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Title: A Golden Argosy
       (A Novelette)
Author: Fred M. White
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eBook No.: 1200161.txt
Language: English
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Title: A Golden Argosy
       (A Novelette)
Author: Fred M. White


Published in The Clutha Leader (Balclutha, N.Z.) in serial format
commencing 30 April, 1886.



Eleven o'clock! Before the vibration of the nearest chimes had died
away, the rain--which had long been threatening over London--poured down
for some five minutes in a fierce gust, and then, as if exhausted by its
efforts, subsided into a steady drizzle. The waves of light, cast on the
glistening pavement from the gas lamps flickering in the wind, shone on
the stones; but the unstable shadows were cast back by the stronger,
refulgence of the electric light at Covent Garden. Back into the
gathered mist of Long Acre the pallid gleam receded; while, on the
opposite side, the darkness of Russell Street seemed darker still. By
Tavistock Street was a gin-shop, whose gilded front, points of flame,
and dazzling glass seemed to smile a smile of crafty welcome to the
wayfarer. A few yards away from the knot of loafers clustering with
hungry eyes round the door, stood a woman. There were others of her sex
close by, but not like her, and though her dress was poor and
dilapidated to the last degree, the others saw instinctively she was not
as they. She was young, presumably not more than five-and-twenty years,
and on her face she bore the shadow of great care. Gazing, half
sullenly, half wistfully, into the temptingly arrayed window, her
profile strongly marked by the great blaze of light farther up the
street, the proud carriage of the head formed a painful contrast to her
scanty garb and sorrow-stricken face. She was a handsome, poorly dressed
woman, with a haughty bearing, a look of ever-present care, and she had
twopence in her pocket.

If you will consider what it is to have such a meagre sum standing
between you and starvation, you may realise the position of this woman.
To be alone, unfriended, penniless, in a city of four million souls, is
indeed a low depth of human misery. Perhaps she thought so, for her mind
was quickly formed. Pushing back the door with steady hand, she entered
the noisy bar. She had half expected to be an object of interest,
perhaps suspicion; but, alas, too many of us in this world carry our
life's history written in our faces, to cause any feelings of surprise.
The barman served her with the cordial she ordered, and with a
business-like 'chink,' swept away her last two coppers. Even had he
known they were her last, the man would have evinced no undue emotion.
He was not gifted with much imagination, and besides, it was a common
thing there to receive the last pittance that bridges over the gulf
between a human being and starvation. There she sat, resting her tired
limbs, deriving a fictitious strength from the cordial, dimly conscious
that the struggle against fate was past, and nothing remained for it
but--a speedy exit from further trouble--one plunge from the bridges!
Slowly and meditatively she sipped at her tumbler, wondering--strange
thought--why those old-fashioned glasses had never been broken. Slowly,
but surely, the liquid decreased, till only a few drops remained. The
time had come, then! She finished it, drew her scanty shawl closer about
her shoulders, and went out again into the London night.

Only half-past eleven, and the streets filled with people. Lower down,
in Wellington Street, the theatre-goers were pouring out of the Lyceum.
The portico was one dazzling blaze of beauty and color; men in evening
dress, and dainty ladies waiting for their luxurious carriages. The
outcast wandered on, wondering vaguely whether there was any sorrow, any
ruin, any disgrace, remorse, or dishonor in the brilliant crowd, and so
she drifted into the Strand, heedlessly and aimlessly. Along the great
street as far as St. Clement's Danes, unnoticed and unheeded, her feet
dragging painfully, she knew not where. Then back again to watch the
last few people leaving the Lyceum, and then unconsciously she turned
towards the river, down Wellington Street, to Waterloo Bridge. On that
Bridge of Sighs she stopped, waiting, had she but known it, for her

It was quiet there on that wet night--few foot-passengers about, and she
was quite alone as she stood in one of the buttresses, looking into the
shining flood beneath. Down the river, as far as her eye could reach,
were the golden points of light flickering and swaying in the
fast-rushing water. The lap of the tide on the soft oozing mud on the
Surrey side mingled almost pleasantly with the swirl and swish of the
churning waves under the bridge. The dull thud of the cabs and omnibuses
in the Strand came quietly and subdued; but she heard them not. The gas
lamps had changed to the light of day, the heavy winter sky was of the
purest blue, and the hoarse murmur of the distant Strand was the
rustling of the summer wind in the trees. The far-off voices of the
multitude softened and melted into the accents of one she used to love;
and this is what she saw like a silent picture, the memories ringing in
her head like the loud sea a child hears in a shell. A long old house of
grey stone, with a green veranda covered with ivy and flowering
creepers; a rambling lawn, sloping away to a tiny lake, all golden with
yellow iris and water-lilies. In the centre of the lawn, a statue of
Niobe; and seated by that statue was herself, and with her a girl some
few years younger--a girl with golden hair surrounding an oval face,
fair as the face of an angel, and lighted by truthful velvety violet
eyes. This was the picture mirrored in the swift water. She climbed the
parapet, looked, steadily around: the lovely face in the water was so
near, and she longed to hear the beautiful vision speak. And lo! at that
moment the voice of her darling spoke, and a hand was laid about her
waist, and the voice said: 'Not that way, I implore you--not that way.'

The woman paused, slowly regained her position on the bridge, and gazed
into the face of her companion with dilated eyes. But the other girl had
her back to the light, and she could not see.

'A voice from the grave. Have I been dreaming?' she said, passing her
hand wearily across her brow.

'A voice of providence. Can you have reflected on what you were doing?
Another moment, and think of it--oh, think of it!'

'A voice from the grave,' repeated the would-be suicide slowly. 'Surely
this must be a good omen. Her voice!--how like her voice.'

The rescuing angel paused a minute, struggling with a dim memory. Where
had she in her turn heard that voice before? With a sudden impulse, they
seized each other, and bore towards the nearest gaslight, and there
gazed intently in each other's face. The guardian angel looked a look of
glad surprise; the pale face of the hapless woman was glorified, as she
seized her rescuer round her neck and sobbed on her breast piteously.

'Nelly, Miss Nelly, my darling; don't you know me?'

'Madge, why Madge! O Madge! to think of it--to think of it.'

Presently they grew calmer. The girl called Nelly placed the other
woman's arm within her own and walked quietly away from the hated
bridge; and, thoroughly conquered, the hapless one accompanied her. No
word was spoken as they walked on for a mile or so, across the Strand,
towards Holborn, and there disappeared.

The night-traffic of London went on. The great thoroughfares plied their
business, unheedful of tragedy and sorrow. A life had been saved; but
what is one unit in the greatest city in the universe? The hand of fate
was in it. It was only one of those airy trifles of which life is
composed, and yet the one minute that saved a life, unravelled the first
tiny thread of a tangled skein that bound up a great wrong.


Two years earlier. It was afternoon, and the sun, climbing over the
house, shone into a sick-room at Eastwood--a comfortable, cheerful, old
room; from floor to ceiling was panelled oak, and the walls decorated
with artist proofs of famous pictures. The two large mullioned windows
were open to the summer air, and from the outside came the delicate
scent of mignonette and heliotrope in the tiled jardinieres on the
ledges. The soft Persian carpet of pale blue deadened the sound of
footsteps; rugs of various harmonious hues were scattered about; and the
articles of virtu and costly bric-a-brac were more suitable to a
drawing-room than a bed-chamber.

On the bed reclined the figure of a man, evidently in the last stage of
consumption. His cheek was flushed and feverish, and his fine blue eyes
were unnaturally bright with the disease which was sapping his vital
energy. An old man undoubtedly, in spite of his large frame and finely
moulded chest, which, though hollow and wasted, showed signs of a
powerful physique at some remote period. His forehead was high and broad
and powerful; his features finely chiselled; but the mouth, though
benevolent-looking, was shifty and uneasy. He looked like a kind man and
a good friend; but his face was haunted by a constant fear. With a
pencil, he was engaged in tracing some characters on a sheet of paper;
and ever and anon, at the slightest movement, even the trembling of a
leaf, he looked up in agitation. The task was no light one, for his hand
trembled, and his breath came and went with what was to him a violent
exertion. Slowly and painfully the work went on; and as it approached
completion, a smile of satisfaction shot across his sensitive mouth, at
the same time a look of remorseful sorrow filled his whole face. It was
only a few words on a piece of paper he was writing, but he seemed to
realise the importance of his work. It was only a farewell letter; but
in these few valedictory lines the happiness of two young lives were
bound up. At last the task was finished, and he lay back with an air of
great content.

At that moment, a woman entered the room. The sick man hid the paper
hastily beneath the pillow with a look of fear on his face, pitiable to
see. But the woman who entered did not look capable of inspiring any
such sentiment. She was young and pretty, a trifle vain, perhaps, of her
good looks and attractive appearance, but the model of what a
'neat-handed Phillis' should be.

Directly the dying man saw her, his expression changed to one of intense
eagerness. Beckoning her to come close to him, he drew her head close to
his face and said: 'She is not about, is she? Do you think she can hear
what I am saying? Sometimes I fancy she hears my very thoughts.'

'No, sir,' replied the maid. 'Miss Wakefield is not in the house just
now; she has gone into the village.'

'Very good. Listen, and answer me truly. Do you ever hear from--from
Nelly now? Poor child, poor child!'

The woman's face changed from one of interest to that of shame and
remorse. She looked into the old man's face, and then burst into a fit
of hot passionate tears.

'Hush, hush!' he cried, terrified by her vehemence. 'For God's sake,
stop, or it will be too late, too late!'

'O sir, I must tell you,' sobbed the contrite woman, burying her face in
the bedclothes. 'Letters came from Miss Nelly to you, time after time;
but I destroyed them all.'

'Why?' The voice was stern, and the girl looked up affrighted.

'O sir, forgive me. Surely you know. Is it possible to get an order from
Miss Wakefield, and not obey? Indeed, I have tried to speak, but I was
afraid to do anything. Even you, sir----'

'Ah,' said the invalid, with a sigh of ineffable sadness, 'I know how
hard it is. The influence she has over one is wonderful, wonderful. But
I am forgetting. Margaret Boulton, look me in the face. Do you love Miss
Nelly as you used to do, and would you do something for her if I asked

'God be my witness, I would, sir,' replied the girl solemnly.

'Do you know where she is?'

'Alas, no. It is a year since we heard.--But master, if you ask me to
give her a letter or a paper, I will do so, if I have to beg my way to
London to find her. I have been punished for not speaking out before.
Indeed, indeed, sir, you may trust me.'

He looked into her face with a deep unfathomable glance for some
moments; but the girl returned his gaze as steadily.

'I think I can,' he said at length. 'Now, repeat after me: "I swear that
the paper intrusted to my care shall be delivered to the person for whom
it is intended; and that I will never part with it until it is safely
and securely delivered."'

The woman repeated the words with simple solemnity.

'Now,' he said, at the same time producing the paper he had written with
such pain and care, 'I deliver this into your hands, and may heaven
bless and prosper your undertaking. Take great care, for it contains a
precious secret, and never part with it while life remains.'

The paper was a curious-looking document enough, folded small, but
bearing nothing outside to betray the secret it contained. We shall see
in the future how it fared.

The girl glanced at the folded paper, and thrust it rapidly in her
bosom. A smile of peace and tranquility passed over the dying man's
face, and he gave her a look of intense gratitude. At this moment
another woman entered the room. She was tall and thin, with a face of
grave determination, and a mouth and chin denoting a firmness amounting
to cruelty. There was a dangerous light in her basilisk eyes at this
moment, as she gave the servant a glance of intense hate and malice--a
look which seemed to search out the bottom of her soul.

'Margaret, what are you doing here? Leave the room a once. How often
have I told you never to come in here.'

Margaret left; and the woman with the snaky eyes busied herself silently
about the sick-room. The dying man watched her in a dazed fascinated
manner, as a bird turns to watch the motions of a serpent; and he
shivered as he noticed the feline way in which she moistened her thin
lips. He tried to turn his eyes away, but failed. Then, as if conscious
of his feelings, the woman said: 'Well, do you hate me worse than usual

'You know I never hated you, Selina,' he replied wearily.

'Yes you do,' she answered, with a sullen glowering triumph in her eyes.
'You do hate me for the influence I have over you. You hate me because
you dare not hate me. You hate me because I parted you from your
beggar's brat, and trained you to behave as a man should.'

Perfectly cowed, he watched her moistening her thin lips, till his eyes
could no longer see. Presently he felt a change creeping over him; his
breath came shorter and shorter; and his chest heaved spasmodically.
With one last effort he raised himself up in his bed. 'Selina,' he said
painfully, 'let me alone; oh, let me alone!'

'Too late,' she replied, not caring to disguise her triumphant tone.

He lay back with the dews of death clustering on his forehead. Suddenly,
out of the gathering darkness grew perfect dazzling light; his lips
moved; the words 'Nelly forgive!' were audible like a whispered sigh. He
was dead.

The dark woman bent over him, placing her ear to his heart; but no sound
came. 'Mine!' she said--'mine, mine! At last, all mine!'

The thin webs of fate's weaving were in her hands securely--all save
one. It was not worth the holding, so it floated down life's stream,
gathering as it went.


Mr Carver of Bedford Row, in the county of Middlesex, was exercised in
his mind; and the most annoying part of it was that he was so exercised
at his own trouble and expense; that is to say, he was not elucidating
some knotty legal point at the charge of a client, but he was
speculating over one of the most extraordinary events that had ever
happened to him in the whole course of his long and honorable career.
The matter stood briefly thus: His client, Charles Morton, of Eastwood,
Somersetshire, died on the 9th of April in the year of grace 1882. On
the 1st of May, 1880, Mr Carver had made the gentleman's will, which
left all his possessions, to the amount of some forty thousand pounds,
to his niece, Eleanor Attewood. Six months later, Mr Morton's
half-sister, Miss Wakefield, took up her residence at Eastwood, and from
that time everything had changed. Eleanor had married the son of a
clergyman in the neighborhood, and at the instigation of his
half-sister, Mr Morton had disinherited his niece; and one year before
he died, had made a fresh will, leaving everything to Miss Wakefield. Mr
Carver, be it remarked, strongly objected to this injustice, seeing the
baneful influence which had brought it about; and had he been able to
find Eleanor, he hoped to alter the unjust state of things. But she
disappeared with her husband, and left no trace behind; so the obnoxious
will was proved.

Then came the most extraordinary part of the affair. With the exception
of a few hundreds in the bank at Eastwood, for household purposes, not a
single penny of Mr Morton's money could be found. All his property was
mortgaged to a high amount; all his securities were disposed of, and not
one penny could be traced. The mortgages on the property were properly
drawn up by a highly respectable solicitor at Eastwood, the money
advanced by a man of undoubted probity; and, further, the money had been
paid over to Mr Morton one day early in the year 1882. Advertisements
were inserted in the papers, in fact everything was done to trace the
missing money, but in vain. All Miss Wakefield had for her pains and
trouble was a poor sum of about eleven hundred pounds, so she had to
retire again to her genteel poverty in a cheap London boarding-house.

This melancholy fact did not give Mr Carver any particular sorrow; he
disliked that lady, and was especially glad that her deep cunning and
underhand ways had frustrated themselves. In all probability, he
thought, Mr Morton had in a fit of suspicion got hold of all his ready
cash and securities, for the purpose of balking the fair lady whom he
had made his heiress; but nevertheless the affair was puzzling, and Mr
Carver hated to be puzzled.

Mr Carver stood at his office in Bedford Row, drumming his fingers on
the grimy window-panes and softly whistling. Nothing was heard in the
office but the scratch of the confidential clerk's quill pen as he
scribbled out a draft for his employer's inspection.

'This is a very queer case, Bates, very queer,' said Mr Carver,
addressing his clerk.

'Yes, sir,' replied Mr Bates, continuing the scratching. That gentleman
possessed the instinct of always being able to divine what his chief was
thinking of. Therefore, when Mr Bates said 'Yes, sir,' he knew that the
Eastwood mystery had been alluded to.

'I'd most cheerfully give--let me see, what would I give? Well, I
wouldn't mind paying down my cheque for'----

'One thousand pounds, sir. No, sir; I don't think you would.'

'You're a wonderful fellow, Bates,' said his admiring master. ''Pon my
honor, Bates, that's the exact sum I was going to mention.'

'It is strange, sir,' said the imperturbable Bates, 'that you and I
always think the same things. I suppose it is being with you so long.
Now, if I was to think you would give me a partnership, perhaps you
would think the same thing too.'

'Bates,' said Mr Carver earnestly, never smiling, as was his wont, at
his clerk's quiet badinage, 'if we unravel this mystery, as I hope we
may, I'll tell you what, Bates, don't be surprised if I give you a

''Ah, sir, if we unravel it. Now, if we could only find'----

'Miss Eleanor. Just what I was thinking.'

At this moment a grimy clerk put his head in at the door.

'Please, sir, a young person of the name of Seaton.'

'It is Miss Eleanor, by Jove!' said Bates, actually excited.

'Wonderful!' said Mr Carver.

In a few seconds the lady was ushered into the presence of Mr Carver.
She was tall and fair, with a style of beauty uncommon to the people of
to-day. Clad from head to foot in plain black, hat, jacket, and dress
cut with a simplicity almost severe, and relieved only by a white collar
at the throat, there was something in her air and bearing which spoke of
a culture and breeding not easily defined in words, but nevertheless
unmistakable. It was a face and figure that men would look at and turn
again to watch, even in the busy street. Her complexion was almost
painfully perfect in its clear pallid whiteness, and the large dark
lustrous eyes shone out from the marble face with dazzling brightness.
She had a perfect abundance of real golden hair, looped up in a great
knot behind; but the rebellious straying tresses fell over her broad low
forehead like an aureole round the head of a saint.

'Don't you know me, Mr Carver?' she said at length.

'My dear Eleanor, my dear Eleanor, do sit down!' This was the person
whom he had been longing for two years to see, and Mr Carver, cool as he
was, was rather knocked off his balance for a moment.

'Poor child! Why, why didn't you come and see me before?'

'Pride, Mr Carver--pride,' she replied, with a painful air of assumed

'But surely pride did not prevent your coming to see your old friend?'

'Indeed, it did, Mr Carver. You would not have me part with one of my
few possessions?'

