Part 6 out of 11
search had been made for the old man who had played the part of
grandfather to the beautiful ballad-singer; but it had been wholly
ineffectual. All that could be ascertained concerning him was, that he
had died in a hospital, in a country town on the great northern road,
and that the girl had wandered away from there, and never more been
heard of. Of Black Milsom, Joyce Harker had never lost sight, until his
career received a temporary check by the sentence of transportation,
which had sent the ruffian out of the country. But all efforts of the
faithful watcher had failed to discover the missing link in the
evidence which connected Black Milsom with Valentine Jernam's death.
All his watching and questioning--all his silent noting of the idle
talk around him--all his eager endeavour to take Dennis Wayman
unawares, failed to enable him to obtain evidence of that one fact of
which he was convinced--the fact that Valentine Jernam had been at the
public-house in Ratcliff Highway on the day of his death.
When the inutility of his endeavours became clear to Joyce Harker, he
gave up his lodging in Wayman's house, and located himself in modest
apartments at Poplar, where he transacted a great deal of business for
George Jernam, and maintained a constant, though unprofitable,
communication with the detective officer to whom he had confided the
task of investigation, and who was no other than Mr. Andrew Larkspur.
In one of the earliest of the numerous letters which George Jernam
addressed to Harker, after the death of Valentine, the merchant-captain
had given his zealous friend and assistant certain instructions
concerning the old aunt to whom the two desolate boys had owed so much
in their ill-treated childhood, and whom they had so well and
constantly requited in their prosperous manhood. These instructions
included a request that Joyce Harker would visit Susan Jernam in
person, and furnish George with details relative to that venerable
lady's requirements, looks, health, and general circumstances.
"I should have seen the good old soul, you know," wrote George, "when I
was to have seen poor Val; but it didn't please God that the one thing
should come off any more than the other, and it can't be helped. But I
should like you to run down to Allanbay and look her up, and let her
know that she is neither neglected nor forgotten by her vagabond
So Joyce Harker went down to the Devonshire village, and introduced
himself to George Jernam's aunt. The old lady was much altered since
she had last welcomed a visitor to her pretty, cheerful cottage, and
had listened with simple surprise and pleasure to her nephew
Valentine's tales of the sea, and they had talked together over the
troublous days of his unhappy childhood. The untimely and tragic death
of the merchant-captain had afflicted her deeply, and had filled her
mind with sentiments which, though they differed in degree, closely
resembled in their nature those of Joyce Harker. The determination to
be revenged upon the murderers of "her boy" which Harker expressed,
found a ready echo in the breast of his hearer, and she thanked him
warmly for his devotion to the master he had lost. Strong mutual liking
grew up between these two, and when her visitor left her--after having
carried out all George's wishes in respect to her, on the scale of
liberality which the grateful nephew had dictated--Susan Jernam gave
him a cordial invitation to pass any leisure time he might have at the
cottage, though, as she remarked--
"I am not very lively company, Mr. Harker, for you or anybody, for I
can't talk of anything but George and poor Valentine."
"And I don't care to talk of much else either, Mrs. Jernam," said
Harker, in reply; "so, you see, we couldn't possibly be better company
for each other."
Thus it happened that a second tie between George Jernam and Joyce
Harker arose, in the person of the sole surviving relative of the
former, and that Joyce had made three visits to the pretty sea-side
village in which the childhood of his dead friend and his living patron
had been passed, before he and George Jernam met again on English
When at length that long-deferred meeting took place, Valentine
Jernam's murder was a mystery rather more than five years old, and Mr.
Andrew Larkspur had made no progress towards its solution. He had been
obliged to acknowledge to Joyce Harker that he had not struck the right
trail, and to confess that he had begun to despond. The disappearance
of Black Milsom from among the congenial society of thieves and
ruffians which he frequented was, of course, easily accounted for by
Mr. Larkspur, and the absence of any, even the slightest, additional
clue to the fate of Jernam, confirmed that astute person in the
conviction, which he had reached early in the course of his
confabulations with Harker, that the convict was the guilty man. There
was, on this hypothesis, nothing for it but to wait until the worthy
exile should have worked out his time and once more returned to grace
his mother-country, and then to resume the close watch which, though
hitherto ineffectual, might in time bring some of his former deeds to
Such was the state of affairs when Captain Duncombe bought the deserted
house which had had such undesirable tenants, first in the person of
old Screwton, the miser, and, secondly, of Black Milsom. Joyce Harker
was aware of the transaction, and had watched with some interest the
transformation of the dreary, dismal, doomed place, into the cheery,
comfortable, middle-class residence it had now become. If he had known
that the last hours of Valentine Jernam's life had been passed on that
spot, that there his beloved master had met with a violent and cruel
death, with what different feelings he would have watched the work! But
though, as the former dwelling of Black Milsom, the cottage had a
dreary attraction for him, he was far from imagining that within its
walls lay hidden one infallible clue to the secret for which he had
sought so long and so vainly.
The new occupant of River View Cottage was acquainted with Joyce
Harker, and held the solitary old man in some esteem. Captain Joe
Duncombe and the _protege_ of the Jernams had nothing whatever in
common in character, disposition, or manners, and the distance in the
social scale which divided the prosperous merchant-captain from the
poor, though clever, dependent, was considerable, even according to the
not very strict standard of manners observed by persons of their
respective classes. But Joe Duncombe knew and heartily liked George
Jernam. He had been in England at the time of Valentine's murder, and
he had then learned the faithful and active part played by Harker. He
had lost sight of the man for some time, but when he had bought the
cottage, and during the progress of the changes and improvements he had
made in that unprepossessing dwelling, accident had thrown Harker in
his way, and they had found much to discuss in George Jernam's
prosperity, in his generous treatment of Harker, in the general
condition of the merchant service, which the two men declared to be
going to the dogs, after the manner of all professions, trades, and
institutions of every age and every clime, when contemplated from a
conversational point of view; and in the honest captain's plans, hopes,
and prospects concerning his daughter.
Joyce Harker had seen Rosamond Duncombe occasionally, but had not taken
much notice of her. Nor had Miss Duncombe been much impressed by that
gentleman. Joyce was not a lady's man, and Rosamond, who entertained a
rather disrespectful notion of her father's acquaintances in general,
classing them collectively as "old fogies," contented herself with
distinguishing Mr. Harker as the ugliest and grimmest of the lot. Joyce
came and went, not very often indeed, but very freely to River View
Cottage, and there was much confidence and good-fellowship between the
bluff old seaman and the more acute, but not less honest, adventurer.
There was, however, one circumstance which Captain Duncombe never
mentioned to Harker. That circumstance was the apparition of old
Screwton's ghost. Joe Duncombe was, to tell the truth, a little ashamed
of his credulity on that occasion. He entertained no doubt that he had
been victimized by a clever practical joke, and while he chuckled over
the recollection that it had been an expensive jest to the perpetrator,
who had lost a valuable gold coin by the transaction, he had no fancy
for exposing himself to any further ridicule on the occasion. So the
bluff, imperious, soft-hearted captain issued an ukase commanding
silence on the subject; and silence was observed, not in the least
because Rosamond Duncombe or Susan Trott were afraid of him, but
because Rosamond loved her father, and Susan Trott respected her master
too much to disobey his lightest wish.
There was also one circumstance which Joyce Harker never mentioned to
Captain Duncombe. This circumstance was the identity of the former
occupant of the cottage with the man whom he believed to be the
murderer of Valentine Jernam.
"It is bad enough to live in a place that's said to be haunted," said
Harker to himself, when he visited the cottage for the first time;
"without my telling him that he comes after a man who is certainly a
convict, and probably a murderer."
* * * * *
Victor Carrington still lived in the little cottage on the outskirts of
London. Here, with his mother for his only companion, he led a simple,
studious life, which, to any one ignorant of his character, would have
seemed the life of a good and honourable man.
The few neighbours who passed to and fro beneath the wall which
surrounded the cottage, knew nothing of the inner life of its
occupants. They knew only that of all the houses in the neighbourhood
this was the quietest. Yet those who happened to pass the house late at
night always saw a glimmer of light in an upper chamber, and the blue
vapour of smoke rising from one particular chimney.
Those who had occasion to pass the house frequently after dark
perceived that the smoke from this chimney was different from the
common smoke of common chimneys. Sometimes vivid sparks glittered and
flashed upon the darkness. At other times a semi-luminous, green vapour
was seen to issue from the mouth of the chimney.
These facts were spoken about by the neighbours; and by and by people
discovered that the smoke issued from the chimney of Victor
Carrington's laboratory, where the surgeon was frequently employed,
long after midnight, making experiments in the science of chemistry.
The nature of these experiments was known to no one. The few neighbours
who had ever conversed with the French surgeon had heard him declare
that he was a student of the mysteries of electricity. It was,
therefore, supposed that all his experiments were in some manner
connected with that wondrous science.
No one for a moment suspected evil of a young man whose life was sober,
respectable, and laborious, and who went to the little Catholic chapel
every Sunday, with his mother leaning on his arm.
Those who really knew Victor Carrington knew that he was without one
ray of belief in a Divine Ruler, and that he laughed to scorn those
terrors of heavenly vengeance which will sometimes restrain the hand of
the most hardened criminal. He was a wretch who seemed to have been
created without those natural qualities which, in some degree, redeem
the worst of humanity. He was a creature without a conscience--without
And yet he seemed the most dutiful and devoted of sons.
Is it possible that filial love could hold any place in a soul so lost
as his? It is difficult to solve this enigma.
Victor Carrington was ambitious; and to gain the object of his ambition
he was willing to steep his soul in guilt. But he was also cautious and
calculating, and he knew that to commit crime with impunity he must so
shape his life as to escape suspicion.
He knew that a devoted and affectionate son is always respected by good
men and women; and he had studied human nature too closely not to be
aware that there is more goodness than wickedness in the world, base
though some of earth's inhabitants may be.
The world is easily hoodwinked; and those who watched the life of the
young surgeon were ready to declare that he was a most deserving young
He had his reward for this apparent excellence. Patients came to him
without his seeking; and at the time of Honoria Eversleigh's arrival in
London he had obtained a small but remunerative practice. The money
earned thus enabled him to live. The money he won by his pen in the
medical journals he was able to save.
He knew how necessary money was in all the turning-points of life, and
he denied himself every pleasure and every luxury in order to save a
sum which should serve him in time of need.
