peculiarities
of the place. There was a long stretch of sandy beach, with rocks
scattered about and rising from the water. A few yards back the rocks
rose abruptly in high crags, forming bluffs majestic and inaccessible
in appearance. He was not long in discovering the entrance to the
cavern, and, approaching it, he stood for some moments regarding the
dark opening in apparent curiosity and surprise. His movements were
deliberate, like those of one seeking novel sights and new pleasures,
and would not have betrayed, even to a close observer, the intense
interest he felt in the place.

In the door of a dilapidated cottage, situated by the side of an
immense pile of rocks, stood the deaf mute.

Mr. Withers approached him, and spoke to him. The mute indicated his
condition by signs. Mr. Withers appeared surprised and pained.

A painted board nailed to the side of the cottage set forth the terms
for boats, fishing tackle, and sailing excursions.

While Mr. Withers was explaining to the mute by signs that he desired
the use of a boat, with hook, line, and bait, a man emerged from the
cavern and sauntered toward the spot. Mr. Withers felt a thrill as he
beheld him, but calmly awaited his approach.

It was Roake.

“I am trying to make this unfortunately afflicted person understand
that I desire to try my luck at fishing,” said Mr. Withers. “I am
moved with pity as I look on him, for it is painful to witness such
deprivations of the natural faculties.”

“Yes, Dummy knows what you want,” said Roake. “He’ll fix you out in a
minute.”

“How quick of perception he seems to be,” said Mr. Withers. “Oftentimes
the absence of one faculty lends additional keenness to the others.”

“Oh, he’s smart enough around his business,” replied Roake. “He has
worked for me here these five years.”

“Is this a good day for fishing?”

“Pretty fair. I guess you won’t come in without catching some.”

Roake was the personification of indolence. A wide-brimmed straw hat
shaded his face, which had a sleepy, listless look. No one would have
dreamed, from his appearance, or from any observable surroundings, that
Rocky Beach was devoted to any other purposes than fishing and sailing.

“What is this unfortunate man’s name?” inquired Mr. Withers.

“His name is Luke Felton, but we call him ‘Dummy’ around here.”

“That would seem to me too much like mocking his infirmity,” rejoined
Mr. Withers, in a solemn tone.

Everything now being in readiness, Luke Felton motioned to Mr. Withers
to enter the boat. The mute followed, and took the oars.

They were soon some distance from the shore, and dropped anchor. The
fishing was good, and apparently afforded great excitement and delight
to the Reverend Mr. Withers.

The pleasure was prolonged until evening, when they returned to the
shore. Roake was awaiting them.

“There appears to be a natural cave in the bluff yonder,” said
Mr. Withers. “Is it open for exploration?”

“Yes,” replied Roake. “I can take you through it, if you wish.”

They entered the cavern. Mr. Withers was only too familiar with the
place. They went over the route he had twice traversed before. There
were the same tortuous passage-ways, dimly lighted by hanging lamps.
Roake said:

“We keep these lamps here in the summer and early fall, when there are
a good many visitors about. It saves the trouble of carrying torches.”

“A very good arrangement,” commented Mr. Withers.

They soon came to the termination of the cavern. A foaming cataract of
falling water greeted their vision.

The visitor regarded it silently, and was apparently lost in admiration.

“A wonderful freak of nature,” he observed. “The water, I suppose,
comes from some subterranean spring, and continues its course through
that opening below our feet. Does the supply never fail and leave the
rocks behind the cataract bare?”

“No,” was the reply. “It flows the year round.”

Roake betrayed no surprise or uneasiness at the question, and delivered
his answer in a careless tone. Why should he feel concern? Hundreds
of tourists had made the same inquiry, and received the same reply.
And nothing could have been further from his thoughts than that his
companion was the escaped captive, who knew the secret of the room
behind the splashing waterfall.

But the eyes of the Reverend Mr. Withers were busy, and his thoughts
active.

“They manage things well,” he thought. “Nothing could be more
unsuspicious in appearance than this place and everything connected
with it. They select favorable nights to run in their goods, and have
sentinels stationed, probably, to give notice of unwelcome approaches.”

After a time they returned to the open air again, and, as he stood
on the beach gazing out on the moonlit ocean, Mr. Withers expressed
a desire to take a sail. The night was lovely, there was a bracing
breeze, and the prospect, he declared, was enticing.

“Can you not loan me a sailing boat,” he asked, “with the mute――Luke
Felton I think you said was his name――to manage it?”

An affirmative reply was given, and forthwith Mr. Withers was seated in
the Fleetwing with “Dummy,” as Roake persisted in calling him.

The sail caught the wind, and the light craft darted rapidly over the
blue waters. Mr. Withers made known by expressive pantomime that he was
thrilled with pleasure, and Luke Felton guided the yacht with skillful
hands.

The land was left half a mile behind, and still Mr. Withers was not
satisfied. He indicated to his companion a circular course that would
take them first past a point that projected from the shore, and then
back to Rocky Beach by a circular course. The mute bowed assent, and
proceeded accordingly.

Now was the time for an action determined upon by Mr. Withers. After
the point was passed, he intimated a desire to try his hand at managing
the yacht. This was at first opposed smilingly by Luke Felton, but his
opposition was overruled.

And as soon as Mr. Withers obtained control of the sail and tiller, he
ran the boat directly toward the shore. He guided it skillfully into a
little cove, bordered on two sides with rocks.

Luke Felton rose to his feet in alarm, and pointed out the danger of
striking on dangerous points. But Mr. Withers smiled. His pedestrian
excursion about the environs of Dalton had not been made in vain. He
had visited the spot and taken careful note of its peculiarities.

But Luke Felton remonstrated by an impressive gesture, and carried his
objections to such a point that the Reverend Mr. Withers was obliged to
display a pistol to reduce him to quietude.

He had risen to his feet, and was uttering that peculiar nondescript
cry with which mutes give vent to alarm or surprise.

They were now within twenty feet of the shore. The water was not more
than four feet deep. Mr. Withers discerned a carriage on the shore, and
two men standing close to the water’s edge.

“All ready!” he cried.

“All ready,” was responded.

Then he suddenly gave a twist to the tiller and a pull to the rope
controlling the sail, and the yacht wheeled violently around. The
following instant Luke Felton felt himself precipitated forward by a
violent push, and in a second he was struggling in the water. But it
was not deep enough to drown him, and one of the men quickly waded out
and caught him by the collar.

Mr. Withers saw this, as his yacht glided swiftly seaward. Passing
safely out of the cove, he guided the boat in good style around the
point and into the open sea opposite Rocky Beach.

“Now, Mr. Luke Felton,” he soliloquized, “you think you are the victim
of some conspiracy, and so you are, but you are in good hands, and will
be well treated. If you have any education, well and good, but if you
have not, you will be taught enough to enable you to communicate what
you know about this nest of villains who make Rocky Beach a place for
their secret iniquities.”

He made steadily for the shore, but on arriving at a point so near
that the moonlight would enable Roake to discern the yacht, he began
to feign the most gross ignorance of its management. He allowed it to
be driven hither and thither with the sail flapping in the breeze, the
tiller at times disregarded, and was apparently in imminent danger of
being capsized.

Still he controlled it, although in a bungling manner, so that its
general course was toward the shore.

As he drew near Roake ran up and down the beach, shouting, wildly:

“What’s the matter?” he roared. “Curse that dummy! Has he lost his
wits?”

Finally the yacht came drifting with the waves, the sail hanging loose,
and grounded with a crunching sound on the gravelly bottom.

The Reverend Mr. Withers was standing in the bow, grasping the mast,
his hat gone, his hair flying in the wind, and his face expressing the
utmost terror. Luke Felton was not to be seen.

In answer to a loud demand for explanation, mingled with many oaths,
Mr. Withers replied:

“Oh, my dear sir, the most terrible catastrophe has happened! While off
the point yonder a terrific squall, or something, came up, and the boat
wheeled around in a most unaccountable way. Poor Mr. Felton was struck
by this projecting piece of timber――yard-arm, do you call it?――and
knocked into the water.”

“The blundering hound!” ejaculated Roake. “What was he about?”

“Indeed I cannot tell, sir. He seemed to be possessed of great
skill――――”

“Blast his skill! Was he drowned? Couldn’t you pick him up?”

“Do not ask me that. The boat was driven along with frightful velocity,
and the poor, unfortunate creature has, I fear, met his fate――――”

Roake interrupted the speaker with another volley of oaths, for which
he received a mild reproof.

Mr. Withers picked up his hat from the bottom of the boat and leaped
ashore, with pale face and trembling limbs.

“A most dreadful experience!” he gasped; “most dreadful!”

“Well, you needn’t take on so,” said Roake, roughly, whose wrath began
presently to subside. “It’s no great loss.”

“Sir?”

“It’s no great loss, I say. He was in his own way, and everybody else’s.
Being a kind of good-for-nothing, and unable to do anything for himself,
I dare say he’s better off where he is.”

“Poor man!” sighed Mr. Withers. “It must be nearly morning now, is it
not?”

“I should judge so,” responded Roake. “You were gone a duse of a while
with your mischief.”

“I can never forgive myself. But, as I can be of no service here, I
will walk back to Dalton. I became chilled while sitting in the boat
so long, and the exercise will arouse the circulation of my blood.
Good-night, sir.”

And the Reverend Mr. Withers started toward Dalton, uttering
exclamations of regret as long as he was within hearing distance of
Roake.

He arrived at the hotel just as the inmates of that establishment were
rising. He gave a sorrowful account of his adventure, and early in the
forenoon left Dalton by rail.

At a point agreed upon, he met two men, having in charge Luke Felton,
arrayed in a new suit of clothing, and on that evening the unfortunate
mute of Rocky Beach was placed in an asylum for the education of the
deaf and dumb.



                             CHAPTER XXI.

                           FLORENCE DARLEY.


Elm Grove was a beautiful spot, though a desolute one since the murder
of its master. At least so thought Florence Darley, who had bestowed
on Colonel Conrad the love of a daughter, and who had received from
him a parent’s care. She was a beautiful girl――this Florence Darley,
beautiful in the possession of a pair of glorious dark eyes. No
other portion of her face was particularly striking――not that any of
her features were what would be called plain――but in her eyes, with
their capacity for expression, lay her chief attractiveness so far
as mere appearance went. To say that she was amiable in disposition,
high-spirited, and fascinating in manner is but simply to state the
unvarnished truth. There was a charm about her presence and bearing
that had, as has been stated early in this narrative, made a deep
impression on Carlos Conrad. And if, in recounting his experiences
after the tragedy, no mention has been made of Florence Darley, it
must not be inferred that his thoughts had not often dwelt upon her.

A month passed, and the excitement in Dalton over the murder subsided
in a great measure. All efforts to trace Carlos had failed, and the
thoughts of the townspeople wandered to him only when some incidental
circumstances called the subject up.

One afternoon in October, Florence Darley sat on the piazza of the
mansion at Elm Grove, with her friend Mabel Cummings, a young lady of
about her own age, and her trusted confidante.

“Florence, you ought not to allow your sorrow to keep you so housed
up,” said Mabel. “You are growing pale and thin, and you will injure
your health.”

“I am well,” replied Florence, “and I have no disposition to seek
recreation. Colonel Conrad was all that a father could be to me, and
you can never know how I miss him.”

“Yes, he was a good man, though people did call him eccentric. How
strange that he should have bothered his head so over the machinery.
I have heard that his workshop was a perfect curiosity.”

“He had a genius for mechanics,” said Florence, with a half smile, “and
I have often sat near him by the hour as he toiled with his files, and
lathes, and wheels. I used to ask him questions to make him laugh when
he would get tired and out of patience with his work.”

“What did he ever make? Did he invent anything?”

“I don’t know whether he invented anything new or not. He made a very
curious rat-trap, that caught six rats alive, and left them facing each
other in a little circle of wire stalls. And then he got up a model
of a mowing-machine and gave it to some farmer, who, I believe, had
one made on a larger scale and got it patented. But the most wonderful
thing was the large clock in his study. He worked for months on it,
and put it up, frame and all, himself. It is fastened to the wall and
cannot be moved. He put the winding of it in my charge, and I still
attend to it every Saturday morning.”

“What a wonderful man he was! And good, too, I am sure, though I never
could succeed in approaching him to any degree of intimacy. By the
way, how generous Mr. Haywood is toward the poor young man who――did
the awful deed. I saw him once, and could not help feeling sympathy
for him, he was so young and kind-looking. And now that he has escaped,
Mr. ♦Haywood seems so charitable toward him.”

“How? Mr. Haywood never speaks to me of him.”

“Does he not? I heard only the other day that he did not join in
the clamor for his capture, but said let him go――he might go to some
strange land and lead a better life.”

“Mabel,” said Florence, earnestly, “do you know that I never believed
Carlos Conrad to be guilty?”

“You did not?”

“No; I saw him twice, and twice only, after he came to Dalton――once
when he called here, and the other time at the examination before
Justice Bean. And I felt as you did――that there was something in his
face to call up one’s sympathy. And more than that, he did not look
like a villain; he had a frank, kind expression, and seemed every inch
a gentleman.”

“Florence you surprise me!”

“And shock you?”

“Oh, no.”

“I am glad of that. I have often thought what a terrible experience it
was for Carlos Conrad and his cousin. They came here so unexpectedly,
and had that interview with their uncle (no one knows what was said or
done on that occasion). Then came the awful tragedy, and their flight
to parts unknown. I wonder what became of them? Are they in a strange
land, without friends? Are they wandering about in disguise? Did they
die from starvation or exposure during their flight? I have passed
sleepless nights, asking these questions to myself, and thinking.”

“Oh, Florence, you must take your mind from these things. No good can
come of your thinking of them. It is not doing justice to yourself. You
are young, and have life before you.”

“True; but only seven weeks have passed yet. You must know how fresh
everything is in my mind.”

“Yes, and it will always be so unless you have some diversion. Come,
take a ride with me now,” exclaimed Mabel, springing up impulsively.
“My phaeton is out here by the gate, and it is a lovely day.”

“Oh, Mabel, I have not ridden out since――since I put on black. I
cannot.”

