Part 5 out of 9
"The heat is really overpowering," said Mrs. Harkaway.
"Shall I open the window?"
"If you please."
He hastened to comply with her request, when at that very instant
something shot past him into the room.
It fell with a clatter upon the table, and cannoned off a dish on to
Jack Harkaway, striking him a rather sharp blow in the chest.
"Yes, a stone with a paper wrapped round it."
"So it is."
"A letter, I should think," suggested Dick.
"If so," said Harkaway, smiling sadly, "it is evidently meant for me."
"You have a striking proof of that," said Dick.
Harkaway undid the paper and scanned it through.
His countenance fell as he read on.
His pale face grew pallid, and rising from his seat, he ran, or rather
staggered, to the window.
"What is the matter?" demanded Dick, jumping up.
"See after the man who threw this letter in," exclaimed Harkaway. "Come
with me--come, come immediately!"
And with this somewhat wild exhortation, he tottered out of the room,
followed by Dick.
Everybody arose from the table in confusion.
Dismay, alarm, was depicted in every face.
"What can it be?" ejaculated Mrs. Harkaway. "Oh, Mr. Jefferson, go and
see, and bring me the news."
"I will. Calm yourself, my dear Mrs. Harkaway; it is very likely to be
good news which thus agitates poor Jack."
Away he went.
"I fear it is the reverse," said Emily, shaking her head.
Jefferson overtook Harkaway and Dick Harvey in the gardens, where an
active search was going forward after the man, or individual of either
sex, who could have thrown the stone with its strange letter.
"Let me see the letter, Jack."
The latter placed it in his hand, and then, to Jefferson's horror and
dismay, he found it contained the following words--
"TO HATED HARKAWAY.
"I have had years and years of patience, and my turn has come at last.
As your eyes glance at these lines, your boy is vainly supplicating for
mercy. Before you reach the signature at foot, your accursed brat will
be dead--mark that--dead! No power on earth can save him. Had you sent
the money demanded as his ransom more promptly, you could have saved
him. May the knowledge of this wring your heart as you have wrung mine
in bygone years.
A HOUSE OF MOURNING--HARVEY'S RESOLVE--A TIME OF
"Horrible!" cried Jefferson; "horrible!"
Dismay and terror were on every face.
The dreadful news paralysed their movements, and rendered them
Dick Harvey was the first to break the silence.
He sprang to his feet, and made for the grounds, motioning the others
to follow him.
"Let us try and catch the postman," he exclaimed; "if we get hold of
him, we may learn something worth knowing."
"Bravo!" responded Jefferson; "a capital idea."
They were flying all over the grounds immediately.
But the result may be guessed in advance.
Not a sign was there of the bearer of this alarming letter.
They gave up the search only when there was not the faintest vestige of
a hope left, and crestfallen and disappointed, they returned to the
"Come," said Dick to the bold American; "we must move; we must be
"For several reasons," replied Dick, "but firstly for the purpose of
giving Jack something to do. It will never do to let a man in his
They sought poor Harkaway again, and led him off to hold a
"Jack," said Harvey, brusquely, "you must not give way to despondency.
I say positively, must not. You will certainly undermine your health."
"Do not fear for me, Dick," returned Harkaway, "I shall be better for a
"Indeed you'll not. Besides, it is not just to the boys."
Harkaway's lips quivered, and a big lump rose in his throat.
He swallowed it with considerable difficulty, and silently wrung Dick's
"Don't, don't, old friend," he faltered, in a broken-hearted voice. "I
can't bear the mention of their names. Poor boys! poor boys!"
"But you must," insisted Harvey. "I don't mean to leave them in the
"What do you mean?"
"What I say. We must not give up the search."
"Ah, Dick, you would persuade me, if you can't persuade yourself."
"You are wrong," replied Harvey. "I have the deepest conviction on the
"To what effect?"
"That they live--both live."
Jack Harkaway looked positively frightened at this reply.
"Dick, Dick," he exclaimed, mournfully, "what are you saying, old
"What I mean. They yet live," returned Harvey boldly.
"But I say, yes, yes."
"I should rather say that they were murdered long before we received
their last message."
"Come, come, Jack," he said; "rouse yourself, man. Whatever can make
you believe this to be true?"
Dick laughed at this.
"That is the very first thing to raise my doubts," replied Dick. "Why,
we have known Hunston all his life, and never found him any thing but
the most notorious liar."
"He told lies as a boy--lies as a youth--lies as a man. His life has
been one long lie, and yet you choose to make yourself wretched and all
of us too upon the strength of such a vagabond's word. Bah!"
Harkaway hung his head and sighed.
"That is not all, Dick," he said; "I have the direst presentiment upon
"Presentiment!" ejaculated Dick, interrupting him.
"Well, Jack, I will not quarrel with you about presentiments, since I
am urged on to what I am about to say and do by presentiments--only my
presentiments are of the most hopeful description."
"Dick," said Harkaway, looking him straight in the face, "you are
trying to deceive me."
"I swear I am not," retorted Harvey, with warmth. "And you shall soon
see whether or not I am in earnest."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that I am going to fetch the boys."
"What wildness are you talking, Dick? What is this?"
"Simply that to-morrow at daybreak I shall start off on the search."
"To the mountains."
Harkaway looked frightened at this.
"Not to trust yourself in the brigands' clutches?"
"I mean to beard the tigers in their lair," echoed Dick firmly; "not a
word, Jack," he added, as he saw Harkaway about to interrupt him, "not
a word; the worthy Richard Harvey will not go, but his spirit in
another skin will go."
"You are never going to trust yourself in a disguise."
"Why, Dick, old friend, were you that unhappy man Protean Bob himself,
Hunston would penetrate your disguise; the eye of hate--"
"Nonsense. If I were Protean Bob, Hunston would be too glad not to
"Now, Jack, you must listen to me, and not give advice. My
determination is taken; nothing can shake it. Hilda and the family
generally must suppose that I have gone to the port to arrange about
our departure, since they all appear to be so thoroughly bent upon
"But they will never believe a word about it."
"That I can not help, but at all events I leave here to-morrow, at
daybreak, and may the shade of one of their victims aid me to throw
dust in the eyes of Hunston and the Italian villain Toro."
"Amen," said Harkaway, seriously.
