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Prologue • 1,100 Words
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A dark night on the banks of the Thames; the south-west wind, heavily charged with sleet, was blowing strongly, causing little waves to lap against the side of a punt moored by the bank. Its head-rope was tied round a weeping willow which had shed most of its leaves, and whose pendent boughs swayed and waved in the gusts, sending at times a shower of heavy drops upon a man leaning against its trunk. Beyond stretched a broad lawn with clumps of shrubs, and behind loomed the shadow of a mansion, but so faintly that it might have passed unnoticed in the darkness had it not been for some lights in the upper windows.

At times the man changed his position, muttering impatiently as the water made its way down between his collar and neck and soaked through his clothes to the shoulders.

‘I must have been waiting an hour!’ he exclaimed at last. ‘If she doesn’t come soon I shall begin to think that something has prevented her getting out. It will be no joke to have to come again to-morrow night if it keeps on like this. It has been raining for the last three days without a stop, and looks as if it would keep on as much longer.’

A few minutes later he started as he made out a figure in the darkness. It approached him, and stopped ten yards away.

‘Are you there?’ a female voice asked.

‘Of course I am,’ he replied, ‘and a nice place it is to be waiting in for over an hour on such a night as this. Have you got it?’

‘Yes.’

‘That is all right. Well, chuck your bonnet down there, three or four feet from the edge of the water.’

‘And my cloak? I have brought that and a shawl, as you told me.’

‘No; give it to me. Now get into the boat, and we will shove off.’

As soon as the woman had seated herself in the punt the man unfastened the head-rope and stepped in; then, taking a long pole in his hand, he let the boat drift down with the strong stream, keeping close to the bank. Where the lawn ended there was a clump of bushes overhanging the water. He caught hold of these, broke off two branches that dipped into the stream, then, hauling the punt a little farther in, he took the cloak the woman had handed to him and hitched it fast round a stump that projected an inch or two above the swollen stream.

‘That will do the trick,’ he said. ‘They will find it there when the river falls.’ Then he poled the boat out and let her drift again. ‘You have brought another bonnet, I see, Polly.’

‘You don’t suppose I was going to be such a fool as to leave myself bareheaded on such a night as this,’ she said sullenly.

‘Well, there is no occasion to be bad-tempered; it has been a deal worse for me than it has for you, waiting an hour and a half there, besides being a good half-hour poling this tub up against the stream. I suppose it went off all right?’

‘Yes, there was no difficulty about it. I kicked up a row and pretended to be drunk. Not too bad, or they would have turned me straight out of the house, but I was told I was to go the first thing in the morning. The rest was easy enough. I had only to slip down, get it, and be off, but I had to wait some time at the door. I opened it about an inch or two, and had to stand there listening until I was sure they were both asleep. I am sorry I ever did it. I had half a mind to chuck it up three or four times, but——’

‘But you thought better of it, Polly. Well, you were perfectly right; fifty pounds down and a pound a week regular, that ain’t so bad you know, especially as you were out of a place, and had no character to show.’

‘But mind,’ she said threateningly, ‘no harm is to come to it. I don’t know what your game is, but you promised me that, and if you break your word I will peach, as true as my name is Polly Green. I don’t care what they do to me, but I will split on you and tell the whole business.’

‘Don’t you alarm yourself about nothing,’ he said, good-temperedly. ‘I know what my game is, and that is enough for you. Why, if I wanted to get rid of it and you too I have only to drive my heel through the side of this rotten old craft. I could swim to shore easily enough, but when they got the drags out to-morrow they would bring something up in them. Here is the end of the island.’

A few pushes with the pole, and the punt glided in among several other craft lying at the strand opposite Isleworth Church. The man helped the woman with her burden ashore, and knotted the head-rope to that of the boat next to it.

‘That is how it was tied when I borrowed it,’ he said; ‘her owner will never dream that she has been out to-night.’

‘What next?’ the woman asked.

‘We have got to walk to Brentford. I have got a light trap waiting for me there. It is a little crib I use sometimes, and they gave me the key of the stable-door, so I can get the horse out and put him in the trap myself. I said I was starting early in the morning, and they won’t know whether it is at two or five that I go out. I brought down a couple of rugs, so you will be able to keep pretty dry, and I have got a driving-coat for myself. We shall be down at Greenwich at that little crib you have taken by six o’clock. You have got the key, I suppose?’

‘Yes. The fire is laid, and we can have a cup of tea before you drive back. Then I shall turn in for a good long sleep.’

An hour later they were driving rapidly towards London.

Chapter I • 6,400 Words

A slatternly woman was standing at the entrance of a narrow court in one of the worst parts of Chelsea. She was talking to a neighbour belonging to the next court, who had paused for a moment for a gossip in her passage towards a public-house.

‘Your Sal is certainly an owdacious one,’ she said. ‘I saw her yesterday evening when you were out looking for her. I told her she would get it hot if she didn’t get back home as soon as she could, and she jest laughed in my face and said I had best mind my own business. I told her I would slap her face if she cheeked me, and she said, “I ain’t your husband, Mrs. Bell, and if you were to try it on you would find that I could slap quite as hard as you can.”‘

‘She is getting quite beyond me, Mrs. Bell. I don’t know what to do with her. I have thrashed her as long as I could stand over her, but what is the good? The first time the door is open she just takes her hook and I don’t see her again for days. I believe she sleeps in the Park, and I suppose she either begs or steals to keep herself. At the end of a week maybe she will come in again, just the same as if she had only been out for an hour. “How have you been getting on since I have been away?” she will say. “No one to scrub your floor; no one to help you when you are too drunk to find your bed,” and then she laughs fit to make yer blood run cold. Owdacious ain’t no name for that wench, Mrs. Bell. Why, there ain’t a boy in this court of her own size as ain’t afraid of her. She is a regular tiger-cat, she is; and if they says anything to her, she just goes for them tooth and nail. I shan’t be able to put up with her ways much longer. Well, yes; I don’t mind if I do take a two of gin with you.’

They had been gone but a minute or two when a man turned in at the court. He looked about forty, was clean shaven, and wore a rough great-coat, a scarlet and blue tie with a horseshoe pin, and tightly cut trousers, which, with the tie and pin, gave him a somewhat horsey appearance. More than one of the inhabitants of the court glanced sharply at him as he came in, wondering what business he could have there. He asked no questions, but went in at an open door, picked his way up the rickety stairs to the top of the house, and knocked at a door. There was no reply. He knocked again louder and more impatiently; then, with a muttered oath, descended the stairs.

‘Who are you wanting?’ a woman asked, as he paused at a lower door.

‘I am looking for Mrs. Phillips; she is not in her room.’

‘I just saw her turn off with Mother Bell. I expect you will find them at the bar of the Lion, lower down the street.’

With a word of thanks he went down the court, waited two or three minutes near the entrance, and then walked in the direction of the public-house. He had gone but a short distance, however, when he saw the two women come out. They stood gossiping for three or four minutes, and then the woman he was in search of came towards him, while the other went on down the street.

‘Hello, Mr. Warbles!’ Mrs. Phillips exclaimed when she came near to him; ‘who would have thought of seeing you? Why, it is a year or more since you were here last, though I must say as your money comes every month regular; not as it goes far, I can tell you, for that girl is enough to eat one out of ‘arth and ‘ome.’

‘Well, never mind that now,’ he said impatiently, ‘that will keep till we get upstairs. I have been up there and found that you were out. I want to have a talk with you. Where is the girl?’

‘Ah, where indeed, Mr. Warbles; there is never no telling where Sal is; maybe she is in the next court, maybe she is the other side of town. She is allus on the move. I have locked up her boots sometimes, but it is no odds to Sal. She would just as lief go barefoot as not.’

By this time they arrived at the door of the room, and after some fumbling in her pocket the woman produced the key and they went in. It was a poverty-stricken room; a rickety table and two chairs, a small bed in one corner and some straw with a ragged rug thrown over it in another, a kettle and a frying-pan, formed its whole furniture. Mr. Warbles looked round with an air of disgust.

‘You ought to be able to do better than this, Kitty,’ he said.

‘I s’pose as I ought,’ she said philosophically, ‘but you know me, Warbles; it’s the drink as does it.’

‘The drink has done it in your case, surely enough,’ he said, as he saw in his mind’s eye a trim figure behind the bar of a country public-house, and looked at the coarse, bloated, untidy creature before him.’

‘Well, it ain’t no use grunting over it,’ she said. ‘I could have married well enough in the old days, if it hadn’t been that I was always losing my places from it, and so it has gone on, and I would not change now if I could. A temperance chap come down the court a week or two ago, a-preaching, and after a-going on for some time his eye falls on me, and says he to me, “My good woman, does the demon of drink possess you also?” And says I, “He possesses me just as long as I have got money in my pocket.” “Then,” says he, “why don’t you take the pledge and turn from it all?” “‘Cause,” says I, “it is just the one pleasure I have in life; what should I do I should like to know without it? I could dress more flash, and I could get more sticks of furniture in my room, which is all very well to one as holds to such things, but what should I care for them?” “You would come to be a decent member of society,” says he. I tucks up my sleeves. “I ain’t going to stand no ‘pertinence from you, nor from no one,” says I, and I makes for him, and he picks up his bag of tracts, and runs down the court like a little dog with a big dog arter him. I don’t think he is likely to try this court again.’

‘No, I suppose you are not going to change now, Kitty. I have come here to see the girl,’ he went on, changing the subject abruptly.

‘Well, you will see her if she comes in, and you won’t if she don’t happen to, that is all I can say about it. What are you going to do about her? It is about time as you did something. I have done what I agreed to do when you brought her to me when she was three years old. Says you, “The woman who has been taking charge of this child is dead, and I want you to take her.” Says I, “You know well enough, Warbles, as I ain’t fit to take care of no child. I am just going down as fast as I can, and it won’t be long before I shall have to choose between the House and the river.” “I can see that well enough,” says you, “but I don’t care how she is brought up so as she lives. She can run about barefoot through the streets and beg for coppers, for aught I care, but I want her to live for reasons of my own. I will pay you five shillings a week for her regular, and if you spend, as I suppose you will, one shilling on her food and four shillings on drink for yourself, it ain’t no business of mine. I could have put her for the same money in some country cottage where she would have been well looked after, but I want her to grow up in the slums, just a ragged girl like the rest of them, and if you won’t take her there is plenty as will on those terms.” So I says, “Yes,” and I have done it, and there ain’t a raggeder or more owdacious gal in all the town, East or West.’

‘That is all right, Kitty; but I saw someone yesterday, and it has altered my plans—but I must have a look at her first. I saw her when I called a year ago; I suppose she has not changed since then?’

‘She is a bit taller, and, I should say, thinner, which comes of restlessness, and not for want of food. But she ain’t changed otherwise, except as she is getting too much for me, and I have been wishing for some time to see you. I ain’t no ways a good woman, Warbles, but the gal is fifteen now, and a gal of fifteen is nigh a woman in these courts, and I have made up my mind as I won’t have her go wrong while she is on my hands, and if I had not seen you soon I should just have taken her by the shoulder and gone off to the workhouse with her.’

‘They would not have taken her in without you,’ the man said with a hard laugh.

‘I would have gone in, too, for the sake of getting her in. I know I could not have stood it for many days, but I would have done it. However, the first time I got leave to come out I would have taken my hook altogether and got a room at the other end of the town, and left her there with them. I could not have done better for her than that, but that would have been a sight better than her stopping here, and if she went wrong after that I should not have had it on my conscience.’

‘Well, that is all right, Kitty; I agree with you this is not the best place in the world for her, and I think it likely that I may take her away altogether.’

‘I am glad to hear it. I have never been able to make out what your game was. One thing I was certain of—that it was no good. I know a good many games that you have had a hand in, and there was not a good one among them, and I don’t suppose this differs from the rest. Anyhow, I shall be glad to be shot of her. I don’t want to lose the five bob a week, but I would rather shift without it than have her any longer now she is a-growing up.’

The man muttered something between his teeth, but at the moment a step was heard coming up the stairs.

‘That’s Sal,’ the woman said; ‘you are in luck this time, Warbles.’

The door opened, and a girl came in. She was thin and gaunt, her eyes were large, her hair was rough and unkempt, there were smears of dirt on her face and an expression of mingled distrust and defiance.

‘Who have you got here?’ she asked, scowling at Mr. Warbles.

‘It is the gent as you saw a year ago, Sally; the man as I told you had put you with me and paid regular towards your keep.’

‘What does he want?’ the girl asked, but without removing her glance from the man.

‘He wants to have a talk with you, Sally. I do not know exactly what he wants to say, but it is for your good.’

‘I dunno that,’ she replied; ‘he don’t look like as if he was one to do anyone a good turn without getting something out of it.’

Mr. Warbles shifted about uneasily in his chair.

‘Don’t you mind her, Mr. Warbles,’ the woman said; ‘she is a limb, she is, and no mistake, but she has got plenty of sense. But you had best talk to her straight if you want her to do anything; then if she says she will, she will; if she says she won’t, you may take your oath you won’t drive her. Now, Sal, be reasonable, and hear what the gentleman has to say.’

‘Well, why don’t he go on, then?’ the girl retorted; ‘who is a-stopping him?’

Mr. Warbles had come down impressed with the idea that the proposition he had to make would be received with enthusiasm, but he now felt some doubt on the subject. He wondered for a moment whether it would be best to speak as Mrs. Phillips advised him or to stick to the story he had intended to tell. He concluded that the former way was the best.

‘I am going to speak perfectly straight to you, Sally,’ he began.

The girl looked keenly at him beneath her long eyelashes, and her face expressed considerable doubt.

‘I am in the betting line,’ he said; ‘horse-racing, you know; and I am mixed up in other things, and there is many a job I might be able to carry out if I had a sharp girl to help me. I can see you are sharp enough—there is no fear about that—but you see sharpness is not the only thing. A girl to be of use must be able to dress herself up and pass as a lady, and to do that she must have some sort of education so as to be able to speak as ladies speak. I ought to have begun earlier with you, I know, but it was only when thinking of you a day or two ago that it struck me you would do for the work. You will have to go to school, or at least to be under the care of someone who can teach you, for three years. I don’t suppose you like the thought of it, but you will have a good time afterwards. You will be well dressed and live comfortably, and all you will have to do will be to play a part occasionally, which to a clever girl will be nothing.’

‘I should learn to read and write and to be able to understand books and such like?’

‘Certainly you would.’

‘Then I am ready,’ she said firmly; ‘I don’t care what you do with me afterwards. What I want most of anything in the world is to be able to read and write. You can do nothing if you can’t do that. I do not suppose I shall like schooling, but it cannot be so bad as tramping about the streets like this,’ and she pointed to her clothes and dilapidated boots, ‘so if you mean what you say I am ready.’

The thought that she was intended to bear a part in dishonest courses afterwards did not for a moment trouble her. Half of the inhabitants of the court were ready to steal anything worth selling if an opportunity offered. She herself had often done so. She had no moral sense of right or wrong whatever, and regarded theft as simply an exercise of skill and quickness, and as an incident in the war between herself and society as represented by the police. As to counterfeit coin, she had passed it again and again, for a man came up once a fortnight or so with a roll of coin for which Mrs. Phillips paid him about a fourth of its face value. These she never attempted to pass in Chelsea, but tramped far away to the North, South or East, carrying with her a jug hidden under her tattered shawl, and going into public houses for a pint of beer for father.

This she considered far more hazardous work than pilfering, and her quickness of eye and foot had alone saved her many times, as if the barman, instead of dropping the coin into the till, looked at it with suspicion and then proceeded to test it she was off like a deer, and was out of sight round the next turning long before the man could get to the door. The fact that she was evidently considered sharp enough to take part in frauds requiring cleverness and address gratified rather than inclined her to reject the proposition.

‘It ain’t very grateful of you, Sally, to be so willing to leave me after all I have done for you,’ Mrs. Phillips said, rather hurt at her ready acceptance of the offer.

‘Grateful for what?’ the girl said scornfully, turning fiercely upon her; ‘you have been paid for feeding me and what have you done more? Haven’t I prigged for you, and run the risk of being sent to quod for getting rid of your dumps? Haven’t you thrashed me pretty nigh every time you was drunk, till I got so big you daren’t do it? I don’t say as sometimes you haven’t been kind, just in a way, but you have been a sight oftener unkind. I don’t want to part bad friends. If you ain’t showed me much kindness, you have shown me all as ever I have known, and yer might have been worse than you have. I suppose yer knows this man, and know that he is going to do as he says, and means to treat me fair, for mind you,’ and here she turned darkly to Warbles, ‘if you tries to do anything as is wrong with me I will stick a knife into you.’

‘I am going to do you no harm, Sally,’ he said hastily.

‘Yer had better not,’ she muttered.

‘I mean exactly what I say, and nothing more. Mrs. Phillips may not have been quite as kind to you as she might, but she would not let you go with me if she did not know that no harm will be done with you.’

‘Very well, then, I am ready,’ the girl said, preparing to put on the tattered bonnet she had taken off when she came in, and had held swinging by its strings.

‘No, no,’ Mr. Warbles said, in dismay at the thought of walking out with this ragged figure by his side, ‘we can’t manage it as quickly as all that. In the first place, there are decent clothes to be bought for you. You cannot go anywhere as you are now. I will give Mrs. Phillips money for that.’

‘Give it me,’ the girl said, holding out her hand; ‘she can’t be trusted with it; she would be drunk in half an hour after you had gone, and would not get sober till it was all spent. You give it me, and let me buy the things; I will hand it over to her to pay for them.’

‘That would be best,’ Mrs. Phillips said, with a hard laugh; ‘she is right, Warbles. I ain’t to be trusted with money, and it is no use pretending I am. Sally knows what she is about. When she has got money she always hides it, and just brings it out as it is wanted; we have had many a fight about it, but she is just as obstinate as a mule, and next morning I am always ready to allow as she was right.’

‘How much will you want, Kitty?’

‘Well, I should say that to get three decent frocks and a fair stock of underclothes and boots would run nigh up to ten pounds. If it ain’t so much she can give you back what there is of it. When will you come and fetch her?’

‘We had better say three days. You can get all the things in a day, no doubt; but I shall have to make arrangements. I think I know just the woman that would do. She was a governess once in good families, I am told; but she went wrong, somehow, and went down pretty near to the bottom of the hill; she lives a few doors from me, and gets a few children to teach when she can. I expect I can arrange with her to take Sally, and teach her. If she won’t do it, someone else will; but being close it would be handy to me. I could drop in sometimes of an evening and see how she was getting on.’

‘Are you my father?’ the girl asked suddenly.

‘No, I am not,’ he answered readily.

The girl was looking at him keenly, and was satisfied that he spoke the truth.

‘I am glad of that,’ she said. ‘I always thought that if I had a father I should like to love him. If you had been my father I expect as you would have wanted me to love you, and I am sure I should never be able to do it.’

‘You are an outspoken girl, Sally,’ Mr. Warbles said, with an unpleasant attempt at a laugh. ‘Why shouldn’t you be able to love me?’

‘Because I should never be able to trust you,’ the girl said. ‘I am ready to work for you and to be honest with you as long as you are honest with me. I s’pose you wouldn’t be paying all this money and be going to take such pains with me if you didn’t think as you would get it back again. I don’t know much, but I know as much as that; so mind, I don’t promise to love you, that ain’t in the agreement.’

‘Perhaps you will think differently some day, Sally; and, after all, two people can get on well enough together without much love. Well, have her ready in three days, Kitty; but there is no use in my coming here for her. Of course, the girl must have a box, and you will want a cab. Drive across Westminster Bridge and stop just across it on the right-hand side. Be there as near as you can at eight o’clock in the evening; that will suit me, and it ought to suit you. It is just as well you should get her out of the court after dark, so that she won’t be recognised in her new things, and you will get off without being questioned. I shall be there waiting for you, but if anything should detain me, which is not likely, wait till I come.’

When he had gone the girl flung her bonnet into a corner, then knelt down and made up the fire; then she produced two mutton chops from her pocket and placed them in the frying-pan over it.

‘Good ones,’ she said. ‘I got them at a swell shop near Buckingham Palace; they were outside, just handy. Well, I s’pose them’s the last I shall nick; that is a good job.’ She then took a jug out of the cupboard. ‘I have got sixpence left out of that half-crown I changed yesterday. We have got bread enough, so I will bring in a quart.’

The woman nodded. She had of late, as she had told Warbles, quite determined she would not keep the girl much longer with her, but the suddenness with which the change had come about had been so unexpected that as yet she hardly realised it. Sally was a limb, no doubt. She had got quite beyond her control, and although the petty thievings had been at first encouraged by her, the aptness of her pupil, the coolness and audacity with which she carried them out, and the perfect unconcern with which she started on the dangerous operation of changing the counterfeit money, had troubled and almost frightened her. As the girl had said, she had never been kind to her, had often brutally beaten her, and usually spoke of her as if she were the plague of her life, but the thought that she would now be without her altogether touched her keenly, and when the girl returned she found her in tears.

‘Hello! what’s up?’ she asked in surprise. ‘You ain’t been a drinking as early as this, have you?’ for tears were to Sally’s mind associated with a particular phase of drunkenness.

The woman shook her head.

‘Yer don’t mean to say as you are crying because I am going?’ Sally went on in a changed voice. ‘I should have thought there was nothing in the world you would be so pleased at as getting rid of me.’

‘I have said so in a passion, may be, Sally. You are a limb, there ain’t no doubt of that; but it ain’t your fault, and I might have done for you more than I have, if it had not been for drink. I don’t know what I shall do without you.’

‘It will make a difference in the way of food, though,’ the girl said; ‘I am a onener to eat: still I don’t think you can get rid of the dumps as well as I can. You got two months last time you tried it.’

‘It ain’t that, Sally, though I dare say you think it is, but I shall feel lonesome, awful lonesome, without you to sit of an evening to talk to. You have been like a child to me, though I ain’t been much of a mother to you, and you mayn’t believe it, Sally, but it is gospel truth, as I have been fond of you.’

‘Have you now?’ the girl said, leaning forward eagerly in her chair. ‘I allus thought you hated me. Why didn’t you say so? I wouldn’t have ‘greed to go with that man if I had thought as you wanted me. I don’t care for the dresses and that sort of thing, though I should like to get taught something, but I would give that up, and if you like I will go by myself and meet him where he said, and give him back that ten pound, and say I have changed my mind and I am going to stop with you.’

‘No, it is better that you should go, Sally; this ain’t no place for a girl, and I ain’t no woman to look after one. I have been a-thinking some months it was time you went; it didn’t matter so much as long as you was a kid, but you are growing up now, and it ain’t to be expected as you would keep straight in such a place as this; besides, any day you might get nabbed, and three months in quod would finish you altogether. So you see, Sally, I am glad and I am sorry. Warbles ain’t the man I would put you in charge of if I had my way. He has told you hisself what he means to do with you, and I would a lot rather you had been going out into service; only of course no one would take you as you are, it ain’t likely. Still if you keep your eyes open, and you are a sharp girl, you may make money by it; but mind me, Sally, money is no good by itself, nor fine clothes, nor nothing.

‘It was fine clothes and drink as brought me to what I am. I was a nice tidy-looking girl when Warbles first knew me, and if it hadn’t been for clothes and drink I might have been a respectable woman, and perhaps missus of a snug public now. Well, perhaps your chances will be as good as mine was. I have two bits of advice to give yer. When you have finished that pint of beer you make up your mind never to touch another drop of it. The second is, don’t you listen to what young swells say to yer. You look out for an honest man who wants to make you his wife, and you marry him and make him a good wife, Sally.’

The girl nodded. ‘That is what I mean to do, and when I get a comfortable home you shall come and live with us.’

‘It wouldn’t do, Sally; by that time I reckon I shall be lying in a graveyard, but if I wasn’t it would not do nohow. No man will put up with a drunken woman in his house, and a drunken woman I shall be to the end of my life—but there, them chops are ready, Sally, and it would be a sin to let them spoil now you have got them.’

When the meal was over, and Sally had finished her glass of beer, she turned it over.

‘That is the last of them,’ she said; ‘I don’t care for it one way or the other. Now tell me about that cove, who is he?’

‘He is what he says—a betting man, and was when I first knew him; I don’t know what his real name is, but I don’t expect it’s Warbles. He was a swell among them when I first knew him, and spent his money free, and used to look like a gentleman. I was in a house at Newmarket at the time, and whenever the races was on I often used to see him. Well, I left there, and did not come across him for two years; when I did, I had just come out of gaol; I had had two months for taking money from the till. I met him in the street, and he says to me, “Hello, Kitty! I was sorry to hear that you had been in trouble; what are you doing?”‘

‘What should I be doing?’ says I; ‘there ain’t much chance of my getting another situation after what has happened. I ain’t a-doing nothing yet, for I met a friend on the day I came out who gave me a couple of quid, but it is pretty nigh gone.’ ‘Well, look here,’ says he, ‘I have got a kid upon my hands: it don’t matter whose kid it is, it ain’t mine; but I have got to keep it. It has been with a woman for the last three years, and she has died. I don’t care how it is brought up so as it is brought up; it is nothing to me how she turns out so that she lives. I tell you what I will do. I will give you ten pounds to furnish a room and get into it, and I will pay you five shillings a week as long as it lives; and if you ever get hard up and want a couple of pounds you can have ‘em, so as you don’t come too often.’

‘Well, I jumped at the offer, and took you, and I will say Warbles has been as good as his word. It wasn’t long before I was turned out of my lodging for being too drunk and noisy for the house, and it wasn’t more than a couple of years before I got pretty nigh as low as this. I had got to know a good many queer ones when I was in the public line, and I chanced to drop across one of them, and when I met him one day he told me he could put me into an easy way of earning money if I liked, but it was risky. I said I did not care for that, and since then I have always been on that lay. For a bit I did very well; I used to dress up as a tidy servant, and go shopping, and many a week I would get rid of three or four pounds’ worth of the stuff; but in course, as I grew older and lost my figure and the drink told on me, it got more difficult. People looked at the money more sharply, and I got three months for it twice. I was allus careful, and never took more than one piece out with me at a time, so that I got off several times till they began to know me. You remember the last time I was in—I told you about it, and since then you have been doing it.’

‘But what will you do when I am gone?’

‘Well, you know, Sally, I gets a bit from men who comes round of an evening and gives me things to hide away under that board. They knows as they can trust me, and I have had five thousand pounds worth of diamonds and things hidden away there for weeks. No one would ever think of searching there for it. I ain’t known to be mixed up with thieves, and this court ain’t the sort of place that coppers would ever dream of searching for jewels. Sometimes nothing comes for weeks, sometimes there is a big haul; but they pay me something a week regular, and I gets a present after a good thing has been brought off, so you needn’t worrit about me. I shan’t be as well off as I have been, but there will be plenty to keep me going, and if I have to drink a bit less it won’t do me any harm.’

‘I wonder you ain’t afraid to drink,’ Sally said, ‘lest you should let out something.’

‘I am lucky that way, Sally. Drink acts some ways with some people, and some ways with others. It makes some people blab out just the things they don’t want known; it makes some people quarrelsome; it shuts up some people’s mouths altogether. That is the way with me. I take what I take quiet, and though the coppers round here see me drunk pretty often they can’t never say as I am drunk and disorderly, so they just lets me find my way home as I can.’

‘And this man has never said no more about me than he did that first time?’ Sally asked. ‘Why should he go on paying for me all this time?’

‘He ain’t never said a word. I’ve wondered over it scores of times. These betting chaps are free with their money when they win, but that ain’t like going on paying year after year. I thought sometimes you might be the daughter of some old pal of his, and that he had promised him to take care of you. I thought that afterwards he had been sorry he had done so, but would not go back from his word and so went on paying, though he did not care a morsel whether you turned out well or bad. Now I am going out, Sally.’

‘You don’t want to go out no more to-day,’ Sally said decidedly. ‘You just stop in quietly these last three days with me.’

‘I would like to,’ the woman said, ‘but I don’t think it is in me. You do not know what it is, Sally. When drink is once your master there ain’t no shaking it off. There is something in you as says you must go, and you can’t help it; nothing but tying you down would do it.’

‘Well, look here, give me ninepence. I will go out and get you another quart of beer and a quartern of gin to finish up with. I have never been out for spirits for you before, though you have beat me many a time ’cause I wouldn’t, but for these three days I will go. That won’t be enough to make you bad, and we can sit here and talk together, and when we have finished it we can turn in comfortable.’

The woman took the money from a corner of a stocking, and gave it to Sally, and that night went to bed sober for the first time for months. The next morning shopping began, and Sally, although not easily moved, was awe-struck at the number and variety of the garments purchased for her. The dresses were to be made up by the next evening, when she was to fetch them from the shop herself, as Mrs. Phillips shrunk from giving her address at Piper Court.

During the interval Sally suffered much from a regular course of washing and combing her hair. When on the third morning she was arrayed in her new clothes, with hair neatly done up, she felt so utterly unlike herself that a sort of shyness seized her. She could only judge as to her general appearance, but not as to that of her face and head, for the lodging was unprovided with even a scrap of looking-glass. She had no doubt that the change was satisfactory, as Mrs. Phillips exclaimed, ‘Fine feathers make fine birds, Sally, but I should not have believed that they could have made such a difference; you look quite a nice-looking gal, and I should not be surprised if you turn out downright pretty, though I have always thought you as plain a gal as ever I seed!’

Chapter II • 5,700 Words

Epsom racecourse on the Oaks Day. The great event of the day has not yet been run, but the course has been cleared and two or three of the fillies have just come out from the paddock and are making their way at a walk along the broad green track, while their jockeys are chatting together. Luncheons have been hastily finished, and the occupants of the carriages and drags are standing up and beginning for the first time to manifest an interest in the proceedings they have nominally come down to witness. The general mass of spectators cluster thickly by the ropes, while a few take advantage of the clearance of the ground beyond to stroll leisurely along the line of carriages. The shouts of the men with cocoanuts, pincushions, and dolls on sticks, and of those with Aunt Sallys, rifle galleries, and other attractions, are hushed now; their time will not come again until the race is over.

Two men, one perhaps thirty, the other some three or four years younger, are among those who pay more attention to the carriages and their occupants than to the approaching race. The younger has a face deeply bronzed by a sun far hotter than that of England.

‘How fast they change, Danvers. Six years ago I knew almost every face in the carriages, now I scarcely know one. Who is that very pretty girl standing up on the seat of that barouche?’

‘Don’t you know? Look at the man she is talking to on the box. That is her father.’

‘By Jove! it is Mr. Hawtrey. You don’t mean to say that is little Dorothy?’

‘Not particularly little, but it is certainly Dorothy Hawtrey.’

‘I must go and speak to them, Danvers. You know them too, don’t you?’

‘Well, considering I meet them out pretty well every night somewhere I ought to do,’ the other said, as with slower steps he followed his companion to the carriage.

‘How are you, Mr. Hawtrey?’ the latter exclaimed, looking up at the man on the box.

The gentleman looked down a little puzzled at the warmth with which the words were spoken by one whose face he did not recall.

‘Don’t you remember me, sir? I am Edward Hampton.’

‘Why, Ned, is it you? You are changed out of all knowledge. You have come back almost as dark as a Malay. When did you arrive?’

‘I only reached town yesterday evening; looked up Danvers, and was lucky enough to find him at home. He said he was coming down here to-day, and as it was of no use calling on people in town on the Oaks day I came with him.’

‘Are you not going to speak to me, Captain Hampton?’

‘I am, indeed, Miss Hawtrey, though I confess I did not know you until Danvers told me who you were; and I do not feel quite sure now, for the Miss Hawtrey I used to know never called me anything but Ned.’

‘The Miss Hawtrey of those days was a little tomboy in short frocks,’ the girl laughed, ‘but I do not say that if I find that you are not so changed in reality as you are in appearance, I may not, perhaps, some day forget that you are Captain Hampton, V.C.’ She had stepped down from her lofty seat, and was now shaking hands with him heartily. ‘It does not seem six years since we said good-bye,’ she went on. ‘Of course you are all that older, but you don’t seem so old to me. I used to think you so big and so tall when I was nine, and you were double that age, and during the next three years, when you had joined your regiment and only came down occasionally to us, you had become quite an imposing personage. That was my last impression of you. Now, you see, you don’t look so old, or so big, or so imposing, as I have been picturing you to myself.’

‘I dare say not,’ he laughed. ‘You see you have grown so much bigger and more imposing yourself.’

Suddenly Dorothy Hawtrey leapt to her seat again and touched her father on the arm.

‘Father,’ she said in a whisper, ‘that man who has just turned from the crowd and is coming towards us is the one I was speaking to you about a few minutes ago, who had been staring at you with such an evil look.’

The man, who had the appearance of a shabby bookmaker, and who carried a satchel slung round his neck, and had the name of ‘Marvel’ on a broad ribbon round his hat, was now close to the carriage.

‘Will you take the odds, Mr. Hawtrey,’ he said in a loud voice, ‘against any of the horses? I can give you six to one, bar one, against the field.’

‘I do not bet,’ Mr. Hawtrey said coldly, ‘and by your looks it would have been better for you if you had never done so either.’

‘I have had a bad run lately,’ the man said, ‘but I fancy it is going to turn. Will you lay a few pounds for the sake of old times?’

Mr. Hawtrey shook his head decidedly.

‘I have come down rather in the world,’ the man went on insolently, ‘but I could pay the bet if I lost it as well as other debts. I have never forgotten how much I owe you.’

Hampton took a step forward towards the man, when a policeman stepped out from between their carriage and the next.

‘Now, move on,’ he said, ‘or I will make you, sharp; you are not going to annoy people here, and if you don’t go at once I will walk you off to the police tent.’

The man hesitated a moment, and then, muttering angrily, moved slowly away to the spot where he had left the dense line of spectators by the ropes.

‘Who is he, father?’ Dorothy Hawtrey asked; ‘does he really know you?’

‘Yes, my dear, he is the son of an old steward; he was a wild, reckless young scamp, and when his father died, shortly after I came into the property, I naturally refused to appoint him to the position. He used some very strong language at the time, and threatened me with all sorts of evils. I have met him once or twice since, and he never loses an opportunity of showing that he has not forgiven me; but never mind him now, here come the horses for their preliminary canter.’

Captain Hampton and his friend remained by the carriage until the race was over. The former had been introduced by Dorothy to the other three occupants of the carriage—Lady Linkstone, her daughter Mary, and Miss Nora Cranfield.

As soon as it was over the crowd broke up, the shouts of the men with the cocoanuts and Aunt Sallys rose loudly, and grooms began to lead up the horses to many of the carriages.

‘We are going to make a start at once, Ned,’ Mr. Hawtrey said; ‘I cannot offer you a seat back to town, but if you have no engagement I hope that you will dine with us. Will you come too, Mr. Danvers?’

Danvers was disengaged, and he and Edward Hampton accepted the invitation at once. Ned’s father had owned an estate adjoining that of the Hawtreys’ in Lincolnshire, and the families had been neighbours for many years. Ned, who was the youngest of three sons had been almost as much at the Hawtreys’ as at his own home, as Mr. Hawtrey had a nephew living with him who was just about the lad’s age, and during the holidays the two boys were always together. They had entered the army just at the same time, but James Hawtrey had, a few months after he went out to India, died of fever.

‘Who was the man who came up and spoke to them five minutes before the race started?’ he asked Danvers as they strolled away together.

‘There were two or three of them.’

‘I mean the man who said it was too bad, Dorothy not coming down on his drag.’

‘That is Lord Halliburn; he is very attentive there, and the general opinion is that it will be a match.’

‘He didn’t look as if he had much in him,’ Hampton said, after a pause.

‘He has a title and a very big rent roll, and has, therefore, no great occasion for brains; but in point of fact he is really clever. He is Under-Secretary for the Colonies, and is regarded as a rising young peer. He is not a bad fellow at all, I believe; keeps a few racers but does not bet, and has no vices as far as I have ever heard. That is his drag; he drives a first-rate team.’

‘Well, I hope he is a good fellow,’ Captain Hampton said shortly. ‘You see I never had a sister of my own. That little one and I were quite chums, and I used to look upon her almost in the light of a small sister, and I should not like to think of her marrying anyone who would not make her happy.’

‘I should think she has as fair a chance with Halliburn as with most men,’ Danvers said. ‘I know a man who was at Christ Church with him. He said that he was rather a prig—but that a fellow could hardly help being, brought up as he had been—but that, as a whole, he was one of the most popular men of his set. Now we may as well be walking for the station—that is, if you have had enough of it.’

‘I am quite ready to go. After all, an English racecourse makes but a dull show by the side of an Indian one. The horses are better, and, of course, there is no comparison between the turnouts and the dresses of the women, though they manage to make a brave show at the principal stations; but as far as the general appearance of the crowd goes, you are not in it here. The natives in their gay dresses and turbans give a wonderfully light and gay appearance to the course, and though, possibly, among quite the lower class they may not all be estimable characters, at least they do not look such a pack of unmitigated ruffians as the hangers-on of an English racecourse. That was a nice specimen who attacked Hawtrey.’

‘Yes, the fellow had a thoroughly bad face, and would be capable, I should say, of any roguery. It is not the sort of face I should expect to see in the dock on a charge of murder or robbery with violence, but I should put him down as an astute rogue, a crafty scoundrel, who would swindle an old woman out of her savings, rob servant girls or lads from the country by means of specious advertisements, or who in his own line would nobble a horse or act as the agent for wealthier rogues in getting at jockeys and concocting any villainous plan to prevent a favourite from winning. Of course, I know nothing of the circumstances under which he lost his place with Hawtrey, but there is no doubt that he has cherished a bitter hatred against him, and would spare no pains to take his revenge. If Hawtrey owned racehorses I should be very shy of laying a penny upon them after seeing that fellow’s face.’

‘Well, as he does not own racehorses the fellow has no chance of doing him a bad turn; he might forge a cheque and put Hawtrey’s name to it, but I should say he would have some difficulty in getting any one to cash it.’

There were at dinner that evening only the party who had been in the barouche, Danvers, Hampton, and Sir Edward Linkstone.

‘I wish there had been no one else here this evening,’ Dorothy Hawtrey said to Captain Hampton before dinner, ‘there is so much to talk about. First, I want to hear all you have been doing in India, and next, we must have a long chat over old times; in fact, we want a cozy talk together. Of course you will be tremendously engaged just at present, but you must spare me a long morning as soon as you possibly can.’

‘I suppose I am not going to take you into dinner?’

‘No, Sir Edward Linkstone does that. We cannot ask him to take in his daughter or Nora Cranfield, who is staying at his house, and besides, it would not be nice. I should not like to be sitting by you, talking the usual dinner talk, when I am so wanting to have a real chat with you. You will take in Mary Linkstone, she is a very nice girl.’

The dinner was a pleasant one, and the party being so small the conversation was general. It turned, however, a good deal on India, for Sir Edward Linkstone had been Judge of the Supreme Court at Calcutta, and had retired just about the time that Hampton had gone out there. After the ladies had left the room, Danvers remarked to their host:

‘That was an unpleasant-looking character who accosted you just before the race started for the Oaks, Mr. Hawtrey.’

‘Yes; I don’t know that I have many enemies, beyond perhaps some fellows, poachers and others, whom I have had to commit for trial, but I do consider that fellow to be a man who would injure me if he could. His father, John Truscott was my father’s steward, or agent as it is the fashion to call them now, on his estate in Lincolnshire. He had been there for over thirty years, and was a thoroughly trustworthy and honourable man, a good agent, and greatly liked by the tenants as well as by my father. As you may know, I came into the estates when I came of age. My father had died two years before. Well, I knew that Truscott had had a good deal of trouble with his son, who was three or four years older than myself.

‘Truscott kept a small farm in his own hands, and he made a hobby of breeding blood stock. Not to any great extent; I think he had only some five or six brood mares, but they were all good ones. I think he did very well by them; certainly some of the foals turned out uncommonly well. Of course he did not race them himself, but sold them as yearlings. As it turned out it was unfortunate, for it gave his son a fancy for the turf. I suppose it began by his laying bets on the horses they had bred, then it went on and he used to attend racecourses and get into bad company, and I know that his father had more than once to pay what were to him heavy sums to enable him to clear up on settlement day. I don’t know, though, that it would have made much difference, the fellow might have gone to the bad anyhow. He had always a shifty, sly sort of look. About four years after I came into the estates I was down in Lincolnshire at our place, when Truscott was taken ill, and I naturally went to see him.

‘”I don’t think I shall be long here, Mr. Hawtrey,” he said, “and you will have to look out for another steward. I used to hope that when my time came for giving up work my son would step into my shoes. He has plenty of brains, and as far as shrewdness goes he would make a better steward than I have ever done. For the last year, since I began to fail, he has been more at home and has done a good deal of my work, and I expect he reckons on getting my place, but, Mr. Hawtrey, you must not give it to him. It is a hard thing for a father to say, but you could not trust him.”

‘I felt that myself, but I did not like to admit it to the old man, and I said:

‘”I know he has been a bit wild, Truscott, but he may have seen that he was behaving like a fool, and as you say he has been helping you more for the last year, he may have made up his mind to break altogether from the life he has been leading.”

‘”It is not in him, sir,” he said. “I could forgive his being a bit wild, but he is not honest. Don’t ask me what he has done, but take my word for it. A man who will rob his own father will rob his employer. I have done my best for your father and you; no man can say that John Truscott has robbed him, and I should turn in my grave if our name were dishonoured down here. You must not think of it, sir; you would never keep him if you tried him; it would be a pain to me to think that one of my blood should wrong you, as I know, surely, Robert would do, and I implore you to make a complete change, and get some man who will do the estate justice.”

‘Of course I assented; indeed, I had heard so much of the fellow’s doings that I had quite made up my mind that when his father retired I would look for a steward elsewhere. At the same time I know that if the old man had asked me to try him for a time, I should have done so. A week later John Truscott died, and the day after his funeral, which I, of course, attended, his son came up to the house. Well, it was a very unpleasant business; he seemed to assume that, as a matter of course, he would succeed his father, and pointed out that for the last year he had, in fact, carried on the estate for him. I said that I did not doubt his ability, but that I had no idea of making a man who was a frequenter of racecourses, and who, I knew, bet so heavily that his father had had to aid him several times, manager of the estate.

‘He answered that he had had his fling, and would now settle down steadily. Of course, after what his father had said I was obliged to be firm. When he saw that there was no chance of altering my decision he came out in his true colours; broke out in the most violent language, and had I not been a good deal more powerful man than he was I believe he would have struck me. At last I had to ring the bell and order the footman to turn him out. He cooled down suddenly, and deliberately cursed me, swearing that he would some day be revenged upon me for my ingratitude to his father, and the insult I had passed upon him in thus refusing to appoint him after the thirty years’ services the old man had rendered me. I have no doubt he thoroughly meant what he said, but naturally, I never troubled myself about the matter.

‘The threats of a disappointed man seldom come to anything, and as there was no conceivable way in which he could injure me his menaces really meant nothing. I have come across him four or five times since. I dare say that I should have met him oftener were I a regular attendant on racecourses, but it is years since I have been to one, and only did it to-day because Dorothy had set her heart on seeing the Oaks for the first time. However, whenever I have met him he has never failed to thrust himself upon me, and to show that his animosity is as bitter as it was on the day that I refused to appoint him steward. He left my neighbourhood at once, turned the stock into money, and as I know that he came into three or four thousand pounds at his father’s death he had every chance of doing well. I believe that he did do well on the turf for a time, but the usual end came to that. When I met him last, some seven or eight years ago, I happened to be with a member of the Jockey Club who knew something of the fellow. He told me that he had been for a time a professional betting man, but had become involved in some extremely shady transactions, and had been warned off the turf, and was now only to be seen at open meetings, and had more than once had a narrow escape of being lynched by the crowd for welshing. From his appearance to-day it is evident that he is still a hanger-on of racecourses. I saw he had the name of Marvel on his hat. I should say that probably he appears with a fresh name each time. I think the chance of meeting him has had something to do with my giving up going to races altogether. It is not pleasant being insulted by a disreputable-looking scoundrel, in the midst of a crowd of people.’

‘He has never done you any harm, Mr. Hawtrey?’ Captain Hamilton asked, ‘because certainly it seemed to me there was a ring of triumphant malice in his voice.’

‘Certainly not, to my knowledge,’ Mr. Hawtrey replied. ‘Once or twice there have been stacks burnt down on the estate, probably the work of some malicious fellow, but I have had no reason for suspecting Truscott, and indeed, as the damage fell on the tenant and not on me, it would have been at best a very small gratification of spite, and I can hardly fancy he would have gone to the trouble and expense of travelling down to Lincolnshire for so small a gratification of his ill-will to me. Besides, had he had a hand in it, it would have been the stables and the house itself that would have been endangered.’

‘The same idea struck me that occurred to Hampton,’ Danvers said, ‘but I suppose it was fancy. It sounded to me as if he had already paid, to some extent, the debt he spoke of, or as if he had no doubt whatever that he should do so in the future.’

The subject dropped, but when, after leaving, Hampton went into the Club to which Danvers belonged, to smoke a cigar, he returned to it.

‘I can’t help thinking about that fellow Truscott. It is evident, from what Hawtrey says, that he has never done him any serious harm, and I don’t see how the rascal can possibly do so; but I am positive that the man himself believes that he either has done or shall be able to do so.’

‘That was the impression I had too, but there is never any telling with fellows of that class. The rogue, when he is found out, either cringes or threatens. He generally cringes so long as there is a chance of its doing him any good, then, when he sees that the game is altogether up, he threatens; it is only in one case in ten thousand that the threats ever come to anything, and as twenty years have gone by without any result in this case we may safely assume that it is not one of the exceptions.

‘Do you remember Mrs. Hawtrey?’

‘Yes, I remember her well. The first year or two after their marriage, Hawtrey had a place near town. I think she had a fancy that Lincolnshire was too cold for her. They came down when I was about eight years old. Dorothy was about a year old, I fancy. Mrs. Hawtrey and my mother became great friends. We could go from one house to the other without going outside the grounds, and as I was the youngest of a large family I used to walk across with her, and if Dorothy was in the garden she would come toddling to me and insist upon my carrying her upon my shoulder, or digging in her garden, or playing with her in some way or other. I don’t know that I was fonder of children in general than most boys were, but I certainly took to her, and, as I said, we became great chums. She came to us two or three months after her mother died; her father went away on the Continent, and the poor little girl was heart-broken, as well she might be, having no brothers or sisters. She was a very desolate little maiden, so of course I did what I could to comfort her, and when my father and mother died, within three days of each other, three years later, I think that child’s sympathy did me more good than anything. That is the only time I have seen her since I entered the army, and then I was only at home a few days, for the regiment was at Edinburgh, and it was a busy season. I suppose I could have got longer leave had I tried, but there was no object in staying at home. I had never got on particularly well with John, who was now master of the house; he was married, and had children, and after they arrived I thought the sooner I was off the better.’

‘What became of Tom? We were in the sixth together, you know; when you were my fag. You told me, didn’t you, that he had gone out to China or something of that sort?’

‘Yes; there had been an idea that he would go into the Church, but he did not take to it; he tried one or two things here and would not stick to them, and my father got him into a tea firm, and he went out for them two years afterwards to Hong Kong; but that did not suit him either, so he threw it up and went to Australia, and knocked about there until he came into ten thousand at my father’s death. He went in for sheep-farming then, and I have only heard once of him since, but he said that he was doing very well. I shall perhaps hear more about him when I see John. I must go down to Lincolnshire to-morrow, and I suppose I shall have to stay a week or so there; it is the proper thing to do, of course, but I wish that it was over. I have never been in the old place since that bad time. I don’t at all care for my brother’s wife. I have no doubt that she is a very good woman, but there is nothing sympathetic about her; she is one of those women with a metallic sort of voice that seems to jar upon one as if she were out of tune.’

‘And afterwards—have you any plans?’

‘None at all. I shall look out for a couple of rooms, somewhere about Jermyn Street, and stay in town to the end of the season. Then I shall hire a yacht for a couple of months, and knock about the coast or go across to Norway. I wish you would go with me; I did Switzerland and Italy the last year before I went away, and I don’t care about going there when every place is filled with a crowd. I have only got a year, and I should like to have as pleasant remembrances to take back with me as possible. Do you think you will be able to come with me? Of course I shall not be able to afford a floating palace. I should say about a thirty-tonner that would carry four comfortably would be the sort of thing. I will try to get two fellows to go to make up the party; some of my old chums if I can come across them. Of course I can get any number of men home on leave like myself, but I don’t want anyone from India, for in that case we should talk nothing but shop. You saw how we drifted into it at dinner. I should like not to hear India mentioned until I am on board a ship on my way out again.’

‘When would you think of going?’

‘Oh, I should say after Ascot—say the second week in July.’

‘I can hardly go with you as soon as that; I cannot get away as long as the courts are sitting, or until they have, at any rate, nearly finished work; but I might join you by the end of the month, unless I have the luck to get retained in some important case that would make my fortune, and I need scarcely say that is not likely.

‘But you are doing well, ain’t you, Danvers? I see your name in the papers occasionally.’

‘I am doing quite as well as I have any right to expect; better, a good deal, than many men of my own standing, for I have only been called seven years, and ten is about the minimum most solicitors consider necessary before they can feel the slightest confidence in a man. Still, it does not do very much more than pay for one’s chambers and clerk.’

A week later Ned Hampton was established in lodgings in Jermyn Street. He had been down for three days into Lincolnshire, but had not cared much for the visit. He had never got on very well with his elder brother, and they had no tastes or opinions in common. Mrs. Hampton was a woman with but little to say on any subject, while her husband was at this time of year absorbed in his duties as a magistrate and landlord, although in the winter these occupied a secondary position to hunting and shooting. The only son was away at school, the two girls were all day with their governess; and, after three as dull days as he had ever spent in his life, Ned pleaded business that required his presence in London, and came back suddenly. He had been a good deal in society during his visits to London in the three years that intervened between his obtaining his commission and sailing for India. He had, therefore, many calls to make upon old acquaintances, and as at his military club he met numbers of men he knew, he soon had his hands full of engagements. He still managed, however, to spend a good deal of time at the Hawtreys’, where he was always welcome. One morning, when he dropped in, Dorothy, after the first greeting, said, ‘I have a piece of news to tell you. I should not like you to hear it from anyone else but me.’ There was a heightened colour in her cheek, and he at once guessed the truth.

‘You have accepted Lord Halliburn? I guessed it would be so. I suppose I ought to congratulate you, Dorothy. At any rate, I hope you will be very happy with him.’

‘Why should you not congratulate me?’

‘Only because I do not know Lord Halliburn sufficiently well to be able to do so. Of course, I understand that he is a good match; but that, in my mind, is quite a secondary consideration. The real question is, is he the sort of man who will make you happy?’

‘I should not have accepted him unless I thought so,’ she said gravely. ‘Mind,’ she added with a laugh, ‘I don’t mean to say that I am insensible to the advantages of being a peeress, but in itself that would not have decided me. He is pleasant, and has the advantage of being very fond of me, and everyone speaks well of him.’

‘All very good reasons, Dorothy, if added to the best of all—that you love him.’

The girl nodded.

‘Of course, Ned. I don’t think that I have the sort of love one imagines as a young girl; not a wild, unreasoning sort of love; but you don’t find that much in our days except in books. I like him very much, and, as I said before, he likes me. That does make such a wonderful difference, you see. When a man begins to show that he likes you, of course one thinks of him a good deal and in quite a different way from what you would otherwise do, and so one comes in time to like him in the same way he likes you. That seems to me the way with most girls I have known married. You don’t see any harm in that?’

‘Oh no; I suppose it is the regular way in society; and, indeed, I don’t see how people could get to care more than that for each other when they only meet at balls and flower shows and so on. Well, I think I may congratulate you. There is no doubt whatever about its being a good match, and I don’t see why you should not be very happy, and no doubt your liking, as you call it, will grow into something more like the love you used to dream about by-and-by.’

The girl pouted.

‘You are not half as glad as I expected you to be—and please don’t think that I am marrying without love. I only admit that it is not the sort of love one reads of in novels, but I expect it is just as real.’

‘If it is good enough to wear well that is all that is necessary,’ Captain Hampton said, more lightly than he had before spoken. ‘You know, Dorothy, you have my very best wishes. You were my little sister for years, you know, and there is no one whose happiness would give me so much pleasure.’

Chapter III • 6,000 Words

Mr. Hawtrey and his daughter were sitting at breakfast a fortnight later, the only other person present being a cousin, Mrs. Daintree, who had come up to stay with them for the season to act as chaperon to Dorothy. She had been unwell and unable to form one of the party at Epsom. The servant brought in the letters just as they sat down, carrying them as usual to his master, as Dorothy was busy with the tea things. As Mr. Hawtrey looked through them his eye fell upon a letter. On the back was written in a bold handwriting, ‘Unless the money is sent I shall use letters.—E. T.’

He turned it over, it was directed to his daughter. He was about to speak, but as his eye fell on Mrs. Daintree he checked himself, placed the missive among his own letters, and passed those for his daughter and cousin across to them. He was very silent during breakfast. Dorothy detected by his voice that something was wrong with him, and asked anxiously if he was not feeling well. When the meal was over he said to her:

‘Before you go out, Dorothy, look in upon me in the library.’

Ten minutes later she came into the room.

‘Dorothy,’ he said, ‘are you in any trouble?’

‘Trouble, father?’ she repeated, in surprise. ‘No; what sort of trouble do you mean?’

‘Well, dear,’ he said kindly, ‘girls do sometimes get into scrapes. I did not think you were the sort of girl to do so, but these things are more often the result of thoughtlessness than of anything more serious, and the trouble is that instead of going frankly to their friends and making a clean breast of it, girls will try and set matters right themselves, and so, in order to avoid a little unpleasantness, may ruin their whole lives.’

Dorothy’s eyes opened more and more widely as her father went on.

‘Yes, father, I have heard of such things, but I don’t know why you are saying so to me. I have never got into any scrape that I know of.’

‘What does this mean then?’ he said, handing her the envelope.

She read it with an air of bewilderment, looked at the address, and re-read the words.

‘I have not the faintest idea, father.’

‘Open the envelope,’ he said sternly. She broke the seal, but there was no enclosure whatever. ‘You do not know who this E. T. is? You have not written any letters that you would not care to have read aloud? You have had no demand for money for their delivery? Wait a moment before you speak, child; I don’t mean for a moment that there could be anything wrong in any letter that you have written. It can only be that in some country house where you have been staying, you have got into some foolish flirtation with some one, and have been silly enough to correspond with him. I will not suppose that a man to whom you would write would be blackguard enough to trade upon your weakness, but the letters may have fallen into some one else’s hands; his valet, perhaps, who, seeing your engagement to Lord Halliburn, now seeks to extort money from you by threatening to send your letters to him. If so, my dear child, speak frankly to me. I will get the letters back, at whatever cost, and will hand them to you to burn, without looking at them, and will never mention the subject again.’

‘There is nothing of the sort, father. How could you think that I could do anything so foolish and wrong? Surely you must know me better than that.’

‘I thought I did, Dorothy; but girls do foolish things, especially when they are quite young and perhaps not out of the schoolroom, and know nothing whatever of the world. They fancy themselves in love, and are foolish enough sometimes to allow themselves to be entrapped into correspondence with men of whose real character they know nothing; it is a folly, but not one to deal hardly with.’

‘At any rate, father, I have not done so. If I had I would say so at once. I have not the remotest idea what that letter means, or who wrote it. If it were not that it had my name and address on the other side, I should not have had an idea that it was meant for me. Except trifling notes of invitation and that sort of thing I do not think that I had ever written to any man until I was engaged to Algernon.’

‘Well, that is a relief,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, more cheerfully than he had before spoken. ‘It was a pain to me to think even for a moment that you could have been so foolish. It never entered my head to think that you could have done anything absolutely wrong. However, we must now look at this rascally letter from another point of view. Here is a man writing to demand a sum of money for letters. Now, it is one of two things. Either he has forged letters in his possession, for which he hopes to extort money, or he has no letters of any kind, and his only intention in writing in this manner on an envelope is in some way to cause you pain and annoyance. We may assume that the initials are fictitious; whoever wrote the letter would certainly avoid giving any clue to his identity. Sit down, Dorothy. We must talk the matter over quietly and see what had best be done.’

‘But this is dreadful, father!’ Dorothy said, as she seated herself in an arm-chair.

‘Not dreadful, dear, though I admit that it is unpleasant, very unpleasant; and we must, if possible, trace it to the bottom, for now that this annoyance has begun there is no saying how much farther it may be pushed. Is there anyone you can think of who would be likely to have a spite against you? I do not say any of the four or five gentlemen whose proposals you have declined in the course of the past year; all were gentlemen and beyond suspicion. Any woman servant you may have dismissed; any man whose request for money for one purpose or another you may have refused; anyone, in short, to whom you may have given offence?’

‘Not that I know of, father. You know my last maid left to get married, and I had nothing to do with hiring or discharging the other servants; they are all under the housekeeper. I really do not know of anyone who has cause for ill-feeling against me.’

‘I shall write at once to the Postmaster General and request him to give orders that no more letters of the kind shall be openly delivered. Peters can hardly have helped reading it; it has evidently been written in a large, bold handwriting, so that it can be read at a glance. Of course, I shall speak to him, but he will probably have chatted about it downstairs already. I shall go down to Scotland Yard and inform them of the annoyance, and ask their advice there, though I don’t see that they can do anything until we can furnish them with some sort of clue. We may find one later on; this envelope certainly gives us nothing to go on, but we may be sure others will follow.’

‘It is dreadful, father,’ Dorothy repeated, as she rose, ‘to think that such malicious letters as this can be sent, and that they may be talked about among the servants.’

‘Well, I do not think there will be any more coming here, dear. I should imagine the Post Office authorities will have no objection to retain them. If there should be any difficulty about it, I will have a lock put on the letter-box and keep the key myself, so that, at least, the servants here will know nothing about it. Are you going out with your cousin this morning?’

‘I was going, but I shall make some excuse now; I could not be chattering about all sorts of things with her.’

‘That is just what you must do, Dorothy. It has taken the colour out of your cheeks, child, though I suppose cold water and a rub with a hard towel will bring it back again, but, at any rate, do not go about as if you had something on your mind. You may be sure that the servants will be looking at you curiously, whatever I may say to Peters; if they see you are in no way disturbed or annoyed, the matter will soon pass out of their minds, but, on the other hand, if they notice any change, they will be saying to themselves there must be something in it.’

As soon as his daughter had left the room Mr. Hawtrey touched the bell.

‘I am going out, Peters; if anyone calls to see me you can say that I shall not be in till lunch-time. I may be detained at Scotland Yard. I am going there to set the police on the track of the fellow who sent that letter to Miss Hawtrey this morning. I suppose you noticed it?’

‘Yes, sir,’ the man replied, in a hesitating tone; ‘as I took the letters out of the box and laid them on the hall table, the envelope was back upwards, and I could not help seeing what was on it.’

‘I can quite understand that, Peters, and am not blaming you. The words were evidently written with the intention that they should be read by everyone through whose hands it passed. It is evidently the work of some malicious scoundrel, though we have not, of course, the slightest clue as to whom it may be, but I have no doubt the police will be able to get on his track. If you have mentioned it to any of the other servants, tell them that on no account is the matter to be spoken of outside the house. Our only chance of catching the scoundrel is that he should be kept entirely in the dark. Probably the fellow is in communication with some one either in the house or acquainted with one of the servants. If he hears nothing about it, he may suppose the letter has not attracted notice, as he intended it should do, and we shall have some more of them, and this will increase our chance of finding him.’

‘I have not mentioned anything about it, sir.’

‘All the better, Peters. Should another come do not bring it in with the other letters, but hand it in to me privately. Miss Hawtrey is naturally greatly pained and annoyed, and I should not wish her to know if any more letters come.’

‘It is hardly a matter that we can take up,’ an inspector at Scotland Yard said when Mr. Hawtrey showed him the envelope and explained the matter. ‘I suppose at bottom it is an attempt to extort money, though one does not see how the writer intends to go about it. If there should be any offer to drop the annoyance on the receipt of a sum of money sent to a post-office or shop, to be called for, we would take it up, watch the place, and arrest whoever comes for the letter. At present there is nothing to go upon, and I don’t see that we can do anything in the matter. If you think it worth while you might put it into private hands, but it would cost you a good deal of money, and I don’t see that anyone could help you much.’

‘I do not care what it costs,’ Mr. Hawtrey said hotly. ‘Can you recommend any of these private detectives?’

The inspector shook his head.

‘There are some trustworthy men among them, sir, and some thorough rogues, but we make a point of never recommending anyone. No doubt your own solicitor would be able to tell you of some good man to go to.’

Mr. Hawtrey hailed a cab when he went out and told the man to drive to Essex Street. Just as he turned down from the Strand he saw Danvers turn out from the approach to the Middle Temple. He stopped the cab and jumped out.

‘I was just going to my lawyer,’ he said, ‘but I dare say, Danvers, you can save me the loss of time. It generally means at least half an hour’s waiting before he is disengaged. Can you tell me of a shrewd fellow who can be trusted to undertake a difficult piece of business?’

‘That is rather vague, Mr. Hawtrey,’ Danvers laughed. ‘I might reply that such a man stands before you.’

‘No, I mean a sort of detective business.’

‘There are plenty of shrewd fellows who call themselves private detectives, Mr. Hawtrey. A good many of them are too shrewd altogether. Of course, I have been in contact with several of them, and the majority are rogues of the first water. Still, there are honest men among them. If I knew a little more what sort of work you wanted done I should be better able to tell what kind of man you require for it.’

‘It is a deucedly unpleasant business, Danvers, but I will gladly tell you what it is, for I want the advice of some one like yourself, accustomed to deal with difficult cases. Can you spare ten minutes?’

‘With pleasure. I have no case on to-day. Will you come to my chambers? It is not half a minute’s walk, and they are on the ground floor.’

‘What do you think of it, Danvers?’ Mr. Hawtrey asked, after he had shown the envelope and related briefly his interview with his daughter.

‘I don’t know what to think of it,’ Danvers said after a pause. ‘Knowing Miss Hawtrey as I have the pleasure of doing, I, of course, entertain no doubt whatever of the truth of her denial, and believe she is as completely in the dark as yourself as to what this thing means. I must own that it is not often that I should take a young lady’s word so implicitly in such a matter. I have seen and still more heard from solicitors of so many astounding cases of the troubles girls have got into, sometimes from thoughtlessness only, sometimes, I am bound to confess, from what seems to me to be an entire absence of moral perception, that scarcely anything in that way would surprise me.

‘That Miss Hawtrey would do anything absolutely wrong is to me out of the question; though she might, from thoughtlessness, when a girl, as you put it to her, have got into some silly entanglement, for such things happen continually; but after the line you took up with her I can but dismiss this from my mind as altogether out of the question, and we must look at the matter entirely from the point of view that it is either an attempt to extort money, or is simply the outcome of sheer malice, an attempt to give pain, and to cause extreme annoyance. Miss Hawtrey is, you say, wholly unaware of having at any time given such offence to anyone as to convert him or her into an enemy. Of course, there are people who are just as bitter over an imaginary injury as over a real one, but I am more inclined to think that this letter is the result of malice than an attempt to extort money.’

‘I do not see how money could be extorted by such a letter as this, when there is no foundation for the threat.’

‘Quite so, Mr. Hawtrey. No one who wanted to blackmail a young lady would proceed in so clumsy a manner as this. He would write to her, to begin with, a letter full of vague hints and threats, in the hope that although he himself was ignorant of any occurrence in her life that would give him a hold upon her, her own conscience might bring to her remembrance some act of past folly or thoughtlessness which, with an engagement just made, she would certainly shrink from having raked up. For instance, she might have had some foolish flirtation, some sentimental correspondence, or stolen meeting—things foolish but in no way criminal—that at such a moment she would not wish to be brought to the ears of the man to whom she was engaged. A cleverly but vaguely worded letter might then cause her to believe that this affair was known to the writer, and she would endeavour to hush it up by paying any sum in her power.

‘Having written two or three letters of this kind without success, her persecutor might then send an envelope like this to show her that he was thoroughly resolved to carry out his threats unless she agreed to his terms. But as a first move it can mean nothing; and the person to whom it is addressed, knowing that it has already been seen by the postman, the servants, and perhaps by others, would in any case be driven to hand it over to her friends. Miss Hawtrey has received no preliminary letters, therefore it is clear to me that this is not an attempt to extort money. We have nothing, therefore, to fall back upon but the idea of sheer malice, and I have known so many cases of wanton and ingenious mischief-making, arising from such paltry and insufficient causes, that I can be surprised at nothing.’

‘Still, I don’t see how anyone could do such an infamous and cruel thing as this, Danvers, without some real cause for malice. My daughter is altogether unconscious of having an enemy, there is nothing for us to go upon, and I do not see how the business of discovery is to be commenced.’

‘At present, certainly, we seem to have no clue to help us. The letter was posted, you see, in London, but that is of no use whatever; were it from a small country town or rural district the matter would be comparatively easy, but London is hopeless. I have no doubt some more letters of this kind will come, and I should say that although the post-marks may afford you no information, the postal authorities might be able to help you. I do not know whether the stamps at all the district post offices are identical, but it is possible that there may be some private mark on them, some little peculiarity, by which the post-office people would be able to tell you the office at which it was posted.

‘But even this would help us but little, as the letters are collected and sent to the central district office, and are there, I believe, stamped. At any rate, I see no use in your employing a man now, Mr. Hawtrey. If you get a clue, even the smallest, I have a fellow in my mind’s eye who would, I think, suit you. He was at one time a clerk with Buller and Sons. They gave up the criminal part of their business when the eldest son, who had charge of that branch, died, and this man, Slippen, was no longer wanted. He then set up on his own account, as a sort of private detective. He has been employed in two or three delicate cases in which I have held briefs, and is certainly a very shrewd fellow.’

‘It would be a relief to me to be doing something,’ Mr. Hawtrey said. ‘I think I should like to see the man.’

Danvers was silent for a minute.

‘I think, Mr. Hawtrey,’ he said at last, ‘it would be better if you were to entrust the matter to me. I will see him, and without mentioning names state the facts, and say that he may be asked to undertake the case later on. The fewer people know of the affair the better. Whispers will get about, and whispers would be more unpleasant than if the whole story were told openly in court. If you like I will send my clerk over to his place at once and make an appointment for him to come round here this afternoon. If you are going to be at home this evening I will look in and tell you what his opinion of the matter is, and whether he has any suggestions to offer. If that will not suit you I will meet you to-morrow at any time you may appoint.’

‘This evening will do very well, Danvers. Dorothy is going with her cousin and a party to the theatre, so if you will come round any time after eight o’clock you will find me alone, and we can have our chat over a glass of port and a cigar.’

* * *

‘Well, have you seen your man?’ he asked, as Danvers came into his study that evening. ‘But do not answer until you have made yourself comfortable, and poured yourself out a glass of port; do not light your cigar for a few minutes, the wine is too good to be spoilt.’

‘Yes, I have seen him,’ Danvers replied, as he followed his instructions deliberately.

‘And what does he say?’

‘Well, you see, Mr. Hawtrey, he has not the advantage we have of knowing the lady. He naturally has seen a good deal of the seamy side of life, and upon my stating the case to him, he said, without a moment’s hesitation, “Of course the thing is as plain as a pikestaff, Mr. Danvers. The man has got hold of some secret, or is holding some compromising letters, and has tried to get her to come to terms. She hangs back and he shows his teeth, and writes her this open message, which, if it had not happened to fall into her father’s hands, would no doubt have brought her to her knees at once.”

‘My assurance that it was absolutely certain that the lady in question was in entire ignorance of the whole affair, and was as much in the dark as we were as to the author of the letter, was received by him with incredulity. “I have been concerned in cases like this, or at least a good deal like it, a dozen—or, I might say, a score—of times. In every case the lady maintained stoutly that she knew nothing about it, that she had never written a letter to any man whatever, and had received none previous to the one that happened to fall into the wrong hands. In three or four instances I was deceived myself, but there is no telling with women. When a man tells a lie, he either hesitates or stumbles, or he says it off as if it were a lesson he had got by heart, or else he is sulky over it, and you have to get it out of him bit by bit, just as if, though he had made up his mind to lie, he did not wish to tell more lies than necessary. With a woman it is altogether different. When she makes up her mind to tell a lie, she does it thoroughly. Sometimes she is indignant, sometimes she is plaintive; but, anyhow, she is so natural that she would deceive Old Nick himself. Most of them are born actresses, sir, and when they take up a part they do it with the determination of carrying it through thoroughly.” Of course, I told him that, whatever it might be generally, this case was altogether an exception; that it was a moral and absolute certainty that the lady had nothing to do with it, and that the investigation, when it was once undertaken, would have to proceed, say, on the line that the author of these communications was a man or a woman having a personal enmity against a lady, and instigated by a desire to annoy and pain her.

‘”Well, sir,” he said, “of course, if you employ me in this matter it will be my business to carry it out according to instructions; but I am afraid that it is not likely anything will come of my search.”

‘”But,” I said, “there is nothing impossible or improbable in the fact that someone should have a grudge against her; she has just become engaged to be married.”

‘”That alters the case altogether,” he said quickly; “there may be some other woman who wants to marry the man, or there may be some one who may consider that she will be left in the lurch if this marriage comes off; and either of these might endeavour to make a scandal, or to get up a quarrel that might cause the engagement to be broken off. If you had mentioned about the engagement before, that is the first idea that would have occurred to me. There are very few things a jealous woman will stick at. The case looks more hopeful now, and when I come to know the man’s name, I ought very soon to be able to put my finger on the writer of the letter, if it is a woman. At any rate, if there is no other clue, that is the one I should take up first.”

‘That brought our interview to an end. I paid him a couple of guineas for his advice, and he fully understood that he might, or might not, be called in on some future occasion.’

‘It is a confounded nuisance,’ Mr. Hawtrey said thoughtfully; ‘is the fellow really trustworthy, Danvers?’

‘He can be trusted to keep the matter to himself,’ the barrister said; ‘these men are engaged constantly in delicate business, such as getting up divorce suits, and it would ruin their business altogether were they to allow a word to escape them as to the matter in hand. At any rate, I know enough about Slippen to be able to answer for his discretion. However, I hope that there will be no occasion to move in the matter at all. Of course you will not do so unless there is a repetition of the annoyance?’

‘I have little hope there will not be, Danvers,’ Mr. Hawtrey groaned; ‘whoever wrote that letter is certain to follow it up. Whatever effect it was intended to produce he could hardly count on its being effected by a single attack.’

‘I own that I am afraid so, too,’ Danvers agreed. ‘You will, I hope, let me know if it is so.’

‘That you may be sure. I am afraid that now you have taken the trouble to aid me in the matter, you will have to go through with it altogether. This is utterly out of my line; anything connected with poaching or stealing fruit, or drunken assaults, my experience as a county magistrate enables me to treat with something like confidence, but here I am altogether at sea and your experience as a barrister is of the greatest benefit to me. What time do you get to your chambers in the morning?’

‘I am almost always there by half-past nine, and between that hour and half past ten you are almost certain to find me; but if you come later my clerk will be able to find me in the courts, and unless I am engaged in a case being tried I can always come out to you.’

