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A Strange Disappearance by Anna Katharine Green

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My thoughts on the road back to Melville were many and conflicting.
Chief above them all, however, rose the comfortable conclusion that
in the pursuit of one mysterious affair, I had stumbled, as is often
the case, upon the clue to another of yet greater importance, and by
so doing got a start that might yet redound greatly to my advantage.
For the reward offered for the recapture of the Schoenmakers was
large, and the possibility of my being the one to put the authorities
upon their track, certainly appeared after this day's developements,
open at least to a very reasonable hope. At all events I determined
not to let the grass grow under my feet till I had informed the
Superintendent of what I had seen and heard that day in the old haunt
of these two escaped convicts.

Arrived at the public house in Melville, and learning that Mr. Blake
had safely returned there an hour before, I drew the landlord to one
side and asked what he could tell me about that old house of the two
noted robbers Schoenmaker, I had passed on my way back among the
hills.

"Wa'al now," replied he, "this is curious. Here I've just been
answering the gentleman up stairs a heap of questions concerning that
self same old place, and now you come along with another batch of
them; just as if that rickety old den was the only spot of interest we
had in these parts."

"Perhaps that may be the truth," I laughed. "Just now when the papers
are full of these rogues, anything concerning them must be of
superior interest of course." And I pressed him again to give me a
history of the house and the two thieves who had inhabited it.

"Wa'al," drawled he "'taint much we know about them, yet after all it
may be a trifle too much for their necks some day. Time was when
nobody thought especial ill of them beyond a suspicion or so of their
being somewhat mean about money. That was when they kept an inn there,
but when the robbery of the Rutland bank was so clearly traced to
them, more than one man about here started up and said as how they
had always suspected them Shoenmakers of being villains, and even
hinted at something worse than robbery. But nothing beyond that one
rascality has yet been proved against them, and for that they were
sent to jail for twenty years as you know. Two months ago they
escaped, and that is the last known of them. A precious set, too,
they are; the father being only so much the greater rogue than the son
as he is years older."

"And the inn? When was that closed?"

"Just after their arrest."

"Has'nt it been opened since?"

"Only once when a brace of detectives came up from Troy to
investigate, as they called it."

"Who has the key?"

"Ah, that's more than I can tell you."

I dared not ask how my questions differed from those of Mr. Blake, nor
indeed touch upon that point in any way. I was chiefly anxious now
to return to New York without delay; so paying my bill I thanked the
landlord, and without waiting for the stage, remounted my horse and
proceeded at once to Putney where I was fortunate enough to catch the
evening train. By five o'clock next morning I was in New York where I
proceeded to carry out my programme by hastening at once to
headquarters and reporting my suspicions regarding the whereabouts of
the Schoenmakers. The information was received with interest and I
had the satisfaction of seeing two men despatched north that very day
with orders to procure the arrest of the two notable villains
wherever found.

CHAPTER VIII

A WORD OVERHEARD

That evening I had a talk with Fanny over the area gate. She came out
when she saw me approach, with her eyes staring and her whole form in
a flutter.

"O," she cried, "such things as I have heard this day!"

"Well," said I, "what? let me hear too." She put her hand on her
heart. "I never was so frightened," whispered she, "I thought I
should have fainted right away. To hear that elegant lady use such a
word as crime,--"

"What elegant lady?" interrupted I. "Don't begin in the middle of your
story, that's a good girl; I want to hear it all."

"Well," said she, calming down a little, "Mrs. Daniels had a visitor
to-day, a lady. She was dressed--"

"O, now," interrupted I for the second time, "you can leave that out.
Tell me what her name was and let the fol-de-rols go."

"Her name?" exclaimed the girl with some sharpness, "how should I know
her name; she did'nt come to see me."

"How did she look then? You saw her I suppose?"

"And was'nt that what I was telling you, when you stopped me. She
looked like a queen, that she did; as grand a lady as ever I see, in
her velvet dress sweeping over the floor, and her diamonds as big
as--"

"Was she a dark woman?" I asked.

"Her hair was black and so were her eyes, if that is what you mean."

"And was she very tall and proud looking ?"

The girl nodded. "You know her? 'whispered she.

"No," said I, "not exactly; but I think I can tell who she is. And so
she called to-day on Mrs. Daniels, did she."

"Yes, but I guess she knew master would be home before she got away."

"Come," said I, "tell me all about it; I'm getting impatient."

"And ain't I telling you?" said she. "It was about three o'clock this
afternoon, the time I go up stairs to dress, so I just hangs about in
the hall a bit, near the parlor door, and I hear her gossiping with
Mrs. Daniels almost as if she was an old friend, and Mrs. Daniels
answering her mighty stiffly and as if she was'nt glad to see her at
all. But the lady didn't seem to mind, but went on talking as sweet as
honey, and when they came out, you would have thought she loved the
old woman like a sister to see her look into her face and say
something about knowing how busy she was, but that it would give her
so much pleasure if she would come some day to see her and talk over
old times. But Mrs. Daniels was'nt pleased a bit and showed plain
enough she did'nt like the lady, fine as she was in her ways. She was
going to answer her too, but just then the front door opened and Mr.
Blake with his satchel in his hand, came into the house. And how he
did start, to be sure, when he saw them, though he tried to say
something perlite which she did'nt seem to take to at all, for after
muttering something about not expecting to see him, she put her hand
on the knob and was going right out. But he stopped her and they
went into the parlor together while Mrs. Daniels stood staring after
them like one mad, her hand held out with his bag and umbrella in it,
stiff as a statter in the Central Park. She did'nt stand so long,
though, but came running down the hall, as if she was bewitched. I
was dreadful flustered, for though I was hid behind the wall that juts
out there by the back stairs, I was afraid she would see me and shame
me before Mr. Blake. But she passed right by and never looked up.
'There is something dreadful mysterious in this,' thought I, and I
just made up my mind to stay where I was till Mr. Blake and the lady
should come out again from the parlor. I did'nt have to wait very
long. In a few minutes the door opened and they stepped out, he ahead
and she coming after. I thought this was queer, he is always so
dreadful perlite in his ways, but I thought it was a deal queerer when
I saw him go up the front stairs, she hurrying after, looking I
cannot tell you how, but awful troubled and anxious, I should say.

"They went into that room of his he calls his studio and though I knew
it might cost me my place if I was found out, I could'nt help
following and listening at the keyhole."

"And what did you hear?" I asked, for she paused to take breath.

"Well, the first thing I heard was a cry of pleasure from her, and the
words, 'You keep that always before you? You cannot dislike me, then,
as much as you pertend.' I don't know what she meant nor what he
did, but he stepped across the room and I heard her cry out this time
as if she was hurt as well as awful surprised; and he talked and
talked, and I could'nt catch a word, he spoke so low; and by and by
she sobbed just a little, and I got scared and would have run away
but she cried out with a kind of shriek, 'O, don't say any more; to
think that crime should come into our family, the proudest in the
land. How could you, Holman, how could you.' Yes," the girl went on,
flushing in her excitement till she was as red as the cherry ribbons
in her cap, "those were the very words she used: 'To think that crime
should come into our family! the proudest one in the land!' And she
called him by his first name, and asked him how he could do it."

"And what did Mr. Blake say" returned I, a little taken back myself at
this result of my efforts with Fanny.

"O, I did'nt wait to hear. I did'nt wait for anything. If folks was
going to talk about such things as that, I thought I had better be
anywhere than listening at the keyhole. I went right up stairs I can
tell you."

"And whom have you told of what you heard in the half dozen hours that
have gone by?"

"Nobody; how could you think so mean of me when I promised, and--"

It is not necessary to go any further into this portion of the
interview.

The Countess De Mirac possessed to its fullest extent the present fine
lady's taste for bric-a-brac. So much I had learned in my inquiries
concerning her. Remembering this, I took the bold resolution of
profiting by this weakness of hers to gain admission to her presence,
she being the only one sharing Mr. Blake's mysterious secret.
Borrowing a valuable antique from a friend of mine at that time in the
business, I made my appearance the very next day at her apartments,
and sending in an urgent request to see Madame, by the trim negress
who answered my summons, waited in some doubt for her reply.

It came all too soon; Madame was ill and could see no one. I was not,
however, to be baffled by one rebuff. Handing the basket I held to
the girl, I urged her to take it in and show her mistress what it
contained, saying it was a rare article which might never again come
her way.

The girl complied, though with a doubtful shake of the head which was
anything but encouraging. Her incredulity, however, must have been
speedily rebuked, for she almost immediately returned without the
basket, saying Madame would see me.

My first thoughts upon entering the grand lady's presence, was that
the girl had been mistaken, for I found the Countess walking the
floor in an abstracted way, drying a letter she had evidently but just
completed, by shaking it to and fro with an unsteady hand; the
placque I had brought, lying neglected on the table.

But at sight of my respectful form standing with bent head in the
doorway, she hurriedly thrust the letter into a book and took up the
placque. As she did so I marked her well and almost started at the
change I observed in her since that evening at the Academy. It was
not only that she was dressed in some sort of loose dishabille that
was in eminent contrast to the sweeping silks and satins in which I
had hitherto beheld her adorned; or that she was laboring under some
physical disability that robbed her dark cheek of the bloom that was
its chiefest charm. The change I observed went deeper than that; it
was more as if a light had been extinguished in her countenance. It
was the same woman I had beheld standing like a glowing column of
will and strength before the melancholy form of Mr. Blake, but with
the will and strength gone, and with them all the glow.

"She no longer hopes," thought I, and already felt repaid for my
trouble.

"This is a very pretty article you have brought me," said she with
something of the unrestrained love of art which she undoubtedly
possessed, showing itself through all her languor. "Where did it come
from, and what recommendations have you, to prove it is an honest
sale you offer me?"

"None," returned I, ignoring with a reassuring smile the first
question, "except that I should not be afraid if all the police in
New York knew I was here with this fine placque for sale."

She gave a shrug of her proud shoulder that bespoke the French
Countess and softly ran her finger round the edge of the placque.

"I don't need anything more of this kind," said she languidly;
"besides," and she set it down with a fretful air, "I am in no mood
to buy this afternoon." Then shortly, "What do you ask for it?"

I named a fabulous price.

