Part 11 out of 11
The engagement between Paulina and Douglas had lasted nearly two
months, when a cloud overshadowed the horizon which had seemed so
Madame Durski became somewhat alarmed by a change in her lover's
appearance, which struck her suddenly on one of his visits to the
villa. For some weeks past she had seen him only by lamplight--that
light which gives a delusive brightness to the countenance.
To-day she saw him with the cold northern sunlight shining full upon
his face; and for the first time she perceived that he had altered much
"Douglas," she said, earnestly, "how ill you are looking!"
"Yes; I see it to-day for the first time, and I can only wonder that I
never noticed it before. You have grown so much paler, so much thinner,
within the last few weeks. I am sure you cannot be well."
"My dearest Paulina, pray do not look at me with such alarm," said
Douglas, gently. "Believe me, there is nothing particular the matter. I
have not been quite myself for the last few weeks, I admit--a touch of
low fever, I think; but there is not the slightest occasion for fear on
"Oh, Douglas," exclaimed Paulina, "how can you speak so carelessly of a
subject so vital to me? I implore you to consult a physician
"I assure you, my dearest, it is not necessary. There is nothing really
"Douglas, I beg and entreat you to see a physician directly. I entreat
it as a favour to me."
"My dear Paulina, I am ready to do anything you wish."
"You will promise me, then, to see a doctor you can trust, without an
hour's unnecessary delay?"
"I promise, with all my heart," replied Douglas. "Ah, Paulina, what
happiness to think that my life is of some slight value to her I love
No more was said upon the subject; but during dinner, and throughout
the evening, Paulina's eyes fixed themselves every now and then with an
anxious, scrutinizing gaze upon her lover's face.
When he had left her, she mentioned her fears to her _confidante_ and
shadow, Miss Brewer.
"Do you not see a change in Mr. Dale?" she asked.
"A change! What kind of change?"
"Do you not perceive an alteration in his appearance? In plainer words,
do you not think him looking very ill?"
Miss Brewer, generally so impassive, started, and looked at her
patroness with a gaze in which alarm was plainly visible.
She had hazarded so much in order to bring about a marriage between
Douglas and her patroness; and what if mortality's dread enemy, Death,
should forbid the banns?
"Ill!" she exclaimed; "do you think Mr. Dale is ill?"
"I do, indeed; and he confesses as much himself, though he makes light
of the matter. He talks of low fever. I cannot tell you how much he has
"There may be nothing serious in it," answered Miss Brewer, with some
hesitation. "One is so apt to take alarm about trifles which a doctor
would laugh at. I dare say Mr. Dale only requires change of air. A
London life is not calculated to improve any one's health."
"Perhaps that is the cause of his altered appearance," replied Paulina,
only too glad to be reassured as to her lover's safety. "I will beg him
to take change of air. But he has promised to see a doctor to-morrow:
when he comes to me in the afternoon I shall hear what the doctor has
Douglas Dale was very much inclined to make light of the slight
symptoms of ill-health which had oppressed him for some time--a
languor, a sense of thirst and fever, which were very wearing in their
effect, but which he attributed to the alternations of excitement and
agitation that he had undergone of late.
He was, however, too much a man of honour to break the promise made to
He went early on the following morning to Savile Row, where he called
upon Dr. Harley Westbrook, a physician of some eminence, to whom he
carefully described the symptoms of which he had complained to Paulina.
"I do not consider myself really ill," he said, in conclusion; "but I
have come to you in obedience to the wish of a friend."
"I am very glad that you have come to me," answered Dr. Westbrook,
"Indeed! do you, then, consider the symptoms alarming?"
"Well, no, not at present; but I may go so far as to say that you have
done very wisely in placing yourself under medical treatment. It is a
most interesting case," added the doctor with an air of satisfaction
that was almost enjoyment.
He then asked his patient a great many questions, some of which Douglas
Dale considered frivolous, or, indeed, absurd; questions about his
diet, his habits: questions even about the people with whom he
associated, the servants who waited upon him.
These latter inquiries might have seemed almost impertinent, if Dr.
Westbrook's elevated position had not precluded such an idea.
"You dine at your club, or in your chambers, eh, Mr. Dale?" he asked.
"Neither at my club, nor my chambers; I dine every day with a friend."
"Indeed; always with the same friend?"
"Always the same."
"And you breakfast?"
"At my chambers."
Here followed several questions as to the nature of the breakfast.
"These sort of ailments depend so much on diet," said the physician, as
if to justify the closeness of his questioning. "Your servant prepares
your breakfast, of course--is he a person whom you can trust?"
"Yes; he is an old servant of my father's. I could trust him implicitly
in far more important matters than the preparation of my breakfast."
"Indeed! Will you pardon me if I ask rather a strange question?"
"Certainly, if it is a necessary one."
"Answered like a lawyer, Mr. Dale," replied Dr. Westbrook, with a
smile. "I want to know whether this old and trusted servant of yours
has any beneficial interest in your death?"
"Interest in my death--"
"In plainer words, has he reason to think that you have put him down in
your will--supposing that you have made a will; which is far from
"Well, yes," replied Douglas, thoughtfully; "I have made a will within
the last few months, and Jarvis, my old servant knows that he is
provided for, in the event of surviving me--not a very likely event,
according to the ordinary hazards; but a man is bound to prepare for
"You told your servant that you had provided for him?"
"I did. He has been such an excellent creature, that it was only
natural I should leave him comfortably situated in the event of my
"No; to be sure," answered the physician, with rather an absent manner.
"And now I need trouble you with no further questions this morning.
Come to me in a few days, and in the meantime take the medicine I
prescribe for you."
Dr. Westbrook wrote a prescription, and Mr. Dale departed, very much
perplexed by his interview with the celebrated physician.
Douglas went to Fulham that evening as usual, and the first question
Paulina asked related to his interview with the doctor.
"You have seen a medical man?" she asked.
"I have; and you may set your mind at rest, dearest. He assures me that
there is nothing serious the matter."
Paulina was entirely reassured, and throughout that evening she was
brighter and happier than usual in the society of her lover--more
lovely, more bewitching than ever, as it seemed to Douglas.
He waited a week before calling again on the physician; and he might,
perhaps, have delayed his visit even longer, had he not felt that the
fever and languor from which he suffered increased rather than abated.
This time Dr. Westbrook's manner seemed graver and more perplexed than
on the former visit. He asked even more questions, and at last, after a
thoughtful examination of the patient, he said, very seriously--
"Mr. Dale, I must tell you frankly that I do not like your symptoms."
"You consider them alarming?"
"I consider them perplexing, rather than alarming. And as you are not a
nervous subject I think I may venture to trust you fully."
"You may trust in the strength of my nerve, if that is what you mean."
"I believe I may, and I shall have to test your moral courage and
general force of character."
"Pray be brief, then," said Douglas with a faint smile. "I can almost
guess what you have to say. You are going to tell me that I carry the
seeds of a mortal disease; that the shadowy hand of death already holds
me in its fatal grip."
"I am going to tell you nothing of the kind," answered Dr. Westbrook.
"I can find no symptoms of disease. You have a very fair lease of life,
Mr. Dale, and may enjoy a green old age, if other people would allow
you to enjoy it."
"How do you mean?"
"I mean that if I can trust my own judgment in a matter which is
sometimes almost beyond the reach of science, the symptoms from which
you suffer are those of slow poisoning."
"Slow poisoning!" replied Douglas, in almost inaudible accents. "It is
impossible!" he exclaimed, after a pause, during which the physician
waited quietly until his patient should have in some manner recovered
his calmness of mind. "It is quite impossible. I have every confidence
in your skill, your science; but in this instance, Dr. Westbrook, I
feel assured that you are mistaken."
"I would gladly think so, Mr. Dale," replied the doctor, gravely; "but
I cannot. I have given my best thought to your case. I can only form
one conclusion--namely, that you are labouring under the effects of
"Do you know what the poison is?"
"I do not; but I do know that it must have been administered with a
caution that is almost diabolical in its ingenuity--so slowly, by such
imperceptible degrees, that you have scarcely been aware of the change
which it has worked in your system. It was a most providential
circumstance that you came to me when you did, as I have been able to
discover the treachery to which you are subject while there is yet
ample time for you to act against it. Forewarned is forearmed, you
know, Mr. Dale. The hidden hand of the secret poisoner is about its
fatal work; it is for you and me to discover to whom the hand belongs.
Is there any one about you whom you can suspect of such hideous guilt?"
"No one--no one. I repeat that such a thing is impossible."
"Who is the person most interested in your death?" asked Dr. Westbrook,
"My first cousin, Sir Reginald Eversleigh, who would succeed to a very
handsome income in that event. But I have not met him, or, at any rate,
broke bread with him, for the last two months. Nor can I for a moment
believe him capable of such infamy."
"If you have not been in intimate association with him for the last two
months, you may absolve him from all suspicion," answered Dr.
Westbrook. "You spoke to me the other day of dining very frequently
with one particular friend; forgive me if I ask an unpleasant question.
Is that friend a person whom you can trust?"
"That friend I could trust with a hundred lives, if I had them to
lose," Douglas replied, warmly.
The doctor looked at his patient thoughtfully. He was a man of the
world, and the warmth of Mr. Dale's manner told him that the friend in
question was a woman.
"Has the person whom you trust so implicitly any beneficial interest in
your death?" he asked.
"To some amount; but that person would gain much more by my continuing
"Indeed; then we must needs fall back upon my original idea and painful
as it may be to you, the old servant must become the object of your
"I cannot believe him capable--"
"Come, come, Mr. Dale," interrupted the physician. "We must look at
things as men of the world. It is your duty to ascertain by whom this
poison has been administered, in order to protect yourself from the
attacks of your insidious destroyer. If you will follow my advice, you
will do this; if, on the other hand, you elect to shut your eyes to the
danger that assails you, I can only tell you that you will most
assuredly pay for your folly by the forfeit of your life."
"What am I to do?" asked Douglas.
"You say that your habits of life are almost rigid in their regularity.
