Part 8 out of 9
The appearance of the lawyer at our breakfast-table duly
followed the appearance of his telegram. His first words cheered
me. To my infinite surprise and relief, he was far from sharing
the despondent view which I took of my position.
"I don't deny," he said, "that there are some serious obstacles
in your way. But I should never have called here before attending
to my professional business in London if Mr. Benjamin's notes had
not produced a very strong impression on my mind. For the first
time, as _I_ think, you really have a prospect of success. For
the first time, I feel justified in offering (under certain
restrictions) to help you. That miserable wretch, in the collapse
of his intelligence, has done what he would never have done in
the possession of his sense and his cunning--he has let us see
the first precious glimmerings of the light of truth."
"Are you sure it _is_ the truth?" I asked.
"In two important particulars," he answered, "I know it to be the
truth. Your idea about him is the right one. His memory (as you
suppose) was the least injured of his faculties, and was the last
to give way under the strain of trying to tell that story. I
believe his memory to have been speaking to you (unconsciously to
himself) in all that he said from the moment when the first
reference to 'the letter' escaped him to the end."
"But what does the reference to the letter mean?" I asked. "For
my part, I am entirely in the dark about it."
"So am I," he answered, frankly. "The chief one among the
obstacles which I mentioned just now is the obstacle presented by
that same 'letter.' The late Mrs. Eustace must have been
connected with it in some way, or Dexter would never have spoken
of it as 'a dagger in his heart'; Dexter would never have coupled
her name with the words which describe the tearing up of the
letter and the throwing of it away. I can arrive with some
certainty at this result, and I can get no further. I have no
more idea than you have of who wrote the letter, or of what was
written in it. If we are ever to make that discovery--probably
the most important discovery of all--we must dispatch our first
inquiries a distance of three thousand miles. In plain English,
my dear lady, we must send to America."
This, naturally enough, took me completely by surprise. I waited
eagerly to hear why we were to send to America.
"It rests with you," he proceeded, "when you hear what I have to
tell you, to say whether you will go to the expense of sending a
man to New York, or not. I can find the right man for the
purpose; and I estimate the expense (including a telegram)--"
"Never mind the expense!" I interposed, losing all patience with
the eminently Scotch view of the case which put my purse in the
first place of importance. "I don't care for the expense; I want
to know what you have discovered."
He smiled. "She doesn't care for the expense," he said to
himself, pleasantly. "How like a woman!"
I might have retorted, "He thinks of the expense before he thinks
of anything else. How like a Scotchman!" As it was, I was too
anxious to be witty. I only drummed impatiently with my fingers
on the table, and said, "Tell me! tell me!"
He took out the fair copy from Benjamin's note-book which I had
sent to him, and showed me these among Dexter's closing words:
"What about the letter? Burn it now. No fire in the grate. No
matches in the box. House topsy-turvy. Servants all gone."
"Do you really understand what those words mean?" I asked.
"I look back into my own experience," he answered, "and I
understand perfectly what the words mean."
"And can you make me understand them too?"
"Easily. In those incomprehensible sentences Dexter's memory has
correctly recalled certain facts. I have only to tell you the
facts, and you will be as wise as I am. At the time of the Trial,
your husband surprised and distressed me by insisting on the
instant dismissal of all the household servants at Gleninch. I
was instructed to pay them a quarter's wages in advance, to give
them the excellent written characters which their good conduct
thoroughly deserved, and to see the house clear of them at an
hour's notice. Eustace's motive for this summary proceeding was
much the same motive which animated his conduct toward you. 'If I
am ever to return to Gleninch,' he said, 'I cannot face my honest
servants after the infamy of having stood my trial for murder.'
There was his reason. Nothing that I could say to him, poor
fellow, shook his resolution. I dismissed the servants
accordingly. At an hour's notice, they quitted the house, leaving
their work for the day all undone. The only persons placed in
charge of Gleninch were persons who lived on the outskirts of the
park--that is to say, the lodge-keeper and his wife and daughter.
On the last day of the Trial I instructed the daughter to do her
best to make the rooms tidy. She was a good girl enough, but she
had no experience as a housemaid: it would never enter her head
to lay the bedroom fires ready for lighting, or to replenish the
empty match-boxes. Those chance words that dropped from Dexter
would, no doubt, exactly describe the state of his room when he
returned to Gleninch, with the prisoner and his mother, from
Edinburgh. That he tore up the mysterious letter in his bedroom,
and (finding no means immediately at hand for burning it) that he
threw the fragments into the empty grate, or into the waste-paper
basket, seems to be the most reasonable conclusion that we can
draw from what we know. In any case, he would not have much time
to think about it. Everything was done in a hurry on that day.
Eustace and his mother, accompanied by Dexter, left for England
the same evening by the night train. I myself locked up the
house, and gave the keys to the lodge-keeper. It was understood
that he was to look after the preservation of the reception-rooms
on the ground-floor; and that his wife and daughter were to
perform the same service between them in the rooms upstairs. On
receiving your letter, I drove at once to Gleninch to question
the old woman on the subject of the bedrooms, and of Dexter's
room especially. She remembered the time when the house was shut
up by associating it with the time when she was confined to her
bed by an attack of sciatica. She had not crossed the lodge door,
she was sure, for at least a week (if not longer after Gleninch
had been left in charge of her husband and herself. Whatever was
done in the way of keeping the bedrooms aired and tidy during her
illness was done by her daughter. She, and she only, must have
disposed of any letter which might have been lying about in
Dexter's room. Not a vestige of torn paper, as I can myself
certify, is to be discovered in any part of the room now. Where
did the girl find the fragments of the letter? and what did she
do with them? Those are the questions (if you approve of it)
which we must send three thousand miles away to ask--for this
sufficient reason, that the lodge-keeper's daughter was married
more than a year since, and that she is settled with her husband
in business at New York. It rests with you to decide what is to
be done. Don't let me mislead you with false hopes! Don't let me
tempt you to throw away your money! Even if this woman does
remember what she did with the torn paper, the chances, at this
distance of time, are enormously against our ever recovering a
single morsel of it. Be in no haste to decide. I have my work to
do in the city--I can give you the whole day to think it over."
"Send the man to New York by the next steamer," I said. "There is
my decision, Mr. Playmore, without keeping you waiting for it!"
He shook his head, in grave disapproval of my impetuosity. In my
former interview with him we had never once touched on the
question of money. I was now, for the first time, to make
acquaintance with Mr. Playmore on the purely Scotch side of his
"Why, you don't even know what it will cost you!" he exclaimed,
taking out his pocket-book with the air of a man who was equally
startled and scandalized. "Wait till I tot it up," he said, "in
English and American money."
"I can't wait! I want to make more discoveries!"
He took no notice of my interruption; he went on impenetrably
with his calculations.
"The man will go second-class, and will take a return-ticket.
Very well. His ticket includes his food; and (being, thank God, a
teetotaler) he won't waste your money in buying liquor on board.
Arrived at New York, he will go to a cheap German house, where he
will, as I am credibly informed, be boarded and lodged at the
By this time (my patience being completely worn out) I had taken
my check-book from the table-drawer, had signed my name, and had
handed the blank check across the table to my legal adviser.
"Fill it in with whatever the man wants," I said. "And for
Heaven's sake let us get back to Dexter!"
Mr. Playmore fell back in his chair, and lifted his hands and
eyes to the ceiling. I was not in the least impressed by that
solemn appeal to the unseen powers of arithmetic and money. I
insisted positively on being fed with more information.
"Listen to this," I went on, reading from Benjamin's notes. "What
did Dexter mean when he said, 'Number Nine, Caldershaws. Ask for
Dandie. You shan't have the Diary. A secret in your ear. The
Diary will hang him?' How came Dexter to know what was in my
husband's Diary? And what does he mean by 'Number Nine,
Caldershaws,' and the rest of it? Facts again?"
"Facts again!" Mr. Playmore answered, "muddled up together, as
you may say--but positive facts for all that. Caldershaws, you
must know, is one of the most disreputable districts in
Edinburgh. One of my clerks (whom I am in the habit of employing
confidentially) volunteered to inquire for 'Dandie' at 'Number
Nine.' It was a ticklish business in every way; and my man wisely
took a person with him who was known in the neighborhood. 'Number
Nine' turned out to be (ostensibly) a shop for the sale of rags
and old iron; and 'Dandie' was suspected of trading now and then,
additionally, as a receiver of stolen goods. Thanks to the
influence of his companion, backed by a bank-note (which can be
repaid, by the way, out of the fund for the American expenses),
my clerk succeeded is making the fellow speak. Not to trouble you
with needless details, the result in substance was this: A
fortnight or more before the date of Mrs. Eustace's death,
'Dandie' made two keys from wax models supplied to him by a new
customer. The mystery observed in the matter by the agent who
managed it excited Dandie's distrust. He had the man privately
watched before he delivered the keys; and he ended in discovering
that his customer was--Miserrimus Dexter. Wait a little! I have
not done yet. Add to this information Dexter's incomprehensible
knowledge of the contents of your husband's diary, and the
product is--that the wax models sent to the old-iron shop in
Caldershaws were models taken by theft from the key of the Diary
and the key of the table-drawer in which it was kept. I have my
own idea of the revelations that are still to come if this matter
is properly followed up. Never mind going into that at present.
Dexter (I tell you again) is answerable for the late Mrs.
Eustace's death. _How_ he is answerable I believe you are in a
fair way of finding out. And, more than that, I say now, what I
could not venture to say before--it is a duty toward Justice, as
well as a duty toward your husband, to bring the truth to light.