She started and cast me a keen glance. "You had better take it to some
one else; I have no money to throw away."

With a hesitating hand I lifted the placque towards the basket. "I
would very much like to sell it to you," said I. " Perhaps--"

Just then a lady's fluttering voice rose from the room beyond
inquiring for the Countess, and hurriedly taking the placque from my
hand with an impulsive "O there's Amy," she passed into the adjoining
apartment, leaving the door open behind her.

I saw a quick interchange of greetings between her and a fashionably
dressed lady, then they withdrew to one side with the ornament I had
brought, evidently consulting in regard to its merits. Now was my
time. The book in which she had placed the letter she had been writing
lay on the table right before me, not two inches from my hand. I had
only to throw back the cover and my curiosity would be satisfied.
Taking advantage of a moment when their backs were both turned, I
pressed open the book with a careful hand, and with one eye on them
and one on the sheet before me, managed to read these words:--

MY DEAREST CECILIA.

I have tried in vain to match the sample you sent me at Stewart's,
Arnold's and McCreery's. If you still insist upon making up the
dress in the way you propose, I will see what Madame Dudevant can
do for us, though I cannot but advise you to alter your plans and
make the darker shade of velvet do. I went to the Cary reception
last night and met Lulu Chittenden. She has actually grown old,
but was as lively as ever. She created a great stir in Paris when
she was there; but a husband who comes home two o'clock in the
morning with bleared eyes and empty pockets, is not conducive to
the preservation of a woman's beauty. How she manages to retain
her spirits I cannot imagine. You ask me news of cousin Holman. I
meet him occasionally and he looks well, but has grown into the
most sombre man you ever saw. In regard to certain hopes of which
you have sometimes made mention, let me assure you they are no
longer practicable. He has done what--

Here the conversation ceased in the other room, the Countess made a
movement of advance and I closed the book with an inward groan over
my ill-luck.

"It is very pretty," said she with a weary air; "but as I remarked
before, I am not in the buying mood. If you will take half you
mention, I may consider the subject, but--"

"Pardon me, Madame," I interrupted, being in no wise anxious to leave
the placque behind me, "I have been considering the matter and I hold
to my original price. Mr. Blake of Second Avenue may give it to me
if you do not."

"Mr. Blake!" She eyed me suspiciously. "Do you sell to him?"

"I sell to anyone I can," replied I; "and as he has an artist's eye
for such things--"

Her brows knitted and she turned away. "I do not want it;" said she,
"sell it to whom you please."

I took up the placque and left the room.

CHAPTER IX

A FEW GOLDEN HAIRS

When a few days from that I made my appearance before Mr. Gryce, it
was to find him looking somewhat sober. "Those Schoenmakers," said
he, "are making a deal of trouble. It seems they escaped the fellows
up north and are now somewhere in this city, but where--"

An expressive gesture finished the sentence.

"Is that so?" exclaimed I. "Then we are sure to nab them. Given time
and a pair of low, restless German thieves, I will wager anything,
our hands will be upon them before the month is over. I only hope,
when we do come across them, it will not be to find their betters too
much mixed up with their devilish practices." And I related to him
what Fanny had told me a few evenings before.

"The coil is tightening," said he. "What the end will be I don't know.
Crime, said she? I wish I knew in what blind hole of the earth that
girl we are after lies hidden."

As if in answer to this wish the door opened and one of our men came
in with a letter in his hand. "Ha!" exclaimed Mr. Gryce, after he had
perused it, "look at that."

I took the letter from his hand and read:

The dead body of a girl such as you describe was found in the East
river off Fiftieth Street this morning. From appearance has been
dead some time. Have telegraphed to Police Headquarters for
orders. Should you wish to see the body before it is removed to
the Morgue or otherwise disturbed, please hasten to Pier 48 E. R.
GRAHAM.

"Come," said I, "let's go and see for ourselves. If it should be the
one--"

"The dinner party proposed by Mr. Blake for to-night, may have its
interruptions," he remarked.

I do not wish to make my story any longer than is necessary, but I
must say that when in an hour or so later, I stood with Mr. Gryce
before the unconscious form of that poor drowned girl I felt an
unusual degree of awe stealing over me: there was so much mystery
connected with this affair, and the parties implicated were of such
standing and repute.

I almost dreaded to see the covering removed from her face lest I
should behold, what? I could not have told if I had tried.

"A trim made body enough," cried the official in charge as Mr. Gryce
lifted an end of the cloth that enveloped her and threw it back.
"Pity the features are not better preserved."

"No need for us to see the features," exclaimed I, pointing to the
locks of golden red hair that hung in tangled masses about her. "The
hair is enough; she is not the one." And I turned aside, asking myself
if it was relief I felt.

To my surprise Mr. Gryce did not follow.

"Tall, thin, white face, black eyes." I heard him whisper to himself.
"It is a pity the features are not better preserved."

"But," said I, taking him by the arm, "Fanny spoke particularly of her
hair being black, while this girl's--Good heavens!" I suddenly
ejaculated as I looked again at the prostrate form before me. "Yellow
hair or black, this is the girl I saw him speaking to that day in
Broome Street. I remember her clothes if nothing more." And opening
my pocketbook, I took out the morsel of cloth I had plucked that day
from the ash barrel, lifted up the discolored rags that hung about
the body and compared the two. The pattern, texture and color were
the same.

"Well," said Mr. Gryce, pointing to certain contusions, like marks
from the blow of some heavy instrument on the head and bared arms of
the girl before us; "he will have to answer me one question anyhow,
and that is, who this poor creature is who lies here the victim of
treachery or despair." And turning to the official he asked if there
were any other signs of violence on the body.

The answer came deliberately, "Yes, she has evidently been battered to
death."

Mr. Gryce's lips closed with grim decision. "A most brutal murder,"
said he and lifting up the cloth with a hand that visibly trembled,
he softly covered her face.

"Well," said I as we slowly paced back up the pier, "there is one
thing certain, she is not the one who disappeared from Mr. Blake's
house."

"I am not so sure of that."

"How!" said I. "You believed Fanny lied when she gave that
description of the missing girl upon which we have gone till now?"

Mr. Gryce smiled, and turning back, beckoned to the official behind
us. "Let me have that description," said he, "which I distributed
among the Harbor Police some days ago for the identification of a
certain corpse I was on the lookout for."

The man opened his coat and drew out a printed paper which at Mr.
Gryce's word he put into my hand. It ran as follows:

Look out for the body of a young girl, tall, well shaped but thin,
of fair complexion and golden hair of a peculiar bright and
beautiful color, and when found, acquaint me at once.
G.

"I don't understand," began I.

But Mr. Gryce tapping me on the arm said in his most deliberate tones,
"Next time you examine a room in which anything of a mysterious
nature has occurred, look under the bureau and if you find a comb
there with several long golden hairs tangled in it, be very sure
before you draw any definite conclusions, that your Fannys know what
they are talking about when they declare the girl who used that comb
had black hair on her head."

CHAPTER X

THE SECRET OF MR. BLAKE'S STUDIO

"Mr. Blake is at dinner, sir, with company, but I will call him if you
say so."

"No," returned Mr. Gryce; "show us into some room where we can be
comfortable and we will wait till he has finished."

The servant bowed, and stepping forward down the hall, opened the door
of a small and cosy room heavily hung with crimson curtains. "I will
let him know that you are here," said he, and vanished towards the
dining-room.

"I doubt if Mr. Blake will enjoy the latter half of his bill of fare
as much as the first," said I, drawing up one of the luxurious
arm-chairs to the side of my principal. "I wonder if he will break
away from his guests and come in here?"

"No; if I am not mistaken we shall find Mr. Blake a man of nerve. Not
a muscle of his face will show that he is disturbed."

"Well," said I, "I dread it."

Mr. Gryce looked about on the gorgeous walls and the rich old
fashioned furniture that surrounded him, and smiled one of his
grimmest smiles.

"Well, you may," said he.

The next instant a servant stood in the doorway, bearing to our great
astonishment, a tray well set with decanter and glasses.

"Mr. Blake's compliments, gentlemen," said he, setting it down on the
table before us. "He hopes you will make yourselves at home and he
will see you as soon as possible."

The humph! of Mr. Gryce when the servant had gone would have done your
soul good, also the look he cast at the pretty Dresden Shepherdess on
the mantel-piece, as I reached out my hand towards the decanter.
Somehow it made me draw back.

"I think we had better leave his wine alone," said he.

And for half an hour we sat there, the wine untouched between us,
listening alternately to the sound of speech-making and laughter that
came from the dining-room, and the solemn ticking of the clock as it
counted out the seconds on the mantel-piece. Then the guests came in
from the table, filing before us past the open door on their way to
the parlors. They were all gentlemen of course--Mr. Blake never
invited ladies to his house--and gentlemen of well known repute. The
dinner had been given in honor of a certain celebrated statesman, and
the character of his guests was in keeping with that of the one thus
complimented.

As they went by us gaily indulging in the jokes and light banter with
which such men season a social dinner, I saw Mr. Gryce's face grow
sober by many a shade; and when in the midst of it all, we heard the
voice of Mr. Blake rise in that courteous and measured tone for which
it is distinguished, I saw him reach forward and grasp his cane with
an uneasiness I had never seen displayed by him before. But when some
time later, the guests having departed, the dignified host advanced
with some apology to where we were, I never beheld a firmer look on
Mr. Gryce's face than that with which he rose and confronted him. Mr.
Blake's own had not more character in it.

"You have called at a rather inauspicious time, Mr. Gryce," said the
latter, glancing at the card which he held in his hand. "What may
your business be? Something to do with politics, I suppose."

I surveyed the man in amazement. Was this great politician stooping to
act a part, or had he forgotten our physiognomies as completely as
appeared.

"Our business is not politics," replied Mr. Gryce; "but fully as
important. May I request the doors be closed?"

I thought Mr. Blake looked surprised, but he immediately stepped to
the door and shut it. Then coming back, he looked at Mr. Gryce more
closely and a change took place in his manner.

"I think I have seen you before," said he.

Mr. Gryce bowed with just the suspicion of a smile. "I have had the
honor of consulting you before in this very house," observed he.

A look of full recognition passed over the dignified countenance of
the man before us.

