Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

A Strange Disappearance by Anna Katharine Green

Part 3 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

far as to believe that her eyes would yet flash upon me from beneath
some of the tattered shawls I saw sullying the forms of the young
girls upon which I hourly stumbled. Yes, and even made a move to
see my cousin, if haply I could so win upon her compassion as to gain
her consent to shelter the poor creature of my dreams in case the
necessity came. But my heart failed me at the sight of her cold face
above the splendor she had bought with her charms, and I was saved a
humiliation I might never have risen above.

"At last, one day I saw a girl--no, it was not she, but her hair was
similar to hers in hue, and the impulse to follow her was
irresistible. I did more than that, I spoke to her. I asked her if she
could tell me anything of one whose locks were golden red like
hers--But I need not tell you what I said nor what she replied with a
gentle delicacy that was almost a shock to me as showing from what
heights to what depths a woman can fall. Enough that nothing passed
between us beyond what I have intimated, and that in all she said she
gave me no news of Luttra.

"Next day I started for the rambling old house in Vermont, if haply in
the spot where I first saw her, I might come upon some clue to her
present whereabouts. But the old inn was deserted, and whatever hope
I may have had in that direction, perished with the rest.

"Concerning the contents of that bureau-drawer above, I can say
nothing. If, as I scarcely dare to hope, they should prove to have
been indeed brought here by the girl who has since disappeared so
strangely, who knows but what in those folded garments a clue is given
which will lead me at last to the knowledge for which I would now
barter all I possess. My wife--But I can mention her name no more till
the question that now assails us is set at rest. Mrs. Daniels must--"

But at that moment the door opened and Mrs. Daniels came in.

CHAPTER XIV

MRS. DANIELS

She still wore her bonnet and shawl and her face was like marble.

"You want me?" said she with a hurried look towards Mr. Blake that had
as much fear as surprise in it.

"Yes," murmured that gentleman moving towards her with an effort we
could very well appreciate. "Mrs. Daniels, who was the girl you
harbored in that room above us for so long? Speak; what was her name
and where did she come from?"

The housekeeper trembling in every limb, cast us one hurried appeal.

"Speak!" reechoed Mr. Gryce; "the time for secrecy has passed."

"O," cried she, sinking into a chair from sheer inability to stand,
"it was your wife, Mr. Blake, the young creature you--"

"Ah!"

All the agony, the hopelessness, the love, the passion of those last
few months flashed up in that word. She stopped as if she had been
shot, but seeing the hand which he had hurriedly raised, fall slowly
before him, went on with a burst,

"O sir, she made me swear on my knees I would never betray her, no
matter what happened. When not two weeks after your father died she
came to the house and asking for me, told me all her story and all
her love; how she could not reconcile it with her idea of a wife's
duty to live under any other roof than that of her husband, and
lifting off the black wig which she wore, showed me how altered she
had made herself by that simple change--in her case more marked by
the fact that her eyes were in keeping with black hair, while with
her own bright locks they always gave you a shock as of something
strange and haunting--I gave up my will as if forced by a magnetic
power, and not only opened the house to her but my heart as well;
swearing to all she demanded and keeping my oath too, as I would
preserve my soul from sin and my life from the knife of the
destroyer."

"But, when she went," broke from the pallid lips of the man before
her, "when she was taken away from the house, what then?"

"Ah," returned the agitated woman. "what then! Do you not think I
suffered? To be held by my oath, an oath I was satisfied she would
wish kept even at this crisis, yet knowing all the while she was
drifting away into some evil that you, if you knew who she was, would
give your life to avert from your honor if not from her innocent
head! To see you cold, indifferent, absorbed in other things, while
she, who would have perished any day for your happiness, was losing
her life perhaps in the clutches of those horrible villains! Do not
ask me to tell you what I have suffered since she went; I can never
tell you,-- innocent, tender, noble-hearted creature that she was."

"Was?" His hand clutched his heart as if it had been seized by a
deathly spasm. "Why do you say was?"

"Because I have just come from the Morgue where she lies dead."

"No, no," came in a low shriek from his lips, "that is not she; that
is another woman, like her perhaps, but not she."

"Would to God you were right; but the long golden braids! Such hair as
hers I never saw on anyone before."

"Mr. Blake is right," I broke in, for I could not endure this scene
any longer. "The woman taken out of the East river to-day has been
both seen and spoken to by him and that not long since. He should
know if it is his wife."

"And isn't it?"

"No, a thousand times no; the girl was a perfect stranger."

The assurance seemed to lift a leaden weight from her heart. "O thank
God," she murmured dropping with an irresistible impulse on her
knees. Then with a sudden return of her old tremble, "But I was only
to reveal her secret in case of her death! What have I done, O what
have I done! Her only hope lay in my faithfulness."

Mr. Blake leaning heavily on the table before him, looked in her face.

"Mrs. Daniels," said he, "I love my wife; her hope now lies in me."

She leaped to her feet with a joyous bound. "You love her? O thank
God!" she again reiterated but this time in a low murmur to her self.
"Thank God!" and weeping with unrestrained joy, she drew back into a
corner.

Of course after that, all that remained for us to do was to lay our
heads together and consult as to the best method of renewing our
search after the unhappy girl, now rendered of double interest to us
by the facts with which we had just been made acquainted. That she
had been forced away from the roof that sheltered her by the power of
her father and brother was of course no longer open to doubt. To
discover them, therefore, meant to recover her. Do you wonder, then,
that from the moment we left Mr. Blake's house, the capture of that
brace of thieves became the leading purpose of our two lives?

CHAPTER XV

A CONFAB

Next morning Mr. Gryce and I met in serious consultation. How, and in
what direction should we extend the inquiries necessary to a
discovery of these Schoenmakers?

"I advise a thorough overhauling of the German quarter," said my
superior. "Schmidt, and Rosenthal will help us and the result ought to
be satisfactory."

But I shook my head at this. "I don't believe," said I, "that they
will hide among their own people. You must remember they are not
alone, but have with them a young woman of a somewhat distinguished
appearance, whose presence in a crowded district, like that, would be
sure to awaken gossip; something which above all else they must want
to avoid."

"That is true; the Germans are a dreadful race for gossip."

"If they dared to ill-dress her or ill-treat her, it would be
different. But she is a valuable piece of property to them you see, a
choice lot of goods which it is for their interest to preserve in
first-class condition till the day comes for its disposal. For I
presume you have no doubt that it is for the purpose of extorting
money from Mr. Blake that they have carried off his young wife."

"For that reason or one similar. He is a man of resources, they may
have hoped he would help them to escape the country."

"If they don't hide in the German quarter they certainly won't in the
Italian, French or Irish. What they want is too keep close and rouse
no questions. I think they will be found to have gone up the river
somewhere, or over to Jersey. Hoboken would'nt be a bad place to send
Schmidt to."

"You forget what it is they've got on their minds; besides no
conspicuous party such as they could live in a rural district without
attracting more attention than in the most crowded tenement house in
the city."

"Where do you think, then, they would be liable to go?"

"Well my most matured thought on the subject," returned Mr. Gryce,
after a moment's deliberation, "is this,--you say, and I agree, that
they have hampered themselves with this woman at this time for the
purpose of using her hereafter in a scheme of black-mail upon Mr.
Blake. He, then, must be the object about which their thoughts
revolve and toward which whatever operations or plans they may be
engaged upon must tend. What follows? When a company of men have made
up their minds to rob a bank, what is the first thing they do? They
hire, if possible, a house next to the especial building they intend
to enter, and for months work upon the secret passage through which
they hope to reach the safe and its contents; or they make friends
with the watchman that guards its treasures, and the janitor who opens
and shuts the doors. In short they hang about their prey before they
pounce upon it. And so will these Schoenmakers do in the somewhat
different robbery which they plan sooner or later to effect. Whatever
may keep them close at this moment, Mr. Blake and Mr. Blake's house is
the point toward which their eyes are turned, and if we had time--"

"But we have'nt," I broke in impetuously. "It is horrible to think of
that grand woman languishing away in the power of such rascals."