As for the difficulties to be encountered, I don't think they
need daunt you. The greatest difficulties give way in the end,
when they are attacked by the united alliance of patience
With a strong emphasis on the last words, my worthy adviser,
mindful of the flight of time and the claims of business, rose to
take his leave.
"One word more," I said, as he held out his hand. "Can you manage
to s ee Miserrimus Dexter before you go back to Edinburgh? From
what the gardener told me, his brother must be with him by this
time. It would be a relief to me to hear the latest news of him,
and to hear it from you."
"It is part of my business in London to see him," said Mr.
Playmore. "But mind! I have no hope of his recovery; I only wish
to satisfy myself that his brother is able and willing to take
care of him. So far as _we_ are concerned, Mrs. Eustace, that
unhappy man has said his last words."
He opened the door--stopped--considered--and come back to me.
"With regard to that matter of sending the agent to America," he
resumed--"I propose to have the honor of submitting to you a
"Oh, Mr. Playmore!"
"A brief abstract in writing, Mrs. Eustace, of the estimated
expenses of the whole proceeding. You will be good enough
maturely to consider the same, making any remarks on it, tending
to economy, which may suggest themselves to your mind at the
time. And you will further oblige me, if you approve of the
abstract, by yourself filling in the blank space on your check
with the needful amount in words and figures. No, madam! I really
cannot justify it to my conscience to carry about my person any
such loose and reckless document as a blank check. There's a
total disregard of the first claims of prudence and economy
implied in this small slip of paper which is nothing less than a
flat contradiction of the principles that have governed my whole
life. I can't submit to flat contradiction. Good-morning, Mrs.
He laid my check on the table with a low bow, and left me. Among
the curious developments of human stupidity which occasionally
present themselves to view, surely the least excusable is the
stupidity which, to this day, persists in wondering why the
Scotch succeed so well in life!
The same evening I received my "abstract" by the hands of a
It was an intensely characteristic document. My expenses were
remorselessly calculated downward to shillings and even to pence;
and our unfortunate messenger's instructions in respect to his
expenditure were reduced to a nicety which must have made his
life in America nothing less than a burden to him. In mercy to
the man, I took the liberty, when I wrote back to Mr. Playmore,
of slightly increasing the indicated amount of the figures which
were to appear on the check. I ought to have better known the
correspondent whom I had to deal with. Mr. Playmore's reply
(informing me that our emissary had started on his voyage)
returned a receipt in due form, and the whole of the surplus
money, to the last farthing!
A few hurried lines accompanied the "abstract," and stated the
result of the lawyer's visit to Miserrimus Dexter.
There was no change for the better--there was no change at all.
Mr. Dexter, the brother, had arrived at the house accompanied by
a medical man accustomed to the charge of the insane. The new
doctor declined to give any definite opinion on the case until he
had studied it carefully with plenty of time at his disposal. It
had been accordingly arranged that he should remove Miserrimus
Dexter to the asylum of which he was the proprietor as soon as
the preparations for receiving the patient could be completed.
The one difficulty that still remained to be met related to the
disposal of the faithful creature who had never left her master,
night or day, since the catastrophe had happened. Ariel had no
friends and no money. The proprietor of the asylum could not be
expected to receive her without the customary payment; and Mr.
Dexter's brother "regretted to say that he was not rich enough to
find the money." A forcible separation from the one human being
whom she loved, and a removal in the character of a pauper to a
public asylum--such was the prospect which awaited the
unfortunate creature unless some one interfered in her favor
before the end of the week.
Under these sad circumstances, good Mr. Playmore--passing over
the claims of economy in favor of the claims of
humanity--suggested that we should privately start a
subscription, and offered to head the list liberally himself.
I must have written all these pages to very little purpose if it
is necessary for me to add that I instantly sent a letter to Mr.
Dexter, the brother, undertaking to be answerable for whatever
money was to be required while the subscriptions were being
collected, and only stipulating that when Miserrimus Dexter was
removed to the asylum, Ariel should accompany him. This was
readily conceded. But serious objections were raised when I
further requested that she might be permitted to attend on her
master in the asylum as she had attended on him in the house. The
rules of the establishment forbade it, and the universal practice
in such cases forbade it, and so on, and so on. However, by dint
of perseverance and persuasion, I so far carried my point as to
gain a reasonable concession. During certain hours in the day,
and under certain wise restrictions, Ariel was to be allowed the
privilege of waiting on the Master in his room, as well as of
accompanying him when he was brought out in his chair to take the
air in the garden. For the honor of humanity, let me add that the
liability which I had undertaken made no very serious demands on
my resources. Placed in Benjamin's charge, our subscription-list
prospered. Friends, and even strangers sometimes, opened their
hearts and their purses when they heard Ariel's melancholy story.
The day which followed the day of Mr. Playmore's visit brought
me news from Spain, in a letter from my mother-in-law. To
describe what I felt when I broke the seal and read the first
lines is simply impossible. Let Mrs. Macallan be heard on this
occasion in my place.
Thus she wrote:
"Prepare yourself, my dearest Valeria, for a delightful
surprise. Eustace has justified my confidence in him. When he
returns to England, he returns--if you will let him--to his wife.
"This resolution, let me hasten to assure you, has not been
brought about by any persuasions of mine. It is the natural
outgrowth of your husband's gratitude and your husband's love.
The first words he said to me, when he was able to speak, were
these: 'If I live to return to England, and if I go to Valeria,
do you think she will forgive me?' We can only leave it to you,
my dear, to give the answer. If you love us, answer us by return
"Having now told you what he said when I first informed him that
you had been his nurse--and remember, if it seem very little,
that he is still too weak to speak except with difficulty--I
shall purposely keep my letter back for a few days. My object is
to give him time to think, and to frankly tell you of it if the
interval produce any change in his resolution.
"Three days have passed, and there is no change. He has but one
feeling now--he longs for the day which is to unite him again to
"But there is something else connected with Eustace that you
ought to know, and that I ought to tell you.
"Greatly as time and suffering have altered him in many respects,
there is no change, Valeria, in the aversion--the horror I may
even say--with which he views your idea of inquiring anew into
the circumstances which attended the lamentable death of his
first wife. It makes no difference to him that you are only
animated by a desire to serve his interests. 'Has she given up
that idea? Are you positively sure she has given up that idea?'
Over and over again he has put these questions to me. I have
answered--what else could I do in the miserably feeble state in
which he still lies?--I have answered in such a manner as to
soothe and satisfy him. I have said, 'Relieve your mind of all
anxiety on that subject: Valeria has no choice but to give up the
idea; the obstacles in her way have proved to be
insurmountable--the obstacles have conquered her.' This, if you
remember, was what I really believed would happen when you and I
spoke of that painful topic; and I have heard nothing from you
since which has tended to shake my opinion in the smallest
degree. If I am right (as I pray God I may be) in the view that I
take, you h ave only to confirm me in your reply, and all will be
well. In the other event--that is to say, if you are still
determined to persevere in your hopeless project--then make up
your mind to face the result. Set Eustace's prejudices at
defiance in this particular, and you lose your hold on his
gratitude, his penitence, and his love--you will, in my belief,
never see him again.
"I express myself strongly, in your own interests, my dear, and
for your own sake. When you reply, write a few lines to Eustace,
inclosed in your letter to me.
"As for the date of our departure, it is still impossible for me
to give you any definite information. Eustace recovers very
slowly; the doctor has not yet allowed him to leave his bed; and
when we do travel we must journey by easy stages. It will be at
least six weeks, at the earliest, before we can hope to be back
again in dear Old England.
I laid down the letter, and did my best (vainly enough for some
time) to compose my spirits. To understand the position in which
I now found myself, it is only necessary to remember one
circumstance: the messenger to whom we had committed our
inquiries was at that moment crossing the Atlantic on his way to
What was to be done?
I hesitated. Shocking as it may seem to some people, I hesitated.
There was really no need to hurry my decision. I had the whole
day before me.
I went out and took a wretched, lonely walk, and turned the
matter over in my mind. I came home again, and turned the matter
over once more by the fireside. To offend and repel my darling
when he was returning to me, penitently returning of his own free
will, was what no woman in my position, and feeling as I did,
could under any earthly circumstances have brought herself to do.
And yet. on the other hand, how in Heaven's name could I give up
my grand enterprise at the very time when even wise and prudent
Mr. Playmore saw such a prospect of succeeding in it that he had
actually volunteered to help me? Placed between those two cruel
alternatives, which could I choose? Think of your own frailties,
and have some mercy on mine. I turned my back on both the
alternatives. Those two agreeable fiends, Prevarication and
Deceit, took me, as it were, softly by the hand: "Don't commit
yourself either way, my dear," they said, in their most
persuasive manner. "Write just enough to compose your
mother-in-law and to satisfy your husband. You have got time
before you. Wait and see if Time doesn't stand your friend, and
get you out of the difficulty."
Infamous advice! And yet I took it--I, who had been well brought
up, and who ought to have known better. You who read this
shameful confession would have known better, I am sure. _You_ are
not included, in the Prayer-book category, among the "miserable
Well! well! let me have virtue enough to tell the truth. In
writing to my mother-in-law, I informed her that it had been
found necessary to remove Miserrimus Dexter to an asylum--and I
left her to draw her own conclusions from that fact,
unenlightened by so much as one word of additional information.
In the same way, I told my husband a part of the truth, and no
more. I said I forgave him with all my heart--and I did! I said
he had only to come to me, and I would receive him with open
arms--and so I would! As for the rest, let me say with
Hamlet--"The rest is silence."
