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THE EVIL GENIUS by Wilkie Collins

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[Italics are indicatedby underscores
James Rusk, jrusk@cyberramp.net.]


by Wilkie Colllins

A Domestic Story

Affectionately Dedicated
to Holman Hunt


Miss Westerfield's Education

1.--The Trial.

THE gentlemen of the jury retired to consider their verdict.

Their foreman was a person doubly distinguished among his
colleagues. He had the clearest head, and the readiest tongue.
For once the right man was in the right place.

Of the eleven jurymen, four showed their characters on the
surface. They were:

The hungry juryman, who wanted his dinner.

The inattentive juryman, who drew pictures on his blotting paper.

The nervous juryman, who suffered from fidgets.

The silent juryman, who decided the verdict.

Of the seven remaining members, one was a little drowsy man who
gave no trouble; one was an irritable invalid who served under
protest; and five represented that vast majority of the
population--easily governed, tranquilly happy--which has no
opinion of its own.

The foreman took his place at the head of the table. His
colleagues seated themselves on either side of him. Then there
fell upon that assembly of men a silence, never known among an
assembly of women--the silence which proceeds from a general
reluctance to be the person who speaks first.

It was the foreman's duty, under these circumstances, to treat
his deliberative brethren as we treat our watches when they stop:
he wound the jury up and set them going.

"Gentlemen," he began, "have you formed any decided opinion on
the case--thus far?"

Some of them said "Yes," and some of them said "No." The little
drowsy man said nothing. The fretful invalid cried, "Go on!" The
nervous juryman suddenly rose. His brethren all looked at him,
inspired by the same fear of having got an orator among them. He
was an essentially polite man; and he hastened to relieve their
minds. "Pray don't be alarmed, gentlemen: I am not going to make
a speech. I suffer from fidgets. Excuse me if I occasionally
change my position." The hungry juryman (who dined early) looked
at his watch. "Half-past four," he said. "For Heaven's sake cut
it short." He was the fattest person present; and he suggested a
subject to the inattentive juryman who drew pictures on his
blotting-paper. Deeply interested in the progress of the
likeness, his neighbors on either side looked over his shoulders.
The little drowsy man woke with a start, and begged pardon of
everybody. The fretful invalid said to himself, "Damned fools,
all of them!" The patient foreman, biding his time, stated the

"The prisoner waiting our verdict, gentlemen, is the Honorable
Roderick Westerfield, younger brother of the present Lord Le
Basque. He is charged with willfully casting away the British
bark _John Jerniman_, under his command, for the purpose of
fraudulently obtaining a share of the insurance money; and
further of possessing himself of certain Brazilian diamonds,
which formed part of the cargo. In plain words, here is a
gentleman born in the higher ranks of life accused of being a
thief. Before we attempt to arrive at a decision, we shall only
be doing him justice if we try to form some general estimate of
his character, based on the evidence--and we may fairly begin by
inquiring into his relations with the noble family to which he
belongs. The evidence, so far, is not altogether creditable to
him. Being at the time an officer of the Royal Navy, he appears
to have outraged the feelings of his family by marrying a barmaid
at a public-house."

The drowsy juryman, happening to be awake at that moment,
surprised the foreman by interposing a statement. "Talking of
barmaids," he said, "I know a curate's daughter. She's in
distressed circumstances, poor thing; and she's a barmaid
somewhere in the north of England. Curiously enough, the name of
the town has escaped my memory. If we had a map of England--"
There he was interrupted, cruelly interrupted, by one of his

"And by what right," cried the greedy juryman, speaking under the
exasperating influence of hunger--"by what right does Mr.
Westerfield's family dare to suppose that a barmaid may not be a
perfectly virtuous woman?"

Hearing this, the restless gentleman (in the act of changing his
position) was suddenly inspired with interest in the proceedings.
"Pardon me for putting myself forward," he said, with his
customary politeness. "Speaking as an abstainer from fermented
liquors, I must really protest against these allusions to

"Speaking as a consumer of fermented liquors," the invalid
remarked, "I wish I had a barmaid and a bottle of champagne
before me now."

Superior to interruption, the admirable foreman went on:

"Whatever you may think, gentlemen, of the prisoner's marriage,
we have it in evidence that his relatives turned their backs on
him from that moment--with the one merciful exception of the head
of the family. Lord Le Basque exerted his influence with the
Admiralty, and obtained for his brother (then out of employment)
an appointment to a ship. All the witnesses agree that Mr.
Westerfield thoroughly understood his profession. If he could
have controlled himself, he might have risen to high rank in the
Navy. His temper was his ruin. He quarreled with one of his
superior officers--"

"Under strong provocation," said a member of the jury.

"Under strong provocation," the foreman admitted. But provocation
is not an excuse, judged by the rules of discipline. The prisoner
challenged the officer on duty to fight a duel, at the first
opportunity, on shore; and, receiving a contemptuous refusal,
struck him on the quarter-deck. As a matter of course, Mr.
Westerfield was tried by court-martial, and was dismissed the
service. Lord Le Basque's patience was not exhausted yet. The
Merchant Service offered a last chance to the prisoner of
retrieving his position, to some extent at least. He was fit for
the sea, and fit for nothing else. At my lord's earnest request
the owners of the _John Jerniman_, trading between Liverpool and
Rio, took Mr. Westerfield on trial as first mate, and, to his
credit be it said, he justified his brother's faith in him. In a
tempest off the coast of Africa the captain was washed overboard
and the first mate succeeded to the command. His seamanship and
courage saved the vessel, under circumstances of danger which
paralyzed the efforts of the other officers.. He was confirmed,
rightly confirmed, in the command of the ship. And, so far, we
shall certainly not be wrong if we view his character on the
favorable side."

There the foreman paused, to collect his ideas.

Certain members of the assembly--led by the juryman who wanted
his dinner, and supported by his inattentive colleague, then
engaged in drawing a ship in a storm, and a captain falling
overboard--proposed the acquittal of the prisoner without further
consideration. But the fretful invalid cried "Stuff!" and the
five jurymen who had no opinions of their own, struck by the
admirable brevity with which he expressed his sentiments, sang
out in chorus, "Hear! hear! hear!" The silent juryman, hitherto
overlooked, now attracted attention. He was a bald-headed person
of uncertain age, buttoned up tight in a long frockcoat, and
wearing his gloves all through the proceedings. When the chorus
of five cheered, he smiled mysteriously. Everybody wondered what
that smile meant. The silent juryman kept his opinion to himself.
From that moment he began to exercise a furtive influence over
the jury. Even the foreman looked at him, on resuming the

"After a certain term of service, gentlemen, during which we
learn nothing to his disadvantage, the prisoner's merits appear
to have received their reward. He was presented with a share in
the ship which he commanded, in addition to his regular salary as
master. With these improved prospects he sailed from Liverpool on
his last voyage to Brazil; and no one, his wife included, had the
faintest suspicion that he left England under circumstances of
serious pecuniary embarrassment. The testimony of his creditors,
and of other persons with whom he associated distinctly proves
that his leisure hours on shore had been employed in card-playing
and in betting on horse races. After an unusually long run of
luck, his good fortune seems to have deserted him. He suffered
considerable losses, and was at last driven to borrowing at a
high rate of interest, without any reasonable prospect of being
able to repay the money-lenders into whose hands he had fallen.
When he left Rio on the homeward voyage, there is no sort of
doubt that he was returning to England to face creditors whom he
was unable to pay. There, gentlemen, is a noticeable side to his
character which we may call the gambling side, and which (as I
think) was too leniently viewed by the judge."

He evidently intended to add a word or two more. But the
disagreeable invalid insisted on being heard.

"In plain English," he said, "you are for finding the prisoner

"In plain English," the foreman rejoined, "I refuse to answer
that question."


"Because it is no part of my duty to attempt to influence the

"You have been trying to influence the verdict, sir, ever since
you entered this room. I appeal to all the gentlemen present."

The patience of the long-suffering foreman failed him at last.
"Not another word shall pass my lips," he said, "until you find
the prisoner guilty or not guilty among yourselves--and then I'll
tell you if I agree to your verdict."

He folded his arms, and looked like the image of a man who
intended to keep his word.

The hungry juryman laid himself back in his chair, and groaned.
The amateur artist, who had thus far found a fund of amusement in
his blotting-paper, yawned discontentedly and dropped his pen.
The courteous gentleman who suffered from fidgets requested leave
to walk up and down the room; and at the first turn he took woke
the drowsy little man, and maddened the irritable invalid by the
creaking of his boots. The chorus of five, further than ever from
arriving at an opinion of their own, looked at the silent
juryman. Once more he smiled mysteriously; and once more he
offered an explanation of what was passing in his mind--except
that he turned his bald head slowly in the direction of the
foreman. Was he in sympathy with a man who had promised to be as
silent as himself?

In the meantime, nothing was said or done. Helpless silence
prevailed in every part of the room.

"Why the devil doesn't somebody begin?" cried the invalid. "Have
you all forgotten the evidence?"