'Nonsense, nonsense!' said the lawyer, with assumed severity. 'Now, sit
down there, and tell me everything you have done for the last two

'It is soon told. When my uncle--poor deluded man--turned me, as he did,
out of his house on account of my marriage, something had to be done; so
we came to London. For two years my husband has been trying to earn a
living by literature. Far better had he stayed in the country and taken
to breaking stones or working in the fields. It is a bitter life, Mr
Carver. The man who wants to achieve fortune that way must have a stout
heart; he must be devoid of pride and callous to failure. If I had all
the eloquence of a Dickens at my tongue's end, I could not sum up two
years' degradation and bitter miserable poverty and disappointment
better than in the few words, "Trying to live by literature,"--However,
it is useless to struggle against it any longer. Mr Carver, sorely
against my inclination, I have come to you to help us.'

'My dear child, you hurt me,' said Mr Carver huskily, 'you hurt me; you
do indeed. For two years I have been searching for you everywhere. You
have only to ask me, and you know anything I can I will do.'

'God bless you,' replied Eleanor, with the gathering tears thick in her
eyes. 'I know you will. I knew that when I came here. How can I thank

'Don't do anything of the sort; I don't want any thanks. But before you
go, I will do something for you. Now, listen to me. Before your uncle

'Died! Is he dead?'

'How stupid of me. I didn't know'----

Mr Carver stopped abruptly, and paused till the natural emotions called
forth in the young lady's mind had had time to expend themselves. She
then asked when the event had happened.

'Two years ago,' said Mr Carver. 'And now, tell me--since you last saw
him, had you any word or communication from him in any shape or form?
Any letter or message?'

Eleanor shook her head, half sadly, half scornfully.

'You don't seem to know Miss Wakefield,' she said. 'No message was
likely to reach me, while she remained at Eastwood.'

'No; I suppose not. So you have heard nothing? Very good. Now, a most
wonderful thing has happened. When your uncle died and his will came to
be read, he had left everything to Miss Wakefield. No reason to tell you
that, I suppose? Now comes the strangest part of the story. With the
exception of a few hundreds in the local bank, not a penny can be found.
All the property has been mortgaged to the uttermost farthing; all the
stock is sold out; and, in fact, nothing is left but Eastwood, which, as
you know, is a small place, and not worth much. We have been searching
for two years, and not a trace can we find.'

'Perhaps Miss Wakefield is hiding the plunder away,' Eleanor suggested
with some indifference.

'Impossible,' eagerly exclaimed Mr Carver--'impossible. What object
could she have in doing so? The money was clearly left to her; and it is
not likely that a woman so fond of show would deliberately choose to
spend her life in a dingy lodging-house.'

'And Eastwood?'

'Is empty. It will not let, neither can we sell it.'

'So Miss Wakefield is no better off than she was four years ago!'
Eleanor said calmly. 'Come, Mr Carver, that is good news, at any rate.
It almost reconciles me to my position.'

'Nelly, I wish you would not speak so,' said Mr Carver seriously. 'It
hurts me. You were not so hard at one time.'

'Forgive me, my dear old friend,' she replied simply. 'Only consider
what a life we have been living for the past two years, and you will

'And your husband?'

'Killing himself,' she said; 'wearing out body and soul in one long
struggle for existence. It hurts me to see him. Always hoping, and
always working, always smiling and cheerful before me; and ever the best
of men and husband. Dear friend, if you knew what he is to me, and saw
him as I do day after day, literally wearing out, you would consider my
hardness pardonable. I am rebellious, you know.''

'No, no,' said Mr Carver, a suspicious gleam behind his spectacles; 'I
can understand it. The only thing I blame you for is that you did not
come to me before. You know what a lonely old bachelor I am, and--how
rich I am. It would have been a positive kindness of you to come and see
me.--Now, listen. On Sunday, you and your husband must come and dine
with me. You know the old Russell Square address?'

'God bless you for a true friend!' said Eleanor, her tears flowing
freely now. 'We will come; and I may bring my little girl with me?'

'Eh, what?' replied the lawyer--'little girl? Of course, of course! Then
we will talk over old times, and see what can be done to make those
cheeks look a little like they used to do.--So you have got a little
girl, have you? Dear, dear, how the time goes!--Now, tell me candidly,
do you want any assistance--any, ah--that is--a little--in short,

Eleanor colored to the roots of her hair, and was about to reply
hastily, but said nothing.

'Yes, yes,' said Mr Carver rapidly.--'I think, Bates'----

But Mr Bates already had his hand on the cheque-book, and commenced to
fill in the date. Mr Carver gave him a look of approbation, and flashed
him a sign with his fingers signifying the amount.

'I suppose you have some friends?' he continued hastily, to cover
Eleanor's confusion. 'It's a poor world that won't stand one good

'Yes, we have one,' replied Eleanor, her face lighting up with a tender
glow--'a good friend. You have heard of Jasper Felix the author? He is
far the best friend we have.'

'Heard of Felix! I should think I have. Read every one of his books. I
am glad to hear of his befriending you. I knew the man who writes as he
does must have a noble heart.'

'He has. What we should have done without his assistance, I shudder to
contemplate. I honestly believe that not one of my husband's literary
efforts would have been accepted, had it not been for him.'

'I can't help thinking, Nelly, that there is a providence in these
things, and I feel that better days are in store for you. Anyway, it
won't be my fault if it is not so. I have a presentiment that things
will come out all right in the end, and I fancy that your uncle's
fortune his hidden away somewhere; and if it is hidden away, it must be,
I cannot help thinking, for your benefit.'

'Don't count upon it, Mr Carver,' said Eleanor calmly. 'I look upon the
money as gone.'

'Nonsense!' said the gentleman cheerfully; 'while there is life there is
hope. I begin to feel that I am playing a leading character in a
romance; I do, indeed! Firstly, your uncle dies, and his fortune is
lost; secondly, you disappear; and at the very moment I am
longing--literally longing--to see you, you turn up. Now, all that
remains is to find the hidden treasure, and to be happy ever afterwards,
like the people in a fairy tale.'

'Always enthusiastic,' laughed Eleanor. 'All we have to do is to
discover a mystic clue to a buried chest of diamonds, only we lack the

''Pon my word, my dear, do you know I really think you have hit it?'
replied Mr Carver with great solemnity. 'Now, at the time you left
Eastwood, your companion Margaret was in the house; and after your
uncle's death, she disappeared. From a little hint Miss Wakefield
dropped to me, your old friend was in the sick-room alone with your
uncle the day he died.'

'Alone? and then disappeared,' said Eleanor, all trace of apathy gone,
and her eyes shining with interest.

'Alone. Now, if we could only find Margaret Boulton'----

Eleanor rose from her seat, and approached Mr Carver slowly. Then she
said calmly: 'There is no difficulty about that; she is at my house now.
I found her only last night on Waterloo Bridge--in fact, I saved her.'

'Saved her? Didn't I say there was a providence in it? Saved her?'

'From suicide!'

A quarter of an hour later, Eleanor was standing outside Mr Carver's
office, evidently seeking a companion. From the bright flush on her face
and the sparkle in her eyes, hope--and a strong hope--had revived. She
stood there, quite unconscious of the admiration of passers-by, sweeping
the street in search of her quest. Presently the object she was seeking
came in view. He was a tall man, of slight figure, with blue eyes deeply
sunk in a face far from handsome, but full of intellectual power and
great character; a heavy, carelessly trimmed moustache hid a sensitive
mouth, but did not disguise a bright smile. That face and figure was a
famous one in London, and people there turned in the busy street to
watch Jasper Felix, and admire his rugged powerful face and gaunt
figure. He came swinging down the street now with firm elastic step, and
treated Eleanor to one of his brightest smiles.

'Did you think I had forgotten you?' he said. 'I have been prowling
about Gray's Inn Road, for, sooth to say, the air of Bedford Row does
not agree with me.'

'I hope I have not detained you,' said Eleanor timidly; 'I know how
valuable your time is to you.'

'My dear child, don't mention it,' replied the great novelist lightly;
'my time has been well occupied. First, I have been watching a fight
between two paviors. Do you know it is quite extraordinary how those
powerful men can knock each other about without doing much harm. Then I
have been having a long chat with an intellectual chimney-sweep--a
clever man, but a great Radical. I have spent quite an enjoyable

'A half-hour! Have I been so long? Mr Felix, I am quite horrified at
having taken up so much of your time.'

'Awful, isn't it,' he laughed lightly. 'Well, you won't detain me much
longer, for here you are close at home.--Now, I will just run into Fleet
Street on my own business, and try and sell this little paper of your
husband's at the same time. I'll call in this afternoon; only, mind, you
must look as happy as you do now.'

Jasper Felix made his way through a court into Holborn, and along that
busy thoroughfare till he turned down Chancery Lane. Crossing the street
by the famous Griffin, he disappeared in one of the interminable courts
leading out of Samuel Johnson's favorite promenade, Fleet Street. The
object of his journey was here. On the door-plate was the inscription,
'The Midas Magazine,' and beneath the legend, 'First Floor.'.. Ascending
the dingy stair, he stopped opposite a door on which, in white letters,
was written the word 'Editor.' At this door he knocked. Without pausing
for a reply, he pushed open the door.

'How, de do, Simpson?' said Mr Felix, with a look of amusement in his
blue eyes.

'Glad to see you, Felix,' said the editor of the Midas cordially. 'I
thought you had forgotten us. I hope you have something for our journal
in your pocket.'

'I have something in my pocket to show you,' answered Felix, 'and I
think you will appreciate it.'

'Is it something of your own?' queried the man of letters.

'No, it is not; and, what is more, I doubt if I could write anything so
good myself. I know when you have seen it, you will accept it.'

'Um! I don't know,' replied the editor dubiously. 'You see, I am simply
inundated with amateur efforts. Of course, sometimes I get something
good; but usually----Now, if the matter in discussion was a manuscript
of your own----'

'Now, seriously, Simpson, what do you care for me or anything of mine?
It is the name you want, not the work. You know well enough what sells
magazines of the Midas type. It is not so much the literary matter as
the name. The announcement that the next month's Midas will contain the
opening chapters of a new serial by someone with a name, is quite
sufficient to increase your circulation by hundreds.'

''Pon my honor, you're very candid,' rejoined Mr Simpson. 'But what is
this wonderful production you have?'

'Well, I'll leave it with you. You need not trouble to read it, because,
if you don't take it, I know who will.'

'What do you want for this triumph of genius?'

'Well, in a word, ten pounds. Take it or leave it.'

'If you say it is worth it, I suppose I must oblige you.'

'That is a good way of putting it; and it will oblige me. But mark
me--this man will some day confer favors by writing for you, instead of,
as you regard it at present, favoring him.'

The proprietor of the Midas sighed gently. The idea of paying over ten
pounds to an unknown contributor was not nice; but the fact of offending
Felix was worse.

'If,' said he, harping on the old string, and shaking his head with a
gentle deprecating motion--'if it was one of yours now'----

'What confounded nonsense you talk!' exclaimed Felix impatiently.

'Don't get wild, Felix,' replied Mr Simpson soothingly. 'I will take
your protege's offering, to oblige you.'

'But I don't want you to oblige me. I want you to accept--and pay
for--an article good enough for anything. It is a fair transaction; and
if there is any favor about it, then it certainly is not on your side.'

Mr Simpson showed his white teeth in a dazzling smile. 'Well, Felix, I
do admire your assurance,' he said softly. 'I never heard the matter put
in that light before. My contributors, as a rule, don't point their
manuscript at my head metaphorically, and demand speedy insertion and
prompt pay.--Do you want a cheque for this manuscript now?'

'Yes, you may as well give me the cash now.'

Mr Simpson drew a cheque for the desired amount, and passed it over to
Felix, who folded the pink slip, and placed it in his pocket; whereupon
the conversation drifted into other channels.


Queen Square, Bloomsbury, is a neighbourhood which by no means accords
with the expectation evoked by its high-sounding patronymic. It is,
besides, somewhat difficult to to find, and when discovered, it has a
guilty-looking air of having been playing hide-and-seek with its most
aristocratic neighbors, Russell and Bloomsbury, and lost itself. Before
Southampton Row was the stately thoroughfare it is now, Queen Square
must have been a parasite of Russell Square; but in time it seems to
have been built out. You stumble upon it suddenly, in making a short-cut
from Southampton Row to Bedford Row, and wonder how it got there. It is
quiet, decayed--in a word, shabby-genteel--and cheap.

On the south side, sheltered by two sad-looking trees of a nondescript
character, and fronted by an imposing-looking portico, is a
decayed-looking house, the stucco of which bears strong likeness to the
outside of Stilton cheese. The windows are none too clean, and the
blinds and curtains are all deeply tinged with London fog and London
smoke. For the information of the metropolis at large, the door bears a
tarnished brass plate announcing that it is the habitation of Mrs
Whipple; and furthermore--from the same source--the inquiring mind is
further enlightened with the fact that Mrs Whipple is a dressmaker. A
few fly-blown prints of fashions, of a startling description and
impossible colour, support this fact; and information is further added
by the announcement that the artiste within lets apartments; for the
legend is inscribed, in runaway letters, on the back of an old showcard
which is suspended in one of the ground-floor windows.

From the general tout ensemble of the Whipple mansion, the most
casual-minded individual on lodgings bent can easily judge of its
cheapness. The 'ground-floor'--be it whispered in the strictest
confidence--pays twenty-five shillings per week; the honoured
'drawing-rooms,' two pounds; and the slighted 'second-floors,' what the
estimable Whipple denominates 'a matter of fifteen shillings.' It is
with the second-floors that our business lies.

The room was large, and furnished with an eye to economy. The carpet was
of no particular pattern, having long since been worn down to the
thread; and the household goods consisted of five chairs and a couch
covered by that peculiar-looking horsehair, which might, from its
hardness and capacity for wear, be woven steel. A misty-looking glass,
in a maple frame, and a chimney-board decked with two blue-and-green
shepherdesses of an impossible period, completed the garniture. In the
centre of the room was a round oak table with spidery uncertain legs,
and at the table sat a young man writing. He was young, apparently not
more than thirty, but the unmistakable shadow of care lay on his face.
His dress was suggestive of one who had been somewhat dandyish in time
gone by, but who had latterly ceased to trouble about appearances or
neatness. For a time he continued steadily at his work, watched intently
by a little child who sat coiled up in the hard-looking armchair, and
waiting with exemplary patience for the worker to quit his employment.
As he worked on, the child became visibly interested as the page
approached completion, and at last, with a weary sigh, he finished,
pushed his work from him, and turned with a bright smile to the patient
little one.

'You've been a very good little girl, Nelly.--Now, what is it you have
so particularly to say to me?' he said.

'Is it a tale you are writing, papa?' she asked.

'Yes, darling; but not the sort of tale to interest you.'

'I like all your tales, papa. Uncle Jasper told mamma they were all so
"liginal." I like liginal tales.'

'I suppose you mean original, darling?'

'I said liginal,' persisted the little one, with childish gravity. 'Are
you going to sell that one, papa? I hope you will; I want a new dolly so
badly. My old dolly is getting quite shabby.'

'Some day you shall have plenty.'

The child looked up in his face solemnly. 'Really, papa? But do you
know, pa, that some day seems such a long way off? How old am I, papa?'

'Very, very old, Nelly,' he replied with a little laugh. 'Not quite so
old as I am, but very old.'

'Yes, papa? Then do you know, ever since I can remember, that some day
has been coming. Will it come this week?'

'I don't know, darling. It may come any time. It may come to-day;
perhaps it is on the way now.'

'I don't know, papa,' replied the little one, shaking her head solemnly.
'It is an awful while coming. I prayed so hard last night for it to
come, after mamma put me in bed. What makes mamma cry when she puts me
to bed? Is she crying for some day?'

'Oh, that's all your fancy, little one,' replied the father huskily.
'Mamma does not cry. You must be mistaken.

'No, indeed, papa; I'se not mistook. One day I heard mamma sing about
some day, and then she cried--she made my face quite wet.'

'Hush, Nelly; don't talk like that, darling.'

'But she did,' persisted the little one. 'Do you ever cry, papa?'

'Look at that little sparrow, Nelly. Does he not look hungry, poor
little fellow? He wants to come in the room to you.'

'I dess he's waiting for some day papa,' said the child, looking out at
the dingy London sparrow perched on the window ledge. 'He looks so
patient. I wonder if he's hungry? I am, papa.'

The father looked at his little one with passionate tenderness. 'Wait
till mamma comes, my darling.'

'All right, papa; but I am so hungry!--Oh, here is mamma. Doesn't she
look nice, papa, and so happy?'

When Eleanor entered the dingy room, her husband could not fail to
notice the flush of hope and happiness on her face. He looked at her
with expectation in his eyes.

'Did you think mother was never coming, Nelly? and do you want your
dinner, my child?'

'You do look nice, ma,' said the child admiringly. 'You look as if you
had found some day.'

Eleanor looked inquiringly at her husband, for him to explain the little
one's meaning.

'Nelly and I have been having a metaphysical discussion,' he said with
playful gravity. 'We have been discussing the virtues of the future. She
is wishing for that impossible some day that people always expect.'

'I don't think she will be disappointed,' said Mrs Seaton, with a fond
little smile at her child. 'I believe I have found it.--Edgar, I have
been to see Mr Carver.'

'I supposed it would have come to that. And he, I suppose, has been
poisoned by the sorceress, and refused to see you?'

'O no,' said Eleanor playfully. 'We had quite a long chat--in fact, he
asked us all to dinner on Sunday.'

'Wonderful! And he gave you a lot of good advice on the virtues of
economy, and his blessing at parting.'

'No,' she said; 'he must have forgotten that: he gave me this envelope
for you with his compliments and best wishes.'

Edgar Seaton took the proffered envelope listlessly, and opened it with
careless fingers. But as soon as he saw the shape of the enclosure, his
expression changed to one of eagerness. 'Why, it is a cheque?' he
exclaimed excitedly.

'O no,' said his wife, laughingly; 'it is only the blessing.'

'Well, it is a blessing in disguise,' Seaton said, his voice trembling
with emotion. 'It is a cheque for twenty-five pounds.--Nelly, God has
been very good to us to-day.'

'Yes, dear,' said his wife simply, with tears in her eyes.

Little Nelly looked from one to the other in puzzled suspense, scarcely
knowing whether to laugh or cry. Even her childish instinct discovered
the gravity of the situation.

'Papa, has some day come? You look so happy.'

He caught her up in his arms and kissed her lovingly, and held her in
one arm, while he passed the other round his wife. 'Yes, darling. Your
prayer has been answered. Some day--God be thanked--has come at last.'
For a moment no one spoke, for the hearts of husband and wife were full
of quiet thankfulness. What a little it takes to make poor humanity
happy, and fill up the cup of pleasure to the brim!

