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A Perilous Secret by Charles Reade

Part 6 out of 7

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slowly over your tongue and down your throat; it is the throat and the
adjacent organs which suffer most from thirst." He then took a spoonful
himself, not to drink after an assassin. He then gave a spoonful to
Burnley with the same instructions, and rose from his seat and gave the
can to Grace, and said, "The rest of this pittance must not be touched
for six hours at least."

Burnley, instead of complying with the wise advice given him, tossed the
liquid down his throat with a gesture, and then dashing down the spoon,
said, "I'll have the rest on't if I die for it," and made a furious rush
at Grace Hope.

She screamed faintly, and Hope met him full in that incautious rush, and
felled him like a log with a single blow. Burnley lay there with his
heels tapping the ground for a little while, then he got on his hands
and knees, and crawled away to the farthest corner of his own place, and
sat brooding.

That night when Grace retired to rest Hope lay down at her feet, with his
hammer in his hand, and when one slept the other watched, for they feared
an attack. Toward the morning of the next day Grace's quick senses heard
a mysterious noise in Burnley's quarter; she woke her father. Directly he
went to the place, and he found Burnley at work on his knees tearing away
with his hands and nails at the ruins of the shaft. Apparently fury
supplied the place of strength, for he had raised quite a large heap
behind him, and he had laid bare the feet up to the knees of a dead
miner. Hope reported this in a hushed voice to Grace, and said, solemnly,
"Poor wretch, he's going mad, I fear."

"Oh no," said Grace, "that would be too horrible. Whatever should we do?"

"Keep him to his own side, that is all," said Hope.

"But," objected Grace in dismay, "if he is mad, he won't listen, and he
will come here and attack me."

"If he does," said Hope, simply, "I must kill him, that's all."

Burnley, however, in point of fact, kept more and more aloof for many
hours; he never left his work till he laid bare the whole body of that
miner, and found a pickaxe in his dead hand. This he hid, and reserved it
for deadly uses; he was not clear in his mind whether to brain Hope with
it, and so be revenged on him for having shut him up in that mine, or
whether to peck a hole in the tank and destroy all three by a quicker
death than thirst or starvation. The savage had another and more horrible
reason for keeping out of sight; maddened by thirst he had recourse to
that last extremity better men have been driven to; he made a cut with
his clasp-knife in the breast of the dead miner, and tried to swallow
jellied blood.

This horrible relief never lasts long, and the penalty follows in a few
hours; but in the meantime the savage obtained relief, and even vigor,
from this ghastly source, and seeing Hope and his daughter lying
comparatively weak and exhausted, he came and sat down at a little
distance in front of them: that was partly done to divert Hope from
examining his shambles and his unnatural work.

"Maister," said he, "how long have we been here?"

"Six days and more," said Hope.

"Six days," said Grace, faintly, for her powers were now quite
exhausted--"and no signs of help, no hope of rescue."

"Do not say so, Grace. Rescue in time is certain, and, therefore, while
we live there is hope."

"Ay," said Burnley, "for you tew but not for me. Yow telt the men that I
fired t' mine, and if one of those men gets free they'll all tear me limb
from jacket. Why should I leave one grave to walk into another? But for
yow I should have been away six days agone."

"Man," said Hope, "can not you see that my hand was but the instrument?
it was the hand of Heaven that kept you back. Cease to blame your
victims, and begin to see things as they are and to repent. Even if you
escape, could the white faces ever fade from your sight, or the dying
shrieks ever leave your ear, of the brave men you so foully murdered?
Repent, monster, repent!"

Burnley was not touched, but he was scared by Hope's solemnity, and went
to his own corner muttering, and as he crouched there there came over his
dull brain what in due course follows the horrible meal he had made--a
feverish frenzy.

In the meantime Grace, who had been lying half insensible, raised her
head slowly and said, in a low voice, "Water, water!"

"Oh, my girl," said Hope, in despair, "I'll go and get enough to moisten
your lips; but the last scrap of food has gone, the last drop of oil is
burning away, and in an hour we shall be in darkness and despair."

"No, no, father," said Grace, "not while there is water there,
beautiful water."

"But you can not drink _that_ unfiltered; it is foul, it is poisonous."

"Not that, papa," said Grace, "far beyond that--look! See that clear
river sparkling in the sunlight; how bright and beautiful it shines! Look
at the waving trees upon the other side, the green meadows and the bright
blue sky, and there--there--there--are the great white swans. No, no. I
forgot, they are not swans, they are ships sailing to the bright land you
told me of, where there is no suffering and no sorrow."

Then Hope, to his horror, began to see that this must be the very
hallucination of which he had read, a sweet illusion of green fields and
crystal water, which often precedes actual death by thirst and
starvation. He trembled, he prayed secretly to God to spare her, and not
to kill his new-found child, his darling, in his arms.

By-and-by Grace spoke again, but this time her senses were clear; "How
dark it's grown!" she said. "Ah, we are back again in that awful mine."
Then, with the patient fortitude of a woman when once she thinks the will
of the Almighty is declared, she laid her hand upon his shoulder, and she
said, soothingly, "Dear father, bow to Heaven's will;" then she held up
both her feeble arms to him--"kiss me, father--FOR WE ARE TO DIE!"

With these firm and patient words, she laid her sweet head upon the
ground, and hoped and feared no more.

But the man could not bow like the woman. He kissed her as she bade him,
and laid her gently down; but after that he sprang wildly to his feet in
a frenzy, and raged aloud, as his daughter could no longer hear him.
"No, no," he cried, "this thing can not be, they have had seven days to
get to us.

"Ah, but there are mountains and rocks of earth and coal piled up between
us. We are buried alive in the bowels of the earth.

"Well, and shouldn't I have blasted a hundred rocks, and picked through
mountains, to save a hundred lives, or to save one such life as this, no
matter whose child she was?

"Ah! you poor scum, you came to me whenever you wanted me, and you never
came in vain. But now that I want you, you smoke your pipes, and walk
calmly over this living tomb I lie in.

"Well, call yourselves men, and let your friends perish; I am a man, and
I can die."

Then he threw himself wildly on his knees over his insensible daughter.

"But my child! Oh God! look down upon my child! Do, pray, see the horror
of it. The horror and the hellish injustice! She has but just found her
father. She is just beginning life; it's not her time to die! Why, you
know, she only came here to save her father. Heaven's blessing is the
right of pious children; it's promised in God's Word. They are to live
long upon earth, not to be cut off like criminals."

Then he rose wildly, and raged about the place, flinging his arms on
high, so that even Burnley, though his own reason was shaken, cowered
away from the fury of a stronger mind.

"Men and angels cry out against it!" he screamed, in madness and despair.
"Can this thing be? Can Heaven and earth look calmly on and see this
horror? Are men all ingratitude? IS GOD ALL APATHY?"

A blow like a hammer striking a church bell tinkled outside the wall, and
seemed to come from a great distance.

To him who, like the rugged Elijah, had expostulated so boldly with his
Maker, and his Maker, who is not to be irritated, forgave him, that blow
seemed at first to ring from heaven. He stood still, and trembled like a
leaf; he listened; the sound was not repeated.

"Ah," said he, "it was an illusion like hers."

* * * * *

But for all that he seized his hammer, and darted to the back of the
hall, and mounting on a huge fragment of coal struck the seam high above
his head. He gave two blows at longish intervals, and then three blows in
quick succession.

Grace heard, and began to raise herself on her hands in wonder.

Outside the wall came two leisurely blows that seemed a mile off, though
they were not ten feet, and then three blows in quick succession.

"My signal echoed," yelled Hope. "Do you hear, child, my signal answered?
Thank God! thank God! thank God!"

He fell on his knees and cried like a child. The next minute, burning
with hope and joy, he was by Grace's side, with his arms round her.

"You can't give way now. Fight on a few minutes more. Death, I defy you;
I am a father; I tear my child from your clutches." With this he raised
her in his arms with surprising vigor. It was Grace's turn to shake off
all weakness, under the great excitement of the brain.

"Yes, I'll live," she cried, "I'll live for you. Oh, the gallant men!
Hear, hear the pickaxes at work; an army is coming to our rescue, father;
the God you doubted sends them, and some hero leads them."

The words had scarcely left her lips when Hope set her down in fresh
alarm. An enemy's pickaxe was at work to destroy them; Burnley was
picking furiously at the weak part of the tank, shrieking, "They will
tear me to pieces; there is no hope in this world nor the next for me."

"Madman," cried Hope--"he'll let the water in before they can save us."
He rushed at Burnley and seized him; but his frenzy was gone, and
Burnley's was upon him; after a short struggle Burnley flung him off with
prodigious power. Hope flew at him again, but incautiously, and the
savage lowering his head, drove it with such fury into Hope's chest that
he sent him to a distance, and laid him flat on his back utterly
breathless. Grace flew to him and raised him.

He was not a man to lose his wits. "To the truck," he gasped, "or we
are lost."

"I'll flood the mine! I'll flood the mine!" yelled Burnley.

Hope made his daughter mount a large fragment of coal we have already
mentioned, and from that she sprang to the truck, and with her excitement
and with her athletic power she raised herself into the full truck, and
even helped her father in after her. But just as she got him on to the
truck, and while he was still only on his knees, that section of the wall
we have called the tank rent and gaped under Burnley's pickaxe, and
presently exploded about six feet from the ground, and a huge volume of
water drove masses of earth and coal before it, and came roaring like a
solid body straight at the coal truck, and drove it against the opposite
wall, smashed the nearest side in, and would have thrown Grace off it
like a feather, but Hope, kneeling and clinging to the side, held her
like a vise.

Grace screamed violently. Immediately there was a roar of exultation
outside from the hitherto silent workers; for that scream told that the
_woman_ was alive, too: the wife of the brave fellow who had won all
their hearts and melted away the icy barrier of class.

Three gigantic waves struck the truck and made it quiver.

The first came half-way up; the second came full two-thirds; the third
dashed the senseless body of Ben Burnley, with bleeding head and broken
bones, against the very edge of the truck, then surged back with him into
a whirling vortex.

Grace screamed continuously; she gave herself up now for lost; and the
louder she screamed, the louder and the nearer the saving party shouted
and hurrahed.

"No, do not fear," cried Hope; "you shall not die. Love is stronger
than death."