“But you must. I will not see you bury yourself in this way. Come!”

Florence hesitated.

“Go and get ready,” commanded Mabel.

Florence still hesitated, but soon yielded, and five minutes afterward
was in the phaeton with her friend.

They started toward Dalton.

“Not through the busy streets,” exclaimed Florence.

“Yes,” persisted Mabel, “right through the streets of Dalton. Why, you
will forget how the place looks; and you are not benefiting yourself
nor any one else by shutting yourself up. Come, I mean to bring the
roses back to those cheeks.”

Mabel handled the reins herself, and managed her spirited pony in good
style.

They were shortly passing through the main business street in Dalton.
Florence found her thoughts diverted, and looked about her with
interest.

Suddenly her gaze became fixed and her face whitened.

“Who is that?” she exclaimed, clutching her companion’s arm.

“Where?” asked Mabel, in surprise at Florence’s tone, and flinching at
the grasp on her arm.

“There――walking down the street just ahead of us. In the back he looks
like――that is, he brings to my mind――Carlos Conrad!”

She spoke the name in a whisper. She was affected visibly, and trembled
with agitation.

“Don’t you know who that is? But of course you don’t, having been shut
up so long. It is our new music teacher, Karl Zikoff. He came to town
about a week ago. There is a resemblance, looking at him from behind,
but I never noticed it before. We are passing him now. Look at his face.
Isn’t he funny?”

Florence stared at the face of the musician attentively. He had
stubby side-whiskers and mustache, and wore spectacles. A long, loose
sack-coat fluttered in the breeze as he walked, and a broad-brimmed,
low-crowned black hat was set back on his head. His whole countenance
was exposed, and even at that distance a scar over his right eye was
visible. His eyes were bright and rolled about quickly, his movements
were nervous, and he flourished his cane in an awkward manner.

“He is peculiar,” said Florence, smiling. “There is no resemblance,
come to get a good view of him. You must pardon me; I was frightened.”

“Even if it were the one you thought it was, I should think there was
no occasion for any one being frightened but himself. You may depend
upon it Carlos Conrad will not be seen in Dalton unless he is brought
here.”

“Do you know,” said Florence, thoughtfully, “that I have hoped all
along that he would――――”

Here she checked herself, and was silent.

“Hoped what, Florence?”

“Never mind; it was only a passing fancy, not worth uttering. Has this
Mr. Zikoff many pupils?”

“Several, I believe. They say he is a magnificent player.”

“You have not heard him, then?”

“No; but he is to give a _soiree_ to-morrow night at Delmar’s music
rooms to introduce himself. I have been favored with an invitation, and
shall be in attendance.”

“You can give me a report of the affair.”

“Yes; I have an idea, Florence. It is that you take lessons of
Mr. Zikoff.”

“I!”

“Yes; it would be an excellent way for you to occupy your time. It
would keep you from brooding your life away. You are interested in
music too, and used to enjoy its study so much.”

“Yes, I know it.”

“And that would not be like going out into the world. He would come to
you twice a week, and give you something to keep your hands and mind
busy several hours every day.”

“I will think of it,” said Florence, musingly. Her mind seemed to be
possessed of some new train of thought, for she spoke slowly, and there
was an absent look on her face. She added, as if speaking to herself,
“I think I should like to know Mr. Zikoff.”

“I’ll warrant that he’s jolly,” rattled Mabel, “and it must be no end
of fun to listen to his jabber.”

“Jabber.”

“Yes, all Germans talk so Dutchy.”

“You would make fun of him if he should give you lessons, Mabel,” said
Florence, smiling.

“I am afraid I would. Now seriously, Florence, I want you to think of
this thing I have proposed. You really need something to take up your
attention. I suppose the marriage will not take place for some time.”

“What marriage?” asked Florence, quickly.

“That of yourself and Mr. Haywood. Isn’t it generally understood that
you are engaged to him?”

“I hope not, for it is not true. But I believe Colonel Conrad had some
such thought. He held Mr. Haywood in great esteem.”

“I understood that it went farther than that――that he was particularly
desirous a match should be made.”

“Perhaps he was,” replied Florence, gravely. “But I do not approve of
such affairs being arranged for young people before they have had time
to know their own minds.”

“Nor I; but I suppose this arrangement was satisfactory. There is
not a marriageable maiden in Dalton but would be glad to have had him
excepting myself.”

“And me,” said Florence, quietly.

“Is it to be broken off?” exclaimed Mabel.

“There is nothing yet to break off. I am not engaged to him, as I said
before.”

“Oh, well, but――――”

“And I would prefer that you should not aid in spreading the impression
about. Do not couple my name with any intended marriage at present,
Mabel. I have no such thought in connection with Mr. Haywood or any one
else.”

“I will obey your injunction. And now will you stop or ride farther?”

The drive had taken them through several streets and by a circuitous
route back to Elm Grove.

“I will get out,” replied Florence, “and accept my thanks, Mabel. I
have enjoyed the ride very much.”

“I am glad! I will come again for you to-morrow.”

Florence alighted, and was proceeding up the broad path to the house.
As Mabel was gathering up the reins preparatory to starting homeward,
Florence turned and said:

“I was going to say, when we were down town, Mabel, that I had hoped
all along that Carlos Conrad would escape.”

Having delivered this remark in a low voice, she went swiftly on up the
path, and her friend, having no opportunity to reply, drove off.



                             CHAPTER XXII.

                        THE NEW MUSIC-TEACHER.


Karl Zikoff, teacher of music. This was the guise in which Carlos
Conrad made his reappearance in Dalton.

In New York he had left Mr. Werner’s protection and taken up his abode
at No. ―――― Twelfth street. Here, under the direction of Mr. Stark’s
associates, he had perfected his disguise and rehearsed his part until
he was well prepared to simulate the character in which we find him.

Immediately on entering Dalton he had engaged lodgings at the hotel,
and hired a teaching-room in a fashionable quarter of the village.
The teaching-room was in the second story of a building adjoining
Mr. Haywood’s store, and in the front window was suspended a modest
sign, on which were inscribed his new name and occupation.

In New York he had purchased an old Erard piano, a small library of
German books, a unique set of shelves, and a well-worn sword. These he
arranged in his room in effective array, to complete the illusion of
his nationality and character.

The side-whiskers which he had allowed to grow were trimmed so as to
look rough and frowzy, his eyebrows had been singed off, and he nightly
wore a bandage which left an impress on his forehead resembling a scar.
This, he gave out, was caused by a wound he received in a duel with a
fellow-student in Germany.

As his former stay in Dalton had been so short, it was not probable
that any one had become sufficiently familiar with his personal
appearance to penetrate his disguise. So in calm confidence he awaited
the course of events, although he was always prepared to fly on an
instant’s warning in case of necessity.

A few pupils came to him almost immediately, and he attended to them
faithfully, giving good satisfaction.

One morning, about two weeks after his advent into Dalton, he was
seated in his room, when a knock came at the door. He opened it, and
Geoffrey Haywood entered.

It is not strange that Karl’s heart rose on meeting this gentleman
face to face, and that he felt considerable agitation. Distressing
possibilities at once rose in his mind, and he scanned the visitor’s
face.

Mr. Haywood was stately and serene as usual, and said, in his
smooth-toned voice:

“Mr. Zikoff, I believe?”

“Yes, sir. Vill you have one seat?”

“Thank you; I think not. I came on a short matter of business in behalf
of a young lady. Miss Florence Darley, of Elm Grove, wishes you to do
her the favor of calling with reference to giving her music lessons.”

These few words restored Karl’s composure, and he replied, with a
profuse show of politeness:

“Ah! Mees Tarley does me great honor. I shall pe please to call on her.
At vat hour vill de _fraulein_ pe convenient?”

“Any time during the afternoon will suit her. She is always at home.”

“At Ellum Grofe, you say? Vere is dat?”

Mr. Haywood gave the requisite information regarding Florence’s
residence, and Karl Zikoff said:

“I vill present myself at t’ree o’clock.”

Mr. Haywood did not linger after his business had been transacted.
It was plain from his tone and his prompt departure that he had no
suspicion of Karl Zikoff’s identity.

The latter felt immeasurably relieved after he had departed, and,
moreover, felt a thrill of pleasure at being called on to meet Florence
Darley――she who had made such an impression on him on his call at Elm
Grove two months ago. This impression had not been removed. He had
carried it with him, and cherished it, and wondered if they were ever
to meet again. And now came the opportunity, yet with it a pang, for he
was to appear before her in a false character, and never could reveal
himself unless the blight which rested upon his name were removed.

At the hour named he presented himself at Elm Grove.

“Miss Vlorence Tarley, I pelieve. Herr Zikoff, at your service.”

“You are welcome, Mr. Zikoff, and I thank you for responding to my
request so promptly.”

Florence was dressed in deep black, which set off to advantage the
paleness of her face and the brightness of her eyes. Her sorrow had
left on her countenance a grave, thoughtful look, which enhanced rather
than detracted from its fascination.

Karl Zikoff averted his eyes, which he felt might express too much
of the admiration that was stirred within him, and proceeded, with an
effort, to play his part.

“The honor is mine,” he said, with an obsequious bow. “And about these
music-lessons――you vill study the piano-forte?”

“Yes,” answered Florence.

“You have study him pefore? You already play some?”

“Oh, yes; but I am sadly deficient, I am afraid, and have much to
learn.”

“Ya, dat is very possible,” replied Mr. Zikoff, elevating that portion
of his anatomy where his eyebrows should have been. “Dese American
teachers are very thin――shallow, do you call it?”

“I understand what you mean,” said Florence, smiling. “You will please
teach me whatever I ought to know, and I will try to be a faithful
pupil.”

“You are not afraid to bractice, like dese many American girls?”

“No; I have nothing else to occupy my attention. I do not go in
society.”

“Oh, I see!” Mr. Zikoff glanced significantly at her black dress; and
then he added, in a prolonged tone, as if the thought had suddenly
dawned upon him: “O-h-h, yes! You are _die fraulein_ who has had much
affliction. _Ya, ya!_ I have heard somet’ings. Pardon my pad English.
De language is _sehr schwer_――very difficult.”

A shadow came over Florence’s face as the tragedy was thus recalled,
but she replied pleasantly, and soon afterward the music-lesson began.

Herr Zikoff had plenty of fault to find, and commented oddly on the
deficiencies of his pupil. She was amused, and awakened to a new
interest; and he, in spite of the emotions that thrilled him, enacted
his _role_ to perfection, as his thorough knowledge of music enabled
him to do.

When he had departed, and was in his room again, he locked the door,
and buried himself in reflection.

“What is to come of all this?” he thought. “Do I love Florence Darley?
Has her loveliness so soon made me a slave? I fear that it is so, for
thoughts of her crowd everything else from my mind, and her picture is
before me every instant. Oh, Florence, I do love you! But it must be
a secret, unwhispered, unhinted at. For to play the suitor under this
false name and character would be dishonorable. But if my innocence
is proven, if Carlos Conrad ever stands before the world again with
character unblemished, then will the homage and devotion of a human
heart be laid before you.”

The days went on. The music lessons were given regularly, and all the
while Karl Zikoff’s passionate adoration of his pupil grew in strength.
Oftentimes, sitting by her side, he would find himself gazing into her
face, so absorbed with the feelings that stirred him as to be entirely
unconscious of whether the lesson were well or illy played. Then he
would suddenly recollect himself, and, with a pang at the thought of
the great barrier between them, offer a sharp criticism at random, and
shortly afterward take his leave with an abrupt and formal “good-day.”

In the meantime, he prospered well, receiving in his new vocation a
large and profitable patronage. Society opened its arms to him, and he
received the homage due to true refinement and real talent. In the eyes
of the world there was nothing lacking to fill him with contentment.
But there were two secrets gnawing at his heart――his unconfessed love,
and his real identity――that made life far from a round of pleasure, and
imposed on him a burden that was at times hard to bear.

Bleak November came, and afterward the snows of December. The Christmas
holidays came, and still his life went on in the same dull monotony. He
had observed closely the habits of Geoffrey Haywood, and had made two
visits to Rocky Beach. But he had failed to make any discoveries. Mr.
Haywood’s secret was well guarded, and there was no clew or suspicious
circumstances to seize upon.

Many of Herr Zikoff’s lessons were given in his music-room, on Main
street, and it was here, one day, early in January, that he received
another visit that filled him with forebodings.

A lesson was nearly finished, when heavy, shambling footsteps were
heard slowly ascending the stairs. The door was opened a few inches,
and a rough-looking face peered in. It was quickly closed again,
however, and the visitor waited outside until the lesson was finished,
and the pupil had departed.

Then a man of large stature and rude appearance entered, and stood for
a moment in awkward silence.

Karl Zikoff instantly recognized him as Jake Heath, the man at whose
house he had stopped on the night of the murder. A thrill of wonder
and apprehension shot through him, but he had his outward demeanor well
under control, and welcomed the visitor in courteous broken English.

“You’re the music-master, I s’pose?” said Mr. Heath.

“Yes, sir.”

“My name’s Heath, and I’ve a darter that’s taken it into her head that
she wants to come to school to ye.”

“She vill study the _klavier_――the piano-forte?”

“Yes, that’s it. Bein’ that we live four miles out of the village,
she thought she could come in twice ’t week. I think it’s all blamed
nonsense myself, but her mind is so sot on it that I’ve rented an
instrument for the winter. What’s yer price?”

Karl made known his terms, his mind being in a state of perplexity
at this new phase of affairs, and being filled with a presentiment
that it was the forerunner of some new evil. There was nothing in
Jake Heath’s actions to warrant this; for, as soon as the arrangements
were completed, he took his departure. But for a girl of Kate Heath’s
station and surroundings to study music was a novel, and, to Karl, a
suspicious circumstance.

Consequently, it was with considerable ♦curiosity and anxiety that he
awaited her first call on him. On the following day she came.

Herr Zikoff was surprised at her appearance. She was well-dressed,
and there was no uncouthness in her manner. She had a strange, wild
sort of beauty, and the face, at which he had only glanced casually on
that terrible stormy night, now revealed a spirit and a nature of no
ordinary cast.