You always breakfast in your own chambers; you always dine and take
your after-dinner coffee in the house of one particular friend. With
the exception of a biscuit and a glass of sherry taken sometimes at
your club, these two meals are all you take during the day. It is,
therefore, an indisputable fact, that poison has bee a administered at
one or other of these two meals. Your old butler serves one--the
servants of your friend prepare the other. Either in your own chambers,
or in your friend's house, you have a hidden foe. It is for you to find
out where that foe lurks."
"Not in her house," gasped Douglas, unconsciously betraying the depth
of his feeling and the sex of his friend; "not in hers. It must be
Jarvis whom I have to fear--and yet, no, I cannot believe it. My
father's old servant--a man who used to carry me in his arms when I was
"You may easily set the question of his guilt or innocence at rest, Mr.
Dale," answered Dr. Westbrook. "Contrive to separate yourself from him
for a time. If during that time you find your symptoms cease, you will
have the strongest evidence of his guilt; if they still continue, you
must look elsewhere."
"I will take your advice," replied Douglas, with a weary sigh;
"anything is better than suspense."
Little more was said.
As Douglas walked slowly from the physician's house to the Phoenix
Club, he meditated profoundly on the subject of his interview with Dr.
"Who is the traitor?" he asked himself. "Who? Unhappily there can be no
doubt about it. Jarvis is the guilty wretch."
It was with unspeakable pain that Douglas Dale contemplated the idea of
his old servant's guilt: his old servant, who had seemed a model of
fidelity and devotion!
This very man had attended the deathbed of the rector--Douglas Dale's
father--had been recommended by that father to the care of his two
sons, had exhibited every appearance of intense grief at the loss of
What could he think, except that Jarvis was guilty? There was but one
other direction in which he could look for guilt, and there surely it
could not be found.
Who in Hilton House had any interest in his death, except that one
person who was above the possibility of suspicion?
He sat by his solitary breakfast-table on the morning after his
interview with the physician, and watched Jarvis as he moved to and
fro, waiting on his master with what seemed affectionate attention.
Douglas ate little. A failing appetite had been one of the symptoms
that accompanied the low fever from which he had lately suffered.
This morning, depression of spirits rendered him still less inclined to
He was thinking of Jarvis and of the past--those careless, happy,
childish days, in which this man had been second only to his own
kindred in his boyish affection.
While he meditated gravely upon this most painful subject, deliberating
as to the manner in which he should commence a conversation that was
likely to be a very serious one, he happened to look up, and perceived
that he was watched by the man he had been lately watching. His eyes
met the gaze of his old servant, and he beheld a strange earnestness in
The old man did not flinch on meeting his master's glance.
"I beg your pardon for looking at you so hard, Mr. Douglas," he said;
"but I was thinking about you very serious, sir, when you looked up."
"Indeed, Jarvis, and why?"
"Why you see, sir, it was about your appetite as I was thinking. It's
fallen off dreadful within the last few weeks. The poor breakfastes as
you eats is enough to break a man's heart. And you don't know the pains
as I take, sir, to tempt you in the way of breakfastes. That fish, sir,
I fetched from Grove's this morning with my own hands. They comes up in
a salt-water tank in the bottom of their own boat, sir, as lively as if
they was still in their natural eleming, Grove's fish do. But they
might be red herrings for any notice as you take of 'em. You're not
yourself, Mr. Douglas, that's what it is. You're ill, Mr. Douglas, and
you ought to see a doctor. Excuse my presumption, sir, in making these
remarks; but if an old family servant that has nursed you on his knees
can't speak free, who can?"
"True," Douglas answered with a sigh; "I was a very small boy when you
carried me on your shoulders to many a country fair, and you were very
good to me, Jarvis."
"Only my dooty, sir," muttered the old man.
"You are right, Jarvis, as to my health--I am ill."
"Then you'll send for a doctor, surely, Mr. Douglas."
"I have already seen a doctor."
"And what do he say, sir?"
"He says my case is very serious."
"Oh, Mr. Douglas, don't 'ee say that, don't 'ee say that," cried the
old man, in extreme distress.
"I can only tell you the truth, Jarvis," answered Douglas: "but there
is no occasion for despair. The physician tells me that my case is a
grave one, but he does not say that it is hopeless."
"Why don't 'ee consult another doctor, Mr. Douglas," said Jarvis;
"perhaps that one ain't up to his work. If it's such a difficult case,
you ought to go to all the best doctors in London, till you find the
one that can cure you. A fine, well-grown young gentleman like you
oughtn't to have much the matter with him. I don't see as it can be
"I don't know about that, Jarvis; but in any case I have resolved upon
doing something for you."
"For me, sir! Lor' bless your generous heart, I don't want nothing in
this mortal world."
"But you may, Jarvis," replied Douglas. "You have already been told
that I have provided for you in case of my death."
"Yes, sir, you was so good as to say you had left me an annuity, and it
was very kind of you to think of such a thing, and I'm duly thankful.
But still you see, sir, I can't help looking at it in the light of a
kind of joke, sir; for it ain't in human nature that an old chap like
me is going to outlive a young gentleman like you; and Lord forbid that
it should be in human nature for such a thing to happen."
"We never know what may happen, Jarvis. At any rate, I have provided
against the worst. But as you are getting old, and have worked hard all
your life, I think you must want rest; so, instead of putting you off
till my death, I shall give you your annuity at once, and you may
retire into a comfortable little house of your own, and live the life
of an elderly gentleman, with a decent little income, as soon as you
To the surprise of Douglas Dale, the old man's countenance expressed
only grief and mortification on hearing an announcement which his
master had supposed would have been delightful to him.
"Begging your pardon, sir," he faltered; "but have you seen a younger
servant as you like better and as could serve you better, than poor
"No, indeed," answered Douglas, "I have seen no such person. Nor do I
believe that any one in the world could serve me as well as you."
"Then why do you want to change, sir?"
"I don't want to change. I only want to make you happy, Jarvis."
"Then make me happy by letting me stay with you," pleaded the old
servant. "Let me stay, sir. Don't talk about annuities. I want nothing
from you but the pleasure of waiting on my dear old master's son. It's
as much delight to me to wait upon you now as it was to me twenty years
ago to carry you to the country fairs on my shoulder. Ah, we did have
rare times of it then, didn't we, sir? Let me stay, and when I die give
me a grave somewhere hard by where you live; and if, once in a way,
when you pass the churchyard where I lay, you should give a sigh, and
say, 'Poor old Jarvis!' that will be a full reward to me for having
loved you so dear ever since you was a baby."
Was this acting? Was this the perfect simulation of an accomplished
hypocrite? No, no, no; Douglas Dale could not believe it.
The tears came into his eyes; he extended his hand, and grasped that of
his old servant.
"You _shall_ stay with me, Jarvis," he said; "and I will trust you with
all my heart."
Douglas Dale left his chambers soon after that conversation, and went
straight to Dr. Westbrook, to whom he gave a fall account of the
"I have tested the old man thoroughly," he said, in conclusion; "and I
believe him to be fidelity itself."
"You have tested him, Mr. Dale! stuff and nonsense!" exclaimed the
practical physician. "You surely don't call that sentimental
conversation a test? If the man is capable of being a slow poisoner, he
is, of course, capable of acting a part, and shedding crocodile's tears
in evidence of his devoted affection for the master whose biliary
organs he is deranging by the administration of antimony, or aconite.
If you want to test the man thoroughly, test him in my way. Contrive to
eat your breakfast elsewhere for a week or two; touch nothing, not so
much as a glass of water, in your own chambers; and if at the end of
that time the symptoms have ceased, you will know what to think of that
pattern of fidelity--Mr. Jarvis."
Douglas promised to take the doctor's advice. He was convinced of his
servant's innocence; but he wanted to put that question beyond doubt.
But if Jarvis was indeed innocent, where was the guilty wretch to be
Douglas Dale dined at Hilton House upon the evening after his interview
with Dr. Westbrook, as he had done without intermission for several
weeks. He found Paulina tender and affectionate, as she had ever been
of late, since respect and esteem for her lover's goodness had
developed into a warmer feeling.
"Douglas," she said, on this particular evening, when they were alone
together for a few minutes after dinner, "your health has not improved
as much as I had hoped it would under the treatment of your doctor. I
wish you would consult some one else."
She spoke lightly, for she feared to alarm the patient by any
appearance of fear on her part. She knew how physical disease may be
augmented by mental agitation. Her tone, therefore, was one of assumed
To-night Douglas Dale's mind was peculiarly sensitive to every
impression. Something in that assumed tone struck strangely upon his
ear. For the first time since he had known her, the voice of the woman
he loved, seemed to him to have a false sound in its clear, ringing
An icy terror suddenly took possession of his mind.
What if this woman--this woman, whom he loved with such intense
affection--what if she were something other than she seemed! What if
her heart had never been his--her love never withdrawn from the
reprobate upon whom she had once bestowed it! What if her tender
glances, her affectionate words, her graceful, caressing manner, were
all a comedy, of which he was the dupe! What if--
"I am the victim of treachery," he thought to himself; "but the traitor
cannot be here. Oh, no, no! let me find the traitor anywhere rather
Paulina watched her lover as he sat with his eyes fixed on the ground,
absorbed in gloomy meditation.
Presently he looked up suddenly, and addressed her.
"I am going on a journey, Paulina, on business," he said; "business,
which I can only transact myself. I shall, therefore, be compelled to
be absent from you for a week; it may be even more. Perhaps we shall
never meet again. Will that be very distressing to you?"
"Douglas," exclaimed Paulina, "how strangely you speak to me to-night!
If this is a jest, it is a very cruel one."
"It is no jest, Paulina," answered her lover. "Life is very precarious,
and within the last week I have learnt to consider my existence in
"You are ill, Douglas," said Paulina; "and illness has unnerved you.
Pray do not give way to these depressing thoughts. Consult some other
physician than the man who is now your adviser."
"Yes, yes; I will do so," answered Douglas, with, a sudden change of
tone; "you are right, Paulina. I will not be so weak as to become the
prey of these distressing fancies, these dark forebodings. What have I
to fear? Death is no terrible evil. It is but the common fate of all. I
can face that common doom as calmly as a Christian should face it. But
deceit, treachery, falsehood from those we love--those are evils far
more terrible than death. Oh, Paulina! tell me that I have no need to
"From whom should you fear them, Douglas!"