This startling question roused the jury to a sense of what was
due to their oaths, if not to themselves. Some of them
recollected the evidence in one way, and some of them recollected
it in another; and each man insisted on doing justice to his own
excellent memory, and on stating his own unanswerable view of the

The first man who spoke began at the middle of the story told by
the witnesses in court. "I am for acquitting the captain,
gentlemen; he ordered out the boats, and saved the lives of the
crew."--"And I am for finding him guilty, because the ship struck
on a rock in broad daylight, and in moderate weather."--"I agree
with you, sir. The evidence shows that the vessel was steered
dangerously near to the land, by direction of the captain, who
gave the course."--"Come, come, gentlemen! let us do the captain
justice. The defense declares that he gave the customary course,
and that it was not followed when he left the deck. As for his
leaving the ship in moderate weather, the evidence proves that he
believed he saw signs of a storm brewing."--"Yes, yes, all very
well, but what were the facts? When the loss of the ship was
reported, the Brazilian authorities sent men to the wreck, on the
chance of saving the cargo; and, days afterward, there the ship
was found, just as the captain and the crew had left
her."--"Don't forget, sir, that the diamonds were missing when
the salvors examined the wreck."--"All right, but that's no proof
that the captain stole the diamonds; and, before they had saved
half the cargo, a storm did come on and break the vessel up; so
the poor man was only wrong in the matter of time, after
all."--"Allow me to remind you, gentlemen that the prisoner was
deeply in debt, and therefore had an interest in stealing the
diamonds."--Wait a little, sir. Fair play's a jewel. Who was in
charge of the deck when the ship struck? The second mate. And
what did the second mate do, when he heard that his owners had
decided to prosecute? He committed suicide! Is there no proof of
guilt in that act?"--"You are going a little too fast, sir. The
coroner's jury declared that the second mate killed himself in a
state of temporary insanity."--"Gently! gently! we have nothing
to do with what the coroner's jury said. What did the judge say
when he summed up?"--"Bother the judge! He said what they all
say: 'Find the prisoner guilty, if you think he did it; and find
him not guilty, if you think he didn't.' And then he went away to
his comfortable cup of tea in his private room. And here are We
perishing of hunger, and our families dining without us."--"Speak
for yourself, sir, _I_ haven't got a family."--"Consider yourself
lucky, sir; _I_ have got twelve, and my life is a burden to me,
owing to the difficulty of making both ends meet."--"Gentlemen!
gentlemen! we are wandering again. Is the captain guilty or not?
Mr. Foreman, we none of us intended to offend you. Will you tell
us what _you_ think?"

No; the foreman kept his word. "Decide for yourselves first," was
his only reply.

In this emergency, the member afflicted with fidgets suddenly
assumed a position of importance. He started a new idea.

"Suppose we try a show of hands," he suggested. "Gentlemen who
find the prisoner guilty will please hold up their hands."

Three votes were at once registered in this way, including the
vote of the foreman. After a moment of doubt, the chorus of five
decided on following the opinion which happened to be the first
opinion expressed in point of time. Thereupon, the show of hands
for the condemnation of the prisoner rose to eight. Would this
result have an effect on the undecided minority of four? In any
case, they were invited to declare themselves next. Only three
hands were held up. One incomprehensible man abstained from
expressing his sentiments even by a sign. Is it necessary to say
who that man was? A mysterious change had now presented itself in
his appearance, which made him an object of greater interest than
ever. His inexplicable smile had vanished. He sat immovable, with
closed eyes. Was he meditating profoundly? or was he only asleep?
The quick-witted foreman had long since suspected him of being
simply the stupidest person present--with just cunning enough to
conceal his own dullness by holding his tongue. The jury arrived
at no such sensible conclusion. Impressed by the intense
solemnity of his countenance, they believed him to be absorbed in
reflections of the utmost importance to the verdict. After a
heated conference among themselves, they decided on inviting the
one independent member present--the member who had taken no part
in their proceedings--to declare his opinion in the plainest
possible form. "Which way does your view of the verdict incline,
sir? Guilty or not guilty?"

The eyes of the silent juryman opened with the slow and solemn
dilation of the eyes of an owl. Placed between the alternatives
of declaring himself in one word or in two, his taciturn wisdom
chose the shortest form of speech. "Guilty," he answered--and
shut his eyes again, as if he had had enough of it already.

An unutterable sense of relief pervaded the meeting. Enmities
were forgotten and friendly looks were exchanged. With one
accord, the jury rose to return to court. The prisoner's fate was
sealed. The verdict was Guilty."

2.--The Sentence.

The low hum of talk among the persons in court ceased when the
jury returned to their places. Curiosity now found its center of
attraction in the prisoner's wife--who had been present
throughout the trial. The question of the moment was: How will
she bear the interval of delay which precedes the giving of the

In the popular phrase, Mrs. Westerfield was a showy woman. Her
commanding figure was f inely robed in dark colors; her profuse
light hair hung over her forehead in little clusters of ringlets;
her features, firmly but not delicately shaped, were on a large
scale. No outward betrayal of the wife's emotion rewarded the
public curiosity: her bold light-gray eyes sustained the general
gaze without flinching. To the surprise of the women present, she
had brought her two young children with her to the trial. The
eldest was a pretty little girl of ten years old; the second
child (a boy) sat on his mother's knee. It was generally observed
that Mrs. Westerfield took no notice of her eldest child. When
she whispered a word from time to time, it was always addressed
to her son. She fondled him when he grew restless; but she never
looked round to see if the girl at her side was as weary of the
proceedings as the boy.

The judge took his seat, and the order was given to bring the
prisoner up for judgment.

There was a long pause. The audience--remembering his ghastly
face when he first appeared before them--whispered to each other,
"He's taken ill"; and the audience proved to be right.

The surgeon of the prison entered the witness-box, and, being
duly sworn, made his medical statement

The prisoner's heart had been diseased for some time past, and
the malady had been neglected. He had fainted under the prolonged
suspense of waiting for the verdict. The swoon had proved to be
of such a serious nature that the witness refused to answer for
consequences if a second fainting-fit was produced by the
excitement of facing the court and the jury.

Under these circumstances, the verdict was formally recorded, and
sentence was deferred. Once more, the spectators looked at the
prisoner's wife.

She had risen to leave the court. In the event of an adverse
verdict, her husband had asked for a farewell interview; and the
governor of the prison, after consultation with the surgeon, had
granted the request. It was observed, when she retired, that she
held her boy by the hand, and left the girl to follow. A
compassionate lady near her offered to take care of the children
while she was absent. Mrs. Westerfield answered quietly and
coldly: "Thank you--their father wishes to see them."

The prisoner was dying; nobody could look at him and doubt it.

His eyes opened wearily, when his wife and children approached
the bed on which he lay helpless--the wreck of a grandly-made
man. He struggled for breath, but he could still speak a word or
two at a time. "I don't ask you what the verdict is," he said to
his wife; "I see it in your face."

Tearless and silent, she waited by her husband's side. He had
only noticed her for a moment. All his interest seemed to be
centered in his children. The girl stood nearest to him, he
looked at her with a faint smile.

The poor child understood him. Crying piteously, she put her arms
around his neck and kissed him. "Dear papa," she said; "come home
and let me nurse you."

The surgeon, watching the father's face, saw a change in him
which the other persons present had not observed. The failing
heart felt that parting moment, and sank under it. "Take the
child away," the surgeon whispered to the mother. Brandy was near
him; he administered it while he spoke, and touched the
fluttering pulse. It felt, just felt, the stimulant. He revived
for a moment, and looked wistfully for his son. "The boy," he
murmured; "I want my boy." As his wife brought the child to him,
the surgeon whispered to her again. "If you have anything to say
to him be quick about it!" She shuddered; she took his cold hand.
Her touch seemed to nerve him with new strength; he asked her to
stoop over him. "They won't let me write here," he whispered,
"unless they see my letter." He paused to get his breath again.
"Lift up my left arm," he gasped. "Open the wrist-band."

She detached the stud which closed the wrist-band of the shirt.
On the inner side of the linen there was a line written in red
letters--red of the color of blood. She saw these words: _Look in
the lining of my trunk._

"What for?" she asked.

The fading light in his eyes flashed on her a dreadful look of
doubt. His lips fell apart in the vain effort to answer. His last
sigh fluttered the light ringlets of her hair as she bent over

The surgeon pointed to her children. "Take the poor things home,"
he said; "they have seen the last of their father."

Mrs. Westerfield obeyed in silence. She had her own reasons for
being in a hurry to get home. Leaving the children under the
servant's care, she locked herself up in the dead man's room, and
emptied his trunk of the few clothes that had been left in it.

The lining which she was now to examine was of the customary
material, and of the usual striped pattern in blue and white. Her
fingers were not sufficiently sensitive to feel anything under
the surface, when she tried it with her hand. Turning the empty
trunk with the inner side of the lid toward the light, she
discovered, on one of the blue stripes of the lining, a thin
little shining stain which looked like a stain of dried gum.
After a moment's consideration, she cut the gummed line with a
penknife. Something of a white color appeared through the
aperture. She drew out a folded sheet of paper.

It proved to be a letter in her husband's hand-writing. An
inclosure dropped to the floor when she opened it, in the shape
of a small slip of paper. She picked it up. The morsel of paper
presented letters, figures, and crosses arranged in lines, and
mingled together in what looked like hopeless confusion.