"I remember," said he, shrugging his shoulders in the old way. "You
are interested in some servant girl or other who ran away from this
house a week or so ago. Have you found her?" This with no apparent
concern.

"We think we have," rejoined Mr. Gryce with some solemnity. "The
river gives up its prey now and then, Mr. Blake."

Still only that look of natural surprise.

"Indeed! You do not mean to say she has drowned herself? I am sorry
for that, a girl who had once lived in my house. What trouble could
she have had to drive her to such an act?"

Mr. Gryce advanced a step nearer the gentleman.

"That is what we have come here to learn," said he with a deliberation
that yet was not lacking in the respect due to a man so universally
esteemed as Mr. Blake. "You who have seen her so lately ought to be
able to throw some light upon the subject at least."

"Mr.--" he again glanced at the card, "Mr. Gryce,--excuse me--I
believe I told you when you were here before that I had no
remembrance of this girl at all. That if such a person was in my house
I did not know it, and that all questions put to me on that subject
would be so much labor thrown away."

Mr. Gryce bowed. "I remember," said he. "I was not alluding to any
connection you may have had with the girl in this house, but to the
interview you were seen to have with her on the corner of Broome
Street some days ago. You had such an interview, did you not?"

A flush, deep as it was sudden, swept over Mr. Blake's usually unmoved
cheek. "You are transgressing sir," said he and stopped. Though a man
of intense personal pride, he had but little of that quality called
temper, or perhaps if he had, thought it unwise to display it on this
occasion. "I saw and spoke to a girl on the corner of that street
some days ago," he went on more mildly, "but that she was the one who
lived here, I neither knew at the time nor feel willing to believe now
without positive proof." Then in a deep ringing tone the stateliness
of which it would be impossible to describe, he inquired, "Have the
city authorities presumed to put a spy on my movements, that the fact
of my speaking to a poor forsaken creature on the corner of the
street should be not only noted but remembered?"

"Mr. Blake," observed Mr. Gryce, and I declare I was proud of my
superior at that moment, "no man who is a true citizen and a
Christian should object to have his steps followed, when by his own
thoughtlessness, perhaps, he has incurred a suspicion which demands
it."

"And do you mean to say that I have been followed," inquired he,
clenching his hand and looking steadily, but with a blanching cheek,
first at Mr. Gryce then at me.

"It was indispensable," quoth that functionary gently.

The outraged gentleman riveted his gaze upon me. "In town and out of
town?" demanded he.

I let Mr. Gryce reply. "It is known that you have lately sought to
visit the Schoenmakers," said he.

Mr. Blake drew a deep breath, cast his eyes about the handsome
apartment in which we were, let them rest for a moment upon a
portrait that graced one side of the wall, and which was I have since
learned a picture of his father, and slowly drew forward a chair.
"Let me hear what your suspicions are," said he.

I noticed Mr. Gryce colored at this; he had evidently been met in a
different way from what he expected. "Excuse me," said he, "I do not
say I have any suspicions; my errand is simply to notify you of the
death of the girl you were seen to speak with, and to ask whether or
not you can give us any information that can aid us in the matter
before the coroner."

"You know I have not. If I have been as closely followed as you say,
you must know why I spoke to that girl and others, why I went to the
house of the Schoenmakers and--Do you know?" he suddenly inquired.

Mr. Gryce was not the man to answer such a question as that. He eyed
the rich signet ring that adorned the hand of the gentleman before
him and suavely smiled. "I am ready to listen to any explanations,"
said he.

Mr. Blake's haughty countenance became almost stern. "You consider
you have a right to demand them; let me hear why."

"Well," said Mr. Gryce with a change of tone, "you shall.
Unprofessional as it is, I will tell you why I, a member of the
police force, dare enter the house of such a man as you are, and put
him the questions I have concerning his domestic affairs. Mr. Blake,
imagine yourself in a detective's office. A woman comes in, the
housekeeper of a respected citizen, and informs us that a girl
employed by her as seamstress has disappeared in a very unaccountable
way from her master's house the night before; in fact been abducted
as she thinks from certain evidences, through the window. Her manner
is agitated, her appeal for assistance urgent, though she
acknowledges no relationship to the girl or expresses any especial
cause for her interest beyond that of common humanity. 'She must be
found,' she declares, and hints that any sum necessary will be
forthcoming, though from what source after her own pittance is
expended she does not state. When asked if her master has no
interest in the matter, she changes color and puts us off. He never
noticed his servants, left all such concerns to her, etc.; but shows
fear when a proposition is made to consult him. Next imagine yourself
with the detectives in that gentleman's house. You enter the girl's
room; what is the first thing you observe? Why that it is not only one
of the best in the house, but that it is conspicuous for its comforts
if not for its elegancies. More than that, that there are books of
poetry and history lying around, showing that the woman who inhabited
it was above her station; a fact which the housekeeper is presently
brought to acknowledge. You notice also that the wild surmise of her
abduction by means of the window, has some ground in appearance,
though the fact that she went with entire unwillingness is not made
so apparent. The housekeeper, however, insists in a way that must have
had some special knowledge of the girl's character or circumstances
to back it, that she never went without compulsion; a statement which
the torn curtains and the track of blood over the roof of the
extension, would seem to emphasize. A few other facts are made
known. First, a pen-knife is picked up from the grass plot in the
yard beneath, showing with what instrument the wound was inflicted,
whose drippings made those marks of blood alluded to. It was a
pearl-handled knife belonging to the writing desk found open on her
table, and its frail and dainty character proved indisputably, that it
was employed by the girl herself, and that against manifest enemies;
no man being likely to snatch up any such puny weapon for the purpose
either of offence or defence. That these enemies were two and were
both men, was insisted upon by Mrs. Daniels who overheard their
voices the night before.

"Mr. Blake, such facts as these arouse curiosity, especially when the
master of the house being introduced upon the scene, he fails to
manifest common human interest, while his housekeeper betrays in
every involuntary gesture and expression she makes use of, her horror
if not her fear of his presence, and her relief at his departure.
Yes," he exclaimed, unheeding the sudden look here cast him by Mr.
Blake, "and curiosity begets inquiry, and inquiry elucidated further
facts such as these, that the mysterious master of the house was in
his garden at the hour of the girl's departure, was even looking
through the bars of his gate when she, having evidently escaped from
her captors, came back with every apparent desire to reenter her
home, but seeing him, betrayed an unreasonable amount of fear and fled
back even into the very arms of the men she had endeavored to avoid.
Did you speak sir?" asked Mr. Gryce suddenly stopping, with a sly
look at his left boot tip.

Mr. Blake shook his head. "No," said he shortly, "go on." But that
last remark of Mr. Gryce had evidently made its impression.

"Inquiry revealed, also, two or three other interesting facts. First,
that this gentleman qualified though he was to shine in ladies'
society, never obtruded himself there, but employed his leisure time
instead, in walking the lower streets of the city, where he was seen
more than once conversing with certain poor girls at street corners
and in blind alleys. The last one he talked with, believed from her
characteristics to be the same one that was abducted from his
house--"

"Hold there," said Mr. Blake with some authority in his tone, "there
you are mistaken; that is impossible."

"Ah, and why?"

"The girl you allude to had bright golden hair, something which the
woman who lived in my house did not possess."

"Indeed. I thought you had never noticed the woman who sewed for you,
sir,--did not know how she looked?"

"I should have noticed her if she had had such hair as the girl you
speak of."

Mr. Gryce smiled and opened his pocketbook.

"There is a sample of her hair, sir," said he, taking out a thin
strand of brilliant hair and showing it to the gentleman before him.
"Bright you see, and golden as that of the unfortunate creature you
talked with the other night."

Mr. Blake stooped forward and lifted it with a hand that visibly
trembled. "Where did you get this?" asked he at last, clenching it to
his breast with sudden passion.

"From out of the comb which the girl had been using the night before."

The imperious man flung it hastily from him.

"We waste our time," said he, looking Mr. Gryce intently in the face.
"All that you have said does not account for your presence here nor
the tone you have used while addressing me. What are you keeping
back? I am not a man to be trifled with."

Mr. Gryce rose to his feet. "You are right," said he, and he gave a
short glance in my direction. "All that I have said would not perhaps
justify me in this intrusion, if--" he looked again towards me. "Do
you wish me to continue?" he asked.

Mr. Blake's intent look deepened. "I see no reason why you should not
utter the whole," said he. "A good story loses nothing by being told
to the end. You wish to say something about my journey to
Schoenmaker's house, I suppose."

Mr. Gryce gravely shook his head.

"What, you can let such a mystery as that go without a word?"

"I am not here to discuss mysteries that have no connection with the
sewing-girl in whose cause I am interested."

"Then," said Mr. Blake, turning for the first time upon my superior
with all the dignified composure for which he was eminent, "it is no
longer necessary for us to prolong this interview. I have allowed,
nay encouraged you to state in the plainest terms what it was you had
or imagined you had against me, knowing that my actions of late, seen
by those who did not possess the key to them, must have seemed a
little peculiar. But when you say you have no interest in any mystery
disconnected with the girl who has lived the last few months in my
house, I can with assurance say that it is time we quitted this
unprofitable conversation, as nothing which I have lately done, said
or thought here or elsewhere has in any way had even the remotest
bearing upon that individual; she having been a stranger to me while
in my house, and quite forgotten by me, after her unaccountable
departure hence."

Mr. Gryce's hand which had been stretched out towards the hitherto
untouched decanter before him, suddenly dropped. "You deny then,"
said he, "all connection between yourself and the woman, lady or
sewing-girl, who occupied that room above our heads for eleven months
previous to the Sunday morning I first had the honor to make your
acquaintance."

"I am not in the habit of repeating my assertions," said Mr. Blake
with some severity, "even when they relate to a less disagreeable
matter than the one under discussion."

Mr. Gryce bowed, and slowly reached out for his hat; I had never seen
him so disturbed. "I am sorry," he began and stopped, fingering his
hat-brim nervously. Suddenly he laid his hat back, and drew up his
form into as near a semblance of dignity as its portliness would
allow.

