Part 4 out of 6
"Was this letter signed O. B.?"
"Yes; they all are. The only difference between his letters and
Brotherson's is this: Brotherson's retain the date and address;
the second O. B.'s do not."
"How not? Torn off, do you mean?"
"Yes, or rather, neatly cut away; and as none of the envelopes
were kept, the only means by which we can locate the writer is
through this girl Doris."
"If I remember rightly Miss Challoner's letter to this child was
free from all mystery."
"Quite so. It is as open as the day. That is why it has been
mentioned as showing the freedom of Miss Challoner's mind five
minutes before that fatal thrust."
Sweetwater took up the sheet Mr. Gryce pushed towards him and
re-read these lines:
"Dear Little Doris:
"It is a snowy night, but it is all bright inside and I feel no
chill in mind or body. I hope it is so in the little cottage in
Derby; that my little friend is as happy with harsh winds blowing
from the mountains as she was on the summer day she came to see
me at this hotel. I like to think of her as cheerful and beaming,
rejoicing in tasks which make her so womanly and sweet. She is
often, often in my mind.
"Affectionately your friend,
"EDITH A. CHALLONER."
"That to a child of sixteen!"
"D-o-r-i-s spells something besides Doris."
"Yet there is a Doris. Remember that O. B. says in one of his
letters, 'Doris is learning to embroider.'"
"Yes, I remember that."
"So you must first find Doris."
"Very good, sir."
"And as Miss Challoner's letter was directed to Derby, Pennsylvania,
you will go to Derby."
"I've been reading this letter again."
"It's worth it."
"The last sentence expresses a hope."
"That has been noted."
Sweetwater's eyes slowly rose till they rested on Mr. Gryce's face:
"I'll cling to the thread you've given me. I'll work myself through
the labyrinth before us till I reach HIM."
Mr. Gryce smiled; but there was more age, wisdom and sympathy for
youthful enthusiasm in that smile than there was confidence or hope.
THE HEART OF MAN
"A young girl named Doris Scott?"
The station-master looked somewhat sharply at the man he was
addressing, and decided to give the direction asked.
"There is but one young girl in town of that name," he declared,
"and she lives in that little house you see just beyond the works.
But let me tell you, stranger," he went on with some precipitation--
But here he was called off, and Sweetwater lost the conclusion of
his warning, if warning it was meant to be. This did not trouble
the detective. He stood a moment, taking in the prospect; decided
that the Works and the Works alone made the town, and started for
the house which had been pointed out to him. His way lay through
the chief business street, and greatly preoccupied by his errand,
he gave but a passing glance to the rows on rows of workmen's
dwellings stretching away to the left in seemingly endless
perspective. Yet in that glance he certainly took in the fact
hat the sidewalks were blocked with people and wondered if it
were a holiday. If so, it must be an enforced one, for the
faces showed little joy. Possibly a strike was on. The anxiety
he everywhere saw pictured on young faces and old, argued some
trouble; but if the trouble was that, why were all heads turned
indifferently from the Works, and why were the Works themselves
in full blast?
These questions he may have asked himself and he may not. His
attention was entirely centred on the house he saw before him
and on the possible developments awaiting him there. Nothing else
mattered. Briskly he stepped out along the sandy road, and after
a turn or two which led him quite away from the Works and its
surrounding buildings, he came out upon the highway and this house.
It was a low and unpretentious one, and had but one distinguishing
feature. The porch which hung well over the doorstep was unique
in shape and gave an air of picturesqueness to an otherwise simple
exterior; a picturesqueness which was much enhanced in its effect
by the background of illimitable forest, which united the foreground
of this pleasing picture with the great chain of hills which held
the Works and town in its ample basin.
As he approached the doorstep, his mind involuntarily formed an
anticipatory image of the child whose first stitches in embroidery
were like a fairy's weaving to the strong man who worked in ore and
possibly figured out bridges. That she would prove to be of the
anemic type, common among working girls gifted with an imagination
they have but scant opportunity to exercise, he had little doubt.
He was therefore greatly taken aback, when at his first step upon
the porch, the door before him flew open and he beheld in the dark
recess beyond a young woman of such bright and blooming beauty that
he hardly noticed her expression of extreme anxiety, till she lifted
her hand and laid an admonitory finger softly on her lip:
"Hush!" she whispered, with an earnestness which roused him from his
absorption and restored him to the full meaning of this encounter.
"There is sickness in the house and we are very anxious. Is your
errand an important one? If not--" The faltering break in the
fresh, young voice, the look she cast behind her into the darkened
interior, were eloquent with the hope that he would recognise her
impatience and pass on.
And so he might have done,--so he would have done under all
ordinary circumstances. But if this was Doris--and he did not
doubt the fact after the first moment of startled surprise--how
dare he forego this opportunity of settling the question which had
brought him here.
With a slight stammer but otherwise giving no evidence of the effect
made upon him by the passionate intensity with which she had urged
this plea, he assured her that his errand was important, but one so
quickly told that it would delay her but a moment. "But first," said
he, with very natural caution, "let me make sure that it is to Miss
Doris Scott I am speaking. My errand is to her and her only.
Without showing any surprise, perhaps too engrossed in her own
thoughts to feel any, she answered with simple directness, "Yes, I
am Doris Scott. Whereupon he became his most persuasive self, and
pulling out a folded paper from his pocket, opened it and held it
before her, with these words:
"Then will you be so good as to glance at this letter and tell me
if the person whose initials you will find at the bottom happens to
be in town at the present moment?"
In some astonishment now, she glanced down at the sheet thus boldly
thrust before her, and recognising the O and the B of a well-known
signature, she flashed a look back at Sweetwater in which he read a
confusion of emotions for which he was hardly prepared.
"Ah," thought he, "it's coming. In another moment I shall hear
what will repay me for the trials and disappointments of all these
But the moment passed and he had heard nothing. Instead, she
dropped her hands from the door-jamb and gave such unmistakable
evidences of intended flight, that but one alternative remained to
him; he became abrupt.
Thrusting the paper still nearer, he said, with an emphasis which
could not fail of making an impression, "Read it. Read the whole
letter. You will find your name there. This communication was
addressed to Miss Challoner, but--"
Oh, now she found words! With a low cry, she put out her hand in
quick entreaty, begging him to desist and not speak that name on
any pretext or for any purpose. "He may rouse and hear," she
explained, with another quick look behind her. "The doctor says
that this is the critical day. He may become conscious any minute.
If he should and were to hear that name, it might kill him."
"He!" Sweetwater perked up his ears. "Who do you mean by he?"
"Mr. Brotherson, my patient, he whose letter--" But here her
impatience rose above every other consideration. Without attempting
to finish her sentence, or yielding in the least to her curiosity or
interest in this man's errand, she cried out with smothered intensity,
"Go! go! I cannot stay another moment from his bedside."
But a thunderbolt could not have moved Sweetwater after the hearing
of that name. "Mr. Brotherson!" he echoed. "Brotherson! Not
"No, no; his name is Oswald. He's the manager of these Works. He's
sick with typhoid. We are caring for him. If you belonged here you
would know that much. There! that's his voice you hear. Go, if
you have any mercy." And she began to push to the door.
But Sweetwater was impervious to all hint. With eager eyes straining
into the shadowy depths just visible over her shoulder, he listened
eagerly for the disjointed words now plainly to be heard in some
near-by but unseen chamber.
"The second O. B.!" he inwardly declared. "And he's a Brotherson
also, and--sick! Miss Scott," he whisperingly entreated as her
hand fell in manifest despair from the door, "don't send me away
yet. I've a question of the greatest importance to put you, and
one minute more cannot make any difference to him. Listen! those
cries are the cries of delirium; he cannot miss you; he's not even
"He's calling out in his sleep. He's calling her, just as he has
called for the last two weeks. But he will wake conscious--or he
will not wake at all."
The anguish trembling in that latter phrase would have attracted
Sweetwater's earnest, if not pitiful, attention at any other time,
but now he had ears only for the cry which at that moment came
ringing shrilly from within--
The living shouting for the dead! A heart still warm sending forth
its longing to the pierced and pulseless one, hidden in a far-off
tomb! To Sweetwater, who had seen Miss Challoner buried, this
summons of distracted love came with weird force.
Then the present regained its sway. He heard her name again, and
this time it sounded less like a call and more like the welcoming
cry of meeting spirits. Was death to end this separation? Had he
found the true O. B., only to behold another and final seal fall
upon this closely folded mystery? In his fear of this possibility,
he caught at Doris' hand as she was about to bound away, and eagerly
"When was Mr. Brotherson taken ill? Tell me, I entreat you; the
exact day and, if you can, the exact hour. More depends upon this
than you can readily realise."
She wrenched her hand from his, panting with impatience and a vague
alarm. But she answered him distinctly:
"On the Twenty-fifth of last month, just an hour after he was made
manager. He fell in a faint at the Works."
The day--the very day of Miss Challoner's death!
"Had he heard--did you tell him then or afterwards what happened
in New York on that very date?"
"No, no, we have not told him. It would have killed him--and may
"Edith! Edith!" came again through the hush, a hush so deep that
Sweetwater received the impression that the house was empty save
for patient and nurse.
This discovery had its effects upon him. Why should he subject this
young and loving girl to further pain? He had already learned more
than he had expected to. The rest would come with time. But at the
first intimation he gave of leaving, she lost her abstracted air and
turned with absolute eagerness towards him.