Matilda Carrington was one of those quiet women who seem to take no
interest in the world around them, and to be happy without the
pleasures which delight other women. She lived quite alone, without one
female friend or acquaintance, and she saw little of her son, whose
midnight studies and medical practice absorbed almost every hour of his
Her life, therefore, was one long solitude, and but for the
companionship of her birds and two Angora cats, she would have been
almost as much alone as a prisoner in a condemned cell.
There was but one visitor who came often to the cottage, and that was
Sir Reginald Eversleigh. The young baronet contrived to exist, somehow
or other, upon his income of five hundred a year; but, as he had
neither abandoned his old haunts, nor put aside his old vices, the
income, which to a good man would have seemed a handsome competence,
barely enabled him to stave off the demands of his most pressing
creditors by occasional payments on account.
He lived a dark and strange existence, occupying a set of shabby-
genteel apartments in a street leading out of the Strand; but spending
a great part of his life in a house on the banks of the Thames--a house
that stood amidst grounds of some extent, situated midway between
Chelsea and Fulham.
The mistress of this house was a lady who called herself a widow, but
of whose real position the world knew very little.
She was said to be of Austrian extraction, and the widow of an Austrian
officer. Her name was Paulina Durski. She had bade farewell to the
fresh bloom of early youth; for at her best she looked thirty years of
age. But her beauty was of that brilliant order which does not need the
charm of girlhood. She was a woman--a grand, queen-like creature. Those
who admired her most compared her to a tall white lily, alike stately
She was fair, with that snowy purity of complexion which is so rare a
charm. Her hair was of the palest gold--darker than flaxen, lighter
than auburn--hair that waved in sunny undulations on the broad white
forehead, and imparted an unspeakable innocence to the beautiful face.
Such was Paulina Durski. One charm alone was wanting to render this
woman as lovable as she was lovely, and that wan the charm of
There was a lack of warmth in that perfect face. The bright blue eyes
were hard; the rosy lips had been trained to smile on friend or foe, on
stranger or kinsman, with the same artificial smile.
Hilton House was the name of the villa by the river-bank. It had
belonged originally to a nobleman; but, on the decay of his fortunes,
had fallen into the hands of a speculator, who intended to occupy it,
but who failed almost immediately after becoming its owner. After this
man's bankruptcy, the house had for a long time been tenantless. It was
too expensive for some, too lonely for others; and when Madame Durski
saw and took a fancy to the place, she was able to secure it for a
moderate rent. The grounds and the house had been neglected. The rare
and costly shrubs in the gardens were rank and overgrown; the exquisite
decorations of the interior were spoiled by damp.
Madame Durski was a person who lived in a certain style; but it
speedily became evident that she was very often at a loss for ready
money. Her furniture arrived from Paris, and her household came also
from that brilliant city. It was the household of a princess; but of a
princess not unfamiliar with poverty.
There was a Spanish courier, one Carlo Toas--a strange, silent
creature, whose stately and solemn movements seemed fitted for a
courtly assembly, rather than for the unceremonious gatherings of
modern society. The next person in importance in the household of
Madame Durski was an elderly woman, who attended on the fair Austrian
widow. She was a native of Paris, and her name was Sophie Elser. There
were three other servants, all foreigners, and apparently devoted to
The furniture was of a bygone fashion, costly and beautiful of its
kind; but it was furniture which had seen better days. The draperies in
every chamber were of satin or velvet; but the satin was worn and
faded, the velvet threadbare. The pictures, china, plate, the bronzes
and knick-knacks which adorned the rooms, all bore evidence of a
refined and artistic taste. But much of the china was imperfect, and
the plate was of very small extent.
The existence of Paulina Durski was one which might well excite
curiosity in the minds of the few neighbours who had the opportunity of
observing her mode of life.
This beautiful widow had no female acquaintances, save a humble friend
who lived with her, an Englishwoman, who subsisted upon the charity of
the lovely Paulina.
This person never quitted her benefactress. She was constant as her
shadow; a faithful watch-dog, always at hand, yet never obtrusive. She
was a creature who seemed to have been born without eyes and without
ears; so careless was the widow of her presence, so reckless what
secrets were disclosed in her hearing.
By daylight the life of Madame Durski and her companion, Miss Brewer,
seemed the dullest existence ever endured by womankind. Paulina rarely
left her own apartment until six in the evening; at which hour, she and
Miss Brewer dined together in her boudoir.
They always dined alone. After dinner Paulina returned to her apartment
to dress for the evening, while Miss Brewer retired to her own bedroom
on the upper story, where she arrayed herself invariably in black
She had never been seen by the visitors at Hilton House in any other
costume than this lustreless velvet. Her age was between thirty and
forty. She might once have had some pretensions to beauty; but her face
was pinched and careworn, and there was a sharp, greedy look in the
small eyes, whose colour was that neutral, undecided tint, that seems
sometimes a pale yellowish brown, anon a blueish green.
All day long the two women at Hilton House lived alone. No carriage
approached the gates; no foot-passenger was seen to enter the grounds.
Within and without all was silent and lifeless.
But with nightfall came a change. Lights shone in all the lower
windows, music sounded on the still night air, many carriages rolled
through the open gateway--broughams with flashing lamps dashed up to
the marble portico, and hack cabs mingled with the more stylish
There were very few nights on which Paulina Durski's saloons were not
enlivened by the presence of many guests. Her visitors were all
gentlemen; but they treated the mistress of the house with as much
respect as if she had been surrounded by women of the highest rank.
Night after night the same men assembled in those faded saloons; night
after night the carriages rolled along the avenue--the flashing lamps
illuminated the darkness. Those who watched the proceedings of the
Austrian widow had good reason to wonder what the attraction was which
brought those visitors so constantly to Hilton House. Many speculations
were formed, and the fair widow's reputation suffered much at the hands
of her neighbours; but none guessed the real charm of those nightly
That secret was known only to those within the mansion; and from those
it could not be hidden.
The charm which drew so many visitors to the saloons of Madame Durski
was the fatal spell of the gaming-table. The beautiful Paulina opened a
suite of three spacious chambers for the reception of her guests. In
the outer apartment there was a piano; and it was here Paulina sat--
with her constant companion, Matilda Brewer. In the second apartment
were small green velvet-covered tables, devoted to whist and _ecarte_.
The third, and inner, apartment was much larger than either of the
others, and in this room there was a table for _rouge et noir_.
The door of this inner apartment was papered so as to appear when
closed like a portion of the wall. A heavy picture was securely
fastened upon this papered surface, and the door was lined with iron.
Once closed, this door was not easily to be discovered by the eye of a
stranger; and, even when discovered, it was not easily to be opened.
It was secured with a spring lock, which fastened of itself as the door
This inner apartment had no windows. It was never used in the day-time.
It was a secret chamber, hidden in the very centre of the house; and
only an architect or a detective officer would have been likely to have
discovered its existence. The walls were hung with red cloth, and
Madame Durski always spoke of this apartment as the Red Drawing-room.
Her servants were forbidden to mention the chamber in their
conversation with the neighbours, and the members of the Austrian
widow's household were too well trained to disobey any such orders.
By the laws of England, the existence of a table for _rouge et noir_ is
forbidden. All these precautions were therefore necessary to insure
safety for the guests of Madame Durski.
Paulina, herself, never played. Sometimes she sat with Miss Brewer in
the outer chamber, silent and abstracted, while her visitors amused
themselves in the two other rooms; sometimes she seated herself at the
piano, and played soft, plaintive German sonatas, or _Leider ohne
Worte_, for an hour at a time; sometimes she moved slowly to and fro
amongst the gamblers--now lingering for a few moments behind the chair
of one, now glancing at the cards of another.
One of her most constant visitors was Reginald Eversleigh. Every night
he drove down to Hilton House in a hack cab. He was generally the first
to arrive and the last to depart.
It was also to be observed that almost all the men who assembled in the
drawing-rooms of Hilton House were friends and acquaintances of Sir
It was he who introduced them to the lovely widow. It was he who
tempted them to come night after night, when prudence should have
induced them to stay away.
* * * * *
The association between Reginald Eversleigh and Paulina Durski was no
Immediately after the death of Sir Oswald Eversleigh, Reginald turned
his back upon London, disgusted with the scene of his poverty and
humiliation, eager to find forgetfulness of his bitter disappointments
in the fever and excitement of a more brilliant city than any to be
found in Great Britain. He went to Paris, that capital which he had
shunned since the death of Mary Goodwin, but whither he returned
eagerly now, thirsting for riot and excitement--any opiate by which he
might lull to rest the bitter memories of the past month.
He was familiar with the wildest haunts of that city of dissipation,
and he was speedily engulphed in the vortex of vice and folly. If he
had been a rich man, this life might have gone on for ever; but without
money a man counts for very little in such a circle as that wherein
Reginald alone could find delight, and to the inhabitants of that
region five hundred a year would seem a kind of pauperism.
Sir Reginald contrived to keep the actual amount of his income a secret
locked in his own breast. His acquaintances and associates knew that he
was not rich; but they knew no more.
At the French opera-house he saw Paulina Durski for the first time. She
was seated in one of the smaller boxes, dressed in pure white, with
white camellias in her hair. Her faithful companion, Matilda Brewer,
was seated in the shadow of the curtains, and formed a foil for the
Reginald Eversleigh entered the house with a dissipated and fashionable
young Parisian--a man who, like his companion, had wasted youth,
character, and fortune in the tainted atmosphere of disreputable haunts
and midnight assemblies. The two young men took their places in the
stalls, and amused themselves between the acts by a scrutiny of the
occupants of the house.
Hector Leonce, the Parisian, was familiar with the inmates of every
"Do you see that beautiful, fair-haired woman, with the white camellias
in her hair?" he said, after he had drawn the attention of the
Englishman to several distinguished people. "That is Madame Durski, the
young and wealthy widow of an Austrian officer, and one of the most
celebrated beauties in Paris."
"She is very handsome," answered Reginald, carelessly; "but hers is a
cold style of loveliness--too much like a face moulded out of wax."
"Wait till you see her animated," replied Hector Leonce. "We will go to
her box presently."
When the curtain fell on the close of the following act the two men
left the stalls, and made their way to Madame Durski's box.
She received them courteously, and Reginald Eversleigh speedily
perceived that her beauty, fair and wax-like as it was, did not lack
intellectual grace. She talked well, and her manner had the tone of
good society. Reginald was surprised to see her attended only by the
little Englishwoman, in her dress of threadbare black velvet.