"If we had time," Mr. Gryce persisted, "all it would be necessary to
do would be to wait, they would come into our hands as easily and
naturally as a hawk into the snare of the fowler. But as you say we
have not, and therefore, I would recommend a little beating of the
bush directly about Mr. Blake's house; for if all my experience is
not at fault, those men are already within eye-shot of the prey they
intend to run down."

"But," said I, "I have been living myself in that very neighborhood
and know by this time the ways of every house in the vicinity. There
is not a spot up and down the Avenue for ten blocks where they could
hide away for two days much less two weeks. And as for the side
streets,--why I could tell you the names of those who live in each
house for a considerable distance. Yet if you say so I will go to
work--"

"Do, and meanwhile Schmidt and Rosenthal shall rummage the German
quarter and even go through Williamsburgh and Hoboken. The end
justifies any amount of labor that can be spent upon this matter."

"And you," I asked.

"Will do my part when you have done yours."

CHAPTER XVI

THE MARK OF THE RED CROSS

And what success did I meet? The best in the world. And by what means
did I attain it? By that of the simplest, prettiest clue I ever came
upon. But let me explain.

When after a wearisome day spent in an ineffectual search through the
neighborhood, I went home to my room, which as you remember was a
front one in a lodging-house on the opposite corner from Mr. Blake, I
was so absorbed in mind and perhaps I may say shaken in nerve, by the
strain under which I had been laboring for some time now, that I
stumbled up an extra flight of stairs, and without any suspicion of
the fact, tried the door of the room directly over mine. It is a
wonder to me now that I could have made the mistake, for the halls
were totally dissimilar, the one above being much more cut up than the
one below, besides being flanked by a greater number of doors. But the
intoxication of the mind is not far removed from that of the body, and
as I say it was not till I had tried the door and found it locked,
that I became aware of the mistake I had made.

With the foolish sense of shame that always overcomes us at the
committal of any such trivial error, I stumbled hastily back, when my
foot trod upon something that broke under my weight. I never let even
small things pass without some notice. Stooping, then, for what I had
thus inadvertently crushed, I carried it to where a single gas jet
turned down very low, made a partial light in the long hall, and
examining it, found it to be a piece of red chalk.

What was there in that simple fact to make me start and hastily recall
one or two half-forgotten incidents which, once brought to mind,
awoke a train of thought that led to the discovery and capture of
those two desperate thieves? I will tell you.

I don't remember now whether in my account of the visit I paid to the
Schoenmakers' house in Vermont, I informed you of the red cross I
noticed scrawled on the panel of one of the doors. It seemed a
trivial thing at the time and made little or no impression upon me,
the chances being that I should never have thought of it again, if I
had not come upon the article just mentioned at a moment when my mind
was full of those very Schoenmakers. But remembered now, together
with another half-forgotten fact,--that some days previous I had been
told by the woman who kept the house I was in, that the parties over
my head (two men and a woman I believe she said) were giving her some
trouble, but that they paid well and therefore she did not like to
turn them out,--it aroused a vague suspicion in my mind, and led to my
walking back to the door I had endeavored to open in my abstraction,
and carefully looking at it.

It was plain and white, rather ruder of make than those below, but
offering no inducements for prolonged scrutiny. But not so with the
one that stood at right angles to it on the left. Full in the centre
of that, I beheld distinctly scrawled, probably with the very piece
of chalk I then held, a red cross precisely similar in outline to the
one I had seen a few days before on the panel of the Schoenmakers'
door at Granby.

The discovery sent a thrill over me that almost raised my hair on end.
Was, then, this famous trio to be found in the very house in which I
had been myself living for a week or more? over my head in fact? I
could not withdraw my gaze from the mysterious looking object. I bent
near, I listened, I heard what sounded like the suppressed snore of a
powerful man, and almost had to lay hold of myself to prevent my hand
from pushing open that closed door and my feet from entering. As it
was I did finger the knob a little, but an extra loud snore from
within reminded me by its suggestion of strength that I was but a
small man and that in this case and at this hour, discretion was the
better part of valor.

I therefore withdrew, but for the whole night lay awake listening to
catch any sounds that might come from above, and going so far as to
plan what I would do if it should be proved that I was indeed upon
the trail of the men I was so anxious to encounter.

With the breaking of day I was upon my feet. A rude step had gone up
the stairs a few minutes before and I was all alert to follow. But I
presently considered that my wisest course would be to sound the
landlady and learn if possible with what sort of characters I had to
deal. Routing her out of the kitchen, where at that early hour she
was already engaged in domestic duties, I drew her into a retired
corner and put my questions. She was not backward in replying. She
had conceived an innocent liking for me in the short time I had been
with her--a display of weakness for which I was myself, perhaps, as
much to blame as she--and was only too ready to pour out her griefs
into my sympathizing ear. For those men were a grief to her,
acceptable as was the money they were careful to provide her with.
They were not only always in the house, that is one of them, smoking
his old pipe and blackening up the walls, but they looked so shabby,
and kept the girl so close, and if they did go out, came in at such
unheard of hours. It was enough to drive her crazy; yet the money,
the money--

"Yes," said I, "I know; and the money ought to make you overlook all
the small disagreeablenesses you mention. What is a landlady without
patience." And I urged her not to turn them out.

"But the girl," she went on, "so nice, so quiet, so sick-looking! I
cannot stand it to see her cooped up in that small room, always
watched over by one or both of those burly wretches. The old man says
she is his daughter and she does not deny it, but I would as soon
think of that little rosy child you see cooing in the window over the
way, belonging to the beggar going in at the gate, as of her with her
lady-like ways having any connection with him and his rough-acting
son. You ought to see her--"

"That is just what I want to do," interrupted I. "Not because you have
tempted my fancy by a recital of her charms," I hastened to add, "but
because she is, if I don't mistake, a woman for whose discovery and
rescue, a large sum of money has been offered."

And without further disguise I acquainted the startled woman before me
with the fact that I was not, as she had always considered, the clerk
out of employment whose daily business it was to sally forth in quest
of a situation, but a member of the city police.

She was duly impressed and easily persuaded to second all my
operations as far as her poor wits would allow, giving me free range
of her upper story, and above all, promising that secrecy without
which all my finely laid plans for capturing the rogues without
raising a scandal, would fall headlong to the ground.

Behold me, then, by noon of that same day domiciled in an apartment
next to the one whose door bore that scarlet sign which had aroused
within me such feverish hopes the night before. Clad in the seedy
garments of a broken down French artist whose acquaintance I had once
made, with something of his air and general appearance and with a few
of his wretched daubs hung about on the whitewashed wall, I commenced
with every prospect of success as I thought, that quiet espionage of
the hall and its inhabitants which I considered necessary to a proper
attainment of the end I had in view.

A racking cough was one of the peculiarities of my friend, and
determined to assume the character in toto, I allowed myself to
startle the silence now and then with a series of gasps and chokings
that whether agreeable or not, certainly were of a character to show
that I had no desire to conceal my presence from those I had come
among. Indeed it was my desire to acquaint them as fully and as soon
as possible with the fact of their having a neighbor: a weak-eyed
half-alive innocent to be sure, but yet a neighbor who would keep his
door open night and day--for the warmth of the hall of course--and who
with the fretful habit of an old man who had once been a gentleman
and a beau, went rambling about through the hall speaking to those he
met and expecting a civil word in return. When he was not rambling or
coughing he made architectural monsters out of cardboard, wherewith
to tempt the pennies out of the pockets of unwary children, an
employment that kept him chained to a small table in the centre of his
room directly opposite the open door.

As I expected I had scarcely given way to three separate fits of
coughing, when the door next me opened with a jerk and a rough voice
called out,

"Who's that making all that to do about here? If you don't stop that
infernal noise in a hurry--"

A soft voice interrupted him and he drew back. "I will go see," said
those gentle tones, and Luttra Blake, for I knew it was she before
the skirt of her robe had advanced beyond the door, stepped out into
the hall.

I was yet bent over my work when she paused before me. The fact is I
did not dare look up, the moment was one of such importance to me.

"You have a dreadful cough," said she with that low ring of sympathy
in her voice that goes unconsciously to the heart. "Is there no help
for it?"

I pushed back my work, drew my hand over my eyes, (I did not need to
make it tremble) and glanced up. "No," said I with a shake of my
head, "but it is not always so bad. I beg your pardon, miss, if it
disturbs you."