Having dispatched my unworthy letters, I found myself growing
restless, and feeling the want of a change. It would be necessary
to wait at least eight or nine days before we could hope to hear
by telegraph from New York. I bade farewell for a time to my dear
and admirable Benjamin, and betook myself to my old home in the
North, at the vicarage of my uncle Starkweather. My journey to
Spain to nurse Eustace had made my peace with my worthy
relatives; we had exchanged friendly letters; and I had promised
to be their guest as soon as it was possible for me to leave
I passed a quiet and (all things considered) a happy time among
the old scenes. I visited once more the bank by the river-side,
where Eustace and I had first met. I walked again on the lawn and
loitered through the shrubbery--those favorite haunts in which we
had so often talked over our troubles, and so often forgotten
them in a kiss. How sadly and strangely had our lives been parted
since that time! How uncertain still was the fortune which the
future had in store for us!
The associations amid which I was now living had their softening
effect on my heart, their elevating influence over my mind. I
reproached myself, bitterly reproached myself, for not having
written more fully and frankly to Eustace. Why had I hesitated to
sacrifice to him my hopes and my interests in the coming
investigation? _He_ had not hesitated, poor fellow--_his_ first
thought was the thought of his wife!
I had passed a fortnight with my uncle and aunt before I heard
again from Mr. Playmore. When a letter from him arrived at last,
it disappointed me indescribably. A telegram from our messenger
informed us that the lodge-keeper's daughter and her husband had
left New York, and that he was still in search of a trace of
There was nothing to be done but to wait as patiently as we
could, on the chance of hearing better news. I remained in the
North, by Mr. Playmore's advice, so as to be within an easy
journey to Edinburgh--in case it might be necessary for me to
consult him personally. Three more weeks of weary expectation
passed before a second letter reached me. This time it was
impossible to say whether the news were good or bad. It might
have been either--it was simply bewildering. Even Mr. Playmore
himself was taken by surprise. These were the last wonderful
words--limited of course by considerations of economy--which
reached us (by telegram) from our agent in America:
"Open the dust-heap at Gleninch."
MY letter from Mr. Playmore, inclosing the agent's extraordinary
telegram, was not inspired by the sanguine view of our prospects
which he had expressed to me when we met at Benjamin's house.
"If the telegram mean anything," he wrote, "it means that the
fragments of the torn letter have been cast into the housemaid's
bucket (along with the dust, the ashes, and the rest of the
litter in the room), and have been emptied on the dust-heap at
Gleninch. Since this was done, the accumulated refuse collected
from the periodical cleansings of the house, during a term of
nearly three years--including, of course, the ashes from the
fires kept burning, for the greater part of the year, in the
library and the picture-gallery--have been poured upon the heap,
and have buried the precious morsels of paper deeper and deeper,
day by day. Even if we have a fair chance of finding these
fragments, what hope can we feel, at this distance of time, of
recovering them with the writing in a state of preservation? I
shall be glad to hear, by return of post if possible, how the
matter strikes you. If you could make it convenient to consult
with me personally in Edinburgh, we should save time, when time
may be of serious importance to us. While you are at Doctor
Starkweather's you are within easy reach of this place. Please
think of it."
I thought of it seriously enough. The foremost question which I
had to consider was the question of my husband.
The departure of the mother and son from Spain had been so long
delayed, by the surgeon's orders, that the travelers had only
advanced on their homeward journey as far as Bordeaux, when I had
last heard from Mrs. Macallan three or four days since. Allowing
for an interval of repose at Bordeaux, and for the slow rate at
which they would be compelled to move afterward, I might still
expect them to arrive in England some time before a letter from
the agent in America could reach Mr. Playmore. How, in this
position of affairs, I could contrive to join the lawyer in
Edinburgh, after meeting my husband in London, it was not easy to
see. The wise and the right way, as I thought, was to tell Mr.
Playmore frankly that I was not mistress of my
Own movements, and that he had better address his next letter to
me at Benjamin's house.
Writing to my legal adviser in this sense, I had a word of my own
to add on the subject of the torn letter.
In the last years of my father's life I had traveled with him in
Italy, and I had seen in the Museum at Naples the wonderful
relics of a bygone time discovered among the ruins of Pompeii. By
way of encouraging Mr. Playmore, I now reminded him that the
eruption which had overwhelmed the town had preserved, for more
than sixteen hundred years, such perishable things as the straw
in which pottery had been packed; the paintings on house walls;
the dresses worn by the inhabitants; and (most noticeable of all,
in our case) a piece of ancient paper, still attached to the
volcanic ashes which had fallen over it. If these discoveries had
been made after a lapse of sixteen centuries, under a layer of
dust and ashes on a large scale, surely we might hope to meet
with similar cases of preservation, after a lapse of three or
four years only, under a layer of dust and ashes on a small
scale. Taking for granted (what was perhaps doubtful enough) that
the fragments of the letter could be recovered, my own conviction
was that the writing on them, though it might be faded, would
certainly still be legible. The very accumulations which Mr.
Playmore deplored would be the means of preserving them from the
rain and the damp. With these modest hints I closed my letter;
and thus for once, thanks to my Continental experience, I was
able to instruct my lawyer!
Another day passed; and I heard nothing of the travelers.
I began to feel anxious. I made my preparations for my journey
southward overnight; and I resolved to start for London the next
day--unless I heard of some change in Mrs. Macallan's traveling
arrangements in the interval.
The post of the next morning decided my course of action. It
brought me a letter from my mother-in-law, which added one more
to the memorable dates in my domestic calendar.
Eustace and his mother had advanced as far as Paris on their
homeward journey, when a cruel disaster had befallen them. The
fatigues of traveling, and the excitement of his anticipated
meeting with me, had proved together to be too much for my
husband. He had held out as far as Paris with the greatest
difficulty; and he was now confined to his bed again, struck down
by a relapse. The doctors, this time, had no fear for his life,
provided that his patience would support him through a lengthened
period of the most absolute repose.
"It now rests with you, Valeria," Mrs. Macallan wrote, "to
fortify and comfort Eustace under this new calamity. Do not
suppose that he has ever blamed or thought of blaming you for
leaving him with me in Spain, as soon as he was declared to be
out of danger. 'It was _I_ who left _her,_' he said to me, when
we first talked about it; 'and it is my wife's right to expect
that I should go back to her.' Those were his words, my dear; and
he has done all he can to abide by them. Helpless in his bed, he
now asks you to take the will for the deed, and to join him in
Paris. I think I know you well enough, my child, to be sure that
you will do this; and I need only add one word of caution, before
I close my letter. Avoid all reference, not only to the Trial
(you will do that of your own accord), but even to our house at
Gleninch. You will understand how he feels, in his present state
of nervous depression, when I tell you that I should never have
ventured on asking you to join him here, if your letter had not
informed me that your visits to Dexter were at an end. Would you
believe it?--his horror of anything which recalls our past
troubles is still so vivid that he has actually asked me to give
my consent to selling Gleninch!"
So Eustace's mother wrote of him. But she had not trusted
entirely to her own powers of persuasion. A slip of paper was
inclosed in her letter, containing these two lines, traced in
pencil--oh, so feebly and so wearily!--by my poor darling
"I am too weak to travel any further, Valeria. Will you come to
me and forgive me?" A few pencil-marks followed; but they were
illegible. The writing of those two short sentences had exhausted
It is not saying much for myself, I know--but, having confessed
it when I was wrong, let me, at least, record it when I did what
was right--I decided instantly on giving up all further
connection with the recovery of the torn letter. If Eustace asked
me the question, I was resolved to be able to answer truly: "I
have made the sacrifice that assures your tranquillity. When
resignation was hardest, I have humbled my obstinate spirit, and
I have given way for my husband's sake."
There was half an hour to spare before I left the vicarage for
the railway station. In that interval I wrote again to Mr.
Playmore, telling him plainly what my position was, and
withdrawing, at once and forever, from all share in investigating
the mystery which lay hidden under the dust-heap at Gleninch.
OUR NEW HONEYMOON.
It is not to be disguised or denied that my spirits were
depressed on my journey to London.
To resign the one cherished purpose of my life, when I had
suffered so much in pursuing it, and when I had (to all
appearance) so nearly reached the realization of my hopes, was
putting to a hard trial a woman's fortitude and a woman's sense
of duty. Still, even if the opportunity had been offered to me, I
would not have recalled my letter to Mr. Playmore. "It is done,
and well done," I said to myself; "and I have only to wait a day
to be reconciled to it--when I give my husband my first kiss."
I had planned and hoped to reach London in time to start for
Paris by the night-mail. But the train was twice delayed on the
long journey from the North; and there was no help for it but to
sleep at Benjamin's villa, and to defer my departure until the
It was, of course, impossible for me to warn my old friend of the
change in my plans. My arrival took him by surprise. I found him
alone in his library, with a wonderful illumination of lamps and
candles, absorbed over some morsels of torn paper scattered on
the table before him.
"What in the world are you about?" I asked.
Benjamin blushed--I was going to say, like a young girl; but
young girls have given up blushing in these latter days of the
age we live in.
"Oh, nothing, nothing!" he said, confusedly. "Don't notice it."
He stretched out his hand to brush the morsels of paper off the
table. Those morsels raised a sudden suspicion in my mind. I
"You have heard from Mr. Playmore!" I said. "Tell me the truth,
Benjamin. Yes or no?"
Benjamin blushed a shade deeper, and answered, "Yes."
"Where is the letter?"
"I mustn't show it to you, Valeria."
This (need I say it?) made me determined to see the letter. My
best way of persuading Benjamin to show it to me was to tell him
of the sacrifice that I had made to my husband's wishes. "I have
no further voice in the matter," I added, when I had done. "It
now rests entirely with Mr. Playmore to go on or to give up; and
this is my last opportunity of discovering what he really thinks
about it. Don't I deserve some little indulgence? Have I no claim
to look at the letter?"