"Mr. Blake," said he, "I have too much respect for the man I believed
you to be when I entered this house to-night, to go with the thing
unsaid which is lying at present like a dead weight upon my lips. I
dare not leave you to the consequence of my silence; for duty will
compel me to speak some day and in some presence where you may not
have the opportunity which you can have here, to explain yourself with
satisfaction. Mr. Blake I cannot believe you when you say the girl
who lived in this house was a stranger to you."

Mr. Blake drew his proud form up in a disdain that was only held in
check by the very evident honesty of the man before him. "You are
courageous at least," said he. "I regret you are not equally
discriminating." And raising Mr. Gryce's hat he placed it in his
hand.

"Pardon me," said that gentleman, "I would like to justify myself
before I go. Not with words," he proceeded as the other folded his
arms with a sarcastic bow. "I am done with words; action accomplishes
the rest. Mr. Blake I believe you consider me an honest officer and a
reliable man. Will you accompany me to your private room for a
moment? There is something there which may convince you I was neither
playing the fool nor the bravado when I uttered the phrase I did an
instant ago."

I expected to hear the haughty master of the house refuse a request so
peculiar. But he only bowed, though in a surprised way that showed
his curiosity if no more was aroused. "My room and company are at
your disposal," said he, "but you will find nothing there to justify
you in your assertions."

"Let me at least make the effort," entreated my superior.

Mr. Blake smiling bitterly immediately led the way to the door. "The
man may come," he remarked carelessly as Mr. Gryce waved his hand in
my direction. "Your justification if not mine may need witnesses."

Rejoiced at the permission, for my curiosity was by this time raised
to fever pitch, I at once followed. Not without anxiety. The assured
poise of Mr. Blake's head seemed to argue that the confidence
betrayed by my superior might receive a shock; and I felt it would be
a serious blow to his pride to fail now. But once within the room
above, my doubts speedily fled. There was that in Mr. Gryce's face
which anyone acquainted with him could not easily mistake. Whatever
might be the mysterious something which the room contained, it was
evidently sufficient in his eyes to justify his whole conduct.

"Now sir," said Mr. Blake, turning upon my superior with his sternest
expression, "the room and its contents are before you; what have you
to say for yourself."

Mr. Gryce equally stern, if not equally composed, cast one of his
inscrutable glances round the apartment and without a word stepped
before the picture that was as I have said, the only ornamentation of
the otherwise bare and unattractive room.

I thought Mr. Blake looked surprised, but his face was not one that
lightly expressed emotion.

"A portrait of my cousin the Countess De Mirac," said he with a
certain dryness of tone hard to interpret.

Mr. Gryce bowed and for a moment stood looking with a strange lack of
interest at the proudly brilliant face of the painting before him,
then to our great amazement stepped forward and with a quick gesture
turned the picture rapidly to the wall, when--Gracious heavens! what a
vision started out before us from the reverse side of that painted
canvas! No luxurious brunette countenance now, steeped in pride and
languor, but a face--Let me see if I can describe it. But no, it was
one of those faces that are indescribable. You draw your breath as
you view it; you feel as if you had had an electric shock; but as for
knowing ten minutes later whether the eyes that so enthralled you
were blue or black, or the locks that clustered halo-like about a
forehead almost awful in its expression of weird, unfathomable power,
were brown or red, you could not nor would you pretend to say. It was
the character of the countenance itself that impressed you. You did
not even know if this woman who might have been anything wonderful or
grand you ever read of, were beautiful or not. You did not care; it
was as if you had been gazing on a tranquil evening sky and a
lightning flash had suddenly startled you. Is the lightning beautiful?
Who asks! But I know from what presently transpired, that the face
was ivory pale in complexion, the eyes deeply dark, and the hair,--
strange and uncanny combination,--of a bright and peculiar golden hue.

"You dare!" came forth in strange broken tones from Mr. Blake's lips.

I instantly turned towards him. He was gazing with a look that was
half indignant, half menacing at the silent detective who with eyes
drooped and finger directed towards the picture, seemed to be waiting
for him to finish.

"I do not understand an audacity that allows you to--to--" Was this
the haughty gentleman we had known, this hesitating troubled man with
bloodless lips and trembling hands?

"I declared my desire to justify myself," said my principal with a
respectful bow. "This is my justification. Do you note the color of
the woman's hair whose portrait hangs with its face turned to the
wall in your room? Is it like or unlike that of the strand you held
in your hand a few moments ago; a strand taken as I swear, hair by
hair from the comb of the poor creature who occupied the room above.
But that is not all," he continued as Mr. Blake fell a trifle aback;
"just observe the dress in which this woman is painted; blue silk you
see, dark and rich; a wide collar cunningly executed, you can almost
trace the pattern; a brooch; then the roses in the hand, do you see?
Now come with me upstairs."

Too much startled to speak, Mr. Blake, haughty aristocrat as he was,
turned like a little child and followed the detective who with an
assured step and unembarassed mien led the way into the deserted room
above.

"You accuse me of insulting you, when I express disbelief of your
assertion that there was no connection between you and the girl
Emily," said Mr. Gryce as he lit the gas and unlocked that famous
bureau drawer. "Will you do so any longer in face of these?" And
drawing off the towel that lay uppermost, he revealed the neatly
folded dress, wide collar, brooch and faded roses that lay beneath.
"Mrs. Daniels assures us these articles belonged to the sewing-woman
Emily; were brought here by her. Dare you say they are not the ones
reproduced in the portrait below?"

Mr. Blake uttering a cry sank on his knees before the drawer. "My God!
My God!" was his only reply, "what are these?" Suddenly he rose, his
whole form quivering, his eyes burning. "Where is Mrs. Daniels?" he
cried, hastily advancing and pulling the bell. "I must see her at
once. Send the house-keeper here," he ordered as Fanny smiling
demurely made her appearance at the door.

"Mrs. Daniels is out," returned the girl, "went out as soon as ever
you got up from dinner, sir."

"Gone out at this hour?"

"Yes sir; she goes out very often nowadays, sir."

Her master frowned. "Send her to me as soon as she returns," he
commanded, and dismissed the girl.

"I don't know what to make of this," he now said in a strange tone,
approaching again the touching contents of that open bureau drawer
with a look in which longing and doubt seemed in some way to be
strangely commingled. "I cannot explain the presence of these articles
in this room; but if you will come below I will see what I can do to
make other matters intelligible to you. Disagreeable as it is for me
to take anyone into my confidence, affairs have gone too far for me
to hope any longer to preserve secrecy as to my private concerns."

CHAPTER XI

LUTTRA

"Gentlemen," said he as he ushered us once more into his studio, "you
have presumed, and not without reason I should say, to infer that the
original of this portrait and the woman who has so long occupied the
position of sewing-woman in my house, are one and the same. You will
no longer retain that opinion when I inform you that this picture,
strange as it may appear to you, is the likeness of my wife."

"Wife!" We both were astonished as I take it, but it was my voice
which spoke. "We were ignorant you ever had a wife."

"No doubt," continued our host smiling bitterly, "that at least has
evaded the knowledge even of the detectives." Then with a return to
his naturally courteous manner, "She was never acknowledged by me as
my wife, nor have we ever lived together, but if priestly benediction
can make a man and woman one, that woman as you see her there is my
lawful wife."

Rising, he softly turned the lovely, potent face back to the wall,
leaving us once more confronted by the dark and glowing countenance
of his cousin.

"I am not called upon," said he, "to go any further with you than
this. I have told you what no man till this hour has ever heard from
my lips, and it should serve to exonerate me from any unjust
suspicions you may have entertained. But to one of my temperament,
secret scandal and the gossip it engenders is only less painful than
open notoriety. If I leave the subject here, a thousand conjectures
will at once seize upon you, and my name if not hers will become,
before I know it, the football of gossip if not of worse and deeper
suspicion than has yet assailed me. Gentleman I take you to be honest
men; husbands, perhaps, and fathers; proud, too, in your way and
jealous of your own reputation and that of those with whom you are
connected. If I succeed in convincing you that my movements of late
have been totally disconnected with the girl whose cause you profess
solely to be interested in, may I count upon your silence as regards
those actions and the real motive that led to them?"

"You may count upon my discretion as regards all matters that do not
come under the scope of police duty," returned Mr. Gryce. "I haven't
much time for gossip."

"And your man here?"

"O, he's safe where it profits him to be."

"Very well, then, I shall count upon you."

And with the knitted brows and clinched hands of a proudly reticent
man who, perhaps for the first time in his life finds himself forced
to reveal his inner nature to the world, he began his story in these
words:

"Difficult as it is for me to introduce into a relation like this the
name of my father, I shall be obliged to do so in order to make my
conduct at a momentous crisis of my life intelligible to you. My
father, then, was a man of strong will and a few but determined
prejudices. Resolved that I should sustain the reputation of the
family for wealth and respectability, he gave me to understand from my
earliest years, that as long as I preserved my manhood from reproach,
I had only to make my wishes known, to have them immediately
gratified; while if I crossed his will either by indulging in
dissipation or engaging in pursuits unworthy of my name, I no longer
need expect the favor of his countenance or the assistance of his
purse.

"When, therefore, at a certain period of my life, I found that the
charms of my cousin Evelyn were making rather too strong an
impression upon my fancy for a secured peace of mind, I first inquired
how such a union would affect my father, and learning that it would
be in direct opposition to his views, cast about in my mind what I
should do to overcome my passion. Travel suggested itself, and I took
a trip to Europe. But the sight of new faces only awakened in me
comparisons anything but detrimental to the beauty of her who was at
that time my standard of feminine loveliness. Nature and the sports
connected with a wild life were my next resort. I went overland to
California, roamed the orange groves of Florida, and probed the
wildernesses of Canada and our Northern states. It was during these
last excursions that an event occurred which has exercised the most
material influence upon my fate, though at the time it seemed to me
no more than the matter of a day.

"I had just returned from Canada and was resting in tolerable
enjoyment of a very beautiful autumn at Lake George, when a letter
reached me from a friend then loitering in the vicinity, urging me to
join him in a certain small town in Vermont where trout streams
abounded and what is not so often the case under the circumstances,
fishers were few.