‘I have been wanting to see you, father,’ Miss Hawtrey said, as soon as the latter returned home, ‘I expect Lord Halliburn will be here soon after lunch, and cousin Mary and I are going with him to the Botanical. Had I better tell him about this or not?’

‘That is a difficult question to answer, Dorothy, and I should be sorry to offer any advice about it. You know Lord Halliburn a good deal better than I do, and can best judge how he will take a matter like this; he must certainly be told sooner or later, for even if there is no repetition of this before your marriage there may be afterwards. Many men would laugh at the whole thing, and never give it a moment’s thought, while others, although they would not doubt the assertion of the woman they were engaged to, would still fret and worry over it amazingly.’

‘I am sure he would not doubt me for a moment, father, but I should think that he really might worry over it.’

‘That is rather my opinion too, Dorothy; still, it is clear that he must be told either by you or me. However, there is no occasion to tell him to-day. A flower show is not the place you would choose for the purpose, even if you had not Mary Daintree with you. We shall see if another letter comes or not; if it does he must be told at once.’

Dorothy looked a little relieved at the necessity for telling Lord Halliburn being postponed for the day.

‘It is of no use worrying over it, my dear,’ her father said kindly. ‘It is an annoyance, there is no denying, but it is nothing to fret over, and as the insinuations are a pack of lies the cloud will blow away before long.’

The next morning, as soon as breakfast was over, Mr. Hawtrey drove to the central post office, where the postal authorities had promised the day before that they would retain any communications of the kind he described. He had been introduced to the official in charge of the department where complaints of stolen letters were investigated and followed up.

‘I have an envelope for you, Mr. Hawtrey,’ that gentleman said, when he entered, ‘and have been more fortunate than I expected, for I can tell you where it was posted; it was dropped into the letter-box at No. 35 Claymore Street, Chelsea. It is a grocer’s shop. In tying up the bundles the man’s eye fell on this; it struck him at once as being an attempt to annoy or extort money, and he had the good sense to put it into an envelope and send it on here with a line of explanation, so as to leave us the option of detaining it if we thought fit.’

‘I am very pleased to hear it,’ Mr. Hawtrey said. ‘It is a great thing to know there is at least one point from which we can make a start.’

‘It is not much, but it may assist you. You must remember, however, that it is scarcely likely that the next letter will be posted at the same office; fellows of this kind are generally pretty cautious, and the next letter may come from another part of London altogether. I have sent a note to the man at this post office, telling him that he did right in stopping the letter, and that he is to similarly detain any others of the same kind that may be posted there. I will send them on to you. The men on your round have been already ordered not to deliver any letters of the kind, but to send them back here. I sincerely hope, Mr. Hawtrey, that you may succeed in getting hold of the fellow, but if you do I am afraid it will not be through our department; the chances against detecting a man posting a thing of this kind are almost infinite.’

It was just half past ten when Mr. Hawtrey reached Danvers’ chambers. He found that the occupier had not yet gone to the Court.

‘There is another of them,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, throwing the letter down before him. ‘I got it at the central office.’ It was in the same handwriting as that on the previous day: ‘Unless you agree to my terms your letters will be sent to Lord H——.’ ‘The post-office people have discovered that this letter was posted at a receiving office at Claymore Street, Chelsea.’

‘That would be valuable, Mr. Hawtrey, if there were any probability of the next being posted at the same place. I could make an arrangement to have a boy placed inside by the box so that he could see each letter as it fell in. Then he would only have to run out and follow whoever had posted it. I should probably require some special order from the Postmaster-General for this, but I dare say I could get that. At any rate, we can wait a day or two. If the next letter is posted there we will try that plan; if it is posted elsewhere it will, of course, be useless.’

Mr. Hawtrey next drove to Lord Halliburn’s, in Park Lane.

‘I have come on very unpleasant business, Halliburn,’ he said. ‘Dorothy would have told you herself about it yesterday, but I thought it better to let it stand over for a day, especially as she would not have an opportunity of discussing it with you,’ and he then laid the two letters before him, and told him the steps he had taken and the conjectures that he and Danvers had formed on the subject of the sender.

Lord Halliburn was a young man of about nine-and-twenty. He somewhat prided himself on his self-possession, and, although generally liked, was regarded, as Danvers had told his friend, as somewhat of a prig. His face expressed some annoyance as he heard the story.

‘It is certainly unpleasant,’ he said. ‘I am, of course, perfectly sure that Dorothy is in no way to blame in the matter. This can be only a malicious attempt to annoy her. Still, I admit it is annoying. Things of this sort are sure to get about somehow. I am certain that everyone who knows Dorothy will see the matter in the same light as we do, but those who do not will conclude that there is something in it. Probably enough ere long there will be a mysterious paragraph in one of those society papers. Altogether it is certainly extremely annoying. The great thing is to find out who sent them. I quite agree with you it cannot be an attempt to extort money; had it been so, the demands would have been sent under seal and not in this manner. I suppose you have no idea of anyone having any special enmity against either you or her?’

‘Not the slightest. The man who, as I told you, Danvers consulted without mentioning any names, was of opinion that it might be the work of some woman, and was intended to cause unpleasantness between you and Dorothy. Of course, in that case you might be more able to form an idea as to the writer than I can be.’

‘No, indeed, there is no woman in my case,’ Lord Halliburn said. ‘I have always been perfectly free from entanglements of that kind; nor have I ever had anything like a serious flirtation before I met Miss Hawtrey; indeed, as you know, I have been travelling abroad almost constantly since I left college. I can assure you, on my honour, that I cannot think of anyone who could have a motive, however slight, for making mischief between us. Of course, it would be out of the question that mischief could be made out of such things as these; they are too contemptible for notice, beyond the fact that they are naturally annoying. I shall see Dorothy this afternoon, and shall tell her not to give the matter a thought, but at the same time I shall be extremely glad if you can put your hand on the sender of these things.’

Chapter IV • 7,000 Words

Mr. Hawtrey’s hope that a clue had been obtained was speedily dissipated, for the next letter was posted in the south of London, and the one after it at Brompton. It was clear that the man who sent them did not confine himself to one particular office, and that it would be useless to set a watch on that in Claymore Street, Chelsea. Edward Hampton coming in that afternoon, he relieved his mind by telling what had happened.

‘It is a comfort to talk it over with some one, Ned. You were a police-officer for some time out in India, I think, and may be able to see your way through this business. Danvers has been very kind about it, but so far nothing has come of his suggestions.’

‘My Indian police experience is not much to the point. I had a police district for a year, but my duties consisted principally in hunting down criminals. Have you told Lord Halliburn?’

‘Yes; as soon as the second letter came I went to him; it was only right that he should know.’

‘Certainly. How did he take it, Mr. Hawtrey? if I may ask.’

‘He was naturally annoyed at it; though, of course, he agreed with me that it was simply a piece of malice. A detective, to whom Danvers had spoken, without mentioning any name, suggested that it might be the work of some woman who had a grudge against him, or felt herself aggrieved at his engagement. I mentioned this to him, and he assured me that, so far as he knew, there was no one who had any complaint against him, and that he had never had any entanglement of any kind.’

‘It is a horribly annoying thing, Mr. Hawtrey, and I am sure Miss Hawtrey must feel it very much. I thought she was not looking quite herself when I met her at dinner the night before last. Still, there must be some way of getting to the bottom of it. If it is not the work of an enemy, either of Lord Halliburn or of your daughter, it may be the work of one who has an enmity against yourself—one who is striking at you through yours.’

‘That is just possible, Ned; but beyond men I have sentenced on the bench I don’t know of anyone who would put himself out of his way to annoy me. Assuredly this cannot be the work of any Lincolnshire rustic.’

‘But you have certainly one enemy who is just the sort of man to conceive and carry out such a blackguard business as this—I mean that man who was impertinent to you on the racecourse, and whose history you told us that evening.’

‘I had not thought of him. Yes, that suggestion is certainly a probable one. He is evidently deeply impressed with the sense of injury, though, Heaven knows, I did not have the slightest ill-feeling against him, but was driven to do what I did by his own courses, and especially by his father’s earnest request that he should not succeed him. There is no doubt as to his malice, and there can be as little as to his unscrupulousness.’

‘Danvers and I were both of opinion, Mr. Hawtrey, that by his tone and manner when he spoke to you about payment of debts, that he had already done you some injury or had some distinct plan in his head. At that time your daughter was not engaged to Lord Halliburn, and his ideas may have been vague ones until the public notice of the engagement met his eye, when he may have said to himself, “This is my opportunity for taking my revenge, by annoying both father and daughter.”‘

‘It is possible, Ned. I can hardly bring myself to think that the son of my old friend would be capable of such a dastardly action, but I admit that there is at least a motive in his case, and that I can see none in that of anyone else.’

‘At any rate, Mr. Hawtrey, here is a clue worth following, and as I have nothing whatever to do, and my own time hangs rather heavily on my hands, I will, if you will allow me, undertake to follow it up.’

‘But with no evidence against him, not a particle, what can you do, Ned?’

‘My business will be to get evidence. The first thing is to find out where the fellow lives, and to have him watched and followed, and if possible, caught in the act of posting one of these letters.’

‘Remember, Ned, I would above all things avoid publicity, for Dorothy’s sake. Nothing is more hateful than for a girl to be talked about, and it is only as a last resource that I would bring a charge against him at the Police Court.’

‘I can quite understand that, and will certainly call in no police to my aid until I have previously consulted you and received your sanction to do so. It will be easy enough to find him, for I should know him in an instant, and shall probably meet him at the first racecourse I go to. It is not as if I knew nothing of his habits.’

For the next week Captain Hampton frequented every racecourse within a short distance of London, but without meeting the man he was looking for. Men of the same class were there in scores—some boisterous, some oily-mouthed, some unmitigated ruffians, others crafty rogues.

Several times he accosted one of these men, and inquired if he had seen a betting man having the name of Marvel on his hat; each time the response was the same.

‘I have not seen him here to-day. I know who you mean well enough, but he is not here. I can lay you the odds if you like. You would be safe with me.’

Further inquiry elicited the conjecture that ‘he might have gone up North, or to some other distant races.’

‘There are two meetings pretty well every day,’ one said, ‘sometimes three, and a man cannot be at them all. What do you want him for? If it is to get money out of him, you won’t find the job a very easy one, unless he has happened to strike on a vein of luck. You had much better take the odds from me.’

Captain Hampton explained that his business was a private one, and altogether unconnected with betting.

‘Well, if you will give me your name I will let him know that you want to see him, if I happen to run up against him. I should say that he will be at Reading next week.’

But Captain Hampton said his name would be unknown to Marvel, and the bookmaker, after looking him over suspiciously, concluded that it was of no use wasting further time, and turning away set up a stentorian shout of ‘Six to one, bar one.’

Captain Hampton tried Reading, but was as unsuccessful here as in his previous attempts.

‘Want Marvel?’ one man he asked repeated. ‘Well, I have not seen him here, and I haven’t seen him for the last ten days; so I expect he has either gone down on a country tour, or he is ill, or he is so short of the dibs that he can’t pay his fare down. He would be here if he could; for he would manage to make enough money to pay his expenses, anyhow. It is hard when a man cannot do that.’

Captain Hampton was not to be baffled, and after examining a sporting paper took a ticket early next morning for the North. He was away a week, and returned home disheartened. He had not seen the man nor did any of those he had questioned know the name of Marvel. ‘It is like enough I may know the man,’ one said confidentially, ‘but I don’t know the name; names don’t go for much in the outside ring. A man is Marvel one day, and if when the racing is over he cannot pay his bets and has to go off quiet, he alters the cut of his hair next time and puts a fresh name on his hat, and is ready to take his davy, if questioned, that he was not near the course, and never heard the name of Marvel; and as he is sure to have some one with him to back him up and swear that he was with him at the other side of England on that day, the chap as wants his money concludes that he may as well drop it.’

The day after his return Ned Hampton went to Epsom and there recognised with a start of satisfaction the man of whom he was in search. He had no name in his hat, and was talking to two or three men of his own class, one of whom he recognised as the man who had offered to tell Marvel that he wished to see him. He moved up in the crowd, and placed himself close to the men, but with his back towards them. Marvel was speaking.

‘But what sort of fellow was he?’

‘A military-looking swell.’

‘And he said I should not know his name? I should know it sharp enough if it was down in my book without a pencil mark through the bet. There are people, you know, who, quite accidentally of course, I haven’t settled up with.’

There was a laugh among the group. ‘A good many I should fancy, Jacob, but I don’t think this chap could have been one of them. A man who has been left in the lurch generally takes it out in strong language. If this chap had wanted you for a tenner and you had not forked over, he would probably have spoken of you as a swindling scoundrel and said that if he met you he would take it out of you in another way if he could not get the money. Now he didn’t seem put out at all; he wanted to see you about something or other, but I don’t think it was anything to do with money. I can always tell when there is anything wrong about that. A man may put it as mild as he likes, but there is something in it that says he is nasty.’

‘Well, I don’t want to see him whoever he is,’ Marvel said, ‘so if he comes across any of you again tell him you hear I’ve retired, or that I have drowned myself, or anything else you like, but that anyhow I ain’t likely to be on any of the courses again this season. And mind, you don’t know anything about where I live or where he is likely to get any news of me.’

‘But where have you been the last fortnight, Jacob?’

‘I have been on another job altogether, and if it turns out well you ain’t likely to see much more of me here. I have had about enough of it.’

As he found that he was not likely to hear more, Hampton moved away in the crowd, but continued to keep Marvel in sight. In two or three minutes the man separated from his companions, moved off the course, and stood for a minute or two with his hands in his pockets, meditating. Then his mind was made up. He pushed his way through the crowd, crossed the course, and walked quickly towards one of the entrances. Captain Hampton followed him closely, and was by no means surprised to see him walk to the station.

‘He is evidently nervous about what they have told him,’ he said to himself, ‘and although he cannot tell what my business with him may be, he is determined to avoid me. All the better; I should have had great difficulty in keeping my eye on him in the crowd later on, and now I won’t lose sight of him again.’

Entering the station, the man waited until a train came up and then took his place in a third class carriage. Hampton entered the next compartment, but, to his great annoyance, found on arriving at Waterloo that Marvel was not in the carriage.

‘Confound it,’ he muttered angrily, ‘he must have slipped out at one of the other stations without my noticing him. It must have been at Vauxhall, just as those four men were pushing past me to get out. I am a nice sort of fellow to take up the amateur detective business. To hunt for a man for nearly three weeks and then when I have found him to lose him again like this. I will go across and see Danvers. Of course he will have the laugh against me. Well, I can’t help that; I will take his advice about it. I am evidently not fit to manage by myself.’

Danvers had just returned from the Courts when Captain Hampton reached the chambers.

‘Hullo, Hampton, where do you spring from? Everyone has missed you from your accustomed haunts. Some said you had eloped with an heiress; others that you are wanted for forgery. I met the Hawtreys last night at dinner. They both asked me after you. The young lady quite seemed to take your disappearance to heart. The more so, I think, because she had sent down a servant with a note to your lodgings, and the girl had learnt from your landlady that you had been away for a week. Of course, I could not enlighten her. Her father took me apart and asked me quite seriously about you. He seemed to think that you had been trying to ferret out something about this confounded letter business. He told me he had talked it over with you, regarding you as almost one of the family.’

‘That is just what I have been about, Danvers, and I have made an amazing ass of myself.’

‘You don’t mean to say that!’ Danvers exclaimed in affected surprise. ‘Well, I know you used to do it at school sometimes, but I hoped that you had got out of the habit.’

‘Bosh!’ Hampton laughed. ‘But I own I have done it this time. You remember that fellow on the racecourse?’

‘You mean at the Oaks. Of course I remember him.’

‘Well, it struck me that he might be the man who had sent the letters. He had, as Hawtrey told us in the evening, a bitter grudge against him, and such a dirty trick as this was just the sort of thing that a disreputable broken-down knave like him might concoct to gratify his malice.’

‘You are right there; I wonder the idea did not occur to me. Well, I retract what I said just now; so far you have told me nothing to justify the epithet you bestowed on yourself.’

‘My first idea,’ Hampton went on, without noticing the interruption, ‘was that as I had nothing particular to do I would go down to some of the races near town where I felt certain I should find him, follow the fellow back, and track him to his home. Then I had intended to come to you and ask your advice as to the next step to be taken.’

‘There you showed your sagacity again, Hampton. Well, what came of it?’

‘I went for a fortnight to every racecourse near town and asked after Marvel from bookmakers of his stamp. They all seemed rather surprised at his absence, and suggested that perhaps having failed to pay up here he had gone to one of the country meetings up in the North. I was up in Yorkshire for a week but with no better result. I came up last night and went to Epsom this morning and there spotted my man.’ He then related the conversation he had overheard and the manner in which he had allowed the man to slip through his fingers. Danvers could not help laughing, though he, too, was vexed.

‘I can quite understand your missing him at Vauxhall, Hampton. Of course it is easy to be wise after the event. It would not have done for you to have got in the same compartment with him at Epsom. You don’t look like a third-class passenger, and the idea that you were the military swell who had been enquiring after him would probably have occurred to him; but if you had got out at a station or two further on, and then taken your place in his carriage, that idea would hardly have entered his mind.’

‘Well, the result is I have thrown away three weeks of my leave in taking a lot of trouble and we are no nearer than we were before.’

‘Not much, except that we have learnt that the man is engaged on a different matter, in which he intends to make money, and also that there is but little probability of his being met with again for some time on a racecourse. Of course, this business may be altogether unconnected with that of the Hawtreys, but on the other hand it may be. I am afraid there is little clue left for us to follow up. Getting out at Vauxhall might mean that he lived in that neighbourhood, or at Camberwell, or Peckham, or Kennington, or anywhere about there; or he might have crossed the river, and there is all the region between Chelsea and Westminster to choose from. If we knew that he went under the name of Marvel something might be done, but it is a hundred to one against that being the name he goes by in his domestic circle. If you have come to me for advice I can give you none; I can see nothing whatever to do but to wait for new developments. Have you seen the “Liar” this week?’

‘No; I never look at it.’

‘Well, you see there is a nasty paragraph there that unmistakably alludes to the affair. I have no doubt it is Halliburn’s doing; he got so annoyed at these letters keeping on coming—and indeed it seems that some have been sent to him with ‘Look before you leap,’ ‘Be sure that all is right before it is too late,’ and things of that sort—that he went off to Scotland Yard, kicked up a row there, showed the envelopes he had received to the authorities, and gave them the whole history about the others. Of course, they promised that they would do what they could, and equally of course they will be able to do nothing. Well, I suppose some understrapper there got to hear of it, and probably sold the thing to one of the men who gather up garbage for the “Liar.” I have got the paper. There, that is the paragraph: “There is a possibility that a marriage that has been arranged in high life may not come off after all. The noble lord who was to figure as bridegroom has received the unpleasant information that the young lady has been pestered with demands for money in exchange for compromising letters, and has himself received missives calculated to make one in his position extremely uncomfortable. Further developments may be looked for.”‘

‘It is scandalous,’ Captain Hampton exclaimed passionately, ‘that a blackguard rag like this is allowed to exist!’

‘Quite so, Hampton; I agree with you most heartily. Still, there it is, and others like it, and we have got to put up with it. If it had not been for that fool, Halliburn, taking things into his hands this notice would never have got in. One of Hawtrey’s servants came round in a cab to fetch me this morning. I found him foaming with rage, talking about horsewhipping and all sorts of things. It is curious how that sort of thing still lingers in the minds of country squires. I told him, of course, that would make it ten times worse. Then he talked of an action, and I said, “Now, my dear Mr. Hawtrey, you are getting altogether beyond my province. As a friend I am very glad to give you my advice as long as it is merely a question of endeavouring to find out the authors of these libels. Now it has assumed an altogether different phase, and you must go to your lawyer for advice. I am sure that he will tell you that you can do nothing, especially as in point of fact the statements are perfectly true. Still, there is no saying how far the thing will go, and whether it may not be necessary eventually to take legal steps; therefore it is only fair to your solicitor that you should put him in possession of the whole circumstances as far as they have gone.”

‘”Very well,” he said, “I will go down at once to Harper and Hawes, and take their advice about it.”‘

‘There is one comfort,’ Captain Hampton said; ‘there are not many people who will understand to whom this paragraph relates. I suppose there have been a dozen lords of one sort and another who have become engaged during the season, so that, except for us who are behind the scenes, there is nothing to point distinctly to the identity of the parties.’

‘You need not count on that,’ Danvers said shortly. ‘This paragraph is merely intended to whet the curiosity of the public. You will see that next week there will be another, saying that they are now able to state, beyond fear of contradiction, that the nobleman and young lady who have been persecuted by anonymous letters are Lord Halliburn and Miss Hawtrey.’

‘This sort of thing makes one regret that duelling has gone out of fashion,’ Captain Hampton said savagely. ‘There is nothing would give me greater pleasure than to parade the editor of that blackguard paper at six o’clock to-morrow morning on Wimbledon Common!’

‘It would no doubt be a pleasure to you, my dear Hampton,’ Danvers said tranquilly, ‘and the result might be a matter of unmingled satisfaction to all decent people; but, you see, it cannot be done. If it could have been he would have been shot years ago, noxious beast that he is. It being impossible, let us change the subject. What are you going to do this evening?’

‘I am going to have dinner first.’

‘It is only six o’clock, my dear fellow.’

‘All the better. I want to get it over, so as to go round and catch the Hawtreys before they go out—that is to say, if they are going to a ball or anything of that sort, and not to a dinner; Mr. Hawtrey knows I have been doing what I could to find out this betting fellow, but has not mentioned it to his daughter, for the same reason, probably, that I have taken pains to avoid meeting them since I began the search. At any rate, I should not like her to think that I have been away for this three weeks on my own pleasure, in perfect indifference to the unpleasant position in which she is placed, so I shall go to report progress—or, rather, want of progress—and to assure them that I will continue the search until I have run this fellow to earth.’

Danvers looked at his friend through his half-closed eyes with a gleam of quiet amusement.

‘The Indian sun does not seem to have cooled the enthusiasm of your youth, Hampton. You used to throw yourself then like a young demon into the middle of a football scrimmage, and rowed stroke in that four of yours till you rowed your crew to a standstill, and then tugged away all to yourself, till they got their wind again. To us, jaded men——’

‘Shut up, man!’ Hampton said hotly, ‘this is no joking matter. Here is the honour and happiness of a girl who, when she was a little child, was very dear to me’—Danvers’ eyes twinkled momentarily—’and I should be a brute if I did not do everything I could to put the matter straight; and I am quite sure,’ he went on more quietly, ‘that although, of course, they are not such friends of yours as they are of mine, you would spare no trouble yourself if you only saw any way in which you could be of real assistance.’

‘Perhaps so, old man, perhaps so; but I should not get into fever heat about it. You see, the matter at present principally concerns Halliburn. It is his business and privilege to stand first in the line of defence of the character of the young lady to whom he is engaged.’

‘And a nice mess he has made of his first move,’ Captain Hampton agreed, pointing to the copy of the ‘Liar.’ ‘Well, I won’t wait any longer; they dine at seven o’clock when they are alone, and I will go round at eight on the chance of finding them in.’

Danvers sat looking at the empty grate for some minutes after he had left. ‘It is about even betting, I should say,’ he muttered to himself, ‘and I think, if anything, the odds are slightly on Hampton, though he has not the slightest idea at present that he has entered for the race. The other one has got the start, but Hampton always had no end of last, and he will take every fence well, and it seems to me there are likely to be some awkward ones. Besides, I am not half sure that the other fellow will run straight when the pinch comes.’

When Captain Hampton presented himself at the house in Chester Square, he found, to his satisfaction, that Mr. Hawtrey and his daughter were at home.

‘They have just finished dinner, sir,’ the servant said; ‘dessert is on the table.’

‘Then I will go in,’ Captain Hampton said, and, opening the dining-room door, walked in.

‘I am presuming on my old footing to enter unceremoniously, Mr. Hawtrey,’ he said.

‘I am glad to see you. You are heartily welcome, Ned. This reminds one of old times indeed.’

Dorothy’s welcome was sensibly cooler, while Mrs. Daintree, who had from the first set herself strongly against his intimacy at the house, was absolutely frigid.

Ned saw that Dorothy’s colour had perceptibly paled since he last saw her, and that she looked harassed and anxious.

‘It is three weeks since I saw you,’ he said.

‘Is it?’ she asked with an air of indifference. He laughed outright.

‘That was really very well done, Dorothy, and I quite understand what it means. You think I have been neglecting you altogether, and amusing myself while you were in trouble; and were that the case I should deserve all the snubbing, and more, that you could give me. I believe that your father has not told you what I have been doing, and I do not wish to enter into details now,’ and he glanced towards Mrs. Daintree, ‘but I feel that I must, in justice to myself, assure you that the whole of my time has been occupied in the matter, and that although I have no success to boast of, I have, at least, tried my very best to deserve it.’

‘That is good of you, Ned,’ the girl said brightly. ‘I have been feeling a little hurt at your desertion, and thought it did not seem like you to leave me in trouble. I always used to rely upon you when I got into a scrape. I don’t want to know what you have been doing, though father can tell me if he likes, but I am quite content to take your word for it. Now I must go; it is time for us to dress. I wish I could stay at home and have a quiet evening, but you see I am no longer quite my own mistress.’

‘Well, Hampton, what have you been doing, and why have you not been to see me before? I heard you were in town—at least, I heard so ten days ago.’

‘I should have come, sir, before, had I had anything to tell you. I have nothing much now, and in fact have to-day bungled matters considerably; still, I shall start on a fresh search to-morrow, and hope to be luckier than I have been so far.’ He then gave a detailed account of his visits to racecourses, of his meeting with Truscott that morning, of the conversation he had overheard, and of the manner in which the man had eluded him.

‘Well, Ned, you certainly have deserved success, and I am indeed obliged to you for the immense trouble you have taken over the matter. It is too bad your spending your time over this annoying affair, when you are only home on a year’s leave. What you have learned is, of course, no direct proof that Truscott has a hand in this affair; at the same time, what he said confirms to some extent your suspicions of him. Would it not be as well to put the search for him into the hands of a detective, now that there is some one definite to search for? One of these men might be useful, and I really would vastly rather employ one than know that you are spending day after day searching for him yourself. These men are accustomed to the work; they know exactly the persons to whom to apply; they have agents under them, who know infinitely better the sort of place where such a fellow would be likely to take up his quarters than you can do.’

‘No doubt that is so,’ Captain Hampton admitted reluctantly. ‘I should have liked to have run him down myself, now that I have hunted him so long. Still, that is a matter of no importance, the great thing is to lose no time. I will get Danvers to give me a note to the man he spoke to first.’

‘On my behalf, remember, Ned; he must be engaged on my behalf.’

‘Very well, sir, if you wish it so; but I would rather that you and I arrange with him direct, and that it is not done by your solicitors. Danvers told me that you were going to them this morning about that infamous paragraph in the “Liar.”‘

‘Certainly they shall have nothing to do with it,’ Mr. Hawtrey said hotly; ‘I was a fool to go to them at all; I might as well have gone to two old women. They have been lawyers to our family for I don’t know how many years, and are no doubt excellent men in their capacity of family lawyers, but this matter is altogether out of their line. They looked at each other like two helpless fools when I told them the story, and said at once that they would not undertake to advise me, but that I had better go to Levine, or one of the other men who are always engaged in these what they call delicate cases, that is to say, hideous scandals. However, I have made up my mind to keep clear of them all as far as I can; but, of course, I must be guided to some extent by Halliburn’s opinion, or rather his wishes. As to his opinion, I have no confidence in it one way or the other. I’m glad you did not say anything about what you had been doing before my cousin; she is worrying herself almost into a fever about it, the more so because there is no one to whom she can talk about it. She means well, but were it not that just at present it is absolutely necessary that Dorothy should show herself everywhere with a perfectly unconcerned air, I would make some excuse to send Mrs. Daintree down to the country again; as it is, I must keep her as a chaperon, but she is very trying I assure you, and I believe would come into my study to cry over the affair half-a-dozen times a day, if I would but let her. Now, Ned, you must excuse me, the carriage will be round in a few minutes, and as, with one thing and another, I got back too late to dress for dinner, I have not another minute to spare. Shall I give you a note authorising you to arrange with the detective?’

‘There is no occasion for that; I shall speak in your name, and as he will want to have an interview with you before long, you can then confirm any arrangement I have made as to his remuneration.’

Hampton called in on Danvers in the morning for the address of the detective, Slippen, and a card of introduction. The address was in Clifford’s Inn, and on finding the number Hampton saw the name over a door on the ground floor. A sharp looking boy was sitting on a high stool swinging his legs. He evidently thought that amusement somewhat monotonous and was glad of a change, for he jumped down with alacrity.

‘The governor is in, sir, but he has got a party in with him. I will take your card in. I expect he will be glad to get rid of her, for she has been sobbing and crying in there awful.’

‘I am in no particular hurry,’ Captain Hampton said, amused at the boy’s confidential manner.

‘Divorce, I expect,’ the lad went on, as Captain Hampton took a seat on the only chair in the dark little office. ‘I allus notice that the first time they comes they usually goes on like that. After a time or two they takes it more business-like. They comes in brisk, and says, “Is Mr. Slippen in?” just the same as if they was asking for a cup of tea. When they goes out sometimes they look sour, and I knows then that he,’ and he jerked his thumb towards the inner office, ‘hasn’t any news to tell ‘em; sometimes they goes out looking red in the face and in a regular paddy, and you can see by the way they grips their umbrellas they would like to give it to some one.’

‘You must find it dull sitting here all day. I suppose you haven’t much writing to do?’

‘I doesn’t sit here much. I am mostly about. There ain’t many as comes here of a day, and he can hear the knocker. Those as does come calls mostly in the morning, from ten to eleven. There, she is a-moving.’

The inner door opened, and a stout woman came out looking flushed and angry; the boy slid off his stool and opened the door for her, and then took Captain Hampton’s card in. A moment later Mr. Slippen himself appeared at the door.

‘Will you walk in, Captain Hampton? I am sorry to have kept you waiting. I rather expected,’ he said, as he closed the door behind him, ‘that I should have a call, either from Mr. Danvers or some one from him, when I saw that paragraph in the “Liar.” I made sure it was the case he was speaking to me about, and I said to myself, “They are safe to be doing something now.”‘

‘Yes, it is that case that I come about. I am here on the part of Mr. Hawtrey, the father of the young lady. I am an intimate friend of the family. Mr. Danvers gave you the heads of the matter.’

The detective nodded; he was a rather short, slightly-built man, with hair cut very short and standing up aggressively; his eyes were widely opened, with a sharp, quick movement as they glanced from one point to another, but the general expression of the face was pleasant and good-tempered.

‘He told you my opinion so far as I could form it from the very slight data he gave me?’

‘Yes, you thought at first that the writer of the threats really had possession of compromising letters; but upon hearing that she was engaged you thought it likely that the letters might be the work of some aggrieved or disappointed woman.’

‘That is it, sir.’

‘So far as we can see,’ Captain Hampton went on, ‘neither view was correct; certainly the first was not. We have, as we think, laid our fingers on the writer, who is a man who believes himself to have a personal grievance against Mr. Hawtrey himself.’ He then related the whole story.

‘He may be the man,’ Mr. Slippen said, when he had finished. ‘At any rate there is something to go on, which there was not before. There will be no great difficulty in laying one’s hand on him, but at present we have not a shred of real evidence—nothing that a magistrate would listen to.’

‘We quite see that. Still, it will be something to find him; then we can have him watched, and, if possible, caught in the act of posting the letters.’

‘You will find that difficult—I do not mean the watching him nor seeing him post his letters, but bringing it home to him. I would rather have to deal with anything than with a matter where you have got the Post Office people to get round. Once a letter is in a box it is their property until it is handed over to the person it is directed to. Still, we may get over that, somehow. The first thing, I take it, is to find the man. You say his betting name is Marvel?’

‘That is the name he had on his hat at Epsom on the Oaks day, but he may have a dozen others.’

‘Ah, that is true enough. Still, no doubt he has used it often enough for others to know him by it; and now for his description.

‘Thank you, that will be sufficient. I think I will send a man down to Windsor at once; the races are on again to-day. He will get his address out of one or other of his pals. It will cost a five-pound note at the outside. If you will give me your address, I shall most likely be able to let you have it this evening.’

‘I wish to goodness I had come to you before,’ Captain Hampton said. ‘Here I have been wasting three weeks trying to find the man, and spending fifty or sixty pounds in railway fares, stand tickets and expenses, and you are able to undertake it at once.’

‘It is a very simple matter, Captain Hampton. I have been engaged in two or three turf cases, and one of my men knows a lot of the hangers-on at racecourses. Watches and other valuables are constantly stolen there, and as often enough these things are gifts, and are valued beyond their mere cost in money, their owners come to us to try if we can get them back for them, which we are able to do three times out of four. Whoever may steal the things, they are likely to get into one of four or five hands, and as soon as we let it be known that we are ready to pay a fair price for their return and no questions asked, it is not long before they are brought here. I don’t say I may be able to find out this man’s exact address, but I can find out the public-house or other place where he is generally to be met with. I don’t suppose the actual address of one in ten of these fellows is known to others. They are to be heard of in certain public-houses, but even their closest pals often don’t know where they live. Sometimes, no doubt, it is in some miserable den where they would be ashamed to meet anyone. Sometimes there may be a wife and family in the case, and they don’t want men coming there. Sometimes it may be just another way. Many of these fellows at home are quiet, respectable sort of chaps, living at some little place where none of their neighbours, and perhaps not even their wives, know that they have anything to do with racing, but take them for clerks or warehousemen, or something in the city. So I don’t promise to find out the fellow’s home, only the place where a letter will find him, or where he goes to meet his pals, and perhaps do a little quiet betting in the landlord’s back parlour.’

‘That will be enough for us, to begin with at any rate.’

‘Of course, the private address is only a matter of a day or two longer,’ Mr. Slippen went on. ‘I have only to send that boy of mine up to the place, and the first time the fellow goes there he will follow him, if it is all over London, till he traces him to the place where he lives. If, as he said, he is going to give up attending the races for the present, he may not go there for a day or two. But he is sure to do so sooner or later for letters.’

‘Thank you. It would be as well to know where he lives, but at any rate when we have what we may call his business address we shall have time to talk over our next move.’

‘Yes, that is where the real difficulty will begin, Captain Hampton. I expect you have got to deal with a deep one, and I own that at present I do not see my way at all clear before me.’

Chapter V • 5,600 Words

That evening Mr. Slippen’s boy presented himself at Captain Hampton’s lodgings with a note. It contained only the words ‘Dear sir,—Our man uses the “White Horse,” Frogmore Street, Islington. I await your instructions before moving further in the matter.’

‘Well, youngster, what is your name?’ Captain Hampton asked, as he put the note on the table beside him.

‘Jacob Wrigley,’ the lad replied promptly.

‘Here is half-a-crown for yourself, Jacob.’

‘Thank you, sir,’ the boy said, as he took it up with a duck of the head and slipped it into his pocket.

‘Your office hours seem to be long, Jacob; that is, if you have been there since I saw you this morning.’

‘No, sir, I ain’t a-been there since one o’clock, not till an hour ago. I have been down at Greenwich, keeping my eye on a party there. I got done there at six o’clock, and as the governor had said “Come round and tell me what you have found out, I shall be in up to nine o’clock,” round I went in course. The governor and me don’t have no regular hours. Some chaps wouldn’t like that, but it doesn’t matter to me, ’cause I sleeps there.’

‘Sleep where, Jacob?’

‘In where you see me. The things is stowed away in that cupboard in the corner, and I get on first-rate. It is a good place, especially in winter. I lays the blankits down in front of the fire, and keeps it going all night sometimes.’

‘But haven’t you got any place of your own to go to, Jacob?’

The boy shook his head. ‘I was brought up in a wan, I was,’ the boy said. ‘I hooked it one day, two years ago, ’cause they knocked me about so. I pretty nigh starved at first, but one day I saw a chap prigging an old gent’s ticker. The old one shouted just as he got off; I was on the look-out and as the chap came along I chucked myself down in front of him and down he came. I grabbed him, and afore he could shake me off a lot of chaps got hold of him and held him till a peeler came up. They did not find the watch on him, but I had seen him as he ran pass something to a chap he ran close to and pretty nigh knocked down. I gave my evidence at the police court. The governor happened to be there, and arter it was over and the chaps had got six months, and the beak had said I gave my evidence very well, and gave me five bob out of the poor box, he came up to me and said, “You are a smart young fellow. Do you want a job?” I said I just did, and so he took me on; that is how it came about, you see. The only thing I don’t like is, he makes me go to a night school. He says I shan’t never do no good unless I can get to read and write; so I does it, but I hates it bitter.’

‘He is quite right, Jacob. You stick to it; it will come easier as you get on.’

‘Yes, I know I wants it, for letters and that sort of thing, but it is bitter hard. I would rather stand opposite a house all day in winter than I would sit for an hour trying to make my pen go where I wants it to. It allus will go the other way, and the drops of ink will come out awful. Good night, sir.’

‘Good night, lad. Tell Mr. Slippen when you see him that I shall probably be round to-morrow or next day.’

On the following morning Captain Hampton called early at Chester Square. Mr. Hawtrey and Dorothy had just finished breakfast. Mrs. Daintree, as was her custom after being out late the night before, had taken hers in bed.

‘I have good news so far. I have discovered, or rather Slippen has, where Truscott is to be found. He frequents a public-house called the White Horse, Frogmore Street, Islington.’

‘That is good news indeed, Ned,’ Mr. Hawtrey said warmly, as he shook hands with him. As he turned to Dorothy, he saw with surprise that she had turned suddenly pale, and that her hands shook as she put down the cup.

‘You are pleased, are you not, Dorothy?’ he asked in surprise.

The girl hesitated. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘of course, I am pleased in one way, but not in another. It frightens me to think that the man may be brought up, and that I may have to give evidence; it is horrid being talked about, but it would be much worse to stand up to be stared at, and to have it all put in the papers.’

‘Pooh, pooh, my dear, your evidence will be very simple,’ her father said. ‘You will only have to tell that you received the first of these letters, that you know nothing of the man, and that his assertion that he has letters of yours is utterly false.’

‘Yes, father, but I have noticed that in all trials of this sort they ask such numberless questions, and that they always manage somehow to put the witnesses into a false light. They will say, “How do you know that he has no letters of yours? Do you mean to tell this court that you have never written any letters?” And when I have said I have never written any letters that I should object to having read out in court they will insinuate that I am telling a lie, and that I have done all sorts of dreadful things; and though they will not be able to prove a word of it, I shall know, as I go out, that half the people will believe that I have. I shall hate it, and I am sure that Algernon will hate it even more.’

‘Well, Algernon has no one but himself to thank for its having come to this pass,’ Mr. Hawtrey said sharply. ‘It was his interference, and his going down to Scotland Yard, that caused that paragraph to appear in the paper. If he had left the matter alone nothing whatever would have been heard about it outside our circle. I like Halliburn, but I must say that at present nothing would give me more satisfaction than to hear that he had gone for a month upon the Continent, for he comes round here every afternoon, and worries and fusses over the matter until he upsets you and fills me with an almost irresistible desire to seize him by the shoulders and turn him out of the room.’

‘He is a little trying, father,’ Dorothy admitted, ‘but of course he does not like it.’

‘Nor do any of us. It is a hundred times worse for you than it is for him, and yet—But there, let us change the subject. What is it you were saying, Ned? Oh yes, you have heard where Truscott lives.’

‘Not exactly where he lives, but the public-house where he is to be met with, and in his case it comes to pretty well the same thing. I had nothing to do with finding it out. The man Slippen took it in hand, and in a few hours did more than I had done in three weeks. He sent a fellow down to Windsor, to some betting men he knew, and sent me word in the evening. It was rather mortifying, I must confess, and I feel as if I had been taken down several pegs in my own estimation.’

‘And what is to be done next, father?’ Dorothy asked anxiously.

‘Ah, that is the point we shall have to talk over, my dear. At present we have not a thread of evidence to connect him with the affair. We must, in the first place, bring it home to him. Afterwards, we will see whether we must have him arrested and charged in court, or whether we can frighten him into making a confession. I am very much afraid that, after all that has been said about it, there will be nothing for it but a public prosecution; however, there will be time to think of that afterwards.’ Captain Hampton saw Dorothy go pale again, and mentally resolved that he would do all in his power to save her from the ordeal from which she evidently shrank. He was a little surprised at her nervousness, for as a child she had been absolutely fearless, but he supposed that the worry, and perhaps the fidgeting of Halliburn had shaken her somewhat, as, indeed, was natural enough. ‘You are going round to see this detective, I suppose?’ Mr. Hawtrey asked.

‘Yes, I came in on my way for instructions. Slippen will no doubt propose that a sharp watch shall be kept over his movements, and I suppose that there can be no doubt that is the right thing to be done.’

‘I should say so, certainly.’

‘That, at least, Miss Hawtrey, will commit us to nothing afterwards, and I trust even yet we may find some way of avoiding the unpleasantness you feared.’

‘I may as well go with you, Ned,’ Mr. Hawtrey said; ‘I have nothing particular to do this morning; a walk will do me good. I am getting bilious and out of sorts with all this worry, and would give a good round sum to be quietly down in Lincolnshire again. Dorothy evidently feels it a good deal more than I should have thought she would,’ he went on as they left the house.

‘It is a horribly annoying sort of thing to happen to anyone, Mr. Hawtrey; because it is so desperately difficult to meet anonymous slander of this sort, and of course her engagement makes it so much the worse for her.’

‘Yes, that is the rub, Ned. I am not at all pleased with the fellow; he seems to think of nothing but the manner in which it affects himself. I have had, once or twice, as much as I could do not to let out at him. I had it on the tip of my tongue to say, “Confound it, sir! What the deuce do I care for you or your family? The ancestors through whom you got your title were doubtless respectable enough, and as far as I know, may, two or three generations back, have been washer-women, when our people had already held their estates hundreds of years.” Of course, Dorothy takes his part, but my own belief is that it is he who is worrying her, quite as much as the scandal itself.

‘Dorothy is not marrying for a title; she refused a higher one than his last autumn. I don’t say that his being a lord might not have influenced her to some extent; I suppose all girls have vanity enough to like to carry off a man whom scores of others will envy her for, but I don’t think that went very far with her. I believe that, as far as she knew of him, she liked him for himself; not, I suppose, in any desperate sort of way, but as a pleasant, gentlemanly sort of fellow of whom everyone spoke well, and whom she esteemed and thought she could be very happy with. She has no occasion to marry for money; of course my estate is, as I dare say you know, entailed, and will go to my cousin, Jack Hawtrey, who is a sporting parson down in Somersetshire—a good fellow, with a large family; but there will be plenty for her from her mother, besides my unentailed property.

‘I cannot help thinking that Halliburn’s worrying, and the very evident fact that he thinks more of the scandal as affecting his future wife than of her feelings in the matter, may have shown her that she had over-estimated him, and that although he may be a very respectable and well-behaved young nobleman, he is a selfish and shallow-minded fellow after all. Dorothy may say nothing now, but she is not the sort of girl to forgive that sort of thing, and I don’t mind saying it to you, as an old friend, Ned, that I should not be at all surprised if, when once this affair is thoroughly cleared up, she throws Halliburn over altogether.’

Captain Hampton made no reply, but had his companion turned to look at him he could hardly have avoided noticing that the expression on his face expressed anything but sympathy with the tone of irritation in which he had himself spoken.

Mr. Slippen was in when they arrived at Clifford’s Inn. The door was opened by him when they knocked, a proof that the boy was not at his post.

‘Come in, Captain Hampton; I fancied that you would be down here.’

‘This is Mr. Hawtrey, Mr. Slippen,’ said Ned, as they followed him into his room; ‘he thought he would like to talk over with you the plan of campaign.’

‘I am glad you have come, sir; it is always more satisfactory to meet one’s principal in matters of this kind; there is less chance of any mistake being made. It is surprising sometimes to find, after one is half through one’s work, that one has been proceeding under an entirely false impression. One may think, for example, that one’s client is bent upon carrying a matter out to the bitter end, and will not hear of anything of a compromise, and then one discovers that he is perfectly ready to condone everything, and to make every sacrifice to avoid publicity. Of course, if one had known that in the first place, it would have immensely facilitated matters.’

‘I should be very glad to avoid publicity myself,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, ‘but unfortunately the matter has gone so far that I do not see how it can possibly be avoided.’

Mr. Slippen shook his head.

‘I don’t see, myself, at present,’ he agreed, ‘how the scandal is to be set at rest, except by the prosecution of its author—that is to say, if we can get evidence enough to prosecute him. Of course, if we had such evidence it would be easy enough to force him into making a complete retractation; but, if we did, such a retractation would hardly be satisfactory, as, supposing it were published, people would say, “How are we to know that this letter is written by the fellow who wrote the others? If it is the man, how is it that he is not prosecuted for it?” Certainly there would be a strong suspicion that he had been bought off.’

‘I see that myself,’ Mr. Hawtrey agreed. ‘I don’t see any other way of clearing the matter up except by putting him in the dock, though I would give a great deal to avoid it. My daughter is extremely averse to the idea of the publicity attending such an affair, and especially to having to appear as a witness, which is not surprising when one knows the outrageous licence given to counsel in our days to cross-examine witnesses.’

Captain Hampton noticed the sudden keen glance shot at his client from Mr. Slippen’s eyes, followed by a series of almost imperceptible little nods, and was seized with a sudden and fierce desire to make a violent assault upon the unconscious detective.

‘At any rate,’ Mr. Hawtrey continued, ‘I see nothing at present but to let the matter go on, and for you to obtain, if possible, some decisive proof of the man’s connection with these letters. So far we have really only the most shadowy grounds for our suspicion against him.’

Again Mr. Slippen nodded, this time more openly and decisively.

‘Quite the most shadowy, Mr. Hawtrey. I am far from saying that he may not be the man, but beyond his having, as I understand, a grievance of very many years’ duration against yourself there is really nothing whatever to connect him with the affair.’

‘Nothing, Mr. Slippen. It is, in fact, simply because there is no one else against whom we have even such slight grounds as this to go upon, that we suspect this fellow of being the author of these rascally communications.’

‘You will understand, Mr. Hawtrey, that being employed by you I consider it my duty to let you know exactly the light in which the matter strikes me. Of course, I do not know the man as you do, but from what I have learnt from Captain Hampton he seems to be an unprincipled blackguard; a man who has been concerned in various shady transactions on the turf, and who has come down to the rank of the lowest class of betting men; a fellow who pays his bets when he has made a winning book on a race and is a welsher when he loses.

‘Of course, it may be that such a man is of so vindictive a nature that he may have taken all this trouble simply to annoy you, but I cannot help thinking that if he had embarked upon it he would have played his hand so as not only to annoy but to extort money to cease that annoyance. Now the writer of these letters has certainly not done that. Had he had any idea of extorting money he would have sent some sort of private intimation to you, by means of a cautiously worded letter, to the effect that an arrangement could be made by which the thing could be put a stop to. You have received no such missive; therefore, if this man is the author he is simply a malicious scoundrel, and not, in this instance at any rate, a clever rogue, as I should certainly have expected to find him from his antecedents.’

‘That is to say, you do not think he is the man?’

‘Yes, I think it comes almost to that, Mr. Hawtrey. I do not know him, and, of course, he may be the man, but I own that I shall be a good deal surprised if I find that he is so. Still, in the absence of any other clue whatever, I propose to follow this up. It will be something at least to clear it out of the way and to have done with it. I shall detail my boy to watch the public-house till the man comes to it, and then to find out where he lives and what are his habits; to follow his footsteps and take note of every place where he posts a letter. We shall get, at any rate, negative evidence that way. If, for instance, a letter is posted in the south of London, and we know that on that day the man never went out of Islington, I think that it will be very strong proof that he has nothing to do with the matter. Of course the reverse would not be so convincing the other way; but if we had the coincidence, three or four times repeated, of the letter bearing the mark of a district in which he had dropped one into the post, we should feel that we were a long way towards proving his connection with the affair.’

‘Quite so,’ Mr. Hawtrey agreed; ‘that will, as you say, either go far to confirm our suspicions, or will altogether clear the ground so far as he is concerned, and we must then look for a clue in some other direction altogether.’

That afternoon Captain Hampton, having nothing to do, made his way up to Islington. The lad was not to be put on the watch until the next morning, and he thought that he might see this man at the public-house he frequented, and perhaps glean something from any conversation he might have with the men he met there. After some inquiry as to the direction of Frogmore Street, he turned up the Liverpool Road, and had gone but a few hundred yards when his eye fell on a couple engaged in earnest conversation on the raised walk, on the opposite side of the street. He paused abruptly in his stride. One was unquestionably the man for whom he was seeking. He was better dressed than when he had seen him before, and had more the air of a gentleman, but there could be no question as to his identity. The other was as unmistakably Dorothy Hawtrey.

There was no question of an accidental likeness; it was the girl herself, and he recognised the dress as one he had seen her wear. Turning sharply on his heel he turned down a bye street, and came out into Upper Street. There were too many people here for him to think; he passed on, walking in the road at the edge of the pavement, to the Angel, and then turned down the comparatively quiet pavement of Pentonville Hill.

What could it mean? He could see but one solution, and yet he refused to accept it. To believe it was to believe Dorothy Hawtrey to be guilty of deception and lying. Was it possible that, after all, this man could have possessed letters of hers, and that she had been driven at last to meet him and redeem them? He remembered her pallor when she had heard that morning that this fellow’s whereabouts had been discovered, and how she had urged that no steps should be taken against him. It had all seemed natural then; it seemed equally natural now under this new light—and yet he refused to believe it. So he told himself over and over again. That he had seen her in conversation with Truscott was undeniable; of that, at least, he was certain, but equally certain was it to him that there must be some other explanation of the meeting than that which had at first struck him. What could that explanation be? No answer occurred to him; he could hit upon no hypothesis consistent with her denial of any knowledge whatever of the writer of these letters.

He was at the bottom of the hill now; disregarding the hails of various cabmen, he crossed the road and made his way down through the squares. It was better to be walking than sitting still. He scarcely noticed where he was going, and was almost surprised when he found himself in Jermyn Street. He went upstairs, lighted a cigar, and sat down.

‘What is coming to me?’ he said to himself. ‘I am generally pretty good at guessing riddles, and there must be some explanation of this mystery, if I can but hit upon it.’

But after thinking for another hour, the only alternative to the first idea that had occurred to him was that Dorothy, in her horror of the idea of a public trial and of being forced to appear in the witness box, had taken the desperate resolution to find this man herself, at the address he had mentioned to her and her father, to bribe him to desist from his persecution of her, and to warn him that unless he moved away at once the police would be on his track.

It was all so unlike the high-spirited child he had known, and the girl as he had believed her still to be, that it was difficult to credit that she would allow herself to be driven to take such a step as this, in order to escape what seemed to him a minor unpleasantness.

Still, as he told himself, there were men of tried bravery in many respects who were moral cowards, and it might well be that, though generally fearless, Dorothy might have a nervous shrinking from the thought of standing up in a crowded court, exposed to an inquisition that in many cases was almost a martyrdom. It was an awful mistake to have made. If the scoundrel had been bribed into silence now, he would be all the more certain to recommence his persecution later on, and after having once met with and paid him for his silence how could she refuse to do so when another demand was made?

One thing seemed to Ned Hampton unquestionable. He must maintain an absolute silence as to what he had seen—the harm was done now and could not be undone. He was certain that she had not noticed him, and could never suspect that he had her secret. As for himself there was nothing for him now but to stand aside altogether. Filled as he was with the deepest pity for Dorothy, he was powerless to help her. When the next trouble came it was her husband who would have to stand beside her, and to whom, sooner or later, she would have to own the false step she had taken.

He felt that at any rate it was out of the question that he should see her again at present. It was fortunate that he had retired from the investigation in favour of Mr. Slippen, and could therefore run away for a bit without seeming to have deserted Mr. Hawtrey. He had thought about hiring a yacht, and this would serve as a pretext for him to run down to Ryde. He could easily put away a fortnight between that town, Cowes, Southampton, and Portsmouth. As to the yacht he had no real intention now of looking for one. He must wait for a while and see what happened next. He was sure to meet men he knew at Southsea, and anything was better than staying in London.

He accordingly at once wrote a note to Mr. Hawtrey, saying that it would be some time before Slippen obtained such evidence against Truscott as would put them in a position to bring it home to him, and that as he could not be of any use for a time he had resolved to run down for a week to Southsea, and look round the various yards in search of a yacht of about the size he wanted, for a cruise of six weeks or two months, with the option of taking her up the Mediterranean through the winter. Then he wrote several letters of excuse to houses where he had engagements, and started the next morning by the first train for Portsmouth. He was a fortnight absent, and on his return called on Mr. Hawtrey at an hour when he knew that he was not likely to meet Dorothy.

‘So you are back again, Ned? Your note took me quite by surprise, for you had said nothing as to your going away when I met you early in the day.’

‘No, sir, it was a sort of sudden inspiration. I was sick of London, and had had a very dull time of it going about to races for three weeks before; so I thought that I would have a complete change, made up my mind at once, packed my portmanteau, and was off. Have you had any news from Slippen?’

‘None. He has written to me two or three times; his last note came this morning, saying that his boy has been watching the public-house ever since, and that the man has certainly not been there. The boy is a sharp fellow and found that the fellow had called in there on the very day before he began his watch, and he also discovered by bribing a postman where he had lodged, but upon going there found he had given up his room on the same day he had last been at the public-house, and had left no address, nor had the people of the house the slightest idea where he had gone. I suppose the fellow took fright at the publicity there had been about the affair; at any rate, no more of those letters have come since. That is certainly a comfort, but it looks as if we were never going to get to the bottom of the mystery. Of course, it is extremely annoying, but I suppose we shall live it down. Halliburn offered a reward of a hundred pounds for the discovery of Truscott’s, or as he calls him Marvel’s, address. That was a week ago, and he has received no answer as yet, which is certainly a fresh proof that the fellow was the author of the letters. If not, he himself would have turned up and claimed the reward.’

‘That is not quite certain, Mr. Hawtrey. He has doubtless been concerned in many other shady transactions, and may think he is wanted for some other affair altogether.’

‘You are right, that may be so; I did not think of that. Still, it is strange the offer of a reward has brought no news of him. He must be well known to numbers of men who would sell their own father for a hundred pounds.’

‘If he is really alarmed he may have changed his name, and gone to some part of the country where he is altogether unknown, or he may have crossed the Channel to some of the French or Belgian ports. There is a lot of betting carried on from that side, and he may manage to live there as he has lived here—by fleecing fools.’

Two days later, Hampton met the Hawtreys at a dinner-party. Dorothy was looking pale and languid, but at times she roused herself and talked with almost feverish gaiety. Lord Halliburn was there; he was sitting next to Dorothy, and seemed silent and preoccupied, and looked, Hampton thought, vexed when she had one of her fits of talking. When they had rejoined the ladies after dinner Hampton was chatting with the lady he had taken down, and who was an old friend of his family.

‘Is it not awfully sad, this affair of Miss Hawtrey’s?’ she said. ‘It is evidently preying on her health. I never saw anybody more changed in the course of a few weeks. Of course, everyone who knows her is quite certain that there is no foundation whatever for these wicked libels about her. Still, naturally, people who don’t know her think that there must be something in it, and she must know, wherever she goes, that people are talking about it. It is terrible! I do not know what I should do were she a daughter of mine.’

‘Yes, it is a most painful position; there does not seem any method by which these anonymous libels can be met and answered. The most scandalous part of the business is that any notice of a thing of this sort should get into the papers. The form in which it was noticed rendered it impossible to obtain redress of any kind; the statements contained as to the annoyance caused by these letters, and as to the nature of their contents, were accurate, and Mr. Hawtrey is therefore unable to take any steps against them. I have known Miss Hawtrey from the time that she was a little child; as you are aware they are my greatest friends, and I assure you that one’s powerlessness in these days to take any step to right a wrong of this sort, makes me wish I had lived at any time save in the middle of the nineteenth century. A hundred years ago one would have called out the editor or proprietor, or whatever he calls himself, of a paper that published this thing, and shot him like a dog; four hundred years ago one would have sent him a formal challenge to do battle in the lists; if one had lived in Italy a couple of centuries back, and had adopted the customs of the country, one would have had him removed by a stab in the back by a bravo—not a manner that commends itself to me I own, but which, as against a man whose journal exists by attacking reputations is, I should consider, perfectly legitimate.’

‘But he is not the chief offender in the case, Captain Hampton.’

‘I don’t know. The anonymous libeller could really have done no harm had it not been that there were organs that were ready to inform the world of his attacks upon this lady; the letters could have been burnt and none been any the wiser, and in time the annoyance would have ceased.’

‘Do you think the author of these things will ever be found out?’

‘I should hardly think so. It is clearly the outcome of malice on the part of some man or woman who has either a grudge against Mr. Hawtrey, his daughter, or Lord Halliburn, or of some one interested in breaking off Miss Hawtrey’s engagement.’

‘I don’t think Lord Halliburn has behaved nicely in the matter,’ Mrs. Dean said. ‘If he had shown himself perfectly indifferent to the affair from the first, people would never have talked so much. It is his palpable annoyance that has more than confirmed these gossiping rumours.’

‘Between ourselves, Mrs. Dean, although I should not at all mind his knowing it, my opinion is, that Halliburn is a cad.’

Mrs. Dean laughed. ‘It is next door to blasphemy to speak in society of a peer as a cad, Captain Hampton; still, I am not at all sure that you are wrong. But I must be going; my husband has been making signs to me for the last ten minutes.’

Chapter VI • 6,200 Words

Captain Hampton had spoken harshly of Lord Halliburn, but then he was scarcely able to appreciate the difficulties of the young nobleman. Lord Halliburn was in many respects a model peer. His talents were more than respectable, his life was irreproachable, he was wealthy and yet not a spendthrift. The title was of recent creation, his father being the first holder of the earldom, having been raised to that rank for his political services to the Whig party, just as his grandfather, a wealthy manufacturer, had been rewarded for the bestowal of a park, a public library, and other benefactions to his native town, by a baronetcy. And yet Lord Halliburn supported his position as worthily as if the earldom had come down in an unbroken line from the days of the Henrys, and was held up as an example to less tranquil and studious spirits.

He had scarcely been popular at Eton, for he avoided both the river and the playing fields, and was one of a set who kept aloof from the rest, talked together upon politics, philosophy, and poetry, held mildly democratic opinions as to the improvement of the existing state of things, were particular about their dress, and subdued in their talk. That they were looked upon with something like contempt by those who regarded a place in the eight or the eleven as conferring the proudest distinction that could be aimed at, they regarded not only with complacency, but almost with pride, and privately considered themselves to belong to a far higher order than these rough athletes. At college, his mode of life was but little altered. He belonged to a small coterie who lived apart from the rest, held academic discussions in each others’ rooms upon many abstruse subjects, were familiar with Kant, regarded the German thinkers with respectful admiration, quoted John Stuart Mill and Spencer as the masters of English thought, were mildly enthusiastic over Carlyle and Ruskin, and had leanings towards Comte and Swedenborg.

It was only at the Union that Lord Everington, as he then was, came in contact with those outside his own set, and here he quite held his own, for he was a neat and polished speaker, never diverging into flights of fancy, but precise as to his facts and close in his reasoning. His speeches were always listened to with attention, and though far from being one of the most popular, he was regarded as being one of the cleverest and most promising debaters at the Union. Just as he was leaving college a terrible blow fell upon him, for at the sudden death of his father, he succeeded to the title. To some men the loss would not have been without its consolations. To him it meant the destruction of the scheme on which he had laid out his life. He had intended to enter Parliament as soon as possible, and had sufficient confidence in himself to feel sure that he should succeed in political life, and would ere many years become an Under-Secretary, and in due course of time a member of the Cabinet.

Now all this prospect seemed shattered. In the Peers he would have but slight opportunity of distinguishing himself, and would simply be the Earl of Halliburn, and nothing more. It was, however, to his credit that even in the dull atmosphere of the Gilded Chamber he had, to some extent, made his mark. He studied diligently every question that came up, and, while clever enough not to bore the House by long speeches, he came, ere long, to be considered a very well-informed and useful young member of it, and had now the honour of being Under-Secretary for the Colonies. It was a recognition of his work that he enjoyed keenly, although he felt bitterly how few were his opportunities in comparison to what they would have been had his chief been in the Peers and he in the Commons.

As it was, his fellow peers evinced no curiosity whatever in regard to colonial matters, and it was of rare occurrence that any question was asked upon the affairs of which he had charge. Nevertheless, it was a great step. It brought him within the official circle, and more than once the mastery of the subject shown in his answers had won for him a few words of warm commendation from the Leader of the House.

Then came, as he now thought it, the unfortunate idea of marriage. It would add to his weight, he had considered. As a bachelor his house in Park Lane, his place in the country, and his wealth, were but of slight advantage to him, but, as his chief one day hinted to him, he would be able to be of far more use to his party were he in a position to entertain largely.

‘We are rather behindhand in that respect, Halliburn. Four-fifths of the good houses are Tory. These things count for a good deal. You may say that it is absurd that it should be so, but that does not alter the fact that it gratifies the wives and daughters of the country members to have such houses open to them. You have plenty of money, and you don’t throw it away, so that you can afford to do things well. If I were you, I should certainly look out for a wife.

‘She need not be a politician. She need not even belong to one of our families. Whatever her people’s politics she will naturally, as your wife, come in time to take your views; and besides, there is no harm, rather the reverse, in keeping up a connection with that side. You must see as well as I do that the time is fast coming when there will be a considerable change in politics. Even now we are far nearer, upon all important points, to the Tories than we are to these Radical fellows who at present vote with us, but who in time will want to control us. The Tories have come much nearer to us, and we to them. Already we are scarcely in a majority on our own side of the house, and it will not be many years before we shall have to concede the demand to give a large share of ministerial appointments to Radicals. We shall then perceive that we must choose between becoming the followers of men whose ways and politics we hate, or the allies of men of our own stamp, whose way of looking at things differs but very little from our own. Therefore, I should say it would be just as well for you to choose a wife from their ranks as from your own.’

Lord Halliburn had, as was his custom, thought the matter over coolly and carefully, and had come to the conclusion that it would be well for him to marry. He was by no means blind to the fact that there would be no great difficulty in his doing so. He was not unobservant of the frequency of invitations to houses where there were daughters of marriageable age, and had often smiled quietly at the innocent manœuvres upon the part both of mothers and daughters. He had, however, never seriously given the matter a thought, being rather of opinion that a wife would interfere with his work, would compel him to take a more prominent part in society, and would expect him to devote a considerable proportion of his time to her. Now that the matter was placed before him in another light, he saw that there was a good deal to be said on the other side. The fact that the suggestion came from his chief was not without weight, and he decided accordingly to marry.

He proceeded about the matter in the same methodical manner in which he carried out the other work of his life, and was not very long in deciding in favour of Miss Hawtrey. She was one of the belles of the season, and, as was no secret, had refused two or three excellent offers. There would, therefore, be a certain éclat in carrying her off. She belonged to an old county family. Her father, although a Conservative, had taken no prominent part in politics, and his daughter would no doubt soon prove amenable to his own opinions and wishes. Above all, she would make a charming hostess. Having once made up his mind, he set to work seriously, and soon became interested in it to a degree that surprised him.

To his rank and his position in the Ministry he speedily found that she was absolutely indifferent, and was as ready to dance and laugh with an impecunious younger son as with himself. This indifference stimulated his efforts, and as a man, as well as a peer and politician, he was gratified when he received an affirmative reply to his proposal. His chief himself congratulated him upon his engagement, and he knew that he was an object of envy to many, for in addition to being a belle, Miss Hawtrey was also an heiress, and for a short time he was highly gratified at the course of events. It was thus he felt cruelly hard when, within a fortnight of his engagement, this unpleasant affair took place.

It seemed intolerable to him that the lady whom he had chosen should be the subject of these libellous attacks. He did not for an instant doubt that she was, as she said, wholly ignorant of the author of these letters, and that there was nothing whatever on which these demands for money could be based. Still, the business was none the less annoying, and in his irritation he had taken the step that had unfortunately resulted in the matter becoming public. He was angry with himself; angry, although he could have given no reason for the feeling, with Dorothy; very angry with society in general, for entertaining the slightest suspicion of the lady whom he had selected to be his wife. That such suspicion should, even in the vaguest manner, exist, was in itself wholly at variance with his object in entering upon matrimony. The wife of the Earl of Halliburn should not be spoken of except in terms of admiration; that the finger of suspicion should be pointed at her was intolerable.

His house might even be shunned, instead of the entry there being so exclusive as to be eagerly sought for. Of course, it was not her fault, and it should make no difference as to his course. Still, the affair was, he freely owned, annoying in the extreme. He had had but few troubles, and bore this badly. The belief that the clerks in his office were talking of his affairs kept him in a state of constant irritation, and he fancied that even the impassive door-keeper smiled furtively as he passed him on his way in and out. Being in the habit of attaching a good deal of importance to his personality he believed that anything that affected him was a matter of much interest to the world at large, and that it occupied the thoughts of other people almost as much as it did his own. For the first time he felt that there were some advantages in a seat in the Upper House. In that grave, and for the most part scanty, gathering of men, generally much older than himself, he could feel that his troubles elicited but little more than a passing remark, and, indeed, the only sign of their knowledge of them that even his irritated self-love could detect was a slightly added warmth and kindness on the part of two or three of his leaders.

With the younger men it was different. ‘I never thought much of that fellow Halliburn,’ said Frank Delancey, who had been in his form at Eton, and was now, like himself, an under secretary, but in the Commons. ‘I never believe in fellows who moon their time away instead of going in for the water or fields, and Halliburn is showing now that he is not of good stuff. He has not got the cotton out of his veins yet. Of course, it is not pleasant for a girl you are engaged to, to be talked about; but a man with any pluck and honour would not show it as he does. Instead of going about looking bright and pleasant, as if such a paltry accusation was too contemptible to give him a moment’s thought, he gives himself the airs of Hamlet when he begins to suspect his uncle, and walks about looking as irritable as a bear with a sore head. He hasn’t even the decency to behave like a gentleman when he is with her, I hear. Young Vaux, of the Foreign Office, told me yesterday that he met them both at dinner the day before, and the fellow looked downright cross, instead of being, as he ought to have been, more courteous and devoted than usual. I fancy that you will hear that it is broken off before long. I don’t think Dorothy Hawtrey is the sort of girl to stand any nonsense.’

‘No, I quite agree with you, Delancey,’ his companion—Fitzhurst, member for an Irish constituency—said. ‘Still, I should say it would last until this blows over. As long as the engagement goes on it is in itself a sort of proof that everything is all right, and that these reports are but a parcel of lies. The girl would feel that if she broke it off fresh stories would get about, and that half the people would say that it was his doing and that the stories were true, after all.’

‘I will bet you a fiver that it does not come off, Tom.’

‘No, I would not take that, but I would not mind betting evens that it lasts three months.’

‘Well, I will go five pounds even with you, and I will take five to one, if you like, that it does not last another month.’

‘No, I will take the even bet, but not the other. There is no saying what developments may turn up.’

But Dorothy had even before this offered to release Lord Halliburn from the engagement; he had refused the offer with vehemence, declaring himself absolutely unaffected by the story, and, indeed, taking an injured tone and accusing her of doubting his love for her.

‘I am not doubting your love, Algernon,’ she replied, ‘but it is impossible for me to avoid seeing that the matter is a great annoyance to you, and that it is troubling you very much. You have several times spoken quite crossly to me, and I am not in the habit of being spoken crossly to. My father is naturally quite as annoyed as you are, but as he believes, as you do, that the accusations are entirely false, he is not in any way vexed with me.’

‘Nor am I, Dorothy; not in the slightest degree, though I own that the knowledge that people are talking about us does irritate me; but certainly I did not mean to speak crossly to you, and am very sorry if I did so.’

And so the matter had dropped, but Dorothy had none the less felt that at a time when Halliburn ought to have been kinder than usual, and to have helped her to show a brave front in the face of these rumours, he had added to instead of lightening her troubles.

One morning at breakfast Dorothy gave an exclamation of surprise upon opening one of her letters.

‘What is it, my dear?’

‘I don’t understand it, father. Here is a letter from Gilliat, saying he would be obliged if I will hand over to an assistant who will call for it to-day, whichever of the two diamond tiaras I may have decided not to retain, as he expects a customer this afternoon whom it might suit. I don’t know what he means. Of course I have not been choosing any jewels. I should not think of such a thing without consulting you, even if I had had money enough in my pocket to indulge in such adornments.’

She handed the letter to her father.

‘It must be some mistake,’ he said, after glancing it through; ‘the letter must have been meant for some one else. It must be some stupid blunder on the part of a clerk. We will go round there together after breakfast. I have not bought you anything of the sort yet, dear, and was not intending to do so until the time came nearer; indeed, I had intended to get your mother’s diamonds re-set for you. Of course, I should have gone to Gilliat’s, as we have always dealt with his firm.’

After breakfast they drove to Bond Street.

‘I want to see Mr. Gilliat himself, if he is in,’ Mr. Hawtrey said.

Mr. Gilliat was in.

‘My daughter has received a letter which is evidently meant for some one else, Mr. Gilliat. It is about two diamond tiaras, which, it seems, somebody has taken in order to choose one of them. Of course it was not intended for her.’

Gilliat took the letter, glanced at it, and then at Dorothy. ‘I do not quite understand,’ he said doubtfully.

‘Not understand?’ Mr. Hawtrey repeated with some irritation. ‘Do you mean to say that Miss Hawtrey has been supplied with two diamond tiaras?’

‘Would you mind stepping into my room behind, Mr. Hawtrey?’ the jeweller replied, leading the way into an inner room. As he closed the door his eye met Dorothy’s with a look of inquiry, as if asking for instructions. Hers expressed nothing but surprise. ‘Am I to understand, Mr. Hawtrey,’ he asked gravely, after a pause, ‘that Miss Hawtrey denies having received the tiaras?’

‘Certainly you are,’ Mr. Hawtrey said hotly, ‘she knows nothing whatever about them.’

The jeweller pressed his lips tightly together, thought for a moment, and then touched a bell on the table. An assistant entered. ‘Ask Mr. Williams to step here for a moment.’

The principal assistant entered: ‘Mr. Williams, do you remember on what day it was that Miss Hawtrey selected the two tiaras?’

‘It was about three weeks ago, sir; I cannot tell you the exact day without consulting the sales book.’

‘Do so at once, if you please.’

Mr. Williams went out and returned in a moment with the book.

‘It was the 15th of last month, sir—July.’

‘You served her yourself, I think, Mr. Williams, or, rather, perhaps you assisted me in doing so?’

‘Certainly, sir.’

‘What was the value of the tiaras, Mr. Williams?’

‘One was twelve hundred, the other was twelve hundred and fifty, sir.’

‘She took them away herself?’

‘Certainly, sir; I offered to place them in the carriage for her, but she said it was a few doors up the street, and she would take them herself.’

‘You have not a shadow of doubt about the facts, Mr. Williams?’

‘None whatever, sir,’ the assistant said, in some surprise.

‘You know Miss Hawtrey well by sight?’

‘Certainly, sir; she has been here many times, both by herself, for repairs or alterations to her watch or jewellery, and with other ladies.’