Benjamin was too much surprised, and too much pleased with me,
when he heard what had happened, to be able to resist my
entreaties. He gave me the letter.
Mr. Playmore wrote to appeal confidentially to Benjamin as a
commercial man. In the long course of his occupation in business,
it was just possible that he might have heard of cases in which
documents have been put together again after having been torn up
by design or by accident. Even if his experience failed in this
particular, he might be able to refer to some authority in London
who would be capable of giving an opinion on the subject. By way
of explaining his strange request, Mr. Playmore reverted to the
notes which Benjamin had taken at Miserrimus Dexter's house, and
informed him of the serious importance of "the gibberish" which
he had reported under protest. The letter closed by recommending
that any correspondence which ensued should be kept
a secret from me--on the ground that it might excite false hopes
in my mind if I were informed of it.
I now understood the tone which my worthy adviser had adopted in
writing to me. His interest in the recovery of the letter was
evidently so overpowering that common prudence compelled him to
conceal it from me, in case of ultimate failure. This did not
look as if Mr. Playmore was likely to give up the investigation
on my withdrawal from it. I glanced again at the fragments of
paper on Benjamin's table, with an interest in them which I had
not felt yet.
"Has anything been found at Gleninch?" I asked.
"No," said Benjamin. "I have only been trying experiments with a
letter of my own, before I wrote to Mr. Playmore."
"Oh, you have torn up the letter yourself, then?"
"Yes. And, to make it all the more difficult to put them together
again, I shook up the pieces in a basket. It's a childish thing
to do, my dear, at my age--"
He stopped, looking very much ashamed of himself.
"Well," I went on; "and have you succeeded in putting your letter
"It's not very easy, Valeria. But I have made a beginning. It's
the same principle as the principle in the 'Puzzles' which we
used to put together when I was a boy. Only get one central bit
of it right, and the rest of the Puzzle falls into its place in a
longer or a shorter time. Please don't tell anybody, my dear.
People might say I was in my dotage. To think of that gibberish
in my note-book having a meaning in it, after all! I only got Mr.
Playmore's letter this morning; and--I am really almost ashamed
to mention it--I have been trying experiments on torn letters,
off and on, ever since. You won't tell upon me, will you?"
I answered the dear old man by a hearty embrace. Now that he had
lost his steady moral balance, and had caught the infection of my
enthusiasm, I loved him better than ever.
But I was not quite happy, though I tried to appear so. Struggle
against it as I might, I felt a little mortified when I
remembered that I had resigned all further connection with the
search for the letter at such a time as this. My one comfort was
to think of Eustace. My one encouragement was to keep my mind
fixed as constantly as possible on the bright change for the
better that now appeared in the domestic prospect. Here, at
least, there was no disaster to fear; here I could honestly feel
that I had triumphed. My husband had come back to me of his own
free will; he had not given way, under the hard weight of
evidence--he had yielded to the nobler influences of his
gratitude and his love. And I had taken him to my heart
again--not because I had made discoveries which left him no other
alternative than to live with me, but because I believed in the
better mind that had come to him, and loved and trusted him
without reserve. Was it not worth some sacrifice to have arrived
at this result! True--most true! And yet I was a little out of
spirits. Ah, well! well! the remedy was within a day's journey.
The sooner I was with Eustace the better.
Early the next morning I left London for Paris by the
tidal-train. Benjamin accompanied me to the Terminus.
"I shall write to Edinburgh by to-day's post," he said, in the
interval before the train moved out of the station. "I think I
can find the man Mr. Playmore wants to help him, if he decides to
go on. Have you any message to send, Valeria?"
"No. I have done with it, Benjamin; I have nothing more to say."
"Shall I write and tell you how it ends, if Mr. Playmore does
really try the experiment at Gleninch?"
I answered, as I felt, a little bitterly.
"Yes," I said "Write and tell me if the experiment fail."
My old friend smiled. He knew me better than I knew myself.
"All right!" he said, resignedly. "I have got the address of your
banker's correspondent in Paris. You will have to go there for
money, my dear; and you _may_ find a letter waiting for you in
the office when you least expect it. Let me hear how your husband
goes on. Good-by--and God bless you!"
That evening I was restored to Eustace.
He was too weak, poor fellow, even to raise his head from the
pillow. I knelt down at the bedside and kissed him. His languid,
weary eyes kindled with a new life as my lips touched his. "I
must try to live now," he whispered, "for your sake."
My mother-in-law had delicately left us together. When he said
those words the temptation to tell him of the new hope that had
come to brighten our lives was more than I could resist.
"You must try to live now, Eustace," I said, "for some one else
His eyes looked wonderingly into mine.
"Do you mean my mother?" he asked.
I laid my head on his bosom, and whispered back--"I mean your
I had all my reward for all that I had given up. I forgot Mr.
Playmore; I forgot Gleninch. Our new honeymoon dates, in my
remembrance, from that day.
The quiet time passed, in the by-street in which we lived. The
outer stir and tumult of Parisian life ran its daily course
around us, unnoticed and unheard. Steadily, though slowly,
Eustace gained strength. The doctors, with a word or two of
caution, left him almost entirely to me. "You are his physician,"
they said; "the happier you make him, the sooner he will
recover." The quiet, monotonous round of my new life was far from
wearying me. I, too, wanted repose--I had no interests, no
pleasures, out of my husband's room.
Once, and once only, the placid surface of our lives was just
gently ruffled by an allusion to the past. Something that I
accidentally said reminded Eustace of our last interview at Major
Fitz-David's house. He referred, very delicately, to what I had
then said of the Verdict pronounced on him at the Trial; and he
left me to infer that a word from my lips, confirming what his
mother had already told him, would quiet his mind at once and
My answer involved no embarrassments or difficulties; I could and
did honestly tell him that I had made his wishes my law. But it
was hardly in womanhood, I am afraid, to be satisfied with merely
replying, and to leave it there. I thought it due to me that
Eustace too should concede something, in the way of an assurance
which might quiet _my_ mind. As usual with me, the words followed
the impulse to speak them. "Eustace," I asked, "are you quite
cured of those cruel doubts which once made you leave me?"
His answer (as he afterward said) made me blush with pleasure.
"Ah, Valeria, I should never have gone away if I had known you
then as well as I know you now!"
So the last shadows of distrust melted away out of our lives.
The very remembrance of the turmoil and the trouble of my past
days in London seemed now to fade from my memory. We were lovers
again; we were absorbed again in each other; we could almost
fancy that our marriage dated back once more to a day or two
since. But one last victory over myself was wanting to make my
happiness complete. I still felt secret longings, in those
dangerous moments when I was left by myself, to know whether the
search for the torn letter had or had not taken place. What
wayward creatures we are! With everything that a woman could want
to make her happy, I was ready to put that happiness in peril
rather than remain ignorant of what was going on at Gleninch! I
actually hailed the day when my empty purse gave me an excuse for
going to my banker's correspondent on business, and so receiving
any letters waiting for me which might be placed in my hands.
I applied for my money without knowing what I was about;
wondering all the time whether Benjamin had written to me or not.
My eyes wandered over the desks and tables in the office, looking
for letters furtively. Nothing of the sort was visible. But a man
appeared from an inner office: an ugly man, who was yet beautiful
to my eyes, for this sufficient reason--he had a letter in his
hand, and he said, "Is this for you, ma'am?"
A glance at the address showed me Benjamin's handwriting.
Had they tried the experiment of recovering the letter? and had
Somebody put my money in my bag, and politely led me out to the
little hired carriage which was waiting for me at the door. I
remember nothing distinctly until I open ed the letter on my way
home. The first words told me that the dust-heap had been
examined, and that the fragments of the torn letter had been
THE DUST-HEAP DISTURBED.
My head turned giddy. I was obliged to wait and let my
overpowering agitation subside, before I could read any more.
Looking at the letter again, after an interval, my eyes fell
accidentally on a sentence near the end, which surprised and
I stopped the driver of the carriage, at the entrance to the
street in which our lodgings were situated, and told him to take
me to the beautiful park of Paris--the famous Bois de Boulogne.
My object was to gain time enough, in this way, to read the
letter carefully through by myself, and to ascertain whether I
ought or ought not to keep the receipt of it a secret before I
confronted my husband and his mother at home.
This precaution taken, I read the narrative which my good
Benjamin had so wisely and so thoughtfully written for me.
Treating the various incidents methodically, he began with the
Report which had arrived, in due course of mail, from our agent
Our man had successfully traced the lodgekeeper's daughter and
her husband to a small town in one of the Western States. Mr.
Playmore's letter of introduction at once secured him a cordial
reception from the married pair, and a patient hearing when he
stated the object of his voyage across the Atlantic.
His first questions led to no very encouraging results. The woman
was confused and surprised, and was apparently quite unable to
exert her memory to any useful purpose. Fortunately, her husband
proved to be a very intelligent man. He took the agent privately
aside, and said to him, "I understand my wife, and you don't.
Tell me exactly what it is you want to know, and leave it to me
to discover how much she remembers and how much she forgets."
This sensible suggestion was readily accepted. The agent waited
for events a day and a night.
Early the next morning the husband said to him, "Talk to my wife
now, and you'll find she has something to tell you. Only mind
this. Don't laugh at her when she speaks of trifles. She is half
ashamed to speak of trifles, even to me. Thinks men are above
such matters, you know. Listen quietly, and let her talk--and you
will get at it all in that way."