* * * * *
Surely enough, at daybreak, someone set forth from the villa, but
although we who are behind the scenes can give a shrewd guess at who it
was, the early wanderer looked about as unlike Dick as you could well
Was it indeed Dick?
THE SILK DRESS-MURDER!
The morning after the interview between Hunston and the widow of
Mathias, that woman was missing from the camp.
No one doubted that she had gone on her errand of vengeance, for
Hunston had told Toro and one or two others of her threats against the
Harkaways; but the question was how and when she did so?
No one knew.
The sentinels who all night long had guarded each known path leading to
or from the bivouac were questioned, but neither of them had seen her
Toro was rather annoyed at this; not that he had any great objection to
her slaughtering the whole of the Harkaway family, although he
certainly would prefer to perform that task himself. But he could not
help thinking that a secret path might admit foes, as well as permit
the exit of friends.
However, we must leave Toro to his reflections, and follow the
It was between one and two in the morning when she quitted the bivouac
without being observed, and walked slowly towards the town where the
Harkaways were located.
There was no occasion for hurry.
At that hour of the morning she could not hope to gain admittance to
the house where her foes were located.
A day must pass, and evening come again, before any thing could be
Diana's brain was in a whirl.
Deep-seated, poignant grief for the loss of one whom she had loved with
all the passion her impetuous nature was capable of, made the thought
and hope of revenge grow stronger and stronger.
Vengeance! aye, and a terrible one was what her soul craved.
Let once the deadly blow be stricken, and what matter then even if she
fell into the hands of the authorities? What matter even if her life
was pronounced a forfeit to the law? for life now had little charm for
As the sun rose, she sat down a little way out of the road and tried to
form some connected plan for carrying out her purpose.
But no! her brain was too confused for deep thought, and after a brief
interval she resolved to act upon no plan whatever, but simply do as
the course of events might dictate.
At about the hour when she thought the inhabitants of the town would
begin to stir, Diana walked into the place.
She knew the residence of the Harkaways well, but scarcely glanced at
it as she passed and proceeded to a little house not far from it,
where, according to an inscription over the door, one might obtain
food, drink and lodging.
Entering this place, Diana made a slender meal, and then, telling the
ancient dame who kept the house that she was fatigued, demanded to be
shown where she could repose for an hour or two.
The old woman ushered her into a small, meanly-furnished apartment at
the front of the house,
"Do not disturb me. I will rest till noon if not later," said Diana.
"You shall not be interrupted," was the response, and Diana was left
She tried to sleep, so that she might be stronger and cooler for the
business she had in hand; but the excitement under which she laboured
effectually chased away drowsiness.
A little after noon the woman of the house looked in, and finding her
lodger awake, entered into conversation, commencing by suggesting some
Diana shook her head.
"Ah, my food is very plain and humble," said the old woman. "I can't
give you such dainties as the people over yonder eat."
She jerked her thumb in the direction of the Harkaway residence.
"What people are they?" asked Diana, with an assumed indifference she
was far from feeling.
"Do they, then, eat and drink the best?"
"The very best; oh, they are rich."
"What do they want here?"
"They have come to destroy the brigands; is it not droll?"
"Ha! have they succeeded?"
"No; but if they are not careful, the brigands will destroy them. They
are so careless."
Diana was afraid to exhibit too much interest in the doings of the
Harkaways, lest she should arouse suspicion.
So she simply nodded, and listened most anxiously to what the garrulous
old woman would say next.
"So very careless; anyone might get into their house by the side door,"
said the ancient dame.
"Well, it is their own fault if they are robbed."
"True. But it would be little credit to the robber; they think the
brigands are afraid to enter the town, so they don't take many
Diana treasured up every word of this.
Presently the old woman, finding her guest was not conversationally
inclined, went out again, and Diana was left alone.
The sun set, and darkness began to gather rapidly when she went out,
and after going a little way down the street, returned, and sought the
side door of Harkaway's house.
She turned the handle softly and entered.
There was no one in the kitchen where she found herself, but the
subdued noise of knives and forks in another apartment convinced her
that they were at dinner or some other meal.
Diana, as soon as she had ascertained that fact, glided like a spectre
up the stairs, and noiselessly examined various bedchambers.
At length she decided on hiding herself in one which seemed better
furnished than the others.
"This must be it," she thought.
And she was right.
It was the apartment of Mrs. Harkaway.
On the dressing-table was a folded paper.
Diana opened it, and found that it was a milliner's bill against Mrs.
"For making a pearl-grey silk dress, etc., etc."
To hide herself was Diana's next move.
Clutching her sharp dagger firmly in her hand, the vengeful woman
concealed herself behind some tapestry and waited.
Nor had she long to wait.
A light foot was heard without.
The door was opened, and a second afterwards, a graceful female form
was seated before the mirror, with its back towards Diana.
And a female voice said--
"This pearl-grey silk suits my complexion far better than I thought it
would. But it fits me badly. These Greek milliners are not to be
compared with those of London or Paris."
Then the wearer of the pearl-grey silk heaved a deep sigh, and Diana
softly moved the curtain aside a little to get a view of the person who
The face was not visible, but from the figure generally, Diana had not
the slightest doubt it was Mrs. Harkaway.
"I want some new jewellery sadly," continued "pearl-grey silk;" "but
yet, after all, it would be scarcely safe to wear it here, while the
brigands are in the neighbourhood. But they will soon be done for."
The widow glided out from her hiding-place as the wearer of the silk
"We have one villain safe enough, and another, Mathias, was smothered
in a chimney--ha, ha, ha, ha--oh!"
The laugh ended in a deep groan, and never more came the slightest
sound from those lips that a moment before had been so merry.
Diana had struck so hard and surely that no second blow was needed, for
the first pierced a human heart.
"That laugh was an insult to the memory of my dead husband," she said.
"Let none dare scoff at Mathias."
Like a shadow, she glided away, leaving the wearer of the pearl-grey
silk sitting motionless before the mirror. Dead!
The silk dress soaked with her heart's blood.
A few minutes later, some one entered Mrs. Harkaway's apartment, and
then arose the fearful cry--
YOUNG JACK IN TROUBLE--THE COUNCIL--DOOM OF THE BOYS--A
SOLDIER'S GRAVE AT DAYBREAK.
