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LITTLE NOVELS by Wilkie Collins

Part 9 out of 10

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"Don't speak of that man!"

"Why not?"

"He is young enough to be your son; and he is marrying
you--impudently, undisguisedly marrying you--for your money!"

"And I am marrying him--impudently, undisguisedly marrying
him--for his rank."

"You needn't remind me, Matilda, that you are the daughter of a

"In a week or two more, Elizabeth, I shall remind you that I am
the wife of a nobleman's son."

"A younger son; don't forget that."

"A younger son, as you say. He finds the social position, and I
find the money--half a million at my own sole disposal. My future
husband is a good fellow in his way, and his future wife is anot
her good fellow in her way. To look at your grim face, one would
suppose there were no such things in the world as marriages of

"Not at your time of life. I tell you plainly, your marriage will
be a public scandal."

"That doesn't frighten us," Miss Dulane remarked. "We are
resigned to every ill-natured thing that our friends can say of
us. In course of time, the next nine days' wonder will claim
public attention, and we shall be forgotten. I shall be none the
less on that account Lady Howel Beaucourt. And my husband will be
happy in the enjoyment of every expensive taste which a poor man
call gratify, for the first time in his life. Have you any more
objections to make? Don't hesitate to speak plainly."

"I have a question to ask, my dear."

"Charmed, I am sure, to answer it--if I can."

"Am I right in supposing that Lord Howel Beaucourt is about half
your age?"

"Yes, dear; my future husband is as nearly as possible half as
old as I am."

Mrs. Newsham's uneasy virtue shuddered. "What a profanation of
marriage!" she exclaimed.

"Nothing of the sort," her friend pronounced positively.
"Marriage, by the law of England (as my lawyer tells me), is
nothing but a contract. Who ever heard of profaning a contract?"

"Call it what you please, Matilda. Do you expect to live a happy
life, at your age, with a young man for your husband?"

"A happy life," Miss Dulane repeated, "because it will be an
innocent life." She laid a certain emphasis on the last word but

Mrs. Newsham resented the emphasis, and rose to go. Her last
words were the bitterest words that she had spoken yet.

"You have secured such a truly remarkable husband, my dear, that
I am emboldened to ask a great favor. Will you give me his
lordship's photograph?"

"No," said Miss Dulane, "I won't give you his lordship's

"What is your objection, Matilda?"

"A very serious objection, Elizabeth. You are not pure enough in
mind to be worthy of my husband's photograph."

With that reply the first of the remonstrances assumed hostile
proportions, and came to an untimely end.


THE second remonstrance was reserved for a happier fate. It took
its rise in a conversation between two men who were old and true
friends. In other words, it led to no quarreling.

The elder man was one of those admirable human beings who are
cordial, gentle, and good-tempered, without any conscious
exercise of their own virtues. He was generally known in the
world about him by a fond and familiar use of his Christian name.
To call him "Sir Richard" in these pages (except in the character
of one of his servants) would be simply ridiculous. When he lent
his money, his horses, his house, and (sometimes, after unlucky
friends had dropped to the lowest social depths) even his
clothes, this general benefactor was known, in the best society
and the worst society alike, as "Dick." He filled the hundred
mouths of Rumor with his nickname, in the days when there was an
opera in London, as the proprietor of the "Beauty-box." The
ladies who occupied the box were all invited under the same
circumstances. They enjoyed operatic music; but their husbands
and fathers were not rich enough to be able to gratify that
expensive taste. Dick's carriage called for them, and took them
home again; and the beauties all agreed (if he ever married) that
Mrs. Dick would be the most enviable woman on the face of the
civilized earth. Even the false reports, which declared that he
was privately married already, and on bad terms with his wife,
slandered him cordially under the popular name. And his intimate
companions, when they alluded among each other to a romance in
his life which would remain a hidden romance to the end of his
days, forgot that the occasion justified a serious and severe use
of his surname, and blamed him affectionately as "poor dear

The hour was midnight; and the friends, whom the most hospitable
of men delighted to assemble round his dinner-table, had taken
their leave with the exception of one guest specially detained by
the host, who led him back to the dining-room.

"You were angry with our friends," Dick began, "when they asked
you about that report of your marriage. You won't be angry with
Me. Are you really going to be the old maid's husband?"

This plain question received a plain reply: "Yes, I am."

Dick took the young lord's hand. Simply and seriously, he said:
"Accept my congratulations."

Howel Beaucourt started as if he had received a blow instead of a

"There isn't another man or woman in the whole circle of my
acquaintance," he declared, "who would have congratulated me on
marrying Miss Dulane. I believe you would make allowances for me
if I had committed murder."

"I hope I should," Dick answered gravely. "When a man is my
friend--murder or marriage--I take it for granted that he has a
reason for what he does. Wait a minute. You mustn't give me more
credit than I deserve. I don't agree with you. If I were a
marrying man myself, I shouldn't pick an old maid--I should
prefer a young one. That's a matter of taste. You are not like
me. _You_ always have a definite object in view. I may not know
what the object is. Never mind! I wish you joy all the same."

Beaucourt was not unworthy of the friendship he had inspired. "I
should be ungrateful indeed," he said, "if I didn't tell you what
my object is. You know that I am poor?"

"The only poor friend of mine," Dick remarked, "who has never
borrowed money of me."

Beaucourt went on without noticing this. "I have three expensive
tastes," he said. "I want to get into Parliament; I want to have
a yacht; I want to collect pictures. Add, if you like, the
selfish luxury of helping poverty and wretchedness, and hearing
my conscience tell me what an excellent man I am. I can't do all
this on five hundred a year--but I can do it on forty times five
hundred a year. Moral: marry Miss Dulane."

Listening attentively until the other had done, Dick showed a
sardonic side to his character never yet discovered in
Beaucourt's experience of him.

"I suppose you have made the necessary arrangements," he said.
"When the old lady releases you, she will leave consolation
behind her in her will."

"That's the first ill-natured thing I ever heard you say, Dick.
When the old lady dies, my sense of honor takes fright, and turns
its back on her will. It's a condition on my side, that every
farthing of her money shall be left to her relations."

"Don't you call yourself one of them?"

"What a question! Am I her relation because the laws of society
force a mock marriage on us? How can I make use of her money
unless I am her husband? and how can she make use of my title
unless she is my wife? As long as she lives I stand honestly by
my side of the bargain. But when she dies the transaction is at
an end, and the surviving partner returns to his five hundred a

Dick exhibited another surprising side to his character. The most
compliant of men now became as obstinate as the proverbial mule.

"All very well," he said, "but it doesn't explain why--if you
must sell yourself--you have sold yourself to an old lady. There
are plenty of young ones and pretty ones with fortunes to tempt
you. It seems odd that you haven't tried your luck with one of

"No, Dick. It would have been odd, and worse than odd, if I had
tried my luck with a young woman."

"I don't see that."

"You shall see it directly. If I marry an old woman for her
money, I have no occasion to be a hypocrite; we both know that
our marriage is a mere matter of form. But if I make a young
woman my wife because I want her money, and if that young woman
happens to be worth a straw, I must deceive her and disgrace
myself by shamming love. That, my boy, you may depend upon it, I
will never do."

Dick's face suddenly brightened with a mingled expression of
relief and triumph.

"Ha! my mercenary friend," he burst out, "there's something mixed
up in this business which is worthier of you than anything I have
heard yet. Stop! I'm going to be clever for the first time in my
life. A man who talks of love as you do, must have felt love
himself. Where is the young one and the pretty one? And what
has she done, poor dear, to be deserted for an old woman? Good
God! how you look at me! I have hurt your feelings--I have been a
greater fool than ever--I am more ashamed of myself than words
can say!"

Beaucourt stopped him there, gently and firmly.

"You have made a very natural mistake," he said. "There _was_ a
young lady. She has refused me--absolutely refused me. There is
no more love in my life. It's a dark life and an empty life for
the rest of my days. I must see what money can do for me next.
When I have thoroughly hardened my heart I may not feel my
misfortune as I feel it now. Pity me or despise me. In either
case let us say goodnight."

He went out into the hall and took his hat. Dick went out into
the hall and took _his_ hat.

"Have your own way," he answered, "I mean to have mine--I'll go
home with you."

The man was simply irresistible. Beaucourt sat down resignedly on
the nearest of the hall chairs. Dick asked him to return to the
dining-room. "No," he said; "it's not worth while. What I can
tell you may be told in two minutes." Dick submitted, and took
the next of the hall chairs. In that inappropriate place the
young lord's unpremeditated confession was forced out of him, by
no more formidable exercise of power than the kindness of his

"When you hear where I met with her," he began, "you will most
likely not want to hear any more. I saw her, for the first time,
on the stage of a music hall."

He looked at Dick. Perfectly quiet and perfectly impenetrable,
Dick only said, "Go on." Beaucourt continued in these words:

"She was singing Arne's delicious setting of Ariel's song in the
'Tempest,' with a taste and feeling completely thrown away on the
greater part of the audience. That she was beautiful--in my eyes
at least--I needn't say. That she had descended to a sphere
unworthy of her and new to her, nobody could doubt. Her modest
dress, her refinement of manner, seemed rather to puzzle than to
please most of the people present; they applauded her, but not
very warmly, when she retired. I obtained an introduction through
her music-master, who happened to be acquainted professionally
with some relatives of mine. He told me that she was a young
widow; and he assured me that the calamity through which her
family had lost their place in the world had brought no sort of
disgrace on them. If I wanted to know more, he referred me to the
lady herself. I found her very reserved. A long time passed
before I could win her confidence--and a longer time still before
I ventured to confess the feeling with which she had inspired me.
You know the rest."