The agent followed his instructions, and "got at it" as follows:
The woman remembered, perfectly well, being sent to clean the
bedrooms and put them tidy, after the gentlefolks had all left
Gleninch. Her mother had a bad hip at the time, and could not go
with her and help her. She did not much fancy being alone in the
great house, after what had happened in it. On her way to her
work she passed two of the cottagers' children in the
neighborhood at play in the park. Mr. Macallan was always kind to
his poor tenants, and never objected to the young ones round
about having a run on the grass. The two children idly followed
her to the house. She took them inside, along with her--not
liking the place, as already mentioned, and feeling that they
would be company in the solitary rooms.
She began her work in the Guests' Corridor--leaving the room in
the other corridor, in which the death had happened, to the last.
There was very little to do in the two first rooms. There was not
litter enough, when she had swept the floors and cleaned the
grates, to even half fill the housemaid's bucket which she
carried with her. The children followed her about; and, all
things considered, were "very good company" in the lonely place.
The third room (that is to say, the bedchamber which had been
occupied by Miserrimus Dexter was in a much worse state than the
other two, and wanted a great deal of tidying. She did not much
notice the children here, being occupied with her work. The
litter was swept up from the carpet, and the cinders and ashes
were taken out of the grate, and the whole of it was in the
bucket, when her attention was recalled to the children by
hearing one of them cry.
She looked about the room without at first discovering them.
A fresh outburst of crying led her in the right direction, and
showed her the children under a table in a corner of the room.
The youngest of the two had got into a waste-paper basket. The
eldest had found an old bottle of gum, with a brush fixed in the
cork, and was gravely painting the face of the smaller child with
what little remained of the contents of the bottle. Some natural
struggles, on the part of the little creature, had ended in the
overthrow of the basket, and the usual outburst of crying had
followed as a matter of course.
In this state of things the remedy was soon applied. The woman
took the bottle away from the eldest child, and gave it a "box on
the ear." The younger one she set on its legs again, and she put
the two "in the corner" to keep them quiet. This done, she swept
up such fragments of the torn paper in the basket as had fallen
on the floor; threw them back again into the basket, along with
the gum-bottle; fetched the bucket, and emptied the basket into
it; and then proceeded to the fourth and last room in the
corridor, where she finished her work for that day.
Leaving the house, with the children after her, she took the
filled bucket to the dust-heap, and emptied it in a hollow place
among the rubbish, about half-way up the mound. Then she took the
children home; and there was an end of it for the day.
Such was the result of the appeal made to the woman's memory of
domestic events at Gleninch.
The conclusion at which Mr. Playmore arrived, from the facts
submitted to him, was that the chances were now decidedly in
favor of the recovery of the letter. Thrown in, nearly midway
between the contents of the housemaid's bucket, the torn morsels
would be protected above as well as below, when they were emptied
on the dust-heap.
Succeeding weeks and months would add to that protection, by
adding to the accumulated refuse. In the neglected condition of
the grounds, the dust-heap had not been disturbed in search of
manure. There it had stood, untouched, from the time when the
family left Gleninch to the present day. And there, hidden deep
somewhere in the mound, the fragments of the letter must be.
Such were the lawyer's conclusions. He had written immediately to
communicate them to Benjamin. And, thereupon, what had Benjamin
After having tried his powers of reconstruction on his own
correspondence, the prospect of experimenting on the mysterious
letter itself had proved to be a temptation too powerful for the
old man to resist. "I almost fancy, my dear, this business of
yours has bewitched me," he wrote. "You see I have the misfortune
to be an idle man. I have time to spare and money to spare. And
the end of it is that I am here at Gleninch, engaged on my own
sole responsibility (with good Mr. Playmore's permission) in
searching the dust-heap!"
Benjamin's description of his first view of the field of action
at Gleninch followed these characteristic lines of apology.
I passed over the description without ceremony. My remembrance of
the scene was too vivid to require any prompting of that sort. I
saw again, in the dim evening light, the unsightly mound which
had so strangely attracted my attention at Gleninch. I heard
again the words in which Mr. Playmore had explained to me the
custom of the dust-heap in Scotch country-houses. What had
Benjamin and Mr. Playmore done? What had Benjamin and Mr.
Playmore found? For me, the true interest of the narrative was
there--and to that portion of it I eagerly turned next.
They had proceeded methodically, of course, with one eye on the
pounds, shillings, and pence, and the other on the object in
view. In Benjamin, the lawyer had found what he had not met with
in me--a sympathetic mind, alive to the value of "an abstract of
the expenses," and conscious of that most remunerative of human
virtues, the virtue of economy.
At so much a week, they had engaged men to dig into the mound and
to sift the ashes. At so much a week, they had hired a tent to
shelter the open dust-heap from wind and weather. At so much a
week, they had engaged the services of a young man (pers onally
known to Benjamin), who was employed in a laboratory under a
professor of chemistry, and who had distinguished himself by his
skillful manipulation of paper in a recent case of forgery on a
well-known London firm. Armed with these preparations, they had
begun the work; Benjamin and the young chemist living at
Gleninch, and taking it in turns to superintend the proceedings.
Three days of labor with the spade and the sieve produced no
results of the slightest importance. However, the matter was in
the hands of two quietly determined men. They declined to be
discouraged. They went on.
On the fourth day the first morsels of paper were found.
Upon examination, they proved to be the fragments of a
tradesman's prospectus. Nothing dismayed, Benjamin and the young
chemist still persevered. At the end of the day's work more
pieces of paper were turned up. These proved to be covered with
written characters. Mr. Playmore (arriving at Gleninch, as usual,
every evening on the conclusion of his labors in the law) was
consulted as to the handwriting. After careful examination, he
declared that the mutilated portions of sentences submitted to
him had been written, beyond all doubt, by Eustace Macallan's
This discovery aroused the enthusiasm of the searchers to fever
Spades and sieves were from that moment forbidden utensils.
However unpleasant the task might be, hands alone were used in
the further examination of the mound. The first and foremost
necessity was to place the morsels of paper (in flat cardboard
boxes prepared for the purpose) in their order as they were
found. Night came; the laborers were dismissed; Benjamin and his
two colleagues worked on by lamplight. The morsels of paper were
now turned up by dozens, instead of by ones and twos. For a while
the search prospered in this way; and then the morsels appeared
no more. Had they all been recovered? or would renewed
hand-digging yield more yet? The next light layers of rubbish
were carefully removed--and the grand discovery of the day
followed. There (upside down) was the gum-bottle which the
lodge-keeper's daughter had spoken of. And, more precious still,
there, under it, were more fragments of written paper, all stuck
together in a little lump, by the last drippings from the
gum-bottle dropping upon them as they lay on the dust-heap!
The scene now shifted to the interior of the house. When the
searchers next assembled they met at the great table in the
library at Gleninch.
Benjamin's experience with the "Puzzles" which he had put
together in the days of his boyhood proved to be of some use to
his companions. The fragments accidentally stuck together would,
in all probability, be found to fit each other, and would
certainly (in any case) be the easiest fragments to reconstruct
as a center to start from.
The delicate business of separating these pieces of paper, and of
preserving them in the order in which they had adhered to each
other, was assigned to the practiced fingers of the chemist. But
the difficulties of his task did not end here. The writing was
(as usual in letters) traced on both sides of the paper, and it
could only be preserved for the purpose of reconstruction by
splitting each morsel into two--so as artificially to make a
blank side, on which could be spread the fine cement used for
reuniting the fragments in their original form.
To Mr. Playmore and Benjamin the prospect of successfully putting
the letter together, under these disadvantages, seemed to be
almost hopeless. Their skilled colleague soon satisfied them that
they were wrong.
He drew their attention to the thickness of the paper--note-paper
of the strongest and best quality--on which the writing was
traced. It was of more than twice the substance of the last paper
on which he had operated, when he was engaged in the forgery
ease; and it was, on that account, comparatively easy for him
(aided by the mechanical appliances which he had brought from
London) to split the morsels of the torn paper, within a given
space of time which might permit them to begin the reconstruction
of the letter that night.
With these explanations, he quietly devoted himself to his work.
While Benjamin and the lawyer were still poring over the
scattered morsels of the letter which had been first discovered,
and trying to piece them together again, the chemist had divided
the greater part of the fragments specially confided to him into
two halves each; and had correctly put together some five or six
sentences of the letter on the smooth sheet of cardboard prepared
for that purpose.
They looked eagerly at the reconstructed writing so far.
It was correctly done: the sense was perfect. The first result
gained by examination was remarkable enough to reward them for
all their exertions. The language used plainly identified the
person to whom the late Mrs. Eustace had addressed her letter.
That person was--my husband.
And the letter thus addressed--if the plainest circumstantial
evidence could be trusted--was identical with the letter which
Miserrimus Dexter had suppressed until the Trial was over, and
had then destroyed by tearing it up.
These were the discoveries that had been made at the time when
Benjamin wrote to me. He had been on the point of posting his
letter, when Mr. Playmore had suggested that he should keep it by
him for a few days longer, on the chance of having more still to
"We are indebted to her for these results," the lawyer had said.
"But for her resolution; and her influence over Miserrimus
Dexter, we should never have discovered what the dust-heap was
hiding from us--we should never have seen so much as a glimmering
of the truth. She has the first claim to the fullest information.
Let her have it."
The letter had been accordingly kept back for three days. That
interval being at an end, it was hurriedly resumed and concluded
in terms which indescribably alarmed me.
"The chemist is advancing rapidly with his part of the work"
(Benjamin wrote); "and I have succeeded in putting together a
separate portion of the torn writing which makes sense.
Comparison of what he has accomplished with what I have
accomplished has led to startling conclusions. Unless Mr.