After the opera Sir Reginald and Hector Leonce accompanied Madame
Durski to her apartments in the Rue du Faubourg, St. Honore; and there
the baronet beheld higher play than he had ever seen before in a
private house presided over by a woman. On this occasion the beautiful
widow herself occupied a place at the _rouge et noir_ table, and
Reginald beheld enough to enlighten him as to her real character. He
saw that with this woman the love of play was a passion: a profound and
soul-absorbing delight. He saw the eyes which, in repose, seemed of so
cold a brightness, emit vivid flashes of feverish light; he saw the
fair blush-rose tinted cheek glow with a hectic crimson--he beheld the
woman with her mask thrown aside, abandoned to the influence of her
After this night, Reginald Eversleigh was a frequent visitor at the
apartments of the Austrian widow. For him, as for her, the fierce
excitement of the gaming-table was an irresistible temptation. In her
elegantly appointed drawing-rooms he met rich men who were desperate
players; but he met few men who were likely to be dupes. Here neither
skill nor bribery availed him, and he was dependent on the caprices of
chance. The balance was tolerably even, and he left Paris neither
richer nor poorer for his acquaintance with Paulina Durski.
But that acquaintance exercised a very powerful influence over his
destiny, nevertheless. There was a strange fascination in the society
of the Austrian widow--a nameless, indefinable charm, which few were
able to resist. A bitter experience of vice and folly had robbed
Reginald Eversleigh's heart and mind of all youth's freshness and
confidence, and for him this woman seemed only what she was, an
adventuress, dangerous to all who approached her.
He knew this, and yet he yielded to the fascination of her presence.
Night after night he haunted the rooms in the Rue du Faubourg, St.
Honore. He went there even when he was too poor to play, and could only
stand behind Paulina's chair, a patient and devoted cavalier.
For a long time she seemed to be scarcely aware of his devotion. She
received him as she received her other guests. She met him always with
the same cold smile; the same studied courtesy. But one evening, when
he went to her apartments earlier than usual, he found her alone, and
in a melancholy mood.
Then, for the first time, he became aware that the life she led was
odious to her; that she loathed the hateful vice of which she was the
slave. She was wont to be very silent about herself and her own
feelings; but that night she cast aside all reserve, and spoke with a
passionate earnestness, which made her seem doubly charming to Reginald
"I am so degraded a creature that, perhaps, you have never troubled
yourself to wonder how I became the thing I am," she said; "and yet you
must surely have marvelled to see a woman of high birth fallen to the
depths in which you find me; fallen so low as to be the companion of
gamesters, a gamester myself. I will tell you the secret of my life."
Reginald Eversleigh lifted his hand with a deprecating gesture.
"Dear madame, tell me nothing, I implore you. I admire and respect
you," he said. "To me, you must always appear the most beautiful of
women, whatever may be the nature of your surroundings."
"Yes, the most beautiful!" echoed Paulina, with passionate scorn. "You
men think that to praise a woman's beauty is to console her for every
humiliation. I have long held that which you call my beauty as the
poorest thing on earth, so little, happiness has its possession won for
me. I will tell you the story of my life. It is the only justification
"I am ready to listen. So long as you speak of yourself, your words
must have the deepest interest for me."
"I was reared amongst gamesters, Reginald Eversleigh," continued
Paulina Durski, with the same passionate intensity of manner, "My
father was an incorrigible gambler; and before I had emerged from
childhood to girlhood, the handsome fortune which should have been mine
had been squandered. As a girl the rattle of the dice, the clamour of
the _rouge et noir_ table were the most familiar sounds to my ears.
Night after night, night after night, I have kept watch at my own
window, and have seen the lighted windows of my father's rooms, and
have known that grim poverty was drawing nearer and nearer as the long
hours of those sleepless nights went by."
"My poor Paulina!"
"My mother died young, exhausted by the perpetual fever of anxiety
which the gambler's wife is doomed to suffer. She died, and I was left
alone--a woman; beautiful if you will, and, as the world supposed,
heiress to a large fortune; for none knew how entirely the wealth which
should have been mine had melted away in those nights of dissipation
and folly. People knew that my father played, and played desperately;
but few knew the extent of his losses. After my mother's death, my
father insisted on my doing the honours of his house. I received his
friends; I stood by his chair as he played _ecarte_, or sat by his side
and noted the progress of the game at the _rouge et noir_ table. Then
first I felt the fatal passion which I can but believe to be a taint in
my very blood. Slowly and gradually the fascinating vice assumed its
horrible mastery. I watched the progress of the play. I learned to
understand that science which was the one all-absorbing pursuit of
those around me. Then I played myself, first taking a hand at _ecarte_
with some of the younger guests, half in sport, and then venturing a
small golden coin at the _rouge et noir_ table, while my admirers
praised my daring, as if I had been some capricious child. In those
assemblies I was always the only woman, except Matilda Brewer, who was
then my governess. My father would have no female guests at these
nightly orgies. The presence of women would have been a hindrance to
the delights of the gaming-table. At first I felt all the bitterness of
my position. I looked forward with unspeakable dread to the dreary
future in which I should find destitution staring me in the face. But
when once the gamester's madness had seized upon me, I thought no more
of that dreary future; I became as reckless as my father and his
guests; I forgot everything in the excitement of the moment. To be
lucky at the gaming-table was to be happy; to lose was despair. Thus my
youth went by, till the day when my father told me that Colonel Durski
had offered me his hand and fortune, and that I had no alternative but
to accept him."
"Oh, then, your first marriage was no love-match?" cried Reginald,
"A love-match!" exclaimed Paulina, contemptuously. "No; it was a
marriage of convenience, dictated by a father who set less value on his
daughter's happiness than on a good hand of cards. My father told me I
must choose between Leopold Durski and ruin. 'This house cannot shelter
you much longer,' he said. 'For myself there is flight. I can go to
America, and lose my identity in strange cities. I cannot remain in
Vienna, to be pointed at as the beggared Count Veschi. But with you for
my companion I should be tied hand and foot. As a wanderer and an
adventurer, I may prosper alone; but as a wanderer, burdened with a
helpless woman, failure would be certain. It is not a question of
choice, Paulina,' he said, resolutely; 'there is no alternative. You
must become the wife of Leopold Durski.'"
"And you consented?"
"I ask you, Reginald Eversleigh, could I refuse? For me, love was a
word which had no meaning. Leopold Durski was more than double my age;
but in outward seeming he was a gentleman. He was reported to be
wealthy; he had a high position at the Austrian Court. I was so utterly
helpless, so desolate, so despairing, that it is scarcely strange if I
accepted the fate my father pressed upon me, careless as to a future
which held no joy for me, beyond the pleasure of the gaming-table. I
left the house of one gambler to ally myself to the fortunes of
another, for Leopold Durski was my father's companion and friend, and
the same master-passion swayed both. It was strange that my father,
himself a ruined gamester, should have become the dupe of a man whose
reported wealth was as great a sham as his own. But so it was. I
exchanged poverty with one master for poverty with another master. My
new life was an existence of perpetual falsehood and trickery. I
occupied a splendid house in the most fashionable quarter of Vienna;
but that house was maintained by my husband's winnings at the gaming-
table; and it was my task to draw together the dupes whose money was to
support the false semblance of grandeur which surrounded me. The dupes
came. I had my little court of flatterers; but the courtiers paid
dearly for their allegiance to their queen. I was the snare which was
set to entrap the birds whose feathers my husband was to pluck. If I
had been like other women, my position would have been utterly
intolerable to me. I should have found some means of escape from a life
so hateful--a degradation so shameful."
"And you made no attempt to escape?"
"None. I was a gambler; the vice which had degraded my husband had
degraded me. We had both sunk to the same level, and I had no right to
reproach him for infamy which I shared. We had little affection for
each other. Colonel Durski had sought me only because I was fitted to
adorn his reception-rooms, and attract the dupes who were to suffer by
their acquaintance with him. But if there was little love between us,
we at least never quarrelled. He treated me always with studied
courtesy, and I never upbraided him for the deception by which he had
obtained my hand. My father disappeared suddenly from Vienna, and only
after his departure was it discovered that his fortune had long
vanished, and that he had for several years been completely insolvent.
His creditors tittered a cry of execration; but in great cities the
cries of such victims are scarcely heard. My reception-rooms were still
thronged by aristocratic guests, and no one cared to remember my
father's infamy. This life had lasted three years, when my husband died
and left me penniless. I sold my jewels, and came to this city, where
for a year and a half I have lived, as my husband lived in Vienna, on
the fortune of the gaming-table. I am growing weary of Paris, and it
may be that Paris is growing weary of me. I suppose I shall go to
London next. And next? Who knows? Ah, Reginald Eversleigh, believe me
there are many moments of my life in which I think that the little walk
from here to the river would cut the knot of all my difficulties. To-
night I am surrounded with anxieties, steeped in degradation, hemmed in
by obstacles that shut me out of all peaceful resting-places. To-morrow
I might be lying very quietly in the Morgue."
"Paulina, for pity's sake--"
"Ah, me! these are idle words, are they not?" said Madame Durski, with
a weary sigh. "And now I have told you my history, Reginald Eversleigh,
and it is for you to judge whether there is any excuse for such a
creature as I am."
Sir Reginald pitied this hopeless, friendless, woman as much as it was
in him to pity any one except himself, and tried to utter some words of
She looked up at him, as he spoke to her, with a glance in which he saw
a deeper feeling than gratitude.
Then it was that Reginald declared himself the devoted lover of the
woman who had revealed to him the strange story of her life. He told
her of the influence which she exercised over him, the fascination
which he had sought in vain to resist. He declared himself attached to
her by an affection which would know no change, come what might. But he
did not offer this friendless woman the shelter of his name, the
ostensible position which would have been hers had she become his wife.
Even when beneath the sway of a woman's fascination Reginald Eversleigh
was cold and calculating. Paulina Durski was poor, and doubtless deeply
in debt. She was a gambler, and the companion of gamblers. She was,
therefore, no fitting wife for a man who looked upon marriage as a
stepping-stone by which he might yet redeem his fallen fortunes.
Paulina received his declaration with an air of simulated coldness; but
Reginald Eversleigh could perceive that it was only simulated, and that
he had awakened a real affection in the heart of this desolate woman.
"Do not speak to me of love," she said; "to me such words can promise
no happiness. My love could only bring shame and misery on the man to
whom it was given. Let me tread my dreary pathway alone, Reginald--
alone to the very end."