"You mean, of course, that you offered her marriage?"


"And she refused you on account of your position in life."

"No. I had foreseen that obstacle, and had followed the example
of the adventurous nobleman in the old story. Like him, I assumed
a name, and presented myself as belonging to her own respectable
middle class of life. You are too old a friend to suspect me of
vanity if I tell you that she had no objection to me, and no
suspicion that I had approached her (personally speaking) under a

"What motive could she possibly have had for refusing you?" Dick

"A motive associated with her dead husband," Beaucourt answered.
"He had married her--mind, innocently married her--while his
first wife was living. The woman was an inveterate drunkard; they
had been separated for years. Her death had been publicly
reported in the newspapers, among the persons killed in a railway
accident abroad. When she claimed her unhappy husband he was in
delicate health. The shock killed him. His widow--I can't, and
won't, speak of her misfortune as if it was her fault--knew of no
living friends who were in a position to help her. Not a great
artist with a wonderful voice, she could still trust to her
musical accomplishments to provide for the necessities of life.
Plead as I might with her to forget the past, I always got the
same reply: 'If I was base enough to let myself be tempted by the
happy future that you offer, I should deserve the unmerited
disgrace which has fallen on me. Marry a woman whose reputation
will bear inquiry, and forget me.' I was mad enough to press my
suit once too often. When I visited her on the next day she was
gone. Every effort to trace her has failed. Lost, my
friend--irretrievably lost to me!"

He offered his hand and said good-night. Dick held him back on
the doorstep.

"Break off your mad engagement to Miss Dulane," he said. "Be a
man, Howel; wait and hope! You are throwing away your life when
happiness is within your reach, if you will only be patient. That
poor young creature is worthy of you. Lost? Nonsense! In this
narrow little world people are never hopelessly lost till they
are dead and underground. Help me to recognize her by a
description, and tell me her name. I'll find her; I'll persuade
her to come back to you--and, mark my words, you will live to
bless the day when you followed my advice."

This well-meant remonstrance was completely thrown away.
Beaucourt's despair was deaf to every entreaty that Dick had
addressed to him. "Thank you with all my heart," he said. "You
don't know her as I do. She is one of the very few women who mean
No when they say No. Useless, Dick--useless!"

Those were the last words he said to his friend in the character
of a single man.

Part II



"SEVEN months have passed, my dear Dick, since my 'inhuman
obstinacy' (those were the words you used) made you one of the
witnesses at my marriage to Miss Dulane, sorely against your
will. Do you remember your parting prophecy when you were out of
the bride's hearing? 'A miserable life is before that woman's
husband--and, by Jupiter, he has deserved it!'

"Never, my dear boy, attempt to forecast the future again. Viewed
as a prophet you are a complete failure. I have nothing to
complain of in my married life.

"But you must not mistake me. I am far from saying that I am a
happy man; I only declare myself to be a contented man. My old
wife is a marvel of good temper and good sense. She trusts me
implicitly, and I have given her no reason to regret it. We have
our time for being together, and our time for keeping apart.
Within our inevitable limits we understand each other and respect
each other, and have a truer feeling of regard on both sides than
many people far better matched than we are in point of age. But
you shall judge for yourself. Come and dine with us, when I
return on Wednesday next from the trial trip of my new yacht. In
the meantime I have a service to ask of you.

"My wife's niece has been her companion for years. She has left
us to be married to an officer, who has taken her to India; and
we are utterly at a loss how to fill her place. The good old lady
doesn't want much. A nice-tempered refined girl, who can sing and
play to her with some little taste and feeling, and read to her
now and then when her eyes are weary--there is what we require;
and there, it seems, is more than we can get, after advertising
for a week past. Of all the 'companions' who have presented
themselves, not one has turned out to be the sort of person whom
Lady Howel wants.

"Can you help us? In any case, my wife sends you her kind
remembrances; and (true to the old times) I add my love."

~ On the day which followed the receipt of this letter, Dick paid
a visit to Lady Howel Beaucourt.

"You seem to be excited," she said. "Has anything remarkable

"Pardon me if I ask a question first," Dick replied. "Do you
object to a young widow?"

"That depends on the widow."

"Then I have found the very person you want. And, oddly enough,
your husband has had something to do with it."

"Do you mean that my husband has recommended her?"

There was an undertone of jealousy in Lady Howel's
voice---jealousy excited not altogether without a motive. She had
left it to Beaucourt's sense of honor to own the truth, if there
had been any love affair in his past life which ought to make him
hesitates before he married. He had justified Miss Dulane's
confidence in him; acknowledging an attachment to a young widow,
and adding that she had positively refused
him. "We have not met since," he said, "and we shall never meet
again." Under those circumstances, Miss Dulane had considerately
abstained from asking for any further details. She had not
thought of the young widow again, until Dick's language had
innocently inspired her first doubt. Fortunately for both of
them, he was an outspoken man; and he reassured her unreservedly
in these words: "Your husband knows nothing about it."

"Now," she said, "you may tell me how you came to hear of the

"Through my uncle's library," Dick replied. "His will has left me
his collection of books--in such a wretchedly neglected condition
that I asked Beaucourt (not being a reading man myself) if he
knew of any competent person who could advise me how to set
things right. He introduced me to Farleigh & Halford, the
well-known publishers. The second partner is a book collector
himself, as well as a bookseller. He kindly looks in now and
then, to see how his instructions for mending and binding are
being carried out. When he called yesterday I thought of you, and
I found he could help us to a young lady employed in his office
at correcting proof sheets."

"What is the lady's name?"

"Mrs. Evelin."

"Why does she leave her employment?"

"To save her eyes, poor soul. When the senior partner, Mr.
Farleigh, met with her, she was reduced by family misfortunes to
earn her own living. The publishers would have been only too glad
to keep her in their office, but for the oculist's report. He
declared that she would run the risk of blindness, if she
fatigued her weak eyes much longer. There is the only objection
to this otherwise invaluable person--she will not be able to read
to you."

"Can she sing and play?"

"Exquisitely. Mr. Farleigh answers for her music."

"And her character?"

"Mr. Halford answers for her character."

"And her manners?"

"A perfect lady. I have seen her and spoken to her; I answer for
her manners, and I guarantee her personal appearance.

For a moment Lady Howel hesitated. After a little reflection, she
decided that it was her duty to trust her excellent husband. "I
will receive the charming widow," she said, "to-morrow at twelve
o'clock; and, if she produces the right impression, I promise to
overlook the weakness of her eyes."


BEAUCOURT had prolonged the period appointed for the trial trip
of his yacht by a whole week. His apology when he returned
delighted the kind-hearted old lady who had made him a present of
the vessel.

"There isn't such another yacht in the whole world," he declared.
"I really hadn't the heart to leave that beautiful vessel after
only three days experience of her." He burst out with a torrent
of technical praises of the yacht, to which his wife listened as
attentively as if she really understood what he was talking
about. When his breath and his eloquence were exhausted alike,
she said, "Now, my dear, it's my turn. I can match your perfect
vessel with my perfect lady."

"What! you have found a companion?"


"Did Dick find her for you?"

"He did indeed. You shall see for yourself how grateful I ought
to be to your friend."

She opened a door which led into the next room. "Mary, my dear,
come and be introduced to my husband."

Beaucourt started when he heard the name, and instantly recovered
himself. He had forgotten how many Marys there are in the world.

Lady Howel returned, leading her favorite by the hand, and gayly
introduced her the moment they entered the room.

"Mrs. Evelin; Lord--"

She looked at her husband. The utterance of his name was
instantly suspended on her lips. Mrs. Evelin's hand, turning cold
at the same moment in her hand, warned her to look round. The
face of the woman more than reflected the inconcealable agitation
in the face of the man.

The wife's first words, when she recovered herself, were
addressed to them both.

"Which of you can I trust," she asked, "to tell me the truth?"

"You can trust both of us," her husband answered.

The firmness of his tone irritated her. "I will judge of that for
myself," she said. "Go back to the next room," she added, turning
to Mrs. Evelin; "I will hear you separately."

The companion, whose duty it was to obey--whose modesty and
gentleness had won her mistress's heart--refused to retire.

"No," she said; "I have been deceived too. I have _my_ right to
hear what Lord Howel has to say for himself."

Beaucourt attempted to support the claim that she had advanced.
His wife sternly signed to him to be silent. "What do you mean?"
she said, addressing the question to Mrs. Evelin.

"I mean this. The person whom you speak of as a nobleman was
presented to me as 'Mr. Vincent, an artist.' But for that
deception I should never have set foot in your ladyship's house."

"Is this true, my lord?" Lady Howel asked, with a contemptuous
emphasis on the title of nobility.

"Quite true," her husband answered. "I thought it possible that
my rank might prove an obstacle in the way of my hopes. The blame
rests on me, and on me alone. I ask Mrs. Evelin to pardon me for
an act of deception which I deeply regret."

