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Title: As A Man Lives
       or
       The Mystery of the Yellow House
Author: E Phillips Oppenheim
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1202471.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: July 2012
Date most recently updated: July 2012

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

Title: As A Man Lives
       or
       The Mystery of the Yellow House
Author: E Phillips Oppenheim

*


1908


*

CONTENTS

     I. The Yellow House
    II. On the Moor
   III. Mr. Bruce Deville
    IV. Our Mysterious Neighbours
     V. A South American Letter
    VI. The Millionaire
   VII. A Fruitless Appeal
  VIII. The Coming of Mr. Berdenstein
    IX. A Terrible Interruption
     X. Canon of Belchester
    XI. The Gathering of the Cloud
   XII. Mr. Berdenstein's Sister
  XIII. For Vengeance
   XIV. Adelaide Fortress's Guest
    XV. The Likeness of Philip Maltabar
   XVI. "It was my Father"
  XVII. A Conference of Two
 XVIII. Friends
   XIX. A Corner of the Curtain
    XX. I am the Victim
   XXI. Out of Danger
  XXII. An Unholy Compact
 XXIII. In the Plantation
  XXIV. My Dilemma
   XXV. A Proposal
  XXVI. The Evidence of Circumstances
 XXVII. A Ghost in Whitechapel
XXVIII. Eastminster
  XXIX. The Breaking of the Storm
   XXX. The Master of Colville Hall

*



CHAPTER I. THE YELLOW HOUSE



POSITIVELY every one, with two unimportant exceptions, had called upon
us. The Countess had driven over from Sysington Hall, twelve miles away,
with two anaemic-looking daughters, who had gushed over our late roses
and the cedar trees which shaded the lawn. The Holgates of Holgate Brand
and Lady Naselton of Naselton had presented themselves on the same
afternoon. Many others had come in their train, for what these very
great people did the neighbourhood was bound to endorse. There was a
little veiled anxiety, a few elaborately careless questions as to the
spelling of our name; but when my father had mentioned the second "f,"
and made a casual allusion to the Warwickshire Ffolliots--with whom we
were not indeed on speaking terms, but who were certainly our cousins--a
distinct breath of relief was followed by a gush of mild cordiality.
There were wrong Ffolliots and right Ffolliots. We belonged to the
latter. No one had made a mistake or compromised themselves in any way
by leaving their cards upon a small country vicar and his daughters. And
earlier callers went away and spread a favourable report. Those who were
hesitating, hesitated no longer. Our little carriage-drive, very steep
and very hard to turn in, was cut up with the wheels of many chariots.
The whole county within a reasonable distance came, with two exceptions.
And those two exceptions were Mr. Bruce Deville of Deville Court, on the
borders of whose domain our little church and vicarage lay, and the
woman who dwelt in the "Yellow House."

I asked Lady Naselton about both of them one afternoon. Her ladyship, by
the by, had been one of our earliest visitors, and had evinced from the
first a strong desire to become my sponsor in Northshire society. She
was middle-aged, bright, and modern--a thorough little cosmopolitan,
with a marked absence in her deportment and mannerisms of anything
bucolic or rural. I enjoyed talking to her, and this was her third
visit. We were sitting out upon the lawn, drinking afternoon tea, and
making the best of a brilliant October afternoon. A yellow gleam from
the front of that oddly-shaped little house, flashing through the dark
pine trees, brought it into my mind. It was only from one particular
point in our garden that any part of it was visible at all. It chanced
that I occupied that particular spot, and during a lull in the
conversation it occurred to me to ask a question.

"By the by," I remarked, "our nearest neighbours have not yet been to
see us?"

"Your nearest neighbours!" Lady Naselton repeated. "Whom do you mean?
There are a heap of us who live close together."

"I mean the woman who lives at that little shanty through the
plantation," I answered, inclining my head towards it "It is a woman who
lives there, isn't it? I fancy that someone told me so, although I have
not seen anything of her. Perhaps I was mistaken."

Lady Naselton lifted both her hands. There was positive relish in her
tone when she spoke. The symptoms were unmistakable. Why do the nicest
women enjoy shocking and being shocked?

I could see that she was experiencing positive pleasure from my
question.

"My dear Miss Ffolliot!" she exclaimed. "My dear girl, don't you really
know anything about her? Hasn't anybody told you anything?"

I stifled an imaginary yawn in faint protest against her unbecoming
exhilaration. I have not many weaknesses but I hate scandal and
scandal-mongering. All the same I was interested, although I did not care
to gratify Lady Naselton by showing it.

"Remember, that I have only been here a week or two," I remarked;
"certainly not long enough to have mastered the annals of the
neighbourhood. I have not asked any one before. No one has ever
mentioned her name. Is there really anything worth hearing?"

Lady Naselton looked down and brushed some crumbs from her lap with a
delicately gloved hand. She was evidently an epicure in storytelling.
She was trying to make it last out as long as possible.

"Well, my dear girl, I should not like to tell you all that people say,"
she began, slowly. "At the same time, as you are a stranger to the
neighbourhood, and, of course, know nothing about anybody, it is only my
duty to put you on your guard. I do not know the particulars myself. I
have never inquired. But she is not considered to be at all a proper
person. There is something very dubious about her record."

"How deliciously vague!" I remarked, with involuntary irony. "Don't you
know anything more definite?"

"I find no pleasure in inquiring into such matters," Lady Naselton
replied a little stiffly, "The opinion of those who are better able to
judge is sufficient for me."

"One must inquire, or one cannot, or should not, judge," I said. "I
suppose that there's something which she does, or does not, do?"

"It is something connected with her past life, I believe," Lady Naselton
remarked.

"Her past life? Isn't it supposed to be rather interesting nowadays to
have a past?"

I began to doubt whether, after all, I was going to be much of a
favourite with Lady Naselton. She set her teacup down, and looked at me
with distinct disapproval in her face.

"Amongst a certain class of people it may be," she answered, severely;
"not"--with emphasis--"in Northshire society; not in any part of it with
which I am acquainted, I am glad to say. You must allow me to add. Miss
Ffolliot, that I am somewhat surprised to hear you, a clergyman's
daughter, express yourself so."

A clergyman's daughter. I was continually forgetting that. And, after
all, it is much more comfortable to keep one's self in accord with one's
environment. I pulled myself together, and explained with much
surprise-"I only asked a question. Lady Naselton. I wasn't expressing my
own views. I think that women with a past are very horrid. One is so
utterly tired of them in fiction that one does not want to meet them in
real life. We won't talk of this at all. I'm not really interested. Tell
me about Mr. Deville instead."

Now this was a little unkind of me, for I knew quite well that Lady
Naselton was brimming with eagerness to tell me a good deal about this
undesirable neighbour of ours. As it happened, however, my question
afforded her a fresh opportunity, of which she took advantage.

"To tell you of one, unfortunately, is to tell you of the other," she
said, significantly.

I decided to humour her, and raised my eyebrows in the most approved
fashion.

"How shocking!" I exclaimed.

I was received in favour again. My reception of the innuendo had been
all that could be desired.

"We consider it a most flagrant case," she continued, leaning over
towards me confidentially. "I am thankful to say that of the two Bruce
Deville is the least blamed."

"Isn't that generally the case?" I murmured. "It is the woman who has to
bear the burden."

"And it is generally the woman who deserves it," Lady Naselton answered,
promptly. "It is my experience, at any rate, and I have seen a good deal
more of life than you. In the present case there can be no doubt about
it The woman actually followed him down here, and took up her quarters
almost at his gates whilst he was away. She was there with scarcely a
stick of furniture in the house for nearly a month. When he came back,
would you believe it, the house was furnished from top to bottom with
things from the Court. The carts were going backwards and forwards for
days. She even went up and selected some of the furniture herself. I saw
it all going on with my own eyes. Oh! it was the most barefaced thing!"

"Tell me about Mr. Deville," I interrupted hastily. "I have not seen him
yet. What is he like?"

"Bruce Deville," she murmured to herself, thoughtfully. Then she was
silent for a moment. Something that was almost like a gleam of sorrow
passed across her face. Her whole expression was changed.

"Bruce Deville is my godson," she said, slowly. "I suppose that is why I
feel his failure the more keenly."

"He is a failure, then?" I asked. "Some one was talking about him
yesterday, but I only heard fragments here and there. Isn't he very
quixotic, and very poor?"

"Poor!" She repeated the word with peculiar emphasis. Then she rose from
her chair, and walked a step or two towards the low fence which enclosed
our lawn.

"Come here, child."

I stood by her side looking across the sunlit stretch of meadows and
undulating land. A very pretty landscape it was. The farmhouses, with
their grey fronts and red-tiled roofs, and snug rickyards close at hand,
had a particularly prosperous and picturesque appearance. The land was
mostly arable and well-cultivated; field after field of deep golden
stubble, and rich, dark soil stretched away to the dim horizon. She held
out her hand.

"You see!" she exclaimed. "Does that look like a poor man's
possessions?"

I shook my head.

"Every village there from east to west, every stone and acre belongs to
Bruce Deville, and has belonged to the Devilles for centimes. There is
no other landowner on that side of the country. He is lord of the Manor
of a dozen parishes!"

I was puzzled.

"Then why do people call him so miserably poor?" I asked. "They say that
the Court is virtually closed, and that he lives the life of a hermit,
almost without servants even."

"He either is or says he is as poor as Job," Lady Naselton continued,
resuming her seat. "He is a most extraordinary man. He was away from the
country altogether for twelve years, wandering about, without any
regular scheme of travel, all over the world. People met him or heard of
him in all manner of queer and out-of-the-way places. Then he lived in
London for a time, and spent a fortune--I don't know that I ought to say
anything about that to you--on Marie Leparte, the singer. One day he
came back suddenly to the Court, which had been shut up all this time,
and took up his quarters there in a single room with an old servant. He
gave put that he was ruined, and that he desired neither to visit nor
to be visited. He behaved in such an extraordinary manner to those who
did go to see him, that they are not likely to repeat the attempt."

"How long has he been living there?" I asked.

"About four years."

"I suppose that you see him sometimes?"

She shook her head sadly.

"Very seldom. Not oftener than I can help. He is changed so dreadfully."

"Tell me what he is like."

"Like I Do you mean personally? He is ugly--hideously ugly--especially
now that he takes so little care of himself. He goes about in clothes my
coachman would decline to wear, and he slouches. I think a man who
slouches is detestable."

"So do I," I assented. "What a very unpleasant neighbour to have!"

"Oh, that isn't the worst," she continued. "He is impossible in every
way. He has a brutal temper and a brutal manner. No one could possibly
take him for a gentleman. He is cruel and reckless, and he does nothing
but loaf. There are things said about him which I should not dare to
repeat to you. I feel it deeply; but it is no use disguising the fact.
He is an utter and miserable failure."

"On the whole," I remarked, resuming my chair, "it is perhaps well that
he has not called. I might not like him."

Lady Naselton's hard little laugh rang out upon the afternoon stillness.
The idea seemed to afford her infinite but bitter amusement.

"Like him, my dear! Why, he would frighten you to death. Fancy any one
liking Bruce Deville! Wait until you've seen him. He is the most perfect
prototype of degeneration in a great family I have ever come in contact
with. The worst of it is, too, that he was such a charming boy. Why,
isn't that Mr. Ffolliot coming?" she added, in an altogether different
tone. "I am so glad that I am going to meet him at last."

I looked up and followed her smiling gaze. My father was coming
noiselessly across the smooth, green turf towards us. We both of us
watched him for a moment, Lady Naselton with a faint look of surprise in
her scrutiny. My father was not in the least of the type of the ordinary
country clergyman. He was tall and slim, and carried himself with an air
of calm distinction. His clean-shaven face was distinctly of the
intellectual cast. His hair was only slightly grey, his eyes were soft,
and his mouth was mobile and benevolent. His person in every way was
faultless and immaculate; from the tips of his long fingers to the
spotless white cravat which alone redeemed the sombreness of his
clerical attire. I murmured a few words of introduction and he bowed
over Lady Naselton's hand with a smile which women generally found
entrancing.

"I am very glad to meet Lady Naselton," he said, courteously. "My
daughter has told me so much of your kindness to her."

Lady Naselton made some pleasing and conventional reply. My father
turned to me.

"Have you some tea, Kate?" he asked.. "I have been making a long round
of calls, and it is a little exhausting."

"I have some, but it is not fit to drink," I answered, striking the
gong. "Mary shall make some fresh. It will only take a minute or two."

My father acquiesced silently. He was fastidious in small things, and I
knew better than to offer him cold tea. He drew up a basket-chair to us
and sat down with a little sigh of relief.

"You have commenced your work here early," Lady Naselton remarked. "Do
you think that you are going to like these parts?"

"The country is delightful," my father answered readily. "As to the
work--well, I scarcely know. Rural existence is such a change after the
nervous life of a great city."

"You had a large parish at Belchester, had you not?" Lady Naselton
asked.

"A very large one," he answered. "I am fond of work. I have always been
used to large parishes."

And two curates, I reflected silently. Lady Naselton was looking
sympathetic.

"You will find plenty to do here, I believe," she remarked. "The schools
are in a most backward condition. My husband says that unless there is a
great change in them very soon we shall be having the School Board."

"We must try and prevent that," my father said, gravely. "Of course I
have to remember that I am only curate-in-charge here, but still I shall
do what I can. My youngest daughter Alice is a great assistance to me in
such matters. By the by, where is Alice?" he added, turning to me.

"She is in the village somewhere," I answered. "She will not be home for
tea. She has gone to see an old woman--to read to her, I think."

My father sighed gently. "Alice is a good girl," he said.

I bore the implied reproof complacently. My father sipped his tea for a
moment or two, and then asked a question.

"You were speaking of some one when I crossed the lawn?" he remarked.
"Some one not altogether a desirable neighbour I should imagine from
Lady Naselton's tone. Would it be a breach of confidence--"

"Oh, no," I interrupted. "Lady Naselton was telling me all about the man
that lives at the Court--our neighbour, Mr. Bruce Deville."

My father set his cup down abruptly. His long walk had evidently tired
him. He was more than ordinarily pale. He moved his basket-chair a few
feet further back into the deep, cool shade of the cedar tree. For a
second or two his eyes were half closed and his eyelids quivered.

"Mr. Bruce Deville," he repeated, softly--"Bruce Deville! It is somewhat
an uncommon name."

"And somewhat an uncommon man!" Lady Naselton remarked, drily, "A
terrible black sheep he is, Mr. Ffolliot. If you really want to achieve
a triumph you should attempt his conversion. You should try and get him
to come to church. Fancy Bruce Deville in church! The walls would crack
and the windows fall in!"

"My predecessor was perhaps not on good terms with him," my father
suggested, softly. "I have known so many unfortunate cases in which the
squire of the parish and the vicar have not been able to hit it off."

Lady Naselton shook her head. She had risen to her feet, and was holding
out a delicately gloved hand.

"No, it is not that," she said. "No one could hit it off with Bruce
Deville. I was fond of him once; but I am afraid that he is a very bad
lot. I should advise you to give him as wide a berth as possible.
Listen. Was that actually six o'clock? I must go this second. Come over
and see me soon, won't you. Miss Ffolliot, and bring your father? I will
send a carriage for you any day you like. It is such an awful pull up to
Naselton. Goodbye."

She was gone with a good deal of silken rustle, and a faint emission of
perfume from her trailing skirt. Notwithstanding his fatigue, my father
accompanied her across the lawn, and handed her into her pony-carriage.
He remained several minutes talking to her earnestly after she had taken
her seat and gathered up the reins, and it seemed to me that he had
dropped his voice almost to a whisper. Although I was but a few paces
off I could hear nothing of what they were saying. When at last the
carriage drove off and he came back to me, he was thoughtful, and there
was a dark shade upon his face. He sat quite still for several moments
without speaking. Then he looked up at me abruptly.

"If Lady Naselton's description of our neighbour is at all correct," he
remarked, "he must be a perfect ogre."

I nodded.

"One would imagine so. He is her godson, but she can find nothing but
evil to say of him."

"Under which circumstances it would be as well for us--for you girls
especially--to carefully avoid him," my father continued, keeping his
clear, grey eyes steadily fixed upon my face. "Don't you agree with me?"

"Most decidedly I do," I answered.

But, curiously enough, notwithstanding his evil reputation--perhaps
because of it--I was already beginning to feel a certain amount of
unaccountable interest in Mr. Bruce Deville.



CHAPTER II. ON THE MOOR


AFTER tea my father went to his study, for it was late in the week, and
he was a most conscientious writer of sermons. I read for an hour, and
then, tired alike of my book and my own company, I strolled up and down
the drive. This restlessness was one of my greatest troubles. When the
fit came I could neither work nor read nor think connectedly. It was a
phase of incipient dissatisfaction with life, morbid, but inevitable. At
the end of the drive nearest the road, I met Alice, my youngest sister,
walking briskly with a book under her arm, and a quiet smile upon her
homely face. I watched her coming towards me, and I almost envied her.
What a comfort to be blessed with a placid disposition and an optimistic
frame of mind!

"Well, you look as though you had been enjoying yourself," I remarked,
placing myself in her way.

"So I have--after a fashion," she answered, good-humouredly. "Are you
wise to be without a hat, Kate? To look at your airy attire one would
imagine that it was summer instead of autumn. Come back into the house
with me."

I laughed at her in contempt. There was a difference indeed between my
muslin gown and the plain black skirt and jacket, powdered with dust,
which was Alice's usual costume.

"Have you ever known me to catch cold through wearing thin clothes or
going without a hat?" I asked. "I am tired of being indoors. There have
been people here all the afternoon. I wonder that your conscience allows
you to shirk your part of the duty and leave all the tiresome
entertaining to be done by me!"

She looked at me with wide-opened eyes and a concerned face. Alice was
always so painfully literal.

"Why, I thought that you liked it!" she exclaimed. I was in an evil
mood, and I determined to shock hen It was never a difficult task.

"So I do sometimes," I answered; "but to-day my callers have been all
women, winding up with an hour and a half of Lady Naselton. One gets so
tired of one's own sex! Not a single man all the afternoon. Somebody
else's husband to pass the bread-and-butter would have been a godsend!"

Alice pursed up her lips, and turned her head away with a look of
displeasure.

"I am surprised to hear you talk like that, Kate," she said, quietly.
"Do you think that it is quite good taste?"

"Be off, you little goose!" I called after her as she passed on towards
the house with quickened step and rigid head. The little sober figure
turned the bend and disappeared without looking around. She was the
perfect type of a clergyman's daughter--studiously conventional,
unremittingly proper, inevitably a little priggish. She was the right
person in the right place. She had the supreme good fortune to be in
accord with her environment. As for me, I was a veritable black sheep. I
looked after her and sighed.

I had no desire to go in; on the other hand, there was nothing to stay
out for. I hesitated for a moment, and then strolled on to the end of
the avenue. A change in the weather seemed imminent. A grey, murky
twilight had followed the afternoon of brilliant sunshine, and a low
south wind was moaning amongst the Norwegian firs. I leaned over the
gate with my face turned towards the great indistinct front of Deville
Court There was nothing to look at. The trees had taken to themselves
fantastic shapes, little wreaths of white mist were rising from the
hollows of the park. The landscape was grey, colourless, monotonous. My
whole life was like that, I thought, with a sudden despondent chill. The
lives of most girls must be unless they are domestic. In our little
family Alice absorbed the domesticity. There was not one shred of it in
my disposition.

I realised with a start that I was becoming morbid, and turned from the
gate towards the house. Suddenly I heard an unexpected sound--the sound
of voices close at hand. I stopped short and half turned round. A deep
voice rang out upon the still, damp air-"Get over, Madam! Get over.
Marvel!" There was the sound of the cracking of a whip and the soft
patter of dogs' feet as they came along the lane below--a narrow
thoroughfare which was bounded on one side by our wall and on the other
by the open stretch of park at the head of which stood Deville Court.
There must have been quite twenty of them, all of the same
breed--beagles--and amongst them two people were walking, a man and a
woman. The man was nearest to me, and I could see him more distinctly.
He was tall and very broad, with a ragged beard and long hair. He wore
no collar, and there was a great rent in his shabby shooting-coat. Of his
features I could see nothing. He wore knickerbockers, and stockings, and
thick shoes.

He was by no means an ordinary-looking person, but he was certainly not
prepossessing. The f most favourable thing about him was his carriage
which was upright and easy, but even that was in a measure spoilt by a
distinct suggestion of surliness. The woman by his side I could only see
very indistinctly. She was slim, and wore some sort of a plain tailor
gown, but she did not appear to be young. As they came nearer to me, I
slipped from the drive on to the verge of the shrubbery, standing for a
moment in the shadow of a tall laurel bush. I was not seen, but I could
hear their voices. The woman was speaking.

"A new vicar, or curate-in-charge, here, isn't there, Bruce? I fancy I
heard that one was expected."

A sullen, impatient growl came from her side.

"Ay, some fellow with a daughter, Morris was telling me. The parson was
bound to come, I suppose, but what the mischief does he want with a
daughter?"

A little laugh from the woman--a pleasant, musical laugh.

"Daughters, I believe--I heard some one say that there were two. What a
misogynist you are getting! Why shouldn't the man have daughter? if he
likes? I really believe that there are two of them."

There was a contemptuous snort, and a moment's silence. They were
exactly opposite to me now, but the hedge and the shadow of the laurels
beneath which I was standing completely shielded me from observation.
The man's huge form stood out with almost startling distinctness against
the grey sky. He was lashing the thistles by the side of the road with
his long whip.

"Maybe!" he growled. "I've seen but one--a pale-faced, black-haired
chit."

I smothered a laugh. I was the pale-faced, black-haired chit, but it was
scarcely a polite way of alluding to me, Mr. Bruce Deville. When they
had gone by I leaned over the gate again, and watched them vanish
amongst the shadows. The sound of their voices came to me indistinctly;
but I could hear the deep bass of the man as he slung some scornful
exclamation out upon the moist air. His great figure, looming
unnaturally large through the misty twilight, was the last to vanish. It
was my first glimpse of Mr. Bruce Deville of Deville Court.

I turned round with a terrified start. Almost at my side some heavy body
had fallen to the ground with a faint groan. A single step, and I was
bending over the prostrate form of a man. I caught his hand and gazed
into his face with horrified eyes. It was my father. He must have been
within a yard of me when he fell.

His eyes were half closed, and his hands were cold. Gathering up my
skirts in my hand, I ran swiftly across the lawn into the house.

I met Alice in the hall.

"Get some brandy!" I cried, breathlessly. "Father is ill--out in the
garden! Quick!"

She brought it in a moment. Together we hurried back to where I had left
him. He had not moved. His cheeks were ghastly pale, and his eyes were
still closed. I felt his pulse and his heart, and unfastened his collar.

"There is nothing serious the matter--at least I think not," I whispered
to Alice. "It is only a fainting fit."

I rubbed his hands, and we forced some brandy between his lips.
Presently he opened his eyes, and raised his head a little, looking half
fearfully around.

"It was her voice," he whispered, hoarsely. "It came to me through the
shadows I Where is she? What have you done with her? There was a
rustling of the leaves--and then I heard her speak!"

"There is no one here but Alice and myself," I said, bending over him.
"You must have been fancying things. Are you better?"

"Better!" He looked up at both of us, and the light came back into his
face.

"Ah I I see! I must have fainted!" he exclaimed. "I remember the study
was close, and I came to get cool. Yet, I thought--I thought--"

I held out my arm, and he staggered up. He was still white and shaken,
but evidently his memory was returning.

"I remember it was close in the study," he said--"very close; I was
tired too. I must have walked too far. I don't like it though. I must see
a doctor; I must certainly see a doctor!"

Alice bent over him full of sympathy, and he took her arm. I walked
behind him in silence. A curious thought had taken possession of me. I
could not get rid of the impression of my father's first words, and his
white, terrified face. Was it indeed a wild fancy of his, or had he
really heard this voice which had stirred him so deeply? I tried to
laugh at the idea. I could not. His cry was so natural, his terror so
apparent! He had heard a voice. He had been stricken with a sudden
terror. Whose was the voice--whence his fear of it? I watched him
leaning slightly upon Alice's arm, and walking on slowly in front of me
towards the house. Already he was better. His features had reassumed
their customary air of delicate and reserved strength. I looked at him
with new and curious eyes. For the first time I wondered whether there
might be another world, or the ashes of an old one beneath that grey,
impenetrable mask.



CHAPTER III. MR. BRUCE DEVILLE


MY father's first sermon was a great success. As usual, it was polished,
eloquent, and simple, and withal original. He preached without
manuscript, almost without notes, and he took particular pains to keep
within the comprehension of his tiny congregation. Lady Naselton, who
waited for me in the aisle, whispered her warm approval.

"Whatever induced your father to come to such an out-of-the-way hole as
this?" she exclaimed, as we passed through the porch into the fresh,
sunlit air. "Why, he is an orator I He should preach at cathedrals! I
never heard any one whose style I like better. But all the same it is a
pity to think of such a sermon being preached to such a congregation.
Don't you think so yourself?"

I agreed with her heartily.

"I wonder that you girls let him come here and bury himself, with his
talents," she continued.

"I had not much to do with it," I reminded hen "You forget that I have
lived abroad all my life; I really have only been home for about eight
or nine months."

"Well, I should have thought that your sister would have been more
ambitious for him," she declared. "However, ifs not my business, of
course. Since you are here, I shall insist, positively insist, upon
coming every Sunday. My husband says that it is such a drag for the
horses. Men have such ridiculous ideas where horses are concerned. I am
sure that they take more care of them than they do of their wives. Come
and have tea with me to-morrow, will you?"

"If I can," I promised. "It all depends upon what Providence has in
store for me in the shape of callers."

"There is no one left to call," Lady Naselton declared, with her foot
upon the carriage step. "I looked through your card plate the other day
whilst I was waiting for you. You will be left in peace for a little
while now."

"You forget our neighbour," I answered, laughing. "He has not called
yet, and I mean him to."

Lady Naselton leaned back amongst the soft cushions of her barouche, and
smiled a pitying smile at me.

"You need not wait for him, at any rate," she said. "If you do you will
suffer for the want of fresh air."

The carriage drove off, and I skirted the churchyard, and made my way
round to the Vicarage gate. Away across the park I could see a huge
knickerbockered figure leaning over a gate, with his back to me, smoking
a pipe. It was not a graceful attitude, nor was it a particularly
reputable way of spending a Sunday morning.

I was reminded of him again as I walked up the path towards the house. A
few yards from our dining-room window a dog was lying upon a flower-bed
edge. As I approached, it limped up, whining, and looked at me with
piteous brown eyes. I recognised the breed at once. It was a beagle--one
of Mr. Deville's without a doubt. It lay at my feet with its front paw
stretched out, and when I stooped down to pat it, it wagged its tail
feebly, but made no effort to rise. Evidently its leg was broken.

I fetched some lint from the house, and commenced to bind up the limb as
carefully as possible. The dog lay quite still, whining and licking my
hand every now and then. Just as I was finishing off the bandage I
became conscious that some one was approaching the garden--a firm, heavy
tread was crossing the lane. In a moment or two a gruff voice sounded
almost at my elbow.

"I beg pardon, but I think one of my dogs is here."

The words were civil enough, but the tone was brusque and repellant. I
looked round without removing my hands from the lint Our neighbour's
appearance was certainly not encouraging. His great frame was carelessly
clad in a very old shooting-suit, which once might have been of good cut
and style, but was now only fit for the rag dealer. He wore a grey
flannel shirt with a turn-down collar of the same material. His face,
whatever its natural expression might have been, was disfigured just
then with a dark, almost a ferocious, scowl. His hand was raised, as
though unwillingly, to his cap, and a pair of piercing grey eyes were
flashing down upon me from beneath his heavily marked eyebrows. He stood
frowning down from his great height, a singularly powerful and
forbidding object.

I resumed my task.

"No doubt it is your dog!" I said, calmly. "But you must wait until I
have finished the bandage. You should take better care of your animals!
Perhaps you don't know that its leg is broken."

He got down on his knees at once without glancing at me again. He seemed
to have forgotten my very existence.

"Lawless," he exclaimed, softly--"little lady, little lady, what have
you been up to? Oh, you silly little woman!"

The animal, with the rank ingratitude of its kind, wriggled frantically
out of my grasp and fawned about its master in a paroxysm of delight. I
was so completely forgotten that I was able to observe him at my ease.
His face and voice had changed like magic. Then I saw that his features,
though irregular, were powerful and not ill-shaped, and that his ugly
flannel shirt was at any rate clean. He continued to ignore my presence,
and, taking the dog up into his arms, tenderly examined the fracture.

"Poor little lady!" he murmured. "Poor little Lawless. One of those
damned traps of Harrison's, I suppose. I shall kill that fellow some
day!" he added, savagely, under his breath.

I rose to my feet and shook out my skirts. There are limits to one's
tolerance.

"You are perfectly welcome," I remarked, quietly.

There was no doubt as to his having forgotten my presence. He looked up
with darkened face. Lady Naselton was perfectly right. He was a very
ugly man.

"I beg your pardon," he said. "I had quite forgotten that you were here.
In fact, I thought that you had gone away. Thank you for attending to
the dog. That will do very nicely until I get it home," he added,
touching the bandage.

"Until you get it home!" I repeated. "Thank you! Do you think that you
can bandage better than that?"

I looked down with some scorn at his large, clumsy hands. After all,
were they so very clumsy, though? They were large And brown, but they
were not without a certain shapeliness. They looked strong, too. He bore
the glance with perfect equanimity, and, taking the two ends of the lint
into his hands, commenced to draw them tighter.

"Well, you see, I shall set the bone properly when I get back," he said.
"This is fairly done, though, for an amateur. Thank you--and good
morning."

He was turning brusquely away with the dog under his arm, but I stopped
him.

"Who is Harrison?" I asked, "and why does he set traps?"

He frowned, evidently annoyed at having to stay and answer questions.

"Harrison is a small tenant farmer who objects to my crossing his land."

"Objects to your crossing his land?" I repeated, vaguely.

"Yes, yes, I take these dogs after hares, you know--beagling we call
it. Sometimes I am forced to cross his farm if a hare is running,
although I never go there for one. He objects, and so he sets traps."

"Is he your tenant?" I asked.

"Yes."

"Why don't you get rid of him, then? I wouldn't have a man who would set
traps on my land."

He frowned, and his tone was distinctly impatient. He was evidently
weary of the discussion.

"I cannot. He has a long lease. Good morning."

"Good morning, Mr. Deville."

He looked over his shoulder.

"You know my name!"

"Certainly. Don't you know mine?"

"No."

"Let me introduce myself, then. I am Miss Ffolliot--the pale-faced chit,
you know!" I added, maliciously. "My father is the new vicar."

I was standing up before him with my hands clasped behind my back, and
almost felt the flash of his dark, fiery eyes as they swept over me. I
could not look away from him.

There was a distinct change in his whole appearance. At last he was
looking at me with genuine interest The lines of his mouth had come
together sharply, and his face was as black as thunder.

"Ffolliot?" he repeated, slowly--"Ffolliot? How do you spell it?"

"Anyhow, so long as you remember the two Fs!" I answered, suavely.
"Generally, double F, O, double L, I, O, T. Rather a pretty name, we
think, although I am afraid that you don't seem to like it. Oh I here's
my father coming. Won't you stay, and make his acquaintance?"

My father, returning from the church, with his surplice under his arm,
had been attracted by the sight of a strange man talking to me on the
lawn, and was coming slowly over towards us. Mr. Deville turned round
rather abruptly. The two men met face to face, my father dignified,
correct, severe, Bruce Deville untidy, ill-clad, with sullen, darkened
face, lit by the fire which flashed from his eyes. Yet there was a
certain dignity about his bearing, and he met my father's eyes
resolutely. The onus of speech seemed to rest with him, and he accepted
it.

"I need no introduction to Mr. Ffolliot," he said, sternly. "I am afraid
that I can offer you no welcome to Northshire. This is a surprise."

My father looked him up and down with stony severity.

"So far as I am concerned, sir," he said, "I desire no welcome from you.
Had I known that you were to be amongst my near neighbours, I should not
have taken up my abode here for however short a time."

"The sentiment," remarked Mr. Deville, "is altogether mutual. At any
rate, we can see as little of each other as possible. I wish you a good
morning."

He raised his cap presumably to me, although he did not glance in my
direction, and went off across the lawn, taking huge strides, and
crossing our flower-beds with reckless unconcern. My father watched him
go with a dark shadow resting upon his face. He laid his fingers upon my
arm, and their touch through my thin gown was like the touch of fire. I
looked into his still, calm face, and I wondered. It was marvellous that
a man should wear such a mask.

"You have known him?" I murmured. "Where? Who is he?"

My father drew a long, inward breath through his clenched teeth.

"That man," he said, slowly, with his eyes still fixed upon the now
distant figure, "was closely, very closely, associated with the most
unhappy chapter of my life. It was all over and done with before you
were old enough to understand. It is many, many years ago, but I felt in
his presence as though it were but yesterday. It is many years ago--but
it hurts still--like a knife it hurts."

He held his hand pressed convulsively to his side, and stood watching
the grey, stalwart figure now almost out of sight. His face was white
and strained--some symptoms of yesterday's faintness seemed to be
suggested by those wan cheeks and over bright eyes. Even I, naturally
unsympathetic and callous was moved. I laid my hand upon his shoulders.

"It is over and finished, you say, this dark chapter," I whispered,
softly. "I would not think of it."

He looked at me for a moment in silence. The grey pallor still lingered
in his thin, sunken cheeks, and his eyes were like cold fires. It was a
face which might well guard its own secrets. I looked into it, and felt
a vague sense of trouble stirring within me. Was that chapter of his
life turned over and done with for ever? Was that secret at which he had
hinted, and the knowledge of which lay between these two, wholly of the
past, or was it a live thing? I could not tell. My father was fast
becoming the enigma of my life.

"I cannot cease to think about it," he said, slowly. "I shall never
cease to think about it until--until--"

"Until when?" I whispered.

"Until the end," he cried, hoarsely--"until the end, and God grant that
it may not be long."



CHAPTER IV. OUR MYSTERIOUS NEIGHBOURS


THIS was a faithful and exact account of my meeting with the first of
those two of our neighbours who seemed, according to Lady Naselton's
report, to remain entirely outside the ordinary society of the place.
Curiously enough, my meeting with the second one occurred on the very
next afternoon.

We came face to face at a turning in the wood within a few yards of her
odd little house, and the surprise of it almost took my breath away.
Could this be the woman condemned to isolation by a whole
neighbourhood--the woman on whose shoulders lay the burden of Bruce
Deville's profligacy? I looked into the clear, dark eyes which met mine
without any shadow of embarrassment--returning in some measure the keen
interest of my own scrutiny--and the thing seemed impossible.

She spoke to me graciously, and as though to do so were quite a matter
of course. Her voice completed my subjugation. One may so often be
deceived by faces, but the voice seems an infallible test.

"There is going to be a terrible storm," she said. "Won't you come in
for a few minutes? You will scarcely be able to get home, and these
trees are not safe."

Even while she was speaking the big raindrops began to fall. I gathered
up my skirts, and hurried along by her side.

"It is very good of you," I said, breathlessly. "I am dreadfully afraid
of a thunderstorm."

We crossed the trim little lawn, and in a moment I had passed the
portals of the Yellow House. The front door opened into a low, square
hall, hung with old-fashioned engravings against a JDackground of dark
oak. There were rugs upon the polished floor, and several easy chairs
and lounges. By the side of one was a box from Mudie's, evidently just
arrived, and a small wood fire was burning in the open grate. She laid
her hand on the back of a low rocking chair.

"Shall we sit here?" she suggested, "We can keep the door open and
watch the storm. Or perhaps you would rather see as little of it as
possible?"