Much was said after this by Reginald and the woman who loved him, and
who was yet too proud to confess her love. Paulina Durski was not an
inexperienced girl, to be persuaded by romantic speeches. She had
acquired knowledge of the world in a hard and bitter school. She could
fully fathom the base selfishness of the man who pretended to love her,
and she understood why it was that he shrank from offering her the only
real pledge of his truth.
"I will speak frankly to you, Paulina," he said. "I am too poor to
"Yes," she answered, bitterly; "I comprehend. You are too poor to marry
a penniless wife."
"And I am not likely to find a rich one. But, believe me, that my love
is none the less sincere because I shrink from asking you to ally
yourself to misery."
"So be it, Sir Reginald. I am willing to accept your love for what it
is--a wise and prudent affection--such as a man of the world may freely
indulge in without fear that his folly may cost him too dearly. You
will come to my house; I shall see you night after night amongst the
reckless idlers who gather round me; you will pay me compliments all
the year round, and bring me bon-bons on New Year's Day; and some day,
when I have grown old and haggard, you will all at once forget the fact
of our acquaintance, and I shall see you no more. Let it be so. It is
pleasant for a woman to fancy herself beloved, however false the fancy
may be. I will shut my eyes, and dream that you love me, Reginald."
And this was all. No more was ever said of love between these two; but
from that hour Reginald was more constant than ever in his attendance
on the beautiful widow. The time came when she grew weary of Paris, and
when those who had lost money began to shun the seductive delights of
her nightly receptions. Reginald Eversleigh was not slow to perceive
that the brilliant throng grew thin--the most distinguished guests
"conspicuous by their absence." He urged Paulina to leave Paris for
London; and he himself selected the lonely villa on the banks of the
Thames, in which he found a billiard-room, lighted from the roof, that
was easily converted into a secret chamber.
It was by his advice that Paulina Durski altered her line of conduct on
taking up her abode in England, and refrained altogether from any
active share in the ruinous amusements for which men frequented her
"It was all very well for you to take a hand at _ecarte_, or to take
your place at the _rouge et noir_ table, in Paris," Reginald said, when
he discussed this question; "but here it will not do. The English are
full of childish prejudices, and to see a woman at the gaming-table
would shock these prejudices. Let me play for you. I will find the
capital, and we will divide the profits of each night's speculation.
For your part, you will have only to look beautiful, and to lure the
golden-feathered birds into the net; and sometimes, perhaps, when I am
playing _ecarte_ with one of your admirers, behind whose chair you may
happen to be standing, you may contrive to combine a flattering
interest in _his_ play with a substantial benefit to _mine_."
Paulina's eyelids fell, and a crimson flush dyed her face: but she
uttered no exclamation of anger or disgust. And yet she understood only
too well the meaning of Sir Reginald's words. She knew that he wished
her to aid him in a deliberate system of cheating. She knew this, and
she did not withdraw her friendship from this man.
Alas, no! she loved him. Not because she believed him to be good and
honourable--not because she was blinded to the baseness of his nature.
She loved him in spite of her knowledge of his real character--she
yielded to the influence of an infatuation which she was so powerless
to resist that she might almost be pardoned for believing herself the
victim of a baleful destiny.
"It is my fate," she murmured to herself, after this last revelation of
her lover's infamy. "It must needs be my fate, since women with less
claim to be loved than I possess are so happy as to win the devotion of
good and brave men. It is my fate to love a cheat and trickster, on
whose constancy I have so poor a hold that a breath may sever the
miserable bond that unites us."
Victor Carrington was one of the first persons whom Reginald Eversleigh
introduced to Madame Durski after her arrival in England. She was
pleased with the quiet and graceful manners of the Frenchman; but she
was at a loss to understand Sir Reginald's intimate association with a
man who was at once poor and obscure.
She told Sir Reginald as much the next time she saw him alone.
"I know that in most of your friendships convenience and self-interest
reign paramount over what you call sentimentality; and yet you choose
for your friend this Carrington, whom no one knows; and who is, you
tell me, even poorer than yourself. You must have a hidden motive,
Reginald; and a strong one."
A dark shade passed over the face of the baronet.
"I have my reasons," he said. "Victor Carrington was once useful to
me--at least he endeavoured to be so. If he failed, the obligation is
none the less; and he is a man who will have his bond."
The current of life flowed on at River View Cottage without so much as
a ripple in the shape of an event, after the appalling midnight visit
of Miser Screwton's ghost, until one summer evening, when Captain
Duncombe came home in very high spirits, bringing with him an old
friend, of whom Miss Duncombe had heard her father talk very often; but
whom she had hitherto never seen.
This was no other than George Jernam, the captain of the "Albatross,"
and the owner of the "Stormy Petrel" and "Pizarro."
In London the captain of the "Albatross" found plenty of business to
occupy him. He had just returned from an African cruise, and though he
had not forgotten the circumstances which had made his last intended
visit to England only a memorable and melancholy failure, he was in
The first few days hardly sufficed for the talks between George Jernam
and Joyce Harker, who aided him vigorously in the refitting of his
vessel. He had been in London about a week before he fell in with
honest Joe Duncombe. The two men had been fast friends ever since the
day on which George, while still a youngster, had served as second-mate
under the owner of the "Vixen."
They met accidentally in one of the streets about Wapping. Joseph
Buncombe was delighted to encounter a sea-faring friend, and insisted
on taking George Jernam down to River View Cottage to eat what he
called a homely bit of dinner.
The homely bit of dinner turned out to be a very excellent repast; for
Mrs. Mugby prided herself upon her powers as a cook and housekeeper,
and to produce a good dinner at a short notice was a triumph she much
Susan Trott waited at table in her prettiest cotton gown and smartest
Rosamond Duncombe sat by her father's side during the meal; and after
dinner, when the curtains were drawn, and the lamp lighted, the captain
of the "Vixen" set himself to brew a jorum of punch in a large old
Japanese china bowl, the composition of which punch was his strong
Altogether that little dinner and cheerful evening entertainment seemed
the perfection of home comfort. George Jernam had been too long a
stranger to home and home pleasures not to feel the cheerful influence
of that hospitable abode.
For Joseph Duncombe the companionship of his old friend was delightful.
The society of the sailor was as invigorating to the nostrils of a
seaman as the fresh breeze of ocean after a long residence inland.
"You don't know what a treat it is to me to have an old shipmate with
me once more, George," he said. "My little Rosy and I live here pretty
comfortably, though I keep a tight hand over her, I can tell you," he
added, with pretended severity; "but it's dull work for a man who has
lived the best part of his life on the sea to find himself amongst a
pack of spooney landsmen. Never you marry a landsman, Rosy, if you
don't want me to cut you off with a shilling," he cried, turning to his
Of course Miss Rosamond Duncombe blushed on hearing herself thus
apostrophized, as young ladies of eighteen have a knack of blushing
when the possibility of their falling in love is mentioned.
George Jernam saw the blush, and thought that Miss Duncombe was the
prettiest girl he had ever seen.
George Jernam stayed late at the cottage, for its hospitable owner was
loth to let his friend depart.
"How long do you stay in London, George?" he asked, as the young man
was going away.
"A month, at least--perhaps two months."
"Then be sure you come down here very often. You can dine with us every
Sunday, of course, for I know you haven't a creature belonging to you
in London except Harker; and you can run down of an evening sometimes,
and bring him with you, and smoke your cigar in my garden, with the
bright water rippling past you, and all the ships in the Pool spreading
their rigging against the calm grey sky; and I'll brew you a jorum of
punch, and Rosy shall sing us a song while we drink it."
It is not to be supposed that George Jernam, who had a good deal of
idle time on his hands, could refuse to oblige his old captain, or
shrink from availing himself of hospitality so cordially pressed upon
He went very often in the autumn dusk to spend an hour or two at River
View Cottage, where he always found a hearty welcome. He strolled in
the garden with Captain Duncombe and Rosamond, talking of strange lands
and stranger adventures.
Harker did not always accompany him; but sometimes he did, and on such
occasions Rosamond seemed unaccountably glad to see him. Harker paid
her no more attention than usual, and invariably devoted himself to Joe
Duncombe, who was frequently lazy, and inclined to smoke his cigar in
the comfortable parlour. On these occasions George Jernam and Rosamond
Duncombe strolled side by side in the garden; and the sailor
entertained his fair companion by the description of all the strangest
scenes he had beheld, and the most romantic adventures he had been
engaged in. It was like the talk of some sea-faring Othello; and never
did Desdemona more "seriously incline" to hear her valiant Moor than
did Miss Duncombe to hear her captain.
One of the windows of Joseph Duncombe's favourite sitting-room
commanded the garden; and from this window the captain of the "Vixen"
could see his daughter and the captain of the "Albatross" walking side
by side upon the smoothly kept lawn. He used to look unutterably sly as
he watched the two figures; and on one occasion went so far as to tap
his nose significantly several times with his ponderous fore-finger.
"It's a match!" he muttered to himself; "it's a match, or my name is
not Joe Duncombe."
Susan Trott was not slow to notice those evening walks in the garden.
She told the dashing young baker that she thought there would be a
wedding at the cottage before long.
"Yours, of course," cried the baker.
"For shame, now, you impitent creature!" exclaimed Susan, blushing till
she was rosier than the cherry-coloured ribbons in her cap; "you know
what I mean well enough."
Neither Captain Duncombe nor Susan Trott were very far wrong. The
"Albatross" was not ready for her next cruise till three months after
George Jernam's first visit to River View Cottage, nor did the captain
of the vessel seem particularly anxious to hasten the completion of the
When the "Albatross" did drop down into the Channel, she sailed on a
cruise that was to last less than six months; and when George Jernam
touched English ground again, he was to return to claim Rosamond
Duncombe as his plighted wife. This arrangement had Joyce Harker's
hearty approbation; but when he, too, had taken leave of George Jernam,
he turned away muttering, "I think he really _has_ forgotten Captain
Valentine now; but I have not, I have not. No, I remember him better
than ever now, when there's no one but me."
* * * * *
The "Albatross" came safely back to the Pool in the early spring
weather. George Jernam had promised Rosamond that she should know of
his coming before ever he set foot on shore, and he contrived to keep
One fine March day she saw a vessel sailing up the river, with a white
flag flying from the main-mast. On the white flag blazed, in bright red
letters, the name, "_Rosamond_!"