Young Jack and Harry Girdwood, who by their friends are supposed to
have been grievously ill-treated, found themselves dragged by rough and
brutal hands to a considerable distance from the shore where they had
The boy whom young Jack had rescued, and who decoyed them to their
ruin, disappeared at once.
"Jack," said Harry Girdwood, when recovered from the first shock, "we
are done for."
"No mistake about that," returned young Jack, gloomily.
"Well, well, it is no fault of ours; that is some consolation."
"A precious poor consolation, since here we are."
Here they were interrupted by their captors.
The voice was Hunston's, and that sufficed for young Jack to show signs
The ruffians were only glad of the slightest pretext for further
"We are quite comfortable where we are," said young Jack.
"Insolent brat!" said Hunston contemptuously. "You shall be birched
well for that."
The colour mounted to the boy's face in spite of himself.
"You can threaten in safety, fellow," said young Harkaway, turning and
facing their old enemy, "since you have so many backers to protect
Hunston grew livid.
"You wretched spawn of a hated race," he ejaculated between his teeth,
"do you dare speak to me?"
"There is not much daring required," retorted Jack, boldly.
The words were barely uttered when Hunston dealt the boy a buffet which
nearly sent him to the earth; but young Jack was pretty prompt in
This was a kind of debt which the Harkaways were not long in
Quick as lightning recovering himself, he turned and leapt upon
Hunston, and taking him unexpectedly, he toppled him over and fell upon
him, clutching him by the throat.
"Now I'll show you what it is to lay your dirty ringers on a Harkaway,"
exclaimed the boy, glaring into the other's face.
"Let go, or--"
"My father trounced you before he was my age" cried the boy excitedly,
"and now I'll finish you that you--"
But he was not allowed to complete his threat.
Rough and muscular hands dragged him off.
Else had Hunston fared badly.
It was all momentary, but no sooner had the brigands perceived their
comrade to be in danger than they seized hold of the young prisoner and
dragged him off.
Hunston sprang to his feet, and knife in hand rushed upon the boy, but
the others interfered and placed themselves between the boy and the
"Come, Hunston," said one of the men, "let him alone."
"But he has struck me."
"You provoked it."
"What then? Shall I take a blow from such as he?"
"You were wrong to strike a child--a child too that is unarmed."
Hunston hung his head at this way of putting it.
"No matter; he shall die for this."
"Perhaps so; but meanwhile, there is possibility of ransom. The
interests of the band can not be allowed to suffer for you."
Hunston was silent.
He sheathed his knife, but his silent resolves were not less murderous
for being unuttered.
"Lead the way, Simon," said the brigand who appeared to be chief
Simon stepped onward, and behind him young Jack and Harry were forced
They were walking into captivity, but they could not help themselves;
and so they wisely obeyed, so as not to give their captors fresh excuse
for further barbarity.
The road which Simon led them was a gloomy and narrow defile that wound
precipitously up among the hills.
Sometimes the rocks overhung the road, so that the sky was barely
visible, and here and there heaven was altogether obscured, for they
had to walk through tunnels in the solid rock--too solid apparently to
have been worked by the hand of man.
On they walked upon the gloomy track, the silence only broken by the
echo of their own footfalls.
Any thing so desolate our boys had never beheld.
A dull settled feeling of loneliness and despair fell upon the two boy
After journeying in this way for about two miles they came unexpectedly
(to them--for of course Simon the guide knew where he was leading the
party) upon a circular opening among the hills, beneath which was what
appeared to be a table land of dark earth or peat.
"A swamp," said Harry Girdwood.
"It looks like a bog," said young Jack, "but yet I can see something
"It is water."
"How black--how dismal it looks."
It did, indeed.
Silent and gloomy, like a table of metal, spread the darkling waters of
this strange lake.
Wild and desolate was it in the extreme.
On every side it was enclosed by towering heights, bare, treeless and
Both boys were plainly impressed with the dull solemnity of the scene.
"What does that look like?" said young Jack, in a low voice to his
"I don't know--Lerna, the famous marsh, near Argos."
"No; it was there that Hercules killed the Hydra, wasn't it?"
"I should like to think that it was like that," he said, glancing
around at the brigands about them.
"And that you or we might emulate the example of Hercules."
"But our enemies are more than hydra-headed."
The other glanced eagerly about him before he spoke.
"It is a question; I should almost sooner run a good deal of risk than
be marched quietly off."
Now at this present juncture there was a signal from the topmost hills,
and upon a trumpet note being blown in answer by one of the brigands,
dark, dusky forms appeared upon every side.
Men sprang up in the rocky hills all round the dark waters of the lake,
as promptly as the kilted savages responded to the summons of their
chieftain, Rob Roy Macgregor Campbell.
Whatever wild fancies the two boy prisoners might have had in their
minds, this startling phenomenon effectually drove them away.
And fortunate it was, too, for them.
Hunston called a halt.
The men were nothing loth.
The road they had traversed was steep and rugged, and it had perhaps
told less upon the two boy prisoners than upon any of the party.
The brigands sat and refreshed.
They made a hearty meal of cold meat and coarse bread and herbs, and
they drank of their wine from the skins until their swarthy faces
flushed purple; and whilst they feasted and made merry, the captives
were constrained to look on--in envy perhaps--but not to share the
Hunger fell upon them.
But the boys guessed that their sufferings would only give pleasure to
their captors, and so they kept their troubles in this particular to
"Tighten your belt," said Harry Girdwood; "squeeze your stomach, Jack,
and don't let these wolves see that we are peckish."
Taking the hint, Jack drew in a reef.
The two young comrades were, in reality, not much improved by this
movement; but they thought they were, and imagination goes a great way.
But hunger is an intruder whose importunities there is no denying for
any length of time, and so it fell out that, in spite of their brave
and manful efforts at keeping up each other's pluck and spirit, he
gnawed at their vitals in a way which reduced not only their stamina,
but their spirits.
"This is to be our prison," said Harry Girdwood gloomily; "I feared it
"It is rather like the Lethe than anything else," said young Jack,
pointing to the silent water below. "If we remain here long, we shall
forget all that has gone before, you may be sure. This is the place to
drive us out of our wits more than any spot we could imagine."
