Part 6 out of 7
troubled about Miss Fay; for Girasole's remarks about her seemed to
point to views of his own which were incompatible with her liberation.
In the midst of these reflections another noise arose below. It was a
steady tramp of two or three men walking. The noise ascended the
stairway, and drew nearer and nearer. Hawbury turned once more, and
saw two men entering the room, carrying between them a box about six
feet long and eighteen inches or two feet wide. It was coarsely but
strongly made, and was undoubtedly intended as a coffin for the corpse
of the brigand. The men put the coffin down against the wall and
retired. After a few minutes they returned again with the coffin lid.
They then lifted the dead body into the coffin, and one of them put
the lid in its place and secured it with half a dozen screws. After
this Hawbury was once more left alone. He found this far more
tolerable, for now he had no longer before his very eyes the abhorrent
sight of the dead body. Hidden in its coffin, it no longer gave
offense to his sensibilities. Once more, therefore, Hawbury turned his
thoughts toward projects of escape, and discussed in his mind the
probabilities for and against.
The day had been long, and longer still did it seem to the captive as
hour after hour passed slowly by. He could not look at his watch,
which his captors had spared; but from the shadows as they fell
through the windows, and from the general appearance of the sky, he
knew that the close of the day was not far off. He began to wonder
that he was left so long alone and in suspense, and to feel impatient
to know the worst as to his fate. Why did not some of them come to
tell him? Where was Girasole? Was he the chief? Were the brigands
debating about his fate, or were they thus leaving him in suspense so
as to make him despondent and submissive to their terms? From all that
he had ever heard of brigands and their ways, the latter seemed not
unlikely; and this thought made him see the necessity of guarding
himself against being too impatient for freedom, and too compliant
with any demands of theirs.
From these thoughts he was at last roused by footsteps which ascended
the stairs. He turned and looked toward the door. A man entered.
It was Girasole.
He entered slowly, with folded arms, and coming about half-way, he
stood and surveyed the prisoner in silence. Hawbury, with a sudden
effort, brought himself up to a sitting posture, and calmly surveyed
"Well," asked Hawbury, "I should like to know how long you intend to
keep up this sort of thing? What are you going to do about it? Name
your price, man, and we'll discuss it, and settle upon something
"My price?" repeated Girasole, with peculiar emphasis.
"Yes. Of course I understand you fellows. It's your trade, you know.
You've caught me, and, of course, you'll try to make the best of me,
and all that sort of thing. So don't keep me waiting."
"Inglis milor," said Girasple, with a sharp, quick accent, his face
flushing up as he spoke--"Inglis milor, dere is no price as you mean,
an' no ransom. De price is one dat you will not wis to pay."
"Oh, come, now, my good fellow, really you must remember that I'm tied
up, and not in a position to be chaffed. Bother your Italian humbug!
Don't speak in these confounded figures of speech, you know, but say
up and down--how much?"
"De brigands haf talk you ovair, an' dey will haf no price."
"What the devil is all that rot about?"
"Dey will haf youair blood."
"And pray, my good fellow, what good is that going to do them?"
"It is vengeance," said Girasole.
"Vengeance? Pooh! Nonsense! What rot! What have I ever done?"
"Dat--dere--his blood," said Girasole, pointing to the coffin.
"What! that scoundrel? Why, man alive, are you crazy? That was a fair
stand-up fight. That is, it was two English against twenty Italians,
if you call that fair; but perhaps it is. His blood! By Jove! Cool,
that! Come, I like it."
"An' more," said Girasole, who now grew more excited. "It is not de
brigand who condemn you: it is also me. I condemn you."
"You?" said Hawbury, elevating his eyebrows in some surprise, and
fixing a cool stare upon Girasole. "And what the devil's _this_ row
about, I should like to know? I don't know _you_. What have you
"Inglis milor," cried Girasole, who was stung to the quick by a
certain indescribable yet most irritating superciliousness in
Hawbury's tone--"Inglis milor, you sall see what you sall soffair. You
sall die! Dere is no hope. You are condemn by de brigand. You also are
condemn by me, for you insult me."
"Well, of all the beastly rot I ever heard, this is about the worst!
What do you mean by all this infernal nonsense? Insult you! What would
I insult you for? Why, man alive, you're as mad as a March hare! If I
thought you were a gentleman, I'd--by Jove, I will, too! See here, you
fellow: I'll fight you for it--pistols, or any thing. Come, now. I'll
drop all considerations of rank. I'll treat you as if you were a real
count, and not a sham one. Come, now. What do you say? Shall we have
it out? Pistols--in the woods there. You've got all your infernal crew
around you, you know. Well? What? You won't? By Jove!"
Girasole's gesture showed that he declined the proposition.
"Inglis milor," said he, with a venomous glitter in his eyes, "I sall
haf youair life--wis de pistol, but not in de duello. I sall blow your
brain out myself."
"Blow and be hanged, then!" said Hawbury.
And with these words he fell back on his straw, and took no further
notice of the Italian.
[Illustration: "INGLIS MILOR, I SALL HAF YOUAIR LIFE."]
When Dacres made his attempt upon the house he was not so unobserved
as he supposed himself to be. Minnie and Mrs. Willoughby happened at
that time to be sitting on the floor by the window, one on each side,
and they were looking out. They had chosen the seat as affording some
prospect of the outer world. There was in Mrs. Willoughby a certain
instinctive feeling that if any rescue came, it would come from the
land side; and, therefore, though the hope was faint indeed, it
nevertheless was sufficiently well defined to inspire her with an
uneasy and incessant vigilance. Thus, then, she had seated herself by
the window, and Minnie had taken her place on the opposite side, and
the two sisters, with clasped hands, sat listening to the voices of
At length they became aware of a movement upon the bank just above
them and lying opposite. The sisters clasped one another's hands more
closely, and peered earnestly through the gloom. It was pretty dark,
and the forest threw down a heavy shadow, but still their eyes were by
this time accustomed to the dark, and they could distinguish most of
the objects there. Among these they soon distinguished a moving
figure; but what it was, whether man or beast, they could not make
This moving figure was crawling down the bank. There was no cover to
afford concealment, and it was evident that he was trusting altogether
to the concealment of the darkness. It was a hazardous experiment, and
Mrs. Willoughby trembled in suspense.
Minnie, however, did not tremble at all, nor was the suspense at all
painful. When Mrs. Willoughby first cautiously directed her attention
to it in a whisper, Minnie thought it was some animal.
"Why, Kitty dear," she said, speaking back in a whisper, "why, it's an
animal; I wonder if the creature is a wild beast. I'm sure I think
it's very dangerous, and no doors or windows. But it's _always_ the
way. He wouldn't give me a chair; and so I dare say I shall be eaten
up by a bear before morning."
Minnie gave utterance to this expectation without the slightest
excitement, just as though the prospect of becoming food for a bear
was one of the very commonest incidents of her life.
"Oh, I don't think it's a bear."
"Well, then, it's a tiger or a lion, or perhaps a wolf. I'm sure _I_
don't see what difference it makes what one is eaten by, when one
_has_ to be eaten."
"It's a man!" said Mrs. Willoughby, tremulously.
"A man!--nonsense, Kitty darling. A man walks; he doesn't go on
all-fours, except when he is very, very small."
"Hush! it's some one coming to help us. Watch him, Minnie dear. Oh,
"Do you really think so?" said Minnie, with evident pleasure. "Now
that is really kind. But I wonder who it _can_ be?"
Mrs. Willoughby squeezed her hand, and made no reply. She was watching
the slow and cautious movement of the shadowy figure.
"He's coming nearer!" said she, tremulously.
Minnie felt her sister's hand throb at the quick movement of her
heart, and heard her short, quick breathing.
"Who _can_ it be, I wonder?" said Minnie, full of curiosity, but
without any excitement at all.
"What's the matter, darling?"
"It's so terrible."
"This suspense. Oh, I'm so afraid!"
"Afraid! Why, I'm not afraid at all."
"Oh! he'll be caught."
"No, he won't," said Minnie, confidently. "I _knew_ he'd come. They
_always_ do. Don't be afraid that he'll be caught, or that he'll fail.
They _never_ fail. They always _will_ save me. Wait till your life has
been saved as often as mine has, Kitty darling. Oh, I expected it all!
I was thinking a little while ago he ought to be here soon."
"Why, any person; the person who is going to save me this time. I
don't know, of course, who he is; some horrid man, of course. And
then--oh dear!--I'll have it all over again. He'll carry me away on
his back, and through those wretched woods, and bump me against the
trees and things. Then he'll get me to the road, and put me on a
horrid old horse, and gallop away. And by that time it will be
morning. And then he'll propose. And so there'll be another. And I
don't know what I _shall_ do about it. Oh dear!"