Lady Howel was a just woman. Under other circumstances she might
have shown herself to be a generous woman. That brighter side of
her character was incapable of revealing itself in the presence
of Mrs. Evelin, young and beautiful, and in possession of her
husband's heart. She could say, "I beg your pardon, madam; I have
not treated you justly." But no self-control was strong enough to
restrain the next bitter words from passing her lips. "At my
age," she said, "Lord Howel will soon be free; you will not have
long to wait for him."

The young widow looked at her sadly--answered her sadly.

"Oh, my lady, your better nature will surely regret having said

For a moment her eyes rested on Beaucourt, dim with rising tears.
She left the room--and left the house.

There was silence between the husband and wife. Beaucourt was the
first to speak again.

"After what you have just heard, do you persist in your jealousy
of that lady, and your jealousy of me?" he asked.

"I have behaved cruelly to her and to you. I am ashamed of
myself," was all she said in reply. That expression of sorrow, so
simple and so true, did not appeal in vain to the gentler side of
Beaucourt's nature. He kissed his wife's hand; he tried to
console her.

"You may forgive me," she answered. "I cannot forgive myself.
That poor lady's last words have made my heart ache. What I said
to her in anger I ought to have said generously. Why should she
not wait for you? After your life with me--a life of kindness, a
life of self-sacrifice--you deserve your reward. Promise me that
you will marry the woman you love--after my death has released

"You distress me, and needlessly distress me," he said. "What you
are thinking of, my dear, can never happen; no, not even if--" He
left the rest unsaid.

"Not even if you were free?" she asked.

"Not even then."

She looked toward the next room. "Go in, Howel, and bring Mrs.
Evelin back; I have something to say to her."

The discovery that she had left the house caused no fear that she
had taken to flight with the purpose of concealing herself. There
was a prospect before the poor lonely woman which might be
trusted to preserve her from despair, to say the least of it.

During her brief residence in Beaucourt's house she had shown to
Lady Howel a letter received from a relation, who had emigrated
to New Zealand with her husband and her infant children some
years since. They had steadily prospered; they were living in
comfort, and they wanted for nothing but a trustworthy governess
to teach their children. The mother had accordingly written,
asking if her relative in England could recommend a competent
person, and offering a liberal salary. In showing the letter to
Lady Howel, Mrs. Evelin had said: "If I had not been so happy as
to attract your notice, I might have offered to be the governess

Assuming that it had now occurred to her to act on this idea,
Lady Howel felt assured that she would apply for advice either to
the publishers who had recommended her, or to Lord Howel's old

Beaucourt at once offered to make th e inquiries which might
satisfy his wife that she had not been mistaken. Readily
accepting his proposal, she asked at the same time for a few
minutes of delay.

"I want to say to you," she explained, "what I had in my mind to
say to Mrs. Evelin. Do you object to tell me why she refused to
marry you? I couldn't have done it in her place."

"You would have done it, my dear, as I think, if her misfortune
had been your misfortune." With those prefatory words he told the
miserable story of Mrs. Evelin's marriage.

Lady Howel's sympathies, strongly excited, appeared to have led
her to a conclusion which she was not willing to communicate to
her husband. She asked him, rather abruptly, if he would leave it
to her to find Mrs. Evelin. "I promise," she added, "to tell you
what I am thinking of, when I come back."

In two minutes more she was ready to go out, and had hurriedly
left the house.


AFTER a long absence Lady Howel returned, accompanied by Dick.
His face and manner betrayed unusual agitation; Beaucourt noticed

"I may well be excited," Dick declared, "after what I have heard,
and after what we have done. Lady Howel, yours is the brain that
thinks to some purpose. Make our report--I wait for you."

But my lady preferred waiting for Dick. He consented to speak
first, for the thoroughly characteristic reason that he could
"get over it in no time."

"I shall try the old division," he said, "into First, Second, and
Third. Don't be afraid; I am not going to preach--quite the
contrary; I am going to be quick about it. First, then, Mrs.
Evelin has decided, under sound advice, to go to New Zealand.
Second, I have telegraphed to her relations at the other end of
the world to tell them that she is coming. Third, and last,
Farleigh & Halford have sent to the office, and secured a berth
for her in the next ship that sails--date the day after
to-morrow. Done in half a minute. Now, Lady Howel!"

"I will begin and end in half a minute too," she said, "if I can.
First," she continued, turning to her husband, "I found Mrs.
Evelin at your friend's house. She kindly let me say all that I
could say for the relief of my poor heart. Secondly--"

She hesitated, smiled uneasily, and came to a full stop.

"I can't do it, Howel," she confessed; "I speak to you as usual,
or I can never get on. Saying many things in few words--if the
ladies who assert our rights will forgive me for confessing
it--is an accomplishment in which we are completely beaten by the
men. You must have thought me rude, my dear, for leaving you very
abruptly, without a word of explanation. The truth is, I had an
idea in my head, and I kept it to myself (old people are
proverbially cautious, you know) till I had first found out
whether it was worth mentioning. When you were speaking of the
wretched creature who had claimed Mrs. Evelin's husband as her
own, you said she was an inveterate drunkard. A woman in that
state of degradation is capable, as I persist in thinking, of any
wickedness. I suppose this put it into my head to doubt her--no;
I mean, to wonder whether Mr. Evelin--do you know that she keeps
her husband's name by his own entreaty addressed to her on his
deathbed?--oh, I am losing myself in a crowd of words of my own
collecting! Say the rest of it for me, Sir Richard!"

"No, Lady Howel. Not unless you call me 'Dick.' "

"Then say it for me--Dick."

"No, not yet, on reflection. Dick is too short, say 'Dear Dick.'

"Dear Dick--there!"

"Thank you, my lady. Now we had better remember that your husband
is present." He turned to Beaucourt. "Lady Howel had the idea,"
he proceeded, "which ought to have presented itself to you and to
me. It was a serious misfortune (as she thought) that Mr.
Evelin's sufferings in his last illness, and his wife's anxiety
while she was nursing him, had left them unfit to act in their
own defense. They might otherwise not have submitted to the
drunken wretch's claim, without first making sure that she had a
right to advance it. Taking her character into due consideration,
are we quite certain that she was herself free to marry, when Mr.
Evelin unfortunately made her his wife? To that serious question
we now mean to find an answer. With Mrs. Evelin's knowledge of
the affair to help us, we have discovered the woman's address, to
begin with. She keeps a small tobacconist's shop at the town of
Grailey in the north of England. The rest is in the hands of my
lawyer. If we make the discovery that we all hope for, we have
your wife to thank for it." He paused, and looked at his watch.
"I've got an appointment at the club. The committee will
blackball the best fellow that ever lived if I don't go and stop
them. Good-by."

The last day of Mrs. Evelin's sojourn in England was memorable in
more ways than one.

On the first occasion in Beaucourt's experience of his married
life, his wife wrote to him instead of speaking to him, although
they were both in the house at the time. It was a little note
only containing these words: "I thought you would like to say
good-by to Mrs. Evelin. I have told her to expect you in the
library, and I will take care that you are not disturbed."

Waiting at the window of her sitting-room, on the upper floor,
Lady Howel perceived that the delicate generosity of her conduct
had been gratefully felt. The interview in the library barely
lasted for five minutes. She saw Mrs. Evelin leave the house with
her veil down. Immediately afterward, Beaucourt ascended to his
wife's room to thank her. Carefully as he had endeavored to hide
them, the traces of tears in his eyes told her how cruelly the
parting scene had tried him. It was a bitter moment for his
admirable wife. "Do you wish me dead?" she asked with sad
self-possession. "Live," he said, "and live happily, if you wish
to make me happy too." He drew her to him and kissed her
forehead. Lady Howel had her reward.

Part III.



FURNISHED with elaborate instructions to guide him, which
included golden materials for bribery, a young Jew holding the
place of third clerk in the office of Dick's lawyer was sent to
the town of Grailey to make discoveries. In the matter of
successfully instituting private inquiries, he was justly
considered to be a match for any two Christians who might try to
put obstacles in his way. His name was Moses Jackling.

Entering the cigar-shop, the Jew discovered that he had presented
himself at a critical moment.

A girl and a man were standing behind the counter. The girl
looked like a maid-of-all-work: she was rubbing the tears out of
her eyes with a big red fist. The man, smart in manner and shabby
in dress, received the stranger with a peremptory eagerness to do
business. "Now, then! what for you?" Jackling bought the worst
cigar he had ever smoked, in the course of an enormous experience
of bad tobacco, and tried a few questions with this result. The
girl had lost her place; the man was in "possession"; and the
stock and furniture had been seized for debt. Jackling thereupon
assumed the character of a creditor, and ask to speak with the

"She's too ill to see you, sir," the girl said.

"Tell the truth, you fool," cried the man in possession. He led
the way to a door with a glass in the upper part of it, which
opened into a parlor behind the shop. As soon as his back was
turned, Jackling whispered to the maid, "When I go, slip out
after me; I've got something for you." The man lifted the curtain
over the glass. "Look through," he said, "and see what's the
matter with her for yourself."

Jackling discovered the mistress flat on her back on the floor,
helplessly drunk. That was enough for the clerk--so far. He took
leave of the man in possession, with the one joke which never
wears out in the estimation of Englishmen; the joke that foresees
the drinker's headache in the morning. In a minute or two more
the girl showed herself, carrying an empty jug. She had been sent
for the man's beer, and she was expected back directly. Jackling,
having first overwhelmed her by a present of five shillings,
proposed another appointment in the evening. The maid promised to
be at the place of meeting; and in memory of the five shillings
she kept her word.