3.--The Letter.

Mrs. Westerfield laid the incomprehensible slip of paper aside,
and, in search of an explanation, returned to the letter. Here
again she found herself in a state of perplexity. Directed to
"Mrs. Roderick Westerfield," the letter began abruptly, without
the customary form of address. Did it mean that her husband was
angry with her when he wrote? It meant that he doubted her.

In these terms he expressed himself:

"I write to you before my trial takes place. If the verdict goes
in my favor, I shall destroy what I have written. If I am found
guilty, I must leave it to you to do what I should otherwise have
done for myself.

"The undeserved misfortune that has overtaken me began with the
arrival of my ship in the port of Rio. Our second mate (his duty
for the day being done) asked leave to go on shore--and never
returned. What motive determined him on deserting, I am not able
to say. It was my own wish to supply his place by promoting the
best seaman on board. My owners' agents overruled me, and
appointed a man of their own choosing.

"What nation he belonged to I don't know. The name he gave me was
Beljames, and he was reported to be a broken-down gentleman.
Whoever he might be, his manner and his talk were captivating.
Everybody liked him.

"After the two calamities of the loss of the ship and the
disappearance of the diamonds--these last being valued at five
thousand pounds--I returned to England by the first opportunity
that offered, having Beljames for a companion.

"Shortly after getting back to my house in London, I was
privately warned by a good friend that my owners had decided to
prosecute me for willfully casting away the ship, and (crueler
still) for having stolen the missing diamonds. The second mate,
who had been in command of the vessel when she struck on the
rock, was similarly charged along with me. Knowing myself to be
innocent, I determined, of course, to stand my trial. My wonder
was, what Beljames would do. Would he follow my example? or, if
he got the chance, would he try to make his escape?

"I might have thought it only friendly to give this person a word
of warning, if I had known where to find him. We had separated
when the ship reached the port of Falmouth, in Cornwall, and had
not met since. I gave him my address in London; but he gave me no
address in return.

"On the voyage home, Beljames told me that a legacy had been left
to him; being a small freehold house and garden in St. John's
Wood, London. His agent, writing to him on the subject, had
reported the place to be sadly out of repair, and had advised him
to find somebody who would take it off his hands
on reasonable terms. This seemed to point to a likelihood of his
being still in London, trying to sell his house.

"While my mind was running on these recollections, I was told
that a decent elderly woman wanted to see me. She proved to be
the landlady of the house in which Beljames lodged; and she
brought an alarming message. The man was dying, and desired to
see me. I went to him immediately.

"Few words are best, when one has to write about one's own

"Beljames had heard of the intended prosecution. How he had been
made aware of it, death left him no time to tell me. The
miserable wretch had poisoned himself--whether in terror of
standing his trial, or in remorse of conscience, it is not any
business of mine to decide. Most unluckily for me, he first
ordered the doctor and the landlady out of the room; and then,
when we two were alone, owned that he had purposely altered the
course of the ship, and had stolen the diamonds.

"To do him justice, he was eager to save me from suffering for
his fault.

"Having eased his mind by confession, he gave me the slip of
paper (written in cipher) which you will find inclosed in this.
'There is my note of the place where the diamonds are hidden,' he
said. Among the many ignorant people who know nothing of ciphers,
I am one--and I told him so. 'That's how I keep my secret,' he
said; 'write from my dictation, and you shall know what it means.
Lift me up first.' As I did it, he rolled his head to and fro,
evidently in pain. But he managed to point to pen, ink, and
paper, on a table hard by, on which his doctor had been writing.
I left him for a moment, to pull the table nearer to the bed--and
in that moment he groaned, and cried out for help. I ran to the
room downstairs where the doctor was waiting. When we got back to
him he was in convulsions. It was all over with Beljames.

"The lawyers who are to defend me have tried to get Experts, as
they call them, to interpret the cipher. The Experts have all
failed. They will declare, if they are called as witnesses, that
the signs on the paper are not according to any known rules, and
are marks made at random, meaning nothing.

"As for any statement, on my part, of the confession made to me,
the law refuses to hear it, except from the mouth of a witness. I
might prove that the ship's course was changed, contrary to my
directions, after I had gone below to rest, if I could find the
man who was steering at the time. God only knows where that man

"On the other hand, the errors of my past life, and my being in
debt, are circumstances dead against me. The lawyers seem to
trust almost entirely in a famous counsel, whom they have engaged
to defend me. For my own part, I go to my trial with little or no

"If the verdict is guilty, and if you have any regard left for my
character, never rest until you have found somebody who can
interpret these cursed signs. Do for me, I say, what I cannot do
for myself. Recover the diamonds; and, when you restore them,
show my owners this letter.

"Kiss the children for me. I wish them, when they are old enough,
to read this defense of myself and to know that their father, who
loved them dearly, was an innocent man. My good brother will take
care of you, for my sake. I have done.


Mrs. Westerfield took up the cipher once more. She looked at it
as if it were a living thing that defied her.

"If I am able to read this gibberish," she decided, "I know what
I'll do with the diamonds!"

4.--The Garret.

One year exactly after the fatal day of the trial, Mrs.
Westerfield (secluded in the sanctuary of her bedroom) celebrated
her release from the obligation of wearing widow's weeds.

The conventional graduations in the outward expression of grief,
which lead from black clothing to gray, formed no part of this
afflicted lady's system of mourning. She laid her best blue
walking dress and her new bonnet to match on the bed, and admired
them to her heart's content. Her discarded garments were left on
the floor. "Thank Heaven, I've done with you!" she said--and
kicked her rusty mourning out of the way as she advanced to the
fireplace to ring the bell.

"Where is my little boy?" she asked, when the landlady entered
the room.

"He's down with me in the kitchen, ma'am; I'm teaching him to
make a plum cake for himself. He's so happy! I hope you don't
want him just now?"

"Not the least in the world. I want you to take care of him while
I am away. By-the-by, where's Syd?"

The elder child (the girl) had been christened Sydney, in
compliment to one of her father's female relatives. The name was
not liked by her mother--who had shortened it to Syd, by way of
leaving as little of it as possible. With a look at Mrs.
Westerfield which expressed ill-concealed aversion, the landlady
answered: "She's up in the lumber-room, poor child. She says you
sent her there to be out of the way."

"Ah, to be sure, I did."

"There's no fireplace in the garret, ma'am. I'm afraid the little
girl must be cold and lonely."

It was useless to plead for Syd--Mrs. Westerfield was not
listening. Her attention was absorbed by her own plump and pretty
hands. She took a tiny file from the dressing-table, and put a
few finishing touches to her nails. "Send me some hot water," she
said; "I want to dress."

The servant girl who carried the hot water upstairs was new to
the ways of the house. After having waited on Mrs. Westerfield,
she had been instructed by the kind-hearted landlady to go on to
the top floor. "You will find a pretty little girl in the garret,
all by herself. Say you are to bring her down to my room, as soon
as her mamma has gone out."

Mrs. Westerfield's habitual neglect of her eldest child was known
to every person in the house. Even the new servant had heard of
it. Interested by what she saw, on opening the garret door, she
stopped on the threshold and looked in.

The lumber in the room consisted of two rotten old trunks, a
broken chair, and a dirty volume of sermons of the old-fashioned
quarto size. The grimy ceiling, slanting downward to a cracked
window, was stained with rain that had found its way through the
roof. The faded wall-paper, loosened by damp, was torn away in
some places, and bulged loose in others. There were holes in the
skirting-board; and from one of them peeped the brightly timid
eyes of the child's only living companion in the garret--a mouse,
feeding on crumbs which she had saved from her breakfast.

Syd looked up when the mouse darted back into its hole, on the
opening of the door. "Lizzie! Lizzie!" she said, gravely, "you
ought to have come in without making a noise. You have frightened
away my youngest child."

The good-natured servant burst out laughing. "Have you got a
large family, miss?" she inquired, humoring the joke.

Syd failed to see the joke. "Only two more," she answered as
gravely as ever--and lifted up from the floor two miserable
dolls, reduced to the last extremity of dirt and dilapidation.
"My two eldest," this strange child resumed, setting up the dolls
against one of the empty trunks. "The eldest is a girl, and her
name is Syd. The other is a boy, untidy in his clothes, as you
see. Their kind mamma forgives them when they are naughty, and
buys ponies for them to ride on, and always has something nice
for them to eat when they are hungry. Have you got a kind mamma,
Lizzie? And are you very fond of her?"

Those innocent allusions to the neglect which was the one sad
experience of Syd's young life touched the servant's heart. A
bygone time was present to her memory, when she too had been left
without a playfellow to keep her company or a fire to warm her,
and she had not endured it patiently.

"Oh, my dear," she said, "your poor little arms are red with
cold. Come to me and let me rub them."

But Syd's bright imagination was a better protection against the
cold than all the rubbing that the hands of a merciful woman
could offer. "You are very kind, Lizzie," she answered. "I don't
feel the cold when I am playing with my children. I am very
careful to give them plenty of exercise, we are going to walk in
the Park."