"Being in a somewhat reckless mood I at once wrote a consent, and
before another day was over, started for the remote village whence
his letter was postmarked. I found it by no means easy of access.
Situated in the midst of hills some twenty miles or so distant from
any railroad, I discovered that in order to reach it, a long ride in
a stage-coach was necessary, followed by a somewhat shorter journey on
horseback. Not being acquainted with the route, I timed my
connections wrong, so that when evening came I found myself riding
over a strange road in the darkest night I had ever known. As if this
was not enough, my horse suddenly began to limp and presently became
so lame I found it impossible to urge her beyond a slow walk. It was
therefore with no ordinary satisfaction that I presently beheld a
lighted building in the distance, which as I approached resolved
itself into an inn. Stopping in front of the house, which was closed
against the chill night air, I called out lustily for someone to take
my horse, whereupon the door opened and a man appeared on the
threshold with a lantern in his hand. I at once made my wishes known,
receiving in turn a somewhat gruff,

"'Well it is a nasty night and it will be nastier before it's over;'
an opinion instantly endorsed by a sudden swoop of wind that rushed
by at that moment, slamming the door behind him and awakening over my
head a lugubrious groaning as from the twisting boughs of some old
tree, that was almost threatening in its character.

"'You had better go in,' said he, 'the rain will come next.'

"I at once leaped from my horse and pushing open the door with main
strength, entered the house. Another man met me on the threshold who
merely pointing over his shoulder to a lighted room in his rear,
passed out without a word, to help the somewhat younger man, who had
first appeared, in putting up my horse. I at once accepted his
silent invitation and stepped into the room before me. Instantly I
found myself confronted by the rather startling vision of a young
girl of a unique and haunting style of beauty, who rising at my
approach now stood with her eyes on my face and her hands resting on
the deal table before which she had been sitting, in an attitude
expressive of mingled surprise and alarm. To see a woman in that
place was not so strange; but such a woman! Even in the first casual
glance I gave her, I at once acknowledged to myself her extraordinary
power. Not the slightness of her form, the palor of her countenance,
or the fairness of the locks of golden red hair that fell in two long
braids over her bosom, could for a moment counteract the effect of
her dark glance or the vivid almost unearthly force of her
expression. It was as if you saw a flame upstarting before you, waving
tremulously here and there, but burning and resistless in its white
heat. I took off my hat with deference.

"A shudder passed over her, but she made no effort to return my
acknowledgement. As we cast our eyes dilating with horror, down some
horrible pit upon whose verge we suddenly find ourselves, she allowed
her gaze for a moment to dwell upon my face, then with a sudden
lifting of her hand, pointed towards the door as if to bid me
depart--when it swung open with that shrill rushing of wind that
involuntarily awakes a shudder within you, and the two men entered and
came stamping up to my side. Instantly her hand sunk, not feebly as
with fear, but calmly as if at the bidding of her will, and without
waiting for them to speak, she turned away and quietly left the room.
As the door closed upon her I noticed that she wore a calico frock
and that her face did not own one perfect feature.

"'Go after Luttra and tell her to make up the bed in the northwest
room,' said the elder of the two in deep gutteral tones unmistakably
German in their accent, to the other who stood shaking the wet off his
coat into the leaping flames of a small wood fire that burned on the
hearth before us.

"'O, she'll do without my bothering,' was the sullen return. 'I'm wet
through.'

"The elder man, a large powerfully framed fellow of some fifty years
or so, frowned. It was an evil frown, and the younger one seemed to
feel it. He immediately tossed his coat onto a chair and left the
room.

"'Boys are so obstropolous now-a-days,' remarked his companion to me
with what he evidently intended for a conciliatory nod. 'In my time
they were broke in, did what they were told and asked no questions.'

"I smiled to myself at his calling the broad shouldered six-footer who
had just left us a boy, but merely remarking, 'He is your son is he
not!' seated myself before the blaze which shot up a tongue of white
flame at my approach, that irresistibly recalled to my fancy the
appearance of the girl who had gone out a moment before.

"'O, yes, he is my son, and that girl you saw here was my daughter; I
keep this inn and they help me, but it is a slow way to live, I can
tell you. Travel on these roads is slim.'

"'I should think likely,' I returned, remembering the half dozen or so
hills up which I had clambered since I took to my horse. 'How far are
we from Pentonville?'

"'O, two or three miles,' he replied, but in a hurried kind of a way.
'Not far in the daytime but a regular journey in a night like this?'

"'Yes,' said I, as the house shook under a fresh gust; 'it is
fortunate I have a place in which to put up.'

"He glanced down at my baggage which consisted of a small hand bag, an
over-coat and a fishing pole, with something like a gleam of
disappointment.

"'Going fishing?' he asked.

"'Yes,' I returned.

"'Good trout up those streams and plenty of them,' he went on. 'Going
alone?'

"I did not half like his importunity, but considering I had nothing
better to do, replied as affably as possible. 'No, I expect to meet a
friend in Pentonville who will accompany me."

"His hand went to his beard in a thoughtful attitude and he cast me
what, with my increased experience of the world, I should now
consider a sinister glance. 'Then you are expected?' said he.

"Not considering this worth reply, I stretched out my feet to the
blaze and began to warm them, for I felt chilled through.

"'Been on the road long?' he now asked, glancing at the blue flannel
suit I wore.

"'All summer,' I returned,

"I again thought he looked disappointed.

"'From Troy or New York?' he went on with a vague endeavor to appear
good naturally off hand.

"'New York.'

"'A big place that,' he continued. 'I was there once, lots of money
stored away in them big buildings down in Wall Street, eh?'

"I assented, and he drew a chair up to my side, a proceeding that was
interrupted, however, by the reentrance of his son, who without any
apology crowded into the other side of the fire-place in a way to
sandwich me between them. Not fancying this arrangement which I,
however, imputed to ignorance, I drew back and asked if my room was
ready. It seemed it was not, and unpleasantly as it promised, I felt
forced to reseat myself and join in, if not support, the conversation
that followed.

"A half hour passed away, during which the wind increased till it
almost amounted to a gale. Spurts of rain dashed against the windows
with a sharp crackling sound that suggested hail, while ever and anon
a distant roll as of rousing thunder, rumbled away among the hills in
a long and reverberating peal, that made me feel glad to be housed
even under the roof of these rude and uncongenial creatures.
Suddenly the conversation turned upon the time and time-pieces, when
in a low even tone I heard murmured behind me,

"'The gentleman's room is ready;' and turning, I saw standing in the
doorway the slight figure of the young girl whose appearance had
previously so impressed me.

"I immediately arose. 'Then I will proceed to it at once,' said I,
taking up my traps and advancing towards her.

"'Do not be alarmed if you hear creaks and cracklings all over the
house,' observed the landlord as I departed. 'The windows are loose
and the doors ill-fitting. In such a storm as this they make noise
enough to keep an army awake. The house is safe enough though and if
you don't mind noise--'

"'O I don't mind noise,' rejoined I, feeling at that moment tired
enough to fall into a doze on the staircase. 'I shall sleep, never
fear,' and without further ado followed the girl upstairs into a large
clumsily furnished room whose enormous bed draped with heavy curtains
at once attracted my attention.

"'O I cannot sleep under those things,' remarked I, with a gesture
towards the dismal draperies which to me were another name for
suffocation.

"With a single arm-sweep she threw them back. 'Is there anything more
I can do for you?' asked she, glancing hastily about the room.

"I thanked her and said 'no,' at which she at once departed with a
look of still determination upon her countenance that I found it hard
to explain.

Left alone in that large, bare and dimly lighted room, with the wind
shrieking in the chimney and the powerful limbs of some huge tree
beating against the walls without, with a heavy thud inexpressibly
mournful, I found to my surprise and something like dismay, that the
sleepiness which had hitherto oppressed me, had in some unaccountable
way entirely fled. In vain I contemplated the bed, comfortable enough
now in its appearance that the stifling curtains were withdrawn; no
temptation to invade it came to arouse me from the chair into which I
had thrown myself. It was as if I felt myself under the spell of some
invisible influence that like the eye of a basilisk, held me
enchained. I remember turning my head towards a certain quarter of
the wall as if I half expected to encounter there the bewildering
glance of a serpent. Yet far from being apprehensive of any danger, I
only wondered over the weakness of mind that made such fancies
possible.

"An extra loud swirl of the foliage without, accompanied by a quick
vibration of the house, aroused me at last. If I was to lose the
sense of this furious storm careering over my head, I must court
sleep at once. Rising, I drew off my coat, unloosened my vest and was
about to throw it off, when I bethought me of a certain wallet it
contained. Going to the door in some unconscious impulse of precaution
I suppose, I locked myself in, and then drawing out my wallet, took
from it a roll of bills which I put into a small side pocket,
returning the wallet to its old place.

"Why I did this I can scarcely say. As I have before intimated, I was
under no special apprehension. I was at that time anything but a
suspicious man, and the manner and appearance of the men below struck
me as unpleasantly disagreeable but nothing more. But I not only did
what I have related, but allowed the lamp to remain lighted, lying
down finally in my clothes; an almost unprecedented act on my part,
warranted however as I said to myself, by the fury of the gale which
at that time seemed as if it would tumble the roof over our heads.

"How long I lay listening to the creakings and groanings of the
rickety old house, I cannot say, nor how long I remained in the doze
which finally seized me as I became accustomed to the sounds around
and over me. Enough that before the storm had passed its height, I
awoke as if at the touch of a hand, and leaping with a bound out of
the bed, beheld to my incredible amazememt, the alert, nervous form of
Luttra standing before me. She had my coat in her hand, and it was
her touch that had evidently awakened me.

"'I want you to put this on,' said she in a low thrilling tone totally
new in my experience, 'and come with me. The house is unsafe for you
to remain in. Hear how it cracks and trembles. Another blast like
that and we shall be roofless.'

"She was moving toward the door, which to my amazement stood ajar, but
my hesitation stopped her.

"'Won't you come?' she whispered, turning her face towards me with a
look of such potent determination, I followed in spite of myself 'I
dare not let you stay here, your blood will be upon my head.'

"'You exaggerate,' I replied, shrinking back with a longing look at
the comfortable bed I had just left. 'These old houses are always
strong. It will take many such a gust as that you hear, to overturn
it, I assure you.'

"'I exaggerate!' she returned with a look of scorn impossible to
describe. 'Hark!' she said, 'hear that.'