She threw back the shawl which she had held drawn tightly over her
head, and advanced with an easy gliding step close to my side. "You
do not disturb me, but my father is--is, well a trifle cross
sometimes, and if he should speak up a little harsh now and then, you
must not mind. I am sorry you are so ill."

What is there in some women's look, some women's touch that more than
all beauty goes to the heart and subdues it. As she stood there
before me in her dark worsted dress and coarse shawl, with her locks
simply braided and her whole person undignified by art and ungraced by
ornament, she seemed just by the power of her expression and the
witchery of her manner, the loveliest woman I had ever beheld.

"You are veree kind, veree good," I murmured, half ashamed of my
disguise, though it was assumed for the purpose of rescuing her.
"Your sympathy goes to my heart." Then as a deep growl of impatience
rose from the room at my side, I motioned her to go and not irritate
the man who seemed to have such control over her.

"In a minute," answered she, "first tell me what you are making."

So I told her and in the course of telling, let drop such other facts
about my fancied life as I wished to have known to her and through
her to her father. She looked sweetly interested and more than once
turned upon me that dark eye, of which I had heard so much, full of
tears that were as much for me, scamp that I was, as for her own
secret trouble. But the growls becoming more and more impatient she
speedily turned to go, repeating, however, as she did so,

"Now remember what I say, you are not to be troubled if they do speak
cross to you. They make noise enough themselves sometimes, as you
will doubtless be assured of to-night."

And the lips which seemed to have grown stiff and cold with her
misery, actually softened into something like a smile.

The nod which I gave her in return had the solemity of a vow in it.

My mind thus assured as to the correctness of my suspicions, and the
way thus paved to the carrying out of my plans, I allowed some few
days to elapse without further action on my part. My motive was to
acquaint myself as fully as possible with the habits and ways of these
two desperate men, before making the attempt to capture them upon
which so many interests hung. For while I felt it would be highly
creditable to my sagacity, as well as valuable to my reputation as a
detective, to restore these escaped convicts in any way possible into
the hands of justice, my chief ambition after all was to so manage the
affair as to save the wife of Mr. Blake, not only from the
consequences of their despair, but from the publicity and scandal
attendant upon the open arrest of two heavily armed men. Strategy,
therefore, rather than force was to be employed, and strategy to be
successful must be founded upon the most thorough knowledge of the
matter with which one has to deal. Three days, then, did I give to the
acquiring of that knowledge, the result of which was the possession
of the following facts.

1. That the landlady was right when she told me the girl was never
left alone, one of the men, if not the father then the son, always
remaining with her.

2. That while thus guarded, she was not so restricted but that she had
the liberty of walking in the hall, though never for any length of
time.

3. That the cross on the door seemed to possess some secret meaning
connected with their presence in the house, it having been erased one
evening when the whole three went out on some matter or other, only
to be chalked on again when in an hour or so later, father and
daughter returned alone.

4. That it was the father and not the son who made such purchases as
were needed, while it was the son and not the father who carried on
whatever operations they had on hand; nightfall being the favorite
hour for the one and midnight for the other; though it not
infrequently happened that the latter sauntered out for a short time
also in the afternoon, probably for the drink he could not go long
without.

5. That they were men of great strength but little alertness; the
stray glimpses I had had of them, revealing a breadth of back that
was truly formidable, if it had not been joined to a heaviness of
motion that proclaimed a certain stolidity of mind that was eminently
in our favor.

How best to use these facts in the building up of a matured plan of
action, was, then, the problem. By noon of a certain day I believed
it to have been solved, and reluctant as I was to leave the spot of my
espionage even for the hour or two necessary to a visit to
headquarters, I found myself compelled to do so. Packing up in a
small basket I had for the purpose, the little articles I had been
engaged during the last few days in making, I gave way to a final fit
of coughing so hollow aud sepulchural in its tone, that it awoke a
curse from the next room deep as the growl of a wild beast, and still
continuing, finally brought Luttra to the door with that look of
compassion on her face that always called up a flush to my cheek
whether I wished it or no.

"Ah, Monsieur, I am afraid your cough is very bad to-day. O I see; you
have been getting ready to go out--"

"Come back here," broke in a heavy voice from the room she had left.
"What do you mean by running off to palaver with that old rascal
every time he opens his ----- battery of a cough?"

A smile that went through me like the cut of a knife, flashed for a
moment on her face.

"My father is in one of his impatient moods," said she, "you had
better go. I hope you will be successful," she murmured, glancing
wistfully at my basket.

"What is that?" again came thundering on our ears. "Successful? What
are you two up to?" And we heard the rough clatter of advancing
steps.

"Go," said she; "you are weak and old; and when you come back, try and
not cough." And she gave me a gentle push towards the door.

"When I come back," I began, but was forced to pause, the elder
Schoenmaker having by this time reached the open doorway where he
stood frowning in upon us in a way that made my heart stand still for
her.

"What are you two talking about?" said he; "and what have you got in
your basket there?" he continued with a stride forward that shook the
floor.

"Only some little toys that he has been making, and is now going out
to sell," was her low answer given with a quick deprecatory gesture
such as I doubt if she ever used for herself.

"Nothing more?" asked he in German with a red glare in the eye he
turned towards her.

"Nothing more," replied she in the same tongue. "You may believe me."

He gave a deep growl and turned away. "If there was," said he, "you
know what would happen." And unheeding the wild keen shudder that
seized her at the word, making her insensible for the moment to all
and everything about her, he laid one heavy hand upon her slight
shoulder and led her from the room.

I waited no longer than was necessary to carry my feeble and faltering
steps appropriately down the stairs, to reach the floor below and
gain the landlady's presence.

"Do you go up," said I, "and sit on those stairs till I come back. If
you hear the least cry of pain or sound of struggle from that young
girl's room, do you call at once for help. I will have a policeman
standing on the corner below."

The good woman nodded and proceeded at once to take up her
work-basket. "Lucky there's a window up there, so I can see," I
heard her mutter. "I've no time to throw away even on deeds of
charity."

Notwithstanding which precaution, I was in constant anxiety during my
absence; an absence necessarily prolonged as I had to stop and
explain matters to the Superintendent, as well as hunt up Mr. Gryce
and get his consent to assist me in the matter of the impending
arrest.

I found the latter in his own home and more than enthusiastic upon the
subject.

"Well," said he after I had informed him of the discoveries I had
made, "the fates seem to prosper you in this. I have not received an
inkling of light upon the matter since I parted from you at Mr.
Blake's house. By the way I saw that gentleman this morning and I
tell you we will find him a grateful man if this affair can be
resolved satisfactorily,"

'That is good," said I," gratitude is what we want." Then shortly,
"Perhaps it is no more than our duty to let him know that his wife is
safe and under my eye; though I would by no means advocate his
knowing just how near him she is, till the moment comes when he is
wanted, or we shall have a lover's impetuosity to deal with as well
as all the rest." Then with a hurried rememberance of a possible
contingency, went on to say, "But, by the way, in case we should need
the cooperation of Mrs. Blake in what we have before us, you had
better get a line written in French from Mrs. Daniels, expressive of
her belief in Mr. Blake's present affection for his wife. The latter
will not otherwise trust us, or understand that we are to be obeyed
in whatever we may demand. Let it be unsigned and without names in
case of accident; and if the housekeeper don't understand French,
tell her to get some one to help her that does, only be sure that the
handwriting employed is her own."

Mr. Gryce seemed to perceive the wisdom of this precaution and
promised to procure me such a note by a certain hour, after which I
related to him the various other details of the capture such as I had
planned it, meeting to my secret gratification an unqualified approval
that went far towards alleviating that wound to my pride which I had
received from him in the beginning of this affair.

"Let all things proceed as you have determined, and we shall
accomplish something that it will be a life-long satisfaction to
remember," said he; "but you must be prepared for some twist of the
screw which you do not anticipate. I never knew anything to go off
just as one prognosticates it must, except once," he added
thoughtfully, "and then it was with a surprise attached to it that
well nigh upset me notwithstanding all my preparations."

"You won a great success that day," remarked I. "I hope the fates will
be as propitious to me to-morrow. Failure now would break my heart."