Mrs. Willoughby had not heard half of this. All her soul was intent
upon the figure outside. She only pressed her sister's hand, and gave
a warning "Hus-s-s-h!"
"I know one thing I _do_ wish," said Minnie.
Her sister made no reply.
"I do wish it would turn out to be that nice, dear, good, kind Rufus
K. Gunn. I don't want any more of them. And I'm sure he's nicer than
this horrid Count, who wouldn't take the trouble to get me even a
chair. And yet he pretends to be fond of me."
"Hus-s-s-h!" said her sister.
But Minnie was irrepressible.
"I don't want any horrid stranger. But, oh, Kitty darling, it would be
so awfully funny if he were to be caught! and then he _couldn't_
propose, you know."
By this time the figure had reached the house. Minnie peeped over and
looked down. Then she drew back her head and sighed.
"Oh dear!" she said, in a plaintive tone.
"Why, Kitty darling, do you know he really looks a little like that
great, big, horrid man that ran with me down the volcano, and then
pretended he was my dear papa. And here he comes to save me again. Oh,
what _shall_ I do? Won't you pretend you're me, Kitty darling, and
please go yourself? Oh, ple-e-ease do!"
But now Minnie was interrupted by two strong hands grasping the
window-sill. A moment after a shadowy head arose above it. Mrs.
Willoughby started back, but through the gloom she was able to
recognize the strongly marked face of Scone Dacres.
For a moment he stared through the darkness. Then he flung his elbow
There arose a noise below. There was a rush. The figure disappeared
from the window. A furious struggle followed, in the midst of which
arose fierce oaths and deep breathings, and the sound of blows. Then
the struggle subsided, and they heard footsteps tramping heavily. They
followed the sound into the house. They heard men coming up the stairs
and into the hall outside. Then they all moved into, the front-room
opposite theirs. After a few minutes they heard the steps descending
the stairs. By this they judged that the prisoner had been taken to
that room which was on the other side of the hall and in the front of
"There dies our last hope!" said Mrs. Willoughby, and burst into
"I'm sure I don't see what you're crying about," said Minnie. "You
certainly oughtn't to want me to be carried off again by that person.
If he had me, he'd _never_ give me up--especially after saving me
Mrs. Willoughby made no reply, and the sisters sat in silence for
nearly an hour. They were then aroused by the approach of footsteps
which entered the house; after which voices were heard below.
Then some one ascended the stairs, and they saw the flicker of a
light. It was Girasole.
He came into the room with a small lamp, holding his hand in front of
the flame. This lamp he set down in a corner out of the draught, and
then turned to the ladies.
"Miladi," said Girasole, in a gentle voice, "I am ver pained to haf to
tella you dat it is necessaire for you to separat dis night--till
"To separate?" exclaimed Mrs. Willoughby.
"Only till to-morra, miladi. Den you sall be togeder foravva. But it
is now necessaire. Dere haf ben an attemp to a rescue. I mus guard
again dis--an' it mus be done by a separazion. If you are togeder you
might run. Dis man was almos up here. It was only chance dat I saw him
"Oh, Sir," cried Mrs. Willoughby, "you can not--you will not separate
us. You can not have the heart to. I promise most solemnly that we
will not escape if you only leave us together."
Girasole shook his head.
"I can not," said he, firmly; "de mees is too precious. I dare not. If
you are prisonaire se will not try to fly, an' so I secure her de
more; but if you are togeder you will find some help. You will bribe
de men. I can not trust dem."
"Oh, do not separate us. Tie us. Bind us. Fasten us with chains.
Fasten me with chains, but leave me with her."
"Chains? nonsance; dat is impossibile. Chains? no, miladi. You sall be
treat beautiful. No chain, no; notin but affection--till to-morra, an'
den de mees sall be my wife. De priest haf come, an' it sall be
allaright to-morra, an' you sall be wit her again. An' now you haf to
come away; for if you do not be pleasant, I sall not be able to 'low
you to stay to-morra wit de mees when se become my Contessa."
Mrs. Willoughby flung her arms about her sister, and clasped her in a
"Well, Kitty darling," said Minnie, "don't cry, or you'll make me cry
too. It's just what we might have expected, you know. He's been as
unkind as he could be about the chair, and of course he'll do all he
can to tease me. Don't cry, dear. You must go, I suppose, since that
horrid man talks and scolds so about it; only be sure to be back
early; but how I am _ever_ to pass the night here all alone and
standing up, I'm sure _I_ don't know."
"Alone? Oh no," said Girasole. "Charming mees, you sall not be alone;
I haf guard for dat. I haf sent for a maid."
"But I don't want any of your horrid old maids. I want my own maid, or
none at all."
"Se sall be your own maid. I haf sent for her."
"What, my own maid?--Dowlas?"
"I am ver sorry, but it is not dat one. It is anoder--an Italian."
"Well, I think that is _very_ unkind, when you _know_ I can't speak a
word of the language. But you _always_ do all you can to tease me. I
_wish_ I had never seen you."
Girasole looked hurt.
"Charming mees," said he, "I will lay down my life for you."
"But I don't want you to lay down your life. I want Dowlas."
"And you sall haf Dowlas to-morra. An' to-night you sall haf de
"Well, I suppose I must," said Minnie, resignedly.
"Miladi," said Girasole, turning to Mrs. Willoughby, "I am ver sorry
for dis leetle accommodazion. De room where you mus go is de one where
I haf put de man dat try to safe you. He is tied fast. You mus promis
you will not loose him. Haf you a knife?"
"No," said Mrs. Willoughby, in a scarce audible tone.
"Do not mourn. You sall be able to talk to de prisonaire and get
consolazion. But come."
With these words Girasole led the way out into the hall, and into the
front-room on the opposite side. He carried the lamp in his hand. Mrs.
Willoughby saw a figure lying at the other end of the room on the
floor. His face was turned toward them, but in the darkness she could
not see it plainly. Some straw was heaped up in the corner next her.
"Dere," said Girasole, "is your bed. I am sorra. Do not be trouble."
With this he went away.
Mrs. Willoughby flung herself on her knees, and bowed her head and
wept convulsively. She heard the heavy step of Girasole as he went
down stairs. Her first impulse was to rush back to her sister. But she
dreaded discovery, and felt that disobedience would only make her fate
FOUND AT LAST.
In a few moments Girasole came back and entered Minnie's room. He was
followed by a woman who was dressed in the garb of an Italian peasant
girl. Over her head she wore a hood to protect her from the night air,
the limp folds of which hung over her face. Minnie looked carelessly
at this woman and then at Girasole.
"Charming mees," said Girasole, "I haf brought you a maid for dis
night. When we leaf dis you sall haf what maid you wis."
"That horrid old fright!" said Minnie. "I don't want her."
"You sall only haf her for dis night," said Girasole. "You will be
taken care for."
"I suppose nobody cares for what _I_ want," said Minnie, "and I may as
well speak to the wall, for all the good it does."
[Illustration: "ONE ARM WENT AROUND HER NECK."]
Girasole smiled and bowed, and put his hand on his heart, and then
called down the stairs:
A solid, firm step now sounded on the stairs, and in a few moments the
priest came up. Girasole led the way into Hawbury's room. The prisoner
lay on his side. He was in a deep sleep. Girasole looked in wonder at
the sleeper who was spending in this way the last hours of his life,
and then pointed to the coffin.
"Here," said he, in Italian, "is the body. When the grave is dug they
will tell you. You must stay here. You will not be afraid to be with
The priest smiled.
Girasole now retreated and went down stairs.
Soon all was still.
The Italian woman had been standing where she had stopped ever since
she first came into the room. Minnie had not paid any attention to
her, but at last she noticed this.
"I _wish_ you wouldn't stand there in that way. You really make me
feel quite nervous. And what with the dark, and not having any light,
and losing poor dear Kitty, and not having any chair to sit upon,
really one's life is scarce worth having. But all this is thrown away,
as you can't speak English--and how horrid it is to have no one to
The woman made no reply, but with a quiet, stealthy step she drew near
"What do yon want? You horrid creature, keep away," said Minnie,
drawing back in some alarm.
"Minnie dear!" said the woman. "H-s-s-s-h!" she added, in a low
"Who are you?" she whispered.
One arm went around her neck, and another hand went over her mouth,
and the woman drew nearer to her.
"Not a word. H-s-s-s-h! I've risked my life. The priest brought me."
"Why, my darling, darling love of an Ethel!" said Minnie, who was
overwhelmed with surprise.