"What wages do you get?" was the first question that astonished

"Three pounds a year, sir," the unfortunate creature replied.

"All paid?"

"Only one pound paid--and I say it's a crying shame."

"Say what you like, my dear, so long as you listen to me. I want
to know everything that your mistress says and does--first when
she's drunk, and then when she's sober. Wait a bit; I haven't
done yet. If you tell me everything you can remember--mind _
everything_--I'll pay the rest of your wages."

Madly excited by this golden prospect, the victim of domestic
service answered inarticulately with a scream. Jackling's right
hand and left hand entered his pockets, and appeared again
holding two sovereigns separately between two fingers and thumbs.
From that moment, he was at liberty to empty the
maid-of-all-work's memory of every saying and doing that it

The sober moments of the mistress yielded little or nothing to
investigation. The report of her drunken moments produced
something worth hearing. There were two men whom it was her habit
to revile bitterly in her cups. One of them was Mr. Evelin, whom
she abused--sometimes for the small allowance that he made to
her; sometimes for dying before she could prosecute him for
bigamy. Her drunken remembrances of the other man were associated
with two names. She called him "Septimus"; she called him
"Darts"; and she despised him occasionally for being a "common
sailor." It was clearly demonstrated that he was one man, and not
two. Whether he was "Septimus," or whether he was "Darts," he had
always committed the same atrocities. He had taken her money away
from her; he had called her by an atrocious name; and he had
knocked her down on more than one occasion. Provided with this
information, Jackling rewarded the girl, and paid a visit to her
mistress the next day.

The miserable woman was exactly in the state of nervous
prostration (after the excess of the previous evening) which
offered to the clerk his best chance of gaining his end. He
presented himself as the representative of friends, bent on
helping her, whose modest benevolence had positively forbidden
him to mention their names.

"What sum of money must you pay," he asked, "to get rid of the
man in possession?"

Too completely bewildered to speak, her trembling hand offered to
him a slip of paper on which the amount of the debt and the
expenses was set forth: L51 12s. 10d.

With some difficulty the Jew preserved his gravity. "Very well,"
he resumed. "I will make it up to sixty pounds (to set you going
again) on two conditions."

She suddenly recovered her power of speech. "Give me the money!"
she cried, with greedy impatience of delay.

"First condition," he continued, without noticing the
interruption: "you are not to suffer, either in purse or person,
if you give us the information that we want."

She interrupted him again. "Tell me what it is, and be quick
about it."

"Second condition," he went on as impenetrably as ever; "you take
me to the place where I can find the certificate of your marriage
to Septimus Darts."

Her eyes glared at him like the eyes of a wild animal. Furies,
hysterics, faintings, denials, threats--Jackling endured them all
by turns. It was enough for him that his desperate guess of the
evening before, had hit the mark on the morning after. When she
had completely exhausted herself he returned to the experiment
which he had already tried with the maid. Well aware of the
advantage of exhibiting gold instead of notes, when the object is
to tempt poverty, he produced the promised bribe in sovereigns,
pouring them playfully backward and forward from one big hand to
the other.

The temptation was more than the woman could resist. In another
half-hour the two were traveling together to a town in one of the
midland counties.

The certificate was found in the church register, and duly

It also appeared that one of the witnesses to the marriage was
still living. His name and address were duly noted in the clerk's
pocketbook. Subsequent inquiry, at the office of the Customs
Comptroller, discovered the name of Septimus Darts on the
captain's official list of the crew of an outward bound merchant
vessel. With this information, and with a photographic portrait
to complete it, the man was discovered, alive and hearty, on the
return of the ship to her port.

His wife's explanation of her conduct included the customary
excuse that she had every reason to believe her husband to be
dead, and was followed by a bold assertion that she had married
Mr. Evelin for love. In Moses Jackling's opinion she lied when
she said this, and lied again when she threatened to prosecute
Mr. Evelin for bigamy. "Take my word for it," said this new
representative of the unbelieving Jew, "she would have extorted
money from him if he had lived." Delirium tremens left this
question unsettled, and closed the cigar shop soon afterward,
under the authority of death.

The good news, telegraphed to New Zealand, was followed by a
letter containing details.

At a later date, a telegram arrived from Mrs. Evelin. She had
reached her destination, and had received the dispatch which told
her that she had been lawfully married. A letter to Lady Howel
was promised by the next mail.

While the necessary term of delay was still unexpired, the
newspapers received the intelligence of a volcanic eruption in
the northern island of the New Zealand group. Later particulars,
announcing a terrible destruction of life and property, included
the homestead in which Mrs. Evelin was living. The farm had been
overwhelmed, and every member of the household had perished.

Part IV.



_Indorsed as follows:_ "Reply from Sir Richard, addressed to
Farleigh & Halford."

"Your courteous letter has been forwarded to my house in the

"I really regret that you should have thought it necessary to
apologize for troubling me. Your past kindness to the unhappy
Mrs. Evelin gives you a friendly claim on me which I gladly
recognize--as you shall soon see.

" 'The extraordinary story,' as you very naturally call it, is
nevertheless true. I am the only person now at your disposal who
can speak as an eye-witness of the events.

"In the first place I must tell you that the dreadful
intelligence, received from New Zealand, had an effect on Lord
Howel Beaucourt which shocked his friends and inexpressibly
distressed his admirable wife. I can only describe him, at that
time, as a man struck down in mind and body alike.

"Lady Howel was unremitting in her efforts to console him. He was
thankful and gentle. It was true that no complaint could be made
of him. It was equally true that no change for the better
rewarded the devotion of his wife.

"The state of feeling which this implied imbittered the
disappointment that Lady Howel naturally felt. As some relief to
her overburdened mind, she associated herself with the work of
mercy, carried on under the superintendence of the rector of the
parish. I thought he was wrong in permitting a woman, at her
advanced time of life, to run the risk encountered in visiting
the sick and suffering poor at their own dwelling-places.
Circumstances, however, failed to justify my dread of the
perilous influences of infection and foul air. The one untoward
event that happened, seemed to be too trifling to afford any
cause for anxiety. Lady Howel caught cold.

"Unhappily, she treated that apparently trivial accident with
indifference. Her husband tried in vain to persuade her to remain
at home. On one of her charitable visits she was overtaken by a
heavy fall of rain; and a shivering fit seized her on returning
to the house. At her age the results were serious. A bronchial
attack followed. In a week more, the dearest and best of women
had left us nothing to love but the memory of the dead.

"Her last words were faintly whispered to me in her husband's
presence: 'Take care of him,' the dying woman said, 'when I am

"No effort of mine to be worthy of that sacred trust was left
untried. How could I hope to succeed where _she_ had failed? My
house in London and my house in the country were both open to
Beaucourt; I entreated him to live with me, or (if he preferred
it) to be my guest for a short time only, or (if he wished to be
alone) to choose the place of abode which he liked best for his
solitary retreat. With sincere expressions of gratitude, his
inflexible despair refused my proposals.

"In one of the ancient 'Inns,' built centuries since for the
legal societies of London, he secluded himself from friends and
acquaintances alike. One by one, they were driven from his dreary
chambers by a reception which admitted them with patient
resignation and held out little encouragement to return. After an
interval of no great length, I was the last of his friends who
intruded on his solitude.

"Poor Lady Howel's will (excepting some special legacies) had
left her fortune to me in trust, on certain conditions with which
it is needless to trouble you. Beaucourt's resolution not to
touch a farthing of his dead wife's money laid a heavy
responsibility on my shoulders; the burden being ere long
increased by forebodings which alarmed me on the subject of his

"He devoted himself to the reading of old books, treating (as I
was told) of that branch of useless knowledge generally described
as 'occult science.' These unwholesome studies so absorbed him,
that he remained shut up in his badly ventilated chambers for
weeks together, without once breathing the outer air even for a
few minutes. Such defiance of the ordinary laws of nature as this
could end but in one way; his health steadily declined and
feverish symptoms showed themselves. The doctor said plainly,
'There is no chance for him if he stays in this place.'

"Once more he refused to be removed to my London house. The
development of the fever, he reminded me, might lead to
consequences dangerous to me and to my household. He had heard of
one of the great London hospitals, which reserved certain rooms
for the occupation of persons capable of paying for the medical
care bestowed on them. If he were to be removed at all, to that
hospital he would go. Many advantages, and no objections of
importance, were presented by this course of proceeding. We
conveyed him to the hospital without a moment's loss of time.

"When I think of the dreadful illness that followed, and when I
recall the days of unrelieved suspense passed at the bedside, I
have not courage enough to dwell on this part of my story.
Besides, you know already that Beaucourt recovered--or, as I
might more correctly describe it, that he was snatched back to
life when the grasp of death was on him. Of this happier period
of his illness I have something to say which may surprise and
interest you.

"On one of the earlier days of his convalescence my visit to him
was paid later than usual. A matter of importance, neglected
while he was in danger, had obliged me to leave town for a few
days, after there was nothing to be feared. Returning, I had
missed the train which would have brought me to London in better

"My appearance evidently produced in Beaucourt a keen feeling of
relief. He requested the day nurse, waiting in the room, to leave
us by ourselves.

" 'I was afraid you might not have come to me to-day,' he said.
'My last moments would have been imbittered, my friend, by your

" 'Are you anticipating your death,' I asked, 'at the very time
when the doctors answer for your life?'