"But you won't fail," exclaimed he. "I myself am resolved to see you
through this matter with credit."

And in this assurance I returned to my lodgings where I found the
landlady sitting where I had left her, darning her twenty-third sock.

"I have to mend for a dozen men and three boys," said she, "and the
boys are the worst by a heap sight. Look at that, will you," holding
up a darn with a bit of stocking attached. "That hole was made
playing shinny."

I uttered my condolences and asked if any sound or disturbance had
reached her ears from above.

"O no, all is right up there; I've scarcely heard a whisper since
you've been gone."

I gave her a pat on the chin scarcely consistent with my aged and
tottering mien and proceeded to shamble painfully to my room.

CHAPTER XVII

THE CAPTURE

Promptly next morning at the designated hour, came the little note
promised me by Mr. Gryce. It was put in my hand with many sly winks
by the landlady herself, who developed at this crisis quite an
adaptation for, if not absolute love of intrigue and mystery. Glancing
over it--it was unsealed--and finding it entirely unintelligible, I
took it for granted it was all right and put it by till chance, or if
that failed, strategy, should give me an opportunity to communicate
with Mrs. Blake. An hour passed; the doors of their rooms remained
unclosed. A half hour more dragged its slow minutes away, and no sound
had come from their precincts save now and then a mumbled word of
parley between the father and son, a short command to the daughter,
or a not-to-be-restrained oath of annoyance from one or both of the
heavy-limbed brutes as something was said or done to disturb them in
their indolent repose. At last my impatience was to be no longer
restrained. Rising, I took a bold resolution. If the mountain would
not come to Mahomet, Mahomet would go to the mountain. Taking my
letter in the hand, I deliberately proceeded to the door marked with
the ominous red cross and knocked.

A surprised snarl from within, followed by a sudden shuffling of feet
as the two men leaped upright from what I presume had been a recumbent
position, warned me to be ready to face defiance if not the fury of
despair; and curbing with a determined effort the slight sinking of
heart natural to a man of my make on the threshold of a very doubtful
adventure, I awaited with as much apparent unconcern as possible, the
quick advance of that light foot which seemed to be ready to perform
all the biddings of these hardened wretches, much as it shrunk from
following in the ways of their infamy.

"Ah miss," said I, as the door opened revealing in the gap her white
face clouded with some new and sudden apprehension, "I beg your
pardon but I am an old man, and I got a letter to-day and my eyes are
so weak with the work I've been doing that I cannot read it. It is
from some one I love, and would you be so kind as to read off the
words for me and so relieve an old man from his anxiety."

The murmur of suspicion behind her, warned her to throw wide open the
door. "Certainly," said she, "if I can," taking the paper in her
hand.

"Just let me get a squint at that first," said a sullen voice behind
her; and the youngest of the two Schoenmakers stepped forward and
tore the paper out of her grasp.

"You are too suspicious," murmured she, looking after him with the
first assumption of that air of power and determination which I had
heard so eloquently described by the man who loved her. "There is
nothing in those lines which concerns us; let me have them back."

"You hold your tongue," was the brutal reply as the rough man opened
the folded paper and read or tried to read what was written within.
"Blast it! it's French," was his slow exclamation after a moment
spent in this way. "See," and he thrust it towards his father who
stood frowning heavily a few feet off.

"Of course, it's French," cried the girl. "Would you write a note in
English to father there? The man's friends are French like himself,
and must write in their own language."

"Here take it and read it out," commanded her father; "and mind you
tell us what it means. I'll have nothing going on here that I don't
understand."

"Read me the French words first, miss," said I. "It is my letter and I
want to know what my friend has to say to me."

Nodding at me with a gentle look, she cast her eyes on the paper and
began to read:

"Calmez vous, mon amie, il vous aime et il vous cherche. Dans
quatre heures vous serez heureuse. Allous du courage, et surtout
soyez maitre de vous meme."

"Thanks!" I exclaimed in a calm matter-of-fact way as I perceived the
sudden tremor that seized her as she recognized the handwriting and
realized that the words were for her. "My friend says he will pay my
week's rent and bids me be at home to receive him," said I, turning
upon the two ferocious faces peering over her shoulder, with a look
of meek unsuspiciousness in my eye, that in a theatre would have
brought down the house.

"Is that what those words say, you?" asked the father, pointing over
her shoulder to the paper she held.

"I will translate for you word by word what it says," replied she,
nerving herself for the crisis till her face was like marble, though
I could see she could not prevent the gleam of secret rapture that had
visited her, from flashing fitfully across it. "Calmez vous, mon
amie. Do not be afraid, my friend. Il vous aime et il vous cherche.
He loves you and is hunting for you. Dans quatre heures vous serez
heureuse. In four hours you will be happy. Allons du courage, et
surtout soyez maitre de vous meme. Then take courage and above all
preserve your self-possession. It is the French way of expressing
one's self," observed she. "I am glad your friend is disposed to help
you," she continued, giving me back the letter with a smile. "I am
afraid you needed it."

In a sort of maze I folded up the letter, bowed my very humble thanks
to her and shuffled slowly back. The fact is I had no words; I was
utterly dumbfounded. Half way through that letter, with whose
contents you must remember I was unacquainted, I would have given my
whole chance of expected reward to have stopped her. Read out such
words as those before these men! Was she crazy? But how naturally at
the conclusion did she with a word make its language seem consistent
with the meaning I had given it. With a fresh sense of my obligation
to her, I hurried to my room, there to count out the minutes of
another long hour in anxious expectation of her making that endeavor
to communicate with me, which her new hopes and fears must force her
to feel almost necessary to her existence. At length, my confidence in
her was rewarded. Coming out into the hall, she hurried past my door,
her finger on her lip. I immediately rose and stood on the threshold
with another paper in my hand, which I had prepared against this
opportunity. As she glided back, I put it in her hand, and warning
her with a look not to speak, resumed my usual occupation. The words
I had written were as follows:

At or as near the time as possible of your brother's going out,
you are to come to this room wrapped in an extra skirt and with
your shawl over your head. Leave the skirt and shawl behind you,
and withdraw at once to the room at the head of the stairs. You
are not to speak, and you are not to vary from the plan thus laid
down. Your brother and father are to be arrested, whether or no;
but if you will do as this commands, they will be arrested without
bloodshed and without shame to one you know.

Her face while she read these lines, was a study, but I dared not
soften toward it. Dropping the paper from her hand, she gave me one
inquiring look. But I pointed determinedly to the words lying upward
on the floor, and would listen to no appeal. My resolve had its
effect. Bowing her head with a sorrowful gesture, she laid her hand
on her heart, looked up and glided from the room. I took up that
paper and tore it into bits.

And now for the first time since I had been in the house, I closed the
door of my room. I had a part to perform that rendered the dropping
of my disguise indispensable. The old French artist had finished his
work, and henceforth must merge into Q. the detective. Shortly before
two o'clock my assistants began to arrive. First, Mr. Gryce appeared
on the scene and was stowed away in a large room on the other side of
mine. Next, two of the most agile, as well as muscular men in the
force who, thanks to having taken off their shoes in the lower hall,
gained the same refuge without awakening the suspicions of those we
were anxious to surprise. Lastly, the landlady who went into the
closet to which I had bidden Mrs. Blake retire after leaving in my
room the articles I had mentioned.

All was now ready and waiting for the departure of the youngest
Schoenmaker. Would he disappoint us and remain at home that day? Had
any suspicions been awakened in the stolid breasts of these men, that
would serve to make them more watchful than usual against running
unnecessary risks? No; at or near the time for the clock to strike
two, their door opened and the tread of a lumbering foot was heard in
the hall. On it came, passing my room with a rude stamping that
gradually grew less distinct as the hardy rough went down the
corridor, brushing the wall behind which Mr. Gryce and his men lay
concealed with his thick cane, and even stopping to light his pipe in
front of the small apartment where cowered our good landlady with her
eternal basket of mending in her lap.

At length all was quiet, and throwing open my door, I withdrew into a
small closet connected with my room, to wait with indescribable
impatience, the appearance of Mrs. Blake. She came in a very few
minutes, remained for an instant, and departed, leaving behind her as
I had requested, the skirt and shawl in which she had left her
father's presence. I at once endued myself in these articles of
apparel--taking care to draw the shawl well over my head--and with a
pocket handkerchief to my face, (a proceeding made natural enough by
the sneeze which at that very moment I took care should assail me)
walked boldly back to the room from which she had just come.