"But how can I h-s-s-s-h when I'm so perfectly frantic with delight?
Oh, you darling pet!"
"H-s-s-s-h! Not another word. I'll be discovered and lost."
"Well, dear, I'll speak very, very low. But how did you come here?"
"The priest brought me."
"Yes. He was sent for, you know; and I thought I could help you, and
he is going to save you."
"The priest, you know."
"The priest! Is he a Roman Catholic priest, Ethel darling?"
"And _he_ is going to save me this time, is he?"
"I hope so, dear."
"Oh, how perfectly lovely that is! and it was so kind and thoughtful
in you! Now this is really quite nice, for you know I've _longed_ so
to be saved by a priest. These horrid men, you know, all go and
propose the moment they save one's life; but a priest _carit_, you
know--no, not if he saved one a thousand times over. Can he now, Ethel
"Oh no!" said Ethel, in a little surprise.
"But stop, darling. You really must _not_ say another word--no, not so
much as a whisper--for we certainly _will_ be heard; and don't notice
what I do, or the priest either, for it's very, very important, dear.
But you keep as still as a little mouse, and wait till we are all
"Well, Ethel dear, I will; but it's awfully funny to see you here--and
oh, _such_ a funny figure as you are!"
Minnie relapsed into silence now, and Ethel withdrew near to the door,
where she stood and listened. All was still. Down stairs there was no
light and no sound. In the hall above she could see nothing, and could
not tell whether any guards were there or not.
Hawbury's room was at the back of the house, as has been said, and the
door was just at the top of the stairs. The door where Ethel was
standing was there too, and was close by the other, so that she could
listen and hear the deep breathing of the sleeper. One or two
indistinct sounds escaped him from time to time, and this was all that
broke the deep stillness.
She waited thus for nearly an hour, during which all was still, and
Minnie said not a word. Then a shadowy figure appeared near her at
Hawbury's door, and a hand touched her shoulder.
Not a word was said.
Ethel stole softly and noiselessly into Hawbury's room, where the
priest was. She could see the two windows, and the priest indicated to
her the position of the sleeper.
Slowly and cautiously she stole over toward him.
She reached the place.
She knelt by his side, and bent low over him. Her lips touched his
The sleeper moved slightly, and murmured some words.
"All fire," he murmured; "fire--and flame. It is a furnace before us.
She must not die."
Then he sighed.
Ethel's heart beat wildly. The words that he spoke told her where his
thoughts were wandering. She bent lower; tears fell from her eyes and
upon his face.
"My darling," murmured the sleeper, "we will land here. I will cook
the fish. How pale! Don't cry, dearest."
The house was all still. Not a sound arose. Ethel still bent down and
listened for more of these words which were so sweet to her.
"Ethel!" murmured the sleeper, "where are you? Lost! lost!"
A heavy sigh escaped him, which found an echo in the heart of the
listener. She touched his forehead gently with one hand, and
"What's this?" he murmured.
"A friend," said Ethel.
At this Hawbury became wide awake.
"Who are you?" he whispered, in a trembling voice. "For God's
sake--oh, for God's sake, speak again! tell me!"
"Harry," said Ethel.
Hawbury recognized the voice at once.
A slight cry escaped him, which was instantly suppressed, and then a
torrent of whispered words followed.
"Oh, my darling! my darling! my darling! What is this? How is this? Is
it a dream? Oh, am I awake? Is it you? Oh, my darling! my darling! Oh,
if my arms were but free!"
Ethel bent over him, and passed her arm around him till she felt the
cords that bound him. She had a sharp knife ready, and with this she
cut the cords. Hawbury raised himself, without waiting for his feet to
be freed, and caught Ethel in his freed arms in a silent embrace, and
pressed her over and over again to his heart.
Ethel with difficulty extricated herself.
"There's no time to lose," said she. "I came to save you. Don't waste
another moment; it will be too late. Oh, do not! Oh, wait!" she added,
as Hawbury made another effort to clasp her in his arms. "Oh, do what
I say, for my sake!"
She felt for his feet, and cut the rest of his bonds.
"What am I to do?" asked Hawbury, clasping her close, as though he was
afraid that he would lose her again.
"Well, come! I'll leap with you from the window."
"You can't. The house and all around swarms with brigands. They watch
us all closely."
"I'll fight my way through them."
"Then you'll be killed, and I'll die."
"Well, I'll do whatever you say."
"Listen, then. You must escape alone."
"What! and leave you? Never!"
"I'm safe. I'm disguised, and a priest is with me as my protector."
"How can you be safe in such a place as this?"
"I am safe. Do not argue. There is no time to lose. The priest brought
me here, and will take me away."
"But there are others here. I can't leave them. Isn't Miss Fay a
prisoner? and another lady?"
"Yes; but the priest and I will be able, I hope, to liberate them. We
have a plan."
"But can't I go with you and help you?"
"Oh no! it's impossible. You could not. We are going to take them away
in disguise. We have a dress. You couldn't be disguised."
"And _must_ I go alone?"
"I'll do it, then. Tell me what it is. But oh, my darling! how can I
leave you, and in such a place as this?"
"I assure you I am not in the slightest danger."
"I shall feel terribly anxious."
"H-s-s-s-h! no more of this. Listen now."
Ethel bent lower, and whispered in his ear, in even lower tones than
ever, the plan which she had contrived.
A DESPERATE PLAN.
Ethel's plan was hastily revealed. The position was exceedingly
perilous; time was short, and this was the only way of escape.
It was the priest who had concocted it, and he had thought of it as
the only plan by which Hawbury's rescue could be effected. This
ingenious Irishman had also formed another plan for the rescue of
Minnie and her sister, which was to be attempted in due course of
Now no ordinary mode of escape was possible for Hawbury. A strict
watch was kept.
The priest had noticed on his approach that guards were posted in
different directions in such a way that no fugitive from the house
could elude them. He had also seen that the guard inside the house was
equally vigilant. To leap from the window and run for it would be
certain death, for that was the very thing which the brigands
anticipated. To make a sudden rush down the stairs was not possible,
for at the door below there were guards; and there, most vigilant of
all, was Girasole himself.
The decision of the Irish priest was correct, as has been proved in
the case of Dacres, who, in spite of all his caution, was observed and
captured. Of this the priest knew nothing, but judged from what he
himself had seen on his approach to the house.
The plan of the priest had been hastily communicated to Ethel, who
shared his convictions and adopted his conclusions. She also had
noticed the vigilance with which the guard had been kept up, and only
the fact that a woman had been sent for and was expected with the
priest had preserved her from discovery and its consequences. As it
was, however, no notice was taken of her, and her pretended character
was assumed to be her real one. Even Girasole had scarcely glanced at
her. A village peasant was of no interest in his eyes. His only
thought was of Minnie, and the woman that the priest brought was only
used as a desperate effort to show a desire for her comfort. After he
had decided to separate the sisters the woman was of more importance;
but he had nothing to say to her, and thus Ethel had effected her
entrance to Minnie's presence in safety, with the result that has been
The priest had been turning over many projects in his brain, but at
last one suggested itself which had originated in connection with the
very nature of his errand.
One part of that errand was that a man should be conveyed out of the
house and carried away and left in a certain place. Now the man who
was thus to be carried out was a dead man, and the certain place to
which he was to be borne and where he was to be left was the grave;
but these stern facts did not at all deter the Irish priest from
trying to make use of this task that lay before him for the benefit of
Here was a problem. A prisoner anxious for escape, and a dead man
awaiting burial; how were these two things to be exchanged so that the
living man might pass out without going to the grave?
The Irish priest puzzled and pondered and grew black in the face with
his efforts to get to the solution of this problem, and at length
succeeded--to his own satisfaction, at any rate. What is more, when he
explained his plan to Ethel, she adopted it. She started, it is true;
she shuddered, she recoiled from it at first, but finally she adopted
it. Furthermore, she took it upon herself to persuade Hawbury to fall
in with it.
So much with regard to Hawbury. For Minnie and her sister the
indefatigable priest had already concocted a plan before leaving home.
This was the very commonplace plan of a disguise. It was to be an old
woman's apparel, and he trusted to the chapter of accidents to make
the plan a success. He noticed with pleasure that some women were at
the place, and thought that the prisoners might be confounded with
When at length Ethel had explained the plan to Hawbury he made a few
further objections, but finally declared himself ready to carry it
The priest now began to put his project into execution. He had brought
a screw-driver with him, and with this he took out the screws from the
coffin one by one, as quietly as possible.