"Aye, from whom, that is the question! Not from you, Paulina?"
"From me!" she echoed, with a look of wonder. "Are you mad?"
"Swear--swear to me that there is no falsehood in your heart, Paulina;
that you love me as truly as you have taught me to believe; that you
have not beguiled me with false words, as false as they are sweet!"
cried the young man, in wild excitement.
"My dear Douglas, this is madness!" exclaimed Madame Durski; "folly too
wild for reproof. This passionate excitement must be surely the effect
of fever. What can I say to you except that I love you truly and
dearly; that my heart has been purified, my mind elevated by your
influence; that I have now no thought which is not known to you--no
hope that does not rest itself upon your love. You ought to believe
this, Douglas, for my every word, my every look, should speak the
truth, which I do not care to reiterate in protestations such as these.
It is too painful to me to be doubted by you."
"And if I have wronged you, I am a base wretch," said Douglas, in a low
Early the following morning he paid another visit to Dr. Westbrook.
"I will not trespass on your time this morning," he said, after shaking
hands with the physician. "I have only come here in order to ask one
question. If the poison were discontinued for a week, would there be
any cessation of the symptoms?"
"There would," replied the doctor. "Nature is quick to reassert
herself. But if you are about to test your butler, I should recommend
you to remain away longer than a week--say a fortnight."
But it was not to test his old servant that Douglas Dale absented
himself from London, though he had allowed the physician to believe
that such was his intention. He started for Paris that night; but he
took Jarvis with him.
His health improved day by day, hour by hour, from the day of his
parting from Paulina Durski. The low fever had left him before he had
been ten days in Paris; the perpetual thirst, the wearisome debility,
left him also. He began to be his old self again; and to him this
recovery was far more terrible than the worst possible symptoms of
disease could have been, for it told him that the hidden foe who had
robbed him of health and strength, was to be found at Hilton House.
In that house there was but one person who would profit by Douglas
Dale's death, and she would profit largely.
"She has never loved me," he thought to himself. "She still loves
Reginald Eversleigh. My death will give her both fortune and liberty;
it will leave her free to wed the man she really loves."
He no longer trusted his own love. He believed that he had been made
the dupe of a woman's treachery; and that the hand which had so often
been pressed passionately to his lips, was the hand which, day by day,
had mingled poison with his cup, sapping his life by slow degrees.
Against the worldly wisdom of his friends he had opposed the blind
instinct of his love; and now that events conspired to condemn this
woman, he wondered that he could ever have trusted her.
At the end of a fortnight Douglas Dale returned from Paris, and went
immediately to Paulina. He believed that he had been the dupe of an
accomplished actress--the vilest and most heartless of women--and he
was now acting a part, in order to fathom the depth of her iniquity.
"Let me know her--let me know her in all her baseness," he said to
himself. "Let me tax the murderess with her crime! and then, surely,
this mad love will be plucked for ever from my heart, and I shall find
peace far from the false syren whose sorcery has embittered my life."
Douglas had received several letters from Paulina during his visit to
Paris--letters breathing the most devoted and disinterested love; but
to him every word seemed studied, every expression false. Those very
letters would, a few short weeks ago, have seemed to Douglas the
perfection of truth and artlessness.
He returned to England wondrously restored to health. Jarvis had been
his constant attendant in Paris, and had brought him every morning a
cup of coffee made by his own hands.
At the Temple, he found a note from Paulina, telling him that he was
expected hourly at Hilton House.
He lost no time in presenting himself. He endeavoured to stifle all
emotion--to conquer the impatience that possessed him; but he could
Madame Durski was seated by one of the windows in the drawing-room when
Mr. Dale was announced.
She received her lover with every appearance of affection, and with an
emotion which she seemed only anxious to conceal.
But to the jaundiced mind of Douglas Dale this suppressed emotion
appeared only a superior piece of acting; and yet, as he looked at his
betrothed, while she stood before him, perfect, peerless, in her
refined loveliness, his heart was divided by love and hate. He hated
the guilt which he believed was hers. He loved her even yet, despite
"You are very pale, Douglas," she said after the first greetings were
over. "But, thank heaven, there is a wonderful improvement. I can see
restored health in your face. The fever has gone--the unnatural
brightness has left your eyes. Oh, dearest, how happy it makes me to
see this change! You can never know what I suffered when I saw you
drooping, day by day."
"Yes, day by day, Paulina," answered the young man, gravely. "It was a
gradual decay of health and strength--my life ebbing slowly--almost
imperceptibly--but not the less surely."
"And you are better, Douglas? You feel and know yourself that there is
"Yes, Paulina. My recovery began in the hour in which I left London. My
health has improved from that time."
"You required change of air, no doubt. How foolish your doctor must
have been not to recommend that in the first instance! And now that
you have returned, may I hope to see you as often as of old? Shall we
renew all our old habits, and go back to our delightful evenings?"
"Were those evenings really pleasant to you, Paulina?" asked Mr. Dale,
"Ah, Douglas, you must know they were!"
"I cannot know the secrets of your heart, Paulina," he replied, with
unspeakable sadness in his tone. "You have seemed to me all that is
bright, and pure, and true. But how do I know that it is not all
seeming? How do I know that Reginald Eversleigh's image may not still
hold a place in your heart?"
"You insult me, Douglas!" exclaimed Madame Durski, with dignity. "But I
will not suffer myself to be angry with you on the day of your return.
I see your health is not entirely restored, since you still harbour
these gloomy thoughts and unjust suspicions."
His most searching scrutiny could perceive no traces of guilt in the
lovely face he looked at so anxiously. For a while his suspicions were
almost lulled to rest. That soft white hand, which glittered with gems
that had been his gift, could not be the hand of an assassin.
He began to feel the soothing influence of hope. Night and day he
prayed that he might discover the innocence of her he so fondly loved.
But just as he had begun to abandon himself to that sweet influence,
despair again took possession of him. All the old symptoms--the fever,
the weakness, the unnatural thirst, the dry, burning sensation in his
throat--returned; and this time Jarvis was far away. His master had
sent him to pay a visit to a married daughter, comfortably settled in
the depths of Devonshire.
Douglas Dale went to one of the most distinguished physicians in London.
He was determined to consult a new adviser, in order to discover
whether the opinion of that other adviser would agree with the opinion
of Dr. Harley Westbrook.
Dr. Chippendale, the new physician, asked all the questions previously
asked by Dr. Westbrook, and, after much deliberation, he informed his
patient, with all proper delicacy and caution, that he was suffering
from the influence of slow poison.
"Is my life in danger, Dr. Chippendale?" he asked.
"Not in immediate danger. The poison has evidently been administered in
infinitesimal doses. But you cannot too soon withdraw yourself from all
those who now surround you. Life is not to be tampered with. The
poisoner may take it into his head to increase the doses."
Douglas Dale left his adviser after a long conversation. He then went
to take his farewell of Paulina Durski.
There was no longer the shadow of doubt in his mind. The horrible
certainty seemed painfully clear to him. Love must be plucked for ever
from his breast, and only contempt and loathing must remain where that
divine sentiment had been enthroned.
Since his interview with the physician, he had carefully recalled to
memory all the details of his life in Paulina's society.
She had given him day by day an allotted portion of poison.
How had she administered it?
This was the question which he now sought to solve, for he no longer
asked himself whether she was guilty or innocent. He remembered that
every evening after dinner he had, in Continental fashion, taken a
single glass of liqueur; and this he had received from Paulina's own
hand. It had pleased him to take the tiny, fragile glass from those
taper fingers. The delicate liqueur had seemed sweeter to him because
it was given by Paulina.
He now felt convinced that it was in this glass of liqueur the poison
had been administered to him.
On more than one occasion he had at first declined taking it; but
Paulina had always persuaded him, with some pretty speech, some half
coquettish, half caressing action.
He found her waiting him as usual: her toilet perfection itself; her
beauty enhanced by the care with which she always strove to render
herself charming in his eyes. She said playfully that it was a tribute
which she offered to her benefactor.
They dined together, with Miss Brewer for their sole companion. She
seemed self-contained and emotionless as ever; but if Douglas had not
been so entirely absorbed by his thoughts of Paulina, he might have
perceived that she looked at him ever and anon with furtive, but
There was little conversation, little gaiety at that dinner. Douglas
was absent-minded and gloomy. He scarcely ate anything; but the
constant thirst from which he suffered obliged him to drink long
draughts of water.
After dinner, Miss Brewer brought the glasses and the liqueur to Madame
Durski, after her customary manner.
Paulina filled the ruby-stemmed glass with curacoa, and handed it to
"No, Paulina, I shall take no liqueur to-night."
"Why not, Douglas?"
"I am not well," he replied, "and I am growing rather tired of
"As you please," said Paulina, as she replaced the delicate glass in
the stand from which she had just taken it.
Miss Brewer had left the room, and the lovers were alone together. They
were seated face to face at the prettily decorated table--one with
utter despair in his heart.
"Shall I tell you why I would not take that glass from your hands just
now, Paulina Durski?" asked Douglas, after a brief pause, rising to
leave the table as he spoke. "Or will you spare me the anguish of
speaking words that must cover you with shame?"
"I do not understand you," murmured Paulina, looking at her lover with
a gaze of mingled terror and bewilderment.
"Oh, Paulina!" cried Douglas; "why still endeavour to sustain a
deception which I have unmasked? I know all."
"All what?" gasped the bewildered woman.
"All your guilt--all your baseness. Oh, Paulina, confess the treachery
which would have robbed me of life; and which, failing that, has for
ever destroyed my peace. If you are human, let some word of remorse,
some tardy expression of regret, attest your womanhood."
"I can only think that he is mad," murmured Paulina to herself, as she
gazed on her accuser with wondering eyes.
"Paulina, at least do not pretend to misunderstand me."
"Your words," replied Madame Durski, "seem to me the utterances of a
madman. For pity's sake, calm yourself, and speak plainly."
"I think that I have spoken, very plainly."