She looked at him steadfastly and earnestly for a moment, and as she
did so a slight flush and a peculiar, indefinable expression passed
across her features. Karl observed this with a feeling of uneasiness,
but, with the nervous, bristling manner which it was his task to assume,
proceeded at once to business.

“You already know something of music?” he questioned.

“Yes,” she replied. “When in New York I studied it some.”

“Ah! you have lived in New York!” he exclaimed, in genuine surprise,
and forgetting for the moment to color his speech with faulty
pronunciation.

She gave him a quick glance, and replied:

“I sang for a year in one of the theaters, and then my father and I
came here to live on a farm.”

“De farm must be _langweilig_――ferry tull――after life in de city.”

“It is; but I am used to it now, after four years’ trial. Not but that
I get lonely very often, for there is nothing whatever going on, and I
miss the excitement and variety of the city.”

“And so you will study music to make de time go more swiftly?”

“Yes, for that, and――other reasons.”

Again the color rose to her face, and again came the same curious
expression.

It was not lost upon Karl, who, with an increasing feeling of
disquietude, took out his watch, and, remarking that his time was
limited, proceeded rather hurriedly with the lesson.

Kate Heath received the instruction he offered in a strangely docile,
almost apathetic manner, and fairly puzzled her teacher.

After that, she was always prompt at the hour assigned her, though she
never learned her tasks well. And the fault-findings and scoldings that
were administered in consequence, were received with a humility that
would have contradicted any surmise a physiognomist would have formed
from studying the dark, passionate face.

Whatever apprehension Karl at first felt concerning her ♦suspicion of
his identity was soon dispelled by her subdued, amiable demeanor and
softly modulated tone in conversation, although these characteristics
were a constant study to him, inasmuch as they evinced no contrition
for poorly learned lessons, and were followed by no substantial
improvement.

“I don’t know what to make of her,” the musician often thought, after
a formal “good-day” on his part, and a tremulous “good-by,” with a
strange, half-scared look on hers.

Poor Kate Heath! She had her secret, and it was destined in time to
work changes and precipitate a chain of events that were to create the
wildest commotion, where outwardly all was quiet and serene.



                            CHAPTER XXIII.

                         A STRANGE REVELATION.


Week after week of the dreary winter passed, and Karl Zikoff still went
through the dull routine of his life as a music-teacher. But little
progress was made that he could see in the investigation that was to
clear his name from the infamous stain that rested upon it.

He received occasional letters from Leonard, written in German, urging
him to remain contented and hopeful, and assuring him that Mr. Stark
was shrewd, discreet, and sure (although of necessity slow) in his
operations. But he was kept in ignorance of what these operations
were, and the absence of any visible results tended to imbue him with
a feeling of despondency. The passive, inactive part he was filling,
was aggravating to his restless, nervous spirit. And the new motive
for making clear his innocence grew in strength every day, and made
him impatient and miserable.

He had been in Dalton about five months, when one afternoon in March he
made one of his accustomed professional visits to Florence Darley.

These visits always filled him with ecstasy, strangely mingled with
despondency. To be near her, to talk with her, to feel the intimate
confidence that naturally arose in their relations of teacher and pupil,
created in him a stimulation of hope that oftentimes soared above and
almost put out of sight, for the time being, his trouble. On this day,
an unusual depression had been followed, when he came into her presence,
by a proportional though unnatural buoyancy.

He was cheerful and fairly eloquent over the lessons, for Florence
Darley was one of those responsive, appreciative pupils, who are the
true teacher’s delight. The classical gems which he offered her she
seized with avidity, and studied them under his direction, as such
music should be studied.

He had given the last hints toward an intelligent study of the lesson
under consideration, when she arose from the piano-stool and requested
him to play for her, as was often the case.

He sat himself at the instrument and considered for a moment before
touching the keys.

Then, with a look in his eyes that seemed to tell of forgetfulness
of all present trouble, of a view into regions of light and bliss
unalloyed, he began to play. Soft, mellow chords and witching harmonic
changes broke on the ear, and mingled with the murmuring sound was a
melody of surpassing beauty, coming to the listener like a dream or a
revelation. It was a tale of intense passion, timorously yet
beseechingly told.

“Exquisite!” murmured Florence, in a low voice, as the last chord died
away.

“It is the _Liebeslied_ of Henselt――‘love song’ you call it in English,”
he said, turning toward her and gazing intently into her face. “Oh,
Florence, it is a wonderful story, told in a marvelous language. It
breathes the tale of my secret――my precious, cherished secret――that
cannot be spoken in words! In music only may it be confessed――in music
only may be revealed to you the――――”

A sudden pallor overspread his face, a spasm of pain distorted his
features, as he abruptly ceased speaking.

He bethought himself, in the midst of his wild outpourings, of the
burden under which he rested, and with a twinge of pain and misery
checked his flow of speech.

A moment of silence――a brief struggle――and he resumed calmly, though in
a voice not entirely firm:

“Yes, it is _seh huebsch_――very pretty. So you like it. Vell, you shall
blay it. At anoder lesson I vill give it you. Good-day, _Fraulein_.”

He strode rapidly from the room, and Florence, listening to his
retreating footsteps, blushed vividly. For many minutes she stood by
the piano just as he had left her, her head bowed in a subdued manner,
and her thoughts communing with themselves in a wild tumult. One
contemplating her then and there would have guessed that her heart
followed Karl Zikoff――that had he thrown himself at her feet she would
not have spurned him.

Karl, on reaching the hall, seized his hat and rushed into the open air.
It was chilly and damp without; not cold enough to freeze, penetrating
and deadening to the blood. Large, soggy snow-flakes fell, and melted
as soon as they touched the wet ground. The sky was of a leaden hue,
and the atmosphere forbidding and uncomfortable.

Shivering, and drawing his coat closely over his breast, Karl hastened
down the road and into Dalton. His cheeks were flushed, his eyes
glittered unnaturally, and on his face was an expression of reckless
despair.

His rapid gait soon brought him to the stairs that led to his
teaching-room. Ascending in mad haste, he entered, and closed the door
behind him with a fling. Then he threw himself into a chair, pressed
his hands to his head, and endeavored to collect his chaotic thoughts.

“This must not go on. Something shall be done. I will play this passive
part no longer. For unless the end comes soon I shall go mad. If all
is to be in vain, if justice is never to prevail, the sooner I know
it, and leave Dalton, the better. To remain here, where my true name
is regarded with horror, to live in continual temptation, and on the
very verge of self-exposure, is unbearable. Oh, Florence, you do not
know the awful barrier that separates us! I shall never offer you a
false or dishonored name; and may the Father above help me to keep this
resolution! Yes, I will _act_! I will dog Geoffrey Haywood’s footsteps;
I will penetrate the secret of Rocky Beach to its innermost detail. And
I will begin operations to-night!”

He arose and walked about the room. He now became conscious of a
feeling of strange languor. A numbness and dull pain seized his limbs
and extended to his head. He was conscious that there was an unnatural
heat on his brow, and that his pulse was bounding at a rapid rate. Was
he going to be ill? He contemplated this possibility with alarm, and
with a rebellious feeling.

Suddenly there came a knock at the door. Karl started in surprise, but,
recollecting himself, muttered:

“It is Kate Heath. She was to have taken a lesson at this time, but I
had hoped something would keep her away. It would be better for her――I
hope what I suspect is not true. Come in!” he called out, almost
savagely.

Kate Heath entered. She gave a flitting glance at Karl, walked to the
piano, and then looked at him more deliberately.

“You are not well,” she exclaimed, with a flush on her cheeks and an
expression of anxious interest.

“Yes, I am,” he replied, shortly.

“Oh, but I am sure you are not. Your face is flushed and your eyes look
feverish.”

“Never mind my eyes,” he replied, going to the piano and opening her
book. “This is your lesson, I believe.”

She looked chagrined and hurt, but proceeded to play at this very
decided hint. She secretly took notice of one thing, however. Karl’s
few words were spoken in good English, unimpaired by his habitual
German accent. This phenomenon had occurred once or twice before, and
had not been lost upon her.

After playing a few bars, she suddenly stopped and said:

“Mr. Zikoff, I have long been wanting to tell you of something――to make
a confession, and ask you whether a certain act I committed was right
or wrong.”

“Miss Heath, why should you ask me to pronounce judgment on your acts?”

“Please let me tell my story,” she said, imperatively; and then, with
mildness, “I have confidence in you――I value your good opinion more
than――I value it very highly. It is about Carlos Conrad――――”

“Who?”

Karl sprang to his feet.

“Carlos Conrad,” she repeated, with a curious smile of satisfaction,
mingled with tenderness, “the young man who was suspected of murdering
Colonel William Conrad. You have heard that he escaped?”

“Yes,” replied Karl, through whose brain had rushed a torrent of wild
thoughts, and who had quickly and resolutely reduced himself to a state
of calmness. “Yes,” he said, “but vat care I for that?”

The Teutonic twang was very decided and broad now.

“Perhaps you care nothing for it,” she replied, dreamily, “but he was
innocent, I believe, and was to be pitied for all that he endured. On
the night of the murder he stopped at our house. He had lost his way,
and was wet and cold. He was determined to go on in the darkness; the
night was very dark, for there had just been a terrible rain-storm; but
we prevailed on him to stay, and made him dry and warm. How I pitied
him! He looked so sad and desperate. I can never forget his face.”

Karl thought there was a tinge of significancy in the tone of this last
remark, but he maintained a stolid exterior.

“He left us at daybreak,” continued Kate, “and was arrested as soon as
he reached Dalton. There was strong evidence against him, but I never
believed him guilty. At the examination it was decided to send him to
the jail at Hillsdale to be tried in court. But they never got him to
the jail.”

“I haf understand all dat,” said Karl. “De young man shump from de car
window, or somet’ings?”

“No, the young man did not jump from the car window,” replied Kate,
calmly. “He would be a fool to do that, when other and easier means of
escape were offered him.”

“Other means!” echoed Karl, in dull wonderment at the girl’s recital.

“Yes; a New York detective――――”

“Ah!” cried Karl, “I thought no one knew of that?”

“Of what? What have I told?”

“I thought,” said Karl, in confusion, “dat it vas von grand secret how
de young man got avay?”

“And so it was. But the secret is in my possession. Would you like to
hear about it?”

“I care not’ings for him,” said Karl, coolly.

“Consider a moment. Wouldn’t you like to hear something about that New
York detective?”

“Oh, if you like to tell, I listen. Go on.”

With a furtive smile Kate proceeded:

“An officer named Johnson had Carlos Conrad in charge, and at the
depot they met the New York detective. He slyly put a package in the
prisoner’s pocket――why do you start so?――and afterward engaged in
conversation with Johnson. After some friendly words they stepped up
to the bar to drink. The detective drugged his own whisky, and then,
under the pretense that he had by mistake poured out the wrong liquor,
induced Johnson to change with him. So Johnson drank the drugged whisky.
What is the matter?”

“Nothing,” replied Karl, who with blanched face was listening intently.

“The plan was for Officer Johnson to fall asleep on the cars, and then
for Carlos Conrad to make sure of his not awakening by the application
of chloroform. The chloroform was in the package that had been placed
in his pocket. There was also a pair of steel cutting-nippers, with
which he was to free himself, he being fastened to the officer by
handcuffs. A note accompanied the package, directing him how to go to
work. It is ♦supposed that he profited by the opportunity thus offered
him, for when Officer Johnson reached Hillsdale his prisoner was gone,
and has never been heard of since.”

“Yes?” gasped Karl, in a cold sweat of apprehension.

His agitation did not permit him to observe the excitement under which
Kate Heath was laboring. Her face was suffused with a crimson blush,
and her eyes glittered brilliantly.

“Would you like to know who this detective was?” she whispered.

“Do you know?”

“Yes, I know. He is by your side now.”

“WHAT! You do not mean to say――it cannot be――it is impossible that it
was you!”

“It is not impossible; it is true. It was I.”

In a wild wonder of frenzy Karl, who had risen to his feet, grasped
the edge of the piano so tightly that every drop of blood was forced
back from his fingers. An awful look was on his face, for he was seized
with a conviction the realization of which he shrank from. In a last
despairing effort to maintain his assumed character, he asked:

“Vy do you tell me of dis, young lady?”

“Because,” she said, slowly, and as if afraid to proceed.
“Because”――speaking with sudden resolve, yet with plaintive humility,
and at the same time covering her face with her hands and half averting
her bowed head, “I love you, Carlos Conrad!”



                             CHAPTER XXIV.

                       DANGER AND MORE EXPOSURE.


The revelation filled Carlos with utter dismay. It fell upon him like a
thunderbolt.

Not that the idea then dawned upon him for the first time; he had
surmised the truth before. Kate Heath’s demeanor had often suggested
the secret of her love for him, although it had always been modest,
and had never even verged upon impropriety. But he had scouted the idea
in scorn, as evincing vanity and presumption on his part. He had not
allowed himself to cherish it for an instant, much less to accept it as
an actual fact. And he had treated her uniformly with all the coldness
possible that was consistent with common courtesy.

But here she was, confessing her secret.

He was thrown completely off his guard, and was so filled with
consternation and annoyance that he betrayed no surprise at being
addressed by his true name.

“Miss Heath,” he said, “this is pure madness.”

“I know it,” she said, still keeping her face concealed.

“I am surprised, shocked, overwhelmed by what you have said.”

“I do not wonder at it,” she murmured. “You have a right to be shocked
at my boldness; but it is true――oh, so true!”

“This is fearful!” muttered Carlos, moved to compassion. “I am very
sorry, unutterably sorry. Let me tell you at once――――”

“Do not tell me,” she moaned. “You are disgusted with my presumption;
you need not say the words.”

“I must say them,” said Carlos, firmly, yet gently. “Your wild dream
must be dispelled at once. It is preposterous; it is unaccountable to
me.”

“Oh, Carlos Conrad――――”

At this second mention of his true name he recoiled, and realized the
fact that his secret was known.

“Why do you call me by that name?” he demanded.