Then the lid was lifted off, and Hawbury arose and helped the priest
to transfer the corpse from the coffin to the straw. They then put the
corpse on its side, with the face to the wall, and bound the hands
behind it, and the feet also. The priest then took Hawbury's
handkerchief and bound it around the head of the corpse. One or two
rugs that lay near were thrown over the figure, so that it at length
looked like a sleeping man.
Hawbury now got into the coffin and lay down on his back at full
length. The priest had brought some bits of wood with him, and these
he put on the edge of the coffin in such a way that the lid would be
kept off at a distance of about a quarter of an inch. Through this
opening Hawbury could have all the air that was requisite for
Then Ethel assisted the priest to lift the lid on.
Thus far all had been quiet; but now a slight noise was heard below.
Some men were moving. Ethel was distracted with anxiety, but the
priest was as cool as a clock. He whispered to her to go back to the
room where she belonged.
"Will you be able to finish it?" she asked.
"Sure an' I will--only don't you be afther stayin' here any longer."
At this Ethel stole back to Minnie's room, and stood listening with a
But the priest worked coolly and dextrously. He felt for the holes to
which the screws belonged, and succeeded in putting in two of them.
Then there was a noise in the hall below.
The priest began to put in the third screw.
There were footsteps on the stairs.
He screwed on.
Nearer and nearer came the steps.
The priest still kept to his task.
At last a man entered the room. Ethel, who had heard all, was faint
with anxiety. She was afraid that the priest had not finished his
Her fears were groundless.
Just as the foremost of the men entered the room the priest finished
screwing, and stood by the coffin, having slipped the screw-driver
into his pocket, as calm as though nothing had happened. Three of the
screws were in, and that was as many as were needed.
The men brought no light with them, and this circumstance was in the
"You've been keeping me waiting long," said the priest, in Italian.
"You may be glad it wasn't longer," said one of them, in a sullen
tone. "Where is it?"
"Here," said the priest.
The men gathered around the coffin, and stooped down over it, one at
each corner. Then they raised it up. Then they carried it out; and
soon the heavy steps of the men were heard as they went down the
stairs with their burden.
Ethel still stood watching and listening.
As she listened she heard some one ascending the stairs. New terror
arose. Something was wrong, and all would be discovered. But the man
who came up had no light, and that was one comfort. She could not see
who it was.
The man stopped for a moment in front of Minnie's door, and stood so
close to her that she heard his breathing. It was quick and heavy,
like the breathing of a very tired or a very excited man. Then he
turned away and went to the door of the front-room opposite. Here he
also stood for a few moments.
All was still.
Then he came back, and entered Hawbury's room.
Now the crisis had come--the moment when all might be discovered. And
if so, they all were lost. Ethel bent far forward and tried to peer
through the gloom. She saw the dark figure of the new-comer pass by
one of the windows, and by the outline she knew that it was Girasole.
He passed on into the shadow, and toward the place where the straw
was. She could not see him any more.
Girasole stepped noiselessly and cautiously, as though fearful of
waking the sleeper. At every step he paused and listened. The silence
He drew nearer and nearer, his left hand groping forward, and his
right hand holding a pistol. His movements were perfectly noiseless.
His own excitement was now intense, his heart throbbed fiercely and
almost painfully as he approached his victim.
At last he reached the spot, and knelt on one knee. He listened for a
moment. There was no noise and no movement on the part of the figure
In the gloom he could see the outline of that figure plainly. It lay
on its side, curled up in the most comfortable attitude which could be
assumed, where arms and legs were bound.
"How soundly he sleeps!" thought Girasole.
He paused for a moment, and seemed to hesitate; but it was only for a
moment. Then, summing up his resolution, he held his pistol close to
the head of the figure, and fired.
[Illustration: "HE HELD HIS PISTOL CLOSE TO THE HEAD, AND FIRED."]
The loud report echoed through the house. A shriek came from Minnie's
room, and a cry came from Mrs. Willoughby, who sprang toward the hall.
But Girasole came out and intercepted her.
"Eet ees notin," said he, in a tremulous voice. "Eet ees all ovair.
Eet ees only a false alarm."
Mrs. Willoughby retreated to her room, and Minnie said nothing. As for
Ethel, the suspense with her had passed away as the report of the
pistol came to her ears.
Meanwhile the coffin was carried out of the house, and the men,
together with the priest, walked on toward a place further up the
shore and on the outskirts of the woods. They reached a place where a
grave was dug.
At this moment a pistol-shot sounded. The priest stopped, and the men
stopped also. They did not understand it. The priest did not know the
cause of the shot, but seeing the alarm of the men he endeavored to
excite their fears. One of the men went back, and was cursed by
Girasole for his pains. So he returned to the grave, cursing every
The coffin was now lowered into the grave, and the priest urged the
men to go away and let him finish the work; but they refused. The
fellows seemed to have some affection for their dead comrade, and
wished to show it by putting him underground, and doing the last
honors. So the efforts of the Irish priest, though very well meant,
and very urgent, and very persevering, did not meet with that success
which he anticipated.
Suddenly he stopped in the midst of the burial service, which he was
prolonging to the utmost.
"Hark!" he cried, in Italian.
"What?" they asked.
"It's a gun! It's an alarm!"
"There's no gun, and no alarm," said they.
All listened, but there was no repetition of the sound, and the priest
He had to finish it.
He stood trembling and at his wit's end. Already the men began to
throw in the earth.
But now there came a real alarm.
The report of the pistol had startled Minnie, and for a moment had
greatly agitated her. The cry of Mrs. Willoughby elicited a response
from her to the effect that all was right, and would, no doubt, have
resulted in a conversation, had it not been prevented by Girasole.
Minnie then relapsed into silence for a time, and Ethel took a seat by
her side on the floor, for Minnie would not go near the straw, and
then the two interlocked their arms in an affectionate embrace.
"Ethel darling," whispered Minnie, "do you know I'm beginning to get
awfully tired of this?"
"I should think so, poor darling!"
"If I only had some place to sit on," said Minnie, still reverting to
her original grievance, "it wouldn't be so very bad, you know. I could
put up with not having a bed, or a sofa, or that sort of thing, you
know; but really I must say not to have any kind of a seat seems to me
to be very, very inconsiderate, to say the least of it."
"Poor darling!" said Ethel again.
"And now do you know, Ethel dear, I'm beginning to feel as though I
should really like to run away from this place, if I thought that
horrid man wouldn't see me?"
"Minnie darling," said Ethel, "that's the very thing I came for, you
"Oh yes, I know! And that dear, nice, good, kind, delightful priest!
Oh, it was so nice of you to think of a priest, Ethel dear! I'm so
grateful! But when is he coming?"
"Soon, I hope. But _do_ try not to talk so."
"But I'm only whispering."
"Yes, but your whispers are too loud, and I'm afraid they'll hear."
"Well, I'll try to keep still; but it's so _awfully_ hard, you know,
when one has _so_ much to say, Ethel dear."
Minnie now remained silent for about five minutes.
"How did you say you were going to take me away?" she asked at length.
"In disguise," said Ethel.
"But _what_ disguise?"
"In an old woman's dress--but hu-s-s-s-sh!"
"But I don't _want_ to be dressed up in an old woman's clothes; they
make me _such_ a figure. Why, I'd be a perfect fright."
"Hu-s-s-s-sh! Dear, dear Minnie, you're talking too loud. They'll
certainly hear us," aid Ethel, in a low, frightened whisper.
"But _do--do_ promise you won't take me in an old woman's clothes!"
"Oh, there--there it is again!" said Ethel. "Dear, dear Minnie,
there's some one listening."
"Well, I don't see what harm there is in what I'm saying. I only
Here there was a movement on the stairs just outside. Ethel had heard
a sound of that kind two or three times, and it had given her alarm;
but now Minnie herself heard it, and stopped speaking.
And now a voice sounded from the stairs. Some Italian words were
spoken, and seemed to be addressed to them. Of course they could make
no reply. The words were repeated, with others, and the speaker seemed
to be impatient. Suddenly it flashed across Ethel's mind that the
speaker was Girasole, and that the words were addressed to her.
Her impression was correct, and the speaker was Girasole. He had heard
the sibilant sounds of the whispering, and, knowing that Minnie could
not speak Italian, it had struck him as being a very singular thing
that she should be whispering. Had her sister joined her? He thought
he would go up and see. So he went up softly, and the whispering still
went on. He therefore concluded that the "Italian woman" was not doing
her duty, and that Mrs. Willoughby had joined her sister. This he
would not allow; but as he had already been sufficiently harsh he did
not wish to be more so, and therefore he called to the "Italian
"Hallo, you woman there! didn't I tell you not to let the ladies speak
to one another?"