"One moment," said she. "You are a stranger and I do not know your
name or your purpose here. But I cannot let you go without begging
you not to mention to any one in this town that Mr. Brotherson has
any interest in the lady whose name we must not speak. Do not
repeat that delirious cry you have heard or betray in any way our
intense and fearful interest in this young lady's strange death.
You have shown me a letter. Do not speak of that letter, I entreat
you. Help us to retain our secret a little longer. Only the doctor
and myself know what awaits Mr. Brotherson if he lives. I had to
tell the doctor, but a doctor reveals nothing. Promise that you
will not either, at least till this crisis is passed. It will help
my father and it will help me; and we need all the help we can get."
Sweetwater allowed himself one minute of thought, then he earnestly
"I will keep your secret for to-day, and longer, if possible."
"Thank you," she cried; "thank you. I thought I saw kindness in your
face." And she again prepared to close the door.
But Sweetwater had one more question to ask. "Pardon me," said he,
as he stepped down on the walk, "you say that this is a critical day
with your patient. Is that why every one whom I have seen so far
wears such a look of anxiety?"
"Yes, yes," she cried, giving him one other glimpse of her lovely,
agitated face. "There's but one feeling in town to-day, but one
hope, and, as I believe, but one prayer. That the man whom every
one loves and every one trusts may live to run these Works."
"Edith! Edith!" rose in ceaseless reiteration from within.
But it rang but faintly now in the ears of our detective. The door
had fallen to, and Sweetwater's share in the anxieties of that
household was over.
Slowly he moved away. He was in a confused yet elated condition of
mind. Here was food for a thousand new thoughts and conjectures.
An Orlando Brotherson and an Oswald Brotherson--relatives possibly,
strangers possibly; but whether relatives or strangers, both given
to signing their letters with their initials simply; and both the
acknowledged admirers of the deceased Miss Challoner. But she had
loved only one, and that one, Oswald. It not difficult to recognise
the object of this high hearted woman's affections in this man whose
struggle with the master-destroyer had awakened the solicitude of a
Ten minutes after Sweetwater's arrival in the village streets, he
was at home with the people he found there. His conversation with
Doris in the doorway of her home had been observed by the curious
and far-sighted, and the questions asked and answered had made him
friends at once. Of course, he could tell them nothing, but that
did not matter, he had seen and talked with Doris and their idolised
young manager was no worse and might possibly soon be better.
Of his own affairs--of his business with Doris and the manager,
they asked nothing. All ordinary interests were lost in the stress
of their great suspense.
It was the same in the bar-room of the one hotel. Without resorting
to more than a question or two, he readily learned all that was
generally known of Oswald Brotherson. Every one was talking about
him, and each had some story to tell illustrative of his kindness,
his courage and his quick mind. The Works had never produced a man
of such varied capabilities and all round sympathies. To have him
for manager meant the greatest good which could befall this little
His rise had been rapid. He had come from the east three years
before, new to the work. Now, he was the one man there. Of his
relationships east, family or otherwise, nothing was said. For
them his life began and ended in Derby, and Sweetwater could see,
though no actual expression was given to the feeling, that there
was but one expectation in regard to him and Doris, to whose
uncommon beauty and sweetness they all seemed fully alive. And
Sweetwater wondered, as many of us have wondered, at the gulf
frequently existing between fancy and fact.
Later there came a small excitement. The doctor was seen riding by
on his way to the sick man. From the window where he sat, Sweetwater
watched him pass up the street and take the road he had himself so
lately traversed. It was so straight a one and led so directly
northward that he could follow with his eye the doctor's whole
course, and even get a glimpse of his figure as he stepped from the
buggy and proceeded to tie up the horse. There was an energy about
him pleasing to Sweetwater. He might have much to do with this
doctor. If Oswald Brotherson died--but he was not willing to
consider this possibility--yet. His personal sympathies, to
say nothing of his professional interest in the mystery to which
this man--and this man only--possibly held the key, alike
forbade. He would hope, as these others were hoping, and if he did
not count the minutes, he at least saw every move of the old horse
waiting with drooping head and the resignation of long custom for
the re-appearance of his master with his news of life or death.
And so an hour--two hours passed. Others were watching the old
horse now. The street showed many an eager figure with head turned
northward. From the open door-ways women stepped, looked in the
direction of their anxiety and retreated to their work again.
Suspense was everywhere; the moments dragged like hours; it became
so keen at last that some impatient hearts could no longer stand it.
A woman put her baby into another woman's arms and hurried up the
road; another followed, then another; then an old man, bowed with
years and of tottering steps, began to go that way, halting a dozen
times before he reached the group now collected in the dusty highway,
near but not too near that house. As Sweetwater's own enthusiasm
swelled at this sight, he thought of the other Brotherson with his
theories and active advocacy for reform, and wondered if men and
women would forego their meals and stand for hours in the keen
spring wind just to be the first to hear if he were to live or die.
He knew that he himself would not. But he had suffered much both
in his pride and his purse at the hands of the Brooklyn inventor;
and such despoliation is not a reliable basis for sympathy. He
was questioning his own judgment in this matter and losing himself
in the mazes of past doubts and conjectures when a sudden change
took place in the aspect of the street; he saw people running, and
in another moment saw why. The doctor had shown himself on the
porch which all were watching. Was he coming out? No, he stands
quite still, runs his eye over the people waiting quietly in the
road, and beckons to one of the smaller boys. The child, with
upturned face, stands listening to what he has to say, then starts
on a run for the village. He is stopped, pulled about, questioned,
and allowed to run on. Many rush forth to meet him. He is panting,
but gleeful. Mr. Brotherson has waked up conscious, and the doctor
says, HE WILL LIVE.
THE OVAL HUT
That night Dr. Fenton had a visitor. We know that visitor and we
almost know what his questions were, if not the answers of the good
doctor. Nevertheless, it may be better to listen to a part at
least of their conversation. Sweetwater, who knew when to be frank
and open, as well as when to be reserved and ambiguous, made no
effort to disguise the nature of his business or his chief cause
of interest in Oswald Brotherson. The eye which met his was too
penetrating not to detect the smallest attempt at subterfuge;
besides, Sweetwater had no need to hide his errand; it was one of
peace, and it threatened nobody--"the more's the pity," thought he
in uneasy comment to himself, as he realised the hopelessness of
the whole situation.
His first word, therefore, was a plain announcement.
"Dr. Fenton, my name is Sweetwater. I am from New York, and
represent for the nonce, Mr. Challoner, whose name I have simply
to mention, for you to understand that my business is with Mr.
Brotherson whom I am sorry to find seriously, if not dangerously,
ill. Will you tell me how long you think it will be before I can
have a talk with him on a subject which I will not disguise from
you may prove a very exciting one?
"Weeks, weeks," returned the doctor. "Mr. Brotherson has been a
very sick man and the only hope I have of his recovery is the fact
that he is ignorant of his trouble or that he has any cause for
doubt or dread. Were this happy condition of things to be disturbed,
--were the faintest rumour of sorrow or disaster to reach him in
his present weakened state, I should fear a relapse, with all its
attendant dangers. What then, if any intimation should be given
him of the horrible tragedy suggested by the name you have
mentioned? The man would die before your eyes. Mr. Challoner's
business will have to wait.
"That I see; but if I knew when I might speak--"
"I can give you no date. Typhoid is a treacherous complaint; he
has the best of nurses and the chances are in favour of a quick
recovery; but we never can be sure. You had better return to New
York. Later, you can write me if you wish, or Mr. Challoner can.
You may have confidence in my reply; it will not mislead you."
Sweetwater muttered his thanks and rose. Then he slowly sat down
"Dr. Fenton," he began, "you are a man to be trusted. I'm in a devil
of a fix, and there is just a possibility that you may be able to
help me out. It is the general opinion in New York, as you may know,
that Miss Challoner committed suicide. But the circumstances do not
fully bear out this theory, nor can Mr. Challoner be made to accept
it. Indeed, he is so convinced of its falsehood, that he stands
ready to do anything, pay anything, suffer anything, to have this
distressing blight removed from his daughter's good name. Mr.
Brotherson was her dearest friend, and as such may have the clew to
this mystery, but Mr. Brotherson may not be in a condition to speak
for several weeks. Meanwhile, Mr. Challoner must suffer from great
suspense unless--" a pause during which he searched the doctor's face
with a perfectly frank and inquiring expression--"unless some one
else can help us out. Dr. Fenton, can you?"
The doctor did not need to speak; his expression conveyed his answer.
"No more than another," said he. "Except for what Doris felt
compelled to tell me, I know as little as yourself. Mr. Brotherson's
delirium took the form of calling continually upon one name. I did
not know this name, but Doris did, also the danger lurking in the
fact that he had yet to hear of the tragedy which had robbed him of
this woman to whom he was so deeply attached. So she told me just
this much. That the Edith whose name rung so continuously in our
ears was no other than the Miss Challoner of New York of whose death
and its tragic circumstances the papers have been full; that their
engagement was a secret one unshared so far as she knew by any one
but herself. That she begged me to preserve this secret and to give
her all the help I could when the time came for him to ask questions.