Round the merry dinner-table all was bright and cheerful, and it is no
exaggeration to say the board groaned under the profuse spread. Eleanor
lost no time in acquainting her husband with the strange story of her
uncle's property, and Mr Carver's views on the subject--a view of the
situation which he felt almost inclined to share after a little
consideration. It was extremely likely, he thought, that Margaret
Boulton would be able to throw some light on the subject; indeed the
fact of her strange rescue from her self-imposed fate pointed almost to
a providential interference. It was known that she had a long
conversation with Mr Morton the day he died, a circumstance which seemed
to have given Miss Wakefield great uneasiness; and her strange
disappearance from Eastwood directly after the funeral gave some
coloring to the fact.

Margaret Boulton had not risen that day owing to a severe cold caught by
her exposure to the rain on the previous night; and Edgar and his wife
decided, directly she did so, to question her upon the matter. It would
be very strange if she could not give some clue.

'I think, Nelly, we had better take Felix into our confidence,' said
Edgar, when the remains of dinner had disappeared in company with the
grimy domestic. 'He will be sure to be of some assistance to us; and the
more brains we have the better.'

'Certainly, dear,' she acquiesced; 'he should know at once.'

'I think I will walk to his rooms this afternoon.'

'No occasion,' said a cheerful voice at that moment. 'Mr Felix is here
very much at your service. I've got some good news for you; and I am
sure, from your faces, you can return the compliment.'


Mr Felix was much struck by the tale he heard, and was inclined, in
spite of the dictates of common-sense, to follow the Will-o'-the-wisp
which grave Mr Carver had discovered. In a prosaic age, such a thing as
the disappearance of a respectable Englishman's wealth was on the face
of it startling enough; and therefore, although the thread was at
present extremely intangible, he felt there must be something romantic
about the matter. Mr Felix, be it remembered, was a man of sense; but he
was a dreamer of dreams, and a weaver of romance by profession and
choice; consequently, he was inclined to pooh-pooh Edgar's
half-deprecating, half-enthusiastic view of the case.

'I do not think you are altogether right, Seaton, in treating this
affair so cavalierly,' he said. 'In the first place, Miss Wakefield is
no relation in blood to your wife's uncle. If the property was in her
hands, I should feel myself justified in taking steps to have the
existing will set aside; but so long as there is nothing worth doing
battle for, it is not worth while, unless Miss Wakefield has the money,
and is afraid of proceedings----'

'That is almost impossible,' Eleanor interrupted. 'You have really no
conception how fond she is of show and display, and I know no such fear
would prevent her indulging her fancy, if she had the means to do so.'

'So long as you are really persuaded that is the case, we have one
difficulty out of the way,' Felix continued. 'Then we can take it for
granted that she neither has the money nor has the slightest idea where
it is.--Now, tell me about this Margaret Boulton.'

'That is soon told,' Eleanor replied. 'Last night, shortly after eleven,
I was crossing Waterloo Bridge----'

'Bad neighborhood for a lady to be alone,' interrupted Felix, with a
reproachful glance at Seaton.--'I beg your pardon. Go on, please.'

'I had missed my husband at Waterloo Station, and I was hurrying home as
quickly as I could----'

'Why did you not take a cab?' exclaimed Felix with some asperity. Then
seeing Eleanor color, he said hastily: 'What a dolt I am! I--I am very
sorry. Please, go on.'

'As I was saying,' continued Eleanor, 'just as I was crossing the
bridge, I saw a woman close by me climb on to one of the buttresses. I
don't remember much about it, for it was over in less than a minute, and
seems like a dream now; but it was my old nurse, or rather companion,
Margaret Boulton, strange as it seems. Now, you know quite as much as I
can tell you.'

Felix mused for a time over this strange history. He could not shake off
the feeling that it was more than a mere coincidence. 'Seriously,' he
said, 'I feel something will come of this.'

'I hope so,' answered Eleanor with a little sigh. 'Things certainly look
a little better now than they did; but we need some permanent benefit

'I thought some day had come, mamma,' piped little Nelly from her nest
on the hearthrug.

'Little pitchers have long ears,' said the novelist. 'Come and sit on
poor old Uncle Jasper's knee, Nelly, and give him a kiss.'

'Yes, I will, Uncle Jasper; but I'm not a little pitcher, and I've not
dot long ears--Mamma, are my ears long?'

'No, darling,' replied her mother with a smile. 'Uncle Felix was not
speaking of you.'

'Then I will sit upon his knee.' Whereupon she climbed up on to that
lofty perch, and proceeded to draw invidious distinctions between Mr
Felix' moustache and the hirsute appendage of her father, a mode of
criticism which gave the good-natured literary celebrity huge delight.

'Now,' continued Felix, when he had placed the little lady entirely to
her satisfaction--'now to resume. In the first place, I should
particularly like to see this Margaret Boulton to-day.'

'I do not quite agree with you, Mr Felix. It would be cruel, with her
nerves in such a state, to cross-examine her to-day,' Mrs Seaton said
with womanly consideration. 'You can have no idea what such a reaction

'Precisely,' said Felix grimly. 'Do you not see what I mean? Her nervous
system is particularly highly strung at present--the brain in a state of
violent activity, probably; and she is certain to be in a position to
remember the minutest detail, and may give us an apparently trivial
hint, which may turn out of the utmost importance.'

'Still, it seems the refinement of cruelty,' said Eleanor, her womanly
kindness getting the better of her curiosity. 'She is in a particularly
nervous state. Naturally, she is inclined to be morbidly religious, and
the mere thought of her attempted crime last night upsets her.'

'Yes, perhaps so,' Felix said; 'but I should like to see her now. We
cannot tell how important it may be to us.'

'I declare your enthusiasm is positively contagious,' laughed
Seaton,--'Really, Felix, I did not imagine you were so deeply imbued
with curiosity. My wife is bad enough, but you are positively girlish.'

'Indeed, sir, you belie me,' said Eleanor with mock-indignation. 'I am
moved by a little natural inquisitiveness; but I shall certainly not
permit that unfortunate girl to be annoyed for the purpose of gratifying
the whim of two grown-up children.'

'Mea culpa,' Felix replied humbly. 'But I should like to see the
interesting patient, if only for a few minutes.'

Eleanor laughed merrily at this persistent charge. 'Well, well,' she
said, 'I will go up to Margaret and ascertain if she is fit to see any
one just yet; but I warn you not to be disappointed, for she certainly
shall not be further excited.'

'I do not think the curiosity is all on our side,' Felix said, as
Eleanor was leaving the room.--'You are a fortunate man, Seaton, in
spite of your troubles,' he continued. 'A wife like yours must make
anxiety seem lighter.'

'Indeed, you are right,' Edgar answered earnestly. 'Many a time I have
felt like giving it up, and should have done so, if it had not been for

'Strange, too,' said Felix musingly, 'that she does not give one the
impression of being so brave and courageous. But you never can tell. I
have been making a study of humanity for twenty years, and I have been
often disappointed in my models. I have seen the weakest do the work of
the strongest. I have seen the strongest, on the other hand, go down
before the first breath of trouble. I have seen the most acid of them
all make the most angelic of wives.'

'I wonder you have never married, Felix.'

'Did I not tell you my model women have always been the first to
disappoint me?' he replied lightly. 'Besides, what woman could know
Jasper Felix and love him?'

'Your reputation alone----'

'Yes, my reputation--and my money,' Felix said bitterly. 'Twenty years
ago, when I was plain Jasper Felix, I did----But bah! I don't want to
discuss faded rose-leaves with you.--Let us change the subject. I have
some good news for you. In the first place, I have sold the article you
gave me.'

'Come, that is cheering. I suppose you managed to screw a guinea out of
one of your friends for me?'

'On the contrary, I sold it on its merits,' Felix replied, 'and ten
pounds the price.'

'Ten pounds! Am I dreaming, or am I a genius?'

'Neither; which is true, if not complimentary. There, is the cheque to
prove you are not dreaming; and as to the other thing, you have no
genius, but you have considerable talent.--But I have some further news
for you. I have had a note from the editor of Mayfair, to whom I showed
your work. Now, Baker of the Mayfair is about the finest judge of
literary capacity I know. He says he was particularly struck with your
descriptive writing; and if you like to undertake the work, he wants you
to visit the principal of the foreign gambling clubs in London, and work
up a series of gossiping articles for his paper. The work will not be
particularly pleasant; but you will have the entree of all these clubs,
and the golden key to get to the working part of the machinery. The
thing will be hard and somewhat hazardous; but it is a grand opportunity
of earning considerable kudos. Will you undertake it?'

'Undertake it!' said Seaton, springing to his feet. 'Will I not? Felix,
you have made a new man of me. Had it not been for you, I don't know
what would have become of us by this time. I cannot thank you in words,
but you know that I feel your kindness.'

'I do not see how this should not lead to something like fortune;
anyway, it means comfort and ease, if I do not mistake your capacity,'
said Felix, totally ignoring the other's gratitude. 'If I were in your
place, I should not tell my wife I was doing anything dangerous.'

'Poor child, how thankful she will be! But you are perfectly right as
regards the danger--not that I fear it particularly, though there is no
reason to make her anxious.'

'What mischief are you plotting?' said Eleanor, entering the room at
that moment. 'You look on particularly good terms with yourselves.'

'Good news, Nelly, good news! I have actually got permanent work to do.
You need not ask whose doing it is.'

'No, no,' said Felix modestly. 'It is your own capability you must
thank.--What about the patient?'

'I really must ask you to postpone your inquiry for the present,' she
replied; 'she is incapable of answering any questions just now. Indeed,
I am so uneasy, that I have sent for a doctor.'

'Indeed! Well, I suppose we must wait for the present.--And now, I must
tear myself away,' said Felix, as he rose and proceeded to button his
overcoat.--'Seaton, you must hold yourself in readiness for your work at
any moment.--No thanks, please,' as Eleanor was about to speak. 'Now, I
must go.--Good-night, little Nelly; don't forget to think of poor old
Uncle Jasper sometimes.'

'Good-night, Felix,' said Edgar with a hearty hand-shake. 'I won't thank
you; but you know how I feel.--Good-night, dear old boy!'


'How do you feel now, Margaret?'

'Nearly over, Miss Nelly. I shall die with the morning.'

A week later and the patient had got gradually worse. The constant
exposure, the hard life, and the weeks of semi-starvation, had told its
tale on the weak womanly frame. The exposure in the rain and cold on
that eventful night had hastened on the consumption which had long
settled in the delicate chest. All signs of mental exhaustion had passed
away, and the calm hopeful waiting frame of mind had succeeded. She was
waiting for death; not with any feeling of terror, but with hopefulness
and expectation.

Up to the present, Eleanor had not the heart to ask for any memento or
rememberance of the old life; but had nursed her patient with an
unceasing watchful care, which only a true woman is capable of. All that
day she had sat beside the bed, never moving, but noting, as hour after
hour passed steadily away, the gradual change from feverish restlessness
to quiet content, never speaking, or causing her patient to speak,
though she was longing for some word or sign. 'You have been very good
to me, Miss Nelly. Had it not been for you, where should I have been

'Hush, Margaret; don't speak like that. Remember, everything is forgiven
now. Where there is great temptation, there is much forgiveness.'

'I hope so, miss--I hope so. Some day, we shall all know.'

'Don't try to talk too much.'

For a while she lay back, her face, with its bright hectic flush, marked
out in painful contrast to the white pillow. Eleanor watched her with a
look of infinite pity and tenderness. The distant hum of busy Holborn
came with dull force into the room, and the heavy rain beat upon the
windows like a mournful dirge. The little American clock on the
mantel-shelf was the only sound, save the dry painful cough, which ever
and anon proceeded from the dying woman's lips. The night sped on; the
sullen roar of the distant traffic grew less and less; the wind dropped,
and the girl's hard breathing could be heard painfully and distinctly.
Presently, a change came over her face--a kind of bright, almost
unearthly intelligence.

'Are you in any pain, Madge?' Eleanor asked with pitying air.

'How much lighter it is!' said the dying girl. 'My head is quite clear
now, miss, and all the pain has gone.--Miss Nelly, I have been dreaming
of the old home. Do you remember how we used to sit by the old fountain
under the weeping-ash, and wonder what our fortunes would be? I little
thought it would come to this.--Tell me, miss, are you in--in want?'

'Not exactly, Madge; but the struggle is hard sometimes.'

'I thought so,' the dying girl continued. 'I would have helped you after
she came; but you know the power she had over your poor uncle, a power
that increased daily. She used to frighten me. I tremble now when I
think of her.'

'Don't think of her,' said Eleanor soothingly. 'Try and rest a little,
and not talk. It cannot be good for you.'

The sufferer smiled painfully, and a terrible fit of coughing shook her
frame. When she recovered, she continued: 'It is no use, Miss Nelly; all
the rest and all your kind nursing cannot save me now. I used to wonder,
when you left Eastwood so suddenly, why you did not take me; but now I
know it is all for the best. Until the very last, I stayed in the

'And did not my uncle give you any message, any letter for me?' asked
Eleanor, with an eagerness she could not conceal.

'I am coming to that. The day he died, I was in his room, for she was
away, and he asked me if I ever heard from you. I knew you had written
letters to him which he never got; and so I told him. Then he gave me a
paper for you, which he made me swear to deliver to you by my own hand;
and I promised to find you. You know how I found you,' she continued
brokenly, burying her face in her hands.

'Don't think of that now, Margaret,' said Eleanor, taking one wasted
hand in her own. 'That is past and forgiven.'

'I hope so, miss. Please, bring me that dress, and I will discharge my
trust before it is too late. Take a pair of scissors and unpick the
seams inside the bosom on the left side.'

The speaker watched Eleanor with feverish impatience, whilst, with
trembling fingers, she followed the instructions. Not until she had
drawn out a flat parcel, wrapped securely in oiled paper, did the look
of impatience transform to an air of relief.

'Yes, that is it,' said Margaret, as Eleanor tore off the covering. 'I
have seen the letter, and have a strange feeling that it contains some
secret, it is so vague and rambling, and those dotted lines across it
are so strange. Your uncle was so terribly in earnest, that I cannot but
think the paper has some hidden meaning. Please, read it to me. Perhaps
I can make something of it.'

'It certainly does appear strange,' observed Eleanor, with suppressed

Turning towards the light, Eleanor read as follows:

[Mortons Note.jpg]
Darling, we must now be friends. Remember, Nelly, in

the garden you promised to obey my wishes. Under the

care of Miss Wakefield I hoped you would improve

but now I see it was not to be, and as prudence

teaches us that all is for the best I must be

content. Ask Edgar to forgive me the wrong I

have done you both in the past, and this I feel

his generous heart will not withhold from me.

Now that it is too late, I see how blind I have

been, and could I live my life over again how

different things would be. Times are changed, yet

the memory of past days lingers within me, and like

Niobe, I mourn you. When I am gone you will

find my blessing a gift that is better than money.

The paper was half a sheet of ordinary foolscap, and the words were
written without a single break or margin. It was divided perpendicularly
by five dotted lines, and by four lines horizontally, and displayed
nothing to the casual eye but an ordinary letter in a feeble

The tiny threads of fate had begun to gather. All yet was dark and
misty; but in the gloom, faint and transient, was one small ray of

Eleanor gazed at the paper abstractedly for a few moments, vaguely
trying to find some hidden clue to the mystery.

'You must take care of that paper, Miss Nelly. Something tells me it
contains a secret.'

'And have you been searching for me two long years, for the sole purpose
of giving me this?' Eleanor asked.

'Yes, miss,' the sufferer replied simply. 'I promised you know. Indeed,
I could not look at your uncle and break a vow like mine.'

'And you came to London on purpose?'

'Yes. No one knew where I was gone. I have no friends that I remember,
and so I came to London. It is an old tale, miss. Trying day by day to
get employment, and as regularly failing. I have tried many things the
last two bitter years. I have existed--I cannot call it living--in the
vilest parts of London, and tried to keep myself by my needle; but that
only means dying by inches. God alone knows the struggle it is for a
friendless woman here to keep honest and virtuous. The temptation is
awful; and as I have been so sorely tried, I hope it will count in my
favor hereafter. I have seen sights that the wealthy world knows nothing
of. I have lived where a well-dressed man or woman dare not set foot.
Oh, the wealth and the misery of this place they call London!'

'And you have suffered like this for me?' Eleanor said, the tears
streaming down her face. 'You have gone through all this simply for my
sake? Do you know, Madge, what a thoroughly good woman you really are?'

'I, miss?' the dying girl exclaimed in surprise. 'How can I possibly be
that, when you know what you do of me! O no; I am a miserable sinner by
the side of you. Do you think, Miss Nelly, I shall be forgiven?'

'I do not doubt it,' said, Eleanor softly; 'I cannot doubt it. How many
in your situation could have withstood your temptation?'

'I am so glad you think so, miss; it is comfort to me to hear you say
that. You were always so good to me,' she continued gratefully. 'Do you
know, Miss Nelly dear, whenever I thought of death, I always pictured
you as being by my side?'

'Do you feel any pain or restlessness now, Margaret?'

'No, Miss; thank you. I feel quite peaceful and contented. I have done
my task, though it has been a hard one at times. I don't think I could
have rested in my grave if I had not seen you.--Lift me up a little
higher, please, and come a little closer. I can scarcely see you now. My
eyes are quite misty. I wonder if all dying people think about their
younger days, Miss Nelly? I do. I can see it all distinctly: the old
broken fountain under the tree where we used to sit and talk about the
days to come; and how happy we all were there before she came. Your
uncle was a different man then, when he sat with us and listened to you
singing hymns. Sing me one of the old hymns now, please.'

In a subdued key, Eleanor sang 'Abide with me,' the listener moving her
pallid lips to the words. Presently, the singer finished, and the dying
girl lay quiet for a moment.

'Abide with me. How sweet it sounds! "Swift to its close ebbs out life's
little day." I am glad you chose my favorite hymn, Miss Nelly. I shall
die repeating these words: "The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide."
Now it is darker still; but I can feel your hand in mine, and I am safe.
I did not think death was so blessed and peaceful as this. I am going,
going--floating away.'

'Margaret, speak to me!'

'Just one word more. How light it is getting! Is it morning? I can see.
I think I am forgiven. I feel better, better! quite forgiven. Light,
light, light! everywhere! I can see at last.'

It was all over. The weary aching heart was at rest. Only a woman, done
to death in the flower of youth by starvation and exposure; but not
before her task was done, her work accomplished. No lofty ambition to
stir her pulses, no great goal to point to for its end. Only a woman,
who had given her life to carry out a dying trust; only a woman, who had
preserved virtue and honesty amid the direst temptation. What an epitaph
for a gravestone! An eulogy that needs no glittering marble to point the
way up to the Great White Throne.