Of course no answer was given, so Girasole grew more angry still, and
cried out again, more imperatively:
"Why do you not answer me? Where are you? Is this the way you watch?"
Still there was no answer. Ethel heard, and by this time knew what his
suspicion was; but she could neither do nor say any thing.
"Come down here at once, you hag!"
But the "hag" did not come down, nor did she give any answer. The
"hag" was trembling violently, and saw that all was lost. If the
priest were only here! If she could only have gone and returned with
him! What kept him?
Girasole now came to the top of the stairs, and spoke to Minnie.
"Charming mees, are you awake?"
"Yes," said Minnie.
"Ees your sistaire wit you?"
"No. How can _she_ be with me, I should like to know, when you've gone
and put her in some horrid old room?"
"Ah! not wit you? Who are you whisperin' to, den?"
"To my maid," said she.
[Illustration: "WHAT DIT YOU COME FOR?"--"FOR HER."]
"Does de maid spik Inglis?" asked Girasole.
"Yes," said Minnie.
"Ah! I did not know eet. I mus have a look at de contadina who spiks
Inglis. Come here, Italiana. You don't spik Italiano, I tink. Come
Ethel rose to her feet.
Girasole ran down, and came back after a few minutes with a lamp.
Concealment was useless, and so Ethel did not cover her face with the
hood. It had fallen off when she was sitting by Minnie, and hung
loosely down her shoulders from the strings which were around her
neck. Girasole recognized her at one glance.
"Ah!" said he; and then he stood thinking. As for Ethel, now that the
suspense was over and the worst realized, her agitation ceased. She
stood looking at him with perfect calm.
"What dit you come for?" he asked.
"For _her_," said Ethel, making a gesture toward Minnie.
"What could you do wit her?"
"I could see her and comfort her."
"Ah! an' you hope to make her escape. Ha, ha! ver well. You mus not
complain eef you haf to soffair de consequence. Aha! an' so de priest
bring you here--ha?"
Ethel was silent.
"Ah! you fear to say--you fear you harma de priest--ha?"
Minnie had thus far said nothing, but now she rose and looked at
Girasole, and then at Ethel. Then she twined one arm around Ethel's
waist, and turned her large, soft, childish eyes upon Girasole.
"What do you mean," she said, "by _always_ coming here and teasing,
and worrying, and firing off pistols, and frightening people? I'm sure
it was horrid enough for you to make me come to this wretched place,
when you _know_ I don't like it, without annoying me so. Why did you
go and take away poor darling Kitty? And what do you mean now, pray,
by coming here? I never was treated so unkindly in my life. I did not
think that _any one_ could be so very, very rude."
"Charming mees," said Girasole, with a deprecating air, "it pains me
to do any ting dat you do not like."
"It don't pain you," said Minnie--"it don't pain you _at all._ You're
_always_ teasing me. You _never_ do what I want you to. You wouldn't
even give me a chair."
"Alas, carissima mia, to-morra you sall haf all! But dis place is so
"It is _not_ remote," said Minnie. "It's close by roads and villages
and things. Why, here is Ethel; she has been in a village where there
are houses, and people, and as many chairs as she wants."
"Oh, mees, eef you will but wait an' be patient--eef you will but wait
an' see how tender I will be, an' how I lof you."
"You _don't_ love me," said Minnie, "one bit. Is this love--not to
give me a chair? I have been standing up till I am nearly ready to
drop. And you have nothing better than some wretched promises. I don't
care for to-morrow; I want to be comfortable to-day. You won't let me
have a single thing. And now you come to tease me again, and frighten
poor, dear, darling Ethel."
"Eet ees because she deceif me--she come wit a plot--she steal in
here. Eef she had wait, all would be well."
"You mustn't _dare_ to touch her," said Minnie, vehemently. "You
_shall_ leave her here. She _shall_ stay with me."
"I am ver pain--oh, very; but oh, my angel--sweet--charming mees--eet
ees dangaire to my lof. She plot to take you away. An' all my life is
in you. Tink what I haf to do to gain you!"
Minnie looked upon Girasole, with her large eyes dilated with
excitement and resentment.
"You are a horrid, horrid man," she exclaimed. "I _hate_ you."
"Oh, my angel," pleaded Girasole, with deep agitation, "take back dat
"I'm sorry you ever saved my life," said Minnie, very calmly; "and I'm
sorry I ever saw you. I _hate_ you."
"Ah, you gif me torment. You do not mean dis. You say once you lof
"_I_ did not say I loved _you_. It was _you_ who said you loved _me.
I_ never liked _you_. And I don't really see how I _could_ be engaged
to you when I was engaged to another man before. He is the only one
whom I recognize now. I don't know you at all. For I couldn't be bound
to two men; could I, Ethel dear?"
Ethel did not reply to this strange question.
But upon Girasole its effect was very great. The manner of Minnie had
been excessively perplexing to him all through this eventful day. If
she had stormed and gone into a fine frenzy he could have borne it. It
would have been natural. But she was perfectly unconcerned, and her
only complaint was about trifles. Such trifles too! He felt ashamed to
think that he could have subjected to such annoyances a woman whom he
so dearly loved. And now he was once more puzzled. Minnie confronted
him, looking at him fixedly, without one particle of fear, with her
large, earnest, innocent eyes fastened upon his--with the calm, cool
gaze, of some high-minded child rebuking a younger child-companion.
This was a proceeding which he was not prepared for. Besides, the
child-innocence of her face and of her words actually daunted him. She
seemed so fearless, because she was so innocent. She became a greater
puzzle than ever. He had never seen much of her before, and this day's
experience of her had actually daunted him and confounded him. And
what was the worst to him of all her words was her calm and simple
declaration, "I hate you!"
"Yes," said Minnie, thoughtfully, "it must be so; and dear Kitty would
have said the same, only she was so awfully prejudiced. And I always
thought he was so nice. Yes, I think I really must be engaged to him.
But as for you," she said, turning full upon Girasole, "I hate you!"
Girasole's face grew white with rage and jealousy.
"Aha!" said he. "You lof _him._ Aha! An' you were engage to _him._
"Yes, I really think so."
"Aha! Well, listen," cried Girasole, in a hoarse voice--"listen.
He--he--de rival--de one you say you are engage--he is dead!"
And with this he fastened upon Minnie his eyes that now gleamed with
rage, and had an expression in them that might have made Ethel quiver
with horror, but she did not, for she knew that Girasole was mistaken
on that point.
As for Minnie, she was not at all impressed by his fierce looks.
"I don't think you really know what you're talking about," said she;
"and you're very, very unpleasant. At any rate, you are altogether in
the wrong when you say he is dead."
"Dead! He is dead! I swear it!" cried Girasole, whose manner was a
little toned down by Minnie's coolness.
"This is getting to be awfully funny, you know," said Minnie. "I
really think we don't know what one another is talking about. I'm sure
_I_ don't, and I'm sure _he_ don't, either; does he, Ethel darling?"
"De Inglis milor," said Girasole. "He is dead."
"Well, but I don't mean him at all," said Minnie.
"Who--who?" gasped Girasole. "Who--who--who?"
"Why, the person I mean," said Minnie, very placidly, "is Rufus K.
Girasole uttered something like a howl, and retreated.
Girasole retreated half-way down the stairs, and then he stopped for
some time and thought. Then he came back and motioned to Ethel.
"You must come," he said, gruffly.
"You shall not," said Minnie.
"No, no, darling," said Ethel; "I had better go. It will only get you
into fresh trouble. And I'll be back as soon as I can."
"Oh, how I _hate_ you!" said Minnie to Girasole. The latter said
nothing. Ethel kissed Minnie, and descended the stairs after him.
The Irish priest was standing over the grave bathed in a cold
perspiration, his heart throbbing violently, every new thud of the
earth, as it sounded violently against the coffin, sending a cold
chill of horror through every nerve. Already enough earth had been
thrown to cover three-quarters of the lid, and at the foot it was
heaped up some distance. He tried to frame some excuse to get the men
away. His brain whirled; his mind was confused; his thoughts refused
to be collected.
And now, in the midst of this, the attention of all was attracted by a
loud stern voice, which sounded from some one near. The priest looked
around. The men stopped shoveling, and turned to see the cause of the
Girasole was seen approaching, and was already near enough to be
distinguished. Behind him followed a female form. At this sight the
priest's mind misgave him.
Girasole came up, and now the priest saw that the female was no other
"Where is this priest?" asked Girasole, angrily, speaking, of course,
The priest advanced.
"I am here," said he, with quiet dignity.