‘Thank you, Mr. Williams, that will do at present.’

The door closed and the jeweller turned to his customers.

Mr. Hawtrey looked confounded, his daughter bewildered.

‘I do not understand it,’ she said. ‘I have not been here, Mr. Gilliat, since the beginning of May, when I came to you about replacing a pearl that had become discoloured in my necklace.’

‘I remember that visit perfectly, Miss Hawtrey,’ the jeweller said gravely, ‘but I must confirm what my assistant has said. Allow me to recall to you that, in the first place, you told me that in view of an approaching event you required a tiara of diamonds, and of course, having heard of your engagement to Lord Halliburn, I understood your allusion, and came in here with you, and had the honour of showing you five or six tiaras. Of these you selected two, and said that you should like to show them to Mr. Hawtrey before choosing. I offered to send an assistant with them, but you said that your carriage was standing a few doors off and that you would rather take them yourself. Our firm having had the honour of serving Mr. Hawtrey and his family for several generations, and knowing you perfectly, I had, of course, no hesitation in complying with your request. I may say, as an evidence of the exactness of my memory, that Miss Hawtrey was dressed exactly as she is at present. I had, of course, an opportunity of noticing her dress as she was examining the goods. She had on that blue walking dress with small red spots, and the bonnet with blue feathers with red tips.’

‘Will you give me the hour as well as the day at which you say my daughter called here?’ Mr. Hawtrey said sternly.

‘My own impression is that it was about three o’clock,’ the jeweller said, after a moment’s thought.

‘Will you call your assistant and ask him?’

Mr. Williams being summoned said that he had no distinct recollection as to the precise time, but that it was certainly somewhat early in the afternoon. He had returned from lunch about two, and it was not for some little time after that that Miss Hawtrey called; he should say it was between three and half past three.

‘That will be near enough,’ Mr. Hawtrey said. ‘You shall hear from me again shortly, Mr. Gilliat; I know that I can rely upon you to say nothing in the meantime to anyone on the subject.’

‘Certainly, Mr. Hawtrey.’

‘Now, Dorothy, let us be going.’

Dorothy at the moment was unable to follow her father; she had sunk down in a chair, pale and trembling; her look of intense surprise had given way to one of alarm and horror, and it was not until she had drunk some water that the jeweller brought her, that she recovered sufficiently to take her father’s arm and walk through the shop to the carriage.

‘Well, Dorothy,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, as they drove off, ‘what does all this mean?’

‘I have not the least idea, father; I am utterly bewildered.’

‘You still say that you did not go to the shop—that you did not examine those tiaras and choose two of them?’

‘Of course I say so, father. I have never been in the shop since I went about that pearl. Surely, father, you cannot suspect me of having stolen those things.’

‘I am the last man in the world to suspect you of anything dishonourable, Dorothy, but this evidence is staggering. Here are two men ready to swear to the whole particulars of the incident. They are both sufficiently acquainted with your appearance to be able to recognise you readily. They can even swear to your dress. That you should do such a thing seems to be incredible and impossible, but what am I to think? You could not have done such a thing in your senses; it would be the act of a madwoman, especially to go to a shop where you are so well known.’

‘But why should I have done it, father? I could not have worn them without being detected at once.’

‘You could not have worn them,’ her father agreed, ‘but they might have been turned into money had you great occasion for it.’

Dorothy started.

‘Do you mean, father—oh, surely, you never can mean that I could have stolen those things to turn them into money in order to satisfy the man who has been writing those letters?’

‘No, my dear. I don’t mean that myself, but that is certainly what anyone who did not know you would say. There, don’t cry so, child,’ for Dorothy was sobbing hysterically now; ‘do not let us talk any more until we get home. We have got the day and hour at which you were supposed to have been at Gilliat’s. Perhaps we may be able to prove that you were engaged somewhere else, and that it was impossible you could have been at Gilliat’s about that time.’

Nothing more was said until they reached home.

‘You had better come into my study, Dorothy; we shall not be disturbed there. Now, dear,’ he said, ‘let us have the matter out. I can only say this, that if you again give me your assurance that you are absolutely ignorant of all this, and that you never went to Gilliat’s on the day they say you did, I shall accept your assurance as implicitly as I did before; but before you speak, remember, dear, what that entails. These people are prepared to swear to you, and will, of course, take steps to obtain payment for these things. If such steps are taken the whole matter will be gone into to the bottom. Remember everything depends on your frankness. It will be terribly painful for you to acknowledge that, after all, you had got into some entanglement, and that you did in a moment of madness take these things in order to free yourself from it. It would be terribly painful for me to hear this, but upon hearing it I should of course take steps to raise this twenty-five hundred pounds, for at present I do not happen to have so much at my bankers, and to settle Gilliat’s claim. But even painful as this would be it would be a thousand times better than to have all this gone into in public. On the other hand, if you still assure me that you know nothing of it I must refuse to pay the money, both because to do so would be to admit that you took the things, and because, in the second place, whoever has taken these tiaras—for that some one has done so we cannot doubt—may again personate you and involve us in fresh trouble and difficulties.’

‘I did not do it, father; indeed I did not do it. I have had no entanglement; I was in no need of money; I have never been near Gilliat’s shop, unless, indeed, I was altogether out of my mind and did it in a state of unconsciousness, which I cannot think for a moment. I have worried over this until I hardly knew what I was doing, but I never could have gone to that shop and done as they say without having a remembrance of it. Why, the last place I should choose if I had ever thought of stealing would be a place where I was perfectly known. Indeed, father, I am altogether innocent. I cannot account for it, not in the least, but I am sure that I had nothing to do with it.’

‘Then, my dear, I will not doubt you for another moment,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, kissing her tenderly. ‘Now we just stand in the same position as we did in regard to the other affair; we have got to find out all about it. In the first place, get your book of engagements, and let us see what you were doing on the afternoon of the 15th.’

Dorothy went out of the room and soon returned with a pocket book.

‘Not satisfactory, I can see,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, as he glanced at her face.

‘No, father; here it is, you see—”Lunch with Mrs. Milford;” nothing else. I remember about that afternoon now. I drove in the carriage to Mrs. Milford’s, and had lunch at half-past one; there was one other lady there. Mrs. Milford had tickets for a concert, at St. James’s Hall I think it was, but I am not sure about that. I had a headache, and would not go with them; and, besides, I had some shopping to do. I got out of her brougham in Hanover Square. I went into Bond Street certainly, and I got some gloves and scent; then I went into Cocks’ and looked through the new music and chose one or two pieces, then I went into the French Gallery. Mrs. Milford had been talking about it at lunch, so I thought I would drop in. There were very few people there, so I sauntered round and sat down and looked at those I liked best. It was quiet and pleasant. I must have been in there a long time. When I came out I took a cab and drove straight home. It was six o’clock when I got back, and I remember I went straight up to my room and had a cup of tea there, then I took off my gown and my maid combed my hair, as it was time for me to dress for dinner. My head was aching a good deal and it did me good. We dined at the Livingstones’ that evening.’

‘It is unfortunate, certainly, Dorothy. I had hoped we might have been able to have fixed you somewhere that would have proved conclusively that you could not possibly have been at Gilliat’s that afternoon. As it is, your recollections do not help us at all, for your time from somewhere about three till six is practically unaccounted for. The people you bought the gloves and scent from could prove that you were there, but you probably would not have been many minutes in their shop. Cocks’ may remember that you were there a quarter of an hour or so.’

‘I think I was there half-an-hour, father.’

‘Well, say half-an-hour; the rest of the time you were really in the picture gallery, but it is scarcely likely that, even if the man who took your money at the door or the attendant inside noticed you sufficiently to swear to your face, they would be able to fix the day, still less have noticed how long you stayed. At any rate it is clear that it would be possible for you to have done all you say you did that afternoon and still to have spared time for that visit to Gilliat’s.’

‘I see that it is all terrible, father, but what can it all mean?’

‘That is more than I can understand, Dorothy. At present we are face to face with what seems to me two impossibilities. I mean looking at them from an outsider’s point of view. The one is that these shopmen should have taken any one else for you when they are so well acquainted with your face, and are able to swear even to the dress. No less difficult is it to believe that did you require money so urgently that you were ready to commit a crime to obtain it, you would go to the people to whom you were perfectly well known, and so destroy every hope and even every possibility of the crime passing undetected. One theory is as difficult to believe as the other. Those letters were a mystery, but this affair is infinitely more puzzling. I really do not know what to do. I must take advice in the matter, of course. I would rather pay the money five times over than permit it to become public, but who is to know what form this strange persecution is to take next?’

‘Do you think there is any connection between this and the other, father?’

Mr. Hawtrey shook his head. ‘I do not see the most remote connection between the two things. But there may be; who can say?’

‘I would rather face it out,’ Dorothy said, passionately. ‘I would rather be imprisoned as a thief than go on as I have been doing for the last six weeks; anything would be better. Even if you were to pay the money the story might get about somehow, just as the other did. Then the fact that you paid it would be looked upon as a proof that I had taken the diamonds. Who will you consult, father?’

‘My lawyers would be the proper people to consult, undoubtedly; but they were quite useless before, and this is wholly out of their line, I think. I will take a hansom and go across to Jermyn Street, and see if I can find Ned Hampton in. I have great faith in his judgment, and no one could be kinder than he has been in the matter. You don’t mind my speaking to him?’

‘Oh, no, father. I would rather that you should speak to him than to any one.’

Captain Hampton was in and listened in silent consternation to Mr. Hawtrey’s story, and for a long time made no answer to the question.

‘I can make neither head nor tail of it, Ned. What do you think?’

At first sight it seemed to him that this story explained the meeting he had seen opposite the Agricultural Hall. She had either turned the diamonds into money or had handed them over to this man to buy his silence. Then his faith in Dorothy rose again. It was absolutely absurd to suppose for a moment that she should have thus committed a crime which must be certainly brought home to her, and which would ruin her far more than any revelations this man might make could do.

‘It is an extraordinary story, Mr. Hawtrey,’ he said, at last; ‘even putting our knowledge of your daughter’s character out of the question, is it possible to believe that any young lady possessed of ordinary shrewdness would go to a place where she was well known, and, have acted in the way that she is reported to have done?’

‘It would certainly seem incredible, Ned, but here are two or three people prepared to swear that she did do so, and that they identified her by her dress as well as by herself.’

‘We must look at the matter in every light, Mr. Hawtrey; however confident you may feel of her innocence, we must look at it from the light in which other people will regard it. They will say, of course, that Miss Hawtrey had urgent need of money for some purpose or other, and will naturally suppose that reason to be her desire to silence the author of those letters. They will say, that although she would of course know that the bill would be sent in to her father, she would be sure that he would rather pay the money than betray her sin to the world.’

‘I quite see that,’ Mr. Hawtrey agreed, ‘but if she had been driven to desperation by this fellow, why did she not come direct to me in the first place, instead of committing a theft to drive me to pay, when she might be pretty sure in some way or other the facts would leak out, and do her infinitely more harm with the world than any indiscretion committed years ago could do? Besides, had she done it for this purpose, would she not have carried through that course of action, and when the bill came in have implored me to pay it without question, and so save her from disgrace and ruin?’

‘That certainly is so,’ Captain Hampton said, as his face brightened visibly; ‘the more one thinks of it the more mysterious the affair seems. I should like to think it all over quietly. I suppose you will not go out this evening?’

‘Certainly not. There will be no more going out until this mystery has been cleared up. It has been hard enough for Dorothy to bear up over her last trouble, but it would be out of the question for her to go into society with this terrible thing hanging over her.’

‘Then I will come round about nine o’clock. I shall have had time to think it over before that.’

Captain Hampton’s cogitations came to nothing. He walked up and down his little room until the lodger in the parlour below went out in despair to his club. He tried the effect of an hour’s stroll in the least frequented part of Kensington Gardens. He drove to Mr. Slippen’s to inquire if any clue had been obtained as to Truscott’s movements. He ate a solitary dinner at his lodgings and smoked an enormous quantity of tobacco, but could see no clue whatever to the mystery. The meeting he had witnessed was to him a piece of evidence far more damning than that of the jeweller and his assistants. If she could explain that, the other matter might be got over, though he could not see how. If she could not explain it, it was evident that he had nothing to do but to advise her father to settle the business at any cost.

Chapter VII • 6,200 Words

At nine o’clock Captain Hampton called at Chester Square and was shown into the drawing-room, from which, as previously arranged, Mr. Hawtrey had dismissed Mrs. Daintree, telling her that he had some private matters to discuss with Ned Hampton.

Mrs. Daintree had retired tearfully, saying that for her part she preferred hearing nothing about this painful matter—meaning that of the letters, for she was ignorant of the later development.

Dorothy looked flushed and feverish. Her eyes were large and brilliant, and there was a restlessness in her manner as she shook hands with her old friend.

‘Well, Ned,’ she asked, with an attempt at playfulness, ‘what is your verdict—guilty or not guilty?’

‘You need not ask me, Dorothy. Even the evidence of my own eyes would scarcely avail to convince me against your word.’ Then he turned to her father. ‘I have done nothing but think the matter over since you left me, and I can see but one solution—an utterly improbable one, I admit—but I will not tell you what it is until I have spoken to Miss Hawtrey. Would you mind my putting a question or two to her alone?’

‘Certainly not, Ned,’ said Mr. Hawtrey, rising.

But Dorothy exclaimed: ‘No, no, father, I will not have it so. I don’t know what Captain Hampton is going to ask me, but nothing that he can ask me nor my answers could I wish you not to hear. Please sit down again. There shall be no mysteries between us, at any rate.’

‘Perhaps it is best so,’ Captain Hampton agreed, though he felt the ring of pain in the girl’s voice at what she believed to be a sign that he doubted her. ‘I am willing, as I said just now, to disbelieve the evidence of my own eyes on your word. I am determined to believe you innocent. It is impossible for me to do otherwise. But there is one matter I want cleared up. On the fifteenth of last month—that is the day on which these things were missed—I saw a lady so exactly like you in face and in dress that I should under any other circumstances be prepared to swear to her, speaking to the man Truscott, in the Liverpool Road, Islington. This was at about half-past four in the afternoon.’

A look of blank wonderment passed across Dorothy’s face as he spoke, and then changed into one of indignation.

‘I was never in Islington in my life, Captain Hampton; I never heard the name of Liverpool Road that I know of. I have never seen this man, Truscott, since that day at Epsom. And you have believed this? You believe that I would meet this man alone, for the purpose, I suppose, of bribing him to silence? I have been mistaken in you altogether, Captain Hampton. I thought you were a friend.’

‘Stop, Dorothy,’ her father said, authoritatively, as with her head erect she walked towards the door, ‘you must listen to this; it is altogether too important to be treated in this way. We must hear what Captain Hampton really saw, and he will tell us why he did not mention the fact to me before. Sit down, my dear. Now, Captain Hampton, please tell it to us again.’

Ned Hampton repeated his story, and then went on,

‘You know I went suddenly out of town, Mr. Hawtrey. That I had been mistaken never once occurred to me. Up to that time I had never for an instant doubted your daughter’s assertions that she knew nothing as to any letters in the possession of Truscott. That morning, as you may remember, I mentioned before you the name of the place where he was to be found, and when, as I thought, I saw her with him, it certainly appeared to me possible that after the dread Miss Hawtrey expressed of appearing in a public court to prosecute him, she might, in a moment of weakness, have gone off to see the man, to warn him of the consequences that would ensue if he continued to persecute her, and to tell him that unless he moved he would in a few hours be in custody. I thought such an action altogether foreign to her nature, but I own that it never for a moment occurred to me to doubt the evidence of my own eyes, especially as the person was dressed exactly as your daughter had been when I saw her that morning. That the person I saw was not her I am now quite ready to admit. In that case it is morally certain that the person who took away those jewels was also not her; and this strengthens the idea I had before conceived, and which seemed, as I told you, a most improbable one, namely, that there is another person who so closely resembles your daughter that she might be mistaken for her, and, if so, this person is acting with the man Truscott. Should this conjecture be the true one it explains what has hitherto been so mysterious. The letters were designed to injure your daughter in public estimation, and to prepare the way for this extraordinary robbery, which would enrich Truscott as well as gratify his revenge. What do you think, Mr. Hawtrey?’

‘The idea is too new for me to grasp it altogether, Ned. Until now there seemed no possible explanation of the mystery. This, certainly, strange and improbable as it is, does afford a solution.’

‘Well, father, I will leave you to talk it over,’ Dorothy said, rising again, ‘unless Captain Hampton has seen me anywhere else and wishes to question me about that also. And I think, father, that it will be much better in future to put the matter altogether into the hands of a lawyer; it would be his business to do his best for me whether he thought me innocent or guilty. At any rate, it is more pleasant to be suspected by people you know nothing about, than by those you thought were your friends.’ Then without waiting for an answer she swept from the room.

‘No use stopping her now,’ her father said, shrugging his shoulders; ‘it is not often that I have known Dorothy fairly out of temper from the time she was a child, but when she is it is better to let her cool down and come round of herself.’

‘It will be a long time before she comes round as far as I am concerned,’ Captain Hampton said. ‘I am not surprised that she should be indignant that I should have suspected her for a moment, but I don’t see how I could have helped it. I saw her, or someone as much like her as if it was herself in a looking-glass, talking to this man Truscott, the very day when we had for the first time found out where we were likely to lay hands on him. What could anyone suppose? I did not think for a moment that she had done anything really wrong, or even, after what she had said, that he could hold letters of any importance; but she had evidently so great a dread of publicity that, as I say, it did strike me she had gone to meet him in order to warn him, and perhaps to get back any trumpery letters he might have had, stolen from her or from some one else. I did think this up to the time when you told me of this affair at the jeweller’s. That seemed so utterly and wholly impossible that I became convinced there must be some entirely different solution, if we could but hit upon it, and the only idea that occurred to me was that of there being some one else exactly like her, and that this person, whoever she is, has been used by Truscott both to injure your daughter and to obtain plunder.’

‘I don’t see how you could have helped suspecting as you did, when you saw Truscott speaking with some one whom you did not doubt being Dorothy. Had I been in your place and witnessed that meeting, it seems to me that I must have doubted her myself. Though I am her father, I own that I did doubt her for a moment this morning when I heard the story at Gilliat’s; but let us leave that alone for a moment, Ned; the pressing question is, what am I to do?’

‘I will give no opinion,’ Captain Hampton said firmly; ‘that must be a question for you and Miss Hawtrey to decide. If my conjecture is right, and this man, Truscott, and some woman closely resembling your daughter are working to obtain plunder on the strength of that likeness, you may be sure that this successful coup they have made will only be the first of a series. On the other hand, you have not a shadow of evidence to adduce against Gilliat’s claim; there is simply her assertion against that of two or three other people, and if he sues you, as, of course, he will if you do not pay, it seems to me certain that a jury would give the verdict against you—unless, of course, we can put this other woman and Truscott into the dock. Should such a verdict be given, although some might have their doubts as to this extraordinary story, the public in general would conclude that Miss Hawtrey was a thief and a liar. There is no doubt that your daughter’s advice is the one to be followed, and if I were you I would go to Charles Levine, the first thing in the morning, lay the whole case before him, and put yourself in his hands.’

‘I will do so, Ned. Should I mention to him that you saw her, as you thought, with Truscott?’

‘That must be as you think fit, sir. I don’t think I should do so unless it were absolutely necessary. He does not know your daughter as we do, and would infallibly put the worst construction upon it. I should confine myself to the story of the letters and the jewels, stating that you believe there is a connection between them, and that, as you implicitly believe Miss Hawtrey’s word, the only conclusion you can possibly come to is that the person who visited Gilliat’s was some adventuress bearing a strong resemblance to her, and trading on that resemblance.’

‘But how about the dress, Ned?’

‘If it was, as I take it, a preconceived plot, carefully prepared, one can readily conceive that Miss Hawtrey’s movements had been watched and that a dress and bonnet closely resembling hers had been got in readiness.’

‘It is an ugly business, Ned,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, irritably. ‘You and I believe Dorothy to be innocent, but the more one looks at it the more one sees how difficult it will be to persuade other people that she is so. However, I will see Levine in the morning. He has had more difficult cases in his hands than any man living.’

‘That is the best thing you can do, sir. Now I will say good-night. You know where I am to be found, and I must ask you to write to me there and make an appointment for me to meet you if you want to see me. I shall still do what I can in the matter, and shall spare no efforts to endeavour to trace this man Truscott, and if I can find him it is probable that I shall be able to find the woman; but please do not let Miss Hawtrey know that I am taking any further part in the matter. She is deeply offended with me, and from her point of view this is perfectly natural. She thinks I ought to have trusted her and believed in her in spite of any evidence whatever, even that of my own eyes, and she is naturally extremely sore that one whom she regarded as a close friend should not have done so. I regret it deeply myself, but seeing what I saw——’

‘You could not help doing so, Ned,’ Mr. Hawtrey broke in warmly; ‘as I told you I should have doubted her myself. Do not worry yourself about that. When she thinks it over she will see that you were in no way to blame.’

‘That will be a long time first,’ Captain Hampton said, gravely; ‘situated as she is, and harassed as she has been, it is very difficult to forgive a want of trust on the part of those in whose faith and support you had implicit confidence. I shall be very glad if you will let me know what Levine advises.’

‘That I will certainly do. I will write to you after I have seen him and had a talk with Dorothy. There is the affair with Halliburn, which complicates the whole question confoundedly. I wish to goodness he would start for a trip to China and not come back until it is all over. It is lucky that that they have got a serious debate on to-night in the Upper House, and that he was, as he told us when he called this afternoon, unable to go to the Alberys; if it hadn’t been so he would have been here by this time, to inquire what had occurred to make us send our excuses at the last moment. He will be round here the first thing after breakfast. Well, good night, Ned, if you must be going.’

On reaching his lodgings Captain Hampton found a boy sitting on the doorstep.

‘Halloa,’ he said, ‘who are you? Out of luck, and want something to get supper with, I suppose?’

‘I wanted to speak to you, Captain,’ the boy said, standing up.

‘Why, you are the boy from Slippen’s; have you got any news for me?’

‘No, Captain, I ain’t come on his account, I have come on my own. I have left Slippen for good.’

‘Well, come up stairs; we can’t talk at the door. Now what is it?’ he asked, as he sat down.

‘Well, sir, it is just this: I have left Slippen. You see, it was this way: I was a-watching a female party and she wur a good sort. I got up as a crossing sweeper, and she never went across without giving me a penny and speaking kind like, and one day she sent me out a plate of victuals; so I didn’t much like the job, and when Slippen wanted me to say I had seen a bit more than I had, I up and told him as I wasn’t going to. Then he gave me a cuff on the head and I gave him some cheek, and he told me to take myself out of it and never let him see my face again, so you see here I am.’

‘I see you are. But why are you here?’

‘Well, you see, Captain, you allus spoke nice to me over there, and I says to myself, “If I was ever to leave the governor, that is just the sort of gent as I should like to work for.” I can clean boots with any one, and I could run errands, and do all sorts of odd jobs, and if you still want to find that chap I was after I would hunt him up for you all over London.’

‘You are quite sure, Jacob, that you have done with Mr. Slippen? I should not like him to think that I had taken you away from him.’

‘I ain’t a-going back to him no ways,’ the boy said, positively, ‘not even if he would have me; and after what I said to him he would not do that. He called me a blooming young vaggerbond, and I says to him, “Vaggerbond yourself, ain’t you wanting to make up false evidence agin a female? You are worse nor a vaggerbond,” says I. “You are just the worst kind of a spy,” says I, “and a liar at that.” Then I had to make a bolt for it, and he arter me, and he run nigh fifty yards before he stopped; that is enough to show how mad he wor over it. First of all I thinks as I would go to the Garden, and take to odd jobs and sleeping under the waggons, as I used to do afore I took up with him. Then I says to myself, “There is that Captain Hampton; he is a nice sort of gent. I could get along first-rate with him if he would have me.”‘

‘But those clothes you have got on, Jacob; I suppose Slippen gave you those?’

‘Not he; Slippen ain’t that sort; he got the clothes for me, and says he, “These ‘ere clothes cost twenty-two bob. I intend to give you half-a-crown a week, and,” says he, “I shall stop a bob a week for your clothes.” I have been with him about half a year, so we are square as to the things.’

‘But how did you live on eighteenpence a week?’

‘I got a bob now and then from people who came to Slippen. When they knew as I was doing the watching for them they would tip me, so as to give me a h’interest in the case, as they said. I used to reckon on making two bob a week that way, so with Slippen’s eighteenpence, I had sixpence a day for grub. I have got my old things wrapped up in the cupboard. I used to use them mostly when I went out watching. I can get them any time; I have got the key. I used to have to let myself in and out, so I have only got to watch till I see him go out, and then go in and get my things, and I can leave the key on the table when I come out.’

Captain Hampton looked at the boy for some time in silence; it really seemed a stroke of good luck that had thrown him in his way. There was no doubt of his shrewdness; he was honest so far as his ideas of honesty went. He wished to serve him, and would probably be faithful. He himself felt altogether at sea as to how to set about the quest for this man and the unknown woman who must be his associate. Even if the boy could be of no material assistance, he would have him to talk to, and there was no one else to whom he could say anything on the subject.

‘Well, Jacob,’ he said at last, ‘I am disposed to give you a trial.’

‘Thank you, Captain,’ the lad said gratefully. ‘I will do my best for you, sir, whatever you tell me. I knows as I ain’t much good to a gent like you, but I will try hard, sir, I will indeed.’

‘And now what am I to do with you?’ Captain Hampton went on. ‘I am sure my landlady would not like to have you down in the kitchen, so for the present you had better get your meals outside.’

‘That is all right, Captain. I can take my grub anywhere.’

‘Very well, then, I will give you two shillings a day for food; that will be sixpence for breakfast and tea and a shilling for dinner. I suppose you could manage on that.’

‘Why, it would be just a-robbing of you,’ the boy said, indignantly. ‘I can get a breakfast of a big cup of tea and a whopping piece of cake for twopence at a coffee-stall, and the same at night, that is fourpence, and for fourpence more I can get a regular blow out: threeha’porth of bread and two saveloys for dinner. I could do first-rate on eightpence.’

‘That is all nonsense, Jacob. If you are coming to be my servant you must live decently. I daresay if you had a place where you could see to your own food you might do it cheaper, but having to pay for things at a coffee-shop, two shillings a day would be a fair sum. As I don’t want you to do anything for me in the house at present I do not see that it will be of any use getting you livery, so we won’t talk about that now. You will most likely want another suit of clothes of some sort while going about to look for this man, whom I still want to find. As for your lodgings, I will see if there is a room vacant upstairs; if not, you must get a bed out.’

He rang the bell, and his landlord, who acted as valet to his lodgers, appeared.

‘Richardson, I have engaged this boy to run errands for me. I do not want him to interfere in the house, and have arranged about his board, as no doubt you would find him in the way downstairs; but if you have an attic empty I should like to arrange for his sleeping here.’

‘I could arrange that, sir. I have a small room at the top of the house empty; I would let it at four shillings a week.’

‘Very well then. He will sleep here to-night.’

‘Perhaps he will step up with me and I will show it to him, sir.’

Hampton nodded, and the boy followed the man out of the room. He returned in a couple of minutes.

‘That will do, I suppose, Jacob?’

‘It just will do,’ the boy said; ‘it is too good for a chap like me. The bed is too clean to sleep in: I would a sight rather lie down on the mat there, sir.’

‘That won’t do at all, Jacob. You must get into clean and tidy ways if you are to be with me. To-morrow morning I will give you some money, and you must go out and get yourself a stock of underlinen—shirts, and drawers, and stockings, and that sort of thing, and another pair or two of shoes. And now it is getting late and you had better go off to bed. Give yourself a thorough good wash all over before you turn in, and again in the morning. Here are two shillings for your food to-morrow. Be here at nine o’clock and then we will talk things over. Here is another half-crown to get yourself a comb and brush.’

The next morning the boy presented himself looking clean and tidy.

‘In the first place here is a list, Jacob, of the things you must get, or rather that I will get for you, for I will go out with you and buy them. And now about your work. I still want to find this man. Did you discover what name he was known by at his lodging?’

‘He was known there as Cooper, Captain, I got that out of the servant girl, but lord bless you a name don’t go for anything with these chaps. No, he may call hisself something else at the next place he goes to.’

‘You learnt he went away in a cab?’

The lad nodded.

‘The first thing to do is to find that cab. It may have been taken from a stand near; it may have been one he hailed passing along the road. How would you set about that?’

‘Offer a reward,’ the boy replied promptly. ‘Get a thing printed and I will leave it at all the stands in that part.’

‘Yes, that will be a good way.’ Captain Hampton wrote a line or two on a piece of paper. It was headed—A Reward.—The cabman who took a man with several boxes from——’What is the address, Jacob, where the man lodged?’

‘Twelve, Hawthorn Street.’

‘From Hawthorn Street, Islington, on the evening of the 15th July, can earn one pound by calling upon Captain Hampton, 150 Jermyn Street.’

‘That will do it,’ the boy said, as the advertisement was read out.

‘Well, I will get a hundred of these struck off at once, then you can set to work.’

Having gone to a printer’s and ordered the handbills, which were to be ready in an hour, Captain Hampton went with the boy and bought his clothes.

‘Now, Jacob, you will go back to the printer’s in an hour’s time and wait until you get the handbills. Here are five shillings to pay for them; then take a ‘bus at the Circus for Islington and distribute the handbills at all the cab stands in the neighbourhood. I shan’t want you any more to-day, but if I am at home when you come in you can let me know how you have got on. Be in by half-past nine always. You had better go on at your night school; you have nothing to do after dark and there is nowhere for you to sit here. There is no reason why you should not go on working there as usual.’

‘All right, Captain; if you says so in course I will go, but I hates it worse nor poison.’

On his return Captain Hampton read the paper and wrote some letters, and was just starting to go out to lunch when Mr. Hawtrey was shown in.

‘I am very glad I have caught you, Ned; I meant to tell you I would come round after seeing Levine. This business will worry me into my grave. This morning Dorothy declared that the thing must be fought out. Her objection to going into court has quite vanished. She says that it is the only chance there is of getting to the bottom of things, and that if that is not done we must go away to China or Siberia, or some out-of-the-way place where no one will know her. Then I went to Levine. Danvers called for me and took me there. I wrote to him last night and asked him to do so. Nothing could have been more polite than Levine’s manner—I should say he would be a charming fellow at a dinner table. I went into the whole thing with him, he took notes while I was talking, and asked a question now and then; of course, I told him our last notion, that there must be somebody about exactly like Dorothy in face and figure. “And dress, too?” he asked, with a little sort of emphasis. “Yes, and dress too,” I said. When I had done he simply said that it was a singular case, which I could have told him well enough, and that he should like to take a little time to think it over. His present idea was that I had best pay the money. I told him that I did not care a rap about the money, but that if this thing got about, the fact that I had compromised it would be altogether ruinous to my daughter. He said, “I think you can rely upon it that Gilliat will preserve an absolute silence. I can assure you that jewellers get to know a great many curious family histories, and it is part of their business to be discreet.” “Yes,” I said, “but don’t you see if, as I believe, this fellow Truscott got up the first persecution purely to revenge what he believes is a grievance against me—if that is so, and if he has any connection with this second business, you may be sure that somehow or other he will get something nasty about it put in one of these gutter journals.” That silenced him, and he again said he would think it over. When I got up to go he asked Danvers to wait a few minutes, as he took it that if the matter went into court he would, as a matter of course, be retained on our side. So I came away by myself and drove here. The worst of it is, I believe that the man thinks that Dorothy did it. Of course, as he does not know her he is not altogether to be blamed, but it is deucedly annoying to have to do with a man who evidently thinks your daughter is a thief.’

‘Did he say anything as to our idea that some one else must have represented her?’

‘Not a single word; he listened attentively while I told him, but he made no remarks whatever about it.’

After the doors of Mr. Levine’s office had closed behind Mr. Hawtrey, the solicitor leant back in his chair and looked at Danvers with raised eyebrows.

‘You have heard the story before, I suppose?’ he asked.

‘I heard about the first business, but not about this matter of the jewels; except that he gave me a slight outline as we drove here this morning. It is a curious business.’

‘It is a very unpleasant business, but scarcely a curious one,’ the lawyer said, with a grave smile. ‘I have heard so many bits of queer family history, that I scarcely look at anything that way now as curious. You would be astonished, simply astonished, did you know how often things of this kind occur.’

‘Then you think that Miss Hawtrey took the jewels?’

Mr. Levine’s eyebrows went up again in surprise at the question. ‘My impression so far is,’ he said, ‘as between solicitor and counsel, that there is not the slightest doubt in the world about it. The girl had got into some bad sort of scrape; some blackguard had got her under his thumb. She had a good marriage on hand; it was absolutely necessary to shut the fellow’s mouth. A largish sum was wanted, and she dared not ask her father, so she played a bold stroke—a wonderfully bold stroke I must say—relying upon brazening it out and getting her father to believe—as she evidently has succeeded in doing—that there is a double of herself somewhere about, who represented her. All the first part of the case is a comparatively ordinary one. This is curious, even to me—in its daring audacity, it is really magnificent. Of course, her father must pay the money; to defend it would be to ruin her utterly. Do you mean to say you don’t agree with me?’

‘I hardly know what to think,’ Danvers said, doubtfully. ‘I know Miss Hawtrey intimately, and have done so for some years, and in spite of the apparent impossibility of her innocence, I own that I cannot bring myself to believe in her guilt. She is one of the brightest, frankest, and most natural girls I know.’

The lawyer looked at him with a smile of almost pity.

‘You surprise me, sir. My experience is that in the majority of cases of this kind it is just the very last girl one would suspect who goes wrong. Why, my dear sir, if we were to set up such a ridiculous defence as this in an action to recover the price of the jewels, we should simply be laughed out of court.’

‘Mr. Hawtrey tells me that his daughter is most anxious that he should defend the case.’

Again the eyebrows went up.

‘Of course she would say so. She must know well enough that, whether her father put himself into my hands or any one else’s, the advice would be the same: Pay the money; you have no shadow of a chance of getting a verdict, and to bring it into court would utterly ruin your daughter’s prospects. Of course, it is her cue to appear anxious for a trial, knowing perfectly well that such a thing is out of the question.’

‘I think you might alter your opinion if you saw her.’

‘I certainly should be glad to see her,’ Charles Levine said. ‘I admire talent, and she must be amazingly clever. I have a great respect for audacity, and I never heard in all my experience of a more brilliant piece of boldness than this. She must be a great actress, too; of the highest order. Altogether I should be very glad to see her. She deserves to succeed, and as there is no doubt that you and I will be able to persuade her father that there is nothing for it but to pay the money. I think her success is pretty well assured.’

‘I agree with you that this money must be paid, but I am not prepared to go further yet.’

‘My dear sir,’ the lawyer said, ‘you confirm the opinion I have always held, that the judgment of no man under fifty is worth a penny where a young and pretty woman is concerned. Mind, there are many men, perhaps the majority, who cannot be trusted in such a matter up to any time of life, but up to fifty the rule is almost universal.’

‘I am glad to hear it,’ Danvers said, ‘for in that case your own judgment cannot be accepted as final.’

‘I rather expected that, Mr. Danvers, but you must remember that in matters of this kind I have had more experience than a dozen ordinary men of the age of eighty. Now, I really cannot spare any more time. I have given your client a good two hours, and my waiting-room must be full of angry men. I shall write to Mr. Hawtrey to-morrow to say that upon thinking the matter well over my first impressions are more than confirmed, and that I am of opinion that no jury in the world would give him a verdict, and that it would be nothing short of insanity to go into Court. I shall mention, of course, that I am much struck with his theory of the affair, which indeed appears to me to furnish the only complete explanation of the matter, but that in the absence of a single confirmatory piece of evidence it would be hopeless for the most eloquent counsel to attempt to persuade twelve British jurymen to entertain the theory. I think it would be as well if you were to call on him this evening or to-morrow morning and shew him that your view agrees with mine. That much you can honestly say, can you not?’

‘Certainly. However difficult I may find it to persuade myself that Miss Hawtrey is in any way the woman you picture her, I am as convinced as you are that it is absolutely necessary that the money should be paid.’

On Mr. Hawtrey reaching his home he found Mrs. Daintree upon the sofa in tears, while Dorothy, with a book in her hand, was sitting with an unconcerned expression a short distance from her.

‘What is the matter now?’ he asked testily. ‘Upon my word I believe my annoyances would have upset Job.’

‘Would you believe it? Cousin Dorothy has just declared to me her intention of writing to Lord Halliburn to break off the match.’

Mr. Hawtrey did not explode as his cousin had expected that he would do.

‘It is not a step to be taken hastily,’ he said, gravely, ‘but it is one upon which Dorothy herself is the best judge. You have not written yet, child?’

‘No, father. I should not think of doing so without telling you first. I have, of course, been thinking a good deal about it, and it certainly seems to me that it would be best.’

‘Well, a few hours will make no difference. The idea is at present new to me: I will think it over quietly this afternoon, and this evening we will talk it over together.’

‘It would be nothing short of madness for her to do so,’ Mrs. Daintree said, roused to a state of real anger by Mr. Hawtrey’s defection, when she had implicitly relied upon his authority being exerted to prevent Dorothy from carrying out her intention. ‘It would be madness to break off so excellent a match. It would make her the talk of the whole town, and would seem to confirm all the wicked rumours that have been going about.’

‘As to the match, cousin, there are as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it. As to the public talk, it is better to be talked about for a week or two than to have a life’s unhappiness. That is the sole point with which I concern myself.’

Dorothy, with a softened face now, got up and kissed her father.

‘That is right dear,’ he said. ‘Now let us put the matter aside for the present. I have been busy all the morning and want my lunch badly; so even if you are not hungry yourself, come down and keep me company. Come, cousin, dry your eyes, and put your cap straight, and come down to lunch.’

‘Food would choke me,’ Mrs. Daintree said; ‘I have a dreadful headache, and shall go and lie down.’

Chapter VIII • 6,600 Words

‘Mr. Danvers is in the library, sir,’ a servant announced at nine o’clock that evening.

‘Will you come down, Dorothy?’

‘No, father, I do not want to hear what is said. No doubt he will suppose I took the diamonds.’

‘No, no, my dear, you should not say that.’

‘But I do say that, father. When even Captain Hampton was willing enough to believe me guilty, what can I expect from others?’

‘You are too hard on Ned altogether, Dorothy, a great deal too hard. He spent a month of his leave entirely in your service, and now because he could not disbelieve the evidence of his own eyes you turn against him.’

‘I am obliged to him for the trouble he has taken, father, but that is not what I want at present. I want trust; and I thought that if any one would have given it to me fully it would have been Ned Hampton, and nothing would have made me doubt him.’

‘Well, my dear,’ her father said, dryly, ‘you may think so now, but if you were to see him filling his pockets out of a bank till, I fancy for a moment your trust in him would waver. However, I will go down to Danvers.’

He returned at the end of twenty minutes.

‘His advice is the same as that which, as I mentioned this afternoon, Levine gave when I told him of the circumstances, and which I have no doubt he will repeat when he has further thought the matter over, namely, that unless we can obtain some evidence to support your denial, we have no chance of obtaining a verdict if we go into court. Danvers says that, of course, to those who know you, the idea of your taking these diamonds is absolutely preposterous; still, as the jury will not know you, and the public who read the report will not know you, they can only go by the evidence. He says that trying to look at it as a stranger, his opinion would be that it was an extraordinary case, but that unless we believed thoroughly that you had not taken the things, we should never have taken so hopeless a case into court. Still, he thinks that the verdict of those who only look at the outside of things would be that the denial was almost worse than the act. Had it not been for the unfortunate rumours previously circulated, many people might be of opinion that it was a case of kleptomania, and that no woman in her senses would have thus openly carried the things away from a place where she was well known.’

‘I see all that, father; the more I have thought it over, the more I feel that it is certain that every one will be against me.’

‘Then in that case, Dorothy, why fight a battle we are certain to lose? From the money point of view alone, it would be better to pay this twenty-five hundred pounds than the twenty-five hundred pounds plus the costs on both sides, which we might put down roughly at another thousand. If we pay it now, the matter may never become public, for even if the scoundrel was malicious enough to try and get a rumour about it into one of these so-called society papers I should doubt whether he could do so. In the last case they got the report, no doubt, from some one in Scotland Yard, but no editor would be mad enough to risk an action for libel with tremendous damages merely on an anonymous report, or at best, a report given only on the authority of an impecunious hanger-on of the turf. It seems to me, therefore, that we should have everything to lose, and nothing to gain, by bringing the matter into court.’

‘But the same thing may be done again, father; if they have succeeded so well now they are sure to try and repeat it.’

‘We might take measures to prevent their doing that. The moment the thing is settled we will go down into the country, and when we return to town next season I will get a companion for you—some bright, sensible woman, who will not be half her time laid up with headaches, and who will always go with you whenever you go out; so that were such an attempt made again, you would be in a position to prove conclusively where you were at the time. Danvers suggested that if I pay the money to Gilliat I should do so with a written protest, to the effect that I was convinced that you had not been in his shop on the day in question, but that as I was not in a position to prove this I paid the money, reserving to myself the right to reclaim it, should I be at any time in a position to prove that you had not been at his shop on that day, or be able to produce the woman who represented you. Should the matter by any chance ever crop up again, a copy of this protest would be an advantage.’

‘At any rate, father, I could never marry Lord Halliburn unless this matter were entirely cleared up; it would be unfair to him in the extreme. He might receive an anonymous letter from these people, and if he asked me if it was true, what could I say? He has been greatly upset by the other business, what would he say did he know that I have been accused of theft? That brings us back to the subject of my engagement. You have been thinking it over since lunch, father?’

‘Yes, dear, I have been thinking it over as well as I could, and I again repeat that the only light in which I can regard it is that of your happiness. I quite see that your being engaged to a man in his position does add to the embarrassment and difficulty of the position. We have to consider not only ourselves but him. Still, that matters after all comparatively little. Supposing this matter were all cleared up satisfactorily, how would you stand then? You might then bitterly regret the step you now want to take.’

‘No, father; up to the time when this trouble first began I don’t think that I thought very seriously about it. Lord Halliburn was very nice, I liked him as much as any man I have met. I suppose I was gratified by his attentions; every one spoke well of him; I own that I was rather proud of carrying him off, and it really seemed to me that I was likely to be very happy with him. Since then I have looked at it in a different way. I knew, of course, that husbands and wives are supposed to share each other’s troubles, but it had never really seemed to me that there was a likelihood of troubles coming into my life. Well, troubles have come, and with them I have come to look at things differently. To begin with, I have learnt more of Lord Halliburn’s character than I probably should have done in all my life if such troubles had not come.

‘I have been disappointed in him. I do not say that in the first matter he doubted me for an instant—it was not that; but I found out that he is altogether selfish. He has thought all through, not how this affected me, but how it would affect himself; he has been querulous, exacting, and impatient. Had he been the man I thought him he would have been kinder and more attentive than before; he would have tried to let every one see by his manner to me how wholly he trusted me; he would have striven to make things easier for me; but he has made them much harder. If I held in my hands now the proofs [missing text] against me, I would send them to him and at the same time a letter breaking off my engagement. When I think it over, I am sometimes inclined to be almost grateful to this trouble, because it has opened my eyes to the fact that I have been very nearly making a great mistake, and that, had I married Lord Halliburn, my life might have gone on smoothly enough, but that there would never have been any real community of feeling between us. He would have regarded me as a useful and, perhaps, an ornamental head to his house, but I should never have had a home in the true sense of the word, father; that is, a home like this.’

‘Then that is settled, my dear. Now that you have said as much as you have, we need not say another word on the matter. I must say, frankly, that I have of late come almost to dislike him, and it has several times cost me no inconsiderable effort to keep my temper when I saw how entirely he regarded the matter in a personal light, and how little thought he gave to the pain and trouble you were going through. I am in no hurry to lose you, my dear, and the thought that it might be a few months has given me many a heartache. And now, how will you do it?—Will you write to him or see him?’

‘I would rather tell him, father.’

‘You see, dear, both for his sake and your own it must be publicly known that the engagement is broken by you, and not by him. It would be very unfair on him for it to be supposed that he has taken advantage of these rumours to break off his engagement, and it would greatly injure you, as people would say that he must have become convinced of their truth.’

Dorothy nodded. ‘I will see him, father. I shall speak to him quite frankly; I shall tell him that this attack having been made on me it is possible that there may be at some future time other troubles from the same source, and that it would be unfair to him, in his position as a member of the Ministry, for his wife to be made the target of such attacks. I shall also tell him that quite apart from this, I feel that I acted too hastily and upon insufficient knowledge of him in accepting him; that I am convinced that our marriage would not bring to either of us that happiness that we have a right to expect. That is all I shall say, unless he presses me to go into details, and then I shall speak just as frankly as I have done to you.’

‘Well, dear, I can only say I am heartily glad,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, kissing her, ‘and am inclined to feel almost grateful to that fellow Truscott for giving me back my little girl again. Of course, I know it must come some day, but after having been so much to each other for so many years, it is a little trying at first to feel that one is no longer first in your affections.’

‘The idea of such a thing, father,’ Dorothy said, indignantly, ‘as if I ever for a moment put him before you.’

‘Well, if you have not, child, it shows very conclusively that you did not care for him as a girl should care for a man she is going to marry. I do not say that it is so in many marriages that are, as they term it, arranged in society, but where there is the real, honest love that there ought to be, and such as I hope you will some day feel for some one, he becomes, as he should become, first in everything.’

‘It seems to me quite impossible, father, that I could love any other man as I do you.’

Mr. Hawtrey smiled.

‘I hope you will learn it is very possible, some day, Dorothy. Well, at any rate, this has done away with your chief reason for objecting to my paying for these diamonds. No doubt I shall hear from Levine some time to-morrow; at any rate, there is no reason to decide finally for another day or two. Gilliat can be in no hurry, and a month’s delay may make some difference in the situation.’

‘Well, dear, is it over?’ Mr. Hawtrey asked next day, when Dorothy came into his study. ‘It was a relief to me when I saw his brougham drive off, for I knew that you must be having an unpleasant time of it.’

‘Yes; it has not been pleasant, father. He came in looking anxious, as he generally has done of late, thinking that my request for him to call this morning meant that there was news of some sort, pleasant or otherwise. I told him at once that I had been seriously thinking over the matter for some time, and that I had for several reasons come to the conclusion that it would be better that our engagement should terminate, and then gave him my first reason. He was very earnest, and protested that as he had never for a moment believed in these rumours he could not see that there was any reason whatever for breaking off the engagement. I said that I did him full justice in that respect, but that the matter had certainly been a great source of annoyance to him, and that I was convinced of the probability of further trouble of the same kind, and that as we had been powerless to detect the author of this we might be as powerless in the future. Then I frankly told him that I knew that his hopes were greatly centred in his political career, and that for him to have a wife who was the subject of a scandal would be a very serious drawback to him. He did not attempt to deny this, but then urged that a breach of the engagement at present would be taken to mean that he had been affected by the rumours. I said that full justice should be done to him in that respect; then, as he still protested—though I am convinced that at heart he felt relieved—I added that there were certain other reasons into which I need not go fully; that I thought that I had accepted him without sufficient consideration, and that I had gradually come to feel that we were not altogether suited to each other, and that a wife would always occupy but a secondary position in his thoughts, politics and public business occupying the first. I said that I had been brought up perhaps in an old-fashioned way and entertained the old-fashioned idea that a wife should hold the first place.

‘He was disposed to be angry, because, no doubt, he felt that it was perfectly true. However I said, “Do not be angry, Lord Halliburn. I shall be very, very sorry if we part other than good friends. I like and esteem you very much, and had it not been for these troubles I should never have thought of breaking my engagement to you. As it is, I am thinking as much of you as of myself. I am convinced I shall have further troubles, and perhaps more serious ones. I have already, in fact, had some sort of warning of them, and if they come it would make it much harder for me to bear them were our names associated together, for I feel that your prospects would be seriously injured as well as my own.”

‘”You talk it over very calmly and coolly,” he said, irritably.

‘I said that I had been thinking it over calmly for a month and more, and that I was sure that it was best for both of us. So at last we parted good friends. I have no doubt it is a relief to him as it is to me, but just at first, I suppose, it was natural that he should be upset. I don’t think he had ever thought for a moment of breaking it off himself, but I am quite sure that if this other thing comes out he will congratulate himself most heartily. Well, there is an end of that, father.’

‘Yes, my dear; I am sorry, and at the same time I am glad. I don’t think, dear, that you are the sort of girl who would ever have been very happy if you had married without any very real love in the matter. For my part I can see nothing enviable in the life of a woman who spends her whole life in what is called Society. Two or three months of gaiety in the year may be well enough, but to live always in it seems to me one of the most wretched ways of spending one’s existence. And now, dear, let us change the subject altogether. I think for the next few days you had better go out again. I propose that we leave town at the end of the week and either go down home or, what would be better, go for a couple of months on the continent. That will give time for the gossip over the engagement being broken off to die out. You did not put off our engagement to dine at the Deans’ to-day?’

‘No, father, I could not write and say two days beforehand that I was unwell and unable to come.’

‘Very well then, we will go. I always like their dinners, because she comes from our neighbourhood and one always meets three or four of our Lincolnshire friends.’

‘It is the Botanical this afternoon, father. Shall I go there with Cousin Mary?’

‘Do so by all means, dear.’

As they drove that evening to the Deans’, Mr. Hawtrey said, ‘I had that letter from Levine as I was dressing, Dorothy. He goes over nearly the same ground as Danvers did, and is also of opinion that I should pay under protest, in order that if at any time we can lay our hands on the real offender, we can claim the return of the money. I shall go round in the morning and have a talk with Gilliat.’

Dorothy was more herself than she had been for weeks. Her engagement had, since her trouble first began, been a greater burden to her than she had been willing to admit even to herself. Lord Halliburn had jarred upon her constantly, and she had come almost to dread their daily meetings.

At an early stage of her troubles she had thought the matter out, and had come to the conclusion that she had made a mistake, and was not long in arriving at the determination that she would at the end of the season ask him to release her from her engagement. Before that she hoped that the rumours that had affected him would have died out completely, and would not necessarily be associated with the termination of the engagement. Had not this fresh trouble arisen, matters would have gone on on their old footing until late in the autumn, but this new trouble had forced her to act at once, and her first thought had been that it was only fair to him to release him at once. She was surprised now at the weight that had been lifted from her mind, at the buoyancy of spirits which she felt. She was almost indifferent as to the other matter.

‘You are more like yourself than you have been for weeks, Dorothy,’ her father said, during the drive.

‘I feel like a bird that has got out of a cage, father. It was not a bad cage, it was very nicely gilt and in all ways a desirable one, still it was a cage, and I feel very happy indeed in feeling that I am out of it.’

Dorothy enjoyed her dinner and laughed and talked merrily with the gentleman who had taken her down. Mrs. Dean remarked to her husband afterwards that the absence of Lord Halliburn, who sent a letter of regret that important business would prevent his fulfilling his engagement, did not seem to be any great disappointment to Dorothy Hawtrey.

‘I never saw her in better spirits, my dear; lately I have been feeling quite anxious about her; she was beginning to look quite worn from the trouble of those abominable stories.’

‘I expect she feels Halliburn’s absence a positive relief,’ he said. ‘You know you remarked, yourself, the last time we saw them out, how glum and sulky he looked, and you said that if you were in her place you would throw him over without hesitation.’

‘I know I said so, and do you know I wondered at dinner whether she had not come to the same conclusion.’

‘Dorothy has lots of spirit,’ Mr. Dean said, ‘and is quite capable of kicking over the traces. I should say there is no pluckier rider than that girl in all Lincolnshire, and I fancy that a woman who doesn’t flinch from the stiffest jump would not hesitate for a moment in throwing over even the best match of the season if he offended her. She is a dear good girl, is Dorothy Hawtrey, and I don’t think that she is a bit spoilt by her success this season. I always thought she made a mistake in accepting Halliburn; he is not half good enough for her. He may be an earl, and an Under-Secretary of State, but he is no more fit to run in harness with Dorothy Hawtrey than he is to fly.’

When the gentlemen came up after dinner Dorothy made room on the sofa on which she was sitting for an old friend who walked across to her. Mr. Singleton was a near neighbour down in Lincolnshire; he was a bachelor, and Dorothy had always been a great pet of his.

‘Well, my dear,’ he said, as he took a seat beside her, ‘I am heartily glad to see you looking quite yourself again to-night, and to know that I have been able to help my little favourite out of a scrape.’

Dorothy’s eyes opened wide. ‘To help me out of a scrape, Mr. Singleton! Why, what scrape have you helped me out of?’

‘I beg your pardon, my dear,’ he said hastily. ‘I told you we would never speak of the matter again, and here I am, like an old fool, bringing it up the very first time I meet you.’

Dorothy’s face paled.

‘Mr. Singleton,’ she said, ‘I seem to be surrounded by mysteries. Do I understand you to say that you have done me some kindness lately—helped me out of some scrape?’

‘Well, my dear, those were your own words,’ he replied, looking surprised in turn; ‘but please do not let us say anything more about it.’

Dorothy sat quiet for a minute, then she made a sign to her father, who was standing at the other side of the room, to come across to her. ‘Father,’ she said, ‘will you ask Mr. Singleton to drive home with us; I am afraid there is some fresh trouble, and, at any rate, I must speak to him, and this is not the place for questions. Please let us go as soon as the carriage comes. Now, will you please go away, Mr. Singleton, and leave me to myself for a minute or two, for my head is in a whirl?’

‘But, my dear,’ he began, but was stopped by an impatient wave of Dorothy’s hand.

‘What is it, Singleton?’ Mr. Hawtrey asked, as they went across the room.

‘I am completely puzzled,’ he replied; ‘what Dorothy means by asking me to come with you, and to answer questions, is a complete mystery to me. Please don’t ask me any questions now. I have evidently put my foot into it somehow, though I have not the least idea how.’

Ten minutes later the carriage was announced. As she took her place in it, Dorothy said, ‘Don’t ask any questions until we are at home.’

The two men were far too puzzled to talk on any indifferent subject. Not a word was spoken until they arrived at Chester Square.

‘Has Mrs. Daintree gone to bed?’ Dorothy asked the footman.

‘Yes, Miss Hawtrey; she went a quarter of an hour ago.’

‘Are the lights still burning in the drawing-room?’

‘Yes, miss.’

They went upstairs.

‘Now, Dorothy, what does all this mean?’ her father asked, impatiently.

‘That is what we have got to learn, father. Mr. Singleton congratulated me on having recovered my spirits, and took some credit to himself for having helped me out of a scrape. As I do not in the least know what he means, I want him to give you and me the particulars.’

‘But, my dear Dorothy,’ Mr. Singleton said, ‘why on earth do you ask me that question? Surely you cannot wish me to mention anything about that trifling affair.’

‘But I do, Mr. Singleton. You do not know the position in which I am placed at present. I am surrounded by mysteries, I am accused of things I never did. Now it seems as if there were a fresh one; possibly if you tell us the exact particulars of what you were speaking of it may help us to get to the bottom of it.’

‘I don’t understand it in the least,’ Mr. Singleton said, gravely. ‘You are quite sure, Dorothy, that you wish me to repeat before your father the exact details of our interview?’

‘If you please, Mr. Singleton; every little minute particular.’

‘Of course I will do as you wish, my dear,’ the old gentleman said, kindly, ‘it seems to me madness, but if you really wish it I will do so. If I make any mistake correct me at once. Well, this is the story, Hawtrey. I need not tell you it would never have passed my lips, except at Dorothy’s request. A short time since, a fortnight or three weeks, I cannot tell you the day exactly, my servant brought me up word that a lady wished to see me. She had given no name, but I supposed it was one of these charity collecting women, so I told her to show her in. To my surprise it was Miss Dorothy. After shaking hands she sat down, and to my astonishment burst into tears. It was some time before I could pacify her, and get her to tell me what was the matter; then she told me that she had got into a dreadful scrape, that she dared not tell you, that it would be ruin to her, and that she had come to me as one of her oldest friends, to ask me if I could help her to get out of it.

‘Of course, I said I would do anything, and at last, with great difficulty, and after another burst of crying, she told me that she must have a thousand pounds to save her. She said something about wanting to pawn some of her jewels, but this would not come to enough. Of course, I pooh-poohed this, and said that I was very sorry to hear that she had got into a scrape, but that a thousand pounds were a trifle to me in comparison to the happiness of the daughter of an old friend. She was very reluctant to receive it, and wanted, at least, to pawn her jewels for two or three hundred pounds, but I said that that was nonsense, and eventually I drew a cheque for a thousand pounds, which I made payable to Mary Brown or bearer, as I, naturally, did not wish her name to appear at all in the matter.

‘She was most grateful for it. I told her that, of course, I should never allude to the matter again, and that she was not to trouble about it in the slightest, for that I had put her down for five thousand pounds in my will and would change the figure to four, so that she would only be getting the money a little earlier than I had intended. This evening, unfortunately, I was stupid enough, in saying that I was pleased to see her looking more like her old self, to add that I was glad to know that I had been the means of helping my little favourite out of a scrape. It was stupid of me, I admit, to have even thus far broken my promise never to allude to the thing again, but why she should have insisted upon my telling a story—painful to both of us—to you, is altogether beyond my comprehension.’

Mr. Hawtrey was too much astonished to ask any questions, but looked helplessly at Dorothy, who said quietly—

‘Thank you for telling the story, Mr. Singleton, and thank you still more for so generously coming, as you believed, to my assistance. You cannot remember exactly which day it was?’

‘No, my dear, but I could see the date on the counterfoil of my cheque-book.’

‘Was it the fifteenth of last month, Mr. Singleton?’

‘Fifteenth? Well, I cannot say exactly, but it would be somewhere about that time.’

‘And about what time of day?’

‘Some time in the afternoon, I know; somewhere between three and four, I should say. I know I had not been back long after lunching at the Travellers’. I generally leave there about three, and it is not more than five minutes’ walk up to the Albany.’

‘Now, father, please tell Mr. Singleton about Gilliat’s.’

‘But, Dorothy,’ Mr. Singleton exclaimed, when he heard the story, ‘it is absolutely impossible that you could have done such a thing.’

‘It seems to me impossible, Mr. Singleton, but here is the evidence of two people that I did do it; and now I have your evidence that on the same afternoon I came to you and obtained a thousand pounds from you. Either those two men were dreaming or out of their minds, and you were dreaming or out of your mind, or I am out of my mind and do things unconsciously. My own belief is that I can account for my whole afternoon,’ and she repeated the details that she had given her father as to her movements. ‘But even if I could have done these things without knowing it, where are the jewels and where is the cheque?’

‘The cheque was presented next day and paid. It came back with my bank book at the end of the month.’

‘It is not often I go out in the morning,’ Dorothy said, ‘and I should think I could prove that I did not do so on the morning of the 16th; but I cannot be sure if, in a state of somnambulism or in a sort of trance, I did not call at the jewellers and on you. I might, had I gone out, have changed that cheque in a similar state. That would have been a straightforward thing, but how could I get rid of the jewels? If I had them now and wanted to raise money on them I should not have the least idea how to do so, and I could hardly have carried out such a scheme in a state of unconsciousness. The jewellers say I was dressed in a blue dress with red spots, and I went out in a gown of that pattern on that day.’

‘I did not notice the dress particularly,’ Mr. Singleton said, ‘but it was certainly a blue of some sort. Of course it is quite out of the question that you could have done all these things unconsciously; but what does it all mean? I am absolutely bewildered.’

‘We have only one theory to account for it, Singleton. We believe, in fact we are positively convinced, that there is somewhere a girl so exactly resembling Dorothy that even those who know her well, like yourself, might take one for the other, and that she and perhaps an accomplice are taking advantage of this likeness to personate Dorothy. They have even gone the length of having a dress made exactly like hers. I will now tell you the real history of that affair that got into the papers. You will see that the party we believe to be at the bottom of it would know, or would have means of finding out, that Gilliat was our family jeweller, and that you were an intimate friend. Our theory is that revenge as well as plunder was the motive, and that the first part of the affair was simply an endeavour to injure Dorothy, and to suggest a motive for her need of money just at this time.’

‘It is an extraordinary story,’ Mr. Singleton said, when he heard it all. ‘I cannot doubt that it is as you suggest. That my little Dorothy should behave in this way is too ridiculous to be believed for a moment; though I own that I should have been ready, if obliged, to swear in court that it was she who came to me.’

‘Did she wear a veil?’ Dorothy asked, suddenly. ‘I forgot to ask Mr. Gilliat that.’

‘Yes, she had a veil on and kept it down all the time. It was a warm day and I rather wondered afterwards at your wearing it, for I do not think I ever saw you in a veil. But I supposed that you did not want to be seen coming up to me, and that perhaps you felt that you could tell your story more easily behind it.’

‘Was it a thick veil?’

‘No, it seemed to me the usual sort of thing ladies wear.’

‘Did you notice anything particular about the voice?’

Mr. Singleton thought for a minute. ‘I did not notice anything at the time. Of course it differed from your ordinary voice as I am accustomed to hear it. You see she was crying, with a handkerchief up to her face, and spoke low and hesitatingly. All of which changes the voice. I never doubted it was you, you see, and as I had never heard you speak in low, broken tones, sobbing and crying, any difference there may have been did not strike me.’

‘But altogether, Mr. Singleton, even now that I declare that I was not the person who called upon you, you can, thinking it over, see nothing that would lead you to doubt that it was myself.’

Mr. Singleton shook his head. ‘No, Dorothy, I am sorry to say that I cannot. Your word is quite sufficient for me, and I feel as certain that this woman was an impostor as if she herself came forward to own it. The likeness, however, in figure and in face was extraordinary, although I admit that the veil made an alteration in the face. It always does. I frequently pass ladies I know well, and if they have thick veils down do not recognise them until they bow and smile. There was just that difference between the face and yours as I usually see it. I can remember now that as you, or rather this woman came into the room, I did not for the first instant recognise her owing to the veil; it was but momentarily, just the same hesitation I have so often felt before, neither more nor less.’

‘However, it was possible, Mr. Singleton, that the resemblance may not have been absolutely perfect, and that had she not had a veil on you would have seen it at once.’

‘That is possible, quite possible,’ Mr. Singleton assented.

‘And now, Singleton, as an old friend, tell me what is to be done. To-day we had all but settled that I should pay the value of those diamonds to Gilliat. Dorothy has been anxious that I should fight the case, but Levine, into whose hands I put myself, and Danvers, who would have been one of our counsel, were both so strongly of opinion that we had no chance whatever of getting a verdict, and that it would greatly damage Dorothy, that I persuaded her to let me pay. But, you see, this affair of yours changes the position of affairs altogether. As she has victimised you, so she may victimise others of my friends, as well as other tradesmen, and it seems to me that the only way to put a stop to that will be publicity.’

‘I think, Hawtrey, that the first person to be consulted in the matter is Lord Halliburn. You see this game may go on again in the future on even a larger scale, for the Countess of Halliburn’s orders would be fulfilled without a moment’s hesitation by any tradesman in London.’

‘There is no need to consult him, Singleton; Dorothy broke off the engagement with him this morning. You need not commiserate her,’ he went on, as Mr. Singleton was about to express his deep regret. ‘I may tell you, as an old friend, that there were perhaps other reasons besides these troubles, and that, for myself, I am heartily glad that the engagement is at an end.’

‘Well, if that is the case, I may say I am glad too, Hawtrey. Of course, the match was a good one, but I never altogether fancied it, and had always felt some disappointment that my little favourite should be, as I thought, making a match for position instead of for love. So it was that, young lady, and not, as I was fool enough to fancy, getting out of a money scrape, that made you so bright and like yourself at dinner this evening?’

Dorothy smiled faintly.

‘It was getting out of a scrape, you see, Mr. Singleton, although not the one you thought of. I think you are a little hard on me. I certainly should not have accepted Lord Halliburn unless at the time I had thought I liked him very much; but I think that during the trouble I had I came to see that something more than liking is necessary, and that a man who may be a very pleasant member of society would not necessarily make so pleasant a partner in life.’

‘Well, now as to your advice, Singleton.’

‘I can give none, Hawtrey. The matter is too important and too much out of my line for my opinion to be worth a fig; but I will tell you what I will do. It is clear that you must see Levine and tell him about this affair; if you write and make an appointment with him to-morrow, say at twelve o’clock, I will call here at half-past eleven and go with you. If you will take my advice you will take Dorothy with you. Levine is pretty well accustomed to read faces, and I think he will be more likely to take our view of the matter when he has once seen her. You may as well sit down and write a note at once; I will post it as I drive back. I think, too, I would write to Danvers and ask him to be there; he is a clever young fellow, and his opinion may help us. While you are writing I will get Dorothy to tell your footman to whistle for a hansom for me.’

Chapter IX • 6,700 Words

Just before twelve o’clock on the following day Mr. Hawtrey’s carriage drew up at Charles Levine’s office. In the waiting room they found Danvers, who had arrived shortly before them.

‘Thank you for coming,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, as he shook hands with him; ‘I think I am rather afraid of Levine by himself. Of course I know that he is the best adviser one can have in a business of this sort, but that way he has of lifting his eyebrows makes me nervous. I feel as David Copperfield did with that man-servant of Steerforth’s; he thought him very young indeed. It does not make me feel young, but rather that he is considering me to be an old fool. I don’t suppose he means exactly that, but that is the impression I get from those eyebrows of his.’

‘I am sure he does not mean that, Mr. Hawtrey,’ Danvers laughed, ‘though it may be that the action is expressive of a passing doubt in his mind, or rather of his perceiving some point that is unfavourable to the cause he is retained to defend. I hope you have come here to say that you agree with our view in the matter.’

‘You will hear presently, Danvers. I came to that conclusion yesterday, but the position is somewhat changed.’

At this moment the door opened, and a clerk asked them to follow him, as Mr. Levine was now disengaged.

‘This is your client—my daughter Dorothy,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, as he introduced her to the lawyer; ‘this is Mr. Singleton, an old friend and neighbour of ours.’

Mr. Levine shook hands with Dorothy, looking at her scrutinisingly as he did so; she looked as frankly at him.

‘So you thought I was guilty, Mr. Levine?’

‘I am sure that your father will do me the justice to say that I said nothing that could in any way be construed into such an opinion, Miss Hawtrey,’ he replied, courteously.

‘Perhaps not, but you thought so all the same. I am learning to be a thought reader. I saw that, and also I think that a slight feeling of doubt came into your mind as you shook hands.’

‘I must be careful, I see,’ he said, smiling; ‘however, without either admitting or denying anything, I may say that I am glad that Mr. Hawtrey brought you with him.’

‘And now, Mr. Levine,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, ‘I will tell you what we have come about. Yesterday we had quite made up our minds to take your advice, although my daughter assented to it only with the greatest reluctance. A fresh complication has occurred which I will leave Mr. Singleton to tell for himself.’

Mr. Levine took up a pen and prepared to take notes, as Mr. Singleton began the story with his conversation with Dorothy at Mrs. Dean’s. At the point when Dorothy called her father, Mr. Levine interposed.

‘Pardon me for interrupting you, but it is very important that I should understand the position exactly before you go farther. Whatever this matter may be of which you are about to tell me, do I understand that it was one entirely between Miss Hawtrey and yourself?’

‘Entirely.’

‘It was one of which you never intended to have spoken, and of which Miss Hawtrey felt perfectly confident that under no circumstances whatever would you have revealed it?’

‘Certainly, I have known her from a child, and nothing whatever would have induced me to have mentioned it to any one, and Miss Hawtrey had, I am certain, an absolute confidence that I would not do so.’

‘It was then, therefore, a wholly spontaneous action on the part of Miss Hawtrey in summoning her father to her side, and asking him to take you home with him.’

‘Entirely so; I was myself absolutely bewildered at what appeared to me her determination to make her father acquainted with the particulars of the painful scenes of which I will now tell you.’

And he then related the particulars of the interview in his chambers.

‘At the time,’ he concluded, ‘no doubt whatever entered my mind, that the person who called upon me was Miss Hawtrey. Thinking it over now, and having an absolute confidence in her, I see that I may have been mistaken; she was veiled when she entered, and in all the years I have known Miss Hawtrey I have never seen her wear a veil. A veil certainly alters the appearance of a face, and for an instant when she entered I did not recognise her, but the likeness must be very great, for my hesitation was only momentary. Afterwards she had a handkerchief up to her face during the greater part of the interview, and during the whole time she spoke in a low voice broken by sobs. No doubt there must be some similarity between the voices, but heard in that way it was so different from her usual outspoken tones, that I should be sorry to be called upon to swear whether at other times it would resemble her voice or not.’

‘I may add, Mr. Levine,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, when he had finished, ‘that I have this morning received a bill from Allerton’s, where my daughter usually gets things, for four silk dresses and two mantles which were ordered on the same day and at about the same hour at which the jewels were stolen and this interview with Mr. Singleton took place. I drove down there after breakfast, and found that the goods were taken out and placed in a cab that was waiting at the door, my daughter saying that she wished to take them at once to her dressmaker. I also called in at Gilliat’s, and found that there, as well as at Allerton’s, the woman was veiled when she gave the orders.’

Mr. Levine had listened with close attention to Mr. Singleton, glancing keenly at times towards Dorothy, who was sitting with her side-face to him, absorbed in the repetition of the story.

When Mr. Hawtrey ceased speaking, he was silent for a minute, and then said—

‘In the first place, Miss Hawtrey, I have to make an apology to you. You were right. I see so much of the bad side of human nature that I own that, until I saw you, I did not entertain a shadow of a doubt that you, driven by some pressure, had resorted to this desperate expedient of raising money. The whole story appeared to be consistent only with your guilt, providing that you were possessed of an extraordinary amount of self-possession and audacity. I admit and apologise for the mistake, now that I hear the same thing has been done in two other cases, and that within an hour or two of the first; it is to me conclusive that your father’s theory is the correct one, and that you were personated by some clever woman who must bear an extraordinary likeness to you. That a young lady of your age, driven into a corner, should commit a barefaced robbery is a matter that my experience has taught me to believe to be very possible, but that she should a few minutes afterwards proceed to raise money from a friend, and still more, to commit the petty crime of swindling a tradesman of four silk dresses, or rather the materials, of the value perhaps of thirty or forty pounds, seems to me incredible. For once I have been entirely at fault.’

‘Now as to paying this money for the jewels, Mr. Levine,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, ‘do you still advise it?’

‘I must think that over. It is an extremely difficult matter on which to give an opinion, and I shall be glad, in the first place, to have Mr. Danvers’ opinion about it. Perhaps he will be good enough to come and see you after we have talked it over; but I will not give a final opinion until I have turned it over in my mind for a day or two. Perhaps I may ask you to come and see me again.’

Danvers went out to the carriage with them. ‘I congratulate you most heartily, Miss Hawtrey,’ he said. ‘There is no doubt that this will immensely strengthen your position. It has had, at any rate, a great effect on the mind of Levine. It is not often he has to own that his first impressions are entirely erroneous. I will come round this evening if you will be at home.’

‘We will be at home, Danvers,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, ‘and I particularly want to see you about another matter. Come to dinner. Half-past seven. Can you come too, Singleton?’ he went on as the carriage drove off. ‘You are in the thick of it now, and are indeed one of the parties interested, for of course I shall see that you are not a loser by your intended kindness to Dorothy.’