Mr Carver sat in his private office a few days later, with Margaret's
legacy before him. A hundred times he had turned the paper over. He had
held it to the light; he had looked at it upside down, and he had looked
at it sideways and longways; in fact, every way that his ingenuity could
devise. He had even held it to the fire, in faint hopes of sympathetic
ink; but his labor had met with no reward. The secret was not

The astute legal gentleman consulted his diary, where he had carefully
noted down all the facts of the extraordinary case; and the more he
studied the matter, the more convinced he became that there was a
mystery concealed somewhere; and, moreover, that the key was in his
hands, only, unfortunately, the key was a complicated one. Indeed, to
such absurd lengths had he gone in the matter, that Edgar Allan Poe's
romances of The Gold Bug and The Purloined Letter lay before him, and
his study of those ingenious narratives had permeated his brain to such
an extent lately, that he had begun to discover mystery in everything.
The tales of the American genius convinced him that the solution was a
simple one--provokingly simple, only, like all simple things, the
hardest of attainment. He was quite aware of the methodical habits of
his late client, Mr Morton, and felt that such a man could not have
written such a letter, even on his dying bed, unless he had a powerful
motive in so doing. Despite the uneasy consciousness that the affair was
a ludicrous one to engage the attention of a sober business man like
himself, he could not shake off the fascination which held him.

'Pretty sort of thing this for a man at my time of life to get mixed up
in,' he muttered to himself. 'What would the profession say if they knew
Richard Carver had taken to read detective romances in business hours? I
shall find myself writing poetry some day, if I don't take care, and
coming to the office in a billy-cock hat and turn-down collar. I feel
like the heavy father in the transpontine drama; but when I look in that
girl's eyes, I feel fit for any lunacy. Pshaw!--Bates!'

Mr Bates entered the apartment at his superior's bidding. 'Well, sir?'
he said. The estimable Bates was a man of few words.

'I can not make this thing out,' exclaimed Mr Carver, rubbing his head
in irritating perplexity. 'The more I look at it the worse it seems. Yet
I am convinced----'

'That there is some mystery about it!'

'Precisely what I was going to remark. Now, Bates, we must--we really
must--unravel this complication. I feel convinced that there is
something hidden here. You must lend me your aid in the matter. There is
a lot at stake. For instance, if----'

'We get it out properly, I get my partnership; if not, I shall have
to--whistle for it, sir!'

'You are a very wonderful fellow, Bates--very. That is precisely what I
was going to say,' Mr Carver exclaimed admiringly. 'Now, I have been
reading a book--a standard work, I may say.'

'Williams's Executors, sir, or----?'

'No,' said Mr Carver shortly, and not without some confusion; 'it is not
that admirable volume--it is, in fact, a--a romance.'

Mr Bates coughed dryly, but respectfully, behind his hand. 'I beg your
pardon, sir; I don't quite understand. Do you mean you have been reading

'Well, not exactly,' replied Mr Carver blushing faintly. 'It is, as I
have said, a romance--a romance,' he continued with an emphasis upon the
substantive, to mark the difference between that and an ordinary work of
fiction. 'It is a book treating upon hidden things, and explaining, in a
light and pleasant way, the method of logically working out a problem
by common-sense. Now, for instance, in the passage I have marked, an
allusion is made, by way of example.--Did you ever--ha, ha! play at
marbles, Bates?'

'Well, sir, many years ago, I might have indulged in that little
amusement,' Mr Bates admitted with professional caution; 'but really,
sir, it is such a long time ago, that I hardly remember.'

'Very good, Bates. Now, in the course of your experience upon the
subject of marbles, do you ever remember placing a game called "Odd and

Bates looked at his principal in utter amazement, and Mr Carver,
catching the expression of his face, burst into a hearty laugh, faintly
echoed by the bewildered clerk. The notion of two gray-headed men
solemnly discussing a game of marbles in business hours, suddenly struck
him as being particularly ludicrous.

'Well, sir,' Bates said with a look of relief, 'I don't remember the
fascinating amusement you speak of, and I was wondering what it could
possibly have to do with the case in point.'

'Well, I won't go into it now; but if you should like to read it for
yourself, there it is,' said Mr Carver, pushing over the yellow-bound
volume to his subordinate.

Mr Bates eyed the volume suspiciously, and touched it gingerly with his
forefinger. 'As a matter of professional duty, sir, if you desire it, I
will read the matter you refer to; but if it is a question of
recreation, then, sir, with your permission, I would rather not.'

'That is a hint for me, I suppose. Bates,' said Mr Carver with much
good-humor, 'not to occupy my time with frivolous literature.'

'Well, sir, I do not consider these the sort of books for a place on a
solicitor's table; but I suppose you know best.'

'I don't think such a thing has happened before, Bates,' Mr Carver
answered with humility. 'You see, this is an exceptional case, and I
take great interest in the parties.'

'Well, there is something in that,' said Mr Bates severely, 'so I
suppose we must admit it on this occasion.--But don't you think, sir,
there is some way of getting to the bottom of this affair, without
wasting valuable time on such as that?' and he pointed contemptuously at
the book before him.

'Perhaps so, Bates--perhaps so. I think the best thing we can do is to
consult an expert. Not a man who is versed in writings, but one of those
clever gentlemen who make a study of ciphers. For all we know, there may
be a common form of cipher in this paper.'

'That is my opinion, sir. Depend upon it, marbles have nothing to do
with this mystery.'

'Mr Seaton wishes to see you, sir,' said a clerk at this moment.

'Indeed! Ask him to come in.--Good-morning, my dear sir,' as Seaton
entered. 'We have just been discussing your little affair, Bates and I;
but we can make nothing of it--positively nothing.'

'No; I suppose not,' Edgar replied lightly. 'I, for my part, cannot
understand your making so much of a common scrap of paper. Depend upon
it, the precious document is only an ordinary valedictory letter after
all. Take my advice--throw it in the fire, and think no more about it.'

'Certainly not, sir,' Mr Carver replied indignantly. 'I don't for one
moment believe it to be anything but an important cipher.--What are you
smiling at?'

Edgar had caught sight of the yellow volumes on the table, and could not
repress a smile. 'Have you read those tales?' he said.

'Yes, I have; and they are particularly interesting.'

'Then I won't say any more,' Edgar replied. 'When a man is fresh from
these romances, he is incapable of regarding ordinary life for a time.
But the disease cures itself. In the course of a month or so, you will
begin to forget these complications, and probably burn that fatal

'I intend to do nothing of the sort; I am going to submit it to an
expert this afternoon, and get his opinion.'

'Yes. And he will keep it for a fortnight, after having read it over
once, and then you will get an elaborate report, covering some sheets of
paper, stating that it is an ordinary letter. Who was the enemy who lent
you Poe's works?'

'I read those books before you were born, young man; and I may tell
you--apart from them--that I am fully convinced that there is a mystery
somewhere. 'Pon my word, you take the matter very coolly, considering
all things. But let us put aside the mystery for a time, and tell me
something of yourself.'

'I am looking up now, thanks to you and Felix,' Edgar replied
gratefully. 'I have an appointment at last.'

'I am sure I am heartily glad to hear it. What is it?'

'It was the doing of Felix, of course. The editor of Mayfair was rather
taken by my descriptive style in a paper which Felix showed him, and
made me an offer of doing the principal continental gambling-houses in

'Um,' said Mr Carver doubtfully. 'And the pay?'

'Is particularly good, besides which, I have the entree of these
places--the golden key, you know.'

'Have you told your wife about it?'

'Well, not altogether; she might imagine it was dangerous for me. She
knows partly what I am doing; but I must not frighten her. I have had
two nights of it, and apart from the excitement and the heat, it is
certainly not dangerous.'

'I am glad of that,' said Mr Carver; 'and am heartily pleased to hear of
your success--providing it lasts.'

'Oh, it is sure to last, for I have hundreds of places to go to.
To-night I am going to a foreign place in Leicester Square. I go about
midnight, and think I may generally be able to get home about two. I
have to go alone always.'

'Well, I hope now you have started, you will continue as well,' Mr
Carver said heartily; 'at any rate, you can continue until I unravel the
mystery, and place you in possession of your fortune. Until then, it
will do very well.'

'I am not going to count on that,' Edgar replied; 'and if it is a
failure, I shall not be so disappointed as you, I fancy.'


It wanted a few minutes to eleven o'clock, the same night when Seaton
turned into Long Acre on his peculiar business. A sharp walk soon
brought him to the Alhambra, whence the people were pouring out into the
square. Turning down----Street, he soon reached his destination--a long
narrow house, in total darkness--a sombre contrast to the neighboring
buildings, which were mostly a blaze of light, and busy with the
occupations of life. A quiet double rap for some time produced no
impression; and just as he had stood upon the door-step long enough to
acquire considerable impatience, a sliding panel in the door was pushed
back, and a face, in the dim gas-light, was obtruded. A short but
somewhat enigmatical conversation ensued, at the end of which the door
was grudgingly opened, and Edgar found himself in black darkness. The
truculent attendant having barricaded the exit, gave a peculiar whistle,
and immediately the light in the hall was turned up. It was a perfectly
bare place; but the carpet underfoot was of the heaviest texture, and
apparently--as an extra precaution--had been covered with india-rubber
matting, so that the footsteps were perfectly deadened; indeed, not the
slightest foot-fall could be heard. Following his guide in the direction
of the rear of the house, and ascending a short flight of steps, Edgar
was thrust unceremoniously into a dark room, the door of which was
immediately closed behind him and locked. For a few seconds, Edgar stood
quite at a loss to understand his position, till the peculiar whistle
was again repeated, and immediately, as if by magic, the room was
brilliantly lighted. When Edgar recovered from the glare, he looked
curiously around. It was a large room, without windows, save a long
skylight, and furnished with an evident aim at culture; but though the
furniture was handsome, it was too gaudy to please a tasteful eye. The
principal component parts consisted of glass gilt and crimson velvet;
quite the sort of apartment that the boy-hero discovers, when he is led
with dauntless mien and defiant eye into the presence of the Pirate
king; and indeed some of the faces of the men seated around the green
board would have done perfectly well for that bloodthirsty favorite of
our juvenile fiction.

There were some thirty men in the room, two-thirds of them playing
rouge-et-noir; nor did they cease their rapt attention to the game for
one moment to survey the new-comer, that office being perfectly filled
by the Argus-eyed proprietor, who was moving unceasingly about the room.
'Will you play, sare?' he said insinuatingly to Edgar, who was leisurely
surveying the group and making little mental notes for his guidance.

'Thanks! Presently, when I have finished my cigar,' he replied.

'Ver good, sare, ver good. Will not m'sieu take some refreshment--a
leetle champein or eau-di-vie?'

'Anything,' Edgar replied carelessly, as the polite proprietor proceeded
to get the desired refreshment.

For a few minutes Edgar sat watching his incongruous companions, as he
drank sparingly of the champagne before him. The gathering was of the
usual run of such places, mostly foreigners, as befitted the
neighborhood, and not particularly desirable foreigners at that. On the
green table the stakes were apparently small, for Edgar could see
nothing but silver, with here and there, a piece of gold. At a smaller
table four men were playing the game called poker for small stakes; but
what particularly interested Edgar was a young man deep in the
fascination of ecarte with a man who to him was evidently a stranger.
The younger man--quite a boy, in fact--was losing heavily, and the money
on the table here was gold alone, with some bank-notes. Directly Edgar
saw the older man, who was winning steadily, he knew him at once; only
two nights before he had seen him in a gambling-house at the West End
playing the same game, with the same result. Standing behind the winner
was a sinister-looking scoundrel, backing the winner's luck with the
unfortunate youngster, and occasionally winning a half-crown from a tall
raw-looking American, who was apparently simple enough to risk his money
on the loser. Attracted by some impulse he could not understand, Edgar
quitted his seat and took his stand alongside the stranger, who was
losing his money with such simple good-nature.

'Stranger, you have all the luck, and that's a fact. There goes another
piece of my family plate. Your business is better 'n gold-mining, and I
want you to believe it,' drawled the American, passing another
half-crown across the table.

'You are a bit unlucky,' replied the stranger, with a flash of his white
teeth; 'but your turn will come, particularly as the young gentleman is
really the better player. I should back him myself, only I believe in a
man's luck.'

'Wall, now, I shouldn't wonder if the younker is the best player,' the
American replied, with an emphasis on the last word. 'So I fancy I shall
give him another trial. He's a bit like a young hoss, he is--but he's

'You don't mean to insinuate we're not on the square, eh?' said the
lucky player sullenly; 'because, if that is so----'

'Now, don't you get riled, don't,' said the American soothingly. 'I'm a
peaceable individual, and apt to get easily frightened. I'm a-goin' to
back the young un again.'

The game proceeded: the younger man lost. Another game followed, the
American backing him again, and gradually, in his excitement, bending
further and further over the table. The players, deep in their
movements, scarcely noticed him.

'My game!' said the elder man triumphantly. 'Did you ever see such luck
in your life? Here is the king again.'

The American, quick as thought, picked up the pack of cards and turned
them leisurely over in his hand. 'Well, now, stranger,' he said, with
great distinctness, 'I don't know much about cards, and that's a fact.
I've seen some strange things in my time, but I never--no, never--seed a
pack of cards before with two kings of the same suit.'

'It must be a mistake,' exclaimed the stranger, jumping to his feet with
an oath. 'Perhaps the cards have got mixed.'

'Wall, it's not a nice mistake, I reckon. Out to 'Frisco, I seed a
gentleman of your persuasion dance at his own funeral for a mistake like
that. He didn't dance long, and the exertion killed him; at least that's
what the crowner's jury said.'

'Do you mean to insinuate that I'm a swindler, sir? Do you mean to infer
that I cheated this gentleman?' blustered the detected sharper,
approaching the speaker with a menacing air.

'That is about the longitude of it,' replied the American cheerfully.

Without another word and without the slightest warning, the swindler
rushed at the American; but he had evidently reckoned without his host,
for he was met by a crushing blow full in the face, which sent him
reeling across the room. His colleague deeming discretion the better
part of valour, and warned by a menacing glance from Edgar, desisted
from his evident intention of aiding in the attack.

By this time the sinister proprietor and the players from the other
tables had gathered round, evidently, from the expression of their eyes,
ripe for any sort of mischief and plunder. Clearly, the little group
were in a desperate strait.

'Have it out,' whispered Edgar eagerly to his gaunt companion. 'I'm
quite with you. They certainly mean mischief.'

'All right, Britisher,' replied the American coolly. 'I'll pull through
it somehow. Keep your back to mine.'

The proprietor was the first to speak. 'I understand, sare, you accuse
one of my customer of the cheat. Cheat yourself--pah!' he said, snapping
his fingers in the American's face. 'Who are you, sare, that comes here
to accuse of the cheat?'

'Look, here,' said the American grimly. 'My name is Aeneas B. Slimm,
generally known as Long Ben. I don't easily rile, you grinning little
monkey; but when I do rile, I rile hard, and that's a fact. I ain't been
in the mines for ten years without knowing a scoundrel when I meet him,
and I never had the privilege of seein' such a fine sample as I see
around me to-night. Now you open that door right away; you hear me say

The Frenchman clenched his teeth determinedly, but did not speak, and
the crowd gathered more closely around the trio.

'Stand back!' shouted Mr Slimm--'stand back, or some of ye will suffer.
Will you open that door?'

The only answer was a rush by some one in the crowd, a movement which
that some one bitterly repented, for the iron-clamped toe of the
American's boot struck him prone to the floor, sick and faint with the
pain. At this moment the peculiar whistle was heard, and the room was
instantly in darkness. Before the crowd could collect themselves for a
rush, Mr Slimm passed his hand beneath his long coat-tails and produced
a flat lantern, which was fastened round his waist like a policeman's,
and which gave sufficient light to guard against any attack; certainly
enough light to show the hungry swindlers the cold gleam of a revolver
barrel covering the assembly. The American passed a second weapon to
Edgar, and stood calmly waiting for the next move.

'Now,' he said, sullenly and distinctly, 'I think we are quits. We air
going to leave this pleasant company right away, but first we propose to
do justice. Where is the artist who plays cards with two kings of one
suit? He'd better come forward, because this weapon has a bad way of
going off. He need not fancy I can't see him, because I can. He is
skulking behind the brigand with the ear-rings.'

The detected swindler came forward sullenly.

'Young man,' said Mr Slimm, turning towards the boy who had been losing
so heavily, 'how much have you lost?'

The youngster thought a moment, and said about twenty pounds.

'Twenty pounds. Very good.--Now, my friend, I'm going to trouble you for
the loan of twenty pounds. I don't expect to be in a position to pay you
back just at present; but until I do, you can console yourself by
remembering that virtue is its own reward. Come, no sulking; shell out
that money, or----'

With great reluctance, the sharper produced the money and handed it over
to the youth. The American watched the transaction with grave
satisfaction, and then turned to the landlord. 'Mr Frenchman, we wish
you a very good-night. We have not been very profitable customers, nor
have we trespassed upon your hospitality. If you want payment badly, you
can get it out of the thief who won my half-crowns.--Good-night,
gentlemen; we may meet again. If we do, and I am on the jury, I'll give
you the benefit of the doubt.'

A moment later, they were in the street, and walking away at a brisk
pace, the ungrateful youth disappearing with all speed.

'I am much obliged to you,' Edgar said; 'you got me well out of that.'

'Not at all,' Mr Slimm replied modestly 'you would have got out of it
yourself; you've plenty of grit.'

'Well, I don't know,' Edgar said admiringly; 'I would give something to
have your pluck and coolness.'

'Practice,' replied the American dryly. 'That isn't what I call a
scrape--that's only a little amusement. But I was rather glad you were
with me. I like the look of your face; there's plenty of character
there. As to that pesky young snip, if I'd known he was going to slip
off like that, do you think I should have bothered about his money for
him? No, sir.'

'I fancy he was too frightened to say or do much.'

'Perhaps so.--Have a cigar?--I daresay he's some worn-out roue of
eighteen, all his nerves destroyed by late hours and dissipation, at a
time when he ought to be still at his books.'

'Do you always get over a thing as calmly as this affair?' asked Edgar,
at the same time manipulating one of his companion's huge cigar's. 'I
don't think dissipation has had much effect on your nerves.'

'Well, it don't, and that's a fact,' Mr Slimm admitted candidly; 'and
I've had my fling to.--I tell you what it is, Mr--Mr----'

'Seaton--Edgar Seaton is my name.'