At this change in the state of affairs the priest regained his
presence of mind. The cessation in the work gave him relief, and
enabled him to recall his scattered and confused thoughts. The men
stood looking at the speakers, and listening, leaning on their
"You were sent for?"
"And a maid?"
"You brought this lady?"
"You put her in disguise; you passed her off as an Italian?"
The priest made no attempt at denial or equivocation. He knew that
this would be useless. He waited for an opportunity to excuse himself,
and to explain rather than to deny. But every answer of his only
served to increase the fury of Girasole, who seemed determined to
visit upon the head of the priest and Ethel the rage that he felt at
his last interview with Minnie.
"Then why," cried Girasole, "did you try to trick us? Don't you know
the punishment we give to spies and traitors?"
"I have nothing to do with spies and traitors."
"You are one yourself."
"I am not."
"I do not," said the priest, mildly. "Hear me, and let me tell my
story, and you will see that I am not a traitor; or, if you don't wish
to listen, then question me."
"There is but one question. What made you bring this lady?"
"That is simply answered," said the priest, with unfaltering calmness.
"This lady and her friends arrived at my village and claimed
hospitality. They were in distress. Some of their friends had been
taken from them. A message came from you requesting my presence, and
also a lady's-maid. There was no stipulation about the kind of one.
This lady was the intimate friend of the captive, and entreated me to
take her, so that she should see her friend, and comfort her, and
share her captivity. I saw no harm in the wish. She proposed to become
a lady's-maid. I saw no harm in that."
"Why did she disguise herself?"
"So as to pass without trouble. She didn't want to be delayed. She
wanted to see her friends as soon as possible. If you had questioned
her, you would no doubt have let her pass."
"I would, no doubt, have done nothing of the kind."
"I don't see any objection," said the priest.
"Objection? She is a spy!"
"A spy? Of what, pray?"
"She came to help her friend to escape."
"To escape? How could she possibly help her to escape? Do you think it
so easy to escape from this place?"
Girasole was silent.
"Do you think a young lady, who has never been out of the care of her
friends before, could do much to assist a friend like herself in an
"But how? This is not the street of a city. That house is watched, I
think. There seem to be a few men in these woods, if I am not
mistaken. Could this young lady help her friend to elude all these
guards? Why, you know very well that she could not."
"Yes; but then there is--"
"What of me?"
"What do I know about your designs?"
"What designs could _I_ have? Do you think _I_ could plan an escape?"
"Why not? What! living here close beside you? _I_ be a traitor? _I_,
with my life at your mercy at all times--with my throat within such
easy reach of any assassin who might choose to revenge my treachery?"
"We are not assassins," said Girasole, angrily.
"And I am not a traitor," rejoined the priest, mildly.
[Illustration: UNDER GUARD.]
Girasole was silent, and stood in thought. The men at the grave had
heard every word of this conversation. Once they laughed in scorn when
the priest alluded to the absurdity of a young girl escaping. It was
too ridiculous. Their sympathies were evidently with the priest. The
charge against him could not be maintained.
"Well," said Girasole at length, "I don't trust you. You may be
traitors, after all. I will have you guarded, and if I find out any
thing that looks like treason, by Heaven I will have your life, old
man, even if you should be the Holy Father himself; and as to the
lady--well, I will find plenty of ways," he added, with a sneer, "of
inflicting on her a punishment commensurable with her crime. Here, you
men, come along with me," he added, looking at the men by the grave.
"But we want to finish poor Antonio's grave," remonstrated one of the
"Bah! he'll keep," said Girasole, with a sneer.
"Can't one of us stay?" asked the man.
"No, not one; I want you all. If they are traitors, they are deep
ones. They must be guarded; and, mind you, if they escape, you shall
With these words he led the way, and the priest and Ethel followed
him. After these came the men, who had thrown down their shovels
beside the grave. They all walked on in silence, following Girasole,
who led the way to a place beyond the grave, and within view of one of
the fires formerly alluded to. The place was about half-way between
the grave and the fire. It was a little knoll bare of trees, and from
it they could be seen by those at the nearest fire. Here Girasole
paused, and, with some final words of warning to the guards, he turned
and took his departure.
The priest sat down upon the grass, and urged Ethel to do the same.
She followed his advice, and sat down by his side. The guards sat
around them so as to encircle them, and, mindful of Girasole's charge,
they kept their faces turned toward them, so as to prevent even the
very thought of flight. The priest addressed a few mild parental words
to the men, who gave him very civil responses, but relaxed not a
particle of their vigilance.
In the priest's mind there was still some anxiety, but much greater
hope than he had dared to have for some time. He remembered that the
coffin was not all covered over, and hoped that the inmate might be
able to breathe. The fact that the work had been so unexpectedly
interrupted was one which filled him with joy, and gave rise to the
best hopes. The only offset to all this was his own captivity, but
that was a very serious one. Besides, he knew that his life hung upon
a thread. Before the next day Girasole would certainly discover all,
and in that case he was a doomed man. But his nature was of a kind
that could not borrow trouble, and so the fact of the immediate safety
of Hawbury was of far more importance, and attracted far more of his
thoughts, than his own certain but more remote danger.
As for Ethel, she was now a prey to the deepest anxiety. All was
discovered except the mere fact of Hawbury's removal, and how long
that would remain concealed she could not know. Every moment she
expected to hear the cry of those who might discover the exchange. And
Hawbury, so long lost, so lately found--Hawbury, whom she had
suspected of falsity so long and so long avoided, who now had proved
himself so constant and so true--what was his fate? She had gazed with
eyes of horror at that grave wherein he lay, and had seen the men
shoveling in the earth as she came up. The recollection of this filled
her with anguish. Had they buried him?--how deep was the earth that
lay over him?--could there, indeed, be any hope?
All depended on the priest. She hoped that he had prevented things
from going too far. She had seen him watching the grave, and
motionless. What did that inactivity mean? Was it a sign that Hawbury
was safe, or was it merely because he could not do any thing?
She was distracted by such fearful thoughts as these. Her heart once
more throbbed with those painful pulsations which she had felt when
approaching Hawbury. For some time she sat supporting her agony as
best she could, and not daring to ask the priest, for fear their
guards might suspect the truth, or perhaps understand her words.
But at last she could bear it no longer.
She touched the priest's arm as he sat beside her, without looking at
The priest returned the touch.
"Is he safe?" she asked, in a tremulous voice, which was scarce
audible from grief and anxiety.
"He is," said the priest.
And then, looking at the man before him, he added immediately, in an
"She wants to know what time it is, and I told her two o'clock. That's
right, isn't it?"
"About right," said the man.
Now that was a lie, but whether it was justifiable or not may be left
to others to decide.
As for Ethel, an immense load of anxiety was lifted off her mind, and
she began to breathe more freely.
THE DEMON WIFE.
When Dacres was overpowered by his assailants no mercy was shown him.
His hands were bound tight behind him, and kicks and blows were
liberally bestowed during the operation. Finally, he was pushed and
dragged into the house, and up stairs to the room already mentioned.
There he was still further secured by a tight rope around his ankles,
after which he was left to his own meditations.
Gloomy and bitter and fierce, indeed, were those meditations. His body
was covered with bruises, and though no bones were broken, yet his
pain was great. In addition to this the cords around his wrists and
ankles were very tight, and his veins seemed swollen to bursting. It
was difficult to get an easy position, and he could only lie on his
side or on his face. These bodily pains only intensified the
fierceness of his thoughts and made them turn more vindictively than
ever upon the subject of his wife.
She was the cause of all this, he thought. She had sacrificed every
thing to her love for her accursed paramour. For this she had betrayed
him, and her friends, and the innocent girl who was her companion. All
the malignant feelings which had filled his soul through the day now
swelled within him, till he was well-nigh mad. Most intolerable of all
was his position now--the baffled enemy. He had come as the avenger,
he had come as the destroyer; but he had been entrapped before he had
struck his blow, and here he was now lying, defeated, degraded, and
humiliated! No doubt he would be kept to afford sport to his
enemy--perhaps even his wife might come to gloat over his sufferings,
and feast her soul with the sight of his ruin. Over such thoughts as
these he brooded, until at last he had wrought himself into something
like frenzy, and with the pain that he felt, and the weariness that
followed the fatigues of that day, these thoughts might finally have
brought on madness, had they gone on without any thing to disturb
But all these thoughts and ravings were destined to come to a full and
sudden stop, and to be changed to others of a far different character.
This change took place when Girasole, after visiting the ladies, came,
with Mrs. Willoughby, to his room. As Dacres lay on the floor he heard
the voice of the Italian, and the faint, mournful, pleading tones of a
woman's voice, and, finally, he saw the flash of a light, and knew
that the Italian was coming to his room, and perhaps this woman also.