“Do not feign surprise,” she said, turning toward him. “I have known
you for weeks. I said I could never forget your face, and I never have.
I tried to contrive ways of meeting you, but failed. At last I hit
on the experiment of the music-lessons, and you know the result. You
cannot deny your name. Yes, I know you, and love you.”

There were desperation and defiance in her air and tone.

“Well,” said Carlos, who saw that it would be useless to try to deceive
her, “why did you do such a rash thing? Why did you disguise yourself
as the detective, and effect my escape?”

“You have the reason in my confession,” she replied; “in my confession
which you regard with such abhorrence. Ah, do not deny it. You despise
me; you would send me away if you could. But did you not know that the
aid must have come from some one who loved you?”

The last two words she uttered in a tone of dogged determination.

“I thought it came from my cousin,” he replied.

“Your cousin!” she repeated, scornfully. “But you were ready to accept
it. You took advantage of the means offered, and escaped. You were
grateful then to one whom you would spurn now. Yes, say it――say you
hate me; kill me.”

“My dear girl――――”

“His dear girl!” she echoed, but whether in irony or pleasure he was
unable to determine.

“I beg your pardon,” he said. “I recall the words. Miss Heath, for
all that you have done for me you have my sincere gratitude. For your
friendly acts I am thankful; but as for the motive that prompted them,
I deeply regret its existence.”

“And yet I took pleasure in what I did: The risk I incurred was nothing.
I only thought of you.”

Her tone was tender and pleading.

“It pains me to talk to you as I have to,” said Carlos. “Believe me, it
pains me unspeakably. I admire your courage. I wonder at your ingenuity
in disguising yourself as the New York detective. How could you carry
the part so successfully?”

“I told you once that I had had some experience on the stage.”

“True; and how did you come to abandon the profession?”

“My father got into trouble, and was helped out by Geoffrey Haywood.
How they happened to meet I do not know. I think it was purely
accidental. At all events, Haywood persuaded him to leave New York and
live on a farm just out of Dalton. He did well by him, for father has
made money unaccountably fast. We were very poor when in New York.”

“And what do you think is the secret of your father’s good fortune?”

A thought which had struck Carlos impelled him to ask this question.

“I cannot tell. He is associated with Haywood in some business that
is kept in the dark. There is much that goes on in the dead of night.
Strange-looking men come, father goes off, and I don’t know what all.”

“Do they ever go in the direction of Rocky Beach?”

The girl glanced at him sharply.

“I am doing wrong in talking about my father’s private affairs,” she
said, coldly; “and I have made a fool of myself before you; I realize
it perfectly. I am nothing to you. I served you well once, and for that
you are _grateful_. How I hate the word!” She spoke now with suppressed
vehemence. “You have seen what a friend Kate Heath can be. But remember
one thing――_I know you_, and you may realize what it is to have me for
a foe.”

Her eyes dilated and shot forth the wrath of disappointment and
desperation.

Carlos was alarmed. He saw that he was in her power. She might, in her
chagrin and anger, expose him.

“Kate,” he said, “do not be hasty in your words or your conclusions.
You must know that your revelations have come very suddenly upon
me――that my mind is in a whirl of confusion. And I believe I am not
quite well to-night, as you said when you first entered.”

She looked up, as if a faint hope dawned upon her.

“Won’t you leave me now?” he entreated. “I must have time to think
before I can talk any more; and it is late――almost six o’clock. I will
go to my room in the hotel and call a doctor, I believe, for my head
feels strangely. Go home now, and come again at your next lesson-time.”

  Illustration: “I MUST HAVE TIME TO THINK BEFORE I CAN TALK ANY
                MORE; AND IT IS LATE――ALMOST SIX O’CLOCK.”

“Remember――” she began.

“Ah, there is no need to enjoin remembrance on me. I shall not forget
anything.”

He took his hat in his hand and moved toward the door.

“Well, I will go,” she said. “Good-by.”

“Good-day.”

He took the hand she offered, and then watched her as she descended the
stairs.

But, instead of following her, he paused on the landing, and presently
returned to his room.

“Shall I take advantage of this declaration she has made,” he thought,
“and pretend to humor it? In that way I might lead her on and find
out something about Haywood, for she says he has secret dealings with
her father. And, besides, if I spurn her she will expose me. There
was danger in her eyes when she made the threat, and she is just of
that passionate nature to carry it out. But what a mean, contemptible
deception it would be to profess love for her. No, I will not be
guilty of it. Let the worst come before I so degrade myself. Oh,
what a situation! It _compels_ immediate action, and strengthens my
determination to begin investigations without delay. I’ll no longer be
a lay-figure; I’ll ACT!”

He quitted his teaching-room, and went across the street to his
hotel. But he could eat no supper, the feeling of languor, pain, and
feverishness increased.

In some concern he went up stairs, threw off his coat and boots, and
laid himself on the bed. In two hours he felt decidedly worse, and sent
a messenger for Doctor Davison. It will be remembered that this was the
physician that had offered him the timely advice on the morning of his
arrest, and had subsequently attended him in the jail. Carlos naturally
sent for him, having had previous evidence of his skill, as well as a
kindly feeling toward him.

Doctor Davison shortly arrived and examined the patient. His manner was
cheerful, but an unmistakably graver look quickly came upon his face.

“You must undress and go to bed, young man,” he said.

“Vat for?” asked Carlos, resuming the German accent.

“Because you are going to be sick.”

At a look of distress and alarm from Carlos, the physician quickly
added:

“Oh, you will come out right, but you must take the right means to do
it. It won’t do to ignore the fact that there can be no trifling with
your case.”

“Vell, I do as you say.”

After some further conversation and directions Doctor Davison departed.

Early the next morning he called and found his patient in a raging
fever.

Giving vent to a low whistle, and casting on him a sharp look of
concern, he quickly prepared some new medicines. Calling one of the
attendants of the hotel, he said:

“Give these powders every half hour, without fail. I will call again at
noon.”

At noon he was again by the side of Carlos. The paroxysm had subsided,
and the patient looked at him with intelligent eyes.

“_Wie geht’s?_” said Doctor Davison. “That’s all the German I know. How
do you feel?”

“Better, I think,” said Carlos.

“Yes, we’ve checked the fever for the present, but you have had a
severe turn, and are weak.”

“Vat ails me?” asked Carlos.

“I can scarcely tell yet. The fever has taken an intermittent form, and
will probably come on again to-night. If it isn’t attended to, it may
run into typhoid.”

“I cannot afford to be sick,” muttered Carlos.

“No? Well, all of us feel that way. By the way!” exclaimed the doctor,
starting as if something had suddenly caught his attention, “_what has
become of that scar_?”

“Vat scar?”

“The scar on your forehead. It was very plain last night, but can
scarcely be seen now.”

Here was another disaster. Carlos had neglected, in his sickness,
to put on the bandage which he was accustomed to wear nightly for
the purpose of leaving the imprint of a scar. It was part of the
routine imposed upon him by Mr. Stark, and was a most important aid
in concealing his identity.

A sense of what was likely to follow rushed upon him.

“It comes and goes,” he replied.

“Oh! It’s a very singular scar, to come and go! What caused it?”

“The point of a sword in a duel.”

Doctor Davison was running his hand over his patient’s forehead and
inspecting the scar.

“Yes,” continued the doctor, “it’s a _very_ singular scar. In fact,
it’s no scar at all. What does this mean?”

“Doctor,” said Carlos, partly rising and resting on his elbow, and
speaking solemnly, “I am about to put great trust in you. I must make
a confession. You are right――it is not a scar. I never received a sword
wound.”

“Then what in the world is your object――――”

“Wait. I will tell you. I have been practicing a great deception. Don’t
you know who I am?”

“No, I can’t say that I do, unless you are Carl Zikoff, music-teacher.
But you are talking pretty good English now, I must say.”

“Yes, there is no use in trying to play my part before you. Look at me
well. Have you no suspicion?”

“Your face does not look entirely unfamiliar, but upon my word I cannot
place you. However, Mr. Zikoff, or whoever you are, you are talking
too much. I am a fool to sit here and allow you to do it. You must be
quiet.”

“No, not until I have told you all. It will be better that way, than
for the whole town to find it out, and have everybody after me.”

“Wait, young man. It will be better for you to keep still. I have no
curiosity on the subject. I don’t want you to excite yourself.”

“If you do not allow me to speak I shall die of excitement.”

“Well, go on, then.”

“You did me a kindness once. You attended me in a brief illness. Don’t
you recollect?”

“No.”

“It was in August last.”

“August last! Let me see――that was the time Colonel Conrad was
murdered.”

“Yes, but not by me! not by me! You spoke to me when a rabble was
hounding me, and you came to see me in jail.”

“Good heavens!” exclaimed the doctor, springing to his feet. “You are
Carlos Conrad!”

“Yes.”

“And you have been here these several months past under the name of
Karl Zikoff.”

“I have. You will not betray me? At least not as long as I am lying
here sick?”

“Betray you? No. That’s not my trade. My business is to cure you.”

“Thank you, thank you,” said Carlos, in a weak whisper, as he sank back
on his pillow.

With the coolness which physicians must at all times be prepared to
simulate, Dr. Davison said:

“Now, my dear sir, don’t let this worry you another minute. You can
trust me to keep your secret, and see you through all right. But it is
absolutely necessary――――Hallo!”

The doctor’s words had fallen upon unheeding ears, for his patient had
fainted.

Doctor Davison set about restoring him, muttering the while:

“Strange! mighty strange! What on earth could have tempted the fellow
to be so rash? Confound him! he doesn’t look like a murderer. I shall
not expose him, at all ♦events. But he will be apt to rave, and betray
himself. This should be guarded against, for I want to talk to him more
when he is able to endure it. Let me see! I have it! I’ll telegraph
for my brother, who is studying medicine at Skimmerton College. He’s
an excellent nurse, and the experience will be a good one for him.”



                             CHAPTER XXV.

         GEOFFREY HAYWOOD AT WORK――A MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE.


On the same afternoon that Carlos had so nearly betrayed himself to
Florence Darley by his wild outburst, and shortly after his departure,
Geoffrey Haywood called at Elm Grove.

He was just in time to be invited to remain at tea, and he accepted the
invitation.

He observed that Florence did not appear to be entirely calm, that her
mind was agitated, but on this he made no remark.

It was not until after tea, when they were seated in the drawing-room,
that he entered into serious conversation with her.

“Florence,” he said, “there are certain business affairs that must be
talked over at some time, and this occasion seems to me a favorable one
to open the subject.”

“Yes,” was her simple rejoinder.

“The time for the distinct settlement of some matters is near at hand,
the period mentioned in the notice to creditors to put in their claims
having nearly arrived. Thanks to Colonel Conrad’s admirable business
management, the creditors are few, and their claims are small. The
amount of property, after all settlements are made, will be about two
hundred and fifty thousand dollars, besides Elm Grove. You are aware
that, by the terms of the will, fifty thousand dollars are left to
sundry charitable and educational ♦institutions; the homestead here
is left to you unconditionally, and that the balance is left to me in
trust for my own use, with the exception of an annual income of three
thousand dollars to be paid to you. But if you marry, one-half of the
fortune is to be made over to you, intact and unconditionally, while
the other half is mine. If you do not marry, the before-mentioned terms
remain in force during your life.”

“Yes, I understand all that,” said Florence.

“You will continue to live here at Elm Grove?”

“I suppose so. The place is dear to me. About it are associated all the
pleasant remembrances of my life. Yes, I shall remain here.”

“Pleasant memories do indeed cluster around it, Florence――pleasant to
me, as well as to you. I loved my uncle, and shall always revere his
memory. But this is not all. It is in this house that I have met and
known one who has answered my ideal of all that is pure and lovely,
who has won me often from busy care, and filled my soul with higher
aspirations. Need I say that it is yourself, dear Florence, of whom I
am speaking?”

“You compliment me undeservedly, Uncle Geoffrey,” said Florence, with
a pained, confused look. It was her habit to call him uncle, though he
was in fact not related to her. “Yet I ought to be gratified in having
won your good opinion.”

“Good opinion!” he repeated. “It is more than that, far more. My uncle
had plans which are not mentioned in his will, Florence――plans which
are very near my own heart. Their fulfillment is dearer to me than all
other earthly objects. The estate, you know, is divided between us, but
it may be kept intact, as Colonel Conrad left it, by the carrying out
of what I have alluded to. You must know what I am speaking of.”

Florence bowed her head, but made no reply.

“But do not think,” he continued, “that it is solely on account of my
uncle’s wishes, or owing to any considerations concerning the property,
that I press the subject, for I love you, Florence, with all the
strength of my soul, and I am going to ask you to become my wife.”

“Uncle Geoffrey,” said Florence, turning to him calmly, “I esteem you,
I appreciate your friendship and all your kindnesses. I am aware that
the dearest friend I ever had, he who was a father to me, held you in
high regard and implicit confidence. But I have not that feeling toward
you that a wife should have――I do not wish to marry you.”

There were simplicity and earnestness in her tone and manner that cut
keenly into the schemer’s soul. But he was as sedate and unruffled as
ever, save a slight manifestation of fervor as befitted the occasion.

“I beg that you will not answer in that way, Florence,” he said. “If
you cannot say yes to-night, take time to consider the matter. If your
heart does not warm toward me now, at least give me time to prove my
love and earnestness. I have long had an interest in you. My regard has
scarcely been second to that of Colonel Conrad. Your welfare has been
my desire; all my plans seem inseparably bound up in your happiness and
interests.”

“Oh, I hope not, Uncle Geoffrey! We are not suited to each other. I
have no love for you of the kind you mention.”

“Again I say,” he exclaimed, “do not be too abrupt. Let me cherish
the hope that I may yet win you, for I have counted much on your
companionship through life. As I said before, it is my dearest purpose.
Besides, all considerations of policy or interest are in favor of it,
and there is no doubt but that it was a wish of Colonel Conrad’s.”

“It might have been,” said Florence, meditatively, “but I do not
believe he would have had me marry against my will; I am sure he would
not. Would _you_?”