The words were scarce out of his mouth when the point of a steel pick
came clean through the stuff; another followed above it; then another,
then another, and then another. Holes were made; then gaps, then larger
gaps, then a mass of coal fell in; furious picks--a portion of the mine
knocked away--and there stood in a red blaze of lamps held up, the
gallant band roaring, shouting, working, led by a stalwart giant with
bare arms, begrimed and bleeding, face smoked, hair and eyebrows black
with coal-dust, and eyes flaming like red coals. He sprang with one
fearless bound down to the coal-truck, and caught up his wife in his
arms, and held her to his panting bosom. Ropes, ladder, everything--and
they were saved; while the corpse of the assassin whirled round and round
in the subsiding eddies of the black water, and as that water ran away
into the mine, lay, coated with mud, at the feet of those who had saved
his innocent victims.

CHAPTER XXIV.

STRANGE COMPLICATIONS.

Exert all the powers of your mind, and conceive, if you can, what that
mother felt whose only son sickened, and, after racking her heart with
hopes and fears, died before her eyes, and was placed in his coffin and
carried to his rest. Yet One in the likeness of a man bade the bearers
stand still, then, with a touch, made the coffin open, the dead come
back, blooming with youth and health, and handed him to his mother.

That picture no mortal mind can realize; but the effort will take you
so far as this: you may imagine what Walter Clifford felt when, almost
at the climax of despair, he received from that living tomb the good
and beautiful creature who was the light of his eyes and the darling of
his heart.

How he gloated on her! How he murmured words of comfort and joy over her
as the cage carried her and Hope and him up again into the blessed
sunshine! And there, what a burst of exultation and honest rapture
received them!

Everybody was there. The news of Hope's signal had been wired to the
surface. An old original telegraph had been set up by Colonel Clifford,
and its arms set flying to tell him. That old campaigner was there, with
his spring break and mattresses, and an able physician. Bartley was
there, pale and old, and trembling, and crying. He fell on his knees
before Hope and Grace. She drew back from him with repulsion; but he
cried out, "No matter! no matter! They are saved! they are saved!"

Walter carried her to his father, and left Bartley kneeling. Then he
dashed back for Hope, who did not move, and found him on his knees
insensible. A piece of coal, driven by one of the men's picks, had struck
him on the temple. The gallant fellow had tried to hide his hurt with his
handkerchief, but the handkerchief was soaked with blood, and the man,
exhausted by hunger, violent emotions, and this last blow, felt neither
his trouble nor his joy. He was lifted with tender pity into the break,
and the blood stanched, and stimulants applied by the doctor. But Grace
would have his head on her bosom, and her hand in Walter's. Fortunately,
the doctor was no other than that physician who had attended Colonel
Clifford in his dangerous attack of internal gout. We say fortunately,
for patients who have endured extremities of hunger have to be treated
with very great skill and caution. Gentle stimulants and mucilages must
precede solid food, and but a little of anything be taken at a time.
Doctor Garner began his treatment in the very break. The first spoonful
of egg and brandy told upon Grace Hope. Her deportment had been strange.
She had seemed confused at times, and now and then she would cast a look
of infinite tenderness upon Walter, and then again she would knit her
brow and seem utterly puzzled.

But now she gave Walter a look that brought him nearer to her, and she
said, with a heavenly smile, "You love me best; better than the other."
Then she began to cry over her father.

"Better than the other," said Walter, aloud. "What other?"

"Be quiet," said the doctor. "Do you really think her stomach can be
empty for six days, and her head be none the worse? Come, my dear,
another spoonful. Good girl! Now et me look at you, Mr. Walter."

"Why, what is the matter with _him_?" said the Colonel. "I never saw him
look better in all my life."

"Indeed! Red spots on his cheek-bones, ditto on his temples, and his
eyes glaring."

"Excitement and happiness," said Walter.

The doctor took no notice of him. "He has been outraging nature,"
said he, "and she will have her revenge. We are not out of the wood
yet, Colonel Clifford, and you had better put them all three under
my command."

"I do, my good friend; I do," said Colonel Clifford, eagerly. "It is your
department, and I don't believe in two commanders."

They drew up at the great door of Clifford Hall. It seemed to open of
itself, and there were all the servants drawn up in two lines.

They all showed eager sympathy, but only John Baker and Mrs. Milton
ventured to express it. "God bless you all!" said Colonel Clifford. "But
it is our turn now. They are all in the doctor's hands. My whole
household obey him to the letter. It is my order. Doctor Garner, this is
Mrs. Milton, my housekeeper. You will find her a good lieutenant."

"Mrs. Milton," said the doctor, sharply, "warm baths in three rooms, and
to bed with this lot. Carry Mr. Hope up; he is my first patient. Bring me
eggs, milk, brandy, new port-wine. Cook!"

"Sir?"

"Hammer three chickens to pieces with your rolling-pin, then mince them;
then chuck them into a big pot with cold water, stew them an hour, and
then boil them to a jelly, strain, and serve. Meantime, send up three
slices of mutton half raw; we will do a little chewing, not much."

The patients submitted like lambs, only Walter grumbled a little, but at
last confessed to a headache and sudden weariness.

Julia Clifford took special charge of Grace Hope, the doctor of William
Hope, and Colonel Clifford sat by Walter, congratulating, soothing, and
encouraging him, until he began to doze.

* * * * *

Doctor Garner's estimate of his patients proved correct. The next day
Walter was in a raging fever.

Hope remained in a pitiable state of weakness, and Grace, who in theory
was the weaker vessel, began to assist Julia in nursing them both. To be
sure, she was all whip-cord and steel beneath her delicate skin, and had
always been active and temperate. And then she was much the youngest, and
the constitutions of such women are anything but weak. Still, it was a
most elastic recovery from a great shock.

But the more her body recovered its strength, and her brain its
clearness, the more was her mind agitated and distressed.

Her first horrible anxiety was for Walter's life. The doctor showed no
fear, but that might be his way.

It was a raging fever, with all the varieties that make fever terrible to
behold. He was never left without two attendants; and as Hope was in no
danger now, though pitiably weak and slowly convalescent, Grace was often
one of Walter's nurses. So was Julia Clifford. He sometimes recognized
them for a little while, and filled their loving hearts with hope. But
the next moment he was off into the world of illusions, and sometimes
could not see them. Often he asked for Grace most piteously when she was
looking at him through her tears, and trying hard to win him to her with
her voice. On these occasions he always called her Mary. One unlucky day
that Grace and Julia were his only attendants he became very restless and
wild, said he had committed a great crime, and the scaffold was being
prepared for him. "Hark!" said he; "don't you hear the workmen? Curse
their hammers; their eternal tip-tapping goes through my brain. The
scaffold! What would the old man say? A Clifford hung! Never! I'll save
him and myself from that."

Then he sprang out of bed and made a rush at the window. It was open,
unluckily, and he had actually got his knee through when Grace darted to
him and seized him, screaming to Julia to help her. Julia did her best,
especially in the way of screaming. Grace's muscle and resolution impeded
the attempt no more; slowly, gradually, he got both knees upon the
window-sill. But the delay was everything. In came a professional nurse.
She flung her arms round Walter's waist and just hung back with all her
weight. As she was heavy, though not corpulent, his more active strength
became quite valueless; weight and position defeated him hopelessly; and
at last he sank exhausted into the nurse's arms, and she and Grace
carried him to bed like a child.

Of course, when it was all over, half a dozen people came to the rescue.
The woman told what had happened, the doctor administered a soothing
draught, the patient became very quiet, then perspired a little, then
went to sleep, and the cheerful doctor declared that he would be all the
better for what he called this little outbreak. But Grace sat there
quivering for hours, and Colonel Clifford installed two new nurses that
very evening. They were pensioners of his--soldiers who had been
invalided from wounds, but had long recovered, and were neither of them
much above forty. They had some experience, and proved admirable
nurses--quiet, silent, vigilant as sentinels.

That burst of delirium was the climax. Walter began to get better
after that. But a long period of convalescence was before him; and the
doctor warned them that convalescence has its very serious dangers,
and that they must be very careful, and, above all, not irritate nor
even excite him.

All this time torments of another kind had been overpowered but never
suppressed in poor Grace's mind; and these now became greater as Walter's
danger grew less and less.

What would be the end of all this? Here she was installed, to her
amazement, in Clifford Hall, as Walter's wife, and treated, all of a
sudden, with marked affection and respect by Colonel Clifford, who had
hitherto seemed to abhor her. But it was all an illusion; the whole house
of cards must come tumbling down some day.

Some days before the event last described Hope had said to her,

"My child, this is no place for you and me."

"No more it is, papa," said Grace. "I know that too well."

"Then why did you let them bring us here?"

"Papa," said Grace, "I forgot all about _that_."

"Forgot it!"

"It seems incredible, does it not? But what I saw and felt thrust what I
had only heard out of my mind. Oh, papa! you were insensible, poor dear;
but if you had only seen Walter Clifford when he saved us! I took him for
some giant miner. He seemed ever so much bigger than the gentleman I
loved--ay, and I shall love him to my dying day, whether or not he
has--But when he sprang to my side, and took me with his bare, bleeding
arms to his heart, that panted so, I thought his heart would burst, and
mine, too, could I feel another woman between us. All that might be true,
but it was unreal. That he loved me, and had saved me, _that_ was real.
And when we sat together in the carriage, your poor bleeding head upon my
bosom, and his hand grasping mine, and his sweet eyes beaming with love
and joy, what could I realize except my father's danger and my husband's
mighty love? I was all present anxiety and present bliss. His sin and my
alarms seemed hundreds of miles off, and doubtful. And even since I have
been here, see how greater and nearer things have overpowered me. Your
deadly weakness--you, who were strong, poor dear--oh, let me kiss you,
dear darling--till you had saved your child; Walter's terrible danger.
Oh, my dear father, spare me. How can a poor, weak woman think of such
different woes, and realize and suffer them all at once? Spare me, dear
father, spare me! Let me see you stronger; let me see _him_ safe, and
then let us think of that other cruel thing, and what we ought to say to
Colonel Clifford, and what we ought to do, and where we are to go."

"My poor child," said Hope, faintly, with tears in his eyes, "I say no
more. Take your own time."