He held his breath in suspense. What did it mean? The tone of Girasole
was not the tone of love. The light drew nearer, and the footsteps
too--one a heavy footfall, the tread of a man; the other lighter, the
step of a woman. He waited almost breathless.
At last she appeared. There she was before him, and with the Italian;
but oh, how changed from that demon woman of his fancies, who was to
appear before him with his enemy and gloat over his sufferings! Was
there a trace of a fiend in that beautiful and gentle face? Was there
thought of joy or exultation over him in that noble and mournful lady,
whose melancholy grace and tearful eyes now riveted his gaze? Where
was the foul traitor who had done to death her husband and her friend?
Where was the miscreant who had sacrificed all to a guilty passion?
Not there; not with that face; not with those tears: to think that was
impossible--it was unholy. He might rave when he did not see her, but
now that his eyes beheld her those mad fancies were all dissipated.
There was only one thing there--a woman full of loveliness and grace,
in the very bloom of her life, overwhelmed with suffering which this
Italian was inflicting on her. Why? Could he indulge the unholy
thought that the Italian had cast her off, and supplied her place with
the younger beauty? Away with such a thought! It was not jealousy of
that younger lady that Dacres perceived; it was the cry of a loving,
yearning heart that clung to that other one, from whom the Italian had
violently severed her. There was no mistake as to the source of this
sorrow. Nothing was left to the imagination. Her own words told all.
Then the light was taken away, and the lady crouched upon the floor.
Dacres could no longer see her amidst that gloom; but he could hear
her; and every sob, and every sigh, and every moan went straight to
his heart and thrilled through every fibre of his being. He lay there
listening, and quivering thus as he listened with a very intensity of
sympathy that shut out from his mind every other thought except that
of the mourning, stricken one before him.
Thus a long time passed, and the lady wept still, and other sounds
arose, and there were footsteps in the house, and whisperings, and
people passing to and fro; but to all these Dacres was deaf, and they
caused no more impression on his senses than if they were not. His
ears and his sense of hearing existed only for these sobs and these
At last a pistol-shot roused him. The lady sprang up and called in
despair. A cry came back, and the lady was about to venture to the
other room, when she was driven back by the stern voice of Girasole.
Then she stood for a moment, after which she knelt, and Dacres heard
her voice in prayer. The prayer was not audible, but now and then
words struck upon his ears which gave the key to her other words, and
he knew that it was no prayer of remorse for guilt, but a cry for help
in sore affliction.
Had any thing more been needed to destroy the last vestige of Dacres's
former suspicions it was furnished by the words which he now heard.
"Oh, Heaven!" he thought; "can this woman be what I have thought her?
But if not, what a villain am I! Yet now I must rather believe myself
to be a villain than her!"
In the midst of this prayer Girasole's voice sounded, and then
Minnie's tones came clearly audible. The lady rose and listened, and a
great sigh of relief escaped her. Then Girasole descended the stairs,
and the lady again sank upon her knees.
Thus far there seemed a spell upon Dacres; but this last incident and
the clear child-voice of Minnie seemed to break it. He could no longer
keep silence. His emotion was as intense as ever, but the bonds which
had bound his lips seemed now to be loosened.
"Oh. Arethusa!" he moaned.
At the sound of his voice Mrs. Willoughby started, and rose to her
feet. So great had been her anxiety and agitation that for some time
she had not thought of another being in the room, and there had been
no sound from him to suggest his existence. But now his voice startled
her. She gave no answer, however.
"Arethusa!" repeated Dacres, gently and longingly and tenderly.
"Poor fellow!" thought Mrs. Willoughby; "he's dreaming."
"Arethusa! oh, Arethusa!" said Dacres once more. "Do not keep away.
Come to me. I am calm now."
"Poor fellow!" thought Mrs. Willoughby. "He doesn't seem to be asleep.
He's talking to me. I really think he is."
"Arethusa," said Dacres again, "will you answer me one question?"
Mrs. Willoughby hesitated for a moment, but now perceived that Dacres
was really speaking to her. "He's in delirium," she thought. "Poor
fellow, I must humor him, I suppose. But what a funny name to give
So, after a little preparatory cough, Mrs. Willoughby said, in a low
Dacres was silent for a few moments. He was overcome by his emotions.
He wished to ask her one question--the question of all questions in
his mind. Already her acts had answered it sufficiently; but he longed
to have the answer in her own words. Yet he hesitated to ask it. It
was dishonor to her to ask it. And thus, between longing and
hesitation, he delayed so long that Mrs. Willoughby imagined that he
had fallen back into his dreams or into his delirium, and would say no
But at last Dacres staked every thing on the issue, and asked it:
"Arethusa! oh, Arethusa! do you--do you love--the--the Italian?"
"The Italian!" said Mrs. Willoughby--"love the Italian! me!" and then
in a moment she thought that this was his delirium, and she must humor
it. "Poor fellow!" she sighed again; "how he fought them! and no doubt
he has had fearful blows on his head."
"Do you? do you? Oh, answer, I implore you!" cried Dacres.
"No!" said Mrs. Willoughby, solemnly. "I hate him as I never hated man
before," She spoke her mind this time, although she thought the other
A sigh of relief and of happiness came from Dacres, so deep that it
was almost a groan.
"And oh," he continued, "tell me this--have you ever loved him at
"I always disliked him excessively," said Mrs. Willoughby, in the same
low and solemn tone. "I saw something bad--altogether bad--in his
"Oh, may Heaven forever bless you for that word!" exclaimed Dacres,
with such a depth of fervor that Mrs. Willoughby was surprised. She
now believed that he was intermingling dreams with realities, and
tried to lead him to sense by reminding him of the truth.
"It was Minnie, you know, that he was fond of."
"What! Minnie Fay?"
"Yes; oh yes. I never saw any thing of him."
"Oh, Heavens!" cried Dacres; "oh, Heavens, what a fool, beast,
villain, and scoundrel I have been! Oh, how I have misjudged _you_!
And can _you_ forgive me? Oh, can you? But no--you can not."
At this appeal Mrs. Willoughby was startled, and did not know what to
say or to do. How much of this was delirium and how much real she
could not tell. One thing seemed evident to her, and that was that,
whether delirious or not, he took her for another person. But she was
so full of pity for him, and so very tenderhearted, that her only idea
was to "humor" him.
"Oh," he cried again, "can this all be true, and have all my
suspicions been as mad as these last? And _you_--how _you_ have
changed! How beautiful you are! What tenderness there is in your
glance--what a pure and gentle and touching grace there is in your
expression! I swear to you, by Heaven! I have stood gazing at you in
places where you have not seen me, and thought I saw heaven in your
face, and worshiped you in my inmost soul. This is the reason why I
have followed you. From the time I saw you when you came into the room
at Naples till this night I could not get rid of your image. I fought
against the feeling, but I can not overcome it. Never, never were you
half so dear as you are now!"
Now, of course, that was all very well, considered as the language of
an estranged husband seeking for reconciliation with an estranged
wife; but when one regards it simply as the language of a passionate
lover directed to a young and exceedingly pretty widow, one will
perceive that it was _not_ all very well, and that under ordinary
circumstances it might create a sensation.
Upon Mrs. Willoughby the sensation was simply tremendous. She had
begun by "humoring" the delirious man; but now she found his delirium
taking a course which was excessively embarrassing. The worst of it
was, there was truth enough in his language to increase the
embarrassment. She remembered at once how the mournful face of this
man had appeared before her in different places. Her thoughts
instantly reverted to that evening on the balcony when his pale face
appeared behind the fountain. There was truth in his words; and her
heart beat with extraordinary agitation at the thought. Yet at the
same time there was some mistake about it all; and he was clearly
"Oh, Heavens!" he cried. "Can you ever forgive me? Is there a
possibility of it? Oh, can you forgive me? Can you--can you?"
He was clearly delirious now. Her heart was full of pity for him. He
was suffering too. He was bound fast. Could she not release him? It
was terrible for this man to lie there bound thus. And perhaps he had
fallen into the hands of these ruffians while trying to save _her_ and
her sister. She must free him.
"Would you like to be loosed?" she asked, coming nearer. "Shall I cut
She spoke in a low whisper.
"Oh, tell me first, I implore you! Can you forgive me?"
He spoke in such a piteous tone that her heart was touched.
"Forgive you?" she said, in a voice full of sympathy and pity. "There
is nothing for _me_ to forgive."
"Now may Heaven forever bless you for that sweet and gentle word!"
said Dacres, who altogether misinterpreted her words, and the emphasis
she placed on them; and in his voice there was such peace, and such a
gentle, exultant happiness, that Mrs. Willoughby again felt touched.