When Miss Duncombe saw this, she knew at once that her lover had
returned. No other vessel than the "Albatross" was likely to sport such
a piece of bunting.
George Jernam came back braver, truer, handsomer even than when he went
away, as it seemed to Rosamond. He came back more devoted to her than
ever, she thought; and a man must have been indeed cold of heart who
could be ungrateful for the innocent, girlish affection which Rosamond
revealed in every word and look.
The wedding took place within a month of the sailor's return; and,
after some discussion, George Jernam consented that he and his wife
should continue to live at the cottage.
"I can't come here to take possession of your house," he had said,
addressing himself to his future father-in-law; "that would be rather
too much of a good thing. I know you'd like to keep Rosy in the
neighbourhood, and so you shall. I'll do as you did. I'll find a little
bit of ground near here, and build myself a comfortable crib, with a
view of the river."
"Stuff and nonsense!" replied Captain Duncombe. "If that's what you are
going to do, you shall not have my Rosy. I've no objection to her
having a husband on the premises; but the day she leaves my roof for
the sake of any man in Christendom, I'll cut her off with a shilling--
and the shilling shall be a bad one."
The captain of the "Albatross" took his young wife into Devonshire for
a brief honeymoon; and during this pleasant spring-time holiday,
Rosamond made the acquaintance of her husband's aunt. Susan Jernam was
pleased with the bright-eyed, pure-minded, modest girl, and in the few
days they were together, learned to regard her with a motherly feeling,
which was destined to be of priceless value to Rosy at an unforeseen
crisis of the new life that began so fairly.
Never did a married couple begin their new life with a fairer prospect
than that which lay before George Jernam and his wife when they
returned to River View Cottage. Captain Duncombe received his son-in-
law with the hearty welcome of a true seaman; but a few days after
George Jernam's return, the old sailor took him aside, and made an
announcement which filled him with surprise.
"You know how fond I am of Rosy," he said, "and you know that if
Providence had blessed me with a son of my own, he couldn't have been
much dearer to me than you are; so come what may, neither you or Rosy
must doubt my affection for both of you. Come now, George, promise me
"I promise, with all my heart," answered Captain Jernam; "I should no
more think of doubting your goodness or your love for us, than I should
think of doubting that there's a sun shining up aloft yonder. But why
do you speak of this?"
"Because, George, the truth of the matter is, I'm going to leave you."
"You are going to leave us?"
"Yes, old fellow. You see, a lazy, land-lubber's life doesn't suit me.
I've tried it, and it don't answer. I thought the sound of the water
washing against the bank at the bottom of my garden, and the sight of
the ships in the Pool, would be consolation enough for me, but they
ain't, and I've been sickening for the sea for the last six mouths. As
long as my little Rosy had nobody in the world but me to take care of
her, I stayed with her, and I should have gone on staying with her till
I died at my post. But she's got a husband now, and two trust-worthy
women-servants, who would protect her if you left her--as I suppose you
must leave her, sooner or later--so there's no reason why I should stop
on shore any longer, pining for a sight of blue water."
"And you really mean to leave us!" exclaimed George Jernam. "I am
afraid your going will break poor Rosy's heart."
"No it won't, George," answered Captain Duncombe. "When a young woman's
married, her heart is uncommonly tough with regard to everybody except
her husband. I dare say poor little Rosy-posy will be sorry to lose her
old father; but she'll have you to console her, and she won't grieve
long. Besides, I'm not going away for ever, you know. I'm only just
going to take a little cruise to the Indies, with a cargo of dry goods,
make a bit of money for my grandchildren that are to be, and then come
home again, fresher than ever, and settle down in the bosom of my
family. I've seen a neat little craft that will suit me to a T; and I
shall fit her out, and be off for blue water before the month is
It was evident that the old sailor was in earnest, and George Jernam
did not attempt to overrule his determination. Rosamond pleaded against
her father's departure, but she pleaded in vain. Early in June Captain
Duncombe left England on board a neat little craft, which he christened
the "Young Wife," in compliment to his daughter.
Before he went, George promised that he would himself await the return
of his father-in-law before he started on a new voyage.
"I can afford to be idle for twelve months, or so," he said; "and my
dear little wife shall not be left without a protector."
So the young couple settled down comfortably in the commodious cottage,
which was now all their own.
To Rosamond, her new existence was all unbroken joy. She had loved her
husband with all the romantic devotion of inexperienced girlhood. To
her poetic fancy he seemed the noblest and bravest of created beings;
and she wondered at her own good fortune when she saw him by her side,
fond and devoted, consent to sacrifice all the delights of his free,
roving life for her sake.
"I don't think such happiness _can_ last, George," she said to him one
That vague foreboding was soon to be too sadly realized! The sunshine
and the bright summer peace had promised to last for ever; but a dark
cloud arose which in one moment overshadowed all that summer sky, and
Rosamond Jernam's happiness vanished as if it had been indeed a dream.
A FAMILIAR TOKEN.
Joseph Duncombe had been absent from River View Cottage little more
than a month, and the life of its inmates had been smooth and
changeless as the placid surface of a lake. They sought no society but
that of each other. Existence glided by, and the eventless days left
little to remember except the sweet tranquillity of a happy home.
It was on a wet, dull, unsettled July day that Rosamond Jernam found
her life changed all at once, while the cause for that dark change
remained a mystery to her.
After idling away half the morning, Captain Jernam discovered that he
had an important business letter to write to the captain of his trading
ship, the "Pizarro."
On opening his portfolio, the captain found himself without a single
sheet of foreign letter-paper. He told this difficulty to his wife, as
it was his habit to tell her all his difficulties; and he found her, as
usual, able to give him assistance.
"There is always foreign letter-paper in papa's desk," she said; "you
can use that."
"But, my dear Rosy, I could not think of opening your father's desk in
"And why not?" cried Rosamond, laughing. "Do you think papa has any
secrets hidden there; or that he keeps some mysterious packet of old
love-letters tied up with a blue ribbon, which he would not like your
prying eyes to discover? You may open the desk, George. I give you my
permission; and if papa should be angry, the blame shall fall upon me
The desk was a large old-fashioned piece of furniture, which stood in
the corner of Captain Duncombe's favourite sitting-room.
"But how am I to open this ponderous piece of machinery?" asked George.
"It seems to be locked."
"It is locked," answered his wife. "Luckily I happen to have a key
which precisely fits it. There, sir, is the key; and now I leave you to
devote yourself to business, while I go to see about dinner."
She held up her pretty rosy lips to be kissed, and then tripped away,
leaving the captain to achieve a duty for which he had no particular
He unlocked the desk, and found a quire of letter-paper. He dipped a
pen in ink, tried it, and then began to write.
He wrote, "_London, July 20th_," and "_My Dear Boyd_;" and having
written thus much, he came to a stop. The easiest part of the letter
Captain Jernam sat with his elbows resting on the table, looking
straight before him, in pure absence of mind. As he did so, his eyes
were caught suddenly by an object lying amongst the pens and pencils in
the tray before him.
That object was a bent gold coin.
His face grew pale as he snatched up the coin, and examined it closely.
It was a small Brazilian coin, bent and worn, and on one side of it was
scratched the initial "_G_."
That small battered coin was very familiar to George Jernam's gaze, and
it was scarcely strange if the warm life-blood ebbed from his cheeks,
and left them ashy pale.
The coin was a keepsake which he had given to his murdered brother,
Valentine, on the eve of their last parting.
And he found it here--here, in Joseph Duncombe's desk!
For some moments he sat aghast, motionless, powerless even to think. He
could not realize the full weight of this strange discovery. He could
only remember the warm breath of the tropical night on which he and his
brother had bidden each other farewell--the fierce light of the
tropical stars beneath which they had stood when they parted.
Then he began to ask himself how that farewell token, the golden coin,
which he had taken from his pocket in that parting hour, and upon which
he had idly scratched his own initial, had come into the possession of
He was not a man of the world, and he was not able to reason calmly and
logically on the subject of his brother's untimely fate. He shared
Joyce's rooted idea, that the escape of Valentine's murderer was only
temporary, and that, sooner or later, accident would disclose the
It seemed now as if the eventful moment had come. Here, on this spot,
near the scene of his brother's disappearance, he came upon this
token--this relic, which told that Valentine had been in some manner
associated with Joseph Duncombe.
And yet Joseph Duncombe and George had talked long and earnestly on the
subject of the murdered sailor's fate, and in all their talk Captain
Duncombe had never acknowledged any acquaintance with its details.
This was strange.
Still more incomprehensible to George Jernam was the fact that
Valentine should have parted with the farewell token, except with his
life, for his last words to his brother had been--
"I'll keep the bit of gold, George, to my dying day, in memory of your
fidelity and love."
There had been something more between these two men than a common
brotherhood: there had been the bond of a joyless childhood spent
together, and their affection for each other was more than the ordinary
love of brothers.
"I don't believe he would have parted with that piece of gold," cried
George, "not if he had been without a sixpence in the world."
"And he was rich. It was the money he carried about him which tempted
his murderer. It was near here that he met his fate--on this very spot,
perhaps. Joyce told me that before my father-in-law built this house,
there was a dilapidated building, which was a meeting-place for the
vilest scoundrels in Ratcliff Highway. But how came that coin in Joseph
Duncombe's desk?--how, unless Joseph Duncombe was concerned in my
This idea, once aroused in the mind of George Jernam, was not to be
driven away. It seemed too hideous for reality; but it took possession
of his mind, nevertheless, and he sat alone, trying to shut horrible
fancies out of his brain, but trying uselessly.
He remembered Joseph Duncombe's wealth. Had all that wealth been
He remembered the captain's restlessness--his feverish desire to run
away from a home in which he possessed so much to render life happy.
Might not that eagerness to return to the sailor's wild, roving life
have its root in the tortures of a guilty conscience?
"His very kindness to me may be prompted by a vague wish to make some
paltry atonement for a dark wrong done my brother," thought George.
He remembered Joseph Duncombe's seeming goodness of heart, and wondered
if such a man could possibly be concerned in the darkest crime of which
mankind can be guilty. But he remembered also that the worst and vilest
of men were often such accomplished hypocrites as to remain unsuspected
of evil until the hour when accident revealed their iniquity.