Playmore and I are entirely wrong (and God grant we may be so!),
there is a serious necessity for your keeping the reconstruction
of the letter strictly secret from everybody about you. The
disclosures suggested by what has come to light are so
heartrending and so dreadful that I cannot bring myself to write
about them until I am absolutely obliged to do so. Please forgive
me for disturbing you with this news. We are bound, sooner or
later, to consult with you in the matter; and we think it right
to prepare your mind for what may be to come."
To this there was added a postscript in Mr. Playmore's
"Pray observe strictly the caution which Mr. Benjamin impresses
on you. And bear this in mind, as a warning from _me:_ If we
succeed in reconstructing the entire letter, the last person
living who ought (in my opinion) to be allowed to see it is--your
THE CRISIS DEFERRED.
"TAKE care, Valeria!" said Mrs. Macallan. "I ask you no
questions; I only caution you for your own sake. Eustace has
noticed what I have noticed--Eustace has seen a change in you.
So my mother-in-law spoke to me later in the day, when we
happened to be alone. I had done my best to conceal all traces of
the effect produced on me by the strange and terrible news from
Gleninch. But who could read what I had read, who could feel what
I now felt, and still maintain an undisturbed serenity of look
and manner? If I had been the vilest hypocrite living, I doubt
even then if my face could have kept my secret while my mind was
full of Benjamin's letter.
Having spoken her word of caution, Mrs. Macallan made no further
advance to me. I dare say she was right. Still, it seemed hard to
be left, without a word of advice or of sympathy, to decide for
myself what it was my duty to my husband to do next.
To show him Benjamin's narrative, in his state of health, and in
the face of the warning addressed to me, was simply out of the
question. At the same time, it was equally impossible, after I
had already betrayed myself, to keep him entirely in the dark. I
thought over it anxiously in the night. When the morning came, I
decided to appeal to my husband's confidence in me.
I went straight to the point in these terms:
"Eustace, your mother said yesterday that you noticed a change in
me when I came back from my drive. Is she right?"
"Quite right, Valeria," he answered--speaking in lower tones than
usual, and not looking at me.
"We have no concealments from each other now," I answered. "I
ought to tell you, and do tell you, that I found a letter from
England waiting at the banker's which has caused me some
agitation and alarm. Will you leave it to me to choose my own
time for speaking more plainly? And will you believe, love, that
I am really doing my duty toward you, as a good wife, in making
I paused. He made no answer: I could see that he was secretly
struggling with himself. Had I ventured too far? Had I
overestimated the strength of my influence? My heart beat fast,
my voice faltered--but I summoned courage enough to take his
hand, and to make a last appeal to him. "Eustace," I said; "don't
you know me yet well enough to trust me?"
He turned toward me for the first time. I saw a last vanishing
trace of doubt in his eyes as they looked into mine.
"You promise, sooner or later, to tell me the whole truth?" he
"I promise with all my heart!"
"I trust you, Valeria!"
His brightening eyes told me that he really meant what he said.
We sealed our compact with a kiss. Pardon me for mentioning these
trifles--I am still writing (if you will kindly remember it) of
our new honeymoon.
By that day's post I answered Benjamin's letter, telling him
what I had done, and entreating him, if he and Mr. Playmore
approved of my conduct, to keep me informed of any future
discoveries which they might make at Gleninch.
After an interval---an endless interval, as it seemed to me--of
ten days more, I received a second letter from my old friend,
with another postscript added by Mr. Playmore.
"We are advancing steadily and successfully with the putting
together of the letter," Benjamin wrote. "The one new discovery
which we have made is of serious importance to your husband. We
have reconstructed certain sentences declaring, in the plainest
words, that the arsenic which Eustace procured was purchased at
the request of his wife, and was in her possession at Gleninch.
This, remember, is in the handwriting of the wife, and is signed
by the wife--as we have also found out. Unfortunately, I am
obliged to add that the objection to taking your husband into our
confidence, mentioned when I last wrote, still remains in
force--in greater force, I may say, than ever. The more we make
out of the letter, the more inclined we are (if we only studied
our own feelings) to throw it back into the dust-heap, in mercy
to the memory of the unhappy writer. I shall keep this open for a
day or two. If there is more news to tell you by that time you
will hear of it from Mr. Playmore."
Mr. Playmore's postscript followed, dated three days later.
"The concluding part of the late Mrs. Macallan's letter to her
husband," the lawyer wrote, "has proved accidentally to be the
first part which we have succeeded in piecing together. With the
exception of a few gaps still left, here and there, the writing
of the closing paragraphs has been perfectly reconstructed. I
have neither the time nor the inclination to write to you on this
sad subject in any detail. In a fortnight more, at the longest,
we shall, I hope, send you a copy of the letter, complete from
the first line to the last. Meanwhile, it is my duty to tell you
that there is one bright side to this otherwise deplorable and
shocking document. Legally speaking, as well as morally speaking,
it absolutely vindicates your husband's innocence. And it may be
lawfully used for this purpose--if he can reconcile it to his
conscience, and to the mercy due to the memory of the dead, to
permit the public exposure of the letter in Court. Understand me,
he cannot be tried again on what we call the criminal charge--for
certain technical reasons with which I need not trouble you. But,
if the facts which were involved at the criminal trial can also
be shown to be involved in a civil action (and in this case they
can), the entire matter may be made the subject of a new legal
inquiry; and the verdict of a second jury, completely vindicating
your husband, may thus be obtained. Keep this information to
yourself for the present. Preserve the position which you have so
sensibly adopted toward Eustace until you have read the restored
letter. When you have done this, my own idea is that you will
shrink, in pity to _him,_ from letting him see it. How he is to
be kept in ignorance of what we have discovered is another
question, the discussion of which must be deferred until we can
consult together. Until that time comes, I can only repeat my
advice--wait till the next news reaches you from Gleninch."
I waited. What I suffered, what Eustace thought of me, does not
matter. Nothing matters now but the facts.
In less than a fortnight more the task of restoring the letter
was completed. Excepting certain instances, in which the morsels
of the torn paper had been irretrievably lost--and in which it
had been necessary to complete the sense in harmony with the
writer's intention--the whole letter had been put together; and
the promised copy of it was forwarded to me in Paris.
Before you, too, read that dreadful letter, do me one favor. Let
me briefly remind you of the circumstances under which Eustace
Macallan married his first wife.
Remember that the poor creature fell in love with him without
awakening any corresponding affection on his side. Remember that
he separated himself from her, and did all he could to avoid her,
when he found this out. Remember that she presented herself at
his residence in London without a word of warning; that he did
his best to save her reputation; that he failed, through no fault
of his own; and that he ended, rashly ended in a moment of
despair, by marrying her, to silence the scandal that must
otherwise have blighted her life as a woman for the rest of her
days. Bear all this in mind (it is the sworn testimony of
respectable witnesses); and pray do not forget--however foolishly
and blamably he may have written about her in the secret pages of
his Diary--that he was proved to have done his best to conceal
from his wife the aversion which the poor soul inspired in him;
and that he was (in the opinion of those who could best judge
him) at least a courteous and a considerate husband, if he could
be no more.
And now take the letter. It asks but one favor of you: it asks to
be read by the light of Christ's teaching--"Judge not, that ye be
THE WIFE'S CONFESSION.
"GLENINCH, October 19, 18--.
"I have something very painful to tell you about one of your
"You have never encouraged me to come to you with any confidences
of mine. If you had allowed me to be as familiar with you as some
wives are with their husbands, I should have spoken to you
personally instead of writing. As it is, I don't know how you
might receive what I have to say to you if I said it by word of
mouth. So I write.
"The man against whom I warn you is still a guest in this
house--Miserrimus Dexter. No falser or wickeder creature walks
the earth. Don't throw my letter aside! I have waited to say this
until I could find proof that might satisfy you. I have got the
"You may remember that I ventured to express some disapproval
when you first told me you had asked this man to visit us. If you
had allowed me time to explain myself, I might have been bold
enough to give you a good reason for the aversion I felt toward
your friend. But you would not wait. You hastily (and most
unjustly) accused me of feeling prejudiced against the miserable
creature on account of his deformity. No other feeling than
compassion for deformed persons has ever entered my mind. I have,
indeed, alm ost a fellow-feeling for them; being that next worst
thing myself to a deformity--a plain woman. I objected to Mr.
Dexter as your guest because he had asked me to be his wife in
past days, and because I had reason to fear that he still
regarded me (after my marriage) with a guilty and a horrible
love. Was it not my duty, as a good wife, to object to his being
your guest at Gleninch? And was it not your duty, as a good
husband, to encourage me to say more?
"Well, Mr. Dexter has been your guest for many weeks; and Mr.
Dexter has dared to speak to me again of his love. He has
insulted me, and insulted you, by declaring that _he_ adores me
and that _you_ hate me. He has promised me a life of unalloyed
happiness, in a foreign country with my lover; and he has
prophesied for me a life of unendurable misery at home with my
"Why did I not make my complaint to you, and have this monster
dismissed from the house at once and forever?
"Are you sure you would have believed me if I had complained, and
if your bosom friend had denied all intention of insulting me? I
heard you once say (when you were not aware that I was within
hearing) that the vainest women were always the ugly women. You
might have accused _me_ of vanity. Who knows?
"But I have no desire to shelter myself under this excuse. I am a
jealous, unhappy creature; always doubtful of your affection for
me; always fearing that another woman has got my place in your
heart. Miserrimus Dexter has practiced on this weakness of mine.
He has declared he can prove to me (if I will permit him) that I
am, in your secret heart, an object of loathing to you; that you
shrink from touching me; that you curse the hour when you were
foolish enough to make me your wife. I have struggled as long as
I could against the temptation to let him produce his proofs. It
was a terrible temptation to a woman who was far from feeling
sure of the sincerity of your affection for her; and it has ended
in getting the better of my resistance. I wickedly concealed the
disgust which the wretch inspired in me; I wickedly gave him
leave to explain himself; I wickedly permitted this enemy of
yours and of mine to take me into his confidence. And why?