"I can discover no meaning in your words. What is it you would have me
regret? Of what crime do you accuse me?"
"The worst and darkest of all crimes," replied Douglas; "the crime of
"Yes; the crime of the secret poisoner!"
"Douglas!" cried Paulina, with a stifled shriek of terror; and then,
recoiling from him suddenly, she fell half fainting into a chair. "Oh,
why do I try to reason with him?" she murmured, piteously; "he is mad--
he is mad! My poor Douglas!" continued Paulina, sobbing hysterically,
"you are mad yourself, and you will drive me mad. Do not speak to me.
Leave me to myself. You have terrified me by your wild denunciations.
Leave me, Douglas: for pity's sake, leave me."
"I will leave you, Paulina," answered her lover, in a grave, sad voice;
"and our parting will be for ever. You cannot deny your guilt, and you
can no longer deceive me."
"Do as you please," replied Madame Durski, her passionate indignation
changing suddenly to an icy calmness. "You have wronged me so deeply,
you have insulted me so shamefully, that it matters little what further
wrong or insult I suffer at your hands. In my own justification, I will
say but this--I am as incapable of the guilt you talk of as I am of
understanding how such a wild and groundless accusation can come from
you, Douglas Dale, my affianced husband--the man I have loved and
trusted, the man whom I have believed the very model of honour and
generosity. But this must be madness, and I am not bound to endure the
ravings of a lunatic. You have said our farewell was to be spoken to-
night. Let it be so. I could not endure a repetition of the scene with
which you have just favoured me. I regret most deeply that your
generosity has burthened me with, pecuniary obligations which I may
never be able to repay, and has, in some measure, deprived me of
independence. But even at the hazard of being considered ungrateful, I
must tell you that I trust we may meet no more."
No one can tell the anguish which Paulina Durski endured as she uttered
these words in cold, measured accents. It was the supreme effort of a
proud, but generous-minded woman, and there was a kind of heroism in
that subjugation of a stricken and loving heart.
"Let it be so, Paulina," answered Douglas, with emotion. "I have no
wish to see your fair, false face again. My heart has been broken by
your treachery; and my best hope lies in the chance that your hand may
have already done its wicked work, and that my life may be forfeited to
my confidence in your affection. Let no thought of my gifts trouble
you. The fortune which was to have been shared with you is henceforth
powerless to purchase one blessing for me. And of the law which you
have outraged you need have no few; your secret will never be revealed
to mortal ears by me. No investigation will drag to light the details
of your crime."
"_You_ may seek no investigation, Douglas Dale," cried Paulina, with
sudden passion; "but I shall do so, and without delay. You have accused
me of a foul and treacherous crime--on what proof I know not. It is for
me to prove myself innocent of that black iniquity; and if human
ingenuity can fathom the mystery, it shall be fathomed. I will bring
you to my feet--yes, to my feet; and you shall beseech my pardon for
the wicked wrong you have done me. But even then this breach of your
own making shall for ever separate us. I may learn to forgive you,
Douglas, but I can never trust you again. And now go."
She pointed to the door with an imperious gesture. There was a quiet
dignity in her manner and her bearing which impressed her accuser in
spite of himself.
He bowed, and without another word left the presence of the woman who
for so long had been the idol of his heart.
He went from her presence bowed to the very dust by a sorrow which was
too deep for tears.
"She is an accomplished actress," he said to himself; "and to the very
last her policy has been defiance. And now my dream is ended, and I
awake to a blank, joyless life. A strange fatality seems to have
attended Sir Oswald Eversleigh and the inheritors of his wealth. He
died broken-hearted by a woman's falsehood; my brother Lionel bestowed
his best affections on the mercenary, fashionable coquette, Lydia
Graham, who was ready to accept another lover within a few weeks of her
pretended devotion to him; and lastly comes my misery at the hands of a
Douglas Dale resolved to leave London early next day. He returned to
his Temple chambers, intending to start for the Continent the next
But when the next day came he did not carry out his intention. He found
himself disinclined to seek change of scene, which he felt could bring
him no relief of mind. Go where he would, he could not separate himself
from the bitter memories of the past few months.
He determined to remain in London; for, to the man who wishes to avoid
the companionship of his fellow-men, there is no hermitage more secure
than a lodging in the heart of busy, selfish London. He determined to
remain, for in London he could obtain information as to the conduct of
What would she do now that the stage-play was ended, and deception
could no longer avail? Would she once more resume her old habits--open
her saloons to the patrician gamblers of West-end London, and steep her
weary, guilt-burdened soul in the mad intoxication of the gaming-table?
Would Sir Reginald Eversleigh again assume his old position in her
household?--again become her friend and flatterer? She had affected to
despise him; but that might have been only a part of the great
deception of which Douglas had been the victim.
These were the questions the lonely, heartbroken man asked himself that
night, as he sat brooding by his solitary hearth, no longer able to
find pleasure in the nightly studies which had once been so delightful
Ah! how deeply he must have loved that woman, when the memory of her
guilt poisoned his existence! How madly he still clung to the thought
of her!--how intensely he desired to penetrate the secrets of her life!
"THY DAY IS COME!"
"What is it, Jane?" asked Lady Eversleigh, rather impatiently, of her
maid, when her knock at the door of her sitting-room in Percy Street
interrupted the conversation between herself and the detective officer,
a conversation intensely and painfully interesting.
"A person, ma'am, who wants to see Mr. Andrews, and will take no
"Indeed," said Mr. Larkspur; "that's very odd: I know of nothing up at
present for which they should send any one to me here. However," and he
rose as he spoke, "I suppose I had better see this person. Where is
"In the hall," replied Jane.
But Lady Eversleigh interposed to prevent Mr. Larkspur's departure.
"Pray do not go," she said, "unless it concerns this business, unless
it is news of my child. This may be something to rob me of your time
and attention; and remember I alone have a right to your services."
"Lor' bless you, my lady," said Mr. Larkspur, "I haven't forgot that;
and that's just what puzzles me. There's only one man who knows the lay
I'm on, and the name I go by, and he knows I would not take anything
else till I have reckoned up this; and it would be no good sending
anybody after me, unless it were something in some way concerning this
In an instant Lady Eversleigh was as anxious that Mr. Larkspur should
see the unknown man as she had been unwilling he should do so. "Pray go
to him at once," she urged; "don't lose a moment."
Mr. Larkspur left the room, and Lady Eversleigh dismissed Jane Payland,
and awaited his return in an agony of impatience. After the lapse of
half an hour, Mr. Larkspur appeared. There were actually some slight
traces of emotion in his face, and the colour had lessened considerably
in his vulture-like beak. He was followed by a tall, stalwart, fine-
looking man, with the unmistakeable gait and air of a sailor. As Lady
Eversleigh looked at him in astonishment, Mr. Larkspur said:--
"I ain't much of a believer in Fate in general, but there's surely a
Fate in this. My lady, this is Captain George Jernam!"
* * * * *
The time had passed slowly and wearily for Rosamond Jernam, and all the
efforts conscientiously made by her husband's aunt, who liked the girl
better the more she saw of her, and entirely acquitted her of blame in
the mysterious estrangement of the young couple, failed to make her
cheerful. She was wont to roam disconsolately for hours about the
secluded coast, giving free course to her sadness, and cherishing one
dear secret. Rosamond was so much changed in appearance of late that
Susan Jernam began to feel seriously uneasy about her. She had lost her
pretty fresh colour, and her face wore a haggard, weary look; it was
plain to every eye that some hidden grief was preying on her mind. Mrs.
Jernam, though a quiet person, and given to the minding of her own
affairs, was not quite without "cronies," and to one of these she
confided her anxiety about her niece. The _confidante_ was a certain
Mrs. Miller, a respectable person, but lower in the social scale than
Mrs. Jernam. She was a widow, and lived in a tiny cottage, close to the
beach at Allanbay; she kept no servant, but her trim little dwelling
was always the very pink and pattern of neatness. She was of a silent,
though not a morose temperament. It was generally understood that Mrs.
Miller's husband had been a seafaring man, and had been drowned many
years before she went to live at Allanbay. She had no relatives, and no
previous acquaintances in that quiet nook; and if she had been a little
higher in the social scale, belonging to that class which requires
introductions, she might have lived a life of unbroken solitude. As it
was, the neighbours made friends with her by degrees, and the poor
widow's life was not an unhappy or solitary one. Mrs. Jernam had early
learned the particulars of her case, and a friendship had grown up
between them, of which Mrs. Miller duly acknowledged the condescension
on Mrs. Jernam's part.
Mrs. Jernam called on her humble friend one day, to bestow some small
favour, and, to her surprise, found her, not alone as usual, but in the
act of taking leave of a man whose appearance was by no means
prepossessing, and who was apparently very much disconcerted by Mrs.
Jernam's arrival. Mrs. Jernam immediately proposed to go away and
return on another occasion, but the man, who did not hear her name
mentioned, said, gruffly:
"No call, ma'am, no call; I'm going away. Good-bye, Polly. Remember
what you've got to do, and do it." Then he turned off from the cottage-
door, and was out of sight in a few moments.
Mrs. Miller stood looking at her guest, rather awkwardly, but said at
"Pray sit down, ma'am. That's my brother; the only creature I have
belonging to me in the world." And here Mrs. Miller sighed, and looked
as if the possession were not an unqualified advantage.
"Has he been here long?" asked Mrs. Jernam.
"No, ma'am; he only came last night, and is gone again. He came to
bring me a child to take care of, and a great tax it is."
"A child!" said Mrs. Jernam, "whose child?"
"That's more than I can tell you, ma'am," replied Mrs. Miller; "and
more than he told me. She's an orphan, he says, and her father was a
seafaring man, like your nephew, as I've heard you speak of. And I'm to
have the charge of her for a year, and thirty pounds--it's handsome, I
don't deny, but he knows that I'd take good care of any child--and
she's a pretty dear, to tell the truth, as sweet a little creature as
ever walked. She don't talk very plain yet, and she says, as well as I
can make it out, as her name is Gerty."