" 'The doctors have not seen her,' he said; 'I saw her last

" 'Of whom are you speaking?'

" 'Of my lost angel, who perished miserably in New Zealand. Twice
her spirit has appeared to me. I shall see her for the third
time, tonight; I shall follow her to the better world.'

"Had the delirium of the worst time of the fever taken possession
of him again? In unutterable dread of a relapse, I took his hand.
The skin was cool. I laid my fingers on his pulse. It was beating

" 'You think I am wandering in my mind,' he broke out. 'Stay here
tonight--I command you, stay!--and see her as I have seen her.'

"I quieted him by promising to do what he had asked of me. He had
still one more condition to insist on.

" 'I won't be laughed at,' he said. 'Promise that you will not
repeat to any living creature what I have just told you.'

"My promise satisfied him. He wearily closed his eyes. In a few
minutes more his poor weak body was in peaceful repose.

"The day-nurse returned, and remained with us later than usual.
Twilight melted into darkness. The room was obscurely lit by a
shaded lamp, placed behind a screen that kept the sun out of the
sick man's eyes in the daytime.

" 'Are we alone?' Beaucourt asked.

" 'Yes.'

" 'Watch the door. '

" 'Why?'

" 'You will see her on the threshold.'

"As he said those words the door slowly opened. In the dim light
I could only discern at first the figure of a woman. She slowly
advanced toward me. I saw the familiar face in shadow; the eyes
were large and faintly luminous--the eyes of Mrs. Evelin.

"The wild words spoken to me by Beaucourt, the stillness and the
obscurity in the room, had their effect, I suppose, on my
imagination. You will think me a poor creature when I confess it.
For the moment I did assuredly feel a thrill of superstitious

"My delusion was dispelled by a change in her face. Its natural
expression of surprise, when she saw me, set my mind free to feel
the delight inspired by the discovery that she was a living
woman. I should have spoken to her if she had not stopped me by a

"Beaucourt's voice broke the silence. 'Ministering Spirit!' he
said, 'free me from the life of earth. Take me with you to the
life eternal.'

"She made no attempt to enlighten him. 'Wait,' she answered
calmly, 'wait and rest.'

"Silently obeying her, he turned his head on the pillow; we saw
his face no more.

"I have related the circumstances exactly as they happened: the
ghost story which report has carried to your ears has no other
foundation than this.

"Mrs. Evelin led the way to that further end of the room in which
the screen stood. Placing ourselves behind it, we could converse
in whispers without being heard. Her first words told me that she
had been warned by one of the hospital doctors to respect my
friend's delusion for the present. His mind partook in some
degree of the weakness of his body, and he was not strong enough
yet to bear the shock of discovering the truth.

"She had been saved almost by a miracle.

"Released (in a state of insensibility) from the ruins of the
house, she had been laid with her dead relatives awaiting burial.
Happily for her, an English traveler visiting the island was
among the first men who volunteered to render help. He had been
in practice as a medical man, and he saved her from being buried
alive. Nearly a month passed before she was strong enough to bear
removal to Wellington (the capital city) and to be received into
the hospital.

"I asked why she had not telegraphed or written to me.

" 'When I was strong enough to write,' she said, 'I was strong
enough to bear the sea-voyage to England. The expenses so nearly
exhausted my small savings that I had no money to spare for the

"On her arrival in London, only a few days since, she had called
on me at the time when I had left home on the business which I
have already mentioned. She had not heard of Lady Howel's death,
and had written ignorantly to prepare that good friend for seeing
her. The messenger sent with the letter had found the house in
the occupation of strangers, and had been referred to the agent
employed in letting it. She went herself to this person, and so
heard that Lord Howel Beaucourt had lost his wife, and was
reported to be dying in one of the London hospitals.

" 'If he had been in his usual state of health,' she said, 'it
would have been indelicate on my part--I mean it would have
seemed like taking a selfish advantage of the poor lady's
death--to have let him know that my life had been saved, in any
other way than by writing to him. But when I heard he was dying,
I forgot all customary considerations. His name was so well-known
in London that I easily discovered at what hospital he had been
received. There I heard that the report was false and that he was
out of danger. I ought to hav e been satisfied with that--but oh,
how could I be so near him and not long to see him? The old
doctor with whom I had been speaking discovered, I suppose, that
I was in trouble about something. He was so kind and fatherly,
and he seemed to take such interest in me, that I confessed
everything to him. After he had made me promise to be careful, he
told the night-nurse to let me take her place for a little while,
when the dim light in the room would not permit his patient to
see me too plainly. He waited at the door when we tried the
experiment. Neither he nor I foresaw that Lord Howel would put
such a strange interpretation on my presence. The nurse doesn't
approve of my coming back--even for a little while only--and
taking her place again to-night. She is right. I have had my
little glimpse of happiness, and with that little I must be

"What I said in answer to this, and what I did as time advanced,
it is surely needless to tell you. You have read the newspapers
which announce their marriage, and their departure for Italy.
What else is there left for me to say?

"There is, perhaps, a word more still wanting.

"Obstinate Lord Howel persisted in refusing to take the fortune
that was waiting for him. In this difficulty, the conditions
under which I was acting permitted me to appeal to the bride.
When she too said No, I was not to be trifled with. I showed her
poor Lady's Howel's will. After reading the terms in which my
dear old friend alluded to her she burst out crying. I
interpreted those grateful tears as an expression of repentance
for the ill-considered reply which I had just received. As yet, I
have not been told that I was wrong."



BEFORE the doctor left me one evening, I asked him how much
longer I was likely to live. He answered: "It's not easy to say;
you may die before I can get back to you in the morning, or you
may live to the end of the month."

I was alive enough on the next morning to think of the needs of
my soul, and (being a member of the Roman Catholic Church) to
send for the priest.

The history of my sins, related in confession, included
blameworthy neglect of a duty which I owed to the laws of my
country. In the priest's opinion--and I agreed with him--I was
bound to make public acknowledgment of my fault, as an act of
penance becoming to a Catholic Englishman. We concluded,
thereupon, to try a division of labor. I related the
circumstances, while his reverence took the pen and put the
matter into shape.

Here follows what came of it:


WHEN I was a young man of five-and-twenty, I became a member of
the London police force. After nearly two years' ordinary
experience of the responsible and ill-paid duties of that
vocation, I found myself employed on my first serious and
terrible case of official inquiry--relating to nothing less than
the crime of Murder.

The circumstances were these:

I was then attached to a station in the northern district of
London--which I beg permission not to mention more particularly.
On a certain Monday in the week, I took my turn of night duty. Up
to four in the morning, nothing occurred at the station-house out
of the ordinary way. It was then springtime, and, between the gas
and the fire, the room became rather hot. I went to the door to
get a breath of fresh air--much to the surprise of our Inspector
on duty, who was constitutionally a chilly man. There was a fine
rain falling; and a nasty damp in the air sent me back to the
fireside. I don't suppose I had sat down for more than a minute
when the swinging-door was violently pushed open. A frantic woman
ran in with a scream, and said: "Is this the station-house?"

Our Inspector (otherwise an excellent officer) had, by some
perversity of nature, a hot temper in his chilly constitution.
"Why, bless the woman, can't you see it is?" he says. "What's the
matter now?"

"Murder's the matter!" she burst out. "For God's sake, come back
with me. It's at Mrs. Crosscapel's lodging-house, number 14
Lehigh Street. A young woman has murdered her husband in the
night! With a knife, sir. She says she thinks she did it in her

I confess I was startled by this; and the third man on duty (a
sergeant) seemed to feel it too. She was a nice-looking young
woman, even in her terrified condition, just out of bed, with her
clothes huddled on anyhow. I was partial in those days to a tall
figure--and she was, as they say, my style. I put a chair for
her; and the sergeant poked the fire. As for the Inspector,
nothing ever upset _him_. He questioned her as coolly as if it
had been a case of petty larceny.

"Have you seen the murdered man?" he asked.

"No, sir."

"Or the wife?"

"No, sir. I didn't dare go into the room; I only heard about it!"

"Oh? And who are You? One of the lodgers?"

"No, sir. I'm the cook."

"Isn't there a master in the house?"

"Yes, sir. He's frightened out of his wits. And the housemaid's
gone for the doctor. It all falls on the poor servants, of
course. Oh, why did I ever set foot in that horrible house?"

The poor soul burst out crying, and shivered from head to foot.
The Inspector made a note of her statement, and then asked her to
read it, and sign it with her name. The object of this proceeding
was to get her to come near enough to give him the opportunity of
smelling her breath. "When people make extraordinary statements,"
he afterward said to me, "it sometimes saves trouble to satisfy
yourself that they are not drunk. I've known them to be mad--but
not often. You will generally find _that_ in their eyes."

She roused herself and signed her name--"Priscilla Thurlby." The
Inspector's own test proved her to be sober; and her eyes--a nice
light blue color, mild and pleasant, no doubt, when they were not
staring with fear, and red with crying--satisfied him (as I
supposed) that she was not mad. He turned the case over to me, in
the first instance. I saw that he didn't believe in it, even yet.

"Go back with her to the house," he says. "This may be a stupid
hoax, or a quarrel exaggerated. See to it yourself, and hear what
the doctor says. If it is serious, send word back here directly,
and let nobody enter the place or leave it till we come. Stop!
You know the form if any statement is volunteered?"