I took the easy chair opposite to her.

"I don't mind watching it from inside," I answered. "I am not really
nervous, but those trees look horribly unsafe. One wants to be on the
moor to enjoy a thunderstorm."

She looked at me with a faint smile, kindly but critically.

"No, you don't look particularly nervous," she said. "I wonder--"

A crash of thunder drowned the rest of her sentence.

In the silence which followed I found her studying my features intently.
For some reason or other she seemed suddenly to have developed a new and
strong interest in me. Her eyes were fastened upon my face. I began to
feel almost uncomfortable.

She suddenly realised it, and broke into a little laugh.

"Forgive my staring at you so outrageously," she exclaimed. "You must
think me a very rude person. It is odd to meet any one in the woods
about here, you know; and I don't think that I have ever seen you
before, have I?"

I shook my head.

"Probably not; unless you were at church yesterday," I said.

"Then I certainly have not, for I do not attend church," she answered.
"But you don't live in church, do you?"

I laughed.

"Oh, no; but we have only been here a week or so," I told her. "My name
is Kate Ffolliot. I am the daughter of the new vicar, or, rather,
curate-in-charge."

Once more the hall was filled with white light.

There was a moment's breathless silence, and then the thunder came
crashing over our heads. When it was over she was leaning forward with
her face buried in her hands. She did not look up immediately.

"The thunder is awful!" I remarked. "I never heard it more directly
overhead. I am afraid it is making you uncomfortable, is it not?"

She did not move her hands or answer me. I rose to my feet, frightened.

"What is the matter?" I cried. "Are you ill? Shall I call any one?"

She raised her head and looked at me, motioning me to sit down with a
little wave of her hand. Evidently the storm had affected her nerves.
Her face was paler than ever save where her clenched fingers seemed to
have cut into her cheeks and left red livid marks on either side. Her
dark eyes were unnaturally bright and dry. She had lost that dignified
serenity of manner which had first impressed me.

"No; please sit down," she said, softly. "I am all right--only very
foolish. That last crash was too awful. It was silly of me to mind
though. I have seen worse storms. It is a sign of advancing age, I
suppose."

I laughed. She was still regarding me fixedly.

"So we are neighbours, Miss Ffolliot?" she remarked.

"Close ones," I answered. "There is only a little belt of trees between
us."

"I might have guessed who you were," she said. "For the moment, though,
it did not occur to me. You are not," she said, with a faint smile, "at
all what one looks for in a country clergyman's daughter."

"I have lived abroad nearly all my life," I said. "I was at school in
Berlin and Heidelberg. My sister has always been my father's helper. I
am afraid that parish work does not appeal to me at all."

"I am not surprised at that," she answered. "One needs a special
disposition to interest one's self in those things, and, without being a
physiognomist, I can tell you that you have not got it."

"People in the country are so stupid, and they take so much for
granted," I remarked. "If I were a philanthropist, I should certainly
choose to work in a city."

"You are quite right," she answered, absently. "Work amongst people who
have learned to think a little for themselves is more inspiring."

We were silent for a moment or two. She was evidently not interested in
the discussion, so I did not attempt to carry it on. I turned a little
in my chair to watch the storm outside, conscious all the time that her
eyes scarcely left my face.

"I had grown so used," she said, presently, "to the rectory being empty,
that I had quite forgotten the possibility of its being occupied again.
The vicar used to live several miles away. I wonder that Mr. Deville did
not know anything about you--that he did not know your name, at any
rate."

Now I was sorry that she had mentioned Mr. Deville. I was doing my best
to forget all that I had heard from Lady Naselton, and to form an
independent judgment; but at her words the whole substance of it
returned to me with a rush. I leaned back in my chair, and looked at her
thoughtfully. She was a woman whose age might be anything between
thirty-five and forty. She was plainly dressed, but with a quiet
elegance which forbade any idea of a country dressmaker. She was too
thin for her figure to be considered in any way good; but she was tall
and graceful in all her movements. Her thick, brown hair, touched here
and there with grey, was parted in the middle and vigorously brushed
away from a low, thoughtful forehead, over which it showed a decided
propensity to wave. Her features were good and strongly marked, and her
skin was perfect. Her eyes were bright and dark, her mouth piquant and
humorous. She had no pretence to beauty; but she was certainly a very
attractive and a very well-bred woman. I had never in all my life seen
any one who suggested less those things at which Lady Naselton had
hinted.

Perhaps she saw the slight change in my face at Mr. Deville's name. At
any rate, she turned the conversation.

"Have you been living in the country before you came here, or near a
large city?" she asked. "You will find it very quiet here!"

"We came from Belchester," I answered. "My father had a church in the
suburbs there. It was very horrid; I was not there long, but I hated it.
I think the most desolate country region in the world is better than
suburbanism."

"I don't think that I agree with you," she smiled. "In a large community
at any rate you are closer to the problems of life. I was at Belchester
not long ago, and I found it very interesting."

"You were at Belchester!" I repeated in surprise.

"Yes; I was electioneering. I came to help Mr. Densham."

"What! The Socialist!" I cried.

She nodded, and I could see that the corners of her mouth were twitching
with amusement.

"Yes. I thought that Belchester was rather an enlightened place. We
polled over four thousand votes. I think if we had another week or two,
and a few less helpers we might have got Mr. Densham in."

"A few less helpers!" I repeated, aimlessly.

"Yes. That is the worst of Labour and Socialist meetings. There is such
a terrible craving amongst the working classes to become stump orators.
You cannot teach them to hold their tongues. They make silly speeches,
and of course the newspapers on the other side report them, and we get
the discredit of their opinions. One always suffers most at the hands of
one's friends."

I looked at her in silent wonder. I, too, had helped at that
election--that is to say, I had driven about in the Countess of
Applecorn's barouche with a great bunch of cornflower in my gown, and
talked amiably to a lot of uninteresting people. I had a dim
recollection of a one-horse waggonette which we had passed on the way
preceded by a brass band and a lot of factory hands, and of Lady
Applecorn raising her gold-rimmed eyeglass and saying something about
the Socialist, candidate.

"Did you make speeches--and that sort of thing?" I asked, hesitatingly.

She laughed outright

"Of course I did! How else could I have helped? I am afraid that you are
beginning to think that I am a very terrible person," she added; with a
decided twinkle in her rich brown eyes.

"Please don't say that!" I begged. "Only I have been brought up always
with people who shuddered at the very mention of the word both here and
abroad, and I daresay that I have a wrong impression about it all. For
one thing I thought it was only poor people who were Socialists."

For a moment she looked grave.

"True Socialism is the most fascinating of all doctrines for the rich
and the poor, for all thoughtful men and women," she said, quietly. "It
is a religion as well as the very core of politics. But we will not talk
about that now. Are you interested in the new books? You might like to
see some of these."

She pointed at the box. "I get all the new novels, but I read very few
of them."

I looked them over as she handed the volumes out to me. I had read a
good many books in which she was interested. We began to discuss them,
casually at first, and then eagerly. An hour or more must have slipped
away. At last I looked at the clock and sprang up.

"You must have some tea," she said, with her hand on the bell.
"Please do not hurry away."

I hesitated, but she seemed to take my consent for granted, and I
suffered myself to be persuaded.

"Come and see my den while they bring it."

She opened a door on the left hand of the hall, and I passed by her side
into a large room of irregular shape, from which French windows led out
on to the trim little lawn. The walls were almost lined with books--my
father's library did not hold so many. A writing-table drawn up to the
window was covered with loose sheets of paper and works of reference
turned upon their faces. For the rest the room was a marvel of delicate
colouring and refined femininity. There were plenty of cosy chairs, and
three-legged tables, with their burden of dainty china, rare statuettes,
and many vases of flowers, mostly clustering yellow roses. But what
absorbed my attention after my rapid glance around was the fact that Mr.
Bruce Deville was sitting in a very comfortable chair near the window,
reading one of the loose sheets of paper which he had taken from the
desk.

He rose to his feet at the sound of the opening of the door, but he
did not immediately look up. He spoke to her, and I scarcely recognised
his voice. His gruffness was gone! It was mellow and good-humoured.

"Marcia I Marcia I Why can't you leave poor Harris alone?" he said. "You
will drive him out of his senses if you sling Greek at him like this.
You women are so vindictive!"

"If you will condescend to turn round," she answered, smiling, "I shall
be glad to know how you got in here, and what are you doing with my
manuscript?"

He looked up, and the sheet fluttered from his fingers. He regarded me
with undiluted astonishment "Well, I came in at the window," he
answered. "I was in a hurry to escape getting wet through. I had no idea
that you had a visitor!"

I glanced towards her. She was in no way discomposed or annoyed.

"I am not inclined to walk this afternoon," she said. "Will you come
down after dinner, about nine? I want to see you, but not just now."

He nodded, and took up his cap. At the window he looked back at me
curiously. For a moment he seemed about to speak. He contented himself,
however, with a parting bow, to which I responded. Directly he got
outside the garden he took his pipe from his pocket and lit it.

The incident did not seem to have troubled her in any way. She pointed
out some of the treasures of her room, elegant little trifles, collected
in many countries of the world, but I am afraid I was not very
attentive.

"Is Mr. Deville a relation of yours?" I asked, rather abruptly.

She had just taken down a little Italian statuette for my inspection,
and she replaced it carefully before she answered.

"No. We are friends. I have known him for a good many years."

A tiny Burmese gong rang out from the hall. She came across the room
towards me, smiling pleasantly.

"Shall we go and have some tea? I always want tea so much after a
thunderstorm. I will show you some more of my Penates, if you like,
afterwards."

I followed her into the hall, and took my tea from the hands of a prim
little maidservant. With the Dresden cup between my fingers a sudden
thought flashed into my mind. If only Lady Naselton could see me.
Unconsciously my lips parted, and I laughed outright.

"Do forgive me," I begged. "Something came into my mind. It was too
funny, I could not help laughing."

"To be able to laugh at one's thoughts is a luxury," she answered, "I
know a man who lived through a terrible illness solely because of his
sense of humour. There are so many things to laugh at in the world, if
only one sees them in the right light. Let me give you some more tea."

I set down my cup. "No, more, thanks. That has been delicious. I wonder
whether I might ask you a question?" I added. "I should like to if I
might."

"Well, you certainly may," she answered, good-humouredly.

"Mr. Deville spoke of your work," I continued; "and of course I could
see you had been writing. Do you write fiction? I think it is so
delightful for women to do anything for themselves--any real work, I
mean. Do you mind my asking?"

"I do not write fiction as a rule," she said, slowly. "I write for the
newspapers. I was a correspondent for several years for one of the
dailies. I write more now for a purpose. I am one of the abhorred
tribe, you know--a Socialist, or what people understand as a Socialist.
Are you horrified?"

"Not in the least," I answered her; "only I should like to know more
about it. From what I have heard about Socialism I should never have
dreamed of associating it with--well, with Dresden cups and saucers, for
instance," I laughed, motioning to her own.

Her eyes twinkled. "Poor child," she said, "you have all the
old-fashioned ideas about us and our beliefs, I suppose. I am not sure
that, if you were a properly regulated young lady, you would not get up
and walk out of the house."

A shadow had fallen across the open doorway, and a familiar voice,
stern, but tremulous with passion, took up her words.

"That is precisely what my daughter will do, madam I At once, and
without delay! Do you hear, Kate?"

I rose to my feet dumb with amazement. My father's tall figure, drawn to
its utmost height, stood out with almost startling vividness against the
sunlit space beyond. A deep red flush was on his pale cheeks. His eyes
seemed on fire with anger. My hostess rose to her feet with dignity.

"Your daughter is at liberty to remain or go at any time," she said,
coolly. "I presume that I am addressing Mr. Ffolliot?"

She looked over my shoulder towards my father, and their eyes met. I
looked from one to the other, conscious that something was passing
outside my knowledge--something between those two. Her eyes had become
like dull stones. Her face had grown strangely hard and cold. There was
a brief period of intense silence, broken only by a slow, monotonous
ticking of the hall clock and the flutter of the birds' wings from
amongst the elm trees outside. A breath of wind brought a shower of
raindrops down on to the gravel path. A sparrow flew twittering into the
hall and out again. Then it came to an end.

"Marcia!"

His single cry rang out like a pistol-shot upon the intense silence. He
took a quick step across the threshold. She held out both her hands in
front of her, and he stopped short.

"You had better go," she said. "You had better go quickly."

I went out and took my father's arm. He let me lend him away without a
word; but he would have fallen several times if it had not been for my
support. When we reached home he turned at once into the library.

"Go away, Kate," he said, wearily. "I must be alone. . See that I am not
disturbed."

I hesitated, but he insisted. I shut the door and left him. I, too,
wanted to be alone. My brain was in a whirl. What was this past whose
ghosts seemed rising up one by one to confront us? First there had been
Mr. Deville, and now the woman whom my father had called Marcia. What
were they to him? What had he to do with them? Where had their lives
touched? I pressed my hot forehead against the windowpane, and looked
across at the Yellow House. The sunlight was flashing and glistening
upon its damp, rain-soaked front. In the doorway a woman was standing,
shading her eyes with her hand, and looking across the park. I followed
her gaze, and saw for whom she was waiting. Bruce Deville was walking
swiftly towards her. I saw him leap a fence to save a few yards, and he
was taking huge and rapid strides. I turned away from my window and hid
my face in my hands.



CHAPTER V. A SOUTH AMERICAN LETTER


NATURALLY I expected that some time that night my father would have
spoken to me concerning the strange meeting at the house of the woman
whom he had called Marcia. In a sense I feared what he might have to
say. Already I was beginning to reckon those few hours as an epoch in my
life. Never had I met any one whom in so short a time had attracted me
so much. I found myself thinking of her continually, and the more I
thought the more I scoffed at the idea of connecting in any way with her
those things at which Lady Naselton had hinted. There seemed something
almost grossly incongruous in any such idea. The more I thought of her
the more resolute I became in putting all such thoughts behind me. And,
apart from my judgment, which was altogether on her side, I was
conscious of a vague personal attraction, almost a fascination, which
had a wonderful effect on me.

The manner of her life, her surroundings, that air of quiet, forcible
elegance, which seemed to assert itself alike in her house, her dress,
and her conversation, were a revelation to me. She was original too,
obviously intellectual, a woman who held her life well within control,
and lived it fearlessly and self-reliantly. I had never met any one like
it before, and I longed to see more of her. My one fear was lest my
father should lay some stern embargo upon my association with her. In
that case I had made up my mind not to yield without a struggle. I would
be quite sure that it was not a matter of merely prejudice before I
consented to give up what promised to be the most delightful friendship
I had ever known.

But, rather to my surprise, and a little to my relief, my father ignored
our afternoon's adventure when I saw him again. He came in to dinner as
usual, carefully dressed, and ate and drank with his customary fine care
that everything of which he partook should be of the best of its kind.
After he had left the table we saw no more of him. He went straight to
his study, and I heard the door shut and the key turned--a sign that he
was on no account to be disturbed; and though I sat in the drawing-room
until long after my usual time for retiring, and afterwards remained in
my room till the small hours commenced to chime, his door remained
locked. Yet in the morning he was down before us. He was standing at the
window when I came into the breakfast-room, and the clear morning light
fell mercilessly on his white face, pallid and lined with the marks of
his long vigil. It seemed to me that he greeted us both more quietly
than usual.

During breakfast time I made a few remarks to him, but they passed
unnoticed, or elicited only a monosyllabic reply. Alice spoke of the
schools, but he seemed scarcely to hear. We all became silent. As we
were on the point of rising, the unusual sound of wheels outside
attracted our attention. A fly was passing slowly along the road beyond
our hedge. I caught a glimpse of a woman's face inside, and half rose
up.

"She is going away!" I exclaimed.

My father, too, had half risen. He made a movement as though to hurry
from the room, but with an effort he restrained himself. The effect of
her appearance upon him was very evident to me. His under lip was
twitching, and his long, white fingers were nervously interlaced. Alice,
bland and unseeing, glanced carelessly out of the window.

"It is our mysterious neighbour from the Yellow House," she remarked.
"If a tithe of what people say about her is true we ought to rejoice
that she is going away. It is a pity she is not leaving for good."

My father opened his lips as though about to speak. He changed his mind,
however, and left the room. The burden of her defence remained with me.

"If I were you I would not take any notice of what people say about
her," I remarked. "In all probability you will only hear a pack of lies.
I had tea with her yesterday afternoon, and she seemed to me to be a
very well-bred and distinguished woman."

Alice looked at me with wide-open eyes, and an expression almost of
horror in her face.

"Do you mean to say that you have been to see her, that you have been
inside her house, Kate?" she cried.

I nodded.

"I was caught in the rain and she asked me in," I explained, coolly.
"Afterwards I liked her so much that I was glad to stay to tea when she
asked me. She is a very charming woman."

Alice looked at me blankly.

"But, Kate, didn't Lady Naselton tell you about her? Surely you have
heard what people say?"

I shrugged my shoulders slightly.

"Lady Naselton told me a good many things," I answered; "but I do not
make a point of believing everything disagreeable which I hear about
people. Do you think that charitable yourself."

My sister's face hardened. She had all the prejudices of her type, in
her case developed before their time. She was the vicar's daughter, in
whose eyes the very breath of scandal was like a devastating wind. Her
point of view, and consequently her judgment, seemed to me alike narrow
and cruel.

"You forget your position," she said, with cold indignation. "There are
other reports of that woman besides Lady Naselton's. Depend upon it
there is no smoke without fire. It is most indiscreet of you to have had
any communication with her."

"That," I declared, "is a matter of opinion."

"I believe that she is not a nice woman," Alice said, firmly.

"And I shall believe her to be a very nice one until I know the
contrary," I answered. ".I know her and you do not, and I can assure you
that she is much more interesting than any of the women who have called
upon us round here."

Alice was getting angry with me.

"You prefer an interesting woman to a good one," she said, warmly.

"Without going quite so far as that, I certainly think that it is
unfortunate that most of the good women whom one meets are so
uninteresting," I answered. "Goodness seems so satisfying--in the case
of repletion, I mean--it doesn't seem to leave room for anything else."

Whereupon Alice left me in despair, and I found myself face to face with
my father. He looked at me in stern disapproval. There was a distinctly
marked frown on his forehead.

"You are too fond of those flighty sayings, Kate," he remarked, sternly.
"Let me hear less of them."

I made no reply. There were times when I was almost afraid of my father,
when a suppressed irritation of manner seemed Uke the thin veneer
beneath which a volcano was trembling. To-day the signs were there. I
made haste to change the subject.

"The letters have just come," I said, holding out a little packet to
him. "There is one for you from a place I never heard of--somewhere in
South America, I think."

He took them from me and glanced at the handwriting of the topmost one.
Then for a short space of time I saw another man before me. The calm
strength of his refined, thoughtful face was transformed. Like a flash
the gleam of a dark passion lit up his brilliant eyes. His lips
quivered, his fingers were clenched together. For a moment I thought he
would have torn the letter into shreds unopened. With an evident effort,
however, he restrained himself, and went out of the room bearing the
letter in his hand. I heard him walking about in his study all the
morning. At luncheon time he had quite recovered his composure, but
towards its close he made, for us, a somewhat startling announcement.

"I am going to London this afternoon," he said, quietly.

"To London?" we both echoed.

"Yes. There is a little business there which requires my personal
attention."

Under the circumstances Alice was even more surprised than I was.

"But how about Mr. Hewitt?" she reminded him, blankly. "We were to meet
him at the schools at five o'clock this afternoon about the new
ventilators."

"Mr. Hewitt must be put off until my return," my father answered. "The
schools have done without them for ten years, so they can go on for
another week. Can I trouble you for the Worcestershire sauce, Kate?"

This was my father's method of closing the subject. Alice looked at me
with perplexed face, but my thoughts were elsewhere. I was wondering
whether my father would undertake a commission for me at Debenham and
Freebody's.

"Shall you be going West?" I asked him.

He looked up at me and hesitated for a moment.

"My business is in the City," he said, coldly. "What do you call West?"

"Regent Street," I answered.

He considered for a few moments.

"I may be near there," he said. "If so I will try to do what you
require. Do not be disappointed if I should happen to forget about it,
though. If it is important you had better send direct."

"I would rather you called if it wouldn't be bothering you," I told him.
"There is some money to pay, and it would save my getting postal
orders."

I left the room to write a note. When I came back my father had gone
into his study. I followed him there, and, entering the room without
knocking, found him bending over his desk.

He looked up at me and frowned.

"What do you want?" he said, sharply.

I explained, and he took the note from me, listening to the details of
my commission, and making a note in his pocket-book.

"I will see to this for you if I can," he said. "I will not promise,
because I shall have other and more important matters to take up my
attention. In the meantime, I should be glad to be left undisturbed for
an hour. I have some letters to write."

I left him at once, and I heard the key turn in the door after me. At
half-past three a fly arrived from the Junction, and he appeared upon
the step carrying a small black bag in his hand.

"I shall be back," he said, "on Friday. Goodbye, Alice; goodbye, Kate."

We kissed him, and he got up in the carriage and drove off. Alice and I
remained upon the doorstep looking at one another. We both felt that
there was something mysterious about his sudden departure.

"Have you any idea what it means?" she asked me.

I shook my head.

"He has not told me anything," I said. "Didn't you say that he used to
go to London often when you were at Belchester?"

Alice looked very grave.

"Yes," she said; "and that is one reason why we left the place. The
people did not like it. He went away very often; and, indeed, old
Colonel Dacre wrote to the Bishop about it."

"He was a meddlesome old duffer," I remarked, leaning against the
door-post with my face turned towards the Yellow House.

"He was rather a busybody," Alice admitted; "but I am not surprised that
he wrote to the Bishop. A good many other people used to complain about
it. You were not in Belchester very long, so of course you knew nothing
about it."

"And do you mean to say that you have no idea at all why he went so
often? You don't know what he did there, or anything, not even where he
stayed?"

"Not the shred of an idea," Alice declared. "It used to worry me a great
deal, and when I came here I hoped it was all over. Now it seems as
though it were all beginning again!"

"I believe," I said, "that I know what took him up to London to-day."

"Really!" Alice cried, eagerly.

I nodded.

"It was a letter."

"One that he had this morning?"

"Yes."

"How do you know?"

"Morris gave me the letters through the window," I answered. "There were
only two for father. One was from Mr. Hewitt--that was about the schools
you know, and the other was from somewhere in South America. It was that
letter which took him to London."

She looked at me with knitted brows, and a general expression of
perplexity.

"From South America! I never heard father speak of any one there."

"From South America," I repeated. "It was a large square envelope, and
the writing was very fine and delicate."

"I wonder," Alice suggested, thoughtfully, "whether we have any
relatives out there of whom we do not know. It may be that. Perhaps they
are poor, and--"

I interrupted her.

"This letter was not from a poor person," I declared, confidently. "The
notepaper, or rather the envelope, was expensive, and in very good
style. I believe there was a crest on the envelope."

"Still," Alice remarked, "we cannot be certain--especially if the letter
was from South America--that it was the cause of his going to London."

"I think we can," I answered. "In one corner there were three words,
written very small--'London about fifteenth.'"

We exchanged glances.

"To-day is the fifteenth," Alice remarked.

I nodded. It was true. My sister's eyes were full of trouble.

"I wonder," she said, softly, "what will be the end of it all? Sometimes
I am almost afraid."

And I, who knew more than she did, was also troubled. Already I was
growing to fear my father. Always he seemed to move amongst us with an
air of stern repression, as though he were indeed playing a part,
wearing always a mask, and as though his real life lay somewhere else,
somewhere in the past, or--worse still--somewhere in the present, far
away from our quiet little village. I thought of all the stories I had
read of men who had lived double lives--men with a double personality
one side of whose life and actions must necessarily be a wholesale lie.
The fear of something of this sort in connection with my father was
gradually laying chill hold upon me. He fulfilled his small parish
obligations, and carried himself through the 'little routine of our
domestic life with a stern air of thoughtful abstraction, as though he
were performing in a mechanical manner duties contemptible, trivial, and
uninteresting, for some secret and hidden reason. Was there another
life? My own eyes had shown me that there was another man. Twice had I
seen this mask raised; first when he had come face to face with Bruce
Deville, and again when he had found me talking with our curious
neighbour beneath the roof of the Yellow House. Another man had leaped
out then. Who was he? What was he? Did he exist solely in the past, or
was there a present--worse still, a future--to be developed?

We were standing side by side at the window. Suddenly there was a
diversion. Our gate was flung open. A tall figure came up the drive
towards the house. Alice watched it with curiosity.

"Here is a visitor," she remarked. "We had better go away."

I recognised him, and I remained where I was. After that little scene
upon the lawn only last Sunday I certainly had not expected to see Mr.
Bruce Deville again within the confines of our little demesne. Yet there
he was, walking swiftly up the gravel walk--tall, untidy, and with that
habitual contraction of the thick eyebrows which was almost a scowl. I
stepped out to meet him, leaving Alice at the window. He regarded us
coldly, and raised his cap with the stiffest and most ungracious of
salutes.

"Is Mr. Ffolliot in?" he asked me. "I should like to have a word with
him."

I ignored his question for a moment.

"Good morning, Mr. Deville," I said, quietly.

His colour rose a little. He was not so insensible as he tried to
appear, but his bow was flagrantly ironical.

"Good morning, Miss Ffolliot," he answered, frigidly. "I should like a
word with your father--if I could trouble you so far as to tell him that
I am here."

"My father will be exceedingly sorry to have missed you," I answered,
smiling upon him, "he is out just now."

His frown deepened, and he was obviously annoyed. He made ready to
depart.

"Can you tell me when he will be in?" he asked. "I will call again."

"I am afraid that I cannot positively," I answered. "We expect him home
on Friday, but I don't know at what time."

He turned round upon me with a sudden change on his face. His curiously
coloured eyes seemed to have caught fire.

"Do you mean that he has gone away?" he asked, brusquely.

"He has gone to London this afternoon," I answered. "Can I give him any
message from you?"

He stood quite still, and seemed to be looking me through and through.
Then he drew a small time-table from his pocket.

"Annesly Junction, 3.30; St. Pancras, 7.50," he muttered to himself.
"Thank you; good morning."

He turned upon his heel, but I called him back.

"Mr. Deville."

He stopped short and looked round.

"I beg your pardon," he said; "I am in a hurry."

"Oh, very well," I answered. "I should be sorry to detain you. You
dropped something when you took out your time-table, and it occurred to
me that you might want it again. That is all."

He came back with three great strides. A square envelope, to which I was
pointing, lay on the ground almost at my feet. As he stooped to pick it
up I too glanced at it for the second time. A little exclamation escaped
from my lips. He looked at me inquiringly.

"Is anything the matter?" he asked.

I shook my head.

"Good morning, Mr. Deville."

He hesitated for a moment. He was evidently desirous of knowing why I
had uttered that exclamation. I did not choose to satisfy him.

"I thought you made some remark," he said. "What was it?"

"It was nothing," I told him. "You are in a hurry, I think you said.
Don't let me keep you."

He pocketed the envelope and strode away. Alice came out of the low
window to me, looking after him with wide-open eyes.'

"What an extraordinary man!" she exclaimed.

But I did not answer her immediately, I had found something else to
think about. There was no possibility of any mistake. The handwriting
upon the envelope which Mr. Deville had dropped was the same as that
which had summoned my father to London.



CHAPTER VI. THE MILLIONAIRE


ON the Thursday following my father's departure for London Lady Naselton
sent her carriage for me, and a note marked urgent. It contained only a
few lines, evidently written in a hurry.


"Naselton, Thursday.

"My dear Girl,--Put on your calling-frock, and come up to tea at once.
The Romneys and a few other people are coming over, and Fred brought a
most interesting man down from town this morning. I want you to know
him. He is quite delightful to talk to, and is a millionaire! Come and
help me entertain him.

"Yours ever,
"Amy Naselton."


I laughed as I went upstairs to change my things. Lady Naselton was
famed throughout the county as an inveterate matchmaker. Without a doubt
the millionaire who was delightful to talk to was already in her mind as
the most suitable match for a poor country clergyman's daughter who had
the misfortune to possess ambitions. I could tell by the fussy manner in
which she greeted me that she considered the matter already almost
settled. The room was full of people, but my particular victim was
sitting alone in a recess. Evidently he had been kept back for my
behoof. Lady Naselton, as though suddenly remembering his presence,
brought him over and introduced him at once.

"Mr. Berdenstein," she said--"Miss Ffolliot. Will you see that Miss
Ffolliot has some tea?" she added, smiling upon him blandly. "My
servants all seem so stupid to-day."

I sat down and looked at him while he attended to my wants. At the first
glance I disliked him. He was tall and dark, with sallow face and
regular features of somewhat Jewish type. There was too much unction
about his manner. He smiled continually, and showed his teeth too often.
I found myself wondering whether he had made his million in a shop. I
was forced to talk to him, however, and I settled myself down to be
bored.

"You have not been in England long?" I asked.

"About three days," he answered.

His voice was not so bad. I looked at him again. His face was not a
pleasant one, and he seemed to be scarcely at his ease, added to which
something in his bearing indistinctly suggested a limited acquaintance
with drawing-rooms such as Lady Naselton's. Yet it was possible that he
was clever. His forehead was well shaped, and his mouth determined.

"Mr. Fred Naselton was the first man I saw in London," he went on. "It
was a very odd thing to run against him before I was well off the ship."

"He was an old friend of yours?" I continued, purely for the sake of
keeping up the conversation.

"Not very. Oh, no! Scarcely friend at all," he disclaimed. "I did him a
turn in Rio last month. Nothing to speak of, but he was grateful."

"Where?" I asked, abruptly.

"Rio," he repeated. "Rio Janeiro--you know, capital of South America."

I turned and faced him suddenly. His eyes had been fixed on my face. He
had been watching me furtively. My heart beat suddenly faster. I drew a
little breath, I could not trust myself to speak for a moment. After a
brief pause he continued.

"I've been out there a good many years. Long long enough to get pretty
well sick of the place and people and everything connected with it. I'm
thankful to say that I've finished with it."

"You are not going back, then," I remarked, indifferently.

"Not I," he declared. "I only went to make money, and I've made it--a
good deal. Now I'm going to enjoy it, here, in the old country. Marry
and settle down, and all that sort of thing, you know. Miss Ffolliot."

His keen, black eyes were fixed upon my face. I felt a slight flush of
colour in my cheeks. At that moment I hated Lady Naselton. She had been
talking to this odious man about me, and he had been quick enough to
understand her aright. I should have liked to have got up but for a
certain reason. He had come from South America. He had arrived in London
about the 15th. So I sat there and suffered.

"A most praiseworthy ambition," I remarked, with a sarcasm which I
strove vainly to keep to myself. "I am sure I wish you every success."

"That is very good of you," he answered, slowly. "Wishes count for a
good deal sometimes. I am very thankful for yours."

"Wishes cost little," I answered, coldly, "and I am afraid that mine are
practically valueless. Have you been away from England long?"

"For many years," he answered, after a slight hesitation.

"It seems odd," I remarked, "that your first visit should be at the
house of a comparative stranger. Have you no relations or old friends to
welcome you back?"

A slight and peculiar smile hovered upon his lips.

"I have some old friends," he said, quietly; "I do not know whether they
will welcome me home again. Soon I shall know. I am not far away from
them."

"Do they know of your return?" I asked.

"Some of them. One of them I should say," he answered. "The one about
whom I care does not know."

"You are going to surprise him?" I remarked.

"I am going to surprise her," he corrected.

There was a short silence. I had no more doubt in my mind. Chance had
brought me face to face with the writer of that letter to my father, the
man to find whom he was even now in London. Perhaps they had already
met; I stole a glance at him; he was furtively watching me all the
while.

"I have also," he said, "a sister of whom I am very fond. She lives in
Paris. I have written to her to come to me--not here, of course, to
London."

I turned a little in my chair and faced him.

"I wonder," I said, "if amongst those friends of whom you speak there is
any one whom I know."

His lips parted, and he showed all his glistening white teeth.

"Somehow," he said, softly, under his breath, "I thought you knew. Has
your father sent you here? Have you any message for me? If so, let me
have it, we may be disturbed."

I shook my head.

"My father is in London," I told him. "He left the morning he had your
letter."

"When is he coming back?" he asked, eagerly.

"On Friday, I believe," I answered. "I am not quite sure. At any rate,
he will be here by Sunday."

An odd look flashed for a moment across the man's face. It gave me an
uneasy sensation.

"Have you seen him in London?" I asked, quickly.

"Certainly not," he answered; "I have seen no one. I have only been in
England for a day or two. I shall look forward," he added, "to the
pleasure of seeing your father on Sunday."

"And Mr. Bruce Deville?" I inquired.

He looked at me suspiciously. He was wondering how much I knew.

"Mr. Bruce Deville?" he said, slowly. "I have not seen him lately; they
tell me he has altered a great deal."

"I have only known him a week, and so I cannot tell," I answered.

Again he fixed his little dark eyes upon me; he was evidently completely
puzzled.

"You have only known him a week, and yet you know that--that he and I
are not strangers?"

"I learned it by accident," I answered.

Obviously he did not believe me; he hesitated for a moment to put his
disbelief into words, and in the meantime I made a bold stroke.

"Have you seen Adelaide Fortress yet?" I asked.

His face changed. He looked at me half in wonder, half eagerly; his
whole expression had softened.

"Not yet," he said; "I am waiting to know where she is; I would go to
her to-day--if only I dared--if only I dared!"

His dark eyes were lit with passion; a pale shade seemed to have crept
in upon the sallowness of his cheeks.

"When you talk of her," he said, speaking rapidly, and with his voice
thick with some manner of agitation, "you make me forget everything I
You make me forget who you are, who she is, where we are I I remember
only that she exists I Oh, my God!"

I laid my hand upon his coat sleeve.

"Be careful," I whispered. "People will notice you; speak lower."

His voice sank; it was still, however, hoarse with passion.

"I shall know soon," he said, "very soon, whether the years have made
her any kinder; whether the dream, the wild dream of my life, is any
nearer completion. Oh, you may start!" he added, looking into my white,
puzzled face; "you and your father, and Deville, and the whole world may
know it. I love her still I I am going to regain her or die! There! You
see it is to be no secret war; go and tell your father if you like, tell
them all, bid them prepare. If they stand in my way they must suffer.
Soon I am going to her. I am going to stand before her and point to my
grey hairs, and say, 'Every one of them is a thought of you; every day
of my life has been moulded towards the winning of you.' And when I tell
her that, and point to the past, she will be mine again."

"You are very sure of her," I murmured.

His face fell.

"Alas! no," he cried, "I cannot say that; only it is my hope and my
passion which are so strong. They run away with me; I picture it to
myself--this blessed thing--and I forget. Listen!" he added, with sudden
emphasis, "you must promise me something. I have let my tongue go too
fast. I have talked to you as my other self; you must promise me one
thing."

"What is it?" I asked.

"You must promise me that you will not speak of my presence here to her.
In a day or two--well, we shall see. I shall go to her then; I shall
risk everything. But at present, no! She must be ignorant of my return
until I myself declare it You will promise me this?"

I promised. I scarcely dared do otherwise if I wished to avoid a scene,
for already the agitation and occasional excitement of his speech were
attracting attention. But, having promised, I asked him a question.

"Will not Mr. Deville tell her--or my father?"

"It is just possible that Mr. Deville might," he said, with the air of
one who had well considered the matter. "But I do not think it likely;
there are certain reasons which would probably keep him silent."

"And my father?" I asked.

Again there was an odd look in his face. Somehow it filled me with vague
alarm; I could not imagine what it meant.

"I do not think," he answered, "that your father will tell her; I am
nearly sure that he will not. No, I myself shall announce my return. I
shall stand face to face with her before she has learned to school her
countenance. I shall see in the light or in the darkness how she holds
me. It will be a test--a glorious test."