Especially did she entreat me to be with her at the crisis. I was,
but his waking was quite natural. He did not ask for Miss Challoner;
he only inquired how long he had been ill and whether Doris had
received a letter during that time. She had not received one, a
fact which seemed to disappoint him; but she carried it off so gaily
(she is a wonderful girl, Mr. Sweetwater--the darling of all our
hearts), saying that he must not be so egotistical as to think that
the news of his illness had gone beyond Derby, that he soon recovered
his spirits and became a very promising convalescent. That is all I
know about the matter; little more, I take it, than you know yourself."
Sweetwater nodded; he had expected nothing from the doctor, and was
not disappointed at his failure. There were two strings to his bow,
and the one proving valueless, he proceeded to test the other.
"You have mentioned Miss Scott, as the confidante--and only
confidante of this unhappy pair," said he. "Would it be possible
--can you make it possible for me to see her?
It was a daring proposition; he understood this at once from the
doctor's expression; and, fearing a hasty rebuff, he proceeded to
supplement his request with a few added arguments, urged with such
unexpected address and show of reason that Dr. Fenton's aspect
visibly softened and in the end he found himself ready to promise
that he would do what he could to secure his visitor the interview
he desired if he would come to the house the next day at the time
of his own morning visit.
This was as much as the young detective could expect, and having
expressed his thanks, he took his leave in anything but a
discontented frame of mind. With so powerful an advocate as the
doctor, he felt confident that he should soon be able to conquer
this young girl's reticence and learn all that was to be learned
from any one but Mr. Brotherson himself. In the time which must
elapse between that happy hour and the present, he would circulate
and learn what he could about the prospective manager. But he
soon found that he could not enter the Works without a permit, and
this he was hardly in a position to demand; so he strolled about
the village instead, and later wandered away into the forest.
Struck by the inviting aspect of a narrow and little used road
opening from the highway shortly above the house where his interests
were just then centred, he strolled into the heart of the spring
woods till he came to a depression where a surprise awaited him, in
the shape of a peculiar structure rising from its midst where it
just fitted, or so nearly fitted that one could hardly walk about
it without brushing the surrounding tree trunks. Of an oval shape,
with its door facing the approach, it nestled there, a wonder to the
eye and the occasion of considerable speculation to his inquiring
mind. It had not been long built, as was shown very plainly by the
fresh appearance of the unpainted boards of which it was constructed;
and while it boasted of a door, as I've already said, there were no
evidences visible of any other break in the smooth, neatly finished
walls. A wooden ellipse with a roof but no windows; such it
appeared and such it proved to be. A mystery to Sweetwater's eyes,
and like all mysteries, interesting. For what purpose had it been
built and why this isolation? It was too flimsy for a reservoir
and too expensive for the wild freak of a crank.
A nearer view increased his curiosity, In the projection of the
roof over the curving sides he found fresh food for inquiry. As he
examined it in the walk he made around the whole structure, he came
to a place where something like a hinge became visible and further
on another. The roof was not simply a roof; it was also a lid
capable of being raised for the air and light which the lack of
windows necessitated. This was an odd discovery indeed, giving to
the uncanny structure the appearance of a huge box, the cover of
which could be raised or lowered at pleasure. And again he asked
himself for what it could be intended? What enterprise, even of the
great Works, could demand a secrecy so absolute that such pains as
these should be taken to shut out all possibility of a prying eye.
Nothing in his experience supplied him with an answer.
He was still looking up at these hinges, with glance which took
in at the same time the nearness and extreme height of the trees by
which this sylvan mystery was surrounded, when a sound from the road
on the opposite side of the hollow brought his conjectures to a
standstill and sent him hurrying on to the nearest point from which
that road became visible.
A team was approaching. He could hear the heavy tread of horses
working their laborious way through trees whose obstructing branches
swished before and behind them. They were bringing in a load for
this shed, whose uses he would consequently soon understand.
Grateful for his good luck--for his was a curiosity which could
not stand defeat--he took a few steps into the wood, and from the
vantage point of a concealing cluster of bushes, fixed his eyes
upon the spot where the road opened into the hollow.
Something blue moved there, and in another moment, to his great
amazement, there stepped into view the spirited form of Doris Scott,
who if he had given the matter a thought he would have supposed to
be sitting just then by the bedside of her patient, a half mile
back on the road.
She was dressed for the woods in a blue skirt and jacket and moved
like a leader in front of a heavily laden wagon now coming to a
standstill before the closely shut shed--if such we may call it.
"I have a key," so she called out to the driver who had paused for
orders. "When I swing the doors wide, drive straight in."
Sweetwater took a look at the wagon. It was piled high with large
wooden boxes on more than one of which he could see scrawled the
words: O. Brotherson, Derby, Pa.
This explained her presence, but the boxes told nothing. They were
of all sizes and shapes, and some of them so large that the
assistance of another man was needed to handle them. Sweetwater was
about to offer his services when a second man appeared from somewhere
in the rear, and the detective's attention being thus released from
the load out of which he could make nothing, he allowed it to
concentrate upon the young girl who had it in charge and who, for
many reasons, was the one person of supreme importance to him.
She had swung open the two wide doors, and now stood waiting for
horse and wagon to enter. With locks flying free--she wore no
bonnet--she presented a picture of ever increasing interest to
Sweetwater. Truly she was a very beautiful girl, buoyant, healthy
and sweet; as unlike as possible his preconceived notions of Miss
Challoner's humble little protegee. Her brown hair of a rich
chestnut hue, was in itself a wonder. On no head, even in the great
city he had just left, had he seen such abundance, held in such
modest restraint. Nature had been partial to this little working
girl and given her the chevelure of a queen.
But this was nothing. No one saw this aureole when once the eye
had rested on her features and caught the full nobility of their
expression and the lurking sweetness underlying her every look.
She herself made the charm and whether placed high or placed low,
must ever attract the eye and afterwards lure the heart, by an
individuality which hardly needed perfect features in which to
Young yet, but gifted, as girls of her class often are, with the
nicest instincts and purest aspirations, she showed the elevation
of her thoughts both in her glance and the poise with which she
awaited events. Sweetwater watched her with admiration as she
superintended the unloading of the wagon and the disposal of the
various boxes on the floor within; but as nothing she said during
the process was calculated to afford the least enlightenment in
regard to their contents, he presently wearied of his inaction and
turned back towards the highway, comforting himself with the
reflection that in a few short hours he would have her to himself
when nothing but a blunder on his part should hinder him from
sounding her young mind and getting such answers to his questions
as the affair in which he was so deeply interested, demanded.
"You see me again, Miss Scott. I hope that yesterday's intrusion
has not prejudiced you against me.
"I have no prejudices," was her simple but firm reply. "I am only
hurried and very anxious. The doctor is with Mr. Brotherson just
now; but he has several other equally sick patients to visit and I
dare not keep him here too long."
"Then you will welcome my abruptness. Miss Scott, here is a letter
from Mr. Challoner. It will explain my position. As you will see,
his only desire is to establish the fact that his daughter did not
commit suicide. She was all he had in the world, and the thought
that she could, for any reason, take her own life is unbearable to
him. Indeed, he will not believe she did so, evidence or no
evidence. May I ask if you agree with him? You have seen Miss
Challoner, I believe. Do you think she was the woman to plunge a
dagger in her heart in a place as public as a hotel reception room?
"No, Mr. Sweetwater. I'm a poor working girl, with very little
education and almost no knowledge of the world and such ladies as
she. But something tells me for all that, that she was too nice to
do this. I saw her once and it made me want to be quiet and kind
and beautiful like her. I never shall think she did anything so
horrible. Nor will Mr. Brotherson ever believe it. He could not
and live. You see, I am talking to you as if you knew him,--the
kind of man he is and just how he feels towards Miss Challoner. He
is--" Her voice trailed off and a look, uncommon and almost elevated,
illumined her face. "I will not tell you what he is; you will know,
if you ever see him."
"If the favourable opinion of a whole town makes a good fellow, he
ought to be of the best," returned Sweetwater, with his most honest
smile. "I hear but one story of him wherever I turn."
"There is but one story to tell," she smiled, and her head drooped
softly, but with no air of self-consciousness.
Sweetwater watched her for a moment, and then remarked: "I'm going
to take one thing for granted; that you are as anxious as we are to
clear Miss Challoner's memory."
"O yes, O yes."
"More than that, that you are ready and eager to help us. Your
very looks show that."
"You are right; I would do anything to help you. But what can
a girl like me do? Nothing; nothing. I know too little. Mr.
Challoner must see that when you tell him I'm only the daughter
of a foreman."
"And a friend of Mr. Brotherson," supplemented Sweetwater.
"Yes," she smiled, "he would want me to say so. But that's his
goodness. I don't deserve the honour."
"His friend and therefore his confidante," Sweetwater continued.
"He has talked to you about Miss Challoner?"
"He had to. There was nobody else to whom he could talk; and then,
I had seen her and could understand."
"Where did you see her?"
"In New York. I was there once with father, who took me to see her.
I think she had asked Mr. Brotherson to send his little friend to
her hotel if ever we came to New York."
"That was some time ago?"
"We were there in June."
"And you have corresponded ever since with Miss Challoner?"
"She has been good enough to write, and I have ventured at times
to answer her."