"Yes, sir. I am to caution the persons that whatever they say
will be taken down, and may be used against them."

"Quite right. You'll be an Inspector yourself one of these days.
Now, miss!" With that he dismissed her, under my care.

Lehigh Street was not very far off--about twenty minutes' walk
from the station. I confess I thought the Inspector had been
rather hard on Priscilla. She was herself naturally angry with
him. "What does he mean," she says, "by talking of a hoax? I wish
he was as frightened as I am. This is the first time I have been
out at service, sir--and I did think I had found a respectable

I said very little to her--feeling, if the truth must be told,
rather anxious about the duty committed to me. On reaching the
house the door was opened from within, before I could knock. A
gentleman stepped out, who proved to be the doctor. He stopped
the moment he saw me.

"You must be careful, policeman," he says. "I found the man lying
on his back, in bed, dead--with the knife that had killed him
left sticking in the wound."

Hearing this, I felt the necessity of sending at once to the
station. Where could I find a trustworthy messenger? I took the
liberty of asking the doctor if he would repeat to the police
what he had already said to me. The station was not much out of
his way home. He kindly granted my request.

The landlady (Mrs. Crosscapel) joined us while we were talking.
She was still a young woman; not easily frightened, as far as I
could see, even by a murder in the house. Her husband was in the
passage behind her. He looked old enough to be her father; and he
so trembled with terror that some people might have taken him for
the guilty person. I removed the key from the street door, after
locking it; and I said to the landlady: "Nobody must leave the
house, or enter the house, till the Inspector comes. I must
examine the premises to see if any on e has broken in."

"There is the key of the area gate," she said, in answer to me.
"It's always kept locked. Come downstairs and see for yourself."
Priscilla went with us. Her mistress set her to work to light the
kitchen fire. "Some of us," says Mrs. Crosscapel, "may be the
better for a cup of tea." I remarked that she took things easy,
under the circumstances. She answered that the landlady of a
London lodging-house could not afford to lose her wits, no matter
what might happen.

I found the gate locked, and the shutters of the kitchen window
fastened. The back kitchen and back door were secured in the same
way. No person was concealed anywhere. Returning upstairs, I
examined the front parlor window. There, again, the barred
shutters answered for the security of that room. A cracked voice
spoke through the door of the back parlor. "The policeman can
come in," it said, "if he will promise not to look at me." I
turned to the landlady for information. "It's my parlor lodger,
Miss Mybus," she said, "a most respectable lady." Going into the
room, I saw something rolled up perpendicularly in the bed
curtains. Miss Mybus had made herself modestly invisible in that
way. Having now satisfied my mind about the security of the lower
part of the house, and having the keys safe in my pocket, I was
ready to go upstairs.

On our way to the upper regions I asked if there had been any
visitors on the previous day. There had been only two visitors,
friends of the lodgers--and Mrs. Crosscapel herself had let them
both out. My next inquiry related to the lodgers themselves. On
the ground floor there was Miss Mybus. On the first floor
(occupying both rooms) Mr. Barfield, an old bachelor, employed in
a merchant's office. On the second floor, in the front room, Mr.
John Zebedee, the murdered man, and his wife. In the back room,
Mr. Deluc; described as a cigar agent, and supposed to be a
Creole gentleman from Martinique. In the front garret, Mr. and
Mrs. Crosscapel. In the back garret, the cook and the housemaid.
These were the inhabitants, regularly accounted for. I asked
about the servants. "Both excellent characters," says the
landlady, "or they would not be in my service."

We reached the second floor, and found the housemaid on the watch
outside the door of the front room. Not as nice a woman,
personally, as the cook, and sadly frightened of course. Her
mistress had posted her, to give the alarm in the case of an
outbreak on the part of Mrs. Zebedee, kept locked up in the room.
My arrival relieved the housemaid of further responsibility. She
ran downstairs to her fellow-servant in the kitchen.

I asked Mrs. Crosscapel how and when the alarm of the murder had
been given.

"Soon after three this morning," says she, "I was woke by the
screams of Mrs. Zebedee. I found her out here on the landing, and
Mr. Deluc, in great alarm, trying to quiet her. Sleeping in the
next room he had only to open his door, when her screams woke
him. 'My dear John's murdered! I am the miserable wretch--I did
it in my sleep!' She repeated these frantic words over and over
again, until she dropped in a swoon. Mr. Deluc and I carried her
back into the bedroom. We both thought the poor creature had been
driven distracted by some dreadful dream. But when we got to the
bedside--don't ask me what we saw; the doctor has told you about
it already. I was once a nurse in a hospital, and accustomed, as
such, to horrid sights. It turned me cold and giddy,
notwithstanding. As for Mr. Deluc, I thought _he_ would have had
a fainting fit next."

Hearing this, I inquired if Mrs. Zebedee had said or done any
strange things since she had been Mrs. Crosscapel's lodger.

"You think she's mad?" says the landlady. "And anybody would be
of your mind, when a woman accuses herself of murdering her
husband in her sleep. All I can say is that, up to this morning,
a more quiet, sensible, well-behaved little person than Mrs.
Zebedee I never met with. Only just married, mind, and as fond of
her unfortunate husband as a woman could be. I should have called
them a pattern couple, in their own line of life."

There was no more to be said on the landing. We unlocked the door
and went into the room.


HE lay in bed on his back as the doctor had described him. On the
left side of his nightgown, just over his heart, the blood on the
linen told its terrible tale. As well as one could judge, looking
unwillingly at a dead face, he must have been a handsome young
man in his lifetime. It was a sight to sadden anybody--but I
think the most painful sensation was when my eyes fell next on
his miserable wife.

She was down on the floor, crouched up in a corner--a dark little
woman, smartly dressed in gay colors. Her black hair and her big
brown eyes made the horrid paleness of her face look even more
deadly white than perhaps it really was. She stared straight at
us without appearing to see us. We spoke to her, and she never
answered a word. She might have been dead--like her
husband--except that she perpetually picked at her fingers, and
shuddered every now and then as if she was cold. I went to her
and tried to lift her up. She shrank back with a cry that
well-nigh frightened me--not because it was loud, but because it
was more like the cry of some animal than of a human being.
However quietly she might have behaved in the landlady's previous
experience of her, she was beside herself now. I might have been
moved by a natural pity for her, or I might have been completely
upset in my mind--I only know this, I could not persuade myself
that she was guilty. I even said to Mrs. Crosscapel, "I don't
believe she did it."

While I spoke there was a knock at the door. I went downstairs at
once, and admitted (to my great relief) the Inspector,
accompanied by one of our men.

He waited downstairs to hear my report, and he approved of what I
had done. "It looks as if the murder had been committed by
somebody in the house." Saying this, he left the man below, and
went up with me to the second floor.

Before he had been a minute in the room, he discovered an object
which had escaped my observation.

It was the knife that had done the deed.

The doctor had found it left in the body--had withdrawn it to
probe the wound--and had laid it on the bedside table. It was one
of those useful knives which contain a saw, a corkscrew, and
other like implements. The big blade fastened back, when open,
with a spring. Except where the blood was on it, it was as bright
as when it had been purchased. A small metal plate was fastened
to the horn handle, containing an inscription, only partly
engraved, which ran thus: "To John Zebedee, from--" There it
stopped, strangely enough.

Who or what had interrupted the engraver's work? It was
impossible even to guess. Nevertheless, the Inspector was

"This ought to help us," he said--and then he gave an attentive
ear (looking all the while at the poor creature in the corner) to
what Mrs. Crosscapel had to tell him.

The landlady having done, he said he must now see the lodger who
slept in the next bed-chamber.

Mr. Deluc made his appearance, standing at the door of the room,
and turning away his head with horror from the sight inside.

He was wrapped in a splendid blue dressing-gown, with a golden
girdle and trimmings. His scanty brownish hair curled (whether
artificially or not, I am unable to say) in little ringlets. His
complexion was yellow; his greenish-brown eyes were of the sort
called "goggle"--they looked as if they might drop out of his
face, if you held a spoon under them. His mustache and goat's
beard were beautifully oiled; and, to complete his equipment, he
had a long black cigar in his mouth.

"It isn't insensibility to this terrible tragedy," he explained.
"My nerves have been shattered, Mr. Policeman, and I can only
repair the mischief in this way. Be pleased to excuse and feel
for me."

The Inspector questioned this witness sharply and closely. He was
not a man to be misled by appearances; but I could see that he
was far from liking, or even trusting, Mr. Deluc. Nothing came of
the examination, except what Mrs. Crosscapel had in substance
already mentioned to me. Mr. Deluc returned
to his room.

"How long has he been lodging with you?" the Inspector asked, as
soon as his back was turned.

"Nearly a year," the landlady answered.

"Did he give you a reference?"

"As good a reference as I could wish for." Thereupon, she
mentioned the names of a well-known firm of cigar merchants in
the city. The Inspector noted the information in his pocketbook.

I would rather not relate in detail what happened next: it is too
distressing to be dwelt on. Let me only say that the poor
demented woman was taken away in a cab to the station-house. The
Inspector possessed himself of the knife, and of a book found on
the floor, called "The World of Sleep." The portmanteau
containing the luggage was locked--and then the door of the room
was secured, the keys in both cases being left in my charge. My
instructions were to remain in the house, and allow nobody to
leave it, until I heard again shortly from the Inspector.