Lady Naselton came rustling up to us with beaming face. "My dear girl,"
she said, "I am so sorry to disturb you, you both look so interested.
Whatever you have found to talk about I can't imagine. Lady Romney is
going; she would so like to know you. Would you mind coming to speak to
her?"

"With pleasure," I declared, rising at once to my feet; "I must be going
too. Good afternoon, Mr. Berdenstein."

He held out his hand, but I had no intention of shaking hands with him.
I bowed coldly, and turned to follow Lady Naselton.

"Perhaps it is best," he murmured, leaning a little forward. "We cannot
possibly be friends; no doubt you hate me; we are on opposite sides.
Good afternoon. Miss Ffolliot."

I followed Lady Naselton, but before we had reached the Romneys I
stopped her.

"Lady Naselton, who is that man?" I asked her. "What do you know of
him?"

"My dear child," she answered, "from the confidential manner in which
you have been talking all this time, I should have imagined that he had
told you his history from childhood. Frankly, I don't know anything
about him at all. He was very good to Fred in South America, and he has
made a lot of money, that is really all I know. Fred met him in town,
and brought him down without notice. I hope," she added, looking at my
pale face, "that he has been behaving himself properly."

"I have no fault to find with him," I answered. "I was curious, that is
all."

"I am so glad, dear," she answered, smiling. "For a millionaire you
know, I don't consider him at all unpresentable, do you?"

I smiled faintly. Poor Lady Naselton I

"He did not strike me as being remarkably objectionable," I answered.
"He is a little awkward, and very confidential."

Lady Naselton piloted me across the room towards the Romneys, with her
arm linked in mine.

"We must make a few allowances, my dear," she whispered, confidentially.
"One cannot have everything nowadays. He is really not so bad, and the
money is quite safe. In diamonds, or something, Fred says. It is quite a
million."

I glanced back to him as I stood talking with the Romneys. He was
sitting quietly where I had left him, watching me covertly. His black
eyebrows were drawn together, and a certain look of anxiety seemed to
have sharpened his sallow features. His eyes fell at once before mine. I
felt that I would have given everything I possessed in the world to have
known who he was.



CHAPTER VII. A FRUITLESS APPEAL

FRIDAY passed without any sign of my father's return, and when on
Saturday morning we found no letter from him upon the breakfast table,
the vague disquiet of the day before assumed a definite shape. We looked
into one another's faces, and we were seriously alarmed.

"We shall be sure to hear from him in an hour or two," Alice said,
holding her cup to her lips with shaking hands. "He must have missed the
post. We shall have a telegram."

"I hope so," I answered, fervently. "Nothing can have happened to him,
of course. It is absurd to feel nervous. But it is too bad of him. He
ought to have written. However busy he is, he could have found a minute
or two."

"I will never let him go away again without leaving us an address of
some sort," Alice declared. "No doubt he will telegraph soon. Still, one
cannot help feeling uneasy."

But no telegram arrived. Luncheon time came and passed without a word.
The afternoon dragged on. The last train from London was due at the
nearest railway station--three miles away--at six o'clock. At eight
o'clock he had not returned. More than an hour ago a fly with luggage
from the train had passed our gate and gone on to the Yellow House.
Alice was as white as a sheet, and commenced to cry softly to herself.

"There is a service to-morrow morning, and no one to help," she moaned.
"He must be very ill. What had we better do, Kate?"

Do! How was I to know? Action of any sort would have been a relief, but
it was like groping in the dark. He had left no address to which we
could write, and, so far as we knew, he did not belong to any club nor
had he any friends in London. There was no means of tracing him, not a
clue as to the nature of the business which had called him so suddenly
to town. Even granting that he had gone to see Mr. Berdenstein, to meet
him on his arrival in London, it was hopeless to try and imagine where
he might be prosecuting his search. Mr. Berdenstein had denied that he
had met him. Without a doubt he would deny it again if I went to him. As
he had told me plainly that we were on opposite sides, to look for help
from him was utterly futile.

We girls were helpless. Alice, whose instincts were largely
conventional, was feeling chiefly the scandal which must accrue when his
place in the pulpit to-morrow remained empty and service had to be
abandoned. For my part, my anxieties were deeper. Chance had placed in
my hands the threads of a mystery whose unravelment was threatened with
terrible possibilities. I could not tell what the end of it might be. I
scarcely dared to let my mind dwell upon it at all. I concentrated my
thoughts upon the present dilemma. The first thing to be done was to
find my father. There was only one possible shadow of a clue as to his
whereabouts. One man knew the secret of that letter which had called him
up to London. To that man I resolved that I would go.

But as dusk came on, and I was preparing to start for the Court, I saw
his tall figure crossing the park towards the Yellow House. I did not
hesitate then any more. To see him there would be easier than to
confront him alone at the Court I threw a cloak over my shoulders and
went bareheaded down the drive. The thing which I was proposing to
myself to do was simple enough in effect, although with my overwrought
nerves it presented itself to me at the time as a somewhat formidable
undertaking. I was going to confront them together. I was going to pray
for their help.

I walked swiftly across the park and through the plantation to the
Yellow House, and after pausing for a moment to regain my breath, I rang
the bell. There was no immediate answer, and save that I could see
through a chink in the drawn curtains a rose-shaded lamp burning in the
drawing-room, I should have feared that after all Adelaide Fortress had
not returned. But in a few minutes the trim little maid-servant opened
the door, letting out a flood of light. She started with surprise to see
me standing there, looking no doubt a little ghost-like with my white,
anxious face and uncovered head.

"I want to speak to Mrs. Fortress," I said. "Is she in?"

The girl hesitated, but I took her assent for granted, and stepped into
the hall. She moved towards the drawing-room door. I kept close by her
side, and when she opened it I crossed the threshold.

Bruce Deville was there, sitting in a low chair. To my surprise he was
wearing evening dress, and he had a book in his hand, from which he
appeared to have been reading aloud. At my entrance he rose to his feet
at once with a little exclamation of surprise. Adelaide Fortress, whose
back had been turned to the door, turned sharply round. She too rose to
her feet. A swift look passed between them, which did not escape me.

"Miss Ffolliot!" she exclaimed. "Why, is anything the matter?" The
little maid had retreated, and closed the door. I advanced a few steps
further into the room. Somehow I became dimly conscious that their
attitude towards me, or my mission, if they had surmised its purport,
was in a certain sense hostile. I looked into the woman's eyes, and I
was perplexed. Something had come between us. Perhaps it was my father's
stern words to her, perhaps it was some shadow from those former days
concerning which they certainly had some common knowledge. But from
whatever cause it arose there was certainly a change. The frank sympathy
which seemed to have sprung up between us on that delightful afternoon
was altogether a thing of the past, almost as though it had never been.
She faced me coldly, with indrawn lips and unfriendly face. I was
confused and perplexed; yet even in that same moment a thought flashed
in upon me. She was wearing a mask. For some reason or other she was
putting away her friendliness. Surely it was the memory of my father's
words.

"It was Mr. Deville I wanted to see," I said. "I saw him cross the park
on his way here, so I followed. I am in trouble. I wanted to ask him a
question."

He stood leaning against the broad mantelpiece, his brows contracted,
his face cold and forbidding.

"I am afraid that I cannot help you, Miss Ffolliot," he said. "I cannot
conceive any way in which I could be of service to you, I am afraid."

"You can help me if you will, by answering a single question," I
interrupted. "You dropped a letter from your pocket on Wednesday
morning, and I returned it to you. Tell me whose handwriting it was!"

There was a little crash upon the floor, and the sound of a half-uttered
exclamation. Adelaide Fortress had dropped a small china ornament with
which she had been playing. She did not even glance towards the pieces
at her feet. She was bending slightly towards me, her lips half parted,
her cheeks pale. Her appearance fascinated me; I forgot Mr. Deville
altogether until the sound of his clear, deep voice broke the silence.

"I had several letters in my pocket. Miss Ffolliot," he said, slowly. "I
am not sure that I remember which one it was that you were good enough
to restore to me. In any case, how are you interested in the writer of
any of them? What has it to do with your present trouble--whatever that
may be?"

"I will tell you," I answered, readily. "On Tuesday morning my father
received a letter, and whatever its contents were, they summoned him to
London. He was to have returned yesterday. He did not come, and he sent
no message. All to-day we have had no word from him. The last train from
London to-night is in, and he has not come. We do not know where he is,
or what has become of him. There are the services tomorrow, and no one
to take them. He must be ill, or in trouble of some sort, or he would
have returned, that is certain. It has made us terribly anxious."

"I am very sorry to hear this. Miss Ffolliot," he said. "If I could help
you I would be glad, but I am afraid I do not quite see--exactly--"

I raised my eyes to his and looked him in the face. The words seemed to
die away upon his lips. He was not actor enough for his part.

"I will tell you why I came to you for help, Mr. Deville," I exclaimed.
"The handwriting upon the letter which you dropped was the same
handwriting which summoned my father to London."

Then, for the first time, some simmering of the mystery in which these
persons and my father were alike concerned dawned upon me. The man and
the women looked at one another; Bruce Deville walked over to the window
without answering or addressing me. I had, indeed, asked no direct
question. Yet they knew what I wanted. It was the whole truth which I
desired.

I stamped my foot upon the floor. Did they know what my sufferings were,
those two persons, with their pale, puzzled faces and cold words? I felt
myself growing angry.

"Answer me!" I cried. "Who wrote you that letter?"

Still neither the man or the woman spoke. Their silence maddened me. I
forgot my promise to the man at Naselton Hall. I forgot everything
except my desire to sting them out of that merciless, unsympathetic
silence. So I cried out to them-"I will tell you who wrote it; it was a
man from South America, and his name is Berdenstein. He is at Naselton
Hall. I will go to him. Perhaps he will tell me what you will not."

The man stepped forward with outstretched hand. His face was dark with
passionate anger, almost I thought he would have struck me. But the
woman's was pale as death, and a drop of red blood marked the place
where her teeth met her under lip. Then I saw that the man had known,
but the woman had not.

"If you know so much," he said, brutally, "you had better go to him and
discover the rest. You will find him very sympathetic. Without a doubt
he will help you!"

"No! No!"

The woman's negative rang out with a sudden sharp and crisp
distinctness. She rose and came over to my side. She laid her hands
softly upon my shoulders. Her face amazed me, it was so full of
sympathy, and yet so sorrowful. She too, had received a blow.

"Child," she said, softly, "you must not be impatient. I believe that
your father is well. I believe that somehow or other he will contrive to
be here in time to take up his duties to-morrow. We could not tell
you--either Mr. Deville or I--where he is, but we know perhaps a little
more than you do. He is in London somewhere seeking for that person whom
you have just mentioned. He will not find him, but he will not give up
searching for him till the last moment. But, child, whatever you do,
avoid that man Berdenstein like a pestilence. Your father and he are
bitter and terrible enemies. Do not dream of going to him. Do not let
your father know that he is near. If fate must have it so, they will
meet. But God forbid I--but God forbid!"

"Who is he, then, this man, this Berdenstein?" I asked her under my
breath. Her words had had a powerful effect upon me. She was terribly in
earnest. I knew that she was speaking for my good. I trusted her. I
could not help it.

She shook her head. Her eyes were full of horror.

"It is not for me to tell you, child. It is one of those things which
God forbid that you may ever know."

Then there was a silence between us. After all this mystery whose
shadows seemed to surround me was like a far away thing. My present
trouble weighed heaviest upon me. The other was vague, even though it
was terrible. My father's disappearance was a real and terrible calamity
staring me in the face. It engrossed all my thoughts. They would tell me
nothing, those two. I dared not go to Berdenstein. Already I was afraid
of him. I remembered his smile when I spoke of my father, and I
shuddered. Supposing they had met. Supposing they had come together face
to face in some lonely house. Perhaps his letter had been a decoy. The
man's face, with its cruel mouth and sardonic smile, suddenly loomed
large in my memory. I sprang to my feet with a cry of fear. I was
terrified with my own thoughts. Bruce Deville came over to me, and I
found him studying my face with a new expression, the meaning of which I
could not fathom.

"If you will come to the window. Miss Ffolliot," he said, "I think you
will see something which will relieve some part of your anxiety at any
rate."

I hastened eagerly to his side. Only a few yards away, walking steadily
in the middle of the hardy white road, was a figure in sombre black. His
shoulders were bent, and his pale face downcast. His whole appearance
was that of a weary and dejected wanderer. These things I realised more
completely afterwards; for the present a sense of almost intolerable
relief drowned every other motion. It was my father--he had returned.

I should have rushed out to him, but Bruce Deville laid his hand very
softly upon my shoulder. I could not have believed that any touch of his
could be so gentle.

"I wish you would take my advice. Miss Ffolliot," he said. "Take the
path through the plantation home, and don't let your father see you
leaving here. It would be better, would it not, Adelaide?" he added.

She looked at me.

"Yes, it would be better," she said. "Do you mind? You will be at home
as soon as he is."

I could not but admit that the advice was good, bearing in mind my
father's words when he found me there only a few days before. Yet it
galled me that it should have been offered. What was this secret shared
between these three of which I was ignorant? I declared to myself that I
would know as soon as my father and I were alone together. I would
insist upon all these things being made clear to me. I would bear it no
longer, I was resolved on that. But in the meantime I was helpless.

"Very well," I answered, "perhaps you are right, I will go by the
footpath."

I left the room abruptly. Mr. Deville opened the front door for me, and
hesitated with his cap in his hand. I waved him away.

"I will go alone," I said. "It is quite light."

"As you will," he answered, shortly. "Goodnight."

He turned on his heel and re-entered the room. I crossed the road with
soft footsteps. At the opening of the plantation I paused. My father was
in the road below, walking wearily and leaning upon his stick. At my
sudden standstill a twig beneath my feet snapped short. A sudden change
seemed to transform his face. He stopped short and turned round with the
swift, eager movement of a young man. His hand fumbled for a moment in
the pocket of his long clerical coat, and reappeared clutching something
which flashed like steel in the dull light. He held it at arm's length,
looking eagerly around, peering forward in my direction, but unable to
see me owing to the dark shadows of the trees beneath which I stood. But
I on the other hand could see his every movement; in the half-light his
figure stood out in such marvellous distinctness against the white road
and the low, grey line of sky beyond. I could see him, and I could see
what it was he carried in his hand. It was a small, shining revolver.

He stood quite still like a man expecting a sudden attack. When none
came and the stillness remained unbroken, the strained, eager light died
slowly out of his face. He appeared rather disappointed than relieved.
Reluctantly he turned around, and with the revolver still in his hand
but hidden beneath the skirts of his coat, made his way up the white
hill towards the Vicarage. He must have walked quickly, for although I
hurried, and my way back was the shorter, he was already at our gate
when I emerged from the plantation. As he stooped to adjust the
fastening I heard him groan, and bending forward I caught a glimpse of
his face. I must have cried out, only my lips seemed palsied as though I
were but a sleeping figure in some terrible nightmare. His face was like
the face of a dead man. He seemed to have aged by at least a dozen
years. As he hastened up the little drive, his walk, usually so
dignified and elastic, became a shamble. It seemed to me that this was
but the wreck of the man who had left us only a few days before.

He stood quite still like a man expecting a sudden attack.



CHAPTER VIII. THE COMING OF MR. BERDENSTEIN


THERE are days marked in our lives with white stones. We can never
forget them. Recollections, a very easy effort of memory, seem to bring
back even in some measure the very thrill, the same pulsations and
emotions, as were kindled into life by certain never-to-be-forgotten
happenings. Time cannot weaken them. Whilst we have life the memory of
them is eternal. And there are other days against the memory of which we
have dropped a black stone. We shrink from anything which may recall
them. No sacrifice would seem too great if only we could set the seal of
oblivion upon those few hated hours. We school ourselves to close our
eyes, and turn our heads away from anything which might in any manner
recall them to us. Yet we are powerless. Ghosts of them steal
light-footed, detested and uninvited guests, across our fairest moments;
the chill of winter shakes us on the most brilliant of midsummer days;
the colour steals from our cheeks, and our blood runs to water. We are
at the mercy of those touches of icy reminiscence. There is no escape
from them. There never will be any escape. The Sunday which followed my
father's visit to London is one of those hideous memories. In the
calendar of my life it is marked with the blackest of black stones. I
only pray that such another day as that may never find its way into my
life.

The morning passed much as usual. My father had scarcely spoken to us on
the previous evening. In reply to our half eager, half frightened
questions, he admitted that he had been ill. He would not hear of a
doctor. His malady, he told us, was one which he himself perfectly
understood. He would be better in a few days. He ate and drank
sparingly, and then retired at once to his room. We heard him drag
himself wearily up the stairs, And Alice burst into tears, and I myself
felt a lump in my throat. Yet what could we do? He would not have us
near him. The only invalid's privilege which he permitted himself was a
fire in his bedroom, and this he asked for immediately he entered the
house, although the night was close and oppressive, and he had come in
with beads of perspiration standing out upon his white forehead.

In the morning he preached an old sermon, preached it with weary lips
and wholly nonchalant manner. His pallid face and lustreless eyes became
objects of remark amongst the meagre congregation. I could hear people
whispering to one another when the service was over. Lady Naselton spoke
to me of it with concern as we passed down the aisle.

"I am sorry to see your father looking so dreadfully ill, dear," she
remarked. "I am particularly sorry to-day. Come outside, and I will tell
you why."

We passed out together into the sunlit air, fresh and vigorous after the
dull, vault-like gloom of the little church, with its ivy-hung windows.
Lady Naselton held my arm.

"My dear," she said, "the Bishop is lunching with us to-day, and staying
all night. I have spoken to him about your father. He remembers him
quite well, and he is coming to service this evening on purpose to hear
him preach."

"The Bishop," I repeated, vaguely. "Do you mean our Bishop? The Bishop
of Exchester?"

"Yea. I am not supposed, of course, to say anything about it, as his
visit has nothing whatever to do with diocesan affairs, but I should be
so disappointed if your father did not make an impression upon him."

She looked around to be sure that no one was listening. It was quite a
needless precaution.

"You see, dear, I happen to know that there are two vacant stalls at the
cathedral, and the Bishop wants a preacher badly. It is owing to what I
have told him about your father that he is coming over to-day. I do hope
that he will be at his best this evening."

"I am afraid that there is very little chance of it," I answered;
blankly. "He is really very ill. He will not admit it, but you can see
for yourself."

"He must make an effort," Lady Naselton said, firmly. "Will you tell him
this from me? Say that we shall all be there, and if only he can make a
good impression--well, it is the chance of a lifetime. Of course, we
shall all be terribly sorry to lose you, but Exchester is not very far
off, and we really could not expect to keep a man with your father's
gifts very long. Try and rouse him up, won't you? Goodbye, dear."

She drove off, and I waited at the vestry door for my father. He came
out with half-closed eyes, and seemed scarcely to see me. I walked by
his side, and repeated what Lady Naselton had told me. Contrary to my
expectations, the news was sufficient to rouse him from his apathy.

"The Bishop here to-night!" he repeated, thoughtfully. "You are quite
sure that there is no mistake? It is the Bishop of Exchester?"

I nodded assent.

"So Lady Naselton assured me. I have heard her say more than once that
they knew him very well indeed. She is most anxious that you should do
your very best. It seems that there are two stalls vacant at the
cathedral."

The light flashed into his eyes for a moment, and then died out.

"If only it had been a week ago," he said. "I have other things in my
mind now. I am not in the mood to prepare anything worth listening to."

"Those other things, father," I said, softly. "Are we to remain wholly
ignorant of them? If there is any trouble to be faced, we are ready to
take our share."

He shook his head, and a wan smile flickered for a moment upon his pale
lips. He looked at me not unkindly.

"It may come, Kate," he said, softly. "Till then, be patient and ask no
questions."

We had reached the house, and I said no more. Directly after luncheon,
at which he ate scarcely anything, he went into his study. We hoped>
Alice and I, that he had gone to work. But in less than half an hour he
came out. I met him in the hall.

"My hat and stick, Kate," he said. "I am going for a walk."

His manner forbade questions, but as he was leaving the house an
impulse came to me.

"May I come with you, father?" I asked. "I was going for a walk too."

He hesitated for a moment, and seemed about to refuse. What made him
change his mind I could never tell. But he did change it.

"Yes, you can come," he said, shortly. "I am starting now, though. I
cannot wait for a moment."

"I am quite ready," I answered, taking my hat and gloves from the stand.
So we passed out of the house together.

At the gate he paused for a moment, and I thought that he was going to
take the road which led to the Yellow House and Deville Court Apparently
he changed his mind, however.

"We will take the footpath to Bromilow Downs," he said. "I have never
been there."

We turned our backs upon the more familiar places, and walked slowly
along the country which led to the Downs. We neither of us spoke a word
for some time. Once or twice I glanced towards him with concern. He was
moving with uncertain steps, and every now and then he pressed his hand
to his side. Physically, I could see that he was scarcely equal to the
exertion of walking. It was mental disquiet which had brought him out.
His eyes were dry and bright, and there was a hectic flush upon his
cheeks. As we passed from the lane out on to the open Downs, he drew a
little breath and removed his hat. The autumn wind swept through his
hair, and blew open his coat. He took in a long breath of air.

"This is good," he said, softly. "Let us rest here."

We sat upon the trunk of a fallen pine tree on the verge of the common.
Far away on the hillside rose the red chimneys of Naselton Hall. I
looked at them, and of a sudden the desire to tell, my father what I
knew of that man's presence there grew stronger and stronger. After all
it was his right to know. It was best to tell him.

"Father," I said, "I have something to say to you. It is something which
I think you ought to know."

He looked away from vacancy into my face. Something in my manner seemed
to attract him. He frowned, and answered me sharply.

"What is it, child? Only mind that it is not a question."

"It is not a question," I said. "It is something that I want to tell
you. Perhaps I ought to have told you before. One afternoon last week I
was at Lady Naselton's for tea. I met a man there--half a foreigner he
seemed to me. He had lately returned from South America. His name was
Berdenstein."

He heard me in perfect silence. He did not utter a single exclamation.
Only I saw his head sink, and a curious marble rigidity settle down
upon his features, chasing away all expression. In the silence which
followed before I spoke again I could hear his breathing sharp and low,
almost like the panting of an animal in pain.

"Don't think that I have been spying on you, father," I begged. "It all
came about so naturally. I gave you your letters the morning that you
went away, and I could not help seeing that one of them was from South
America. On the envelope was written: 'In London about the 15th.' Well,
as you left for London at once, I considered that you went to meet that
person, whoever it was. Then at Lady Naselton's this man stared at me
so, and he told me that he came from South America. Some instinct seemed
to suggest to me that this was the man who had written that letter. I
talked to him for awhile, and I was sure of it."

Then my father spoke. He was like a man who had received a stroke. His
voice seemed to come from a great distance. His eyes were fixed upon
that break in the trees on the distant hillside beyond which was
Naselton Hall.

"So near," he said, softly--"so very near I How did he come here? Was
it chance?"

"He was good to Lady Naselton's son abroad," I answered. "He is very
rich, they say."

"Ay, ay!" My father nodded his head slowly. His manner was becoming
more natural. Yet there was a look of deadly earnest in his white, set
face. To look at him made me almost shudder.

Something in his expression was like a premonition of the tragedy to
come.

"We shall meet soon, then," he said, thoughtfully. "It may be to-morrow.
It may be to-day. Kate, your eyes are younger than mine. Is that a man
coming along the road there?--down in the hollow on the other side of
the turn. Do you see?"

I stood up by his side. There was a figure in sight, but as yet a long
way off.

"It is a man," I said. "He is coming towards us."

We stood there side by side for several minutes. My father was leaning
upon my shoulder. The clutch of his fingers seemed to burn their way
through my dress into my flesh. It was as though they were tipped with
fire. He did not move or speak. He kept his eyes steadfastly fixed upon
the bend of the road. Suddenly a slight change flashed into his face. He
leaned forward; his upper lip quivered; he shaded his eyes with his
hand. I followed his rapt gaze, and in the middle of the dusty white
road I could see the man now. Well within sight, I watched him draw
nearer and near. His carriage was buoyant and un-English, and he carried
a cane, with which he snapped off the heads of the thistles growing by
the hedge-side. He seemed to be whistling softly to himself, showing all
the while those rows of white, glistening teeth unpleasantly prominent
against the yellowish tinge of his cheeks. From the first I had scarcely
doubted that this was the man of whom we had been talking. The
coincidence of his coming never even struck me. It seemed at the time to
be a perfectly natural thing.

He came to within a yard or two of us before he appeared to recognise
me. Then he took off his hat and made me a sweeping bow. In the middle
of it he encountered my father's steady gaze. His hat slipped from his
fingers--he stood like a man turned to stone. His black eyes were full
of horror; he looked at my father as a man would look at one risen from
the dead. And my father returned his gaze with a faint, curious smile
parting his thin lips.

"Welcome to England once more, Stephen," my father said, grimly. "You
were about to address my daughter. Have you lost your way?"

The man opened his lips twice before he spoke. I could almost fancy that
his teeth were chattering. His voice was very low and husky.

"I was going to ask the way to Deville Court," he said. All the time his
eyes never left my father's face. For some reason or other they were
full of wonder; my father's presence seemed to terrify him.

"The way to Deville Court?" my father repeated. "I am returning in that
direction. I will show it to you myself. There are several turns before
you get on to the straight road."

My father descended the bank into the road. The stranger muttered
something inaudible, which my father ignored.

"We had better start," he said, calmly. "It is rather a long way."

The man whom my father had called Stephen hesitated and drew back.

"The young lady," he suggested, faintly--"she will come with us."

"The young lady has an engagement in another direction," he said, with
his eyes fixed on me. "I want you, Kate, to call upon Mr. Charlsworth
and tell him to be sure to be at church to-night. You can tell him why
it is important."

There was a ring in my father's tone, and a light in the glance which he
flashed upon me which forbade any idea of remonstrance. Yet at the
thought of leaving those two men together a cold chill seemed to pass
through all my veins. Something seemed to tell me that this was no
ordinary meeting. The man Berdenstein's look of terror as he had
recognised my father was unmistakable. Even now he was afraid to go with
him. Yet I was powerless, I dared not disobey. Already the two men were
walking side by side. I was left alone, and the farmhouse to which my
father had bidden me go lay in altogether a different direction. I stood
and watched them pass along the lane together. Then I went on my errand.
There was nothing else I could do.

* * * * *

I reached home in about an hour. Alice met me at the door.

"Has father come in yet?" I asked her, quickly.

She nodded.

"About five minutes ago. The walk seemed to have done him good," she
added. "He was quite cheerful, and had a wonderful colour. Why, Kate!
what have you been doing to yourself? You are as white as a ghost."

"He was alone, I suppose?" I asked, ignoring the question.

"Alone! Of course he was alone. Come in and have some tea at once. You
look tired out."



CHAPTER IX. A TERRIBLE INTERRUPTION

BY some means or other the news had spread in the village, and such a
congregation as I had never seen filled our little church long before
the usual time. In a dark corner I saw, to my surprise, Bruce Deville
leaning against a pillar with folded arms, and on my way to my pew I
passed Adelaide Fortress seated in a chair in the nave. Neither of these
two had I ever seen in church before, and what had brought them there on
that particular evening I never clearly understood. It was a little
irony of fate--one of those impulses which it is hard to believe are
altogether coincidences.

The Bishop came early, and sat by Lady Naselton's side, the centre of
all eyes. I looked away from him to the chancel. I was strangely
nervous. It was still dimly lit, although the bells had ceased to ring.
There was only a moment's pause, however, then the little space was
filled with white-robed figures, and my sister's voluntary, unduly
prolonged in this instance, died away in a few soft chords. I drew a
long breath of relief. Everything was going as usual. Perhaps, after all
this night might be a fateful one to us.

I watched the Bishop's face from the first. I saw him glance up as if in
surprise at my father's rich, musical voice, which woke the echoes of
the dark little church with the first words of the service. At the
singing, which was always wretched, he frowned, and, catching a sideway
glance from Lady Naselton, smiled somewhat. Studying him through
half-closed eyelids, I decided that country services in the abstract did
not attract him, and that he was a little bored.

It was only when my father stood up in the pulpit and looked around him
in that moment or two of hushed suspense which precedes the giving out
of the text, that the lines of his face relaxed, and he settled himself
down with an air of interest.

For me it was a terribly anxious moment. I knew my father's state of
health, and I remembered the few weary and pointless words which had
gone to make his morning sermon. Contrary to his usual custom, he stood
there without any notes of any sort. I scarcely dared to hope that he
would be able to do himself justice. Yet the first words of his text had
scarcely left his lips when some premonition of what was to come sent a
strange thrill through all my nerves. "The wages of sin is death." No
words could give any idea of the marvellous yet altogether effortless
solemnity with which these words passed from my father's lips. Scarcely
uttered above a whisper, they yet penetrated to the utmost corners of
the little church. Was it really intense earnestness or a wonderful
knowledge and appreciation of true dramatic effect which made him close
the book with a slow movement of his forefinger, and stand up there
amongst the deep shadows as pale as the surplice which hung around his
pale form? Yet when he spoke his voice did not tremble or falter. His
words, tense with life, all vibrating with hidden fire, penetrated
easily to the furthest and darkest corner of the building.

"The wages of sin--the eternal torment of a conscience never sleeping,
never weary!" It was of that he went on to speak. J can scarcely
remember so much as a single sentence of that sermon, although its
effect upon myself and those who formed the congregation of listeners,
is a memory which even now thrills me. From those few opening words,
pregnant as they were with dramatic force, and lit with the fire of true
eloquence, not for one moment did the attention of the little
congregation wander. A leaf could have been heard to drop in the church,
the rustle of a pocket-handkerchief was a perfectly audible sound. Not
even a child looked sideways to watch the dark ivy waving softly against
the stained-glass windows or wondered at the strange pattern which a ray
of dying sunlight had traced upon the bare stone aisles. There was
something personal--something like the cry of human sorrow itself in
that slow, passionate outpouring. Was it by any chance a confession or
an accusation to which we were listening? It was on the universality of
sin of which my father spoke with such heart-moving emphasis. Our lives
were like cupboards having many chambers, some of which were open indeed
to the daylight and the gaze of all men, but there were others jealously
closed and locked. We could make their outside beautiful, we could keep
the eyes of all men from penetrating beneath that fair exterior. We
could lock them with a cunning and secret key, so that no hand save our
own could lay bare the grisly spectre that lurked within. Yet our own
knowledge, or what we had grown to call conscience, sat in our hearts
and mocked us. Sometime the great white light swept into the hidden
places, there was a tug at our heartstrings, and behold the seal had
fallen away. And in that church, my father added slowly, "he doubted
whether any one could say that within him those dark places were not."
Suddenly his calm, tense eloquence became touched with passion. His pale
face gleamed, and his eyes were lit with an inward fire. Gesture and
tone moved to the beat of a deeper and more subtle rhetoric. He was
pleading for those whose sin beat about in their bosoms and lay like a
dark shadow across all the sweet places of life. Passionate and more
passionate he grew. He was pleading--for whom? We listened entranced.
His terrible earnestness passed like an electric thrill into the hearts
of all of us. Several women were crying softly; men sat there with bowed
heads, face to face with ghosts long since buried. Bruce Deville was
sitting back in his corner with folded arms and downcast head. Adelaide
Fortress was looking steadfastly up towards that pale, inspired figure,
with soft, wet eyes. Even the Bishop was deeply moved, and was listening
to every word. For my part there was a great lump in my throat. The
sense of some terrible reality behind my father's impassioned words had
left me pale and trembling. A subtle sense of excitement stole through
the church. When he paused for a moment before his concluding sentence,
there was something almost like a murmur amongst the congregation,
followed by another period of breathless suspense.

In the midst of that deep hush a faint sound attracted me. My seat was
on a level with the open door, and I glanced out. A man was leaning
against the porch--z, man in very grievous condition. His clothes were
disordered and torn, and there was a great stain on the front of his
coat. I alone had gazed away from the preacher in the pulpit towards
him, and whilst I looked the sound which had first attracted me was
repeated. A low, faint moan, scarcely louder than a whiter, passed from
between his lips. He stood there supporting himself with his hands
against the wall. His lined face was turned towards me, and, with a
thrill of horror, I recognised him. I half-rose from my seat. The man
was either ill or dying. He seemed to be making frantic signs to me. I
tried my utmost to signal to Mr. Charlsworth, but, like all the rest,
his eyes seemed riveted upon the pulpit. Before I could leave my seat,
or attract any one's attention, he had staggered through the door into
the church itself. He stood leaning upon a vacant chair, a wild,
disordered object, with blood stains upon his hands and clothes, and his
dark eyes red and gleaming fiercely beneath his wind-tossed mass of
black hair.

So fascinated was the congregation that save myself only one or two
stray people had noticed him. He stood amongst the shadows, and only I,
to whom his profile appeared against the background of: the open door,
was able to mark the full and terrible disorder of his person. And while
I waited, numb with some nameless fear, the preacher's voice rang once
more through the building, and men and women bowed their heads before
the sweet, lingering passion of those sad words.

"The wages of sin is death. For all things may pass away save sin. Sin
alone is eternal. Sin alone must stamp itself wherever it touches with
an undying and everlasting mark. Retribution is like the tides of the
sea, which no man's hand can stay; and Death rides his barque upon the
rolling waves. You and I and every man and woman in this world whom sin
has known--alas I that there should be so many--have looked into his
marble face, have felt the touch of his pitiless hands, and the cold
despair of his unloving embrace. For there is Death spiritual and Death
physical, and many of us who bear no traces of our past in the present
of to-day, have fought our grim battle with the death--the--death--"

And then my father's words died away upon his lips, and the whole
congregation knew what had already thrown me into an agony of terror.
The man had staggered to the bottom of the aisle, and the sound of his
shuffling movements, and the deep groan which accompanied them, had
drawn many eyes towards him. His awful plight stood revealed with
pitiless distinctness in the open space where he was now standing. The
red blood dripped from his clothing upon the bare stone floor, a foam
which was like the foam of death frothed at his lips. He stood there,
the focus of all horrified eyes, swaying to and fro as though on the eve
of collapse, his arms outstretched, and his eyes flashing red fire upon
the thin almost spectral-like figure of the preacher now leaning over
towards him from the pulpit. The slight colour forced into my father's
cheeks by the physical effort of his impassioned oratory died away. To
his very lips he was white as the surplice he wore. Yet he did not lose
his nerve or falter for a moment. He motioned to Mr. Charlsworth and the
other churchwardens, and both left their places and hurried down the
aisle towards the wild, tragical-looking figure. Just as they reached
him the cry which his lips had twice declined to utter burst out upon
the tense, breathless silence. He made a convulsive movement forward as
though to spring like a wild cat upon that calm, dignified figure
looking down upon him with unfaltering and unflinching gaze. "Judas \
you, Judas I Oh! my God!" His hands, thrown wildly out, fell to his
side. He sank back into the arms of one of those who had hurried from
their places at my father's gesture. A last cry, more awful than
anything I have ever heard, woke hideous echoes amongst the worm-eaten,
black oak beams, and before it had died away, I saw Adelaide Fortress
glide like a black wraith from her seat and fall on her knees by the
fainting man's side. My father lifted up his arms, and with a deep,
solemn tremor in his tone pronounced the Benediction. Then, with his
surplice flying round him, he came swiftly down the aisle between the
little crowd of horrified people. They all fell back at his approach. He
sank on one knee by the side of the prostrate man and looked steadfastly
into his face. The congregation all waited in their places, and Alice,
who was only partly aware of what was going on, commenced to play a soft
voluntary.

There was some whispering for a moment or two, then they lifted him up
and carried the lifeless body out into the open air.