The suspicion which might have come to some men found no harbour in
Sweetwater's mind. This young girl was beautiful, there was no
denying that, beautiful in a somewhat startling and quite unusual
way; but there was nothing in her bearing, nothing in Miss
Challoner's letters to indicate that she had been a cause for
jealousy in the New York lady's mind. He, therefore, ignored this
possibility, pursuing his inquiry along the direct lines he had
already laid out for himself. Smiling a little, but in a very
earnest fashion, he pointed to the letter she still held and quietly
"Remember that I'm not speaking for myself, Miss Scott, when I seem
a little too persistent and inquiring. You have corresponded with
Miss Challoner; you have been told the fact of her secret engagement
to Mr. Brotherson and you have been witness to his conduct and manner
for the whole time he has been separated from her. Do you, when you
think of it carefully, recall anything in the whole story of this
romance which would throw light upon the cruel tragedy which has so
unexpectedly ended it? Anything, Miss Scott? Straws show which way
the stream flows."
She was vehement, instantly vehement, in her disclaimer.
"I can answer at once," said she, "because I have thought of nothing
else for all these weeks. Here all was well. Mr. Brotherson was
hopeful and happy and believed in her happiness and willingness to
wait for his success. And this success was coming so fast! Oh,
how can we ever tell him! How can we ever answer his questions even,
or keep him satisfied and calm until he is strong enough to hear the
truth. I've had to acknowledge already that I have had no letter
from her for weeks. She never wrote to him directly, you know, and
she never sent him messages, but he knew that a letter to me, was
also a letter to him and I can see that he is troubled by this long
silence, though he says I was right not to let her know of his
illness and that I must continue to keep her in ignorance of it till
he is quite well again and can write to her himself. It is hard to
hear him talk like this and not look sad or frightened."
Sweetwater remembered Miss Challoner's last letter, and wished he
had it here to give her. In default of this, he said:
"Perhaps this not hearing may act in the way of a preparation for
the shock which must come to him sooner or later. Let us hope so,
Her eyes filled.
"Nothing can prepare him," said she. Then added, with a yearning
accent, "I wish I were older or had more experience. I should not
feel so helpless. But the gratitude I owe him will give me strength
when I need it most. Only I wish the suffering might be mine rather
Unconscious of any self-betrayal, she lifted her eyes, startling
Sweetwater by the beauty of her look. "I don't think I'm so sorry
for Oswald Brotherson," he murmured to himself as he left her. "He's
a more fortunate man than he knows, however deeply he may feel the
loss of his first sweetheart.
That evening the disappointed Sweetwater took the train for New
York. He had failed to advance the case in hand one whit, yet the
countenance he showed Mr. Gryce at their first interview was not
a wholly gloomy one.
"Fifty dollars to the bad!" was his first laconic greeting. "All
I have learned is comprised in these two statements. The second
O. B. is a fine fellow; and not intentionally the cause of our
tragedy. He does not even know about it. He's down with the fever
at present and they haven't told him. When he's better we may hear
something; but I doubt even that.
"Tell me about it."
Sweetwater complied; and such is the unconsciousness with which we
often encounter the pivotal circumstance upon which our future or
the future of our most cherished undertaking hangs, he omitted
from his story, the sole discovery which was of any real importance
in the unravelling of the mystery in which they were so deeply
concerned. He said nothing of his walk in the woods or of what he
"A meagre haul," he remarked at the close.
"But that's as it should be, if you and I are right in our
impressions and the clew to this mystery lies here in the character
and daring of Orlando Brotherson. That's why I'm not down in the
mouth. Which goes to show what a grip my prejudices have on me."
"As prejudiced as a bulldog."
"Exactly. By the way, what news of the gentleman I've just
mentioned? Is he as serene in my absence as when under my eye?"
"More so; he looks like a man on the verge of triumph. But I fear
the triumph he anticipates has nothing to do with our affairs. All
his time and thought is taken up with his invention."
"You discourage me, sir. And now to see Mr. Challoner. Small
comfort can I carry him."
THE IMAGE OF DREAD
In the comfortable little sitting-room of the Scott cottage Doris
stood, looking eagerly from the window which gave upon the road.
Behind her on the other side of the room, could be seen through a
partly opened door, a neatly spread bed, with a hand lying quietly
on the patched coverlet. It was a strong looking hand which, even
when quiescent, conveyed the idea of purpose and vitality. As
Doris said, the fingers never curled up languidly, but always with
the hint of a clench. Several weeks had passed since the departure
of Sweetwater and the invalid was fast gaining strength. To-morrow,
he would be up.
Was Doris thinking of him? Undoubtedly, for her eyes often flashed
his way; but her main attention was fixed upon the road, though no
one was in sight at the moment. Some one had passed for whose
return she looked; some one whom, if she had been asked to describe,
she would have called a tall, fine-looking man of middle age, of a
cultivated appearance seldom seen in this small manufacturing town;
seldom seen, possibly, in any town. He had glanced up at the window
as he went by, in a manner too marked not to excite her curiosity.
Would he look up again when he came back? She was waiting there
to see. Why, she did not know. She was not used to indulging in
petty suppositions of this kind; her life was too busy, her
anxieties too keen. The great dread looming ever before her,--the
dread of that hour when she must speak,--left her very little heart
for anything dissociated with this coming event. For a girl of
seventeen she was unusually thoughtful. Life had been hard in this
little cottage since her mother died, or rather she had felt its
Life itself could not be hard where Oswald Brotherson lived; neither
to man, nor woman. The cheer of some natures possesses a divine
faculty. If it can help no other way, it does so by the aid of its
own light. Such was the character of this man's temperament. The
cottage was a happy place; only--she never fathomed the depths of
that only. If in these days she essayed at times to do so, she gave
full credit to the Dread which rose ever before her--rose like a
ghost! She, Doris, led by inscrutable Fate, was waiting to hurt him
who hurt nobody; whose mere presence was a blessing.
But her interest had been caught to-day, caught by this stranger,
and when during her eager watch the small messenger from the Works
came to the door with the usual daily supply of books and magazines
for the patient, she stepped out on the porch to speak to him and
to point out the gentleman who was now rapidly returning from his
stroll up the road.
"Who is that, Johnny?" she asked. "You know everybody who comes to
town. What is the name of the gentleman you see coming?"
The boy looked, searched his memory, not without some show of
"A queer name," he admitted at last. "I never heard the likes of it
here before. Shally something. Shally--Shally--"
"Yes, that's it. How could you guess? He's from New York. Nobody
knows why he's here. Don't seem to have no business."
"Well, never mind. Run on, Johnny. And don't forget to come
earlier to-morrow; Mr. Brotherson gets tired waiting."
"Does he? I'll come quick then; quick as I can run." And he sped
off at a pace which promised well for the morrow.
Challoner! There was but one Challoner in the world for Doris
Scott,--Edith's father. Was this he? It must be, or why this
haunting sense of something half remembered as she caught a glimpse
of his face. Edith's father! and he was approaching, approaching
rapidly, on his way back to town. Would he stop this time? As the
possibility struck her, she trembled and drew back, entering the
house, but pausing in the hall with her ear turned to the road.
She had not closed the door; something within--a hope or a dread
--had prevented that. Would he take it as an invitation to come
in? No, no; she was not ready for such an encounter yet. He might
speak Edith's name; Oswald might hear and--with a gasp she
recognised the closeness of his step; heard it lag, almost halt just
where the path to the house ran into the roadside. But it passed
on. He was not going to force an interview yet. She could hear him
retreating further and further away. The event was not for this day,
thank God! She would have one night at least in which to prepare
With a sense of relief so great that she realised, for one shocked
moment, the full extent of her fears, she hastened back into the
sitting-room, with her collection of books and pamphlets. A low
voice greeted her. It came from the adjoining room.
"Doris, come here, sweet child. I want you."
How she would have bounded joyously at the summons, had not that
Dread raised its bony finger in every call from that dearly loved
voice. As it was, her feet moved slowly, lingering at the sound.
But they carried her to his side at last, and once there, she smiled.
"See what an armful," she cried in joyous greeting, as she held out
the bundle she had brought. "You will be amused all day. Only, do
not tire yourself."
"I do not want the papers, Doris; not yet. There's something else
which must come first. Doris, I have decided to let you write to
her. I'm so much better now, she will not feel alarmed. I must
--must get a word from her. I'm starving for it. I lie here and
can think of nothing else. A message--one little message of six
short words would set me on my feet again. So get your paper and
pen, dear child, and write her one of your prettiest letters."
Had he loved her, he would have perceived the chill which shook
her whole body, as he spoke. But his first thought, his penetrating
thought, was not for her and he saw only the answering glance, the
patient smile. She had not expected him to see more. She knew that
she was quite safe from the divining look; otherwise, he would have
known her secret long ago.
"I'm ready," said she. But she did not lay down her bundle. She
was not ready for her task, poor child. She quailed before it. She
quailed so much that she feared to stir lest he should see that she
had no command over her movements.
The man who watched without seeing wondered that she stood so still
and spoke so briefly. But only for a moment. He thought he
understood her hesitation, and a look of great earnestness replaced
his former one of grave decision.
"I know that in doing this I am going beyond my sacred compact with
Miss Challoner," he said. "I never thought of illness,--at least,
of illness on my part. I never dreamt that I, always so well, always
so full of life, could know such feebleness as this, feebleness which
is all of the body, Doris, leaving the mind free to dream and long.
Talk of her, child. Tell me all over again just how she looked and
spoke that day you saw her in New York."
"Would it not be better for me to write my letter first? Papa will
be coming soon and Truda can never cook your bird as you like it."
Surprised now by something not quite natural in her manner, he caught
at her hand and held her as she was moving away.