“N-n-no, Florence, but I would so guide your will that it might incline
to me, and not leave me desolate. I would, by gentle persuasion, show
the depth and strength of my love, and win yours in return. But I will
not urge you to-night. I simply wish you to remember how I feel, and to
think of me as kindly as possible.”

“I always think kindly of you,” she said, smiling.

“Yes, but no more of this to-night. I see you would prefer not to
pursue the subject. I have been thinking about some plans for altering
the house――that would make it more pleasant for you.”

“Altering the house?” said Florence, in surprise.

“Yes. The south parlor is small, and if the partition between it
and the room on the west were taken away, it would make a fine large
apartment.”

“The room on the west? Why, that was the study of Colonel Conrad!”

“Certainly――the room where he was killed. The associations connected
with it are so awful, that the change would, I should think, be
acceptable to you.”

He spoke slowly, and scrutinized her face as if to mark her reception
of the suggestion.

“No,” she said, shaking her head, “no change in that room would be
acceptable to me. I shall let it remain just as dear Colonel Conrad
left it.”

“The value of the house would be greatly enhanced,” argued Haywood.

“That is no inducement,” answered Florence. “It is not my wish to have
a thing disturbed. There is that wonderful clock, and that curious
little set of book-shelves fastened to the wall. They are both his
handiwork, and both would have to be torn away.”

“And so you cherish his memory by such trifles, do you? Well, I will
not comment on your taste, neither will I press the matter. But I hope
you will think it over.”

“I do not understand why you should be so urgent about it, Uncle
Geoffrey. If there is any particular reason――――”

“No,” he interrupted, quickly, “there is no particular reason. I am
not urgent about it. I only suggested it out of regard for your own
interests.”

“Thank you,” she replied, quietly.

“Now that we are talking about the room,” said Haywood, “I am reminded
that I have a little writing that ought to be done this evening.
Perhaps you would not object to my doing it in there.”

“Certainly not,” she exclaimed. “Occupy it as long as you wish for that
purpose. You will find pen, ink, and stationery in the drawer of the
table.”

“You will not mind my shutting myself up, away from you?”

“Oh, no. Mabel Cummings is to spend the night with me. She will be here
soon.”

“I will excuse myself, then.”

“Very well.”

Geoffrey Haywood went into the study of the late Colonel Conrad, and,
after lighting a student’s lamp that stood on the table, closed the
door and locked it.

He took some paper from the drawer, dated and addressed a letter, and
wrote a few lines.

Then he paused in his work, meditated for a few moments, and looked
cautiously around him. Stepping to the window, he drew the curtain a
little closer, and then he hung his handkerchief on the knob of the
door, so that it covered the keyhole.

Having taken these precautions, he proceeded to the case of
book-shelves on the east wall of the room, a few feet from the tall
old clock. He removed the books one by one, making no noise in the
operation, and then examined the shelves minutely.

The fixture consisted of a thick hard-wood board, sunk in the plaster,
and secured to the wall in some manner which he could not determine,
for neither nail nor screw-head was visible. Near the outward edges
were upright projecting pieces, to which the shelves were fastened.
The whole was, perhaps, four feet square, and the shelves and their
supports were six or eight inches wide. All was strong and solidly
built, and firmly fixed in place. He pushed it, and pulled it, and
pressed it on all sides, and from many directions, but it was immovable.

He finally paused, and contemplated the shelves with more vexation on
his face than any one had ever seen exhibited there. But he was alone,
and there was no necessity for concealing his feelings.

“Behind the book-shelves,” he muttered, “is the place, but how to
remove them is the mystery. Yet it must be done. Every risk must be
avoided. The secret may be discovered by accident; the house may change
hands and undergo repairs. A thousand things may happen. Oh, for the
few words that lie between safety and possible ruin! I have read the
paper over and over, and cannot form the slightest conception of its
conclusion. But I will triumph! Yes, guard the secret as closely as you
will, Carlos Conrad, I will accomplish my end in spite of you!”

He again gave himself up to a profound reverie, and then, as if having
decided on a plan of action, quickly replaced the books, and unlocked
the door. Having done this, he pulled a bell-knob.

Barker answered the summons.

“Bring me a glass of water, if you please, Barker,” said Haywood,
looking up from his writing, which he had resumed before Barker entered.

The errand was performed, and, having set the glass of water on the
table, Barker was about to withdraw.

“Wait a moment,” said Haywood. “Shut the door――turn the key――that’s it.
I want to talk with you.”

Barker held himself in readiness to listen.

“You earned two hundred dollars once, Barker, very easily. And, by the
way, I suppose you have kept perfectly silent regarding the event that
I requested you not to mention.”

“Perfectly, sir.”

“That is well. Now I want you to serve me again, and I will pay you
satisfactorily.”

“Is it a similar service, sir?”

“No, quite a different one. But it must be kept secret――in fact, more
secret than the other.”

“That couldn’t be, sir.”

“All right. I think I can trust you. For reasons of my own, which you
will not care to have explained, I wish to remove these book-shelves
from the wall.”

“Does Miss Florence――――”

“Miss Florence must know nothing of it. The shelves must be removed
and replaced in such a manner as to leave no trace of their having been
disturbed.”

“That might be a difficult job, sir.”

“There is no doubt of it. But that does not lessen the necessity for
doing it. You can see that they are very strong and firmly put up, and
it will require considerable ingenuity and labor to take them down. I
want you to help me.”

“Now, sir?”

“No――to-morrow night. I will bring the requisite tools.”

“How can we work so as to be unobserved?”

“I will come at midnight――for my presence in the house must not be
known――and you must let me in at the window here.”

“I don’t exactly like the job, sir.”

“Nor I. But it must be done. I will pay you another two hundred dollars
for your help; and if we succeed, and the result is what I hope for,
you shall have five hundred more.”

“All right, sir; you can count on me. You’re a sharp one, Mr. Haywood.”

“Never mind that. But, Barker, if you ever find life dull here, and
wish for a change, let me know, and I will give you a berth where you
can make plenty of money and enjoy yourself hugely.”

“I’m your man, sir.”

“At present I want you to help me here. In the future I’ll do something
handsome for you. But remember the importance of the most profound
secrecy.”

Barker placed his hand expressively over his mouth.

“To-morrow night, recollect, unless you get word from me that the job
will have to be postponed.”

“Yes, sir.”

Barker withdrew, and Haywood soon after took his departure. Passing
through the hall, he bowed to Florence Darley and Mabel Cummings, who
were chatting in the drawing-room, and bade them good-night.

Then he left the house, and, walking toward Dalton in the darkness of
the night, he thought, exultingly:

“In twenty-four hours from to-morrow morning all the documents will
be destroyed――the letters from Anthony to William Conrad, the evidence
against me, the will――_all_ that can in any way interfere with my
plans! And Florence――yes, she shall marry me; I’ll have her by some
means, whether fair or foul.”

The next day he was about his business as usual, with nothing in his
manner to indicate the anxiety with which he anticipated the coming
night’s work.

Toward evening a note was handed him, the bearer departing as soon as
he had delivered it. Haywood was in his store, and he immediately went
into his private office and read the note. Its contents disturbed him
strangely. He knit his brow, hesitated for a moment, and then wrote
these words on a slip of paper:

“_Not to-night._”

Inclosing the slip in an envelope, he dispatched a messenger to Elm
Grove, with instructions to hand it to Barker.

Something had interrupted his plans.

The remaining few hours of the day he passed mostly in his private
office, being evidently in too agitated a frame of mind to appear
before his fellow-beings.

Late in the evening he was in the street, bent on some urgent errand.
It was cold, rainy, and pitch-dark, and most people had sought the
shelter of their homes. But Haywood regarded not the weather. He
plunged into the gloom and the damp dreariness, indifferent as to the
discomfort and exposure.

Yet he was not the only one out that night.

Doctor Davison had waited at the depot for his brother, and the two
had proceeded to the hotel together, where lay Carlos Conrad on his
sick-bed.

“He is a pretty sick man,” said Doctor Davison, as they ascended the
stairs that led to the invalid’s room. “Step softly now, for if he is
sleeping he must not be awakened.”

Treading on tiptoe, and opening the door silently, they entered the
apartment where the patient had been left a few hours before under the
influence of an opiate.

But as they approached the bed the physician and his brother halted in
amazement. They looked at one another in mute, helpless surprise, for
the bed was empty!

Carlos Conrad was gone!



                             CHAPTER XXVI.

                         A DARK NIGHT’S WORK.


Carlos Conrad had lain on his bed all the afternoon in a state of
agitation which the opiates of Doctor Davison had not allayed.

Kate Heath’s declaration and semi-threat, Doctor Davison’s recognition
of him, and the subsequent disaster which seemed impending, had served
to render his mind active, alert, and unsusceptible to the influence of
any ordinary administration of medicine.

Evening approached, and the doctor, running in for a brief call, found
him sullen and uncommunicative. There was a contraction of his brow,
and an odd look in his dull eyes, that were well calculated to excite
apprehension.

And it was with increasing concern that Doctor Davison left him, not to
call again until the arrival of his brother, who was to act the part of
nurse, and who was expected on the night train.

At nine o’clock in the evening Carlos rose from his bed. On assuming
a standing posture, he at first staggered with dizziness, but quickly
recovered.

He was in a condition between sanity and delusion. He could not control
his movements――he felt himself led on by some irresistible force, and
yet he knew what he was doing, and was conscious that he was acting
rashly and imprudently. He kept muttering to himself:

“Yes, it must be done to-night――to-night is the time. No more miserable
delays――no more unbearable suspense. To-night I will go――to-night
shall the secret of Rocky Beach be penetrated. Am I in my right mind,
I wonder? I think not, and yet the way seems clear. Yes, the time for
action has come, and I’ll go forth to meet the enemy.”

His madness lent him strength and cunning. He was soon dressed, and he
stepped softly from his room into the passage. Through this he walked
rapidly, and thence down the stairs into the lower hall.

No one was in sight. He paused and made sure of this, for he had the
sense to know that he was ill, and that if any of the attendants of
the hotel should observe him they might prevent his going farther,
or follow him. He hastened to the outside door, and walked into the
cold air. In fact, they were grateful to his heated brow, and, with
refreshed, stimulated feeling, he bent his footsteps rapidly from the
hotel.

Notwithstanding his half delirious condition, he had a fixed definite
purpose, as was evinced by the promptness with which he proceeded in a
certain direction.

His route took him away from the business streets to the outskirts of
the village, and finally on a lonely country road.

The ground was a mass of mud, the rain fell steadily, the wind sighed
with a sluggish, disconsolate murmur, and the air was penetrating in
its dull chilliness.

Through the darkness, and the rain, and the gloom he walked steadily,
stumbling now and then, but recovering himself and hastening on.

For nearly two hours he continued his lonely tramp, and then on
reaching a certain point, he moved with sudden caution.

He was at Rocky Beach.

It was nearly eleven o’clock, and in the inky darkness nothing was
visible more than a few steps ahead, save the ocean, which stretched
away in gloomy expanse. The steadily falling rain, the rolling of the
waves, and the low murmur of the wind were the only sounds heard.

Listening and peering intently, and neither hearing nor seeing anything
that denoted the proximity of any living being, he groped his way
forward.

Suddenly a light appeared, seeming to come out of the solid, rocky
bluff. Carlos was nearer to the entrance of the cave than he had
supposed. He saw that the light was carried by a man, who was instantly
followed by another man, bearing another light. The two ascended an
eminence, and there remained motionless for a long time, holding their
lanterns.

Carlos drew a little nearer, and concealed himself behind a huge rock.
Here he watched and waited. If his journey was the result of a freak of
delirium, surely there was method in his madness, for he was cautious,
silent, and observant. He was wet to the skin, and his garments were
dripping. Perhaps there was some virtue in the “water-cure” treatment
he was receiving.

A considerable time elapsed, during which he remained quiet and
watchful, while the men with the lights waited patiently.

All at once the sound of some craft cutting through the water was heard,
and Carlos quickly turned his eyes in the direction from which it came.

Two boats, each with a small, dim head-light, were approaching the land.
They were moving slowly, with sails hoisted, and soon reached the shore.

Out of each sprang two men, carrying coils of rope, which they had made
fast to large, heavy stones lying a few feet back from the water.

The two who had remained stationed with the lanterns ran forward to
meet them, a few hurried words were exchanged, and forthwith ensued
a scene of busy occupation.

Packages, and boxes, and bales were taken from the boats, and carried
into the cavern. Three of the men occupied themselves in this way,
while the fourth promenaded the beach with his lantern, evidently
keeping a lookout for intruders. The other two had disappeared within
the cave, probably to receive and stow away the articles brought to
them.

The men worked rapidly and industriously, speaking but few words, and
those in low, indistinct tones.

All this Carlos watched from his place of concealment, withdrawing his
gaze only when he was obliged to crouch more closely under the shadow
of the rocks when the sentinel passed him at intervals.

The work went on for two hours or more, when suddenly there was a
new-comer on the scene. A tall man came from the cavern and stood idly
looking on.

The heart of Carlos bounded as he beheld him, for the form and carriage
were those of Geoffrey Haywood. The distance and the darkness rendered
his face indistinct, and it might be added also that he wore a mask,
although Carlos could not discern it. But he was certain that it was
Geoffrey Haywood, and his eyes remained riveted upon him.

At length the goods that had been brought in by the boats seemed to be
all disposed of. The men loitered around, wiping their brows. Then the
man whom Carlos believed to be Geoffrey Haywood stepped forward and
said a few words.

Carlos crept forward to get a better view of him. In his eagerness
he altogether abandoned the shelter of the rock under whose friendly
shelter he had remained in concealment, and, before he was fairly aware
of it, he was within a rod of the knot of men.

They all turned to go into the cavern, when a startling and terrifying
circumstance occurred.

A bright light suddenly burst forth from some unknown quarter above,
and cast a dazzling glare over the whole scene. The rocks, the boats,
the men, and even the pebbles on the beach were distinctly visible. At
the same instant a rocket shot high into the air, taking a course out
over the sea, and leaving a brilliant train of sparks.