The door was of course ajar, and as I swung it open with as near a
simulation of her manner as possible, the vision of her powerful
father lolling on a bench directly before me, offered anything but an
encouraging spectacle to my eyes. But doubling myself almost together
with as ladylike an atch-ee as my masculine nostrils would allow, I
succeeded in closing the door and reaching a low stool by the window
without calling from him anything worse than a fretful "I hope you are
not going to bark too."

I did not reply to this of course, but sat with my face turned towards
the street in an attitude which I hoped would awaken his attention
sufficiently to cause him to get up and come over to my side. For as
he sat face to the door it would be impossible to take him by
surprise, and that, now that I saw what a huge and muscular creature
he was, seemed to me to be the only safe method before us. But,
whether from the sullenness of his disposition or the very evident
laziness of the moment, he manifested no disposition to move, and
hearing or thinking I did, the stealthy advance of Mr. Gryce and his
companions down the hall, I allowed myself to give way to a
suppressed exclamation, and leaning forward, pressed my forehead
against the pane of glass before me as if something of absorbing
interest had just taken place in the street beneath.

His fears at once took alarm. Bounding up with a curse, he strode
towards me, muttering,

"What's up now? What's that you are looking at?" reaching my side
just as Mr. Gryce and his two men softly opened the door and with a
quick leap threw their arms about him, closing upon him with a force
he could not resist, desperate as he was and mighty in the huge
strength of an unusually developed muscular organization.

"You, you girl there, are to blame for this!" came mingled with curses
from his lips, as with one huge pant he submitted to his captors.
"Only let me get my hand well upon you once--Damn it!" he suddenly
exclaimed, dragging the whole three men forward in his effort to get
his mouth down to my ear, "go and rub that sign out on the door or
I'll--you know what I'll do well enough. Do you hear?"

Rising, still with face averted, I proceeded to do what he asked. But
in another moment seeing that he had been effectually bound and
gagged, I took out the piece of red chalk I had kept in my pocket,
and deliberately chalked it on again, after which operation I came
back and took my seat as before on the low stool by the window.

The object now was to secure the second rascal in the same way we had
the first; and for this purpose Mr. Gryce ordered the now helpless
giant to be dragged into the adjoining small room formerly occupied
by Mrs. Blake, where he and his men likewise took up their station
leaving me to confront as best I might, the surprise and
consternation of the one whose return we now awaited.

I did not shrink. With that brave woman's garments drawn about me,
something of her dauntless spirit seemed to invade my soul, and
though I expected--But let that come in its place, I am not here to
interest you in myself or my selfish thoughts.

A half hour passed; he had never lingered away so long before, or so
it seemed, and I was beginning to wonder if we should have to keep up
this strain of nerve for hours, when the heavy tread was again heard
in the hall, and with a blow of the fist that argued anger or a
brutal impatience, he flung open the door and came in, I did not turn
my head.

"Where's father?" he growled, stopping where he was a foot or so from
the door.

I shook my head with a slight gesture and remained looking out.

He brought his cane down on the floor with a thump. "What do you mean
by sitting there staring out of the window like mad and not answering
when I ask you a decent question?"

Still I made no reply.

Provoked beyond endurance, yet held in check by that vague sense of
danger in the air,--which while not amounting to apprehension is
often sufficient to hold back from advance the most daring foot,--he
stood glaring at me in what I felt to be a very ferocious attitude,
but made no offer to move. Instantly I rose and still looking out of
the window, made with my hand what appeared to be a signal to some one
on the opposite side of the way. The ruse was effective. With an oath
that rings in my ears yet, he lifted his heavy cane and advanced upon
me with a bound, only to meet the same fate as his father at the hands
of the watchful detectives. Not, however, before that heavy cane came
down upon my head in a way to lay me in a heap at his feet and to sow
the seeds of that blinding head-ache, which has afflicted me by spells
ever since. But this termination of the affair was no more than I had
feared from the beginning; and indeed it was as much to protect Mrs.
Blake from the wrath of these men, as from any requirements of the
situation I had assumed the disguise I then wore. I therefore did not
allow this mishap to greatly trouble me, unpleasant as it was at the
time, but, as soon as ever I could do so, rose from the floor and
throwing off my strange habiliments, proceeded to finish up to my
satisfaction, the work already so successfully begun.

CHAPTER XVIII

LOVE AND DUTY

Dismissing the men who had assisted us in the capture of these two
hardy villains, we ranged our prisoners before us.

"Now," said Mr. Gryce, "no fuss and no swearing; you are in for it,
and you might as well take it quietly as any other way."

"Give me a clutch on that girl, that's all," said her father, "Where
is she? Let me see her; every father has a right to see his own
daughter,"

"You shall see her," returned my superior, "but not till her husband
is here to protect her."

"Her husband? ah, you know about that do you?" growled the heavy voice
of the son. "A rich man they say he is and a proud one. Let him come
and look at us lying here like dogs and say how he will enjoy having
his wife's father and brother grinding away their lives in prison."

"Mr. Blake is coming," quoth Mr. Gryce, who by some preconcerted
signal from the window had drawn that gentleman across the street.
"He will tell you himself that he considers prison the best place for
you. Blast you! but he--"

"But he, what?" inquired I, as the door opened and Mr. Blake with a
pale face and agitated mien entered the room.

The wretch did not answer. Rousing from the cowering position in which
they had both lain since their capture, the father and son struggled
up in some sort of measure to their feet, and with hot, anxious eyes
surveyed the countenance of the gentleman before them, as if they felt
their fate hung upon the expression of his pallid face. The son was
the first to speak.

"How do you do, brother-in-law," were his sullen and insulting words.

Mr. Blake shuddered and cast a look around.

"My wife?" murmured he.

"She is well," was the assurance given by Mr. Gryce, "and in a room
not far from this. I will send for her if you say so."

"No, not yet," came in a sort of gasp; "let me look at these wretches
first, and understand if I can what my wife has to suffer from her
connection with them."

"Your wife," broke in the father, "what's that to do with it; the
question is how do you like it and what will you do to get us clear
of this thing."

"I will do nothing," returned Mr. Blake. "You amply merit your doom
and you shall suffer it to the end for all time."

"It will read well in the papers," exclaimed the son.

"The papers are to know nothing about it," I broke in. "All knowledge
of your connection with Mr. or Mrs. Blake is to be buried in this
spot before we or you leave it. Not a word of her or him is to cross
the lips of either of you from this hour. I have set that down as a
condition and it has got to be kept."

"You have, have you," thundered in chorus from father and son. "And
who are you to make conditions, and what do you think we are that you
expect us to keep them? Can you do anymore than put us back from
where we came from?"

For reply I took from my pocket the ring I had fished out of the ashes
of their kitchen stove on that memorable visit to their house, and
holding it up before their faces, looked them steadily in the eye.

A sudden wild glare followed by a bluish palor that robbed their
countenances of their usual semblance of daring ferocity, answered me
beyond my fondest hopes.

"I got that out of the stove where you had burned your prison
clothing," said I. "It is a cheap affair, but it will send you to the
gallows if I choose to use it against you. The pedlar--"

"Hush," exclaimed the father in a low choked tone greatly in contrast
to any he had yet used in all our dealings with him. "Throw that ring
out of the window and I promise to hold my tongue about any matter
you don't want spoke of. I'm not a fool--"

"Nor I," was my quick reply, as I restored the ring to my pocket.
"While that remains in my possession together with certain facts
concerning your habits in that old house of yours which have lately
been made known to me, your life hangs by a thread I can any minute
snip in two. Mr. Blake here, has spent some portion of a night in
your house and knows how near it lies to a certain precipice, at foot
of which--"

"Mein Gott, father, why don't you say something!" leaped in cowed
accents from the son's white lips. "If they want us to keep quiet,
let them say so and not go talking about things that--"

"Now look here," interposed Mr. Gryce stepping before them with a look
that closed their mouths at once. "I will just tell you what we
propose to do. You are to go back to prison and serve your time out,
there is no help for that, but as long as you behave yourselves and
continue absolutely silent regarding your relationship to the wife of
this gentleman, you shall have paid into a certain bank that he will
name, a monthly sum that upon your dismissal from jail shall be paid
you with whatever interest it may have accumulated. You are ready to
promise that, are you not?" he inquired turning to Mr. Blake.