'Well, Mr Seaton, I've looked death in the face too often to be put out
by a little thing like that. When a man has slept, as I have, in the
mines with a matter of one thousand ounces of gold in his tent for six
weeks, among the most awful blackguards in the world, and plucky
blackguards too, his nerves are fit for most anything afterwards. That's
what I done, ay, and had to fight for it more than once.'

'But that does not seem so bad as some dangers.'

'Isn't it?' replied the American with shudder. 'When you wake up and
find yourself in bed with a rattlesnake, you've got a chance then; when
you are on the ground with a panther over you, there is just a squeak
then; but to go to sleep expecting to wake up with a knife in your ribs,
is quite another apple.--Well, I must say goodnight. Here is Covent
Garden. I am staying at the Bedford. Come and breakfast with me
to-morrow, and don't forget to ask for Aeneas Slimm.'

'I will come,' said Edgar, with a hearty hand-shake.--' Good-night.'


It was nearly ten o'clock on the following morning before Edgar reached
the Bedford, Covent Garden. He found the American in his private room
waiting his arrival, and clad in a loose dressing-gown, which made him
look extra tall and thin--a wonderful garment, embracing every known hue
and colour, and strongly resembling, save as to its garishness, a
Canadian wood in the fall. Mr Slimm laid aside a disreputable brier he
was smoking, as soon as he perceived his visitor. 'Morning!' he said
briskly. 'Tolerably punctual. Hope you don't object to the smell of
tobacco so early?'

'I don't know,' Edgar replied, throwing himself clown in a chair. 'Like
most well-regulated Britons, I cannot say I am partial to the smell of
tobacco before breakfast.'

'Do you know,' Mr Slimm responded dryly, 'I have seen the time when I
never smoked before breakfast. I don't allude to any great outbreak of
virtue on my part; but the fact is, when a man can't get a breakfast, he
can't be accused of smoking before it--no, sir.' Having administered
this crushing piece of logic with characteristic force, Mr. Slimm rang
the bell and proceeded to order 'the fixings,' which was his term for
the matutinal repast.

'You Britishers have got some sound notions on the subject of dinners
and promiscuous refreshment; but your imagination don't soar to
breakfast. There's nothing substantial about it,' said Mr Slimm, after
finishing a pound or so of steak. 'The Francatelli who rules the kitchen
here is fairly good; and I flatter myself if I stay here much longer he
will know what a breakfast is. I stayed for a week at a place off the
Strand once; but I was almost starved. Ham and eggs, chops and steaks,
was the programme, with a sole, by way of a treat, on Sundays.'

'Very sad,' replied Edgar, with considerable gravity. 'You must have
suffered. You don't seem, however, particularly short here.'

'Well, no,' Mr Slimm admitted, at the same time helping himself to fish;
I can manage here.'

'I hope last night's little scrimmage has not injured your appetite this
morning?' Edgar asked politely.

'Not much. Aeneas Slimm generally can pick up his crumbs tolerably. This
little village is a fine place to sharpen the appetite.'

'How long do you propose to stay here?'

'I don't know; it all depends. I am doing London, you see, and when I do
a place, I do it well. You've got some fine old landmarks here--very
fine,' said Mr Slimm with proverbial American reverence for the antique.
'I guess we should be proud of the Tower over to New York--yes, sir.'

'I have never been over it,' Edgar said carelessly.

'Do, tell. Man, I guess you're funning. Seems to me kind o' incredible
for an Englishman to live in London and not see the Tower.'

'Really, Mr Slimm, I have never seen the Tower.'

'Wall, if this don't beat snakes! Never seen the Tower!' exclaimed the
American, chipping his third egg. 'Maybe you never heard of a
picturesque pile known to the inquiring stranger as the British
Museum!--Now, have you ever heard of Westminster Abbey?'

'Well,' said Edgar laughingly, 'I believe I have; but I must confess
that I have never been inside either of the places you mention.'

'Wonderful! Mr Seaton, you're born to make a name. The man who can pass
these places without emotion, ain't no common shake. I guess you're the
kind of matter they make genius out of.'

'You seem to be astonished. Surely, in New York, you have buildings and
churches quite as fine as anything in London?'

'You think so, do you? Wall, if it's any consolation to you, keep on
thinking so; it won't hurt any one.--Mr Seaton,' continued Slimm,
lowering his voice reverently, 'when I get pottering about down at
Westminster, and look at the Abbey and the House of Parliament, strike
me if I don't wish I was a Britisher myself!'

'That is high praise indeed; and I think it is due to your native
patriotism to say your approval does you credit. But candidly, it always
struck me that our Houses of Parliament are particularly mean-looking
for their position.'

'Maybe, maybe,' Mr Slimm replied meditatively; 'but there's something
about them that makes me feel chockful of poetry. When I wander into the
Abbey among these silent stones and listen to that grand organ, I feel
it does me good.'

'You do not look like a man who took any particular delight in music.'

'I don't, and that's a fact. I don't know F sharp from a bull's foot;
but I can feel it. When the artist presiding at the instrument pulls out
that wonderful stop like a human voice, I feel real mean, and that's a
fact--yes, sir.'

'It is wonderful what an effect music has on the human understanding,'
Edgar replied. '"Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast." My wife
always says----'

'Your wife! I didn't know you were married.'

'Considering I never told you that interesting fact, I do not see very
well how you could know,' Edgar replied with a smile; which was,
however, not so cordially received by Mr Slimm.

'Um,' he said, doubtfully.--'Now, look here, my young friend; I'm a
rough chap, and I've just got to say my mind, if I die for it. Don't you
think a young married man has no business in such a place as we met last

'But, you see, I had business there,' Edgar said, still smiling. 'It was
stern business, and nothing else, which took me to that place.'

'You've got the bulge of me, and that's a fact.'

'You mean, you don't understand. Well, I am what is usually known--or
rather, in my case, unknown--as a literary man. I am working up a series
of articles on gambling-houses.'

'Why don't you get on a more respectable line?'

Edgar tapped his pocket and nodded significantly.

'Hard up,' said Mr Slimm. 'Case of need's must, when what's-his-name
drives. You don't look as if you were dragged up to this sort of thing

'To be candid with you, I was not,' Edgar replied, urged by some strange
impulse to confide in the American. 'I am a University man without
money. My history is a common one. Educated at a public school, and
afterwards at Cambridge, I am expected to get a living in some
mysterious way. All my little money was spent upon my education, and
then I had to shift for myself. Much good my second-class honors have
done me.'

'Then, to prove your wisdom, you got married.'

'Of course. But now comes the most remarkable part of my story. My wife
was her uncle's heiress--not that her money was any inducement to
me--and I was engaged to her with his approval. It was arranged I was to
manage his property, and we were to live with him. Then a relative of
his--a lady--came to stay, and everything went wrong from that time.
Finally, acting under the lady's wonderful fascination, my wife's uncle
forbade our marriage, and ordered her to marry a nephew of the lady's.
This, of course, she refused to do, and was consequently disinherited.'

'What sort of a seraph was the lady?' asked Mr Slimm, with considerable

'Don't mention her, pray. She had the evil-eye, if ever woman had.--But
to continue. After our wedding, we came to London, and at different
times tried to bring about a reconciliation; but to no effect. Then the
old gentleman died.'

'A common story enough; but considerable rough on you and your wife,'
said Mr Slimm.

'After that, a most remarkable occurrence happened. When the will was
proved, not a sixpence of the old gentleman's money could be found--that
is, excepting the few hundreds in the local bank, for household
expenses. It is four years ago now, and to this day not one farthing of
the money has turned up.'

'Penny plain, and twopence colored,' the American said
sententiously--'to be continued in our next. There's the making of a
sound family romance about this.--Anything more?'

'A little. An old companion of my wife's turned up the other day--or I
should say my wife found her accidentally in London. She was standing in
the rain on Waterloo Bridge, looking into the water.--You comprehend,
don't you?'

'"One more unfortunate, weary of breath,"' quoted Mr Slimm with a tender
inflection which surprised Edgar. 'Go on.'

'It was a wonderful coincidence, if nothing more. It appeared that my
wife's uncle on his dying bed gave her a paper for my wife; and he
charged her most solemnly to find her and deliver it, which has been

'And it was some secret cipher, bet my boots.'

'On the contrary, it is only a letter--a valedictory letter, containing
no clue whatever.'

'Stranger, you take this matter sort of calm,' said Slimm solemnly. 'I
should like to see that letter. Mark me; providence has a hand in this,
and I want you not to forget it. Such a meeting as that between your
wife and her old companion didn't happen for nothing. Listen, and I'll
tell you what once happened to me in Australia. I shall never forget it.
I'm a rich man now, for my wants; but I was poor then; in fact, it was
just at the time when fortune had turned. I had, at the time I am
speaking of, nearly a thousand ounces of dust buried in my tent. As far
as I could tell, not a soul in the camp knew what I had, as I had kept
it quiet. Well, one night I started out to visit an old chum in a
neighboring claim. It was nearly dark when I started, and I had no
companion but my dog. I had not gone very far when he began to act in a
ridiculous manner, barking and snapping at my horse's heels, till I
thought he was stark mad. Then he turned towards home, stopping every
now and then to whine, and finally he struck off home in a bee-line. I
rode on, never thinking anything about it till suddenly my horse
stumbled and nearly threw me. He had never done such a thing before, and
I hadn't got twenty yards before he did it again. Stranger, I want you
to believe I was scared, and I don't scare easy either. Then I thought
of the tales I had read about dogs and their cunning, and, urged by
something I can't understand I turned back. You'd better believe I'm
glad I did. When I got back to my tent, I stole in quietly, and there
were three of the biggest scoundrels in the camp digging away exactly
over the gold. I didn't give them much time for meditation, I reckon. It
was a tough fight; but I saved my gold. I got this valentine to remember
it by; darn their ugly pictures; and Mr Slimm bared his huge chest, and
displayed a livid gash seamed and lined thereon.

'And the robbers--what became of them?'

'Suffocation,' Slimm replied laconically. 'The quality of mercy is
strained pretty considerable in a mining camp.'

'And the dog?'

'Dead!--killed by these scoundrels. I ain't powerful in the water-cart
line; but I don't mind saying I snivelled then. I can't think of that
faithful insect without a kind of lumpiness in my throat.--And now, my
friend, don't you tell me there's no such thing as fate. You mind if
your affair don't turn out trumps yet.'

'I don't think so,' Edgar replied dubiously. 'It is all forgotten now,
though it was a nine day's wonder in Somersetshire at the time.'

'Somersetshire!' said the American to Edgar. 'Now, that's strange. I'm
going to Somersetshire in a few days to see a man I haven't set eyes on
for years. He is a very different man from me--a quiet, scholarly
gentleman, a little older than myself. He is a bookish sort of man; and
I met him in the mines. We kind of froze to each other; and when we
parted, it was understood that whenever I came to England, I was to go
and see him. What part of Somersetshire do you hail from?'

'The name of my wife's old home is Eastwood.'

'Eastwood? Tell me quickly, is it possible that your wife's uncle is Mr
Charles Morton?'

'The same,' Edgar gasped.--'What do you know of him?'

'What do I know of him? Why, he was the man I was going to visit; and
he's dead, poor old fellow! You see, I always liked him, and once I
saved his life. It's a curious thing, but when you do a man a favour, or
save his life, or any trifle of that kind, you always get to like him
some way. Poor old Morton! Well, if this don't beat snakes! And your
wife is the little Nelly he was always raving about? Dear, dear!'

'There must be something more than meets the eye here,' Edgar said, with
a little quaver in his voice. 'Taking all the circumstances into
consideration, it looks as if some inscrutable providence has a hand in

'You bet. I'm not particularly learned, nor no scholar; but I do
remember some lines of your immortal poet which tells us: "There's a
divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will." The more I
think of life, the more it puzzles me, and that's a fact. To think of
you and I--two people in five millions--meeting by such chance! And to
think of your wife being the niece of my old friend!'

'Did he speak much of her to you?' Edgar asked.

'A few. "Speak" is no word for it: he raved about her. If ever a man
loved a girl, it was your uncle. You must not judge him harshly.'

'I do not; I never did. That there has been collusion, or something
more, I have always been convinced. He was so fond of me till his
half-sister came; and as to Nelly, he worshipped her.'

'He just did, I know. I should like to see that letter.'

'So you shall; but really, I can see nothing in it.'

'Try and describe it to me.'

'That soon done. It is a commonplace epistle, saying he wished to be
remembered as a friend, asking me to forgive him, and hinting that if he
had his life to live over again, how different things would be.'

'That is only a blind, perhaps.--Describe the letter.'

'It is written on part of a sheet of foolscap; and from the beginning of
the first line to the finish, the paper is covered with writing.'

'No heading of superscription, no signature?' queried Mr Slimm.

'No; it is not signed; but is precisely like a letter without heading or
signature trimmed close up to the writing with a pair of scissors.'

'And is it folded, or are there any lines about it?'

'It is folded like an ordinary note, and there are various horizontal
and perpendicular lines upon it. The lines are dotted. Can you make
anything of it?'

'Yes,' said the American quietly. 'I can make fortune of it. Show me
that letter for five minutes, and I will show you something you would
give ten-thousand pounds to see.'

And so, arranging for an early meeting, they parted for the day.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next morning, Eleanor told her husband of a curious dream she had had
during the night. She thought she stood on a strange shore, with the sea
spread out before her to the utmost horizon. It was sunrise, and coming
towards her over the quiet waters, was a great ship--an 'Argosy with
golden sails'--and somehow she thought it brought golden treasures for
her. Three times she dreamed the dream, and, saw the stately ship. She
asked Edgar what he thought of it. He said that dreams went by


A cynical writer somewhere observes, that no man is too rich not to be
glad to get a thousand pounds; and we may therefore assume the joy of an
individual who possesses about as many pence, in prospect of obtaining
possession of that sum. It was with this kind of joy--not, however,
quite free from incredulity--that Edgar, when he met Mr Slimm by
appointment at his hotel next day, listened to that gentleman's renewed
asseverations that there were thousands of pounds somewhere in that bit
of paper which had been such a mystery to Edgar and his friends. Mr
Slimm was this morning more enthusiastic than ever on the subject; but
Edgar only smiled in reply, and eyed his cigar with the air of a
connoisseur in the weed. The notion of his possessing such a sum was
decidedly puzzling. His coolness attracted Mr Slimm's admiration.

'I've seen a man hanged in the middle of a comic song,' that gentleman
observed, with an air of studious reflection; 'and I guess he was
somewhat frigid. I once saw a man meet a long-lost brother whom he had
given up for dead, and ask him for a borrowed sovereign, by way of
salutation, and I calculate that was cool; but for pure solid stoical
calmness, you are right there and blooming.'

'Had I expressed any perturbation, it would have been on account of my
doubting your sanity,' Edgar replied. 'Does it not strike you as a
little strange that a casual acquaintance should discover a puzzle worth
ten thousand pounds to me?'

'The unexpected always happens; and blessed things happen swiftly, as
great and good things always do,' said Slimm sententiously. 'I haven't
quite got the touch of them quotations, but the essence is about
consolidated, I calculate.'

'What a fund of philosophy you have!'

'You may say that,' said the American with some little pride. 'You see,
some years ago I was down to New Orleans, and, I had considerable
fever--fact, I wasn't out of the house for months. Reading ain't much in
my line; but I had to put up with it then. There was a good library in
the house, and at first I used to pick out the plums; but that wouldn't
do, so I took 'em in alphabetical order. It was a large assortment of
experience to me. First, I'd get Blair on the Grave, and read that till
I was uncertain whether I was an or'nary man or a desperate bad one.
Then I would hitch on to British Battles, and get the taste out of my
mouth. I reckon I stored up enough knowledge to ruin an or'nary
digestion. I read a cookery book once, followed by a chemistry work. I
got mixed there. But to return to our muttons, as the Mo'sieus say. I
ain't joking about that letter, and that's a fact.'

'But what can you know about it?' Edgar queried, becoming interested, in
spite of himself and his better judgment.

'Well, you listen, and I'll tell you.'

Edgar composed himself to listen, excited more than he cared to show by
the impressive air of his companion, and the absence of that quaint
smile which usually distinguished him; nor could the younger man fail to
notice not only the change of manner but the change of voice. Mr Slimm
was no longer a rough miner; and his accent, if not of refinement, was
that of cultivation. Carefully choosing another cigar, and lighting it
with deliberate slowness, each moment served to raise his companion's
impatience, a consummation which the astute American doubtless desired.

'When I first knew your uncle,' he said at length, 'we were both much
younger men, and, as I have before told you, I saved his life. That was
in the mines. Well, after a time I lost sight of him, as is generally
the case with such wanderers. After he left the mines, I did not stay
long; for a kind of home-sickness came over me, and I concluded to get
away. I determined to get back and settle down; and for the first time
in my life, the notion of marriage came into my head. I had not returned
long when I met my fate. Mr Seaton, I will not weary you with a
description of my wife. If ever there was an angel upon earth----But no
matter; still, it is always a mystery to my mind what she could see in a
rough uncouth fellow like me. Well, in course of time we married. I had
some money then; but we decided before the year was out that it would be
best to get some business or occupation for me. So, after little Amy was
born, we moved West.

For five years we lived there in our little paradise, and two more
children came to brighten our Western home. I was rapidly growing a rich
man, for the country was good, and the fear of Indians kept more
timorous people away. As for us, we were the best of friends; and the
old chief used to come to my farmhouse and nurse little Amy for hours. I
shall never forget that sight. The dear little one, with her blue eyes
and fair curls, sitting on that stern old man's knee, playing with his
beads, and not the least afraid; while the old fellow used to grunt and
laugh and get as near a smile as it is possible for an Indian to do. But
this was not to last. The old chief died, and a half-breed was appointed
in his place. I never liked that man. There was something so truculent
and vicious in his face, that it was impossible to like the ruffian.
Well, one day he insulted my wife; she screamed, and I ran to her
assistance. I took in the situation at a glance, and gave him there and
then about the soundest thrashing a man ever had in his life. He went
away threatening dire vengeance and looking the deadliest hate; but next
morning he came and apologised in such humble terms--for the scoundrel
spoke English as well as his own tongue--that I was fain to forget it.
Another peaceful year passed away, and then I was summoned to New York
on business. Without a single care or anxiety, I left my precious ones
behind. I had done it before, and they were not the least afraid.

'One night, when I had completed my business, and had prepared
everything for my start in the morning, I was strolling aimlessly along
Broadway, when I was hailed by a shout, accompanied by a hearty slap on
the back. I turned round, and there I saw Charlie Morton. Mind, I am
talking of over twenty years ago, and I think of him as the dashing,
good natured, weak Charlie Morton I used to know.--Well, to resume. Over
a quiet smoke, he arranged to accompany me.