"You are tired," said he. "I've wearied you with my commission and
complaints. Forgive me, dear child, and--"
"You are mistaken," she interrupted softly. "I am not tired; I only
wished to do the important thing first. Shall I get my desk? Do
you really wish me to write?"
"Yes," said he, softly dropping her hand. "I wish you to write. It
will ensure me good sleep, and sleep will make me strong. A few
words, Doris; just a few words."
She nodded; turning quickly away to hide her tears. His smile had
gone to her very soul. It was always a beautiful one, his chief
personal attraction, but at this moment it seemed to concentrate
within it the unspoken fervours and the boundless expectations of
a great love, and she who was the aim and cause of all this
sweetness lay in unresponsive silence in a distant tomb!
But Doris' own smile was not lacking in encouragement and beauty
when she came back a few minutes later and sat down by his side to
write. His melted before it, leaving his eyes very earnest as he
watched her bending figure and the hard-worked little hand at its
"I must give her daily exercises," he decided within himself. "That
look of pain shows how difficult this work is for her. It must be
made easy at any cost to my time. Such beauty calls for
accomplishment. I must not neglect so plain a duty."
Meantime, she was struggling to find words in face of that great
Dread. She had written Dear Miss Challoner and was staring in
horror at the soulless words. Only her sense of duty upheld her.
Gladly would she have torn the sheet in two and rushed away. How
could she add sentences to this hollow phrase, the mere employment
of which seemed a sacrilege. Dear Miss Challoner. Oh, she was
Unconsciously the young head drooped, and the pen slid from her hand.
"I cannot," she murmured, "I cannot think what to say."
"Shall I help you?" came softly from the bed. "I'll try and not
forget that it is Doris writing."
"If you will be so good," she answered, with renewed courage.
"I can put the words down if you will only find them for me."
"Write then. 'Dear Miss Challoner!"
"I have already written that."
"Why do you shudder?"
"I'm cold. I've been cold all day. But never mind that, Mr.
Brotherson. Tell me how to begin my letter."
"This way. 'I've not been able to answer your kind letter, because
I have had to play nurse for some three or four weeks to a very
fretful and exacting patient.' Have you written that?"
"No," said Doris, bending over her desk till her curls fell in a
tangle over her white cheeks. "I do not like to," she protested
at last, with an attempt at naivete which seemed real enough to him.
"Well, leave out the fretful if you must, but keep in the exacting.
I have been exacting, you know."
Silence, broken only by the scratching of the stubborn,
"It's down," she whispered. She said, afterward, that it was like
writing with a ghost looking over one's shoulder.
"Then add, 'Mr. Brotherson has had a slight attack of fever, but he
is getting well fast, and will soon--, Do I run on too quickly?"
"No, no, I can follow."
"But not without losing breath; eh, Doris?"
As he laughed, she smiled. There was a heroism in that smile,
Oswald Brotherson, of which you knew nothing.
"You might speak a little more slowly," she admitted.
Quietly he repeated the last phrase. "'But he is getting well fast
and will soon be ready to take up the management of the Works which
was given him just before he was taken ill.' That will show her
that I am working up," he brightly remarked as Doris carefully
penned the last word. "Of myself you need say nothing more, unless
--" he paused and his face took on a wistful look which Doris dared
not meet; "unless--but no, no, she must think it has been only a
passing indisposition. If she knew I had been really ill, she would
suffer, and perhaps act imprudently or suffer and not dare to act
at all, which might be sadder for her still. Leave it where it is
and begin about yourself. Write a good deal about yourself, so that
she will see that you are not worried and that all is well with us
here. Cannot you do that without assistance? Surely you can tell
her about that last piece of embroidery you showed me. She will be
glad to hear--why, Doris!"
"Oh, Mr. Brotherson," the poor child burst out, "you must let me
cry! I'm so glad to see you better and interested in all sorts of
things. These are not tears of grief. I--I--but I'm forgetting
what the doctor told me. You are growing excited, and I was to see
that you were calm, always calm. I will take my desk away. I will
write the rest in the other room, while you look at the magazines."
"But bring your letter back for me to seal. I want to see it in
its envelope. Oh, Doris, you are a good little girl!"
She shook her head, and hastened to hide herself from him in the
other room; and it was a long time before she came back with the
letter folded and in its envelope. When she did, her face was
composed and her manner natural. She had quite made up her mind
what her duty was and how she was going to perform it.
"Here is the letter," said she, laying it in his outstretched hand.
Then she turned her back. She knew, with a woman's unerring
instinct why he wished to handle it before it went. She felt that
kiss he folded away in it, in every fibre of her aroused and
sympathetic heart, but the hardest part of the ordeal was over and
her eyes beamed softly when she turned again to take it from his
hand and affix the stamp.
"You will mail it yourself?" he asked. "I should like to have you
put it into the box with your own hand."
"I will put it in to-night, after supper," she promised him.
His smile of contentment assured her that this trial of her courage
and self-control was not without one blessed result. He would rest
for several days in the pleasure of what he had done or thought he
had done. She need not cringe before that image of Dread for two,
three days at least. Meanwhile, he would grow strong in body, and
she, perhaps, in spirit. Only one precaution she must take. No
hint of Mr. Challoner's presence in town must reach him. He must be
guarded from a knowledge of that fact as certainly as from the more
serious one which lay behind it.
I HOPE NEVER TO SEE THAT MAN
That this would be a difficult thing to do, Doris was soon to
realise. Mr. Challoner continued to pass the house twice a day
and the time finally came when he ventured up the walk.
Doris was in the window and saw him coming. She slipped softly
out and intercepted him before he had stepped upon the porch. She
had caught up her hat as she passed through the hall, and was
fitting it to her head as he looked up and saw her.
"Miss Scott?" he asked.
"Yes, Mr. Challoner."
"You know me?" he went on, one foot on the step and one still on
Before replying she closed the door behind her. Then as she noted
his surprise she carefully explained:
"Mr. Brotherson, our boarder, is just recovering from typhoid. He
is still weak and acutely susceptible to the least noise. I was
afraid that our voices might disturb him. Do you mind walking a
little way up the road? That is, if your visit was intended for me."
Her flush, the beauty which must have struck ever him, but more than
all else her youth, seemed to reconcile him to this unconventional
request. Bowing, he took his foot from the step, saying, as she
"Yes, you are the one I wanted to see; that is, to-day. Later, I
hope to have the privilege of a conversation with Mr. Brotherson."
She gave him one quick look, trembling so that he offered her his
arm with a fatherly air.
"I see that you understand my errand here," he proceeded, with a
grave smile, meant as she knew for her encouragement. "I am glad,
because we can go at once to the point. Miss Scott," he continued
in a voice from which he no longer strove to keep back the evidences
of deep feeling, "I have the strongest interest in your patient that
one man can have in another, where there is no personal
acquaintanceship. You who have every reason to understand my
reasons for this, will accept the statement, I hope, as frankly as
it is made."
She nodded. Her eyes were full of tears, but she did not hesitate
to raise them. She had the greatest desire to see the face of the
man who could speak like this to-day, and yet of whose pride and
sense of superiority his daughter had stood in such awe, that she
had laid a seal upon the impulses of her heart, and imposed such
tasks and weary waiting upon her lover. Doris forgot, in meeting
his softened glance and tender, almost wistful, expression, the
changes which can be made by a great grief, and only wondered why
her sweet benefactress had not taken him into her confidence and
thus, possibly, averted the doom which Doris felt had in some way
grown out of this secrecy.
"Why should she have feared the disapproval of this man?" she
inwardly queried, as she cast him a confiding look which pleased
him greatly, as his tone now showed.
"When I lost my daughter, I lost everything," he declared, as they
walked slowly up the road. "Nothing excites my interest, save that
which once excited hers. I am told that the deepest interest of
her life lay here. I am also told that it was an interest quite
worthy of her. I expect to find it so. I hope with all my heart
to find it so, and that is why I have come to this town and expect
to linger till Mr. Brotherson has recovered sufficiently to see me.
I hope that this will be agreeable to him. I hope that I am not
presuming too much in cherishing these expectations.
Doris turned her candid eyes upon him.
"I cannot tell; I do not know," said she. "Nobody knows, not even
the doctor, what effect the news we so dread to give him will have
upon Mr. Brotherson. You will have to wait--we all shall have to
wait the results of that revelation. It cannot be kept from him
much longer. When I return, I shall shrink from his first look, in
the fear of seeing it betray this dreadful knowledge. Yet I have
a faithful woman there to keep every one out of his room."
"You have had much to carry for one so young," was Mr. Challoner's
sympathetic remark. "You must let me help you when that awful
moment comes. I am at the hotel and shall stay there till Mr.
Brotherson is pronounced quite well. I have no other duty now in
life but to sustain him through his trouble and then, with what
aid he can give, search out and find the cause of my daughter's
death which I will never admit without the fullest proof, to have
been one of suicide."
"It was not suicide," she declared, vehemently. "I have always
felt sure that it was not; but to-day I KNOW."
Her hand fell clenched on her breast and her eyes gleamed strangely.
Mr. Challoner was himself greatly startled. What had happened
--what could have happened since yesterday that she should
emphasise that now?
"I've not told any one," she went on, as he stopped short in the
road, in his anxiety to understand her. "But I will tell you.
Only, not here, not with all these people driving past; most of
whom know me. Come to the house later--this evening, after Mr.