"Rather the Styx than the Lethe," said Harry; "banish all hope who
It was indeed a spot to evoke gloomy reflections, and the boys were in
a frame of mind to indulge in such.
This place, they found, was fixed upon as the camp of the brigands, who
had felt it imperative to change their headquarters, since they had
positive proof that their old stronghold was known to their enemies.
Here they were not in danger of surprise, for their men commanded every
outlet, and it must be a rare chance to take them by surprise.
Within a couple of hours of the arrival there of the two boy prisoners
and their captors, the whole of the band sauntered down in twos and
threes, until the vast host that they formed fairly amazed young Jack
and his companion.
"Let us fix a sum on them," said Toro, "so that their parents and
friends may release them if they wish."
This was approved of by one and all of his hearers.
There was only a single dissentient voice.
This was Hunston's.
"If you attempt to temporise," he said, "you will be beaten, for sure."
"Beaten by whom?"
"Such is my experience of him," returned Hunston.
"Nonsense; why shouldn't we make sure of the money if we can?"
"Why not?" said Hunston; "if we can, which I doubt."
"Harkaway is a most affectionate parent, I know well," said Ymeniz; "I
have heard it from a dozen different sources. Once let him know that
his son and the other boy are in danger, and he will pay any money for
"Well." said Toro, "let us say five hundred pounds."
"How much is five hundred pounds?" demanded Ymeniz.
"Twelve thousand, five hundred francs," replied Toro.
"Very good, very good; a fair sum."
"Is it not?"
"How shall we claim it?"
This question was put to the assembled council generally, and answered
eagerly by Hunston.
"Let me do that?"
"Very good, Hunston; be yours that task."
"But remember our old friend Tomaso is still in the power of these
Toro paused, and from all the band arose the unanimous cry--
"Tomaso must be rescued or be avenged!"
Hunston addressed himself to the business with considerable interest.
It is not necessary for me to go through the correspondence which took
place, nor to dilate upon the ingenious manner in which the letters
were delivered by Hunston or his emissaries.
With his wonted shrewdness, he watched for the result of his last
threatening letter himself, and after making the most careful
observations, he descended to the appointed spot and fetched the letter
containing the money.
The five hundred pounds were there, in five Bank of England notes of
one hundred each.
"Five hundred pounds," he said, his vicious eyes glistening as he
touched the crisp new notes, "five hundred pounds! Heaven, what a sum!"
He looked about him.
He was alone.
Not a soul in sight.
"Why should I share it?" he said; "why should it not all be mine?"
Because he feared his lawless companions.
"I'll take up a hundred, one hundred," he muttered, half aloud, "and
this shall serve a double purpose. The four hundred shall remain mine,
and the one hundred theirs, But seeing that they can get nothing out of
Harkaway, they will be the more easily worked upon, and I shall achieve
all I want at one stroke; a noble notion."
Back he went, and then began a comedy which Hunston went through like a
veteran actor, a comedy that was destined to have a tragic finale.
"Toro," said Hunston to the Italian, "to you I may speak as the leader
of these brave fellows; also to you, comrades in general, I may talk
without fear of my motives being in any way misconstrued."
"Here is the reply of the cold-blooded Englishman Harkaway to my demand
for ransom, and you are all my witness that I did not exact a very
"What says he?"
"He sends this," returned Hunston, holding up a single hundred pound
note: "one hundred pounds--two thousand, five hundred francs--in a
word, one-fifth of the sum we demanded, and with it a letter."
A murmur of indignation followed.
"What does the letter say?" they demanded.
"He defies us; he offers this sum, but says that if the boys are not
released before sunrise, he will come and fetch them."
"Let him come."
"So say I; but what shall be done with the boys meanwhile ?"
A momentary silence followed; then came the deep stern words--
"Let them die."
This speaker was Toro.
The Italian's words were eagerly caught up.
"Aye, let them die; but when?"
"When you will," said Hunston; "I care not, so that we are lid of them.
We see clearly that there is no counting upon these Harkaway people for
the ransom set down by us, however reasonable our demands may be."
"Then, I say, let them die to-day."
"Impossible," said one of the brigands, stepping forth.
"Because the traitor, Lirico, is to die at daybreak; we can't have two
executions so near to each other. Let them all die together."
"Lirico," said Hunston, "and why has he to die? I haven't heard in what
he has offended."
"A hateful thing," was the reply of his informant; "Lirico has offended
against the foundation rule of the band."
"He has kept to himself the booty he has gained, and our law is that
any member of the band who shall conceal his booty, or any part or
fragment of the same, to the prejudice of his comrades and fellows
shall die the death of a traitor."
Hunston was silent.
But had anybody been watching him closely then, they would have noticed
that he changed colour.
It was an unpleasant topic to tackle the English ruffian upon, after
all that had just taken place.
"Why so silent, comrade?" said an old brigand named Boulgaris, staring
Hunston full in the face; "do you not approve?"
"Of the law."
"Of course you do," said Boulgaris boldly; "why, you would be the first
to approve. Who could approve more of such a law than you, honest
Hunston winced under the cool scrutiny of the Greek.
Did he know aught about what had taken place?
The idea was utterly absurd.
He (Hunston) had taken too much care that he was not observed for any
vulgar pryer like Boulgaris to find a corner from which to spy upon his
Still it gave him a qualm.
"Quite right," said Hunston, boldly; "quite right and just; any man who
can play false to his fellows deserves to die the death."
"Hear, hear! Let him die."
"And the two boys shall die with him?" asked Boulgaris.
"They shall, at daybreak."
This was put to the assembled throng, and agreed to by all, when
suddenly a single dissentient voice was heard.
"They shall not die."
The brigands looked up, and a boy appeared upon the scene, the boy who
had lured the luckless lads to their present unlucky pitch.
"Aye, Theodora," responded the boy--or rather girl--for a girl it was,
as you have long since discovered, although in male attire.
"And why shall they not die, Theodora?" asked Hunston.
"Ask rather why they should die?" she said sadly. "What have they done
to merit death?"
"Hullo, hullo!" ejaculated Toro.
"Why, whatever is the meaning of this change of tone? I thought that
you, like all others, were most eager for revenge."
"Why? Need I already remind you of the ample cause for vengeance which
we all have?"
"No," returned Theodora, calmly. "But those boys are innocent of
"Then why did you lure them to their destruction?"