Because I loved you, and you only; and because Miserrimus
Dexter's proposal did, after all, echo a doubt of you that had
long been gnawing secretly at my heart.
"Forgive me, Eustace! This is my first sin against you. It shall
be my last.
"I will not spare myself; I will write a full confession of what
I said to him and of what he said to me. You may make me suffer
for it when you know what I have done; but you will at least be
warned in time; you will see your false friend in his true light.
"I said to him, 'How can you prove to me that my husband hates me
"He answered, 'I can prove it under his own handwriting; you
shall see it in his Diary.'
"I said, 'His Diary has a lock; and the drawer in which he keeps
it has a lock. How can you get at the Diary and the drawer?'
"He answered, 'I have my own way of getting at both of them,
without the slightest risk of being discovered by your husband.
All you have to do is to give me the opportunity of seeing you
privately. I will engage, in return, to bring the open Diary with
me to your room.'
"I said, 'How can I give you the opportunity? What do you mean?'
'He pointed to the key in the door of communication between my
room and the little study.
"He said, 'With my infirmity, I may not be able to profit by the
first opportunity of visiting you here unobserved. I must be able
to choose my own time and my own way of getting to you secretly.
Let me take this key, leaving the door locked. When the key is
missed, if _you_ say it doesn't matter--if _you_ point out that
the door is locked, and tell the servants not to trouble
themselves about finding the key--there will be no disturbance in
the house; and I shall be in secure possession of a means of
communication with you which no one will suspect. Will you do
"I have done it.
"Yes! I have become the accomplice of this double-faced villain.
I have degraded myself and outraged you by making an appointment
to pry into your Diary. I know how base my conduct is. I can make
no excuse. I can only repeat that I love you, and that I am
sorely afraid you don't love me. And Miserrimus Dexter offers to
end my doubts by showing me the most secret thoughts of your
heart, in your own writing.
"He is to be with me, for this purpose (while you are out), some
time in the course of the next two hours I shall decline to be
satisfied with only once looking at your Diary; and I shall make
an appointment with him to bring it to me again at the same time
to-morrow. Before then you will receive these lines by the hand
of my nurse. Go out as usual after reading them; but return
privately, and unlock the table-drawer in which you keep your
book. You will find it gone. Post yourself quietly in the little
study; and you will discover the Diary (when Miserrimus Dexter
leaves me) in the hands of your friend.*
* Note by Mr. Playmore:
The greatest difficulties of reconstruction occurred in this
first portion of the torn letter. In the fourth paragraph from
the beginning we have been obliged to supply lost words in no
less than three places. In the ninth, tenth, and seventeenth
paragraphs the same proceeding was, in a greater or less degree,
found to be necessary. In all these cases the utmost pains have
been taken to supply the deficiency in exact accordance with what
appeared to be the meaning of the writer, as indicated in the
existing pieces of the manuscript.
"I have read your Diary.
"At last I know what you really think of me. I have read what
Miserrimus Dexter promised I should read--the confession of your
loathing for me, in your own handwriting.
"You will not receive what I wrote to you yesterday at the time
or in the manner which I had proposed. Long as my letter is, I
have still (after reading your Diary) some more words to add.
After I have closed and sealed the envelope, and addressed it to
you, I shall put it under my pillow. It will be found there when
I am laid out for the grave--and then, Eustace (when it is too
late for hope or help), my letter will be given to you.
"Yes: I have had enough of my life. Yes: I mean to die.
"I have already sacrificed everything but my life to my love for
you. Now I know that my love is not returned, the last sacrifice
left is easy. My death will set you free to marry Mrs. Beauly.
"You don't know what it cost me to control my hatred of her, and
to beg her to pay her visit here, without minding my illness. I
could never have done it if I had not been so fond of you, and so
fearful of irritating you against me by showing my jealousy. And
how did you reward me? Let your Diary answer: 'I tenderly
embraced her this very morning; and I hope, poor soul, she did
not discover the effort that it cost me.'
"Well, I have discovered it now. I know that you privately think
your life with me 'a purgatory.' I know that you have
compassionately hidden from me the 'sense of shrinking that comes
over you when you are obliged to submit to my caresses.' I am
nothing but an obstacle--an 'utterly distasteful'
obstacle--between you and the woman whom you love so dearly that
you 'adore the earth which she touches with her foot.' Be it so!
I will stand in your way no longer. It is no sacrifice and no
merit on my part. Life is unendurable to me, now I know that the
man whom I love with all my heart and soul secretly shrinks from
me whenever I touch him.
"I have got the means of death close at hand.
"The arsenic that I twice asked you to buy for me is in my
dressing-case. I deceived you when I mentioned some commonplace
domestic reasons for wanting it. My true reason was to try if I
could not improve my ugly complexion--not from any vain feeling
of mine: only to make myself look better and more lovable in your
eyes. I have taken some of it for that purpose; but I have got
plenty left to kill myself with. The poison will have its use at
last. It might have failed to improve my complexion--it will not
fail to relieve you of your ugly wife.
"Don't let me be examined after death. Show this letter to the
doctor who attends me. It will tell him that I have committed
suicide; it will prevent any innocent persons from being
suspected of poisoning me. I want nobody to be blamed or
punished. I shall remove the chemist's label, and carefully empty
the bottle containing the poison, so that he may not suffer on my
"I must wait here, and rest a little while--then take up my
letter again. It is far too long already. But these are my
farewell words. I may surely dwell a little on my last talk with
"October 21. Two o'clock in the morning.
"I sent you out of the room yesterday when you came in to ask how
I had passed the night. And I spoke of you shamefully, Eustace,
after you had gone, to the hired nurse who attends on me. Forgive
me. I am almost beside myself now. You know why.
"Oh, my husband, I have done the deed which will relieve you of
the wife whom you hate! I have taken the poison--all of it that
was left in the paper packet, which was the first that I found.
If this is not enough to kill me, I have more left in the bottle.
"Ten minutes past five.
"You have just gone, after giving me my composing draught. My
courage failed me at the sight of you. I thought to myself, 'If
he look at me kindly, I will confess what I have done, and let
him save my life.' You never looked at me at all. You only looked
at the medicine. I let you go without saying a word.
"I begin to feel the first effects of the poison. The nurse is
asleep at the foot of my bed. I won't call for assistance; I
won't wake her. I will die.
"The agony was beyond my endurance--I awoke the nurse. I have
seen the doctor.
"Nobody suspects anything. Strange to say, the pain has left me;
I have evidently taken too little of the poison. I must open the
bottle which contains the larger quantity. Fortunately, you are
not near me--my resolution to die, or, rather, my loathing of
life, remains as bitterly unaltered as ever. To make sure of my
courage, I have forbidden the nurse to send for you. She has just
gone downstairs by my orders. I am free to get the poison out of
"Ten minutes to ten.
"I had just time to hide the bottle (after the nurse had left me)
when you came into my room.
"I had another moment of weakness when I saw you. I determined to
give myself a last chance of life. That is to say, I determined
to offer you a last opportunity of treating me kindly. I asked
you to get me a cup of tea. If, in paying me this little
attention, you only encouraged me by one fond word or one fond
look, I resolved not to take the second dose of poison.
"You obeyed my wishes, but you were not kind. You gave me my tea,
Eustace, as if you were giving a drink to your dog. And then you
wondered in a languid way (thinking, I suppose, of Mrs. Beauly
all the time), at my dropping the cup in handing it back to you.
I really could not help it; my hand _would_ tremble. In my place,
your hand might have trembled too--with the arsenic under the
bedclothes. You politely hoped, before you went away? that the
tea would do me good--and, oh God, you could not even look at me
when you said that! You looked at the broken bits of the tea-cup.
"The instant you were out of the room I took the poison--a double
dose this time.
"I have a little request to make here, while I think of it.
"After removing the label from the bottle, and putting it back,
clean, in my dressing-case, it struck me that I had failed to
take the same precaution (in the early morning) with the empty
paper-packet, bearing on it the name of the other chemist. I
threw it aside on the counterpane of the bed, among some other
loose papers. my ill-tempered nurse complained of the litter, and
crumpled them all up and put them away somewhere. I hope the
chemist will not suffer through my carelessness. Pray bear it in
mind to say that he is not to blame.
"Dexter--something reminds me of Miserrimus Dexter. He has put
your Diary back again in the drawer, and he presses me for an
answer to his proposals. Has this false wretch any conscience? If
he has, even he will suffer--when my death answers him.
"The nurse has been in my room again. I have sent her away. I
have told her I want to be alone.
"How is the time going? I cannot find my watch. Is the pain
coming back again and paralyzing me? I don't feel it keenly yet.
"It may come back, though, at any moment. I have still to close
my letter and to address it to you. And, besides, I must save up
my strength to hide it under the pillow, so that nobody may find
it until after my death.
"Farewell, my dear. I wish I had been a prettier woman. A more
loving woman (toward you) I could not be. Even now I dread the
sight of your dear face. Even now, if I allowed myself the luxury
of looking at you, I don't know that you might not charm me into
confessing what I have done--before it is too late to save me.
"But you are not here. Better as it is! better as it is!