She gave a hand to each of the d olls, and walked slowly round
and round the miserable room, pointing out visionary persons of
distinction and objects of interest. "Here's the queen, my dears,
in her gilt coach, drawn by six horses. Do you see her scepter
poking out of the carriage window? She governs the nation with
that. Bow to the queen. And now look at the beautiful bright
water. There's the island where the ducks live. Ducks are happy
creatures. They have their own way in everything, and they're
good to eat when they're dead. At least they used to be good,
when we had nice dinners in papa's time. I try to amuse the poor
little things, Lizzie. Their papa is dead. I'm obliged to be papa
and mamma to them, both in one. Do you feel the cold, my dears?"
She shivered as she questioned her imaginary children. "Now we
are at home again," she said, and led the dolls to the empty
fireplace. "Roaring fires always in _my_ house," cried the
resolute little creature, rubbing her hands cheerfully before the
bleak blank grate.

Warm-hearted Lizzie could control herself no longer.

"If the child would only make some complaint," she burst out, "it
wouldn't be so dreadful! Oh, what a shame! what a shame!" she
cried, to the astonishment of little Syd. "Come down, my dear, to
the nice warm room where your brother is. Oh, your mother? I
don't care if your mother sees us; I should like to give your
mother a piece of my mind. There! I don't mean to frighten you;
I'm one of your bad children--I fly into a passion. You carry the
dolls and I'll carry _you_. Oh, how she shivers! Give us a kiss."

Sympathy which expressed itself in this way was new to Syd. Her
eyes opened wide in childish wonder--and suddenly closed again in
childish terror, when her good friend the servant passed Mrs.
Westerfield's door on the way downstairs. "If mamma bounces out
on us," she whispered, "pretend we don't see her." The nice warm
room received them in safety. Under no stress of circumstances
had Mrs. Westerfield ever been known to dress herself in a hurry.
A good half-hour more had passed before the house door was heard
to bang--and the pleasant landlady, peeping through the window,
said: "There she goes. Now, we'll enjoy ourselves!"

5.--The Landlord.

Mrs. Westerfield's destination was the public-house in which she
had been once employed as a barmaid. Entering the place without
hesitation, she sent in her card to the landlord. He opened the
parlor door himself and invited her to walk in.

"You wear well," he said, admiring her. "Have you come back here
to be my barmaid again?"

"Do you think I am reduced to that?" she answered.

"Well, my dear, more unlikely things have happened. They tell me
you depend for your income on Lord Le Basque--and his lordship's
death was in the newspapers last week."

"And his lordship's lawyers continue my allowance."

Having smartly set the landlord right in those words, she had not
thought it necessary to add that Lady Le Basque, continuing the
allowance at her husband's request, had also notified that it
would cease if Mrs. Westerfield married again.

"You're a lucky woman," the landlord remarked. "Well, I'm glad to
see you. What will you take to drink?"

"Nothing, thank you. I want to know if you have heard anything
lately of James Bellbridge?"

The landlord was a popular person in his own circle--not
accustomed to restrain himself when he saw his way to a joke.
"Here's constancy!" he said. "She's sweet on James, after having
jilted him twelve years ago!"

Mrs. Westerfield replied with dignity. "I am accustomed to be
treated respectfully," she replied. "I wish you good-morning."

The easy landlord pressed her back into her chair. "Don't be a
fool," he said; "James is in London--James is staying in my
house. What do you think of that?"

Mrs. Westerfield's bold gray eyes expressed eager curiosity and
interest. "You don't mean that he is going to be barman here

"No such luck, my dear; he is a gentleman at large, who
patronizes my house."

Mrs. Westerfield went on with her questions.

"Has he left America for good?"

"Not he! James Bellbridge is going back to New York, to open a
saloon (as they call it) in partnership with another man. He's in
England, he says, on business. It's my belief that he wants money
for this new venture on bad security. They're smart people in New
York. His only chance of getting his bills discounted is to
humbug his relations, down in the country."

"When does he go to the country?"

"He's there now."

"When does he come back?"

"You're determined to see him, it appears. He comes back

"Is he married?"

"Aha! now we're coming to the point. Make your mind easy. Plenty
of women have set the trap for him, but he has not walked into it
yet. Shall I give him your love?"

"Yes," she said, coolly. "As much love as you please."

"Meaning marriage?" the landlord inquired.

"And money," Mrs. Westerfield added.

"Lord Le Basque's money."

"Lord Le Basque's money may go to the Devil!"

"Hullo! Your language reminds me of the time when you were a
barmaid. You don't mean to say you have had a fortune left you?"

"I do! Will you give a message to James?"

"I'll do anything for a lady with a fortune."

"Tell him to come and drink tea with his old sweetheart tomorrow,
at six o'clock."

"He won't do it."

"He will."

With that difference of opinion, they parted.

6.--The Brute.

To-morrow came--and Mrs. Westerfield's faithful James justified
her confidence in him.

"Oh, Jemmy, how glad I am to see you! You dear, dear fellow. I'm
yours at last."

"That depends, my lady, on whether I want you. Let go of my

The man who entered this protest against imprisonment in the arms
of a fine woman, was one of the human beings who are grown to
perfection on English soil He had the fat face, the pink
complexion, the hard blue eyes, the scanty yellow hair, the smile
with no meaning in it, the tremendous neck and shoulders, the
mighty fists and feet, which are seen in complete combination in
England only. Men of this breed possess a nervous system without
being aware of it; suffer affliction without feeling it; exercise
courage without a sense of danger; marry without love; eat and
drink without limit; and sink (big as they are), when disease
attacks them, without an effort to live.

Mrs. Westerfield released her guest's bull-neck at the word of
command. It was impossible not to submit to him--he was so
brutal. Impossible not to admire him--he was so big.

"Have you no love left for me?" was all she ventured to say.

He took the reproof good-humoredly. "Love?" he repeated. "Come! I
like that--after throwing me over for a man with a handle to his
name. Which am I to call you: 'Mrs?' or 'My Lady'?"

"Call me your own. What is there to laugh at, Jemmy? You used to
be fond of me; you would never have gone to America, when I
married Westerfield, if I hadn't been dear to you. Oh, if I'm
sure of anything, I'm sure of that! You wouldn't bear malice,
dear, if you only knew how cruelly I have been disappointed."

He suddenly showed an interest in what she was saying: the brute
became cheery and confidential. "So he made you a bad husband,
did he? Up with his fist and knocked you down, I daresay, if the
truth was known?"

"You're all in the wrong, dear. He would have been a good husband
if I had cared about him. I never cared about anybody but you. It
wasn't Westerfield who tempted me to say Yes."

"That's a lie."

"No, indeed it isn't."

"Then why did you marry him?"

"When I married him, Jemmy, there was a prospect--oh, how could I
resist it? Think of being one of the Le Basques! Held in honor,
to the end of my life, by that noble family, whether my husband
lived or died!"

To the barman's ears, this sounded like sheer nonsense. His
experience in the public-house suggested an explanation. "I say,
my girl, have you been drinking?"

Mrs. Westerfield's first impulse led her to rise and point
indignantly to the door. He had only to look at her--and she sat
down again a tamed woman. "You don't understand how the chance
tempted me," she answered, gently.

"What chance do you mean?"

"The chance, dear, of being a lord's mother."

He was still puzzled, but he lowered his ton e. The true-born
Briton bowed by instinct before the woman who had jilted him,
when she presented herself in the character of a lord's mother.
"How do you make that out, Maria?" he asked politely.

She drew her chair nearer to him, when he called her by her
Christian name for the first time.

"When Westerfield was courting me," she said, "his brother (my
lord) was a bachelor. A lady--if one can call such a creature a
lady!--was living under his protection. He told Westerfield he
was very fond of her, and he hated the idea of getting married.
'If your wife's first child turns out to be a son,' he said,
'there is an heir to the title and estates, and I may go on as I
am now.' We were married a month afterward--and when my first
child was born it was a girl. I leave you to judge what the
disappointment was! My lord (persuaded, as I suspect, by the
woman I mentioned just now) ran the risk of waiting another year,
and a year afterward, rather than be married. Through all that
time, I had no other child or prospect of a child. His lordship
was fairly driven into taking a wife. Ah, how I hate her! _Their_
first child was a boy--a big, bouncing, healthy brute of a boy!
And six months afterward, my poor little fellow was born. Only
think of it! And tell me, Jemmy, don't I deserve to be a happy
woman, after suffering such a dreadful disappointment as that? Is
it true that you're going back to America?"

"Quite true."

"Take me back with you."

"With a couple of children?"

"No. Only with one. I can dispose of the other in England. Wait a
little before you say No. Do you want money?"

"You couldn't help me, if I did."

"Marry me, and I can help you to a fortune."

He eyed her attentively and saw that she was in earnest. "What do
you call a fortune?" he asked.

"Five thousand pounds," she answered.

His eyes opened; his mouth opened; he scratched his head. Even
his impenetrable nature proved to be capable of receiving a
shock. Five thousand pounds! He asked faintly for "a drop of

She had a bottle of brandy ready for him.

"You look quite overcome," she said.