‘If I hear any nonsense of that sort,’ Mr. Singleton said, hotly, ‘I will get out of the carriage at once and have nothing more to do with the affair. Dorothy is my god-daughter, and if I choose to give her one thousand or ten I have a perfect right to do so. So let us hear no more about it.’

Mr. Hawtrey shook his old friend warmly by the hand. ‘You always were an obstinate fellow,’ he said ‘and I suppose I must let you have your own way. Dorothy, I think I will get out at the top of St. James’s Street, and if Ned Hampton is not in leave my card with a line, asking him to join us at dinner. He has worked most nobly for us, Singleton, as I told you last night, and ought certainly to be told of this new development. It will make us an odd number, for my cousin, Mary Daintree, has—I was going to remark I am glad to say, but I suppose I oughtn’t—not yet recovered from the shock given her by Dorothy breaking off her engagement, and is keeping to her bed. However, it does not matter about there being an odd number.’

‘Of course you can ask Captain Hampton if you like, father,’ Dorothy said, coldly, ‘but at any rate for my part I would rather that he did not meddle any more in my affairs.’

‘Hulloa! hulloa!’ Mr. Singleton exclaimed, ‘what is in the wind now, Dorothy? I thought you and Ned Hampton were sworn friends, and next to yourself, Ned has always stood very high in my regard. A nicer lad than he was I have not come across; I only wish he was master of the old place down there instead of his brother, who is by no means a popular character in the county; although, perhaps, that is his wife’s fault rather than his own. What have you been quarrelling with him about? I should have thought that for a young fellow, after being six years from England, to give up everything for a month, and spend it in your service, was in itself a strong claim to your regard.’

‘There has been no quarrel between Captain Hampton and myself,’ Dorothy said, as coldly as before. ‘I do not say that it was not kind of him to take the pains he did about my affairs; but he acknowledged that he had doubted me, and after that I do not wish him to trouble himself any further in the matter.’

‘What nonsense, Dorothy,’ her father said, warmly. ‘Who could have helped doubting you under the circumstances? Why, without half the excuse, even I was inclined to doubt you for a moment. Levine doubted you; Danvers, though he has not said as much, no doubt took the same view; and even Singleton here, when he gave you, as he believed, that money, thought that you had got into some horrible scrape. Singleton could not disbelieve the evidence of his eyes, and you are not angry with him for it. Why should you be so with Hampton, who also believed the evidence of his eyes?’

‘What was that, if I may ask?’ Mr. Singleton said. ‘I have heard nothing about that, and I am quite sure that Ned Hampton would not have doubted Dorothy without what he believed to be very strong evidence.’

‘Well, Singleton, I will tell you, though I should not tell either Levine or Danvers, for it is undoubtedly the strongest piece of evidence against Dorothy. He went up to Islington late in the afternoon of the day when all this took place, to see if he could light upon that scoundrel Truscott, and he saw Truscott in close confabulation in a quiet street with the woman who came to your chambers, and whom he, like you, of course, took to be Dorothy. At that time neither he nor any one else knew of the jewel robbery, but naturally it struck him, as, of course, it would have struck every one, that Dorothy had got into some scrape, and that she had met that man to endeavour to persuade or bribe him to give up the letters, or, at any rate, to move, and so escape from the search we were making for him. Ned went out of town at once, and came back just about the time we heard of the jewel robbery. By that time he had, on thinking it over, concluded that his first idea was altogether erroneous, and when, at my wits’ end, I told him of the jewel affair, he said at once it was absolutely impossible that Dorothy could have done such a thing, and that indeed it seemed to him a confirmation of the theory he had formed that some adventuress having a singular likeness to Dorothy was personating her. The idea had never occurred to me, and I was delighted on finding a possible explanation of what seemed to me a blank and absolute mystery. I consider that Dorothy is even more indebted to him for that suggestion than for the pains he took in trying to discover Truscott.’

‘I certainly think you are wrong, Dorothy,’ Mr. Singleton said, gravely, seeing that the girl listened with cold indifference to her father’s explanation. ‘He did no more than I did, namely, believe the evidence of his eyes, and on that evidence both of us were forced to believe that you had got into a scrape of some sort, and were under the thumb of a rascal.’

‘I cannot argue about it, Mr. Singleton. I only know that I believed Captain Hampton would trust me implicitly, as I should have trusted him, and it is a great disappointment to me to find that I was mistaken. I do not defend myself; I admit that it may be silly and wrong on my part. I only say that I am disappointed in Captain Hampton, and that I would much rather he did not interfere in any way in my affairs.’

Mr. Hawtrey shrugged his shoulders. Mr. Singleton lifted his eyebrows slightly and then glanced with a furtive smile, which it was well that Dorothy did not detect, at her father, who looked somewhat surprised at this unexpected demonstration.

‘At any rate, Dorothy,’ the latter said, ‘I must ask him to dinner; there will be no occasion for him to interfere farther in the matter, so far as I can see, and I should think that after your manner to him he will not be inclined to do so; still, it is impossible, after the pains he has taken in the matter, not to acquaint him with what has occurred here. We are at the top of St. James’s Street,’ and he pulled the check string. ‘I suppose you will get out here too, Singleton?’

‘Certainly, it is my lunch time; I will walk round with you to Ned Hampton’s, and you had better lunch with me at the Travellers’. I will take him round there too, if we find him in.’

‘Tell James we shall be five to dinner, Dorothy, as soon as you get back.’

As the carriage drove away Mr. Singleton indulged in a quiet laugh.

‘What is it, Singleton? I could not make out that glance you gave me in the carriage. I own I see nothing at all laughable in it; to my mind this fancy of Dorothy’s is at once utterly unreasonable and confoundedly annoying, and is, I may say, altogether unlike her.’

‘My dear Hawtrey, I would ask you a question. Has it ever entered your mind that you would like Ned Hampton as a son-in-law?’

‘As a son-in law!’ Mr. Hawtrey repeated in astonishment. ‘What do you mean, Singleton? No such idea ever occurred to me—how should it? There was a boy and girl friendship of a certain kind between them before he went away, but at that time Dorothy was a mere child of twelve years old, and of course no idea about her future marriage to him or any one else had entered my mind. When he came home the other day she was on the verge of being engaged to Halliburn, and was so engaged a week later. So again the idea could not have occurred to me. He is the son of an old friend and was constantly in and out of our house as a boy, and I have a very great regard and liking for him, but I certainly should not regard him as a very eligible match for Dorothy.’

‘I should think, Hawtrey, you have had enough of eligible marriages,’ Mr. Singleton said, sarcastically, ‘and I should think Dorothy has, too. Next time I hope her heart will have something to say in the matter. I don’t see why Ned Hampton should not be eligible. He is a younger son ’tis true, and has, I believe, only about four hundred a year in addition to his pay. Dorothy has, I know, some twenty thousand pounds from her mother’s settlements, and some land that brings in about two hundred more, and she will some day have what you can leave her besides, which, as you have told me, would be something like fifteen thousand more; so with her money and his, it would come some day to not very far short of two thousand a year. As I told you, I have put her down in my will for five thousand. I should have put her down for more had I thought she wanted it, but as it seemed likely that she would make a good match, I did not think it would be of any use to leave her more. I have put him down for a like sum, and certainly if those two were to come together, I should considerably increase it. I have no children of my own. My relations, as far as I know of them, are well-to-do people, and therefore I am perfectly free to do what I like with my money and estate. That being so, I think you may dismiss from your mind any idea that Dorothy is likely to come to poverty if she marries Ned Hampton.’

‘Well, old friend, that certainly alters the case. However, as you see, there is no probability whatever of the young people taking that view of the case. Ned Hampton has always been like an elder brother or, if you like, a favourite cousin of Dorothy’s, and since he came home I have never seen the slightest change in his manner towards her. As to her, you have just heard what she has said.’

‘I know nothing of his ideas on the subject, Hawtrey, but as Dorothy was and is, so far as he knows, engaged to the Earl of Halliburn, Ned, whatever he might think, would scarcely embark in a flirtation with her. As to Dorothy, as you say, she showed pretty clearly the state of her mind just now.’

‘Yes, she has evidently taken a strong prejudice against him, Singleton. It is a pity, too, for I like him exceedingly, and I don’t know any one to whom personally I would more willingly entrust Dorothy’s happiness.’

‘I don’t know,’ Mr. Singleton remarked meditatively, ‘why fathers should be so much more blind about their daughters than other people are. You don’t suppose that if Dorothy had been quite indifferent as to Ned Hampton’s opinion of her she would have been so exceedingly sore at his having doubted her. I do not say she loves him. I do not even suppose that she has the remotest idea of such a thing. I only say that she evidently attaches a very great weight to his good opinion, and is proportionately grieved at what she considers his want of confidence in herself.

‘She makes light of having broken off her engagement to Halliburn, but we know she must feel it a great deal more than she pretends to do. No girl in her position in society would break off such a match without feeling sore about it—however convinced she might be that it was the best thing to do—and in that temper the defection, as she considers it, of a faithful ally would naturally be keenly felt. Of course, there is nothing to do but to let the matter rest; only, please do not attempt to argue the point with her, but let her have her own way, without comment. She is far more likely to come round in time if left alone than if constantly put upon the defence. But, bless me! here we are at Waterloo Place, and have forgotten altogether the business in hand, which is to call at Ned Hampton’s lodgings. Well, they are about half-way along Jermyn Street, so that we may as well turn up here. Now—to continue our conversation for another minute or two—I should say we had best put all this out of our minds for the present, and leave matters to right themselves. There are more urgent things to think of, for I am afraid, Hawtrey, there is a good deal of trouble ahead for her and for you, whatever course you may decide to take about Gilliat’s matter. We who know and love Dorothy may be absolutely certain of her innocence in these matters, but you must remember that unless we can produce the woman, it will be uphill work indeed to get the world to see matters in the same light, if it comes to a trial and all the facts come out. On the other hand, if you compromise, it is morally certain these things will go on. You will be absolutely driven to fight one of these claims, and every claim you pay you will make it harder to resist the next, so that either way there is trouble, I am afraid great trouble, ahead, and the only way out of it that I can see is to find this man and woman, who may for aught I know at the present moment be on the other side of the Atlantic. There does not seem to be a shadow of a clue which we can follow up, and a wild-goose chase is a joke to it.’

‘I agree with you entirely, Singleton. Of course, in an affair like this money is nothing, and I shall employ the best detectives I can get. Levine will be able to tell me of good men. If I find Ned Hampton in I will tell him the whole story at once, which will save explanations this evening.’

‘You mean you will tell him while we are at lunch, Hawtrey, for it is past two o’clock now, and at my age one cannot afford to neglect the inner man in this way.’

They met Captain Hampton half way along the street.

‘We were just coming for you, Ned,’ Mr. Hawtrey said. ‘Singleton wants you to come and lunch with him. He and I want to have a talk with you.’

‘I have only just finished my lunch, but I am perfectly ready for the talk, Mr. Hawtrey.’

‘Where were you going now?’

‘I think I was principally going to smoke a cigar. I have been in all the morning, and on a day like this one gets restless after a time.’

‘Then you shall take a turn for twenty minutes, Ned. There is nothing more unpleasant than looking on at people eating, unless it is eating with people looking on; besides, we could not begin our talk now. What do you say, Hawtrey? Shall we join him, say, at the foot of the Duke of York’s steps, turn in to St. James’s Park and sit down, if we can find a bench free of nursemaids? as I daresay we shall, as they won’t come out till later. At any rate, we don’t want to be overheard, and we can never make sure of that in a club smoking-room.’

‘That will suit me very well, Mr. Singleton, but don’t hurry over your lunch; you will see me somewhere about when you are coming down the steps. I have just time to stroll down the Mall and back by Birdcage Walk.’

‘Well, we will say in half-an-hour from the time you leave us.’

‘This is another proof, Mr. Hawtrey, that our suspicion that Truscott is at the bottom of it all is well founded,’ Captain Hampton said, when he had heard the story. ‘It must have been somebody who was accurately acquainted with your affairs; some one who knew that Mr. Singleton was an intimate friend; so intimate that your daughter would be likely to go to him were she in any trouble, and that he would be likely to assist her.’

‘It is certainly another link in the chain,’ Mr. Hawtrey agreed.

‘I would give a thousand pounds if we could lay our hands on the fellow,’ Mr. Singleton exclaimed fiercely.

‘But if we could find him, Singleton, we could not touch him; you and I, Ned, may be morally certain that he is at the bottom of all this, but we have not the remotest shadow of evidence on which a magistrate would grant a warrant for his arrest. If we found him, he would snap his fingers in our face.’

‘You forget, Mr. Hawtrey,’ said Ned, ‘if we find him we are pretty sure of being able to find this woman. I do not say we are certain to find her, because we know nothing of their relations to each other; perhaps they are only united to carry out this piece of swindling. Truscott is shrewd enough to see that it would be better for them to part; perhaps they kept together until they went over to Hamburg, and sold the diamonds; then she might go over to Paris, and he to America, or they may have gone to any other two widely separated places in the world. If they have kept together, and are still in England, I should say they are most likely to be at present in some quiet and respectable lodgings at some large watering-place, where they pass as father and daughter. I quite agree with you in what you say that the fact of these two fresh robberies altogether alters the case, and that you can never calculate upon being free of annoyance, still I should say that you are safe for some little time. They ought to be satisfied with what they have got, and will naturally wait to see whether there is any stir made, and what comes of it, before repeating the same game. Have you seen Levine again?’

‘Yes, we were there an hour and a half ago, and I am glad to say these last occurrences have completely changed his opinion of the case. We left him going into the matter with Danvers, who is coming to dine with us this evening, and will tell us what they think as to fighting Gilliat.’

‘What does Halliburn think of it?’ Captain Hampton asked, suddenly. ‘After all, everything will depend, I should think, upon his opinion.’

‘On that point, fortunately, we have not got to consult him, Ned—Dorothy has definitely broken off the engagement. As soon as we heard from Gilliat of the robbery, she declared that it was positively impossible that the matter should go on, and I quite agreed with her decision.’

Captain Hampton made no remark for a minute or two.

Mr. Hawtrey presently went on. ‘I want you to come round to dinner too, Ned. There will only be Singleton and Danvers, and it will be a sort of family council.’

‘Thank you, Mr. Hawtrey,’ Captain Hampton replied, after a pause, ‘I think I would rather not come. I have been unfortunate enough to offend Miss Hawtrey deeply already, and I don’t think that my presence at such a council would be in any way agreeable to her, and that being so, I need hardly say that it would not be pleasant to me.’

‘Tut, tut, lad, that is all nonsense. For a moment I was inclined to doubt her myself; those fellows’ story seemed so terribly straight-forward that I was completely taken aback. Singleton let himself be led to believe that she had got into some terrible scrape, and how could you disbelieve your eyes more than he could? She will soon get over her little touchiness.’

‘I rather doubt it, Mr. Hawtrey. I think it natural that she should feel very much hurt. Just at present my taking any part in the affair would, I feel sure, be very distasteful to her. But when you say to me, “Dorothy has quite got over her indignation and wants you to come and have a chat with her,” I shall be delighted to come. In the meantime I would rather give no opinion whatever as to the matter, but I shall, nevertheless, work quietly in my own way and do my best to discover some clue as to the movements of this man. I have the great advantage of knowing him by sight, which no detective would do. I am certain I am not likely to make any mistake as to the woman. Please don’t mention to Dorothy that I am taking any further part in the affair. Levine will, I should think, advise you to put the matter into the hands of detectives, and I shall be glad to know from time to time what their opinion is and whether they have gained any clue as to their whereabouts. I would suggest that you should get from Allerton two or three small pieces of each of the silks that were taken; should there be anything at all peculiar in colour or pattern, it might be an aid to the detectives.’

‘You are right there, Ned,’ Mr. Singleton said; ‘an adventuress of that kind, having got hold of some handsome silks, would not be able to forego the pleasure of having them made up and showing off in them. Do you mean to pay Allerton, Hawtrey?’

‘I gave him a cheque at once. I told him that this was one of several robberies that had been committed by some woman personating my daughter, but that it would be so unpleasant to go into the matter, and so difficult to find the thief, that I would rather pay the money at once. In addition to the patterns of the dresses I will get him to have some sketches made of the mantles. They will probably have some others like them, but if not they are sure to know the exact particulars of them. There may be some slight peculiarity about the fashion of the things that would help a detective.’

‘I think you would do even better than that,’ Captain Hampton said, ‘if you got a dozen of your daughter’s daguerreotypes; they would assist detectives much more than anything else in making inquiries; they would only have to show them to a waiter in any hotel where this woman stopped, and they could hardly fail to be recognised at once, for she would certainly attract attention wherever she went. Dorothy gave me one a few days after I came back, but as I should be very sorry to have that knocked about I should be glad if you would let me have another.’

‘That is an excellent idea, Ned. I will order a couple of dozen of her photos this afternoon from Watson, who took the last she had done. Well, I am sorry you won’t come and dine with us; though I don’t know but that it is better for you to leave her to herself for a short time. I admit that she has not quite got over it yet, but I expect that she will come round before long. Which way are you going?’

‘I think I shall sit where I am for a bit, Mr. Hawtrey; it is very pleasant here in the shade, and I want to think over all that you have been saying. I must try and see what I had best do next.’

He got up, however, half an hour later with an impatient exclamation.

‘What is the use of my wasting my time here? I was three weeks looking for the fellow before, and Slippen found him a few hours after taking the matter in hand. I will take his advice anyhow. He is more likely to have an idea as to what a fellow like this would do under the circumstances than I could have.’

‘I have been doing nothing more about that case, Captain Hampton,’ the detective said, when the caller was shown in by a boy who reminded him strongly of Jacob; ‘I wrote to Mr. Hawtrey that the man had altogether disappeared, but that I would have the racecourses watched, and that if he turned up at any of them we would let him know. That is three weeks ago, and he certainly has not shown up at any racecourse, and my men have ascertained beyond much doubt, that none of his usual pals have seen or heard anything of him from the day he left his quarters at Islington. I am glad you have come, as I was going to write to Mr. Hawtrey, to ask if he considered it worth while keeping up the search. Certainly it seems to me that if a man like that, who has been a constant attendant at the races for the last twenty years, and makes his living out of them, doesn’t go near them for three weeks, it must be because he has either gone away or is very ill, or has taken to some new life altogether.’

‘That is just the opinion that I have formed, Mr. Slippen, and I wanted to ask your opinion about it. We have a very strong idea that there is a woman acting in concert with him, and between them they have victimised a friend of Mr. Hawtrey’s out of a considerable sum of money. We may take it then for granted that they have means sufficient to live on for some little time, or to take them wherever they may want to go. I fancy myself that they must have left London; a man like that could hardly keep away from racecourses altogether; therefore I agree with you, that nothing but severe illness or absence can be the cause of his staying away from racecourses and from all his own intimates for three weeks.’

‘That is just how I reasoned it, Captain Hampton; and now that you tell me that he has got hold of some money, I have not the least doubt that he has sloped.’

‘Well, from your experience in such matters, Mr. Slippen, where do you think that a man like that would be likely to go?’

‘There is no saying at all. He might go down to some quiet place in the country, but Lor’ bless you, a man like that could never stand three weeks of it. It is very likely that if he is in funds and has got a clever woman with him they may have got themselves up and be staying at some swell hotel at one of the seaside places, or at Harrogate or Buxton, and be carrying on some little swindle there. Then again, after this job you say they have managed, they may think it best to make themselves scarce altogether, and may be at some foreign watering-place. A clever sharp can always make his living at those sort of places, especially with a woman to help him. I suppose she is young and pretty?’

Captain Hampton nodded.

‘Bound to be,’ the detective went on. ‘Well, a sharp fellow with a girl like that, if she is shrewd and clever, can just turn over money at places of that kind. They are full of young fools, most of whom have got money in their pockets. Well then, again, they may have gone across the water somewhere—more likely the States than anywhere else; it is a big place for hiding in, and when a fellow has done a bit of clever sharping here and knows that he is wanted, he somehow always makes for the States, just as naturally as a duck takes to water.

‘Have you agents who would be of any use at these places?’

‘No, I will acknowledge frankly that I have not, Captain Hampton. It would be no use taking Mr. Hawtrey’s money for a job of that sort; it is too big for me. If there was any one place to which you could track them I could send out a man there well enough. But I could not work either the Continent or the States. If you have got proof of a bad piece of swindling against this man, your best plan will be to go to Scotland Yard and get them to put a man at your service. The foreign police would not move a finger if I were to write to them, but they would be willing enough to move if Scotland Yard had the thing in hand.’

‘Mr. Hawtrey has put himself in Charles Levine’s hands, and in these matters he will have to act as he suggests; but I am taking the matter up on my own account. I have spent a good deal of time over it, and don’t like to be beaten, and if you could have undertaken it, and it would have been at all within my means, I would have arranged with you. As it is, I shall come to you again for advice and assistance if I require them. I think you had better send in your account to Mr. Hawtrey for the work done so far, with a letter asking for instructions. He may like to have the racecourses watched for a bit longer. If you see him do not mention this talk with me. By the way, I found that boy you had, on my door-step a few days ago. He told me he had left you, and as he seemed a sharp little fellow I have taken him on to run errands and that sort of thing.’

‘He is not a bad boy, as that sort of boy goes. They are all young scamps, but he took it into his head to be cheeky, and I had to kick him out. I am glad to hear he has not gone on the streets again. You will have to look pretty sharp after him, but you may find him useful, if, as you say, you are going to try to unearth this fellow we have been in search of.’

Chapter X • 6,700 Words

‘We shall be only four at dinner, Dorothy,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, when he returned. ‘I could not get Hampton to come.’

‘Engaged, I suppose,’ Dorothy said indifferently.

‘No, dear, he simply said that as he had had the misfortune to displease you—I think those were his very words—he thought it would be better to stay away. I could not say that I did not agree with him and so the matter dropped. Of course I am sorry, for I have always liked the lad. Naturally the interest he has shown in us in this trouble and the pains he has taken about it have quite renewed the old feeling. I have turned to him for advice and talked matters over with him almost as if he had been a son, and, of course, I shall miss him a good deal now—but it cannot be helped.’

‘I am sure I don’t want him to stay away from the house, father,’ Dorothy said, in an aggrieved tone.

‘I don’t know whether you want it or not, Dorothy; but naturally that has been the effect. You do not suppose that a man who has been on so friendly a footing with us for the last twenty years is going to put up with being called Captain Hampton, and addressed as if he were a stranger, and treated with a sort of freezing politeness by a girl whom, almost from the day when he arrived in England, he has been giving up his time to assist. I think he is perfectly right to keep away from the house, and I think any man of spirit would do the same.’

‘Did he say that he resented it, father?’

‘Well, no, he didn’t. He seemed to think that while it was reasonable that I, your father, should have had doubts, and that your old friend, Singleton, should have readily accepted the evidence of his senses and have believed that you had got into some sort of bad scrape, that you should feel hurt because he did so. Singleton and I both said that it was preposterous. However, he stuck to his own opinion just as you do to yours. However, there is an end of the matter. I am heartily sorry. I don’t think one makes so many real friends as he has of late shown himself to be, that one can afford to throw even one away, especially just at a time like this. Well, it is of no use talking about it any more.’

Danvers’ report of the consultation between himself and Charles Levine left matters pretty nearly as they were before. It was greatly desirable for the purpose of preventing any further personation that the jeweller’s claim should be contested, but upon the other hand it was equally certain that it would be an extremely unpleasant thing for Mr. and Miss Hawtrey. The chances of obtaining a verdict were very slight, as they had merely an hypothesis to oppose to the direct evidence of the jeweller and his assistants. It was a case that the principals must decide for themselves. In case they were willing to meet the inevitable unpleasantness of a trial, it would be incumbent on them to use every possible effort to obtain some evidence in confirmation of their hypothesis. Scotland Yard should be communicated with and detectives set to work; a reward, say of 100 l., might be offered in the papers for information that would lead to the arrest of the female who had been personating Miss Hawtrey and in her name obtaining goods under false pretences, a description of the woman’s appearance being given. Even if no evidence was forthcoming from the advertisement it would serve as a preparation for the trial, and the defence to the claim would not come as a surprise. Moreover, the appearance of the advertisement would deter the woman from attempting for some time to repeat her operations. Mr. Levine also recommended that a letter should be sent to all the shops where they dealt, to warn them that it was possible that a person very closely resembling Miss Hawtrey might attempt to obtain goods, and that everything ordered should be sent to the house, and not delivered personally; and it would be desirable, if possible, that they should be told that in future Miss Hawtrey, when giving an order, would give her visiting card, and that of Mr. Hawtrey; and that any person purporting to be her, and being unable when asked to give her card, should be detained, and given in charge of the police. This, at least, was the line which they recommended should be adopted; but, of course, the matter would be further considered and gone into later on, if Mr. Hawtrey decided to contest the claim.

‘Levine considers it one of the most difficult cases he has ever been engaged in,’ said Danvers. ‘He says frankly he does not think you have the remotest chance of getting a verdict, unless before the trial comes on you can lay your hand on this woman, and he suggests that you and he together should see Gilliat—who, of course, has no personal feeling in the matter, and would naturally be most averse to taking anything like hostile action against you—and inform him of the exact position of the case, and your desire that they should not send in their account to you for another three or four months. This would give at least six months before the trial would come on, and in that time, if ever, we ought to be able to lay our hands on this woman, and you would still have the option of paying, if before the case comes on you can obtain no evidence. Lastly, he says that, unpleasant as it is to contemplate the possibility of such a thing, it must not be forgotten that in the event of the trial coming on, and the verdict being an adverse one, it is quite upon the cards that if public opinion is strongly aroused on the subject, the Treasury may feel compelled to order a prosecution of Miss Hawtrey for perjury—if not for obtaining goods under false pretences—or possibly for theft.’

‘Would it be possible to trace the jewels in any way?’ Mr. Hawtrey asked, after a long pause.

‘Quite possible, if they were pawned or sold to a jeweller in this country, but that is hardly likely to be the case. Very few jewellers would purchase such goods without making enquiries as to the vendor, and the same may be said of the class of pawnbrokers who would be in a position to advance so large a sum. It is much more probable that the tiaras were broken up an hour after they were stolen and the setting put in a melting pot and the diamonds taken over to Hamburg, and as they have not been advertised there would be little or no trouble in disposing of them to a diamond merchant there. Enquiries can be made in that direction, only we must obtain from Gilliat the technical description of the size, number, and weight of the gems.’

‘Do I understand that your opinion completely agrees with that of Charles Levine, Danvers?’

‘Precisely; those are the two courses, Mr. Hawtrey; and it is a matter entirely for you and Miss Hawtrey to decide upon. The easiest, the most pleasant, and, I may say, the cheapest—for costs will follow the verdict—would be to pay the money; the other course would involve immense trouble and annoyance, the payment of detectives, public scandal, and, I am afraid, an adverse verdict from the public as well as from the jury.’

‘I should say, Hawtrey,’ Mr. Singleton put in, ‘you had better take a sort of middle course; tell Gilliat that the thing is a swindle, but that if you cannot obtain proof that it is so within six months you will pay him, and in the meantime move heaven and earth to discover these people. If you succeed, well and good. If you don’t, pay the money; it seems to me that anything would be better than going into court and being beaten.’

‘I think that is very sound advice,’ Danvers said, eagerly. ‘Gain time, fight if you can fight with a chance of success, but if not, pay him; in that way you will save all legal expenses, for you can arrange with Gilliat to take no steps until you give him a decided answer six months hence, and you will avoid all the terrible scandal the trial would entail. The detectives will, of course, cost money, but I do not see how that is to be helped.’

‘I think that would be the best plan,’ Mr. Hawtrey said. ‘I hope you agree with me, Dorothy. I own that the prospect of a trial terrifies me, and I would do anything to avoid it.’

‘Just as you like, father; it seems to me that I would rather fight than be robbed; but as everyone seems to think that we should be certainly beaten I am willing to agree to anything you wish.’

‘Then we will consider that matter settled, Danvers,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, in a tone of relief, ‘and the decision has taken a tremendous load off my mind. Will you kindly see Levine? Tell him I put myself entirely in his hands as to the employment of detectives. I got samples after I left you, Singleton, of the silks that hussy took, and I am bound to say that they are handsome and do credit to her taste. I am to have sketches of the mantles to-morrow. Will you ask Levine, Danvers, whether he advises I should still put in the advertisement you spoke of, and write to the tradesmen? You can mention that we shall go abroad next week, and on our return go down into Lincolnshire, so that perhaps it would be well not to stop these people, for of course if they were to repeat the trick when we were in a position to prove that we were hundreds of miles away at the time, it would be a pretty conclusive defence if we fought Gilliat’s claim.’

‘It would be so conclusive a defence, sir, that Gilliat would never bring the case into court. The moment he saw that there really was an impostor going about as Miss Hawtrey, he would see that he had been victimised, and that his only course was to apologise to Miss Hawtrey for having doubted her word, and to withdraw his claim. Yes, there is no doubt it would be the wisest plan to do nothing whatever in the way of advertising or warning the tradespeople.’

A week later the authorities at Scotland Yard had notified the French, Belgian, and German police that a man and woman whose description was accurately given, and a likeness of the latter sent, would be probably passing themselves off under an assumed name, and that should they show themselves they were to be arrested as swindlers. Small samples of four pieces of silk and drawings of the mantles were also enclosed to aid in the identification of the female prisoner, who would probably have these clothes with her.

Similar letters were also sent off to the police authorities in all large towns and watering-places in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Hawtrey called twice in Jermyn Street, but found that Captain Hampton was away. He wrote him, however, a full account of all that had been decided upon, and asked him, should he return before they started for the Continent, to call and see them. He came in on the last evening before they left town.

‘I only returned an hour ago,’ he said. ‘I was delighted to get your letter, and to find the decision you had arrived at.’ He had shaken hands cordially with Mr. Hawtrey, formally with Mrs. Daintree and Dorothy. Mr. Hawtrey glanced at the former and shook his head, to intimate that that lady had not been taken into the family council.

‘Mary knows nothing about it,’ he took occasion afterwards to say, in a low voice; ‘the whole thing has been kept a secret from her. She kept her bed for four days after that Halliburn affair, and had she known that Dorothy was accused of stealing, she would have had a fit.’

‘You mean as to going away before the season is quite over, Captain Hampton,’ Mrs. Daintree said, in reference to his remark on entering. ‘Yes, I think it is very wise. Dorothy has been looking far from well for the last month, and the excitement and late hours have been too much for her. I shall be very glad myself to be back again in my quiet home. The season has been a very trying one.’

‘I am sorry to hear you have been poorly, Mrs. Daintree. London seems pleasant enough to me, though there have been two or three very hot days.’

‘What are you going to do, Ned?’ Mr. Hawtrey asked. ‘I suppose you are not going to stay after every one else has gone? I have heard nothing more about that yacht you talked of.’

‘I have given up the idea. I daresay I should have enjoyed it very much, but one wants a pleasant party, and it does not seem to me that I can get one together, so I have abandoned it and intend taking a run across the Atlantic for two or three months. I did Switzerland and Italy before I went away, and should not care about doing Switzerland again at the time when every hotel is crowded; and as for Italy it would be too hot. I have always thought that I should like a run through the States, and I am never likely to have a better opportunity than this.’

‘I suppose you will be back by Christmas, Ned? I need not say how glad I shall be if you come down and spend it with us; it would be like old times, lad.’

‘Thank you, Mr. Hawtrey, I should like it greatly, but I will make no promises.’

‘Well, suppose you come down to my den and smoke a cigar, Ned. There are several matters I want to chat with you about.’

‘Why I want to get off in a hurry,’ he went on, when they were seated in the library, ‘I saw Halliburn on the day after the affair was broken off, and I suggested to him that the matter should not be made public for a week or two. The House will separate next week, and I thought it would be pleasanter to both parties if nothing was said about it till after that, when both will be away, and society scattered, so that all gossip or annoying questions would be avoided. He agreed with me thoroughly, as he evidently objected quite as much as I did to there being any talk on the subject; so I wrote a paragraph with his approval. It will be sent round to half-a-dozen of these gossipy papers the day after Parliament goes down. This is it: “We are authorised to state that the match arranged between the Earl of Halliburn and Miss Hawtrey will not take place. We understand that the initiative in the matter was taken by the lady, who, in view of the malicious reports concerning her that have appeared in some of the papers, has decided to withdraw from the engagement, much, we believe, to the regret of the noble Earl.”‘

‘That will do excellently,’ Captain Hampton agreed. ‘I may tell you frankly, Mr. Hawtrey, that the idea of going to the States only occurred to me after reading your letter. For the last week I have been working along the south coast watering-places, giving a day to each. I began at Hastings and went to Eastbourne, Brighton, Worthing, Southsea, and Southampton, and took a run to Ryde and Cowes. I went to every hotel of any size at each of those towns, saw the manager and two or three of the waiters, and showed them the photograph and the scraps of silk, but none of them had had any lady at all answering to that description, or resembling the likeness, staying there. I intended to have made the entire tour of the seaports, but now that instructions have been sent to all the local police officers I need spend no more time over it. They will do it infinitely better than I could, for whereas I could only see to the hotels, they will naturally keep an eye upon all visitors, and it is as likely that they may be in lodgings as at an hotel; more likely, indeed, for at present they are flush of cash, and would not want to make the acquaintance of people, especially at hotels, where there would be the risk of running up against somebody who knew Miss Hawtrey. So with England and the Continent both provided for I am free to try the States. I should not have said anything to you about it, but I want you to write to me if the police find any trace of them. I will go to the Metropolitan Hotel at New York, and when I leave will keep them posted as to my whereabouts, so that they can forward any letter to me.’

‘My dear Ned,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, feelingly, ‘you are indeed a good friend. I do not know how to thank you enough, but I really do not like you to be wasting your holiday in this fashion.’

‘Don’t worry about that; if it hadn’t been for this I should have been hanging about with no particular object, and should have been heartily sick of doing nothing long before my year was out. This will give an interest and an object in travelling about, and it is always a pleasure to be working for one’s dearest friends. There are but few people in England now for whom I really care. I never got on with my brothers, and beyond yourself and kind old Mr. Singleton, I have really no friends except Army men or school chums, like Danvers, and every time I come home their number will diminish. You must remember I am a police officer, and I suppose the instinct of thief-catching is strong in me. Certainty I shall not feel happy until I have got at the root of this mystery. You must remember the hypothesis as to this woman is my own, and I feel that my honour is concerned to prove its correctness; but, mind, Mr. Hawtrey, I particularly request that Dorothy shall know nothing of the matter.’

‘Why not, Ned?’

‘I have not been successful so far, and in fact have done more harm than good, and the betting is very strongly against my succeeding. They may not have gone to America. I simply choose it because the other ground is occupied, and also because there is an undoubted tendency among criminals to make for the States. In the next place, even if they are in America, it is almost like looking for a needle in a cart-load of hay. Still, if fortune favours me, I may possibly succeed; but if I do not, I certainly do not wish to let Dorothy know that I have been trying. I have wronged her by having doubted her for a moment, and I do not wish to compel her to feel under an obligation to me merely because I have united amusement with a little work on her behalf.’

‘Well, I think you are wrong, Ned—wrong altogether; but of course you must do as you like in the matter. Have you sketched out any plan for yourself?’

‘I have not thought it over yet, but it will be similar to that I have been just working. If they have gone to America, New York is, of course, their most probable destination. I suppose there are not above five or six hotels that are usually frequented by people coming from England. I shall try them first, then go down rather lower in the grade, and if I do not succeed there I shall try Boston; then I must take the other ports to which liners run, until I have exhausted them. I have at least one advantage there. There will be no question as to their going direct into lodgings. They will be certain to put up at an hotel at first. There is no saying as to where they will go afterwards. My movements will depend entirely on whether I can pick up a clue. If I cannot get one at any of the seaports there is an end of it, for it would be mere folly to search at random in the interior. Of course, before starting I shall go to all the steamship offices in London, and find what vessels sailed between the 17th and 24th of last month. That will give me a margin of a week. If they did not go within a week after the robbery they won’t have gone at all.’

‘Perhaps we had better join the ladies again or they may be suspecting us of arranging some plan or other.’

‘I will just go up and say good-bye and go. I hope I shall find Dorothy looking better on my return. The troubles of the last eight weeks have told their tale on her, but I hope that two months’ change and then a time of rest and quiet will soon set her up again.’

‘Well, God bless you, Ned. I hope that your search will be successful; but I shall not build upon it at all, and pray do not worry yourself if you do not succeed.’

They went upstairs again. Mrs. Daintree had already gone to bed.

Dorothy was sitting with the tea-tray before her when her father and Ned Hampton entered.

‘I was just going to send down to you, father; I thought that you must have nearly finished your cigars.’

‘Thank you, I won’t take any tea, Miss Hawtrey,’ Captain Hampton said, as she was about to pour out two cups. ‘I only came up to say good-bye and to wish you a pleasant time abroad. As I only came back half an hour before I came across to you, I have a pile of notes to open and answer, and as I shall sail in a day or two, I shall have my hands full.’

Dorothy stood up and shook hands.

‘Good-bye, Captain Hampton; thank you for your good wishes; I hope that you too will enjoy your trip.’ It was said in the tone of voice in which she might have said good-bye to the most ordinary acquaintance.

Captain Hampton dropped her hand abruptly, and shook hands heartily with Mr. Hawtrey, who said, ‘Good-bye, Ned; don’t get yourself into any scrapes with Indians, or grizzly bears, or anything of that sort.’

‘I will try not to, sir,’ and Captain Hampton turned and left the room. Mr. Hawtrey turned as the door closed, and was about to say something sharply, when he saw that there were tears in Dorothy’s eyes. He gulped down his irritation, took his cup of tea off the tray, and stirred it with unnecessary violence. Then he abruptly asked Dorothy if her packing was all finished.

‘We must breakfast at seven sharp,’ he said, ‘so as to catch the boat with a quarter of an hour to spare. The exodus has begun and there is sure to be a crowd.’

‘Ten minutes in the morning will finish everything,’ Dorothy said. ‘I will be down at a quarter to seven. Mildred can put the rest of the things in while we are at breakfast. All the boxes are packed and corded but one, and can be brought down as soon as I am out of the room. Is Captain Hampton going to shoot bears and that sort of thing, that you gave him warning?’

‘He does not seem to have any fixed plan, Dorothy, but I fancy from what he said that he is more likely to wander about and look at the towns, and such places as Niagara and the other places tourists go to as a matter of course. He certainly did not say a word about shooting, and my warning was in no way given seriously. If we were not going away ourselves I should miss him amazingly, for a better fellow never trod in shoe leather. Now, it’s half-past ten, dear, and the sooner we are both in bed the better, for we are to be called at six.’

While Ned Hampton had been away Jacob had spent his whole time in wandering in the suburbs in the vain hope of catching sight of the man and woman of whom he was in search. Ned had shown him the portrait, and the boy had examined it closely.

‘I shall know her when I see her, Captain; one doesn’t see gals like that every day. I seem to have seen some one like her, but I can’t think where. I am sure she was not so pretty as that, not by a long way; but there is something in the picture that I seem to know.’

He was in when his master returned from the Hawtreys.

‘No luck, Captain,’ he said, apologetically, ‘and it ain’t been from want of tramping about, for I have walked about every day from eight in the morning and got home at evening that tired I could hardly get upstairs to bed.’

‘By the way, Jacob, have you ever thought of whom the likeness reminded you? I told you to try and think who it was.’

‘Yes, I know who it was now, but it ain’t in our way at all. Four or five years ago I lived up a court at Chelsea, not far from that big hospital where they put the old soldiers. Well, there was a gal about two years older than me lived up in the attic of one of the houses in the court along with a woman. I don’t remember what the old one’s name was now, but she used to drink awful. She was about fifteen—the gal I mean—and I was about twelve. That gal had something of the look of the lady in the picture, except that the picture is smiling, and she used in general to look cross. I don’t know what there was in her face that comes back to me as being like the picture, but there must have been something, else it would not have made me think of her.’

‘Was the woman her mother?’

‘I don’t know, sir.’

‘Well, you go down to that court to-morrow, Jacob, the first thing, and find out if that woman is there still, and whether the girl is with her; and if they have moved, try to find out where they have gone to. I don’t suppose there can be the slightest connection between that girl and the woman that I am in search of, for the woman must have been educated to a certain extent, or she would have been detected by the jeweller or Mr. Singleton directly she spoke; still, as there is nothing else for you to do, it would be just as well for you to make inquiries.

‘There is something else I want to speak to you about, Jacob. In a day or two I shall leave for America, and may be away some months—I only settled the matter an hour ago—and I don’t see what I am to do with you; I don’t know what sort of place you are fit for here, and if I did know I don’t see how I could get it for you.’

‘Take me with you, Captain,’ Jacob said promptly. ‘Couldn’t I be of use to you there, sir, as well as here? I knows as I haven’t done no good yet; but it ain’t been for want of trying, I will take my davy on that.’

‘I don’t say that you would not be of use Jacob, but you would add very heavily to my expenses; the distances there are very great, and the extra train fares would come to quite a large sum. You would not cost much besides; not more perhaps than here.’

‘I would not cost so much, Captain,’ Jacob said confidently. ‘I calls it just chucking money away as it is now. I would be willing to live on dry bread if you would take me. Three pennyworth a day would do me fine, and I could take my old clothes with me and put them on at nights and sleep anywhere. As to the trains, Captain, I could walk first-rate, and I expect I could get a lift in a waggon sometimes.’

‘Well, I will think it over, Jacob. I don’t quite see what use you would be to me, though there might be occasions when I might want some one to keep watch. Well, go off to bed now. I shall have thought it over by the time I see you in the middle of the day.’

While Captain Hampton sat smoking he finally settled the question. Common-sense, as he told himself, was altogether against taking the boy. His passage out and back in the steerage would cost eight or ten pounds, there was no saying how much the railway fares would be if he got on these people’s track and found they had gone inland. It was not likely that the boy could be of any material use to him.

The more he thought of it the more absurd the idea of taking him appeared, and yet that was what he decided upon doing. It was a luxury, but he had laid by money each year to enable him to enjoy his trip home thoroughly. Circumstances had occurred that had altogether upset the programme he had formed, and there was no reason why he should not enjoy the luxury of having Jacob with him.

He had taken a strong liking to the boy. Jacob had attached himself to him without any other reason than that he liked him, and he was certain that he would serve him faithfully. He was as sharp as a needle, with that precocious sharpness which comes of want and necessity. Supposing these people were found, they would certainly have to be watched until an extradition warrant could be obtained from England; but, above all, in such a quest it would be a satisfaction to have some one to talk to, some one who would be as keen in the search as he was himself.

‘I don’t suppose it will cost more than fifty pounds,’ he said, finally, ‘and that bit of extravagance won’t hurt me.’

In the morning his first visit was to Danvers’ chambers.

‘I was wondering where you had hidden yourself, Hampton. I have seen scarcely anything of you for the last fortnight.’

‘I have been trying to get to the bottom of this affair of Hawtrey’s on my own account, and of course have failed. I am going for a run over to the States. I don’t care for the Continent in August and September, the hotels are so frightfully crowded. It has struck me that it is possible that these people may have gone to the States, and I will stop a day or two in New York to see if I can find any trace of their having passed through there. I found a letter from Hawtrey when I came home last night, telling me all that you are doing. As you are acting in the matter with Charles Levine I thought it would be a help to me if you would get a letter for me from Scotland Yard to the police there, saying that I was in search of two notorious swindlers, and asking them to give me any assistance they can.’

‘That is a very good idea, Hampton. It is quite on the cards that they made for the States directly they had realised the money for their plunder.’

‘How long do you think they would have been doing that?’

‘Two or three days. It is not likely they would sell the diamonds here. The man probably started with them for Hamburg the night they were stolen, and a few hours would be sufficient there.

‘The robbery was on the 15th of last month. There is no reason why they should not have sailed by the 20th from Liverpool; or he may have taken her with him, Danvers, and they may have gone by one of the German steamers.’

‘That is likely enough,’ Danvers agreed, ‘if they have gone to the States; and if there happened to be a steamer anywhere about at that time, it is the route they would naturally choose. They would, of course, be pretty sure that it would be some days before the robbery of the diamonds would be discovered; still longer before it occurred to anyone that Miss Hawtrey herself had nothing whatever to do with it. Still, they would not care to delay, and would certainly prefer a route that would obviate the necessity for their passing through England.

‘Well, I will see about this matter at once, I have not been in communication with Scotland Yard myself; of course, all that comes into Levine’s province. I will go down to him, and ask him to get the letter at once. When are you leaving?’

‘I have nothing to keep me here, and if I find there is a steamer going on Wednesday I will take a berth in her; I can be ready to leave here to-morrow night; indeed, I could leave to-night if necessary.’

‘Wednesday is the regular mail day; that is, I know letters have to be posted here on Tuesday afternoon. So you will get one of the fast boats on Wednesday. You have heard all the fresh developments, I suppose, in Miss Hawtrey’s affair?’

Captain Hampton nodded.

‘I tell you it surprised me, and it surprised Levine even more. He scoffed altogether at the suggestion, of which Mr. Hawtrey told me you were the author, that it was a case of personation, but these two cases staggered him. I don’t think that the getting money from Singleton would have done so alone, but the getting the silk dresses seemed to him conclusive. He quite believed that a girl might be driven to any straits if threatened by a scoundrel who had a hold on her, but that Miss Hawtrey should have taken to motiveless petty swindling seemed to him incredible. I was not as surprised as he was, because, strong as the case seemed against her, I could not bring myself to believe altogether that she was guilty. I am heartily glad, at any rate, that we have persuaded Hawtrey to pay the money if he cannot get any evidence in support of the impersonation theory.’

‘So am I, Danvers. Hawtrey told me that you both said he had no chance whatever of getting a verdict, and I quite agree with you; but even if the jury had been persuaded, numbers of the public would still have believed her guilty, and the story would have told against her all her life.’

‘I am very sorry that I am engaged this evening, Hampton, or else we might have dined together. It is one I cannot very well get out of. How long do you mean to be away?’

‘It is quite uncertain. If I can get any trace of these people I mean to follow it up if it takes months to do it.’

The other nodded.

‘I suppose Hawtrey told you that that engagement was broken off?’ he said carelessly.

‘Yes,’ Hampton said shortly, ‘Hawtrey told me. I was very glad to hear it, for this sort of thing might have been started on an even bigger scale if she had married him, and might have ruined her life altogether. It is bad enough as it is.’

‘No means of writing to you, I suppose, while you are away?’

‘I shall be glad if you will write to me to the Metropolitan Hotel, New York, if anything should be heard of these people here or on the Continent, and I shall telegraph to those hotel people two or three times a week saying where I am, so that they can forward anything on to me; but I don’t think that letters will be likely to overtake me, as I shall be moving about. I suppose you have arranged to telegraph at once to him if you get any news from the foreign police?’

‘Yes; he is going to send me a line three or four times a week with his address for the next day or two.’

‘Then in that case it would be of no use your writing to me, as he will know directly you do if anything turns up. Well, good-bye, old fellow.’

‘Good-bye. I suppose that you will be back by the end of the year? At any rate, I hope so. I am off to-morrow myself; I am going to Vienna. I have a case coming on next sessions and want to see some people there, so I can combine business with pleasure. I think it possible that I may go on from there to Constantinople, and then go down to Greece, and home by water. I should have started a week ago if it had not been for this business of Hawtrey’s, which seemed at one time to look so serious that I really did not like to go away until something was settled.’

Captain Hampton’s arrangements occupied him little more than half-an-hour. He bought a case of cartridges for his revolver, took a passage for himself, and one in the steerage for Jacob. He hesitated as to whether to get the boy some more clothes, but decided to put that off till he got out, as there might be some slight difference in make that would attract attention; the only thing he bought for him was a small portmanteau. After taking his passage, therefore, he went home and read the paper till Jacob came in.

‘Well, Jacob, to begin with, what is your news?’

‘The woman died two years ago, sir; drank herself to death, the neighbours say. The gal had left her two years before. No one knows where she went to, no one saw her go. The woman let out some time afterwards as she had gone: “A friend had took her,” she said; but no one heard her say anything more. She wasn’t a great one for talking. The woman wasn’t buried by the parish; an undertaker came and said he had been sent to do the job, and she was buried decent. There were a hearse and a carriage, and some of the people in the court went to the funeral, ’cause she wasn’t a bad sort when she was sober. And please, Captain, am I going with you?’

‘Yes, I have made up my mind to take you.’

The boy threw up the cap that he held in his hand to the ceiling and caught it again. ‘Thank you, sir,’ he said; ‘I laid awake all night thinking on it. I will do all that you tell me, sir, and if I don’t act right, just you turn me adrift out there—there ain’t nothing as would be too bad for me.’

Chapter XI • 6,800 Words

The Hawtreys were ten days out from England, and were spending the day in a trip up Lake Lucerne. Not as yet were the great caravansaries that have well nigh spoiled Lucerne and converted the most picturesque town in Europe into a line of brand new hotels that might just as well be at Brighton, Ostend, or any other watering place, so much as thought of. Not as yet had the whole of the middle class of England discovered that a month on the Continent was one of the necessities of life, nor had the great summer invasion from the other side of the Atlantic begun. Such hotels as existed were, however, crowded when the season was over in London, and those who had met so frequently during the last four months came across each other at every turn, in steamboats, diligences, and in hotels. Not as yet had the steam whistle seriously invaded Switzerland, and travellers were content to jog quietly along enjoying the beauties of Nature instead of merely rushing through them from point to point. Mr. Singleton was with the Hawtreys. He had said good-bye when he left them on their last evening at home, without a hint of his intention of accompanying them, but he was quietly walking up and down the deck of the boat at Dover when they went on board.

‘Why, there is Mr. Singleton, father,’ Dorothy exclaimed in surprise, as her eye fell upon him as she went down the gangway. ‘Why, he did not say anything about coming over when we said good-bye to him last night.’

‘Well, my dear,’ her godfather said, as he came up to them, ‘you did not expect to see me.’

‘No, indeed, Mr. Singleton. Why didn’t you say yesterday when we saw you that you were going across to-day?’

‘I don’t know that I had quite made up my mind, Dorothy. I had been thinking about it; but I often think of things and nothing comes of it. After I had left you I thought it over seriously. I had not been abroad for some years, and I said to myself “If I don’t go now I suppose I shall never go at all. Here is a good opportunity. It is lonely work when one gets the wrong side of sixty, to travel alone; at my age one does not make acquaintances at every turn, as young fellows do. No doubt I should meet men I know, but, as a rule, people one knows are not so fond of each other’s society as they are in London. I think my old friend Hawtrey, and my little god-daughter, would not mind putting up with me, and I can travel with them till they begin to get tired of me, and then jog quietly back my own way.”‘

‘Then you will stop with us all the time, Mr. Singleton. I am delighted, and I am sure father is, too.’

‘That I am,’ Mr. Hawtrey said heartily, understanding perhaps better than Dorothy did why his friend had at the last moment decided to go with them. ‘When did you come down?’

‘I came by the same train you did. I came straight on board, for I have brought my man with me and he is looking after my things. I have got into regular old bachelor ways, dear, and am so accustomed to have my hot water brought in of a morning, and my clothes laid out for me, and my boxes packed and corded, that I should feel like a fish out of water without them.’

‘It is your first trip abroad, isn’t it? At least, I know you went to Paris last year, but I don’t think you got any further?’

‘No, we stayed there a fortnight, but that was all.’

‘Well, you had better take your things down now,’ Mr. Hawtrey broke in, ‘in case you have to lie down. There seems to be a fresh wind blowing outside.’

‘Oh, I don’t mean to be ill, father. I think it was a rougher day than this last time, and I did not go below. Still, I may as well secure a place.’

‘This is awfully good of you, Singleton,’ Mr. Hawtrey said; ‘I know you are doing it out of regard for her.’

‘A little that way, perhaps, Hawtrey, and a good deal because I am sure I shall enjoy myself greatly. As a rule, I should be very chary of offering to join anyone travelling; a third person is often a nuisance, just as much so in travelling as at other times. I own that I don’t much care for going about by myself, but I thought you really would be glad to have me with you. Dorothy has had so much to try her of late that I felt this was really a case where a third person would be of advantage. I can help to keep up conversation and prevent her from thinking and worrying over these things. Besides, there is no doubt you will be running continually against people you know. The announcement that will appear to-morrow of the breaking off of her engagement will set people talking again. It is just one of the things that the last arrival from England will mention, as being the latest bit of society news, and I think, somehow, that three people together can face public attention better than two can.’

‘Thank you, old friend; it will be better for her in every way. I am not a good hand at making conversation, and it will be the thing of all others for Dorothy; she always chatters away with you more than with anyone else, and I can assure you that I feel your coming a perfect god-send. She scarcely said a word coming down this morning, and though I tried occasionally to talk about our trip, she only answered with an evident effort. I am afraid it will take some time to get all this out of her mind.’

‘It would be strange if it didn’t, Hawtrey. For a girl who has practically never known a care to find herself suddenly suspected and talked of, first as having compromised herself with some unknown person, and then as being a thief, is enough to give her a tremendous shaking up.

‘Then the breaking off of her engagement was another trial. I don’t say that it was the same thing as if she had loved the man with a real earnest love; still, it is a trial for any girl to break off a thing of that sort, and to know that it will be a matter of general talk and discussion, especially coming at the top of the other business.

‘Here she comes again, and looking a hundred per cent. better than she did before she caught sight of you, Singleton. I shall begin to be veritably jealous of you.’

They had stopped two days in Paris, and as much at Basle, and had now been four days at Lucerne, where they had met many of their own set. The news had already been told, and Dorothy was conscious of being regarded with a certain curiosity at the table d’hôte as the girl who had just broken off a brilliant match, but she betrayed no signs of consciousness that she was the object of attention, and those who had been most intimate with her, and had been inclined to condole with her, felt that in face of the light-hearted gaiety with which she chatted with her father and Mr. Singleton, and the brightness of her looks, anything of the kind would be out of place.

‘She looks quite a different girl to what she did during the season,’ one of her acquaintances said to Mrs. Dean, who had arrived at Lucerne the day before the Hawtreys. ‘I suppose she never really cared for Halliburn after all. No doubt those curious stories that there were about had something to do with the affair being broken off. For my part I think it would have been better taste for her——’

‘To have gone about with a long face. I don’t agree with you at all,’ Mrs. Dean replied warmly. ‘I am an old friend of hers and am delighted to see her look so much happier and better. I said a month ago that I thought the marriage would never come off. I was at a dinner party with them, and Halliburn was there. If I had been Dorothy Hawtrey I would have given him his congé that evening. His conduct was in the worst taste. Instead of showing the world how entirely he trusted her and how he despised these reports, he was so fidgety and irritable that it was impossible to avoid noticing it. The man is a peer and a rising politician, a clever man and a large landowner, but for all that he is not a gentleman. I always said that he was not good enough for Dorothy, and I am heartily glad she has broken it off. At any rate, it is quite evident that she feels no regret about it, whatever was the actual cause of the rupture. She might laugh and talk and try to look unconcerned—any girl of spirit would do that under the circumstances—but she couldn’t have got her natural colour back again or have made her eyes laugh as well as her lips, unless she had really felt relieved at being free again.’

Mrs. Dean had been a good deal with the Hawtreys during their four days at Lucerne, and Dorothy had felt her society a great assistance to her in supporting the first brunt of public remark. She was the only person who had spoken to Dorothy of what all the others were talking about.

They were standing together on the deck of a steamer going up the lake, when Mrs. Dean said suddenly,

‘I know, Dorothy, you will not mind an old friend speaking to you, and I really want to congratulate you heartily on breaking off your match. I don’t know the exact reasons that influenced you, but I am sure that you were right. I don’t think you would ever have been really happy with him; there would never have been any true sympathy between you. Some women could be content with rank and wealth, but I am sure you could not.’

‘No. I think it was a mistake altogether, Mrs. Dean,’ Dorothy said thoughtfully. ‘I did not become engaged to him for that—I mean for rank and wealth. I don’t say they did not count for something, but I honestly did think I liked him, and there was no real reason for its being broken off, except that I found that I had made a mistake. I should not say so, of course, to anyone but an old friend like you. I shall never say anything about it, but let people think what they like; and I know that you will never repeat it.’

‘Certainly not, Dorothy; but if you don’t say it in words I think everyone could see that, at least, there is no regret on your part at the match being broken off. The wonder won’t last long—another week and something fresh will be talked of, and by next year the whole affair will have died away. People have wonderfully short memories in society. Do you know, I rather take credit to myself as a prophetess, for on the evening of that dinner party where I last met you and Halliburn together, I told Captain Hampton that I didn’t think your match would ever come off. By the bye, what a nice fellow he is. He is wonderfully little changed since I knew him as a boy down in Lincolnshire, before he went into the army. Sometimes boys change so when they become men, that it is quite a pleasure to meet one who has grown up exactly as you might have expected he would do. You saw a good deal of him I believe?’

‘Yes, at the beginning of the season. We did not see so much of him afterwards. I don’t think he is so little changed as you do.’

Mrs. Dean gave a quick, keen glance at Dorothy, who was looking a little dreamily at the mountains at the head of the lake.

‘No?’ she said carelessly. ‘Well, of course, you knew him better than I did; he was so often over at your father’s. You were but a child then and I daresay that you endowed him, as most young girls do boys older than themselves, with all sorts of impossible qualities.’

‘No; I don’t know that it was that,’ Dorothy said; ‘but he seems to me to be changed a good deal in many respects; he was almost like an elder brother of mine then.’

‘Yes, dear, but then, you see, when he came back he found that another had stepped into a much closer place than even an elder brother’s, and he could hardly have assumed his former relationship. These brother and sisterhoods are very nice when the young lady is twelve and the boy eighteen or nineteen, but they are a little difficult to maintain when the boy is a man of six-and-twenty and the girl eighteen, and is engaged to somebody else who might, not unreasonably, object to the relationship. A boy and girl friendship is not to be picked up again after a lapse of six years just where it was dropped; it would be very ridiculous to suppose that it could be so. It seems to me that you have been expecting too much from him. For my part I think he has changed very little.’

‘I did not expect anything of him, Mrs. Dean, one way or the other. I had often thought of him while he was away, because he was very kind to me in the old days. I used to write to him when he first went out, and he wrote to me. Of course that dropped. But when he came home, just at first, it seemed to me that he was exactly what I expected, though I found, in some respects, that he was changed. However, I don’t know why we are talking about him. Captain Hampton has gone to America, I believe, and it is likely enough we may not see him again before he goes back to India.’ Then she changed her tone. ‘It is rather a sore subject to me, Mrs. Dean; it is the last of my illusions of childhood gone. I quite agree with you that it was very foolish of me to think that we could drop quite into our old relations, especially as things stood, but at least I expected something and was disappointed. He has been very kind and has taken an immense deal of trouble to assist my father to get to the bottom of some of the things that have been troubling us. I have not the least ground for complaint—on the contrary, I have every reason to be grateful to him; but, as I say, I have, all the same, been disappointed in some of my illusions, and I would rather not talk about it. What a change it is to be on this quiet lake and among these great silent hills after six months in London; there one always seemed to be in a bustle and fever, here one feels as if nothing that happened could matter.’

‘The London season is pleasant enough,’ Mrs. Dean said, ‘and though this is all very charming and delightful for a change, and very restful, I fancy that before long we should get tired of this changeless calm of Nature and begin to long for, I won’t say excitement, but the pleasure of society—of people you like. We only came up to town for three months, and I own that I enjoyed it heartily, there is so much to look at. I have no daughters to marry off, no personal interest in the comedy, so I look on and like it, and enjoy my home during the other nine months all the better for having been away. We do not often come abroad. I suppose now these railways are being made everywhere there will be a great deal more travelling about, but I don’t think we should often come. You talk of the bustle of life in London, it is nothing to the bustle of travelling. As soon as one gets settled down at an hotel it is time to be going on. If I come out again next year I shall persuade my husband to take a little châlet high up on the hill there, where one can rest and take one’s fill of the view of those mountains. I shall bring plenty of work with me, and my own maid; then I could sit in the shade and pretend to embroider and talk to her while William read his “Times” and amused himself in his own way, which lies chiefly in going about with a hammer and collecting geological specimens.’

This last was addressed partly to Mr. Dean, who just then came up with his friends.

‘I fancy you would be tired of that sort of life long before I should, Sarah,’ he said laughing. ‘Women always seem to have an idea, Hawtrey, that one rock is as good as another, and that if a man goes out with a hammer it can make no difference to him whether he brings in twenty specimens from a radius of a hundred yards from a house or the same number collected during a fifty miles ramble. Personally I should not at all mind making my head quarters for six weeks or so on this lake, providing one did not go up too high. One wants to be within a quarter-of-an-hour’s walk of a village, where one can hire a boat, to land where one likes, and make excursions among the hills. I should not want to do any snow-climbing, but there are plenty of problems one would be glad to go into, if one could investigate them, without that. It is really a treat to me, after Lincolnshire, to get into a country where you can go into geological problems without having to begin by digging.’

‘I may frankly say that I know nothing about it,’ Mr. Hawtrey replied. ‘The only problem connected with digging that I have been interested in is how to get the heaviest crops possible out of the ground. Well, here we are at the head of the lake. It will be two hours before a steamer goes back. I propose lunch in the first place, and then we shall have time for a walk to Althorp, where we can examine the market-place where William Tell shot at the apple; that is to say, if—as now seems doubtful—William Tell ever had an existence at all.’

‘I won’t have it doubted, Mr. Hawtrey,’ Mrs. Dean exclaimed. ‘It would be the destruction of another of one’s cherished heroes of childhood,’ and she glanced with a little smile at Dorothy, who smiled back but shook her head decidedly.

A group of people were gathered on the wharf to see the steamer come in.

‘Why, there are the Fortescues—father, mother, and daughters,’ Mrs. Dean exclaimed, ‘Captain Armstrong and Mr. Fitzwarren. One cannot get out of London.’

A moment later they were exchanging greetings on the wharf. The Fortescues had arrived that morning in a postcarriage from Milan. Captain Armstrong and Fitzwarren had got in an hour before by diligence from Como. Both parties were going down by the boat to Lucerne.

‘It is too hot for anything in Italy,’ Mrs. Fortescue said; ‘it was foolish of us trying it. Of course, we ought not to have gone over there until the end of September, or else in May. May was out of the question because of the House. September was equally so, because of the shooting; so my husband paired till the end of the session, and we started early last month. We have been doing Florence and Bologna and Venice, and the places along to Milan, and then I struck. The heat was unbearable; so now we shall spend a fortnight in Switzerland before we go back. I suppose there are lots of people one knows at Lucerne?’

‘But you won’t be back in time for the 1st, Mrs. Fortescue, if you do that.’

‘No; we have lately settled to give up the idea. It would be such a pity now we are here to deprive the girls of the pleasure of a ramble through Switzerland. So Mr. Fortescue has made up his mind to sacrifice himself, and we have promised faithfully that he shall be back in time for the pheasants.’

Mr. Fortescue, a tall, powerfully-built specimen of English squiredom, shrugged his shoulders unseen by his wife. He was not altogether unaccustomed to sacrifices. His career as a legislator was altogether a sacrifice. He hated London, he hated Parliament, where his voice was never heard except upon some question connected with the agricultural interest, and if he had had his own way he would never have been seen outside his native county. But as Mrs. Fortescue held that it was clearly his duty, for the sake of his family, that he should represent his division, and that the season should be spent in town, he had in this, as indeed in almost every other matter, to give way. Experience had taught him that it was well to do so at once, for that it always came to the same thing in the end. Upon the present occasion he had indeed remonstrated. He hated travelling, and was longing to be at his country seat; and to keep him out another five weeks was a clear and distinct breach of the agreement that had been made before starting.

While they were talking with Mr. Hawtrey and Mrs. Dean, the girls and Dorothy, who had been intimate in London, were holding a little colloquy apart.

‘Is it true, dear—the news we heard at Milan just before we started?’ the eldest asked.

‘I suppose I know what you mean, Ada. Yes, it is quite true, and best for all parties; so we need not say anything more about it.’

‘You are looking wonderfully well, Dorothy,’ Clara, the younger of the two girls, remarked, to change the subject, which, she saw, was not to be discussed. ‘It is quite refreshing to see you. We are feeling quite washed out. Talk about the season! I felt quite fresh when I left town to what I do now; we have scarcely known what it is to be cool for the last month, and there has been no sleeping at night, half the time, because of the mosquitos. It is nice meeting Captain Armstrong and Mr. Fitzwarren here, isn’t it?’

Dorothy said ‘Yes,’ but she did not feel at all sure about it. Captain Armstrong, who was in the Blues, had been among her most persistent admirers at the beginning of the season, and she had refused him a month before her engagement to Lord Halliburn. Doubtless, he also would have heard of her engagement being off, and might renew his attentions. He was a very popular man, and she was conscious that she liked him, and had said no, if not less decidedly, at least after more hesitation and doubt than she had done to any of her previous admirers. She felt sure that she should give the same answer if he ever repeated the question, but she did not want it repeated, and she wished that they had not met again, just at this time.

The awkwardness of the rejection had long since passed, they had met and danced together a score of times since. She had said when she rejected him, ‘Let us be friends, Captain Armstrong; I like you very much, though I don’t want to marry you;’ and they had been friends, and had met and chatted just as if that interview had not taken place. The only allusion he had ever made to it had been when they met for the first time after her engagement had been announced, and he had said, ‘So Halliburn is to be the lucky man, Miss Hawtrey. I don’t think it quite fair that he should have all the good things of life,’ and she had replied, ‘There are good things for us all, Captain Armstrong, if we do but look for them, and not, like children, set our minds on what we can’t get.’ ‘I think I would rather see you marry him than most people, Miss Hawtrey, perhaps because he is altogether unlike myself.’

She had made no answer at the time, but had thought afterwards of what he had said. Yes, the two men were very unlike and there was, no doubt, something in what Captain Armstrong had said. She thought that if she loved a man she could bear better to see him marry a woman altogether unlike herself in every respect than one who resembled her closely, though perhaps she could hardly explain to herself why this should be so.

They were a merry party on board the steamer going down the lake, and the new comers took rooms at the same hotel as the Hawtreys.

‘Well, what do you mean to do, Armstrong?’ Fitzwarren asked, as they strolled out to smoke a cigar by the lake after the rest of the party had gone to bed. ‘You know what I mean. You told me the other day about your affair with Miss Hawtrey.’

‘I should not have said anything about it,’ the other returned, ‘if I had had any idea that her engagement with Halliburn would come to nothing. We had been talking over that business of hers, and I expressed my opinion pretty strongly as to Halliburn’s behaviour to her in public and said that I wondered she stood it. Then getting heated I was ass enough to say that had I been in his position, I should have behaved in a different sort of way, and generally expressed my contempt for him. Then you asked why hadn’t I put myself in his position, and I told you it was no fault of mine, for that I had tried and failed, when you made some uncomplimentary remarks as to her taste, and we nearly had a row.

‘You ask me what I am going to do. Of course, if we had not heard that news when we got to Milan I should have gone this afternoon, directly we arrived here, to take my place in the first diligence that started, no matter where. Now I shall stay and try my luck again. It is quite evident by her manner that she never really cared for the fellow, and that this breaking off of the engagement is a great relief to her. I never saw her in higher spirits, and I am sure there was nothing forced about them. I am sure she would not have accepted him unless she thought she liked him; she is not the sort of girl to marry for position alone, though I dare say if it had not been for the other business she would have married him, and would have believed all her life that he was a very fine fellow. Well, you see, he came very badly out of it, and showed himself to her in his true light as a selfish, cold-hearted, miserable little prig, and, you see, directly her eyes were opened she threw him over. So it seems to me that there is a chance.’

‘One could not have met her again under more favourable circumstances. One gets ten times the opportunities travelling about together that one does in a London season. However, I think my chance is worth very little. She said honestly that she liked me very much before, and I could see it really pained her to refuse me. I don’t think it was Halliburn who stood in the way, although he was attentive at that time.’

‘I should have thought that would have been all in your favour if she acknowledged that she liked you very much, and was cut up at refusing you. Why should she not like you better when she sees more of you?’

‘Because, Fitzwarren, it was not the right sort of liking. We were, if I may so express it, chums; and I am afraid we shall never get beyond that on her side. You see, a woman wants something ideal. Now there is nothing ideal about me. I suppose I may say I am a decent, pleasant sort of fellow, but there are no what you may call possibilities about me. Now Halliburn, you see, was full of possibilities. He had the reputation of being somehow a superior sort of young man—and there is no doubt he is clever in his way—he will probably some day be in the Cabinet, and the idea of one’s husband being a ruler of men is fascinating to the female mind. I suppose there was no woman ever married a curate who had not a private belief that he would some day be an archbishop. Now there is not a shadow of this sort of thing about me. I may possibly get to command the regiment some day, and then when I have held the command for the usual time I shall be shelved, and shall, I suppose, retire gracefully to my estate in Yorkshire. I suppose I am good enough for the ruck of girls, but I feel sure that I am not up to Dorothy Hawtrey’s ideal, and that though this may end by our being greater friends than before, I doubt whether there is much chance of anything else coming of it.’

‘It is no use your running yourself down in that way, Armstrong. When a man stands six foot two and is one of the best-looking fellows in London, and one of the most popular men, and is not only a captain of the Blues, but has a fine estate down in Yorkshire, he ought to have a fair chance with almost any girl.’

‘Even accepting all you say as gospel, Fitzwarren, it comes to the same thing. It might succeed with most women, as you say, but I don’t think it will with her. It may make her like me, but I don’t think it will make her love me. I don’t think she is a bit worldly, and I know by what she let drop one day when we were chatting together, when we got rather confidential at the beginning of the season, that she had got the idea in her head that a woman ought to respect her husband, and look up to him, and had in fact formed a distinct notion of the sort of man she should choose; and I felt at the time, though there was nothing whatever personal in our talk, I was the very last sort of fellow she would choose for her husband. Well, I shall try again; I have won more than one steeplechase after a horse going down with me at a bad fence. This is the same sort of thing after all; it is of no use mounting and going on again when you see another fellow sailing away ahead, and close to the winning post, but if he has fallen too, and nothing seems to have a better chance than you have, a man who gives up the race because he has had an awkward purler is no better than a cur.’

‘As it does not make much difference to me which way we go, Armstrong, I am willing enough to keep with you for a bit, and see how things go; but I don’t suppose I shall be able to stand it long, and I shall reserve to myself the right of striking off on my own account, or joining someone else if I find your society insupportable.’

‘That is all right, old fellow; our arrangement was to travel together. Of course, if I give up travelling and take to loitering about, you are free to do what you like, and I am the last man to wish you to alter your plans because I have changed my mind. As a rule, I think it is always wise to steer clear of people one knows when one is travelling, and to be free to do exactly as one likes, which one never can if one gets mixed up with a party. I have always been dead against that. They want to see things you don’t want to see, they want to stay in towns and to potter about picture galleries and churches, while you want to go right away up a hill——’

‘That is not the worst of it, Armstrong, it is the danger.’

‘The danger? What do you mean?’