"It is so, perhaps, with this man," thought George Jernam. "That air of
truth and goodness may be but a mask. I know what a master-passion the
greed of gain is with some men. It has doubtless been the passion of
this man's heart. The wretches who lured Valentine Jernam to this house
were tools of Joseph Duncombe's. How otherwise could this token have
fallen into his hands?"
He tried to find some other answer to this question; but he tried in
vain. That little piece of gold seemed to fasten the dark stigma of
guilt upon the absent owner of the house.
"And I have shaken this man's hand!" cried George. "I am the husband of
his daughter. I live beneath the shelter of his roof--in this house,
which was bought perhaps with my brother's blood. Great heavens! it is
For two long hours George Jernam sat brooding over the strange
discovery which had changed the whole current of his life. Rosamond
came and peeped in at the door.
"Still busy, George?" she asked.
"Yes," he answered, in a strange, harsh tone, "I am very busy."
That altered voice alarmed the loving wife. She crept into the room,
and stood behind her husband's chair.
"George," she said, "your voice sounded so strange just now; you are
not ill, are you, darling?"
"No, no; I only want to be alone. Go, Rosamond."
The wife could not fail to be just a little offended by her husband's
manner. The pretty rosy lips pouted, and then tears came into the
bright blue eyes.
George Jernam's head was bent upon his clasped hands, and he took no
heed of his wife's sorrow. She could not leave him without one more
"Is there anything amiss with you, George?" she asked.
"Nothing that you can cure."
The harshness of his tone, the coldness of his manner, wounded her
heart. She said no more, but went quietly from the room.
Never before had her beloved George spoken unkindly to her--never
before had the smallest cloud obscured the calm horizon of her married
After this, the dark cloud hung black and heavy over that once happy
household; the sun never shone again upon the young wife's home.
She tried to penetrate the secret of this sudden change, but she could
not do so. She could complain of no unkindness from her husband--he
never spoke harshly to her after that first day. His manner was gentle
and indulgent; but it seemed as if his love had died, leaving in its
place only a pitiful tenderness, strangely blended with sadness and
He asked Rosamond several questions about her father's past life; but
on that subject she could tell him very little. She had never lived
with her father until after the building of River View Cottage, and she
knew nothing of his existence before that time, except that he had only
been in England during brief intervals, and that he had always come to
see her at school when he had an opportunity of doing so.
"He is the best and dearest of fathers," she said, affectionately.
George Jernam asked if Captain Duncombe had been in England during that
spring in which Valentine met his death.
After a moment's reflection, Rosamond replied in the affirmative.
"I remember his coming to see me that spring," she said. "He came early
in March, and again in April, and it was then he began first to talk of
settling in England."
"And with that assurance my last hope vanishes," thought George.
He had asked the question in the faint hope of hearing that Joseph
Duncombe was far away from England at the time of the murder.
A fortnight after the discovery of the Brazilian coin, George Jernam
announced to his wife that he was about to leave her. He was going to
the coast of Africa, he said. He had tried to reconcile himself to a
landsman's life, and had found it unendurable.
The blow fell very heavily on poor Rosamond's loving heart.
"We seemed so happy, George, only two short weeks ago," she pleaded.
"Yes," he answered, "I tried to be happy; but you see, the life doesn't
suit me. Tour father couldn't rest in this house, though he had made
himself such a comfortable home. No more can I rest here. There is a
curse upon the house, perhaps," he added, with a bitter laugh.
Rosamond burst into tears.
"Oh, George, you will break my heart," she cried. "I thought our lives
were to be so happy; and now our happiness ends all at once like a
broken dream. It is because you are weary of me, and of my love, that
you are going away. You promised my father that you would remain with
me till his return."
"I did, Rosamond," answered her husband, gravely, "and, as I am an
honest man, I meant to keep that promise! I am not weary of your love--
that is as precious to me as ever it was. But you must not continue to
reside beneath this roof. I tell you there is a curse upon this house,
Rosamond, and neither peace nor happiness can be the lot of those who
dwell within its fatal walls. You must go down to Allanbay, where you
may find kind friends, where you may be happy, dear, while I am away."
"But, George, what is all this mystery?"
"Ask me no questions, Rosamond, for I can answer none. Believe me when
I tell you that you have no share in the change that has come upon me.
My feelings towards you remain unaltered; but within the last few
weeks I have made a discovery which has struck a death-blow to my
happiness. I go out once more a homeless wanderer, because the quiet of
domestic life has become unbearable to me. I want bustle, danger, hard
work. I want to get away from my own thoughts."
Rosamond in vain implored her husband to tell her more than this. He,
so yielding of old, was on this point inflexible.
Before the leaves had begun to fall in the dreary autumn days the
"Albatross" was ready for a new voyage. The first mate took her down to
Plymouth Harbour, there to wait the coming of her captain, who
travelled into Devonshire by mail-coach, taking Rosamond to her future
At any other time Rosamond would have been delighted with the romantic
beauty of that Devonian village, where her husband had selected a
pleasant cottage for her, near his aunt's abode; but a settled
melancholy had taken possession of the once joyous girl. She had
brooded continually over her husband's altered conduct, and she had at
last arrived at a terrible conclusion.
She believed that he was mad. What but sudden insanity could have
produced so great a change?--a change for which it was impossible to
imagine a cause.
"If he had been absent from me for some time, and had returned an
altered creature, I should not be so much bewildered by the change,"
Rosamond said to herself. "But the transformation occurred in an hour.
He saw no strange visitor; he received no letter. No tidings of any
kind could possibly have reached him. He entered my father's sitting-
room a light-hearted, happy man; he came out of it gloomy and
miserable. Can I doubt that the change is something more than any
ordinary alteration of feeling or character?"
Poor Rosamond remembered having heard of the fatal effects of
sunstrokes--effects which have sometimes revealed themselves long after
the occurrence of the calamity that caused them; and she told herself
that the change in George Jernam's nature must needs be the result of
such a calamity.
She entreated her husband to consult an eminent physician as to the
state of his health; but she dared not press her request, so coldly was
"Who told you that I was ill?" he asked; "I am not ill. All the
physicians in Christendom could do nothing for me."
After this, Rosamond could say no more. For worlds she would not have
revealed to a stranger her sad suspicion of George Jernam's insanity.
She could only pray that Providence would protect and guide him in his
"The excitement and hard work of his existence on board ship may work a
cure," she thought, trying to be hopeful. "It is very possible that the
calm monotony of a landsman's life may have produced a bad effect upon
his brain. I can only trust in Providence--I can only pray night and
day for the welfare of him I love so fondly."
And so they parted. George Jernam left his wife with sadness in his
heart; but it was a kind of sadness in which love had little share.
"I have thought too much of my own happiness," he said to himself, "and
I have left my brother's death unavenged. Have I forgotten the time
when he carried me along the lonely sea-shore in his loving arms? Have
I forgotten the years in which he was father, mother--all the world to
me? No; by heaven! I have not. The time has come when the one thought
of my life must be revenge--revenge upon the murderer of my brother,
whosoever he may be."
* * * * *
Mr. Andrew Larkspur, the police-officer, took up his abode in Percy
Street a week after his interview with Lady Eversleigh.
For a fortnight after he became an occupant of the house in which she
lived, Honoria received no tidings from him. She knew that he went out
early every morning, and that he returned late every night, and this
was all that she knew respecting his movements.
At the end of the fortnight, he came to her late one evening, and
begged to be favoured with an audience.
"I shall want at least two hours of your time, ma'am," he said; "and,
perhaps, you may find it fatiguing to listen to me so late at night. If
you'd rather defer the business till to-morrow morning--"
"I would rather not defer it," answered Lady Eversleigh; "I am ready to
listen to you for as long a time as you choose. I have been anxiously
expecting some tidings of your movements."
"Very likely, ma'am," replied Mr. Larkspur, coolly; "I know you ladies
are given to impatience, as well as Berlin wool work, and steel beads,
and the pianoforte, and such like. But you see, ma'am, there's not a
living creature more unlike a race-horse than a police-officer. And
it's just like you ladies to expect police-officers to be Flying
Dutchmen, in a manner of speaking. I've been a hard worker in my time,
ma'am; but I never worked harder, or stuck to my work better, than I
have these last two weeks; and all I can say is, if I ain't dead-beat,
it's only because it isn't in circumstances to dead-beat me."
Lady Eversleigh listened very quietly to this exordium; but a slight,
nervous twitching of her lips every now and then betrayed her
"I am waiting to hear your news," she said, presently.
"And I'm a-going to tell it, ma'am, in due course," returned the
police-officer, drawing a bloated leather book from his pocket, and
opening it. "I've got all down here in regular order. First and
foremost, the baronet--he's a bad lot, is the baronet."
"I do not need to hear that from your lips."
"Very likely not, ma'am. But if you set me to watch a gentleman, you
must expect I shall form an opinion about him. The baronet has lodgings
in Villiers Street, uncommon shabby ones. I went in and took a good
survey of him and his lodgings together, in the character of a
bootmaker, taking home a pair of boots, which was intended for a Mr.
Everfield in the next street, says I, and, of course, Everfield and
Eversleigh being a'most the same names, was calculated to lead to
inconvenient mistakes. In the character of the bootmaker, Sir Reginald
Eversleigh tells me to get out of his room, and be--something
uncommonly unpleasant, and unfit for the ears of ladies. In the
character of the bootmaker, I scrapes acquaintance with a young person
employed as housemaid, and very willing to answer questions, and be
drawed out. From the young person employed as housemaid, I gets what I
take the liberty to call my ground-plan of the baronet's habits;
beginning with his late breakfast, consisting chiefly of gunpowder tea
and cayenne pepper, and ending with the scroop of his latch-key, to be
heard any time from two in the morning to day-break. From the young
person employed as housemaid, I discover that my baronet always spends
his evenings out of doors, and is known to visit a lady at Fulham very
constant, whereby the young person employed as housemaid supposes he is
keeping company with her. From the same young person I obtain the
lady's address--which piece of information the young person has
acquired in the course of taking letters to the post. The lady's
address is Hilton House, Fulham. The lady's name has slipped my young
person's memory, but is warranted to begin with a D."
Mr. Larkspur paused to take breath, and to consult the memoranda in the
bloated leather book.