'It was a glorious morning when we set out, and our hearts were light
and gladsome, and our spirits as bright as the weather. Was not I
returning to my darlings! We rode on mile after mile and day after day,
till we were within twelve hours of my house. Then we found, by
unmistakable signs, that the Indians were on the war-path. This was
uncomfortable news for us; but still I never had an uneasy thought for
the people at home.

'When the following morning dawned I rose with a strange presentiment of
coming evil; but I shook it off, thinking it was the excitement of
returning, for I had never been away from my wife so long before. It was
just about noon when I thought I saw a solitary figure in the distance.
It was a strange thing to meet a stray Indian there, and judge of my
surprise when I saw him making towards us! It turned out to be a deaf
and dumb Sioux I employed about the clearing, and one of the same tribe
we were so friendly with. By his excited state and jaded appearance, he
had travelled far and hurriedly. When we came up to him, a horrible fear
came over me, for then I saw he was in his war-paint. Hurriedly, I made
signs to him to know if all was well at home. He shook his head sadly;
and with that composure which always characterises his race, proceeded
to search for something in his deerskin vest. You can imagine the
eagerness with which I watched him; and when he produced a note, with
what eagerness did I snatch it out of his hand! Hastily, I read it, and
sank back in my saddle with a sense of almost painful relief.
Apparently, all was well. The missive was half a sheet of note-paper,
or, more properly, half of half a sheet of paper, containing some twelve
lines, written right across the paper, with no signature or heading,
saying how anxious she was for my return. I handed it to Morton with a
feeling of delight and thankfulness; but, to my surprise, as he read it,
he became graver and graver. At last he burst forth: "Slimm, have you
any secret cipher between yourselves?"'

'"No," I replied, somewhat startled at the question, "Why?"

'"Because there is something more here than meets the eye. You will not
mind my saying so; but the body of this note is almost cold, not to say
frivolous, while words, burning words, catch my eye here and there. Can
you explain it?"

'"Go on!"

'I hardly knew my own voice, it sounded so hard and strained.

'"Yes," he mused, twisting the paper in his supple fingers, "there is
more here than meets the eye. This old messenger is a Sioux; that tribe
is on the war-path, and the chief thoroughly understands English. An
ordinary appeal for help would be worse than useless, if it fell into
his hands. I perceive this paper is creased, and creased with method,
and the most touching words are always confined within certain creases.
Now, I will fold this longways, and turn the paper so; and then fold it
thus, and thus. We are coming to the enigma. Now thus.--No; this way,
and--Merciful powers!"

'He almost reeled from his saddle, and I leant over him with straining
eyes and read: "For God's sake, hasten. On the war-path. White Cloud
[the chief] has declared.. .. Hasten to us." I stopped to see no more.
Mechanically thrusting the paper into his saddle-bag, Morton urged me
forward; and for some hours we rode like madmen, spurring our horses
till the poor creatures almost dropped. At last, in the distance I saw
what was my home--a smoking mass of ruins. In the garden lay my three
children--dead: and not a quarter of a mile away my wife--also dead!'

The American here stopped, and threw himself on his face upon the couch
where he had been reclining, his huge frame shaking with the violence of
his emotion. Edgar watched him with an infinite pity in his eyes for
some moments, not daring to intrude upon his grief. Presently, Slimm
calmed himself, and raising his face, said: 'Wall, my friend, I guess
them statistics are sorter calculated to blight what the poet calls
"love's young dream."--Pass the brandy,' he continued, with an air of
ghastly cheerfulness.

'Why did you tell me this?' Edgar said, pained and shocked at the
recital and its horrible climax.

'Well, you see I wanted to convince you of the truth of my words. I
shall never allude to my story again, and I hope you never will either;
though I dream of it at times.--Your wife's uncle kept that paper, and I
have not the slightest doubt that the same plan has been taken as
regards his wealth. I can't explain it to you at this moment; but from
the description you have given of his last letter, I have not the
smallest hesitation in saying that it is formed on the same lines as the
fatal note I have told you of. Charlie Morton was a good fellow, but he
had not the slightest imagination or originality.'

'And you really think that paper contains a secret of importance?'

'Never doubted it for a moment. Look at the whole circumstances. Fancy
your meeting me; fancy my knowing your uncle; fancy----Bah! It's clear
as mud.'

'The coincidences are certainly wonderful.'

'Well, they are a few.--And now,' said Mr Slimm, dropping into his most
pronounced Yankee style, 'let this Adonis truss his points, freeze onto
a clean biled rag, and don his plug-hat, and we'll go and interview that
interestin' epistle--yes, sir.'


Edgar and his transatlantic companion walked along Holborn in silence.
The former was deeply immersed in thought, and the American, in spite of
his forced gaiety, had not yet lost all trace of his late emotion.
Presently, they quitted the busy street and turned into one of the
narrow lanes leading to Queen Square. Arrived at the house, they were
admitted by the grimy diminutive maid-of-all-work, and slowly ascended
the maze of stairs leading to Edgar's sitting-room. There were two
persons who looked up as they entered--Eleanor and Jasper Felix. Edgar
performed the ceremony of introduction, asking his companion if he had
ever heard of the great novelist. He had.

'Yes,' said Mr Slimm impressively, 'I believe that name has been
mentioned in my hearing once, if not more.--Allow me to shake hands with
you, sir. I ain't given to worshipping everybody who writes a ream of
nonsense and calls it a novel; but when I come across men like you, I
want to remember it. We don't have many of your stamp across the
Atlantic, though Nathaniel Hawthorne runs you very close.'

'Indeed, you are very complimentary,' Felix replied; 'and I take your
word as flattering. I don't like flattery as a rule, especially American
flattery. It is rare, in a general way. I feel as if they always want
something, you know.'

'Well, I do calculate my countrymen don't give much away for nothing.
They like a quid pro quo; and if they can get the quid without the quo,
so much the better are they pleased. But I didn't come here to discuss
the idiosyncrasies of my countrymen.'

Mr Slimm seemed to possess the happy knack of making his conversation
suit his company. Edgar could not help contrasting him now with the
typical Yankee of the gambling-house; they hardly seemed like the same

'Have you got your uncle's letter?' Edgar asked his wife.

'Why?' she asked, without the slightest curiosity.

'Why? I have almost come to your way of thinking,' replied Edgar. 'Do
you know, a wonderful thing has happened this morning. To make a long
story short, my good friend here was an old friend of your uncle's. The
story is a very sad one; but the gist of it is that the paper your uncle
left so nearly resembles a tragic document which he and Mr Slimm once
perused together--what, is termed a cipher--that he is almost sure it is
taken from the same. The coincidence is so strange, the two letters are
so remarkably alike----'

'Is this really so, Mr Slimm?' Eleanor asked eagerly.

'Yes, madam,' he said quietly. 'Some day I will tell you the tale, but
not now, of how I came to be in receipt of that terrible document. Your
uncle was with me; and from what I know of the circumstances, they must
be the same. If you don't mind me seeing it----'

Before he could finish his sentence, Eleanor was out of the room, and a
silence, an uneasy silence of expectancy, fell on the group. No one
spoke, and the few minutes she was away seemed like hours. Then she
reappeared, and put the paper in his hands.

He merely glanced at it for a moment; indeed, he had not time to read it
through before a smile began to ripple over his quaint-looking,
weather-beaten face. The smile gradually grew into a laugh, and then he
turned to view the anxious group with a face full of congratulation and

'Have you found it? Is it so?' burst from three people simultaneously.

He was provokingly slow in his reply, and his Yankee drawl was more
painfully apparent than ever. 'Young man,' said he to Edgar, 'what might
have been the nominal value of your uncle's estate--if he had any?'

'About thirty or forty thousand pounds.'

'And I promised, if you would let me see this paper, I would show you
something worth ten thousand pounds. Well, you must pardon me for my
little mistake. One can't always guard against mistakes, and this paper
is worth four times that amount.'

For a few moments everyone was aghast at the value of the discovery.

Edgar was the first to recover himself. 'You are not joking, Slimm?' he
exclaimed hoarsely.

'Never a bit,' he replied, with a gaiety delicately intended to cover
and arouse the emotion of the others. 'There it is on the face of the
paper, as plainly as possible--the fateful words staring me in the face.
You could see them yourselves, if you only knew how.'

'Wonderful!' exclaimed Felix. 'And that simple paper contains a secret
worth ail that money?'

'Why, certainly. Not only that, but where it is, and the exact spot in
which it is concealed. Only to think--a starving, desperate woman
dragging such a secret as that about London; and only to think of a
single moment preventing it being buried in the Thames. Wonderful,

'Perhaps you will disclose it to us,' said Edgar, impatient at this
philosophical tirade.

'No!' Eleanor put in resolutely--'no, Edgar! I do not think it would be
fair. Considering the time and trouble Mr Carver has given to the
matter, it would only be right for him to know at the same time. The
dear old gentleman has been so enthusiastic throughout, and so kind,
that I should feel disappointed if he did not hear the secret disclosed
when we are all together.'

'How thoughtful you are, Mrs Seaton!' remarked Felix with great
admiration. 'Of course you are right. The old fellow will be delighted
beyond measure, and will fancy he has a hand in the matter himself.'

'I do not see why we should wait for that,' Edgar grumbled.

'Impatient boy!' said Eleanor with a charming smile. 'Talk about
curiosity in woman, indeed!'

'All right,' he replied laughingly, his brow clearing at one glance from
his wife. 'I suppose we must wait. I do not see, however, what is to
prevent us starting to see him at once. Probably, you won't be more than
an hour putting on your bonnet, Nelly?'

'I shall be with you in five minutes;' and, singular to relate, she was.

'Curiosity,' remarked Edgar, 'is a great stimulus, even to women.'

Arrived at Bedford Row, they found Mr Carver at his office, and
fortunately disengaged. It did not take the astute gentleman long to
perceive, from the faces of his visitors, that something very great and
very fortunate had happened.

'Well, good people,' he said, cheerfully rubbing his head with
considerable vigour, 'what news? Not particularly bad, by the look of

Edgar stated the case briefly, and at the beginning of his narrative it
was plain to see that the worthy solicitor was somewhat disappointed;
but when he learned they were nearly as much in the dark as he, he
resumed his usual rubicund aspect.

'Dear, dear! how fortunate. Wonderful, wonderful!' he exclaimed, hopping
about excitedly, 'Never heard such a thing in my life--never, and thirty
years in practice too. Quite a hero, Edgar.'

'No, sir,' Edgar put in modestly. 'Mr Slimm is the hero. Had it not been
for him, we could never have discovered the hidden mine. Talk about
Aladdin's lamp!'

'And so you knew my poor client?' broke in Mr Carver, addressing Slimm.
'What a fine fellow he was in those days! I suppose you showed him the
secret of the cipher?'

'Wall, no, stranger,' replied the American, the old Adam cropping out
again strongly. 'He guessed it by instinct, if it wasn't something
higher'n that. I did not know it myself, though it was sent to me by one
very dear to me, to warn me of danger. You see, it might have come into
the hands of an enemy who understood English, and it was just a
desperate chance. It came a trifle late to save my peace of mind,' he
continued naturally, and bitterly, 'and I shall never forget it. The
sight of that piece of paper in that lady's hands,' pointing to the
important document, 'gave me a touch of the old feeling when I first saw

'Poor fellow, poor fellow! Pray, don't distress yourself upon our
account. A mere explanation----'

'I'd almost forgotten,' replied Mr Slimm, taking the paper from
Eleanor's hands. 'If you will be good enough to listen, I will explain

They drew close round the table, and he proceeded to explain.

'The paper I hold in my hand,' said the American, 'is filled with
writing, commencing at the top of the paper, without anything of a
margin, and ending in the same manner. The paper, you perceive, is ruled
with dotted lines, which makes the task of deciphering the secret all
the easier. It has five dotted perpendicular lines at equal distances;
and four horizontal, not so equal in distance. These are guide-lines.
Now, I will take the letter and fold it along the centre dotted line
from top to bottom, with the writing inside--so. Then from the second
dotted line, counting from, the right-hand side, I fold it backwards,
showing the writing--thus. Then I fold the fourth dotted line from the
right hand over the writing. The first part is accomplished by turning
the narrow slip of writing between the fifth line and the left-hand side
back thus; and then you see this. The rest is simple. Fold the slip in
two, keeping the writing inside; then turn the bottom portion back and
fold it across the lower dotted line, and the puzzle is complete. Or
there is yet a simpler way. In each corner of the paper there are a few
words inclosed by the dotted lines. Begin at the top at the word
"Darling," then across the line to the words "Nelly, in." Then the next
line, which is all inclosed at the top in the corner squares. Read the
same way at the bottom corner squares; and see the result. You are
puzzled by the folding, I see; but try the other way. Here,' he said,
handing the paper to Nelly; please read aloud what you can make of it.'

Following his instructions, Nelly made out the words thus:

Darling.. .. .. Nelly, in

the garden.. ..under the

Niobe.. .. .. . you will

find my.. .. .. money.

The murder was out! The mystery which had puzzled everyone was
explained; and after all, it was so simple! The simplicity of the affair
was its greatest safeguard. It was so simple, so particularly devoid of
intricacy, that it had baffled them all. Something bewildering and
elaborate they had expected, but nothing like this. Mr Carver,
notwithstanding his joy, looked inexpressibly foolish. Edgar gave way to
his emotion in mirth. 'O shade of Edgar Allan Poe, what a climax!' he
exclaimed. 'Was it for this our worthy friend waded through the abstruse
philosophy of The Purloined Letter and the intricacies of The Gold Bug?
Was it for this that The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Mystery of
Marie Roget were committed to memory?'

'Be quiet, you young jackanapes!' exclaimed Mr Carver testily; and then,
seeing the ludicrous side of the matter, he joined in the younger man's
mirth with equal heartiness.

'But why,' said Eleanor, still serious, and dwelling upon the
mystery--'why did not uncle fold the letter in the way he wished it to
be read?'

'Well, madam,' Mr Slimm explained, 'you see in that case the letter
would have adopted itself to the folds so readily, that, had it fallen
into a stranger's hand, he would have discovered the secret at once.
Your uncle must have remembered the letter he founded his upon, and how
easily he discovered that. By folding this paper in the ordinary way,
improper curiosity was baffled.'

'Yes, I suppose so,' Eleanor mused. 'Anyway, thank heaven, we have
solved the mystery, and we are free at last!'

'Don't look so serious, darling,' Edgar said brightly. 'It is all ours
now, to do what we like with. How happy we shall be!'

'Ahem!' coughed Mr Bates ominously, the only remark which, by the way,
he had made during the scene.

'Bless me, Bates!' ejaculated Mr Carver in his abrupt way. 'Really, I
had quite forgotten you.--Shake hands, Bates! Let me shake hands with my
future partner.'

'Begging your pardon, sir, I think not. You'--reproachfully--'seem to
have forgotten the will. Mr Morton's last testament left this property
to Miss Wakefield--this money is part of his estate.'

Mr Carver groaned and sank back in his chair. It was too true. Mr
Morton's last will devised his estate to Miss Wakefield, and this
treasure was hers beyond the shadow of a doubt.


Imagine a man paying forty thousand pounds into the Bank of England, and
learning to-morrow that that stupendous financial concern had stopped
payment! Imagine Lady Clara Vere de Vere discovering her wonderful
parure with its European renown, to be paste! Imagine the feelings of
Thomas Carlyle when the carelessness of John Stuart Mill destroyed the
labor of years! Imagine poor Euclid's state of mind when his wife burnt
his books! In short, imagine, each of you, the greatest calamity you can
think of, and you will have some faint notion of the feelings of the
quartet in Mr Carver's office at Mr Bates's disconcerting discovery.

For a few minutes, silence reigned supreme, and then Edgar commenced to
whistle. It was not a particularly cheerful air, but it sufficed to
arouse the others from their stupefaction.

'If I had not been an infatuated old idiot,' said Mr Carver, hurling the
unfortunate volume of romance with unnecessary violence across the room,
'I should have forseen this;' and murmuring something about
strait-waistcoats and the thick-headedness of society in general, he
lapsed into gloomy silence.

Mr Bates regarded his chief in mild disapproval. Such an ebullition of
feeling by no means accorded with his views of professional etiquette;
besides, he had a feeling that his discovery had not been treated in a
proper and business-like manner. 'Hem!' said that gentleman, clearing
his throat gently--'hem! If I may be allowed to make a
remark--apologising to you, sir'--Mr Carver nodded with dark
meaning--'and taking upon myself to make a suggestion; might it not be
possible that where the money is, a will may be concealed also?'

The party ceased to contemplate space, and a ray of hope quivered on the
gloomy horizon for a moment. Mr Carver, however, eyed his clerk with an
air of indignation blended with resigned sorrow. 'I suppose, Bates,
every man has moments of incipient insanity,' he said in accents of the
most scathing sarcasm. 'You, I perceive, are only mortal. I should be
sorry to imagine you to have arrived at the worst stage; but I may be
allowed, I think, to point out to you one little fact. Do you for one
moment suppose that a man who is idiot enough to bury his treasure in
this manner, has enough sense remaining to make a will?' and Mr Carver
looked at his subordinate with the air of a man who has made his great
point and confounded his adversary.

'I do not agree with, you, sir,' retorted Bates mildly. 'A gentleman who
has brains enough to carry out such a scheme as this, was not likely to
forget a vital part. You are generally sharp enough to see a point like
this. What with romances and games of marbles, hem! and such other
frivolities, business seems quite forgotten!'

It was curious to note with what eagerness the parties most interested
hung upon the clerk's words.

'Bates, Bates! I never thought it would come to this,' returned the
pseudo-justice, shaking his head in more sorrow than anger. 'A man still
in the prime of life, and to talk like this! Poor fellow, poor fellow!'

'Well, sir, you may doubt, and of course you have a right to your own
opinion; but we shall see.'

'See, Bates! how can we see?' exclaimed the lawyer. 'Is not this
treasure buried upon Miss Wakefield's property, and are we likely to get
an order to search that property?--O yes, of course'--returning to the
sarcastic mode--'Miss Wakefield is so gentle, so amiable, so sweet, and
unsuspecting! Bates, I am ashamed of you!'

The imperturbable Bates shrugged his shoulders slightly and resumed his
writing. So far as he was concerned, the matter was done with; but he
knew the character of his superior sufficiently to know that the words
he had said would take root, for, sooth to say, Mr Carver laid
considerable weight upon his junior's acumen, though, between the twain,
such an idea was tacitly ignored.