That gentleman bowed and named the sum, which was liberal enough, and
the bank.

"But," continued the detective, ignoring the sudden flash of eye that
passed between the father and son, "let me or any of us hear of a
word having been uttered by you, which in the remotest way shall
suggest that you have in the world such a connection as Mrs. Blake,
and the money not only stops going into the bank, but old scores
shall be raked up against you with a zeal which if it does not stop
your mouth in one way, will in another, and that with a suddenness
you will not altogether relish."

The men with a dogged air from which the bravado had however fled,
turned and looked from one to the other of us in a fearful, inquiring
way that duly confessed to the force of the impression made by these
words upon their slow but not unimaginative minds.

"Do you three promise to keep our secret if we keep yours?" muttered
the father with an uneasy glance at my pocket.

"We certainly do," was our solemn return.

"Very well; call in the girl and let me just look at her, then, before
we go. We won't say nothing," continued he, seeing Mr. Blake shrink,
"only she is my daughter and if I cannot bid her good-bye--"

"Let him see his child," cried Mr. Blake turning with a shudder to the
window. "I--I wish it," added he.

Straightway with hasty foot I left the room. Going to the little
closet where I had ordered his wife to remain concealed, I knocked
and entered. She was crouched in an attitude of prayer on the floor,
her face buried in her hands, and her whole person breathing that
agony of suspense that is a torture to the sensitive soul.

"Mrs. Blake," said I, dismissing the landlady who stood in helpless
distress beside her, "the arrest has been satisfactorily made and
your father calls for you to say good-bye before going away with us.
Will you come?"

"But my--my--Mr. Blake?" exclaimed she leaping to her feet. "I am
sure I heard his footstep in the hall?"

"He is with your father and brother. It was at his command I came for
you."

A gleam hard to interpret flashed for an instant over her face. With
her eye on the door she towered in her womanly dignity, while
thoughts innumerable seemed to rush in wild succession through her
mind.

"Will you not come?" I urged.

"I--," she paused. "I will go see my father," she murmured, "but--"

Suddenly she trembled and drew back; a step was in the hall, on the
threshold, at her side; Mr. Blake had come to reclaim his bride.

"Mr. Blake!"

The word came from her in a low tone shaken with the concentrated
anguish of many a month of longing and despair, but there was no
invitation in its sound, and he who had held out his arms, stopped
and surveying her with a certain deprecatory glance in his proud eye,
said,

"You are right; I have first my acknowledgments to make and your
forgiveness to ask before I can hope--"

"No, no," she broke in, "your coming here is enough, I request no
more. If you felt unkindly toward me--"

"Unkindly?" A world of love thrilled in that word. "Luttra, I am your
husband and rejoice that I am so; it is to lay the devotion of my
heart and life at your feet that I seek your presence this hour. The
year has taught me--ah, what has not the year taught me of the worth
of her I so recklessly threw from me on my wedding day. Luttra,"--he
held out his hand--"will you crown all your other acts of devotion
with a pardon that will restore me to my manhood and that place in
your esteem which I covet above every other earthly good?"

Her face which had been raised to his with that earnest look we knew
so well, softened with an ineffable smile, but still she did not lay
her hand in his.

"And you say this to me in the very hour of my father's and brother's
arrest! With the remembrance in your mind of their bound and abject
forms lying before you guarded by police; knowing too, that they
deserve their ignominy and the long imprisonment that awaits them?"

"No, I say it on the day of the discovery and the restoration of that
wife for whom I have long searched, and to whom when found I have no
word to give but welcome, welcome, welcome."

With the same deep smile she bowed her head, "Now let come what will,
I can never again be unhappy," were the words I caught, uttered in
the lowest of undertones. But in another moment her head had
regained its steady poise and a great change had passed over her
manner.

"Mr. Blake," said she, "you are good; how good, I alone can know and
duly appreciate who have lived in your house this last year and seen
with eyes that missed nothing, just what your surroundings are and
have been from the earliest years of your proud life. But goodness
must not lead you into the committal of an act you must and will
repent to your dying day; or if it does, I who have learned my duty
in the school of adversity, must show the courage of two and forbid
what every secret instinct of my soul declares to be only provocative
of shame and sorrow. You would take me to your heart as your wife; do
you realize what that means?"

"I think I do," was his earnest reply. "Relief from heart-ache,
Luttra."

Her smooth brow wrinkled with a sudden spasm of pain but her firm lips
did not quiver.

"It means," said she, drawing nearer but not with that approach which
indicates yielding, "it means, shame to the proudest family that
lives in the land. It means silence as regards a past blotted by
suggestions of crime; and apprehension concerning a future across
which the shadow of prison walls must for so many years lie. It
means, the hushing of certain words upon beloved lips; the turning of
cherished eyes from visions where fathers and daughters ay, brothers
and sisters are seen joined together in tender companionship or
loving embrace. It means,--God help me to speak out--a home without
the sanctity of memories; a husband without the honors he has been
accustomed to enjoy; a wife with a fear gnawing like a serpent into
her breast; and children, yes, perhaps children from whose innocent
lips the sacred word of grandfather can never fall without wakening a
blush on the cheeks of their parents, which all their lovesome
prattle will be helpless to chase away."

"Luttra, your father and your brother have given their consent to go
their dark way alone and trouble you no more. The shadow you speak of
may lie on your heart, dear wife, for these men are of your own
blood, but it need never invade the hearthstone beside which I ask you
to sit. The world will never know, whether you come with me or not,
that Luttra Blake was ever Luttra Schoenmaker. Will you not then
give me the happiness of striving to make such amends for the past,
that you too, will forget you ever bore any other name than the one
you now honor so truly?"

"O do not," she began but paused with a sudden control of her emotion
that lifted her into an atmosphere almost holy in its significance.
"Mr. Blake," said she, "I am a woman and therefore weak to the voice
of love pleading in my ear. But in one thing I am strong, and that is
in my sense of what is due to the man I have sworn to honor. Eleven
months ago I left you because your pleasure and my own dignity
demanded it; to-day I put by all the joy and exaltation you offer,
because your position as a gentleman, and your happiness as a man
equally requires it."

"My happiness as a man!" he broke in. "Ah, Luttra if you love me as I
do you--"

"I might perhaps yield," she allowed with a faint smile. "But I love
you as a girl brought up amid surroundings from which her whole being
recoiled, must love the one who first brought light into her darkness
and opened up to her longing feet the way to a life of culture, purity
and honor. I were the basest of women could I consent to repay such
a boundless favor--"

"But Luttra," he again broke in, "you married me knowing what your
father and brother were capable of committing."

"Yes, yes; I was blinded by passion, a girl's passion, Mr. Blake, born
of glamour and gratitude; not the self-forgetting devotion of a woman
who has tasted the bitterness of life and so learned its lesson of
sacrifice. I may not have thought, certainly I did not realize, what
I was doing. Besides, my father and brother were not convicted
criminals at that time, however weak they had proved themselves under
temptation. And then I believed I had left them behind me on the road
of life; that we were sundered, irrevocably cut loose from all
possible connection. But such ties are not to be snapped so easily.
They found me, you see, and they will find me again--"

"Never!" exclaimed her husband. "They are as dead to you as if the
grave had swallowed them. I have taken care of that."

"But the shame! you have not taken care of that. That exists and must,
and while it does I remain where I can meet it alone. I love you;
God's sun is not dearer to my eyes; but I will never cross your
threshold as your wife till the opprobrium can be cut loose from my
skirts, and the shadow uplifted from my brow. A queen with high
thoughts in her eyes and brave hopes in her heart were not too good to
enter that door with you. Shall a girl who has lived three weeks in
an atmosphere of such crime and despair, that these rooms have often
seemed to me the gateway to hell, carry there, even in secrecy, the
effects of that atmosphere? I will cherish your goodness in my heart
but do not ask me to bury that heart in any more exalted spot, than
some humble country home, where my life may be spent in good deeds and
my love in prayers for the man I hold dear, and because I hold dear,
leave to his own high path among the straight and unshadowed courses
of the world."