"Having ascertained this much, I had done with the young person, for
the time being," he continued, glibly; "and I felt that my next
business would be at Hilton House. Here I presented myself in the
character of a twopenny postman; but here I found the servants foreign,
and so uncommonly close that they might as well have been so many
marble monuments, for any good that was to be got out of them. Failing
the servants, I fell back upon the neighbours and the tradespeople; and
from the neighbours and the tradespeople I find out that my foreign
lady's name is Durski, and that my foreign lady gives a party every
night, which party is made up of gentlemen. That is queer, to say the
least of it, thinks I. A lady who gives a party every night, and whose
visitors are all gentlemen, is an uncommonly queer customer. Having
found out this much, my mouth watered to find out more; for a man who
has his soul in his profession takes a pleasure in his work, ma'am; and
if you were to offer to pay such a man double to waste his time, he
couldn't do it. I tried the neighbours, and I tried the tradespeople,
every way; and work 'em how I would, I couldn't get much out of 'em.
You see, ma'am, there's scarcely a human habitation within a quarter of
a mile of Hilton House, so, when I say neighbours, I don't mean
neighbours in the common sense of the word. There might be
assassination going on every night in Hilton House undiscovered, for
there's no one lives near enough to hear the victims' groans; and if
there was anything as good for our trade as pork-pie making out of
murdered human victims going nowadays, ma'am, Hilton House would be the
place where I should look for pork-pies. Well, I was almost beginning
to lose patience, when I sat down in a fancy-stationer's shop to rest
myself. I sat down in this shop because I was really tired, not with
any hope of making use of my time, for I was too far away from Hilton
House to expect any luck in the way of information from the gentleman
behind the counter. However, when a man has devoted his life to
ferreting out information, the habit of ferreting is apt to be very
strong upon him; so I pass the time of day to my fancy-stationer, and
then begins to ferret. 'Madame Durski, at Hilton House yonder, is an
uncommonly handsome woman,' I throw out, by way of an opening.
'Uncommonly,' replies my fancy-stationer, by which I perceive he knows
her. 'A customer of yours, perhaps?' I throw out, promiscuous. 'Yes,'
answers my fancy-stationer. 'A good one, too, I'll be bound,' I throw
out, in a lively, conversational way. My fancy-stationer smiles, and
being accustomed to study smiles, I see significance in his smile. 'A
very good one in _some_ things,' replies my fancy-stationer, laying a
tremendous stress upon the word _some_. 'Oh,' says I, 'gilt-edged note-
paper and cream-coloured sealing-wax, for instance.' 'I don't sell her
a quire of paper in a month,' answers my stationer. 'If she was as fond
of writing letters as she is of playing cards, I think it would be
better for her.' 'Oh, she's fond of card-playing is she?' I ask. 'Yes,'
replies my fancy-stationer, 'I rather think she is. Your hair would
stand on end if I were to tell you how many packs of playing-cards I've
sold her lady-companion within the last three months. The lady-
companion comes here at dusk with a thick black veil over her face, and
she thinks I don't know who she is; but I do know her, and know where
she lives, and whom she lives with.' After this I buy myself a quire of
writing-paper, which I don't want, and I wish my fancy-stationer good
afternoon. 'Oh, oh,' I say to myself when I get outside, 'I know the
meaning of Madame Durski's parties now. Madame Durski's house is a
flash gambling crib, and all those fine gentlemen in cabs and broughams
go there to play cards.'"
"The mistress of a gaming-house!" exclaimed Honoria. "A fitting
companion for Reginald Eversleigh!"
"Just so, ma'am; and a fitting companion for Mr. Victor Carrington
"Have you found out anything about _him_?" cried Lady Eversleigh,
"No, ma'am, I haven't. At least, nothing in my way. I've tried his
neighbours, and his tradespeople also, in the character of a postman,
which is respectable, and calculated to inspire confidence. But out of
his tradespeople I can get nothing more than the fact that he is a
remarkably praiseworthy young man, who pays his debts regular, and is
the very best of sons to a highly-respectable mother. There's nothing
much in that, you know, ma'am."
"Hypocrite!" murmured Lady Eversleigh. "A hypocrite so skilled in the
vile arts of hypocrisy that he will contrive to have the world always
on his side. And this is all your utmost address has been able to
"All at present, ma'am; but I live in hopes. And now I've got a bit of
news about the baronet, which I think will astonish you. I've been
improving my acquaintance with the young person employed as housemaid
in Villiers Street for the last fortnight, and I find from her that my
baronet is on very friendly terms with his first cousin, Mr. Dale, of
"Indeed!" exclaimed Honoria. "These two men are the last between whom I
should have imagined a friendship impossible."
"Yes, ma'am; but so it is, notwithstanding. Mr. Douglas Dale,
barrister-at-law, dined with his cousin, Sir Reginald, twice last week;
and on each occasion the two gentlemen left Villiers Street together in
a hack cab, between eight and nine o'clock. My friend, the housemaid,
happened to hear the address given to the cabmen on both occasions; and
on both occasions the address was Hilton House, Fulham."
"Douglas Dale a gambler!" cried Honoria; "the companion of his infamous
cousin! That is indeed ruin."
"Well, certainly, ma'am, it does not seem a very lively prospect for my
friend, D. D.," answered Mr. Larkspur, with irrepressible flippancy.
"Do you know any more respecting this acquaintance?" asked Honoria.
"Not yet, ma'am; but I mean to know more."
"Watch then," she cried; "watch those two men. There is danger for Mr.
Dale in any association with his cousin, Sir Reginald Eversleigh. Do
not forget that. There is peril for him--the deadliest it may be.
Watch them, Mr. Larkspur; watch them by day and night."
"I'll do my duty, ma'am, depend upon it," replied the police officer;
"and I'll do it well. I take a pride in my profession, and to me duty
is a pleasure."
"I will trust you."
"You may, ma'am. Oh, by-the-bye, I must tell you that in this house my
name is Andrews. Please remember that, ma'am."
"Mr. Andrews, lawyer's clerk. The name of Larkspur smells too strong of
* * * * *
The information acquired by Andrew Larkspur was perfectly correct. An
intimacy and companionship had arisen between Douglas Dale and his
cousin, Reginald Eversleigh, and the two men spent much of their time
Douglas Dale was still the same simple-minded, true-hearted young man
that he had been before his uncle Oswald's death endowed him with an
income of five thousand a year; but with the accession of wealth the
necessity for industry ceased; and instead of a hard-working student,
Douglas became one of the upper million, who have nothing to think of
but the humour of the moment--now Alpine tourist, now Norwegian angler;
anon idler in clubs and drawing-rooms; anon book collector, or amateur
He still occupied chambers in the Temple; he still called himself a
barrister; but he had no longer any desire to succeed at the bar.
His brother Lionel had become rector of Hallgrove, a village in
Dorsetshire, where there was a very fine old church and a very small
congregation. It was one of those fat livings which seem only to fall
to the lot of rich men.
Lionel had the tastes of a typical country gentleman, and he found
ample leisure to indulge in his favourite amusement of hunting, after
having conscientiously discharged his duties.
The poor of Hallgrove had good reason to congratulate themselves on the
fact that their rector was a rich man. Mr. Dale's charities seemed
almost boundless to his happy parishioners.
The rectory was a fine old house, situated in one of those romantic
spots which one scarcely hopes to see out of a picture. Hill, wood, and
water combined to make the beauty of the landscape; and amid verdant
woods and fields the old red-brick mansion looked the perfection of an
English homestead. It had been originally a manor-house, and some
portions of it were very old.
Douglas Dale called Hallgrove the Happy Valley. Neither of the brothers
had yet married, and the barrister paid frequent visits to the rector.
He was glad to find repose after the fatigue and excitement of London
life. Like his brother, he delighted in the adventures and perils of
the hunting field, and he was rarely absent from Hallgrove during the
In London he had his clubs, and the houses of friends. The manoeuvring
mammas of the West End were very glad to welcome Mr. Dale at their
parties. He might have danced with the prettiest girls in London every
night of his life had he pleased.
To an unmarried man, with unlimited means and no particular occupation,
the pleasures of a life of fashionable amusement are apt to grow
"weary, flat, stale, and unprofitable," after a certain time. Douglas
Dale was beginning to be very tired of balls and dinner parties,
flower-shows and morning concerts, when he happened to meet his cousin,
Reginald Eversleigh, at a club to which both men belonged.
Eversleigh could make himself very agreeable when he chose; and on this
occasion he exerted himself to the utmost to produce a good impression
upon the mind of Douglas Dale. Hitherto Douglas had not liked his
cousin, Reginald; but he now began to fancy that he had been prejudiced
against his kinsman. He felt that Reginald had some reason to consider
himself ill-used; and with the impulsive kindness of a generous nature,
he was ready to extend the hand of friendship to a man who had been
beaten in the battle of life.
The two men dined together at their club; they met again and again;
sometimes by accident--sometimes by appointment. The club was one at
which there was a good deal of quiet gambling amongst scientific whist-
players; but until his meeting with Reginald Eversleigh, Douglas Dale
had never been tempted to take part in a rubber.
His habits changed gradually under the influence of his cousin and
Victor Carrington. He consented to take a hand at _ecarte_ after dinner
on one day; on another day to join at a whist-party. Three months after
his first meeting with Reginald, he accompanied the baronet to Hilton
House, where he was introduced to the beautiful Austrian widow.
Sir Reginald Eversleigh played his cards very cautiously. It was only
after he had instilled a taste for gambling into his kinsman's breast
that he ventured to introduce him to the fashionable gaming-house
presided over by Paulina Durski.
The introduction had a sinister effect upon his destiny. He had passed
unscathed through the furnace of London life; many women had sought to
obtain power over him; but his heart was still in his own keeping when
he first crossed the threshold of Hilton House.
He saw Paulina Durski, and loved her. He loved her from the very first
with a deep and faithful affection, as far above the selfish fancy of
Reginald Eversleigh as the heaven is above the earth.
But she was no longer mistress of her heart. That was given to the man
whose baseness she knew, and whom she loved despite her better reason.
Sir Reginald speedily discovered the state of his cousin's feelings. He
had laid his plans for this result. Douglas Dale, as the adoring slave
of Madame Durski, would be an easy dupe, and much of Sir Oswald's
wealth might yet enrich his disinherited nephew. Victor Carrington
looked on, and shared his spoils; but he watched Eversleigh's schemes
with a half-contemptuous air.
"You think you are doing wonders, my dear Reginald," he said; "and
certainly, by means of Mr. Dale's losses, you and I contrive to live--
to say nothing of our dear Madame Durski, who comes in for her share of
the plunder. But after all, what is it? a few hundreds more or less, at
the best. I think you may by-and-by play a better and a deeper game
than that, Reginald, and I think I can show you how to play it."