"I did hear, and I must acknowledge that it seemed is if we were about
to be swept from our foundations.

"'Yes,' said I, 'but it is a fearful night to be out in.'

"'I shall go with you,' said she.

"'In that case--' I began with an ill-advised attempt at gallantry
which she cut short with a gesture.

"'Here is your hat,' remarked she, 'and here is your bag. The
fishing-pole must remain, you cannot carry it.'

"'But,--' I expostulated.

"'Hush!' said she with her ear turned towards the depths of the
staircase at the top of which we stood. 'My father and brother will
think as you do that it is folly to leave the shelter of a roof for
the uncertainties of the road on such a night as this, but you must
not heed them. I tell you shelter this night is danger, and that the
only safety to be found is on the stormy highway.'

"And without waiting for my reply, she passed rapidly down stairs,
pushed open a door at the bottom, and stepped at once into the room
we had left an hour or so before.

"What was there in that room that for the first time struck an ominous
chill as of distinct peril through my veins? Nothing at first sight,
everything at the second. The fire which had not been allowed to die
out, still burned brightly on the ruddy hearthstone, but it was not
that which awakened my apprehension. Nor was it the loud ticking
clock on the mantlepiece with its hand pointing silently to the hour
of eleven. Nor yet the heavy quiet of the scantily-furnished room with
its one lamp burning on the deal table against the side of the wall.
It was the sight of those two powerful men drawn up in grim silence,
the one against the door leading to the front hall, the other against
that opening into the kitchen.

"A glance at Luttra standing silent and undismayed at my side,
however, instantly reassured me. With that will exercised in my
favor, I could not but win through whatever it was that menaced me.
Slinging my bag over my shoulder, I made a move towards the door and
the silent figure of my host. But with a quick outreaching of her
hand, she drew me back.

"'Stand still!' said she. 'Karl,' she went on, turning her face
towards the more sullen but less intent countenance of her brother,
'open the door and let this gentleman pass. He finds the house unsafe
in such a gale and desires to leave it. At once!' she continued as
her brother settled himself more determinedly against the lock: 'I
don't often ask favors.'

"'The man is a fool that wants to go out in a night like this,' quoth
the fellow with a dogged move; 'and so are you to encourage it. I
think too much of your health to allow it.'

"She did not seem to hear. 'Will you open the door?' she went on, not
advancing a step from the fire, before which she had placed herself
and me.'

"'No, I won't,' was the brutal reply. 'Its been locked for the night
and its not me nor one like me, that will open it.'

"With a sudden whitening of her already pale face, she turned towards
her father. He was not even looking at her.

"'Some one must open the house,' said she, glancing back at her
brother. 'This gentleman purposes to leave and his whim must be
humored. Will you unlock that door or shall I?'

"An angry snarl interrupted her. Her father had bounded from the door
where he stood and was striding hastily towards her. In my
apprehension I put up my arm for a shield, for he looked ready to
murder her, but I let it drop again as l caught her glance which was
like white flame undisturbed by the least breeze of personal terror.

"'You will stop there,' said she, pointing to a spot a few feet from
where she stood. 'Another step and I let that for which I have heard
you declare you would peril your very soul, fall into the heart of the
flames.' And drawing from her breast a roll of bills, she stretched
them out above the fire before which she was standing.

"'You -----' broke from the gray-bearded lips of the old man, but he
stopped where he was, eyeing those bills as if fascinated.

"'I am not a girl of many words, as you know,' continued she in a
lofty tone inexpressibly commanding. 'You may strangle me, you may
kill me, it matters little; but this gentleman leaves the house this
night, or I destroy the money with a gesture.'

"'You -----' again broke from those quivering lips, but the old man
did not move.

"Not so the younger. With a rush he left his post and in another
instant would have had his powerful arms about her slender form, only
that I met him half way with a blow that laid him on the floor at her
feet. She said nothing, but one of the bills immediately left her hand
and fluttered into the fire where it instantly shrivelled into
nothing.

"With the yell of a mad beast wounded in his most vulnerable spot, the
old man before us stamped with his heel upon the floor.

"'Stop!' cried he; and going rapidly to the front door he opened it.
'There!' shrieked he, 'if you will be fools, go! and may the
lightning blast you. But first give me the money.'

"'Come from the door,' said she, reaching out her left hand for the
lantern hanging at the side of the fireplace, 'and let Karl light
this and keep himself out of the way.'

"It was all done. In less time than I can tell it, the old man had
stepped from the door, the younger one had lit the lantern and we
were in readiness to depart.

"'Now do you proceed,' said she to me, 'I will follow.'

"'No,' said I, 'we will go together.'

"'But the money? ' growled the heavy voice of my host over my
shoulder.

"'I will give it to you on my return,' said the girl.

CHAPTER XII

A WOMAN'S LOVE

"Shall I ever forget the blast of driving rain that struck our faces
and enveloped us in a cloud of wet, as the door swung on its hinges
and let us forth into the night; or the electric thrill that shot
through me as that slender girl grasped my hand and drew me away
through the blinding darkness. It was not that I was so much
affected by her beauty as influenced by her power and energy. The fury
of the gale seemed to bend to her will, the wind lend wings to her
feet. I began to realize what intellect was. Arrived at the roadside,
she paused and looked back. The two burly forms of the men we had left
behind us were standing in the door of the inn; in another moment
they had plunged forth and towards us. With a low cry the young girl
leaped towards a tree where to my unbounded astonishment I beheld my
horse standing ready saddled. Dragging the mare from her fastenings,
she hung the lantern, burning as it was, on the pommel of the saddle,
struck the panting creature a smart blow upon the flank, and drew back
with a leap to my side.

"The startled horse snorted, gave a plunge of dismay and started away
from us down the road.

"'We will wait,' said Luttra.

"The words were no sooner out of her mouth than her father and brother
rushed by.

"'They will follow the light,' whispered she; and seizing me again by
the hand, she hurried me away in the direction opposite to that which
the horse had taken. 'If you will trust me, I will bring you to
shelter,' she murmured, bending her slight form to the gusty wind but
relaxing not a whit of her speed.

"'You are too kind,' I murmured in return. 'Why should you expose
yourself to such an extent for a stranger?'

"Her hand tightened on mine, but she did not reply, and we hastened on
as speedily as the wind and rain would allow. After a short but
determined breasting of the storm, during which my breath had nearly
failed me, she suddenly stopped.

"'Do you know,' she exclaimed in a low impressive tone, 'that we are
on the verge of a steep and dreadful precipice? It runs along here
for a quarter of a mile and it is not an uncommon thing for a horse
and rider to be dashed over it in a night like this.'

"There was something in her manner that awakened a chill in my veins
almost as if she had pointed out some dreadful doom which I had
unwittingly escaped.

"'This is, then, a dangerous road,' I murmured.

"'Very,' was her hurried and almost incoherent reply.

"How far we travelled through the mud and tangled grasses of that
horrible road I do not know. It seemed a long distance; it was
probably not more than three quarters of a mile. At last she paused
with a short 'Here we are;' and looking up, I saw that we were in
front of a small unlighted cottage.

"No refuge ever appeared more welcome to a pair of sinking wanderers I
am sure. Wet to the skin, bedrabbled with mud, exhausted with
breasting the gale, we stood for a moment under the porch to regain
our breath, then with her characteristic energy she lifted the knocker
and struck a smart blow on the door.

"'We will find shelter here,' said she.

"She was not mistaken. In a few moments we were standing once more
before a comfortable fire hastily built by the worthy couple whose
slumbers we had thus interrupted. As I began to realize the sweetness
of conscious safety, all that this young, heroic creature had done for
me swept warmly across my mind. Looking up from the fire that was
begining to infuse its heat through my grateful system, I surveyed
her as she slowly undid her long braids and shook them dry over the
blaze, and almost started to see how young she was. Not more than
sixteen I should say, and yet what an invincible will shone from her
dark eyes and dignified her slender form; a will gentle as it was
strong, elevated as it was unbending. I bowed my head as I watched
her, in grateful thankfulness which I presently put into words.

"At once she drew herself erect. 'I did but my duty,' said she
quietly. 'I am glad I was prospered in it.' Then slowly. 'If you are
grateful, sir, will you promise to say nothing of--of what took place
at the inn?'

"Instantly I remembered a suspicion which had crossed my mind while
there, and my hand went involuntarily to my vest pocket. The roll of
bills was gone.

"She did not falter. 'I would be relieved if you would,' continued
she.

"I drew out my empty hand, looked at it, but said nothing.

"'Have you lost anything?' asked she. 'Search in your overcoat
pockets.'

"I plunged my hand into the one nearest her and drew it out with
satisfaction; the roll of bills was there. 'I give you my promise,'
said I.

"'You will find a bill missing,' she murmured; 'for what amount I do
not know; the sacrifice of something was inevitable.'

"'I can only wonder over the ingenuity you displayed, as well as
express my appreciation for your bravery,' returned I with
enthusiasm. 'You are a noble girl.'

"She put out her hand as if compliments hurt her. 'It is the first
time they have ever attempted anything like that,' cried she in a
quick low tone full of shame and suffering. 'They have shown a
disposition to--to take money sometimes, but they never threatened
life before. And they did threaten yours. They saw you take out your
money, through a hole pierced in the wall of the room you occupied,
and the sight made them mad. They were going to kill you and then
tumble you and your horse over the precipice below there. But I
overheard them talking and when they went out to saddle the horse, I
hurried up to your room to wake you. I had to take possession of the
bills; you were not safe while you held them. I took them quietly
because I hoped to save you without betraying them. But I failed in
that. You must remember they are my father and my brother.'

"'I will not betray them,' said I.

"She smiled. It was a wintry gleam but it ineffably softened her face.
I became conscious of a movement of pity towards her.

"'You have a hard lot,' remarked I. 'Your life must be a sad one.'

"She flashed upon me one glance of her dark eye. 'I was born for
hardship,' said she, 'but--' and a sudden wild shudder seized her,
'but not for crime.'

"The word fell like a drop of blood wrung from her heart.

"'Good heavens!' cried I, 'and must you--'

"'No,' rang from her lips in a clarion-like peal; 'some things cut the
very bonds of nature. I am not called upon to cleave to what will
drag me into infamy.' Then calmly, as if speaking of the most ordinary
matter in the world, 'I shall never go back to that house we have
left behind us, sir.'