The woman sighed.
"Ah, why indeed?"
"I was wicked, cruel, base, deceptive," she replied; "words cannot
paint my wickedness. But I was punished for my badness by peril such as
I have never yet known; and when really running a danger which I
thought but to affect the better to lure our destined victims to their
doom, I was rescued from the grave by them, by the very boys--brave,
brave boys--whom I sought to destroy. Now," she added, turning bodily
to the assembled brigands, "can you ask me why I have changed my tone?"
A dozen voices were heard at once, and all uttered different
"These prisoners are mine by right," said Theodora, "for I have taken
them, I have brought them here; it is for me to dispose of them."
Some few of the brigands agreed to this; but the majority, overruled by
Toro and Hunston, denied her jurisdiction altogether in the matter.
The girl made a passionate appeal to the assembled brigands. But all in
They were resolved.
It was put to the vote, and the result was easily foreseen.
Death by a majority of voices as of ten to one.
"Death at the gibbet," exclaimed Hunston, triumphantly.
"Nay," cried the girl, with superhuman energy, "these two poor boys
have shown themselves better men than most here present. See how they
bear their fate. Be men, then, and if they must die, let them die like
An animated discussion ensued on this, and finally it was agreed that
the hapless boys should die next morning with the traitor Lirico.
QUALMS--THE EVE OF THE END--A SAD VIGIL
Hunston did not close his eyes throughout the night.
The words of Boulgaris rang in his ear like a knell.
Lirico was to die for concealing a part of the spoil which he had made.
What of the four hundred pounds which he, Hunston, had kept back out of
the sum fixed upon for the ransom of the two boys, and which Harkaway
had deposited in the spot agreed upon?
He knew the desperate men he had cast his lot with far too well to
suppose for a moment that there could be any hope for him did they
chance to discover his secret. Would they?
The bare possibility of it made him shudder.
His hand nervously sought the hidden notes, which were concealed in his
chest, and the faintest rustle of the crisp new paper caused his cheek
Once he dozed off, but barely were his eyes closed ere he was troubled
by dreams that caused him to toss about and moan as if in great bodily
pain, and when he awoke, he, dared not try to sleep again, so he arose
and went to look at prisoners.
The two unfortunate boys were awake, and talking to the now
disconsolate author of all their troubles, the disguised girl whom they
had lost themselves in saving.
"Hullo, madam," exclaimed Hunston, brutally, "what do you do here,
talking with the condemned brats."
"I am seeking to comfort them," replied the girl; "to prepare them for
"I mean you and those who are persuaded by you."
"No matter; you had better leave them now to themselves."
"At whose command?" demanded the woman, drawing herself up proudly.
"At mine," returned Hunston, who was fast losing his temper.
"What, you dare!" ejaculated the girl, with flashing eyes.
"Dare!" laughed Hunston. "Will you go away and leave the boys alone, or
must I carry you away?"
The girl's colour forsook her cheek, and she drew nearer to Hunston,
and the latter, startled at her expression, drew back.
"These unhappy boys are doomed to die at daybreak," she said, "but if
you stay a moment longer to molest me or annoy them, I will summon the
men and tell them that you would insult me and murder them."
"It is false."
"I know it," replied the woman, fiercely, "but do you suppose I would
hesitate at that? And what would your life be worth?--what, I ask? Why,
they would wait for no explanation; your presence here would be
sufficient; they would tear you asunder. Begone, craven blackheart.
Hunston muttered something indistinctly, but he bent his head before
the storm of this fierce woman's wrath and slunk away.
She turned to the boys.
"My poor fellows," she said, tenderly, her manner changing as if by
magic, "my unfortunate, brave lads, what can I do for you?"
"You have earned our gratitude," returned Harry Girdwood, "by the
whipping you gave that cur."
"Indeed you have," chimed in young Jack, with warmth.
"How like a beaten hound he looked," said the woman. "But how can I
ever hope to be forgiven by you?"
"We have nothing to forgive."
"Aye, but you have; you have saved my life and I take yours."
"I am the cause of it indirectly."
"Perhaps; but at any rate the innocent cause."
The girl's distress at this was painful to witness.
She had conceived a great affection for the two boys, her youthful
preservers, and she could not tell them how far she was guilty.
She dare not avow that she had started out upon that risky trip to sea
with the intention of simulating the peril which afterwards became too
real, and so decoying the two boys as she had done.
No; she dare not avow this.
She had soon repented of her share in that black business.
Soon--aye, but that soon was all too late.
The thought wrung her heart, and she bent her head and wept.
"This is very painful," said young Jack.
"It is, Jack," said his comrade, in a broken voice. "I don't like to
see a boy crying."
They were still ignorant of their friend's real sex.
* * * * *
"What is that?"
"Don't you hear?"
"I do; it sounds like some heavy instrument beating the earth close at
"Yes, like digging."
The three started at the word.
No sooner was it uttered than the meaning of it struck them all three,
and sent a chill to their very hearts.
Digging at that fatal hour, so short a time before daybreak, could have
but one significance.
Grave-making; and if the two hapless boys quailed at that awful sound,
can we accuse them of cowardice?
Who amongst the bravest could listen to such a sound unmoved?
To have been callous to such a thing would have shown them mere
senseless logs, nothing more.
"You know what that is?" she said, in a faint voice.
"We do," responded Harry Girdwood.
This was to young Jack.
The reply of both was given in a grave voice, befitting such a solemn
Yet their voices never trembled, never faltered.
She understood them well, and her expression showed clearly as words
the admiration she felt for their courage.
"I am glad that you know the worst," she said, in a low but impressive
tone, "for the unpleasant task of telling you is not left for me. Have
you any thing to say before--"
"All that I would say," remarked young Jack, "that since they mean
assassinating us, I hope that they will do their work cleanly, and not
put us to the torture."
"At the worst," added his companion, "we shall not give them the
satisfaction of seeing us beg and pray for mercy."
"It would be useless."
"We know it."
"And so shall not give them the chance of saying that two Englishmen
showed the white feather."
"Bravely spoken," said the girl, "but the night is growing old, and so
listen to what I have to say."
And then she made a communication which considerably startled them.
At first they listened as though in a dream, for they could not believe
in the reality of what she said, but they were not sorry to believe in
The nature of this communication will appear later on.