Grace did not abuse this respite. So soon as the doctor declared Walter
out of immediate danger, and indeed safe, if cautiously treated, she
returned of her own accord to the miserable subject that had been
thrust aside.

After some discussion, they both agreed that they must now confide their
grief to Colonel Clifford, and must quit his home, and make him master of
the situation, and sole depository of the terrible secret for a time.

Hope wished to make the revelation, and spare his daughter that pain. She
assented readily and thankfully.

This was a woman's first impulse--to put a man forward.

But by-and-by she had one of her fits of hard thinking, and saw that
such a revelation ought not to be made by one straightforward man to
another, but with all a woman's soothing ways. Besides, she had already
discovered that the Colonel had a great esteem and growing affection for
her; and, in short, she felt that if the blow could be softened by
anybody, it was by her.

Her father objected that she would encounter a terrible trial, from
which he could save her; but she entreated him, and he yielded to her
entreaty, though against his judgment.

When this was settled, nothing remained but to execute it.

Then the woman came uppermost, and Grace procrastinated for one
insufficient reason and another.

However, at last she resolved that the very next day she would ask John
Baker to get her a private interview with Colonel Clifford in his study.

This resolution had not been long formed when that very John Baker tapped
at Mr. Hope's door, and brought her a note from Colonel Clifford asking
her if she could favor him with a visit in his study.

Grace said, "Yes, Mr. Baker, I will come directly."

As soon as Baker was gone she began to bemoan her weak procrastination,
and begged her father's pardon for her presumption in taking the matter
out of his hands. "You would not have put it off a day. Now, see what I
have done by my cowardice."

Hope did not see what she had done, and the quick-witted young lady
jumping at once at a conclusion, opened her eyes and said,

"Why, don't you see? Some other person has told him what it was so
important he should hear first from me. Ah! it is the same gentleman that
came and warned me. He has heard that we are actually married, for it is
the talk of the place, and he told me she would punish him if he
neglected her warning. Oh, what shall I do?"

"You go too fast, Grace, dear. Don't run before trouble like that. Come,
go to Colonel Clifford, and you will find it is nothing of the kind."

Grace shook her head grandly. Experience had given her faith in her own
instincts, as people call them--though they are subtle reasonings the
steps of which are not put forward--and she went down to the study.

"Grace, my dear," said the Colonel, "I think I shall have a fit of
the gout."

"Oh no," said Grace. "We have trouble enough."

"It gets less every day, my dear; that is one comfort. But what I meant
was that our poor invalids eclipse me entirely in your good graces. That
is because you are a true woman, and an honor to your sex. But I should
like to see a little more of you. Well, all in good time. I didn't send
for you to tell you that. Sit down, my girl; it is a matter of business."

Grace sat down, keenly on her guard, though she did not show it in the
least. Colonel Clifford resumed,

"You may be sure that nothing has been near my heart for some time but
your danger and my dear son's. Still, I owe something to other sufferers,
and the poor widows whose husbands have perished in that mine have cried
to me for vengeance on the person who bribed that Burnley. I am a
magistrate, too, and duty must never be neglected. I have got detectives
about, and I have offered five hundred guineas reward for the discovery
of the villain. One Jem Davies described him to me, and I put the
description on the placard and in the papers. But now I learn that
Davies's description is all second-hand. He had it from you. Now, I must
tell you that a description at second-hand always misses some part or
other. As a magistrate, I never encourage Jack to tell me what Jill says
when I can get hold of Jill. You are Jill, my dear, so now please verify
Jack's description or correct it. However, the best way will be to give
me your own description before I read you his."

"I will," said Grace, very much relieved. "Well, then, he was a man not
over forty, thin, and with bony fingers; an enormous gold ring on the
little finger of his right hand. He wore a suit of tweed, all one color,
rather tight, and a vulgar neck-handkerchief, almost crimson. He had a
face like a corpse, and very thin lips. But the most remarkable things
were his eyes and his eyebrows. His eyes were never still, and his brows
were very black, and not shaped like other people's; they were neither
straight, like Julia Clifford's, for instance, nor arched like Walter's;
that is to say, they were arched, but all on one side. Each brow began
quite high up on the temple, and then came down in a slanting drop to the
bridge of the nose, and lower than the bridge. There, if you will give me
a pencil I will draw you one of his eyebrows in a minute."

She drew the eyebrow with masterly ease and rapidity.

"Why, that is the eyebrow of Mephistopheles."

"And so it is," said Grace, naively. "No wonder it did not seem
human to me."

"I am sorry to say it is human. You can see it in every convict jail.
But," said he, "how came this villain to sit to you for his portrait?"

"He did not, sir. But when he was struggling with me to keep me from
rescuing my father--"

"What! did the ruffian lay hands on you?"

"That he did, and so did Mr. Bartley. But the villain was the leader of
it all; and while he was struggling with me--"

"You were taking stock of him? Well, they talk of a Jew's eye; give me a
woman's. My dear, the second-hand description is not worth a button. I
must write fresh notices from yours, and, above all, instruct the
detectives. You have given me information that will lead to that man's
capture. As for the gold ring and the tweed suit, they disappeared into
space when my placard went up, you may be sure of that, and a felon can
paint his face. But his eyes and eyebrows will do him. They are the mark
of a jail-bird. I am a visiting justice, and have often noticed the
peculiarity. Draw me his eyebrows, and we will photograph them in Derby;
and my detectives shall send copies to Scotland Yard and all the convict
prisons. We'll have him."

The Colonel paused suddenly in his triumphant prediction, and said, "But
what was that you let fall about Bartley? He was no party to this foul
crime. Why, he has worked night and day to save you and Hope. Indeed, you
both owe your lives to him."

"Indeed!"

"Yes. He set the men on to save you within ten minutes of the explosion.
He bought rope by the mile, and great iron buckets to carry up the debris
that was heaped up between you and the working party. He raved about the
pit day and night lamenting his daughter and his friend; and why I say he
saved you, 'twas he who advised Walter. I had this from Walter himself
before his fever came on. He advised and implored him not to attempt to
clear the whole shaft, but to pick sideways into the mine twenty feet
from the ground. He told Walter that he never really slept at night, and
in his dreams saw you in a part of the mine he calls the hall. Now,
Walter says that but for this advice they would have been two days more
getting to you."

"We should have been dead," said Grace, gravely. Then she reflected.

"Colonel Clifford," said she, "I listened to that villain and Mr. Bartley
planning my father's destruction. Certainly every word Mr. Bartley _said_
was against it. He spoke of it with horror. Yet, somehow or other, that
wretched man obtained from him an order to send the man Burnley down the
mine, and what will you think when I tell you that he assisted the
villain to hinder me from going to the mine?" Then she told him the whole
scene, and how they shut her up in the house, and she had to go down a
curtain and burst through a quick-set hedge. But all the time she was
thinking of Walter's bigamy and how she was to reveal it; and she
related her exploits in such a cold, languid manner that it was hardly
possible to believe them.

Colonel Clifford could not help saying, "My dear, you have had a great
shock; and you have dreamt all this. Certainly you are a fine girl, and
broad-shouldered. I admire that in man or woman--but you are so delicate,
so refined, so gentle."

Grace blushed and said, languidly, "For all that, I am an athlete."

"An athlete, child?"

"Yes, sir. Mr. Bartley took care of that. He would never let me wear a
corset, and for years he made me do calisthenics under a master."

"Calisthenics?"

"That is a fine word for gymnastics." Then, with a double dose of
languor, "I can go up a loose rope forty feet, so it was nothing to me to
come down one. The hedge was the worst thing; but my father was in
danger, and my blood was up." She turned suddenly on the Colonel with a
flash of animation, "You used to keep race-horses, Walter told me." The
Colonel stared at this sudden turn.

"That I did," said he, "and a pretty penny they cost me."

"Well, sir, is not a race-horse a poor mincing thing until her blood gets
up galloping?"

"By Jove! you are right," said he, "she steps like a cat upon hot bricks.
But the comparison is not needed. Whatever statement Mrs. Walter Clifford
makes to me seriously is gospel to me, who already know enough of her to
respect her lightest word. Pray grant me this much, that Bartley is a
true penitent, for I have proof of it in this drawer. I'll show it you."

"No, no, please not," said Grace, in no little agitation. "Let me take
your word for that, as you have taken mine. Oh, sir, he is nothing to me
compared with what I thought you wished to say to me. But it is I who
must find the courage to say things that will wound you and me still
more. Colonel Clifford, pray do not be angry with me till you know all,
but indeed your house is not the place for my father or for me."

"Why not, madam," said the Colonel, stiffly, "since you are my
daughter-in-law?"

She did not reply.

"Ah!" said he, coloring high and rising from his chair. He began to walk
the room in some agitation. "You are right," said he; "I once affronted
you cruelly, unpardonably. Still, pray consider that you passed for
Bartley's daughter; that was my objection to you, and then I did not know
your character. But when I saw you come out pale and resolved to
sacrifice yourself to justice and another woman, that converted me at
once. Ask Julia what I said about you."

"I must interrupt you," said Grace. "I can not let such a man as you
excuse yourself to a girl of eighteen who has nothing but reverence for
you, and would love you if she dared."

"Then all I can say is that you are very mysterious, my dear, and I wish
you would speak out."

"I shall speak out soon enough," said Grace, solemnly, "now I have begun.
Colonel Clifford, you have nothing to reproach yourself with. No more
have I, for that matter. Yet we must both suffer." She hesitated a
moment, and then said, firmly, "You do me the honor to approve my conduct
in that dreadful situation. Did you hear all that passed? did you take
notice of all I said?"

"I did," said Colonel Clifford. "I shall never forget that scene, nor the
distress, nor the fortitude of her I am proud to call my daughter."

Grace put her hands before her face at these kind words, and he saw the
tears trickle between her white fingers. He began to wonder, and to feel
uneasy. But the brave girl shook off her tears, and manned herself, if
we may use such an expression.

"Then, sir," said she, slowly and emphatically, though quietly, "did
you not think it strange that I should say to my father, 'I don't
know?' He asked me before you all, 'Are you a wife?' Twice I said to my
father--to him I thought was my father--'I don't know.' Can you account
for that, sir?"

The Colonel replied, "I was so unable to account for it that I took Julia
Clifford's opinion on it directly, as we were going home."