THE coroner's inquest was adjourned; and the examination before
the magistrate ended in a remand--Mrs. Zebedee being in no
condition to understand the proceedings in either case. The
surgeon reported her to be completely prostrated by a terrible
nervous shock. When he was asked if he considered her to have
been a sane woman before the murder took place, he refused to
answer positively at that time.

A week passed. The murdered man was buried; his old father
attending the funeral. I occasionally saw Mrs. Crosscapel, and
the two servants, for the purpose of getting such further
information as was thought desirable. Both the cook and the
housemaid had given their month's notice to quit; declining, in
the interest of their characters, to remain in a house which had
been the scene of a murder. Mr. Deluc's nerves led also to his
removal; his rest was now disturbed by frightful dreams. He paid
the necessary forfeit-money, and left without notice. The
first-floor lodger, Mr. Barfield, kept his rooms, but obtained
leave of absence from his employers, and took refuge with some
friends in the country. Miss Mybus alone remained in the parlors.
"When I am comfortable," the old lady said, "nothing moves me, at
my age. A murder up two pairs of stairs is nearly the same thing
as a murder in the next house. Distance, you see, makes all the

It mattered little to the police what the lodgers did. We had men
in plain clothes watching the house night and day. Everybody who
went away was privately followed; and the police in the district
to which they retired were warned to keep an eye on them, after
that. As long as we failed to put Mrs. Zebedee's extraordinary
statement to any sort of test--to say nothing of having proved
unsuccessful, thus far, in tracing the knife to its purchaser--we
were bound to let no person living under Mr. Crosscapel's roof,
on the night of the murder, slip through our fingers.


IN a fortnight more, Mrs. Zebedee had sufficiently recovered to
make the necessary statement--after the preliminary caution
addressed to persons in such cases. The surgeon had no
hesitation, now, in reporting her to be a sane woman.

Her station in life had been domestic service. She had lived for
four years in her last place as lady's-maid, with a family
residing in Dorsetshire. The one objection to her had been the
occasional infirmity of sleep-walking, which made it necessary
that one of the other female servants should sleep in the same
room, with the door locked and the key under her pillow. In all
other respects the lady's-maid was described by her mistress as
"a perfect treasure."

In the last six months of her service, a young man named John
Zebedee entered the house (with a written character) as a
footman. He soon fell in love with the nice little lady's-maid,
and she heartily returned the feeling. They might have waited for
years before they were in a pecuniary position to marry, but for
the death of Zebedee's uncle, who left him a little fortune of
two thousand pounds. They were now, for persons in their station,
rich enough to please themselves; and they were married from the
house in which they had served together, the little daughters of
the family showing their affection for Mrs. Zebedee by acting as
her bridesmaids.

The young husband was a careful man. He decided to employ his
small capital to the best advantage, by sheep-farming in
Australia. His wife made no objection; she was ready to go
wherever John went.

Accordingly they spent their short honeymoon in London, so as to
see for themselves the vessel in which their passage was to be
taken. They went to Mrs. Crosscapel's lodging-house because
Zebedee's uncle had always stayed there when in London. Ten days
were to pass before the day of embarkation arrived. This gave the
young couple a welcome holiday, and a prospect of amusing
themselves to their heart's content among the sights and shows of
the great city.

On their first evening in London they went to the theater. They
were both accustomed to the fresh air of the country, and they
felt half stifled by the heat and the gas. However, they were so
pleased with an amusement which was new to them that they went to
another theater on the next evening. On this second occasion,
John Zebedee found the heat unendurable. They left the theater,
and got back to their lodgings toward ten o'clock.

Let the rest be told in the words used by Mrs. Zebedee herself.
She said:

"We sat talking for a little while in our room, and John's
headache got worse and worse. I persuaded him to go to bed, and I
put out the candle (the fire giving sufficient light to undress
by), so that he might the sooner fall asleep. But he was too
restless to sleep. He asked me to read him something. Books
always made him drowsy at the best of times.

"I had not myself begun to undress. So I lit the candle again,
and I opened the only book I had. John had noticed it at the
railway bookstall by the name of 'The World of Sleep.' He used to
joke with me about my being a sleepwalker; and he said, 'Here's
something that's sure to interest you'--and he made me a present
of the book.

"Before I had read to him for more than half an hour he was fast
asleep. Not feeling that way inclined, I went on reading to

"The book did indeed interest me. There was one terrible story
which took a hold on my mind--the story of a man who stabbed his
own wife in a sleep-walking dream. I thought of putting down my
book after that, and then changed my mind again and went on. The
next chapters were not so interesting; they were full of learned
accounts of why we fall asleep, and what our brains do in that
state, and such like. It ended in my falling asleep, too, in my
armchair by the fireside.

"I don't know what o'clock it was when I went to sleep. I don't
know how long I slept, or whether I dreamed or not. The candle
and the fire had both burned out, and it was pitch dark when I
woke. I can't even say why I woke--unless it was the coldness of
the room.

"There was a spare candle on the chimney- piece. I found the
matchbox, and got a light. Then for the first time, I turned
round toward the bed; and I saw--"

She had seen the dead body of her husband, murdered while she was
unconsciously at his side--and she fainted, poor creature, at the
bare remembrance of it.

The proceedings were adjourned. She received every possible care
and attention; the chaplain looking after her welfare as well as
the surgeon.

I have said nothing of the evidence of the landlady and servants.
It was taken as a mere formality. What little they knew proved
nothing against Mrs. Zebedee. The police made no discoveries that
supported her first frantic accusation of herself. Her master and
mistress, where she had been last in service, spoke of her in the
highest terms. We were at a complete deadlock.

It had been thought best not to surprise Mr. Deluc, as yet, by
citing him as a witness. The action of the law was, however,
hurried in this case by a private communication received from the

After twice seeing, and speaking with, Mrs. Zebedee, the reverend
gentleman was persuaded that she had no more to do than himself
with the murder of her husband. He did not consider that he was
ju stified in repeating a confidential communication--he would
only recommend that Mr. Deluc should be summoned to appear at the
next examination. This advice was followed.

The police had no evidence against Mrs. Zebedee when the inquiry
was resumed. To assist the ends of justice she was now put into
the witness-box. The discovery of her murdered husband, when she
woke in the small hours of the morning, was passed over as
rapidly as possible. Only three questions of importance were put
to her.

First, the knife was produced. Had she ever seen it in her
husband's possession? Never. Did she know anything about it?
Nothing whatever.

Secondly: Did she, or did her husband, lock the bedroom door when
they returned from the theater? No. Did she afterward lock the
door herself? No.

Thirdly: Had she any sort of reason to give for supposing that
she had murdered her husband in a sleep-walking dream? No reason,
except that she was beside herself at the time, and the book put
the thought into her head.

After this the other witnesses were sent out of court The motive
for the chaplain's communication now appeared. Mrs. Zebedee was
asked if anything unpleasant had occurred between Mr. Deluc and

Yes. He had caught her alone on the stairs at the lodging-house;
had presumed to make love to her; and had carried the insult
still farther by attempting to kiss her. She had slapped his
face, and had declared that her husband should know of it, if his
misconduct was repeated. He was in a furious rage at having his
face slapped; and he said to her: "Madam, you may live to regret

After consultation, and at the request of our Inspector, it was
decided to keep Mr. Deluc in ignorance of Mrs. Zebedee's
statement for the present. When the witnesses were recalled, he
gave the same evidence which he had already given to the
Inspector--and he was then asked if he knew anything of the
knife. He looked at it without any guilty signs in his face, and
swore that he had never seen it until that moment. The resumed
inquiry ended, and still nothing had been discovered.

But we kept an eye on Mr. Deluc. Our next effort was to try if we
could associate him with the purchase of the knife.

Here again (there really did seem to be a sort of fatality in
this case) we reached no useful result. It was easy enough to
find out the wholesale cutlers, who had manufactured the knife at
Sheffield, by the mark on the blade. But they made tens of
thousands of such knives, and disposed of them to retail dealers
all over Great Britain--to say nothing of foreign parts. As to
finding out the person who had engraved the imperfect inscription
(without knowing where, or by whom, the knife had been purchased)
we might as well have looked for the proverbial needle in the
bundle of hay. Our last resource was to have the knife
photographed, with the inscribed side uppermost, and to send
copies to every police-station in the kingdom.

At the same time we reckoned up Mr. Deluc--I mean that we made
investigations into his past life--on the chance that he and the
murdered man might have known each other, and might have had a
quarrel, or a rivalry about a woman, on some former occasion. No
such discovery rewarded us.

We found Deluc to have led a dissipated life, and to have mixed
with very bad company. But he had kept out of reach of the law. A
man may be a profligate vagabond; may insult a lady; may say
threatening things to her, in the first stinging sensation of
having his face slapped--but it doesn't follow from these blots
on his character that he has murdered her husband in the dead of
the night.

Once more, then, when we were called upon to report ourselves, we
had no evidence to produce. The photographs failed to discover
the owner of the knife, and to explain its interrupted
inscription. Poor Mrs. Zebedee was allowed to go back to her
friends, on entering into her own recognizance to appear again if
called upon. Articles in the newspapers began to inquire how many
more murderers would succeed in baffling the police. The
authorities at the Treasury offered a reward of a hundred pounds
for the necessary information. And the weeks passed and nobody
claimed the reward.