And then Mrs. Miller asked Mrs. Jernam to walk into her little bedroom,
and showed her, lying on a neat humble bed, carefully covered with a
white coverlet, and in the deep sleep of childhood, the infant heiress
of Raynham! If either of the women had only known at whom she was
looking, as they scrutinized the child's fair face and talked of her
beauty and her innocence in tearful whispers, looking away from the
sleeping form, pitifully, at a little heap of black clothes on a chair
by the bed!
"I suppose she's the child of one of my brother's old shipmates, as
rose to be better off," said Mrs. Miller, "for she's fretted about a
captain, and cried bitter to go to him when I put her to bed." Then the
two returned to the little parlour, and talked long and earnestly about
the child, about the necessity for Mrs. Miller's now employing the
services of "a girl," and about Rosamond Jernam.
Rosamond was greatly delighted with the child left in Mrs. Miller's
care. The little girl interested her deeply, and every day she passed
many hours with her, either at Mrs. Miller's house or her own. The
grace and beauty of the child were remarkable; and as, with the happy
facility of childhood, she began to recover from the first feeling of
strangeness and fear, the little creature was soon happy in her new,
humble home. She was too young to appreciate and lament the change in
her lot; and, as she was well fed, well cared for, and treated with the
most caressing affection, she was perfectly happy. Rosamond began to
feel hopeful under the influence of the child's smiles and playful
talk. The time must pass, she told herself, her husband must return to
her, and soon there would be for them a household angel like this one,
to bring peace and happiness permanently to their home.
Susan Jernam and Rosamond were much puzzled about this lovely child,
Gerty Smith, as she was called. Not only her looks, but certain little
ways she had, contradicted Mrs. Miller's theory of her birth, and
though they fully credited the good woman's statement, and believed her
as ignorant of the truth as themselves, they became convinced that
there was some mystery about this child. Mrs. Miller had never spoken
of her brother until he made his sudden and brief appearance at
Allanbay; and unsuspicious and unlearned in the ways of the world as
Mrs. Jernam was, she had perceived that he belonged to the doubtful
classes. The truth was, that Mrs. Miller could have told them nothing
about her brother beyond the general fact of his being "a bad lot." She
had heard of him only at rare intervals since he had left his father's
honest home, in his scampish, incorrigible boyhood, and ran away to
sea. She had heard little good of him, and years had sometimes passed
over during which she knew nothing of his fate. But even in Black
Milsom--thief, murderer, villain, though he was--there was one little
trace of good left. He did care a little for his sister; he did "look
her up" at intervals in his career of crime; he did send her small sums
of money--whence derived she had, happily, no suspicion--when he was
"flush;" and he did hope "Old Polly" would never find out how bad a
fellow he had been. Mrs. Miller's nature was a very simple and
confiding one, and she never speculated much upon her brother's doings.
She was pleased to have the charge of the child, and she fulfilled it
to the best of her ability; but those signs and tokens of a higher
station, which Susan Jernam and Rosamond recognized, were quite beyond
One morning the little household at Susan Jernam's cottage, consisting
only of the mistress and her maid, was roused by a violent knocking at
the door. Mrs. Jernam was the first to open it, and to her surprise and
alarm, she found Mrs. Miller standing at the door, her face expressing
alarm and grief, and little Gerty, wrapped in a large woollen shawl, in
her arms. Her explanation of what had occurred thus to upset her was at
first incoherent enough, but by degrees Mrs. Jernam learned that Mrs.
Miller had come to entreat her to take care of the child for a day or
two as she was obliged to go to Plymouth at once.
"To Plymouth!" said Mrs. Jernam--"how's that?--but come in, come in"--
and they went into Mrs. Jernam's spotlessly neat parlour, that parlour
in which Valentine Jernam had been permitted to smoke, and had told his
aunt all his adventures, little recking of the final one then so close
upon him. In the parlour, Mrs. Miller set little Gerty down, and the
child, giddy and confused with her sudden waking, and being thus
carried through the chill morning air, climbed up on the trim little
sofa, and curling herself into a corner of it, sat quite motionless.
Then, her agitation finding vent in tears, Mrs. Miller told Susan
Jernam what had befallen. It was this:--
Just as day was dawning, a dog-cart, driven by a gentleman's servant,
had come to her door--the dog-cart was now standing at a little
distance from Mrs. Jernam's house--and she had been called out by the
servant, and told that he had been sent to bring her over to Plymouth,
with as little delay as possible. It appeared that her brother, who had
gone to Plymouth after depositing the child with her, had been run over
in the street by a heavy coal-waggon, and severely injured. He had been
carried to a hospital, and was for some time insensible. When he
recovered his speech he was delirious, and the surgeons pronounced his
case hopeless. He was now in a dying state, but conscious; and had been
visited by a clergyman named Colburne, the man's master, who had
induced him to express contrition for his past life, and to make such
reparation as now lay in his power. The first step towards this, as he
informed Mr. Colburne, was seeing his sister. There was no time to be
lost; the man's life was fast ebbing; it was only a matter of hours;
and the good clergyman, who had been with the dying man far into the
night before he had succeeded in inducing him to consent to this step,
hurried home, and sent his servant off to Allanbay before daybreak.
There was little delay. A few words of earnest sympathy from Mrs.
Jernam, an assurance that the child should be well cared for, and Mrs.
Miller left the house, ran down the road to the dog-cart, climbed into
it, and was driven away.
Rosamond came in from her own little dwelling to her aunt's, at an
early hour that day, and when the first surprise and pleasure of
finding the child there had passed away, the two women fell to
speculating on what kind of revelation it might be which awaited Mrs.
"Depend upon it, aunt," said Susan, "we shall hear the truth about
little Gerty now."
* * * * *
The hours wore solemnly away in the great building, consecrated to
suffering and its relief, in which Black Milsom lay dying, with his
sister kneeling by his bed, while the good clergyman, who had had pity
on the soul of the sinner, sat on the other side, gravely and
compassionately looking at them both. The meeting between the brother
and sister had been very distressing, and the agony exhibited by the
poor woman when she was made aware that her brother had acknowledged
himself a criminal of the deepest dye, was intense. Calm--almost
stupor--had succeeded to her wild grief, and the clergyman had spoken
words of consolation and hope to the dying and the living. The surgeons
had seen the man for the last time; there was nothing more to be done
for him now--nothing to do but to wait for the equal foot approaching
with remorseless tread.
It was indeed a fearful catalogue of crime to which the Rev. Philip
Colburne had listened, and had written with his own hand at the dying
man's dictation. Not often has such a revelation been made to mortal
ears, and the two who heard it--the Christian minister and the
trembling, horrified sister--felt that the scene could never be effaced
from their memories.
With only two items in that awful list this story has to do.
The first is, the murder of Valentine Jernam. As Mrs. Miller heard her
brother, with gasping breath and feeble utterance, tell that horrible
story, her heart died within her. She knew it well. Who at Allanbay had
not heard of the murder of Mrs. Jernam's darling nephew, the bright,
popular, kind-hearted seaman, whose coming had been a jubilee in the
little port; whose disappearance had made so painful a sensation? She
had heard the story from his aunt, and Rosamond had told her how her
husband lived in the hope of finding out and punishing his brother's
murderer. And now he was found, this murderer, this thief, this guilt-
burdened criminal: and he was her only brother, and dying. Ah, well,
Valentine Jernam was avenged. Providence had exacted George Jernam's
vengeance: the wrath of man was not needed here.
The second crime with which this story has to do was one of old date,
one of the earliest in Black Milsom's dreadful career. The dying wretch
told Mr. Colburne how he had headed a gang of thieves, chiefly composed
of sailors who had deserted their ships, some twenty-one or two years
before this time, when retribution had come upon him, and in their
company had robbed the villa of an English lady at Florence. This crime
had been committed with the connivance and assistance of the Italian
woman who was nurse to the English lady's child. Milsom, then a
handsome young fellow, had offered marriage to the woman, which offer
was accepted; and she had made his taking her and the child with him--
for nothing would induce her to leave the infant--a condition of her
aid. He did so; but the hardship of her new life soon killed the
Italian woman; and the child was left to the mercy of Milsom and an old
hag who acted as his drudge and accomplice. What mercy she met with at
those hands the reader knows, for that child was the future wife of Sir
Oswald Eversleigh. Mr. Colburne listened to this portion of Milsom's
confession with intense interest.
"The name?" he asked; "the name of the lady who lived at Florence, the
mother of the child? Tell me the name!"
"Verner," said the dying man, in a hoarse whisper, "Lady Verner; the
child's name was Anna."
He was very near his end when he finished his terrible story. While Mr.
Colburne was trying to speak peace to the poor darkened, frightened,
guilty soul, Mrs. Miller knelt by the bedside, sobbing convulsively.
Suddenly she remembered the child she had the care of. Had his account
of her been true? Was she also the victim of a crime? She waited, with
desperate impatience, but with the habitual respect of her class, until
Mr. Colburne had ceased to speak. Then she put her lips close to the
dying man's ear, and said--
"Thomas, Thomas, for God's sake tell me about the child--who is she? Is
what you told me true? If not, set it right--oh, brother, brother, set
it right--before it is too late."
The imploring tone of her voice reached her brother's dull ear; a faint
spasm, as though he strove in vain to speak, crossed his white drawn
lips. But the disfigured head in its ghastly bandages was motionless;
the shattered arm in its wrappings made no gesture. In terror, in
despair, his sister started to her feet, and looked eagerly, closely,
into his face. In vain the white lips parted, the eyelids quivered, a
shiver shook the broad, brawny chest--then all was still, and Black
Milsom was dead!
On the following morning Mr. Colburne took Mrs. Miller back to
Allanbay, after giving her a night's rest in his own hospitable home.
He left her at her own cottage, and went to Mrs. Jernam's house, as he
had promised the afflicted woman he would save her the pain of telling
the terrible story which was to clear up the mystery surrounding the
merchant captain's fate. When the clergyman reached the house, and
lifted his hand to the bright knocker, he heard a sound of many and
gleeful voices within--a sound which died away as he knocked for
Presently the door was opened by Mrs. Jernam's trim maid, who replied,
when Mr. Colburne asked if he could see Mrs. Jernam, and if she were
alone--as a hint that he did not wish to see any one beside--
"Please, sir, missus is in, but she ain't alone; Captain George and
Mrs. George's father have just come--not half an hour ago."