"Poor fellow!" she thought; "how he _must_ have suffered!"
"Where are you fastened?" she whispered, as she bent over him. Dacres
felt her breath upon his cheek; the hem of her garment touched his
sleeve, and a thrill passed through him. He felt as though he would
like to be forever thus, with _her_ bending over him.
"My hands are fastened behind me," said he.
"I have a knife," said Mrs. Willoughby. She did not stop to think of
danger. It was chiefly pity that incited her to this. She could not
bear to see him lying thus in pain, which he had perhaps, as she
supposed, encountered for her. She was impulsive, and though she
thought of his assistance toward the escape of Minnie and herself, yet
pity and compassion were her chief inspiring motives.
Mrs. Willoughby had told Girasole that she had no knife; but this was
not quite true, for she now produced one, and cut the cords that bound
his wrists. Again a thrill flashed through him at the touch of her
little fingers; she then cut the cords that bound his ankles.
Dacres sat up. His ankles and wrists were badly swollen, but he was no
longer conscious of pain. There was rapture in his soul, and of that
alone was he conscious.
"Be careful!" she whispered, warningly; "guards are all around, and
listeners. Be careful! If you can think of a way of escape, do so."
Dacres rubbed his hand over his forehead.
"Am I dreaming?" said he; "or is it all true? A while ago I was
suffering from some hideous vision; yet now you say you forgive me!"
Mrs. Willoughby saw in this a sign of returning delirium. "But the
poor fellow must be humored, I suppose," she thought.
"Oh, there is nothing for _me_ to forgive," said she.
"But if there were any thing, would you?"
"Freely?" he cried, with a strong emphasis.
"Oh, could you answer me one more question? Oh, could you?"
"No, no; not now--not now, I entreat you," said Mrs. Willoughby, in
nervous dread. She was afraid that his delirium would bring him upon
delicate ground, and she tried to hold him back.
"But I must ask you," said Dacres, trembling fearfully--"I must--now
or never. Tell me my doom; I have suffered so much. Oh, Heavens!
Answer me. Can you? Can you feel toward me as you once did?"
"He's utterly mad," thought Mrs. Willoughby; "but he'll get worse if I
don't soothe him. Poor fellow! I ought to answer him."
"Yes," she said, in a low voice.
"Oh, my darling!" murmured Dacres, in rapture inexpressible; "my
darling!" he repeated; and grasping Mrs. Willoughby's hand, he pressed
it to his lips. "And you will love me again--you will love me?"
Mrs. Willoughby paused. The man was mad, but the ground was so
dangerous! Yes, she must humor him. She felt his hot kisses on her
"You _will_--you _will_ love me, will you not?" he repeated. "Oh,
answer me! Answer me, or I shall die!"
"Yes," whispered Mrs. Willoughby, faintly.
As she said this a cold chill passed through her. But it was too late.
Dacres's arms were around her. He had drawn her to him, and pressed
her against his breast, and she felt hot tears upon her head.
"Oh, Arethusa!" cried Dacres.
"Well," said Mrs. Willoughby, as soon as she could extricate herself,
"there's a mistake, you know."
"A mistake, darling?"
"Oh dear, what _shall_ I do?" thought Mrs. Willoughby; "he's beginning
again. I must stop this, and bring him to his senses. How terrible it
is to humor a delirious man!"
"Oh, Arethusa!" sighed Dacres once more.
Mrs. Willoughby arose.
"I'm not Arethusa at all," said she; "that isn't my name. If you _can_
shake off your delirium, I wish you would. I really do."
"What!" cried Dacres, in amazement.
"I'm not Arethusa at all; that isn't my name."
"Not your name?"
"No; my name's Kitty."
"Kitty!" cried Dacres, starting to his feet.
At that instant the report of a gun burst upon their ears, followed by
another and another; then there were wild calls and loud shouts. Other
guns were heard.
Yet amidst all this wild alarm there was nothing which had so
tremendous an effect upon Dacres as this last remark of Mrs.
[Illustration: "THE PRIEST FLUNG HIMSELF FORWARD."]
THE CRISIS OF LIFE.
When the Irish priest conjectured that it was about two o'clock in the
morning he was not very far astray in his calculation. The short
remarks that were exchanged between him and Ethel, and afterward
between him and the men, were followed by a profound silence. Ethel
sat by the side of the priest, with her head bent forward and her eyes
closed as though she were asleep; yet sleep was farther from her than
ever it had been, and the thrilling events of the night afforded
sufficient material to keep her awake for many a long hour yet to
come. Her mind was now filled with a thousand conflicting and most
exciting fancies, in the midst of which she might again have sunk into
despair had she not been sustained by the assurance of the priest.
Sitting near Ethel, the priest for some time looked fixedly ahead of
him as though he were contemplating the solemn midnight scene, or
meditating upon the beauties of nature. In truth, the scene around was
one which was deserving even of the close attention which the priest
appeared to give. Immediately before him lay the lake, its shore not
far beneath, and almost at their feet. Around it arose the wooded
hills, whose dark forms, darker from the gloom of night, threw
profound shadows over the opposite shores. Near by the shore extended
on either side. On the right there were fires, now burning low, yet
occasionally sending forth flashes; on the left, and at some distance,
might be seen the dusky outline of the old stone house. Behind them
was the forest, vast, gloomy, clothed in impenetrable shade, in which
lay their only hope of safety, yet where even now there lurked the
watchful guards of the brigands. It was close behind them. Once in its
shelter, and they might gain freedom; yet between them and it was an
impassable barrier of enemies, and there also lay a still more
impassable barrier in the grave where Hawbury lay. To fly, even if
they could fly, would be to give him up to death; yet to remain, as
they must remain, would be to doom him to death none the less, and
Seated there, with his eyes directed toward the water, the priest saw
nothing of the scene before him; his eyes were fixed on vacancy; his
thoughts were endeavoring to grapple with the situation and master it.
Yet so complicated was that situation, and so perplexing the dilemma
in which he found himself--a dilemma where death perched upon either
horn--that the good priest found his faculties becoming gradually more
and more unable to deal with the difficulty, and he felt himself once
more sinking down deeper and deeper into that abyss of despair from
which he had but recently extricated himself.
And still the time passed, and the precious moments, laden with the
fate not only of Hawbury, but of all the others--the moments of the
night during which alone any escape was to be thought of--moved all
too swiftly away.
Now in this hour of perplexity the good priest bethought him of a
friend whose fidelity had been proved through the varied events of a
life--a friend which, in his life of celibacy, had found in his heart
something of that place which a fond and faithful wife may hold in the
heart of a more fortunate man. It was a little friend, a fragrant
friend, a tawny and somewhat grimy friend; it was in the pocket of his
coat; it was of clay; in fact, it was nothing else than a dudeen.
Where in the world had the good priest who lived in this remote corner
of Italy got that emblem of his green native isle? Perhaps he had
brought it with him in the band of his hat when he first turned his
back upon his country, or perhaps he had obtained it from the same
quarter which had supplied him with that very black plug of tobacco
which he brought forth shortly afterward. The one was the complement
of the other, and each was handled with equal love and care. Soon the
occupation of cutting up the tobacco and rubbing it gave a temporary
distraction to his thoughts, which distraction was prolonged by the
further operation of pressing the tobacco into the bowl of the dudeen.
Here the priest paused and cast a longing look toward the fire, which
was not far away.
"Would you have any objection to let me go and get a coal to light the
pipe?" said he to one of the men.
The man had an objection, and a very strong one.
"Would one of you be kind enough to go and get me a brand or a hot
This led to an earnest debate, and finally one of the men thought that
he might venture. Before doing so, however, a solemn promise was
extorted from the priest that he would not try to escape during his
absence. This the priest gave.
"Escape!" he said--"it's a smoke I want. Besides, how can I escape
with three of ye watching me? And then, what would I want to escape
for? I'm safe enough here."
The man now went off, and returned in a short time with a brand. The
priest gave him his blessing, and received the brand with a quiet
exultation that was pleasing to behold.
"Matches," said he, "ruin the smoke. They give it a sulphur taste.
There's nothing like a hot coal."
Saying this, he lighted his pipe. This operation was accomplished with
a series of those short, quick, hard, percussive puffs with which the
Irish race in every clime on this terrestrial ball perform the solemn
And now the thoughts of the priest became more calm and regular and
manageable. His confusion departed, and gradually, as the smoke
ascended to the skies, there was diffused over his soul a certain
soothing and all-pervading calm.
He now began to face the full difficulty of his position. He saw that