He was too deeply interested in the restorative influence of the
brandy to take any notice of this remark. When he had recovered
himself he was not disposed to believe in the five thousand

"Where's the proof of it?" he said, sternly.

She produced her husband's letter. "Did you read the Trial of
Westerfield for casting away his ship?" she asked.

"I heard of it."

"Will you look at this letter?"

"Is it long?"


"Then suppose you read it to me."

He listened with the closest attention while she read. The
question of stealing the diamonds (if they could only be found)
did not trouble either of them. It was a settled question, by
tacit consent on both sides. But the value in money of the
precious stones suggested a doubt that still weighed on his mind.

"How do you know they're worth five thousand pounds?" he

"You dear old stupid! Doesn't Westerfield himself say so in his

"Read that bit again."

She read it again: "After the two calamities of the loss of the
ship, and the disappearance of the diamonds--these last being
valued at five thousand pounds--I returned to England."

Satisfied so far, he wanted to look at the cipher next. She
handed it to him with a stipulation: "Yours, Jemmy, on the day
when you marry me."

He put the slip of paper into his pocket. "Now I've got it," he
said, "suppose I keep it?"

A woman who has been barmaid at a public-house is a woman not
easily found at the end of her resources.

"In that case," she curtly remarked, "I should first call in the
police, and then telegraph to my husband's employers in

He handed the cipher back. "I was joking," he said.

"So was I," she answered.

They looked at each other. They were made for each other--and
they both felt it. At the same time, James kept his own interests
steadily in view. He stated the obvious objection to the cipher.
Experts had already tried to interpret the signs, and had failed.

"Quite true," she added, "but other people may succeed."

"How are you to find them?"

"Leave me to try. Will you give me a fortnight from to-day?"

"All right. Anything else?"

"One thing more. Get the marriage license at once."


"To show that you are in earnest."

He burst out laughing. "It mightn't be much amiss," he said, "if
I took you back with me to America; you're the sort of woman we
want in our new saloon. I'll get the license. Good-night."

As he rose to go, there was a soft knock at the door. A little
girl, in a shabby frock, ventured to show herself in the room.

"What do you want here?" her mother asked sharply.

Syd held out a small thin hand, with a letter in it, which
represented her only excuse. Mrs. Westerfield read the letter,
and crumpled it up in her pocket. "One of your secrets?" James
asked. "Anything about the diamonds, for instance?

"Wait till you are my husband," she said, and then you may be as
inquisitive as you please." Her amiable sweetheart's guess had
actually hit the mark. During the year that had passed, she too
had tried her luck among the Experts, and had failed. Having
recently heard of a foreign interpreter of ciphers, she had
written to ask his terms. The reply (just received) not only
estimated his services at an extravagantly high rate, but asked
cautious questions which it was not convenient to answer. Another
attempt had been made to discover the mystery of the cipher, and
made in vain.

James Bellbridge had his moments of good-humor, and was on those
rare occasions easily amused. He eyed the child with
condescending curiosity. "Looks half starved," he said--as if he
were considering the case of a stray cat. "Hollo, there! Buy a
bit of bread." He tossed a penny to Syd as she left the room; and
took the opportunity of binding his bargain with Syd's mother.
"Mind! if I take you to New York, I'm not going to be burdened
with both your children. Is that girl the one you leave behind

Mrs. Westerfield smiled sweetly, and answered: "Yes, dear."

7.--The Cipher.

An advertisement in the newspapers, addressed to persons skilled
in the interpretation of ciphers, now represented Mrs.
Westerfield's only chance of discovering where the diamonds were
hidden. The first answer that she received made some amends for
previous disappointment. It offered references to gentlemen,
whose names were in themselves a sufficient guarantee. She
verified the references nevertheless, and paid a visit to her
correspondent on the same day

His personal appearance was not in his favor--he was old and
dirty, infirm and poor. His mean room was littered with shabby
books. None of the ordinary courtesies of life seemed to be known
to him; he neither wished Mrs. Westerfield good-morning nor asked
her to take a seat. When she attempted to enter into explanations
relating to her errand, he rudely interrupted her.

"Show me your cipher," he said; "I don't promise to study it
unless I find it worth my while."

Mrs. Westerfield was alarmed.

"Do you mean that you want a large sum of money?" she asked.

"I mean that I don't waste my time on easy ciphers invented by

She laid the slip of paper on his desk.

"Waste your time on _that_," she said satirically, "and see how
you like it!"

He examined it--first with his bleared red-rimmed eyes; then with
a magnifying-glass. The only expression of opinion that escaped
him was indicated by his actions. He shut up his book, and
gloated over the signs and characters before him. On a sudden he
looked at Mrs. Westerfield. "How did you come by this?" he asked.

"That's no business of yours."

"In other words, you have reasons of your own for not answering
my question?"


Drawing his own inferences from that reply, he showed his three
last-left yellow teeth in a horrid grin. "I understand!" he said,
speaking to himself. He looked at the cipher once more, and put
another question: "Have you got a copy of this?"

It had not occurred to her to take a copy. He rose and pointed to
his empty chair. His opinion of the cipher was, to all
appearance, forced to express itself by the discovery that there
was no copy.

"Do y ou know what might happen?" he asked. "The only cipher that
has puzzled me for the last ten years might be lost--or
stolen--or burned if there was a fire in the house. You deserve
to be punished for your carelessness. Make the copy yourself."

This desirable suggestion (uncivilly as it was expressed) had its
effect upon Mrs. Westerfield. Her marriage depended on that
precious slip of paper. She was confirmed in her opinion that
this very disagreeable man might nevertheless be a man to be

"Shall you be long in finding out what it means?" she asked when
her task was completed.

He carefully compared the copy with the original--and then he

"Days may pass before I can find the clew; I won't attempt it
unless you give me a week."

She pleaded for a shorter interval. He coolly handed back her
papers; the original and the copy.

"Try somebody else," he suggested--and opened his book again.
Mrs. Westerfield yielded with the worst possible grace. In
granting him the week of delay, she approached the subject of his
fee for the second time. "How much will it cost me?" she

"I'll tell you when I've done."

"That won't do! I must know the amount first."

He handed her back her papers for the second time. Mrs.
Westerfield's experience of poverty had never been the experience
of such independence as this. In sheer bewilderment, she yielded
again. He took back the original cipher, and locked it up in his
desk. "Call here this day week," he said--and returned to his

"You are not very polite," she told him, on leaving the room.

"At any rate," he answered, "I don't interrupt people when they
are reading."

The week passed.

Repeating her visit, Mrs. Westerfield found him still seated at
his desk, still surrounded by his books, still careless of the
polite attentions that he owed to a lady.

"Well?" she asked, "have you earned your money?"

"I have found the clew."

"What is it?" she burst out. "Tell me the substance. I can't wait
to read."

He went on impenetrably with what he had to say. "But there are
some minor combinations, which I have still to discover to my own
satisfaction. I want a few days more."

She positively refused to comply with this request. "Write down
the substance of it," she repeated, "and tell me what I owe you."

He handed her back her cipher for the third time.

The woman who could have kept her temper, under such provocation
as this, may be found when the mathematician is found who can
square the circle, or the inventor who can discover perpetual
motion. With a furious look, Mrs. Westerfield expressed her
opinion of the philosopher in two words: "You brute!" She failed
to produce the slightest impression on him.

"My work," he proceeded, "must be well done or not done at all.
This is Saturday, eleventh of the month. We will say the evening
of Wednesday next."

Mrs. Westerfield sufficiently controlled herself to be able to
review her engagements for the coming week. On Thursday, the
delay exacted by the marriage license would expire, and the
wedding might take place. On Friday, the express train conveyed
passengers to Liverpool, to be in time for the departure of the
steamer for New York on Saturday morning. Having made these
calculations, she asked, with sulky submission, if she was
expected to call again on the Wednesday evening.

"No. Leave me your name and address. I will send you the cipher,
interpreted, at eight o'clock."

Mrs. Westerfield laid one of her visiting cards on his desk, and
left him.

8.--The Diamonds.

The new week was essentially a week of events.

On the Monday morning, Mrs. Westerfield and her faithful James
had their first quarrel. She took the liberty of reminding him
that it was time to give notice of the marriage at the church,
and to secure berths in the steamer for herself and her son.
Instead of answering one way or another, James asked how the
Expert was getting on.

"Has your old man found out where the diamonds are?"

"Not yet."

"Then we'll wait till he does."

"Do you believe my word?" Mrs. Westerfield asked curtly.

James Bellbridge answered, with Roman brevity, "No."

This was an insult; Mrs. Westerfield expressed her sense of it.
She rose, and pointed to the door. "Go back to America, as soon
as you please," she said; "and find the money you want--if you

As a proof that she was in earnest she took her copy of the
cipher out of the bosom of her dress, and threw it into the fire.
"The original is safe in my old man's keeping," she added. "Leave
the room."

James rose with suspicious docility, and walked out, having his
own private ends in view.

Half an hour later, Mrs. Westerfield's old man was interrupted
over his work by a person of bulky and blackguard appearance,
whom he had never seen before.

The stranger introduced himself as a gentleman who was engaged to
marry Mrs. Westerfield: he requested (not at all politely) to be
permitted to look at the cipher. He was asked if he had brought a
written order to that effect, signed by the lady herself. Mr.
Bellbridge, resting his fists on the writing-table, answered that
he had come to look at the cipher on his own sole responsibility,
and that he insisted on seeing it immediately. "Allow me to show
you something else first," was the reply he received to this
assertion of his will and pleasure. "Do you know a loaded pistol,
sir, when you see it?" The barrel of the pistol approached within
three inches of the barman's big head as he leaned over the
writing-table. For once in his life he was taken by surprise. It
had never occurred to him that a professed interpreter of ciphers
might sometimes be trusted with secrets which placed him in a
position of danger, and might therefore have wisely taken
measures to protect himself. No power of persuasion is comparable
to the power possessed by a loaded pistol. James left the room;
and expressed his sentiments in language which has not yet found
its way into any English Dictionary.

But he had two merits, when his temper was in a state of repose.
He knew when he was beaten; and he thoroughly appreciated the
value of the diamonds. When Mrs. Westerfield saw him again, on
the next day, he appeared with undeniable claims on her mercy.
Notice of the marriage had been received at the church; and a
cabin had been secured for her on board the steamer.

Her prospects being thus settled, to her own satisfaction, Mrs.
Westerfield was at liberty to make her arrangements for the
desertion of poor little Syd.

The person on whose assistance she could rely was an unmarried
elder sister, distinguished as proprietor of a cheap girls'
school in one of the suburbs of London. This lady--known to local
fame as Miss Wigger--had already proposed to take Syd into
training as a pupil teacher. "I'll force the child on," Miss
Wigger promised, "till she can earn her board and lodging by
taking my lowest class. When she gets older she will replace my
regular governess, and I shall save the salary."

With this proposal waiting for a reply, Mrs. Westerfield had only
to inform her sister that it was accepted. "Come here," she
wrote, "on Friday next, at any time before two o'clock, and Syd
shall be ready for you. P.S.--I am to be married again on
Thursday, and start for America with my husband and my boy by
next Saturday's steamer."

The letter was posted; and the mother's anxious mind was, to use
her own phrase, relieved of another worry.

As the hour of eight drew near on Wednesday evening, Mrs.
Westerfield's anxiety forced her to find relief in action of some
kind. She opened the door of her sitting-room and listened on the
stairs. It still wanted for a few minutes to eight o'clock, when
there was a ring at the house-bell. She ran down to open the
door. The servant happened to be in the hall, and answered the
bell. The next moment, the door was suddenly closed again.

"Anybody there?" Mrs. Westerfield asked.

"No, ma'am."

This seemed strange. Had the old wretch deceived her, after all?
"Look in the letter-box," she called out. The servant obeyed, and
found a letter. Mrs. Westerfield tore it open, standing on the
stairs. It contained half a sheet of common note-paper. The
interpretation of the c ipher was written on it in these words:

"Remember Number 12, Purbeck Road, St. John's Wood. Go to the
summer-house in the back garden. Count to the fourth plank in the
floor, reckoning from the side wall on the right as you enter the
summer-house. Prize up the plank. Look under the mould and
rubbish. Find the diamonds."

Not a word of explanation accompanied these lines. Neither had
the original cipher been returned. The strange old man had earned
his money, and had not attended to receive it--had not even sent
word where or how it might be paid! Had he delivered his letter
himself? He (or his messenger) had gone before the house-door
could be opened!

A sudden suspicion of him turned her cold. Had he stolen the
diamonds? She was on the point of sending for a cab, and driving
it to his lodgings, when James came in, eager to know if the
interpretation had arrived.

Keeping her suspicions to herself, she merely informed him that
the interpretation was in her hands. He at once asked to see it.
She refused to show it to him until he had made her his wife.
"Put a chisel in your pocket, when we go to church, to-morrow
morning," was the one hint she gave him. As thoroughly worthy of
each other as ever, the betrothed lovers distrusted each other to
the last.

At eleven o'clock the next morning they were united in the bonds
of wedlock; the landlord and the landlady of the public-house in
which they had both served being the only witnesses present. The
children were not permitted to see the ceremony. On leaving the
church door, the married pair began their honeymoon by driving to
St. John's Wood.

A dirty printed notice, in a broken window, announced that the
House was To Let; and a sour-tempered woman informed them that
they were free to look at the rooms.

The bride was in the best of humors. She set the bridegroom the
example of keeping up appearances by examining the dilapidated
house first. This done, she said sweetly to the person in charge,
"May we look at the garden?"

The woman made a strange answer to this request. "That's
curious," she said.

James interfered for the first time. "What's curious?" he asked

"Among all the idle people who have come here, at one time or
another, to see this house." the woman said, "only two have
wanted to look at the garden."

James turned on his heel, and made for the summer-house, leaving
it to his wife to pursue the subject or not as she pleased. She
did pursue the subject.

"I am one of the persons, of course," she said. "Who is the

"An old man came on Monday."

The bride's pleasant smile vanished.

"What sort of person was he?" she asked.

The sour-tempered woman became sourer than ever.

"Oh, how can I tell! A brute. There!"

"A brute!" The very words which the new Mrs. Bellbridge had
herself used when the Expert had irritated her. With serious
misgivings, she, too, turned her steps in the direction of the

James had already followed her instructions and used his chisel.
The plank lay loose on the floor. With both his big hands he
rapidly cleared away the mould and the rubbish. In a few minutes
the hiding-place was laid bare.

They looked into it. They looked at each other. There was the
empty hole, telling its own story. The diamonds were gone.

9.--The Mother.

Mrs. Bellbridge eyed her husband, prepared for a furious outbreak
of rage. He stood silent, staring stupidly straight before him.
The shock that had fallen on his dull brain had stunned it. For
the time, he was a big idiot--speechless, harmless, helpless.

She put back the rubbish, and replaced the plank, and picked up
the chisel. "Come, James," she said; "pull yourself together." It
was useless to speak to him. She took his arm and led him out to
the cab that was waiting at the door.

The driver, helping him to get in, noticed a piece of paper lying
on the front seat. Advertisements, seeking publicity under all
possible circumstances, are occasionally sent flying into the
open windows of vehicles. The driver was about to throw the paper
away, when Mrs. Bellbridge (seeing it on the other side) took it
out of his hand. "It isn't print," she said; "it's writing." A
closer examination showed that the writing was addressed to
herself. Her correspondent must have followed her to the church,
as well as to the house in St. John's Wood. He distinguished her
by the name which she had changed that morning, under the
sanction of the clergy and the law.

This was what she read: "Don't trouble yourself, madam, about the
diamonds. You have made a mistake--you have employed the wrong

Those words--and no more. Enough, surely, to justify the
conclusion that he had stolen the diamonds. Was it worth while to
drive to his lodgings? They tried the experiment. The Expert had
gone away on business--nobody knew where.

The newspaper came as usual on Friday morning. To Mrs.
Bellbridge's amazement it set the question of the theft at rest,
on the highest authority. An article appeared, in a conspicuous
position, thus expressed:

"Another of the many proofs that truth is stranger than fiction
has just occurred at Liverpool. A highly respected firm of
shipwreckers in that city received a strange letter at the
beginning of the present week. Premising that he had some
remarkable circumstances to communicate, the writer of the letter
entered abruptly on the narrative which follows: A friend of
his--connected with literature--had, it appeared, noticed a
lady's visiting card on his desk, and had been reminded by it (in
what way it was not necessary to explain) of a criminal case
which had excited considerable public interest at the time; viz.,
the trial of Captain Westerfield for willfully casting away a
ship under his command. Never having heard of the trial, the
writer, at his friend's suggestion, consulted a file of
newspapers--discovered the report--and became aware, for the
first time, that a collection of Brazilian diamonds, consigned to
the Liverpool firm, was missing from the wrecked vessel when she
had been boarded by the salvage party, and had not been found
since. Events, which it was impossible for him to mention (seeing
that doing so would involve a breach of confidence placed in him
in his professional capacity), had revealed to his knowledge a
hiding-place in which these same diamonds, in all probability,
were concealed. This circumstance had left him no alternative, as
an honest man, but to be beforehand with the persons, who (as he
believed) contemplated stealing the precious stones. He had,
accordingly, taken them under his protection, until they were
identified and claimed by the rightful owners. In now appealing
to these gentlemen, he stipulated that the claim should be set
forth in writing, addressed to him under initials at a
post-office in London. If the lost property was identified to his
satisfaction, he would meet--at a specified place and on a
certain day and hour--a person accredited by the firm and would
personally restore the diamonds, without claiming (or consenting
to receive) a reward. The conditions being complied with, this
remarkable interview took place; the writer of the letter,
described as an infirm old man very poorly dressed, fulfilled his
engagement, took his receipt, and walked away without even
waiting to be thanked. It is only an act of justice to add that
the diamonds were afterward counted, and not one of them was

Miserable, deservedly-miserable married pair. The stolen fortune,
on which they had counted, had slipped through their fingers. The
berths in the steamer for New York had been taken and paid for.
James had married a woman with nothing besides herself to bestow
on him, except an incumbrance in the shape of a boy.

Late on the fatal wedding-day his first idea, when he was himself
again after the discovery in the summer-house, was to get back
his passage-money, to abandon his wife and his stepson, and to
escape to America in a French steamer. He went to the office of
the English company, and offered the places which he had taken
for sale. The season of the year was against him; the
passenger-traffic to America was at its lowest ebb, and profits
depended upon freights alone.
If he still contemplated deserting his wife, he must also submit
to sacrifice his money. The other alternative was (as he
expressed it himself) to "have his pennyworth for his penny, and
to turn his family to good account in New York." He had not quite
decided what to do when he got home again on the evening of his

At that critical moment in her life the bride was equal to the
demand on her resources.

If she was foolish enough to allow James to act on his natural
impulses, there were probably two prospects before her. In one
state of his temper, he might knock her down. In another state of
his temper, he might leave her behind him. Her only hope of
protecting herself, in either case, was to tame the bridegroom.
In his absence, she wisely armed herself with the most
irresistible fascinations of her sex. Never yet had he seen her
dressed as she was dressed when he came home. Never yet had her
magnificent eyes looked at him as they looked now. Emotions for
which he was not prepared overcame this much injured man; he
stared at the bride in helpless surprise. That inestimable moment
of weakness was all Mrs. Bellbridge asked for. Bewildered by his
own transformation, James found himself reading the newspaper the
next morning sentimentally, with his arm round his wife's waist.

By a refinement of cruelty, not one word had been said to prepare
little Syd for the dreary change that was now close at hand in
her young life. The poor child had seen the preparations for
departure, and had tried to imitate her mother in packing up. She
had collected her few morsels of darned and ragged clothing, and
had gone upstairs to put them into one of the dilapidated old
trunks in the garret play ground, when the servant was sent to
bring her back to the sitting-room. There, enthroned in an
easy-chair, sat a strange lady; and there, hiding behind the
chair in undisguised dislike of the visitor, was her little
brother Roderick. Syd looked timidly at her mother; and her
mother said:

"Here is your aunt."

The personal appearance of Miss Wigger might have suggested a
modest distrust of his own abilities to Lavater, when that
self-sufficient man wrote his famous work on Physiognomy.
Whatever betrayal of her inner self her face might have
presented, in the distant time when she was young, was now
completely overlaid by a surface of a flabby fat which, assisted
by green spectacles, kept the virtues (or vices) of this woman's
nature a profound secret until she opened her lips. When she used
her voice, she let out the truth. Nobody could hear her speak,
and doubt for a moment that she was an inveterately ill-natured

"Make your curtsey, child!" said Miss Wigger. Nature had so toned
her voice as to make it worthy of the terrors of her face. But
for her petticoats, it would have been certainly taken for the
voice of a man.

The child obeyed, trembling.

"You are to go away with me," the school-mistress proceeded, "and
to be taught to make yourself useful under my roof."

Syd seemed to be incapable of understanding the fate that was in
store for her. She sheltered herself behind her merciless mother.
"I'm going away with you, mamma," she said--"with you and Rick."

Her mother took her by the shoulders, and pushed her across the
room to her aunt.

The child looked at the formidable female creature with the man's
voice and the green spectacles.

"You belong to me," said Miss Wigger, by way of encouragement,
"and I have come to take you away." At those dreadful words,
terror shook little Syd from head to foot. She fell on her knees
with a cry of misery that might have melted the heart of a
savage. "Oh, mamma, mamma, don't leave me behind! What have I
done to deserve it? Oh, pray, pray, pray have some pity on me!"

Her mother was as selfish and as cruel a woman as ever lived. But
even her hard heart felt faintly the influence of the most
intimate and most sacred of all human relationships. Her florid
cheeks turned pale. She hesitated.

Miss Wigger marked (through her own green medium) that moment of
maternal indecision--and saw that it was time to assert her
experience as an instructress of youth.

"Leave it to me," she said to her sister. "You never did know,
and you never will know, how to manage children."

She advanced. The child threw herself shrieking on the floor.
Miss Wigger's long arms caught her up--held her--shook her. "Be
quiet, you imp!" It was needless to tell her to be quiet. Syd's
little curly head sank on the schoolmistress's shoulder. She was
carried into exile without a word or a cry--she had fainted.

10.--The School.

Time's march moves slowly, where weary lives languish in dull

Dating from one unkempt and unacknowledged birthday to another,
Sydney Westerfield had attained the sixth year of her martyrdom
at School. In that long interval no news of her mother, her
brother, or her stepfather had reached England; she had received
no letter, she had not even heard a report. Without friends, and
without prospects, Roderick Westerfield's daughter was, in the
saddest sense of the word, alone in the world.

The hands of the ugly old clock in the school-room were
approaching the time when the studies of the morning would come
to an end. Wearily waiting for their release, the scholars saw an
event happen which was a novelty in their domestic experience.
The maid-of-all-work audaciously put her head in at the door, and
interrupted Miss Wigger conducting the education of the

"If you please, miss, there's a gentleman--"

Having uttered these introductory words, she was reduced to
silence by the tremendous voice of her mistress.

"Haven't I forbidden you to come here in school hours? Go away

Hardened by a life of drudgery, under conditions of perpetual
scolding, the servant stood her ground, and recovered the use of
her tongue.

"There's a gentleman in the drawing-room," she persisted. Miss
Wigger tried to interrupt her again. "And here's his card!" she
shouted, in a voice that was the louder of the two.

Being a mortal creature, the schoolmistress was accessible to the
promptings of curiosity. She snatched the card out of the girl's

_Mr. Herbert Linley, Mount Morven, Perthshire._ "I don't know
this person," Miss Wigger declared. "You wretch, have you let a
thief into the house?"

"A gentleman, if ever I see one yet," the servant asserted.

"Hold your tongue! Did he ask for me? Do you hear?"

"You told me to hold my tongue. No; he didn't ask for you."

"Then who did he want to see?"

"It's on his card."

Miss Wigger referred to the card again, and discovered (faintly
traced in pencil) these words: "To see Miss S.W."

The schoolmistress instantly looked at Miss Westerfield. Miss
Westerfield rose from her place at the head of her class.

The pupils, astonished at this daring act, all looked at the
teacher--their natural enemy, appointed to supply them with
undesired information derived from hated books. They saw one of
Mother Nature's favorite daughters; designed to be the darling of
her family, and the conqueror of hearts among men of all tastes
and ages. But Sydney Westerfield had lived for six weary years in
the place of earthly torment, kept by Miss Wigger under the name
of a school. Every budding beauty, except the unassailable beauty
of her eyes and her hair, had been nipped under the frosty
superintendence of her maternal aunt. Her cheeks were hollow, her
delicate lips were pale; her shabby dress lay flat over her
bosom. Observant people, meeting her when she was out walking
with the girls, were struck by her darkly gentle eyes, and by the
patient sadness of her expression. "What a pity!" they said to
each other. "She would be a pretty girl, if she didn't look so
wretched and so thin."

At a loss to understand the audacity of her teacher in rising
before the class was dismissed, Miss Wigger began by asserting
her authority. She did in two words: "Sit down!"

"I wish to explain, ma'am."

"Sit down."

"I beg, Miss Wigger, that you will allow me to explain."

"Sydney Westerfield, you are setting the worst possible example
to your class. I shall see this man myself. _Will_ you sit down?"

Pale already,
Sydney turned paler still. She obeyed the word of command--to
the delight of the girls of her class. It was then within ten
minutes of the half hour after twelve--when the pupils were
dismissed to the playground while the cloth was laid for dinner.
What use would the teacher make of that half hour of freedom?

In the meanwhile Miss Wigger had entered her drawing-room. With
the slightest possible inclination of her head, she eyed the
stranger through her green spectacles. Even under that
disadvantage his appearance spoke for itself. The servant's
estimate of him was beyond dispute. Mr. Herbert Linley's good
breeding was even capable of suppressing all outward expression
of the dismay that he felt, on finding himself face to face with
the formidable person who had received him.

"What is your business, if you please?" Miss Wigger began.

Men, animals, and buildings wear out with years, and submit to
their hard lot. Time only meets with flat contradiction when he
ventures to tell a woman that she is growing old. Herbert Linley
had rashly anticipated that the "young lady," whom it was the
object of his visit to see, would prove to be young in the
literal sense of the word. When he and Miss Wigger stood face to
face, if the door had been set open for him, he would have left
the house with the greatest pleasure.

"I have taken the liberty of calling," he said, "in answer to an
advertisement. May I ask"--he paused, and took out a newspaper
from the pocket of his overcoat--"If I have the honor of speaking
to the lady who is mentioned here?"

He opened the newspaper, and pointed to the advertisement.

Miss Wigger's eyes rested--not on the passage indicated, but on
the visitor's glove. It fitted him to such perfection that it
suggested the enviable position in life which has gloves made to
order. He politely pointed again. Still inaccessible to the
newspaper, Miss Wigger turned her spectacles next to the front
window of the room, and discovered a handsome carriage waiting at
the door. (Money evidently in the pockets of those beautiful
trousers, worthy of the gloves!) As patiently as ever, Linley
pointed for the third time, and drew Miss Wigger's attention in
the right direction at last. She read the advertisement.

"A Young Lady wishes to be employed in the education of a little
girl. Possessing but few accomplishments, and having been only a
junior teacher at a school, she offers her services on trial,
leaving it to her employer to pay whatever salary she may be
considered to deserve, if she obtains a permanent engagement.
Apply by letter, to S.W., 14, Delta Gardens, N.E."

"Most impertinent," said Miss Wigger.

Mr. Linley looked astonished.

"I say, most impertinent!" Miss Wigger repeated.

Mr. Linley attempted to pacify this terrible woman. "It's very
stupid of me," he said; "I am afraid I don't quite understand

"One of my teachers has issued an advertisement, and has referred
to My address, without first consulting Me. Have I made myself
understood, sir?" She looked at the carriage again, when she
called him "sir."

Not even Linley's capacity for self-restraint could repress the
expression of relief, visible in his brightening face, when he
discovered that the lady of the advertisement and the lady who
terrified him were two different persons.

Have I made myself understood?" Miss Wigger repeated.

"Perfectly, madam. At the same time, I am afraid I must own that
the advertisement has produced a favorable impression on me."

"I fail entirely to see why," Miss Wigger remarked.

"There is surely," Linley repeated, "something straightforward--I
might almost say, something innocent--in the manner in which the
writer expresses herself. She seems to be singularly modest on
the subject of her own attainments, and unusually considerate of
the interests of others. I hope you will permit me--?"

Before he could add, "to see the young lady," the door was
opened: a young lady entered the room.

Was she the writer of the advertisement? He felt sure of it, for
no better reason than this: the moment he looked at her she
interested him. It was an interest new to Linley, in his
experience of himself There was nothing to appeal to his
admiration (by way of his senses) in the pale, worn young
creature who stood near the door, resigned beforehand to whatever
reception she might meet with. The poor teacher made him think of
his happy young wife at home--of his pretty little girl, the
spoiled child of the household. He looked at Sydney Westerfield
with a heartfelt compassion which did honor to them both.

"What do you mean by coming here?" Miss Wigger inquired.

She answered gently, but not timidly. The tone in which the
mistress had spoken had evidently not shaken her resolution, so

"I wish to know," she said, "if this gentleman desires to see me
on the subject of my advertisement?"

"Your advertisement?" Miss Wigger repeated. "Miss Westerfield!
how dare you beg for employment in a newspaper, without asking my

"I only waited to tell you what I had done, till I knew whether
my advertisement would be answered or not."

She spoke as calmly as before, still submitting to the insolent
authority of the schoolmistress with a steady fortitude very
remarkable in any girl--and especially in a girl whose face
revealed a sensitive nature. Linley approached her, and said his
few kind words before Miss Wigger could assert herself for the
third time.

"I am afraid I have taken a liberty in answering you personally,
when I ought to have answered by letter. My only excuse is that I
have no time to arrange for an interview, in London, by
correspondence. I live in Scotland, and I am obliged to return by
the mail to-night."

He paused. She was looking at him. Did she understand him?

She understood him only too well. For the first time, poor soul,
in the miserable years of her school life, she saw eyes that
rested on her with the sympathy that is too truly felt to be
uttered in words. The admirable resignation which had learned its
first hard lesson under her mother's neglect--which had endured,
in after-years, the daily persecution that heartless
companionship so well knows how to inflict--failed to sustain
her, when one kind look from a stranger poured its balm into the
girl's sore heart. Her head sank; her wasted figure trembled; a
few tears dropped slowly on the bosom of her shabby dress. She
tried, desperately tried, to control herself. "I beg your pardon,
sir," was all she could say; "I am not very well."

Miss Wigger tapped her on the shoulder and pointed to the door.
"Are you well enough to see your way out?" she asked.

Linley turned on the wretch with a mind divided between wonder
and disgust. "Good God, what has she done to deserve being
treated in that way?" he asked.

Miss Wigger's mouth widened; Miss Wigger's forehead developed new
wrinkles. To own it plainly, the schoolmistress smiled.

When it is of serious importance to a man to become acquainted
with a woman's true nature--say, when he contemplates
marriage--his one poor chance of arriving at a right conclusion
is to find himself provoked by exasperating circumstances, and to
fly into a passion. If the lady flies into a passion on her side,
he may rely on it that her faults are more than balanced by her
good qualities. If, on the other hand, she exhibits the most
admirable self-control, and sets him an example which ought to
make him ashamed of himself, he has seen a bad sign, and he will
do well to remember it.

Miss Wigger's self-control put Herbert Linley in the wrong,
before she took the trouble of noticing what he had said.

"If you were not out of temper," she replied, "I might have told
you that I don't allow my house to be made an office for the
engagement of governesses. As it is, I merely remind you that
your carriage is at the door."

He took the only course that was open to him; he took his hat.

Sydney turned away to leave the room. Linley opened the door for
her. "Don't be discouraged," he whispered as she passed him; "you
shall hear from me." Having said this, he made his parting bow to
the schoolmistress. Miss Wigger held up a peremptory forefinger,
and stopped him on his way out. He waited, wondering what she
would do next. She rang the bell.

"You are in the house of a gentlewoman," Miss Wigger explained.
"My servant attends visitors, when they leave me." A faint smell
of soap made itself felt in the room; the maid appeared, wiping
her smoking arms on her apron. "Door. I wish you
good-morning"--were the last words of Miss Wigger.

Leaving the house, Linley slipped a bribe into the servant's
hand. "I am going to write to Miss Westerfield," he said. "Will
you see that she gets my letter?"

"That I will!"

He was surprised by the fervor with which the girl answered him.
Absolutely without vanity, he had no suspicion of the value which
his winning manner, his kind brown eyes, and his sunny smile had
conferred on his little gift of money. A handsome man was an
eighth wonder of the world, at Miss Wigger's school.

At the first stationer's shop that he passed, he stopped the
carriage and wrote his letter.

"I shall be glad indeed if I can offer you a happier life than
the life you are leading now. It rests with you to help me do
this. Will you send me the address of your parents, if they are
in London, or the name of any friend with whom I can arrange to
give you a trial as governess to my little girl? I am waiting
your answer in the neighborhood. If any hinderance should prevent
you from replying at once, I add the name of the hotel at which I
am staying--so that you may telegraph to me, before I leave
London to-night."

The stationer's boy, inspired by a private view of half-a-crown,
set off at a run--and returned at a run with a reply.

"I have neither parents nor friends, and I have just been
dismissed from my employment at the school. Without references to
speak for me, I must not take advantage of your generous offer.
Will you help me to bear my disappointment, permitting me to see
you, for a few minutes only, at your hotel? Indeed, indeed, sir,
I am not forgetful of what I owe to my respect for you, and my
respect for myself. I only ask leave to satisfy you that I am not
quite unworthy of the interest which you have been pleased to
feel in--S.W."

In those sad words, Sydney Westerfield announced that she had
completed her education.



Chapter I.

Mrs. Presty Presents Herself.

NOT far from the source of the famous river, which rises in the
mountains between Loch Katrine and Loch Lornond, and divides the
Highlands and the Lowlands of Scotland, travelers arrive at the
venerable gray walls of Mount Morven; and, after consulting their
guide books, ask permission to see the house.

What would be called, in a modern place of residence, the first
floor, is reserved for the occupation of the family. The great
hall of entrance, and its quaint old fireplace; the ancient rooms
on the same level opening out of it, are freely shown to
strangers. Cultivated travelers express various opinions relating
to the family portraits, and the elaborately carved ceilings. The
uninstructed public declines to trouble itself with criticism. It
looks up at the towers and the loopholes, the battlements and the
rusty old guns, which still bear witness to the perils of past
times when the place was a fortress--it enters the gloomy hall,
walks through the stone-paved rooms, stares at the faded
pictures, and wonders at the lofty chimney-pieces hopelessly out
of reach. Sometimes it sits on chairs which are as cold and as
hard as iron, or timidly feels the legs of immovable tables which
might be legs of elephants so far as size is concerned. When
these marvels have been duly admired, and the guide books are
shut up, the emancipated tourists, emerging into the light and
air, all find the same social problem presented by a visit to
Mount Morven: "How can the family live in such a place as that?"

If these strangers on their travels had been permitted to ascend
to the first floor, and had been invited (for example) to say
good-night to Mrs. Linley's pretty little daughter, they would
have seen the stone walls of Kitty's bed-chamber snugly covered
with velvet hangings which kept out the cold; they would have
trod on a doubly-laid carpet, which set the chilly influences of
the pavement beneath it at defiance; they would have looked at a
bright little bed, of the last new pattern, worthy of a child's
delicious sleep; and they would only have discovered that the
room was three hundred years old when they had drawn aside the
window curtains, and had revealed the adamantine solidity of the
outer walls. Or, if they had been allowed to pursue their
investigations a little further, and had found their way next
into Mrs. Linley's sitting room, here again a transformation
scene would have revealed more modern luxury, presented in the
perfection which implies restraint within the limits of good
taste. But on this occasion, instead of seeing the head of a

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