My father followed close behind. For a few minutes there was an uneasy
silence. People forgot that the Benediction had been pronounced, and
were uncertain whether to go or stay. Then some one made a start, and
one by one they got up and left the church.

Lady Naselton paused and sat by my side for a moment. She was trembling
all over.

"Do you know who it was?" she whispered.

I shook my head.

"I am not sure. It was a stranger; was it not?"

She shuddered.

"It was either a stranger, or my guest, Mr. Berdenstein. I only caught a
glimpse of his face for a moment, and I could not be sure. He looked so
horrible."

She paused, and suddenly discovered that I was half fainting. "Come out
into the air," she whispered. I got up and went out with her just in
time.

They had carried him into a distant corner of the churchyard. My father,
when he saw us standing together in a little group, came slowly over as
though to check our further advance. His face was haggard and drawn. He
seemed to walk with difficulty, and underneath his surplice I could see
that one hand was pressed to his side.

"The man is dead," he said quietly. "There must have been an accident
or a fight No one seems to know where he came from."

"I wonder," remarked the Bishop, thoughtfully, "why he should have
dragged himself up to the church in such a plight One of those cottages
or the Vicarage would have been nearer.

"Perhaps," my father answered, gravely, "he was struggling for
sanctuary."

And the Bishop held up his right hand towards the sky with a solemn
gesture.

"God grant that he may have found it," he prayed.



CHAPTER X. CANON OF BELCHESTER


THERE followed for me after these solemn words of the Bishop a
phantasmagoria of human faces, and sky, and tree-tops, and a singing in
my ears, now loud, now soft, in which all other sounds and movements
seemed blended. I have an indistinct recollection of the walk home, and
of finding myself in my own room. Then memory gradually faded away from
me. Blank unconsciousness enveloped me like a cloud. The next thing I
remember is waking up one morning as though after a terrible dream, a
night of nightmares, and finding the room half full of medicine bottles.
I looked around me faintly curious, inexpressibly bewildered; I suddenly
realised that I had been ill.

I was not alone. Alice was standing over me, her round, honest little
face beaming with pleasure and her underlip quivering.

"You are better," she said, softly. "I am so glad."

"How long have I been here?" I asked.

She sat down by my side.

"A week to-morrow I Just think of it."

I closed my eyes. The little scene in the churchyard had suddenly risen
up again before my eyes. My head commenced to swim. I asked no more
questions.

The next morning I was stronger. I sat up in bed and looked around. The
first thing which I noticed was that the room was full of the most
beautiful flowers; I stooped over a vase of roses and smelt them. The
air was almost faint with their delicious perfume.

"Where did they all come from?" I asked Alice.

She laughed in rather an odd manner.

"From whom do you suppose?" she asked.

"How should I know?" I protested, faintly. "I have not an idea."

"From your _bte noir_," she exclaimed, plucking off one of the yellow
blossoms and placing it upon my pillow.

I still looked blankly at her. She laughed.

"Can't you really guess?" she asked. I shook my head. I really had no
idea.

"From Mr. Deville. He has called nearly every day to ask after you."

It was surprising enough, but I said very little. I suppose I was not
considered strong enough then to hear any news of importance; but
several days later, when I was sitting up, Alice looked up from the book
she was reading aloud to me and told me something which I know she must
have had very hard work to have kept to herself for so long.

"Father is to be made a canon, Kate," she said, triumphantly. I looked
up at her bewildered. I had forgotten all about Lady Naselton's plans on
his behalf. The latter part of this terrible Sunday had haunted me like
a nightmare, usurping all my thoughts. There had been little room for
other memories.

"A canon!" I repeated, feebly. "Do you mean it, Alice?"

She nodded.

"The Bishop came here from Lady Naselton's. He said a lot of nice things
to father about his sermon on--that Sunday night--you remember."

"It was a wonderful sermon," I whispered.

"So the Bishop thinks; so every one thinks," Alice declared, with
enthusiasm. "I shall never forget how I felt. And he had no notes, or
anything."

"It was the most realistic sermon I ever heard," I said, with a little
shudder. "It was like a scene from a play. It was wonderful."

Alice looked up at me quickly. Doubtless my voice had betrayed some
agitation. She laid her hand upon my arm.

"Don't think about it this evening," she begged. "I quite forgot father
especially forbade my speaking of it to you. It must have been terrible
for you to have been so near it all. I can't imagine what I should have
done. I could see nothing from the organ screen, you know."

I leaned over and looked at her.

"Alice, I do not want to talk about it, but I want to know how it ended.
You must tell me that."

She hesitated for a moment.

"He was quite dead," she said, slowly. "There was an inquest, and they
decided that he must have been attacked somewhere in the wood between
the downs and Yellow House. There were all the marks of a struggle
within a few hundred yards of the road."

"Did they bring in a verdict of murder?" I asked.

Alice nodded.

"Yes," she assented, gravely. "He was murdered. It seems that he was
lately come from abroad. He had been staying at Lady Naselton's, but she
knew scarcely anything about him. He was kind to her son abroad. I
think they just knew his name and that was all. They had no idea where
to send to or if he had any near relatives alive. It was all very odd."

"Was he robbed?" I asked.

"No. His watch and money were found in his pocket undisturbed. If
anything was taken from it it must have been papers only. The police are
trying hard to find a clue, but they say that it is a very difficult
case. No one seems to have seen him at all after he left Naselton Hall."

I caught at the side of my chair.

"No one at all?" I asked.

"Not a soul."

I was silent for a moment. The walls of my little chamber had suddenly
opened. I saw again from the edge of the moor that lone figure coming
down the hillside towards us, I saw that strange light flashing in my
father's face, and I heard the greeting of the two men. A sick dread was
in my heart.

"Was father called as a witness?" I asked.

"No. Why should he be? The man was a stranger to him. He had never seen
him before."

I closed my eyes and laid back. Alice bent over me anxiously.

"I ought not to have talked about this to you," she said. "Father
absolutely forbade me to, but you wanted to know the end so much.
Promise not to think of it any more."

Promise not to think of it any more? Ah! if only I could have made that
promise and kept it. My sister's mildly protesting words seemed charged
with the subtlest and most bitter of all irony. Already some faint
premonition of the burden which I was to bear seemed dawning upon me. I
remained silent and kept my eyes closed. Alice thought that I was
asleep, but I knew that sleep was very far off. The white, distorted
face of that dying man was before me. I saw the silent challenge and the
silent duel which had passed between those two, the central figures in
that marvellous little drama--one, the challenger, ghastly pale even to
the tremulous lips, wild and dishevelled, my father looking down upon
him with unquailing mien and proud, still face. One moment more of life,
a few beats more of the pulses, and that sentence--and that
sentence--what would it have grown to? I felt myself shivering as I lay
there.

"Did you say that father was away now?"! asked Alice.

She nodded.

"Yes; he is staying with the Bishop for a few days. I should not be
surprised if he came home to-day, though. I have written to him by every
post to let him know how you are, and he was most anxious to hear
directly you were well enough to talk. I have been disobeying him
frightfully."

Again I closed my eyes and feigned sleep. I had heard what Alice had
not--the sound of wheels below. Suddenly she laid down her work and
started up. It was my father's voice bidding the cabman "Good night."

"I must go down to him, Kate," she declared, springing up; "I won't
leave you alone for more than a minute or two."

But when the minute or two had elapsed and there was a knock at my door,
it was not Alice who had returned. I answered in a low voice, and my
father entered.



CHAPTER XI. THE GATHERING OF THE CLOUD

FROM my low chair I watched my father cross the room. So far as I could
see there was no change in him. He came over to my side and took my hand
with an air of anxious kindliness. Then he stooped down, and his lips
touched my forehead.

"You are better, Kate?" he inquired, quietly.

"Quite well," I answered.

He looked at me thoughtfully, and asked a few questions about my
illness, touched upon his own visit to the Bishop, and the dignity which
had been offered to him. Then after a short pause, during which my heart
beat fiercely, he came and sat down by my side.

"Kate! You are strong enough to listen to me while I speak just for a
moment or two upon a very painful subject."

"Yes," I whispered. "Go on."

"I gather from what Alice tells me that you have already shown a very
wise discretion--in a certain matter. You have already alluded to it, it
seems; and she has told you all that is known. Something, of course,
must have at once occurred to you--I mean the fact that I have not
thought it well to disclose the fact that you and I together met that
unfortunate man on the common, and that he asked me the way to the
Yellow House."

"I was bewildered when I found that you had not mentioned it," I
faltered. "I do not understand. Please tell me."

He looked steadily into my eyes. There was not the slightest disquietude
in his still, stern face. My nervousness did not affect him at all. He
seemed to feel no embarrassment.

"It is a matter," he said, slowly, "to which I gave a good deal of
thought at the time. I came to the conclusion that for my own sake and
for the sake of another that the fact of that meeting had better not be
known. There are things concerning it which I may not tell you. I cannot
offer you as I would like my whole confidence. Only I can say this, my
disclosure of the fact of our having met the man could have done not one
iota of good. It could not possibly have suggested to any one either a
clue as to the nature of the crime or to the criminal himself, and
bearing in mind other things of which you are happier to remain
ignorant, silence became to me almost a solemn duty. It became at any
rate an absolute necessity. For the sake of others as well as for my own
sake I held my peace. Association direct or indirect with such a crime
would have been harmful alike to me and to the person whom he desired to
visit. So I held my peace, and I require of you, Kate, that you take my
pledged word as to the necessity for this silence, and that you follow
my example. I desire your solemn promise that no word of that meeting
shall ever pass your lips."

I did not answer. With his eyes fixed upon my face he waited. I laid my
hand upon his arm.

"Father, in the church, did you see his face? Did you hear what he was
saying?"

He did not shrink from me. He looked into my white, eager face without
any sign of fear or displeasure.

"Yes," he answered, gravely.

"Was it--was it--you to whom he spoke?" I cried.

There was a short silence.

"I cannot answer your last question, Kate," he said.

I grasped his hand feverishly. There was a red livid mark afterwards
where my nails had dug into his wrist.

"Father, would you have me go mad?" I moaned. "You knew that man. You
knew who he was I You knew what he wanted--at the Yellow House."

"It is true," he answered.

"In the church I could have touched--could have touched him, he was so
near to me--there was a terrible light in his face, his eyes were
flaming upon you. He was like a man who suddenly understands. He called
'Judas,' and he pointed--at you."

"He was mad," my father answered, with a terrible calmness. "Every one
could see that he was mad."

"Mad!" I caught at the thought. I repeated the word to myself, and
forced my recollection backwards with a little shudder to those few
horrible moments. After all was there any hope that this might be the
interpretation? My father's voice broke in upon my thoughts.

"I do not wish to harp upon what must be a terribly painful subject to
you, Kate. I only want your promise, you must take my word for
everything else."

I looked at him long and steadily. If the faces of men are in any way an
index to their lives, my father's should rank high--high indeed. His
countenance was absolutely unruffled. There was not a single shadow of
fear there, or passion of any sort; only a delicate thoughtfulness
tempered with that quiet dignity which seemed almost an inseparable
characteristic of his. I took his hands in mine and clasped them
fervently.

"Father," I cried, "give me your whole confidence. I will promise all
that you desire, only let me know everything. I have thought
sometimes--terrible thoughts--I cannot help them. They torment me
now--they will torment me always. I know so much--tell me a little more.
My lips shall be sealed. I mean it! Only--"

He raised his hand softly, but the words died upon my lips.

"I have nothing to tell you, child," he said, quietly. "Put that thought
away from you for ever. The burden which I bear is upon my own shoulders
only. God forbid that even the shadow of it should darken your young
life."

"I am not afraid of any knowledge," I cried. "It is ignorance of which I
am afraid. I can bear anything except these horrible, nameless fears
against which I have no power. Why don't you trust me? I am old enough.
I am wise enough. What you tell me shall be as sacred as God's word to
me."

He shook his head without any further response. I choked back the tears
from my eyes. "There is some mystery, here," I cried. "We are all
enveloped in it. What does it mean? Why did we come here?"

"We came here by pure accident," my father answered. "We came here
because the curacy was offered to me; and I was glad to take anything
which relieved me of my duties at Belchester."

"It was fate!--a cruel fate!" I moaned.

"It was the will of God," he answered, sternly.

Then there was a silence between us, unbroken for many minutes. My
father waited by my side--waited for my answer. The despair in my heart
grew deeper.

"I cannot live here," I said, "and remain ignorant."

"You must give me your promise, child," he said. "I have no power to
tell you anything. You are young, and for you the terror of this thing
will fade away."

I answered him then with a sinking heart

"I promise," I said, faintly. "Only--I shall have to go away. I cannot
live here. It would drive me mad."

His cold lips touched mine as he rose.

"You must do," he said, gravely, "what seems best to you. You are old
enough to be the moulder of your own life. If you would be happier away,
you must go. Only there is this to be remembered--I can understand that
this particular place may have become distasteful to you. We are not
going to live here any longer. You will find life at Eastminster larger
and more absorbing. I shall be able to do more for you than I have ever
done before."

"It is not that," I interrupted, wearily. "You know that it is not that.
It is between us two."

He was silent. A sudden change stole into his face. His lips quivered.
An inexpressible sorrow gleamed for a moment in his dark eyes. He bent
his head. Was that a tear that fell? I fancied so.

I took his hand and soothed it.

"Father, you will tell me, won't you?" I whispered. "I shall not mind. I
will be brave, whatever dreadful things I may have to know. Let me share
the burden."

For a moment I thought that he was yielding. He covered his face with
his hands and remained silent. But when he looked up I saw that the
moment of weakness had passed. He rose to his feet.

"Good night, Kate," he said, quietly. "Thank you for your promise."

My heart sank. I returned his kiss coldly. He left me without another
word.



CHAPTER XII. MR. BERDENSTEIN'S SISTER

THREE days after that memorable conversation with my father a fly drove
up to the door, and from where I was sitting in our little drawing-room
I heard a woman's anxious voice inquiring for Mr. Ffolliot. A moment or
two later the maid knocked at my door.

"There is a young lady here, miss, inquiring for the Vicar. I told her
that Mr. Ffolliot would not be in for an hour or two, and she asked if
she could speak to any other member of the family."

"Do you know what she wants, Mary?" I asked.

The girl shook her head.

"No, miss. She would not say what her business was. She just wants to
see one of you, she said."

"You had better tell her that I am at home, and show her in here if she
wishes to see me," I directed.

She ushered in a young lady, short, dark, and thin. Her eyes were
swollen as though with weeping, and her whole appearance seemed to
indicate that she was in trouble. She sank into the chair to which I
motioned her, and burst into tears.

"You must please forgive me," she exclaimed, in a voice broken with
sobs. "I have just come from abroad; and I have had a terrible shock."

Some instinct seemed to tell me the truth.

My heart stood still.

"Are you any relation of the gentleman who was--who died here last
week?" I asked, quickly.

She nodded.

"I have just been to the police-station," she said. "It is his
watch--the one I gave him--and his pocket-book, with a half-written
letter to me in it. They have shown me his photograph. It is my brother,
Stephen Berdenstein. He was the only relative I had left in the world."

I was really shocked, and I looked at her pitifully. "I am so sorry," I
said. "It must be terrible for you."

She commenced to sob again, and I feared that she would have hysterics.
She was evidently very nervous, and very much overwrought. I was never
particularly good at administering consolation, and I could think of
nothing better to do than to ring the bell and order some tea.

"He was to have joined me in Paris on Saturday," she continued after a
minute or two. "He did not come and he sent a message. When Monday
morning came and there was no letter from him, I felt sure that
something had happened. I bought the English papers, and by chance I
read about the murder. It seemed absurd to connect it with Stephen,
especially as he told me he was going to be in London, but the
description was so like him that I could not rest. I telegraphed to his
bankers, and they replied that he had gone down into the country, but
had left no address. So I crossed at once and when I found that he had
not been heard of at his club in London or anywhere else for more than
ten days, I came down here. I went straight to the police-station,
and--and--"

She burst into tears again. I came over to her side and tried my best to
be sympathetic. I am afraid that it was not a very successful attempt,
for my thoughts were wholly engrossed in another direction. However, I
murmured a few platitudes, and presently she became more coherent. She
even accepted some tea, and bathed her face with some eau de Cologne,
which I fetched from my room.

"Have you any idea," I asked her presently, "why your brother came to
this part of the country at all. He was staying at Lady Naselton's, was
he not? Was she an old friend?"

She shook her head.

"I never heard him speak of her in my life. Rewrote to me of a young Mr.
Naselton who had visited him in Rio. but even in his last letter from
Southampton he did not say a word about visiting them. He would have
come straight to me, he said, but for a little urgent business in
London."

"And yet he seems to have accepted a casual invitation, and came down
here within a day or two of his arrival in England," I remarked.

"I cannot understand it!" she exclaimed, passionately. "Stephen and I
have not met for many years--he has been living in South America, and I
have been in Paris--but he wrote to me constantly, and in every letter
he repeated how eagerly he was looking forward to seeing me again. I
cannot think that he would have come down here just as an ordinary visit
of civility before coming to me, or sending for me to come to him. There
must be something behind it--something of which I do not know."

"You know, of course, that Naselton Hall is shut up and that the
Naseltons have gone to Italy?" I asked her.

"They told me so at the police-station," she answered. "I have sent Lady
Naselton a telegram. It is a long time since I saw Stephen, and one does
not tell everything in letters. He may have formed great friendships of
which I have never heard."

"Or great enmities," I suggested, softly.

"Or enmities," she repeated, thoughtfully. "Yes; he may have made
enemies. That is possible. He was passionate, and he was wilful. He was
the sort of a man who made enemies."

She was quite calm now, and I had a good look at her. She was certainly
plain. Her face was sharp and thin, and her eyes were a dull, dark
colour. She was undersized and ungraceful, in addition to which she was
dressed much too richly for travelling, and in questionable taste. So
far as I could recollect there was not the slightest resemblance between
her and the dead man.

She surprised me in the middle of my scrutiny, but she did not seem to
notice it She had evidently been thinking something out.

"You have not lived here very long, Miss Ffolliot?" she asked, "have
you?"

I shook my head.

"Only a month or so."

"I suppose," she continued, "you know the names of most of the principal
families round here. A good many of them would call upon you, no
doubt?"

"I believe I know most of them, by name at any rate," I told her.

"Do you know any family of the name of Maltabar?" she
asked--"particularly a man called Philip Maltabar?"

I shook my head at once with a sense of relief which I could not
altogether conceal.

"No, I never heard it in my life," I answered. "I am quite sure that
there is no family of that name of any consequence around here. I must
have heard it, and it is too uncommon a one to be overlooked."

The brief light died out of her face. She was evidently disappointed.

"You are quite sure?"

"Absolutely certain."

She sighed.

"I am sorry," she said. "Philip Maltabar is the one man I know who hated
my brother. There has been a terrible and lifelong enmity between them.
It has lasted since they were boys. I believe that it was to avoid him
that my brother first went to South America. If there had been a
Maltabar living anywhere around here I should have known where to go for
vengeance."

"Is it well to think of that, and so soon?" I asked, quietly. The girl's
aspect had changed. I looked away from her with a little shudder.

"What else is there for me to think of?" she demanded. "Supposing it
were you, it would be different. You have other relatives. I have none.
I am left alone in the world. My brother may have had his faults, but to
me he was everything. Can you wonder that I hate the person who has
deprived me of him?"

"You are not sure--it is not certain that there was not an
accident--that he did not kill himself," I suggested.

She dismissed the idea with scorn.

"Accident! What accident could there have been? It is not possible. As
to taking his own life, it is ridiculous! Why should he? He was too fond
of it. Other men might have done that, but Stephen--never! No. He was
murdered in that little plantation. I know the exact spot. I have been
there. There was a struggle, and some one, better prepared than he,
killed him. Perhaps he was followed here from London. It may be so. And
yet, what was he doing here at all? That visit to Naselton Hall was not
without some special purpose. I am sure of it. It was in connection with
that purpose that he met with his death. He must have come to see some
one. I want to know who it was. That is what I am going to find
out--whom he came to see. You can blame me if you like. It may be
unchristian, and you are a parson's daughter. I do not care. I am going
to find out."

I was silent. In a measure I was sorry for her, but down in my heart
there lurked the seeds of a fear--nameless, but terribly potent--which
put me out of all real sympathy with her. I began to wish that she would
go away. I had answered her questions, and I had done all--more--than
common courtesy demanded. Yet she sat there without any signs of moving.

"I suppose," she said at last, finding that I kept silent, "that it
would not be of any use waiting to see your father. He has not been here
any longer than you have. He would not be any more likely to know
anything of the man Maltabar?"

I shook my head decidedly.

"He would be far less likely to know of him than I should," I assured
her. "He knows a good deal less of the people around here. His interests
are altogether amongst the poorer classes. And he has left my sister and
me to receive and pay all the calls. He is not at all fond of society."

"Philip Maltabar may be poor--now," she said, musingly. "He was never
rich."

"If he were poor, he would not be living here," I said. "The poor of
whom I speak are the peasantry. It is not like a town, you know. Any man
such as the Mr. Maltabar you speak of would be more than ever a marked
figure living out of his class amongst villagers. In any case he would
not be the sort of man whom my father would be likely to visit."

"I suppose you are right," she answered, doubtfully. "At any rate--since
I am here--there would be no harm in asking your father, would there?"

"Certainly not," I answered. "I daresay he will be here in a few
moments."

Almost as I spoke he passed the window, and I heard his key in the front
door. The girl, who had seen his shadow, looked up quickly.

"Is that he?" she asked.

I nodded.

"Yes. You can ask him for yourself now."

"I should like to," she answered. "I am so glad I stayed."

Some instinct prompted me to rise and leave the room. I went out and met
my father in the hall.

"Father," I said, "there is a girl here who says she has identified that
man. She is his sister. She is waiting to see you."

My father had evidently come in tired out; he leaned against the wall
for support. He was out of breath, too, and pale.

"What does she want with me?" he asked, sharply.

"She came to ask if we knew of any family of the name of Maltabar.
Philip Maltabar, it seems, is the name of a man who has been her
brother's enemy. She thinks that this thing must have been his doing.
She cannot think of any one else with whom he has ever been on bad
terms. I have told her that there is no one of that name in these
parts."

He cleared his throat. He was very hoarse and ghastly pale.

"Quite right, Kate," he said, "There is no one of that name around here.
What more does she want? What does she want of me?"

"I told her that I knew of ho one, but she came to see you in the first
place. She does not seem quite satisfied. She wants to ask you herself."

He drew back a step.

"No! no! I cannot see her. I am tired--ill. I have walked too far. Tell
her from me that there is no one of that name living in these parts. I
am absolutely sure of it. She can take it for granted from me."

"Hadn't you better see her just for one moment, as she has waited for so
long?" I said. "She will be better satisfied."

He ground his heel down into the floor.

"No! I will not! I have had too much worry and trouble in connection
with this affair already. My nerves are all unstrung. I cannot discuss
it again with any one. Please let her understand that from me as kindly
as possible, but firmly. I am going to my study. Don't come to see me
again until she has gone."

He crossed the hall and entered his own room. I heard the key turn in
the lock after him. It was useless to say anything more. I went back to
my visitor.

I entered noiselessly, as I was wearing house shoes, and was surprised
to find her with the contents of my card-plate spread out before her.
She flushed up to the temples when she saw me standing on the threshold,
yet she was not particularly apologetic.

"I am very rude," she said, brusquely. "I had no right, of course, to
take such a liberty, but I thought--it might be barely possible--that
you had forgotten the name, that some one might have called when you
were not at home, or that, perhaps, your sister might have met them."

"Oh, pray satisfy yourself." I said, icily. "You are quite welcome to
look them through."

She put the card-plate down.

"I have looked at all of them," she said. "There is no name anything
like it there. Is your father coming in?"

"He is not very well," I told her, "and is quite tired out He has walked
a long way this afternoon. He wishes you to excuse him, and to say that
he is quite sure that there is no one of that name; rich or poor, living
anywhere in this neighbourhood."

She seemed by no means satisfied.

"But shall I not be able to see him at all, then?" she exclaimed. "I had
hoped that as he was the clergyman here, and was one of those who were
with my brother when he died, that he would be certain to help me."

I shook my head.

"I am afraid that you will think it very selfish," I said, "but my
father would rather not see you at all. He is in very delicate health,
and this affair has already been a terrible shock to him. He does not
want to have anything more to do with it directly or indirectly. He
wants to forget it if he can. He desires me to offer you his most
sincere sympathy. But you must really excuse him."

She rose slowly to her feet; her manner was obviously ungracious.

"Oh, very well!" she said. "Of course if he has made up his mind not to
see me, I cannot insist. At the same time, I think it very strange. Good
afternoon."

I rang the bell, and walked with her to the door.

"Is there anything else which I can do for you?" I asked.

"No, thank you. I think I shall telegraph to London for a detective. I
shall see what they say at the police-station. Good afternoon."

She did not offer to shake hands, nor did I. I think of all the women I
had ever met, I detested her the most.

I watched her walk down the drive with short, mincing steps and get into
a fly. Then I went to the door of my father's room and knocked.



CHAPTER XIII. FOR VENGEANCE

I knocked at the door twice before there was any answer. Then I heard my
father's voice from the other end of the room.

"Is that you, Kate?"

"Yes," I answered. "Can I come in?"

The door was not immediately unlocked.

"Has she gone?" he asked.

"Yes," I answered.

He opened it then, and I was frightened to see how ill he looked. He had
evidently been lying down, for the cushions on his sofa were
disarranged.

"She has gone away, then," he repeated, anxiously.

I nodded.

"Yes."

"Was she annoyed because I did not see her?"

"She was disappointed," I admitted. "She was very ungracious and very
disagreeable; a most objectionable person altogether. I don't know how I
managed to be civil with her."

"You explained that I was not well--that I was not fit to see any one?"

"I did my best. She was very unreasonable, and she evidently expected
that you would have made an effort to see her. She went away grumbling."

He sat down upon the sofa, and I leaned against the table.

"Has she gone back to London?" he asked.

"I do not know, I don't think so. She said something about going back to
the police-station and wiring to London for a detective."

"Ah!"

He had closed his eyes. I heard him draw in a long, sharp breath.

"She is a very determined young woman," I continued. "Perhaps I ought
not to say so, but she seemed to feel more angry than brokenhearted. She
is vindictive, I am sure. She will do her best to find the man who
killed her brother, and if she finds him she will have no mercy."

My father rose up and walked to his writing-table. His back was turned to
me as he commenced to sort out some papers.

"Perhaps," he said, "that is natural. It is very hard indeed to remember
that vengeance belongs to God, and not to man. It is very hard indeed.
Leave me now, Kate, and see that I am not disturbed for an hour."

I closed his door softly, and walked out into the garden, across the
lawn to the edge. Below me was the little plantation, ill-famed and
suddenly notorious as the scene of that terrible tragedy. Every tree
seemed clearly defined and beautiful in that soft autumn twilight. I
looked at it with a curious sense of shuddering fear. That girl's face,
hungry for vengeance, the code of blood for blood--it was terrible. But
the vengeance of God--more awful, if not so swift as hers--on whom was
that to fall?

A heavy step in the road brought me, with a little sense of relief, back
to the present. The tall form of Mr. Bruce Deville came in sight. He
passed so close to me that I could have touched him.

"Good-night, Mr. Deville," I said, softly, in his ear.

He started almost over to the other side of the road. Then he saw me,
and lifted his cap.

"Good God!" he exclaimed. "I beg your pardon. Miss Ffolliot. How you
startled me!"

"I am very sorry," I said, penitently.

He looked at me and laughed. "You may be," he said; "but you don't look
it. I am glad that you are better."

"I am quite well, thank you," I answered. "I am glad to see you Mr.
Deville. I wanted to thank you for those beautiful roses. I could not
believe that they came from you."

He looked a little embarrassed.

"They are not worth mentioning," he muttered. "Besides, it was
Adelaide's idea. She thought that you would like them."

I felt a little needlessly disappointed. Doubtless I answered him a
little coldly.

"I must thank Mrs. Fortress for them, then I Very well; I will go down
and see her tomorrow."

"I don't think," he said, with a slight twinkle in his eyes, "that you
need go down specially. Mrs. Fortress only answered my question when I
asked her if she thought that you would care for them."

"Oh, is that all?" I remarked.

"Entirely," he answered. "At the same time, if you have any time to
spare I daresay Mrs. Fortress would be glad to see you if you went
down."

"Do you think she would, really?" I asked. "You know the first time I
was there, something a little unpleasant happened in connection with my
father. I took a great fancy to her, and I would like to go and see her
again, but I am not sure whether she Wants me. I fancy she was very
surprised at my visit the other night."

"I am perfectly certain," he declared, confidently, "that she would be
glad to see you any time you chose to go to her. You may take my word
for that."

"I think I will go to-morrow, then," I said. "Mrs. Fortress interests me
very much. There is no one else round here like her."

"You are very friendly with my godmamma, are you not?" he said, with a
faint smile at the corners of his lips.

"Lady Naselton has been very kind to me," I answered.

"I am afraid she gives me a dreadful character, doesn't she?" he asked.

"If she does you probably deserve it," I said, severely. "I fancy that I
have heard her say that you are exceedingly shiftless and very lazy. You
could scarcely deny that, could you?"

"Well, I don't know," he answered. "I have walked twenty or thirty miles
to-day. That doesn't sound particularly lazy, does it?"

"On sport or business?" I inquired.

He laughed, and looked down at himself. His clothes were splashed with
mud, and a bramble had torn his coat in a fresh place.

"I maintain that it is immaterial," he declared. "I've been out all day,
and I haven't sat down for more than an hour. Therefore I deny the
laziness in toto!"

"At any rate," I continued, "there is another charge against you, which
you certainly can't deny."

"And that is?"

"Untidiness! We used to have a woman call upon us at Belchester to buy
our old clothes. If ever she comes here I shall certainly send her up to
Deville Court."

He laughed gruffly.

"I wish you would; I'd sell her the whole lot. Anything else?"

"The other things," I said, "were too bad to repeat. I have only been
enumerating your minor faults."

He made me an ironical bow.

"I am exceedingly obliged to my godmother," he said. "Some day I shall
do myself the pleasure of paying her a visit and suggesting that she
should mind her own business."

"Your business is her business to the extent of her godmotherhood," I
reminded him, suavely.

"Hang her godmotherhood!" he uttered under his breath. I think it was
"hang" he said--I was not sure about the expletive.

"I shall go away," I said. "You are getting profane. You are still as
rude as when I bound your dog's leg for you, I see."

He was suddenly grave.

"That seems a long time ago," he remarked.

"A week or two only," I reminded him. "It, seems longer, because, of all
that has happened. That reminds me, Mr. Deville. I wanted to speak to
you--about--that Sunday--the murder!"

He shook his head and whistled to his dogs.

"Can't talk about it," he declared. "You ought not to want to."

"And why not?" I demanded.

"You are not well enough. I don't wonder that you've been ill. You must
have been within a few yards of the fellow all the time. Certainly you
must not talk about it. Good evening."

"But there is something I want to ask you," I continued.

He shook his head. He was already moving away. I called him back.

"Mr. Deville I One moment, please."

He paused and looked over his shoulder.

"Well!"

"I want to ask you just one thing about that man."

I was talking to empty space. Bruce Deville was already almost out of
sight, striding along across the short turf, with his broad back turned
to me. Soon he had vanished amongst the shadows. There was nothing for
me to do but to return to the house.



CHAPTER XIV. ADELAIDE FORTRESS'S GUEST

MY FATHER did not appear at breakfast time the next morning, and Alice,
who took him up some tea, came down in some concern.

"Father is not getting up until this afternoon, at any rate," she
announced. "He is very unwell. I wish he would let us send for a doctor.
He has looked so dreadfully ill since he came back from London."

Under the circumstances I was perhaps less alarmed than I might have
otherwise been. It was clear to me that he did not wish to see the girl
who had called upon me yesterday. I was strongly inclined to look upon
his present indisposition as somewhat exaggerated with a view to
escaping a meeting with her. But I was soon to be undeceived. I went up
to him after breakfast, and, gaining no answer to my knock at the door,
I entered softly. He was lying quite still upon the bed, partially
dressed, and at first I thought that he was asleep. I moved to his side
on tiptoe, and a sudden shock of fear drove the colour from my face, and
set my heart beating wildly. His eyes were closed, his cheeks were pale
as death. Upon his side, underneath his waistcoat, was a linen bandage,
half soaked with blood. Evidently he had fainted in the act of fastening
it.

I got some brandy and forced it between his lips, chafed his hands, and
gradually the life seemed to return to him. He opened his eyes and
looked at me.

"Don't move!" I whispered. "I will see to the bandage."

He lay quite still, groaning every now and then until I had finished.
Then I drew the counterpane over him, and waited for a moment or two. He
opened his eyes and looked at me.

"I am going to send for a doctor," I whispered, leaning over him.

He clutched my hand.

"I forbid it," he answered, hoarsely. "Do not dare to think of it, Kate!
Do you hear?"

"But this is serious!" I cried. "You will be very ill."

"It is only a flesh wound," he muttered. "I scarcely feel it; only--I
drew the bandage too tightly."

"How long have you had it?" I asked.

He looked towards the door; it was closed.

"Since I was in London. It was a cowardly attack--the night before I
returned. I have gone armed ever since. I am safe now--quite safe."

I was sorely perplexed. He was watching me with bright, feverish eyes.

"Promise, Kate, that you will not send for a doctor, unless I give you
leave," he whispered, eagerly. "Your solemn promise, Kate; I must have
it."

"On condition that you let me see to the bandages for you then," I
answered, reluctantly.

"Very good! You can. They will want changing to-night. I am going to
sleep now."

He closed his eyes and turned his face to the wall. I stole softly out
of the room and downstairs. The sight of Alice's calm and placid
features as she busied herself about the affairs of the house and the
parish was a constant irritation to me. I could not sit down or settle
to any work. A fit of nervous restlessness came over me. Outside was a
storm of wind and rain, but even that I felt at last was better than
inaction; so I put on my coat and hat and walked across the soddened
turf and down the drive with the fresh, stinging rain in my face. I
passed out into the road, and after a moment's hesitation took the turn
towards the Yellow House.

I do not know what prompted me to go and see Adelaide Fortress. It was a
sudden impulse, and I yielded to it promptly. But I had scarcely taken
half a dozen steps before I found myself face to face with Bruce
Deville. He stopped short, and looked at me with surprise.

"You are not afraid of rough weather, Miss Ffolliot," he remarked,
raising his cap, with, for him, unusual courtesy.

"I fear many things worse," I answered, looking down into the wood. "Are
you going to see Mrs. Fortress?"

"Yes, presently," he assented. "In the meantime, I was rather
thinking--I want a word with your father."

"What about?" I asked, abruptly

He looked at me intently. There was a new look upon his face which I
scarcely understood. Was it pity. It was almost like it He seemed to be
wondering how much! knew--or surmised.

"It is a matter of some importance," he said, gravely. "I wish I could
tell you. You look sensible, like a girl who might be told."

His words did not offend me in the least On the contrary, I think that I
was pleased.

"Mr. Deville," I said, firmly, "I agree with you. I am a girl who might
be told. I only wish that my father would be open with me. There is some
mystery around, some danger. I can see it all in your faces; I can feel
it in the air. That man's death"--I pointed into the wood--"is concerned
in it. What does it all mean? I want to know. I want you to tell me."

He sighed.

"I am not the one to whom you should appeal," he said. "I have not the
right to tell you anything; you may know very soon. In the meantime,
will you tell me where your father is?"

"He is at home," I answered, "in bed. He is ill. I do not think that he
will see you. He is not going to get up to-day."

Mr. Deville did not appear in the least disturbed or disappointed. On
the contrary, his face cleared, and I think that he was relieved.