"'But,' cried I, glancing at her scanty garments, 'where will you go?
What will you do? You are young--'

"'And very strong,' she interrupted. 'Do not fear for me.' And her
smile was like a burst of sudden sunshine.

"I said no more that night.

"But when in the morning I stumbled upon her sitting in the kitchen
reading a book not only above her position but beyond her years, a
sudden impulse seized me and I asked her if she would like to be
educated. The instantaneous illumining of her whole face was
sufficient reply without her low emphatic words,

"'I would be content to study on my knees to know what some women do,
whom I have seen.'

"It is not necessary for me to relate with what pleasure I caught at
the idea that here was a chance to repay in some slight measure the
inestimable favor she had done me; nor by what arguments I finally
won her to accept an education at my hands as some sort of recompense
for the life she had saved. The advantage which it would give her in
her struggle with the world she seemed duly to appreciate, but that so
great a favor could be shown her without causing me much trouble and
an unwarrantable expense, she could not at once be brought to
comprehend, and till she could, she held out with that gentle but
inflexible will of hers. The battle, however, was won at last and I
left her in that little cottage, with the understanding that as soon
as the matter could be arranged, she was to enter a certain
boarding-school in Troy with the mistress of which I was acquainted.
Meanwhile she was to go out to service at Melville and earn enough
money to provide herself with clothes.

"I was a careless fellow in those days but I kept my promise to that
girl. I not only entered her into that school for a course of three
years, but acting through its mistress who had taken a great fancy to
her, supplied her with the necessities her position required. It was
so easy; merely the signing of a check from time to time, and it was
done. I say this because I really think if it had involved any
personal sacrifice on my part, even of an hour of my time, or the
labor of a thought, I should not have done it. For with my return to
the city my interest in my cousin revived, absorbing me to such an
extent that any matter disconnected with her soon lost all charm for
me.

"Two years passed; I was the slave of Evelyn Blake, but there was no
engagement between us. My father's determined opposition was enough
to prevent that. But there was an understanding which I fondly hoped
would one day open for me the way of happiness. But I did not know my
father. Sick as he was--he was at that time laboring under the
disease which in a couple of months later bore him to the tomb--he
kept an eye upon my movements and seemed to probe my inmost heart. At
last he came to a definite decision and spoke.

"His words opened a world of dismay before me. I was his only child,
as he remarked, and it had been and was the desire of his heart to
leave me as rich and independent a man as himself. But I seemed
disposed to commit one of those acts against which he had the most
determined prejudice; marriage between cousins being in his eyes an
unsanctified and dangerous proceeding, liable to consequences the
most unhappy. If I persisted, he must will his property elsewhere. The
Blake estate should never descend with the seal of his approbation to
a race of probable imbeciles.

"Nor was this enough. He not only robbed me of the woman I loved, but
with a clear insight into the future, I presume, insisted upon my
marrying some one else of respectability and worth before he died.
'Anyone whose appearance will do you credit and whose virtue is beyond
reproach,' said he. 'I don't ask her to be rich or even the offspring
of one of our old families. Let her be good and pure and of no
connection to us, and I will bless her and you with my dying breath.'

"The idea had seized upon him with great force, and I soon saw he was
not to be shaken out of it. To all my objections he returned but the
one word,

"'I don't restrict your choice and I give you a month in which to make
it. If at the end of that time you cannot bring your bride to my
bedside, I must look around for an heir who will not thwart my dying
wishes.'"

"A month! I surveyed the fashionable belles that nightly thronged the
parlors of my friends and felt my heart sink within me. Take one of
them for my wife, loving another woman? Impossible. Women like
these demanded something in return for the honor they conferred upon a
man by marrying him. Wealth? they had it. Position? that was theirs
also. Consideration? ah, what consideration had I to give? I turned
from them with distaste.

"My cousin Evelyn gave me no help. She was a proud woman and loved my
money and my expectations as much as she did me.

"'If you must marry another woman to retain your wealth, marry, said
she, 'but do not marry one of my associates. I will have no rival in
my own empire; your wife must be a plainer and a less aspiring woman
than Evelyn Blake. Yet do not discredit your name, --which is mine,'
she would always add.

"Meanwhile the days flew by. If my own conscience had allowed me to
forget the fact, my father's eagerly inquiring, but sternly
unrelenting gaze as I came each evening to his bedside, would have
kept it sufficiently in my mind. I began to feel like one in the
power of some huge crushing machine whose slowly descending weight he
in vain endeavors to escape.

"How or when the thought of Luttra first crossed my mind I cannot say.
At first I recoiled at the suggestion and put it away from me in
disdain; but it ever recurred and with it so many arguments in her
favor that before long I found myself regarding it as a refuge. To be
sure she was a waif and a stray, but that seemed to be the kind of
wife demanded of me. She was allied to rogues if not villains, I
knew; but then had she not cut all connection with them, dropped away
from them, planted her feet on new ground which they would never
invade? I commenced to cherish the idea. With this friendless,
grateful, unassuming protegee of mine for a wife, I would be as
little bound as might be. She would ask nothing, and I need give
nothing, beyond a home and the common attentions required of a
gentleman and a friend. Then she was not disagreeable, nor was her
beauty of a type to suggest the charms of her I had lost. None of the
graces of the haughty patrician lady whose lightest gesture was a
command, would appear in this humble girl, to mock and constrain me.
No, I should have a fair wife and an obedient one, but no vulgarized
shadow of Evelyn, thank God, or of any of her fashionably dressed
friends.

"Advanced thus far towards the end, I went to see Luttra. I had not
beheld her since the morning we parted at the door of that little
cottage in Vermont, and her presence caused me a shock. This, the
humble waif with the appealing grateful eyes I had expected to
encounter? this tall and slender creature with an aureola of golden
hair about a face that it was an education to behold! I felt a half
movement of anger as I surveyed her. I had been cheated; I had
planted a grape seed and a palm tree had sprung up in its place. I
was so taken aback, my salute lost something of the benevolent
condescension I had intended to infuse into it. She seemed to feel my
embarassment and a half smile fluttered to her lips. That smile
decided me. It was sweet but above all else it was appealing.

"How I won that woman to marry me in ten days time I care not to
state. Not by holding up my wealth and position before her.
Something restrained me from that. I was resolved, and perhaps it was
the only point of light in my conduct at that time, not to buy this
young girl. I never spoke of my expectations, I never alluded to my
present advantages yet I won her.

"We were married, there, in Troy in the quietest and most unpretending
manner. Why the fact has never transpired I cannot say. I certainly
took no especial pains to conceal it at the time, though I
acknowledge that after our separation I did resort to such measures as
I thought necessary, to suppress what had become gall and wormwood to
my pride.

"My first move after the ceremony was to bring her immediately to New
York and to this house. With perhaps a pardonable bitterness of
spirit, I had refrained from any notification of my intentions, and it
was as strangers might enter an unprepared dwelling, that we stepped
across the threshold of this house and passed immediately to my
father's room.

"'I can give you no wedding and no honeymoon,' I had told her. 'My
father is dying and demands my care. From the altar to a death-bed
may be sad for you, but it is an inevitable condition of your
marriage with me.' And she had accepted her fate with a deep
unspeakable smile it has taken me long months of loneliness and
suffering to understand.

"'Father, I bring you my bride,' were my first words to him as the
door closed behind us shutting us in with the dread, invisible
Presence that for so long a time had been relentlessly advancing upon
our home.

"I shall never forget how he roused himself in his bed, nor with what
eager eyes he read her young face and surveyed her slight form
swaying towards him in her sudden emotion like a flame in a breeze.
Nor while I live shall I lose sight of the spasm of uncontrollable
joy with which he lifted his aged arms towards her, nor the look with
which she sprang from my side and nestled, yes nestled, on the breast
that never to my remembrance had opened itself to me even in the
years of my earliest childhood. For my father was a stern man who
believed in holding love at arm's length and measured affection by the
depth of awe it inspired.

"'My daughter!' broke from his lips, and he never inquired who she was
or what; no, not even when after a moment of silence she raised her
head and with a sudden low cry of passionate longing looked in his
face and murmured,

"'I never had a father.'

"Sirs, it is impossible for me to continue without revealing depths of
pride and bitterness in my own nature, from which I now shrink with
unspeakable pain. So far from being touched by this scene, I felt
myself grow hard under it. If he had been disappointed in my choice,
queried at it or even been simply pleased at my obedience, I might
have accepted the wife I had won, and been tolerably grateful. But to
love her, admire her, glory in her when Evelyn Blake had never
succeeded in winning a glance from his eyes that was not a public
disapprobation! I could not endure it; my whole being rebelled, and a
movement like hate took possession of me.

"Bidding my wife to leave me with my father alone, I scarcely waited
for the door to close upon the poor young thing before all that had
been seething in my breast for a month, burst from me in the one cry,

"'I have brought you a daughter as you commanded me. Now give me the
blessing you promised and let me go; for I cannot live with a woman I
do not love.'

"Instantly, and before his lips could move, the door opened and the
woman I thus repudiated in the first dawning hour of her young bliss,
stood before us. My God! what a face! When I think of it now in the
night season--when from dreams that gloomy as they are, are often
elysian to the thoughts which beset me in my waking hours, I suddenly
arouse to see starting upon me from the surrounding shadows that
young fair brow with its halo of golden tresses, blotted, ay blotted
by the agony that turned her that instant into stone, I wonder I did
not take out the pistol that lay in the table near which I stood, and
shoot her lifeless on the spot as some sort of a compensation for the
misery I had caused her. I say I wonder now: then I only thought of
braving it out.

"Straight as a dart, but with that look on her face, she came towards
us. 'Did I hear aright?' were the words that came from her lips.
'Have you married me, a woman beneath your station as I now perceive,
because you were commanded to do so? Have you not loved me? given me
that which alone makes marriage a sacrament or even a possibility?
and must you leave this house made sacred by the recumbent form of
your dying father if I remain within it?'