‘The danger of going too far. A flirtation means nothing in town, but it is apt to become a very serious matter when you are travelling about together. A row in a boat on an evening like this, or, as you say, going about to churches and picture galleries, when you are dead certain to get separated from the rest of the party, or a climb through a pine forest—these things are all full of peril, and you are liable to find yourself saying things that there is no getting out of, and there you are—engaged to perhaps the last girl that you would, had you calmly and patiently thought the matter out, have gone in for.’

Captain Armstrong laughed.

‘Ah, it is all very well for you to laugh. In the first place you have been what is called a general flirt for years, and would not be suspected of serious intentions, unless you went very far indeed; and in the second place you could afford to marry a girl without a penny if you had any inclination to do so. It is a different thing altogether with fellows like myself, who have no choice between remaining single and marrying a wife with some money. There are some luxuries I absolutely cannot afford, and among them I may reckon travelling about in a party in which are some tocherless damsels—for instance the Fortescues, who, I daresay, will for the next ten days or a fortnight travel with the Hawtreys. They are nice, unaffected girls, pretty and pleasant, but they have three elder brothers. I could not afford one of them. My line in life is clearly chalked out. Not for me is the gilded heiress; her friends will look after her too sharply for that. I have pictured to myself that in another eight or ten years I may be able to secure the affections of the relict of some respectable man who has left her with a snug jointure. She will not be too young, but just approaching nearly enough to middle age to begin to fear being laid on the shelf. Then in the comfortable home that she will provide for me I can journey pleasantly and contentedly down the vale of life.’

Captain Armstrong burst into a loud laugh. ‘You will never do it, Fitzwarren, never. There is a vein of romance in your composition that will be too much for you. It is always young men who fancy they are prudent who end by falling victims to some nice girl without a penny. You may take all the precautions you like, walk as circumspectly as you will, but when the time comes you will succumb without a struggle. However, do not let me lead you into the net of the fowler; keep away from the snare as long as you can; when your fate comes upon you you will be captured, and I doubt whether you will make as much as a struggle.’

‘We shall see, Armstrong; at present you serve as a terrible example. Well, I suppose we may as well turn in.’

There was a great consultation after breakfast the next morning. Mr. Hawtrey had already marked out his own line of travel and had arranged for a carriage by which they would travel by easy stages through Brienz, Interlaken, Thun, Freyburg, and then on to Lausanne. They would stay for a week by the Lake of Geneva and then take another carriage to Martigny. Beyond that nothing was at present settled, but they would make Martigny their head quarters for some little time. The Fortescues had no particular plan and were quite ready to fall into that of their friends, though, as they had as yet seen nothing of Lucerne, and intended to make some excursions from there, they said that they must stop there for a few days, but would join the others at Martigny.

The girls indeed would gladly have gone forward at once, being really fond of Dorothy, and thinking that it would be nice to travel together, but their mother overruled this.

‘No, no, my dears, we must see what there is to be seen, and it would be a great pity to hurry away at once. We shall all meet again at Martigny, and may, perhaps, have a fortnight there together. Besides, there are inconveniences in two parties travelling together. One may happen to have faster horses than the other, and be kept waiting for their meals until the other arrives; then they don’t always want to stop at the same places, or for the same time. Whoever gets in first may be able to find accommodation at an inn, while the second one may find it full. Don’t you think so, Mr. Singleton?’

‘Yes, I quite agree with you. Two parties are apt to be a tie upon each other. I think that your plan that we should all meet at Martigny is the wisest.’

‘What are your plans, Captain Armstrong?’

‘Beyond the fact that we have a month to wander about before we are due in London we have no particular plans. We, of course, stick to diligence routes; bachelors do not indulge in the luxury of posting, and, indeed, I greatly prefer the banquette of a diligence to a carriage—you get a better view, you meet other people, and learn more of the country. We intend to do a little climbing—I don’t mean high peaks, I have no ambition that way whatever, but some of the passes and glaciers. I was at Martigny last year; it is, perhaps, the best central position for the mountains, and I think it is very likely that we shall be there while you are.’

‘I hope you will,’ Mr. Hawtrey said cordially. ‘These three young ladies will be only too glad of two stalwart guides. As far as carriages can go, or even donkeys, we elders can accompany them, but when it comes to scrambling about on glaciers, or doing anything like climbing, we are getting past that.’

‘Nonsense, father,’ Dorothy exclaimed. ‘Why, you are often out for eight or ten hours over the turnip fields with a gun, you know; you could walk four times as far as I could.’

‘Not twice as far, Dorothy. I have known you walk fifteen miles more than once, and I certainly should not care about walking thirty. But that has nothing to do with climbing, which is a question of weight and wind. You have only half my weight to carry. I am sure that after dancing through a London season your lungs ought to be in perfect order. However, I dare say I shall be able to go with you if your views are not too ambitious; but the mania for climbing always seems to seize young people when they get among mountains, though for my part I prefer the view in a valley to one on the top of a hill. At any rate we shall be glad to see you both, Captain Armstrong, at Martigny, whether we requisition your services as guides or not. I am sorry, Dorothy, the Deans are not coming our way. He told me yesterday they were going to Zurich, and then by Constance into Bavaria.’

‘I am sorry, too, father; I like them so much, and it would have been very pleasant indeed if they had been with us.’

Chapter XII • 6,700 Words

During the voyage Captain Hampton saw but little of Jacob. Each day he went to the rope across the deck marking the division between the cabin and the steerage passengers, and the boy at once came running up to him. His report always was that he was getting on ‘fust rate,’ while each day his wonder at the amount of water increased.

‘I would not have believed if I hadn’t seen it that there could be so much water, Captain. I can’t think where it all comes from. I heard some of them say it was tremendous deep—ten times as deep as that monument with the chap on the top of it in Trafalgar Square. Why, it must have rained for years and years to have got such a lot of water here as this. And it tastes bad. I had a wash in a bucket on deck this morning, and some of the water got in my mouth and it wur as nasty as could be—awful it wur. What can make it like that? Why the water in the Thames looks ten times as dirty, but it don’t taste particular nasty for all that.’

‘I will tell you about it some day, Jacob; it is too long to go into now. You remind me of it some evening, when we are at a lonely inn, with nothing to do. How do you get on at night?’

‘I sleeps all right, sir; it is awful hot down there in them bunks, as they call ‘em, one above another, just like a threepenny lodging-house where I used to sleep sometimes when I had had good luck. The first night or two was bad, there was no mistake about it. Most of ‘em was awful ill, and made noises enough to frighten one. I could not think what made them so; it seemed to me as if someone must have put pison in the food, and I kept on expecting I was going to be took bad too; but a young chap tells me in the morning as most people is so the first day they goes to sea. If they wur to drink that water I could understand it, but it is all right what they gives us; and there are some of them as grumbles at the food, but I calls it just bang up. How much more of this water is there, sir?’

‘About five more days’ steaming, Jacob; it is a twelve-days’ voyage from Liverpool to New York. I suppose some day they will get to do it in six, for they keep on building faster and faster steamers.’

‘We are going wonderful fast now,’ the boy said; ‘a chap’s cap as was sitting up in the end there blew off yesterday, and I ran to keep alongside with it, but it went a lot faster than I could run. I shall be glad when it is over, Captain; not as I ain’t jolly, for I never was so jolly before, but I ain’t doing nothing for you here, and I wants to be at work for you somehow. If they would let me wait on you, and put stuff on those white shoes, I should not so much mind.’

‘I am very well waited on, Jacob, and if you were to try to wait on me at table while the vessel is rolling, you would be pretty sure to spill a plate of soup down my neck, or something of that sort. You amuse yourself in your own way, and don’t worry about me; when there is anything to do I know you will do it.’

‘I find you won’t land till to-morrow, Jacob,’ Captain Hampton said, as the vessel neared the wharf. ‘Here is the name of the hotel where I shall be, in case by any chance I should miss you. They say you will probably come ashore at nine o’clock in the morning.’

‘Why can’t we all land at once, sir?’

‘It is late now, Jacob, and it is as much as they will be able to do to get through the cabin passengers’ baggage before dark; indeed it is probable they will only examine the light luggage.’

‘What do they want to examine it for, sir? What business have they with your luggage?’

‘They always do it when you go into a foreign country. They do it in England too, when you come in from abroad; everything has to be opened. There are some things that pay duty going into a country, and they want to see that you have got none of them in your boxes; for, if you have, you must pay for them.’

‘Then must I open my box if they ask me?’

‘You must, Jacob.’

‘And let them rummage my things about?’

‘If they want to, Jacob; but I don’t suppose they search the steerage baggage much; they will probably ask you who you are, and where you are going, and you must tell them that you are my servant, and that I am at the Metropolitan Hotel. But I am pretty sure to be here to see you through.’

However, at half-past eight, as Captain Hampton went to the door of the hotel with the intention of taking a vehicle down to the wharf, he saw Jacob coming along carrying his little portmanteau.

‘Why, Jacob, I was just starting to the wharf. They told me that you were not to land till nine.’

‘They said so last night, Captain, but they began just about seven. I heard there was another ship come in and they wanted to get us out of the way. I was one of the fust ashore, and it didn’t take many minutes afore I was out of the shed where they looks at the things. I says to the first chap I meets, “Where can I take a ‘bus to the Metropolitan Hotel?” “You won’t get no ‘bus here,” says he. “How far is it?” “Better than two miles,” he says. That settled it, and I started off to walk. I ought to have been here sooner, but some one I asked the way of put me wrong, I suppose, and a box like this feels wonderful heavier the second mile than it does the first.’

An arrangement had already been made for Jacob’s board and lodging, and a messenger boy showed him up to his little room at the top of the house, and then took him down to a room where the few white servants in the hotel had their meals. In half an hour he returned to the hall which served as smoking-room and general meeting-place. Captain Hampton had already had a talk with the clerk.

‘I have not seen a young woman like that,’ the latter said positively, when the photograph was produced, ‘but then if the man had registered and written her name and his she might not have come up to the desk. If you go up to the entrance of the dining-room and ask the negro who takes the hats there, he will tell you for certain. He has a wonderful head, that chap has. Sometimes there are as many as three hundred come in to dinner between five and seven. He takes their hats and puts them on the pegs and racks, and as they come out he will give every man his own hat and never make a mistake. I never saw such a chap for remembering faces.’

The negro replied unhesitatingly, on seeing the photograph, that no such lady had taken any meals at the hotel.

‘De ladies don’t come into my department, sah, but I notice them as they goes in and out, and if that young lady had been here I should have noticed her for sartin.’ Captain Hampton returned to the clerk in the hall, who, as he happened for the moment to be disengaged, was not averse to a talk. ‘The darkey has not seen her.’

‘Then you may be sure she hasn’t been here. Yes, I reckon that is about the list of the hotels most of the passengers by the steamers go to,’ he said, as he glanced down a list of names Captain Hampton had got a fellow passenger to draw up. ‘I will put down two or three others; they are not first-class, but they are a good deal used by people to whom a dollar a day more or less makes a difference. And so you say they have been doing some swindling across the water. She don’t look that sort either from her photograph, but they get the things up so one can never tell. I see you haven’t got any German hotels; and if, as you say, you think they came by the line from Hamburg, they might have gone to one of them.’

‘I should not think it likely they spoke German,’ Captain Hampton said.

‘Oh, that makes no odds. The waiters all talk English, and like enough on the voyage they would make friends with some Germans who have been here before, and they would recommend them one of their own people.’

‘That is probable; and they would be likely to go there too,’ Captain Hampton agreed, ‘because anyone coming over to search for them would be less likely to search in such places than in houses like yours.’

‘Then, again, you see, they might have gone straight through without going into an hotel at all. That would be the safest way, because then there would be no trace left of them.’

‘But I suppose not many people do that.’

‘Oh, yes, they do—lots of them. A man saves his hotel bills if he goes straight to the train, and there is only one move; but, of course, that is only when a man has quite made up his mind where he is going. As a rule, when a Britisher comes here he waits a few days and asks questions, and tries to find out about things, unless he is going somewhere straight to a friend. Is that boy looking for you? he has been standing there staring at you for the last five minutes.’

‘Oh, yes, that is my servant. Will you give me the address of the Central Police Station?’

The clerk wrote the address on a piece of paper and handed it to him.

‘I don’t think you will get much good from them,’ he said. ‘When people want to hunt a man up here they generally go to an agency. They are a way ahead of the regular police, and have got some smart fellows among them, I can tell you.’

‘Thank you. I should prefer carrying out the matter myself if I can. If not I will certainly go to an agency.’

‘There is one advantage in going to the police first,’ the man said. ‘You will find at a good many hotels the people will have nothing to say to you if you go by yourself. It is no business of theirs whether the people who stay at their hotels are swindlers or not, and they ain’t going to meddle in it; but if you can get the police to give you a sharp officer to go round with you it will be a different thing altogether.’

‘Yes, that is what I thought myself, and why I am going to the police in the first place.’

Turning from the desk he joined Jacob.

‘You have had your breakfast?’ he asked.

‘I just have had a breakfast, Captain; I never seed such a lot of things—and scrumptious, too; I only wish I could have eaten twice as much.’

‘I am going out now, Jacob, and as I shall be calling at several places, you had better go your own way. Remember this street is Broadway; it is the principal street here, so if you do by any chance lose yourself any one can tell you the way.’

‘What time am I to be here again, Captain?’

‘Did you ask what time dinner was, Jacob?’

‘The black man who brought the things to me said it was two o’clock, but I shan’t never be able to eat again so soon.’

‘Oh, yes, you will, Jacob. Take a good long walk and you will soon get your appetite back again.’

On stating his business at the Central Police Station, he was shown into the room of the chief, a quiet but keen-faced man, dressed in plain clothes. He presented to him the letter from Scotland Yard.

‘I shall be happy to help you, Captain Hampton, if I can,’ he said, after glancing through it. ‘If you had known for certain what steamer they came over by, we should no doubt be able to lay hold of them in the course of a few hours, if they are still in the city.’

‘I think the probabilities are greatly in favour of their having come by the “Bremen,” which sailed from Hamburg on July 20 and got here, as I saw, on August 4. If they did not come by that I think it likely they sailed from some English port two or three days later. My first object, of course, is to find the hotel at which they put up.’

‘I will send one of my men round with you,’ and the chief touched a bell. ‘Is Mr. Tricher in? If so, ask him to come here.’

A young man entered the room two minutes later.

‘Mr. Tricher, this gentleman has brought us a letter from Scotland Yard; he is in search of two swindlers who have made off with a good deal of money. His name is Captain Hampton; he does not belong to the British force but is a friend of some of the parties who have been swindled, and has made it his business to find these people. They are believed to have come out in the “Bremen,” which arrived here on August 4; but, if not, they may have come by a boat from an English port within a few days of that date. Of course they may have come to Boston or Halifax, or one of the Southern ports. Our first step is to inquire at all the hotels here; will you please to go with him and give him any assistance you can? If you are unsuccessful in your search, Captain Hampton, I shall be glad if you will come in again and talk the matter over with me. I have all the dates of the arrivals of the steamers from the other side, which may help you in deciding at which port you had better continue your search.’

Captain Hampton’s guide proved to be a pleasant and chatty young fellow. ‘Your first visit here, Captain Hampton?’ he asked, as they issued out on the street.

‘Yes, it is the first time I have crossed the Atlantic. I have not had much chance of coming before, for I have been out with my regiment in India for the last six years.’

‘I suppose it is a big business this, as you have taken the trouble to come out about it.’

‘No; in point of money it is not a very large amount. A thousand pounds in money and about two thousand pounds worth of diamonds. I am interested in the matter chiefly because suspicion has fallen upon a lady of my acquaintance, between whom and this woman there is an extraordinary likeness: so great a one that I myself was once deceived by it. The woman herself knows of it, for she personated my friend, and in her name obtained the jewels and money; so you see it is a matter of extreme importance to get her back to England.’

‘I can quite understand that. I suppose you have a likeness of her?’

‘Yes; at least, a likeness of the lady, which will be quite sufficient to enable anyone to identify the woman at once.’

He handed Dorothy’s likeness to the detective.

‘There ought to be no difficulty in identifying that,’ he said, after examining it closely. ‘No one who has seen her will be likely to forget it in a hurry; and what is the man like?’

‘He is old enough to be her father, and no doubt passes as being so. He is a clean-shaved man—at least he was when I last saw him. He is a betting man of the lowest type, but has had the education of a gentleman, and when well dressed and got up would no doubt pass as one anywhere. This is the list of hotels I obtained as being those they would be most likely to go to. You see there are some German ones included, as, if they came out in the “Bremen,” they might have been directed by Germans returning here to go to one of their hotels, and would have done so, as they would be less likely to meet English people and attract attention.’

‘Yes, that is a good idea. However, we will try the others first. Nineteen out of twenty cabin passengers who land here and don’t go straight on, put up at one or other of the principal places.’

Hotel after hotel was visited, until they arrived at the end of the list. The detective did the talking; he was well known to all the clerks.

‘I generally am put on hotel thief business,’ he said, as his companion remarked on his acquaintance with all the houses they visited; ‘no doubt that is why the chief sent me with you. Now we will try these German houses. You may take it for granted that they have not been at any of the others. If none of the clerks or waiters recognise that photograph, it is because she wasn’t there. You see they all said “No” right off when they saw it. If it had been an ordinary face, they would have thought it over, but they did not want half a minute to say they had never seen her.’

At the first two German houses they went to they received the usual answer.

‘Now I have rather hopes of this next place,’ the detective said; ‘it is a quiet sort of house, and used by a good class of Germans—rich men who have been over to Europe, and are waiting here for a day or two before they go West again. If the man was asking, as he would be likely to do, for a quiet hotel, and said that he did not mind paying for comfort, a German who knew the ropes would probably send him here. This is the house.’

He went up to the clerk’s desk.

‘Good morning, Mr. Muller. How goes on business?’

‘Pretty brisk, Mr. Tricher. What can I do for you, this morning? You are on business, too, I suppose.’

‘Yes. The chief asked me to come round with this gentleman, Captain Hampton, from England. He wants to find out about a man and a woman who are believed to have come across on the “Bremen,” which arrived here on August 4. I think it likely enough that they may have been recommended to your house. Will you turn to August 4?’

The clerk turned over the leaves of the register.

‘Had you an English lady and gentleman, father and daughter, arrive on that day?’

‘I had. Mr. and Miss White. The man was clean shaven, about forty-five years old.’

‘This is the portrait of his daughter.’

‘That is all right,’ the clerk said. ‘She was just as good-looking a girl as ever I saw.’

Captain Hampton uttered an exclamation of satisfaction. Here then was the first absolute proof that his theory was correct, and that there really existed a double of Dorothy, and the evidence of this clerk would in itself go far to disprove the charge against her.

‘How long did they stay here?’ the detective asked.

The clerk turned to the ledger. ‘Two days. They left on the evening of the sixth. They were charged the full day.’

‘How did they go?’

‘By carriage. Here is the charge—a dollar and a half.’

‘Which station did they go to?’

‘Ah, that I cannot tell you. We have two carriages and they are both out now, but I can find out this evening. Anything else?’

‘Yes; I want to know if they made any inquiries about trains.’

‘I don’t know that they inquired, but the man spent a whole morning going through the train books and looking through the tables hanging up there. I wondered what in thunder he could be wanting to spend such a time over them, when a couple of minutes would have shown him the train time to any place he wanted to go to. I expect he had not made up his mind where to go. I reckon that was it. I saw him come in with half a dozen books under his arm the morning after they got here.’

‘Well, we can do nothing till we hear what station they were taken to. I will look in again this evening.’

‘Do you mean to say they were bad ones, Mr. Tricher?’

The detective nodded.

‘Well, well, one never knows what to believe. I don’t know about the man, but that gal I should never have thought could have been bad.’

‘Please look at the photograph again,’ Captain Hampton said. ‘Examine it closely; is it what you would call a very good likeness?’

‘It is a good likeness,’ the man said. ‘I should have known it if I had seen it in a shop window anywhere; but photographs are never quite like—men’s may be, but I have never seen a woman’s that was the real thing. They always smooth out their faces somehow, and put on a sort of company expression. This is as like her as two peas, and yet it isn’t quite like, if you can understand it. That has got a pretty, innocent sort of expression. The girl’s face was harder than that; it was just as pretty, but somehow it looked older, as if she had had some sort of disappointment, and had had a bad time of it. This one looks like the face of a thoroughly happy girl. The other didn’t, you know. I said to myself that she had made up her mind to marry some chap her father didn’t like, and that he had brought her over here to get her out of his way. You see, she was an unusual sort of woman. I don’t know that I ever saw a much prettier one—and one naturally reckoned her up a bit. She only went out once while they were here, and did not seem to have much interest in the city.’

‘Well, I think we have been pretty lucky, Captain Hampton,’ the detective said when he went out.

‘Wonderfully lucky. I am more thankful than I can express; the evidence of that man alone would go a long way towards clearing my friend, for it would at any rate prove that just after these robberies were committed, and at the exact time at which a thief would reach here from England, a woman precisely like her arrived here with a man answering to the description of the one believed to be her accomplice.’

‘That would be a great thing certainly; at any rate, if I were you, Captain Hampton, I would get an affidavit, made by Muller and one or two of the waiters, to the effect that a man of whom they would give a description, and the original of a portrait that would of course be marked for identification, arrived at the hotel on August 4, having come by the steamer “Bremen” from Hamburg. There is nothing like getting an affidavit when you can, and the waiters are to hand now; there is no saying where they might be three months hence. I don’t say that Muller is likely to leave, but he is bright, and might get a better offer any day from one of the big hotels at St. Louis or Cincinnati, or any other place where there are many Germans.’

‘I will certainly do so, and send it across to England at once.’

Arranging with the detective to call for him at the Metropolitan at seven o’clock that evening, Captain Hampton returned to the hotel. It had been a splendid morning’s work. Even if all further search was unsuccessful, enough had been done to establish at least a strong case in favour of the contention that the person who called upon the jeweller and Mr. Singleton was not Dorothy Hawtrey. The interview he himself had witnessed, which, had he been compelled to give evidence, would have been in itself almost fatal to her, was now strongly in her favour, for it showed the connecting link between the person who had taken the jewels and this man who was now proved to be passing as her father in the States. It was no longer Dorothy Hawtrey buying off the man who had been persecuting her, but Truscott’s partner in the crime informing him of the success of her operations.

Jacob was standing at the door of the hotel when he arrived there. He had long since been made acquainted with the object for which a search was being made for the betting man Marvel, and the woman whose likeness he had been shown. He was greatly delighted at learning that a trace had been obtained of him, and eager to set to work to follow it up.

‘It will be bang up, Captain, if we find them here while all them perlice at home is running after them everywhere.’

‘Well, I did not think of it in that light, and I don’t much care whether they are run down by us or by any one else, so long as they are caught at last, but it is a long way between hearing of them here and catching them. You must remember that this country is twenty times as large as England, and we have really nothing to go upon. We don’t know what the man’s intentions are. If he intended to go in for swindling, I should think he would have done better on the Continent than here. There are not many very large towns where he could as a stranger expect to make much money, and it would be easier to trace him here than in Europe, where the distances are so much shorter that one can get out of any country in a few hours. If he intends, as I should think most likely, only to stop over here for a short time so as to be out of the way, and then go back and begin the same thing over again, he might take lodgings here or anywhere else.

‘He may know some one who has come over here and has gone in for farming, and may be going to stay with him for a time. There is no saying, in fact, what he may be going to do. I do not suppose that he has the slightest fear that the share he and this woman have played has been discovered, and his motive in coming away was chiefly to ensure Miss Hawtrey’s disgrace, and he was anxious that there should be no chance whatever of any one who knew her meeting this woman and discovering that there was some one about who was so strikingly like Miss Hawtrey as to be able to pass for her. My best hope is that we shall get some clue this evening from the man who drove them away from the hotel.’

This hope was realised. On reaching the hotel with the detective the clerk at once sent for the driver. ‘He remembers the parties well enough, but I don’t know that you will find his news altogether satisfactory. You have got a crafty bird to deal with. Here is the man, he had better tell you himself. Now, Mike, this is the gentleman who wants to know about those people I was speaking to you about.’

‘I mind them well enough, sor—a gintleman with as pretty a little girl as I’ve seen since I left ould Ireland. I drove them down to the wharf and saw the baggage carried on board the steamer.’

‘And what steamer was it, Mike?’ the detective asked.

‘The steamer for New Orleans, of course; that was where they told me to take them. She had got her steam up when we got there, and a nice-looking crowd there was going on board.’

‘Would the steamer touch anywhere else on its way?’ Captain Hampton asked.

‘It might put in at Mobile; some do and some don’t,’ the detective replied, ‘but as we know the day she sailed there will be no difficulty at finding that out at the office.’

‘That was the lady, I suppose,’ Captain Hampton said, showing the photograph to the driver.

‘That’s her, sor. I would swear to her anywhere.’

‘Well, here is a couple of dollars for you now; I shall want to see you again to-morrow.’

‘We shall be getting some affidavits out,’ the detective said to the clerk. ‘It is important to us to be able to prove that they have been here, even if we never succeed in catching them. It will be a simple thing, merely a statement signed before a justice of the peace to the effect that you make oath that a man of the appearance and description set down and a young woman passing as his daughter, and whose photograph, which will of course be marked and verified, you recognise as being hers without any possibility of doubt, arrived at this hotel on August 4, and left on August 6, being driven from here and seen on board a steamer starting for New Orleans. I shall be glad of the signatures of yourself and as many of the waiters as attended upon them at their meals and can recognise the portrait, also of the chambermaid. We shall have a separate affidavit drawn out for the driver.’

‘Very well. Can you leave the photograph with me? I will give it to the head waiter and tell him to show it to the others; as they were here two days and took all their meals here I should say most of the crowd would recognise her. Look here, you had better bring a justice round here to swear them, for it would be difficult to let a dozen of them all go at once.’

‘I will manage that. Well, can you spare a couple of minutes to come round into the bar and have a drink?’

The clerk thought he could manage it, and drinks were taken in due course.

‘Now what is my best way of getting down to New Orleans?’ Captain Hampton asked, as they left the hotel.

‘Steamer,’ the detective said; ‘the railway is not fairly through yet, and it will take pretty nearly as long as if you go by boat, and be a deal more uncomfortable.’

‘How often do the boats go?’

‘Once or twice a week, sometimes more. There are considerable people travelling down there now. A good many of the folk going to California go that way; they either strike across from there or go up the river by steamer and then make across the plains; it saves a long land journey. But I will tell you about it when I see you in the morning. I will go round the first thing and find out whether that boat that sailed on the 6th put in anywhere, and also what her name was; also whether they took their berths under the name of White or changed them again; then I will see when the next boat goes. I will bring the man before whom they can take an affidavit round here with me—I know two or three I can lay my hands on any time—and then we will go together to the hotel.’

By twelve o’clock next day the business was finished, and the affidavits sworn in duplicate by thirteen witnesses, in addition to that of the driver.

When all was done, Captain Hampton asked the detective as to how much he was indebted to him.

‘Nothing at all, sir. My services were placed at your disposal by the chief, and it is all in the way of business. I am very glad to have been of assistance to you.’

‘You have been of immense assistance, indeed, Mr. Tricher, and I feel deeply obliged to you. I should never have got on by myself in the same way; it was entirely owing to the clerk at the hotel knowing you that he so readily gave me the information I required, and interested himself in the matter. Well, will you come round and lunch with me at the hotel at two o’clock? We shall go on board the steamer this evening. I am going round now to thank your chief.’

‘I shall be happy to lunch with you, and, by the way, you might as well ask the chief to give you a line to the chief at New Orleans. You might find it very useful there; it is a pretty lively place, and if this man happens to have any pals there, you may find it mighty useful to have the aid of the police.’

‘Thank you very much for the suggestion, which I will certainly follow.’

On saying good-bye to the detective, Captain Hampton, with much pressure, succeeded in inducing him to accept, as a remembrance, a handsome meerschaum that he had the evening before admired.

Upon the voyage down, Captain Hampton was much struck at the difference between the passengers on board the ‘Enterprise,’ and those with whom he was associated on his passage across the Atlantic. There were among them a sprinkling of Southern gentlemen, a few travellers and Northern manufacturers, but the majority were men who were bound to the far west, some to Texas only, but California was the destination of the greater part. These again were sharply divided into two sections, the one composed of hardy-looking men, the sons of Eastern farmers, or British emigrants who were going out with the fixed intention of making their fortune at the goldfields.

Few of the other section were, he thought, likely to get so far. They were simply rough characters who were more likely to remain at New Orleans or some of the river towns than to undertake a long and perilous journey. Whatever might be their nominal vocation, he set them down as being thieves, gambling-house bullies, or ruffians ready to turn their hand to any scoundrelism that presented itself. The real working men soon came to know each other, and being bound by a common object kept aloof from the others, and generally sat in little groups discussing the journey before them and the best methods of proceeding.

Some were in favour of ascending the Missouri to Omaha, others of going up the Arkansas and striking across by the Santa Fé route. All had evidently studied the newspapers diligently, and had almost by heart the narratives of travel that had appeared there, and before the end of the voyage several parties had been made up of men who agreed to journey together for mutual aid and protection.

In the saloon gambling went on all day. As night came on, voices were raised in anger, and fierce quarrels took place, which were only prevented from going further by the captain’s prompt intervention, and by his declaration that any man who drew pistol or bowie knife should be put in irons for the rest of the voyage.

Captain Hampton was heartily glad when the vessel entered the Mississippi. He had associated principally with two or three of the Southern gentlemen, and had kept as far as possible aloof from the rowdy portion of the passengers. This, however, he had been unable to do altogether. He himself was an object of general curiosity. He was a Britisher; he was not bound for the West; he was not thinking of taking up land; he was unconnected with any commercial house. His explanation that he was travelling for pleasure and intended to go up the two great rivers of the continent, was considered altogether unsatisfactory, and one after another most of his fellow passengers endeavoured, by a series of searching questions, to get at the facts of the case. Jacob, on the other hand, enjoyed the voyage greatly; unconsciously to himself he was a student of human nature, and this was a phase entirely new to him.

‘It seems to me, Captain,’ he said to his master one evening, ‘that most of this ‘ere gang ought to be in Newgate. Why, to hear what they say of themselves, there is scarce one of them that hasn’t killed one or two men in his time. I have been a-listening to some of that black-bearded chap’s stories, and if all that he says is true, he has killed over twenty; I counted them up careful. I can’t make out how it is that a chap like that is going about free; why, he would have been hung a dozen times if he had been at home. What is the good of the perlice if they lets a chap like that go on as he likes?’

‘You may be sure that the greater part of his stories are lies, Jacob, though some of them may be true. New Orleans is perhaps as rough a city as any of its size in the world, and as you go farther West, life becomes still more unsafe. In so vast a country the law is powerless, and men settle their disputes in their own way. Almost every one carries arms, and shooting affrays are of common occurrence, and as long as what is considered fair play is preserved, no one thinks of interfering. A man who is killed is buried, and the one who killed him goes his way unconcernedly; so, though a good many of these stories you hear are lies, there may be more truth in some of them than you would think.’

‘They have been a-pumping me, lots of them has,’ Jacob said, ‘and trying to find out what you are doing out here. I have stuffed them up nicely; I have told them as you had been out in India, and had killed thousands upon thousands of lions, and tigers, and elephants.’

‘What was the use of telling lies, Jacob?’ Captain Hampton asked angrily.

‘Well, sir, I don’t suppose as they believe it all, because I don’t believe their stories; but it was, I thought, just as well as they should think you was a great fighter, and could shoot wonderful straight. I know by what they said that some of them was half inclined to get up a quarrel with you. “‘Cause,” as they said, “you was stuck up, and thought yourself better than other people;” and it seemed to me as it was best they should think as you wasn’t a good man to quarrel with. “Bless you,” says I, over and over again, “there ain’t nothing stuck up about my master; only I know as he hates getting into trouble, ’cause he don’t like having to kill a man and so he keeps hisself to hisself;” and then I pitches it in strong about killing Indians, and that sort of thing, and I do think, Captain, as it has kept them a bit quiet.’

Captain Hampton laughed.

‘Well, perhaps it may have done, Jacob; these fellows seldom interfere with a man unless they think it safe to do so. Still, I would much rather in future you did not invent any stories about me. Always stick to the truth, lad; lying never pays in the long run.’

Chapter XIII • 6,000 Words

Ten days later the party were re-united at Martigny. The Fortescues had been there two days, having travelled faster than the Hawtreys had done. Captain Armstrong and Mr. Fitzwarren only turned up the next day; they had learnt at Lucerne the inn at which the Hawtreys intended to stay, and went straight there. The others were all absent on an excursion to the Col de la Forclaz, and did not return until late in the afternoon. Captain Armstrong and Mr. Fitzwarren were standing on the steps of the hotel when the three girls clattered up on donkeys, the elders having been left a quarter of a mile behind.

‘How are you both?’ Ada Fortescue, who had won the race by a length, said, as they came down the steps. ‘No, thank you, Captain Armstrong, I can slip off without any assistance. We were talking of you this morning at breakfast, and wondering when you were likely to turn up.’

They stood talking at the door of the hotel until the others arrived.

‘Which way have you come?’ Mr. Hawtrey asked, after they had shaken hands.

‘We went over the Brunig Pass to Interlaken; we stopped there a day or two and came from Thun over the Simmenthal to Aigle; we stayed there four days, and a day at St. Maurice, and got in here half an hour after you had started, and have since been for a stroll among the pines.’

‘We were over at St. Maurice the day before yesterday.’

‘It is splendid up here,’ Ada Fortescue put in; ‘we have been grumbling ever since we came because we did not come on here at once instead of spending those four days at Lucerne. It was all very lovely, but it was so hot one really could not enjoy it as one ought to have done. Up here it is so deliciously cool, at least except in the middle of the day, that one feels up to anything. I wish you could persuade papa to let us go up one of the mountains; not a difficult one, of course. At present mamma won’t hear of it; though Mr. Hawtrey said he would go with us and Dorothy. I don’t think papa would mind,’ she added confidentially.

Captain Armstrong smiled. Mr. Fortescue was really but a cipher in the family. He accompanied his wife and daughters, and was very useful in looking after the luggage and paying bills, but his wife was the real manager of the party. She was not one of those women who assert their predominance over their husbands; upon the contrary, she made a point of consulting him on everything, but as his opinions were always in accord with hers, this was little more than a form. She herself, among her intimates, frequently bewailed her husband’s disinclination to take a leading part in anything.

‘It is a great disadvantage to the girls, for it compels me to put myself much more forward than I like. It is always bad for a mother to have to do so; it gets her the name of being a managing woman, and there is nothing men are more shy of.’ And yet in spite of Mrs. Fortescue’s disclaimer, there were people who believed that if Mr. Fortescue had had a chance there would have been no occasion for his wife to take matters so entirely in hand as she did. Within an hour of meeting Captain Armstrong and Mr. Fitzwarren, she had discussed the matter with her husband.

‘I don’t know what to think of these men coming here just as we have arrived. It must mean one thing or the other.’

Mr. Fortescue remarked that no doubt it did.

‘Captain Armstrong is of course an excellent match,’ she said. ‘The question is, has he come here on his own account or on that of Mr. Fitzwarren? If on his own account, it must be in order to see more of one of our girls, or of Dorothy Hawtrey. On the other hand, Mr. Fitzwarren cannot be considered at all an eligible person; of course he is in society, and all that sort of thing, and is very well connected, but that won’t keep up a household. It would not do at all, and I shall warn Ada and Clara that they are not to think of flirting with him, and that if I see any signs of them doing so we shall at once move away.’

‘He is a very pleasant young man,’ Mr. Fortescue said. ‘I believe he has a good position in the Foreign Office, and is private secretary to Lord Wolverhouse.’

‘Yes, that is all very well,’ Mrs. Fortescue said, sharply, ‘and I dare say it is a very good position for a clerk in a foreign office, but, as I said, it won’t do to keep up an establishment, so I shall keep my eyes open.’

This Mrs. Fortescue did for the next four days, and the results were so far satisfactory that she assured herself that Mr. Fitzwarren had no design upon either of her daughters. He always made one of the party on their excursions, but divided his attentions equally between the three girls, and there was nothing in his manner that could excite the smallest suspicion, even in her mind, that he viewed one with a greater degree of preference than the other. Captain Armstrong appeared equally general in his attentions, and even Dorothy, who had felt at first a certain uneasiness when they joined, thought no more of the matter. He happened to be there when they were, and it was natural that he should attach himself to her party, and she soon ceased to feel at all shy with him or to think of him in any other light than as a pleasant companion in their rambles.

For the first week Mrs. Fortescue always formed one of the party, but as the walks extended and they went higher and higher up the hill-side she was glad, as soon as she felt that her suspicions of Mr. Fitzwarren’s attentions were unfounded, to let them go under their father’s escort. Mr. Singleton was the only person who complained.

‘I wonder how long those two men are going to stay here,’ he said to Mr. Hawtrey one day.

‘I have not heard them say anything about it. I shall be sorry when they go, for they are both pleasant, and it makes it very much more agreeable for the girls to have them to go about with. Of course, when we take the carriage we all ride together, but I am sure the young people enjoy walking much more; they are capital climbers, and I can tell you they pretty nearly tire me out sometimes.’

‘I don’t care how soon they go, Hawtrey. You know what my hopes are about Dorothy, and I feel pretty confident that Armstrong has altogether different views on the matter. I have nothing to say against him personally; I admit that he is a downright good fellow. Every one knows he has a good estate, so I have nothing to say against him, except that I see he is doing his best to upset my special plans.’

‘I have not seen anything of it at all. I did not notice on our walks that he was more with her than with the others. I imagine that it is only fancy on your part.’

‘You do not suppose he would be wasting his time in rambling about here with three girls unless he had some sort of object. It is one of the three, and I have not the least doubt that it is Dorothy.’

‘I don’t fancy so, for—quite between ourselves, Singleton—I can tell you that she refused him some months since.’

‘Umph,’ Mr. Singleton grunted, ‘that must have been just before she became engaged to Halliburn. Now he is out of the way again, and a better opportunity for love-making than Armstrong has got he could hardly desire.’

‘I don’t see that I can do anything in the matter, Singleton; even supposing that your suspicions are correct.’

‘No, I don’t suppose you can,’ the other said irritably. ‘If we were to go away he would come after us. If he means to ask the question he will ask it. And the worst of it is that he is such a good fellow, so unobjectionable in every way. But it is hard that while the other is spending his time in looking out for evidence that will completely clear Dorothy from these abominable charges, this man should be cutting in and making all the running here.’

‘I don’t think Dorothy suspects anything of the sort, Singleton.’

‘No, I don’t suppose she does; but a girl can’t be thrown with a pleasant man day after day like this without getting to like him. I am sure she does not know it herself—she is too frank and natural with him; still when the time comes and he asks her the question again it will come upon her how much she does like him, and the contrast between him and Halliburn will be all in his favour. We might move to Chamounix. Pretend you are tired of this place, and see whether all the others will go too.’

‘We may as well do that anyhow,’ Mr. Hawtrey agreed. ‘We have done pretty well all the walks and drives near here. It will be a change, anyhow.’ And accordingly at breakfast next morning Mr. Hawtrey said, ‘I think we have pretty well done this neighbourhood; it will be a change to move on to Chamounix. We could stay there for a week and then go on to Geneva.’

‘I think that would be a very good plan,’ Mr. Singleton put in. ‘I own I am getting rather tired of this valley. It is all very well for you young people who can climb about among the hills, but I think I know the exterior of every house in the place, and have made the acquaintance of almost every man, woman, and child in it.’

Mr. Fortescue at once assented.

‘It makes no difference to me,’ Captain Armstrong said, carelessly, ‘but I have been thinking for the last day or two that there would be more to be seen at Chamounix. I have rather an idea of climbing Mont Blanc. Fitzwarren finds that time is running short, and has made up his mind to turn his face homewards.’

After some farther talk it was arranged that the carriages should be ordered for the following morning. There was much regret expressed at Mr. Fitzwarren’s departure, or as the girls called it, his desertion, but his determination was not to be shaken. He had talked it over with Armstrong on the previous evening when the latter had urged him to stay a week longer.

‘I cannot afford it, my dear fellow,’ he said. ‘It is pleasant, very pleasant, but it is too dangerous a pleasure to be indulged in. However strict a man’s principles may be, he’s but human. Another week of this might be fatal to me. I cannot afford to marry Clara Fortescue, even if she would have me and her mother were willing, which, by the way, I am perfectly sure she would not be. The way she played duenna the first few days, would have been amusing if it had not been annoying. It was almost heroic. Whenever I happened to be a few yards ahead or a few yards behind with either of her girls, she would be certain to range alongside in the course of two or three minutes, and though naturally she did not express her feelings in words there was no possible mistaking her manner. She was the watch-dog, I was the wolf; and she was prepared to do battle to save her lambs from the devourer. At that time I had no idea of devouring, and indeed I have no idea now; nevertheless I am beginning to feel that the repast would not be an unpleasant one. Against the ordinary temptations that occur in ball-rooms and conservatories, at fêtes, and even country houses, I am proof, but this daily companionship, wandering, and picnicking is beyond me. My armour is giving way, and I feel that flight is the prudent course before I am too severely wounded.’

The next morning, therefore, he took his place on the diligence, and half-an-hour later two carriages started up the valley with the rest of the party. They had sent on a letter the previous day to secure rooms, and were comfortably established there late in the afternoon.

‘The dinner-bell will ring in five minutes, Dorothy,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, tapping at his daughter’s door.

Dorothy was ready, and went down with him to the drawing-room. As they entered, she caught sight of Ada Fortescue’s face, which wore a puzzled and disturbed look, and she gave what seemed to Dorothy a warning shake of the head. She moved across the room towards her chair to inquire what she meant. A gentleman stepped aside to make way for her. She looked up, and as their eyes met each gave a slight start, for it was Lord Halliburn who stood before her.

It was an awkward moment, but, as usual, the woman was the first to recover her presence of mind.

‘How do you do, Lord Halliburn?’ she said, cordially, holding out her hand. ‘Who would have thought of our running against each other here?’

‘Certainly I did not, Miss Hawtrey. I heard that you left town a fortnight before I did, but, though I had no particular reason for doing so, I supposed you had gone down to Lincolnshire. When did you arrive here?’

‘Only half an hour ago; when did you come in?’

‘Yesterday. I came up from Geneva.’

‘We came the other way,’ Mr. Hawtrey said. He had only just noticed whom Dorothy was speaking to, and had at once come up to her assistance. The three stood chatting together for a time.

‘Terribly awkward—most unfortunate, is it not?’ Mrs. Fortescue remarked to Mr. Singleton. ‘It quite gave me a shock when I saw him come into the room just now.’

‘I don’t think it matters much, Mrs. Fortescue; there is no reason in the world why they should not meet, and they might just as well do so here as in London.’

‘Do you think there is any chance of its coming on again?’ the lady asked.

‘Not the slightest in the world,’ he replied curtly; then he rose from his seat and went across to the little group, who were directly afterwards joined by Ada Fortescue and her father.

As the party stood laughing and chatting together, no one unacquainted with the circumstances would have guessed that the meeting had been so embarrassing to two of the number.

‘Are you wandering about by yourself, Halliburn, or are you with a party?’ Mr. Hawtrey asked.

‘Ulleswater and Dick Trafford are with me,’ he replied. ‘I suppose you have been all travelling together.’

‘Yes, we first met at Lucerne; then we came on, and the Fortescues joined us at Martigny. Captain Armstrong and Fitzwarren were there too, so it made a pleasant party. Fitzwarren left us this morning; he was off home again.’

At dinner the two parties were at opposite ends of the long table.

‘Deuced awkward for you, Halliburn,’ Lord Ulleswater said.

‘Oh, I don’t know. I don’t mind if she doesn’t.’

‘I should say we had better move on, anyhow, Halliburn. If it gets known that you are here together it is sure to be reported the affair is on again.’

‘I certainly shan’t run away. If I had known she was coming I should not have come here, but now we have met and spoken I don’t see there will be anything gained by my leaving; besides, it would look as if I had done something to be ashamed of if I were to go directly they came.’

‘I think perhaps you are right. She behaved very pluckily, I think. Clara Fortescue had just whispered to me she was here. I was coming across to warn you when she came in and I watched the meeting. I must say she pulled herself together wonderfully. It was an awkward moment for her, meeting you here so suddenly, with a dozen people who knew all about it looking on. I see Armstrong is sitting there with them as if he belonged to the party; he and the elder of those Fortescue girls seem to be on rather confidential terms.’

‘That is Armstrong’s way,’ Lord Halliburn said; ‘he means nothing, and by this time I should say that most of the girls know that he means nothing. I can’t make out why he doesn’t marry.’

Ada Fortescue at any rate understood that Captain Armstrong’s manner at the present moment meant nothing; she had from the first detected that Dorothy Hawtrey was the attraction that kept him with the party, but she had said no word when her mother had frequently expressed her surprise at his prolonged stay at Martigny, and had cautiously endeavoured to learn her opinion on the subject. Ada’s silence was due partly to a feeling of loyalty towards Dorothy, partly because she shrewdly conjectured that their own stay there was not unconnected with an idea in her mother’s mind that something might come of it, and that did Mrs. Fortescue believe Dorothy to be the attraction, she would lose no time in leaving for England. Captain Armstrong said no word regarding the meeting with Lord Halliburn until she began the subject.

‘Did you see the meeting, Captain Armstrong? I was on thorns. The Hawtreys are not on the same side of the hotel as we are, but if I had known which her room was, I should have made some excuse to slip away and warn her; however, it did not matter; she behaved beautifully, didn’t she?’

Captain Armstrong nodded. ‘It is a nuisance his turning up here,’ he said; ‘but I don’t think she cares. Do you, Miss Fortescue?’

‘No, I don’t think she does. If she had done so, I don’t think she could have been so cool and collected all at once. I am sure I couldn’t if I had been in her place. She met him just as she might have met any intimate acquaintance.’

‘If he has got any common sense,’ Captain Armstrong growled, ‘he will be off the first thing to-morrow morning.’

Ada was silent.

‘Don’t you think so?’ he urged.

‘Well it all depends. I know nothing about why the match was broken off, beyond that paragraph in the paper that said it was her doing, and Dorothy has never alluded to it when we have been together. It depends, I should think, whether he cared very much for her. I suppose he did. It seems to me that everyone must love Dorothy Hawtrey. If so he may think it worth trying whether he cannot bring it on again.’

Captain Armstrong muttered something between his lips that she did not catch.

‘I am almost sure you are swearing, Captain Armstrong, and that is very bad manners. Still I don’t say that I shouldn’t swear if I were a man and all this happened, so I forgive you.’

‘We have had such a pleasant time,’ he said ruefully, ‘and if this fellow is going to stay here I can see it is all going to be spoilt.’

‘I don’t see why it should be spoilt. At any rate I am sure that if Dorothy broke off the match, she is not the sort of girl to make it up again. It must be an awful thing to break off an engagement when everyone is aware of it, and you know it will set everyone talking. I don’t think I could ever bring myself to do it. I think Dorothy has put it quite aside; I have seen so much of her in the last fortnight, and if there had been anything on her mind I should have noticed it.’

‘She coloured up when they met.’

‘Of course she coloured up. You don’t suppose, Captain Armstrong, a girl can suddenly meet a man she has been engaged to and has been fond of—for of course she was fond of him—and who has been acting as lover to her for weeks, and all that sort of thing, without the colour coming into her cheeks. It did not last a moment either. It just came and went. I am sure if it had been me, even if I had ceased to care for him, my cheeks would have flared up, and I should have been hot and uncomfortable for hours afterwards.’

‘I should not think he was ever very lover-like,’ Captain Armstrong said, savagely; ‘I don’t think he has got it in him.’

‘I don’t know,’ Ada said, demurely. ‘I have never been engaged, Captain Armstrong; so I can’t say what men do under such circumstances. I believe—I suppose that they do take what novelists call a chaste salute sometimes. Now, if you swear like that, Captain Armstrong, I shall sit between papa and mamma at the next meal. It is downright scandalous!’

‘I really beg your pardon, Miss Fortescue,’ Captain Armstrong said, penitently, ‘but there are certain provocations under which even the mildest of men may be excused for breaking down.’

‘I do not see where the provocation comes in,’ she said; ‘we were merely discussing the conduct of engaged couples in general, and of Lord Halliburn in particular.’

‘I would rather not discuss the matter at all. I have nothing whatever to say against him; he may be an excellent fellow for anything I know, but at the present moment it is distinctly unfortunate that he has turned up here, and I hope he will have the common sense to see it himself, and to start the first thing in the morning.’

But this Lord Halliburn did not do; he and his two friends started early for the Mer de Glace, while the Hawtreys’ party went off on mules in another direction. After dinner the men met in the balcony and smoked their cigars together, the only absentee being Captain Armstrong, who went for a walk by himself. On the following day the Hawtreys determined to visit the Mer de Glace. Mr. Singleton and Mrs. Fortescue declined to form part of the expedition; the others took two guides with them, as the ice was said to be in bad condition. They started at six in the morning, and made a considerable portion of the ascent on mules. When they reached the edge of the glacier, the guides, who had been consulting together as they led the way, said that they should not advise them going far, for the weather looked bad. Mont Blanc was wreathed in clouds, and the other peaks were also hidden.

‘What do you expect, Giuseppe?’ Mr. Hawtrey asked. ‘There is no wind, and the clouds do not look any lower than they did an hour ago.’

‘The storms here are very sudden,’ the guide replied, ‘and when they do sweep down they come with terrible violence, and Conrad and I both think there may be snow. With these ladies it would not be safe to venture far on the ice.’

‘Well, we will only go as far as you think it safe. It would be a pity to have had this climb for nothing.’

‘All must keep together,’ the guide said; ‘let there be no straying. The snow, over some of the crevasses, is very thin and treacherous.’

On they went for some distance, admiring the ice pinnacles, leaning over crevasses, and peering down into the depths where the deep blue of the ice walls shaded off into blackness. The guides went ahead, sounding carefully the snow before them for a few inches, the first precursor of coming change, had fallen two days before. Suddenly one of the guides uttered an exclamation.

‘See,’ he said, ‘the clouds are coming down the mountains. We have not a moment to lose; it will be on us now before we are off the glacier.’

The sun was still shining brightly, and the parties, as they turned, glanced somewhat incredulously up the mountain.

‘By Jove, it is coming down,’ Captain Armstrong exclaimed. ‘It is more like an avalanche of snow than clouds.’

A minute later there was a faint moaning sound, which grew louder and louder.

‘Stand close together and take a firm footing,’ the guide exclaimed. ‘The storm will be on us in a minute. Look after the ladies, messieurs!’

The warning was scarcely out of his lips when there was an icy blast. It lasted but a second or two, and it was succeeded by a dead calm. Then a mighty wind struck them with such violence that they were nearly swept from their feet, while particles of ice, pricking like needles, forced them to close their eyes, and hold down their heads before the blast. The sun disappeared, and at the same moment they were enveloped in a dense mist. Clara Fortescue had clung to her father’s arm, and Ada, who was with Captain Armstrong a few paces in the rear, hurried forward towards them, but the storm struck them before they reached them. Unprepared for the sudden shock, Ada would have been swept before it had not her companion clasped his arm around her. ‘You must just fancy that we are waltzing,’ he shouted in her ear. ‘Cling tight to me; this can’t last long.’ And with great difficulty he dragged her along until they reached the others.

‘That is better,’ Mr. Fortescue said, as they arranged the shawls to cover the girls’ heads. ‘We will take care of them, Armstrong, if you will ask the guides how long this is likely to last.’

The guides were but two or three paces away, with alpenstocks firmly planted in the ice and their heads bent down to meet the force of the gale. They were talking together when Captain Armstrong joined them.

‘Is this likely to last?’ he asked in French.

‘It may last for twenty-four hours,’ the guide said.

‘Then we must be moving; the ladies could not stand this cold an hour.’

‘It is no easy matter,’ the guide said, ‘when one cannot see three paces in front of one. Still we must try; as you say it would be death to the ladies to stop here, and indeed for all of us. We have only one rope with us; we did not expect this when we started. It is not long enough for all. I will be tied at one end, Giuseppe will go ahead and lead the way, the three ladies and one of the gentlemen will be tied to the rope behind me, the other two had better walk between the ladies and hold the rope.’

‘I will give them instructions. I have been up some of the mountains.’

The guide fastened the rope round the girls and Mr. Fortescue. ‘Now, you must all understand,’ Captain Armstrong said, ‘if one goes through, those in front must stick their alpenstocks in the ice and throw their whole weight on the rope forward, those behind must do the same with their alpenstocks, but must stick their heels in the snow and pull backwards on the rope.’

Ada Fortescue was placed next to the guide, and was followed by Dorothy, whose father took hold of the rope a yard or two in front of her, while Captain Armstrong stationed himself between her and Clara, behind whom came her father. Then they began to move forward in the teeth of the gale. Giuseppe went ahead, feeling his way cautiously. The mist was so thick that he could not see the ground he trod on. Talking was impossible, for it was difficult to breathe in face of the wind and fine snow. It was slow work, and in five minutes Captain Armstrong passed forward and joined the guide in front.

‘The wind is more on our right hand,’ he shouted; ‘do you think we are keeping our course?’

‘The wind is no guide,’ the man replied. ‘It comes down sometimes one gorge, sometimes another; we may have it all round the compass.’

In 1850 mountaineering was almost in its infancy. The ascent of Mont Blanc was considered a great feat, and as yet no woman had undertaken it. The ice-fields and peaks were still almost unknown, and the guides had not, as now, an intimate acquaintance with every foot of the mountains. The danger of being lost in a fog or storm was, therefore, infinitely greater than at present.

Several times Giuseppe was doubtful as to the true course, and the party halted while he made short casts in various directions. The girls’ strength became rapidly exhausted; the icy wind seemed to deaden all their energies. Mr. Fortescue had moved up alongside his youngest daughter to help her along. Mr. Hawtrey had his arm round Dorothy, and Captain Armstrong was assisting Ada.

Several times the whole party stopped and stood with their backs to the wind to recover their breath. At last Giuseppe gave a shout, and the others were soon beside him. He was standing under the shelter of some rocks which projected through the glacier.

‘I know where I am now,’ he said. ‘We have not gone far from our course; another ten minutes and we shall be at the edge of the glacier.’

This was welcome news to the men, but to the girls it seemed that it would be impossible to struggle even for ten minutes further. All had sunk down close together in the shelter.

‘You must not stop here,’ Mr. Hawtrey said; ‘you can have two or three minutes to recover your breath, but you must keep moving or you will be frozen to death.’

Is it necessary to be roped any further, Giuseppe?’ Captain Armstrong asked.

‘Not necessary, monsieur, but it is better to continue so; it keeps all together, and were any to lag behind it would be certain death, for our shouts could not be heard any distance away in this gale.’

Clara was unable to rise when the guide said they must no longer delay.

‘I must carry her,’ her father said.

‘I will carry her, monsieur; I am accustomed to carry burdens. If you will lift her on to my back I can fasten the shawl round me so that she cannot fall. If another gives way, Conrad will take her; if the third, then two of you together must help her. That will do; let us go forward.’

Five minutes later Ada Fortescue sank down, in spite of the assistance Captain Armstrong was giving her. Conrad at once unroped her and took her on his back.

‘Now, Mr. Hawtrey,’ Captain Armstrong said, ‘if you put your arm round your daughter on one side and I on the other we can pretty well carry her along.’

It was soon necessary to carry her altogether.

‘I will take her feet,’ Mr. Fortescue, who was beside them, said; ‘we shall get along capitally like that. Nevertheless, the ten minutes seemed to the three men to be a long half-hour, and it was with a feeling of the deepest satisfaction that they saw a rocky barrier in front of them, and left the frozen plain they had been traversing.

‘We are not out of the wood yet, Mr. Hawtrey said, ‘nor shall we be till we get down among the trees, and I confess that I am feeling rather done myself.’

‘It is awkward walking like this, Mr. Hawtrey, when one can scarcely see where one is putting one’s foot down. If you will let me I will carry Miss Hawtrey in the same way the guides are doing; her weight will be nothing if I get her well up on my back. We shall get on ever so much faster that way.’

There was a feeble protest from Dorothy, who, although utterly exhausted was not insensible; it passed unheeded.

‘Are you sure you can do it, Armstrong?’

‘Quite certain, if you and Fortescue will lift her up; that is it, the weight is nothing now to what it was on the arms.’

The guides had been standing impatiently by while this colloquy was going on. They started as soon as they saw Captain Armstrong had his burden fairly arranged.

‘Keep close behind me, monsieur,’ Conrad said; ‘if you follow quite close, you will see whether I make a step down or up.’

They descended rapidly. From time to time the guides paused and asked if all were together, and as soon as the reply was given pushed on again. Powerful man as he was, it taxed Captain Armstrong’s strength to the utmost to keep up with the guides, who strode on rapidly ahead, as if their weights were nothing to them. The perspiration streamed from his face—less from the weight than from anxiety lest he should fall, and several times he only saved himself by means of his alpenstock. Behind him he could hear the panting breath of the two elder men, as they hurried along stumbling and slipping. At last the gloom became denser, the roar of wind increased, and the guides came to a standstill.

‘We must halt here,’ Giuseppe said; ‘we are in the wood. We will rest for a little while, and see if we can find a shelter and light a fire; if not we must go on again. There is a break in the ground somewhere about here. I must look for it.’

Mr. Fortescue and his friend lifted Clara from his back and he hurried away. In a few minutes he returned.

‘It is close by,’ he said; ‘we shall do there.’

He led the way, and in a minute they stood at the edge of a little ravine some fifteen feet deep running through the wood. The girls were carefully carried down to the bottom. The change in the temperature, now they were sheltered from the wind, was very great. All three girls were conscious, the motion and the heat of the guides’ bodies having revived both the Fortescues; none of them were, however, able to stand.

‘Huddle as close together as you can, girls; the guides are going to try and light a fire, and we shall soon have you comfortable.’

‘Oh, by the way, I have a flask in my pocket with some brandy in it,’ Mr. Fortescue said. ‘I had forgotten all about it until now.’

‘Thank God for that,’ Mr. Hawtrey said; ‘it is worth fifty times its weight in gold. Now take a good sip of it, girls, it will do you a world of good.’

As soon as they were free of their burdens the guides, accompanied by Captain Armstrong, had hurried away, and the former were soon engaged in chopping off strips of bark from the pines, while the latter collected sticks. A pile was soon heaped up close to where the girls were sitting, a match struck, and in two or three minutes a bright fire was blazing.

Chapter XIV • 5,300 Words

Two men were sitting together in an inner room in a saloon in New Orleans.

‘I was never more surprised than when you came in yesterday, Bob; regular floored I was. It was only a few days ago I was thinking over that rig we were in together. We made a good bit out of that.’

‘Yes, we didn’t do badly. I have wished sometimes since that I had been as deep in it as you were, and had bolted and cleared out altogether.’

‘Yes, I made most out of it; but then you see I ran most risk by a long way. You might have got a year or two for being mixed up in it, but what with nobbling the horse and what with having to pretty near choke the stable-boy, I should have got fourteen years safe. You could have been with me in that if you had been game, instead of only taking the part of getting round the girl, and persuading her to get the stable boy to slip out to see her for five minutes. If the fools had played their part better we should have got off without my having to meddle with him, but she made such a poor story of it that he suspected something was up and came back again and just met me as I was dropping from the window of the loft. He knew me by sight, and there was nothing to do but to bolt, while as you had been swelling it with those false moustaches no one twigged you from the girl’s description, and you were able to spend your money at home.’

‘Well, it did not do me much good. It went after the rest quick enough.’

‘You knew where to find me from Laxey, I suppose? I know he is a pal of yours.’

‘Yes, we work together sometimes. We knew each other years and years ago, when we both had money to spend, and spent it and more besides. He had more than I had. He came into a biggish fortune when he came of age, but ran through it in a couple of years. Then he had a bit of luck on the turf, and more luck still they used to say at cards at the clubs he belonged to, till he was one day kicked out of one of them, and that did for him altogether, and he came down to the three-card dodge and games of that sort. Yes, he was wonderfully clever at cards; could do almost anything with them. I have seen him bet a company all round that he cut a king three times following, let them shuffle them as much as they liked, and he never touched the cards till he cut, and I never saw him miss it though there were a score of men round looking at his fingers.’

‘Aye, I have seen him do that trick, and nobody was ever able to make out how he did it. He could make the cards do ‘most anything. I have written to him half a dozen times within the last few years, telling him what an opening there was out here for a chap with such talents as he has got; but I told him straight it was of no use his coming unless he was ready to play with pistols as well as with cards, and I expect that is what has kept him away. I fancy it was, from what he wrote. Laxey’s weak point was that he never had nerve—if it had not been for that, he could have made money anywhere.’

‘Well, he gave me your address. It suited my book to be out of England for a few months, and when I had got across the water I said to myself, “I will go down and see Joe Murdoch at New Orleans.” I am not as handy with the cards as Laxey, and I don’t know who is, but I have worked the three-card trick, and many an evening when Laxey and I have been together, in my room or his, we spent an hour or two over the cards, and he has put me up to some of his tricks, and I have worked at them when I have had nothing else to do and could not sleep, till I have come to do some of them pretty near as well as he does. I don’t mean to say that I thought of going into that line when I came down here, but I said to myself, “There is Joe Murdoch; we have played more than one game together, and I can trust him and I think he can trust me. He has been out here six years, and I expect he must know the ropes and can give me some good advice, whether we go in for anything together or not.”‘

‘That is so, Warbles. We can run straight together, or if we don’t run together perhaps I can put you on to a line of country where you may make good running for yourself. You left England suddenly, I suppose?’

The other nodded.

‘Turf business?’

‘No; I suppose they would call it money under false pretences. I only ran dark; it was a girl I have got here with me that did the trick.’

‘Brought a girl over with you, Warbles? Well, I should not have thought you would have bothered yourself with a girl out here.’

‘Well, no, I don’t suppose I should if it hadn’t been that I expected to make her useful. She goes as my daughter, and she looks on me as an old friend of her father’s.’

‘Is that so?’ the other asked doubtfully.

‘That is so, Joe. The girl is straight—as straight as a line. I met her—never mind how I met her—but I saw she was a sharp girl and would be a good-looking one, and it struck me that such a girl could be made very useful. I had her taught a bit and trained, and I fancy she could pass anywhere as a lady. Well, you know when a respectable gentleman of my age with an uncommon pretty daughter arrives at a big hotel, say at Scarborough or Brighton, and the girl is clever, you can see for yourself that there is money to be made in lots of ways. Young men make the acquaintance of the gentleman for the sake of the girl. They will come up to his rooms and, after a little supper, they may take a hand at écarté. Then you see a young girl can get round a young flat with some pitiful story or other, and get a loan from him to meet temporary difficulties. Then when the time gets near for leaving, she may take a fancy to a few things from jewellers and have them sent to choose from. Altogether there is no end of money to be made if the game is played well.’

‘Yes, I see that. But your coming over here shows that the game can be cut short.’

‘No, that is the game I am going to play when I go back. We worked in a different direction last time and brought it off. I think we might have stopped safely enough, but I had particular reasons for wanting to get here out of the way, so I tell you I ran off the track and came over here. Do you think that game could be played here?’

‘Not much,’ the other replied. ‘At some of the summer resorts it might be done, but it could not last long. There ain’t enough big towns and places to work in; besides, at our hotels there ain’t the same chance of getting to know people that there is at home, or in Paris, or in those places. People sit down to a little table to themselves to their meals, and there is no sort of general meeting-place. You would find it very hard to work it. Got some money, I suppose?’

‘About five hundred pounds, Joe.’

The other smoked in silence for two or three minutes.

‘Twenty-five hundred dollars,’ he said at last, ‘is a tidy sum, but it would not go far here. Besides, if you are thinking of doing anything with the cards you would have to move about. It wouldn’t do to bide too long anywhere. They are up to most tricks, I can tell you, and they would think here no more of shooting a man they had a suspicion of playing false than you would of eating your dinner. Stores are paying well here, because there is a crowd of people going through to the West, and most of them lay in their stock for the journey here, but twenty-five hundred dollars would go no way towards a store. If I were to sell out, I could with what I could get for this place and what I have got by me put as much more in. Still, five thousand dollars would be no use for a store that would make anything of a show. I have thought a good deal about going West myself.’

‘West?’ the other repeated doubtfully.

‘Yes, to California; there is big money to be made out there; I don’t mean in digging for gold. In a place like that it don’t want a deal of capital. A big tent and a few casks of spirits and a stock of cheap wines and some tables and benches is about all; but that would be too much for me by the time I had made the journey across. With your money and mine I don’t know that we mightn’t manage it, and if we could it ought to pay big money. I could run the saloon, you could work the card rig in a room behind, and if the girl is as good-looking as you say she is, she would fetch them in crowds if she looked after the bar. There are no end of mining camps, I hear, and the miners just chuck their gold about, and one could move off from one to another when we found the game playing out.’

‘It sounds a good thing,’ Warbles said, ‘but it is a long journey, isn’t it?’

‘Well, yes, it’s a long journey, there’s no denying that, but there are hundreds of people starting every week. Most of them go by the Southern route, but I am told it is a much better way to go up the river by steamer to a place called Omaha, which is growing into a big town, and strike across from there.’

‘It is not the difficulty but the time I am thinking of. I only intended to stop for a few months.’

‘What difference will that make? You want to get money, I suppose? Well, you would get as much in a week there as you would in a month by your scheme, which might be cut short any day, and you might find yourself with your hair cropped and in for five years. Why, from what I have heard, there are men coining money out there at drinking-saloons, and after two or three years of it we might cut it and go home, and keep race-horses of our own if we liked.’

‘Well, I will think it over, Joe. It is a biggish thing to decide on, but there ought certainly to be money in it. As you say there is no chance of getting five years, but it seems to me from what I have heard of it there is a goodish chance of a pistol-bullet or a stab from a bowie-knife.’

‘I expect all that there is exaggerated; besides the rows are between the men that drink, and not between them and those that sell drink; as to the cards there is no occasion to do any hanky panky with them, unless you see you have got a greenhorn to deal with and the chances are good. The cards pay anyhow: they bring men into the place and they help to sell the drink.’

‘Well, I will think it over,’ Warbles repeated. ‘I am getting tired of doing nothing all day; how I shall get through three or four months of it is more than I can think. Perhaps I might as well do this as anything else. The girl would certainly be useful. To tell you the truth she is pretty difficult to manage, and I am not sure she might not after a time kick over the traces altogether; but I don’t think she would mind what we are talking about; I am sure it will be more to her taste than the other. Well, I will come in again in the morning; it is too big a thing to be decided on straight off.’

Warbles went back to his hotel. A girl was standing at the window, looking out upon the river; she turned round as he entered.

‘Well, have you settled anything?’ she asked. ‘I am sick of doing nothing, but just thinking and thinking.’

‘Care killed a cat, Linda,’ the man said lightly. ‘Thinking is a pure waste of time. I have had a long talk with Murdoch and he has put an entirely new idea into my head.’

‘An honest idea, of course,’ she said scornfully.

‘You may scarcely believe me, but you are right, my dear; it is a strictly honest line.’

The girl looked at him intently.

‘Well, let us hear what it is,’ she said; ‘you promised me the other should be the last. I did not believe it, and told you so. I shall find it hard to believe that there is not something crooked about this somewhere.’

‘Well, there; isn’t it just honest trade?’ and he repeated the conversation he had had with Murdoch, omitting, however, all allusions to his skill at cards. Her face brightened as he went on.

‘That will do,’ she said; ‘I should say that will do first-rate. When I was a young ‘un I often peeped in at the doors of big public-houses. I used to think the women behind the bars had a fine time of it. I should not think so now—at least, not in a big town—but in places like those you talk of, it would be different altogether. I should like the journey, too; it would be like going with gipsies, which I used to think would be the happiest life in the world. I was afraid when we got out here you would be wanting to do another thing like the last, and I would not have helped you—at any rate, not till we were getting down to our last shilling. But I like the thought of this, and I will do my best for you. I suppose they are a rough wild lot out there, but I think I can take care of myself. But this time, mind, I shall want a share; I am not going to work for years and then be thrown over when it suits you. I will have my share of the profits paid over to me once a week or once a month at the outside, and will put it away where I like. How much are you going to put into this thing?’

‘I told him I could manage five hundred, and he said he could do the same, but I doubt whether that will be enough to carry it out properly.’

‘Well, you have got two thousand left now. You said you would go halves with me. I don’t want that, but give me five hundred and you can tell this man that I have got that money of my own and am ready to put it in with yours, but that I am going to have an even share. I know you are calculating that my good looks will draw, and no doubt they will. I am not a fool, and can see what you are after; and I can see, too, that it won’t be an easy game for me to play. These miners, with their pistols and their knives, are not like the young fellows who come into a London bar. They will be in real earnest out there, and it will be a dangerous game to play with them. One has got to be pleasant with everyone and not to give a smile more to one than to another; not to give one the right to think that he has a chance or causes him to believe that another has a better one than he has.’

‘I think that is rather too much, Sal,’ Mr. Warbles said, doubtfully. ‘I have always been kind to you.’

‘There is no occasion to have any lying between us,’ she broke in. ‘Why you took me up and paid for me for years I don’t know, and I don’t suppose I ever shall know, but, at any rate, I know you well enough to be sure that it was not out of pure kindness. If it had been, would you have put me into the hands of a woman who was always drunk? Would you have left me to be brought up in that court, to grow up a young thief, who might any day have been taken off and hauled before a beak? Do you think I am such a fool as to swallow that? Then came the time when you took me away, I saw you look me over. I saw that you said to yourself, “She will do.”

‘What I was to do for you I neither knew nor cared. You said you would have me taught—that was enough for me. Then I had three quiet years, and I made the most of them. You told me something that first day about expecting me to be useful to you, and when the time came I carried out your orders. It was only right to do so; you had bought my services. It was a bargain—but don’t let us call it anything else. From the first you had an object in saving me from starving or from the workhouse, and I suppose you thought that object was worth spending money on. But certainly the object was not kindness. You were always kind when you came to see me once a year all the time I was with that woman, and it is for that more than anything else that I am ready to help you and to carry out your orders, but I don’t want to be altogether at your mercy, still less at the mercy of the man you are going to take as partner.

‘I will work with you but not under you. I don’t want to interfere in your plans, and as you would be two to one of course you could outvote me if I did. Still, it will give me a better position if it is known that I am your partner and not your drudge, and I shall know that I cannot be cast off or thrown aside and left alone and friendless, and that I can, if I like, wash my hands of the business.’

‘I would not mind agreeing,’ Mr. Warbles said, after sitting rubbing his chin thoughtfully for some time. ‘I should not mind your having a third of the profits, and I think that would be fair enough seeing that you would put in a third of the capital; and as you rightly suppose, we consider that you would prove a great help to us. But suppose you took it into your head to marry, where should we be then?’

The girl waved her hand impatiently. ‘I am not likely to marry,’ she said.

‘So you think at present, Linda, and so a good many other girls have thought. Still, there it is. I have got to put the matter before Murdoch, and it has got to be put in a business shape. Would you be willing, if we agree with you that as long as you remain with us you take a third share of the profits, in case of your leaving us, either to marry or for any other cause, to forfeit your third of the concern? You see if you weren’t to do that your husband, if you had one, might set himself down as a third owner; or, supposing you did not marry, you might get a good offer for your share and sell out, and that would not be fair on us.’