"And what did she say?"

"Oh, she said it was plain enough. The fellow had forbidden you to own
the marriage, and you were an obedient wife; and, like women in general,
strong against other people, but weak against one."

"So that is a woman's reading of a woman," said Grace. "She will
sacrifice her honor, and her father's respect, and court the world's
contempt, and sully herself for life, to suit the convenience of a
husband for a few hours. My love is great, but it is not slavish or
silly. Do you think, sir, that I doubted for one moment Walter Clifford
would own me when he came home and heard what I had suffered? Did I think
him so unworthy of my love as to leave me under that stigma? Hardly. Then
why should I blacken Mrs. Walter Clifford for an afternoon, just to be
unblackened at night?"

"This is good sense," said the Colonel, "and the thing is a mystery. Can
you solve it?"

"You may be sure I can--and woe is me--I must."

She hung her head, and her hands worked convulsively.

"Sir," said she, after a pause, "suppose I could not tell the truth to
all those people without subjecting the man I loved--and I love him now
dearer than ever--to a terrible punishment for a mere folly done years
ago, which now has become something much worse than folly--but how?
Through his unhappy love for me!"

"These are dark words," said the Colonel. "How am I to understand them?"

"Dark as they are," said Grace, "do they not explain my conduct in that
bitter trial better than Julia Clifford's guesses do, better than
anything that has occurred since?"

"Mrs. Walter Clifford," said the Colonel, with a certain awe, "I see
there is something very grave here, and that it affects my son. I begin
to know you. You waited till he was out of danger; but now you do me the
honor to confide something to me which the world will not drag out of
you. So be it; I am a man and a soldier. I have faced cavalry, and I can
face the truth. What is it?"

"Colonel Clifford," said Grace, trembling like a leaf, "the truth will
cut you to the heart, and will most likely kill me. Now that I have gone
so far, you may well say, 'Tell it me;' but the words once past my lips
can never be recalled. Oh, what shall I do? What shall I do?"

The struggle overpowered her, and almost for the first time in her life
she turned half faint and yet hysterical; and such was her condition that
the brave Colonel was downright alarmed, and rang hastily for his people.
He committed her to the charge of Mrs. Milton. It seemed cruel to demand
any further explanation from her just then; so brave a girl, who had gone
so far with him, would be sure to tell him sooner or later. Meantime he
sat sombre and agitated, oppressed by a strange sense of awe and mystery,
and vague misgiving. While he brooded thus, a footman brought him in a
card upon a salver: "The Reverend Alleyn Meredith." "Do I know this
gentleman?" said the Colonel.

"I think not, sir," said the footman.

"What is he like?"

"Like a beneficed clergyman, sir."

Colonel Clifford was not in the humor for company; but it was not his
habit to say not at home when he was at home; and being a magistrate, he
never knew when a stranger sent in his card, that it might not be his
duty to see him; so he told the footman to say, "that he was in point of
fact engaged, but was at this gentleman's service for a few minutes."

The footman retired, and promptly ushered in a clergyman who seemed the
model of an archdeacon or a wealthy rector. Sleek and plump, without
corpulence, neat boots, clothes black and glossy, waistcoat up to the
throat, neat black gloves, a snowy tie, a face shaven like an egg, hair
and eyebrows grizzled, cheeks rubicund, but not empurpled, as one who
drank only his pint of port, but drank it seven days in the week.

Nevertheless, between you and us, this sleek, rosy personage, archdeacon
or rural dean down to the ground was Leonard Monckton, padded to the
nine, and tinted as artistically as any canvas in the world.

* * * * *

The first visit Monckton had paid to this neighborhood was to the mine.
He knew that was a dangerous visit, so he came at night as a decrepit old
man. He very soon saw two things which discouraged farther visits. One
was a placard describing his crime in a few words, and also his person
and clothes, and offering 500 guineas reward. As his pallor was
specified, he retired for a minute behind a tent, and emerged the color
of mahogany; he then pursued his observations, and in due course fell in
with the second warning. This was the body of a man lying upon the slack
at the pit mouth; the slack not having been added to for many days was
glowing very hot, and fired the night. The body he recognized
immediately, for the white face stared at him; it was Ben Burnley
undergoing cremation. To this the vindictive miners had condemned him;
they had sat on his body and passed a resolution, and sworn he should not
have Christian burial, so they managed to hide his corpse till the slack
got low, and then they brought him up at night and chucked him like a dog
on to the smouldering coal; one-half of him was charred away when
Monckton found him, but his face was yet untouched. Two sturdy miners
walked to and fro as sentinels, armed with hammers, and firmly resolved
that neither law nor gospel should interfere with this horrible example.

Even Monckton, the man of iron nerves, started back with a cry of dismay
at the sight and the smell.

One of the miners broke into a hoarse, uneasy laugh. "Yow needn't to
skirl, old man." he cried. "Yon's not a man; he's nobbut a murderer. He's
fired t' mine and made widows and orphans by t' score," "Ay," said the
other, "but there's a worse villain behoind, that found t' brass for t'
job and tempted this one. We'll catch him yet; ah, then we'll not trouble
judge, nor jury, nor hangman neether."

"The wretches!" said Monckton. "What! fire a mine! No punishment is
enough for them." With this sentiment he retired, and never went near the
mine again. He wired for a pal of his and established him at the Dun Cow.
These two were in constant communication. Monckton's friend was a very
clever gossip, and knew how to question without seeming curious, and the
gossiping landlady helped him. So, between them, Monckton heard that
Walter was down with a fever and not expected to live, and that Hope was
confined to his bed and believed to be sinking. Encouraged by this state
of things, Monckton made many artful preparations, and resolved to levy a
contribution upon Colonel Clifford.

At this period of his manoeuvres fortune certainly befriended him
wonderfully; he found Colonel Clifford alone, and likely to be
alone; and, at the same time, prepared by Grace Clifford's half
revelation, and violent agitation, to believe the artful tale this
villain came to tell him.

CHAPTER XXV.

RETRIBUTION.

Monckton, during his long imprisonment at Dartmoor, came under many
chaplains, and he was popular with them all; because when they inquired
into the state of his soul he represented it as humble, penitent, and
purified. Two of these gentlemen were High-Church, and he noticed their
peculiarities: one was a certain half-musical monotony in speaking which
might be called by a severe critic sing-song. Perhaps they thought the
intoning of the service in a cathedral could be transferred with
advantage to conversation.

So now, to be strictly in character, this personage not only dressed
High-Church, but threw a sweet musical monotony into the communication he
made to Colonel Clifford.

And if the reader will compare this his method of speaking with the
matter of his discourse, he will be sensible of a singular contrast.

After the first introduction, Monckton intoned very gently that he had a
communication to make on the part of a lady which was painful to him, and
would be painful to Colonel Clifford; but, at all events, it was
confidential, and if the Colonel thought proper, would go no further.

"I think, sir, you have a son whose name is Walter?"

"I have a son, and his name is Walter," said the Colonel, stiffly.

"I think, sir," said musical Monckton, "that he left your house about
fourteen years ago, and you lost sight of him for a time?"

"That is so, sir."

"He entered the service of a Mr. Robert Bartley as a merchant's clerk."

"I doubt that, sir."

"I fear, sir," sighed Monckton, musically, "that is not the only
thing he did which has been withheld from you. He married a lady
called Lucy Muller."

"Who told you that?" cried the Colonel. "It's a lie!"

"I am afraid not," said the meek and tuneful ecclesiastic. "I am
acquainted with the lady, a most respectable person, and she has shown me
the certificate of marriage."

"The certificate of marriage!" cried the Colonel, all aghast.

"Yes, sir, and this is not the first time I have given this information
in confidence. Mrs. Walter Clifford, who is a kind-hearted woman, and has
long ceased to suffer bitterly from her husband's desertion, requested me
to warn a young lady, whose name was Miss Mary Bartley, of this fact. I
did so, and showed her the certificate. She was very much distressed, and
no wonder, for she was reported to be engaged to Mr. Walter Clifford; but
I explained to Miss Bartley that there was no jealousy, hostility, or
bitterness in the matter; the only object was to save her from being
betrayed into an illegal act, and one that would bring ruin upon herself,
and a severe penalty upon Mr. Walter Clifford."

Colonel Clifford turned very pale, but he merely said, in a hoarse voice,
"Go on, sir."

"Well, sir," said Monckton, "I thought the matter was at an end, and,
having discharged a commission which was very unpleasant to me, I had at
all events saved an innocent girl from tempting Mr. Walter Clifford to
his destruction and ruining herself. I say, I thought and hoped so. But
it seems now that the young lady has defied the warning, and has married
your son after all. Mrs. Walter Clifford has heard of it in Derby, and
she is naturally surprised, and I am afraid she is now somewhat
incensed."

"Before we go any further, sir," said Colonel Clifford, "I should like
to see the certificate you say you showed to Miss Bartley."

"I did, sir," said Monckton, "and here it is--that is to say, an attested
copy; but of course sooner or later you will examine the original."

Colonel Clifford took the paper with a firm hand, and examined it
closely. "Have you any objection to my taking a copy of this?" said
he, keenly.

"Of course not," said Monckton; "indeed, I don't see why I should not
leave this document with you; it will be in honorable hands."

The Colonel bowed. Then he examined the document.

"I see, sir," said he, "the witness is William Hope. May I ask if you
know this William Hope?"

"I was not present at the wedding, sir," said Monckton, "so I can say
nothing about the matter from my own knowledge; but if you please, I will
ask the lady."

"Why didn't she come herself instead of sending you?" asked the Colonel,
distrustfully.

"That's just what I asked her. And she said she had not the heart nor the
courage to come herself. I believe she thought as I was a clergyman, and
not directly interested, I might be more calm than she could be, and give
a little less pain."

"That's all stuff! If she is afraid to come herself, she knows it's an
abominable falsehood. Bring her here with whatever evidence she has got
that this Walter Clifford is my son, and then we will go into this matter
seriously."

Monckton was equal to the occasion.

"You are quite right, sir," said he. "And what business has she to put me
forward as evidence of a transaction I never witnessed? I shall tell her
you expect to see her, and that it is her duty to clear up the affair in
person. Suppose it should be another Mr. Walter Clifford, after all? When
shall I bring her, supposing I have sufficient influence?"

"Bring her to-morrow, as early as you can."

"Well, you know ladies are not early risers: will twelve o'clock do?"

"Twelve o'clock to-morrow, sir," said the Colonel.

The sham parson took his leave, and drove away in a well-appointed
carriage and pair. For we must inform the reader that he had written to
Mr. Middleton for another L100, not much expecting to get it, and that it
had come down by return of post in a draft on a bank in Derby.

* * * * *

Stout Colonel Clifford was now a very unhappy man. The soul of honor
himself, he could not fully believe that his own son had been guilty of
perfidy and crime. But how could he escape _doubts_, and very grave
doubts too? The communication was made by a gentleman who did not seem
really to know more about it than he had been told, but then he was a
clergyman, with no appearance of heat or partiality. He had been easily
convinced that the lady herself ought to have come and said more about
it, and had left an attested copy of the certificate in his (Colonel
Clifford's) hands with a sort of simplicity that looked like one
gentleman dealing with another. One thing, however, puzzled him sore in
this certificate--the witness being William Hope. William Hope was not a
very uncommon name, but still, somehow, that one and the same document
should contain the names of Walter Clifford and William Hope, roused a
suspicion in his mind that this witness was the William Hope lying in his
own house so weak and ill that he did not like to go to him, and enter
upon such a terrible discussion as this. He sent for Mrs. Milton, and
asked her if Mrs. Walter Clifford was quite recovered.

Mrs. Milton reported she was quite well, and reading to her father. The
Colonel went upstairs and beckoned her out.

"My child," said he, "I am sorry to renew an agitating subject, but you
are a good girl, and a brave girl, and you mean to confide in me sooner
or later. Can you pity the agitation and distress of a father who for the
first time is compelled to doubt his son's honor?"

"I can," said Grace. "Ah, something has happened since we parted;
somebody has told you: that man with a certificate!"

"What, then," said the Colonel, "is it really true? Did he really show
you that certificate?"

"He did."

"And warned you not to marry Walter?"

"He did, and told me Walter would be put into prison if I did, and would
die in prison, for a gentleman can not live there nowadays. Oh, sir,
don't let anybody know but you and me and my father. He won't hurt him
for my sake; he has wronged me cruelly, but I'll be torn to pieces before
I'll own my marriage, and throw him into a dungeon."

"Come to my arms, you pearl of goodness and nobility and unselfish love!"
cried Colonel Clifford. "How can I ever part with you now I know you?
There, don't let us despair, let's fight to the last. I have one question
to submit to you. Of course you examined the certificate very carefully?"

"I saw enough to break my heart. I saw that on a certain day, many years
ago, one Lucy Muller had married Walter Clifford."

"And who witnessed the marriage?" asked the Colonel, eyeing her keenly.

"Oh, I don't know that," said Grace. "When I came to Walter Clifford,
everything swam before my eyes; it was all I could do to keep from
fainting away. I tottered into my father's study, and, as soon as I came
to myself, what had I to do? Why, to creep out again with my broken
heart, and face such insults--All! it is a wonder I did not fall dead at
their feet."

"My poor girl!" said Colonel Clifford. Then he reflected a moment. "Have
you the courage to read that document again, and to observe in particular
who witnessed it?"

"I have," said she.

He handed it to her. She took it and held it in both hands, though
they trembled.

"Who is the witness?"

"The witness," said Grace, "is William Hope."

"Is that your father?"

"It's my father's name," said Grace, beginning to turn her eyes inward
and think very hard.

"But is it your father, do you think?"

"No, sir, it is not."

"Was he in that part of the world at the time? Did he know Bartley? the
clergyman who brought me this certificate--"

"The clergyman!"

"Yes, my dear, it was a clergyman, apparently a rector, and he told me--"

"Are you sure he was a clergyman?"

"Quite sure; he had a white tie, a broad-brimmed hat, a clergyman all
over; don't go off on that. Did your father and my son know each
other in Hull?"

"That they did. You are right," said Grace, "this witness was my father;
see that, now. But if so--Don't speak to me; don't touch me; let me
think--there is something hidden here;" and Mrs. Walter Clifford showed
her father-in-law that which we have seen in her more than once, but it
was quite new and surprising to Colonel Clifford. There she stood, her
arms folded, her eyes turned inward, her every feature, and even her
body, seemed to think. The result came out like lightning from a cloud.
"It's all a falsehood," said she.

"A falsehood!" said Colonel Clifford.

"Yes, a falsehood upon the face of it. My father witnessed this
marriage, and therefore if the bridegroom had been our Walter he would
never have allowed our Walter to court me, for he knew of our courtship
all along, and never once disapproved of it."

"Then do you think it is a mistake?" said the Colonel, eagerly.

"No, I do not," said Grace. "I think it is an imposture. This man was not
a clergyman when he brought me the certificate; he was a man of business,
a plain tradesman, a man of the world; he had a colored necktie, and some
rather tawdry chains."

"Did he speak in a kind of sing-song?"

"Not at all; his voice was clear and cutting, only he softened it down
once or twice out of what I took for good feeling at the time. He's an
impostor and a villain. Dear sir, don't agitate poor Walter or my dear
father with this vile thing (she handed him back the certificate). It has
been a knife to both our hearts; we have suffered together, you and I,
and let us get to the bottom of it together."

"We shall soon do that," said the Colonel, "for he is coming here
to-morrow again."

"All the better."

"With the lady."

"What lady?"

"The lady that calls herself Mrs. Walter Clifford."

"Indeed!" said Grace, quite taken aback. "They must be very bold."

"Oh, for that matter," said the Colonel, "I insisted upon it; the man
seemed to know nothing but from mere hearsay. He knew nothing about
William Hope, the witness, so I told him he must bring the woman; and, to
be just to the man, he seemed to think so too, and that she ought to do
her own business."

"She will not come," said Grace, rather contemptuously. "He was obliged
to say she would, just to put a face upon it. To-morrow he'll bring an
excuse instead of her. Then have your detectives about, for he is a
villain; and, dear sir, please receive him in the drawing-room; then I
will find some way to get a sight of him myself."

"It shall be done," said the Colonel. "I begin to think with you. At all
events, if the lady does not come, I shall hope it is all an imposture or
a mistake."

With this understanding they parted, and waited in anxiety for the
morrow, but now their anxiety was checkered with hope.

* * * * *

To-morrow bade fair to be a busy day. Colonel Clifford, little dreaming
the condition to which his son and his guest would be reduced, had
invited Jem Davies and the rescuing parties to feast in tents on his own
lawn and drink his home-brewed beer, and they were to bring with them
such of the rescued miners as might be in a condition to feast and drink
copiously. When he found that neither Hope nor his son could join these
festivities, he was very sorry he had named so early a day; but he was so
punctilious and precise that he could not make up his mind to change one
day for another. So a great confectioner at Derby who sent out feasts was
charged with the affair, and the Colonel's own kitchen was at his service
too. That was not all. Bartley was coming to do business. This had been
preceded by a letter which Colonel Clifford, it may be remembered, had
offered to show Grace Clifford. The letter was thus worded:

"COLONEL CLIFFORD,--A penitent man begs humbly to approach you, and offer
what compensation is in his power. I desire to pay immediately to Walter
Clifford the sum of L20,000 I have so long robbed him of, with five per
cent, interest for the use of it. It has brought me far more than that in
money, but money I now find is not happiness.

"The mine in which my friend has so nearly been destroyed--and his
daughter, who now, too late, I find is the only creature in the world I
love--that mine is now odious to me. I desire by deed to hand it over to
Hope and yourself, upon condition that you follow the seams wherever they
go, and that you give me such a share of the profits during my lifetime
as you think I deserve for my enterprise. This for my life only, since I
shall leave all I have in the world to that dear child, who will now be
your daughter, and perhaps never deign again to look upon the erring man
who writes these lines.

"I should like, if you please, to retain the farm, or at all events a
hundred acres round about the house to turn into orchards and gardens, so
that I may have some employment, far from trade and its temptations, for
the remainder of my days."

* * * * *

In consequence of this letter a deed was drawn and engrossed, and Bartley
had written to say he would come to Clifford Hall and sign it, and have
it witnessed and delivered.

About nine o'clock in the evening one of the detectives called on Colonel
Clifford to make a private communication; his mate had spotted a swell
mobsman, rather a famous character, with the usual number of aliases, but
known to the force as Mark Waddy; he was at the Dun Cow; and possessing
the gift of the gab in a superlative degree, had made himself extremely
popular. They had both watched him pretty closely, but he seemed not to
be there for a job, but only on the talking lay, probably soliciting
information for some gang of thieves or other. He had been seen to
exchange a hasty word with a clergyman; but as Mark Waddy's acquaintances
were not amongst the clergy, that would certainly be some pal that was in
something or other with him.

"What a shrewd girl that must be!" said the Colonel.

"I beg your pardon, Colonel," said the man, not seeing the relevancy of
this observation.

"Oh, nothing," said the Colonel, "only _I_ expect a visit to-morrow at
twelve o'clock from a doubtful clergyman; just hang about the lawn on the
chance of my giving you a signal."

Thus while Monckton was mounting his batteries, his victims were
preparing defenses in a sort of general way, though they did not see
their way so clear as the enemy did.

Colonel Clifford's drawing-room was a magnificent room, fifty feet long
and thirty feet wide. A number of French windows opened on to a noble
balcony, with three short flights of stone steps leading down to the
lawn. The central steps were broad, the side steps narrow. There were
four entrances to it: two by double doors, and two by heavily curtained
apertures leading to little subsidiary rooms.

At twelve o'clock next day, what with the burst of color from the
potted flowers on the balcony, the white tents, and the flags and
streamers, and a clear sunshiny day gilding it all, the room looked a
"palace of pleasure," and no stranger peeping in could have dreamed
that it was the abode of care, and about to be visited by gloomy
Penitence and incurable Fraud.

The first to arrive was Bartley, with a witness. He was received kindly
by Colonel Clifford and ushered into a small room.

He wanted another witness. So John Baker was sent for, and Bartley and he
were closeted together, reading the deed, etc., when a footman brought in
a card, "The Reverend Alleyn Meredith," and written underneath with a
pencil, in a female hand, "Mrs. Walter Clifford."