"Once more, farewell! Be happier than you have been with me. I
love you, Eustace--I forgive you. When you have nothing else to
think about, think sometimes, as kindly as you can, of your poor,
----------------------------------- * Note by Mr. Playmore:
The lost words and phrases supplied in this concluding portion of
the letter are so few in number that it is needless to mention
them. The fragments which were found accidentally stuck together
by the gum, and which represent the part of the letter first
completely reconstructed, begin at the phrase, "I spoke of you
shamefully, Eustace;" and end with the broken sentence, "If in
paying me this little attention, you only encouraged me by one
fond word or one fond look, I resolved not to take--" With the
assistance thus afforded to us, the labor of putting together the
concluding half of the letter (dated "October 20") was trifling,
compared with the almost insurmountable difficulties which we
encountered in dealing with the scattered wreck of the preceding
WHAT ELSE COULD I DO?
As soon as I could dry my eyes and compose my spirits after
reading the wife's pitiable and dreadful farewell, my first
thought was of Eustace--my first anxiety was to prevent him from
ever reading what I had read.
Yes! to this end it had come. I had devoted my life to the
attainment of one object; and that object I had gained. There, on
the table before me, lay the triumphant vindication of my
husband's innocence; and, in mercy to him, in mercy to the memory
of his dead wife, my one hope was that he might never see it! my
one desire was to hide it from the public view!
I looked back at the strange circumstances under which the letter
had been discovered.
It was all my doing--as the lawyer had said. And yet, what I had
done, I had, so to speak, done blindfold. The merest accident
might have altered the whole course of later events. I had over
and over again interfered to check Ariel when she entreated the
Master to "tell her a story." If she had not succeeded, in spite
of my opposition, Miserrimus Dexter's last effort of memory might
never have been directed to the tragedy at Gleninch. And, again,
if I had only remembered to move my chair, and so to give
Benjamin the signal to leave off, he would never have written
down the apparently senseless words which have led us to the
discovery of the truth.
Looking back at events in this frame of mind, the very sight of
the letter sickened and horrified me. I cursed the day which had
disinterred the fragments of it from their foul tomb. Just at the
time when Eustace had found his weary way back to health and
strength; just at the time when we were united again and happy
again--when a month or two more might make us father and mother,
as well as husband and wife--that frightful record of suffering
and sin had risen against us like an avenging spirit. There it
faced me on the table, threatening my husband's tranqu illity;
nay, for all I knew (if he read it at the present critical stage
of his recovery) even threatening his life!
The hour struck from the clock on the mantelpiece. It was
Eustace's time for paying me his morning visit in my own little
room. He might come in at any moment; he might see the letter; he
might snatch the letter out of my hand. In a frenzy of terror and
loathing, I caught up the vile sheets of paper and threw them
into the fire.
It was a fortunate thing that a copy only had been sent to me. If
the original letter had been in its place, I believe I should
have burned the original at that moment.
The last morsel of paper had been barely consumed by the flames
when the door opened, and Eustace came in.
He glanced at the fire. The black cinders of the burned paper
were still floating at the back of the grate. He had seen the
letter brought to me at the breakfast-table. Did he suspect what
I had done? He said nothing--he stood gravely looking into the
fire. Then he advanced and fixed his eyes on me. I suppose I was
very pale. The first words he spoke were words which asked me if
I felt ill.
I was determined not to deceive him, even in the merest trifle.
"I am feeling a little nervous, Eustace," I answered; "that is
He looked at me again, as if he expected me to say something
more. I remained silent. He took a letter out of the
breast-pocket of his coat and laid it on the table before
me--just where the Confession had lain before I destroyed it!
"I have had a letter too this morning," he said. "And _I,_
Valeria, have no secrets from _you._"
I understood the reproach which my husband's last words conveyed;
but I made no attempt to answer him.
"Do you wish me to read it?" was all I said pointing to the
envelope which he had laid on the table.
"I have already said that I have no secrets from you," he
repeated. "The envelope is open. See for yourself what is
inclosed in it."
I took out--not a letter, but a printed paragraph, cut from a
"Read it," said Eustace.
I read as follows:
"STRANGE DOINGS AT GLENINCH--A romance in real life seems to be
in course of progress at Mr. Macallan's country-house. Private
excavations are taking place--if our readers will pardon us the
unsavory allusion--at the dust-heap, of all places in the world!
Something has assuredly been discovered; but nobody knows what.
This alone is certain: For weeks past two strangers from London
(superintended by our respected fellow-citizen, Mr. Playmore)
have been at work night and day in the library at Gleninch, with
the door locked. Will the secret ever be revealed? And will it
throw any light on a mysterious and shocking event which our
readers have learned to associate with the past history of
Gleninch? Perhaps when Mr. Macallan returns, he may be able to
answer these questions. In the meantime we can only await
I laid the newspaper slip on the table, in no very Christian
frame of mind toward the persons concerned in producing it. Some
reporter in search of news had evidently been prying about the
grounds at Gleninch, and some busy-body in the neighborhood had
in all probability sent the published paragraph to Eustace.
Entirely at a loss what to do, I waited for my husband to speak.
He did not keep me in suspense--he questioned me instantly.
"Do you understand what it means, Valeria?"
I answered honestly--I owned that I understood what it meant.
He waited again, as if he expected me to say more. I still kept
the only refuge left to me--the refuge of silence.
"Am I to know no more than I know now?" he proceeded, after an
interval. "Are you not bound to tell me what is going on in my
It is a common remark that people, if they can think at all,
think quickly in emergencies. There was but one way out of the
embarrassing position in which my husband's last words had placed
me. My instincts showed me the way, I suppose. At any rate, I
"You have promised to trust me," I began.
He admitted that he had promised.
"I must ask you, for your own sake, Eustace, to trust me for a
little while longer. I will satisfy you, if you will only give me
His face darkened. "How much longer must I wait?" he asked.
I saw that the time had come for trying some stronger form of
persuasion than words.
"Kiss me," I said, "before I tell you!"
He hesitated (so like a husband!). And I persisted (so like a
wife!). There was no choice for him but to yield. Having given me
my kiss (not over-graciously), he insisted once more on knowing
how much longer I wanted him to wait.
"I want you to wait," I answered, "until our child is born."
He started. My condition took him by surprise. I gently pressed
his hand, and gave him a look. He returned the look (warmly
enough, this time, to satisfy me). "Say you consent," I
So I put off the day of reckoning once more. So I gained time to
consult again with Benjamin and Mr. Playmore.
While Eustace remained with me in the room, I was composed, and
capable of talking to him. But when he left me, after a time, to
think over what had passed between us, and to remember how kindly
he had given way to me, my heart turned pityingly to those other
wives (better women, some of them, than I am), whose husbands,
under similar circumstances, would have spoken hard words to
them--would perhaps even have acted more cruelly still. The
contrast thus suggested between their fate and mine quite
overcame me. What had I done to deserve my happiness? What had
_they_ done, poor souls, to deserve their misery? My nerves were
overwrought, I dare says after reading the dreadful confession of
Eustace's first wife. I burst out crying--and I was all the
better for it afterward!
PAST AND FUTURE.
I write from memory, unassisted by notes or diaries; and I have
no distinct recollection of the length of our residence abroad.
It certainly extended over a period of some months. Long after
Eustace was strong enough to take the journey to London the
doctors persisted in keeping him in Paris. He had shown symptoms
of weakness in one of his lungs, and his medical advisers, seeing
that he prospered in the dry atmosphere of France, warned him to
be careful of breathing too soon the moist air of his own
Thus it happened that we were still in Paris when I received my
next news from Gleninch.
This time no letters passed on either side. To my surprise and
delight, Benjamin quietly made his appearance one morning in our
pretty French drawing-room. He was so preternaturally smart in
his dress, and so incomprehensibly anxious (while my husband was
in the way) to make us understand that his reasons for visiting
Paris were holiday reasons only, that I at once suspected him of
having crossed the Channel in a double character--say, as tourist
in search of pleasure, when third persons were present; as
ambassador from Mr. Playmore, when he and I had the room to
Later in the day I contrived that we should be left together, and
I soon found that my anticipations had not misled me. Benjamin
had set out for Paris, at Mr. Playmore's express request, to
consult with me as to the future, and to enlighten me as to the
past. He presented me with his credentials in the shape of a
little note from the lawyer.
"There are some few points" (Mr. Playmore wrote) "which the
recovery of the letter does not seem to clear up. I have done my
best, with Mr. Benjamin's assistance, to find the right
explanation of these debatable matters; and I have treated the
subject, for the sake of brevity, in the form of Questions and
Answers. Will you accept me as interpreter, after the mistakes I
made when you consulted me in Edinburgh? Events, I admit, have
proved that I was entirely wrong in trying to prevent you from
returning to Dexter--and partially wrong in suspecting Dexter of
being directly, instead of indirectly, answerable for the first
Mrs. Eustace's death. I frankly make my confession, and leave you
to tell Mr. Benjamin whether you think my new Catechism worthy of
examination or not."
I thought his "new Catechism" (as he called it) decidedly worthy
of examination. If you don't ag ree with this view, and if you
are dying to be done with me and my narrative, pass on to the
next chapter by all means!
Benjamin produced the Questions and Answers; and read them to me,
at my request, in these terms:
"Questions suggested by the letter discovered at Gleninch. First
Group: Questions relating to the Diary. First Question: obtaining
access to Mr. Macallan's private journal, was Miserrimus Dexter
guided by any previous knowledge of its contents?
"Answer: It is doubtful if he had any such knowledge. The
probabilities are that he noticed how carefully Mr. Macallan
secured his Diary from observation; that he inferred therefrom
the existence of dangerous domestic secrets in the locked-up
pages; and that he speculated on using those secrets for his own
purpose when he caused the false keys to be made.
"Second Question: To what motive are we to attribute Miserrimus
Dexter's interference with the sheriff's officers, on the day
when they seized Mr. Macallan's Diary along with his other
"Answer: In replying to this question, we must first do justice