"I am glad to hear it," he answered.

"Why?"

"He is better out of the way just for the present. When does he take up
his new appointment?"

"I am not sure that any definite time has been fixed," I answered. "In
about a month I should think."

"I heard about it yesterday," he remarked. "Your stay here has not been
a long one, has it?"

"Would to God that we had never come at all!" I exclaimed, fervently.
"It has been the most miserable time in my life."

"I don't know that I can echo that wish," he said, with a faint smile.
"Yet so far as you are concerned, from your point of view, I suppose
your coming here must have seemed very unfortunate. It is a pity."

"Mr. Deville," I said, drawing close to his side, "I am going to ask you
a question."

He looked down at me shaking his head.

"I should rather you asked me no question at all," he answered,
promptly. "Can't we talk of other things?"

"No, we cannot I Listen!"

I laid my hand upon his arm, and forced him to turn towards me.

"Tell me who that man was, and who killed him?" I asked, firmly. "I have
a right to know. I am determined to know!"

He was certainly paler underneath the dark tan of his sun and
weather-burned cheeks. Yet he answered me steadily enough.

"Take my advice. Miss Ffolliot, ask no questions about it, have no
thought about it. Put it away from you. I speak for your happiness,
which, perhaps, I am more interested in than you would believe."

Afterwards I wondered at that moment of embarrassment, and the little
break in his voice. Just then the excitement of the moment made me
almost oblivious of it.

"You are telling me!" I cried

"I am not telling you; I am not telling you because I do not know. For
God's sake ask me no more questions! Come and see Adelaide Fortress. You
were going there, were you not?"

"Yes, I was going there," I admitted.

"We will go together," he said. "She will be glad to see you, I am sure.
Mind the mud; it's horribly slippery."

We descended the footpath together. Just as we reached the gates of the
Yellow house, I turned to him.

"You were speaking of going to see my father this afternoon," I said.
"Can I give him any message for you?"

"Tell him that I am sorry to hear of his illness, but that I am glad
that he is taking care of himself," he answered, looking down at me.
"Tell him that the weather is bad, and that he will do well to take care
of himself. He is better in his room just at present."

We were inside the gates of the Yellow House, and I had not time to ask
him the meaning of this unusual solicitude for my father's health. I was
still puzzling over it when we were shown into the drawing-room. Then for
a moment I forgot it, and everything else altogether. Adelaide Fortress
had a visitor sitting opposite to her and talking earnestly.

The conversation ceased suddenly, and she looked up as we entered. There
was no mistaking the long, sallow face and anxious eyes. She looked at
me with indifference, but at the sight of my companion she jumped up and
a little cry broke from her lips. Her eyes seemed to be devouring him.

"At last!" she cried. "At last!"



CHAPTER XV. THE LIKENESS OF PHILIP MALTABAR

WE stood looking at them in wonder. Her face had seemed suddenly to
light up in some mysterious way, so that for the moment one quite forgot
that she was plain at all.

"It is really you!" she murmured. "How wonderful!"

She held out both her hands. Bruce Deville took them a little awkwardly.
It was easy to see that her joy at this meeting was not altogether
reciprocated. But she seemed utterly unconscious of that. There was
quite a becoming pink flush on her sallow cheeks, and her dark eyes were
wonderfully soft. Her lips were parted with a smile of welcome, and
showed all her teeth--she had gleaming white teeth, beautifully shaped
and regular.

"To think that we should meet again like this," she continued, parting
with his great brown hand with some evident reluctance.

"We were bound to meet again some day," he answered, deprecatingly.
"After all, there is nothing very extraordinary about it. The world is a
small place."

"You never kept your promise," she reminded him, reproachfully. "You
never came near our hotel. I waited for you a week."

"I could not; I was leaving Baeren that same afternoon."

She turned to us at last.

"This is the most delightful meeting in the world, so far as I am
concerned," she declared, still a little breathlessly. "Mr. Deville once
saved my life."

He made some sort of a protest, but she took no notice. She was
determined to tell her story.

"I was travelling with a friend through the Italian lakes, and we were
out for a drive near Baeren. We were coming down a terrible hill, with
a precipice on one side and the sheer mountain on the other. The road
was only just wide enough for our carriage, and suddenly a great bird
flew out from a hole in the mountain and startled our horses. The driver
must have been half asleep, and when they plunged he lost his balance
and was thrown off. The horses started galloping down the hill. It was
almost like the side of a house, and just in front was a sharp turn,
with only a little frail palisading, and the precipice just below. We
must have gone straight over. He could not possibly have turned at the
pace they were going. If they had the carriage must have swung over. We
were clinging to one another, and I am afraid we were dreadful cowards.
It was like certain and fearful death, and just then Mr. Deville came
round the corner. He seemed to see it all in a moment, and ran to meet
us. Oh, it was horrible!" she cried, throwing her hands up with a little
shiver. "I shall never forget it until I die. Never!"

She paused for a moment. Adelaide Fortress and I had been hanging over
her every word. There was something very thrilling about the way she
told her story. Mr. Deville alone seemed uninterested, and a little
impatient. He was turning over the pages of a magazine, with a restless
frown upon his strong, dark face.

"It seemed to me," she continued, lowering her shaking voice, "that he
was down under the horses, being dragged--"

Bruce Deville closed the magazine he had been reading with a bang. He
had evidently been a passive auditor as long as he was able to endure
it. "Let me finish," he said, shortly. "I am blessed with strong arms,
and I stopped the horses. It was not a particularly difficult task. The
ladies walked back to the hotel, and I went to look for the driver, who
had broken his leg."

"And I have never seen him since!" she exclaimed, breathlessly.

"Well, I couldn't help that," he continued. "I believe I promised to
come to the hotel and call upon you, but when I thought it over it
really didn't seem worth while. I was on my way to Geneva, walking over
the hills, and I was rather anxious to get there, and as I found some
men to take the carriage and the driver back, I thought I might as well
continue my journey. I wanted to get to Geneva for my letters."

She laughed quietly. Her eyes continually sought his, soft with
admiration and pleasure.

"You are like all the men of your country, who are brave and noble," she
said. "You will do a great deed, but you do not like to be thanked. Yet
we waited there for days, hoping to see you. I have looked for you
wherever I have been since then, and to think that now--on this very
saddest journey I have ever been forced to take--that I should call
here, by accident, and the door should open, and you should walk in.
Ah!"

"It is quite a romance," Adelaide Fortress remarked, with a faint smile
upon her lips. "How grateful you must be that you came to see me this
afternoon, Bruce I By the by, do you mind ringing the bell--unless you
prefer stewed tea?"

He got up and rang it with avidity.

"I am glad you recognise the fact that we have come to tea," he
remarked. "Miss Ffolliot and I met at the gate. You ought to give us
something specially good for venturing out on such a day."

"I will give you some Buszard's cake," she answered, laughing; "some
kind friend sent it me this morning. Only you mustn't eat it all up; it
has to last me for a week."

"How is your father, Miss Ffolliot?" the girl asked, turning to me
abruptly.

"I am sorry to say that he is very unwell," I answered, "and he is
obliged to keep to his room. And I am afraid that he will not be able to
leave it for several days."

She did not appear much concerned. I watched her closely, and with much
relief.

"I am sorry," she remarked, politely. "However, so far as I am
concerned, I suppose after all there would be very little object in my
seeing him. I have been to most of the oldest residents round here, and
they all seem certain that they have never heard of the name Maltabar."

I saw Bruce Deville start, and the hand which held his teacup shook.
Adelaide Fortress and he exchanged swift glances. The girl, whose eyes
were scarcely off him for a moment, noticed it too, although I doubt if
she attached the same significance to it.

"You do not know--you have not heard recently of any one of that name?"
she asked him. "Please tell me! I have a reason for being very much
interested."

He shook his head.

"If I have ever heard the name at all it must have been very long ago,"
he said; "and certainly not in connection with this part of the world."

She sighed.

"I suppose you do not know who I am, or why I am here," she said. "My
name I told you once, although I daresay you have forgotten it. It is
Berdenstein. The man who was found dead, who was killed close to here,
was my brother."

He murmured a few words of sympathy, but he showed no surprise. I
suspected that he had known who she was and of her presence here before.

"Of course I came here directly I heard of it," she continued, ignoring
us altogether, and talking only to him. "It is a terrible trouble to me,
and he was the only relative I had left in the world. You cannot wonder,
can you, that I want to find out all about it?"

"That is a very hard task," he said. "It is a task best left, I think,
in the hands of the proper authorities."

"They do not know as much as I know," she answered. "He had an enemy."

"The man Maltabar, of whom you spoke?"

"Yes. It was for him I inquired at once. Yet I suppose I must conclude
that he is not at any rate a resident around here. I thought that he
might have changed his name, and I have described him to a great many
people. Nobody seems to recognise him."

"Don't you think," Adelaide Fortress said, quietly, "that you have done
all that it is possible for any one to do? The police are doing their
utmost to solve the mystery of your brother's death. If I were you I
should leave it to them."

She shook her head.

"I am not satisfied to do nothing," she said. "You cannot imagine what
it feels like to lose some one very dear to you in such a terrible way.
I think of it sometimes until I tremble with passion, and I think that
if I could meet the man who did it face to face, I would stab him to the
heart myself, with my own hands. I am weak, but I feel that I could do
it. I cannot go away from here if I would. Something seems to tell me
that the key to the whole mystery lies here--just at hand. No, I cannot
go away. I must watch and wait. It may come to me at any moment."

No one answered her. She was conscious of a certain antagonism to her,
betrayed by our lack of response to that little outburst and our averted
faces. She looked from one to the other of us, and finally at Bruce
Deville.

"At least, you must think that I am right," she cried, appealingly. "You
are a man, and you would feel like that. I am sure of it. Isn't it
natural that I should want justice? He was all I had in the world."

"He is dead," Bruce Deville said, gently. "Nothing can bring him back to
life. Besides--"

He hesitated. The girl leaned forward, listening intently.

"Besides what?"

"Hasn't it ever occurred to you," he said, slowly, "that if a man hated
your brother so much as to follow him down here and kill him, that so
great a hatred must have sprung from some great cause? I know nothing,
of course, of your brother's life, or of the manner of his life. But men
do not strike one another without provocation. They do not kill one
another without very great provocation."

"I see what you mean," she said, slowly. "You mean that my brother must
first have been the sinner."

"I am not taking that for granted," he said, hastily; "only one cannot
help thinking sometimes that it might have been so."

"He was my brother," she said, simply. "He was all that I had in the
world. My desire for justice may be selfish. Yet I hate the man who
killed him, and I want to see him punished. I do not believe that any
sin of his could ever, have deserved so terrible a retribution."

"Perhaps not," he said; "yet there is so little that you can do. To
search for any one by the name of Maltabar around here you have proved a
hopeless task; and that is your only clue, is it not?"

"I am sending," she said, "for a London detective. I shall remain here
until he arrives, at any rate."

Again we looked at one another questioningly, and our silence was like a
fresh note of antagonism to her avowed purpose. She could not fail to
notice it, and she commenced to talk of other things. I believe but for
Mr. Deville's presence she would have got up and left us. Open war with
us women could not have troubled her in the least. Already I could tell
that she had contracted a dislike to me. But for his sake she was
evidently anxious--oppressively anxious--to keep friendly.

She tried to draw him into more personal conversation with her, and he
seemed quite ready to humour her. He changed his seat and sat down by
her side. Adelaide Fortress and I talked listlessly of the Bishop's
visit and our intending removal from the neighbourhood. We studiously
avoided all mention of my last visit to her and its sensational ending.
We talked as ordinary acquaintances might have talked; about trifles.
Yet we were both of us equally conscious that to a certain extent it was
a farce. Presently there was a brief silence. The girl was talking to
Mr. Deville, evidently of her brother.

"He was so fond of collecting old furniture," she was saying. "So am I.
He gave me a little cabinet, the image of this one, only mine was in
black oak."

She bent over a little piece of furniture by her side, and looked at it
with interest.

"Mine was exactly this shape," she continued; "only it had a wonderful
secret spring. You pressed it just here and the top flew up, and there
was space enough for a deed or a photograph."

She touched a portion of the woodwork idly as she spoke, and there was a
sort of click. Then she sprang to her feet with a little tremulous cry.

A portion of the back of the cabinet had rolled back at the touch of her
fingers. A cabinet photograph was disclosed in the niche. She was
bending over it with pale cheeks and bloodless lips.

"What is it?" I cried, with a sudden pain at my heart. "What have you
found there?"

She turned around and faced Adelaide Fortress. Her eyes were flashing
fire.

"You are all deceiving me," she cried, passionately. "I was beginning to
suspect it. Now I know.

"What do you mean?" I cried.

She pointed to the photograph with trembling fingers.

"You have all declared that the name of Maltabar is strange to you. It
is a lie! That is the likeness of the man I seek. It is the likeness of
Philip Maltabar."



CHAPTER XVI. "IT WAS MY FATHER"

THE two women were standing face to face. Bruce Deville and I had fallen
back. There was a moment or two's breathless silence. Then Adelaide
Fortress, with perfect composure, moved over to the girl's side, and
glanced over her shoulder.

"That," she said, quietly, "is the photograph of a man who has been dead
twenty years. His name was not Maltabar."

"That," repeated the girl, unshaken, "is the photograph of Philip
Maltabar."

I stepped forward to look at it, but, as if divining my purpose,
Adelaide Fortress touched the spring and the aperture was hidden.

"That photograph," she repeated, coldly, "is the likeness of an old and
dear friend of mine who is dead. I do not feel called upon to tell you
his name. It was not Maltabar."

"I do not believe you," she said, steadily. "I believe that you are all
in a conspiracy against me. I am sorry I ever told you my story. I am
sorry I ever sat down under your roof. I believe that Philip Maltabar
lives, and that he is not far away. We shall see!"

She moved to the door. Mr. Deville stood there ready to open it. She
looked up at him--as a woman can look sometimes.

"You at least are not against me," she murmured. "Say that you are not!
Say that you will be my friend once more!"

He bent down and said something to her very quietly, which we did not
hear, and when she left the room he followed her. We heard the hall door
slam. Through the window we could see them walking down the gravel path
side by side. She was talking eagerly, flashing quick little glances up
at him, and her fingers lay upon his coat-sleeve. He was listening
gravely with downcast head.

Adelaide Fortress looked from them to me with a peculiar smile. What she
said seemed a little irrelevant.

"How she will bore him!"

"Oh! I don't know," I answered, with an irritation whose virulence
surprised me. "Men like that sort of thing."

"Not Mr. Deville," she said "He will hate it."

I was not sure about it. I watched them disappear. He was stooping down
so as to catch every word she said. Obviously he was doing his best to
adapt himself and to be properly sympathetic. I was angry with myself
and ignorant of the cause of my anger.

"Never mind about them," I said, abruptly. "There is something
else--more important--Mrs. Fortress."

"Yes."

"I want to see that photograph--the photograph of the man whom she
called Philip Maltabar."

She shook her head. Was it my fancy, or was she indeed a shade paler?

"Don't ask me that," she said, slowly. "I would rather not show it to
any one."

"But I have asked you, and I ask again!" I exclaimed. "There are already
too many things around me which I do not understand. I am not a child,
and I am weary of all this mystery. I insist upon seeing that
photograph."

She laid her hands upon my shoulders, and looked up into my face.

"Child," she said, slowly, "it were better for you not to see that
photograph. Can't you believe me when I tell you so. It will be better
for you and better for all of us. Don't ask me to show it you."

"I would take you at your word," I answered, "only I have already some
idea. I caught a fugitive glimpse of it just now, before you touched the
spring. To know even the worst is better than to be continually dreading
it."

She crossed the room in silence, and bending over the cabinet touched
the spring. The picture smiled out upon me. It was the likeness of a
young man--gay, supercilious, debonair--yet I knew it--knew it at once.
The forehead and the mouth, even the pose of the head was unchanged. It
was my father.

"He called himself once, then, Philip Maltabar?" I cried, hoarsely.

She nodded.

"It was long ago."

"It is for him the girl is searching. It is he who was her brother's
enemy; it is--"

She held my hand and looked around her fearfully.

"Be careful," she said, softly. "The girl may have returned. It is not a
thing to be even whispered about. Be silent, and keep your own counsel."

Then I covered my face with my hands, and my throat was choked with
hard, dry sobs. The thing which I had most feared had come to pass. The
scene in the church rose up again before my eyes. I saw the fierce
gestures of a dying man, the froth on his lips, as he struggled with the
words of denunciation, the partial utterance of which had killed him.
With a little shiver I recognised how narrow had been my father's
escape. For I could no longer have any real doubts. It was my father who
had killed Stephen Berdenstein.



CHAPTER XVII. A CONFERENCE OF TWO

IN the wood half-way between the Yellow House and home I met Bruce
Deville. I should have hurried on, but it was impossible to pass him. He
had a way of standing which took up the whole path.

"Miss Ffolliot," he said, "may I walk home with you?"

"It is only a few steps," I answered. "Please don't trouble."

"It will be a pleasure," he said, sturdily.

I looked at him; such a faint, acrimonious smile.

"Haven't you been almost polite enough for one day?" I asked.

He seemed to be genuinely surprised at my ill-humour.

"You mean, I suppose, because I walked home with that girl," he
answered. "I did so on your account only. I wanted to know what she was
going to do."

"I did not require any explanation," I remarked.

He seemed perplexed. Men are such idiots. In the end he ignored my
speech.

"I wanted to see you," he began, thoughtfully. "I have been to call at
the Vicarage; your sister would not let me see your father."

"I am not surprised at that," I answered; "you do not realise how ill he
is."

"Have you had a doctor to see him?" he asked.

"No; he will not let me send for one," I answered. "Yet I know he is in
need of medical advice. It is very hard to know what to do for the
best."

"If I may advise you," he said, slowly, "I should strongly recommend
your doing exactly as your father wishes. He knows best what is well for
him. Only tell him this from me. Tell him that change will be his best
medicine. I heard yesterday that the Bishop wished him to go to
Eastminster at once. Let him get an invalid carriage and go there
to-morrow. It will be better for him and safer."

I stopped short, and laid my hand upon his wrist. I tried to make him
look at me; but he kept his face turned away.

"You are not thinking of his health only," I said; "there is something
else. I know a good deal, you need not fear. You can speak openly. It is
that girl."

He did not deny it. He looked down at me, and his strong harsh face was
softened in a peculiar manner. I knew that he was very sorry for me, and
there was a lump in my throat.

"What is she going to do?" I asked, trembling. "What does she suspect?"

"Nothing definite," he answered, quickly. "She is bewildered. She is
going to stay here and watch. I am afraid that she will send for a
detective. It is not that she has any suspicion as to your father. It is
you whom she distrusts--you and Adelaide. She thinks that you are trying
to keep your father from her. She thinks that he could tell her--what
she wants to know. That is all."

"It is quite enough!" I cried, passionately. "If only we could get her
to go away. I am afraid of her."

We were standing by the gate, I held out my hand to him; he grasped it
warmly.

"Remember my advice to your father," he said. "I shall do my utmost to
prevent the girl from taking any extreme measures. Fortunately she
considers herself under some obligation to me."

"You saved her life," I remarked, thoughtfully.

"Yes, I am sorry for it," he added, curtly. "Good-by."

He turned away and I hurried into the house. Alice was nowhere about. I
went softly into my father's room. He was dozing, and as I stood over
him and saw how pale and thin his face was, my heart grew sick and
sorrowful. The tears stood in my eyes. After all, it was a noble face; I
longed to have that barrier broken down between us, to hear the truth
from his own lips, and declare myself boldly on his side--even if it
were the side of the outlaw and the sinner. As I stood there, he opened
his eyes. They were dull and glazed.

"You are ill, father," I said, softly, "you will get worse if you will
not have advice. Let me go and bring the doctor?"

"You will do no such thing," he answered, firmly. "I am better--much
better."

"You do not look it," I answered, doubtfully.

"Never mind, I am better, I feel stronger. Where is that girl? Has she
gone away?"

I was glad he asked me the question outright. It was one step forward
towards the more complete confidence which I so greatly desired. I shook
my head.

"No, she has not gone away. She seems to have no idea of going. She has
found a friend here."

"A friend?"

"Yes; she has met Mr. Deville before. He saved her life in Switzerland."

He tossed about for a moment or two with closed eyes and frowning face.

"You have seen her again, then?" he muttered.

"Yes; I met her this afternoon."

"Where?"

I hesitated. I had not wished to mention my visit to Adelaide Fortress,
at any rate until he was stronger; but he saw my reluctance and forced
me to answer him.

"At the Yellow House," I said, softly.

He gave a little gasp. At first I was afraid that he was going to be
angry with me. As it chanced, the fact of my disobedience did not seem
to occur to him.

"The Yellow House?" he repeated, quickly. "What was she doing there?
What did she want?"

"I don't know what excuse she made for calling," I answered. "She seems
to be going round the neighbourhood making inquiries for Philip
Maltabar. She has quite made up her mind that he is the man who killed
her brother. She says--"

"Yes--"

"That she is quite sure that he is here--somewhere--in hiding. She is
like a ferret, she will not rest until she has found him."

He struck the bedclothes vigorously with his white, clenched hand.

"It is false! She will never find him. Philip Maltabar is dead."

"I wish that we could make her believe it," I answered. "But we
cannot. We shall never be able to."

"Why not?"

"Because it is not true. Philip Maltabar is not dead. She knows it."

"What do you mean?" he said hoarsely, raising himself from the pillows.
"Who says that he is not dead? Who dares to say that Philip Maltabar
still lives."

"I do!" I answered; firmly. "It is you who have called yourself Philip
Maltabar in days that have gone by. It is you for whom she is looking."

He did not attempt to deny it. I had spoken decisively, with the air of
one who knows. He fell back and half closed his eyes. "Does she suspect
it?" he whispered. "Is that why she waited? Is that why she came here?"

"I do not think so," I answered. "Yet she certainly does believe that
Philip Maltabar is somewhere here in hiding. She suspects me more than
any one."

"You!--how you?"

"She has an idea that he is a friend of mine--that I am shielding him
and trying to keep you away from her, lest she should learn the truth
from you. That is what she thinks at present."

"Cannot you persuade her that there is no such person round here as
Philip Maltabar?" he murmured. "She can make her own inquiries, she can
consult directories, the police, the residents. It ought not to be hard
to convince her."

"It is impossible," I answered, shortly.

"Impossible I Why?"

"Because she has seen the photograph, in Adelaide Fortress's cabinet."

"What!"

The exclamation seemed to come from his parched, dry lips like a
pistol-shot. His burning eyes were fixed upon me incredulously. I
repeated my words.

"She saw his photograph at the Yellow House. It was in the secret
aperture of a cabinet. She touched the spring unwittingly, and it flew
open."

My father turned over and groaned.

"When Fate works like this, the end is not far off," he cried, in a
broken voice. "God help us!"

I fell on my knees by the bedside, and took one of his white hands in
mine.

"Father," I said, "I have asked you many questions which you have not
answered. This one you must answer. I will not live here any longer in
ignorance of it. I am your daughter, and there are some things which I
have a right to know. Tell me why this woman has your likeness?"

"My likeness!" he said, fiercely. "Who dares say that it is my
likeness?"

"It is your likeness, father," I answered. "I saw it, and there can be
no mistake. She has admitted it, but she will tell me nothing."

He shook his head.

"It may happen that you will know some day," he answered, faintly, "but
not from me--never from me."

I tightened my clasp upon his hands.

"Do not say that," I continued, firmly. "There is something binding you
three together, yet keeping you all apart. You and Bruce Deville and
Adelaide Fortress. What is it? A secret? Some common knowledge of an
unhappy past? I alone am ignorant of it; I cannot bear it any longer. If
you do not tell me what it is I must go away. I am not a child--I will
know!"

He lay quite still and looked at me sorrowfully.

"There is a secret," he said, slowly, "but it is not mine to tell. Have
patience, child, and some day you will understand. Only have patience."

"I have been patient long enough," I answered, bitterly. "I cannot be
patient any longer. If I cannot be trusted with this secret now, I shall
go away; Alice can take my place here. I have been at home so little,
that you will not miss me. I will go back to Dresden. I have made up my
mind."

He caught hold of my hands and held them with burning fingers.

"A little while," he pleaded, looking at me piteously. "Stay with me a
little while longer. Very soon you may know, but not yet--not--yet--"

"Why not?"

"The secret is not mine alone. It is not for me to tell. Be patient,
Kate! For God's sake, be patient!"

"I have been patient long enough," I murmured. "I shall go away. I can
do no good here. I am not even trusted."

"A little longer," he pleaded. "Be patient a little longer. It is a
terrible burden which has been placed on my shoulders. Help me to bear
it. Stay with me."

"You have Alice. Alice is good, but she is not strong. She is no
help--and some day I may need help."

"I do not wish to leave 'you," I cried, with trembling lips. "I do not
want to go away. I want to do all I can to help you--yet--imagine
yourself in my place! I am groping about in the dark corners, I want the
light."

He looked up at me with a faint weary smile.

"Child," he said, "you are like your mother was. Won't you believe that
I am helpless? If you really mean that you will leave me if I do not
tell you, well, you must go. Even if you go straight to that woman and
tell her all that you know--even then my lips are sealed. This secret is
not mine to tell. When you do know, it will not be I who shall tell you.
All I can say is, go if you must, but for God's sake stay!"

His face was ineffably piteous. I looked at his worn, anxious face, and
my heart grew soft. A lump rose up in my throat, and my eyes were dim. I
stooped down and kissed him.

"I will stay," I whispered. "I will not ask you any more questions, and
I will not leave whilst you need me--whilst you are ill."

His lips touched mine, and a little sob was caught in his throat. I
looked into his face through the mist of my blinding tears, and I
wondered. The light on his features was almost spiritual.



CHAPTER XVIII. FRIENDS


WHEN the thought first came to me I flung it away and trampled it under
foot, I could almost have imagined I was going mad. I, jealous I What an
ugly word I I jealous of that sallow-faced and black-eyed chit, who
followed Bruce Deville about like his shadow, and seemed in a certain
way to have laid claim to him as her own especial property. And above
all things there was the man. What was Bruce Deville to me? What could
he be to me? When the thought first crept into my mind I laughed out
aloud; it was a genuine laugh of derision at first, but when I listened
to its echoes I was frightened. There was something hard and unnatural
about it--something which did not in any way suggest mirth. I turned
upon myself with a certain fierceness. I, whose secret standard of
manhood had always been so lofty, and to whom polish and culture had
always seemed so absolutely essential, to think for a moment of such a
man as Bruce Deville. I thrust the idea steadily and scornfully away
from me, it was ridiculous--humiliating. And, apart from the absurdity
of such thoughts in connection with such a man, the darkness which had
fallen like a sudden cloud upon our lives was surely great and
engrossing enough to outweigh every other consideration. Only last night
I had made that passionate effort to learn the truth from my father and
failed. Scarcely an hour ago I had been with him again renewing his
bandages and secretly burning the old ones--bearing my part in that
little tragedy, in whose shadows I seemed to walk blindfolded.

It was a dark, windy morning, but I was too restless to stay in the
house. I threw a cape over my shoulders and walked down the drive and
out into the road, breathing the fresh air with a curious sense of
relief. After the close atmosphere of the house it was like a strong,
sweet tonic. I clambered up the green bank on the other side of the way
and found myself suddenly face to face with Bruce Deville.

He started when he saw me, and for a moment we looked at one another in
silence. I realised then how completely he had changed in my thoughts
during the last few days. I no longer noticed the untidiness of his
dress, or the superficial roughness of his demeanour. The firm locking
of his fingers around mine in the greeting which passed between us was
somehow grateful to me. His brown eyes seemed soft and kindly, the
harsh, cynical outlines of his features were all relaxed.

In silence he turned round and walked slowly by my side.

"Where is your friend this morning?" I asked.

His face grew moody.

"She has taken some rooms at Grant's farm," he answered. "She has gone
over to the station now to get her luggage."

My heart sank. It was bad news.

"She is going to stay here, then?" I asked.

He nodded gloomily.

"She says so."

"You ought to feel flattered, at any rate," I remarked, maliciously.

He flushed an angry glance at me.

"What nonsense!" he exclaimed. "I beg your pardon, I ought not to have
said that. Neither," he continued, after a moment's pause, "ought you to
have said what you did."

I had stopped short at his first exclamation. I hesitated and then
walked slowly on again. After all it was my fault.

"Perhaps I ought not," I answered. "At the same time I am not at all
sure that she might not have given up this quest of hers if only you had
not been here."

"I don't agree with you at all," he answered, firmly. "She would have
given it up, I believe, if she had not seen that photograph in
Adelaide's cabinet. It is that which makes her to decide to remain
here."

"Has she any fresh suspicions?"

"I don't think so," he answered. "She believes that you and Adelaide
Fortress are in league together. She believes that you both know where
Philip Maltabar is. She also--" he continued, very slowly.

"Well?" I interrupted.

"She also seems to have an idea that you are keeping your father away
from her so that she may not have an opportunity of asking him about
Philip Maltabar. She has written to him, as you know, and the answer
came back in a lady's handwriting. She does not believe that your father
had that letter. She believes that you intercepted and answered it."

"She is stopping really, then, to see him?" I said.

"Chiefly, I am afraid."

Our eyes met for a moment, but we said nothing. I looked away through
the trees to the glimmering front of the Yellow House, and asked him a
question softly.

"She has not any further suspicion, then?"

"None, I am sure," he answered, confidently.

"It IS you whom she believes to be shielding the man. She has a strong
idea that he is a friend of yours; strangely enough she seems to have
taken a violent dislike to you too. I believe that the very fact of that
dislike blinds her a little."

"I agree with you as to the dislike. But why strangely?"

His firm Ups parted a little. He looked at me with a smile.

"You do not appear to me," he said, slowly, "to be a person to be
disliked."

I made a mental registration of that remark. It was the nearest approach
to a compliment he had ever paid me.

"I am infinitely obliged," I said. "At the same time I think I can
understand her dislike."

"You women are so quick at understanding one another," he remarked.

"And men are so slow," I replied. "Do you know I have an idea that if
she were to come here now she would dislike me even more."

He looked at me without embarrassment, with a genuine desire for
information in his face. He was evidently puzzled.

"Why?" he asked.

I laughed outright, and it did me good. He joined in it without the
least idea of what I was laughing at.

"You men are so stupid!" I exclaimed. "You either will not or cannot
see things which are as simple as A B C."

"I admit it," he answered, good-humouredly. "But must you go in?"

I nodded. We had made a little circuit, and had reached the road again
within a few yards of our gate.

"Yes! I am going to make something for my father. He is really ill, you
know."

"Why don't you let your sister do it?" he said. "She looks a great deal
more used to that sort of thing than you do."

"Thanks," I answered. "At the same time you are quite wrong. It is I who
am the domestic one of the family."

He looked distinctly incredulous.

"You don't give one that idea at all," he said, forcibly.

"Well, you shall see," I told him. "Some day we will ask you to luncheon
and cook it between us. I know whose productions you will prefer."

"So do I," he answered, fervently.

"You don't know my sister," I remarked.

"I don't want to," he answered, bluntly,

I raised my eyebrows.

"You are very rude," I told him.

"I beg your pardon. I did not mean to be. As a rule I detest women
almost as much as they detest me. I do not think that your sister would
interest me."

"She does a great deal of good," I said. "She is managing the whole
parish while my father is ill."

"I have no doubt she is very useful in her way," he answered,
indifferently.

"She is much better tempered than I am," I added.

"I have no doubt about that," he answered, with a smile.

"But I don't think that she could have bandaged your dog's leg as well
as I did," I said.

He looked at me with a sudden new thoughtfulness.

"That was the first time I spoke to you," he remarked. "It seems a long
time ago."

"One measures time by events," I said.

"And that," he replied, quickly, "was a great event. I am not likely to
forget it. I shall never forget it."

I laughed.

"Not such a great event after all as the coming of the heroine of your
romance," I said. "How interesting it must have been to meet her again!"

"Rubbish!" he exclaimed, testily.

I shrugged my shoulders and turned towards the house.

"You are very rude," I declared. "I am going in."

He looked into my face and was reassured.

"I wish from the bottom of my heart that she had never come here," he
groaned, "God knows I would send her away if I had the power."

"I only wish that you could," I answered, sadly. "She is like a bird of
ill-omen. She looks at me out of those big black eyes as if she hated
me. I believe I am getting to be afraid of her. Do you think that she
will really stay here more than a day or two?"

He nodded his head gloomily.

"I believe so," he answered.

"You see what responsibility the rescuer of young maidens in distress
incurs," I remarked, spitefully.

"I wish," he said, looking at me steadily, "that I had let that carriage
go to the bottom of the precipice."

"They would have been killed!" I cried.

"Exactly," he remarked, grimly.

"You are very wicked to think of such a thing," I said.

"I am only living up to my reputation, then," he answered. "That is what
my godmamma told you about me, isn't it?"

"I shall not stay with you a moment longer," I declared, ignoring the
latter part of his sentence and laying my hand upon the gate.

"Won't you--shake hands before you go?" he asked.

I hesitated. His request was gruff and his tone implied rather a
command than a favour. But I looked up at him, and I saw that he was in
earnest. So I held out my hand and we parted friends.



CHAPTER XIX. A CORNER OF THE CURTAIN

A NOTE was brought in to me at luncheon time, addressed in a bold yet
delicate feminine hand which was already becoming familiar. It was
from Adelaide Fortress, and it consisted of a single line only-"Will you
come to me this afternoon?--A. F."

I went to see her without any hesitation. She was sitting alone in her
room, and something in her greeting seemed to denote that she was not
altogether at her ease. Yet she was glad to see me.

"Sit down, child," she said. "I have been thinking about you all day. I
am glad that you came."

"Not very cheerful thoughts, then, I am afraid," I remarked, with a
certain half-unconscious sympathy in my tone. For her face was white and
drawn, as though she had spent a sleepless night and an anxious morning.

"Not very," she admitted. "I have been thinking about you ever since you
left me yesterday. I am sorry for you. I am sorry for all of us. It was
an evil chance that brought that South American girl here."

"Was she born in South America?" I asked, with pointless curiosity.

"I do not know," she answered. "I should think so. She told me that she
had spent most of her life there. A girl who dresses as she does here,
and wears diamonds in the morning, must have come from some outlandish
place. Her toilette is not for our benefit, however."

I looked up inquiringly. She continued, with a slight frown upon her
face-"She follows Bruce Deville about everywhere. I never saw anything
so atrociously barefaced. If he were her husband she could not claim
more from him. They have just gone by together now."

"What! this afternoon?" I asked.

"Not a quarter of an hour ago," she declared. "She was holding his arm,
and looking up at him with her great black eyes every moment. Bah I such
a woman gives one a bad taste in one's mouth."

"I wonder that Mr. Deville is not rude to her," I remarked. "He does not
seem to me a man likely to be particularly amiable under the
circumstances. I should not think he would be very easily annexed."

She smiled faintly.

"From his general behaviour one would not put him down as a willing
squire of dames," she said; "but that girl is like a dog fawning for a
bone. She will not let him alone. She waits about for him. She hates to
have him out of her sight."

"Perhaps--perhaps it is a good thing. It might take her mind off other
things," I suggested, softly.

"That is what I too am hoping," she admitted. "That is why I believe
Bruce endures her. There is one thing only of which I am afraid."

"That is--" I asked.

"That she may send for a detective on her own account Anything rather
than that! The girl alone I think we might deal with."

"Mr. Deville must use all his influence. He must persuade her not to," I
declared.

She assented.

"He will try. Yet for all her folly, so far as Bruce is concerned, she
is not a perfect idiot. She knows that he is my friend--and yours--and
she is desperately jealous. She will suspect his advice. She will not
accept his bidding blindly. She is cunning. She will agree with him, and
yet she will have her own way."