"Admit them," said the Colonel, firmly.

At this moment Grace, who had heard the carriage drive up to the door,
peeped in through one of the heavy curtains we have mentioned.

"Has she actually come?" said she.

"She has, indeed," said the Colonel, looking very grave. "Will you stay
and receive her?"

"Oh no," said Grace, horrified; "but I'll take a good look at her through
this curtain. I have made a little hole on purpose." Then she slipped
into the little room and drew the curtain.

The servant opened the door, and the false rector walked in, supporting
on his arm a dark woman, still very beautiful; very plainly dressed, but
well dressed, agitated, yet self-possessed.

"Be seated, madam," said the Colonel. After a reasonable pause he began
to question her.

"You were married on the eleventh day of June, 1868, to a gentleman of
the name of Walter Clifford?"

"I was, sir."

"May I ask how long you lived with him?"

The lady buried her face in her hands. The question took her by surprise,
and this was a woman's artifice to gain time and answer cleverly.

But the ingenious Monckton gave it a happy turn. "Poor thing! Poor
thing!" said he.

"He left me the next day," said Lucy, "and I have never seen him since."

Here Monckton interposed; he fancied he had seen the curtain move.
"Excuse me," said he, "I think there is somebody listening!" and he went
swiftly and put his head through the curtain. But the room was empty; for
meantime Grace was so surprised by the lady's arrival, by her beauty,
which might well have tempted any man, and by her air of respectability,
that she changed her tactics directly, and she was gone to her father for
advice and information in spite of her previous determination not to
worry him in his present condition. What he said to her can be briefly
told elsewhere; what he ordered her to do was to return and watch the
man and not the woman.

During Lucy's hesitation, which was somewhat long, a clergyman came to
the window, looked in, and promptly retired, seeing the Colonel had
company. This, however, was only a modest curate, _alias_ a detective. He
saw in half a moment that this must be Mark Waddy's pal; but as the
police like to go their own way he would not watch the lawn himself, but
asked Jem Davies, with whom he had made acquaintance, to keep an eye upon
that with his fellows, for there was a jail-bird in the house; then he
went round to the front door, by which he felt sure his bird would make
his exit. He had no earthly right to capture this ecclesiastic, but he
was prepared if the Colonel, who was a magistrate, gave him the order,
and not without.

But we are interrupting Colonel Clifford's interrogatories.

"Madam, what makes you think this disloyal person was my son?"

"Indeed, sir, I don't know," said the lady, and looking around the room
with some signs of distress. "I begin to hope it was not your son. He was
a tall young man, almost as tall as yourself. He was very handsome, with
brown hair and brown eyes, and seemed incapable of deceit."

"Have you any letters of his?" asked the Colonel.

"I had a great many, sir," said she, "but I have not kept them all."

"Have you one?" said the Colonel, sternly.

"Oh yes, sir," said Lucy, "I think I must have nearer twenty; but what
good will they be?" said she, affecting simplicity.

"Why, my dear madam," said Monckton, "Colonel Clifford is quite right;
the handwriting may not tell _you_ anything, but surely his own father
knows it. I think he is offering you a very fair test. I must tell you
plainly that if you don't produce the letters you say you possess, I
shall regret having put myself forward in this matter at all."

"Gently, sir," said the Colonel; "she has not refused to produce them."

Lucy put her hand in her pocket and drew out a packet of letters, but she
hesitated, and looked timidly at Monckton, after his late severity. "Am I
bound to part with them?"

"Certainly not," said Monckton, "but you can surely trust them for a
minute to such a man as Colonel Clifford. I am of opinion," said he,
"that since you can not be confronted with this gentleman's son (though
that is no fault of yours), these letters (by-the-bye, it would have been
as well to show to me,) ought now at once to be submitted to Colonel
Clifford, that he may examine both the contents and the handwriting; then
he will know whether it is his son or not; and probably as you are fair
with him he will be fair with you and tell you the truth."

Colonel Clifford took the letters and ran his eye hastily over two or
three; they were filled with the ardent protestations of youth, and a
love that evidently looked toward matrimony, and they were written and
signed in a handwriting he knew as well as his own.

He said, solemnly, "These letters are written and were sent to Miss Lucy
Muller by my son, Walter Clifford." Then, almost for the first time in
his life, he broke down, and said, "God forgive him; God help him and me.
The honor of the Cliffords is an empty sound."

Lucy Monckton rose from her chair in genuine agitation. Her better angel
tugged at her heartstrings.

"Forgive me, sir, oh, forgive me!" she cried, bursting into tears. Then
she caught a bitter, threatening glance of her bad angel fixed upon her,
and she said to Monckton, "I can say no more, I can do no more. It was
fourteen years ago--I can't break people's hearts. Hush it up amongst
you. I have made a hero weep; his tears burn me. I don't care for the
man; I'll go no further. You, sir, have taken a deal of trouble and
expense. I dare say Colonel Clifford will compensate you; I leave the
matter with you. No power shall make me act in it any more."

Monckton wrote hastily on his card, and said, quite calmly, "Well, I
really think, madam, you are not fit to take part in such a conference as
this. Compose yourself and retire. I know your mind in the matter better
than you do yourself at this moment, and I will act accordingly."

She retired, and drove away to the Dun Cow, which was the place Monckton
had appointed when he wrote upon the card.

"Colonel Clifford," said Monckton, "all that is a woman's way. When she
is out of sight of you, and thinks over her desertion and her unfortunate
condition--neither maid, wife, nor widow--she will be angry with me if I
don't obtain her some compensation."

"She deserves compensation," said the Colonel, gravely.

"Especially if she holds her tongue," said Monckton.

"Whether she holds her tongue or not," said the Colonel. "I don't see
how I can hold mine, and you have already told my daughter-in-law. A
separation between her and my son is inevitable. The compensation
must be offered, and God help me, I'm a magistrate, if only to
compound the felony."

"Surely," said Monckton, "it can be put upon a wider footing than that;
let me think," and he turned away to the open window; but when he got
there he saw a lot of miners clustering about. Now he had no fear of
their recognizing him, since he had not left a vestige of the printed
description. But the very sight of them, and the memory of what they had
done to his dead accomplice, made him shudder at them. Henceforth he
kept away from the window, and turned his back to it.

"I think with you, sir," said he, mellifluously, "that she ought to have
a few thousands by way of compensation. You know she could claim alimony,
and be a very blister to you and yours. But on the other hand I do think,
as an impartial person, that she ought to keep this sad secret most
faithfully, and even take her maiden name again."

Whilst Monckton was making this impartial proposal Bartley opened the
door, and was coming forward with his deed, when he heard a voice he
recognized; and partly by that, partly by the fellow's thin lips, he
recognized him, and said, "Monckton! That villain here!"

"Monckton," said Colonel Clifford, "that is not his name. It is Meredith.
He is a clergyman." Bartley examined him very suspiciously, and Monckton,
during this examination, looked perfectly calm and innocent. Meantime a
note was brought to Colonel Clifford from Grace: "Papa was the witness.
He is quite sure the bridegroom was not our Walter. He thinks it must
have been the other clerk, Leonard Monckton, who robbed Mr. Bartley, and
put some of the money into dear Walter's pockets to ruin him, but papa
saved him. Don't let him escape."

Colonel Clifford's eye flashed with triumph, but he controlled himself.

"Say I will give it due attention," said he; "I'm busy now."

And the servant retired.

"Now, sir," said he, "is this a case of mistaken identity, or is your
name Leonard Monckton?"

"Colonel Clifford," said the hypocrite, sadly, "I little thought that I
should be made to suffer for the past, since I came here only on an
errand of mercy. Yes, sir, in my unregenerate days I was Leonard
Monckton. I disgraced the name. But I repented, and when I adopted the
sacred calling of a clergyman I parted with the past, name and all. I
was that man's clerk; and so," said he, spitefully, and forgetting his
sing-song, "was your son Walter Clifford. Was that not so, Mr. Bartley?"

"Don't speak to me, sir," said Bartley. "I shall say nothing to gratify
you nor to affront Colonel Clifford."

"Speak the truth, sir," said Colonel Clifford; "never mind the
consequences."

"Well, then," said Bartley, very unwillingly, "they _were_ clerks in my
office, and this one robbed me."

"One thing at a time," said Monckton. "Did I rob you of twenty thousand
pounds, as you robbed Mr. Walter Clifford?"

His voice became still more incisive, and the curtain of the little room
opened a little and two eyes of fire looked in.

"Do you remember one fine day your clerk, Walter Clifford, asking you for
leave of absence--to be married?"

Bartley turned his back on him contemptuously.

But Colonel Clifford insisted on his replying.

"Yes, he did," said Bartley, sullenly.

"But," said the Colonel, quietly, "he thought better of it, and so--you
married her yourself."

This bayonet thrust was so keen and sudden that the villain's
self-possession left him for once. His mouth opened in dismay, and his
eyes, roving to and fro, seemed to seek a door to escape.

But there was worse in store for him. The curtains were drawn right and
left with power, and there stood Grace Clifford, beautiful, but pale and
terrible. She marched toward him with eyes that rooted him to the spot,
and then she stopped.

"Now hear _me_; for he has tortured me, and tried to kill me. Look at his
white face turning ghastly beneath his paint at the sight of me; look at
his thin lips, and his devilish eyebrows, and his restless eyes. THIS IS
THE MAN THAT BRIBED THAT WRETCH TO FIRE THE MINE!"

These last words, ringing from her lips like the trumpet of doom, were
answered, as swiftly as gunpowder explodes at a lighted torch, by a
furious yell, and in a moment the room seemed a forest of wild beasts. A
score of raging miners came upon him from every side, dragging, tearing,
beating, kicking, cursing, yelling. He was down in a moment, then soon up
again, then dragged out of the room, nails, fists, and heavy boots all
going, stripped to the shirt, screaming like a woman. A dozen assailants
rolled down the steps, with him in the midst of them. He got clear for a
moment, but twenty more rushed at him, and again he was torn and battered
and kicked. "Police! police!" he cried; and at last the detectives who
came to seize him rushed in, and Colonel Clifford, too, with the voice of
a stentor, cried, "The law! Respect the law, or you are ruined men."