Our Inspector was not a man to be easily beaten. More inquiries
and examinations followed. It is needless to say anything about
them. We were defeated--and there, so far as the police and the
public were concerned, was an end of it.

The assassination of the poor young husband soon passed out of
notice, like other undiscovered murders. One obscure person only
was foolish enough, in his leisure hours, to persist in trying to
solve the problem of Who Killed Zebedee? He felt that he might
rise to the highest position in the police force if he succeeded
where his elders and betters had failed--and he held to his own
little ambition, though everybody laughed at him. In plain
English, I was the man.


WITHOUT meaning it, I have told my story ungratefully.

There were two persons who saw nothing ridiculous in my
resolution to continue the investigation, single-handed. One of
them was Miss Mybus; and the other was the cook, Priscilla

Mentioning the lady first, Miss Mybus was indignant at the
resigned manner in which the police accepted their defeat. She
was a little bright-eyed wiry woman; and she spoke her mind

"This comes home to me," she said. "Just look back for a year or
two. I can call to mind two cases of persons found murdered in
London--and the assassins have never been traced. I am a person,
too; and I ask myself if my turn is not coming next. You're a
nice-looking fellow and I like your pluck and perseverance. Come
here as often as you think right; and say you are my visitor, if
they make any difficulty about letting you in. One thing more! I
have nothing particular to do, and I am no fool. Here, in the
parlors, I see everybody who comes into the house or goes out of
the house. Leave me your address--I may get some information for
you yet."

With the best intentions, Miss Mybus found no opportunity of
helping me. Of the two, Priscilla Thurlby seemed more likely to
be of use.

In the first place, she was sharp and active, and (not having
succeeded in getting another situation as yet) was mistress of
her own movements.

In the second place, she was a woman I could trust. Before she
left home to try domestic service in London, the parson of her
native parish gave her a written testimonial, of which I append a
copy. Thus it ran:

"I gladly recommend Priscilla Thurlby for any respectable
employment which she may be competent to undertake. Her father
and mother are infirm old people, who have lately suffered a
diminution of their income; and they have a younger daughter to
maintain. Rather than be a burden on her parents, Priscilla goes
to London to find domestic employment, and to devote her earnings
to the assistance of her father and mother. This circumstance
speaks for itself. I have known the family many years; and I only
regret that I have no vacant place in my own household which I
can offer to this good girl,

(Signed) "HENRY DEERINGTON, Rector of Roth."

After reading those words, I could safely ask Priscilla to help
me in reopening the mysterious murder case to some good purpose.

My notion was that the proceedings of the persons in Mrs.
Crosscapel's house had not been closely enough inquired into yet.
By way of continuing the investigation, I asked Priscilla if she
could tell me anything which associated the housemaid with Mr.
Deluc. She was unwilling to answer. "I may be casting suspicion
on an innocent person," she said. "Besides, I was for so short a
time the housemaid's fellow servant--"

"You slept in the same room with her," I remarked; "and you had
opportunities of observing her conduct toward the lodgers. If
they had asked you, at the examination, what I now ask, you would
have answered as an honest woman."

To this argument she yielded. I heard from her certain
particulars, which threw a new light on Mr. Deluc, and on the
case generally. On that information I acted. It was slow work,
owing to the claims on me of my regular duties; but with
Priscilla's help, I steadily advanced toward the end I had in

Besides this, I owed another obligation to Mrs. Crosscapel's
nice-looking cook. The confession must be made sooner or
later--and I may as well make it now. I first knew what love was,
thanks to Priscilla. I had delicious kisses, thanks to Priscilla.
And, when I asked if she would marry me, she didn't say No. She
looked, I must own, a little sadly, and she said: "How can two
such poor people as we are ever hope to marry?" To this I
answered: "It won't be long before I lay my hand on the clew
which my Inspector has failed to find. I shall be in a position
to marry you, my dear, when that time comes."

At our next meeting we spoke of her parents. I was now her
promised husband. Judging by what I had heard of the proceedings
of other people in my position, it seemed to be only right that I
should be made known to her father and mother. She entirely
agreed with me; and she wrote home that day to tell them to
expect us at the end of the week.

I took my turn of night-duty, and so gained my liberty for the
greater part of the next day. I dressed myself in plain clothes,
and we took our tickets on the railway for Yateland, being the
nearest station to the village in which Priscilla's parents


THE train stopped, as usual, at the big town of Waterbank.
Supporting herself by her needle, while she was still unprovided
with a situation, Priscilla had been at work late in the
night--she was tired and thirsty. I left the carriage to get her
some soda-water. The stupid girl in the refreshment room failed
to pull the cork out of the bottle, and refused to let me help
her. She took a corkscrew, and used it crookedly. I lost all
patience, and snatched the bottle out of her hand. Just as I drew
the cork, the bell rang on the platform. I only waited to pour
the soda-water into a glass--but the train was moving as I left
the refreshment room. The porters stopped me when I tried to jump
on to the step of the carriage. I was left behind.

As soon as I had recovered my temper, I looked at the time-table.
We had reached Waterbank at five minutes past one. By good luck,
the next train was due at forty-four minutes past one, and
arrived at Yateland (the next station) ten minutes afterward. I
could only hope that Priscilla would look at the time-table too,
and wait for me. If I had attempted to walk the distance between
the two places, I should have lost time instead of saving it. The
interval before me was not very long; I occupied it in looking
over the town.

Speaking with all due respect to the inhabitants, Waterbank (to
other people) is a dull place. I went up one street and down
another--and stopped to look at a shop which struck me; not from
anything in itself, but because it was the only shop in the
street with the shutters closed.

A bill was posted on the shutters, announcing that the place was
to let. The outgoing tradesman's name and business, announced in
the customary painted letters, ran thus: _James Wycomb, Cutler,

For the first time, it occurred to me that we had forgotten an
obstacle in our way, when we distributed our photographs of the
knife. We had none of us remembered that a certain proportion of
cutlers might be placed, by circumstances, out of our
reach--either by retiring from business or by becoming bankrupt.
I always carried a copy of the photograph about me; and I thought
to myself, "Here is the ghost of a chance of tracing the knife to
Mr. Deluc!"

The shop door was opened, after I had twice rung the bell, by an
old man, very dirty and very deaf. He said "You had better go
upstairs, and speak to Mr. Scorrier--top of the house."

I put my lips to the old fellow's ear-trumpet, and asked who Mr.
Scorrier was.

"Brother-in-law to Mr. Wycomb. Mr. Wycomb's dead. If you want to
buy the business apply to Mr. Scorrier."

Receiving that reply, I went upstairs, and found Mr. Scorrier
engaged in engraving a brass door-plate. He was a middle-aged
man, with a cadaverous face and dim eyes After the necessary
apologies, I produced my photograph.

"May I ask, sir, if you know anything of the inscription on that
knife?" I said.

He took his magnifying glass to look at it.

"This is curious," he remarked quietly. "I remember the queer
name--Zebedee. Yes, sir; I did the engraving, as far as it goes.
I wonder what prevented me from finishing it?"

The name of Zebedee, and the unfinished inscription on the knife,
had appeared in every English newspaper. He took the matter so
coolly that I was doubtful how to interpret his answer. Was it
possible that he had not seen the account of the murder? Or was
he an accomplice with prodigious powers of self-control?

"Excuse me," I said, "do you read the newspapers?"

"Never! My eyesight is failing me. I abstain from reading, in the
interests of my occupation."

"Have you not heard the name of Zebedee mentioned--particularly
by people who do read the newspapers?"

"Very likely; but I didn't attend to it. When the day's work is
done, I take my walk. Then I have my supper, my drop of grog, and
my pipe. Then I go to bed. A dull existence you think, I daresay!
I had a miserable life, sir, when I was young. A bare
subsistence, and a little rest, before the last perfect rest in
the grave--that is all I want. The world has gone by me long ago.
So much the better."

The poor man spoke honestly. I was ashamed of having doubted him.
I returned to the subject of the knife.

"Do you know where it was purchased, and by whom?" I asked.

"My memory is not so good as it was," he said; "but I have got
something by me that helps it."

He took from a cupboard a dirty old scrapbook. Strips of paper,
with writing on them, were pasted on the pages, as well as I
could see. He turned to an index, or table of contents, and
opened a page. Something like a flash of life showed itself on
his dismal face.

"Ha! now I remember," he said. "The knife was bought of my late
brother-in-law, in the shop downstairs. It all comes back to me,
sir. A person in a state of frenzy burst into this very room, and
snatched the knife away from me, when I was only half way through
the inscription!"

I felt that I was now close on discovery. "May I see what it is
that has assisted your memory?" I asked.

"Oh yes. You must know, sir, I live by engraving inscriptions and
addresses, and I paste in this book the manuscript instructions
which I receive, with marks of my own on the margin. For one
thing, they serve as a reference to new customers. And for
another thing, they do certainly help my memory."

He turned the book toward me, and pointed to a slip of paper
which occupied the lower half of a page.

I read the complete inscription, intended for the knife that
killed Zebedee, and written as follows:

"To John Zebedee. From Priscilla Thurlby."


I DECLARE that it is impossible for me to describe what I felt
when Priscilla's name confronted me like a written confession of
guilt. How long it was before I recovered myself in some degree,
I cannot say. The only thing I can clearly call to mind is, that
I frightened the poor engraver.

My first desire was to get possession of the manuscript
inscription. I told him I was a policeman, and summoned him to

Book of the day: