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Stories of Modern French Novels

Part 7 out of 7

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woman? To these objections I replied, that, whereas I had
suspected previously, now I knew. No, he will not be entirely
convinced that the evidence I hold will make me dare everything.
Well then, if he refuse, I shall have attempted the impossible to
avoid murder--let destiny be accomplished!


It was four o'clock in the afternoon on the following day, when I
presented myself at the hotel on the Boulevard de Latour-Maubourg.
I knew that my mother would most probably be out. I also thought
it likely my stepfather would he feeling none the better of his
early excursion to the Grand Hotel on the previous day, and I
therefore hoped to find him at home, perhaps in his bed. I was
right; my mother was out, and he had remained at home. He was in
his study, the room in which our first explanation had taken place.
That upon which I was now bent was of far greater importance, and
yet I was less agitated than on the former occasion. At last I was
completely certain of the facts, and with that certainty a strange
calmness had come to me. I can recall my having talked for a few
moments with the servant who announced me, about a child of his who
was ill. I also remember to have observed for the first time that
the smoky chimney of some manufacturing works at the back of the
garden, built, no doubt, during the last winter, was visible
through the window of the staircase.

I record these things because I am bound to recognize that my mind
was quite clear and free--for I will be sincere to the end--when I
entered the spacious room.

My stepfather was reclining in a deep armchair at the far side of
the fireplace, and occupied in cutting the pages of a new book with
a dagger. The blade of this weapon was broad, short, and strong.
He had brought the knife back from Spain, with several other kinds
of arms, which lay about in the rooms he habitually occupied. I
now understood the order of ideas which this singular taste
indicated. He was dressed for walking; but his altered looks bore
witness to the intensity of the crisis through which he had passed.
It had affected his whole being.

Very likely my face was expressive of an extraordinary resolution,
for I saw by his eyes, as our looks met, that he had read the
depths of my thoughts at a glance. Nevertheless, he said: "Ah, is
it you, Andre? It is very kind of you to come," thus exhibiting
once more the power of his self-control, and he put out his hand.
I did not take it, and my refusal, contrasting with his gesture of
welcome, the silence which I kept for some minutes, the contraction
of my features, and, no doubt, the menace in my eyes, entirely
enlightened him as to the mood in which I came to him. Very
quietly, he laid down his book and the Spanish knife he had been
using, on a large table within his reach, and then he rose from his
chair, leaned his back against the mantelpiece, and crossing his
arms, looked at me with the haughty stare I knew so well, and which
had so often humiliated me in my boyhood. I was the first to break
the silence; replying to his polite greeting in a harsh tone, and
looking him straight in the face, I said:

"The time of lies is past. You have guessed that I know all?"

He bent his brows into the stern frown he always assumed when he
felt anger he was bound to suppress, his eyes met mine with
indomitable pride, and he merely replied:

"I do not understand you."

"You do not understand me? Very well, I am about to enlighten
you." My voice shook in uttering these words; my coolness was
forsaking me. The day before, and in my conversation with the
brother, I had come in contact with the vile infamy of a knave and
a coward; but the enemy whom I was now facing, although a greater
scoundrel than the other, found means to preserve a sort of moral
superiority, even in that terrible hour when he knew well he was
face to face with his crime.

Yes, this man was a criminal, but of a grand kind, and there was no
cowardice in him. Pride sat upon that brow so laden with dark
thoughts, but fear set no mark upon it, any more than did
repentance. In his eyes--exactly like those of his brother--a
fierce resolution shone; I felt that he would defend himself to the
end. He would yield to evidence only, and such strength of mind
displayed at such a moment had the effect of exasperating me. The
blood flew to my head, and my heart beat rapidly, as I went on:

"Allow me to take up the matter a little farther back. In 1864,
there was in Paris a man who loved the wife of his most intimate
friend. Although that friend was very trusting, very noble, very
easily duped, he became aware of this love, and he began to suffer
from it. He grew jealous--although he never doubted his wife's
purity of heart--jealous as everyone is who loves too well.

"The man who was the object of his jealousy perceived it,
understood that he was about to be forbidden the house, knew that
the woman whom he loved would never degrade herself by listening to
a lover, and this is the plan which be conceived:

"He had a brother somewhere in a distant land, an infamous
scoundrel who was supposed to be dead, a creature sunk in shame, a
thief, a forger, a deserter, and he bethought him of this brother
as an instrument ready to his hand wherewith to rid himself of the
friend who stood in the way of his passion. He sent for the fellow
secretly, he appointed to meet him in one of the loneliest corners
of Paris--in a street adjoining the Jardin des Plantes, and at
night--you see I am well informed. It is easy to imagine how he
persuaded the former thief to play the part of bravo. A few months
after, the husband was assassinated by this brother, who eluded
justice. The felon-friend married almost immediately the woman
whom he loved; he is now a man in society, wealthy and respected,
and his pure and pious wife loves, admires, nay, worships him. Do
you now begin to understand?"

"No more than before," he answered, with the same impassive face.
He did well not to flinch. What I had said might be only an
attempt to wrest his secret from him by feigning to know all.
Nevertheless, the detail concerning the place where he had
appointed to meet his brother had made him start. That was the
spot to hit, and quickly.

"The cowardly assassin," I continued, "yes, the coward, because he
dared not commit the crime himself, had carefully calculated all
the circumstances of the murder; but he had reckoned without
certain little accidents, for instance, that his brother would keep
the three letters he had received, the first two at New York, the
last at Liverpool, and which contained instructions relating to the
stages of this clandestine journey. Neither had he taken into
account that the son of his victim would grow up, would become a
man, would conceive certain suspicions of the true cause of his
father's death, and would succeed in procuring overwhelming proof
of the dark conspiracy. Come, then," I added fiercely, "off with
the mask! M. Jacques Termonde, it is you who had my unhappy father
killed by your brother Edmond. I have in my possession the letters
you wrote him in January, 1864, to induce him to come to Europe,
first under the false name of Rochester and afterwards under that
of Rochdale. It is not worth your while to play the indignant or
the astonished with me--the game is up."

He had turned frightfully pale; but his arms still remained
crossed, and his bold eyes did not droop. He made one last attempt
to parry the straight blow I had aimed at him, and he had the
hardihood to say:

"How much did that wretch Edmond ask as the price of the forgery
which he fabricated in revenge for my refusal to give him money?"

"Be silent, you--" said I still more fiercely. "Is it to me that
you dare to speak thus--to me? Did I need those letters in order
to learn all? Have we not known for weeks past, I, that you had
committed the crime, and you, that I had divined your guilt? What
I still needed was the written, indisputable, undeniable proof,
that which can be laid before a magistrate. You refused him money?
You were about to give him money, only that you mistrusted him, and
chose to wait until the day of his departure. You did not suspect
that I was upon your track. Shall I tell you when it was you saw
him for the last time? Yesterday, at ten o'clock in the morning,
you went out, you changed your cab first at the Place de la
Concorde, and a second time at the Palais Royal. You went to the
Grand Hotel, and you asked whether Mr. Stanbury was in his room. A
few hours later I, myself, was in that same room. Ah! how much did
Edmond Termonde ask from me for the letters? Why, I tore them from
him, pistol in hand, after a struggle in which I was nearly killed.
You see now that you can deceive me no more, and that it is no
longer worth your while to deny."

I thought he was about to drop dead before me. His face changed,
until it was hardly human, as I went on, on, on, piling up the
exact facts, tracking his falsehood, as one tracks a wild beast,
and proving to him that his brother had defended himself after his
fashion, even as he had done. He clasped his hands about his head,
when I ceased to speak, as though to compress the maddening
thoughts which rushed upon him; then, once more looking me in the
face, but this time with infinite despair in his eyes, he uttered
exactly the same sentence as his brother had spoken, but with quite
another expression and tone:

"This hour too was bound to come. What do you want from me now?"

"That you should do justice on yourself," I answered. "You have
twenty-four hours before you. If, to-morrow at this hour, you are
still living, I place the letters in my mother's hands."

Every sort of feeling was depicted upon his livid face while I
placed this ultimatum before him, in a firm voice which admitted of
no farther discussion. I was standing up, and I leaned against the
large table; he came towards me, with a sort of delirium in his
eyes as they strove to meet mine.

"No," he cried, "no, Andre, not yet! Pity me, Andre, pity me! See
now, I am a condemned man, I have not six months to live. Your
revenge! Ah! you had no need to undertake it. What! If I have
done a terrible deed, do you think I have not been punished for it?
Look at me, only look at me; I am dying of this frightful secret.
It is all over; my days are numbered. The few that remain, leave,
oh, leave them to me! Understand this, I am not afraid to die; but
to kill myself, to go away, leaving this grief to her whom you love
as I do! It is true that, to win her, I have done an atrocious
deed; but say, answer, has there ever been an hour, a minute since,
in which her happiness was not my only aim? And you would have me
leave her thus, inflict upon her the torment of thinking that while
I might have grown old by her side, I preferred to go away, to
forsake her before the time? No, Andre--this last year, leave it
to me! Ah, leave it to me, leave it to us, for I assure you that I
am hopelessly ill, that I know it, that the doctors have not hidden
it from me. In a few months--fix a date--if the disease has not
carried me off, you can come back. But I shall be dead. She will
weep for me, without the horror of that idea that I have
forestalled my hour, she who is so pious! You only will be there
to console her, to love her. Have pity upon her, if not upon me.
See, I have no more pride towards you, I entreat you in her name,
in the name of her dear heart, for well you know its tenderness.
You love her, I know that; I have guessed truly that you hid your
suspicions to spare her pain. I tell you once again, my life is a
hell, and I would joyfully give it to you in expiation of what I
have done; but she, Andre, she, your mother, who has never, never
cherished a thought that was not pure and noble, no, do not inflict
this torture upon her."

"Words, words!" I answered, moved to the bottom of my soul in spite
of myself, by the outburst of an anguish in which I was forced to
recognize sincerity. "It is because my mother is noble and pure
that I will not have her remain the wife of a vile murderer for a
day longer. You shall kill yourself, or she shall know all."

"Do it then if you dare," he replied, with a return to the natural
pride of his character, at the ferocity of my answer. "Do it if
you dare! Yes, she is my wife, yes, she loves me; go and tell her,
and kill her yourself with the words. Ha, you see! You turn pale
at the mere thought. I have allowed you to live, yes, I, on
account of her, and do you suppose I do not hate you as much as you
hate me? Nevertheless, I have respected you because you were dear
to her, and you will have to do the same with me. Yes, do you
hear, it must be so--"

It was he who was giving orders now, he who was threatening. How
plainly had he read my mind, to stand up before me in such an
attitude! Furious passion broke loose in me; I took in the facts
of the situation. This man had loved my mother madly enough to
purchase her at the cost of the murder of his most intimate friend,
and he loved her after all those years passionately enough to
desire that not one of the days he had still to pass with her might
be lost to him. And it was also true that never, never should I
have the courage to reveal the terrific truth to the poor woman.

I was suddenly carried away by rage to the point of losing all
control over my frenzy. "Ah!" I cried, "since you will not do
justice on yourself, die then, at once!" I stretched out my hand
and seized the dagger which he had recently placed upon the table.
He looked at me without flinching, or recoiling; indeed presenting
his breast to me, as though to brave my childish rage. I was on
his left bending down, and ready to spring. I saw his smile of
contempt, and then with all my strength I struck him with the knife
in the direction of the heart.

The blade entered his body to the hilt.

No sooner had I done this thing than I recoiled, wild with terror
at the deed. He uttered a cry. His face was distorted with
terrible agony, and he moved his right hand towards the wound, as
though he would draw out the dagger. He looked at me, convulsed; I
saw that he wanted to speak; his lips moved, but no sound issued
from his mouth. The expression of a supreme effort passed into his
eyes, he turned to the table, took a pen, dipped it into the
inkstand, and traced two lines on a sheet of paper within his
reach. He looked at me again, his lips moved once more, then he
fell down like a log.

I remember--I saw the body stretched upon the carpet, between the
table and the tall mantelpiece, within two feet of me. I
approached him, I bent over his face. His eyes seemed to follow me
even after death.

Yes, he was dead.

The doctor who certified the death explained afterwards that the
knife had passed through the cardiac muscle without completely
penetrating the left cavity of the heart, and that, the blood not
being shed all at once, death had not been instantaneous.

I cannot tell how long he lived after I struck him, nor do I know
how long I remained in the same place, overwhelmed by the thought:
"Someone will come, and I am lost." It was not for myself that I
trembled. What could be done to a son who had but avenged his
murdered father? But, my mother? This was what all my resolutions
to spare her at any cost, my daily solicitude for her welfare, my
unseen tears, my tender silence, had come to in the end! I must
now, inevitably, either explain myself, or leave her to think I was
a mere murderer. I was lost. But if I called, if I cried out
suddenly that my stepfather had just killed himself in my presence,
should I be believed? And, besides, had he not written what would
convict me of murder, on that sheet of paper lying on the table?
Was I going to destroy it, as a practiced criminal destroys every
vestige of his presence before he leaves the scene of his crime?

I seized the sheet of paper; the lines were written upon it in
characters rather larger than usual. How it shook in my hand while
I read these words: "Forgive me, Marie. I was suffering too much.
I wanted to be done with it." And he had had the strength to affix
his signature!

So then, his last thought had been for her. In the brief moments
that had elapsed between my blow with the knife, and his death, he
had perceived the dreadful truth, that I should be arrested, that I
would speak to explain my deed, that my mother would then learn his
crime--and he had saved me by compelling me to silence.

But was I going to profit by this means of safety? Was I going to
accept the terrible generosity by which the man, whom I had so
profoundly detested, would stand acquitted towards me for evermore?
I must render so much justice to my honor; my first impulse was to
destroy that paper, to annihilate with it even the memory of the
debt imposed upon my hatred by the atrocious but sublime action of
the murderer of my father.

At that moment I caught sight of a portrait of my mother, on the
table, close to where he had been sitting. It was a photograph,
taken in her youth; she was represented in brilliant evening
attire, her bare arms shaded with lace, pearls in her hair, gay,
ay, better than gay, happy, with an ineffably pure expression
overspreading her face. My stepfather had sacrificed all to save
her from despair on learning the truth, and was she to receive the
fatal blow from me, to learn at the same moment that the man she
loved had killed her first husband, and that he had been killed by
her son?

I desire to believe, so that I may continue to hold myself in some
esteem, that only the vision of her grief led me to my decision. I
replaced the sheet of paper on the table, and turned away from the
corpse lying on the carpet, without casting a glance at it. The
remembrance of my flight from the Grand Hotel, on the previous day,
gave me courage; I must try a second time to get away without
betraying discomposure.

I found my hat, left the room, and closed the door carelessly. I
crossed the hall and went down the staircase, passing by the
footman who stood up mechanically, and then the concierge who
saluted me. The two servants had not even put me out of

I returned to my room as I had done the day before, but in a far
more tragic state of suspense. Was I saved? Was I lost? All
depended on the moment at which somebody might go into my
stepfather's room. If my mother were to return within a few
minutes of my departure; if the footman were to go upstairs with
some letter, I should instantly be suspected, in spite of the
declaration written by M. Termonde. I felt that my courage was
exhausted. I knew that, if accused, I should not have moral
strength to defend myself, for my weariness was so overwhelming
that I did not suffer any longer. The only thing I had strength to
do was to watch the swing of the pendulum of the timepiece on the
mantelshelf, and to mark the movement of the hands. A quarter of
an hour elapsed, half an hour, a whole hour.

It was an hour and a half after I had left the fatal room, when the
bell at the door was rung. I heard it through the walls. A
servant brought me a laconic note from my mother scribbled in
pencil and hardly legible. It informed me that my stepfather had
destroyed himself in an attack of severe pain. The poor woman
implored me to go to her immediately. Ah, she would now never know
the truth!


The confession that I wished to write is written. To what end
could I add fresh facts to it now? I hoped to ease my heart by
passing in review all the details of this dark story, but I have
only revived the dread memory of the scenes in which I have been an
actor; from the first--when I saw my father stretched dead upon his
bed, and my mother weeping by his side, to the last--when I
noiselessly entered a room in which the unhappy woman was again
kneeling and weeping. Again upon the bed there lay a corpse, and
she rose as she had done before, and uttered the same despairing
cry: "My Andre--my son." And I had to answer her questions; I had
to invent for her a false conversation with my stepfather, to tell
her that I left him rather depressed, but with nothing in his
appearance or manner to indicate a fatal resolution. I had to take
the necessary steps to prevent this alleged suicide from getting
known, to see the commissary of police and the "doctor of the
dead." I had to preside at the funeral ceremonies, to receive the
guests and act as chief mourner. And always, always, he was
present to me, with the dagger in his breast, writing the lines
that had saved me, and looking at me, while his lips moved.

Ah, begone, begone, abhorred phantom! Yes! I have done it; yes! I
have killed you; yes! it was just. You know well that it was just.
Why are you still here now? Ah! I WILL live; I WILL forget. If I
could only cease to think of you for one day, only one day, just to
breathe, and walk, and see the sky, without your image returning to
haunt my poor head which is racked by this hallucination, and
troubled? My God! have pity on me. I did not ask for this
dreadful fate; it is Thou that hast sent it to me. Why dost Thou
punish me? Oh, my God, have pity on me! Miserere mei, Domine.

Vain prayers! Is there any God, any justice, is there either good
or evil? None, none, none, none! There is nothing but a pitiless
destiny which broods over the human race, iniquitous and blind,
distributing joy and grief at haphazard. A God who says, "Thou
shalt not kill," to him whose father has been killed? No, I don't
believe it. No, if hell were there before me, gaping open, I would
make answer: "I have done well," and I would not repent. I do not
repent. My remorse is not for having seized the weapon and struck
the blow, it is that I owe to him--to him--that infamous good
service which he did me--that I cannot to the present hour shake
from me the horrible gift I have received from that man. If I had
destroyed the paper, if I had gone and given myself up, if I had
appeared before a jury, revealing, proclaiming my deed, I should
not be ashamed; I could still hold up my head. What relief, what
joy it would be if I might cry aloud to all men that I killed him,
that he lied, and I lied, that it was I, I, who took the weapon and
plunged it into him! And yet, I ought not to suffer from having
accepted--no--endured the odious immunity. Was it from any motive
of cowardice that I acted thus? What was I afraid of? Of
torturing my mother, nothing more. Why, then, do I suffer this
unendurable anguish? Ah, it is she, it is my mother who, without
intending it, makes the dead so living to me, by her own despair.
She lives, shut up in the rooms where they lived together for
sixteen years; she has not allowed a single article of furniture to
be touched; she surrounds the man's accursed memory with the same
pious reverence that my aunt formerly lavished on my unhappy
father. I recognize the invincible influence of the dead in the
pallor of her cheeks, the wrinkles in her eyelids, the white
streaks in her hair. He disputes her with me from the darkness of
his coffin; he takes her from me, hour by hour, and I am powerless
against that love. If I were to tell her, as I would like to tell
her, all the truth, from the hideous crime which he committed, down
to the execution carried out by me, it is I whom she would hate,
for having killed him. She will grow old thus and I shall see her
weep, always, always-- What good is it to have done what I did,
since I have not killed him in her heart?


The Last of the Costellos

After several years' service on the staff of a great daily
newspaper in San Francisco, Gerald Ffrench returned to his home in
Ireland to enjoy a three months' vacation. A brief visit, when the
time consumed in traveling was deducted, and the young journalist,
on this January afternoon, realized that it was nearly over, and
that his further stay in the country of his birth was now to be
reckoned by days.

He had been spending an hour with his old friend, Dr. Lynn, and the
clergyman accompanied him to the foot of the rectory lawn, and
thence, through a wicket gate that opened upon the churchyard,
along the narrow path among the graves. It was an obscure little
country burying-ground, and very ancient. The grass sprang
luxuriant from the mouldering dust of three hundred years; for so
long at least had these few acres been consecrated to their present

"Well, I won't go any further," says Dr. Lynn, halting at the
boundary wall, spanned by a ladder-like flight of wooden steps
which connected the churchyard with the little bye-road. "I'll say
good evening, Gerald, and assure you I appreciate your kindness in
coming over to see a stupid old man."

"I would not hear thine enemy say that," quoted Gerald with a light
laugh. "I hope to spend another day as pleasantly before I turn my
back on old Ireland." He ran up the steps as he spoke and stood on
the top of the wall, looking back to wave a last greeting before he
descended. Suddenly he stopped.

"What's that?" he asked, pointing down among the graves.

The rector turned, but the tall grass and taller nettles concealed
from his view the object, whatever it might be, which Gerald had
seen from his temporary elevation.

"It looks like a coffin," and coming rapidly down again the young
man pushed his way through the rank growth. The clergyman

In a little depression between the mounds of two graves lay a plain
coffin of stained wood. It was closed, but an attempt to move it
showed that it was not empty. A nearer inspection revealed that
the lid was not screwed down in the usual manner, but hastily
fastened with nails. Dr. Lynn and Gerald looked at each other.
There was something mysterious in the presence of this coffin above

"Has there been a funeral--interrupted--or anything of that kind?"
asked Gerald.

"Nothing of the sort. I wish Bolan were here. He might have
something to say about it."

Bolan was the sexton. Gerald knew where he lived, within a stone's
throw of the spot, and volunteered to fetch him. Dr. Lynn looked
all over the sinister black box, but no plate or mark of any kind
rewarded his search. Meanwhile, young Ffrench sped along the lower
road to Bolan's house.

The sexton was in, just preparing for a smoke in company with the
local blacksmith, when Gerald entered with the news of the uncanny
discovery in the churchyard. Eleven young Bolans, grouped around
the turf fire, drank in the intelligence and instantly scattered to
spread the report in eleven different directions. A tale confided
to the Bolan household was confided to rumor.

Blacksmith and sexton rose together and accompanied Gerald to the
spot where he had left Dr. Lynn, but Dr. Lynn was no longer alone.
The rector had heard steps in the road; it was a constabulary
patrol on its round, and the old gentleman's hail had brought two
policemen to his side. There they stood, profoundly puzzled and
completely in the dark, except for the light given by their bull's-
eye lanterns. But the glare of these lanterns had been seen from
the road. Some people shunned them, as lights in a graveyard
should always be shunned; but others, hearing voices, had suffered
their curiosity to overcome their misgivings, and were gathered
around, silent, open-mouthed, wondering. So stood the group when
Gerald and his companions joined it.

In reply to general questions Bolan was dumb. In reply to
particular interrogations he did not hesitate to admit that he was
"clane bate." Gerald, seeing that no one had ventured to touch the
grim casket, hinted that it would be well to open it. There was a
dubious murmur from the crowd and a glance at the constables as the
visible representatives of the powers that be. The officers
tightened their belts and seemed undecided, and Dr. Lynn took the
lead with a clear, distinct order, "Take off the lid, Andy," he

"An' why not? Isn't his riverince a magistrate? Go in, Andy, yer
sowl ye, and off wid it." Thus the crowd.

So encouraged, the blacksmith stepped forward. Without much
difficulty he burst the insecure fastenings and removed the lid.
The constables turned their bull's-eyes on the inside of the
coffin. The crowd pressed forward, Gerald in the front rank.

There was an occupant. A young girl, white with the pallor of
death, lay under the light of the lanterns. The face was as placid
and composed as if she had just fallen asleep, and it was a
handsome face with regular features and strongly defined black
eyebrows. The form was fully dressed, and the clothes seemed
expensive and fashionable. A few raven locks straggled out from
beneath a lace scarf which was tied around the head. The hands,
crossed below the breast, were neatly gloved. There she lay, a
mystery, for not one of those present had ever seen her face

Murmurs of wonder and sympathy went up from the bystanders. "Ah,
the poor thing!" "Isn't she purty?" "So young, too!" "Musha,
it's the beautiful angel she is be this time."

"Does anyone know her?" asked the rector; and then, as there was no
reply, he put a question that was destined for many a day to
agitate the neighborhood of Drim, and ring through the length and
breadth of Ireland--"How did she come here?"

The investigation made at the moment was unsatisfactory. The grass
on all sides had been trampled and pressed down by the curious
throng, and such tracks as the coffin-bearers had made were
completely obliterated. It was clearly a case for the coroner, and
when that official arrived and took charge the crowd slowly

The inquest furnished no new light. Medical testimony swept away
the theory of murder, for death was proved to have resulted from
organic disease of the heart. The coffin might have been placed
where it was found at any time within thirty-six hours, for it
could not be shown that anyone had crossed the churchyard path
since the morning previous, and indeed a dozen might have passed
that way without noticing that which Gerald only discovered through
the accident of having looked back at the moment that he mounted
the wall. Still, it did not seem likely that an object of such
size could have lain long unnoticed, and the doctors were of
opinion that the woman had been alive twenty-four hours before her
body was found.

In the absence of suspicion of any crime--and the medical
examination furnished none--interest centered in the question of
identity; and this was sufficiently puzzling.

The story got into the newspapers--into the Dublin papers;
afterwards into the great London journals, and was widely discussed
under the title of "The Drim Churchyard Mystery," but all this
publicity and a thorough investigation of the few available clues
led to nothing. No one was missing; widely distributed photographs
of the deceased found no recognition; and the quest was finally
abandoned even in the immediate neighborhood. The unknown dead
slept beneath the very sod on which they had found her.

Gerald Ffrench, who, like most good journalists, had a strongly
developed detective instinct, alone kept the mystery in mind and
worked at it incessantly. He devoted the few remaining days of his
stay in Ireland to a patient, systematic inquiry, starting from the
clues that had developed at the inquest. He had provided himself
with a good photograph of the dead girl, and a minute, carefully
written description of her apparel, from the lace scarf which had
been wound round her head to the dainty little French boots on her
feet. The first examination had produced no result. Railway
officials and hotel-keepers, supplied with the photographs, could
not say that they had ever seen the original in life. Even the
coffin, a cheap, ready-made affair, could be traced to no local
dealer in such wares. A chatelaine bag, slung round the waist of
the dead girl, had evidently been marked with initials, for the
leather showed the holes in which the letters had been fastened,
and the traces of the knife employed in their hurried removal. But
the pretty feminine trifle was empty, and in its present condition
had nothing to suggest save that a determined effort had been made
to hide the identity of the dead. The linen on the corpse was new
and of good material, but utterly without mark. Only a
handkerchief which was found in the pocket bore a coat of arms
exquisitely embroidered on the corner.

The shield showed the head and shoulders of a knight with visor
closed, party per fess on counter-vair. Gerald, whose smattering
of heraldry told him so much, could not be sure that the lines of
the embroidery properly indicated the colors of the shield; but he
was sanguine that a device so unusual would be recognized by the
learned in such matters, and, having carefully sketched it, he sent
a copy to the Heralds' College, preserving the original drawing for
his own use. The handkerchief itself, with the other things found
on the body, was of course beyond his reach.

The answer from the Heralds' College arrived a day or two before
the approaching close of his vacation forced Gerald to leave
Ireland, but the information furnished served only to make the
mystery deeper.

The arms had been readily recognized from his sketch, and the
college, in return for his fee, had furnished him with an
illuminated drawing, showing that the embroidery had been accurate.
The shield was party per fess, argent above, azure below, and from
this Gerald concluded that the handkerchief had been marked by
someone accustomed to blazonries; he thought it likely that the
work had been done in a French convent. The motto, Nemo me impune
lacessit, appeared below. The bearings and cognizance were those
of the noble family of Costello, which had left Ireland about the
middle of the seventeenth century and had settled in Spain. The
last representative had fallen some sixty years ago at the battle
of Vittoria, in the Peninsular war, and the name was now extinct.
So pronounced the unimpeachable authority of the Heralds' College.

And yet Gerald had seen those very arms embroidered on a
handkerchief which had been found in the pocket of a nameless girl,
whose corpse he himself had been the first to discover some two
weeks before, in the lonely little burying-ground at Drim. What
was he to think? Through what strange, undreamed-of ramifications
was this affair to be pursued?

The day before his departure, Ffrench walked over to the rectory to
say good-bye to Dr. Lynn. Gerald knew that the rector was an
authority in county history, and thought it possible that the old
gentleman could tell him something about the Costellos, a name
linked with many a Westmeath tradition. He was not disappointed,
and the mystery he was investigating took on a new interest from
what he heard. The Costellos had been one of the midland
chieftains in Cromwell's time; the clan had offered the most
determined resistance, and it had been extirpated root and branch
by the Protector. The Ffrench estate of Ballyvore had once formed
portion of the Costello property, and had been purchased by
Gerald's ancestor from the Cromwellian Puritan to whom it had been
granted on confiscation.

The young man was now deeply interested in the inquiry, and to it
he devoted every movement of the time he could still call his own.

But the last day of Gerald's visit slipped away without result, and
one fine morning Larry, his brother's servant, drove him into
Athlone to take the train for Queenstown.

"Ye'll not be lettin' another six years go by without comin' home
agen, will ye, sir?" said the groom, who was really concerned at
Gerald's departure.

"I don't know," answered Gerald; "it all depends. Say, Larry!"


"Keep an eye out, and if anything turns up about that dead girl,
let me know, won't you?" Ffrench had already made a similar
request of his brother, but he was determined to leave no chance

"An' are ye thinkin' of that yet, an' you goin' to America?" said
Larry with admiring wonder.

"Of course I'm thinking of it. I can't get it out of my head,"
replied Gerald impatiently.

"Well, well d'ye mind that now?" said the groom meditatively.
"Well, sir, if anything does turn up, I'll let ye know, never fear;
but sure she's underground now, an' if we'd been goin' to larn
anything about the matter, we'd ha' had it long ago."

Gerald shook hands with the faithful Larry at parting, and left a
sovereign in his palm.

The groom watched the train moving slowly out of the station.

"It's a mortal pity to see a fine young jintleman like that so far
gone in love with a dead girl."

This was Larry's comment on his young master's detective tastes.

At Queenstown Ffrench bought a paper and looked over it while the
tender was carrying him, in company with many a weeping emigrant,
to the great steamer out in the bay. From time to time the
journals still contained references to the subject which was
uppermost in Gerald's thoughts. The familiar words, "The Drim
Churchyard Mystery," caught his eye, and he read a brief paragraph,
which had nothing to say except that all investigations had failed
to throw any light on the strange business.

"Ay, and will fail," he mused, as the tender came alongside the
steamer; "at any rate, if anything is found out it won't be by me,
for I shall be in California, and I can scarcely run across any
clues there."

And yet, as Gerald paced the deck, and watched the bleak shores of
Cork fading in the distance, his thoughts were full of the banished
Costellos, and he wondered with what eyes those exiles had looked
their last on the Old Head of Kinsale a quarter of a millennium
ago. Those fierce old chieftains, to whom the Ffrenches--proud
county family as they esteemed themselves--were but as mushrooms;
what lives had they lived, what deaths had they died, and how came
their haughty cognizance, so well expressing its defiant motto, on
the handkerchief of the nameless stranger who slept in Drim
churchyard--Drim, the old, old graveyard; Drim, that had been
fenced in as God's acre in the days of the Costellos themselves?
Was it mere chance that had selected this spot as the last resting-
place of one who bore the arms of the race? Was it possible the
girl had shared the Costello blood?

Gerald glanced over his letter from the Heralds' College and shook
his head. The family had been extinct for more than sixty years.

About two months after Gerald's return to California a despatch was
received from the Evening Mail's regular correspondent in
Marysville, relating the particulars of an encounter between the
Mexican holders of a large ranch in Yuba County and certain
American land-grabbers who had set up a claim to a portion of the
estate. The matter was in course of adjudication in the Marysville
courts, but the claimants, impatient at the slow process of the
law, had endeavored to seize the disputed land by force. Shots had
been fired, blood had been spilled, and the whole affair added
nothing to Yuba County's reputation for law and order. The matter
created some talk in San Francisco, and the Evening Mail, among
other papers, expressed its opinion in one of those trenchant
personal articles which are the spice of Western journalism. Two
or three days later, when the incident had been almost forgotten in
the office, the city editor sent for Gerald Ffrench.

"Ffrench," said that gentleman, as the young man approached his
desk, "I've just received a letter from Don Miguel y--y--something
or other. I can't read his whole name, and it don't matter much.
It's Vincenza, you know, the owner of that ranch where they had the
shooting scrape the other day. He is anxious to make a statement
of the matter for publication, and has come down to the Bay on
purpose. Suppose you go and see what he has to say? He's staying
at the Lick."

The same morning Gerald sent up his card and was ushered into the
apartment of Don Miguel Vincenza at the Lick House.

The senor was a young man, not much older than Gerald himself. He
had the appearance and manners of a gentleman, as Ffrench quickly
discovered, and he spoke fluent, well-chosen English with scarcely
a trace of accent, a circumstance for which the interviewer felt he
could not be sufficiently grateful.

"Ah, you are from the Evening Mail," said the young Spaniard,
rising as Gerald entered; "most kind of you to come, and to come so
promptly. Won't you be seated? Try a cigar. No? You'll excuse
me if I light a cigarette. I want to make myself clear, and I'm
always clearest when I'm in a cloud." He gave a little laugh, and
with one twirl of his slender fingers he converted a morsel of
tissue paper and a pinch of tobacco into a compact roll, which he
lighted, and exhausted in half-a-dozen puffs as he spoke.

"This man, this Jenkinson's claim is perfectly preposterous," he
began, "but I won't go into that. The matter is before the courts.
What I want to give you is a true statement of that unfortunate
affair at the ranch, with which, I beg you to believe, I had
nothing whatever to do."

Senor Vincenza's tale might have had the merit of truth; it
certainly lacked that of brevity. He talked on, rolling a fresh
cigarette at every second sentence, and Gerald made notes of such
points as he considered important, but at the conclusion of the
Spaniard's statement the journalist could not see that it had
differed much from the published accounts, and he told the other as

"Well, you see," said Vincenza, "I am in a delicate position. It
is not as if I were acting for myself. I am only my sister's
agent--my half-sister's, I should say--poor little Catalina;" and
the speaker broke off with a sigh and rolled a fresh cigarette
before he resumed.

"It's her property, all of it, and I cannot bear to have her
misrepresented in any way."

"I understand," said Gerald, making a note of the fact. "The
property, I suppose, passed to your sister from--"

"From her father. I was in the land of the living some years
before he met and wooed and won my widowed mother. They are both
dead now, and Catalina has none but myself to look out for her,
except distant relatives on the father's side, who will inherit the
property if she dies unmarried, and whom she cordially detests."

Gerald was not particularly romantic, but the idea of this fair
young Spaniard, owner of one of the finest ranches in Yuba County,
unmarried, and handsome too, if she were anything like her mother,
inflamed his imagination a little. He shook hands cordially with
the young man as he rose to go, and could not help wishing they
were better acquainted.

"You may be sure I will publish your statement exactly as you have
given it to me, and as fully as possible," said Gerald. Before the
young heiress had been mentioned, the journalist had scarcely seen
material enough in the interview for a paragraph.

It is fair to presume that Senor Vincenza was satisfied with the
treatment he received in the Evening Mail, for a polite note
conveyed to Ffrench the expression of his thanks. So that incident
passed into the limbo of forgetfulness, though Gerald afterwards
took more interest in the newspaper paragraphs, often scant enough,
which told of the progress of the great land case in the Marysville

A curt despatch, worded with that exasperating brevity which is a
peculiarity of all but the most important telegrams, wound up the
matter with an announcement that a decision had been reached in
favor of the defendant, and that Mr. Isaac Hall, of the law firm of
Hall and McGowan, had returned to San Francisco, having conducted
the case to a successful issue. Gerald was pleased to hear that
the young lady had been sustained in her rights, and determined to
interview Mr. Hall, with whom he was well acquainted. Accordingly,
after two or three unsuccessful attempts, he managed to catch the
busy lawyer with half an hour's spare time on his hands, and well
enough disposed to welcome his young friend.

"Mr. Hall," said Gerald, dropping into the spare chair in the
attorney's private room, "I want to ask you a few questions about
that Marysville land case."

"Fire ahead, my boy; I can give you twenty minutes," answered the
lawyer, who was disposed to make a great deal more of the victory
he had won than the newspapers had hitherto done, and who was
consequently by no means averse from an interview. "What do you
want to know?"

"Hard fight, wasn't it?" asked the journalist.

"Yes," replied Mr. Hall, "tough in a way; but we had right on our
side as well as possession. A good lawyer ought always to win when
he has those; to beat law and facts and everything else is harder
scratching; though I've done that too," and the old gentleman
chuckled as if well satisfied with himself.

"That's what your opponents had to do here, I suppose?" remarked
Gerald, echoing the other's laugh.

"Pretty much, only they didn't do it," said the lawyer.

"I met Vincenza when he was down last month," pursued Gerald. "He
seems a decentish sort of a fellow for a greaser."

"He's no greaser; he's a pure-blooded Castilian, and very much of
the gentleman," answered Hall.

"So I found him," said Gerald. "I only used the 'greaser' as a
generic term. He talks English as well as I do."

"That's a great compliment from an Irishman," remarked Mr. Hall
with another chuckle.

"I suppose the sister's just as nice in her own way," went on
Gerald, seeing an opportunity to satisfy a certain curiosity he had
felt about the heiress since he first heard of her existence. "Did
she make a good witness?"

"Who? What sister? What the deuce are you talking about?" asked
the lawyer.

"Why, Vincenza's sister, half-sister, whatever she is. I
understood from him that she was the real owner of the property."

"Oh, ay, to be sure," said Mr. Hall slowly; "these details escape
one. Vincenza was my client; he acts for the girl under power of
attorney, and really her name has hardly come up since the very
beginning of the case."

"You didn't see her, then?" said Gerald, conscious of a vague sense
of disappointment.

"See her?" repeated the lawyer. "No; how could I? She's in Europe
for educational advantages--at a convent somewhere, I believe."

"Oh," said Gerald, "a child, is she? I had fancied, I don't know
why, that she was a grown-up young lady."

"I couldn't tell you what her age is, but it must be over twenty-
one or she couldn't have executed the power of attorney, and that
was looked into at the start and found quite regular."

"I see," replied Gerald slowly; but the topic had started Mr. Hall
on a fresh trail, and he broke in--

"And it was the only thing in order in the whole business. Do you
know we came within an ace of losing, all through their confounded
careless way of keeping their papers?"

"How did they keep them?" inquired Gerald listlessly. The suit
appeared to be a commonplace one, and the young man's interest
began to wane.

"They didn't keep them at all," exclaimed Mr. Hall indignantly.
"Fancy, the original deed--the old Spanish grant--the very keystone
of our case, was not to be found till the last moment, and then
only by the merest accident, and where do you suppose it was?"

"I haven't an idea," answered Gerald, stifling a yawn.

"At the back of an old print of the Madonna. It had been framed
and hung up as an ornament, I suppose, Heaven knows when; and by-
and-by some smart Aleck came along and thought the mother and child
superior as a work of art and slapped it into the frame over the
deed, and there it has hung for ten years anyhow."

"That's really very curious," said Gerald, whose attention began to
revive as he saw a possible column to be compiled on the details of
the case that had seemed so uninteresting to his contemporaries.

"Curious! I call it sinful--positively wicked," said the old
gentleman wrathfully. "Just fancy two hundred thousand dollars
hanging on the accident of finding a parchment in such a place as

"How did you happen to find it?" asked Gerald. "I should never
have thought of looking for it there."

"No; nor any other sane man," sputtered the lawyer, irritated, as
he recalled the anxiety the missing deed had caused him. "It was
found by accident, I tell you. Some blundering, awkward, heaven-
guided servant knocked the picture down and broke the frame. The
Madonna was removed, and the missing paper came to light."

"And that was the turning-point of the case. Very interesting
indeed," said Gerald, who saw in the working out of this legal
romance a bit of detective writing such as his soul loved. "I
suppose they'll have sense enough to put it in a safer place next

"I will, you may bet your life. I've taken charge of all the
family documents; and if they get away from me, they'll do
something that nothing's ever done before;" and the old lawyer
chuckled with renewed satisfaction as he pointed to the massive
safe in a corner of the office.

"So the deed is there, is it?" asked Gerald, following Mr. Hall's

"Yes, it's there. A curious old document too; one of the oldest
grants I have ever come across. Would you like to see it?" and the
lawyer rose and opened the safe.

It was a curious old document drawn up in curious old Spanish, on
an old discolored piece of parchment. The body of the instrument
was unintelligible to Ffrench, but down in one corner was something
that riveted his attention in a moment and seemed to make his heart
stand still.

There was a signature in old-fashioned angular handwriting,
Rodriguez Costello y Ugarte, and opposite to it a large, spreading
seal. The impression showed a knight's head and shoulders in full
armor, below it the motto, Nemo me impune lacessit, and a shield of
arms, party per fess, azure below, argent above, counter-vair on
the argent. Point for point the identical blazonry which Ffrench
had received from the Heralds' College in England--the shield that
he had first seen embroidered on the dead girl's handkerchief at

"What's the matter with you? Didn't you ever see an old Spanish
deed before, or has it any of the properties of Medusa's head?"
inquired Mr. Hall, noticing Gerald's start of amazement and intent
scrutiny of the seal.

"I've seen these arms before," said the young man slowly. "But the
name--" He placed his finger on the signature. "Of course, I knew
Vincenza's name must be different from his half-sister's; but is
that hers?"

"Ugarte? Yes," said the lawyer, glancing at the parchment.

"I mean the whole name," and Gerald pointed again.

"Costello!" Mr. Hall gave the word its Spanish pronunciation,
"Costelyo," and it sounded strange and foreign in the young man's
ears. "Costello, yes, I suppose so; but I don't try to keep track
of more of these Spaniards' titles than is absolutely necessary."

"But Costello is an Irish name," said Gerald.

"Is it? You ought to know. Well Costelyo is Spanish; and now, my
dear boy, I must positively turn you out."

Gerald went straight home without returning to the office.

He unlocked his desk, and took from it the two results of his first
essay in detective craft. Silently he laid them side by side and
scrutinized each closely in turn. The pale, set face of the
beautiful dead, as reproduced by the photographer's art, told him
nothing. He strove to trace some resemblance, to awaken some
memory, by long gazing at the passionless features, but it was in
vain. Then he turned to the illuminated shield. Every line was
familiar to him, and a glance sufficed. It was identical in all
respects with the arms on the seal. Of this he had been already
convinced, and his recollection had not betrayed him. Then he
placed the two--the piteous photograph and the proud blazonry--in
his pocket-book, and left the room. The same evening he took his
place on the Sacramento train en route for Marysville.

When Gerald reached San Luis, the postoffice address of the Ugarte
ranch, a disappointment awaited him. Evening was falling, and
inquiry elicited the fact that Don Vincenza's residence was still
twelve miles distant. Ffrench, after his drive of eighteen miles
over the dusty road from Marysville, was little inclined to go
further, so he put up his horse at a livery stable, resolved to
make the best of such accommodations as San Luis afforded.

The face of the man who took the reins when Ffrench alighted seemed
familiar. The young fellow looked closer at him, and it was
evident the recognition was mutual, for the stableman accosted him
by name, and in the broad, familiar dialect of western Leinster.

"May I niver ate another bit if it isn't Masther Gerald Ffrench!"
he said. "Well, well, well, but it's good for sore eyes to see ye.
Come out here, Steve, an' take the team. Jump down, Masther
Gerald, an' stretch yer legs a bit. It's kilt ye are entirely."

A swarthy little Mexican appeared, and led the tired horses into
the stable. Then the young journalist took a good look at the man
who seemed to know him so well, and endeavored, as the phrase goes,
to "place him."

"Ye don't mind me, yer honor, an' how wud ye? But I mind yersilf
well. Sure it's often I've druv ye and Mr. Edward too. I used to
wurruk for Mr. Ross of Mullinger. I was Denny the postboy--Denis
Driscoll, yer honor; sure ye must know me?"

"Oh yes, to be sure--I remember," said Gerald, as recollection
slowly dawned upon him. "But who'd have thought of finding you in
a place like this? I didn't even know you'd left Ross's stables."

"Six or siven months ago, yer honor."

"And have you been here ever since? I hope you are doing well,"
said Gerald.

"Iver since, sor, an' doin' finely, wid the blessin' o' God. I own
that place," pointing to the stable, "an' four as good turnouts as
ye'd ax to sit behind."

"I'm glad of it," said Gerald heartily. "I like to hear of the
boys from the old neighborhood doing well."

"Won't ye step inside, sor, an' thry a drop of something? Ye must
be choked intirely wid the dust."

"I don't care if I do," answered Gerald. "I feel pretty much as if
I'd swallowed a limekiln."

A minute later the two were seated in Denny's own particular room,
where Gerald washed the dust from his throat with some capital
bottled beer, while his host paid attention to a large demijohn
which contained, as he informed the journalist in an impressive
whisper, "close on to a gallon of the real ould stuff."

Their conversation extended far into the night; but long before
they separated Gerald induced Denny to despatch his Mexican helper,
on a good mustang, to the Ugarte ranch, bearing to Senor Vincenza
Mr. Ffrench's card, on which were penciled the words: "Please come
over to San Luis as soon as possible. Most important business."

For the tale told by the ex-postboy, his change of residence and
present prosperity, seemed to throw a curious light on the Drim
churchyard mystery.

Senor Vincenza appeared the following morning just as Gerald had
finished breakfast. The ranchero remembered the representative of
the Evening Mail and greeted him cordially, expressing his surprise
at Gerald's presence in that part of the country. The Spaniard
evidently imagined that this unexpected visit had some bearing on
the recently decided lawsuit, but the other's first words dispelled
the illusion.

"Senor Vincenza," Ffrench said, "I have heard a very strange story
about your sister, and I have come to ask you for an explanation of

The young Spaniard changed color and looked uneasily at the

"What do you mean?" he asked. "I do not understand you. My sister
is in Europe."

"Yes," answered Gerald, "she is in Europe--in Ireland. She fills a
nameless grave in Drim churchyard."

Vincenza leaped to his feet, and the cigarette he had lighted
dropped from his fingers. They were in Gerald's room at the hotel,
and the young man had placed his visitor so that the table was
between them. He suspected that he might have to deal with a
desperate man. Vincenza leaned over the narrow table, and his
breath blew hot in Ffrench's face as he hissed, "Carambo! What do
you mean? How much do you know?"

"I know everything. I know how she died in the carriage on your
way from Mullingar; how you purchased a coffin and bribed the
undertaker to silence; how you laid her, in the dead of night,
among the weeds in the graveyard; how you cut her name from the
chatelaine bag, and did all in your power to hide her identity,
even carrying off with you the postboy who drove you and aided you
to place her where she was found. Do you recognize that
photograph? Have you ever seen that coat-of-arms before?" and
Ffrench drew the two cards from his pocket and offered them to

The Spaniard brushed them impatiently aside and crouched for a
moment as if to spring. Gerald never took his eyes off him, and
presently the other straightened up, and, sinking into the chair
behind him, attempted to roll a cigarette. But his hand trembled,
and half the tobacco was spilled on the floor.

"You know a great deal, Mr. Gerald Ffrench. Do you accuse me of my
sister's murder?"

"No," answered Gerald. "She died from natural causes. But I do
accuse you of fraudulently withholding this property from its
rightful owners, and of acting on a power of attorney which has
been cancelled by the death of the giver."

There was a moment's silence, broken only by a muttered oath from
Vincenza as he threw the unfinished cigarette to the ground, and
began to roll another, this time with better success. It was not
till it was fairly alight that he spoke again.

Listen to me, young man," he said, "and then judge me as you hope
to be judged hereafter--with mercy. My sister was very dear to me;
I loved her, O God, how I loved her!" His voice broke, and Gerald,
recalling certain details of Denny's narrative, felt that the
Spaniard was speaking the truth. It was nearly a minute before
Vincenza recovered his self-command and resumed.

"Yes, we were very dear to each other; brought up as brother and
sister, how could we fail to be? But her father never liked me,
and he placed restrictions upon the fortune he left her so that it
could never come to me. My mother--our mother--had died some years
before. Well, Catalina was wealthy; I was a pauper, but that made
no difference while she lived. We were as happy and fond a brother
and sister as the sun ever shone upon. When she came of age she
executed the power of attorney that gave me the charge of her
estate. She was anxious to spend a few years in Europe. I was to
take her over, and after we had traveled a little she was to go to
a convent in France and spend some time there while I returned
home. But she was one of the old Costellos, and she was anxious to
visit the ancient home of her race. That was what brought us to

"I thought the Costello family was extinct," said Gerald.

"The European branch has been extinct since 1813, when Don Lopez
Costello fell at Vittoria; but the younger branch, which settled in
Mexico towards the end of the eighteenth century, survived until a
few months ago--until Catalina's death, in fact, for she was the
last of the Costellos."

"I see," said Gerald; "go on."

"She was very proud of the name, poor Catalina, and she made me
promise in case anything happened to her while we were abroad that
she should be laid in the ancient grave of her race--in the
churchyard of Drim. She had a weak heart, and she knew that she
might die suddenly. I promised. And it was on our way to the spot
she was so anxious to visit that death claimed her, only a few
miles from the place where her ancestors had lived in the old days,
and where all that remains of them has long mouldered to dust. So
you see, Mr. Ffrench, that I had no choice but to lay her there."

"That is not the point," said Gerald; "why this secrecy? Why this
flight? Dr. Lynn, I am sure, would have enabled you to obey your
sister's request in the full light of day; you need not have thrown
her coffin on the ground and left to strangers the task of doing
for the poor girl the last duties of civilization." Gerald spoke
with indignant heat, for this looked to him like the cruellest

"I know how it must seem to you," said Vincenza, "and I have no
excuse to offer for my conduct but this. My sister's death would
have given all she possessed to people whom she disliked. It would
have thrown me, whom she loved, penniless on the world. I acted as
if she were still living, and as I am sure she would have wished me
to act; no defence, I know, in your eyes, but consider the

"And did you not realize that all this must come out some day?"
asked Ffrench.

"Yes, but not for several years. Indeed, I cannot imagine how it
is that you have stumbled on the truth."

And Gerald, remembering the extraordinary chain of circumstances
which had led him to the root of the mystery, could not but
acknowledge that, humanly speaking, Vincenza's confidence was

"And now you have found this out, what use do you intend to make of
it?" asked the Spaniard after a pause.

"I shall publish the whole story as soon as I return to San
Francisco," answered Gerald promptly.

"So for a few hundred dollars, which is all that you can possibly
get out of it, you will make a beggar of me."

"Right is right," said the young Irishman. "This property does not
belong to you."

"Will you hold your tongue--or your pen--for fifty thousand
dollars?" asked the Spaniard eagerly.

"No, nor for every dollar you have in the world. I don't approve
your practice and I won't share your plunder. I am sorry for you
personally, but I can't help that. I won't oust you. I will make
such use of the story as any newspaper man would make, and so I
give you fair warning. You may save yourself if you can."

"Then you do not intend to communicate with the heirs?" began
Vincenza eagerly.

"I neither know nor care who they are," interrupted Gerald. "I am
not a detective, save in the way of my profession, and I shall
certainly not tell what I have discovered to any individual till I
give it to the press."

"And that will be?" asked the Spaniard.

"As soon as I return to San Francisco," answered Ffrench. "It may
appear in a week or ten days."

"Thank you, senor; good morning," said Vincenza, rising and leaving
the room.

Three days later Senor Miguel Vincenza sailed on the outgoing
Pacific mail steamer bound for Japan and China. He probably took a
considerable sum of money with him, for the heirs of Catalina
Costello y Ugarte found the affairs of the deceased in a very
tangled state, and the ranch was mortgaged for nearly half its

Gerald Ffrench's story occupied four pages of the next issue of the
Golden Fleece, and was widely copied and commented on over two
continents. Larry, the groom at Ballyvire, read the account in his
favorite Westmeath Sentinel, and as he laid the paper down
exclaimed in wonder--

"Begob, he found her!"

Lady Betty's Indiscretion

"Horry! I am sick to death of it!"

There was a servant in the room gathering the tea-cups; but Lady
Betty Stafford, having been brought up in the purple, was not to be
deterred from speaking her mind by a servant. Her cousin was
either more prudent or less vivacious; he did not answer on the
instant, but stood looking through one of the windows at the
leafless trees and slow-dropping rain in the Mall, and only turned
when Lady Betty pettishly repeated her statement.

"Had a bad time?" he then vouchsafed, dropping into a chair near
her, and looking first at her, in a good-natured way, and then at
his boots, which he seemed to approve.

"Horrid!" she replied.

"Many people here?"

"Hordes of them! Whole tribes!" she exclaimed. She was a little
lady, plump and pretty, with a pale, clear complexion, and bright
eyes. "I am bored beyond belief. And--and I have not seen
Stafford since morning," she added.

"Cabinet council?"

"Yes!" she answered viciously. "A cabinet council, and a privy
council, and a board of trade, and a board of green cloth, and all
the other boards! Horry, I am sick to death of it! What is the
use of it all?"

"Country go to the dogs!" he said oracularly, still admiring his

"Let it!" she retorted, not relenting a whit. " I wish it would; I
wish the dogs joy of it!"

He made an extraordinary effort at diffuseness. "I thought," he
said, "that you were becoming political, Betty. Going to write
something, and all that."

"Rubbish! But here is Mr. Atley. Mr. Atley, will you have a cup
of tea," she continued, speaking to the newcomer. "There will be
some here presently. Where is Mr. Stafford?"

"Mr. Stafford will take a cup of tea in the library, Lady Betty,"
replied the secretary. "He asked me to bring it to him. He is
copying an important paper."

Sir Horace forsook his boots, and in a fit of momentary interest
asked, "They have come to terms?"

The secretary nodded. Lady Betty said "Pshaw!" A man brought in
the fresh teapot. The next moment Mr. Stafford himself came
quickly into the room, an open telegram in his hand.

He nodded pleasantly to his wife and her cousin. But his thin,
dark face wore--it generally did--a preoccupied look. Country
people to whom he was pointed out in the streets called him,
according to their political leanings, either insignificant, or a
prig, or a "dry sort;" or sometimes said, "How young he is!" But
those whose fate it was to face the Minister in the House knew that
there was something in him more to be feared even than his
imperturability, his honesty, or his precision--and that was a
certain sudden warmth, which was apt to carry away the House at
unexpected times. On one of these occasions, it was rumored, Lady
Betty Champion had seen him, and fallen in love with him. Why he
had thrown the handkerchief to her--well that was another matter;
and whether the apparently incongruous match would answer--that,
too, remained to be seen.

"More telegrams?" she cried now. "It rains telegrams! how I hate

"Why?" he said. "Why should you?" He really wondered.

She made a face at him. "Here is your tea," she said abruptly.

"Thank you; you are very good," he replied. He took the cup and
set it down absently. "Atley," he continued, speaking to the
secretary, "you have not corrected the report of my speech at the
Club, have you? No, I know you have had no time. Will you run
your eye over it presently, and see if it is all right, and send it
to the Times--I do not think I need see it--by eleven o'clock at
latest. The editor," he added, tapping the pink paper in his hand,
"seemed to doubt us. I have to go to Fitzgerald's now, so you must
copy Lord Pilgrimstone's terms, too, please. I had meant to do it
myself, but I shall be with you before you have finished."

"What are the terms?" Lady Betty asked. "Lord Pilgrimstone has not
agreed to--"

"To permit me to communicate them?" he replied, with a grave smile.
"No. So you must pardon me, my dear, I have passed my word for
absolute secrecy. And, indeed, it is as important to me as to
Pilgrimstone that they should not be divulged."

"They are sure to leak out," she retorted. "They always do."

"Well, it will not be through me, I hope."

She stamped her foot on the carpet. "I should like to get them,
and send them to the Times!" she exclaimed, her eyes flashing--he
was so provoking! "And let all the world know them! I should!"

He looked his astonishment, while the other two laughed softly,
partly to avoid embarrassment, perhaps. My Lady often said these
things, and no one took them seriously.

"You had better play the secretary for once, Lady Betty," said
Atley, who was related to his chief. "You will then be able to
satisfy your curiosity. Shall I resign pro tem?"

She looked eagerly at her husband for the third part of a second--
looked for assent, perhaps. But she read no playfulness in his
face, and her own fell. He was thinking about other things. "No,"
she said, almost sullenly, dropping her eyes to the carpet; "I
should not spell well enough."

Soon after that they dispersed, this being Wednesday, Mr.
Stafford's day for dining out. Everyone knows that Ministers dine
only twice a week in session--on Wednesday and Sunday; and Sunday
is often sacred to the children where there are any, lest they
should grow up and not know their father by sight. Lady Betty came
into the library at a quarter to eight, and found her husband still
at his desk, a pile of papers before him waiting for his signature.
As a fact, he had only just sat down, displacing his secretary, who
had gone upstairs to dress.

"Stafford!" she said.

She did not seem quite at her ease, but his mind was troubled, and
he failed to notice this. "Yes, my dear," he answered politely,
shuffling the papers before him into a heap. He knew he was late,
and he could see that she was dressed. "Yes, I am going upstairs
this minute. I have not forgotten."

"It is not that," she said, leaning with one hand on the table; "I
only want to ask you--"

"My dear, you really must tell it to me in the carriage." He was
on his feet already, making some hasty preparations. "Where are we
to dine? At the Duke's? Then we shall have nearly a mile to
drive. Will not that do for you?" He was working hard while he
spoke. There was a great oak post-box within reach, and another
box for letters which were to be delivered by hand, and he was
thrusting a handful of notes into each of these. Other packets he
swept into different drawers of the table. Still standing, he
stooped and signed his name to half a dozen letters, which he left
open on the blotting-pad. "Atley will see to these when he is
dressed," he murmured. "Would you oblige me by locking the
drawers, my dear--it will save me a minute--and giving me the keys
when I come down?"

He was off then, two or three papers in his hand, and almost ran
upstairs. Lady Betty stood a moment on the spot on which he had
left her, looking in an odd way, just as if it were new to her,
round the grave, spacious room, with its somber Spanish-leather-
covered furniture, its ponderous writing-tables and shelves of
books, its three lofty curtained windows. When her eyes at last
came back to the lamp, and dwelt on it, they were very bright, and
her face was flushed. Her foot could be heard tapping on the
carpet. Presently she remembered herself and fell to work,
vehemently slamming such drawers as were open, and locking them.

The private secretary found her doing this when he came in. She
muttered something--still stooping with her face over the drawers--
and almost immediately went out. He looked after her, partly
because there was something odd in her manner--she kept her face
averted; and partly because she was wearing a new and striking
gown, and he admired her; and he noticed, as she passed through the
doorway, that she had some papers held down by her side. But, of
course, he thought nothing of this.

He was hopelessly late for his own dinner-party, and only stayed a
moment to slip the letters just signed into envelopes prepared for
them. Then he made hastily for the door, opened it, and came into
abrupt collision with Sir Horace, who was strolling in.

"Beg pardon!" said that gentleman, with irritating placidity.
"Late for dinner?"

"Rather!" cried the secretary, trying to get round him.

"Well," drawled the other, "which is the hand-box, old fellow?"

"It has just been cleared. Here, give it me. The messengers is in
the hall now."

And Atley snatched the letter from his companion, the two going out
into the hall together. Marcus, the butler, a couple of tall
footmen, and the messenger were sorting letters at the table.
"Here, Marcus," said the secretary, pitching his letter on the
slab, "let that go with the others. And is my hansom here?"

In another minute he was speeding one way, and the Staffords in
their brougham another, while Sir Horace walked at his leisure down
to his club. The Minister and his wife drove along in silence, for
he forgot to ask her what she wanted; and, strange to say, Lady
Betty forgot to tell him. At the party she made quite a sensation;
never had she seemed more recklessly gay, more piquant, more
audaciously witty, than she showed herself this evening. There
were illustrious personages present, but they paled beside her.
The Duke, with whom she was a great favorite, laughed at her
sallies until he could laugh no more; and even her husband, her
very husband, forgot for a time the country and the crisis, and
listened, half-proud and half-afraid. But she was not aware of
this; she could not see his face where she was sitting. To all
seeming, she never looked that way. She was quite a model society

Mr. Stafford himself was an early riser. It was his habit to be up
by six; to make his own coffee over a spirit lamp, and then not
only to get through much work in his dressing-room, but to take his
daily ride also before breakfast. On the morning after the Duke's
party, however, he lay later than usual; and as there was more
business to be done--owing to the crisis--the canter in the Park
had to be omitted. He was still among his papers--though
momentarily awaiting the breakfast-gong, when a hansom cab driven
at full speed stopped at the door. He glanced up wearily as he
heard the doors of the cab flung open with a crash. There had been
a time when the stir and bustle of such arrivals had been sweet to
him--not so sweet as to some, for he had never been deeply in love
with the parade of office--but sweeter than to-day, when they were
no more to him than the creaking of the mill to the camel that
turns it blindfold and in darkness.

Naturally he was thinking of Lord Pilgrimstone this morning, and
guessed, before he opened the note which the servant brought in to
him, who was its writer. But its contents had, nevertheless, an
electrical effect upon him. His brow reddened. With a quite
unusual display of emotion he sprang to his feet, crushing the
fragment of paper in his fingers. "Who brought this?" he asked
sharply. "Who brought it?" he repeated, before the servant could

The man had never seen him so moved. "Mr. Scratchley, sir," he

"Ha! Then, show him into the library," was the quick reply. And
while the servant went to do his bidding, the Minister hastily
changed his dressing-gown for a coat, and ran down a private
staircase, reaching the room he had mentioned by one door as Mr.
Scratchley, Lord Pilgrim-stone's secretary, entered in through

By that time he had regained his composure, and looked much as
usual. Still, when he held up the crumpled note, there was a
brusqueness in the gesture which would have surprised his ordinary
acquaintances, and did remind Mr. Scratchley of certain "warm
nights" in the House. "You know the contents of this, Mr.
Scratchley?" he said without prelude, and in a tone which matched
his gesture.

The visitor bowed. He was a grave middle-aged man, who seemed
oppressed and burdened by the load of cares and responsibilities
which his smiling chief carried so jauntily. People said that he
was the proper complement of Lord Pilgrimstone, as the more
volatile Atley was of his leader.

"And you are aware," continued Mr. Stafford, still more harshly,
"that Lord Pilgrimstone gives yesterday's agreement to the winds?"

"I have never seen his lordship so deeply moved," replied the
discreet one.

"He says: 'Our former negotiation was ruined by premature talk, but
this last disclosure can only be referred to treachery or gross
carelessness.' What does this mean? I know of no disclosure, Mr.
Scratchley. I must have an explanation, and you, I presume, are
here to give me one."

For a moment the other seemed taken aback. "You have not seen the
Times?" he murmured.

"This morning's? No. But it is here."

He snatched it, as he spoke, from a table at his elbow, and
unfolded it. The secretary approached and pointed to the head of a
column--the most conspicuous, the column most readily to be found
in the paper. "They are crying it at every street corner I
passed," he added apologetically. "There is nothing to be heard in
St. James's Street and Pall Mall but 'Detailed Programme of the
Coalition.' The other dailies are striking off second editions to
contain it!"

Mr. Stafford's eyes were riveted to the paper, and there was a long
pause, a pause on his part of dismay and consternation. He could
scarcely--to repeat a common phrase--believe his eyes. "It seems,"
he muttered at length, "it seems fairly accurate--a tolerably
precise account, indeed."

"It is a verbatim copy," said the secretary drily. "The question
is, who furnished it. Lord Pilgrimstone, I am authorized to say,
has not permitted his note of the agreement to pass out of his
possession--even up to the present moment."

"And so he concludes," the Minister said thoughtfully--"it is a
fair inference enough, perhaps--that the Times must have procured
its information from my note?"

"No!" the secretary objected sharply and forcibly. "It is not a
matter of inference, Mr. Stafford. I am directed to say that. I
have inquired, early as it is, at the Times office, and learned
that the copy printed came directly from the hands of your

"Of my messenger!" Mr. Stafford cried, thunderstruck. "You are
sure of that?"

"I am sure that the sub-editor says so."

And again there was silence. "This must be looked into," said Mr.
Stafford at length, controlling himself by an effort. "For the
present, I agree with Lord Pilgrimstone, that it alters the
position--and perhaps finally."

"Lord Pilgrimstone will be damaged in the eyes of a large section
of his supporters--seriously damaged," said Mr. Scratchley, shaking
his head, and frowning.

"Possibly. From every point of view the thing is to be deplored.
But I will call on Lord Pilgrimstone," continued the Minister,
"after lunch. Will you tell him so?"

A curious embarrassment showed itself in the secretary's manner.
He twisted his hat in his hands, and looked suddenly sick and sad--
as if he were about to join in the groan at a prayer-meeting.
"Lord Pilgrimstone," he said, in a voice he vainly strove to render
commonplace, "is going to Sandown Spring Meeting to-day."

The tone was really so lugubrious--to say nothing of a shake of the
head with which he could not help accompanying the statement--that
a faint smile played on Mr. Stafford's lip. "Then I must take the
next possible opportunity. I will see him to-morrow."

Mr. Scratchley assented to that, and bowed himself out, after
another word or two, looking more gloomy and careworn than usual.
The interview had not been altogether to his mind. He wished now
that he had spoken more roundly to Mr. Stafford; perhaps even asked
for a categorical denial of the charge. But the Minister's manner
had overawed him. He had found it impossible to put the question.
And then the pitiful degrading confession he had had to make for
Lord Pilgrimstone! That had put the coping-stone to his

"Oh!" sighed Mr. Scratchley, as he stepped into his cab. "Oh, that
men so great should stoop to things so little!"

It did not occur to him that there is a condition of things even
more sad: when little men meddle with great things.

Meanwhile Mr. Stafford, left alone, stood at the window deep in
unpleasant thoughts, from which the entrance of the butler sent to
summon him to breakfast first aroused him. "Stay a moment,
Marcus!" he said, turning with a sigh, as the man was leaving the
room after doing his errand. "I want to ask you a question. Did
you make up the messenger's bag last evening?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did you notice a letter addressed to the Times office?"

The servant had prepared himself to cogitate. But he found it
unnecessary. "Yes, sir," he replied smartly, "Two."

"Two?" repeated Mr. Stafford, dismay in his tone, though this was
just what he had reason to expect.

"Yes, sir. There was one I took from the band-box, and one Mr.
Atley gave me in the hall at the last moment," explained the

"Ha! Thank you, Marcus. Then ask Mr. Atley if he will kindly come
to me. No doubt he will be able to tell me what I want to know."

The words were commonplace, but the speaker's anxiety was so
evident that Marcus when he delivered the message--which he did
with all haste--added a word or two of warning. "It is about a
letter to the Times, sir, I think. Mr. Stafford seemed a good deal
put out," he said, confidentially.

"Indeed?" Atley replied. "I will go down." And he started at
once. But before he reached the library he met someone. Lady
Betty looked out of the breakfast-room, and saw him descending the
stairs with the butler behind him.

"Where is Mr. Stafford, Marcus?" she asked impatiently, as she
stood with her hand on the door. "Good morning, Mr. Atley," she
added, her eyes descending to him. "Where is my husband? The
coffee is getting quite cold."

"He has just sent to ask me to come to him," Atley answered.
"Marcus tells me there is something in the Times which has annoyed
him, Lady Betty; I will send him up as quickly as I can."

But Lady Betty had not stayed to receive this last assurance. She
had drawn back and shut the door smartly; yet not so quickly but
that the private secretary had seen her change color. "Umph!" he
ejaculated to himself--the lady was not much given to blushing as a
rule--"I wonder what is wrong with HER this morning. She is not
generally rude to me."

It was not long before he got some light on the matter. "Come
here, Atley," said his employer, the moment he entered the library.
"Look at this!"

The secretary took the Times, folded back at the important column,
and read the letter. Meanwhile the Minister read the secretary.
He saw surprise and consternation on his face, but no trace of
guilt. Then he told him what Marcus said about the two letters
which had gone the previous evening from the house addressed to the
Times office. "One," he said, "contained the notes of my speech.
The other--"

"The other--" replied the secretary, thinking while he spoke, "was
given to me at the last moment by Sir Horace. I threw it to Marcus
in the hall."

"Ah!" said his chief, trying very hard to express nothing by the
exclamation, but not quite succeeding. "Did you see that that
letter was addressed to the editor of the Times?"

The secretary reddened, and betrayed sudden confusion. "I did," he
said hurriedly. "I saw so much of the address as I threw the
letter on the slab--though I thought nothing of it at the time."

Mr. Stafford looked at him fixedly. "Come," he said, "this is a
grave matter, Atley. You noticed, I can see, the handwriting. Was
it Sir Horace's?"

"No," replied the secretary.

"Whose was it?"

"I think--I think, Mr. Stafford--that it was Lady Betty's. But I
should be sorry, having seen it only for a moment--so say for

"Lady Betty's?"

Mr. Stafford repeated the exclamation three times, in pure
surprise, in anger, a third time in trembling. In this last stage
he walked away to the window, and turning his back on his companion
looked out. He recalled at once his wife's petulant exclamation of
yesterday, the foolish desire expressed, as he had supposed in
jest. Had she really been in earnest? And had she carried out her
threat? Had she--his wife--done this thing so compromising to his
honor, so mischievous to the country, so mad, reckless, wicked?
Impossible. It was impossible. And yet--and yet Atley was a man
to be trusted, a gentleman, his own relation! And Atley's eye was
not likely to be deceived in a matter of handwriting. That Atley
had made up his mind he could see.

The statesman turned from the window, and walked to and fro, his
agitation betrayed by his step. The third time he passed in front
of his secretary--who had riveted his eyes to the Times and
appeared to be reading the money article--he stopped. "If this be
true--mind I say if, Atley--" he cried, jerkily, "what was my
wife's motive? I am in the dark, blindfolded! Help me! Tell me
what has been passing round me that I have not seen. You would not
have my wife--a spy?"

"No! no! no!" cried the other, as he dropped the paper, his
vehemence and his working features showing that he felt the pathos
of the appeal. "It is not that. Lady Betty is jealous, if I may
venture to judge, of your devotion to politics. She sees little of
you. You are wrapped up in public affairs and matters of state.
She feels herself neglected and set aside. And she has been
married no more than a year."

"But she has her society," objected the Minister, compelling
himself to speak calmly, "and her cousin, and--and many other

"For which she does not care," returned the secretary.

It was a simple answer, but something in it touched a tender place.
Mr. Stafford winced and cast a queer startled look at the speaker.
Before he could reply, however--if he intended to reply--a knock
came at the door and Marcus put in his head. "My lady is waiting
breakfast, sir," he suggested timidly. What could a poor butler do
between an impatient mistress and an obdurate master?

"I will come," said Mr. Stafford hastily. "I will come at once.
For this matter, Atley," he continued when the door was closed
again, "let it rest for the present where it is. I am aware I can
depend upon your--" he paused, seeking a word--"your discretion.
One thing is certain, however. There is an end of the arrangement
made yesterday. Probably the Queen will send for Templeton. I
shall see Lord Pilgrimstone tomorrow, but probably that will be the
end of it."

Atley went away marveling at his coolness, trying to retrace the
short steps of their conversation, and so to discern how far the
Minister had gone with him, and where he had turned off upon a
resolution of his own. He failed to see the clue, however, and
marveled still more as the day went on and others succeeded it,
days of political crisis. Out of doors the world, or that little
jot of it which has its center at Westminster, was in confusion.
The newspapers, morning or evening, found ready sale, and had no
need of recourse to murder-panics, or prurient discussions. The
Coalition scandal, the resignation of Ministers, the sending for
Lord This and Mr. That, the certainty of a dissolution, provided
matter enough. In all this Atley found nothing to wonder at. He
had seen it all before. That which did cause him surprise was the
calm--the unnatural calm as it seemed to him--which prevailed in
the house in Carlton Terrace. For a day or two, indeed, there was
much going to and fro, much closeting and button-holing; for rather
longer the secretary read anxiety and apprehension in one
countenance--Lady Betty's. But things settled down. The knocker
presently found peace, such comparative peace as falls to knockers
in Carlton Terrace. Lady Betty's brow grew clear as her eye found
no reflection of its anxiety in Mr. Stafford's face. In a word the
secretary failed to discern the faintest sign of domestic trouble.

The late Minister, indeed, was taking things with wonderful
coolness. Lord Pilgrimstone had failed to taunt him, and the
triumph of old foes had failed to goad him into a last effort.
Apparently it had occurred to him that the country might for a time
exist without him. He was standing aside with a shade on his face,
and there were rumors that he would take a long holiday.

A week saw all these things happen. And then, one day as Atley sat
writing in the library--Mr. Stafford being out--Lady Betty came
into the room for something. Rising to find her what she wanted,
he was holding the door open for her to pass out, when she paused.

"Shut the door, Mr. Atley," she said, pointing to it. "I want to
ask you a question."

"Pray do, Lady Betty," he answered.

"It is this," she said, meeting his eyes boldly--and a brighter, a
more dainty little creature than she looked then had seldom tempted
man. "Mr. Stafford's resignation--had it anything, Mr. Atley, to
do with--" her face colored a very little--"something that was in
the Times this day week?"

His own cheek colored violently enough. "If ever," he was saying
to himself, "I meddle or mar between husband and wife again, may
I--" But aloud he answered quietly, "Something perhaps." The
question was sudden. Her eyes were on his face. He found it
impossible to prevaricate.

"My husband has never spoken to me about it," she replied,
breathing quickly.

He bowed, having no words adapted to the situation. But he
repeated his resolution (as above) more furiously.

"He has never appeared even aware of it," she persisted. "Are you
sure that he saw it?"

He wondered at her innocence or her audacity. That such a baby
should do so much mischief. The thought irritated him. "It was
impossible that he should not see it, Lady Betty," he said, with a
touch of asperity. "Quite impossible!"

"Ah," she replied with a faint sigh. "Well, he has never spoken to
me about it. And you think it had really something to do with his
resignation, Mr. Atley?"

"Most certainly," he said. He was not inclined to spare her this

She nodded thoughtfully, and then with a quiet "Thank you," went

"Well," muttered the secretary to himself when the door was fairly
shut behind her, "she is--upon my word she is a fool! And he"--
appealing to the inkstand--"he has never said a word to her about
it. He is a new Don Quixote! a second Job, new Sir Isaac Newton!
I do not know what to call him."

It was Sir Horace, however, who precipitated the catastrophe. He
happened to come in about tea-time that afternoon, before, in fact,
my lady had had an opportunity of seeing her husband. He found her
alone and in a brown study, a thing most unusual with her and
portending something. He watched her for a time in silence, seemed
to draw courage from a still longer inspection of his boots, and
then said, "So the cart is clean over, Betty?"

She nodded.

"Driver much hurt?"

"Do you mean, does Stafford mind it?" she replied impatiently.

He nodded.

"Well, I do not know. It is hard to say."

"Think so?" he persisted.

"Good gracious, Horry!" my lady retorted, losing patience. "I say
I do not know, and you say 'Think so!' If you want to learn so
particularly, ask him yourself. Here he is!"

Mr. Stafford had just entered the room. Perhaps she really wished
to satisfy herself as to the state of his feelings. Perhaps she
only desired in her irritation to put her cousin in a corner. At
any rate she coolly turned to her husband and said, "Here is Horace
wishing to know if you mind being turned out much?"

Mr. Stafford's face flushed a little at the home-thrust which no
one else would have dared to deal him. But he showed no
displeasure. "Well, not so much as I should have thought," he
answered frankly, pausing to weigh a lump of sugar, and, as it
seemed, his feelings. "There are compensations, you know."

"Pity all the same those terms came out," grunted Sir Horace.

"It was."

"Stafford!" Lady Betty struck in on a sudden, speaking fast and
eagerly, "is it true, I want to ask you, it is true that that led
you to resign?"

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