"He must be very firm," I said. "There must be no detective come here.
It would be the last straw. As it is, the anxiety is terrible enough."

We were silent, and we exchanged quick and furtive glances. Something in
her sad face moved me almost to tears--it was strangely soft, so full of
subtle and deep sympathy. Involuntarily I leaned across and held out my
hands to her. She caught them in hers with a little passionate gesture.
That moment brought us into a new connection. Henceforth we were on a
different footing.

"My child!" she moaned. "My poor child! You have a terrible burden upon
your young shoulders."

"The burden I could bear," I answered, "if only I had some knowledge of
its meaning. You know, you could tell me if you would."

I crossed to her side and fell upon my knees, taking her hand in mine.
She looked away into the fire and her face was as white as death.

"I cannot," she faltered, with trembling lips. "I cannot! Don't ask me!"

"Oh I but I must!" I cried, passionately. "It cannot hurt me so much to
know as it does not to know. There is a secret between you and my
father. You knew him as Philip Maltabar. Tell me what manner of man he
was. Tell me why he has changed his name. Tell me what there was between
him and--"

She had risen to her feet at my first words. She sat down again, now
trembling in every limb.

"I cannot tell you any of these things," she moaned. "I am sorry I asked
you to come. Go away I Please go away!"

But my mind was made up now, and the sight of her weakness only nerved
me on. I stood up before her white and determined--brutally reckless as
to her sufferings. I would know now; though I forced the words from
between her white lips. She was a strong woman, but she had broken
down--she was at my mercy.

"I will not go away," I said, doggedly. "You sent for me, and I am here.
I will not go away until you have told me everything. I have a right to
know, and I will know! You shall tell me!"

She threw her arms out towards me with a gesture half pathetic, half
imploring. But I made no movement--my face was hard, and I had set my
teeth together. Her hands fell into her lap. I did not touch them. She
looked moodily into the fire. She sat there with fixed eyes, like a
woman who sees a little drama in the red coals. My heart beat fast with
excitement. I knew that in the war of our wills I had conquered. She was
at my mercy. I was going to hear.

"Child," she said, slowly, and her voice seemed to belong to another
woman, and to come from a great distance, "I will tell you a story.
Listen!"

I leaned over towards her holding my breath. Now at last, then, I was to
know. Yet even in those moments of intense excitement the outline of her
face, with its curious white torpor, oppressed me. A chill fear crept
into my blood.

She began.

"There was a girl, well educated, well bred, and clever. She was an
orphan, and early in life it became necessary for her to earn her own
living. There were several things which she could do a little, but only
one well. She could write. So she became a journalist.

"It was an odd life for her, but for a time she was happy. She herself
was possessed of original ideas. She was brought into touch and sympathy
with the modern schools of thought and manners. She was admitted into a
brilliant little coterie of artists and literary men and women whose
views were daringly advanced, and who prided themselves in living up to
all they professed. She herself developed opinions. I will not dwell
upon them; I will only tell you in what they ended. She set herself
against the marriage laws. At first she was very strong and very bitter.
The majority of men she hated for their cruelty to her sex. The thought
of marriage disgusted her. Any ceremony in connection with it she looked
upon as a farce. She had no religion in the ordinary sense of the word
She was brave and daring and confident. This was all before she knew
what love was."

There was a silence, but I did not move my eyes from her face. Was she
waiting for a word of encouragement from me, I wondered? If so, the
silence must last for ever, for I was tongue-tied. She had created an
atmosphere around her, and I could scarcely breathe. Presently she went
on.

"The man came in time, of course. He was young, ardent, an enthusiast,
fresh from college, with his feet on the threshold of life and eager for
the struggle. He had a little money, and he was hesitating as to a
profession. The girl was utterly free--she was her own mistress in every
sense of the word. There was no constraint upon her movements, no
conventionalities to observe, no one who could exercise over her even
the slightest authority. The young man proposed marriage. The girl
hesitated for a long while. Old ideas do not easily die, and she saw
clearly, although not clearly enough, that if she sacrificed them to
these new opinions of hers she must suffer, as the pioneer of all great
social changes must always suffer. Imperial dynasties and whole empires
have been overthrown in a single day, but generations go to the changing
of a single social law. Yet she told herself that if she were false to
these tenets, which she had openly embraced and so often avowed, she
must lose for ever her own self-esteem. The eyes of that little band of
fellow-thinkers were upon her. It was a glorious opportunity. It was
only for her to lead and many others would follow. She felt herself in a
sense the apostle of those new doctrines in whose truth and purity she
was a professed believer. That was how it all seemed to her.

"She told the man what her decision was. To do him justice, he combated
her resolve fiercely. They parted, but it was only for a while. In such
a struggle victory must rest with the woman. This was no exception to
the general rule. The woman triumphed...

"Their after history is not pleasant telling. The woman and the man were
utterly unsuited for each other. The man was an enthusiast, almost a
fanatic; the woman was cold, calculating, and matter-of-fact. The man
suddenly determined to enter the Church. The woman was something between
a pantheist and an agnostic with a fixed contempt of all creeds. The
inevitable came to pass. She followed out the logical sequence of her
new principles, and left the man for another."

I suppose my face expressed a certain horror. How could I help it? I
shrank a little back, and my eyes sought her, doubtfully. She turned
upon me with a shade of fierceness on her white face.

"Oh, you are a swift judge!" she cried. "It is the young always who are
cruel! It is the young always who have no mercy!"

I was shocked at the agony which seemed to have laid hold of her. That
slight instinct of repulsion of which she had been so quick to notice
the external signs in my face, seemed to have cut her like a knife. I
moved swiftly to her side and dropped on my knees by her. I was ashamed
of myself.

"Forgive me!" I pleaded, softly. "I am very ignorant. I believe that the
woman did what seemed right to her. I was wrong to judge."

She bent her head. I took her fingers softly into mine. "You were that
woman," I whispered.

She looked at me and half-rose from her chair, pushing me away from her.

"I was that woman," she moaned. "Your father was the man! You--"

I cried out, but she would not be interrupted.

"You," she added, wildly, "are my child--and his!"



CHAPTER XX. I AM THE VICTIM


I ROSE to my feet and stood apart from her. For a moment it was like
the end of the world--like the end of all sensation. I was trembling in
every limb. I believe that I gasped for breath. She sat and looked at
me. When I spoke my voice seemed to come from a long distance. I did not
recognise it. My sense of my own identity seemed confused.

"I am the victim, then--the unhappy victim of your miserable theories!"
I cried.

"And you are--oh I my God!--you are the weak spot in a faith of which I
was once an ardent disciple," she said, quietly. "You made all the
difference. When you came I knew that I had sinned. All my arguments
seemed suddenly weak and impotent when I strove to bring them to bear
upon the face of your existence."

"You should have married him--at once," I cried.

"It was too late," she answered. "He had separated himself from me for
ever by entering a profession which I despised. He had entered the
Church."

A horrible thought flashed into my mind.

"The other man," I whispered, with burning cheeks; for she was my
mother.

She pointed out of the window--pointed along that narrow, hateful path
which threaded the plantation.

"He is dead," she faltered. "He died--there!"

By this time my sense of horror was almost numbed. I could speak almost
calmly. I felt as though I was standing on the world's edge. Nothing
more mattered. The end had come.

"My father killed him," I said, almost calmly.

She looked away from me and fixed her eyes upon a particular spot in the
carpet.

"Ask no questions, child," she said, sadly. "You know enough now. There
were some things which it were wiser for you not to know."

"It is true," I cried, bitterly. "I have learnt enough for one
afternoon--I have learnt enough to make me miserable for ever."

The woman covered her face with her hands. It were as though a spasm of
inward pain had distorted her features. She was suffering terribly. Yet
at that time I had no thoughts of any pity. I was merciless.

"You have learnt what has given you pain to hear, and what has given me
much pain to confess," she said, slowly. "Confess," she repeated,
slowly, and with unutterable bitterness. "That is a hateful word. I
never foresaw the time when I should have to use it--to my own daughter!
When one is young one is proud."

"You were short-sighted," I said, brutally.

Again she bowed her head and suffered. But what did I care? I was no
heroine, and I never laid any claim to gentleness of disposition or
great unselfishness. I was simply an ordinary human being, confronted
with a great humiliation. My heart was closed to hers. The wrong to
myself seemed to loom above everything else. The interruption that was
at hand was perhaps merciful. I might have said things which afterwards
I should have blushed to have remembered. But at that moment there came
a sound of voices in the hall. Bruce Deville was there and Miss
Berdenstein.

We both rose up. Her coming was a surprise to us. She entered by his
side in some embarrassment. Mr. Deville proceeded to explain her
presence.

"I met Miss Berdenstein here, and persuaded her to come in with me," he
said, in a brusque, matter-of-fact tone. "I took the liberty of assuring
her that you would be glad to see her."

"You did quite right," Adelaide Fortress said, calmly. "I am very glad
to see her."

She greeted the girl kindly, but in a subdued manner. As for me, I shook
hands with her coldly and under protest I was very much surprised that
she should have come here, even at the instigation of Bruce Deville.

"I hope we are not too late for tea," he remarked, glancing around the
room.

Adelaide Fortress rang the bell. I smiled faintly at a certain irony in
the thought called up by his question. I had shaken hands with the girl
unwillingly. We were to be enemies. I was sure of that, and I preferred
open warfare.

Tea was brought in, and a little general conversation was started, in
which I took no part Presently he came over to my side. The other two
were talking, the girl was relating some of her South American
experiences to Adelaide Fortress, who was leaning back amongst the
shadows.

"What made you bring her here," I asked, softly.

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Why not? It is better to be on friendly terms with her. We know then
what she is going to do."

"So you appear to think." I remarked, with some emphasis. "You seem to
be progressing wonderfully. I congratulate you."

He laughed in my face.

"Oh, she is not at all uninteresting," he declared. "If you had seen as
much of her as I have the last few days you would find her enchanting."

I looked at her contemplatively. Her little person was almost lost in a
huge sealskin coat, and her ungloved hands were blazing with diamonds.
As she talked her white teeth (she had beautiful teeth) gleamed, and her
black eyes flashed in their sallow setting. She was an odd-looking
creature. Every now and then she darted swift, anxious glances towards
us, once she paused and made a strenuous effort to overhear what we were
saying. She need not have troubled herself. I barely heard what Bruce
Deville was saying to me; my answers to him were purely mechanical. I
was scarcely conscious whether it was indeed I who was sitting there
within a few yards of that pale-faced, composed woman from whose lips
only a few minutes ago I had heard that story which seemed to me yet
like a dark, shadowy nightmare. The echoes of her passionate words
seemed still lingering around the dimly lit room. Once or twice I raised
my hand to my temples--my head was reeling. At last I could bear it no
longer. The irony of small-talk was too bitter. A sense of suffocation
came over me. I rose to my feet and made my excuses.

Scarcely a word passed between the woman whom I had learnt to know as
Adelaide Fortress and myself. I touched her fingers, and they were as
cold as ice. Then, with a single look at her dark eyes, I left the room.

Bruce Deville followed me out. The girl too had sprung up, and was
making her hasty adieux. Before she could leave the room, however, Bruce
Deville had reached my side.

"I am coming home with you, Miss Ffolliot," he said, in my ear.

I did not answer him. We were half-way down the path when Miss
Berdenstein's shrill voice reached us.

"Mr. Deville!"

He paused. Involuntarily I stopped too.

"You will take me home, Mr. Deville, won't you?" she said. "I couldn't
possibly find the way by myself; and, besides, I should be terrified to
death. It is so dark. I should not have dreamed of staying so late if I
had been alone."

He muttered something profane under his breath. I started to walk on.

"Won't you be here when I come back," he inquired, brusquely. "I was
only going a few steps with Miss Ffolliot."

"I am quite ready to start now," she answered; "and I have said good-by
to Mrs. Fortress. I really don't see how I can stay any longer; and I
dare not go a step alone. It is almost pitch dark. Shall I walk home
with Miss Ffolliot and you first?"

I was almost out of hearing when she had finished, for at the
commencement of her speech I had quickened my pace. When I clambered up
the bank to reach the footpath I looked behind. They were walking along
the road together--an oddly assorted couple. His shoulders were up--a
bad sign--and he was taking long strides, to keep up with which she had
almost to run, holding her skirts in both hands, and picking her way
through the mud. Behind in the doorway of the Yellow House I saw a
woman, pale and motionless, watching me with wistful, sorrowing eyes.
But I turned my head and hurried away.



CHAPTER XXI. OUT OF DANGER


I WENT straight to my father's room, with only a very confused sense of
what I wanted to say to him floating in my mind. But to my amazement,
when I had softly opened the door and stood inside the room, he was not
upon the bed, or on the couch. The room was empty. I passed through into
the drawing-room with the same result. Then I retraced my steps down
into the hall and saw that his hat was gone from the stand and also his
overcoat.

I called to Alice, and she came out to me from our little drawing-room.

"Where is father?" I cried, breathlessly. "He is not upstairs!"

She drew me into the room. Her round face was very sober, and her eyes
were grave.

"He left for London a quarter of an hour ago," she declared,
impressively.

"Left for London!" I repeated, bewildered. "Why, he was scarcely well
enough to stand. Did he dress himself?"

"He was very weak, but he seemed perfectly well able to take care of
himself," she answered, "A telegram came for him about half an hour ago.
I took it up to his room, and he opened and read it without remark. He
asked where you were, but I could only tell him that you were out.
Directly afterwards I heard him getting up, and I went to the door of
his room to see if I could help him. He told me that I was to order the
dog-cart, and that he was going away. I was too surprised to say a
word."

My first impulse was unmistakable. It was a sense of great relief. Then
I began to wonder what this Berdenstein girl would think. Would she
connect it with her presence here? Would she think that he had gone away
to avoid her? There was that risk, but it was no greater than the risk
of her coming here some day and meeting him face to face. On the whole
it was good news. It was a respite at any rate.

In the morning came a letter from him, dated simply London. He had been
called away, he said, on some business, the details of which would not
interest us, but it was a call which it would not have been his duty to
have neglected. Immediately he had concluded it, he went on to say, he
proposed to take a short vacation by the sea somewhere. Accordingly he
had engaged a locum tenens, who was now on his way down, and he would
write us again as soon as he had definitely decided where to go.

Alice and I laid down the letter with varying thoughts. To her, ignorant
of any reasons for conduct which was on the face of it somewhat
eccentric, it brought some concern. With me it was different. I was at
once relieved and glad. I had arrived at that acutely nervous and
overwrought state when even a respite is welcome. The explanations
between us were for the present necessarily postponed, and, at any rate,
I could meet Olive Berdenstein now without trembling. It was the truth
which I had to tell. My father was not here. I did not know where he
was. She could come and search for him.

Yet that was a time of fierce disquiet with me. To settle down to any
manner of work seemed impossible. Later in the day I went out into the
garden, and the cool touch of the soft, damp wind upon my face tempted
me past the line of trees which hemmed in our little demesne out into
the muddy road and across to the broad expanse of green common which was
really a part of the Deville home park. As I stood there, bareheaded,
with the wind blowing through my hair and wrapping my skirts around me,
I could see in the distance a man coming on horseback from the Court. I
stood still and watched him. There was no mistaking man or horse--Bruce
Deville on his great chestnut--though they were half a mile away. Then,
as I stood there waiting for him, a sudden darkness came into the
faintly sunlit air, a poisoned darkness--the poison of a hideous
thought. I turned away and plunged into the plantation on my left,
flying along the narrow footpath as though the thought had taken to
itself the shape of some loathsome beast and was indeed pursuing me,
close on my heels. In less than five minutes I was standing breathless
before Adelaide Fortress. She was looking white and ill. When she came
into the room she threw across at me a glance which was almost
supplicatory. Her firm lips trembled a little. Her eyes were soft and
full of invisible tears.

"Is it bad news?" she faltered. "You have been running. Sit down." I
shook my head.

"No. Another question, that is all. Mr. Deville?"

She looked puzzled for a moment. Then she drew herself up and stood a
little away from me. Her firm, dark eyebrows resolved themselves into a
frown. Some subtle instinct, quick to fly backwards and forwards between
us two, had helped her towards the meaning of my words.

"Mr. Bromley Deville, Mr. Deville's father, was my father's oldest
friend," she said, slowly. "Bruce and I were children together, and
except that I, of course, was five years the elder, we were great
friends. Mr. Bromley Deville was my father's executor, and since his
death Bruce has taken his place."

A great relief had suddenly eased my heart. I drew a little breath, but
she looked as if I had struck her a blow.

"How is your father?" she asked. "Is there any news?"

I nodded.

"He is better; he is gone away."

She started.

"Gone away? Where to?" she added, quickly.

"To London, and from there he is going to the sea," I told her. "He does
not say where. He is sending a locum tenens. I do not think that he will
return here at all. We want him to go straight to Eastminster."

She too seemed to share my relief, but my first thoughts were hers too.

"What will that girl say?"

"I cannot tell," I answered; "she may be suspicious. At any rate we have
a reprieve."

"You have not spoken--to him yet."

"No; he had gone when I returned last night. I was glad of it."

We stood face to face looking at one another in silence. The faint
colour was coming and going in her cheeks, and her hands were nervously
clasping the back of a chair. Where she stood the few rays of wintry
sunlight which had found their way into the room were merciless to her.
They showed up the little streaks of grey in her hair and the hollows in
her cheeks. The lines of acute and bitter heart-pain were written into
her worn face. My heart grew soft for the first time. She had suffered.
Here was a broken life indeed. Her dark; weary eyes were raised eagerly
to mine, yet I could not offer her what I knew so well she desired.

I was forced to speak. Her silence was charged with eloquent
questioning.

"Won't you--give me a little time to realise what you have told me?" I
said, hesitatingly. "I have grown so used to think that Alice's mother
was mine--that she was dead--that I cannot realise this all at once. I
don't want to be cruel, but one has instincts and feelings, and one
can't always control them. I must wait."

So I went away, and in the Vicarage lane I met Bruce Deville walking
towards me with his horse's bridle through his arm. He was carrying a
fragrant bunch of violets, which he held out a little awkwardly.

"I don't know whether you will care for these," he said; "I don't know
much about flowers myself. The gardener told me they were very fine, so
I thought you may as well have them as--"

"As let them spoil," I laughed. "Thank you very much, Mr. Deville. They
are beautiful."

He frowned for a moment, and then, meeting my eye, laughed.

"I am afraid I am awfully clumsy," he said, shortly. "Let me tell you
the truth. I went all through the houses to see if I could find anything
fit to bring you, and I knew you preferred violets."

"It was very nice of you," I said; "but what about Olive Berdenstein?
Doesn't she like violets?"

He opened his mouth, but I held up my hand and stopped him; he had so
much the look of a man who is about to make a momentary lapse into
profanity.

"Don't say anything rude, please. Where is she this morning?"

"I don't know," he answered, grimly. "Somewhere about, no doubt."

"It should be a lesson to you," I remarked, smiling up at him, "not to
go about indulging in romantic adventures. They generally have a
tiresome ending, you know. Do you always make such easy conquests, I
wonder?"

He stopped short, and looked at me with darkened face.

"Is there any necessity," he asked, "for you to go out of your way to
irritate and annoy me?"

I ignored him for a moment or two.

"She is very rich," I remarked. "Have you seen her diamonds?"

He rested his hand upon his horse and sprang into the saddle. From his
great height there he looked down upon me with a dark frown and angry
eyes.

"I will wish you good morning, Miss Ffolliot," he said. "My company is
evidently distasteful to you."

I laughed at him, and laid my hand upon his horse's bridle.

"I can assure you that it isn't," I declared. "I was very glad to see
you indeed. Please get down, you have too much an advantage of me
up there."

He got down at once, but his face had not altogether cleared.

"Look here. Miss Ffolliot," he said, looking at me steadfastly out of
his keen, grey eyes, "I do not wish to have you talk to me in that way
about that young woman. I do not think it is quite fair. I suppose it is
what girls call chaff, but you will kindly remember that I am too
stupid, if you like, always to know when you are in earnest and when you
are not, so please don't do it. If I am with Miss Berdenstein at all
please remember that it is for your sake. I hate reminding you of it but
you make me."

"You are quite right, Mr. Deville," I said. "Please do not think that I
am not grateful. Now let me tell you the news. My father has gone away."

"Gone away! Where? For how long?" he said, quickly.

"He has gone first to London," I answered; "where he was going to
afterwards he did not seem absolutely sure himself. He spoke of going
to the sea somewhere for a vacation. We are trying to arrange for him
not to come back here at all. I should like him to go straight to
Eastminster."

"It is a great relief," he said, promptly; "it was the very best thing
he could do. He did not even tell you that he was going then?"

"I had no idea of it. He went quite suddenly while I was out. We had a
letter from him this morning. I wonder--what she will say?"

"I do not think that she will trouble to go in search of him," he
answered. "I do not think that her suspicions are really aroused in
connection with your father. She is an odd, changeable sort of girl. I
daresay she will give up this quest before long."

"I hope so," I answered. "It would be a great relief to have her go
away."

There was a short silence between us. We were standing by the Vicarage
gate, and my hand was upon the latch.

"I wonder," he said, abruptly, "whether you would not walk a little way
with me. It is such a fine day, and you look a little pale."

I hesitated.

"But you are riding," I said.

"That is nothing," he answered, briskly. "Diana follows me like a lamb.
We will walk along the avenue. I want you to see the elm trees at the
top."

We started off at once. There was nothing very remarkable about that
walk, and yet I have always thought of it as a very memorable one. It
gave a distinct colour to certain new ideas of mine concerning my
companion. We talked all the time, and that morning confirmed my
altering impressions of him. Lady Naselton had spoken of him as rough
and uncultured. He was neither. His lonely life and curious brusqueness
were really only developed from mannerism into something more marked by
a phase of that intellectual tiredness which most men ape but few feel.
He had tried life, and it had disappointed him, but there was a good
deal more of the cosmopolitan than the "yokel" in him.

For me it was a delightful time. He talked of many books and countries
which had interested me with a perfectly bewildering familiarity. The
minutes flew along. I forgot all these troubles which had come so thick
upon me as we walked side by side over the soft, spongy turf, sometimes
knee-deep amongst the bracken, sometimes skirting clumps of faded
heather. But our walk was not to terminate altogether without incident.
As we turned the corner, and came again within sight of the Vicarage
gate, we found ourselves face to face with Olive Berdenstein.

She stopped short when she saw us, and her face grew dark and angry. She
was a strange-looking figure as she stood there in the middle of the lane
waiting for us--a little over-dressed for Sunday morning parade in the
Park. For a country walk her toilette was only laughable. The white lace
of her skirt was soiled, and bedraggled with mud. One of her little
French shoes had been cut through with a stone, and when we came in
sight she was limping painfully. Her black eyes flashed upon us with a
wicked fire. Her lips trembled. The look she darted upon me was full of
malice. She was in a furious temper, and she had not the wit to hide it.
It was to him she spoke first.

"You said that you would call for me--that we would walk together this
morning," she said to him in a low, furious tone. "I waited for you one,
two hours. Why did you not come?"

He answered her gruffly.

"I think that you must be mistaken," he said. "There was no arrangement.
You asked me to call; I said I would if I could. As it happened, I could
not; I had something else to do."

"Something else I Oh, yes! so I see," she answered, with a short,
hysterical little laugh, and a glance of positive hatred at me.
"Something more pleasant! I understand; we shall see. Miss Ffolliot,
you are on your way home now, I presume. I will, with your very kind
permission, accompany you. I wish to see your father. I will wait in
your house until he can see me. If you deny me permission to enter, I
will wait for the doctor. He shall tell me whether your father is not
strong enough to answer me one single question, and if the doctor, too,
be in your plot, and will not answer me reasonably, I will go to a
magistrate at once. Oh! it will not be difficult. I will go to a
magistrate. You see I am determined. If you would like to finish your
amiable conversation, I will walk behind--or in front--whichever you
like. Better in front, no doubt. Ha I ha! But I will come; I am
determined."

She ceased breathless, her eyes on fire, her lips curled in a malicious
smile. It was I on whom she had vented her passion. It was I who
answered her.

"You can come with me to the Vicarage if you like," I said, coldly; "but
you will not find my father. He has gone away."

"Gone away!" she repeated, incredulously. For a moment she looked black.

"Gone away I Oh, indeed I That is good; that is very clever I You have
arranged that very well. Yesterday he was too ill to see me--to answer
one little question. To-day he is well enough to travel--he is gone
away. Good I he has gone. I can follow."

She pursed up her lips and nodded her head at me vigorously. She was
white with rage.

"You are welcome to do anything which seems reasonable to you," I
answered, with at any rate a show of firmness. "Mr. Deville, I will say
good afternoon. It is time I was at home."

He kept by my side with the obvious intention of seeing me to the gate;
but as we passed the girl she took hold of his arm.

"No! I say no! You shall not leave me like this! You are treating me
shamefully, Mr. Deville. Am I not right? That girl is hiding her father
from me. She is helping him away that he may not tell me of the man who
killed my brother! You will take my part; you have always said that you
were sorry for me. Is every one to be my enemy? You too! It is justice
that I want! That is all!"

He threw her delicately gloved hands off roughly.

"What nonsense!" he declared. "I have been sorry for you, I am sorry for
you now; but what on earth is the good of persecuting Miss Ffolliot in
this manner? Her father has been ill, and of course he has not desired
to be bothered by strangers. You say you wanted to ask him a question.
Be reasonable; he has answered it by letter. If you saw him, he could
only repeat his answer. He has only been here for a few months. I have
lived here all my life, and I tell you that there is no one by the name
of Maltabar in the county."

"There was the photograph in that cabinet," she persisted--"within a few
yards of the spot where he was killed. I know that Philip Maltabar hated
him. I know that he would have killed him if he could."

"But what has all this to do with Mr. Ffolliot?" he persisted.

"Well, I begged him to see me," she urged, doggedly. "He is the
clergyman of the parish, and he certainly ought to have seen me if I
wished it. I don't understand why he should not. I want advice; and
there are other things I wanted to see him about. I am sure that he was
kept away from me."

"You are very silly indeed," Bruce Deville said, emphatically. "Surely
his health was more important than the answering a question for you
which has already been answered by people in a much better position to
know. As to advice, mine has always been at your service. I have been
ready to do anything for you in reason."

"You have been very good," she said, with trembling lips, "but--"

"You must excuse me now," he interrupted, "I have something to say to
Miss FTolliot."

"I am going in," I answered. "Please do not come any further. Good day."

I nodded to him, the girl I ignored. If a glance could have killed me, I
should have been a dead woman. I left them alone and went on up to the
house. Somehow I did not envy her Mr. Deville's society tor the next
quarter of an hour.



CHAPTER XXII. AN UNHOLY COMPACT

AS may easily be imagined I had seen quite enough of Olive Berdenstein
for one day at any rate, if not for a long time to come. But to my
surprise, on that same afternoon, as I sat in our little drawing-room
pretending to read a stupid novel, there was a timid ring at the bell,
and she was shown into the room. She entered nervously, as though
uncertain as to how I should receive her. I daresay she would not have
been at all surprised if I had ordered her out again. If I had followed
my first impulse I should certainly have done so. Wiser counsels
prevailed, however, and although I did not offer her my hand, I
suppressed my surprise at her coming, and motioned her to take a seat.

She was dressed much more quietly than I had yet seen her, in a plain
brown dress, beautifully made. The element of incongruity was still
there, however, for she wore a large Paris hat, and the little lace
scarf at her throat was fastened with a great diamond.

She sat quite still, and I could see that she was very nervous. She kept
her eyes away from my face as much as possible. When she began to talk
she did so rapidly, and in a low tone.

"I suppose you are very surprised to see me, Miss Ffolliot, after this
morning," she commenced, tentatively.

"Rather," I answered.

"I only made up my mind to come an hour ago. It was a sudden impulse. I
started at once, or I should have changed my mind. I have come to make
you an offer. It will sound very oddly to you, but you must not be
angry. You must hear all that I have to say. I have thought it all out;
it is very reasonable."

"You need not be afraid," I answered. "I shall certainly not mind
listening--so long as you do not talk as you were talking this morning.
I am quite willing to forget that if you do not remind me of it."

She fixed her black eyes upon me intently.

"Miss Ffolliot, have you ever loved any one--a man, I mean?"

I could not help starting, the question was so unexpected. She was
watching me very keenly. Perhaps my colour was not altogether steady.

"I don't think so--not in the way you mean," I answered.

"I will make it clear. I do love some one. I did not think that you
would, you are too cold, you look too proud. Now I want to tell you.
There is some one whom I love desperately--with my whole life. I want to
tell you about it. Do you mind?"

"Certainly not," I answered, softly. The change in her was wonderful.
Her eyes were as soft as velvet; there was a faint flush in her cheeks.
But for those prominent teeth and the sharp outlines of her features she
was almost beautiful.

"You remember, I have told you of our accident in Switzerland, and of
Mr. Deville, and how gloriously he saved us. Oh, it was wonderful! Even
now when I think of it I feel excited."

I bowed my head slowly. I began to understand.

"Well, ever since that moment I have loved him," she said, simply. "I
could not get him out of my mind. Oh! it was magnificent to see him
struggling there for our lives with those fierce, strong horses, beating
them back, mastering them little by little, and all the time quite cool
and silent I But you have heard all about that, you do not want to hear
the story again. Since that day I have never been able to think of any
other man. I have had many offers, for I am rich, but I only laughed.
The idea of marriage when he was in the world seemed wicked to me. It
was because of him that I did not go back to South America. It was
because he was an Englishman that I kept on coming to England and
looking for him in all those places where Englishmen are mostly to be
found. I have never missed a season in London since, and yet I do not
care for London. It was just because of the chance of finding him there.
It is three years ago now, but I have never despaired. I think that I
must be something of a fatalist. I have said to myself that in the end
we must meet again, and now you see although we have been living in this
out-of-the-way spot, the time has come. There is something wonderful
about it. Don't you think so?"

I bowed my head. The eagerness of her question demanded an affirmative.

She sighed, softly, with an air of gentle satisfaction.

"That is what I tell myself," she continued. "It is wonderful. It must
have been fate. I tell myself that, and it seems to me that fate which
has brought us together could not now be so cruel as to interfere
between us. And I love him. I love him so much!"

She paused a moment and looked at me almost with pity.

"You," she said, thoughtfully--"you will never know what it is to love
as I love. You will never know the misery of it--or the happiness!"

I smiled faintly, and without mirth. Poor girl! There was something
terribly pathetic in her little confession. From the bottom of my heart
I pitied her.

"And Mr. Deville?" I asked, softly.

Her face fell a little. The enthusiasm died away. Still she was hopeful.

"I am not sure," she said, looking away from me into the fire. "He is
kind to me, and I think that he likes me--a little. He does not care for
me as I do for him, of course," she added, sadly. "Why should he? I have
done nothing for him, and he has done so much for me. It has been all on
one side. I have had no chance yet; but I could help him a little. I am
rich, very much richer than any one thinks, and they say that, although
he has a great house and lands, that he is very poor, and that he has
heavy debts. I could pay them all off," she declared, with a little note
of triumph in her tone. "I have what would come in English money to
nearly a million pounds. I should give it all to him, every penny. It
would make him happy to pay off all his mortgages and old debts. Don't
you think so?" she asked, anxiously.

"I daresay it might," I answered, gravely. "I should think it certainly
would."

"And I love him so," she repeated, softly. "It would be such happiness
to do this for him. Perhaps he would not love me very much just yet, but
when I had him all to myself it would come little by little. I could
make it come; a woman can when she has a man all to herself. I am sure
of it. I should have no fear at all."

Her eyes were very soft now and very bright. One forgot her sharp
features and sallow cheeks. Poor girl I Then suddenly she looked away
from the fire, and, rising, came over to my side.

"You are wondering why I have come to you to tell you my secret," she
said. "I will tell you. I am afraid of you. You are so handsome, and I
am plain. Oh I yes, I am--I know it. Never mind, I love him. But he does
not know that, and he admires you. I see him look at you, and though he
is kind to me, he does not look at me like that. And you--you do not
care for him. I have watched you, and I am sure of it. You do not want
him, do you?"

"No, I do not want him," I answered, but without looking at her.

"I know you don't. I want to promise you something. I believe that
Philip Maltabar is somewhere in this neighbourhood, and I believe--no, I
am sure--that in some way you are interested in him. Your father knows.
That is why you have kept me from him. But never mind, I want to forget
all that if you will just help me a little. I shall go away from here,
presently. If J should come back again, and I should find Philip
Maltabar--well--never mind. I will forgive, and I will forget. God shall
judge between those two--I will bury my desire for vengeance. This I
swear--if you will help me a little."

"But how?" I asked, blankly. "What can I do?"

"You can help me simply by keeping away from Mr. Deville," she went on,
hastily, a certain bluntness creeping into the manner of her expression
as she reached the heart of her subject. "If you are not there, then he
will be content with me, I can talk to him. I can make him understand by
degrees. There I I suppose you think this is very unwomanly of me. It is
unwomanly, it is despicable. I should detest another woman who did it.
But I don't care--I want him so much. I love him better than life," she
cried, with a little burst of passion. "I shall die if he does not
care for me--not as I care for him, of course, but just a little--and
more afterwards."

I leaned over and rested my hand upon hers. I felt a sudden kindness
towards her. I don't know what instinct made me promise--I suppose it
was pity. There was something so pathetic in her intense earnestness.

"Yes, I will do what you wish," I said, softly; "but--"

"But what? Are you making conditions?"

I shook my head.

"I make no conditions. Only I wanted to say this to you. Do you think it
is wise to let yourself care so much for any one who after all may not
care for you at all? It is like staking one's whole happiness upon a
chance. It is a terrible risk."

She smiled at me faintly, and shook her head.

"Ah," she said, "it is so easy to see that you have never loved--that
you do not know what love is. When you do you will not talk about
letting one's self care. You might as well talk about letting one's self
die when one is struggling upon a death-bed panting and gasping for
life. It is the inevitable in love as in death. There is no choice."

She rose to her feet.

"Good-by," she said. "I shall not trouble you any more. I am going to
forget that such a person as Philip Maltabar ever lived."

I walked with her to the door. She looked down the dim road up the park
wistfully.

"Perhaps," she said, "I may see him this afternoon. Was he coming to see
you?"

"Certainly not. He does not visit here," I continued.

"Oh, he comes to see me," she said, quickly. "Perhaps it is not
right--proper you call it--that he should. I do not care. I would like
you to come and visit me--but--he might be there," she added,
hesitatingly. "Good-by."

I touched her hand, and she went out with a little flush still lingering
in her cheeks. I saw her look wistfully up and down the road, and then
she picked up her skirts and took the muddy footpath across the park
towards the Court. I turned away and went upstairs to my room.

Was it pity for her I wonder that brought the tears into my eyes? After
all, I was only a woman.



CHAPTER XXIII. IN THE PLANTATION

I WAS determined to keep my word with Olive Berdenstein with absolute
faithfulness. For I nearly a week I stayed in the house except for a
short walk in the early morning. Three times Bruce Deville called, and
met with the same answer. Often I saw him riding slowly by and scanning
the garden and looking up towards the house with an impatient look in
his eyes and a dark frown upon his strong face. Once I saw him walking
with Olive Berdenstein. She seemed to have caught him up, and have found
him in no very pleasant temper. His shoulders were high, and he was
walking so quickly that she had almost to run to keep up with him. I
looked away with a sigh, and yet--what a heartless hypocrite I was. I
found myself thinking with a curious satisfaction that his shoulders had
been lower and his face very different when I had walked with him.