The men uttered wild cries of amazement, and ran to and fro in
confusion. Carlos’ ♦surprise was equal to that of the smugglers, and
he rushed forward near them.

The light above, which was evidently on the summit of the cliff, shone
continuously, and with intense, steady brightness.

The three workers, the sentinel, and the man with the mask, all saw
Carlos, and rushed upon him. They evidently believed that he had some
hand in the startling phenomenon.

“Who are you? What do you want? How did you come here?” were questions
that showered upon him in mad, furious tones.

He was seized by the shoulders and arms, and held firmly.

“I know you, Geoffrey Haywood!” he shouted, in a wild frenzy. “You
arch-plotter, you thief, you smuggler!”

“Curses upon you,” ejaculated the masked man. “Oh! it’s Carlos Conrad!
Hold him, men! Do not let him escape. He’s a murderer! But where, in
the name of all the devils of ill-luck, did he come from?”

“You may well ask,” exclaimed Carlos, “for I have been watching you.
I have been at your heels for six months. And here you are, with your
gang of smugglers.”

“Hush!” hissed Haywood. “Gag him quick, somebody!”

There was a violent, brief struggle, and Carlos was temporarily
deprived of his power of speech.

“I don’t know as it is unlucky at all,” said Haywood, at length, and
in a calmer tone. “This is a spy, boys, and he must be taken care of.
There is no time to lose, for some deviltry is up. I wonder where that
infernal light comes from? Take him in one of the boats, and make for
the ♦ship with all speed. Don’t kill him. I want something of him.
Stand off at sea until to-morrow, and I’ll try and communicate with
you. If you can’t do any better, make for some port――New York, Norfolk,
Charleston――anywhere. But be off quick. Roake and I will see to the
goods.”

Haywood had delivered his directions in a hurried, excited tone, in
almost ludicrous contrast with his usual sedate manner, and, with the
last words, hurried into the cavern.

The four remaining men forced Carlos to accompany them to the shore and
into one of the boats. Here he was bound with ropes and flung into the
hold of the larger yacht.

The light from the cliff still shone with unabated brightness, casting
a glimmer over the sea, and giving to the crests of the waves a
scintillating brilliancy. The rain drizzled down, and the air had lost
nothing of its chilliness.

The sails of the yachts were hoisted, two men having taken possession
of each boat, and the four smugglers, with their prisoner, put out to
sea.

After a few moments one of the men removed the gag from Carlos’ mouth,
and said:

“Say, stranger, what’s the occasion of that blasted light on the bluff?”

“I haven’t the least idea,” answered Carlos.

“No gammon now.”

“I assure you I don’t know. I was as much surprised by it as you were,
or else you wouldn’t have taken me prisoner.”

“It’s mighty curious anyhow,” said the man, addressing his companion
rather than Carlos. “Some mischief’s afloat, and I’m afraid we’ll have
to do some pretty lively dodging to keep out of the way of the beaks.”

“The boss seemed to be pretty well cut up, didn’t he?” remarked the
other man.

“Yes; but he’s sharp, and I reckon he’ll put into a safe port and leave
no wake behind him.”

“They can search a month at Rocky Beach and discover nothing against us.
It’s a rum place for running in goods.”

“Yes; but I own I’ll feel considerably relieved when we are once aboard
ship and out at sea.”

Carlos heard this and other conversation with but little interest.
Strange visions began to flash before his eyes, and wild dreams flitted
through his brain. The strain upon his mind had been too much, and the
fever was returning with redoubled violence.

He was soon delirious again and he did not know when the yachts came
alongside the dark hull of an ocean steamer after having sailed some
two miles.

Neither was he conscious of being lifted up in a hammock, taken aboard
the vessel, carried below, and deposited in a bunk.

When he was thus disposed of, a crowd of villainous-looking men asked
eager questions, which were impatiently answered by the four who had
been ashore.

The command to put out to sea was given, and the huge engines were set
to working with all possible speed.

As the smugglers’ steamer got under way, the eyes of all on deck were
anxiously fixed on the light that still gleamed from the summit of the
bluff at Rocky Beach.

“It’s a powerful light,” said one.

“Yes. It looks like bad business for us. I’ll be glad when we’re out of
sight of it.”

At that instant a flash came out of the darkness but a short distance
ahead of the vessel, followed by the thundering report of a cannon.

A wild cry of alarm arose among the smugglers. They rushed hither and
thither in consternation, scarcely heeding the yells of their commander
to seize their arms and prepare for a struggle.

Another flash and report came, and a ball whizzed through the air over
the heads of the panic-stricken crew.

The commander roared and swore.

“Keep your wits about you, you hounds! Don’t run about like a pack of
frightened sheep. We never can be caught in this darkness. We can crowd
on all steam, dodge about, and be out of danger before morning.”



                            CHAPTER XXVII.

                             ON THE TRACK.


We have for some time left Mr. Stark and Leonard Lester to themselves.
But it must not be supposed that they had been idle during the sojourn
of Carlos Conrad, alias Karl Zikoff, at Dalton.

In fact, they had been very busy.

On a certain morning, in the month of March, we behold them seated
together in the private office of the detective engaged in earnest
conversation.

“Everything is working well,” said Mr. Stark. “The train is almost
ready to ignite that will make the biggest blow-up that has ever been
witnessed in our circles for some time.”

“Yes,” replied Leonard, “Luke Felton is prepared to give his testimony.
It seems that, when a mere boy, he received some elementary instruction
in a deaf and dumb school, but, on account of poverty, his parents
were unable to continue him there. After that he was buffeted about
the world, and saw some pretty hard times. At last he fell into the
clutches of Roake and Snags, who found it very convenient to have one
at Rocky Beach who could hear nothing, and who could not tell what he
saw. But since we kidnapped him, and sent him to the asylum, he has
learned with wonderful rapidity, and can now communicate his ideas in
writing.”

“And he is positive that he could recognize the so-called ‘Boss’ on
meeting him face to face?”

“Yes; he has seen him frequently, in disguise, and on two occasions he
followed him to a lonely spot in the woods near Rocky Beach, and saw
him lay aside the mask and resume his own attire.”

“Luke Felton was not so dull as the villains thought.”

“No; his eyes and his wits were at work, though his ears were useless
and his utterance fettered. He has given me in writing a minute
description of the mysterious person, and it answers exactly to
Haywood’s appearance. Besides there will be Jessup’s evidence.”

“Ay,” said Mr. Stark; “and you now see that I was right in keeping
Jessup’s agency in the matter a secret from Carlos Conrad. Had your
cousin known of his presence and mission in Dalton, he might have
seriously retarded his progress. Jessup, alone and unaided, has
followed Haywood up, has learned that he has some secret connection
with Jake Heath, and that Jake Heath visits Rocky Beach in the night
and takes away goods, concealing them in bales of wool that are shipped
to Jacob Rush, of Jersey City.”

“Yes,” said Leonard, “the man whose card was found in the yacht in
which I made my escape.”

“We have learned,” continued Mr. Stark, “that Rush has frequent
communication with Haywood, occasionally sending him large sums of
money. And further my secret agents have bought laces, and other fine
goods of foreign manufacture, of Rush, at prices considerably below the
market rates.”

“It now remains,” said Leonard, “to get another witness to the identity
of Haywood with the ‘boss,’ so that we can descend with an avalanche of
testimony that will be irresistible, and capture Snags.”

“Jessup will manage the first point, I am sure. He is now morally
certain, as well as we all are, that Haywood is the man. He has seen
him visit Rocky Beach repeatedly, but never yet when any goods were
being run in. It is certain, from what Luke Felton declares, that
Haywood is occasionally there at such times, and the one desirable
thing is for Jessup to be witness of the fact with his own eyes.”

“His post of observation is a good one,” said Leonard.

“Yes, from the top of the old tree he can see everything that goes
on below. No one can enter the cavern or come out of it and escape
his view. The plan is this: A revenue cutter will take notice of
any strange craft that hovers about Rocky Beach or the coast in its
vicinity, and any discovery that is made will be telegraphed to Jessup
at Dalton. He will then keep an extra watch on Haywood’s movements,
noticing whether he receives any message from Roake. If any such
message is delivered, Jessup will telegraph to me, and I will dispatch
the revenue cutter Porter to the spot, in readiness for a chase and
a fight. In the evening Jessup will repair to his post on the summit
of the Rocks, and if he makes satisfactory discoveries, will give the
signal for the Porter to attack the smugglers’ ship. Then there will be
lively work and a big haul!”

“All this is well planned, so far as the smuggling business is
concerned,” said Leonard; “but do you think it will result in the
vindication of Carlos?”

“I have my own ideas on that point,” said Mr. Stark, “and they amount
to positive convictions. First, when Haywood is arrested, and sees
the hopelessness of his case, he will give up and admit that Snags
committed the murder. Or, if he does not admit it, your own testimony
of Snag’s confession to you will be sufficient. For Haywood’s character
will be shown in its true light, and your own instrumentality in the
exposure of the smuggling business will tell greatly in your favor.
Secondly, as to Snags. It is true that he has disappeared from Rocky
Beach, and that no trace of him can be found. It is highly probable
that he has been transferred to the smugglers’ ship, and that when we
capture the ship we will capture him. I’ll warrant then that he can
be made to confess, and surrender the letter that he took from your
murdered uncle’s hand.”

“Then,” said Leonard, “we will know the meaning of the word ‘seven
o’clock.’ But how can Snags, if he is captured, be induced to confess.”

“By the promise of pardon,” replied the detective. “There are but few
of these rogues that will not turn State’s evidence when a sufficient
inducement is held out to them.”

“And poor Carlos,” said Leonard, musingly, “is in ignorance of the
progress we are making. His last letter was very desponding.”

“That can’t be helped,” said Mr. Stark. “Jessup has worked to much
better advantage in Dalton than if your cousin had known him. There
would have been interviews and discussions between them, and perhaps
exposure. For Carlos, being the mainly interested party, might have
been impatient and officious. Only a detective knows how necessary
deliberation and long suffering are at times. And you see the result
justifies my course.”

“I see,” said Leonard.

“And now,” said Mr. Stark, “I have some important news to tell you. A
suspicious-looking steamer arrived near Rocky Beach early this morning
and fired three signal guns, afterward turning about and sailing slowly
toward the open sea.”

“This morning!” exclaimed Leonard. “Was it the smugglers’ ship?”

“I suspect so. At any rate, I have telegraphed to Jessup, and the
Porter is all ready to sail. The night is going to be dark and
rainy――an excellent time for them to run in their goods. I shall
expect a message from Jessup by six o’clock.”

“In regard to Haywood?”

“Yes――telling me whether he received any communication from Rocky
Beach.”

“And if he does?”

“If he does, I shall hope that the time has come for which we have
been waiting and hoping. I shall hope that Haywood shall have occasion
to be on hand when the goods are run in, and that Jessup will see him
in conference with his employees. Then a signal will be given from the
cliff――a calcium light on a rocket――and the Porter will intercept the
smuggler’s vessel as it turns to go. Haywood will be masked, of course,
but Jessup will descend to the beach, and follow him secretly. He will
see where he goes, he will see him strip himself of his disguise, he
will witness the confirmation of Felton’s story, or――――”

“Or what?”

“We have made a grand mistake――that’s all.”

“But do you anticipate that?”

“No; I am confident that we are on the right track.”

The conversation ceased here. There was nothing to do but to wait for
the expected message from Jessup, Mr. Stark’s secret agent at Dalton.

Leonard still retained his disguise, and was known as the Rev. Mr.
Withers. There were those in the service who knew that the character
was an assumed one, but they had learned by experience not to be too
inquisitive in regard to affairs of which Mr. Stark had the conduct,
and the actual identity of the reverend gentleman was a profound secret.
He came and went without attracting any undue attention or provoking
any impertinent inquiries.

A little before six o’clock the message came from Jessup. It was in
cipher, and, being translated, read as follows:

  “Haywood has received a summons. He is closeted in his private
  office. Let the revenue-cutter Porter be on hand.”

“You will, of course, go with the Porter,” said Leonard, to Mr. Stark.

“Yes, and so must you. If Snags is among the prisoners I will want you
to identify him, so that we may take especial care of him.”

“Hurrah!” muttered Leonard, in a suppressed tone of excitement. “Now
for business! This miserable affair is almost at an end.”

“I hope so,” replied Mr. Stark. “It will all depend on Jessup’s signal.”

As the needful preparations had already been made, they started forth
immediately, and within ten minutes more were on board the Porter, a
stout, fast-going, well-armed steamer. And in five minutes more the
vessel put to sea, bending her course nearly northward. Her destination
was near a portion of the coast but little frequented by ships, there
being no large harbors for the accommodation of foreign trade.

It was this fact that had enabled the smugglers to operate with
comparative safety. Their goods were brought to within a mile or two of
the shore, and then carried to the land in yachts, as has been seen.

The Porter steamed along leisurely at the rate of eight or nine knots
an hour, and between ten or eleven o’clock halted four miles off Rocky
Beach.

Every light was extinguished, to guard against the smuggling craft
taking alarm.

Leonard and Mr. Stark, with others, stationed themselves on the deck to
keep a lookout.

About midnight faint lights were seen moving from an easterly direction.
They turned northward, and slowly glided toward the shore. Occasionally
a shower of sparks would puff toward the clouds.

Standing in the drizzling rain, wrapped in thick garments, the watchers
on the Porter beheld the object of their pursuit glide along in fancied
security. Finally it seemed to halt.

Then came a long period of waiting. More than two hours passed, and
still the vigil of the pursuers was maintained. The port-holes of the
revenue-cutter were open, and the grim cannon stood ready to pour forth
their missiles of destruction.

“Do you suppose that Haywood will be there to-night――that the signal
will appear?” whispered Leonard.

“Be patient,” was Mr. Stark’s only reply.

Suddenly a bright light appeared in the distance, and a rocket shot
into the air.

“The signal!” shouted Mr. Stark and Leonard, both in the same breath.

Orders were quickly given, and the Porter, with all steam crowded on,
moved toward the light.

Soon a dim form of a vessel appeared in the gloom, and on nearing it,
some noise and confusion were heard.