Brotherson's room is closed for the night. I have a little
sitting-room on the other side of the hall where we can talk without
being heard. Would you object to doing that? Am I asking too much
"No, not at all," he assured her. "Expect me at eight. Will that
be too early?"
"No, no. Oh, how those people stared! Let us hasten back or they
may connect your name with what we want kept secret."
He smiled at her fears, but gave in to her humour; he would see her
soon again and possibly learn something which would amply repay him,
both for his trouble and his patience.
But when evening came and she turned to face him in that little
sitting-room where he had quietly followed her, he was conscious of
a change in her manner which forbade these high hopes. The gleam
was gone from her eyes; the tremulous eagerness from her mobile and
sensitive mouth. She had been thinking in the hours which had
passed, and had lost the confidence of that one impetuous moment.
Her greeting betrayed embarrassment and she hesitated painfully
before she spoke.
"I don't know what you will think of me," she ventured at last,
motioning to a chair but not sitting herself. "You have had time
to think over what I said and probably expect something real,
--something you could tell people. But it isn't like that.
It's a feeling--a belief. I'm so sure--"
"Sure of what, Miss Scott?"
She gave a glance at the door before stepping up nearer. He had not
taken the chair she preferred.
"Sure that I have seen the face of the man who murdered her. It
was in a dream," she whisperingly completed, her great eyes misty
"A dream, Miss Scott?" He tried to hide his disappointment.
"Yes; I knew that it would sound foolish to you; it sounds foolish
to me. But listen, sir. Listen to what I have to tell and then
you can judge. I was very much agitated yesterday. I had to
write a letter at Mr. Brotherson's dictation--a letter to her.
You can understand my horror and the effort I made to hide my
emotion. I was quite unnerved. I could not sleep till morning,
and then--and then--I saw--I hope I can describe it."
Grasping at a near-by chair, she leaned on it for support, closing
her eyes to all but that inner vision. A breathless moment
followed, then she murmured in strained monotonous tones:
"I see it again--just as I saw it in the early morning--but even
more plainly, if that is possible. A hall--(I should call it a
hall, though I don't remember seeing any place like it before),
with a little staircase at the side, up which there comes a man,
who stops just at the top and looks intently my way. There is
fierceness in his face--a look which means no good to anybody
--and as his hand goes to his overcoat pocket, drawing out
something which I cannot describe, but which he handles as if it
were a pistol, I feel a horrible fear, and--and--" The child was
staggering, and the hand which was free had sought her heart where
it lay clenched, the knuckles showing white in the dim light.
Mr. Challoner watched her with dilated eyes, the spell under which
she spoke falling in some degree upon him. Had she finished? Was
this all? No; she is speaking again, but very low, almost in a
"There is music--a crash--but I plainly see his other hand approach
the object he is holding. He takes something from the end--the
object is pointed my way--I am looking into--into--what? I do
not know. I cannot even see him now. The space where he stood is
empty. Everything fades, and I wake with a loud cry in my ears and
a sense of death here." She had lifted her hand and struck at her
heart, opening her eyes as she did so. "Yet it was not I who had
been shot," she added softly.
Mr. Challoner shuddered. This was like the reopening of his
daughter's grave. But he had entered upon the scene with a full
appreciation of the ordeal awaiting him and he did not lose his
calmness, or the control of his judgment.
"Be seated, Miss Scott," he entreated, taking a chair himself.
"You have described the spot and some of the circumstances of my
daughter's death as accurately as if you had been there. But you
have doubtless read a full account of those details in the papers;
possibly seen pictures which would make the place quite real to
you. The mind is a strange storehouse. We do not always know what
lies hidden within it."
"That's true," she admitted. "But the man! I had never seen the
man, or any picture of him, and his face was clearest of all. I
should know it if I saw it anywhere. It is imprinted on my memory
as plainly as yours. Oh, I hope never to see that man!"
Mr. Challoner sighed; he had really anticipated something from the
interview. The disappointment was keen. A moment of expectation;
the thrill which comes to us all under the shadow of the
supernatural, and then--this! a young and imaginative girl's dream,
convincing to herself but supplying nothing which had not already
been supplied both by the facts and his own imagination! A man had
stood at the staircase, and this man had raised his arm. She said
that she had seen something like a pistol in his hand, but his
daughter had not been shot. This he thought it well to point out
Leaning toward her that he might get her full attention, he waited
till her eyes met his, then quietly asked:
"Have you ever named this man to yourself?"
She started and dropped her eyes.
"I do not dare to," said she.
"Because I've read in the papers that the man who stood there had
the same name as--"
"Tell me, Miss Scott."
"As Mr. Brotherson's brother."
"But you do not think it was his brother?"
"I do not know."
"You've never seen his brother?"
"Nor his picture?
"No, Mr. Brotherson has none."
"Aren't they friends? Does he never mention Orlando?"
"Very, very rarely. But I've no reason to think they are not on
good terms. I know they correspond."
"Yes, Mr. Challoner."
"You must not rely too much upon your dream."
Her eyes flashed to his and then fell again.
"Dreams are not revelations; they are the reproduction of what
already lies hidden in the mind. I can prove that your dream is
"How?" She looked startled.
"You speak of seeing something being leveled at you which made you
think of a pistol."
"Yes, I was looking directly into it."
"But my daughter was not shot. She died from a stab."
Doris' lovely face, with its tender lines and girlish curves, took
on a strange look of conviction which deepened, rather than melted
under his indulgent, but penetrating gaze.
"I know that you think so;--but my dream says no. I saw this
object. It was pointed directly towards me--above all, I saw his
face. It was the face of one whose finger is on the trigger and
who means death; and I believe my dream."
Well, it was useless to reason further. Gentle in all else, she
was immovable so far as this idea was concerned and, seeing this,
he let the matter go and prepared to take his leave.
She seemed to be quite ready for this. Anxiety about her patient
had regained its place in her mind and her glance sped constantly
toward the door. Taking her hand in his, he said some kind words,
then crossed to the door and opened it. Instantly her finger flew
to her lips and, obedient to its silent injunction, he took up his
hat in silence, and was proceeding down the hall, when the bell
rang, startling them both and causing him to step quickly back.
"Who is it?" she asked. "Father's in and visitors seldom come so
"Shall I see?"
She nodded, looking strangely troubled as the door swung open,
revealing the tall, strong figure of a man facing them from the
"A stranger," formed itself upon her lips, and she was moving
forward, when the man suddenly stepped into the glare of the light,
and she stopped, with a murmur of dismay which pierced Mr.
Challoner's heart and prepared him for the words which now fell
shudderingly from her lips:
"It is he! it is he! I said that I should know him wherever I
saw him." Then with a quiet turn towards the intruder, "Oh, why,
why, did you come here!"
DO YOU KNOW MY BROTHER
Her hands were thrust out to repel, her features were fixed; her
beauty something wonderful. Orlando Brotherson, thus met, stared
for a moment at the vision before him, then slowly and with effort
withdrawing his gaze, he sought the face of Mr. Challoner with the
first sign of open disturbance that gentleman had ever seen in him.
"Ah," said he, "my welcome is readily understood. I see you far
from home, sir." And with an ironical bow he turned again to Doris,
who had dropped her hands, but in whose cheeks the pallor still
lingered in a way to check the easy flow of words with which he
might have sought to carry off the situation. "Am I in Oswald
Brotherson's house?" he asked. "I was directed here. But possibly
there may be some mistake."
"It is here he lives," said she; moving back automatically till she
stood again by the threshold of the small room in which she had
received Mr. Challoner. "Do you wish to see him to-night? If so,
I fear it is impossible. He has been very ill and is not allowed
to receive visits from strangers."
"I am not a stranger," announced the newcomer, with a smile few
could see unmoved, it offered such a contrast to his stern and
dominating figure. "I thought I heard some words of recognition
which would prove your knowledge of that fact."
She did not answer. Her lips had parted, but her thought or at
least the expression of her thought hung suspended in the terror
of this meeting for which she was not at all prepared. He seemed
to note this terror, whether or not he understood its cause, and
smiled again, as he added:
"Mr. Brotherson must have spoken of his brother Orlando. I am he,
Miss Scott. Will you let me come in now?"
Her eyes sought those of Mr. Challoner, who quietly nodded.
Immediately she stepped from before the door which her figure had
guarded and, motioning him to enter, she begged Mr. Challoner, with
an imploring look, to sustain her in the interview she saw before
her. He had no desire for this encounter, especially as Mr.
Brotherson's glance in his direction had been anything but
conciliatory. He was quite convinced that nothing was to be gained
by it, but he could not resist her appeal, and followed them into
the little room whose limited dimensions made the tall Orlando look
bigger and stronger and more lordly in his self-confidence than ever.
"I am sorry it is so late," she began, contemplating his intrusive
figure with forced composure. "We have to be very quiet in the
evenings so as not to disturb your brother's first sleep which is
of great importance to him."
"Then I'm not to see him to-night?"
"I pray you to wait. He's--he's been a very sick man."
Orlando continued to regard her with a peculiar awakening gaze,
showing, Mr. Challoner thought, more interest in her than in his
brother, and when he spoke it was mechanically and as if in sole
obedience to the proprieties of the occasion.
"I did not know he was ill till very lately. His last letter was
a cheerful one, and I supposed that all was right till chance
revealed the truth. I came on at once. I was intending to come
anyway. I have business here, as you probably know, Miss Scott."