* * * * *
And so Joyce Harker's self-imposed task was at an end, and George
Jernam's long brooding upon his brother's fate was over. A solemn
stillness came upon the happy party at Allanbay, and Rosamond's tears
fell upon little Gerty, as she slept upon her bosom--slept where
George's child was soon to slumber. Mr. Colburne asked no questions
about the child. Mrs. Miller had said nothing to him respecting her
charge, and Milsom's death, ensuing immediately on her question, had
caused it to pass unnoticed. George Jernam, his wife, and Captain
Duncombe started for London early the next day. They had come to a
unanimous conclusion, on consultation with Mrs. Miller, that there was
a mystery about the child, and that the best thing to be done was to
communicate with the police at once. "Besides," said George, "I must
see Mr. Larkspur, and tell him he need not trouble himself farther; now
that accident, or, as I believe Providence, has done for us what all
his skill failed to do."
When George Jernam presented himself at Mr. Larkspur's office he
underwent a rigid inspection by that gentleman's "deputy," and having,
by a few hints as to the nature of his business, led that astute person
to think that it bore on his principal's present quest, he was
entrusted with the address of Mr. Andrews, in Percy Street.
* * * * *
"So, you see, I don't get my five hundred, because I didn't find out
Captain Jernam's murderer," said Mr. Larkspur, after a long and
agitating explanation had put Lady Eversleigh in possession of all the
foregoing circumstances. "And here's Captain Jernam's brother comes and
takes the job of finding little missy out of my hands--does my work for
me as clean as a whistle."
"But I did not know I was doing it, Mr. Larkspur," said George. "I did
not know the little Gerty that my Rosamond is so sorry to part with,
was Miss Eversleigh; you found it out, from what I told you."
"As if any fool could fail to find out that," said Mr. Larkspur good-
humouredly. He had a strong conviction that neither the relinquishment
of Lady Eversleigh's designs of punishing her enemies, nor the finding
of the heiress by other than his agency, would inflict any injury upon
him--a conviction which was amply justified by his future experience.
"My good friend," said Lady Eversleigh, "if I do not need your aid to
restore my child to me, I need it to restore me to my mother. I cannot
realize the truth that I have a mother, I can only feel it. I can only
feel how she must have suffered by remembering my own anguish. And
hers, how much more cruel, how prolonged, how hopeless! You will see to
this at once, Mr. Larkspur, while I go to my child."
"Lord bless you, my lady," said Mr. Larkspur, cheerily, "there's no
occasion to look very far. You have not forgotten the lady, she that
lives so quiet, yet so stylish, near Richmond, and that Sir Reginald
Eversleigh pays such attention to? You remember all I told you about
her, and how I found out that she was Mr. Dale's aunt, and he know
nothing about her?"
"Yes, yes," said Lady Eversleigh, breathlessly, "I remember."
"Well, my lady, that party near Richmond is Lady Verner, your
Lady Eversleigh was well nigh overwhelmed by the throng of feelings
which pressed upon her. She, the despised outcast, the first-cousin of
the man who had scorned her, a connection of the great family into
which she had married, her husband's equal in rank, and in fortune!
She, the woman whose beauty had been used to lure Valentine Jernam to
his death, she who had almost witnessed his murder; she owed to
Valentine's brother the discovery of her parentage, the defeat of her
calumniators, her restoration to a high place in society, and to family
ties, the destruction of Reginald Eversleigh's designs on Lady Verner's
property, and--greatest, best boon of all--the recovery of her child.
Her own devices, her own wilfulness had but led her into deeper danger,
into more bitter sorrow; but Providence had done great things for her
by the hands of this stranger, between whom and herself there existed
so sinister a link.
"Can you ever forgive me, Captain Jernam," she said, "for my share in
your brother's fate? Must I always be hateful in your sight? Will Mrs.
Jernam ever permit me to thank her for her goodness to my child?"
For the answer, George Jernam stooped and kissed her hand, with all the
natural grace inspired by natural good-feeling, and Lady Eversleigh
felt that she had gained a friend where she had feared to meet a
relentless foe. The little party remained long in consultation, and it
was decided that nothing was to be done about Lady Verner until Lady
Eversleigh had reclaimed her child. George Jernam entreated her to
permit him to go to Allanbay and bring the little girl to her mother,
but she would not consent. She insisted upon George's bringing his wife
to see her immediately, as the preparations for departure did not admit
of her calling upon Mrs. Jernam. The gentle, happy Rosamond complied
willingly, and so thoroughly had the beautiful lady won the girl's
heart before they were long together, that Rosamond herself proposed
that George should accompany Lady Eversleigh to Allanbay. With pretty
imperiousness she bore down Lady Eversleigh's grateful scruples, and
the result was, that the two started that same evening, travelled as
fast as post-horses could carry them, and arrived at Allanbay before
even Lady Eversleigh's impatience could find the journey long. Susan
Jernam had kept the child with her, and she it was who put little Gerty
into her mother's arms. Rarely in her life had Lady Eversleigh lain
down to rest with do tranquil a heart as that with which she slept
under the humble roof of Captain Jernam's aunt.
"CONFUSION WORSE THAN DEATH."
Sir Reginald Eversleigh had paid Victor Carrington a long visit, at the
cottage at Maida Hill, on the day which had witnessed the distressing
interview and angry parting between Douglas Dale and Madame Durski.
They had talked a great deal, and Reginald had been struck by the
strange excitement--the almost feverish exultation--in Carrington's
tone and manner. He was not more openly communicative as to his plans
than usual, but he expressed his expectation of triumph in a way which
Eversleigh had never heard him do before.
"You seem quite sanguine, Victor," said Sir Reginald. "Mind, I don't
ask questions, but you really are sure all is going well?"
"Our affairs march, _mon ami_. And you are making your game with the
old lady at Richmond admirably, are you not?"
"Nothing could be better, and indeed I ought to succeed, for it's dull
work, I can tell you, especially when she begins talking resignedly
about the child that was stolen a few centuries ago, and her hopes of
meeting it in a better world. Horrid bore--dreadful bosh; but anything
is worth bearing if money is to be made of it--good, sure, sterling
money. I think it will do me good to see some real money--bank-notes
and gold, and that sort of thing--for an accommodation bill is the only
form of cash I've handled since I came of age. How happy we shall be
when it all comes right--your game and mine!" continued the baronet.
"My plans are very simple. I shall only exchange my shabby lodgings in
the Strand for apartments in Piccadilly, overlooking the Park, of
course. I shall resume my old position among my own set, and enjoy life
after my own fashion; and when once I am possessor of a handsome
fortune, I dare say I shall have no difficulty in getting a rich wife.
And you, Victor, how shall you employ our wealth?"
"In the restoration of my name," replied the Frenchman, with suppressed
intensity. "Yes, Sir Reginald, the one purpose of my life is told in
those words. I have been an outcast and an adventurer, friendless,
penniless; but I am the last scion of a noble house, and to restore to
that house some small portion of its long-lost splendour has been the
one dream of my manhood. I am not given to talk much of that which lies
nearest my heart, and never until to-night have I spoken to you of my
single ambition; but you, who have watched me toiling upon a weary
road, wading through a morass of guilt, must surely have guessed that
the pole-star must needs be a bright one which could lure me onward
upon so hideous a pathway. The end has come at last, and I now speak
freely. My name is not Carrington. I am Viscomte Champfontaine, of
Champfontaine, in the department of Charente, and my name was once the
grandest in western France; but the Revolution robbed us of lands and
wealth, and there remain now but four rugged stone towers of that
splendid chateau which once rose proudly above the woods of
Champfontaine, like a picture by Gustave Dore. The fountain in the
field still flows, limpid as in those days when the soldier-Gaul
pitched his tent beside its waters, and took for himself the name of
Champfontaine. To restore that name, to rebuild that chateau--that is
the dream which I have cherished."
Excited by this unwonted revelation of his feelings, and by the
anticipation of the realization of all his hopes, the Frenchman rose,
and paced rapidly up and down the room.
"I will go to Champfontaine," he said. "I will look once more upon the
crumbling towers, so soon to be restored to their primitive strength
Reginald watched him wonderingly. This enthusiasm about an ancient name
was beyond his comprehension. He too, bore a name that had been
honourable for centuries, and he had recklessly degraded that name. He
had begun life with all the best gifts of fortune in his hands, and had
"I hear your cousin Douglas is very ill," said Carrington, checking his
excited manner, and speaking with a sudden change of tone, which
produced a strange thrill of Sir Reginald's somewhat weak nerves. "I
should recommend you to go and call upon him at his chambers. Never
mind any coolness there may have been between you. You needn't see him,
you know; in fact it will be much better for you to avoid doing so. But
just call and make the inquiry. I am really anxious to know if there is
anything the matter with him."
Sir Reginald Eversleigh looked at the Frenchman with a half doubtful,
half horror-stricken look--such a look as Faust may have cast at
Mephistopheles, when Gretchen's soldier-brother fell, stricken by the
invisible sword of the demon.
"I'll tell you what it is, Victor," he said, after a pause, "unless our
luck changes pretty quickly, I shall throw up the sponge some fine
morning, and blow my brains out. Affairs have been desperate with me
for a long time, and your fine schemes have not made me a halfpenny
richer. I begin to think that, in spite of all your cleverness, you're
no better than a bungler."
"I shall begin to think so myself," answered Victor, between his set
teeth, "unless success comes to us speedily. We have been working
underground, and the work has been slow and wearisome; but the end
cannot be far distant," he added, with a heavy sigh. "Go and inquire
after your cousin's health."
And so Reginald Eversleigh strove to dismiss the subject from his mind.
So powerful is self-deception, that he almost succeeded in persuading
himself that he had no part in Carrington's plots--that he did not know
at what he was aiming and that he was, personally, absolved from any
share in the crime that was being perpetrated, if crime there was; but
that there was, he even affected himself to doubt.