After nearly a week of solitude with only Alice's parish talk and mild
speculations as to our future at Eastminster to break the intolerable
monotony of it, I could bear it no longer. I put on my hat one wet and
windy afternoon and went down to the Yellow House. Adelaide Fortress was
alone, writing at her desk, and when I entered we looked at one another
for a moment without any greeting. It seemed to me that a few more grey
hairs had mingled with the black--a little more wanness had crept into
the delicate, intellectual face. But she greeted me cheerfully, without
any shadow of reproach in her tone, although I knew that my absence had
been a trouble to her.

"It is good of you to come and see me," she said. "Have you heard from
your father?"

I nodded assent.

"We heard on Wednesday. He was leaving London that afternoon for the
South Coast. He wrote very cheerfully, and said he felt better already."

"I am glad," she said, softly.

Then we were silent for a few moments. There was so much that we could
both have said.

"Mr. Deville has been here inquiring for you," she said. "You have been
invisible, he said. Have you been unwell?"

I shook my head. I wanted much to have told her of Olive Berdenstein's
visit to me, and of my compact with her. For a moment I hesitated.

She noticed it, and doubtless drew her own conclusions.

"There has been nothing particular to keep me in," I said. "I simply
felt that I wished to see no one. Don't you feel like that sometimes?"

"Very often," she assented. "I think the desire for solitude is common
to all of us at times."

Then we were silent again. I knew quite well what she was waiting for
from me, yet I was silent and troubled. Almost I wished that I had not
come.

"You have thought over what I told you when you were here," she said,
softly. "You have thought of it, of course."

"Yes," I answered. "How could I help it--how could I think of anything
else?"

"You have remembered that you are my daughter," she added, with a little
quiver in her tone.

"Yes."

I kept my eyes upon the carpet; she sighed.

"You are very hard," she said--"very hard."

"I do not think so," I answered. "I do not wish to be. It is not I who
have made myself; I cannot control my instincts. I do not wish to say
anything to you unless it comes from my heart."

"You are my daughter," she murmured, softly.

"It is true," I answered; "yet consider that I have only known it a few
days. Do you think that I can feel--like that--towards you so soon? It
is impossible. A few weeks ago we were strangers. I cannot forget that."

She winced a little at the word, but I repeated it.

"It may seem an odd thing to say, but so far at any rate as I was
concerned, we were strangers. I do feel--differently towards you now of
course. In time the rest will come, no doubt, but I should only be a
hypocrite if I pretended more at present, you must see that; and," I
continued, with a shade of bitterness in my tone, "there is the shame.
One cannot forget that all at once."

She shrank back as though I had struck her a blow across the face.
Unwittingly I knew that I had wounded her deeply. But how could I help
it?

"The shame," she repeated in a low tone--"ay, the shame. That seems an
odd word for me to hear. But it is a true one. I must learn to bear it.
There is the shame! Oh, God! this is my punishment."

"You cannot deny it," I said. "How could you ever have thought of it in
any other way? You deliberately chose to live with my father without
marrying him. By your own admission there was not the faintest obstacle
to your marriage. You had the satisfaction of living up to your theories,
I have to pay the penalty."

She bowed her head.

"It is true," she said.

She covered her face with her hands and there was a long silence between
us. The clock in the room seemed suddenly to commence a louder ticking;
outside, the yellow leaves came fluttering to the ground, and the wet
wind went sighing through the tree-tops. The rain dashed against the
steaming window-panes. I looked away from the bowed figure before me out
into the desolate road, and found my thoughts suddenly slipping away
from me. I wondered where Bruce Deville was, and Olive Berdenstein. Were
they together and was she succeeding in her purpose? After all what did
it matter to me, a poor, nameless girl, with a shadowed past and a blank
future? I sighed, and looked back into the room. The sound of her voice
broke the silence, which was becoming unbearable.

"I do not wish to excuse myself," she said, softly; "nothing can excuse
me. But in those days, when I was young and enthusiastic, it seemed to
me that I had but to lead and the world would follow me. I thought that
by the time my children were grown up--if I had children--what is called
illegitimacy would be no longer a thing to fear. You see I dwelt for a
little time in a fool's elysium. Believe me that I am sharing with you
the punishment--nay, mine is the greater half, for I believe that my
heart is broken."

I was moved to pity then and took her hands. But as yet the veil hung
between us.

"I will believe that," I said, softly; "I shall try always to remember
it. I will not think hardly of you in any way. The rest must come
gradually I think--no, I am sure, that it will come some day."

Her eyes were soft with gratitude. She held out her hands to me, and I
gave her mine freely. We spoke no more upon that subject. But perhaps
what I went on to say was almost as interesting to her. I had been
thinking of it for some time, now it became inevitable.

"I had a purpose in coming to see you this afternoon," I said. "I want
to talk to you about it. Do you mind?"

She shook her head. I continued almost immediately.

"I have come to ask for your advice," I said. "I want presently, when
this trouble has passed over and Olive Berdenstein has gone away, to
leave home, to take up some work of my own. In short, I want to be
independent, to take my life into my own hands and shape it myself."

She looked at me with a certain wistful thoughtfulness.

"Independent? Yes, you look like that," she said, softly.

"In any case I have no taste for a home life," I continued. "After what
has passed I should find it unbearable. I want active work, and plenty
of it."

"That," she said, with a sigh, "I can well understand. Yes, I know what
you feel."

Not altogether, I thought to myself, with a little wan smile. She did
not know everything.

"I should like to get right away from here," I continued. "I should like
to go to London. I don't know exactly what work I am fitted for; I
should find that out in time. I took a good degree at Heidelberg, but I
should hate to be a governess. I thought perhaps you might be able to
suggest something."

A sudden light had flashed into her face in the middle of my little
speech. Evidently some thought had occurred to her which she hesitated
to confide to me. When I had finished she looked at me half nervously,
half doubtfully. She seemed to be on the point of suggesting something,
yet she hesitated.

"If there is anything which has occurred to you," I begged her, "Do not
mind letting me hear it, at any rate. I am not afraid to work, and I
shall not be very particular as to its exact nature so long as it does
not altogether deprive me of my liberty."

"I was wondering," she said, looking at me keenly, and with a faint
colour in her cheeks--"I was wondering whether you would care to accept
a post as my secretary. I am really in urgent want of one," she added,
quickly; "I wrote out an advertisement to send to the Guardian last
week."

"Your secretary?" I repeated, slowly.

"Yes; you would have to learn type-writing, and it would be dry work.
But, on the other hand, you would have a good deal of time to yourself.
You would be to a very large extent your own mistress."

I scarcely knew how to answer her, yet on the whole the idea was an
attractive one to me. She saw me hesitate, but she saw also that it was
by no means in displeasure. Before I could find anything to say she
spoke again.

"At any rate, think of it," she suggested. "Don't decide all at once.
You would live with me, of course, and I could give you sixty pounds a
year. It does not seem much, but you would scarcely get more than that
to start with at anything. Listen I Isn't that Mr. Deville?"

I sprang up and moved towards the door.

"I thought you told me that you were not expecting him to-day!" I
exclaimed.

She looked at me in surprise.

"I was not expecting him--in fact, he told me that he was going to
Mellborough. But does it matter? Don't you want to see him?"

"No!" I cried, breathlessly; "he is coming across the lawn. I am
going out the other way. Good-by."

"Why, what has poor Bruce done to offend you?" she cried, in some
concern. "I thought you were getting such friends."

"He has not offended me," I answered, quickly. "Only I don't want to see
him to-day. Good bye."

I ran down the path, leaving her standing at the front door. I just saw
the back of Bruce Deville's Norfolk coat as he entered the house by the
French windows, and I hoped that I had escaped him. But before I was
half-way through the little plantation I heard firm footsteps behind me
and then a voice-"Good afternoon. Miss Ffolliot!"

"Good afternoon, Mr. Deville," I answered, without looking round.

There was only room for one in the path. He passed me, taking a huge
stride through the undergrowth, and turning round blocked the way.

"What is the matter?" he asked, quietly. "What have I done? Why are you
trying to avoid me, like this?"

"I do not understand you, Mr. Deville," I answered, untruthfully, and
with burning cheeks. "Be so good as to let me pass."

"Not till you tell me how I have contrived to offend you," he answered,
bluntly. "I called three times at the Vicarage last week. You would not
see me; you were at home. I found that out, but you would not see me.
The answer was the same each time, and now this afternoon you have done
your best to avoid me. I want to know why."

His tone and his attitude were alike uncompromising. I looked round in
vain for some means of escape. It was not possible. After all this was
no breach of my compact with the girl. I felt simply powerless.

"You have not offended me--not yet, at any rate." I said, with emphasis.
"If you keep me standing here against my will another minute you most
certainly will though. Please let me pass, I am in a hurry to get home."

"Very well, then, I will walk with you," he declared, standing on one
side.

"There is no room," I remarked.

"We will see about that," he answered. He moved from in front of me, and
then, leaving me the whole path, came crashing through the underwood and
bracken by my side. I walked along swiftly, and he kept pace with me.
After all he seemed to have nothing to say. We had almost reached the
Rectory gate before he opened his mouth.

"Then you will not tell me why you have avoided me the last few days,
Miss Ffolliot. What have I done to lose your good opinion?"

There was a curious earnestness in his tone. I felt my cheeks flush. I
might perhaps have answered him in a different manner, but suddenly my
eyes were riveted on a moving figure coming along the road into which we
had stepped. I looked at it steadily. It was Olive Berdenstein, plodding
along through the thick mud with careful, mincing footsteps, her long,
loose cape and waving hat, easily distinguishable even at that distance.
I stepped forward hastily, and before he could stop me, had passed
through the gate.

"Do not wait, please, Mr. Deville," I said, looking round at him. "There
is a friend of yours coming round the lane. Go and meet her, and do not
say anything about me."

He was very rude and very profane. He made use of an expression in
connection with Olive Berdenstein which justified me in hurrying away.
I turned my back upon him and ran up the drive.

"Miss Ffolliot," he cried out, "one moment; I am very sorry. I apologise
most abjectly."

I turned round and waved my hand. Anything to get rid of him.

"Very well! Go and meet Miss Berdenstein, please."

I am not at all sure that he did not repeat the offence. At any rate, he
turned away, and a few moments later, from my bedroom window, I saw him
greet her. They turned away together towards the path. I watched them
with a little sigh.



CHAPTER XXIV. MY DILEMMA


IT seemed to me during the days that followed that I was confronted with
a problem of more than ordinary complexity. I at any rate found it so.
To live through childhood and girlhood wholly unconscious of the
existence of a living mother, and then to find her Uke this, with such a
history, was altogether a bewildering and unrealisable thing. Was I
unnatural that I had not fallen into her arms? Ought I to have heard her
story with sympathy, or at least, with simulated sympathy? At any rate I
had not erred on the side of kindness towards her! I had made her
suffer, and suffer very bitterly. Yet was not that inevitable? The seed
was of her own sowing, not of mine. I was her unconscious agent. The
inevitable requital of offences against the laws of social order had
risen up against her in my person. If I had pretended an affection which
I certainly had not felt, I must have figured as a hypocrite--and she
was not the woman to desire that. I liked her. I had been attracted
towards her from the first. Doubtless that attraction, which was in
itself intuitive, was due to the promptings of nature. In that case it
would develop. It seemed to me that this offer of hers--to go to her
with a definite post and definite duties would be the best of all
opportunities for such development. I was strongly inclined to accept
it. I was both lonely and unhappy. In a certain sense my education and
long residence abroad had unfitted me for this sedentary (in a mental
sense) and uneventful life. The events of the last few weeks had only
increased my restlessness. There was something from which I desired
almost frantically to escape, certain thoughts which I must do my utmost
to drown. At all costs I desired to leave the place. It's environment
had suddenly become stifling to me. The more I considered my mother's
offer the more I felt inclined to accept it.

And accept it I did. Early one morning I walked down to the Yellow
House, and in a very few words engaged myself as Mrs. Fortress's
secretary. We were both of us careful, for opposite reasons, not to
discuss the matter in any but a purely business-like spirit. Yet she
could not altogether conceal the satisfaction which my decision
certainly gave her.

"I only hope that you will not find the life too monotonous," she said.
"There is a good deal of hard work to be done, of course, and mine is
not altogether interesting labour."

"Hard work is just what I want," I assured her. "It will be strange at
first, of course, but I do not mind the monotony of it. I want to escape
from my thoughts. I feel as though I had been living through a nightmare
here."

She looked at me with a soft light in her eyes.

"Poor child!" she murmured, "poor child!"

I was afraid that she was going to ask me questions which I could not
well have answered, so I rose to my feet and turned away. Yet there was
something soothing in her evident sympathy. She walked to the door with
me.

"When shall you be ready to go to London with me?" she asked, upon the
threshold.

"Any time," I answered, promptly. "There is nothing I desire so much as
to leave here."

"I will write to have my little place put in order to-day," she said.
"It will be ready for us in a week, I daresay. I think that I too shall
be glad to leave here."

I walked quietly home through the shadowy plantation and across the
little stretch of common. On my way upstairs to my room Mary, our little
housemaid, interrupted me.

"There is a young lady in the drawing-room waiting to see you, miss,"
she announced; "she came directly after you went."

I retraced my steps slowly. Of course I knew who it was. I opened the
door, and found her sitting close to the fire.

She rose at once to her feet, and looked at me a little defiantly. I
greeted her as pleasantly as I could, but she was evidently in a bad
humour. There was an awkward silence for a moment or two. I waited for
her to explain her mission.

"I saw you with Mr. Deville the other day," she remarked at last.

I nodded.

"It is quite true. I did all that I could to avoid him. That was what I
promised, you know."

"Is that the first time you have seen him since we made our
arrangement?" she asked.

"The first time," I answered.

"You have not been with him this afternoon?" she asked, suspiciously.

"Certainly not," I assured her. "I have only been down to see Mrs.
Fortress for a few minutes."

"He was not there?"

"No."

She sighed and looked away from me into the fire, and when she spoke her
voice was thick with rising sobs.

"He does not care for me. I cannot make him I My money does not seem to
make any difference. He is too fierce and independent. I don't think
that I shall ever be able to make him care."

I looked steadily down upon the carpet, and set my teeth firmly. It was
ridiculous that my heart should be beating so fiercely.

"I'm sorry for you," I said, softly.

She fixed her black eyes upon me.

"You are sorry for me," she repeated. "Very good, you do not care for
him yourself. But listen I I am afraid, I fear that he cares for you."

"You do not know that," I faltered. "You--"

"Bah!" she interrupted, scornfully. "I know. But you--there is some one
else. That is our secret. Never mind, you do not care for him at any
rate. You shall help me then. What do you say?"

"How can I help you?" I repeated. "Have I not, already done all that I
can by refusing to see him? What more can I do?"

"It was all a mistake--a stupid mistake, that idea of mine," she cried,
passionately. "Men are such fools. I ought not to have tried to keep you
apart. He has been grim and furious always because he could not see
you. I have had to suffer for it. It has been hateful. Oh, if you want
to escape the greatest, the most hideous torture in this world," she
cried, passionately, her thin voice quavering with nervous agitation,
"pray to God that you may never love a man who cares nothing for you. It
is unbearable I It is worse than hell I One is always humiliated, always
in the dust."

I was very sorry for her, and she could not fail to see it.

"If you are so sure that he does not care for you--that he is not likely
to care for you--would it not be better to go away and try to forget
him?" I said. "It can only make you more miserable to stay here, if he
is not kind to you."

She threw a curious glance at me. It was full of suspicion and full of
malice.

"Oh, yes! of course you would advise me to go away," she exclaimed,
spitefully. "You would give a good deal to be rid of me. I know.
I wish--"

She leaned over a little nearer to me, and drew in her breath with a
little hiss. Her eyes were fixed upon my face eagerly.

"You wish what?" I asked her, calmly.

"I wish that I understood you; I wish I knew what you were afraid of.
What have you to do with Philip Maltabar? If he is not your lover, who
is he f I! he is not your lover, what of Bruce Deville? Oh! if you have
been fooling me!" she muttered, with glistening eyes.

"You are a little enigmatic," I said, coldly. "You seem to think that
you have a right to know every detail of my private life."

"I want to know more, at any rate, than you will tell me," she answered;
"yet there is just this for you to remember. I am one of those whose
love is stronger than their hate. For my love's sake I have forgotten to
hate. But it may be that my love is vain. Then I shall put it from me if
I can--crush it even though my life dies with it But I shall not forget
to hate. I came here with a purpose. It has grown weak, but it may grow
strong again. Do you understand me?"

"You mean in plain words that if you do not succeed with Mr. Deville,
you will recommence your search for the man you call Philip Maltabar."

She nodded her head slowly; her keen eyes were seeking to read mine.

"You will do as you choose, of course," I answered; "as regards Mr.
Deville, I can do no more for you than I have done."

She commenced twisting her fingers nervously together, and her eyes
never left my face.

"I think that you could do more than you have done," she said,
meaningly. "You could do more if you would. That is why I am here. I
have something to say to you about it."

"What is it?" I asked. "Better be plain with me. We have been talking
riddles long enough."

"Oh, I will be plain enough," she declared, with a touch of blunt
fierceness in her tone. "I believe that he cares for you, I believe that
is why he will not think for a moment even of me. When I tell you that
you know of course that I hate you."

"Oh, yes, I have known that for some time."

"I hate you!" she repeated, sullenly. "If you were to die I should be
glad. If I had the means and the strength, I believe, I am sure that I
would, kill you myself."

I rose to my feet with a little shudder. She was terribly in earnest.

"I don't think, unless you have anything more to say, that it is a
particularly pleasant interview for either of us," I remarked, with my
hand upon the bell. But she stopped me.

"I have something else to propose," she declared. "You have said that
you do not love him. Very well. Perhaps his not seeing you has irritated
him and made him impatient. See him. Let him ask you--he will not need
much encouragement--and refuse him. Answer him so that he cannot
possibly make any mistake. Be rude to him if you can. Perhaps then, if
he knows that you are not to be moved, he will come to me. Do you
understand?"

"Oh, yes, I understand," I said, slowly; "I understand perfectly. There
is only one thing you seem to forget. Your idea that Mr. Deville is
interested in me is only a surmise. It is more than possible that you
are altogether mistaken. He and I are almost strangers. We have not met
a dozen times in our lives. He has never shown any inclination to make
any sort of proposal to me; I should think it most unlikely that he
should ever do so. Supposing that you were right, it would probably be
months before he would mention it to me, and I am going away."

She smiled at me curiously. How I hated that smile, with its almost
feline-like exhibition of glistening white teeth!

"He will propose to you if you will let him," she said, confidently. "If
you are really ignorant of that fact, and of your conquest, I can assure
you of it."

Suddenly she broke off and looked intently out of the window. Across the
park in the distance a tall, familiar figure was coming rapidly towards
us. She turned and faced me.

"He is coming here now," she declared. "I am going away. You stay here
and see him. Perhaps he will ask you now. Can't you help him on to it?
Remember, the more decidedly you refuse him the safer is Philip
Maltabar. Be rude. Laugh at him; tell him he is too rough, too coarse
for you. That is what he thinks himself. Hurt his feelings--wound him.
It will be the better for you. You are a woman, and you can do it.
Listen I Do you want money? I am rich. You shall have--I will give you
five--ten thousand pounds if--if--he ever asks me. Ten thousand pounds,
and safety for Philip Maltabar. You understand!"

She glided out of the room with white, passionate face and gleaming
eyes. Whither she went I did not know. I stood there waiting for my
visitor.



CHAPTER XXV. A PROPOSAL

SHE left me alone in the room, and I stood there for a minute or two
without moving. I heard his quick step on the gravel path outside and
then his summons at the door. Mechanically I rang the bell and directed
that he should be shown in to me.

The door was opened and closed. Then he was ushered in, our little
maid-servant announcing him with a certain amount of unnecessary
emphasis. She withdrew at once, and we were alone together. As he
touched my hand I noticed that he was wearing a new suit of riding
clothes, which became him very well, and a big bunch of violets in his
buttonhole.

"So I have found you at last, have I?" he said, standing over me as
though he feared I might even now try to escape. "Was it by your maid's
mistake that I was allowed to come in this afternoon?"

"No," I answered; "I told her only a minute ago to show you in. I wanted
to see you."

"You are extremely kind," he remarked, with a note of irony in his tong.
"My patience was very nearly exhausted. I was beginning to wonder
whether I should ever see you again."

"It was becoming just a question whether you would," I remarked. "We are
closing the house up next week, I believe, and removing our  Penates
to Eastminster. Alice is busy packing already, and so ought I to be."

"If that is a hint to me," he remarked, "I decline to take any notice of
it I have something to say to you. I have had to wait long enough for
the opportunity."

"A little more than a week," I murmured.

"Never mind how long," he declared. "It has seemed like a year. Tell
me--are you glad that you are going away?"

"I am very glad," I admitted. "I am glad that we are all going away. In
any case I should not have stayed. Perhaps you have heard that I am
going to London with Mrs. Fortress?"

Evidently he had not heard. He looked at me in amazement.

"With Mrs. Fortress?" he repeated. "Did you say you were going with
her?"

"Yes; I am going to be her secretary. I thought that she might have told
you."

He was looking rather grave; certainly not pleased.

"I do not see what you want to be any one's secretary for," he said,
frowning. "You are going to leave here. Eastminster is a very pleasant
place."

"I am afraid I should find it very dull," I answered. "I only admire
cathedral cities from an external point of view. It would bore me
horribly to have to live in one."

He stood there looking down at me in absolute silence. I raised my eyes
and met his steadfast gaze. I knew then that what this girl had said was
true. Then all of a sudden an unaccountable thing happened. The
composure on which I prided myself deserted me. My eyes fell. I could
not look at him, my cheeks were flushed; my heart commenced to beat
fast; I was taken completely at a disadvantage. He seized the
opportunity and commenced to speak.

"Perhaps," he said, slowly, "you have wondered what has made me so
anxious to see you these last few days. I am glad to have an opportunity
of telling you. I have been wanting to for some time."

I would have given a good deal to have been able to stop him, but I
could not. I was powerless. I was as much embarrassed as the veriest
schoolgirl. He went on--"I want to ask you to be my wife, Miss Ffolliot.
As you know," he added, with a sudden faint flash of humour, "I am not
apt with my tongue. I am afraid that I have allowed myself to rust in
many ways. But if you will make the best of me you will make me very
happy; for I think you know that I love you very much."

"No, no," I cried softly, "you must not say that. I did not wish any one
to say that to me. I am not going to marry any one."

"Why not?" he asked, calmly.

"You ought not to ask me," I answered. "You know my story."

He laughed outright in kindly contempt. Then I knew I had made a great
mistake. I should have given him some other reason. This one he would
laugh to scorn. And because I had given it first he would deem it the
chief one in my thoughts. Before I could stop him he had taken one of my
hands and was smoothing it in his great brown palm. Somehow I forgot to
draw it away.

"Did you ever seriously imagine that any such circumstance could make
one iota of difference to any man who loved you?" he asked, in a mild
wonder. "It is preposterous."

"It is not preposterous," I declared. "How can you say so? I am--nobody.
I have not even a name."

"Will you please not talk nonsense?" he interrupted, firmly. "We both
know quite well in our hearts that such a circumstance as you allude to
could not make the slightest difference--if you cared for me as I care
for you. All I want to know is--do you care--a little? If you will give
me--if you can--just a little share of your love, the rest will come. I
should not be afraid to wait. I would take my chance. I have cared for
you from the moment you first came here."

I looked up at him with wet eyes, but with a faint smile.

"You managed to conceal your sentiments admirably on our first meeting,"
I remarked.

He laughed. He was getting absolutely confident; and all this time I was
drifting with a full knowledge of the shipwreck ahead.

"I was brutal," he said. "Somehow, do you know, you irritated me that
morning? You looked so calm and self-possessed, and your very daintiness
made me feel rough and coarse. It was like an awakening for me. Yet I
loved you all the time."

"I am very sorry," I said, slowly.

He flashed a keen glance upon me. His eyes tried to force mine to meet
them. I kept them away.

"You must not be sorry," he said, impetuously; "you must be glad."

But I shook my head.

"There is nothing to be glad about," I cried, with a sob in my throat.
"I do--I do--not--"

"Go on!" he pressed, relentlessly. "I do not care for you in that way,"
he repeated slowly. "Is that true? An hour ago I should have doubted
you. But now--look at me and tell me so."

I nerved myself to a desperate effort. I looked up and met his stern,
compelling gaze. My cheeks were pale. The words came slowly and with
difficulty. But I told my lie well.

"I do not care for you. I could never think of marrying you."

He rose at once. The tears came to my eyes with a rush. He was very
pale, and there was a look in his face which hurt me.

"Thank you," he said; "you are very explicit, and I have been a clumsy
fool. But you might have stopped me before. Good-by!"

I looked up, and the words were on my lips to call him back. For the
moment I had forgotten Olive Berdenstein and my bargain with her. If he
had been looking then it would have been all over. But already his back
was vanishing through the door. I moved slowly to the window and watched
him walk down the drive with head bent and footsteps less firm than
usual. He crossed the road and took the footpath across the park which
led up to the Court. In the distance, a weird little figure in her
waving cloak gleaming through the faint mist, I could see Olive
Berdenstein crossing the common diagonally with the evident intention
of intercepting him. I turned away from the window and laughed bitterly.



CHAPTER XXVI. THE EVIDENCE OF CIRCUMSTANCES

TWO very weary days dragged themselves by. We had no news whatever from
my father. We did not even know where he was. Alice and I were hard at
work packing, and already the house began to look bare and comfortless.
All the rooms, except two were dismantled. We began to count the days
before we might be able to move into Eastminster. No one came to call
upon us. I saw nothing whatever either of Olive Berdenstein or of Bruce
Deville.

But on the afternoon of the third day I saw them both from the window of
my room. They came from the plantation leading down to the Yellow House
and turned slowly upwards from the Court. The girl was much more
fittingly dressed than usual. She was wearing a dark green tailor-made
gown, and even from the distance at which I stood I could see that she
was walking briskly, and that there was a new vivacity in her manner and
carriage. Her usually sallow cheeks were touched with a faint and very
becoming tinge of pink. Bruce Deville too was leaning down towards her
with a little more than his usual consideration. I watched them from the
window, and there was a pain at my heart like the pain of death. Had she
won already, I wondered? Was a man so easily to be deceived?

They had come from the Yellow House; he had been taking her to see Mrs.
Fortress. An irresistible desire seized me. I hurried on my jacket and
hat and walked down there.

The little maid-servant admitted me without hesitation. Mrs. Fortress
was at home, she told me, and would no doubt see me, although she was
very busy. Hearing my voice, she came out into the hall to meet me, and
led me into her study.

"I am hard at work, you see," she remarked, pointing to a pile of papers
littered all over her desk. "When do you think that you will be able to
come into residence with me? I have had my little flat put in order, and
I want to get there soon."

"I can come in about three weeks, I suppose," I said. "I shall be very
glad to. We hope to move to Eastminster on Monday or Tuesday. I want to
see my father again and to help them to settle down there. Afterwards I
shall be quite free."

She nodded; and looked at me keenly for a moment or two.

"You are looking tired and worried," she said, sympathetically. "Has
anything fresh happened?"

"Nothing."

She waited for a moment, but she did not pursue the subject. Still, I
fancied that she was disappointed that I did not offer her my
confidence.

"Mr. Bruce Deville has just been here, and Miss Berdenstein," she
remarked.

I nodded.

"I saw them come through the plantation," I remarked. "I have not seen
Miss Berdenstein for several days. Is she quite well?"

She looked at me, and commenced to sort some papers.

"Oh, yes, she is well enough. Bruce Deville rather puzzles me. He is in
a very odd mood. I have never seen him more attentive to any one than he
is to that girl, and yet all the time there was a sort of brutal
cynicism about his behaviour, and when I asked him to stay and talk to
me he would not. I wonder have you--"

She looked up into my face and stopped short. There was a little
pause.

"Won't you tell me about it?" she said, wistfully. "Not unless you like,
of course.

"There is nothing much to tell," I answered, controlling my voice with a
desperate effort.

"Mr. Deville asked me something. I was obliged to say no. He is
consoling himself admirably."

She sighed, and looked at me thoughtfully. That note of bitterness in my
tone had betrayed me.

"I am sorry," she said. "Bruce Deville is not exactly a woman's man, and
he has many faults, but he is a fine fellow. He is a world too good
anyhow to throw himself away upon that miserable chit of a girl."

That was exactly my own idea. I did not tell her so, however.

"She is very rich," I remarked. "She can free his estates and put him in
his right position again."

"That is only a trifle," she declared. "Besides, he is not so poor as
some people think. He could live differently now, only he is afraid that
he would have to entertain and be entertained. He makes his poverty an
excuse for a great many things, but as a matter of fact he is not nearly
so embarrassed as people believe. The truth is he detests society."

"I do not blame him," I answered. "Society is detestable."

"At any rate, I cannot bring myself to believe that he is thinking
seriously about that girl," she continued, anxiously. "I should hate to
think so!"

"Men are enigmas," I remarked. "It is precisely the unexpected which one
has always to expect from them."

"That is what they say about us," she said.

I nodded.

"Don't you think that most of the things that men say of women are more
true about themselves? It seems so to me, at any rate."

She rose up suddenly, and came and stood over me. She held out her
hands, and I gave her mine. My eyes were dim. It was strange to me to
find any one who understood.

"Would you Uke to go away with me tomorrow--aright away from here?" she
asked, softly.

"Where to?" I asked, with sudden joy.

"To London. Everything is ready for us there; we only need to send a
telegram. I think--perhaps--it would be good for you."

"I am sure of it," I answered, quickly. "I have a sort of fancy that if
I stay here I shall go mad. The place is hateful."

"Poor child!" she said, soothingly. "You must make up your mind and
come."

"I would not hesitate," I answered, "if only I could feel certain
that--he would not come back here before Olive Berdenstein leaves."

"We can make sure of it," she said. "Write and tell him that it would
not be safe; he ought not to come."

Out eyes met, and I felt impelled to ask her a sudden question.

"Do you believe that he killed her brother?"

She looked at me with blanched cheeks and glanced half-fearfully around.
From where I sat I could see the black bending branches from that little
fir plantation where he had been found.

"What else is there to believe?" she asked. "I heard him myself one
awful day--it was long ago, but it seems only like yesterday--I heard
him threaten to kill him if ever he found him near again. It was outside
the gate there that they met, and then--in the church you remember--"

I held out my hand and stopped her. The moaning of the wind outside
seemed like the last cry of that dying man. It was too horrible.

"I cannot stay here," I cried. "I will go with you whenever you are
ready."

A light flashed across her face. She drew me to her and kissed my
forehead.

"I am sure it would be best," she said. "I too loathe this place! I
shall never live here any more. To-morrow--"

"To-morrow," I interrupted, "we will go away."



CHAPTER XXVII. A GHOST IN WHITECHAPEL

DESPITE a certain amount of relief at leaving a neighbourhood so full of
horrible associations, those first few weeks in London were certainly
not halcyon ones. My post was by no means a sinecure. Every morning I
had thirty or forty letters to answer, besides which there was an
immense amount of copying to be done. The subject-matter of all this
correspondence was by no means interesting to me, and the work itself,
although I forced myself to accomplish it with at any rate apparent
cheerfulness was tedious and irksome. Apart from all this, I found it
unaccountably hard to concentrate my thoughts upon my secretarial
labours. The sight of the closely written pages, given me to copy,
continually faded away, and I saw in their stead Warren slopes with the
faint outlines of the Court--in the distance Bruce Deville walking side
by side with Olive Berdenstein, as I had seen them on the day before I
had come away. She had now at any rate what she had so much desired--the
man whom she loved with so absorbing a passion--all to herself, free to
devote himself to her, if he had indeed the inclination, and with no
other companionship at hand to distract his thoughts from her. I found
myself wondering more than once whether she would ever succeed in making
her bargain with him. The little news which we had was altogether
indefinite. Alice did not mention either of them in her scanty letters.
She was on the point of moving to Eastminster--in fact, she was already
spending most of her time there. From Bruce Deville himself we had heard
nothing, although my mother had written to him on the first day of our
arrival in London. Once or twice she had remarked upon his silence, and
I had listened to her surmises without remark.

I am afraid that as a secretary I was not a brilliant success in those
first few unhappy weeks. But my mother made no complaint. I could see
that it made her happy to have me with her. My silence she doubtless
attributed to my anxiety concerning my father. I did my best to hide my
unhappiness from her.

News of some sort came from Alice at last. She wrote from Eastminster
saying that she had nearly finished the necessary preparations there,
and was looking forward to my father's return.

She had heard from him that morning, she said. He was at Ventnor, and
much improved in health. She was expecting him home in a week.

But in the afternoon of that same day a strange thing happened. My
mother was compelled to go to the East End of London, and at the last
moment insisted upon my going with her. She was on the committee in
connection with the proposed erection of some improved dwelling-houses
somewhere in Whitechapel, and the meeting was to be held in a schoolroom
in the Commercial Road. I was looking pale, she said, and the drive
there would do me good, so I went with her, lacking energy to refuse,
and sat in the carriage whilst she went in to the meeting--a proceeding
which I very soon began to regret.

The surroundings and environment of the place were in every way
depressing. The carriage had been drawn up at the corner of two great
thoroughfares--avenues through which flows the dark tide of all that is
worst and most wretched of London poverty. For a few minutes I watched
the people. It was horrible, yet in a sense fascinating. But when the
first novelty had worn off the whole thing suddenly sickened me. I
removed my eyes from the pavement with a shudder. I would watch the
people no longer. Nothing, I told myself, should induce me to look again
upon that stream of brutal and unsexed men and women. I kept my eyes
steadfastly fixed upon the rug at my feet. And then a strange thing
happened to me. Against my will a moment came when I was forced to raise
my eyes. A map hurrying past the carriage had half halted upon the
pavement only a foot or two away from me. As I looked up our eyes met.
He was dressed in a suit of rusty black, and he had a handkerchief tied
closely around his neck in lieu of collar. He was wearing a flannel
shirt and no tie. His whole appearance, so far as dress was concerned,
was miserably in accord with the shabbiness of his surroundings. Yet
from underneath his battered hat a pair of piercing eyes met mine, and a
delicate mouth quivered for a moment with a curious and familiar
emotion. I sprang from my seat and struggled frantically with the
fastening of the carriage door. Disguise was all in vain, so far as I
was concerned. It was my father who stood there looking at me. I pushed
the carriage door open at last and sprang out upon the pavement. I was a
minute too late--already he was a vanishing figure. At the corner of a
squalid little court he turned round and held out one hand threateningly
towards me. I paused involuntarily. The gesture was one which it was
hard to disobey. Yet I think that I most surely should have disobeyed
it, but for the fact that during my momentary hesitation he had
disappeared. I hurried forward a few steps. There was no sign of him
anywhere. He had passed down some steps and vanished in a wilderness of
small courts; to pursue him was hopeless. Already a little crowd of
people were gazing at me boldly and curiously. I turned round and
stepped back into the carriage.

I waited in an agony of impatience until my mother came out. Then I told
her with trembling voice what had happened.

Her face grew paler as she listened, but I could see that she was
inclined to doubt my story.

"It could not have been your father," she exclaimed, her voice shaking
with agitation. "You must have been mistaken."

I shook my head sadly. There was no possibility of any mistake so far as
I was concerned.

"It was my father. That girl has broken her word," I cried, bitterly.
"She has seen him and--she knows. He is hiding from her!"

We drove straight to the telegraph office. My mother wrote out a message
to Mr. Deville. I, too, sent one to Olive. Then we drove back to our
rooms. There was nothing to be done but wait.

It was six o'clock before the first answer came back. It was from Mr.
Bruce Deville. I tore it open and read it.

"You must be mistaken. Can answer for it she has taken no steps. She is
still here. Mr. Ffolliot has not returned. Impossible for them to have
met."

The pink paper fluttered to the ground at our feet. I tore open the
second one; it was from Olive Berdenstein-"Do not understand you. I have
no intention of breaking our compact."

We read them both over again carefully. Then we looked at one another.

"He must have taken fright needlessly," I said, in a low tone.

"You are still certain, then, that it was he?" she asked.

"Absolutely!" I answered. "If only we could find him I In a week it will
be too late."

"Too late!" she repeated. "What do you mean?"

"The ceremony at Eastminster is on Sunday week. He was to have been
there at least a week before. I am afraid that he will not go at all
now."

"We must act at once," my mother declared, firmly. "I know exactly where
you saw him. I will go there at once."

"We will go together," I cried. "I shall be ready in a minute." She
shook her head. "I must go alone," she said, quietly. "You would only be
in the way. I know the neighbourhood and the people. They will tell me
more if I am alone."

She was away until midnight. When at last she returned I saw at once by
her face that she had been unsuccessful.

"There is no clue, then?" I asked.

She shook her head.

"None."

We sat and looked at one another in silence.

"To-morrow," she said, "I will try again."

But to-morrow came and went, and we were still hopelessly in the dark.
On the morning of the third day we were in despair. Then, as we sat over
our breakfast, almost in despair, a letter was brought to me. It was
from Alice, and enclosed in it was one from my father.

"You seem," she wrote, "to have been very anxious about father lately,
so! thought you would like to read this letter from him. We are almost
straight here now, but it has been very hard work, and I have missed you
very much..."

There was more of the same sort, but I did not stop to read it. I passed
it on to my mother, and eagerly read the few lines from my father. His
letter was dated three days ago--the very day of my meeting with him in
the Commercial Road, and the postmark was Ventnor.

"My dear child," he commenced, "I am better and shall return for certain
on Monday. The air here is delightful, and I have felt myself growing
stronger every day. If you see the Bishop tell him that you have heard
from me. My love to Kate, if you are writing. I hope that she will be
coming down for next week. There is a good deal for me to say to
her.--Your affectionate father, Horace Ffolliot."

My mother read both letters, and then looked up at me with a great
relief in her face.

"After all you see you must have been mistaken," she exclaimed. "There
can be no doubt about it."

And I said no more, but one thing was as certain as my life itself--the
man who had waved me back from following him along the pavements of the
Commercial Road was most surely no other man than my father.



CHAPTER XXVIII. EASTMINSTER


THE days that followed were, in a sense, like the calm before the
threatened storm. As the date of my father's promised return to
Eastminster drew near, every day I expected to hear from Alice that he
had abandoned his purpose, and that Northshire would see him no more.
But no such letter came. On the contrary, when news did come it was news
which astonished me. "You will be glad to hear," Alice wrote, "that
father came back last night looking better, although rather thin. He did
not seem to have understood that you were already with Mrs. Fortress,
and I think he was disappointed not to see you. At the same time,
considering that you have acted without consulting him in any way, and
that there is certainly some room for doubt as to the wisdom of the step
you have taken, I think that he takes your absence very well. He wants
you to come down in a week for a day or two. No doubt you will be able
to manage this. You must stay for a Sunday. Father preached last
evening, and there was quite a sensation. Lady Bolton has been so kind.
She says that the Bishop is continually congratulating himself upon
having found father in the diocese. I have not seen either Mr. Deville
or Miss Berdenstein since I left the Vicarage. As you can imagine I
have been terribly busy. The house here is simply delightful. The old
oak is priceless, and there are such quaint little nooks and corners
everywhere. Do come at once. Ever your loving sister, Alice."

I passed the letter across to my mother, and when she had finished it
she looked with a smile into my still troubled face.

"That proves finally that you were wrong," she remarked, quietly. "I
suppose you have no more doubts about it?"

I shook my head. I did not commit myself to speech.

"I suppose I must have been mistaken," I said. "It was a wonderful
likeness."

"He wants to see you," she continued, looking wistfully across at me.
"You know what that means?"

"Yes," I answered. "I think I know what that means."

"He will try to make you leave me," she went on. "Perhaps he will be
right. At any rate, he will think that he is right. It will be a
struggle for you, child. He has a strong will."

"I know it," I answered; "but I have made up my mind. Nothing will
induce me to change it--nothing, at any rate, that my father will be
able to say. Another month like the last would kill me. Besides, I do
not think that I was meant for a clergyman's daughter--I am too
restless. I want a different sort of life. No, you need not fear. I
shall come back to you."

"If I thought that you would not," she said, "I should be very unhappy.
I have made so many plans for the future--our future."

I crossed the room to the side of her chair and threw myself down upon
my knees, with my head in her lap. She passed her arms around me, and I
had no need to say a single word. She understood.


I think as I walked down the little main street of Eastminster that
sunny morning I knew that the crisis in these strange events was fast
drawing near. The calm of the last few days had been too complete.
Almost I could have persuaded myself that the events of the last month
or two had been a dream. No one could possibly have imagined that the
thunder-clouds of tragedy were hovering over that old-fashioned, almost
cloistral, dwelling-house lying in the very shadows of the cathedral.

My father was, beyond a doubt, perfectly at his ease, calm and
dignified, and wearing his new honours with a wonderful grace and
dignity. Alice was perfectly happy in the new atmosphere of a cathedral
town. To all appearance they were a model father and daughter, settling
down for a very happy and uneventful life. But to me there was something
unnatural alike in my father's apparent freedom from all anxiety and in
Alice's complacent ignorance. I could not breathe freely in the room
whilst they talked with interest about their new surroundings and the
increased possibilities of their new life. But what troubled me most
perhaps was that my father absolutely declined to discuss with me
anything connected with the past. On every occasion when I sought to
lead up to it he had at once checked me peremptorily. Nor would he
suffer me to allude in any way to my new life. Once, when I opened my
lips to frame some suggestive sentence, I caught a light in his eyes
before which I was dumb. Gradually I began to realise what it meant. By
leaving him for my mother, I had virtually declared myself on her side.
All that I had been before went for nothing. In his eyes I was no longer
his daughter. Whatever fears he had he kept them from me. I should no
longer have even those tragic glimpses into his inner life. My
anxieties, indeed, were to be lessened as my knowledge was to be less.
Yet that was a thought which brought me little consolation. I felt as
though I had deserted a brave man.

I had come for a walk to escape from it, and at the end of the little
line of shops issuing from the broad archway of the old-fashioned hotel
I came face to face with Bruce Deville. He was carefully, even
immaculately, dressed in riding-clothes, and he was carrying himself
with a new ease and dignity. Directly he saw me he stopped short and
held out his hand.

"What fortune!" he exclaimed, forgetting for the moment, or appearing to
forget, to release my hand. "I heard that you were down, and I was going
to call. It is much pleasanter to meet you though!"

I was miserably and unaccountably nervous. Our old relative positions
seemed suddenly to have become reversed.

"We will go back, then," I said; "it is only a moment's walk to the
close."

He laid his hand upon the sleeve of my jacket and checked me.

"No! It is you whom I wanted to see. I may not be able to talk to you
alone at your house, and, besides, your father might not allow me to
enter it. Will you come for a short walk with me? There is a way through
the fields a little higher up. I have something to say to you," I
suffered myself to be easily persuaded. There was something positively
masterful about the firm ring of his voice, the strong touch of his
fingers, the level, yet anxious glance of his keen, grey eyes. Anyhow I
went with him. He appeared to know the way perfectly. Soon we were
walking slowly along a country road, and Eastminster lay in the valley
behind us.

"Where is Miss Berdenstein?" I asked him.

He looked at me with a gleam of something in his eyes which puzzled me.
It was half kindly, half humorous. Then in an instant I understood. The
girl had told him. Something decided had happened then between them.
Perhaps she had told him everything.

"I believe," he answered, "that Miss Berdenstein has gone to London.
Don't you feel that you owe me a very humble plea for forgiveness?"

I looked at him cautiously.

"Why?"

His lips relaxed a little. He was half smiling.

"Did you not make a deliberate plot against me in conjunction with Miss
Berdenstein?"

"I am not sure that I understand you," I answered. "I certainly did not
originate any plot against you."

"Nay, but you fell in with it. I know all about it, so you may just as
well confess. Miss Berdenstein was to leave off making inconvenient
inquiries about Philip Maltabar, and you were to be as rude to me as you
could. Wasn't that something like the arrangement? You see I know all
about it. I have had the benefit of a full confession."

"If you know," I remarked, "you do not need to ask me."

"That is quite true," he answered, opening a gate and motioning me to
precede him. "But at the same time I thought that it would be
rather--well, piquant to hear the details from you."

"You are very ungenerous," I said, coldly.

"I hope not," he answered. "Do you know I only discovered this
diabolical affair yesterday, and--"

"Mr. Deville!"

He turned round and looked at me. I was standing in the middle of the
path, and I daresay I looked as angry as I felt.

"I will tell you the truth," I said. "Afterwards, if you allude to the
matter at all I shall go away at once. The girl has it in her power, as
you know, to do us terrible harm. She, of her own accord, offered to
forego that power for ever--although she is quite ignorant of its
extent--if I would not see or talk with you. She was a little fool to
make the offer, of course, but I should have been more foolish still if
I had not accepted it. She imagined that our relative positions were
different. However, that is of no consequence, of course. I made the
bargain, and I kept my part of it. I avoided you, and I left the
neighbourhood. You have reminded me that I am not keeping to the letter
of my agreement in being here with you. I should prefer your leaving me,
as I can find my way home quite well alone."

"It is unnecessary," he said. "The agreement is off. Miss Berdenstein
and I have had an understanding."

"You are engaged, then?" I faltered.

"Well, no," he said, coolly, "I should perhaps have said a
misunderstanding."

"Tell me the truth at once," I demanded.

"I am most anxious to do so," he answered. "She was, as you remarked, a
little fool. She became sentimental, and I laughed at her. She became
worse, and I put her right. That was last night. She was silly enough to
get into a passion, and from her incoherencies I gathered the reason why
you were so unapproachable those last few days at the Vicarage. That is
why I got up at six o'clock this morning and rode into Eastminster."

"Have you come here this morning?" I asked.

"Yes, it's only thirty miles," he answered, coolly. "I wanted to see
you."

I was silent for a few moments. This was news indeed. What might come of
it I scarcely dared to think. A whole torrent of surmises came flooding
in upon me.

"Where is she?" I asked.

"In London, I should think, by this time," he answered.

I drew a long breath of relief. To be rid of her for a time would be
happiness.

"I believe," he continued, "that she intends to return to Paris."

After all it was perhaps the best thing that could happen; if she had
been in earnest--and I knew that she had been in earnest--she would hate
England now. At any rate she would not want to come back again just yet.
My face cleared. After all it was good news.

"She has gone--out of our lives, I hope," he said, quietly, "and in her
hysterics she left one little legacy behind for me--and that is hope. I
know that I am not half good enough for you," he said, with an odd
little tremble in his tone, "but you have only seen the worst of me. Do
you think that you could care for me a little? Would you try?"

Then when I should have been strong I was pitiably weak. I struggled for
words in despair. He was so calm, so strong, so confident. How was I to
stand against him?

"It is impossible," I said; "you know who I am. I shall never marry."

He laughed at me scornfully.

"If that is all," he said, taking my hands suddenly into his, "you shall
not leave me until you have promised."

"But--I--"

Then he was very bold, and I should have been very angry, but was not.
He looked coolly round, and finding that there was no one in sight, he
drew me to him and kissed me. His arms were like steel bars around me, I
could not possibly escape. After that there were no words which I could
say. I was amazed at myself, but I was very happy. The twilight was
falling upon the city when we walked once more through the little
streets, and my veil was closely drawn to hide my wet eyes.

My lover--I dared to call him that at last--was coming home with me, and
for a few brief moments my footsteps seemed to be falling upon air.

I allowed myself the luxury of forgetfulness; the load of anxiety which
had seemed crushing had suddenly rolled away. But at the entrance to the
close a little dark figure met us face to face, and my blood ran cold in
my veins, for she lifted her veil, and my dream of happiness vanished
into thin air. Her face was like the face of an evil spirit, yet she
would have passed me without a word, but that-! held out my hand and
stopped her.

"What are you doing here?" I asked. "What do you want?"

She smiled at me with the malice of a fiend.

"It was a little call," she said, "which I was paying upon your father.
He was unfortunately not at home. No matter, I shall call again; I shall
call again and again until I see him. I am in no hurry to leave.
Eastminster is such an interesting place!"

Then my heart died away within me, and the light of my sudden happiness
grew dim. She looked from one to the other of us, and her eyes were lit
with a new fury. Some subtle instinct seemed to guide her to the truth.

"May I congratulate you both?" she asked, with a sneer in her tone. "A
little sudden, isn't it?"

We did not answer. I had no words, and Bruce remained grimly and
contemptuously silent. She gathered up her skirts, and her eyes flashed
an evil light upon us.

"After all," she exclaimed, "it is an admirable arrangement I How happy
you both look I Don't let me keep you I I shall call later on this
evening."

She flitted away like a dark shadow and passed underneath the stone
archway out of the close. I covered my face with my hands and moaned. It
had come at last, then. All that I had done had been useless. I was face
to face with despair.



CHAPTER XXIX. THE BREAKING OF THE STORM

IT was at evensong in the great cathedral that she tasted the
firstfruits of her triumph. During the earlier portion of the service
the shadows had half enveloped the huge body of the building, and the
white faces of the congregation had been only dimly visible to us from
where we sat in one of the high side pews. But when my father ascended
the steps into the pulpit, and stood for a minute looking downwards with
the light from a little semi-circle of candles thrown upon his pale,
delicate face, I caught the sound of a sharp, smothered cry from a seat
close to ours. With a little shiver of dread I looked around. She had
half risen from her seat, and was leaning over the front of the pew. Her
eyes were riveted upon him, and her thin, sallow face was white with
sudden excitement I saw him look up, and their eyes met for one terrible
moment. He did not flinch or falter. But for the slightly prolonged
resting of his eyes upon her eager, strained face he took no more notice
of her than of any other member of the congregation. I alone knew that
her challenge had been met and answered, and it was my hard fate to sit
there and suffer in silence. There was no mark of nervousness or
weakness of any sort in the sermon he preached. He seemed to be speaking
with a consciousness perhaps that it might be for the last time, and
with a deliberate effort that some part of those delicately chosen
sentences might leave an everlasting mark behind him. Already his fame
as a preacher was spreading, and many of the townspeople were there,
attracted by his presence. They listened with a rare and fervid
attention. As for me, it seemed that I should never altogether lose the
memory of that low, musical voice, never once raised above its ordinary
pitch, yet with every word penetrating softly and clearly into the
furthermost corner of the great building. There was a certain
wistfulness in his manner that night, a gentle, pathetic eloquence which
brought glistening tears into the eyes of more than one of the little
throng of listeners. For he spoke of death, and of the leaving behind of
all earthly things--of death, and of spiritual death--of the ties
between man and woman and man and God. It was all so different to what
is generally expected from a preacher with the reputation of eloquence,
so devoid of the usual arts of oratory, and yet so sweetly human;
aesthetically beautiful, that when at last, with a few words, in a sense
valedictory, he left the pulpit, and the low strains of the organ grew
louder and louder, I slipped from my seat and groped across the close
with my eyes full of blinding tears. I had a passionate conviction that
I had misjudged my father. Suddenly he seemed to loom before my eyes in
a new light--the light of a martyr. My judgments concerning him seemed
harsh and foolish. Who was I to judge such a man as that? He was as far
above me as the stars, and I had refused him my sympathy. He had begged
for it, and I had refused it! I had left him to carry his burden alone I
It seemed to me then that never whilst I lived could I escape from the
bitterness of this sudden whirlwind of regret.

Swiftly though I had walked from the cathedral, he was already in his
study when I entered the house. I opened the door timidly. He was
sitting in his chair leaning back with half-closed eyes like a man
overcome with sudden pain. I fell on my knees by his side and took his
fingers in mine.

"Father!" I cried, "I have done my best to keep her away I I have done
all that I could!"

His hand pressed mine gently. Then there was a loud ringing at the bell.
I sprang up white with fear.

"I will not let her come here!" I cried. "We will say that you are ill!
She must go away!"

He shook his head.

"It is useless," he said, quietly; "it must come sooner or later--better
now perhaps. Let us wait, I have left word that she is to be shown in
here."

There was a brief silence. Then we heard steps in the hall, the rustling
of a woman's gown, and the door was opened and closed. She came forward
to the edge of the little circle of light thrown around us by my
father's reading-lamp. There she stood with a great red spot burning in
her cheeks, and a fierce light in her eyes.

"At last, then, the mystery is solved," she cried, triumphantly. "I was
a fool or I should have guessed it long ago! Have you forgotten me,
Philip Maltabar?"

My father rose to his feet. He was serene but grave.

"No, I have not forgotten you, Olive Berdenstein," he said, slowly.
"Yours is not a name to be forgotten by me. Say what you have come to
say, please, and go away."

She looked at him in surprise, and laughed shortly.

"Oh, you need not fear," she answered, "I have not come to stay. I
recognised you in the cathedral, and I should have been on my way to the
police station by now, but first I promised myself the pleasure of this
visit Your daughter and I are such friends, you know."

My father took up some writing-paper and dipped his pen in the ink as
though about to commence a letter.

"I think," he said, "that you had better go now. The police station
closes early here, and you will have to hurry as it is--that is, if you
wish to get a warrant to-night."

She looked at him fixedly. He certainly had no fear. My heart beat fast
with the admiration one has always for a brave man. The girl was being
cheated of her triumph.

"You are right," she said, "I must hurry; I am going to them and I shall
say I know now who was my brother's murderer I It was Philip Maltabar,
the man who calls himself Canon Ffolliot. But though he may be a very
holy man, I can prove him to be a murderer!"

"This is rather a hard word," my father remarked, with a faint smile at
the corners of his lips.

"It is a true one," she cried, fiercely. "You killed him. You cannot
deny it."

"I do not deny it," he answered, quietly. "It is quite true that I
killed your brother--or rather that in a struggle between us I struck
him a blow from the effects of which he died."

For a long time I had felt that it must be so. Yet to hear him confess
it so calmly, and without even the most ordinary emotion, was a shock to
me.

"It is the same thing," she said, scornfully, "you killed him!"

"In the eyes of the law it is not the same thing," he answered; "but let
that pass. I had warned your brother most solemnly that if he took a
certain course I should meet him as man to man, and I should show him no
mercy. Yet he persisted in that course. He came to my home! I had warned
him not to come. Even then I forbore. His errand was fruitless. He had
only become a horror in the eyes of the woman whom he had deceived. She
would not see him, she wished never to look upon his face again. He
persisted in seeking to force his way into her presence. On that day I
met him. I argued and reasoned with him, but in vain. Then the first
blow was struck, and only the merest chance intervened, or the situation
would have been reversed. Your brother was a coward then, Olive
Berdenstein, as he had been all his life. He struck at me treacherously
with a knife. Look here!"

He threw open his waistcoat, and she started back with horror. There was
a terrible wound underneath the bandage which he removed.

"It was a blow for a blow," he said, gravely. "From my wound I shall in
all likelihood die. Your brother's knife touched my lung, and I am
always in danger of internal bleeding. The blow I struck him, I struck
with his knife at my heart. That is not murder."

"We shall see," she muttered between her lips.

"As soon as you will," he answered. "There is one thing more which you
may as well know. My unhappy meeting with your brother on that Sunday
afternoon was not our first meeting since his return to England. On the
very night of his arrival I met him in London by appointment. I warned
him that if he persisted in a certain course I should forget my cloth,
and remember only that I was a man and that he was an enemy. He listened
in silence, and when I turned to leave he made a cowardly attempt upon
my life. He deliberately attempted to murder me. Nothing but an accident
saved my life. But I am not telling you these things to gain your pity.
Only you have found me out, and you are his sister. It is right that you
should know the truth. I have told you the whole story. Will you go
now?"

She looked at him, and for a moment she hesitated. Then her eyes met
mine, and her face hardened.

"Yes, I will go," she declared. "I do not care whether you have told me
the truth or not. I am going to let the world know who Canon Ffolliot
is."

"You will do as seems best to you," my father said, quietly.

He had risen to his feet, and stood with his hand at his side, breathing
heavily, in an attitude now familiar to me, although I had never fully
understood its cause. His pale lips were twitching with pain, and there
were dark rims under his eyes. She looked at him and laughed brutally.

"Your daughter is an excellent actress," she said, looking back over her
shoulder as she moved towards the door. "I have no doubt but that the
art is inherited. We shall see!"

Obeying my father's gesture, I rang the bell. We heard the front door
open and close after her. Then I threw my arms around his neck in a
passionate abandonment of grief.

"It is all my fault," I sobbed--"my fault I But for me she would have
forgiven."

My father smiled a faint, absent smile. He was smoothing my hair gently
with one hand and gazing steadfastly into the fire. His face was serene,
almost happy. Yet the blow had fallen.



CHAPTER XXX. THE MASTER OF COLVILLE HALL


I BELIEVE that I took off my clothes and made some pretence of going to
bed, but in my memory those long hours between the time when I left my
father in the study and the dawn seems like one interminable nightmare.
Yet towards morning I must have slept, for my room was full of sunlight
when a soft knocking at the door awakened me. Our trim little housemaid
entered with a note; the address was in my father's handwriting. I sat
up in bed and tore open the envelope eagerly. Something seemed to tell
me even before I glanced at its contents that the thing I dreaded was
coming to pass. This is what I read.


"Forgive me, child, if I have left you with only a written farewell. The
little strength I have left I have need of, and I shrank from seeing you
again lest the sorrow of it should sap my purpose; should make me weak
when I need to be strong.

"The girl will tell her story, and at the best my career of usefulness
here is over; so I leave Eastminster this morning for ever. I have
written to Alice and to the Bishop. To him I have sent a brief memoir of
my life. I do not think that he will be a stern judge, especially as the
culprit stands already with one foot in the grave.

"And now, child, I have a final confession to make to you. For many
years there has been a side to my life of which you and Alice have been
ignorant. Even now I am not going to tell you about it. The time is too
short for me to enter thoroughly into my motives and into the gradual
development of what was at first only a very small thing. But of this I
am anxious to assure you, it is not a disgraceful side I It is not
anything of which I am ashamed, although there have been potent reasons
for keeping all record of it within my own breast. Had I known to what
it was destined to grow I should have acted differently from the
commencement, but of that it is purposeless now to speak. The little
remnant of life which is still mine I have dedicated to it. Even if my
career here were not so clearly over, my conscience tells me that I am
doing right in abandoning it. It is possible that we may never meet
again. Farewell! If what you hinted at last night comes really to pass
it is good. Bruce Deville has been no friend of mine, but he is as
worthy of you as any man could be. And above all, remember this, my
fervent prayer: Forgive me the wrong which I have done you and the
trouble which I have brought into your life. Think of me if you can only
as your most affectionate father,

"Horace Ffolliot."


When I had finished my father's letter I dressed in haste. There was no
doubt in my mind as to where he had gone. I would follow him at once. I
would be by his side wherever he was and in whatever condition when the
end came. I rang for a time-table and looked out the morning trains for
London. Then Alice knocked at my door and came to me with white, scared
face, and an open letter in her hand. She found me all ready to start.

"Do you understand it? What does it mean, Kate?" she asked, fearfully.

"I do not know," I answered. "He has gone to London, and he is not fit
to leave his bed. I am going to follow him."

"But you do not know whereabouts to look. You will never find him."

"I must trust to fate," I answered, desperately. "Somehow or other I
shall find him. Good-by. I have only a few minutes to catch the train."

She came to the door with me.

"And you?" I asked, upon the step.

"I shall remain here," she answered, firmly. "I shall not leave until it
is perfectly certain that this is not all some hideous mistake. I can't
realise it. Kate."

"Yes," I cried, lingering impatiently upon the step.

"Do you think that he is mad?"

I shook my head. "I am certain that he is not," I answered. "I will
write to you; perhaps to-night. I may have news."

I walked across the close, where as yet not a soul was stirring. The
ground beneath my feet was hard with a white frost, and the air was keen
and bright. The sunlight was flashing upon the cathedral windows, the
hoar-covered ivy front of the deanery gleamed like silver, and a little
group of tame pigeons lit at my feet and scarcely troubled to get out of
the way of my hasty footsteps. A magnificent serenity reigned over the
little place. It seemed as though the touch of tragedy could scarcely
penetrate here. Yet as I turned into the main street of the still
sleeping town my heart gave a great leap and then died away within me. A
few yards ahead was the familiar fur-coated little figure, also wending
her way towards the station.

She turned round at the ringing sound of my footsteps, and her lips
parted in a dark, malicious smile. She waited for me, and then walked on
by my side.

"He has a two hours' start," she said, "so far as you are concerned;
that means that you will not find him. But with me it is different I
found out his flight in time to wire to London. At St. Pancras a
detective will meet the train. He will be followed wherever he goes, and
word will be sent to me. To-night he will be in prison. Canon Ffolliot,
you know--your father--in prison! I wonder, will the wedding be
postponed? Eh?"

She peered up into my face. I kept my eyes steadily fixed upon the end
of the street where the station was, and ground my teeth together. The
only notice I took of her was to increase my pace so that she could
scarcely keep up with me. I could hear her breath coming sharply as she
half walked, half ran along at my side. Then, at last, as we came in
sight of the station, my heart gave a great leap, and a little
exclamation of joy broke upon my lips. A man was standing under the
portico with his face turned towards us. It was Bruce Deville.

She too gave vent to a little exclamation which sounded almost like a
moan. For the first time I glanced into her face. Her lips were
quivering, her dark eyes, suddenly dim, were soft with despair. She
caught at my arm and commenced talking rapidly in spasmodic little
gasps. Her tone was no longer threatening.

"There is a chance for you," she cried. "You can save your father. You
could take him away--to Italy, to the south of France. He would recover.
You would never have anything to fear from me again. I should be your
friend."

I shook my head.

"It is too late," I said. "You had your chance. I did what you asked."

She shrank back as though I had stabbed her.

"It is not too late," she said, feverishly. "Make it the test of his
love. It will not be for ever. I am not strong. I may not live more than
a year or two. Let me have him--for that time. It is to save your
father. Pray to him. He will consent. He does not dislike me. But, mon
Dieu! I will not live without him. Oh, if you knew what it was to love."

I shook my head sorrowfully. Was it unnatural that I should pity her,
even though she was my father's persecutor? Before I could speak to her
Bruce was by our side. He had come a few steps to meet us. He held my
hands tightly.

"I felt sure that you would be coming by this train," he said. "I have
the tickets."

"And you?" I asked.

"I am coming with you, of course," he answered, turning round and
walking by my side.

Olive Berdenstein was watching him eagerly. He had not taken the
slightest notice of her. A faint flush, which had stolen into her face,
faded slowly away. She became deadly white; she moved apart and entered
the booking-office. As she stood taking her ticket I caught a backward
glance from her dark eyes which made me shiver.

"Why don't you speak to her?" I whispered.

"Why should I?" he answered, coolly. "She is doing her utmost to bring
ruin upon you. She is our enemy."

"Not yours."

"If yours, mine," he declared, smiling down upon me. "Isn't that so?"

"Even now she is willing to make terms," I said, slowly, with my eyes
fixed upon the approaching train. "She is willing--"

"Well!"

"To spare us, if--"

"Well!"

"If you will give me up."

He laughed mockingly.

"I thought that was all over and done with," he protested. "No one but a
couple of girls could have hatched such a plot. I presume you were not
going to make any further suggestions of the sort seriously?"

I have never been quite sure whether I had intended to or not. At any
rate, his words and expression then convinced me of the utter
hopelessness of such an attempt. The train drew up, and he placed me in
an empty carriage. He spoke to the guard and then followed me in. The
door was locked. Olive Berdenstein walked slowly by and looked into our
compartment. I believe she had meant to travel to London with us, but if
so her design was frustrated. For the present, at any rate, we were safe
from her.

Upon our arrival we took a hansom and drove straight to Victoria Street.
My mother was out. We waited impatiently for several hours. She did not
return till dusk. Then I told her everything. As she listened to me her
face grew white and anxious.

"You know him better than any one else in the world," I cried. "You
alone can solve the mystery of his second life. In this letter he speaks
of it. Whatever it may be, he has gone back to it now. I want to find
him. I must find him. Can't you suggest something that may help me? If
you were not in his whole confidence, at least you must have some idea
about it."

She shook her head sadly and doubtfully.

"I only knew," she said, "that there was a second life. I knew that it
was there, but I had no knowledge of it. If I could help you I would not
hesitate for a single moment."

Then, like an inspiration, there flashed into my mind the thought of
that man's face whom I had met in the East End of this great city. They
had persuaded me into a sort of half belief that I had been mistaken.
They were wrong, and I had been right I I remembered his strange apparel
and his stern avoidance of me. I had no more doubts. Somewhere in those
regions lay that second life of his. I sprang to my feet.

"I know where he is," I cried. "Come!"

They both followed me from the house, and at my bidding Bruce called for
a cab. On the way I told them what had become my conviction. When I had
finished my mother looked up thoughtfully.

"I do not know," she said. "Of course, it may be no good, but let us try
Colville Hall. It is quite close to the place where you say you saw
him."

"Colville Hall?" I repeated. "What sort of place is that? The name
sounds familiar."

"You will see for yourself," she answered. "It is close here. I will
tell the man to stop."

We were in the thick of the East End, when the cab pulled up in front of
a large square building, brilliantly illuminated. Great placards were
posted upon the walls, and a constant stream of men and women were
passing through the wide open doors. Bruce elbowed a way for us through
the crowd, and we found ourselves at last wedged in amongst them,
irresistibly carried along into the interior of the great hall. We
passed the threshold in a minute or two. Then we paused to take breath.
I looked around me with a throb of eager curiosity.

It was a wonderful sight. The room was packed with a huge audience,
mostly of men and boys. Nearly all had pipes in their mouths, and the
atmosphere of the place was blue with smoke. On a raised platform at the
further end several men were sitting, also smoking, and then, with a
sudden, swift shock of surprise, I realised that our search was indeed
over. One of them was my father, coarsely and poorly dressed, and
holding between his fingers a small briar pipe.

Notwithstanding the motley assemblage, the silence in the hall was
intense. There were very few women there, and they, as well as the men,
appeared to be of the lowest order. Their faces were all turned
expectantly towards the platform. One or two of them were whispering
amongst themselves, but my father's voice--he had risen to his feet
now--sounded clear and distinct above the faint murmuring--we too, held
our breath.

"My friends," he said quietly, "I am glad to see so many of you here
to-night. I have come a long way to have my last talk with you. Partings
are always sad things, and I shall feel very strange when I leave this
hall to-night, to know that in all human probability I shall never set
foot in it again. But our ways are made for us, and all that we can do
is to accept them cheerfully. To-night, my friends, it is for us to say
farewell."

Something of the sort seemed to have been expected, yet there were a
good many concerned and startled faces; a little half-protesting,
half-kindly murmur of negation.

"Gar on! You're not a-going to leave us, gov'nor!"

My father shook his head, smiling faintly. Notwithstanding his rough
attire, the delicacy of his figure and the statuesque beauty of his
calm, pale face were distinctly noticeable. With an irresistible effort
of memory I seemed to see once more the great cathedral, with its dim,
solemn hush, the shadows around the pillars, and the brilliantly lit
chancel, a little oasis of light shining through the gloom. The perfume
of the flowers, and the soft throbbing music of the great organ seemed
to be floating about on the thick, noxious air. Then my father, his hand
pressed to his side, and his face soft with a wonderful tenderness,
commenced his farewell address to these strange-looking people.

Very soon I had forgotten where I was. My eyes were wet with tears, and
my heart was aching with a new pain. The gentle, kindly, eloquence, the
wan face, with its irresistible sweet smile, so human, so marvellously
sympathetic, was a revelation to me. It was a farewell to a people with
whom he must have been brought into vivid and personal communion, a
message of farewell, too, to others of them who were not there. It was a
sermon--did they think of it as a sermon, I wonder?--to the like of
which I had certainly never listened before, which seemed to tell
between the lines as though with a definite purpose the story of his own
sorrows and his own sins. In that great hall there was no sound, save
those slow words vibrating with nervous force, which seemed each one of
them to leave him palpably the weaker. Some let their pipes go out,
others smoked stolidly on, with their faces steadfastly fixed upon that
thin, swaying figure. The secret of his long struggle with them and his
tardy victory seemed to become revealed to us in their attitude towards
him and their reverent silence. One forgot all about their unwashed
faces and miserable attire, the foul tobacco smoke, and the hard,
unsexed-looking women who listened with bowed heads as though ashamed to
display a very unusual emotion. One remembered only that the place was
holy.

The words of farewell were spoken at last.

He did not openly speak of death, yet I doubt whether there was one of
them who did not divine it. He stood upon the little platform holding
out his hands towards them, and they left their places in orderly
fashion, yet jealously eager to be amongst the first to clasp them, and
somehow we three felt that it was no place for us, and we made our way
out again on to the pavement. My mother and I looked at one another with
wet eyes.

"At last, then," I murmured, "we know his secret. Would to God that we
had known before."

"It is wonderful," my mother answered, "that he has escaped recognition.
There has been so much written about this place lately. Only last week I
was asked to come here. Every one has been talking about the marvellous
influence he has gained over these people."

We waited there for him. In little groups the congregation came slowly
out and dispersed. The lights in the main body of the building were
extinguished. Still he did not come. We were on the point of seeking for
a side entrance when a man came hurriedly out of the darkened building
and commenced running up the street Something seemed to tell me the
truth.

"That man has gone for a doctor," I cried. "See, he has stopped at the
house with the red lamp. He is ill! I am going inside."

I tried the door. It opened at my touch and we groped our way across the
unlit room, bare and desolate enough now with its rows of empty and
disarranged chairs, and with little clouds of dense tobacco smoke still
hanging about. In a little recess behind the platform we found my
father. One man--a cabman he seemed to be--was holding his hand; another
was supporting his head. When he saw us he smiled faintly.

"God is very good," he murmured. "There was nothing I wished for but to
see you once more."

I dropped on my knees by his side. There was a mist before my eyes and a
great lump in my throat.

"You are worse," I cried. "Have they sent for a doctor?"

"It is the end," he said, softly. "It will all be over very soon now. I
am ready. My work here was commenced. It is not granted to any one to do
more than to make commencements. Give--give--ah!"

The flutter of a gown close at hand disturbed me. I followed my father's
eyes. Olive Berdenstein had glided from a dark corner underneath one of
the galleries, and was coming like a wraith towards us. I half rose to
my feet in a fit of passionate anger. Bruce, too, had taken a hasty step
towards her.

"Can't you see you are too late?" he whispered to her hoarsely. "Go away
from here. It is no place for you."

"Too late," she murmured, softly, and then the sound of heavy footsteps
coming up the hall made us all look round and my heart died away within
me. Two men in plain clothes were within a few yards of us; a policeman
followed close behind. My father closed his eyes, and from the look of
horror in his face I knew how he had dreaded this thing. One of the men
advanced to Olive Berdenstein, and touched his hat. I can hear her voice
now.

"I am sorry, Mr. Smith," she said, "I have made a mistake. This is not
the man."

There was a dead silence for a minute or two, and then a little murmur
of voices which reached me as though from a great distance. I heard the
sound of their retreating footsteps. I caught a glimpse of Olive
Berdenstein's tear-stained face as she bent for a moment over my
father's prostrate figure.

"I forgive," she whispered. "Farewell."

Then she followed them out of the hall, and we none of us saw her any
more. But there was a light in my father's face like the light which is
kindled by a great joy. One hand I kept, the other my mother clasped. He
looked up at us and smiled.

"This," he said, "is happiness,"



THE END



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