She shook her head. "I know very little about business," said she.
"My brother has not told you why he expected me?"
"He has not even told me that he expected you."
"No?" The word was highly expressive; there was surprise in it and
a touch of wonder, but more than all, satisfaction. "Oswald was
always close-mouthed," he declared. "It's a good fault; I'm
obliged to the boy."
These last words were uttered with a lightness which imposed upon
his two highly agitated hearers, causing Mr. Challoner to frown and
Doris to shrink back in indignation at the man who could indulge in
a sportive suggestion in presence of such fears, if not of such
memories, as the situation evoked. But to one who knew the strong
and self-contained man--to Sweetwater possibly, had he been present,
--there was in this very attempt--in his quiet manner and in the
strange and fitful flash of his ordinarily quick eye, that which
showed he was labouring--and had been labouring almost from his
first entrance, under an excitement of thought and feeling which in
one of his powerfully organised nature must end and that soon in an
outburst of mysterious passion which would carry everything before
it. But he did not mean that it should happen here. He was too
accustomed to self-command to forget himself in this presence. He
would hold these rampant dogs in leash till the hour of solitude;
then--a glittering smile twisted his lips as he continued to gaze,
first at the girl who had just entered his life, and then at the
man he had every reason to distrust, and with that firm restraint
upon himself still in full force, remarked, with a courteous
"The hour is late for further conversation. I have a room at the
hotel and will return to it at once. In the morning I hope to see
He was going, Doris not knowing what to say, Mr. Challoner not
desirous of detaining him, when there came the sound of a little
tinkle from the other side of the hall, blanching the young girl's
cheeks and causing Orlando Brotherson's brows to rise in peculiar
"My brother?" he asked.
"Yes," came in faltering reply. "He has heard our voices; I must
go to him."
"Say that Orlando wishes him a good night," smiled her heart's
enemy, with a bow of infinite grace.
She shuddered, and was hastening from the room when her glance fell
on Mr. Challoner. He was pale and looked greatly disturbed. The
prospect of being left alone with a man whom she had herself
denounced to him as his daughter's murderer, might prove a tax to
his strength to which she had no right to subject him. Pausing
with an appealing air, she made him a slight gesture which he at
"I will accompany you into the hall," said he. "Then if anything
is wrong, you have but to speak my name."
But Orlando Brotherson, displeased by this move, took a step which
brought him between the two.
"You can hear her from here if she chooses to speak. There's a
point to be settled between us before either of us leaves this
house, and this opportunity is as good as another. Go to my brother,
Miss Scott; we will await your return."
A flash from the proud banker's eye; but no demur, rather a gesture
of consent. Doris, with a look of deep anxiety, sped away, and the
two men stood face to face.
It was one of those moments which men recognise as memorable. What
had the one to say or the other to hear, worthy of this preamble
and the more than doubtful relation in which they stood each to each?
Mr. Challoner had more time than he expected in which to wonder and
gird himself for whatever suffering or shock awaited him. For,
Orlando Brotherson, unlike his usual self, kept him waiting while he
collected his own wits, which, strange to say, seemed to have
vanished with the girl.
But the question finally came.
"Mr. Challoner, do you know my brother?"
"I have never seen him."
"Do you know him? Does he know you?"
"Not at all. We are strangers."
It was said honestly. They did not know each other. Mr. Challoner
was quite correct in his statement.
But the other had his doubts. Why shouldn't he have? The
coincidence of finding this mourner if not avenger of Edith
Challoner, in his own direct radius again, at a spot so distant,
so obscure and so disconnected with any apparent business reason,
was certainly startling enough unless the tie could be found in
his brother's name and close relationship to himself.
He, therefore, allowed himself to press the question:
"Men sometimes correspond who do not know each other. You knew
that a Brotherson lived here?"
"And hoped to learn something about me
"No; my interest was solely with your brother."
"With my brother? With Oswald? What interest can you have in him
apart from me? Oswald is--"
Suddenly a thought name--an unimaginable one; one with power to
blanch even his hardy cheek and shake a soul unassailable by all
"Oswald Brotherson!" he repeated; adding in unintelligible tones
to himself--"O. B. The same initials! They are following up these
initials. Poor Oswald." Then aloud: "It hardly becomes me, perhaps,
to question your motives in this attempt at making my brother's
acquaintance. I think I can guess them; but your labour will be
wasted. Oswald's interests do not extend beyond this town; they
hardly extend to me. We are strangers, almost. You will learn
nothing from him on the subject which naturally engrosses you."
Mr. Challoner simply bowed. "I do not feel called upon," said he,
"to explain my reasons for wishing to know your brother. I will
simply satisfy you upon a point which may well rouse your curiosity.
You remember that--that my daughter's last act was the writing of
a letter to a little protegee of hers. Miss Scott was that protegee.
In seeking her, I came upon him. Do you require me to say more on
this subject? Wait till I have seen Mr. Oswald Brotherson and then
perhaps I can do so."
Receiving no answer to this, Mr. Challoner turned again to the man
who was the object of his deepest suspicions, to find him still in
the daze of that unimaginable thought, battling with it, scoffing
at it, succumbing to it and all without a word. Mr. Challoner was
without clew to this struggle, but the might of it and the mystery
of it, drove him in extreme agitation from the room. Though proof
was lacking, though proof might never come, nothing could ever alter
his belief from this moment on that Doris was right in her estimate
of this man's guilt, however unsubstantial her reasoning might
How far he might have been carried by this new conviction; whether
he would have left the house without seeing Doris again or
exchanging another word with the man whose very presence stifled
him, he had no opportunity to show, for before he had taken another
step, he encountered the hurrying figure of Doris, who was returning
to her guests with an air of marked relief.
"He does not know that you are here," she whispered to Mr. Challoner,
as she passed him. Then, as she again confronted Orlando who
hastened to dismiss his trouble at her approach, she said quite
gaily, "Mr. Brotherson heard your voice, and is glad to know that
you're here. He bade me give you this key and say that you would
have found things in better shape if he had been in condition to
superintend the removal of the boxes to the place he had prepared
for you before he became ill. I was the one to do that," she added,
controlling her aversion with manifest effort. "When Mr. Brotherson
came to himself he asked if I had heard about any large boxes having
arrived at the station shipped to his name. I said that several
notices of such had come to the house. At which he requested me to
see that they were carried at once to the strange looking shed he
had had put up for him in the woods. I thought that they were for
him, and I saw to the thing myself. Two or three others have come
since and been taken to the same place. I think you will find
nothing broken or disturbed; Mr. Brotherson's wishes are usually
"That is fortunate for me," was the courteous reply.
But Orlando Brotherson was not himself, not at all himself as he
bowed a formal adieu and past the drawn-up sentinel-like figure
of Mr. Challoner, without a motion on his part or on the part of
that gentleman to lighten an exit which had something in it of
doom and dread presage.
It is not difficult to understand Mr. Challoner's feelings or even
those of Doris at the moment of Mr. Brotherson's departure. But why
this change in Brotherson himself? Why this sense of something new
and terrible rising between him and the suddenly beclouded future?
Let us follow him to his lonely hotel-room and see if we can solve
But first, does he understand his own trouble? He does not seem to.
For when, his hat thrown aside, he stops, erect and frowning under
the flaring gas-jet he had no recollection of lighting, his first
act was to lift his hand to his head in a gesture of surprising
helplessness for him, while snatches of broken sentences fell from
his lips among which could be heard:
"What has come to me? Undone in an hour! Doubly undone! First
by a face and then by this thought which surely the devils have
whispered to me. Mr. Challoner and Oswald! What is the link
between them? Great God! what is the link? Not myself? Who
then or what?"
Flinging himself into a chair, he buried his face in his hands.
There were two demons to fight--the first in the guise of an angel.
Doris! Unknown yesterday, unknown an hour ago; but now! Had there
ever been a day--an hour--when she had not been as the very throb
of his heart, the light of his eyes, and the crown of all imaginable
He was startled at his own emotion as he contemplated her image in
his fancy and listened for the lost echo of the few words she had
spoken--words so full of music when they referred to his brother,
so hard and cold when she simply addressed himself.
This was no passing admiration of youth for a captivating woman.
This was not even the love he had given to Edith Challoner. This
was something springing full-born out of nothing! a force which,
for the first time in his life, made him complaisant to the natural
weaknesses of man! a dream and yet a reality strong enough to blot
out the past, remake the present, change the aspect of all his hopes,
and outline a new fate. He did not know himself. There was nothing
in his whole history to give him an understanding of such feelings
Can a man be seized as it were by the hair, and swung up on the
slopes of paradise or down the steeps of hell--without a
forewarning, without the chance even to say whether he wished such
a cataclysm in his life or no?
He, Orlando Brotherson, had never thought much of love. Science
had been his mistress; ambition his lode-star. Such feeling as he
had acknowledged to had been for men--struggling men, men who were
down-trodden and gasping in the narrow bounds of poverty and
helplessness. Miss Challoner had roused--well, his pride. He
could see that now. The might of this new emotion made plain many
things he had passed by as useless, puerile, unworthy of a man of
mental calibre and might. He had never loved Edith Challoner at
any moment of their acquaintanceship, though he had been sincere in
thinking that he did. Doris' beauty, the hour he had just passed
with her, had undeceived him.
Did he hail the experience? It was not likely to bring him joy.