After Sir Reginald left him, Victor Carrington threw himself into a
chair in a fit of deep despondency. After a time that mood passed away,
and he roused himself, and thought of what he had to do that day. He
had seen Miss Brewer only the previous day. He had learned how much
alarmed Paulina was about her lover's health, and with what good
reason. Victor Carrington came to a resolution that this day should be
the last of waiting--of suspense. He took a phial from the press where
he kept all deadly drugs, placed it in his breast-pocket, and went to
his mother's sitting-room. The widow was sitting, as usual, at her
embroidery-frame. She counted some stitches before she raised her head
to look at her son. But when she did look up, her own face changed, and
"Victor, you are ill. I know you are. You look very ill--not like
yourself. What ails you?"
"Nothing, mother," replied Victor; "nothing that a little fresh air and
exercise will not remove. I have been a little over-excited, that is
all. I have been thinking of the old home that sheltered my grandfather
before the sequestrations of '93--the home that could be bought back
to-day for an old song, and which a few thousands, judiciously
invested, might restore to something of its old grandeur. One of the
Champfontaines received Francis I. and his sister Marguerite in the old
chateau which they burnt during the Terror. Mother, I will tell you a
secret to-day: ever since I can remember having a wish, the one great
desire of my life has been the desire to restore the place and the
name; and I hope to accomplish that desire soon, mother--very soon."
"Victor, this is the talk of a madman!" exclaimed the Frenchwoman,
alarmed by her son's unwonted vehemence.
"No, mother, it is the talk of a man who feels himself on the verge of
a great success--or--a stupendous failure."
"I cannot understand--"
"There is no need for you to understand any more than this: I have been
playing a bold game, and I believe it will prove a winning one."
"Is this game an honest one, Victor?"
"Honest? oh, yes!" answered the surgeon, with an ominous laugh, "why
should I be not honest? Does not the world teach a man to be honest?
See what noble rewards it offers for honesty."
He took a crumpled letter from his pocket as he spoke, and threw it
across the table to his mother.
"Read that, mother," he said; "that is my reward for ten years' honest
toil in a laborious profession. Captain Halkard, the inaugurator of an
Arctic expedition for scientific purposes, writes to invite me to join
his ship as surgeon. He has heard of my conscientious devotion to my
profession--my exceptional talents--see, those are his exact words, and
he offers me the post of ship's surgeon, with a honorarium of fifty
pounds. The voyage is supposed to last six months; it is much more
likely to last a year; it is most likely to last for ever--for, from
the place to which these men are going, the chances are against any
man's return. And for unutterable hardship, for the hazard of my life,
for my exceptional talents, my conscientious devotion, he offers me
fifty pounds. That, mother, is the price which honesty commands in the
great market of life."
"But it might lead to something, Victor," murmured the mother, as she
put down the letter, pleased by the writer's praises of her son.
"Oh, yes, it might lead to a few words of commendation in a scientific
journal; possibly a degree of F.R.G.S.; or very probably a grave under
the ice, with a grizzly bear for sexton."
"You will not accept the offer?"
"Not unless my great scheme fails at the last moment--as it cannot
fail--as it cannot!" he repeated, with the air of a man who tries to
realize a possibility too horrible for imagination.
* * * * *
It was very late that night before Paulina Durski, worn out by the
emotion she had undergone, could be persuaded to retire to rest. After
Douglas had left her, all the firmness forsook her, all her pride was
overthrown. Despair unutterable took possession of her. With him went
her last hope--her one only chance of happiness. She flung herself,
face downwards, on her sofa, and gave way to the wildest, most
agonizing grief. Thus Miss Brewer found her, and eagerly questioned her
concerning the cause of her distress. But she could obtain no
explanation from Paulina, who only answered, in a voice broken by
convulsive sobs, "Some other time, some other time; don't ask me now."
So Miss Brewer was forced to be silent, if not content, and at length
she persuaded Paulina to go to bed.
The faithful friend arranged everything with her own hands for Madame
Durski's comfort, and would not consent to leave her till she had lain
down to rest. The broken-hearted woman bade her friend good night
calmly enough, but before Miss Brewer reached the door, she heard
Paulina's sobs burst forth again, and saw that she had covered her face
with her hands, and buried it in the pillow.
* * * * *
It was late on the following morning when Miss Brewer entered Paulina's
room, and having softly opened the shutters, drew near the bed with a
noiseless step. The bed-clothes, which were wont to be tossed and
tumbled by the restless sleeper, were smooth and undisturbed. Never had
Miss Brewer seen her mistress in an attitude so expressive of complete
"Poor thing! she has had a good night after all," thought the
She bent over the quiet figure, the pale face, so statuesque in that
calm sleep, and gently touched the white, listless hand.
Yes--this indeed was perfect repose; but it was the repose of death.
The bottle from which Paulina had habitually taken a daily modicum of
opium, lay on the ground by the bedside, empty.
Whether the luckless, hopeless, heart-broken woman, overwhelmed by the
sense of an inscrutable Fate that forbade her every chance of peace or
happiness, had, in her supreme despair, committed the sin of the
suicide, who shall say? It is possible that she had only taken an over-
dose of the perilous compound unconsciously, in the dull apathy of her
She was dead. Life for her had been one long humiliation, one long
struggle. And at last, when the cup of happiness had been offered to
her lips, a cruel hand had snatched it away from her.
* * * * *
When Miss Brewer recovered her senses and her power of action, she sent
for Douglas Dale. News of the awful event had got abroad by that time,
through the terrified servants; and two doctors and a policeman were on
the premises. A messenger was easily procured, who tore off in a hansom
to the Temple. As the man ran up the steps leading to Dr. Johnson's
Buildings, where Dale's new chambers were situated, he encountered two
ladies on the first landing.
"I beg your pardon," he said, pushing them, however, very decidedly
aside as he spoke, "I must see Mr. Dale; please do not detain him. It
is most important." The ladies stood aside exchanging frightened and
curious looks, but made no attempt to make their presence known to Mr.
Dale, who came out of his rooms in a few minutes, attended by the
messenger, and passed them without seeming in the least aware of their
presence, and wearing the ghastliest face that ever was seen on mortal
man. That face struck them dumb and motionless, and it was not until
Jarvis had twice asked them their names and business, that the elder
lady replied. "They would call again," she told him, and handed him
cards bearing the names of "Lady Verner," "Lady Eversleigh."
* * * * *
Victor Carrington appeared at Hilton House early in the afternoon. He
had calculated that his work must needs be very near its completion,
and he came prepared to hear of Douglas Dale's mortal illness.
The blow that awaited him was a death-blow. Miss Brewer had told
Douglas all: the lies, the artifices, by which the man Carton had
contrived to make himself a constant visitor in that house. In a
moment, without the mention of the schemer's real name, Heaven's light
was let in upon the mystery; the dark enigma was solved, and the woman,
so tenderly loved and so cruelly wronged, was exonerated.
Too late--too late! _That_ was the agonizing reflection which smote the
heart of Douglas Dale, with a pain more terrible than the sharpest
death-pang. "I have broken her heart!" he cried. "I have broken that
true, devoted heart!"
The appearance of Victor Carrington was the signal for such a burst of
rage as even his iron nature could scarcely brook unshaken.
"Miscreant! devil! incarnate iniquity!" cried Douglas, as he grasped
and grappled with the baffled plotter. "You have tried to murder me--
and you have tried to murder her! I might have forgiven you the first
crime--I will drag you to the halter for the second, and think myself
poorly revenged when I hear the rabble yelling beneath your scaffold!"
Happily for Carrington, the effects of the poison had reduced his
victim to extreme weakness. The convulsive grasp loosened, the hoarse
voice died into a whisper, and Douglas Dale swooned as helplessly as a
"What does it mean?" asked Victor. "Is this man mad?"
"We have all been mad!" returned Miss Brewer, passionately. "The blind,
besotted dupes of your demoniac wickedness! Paulina Durski is dead!"
"Yes. There was a quarrel, yesterday, between these two--and he left
her. I found her this morning--dead! I have told him all--the part I
have played at your bidding. I shall tell it again in a court of
justice, I pray God!"
"You can tell it when and where you please," replied Victor, with
horrible calmness. "I shall not be there to hear it."
He walked out of the house. Douglas Dale had not yet recovered
consciousness, and there was no one to hinder Carrington's departure.
For some time he walked on, unconscious whither he went, unable to
grasp or realize the events that had befallen. But at last-dimly,
darkly, grim shapes arose out of the chaos of his brain.
There would be a trial--some kind of trial!--Douglas Dale would not be
baffled of vengeance if the law could give it him. His crime--what was
it, if it could be proved? An attempt to murder--an attempt the basest,
the most hideous, and revolting. What hope could he have of mercy--he,
utterly merciless himself, expected no such weakness from his fellow-
But in this supreme hour of utter defeat, his thoughts did not dwell on
the hazards of the future. The chief bitterness of his soul was the
agony of disappointment--of baffled hope--of humiliation, degradation
unspeakable. He had thought himself invincible, the master of his
fellow-men, by the supremacy of intellectual power, and remorseless
cruelty. And he was what? A baffled trickster, whose every move upon
the great chessboard had been a separate mistake, leading step by step
to the irrevocable sentence--checkmate!
The ruined towers of Champfontaine arose before him, as in a vision,
black against a blood-red sky.
"I can understand those mad devils of '93--I can understand the roll-
call of the guillotine--the noyades--the conflagrations--the foul
orgies of murderous drunkards, drunken with blood. Those men had
schemed as I have schemed, and worked as I have worked, and waited as I
have waited--to fail like me!"
He had walked far from the West-end, into some dreary road eastward of
the City, choosing by some instinct the quietest streets, before he was
calm enough to contemplate the perils of his position, or to decide
upon the course he should take.
A few minutes' reflection told him that he must fly--Douglas Dale would
doubtless hunt him as a wild beast is hunted. Where was he to go? Was
there any lair, or covert, in all that wide city where he might be
safely hidden from the vengeance of the man he had wronged so deeply?