During the above interesting duologue, Mr Slimm had been eyeing the
antagonists with a smile of placid amusement. That wily gentleman was
rather taken with Bates' argument.

'Seems to me,' he said, 'the advantage is not all on one side. The
honored mistress of Eastwood, the lady whom our friend'--pointing to Mr
Carver--'has spoken of in such eulogistic terms, is no better off than
we are. She has the property where the money is concealed, and, as far
as we know now, it belongs to her. Any movement on our side will be
sufficient to arouse her suspicions. Providing the money is found, as I
have before said, as far as we know, it belongs to her. It is scarcely
worth while going to the trouble and expense of unearthing this wealth
for her. So far, she has the bulge on us. On the other hand, we know
where the money is. She does not, and there we have the bulge on her.'

'And what is your proposition?' Mr Carver inquired.

'Arbitration,' replied the American. 'There is only one thing to do, and
that is compromise. Even supposing our friends only get half, surely
that is better than nothing. It's the easiest thing in the world. All
you have to do is to say to the lady: "Miss Wakefield, Mr Morton left
you his money. You cannot find the money. Mrs Seaton knows where it is.
The money, we admit, is yours, though in justice it should belong to
her. In a word, my dear lady, divide;"' and Mr Slimm leant back in his
chair whistling a little air from Princess Ada, as if the whole thing
was settled to the satisfaction of all parties.

Mr Carver looked at him as a connoisseur eyes a bad copy of an old
master. 'Mr Slimm, I presume you have never seen the lady?'

Mr Slimm shook his head.

'I thought not,' continued Mr Carver. 'You have been all over the world,
and in the course of your rambles I presume you have seen the
Sphinx?--Very good. Now, I do not suppose it ever struck you as a good
idea to interview that curiosity, or to sit down before its stony charms
with a view to learning its past history and the date of its birth.--No?
The idea is too absurd; but I may venture to say, without exceeding the
bounds of professional caution, that you are just as likely to get any
display of emotion from Miss Wakefield--and indeed, the wonderful stone
is much the more pleasant object----'

'But she is not so very awful, Mr Carver,' Eleanor interposed.

'My dear, I know she is not endowed with venomous fangs, though she has
the wisdom of the serpent. I am prepared to do anything for you in any
shape or form, but I do draw the line at Miss Wakefield. As regards
interviewing her upon such a subject, I must respectfully but firmly

'Surely you don't object to such a course being taken?' Edgar asked
eagerly. 'There is no particular harm in it.'

'On the contrary, I think it is the right course to adopt; but I do not
propose to be the victim,' said Mr Carver drily. 'If any one in this
select company has some evil to atone for, and wants a peculiarly
torturing penance, let him undertake the task.'

Felix looked at Mr Bates; Edgar looked at his wife, and each waited
politely and considerately for the others to speak. It is not often one
meets such pure disregard of self in this grasping world. However, the
task must be done; and as Mr Carver disclaimed it, and Bates had no
interest in the affair, moreover, Eleanor not being expected to
volunteer, manifestly the work lay before the American, Edgar, or Felix.

The American, like another Curtius, was prepared to fling himself into
the gulf. With characteristic and national modesty, he merely waited,
willing to yield the van of battle; but the delicacy of the others left
him no alternative. He volunteered to go.

'I am a man of few words,' he said, 'and I guess I am about calculated
to fill the vacancy. I am alone in the world, and if I fail to return,
there will be no dear one to mourn the loss. I have one little favor to
ask before I go, and that is, in case the worst happens, to spare me an
epitaph. You will think of me sometimes; and when you sit round your
winter firesides and the wind is howling in the naked trees----' Here
he waved his hands deprecatingly towards the company, as if praying them
to spare his emotions.

Mr Carver's eyes twinkled at this tirade. 'Well, that is settled then,'
he said. 'The sooner you go the better. Shall we say to-morrow?--Very
good. The address is 34 Cedar Road, Hampstead.'

'It is well,' said the victim to friendship. 'Before I quit you once and
for ever, I should like to break the bread of joviality once more; for
the last time, I should like to look upon the wine when it is red. To
drop the language of metaphor, I invite you all to lunch with me at the

It was left, then, in Mr Slimm's hands to consummate what he denominated
as 'working the oracle.'

'What do you think of my dream now?' Eleanor asked her husband as they
walked home together.

'Your "Argosy with golden sails?"' queried Edgar. 'Well, I am beginning
to think it may come into port after all.'

* * * * * * *

Like the 'condemned man' of the penny-a-liner, Mr Slimm passed a good
night, and the thought of the task he had undertaken did not deter him
from making a hearty and substantial breakfast. Without so much as a
tremor, he ordered a cab, and sped away northwards on his diplomatic

Cedar Road may, without any great stretch of imagination, be termed
dingy. It is not the dinginess of the typical London street, but a
jaunty kind of griminess, a griminess which knows itself to be grimy,
but swaggers with a pretension of spick-and-span cleanliness; a sort of
place which makes one think of that cheap gentility which wears gaudy
apparel and unclean linen, or no linen at all. I may better explain my
meaning by saying that the majority of the houses were black with smoke,
and yet, singularly enough, the facings of light stone at the corners
have preserved their natural colour, and each house was adorned by a
veranda painted a staring green, which stood out in ghastly contrast to
the fog stained fronts. Every house had a little grass plot--called, by
a stretch of courtesy, the lawn--fronting it. It was presumedly of
grass, because it was vegetation of some kind, but about as much like
the genuine article as London milk resembles the original lacteal fluid.
In the centre of each 'lawn' was an oval flower-bed, tenanted by some
hardy annuals, bearing infinitesimal blooms of a neutral tint. Each
house was approached by a flight of steps rising from the road, which
gentle ascent served to keep the prying gaze of the vulgar from peering
too closely into the genteel seclusion of the dining-rooms. Every house
was the counterpart of its neighbour, each having the same sad-coloured
curtains and wire-blinds on the ground-floor, the same cheap muslins at
the drawing-room windows, and the same drawn blinds, surmounted with
brass rods, to the bedrooms. A canary likewise hung in a painted cage in
every drawing-room window; No. 34 boasting in addition a
stagnant-looking aquarium, containing three torpid goldfish in extremely
dirty water.

After three peals of the bell, each outrivalling its predecessor in
volume, which is not saying much for the bell metal at No. 34, Mr Slimm
was answered. Through the fragile door he had distinctly heard the
sounds of revelry within, and acquired the information that some mystic
Melissa was 'tidying,' and therefore 'Tilda must transform herself for
the nonce into the slave of the bell. By the petulant expression on
'Tilda's face, the errand was not particularly pleasant to her.

In answer to his query, the misanthropic 'Tilda vouchsafed the
information that Miss Wakefield was in, adding, that he had better come
this way; which siren summons he lost no time in obeying, and was thus
introduced into the seclusion of Miss Wakefield's chamber. Inquiring his
name with a snap, and having obtained the desired information, the
bewitching 'Tilda disappeared, and apparently appeared to be singing
some sort of ditty in a crescendo voice at the foot of the stairs; the
fact of the case being that Miss Wakefield was summoned viva voce; her
part of the conversation being inaudible, and the voice of the charmer
being perfectly distinct to the visitor, the song running something
after this fashion: 'Miss Wakefield'--um, um, 'wanted, mum'--um, um. 'A
man, please'--um, um, um. 'Rather tall' (very distinctly)--um. 'No; he
is not a gentleman'--um, um, um. 'All right, miss.' And then she
reappeared with the information that Miss Wakefield would be down at

The space of time mentioned having resolved itself into a quarter of an
hour, Mr Slimm was enabled to complete his plan of campaign, not that he
anticipated any resistance--in which deduction he was decidedly
wrong--but because he thought it best to be quite prepared with his
story, and in a position to receive the enemy in good and compact order.
By the time he had done this, and taken a mental inventory of all the
furniture in the room--not a violent effort of memory--the door opened,
and Miss Wakefield entered.


With the exception of her eyes and her teeth, Miss Wakefield was an
ordinary, nay, almost a benevolent, woman. About sixty years of age,
with a figure perfectly straight and supple, and wearing her own hair,
which was purple black, she might have passed for forty, save for the
innumerable lines and wrinkles on her face. Her eyes were full of a
furtive evil light, and never failed to cast a baleful influence over
the spectator; her teeth were large and white, but gapped here and there
in the front like a saw. Mr Slimm mentally compared her with some choice
assortments of womankind he had encountered in the mines and kindred
places, and they did not suffer in the comparison.

'Your business?' she said coldly.

'Madam, you will do me the favor to sit down,' he replied. 'What I have
to say will take a considerable time.'

'Thank you,' she said, with the same frigid air; 'I prefer to stand.'
Some subtle instinct told her this visit boded no good, and she knew in
dealing with an adversary what an advantage a standing position gives

By way of answer, Mr Slimm continued standing also.

'Madam,' he commenced, 'what I have to say to you concerns the affairs
of the late Mr Morton of Eastwood. He was an old friend of mine. Very
recently, I heard of his death. I am determined to have justice done.'

Was it fancy, or did these thin feline lips grow white? He could have
sworn he saw them quiver. Anyway, fancy or not, if the worst came to the
worst, he had a great card to play.

Mr Slimm continued: 'He died, as you are aware, after a curious illness,
and rather suddenly at the last. If I am correct, there was no inquest.'

It was not fancy, then! Mr Slimm's keen eyes detected a sudden shiver
agitate her frame, and his ear caught a quick painful respiration. Why
did no one think of this? he said to himself.

'However, for the present we will pass that over. Mr Morton was known to
have been a rich man. All he had was left, I understand, to you?'

'In that, sir, you are perfectly right. Pray, continue.'

'Now, at one time, I understand, poor Morton intended to leave
everything to his niece. Was that so?'

Miss Wakefield inclined her head coldly.

'And since his death, not the slightest trace of the bulk of the money
has been discovered. Is that not so?'

Miss Wakefield inclined her head once more.

'Well, we have now discovered where the money is.'

'Discovered where the money is! where my money is!' the woman cried with
a grating laugh. 'And I presume you came to bring it to me. After all
this long while, fancy getting my own at last!'

'I suppose you will do something for Mrs Seaton?' inquired Slimm.

'Do something for them--of course I will,' she laughed hardly. 'I'll go
and call on them. I will let them see me ride in my carriage, while they
are begging in the gutter. I will give them a sixpence when they come to
ask alms at my house.--Oh, tell me, are they starving?--are they
starving, I say?' she gasped at her passionate utterance, clutching the
American by the arm. 'Are they living on charity? Oh, I hope so--I hope
so, for I hate them--hate them!' The last words hissed lingeringly and
spitefully through her teeth.

'Well, not quite,' Slimm replied cheerfully. 'It must be consoling to
your womanly feelings to know they are getting on first-rate--in fact,
they are as happy and comfortable as two people can be.'

'I am sorry for that,' she said, with a little pant between each word.
'I hoped they were starving. What right have they to be happy, when I am
so miserable?'

'Really, madam, it is no pleasure to bring you news, you take it so
uncomfortably,' Slimm replied. 'These histrionics, I know, are intended
merely to disguise your delicate and tender feelings. Now, we admit this
money belongs to you. What will you stand for the information? Forty
thousand pounds is a lot of money.'

'Not one farthing,' replied the woman--'not one single farthing. The
money is mine, and mine it shall remain.'

'In that case,' said Slimm cheerfully, 'my mission is at an end.--I wish
you a very good-morning.'

'Stop! Do you mean to say you intend to hold the secret unless I agree
to some terms?'

'Your powers of penetration do you credit, madam. That is precisely what
I do mean.'

'And what, pray, is the price placed upon your secret?'


'Half!' she echoed, with a bitter laugh. 'Your are joking. Twenty
thousand pounds! Oh, you have made a mistake. You should go to a
millionaire, not come to me.'

'Do I understand you to decline?'

'Decline!' she exclaimed in a fury. 'Rather than pay that money to them,
I would starve and rot! Rather than pay that, the money shall remain in
its secret hiding-place till it is forgotten!--Do you take me for an
idiot, a drivelling old woman with one foot in the grave? No, no, no!
You do not know Selina Wakefield yet. Twenty thousand pounds. Ah, ah,
ah! The fools, the fools, the miserable fools, to come and ask me this!'

'Perhaps you will be good enough to name a sum you consider to be
equivalent to the service rendered,' said the American, totally unmoved
by this torrent of invective.

'Now you talk like a man of sense,' she replied. 'You are quite
determined, I see, not to part with your secret until you have a return.
Well, let me see. What do you say to a thousand pounds, or, to stretch a
point, fifteen hundred?'

'Appalling generosity!' replied Mr Slimm, regarding the ceiling in
rapture--'wasteful extravagance! I cannot accept it. My principals are
so grasping, you know. Now, as a personal favor, and to settle this
little difficulty, could not you add, say, another five pounds?'

'Not another farthing.'

'Then I am afraid our interview is at an end,' he said
regretfully.--'Now, look here. My friends are in no need of money, and
are a long way from the state you charitably hoped to find them in. You
are getting on in life, and we can afford to wait. When you are no
more--not to put too fine a point upon it--we shall lay hands on the
treasure, and live happily ever after--yes, madam.'

'What do you want me to do?' she said sulkily.

'Let me put it another way. Suppose we come to an agreement. It is
highly probable that where the money is, a will is concealed. Now, it is
very certain that this will is made in Mrs Seaton's favor. If we make an
arrangement to divide the spoil, and that turns out to be so, what a
good thing it will be for you! On the other hand, if there is no will,
you still have a handsome sum of money, which without our aid you can
never enjoy; and do not mistake me when I say that aid will never be
accorded without some benefit to the parties I have the honor to

'And suppose I refuse?'

'So much the worse for you. Then we have another course open, and one I
decidedly advocate. We will at our own risk recover the money, trusting
to our good fortune to find the will. If not, we will throw the money in
Chancery, and fight you for it on the ground of undue influence and

'Fraud, sir! What do you mean?' exclaimed the lady, trembling with
indignation and hatred.

Mr Slimm approached her more closely, and looking sternly into her eyes,
said: 'Mark me, madam!--the Seatons are not unfriended. I am by no means
a poor man myself, and I will not leave a stone unturned to unravel this
mystery. Do you think I am fool enough to believe that my old friend hid
his money away in this strange manner unless he had some fear? and, if I
mistake not, you are the cause of that fear. Had he intended his wealth
for you, he would have left it openly. Nothing shall be left undone to
fathom the matter; and if necessary'--here he lowered his voice to an
impressive whisper--'the body shall be exhumed. Do you understand,

The pallor on the woman's face deepened to a ghastly ashen gray. 'What
would you have me do?' she exclaimed faintly.

'Come to our terms, and all will be well,' Slimm said, pursuing the
advantage he had gained; 'otherwise--' here he paused--'however, we will
say nothing about that. What I propose is this: that an agreement be
drawn up and entered into upon the terms, that in case no will is found
with the money, the property is divided; and if a will is found leaving
the property to Mrs Seaton, you take five thousand pounds. That is my
final offer.'

'I--I consent,' she faltered humbly, at the same time longing, in her
passionate madness, to do her antagonist some deadly mischief, as he
stood before her so calmly triumphant.

'Very good,' he said quietly--'very, good. Then I presume our
intercourse is at an end. You will he good enough to be at Mr Carver's
office, in Bedford Row at three o'clock to-morrow afternoon.'

'One moment. Are you in the secret?'

'Madam, I have that felicity. But why?'

'Perhaps now we have come to terms, you may be good enough to tell me
where it is.'

'Curiosity, thy name is woman,' said Slimm sententiously. 'I am sorry. I
cannot gratify that little wish; but as you will doubtless be present at
the opening ceremony, you will not object to restrain your curiosity for
the present.--Good-morning.'

Miss Wakefield watched our ambassador's cab leave the door, and then
threw herself, in the abandonment of her passion, upon the floor. In the
impotence of her rage and despair, she lay there, rolling like a mad
dog, tearing at her long nails with the strong uneven teeth. 'What does
he know?' she hissed. 'What can he know? Beaten, beaten at last!'

'What a woman!' soliloquised Slimm as he rolled back Londonwards. 'I
must have a cigar, to get the flavor out of my mouth.'

When he arrived at Mr Carver's, he found Eleanor and her husband
awaiting him with great impatience.

'What cheer, my comrade?' Edgar asked with assumed cheerfulness.

'Considering the circumstances of the case and the imminent risk I ran,
you might at least have expressed a desire to weep upon this rugged
bosom,' Slimm answered reproachfully. 'I found the evil, like most
evils, not half so bad when it is properly faced.'

'And Miss Wakefield?' asked Mr Carver anxiously.

'Gentle as a sucking-dove--only too anxious to meet our views. In fact,
I so far tamed her that she has made an appointment to come here
to-morrow to settle preliminaries.'

'But what sort of terms did you come to?' Eleanor asked.

Slimm briefly related the result of his mission, and its unexpected and
desirable consummation, to the mutual astonishment of his listeners;
indeed, when he came to review the circumstances of the case, he was
somewhat astonished at his own success.

'Wonderful!' exclaimed Mr Carver, gazing with intense admiration at his
enemy. 'I could not have believed it possible for one man single-handed
to have accomplished so much.--My good friend, do I really understand
that in any case we get half the money; and in one case, all but five
thousand pounds.'

'Precisely; and you get the agreement drawn up, and we will get away to
Eastwood the day after to-morrow. I declare I feel as pleased as a
schoolboy who has found the apple at hide-and-seek. I feel as if I was
getting young again.'

'Then you think it is really settled?' Edgar asked, with a sigh of
pleasure and relief.

'Not the slightest doubt of it,' said the American promptly. 'And I
think I may be allowed to observe, that of all the strange things I ever
came across throughout my long and checkered career, this is about the

'It certainly beats anything I ever remember,' said Mr Carver with a
buoyant air.--'What, do you say, Bates?'

'Well, sir,' Mr Bates admitted, 'there certainly are some points about
it one does not generally encounter in the ordinary run of business.'


When the poet, in the pursuit of his fancy, eulogised the stately homes
of England, he must have forgotten or totally ignored a class of
dwelling dearer to my mind than all the marble halls the taste or vanity
of man ever designed. The Duke of Stilton doubtless prefers his
ancestral home, with its towers and turrets, its capacious
stables--which, by-the-bye, seem the first consideration in the
Brobdingnagian erections of the hour; he may wander with an air of pride
through the Raphael hall, and the Teniers gallery or the Cuyp
drawing-room. For me, he can have his art treasures, his Carrara
marbles, his priceless Wedgwood, his Dresden. He may enjoy his
drawing-room--blue, red, and every color in the universe. He may dine in
the bosom of his family on every delicacy a cordon bleu can devise to
tickle the palate and stimulate the appetite, with its accompaniment of
rose-patterned silver and dainty china. Let him luxuriate in it all, if
he will.

I have in my mind's eye a house far different from His Grace's, but
which, nevertheless, if not rich in bric-a-brac, has an appearance of
harmony and refinement refreshing beyond belief. It is the house, or, if
you will, the villa of Eastwood. Against the main road is a rugged stone
wall, moss-incrusted and lichen-strewn, and surmounted by dense laurel.
Opening the old-fashioned wooden gate, a broad path leads to the door,
which is some forty yards away, at the side of the house. It is a low,
gray stone house, clustered with ivy and clematis, and climbing roses
twisting round the long double row of windows. In front is the lawn,
quite half an acre in extent, and shut off from a garden by a brick
wall, covered with apricot and nectarine. On the right, leading towards
the house, is a sloping bank, all white and fragrant in spring with
violets; and above this bank, approached by an ancient horse-block, is
the old-world garden. It is a large garden, with broad green paths,
sheltered bowers of apple-trees, and the borders gay with wall-flowers,
mignonette, stocks, pansies, London-pride, Tom Thumb, and here and there
great bushes of lavender and old-man. Far down is a walk of filbert
trees, where the wily squirrel makes merry in the harvest-time, and the
cherry-trees all melodious with the song of the blackbird. There is a
balmy smell here of thyme and sage and endive, and the variety of sweet
herbs which our grandmothers were wont to cull in autumn, and suspend in
muslin bags from the kitchen rafters.

Opening the heavy hall door with the licensed freedom of the novelist,
we find ourselves in the hall, whence we reach the drawing-room. Here we
find our friends, awaiting the arrival of Miss Wakefield. They have been
talking and chatting gaily; but as the time for that lady's arrival
draws near, conversation becomes flat, and there is an air of
expectation and suppressed excitement about them, which would at once
convince the observer that something important was on hand.

Mr Carver rose from his seat, and, for about the fiftieth time, walked
to the window and looked out. It was amusing to note his easy air and
debonair appearance, which was palpably assumed to impress the
spectators with the idea that he was by no means anxious. The only
member of the party who really could be said to be at ease was Mr Bates.
He wore his best clothes, and had an air of resigned settled melancholy,
evidently expecting the worst, and prepared to have his cup of
joy--representing in his case his partnership--dashed from his lips at
the last moment.

Felix was discussing the affair with Edgar in a low voice, and Eleanor
sat white and still, only showing her impatience ever and anon by a
gentle tap upon the floor with her heel. Mr Slimm was whistling softly
in a low key, and industriously engaged in whittling a stick in his
hand. Mr Carver returned from his post of observation and threw himself
back in his chair with an involuntary sigh. Slimm put up his knife.

'I vote we begin,' said Edgar.

'No, no; it would not do--it really would not do,' interposed Mr Carver,
seeing the company generally inclined to this view. 'The lady whom we
wait is capable of anything. If we found a will in her absence, she
would not be above saying we put it there.'

'Judging from my limited experience of the lady, I calculate you are
about right, sir,' said Mr Slimm. 'No; after so many years' patience, it
would certainly be unwise to do anything rash now.'

'It is the last few moments which seem so hard,' Eleanor said. 'Suppose,
after all, we should find nothing!'

'For goodness' sake, don't think of such a thing!' Edgar exclaimed.
'Fancy, after all this bother and anxiety!'

The party lapsed into silence again, and once more Mr Carver strolled
towards the window. It is strange, when one is anxiously waiting for
anything, how slowly time goes. Edgar took his watch out of his pocket
every other minute, like a schoolboy who wears one for the first time.

'I think I will walk down the road and see if she is coming,' Slimm
observed. 'It would look a little polite, I think.'

Edgar murmured something touching love's young dream, and asked the
American if the fascination was so strong.

'Well, no,' he replied. 'I don't deny she is fascinating; but it is not
the sort of glamor that generally thrills the young bosom. One thing we
all agree upon, I think, and that is, that we shall be all extremely
pleased to see the lady.'

'That is a strange thing in itself,' Edgar replied drily. 'The damsel is
evidently coy. She is at present, doubtless, struggling with her
emotion. I fancy she does not intend to come.'

At this moment there was a sound of wheels, and a coach pulled up at the
gate. After a moment, a tall black figure was seen approaching the
house. A few seconds later, Miss Wakefield entered the room.

Miss Wakefield surveyed the group with an air of stony deliberation, and
the sharkiness of her uneven teeth displayed itself with distinct
unpleasantness. There was a cunning look in her eyes, a look of hate and
greed strangely blended with avarice.

Mr Carver, after a premonitory cough, addressed her. 'Pray, be seated,
madam,' he said with his severest professional manner. 'The business
which has brought us here to-day is not likely to be protracted, and I
see no reason why we should not commence at once. I presume you would
wish to get it over?'

'Certainly,' she said; 'I see nothing to detain us. I presume the thing
is concealed somewhere in the house.'

'On the contrary, madam; no. Had such been the case, doubtless it would
have been discovered long since. I do not suppose you would have been
behindhand in the search; and if I remember, at the time of my late
client's decease, no pains were spared to find his effects. I think that
is so?'

Miss Wakefield emitted a grim smile, and nodded.

'Very, good,' the lawyer continued--'very good.--Mr Slimm, I suppose you
have the implements at hand? Nothing remains now for it but immediately
to set to work and accomplish our mission. I have seen some
extraordinary things in the course of my professional career, but I must
say that since I have had the honor to be on the rolls, I never
encountered anything like this.'

'How, did it come out?' asked Miss Wakefield acidly.

'Margaret Boulton--you remember her, of course--she was charged with a
paper disclosing this secret. If I mistake not, it was given her on the
day of Mr Morton's death.'

Miss Wakefield drew her breath sharply. 'Had I but known!' she said
slowly--'ah, had I but known!'

There are spots, astronomers inform us, on the sun--a metaphorical
expression, which, in the language of the day, implies that nothing is
perfect. The expression used by Miss Wakefield therefore proved her to
be after all but human, and, I am afraid, raised a feeling of
gratulation in her listeners' breasts that she had not known.

'We are wasting time here,' said Mr Carver shortly.

At this signal, every one rose, and made their way out of the house, and
thence on to the lawn. They were secluded entirely from observation, and
it was impossible for passers-by to see the operations. Mr Slimm
presently appeared bearing a pick-axe and spade, and without delay
commenced operations. He was an old miner, and went to work in a
scientific manner, which could not fail to win the entire approval of
the spectators. Miss Wakefield, who, be it remembered, was entirely in
the dark, watched his proceedings with a thrilling interest entirely
lost in contemplating the workman.

The spot where they were standing was in the centre of the lawn, and
there stood the figure of Niobe in the centre. Truly, the last place to
look for a fortune.

Mr Slimm's first act was to clear away the weeds and rubbish which had
in time sprung up round Niobe's feet--a task in which he was heartily
aided by the onlookers, Mr Carver doing great feats with the thistles;
and even Bates joined in the task, covering himself with distinction by
his desperate onslaught upon sundry dandelions which time had sown
there. This task being accomplished, the real work commenced.

'I do not think we need move that ancient lady,' said Mr Slimm, touching
the Niobe. 'We will break earth here in front of her.'

By this time, excitement reigned supreme. Mr Carver hopped about like an
animated cork, giving the most contrary directions, and sadly
interfering with the task in hand by his well-meant interference. After
narrowly escaping sudden death from a hearty swing of Mr Slimm's
pick-axe, he retired to a safe distance, and there directed the work in
safety, giving instructions which were totally ignored by the worker.

'I never calculated,' said the American, as he worked, 'to be
prospecting for pay dirt on a gentleman's lawn. As an ordinary rule,
such is not the place to look for dust. The symptoms don't indicate
gold,' he continued, digging away with great heartiness; 'but we never
can tell what's going to turn up, as the philosopher said. Nothing like
faith in these little operations. Faith, we are told will remove
mountains. It isn't a mountain exactly that I want to move; but this is
precious slow work. Perhaps I'm out of practice, perhaps it's my
impatience, but this heap don't seem to be increasing to any powerful
extent. It can't be very much farther down, and that's a fact, or my old
comrade must have been a much more powerful man than I took him for.'

By this time he had excavated the earth to some depth, but as yet
nothing was visible. He resumed his task heartily, but as he got deeper
and deeper, his anxiety increased.

'I hope we are not going to be sold,' Mr Slimm said at length.

'Under the statue, remember,' said Edgar; 'you are going too deep.'

'I believe you are right,' replied Mr Slimm, as he directed a few blows
almost viciously at the side of the hole he had dug. At that moment the
point of the pick struck on some hard surface. Expectation was on
tiptoe, and the utmost point of excitement was reached: in other, words,
every one became intensely quiet--if quiet can be intense--and watched
the worker closely. A few more blows given with hearty good-will, and
the spade plied with equal zest, brought to light a square box, directly
beneath the statue, but only a few inches underground. A few touches of
the spade completed its liberation, and Charles Morton's hiding place
was no longer an uncertainty, but a pleasant reality.

There, after so long an interment, it lay. The treasure which had caused
so much jealousy and scheming, disappointment and misery, care and
sorrow, avarice and cunning, was there. For that money one life had been
lost; for that treasure, two proud hearts had suffered four years'
misery and deprivation. For that poor dross, one man's dying bed was
imbittered and poisoned; for the loss of it, one woman had wept and
raved in vain. Hidden from fear, found by that mysterious agency poor
mortals call chance, let us hope at last that it is destined to work
some good in a world of tears.

It was ho dream. The contents were shaken out unceremoniously upon the
grass, and certified by Mr Carver. Neat piles of papers and securities,
chiefly American, were wrapped in water-proof, in a careful manner.
Their previous estimate of Mr Morton's fortune was found not to have
been far wrong; for when the amount of the securities came to be
counted, the sum came to no less than thirty-eight thousand five hundred
and ten pounds.

'Good!' exclaimed Miss Wakefield, first to break the silence, and
speaking in a voice as nearly approaching satisfaction as it was
possible for that estimable female to reach. 'I presume the rest is
merely formal.--Mr Carver, I shall expect nineteen thousand two hundred
and fifty-five pounds, free of costs, to be paid into my bankers at
once. I certainly take credit for my generosity in this matter.'

No one answered this remark; the idea of Miss Wakefield's generosity
being sufficient to provide every mind with abundance of speculation.
But Mr Slimm's sharp eye had caught sight of an envelope, which the
others, the anxiety to count the spoil, had entirely over-looked. With a
quiet smile on his lips, he listened to the last speaker's gracious
remark, and then handing the paper to Mr Carver, said: 'I am afraid,
madam, we shall have to tax your generosity still further. If a will was
found in our favor, I think you were to be content with five thousand
pounds. If I don't mistake, the paper I have given to our estimable
friend is that interesting document.'

Meanwhile, Mr Carver was fluttering about in a state of great
jubilation. His first act, as soon as he had attracted the attention of
the group, was to shake hands with Bates with great and elaborate
ceremony. This gratifying operation being concluded, he put on his
spectacles and said: 'Bates, I owe you an apology. I spoke of your
intellect disparagingly, I believe, not long since; and now, in the
presence of this distinguished circle, I beg leave, in all due humility,
to retract my words. It was I who had lost my wits.--No--no
contradictions, please. I say it was I. The paper I hold in my hand is
the last will and testament of my late client, Charles Morton, the owner
of this house. After giving a few brief reasons for disposing of his
money in this extraordinary manner, and after a few small legacies, he
says: "And as to the rest, residue, and remainder of my estate both real
and personal, and of what description or kind soever and of which I may
die possessed, I give and bequeath to my niece, Eleanor Seaton, for her
absolute use and benefit." It is signed and witnessed by John Styles and
Aaron Gray, both names being familiar to me.--Miss Wakefield, I
congratulate you; I do, indeed. You have done really well.'

It was evident, from the expression of that lady's face, that she was
very far from sharing this opinion. Her upper lip went up, and her
saw-like teeth came down in a manner evil to see. 'It is a conspiracy!'
she hissed, 'a low, cunning conspiracy.--Oh, you shall pay for it. Do
you think you are going to rob me with impunity, with your lawyer
schemes? I will fight the will,' she screamed, 'if I am ruined for it. I
will ruin you all! I will have you struck off the rolls! Oh, you
hoary-headed, lying old reptile, you!'

'Madam,' said Mr Slimm sternly, you forget yourself. Do you not know it
is in our power to count the money you have had into the sum we propose
to give you? Have a care--have a care!'

These last words, uttered with peculiar emphasis, had a wonderful effect
upon the 'woman scorned.' With a violent effort, she collected herself,
and when she spoke again, it was without the slightest trace of her late
abandoned, reckless manner.

'Be it so,' she said slowly--'be it so. You are not likely to hear from
me again.--Good-morning.--Mr Slimm, I see my cab is waiting. If you will
be good enough to give me your arm, I shall be obliged to you.'

'One moment,' said Mr Carver. 'We do not propose to deduct the few
hundreds you have from the stipulated sum to be paid to you. You shall
hear from me in a few days.'

'Thank you,' she replied with strange humility.--'Mr Slimm, are you
ready?--Again, good-morning.'

When the American returned, his face was grave and stern. What passed
between him and Miss Wakefield was never known. And so she passes from
our history. Her cunning and deceit--if it was not something worse--had
availed her nothing. Baffled and defeated, as vice should always be, she
retired to her dingy lodging, and was never more seen by our friends.
Whether there had been any foul-play was never known. If the shrewd
American had any such suspicions, he kept them to himself. It was best,
he thought, to let the past dead bury its dead, and not stir up
bitterness and the shadow of a crime, where nought but peace and
sunshine should be.

Mr Carver was still puzzled. Why his client should have taken such a
strange course with his money, and why he had not come to him and made
his last will in a straightforward manner, was a circumstance he could
not fathom. But wiser men than the astute lawyer have been puzzled ere
now by the idiosyncrasies of man, and Mr Carver was only pondering upon
a subject which has been and will be a theme with philosophers for all

'Why could he not have come to me?' he asked at length.

'I think it is easily understood,' explained Felix; 'and the principal
reason was fear. According to your own showing, Mr Morton was moody and
fanciful, possessing a highly-strung nervous system, and easily
impressed. That woman's stronger will stifled his. I am under no
obligation to her, but she possesses a mesmeric eye which has a peculiar
effect upon me. Besides this, it is evident he never trusted her. He
must have known, had he communicated with you, that she would sooner or
later discover it, hence his strange conduct. The method, to me, savours
strongly of a madman's cunning. It is proverbial that such men trust no

'It is rather idle to speculate upon it now,' Edgar said cheerfully.
'Justice has been done at last, and we are satisfied.'

'We are all satisfied,' exclaimed Mr Carver. 'You have your money, and
Bates has his partnership.--Eh, Bates?' slapping that individual with
great heartiness on the back--'eh, Bates?'

'I suppose so,' replied that misanthrope gravely; 'but the whole matter
is highly unprofessional. There is a lack of business form about it.'

'Ah, ha!' laughed Mr Carver--just like Bates; no sentiment--no

'And no romance,' put in Edgar.

It was a merry group. Mr Slimm was talking to Eleanor, making her laugh
at his quaint American saws, and she telling him of her strange dream,
and how it had all come true. Edgar and Mr Carver were badgering Bates
upon his gloomy state; and Felix was amusing and instructing little
Nelly with a bewildering, awe-inspiring fairy tale--the little one, who
had been a silent spectator of the proceedings, and knew by some
childish instinct that some happy event had happened.

'Ring down the curtain--the thing is played out,' Edgar said; 'and now
back again to London town, Nelly.'

'Papa,' she said after a pause, 'has some day come?'

'Yes, darling.'

'Really and truly?'

'Yes, darling. Some day has come at last, little one.'

* * * * * * * *

Sunshine and laughter, mirth and joy, instead of misery and despair,
gloom and smoke. Eastwood again two months later, and high revels are
being held, for is it not little Nelly's birthday! The blue sky, flecked
with little white clouds, smiles overhead, and the birds are making
merry in the trees. Niobe still stands in the centre of the lawn, as
ready to keep a secret as ever, and saying nothing either of the future
or the past.

A pattering throng of little ones are trying to play at tennis, and
Eleanor and her husband are watching them with amused eyes. Eleanor
looks very sweet and fair to-day, with the light of happiness in her
eyes; and there is an expression of peace on her face, as she leans upon
her husband's chair, which is good and pleasant to see. Mr Bates is
looking on at the group with meditative looks, speculating, no doubt,
upon marriage settlements, which these little chatterers will want some
day. Jolly Mr Carver is in the midst of a group of little ones, making
himself an object of ridicule and contempt on account of his lack of
knowledge touching the mysteries of 'hunt the slipper.' 'Fancy an old
gentleman like that knowing nothing of the game!'--an opinion which one
golden-haired fairy tenders him without hesitation, and to which he
listens with becoming humility and contriteness. Noble-hearted Felix has
established a court, where he is doing his best to emulate the wonders
of the Eastern story-tellers, and, to judge from the rapt attention of
his audience and the extreme roundness of their eyes, his imagination is
by no means faulty. Lying full length on the grass, watching the various
groups, is Mr Slimm. There is a depth of sadness in his eyes to-day, for
he is thinking of another home--that was--thousands of miles away, and
the echo of other voices than those rings in his ears.

'I did hope,' he said, rising up, 'that I should spend my old age with
my own children; but I suppose it was not to be.'

'Do not think of that now,' Eleanor said with womanly tenderness.

'Perhaps it is selfish,' he replied, with a great heave of his chest.
'It is all for the best, and I have my happiness in yours. Had I not
lost my dear ones, I should never have brought you your joy.'

'Dear old fellow!' Edgar said, pressing his hand warmly. 'Try and forget
that for to-day. How good providence has been to us!'

'It is not every man who has a wife like yours, Seaton,' said the
American, heedless of the blushing Eleanor.

'True for you, old friend,' Edgar replied, looking at his wife lovingly.
'I have one in a million;' and he kissed her fondly.

The American regarded them for a moment with something in his eyes
suspiciously like tears. 'It was not to be,' he said at length--'it was
not to be!'

Eleanor came forward, and took his hands in her own. 'Why not?' she
said. 'You have always a home and welcome here. Stay with us, and we
will give to you what we can. Now, promise.'

And he promised.

----Chambers's Journal.


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