"And now," she said solemnly, "the time is short. I must insist upon
your sleeping. Rest, and I will watch by your side. A friendly voice at
least shall call you for the last dreadful trial of all."
THE TRIPLE EXECUTION--A SOLDIER'S GRAVE--TORO'S LUCK.
The eastern sky was only just tinged with the light of the rising sun
when the bugle call summoned the firing party.
The party in question was composed of six men commanded by Hunston.
He had insisted upon having this post, one that none of the brigands
envied him--so that he might gloat over his victims at the last hour.
The two boys were aroused with some difficulty, for strange though it
may appear, they were sleeping soundly when the fatal moment
"Come," said the girl, in a hollow voice. "Lirico is already on the
"We mustn't be behindhand then."
"No," added Harry Girdwood; "they must see how Englishmen can face
And then, led by the girl who had, to her sorrow, brought them to this
dire pass, they came to the spot where the tragedy was to take place.
Lirico, the traitor, was already pinioned, and he stood with his eyes
bandaged upon the edge of the grave which was shortly to receive his
Upon either side of this was a newly-dug trench or grave.
One of these was for young Jack.
The other was for his stout-hearted comrade.
They needed no telling what to do now; but each went through his part
in the horrible ceremony as though it had been previously rehearsed.
Not a word was spoken.
The only signs of emotion which the boys exhibited were when they
silently wrung each other's hands before taking their places before
The girl passed before each of the unhappy victims and shook them by
the hand one after the other. "Courage," she said, in a low but firm
voice, "courage, brave hearts."
"Bandage their eyes," said Hunston.
"No; let us look upon our fate," said young Jack.
"The old Harkaway brag to the very last," said Hunston, with a sneer.
"You don't like to look a Harkaway in the face, assassin!" retorted the
"Fool!" exclaimed Hunston, "since you want it, you shall have it. Fire
at the middle first. They can have an opportunity of seeing a real man
die before their eyes. It may give them a relish for their own share to
The word was given.
"Ready! Present! Fire!"
The six rifles flashed simultaneously.
Then, as the wounded Lirico was struck, he bounded into the air and
fell back into the grave--stone dead!
Hunston stood smiling grimly, even while the very men turned sick at
the butchery they were forced to enact.
He, with fiend-like satisfaction, noticed the sickly pallor of the two
boys' faces, and it gladdened his black heart.
"They aren't quite so happy now," he muttered. "Now it is they suffer.
Oh, if Harkaway were here too. It would make me drunk with joy."
The girl turned to young Jack.
"Courage," she whispered, "courage; be bold."
And then turning to the firing party, she said--
"Come, do not delay. It is needless to prolong the sufferings which
these poor boys feel already."
"Silence, and begone!" exclaimed Hunston fiercely. "You have no right
to speak to the men."
"I have every right," returned the woman, boldly. "Silence yourself, I
say, and know your place!"
Her voice and manner half-awed Hunston, who fell back a pace or two.
"My poor comrades," she went on, addressing the firing party, "this
work is not to your taste. I'll load for you."
So saying, she set to work to reload the rifles, which were piled now.
And she observed the very greatest care in this task.
"Not a shot must miss," she said to the men of the firing party,
earnestly. "Every bullet must have its billet. We have to murder, but
even then not to torture, these unhappy boys."
Hunston smiled sardonically.
"How very tender-hearted you have become," he said, with a sneer of
"Silence!" said the girl, turning fiercely upon him, so that he
actually quailed before her indignant gaze. "Silence, I tell you,
Hunston would have retorted at this, but prudence bade him be silent.
For the girl was a great favourite with all the men, and he feared that
they might take up the cudgels for her in a way which might be
unpleasant for him.
"So, young Harkaway," he said, jeeringly, "you wish to see it all go
before you. It prolongs your pleasure, and so I can't complain. This
He pointed with his sword to Harry Girdwood.
The latter looked deadly pale but resolute.
"Ready! Present! Fire!"
Young Jack turned half round, and saw his brave comrade clap his hand
to his breast, totter and fall.
A cry rose to his lips.
But he stifled it ere Hunston should have this small gratification.
Hunston looked round at young Jack, and he positively bit his lips with
sheer vexation to find that he was unable to make the boy betray the
least sign of fear.
"You keep it up well, boy," said Hunston, "but I know well that you are
ready to sink through the ground with fear, nevertheless."
Hunston flushed purple.
But he kept down his rage.
"As you are going to die, boy, I may let you off the birching which
your impertinence merits. You have all the old brag of your father."
Jack was silent.
"All his deceit; all his sham and falseness--"
The boy said nothing.
"All his craven-hearted, black-hearted villany."
But young Jack saw through the other's game clearly enough.
He held his peace.
He knew well enough that the real way to enrage the ruffian was to
appear unmoved at his taunts.
So when Hunston had exhausted his expletives and was about to give the
word to the firing party, young Jack spoke.
Hunston made the men a sign to ground arms.
The boy was about to beg for mercy.
Here, then, there was one chance of wreaking his spite upon the lad.
Now he should be able to feast his ears with the unhappy boy's piteous
appeals, for he well judged that, once he began to plead for pity, all
his fortitude would go.
"Before they fire," said young Jack, pale but resolute, as his comrade
Harry had just shown himself, "one word."
"I can speak as one on the brink of the grave," said the boy, "and so
my words may be prophetic. Before many weeks are over, you shall kneel
and sue for mercy to my father, and it will be denied you. You will
grovel in the dirt, and crawl and cringe in abject misery; but it will
be hopeless, and in the bitterness of your despair you will think of
this moment, and curse the hour you ever molested one of my race, or
anyone in whom we are interested."
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Hunston, in a boisterous and forced manner;
"quite a sermon. Preaching is a new quality in the Harkaways. It is
unfortunate that you are to be cut off in your early youth. You would
soon bloom into an odd mixture of Puritan and bully."
But he could not provoke his victim.
Having said all he had to say, young Jack coolly folded his arms and
waited the end of the tragedy, apparently not hearing what Hunston was
* * * * *
"Make ready! Present! Fire!"
As the word was spoken, the volley was fired.
The unhappy boy--the last of the three victims--threw up his arms, and
fell back into the new-made grave yawning to receive him.