And so at last the law he had so dreaded raised what seemed a bag of
bones: nothing left on him but one boot and fragments of a shirt,
ghastly, bleeding, covered with bruises, insensible, and to all
appearance dead.

After a short consultation, they carried him, by Colonel Clifford's
order, to the Dun Cow, where Lucy, it may be remembered, was awaiting his
triumphant return.

CHAPTER XXVI.

STRANGE TURNS.

And yet this catastrophe rose out of a mistake. When the detective asked
Jem Davies to watch the lawn, he never suspected that the clergyman was
the villain who had been concerned in that explosion. But Davies, a man
of few ideas and full of his own wrong, took for granted, as such minds
will, that the policeman would not have spoken to him if this had not
been _his_ affair; so he and his fellows gathered about the steps and
watched the drawing-room. They caught a glimpse of Monckton, but that
only puzzled them. His appearance was inconsistent with the only
description they had got--in fact opposed to it. It was Grace Clifford's
denunciation, trumpet-tongued, that let loose savage justice on the
villain. Never was a woman's voice so fatal, or so swift to slay. She
would have undone her work. She screamed, she implored; but it was all in
vain. The fury she had launched she could not recall. As for Bartley,
words can hardly describe his abject terror. He crouched, he shivered, he
moaned, he almost swooned; and long after it was all over he was found
crouched in a corner of the little room, and his very reason appeared to
be shaken. Judge Lynch had passed him, but too near. The freezing shadow
of Retribution chilled him.

Colonel Clifford looked at him with contemptuous pity, and sent him home
with John Baker in a close carriage.

* * * * *

Lucy Monckton was in the parlor of the Dun Cow waiting for her master.
The detectives and some outdoor servants of Clifford Hall brought a short
ladder and paillasses, and something covered with blankets, to the door.
Lucy saw, but did not suspect the truth.

They had a murmured consultation with the landlady. During this Mark
Waddy came down, and there was some more whispering, and soon the
battered body was taken up to Mark Waddy's room and deposited on his
bed. The detectives retired to consult, and Waddy had to break the
calamity to Mrs. Monckton. He did this as well as he could; but it
little matters how such blows are struck. Her agony was great, and
greater when she saw him, for she resisted entirely all attempts to keep
her from him. She installed herself at once as his nurse, and Mark
Waddy retired to a garret.

A surgeon came by Colonel Clifford's order and examined Monckton's
bruised body, and shook his head. He reported that there were no bones
broken, but there were probably grave internal injuries. These, however,
he could not specify at present, since there was no sensibility in the
body; so pressure on the injured parts elicited no groans. He prescribed
egg and brandy in small quantities, and showed Mrs. Monckton how to
administer it to a patient in that desperate condition.

His last word was in private to Waddy. "If he ever speaks again, or even
groans aloud, send for me. Otherwise--" and he shrugged his shoulders.

Some hours afterward Colonel Clifford called as a magistrate to see
if the sufferer had any deposition to make. But he was mute, and his
eyes fixed.

As Colonel Clifford returned, one of the detectives accosted him and
asked him for a warrant to arrest him.

"Not in his present condition," said Colonel Clifford, rather
superciliously. "And pray, sir, why did not you interfere sooner and
prevent this lawless act?"

"Well, sir, unfortunately we were on the other side of the house."

"Exactly; you had orders to be in one place, so you must be in another.
See the consequence. The honest men have put themselves in the wrong, and
this fellow in the right. He will die a sort of victim, with his guilt
suspected only, not proved."

Having thus snubbed the Force, the old soldier turned his back on them
and went home, where Grace met him, all anxiety, and received his report.
She implored him not to proceed any further against the man, and declared
she should fly the country rather than go into a court of law as witness
against him.

"Humph!" said the Colonel; "but you are the only witness."

"All the better for him," said she; "then he will die in peace. My tongue
has killed the man once; it shall never kill him again."

About six next morning Monckton beckoned Lucy. She came eagerly to him;
he whispered to her, "Can you keep a secret?"

"You know I can," said she.

"Then never let any one know I have spoken."

"No, dear, never. Why?"

"I dread the law more than death;" and he shuddered all over. "Save me
from the law."

"Leonard, I will," said she. "Leave that to me."

She wired for Mr. Middleton as soon as possible.

The next day there was no change in the patient. He never spoke to
anybody, except a word or two to Lucy, in a whisper, when they were
quite alone.

In the afternoon down came Lawyer Middleton. Lucy told him what he knew,
but Monckton would not speak, even to him. He had to get hold of Waddy
before he understood the whole case.

Waddy was in Monckton's secret, and, indeed, in everybody's. He knew it
was folly to deceive your lawyer, so he was frank. Mr. Middleton learned
his client's guilt and danger, but also that his enemies had flaws in
their armor.

The first shot he fired was to get warrants out against a dozen miners,
Jem Davies included, for a murderous assault; but he made no arrests, he
only summoned. So one or two took fright and fled. Middleton had counted
on that, and it made the case worse for those that remained. Then, by
means of friends in Derby, he worked the Press.

An article appeared headed, "Our Savages." It related with righteous
indignation how Mr. Bartley's miners had burned the dead body of a miner
suspected of having fired the mine, and put his own life in jeopardy as
well as those of others; and then, not content with that monstrous act,
had fallen upon and beaten to death a gentleman in whom they thought they
detected a resemblance to some person who had been, or was suspected of
being that miner's accomplice; "but so far from that," said the writer,
"we are now informed, on sure authority, that the gentleman in question
is a large and wealthy landed proprietor, quite beyond any temptation to
crime or dishonesty, and had actually visited this part of the world only
in the character of a peace-maker, and to discharge a very delicate
commission, which it would not be our business to publish even if the
details had been confided to us."

The article concluded with a hope that these monsters "would be taught
that even if they were below the standard of humanity they were not
above the law."

Middleton attended the summonses, gave his name and address, and informed
the magistrate that his client was a large landed proprietor, and it
looked like a case of mistaken identity. His client was actually dying of
his injuries, but his wife hoped for justice.

But the detectives had taken care to be present, and so they put in their
word. They said that they were prepared to prove, at a proper time, that
the wounded man was really the person who had been heard by Mrs. Walter
Clifford to bribe Ben Burnley to fire the mine.

"We have nothing to do with that now," said the magistrate. "One thing at
a time, please. I can not let these people murder a convicted felon, far
less a suspected criminal that has not been tried. The wounded man
proceeds, according to law, through a respectable attorney. These men,
whom you are virtually defending, have taken the law into their own
hands. Are your witnesses here, Mr. Middleton?"

"Not at present, sir; and when I was interrupted, I was about to ask
your worship to grant me an adjournment for that purpose. It will not be
a great hardship to the accused, since we proceed by summons. I fear I
have been too lenient, for two or three of them have absconded since the
summons was served."

"I am not surprised at that," said the magistrate; "however, you know
your own business."

Then the police applied for a warrant of arrest against Monckton.

"Oh!" cried Middleton, with the air of a man thoroughly shocked and
scandalized.

"Certainly not," said the magistrate; "I shall not disturb the course of
justice; there is not even an _exparte_ case against this gentleman at
present. Such an application must be supported by a witness, and a
disinterested one." So all the parties retired crest-fallen except Mr.
Middleton; as for him, he was imitating a small but ingenious specimen of
nature--the cuttle-fish. This little creature, when pursued by its
enemies, discharges an inky fluid which obscures the water all around,
and then it starts off and escapes.

One dark night, at two o'clock in the morning, there came to the door of
the Dun Cow an invalid carriage, or rather omnibus, with a spring-bed and
every convenience. The wheels were covered thick with India-rubber;
relays had been provided, and Monckton and his party rolled along day and
night to Liverpool. The detectives followed, six hours later, and traced
them to Liverpool very cleverly, and, with the assistance of the police,
raked the town for them, and got all the great steamers watched,
especially those that were bound westward, ho! But their bird was at sea,
in a Liverpool merchant's own steamboat, hired for a two months' trip.
The pursuers found this out too, but a fortnight too late.

"It's no go, Bill," said one to the other. "There's a lawyer and a pot
of money against us. Let it sleep awhile."

The steamboat coasted England in beautiful weather; the sick man began to
revive, and to eat a little, and to talk a little, and to suffer a good
deal at times. Before they had been long at sea Mr. Middleton had a
confidential conversation with Mrs. Monckton. He told her he had been
very secret with her for her good. "I saw," said he, "this Monckton had
no deep regard for you, and was capable of turning you adrift in
prosperity; and I knew that if I told you everything you would let it out
to him, and tempt him to play the villain. But the time is come that I
must speak, in justice to you both. That estate he left your son half in
joke is virtually his. Fourteen years ago, when he last looked into the
matter, there _were_ eleven lives between it and him; but, strange to
say, whilst he was at Portland the young lives went one after the other,
and there were really only five left when he made that will. Now comes
the extraordinary part: a fortnight ago three of those lives perished in
a single steamboat accident on the Clyde; that left a woman of eighty-two
and a man of ninety between your husband and the estate. The lady was
related to the persons who were drowned, and she has since died; she had
been long ailing, and it is believed that the shock was too much for her.
The survivor is the actual proprietor, Old Carruthers; but I am the
London agent to his solicitor, and he was reported to me to be _in
extremis_ the very day before I left London to join you. We shall run
into a port near the place, and you will not land; but I shall, and
obtain precise information. In the meantime, mind, your husband's name is
Carruthers. Any communication from me will be to Mrs. Carruthers, and you
will tell that man as much, or as little, as you think proper; if you
make any disclosure, give yourself all the credit you can; say you shall
take him to his own house under a new name, and shield him against all
pursuers. As for me, I tell you plainly, my great hope is that he will
not live long enough to turn you adrift and disinherit your boy."