This young girl whose image floated in light before his eyes, would
never love him. She loved his brother. He had heard their names
mentioned together before he had been in town an hour. Oswald, the
cleverest man, Doris, the most beautiful girl in Western Pennsylvania.
He had accepted the gossip then; he had not seen her and it all
seemed very natural;--hardly worth a moment's thought. But now!
And here, the other Demon sprang erect and grappled with him before
the first one had let go his hold. Oswald and Challoner! The
secret, unknown something which had softened that hard man's eye
when his brother's name was mentioned! He had noted it and realised
the mystery; a mystery before which sleep and rest must fly; a
mystery to which he must now give his thought, whatever the cost,
whatever the loss to those heavenly dreams the magic of which was
so new it seemed to envelope him in the balm of Paradise. Away,
then, image of light! Let the faculties thou hast dazed, act again.
There is more than Fate's caprice in Challoner's interest in a man
he never saw. Ghosts of old memories rise and demand a hearing.
Facts, trivial and commonplace enough to have been lost in oblivion
with the day which gave them birth, throng again from the past,
proving that nought dies without a possibility of resurrection.
Their power over this brooding man is shown by the force with which
his fingers crush against his bowed forehead. Oswald and Challoner!
Had he found the connecting link? Had it been--could it have been
Edith? The preposterous is sometimes true; could it be true in this
He recalled the letters read to him as hers in that room of his in
Brooklyn. He had hardly noted them then, he was so sure of their
being forgeries, gotten up by the police to mislead him. Could they
have been real, the effusions of her mind, the breathings of her
heart, directed to an actual O. B., and that O. B., his brother?
They had not been meant for him. He had read enough of the mawkish
lines to be sure of that. None of the allusions fitted in with the
facts of their mutual intercourse. But they might with those of
another man; they might with the possible acts and affections of
Oswald whose temperament was wholly different from his and who might
have loved her, should it ever be shown that they had met and known
each other. And this was not an impossibility. Oswald had been
east, Oswald had even been in the Berkshires before himself. Oswald
--Why it was Oswald who had suggested that he should go there--go
where she still was. Why this second coincidence, if there were no
tie--if the Challoners and Oswald were as far apart as they seemed
and as conventionalities would naturally place them. Oswald was a
sentimentalist, but very reserved about his sentimentalities. If
these suppositions were true, he had had a sentimentalist's motive
for what he did. As Orlando realised this, he rose from his seat,
aghast at the possibilities confronting him from this line of
thought. Should he contemplate them? Risk his reason by dwelling
on a supposition which might have no foundation in fact? No. His
brain was too full--his purposes too important for any unnecessary
strain to be put upon his faculties. No thinking! investigation
first. Mr. Challoner should be able to settle this question. He
would see him. Even at this late hour he ought to be able to find
him in one of the rooms below; and, by the force of an irresistible
demand, learn in a moment whether he had to do with a mere chimera
of his own overwrought fancy, or with a fact which would call into
play all the resources of an hitherto unconquered and undaunted
There was a wood-fire burning in the sitting-room that night, and
around it was grouped a number of men with their papers and pipes.
Mr. Brotherson, entering, naturally looked that way for the man he
was in search of, and was disappointed not to find him there; but
on casting his glances elsewhere, he was relieved to see him
standing in one of the windows overlooking the street. His back
was to the room and he seemed to be lost in a fit of abstraction.
As Orlando crossed to him, he had time to observe how much whiter
was this man's head than in the last interview he had held with him
in the coroner's office in New York. But this evidence of grief in
one with whom he had little, if anything, in common, neither touched
his feelings nor deterred his step. The awakening of his heart to
new and profound emotions had not softened him towards the
sufferings of others if those others stood without the pale he had
previously raised as the legitimate boundary of a just man's
He was, as I have said, an extraordinary specimen of manly vigour
in body and in mind, and his presence in any company always
attracted attention and roused, if it never satisfied, curiosity.
Conversation accordingly ceased as he strode up to Mr. Challoner's
side, so that his words were quite audible as he addressed that
gentleman with a somewhat curt:
"You see me again, Mr. Challoner. May I beg of you a few minutes'
further conversation? I will not detain you long."
The grey head turned, and the many eyes watching showed surprise at
the expression of dislike and repulsion with which this New York
gentleman met the request thus emphatically urged. But his answer
was courteous enough. If Mr. Brotherson knew a place where they
would be left undisturbed, he would listen to him if he would be
For reply, the other pointed to a small room quite unoccupied which
opened out of the one in which they then stood. Mr. Challoner bowed
and in an other moment the door dosed upon them, to the infinite
disappointment of the men about the hearth.
"What do you wish to ask?" was Mr. Challoner's immediate inquiry.
"This; I make no apologies and expect in answer nothing more than
an unequivocal yes or no. You tell me that you have never met my
brother. Can that be said of the other members of your family
--of your deceased daughter, in fact?"
"She was acquainted with Oswald Brotherson?"
"Without your knowledge?"
"Corresponded with him?"
"How, not exactly?"
"He wrote to her--occasionally. She wrote to him frequently--but
she never sent her letters."
The exclamation was sharp, short and conveyed little. Yet with its
escape, the whole scaffolding of this man's hold upon life and his
own fate went down in indistinguishable chaos. Mr. Challoner
realised a sense of havoc, though the eyes bent upon his countenance
had not wavered, nor the stalwart figure moved.
"I have read some of those letters," the inventor finally
acknowledged. "The police took great pains to place them under my
eye, supposing them to have been meant for me because of the
initials written on the wrapper. But they were meant for Oswald.
You believe that now?"
"I know it."
"And that is why I found you in the same house with him."
"It is. Providence has robbed me of my daughter; if this brother
of yours should prove to be the man I am led to expect, I shall ask
him to take that place in my heart and life which was once hers."
A quick recoil, a smothered exclamation on the part of the man he
addressed. A barb had been hidden in this simple statement which
had reached some deeply-hidden but vulnerable spot in Brotherson's
breast, which had never been pierced before. His eye which alone
seemed alive, still rested piercingly upon that of Mr. Challoner,
but its light was fast fading, and speedily became lost in a
dimness in which the other seemed to see extinguished the last
upflaring embers of those inner fires which feed the aspiring soul.
It was a sight no man could see unmoved. Mr. Challoner turned
sharply away, in dread of the abyss which the next word he uttered
might open between them.
But Orlando Brotherson possessed resources of strength of which,
possibly, he was not aware himself. When Mr. Challoner, still more
affected by the silence than by the dread I have mentioned, turned
to confront him again, it was to find his features composed and
his glance clear. He had conquered all outward manifestation of
the mysterious emotion which for an instant had laid his proud
"You are considerate of my brother," were the words with which he
re-opened this painful conversation. "You will not find your
confidence misplaced. Oswald is a straightforward fellow, of few
"I believe it. No man can be so universally beloved without some
very substantial claims to regard. I am glad to see that your
opinion, though given somewhat coldly, coincides with that of his
"I am not given to exaggeration," was the even reply.
The flush which had come into Mr. Challoner's cheek under the effort
he had made to sustain with unflinching heroism this interview with
the man he looked upon as his mortal enemy, slowly faded out till
he looked the wraith of himself even to the unsympathetic eyes of
Orlando Brotherson. A duty lay before him which would tax to its
utmost extent his already greatly weakened self-control. Nothing
which had yet passed showed that this man realised the fact that
Oswald had been kept in ignorance of Miss Challoner's death. If
these brothers were to meet on the morrow, it must be with the full
understanding that this especial topic was to be completely avoided.
But in what words could he urge such a request upon this man? None
suggested themselves, yet he had promised Miss Scott that he would
ensure his silence in this regard, and it was with this difficulty
and no other he had been struggling when Mr. Brotherson came upon
him in the other room.
"You have still something to say," suggested the latter, as an
oppressive silence swallowed up that icy sentence I have already
"I have," returned Mr. Challoner, regaining his courage under the
exigencies of the moment. "Miss Scott is very anxious to have your
promise that you will avoid all disagreeable topics with your brother
till the doctor pronounces him strong enough to meet the trouble
which awaits him."
"He is not as unhappy as we. He knows nothing of the affliction
which has befallen him. He was taken ill--" The rest was almost
But Orlando Brotherson had no difficulty in understanding him, and
for the second time in this extraordinary interview, he gave
evidences of agitation and of a mind shaken from its equipoise.
But only for an instant. He did not shun the other's gaze or even
maintain more than a momentary silence. Indeed, he found strength
to smile, in a curious, sardonic way, as he said:
"Do you think I should be apt to broach this subject with any one,
let alone with him, whose connection with it I shall need days to
realise? I'm not so given to gossip. Besides, he and I have other
topics of interest. I have an invention ready with which I propose
to experiment in a place he has already prepared for me. We can
talk about that."
The irony, the hardy self-possession with which this was said struck
Mr. Challoner to the heart. Without a word he wheeled about towards
the door. Without a word, Brotherson stood, watching him go till he
saw his hand fall on the knob when he quietly prevented his exit by
"Unhappy truths cannot be long concealed. How soon does the doctor
think my brother can bear these inevitable revelations?"
"He said this morning that if his patient were as well to-morrow as
his present condition gives promise of, he might be told in another
Orlando bowed his appreciation of this fact, but added quickly:
"Who is to do the telling?"
"Doris. Nobody else could be trusted with so delicate a task."