Poor young Jack!
The body did not even quiver after it had fallen into the grave.
Apparently death had been instantaneous.
"Fill in the graves and cover up the carrion," said Hunston; "and then
let us get away and make merry."
The girl stepped up and interposed herself.
"Begone and leave the rest to me,"
"It was so agreed," said one of the men.
"Let us pray for them now," said the girl. "Surely, having destroyed
their bodies, you do not wish them any further harm."
She waited for no reply, but falling upon her knees, was soon lost in
holy meditation, her hands clasped fervently, her head bent upon her
The men doffed their hats reverently and glided noiselessly away.
Hunston feared to shock their superstitious susceptibilities, and so he
followed them in silence.
* * * * *
For several hours she was left to her meditations.
And when, some hours later in the day, Hunston returned to the spot,
the three graves were filled in.
Over those of the two unhappy lads some pious hands had raised a rough
"The first to taste our vengeance," muttered Hunston.
"May the others soon follow," said a voice at his elbow.
It was Toro.
"This is the turn of our luck," said the Italian, exultingly.
"I hope so."
"I feel it so. The rest of the hated race will soon follow, if we have
the least good fortune."
THE BRIGAND'S RECRUIT--HUNSTON'S PERIL--DELICATE
"Who is it?"
"Below; down that crevasse. Look again."
"I see; it is Ymeniz."
"It is, it is."
The speakers were two of the brigands who were plying their lawless
trade; and passing along a mountain ridge, a short time after the
execution, they suddenly espied the body of a man lying flat upon his
Upon his breast was something white, which they could not quite
The form and features, however, they had no particular difficulty in
It was their comrade Ymeniz, they could see well.
"He has fallen down there," said one to the other.
"It looks so."
Now, strange to relate, that although they said this to each other,
they both had misgivings.
The body lay in such a strange attitude.
However, they soon proceeded to solve the problem, and set all doubts
Passing down to a lower ridge by a circuitous path well known to them
both, they reached the bottom of the crevasse.
"He is dead--murdered!"
"And here, by all the powers of evil!" exclaimed the brigand, "here is
the confession of the murderer."
"A confession!" exclaimed the brigand.
"Yes. Take it," said the other, lifting the paper from the blood-
stained breast of the slain Ymeniz, "take it and read for yourself."
"Nay, you know I am no scholar; do you read it out to me."
In a sonorous voice the brigand read the following document--
"I, Jack Harkaway, proclaim war to the knife against the murderers of
my boys. The villains Hunston and Toro will tell you all that I never
threatened in vain. One of your number shall die daily until I have
exterminated you root and branch. No amount of precaution upon your
part can avert your doom. You claimed a ransom of five hundred pounds
for my son. I have paid the sum demanded, and you have played me false;
therefore, you die. To the last man you shall perish. You shall learn
to look forward to your fate in fear and trembling; and day by day the
survivors, anticipating their turn, shall learn to curse the hour that
they were led to murder my two innocent boys. Beware!"
The two brigands looked at each other half scared.
"What of that, do you think?"
The other looked nervously around him before replying.
"It is grave."
"Poor Ymeniz! he has been stabbed in the back."
"No; here is the death wound below the heart."
"Then he has not been taken by surprise."
The two men made their way with all despatch to their camp, carrying
the paper with them.
The sensation it caused is indescribable when Boulgaris read it aloud
to the assembled brigands.
"Death to the Englishman Harkaway!" exclaimed one of the brigands,
The cry was caught eagerly up by all--save one.
This one was Hunston.
It was not that he hated Harkaway less intensely than his comrades that
he remained silent.
It was simply that in his fierce denunciation of the brigands, Harkaway
had told about the money.
Lirico was barely cold in his grave for an offence which, beside that
of Hunston's, was a mere paltry pilfering.
The secret was in great danger now.
If they should believe Harkaway, then his (Hunston's) position was
indeed critical. What should he do? What would be better than to cast
doubt and derision upon Harkaway's dark menaces.
"The man is a charlatan, a humbug," he said, curling his lip; "and his
purpose is more than accomplished could he but know it, which he does
not, I am glad to say. He would laugh rarely could he but know what an
alarm you have taken at this message."
But they would not let this pass unchallenged.
"It is no joke, Hunston," said Boulgaris, seriously.
"How do you know?" demanded Hunston, quickly.
"The death of Ymeniz is proof enough. That is no joke."
"Moreover, I for one feel sure that this Englishman Harkaway speaks
"In saying that he gave the ransom."
"Why, where, then, do you think it is?" demanded Hunston, with an
assumption of boldness, yet trembling as he waited the reply.
Boulgaris answered with a single word--
A murmur ran round the assembled throng.
"What!" cried one of the brigands, stepping forward; "is it possible
that we have more thieves and traitors amongst us?"
"Death to all traitors, say I!"
And so the cry went round from mouth to mouth.
Hunston trembled for his very life.
"Who can have stolen the money?" demanded one of the men, fiercely.
"Who but he who was charged to fetch the money from the old well, the
spot appointed--who but the comrade that fetched the money?"
"Why," exclaimed Toro, turning to Hunston, "then it was--"
Hunston turned heartsick as every eye was directed towards him.
"Never!" exclaimed Hunston, fiercely.
This was a critical moment for the latter.
For awhile his life hung upon a very slender thread.
Hunston, to begin with, was no favourite.
But he was a lucky villain.
At the very moment that matters were looking so very unpleasant, their
attention was called off in another direction.
"Do you hear that? The sentry is giving the alarm."
They were all accustomed to danger, and were on the qui vive ere the
alarm was fairly sounded.
Pistols, knives, and blunderbusses were called into requisition.
And all was ready to give an intruder a warm reception.
Toro climbed up a crag and peered over.
Then turning to the men, he motioned them to silence.
"Hush! He comes this way. Back!"
And then, at a sign from him, every man glided quickly, silently off,
and concealed himself behind a rock, or bush, or wherever a favourable
place was to be discovered.
Then a stumbling noise was heard, and a man crept through a gap and
hobbled on to the scene.
He was a strange, wild-looking fellow, with long fair hair and eyebrows
almost as light as an albino's.
His cheeks were fair, but much sunburnt, and almost destitute of beard.