He remembered Captain Halkard's letter. He dragged the crumpled sheet
of paper from his pocket, and read a few lines. Yes: it was as he had
thought. The "Pandion" was to leave Gravesend at five o'clock next
"I will go to the ice-graves and the bears!" he exclaimed. "Let them
track me there!"
Energetic always, no less energetic even in this hour of desperation,
he made his way down to the sailors' quarter, and spent his few last
pounds in the purchase of a scanty outfit. After doing this, he dined
frugally at a quiet tavern, and then took the steamer for Gravesend.
He slept on board the "Pandion." The place offered him had not been
filled by any one else. It was not a very tempting post, or a very
tempting expedition. The men who had organized it were enthusiasts,
imbued with that fever-thirst of the explorer which has made many
martyrs, from the age of the Cabots to the days of Franklin.
The "Pandion" sailed in that gray cheerless morning, her white sails
gleaming ghastly athwart the chill mists of the river, and so vanished
for ever Victor Carrington from the eyes of all men, save those who
went with him. The fate of that expedition was never known. Beneath
what iceberg the "Pandion" found her grave none can tell. Brave and
noble hearts perished with her, and to die with those good men was too
honourable a doom for such a wretch as Victor Carrington.
"SO SHALL YE REAP."
Little now remains to be told of this tale of crime and retribution, of
suffering and compensation. Miss Brewer told her dreadful story, as far
as she knew it, with perfect truth; and her evidence, together with the
evidence of the chemist who had supplied Madame Durski from time to
time with the fatal consoler of all her pains and sorrows, made it
clear that the luckless woman, lying quietly in the darkened room at
Hilton House, had died from an over-dose of opium.
Douglas Dale could not attend that inquest. He was stricken down with
fever; the fate of the woman he had so loved, so unjustly suspected,
nearly cost him his life, and when he recovered sufficiently, he left
England, not to return for three years. Before his departure he saw
Lady Eversleigh and her mother, and established with them a bond of
friendship as close as that of their kin. He provided liberally for
Miss Brewer, but her rescue from poverty brought her no happiness: she
was a broken-hearted woman.
Victor Carrington's mother retired into a convent, and was probably as
happy as she had ever been. She had loved him but little, whose only
virtue was that he had loved her much.
Captain Copplestone's rapture knew no bounds when he clasped little
Gertrude in his arms once more. He was almost jealous of Rosamond
Jernam, when he found how great a hold she had obtained on the heart of
her charge; but his jealousy was mingled with gratitude, and he joined
Lady Eversleigh in testifying his friendship for the tender-hearted
woman who had protected and cherished the heiress of Raynham in the
hour of her desolation.
It is not to be supposed that the world remained long in ignorance of
this romantic episode in the common-place story of every-day life.
Paragraphs found their way into the newspapers, no one knew how, and
society marvelled at the good fortune of Sir Oswald's widow.
"That woman's wealth must be boundless," exclaimed aristocratic
dowagers, for whom the grip of poverty's bony fingers had been tight
and cruel. "Her husband left her magnificent estates, and an enormous
amount of funded property; and now a mother drops down from the skies
for her benefit--a mother who is reported to be almost as rich as
* * * * *
Amongst those who envied Lady Eversleigh's good fortune, there was none
whose envy was so bitter as that of her husband's disappointed nephew,
This woman had stood between him and fortune, and it would have been
happiness to him to see her grovelling in the dust, a beggar and an
outcast. Instead of this, he heard of her exaltation, and he hated her
with an intense hatred which was almost childish in its purposeless
He speedily found, however, that life was miserable without his evil
counsellor. The Frenchman's unabating confidence in ultimate success
had sustained the penniless idler in the darkest day of misfortune. But
now he found himself quite alone; and there was no voice to promise
future triumph. He knew that the game of life had been played to the
last card, and that it was lost.
His feeble character was not equal to support the burden of poverty and
He dared not show his face at any of the clubs where he had once been
so distinguished a member; for he knew that the voice of society was
Thus hopeless, friendless, and abandoned by his kind, Sir Reginald
Eversleigh had recourse to the commonest form of consolation. He fled
from a country in which his name had become odious, and took up his
abode in Paris, where he found a miserable lodging in one of the
narrowest alleys in the neighbourhood of the Luxembourg, which was then
a labyrinth of narrow streets and lanes.
Here he could afford to buy brandy, for at that date brandy was much
cheaper in France than it is now. Here he could indulge his growing
propensity for strong drink to the uttermost extent of his means, and
could drown his sorrows, and drink destruction to his enemies, in fiery
draughts of cognac.
For some years he inhabited the same dirty garret, keeping the key of
his wretched chamber, going up and down the crumbling old staircase
uncared for and unnoticed. Few who had known him in the past would have
recognized the once elegant young man in this latter stage of his
existence. Form and features, complexion and expression, were alike
degraded. The garments worn by him, who had once been the boasted
patron of crack West-end tailors, were now shapeless and hideous. The
dandy of the clubs had become a perambulating mass of rags.
Every day when the sun shone he buttoned his greasy, threadbare
overcoat across his breast, and crawled to the public garden of the
Luxembourg, where he might be seen shuffling slipshod along the
sunniest walk, an object of contempt and aversion in the eyes of
nursery-maids and _grisettes_--a butt for the dare-devil students of
Had he any consciousness of his degradation?
Yes; that was the undying vulture which preyed upon his entrails--the
consuming fire that was never quenched.
During the brief interval of each day in which he was sober, Sir
Reginald Eversleigh was wont to reflect upon the past. He knew himself
to be the wretch and outcast he was; and, looking back at his start in
life, he could but remember how different his career might have been
had he so chosen.
In those hours the slow tears made furrows in his haggard cheeks--the
tears of remorse, vain repentance, that came too late for earth; but
not, perhaps, utterly too late for heaven, since, even for this last
and worst of sinners, there might be mercy.
Thus his life passed--a changeless routine, unbroken by one bright
interval, one friendly visit, one sign or token to show that there was
any link between this lonely wretch and the rest of humanity.
One day the porter, who lived in a little den at the bottom of the
lodging-house staircase, suddenly missed the familiar figure which had
gone by his rabbit-hutch every day for the last six years; the besotted
face that had stared at him morning and evening with the blank,
unseeing gaze of the habitual drunkard.
"What has become of the old toper who lives up yonder among the
chimney-pots?" cried the porter, suddenly, to the wife of his bosom. "I
have not seen him to-day nor yesterday, nor for many days. He must be
ill. I will go upstairs and make inquiries by-and-by, when I have
The porter waited for a leisure half-hour after dark, and then tramped
wearily up the steep old staircase with a lighted candle to see after
the missing lodger. He might have waited even longer without detriment
to Sir Reginald Eversleigh.
The baronet had been dead many days, suffocated by the fumes of his
poor little charcoal stove. A trap-door in the roof, which he had been
accustomed to open for the ventilation of his garret, had been closed
by the wind, and the baronet had passed unconsciously from sleep to
He had died, and no one had been aware of his death. The people of the
house did not know either his name or his country. His burial was that
of an unknown pauper; and the bones of the last male scion of the house
of Eversleigh were mingled with the bones of Parisian paupers in the
cemetery of Pere la Chaise.
While Sir Reginald Eversleigh dragged out the wretched remnant of his
existence in a dingy Parisian alley, there was perfect peace and
tranquil happiness for the woman against whose fair fame he and Victor
Carrington had so basely conspired.
Yes, Anna was at peace; surrounded by friends; delighted day by day to
watch the budding loveliness, the sportive grace of Gertrude
Eversleigh, the idolized heiress of Raynham. As Lady Eversleigh paced
the terraces of an Italian garden, her mother by her side, with
Gertrude clinging to her side; as she looked out over the vast domain
which owned her as mistress--it might seem that fortune had lavished
her fairest gifts into the lap of her who had been once a friendless
stranger, singing in the taverns of Wapping.
Wonderful indeed had been the transitions which had befallen her; but
even now, when the horizon seemed so fair before her, there were dark
shadows upon the past which, in some measure, clouded the brightness of
the present, and dimmed the radiance of the future.
She could not forget her night of agony in the house amongst the
marshes beyond Ratcliff Highway; she could not cease to lament the loss
of that noble friend who had rescued her in the hour of her despair.
The world wondered at the prolonged widowhood of the mistress of
Raynham. People were surprised to find that a woman in the golden prime
of womanhood and beauty could be constant to the memory of a husband
old enough to have been her father. But in due time society learned to
accept the fact as a matter of course, and Lady Eversleigh was no
longer the subject of hopes and speculations.
Her constant gratitude and friendship for the Jernams suffered no
diminution as time went on. The difference in their social position
made no difference to her; and no more frequent or more welcome guests
were seen at Raynham than Captain Duncombe, his daughter and son-in-
law, and honest Joyce Harker. Lady Eversleigh had a particular regard
for the man who had so true and faithful a heart, and she would often
talk to him; but she never mentioned the subject of that miserable
night on which he had seen her down at Wapping. That subject was
tacitly avoided by both. There was a pain too intense, a memory too
dark, associated with the events of that period.
And so the story ends. There is no sound of pleasant wedding bells to
close my record with their merry, jangling chorus. Is it not the fate
of the innocent to suffer in this life for the sins of the wicked? Lady
Eversleigh's widowhood, Douglas Dale's lonely life, are the work of
Victor Carrington--a work not to be undone upon this earth. If he has
failed in all else, he has succeeded at least in this: he has ruined
the happiness of two lives. For both his victims time brings peace--a
sober gladness that is not without its charm. For one a child's
affection--a child's growing grace of mind and form, bring a happiness
on, clouded at intervals by the dark shadows of past sorrow. But in the
heart of Douglas Dale there is an empty place which can never be filled
"Will the Eternal and all-seeing One forgive her for her reckless,
useless life, and shall I meet her among the blest in heaven?" he asks
himself sometimes, and then he remembers the holy words of comfort
unspeakable: "Come unto me, ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I
will give you rest."
Had not Paulina been "weary, and heavy laden," bowed down by the burden
of a false accusation, friendless, hopeless, from her very cradle?
He thought of the illimitable Mercy, and he dared to hope for the day
in which he should meet her he loved "Beyond the Veil."