‘No, that would not be fair. Yes, I would agree to that. I am to be joint proprietor with you both, and to take my third of the profits to do what I like with, but if I leave you I forfeit all I have in the concern. We will have the agreement made before a lawyer. As far as I am concerned, there shall be two copies made; one I will take with me, the other I shall leave with him, so that if by any chance I lose mine I shall be able to prove my rights. Of course, I have no fear with you, papa; no man would wrong his daughter, but when there is a third person in the matter it is as well that one should look after oneself.’

Mr. Warbles with difficulty repressed an angry ejaculation; however, he was so impressed with the value of his ally that he mastered himself, and said with an attempt at a smile, ‘I had no idea you were such a businesslike young woman, Sally.’

‘I have always had to take care of myself a good deal,’ she said quietly, ‘and I mean to do so as long as I can. Now it is time to go down to lunch, I think; then we might go for a drive and have a look at the place. Are you going to see your friend again to-day?’

‘No, I told him I must think the matter over, and see whether you liked the idea before I decided one way or the other.’

Joe Murdoch offered no objection whatever when Mr. Warbles informed him of the conditions on which alone Miss Myrtle—for they had adopted another name when booking for New Orleans—consented to join in the venture.

‘It is her money, I suppose, that she puts in?’ he asked.

‘It is her share of the last thing we pulled off.’

‘Ah, well, it is hers then. Well, it is only fair that she should have a third. You were quite right in insisting that if she left us she should forfeit all further share in it. I don’t like her any the worse for being able to look after her own interests. One wants a long-headed girl for this business; a weak fool, who would be ready to throw herself away on the first good-looking miner with his pockets well filled, would be of no use to us at all. One who would be inclined to flirt right and left might be worse still, for there would be a shooting affair in the place in no time. One wants just what I think she is, by your account of what she said, a cool-headed, clever woman, who has the wit to see that the best game is to steer clear of them all, show no preference to anyone, and to give no one an excuse for being jealous. She is exactly the one we want. I think even better of the thing than I did before, Warbles. The extra five hundred will make all the difference in our outfit; I should say it would take us five hundred to get across, but then we should have the waggon and horses, and they would do to take the tent or the frame and boardings of the house up, to work backwards and forwards to the nearest town for spirits and food, and would pay its expenses by hauling things for storekeepers. I reckon it is a first-rate look-out.’

‘Where would you buy the outfit?’

‘Well, we can get a waggon in pieces all numbered and ready to put together when we get to Omaha. We shan’t want a very heavy one as there are only three of us. We had better buy horses here; there is no saying how much we might have to pay at Omaha; or, what would be better, I can send a letter by a boat that starts this evening to a man I know who has a farm near the last steamboat stopping-place, about a hundred miles this side of Omaha, and give him a commission to buy me four of the strongest horses he can get there, and to drive them to Omaha so as to meet us by next Thursday’s boat. There will be nothing to keep us beyond then.’

‘No, the sooner we are off the better. I suppose you know pretty well what are the things people take with them?’

‘Yes; it is generally about the same thing, flour, bacon, tea and sugar, molasses, and baking-powder. Of course we shall want a few pounds of salt and some pepper and mustard, and a keg of salt butter. That about fills the list. Have you got any firearms?’

‘No.’

‘You will want a brace of Colts—that’s revolvers, you know—and a bowie knife, which is handy for all sorts of things. I have got everything. The first thing to do is to have this agreement made; I can find a man to draw it up.’

‘That won’t do. The girl said this morning that she should ask the landlord of the hotel for the name of one of the most respectable lawyers in our place, and should go with us when we give our instructions to him.’

‘Good,’ Murdoch said; ‘she must be chock full of good sense. It is clear that there will be no getting over her easily. She is right, you know, quite right; for the man I was thinking of going to might not have taken sufficient care of her copy.’ And he winked at his associate.

‘That is what she suspected, no doubt,’ Mr. Warbles said, in an injured tone. ‘After all I have done for her, it is hard to be distrusted.’

‘It must be, I should say, Warbles, mightily hard, after, as you say, all you have done for her.’

‘She said when I came out she’d get the name and address before I came back, and that I had better bring you with me, so that we could go together at once. You had better tog yourself up a bit.’

‘I should think so. You are such a respectable looking swell, Warbles, that I ain’t fit to walk down the street with you, let alone to be introduced to a young lady. Well, just look at that paper for a few minutes.’

Mr. Warbles sat down and amused himself until Murdoch’s return in watching the young man in charge of the bar who, having been up till four o’clock in the morning, was now languidly wiping down the counter, decanting liquids from one bottle to another, washing glasses, and generally setting things straight. When Murdoch appeared he was dressed, and Mr. Warbles looked at him approvingly.

‘This is my English suit,’ Murdoch explained. ‘I have not put it on ten times since I came over. You see, people here mostly wear either black or white, with waistcoats cut low so as to show a lot of white shirt. I dress their way, of course; as a rule it don’t do to look peculiar; besides, there is rather a prejudice against Britishers down here, and it is no use rubbing them down the wrong way. If you dress as other people do, and keep a quiet tongue in your head, you have a good chance of steering clear of rows. Of course you cannot always do that when you are running a saloon, but even here you can do fairly well if you keep your eyes open and act according to character. If it is a great big swaggering sort of bully who gets drunk and kicks up a row, I have pistols always handy behind the bar, and when I jump over with one in each hand I can generally get him out as quiet as a lamb. If I see that it is a regular hard case, a fellow who means downright mischief, I lie low and take no heed, only sending out my man quietly to fetch a constable. As a rule he never finds one, still it makes all the difference. If there is a man shot and an inquest the next morning I am able to prove that I did my best to put a stop to the matter, and so I get off without being blamed; for a New Orleans jury are not fools enough to suppose anyone is going to shove himself between two angry men when their hands go to their pistol pockets.’

When they arrived at the hotel Mr. Warbles asked his companion to stop outside while he fetched the girl down.

Joe Murdoch had been prepared to see a good-looking young woman, but he was completely taken aback by the appearance of the girl who came out with Mr. Warbles. He had been on English racecourses long enough to be able to distinguish a lady when he saw her, and he at once decided that this girl would pass for one in any society. She was well but quietly dressed, had a graceful walk and a good carriage, while her face was exceptionally pretty. ‘My eye,’ he muttered to himself, ‘wherever did Warbles pick her up?’

‘This is my old friend, Joe Murdoch, Linda’—for the name of Sally had been dropped as being vulgar and objectionable, from the day her training had begun. ‘This is my adopted daughter, Joe.’

‘Glad to meet her, I am sure,’ Mr. Murdoch said, with a humility altogether uncommon to him. ‘I am very glad to think that we are going to travel together, Miss Myrtle.’

‘I shall be glad to travel anywhere, Mr. Murdoch. This seems to me a dreary place.’

‘Not dreary when you know it; far from that. It is a stirring place, except in the old French quarters, but one wants to know it.’

‘We took a drive yesterday,’ Linda said; ‘and it seems to me that it is the worst smelling and most unhealthy sort of place I was ever in.’

‘Well, yes, I can’t say much for it in that way, and occasionally we get yellow fever here bad, but I have never had an attack myself. Whose office are we going to, Warbles?’

‘I wish you would call me Myrtle,’ the latter said irritably; ‘there is no good in calling up that old name here.’

‘We are going to Mr. Searle’s,’ Linda said quietly; ‘this is the street I think. I got the directions how to find it at the hotel. He is a respectable lawyer, I am told.’

‘Very much so, Miss Myrtle, quite highly so. I believe that he is a very sharp fellow too, and it is not always the two things go together. He was with his father; the old man died two years ago, and now the young one has got it all in his own hands. He does all the best shipping business here.’

On entering they found that Mr. Searle was disengaged, and were at once shown into his office.

Chapter XV • 5,300 Words

‘We wish a deed of partnership drawn out between John Myrtle, that is myself, Linda Myrtle, and Joseph Murdoch. Each of the three parties agrees to put in the sum of five hundred pounds, which is to be jointly expended on the journey to California, and on starting and carrying on a saloon or other establishment there, the profits to be divided monthly, each of the three parties becoming absolute possessor of his or her share. In the event of Linda Myrtle marrying, or leaving the partnership for any reason whatever, she is to forfeit all share in the property or effects of the partnership.’

The lawyer listened attentively. ‘Do either of the other parties similarly forfeit their share on leaving the partnership?’

‘No; but it might be as well to put in a clause that in the event of his doing so the partner remaining has the first option of purchasing his share at a price to be fixed upon by an umpire agreed upon by both.’

‘I have a question to ask,’ the girl said suddenly. ‘Would such a deed as this be rendered useless or invalid if the names of one or more of the parties were not those properly belonging to them?’

The lawyer looked at her in surprise. ‘It would certainly be very desirable that the real names should be inserted. This, however, would not be indispensable if the identity of the parties with those named here could be proved; for instance if you were to come here to prove the deed I could testify that you were the lady who signed as Linda Myrtle, and that under that name for example, you registered at the hotel, and were generally known. Did you wish to prove it elsewhere, you would take an affidavit that you were the person designated and known as Linda Myrtle. Did you sign under your real name, whatever it might be, it would be just as difficult for you in California to prove that you were entitled to it, as to that under which you sign. You intend, I suppose, to continue to pass under the name given, and will be generally known by it. Moreover, in case of necessity, you might write to me and forward your likeness, and I could then make an affidavit to the effect that the original of that portrait was the lady who in my presence signed the deed of partnership under the name of Linda Myrtle.’

‘We should each wish to have copies of the deed of partnership, and I desire that a fourth copy may be made, and this I shall request you to hold in charge for me, so that in case I should at any time lose or be deprived of my copy, I should, by applying to you, be able to obtain another copy.’

‘I will certainly do that, Miss Myrtle, and I think it a very wise precaution on your part. I will have the draft ready this afternoon,’ the lawyer said; ‘I shall be glad if you will call in at three o’clock to see if it meets your joint views, and if so, I will have the deed—which will be a very short one—copied four times in readiness for the signatures in the morning.’

‘What did you want to go on like this for, Linda?’ Mr. Warbles grumbled, as he went out into the street. ‘Why, the man will suppose that you suspect us of some plot to rob you.’

‘No, I don’t suspect anything particular, but there is nothing like having things put on a satisfactory footing. I see that it is for our interest that we should act square to each other, and I certainly see no reason whatever why you should wish to get rid of me. Still, no one can say what might happen. After all, I am only ensuring to myself my share of the profits so long as I do my share of the business as well as I can—and I should think from what you have seen of my powers of acting, you can rest well assured that I shall do it very well—but I want to be independent, and I will be so. I don’t know anything of this place we are going to, except that the men are rough and quarrelsome, and I want, if after two or three months trial I find the life altogether unbearable to be able to leave, with money enough in my pocket to pay my fare to San Francisco, if not home, and to be able to keep myself until I can find some situation.’

‘You are right enough, Miss Linda,’ Joe Murdoch broke in, ‘and I haven’t the least feeling against you for what you have said and done. I like you all the better that you can stand up for yourself, and though I am not much of a fighting man I will promise you I will stand by you out there whatever comes. Any man that says a word to you that he ought not to say I will reckon with him. I ain’t a straight man myself and never have been since I was a kid, but, by gosh, I would be cut in pieces rather than see anything happen to a girl that is as straight as you are.’

‘Thank you, Joe,’ she said, quietly holding out her hand to him. ‘I did not know you before, but now that I do, I feel there is no occasion for me to have that fourth copy made.’

‘You have it made, miss; it is best you should have one. I might go under and Bob might get another partner, or he might go under and I might get another partner, and in either case it would save trouble if you have your rights clearly marked out and set down.’

‘Let us go down to the wharf, Joe,’ his comrade said, changing the conversation. ‘It is all as good as settled now, and we may as well begin to get the things. How long will it take us?’

‘It won’t take more than two hours, any way,’ Joe said. ‘There are big stores here where we can get every mortal thing we want. We could go by the boat to-night if we wanted to, but we don’t want to. In the first place I have got to settle about selling my saloon, and in the second the order for the horses is only going by to-night’s boat, and it ain’t no manner of use our getting into Omaha before they do. It would cost us twice as much to live in a shanty, where every square foot is occupied by sleepers, than it would to stop comfortably in an hotel here. I shall not be long in getting rid of my place. Two or three of the men who use it have asked me at one time or another what I would take to clear out of it. It is handy for the river, and I do a fairish trade with sailors of an evening. Still, it would take a day or two to arrange it, and it will never do to look as if one was in a hurry. If they thought I wanted to clear out they would not offer half the sum they would if they thought that I did not care one way or the other about making a deal.’

They walked along the wharves looking at the steamers.

‘There are plenty of them going up the river,’ Murdoch said, ‘but Thursday’s boat is the first that goes up to Omaha, and that is about as close as we can cut it. It is Monday now, and the day is pretty near half gone; I reckon I shall want all the time for carrying out my deal. I will go now and see one of the chaps I spoke of. At three o’clock we have got to meet at that lawyer’s office, and then if you like we will go and get our outfit, and take our passages. I have got more than enough money to pay for my share. If you will take my advice, Miss Linda, you will go back to the hotel and overhaul your things and see what you want for the journey. You will want some good strong plain dresses and serviceable things underneath, for it is a rough business I can tell you. You want a store of all sorts of little things—buttons and such like, needles and thread and all that sort of thing—and plenty of stout shoes that will bear knocking about. You must bear in mind that you won’t see a shop for four or five months; but remember the less baggage you take the better, as I have heard that many a waggonload of emigrants going across the plains have had to chuck everything overboard, kit and food and all except a sack of flour, so as to lighten the waggons when the horses broke down. I am not sure, Bob, that it would not be wiser to write for six horses, or better still for two mules for wheelers and four horses. It may cost a bit more, but it will make things more easy and will give us a better chance of getting to the end of our journey with all our kit.’

‘All right, Joe; you know more of these things than I do. If you think that six are best, order them. I suppose the tent we shall get out there.’

‘Yes, the tent is a mighty heavy thing. I should never think of dragging that with us.’

‘I should not have given you credit for being so soft, Murdoch,’ Truscott growled, as after seeing the girl into the hotel, they turned away together.

‘I dare say not. Softness ain’t much in my line, but that girl fetched me altogether. Here she is, right away from England and without a friend in the world, and she speaks out as firm and as brave as if she had twenty men within call ready to help her. If she had been one of the crying sort she would have got no pity from me, but she regular took my breath away when she spoke out like that, and I says to myself, “She has got to be ridden on a snaffle; just touch the curb and she will bolt with you and will break your neck as well as her own.” But I meant what I said for all that. She is just the girl for what we want, and if she finds we treat her well and act square by her she will act square by us. She will keep them all at a distance, and keep her head straight all the time; only you will have to humour her. I don’t know where you picked her up, but I should wager a dollar to a cent that she is thoroughbred.’

‘You would not have said so if you had seen her three years and a half ago, when I picked her out from a slum in London.’

‘I might not have said so then, that is likely enough; one can’t always tell whether a yearling is going to turn out a good horse, and a good many who think they are clever get sucked in over it; but a man who has an eye to horseflesh can tell whether a three-year-old is well bred or not, and I guess I am not far out with this one. Yes, I am struck over her. It is not often that women, or men either for that matter, get on the soft side of me. You know pretty well that I wasn’t afraid of running a bit of risk in the old days, and you may guess that this country doesn’t make a baby of one. No, sir, I have seen pistols and knives out pretty often since I came here, and would use them myself if there was any occasion, and I guess that if we ever get into a mess you will find I shall play my part as well as you do; only I want it clearly understood that in this job we are going in for I am ready to go through it whatever comes; but I am fixed in my mind that we are going to act straight to that girl.’

‘Who wants not to act straight?’ the other said angrily. ‘Haven’t I brought her all the way out here because I thought she would be useful? Couldn’t I have slipped away with all the pot we had made, and left her behind me if I had wanted to? And who is talking about my not acting square with her now?’

‘That is right enough, mate; we won’t quarrel over it. So that we three all act straight to each other all round I am satisfied.’

They did not get away from New Orleans as soon as they had expected. The various purchases were all made in ample time, but the business of disposing of Murdoch’s saloon was not so speedily arranged. He suggested that the other two should go on by the ‘Mississippi Belle,’ and that he should follow by the next steamer, but Warbles was against this.

‘A week won’t make much difference one way or the other,’ he said. ‘It is better that we should keep together. You are more up to the ropes here than I am. I suppose they will change our tickets for those of next week’s boat?’

‘There will be no difficulty about that; I could change them in five minutes. There are lots of people who could not get berths on her, and have had to take them in the next boat, and they would jump at the chance of going up at once.’

It was not until they had been at New Orleans nearly three weeks that Murdoch’s business was finally arranged and everything was ready for a start. Warbles was in no particular hurry; he had been accustomed to do a great deal of aimless loafing about during his career, and found plenty to amuse him, looking at the busy scene by the riverside; but at last all was ready, and their goods were all on board the steamer that was to start on the following morning.

‘There is a New York steamer signalled coming up,’ Murdoch said, as they stood together smoking on one of the quays. ‘She will be in by five o’clock. It is the ‘Savannah’; she is a smart boat, and I guess she has made the passage down in four or five days quicker time than you did.’

‘I am glad she is in before we start. I dare say she will have papers from England a good week later than any we have got here. It is as well to get the last news while we can. We shan’t have the chance for some months again.’

‘I don’t care for English papers now. I look at them, because sometimes an English skipper or mate comes into my place, and when they find I am a countryman and know something about the turf, they will put a few dollars on some horse or other for the Derby. If the news is expected in before they sail, sometimes they will turn to the English paper and pick out a horse just for the fun of the thing for some other race of which the news ought to be in in a day or two, and put two or three dollars on it. If it was not for that I should never take the trouble to look at them, though I always take them regular in the saloon.’

It was not long before a steamer appeared at a distant turn of the river, and as she came up to the city the two men walked down to the wharf, where she would arrive, and where a crowd of idlers like themselves had already assembled. As she warped alongside, Truscott gave a sudden exclamation and nervously grasped his companion’s arm.

‘What is up?’ the latter asked angrily. ‘Confound it, there is no occasion to grip a man like that. I thought for a moment a big dog had got hold of me. What is the matter with you?’

Truscott had pulled his hat far down over his eyes.

‘Do you see that man upon the hurricane deck, with his hands in his pockets smoking a cigar?’

‘Yes, I see him fast enough; he is an Englishman, one can tell with half an eye. Well, what about him?’

‘Take a good look at him so as to know him again, and then let us get out of this and I will tell you.’

Murdoch took another look and then followed his companion out of the crowd.

‘Well, you look as if you had had a facer,’ he said, when they had moved a hundred yards away. ‘I have seen chaps look like that when they have had every penny they own in the world on the favourite and it has not even been placed.’

‘I feel something like that, Joe. I believe that fellow is on my track?’

‘You do; why, how can that be? How can he have followed you here?’

‘That is more than I can say, but it don’t much matter if he has followed me.’

‘Are you sure it is the man?’

‘Quite sure. I am a good hand at faces. One wants to be when one is a bookmaker and don’t always find it convenient to pay up. I saw that man at the Oaks; he was talking for some time to a man I knew—the very man who was mixed up in the job I pulled off before leaving England.’

‘You mean it was his money you got at?’

‘Yes. Well, that fellow you saw there has been after me. Two or three of my pals told me there had been a man asking about me on the racecourses, and one day, it was the only time I went down, one of them pointed him out to me. He got into the train with me at Epsom; he thought I did not see him, but I did. He got into the next compartment, but I slipped him at Vauxhall, and did not see any more of him. I believe that fellow is on my track, though how he has got hold of it is more than I can guess. Anyhow, I cannot believe it is accident that brings him alongside of me again. I should not be surprised if he has got a warrant against the girl and me in his pocket now.’

‘Well, he has brought his pigs to the wrong market if he has,’ Murdoch said fiercely; ‘we have gone into this affair now, and if anyone thinks he is going to meddle with us he will find he is mistaken. Well, there ain’t any time to be lost; if he happens to go to the same hotel you are at the game is up. You had best go straight back, get a carriage and have all your things taken right down to the boat; then if you are smart, you will be in time to get on board the boat that starts in two hours for Baton Rouge. Get off there and be on the look out for our boat as she comes along to-morrow. I shall be up in the bow; if you see me wave my handkerchief you will know it is all right, and you can step right on board; if you don’t see me wave, do you and the girl move off at once; get behind one of the stores, and come on by the next boat. I don’t think it likely he will be there, mighty unlikely, but it is just as well to settle what to do in case he is. If he should by any chance guess that the Mr. and Miss Myrtle he sees in the hotel books are the pair he is looking for, he would find out that they are bound up the river, and in the morning he might go down to the steamer to see if it is them. He would watch till she went off, and when he found out that you are not among the passengers he would think that he had made a mistake, and go back to the hotel again, and would hunt about in other places before he had made up his mind that you had given him the slip. It is a week before another steamer goes up to Omaha, and we should be a week out on the plains before he got there.’

‘I should like to see anyone talking about an arrest out there. However, I don’t think you need be afraid of him; I fancy I can arrange about that.’

‘You ain’t going——’

‘Never mind what I am going to do,’ the other interrupted. ‘I am not going to have our plans broken up, nor the pleasure of our journey spoilt by being hunted as if we were dogs. I don’t know who this fellow is, and I don’t care; if he chooses to meddle with our affairs, he has got to take the consequences; he is not in London now. There, don’t stand here another minute; he may land in half-an-hour, and you have got to be out of the hotel before then. I heard the girl say that the boxes were all packed. Mind, first get the boxes on board, then go to the wharf and get on board the Baton Rouge steamer. Look out for our boat; if you see me wave my white handkerchief it is safe to come on board; if not, slip away and get behind something till we go on again; then come by next boat. If he gets off at any of the landings, going up the river, I shall get off too, and come on board again as you come along.’

Murdoch went back to the landing-place. The passengers were pouring off the steamer with bags and boxes of all kinds. The man he was to watch was still walking quietly up and down the hurricane deck, evidently in no hurry to land until the rush was over. Sometimes he stopped to speak a word or two to a boy who was standing at the rail, watching the others landing.

‘I guess that fellow is with him,’ Murdoch muttered. ‘It may be some boy he has made friends with on the passage. If he has brought him from England it must be because the boy knows Tom and the girl; but if he does he could do no harm if the other was out of the way. You are taking it cool and quiet, my fine fellow. If you guessed that every five minutes you spent there spoilt your chance, you would not take it quite so easily.’

It was a good half-hour before the stream of passengers and porters with baggage had ceased crossing the gangway; then the man and boy left the hurricane deck, and a minute or two later appeared at the gangway, followed by two men with portmanteaux. There was but one vehicle remaining by the wharf. Murdoch knew the driver.

‘Mike,’ he said, ‘here are a couple of dollars for you. If that man just landing tells you to drive him to Planter’s Hotel you take him somewhere else. Pretend you misunderstood him. I have my reasons for not wanting him to go there.’

‘All right, I will take him to Reardon’s; it is at the other end of the town.’

‘Come back here and let me know where you put him down,’ and Murdoch moved off as the gentleman came up to the carriage.

He watched them drive off, and then took a seat on a baulk of timber till Mike returned.

‘He told me to take him to the Crescent City, and it’s there I put him down, Mr. Murdoch.’

‘All right, Mike; I don’t care where he goes so that it isn’t to Planter’s.’ Then he walked away, and after threading several of the worst streets of the town, stopped at a low wine shop. There was no one in but the man behind the bar.

‘They tell me that you have sold out, Murdoch, and are going West. Is it true?’

‘That is right. I have had enough of this. I am going to try my luck West. Have you got Black Mat with you still?’

‘No. You will find him at Luttrell’s. You know the place, at the corner of Plantation Street. That is to say, he was there a fortnight ago, if he has not got shot or hung since. Not thinking of taking him with you?’

‘No.’ Murdoch laughed. ‘He is strong enough and would be useful, but he gets so confoundedly sulky if he takes a drop too much. That was why I had to get rid of him. He got into three or four rows, and I had him on my hands each time for over a fortnight, so I thought he had better go.’

‘Yes, you told me about it. I found him useful here, especially when I wanted the place cleared; but it would not do, he broke one fellow’s shoulder throwing him out, and it was getting me a bad name.’

‘Well, good-bye,’ Murdoch said. ‘I am off by the boat to-morrow. I will look you up if I come back this way, and let you know how I have got on.’

Five minutes later Murdoch turned into Luttrell’s. A powerful negro, whose face was disfigured by the scars of several cuts and gashes at once came up to him. ‘Waall, boss, how are you?’

‘I am all right, Mat. I came to have a word with you.’

‘There ain’t no one to prevent you. The boss has just gone out. We don’t do no business here till late.’

‘What I want you for is this, Mat. There is a friend of mine just come from New York. He is going up the River with me, but there is a police chap just come down after him, and, like enough, he will be at the boat to put his hand on his shoulder. I want to arrange that he shan’t be there, you understand; I don’t want him killed, but I just want him to have a hint that he had better not meddle with other people’s business—a hint, you know, strong enough to lay him up for three weeks or a month; and I should not mind paying twenty dollars to the man who gives him the hint.’

‘You point him out to me and the job will be done, boss; only I don’t sees as I can hit it to exact three weeks or a month. When one is in a bit of a hurry it ain’t no easy matter to figure it out just exact.’

‘Well, we are not particular to a week; what we want is not to be bothered with him.’

‘I will fix that, boss. You can go on board that boat with your mind easy.’

‘Of course you can’t go now?’

‘Well, I could go, if it was downright necessary, but it would be rough on the boss to find no one here when he came back. I expect he will be in in ten minutes. He said if anyone asked for him he would be back in half-an-hour, and it is getting on for that now.’

‘I will wait, then; I know Luttrell very well; he will let you go out for a bit with me if I ask him.’

The keeper of the saloon soon returned. ‘I can do without him,’ he said, when Murdoch told him that he wanted the negro to do a job for him. ‘I don’t expect it will be a very busy night, and if it is I will call my wife down, and put her behind the bar, while I keep things straightened out.’

Upon arriving at the hotel Captain Hampton dined quietly. Then he went to the clerk’s desk, had a talk with him over the people who had been staying there and showed him Dorothy’s photograph.

‘Nothing like that been here,’ the clerk said positively. ‘I should have noticed her at once if she had been.’

‘I have no reason to suppose that she came here more than to any other hotel,’ Hampton said. ‘I will go round in the morning and try the others. I suppose there are not a great many where a gentleman with a lady with him would be likely to put up?’

‘Not more than six, I should say, at the outside,’ the clerk said, and gave the names, which Captain Hampton at once wrote down in a note-book.

‘It is just possible that they might not have come here at all, but may have stopped at Mobile, where the steamer touched on her way down; still, I think it much more likely that they have come here.’ Then he went upstairs and wrote a chatty letter to Danvers, giving him an account of the voyage.

‘I hear there is a steamer leaves to-morrow, and I hope to be able to give you some news before I close this. I am going round the hotels the first thing, and hope, if not to find them, to get some news of them. The latter is most probable. I don’t see Truscott could have any motive in stopping here, and I shall expect to find that they only stayed a day or two and then went up the river. I have a strong conviction he means to go to California; but even in that case he may have chosen some other route—have gone down to Panama and crossed the isthmus there, or may have taken steamer to Galveston and started from there by the southern route, though I don’t think that is likely, for the Indians are worse on that line than on the other. Anyhow, whichever route they have taken I shall follow. I wrote from New York to the War Office, asking that my leave might be extended for another six months from the end of the year, on very urgent business that compelled me to travel in America. I have sent a private letter to Colonel Eversfield, telling him something of the nature of the work I have in hand, and asking him to back up my request. I have no doubt he can manage it. That ought to give me plenty of time; but if the worst comes to the worst and I find myself pinched I must take ship at San Francisco and get to China, and from there by a P. and O. to India. This will be the last letter you will get, I fancy, for a very long time; though for aught I know there may be means of sending off letters from some of the stations on the plains.’

He addressed an envelope, laid it by the unfinished letter, and then went downstairs. It was dark now, and beckoning to Jacob, who was sitting in the hall, to accompany him, he strolled out through the door. For nearly an hour they wandered about, and at the end of that time came out on the quays.

Chapter XVI • 4,700 Words

‘It is pleasant here, Jacob, after those close streets.’

‘It is an awful place for smells, Captain.’

‘It is smelly, Jacob. I fancy the town was built on a swamp; I think I have read something about it. Well, there are no smells here; suppose we sit down and look at the river for a bit, the air is fresh and pleasant.’

A minute later a man with naked feet stole up behind them. He was close to them before any sound warned them of his approach. Jacob looked round and uttered a sharp exclamation. Captain Hampton was in the act of springing to his feet when he received a violent blow on the shoulder, and fell face foremost on the ground. With a cry of rage Jacob sprang at his assailant and caught him by the throat. The man shook him off and brought down his hand on the top of his head with such force that he fell insensible. Then he stooped over Captain Hampton, and having turned him over on his back felt in his pockets, but rose with an exclamation of disgust, having only found two or three dollars in them, as Captain Hampton had taken the precaution of laying aside his watch and emptying his pockets of money and papers before leaving his room. Ten minutes later some sailors coming along the wharf came across Jacob, who was just trying to get on to his feet.

‘Hello, mate, what is the matter?’

‘I dunno,’ he replied stupidly.

‘Been having a drop too much?’

‘No, it ain’t that—oh, I remember now. I was there with my master, sitting on that log, when a great nigger attacked us. He stabbed my master, and I suppose he stabbed me; I don’t remember much about it except that I got hold of his throat.’

‘Where is your master?’

The question completely aroused Jacob’s faculties, and he hurried round to the other side of the log.

‘Here he is,’ he cried. ‘Oh, my dear master, are you hurt bad?’ and stooping over him he burst out crying.

‘That won’t do any good, lad,’ the sailor said. ‘Here, let us have a look at him. He has been stabbed, sure enough, Jack. He is just soaking with blood.’

‘Is he dead, Bill?’

The sailor tried to turn the body over, but as he did so there was a faint moan.

‘He ain’t gone yet, that’s clear. Who is he, boy?’

‘He is Captain Hampton, an English gentleman. We only got in here this afternoon. He is staying at the Crescent City.’

‘Well, we can’t let him lie here. You stay here with him, Jack, and we will go off and get some one to carry him.’

In a few minutes the men returned with two constables carrying a stretcher; on this the body was placed, four of the sailors lifted it and carried it to the hotel, and then up to his room, where two surgeons were quickly in attendance. Jacob stood by listening with breathless anxiety to their talk as they examined his master.

‘Will he die, sir?’ he asked, in a broken voice, as they rose from the examination.

‘No, I reckon he hasn’t had his call this time, but it has been a close thing. What was he doing when he was struck?’

‘He was just getting up, sir, from the log that he was sitting on.’

‘Ah, that saved him; another half inch and we could have done nothing for him. You see, he was struck from above; the wound is just behind the shoulderbone, and it has gone right down inside the bladebone, but has missed the lungs altogether—at least, we think so. Do you see that dark mark under the skin below the bone? That is where the point of the knife came to. Of course he has lost a lot of blood, but there is no reason why, if he goes on well, he should not be about again soon. Did he drink?’

‘No, sir,’ Jacob replied indignantly.

‘Well, that is all in his favour; in this climate a man with his blood heated has but a poor chance if he gets hurt. He is English, the clerk told me as I came up?’

‘Yes, sir; he is an English captain.’

‘Ah, well, he will have a chance of fighting some more battles yet. You are his servant, I hear?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Well, you are not going to lose your master this time; you had better sit up with him to-night. We will get a nurse for him in the morning. I will order some lemonade to be sent up, and will bring round some medicine in half an hour, and sit here for a bit. Doctor Hawthorne will wait until I come back.’

By this time they had finished bandaging the wound.

‘Hullo, what is the matter with you?’ he exclaimed, as Jacob reeled and would have fallen had he not caught him. ‘Here is another patient, Hawthorne. The boy is bleeding from the head somewhere. I thought he looked half stupid.’

They laid him down and examined him.

‘He has had a tremendous blow on the head,’ the other said. ‘It has cut right through the cap and has laid the bone bare. I expect that thick cap saved his life. I wonder what he was struck with.’

They bathed the boy’s head with iced water for some time. Presently he opened his eyes.

‘Do not move, lad; you have had an awkward blow on the head. You must lie still for a bit, else we shall be having you on our hands too. What did he hit you with?’

‘I dunno, sir; he had nothing in his hand but the knife.’

‘It wasn’t done with a fist,’ Doctor Hawthorne said, ‘and is certainly not the cut of a knife.’

‘I fancy it was done with the handle of the knife,’ the other said. ‘The negro could have had no motive in killing the boy. I expect he had the knife in his hand, and he struck down on him with the end of the hilt. That would make just the sort of wound this is. You see, it is a little to one side of the centre of the skull, and so glanced off the bone. If it had caught him fairly in the centre it would have staved in the skull to a certainty.’ They placed a pillow from the sofa under the boy’s head, gave him a little lemonade to drink, and then one of the doctors left, after having aided in placing Captain Hampton on the bed, propped up almost into a sitting position by pillows. Jacob dozed off into a confused sleep. Occasionally he woke up and saw the doctor sitting by his master’s bedside, and then relapsed into sleep. At last he started up at the sound of a voice. The sun was gleaming through the window and the doctor was standing speaking to Captain Hampton.

‘You have a nasty wound,’ he was saying, ‘but fortunately it has not touched any vital point. You have been simply insensible from loss of blood. There is every chance of your doing well, but you must not try to move.’

‘What is the matter with Jacob?’ Captain Hampton said feebly, as the boy appeared at the foot of his bed with a wet towel still bound round his head.

‘I am all right, Captain, though I feel queer and my head is aching terribly; but I don’t care a bit now you have come round.’

Captain Hampton’s eyes turned to the surgeon for an explanation.

‘He has had a heavy blow on the head. We have heard nothing from him beyond the fact that he had hold of the throat of the negro who attacked you. The man evidently struck him down, and from the appearance of the wound we gather that he struck him with the haft of the knife. Fortunately it fell rather on the side of his head or it might have killed him; as it is, it has laid the bone bare; we bandaged it up with a cloth soaked in ice water and he will be all right in a day or two.’

‘Where am I wounded?’ Captain Hampton asked.

The surgeon explained the nature of the wound.

‘No doubt it was some negro who had gone down to sleep on the wharf, and seeing you come along with this boy thought he would rob you. Your pockets were turned inside out.’

Captain Hampton did not speak for a minute; then, with a faint smile, he said:

‘He did not get much for his pains. I put everything in that drawer and locked it before coming out, and dropped the key into my portmanteau.’

‘That is all right,’ the surgeon said cheerfully. ‘I was afraid you might have lost a good deal of money. We gave notice to the police last night, but it is not likely you will ever hear of the fellow again. Such things are common enough in the streets of New Orleans, and it is not once in a hundred times that the police ever manage to lay a finger on the scoundrels. Had you been in any gambling place, because, in that case, some one may have tracked you?’

Captain Hampton shook his head. ‘No; I had only taken a stroll through the town. How long am I likely to be laid up?’

‘You must be in bed for a fortnight at least; the wound was made by a bowie knife and is a broad, deep cut, and the knife penetrated to its whole depth, for there is a bruise each side of the mouth of the wound. If you were to attempt to move earlier than that you might have a great deal of trouble. Now, there is no occasion for me to stay with you any longer. Dr. Hawthorne, who was called in with me, will be here at nine o’clock, and will bring a nurse with him. You must have some one with you; your wound might break out suddenly at any moment. We shall give you a little weak broth; but we must not begin building you up at present; the great thing is to avoid any chance of fever setting in. Your having lost so much blood is all in your favour in that respect. Now lad, I will have a look at your head; yes, you had better keep on applying cloths dipped in ice water to it. I will tell them to send you up a basin of broth when they send some up to your master. You had better not take any solid food to-day.’

At ten o’clock, Captain Hampton, having taken a few spoonfuls of broth from his nurse, fell off into a quiet sleep. Jacob, who had taken off his boots, so as to move about noiselessly, had tidied up the room. He had glanced several times towards the unfinished letter and the addressed envelope on the table, and he now took his shoes in his hand, and went out through the door, put on his shoes again, and proceeded down stairs, having, before he left the room, laid aside his wet cloths and put on his cap.

‘When does the post go out for England?’ he asked the clerk.

‘It is mail day to-day; there is a steamer going direct to England.’

He went back to his master’s room, took up a pen, and with infinite labour scrawled a few lines at the bottom of the unfinished letter, making several blots and smudges as he did so. These he dried with blotting-paper, and with much self-disapproval folded the letter, placed it in the envelope, and, going downstairs again, handed it to the clerk to post.

For three or four days Captain Hampton remained in a very weak state; then he began to rally and picked up strength fast. At the end of ten days he was able to walk across the room.

‘What has become of the letter I left on the table when I went out with you, Jacob?’

‘I saw the envelope was to Mr. Danvers, sir, and you had told me about him. I asked about the post, and they said that it was going out that day, and as you had written before you went out I was sure that you wanted the letter to go by it, so I made a shift to write a line at the bottom to say that you could not finish it because you had got hurt, and then fastened it up and posted it. I hope that was right, sir.’

‘You intended well, anyhow, Jacob; but it would have been better, perhaps, if you hadn’t done it, as it will only alarm him needlessly.’

‘I told him the doctor said you would get round, sir.’

‘Ah, well, that is all right. I am glad you sent it, as he would be looking for a letter from me. I suppose you are quite sure that it was a negro who stabbed me?’

‘Quite sure, sir. It was dark, but not so dark that I could not see his face.’

‘Well, in another three or four days I shall be able to be out, Jacob. If I find that these people were here at the time I landed I shall have no doubt that this business was their work. I knew the man by sight and he may have known me. Someone may have pointed me out to him on the racecourse, as I had been asking about him. Of course it may have been done merely for the sake of plunder, but I think the other is more likely.’

Three days later Captain Hampton was able to go for a ride in a carriage. He went first to the police office.

‘We have no news whatever to give you, Captain Hampton,’ the superintendent, who had been to see him several times, said as he entered.

‘I did not expect you would have any,’ he replied. ‘I have come to see you about a different business. Here is the letter the head of the police at New York gave me to you. You see I am in search of two people from England. By the aid of the police at New York I traced them and found that they had come on here nearly three weeks before. I followed them, and was wounded a few hours after my arrival here. I am well enough to begin the search again, and shall be very glad if you will send one of your officers with me to visit the hotels.’

The superintendent at once complied with his request, and at the second hotel they visited he discovered that the people he sought had been staying there and had left on the evening of his arrival.

‘They were booked on the boat to Omaha,’ the clerk said. ‘I know they have been getting a lot of things at the stores, as they were going across the plains. The evening before they were to start Mr. Myrtle said they had changed their minds and were going on at once to Baton Rouge. They hurried up, but they were pretty late. They took a carriage from here and the driver told me they only just caught the boat by a minute; the bell was ringing when they got to the quay. You won’t catch them now; the ‘Arkansas’ is a fast boat and I suppose they got on board her at Baton Rouge. There is no boat going now for the next four or five days, so they would have a good three weeks start of you.’

‘You don’t happen to know where they bought their things?’ Captain Hampton asked.

‘They got a lot of things at J. B. Nash’s stores; a good many came up here, but I expect the heavy part went straight on board.’

‘Thank you. I don’t think there is anything more to ask you. We will go down to these stores,’ he added to the policeman, as he returned to the carriage. ‘I may learn something there that may be useful.’

His inquiries showed plainly enough that Truscott really meant to cross the plains and that they were going to travel by waggon. ‘What harness did they buy?’ he asked.

‘For six horses, at least, by what I heard them say; for four horses and two mules. The two men were talking about it, and they wanted bigger collars for the two wheelers because they would be mules.’

‘Were there two men, then, as well as a girl?’

‘Yes; the three always came together; one of them belonged to this city. I knew his face, though I don’t know what his name was. I take it he was a Britisher, though he had been long enough here to lose most of his accent. He seemed rather to boss the show and the other bought the things he fixed on. I allow he was a pretty smart fellow and was pretty well fixed up on prices. We did not get very much out of that deal.’

‘What was he like?’

‘He was a strong-built sort of chap about forty, I should say, and looked rather a hard sort of cuss. I don’t know what his name was; the other called him Joe.’

‘Thank you. I daresay I shall be coming in to get an outfit for myself in a day or two. I am thinking of going across the plains, too.’

‘Well, I guess we can fix you up with everything you want, squire. But you don’t look as if you was fit for a journey across the plains just yet. It ain’t child’s play; I reckon it wants a pretty strong man to stand the racket.’

‘I shall have a fortnight to pick up on board the steamer,’ Captain Hampton said. ‘I have just had a bout of illness, but I am shaking it off, and it will be at least three weeks before I am at Omaha.’

‘We are going for a long journey, Jacob,’ he said when he returned to the hotel.

‘We have been a pretty goodish long ‘un already, Captain.’

‘Nothing to what we are going to set out on now, Jacob. We have got a fortnight or three weeks on board a steamer, and then we start across the plains.’

‘How long shall we be in crossing them, sir?’

‘Four or five months, Jacob.’

‘My eye!’ the lad exclaimed. ‘Them must be something like plains; and what is there the other side of them?’

‘There is a country where they find gold, Jacob.’

‘What! sovs?’ the boy exclaimed.

‘The stuff sovereigns are made of.’

‘But you ain’t going to look for that, sir.’

‘No, lad; I am going after these people. They were here that evening when we came in, and as they started in a hurry half-an-hour after we landed, I cannot help thinking they saw me. It seems they had another man with them when they were here, and I expect they came here to join him. I don’t know whether he left with them; my own opinion is he did not, but when Truscott saw me he hurried off at once to his hotel and started, leaving the other man to prevent my following them. Probably he started by the boat in the morning after them, believing the negro he had hired had done his work. At any rate I have made up my mind to follow them. I was determined to do so before; but if I hadn’t been, this would have decided me. They have got a long start, but we will come up to them sooner or later.’

‘I should think so,’ the boy said, energetically, ‘and pay them out for it too. My eye! won’t they be surprised when we drop upon them just as they are picking up gold. But you ain’t fit to start yet,’ he went on, changing his voice; ‘you look very white, sir; I think you have been doing too much, and it won’t do for you to start to cross these here plains until you are strong; it will just be a-knocking yourself up, and I don’t suppose there ain’t no doctors living out there.’

‘That there are not, Jacob,’ Captain Hampton laughed. ‘Well, we shall have three weeks’ quiet on board the steamer, and by the time we land I hope I shall be as strong as ever. I will keep quiet for the rest of the day. To-morrow I shall have to see about taking our passage and getting ready for the start. I know nothing about what we shall want yet.’

The next morning Captain Hampton took Jacob with him down to the stores where he had been on the previous afternoon.

‘I have made up my mind to go across the plains,’ he said; ‘now, what do I want? I know absolutely nothing about it. Clothes I have got of all sorts—I want nothing in that way; I want to travel as light as possible, so as to push on fast.’

‘Can you shoot?’

‘Yes, I am a good shot, and have a double-barrelled gun and rifle with me.’

‘That will help you a good deal; the game has been mostly shot or scared away along the line, but there is some to be had, and, you see, any meat you don’t want you can swap for flour and other things with some of the emigrants. As to your pushing on, you might do that sometimes, but not very often. There are Redskins all along the line, and a man travelling by himself would have much trouble in getting through. As a general thing folks go in parties of ten or twelve waggons, often more, and then they are too strong for the Redskins to attack. I do not think you could travel much faster than the ordinary, not even if you had good horses. The bullocks travel slow, but they go a good many hours a day, and camp at night where there is water.’

‘If you could ride all the way you might do two days’ journey in one sometimes, but you must take some provision along with you. You must take some flour and some bacon, for you can’t always reckon on game, and tea and sugar, and little odds and ends. And then there are your clothes; knocking about for four months, and sleeping as you stand, you want at least two suits besides what you have got on. Then there is your ammunition. Altogether, go as light as you can, you have got a lot of things to haul along with you. If you ain’t afraid of roughing it I should say you could not do better than take a strong buggy.’

‘That is a four-wheeled vehicle, I suppose?’

The man nodded.

‘You can have it with springs or without. Springs make it easy, but if you break one you are done.’

‘Would it be strong enough to carry, say, six hundred weight?’

‘Ay, double that, if need be; but of course the lighter the better. You would want a tarpaulin to cover the things up, and you might make a shift to sleep under it if it is wet.’

‘No, we will sleep under the waggon; we will have hooks put along all round the bottom board, and a stout canvas curtain with rings to hang; down to the ground and peg down there.’

‘That will make a capital tent; have it to open behind, so that you can sit at the entrance and have a fire outside.’

‘Can you get me such a vehicle and make a sail-cloth curtain for me?’

‘I can do that,’ the man said.

‘About how much will it cost for a good hickory waggon without springs, and without any particular finish?’

‘You would pay about a hundred and fifty dollars; the tarpaulin to come well over it, and the canvas arrangement, might be forty dollars more, though I cannot tell you exactly. If you say two hundred dollars altogether you won’t be far from the mark.’

‘Very well, you can do it. How much flour shall I take?’

‘Well, seeing that you will do some shooting and swap some of the meat for flour, I should say a hundred and fifty pounds ought to last the two of you fairly well.’

Half an hour was spent in discussing the other items, including a dozen of brandy for emergencies, a small stock of medicines, pickles, sauces, and other items, mounting up to about four hundred pounds in weight. To these were added some twenty pounds of ammunition.

‘Allowing fifty pounds for blankets and clothes, we shall be well under five hundred,’ Captain Hampton said; ‘and we shall get lighter as we go on.’

‘When you book your passage you can arrange for the buggy to be taken up,’ said the storekeeper. ‘You might put all the things in it. We shall put all the small items in boxes, and then lash the tarpaulin well over everything; they will travel safely enough, and you will have no trouble about them till you get to the end of the journey. Now, what about horses? What are you going to do? I reckon you will have to pay a mighty high price if you wait until you get to Omaha.’

‘I shall want three horses; a good one for my own riding, and two sturdy animals for the cart—the boy will drive the cart. Could we get them taken up too?’

‘You can get anything taken up by paying for it. I don’t say as you wouldn’t save money, because you would, a good bit, if you were to drop off at some station, a good way from any town, and look round among the farmers and get what you want, and go on by the next boat—but I suppose that would not suit you?’

‘Not at all. The great thing is to save time. Do you think that I could pick up three horses to suit me here?’

‘You can pick up anything you like here. I will give you the names of half-a-dozen stable-keepers, and if you don’t find them all at one place you will at another. But mind, don’t give the prices asked. Seeing you are a stranger they will put on about three times the price they will be ready to take.’

‘They are pretty well alike in that respect all over the world,’ Captain Hampton laughed. ‘I have bought some horses in my time, and I don’t think they will take me in much, still I am much obliged to you for your warning. I don’t think I should have been prepared to bid them only a third, though I should, I dare say, have tried half.’

‘A third is enough to begin with, anyhow,’ the man said, ‘and I shouldn’t rise much on that. You have got five days before you start, so you can take your time; and I should say don’t get town horses, but critters fresh from the farms. Town horses get their legs knocked about and can’t stand hard work and weather, like those just brought in. I ain’t sure you would not do better to take steamer and go twenty or thirty miles up or down the river; you will be more likely to get an honest horse.’

It took Captain Hampton three days before he had purchased three animals to his liking; but when he had done so, he was well content with his bargains, all of which he had picked up at farm houses a few miles from the city. A store of grain sufficient for the passage was sent with them on board the boat, and everything was in perfect readiness on the morning of the day when the steamer was to start up the Mississippi.

Chapter XVII • 6,900 Words

Higher and higher rose the flames as fresh sticks were constantly piled on. The blood again began to circulate through the veins, and enjoyable as the heat was, the sharp tingling in the hands and feet caused the girls acute pain. Then came a feeling of pleasant drowsiness.

‘It will do them no harm to go to sleep, I suppose?’ Mr. Hawtrey asked Giuseppe.

‘No, monsieur. Now that they are warm it is the best thing for them. We will keep up the fire.’

Scarcely a word had yet been spoken. Both Mr. Hawtrey and his friend were completely exhausted. Since they had left the glacier they had staggered along in a half-stupefied condition, feeling that in spite of their exertions they were gradually becoming more and more chilled. As soon as the fire blazed up and there was nothing more to do for the girls, they had thrown themselves down near the fire, and a feeling of drowsiness, against which they had been fighting ever since the storm struck them, was now almost overpowering. Giuseppe produced from his wallet a bottle of wine and some cold meat and bread. These had formed part of the supply that had been brought up for lunch. The rest had been left behind, at the spot where they had started on the glacier.

‘Let us eat, monsieur,’ he said to Captain Armstrong.

‘But the others will want something when they wake.’

‘Conrad will start as soon as he has eaten, monsieur, to get help. It is two o’clock now; he will be down at the village in three hours, and will bring up porters and food. The ladies will not be able to walk. It has been a narrow escape.’

‘It has indeed. We all owe our lives to you, my good fellows.’

‘It is our business,’ the man said simply; ‘we were wrong in letting you go on to the glacier, but we did not think the storm would have come on so quickly. Sometimes the clouds will be like that for hours before they burst; but it is getting late in the season, and we ought to have run no risks.’

Just as they had finished their meal Giuseppe exclaimed, ‘I hear a shout!’

The others listened, and above the roaring of the wind in the pines overhead they heard the sharp bark of a dog.

‘It must be a rescue party,’ Conrad said, leaping to his feet. ‘They are sure to have seen the clouds rolling down the mountains, and would know that there was a storm raging up here,’ and accompanied by Giuseppe he hurried away in the direction from which the sound had come, shouting occasionally as they went.

In five minutes Captain Armstrong heard them returning, and the sound of voices and of stumbling feet among the rocks showed that they had a party with them. He rose to his feet just as the figures of the guides, with three or four men, emerged from the mist.

‘Thank God we have found you, Armstrong!’ Lord Halliburn said, grasping his hand. ‘We have had a terrible fright about you all. It was somewhere about eleven when one of the guides ran up to the hotel saying that there was a storm raging amongst the hills, that the clouds had swept across the Mer de Glace, and he was certain the party that had gone up this morning must have been overtaken by it. You may imagine that we lost no time. The guides knew what to do, and got together twenty men, with stretchers and ropes; then we got a lot of blankets from the hotel, and brandy, cold soup, and things of that sort, and started. Till we were more than half way up we were inclined to believe that the fears of the guides were exaggerated, for although we could see the clouds flying fast overhead there was not a breath of wind. However, for the last hour we have had a desperate fight for it. Though we had brought wraps with us, the wind and driving snow were terrible, and we began to despair of ever seeing any of you alive again. We were almost as surprised as delighted when your guides met us and assured me that you were all safe. Where are the others?’

‘There they are, sound asleep. The heat of the fire after the bitter cold sent them off at once.’

‘Do not disturb them till we have heated some soup and got some boiling water ready,’ Giuseppe said. ‘Some hot soup for the ladies, and some of the same with some hot spirits and water for the men, will do wonders for them.’

A few minutes later Mr. Hawtrey was roused. He looked round in bewilderment at the men clustered on the other side of the fire.

‘Thank you and your friends most heartily, Halliburn, for hurrying so promptly to our rescue,’ he said, as soon as he understood the situation. ‘One of the guides told me when we got here that he was going to start for help, but that would have meant six or seven hours’ delay, and the sooner the girls are in bed the better for them.’

Mr. Fortescue was next aroused, and then he and Mr. Hawtrey woke the girls. They, however, were unable to rise to their feet, their limbs being completely stiffened by cold and fatigue. A basin of hot soup with bread broken into it restored them wonderfully.

‘How are we to get down, father?’ Dorothy asked.

‘You will be carried, dear; the men have brought up stretchers and plenty of blankets and wraps, and there are mules for Fortescue and myself half a mile lower. We can manage to get as far as that, though I feel as if I had been beaten almost into a jelly. It is Lord Halliburn and his friends who have brought this party to our rescue, dear,’ for the men had, at the suggestion of the guide, all retired a short distance from the fire when the girls were awakened, as he said that it was better that they should not be confused by seeing themselves surrounded by strange faces.

‘It is very good of them,’ Dorothy said. ‘I was wondering vaguely while I was taking the soup where it had come from, and could not make out what you meant by the stretchers and mules, because I remember we sent those that we came up on, back to the hotel. Where is Lord Halliburn?’

‘Halliburn, will you and your friends show yourselves,’ Mr. Hawtrey said. ‘The ladies are now ready to receive company.’

There was but a short chat, then the stretchers were brought up and the girls helped to take their places upon them. They were then covered up closely with blankets. The porters lifted them, and the party started down the hill, the older men being assisted by a porter on each side, for they were scarcely able to drag themselves along. Being urged by Mr. Hawtrey to go on at once, the rescue party and Captain Armstrong pushed forward at the top of their speed. Being now well wrapped up they felt the cold but little, and in half an hour reached the spot where the mules were awaiting them, and then proceeded quietly down the hill, the porters with the ladies being already far ahead.

On the way down Captain Armstrong related the incidents of their adventure.

‘It was touch and go,’ he said. ‘Another quarter of an hour on that glacier would, I believe, have finished us all. It was not fatigue so much as it was the loss of heart that one felt. The wind seemed to go right through one, and to take all one’s pluck out. I wonder the ladies are alive.’

‘I can quite understand that,’ Lord Halliburn said. ‘I had no idea what it would be like until we got into it, and then, though the porters had brought up warm wraps for us, it was terrible. I should quite have given up hope had not the guides persisted that if you had got off the glacier you might have taken shelter somewhere under the lee of a rock, and that if so we might find you unharmed.’

‘It was too late when we got off the glacier to think of it. The ladies were already almost insensible, and the rest of us so chilled to the bone that no shelter would have been of any use unless we could make a fire. That, of course, was out of the question, so our only chance was to make straight down the mountain. That was nothing to the work on the ice.’

‘Hawtrey and Fortescue seem badly knocked up,’ Lord Ulleswater said.

‘Yes, they were completely exhausted by the time they got into that ravine. I don’t think they could have gone much farther; they dropped off to sleep the instant we lighted the fire, and if we could not have done so I fancy they would never have woke again. The women bore up bravely as long as they had strength to struggle on. They literally went on until they dropped.’

‘There is a mule here for you, Armstrong; indeed there are mules for all of us, for we brought six.’

‘I am very glad to hear it, for I feel wonderfully shaky about the knees now it is all over.’

‘No wonder,’ Lord Ulleswater said; ‘it is bad enough coming down the hill by oneself, but carrying a lady, it must have been hard work indeed.’

‘I did not feel that much. The weight, well up on the shoulders, was nothing, and I kept so close behind the guide that I walked in his footsteps. I went on blindly, without thinking much about the path one way or the other; the thing that worried me most was that either Hawtrey or Fortescue might give out, and I could not think what we should do then. They stumbled very often, and I kept expecting to hear a fall. By the pace the guides went at I felt sure that we could carry the women down, and I thought that the warmth of our bodies would keep life in them; but if Hawtrey or Fortescue fell, I did not see what we should do. We could not leave him there to die, and yet to stop would have been death to all of us. Well, here are the mules, and I am not sorry for it.’

It was not until they were on something like level ground that they could quicken the pace of the animals. They were not long before they overtook the porters with the litters, and then, as they could do nothing there, they rode on ahead to see that everything was in readiness for their reception. With the exception of Captain Armstrong none of the party were able to leave their beds next day, but on the following morning Mr. Hawtrey and Mr. Fortescue were both up in time to say good-bye to Lord Halliburn and his friends, who were starting for Martigny. With the girls it was a longer matter. Clara Fortescue was delirious on the morning after their return, and an English doctor staying in the hotel at once pronounced it to be an attack of rheumatic fever; the other two had symptoms of the same malady, but these passed off, and on the fourth day both were able to get up, and on the following day were on sofas in the sitting-room.

‘Well, you have made a nice business of it, young ladies,’ Mr. Singleton said, when he paid them his first visit; ‘this is what comes of mountaineering. You would have done much better to have stopped down here in the valley, instead of pretty nearly frightening us all to death, besides risking your own lives and injuring your health. I am glad to hear that your sister is a little better this morning, Miss Fortescue; the doctor thinks that the worst has passed, though she will still have a troublesome time of it.’

‘I am sorry we frightened you all, Mr. Singleton,’ Dorothy said.

‘Well, Mrs. Fortescue and I had a bad time of it, Dorothy. Of course, we could not quite realise the danger, for down here the sun was shining brightly all the morning. I don’t think Mrs. Fortescue did quite realise it until you arrived, but I knew the guides here would not have been so alarmed unless there had been real danger. I should have come up with the party but I knew that so far from being of the slightest use I should only have been a trouble to them. It was fortunate Halliburn and his two friends happened to be in the hotel; almost everyone else was out, and they took the management of the expedition in their hands, and hurried things up wonderfully. I never liked the man so much before as I did then. It was a tremendous relief when they rode in with Armstrong and brought us the news that you would be here in half an hour, and that although you were exhausted and worn out with the terrible time you had had they hoped that you would be none the worse for it. I think I realised what you had gone through most when your fathers came in, a quarter of an hour after you had been carried up to your rooms. They had to be lifted off their mules, and helped upstairs, where hot baths had been got ready for them, and if two strong, hearty men were so utterly exhausted, one could easily understand what a time you must have gone through.’

‘Yes, but we were carried, Mr. Singleton,’ Ada Fortescue said; ‘I don’t remember much about it, I was so cold and miserable, but I know that once I almost laughed at the thought that I was being carried like a package, on a guide’s back, and what my mother would think of it if she saw me.’

‘What did you feel, Dorothy?’

‘I don’t quite know what I felt,’ she said reluctantly, and with somewhat heightened colour. ‘I know I felt ashamed of myself; I used to think that I was as strong in my way as men are in theirs, and it seemed to me disgraceful that I should have to be carried. Then I could not help thinking, where the road was very steep, and I could hear the guide in front telling Captain Armstrong where he should step, that he might slip, and we should be both killed together. Otherwise, I felt safe, for I could tell that he was walking firmly, and was not feeling my weight too much. I don’t think I lost consciousness at all; my body felt quite warm, but my hands and my feet were as if they were dead. I should not have been at all surprised to find that I had lost them altogether.’

In the afternoon Captain Armstrong was admitted to see the invalids. He at once laughed down Dorothy’s attempt to thank him for having saved her life.

‘I only did for you, Miss Hawtrey, exactly what the guides did for Miss Fortescue and her sister; there is nothing very terrible in carrying a weight when you get it comfortably fixed. Why, the porters in the Andes think nothing of carrying people right over the mountains; it is only a matter of getting weight properly balanced. I saw how the guides did; they knotted the shawls over their caps just above the peak. They carry weights here you know, as they do in most mountain countries, with a strap across the forehead. Coming over the ice I really did feel you heavy, though I had two others to help me with you, but the cold seemed to have taken all one’s strength out of one, and the weight was all on one side; coming down was nothing in comparison. I believe I could have carried you right down to the hotel here with an occasional rest. I was as warm as a toast when we got into the wood. You must not think or say anything more about it; if you do I shall straightway pack up my kit and take my place in the next diligence wherever it may be going to. And now, were you able to walk into this room pretty easily?’

‘We are both very stiff; I felt curiously weak, just as if I had had a long illness, but the doctor says it will soon pass off and that in a week we shall both be walking about again.’

‘I rather think this will change our plans, Armstrong,’ Mr. Hawtrey said; ‘by the time we get back it will be far on in October and wetting damp and cold up in Lincolnshire, and the doctor advises me that it would be better to cross the Alps and spend a few weeks in Northern Italy, so as to set Dorothy completely up and to work the cold out of her system. I have not settled upon it yet, but I think that is probably what we will do. It is of no use running the risk of her getting rheumatism. But at any rate, we shall be here for another week or ten days, by which time I hope Clara Fortescue will have fairly turned the corner.’ And so they lingered on.

In a week the two girls were able to get about again, to enjoy the sunshine in the valley. The hotel was nearly empty now, the season being over. Clara Fortescue was fairly through the fever, though still very weak; it was, however, only a question of time. Captain Armstrong still remained. Dorothy could no longer disguise from herself why he was staying. Up to the day of the expedition up to the Mer de Glace she had refused to admit the idea into her mind. She had before told him distinctly that she could never care for him in the way he wanted, and she had believed he had accepted the decision as final. They were great friends, and he had enjoyed their stay at Martigny just as she had done, and she had observed no difference in his manner to her or her two friends—in fact, if anything, she had thought, and was rather pleased than otherwise, that he was oftener by the side of Ada Fortescue than by her own.

There had been, however, something in his manner during that terrible time that had opened her eyes; something perhaps in the tone of his voice when he cheered her on, or in the clasp of his arm as he aided her father to carry her, that had told her the truth, and when he still lingered on at Chamounix she knew what was coming. What she did not know was what her answer would be. She liked him very much; he had saved her life; she was sure he would do his best to make her happy; and yet she did not feel that she loved him as she thought a woman should love a man who was to be her husband. She had made one mistake and had regretted it bitterly. She had become engaged without feeling that love, and had vowed to herself that never again would she say ‘Yes’ unless her whole heart went with her words. She had had her girlish hero, and for years had thought that no one was like him. Had he come back a little earlier, and had he still remained her ideal, she would never have become engaged to Lord Halliburn.

She had fancied that he was unchanged until a moment when he had failed in the perfect trust she had thought he had placed in her. Now he had gone away for months to America and that dream was over altogether. She had felt his journey as a personal grievance. Of course, after the offence he had given, it made no difference to her; she did not wish to see him; it was unpleasant for both of them. Nevertheless, she was somewhat sore at his acquiescing so readily in her decision that their old relations were entirely a thing of the past. In fact, she was unreasonable, and was vexed with herself for being so. It was annoying to her now that she should think of him at all. He had gone altogether out of her life, and would in a few months be back in India again; but the thought of the breach and its cause brought back again strongly to her the events of the two months previous to her leaving England.

These had been almost forgotten of late, but she acknowledged, as she thought it over, that her position was practically the same as it had been. She was still exposed to the charge of theft, and although it had been arranged that there should be a compromise, yet in the minds of the two tradesmen who had been victimised and of their assistants she was a thief, and although those who knew her best were convinced of her innocence, a whisper of the affair might yet get abroad, and were the facts known she would be generally condemned. Besides, at any moment the system might be recommenced, she might again be branded as a thief, and the tale of the compromise effected in the first cases would add weight to the charge. It was for this reason that she had broken off her engagement with Lord Halliburn, and had then declared to herself that never would she place herself in a similar position until she was absolutely and entirely cleared from all suspicion, and freed from any chance of a repetition of it.

Nothing had occurred to shake that determination. She had no right to enter upon any engagement until she stood above all suspicion. The man himself might trust her blindly, might scoff at the idea of her doing a dishonourable action, but that would not suffice to shield either him or her from the consequences of the charge. What a life would theirs be were she generally believed to be a thief. Society would close its doors against them. A consciousness of her innocence might support them, but the life would be none the less painful and humiliating. Dorothy arrived at this conclusion not without a certain amount of unacknowledged sense of relief. It obviated the necessity for giving a direct answer to the question that was to be asked her. She felt that she could not again say ‘No,’ yet she shrank from saying ‘Yes’; so when, the next day, Captain Armstrong, happening to find her alone, told her that his love was unchanged since he had spoken to her in the spring, except that he loved her more, and asked if she could not give him a different answer to that with which she had sent him away, she said:

‘I am sorry—so sorry, Captain Armstrong. It was a great pain to me to say “No” before, and if I had dreamt when you joined us at Martigny that you still thought of me in that way, I should have told you frankly at once that it were better for us both that you should not stay there; but I thought you had come to regard me as a friend, and it was not until that day on the ice I felt it was not so. It was a great pain to me to say “No” before. I liked you very much then, but, as I told you, not enough for that. I like you even more now; it would be impossible that I could help it when we have been so much together, and you did so much for me that day. I like you so much that if I were free——’ he would have broken in but she checked him by a motion of her hand.

‘I am not otherwise than free in that way,’ she said; ‘I have broken off with Lord Halliburn for good and all, and yet I am not free. Had I been so I do not know what my answer would have been. I don’t think I could have brought myself to say “No”; I feel sure I could hardly have said “Yes.” I think I must have said, “I do not quite know.” I have made one mistake; I must not make another. I like you very much, but I do not think that it is the love that a woman should give to her husband. Give me a little more time to think before I answer you.’

‘I should have been well content, Dorothy; I would have waited as long as you liked; but I don’t understand how it is that you are not free.’

‘You have a right to know. It is because I am disgraced; because as long as this disgrace hangs over me I can never marry.’

‘You mean those ridiculous stories that were in the papers, Dorothy. Do you think that I should care for a moment for such things as those, or that they have brought the slightest taint of disgrace upon you in the minds of those that know you?’

‘That was the beginning of it,’ she said, ‘but there was worse; and it was that made me break off my engagement. I doubt now whether in any case I could have held to it. I had begun to feel I had made a mistake before that came, but even had I not done so it would have been the same. I am accused of theft.’

‘Of theft, Dorothy!’ he repeated in incredulous scorn. ‘You suspected of theft!’

‘And on evidence so strong,’ she went on quietly, ‘that even my father for a moment suspected me, and my dear friend, Mr. Singleton, believed that I had been mixed up in some disgraceful transaction; and others, who I thought knew me well, and would have trusted me, as I know you would have done, believed me guilty—not of theft, but of the previous accusations. There are shopmen in London ready to swear in a court of law that I obtained diamonds and other goods from them, and to-morrow fresh charges may be made, and ere long I may stand in the dock as a thief.’

Captain Armstrong looked at her as if he doubted her sanity.

‘But no one in his senses could think such a thing, Dorothy.’

‘But I have told you that even those who knew me best did, for a moment, think so. Mr. Charles Levine, the lawyer, is a clear-headed man, and yet even he, after hearing all the facts, was convinced of my guilt. I will tell you more—it is fair that I should do so,’ and she gave him the history of the postcards, then of the robbery at the jeweller’s, of Mr. Singleton lending her the money, of the other robbery on the same day, and of Captain Hampton seeing her in conversation on that afternoon with the man they believed to be the author of the postcards.

‘You see,’ she said, ‘that here is the evidence of three or four tradespeople, all of whom know me well by sight, and who recognised my dress as well as my face. Here is the evidence of Mr. Singleton, who has known me from a child, and that of Captain Hampton, who was at the time seeing me every day; and to all this I have but to oppose my own denial, and to declare that I never was at any of the four places that afternoon.’

‘I should believe your word if a thousand swore to the contrary,’ he said passionately.

‘You may now when you have heard all these things,’ she said, ‘but you would not at the time. When the shopkeeper and his assistant told my father that story I could see that his face turned white, and that for a moment he believed that I must have taken these things in order to obtain money to bribe the man whom I had solemnly declared had no letters of mine. When I heard the story told, and that my very dress was recognised, I asked myself if I could have done it unconsciously, in a state of somnambulism or something of that sort. I was absolutely dazed and bewildered. With all your trust in me I am sure you must have been shaken when you heard that story, just as my own father was. Again, when my old and kindest friend, Mr. Singleton, declared that I had come to him sobbing and crying, and begging him to save me from disgrace, and that he had given me a cheque for a thousand pounds, could he be blamed for believing that the girl he knew and loved had been engaged in some scandalous affair? As to Captain Hampton, he believed me absolutely in regard to the letters, but he doubted me afterwards. Try to put yourself in his place. If you had known about this affair of the letters, and you had seen me in an out-of-the-way part of London, engaged in a conversation with the man we were searching for as the author of the postcards, what would you have thought?’ She asked the question a little wistfully.

‘I can’t say,’ he said honestly. ‘I suppose just for a moment I must have thought you had really got into some serious sort of scrape. I don’t see how I could have helped it. I am sure I should never have thought you had done anything really wrong.’

‘But in that case I should have been a liar.’

‘I don’t suppose I should have thought of that at the time, Dorothy. When I came to think it all over I should have said it was impossible, and should have doubted my own senses; but the robbery I never could have believed in, if a hundred shopkeepers had sworn to it. But what does it all really mean? There must be some explanation of it all.’

‘The only explanation we can arrive at,’ she replied, ‘is that there is some other woman so like me that she can pass for me when dressed up in clothes like my own.’

‘Of course, of course. What a fool I was not to think of that.’

‘Yes, Captain Armstrong, you accept it, just as my father and Mr. Singleton accept it, because you and they would accept anything rather than believe me guilty; but would anyone else believe it if I went into court, and this mass of evidence was brought against me? What would my bare denial weigh against it? Would the suggestion of my counsel that the theft had been committed by some other woman, so like me that even those who knew me best had been deceived, unsupported as it would be by even a shadow of evidence, be accepted for an instant? You know well enough that the jury would return a verdict against me without a moment’s hesitation, and that all the world, save some half-a-dozen people, would believe me guilty.

‘At present, the police all over England are endeavouring to find proofs of the existence of my double. A notice has been sent to every country in Europe. This has been going on ever since we left England, and, so far, without the slightest success. After having been so successful it is hardly likely that the thing will not be attempted again, and in that case it must come before the public. It will be terrible to bear the disgrace alone, but it would be ten times more so did it involve another in my disgrace. Do not pain me by saying more, Captain Armstrong,’ and she laid her hand on his arm as he was about to speak, ‘nothing could induce me to change my determination. If at any time this dreadful mystery is cleared up, should you come to me again, I will give you an honest answer. I do not say it will be “Yes.” It must be as my heart will decide then. At present my hope is that you will not wait for that: the matter may never be cleared up. I believe, myself, that it never will be, and I would far rather know that you were married to some woman who would make you as happy as you deserve, than that you were wasting your life on me, and that even should I be cleared I might not be able to give you the answer you want.’

‘I will wait for a time, at any rate, Dorothy,’ he said quietly; ‘but I will not say more now. You are very good to have spoken so frankly to me. I ought not to have allowed you to talk so much. I can see that it has been almost too great a strain for you. I think that I had better leave to-morrow morning.’

‘I think it will be best,’ she said; ‘but promise me, Captain Armstrong, that in any case we shall always be good friends. You may think little of the act of saving my life, but I shall never forget it. You promised me before that I should find no change in your manner, and you kept your word well.’

‘I promise you again, Dorothy,’ he said, raising her hand to his lips, ‘if I am never to regard you in a closer light, I shall always think of you as my dearest friend.’

‘And I shall rejoice in your happiness as a sister might do, Captain Armstrong;’ and in a minute he was gone, and Dorothy, sitting down, indulged in a long cry. She did not attempt to analyse her feelings; she was not sure whether she was glad or sorry, whether she had virtually refused him or not; she was certainly relieved that she had not been obliged to make up her mind to give an answer from which there would have been no drawing back. Half an hour later her father came in.

‘The carriage will be at the door in ten minutes, my dear. You are looking pale, child; are you not feeling so well?’

‘I have rather a headache. I think instead of going for a drive I will lie down until dinner-time.’

She came down looking herself again. She knew that Captain Armstrong’s intention of leaving the next morning would excite a certain amount of surprise, and that it possibly might be suspected that she was not unconnected with his departure. Certainly Ada Fortescue would have her suspicions, for during the last two or three days she had thrown out some little hints that showed that she was not blind as to his intentions. She was relieved to find as she sat down that the party were in ignorance of his approaching departure. It was not until the meal was nearly finished that Captain Armstrong said suddenly:

‘I have been putting off tearing myself away from day to day, but my leave is up, and I am afraid I cannot possibly delay any longer. It goes awfully against the grain, but there is no help for it, and I have been to the office this afternoon and booked my place for Geneva to-morrow morning.’

There was a general chorus of regret.

‘I mustn’t grumble,’ he said laughingly. ‘I have had a very pleasant time indeed, though I have not gone in as I had intended for mountaineering. I think my one mild attempt that way has a good deal quenched my ardour. I ought to have gone ten days ago, but I did not like to do so until Miss Fortescue was up and fairly on the way to recover her strength. I am glad to have had the pleasure of seeing her to-day. That has, however, knocked from under me my last excuse for remaining here any longer. I shall get a severe wigging as it is for exceeding my leave. Of course, I have written, making various excuses, but it won’t do any longer, and I shall have to travel right through without a stay. I hope, Mrs. Fortescue, that I shall meet you all in London in a few weeks’ time, and find your daughter quite herself again. I suppose, Mr. Hawtrey, I shall have to look forward to the beginning of the season before I see you and Miss Hawtrey?’

‘I think it likely we shall not be in town until May,’ Mr. Hawtrey replied. ‘We shall probably work down so as to be at Rome at Easter, and shall have a month or two of quiet at home before we come up to town; still that must depend on circumstances. If you can get a few days’ leave later on, I should be very pleased if you could run down to my place for a week’s shooting. There has not been a gun fired there this season; take a couple of men down with you if you like. I will write to my housekeeper and the gamekeeper, saying that you are to be looked after just the same as if we were at home, and all you will have to do will be to send her a note, saying that you are coming, a couple of days beforehand. Her name is Brodrick—make a note of that in your pocket-book.’

‘Thank you, I shall enjoy it very much if I can get away. I have my doubts whether I shall be able to; but if I can, I will certainly avail myself of your offer.’

‘So it was “no,” Dorothy,’ Ada Fortescue whispered as they went upstairs together that night. ‘I knew that by his face this afternoon; he tried to talk and laugh as usual, but I could see things had gone badly with him. You need not tell me if you don’t like,’ she went on, as Dorothy gave no answer. ‘It is not a difficult riddle to guess for oneself.’

‘I will tell you, but it must be quite to yourself, Ada; there were certain reasons why I could give him no answer at all. No, you don’t understand it,’ she went on, in answer to Ada’s look of surprise. ‘I don’t suppose you ever will, but there are circumstances that render it impossible for me to give him an answer, and as far as I can see there is not likely to be any alteration in those circumstances; so please do not say anything more about it. He himself sees that I could not act differently, and I think most likely that the question will never be asked again. Perhaps some day or other I may tell you about it. We have got to be real friends now, and when you do hear you will acknowledge that I have done right. Good-night now; I am so glad to think that Clara is to be down to breakfast again in the morning.’

This was not the only conversation on the subject. Mr. Singleton, contrary to his usual custom, sat up until all but Mr. Hawtrey bad retired.

‘That has been a bit of a surprise, Hawtrey. There is no doubt that he has proposed, and that she has not accepted him, as I had quite made up my mind she would do.’

‘Do you think so? The idea had not occurred to me. They both seemed just the same as usual.’

‘You are as blind as a bat, Hawtrey. Didn’t she stay at home with a headache this afternoon? and isn’t he going away suddenly to-morrow? It does not require the smallest degree of penetration to discover what that means. It is a relief to me—a great relief; but I am afraid it is only a postponement. She has refused to accept him on the same grounds that she broke off her engagement to the other man. Now I think it over I see it is about the only thing she could have done. It would not have been right to have become engaged as long as this thing is hanging over her. It is all very well for you and I to feel that we are going to compromise the matter comfortably; but there it is still, and may break out afresh again at any moment. She has shaken it off a bit since we came away, but it must be on her mind, and I expect she frankly told Armstrong why she could give him no answer at present. Still, I am afraid it will come to the same thing in the long run.’

Mr. Hawtrey wisely held his tongue. He himself would have been in every way content with Captain Armstrong as a son-in-law, but as he had no wish to irritate his friend, he abstained from going farther into the subject.

Chapter XVIII • 3,000 Words

Mr. Singleton had gone out for a stroll after breakfast with Dorothy and Ada Fortescue. Mrs. Fortescue was with Clara, who had come down to breakfast for the first time and was now lying down for a bit as a preparation for going for a short drive later on. Mr. Hawtrey was smoking a cigar in front of the hotel with Mr. Fortescue, intending to follow the girls and Mr. Singleton after the post came in. After half an hour’s waiting the bag for the hotel was brought in.

‘They are principally yours, Fortescue,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, as the clerk sorted them over. ‘The inquiries after Clara’s health must have materially benefited the postal revenue. As you are not coming I will put those four for Ada in my pocket. There is nothing for either of the others, and only one for me. I know what its contents are without opening it.’

Putting the five letters into his pocket, he strolled down the village. He knew exactly where he should find the others, as they almost always took their seat in a nook sheltered completely from the wind and exposed to the full rays of the sun.

‘I suppose I had better look at the letter,’ he said to himself. ‘I would rather Danvers did not write so often. Dorothy looks up inquiringly whenever the post comes in, and I would rather say “No letter to-day,” than to have to say, “There is a letter from Danvers, Dorothy, but he sends no news whatever.” It comes to the same thing, no doubt, but no letter might mean that they had got some little clue and meant following it up. At any rate, she does not look so disappointed as when I tell her that there is a letter with nothing in it.’

‘Hulloa!’ he exclaimed, as he opened it, ‘this is a much more lengthy epistle.’ The first line or two were sufficient to cause him to burst into something like a shout of joy. They ran:—’I am delighted to be able to give you the good news that the existence and whereabouts of the man and the counterfeit of Miss Hawtrey have been ascertained without a doubt. Hampton was right when he considered they would probably have made off to the United States directly they had secured their plunder. I received a letter from him this morning. Unfortunately I have been away shooting for a week, and it has been lying unopened since the day I left.’ Then followed a copy of Captain Hampton’s letter, together with copies of the various affidavits.

‘These prove practically all we require. I have been round with them to Charles Levine. He is very much gratified, and says that he considers this testimony should be ample to enable us to defend any action on the part of Gilliat. He thinks the best plan will be to place Captain Hampton’s letter and the depositions before Gilliat and say that we are prepared to defend the action and to bring over all these people as witnesses. Of course, it would be more satisfactory to have the adventuress and her accomplice in the dock or to produce their written confession. Such is evidently Hampton’s opinion also. You see he has started for New Orleans and says he shall follow them if he has to cross the continent. This, however, I have not copied, as he has put that on a separate piece of paper and marked it private and confidential. From something he said to me the day before he started I imagine he has for some reason or other an objection to Miss Hawtrey’s knowing that he is working on her behalf.

‘You see, in the early part of the letter, which he thought would be sent to you, and doubtless shown to her, he treats the discovery he has made as a purely accidental matter, although he told me that he intended to make it his sole business to hunt them down, if it took him six months to do so. However, when he wrote he was certainly on the point of starting for New Orleans, and I own that I consider his undertaking to be a somewhat perilous one. This fellow must be a thorough-paced ruffian, and he will find no difficulty in getting together any number of reckless men who would, if they found he was in danger of arrest, hesitate at nothing. Of course, if he goes farther west his errand will be still more difficult. Hampton is so thoroughly good a fellow that I should feel grieved indeed did anything befall him.’

Mr. Hawtrey thrust the letter and enclosure into his pocket and hurried on; he hesitated for a moment, as he remembered that Ada Fortescue was with his daughter, but he said to himself, ‘She is a good girl and a great friend of Dorothy’s; we can trust her to hold her tongue—besides, we need not go much into the past.’

‘Why, you’ve been running, father?’

‘No, my dear, no; but I am a little excited over a letter I have just received. It is a family matter, Ada, but I know Dorothy will not wish you to go away, for I am sure we can trust you with our little secret.’

‘Have you news, father?’ Dorothy asked, springing to her feet. ‘News about that?’

‘Yes, dear; but first I must tell your friend that some tradesmen have been robbed by a person so strongly resembling you that she deceived even those that knew you well. The matter was so serious that we have had a number of detectives searching for this woman, as only by her being found could we prove that the orders for these goods were not given by you. Having told her that much I can go on with my news.

‘They have been found, Dorothy. Thank God they have been found!’

The girl threw her arms round her father’s neck and burst into a passion of tears. Hitherto she had had nothing but her consciousness of innocence to support her. Until the suggestion had been made by Captain Hampton that some one had impersonated her, she had been in a state of complete bewilderment, and even this hypothesis seemed to her to be improbable in the extreme. Still as her father and Mr. Singleton had accepted it, she, too, had clung to it, but with less real hope than they had entertained, that it might prove to be true.

As the weeks had passed by without any shadow of proof that such a person existed being forthcoming, she had more than once told herself that she would have to pass all her life with this dark cloud over her. A few close friends might believe in her, but when the story was whispered about, as sooner or later it would be sure to be, everyone else would hold aloof from her. She had been feeling that morning in lower spirits than usual. Captain Armstrong had left early, and she was deeply sorry for him, more sorry for him than for herself. She had slept but little that night, and had come to the conclusion that were this weight ever removed and were he ever to ask her again, her life would be a happy one with him, even though she did not feel for him more than a very real liking. The sudden announcement of a fact she herself had begun to doubt, for a time completely upset her, and her father at last said, ‘I will leave you here for a few minutes with your friend, Dorothy, and will stroll away with Singleton. By the time we return you will be able to listen calmly to the story.’

When they had gone a short distance away from the girls, he placed the copies of the letters and depositions in Mr. Singleton’s hands.

‘Hampton!’ the latter exclaimed, as soon as he glanced over the first line or two; ‘I am glad indeed. Let us sit down on that rock over there; the news is too pleasant to be lost by not being able to read it distinctly.’

‘Well, Hawtrey, I congratulate you,’ he said, when he had finished. ‘Those letters are sufficient to prove to any unprejudiced person that Dorothy has been perfectly innocent throughout the whole business. It is a pity the birds had flown before Hampton arrived there. Even putting everything else aside, I would have given something to see that woman who humbugged me so completely. What will our young lady say now when she hears that it is Hampton who has thus cleared her? By the way, he writes as if it were a mere accident, his having discovered them.’

‘I fancy he writes in that style because he has no doubt that she will see the letter. There is the letter Danvers sent me with the enclosure. Hampton seems to be just as obstinate about the matter as Dorothy is.’

Mr. Singleton read the letter with many grunts of disapprobation.

‘Why couldn’t he be satisfied with what he has done?’ he exclaimed, when he had finished the letter. ‘He had got enough evidence to satisfy any reasonable people; now he must needs go chasing them all over America, and as likely as not get shot for his pains. Why didn’t he write over and ask whether that was not sufficient?’

‘Because if he had done so, Singleton, he might never have been able to pick up the clue again. The evidence he has got may not be absolutely conclusive, but undoubtedly it will be very valuable. These affidavits prove conclusively that there was on a certain day a woman staying in a New York Hotel who was so like Dorothy that my daughter’s portrait was believed by several people who had seen the woman to be hers. It could also be proved that she and the man with her had just come from Hamburg. But you see it does not in any way connect this woman with the robbery. There is the weak point of the business. The evidence is enough, as you say, to convince reasonable people; but as these shopmen are all ready to swear to Dorothy, the fact that we have found a woman exactly like her, but whom we cannot produce, is scarcely a satisfactory proof from a legal point of view that she is innocent. However, we can talk that over presently; we had better join the others; Dorothy will be wanting to hear the news. Be careful what you say; we may both think that Ned Hampton’s views are foolish, but we are bound to respect them.’

Mr. Singleton made no reply, and mentally resolved that if it were necessary he would speak about it, whether or no.

‘I am not going to see the young fool throw away his chances like that,’ he said to himself; ‘he does not know what has been going on here—that Dorothy has been within an ace of accepting some one else. All this foolery of his shows that he really cares for her. If he had not done so he would simply have laughed at her nonsense.’

They met the girls coming towards them.

‘You have been an unconscionable time, father, I am burning with impatience to know how it has all come about.’

‘Those papers will tell you, Dorothy. One is an extract from a letter written to Mr. Danvers by Ned Hampton, the others are copies of affidavits sworn in New York.’

Dorothy changed colour. She had been thinking of her former friend that night, and had very reluctantly come to the conclusion that she had been unduly hard upon him. She had asked Captain Armstrong what he would have thought had he seen her as Ned Hampton had supposed that he had done, and in spite of his love for her and his absolute confidence in her word, Captain Armstrong had admitted that he should at first have come to exactly the same conclusion—namely, that she had got into a scrape.

She had not felt either hurt or angry when he admitted this. Why, then, should she have been both in the case of her old playfellow? The question was altogether an unwelcome one, and she had dismissed it as speedily as possible, but the name coming upon her now so suddenly and unexpectedly had almost startled her. In some anger against herself for the involuntary flush, she took the papers and prepared to read them much more deliberately than she would otherwise have done.

However, her eyes ran over the lines more rapidly as she read on, and when she finished she exclaimed—

‘What a wonderful piece of good fortune! It seems quite providential that Captain Hampton should have taken a fancy to go out to America, and should have inquired when he went through New York if this man and woman had lately arrived. He seems to have managed wonderfully well; it was lucky he got such a clever detective as the person he speaks of. Really, father, I feel very grateful to him.’

‘So I think you ought to,’ Mr. Hawtrey said somewhat sharply, ‘considering that he has done what all the detectives in London have failed to do, even aided by the police all over the Continent, and has gone a long way towards lifting a cloud, which, if it had not been for him, would have darkened your whole life.’

‘I quite feel that, father; I have been thinking that over while you have been away, and have told Ada that no words can express what a relief it is to me. Of course, I am very, very grateful to Captain Hampton; it was very good of him, indeed, to think of me, and to take such trouble about me. What shall we have to do next?’

‘That must depend upon what the lawyers say, Dorothy; I almost wish that we had been going back to London, so as to talk it over with them personally.’

‘Why shouldn’t we go, father? I am feeling quite well again now, and am wanting very much to be home again. I would infinitely rather do that than go to Italy. The Fortescues are talking of starting in a couple of days, why should we not all go back together?’

‘I will think it over, my dear. Now, I think you had better be getting back to the hotel; the sun has gone in and the clouds are half-way down the mountains. I think that we are going to have another snowstorm, so you and Ada had better hurry. You have had experience of the suddenness with which storms come on here.’

‘I suppose this was why you would give no answer yesterday?’ Ada Fortescue said, as the two girls walked briskly back toward Chamounix, followed more leisurely by Mr. Hawtrey and his friend.

‘Yes, partly, Ada.’

‘What a pity the news did not come a day sooner.’

‘I don’t know, Ada, I really had not made up my mind. You see, all along I have been feeling that I could never get engaged again, and so I had an answer ready, and had not thought it over as I should have done otherwise. There is a snowflake. Do let us hurry, so as to be in before it begins in earnest.’

Ada did not see the snowflake, but she saw that her companion wanted to change the subject, and nothing more was said till they reached the hotel, just as the snow was really beginning to fall.

Dorothy remained for some time in her room. She was dissatisfied with herself for not feeling more elated at the discovery that had been made. It was everything to her, she told herself; the greatest event of her life; and yet, after the first burst of joy, it had not made her as happy as it should have done.

It was tiresome that it should have been made by Captain Hampton. She had requested him not to interfere farther in her affairs. He had done so, and with success.

Certainly she would much rather that this woman had been discovered by some one else. But this was not all. If the news had come a day earlier she supposed that she should have accepted Captain Armstrong, and there would have been an end of it. She had promised that she would let him know if this was ever cleared up. Now, in honour she ought to write to him. Anyhow, there was no occasion for that to-day. He had only left that morning; it would look ridiculous were he to get her letter the day he arrived in town. If they were going back she could wait until they were in England. It would be a difficult letter to write, most difficult; and she sat down for a time thinking, and ended by being as unjustly angry with Captain Armstrong as she had been with Ned Hampton.

‘I believe I am getting quite idiotic,’ she said, getting up impatiently. ‘I shall begin to think that storm on the glacier has affected my brain. When I ought to be the happiest girl possible, here I am discontented with everything.’

The result of the conversation between Mr. Hawtrey and his friend was that at luncheon the former announced that a letter that he had received that morning told him his presence was required in London, and as Dorothy was so much better, he should give up the idea of a visit to Italy, and should go home with her at once.

‘Let us all go together,’ Clara said. ‘I am sure that I am strong enough to travel, and I do so long to be home.’

As it was agreed that a couple of days could make no difference to her, orders were at once given for the carriages to be ready the next morning, and at an early hour they started on their way down to Geneva.

Chapter XIX • 6,300 Words

Mr. Hawtrey made but a few hours’ stay in London, Dorothy urging her father to leave at once for home. He would have preferred stopping for a day or two to confer with Mr. Charles Levine, and to get the matter with the jeweller settled before he went North, but Dorothy pressed the point so much that he gave way.

‘What is the use, father,’ she urged, ‘of employing people to do your law business and then doing it yourself? I should think when Gilliat sees a copy of those papers Mr. Danvers sent us, he will be convinced that he has been wrong all through, but even if he isn’t, you could not argue the matter with him. Mr. Levine could say a great deal more than you could. I quite understand, from what you told me, that there is really nothing to connect this woman with the theft; still, anyone could see that it would be more likely that she should do it than I should.’

‘Except this, Dorothy—that you were in London at the time, and there is no proof that she was; and that these people all swear it was you, while the most that we can prove is that there is in existence some one who is wonderfully like you. It is an immense satisfaction to us to have got as far as we have. We have, at any rate, a strong defence, and the story will at least satisfy all who know you. Still, Singleton agrees with me that a jury would hardly be satisfied, and that the verdict would probably be against us.

‘I don’t expect the jeweller to give up his claim. I don’t think it would be reasonable to expect it. The man has been robbed of valuable goods, and he and his two assistants were absolutely convinced that it was you who took them. There were reports about that you were being pressed for money; and our defence that a woman, so like you that your portrait was taken for hers, crossed from Hamburg to New York a week after the robbery, cannot be taken as conclusive that it was this woman and not you who was at the jeweller’s shop. My greatest comfort in the matter is at present that this woman is at the other side of the Atlantic, and I am quite prepared to meet the jeweller half-way and share the loss with him if Levine does not think that in case this woman does return, as it is almost certain she will do, and attempts similar frauds, my having compromised the matter would weaken our position.’

‘I see all that, father, but I don’t see why you should not write about it to Mr. Levine, instead of going into it with him personally. He is sure to want you to stay in town, and then there is no saying how long we might be kept. You will be up in town again in the spring.’

‘Very well, Dorothy, we will start to-morrow morning. If Levine thinks it is absolutely necessary he should see me I must run up again. The train takes us so far towards home now that it is only eighteen hours’ travelling, and I must own that I shall be heartily glad to be at home again. We have been away more than eight months, which is longer than I can remember having been from home all my life.’

Mr. Singleton was glad when his friend told him that they would travel down together.

‘I would rather have stayed a couple of days, Singleton, but Dorothy has set her mind upon starting at once.’

‘I don’t wonder at that; she has had a rough time of it altogether, and must long for the quiet of home; besides, as you know, my theory is that she refused to give any decided answer to Armstrong because of this business. I should not be at all surprised if she is afraid he might get to know she is in town and might call to see her, and she wants to have time to think it over quietly before she has to give him a decided answer one way or the other.’

‘But you thought she would accept him, Singleton; you told me you had quite made up your mind that she would do so.’

‘Yes, I am almost sure that if it had not been for the affair of the diamonds she would have done so any time during that last fortnight at Chamounix; but, you see, she was under the spell of the place then, and of the adventure on the glacier. She considered he had saved her life, and no doubt he did, though I do not say the guides might not have managed it somehow if left to themselves; still, we may put it that he saved her. Of course that went for a great deal with her; before that I don’t think she thought about it. I watched her closely, and there was really no difference in her manner to him and to Fitzwarren. She looked upon them both simply as pleasant companions. I saw the change directly afterwards. Then there is no denying he is a very good fellow in all respects, and likely to take with ninety-nine girls out of a hundred, so that I have no doubt she would have accepted him if it had not been for this other business. Now, of course, she has been away from him a week. The jewel business has to a great extent been cleared up. At any rate, there is an explanation consistent with her innocence, which there was not before, and she is therefore face to face with the question—shall she accept Armstrong? She wants to think it over, and does not want to be pressed; therefore, she is in a fever to get away down into the country, before he can know that she has come back. I believe it will come to the same thing. Perhaps she told him she would take him if she felt free to do so. At any rate, Hampton has put himself out of the running by his own folly, and I have nothing more to say on the matter. However, I am glad we are all going back together.’

Accordingly the next morning they started by train, slept at Nottingham that night, and then posted the remaining sixty miles.

Mr. Hawtrey saw with satisfaction that as soon as Dorothy took up her own life again, her spirits, which had been very uneven since she left Switzerland, began to return. There was much to occupy her—all her pensioners in the village to visit, hours to be spent with the head gardener in the greenhouses and conservatories, walks to be taken with the dogs, and the horses to be visited and petted. Into all this she threw herself with her whole energy. Her father had written a long letter to Danvers on the morning after his return; ten days later the reply came.

‘My dear sir,—I have bad news to give you. I have been away on the Continent for a fortnight, and only received your letter this morning, and at the same time, one from Hampton. It was a long chatty letter, giving me an amusing account of his voyage to New Orleans. It was written a few hours after he landed there, and he said that he was writing because the mail went out next day, and he should keep it open in case he had any news to send me. It is finished by some one else. Where Ned left off are a few scrambling misspelt words, so badly written that I had the greatest difficulty in making them out. I transcribe them as sent.’

‘Sir,—This hear is to tel you has the Captin as got a-stabed by a niggur last nite, he his very bad but the docters thinks he will git hover it.—Jacob.’

‘What is it, father?’ Dorothy asked, as he uttered an exclamation of regret.

‘It is from Danvers, my dear. He writes to tell me that he hears that Ned Hampton has been badly hurt—stabbed, it seems, by some negro.’

Dorothy turned very pale, and set down the teapot hastily.

‘He is not killed, father?’

‘No; the person who writes says he is very bad, but the doctors think he will get over it. Nothing more is known about it, he says. Hampton wrote him a long, chatty letter, which he left unfinished, as the post was not going out until next day. It was finished by some one else—a few misspelt words’—and he read Jacob’s addition.

‘Here is a bit more. “As Hampton told me before he started that he had taken a boy with him, as a sort of servant, I have just been to his old lodgings in Jermyn Street, and find that the lad’s name was Jacob. It is a satisfaction to know that Hampton has some one with him who is attached to him, even if only a boy, as I have no doubt this lad is, for Hampton almost picked him off the street. I will let you know as soon as I hear again.”‘

‘This is a very bad business, Dorothy.’

‘Very bad, father. I am indeed sorry. How could he have got into a quarrel with a negro?’

‘That is more than I can tell, dear. I would give a great deal if this hadn’t happened. I have an immense liking for the young fellow. I was fond of him as a boy and he has grown up just as I thought he would—a man one can rely upon in every emergency—clear-headed, sensible, without a shadow of nonsense about him, and as true as steel. There, I can eat no more breakfast,’ and he pushed his plate from him and rising hastily left the room. Dorothy went about the house with a pale face all day. Her father rode off directly after breakfast to carry the news to Singleton who was greatly distressed thereat.

‘Did you tell Dorothy that it was at New Orleans?’ he asked presently.

‘No, I did not mention the place. I thought it was as well to wait until we got another letter. Of course she knew from those affidavits that the man and woman had gone down there.’

‘I would have told her,’ Mr. Singleton said. ‘Ned begged us to say nothing about it, and though I did not give any specific promise, I have held my tongue thus far, though I have been strongly inclined to tell her a dozen times; but there is no reason why she should not know it was New Orleans. If she likes to put two and two together, she can. I wonder whether this attack on him had anything to do with our affair.’

‘That is what I was thinking as I rode over, Singleton. I don’t see how it could have done so. You see he had only just arrived there—but there is no saying; the boy distinctly says it was a nigger, and it may only have been an attempt at robbery. I suppose the letter was written in the evening. If the boat had come in early he would have set about making inquiries at once, but as he was evidently leaving it until the next day, I take it he must have written after dinner and then gone out for a stroll and perhaps got stabbed by some vagabond or other for the sake of his watch.’

‘How did Dorothy take it?’

‘She seemed very sorry; but, in fact, I did not notice much. I was regularly upset, and got out of the room as soon as I could, for if I had talked about it I should have broken down. Poor lad, to think of his having gone through half-a-dozen desperate fights in India and then to be stabbed by a negro thief at New Orleans.’

‘Evidently the boy thought there was some hope,’ Mr. Singleton said; ‘so we must trust that the next letter will bring better news. I cannot bring myself to believe that we are going to lose Ned Hampton in this way.’

The days passed quietly. Dorothy had put off writing to Captain Armstrong, telling herself that there was no hurry, for although, if he met the Fortescues, he might learn she had returned to England, he would not know that any change had occurred in reference to the matter of which she had spoken to him. She had asked her father on the evening on which the letter came to let her read it, and although she had said nothing on the subject had not failed to notice that it was at New Orleans he had been wounded. She knew enough of America to be aware that he could not have gone there on his way to the districts where he might be going to shoot game, and she wondered whether he had really gone down there in order to find out something more about this woman.

It was very good of him if he had done so, and had put aside his own plans for the purpose. She had lately been thinking of him with a good deal of contrition. He had really taken a great deal of pains to try and find this man, and that after she had been so angry with him he should have pursued his inquiries in New York, had given her a sharp pang, and had opened her eyes still more widely to the injustice with which she had treated him. He had only spent a day over it; but still, it had showed that her affairs still occupied his mind; but if he had really given up his plans in order to follow these people down to New Orleans, it was a real sacrifice, and one that she felt she had not deserved.

She did not admit to herself that this had anything whatever to do with the delay in writing to Captain Armstrong, any more than she had admitted that she had been prevented from writing at once from Chamounix by any thought of Ned. She did acknowledge to herself that if Ned Hampton was to die of this wound, which he never would have received had he not gone down to New Orleans on her business, it would be a matter of deep regret to her all her life. She shrank from speaking of him, and the subject was never alluded to, unless her father or Mr. Singleton spoke of it, which they always did when the latter came over, and she then seldom joined in the conversation.

It was nearly a month later when Mr. Hawtrey one morning found among his letters one from Danvers. Three or four letters had passed between them. Mr. Levine had seen the jeweller, who, although admitting that the evidence of the existence of another person who strongly resembled Miss Hawtrey was remarkable, pointed out the absence of any proof whatever that this person had even been in London at the time the diamonds were taken away, and declaring that his own impressions remained unchanged. At the same time, he was perfectly ready to let the matter remain open for a year or more if necessary, and would, indeed, much rather do so than accept any offer for part payment or even for entire payment from Mr. Hawtrey.

It seemed highly probable that proof would by that time be obtained that might clear the matter up entirely. If he had been the subject of an extraordinarily clever fraud he was willing to submit to the entire loss, and would, indeed, hail with satisfaction any evidence that would convince him that he and his assistants had been deceived, and would thus entirely clear away the unjust suspicion that he could not otherwise but feel of a young lady who was the daughter of an old and valued customer of the firm.

‘The man speaks fairly enough, I must confess,’ Danvers had written; ‘he is evidently absolutely convinced that he and his assistants cannot have made a mistake as to the lady who visited them. He was, of course, much struck at the depositions from New York, but remarked that people are liable to be deceived by photographs, that it is one thing to see a likeness, perhaps accidental, between a photograph and a living person, but another altogether to mistake a living person you know well for another. He is evidently greatly disturbed and troubled over the affair. He said over and over again, “I would infinitely rather lose the money and that Miss Hawtrey should be cleared; but, upon the other hand, I cannot give way without evidence that will absolutely convince me that my senses have been deceived in so extraordinary a manner.”‘

Mr. Hawtrey, then, expected no news of any importance from Danvers as to his affairs, but it was possible the letter might contain some later intelligence from New Orleans. It was nearly a month since they had heard, and in a case like this no news is very far from being good news; he opened it, therefore, with great reluctance, the more so that the letter was lying at the top of the others, and he saw by the anxiety with which Dorothy was watching him that she had at once recognised the handwriting. As his eye fell upon the contents he uttered an exclamation of thankfulness.

‘It is from Ned himself,’ Mr. Hawtrey said. ‘Thank God for that!’

Dorothy repeated the exclamation of thankfulness in a low tone; her hands moved unsteadily among the tea-things in front of her and then she suddenly burst into tears.

Her father went round to her. ‘There, there, my child,’ he said, putting his hand on her shoulder, ‘do not distress yourself. I know that you must have been as anxious as I have for the last month, as to the fate of your old friend, though you have chosen to keep it to yourself. I know that you must have felt it even more from having treated him unjustly before he went away.’

‘I shall be better directly, father; it is very silly.’

‘It is not silly at all, Dorothy,’ he said, as he went back to his seat; ‘it is only natural that you should have been anxious when you knew a friend was lying dangerously wounded, and that you should be upset now that you hear of his recovery. I will glance through the letter and tell you what he says.’

Danvers had written but a few lines with the letter.

‘My dear Mr. Hawtrey,—I enclose Hampton’s letter, which speaks for itself. I think that his conjecture as to the author of the attempt on his life is likely to be correct, and much as I should be glad to hear that your daughter was finally and satisfactorily cleared from these charges, I cannot but regret that Hampton should have undertaken so dangerous a business as that upon which he has embarked. I think it better to send you his letter, especially as we are not likely to hear again from him for a long time.’

Ned Hampton’s letter commenced with an expression of regret that his friend should have been unduly alarmed about him by his boy having sent off the letter with an addition of his own. ‘Of course he meant well, but it was a pity he did it. The wound was a severe one and no doubt I had a very narrow escape of my life. I was rising from my seat as the fellow struck at me from behind. That movement saved my life, for the bowie knife—a formidable weapon in use here—went down to the handle between my shoulder-bone and my ribs. That is, I take it, the plain English of the surgeon’s technical explanation. The boy did his best, and sprang at the negro as I fell, and got a blow on the top of his head with the handle of the knife. It stunned him and made a nasty scalp wound, and would probably have killed him if it had not glanced off. The scoundrel only got a few dollars, for I had fortunately emptied my pockets of valuables before leaving the hotel.’

The writer then went on to state that he had discovered that the people they were in search of ‘had left their hotel suddenly half an hour after I had landed. They had taken a passage up the river, and there seemed no reason for their sudden departure. Putting that and the attack together I can’t help thinking that there must be some connection between them. The attack alone might have been accounted for. It is a lawless sort of place, and seating myself as I did on the deserted wharf, any ruffian who noticed me might have considered me a likely victim, just as he might have in any city of Europe; but the fact of these people leaving so suddenly rather alters the case, and I cannot help thinking that Truscott must have been among the crowd on the wharf when the steamer went in, and that he recognised me.

‘He may have noticed me with the Hawtreys at the Oaks, or I may have been pointed out to him that day I saw him and followed him; he may have been watching the house in Chester Square, and have seen me come out; he may have noticed me walking with Mr. Hawtrey. If he did recognise me it would account for his sudden departure; and as I find that he had an intimate acquaintance in New Orleans, he may have left him to take steps to effectually prevent further pursuit. They are bound, as I found out by the outfit they bought here, for California; they go up the Missouri to Omaha, and start from there in a waggon across the plains. What they intend to do there I cannot, of course, say; the only clue I have is that the police have discovered for me that the man they went about with, whose name was Murdoch, was the keeper of a low saloon here, frequented by sailors and a low class of gamblers. He sold his place three or four days before he started, and has gone up with them. His name is on the list of passengers, so it may be that they are going to open a gambling place at one of the mining camps.

‘I am going after them. I am still weak, and my shoulder—fortunately it is the left—sometimes hurts me consumedly. It is, of course, still in bandages, but it will take nearly three weeks to Omaha, for the steamer stops at all sorts of wayside stations, so I shall be quite fit by the time I get up there. I have bought three horses, one for my own riding and two to draw a light cart with our provender. The boy will drive it. I am not going to be beaten by this fellow, and sooner or later I will bring him and his accomplice to book, and clear this matter up to the bottom. Don’t be uneasy about me; I have had a pretty sharp lesson, and shall not be caught napping again.

‘I shall begin to let all the hair grow on my face from the day I leave, and shall have plenty of time to raise a big crop before I meet them again; and as he can have had but a casual look at me there can be no chance of his recognising me, got up in a regular miner’s outfit, which I understand to be a dirty red shirt, rough trousers, and high boots. I have written to the Horse Guards for extension of leave, and, as I told you in my last, shall, if I am pushed for time in the end, make my way across the Pacific to India without returning. Of one thing I am determined. Dorothy Hawtrey shall be completely cleared, even if it takes so long that I have to send my papers in and sell out.

‘Of course, when you write, you will merely say that I have gone West, and let it be supposed that I am after buffalo. I will write whenever I get a chance. You might send me a line two or three months after you get this, directed to me, Post Office, Sacramento, telling me how things are going on, and how the Hawtreys are. Say anything you like from me. I do hope they have not heard about my having been hurt.’

In a postscript was added: ‘If anyone has stepped into Halliburn’s shoes, don’t fail to mention it. It will hurt, of course, but I knew my chances were at an end from the moment she found out that I had doubted her.’

‘It is a long letter, father,’ Dorothy said, as he laid it down beside him and turned to his neglected breakfast.

‘Yes, it is rather a long letter,’ he said absently.

‘Was he badly hurt?’ she asked, seeing that he did not seem as if he was going to say more.

‘Hurt?’ he repeated, as if he had almost forgotten the circumstance, and then, rousing himself, went on: ‘Yes, he had a very narrow escape of his life. It seems a man crept up behind him as he was sitting on the wharf, with a bowie, which is a big clasp knife with a blade which fastens by a spring. Fortunately he heard the fellow just in time, and was in the act of rising when he struck him, and the blade fell just behind the shoulder and penetrated its full depth between the shoulder-blade and the ribs. He says he is getting round again nicely; his shoulder is still bandaged, and hurts him sharply at times, but he is going up the river in a steamboat, and will be two or three weeks on board, and he expects to be quite well by the time he lands; then he will be at the edge of what they call the plains.’

Dorothy was silent for some time.

‘Was he robbed, father?’

‘Only a few dollars; he says he had fortunately emptied his pockets before leaving the hotel.’

‘I suppose he is going to hunt out on the plains?’

‘Yes, he is going to hunt, Dorothy.’

‘What will he hunt, father?’

‘I believe there are all sorts of game, dear—buffaloes and deer, and so on.’

‘But there are Indians too, father, are there not? I have read about emigrant trains being attacked.’

‘Yes, I suppose there are Indians,’ Mr. Hawtrey replied vaguely.

‘Can’t I read the letter, father?’ she asked timidly, after another long pause.

‘No, I don’t think so, my dear. No, it was written to Mr. Danvers, and it was to some extent a breach of confidence his forwarding it to me, but I suppose he thought I ought to see it.’

Dorothy was silent again until her father had finished his breakfast.

‘Don’t you think I ought to see it too, father?’ she repeated. ‘Why shouldn’t I? If there is anything about me in it, I think I have almost a right to read it. Why should I be kept in the dark? I don’t see what there can be about me, but if there is, wouldn’t it be fair that I should know it?’

‘That is what I have been puzzling myself about, Dorothy, ever since I opened it. I think, myself, you have a right to know. The more so that you have been so hard and unjust on the poor fellow—but I promised him not to say anything about it.’

‘But you did not promise him not to show me the letter,’ Dorothy said quickly, with the usual feminine perspicacity in discovering a way out of a difficulty short of telling an absolute untruth.

Mr. Hawtrey could not help smiling, though he was feeling deeply anxious and puzzled over what he had best do.

‘That is a sophistry I did not think you would be guilty of, Dorothy; though it had already occurred to me. At the time I made the promise I thought his request was not fair to you and was unwise, but the reason he gave was that, having failed here, he did not wish that another failure should be known; and, moreover, he did not wish to raise false hopes when in all probability nothing might come of it. I have been grievously tempted several times to break my promise; I know that Singleton, who also knew, has been on the edge of doing so more than once, especially that day the letter came saying that he was wounded. I will think it over, child. No, I don’t see that any good can come of thinking about it. I feel that, as you say, you have a right to know, and as Ned Hampton says it is possible he will go back to India without returning to England, it will be a long time before he can reproach me with a breach of faith. There is the letter, child. You will find me in one of the greenhouses if you want me.’

But as Dorothy did not come out in an hour, Mr. Hawtrey went back to the house and found her, as he expected, in the little room she called her own. She was sitting on a low chair with the letter on her knees; her eyes were red with crying.

‘Was I right to show you the letter, child?’ he asked, as he sat down beside her.

‘Of course you were right, father. I ought to have known it all along,’ she said, reproachfully. ‘It was right that I should be punished—for I was hard and unjust—but not to be punished so heavily as this. Did he go out from the first only on my affairs, and not to hunt or shoot, as I supposed?’

‘He went out only for that purpose, Dorothy. He told me before he started that if he found they had gone out there, he would follow, however long it might take. You must remember that you said yourself that you wished him not to interfere farther in your affairs, and he was anxious, therefore, for that and the other reason I gave you, that you should suppose that he had gone out simply for his own amusement. As I saw no more reason why they should have gone to the United States than on to the Continent, although he thought they had, there was no particular reason why I should not give him the promise he asked; and it was not until the letter came at Chamounix, saying that he had got on their traces, that I had any thought of breaking the promise, although Singleton, who said he had never actually promised, wanted very much to tell you that Ned had not, as you supposed, gone away for amusement, but to unravel that business.’

‘It was wrong,’ she said decidedly. ‘I know it was chiefly my own fault. I might have been vexed at first, but I ought to have known. I ought, at least, to have been able to write to him to tell him that I would not have him running into danger on my account.’

‘Your letter would not have reached him had you done so, my dear. There was no saying where to write to him, and he would have left New York before your letter arrived; indeed, he only stayed there three days, as he went down by the first steamer to New Orleans.’

‘It would have been a comfort for me to have written, even if he had never got it,’ she said. ‘Now, he may never hear.’

‘We must not look at it in that light, Dorothy,’ Mr. Hawtrey said, with an attempt at cheerfulness. ‘Ned Hampton has got his head screwed on in the right way, and, as he says, he won’t be taken by surprise again. He has been close on these people’s heels twice, and I have strong faith that the third time he will be more successful. What he is to do in that case, or how he is to get the truth out of them, is more than I can imagine, and I don’t suppose he has given that any thought at present. He must, of course, be guided by circumstances. It may not be so difficult as it seems to us here. Certainly there is no shadow of a chance of his getting them arrested in that wild country, but, as they will know that as well as he does, it might prove all the easier for him to get them to write and sign a confession of their share in the business. There, I hear wheels on the gravel outside; no doubt it is Singleton—he has been over every morning for the last ten days to see if we have news. This will gladden his heart, for he is as anxious about Ned as if he had been his son.’

He was about to take up the letter when Dorothy laid her hand on it.

‘Tell him the news, father, please; I want to keep the letter all to myself.’

Mr. Hawtrey went out to meet his friend, who was delighted to hear of Ned Hampton’s recovery, but fumed and grumbled terribly when he heard of his plans.

‘Upon my word, Hawtrey, I hardly know which is the most perverse, Dorothy or Ned Hampton; they are enough to tire the patience of a saint. Where is the letter?’

‘I have given it to Dorothy, and she declines to give it up even for your reading.’

‘So that is it. Then he has let the cat out of the bag at last, Hawtrey; that is a comfort anyhow. And how did she take it?’

‘She was very much upset—very much; and she says she ought to have known it before.’

‘Of course she ought—that is what I said all along; and she would have known if we hadn’t been two old fools. Well, give me the contents of the letter as well as you can remember them.’

Mr. Hawtrey repeated the substance of the letter.

‘Well, well, we must hope for the best, Hawtrey. He is clear-headed enough, and he will be sharply on his guard when he overtakes them; and he will look so different a figure in a rough dress after that long journey I can hardly think the fellow is likely to recognise him again.’

‘Will you come in, Singleton?’

‘Not on any account. We had best let Miss Dorothy think the matter out by herself. I fancy things will work out as I wish them yet.’

Dorothy sat for a long time without moving; then she drew a small writing-table up in front of her, and, taking a sheet of note-paper, began to write after a moment’s hesitation.

‘My dear Captain Armstrong,—When I saw you last I told you that I would let you know should the strange mystery of which I was the victim ever be cleared up. It is not yet entirely cleared up, but it is so to a considerable extent, as the woman who personated me has been traced to America, where she went a week after the robbery, and my portrait has been recognised as her likeness by a number of persons at the hotel where she stopped. This encourages us to hope that some day the whole matter will be completely cleared up. I received this news on the day after you left Chamounix, but I did not write to you before because I wanted to think over what you said to me in quiet.

‘I have done so, and I am sorry, very sorry, Captain Armstrong, to say that I am certain my feelings towards you are not, and never will be, such as you desire. I like you, as I told you when you first asked me the question, very, very much, but I do not love you as you should be loved by a wife. I hope we shall always be good friends, and I wish you, with all my heart, the happiness you deserve, though I cannot be to you what you wish. I do not hesitate to sign myself your affectionate friend, Dorothy Hawtrey.’

The note was written without pause or hesitation. It had been thought out before it was begun. It was strange, even to herself, how easily it had come to her, after having had it so much on her mind for the last month. She wondered now how she could have hesitated so long; how she could ever have doubted as to what she would say to him.

‘I thank God I did not write before,’ she murmured, as she directed the letter. ‘I might have ruined my life and his, for, once done, I never could have drawn back again.’

Chapter XX • 5,900 Words

A caravan—consisting of ten waggons, drawn by teams of six, eight, and ten bullocks, five or six lighter vehicles of various descriptions, half-a-dozen horsemen, and a score of men on foot—was making its way across an undulating plain.

Few words were spoken, for what was there to talk of when one day was but a picture of another? The women, sitting for the most part in the waggons, knitted or worked with but an occasional remark to each other. The men, walking with the oxen, kept on their way as doggedly as the animals they drove, and save for the occasional crack of a whip or a shout from one of the men to his beasts, and the occasional creaking of a wheel, the procession might have seemed to an onlooker a mere phantasmagoria of silent shapes. But the sun was getting low and the oxen beginning almost insensibly to quicken their pace, and all knew that the long day’s journey was nearly over, and the water-holes could not be far ahead.

Half an hour later these are reached, and at once a babel of sounds succeeds the previous silence. The children of all ages leap joyfully from the waggons, the men loose the oxen from their harness, and then some of them take them to the lowest water-hole, while the rest, and even the women, lend a hand at the work, and arrange the great waggons into the form of a square. As soon as this is done fires are made with the bundles of bush that the boys and girls have cut during the earlier part of the day’s journey and piled on the tailboards of the waggons—long experience having taught them that everything that could burn had been long since cut down or grubbed up within a wide radius of the halting-place.

The horses are hobbled and turned out, to pick up what substance they can find in addition to a slice or two of bread that most of their owners have set apart from the over-night baking. Kettles are soon hanging over the fires, and it is not long before most of the women have their dough ready and placed in iron baking-pots over the red-hot embers, a pile of which is raked over the cover so as to bake it evenly right through. Two or three deer had been shot in the morning by the hunters, and the joints hung over the fires give an appetising odour very welcome to those whose chief article of diet for many weeks has been salt meat.

In one corner of the square a group of three or four men are seated round a fire of their own. It is they whose rifles have provided the meat for the camp, and who in return receive a portion of bread from each of the families composing the caravan.

‘We shall not get much more hunting,’ one of them said; ‘we are getting to the most dangerous part of our journey. We have been lucky so far, for though we know that we have been watched, and have seen several parties of Redskins, none of them have been strong enough to venture to attack us. But now that every express rider we have met has warned us that there is trouble here, that strong caravans have been overpowered and the emigrants massacred, there will be no more wandering away far from the camp. You will have to travel the same pace as the rest of us, Ned,’ he added, to the bearded figure next to him. ‘It beats me how you have got through as you have, without having your hair raised.’

‘I have only made extra journeys where, by all accounts, no Indians have been seen about for some time. Besides, it is only about three or four times we have made two journeys in one. We have simply, when the party we were with have made up their minds to stop a day or two at a water-hole to rest their beasts and to wash their clothes, gone on the next morning with another party who had finished their rest. There seem to be regular places where every caravan that arrives makes a halt for a day or so. We have done this seven times, so I reckon that we have gained fourteen days that way and on five days we have made double journeys, so that altogether we have picked up something like nineteen days on the caravan we started with.’

‘Your critters are in good condition, too,’ the man remarked.

‘Yes, I have been fortunate with the hunting. One can always get half a pound of flour for a pound of meat, so that I still have almost as much as I started with, and I always give each of the horses four pounds of bread a day. One cannot expect that horses can be kept in condition when they are working day after day and have to spend their nights in searching for food and then not getting half enough of it.’

‘These Indian ponies can do it; no one thinks of feeding a horse on the plains. They have got to rustle for themselves.’

‘That may be, but these three horses have not been accustomed to that sort of thing. No doubt they have always been fed when they have worked, and they would soon have broken down under the life that comes natural to the half-wild ponies of the plains. However, it has paid to keep them well; they have come along without halts, and, as you see, they are in as good condition as when they started. In better condition indeed, for they are as hard as nails and fit to do anything.’

‘That young mate of yours is a good ‘un, and takes wonderful care of the critters. He is British too, I suppose?’

‘Oh, yes, we came out together.’

‘Ain’t no relation of yourn?’

‘No. I was coming out and so was he, and we agreed to come together. It is always a good thing to have someone one knows at home with one.’

‘That is so,’ the man agreed. ‘A good mate makes all the difference in life out here. It is easy to see the young ‘un thinks a heap of you, and I guess you could reckon on him if you got into a tight corner. He is a tough-looking chap, too. Well, I reckon the meat’s done. You had better give a call for your mate. Where has he gone to?’

‘He is at the cart,’ Ned said, as he stood up and looked round. ‘Jacob, supper is ready.’

‘I am coming,’ was called back; but it was another five minutes before Jacob came up and seated himself by the fire.

‘What have you been up to, Jacob?’

‘I fetched a couple of buckets of water, and I have been a-giving the cart a wash down and a polish.’

The hunters looked at the lad in surprise.

‘Do you mean that?’ one asked; and on Jacob nodding they all burst into a hearty laugh.

‘Well, I reckon, Jacob, as that’s the first cart as ever was washed out on these plains. Why, what is the good of it, lad? What with the mud-holes in the bottoms and the dust where the wind has dried the track, it will be as bad as ever afore you have gone half an hour; besides, who is a-going to see it?’

‘I don’t care for that,’ Jacob said sturdily; ‘if it has got to get dirty it has got to; that ain’t my fault; but it is my fault if it starts dirty. It ain’t often one gets a chance o’ doing it, but as we was in good time to-day I thought I would have a clean up. Ned had seen to the horses, so I looked to the cart.’

It had taken Captain Hampton immense trouble to accustom Jacob to call him by his Christian name. He began by pointing out to him that were he to call him ‘Captain’ or ‘sir’ it would at once excite comment, and that it was of the greatest importance that they should appear to be travelling together on terms of equality.

‘Unless you accustom yourself always to say “Ned” the other words are sure to slip out sometimes. This journey is going to be a hard one, and we have got to share the hardships and the danger and to be comrades to each other, and so you must practise calling me Ned from the time we go on board the steamer.’

It had not been, however, until they had been out on the plains for some time that Jacob had got out of the way of saying ‘Captain’ occasionally, but he had now fallen into ‘Ned,’ and the word came naturally to his lips.

‘I think the idea is right, Jacob. Absolutely, washing the cart may seem useless. So it is to the cart, but not to you. There is nothing like doing things as they should be done. When one once gets into careless habits they will stick to one. I always give my horse a rub down in the morning and again before I turn it out after it has done its work. I think it is all the better for it, and I like to turn out decently in the morning, not to please other people, but for my own satisfaction.’

‘I reckon you are about right,’ the oldest of the party said; ‘a man who takes care of his beast gets paid for it. You don’t have no trouble in the morning. Your three critters come in at once when they hear you whistle. I watched them this morning and saw you give them each a hunch of bread and then set to work to rub them down and brush their coats, and I says to myself, “That is what ought to be between horse and master. If we was attacked by Redskins you and that young chap would be in the saddle, and ready either to fight or to run, afore most of them here had begun to think about it.”‘

One of the horses in the cart always carried a saddle, and Jacob sometimes rode it postilion fashion, and also rode out with Ned Hampton when the start of the caravan was late and he went out to try to get a shot at game before they moved. In this way he had got to ride fairly, which was Ned’s object in accustoming him to sit on horseback, as he told him there was never any saying when it might not be necessary to abandon the cart and to journey on horseback. The two draught horses were ridden in turns, and when the lad rode with his master the third horse was always summoned by a whistle to accompany them, and cantered alongside its companion until both halted, when Ned caught sight of game and went forward alone in its pursuit. Jacob was also taught to use a pistol, and by dint of steady practice had become a fair shot.

The meal was just finished when there was a shout from the man placed on the lookout a hundred yards from the encampment.

‘What is it?’ a boy posted just outside the waggons shouted back.

A dead silence fell on the camp until, a minute later, they heard the reply, ‘It is only the express rider.’

Many of the men rose and moved towards the narrow opening left between two of the waggons to give admittance to the square.

The passage of an express rider was always an event of prime interest. These men were their only links with the world. Often if they met them on the way they would not check the speed of the ponies, but pass on with a wave of the hand and a shout of ‘All’s well,’ or ‘Redskins about; keep well together.’ It was only when a rider happened to reach one of the pony stations, often forty or fifty miles apart, while the caravan was there, that they could have a talk and learn what news there was to be told of the state of the country ahead. It was uncertain whether the rider would draw rein there; he might stop to snatch a bit of food and a drink before he rode on. This hope grew into certainty as the footsteps of a horse at a gallop were heard approaching. The man threw himself off his pony as he entered the square, and the light of the fire sufficed to show that the horse was in the last state of exhaustion, its chest was flecked with foam, its sides heaved in short sobs, its coat was staring.

‘Give it half a bucket of water with half a tumbler of whisky in it,’ the man said hoarsely. ‘It has saved my life.’

Jacob ran up with half a pail of water, and Captain Hampton emptied the contents of his flask into it.

‘Thanks, mate,’ the rider said, holding out his hand; ‘that is a good turn I won’t forget.’

The horse at first refused to drink. Captain Hampton dipped his handkerchief in the bucket and sponged its nostrils and mouth, while its rider patted its neck and spoke encouragingly to it. At the next attempt it sipped a little and then drank up the rest without hesitation.

‘It will do now,’ its rider said, with a sigh of relief; ‘it has carried me eighty miles, and for the last twenty of them I have been hotly chased by the Redskins; they were not a hundred yards behind when at the last rise I caught sight of your fires and knew that I was saved. It was my last chance, for I knew that if I did not find a party at these water holes it was all up with us.’

‘Then there are Redskins near,’ one of the men asked; ‘how many of them?’

‘Not above a dozen; it was a big band, but there were not more than that chased me. They won’t venture to attack this outfit, but some of you had best turn out with your rifles at once, and get your oxen and horses in. If you don’t you are not likely to find them here in the morning.’

This started the whole camp into activity. A waggon at the entrance was turned round so as to give more room to the animals to pass in; the boys were set to work to carry blazing brands and brushwood outside, and to relight the fires, at a distance of thirty or forty yards round the waggons, while the embers of those inside were at once scattered; the children were all placed for safety in the waggons, where Captain Hampton, whose horses had come in at once to his whistle, took his place with four or five other men in readiness to keep the Indians at a distance, if they showed themselves. The rest of the men, armed to the teeth, went out to drive in the animals. This was accomplished without interruption, and the waggon was then moved back into its place, the boys posted on watch all round, and the men gathered round the express rider to hear the news.

‘It is mighty bad news, boys,’ began the express rider, ‘I can tell you—I saw nothing particular wrong till I got near the pony station, though I noticed that a big gang of Redskins had ridden across the track. Directly I fixed my eye on the station I saw as something was wrong. There was the stockade, but I did not see the roof of the station above it. I took a couple of turns round afore I went near it, but everything was still and I guessed the red devils had ridden off, so I made up my mind to ride straight in and take my chance. When I did, I tell you it made me feel a pretty sick man. The hut was down, but that was not the worst of it; there was bodies lying all about; men and women, scalped in course; there was what had been five waggons just burnt up, piles of flour and meat and other things all about, and it was clear that, after taking all they could carry, the Redskins had emptied the barrels, chucked them into the waggons and set them alight.

‘It wuz clearly a surprise, for there wer’n’t a dead Redskin about. That didn’t go for much, cause they would have buried them; but I looked pretty close round and could see nary sign of blood except where the whites were lying. The Redskins had left their ponies at a distance, had scaled the stockades without being noticed, and then had fallen upon them afore they had time to get hold of their arms. There was a dead man at each corner of the stockade; them four had been stabbed or tomahawked, and so no alarm had been given. I counted fifteen dead bodies besides the station-keeper and his mate: they was pretty near all children or oldish women and men. I guess they carried off all the young women and some of the men.’

A deep groan of horror and fury broke from his hearers.

‘Ay, it is one of the worst businesses there has been yet,’ he said; ‘and there has been some bad massacres in this part too. Men says those people up the Salt Lake stirs the Redskins up agin emigrants, but I can’t believe as human nature is as bad as that. Well, I did not wait long, you may be sure. I got a bucket and filled it at the station-keeper’s bar’l and put half a dozen pounds of flour in from one of the heaps, and stirred it up and give it to the pony. I guessed he would want it afore he had done. Then I rode on quiet, keeping a pretty sharp look out, you bet, till I got half way to this place. Then I got sight of a big lot of Redskins over on the right, and you may bet your boots I rode for it. They came down whooping and yelling, but the crittur is one of the fastest out on the plains, and if he had been fresh I should not have minded them a cent. Most of them soon gave it up, but about a dozen laid themselves out for me, and I tell you I have had to ride all I knew to keep ahead of them. The last half-mile I could feel that the poor beast could not go much further, and if I had found nary waggon here I had made up my mind to lie down at one of these holes and fight it out. I reckon some of them would never have got back to their tribe to tell how my scalp was took.’

Guards were posted round the waggons as soon as the cattle were in and the entrance closed, although, as the express rider said, there was little fear of an attack, as even if the main body of Indians had followed those who pursued him, they would not venture upon such an enterprise, when they would be sure that the emigrants would be watchful and prepared, but would be far more likely to fall upon them on the march. He thought it still more likely that there would be no attack whatever.

‘They have got a grist of scalps,’ he said, ‘and as much booty as they could carry away. They will be making straight back to their villages to have their dances and feasts. You have a good chance of getting on safely now.’

Captain Hampton volunteered to form part of the first watch. The news had rendered him very uneasy. He told Jacob that he might as well come out with him.

‘I am troubled about this affair, Jacob,’ he said, when they had taken their place, about a hundred yards away from the waggons. ‘You know, I was saying to-day that we might possibly overtake them at any time. If they have travelled at the rate at which the heavy trains move they may very well have been with that party who have been massacred by the Indians. Mind, I do not think that they were; I should say that most likely they have gone on as fast—or possibly even faster—than we have. The waggon they brought was a light one, though it was heavier than ours, but they have six horses. Then, as we have heard, sometimes parties all with light waggons and carriages join and travel together, and so get along much faster than ordinary trains. I think they would have pushed on as fast as they possibly could. I feel sure that if they had a hand in that attack upon me, the man who started by the steamer in the morning would find out before he went on board that I had been taken to the hotel, and that I was alive.

‘Probably I may have been reported as much worse than I really was, and they would count upon the wound being a mortal one. Still they could not be sure of it, and would decide to push across the plains as rapidly as possible, in case I should recover and pursue them. Still there is just the possibility that feeling confident that I should die they might take it quietly, and have been in that caravan. It seems to render everything uncertain. Before, we knew they were ahead of us, and that sooner or later we should come upon them in California, if we did not overtake them on the journey; now, we know that possibly they have been killed, and the girl carried off by the Indians.’

‘But we shall pass by the place to-morrow, Ned, and you will be able to see if they are there.’

‘We shall not be able to see that, Jacob; the vultures and wild dogs make very short work of those who fall out here on the plains. When we get there to-morrow we shall find nothing but cleanly-picked bones.’

This turned out to be the case. The caravan camped four miles short of the scene of the massacre, and made a detour in the morning to avoid it. Captain Hampton rode over early with the hunters, but found, as he expected, that the vultures and dogs had done their work. Two days later the train arrived at Salt Lake City. Here were a great number of waggons and emigrants, for most of those crossing the plains made a halt of some duration here, both to rest their animals and to enjoy a period of quiet, undisturbed by fears of the dreaded Indian war whoop. There was, too, an opportunity for trade with the Mormons, from whom they obtained meat, grain, and vegetables, in exchange for tea, sugar, axes, and materials for clothes.

Captain Hampton remained but a night, spending the evening in examining the newly-raised settlement, and wondering at the strange band of ignorant enthusiasts who had thus cut themselves off from the world and forsaken everything in their blind belief in an impostor as ignorant but more astute than themselves. He made many inquiries as to the possibility of getting together a band to follow up the Indians who were the authors of the massacre four days before, in order to punish them and to rescue the captives they might have carried off, but among the Mormons he found nothing but a dull apathy as to anything outside their own colony, while the emigrants were all too much bent upon pressing forward towards the land of gold, to listen to anything that would cause delay. He had mooted the subject to the men of his own party, but they had shaken their heads.

‘I doubt whether it is possible, Ned,’ one of them said. ‘It ‘ud need a mighty strong party to venture into the hills after them Redskins. We don’t know what tribe they were or where they came from, and they would be a sight more likely to find us and attack us than we to find them. Their villages may be hundreds of miles away. We ain’t sure as they carried any women off, though like enough they have. No, it won’t do, Ned. We ought to have at least a hundred good men for such a job as that, and there ain’t a chance of your getting them. It ain’t like as when a border village is attacked and women carried off; then their friends are ready to go out to pay back the Redskins and rescue the women, and men from other villages are ready to join, because what has happened to one to-day may happen to another to-morrow, and so all are concerned in giving the Indians a lesson. But it ain’t no one’s business here. This crowd are all concerned only in getting on as hard as they can. There ain’t one of them but thinks that the delay of a week might lose him a fortune; and though they would fight if the Redskins were to attack them, they have not got any fight in them except for their lives, and even if they were willing to go they would not be no manner of use on an expedition like that you talk about.’

Captain Hampton hardly regretted the failure of his attempt to get up an expedition at Salt Lake City. It would have entailed a great loss of time, and the chances that the woman he was in search of had been in the caravan were slight indeed. The stream of emigration was so great that frequently five or six caravans a day passed along, and as she might be a day or a month ahead of him it was clear that the odds were great indeed against her being in any given one of them. The risk of attack by Indians was henceforth comparatively slight, and Captain Hampton was therefore able to push on at a much higher rate of speed. He would, indeed, have travelled much faster than he did, had it not been for the necessity of stopping for an hour or two with each caravan he overtook, so as to ascertain that the party he was in search of were not with it.

At last they reached the edge of the great plateau of Nevada, where the land, cut up in numerous ravines and valleys, and everywhere thickly wooded, falls rapidly down to the low lands of California. A village consisting principally of liquor stores stood just where the road plunged down through the forest. Here every caravan stopped on its way to gather news as to the diggings at the gold fields. All sorts of rumours had reached them on their Western journey, and it was only now that anything certain could be learned.

The accounts, however, were most conflicting. Captain Hampton learnt that there were scores of diggings, and that fresh ones were being opened every day. He had no interest in the reports of their wealth or in the accounts of great finds, beyond the fact that Truscott was likely to make for one that seemed to offer the greatest advantages.

It would probably be a newly started one, for there he would not find competitors already established. If he really intended to get up a saloon he would almost certainly go down to Sacramento to begin with, to lay in stores and liquors and purchase either a tent or a portable building of some kind; and at any rate somewhat more reliable information than the conflicting rumours current at this station would be obtainable there.

He therefore determined not to turn aside to visit any of the camps, but to go straight down. There was no hurrying until they reached the plains; the horses had to be led every foot of the way. Frequently the road was blocked by long lines of waggons, delayed by a wheel having come off one, or the animals having finally given in. Then there was no moving until scores of hands had chopped down and cleared the trees so as to form a fresh track. In most cases, however, this was unnecessary, as the operation had been so frequently performed that there was a wide belt cleared on either side of the track.

It was with a sensation of deep relief that they at last reached Sacramento. They had learnt on their way down that the place was crowded and that they would do well to encamp just outside its limits. The town itself was indeed but the centre of a city of wood and canvas. Everywhere shanties and stores had been run up, and innumerable waggons served as the abodes of those who had crossed the plains in them. The wharves were a bewildering scene. Craft of various sizes lay alongside, tier beyond tier, discharging their cargoes. The roadway was blocked with teams. Numbers of men were carrying parcels and bales to the neighbouring warehouses. Waggons piled up with goods for the different centres, from which they were distributed by pack animals to distant mining camps, strove in vain to make their way out of the crush. Stores and saloons were alike crowded, the one with anxious emigrants purchasing their outfit for the gold-fields, and the others with miners, rough sunburnt men in red shirts, breeches, and high boots, who had come down to spend their hard-earned gold in a week’s spree.

Captain Hampton went from one to another of the hotels, showing the photograph and endeavouring to obtain news, but it was seldom that he could obtain more than a moment’s attention from the over-worked and harassed waiters, and in no case was the photograph recognised; he concluded therefore that the party had, like himself, remained in their waggon. After many inquiries, he found that the greater portion of the diggings were either upon the Yuba River, or on creeks among the hills through which it ran. He purchased diggers’ outfits for himself and Jacob, together with the necessary picks, shovels, and cradle, laid in a fresh supply of flour, bacon, and groceries, and two days after his arrival at Sacramento he started for the gold diggings.

For a month he journeyed from camp to camp, and then struck off from the Yuba to a spot sixteen miles away, where gold had been first found two months before, and a rush of diggers had taken place, owing to the reports of the richness of gold there. Already the trees on both sides of the slopes above the creek had been cleared, and a town principally composed of huts formed of the boughs of trees had sprung up. Here and there were tents, for the most part of blankets and rugs, three or four rough wooden stores, one or two large tents, and one of framework with sides of planks and a canvas roof. All these had their designations in bright-coloured paint on white canvas affixed to them. After choosing a place for his waggon on the outskirts of the encampment, Captain Hampton left Jacob to picket and feed the horses and light a fire, and then as usual proceeded in the first place to visit the saloons.

He first went to the tents; sat for a time in each of them and chatted with the miners who had just knocked off work and were drinking at the bars. Then he went to the more pretentious building, over which was the name ‘Eldorado.’ It was evidently the most popular establishment. The tables were all filled with men eating and drinking, while there was quite a crowd before the bar. He strode up there and almost started as he saw between the heads of the men in front of him a girl whom he would, had he met her anywhere else, have taken for Dorothy Hawtrey. For the moment he felt that he was incapable of asking in his ordinary voice for a drink. At last the object of his long search had been gained, and the woman he had followed half across the world was in front of him. He moved away, found a vacant seat at one of the tables, and seated himself there.

A minute or two later a man came up and said briefly, ‘Supper?’

He nodded, and a plate of meat was presently placed before him. He ate this mechanically, and then, lighting a pipe, sat listening to the conversation of the miners at the table, one of whom as soon as he finished his meal addressed him with the usual remark:

‘Just arrived, I reckon?’

‘Yes, I have only just come in. Doing well here?’

‘Nothing to grumble at. Where have you been working last?’

‘I tried my luck on several places on the Yuba, but could not get a claim worth working.’

‘You won’t get one here without paying for it, I can tell you; pretty stiff price, too.’

‘I reckon to work by the day for a bit, till I have time to look round. I want to see what men are making before I buy in.’

‘I reckon you are about right, mate. Men who are in a hurry to get a share of a claim generally get bitten. Besides, before a man with a claim takes a partner in, he likes to know what sort of a chap he is to work with. Didn’t I see you come in half an hour ago with a cart with three horses?’

‘Yes.’

‘Pretty bad road, eh?’

‘No road at all; I just followed the line they had cut for the teams of the storekeepers. Though the cart wasn’t half full, it was as much as the three horses could do to get along with it.’

‘You ain’t going to start a store yourself?’

‘No, I have a young mate; I work and he makes journeys backwards and forwards to Sacramento; he brings up anything the storekeepers order—flour, bacon, spirits, tea and sugar; it more than pays for the keep of the horses and for our grub, though I never take anything like full loads.’

‘You are in luck,’ the man said; ‘it is the grub that swallows up the earnings. A man wants to find a quarter of an ounce a day to pay his way.’

‘How long has this saloon been up?’

‘It came five weeks ago—a few days after the others; and they are just taking dust in by handfuls, you bet. Men would come and pay if they didn’t get anything for their money but what they can see. That’s a daisy, isn’t it?’—and he nodded towards the bar. ‘We are just proud of her; there ain’t such another in the hull diggings.’

‘Does she belong to this part of the country, or has she come from the East?’

‘She is a Britisher—at least, the old man is, and I suppose his daughter is the same. Well, so long,’—and the miner strode out of the saloon.

Chapter XXI • 7,200 Words

Captain Hampton sat for some time longer watching what was going on. He saw that the girl did not herself serve, but generally superintended the two lads who were serving the drinks, receiving the money and weighing the gold dust that served as currency, a pinch of gold being the price for a glass of liquor of any kind. Two men, one of whom he had recognised at once as being Truscott, looked after the boys attending to the guests at the tables. Now that he obtained a full sight of the girl, he saw that, striking as was the likeness to Dorothy, there were points of difference; her hair was darker, her complexion less clear and brilliant, her expression more serious and far less variable than Dorothy’s and lacking the sunshine that was one of the latter’s chief charms. Still, he could well understand that one could be mistaken for the other at first sight, especially when dressed precisely alike, and with the face shadowed by a veil. After sitting half an hour longer he returned to the waggon.

‘I have found them, Jacob.’

The lad gave an exclamation of satisfaction.

‘It is just as I expected,’ Captain Hampton went on; ‘they have opened a saloon—that large one with the boarded sides. You had better have your supper, Jacob; I took mine in there. I want to think quietly. We have done the first part of our work, but the most difficult is still before us; at least it strikes me it is the most difficult.’

‘You will manage it somehow,’ Jacob said confidently; for his faith in his master was absolutely unlimited.

Captain Hampton sat for a long time on the stump of a tree smoking and thinking. Now that the search was over, the task that he had set himself seemed more difficult than before. Think as he would he could form no definite plan of action, and concluded that he would have to wait and see how things turned up. He would, he foresaw, have but few opportunities of speaking to the female, and he had already decided that she was a woman with a strong will of her own, and not likely to act upon impulse. Her expression reminded him much more strongly of Dorothy as he had seen her since she had taken offence with him, than of what she was when he first returned to England.

‘This girl has had troubles, I have no doubt,’ he said, ‘and I should say she has borne them alone. Jacob,’ he said suddenly, as the boy returned from seeing to the horses, ‘I want you to go to that saloon, and take a drink at the bar. Have a good look at the girl there. You said the photograph reminded you of a girl that lived in the court with you. I want you to see if you still notice the resemblance.’

Jacob returned in half-an-hour.

‘Well, Jacob?’

‘She is like, sir, wonderful like. Of course, she is older and much prettier than Sally was, but she is very like too, and she has got a way of giving her head a shake just as Sally had, to shake her hair off her face. If it wasn’t that it doesn’t seem as it could be her I should say as it was.’

‘I think it is quite possible that it is she, Jacob. Some day you must try to find out, but not at present. We must see how things go on here before we do anything. I shall get work here and you must go backwards and forwards with the team. We must earn our living, you know. I have got money still, but I must keep some in reserve for paying our passage home, or for anything that may turn up; and if we stop here long I shall want to buy a share in a claim. I fancy they are doing well here. There is no reason one should not make the most of one’s time. To-morrow you can go to that saloon and say you are going down to Sacramento next day, and would be willing to bring up a light load for them. That may give you an opportunity of speaking to the girl, and her voice may help you to decide whether it is the girl you knew.’

Next morning Captain Hampton went through the diggings; presently he came upon the man he had spoken to the evening before. He was working with two others. He looked up from his work and nodded.

‘Taking a look round, mate?’

‘Yes.’

‘Do you want a job? We are a man short.’

‘What are you giving?’

‘Five dollars a day.’

Ned Hampton nodded.

‘All right,’ he said, ‘I will come to work to-morrow. Is your claim a good one?’

‘We hope it is going to be; we gave a thousand dollars for it. It is well in the middle of the line of the valley, and we reckon it will be rich as we get lower, though at present we are not doing much more than paying our expenses. Do you want to buy a share?’

‘I will tell you after a few days,’ Ned said. ‘What do you want for it?’

‘It just depends,’ one of the other men said. ‘If it is to a man who would do his full share of work we would let him have a quarter for four hundred dollars, for we shall have to do some timbering soon. If it is to a man who is afraid to put his back into it we would not have him at any price.’

‘Very well, then, it will suit us both to wait for a week. I will come to work to-morrow on hire.’

‘He looks the right sort,’ the man said, as Ned Hampton moved away. ‘He is a quiet-looking fellow, active and strong. A Britisher, I should say, by his accent.’

After strolling round the camp Hampton looked in at the saloon. There were only three or four men at the bar. The girl was not there.

‘I have been round there this morning,’ Jacob said when he returned to the waggon. ‘I did not see her. They have given me an order for as much as I will carry. They would fill the cart up, but I would not have more than my usual load.’

‘You did not know the man by sight at all, I suppose?’

‘No. I don’t think I ever set eyes on him before.’

‘Spirits and groceries, I suppose, principally?’

‘Yes; they are expecting flour and bacon up in a waggon that ought to be in to-day.’

‘Did they ask you any questions, Jacob?’

‘Only if I had been out here long. I said we had been out here a good bit, and had been hauling goods to the camps where we had been. I did not give any time, but it was a long list of camps, and they must have reckoned we had been out here some months. One of them said something about a reference, so as to be sure that I should bring the goods here when I got them, but I said—Reference be blowed. We had been hauling out here long enough, and as we had got a waggon and team it weren’t likely we were going to risk them and being shot for the sake of a few pounds’ worth of goods: so they did not say anything more about it. I said my mate was going to work here and was going to buy a claim, and that satisfied them a bit. I suppose you are going to have your grub here at one o’clock?’

‘Yes. When do you start, Jacob?’

‘I will go as soon as we have had dinner. We will get up the tent with the tarpaulin now, if you are ready; then if we go round just after dinner is over in the saloon I will get the orders for the things at Sacramento and be off.’

‘I have arranged about working in a claim, Jacob. I will take my meals at the saloon while you are away.’