This was at the moment Carlos and his four captors were being taken
aboard the smugglers’ ship.

Then it was that the commander of the Porter gave orders to fire.

One cannon thundered forth its bellow of wrath; another sent a ball
flying toward the smugglers’ ship.

Then bright lights were suspended to the masts of the Porter, casting
a glow around that made all near objects visible.

The smugglers also ♦displayed lights, for the two vessels were in such
close proximity that there was danger of a collision in the darkness.

The Porter pressed close to her adversary, and fired several shots in
rapid succession. The smugglers returned the compliment, and it was
evident they were determined to fight.

“This fighting is not our part of the business,” said Mr. Stark to
Leonard. “We must go below. Don’t object. We will only be in the way
here. The villains will soon be brought to terms.”

In the safe shelter of the cabin they listened to the conflict, and
anxiously and impatiently awaited the result.



                            CHAPTER XXVIII.

                               VICTORY.


The battle was a short one. The vigorous fire of the Porter soon
convinced those on board the smugglers’ ship that resistance or attempt
at flight would be futile.

The signal of surrender was soon given, and the roar of the cannon
ceased.

A United States officer, with a portion of the crew of the Porter,
boarded the captured vessel and took formal possession.

Then the wounded and dead were attended to. Two of the smugglers had
been killed and five or six injured. The injuries seemed to be slight,
with the exception of those of one man, who was found lying on his face
insensible.

It was Snags.

The discovery was made by Leonard and Mr. Stark, who had been
transferred from the Porter to the captured vessel. They immediately
caused him to be carried into a state-room, where they followed,
accompanied by a surgeon. All others then withdrew, leaving the four
men together.

“How badly is he injured?” asked Mr. Stark of the surgeon, who was
examining Snags’ wounds.

“Very badly,” replied the surgeon. “He will not live more than a few
hours.”

“Will he recover consciousness before he dies? It is important that we
hold some conversation with him if such a thing is possible.”

“I think he will be conscious for a short time. Yes, he is struggling
now. His chest heaves――his eyes open.”

And the surgeon administered a stimulant to Snags.

The latter looked around with a wild, vacant stare.

“Who are you all?” he asked. “Where is Roake? Where is the captain?
Where――let me see――oh, yes, I remember――we were attacked, and must have
been beaten. For you are all strangers. Tell me about it, somebody!”

“Your ship and the whole crew have been captured by the United States
revenue-cutter Porter,” said Mr. Stark. “I am sorry you are so badly
hurt, Snags, and I want to have a little talk with you before――before
it is too late.”

“Before it is too late! What do you mean?”

“Can you not guess? You are seriously ♦wounded, and the surgeon
says――――”

“That I must _die_? Don’t tell me that! I won’t die! I can’t die! I am
not ready for that.”

He raised himself up on his elbow, and spoke in a tone of alarm and
anguish.

“Ready or not, Snags, it may be inevitable.”

“No, no! I have too many sins to answer for.”

“Ay,” said Mr. Stark, “and now is the time for you to make what
reparation lies in your power. Would you hesitate, in your last moments,
to do this?”

“No. Tell me what it is. What can I do? Oh, there is one awful thing
that weighs on my mind!”

Mr. Stark whispered to Leonard to remove his disguise. Leonard obeyed,
tearing off his spectacles, his wig, and his gray side-whiskers. He
stood by the side of Snags.

The latter regarded him with a look of amazement and horror.

“Where did you come from? Did you rise from the dead?”

“No,” replied Leonard, “I am solid flesh and bones. Feel my hand. I
was your prisoner once, but now the table are turned. Since my escape
from the cave at Rocky Beach I have had but one great purpose. You can
imagine what it ♦is.”

“Yes,” sighed Snags.

“You well know that it is the vindication of my Cousin Carlos from the
charge of murder. You also know――do you not?――that you have nothing
to gain by longer keeping the secret, the revelation of which would
demonstrate his innocence.”

Snags made no reply, but lay for some moments in profound thought. At
length he spoke, quite calmly.

“Who are you?” he said to Mr. Stark.

“I am a detective, engaged in the custom-house service of the United
States.”

“And is it true,” turning to the surgeon, “that I have not long to
live?”

“I am sorry to say, my man, that there is but little hope for you.”

There was another pause.

“I’ll confess,” Snags finally said. “Carlos Conrad shall not suffer
from any silence of mine. I think I am growing weaker, and I’ll begin
at once. Do you think it will improve my chances in the next world to
do what I can now toward making things right?”

“Every good act has its weight with the Great Judge of us all,” said
Mr. Stark.

“Will you take down what I say?”

Leonard prepared himself, with pen, ink, and paper, to make a
memorandum of Snags’ statements. Then the dying man began:

“You probably don’t need to be told much about the smuggling business.
You have caught us, and will find enough to satisfy you at Rocky Beach.
Roake and I had charge of the place, and took care of the goods as
they came in. We always selected dark nights, and one night expected
an arrival, when our ‘Boss’ sent me on an errand that has brought about
all this ill luck. It was last August. According to directions, I went
to the house of Colonel Conrad, to make discoveries.

“I was to steal into his room, pry open his desk, and see if I could
find any papers or documents that told of a quarrel with his brother,
and to take particular notice if there was anything like a will――in
which case I was to carry it off with me. I was to make these visits
every ♦night, until I had accomplished something, for the ‘Boss’ wanted
to know, for some reason, all about Colonel Conrad’s plans and purposes.

“On the very first night I found the colonel writing. I stole in
softly, to look over his shoulder. He turned and saw me, and I was
taken off my guard. I drew my knife and struck at him. There was but
one thrust, and it did the work――it killed him. But, before God, murder
was not in the plan. My errand was just what I have stated it to be.
The killing was accidental, as one might say, but let it be understood
that I did it――that Carlos Conrad is innocent.”

The voice of Snags had been gradually growing weaker, and here he
stopped, gasping for breath. The physician gave him a few drops of
brandy, and he resumed:

“I grabbed a pile of gold coin――about a thousand dollars――――”

“Only a thousand dollars?” interrupted Leonard.

“That was all. I took the money, and also snatched a letter from his
hand that he had just been writing. But it tore, leaving a portion of
it in his grip. Just then Carlos Conrad came, seeming to think that
something wrong was going on. He jumped in at the window, and I saw
him take the fragment of the letter from the old man’s hand. Meanwhile
I had read the part in my possession, and wanted the rest of it. Young
Conrad and I had a tussle over the matter, and finally he slipped
from me and ran. He outwitted me, for when I gave chase and supposed
I had caught him, I found it was you”――pointing to Leonard――“instead.
You know what followed. You were a prisoner in the cave, and before I
fairly discovered that you were the wrong man, I let out enough to make
you know that I was the murderer. Then you escaped. It was a night when
we were running in goods. You will remember it was moonlight; and the
goods were some we had intended to get in on the night of the murder,
when it was dark and rainy, but the work was interrupted by my arrival
with my prisoner, and had been postponed. It was contrary to our usual
caution to work on a moonlight night, but the ship that brought the
goods from Europe was ready and impatient to sail, as it wouldn’t do
for her to be seen hanging about the coast too long. After you escaped
I was afraid to remain at Rocky Beach any longer, and on that very
night joined this ship.”

Snags paused again from weakness.

Waiting until the administrations of the surgeon revived him, Leonard
said:

“But there are two unsettled points. First, we want to know who the man
is whom you have designated as ‘Boss,’ and next we want the letter that
Colonel Conrad wrote.

“The ‘boss?’ Well, for a long time I didn’t know him myself. He came to
Rocky Beach but seldom, and then in disguise. Most of the orders were
given through Roake. He knew him. But I got the secret out of him. His
name is Haywood. His home is in Dalton.”

“Very well,” said Mr. Stark; “and now about the letter.”

“Haywood has it.”

“Can you repeat its contents?”

But a pallor suddenly overspread Snags’ face. He looked around in
piteous entreaty, as if it were in the power of those about him to
restore his quickening breath. He gasped, clutched the air with his
hands, and finally seemed to recover himself in a measure. He spoke
with an effort:

“The letter told of a change of plans, of strange revelations, of
important papers, and a new will. It spoke of money. It told――where――to
look.” The voice grew fainter and fainter. “Of a secret recess――hidden
spring――money――will――――”

The words came now in hoarse whispers. The dying man struggled in agony.
He made one more effort.

“The money and the will――in the wall――press――somewhere――a hidden――――”

A ♦convulsive tremor shook his frame, and his voice ceased altogether.

With solemn countenances and bowed heads, Leonard, Mr. Stark, and the
surgeon stood by, and waited for the end.

It came soon. In two minutes more the spirit and the body had parted,
and a form lay before them in the cold pallor of death.

Before leaving the apartment, Leonard, Mr. Stark, and the surgeon
appended their signatures as witnesses to the statement of Snags,
attesting that it was a true and faithful transcription of the words
uttered by him.

Then the body was carefully secured in place, and covered, the room was
vacated and locked, and the three who had been present at the solemn
scene stepped on the deck in the open air.

The return journey to Boston was tedious, for the smugglers’ ship had
been so disabled in the conflict as to necessitate its being towed by
the Porter. Consequently the progress made was slow.

Near daybreak, the surgeon, who had separated from Leonard and Mr.
Stark, came to them, and said:

“There is a sick man below, who does not seem to be one of the
smugglers. I haven’t asked him any questions yet, but his appearance
indicates that he is a prisoner, rather than one of the gang. Will you
come and see him?”

Leonard and the detective followed the surgeon, and, as they entered
the dimly lighted apartment, heard the groans and ravings of one in the
delirium of a high fever.

They stepped to the side of the sufferer. Leonard Lester gazed at the
flushed face and tossing form but a mere instant, and then, bending
forward eagerly, he ejaculated, in extreme amazement:

“Great Heaven! it is Carlos!”

“What!” exclaimed Mr. Stark. “Your cousin?”

“Yes, it is my cousin, Carlos Conrad. But how, in the name of all the
powers, above and below, did he come here?”

“It is indeed a mystery,” said Mr. Stark. “And he is very ill.”

“Yes, he has a raging fever. Can you tell what is the matter with him,
doctor?” turning to the surgeon.

“I can tell better when we arrive in Boston, and get him on a clean bed
in a good room. Meanwhile, I will do what I can for him here. But he is
a sick man, there is no doubt about that.”

“You do not mean to say that he cannot live!” exclaimed Leonard.

“Oh, no. I guess it’s not as bad as that. But he will require good care.
I will remain with him for awhile now, and, as there seems to be some
mystery about his being here, perhaps you gentlemen would like to step
around and investigate the matter.”

Mr. Stark and Leonard made inquiries of some of the captured crew,
and soon learned the truth concerning Carlos’ unexpected appearance at
Rocky Beach and his conveyance to the vessel. But a full explanation of
the mystery――the story of his illness and mysterious disappearance from
the hotel――could not be had until the arrival of the party at Dalton.

The sun had risen, and was well on its way to the zenith, when the
revenue-cutter reached Boston, having in tow its prize and prisoners.

Carlos was immediately placed in suitable quarters, and a physician and
a skilled nurse were employed to attend him.

Having thus left him in good hands, Leonard and Mr. Stark proceeded
without delay to bring to a conclusion the business in hand.

Accompanied by a United States officer, and armed with the necessary
warrants for arrest, they took the first train for Dalton.



                             CHAPTER XXIX.

                              CONCLUSION.


Geoffrey Haywood sat in his private office in Dalton. It was the
day after the night of the strange and alarming proceedings at Rocky
Beach. He was alone, and had been alone for some hours. He was dressed
neatly, his hair was combed in its usual slick manner, and his beard
was brushed smooth. But his face did not bear its wonted expression of
tranquillity. It was disturbed and distorted, and anxiety was portrayed
in every lineament.

No one had seen him in this condition; it was only when in entire
seclusion that he allowed his feelings thus to manifest themselves. But
to-day he kept himself in seclusion nearly the whole time, having no
thoughts for anything but the thousand and one terrifying apprehensions
that flooded his mind. He knew not what to do. A sense of impending
disaster――a conviction that justice was about to overtake him――nearly
crushed him. He endeavored in vain to contemplate the situation calmly,
to deliberately calculate his safest and most available course. As yet,
he could only sit in a state of inaction, confusion, and dread.

He took no dinner. The hour of noon passed, and at two o’clock he still
remained alone and meditative.

All at once an unusual noise was heard. Heavy footsteps passed
through the store below, ascended the stairs, approached the door
of his apartment, sounding louder and louder, and finally halted. An
imperative rap was given.

The guilty man cowered in terror, and remained for a moment perfectly
still.

The rap was repeated.

Drawing a bottle from a cupboard, Haywood took a deep draught, and,
by a violent effort composing himself, answered the summons. His black
eyes glittered, and his form stiffened in rigid ceremony as he opened
the door.

“Geoffrey Haywood, in the name of the Government of the United States
I arrest you as a smuggler!”

“Sir!” said Haywood, with a lame assumption of indignation, “I do not
understand you.”

“And I,” said Leonard, unable to restrain his excitement, “charge
you with willfully conspiring against the life of a fellow-citizen
by withholding evidence that would have acquitted him on a wrongfully
preferred charge of murder!”

“Leonard Lester!” gasped Haywood.

“Yes, it is I. Look at me well, for you will soon be out of the way of
looking at honest men’s faces.”

“Gentlemen, what ridiculous farce is this? What do you mean by invading
my premises and using such threatening language?”

Mr. Stark here took the floor.

“Let me explain in a few words,” he said, in a quiet tone. “It will
perhaps be the surest way of avoiding any ♦unnecessary disturbance. We
are here, Mr. Haywood, as has been stated, for the purpose of arresting
you on the charge of secretly importing goods of foreign manufacture
and evading the payment of the lawful duties thereon. Resistance or
defense will be useless. Every point necessary to support the charge
is covered by evidence to be brought forward by competent witnesses.
The secret receptacle of the goods at Rocky Beach, and the agency
through which they are disposed of in Jersey City, are known. Your own
visits at Rocky Beach, in disguise; the roundabout way, across fields
and through woods, which you took to get there; your dealings with
Jacob Rush, are also known. Other facts are in our possession; other
revelations have been made; your ship has been captured; one of your
men has confessed――――”

“Who,” growled Haywood, “has been so false?”