And with a gesture that inexorably shut him off while it expressed the
most touching appeal, she glided by him and took her way to the room
where her father and brother awaited her presence.

CHAPTER XIX

EXPLANATIONS

"I cannot endure this," came in one burst of feeling from the lips of
Mr. Blake. "She don't know, she don't realize--Sir," cried he,
suddenly becoming conscious of my presence in the room, "will you be
good enough to see that this note," he hastily scribbled one, "is
carried across the way to my house and given to Mrs. Daniels."

I bowed assent, routed up one of the men in the next room and
despatched it at once.

"Perhaps she will listen to the voice of one of her own sex if not to
me," said he; and began pacing the floor of the narrow room in which
we were, with a wildness of impatience that showed to what depths had
sunk the hope of gaining this lovely woman for his own.

Feeling myself no longer necessary in that spot, I followed where my
wishes led and entered the room where Luttra was bidding good-bye to
her father.

"I shall never forget," I heard her say as I crossed the floor to
where Mr. Gryce stood looking out of the window, "that your blood
runs in my veins together with that of my gentle-hearted, never-to-be-
forgotten mother. Whatever my fate may be or wherever I may hide the
head you have bowed to the dust, be sure I shall always lift up my
hands in prayer for your repentance and return to an honest life. God
grant that my prayers may be heard and that I may yet receive at your
hands, a father's kindly blessing."

The only answer to this was a heavily muttered growl that gave but
little promise of any such peaceful termination to a deeply vicious
life. Hearing it, Mr. Gryce hastened to procure his men and remove
the hardened wretches from the spot. All through the preparations for
their departure, she stood and watched their sullen faces with a wild
yearning in her eye that could scarcely be denied, but when the door
finally closed upon them, and she was left standing there with no one
in the room but myself she steadied herself up as one who is
conscious that all the storms of heaven are about to break upon her;
and turning slowly to the door waited with arms crossed and a still
determination upon her brow, the coming of the feet of him whose
resolve she felt must have, as yet been only strengthened by her
resistance.

She had not long to wait. Almost with the closing of the street door
upon the detectives and their prisoners, Mr. Blake followed by Mrs.
Daniels and another lady whose thick veil and long cloak but illy
concealed the patrician features and stately form of the Countess De
Mirac, entered the room.

The surprise had its effect; Luttra was evidently for the moment
thrown off her guard.

"Mrs. Daniels!" she breathed, holding out her hands with a longing
gesture.

"My dear mistress!" returned that good woman, taking those hands in
hers but in a respectful way that proved the constraint imposed upon
her by Mr. Blake's presence. "Do I see you again and safe?"

"You must have thought I cared little for the anxiety you would be
sure to feel," said that fair young mistress, gazing with earnestness
into the glad but tearful eyes of the housekeeper. "But indeed, I
have been in no position to communicate with you, nor could I do so
without risking that to protect which I so outraged my feelings as to
leave the house at all. I mean the life and welfare of its master,
Mrs. Daniels."

"Ha, what is that?" quoth Mr. Blake. "It was to save me, you consented
to follow them?"

"Yes; what else would have led me to such an action? They might have
killed me, I would not have cared, but when they began to utter
threats against you--"

"Mrs. Blake," exclaimed Mrs. Daniels, catching hold of her mistress's
uplifted hand, and pointing to a scar that slightly disfigured her
white arm a little above the wrist, "Mrs. Blake, what's that?"

A pink flush, the first I had seen on her usually pale countenance,
rose for an instant to her cheeks, and she seemed to hesitate.

"It was not there when I last saw you, Mrs. Blake."

"No," was the slow reply, "I found myself forced that night to inflict
upon myself a little wound. It is nothing, let it go."

"No, Luttra I cannot let it go," said her husband, advancing towards
her with something like gentle command. "I must hear not only about
this but all the other occurrences of that night. How came they to
find you in the refuge you had attained?"

"I think," said she in a low tone the underlying suffering of which it
would be hard to describe, "that it was not to seek me they first
invaded your house. They had heard you were a rich man, and the sight
of that ladder running up the side of the new extension was too much
for them. Indeed I know that it was for purposes of robbery they
came, for they had hired this room opposite you some days previous to
making the attempt. You see they were almost destitute of money and
though they had some buried in the cellar of the old house in
Vermont, they dared not leave the city to procure it. My brother was
obliged to do so later, however. It was a surprise to them seeing me
in your house. They had reached the roof of the extension and were
just lifting up the corner of the shade I had dropped across the open
window--I always open my window a few minutes before preparing to
retire--when I rose from the chair in which I had been brooding, and
turned up the gas. I was combing my hair at the time and so of course
they recognized me. Instantly they gave a secret signal I, alas,
remembered only too well, and crouching back, bade me put out the
light that they might enter with safety. I was at first too much
startled to realize the consequences of my action, and with some
vague idea that they had discovered my retreat and come for purposes
of advice or assistance, I did what they bid. Immediately they threw
back the shade and came in, their huge figures looming frightfully in
the faint light made by a distant gas lamp in the street below. 'What
do you want?' were my first words uttered in a voice I scarcely
recognized for my own; 'why do you steal on me like this in the night
and through an open window fifty feet from the ground? Aren't you
afraid you will be discovered and sent back to the prison from which
you have escaped?' Their reply sent a chill through my blood and
awoke me to a realization of what I had done in thus allowing two
escaped convicts to enter a house not my own. 'We want money and
we're not afraid of anything now you are here.' And without heeding
my exclamation of horror, they coolly told me that they would wait
where they were till the household was asleep, when they would expect
me to show them the way to the silver closet or what was better, the
safe or wherever it was Mr. Blake kept his money. I saw they took me
for a servant, as indeed I was, and for some minutes I managed to
preserve that position in their eyes. But when in a sudden burst of
rage at my refusal to help them, they pushed me aside and hurried to
the door with the manifest intention of going below, I forgot
prudence in my fears and uttered some wild appeal to them not to do
injury to any one in the house for it was my husband's. Of course
that disclosure had its natural effect.

"They stopped, but only to beset me with questions till the whole
truth came out. I could not have committed a worse folly than thus
taking them into my confidence. Instantly the advantages to be gained
by using my secret connection with so wealthy a man for the purpose of
cowering me and blackmailing him, seemed to strike both their minds
at once, slow as they usually are to receive impressions. The silver-
closet and money-safe sank to a comparatively insignificant position
in their eyes, and to get me out of the house, and with my happiness
at stake, treat with the honorable man who notwithstanding his
non-approval of me as a woman, still regarded me as his lawfully
wedded wife, became in their eyes a thing of such wonderful promise
they were willing to run any and every risk to test its value. But
here to their great astonishment I rebelled; astonishment because
they could not realize my desiring anything above money and the
position to which they declared I was by law entitled. In vain I
pleaded my love; in vain I threatened exposure of their plans if not
whereabouts. The mine of gold which they fondly believed they had
stumbled upon unawares, promised too richly to be easily abandoned.
'You must go with us,' said they, 'if not peaceably then by force,'
and they actually advanced upon me, upsetting a chair and tearing down
one of the curtains to which I clung. It was then I committed that
little act concerning which you questioned me. I wanted to show them
I was not to be moved by threats of that character; that I did not
even fear the shedding of my blood; and that they would only be
wasting their time in trying to sway me by hints of personal
violence. And they were a little impressed, sufficiently so at least
to turn their threats in another direction, awakening fears at last
which I could not conceal, much as I felt it would be policy to do
so. Gathering up a few articles I most prized, my wedding ring, Mr.
Blake, and a photograph of yourself that Mrs. Daniels had been kind
enough to give me, I put on my bonnet and cloak and said I would go
with them, since they persisted in requiring it. The fact is I no
longer possessed motive or strength to resist. Even your unexpected
appearance at the door, Mrs. Daniels, offered no prospect of hope.
Arouse the house? what would that do? only reveal my cherished secret
and perhaps jeopardize the life of my husband. Besides, they were my
own near kin, remember, and so had some little claim upon my
consideration, at least to the point of my not personally betraying
them unless they menaced immediate and actual harm. The escape by the
window which would have been a difficult task for most women to
perform, was easy enough for me. I was brought up to wild ways you
know, and the descent of a ladder forty feet long was a comparatively
trivial thing for me to accomplish. It was the tearing away from a
life of silent peace, the reentrance of my soul into an atmosphere of
sin and deadly plotting, that was the hard thing, the difficult
dreadful thing which hung weights to my feet, and made me well nigh
mad. And it was this which at the sight of a policeman in the street
led me to make an effort to escape. But it was not successful. Though
I was fortunate enough to free myself from the grasp of my father and
brother, I reached the gate on ----- street only to encounter the eyes
of him whose displeasure I most feared, looking sternly upon me from
the other side. The shock was too much for me in my then weak and
unnerved condition. Without considering anything but the fact that he
never had known and never must, that I had been in the same house with
him for so long, I rushed back to the corner and into the arms of the
men who awaited me. How you came to be there, Mr. Blake, or why you
did not open the gate and follow, I cannot say."