He progressed with difficulty, and leant heavily upon a staff cut
roughly from a tree, and from its green bark and slovenly-stripped
branches only recently cut, too.
He was apparently a young man, and if he progressed with so much
difficulty, the natural inference was that fatigue and perhaps illness
was the cause of it.
He was dressed in a very tattered outlandish costume.
He carried a long knife stuck in his waistband, but he had no arms
His arms were bare to the elbow, and the left one was bleeding from a
flesh wound that did not look many hours' old.
Evidently he was no milksop, for although the wound was pretty severe,
the only care he had taken was to tie it loosely up with a strip of
Perhaps he had lost blood and began to feel it, for, as he drew into
the open, he dropped heavily down upon a rocky seat and gave a sigh or
grunt of relief.
"I'm not sorry to come to an anchor."
He spoke in English.
But if he thought to rest here in peace, he was destined to be
Barely had he stretched out his legs, when he was startled by a sound
at his side, and glancing up, he found a huge, black-muzzled fellow
towering above him and covering him with a long-barrelled horse pistol.
Out came his long knife instanter.
"Move or speak, and I pull the trigger," said the brigand.
"Thank you for nothing," said the stranger.
"Who are you?" demanded the brigand.
"Just what I was about to ask you," returned the stranger, lightly.
"Whence come you?"
"Precisely the question I was going to put."
The brigand's colour came and he grew vicious.
"If you are wise, you'll not try to fool me," he said.
"If you have any wit," retorted the new-comer, "you'll not come
pestering me with questions; I'm not in the humour, and when I am put
out, I'm dangerous. Good-morning."
The brigand, finding he could get nothing out of the eccentric
stranger, fell back a pace or two, and the latter thought that he was
to be molested no further.
He was mistaken.
Nor was he long in making this discovery.
The withdrawal of the brigand was a signal for a regular mob of the
lawless men to make their appearance.
Every nook and cranny about the opening was guarded by armed men; and
now, when the cool stranger glanced up-wards, he found a dozen rifles,
pistols or blunderbusses pointed at him.
Still he did not appear disconcerted.
He only glanced about him with a coolness that was remarkable, and
"Dear, dear, how very attentive these dear boys are."
Before he could speak to them, however, they stepped out from their
hiding places, and with their firearms still making him their target,
they advanced to close in upon him.
When he saw the object of this manoeuvre, he jumped up and plucked out
"So, so," he cried, "sold, eh? Come on, all of you."
"What does he say?" demanded one of the Greeks, turning to Toro.
"He challenges us all at once to fight him."
"Why, the fellow's mad or an Englishman."
"Yes," said Hunston, "an Englishman. That makes him feel he is a match
for a mob of Greeks, and I don't know that it is all madness."
Suddenly the stranger appeared to liven up.
"What, you are not the police, then?" he ejaculated.
"Police!" said Hunston, contemptuously turning round to the speaker.
"What do you mean by that?"
"Why, I took you for the police in pursuit of me."
"What have you been doing?"
"Am I among friends?"
"We are brigands, but you can speak freely."
"Well, then, I am an unlucky wretch who has been forced to bolt away
from his master and his living--and all for nothing."
"What do you call nothing?" said Toro.
"A trifling peccadillo, sir; nothing more, I assure you--merely a few
pounds and a paltry bit of jewellery belonging to an Englishwoman of
the name of Harkaway."
They all pricked up their ears at this name.
"Hullo, hullo!" exclaimed Toro; "what is this? Stand forward, man. Do
you know Harkaway?"
"I do--to my sorrow," replied the man; "he was my master."
The brigands all pricked up their ears at this.
"Harkaway's servant, were you?" said Hunston, eagerly.
"I was, sir."
"And what may be your object in coming here?"
"To join you."
"Do you know--"
"Who you are? Yes, of course; at least I can guess it--I'm uncommon
good at guessing."
And he chuckled again.
"The fellow's an idiot," said Hunston.
"Do you bring any information to us?"
This question was put by the Italian bully and brigand, and to him the
stranger turned with an elaborate bow.
"What do you want?"
"To get hold of Harkaway himself," cried Toro.
"Then I can help you to do this."
"You can--then money shall be yours," said Toro.
"I hope so; why, I've got that already from them."
"A pretty lump. Look."
It was a bag of money composed of pieces of copper, silver and gold.
It was a good round sum, and it looked considerably more than it was.
"Is that all?"
"I have these few nicknacks," added the stranger, producing a bundle
tied in his pocket-handkerchief.
They tore open the bundle eagerly and it was found to contain various
articles of plate, a silver candlestick, and some jewels.
"Those," he said, pointing to the latter, "belonged to Mrs. Harkaway,
and I believe she set some store by them--they were wedding presents."
"So much the better," exclaimed Toro, exultingly.
"So say I," added Hunston.
"Is all this a fair amount for a fellow to bring as his entrance fee?"
demanded the stranger.
"What say you, comrades?" demanded Toro of the bystanders. "You are the
best judges. Shall we admit this man in as a brother and a comrade?"
"We will," shouted the brigands.
"Agreed on all hands?" said the Italian chief.
It was answered as if with a single voice.
"Good," said Toro; "do you, Boulgaris, prescribe the oath."
The oath, which was administered in Greek, was not at all understood by
the novice, but he subscribed to it cheerfully.
"You swear to devote your life to the destruction of your enemies,"
"I do," responded the new brigand, with fervour.
"Enough. What is your name?"
"Geoffrey Martin," repeated Toro; "the name has a ring about it that I
like. Now understand, the end of the Harkaways draws near; one has
already paid the forfeit."
"Who?" cried the stranger.
"Two!" said a voice.
The brigands turned and beheld Diana, the widow of Mathias.
"Two have already fallen, for I myself struck the wife of this hated
Harkaway to the heart with my dagger," cried the fierce woman.
And she then recounted (as we have done in a previous chapter) how she
gained admittance to the Harkaway mansion, concealed herself in Mrs.
Harkaway's chamber, and dealt her the fatal blow.
To all this the brigands' new recruit listened calmly enough.
When, with an air of triumph, Diana concluded her narration, the
brigands cheered loudly.
"Another of our hated foes dead. Three cheers for the brave Diana!"
"Certainly," said Geoffrey Martin politely.