When they went into the saloon the great bulk of the men were off to their work again, and only two or three were lounging at the bar. Jacob went up to Murdoch, who was setting things straight.

‘Have yer got the list ready?’ he asked. ‘I am just going to hitch up the team.’

‘I will get it up for you directly.’

‘We will take a drink while you are getting it,’ Ned Hampton said. ‘I am this lad’s mate, and have pretty well arranged about taking a share in a claim, so if you like he can go down regularly for you.’

They strode up to the bar, while Murdoch went through an inner door. He appeared behind the bar directly after with Truscott.

‘These are the men that are going down with the cart, Linda,’ the latter said to the girl; ‘at least the lad is going, the man is going to work on the flat; they want the list.’

‘Brandy and champagne are the two things we want most,’ she said. ‘You had better get eighteen gallons of Bourbon, eighteen of brandy, and twelve dozen of champagne. I have made out the list of the groceries we want. There it is; that comes to thirteen pounds.’

Truscott then made a calculation as to the amount required for the wine and spirits, and drew a cheque on the bank.

‘You are sure you think it safe, Murdoch?’ he asked in low tones.

‘Safe enough,’ the other replied. ‘They know well enough if they were to take it they would be hunted down; anyhow there is no other way of doing it unless one of us goes down, and neither of us can be spared. We did not reckon on the stuff going so fast, and it would never do to run out. They would go to the other places at once if they could not have liquor here. When do you expect to be back?’ he asked, going across to the bar.

‘In about four days, if they don’t keep me.’

‘They won’t keep you,’ the man said, ‘longer than to go to the bank and get the money. To-day is Tuesday; you will get down to the road by to-night and you ought to be there by Thursday afternoon. If you get there in time to load up then and get out of the place you ought to be back by Saturday night.’

‘I reckon I shall,’ Jacob said; ‘that is if all goes right and I don’t smash a wheel or an axle.’

‘I will give you twenty dollars more than I bargained for if you are back by sundown on Saturday. We shall want the stuff bad by that time.’

Jacob nodded. ‘I will do my best,’ he said. ‘The horses can do it if we don’t get blocked with anything. Is there any shopping I can do for you, miss?’

The girl shook her head.

‘No, thank you; I have got everything I want.’

‘You had better call at the post office when you get to the town,’ Ned said. ‘If you should think of anything more, miss, there would be time enough if you sent it off in the mail bag to-morrow morning. If you address it, “J. Langley,” he will get it.’

The girl glanced at him with some little interest. He had spoken in a rough tone, but she detected a different intonation of the voice to that in which she was generally addressed.

‘You are English, are you not?’ she asked.

‘Yes, miss, I came across from the old country some time ago.’

‘I am English too,’ she said. ‘I suppose the horses and cart belong to you?’

‘They are a sort of joint property between us,’ he said; ‘I work at the diggings and he drives, and I take it he makes more money than I do.’

‘What part do you come from?’ she asked.

‘Mostly London,’ he said; ‘but I have been working about in a good many places, and I don’t look upon one as home more than the other.’

‘You are going to work here for a bit?’ she asked.

‘Yes, it seems from all I hear as good a place as any, and if I can get regular work for the waggon I shall stop here for a while. I am just buying a share in a claim, and I shall anyhow stop to see how it works out.’

‘I have not seen you here before,’ she said.

‘I took my supper here last night,’ he said; ‘but the place was full. I did not come in in the evening, for I am not given to drink and I have not taken to gambling.’

‘Don’t,’ she said, leaning forward, and speaking earnestly. ‘You had as well throw your money away. I hate seeing men come in here and lose all they have worked so hard for for weeks; and then it leads to quarrels. Don’t begin it. It is no use telling any one who once has begun that they had better give it up. They don’t seem as if they could do it then, but if you have never played don’t do so.’

‘I don’t mean to. I have seen enough of it in other camps. Thank you, miss, all the same for your advice.’

The girl nodded and moved away, and Jacob, having received his list and instructions, presently joined Ned Hampton and they walked away together.

The next morning the latter set to work, and was so well satisfied at the end of two days with the result that he bought a share in the claim. He took his meals at the saloon and went in for an hour every evening. The place was at that time so crowded that he had but few opportunities of exchanging a word with the girl. She generally, however, gave him a nod as he came up to the bar for his glass of liquor. When he had taken it he usually strolled round the tables looking at the play. In the saloon itself it was harmless enough, the miners playing among themselves for small stakes, but in a room at the back of the saloon it was different. Here there was no noisy talk or loud discussion. The men sat or stood round a table at which Monte was being played, the dealer being a professional gambler, whose attire in ordinary clothes, with a diamond stud in his broad shirt front, contrasted strongly with the rough garb of the miners.

No sounds broke the silence here save an occasional muttered oath, an exclamation of triumph, or a call for liquor. It was seldom that an evening passed without a serious quarrel here or at the drinking bar. Twice during the first week of Ned’s stay in the camp pistols were drawn. In one case a man was killed, in the other two were seriously wounded.

‘I should like to see a law passed by the miners themselves,’ Ned Hampton said, as he was talking over the matter with his partners at their work next day, ‘forbidding the carrying of pistols under the penalty of being turned out of camp; and it should be added that whoever after the passing of the law drew and fired should be hung.’

‘It would be easy enough, pard, to get the law passed by a majority, but the thing would be to get it carried out. There are four or five men in this camp as would clear out the hull crowd. The best part of us hates these rows, and would glad enough be rid of the gang and work peaceably, but what are you to do when you can’t have your own way without running a risk, and a mighty big one, of getting shot?’

‘Ay, that is it,’ another said. ‘It would need a sheriff and a big posse to carry it out.’

‘Of course, no one man would attempt such a thing,’ Ned Hampton said, ‘but I believe in some of the camps they have banded together and given the gamblers and the hard characters notice to quit, and have hung up those who refused to go. It is monstrous that two or three hundred men who only want to work peaceably should be terrorised by half-a-dozen ruffians.’

‘It ain’t right, mate, I allow as it ain’t right, but it is hard to see what is to be done. There is Wyoming Bill, for example, who came into the camp last night, cursing and swearing and threatening that he would put a bullet in any man who refused to drink with him. I expect it were after you turned in, mate, but he cleared the saloon of the best part as was there in five minutes. He did not go into the inner room, he knew better’n that; Joe, the gambler, would have put a bullet into him before he could wink; so would Ben Hatcher, and two or three of the others would have tried it. Then he swaggered up to the bar and began to talk loud to the girl there. Some one told them in the inner room and Ben Hatcher and Bluff Harry stept out, pistol in hand, and says Ben, “You had best drop that, Wyoming, and as quick as lightning. It has been settled in this camp as any one as says a bad word in front of that bar will be carried out feet foremost, so don’t you try it on, or you will be stuffed with bullets afore you can say knife. I know you and you know me, and there is half a dozen of us, so if you want to carry on you had best carry on outside. I tell you once for all.” Wyoming Bill weakened at once, and the thing passed off—but there will be a big muss some night.’

‘I should like to turn the whole lot out,’ Ned Hampton said, angrily; ‘it could not be done in broad daylight without a regular battle, but we might tackle them one by one, taking them separately. Ten men might make this camp habitable.’

‘Are you a good shot with the pistol, mate?’

‘Yes, I am a good shot, but I don’t pretend to be as quick with it as these professional bullies. Yet I have had to deal with awkward customers in my time, and would undertake to deal with these fellows if, as I said, I could get ten men to work with me.’

‘Well, there are three of us here besides yourself, and I guess we would all take a hand in the game. What do you say, mates?’

The other two assented.

‘We ought to be able to get seven others,’ Jack Armitstead, who was the most prominent man of the party, said; ‘they must be fellows one could trust; there is Long Ralph and Sam Nicholson and Providence Dick, they are all quiet chaps and could be trusted to hold their tongues. There has been a good deal of grumbling lately; there have been ten men killed here since the camp began, and it is generally allowed as that is too big an average. It is allus so with these new rushes. Chaps as begins to feel as they have made other places too hot for them, in general joins in a new rush. We must be careful who we speak to, for if the fellows got scent of it some of us would be wiped out afore many hours had passed, for if it came to shooting, none of us would have a look in with men like Ben Hatcher or Wyoming Bill.’

‘There is no occasion to be in a hurry,’ Ned Hampton said; ‘we can afford to wait till they get a little worse, but it would be as well to begin about it and get the number ready to act together.’

‘You would be ready to act as captain if you were elected?’ Jack Armitstead asked.

‘Quite ready. I may tell you, though I don’t wish it to go farther, that I have been an officer in the British army, and several times been engaged in police duty in a troubled country, where I have had to deal with as hard characters in their way as these men. I have no wish to be captain at all; I am almost a new chum, and many of you have been a year on the gold-fields. I shall be quite willing to serve under any one that may be elected; I have no wish whatever for the command.’

‘All right, partner, we will talk it over and fix about who had best be asked. I guess in two or three days we can make up the number. The boys were pretty well riled last night at Wyoming’s goings on, and if it hadn’t have been that they did not want to make a muss, with that girl in the saloon, I fancy some of them would not have gone without shooting.’

The next evening the saloon was emptier than usual; there were but two or three men at the bar when Ned Hampton, who had finished his supper early, went over to it. The girl herself, contrary to her custom, came across to take his order.

‘Good evening, miss,’ he said; ‘I hear you nearly had trouble here again last night.’

‘Very nearly. I cannot think why men here will always pull out pistols; why don’t they stand up and fight as they do at home? It is horrible. There have been four men killed in the saloon while we have been here. I thought they would be rough, but I had no idea that it would be like this.’

‘It is not a good place for a woman,’ Ned Hampton said, bluntly, ‘especially for a young and pretty one. Your father ought to know better than to bring you here.’

She shrugged her shoulders.

‘It pays,’ she said, ‘and they are never rude to me.’

She turned away.

A moment later Ned Hampton was tapped on the shoulder, and looking round saw that it was the man who had during the day been pointed out to him as the redoubted Wyoming Bill.

‘Stranger,’ he said, ‘I want you to understand that any one who speaks to that young woman has got to talk with me. I am Wyoming Bill, I am. I have set my mind on her, and it will be safer to tread in a nest of rattlesnakes than to get my dander up.’

Ned Hampton laughed derisively. ‘You hulking giant,’ he said, ‘if you or any one else attempts to dictate to me I will kick him out of the saloon.’

With a howl of fury the man’s hand went behind him to his pistol pocket, but quick as he was Ned Hampton was quicker. Stepping back half a pace he struck the man with all his force and weight on the point of the chin, knocking him off his feet on to his back on the floor. An instant later Ned sprang upon him, and twisted the revolver from his grasp; then he seized the half stunned and bewildered man by his neck handkerchief, dragged him to his feet, and thrusting the revolver into his own pocket, shifted his grasp to the back of the man’s neck, ran him down the saloon, and when he reached the door gave him a kick that sent him headlong on to his face.

‘Now,’ he said sternly, as the man, utterly cowed, rose to his feet, ‘I warn you if I find you in camp in the morning I will shoot you at sight as I would a dog.’

The man moved off muttering blasphemous threats, but holding his hands to his jaw which had been almost dislocated by the blow, while Ned returned quietly into the saloon, where the miners crowded round him congratulating him on having achieved such a triumph over a notorious bully. Ned was shortly forced to retire, for every one of those present were insisting on his having a drink with them.

On returning to his tent Ned Hampton found that Jacob had just returned from his second journey to Sacramento, and they sat chatting over the events of the trip until it was time to turn in.

‘He has gone, Ned,’ was Jack Armitstead’s greeting when Ned Hampton came down to his work.

‘Gone?’ he repeated. ‘Who has gone? Not Sinclair surely,’ for but two of his partners had just arrived.

‘Sinclair? No. Wyoming Bill has gone—rode off just at daybreak this morning, with his face tied up in a black handkerchief. They say his jaw is broken. Well, partner, you have done it and no mistake, and the hull camp was talking about nothing else last night. The chaps as was there said they never saw anything like the way you downed him. Why, if this place was made into a township to-morrow, they would elect you mayor or sheriff, or anything else you liked, right away.’

‘Oh, it was nothing worth talking about,’ Ned said carelessly. ‘He was going to draw and I hit out, and as a man’s fist goes naturally quicker from his shoulder than the sharpest man can draw his pistol, of course he went down. After that he was half stunned and I expect he didn’t feel quite sure that his head wasn’t off. A blow on the point of the chin gives a tremendous shaking up to the strongest man. It was not as if he was standing balancing on his feet prepared to meet a blow. I consider it taking an unfair advantage to hit a man like that, but when he is feeling for his pistol there is no choice in the matter. However, it is not worth saying anything more about.’ And Ned at once set to at his work.

Nothing further was said on the subject until they stopped for breakfast, when Jack Armitstead said—

‘At any rate, Ned, that affair last night has made it easy for us to get the men together for the other job. Those I spoke to and told them you were ready to be our leader just jumped at it, and I could enlist half the camp on the job if I wanted to.’

‘Ten will be enough, Jack. It is a matter that must be kept secret, for you must remember that though we might clear out the camp of these fellows without difficulty, we should all be marked men wherever we went if it were known which of us were concerned in the matter.’

‘That is true enough,’ Sinclair said. ‘It would be as much as any of our lives were worth to go into any of the other camps where one or two of these fellows happened to be, if we were known to have been among Judge Lynch’s party.’

Ned Hampton went back to breakfast at the cart, as he always did when Jacob was there.

‘They have been telling me that you thrashed a man awful yesterday evening,’ Jacob began, as he came up. ‘I heard some chaps talking about a fight as I was unloading the goods at the back of the saloon, and I wondered what was up, but I never thought as you were in it; you did not say anything about it when we were talking.’

‘There was nothing to tell about, Jacob. I knocked down a big bully and turned him out of the saloon; there was no fighting at all, it was just one blow and there was an end of it. I am a pretty good boxer, I think I may say very good; and these fellows, though they are handy enough with pistols, have not the slightest idea of using their fists. The fellow has gone off this morning and we shan’t hear any more about it.’

After dinner Ned again went into the saloon. As soon as he approached the bar the girl came across to him.

‘Thank you,’ she said; ‘the men here heard what he said to you, and he well deserved what you gave him. It was very brave of you, as he was armed, and you were not.’

‘His arms were not of any use to him, miss, as I did not give him time to use them; besides, bullies of that sort are never formidable when they are faced.’

Ned felt rather doubtful as to his reception by the other desperadoes of the camp; but as soon as the girl turned away two of these came up to him.

‘Shake,’ one said, holding out his hand; ‘you did the right thing last night. It is well for that white-livered cuss that none of us were here at the time, or he would have had a bullet in him, sure. It has been an agreed matter in this ‘ere camp, that girl is not to be interfered with by no one, and that if any one cuts in, in a way that ain’t fair and right, it should be bad for him. She has come among us, and we are all proud of her, and she has got to be treated like a lady, and Wyoming Bill was worse nor a fool when he spoke as I heard he did to you. He had not been here long and did not know our ways or he would not have done it. We went in and told him last night he’d got to get, or that what you had given him would not be chucks to what would happen if he was not off afore daybreak. Let us liquor.’

This was an invitation that could not be refused, and Ned had to go through the ceremony many times before he could make his retreat. That evening Sinclair and Jack Armitstead came across to Ned’s fire.

‘We have got ten men, Ned, who are ready to join us in clearing the camp, and we are ready to do it in any way you may tell us.’

‘I should give them fair warning,’ Ned said; ‘there are six of them, including Mason, the gambler, who are at the bottom of all the trouble here. I will write six notices, warning them that unless they leave the camp in twelve hours it will be worse for them. I will write them now, it only wants a few words.’

Each notice was headed by the man’s name to whom it was addressed. ‘This is to give you notice that if you are found in this camp after sunset to-night you do so at your peril.—Signed, Judge Lynch.’

‘Now,’ Ned said, when he had written the six papers, ‘get six sticks about three feet in length, cut slits at one end and put these papers in them, and then stick them in the ground in front of these men’s tents, so that they cannot help seeing them when they turn out in the morning. If they don’t take the hint and go we will hold a consultation in the evening as to the steps to be taken.’

The threatened men were all late risers, and the notices were seen by other men going to their work, and the news speedily spread through the camp.

After breakfast Sinclair said to Ned, ‘Those fellows have been holding a sort of council together. I saw them standing in a knot before Bluff Harry’s tent; I expect by dinner time we shall see what they are going to do. I don’t think they will go without a fight. They are all very hard cases, and Bluff Harry and two or three of the others are clear grit down to the boots.’

At twelve o’clock it was seen that the tents of the threatened men had all been taken down and had been erected close together just outside the limits of the camp.

‘That means fighting, clear enough,’ Jack Armitstead said, when they resumed work. ‘I expect they have agreed that one shall be always on watch, and I reckon that the ten of us would not be of much use against them.’

‘I quite agree with you, Jack,’ Ned said, ‘and I have no idea of throwing any life away by an open attack upon them. We must bide our time: for a day or two they will no doubt keep together, but they will soon get careless and then we can act.’

In the evening the men went to the saloon in a body, and standing at the bar indulged in much defiant language of Judge Lynch and his party. So insolent and threatening was their demeanour that the numbers in the saloon rapidly thinned, quiet men soon making their way back to their tents. Ned had not gone there; he thought that after what had happened before, he might be suspected of being concerned in the matter, and that one of the men might pick a quarrel with him. The next day passed off quietly. Ned, on his way back from work in the evening, passed as usual close behind the saloon. As he did so the door was opened and the girl came out.

‘I want to speak to you,’ she said. ‘Those men were at the bar this afternoon. They were talking about the warning they had had, and one of them said he believed that Britisher had something to do with it. The others seemed to think so too. I don’t think your life is safe. Pray do not come here at present, and keep away from them—but it would be safer still for you to go to some other place.’

‘Thank you for the warning,’ Ned said. ‘I had not intended to come in for a day or two. They have no grounds for suspecting me more than any one else, but I don’t want to get into a quarrel with any of them.’

‘They are dangerous men,’ she said, ‘very dangerous. Pray be careful. It is shameful that things should be like this.’

‘We are going to try and make things better,’ Ned said, ‘but we must wait till they are a little off their guard.’

‘Oh, then you are in it. I thought you would be. Yes, it is dreadful. My friends were with them at first, but they see now that they drive people away from the saloon, and they would be glad if the place could be cleared of them. But pray do not run into any danger.’

‘I think I can take care of myself pretty well, miss, and I am not alone. I think most of the men here are of the same opinion, and will be glad to see the camp freed of these ruffians.’

‘Yes, but not to take a share in doing it. Well, pray be careful. Were anything to happen to you I should know it was because you had punished the man who spoke so insultingly about me. You are not like most of the others; you call me miss, and you try to speak roughly, but I know that it is not natural to you, and that you have been a gentleman.’

‘There are a good many in the camp who have been gentlemen,’ he said; ‘but it makes no matter what we have been, each man has to work for himself here and to keep on the common level, and the master is he who can work hardest and steadiest, or, on the other hand, he who can draw his pistol the quickest.’

‘They are calling me,’ the girl exclaimed, as she heard her name shouted within. ‘I must go now,’ and she darted back to the door while Ned walked on carelessly.

‘She is certainly marvellously like Dorothy,’ he said to himself. ‘Her expression was softer this evening than I have seen it before—that makes the likeness all the stronger.’

In the evening Ned heard pistol shots in the direction of the saloon, and a few minutes afterwards Jack Armitstead came up.

‘More murder,’ he said. ‘Ben Hatcher has just shot down two new-comers. They only arrived this afternoon, and knew nothing of what was going on. They walked up to the bar and gave an order. Ben Hatcher was standing there and made some insulting remark to them. They resented it, and he drew and shot them down at once.’

‘You had better bring up the other men,’ Ned said. ‘We will see if we cannot take this fellow as he leaves the saloon to-night. Don’t bring them here; the gathering might be noticed; take them forty or fifty yards behind; then I will join you.’

Ten minutes later Ned took a coil of rope and sauntered off to the spot he had indicated, where he was presently joined by the ten men.

‘It would be useless trying to take this fellow in his tent to-night,’ he said; ‘after what has happened they will be certain to keep a good lookout. We must watch as they leave the saloon. Will you, Armitstead, go in there now and seat yourself at a table and see what is going on, and when you see them coming out get out before them, and come and tell us; we shall be gathered just round the corner.’

‘I don’t expect they will be long,’ Armitstead said. ‘There won’t be much play going on to-night after what has happened. Yes, I will go in.’

There were a few men still sitting at the tables when he entered; they were drinking silently, and watching with scowling faces the group standing at the bar. He took his seat at the table nearest to the door, and in the silence of the place could plainly hear what was being said at the other end.

‘I tell you, you were wrong,’ Bluff Harry was saying; ‘there was no call to draw. The men were new-comers and meant no harm; it is enough to set the whole camp agin us. It ain’t no use your scowling at me; I ain’t afraid of you and you knows it.’

‘Bluff Harry is right, Ben; however, it ain’t no use having words atween friends. We have got to stick together here, and if we does that we can clear this camp out.’

‘I don’t care a continental what Bluff Harry or any other man thinks,’ Ben Hatcher said, sulkily. ‘I does as I like, without asking leave from no man; still, I don’t want to quarrel, and as some of you seems to want to make a muss, I will just leave you to yourselves and turn in.’ As he turned to leave the bar, Jack Armitstead slipped out through the door and ran round the corner.

‘He is coming out by himself,’ he said; ‘you had best get away from here, for a shout would bring the whole gang upon us.’

Ned led the others down by the side of the saloon, and then out through the tents. They took their station behind one standing on the verge of the camp and waited. In two or three minutes a step was heard approaching. As the man came along, Ned Hampton sprang out and threw himself upon him; the others at once followed, and the man was thrown on to the ground, and in spite of his struggles bound and gagged. Then six of them lifted him on their shoulders, and carried him up into the wood.

The next morning, one of the miners going up to chop some firewood returned with the news that Ben Hatcher was hanging from a tree. Many others ran up to verify the statement. On the breast of the dead man was pinned a paper. ‘This man has been tried and found guilty of murder, and has been hung by my orders—Judge Lynch.’

The feeling in camp was one of general satisfaction. The murders of the preceding evening had caused general indignation, and threats had been freely uttered.

Hatcher’s companions were among the last to hear what had happened. None of them, on their return a few minutes after him, had thought of looking in his tent; the three whose turn it was had each kept three hours’ watch, and had no reason for supposing that anything unusual had occurred. It was not until eight o’clock, that one looking into Ben Hatcher’s tent discovered that it was untenanted; the others were soon roused at the news, and Bluff Harry went down into the camp to see if he had gone down on some errand.

‘Have you seen Ben Hatcher?’ he asked a miner who was cooking breakfast for his mates.

‘Ay. I have seen him, and I guess pretty near every one in camp has.’

‘Where is he?’

‘You will find him up in that wood there, close to that big pine, and it ain’t a pleasant sight to look at, I can tell you.’

‘Is he dead?’

‘I should say so; about as dead as he ever will be.’

Bluff Harry returned to his friends, and they went up in a party to the wood. Hardy as they were, their faces whitened as they looked at the swinging body and read the paper.

Not a word was spoken for a minute or two; then Mason, the gambler, said—

‘We had best bury him at once, boys; we can talk it over afterwards.’

Two of the men went down and borrowed picks and shovels. In half-an-hour they returned to their tents, having finished their task. The meal was prepared in silence. When they sat down, Mason said—

‘Well, boys, I don’t know how you take it, but it seems to me that this is not a healthy place to stop in. We cannot always keep together and always be on our guard, and they may pick us up one after the other. I thought when you were talking yesterday about Judge Lynch that you were away from the mark. He has been to two or three camps where I have been, and it ain’t no manner of good bucking against him. My opinion is, the sooner we git the better.’

‘I am with you,’ Bluff Harry agreed. ‘If they came to open fighting I would take a hand to the last, but this secret business don’t suit me. I reckon the game is played out here, and we had better vamoose the ranch before the worst comes of it.’

The others were of the same opinion. The little tents were pulled down and their belongings made up into bundles, and before noon each man shouldered his kit and moved quietly off.

Chapter XXII • 5,300 Words

The evening after the departure of the men who had terrorised the camp, a general meeting was held and the proceedings of Judge Lynch were endorsed by a unanimous vote. It was resolved that the camp should be kept free from professional gamblers and hard characters, and Judge Lynch was requested to give warning to any such men as might come, to clear off without delay. Except those absolutely concerned in the affair of the night before, none in camp knew who were the men who had carried it out. It was an understood thing in the mining camps that the identity of Judge Lynch and his band should not be inquired into or even guessed at. Had their identity been established, it would have been unsafe for any of them to have gone beyond the limits of their camp, and the risk would have been so great that it would have been difficult to get men to act, had they not known that the most absolute secrecy would be maintained.

Some of the miners who were in the habit of playing high grumbled somewhat at the expulsion of Mason, who had not himself been concerned in any of the shooting affrays. Two or three of them packed up their kits and left the camp on the day following the expulsion of the gambler and his associates, but the general result was that the saloon was better attended than ever. There was still a good deal of play going on, for cards formed one of the few amusements of the miners, but as long as they played against each other, the stakes were comparatively moderate, and men were pretty sure that if they lost they, at least, lost fairly.

The intimacy between Ned Hampton and the girl who went by the name of Linda increased. She had given him a bright nod the first time he went into the saloon after the revolution.

‘You see there was nothing to be nervous about,’ he said; ‘the matter was very easily carried out.’

‘It is a comfort to know that they are all gone. I hope we shall have peace and quiet now. I hope no one knows that you had anything to do with it.’

‘No; it is known only to those who took part in it, and no one but yourself knows that I was one of them.’

‘No, but some suspect it. My father and Murdoch both do. They were talking about it this morning. They don’t know whether to be glad or sorry. Mason paid well for the use of that inner room, but of late custom has fallen off in other respects. During the last two days we have taken twice as much as we were doing before, so that I think things will be about even. They were asking me about you, and if I knew anything of your history; but, of course, I could tell them nothing, because I don’t know anything myself.’

‘I don’t think any of us know much of each other’s antecedents,’ Ned said. ‘For anything you know I may be either an escaped convict or a duke in disguise; for anything I know you may be the daughter of the man you call your father or you may not. You may be a lady of rank, who has, from a spirit of adventure, come out here. You may have been brought up in poverty and misery in some London slum. It is certainly not the rule here in the diggings to ask people who they are or where they come from.’

The girl had turned suddenly pale. She was silent for a moment when he ceased speaking, and then said—

‘It is not very civil of you to suggest that I may have been brought up in a slum.’

‘I was merely putting it generally,’ he said. ‘Just as I suggested that I might be an escaped convict for aught you knew.’

Truscott and Murdoch had indeed noticed with some uneasiness that the girl had seemed inclined to be much more friendly with Ned than she had been with any one else since they had come out. On the journey across the plains they had travelled so much faster than the majority that there was no opportunity for forming many intimacies. Since they had been in California they had seen with great satisfaction that she had strictly followed out the line they had impressed upon her, that while civil to all she had treated them with the most absolute impartiality, showing no preference of the slightest kind. The rough compliments paid to her were simply laughed away, and, if persevered in, those who uttered them found that they had no further opportunities of conversation, and that they were completely ignored the next time they came to the bar.

The interests of the two men were so strongly concerned in the matter that they watched her closely, and were not long in noticing that whenever Ned presented himself at the bar she would in a very short time come across from her place behind to speak to him, sometimes only exchanging a word or two, at others, if business happened to be at all slack, chatting with him for some minutes. That day, when as usual they sat down to dinner together, Truscott said:

‘You seem to be taken with that young fellow who chucked Wyoming Bill out the other day. I should not encourage him, or it will be noticed by the others, and that will do us harm.’

The girl flushed angrily. ‘You can keep your advice to yourself,’ she said. ‘He is the most decent man I have met out here, and I like to talk to him; he does not pay me compliments or talk nonsense, but just chats to me as he would to any one else. I don’t interfere with you, and you had best not interfere with me.’

‘Well, you need not be so hot about it,’ the man said; ‘there was no harm meant.’

And so the subject dropped for the time, but the two men talked it over seriously when they were alone.

Another fortnight passed. Ned worked steadily on the claim, which was turning out exceedingly well. Jacob went backwards and forwards for supplies. The camp increased in size, and most of the miners were doing fairly well. The saloon was crowded at meal times, and in the evening; the back room was still used for play, but no professional gambler had ventured into the camp. Truscott himself, however, frequently took the bank, although always making a protest before doing so, and putting it as a favour. He refused, however, to play for really high stakes, but the amounts staked were considerably above those played for by the miners at the other tables.

Jacob, who occasionally went to the saloon with Ned, was more and more convinced that the woman behind the bar was the girl he had known in Piper’s Court; and the sudden change in her face when he had spoken to her as to what her past history might be, had still more brought Ned over to the belief that the lad might be right. He himself was feeling anxious and undecided. He seemed no nearer getting at the end he desired than he had been a month before, and he could not conceal from himself that this girl showed pleasure when she met him, that her manner softened, and that once or twice when he had come suddenly upon her, her cheek had flushed. An occasional rough joke from his mates showed that it was considered in camp a settled thing that he would carry off the woman whose presence was considered by the superstitious miners to have brought luck to them all.

Hitherto, except on the occasions when she came out to speak to him, he had only met her at the bar. She had more than once mentioned that she went out every morning and afternoon for a stroll through the camp while the diggers were all at work, but being unable to arrive at any conclusion as to his best course, he had not availed himself of what seemed to him a half invitation to meet her. At last, however, he determined to see what would come of it, and making some excuse to leave his work soon after breakfast, went up into the camp. From his tent he could see the saloon, and after watching for half-an-hour he saw the girl come out. Marking the way she went, he followed and overtook her just outside the camp. There was no mistaking the look of pleasure in her face.

‘Not at work?’ she said. ‘Is anything the matter?’

‘Nothing is the matter, except that I felt unusually lazy, and catching sight of you, I thought if you would let me I would join you. I thought it would be pleasant to have a talk without having that bar between us.’

‘I should like a talk very much,’ she said, ‘but—’ and she looked round a little nervously.

‘You mean people might talk if they saw us together. Well, there is nothing to talk about. A man and a woman can be good friends just as two men or two women may be—and we are good friends, are we not?’

‘Certainly we are,’ she said, frankly. Ned’s manner had indeed puzzled her; he had always chatted to her as a friend: he had, as she had said, never once paid her a compliment or said a word that might not have been said had there been other men standing beside him at the bar.

‘Do you know, when I first saw you,’ he said, ‘you reminded me so strongly of some one I knew in England that I could have taken you for her?’

‘Indeed,’ she said, coldly; ‘was it some one you knew well?’

‘Very well. I had known her from the time when she was a little child.’

‘Did you care for her much?’

‘Yes, I cared for her a great deal. She was engaged to be married to some one else.’

‘Is she married to him now?’ she asked.

‘No. At least I believe not.’

‘Did you come out here to tell me this?’ she asked, suddenly facing round upon him.

‘Partly,’ he replied. ‘We are friends, and I thought you ought to know. I am not fool enough, Linda, to suppose that you would be likely in any case to feel anything more than a liking for a rough miner like myself, but I thought that it would, at any rate, be only fair that you should know that much of my past history.’

‘Then you still care,’ she said, after a pause, ‘for this woman who is so like me?’

‘Yes, Linda. I shall always care for her.’

‘And it was only because I was like her that you liked me?’ she said, bitterly.

‘No,’ he said. ‘I do not think the likeness had anything to do with it. I liked you because I saw how well you were playing your part in a most difficult position; how quietly you held your own among the rough spirits here; how much you were respected as well as liked by them. I thought how few young women in your position would have behaved so wisely and discreetly. Of course, you had your father.’

‘He is not my father,’ she broke in; ‘he has brought me up, but he is not my father. We are partners, nothing more. I have a third share in the saloon, and could leave them whenever I chose. There, we have talked enough together: it is just as well that we should not be seen here. It would be thought that we had arranged to meet, and I do not want to be talked about, even if the talk is not true. Good-bye;’ and turning she went back into the camp, while Ned Hampton making a wider detour returned to his tent.

That night there was again trouble at the saloon. ‘Shooting again, Jacob,’ Ned said, as a pistol shot was heard. ‘Some quarrel over the cards again, I suppose. I only hope that it was what they call a fair fight, and that there will be no occasion for Judge Lynch to interfere again. However, we may as well go down and see what is the matter.’ They went down together to the saloon; a number of men were standing outside talking excitedly.

‘What is the matter?’ Ned asked, as he arrived.

‘Will Garrett, and a man they call Boots, caught the boss there, cheating at cards, and there was a row over it. White drew first, but Boots was too quick for him, and got first shot.’

‘Has he killed him?’ Ned asked, anxiously.

‘They say not, but the boys don’t think he will overget it. Those who were there don’t blame Boots, for the last two or three evenings there has been a good deal of talk about the play; either the boss had the devil’s own luck or he cheated, and several of the boys made up their minds to watch him close. They suspected him three or four times, but he was so quick that they could not swear to it till to-night Boots spotted it, and swore that he saw him cheat. Then there was a tremendous row. The saloon-keeper whipped out a pistol, but Boots had one in his coat pocket and shot from it without taking it out. No one blames him, for if the other had been a little quicker Boots would have been carried out instead of him.’

The men were pouring out from the place now, Murdoch having begged them to leave at once in order that the wounded man might have quiet. One of the miners, who had thrown up his profession as a doctor for the excitement of the gold-fields, had been in the room at the time and was now looking after him. A messenger was just starting on horseback to fetch another surgeon who was practising at Cedar Gulch, thirty miles away. The next day it was known that the surgeons had some hopes of saving the saloon keeper’s life. A tent had been erected a short distance from the building, and to this he had been carried and the saloon was again opened. Linda, however, did not appear at the bar, and Murdoch was in sole charge of the arrangements. Ned had called early to ask if there was anything he could do. The girl came to the entrance to the tent. ‘There is nothing to be done,’ she said, ‘the two doctors are both within. Mrs. Johnson is coming over from the store at six o’clock this evening to take my place by him for a few hours. The doctors say it may be a long business. I want to speak to you; if you will come to the back door at half-past six I will come out with you for a short time.’

There was something very constrained and cold about her manner, and Ned wondered what she could want to say to him just at the present time. She came out directly he sent in to say that he was there.

‘I do not want to go far,’ she said; ‘we can walk up and down here and talk as well as anywhere else. Will you give me a plain answer to a question?’

‘Certainly I will—to any question.’

‘Are you the man who followed us from England, and who arrived at New Orleans the evening before we left it?’

‘And was all but murdered that night. Yes, I am the man.’

‘Then you are a police spy,’ she said in a tone of utter scorn, ‘and you have been pretending to be a friend only to entrap us.’

‘Not at all,’ Ned answered calmly; ‘I have nothing to do with the police, nor have I had any desire to entrap you. My name is Hampton; I am a captain in the English army.’

‘It is no matter to me who you are,’ she said, angrily. ‘What is your object in following us here?’

‘I might reply by asking what was the object of the two men with you in setting a man on to murder me in New Orleans.’

Her face changed at once. ‘I knew nothing of it,’ she exclaimed; ‘I know we hurried away from our hotel, and they told me afterwards that Warbles had recognised some one he knew on board a steamer that had just come in. But they never could have done that. Were you much hurt?’

‘It was a miracle I was not killed,’ he said; ‘as it was I was laid up for three weeks.’

‘I cannot believe that they had anything to do with it. Why do you accuse them?’

‘Simply because they were the only persons who had an interest in my death, or, at any rate, in my detention for a period, which as they thought would throw me completely off their track, and enable Warbles, as you call him, to place himself beyond the reach of the law.’

‘And you have followed us?’

‘Yes, I followed you. I had undertaken the task, and when I once undertake a thing I always carry it through if I can.’

‘What was your object?’

‘I will tell you frankly. My object at first was to obtain the arrest and extradition of yourself and the man you call Warbles on the charge of being concerned in stealing two diamond tiaras, the property of Gilliat, a jeweller in Bond Street, and of obtaining under false pretences a thousand pounds from a gentleman named Singleton. Failing in doing this it was my intention, if possible, to obtain from you a written acknowledgment of your share in the business. I need hardly say that since I saw you I have altogether abandoned the first intention. I was convinced that you were but an instrument in the hands of others, and only hoped that the time would come when you would undo the harm that had been done by acknowledging that you personated Miss Hawtrey, upon whom the most unjust suspicions have naturally fallen and whose life has been to a great extent ruined by it.’

‘Why should it have been?’ the girl asked. ‘Warbles told me that she could have no difficulty in proving where she was at the time.’

‘She had a difficulty. She had been in Bond Street at the same hour, and she could not prove that she was not either in the jeweller’s shop or at Mr. Singleton’s chambers. Her position has been a terrible one. The man Warbles first prepared the ground by circulating rumours that she was being blackmailed for money, and this gave a reason for her obtaining the jewels. I heard before I left England that in consequence of this cruel suspicion she had broken off her engagement.’

The girl turned fiercely upon him.

‘Ah! and you think to go home and clear her and then to receive your reward; and for this you have acted your part with me. Well, sir, I deny altogether any knowledge of what you have been talking about, and I defy you to do your worst.’

She was turning to leave him when he said—’One moment longer. I am in no way acting for myself, but solely for her. My leave is nearly up, and I shall probably return direct to India, in which case I shall not be back in England for another eight or ten years, and she may be married before as many months are passed—may indeed be married now for aught I know. It is for my girl friend that I have been working, not for the woman that I love. You and I are friends now, and were you in difficulty or trouble you could count upon me to do my best for you as I have been doing for her.’

She waved her hand in scornful repudiation of any claim upon him, and went swiftly back to the tent.

‘Anything wrong, Captain?’ Jacob asked, as he returned to the fire.

‘Not worse than might be expected, Jacob. I have spoken to her, told her who I am, and why I came here. Naturally enough, she is sore at present, and considers that I have been deceiving her, which is true enough. At first she denied nothing, but afterwards fired up, and for the present regards me as an enemy; but I believe it will all come right. She is angry now because it seems to her that I have been taking her in for my own purposes, but I think that when she thinks it over calmly she will do what I want.’

Just as Ned Hampton was thinking of turning in for the night a man came up to the fire. He recognised him at once as Murdoch, Truscott’s partner in the saloon.

‘I have come round to have a bit of a talk with you,’ the man said, as he seated himself on a box near the fire. ‘Linda has been telling me that you are the man I saw at New Orleans, and that you followed us here. She has also been telling me what you came for, and the girl is downright cut up about it. Up till now I have never known the rights of the job she and Warbles had done in England. She has not told me much about it now, only that she acted the part of another girl and got things in her name, and that the other girl has been suspected of it, and that you want to clear her. Now when I first saw her at New Orleans I took an oath I would do what I could for her, and would see that she was not wronged in any way. I have been watching her pretty close for some time. I could see she liked you. If you had pretended to be fond of her so as to wheedle her into doing what you wanted in this business, and had then chucked her over, I would have thought no more of shooting you than I would of putting my heel on a rattler’s head; but I am bound to say that you haven’t. I could see that whatever your game was, you were not trying to make her like you; and when I said something about it, when she was talking to me, she flared up and said that you had never been more than civil to her, and there was no thought of love between you.

‘I don’t think she quite spoke the truth on her side, but that was only natural. Anyhow, I don’t feel any grudge against you, and it is only to make things best for her that I have come here. There is nothing hardly I would not do for her, and I want to make things as smooth as possible. You behaved like a man in that affair with Wyoming Bill, and I guess as you are at the head of Judge Lynch’s band, and I look upon you as a straight man, and I am not afraid of talking straight to you. It was I who set that nigger on you at New Orleans. I knew nothing about you except that you would have spoilt our plans, and might even get her arrested. Your life was nothing to me one way or another; I had got to stop you and I did it. I told the nigger to hit you so that you would be laid up for a time, but not to kill you; but when I did so I tell you I didn’t care the turn of a straw whether he killed you or not. I have been thinking over for the last hour what I had best do, and I concluded to come to you and put it to you straight.

‘Warbles is pretty nigh rubbed out; I doubt if he will get round; he takes a lot of liquor every night, and always has done, and that tells against a man’s chances when he is hurt. You know well enough that you could do nothing against the girl here. If a sheriff came to arrest her the boys would pretty well tear him to pieces, but the chap that could travel as you have done, from England to the States, and then across to California, would certainly be ready to wait and bide his time, and sooner or later you would catch her.’

‘I have no wish to catch her,’ Ned Hampton said. ‘I have told her so. I believe that she has been deceived throughout by this man Warbles, who is, I know, a very bad lot. I have a strong admiration for her; in person she marvellously resembles a lady to whom I am much attached, and the manner in which she behaves here and remains untouched by the admiration she excites is admirable, and I am convinced that she acted in England solely under Warbles’ influence and without any knowledge or thought of the harm she was doing. I am anxious—most anxious—to obtain a written confession from her that would clear the reputation of the lady she impersonated, but if she will not make that confession I shall certainly take no steps whatever against her or put the law in motion to bring about her arrest.’

‘That is well spoken, sir, and if I can help you I will. If Warbles dies I shall do my best to be a father to the girl until the time comes when she will choose a husband for herself. I have been a pretty bad man in my time, and in most things she could hardly have a worse guardian, but at any rate I will watch over and keep her from harm, and would shoot down any man who insulted her as I would a dog. That is all I have got to say now. I hope you don’t bear any ill will for that job at New Orleans, but I will tell you fairly, I would have done it again here had I thought you were coming to try to win her heart just for your purposes, or you had been scheming to get her arrested and sent to England to be punished.’

‘I have got over the affair at New Orleans,’ Ned said, ‘and feel no malice about it now; and had I done so, the feeling would have been wiped out by the sentiments you express towards Linda. I don’t know her real name.’

‘Nor do I,’ Murdoch said, ‘beyond the fact that at first Warbles often called her Sally, I don’t know who she is or where he got her from. I know he had her educated, because one day when she was angry she said that she felt no gratitude to him for that, for he had only had her taught for his own purposes. At present he is too bad to talk, but if he gets a bit better I shall try and get the whole story out of him, and if I do you shall have it. As to Linda, she feels pretty bad at present. She has taken a liking to you, you see, and she feels sore about it, but I expect in time she will come round. It depends a great deal on whether Warbles gets well again. She doesn’t like him, and she fights with him often enough, but when it is something he’s downright set on she always gives way at last. I think she has got an idea that she is bound to do it. I guess it was a sort of agreement when he had her educated that she would work with him and do whatever he bid her. If it had not been for that I believe she would have thrown it up at New Orleans, and for aught I know long before that. If he gets well again she will do as he tells her in this affair of yours. If he dies, you may take it from me that she will own up as you want her to do. You don’t mean to hurt her, and I don’t think there is any one in England she could go back to, so there can’t be any reason why she should not make things straight. Well, I will let you know if there is any change. I shall see you over there, no doubt. She won’t be going into the bar, so you can drop in when you like. You are sure to find me there. There is no one else to see about things.’

For the next few days it was understood in the camp that the boss of the Eldorado was likely to get round. It was reported that he was conscious, and was able to talk freely. Indeed, the doctor said it would be much better that he should not talk as much as he did. The doctor had been one of the ten men who had helped to clear out the camp. When not professionally employed he worked at a claim some distance from that of Ned Hampton’s party, and as he and his partners messed together instead of taking their meals at either of the saloons Ned seldom saw him. A week after his interview with Murdoch he happened to meet him.

‘How is your patient really going on, Ryan?’

The latter shook his head. ‘I think he is going downhill fast. He will talk. We have tried opiates as strong as we dare give him, but they don’t seem to have any effect, which is often the case with steady drinkers. He has not been a drunkard, I believe, but he has been in the habit of taking a lot of liquor regularly. He scarcely sleeps at all. That girl nurses him with wonderful patience, but she is breaking down under the strain. She wasn’t in his tent this morning, and it is the first time that she has been away. When I called the other man, Murdoch, seemed a good deal put out. I don’t know what about, and when I told him outside the tent that the other was worrying himself and was a good deal weaker than he was two days ago, he muttered, “The infernal skunk, it is a pity he didn’t go down twenty years ago.” So I suppose there has been some row between them.’

‘He was a bad lot, Ryan; I know something of his past history, and believe that he was a thorough scoundrel.’

‘Is that so? I never saw much of him. I don’t throw away my money at the bars; my object is to make as much money as will buy me a snug practice in the old country.’

‘Quite right, Ryan; it’s a pity that more do not have some such object in view, and so lay by their earnings instead of throwing them away in those saloons or in the gambling hells of Sacramento.’

Chapter XXIII • 6,800 Words

The next day it was known in camp that the wounded man was sinking. There was a general feeling of pity for the girl who was believed to be his daughter, but none for the man himself, owing to his having been detected cheating—one of the deepest of crimes in a community where all men gambled more or less.

The next morning it was known that he was dead. He was buried a few hours later. Had he died in good odour, the whole camp would have followed him to his grave; but not one would attend the funeral of a detected cheat, and Murdoch had to hire six men to carry the roughly-made coffin to a cleared spot among the pines that had been set apart as the graveyard of the camp. He himself followed, the only mourner, and those who saw the little procession pass through the camp remarked on Murdoch’s stern and frowning face. When the body was consigned to the earth—without prayer or ceremony—Murdoch went down to where Ned was at work.

‘Come round this evening,’ he said; ‘there is a lot to tell you.’

When he went into the saloon in the evening, Murdoch beckoned him into the inner room. Having closed the door, he placed a bottle, a jug of water, and two tumblers upon the table.

‘Now,’ he said, ‘sit down. I have a long story and a bad one to tell you. As I said the other night, I am not a good man, Captain Hampton. I have been mixed up in all sorts of shady transactions on the turf at home, and if I had not made a bolt for it should have got seven years for nobbling a horse. I was among a pretty bad lot at New Orleans, and many a sailor was hocussed and robbed at my place, and I pretty near caused your murder; and yet, I tell you, if I had known what a black-hearted villain that man Warbles—or, as he says his name really is, Truscott—was, I would have shot him rather than have taken his hand. First, will you tell me how much you know of him?’

Ned Hampton told what he knew of the man; of his disappointment at his not obtaining his father’s position of steward at Mr. Hawtrey’s, of the threats he had made, and how, as it seemed, he carried out those threats by first giving rise to the rumours that Miss Hawtrey was at the mercy of some one who held damaging letters of hers, and then by causing Linda to personate her in the commission of audacious thefts.

‘You don’t know half of it,’ Murdoch said; ‘he told it all to her and me, boasting of the vengeance he had taken. You were a boy of eight when Mr. Hawtrey’s wife died—do you remember anything about it?’

‘Very little,’ Ned replied, after sitting for a minute or two—trying to recall the past. ‘I remember there was a great talk about it. She died a week or two after Miss Hawtrey was born. I remember there was a shock, or a loss, or something of that sort, but I do not remember more than that. Oh, yes, I do; I remember there was another baby, and that somehow she and her nurse were drowned.’

‘Yes, that was it. Truscott was at the bottom of it; he told us he had been watching for his chance. It seems that when the twins came the mother could not nurse them. Two women were obtained as foster mothers; Truscott got hold of one of them. I believe from what he said she had belonged to the place, but had been away in London and had only returned a month or two, and had had a baby which had died a day or two before Mrs. Hawtrey’s were born, and although she had no character they were glad enough to secure her services in the emergency. Truscott, as I said, got hold of her and bribed her heavily to consent to carry out his orders. One evening she pretended to get drunk. She was of course discharged, but being apparently too drunk to be turned out on a wet and wild night, as it happened to be, she was put in a room upstairs and was to be sent away first thing in the morning.

‘The two babies slept in cradles in their mother’s room. In the morning the one she had nursed was gone and so was the woman. The latter’s bonnet was found at the end of the garden which ran down to the Thames. The supposition naturally was that she had awoke half-sobered in the morning, with sense enough to remember how she had disgraced herself, and had determined to drown herself and the child. The river was dragged; the woman’s shawl was found caught in a bush dipping into the water, and a torn garment which was recognised as that in which the baby had been put to bed was fished out of the river miles down. The woman’s body was never found, but the river was in flood and it might have been swept out to sea in a few hours. A little baby’s body was cast ashore below Kew. It could not be identified, but no doubts were entertained that it was the one they were in search of, and it was buried with Mrs. Hawtrey, for whom the excitement and shock had been too much.’

Captain Hampton had listened with growing excitement to the story.

‘Then the child was not drowned, and Linda is Dorothy’s twin sister! I wonder that a suspicion of the truth never occurred to their father. Had I known all these circumstances you are telling me I am sure I should have suspected it. I was convinced by this scoundrel’s manner, when he had an altercation with Mr. Hawtrey at Epsom and threatened him, that he had already done him some serious injury, though Mr. Hawtrey, when I spoke to him, declared he was not conscious that he had suffered in any way at his hands, unless two or three rick-burnings had been his work.

‘Certainly, no thought that he could have had any hand in the catastrophe that caused the death of his wife had ever occurred to him. Had I known that the body of the infant had never been really identified, or that of its nurse found, I should have suspected the truth as soon as I found that Truscott and Dorothy’s double were acting together. What an infamous scoundrel, and what a life for the girl. But he never could have foreseen that the two sisters would grow up so alike.

‘No. He told the poor girl what his intentions had been. The woman who stole her died when the child was four years old, and he then placed her with a woman whom he had known as a barmaid. She was not only given to drink, but was mixed up with thieves and coiners. His expectation was that the girl so placed would necessarily grow up a young thief, and go to the bad in every way; and the vengeance to which he had looked forward was that Mr. Hawtrey should at last be informed that this degraded creature was his daughter. He had the declaration of the woman who stole her signed by herself in presence of three witnesses. Of course it made no allusion to his agency in the affair, but described it as simply an act of revenge on her part. He intended to testify only to the fact that he had known this woman, and at her death had taken the child she had left behind her and placed it with another woman as an act of pure charity. Of course, the part he had played in the matter would have been suspected—indeed, he would have lost half his pleasure had it not been so—but there would have been no proof against him.’

‘It is a horrible business,’ Ned Hampton said; ‘a fiendish business, and he had no real ground for any hostility against Mr. Hawtrey. He would have had the appointment his father had held had it not been for his own misconduct. His own father, on his deathbed, implored Mr. Hawtrey not to appoint his son, as he would certainly bring disgrace upon his name.’

‘Truscott represented that he had been scandalously treated and his life ruined by Hawtrey. I have no doubt the matter really was as you say, but he had certainly persuaded himself that he was a terribly ill-used man, and spoke with exultation over the revenge he had taken. It was about four years ago that on his going to see the girl in the court in which he had placed her—’

‘It was Piper’s Court, at Chelsea.’

‘Why, how on earth did you know that?’

‘I have a lad with me who was brought up in that very court, and who recognised her as soon as he saw her here; in fact he had remarked on the likeness directly he saw a photograph of her sister.’

‘Well, when Truscott noticed the likeness he saw that properly worked there was money to be made out of it, so he took her from the woman she had been with and put her with one who had been a governess, but who had come to grief somehow and was nearly starving. This woman was to educate her, but was to teach her nothing that could interfere with his plans for her. I mean nothing of religion or what was right or wrong, or anything of that sort. When he sent her to the woman, the girl had promised she would do whatever he wanted her to do if he would have her educated. So, when the time came, she was perfectly ready to carry out his scheme. She watched Miss Hawtrey come out from her house several times, noted the dress she wore, and had one made precisely similar in every respect, and, as you know, carried out her part perfectly.’

‘Her hair is, as you see, rather darker than her sister’s, but she faked it up to the right shade, and the make-up was so good that not only the shopmen but this Mr. Singleton, whom Truscott knew was her sister’s godfather and a most intimate friend, was also taken in. I tell you, sir, if you had heard the devilish satisfaction with which that scoundrel went over this story again and again, you would have felt, as I did, a longing to throw yourself upon him and strangle him. I must tell you that Sally had no idea whatever that the girl she represented would be seriously suspected of having carried out these thefts. She knew nothing of Truscott’s enmity to Hawtrey. He had told her only that he knew a young lady to whom she bore such a remarkable likeness that it would be easy to personate her. Sally herself had suggested that the girl might be suspected, but he had laughed at the idea and said she could have no difficulty whatever in showing where she was at the time that Sally called at the jeweller’s and Singleton’s. Sally herself is fond, as is natural enough in a girl as good-looking as she is, of handsome clothes, and that visit to the shop where she laid in a stock of fine clothes was, she admits, her own suggestion. She has kept her room since Truscott’s death. She did not say a word as he was telling her his story, but she went as white as death, and got up with a sort of sob when he finished and went out of the tent without saying a word, and has not come out of her room since.

‘I saw her after his death this morning, and it cut me to the heart. She was sitting on her bed, and I think she had been sitting there ever since she went into her room, twenty-four hours before. She talked it over with me in a strange hopeless sort of voice, as if the girl who had been brought up in that court in Chelsea had been somebody else. I brought her in some tea with some brandy in it, and made her drink it; and she took it just like a little child might. This afternoon I saw the doctor and told him what sort of a state she was in, and he gave me a sleeping mixture which I got her to take, and I peeped in just now and saw that she was lying asleep on her bed, and I hope she will be better to-morrow. It has been an awful shock for her.’

‘Terrible,’ Ned Hampton agreed. ‘I could hardly imagine a more dreadful story for a woman to hear. She is indeed deeply to be pitied. What are you thinking of doing?’

‘I am not thinking anything about it yet. I suppose she will go back to England. As for me, I expect I shall carry on this place. We have been doing first-rate since we came here three months ago. Of course it won’t be the same when she has gone. We three were equal partners in it, but I am sure we shall have no trouble in arranging about that. I don’t know what I shall do without her; you will hardly believe me, but the eight or nine months we have been together I have got to love that girl just as if she had been my daughter. You see I always doubted that Truscott meant fair by her. Of course, he would have used her as long as she was useful to him, but he would have thrown her off in a minute if it had suited him. She knew I meant fair by her, and when we happened to be alone together she talked to me quite different to what she did to him. It seemed to me that with him she always had in her mind that it was a bargain which she was carrying out. She regarded him as her master in a sort of way, but I do really think she looked on me as a friend. She would not have stayed with us long. At New Orleans she got a partnership deed drawn out. She would not move without it, and one of the conditions she insisted on was that she could leave us when she liked, and if Truscott had pressed her to do anything, such as marry a man she did not fancy, or anything of that sort, she would have chucked it up at once. But she has got lots of spirit and pluck, and though, of course, she is awfully cut up at present, she will get over it before long, and she particularly begged you would not write to England about all this till she has seen you.’

‘That I certainly will not do. I don’t know that I shall write at all. My idea at present is that it will be better for me to take her home, and then to tell them the story gradually before introducing her to them. I intended going down to San Francisco and taking passage direct to India, but I must give up that idea now. It is clear that she cannot go by herself, and that I must hand her over to her father.’

It was not until four days later that Ned heard from Murdoch that Linda, as they still called her, would see him next morning. On going in he was struck with the change that a week had made. She was paler and thinner, there were dark circles round her eyes and a certain air of timidity had taken the place of the somewhat hard expression of self-reliance that had before characterised her.

‘You have heard all the story, Captain Hampton,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know that there would be any use going over it again. I have written out a confession of the part I played under the direction of that man, and I will sign it in the presence of a magistrate and anyone else you like. I thank you for the kindness and consideration that you have shown for me, and hope—I do hope with all my heart—that when you go back you will get the reward for the sacrifices you have made for Miss Hawtrey. I don’t think that there is anything else to say.’

‘I think there is a good deal to say,’ he replied quietly. ‘We have to arrange when it will suit you to leave this. I should propose that we go down to San Francisco and take the steamer to Panama and go straight home from there.’

‘I have no home,’ she said, ‘except this. I have no idea of returning to England. I have thought it all over,’ she went on, seeing that he was about to speak, ‘and am sure that it is much the best for everyone. You know what I have been—a child brought up in the slums, a little thief, a passer of base coins; since then an adventuress and a thief on a larger scale; last a barmaid. Do you think I would go back and take up a position as a gentleman’s daughter and mix with decent people? I should be miserable. I should know myself to be an impostor. I should feel that if those I met knew what I really am they would shrink from me with horror. I cannot imagine a more wretched existence. My father might tolerate me, but he could not love me. I should cast a shadow on his life; it would never do. This morning I had a long talk with Murdoch. He has behaved as a true friend to me ever since we met; he has always been good to me, and stood between me and the other. He is ready now to make a sacrifice for me. He will dispose of this business—he has already received more than one good offer for it—and will buy a farm down in the fruit district. I did not ask him to do this; I was quite willing to have gone down to Sacramento or San Francisco, and to have taken a situation in a shop or an hotel, but he proposed the other plan and I have gratefully accepted his offer. There is another thing; I have some money. The other got fifteen hundred pounds for the jewels I stole, and there was a thousand pounds that I got from Mr. Singleton. Mr. Singleton’s money we put into the business and Murdoch another five hundred, the rest of that went on our journey and in getting and fitting up the saloon. In the three months we have been here we have earned just that money from the takings in the saloon and the money he won in gambling. Of this our share is a thousand, so that I have now the two thousand five hundred which we got from my thefts. This I will hand over to you to pay the people I robbed. We shall still have enough to carry out our plans; Murdoch has his share of the three months’ profits, and we have been offered two thousand pounds for the saloon and business, so you need feel no uneasiness about that.’

‘But your father will never permit it, Miss Hawtrey. I am sure that if you will not go home with me he will himself come out to fetch you.’

‘It would be useless if he did so,’ she said quietly; ‘my mind is quite made up on that point; but I have a prayer to make to you. I implore you never to tell him the truth; let him to the end of his life believe that his little baby died as he believed, and lies by its mother. That old grief is past and over long ago. It was but a babe a few days old, and another was left him who has been all his heart could wish. What comfort or happiness could he derive by knowing this story—by learning that his child grew up a gutter girl, a little thief, an adventuress, a swindler? What could I ever do to repay him for this grief and disgrace? In my confession I have said no word of this, nor is it necessary for your explanations; you can tell how you met me here, how we got to be friends, how that man was killed, and how, deeply regretting the past, I wrote the confession of my crime, and you can add that I am resolved that henceforth my life shall be a different one, and that I am looking forward to a quiet and happy life under the protection of a true friend. Surely this will be best for us all—best for my father, best for Dorothy, best for me. You may tell her all some day, if you ever win her, as I am sure you will if she is free on your return. Little did I think when I saw and studied her walk and manner that she was my sister. Perhaps some day in the far distant she will come to think kindly of the girl who was what circumstances made her, and who had so little chance of growing up like herself, and she may even come to write a line to me to tell me so.’

‘Here is her portrait,’ Ned said, taking it from his pocket. ‘As to what you ask me, I must think it over before I can promise you.’

‘It is very like me,’ she said, examining the portrait, ‘and yet it’s quite unlike. I wonder anyone could have taken me for her. The expression is so different. I felt that when I saw her, and I put on a veil, for I knew that I could not look bright, and frank, and happy as she did. Think it over, Captain Hampton. I am sure you will see that it is best. What possible good could it be for my father to know all this? If I had been stolen from him when I had been older, and he had come to love me, it would be different. As it is, the truth could only cause him unhappiness.’

Ned Hampton went back to his claim. It had turned out well, and it was growing richer every foot they went down, and had all along been averaging two and a half to three ounces for each of the partners. When therefore Ned said that he had received news that made him anxious to leave, his mates were perfectly willing to buy his share. They had great expectations of the results that it would yield when they neared the bed rock, and they at once offered him a hundred ounces for his share, an offer which he accepted. He had already laid by an equal sum, and after paying his passage and that of Jacob to England or India, would have recouped himself for all the expenses of his expedition, and he would have some three or four hundred pounds in hand after the sale of the horses and waggon.

At dinner time he received a cheque on the bank of Sacramento, in which his partners had deposited their earnings. Jacob was away and he took a long walk down the valley thinking over the girl’s proposal. He acknowledged to himself there was much truth in what she said. It would be a heavy blow to Mr. Hawtrey to find that his daughter was alive and had been so brought up. He would blame himself for having accepted the fact of her death, when by setting on foot inquiries he might possibly have discovered the fraud and have rescued her from the fate that had befallen her. The discovery would certainly not add to his happiness; on the contrary, he would deem himself bound to endeavour to induce her to return to England, and Hampton was sure he would fail in doing so. He acknowledged to himself that his sole objection to the plan was that he himself would to some extent be acting a deceitful part in keeping Mr. Hawtrey in the dark. Certainly he would not be required to tell an absolute untruth, for as Mr. Hawtrey would not entertain the slightest suspicion of the real facts, he would ask no questions that would be difficult to answer. The next day he told Linda that he would act as she wished.

‘I felt sure you would do so,’ she said; ‘it is so much the best way, and you cannot tell what a load it is off my mind. Murdoch and I have been talking over the future. He understands that I want to be quite different to what I have been, and he says I may get a clergyman to teach me the things I never learnt, and we will go to church together; I have never been inside a church. I am sure we shall be very happy. He seems as pleased about it as I am. You must always remember, Captain Hampton, that though I have been very bad, I did not know it was wrong, except that I might be put in prison for it. I think I have always tried to do what seemed to be right in a sort of way, only I did not know what really was right.’

‘I feel sure you have, Linda; I do not blame you for the past, nor do I think that anyone who knew all the circumstances would do so.’

‘Have you heard from England lately?’

‘No, I have not heard since I left. Letters have no doubt been sent to places in the East, where I said I might call for them. When I arrived here I wrote to a friend, and according to my calculations I may get his answer any day. I have been hoping for a letter for some little time. Jacob has called at the post office at Sacramento the last three times he has been down there. I am very anxious to hear, and yet you will understand I am half afraid of the news the letter will bring me.’

‘I don’t think you can have bad news in that way, Ned,’ she said. ‘I may call you Ned again now, mayn’t I? If Dorothy’s face does not belie her she can’t be likely to get engaged to another man so soon after breaking off her engagement with that lord. Does she know you care for her?’

‘No,’ he said. ‘I don’t suppose she ever will. As I told you, we did not part very good friends. She did not forgive me for having doubted her. I think she was perfectly right. I ought never to have doubted her, however much appearances might have been against her.’

‘I think it was perfectly natural,’ she said indignantly; ‘if I could deceive Mr. Singleton, and be talking to him for a quarter of an hour without his suspecting me, it was quite natural that you, who only had a glimpse of me, should have been mistaken.’

‘That is true enough,’ he said gravely. ‘It was natural that I should be mistaken as to her identity, but I ought to have known that, even though it was her, she could not have been, as I supposed, trying to prevent the exposure of some act of folly, when she had over and over again declared she knew nothing whatever of the matter. I was in fact crediting her with being a determined liar, as well as having been mixed up in some foolish business, and it is only right I should be punished for it.’

‘If I loved a man,’ Linda said stoutly, ‘I should forgive him easily enough, even if he had thought I told a lie.’

‘Possibly, Linda; but then, you see, though Dorothy and I were great friends, I have no reason in the world to suppose that she did love me, and indeed, at the time she was engaged to be married to some one else.’

Linda shook her head, quite uninfluenced by this argument. She herself had been very near loving Ned Hampton, and she felt convinced that this sister, whom she knew so little about, must be sure to do so likewise, especially when she came to know how much he had done for her.

Captain Hampton smiled.

‘You forget, Linda, that your sister is a belle in society; that she had several offers before she accepted Lord Halliburn, and is likely to have had some since. I am a very unimportant personage in her world. In fact, my chances would have been less than nothing if it had not been for my having been so much with her while she was a child, and being a sort of chum of hers, though I was so much older.’ There was a movement as of weights being carried into the place, and he broke off. ‘I fancy that is Jacob back with the cart. Perhaps he has got a letter for me. Any letters, Jacob?’

‘Three of them.’

One was in the handwriting of Danvers, another was in a male handwriting unknown, the other in a female hand which he recognised at once, having received several short notes of invitation and appointment from the writer. With an exclamation of surprise he hurried off to his tent and there opened it. It contained but a few words—

‘My dear Ned,—It was very wrong and wicked of you to go away as you did and keep me in the dark. I have read the postscript of your letter to Mr. Danvers. Come back home at once if you wish to obtain the forgiveness of

Dorothy Hawtrey.’

He read it through twice, then his thoughts went back to the letter he had written to Danvers from New Orleans, and as he recalled the postscript he had added, he felt his face flush like a girl’s under its tan. He read through the letter again and again, and with an exclamation of deep thankfulness put it and the other letters in his pocket, took up the hat he had thrown down as he entered, and started for a rapid walk up the hill, too excited to remain quiet, and fearing to have the current of his thoughts disturbed even by the entry of Jacob. It was two hours before he returned. He went first to the saloon.

‘Would you ask Miss Hawtrey if I can speak to her for a minute, Murdoch?’

‘Of course I will. Have you got any good news? You look as if you had.’

‘The best I could get. It is about her sister.’

Murdoch nodded pleasantly. ‘Everything seems to be turning out well. Linda and I are going to settle down to a quiet life till the right man comes for her, and now you have good news from her sister; this place seems lucky for us all.’

He tapped at Linda’s door. ‘Captain Hampton wishes to speak to you for a moment.’

The girl came out at once.

‘Your letters are good?’

‘They are indeed, Linda. Dorothy has written for me to go home to her.’

‘I am glad,’ she said heartily, holding out her hand to him. ‘It would have been a real grief to me, if after all you have done for Dorothy it had not been so. It will be very pleasant to think of you as not only my friend but my brother-in-law, and, as I have seen Dorothy, to be able to picture you in my mind as happy together. Since you were here we have arranged with the store-keeper who has bought the business that he shall take possession to-morrow, and we shall be ready to start in the afternoon if it will suit you to take us down in your waggon.’

‘Certainly; nothing could suit me better. You have not been long in making your arrangements.’

‘It does not take long in these parts,’ Murdoch said; ‘we have just signed a receipt for five hundred ounces of gold, being payment for the Eldorado Saloon, its contents and good-will. It was just as simple a matter as for you to sell your share of a claim.’

Jacob was surprised and delighted when, on his master’s return, he heard that he had completely achieved the object of their journey, and that Murdoch and Linda were going down with him the next day to Sacramento to have her confession sworn to before a magistrate, and that they should then return at once to England.

‘That is first-rate, Captain. I need not go on calling you Ned no longer, which is a thing I never liked, as being disrespectful and altogether wrong. You will keep me with you when you get back, won’t you, Captain?’

‘Certainly I will, Jacob; as long as I live and you like to stay with me you shall do so; but I must try to get you educated and find a better berth for you than being my servant.’

‘I don’t want a better berth,’ the lad said indignantly; ‘I would not be made a harch-bishop, not if they went down on their bended knees to ask me to take the job—not if I could stay with you.’

‘Well, I don’t suppose you will be tempted that way, Jacob. At any rate, lad, my home will be yours as long as you like to stay with me. We have been friends rather than master and servant ever since we left New Orleans. You nearly lost your life in trying to save mine there, and have all along proved yourself a good and faithful fellow. Now when we have had supper you had better go for a stroll through the camp; I have got two letters to read.’

Danvers’ letter, which he first opened, contained nothing of any very great interest. He had seen Mr. Hawtrey, who had only been up in town for a few days, their house having been let for the season, as Mr. Hawtrey told him his daughter, who had been a good deal shaken by an unpleasant adventure they had in Switzerland in the autumn, preferred remaining quietly at home. ‘This seems to be altogether in your favour, old fellow. I had heard of the adventure, in which she and two other girls had a narrow escape for their lives. Halliburn was there at the time, and was one of the rescuing party. I saw the particulars copied from a Swiss newspaper, and I was afraid at first that affair might come on again; but it seems he left next day, and there has been no talk about it since, and this staying down in the country instead of coming up for the season quite seems to put a stopper on that. Hawtrey has paid Gilliat for the diamonds. I hope your quest will turn out successful, and that now that you have run them to earth you will get her to confess; though I don’t see exactly how you are going to set about it. I shall look anxiously for your next letter.’

The other letter was from Mr. Singleton; it was not a long one. It began, ‘My dear Ned,—I write to tell you that Hawtrey has very properly so far disregarded your instructions that, though he kept his promise to the letter by saying nothing, he yielded to Dorothy’s insistence and allowed her to read your letter to Danvers, which the latter had forwarded to him. If he had not done so I should have told her all about it myself. I considered all along that you had acted like a young fool, and I should have done what I thought best for you. As it was I can tell you that mischief very nearly came of our holding our tongues. However, things are put straight now; and though Dorothy does not say much I am sure she has been fretting ever since she heard of that affair at New Orleans. My advice to you is to come home at once. Of course, if you have arranged this affair all the better, but I don’t anticipate that you will succeed in that. When you get back Hawtrey will write to her and offer her a round sum and a promise that no steps shall ever be taken in the matter if she will sign a confession. You had better get the name and address of some solicitor at Sacramento, to act as Hawtrey’s agent in the matter. I have told Dorothy that I am going to write to you, and asked if she had any message to send. She said she had not, but she laughed and coloured, and I should not be at all surprised if you get a note from the young woman at the same time that you receive this. I know she heartily regrets her folly before you went away. I must tell you, my dear boy, that I have made some pecuniary arrangements regarding you; and that if Dorothy is willing to take you, you will meet with no objection on the part of her father.’

There was no necessity to write, for Ned Hampton travelled to England as fast as his letter would have done. He telegraphed his arrival as soon as he landed and followed his message immediately. Ned Hampton always said that his wife married him without his even proposing to her. No proposal indeed was necessary; the matter was settled the moment he went into the room where she was awaiting him, and she ran into his arms without a word. It was not until they were at dinner that the object of Ned’s long absence was alluded to. Then, when the servants had left the room, he said, ‘I have brought home an engagement present for you, Dorothy,’ and he handed her Linda’s confession.

Mr. Hawtrey never knew the truth as to the person who had played the part of Dorothy’s double, and, contented with his daughter being completely cleared, asked no questions concerning her. Dorothy, however, was much more curious, and was with difficulty put off until she became Mrs. Hampton. She was very pitiful over the story when it was told to her.

‘Oh, Ned,’ she cried, ‘how dreadful; and it might just as well have been I who was carried away and brought up in that misery. Of course, she was not to be blamed. How could she have been different? It is wonderful she should have been as nice as you say she was. Of course, I shall write her a long letter. I don’t know about keeping it from father; but perhaps it is best, as she was such a little baby when he lost her, and it would be an awful grief to him to think how she suffered.’

Dorothy wrote very frequently, and letters came back telling of Linda’s quiet, happy life; but Dorothy was not fully contented until three years later she learned that her sister had married a thriving young settler on a neighbouring farm, and that there was every prospect that the trials and troubles of her early life would be atoned for by happiness in the future.

The year after Dorothy’s marriage she was delighted to hear from Ada Fortescue that she had become engaged to Captain Armstrong, and she and Ned went up to town specially to be present at the wedding.

Years afterwards the sisters met, for after Mr. Hawtrey’s death nothing would satisfy Dorothy but a voyage across the Atlantic, and a journey by the newly constructed line to California. The likeness between the sisters had increased, for the hard look in Linda’s face had died away, and had been succeeded by one of quiet happiness, and Captain Hampton declared that he should hardly know them apart, and that Linda was now indeed Dorothy’s Double.

(Also Available at Project Gutenberg )
 
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