"I saw my father's stiff and pallid lips move silently as though he
would answer for me if he could, and summoning up what courage I
possessed, I told her that I deeply regretted she had overheard my
inconsiderate words. That I had never meant to wound her, whatever
bitterness lay in my heart towards one who had thwarted me in my
dearest and most cherished hopes. That I humbly begged her pardon and
would so far acknowledge her claim upon me as to promise that I would
not leave my home at this time, if it distressed her; my desire being
not to injure her, only to protect myself.

"O the scorn that mounted to her brow at these weak words. Not scorn
of me, thank God, worthy as I was of it that hour, but scorn of my
slight opinion of her.

"'Then I heard aright,' she murmured, and waited with a look that
would not be gainsaid.

"I could only bow my head, cursing the day I was born.

"'Holman! Holman!' came in agonized entreaty from the bed, 'you will
not rob me of my daughter now?'

"Startled, I looked up. Luttra was half way to the door.

"'What are you going to do?' cried I, bounding towards her.

"She stopped me with a look. 'The son must never forsake the father,'
said she. 'If either of us must leave the house this day, let it be
I.' Then in a softer tone, 'When you asked me to be your wife, I who
had worshipped you from the moment you entered my father's house on
the memorable night I left it, was so overcome at your condescension
that I forgot you did not preface it by the usual passionate, 'I love
you,' which more than the marriage ring binds two hearts together. In
the glamour and glow of my joy, I did not see that the smile that was
in my heart, was missing from your face. I was to be your wife and
that was enough, or so I thought then, for I loved you. Ah, and I do
now, my husband, love you so that I leave you. Were it for your
happiness I would do more than that, I would give you back your
freedom, but from what I hear, it seems that you need a wife in name
and I will be but fulfilling your desire in holding that place for
you. I will never disgrace the position high as it is above my poor
deserts. When the day comes--if the day comes--that you need or feel
you need the sustainment of my presence or the devotion of my heart,
no power on earth save that of death itself, shall keep me from your
side. Till that day arrives I remain what you have made me, a bride
who lays no claim to the name you this morning bestowed upon her.' And
with a gesture that was like a benediction, she turned, and
noiselessly, breathlessly as a dream that vanishes, left the room.

"Sirs, I believe I uttered a cry and stumbled towards her. Some one in
that room uttered a cry, but it may be that it only rose in my heart
and that the one I heard came from my father's lips. For when at the
door I turned, startled at the deathly silence, I saw he had fainted
on his pillow. I could not leave him so. Calling to Mrs. Daniels,
who was never far from my father in those days, I bade her stop the
lady--I believe I called her my wife--who was going down the stairs,
and then rushed to his side. It took minutes to revive him. When he
came to himself it was to ask for the creature who had flashed like a
beacon of light upon his darkening path. I rose as if to fetch her
but before I could advance I heard a voice say, 'She is not here,'
and looking up I saw Mrs. Daniels glide into the room.

"'Mrs. Blake has gone, sir, I could not keep her.'

CHAPTER XIII

A MAN'S HEART

"That was the last time my eyes ever I rested upon my wife. Whither
she went or what refuge she gained, I never knew. My father who had
received in this scene a great shock, began to fail so rapidly, he
demanded my constant care; and though from time to time as I
ministered to him and noted with what a yearning persistency he would
eye the door and then turn and meet my gaze with a look I could not
understand, I caught myself asking whether I had done a deed destined
to hang forever about me like a pall; it was not till after his death
that the despairing image of the bright young creature to whom I had
given my name, returned with any startling distinctness to my mind, or
that I allowed myself to ask whether the heavy gloom which I now felt
settling upon me was owing to the sense of shame that overpowered me
at the remembrance of the past, or to the possible loss I had
sustained in the departure of my young unloved bride.

"The announcement at this time of the engagement between Evelyn Blake
and the Count De Mirac may have had something to do with this. Though
I had never in the most passionate hours of my love for her, lost
sight of that side of her nature which demanded as her right the
luxury of great wealth; and though in my tacit abandonment of her and
secret marriage with another I had certainly lost the right to
complain of her actions whatever they might be, this manifest
surrendering of herself to the power of wealth and show at the price
of all that women are believed to hold dear, was an undoubted blow to
my pride and the confidence I had till now unconsciously reposed in
her inherent womanliness and affection. That she had but made on a
more conspicuous scale, the same sacrifice as myself to the god of
Wealth and Position, was in my eyes at that time, no palliation of
her conduct. I was a man none too good or exalted at the best; she, a
woman, should have been superior to the temptations that overpowered
me. That she was not, seemed to drag all womanhood a little nearer
the dust; fashionable womanhood I ought to say, for somehow even at
that early day her conduct did not seem to affect the vivid image of
Luttra standing upon my threshold, shorn of her joy but burning with
a devotion I did not comprehend, and saying,

"'I loved you. Ah, and I do yet, my husband, love you so that I leave
you. When the day comes--if the day comes--you need or feel you need
the sustainment of my presence or the devotion of my heart, no power
on earth save that of death itself, shall keep me from your side.'

"Yes, with the fading away of other faces and other forms, that face
and that form now began to usurp the chief place in my thoughts. Not
to my relief and pleasure. That could scarcely be, remembering all
that had occurred; rather to my increasing distress and passionate
resentment. I longed to forget I was held by a tie, that known to
the world would cause me the bitterest shame. For by this time the
true character of her father and brother had been revealed and I
found myself bound to the daughter of a convicted criminal.

"But I could not forget her. The look with which she had left me was
branded into my consciousness. Night and day it floated before me,
till to escape it I resolved to fasten it upon canvas, if by that
means I might succeed in eliminating it from my dreams.

"The painting you have seen this night is the result. Born with an
artist's touch and insight that under other circumstances might,
perhaps, have raised me into the cold dry atmosphere of fame, the
execution of this piece of work, presented but few difficulties to my
somewhat accustomed hand. Day by day her beauty grew beneath my
brush, startling me often with its spiritual force and significance
till my mind grew feverish over its work, and I could scarcely
refrain from rising at night to give a touch here or there to the
floating golden hair or the piercing, tender eyes turned, ah, ever
turned upon the inmost citadel of my heart with that look that slew
my father before his time and made me, yes me, old in spirit even in
the ardent years of my first manhood.

"At last it was finished and she stood before me life-like and real in
the very garments and with almost the very aspect of that never to be
forgotten moment. Even the roses which in the secret uneasiness of my
conscience I had put in her hand on our departure from Troy, as a sort
of visible token that I regarded her as my bride, and which through
all her interview with my father she had never dropped, blossomed
before me on the canvas. Nothing that could give reality to the
likeness, was lacking; the vision of my dreams stood embodied in my
sight, and I looked for peace. Alas, that picture now became my
dream.

"Inserting it behind that of Evelyn which for two years had held its
place above my armchair, I turned its face to the wall when I rose in
the morning. But at night it beamed ever upon me, becoming as the
months passed, the one thing to hold to and muse over when the world
grew a little noisy in my ears and the never ceasing conflict of the
ages beat a trifle too loudly on heart and brain.

"Meanwhile no word of her, only of her villainous father and brother;
no token that she had escaped evil or was removed from want. If I had
loved her I could not have succored her, for I did not know where to
find her. Her countenance illumined my wall, but her fair young self
lay for all I knew sheltered within the darkness and silence of the
tomb.

"At length my morbid broodings worked out their natural result. A
dull melancholy settled upon me which nothing could break. Even the
news that my cousin who had lost her husband a month after marriage,
had returned to America with expectation to remain, scarcely caused a
ripple in my apathy. Was I sinking into a hypochrondriac? or was my
passion for the beautiful brunette dead? I determined to solve the
doubt.

"Seeking her where I knew she would be found, I gazed again upon her
beauty. It was absolutely nothing to me. A fair young face with high
thoughts in every glance floated like sunshine between us and I left
the haughty Countess, with the knowledge burned deep into my brain,
that the love I had considered slain was alive and demanding, but
that the object of it past recall, was my lost young wife.

"Once assured of this, my apathy vanished like mist before a kindled
torch. Henceforth the future held a hope, and life a purpose. I would
seek my wife throughout the world and bring her back if I found her
in prison between the men whose existence was a curse to my pride. But
where should I turn my steps? What golden thread had she left in my
hand by which to trace her through the labyrinth of this world? I
could think of but one, and that was the love which would restrain her
from going away from me too far. The Luttra of old would not leave
the city where her husband lived. If she was not changed, I ought to
be able to find her somewhere within this great Babylon of ours.
Wisdom told me to set the police upon her track, but pride bade me
try every other means first. So with the feverish energy of one
leading a forlorn hope, I began to pace the streets if haply I might
see her face shine upon me from the crowd of passers by; a foolish
fancy, unproductive of result! I not only failed to see her, but
anyone like her.

In the midst of the despair occasioned by this failure a thought
flashed across me or rather a remembrance. One night not long since,
being uncommonly restless, I had risen from my bed, dressed me and
gone out into the yard back of my house for a little air. It was an
unusual thing for me to do but I seemed to be suffocating where I
was, and nothing else would satisfy me. As you already surmise, it was
the night on which disappeared the sewing girl of which you have so
often spoken, but I knew nothing of that, my thoughts were far from
my own home and its concerns. You may judge what a state of mind I was
in when I tell you that I even thought at one moment while I paused
before the gate leading into --- Street that I saw the face of her
with whom my thoughts were ever busy, peering upon me through the
bars.

"You tell me that I did see a girl there, and that it was the one who
had lived as sewing woman in my house; it may be so, but at the time
I considered it a vision of my wife, and the remembrance of it,
coming as it did after my repeated failures to encounter her in the
street, worked a change in my plans. For regard it as weakness or
not, the recollection that the vision I had seen wore the garments of
a working- woman rather than a lady, acted upon me like a warning not
to search for her any longer among the resorts of the welldressed,
but in the regions of poverty and toil. I therefore took to
wanderings such as I have no heart to describe. Nor do I need to, if,
as you have informed me, I have been followed.

"The result was almost madness. Though deep in my heart I felt a
steadfast trust in the purity of her intentions, the fear of what she
might have been driven to by the awful poverty and despair I every day
saw seething about me, was like hot steel in brain and heart. Then
her father and her brother! To what might they not have forced her,
innocent and loving soul though she was! Drinking the dregs of a cup
such as I had never considered it possible for me to taste, I got so

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