“One who knows,” said Mr. Stark, impressively, “of your agency in the
murder of Colonel Conrad.”

These words staggered Haywood. He reeled and caught a chair for support.
The desolation and dismay that filled his soul found vivid expression
in his face.

“Do you surrender?” asked Mr. Stark.

“I surrender,” he gasped.

The officer approached him.

“One thing more,” said Mr. Stark. “The last message of Colonel Conrad,
the letter he wrote to lawyer Tibbs, one end of which is torn off, is
in your possession. We want it.”

“How,” said Haywood, in a daze of bewilderment, “do you know this?”

“We have the dying word of your man Snags,” replied Mr. Stark.

“Well,” said Haywood, rallying suddenly, “I pronounce it an infernal
lie! If you want that paper, you must find it the best way you can.”

“Very well,” said Stark, coolly. “If you stick to that we will proceed
at once. Shall we open your desk and overhaul your private papers? You
have only to say the word.”

“No, no. I’ll give it to you.” Haywood was humble again. “Snags gave it
to me, but I don’t see why he thought I wanted it. There’s nothing of
it. It has no meaning. I wish I had burned it.”

He went to his desk, opened a private drawer, and produced the letter.
Mr. Stark took it and placed it in his pocket.

“That is all at present, I believe,” said Mr. Stark. “Officer, take
charge of your man.”

There was a sensation of the liveliest description in Dalton that day.
Geoffrey Haywood’s store was closed, and its proprietor was in the
hands of the officers of the law. The news of the arrest and the nature
of the offense soon got noised about, and afforded a subject for
wondering discussion by the entire community.

                   *       *       *       *       *

There was a strange meeting in Lawyer Tibbs’ office. The letter had
been delivered to its rightful owner, who was, as will be recollected,
“Timothy Tibbs, Esq., Att’y, Dalton.”

Mr. Stark, Leonard Lester, Mr. Royalton, and the proprietor of the
office comprised the assemblage. Mr. Tibbs and Mr. Royalton had been
informed of the events of the preceding six months, and knew the whole
situation of affairs.

The last letter of Colonel Conrad was read by Mr. Tibbs in the presence
of those assembled. It was as follows:

                                            “DALTON, August, 18――.

  “TIMOTHY TIBBS, Esq.

  “_Dear Sir_: Events have recently been brought to light which
  have led me to make a new will. Strange revelations have
  been made, and I now see a supposed friend in the light of a
  treacherous enemy. The person I refer to is Geoffrey Haywood.
  The story of his guilt is told in certain documents brought to
  me by the son of my dead brother. What my action will be during
  Haywood’s life, I have not determined. I have made the will
  promptly, however, in view of the ever present fact that death
  may overtake me at any time. I do not mean to convey the idea
  that I have any forebodings of immediate dissolution, for I hope
  to live many years yet. But I recognize the fact that ‘in the
  midst of life we are in death.’ This guilt of Geoffrey Haywood
  I do not wish to discuss now. I simply wish to say that, in the
  event of my death at any time (and in the absence of any further
  instructions on the subject), you may look for my will, for
  the documents to which I have alluded, and for a considerable
  amount of money in gold coin――about thirty thousand dollars――in
  a secret recess in the east wall of my library. The recess
  is behind a small case of book-shelves, and may be opened by
  pressing on a hidden spring at――――”

“Here the letter breaks off,” said Mr. Tibbs. “The corner is torn, and
the next word or words are missing.”

“The next words,” said Mr. Royalton, “are ‘seven o’clock.’ Here is the
missing fragment. Let us see if the two torn edges fit each other.”

“They match exactly,” said Mr. Tibbs. “See!”

All looked, and saw that it was true.

“But I confess that this is rather blind to me,” said Mr. Tibbs. “One
page of the sheet is covered, but Colonel Conrad evidently intended to
write more, for there is no signature.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Royalton, “and while he was reading what he had already
written, he was killed, and the sheet torn from his hand.”

This view was accepted by all.

“The matter is not at all blind to me,” said Leonard. “I remember
distinctly of a large clock, reaching from floor to ceiling, on the
east side of the room; and I believe that a pressure on the figures
indicating the hour of seven o’clock will result in opening the secret
recess.”

“It may be true,” said Mr. Stark, “but it is certainly very singular.”

“Colonel Conrad was noted for his eccentricities,” said Mr. Royalton.

“Yes,” added Mr. Tibbs, “and he was a genius in mechanics. He was
always cobbling up some curious contrivance. The least that we can
do is to follow the instructions in this letter, and be governed by
whatever results follow.”

The four gentlemen repaired to Elm Grove, and related to Florence
Darley, as briefly as possible, their errand. Full explanations were
not entered into, but were deferred to a subsequent period. Lawyer
Tibbs simply told her of the letter and its contents, reserving until
a more convenient time the tale of its long concealment and strange
recovery.

A visit to the library, and a pressure on the dial of the clock at the
place indicated at first, resulted in nothing. Perplexity and chagrin
ensued. Suddenly Florence exclaimed:

“Let me make a suggestion, gentlemen. Suppose you wait until the hour
of seven. Perhaps the time, as well as the place, is indicated by the
words ‘seven o’clock.’”

The suggestion was acted upon. At seven o’clock that evening the
experiment was tried again.

This time it was successful.

The clock struck seven, the pressure was made, and lo! the case of
book-shelves swung slowly from the wall, revealing a compartment
composed of shelves, drawers, and unique recesses.

“Success!” exclaimed Leonard, and excited exclamations of delight burst
from the lips of all present.

An examination of the contents of the secret recess was next in order,
and this was, by common consent, given in charge of Mr. Tibbs, he being
the attorney of the estate.

But little more remains to be told.

The new will, duly signed and witnessed, left the bulk of the property,
in equal divisions, to Florence Darley and Carlos Conrad. Leonard
Lester also received a legacy of a few thousand dollars, and some of
the servants were the recipients of small behests.

To Geoffrey Haywood, Colonel Conrad simply left his forgiveness.
The documents of Carlos Conrad’s father fully demonstrated Haywood’s
wickedness――the details of which need not be recounted.

The criminal and false friend received his just deserts, being
tried, found guilty, and sentenced to a long term of imprisonment
to expiate his crimes against the government. Roake shared a like
fate, as did also a Jersey City receiver. Jake Heath had taken early
alarm, and fled before there was an opportunity to arrest him. Kate,
his daughter――misguided, passionate, and perhaps despairing――was
subsequently recognized on the stage, having rejoined her former
theatrical life.

Carlos Conrad, under good nursing, speedily recovered from his illness,
and returned to Dalton to take possession of the valuable property that
had become his. It may be interesting to the reader to know that he
wooed and won Florence Darley; that his great love for her met with a
satisfying response.

Leonard Lester resumed his old position in the importing house of
Duncan & Mishler, and was soon after admitted as a partner in the
business. His own savings, combined with the legacy of Colonel Conrad,
enabled him to purchase an interest, while his knowledge of the
business, his integrity, and his known capabilities, rendered him a
valuable accession to the firm. On the return from his next trip to
Europe, he brought with him, as a bride, a dark-eyed daughter of the
old world, whom he had met, loved, and won.

Luke Felton, the mute, proved to be both amiable and of bright
capabilities, and from a pupil he came to be a teacher in the
institution where he had been so unexpectedly placed and educated.

Barker, the servant, more weak-minded than vicious, and
conscience-smitten at the part he had taken in abetting the designs of
Haywood, departed from Dalton, and never confessed his agency in the
matter.

Mr. Stark and his associates, in the work of bringing villainy to light,
were, of course, amply compensated.

And now, having seen the evil-doers and mischief-making characters of
our tale brought to justice, and their designs frustrated; having seen
our hero standing before the world with name unstained, and rejoicing
in the smooth-running course of true love; having witnessed the dawn
of prosperity on those whom untoward circumstances had afflicted with
temporary disaster, we can afford to let the curtain drop.


                              [THE END.]



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                   *       *       *       *       *

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                          THE WIDOW’S WAGER.

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                                              _Christian at Work._


   56 W. 25th St., N.Y. For sale by Druggists, or sent by mail, $1.


  Illustration: (‡ Back cover of book)



                         Transcriber’s Notes.


The following corrections have been made in the text:

  Page 9:
    Sentence starting: “I wonder what they can want....
      – ‘Colonal’ replaced with ‘Colonel’
        (want of Colonel Conrad?”)

  Page 20:
    Sentence starting: William Conrad had been a colonel....
      – ‘wax’ replaced with ‘war’
        (a colonel in the Mexican war,)

  Page 20:
    Sentence starting: All in all, he was in a terribly....
      – ‘appehensive’ replaced with ‘apprehensive’
        (perplexed and apprehensive state)

  Page 24:
    Sentence starting: They felt that their presence....
      – ‘thier’ replaced with ‘their’
        (They felt that their presence)

  Page 32:
    Sentence starting: The villain rolled over and....
      – ‘vallain’ replaced with ‘villain’
        (The villain rolled over and)

  Page 35:
    Sentence starting: There they lay, and struggled....
      – ‘stuggled’ replaced with ‘struggled’
        (There they lay, and struggled)

  Page 38:
    Sentence starting: The masked stranger tore through....
      – ‘pusuit’ replaced with ‘pursuit’
        (in mad pursuit after Carlos)

  Page 45:
    Sentence starting: “I suppose the ‘Boss’ isn’t around,...
      – ‘Bos’ replaced with ‘Boss’
        (“I suppose the ‘Boss’ isn’t around,)

  Page 47:
    Sentence starting: He ran into the road,...
      – duplicated word removed ‘the’
        (He ran into the road,)

  Page 51:
    Sentence starting: “The latter is probably the case,”....
      – ‘he’ replaced with ‘here’
        (and bringing me here,)

  Page 54:
    Sentence starting: No promise could be made....
      – ‘diaster’ replaced with ‘disaster’
        (bring such a disaster on)

  Page 65:
    Sentence starting: Haywood rose to meet him....
      – ‘bim’ replaced with ‘him’
        (Haywood rose to meet him.)

  Page 73:
    Sentence starting: “I don’t know but....
      – ‘Snaggs’ replaced with ‘Snags’
        (replied Snags.)

  Page 73:
    Sentence starting: “Not much of a message,”....
      – ‘ungently’ replaced with ‘urgently’
        (continued Leonard, urgently,)

  Page 84:
    Sentence starting: You people here have managed....
      – ‘managod’ replaced with ‘managed’
        (You people here have managed)

  Page 91:
    Sentence starting: He alternately regarded Leonard....
      – ‘alternatly’ replaced with ‘alternately’
        (He alternately regarded Leonard)

  Page 97:
    Sentence starting: “My services are not exactly....
      – ‘Sterling’ replaced with ‘Stark’
        (said Mr. Stark, smiling.)

  Page 99:
    Sentence starting: Some one implicated might....
      – ‘mght’ replaced with ‘might’
        (one implicated might then appear)

  Page 110:
    Sentence starting: And, as soon as the latter....
      – ‘brieflly’ replaced with ‘briefly’
        (had briefly stated)

  Page 112:
    Sentence starting: “They do not imprison people....
      – ‘politiaal’ replaced with ‘political’
        (for political offenses)

  Page 117:
    Sentence starting: In the latter part of the....
      – ‘afternnon’ replaced with ‘afternoon’
        (part of the afternoon)

  Page 124:
    Sentence starting: Snags thereupon whispered....
      – ‘listended’ replaced with ‘listened’
        (the latter listened with)

  Page 130:
    Sentence starting: My dear sir, you mustn’t....
      – ‘musn’t’ replaced with ‘mustn’t’
        (My dear sir, you mustn’t)

  Page 133:
    Sentence starting: “With that discovery,”....
      – ‘wiil’ replaced with ‘will’
        (murder will be brought)

  Page 141:
    Sentence starting: And now that he has escaped,...
      – ‘Hayward’ replaced with ‘Haywood’
        (Mr. Haywood seems so charitable)

  Page 150:
    Sentence starting: Consequently, it was with....
      – ‘curosity’ replaced with ‘curiosity’
        (considerable curiosity and anxiety)

  Page 152:
    Sentence starting: Whatever apprehension Karl....
      – ‘suspicon’ replaced with ‘suspicion’
        (her suspicion of his identity)

  Page 158:
    Sentence starting: It is supposed that....
      – ‘supposd’ replaced with ‘supposed’
        (It is supposed that)

  Page 165:
    Sentence starting: I shall not expose....
      – ‘avents’ replaced with ‘events’
        (at all events.)

  Page 165:
    Sentence starting: You are aware that,...
      – ‘institutons’ replaced with ‘institutions’
        (and educational institutions;)

  Page 175:
    Sentence starting: Carlos’ surprise was equal....
      – ‘suprise’ replaced with ‘surprise’
        (Carlos’ surprise was equal)

  Page 176:
    Sentence starting: Take him in one of the boats,...
      – ‘slip’ replaced with ‘ship’
        (for the ship with all speed.)

  Page 183:
    Sentence starting: The smugglers also displayed....
      – ‘diplayed’ replaced with ‘displayed’
        (also displayed lights,)

  Page 185:
    Sentence starting: “Can you not guess?...
      – ‘wounted’ replaced with ‘wounded’
        (You are seriously wounded,)

  Page 185:
    Sentence starting: You can imagine what....
      – ‘it’ replaced with ‘is’
        (imagine what it is.)

  Page 186:
    Sentence starting: I was to make these visits....
      – ‘nigh’ replaced with ‘night’
        (visits every night)

  Page 188:
    Sentence starting: A convulsive tremor shook....
      – ‘conuulsive’ replaced with ‘convulsive’
        (A convulsive tremor shook)

  Page 191:
    Sentence starting: “It will perhaps be the surest....
      – ‘unnecesary’ replaced with ‘unnecessary’
        (any unnecessary disturbance.)





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