"I do not want to be mixed up in any more of your schemes," answered
Sir Reginald, "I have had enough of them. What have they done for me?"
The two men were seated in Sir Reginald's dingy sitting-room in
Villiers Street when this conversation took place.
They were sitting opposite to each other, with a little table between
them. Victor Carrington rested his folded arms upon the table, and
leaned across them, looking full in the face of his companion.
"Look you, Reginald Eversleigh," he said, "because I have failed once,
there is no reason that I am to fail always. The devil himself
conspired against me last time; but the day will come when I shall have
the devil on my side. It is yet on the cards for you to become owner of
ten thousand a-year; and it shall be my business to make you owner of
"Stay, Carrington, do you think I would permit--?"
"I ask your permission for nothing: I know you to be a weak and
wavering coward, who of your own volition would never rise from the
level of a ruined spendthrift and penniless vagabond. You forget,
perhaps, that I hold a bond which gives me an interest in your
fortunes. I do not forget. When my own wisdom counsels action, I shall
act, without asking your advice. If I am successful, you will thank me.
If I fail, you will reproach me for my folly. That is the way of the
world. And now let us change the subject. When do you go down to
Dorsetshire with your cousin, Douglas Dale?"
"Why do you ask me that question?"
"My curiosity is only prompted by a friendly interest in your welfare,
and that of your relations. You are going to hunt with Lionel Dale, are
"Yes; he has invited me to spend the remainder of the hunting season
"At his brother's request, I believe?"
"Precisely. I have not met Lionel since--since my uncle's funeral--as
you know." Sir Reginald pronounced these last words with considerable
hesitation. "Douglas spends Christmas with his brother, and Douglas
wishes me to join the party. In order to gratify this wish, Lionel has
written me a very friendly letter, inviting me down to Hallgrove
Rectory, and I have accepted the invitation."
"Nothing could be more natural. There is some talk of your buying a
hunter for Lionel, is there not, by-the-bye?"
"Yes. They know I am a tolerable judge of horseflesh, and Douglas
wishes me to get his brother a good mount for the winter."
"When is the animal to be chosen?" asked Victor, carelessly.
"Immediately. We go down to Hallgrove next week, I shall select the
horse whenever I can get Douglas to go with me to the dealer's, and
send him down to get used to his new quarters before his hard work
"Good. Let me know when you are going to the horse-dealer's: but if you
see me there, take no notice of me beyond a nod, and be careful not to
attract Douglas Dale's attention to me or introduce me to him."
"What do you mean by that?" asked Reginald, looking suspiciously at his
"What should I mean except what I say? I do not see how even your
imagination can fancy any dark meaning lurking beneath the common-place
desire to waste an afternoon in a visit to a horse-dealer's yard."
"My dear Carrington, forgive me," exclaimed Reginald. "I am irritable
and impatient. I cannot forget the misery of those last days at
"Yes," answered Victor Carrington: "the misery of failure."
No more was said between the two men. The sway which the powerful
intellect of the surgeon exercised over the weaker nature of his friend
was omnipotent. Reginald Eversleigh feared Victor Carrington. And there
was something more than this ever-present fear in his mind; there was
the lurking hope that, by means of Carrington's scheming, he should yet
obtain the wealth he had forfeited.
The conversation above recorded took place on the day after Mr.
Larkspur's interview with Honoria.
Three days afterwards, Reginald Eversleigh and his cousin met at the
club, for the purpose of going together to inspect the hunters on sale
at Mr. Spavin's repository, in the Brompton Road.
Dale's mail-phaeton was waiting before the door of the club, and he
drove his cousin down to the repository.
Mr. Spavin was one of the most fashionable horse-dealers of that day. A
man who could not afford to give a handsome price had but a small
chance of finding himself suited at Mr. Spavin's repository. For a poor
customer the horse-dealer felt nothing but contempt.
Half a dozen horsey-looking men came out of stables, loose boxes, and
harness-rooms to attend upon the gentlemen, whose dashing mail-phaeton
and stylish groom commanded the respect of the whole yard. The great
Mr. Spavin himself emerged from his counting-house to ask the pleasure
of his customers.
"Carriage-horses, sir, or 'acks?" he asked. "That's a very fine pair in
the break yonder, if you want anything showy for a mail-phaeton.
They've been exercising in the park. All blood, sir, and not an ounce
too much bone. A pair of hosses that would do credit to a dook."
Reginald asked to see Mr. Spavin's hunters, and the grooms and keepers
were soon busy trotting out noble-looking creatures for the inspection
of the three gentlemen. There was a tan-gallop at the bottom of the
yard, and up and down this the animals were paraded.
Douglas Dale was much interested in the choice of the horse which he
intended to present to his brother; and he discussed the merits of the
different hunters with Sir Reginald Eversleigh, whose eye had lighted,
within a minute of their entrance, upon Victor Carrington. The surgeon
stood at a little distance from them, absorbed by the scene before him;
but it was to be observed that his attention was given less to the
horses than the men who brought them out of their boxes.
At one of these men he looked with peculiar intensity; and this man was
certainly not calculated to attract the observation of a stranger by
any personal advantages of his own. He was a wizened little man, with
red hair, a bullet-shaped head, and small, rat-like eyes.
This man had very little to do with the display of the horses; but
once, when there was a pause in the business, he opened the door of a
loose-box, went in, and presently emerged, leading a handsome bay,
whose splendid head was reared in a defiant attitude, as the fiery
eyeballs surveyed the yard.
"Isn't that 'Wild Buffalo?'" asked Mr. Spavin.
"Then you ought to know better than to bring him out," exclaimed the
horse-dealer, angrily. "These gentlemen want a horse that a Christian
can ride, and the 'Buffalo' isn't fit to be ridden by a Christian; not
yet awhile at any rate. I mean to take the devil out of him before I've
done with him, though," added Mr. Spavin, casting a vindictive glance
at the horse.
"He is rather a handsome animal," said Sir Reginald Eversleigh.
"Oh, yes, he's handsome enough," answered the dealer. "His looks are no
discredit to him; but handsome is as handsome does--that's my motter;
and if I'd known the temper of that beast when Captain Chesterly
offered him to me, I'd have seen the captain farther before I consented
to buy him. However, there he is; I've got him, and I must make the
best of him. But Jack Spavin is not the man to sell such a beast to a
customer until the wickedness is taken out of him. When the wickedness
is taken out of him, he'll be at your service, gentlemen, with Jack
Spavin's best wishes."
The horse was taken back to his box. Victor watched the animal and the
groom with an intensely earnest gaze as they disappeared from his
"That's a curious-looking fellow, that groom of yours," Sir Reginald
said to the horse-dealer.
"What, Hawkins--Jim Hawkins? Yes; his looks won't make his fortune.
He's a hard-working fellow enough in his way; but he's something like
the horse in the matter of temper. But I think I've taken the devil out
of _him_," said Mr. Spavin, with an ominous crack of his heavy riding-
More horses were brought out, examined, discussed, and taken back to
their boxes. Mr. Spavin knew he had to deal with a good customer, and
he wished to show off the resources of his stable.
"Bring out 'Niagara,'" he said, presently, and in a few minutes a groom
emerged from one of the stables, leading a magnificent bay. "Now,
gentlemen," said Mr. Spavin, "that animal is own brother to 'Wild
Buffalo,' and if it had not been for my knowledge of that animal's
merits I should never have bought the 'Buffalo.' Now, there's apt to be
a good deal of difference between human beings of the same family; but
perhaps you'd hardly believe the difference there can be between horses
of the same blood. That animal is as sweet a temper as you'd wish to
have in a horse--and 'Buffalo' is a devil; yet, if you were to see the
two horses side by side, you'd scarcely know which was which."
"Indeed!" exclaimed Sir Reginald; "I should like, for the curiosity of
the thing, to see the two animals together."
Mr. Spavin gave his orders, and presently Jim Hawkins, the queer-
looking groom, brought out "Wild Buffalo."
The two horses were indeed exactly alike in all physical attributes,
and the man who could have distinguished one from the other must have
had a very keen eye.
"There they are, gents, as like as two peas, and if it weren't for a
small splash of white on the inner side of 'Buffalo's' left hock,
there's very few men in my stable could tell one from the other."
Victor Carrington, observing that Dale was talking to the horse-dealer,
drew near the animal, with the air of an interested stranger, and
stooped to examine the white mark. It was a patch about as large as a
"'Niagara' seems a fine creature," he said.
"Yes," replied a groom; "I don't think there's many better horses in
the place than 'Niagara.'"
When Douglas Dale returned to the examination of the two horses, Victor
Carrington drew Sir Reginald aside, unperceived by Dale.
"I want you to choose the horse 'Niagara' for Lionel Dale," he said,
when they were beyond the hearing of Douglas.
"Why that horse in particular?"
"Never mind why," returned Carrington, impatiently. "You can surely do
as much as that to oblige me."
"Be it so," answered Sir Reginald, with assumed carelessness; "the
horse seems a good one."
There was a little more talk and consultation, and then Douglas Dale
asked his cousin which horse he liked best among those they had seen.
"Well, upon my word, if you ask my opinion, I think there is no better
horse than that bay they call 'Niagara;' and if you and Spavin can
agree as to price, you may settle the business without further
Douglas Dale acted immediately upon the baronet's advice. He went into
Mr. Spavin's little counting-house, and wrote a cheque for the price of
the horse on the spot, much to that gentleman's satisfaction. While
Douglas Dale was writing this cheque, Victor Carrington waited in the
yard outside the counting-house.
He took this opportunity of addressing Hawkins, the groom.
"I want a job done in your line," he said, "and I think you'd be just
the man to manage it for me. Have you any spare time?"
"I've an hour or two, now and then, of a night, after my work's over,"
answered the man.
"At what time, and where, are you to be met with after your work?"
"Well, sir, my own home is too poor a place for a gentleman like you to
come to; but if you don't object to a public--and a very respectable
public, too, in its way--there's the 'Goat and Compasses,' three doors
down the little street as you'll see on your left, as you leave this
here yard, walking towards London."
"Yes, yes," interrupted Victor, impatiently; "you are to be found at the
'Goat and Compasses'?"
"I mostly am, sir, after nine o'clock of an evening--summer and
"That will do," exclaimed Victor, with a quick glance at the door of
the counting-house. "I will see you at the 'Goat and Compasses' to-