To cut short for the present this extraordinary part of our story, Lewis
Carruthers, _alias_ Leonard Monckton, entered a fine house and took
possession of eleven thousand acres of hilly pasture, and the undivided
moiety of a lake brimful of fish. He accounted for his change of name by
the favors Carruthers, deceased, had shown him. Therein he did his best
to lie, but his present vein of luck turned it into the truth. Old
Carruthers had become so peevish that all his relations disliked him, and
he disliked them. So he left his personal estate to his heir-at-law
simply because he had never seen him. The personality was very large. The
house was full of pictures, and China, and cabinets, etc. There was a
large balance at the banker's, a heavy fall of timber not paid for, rents
due, and as many as two thousand four hundred sheep upon that hill, which
the old fellow had kept in his own hands. So, when the new proprietor
took possession as Carruthers, nobody was surprised, though many were
furious. Lucy installed him in a grand suite of apartments as an invalid,
and let nobody come near him. Waddy was dismissed with a munificent
present, and could be trusted to hold his tongue. By the advice of
Middleton, not a single servant was dismissed, and so no enemies were
made. The family lawyer and steward were also retained, and, in short,
all conversation was avoided. In a month or two the new proprietor began
to improve in health, and drive about his own grounds, or be rowed on his
lake, lying on soft beds.

But in the fifth month of his residence local pains seized him, and he
began to waste. For some time the precise nature of the disorder was
obscure; but at last a rising surgeon declared it to be an abscess in the
intestines (caused, no doubt, by external violence).

By degrees the patient became unable to take solid food, and the drain
upon his system was too great for a mere mucilaginous diet to sustain
him. Wasted to the bone, and yellow as a guinea, he presented a pitiable
spectacle, and would gladly have exchanged his fine house and pictures,
his heathery hills dotted with sheep, and his glassy lake full of spotted
trout, for a ragged Irishman's bowl of potatoes and his mug of
buttermilk--and his stomach.

CHAPTER XXVII.

CURTAIN.

Striking incidents will draw the writer; but we know that our readers
would rather hear about the characters they can respect. It seems,
however, to be a rule in life, and in fiction, that interest flags when
trouble ceases. Now the troubles of our good people were pretty well
over, and we will put it to the reader whether they had not enough.

Grace Clifford made an earnest request to Colonel Clifford and her father
never to tell Walter he had been suspected of bigamy. "Let others say
that circumstances are always to be believed and character not to be
trusted; but I, at least, had no right to believe certificates and things
against my Walter's honor and his love. Hide my fault from him, not for
my sake but for his; perhaps when we are both old people I may tell him."

This was Grace Clifford's petition, and need we say she prevailed?

Walter Clifford recovered under his wife's care, and the house was so
large that Colonel Clifford easily persuaded his son and daughter-in-law
to make it their home. Hope had also two rooms in it, and came there when
he chose; he was always welcome; but he was alone again, so to speak,
and not quite forty years of age, and he was ambitious. He began to rise
in the world, whilst our younger characters, contented with their
happiness and position, remained stationary. Master of a great mine, able
now to carry out his invention, member of several scientific
associations, a writer for the scientific press, etc., he soon became a
public and eminent man; he was consulted on great public works, and if he
lives will be one of the great lights of science in this island. He is
great on electricity, especially on the application of natural forces to
the lighting of towns. He denounces all the cities that allow powerful
streams to run past them and not work a single electric light. But he
goes further than that. He ridicules the idea that it is beyond the
resources of science to utilize thousands of millions of tons of water
that are raised twenty-one feet twice in every twenty-four hours by the
tides. It is the skill to apply the force that is needed; not the force
itself, which exceeds that of all the steam-engines in the nation. And he
says that the great scientific foible of the day is the neglect of
natural forces, which are cheap and inexhaustible, and the mania for
steam-engines and gas, which are expensive, and for coal, which is not to
last forever. He implores capital and science to work in this question.
His various schemes for using the tides in the creation of motive power
will doubtless come before the world in a more appropriate channel than a
work of fiction. If he succeeds it will be a glorious, as it must be a
difficult, achievement.

His society is valued on social grounds; his well-stored mind, his powers
of conversation, and his fine appearance, make him extremely welcome at
all the tables in the county; he also accompanies his daughter with the
violin, and, as they play beauties together, not difficulties, they
ravish the soul and interrupt the torture, whose instrument the
piano-forte generally is.

Bartley is a man with beautiful silvery hair and beard; he cultivates,
nurses, and tends fruit-trees and flowers with a love little short of
paternal. This sentiment, and the contemplation of nature, have changed
the whole expression of his face; it is wonderfully benevolent and sweet,
but with a touch of weakness about the lips. Some of the rough fellows
about the place call him a "softy," but that is much too strong a word;
no doubt he is confused in his ideas, but he reads all the great American
publications about fruit and flowers, and executes their instructions
with tact and skill. Where he breaks down--and who would believe
this?--is in the trade department. Let him succeed in growing apple-trees
and pear-trees weighed down to the ground with choice fruit; let him
produce enormous cherries by grafting, and gigantic nectarines upon his
sunny wall, and acres of strawberries too large for the mouth. After that
they may all rot where they grow; he troubles his head no more. This is
more than his old friend Hope can stand; he interferes, and sends the
fruit to market, and fills great casks with superlative cider and perry,
and keeps the account square, with a little help from Mrs. Easton, who
has returned to her old master, and is a firm but kind mother to him.

Grace Clifford for some time could not be got to visit him. Perhaps she
is one of those ladies who can not get over personal violence; he had
handled her roughly, to keep her from going to her father's help. After
all, there may have been other reasons; it is not so easy to penetrate
all the recesses of the female heart. One thing is certain: she would
not go near him for months; but when she did go with her father--and he
had to use all his influence to take her there--the rapture and the
tears of joy with which the poor old fellow received her disarmed her
in a moment.

She let him take her through hot-houses and show her his children--"the
only children I have now," said he--and after that she never refused to
visit this erring man. His roof had sheltered her many years, and he had
found out too late that he loved her, so far as his nature could love at
that time.

* * * * *

Percy Fitzroy had an elder sister. He appealed to her against Julia
Clifford. She cross-questioned him, and told him he was very foolish to
despair. She would hardly have slapped him if she was quite resolved to
part forever.

"Let me have a hand in reconciling you," said she.

"You shall have b-b-both hands in it, if you like," said he; "for I am at
my w-w-wit's end."

So these two conspired. Miss Fitzroy was invited to Percy's house, and
played the mistress. She asked other young ladies, especially that fair
girl with auburn hair, whom Julia called a "fat thing." That meant, under
the circumstances, a plump and rounded model, with small hands and feet;
a perfect figure in a riding habit, and at night a satin bust and
sculptured arms.

The very first ride Walter took with Grace and Julia they met the bright
cavalcade of Percy and his sister, and this red-haired Venus.

Percy took off his hat with profound respect to Julia and Grace, but did
not presume to speak.

"What a lovely girl!" said Grace.

"Do you think so?" said Julia.

"Yes, dear; and so do you."

"What makes you fancy that?"

"Because you looked daggers at her."

"Because she is setting her cap at that little fool."

"She will not have him without your consent, dear."

And this set Julia thinking.

The next day Walter called on Percy, and played the traitor.

"Give a ball," said he.

Miss Fitzroy and her brother gave a ball. Percy, duly instructed by his
sister, wrote to Julia as meek as Moses, and said he was in a great
difficulty. If he invited her, it would, of course, seem presumptuous,
considering the poor opinion she had of him; if he passed her over, and
invited Walter Clifford and Mrs. Clifford, he should be unjust to his own
feelings, and seem disrespectful.

Julia's reply:

"DEAR MR. FITZROY,--I am not at all fond of jealousy, but I am very fond
of dancing. I shall come.

"Yours sincerely,

"JULIA CLIFFORD."

And she did come with a vengeance. She showed them what a dark beauty can
do in a blaze of light with a red rose, and a few thousand pounds' worth
of diamonds artfully placed.

She danced with several partners, and took Percy in his turn. She was
gracious to him, but nothing more.

Percy asked leave to call next day.

She assented, rather coldly.

His sister prepared Percy for the call. The first thing he did was to
stammer intolerably.

"Oh," said Julia, "if you have nothing more to say than that, I
have--Where is my bracelet?"

"It's here," said Percy, producing it eagerly. Julia smiled.

"My necklace?"

"Here!"

"My charms?"

"Here!"

"My specimens of your spelling? Love spells, eh?"

"Here--all here."

"No, they are not," said Julia, snatching them, "they are here." And she
stuffed both her pockets with them.

"And the engaged ring," said Percy, radiant now, and producing it,
"d-d-don't forget that."

Julia began to hesitate. "If I put that on, it will be for life."

"Yes, it will," said Percy.

"Then give me a moment to think."

After due consideration she said what she had made up her mind to say
long before.

"Percy, you're a man of honor. I'll be yours upon one solemn
condition--that from this hour till death parts us, you promise to give
your faith where you give your love."

"I'll give my faith where I give my love," said Percy, solemnly.

Next month they were married, and he gave his confidence where he gave
his love, and he never had reason to regret it.

* * * * *

"John Baker."

"Sir."

"You had better mind what you are about, or you'll get fonder of her than
of Walter himself."

"Never, Colonel, never! And so will you."

Then, after a moment's reflection, John Baker inquired how they were to
help it. "Look here, Colonel," said he, "a man's a man, but a woman's a
woman. It isn't likely as Master Walter will always be putting his hand
round your neck and kissing of you when you're good, and pick a white
hair off your coat if he do but see one when you're going out, and shine
upon you in-doors more than the sun does on you out-of-doors; and 'taint
to be supposed as Mr. Walter will never meet me on the stairs without
breaking out into a smile to cheer an old fellow's heart, and showing
L2000 worth of ivory all at one time; and if I've a cold or a bit of a
headache he won't send his lady's maid to see after me and tell me what I
am to do, and threaten to come and nurse me himself if I don't mend."

"Well," said the Colonel, "there's something in all this."

"For all that," said John Baker, candidly, "I shall make you my
confession, sir. I said to Mr. Walter myself, said I, 'Here's a pretty
business,' said I; 'I've known and loved you from a child, and Mrs.
Walter has only been here six months, and now I'm afraid she'll make me
love her more than I do you.'"

"Why, of course she will," said Mr. Walter. "Why, _I_ love her
better than I do myself, and you've got to follow suit, or else I'll
murder you."

So that question was settled.

* * * * *

The five hundred guineas reward rankled in the minds of those detectives,
and, after a few months, with the assistance of the ordinary police in
all the northern towns, they got upon a cold scent, and then upon a warm
scent, and at last they suspected their bird, under the _alias_ of
Carruthers. So they came to the house to get sight of him, and make sure
before applying for a warrant. They got there just in time for his

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