"The gate was locked," returned that gentleman. "You remember it
closes with a spring, and can only be opened by means of a key which
I did not have."

"My father had it," she murmured; "he spent a whole week in the
endeavor to get hold of it, and finally succeeded on the evening of
the very day he used it. It was left in the lock I believe."

"So much for servants," I whispered to myself.

"The next morning," continued she, "they put the case very plainly
before me. I was at liberty to return at once to my home if I would
promise to work in their interest by making certain demands upon you
as your wife. All they wanted, said they, was a snug little sum and a
lift out of the country. If I would secure them these, they would
trouble me no more. But I could not concede to anything of that
nature, of course, and the consequence was these long weeks of
imprisonment and suspense; weeks that I do not now begrudge, seeing
they have brought me the assurance of your esteem and the knowledge,
that wherever I go, your thoughts will follow me with compassion if
not with love."

And having told her story and thus answered his demands, she assumed
once more the position of lofty reserve that seemed to shut him back
from advance like a wall of invincible crystal.

CHAPTER XX

THE BOND THAT UNITES

But he was not to be discouraged. "And after all this, after all you
have suffered for my sake and your own, do you think you have a right
to deny me the one desire of my heart? How can you reconcile it with
your ideas of devotion, Luttra?"

"My ideas of devotion look beyond the present, Mr. Blake. It is to
save you from years of wearing anxiety that I consent to the
infliction upon you of a passing pang."

He took a bold step forward. "Luttra, you do not know a man's heart.
To lose you now would not merely inflict a passing pang, but sow the
seeds of a grief that would go with me to the grave."

"Do you then"--she began, but paused blushing. Mrs. Daniels took the
opportunity to approach her on the other side.

"My dear mistress," said she, "you are wrong to hold out in this
matter." And her manner betrayed something of the peculiar agitation
that had belonged to it in the former times of her secret
embarassment. "I, who have honored the family which I have so long
served, above every other in the land, tell you that you can do it no
greater good than to join it now, or inflict upon it any greater harm
than to wilfully withdraw yourself from the position in which God has
placed you."

"And I," said another voice, that of the Countess de Mirac, who up to
this time had held herself in the background, but who now came
forward and took her place with the rest, "I, who have borne the name
of Blake, and who am still the proudest of them all at heart, I, the
Countess de Mirac, cousin to your husband there, repeat what this
good woman has said, and in holding out my hand to you, ask you to
make my cousin happy and his family contented by assuming that
position in his household which the law as well as his love accords
you."

The girl looked at the daintily gloved hand held out to her, colored
faintly, and put her own within it.

"I thank you for your goodness," said she, surveying with half-sad,
half-admiring glances, the somewhat pale face of the beautiful
brunette.

"And you will yield to our united requests?" She cast her eye down at
the spot where her father and brother had cowered in their shackles,
and shook her head. "I dare not," said she.

Immediatey Mrs. Daniels, whose emotion had been increasing every
moment since she last spoke, plunged her hand into her bosom and drew
out a folded paper.

"Mrs. Blake," said she, "if you could be convinced that what I have
told you was true, and that you would be irretrievably injuring your
husband and his interests, by persisting in that desertion of him
which your purpose, would you not consent to reconsider your
determination, settled as it appears to be?"

"If I could be made to see that, most certainly," returned she in a
low voice whose broken accents betrayed at what cost she remained
true to her resolve. "But I cannot."

"Perhaps the sight of this paper will help you," said she. And turning
to Mr. Blake she exclaimed, "Your pardon for what I am called upon to
do. A duty has been laid upon me which I cannot avoid, hard as it is
for an old servant to perform. This paper--but it is no more than just
that you, sir, should see and read it first." And with a hand that
quivered with fear or some equally strong emotion, she put it in his
clasp.

The exclamation that rewarded the act made us all start forward. "My
father's handwriting!" were his words.

"Executed under my eye," observed Mrs. Daniels.

His glance ran rapidly down the sheet and rested upon the final
signature.

"Why has this been kept from me?" demanded he, turning upon Mrs.
Daniels with sternness.

"Your father so willed it," was her reply. "'For a year' was his
command, 'you shall keep this my last will and testament which I give
into your care with my dying hands, a secret from the world. At the
expiration of that time mark if my son's wife sits at the head of her
husband's table; if she does and is happy, suppress this by
deliberately giving it to the flames, but if from any reason other
than death, she is not seen there, carry it at once to my son, and
bid him as he honors my memory, to see that my wishes as there
expressed are at once carried out.'"

The paper in Mr. Blake's hand fluttered.

"You are aware what those wishes are?" said he.

"I steadied his hand while he wrote," was her sad and earnest reply.

Mr. Blake turned with a look of inexpressible deference to his wife.

"Madame," said he "when I urged you with such warmth to join your fate
to mine and honor my house by presiding over it, I thought I was
inviting you to share the advantages of wealth as well as the love of
a lonely man's heart. This paper undeceives me. Luttra, the
daughter-in-law of Abner Blake, not Holman, his son, is the one who
by the inheritance of his millions has the right to command in this
presence."

With a cry she took from him the will whose purport was thus briefly
made known. "O, how could he, how could he?" exclaimed she, running
her eye down the sheet, and then crushing it spasmodically to her
breast. "Did he not realize that he could do me no greater wrong?"
Then in one yielding up of her whole womanhood to the mighty burst of
passion that had been flooding the defenses of her heart for so long,
she exclaimed in a voice the mingled rapture and determination of
which rings in my ears even now, "And is it a thing like this with
its suggestions of mercenary interest that shall bridge the gulf that
separates you and me? Shall the giving or the gaining of a fortune
make necessary the unital of lives over which holier influences have
beamed and loftier hopes shone? No, no; by the smile with which your
dying father took me to his breast, love alone, with the hope and
confidence it gives, shall be the bond to draw us together and make
of the two separate planes on which we stand, a common ground where we
can meet and be happy."

And with one supreme gesture she tore into pieces the will which she
held, and sank all aglow with woman's divinest joy into the arms held
out to receive her.

* * * * * *

I was present at the wedding-reception given them by the Countess De
Mirac in her elegant apartments at the Windsor. I never saw a happier
bride, nor a husband in whose eyes burned a deeper contentment. To
all questions as to who this extraordinary woman could be, where she
was found, and in what place and at what time she was married, the
Countess had apt replies whose art of hushing curiosity without
absolutely satisfying it, was one of the tokens she yet preserved, of
her short sway as grand lady, in the gayest and most hollow city of
the world.

As I prepared to leave a scene perhaps the most gratifying in many
respects that I had ever witnessed, I felt a slight touch on my arm.
It came from Mrs. Blake who with her husband had crossed the room to
bid me farewell.

"Will you allow me to thank you," said she, "for the risk you ran for
me one day and of which I have just heard. It was an act that merits
the gratitude of years, and as such shall be always remembered by me.
If the old French artist with the racking cough ever desires a favor
at my hands, let him feel free to ask it. The interest I experienced
in him in the days of my trouble, will suffer no abatement in these of
my joy and prosperity." And with a look that was more than words, she
gave me a flower from the bouquet she held in her hand, and smilingly
withdrew.

Book of the day: