Part 6 out of 6
And so, reluctantly, Manager Witherspoon ceased to pry into the
private life of Arthur Ferris. McNerney stoutly maintained the
thesis to the last, that Ferris and Fritz Braun were strangers.
"The women both prove it," urged the officer.
"And yet some still unfathomed game of Ferris made him Clayton's
secret enemy. Ferris wanted that beautiful heiress; he wanted
to completely estrange and supplant Clayton, and so to reach old
Worthington's millions. For that, he clung to the unsuspecting
comrade of his bachelor life. Look to the West for light in this!
Believe me, if any one knows, it is Miss Worthington! She is one
woman in a million, a woman who does not talk!"
"What do you mean, Dennis?" sharply said the young lawyer.
The simple policeman stoutly answered, "I observed that Miss Alice
seemed to have gained a great mastery over Counselor Stillwell and
her Detroit lawyers.
"She was with her father for hours before he died, and I'm of the
opinion that he told her many things that none of the lawyers even
dream of, secrets that perhaps even you do not suspect! I'm only
a plain policeman, yet strange schemes are in these millionaires'
"The great man had his own private uses for Ferris, and for the
Senator uncle, who knows what great designs ended with his death.
"Believe me, she is following out her father's last advice; and if
she lets Ferris off easy, you must do the same!
"As for Fritz Braun, he at first only intended, evidently, to lure
poor Clayton into the Art Gallery or his own drug-store, through
this pretty Hungarian, and, from a study of Clayton's habits, change
the valises and so rob him by the old trick! The bunco game!
"But fortune willed otherwise, and Braun took the chance of
Clayton's faith in the girl. He did not know that Clayton was so
fondly devoted to the woman.
"The murder was a sudden inspiration, arising from Clayton's headlong
"And Braun knew nothing of old Worthington's designs, nor Clayton's
past history. What more Miss Worthington may know, you will never
know, much as she esteems you, unless she wills. For she is a very
resolute character, and I believe that she is quietly managing
Stillwell and the other lawyers in her own way.
"It's clear to me that both Ferris and Braun used this poor office
boy as a spy on Clayton; only, for different purposes.
"As for the two women, they were both mere puppets! Fritz Braun
was tempted by the unprotected situation of that vast sum of money
going daily to the bank. He easily learned that from the boy's
braggadocio talk, and then used the whole circle as a means to entrap
Clayton. As for the women, they are both merely what temptation,
misery, and surroundings have made them. I'm glad to hear Doctor
Atwater say Miss Worthington has some plans for their future.
"As for the boy, your own design is a wise one. Transport him
out West, give him a fair start in some Pacific State in a decent
business, and then if he goes wrong, after his severe lesson, let
him run up against a smart punishment."
Reluctantly convinced, John Witherspoon dropped all his final
investigations as to Arthur Ferris' secret career in New York City.
As the months rolled along he saw the justice of the blunt police
officer's judgment, for Miss Alice Worthington seemed to be an
administering talent of the highest order.
"She would make a Secretary of the Treasury, sir," said the admiring
Stillwell. "She is old beyond her years--a rare woman!"
By some vague influence, the personal future designs of Miss
Worthington seemed to be a subject tabooed between Witherspoon,
his wife, and Doctor Atwater, at the regular weekly dinner at
Beechwood, where the young physician was always a stated guest.
Miss Worthington, already a Lady Bountiful, in Detroit, conducted
a separate correspondence with the young wife, the husband, and
the physician, the last her only confidant in the still unmatured
plans of a practical philanthropy.
It was in the early autumn of the year following Randall Clayton's
death that Witherspoon sprang up in astonishment, when he unfolded
the New York Herald over his morning coffee at Beechwood.
The cabled announcement of the death of the Honorable Arthur Ferris,
United States Consul at Amoy, China, was only supplemented by the
statement that he had fallen a victim of the coast fever.
"This is the end of all," sadly mused the lawyer, as he saw his
immediate duty of repeating the news by telegraph to Detroit.
"Whatever connection Ferris had with the secret designs of Worthington
is now a sealed mystery forever; the hand of Death has turned the
last page down."
Witherspoon rightly conjectured that to Senator Dunham the death
of his once trusted negotiator would be a welcome release from the
tyranny of a dangerous past.
"The statesman's immaculate toga is still unsmirched," bitterly
"And now all of Arthur Ferris' busy schemes have come to naught!
His bootless treason, his fruitless intrigue of years, even the
hush-money on the one side, the blood-money on the other, are all
alike valueless! He lost every trick in life, even with the cards
in his own hands." It was a case of the engineer "hoist with his
In vain did John Witherspoon await any personal comment from the
great heiress. The very name of the dead man was unmentioned in
the daily letters from her secretary.
When Doctor Atwater returned from one of his now frequent "business"
visits to Detroit, he shook his head in a grave negation when
Witherspoon brought up the name of the dead counsel.
"Something very strange there! Even Boardman and Warner seemed
averse to any conversation upon the subject," soberly said Atwater.
"I judge that the memory of Ferris is a most distasteful topic
to them all. I presume that the papers of old Hugh probably have
revived matters, which might as well be buried in Ferris' lonely
grave out there on the shores of the Formosa Strait."
It was nearly two months after the cabled announcement when
John Witherspoon received a bulky packet from the United States
Vice-Consul at Amoy, China. He had not fully deciphered all the
documents when he sprang from his chair and, quitting the Trading
Company's office, hurriedly drove to Doctor Atwater's headquarters.
Atwater saw from his friend's face that something of moment had
happened. "Tell me, Jack, what is it?" he asked with a horrible
Witherspoon smiled sadly, as his friend's excitement betrayed the
innocent secret of the young physician's heart.
"No! God be praised!" he slowly answered. "Alice lives to bless
some good man's life! But I have here a message from the dead, and
the last legacy of a crime! You must go out instantly to Detroit,
for I cannot leave our great interests at this juncture. It seems
as if the very grave had opened for this!"
Doctor Atwater's eyes were dim when he handed the papers back to
his friend. "What could have goaded him on to his unhappy end! What
stings and whiplashes of conscience! Let us go carefully over the
whole matter together! I will telegraph my departure and then take
The few lines traced by Arthur Ferris' feeble fingers were supplemented
by a long and formal letter from the United States Vice-Consul at
The enclosure of a verified copy of the will of Arthur Ferris,
duly attested by the consular seal, was accompanied by a statement
that the original and the keys of Ferris' safe deposit box in New
York had been duly forwarded to New York, through the Hong Kong
and Shanghai Bank.
There was a sealed enclosure directed to Miss Alice Worthington,
the superscription being faintly discernable in the trembling hand
of the fever patient.
And as both men gazed silently at each other, they knew that some
dark secret lay veiled there under the outspread wings of the American
eagle of the consular seal, which duplicated Ferris' private signet.
With a strange interest, Atwater read of the last sufferings of
the unfortunate official. "My late superior seemed to be tortured
in his mind to his very last moment," wrote the Vice-Consul, "by
the fear that these documents might not safely reach Miss Worthington
"Be pleased to give me the earliest possible acknowledgment of the
receipt of both the certified copy herewith sent and the original
with the keys and duly certified order for the delivery of the tin
box of the deceased to Miss Worthington herself."
"Here we dismiss his memory forever between us!" solemnly said
Witherspoon, as he read aloud Arthur Ferris' last message. "It is
for her alone to bear him in mind, and to sit in judgment upon him!
What unrighted wrong drove him, in remorse, to his lonely grave!
I shall never ask an answer of her!"
In vain did Atwater follow the enigmatic sentences.
"I leave the fund of one hundred thousand dollars, created for
me by my uncle, and the similar sum now due and payable by the
Worthington Estate, to Alice Worthington for the foundation of
such a charity as she may deem proper. This money is the legacy of
a crime and of a wrong!
"Of a crime, though only contemplated, of which I am not innocent
at heart, and of a wrong done, of which Miss Worthington alone
shall be the judge.
"To you, Witherspoon, I can say that every mad scheme which I framed
to reach wealth and power has failed miserably; that I have found
my soul's unhappiness in the betrayal of poor Clayton's friendship.
"And yet, as I hope for the forgiveness of an Almighty God, I
knew nothing of his murder, either in the deed or its conception.
Let me be forgotten by all the world, forgiven by one alone."
The two friends long gazed at each other in a gloomy silence.
"I leave the whole mystery to you, my friend," at last wearily said
the lawyer. "I will never try to read between the lines. Take the
whole correspondence with you. I have already had a copy made of
the Vice-Consul's letter and Ferris' own few sentences. I know that
Alice will surely consecrate this vile money to some good purpose,
and so I make you my ambassador.
"She will understand why I hope never to hear Ferris' name again,
for I know and feel that he was a murderer at heart. Had Clayton
missed the snares of the deadly thug who coveted the money which
was so criminally exposed, for the golden bribe of the Worthington
fortune, Ferris would have sacrificed the only man who stood between
him and the millionaire's favor, between him and, perhaps, this
orphaned girl's hand.
"And, as sure as the sinner errs, so sure is that old proverb, 'THE
WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH!'
"I will simply forward any further Amoy enclosures to Miss Worthington
for her own action. The drama is done, the curtain has fallen, and
the lights are turned out forever!"
Mr. and Mrs. John Witherspoon were enjoying the delights of a
Continental run a year later, when that bright-eyed young matron,
Madame Francine, read to her delighted husband the account given by
Miss Worthington of the opening of the "Free Hospital and Orphans'
Home," to which the young heiress had dedicated the estate of the
unfortunate Ferris, as well as a large sum set aside by herself.
The Witherspoons were in the far niente, floating on the Grand
Canal in beautiful Venice, while the young beauty selected Alice's
letter from a sheaf handed to them by the porter of the Hotel
Danieli, who pursued them in a gondola.
The married lovers were now on their way to the Nile and the eternal
glow of its cloudless skies.
Witherspoon listened with a mock gravity, until he suddenly
interrupted, "What does she say of Atwater?"
"Nothing," answered the merry matron. "It's all about the grand
opening of the Home."
"Then, IT'S ALL RIGHT!" calmly answered Jack, lighting a cigar
and leaning back under the parti-colored awning. "When a woman
says nothing about a man, it's surely all right. I can wait, wait
patiently, till her philanthropic fever abates. I suppose that we
will hear something at the First Cataract, or at Khartoum. or some
other remote spot, perhaps where the lion basks upon the tomb of
ruined Palmyra! There is a happy crisis approaching 'in the near
future,' as the swell journals say."
There were many interesting details lost to the runaway lovers by
their wanderings, but the essential facts finally reached them in
Calcutta, on their homeward way around the world.
Neither Alice Worthington nor the man who was now her coadjutor
in many noble works could ever exactly recall the sequence of the
events which had prolonged indefinitely Atwater's stay in Detroit.
But it had happened upon a winter evening, when the great Worthington
mansion was silent, and Mrs. Hayward, Alice's duenna and general
almoner, had artfully stolen away, leaving the unconscious lovers
The successful working of the Hospital and Home was now assured
beyond a doubt.
Atwater, gazing out into the glowing embers of the great fireplace,
slowly said, as the musical chime of the silver bells of the mantel
clock sounded ten:
"And now I feel that Messrs. Boardman and Warner can oversee your
local Medical Board and keep the institution from lapsing into the
dry rot of a purely charitable organization."
"I fear for nothing," he said, smiling faintly, "as long as you
are here to watch it. And," he hastily added, "certainly you can
trust Irma Gluyas! That poor woman finds a fiery zeal from her past
sorrows spurring her on. She is a faithful assistant manageress.
"And even Leah Einstein has her humble merit as a sterling housekeeper.
But, you must have Jack carefully watch over that boy out in the
West. Young Emil needs a firm hand, and only Witherspoon can hold
him down to usefulness."
"Why are you telling me all these things?" suddenly said Alice
Worthington, her cheeks paling in a strange dismay.
"Because," said the young man, slowly, "I have long desired to
follow out a special line of medical investigation in Vienna. I
have the two years yet before I reach thirty, in which I propose
to make my mark in original research, or else return to New York
to my old routine, fortified by the contact of the ablest medical
minds in the world."
"This is impossible! YOU SHALL NOT GO!" suddenly cried Alice
Worthington, with pallid cheeks aflame with sudden blushes. Her bosom
was heaving in some strange tumult as Atwater took her trembling
hands in his own.
"It would be so hard for me to say 'Good bye," he almost whispered,
"that I have decided to write you from New York. I have already
secured my passage on the 'Paris.'"
"And you will not allow me to recompense you for all you have done?"
whispered Alice, bravely strugbling to keep back her tears.
"Yes; I will," resolutely answered Atwater. "Go on lifting up the
lowly, bind up their bruised hearts, and all good men will bless
your name. That will be my reward!"
"Wait a moment," faltered Alice, as she sped away.
Left alone in the room, Atwater, gazing into the fire, listened
for the returning footfall of the woman whose face had long haunted
"You alone, of all the world," said the beautiful woman, as she
glided to his side. "You alone are entitled to my confidence.
"Only you should know the story of my life!"
She handed him the letter which had been Arthur Ferris' eternal
farewell to the woman who had never even borne his name.
He started forward, with arms extended, as he read that last message
from beyond the sea. "It means that I am to keep your innocent
"There is nothing hidden now," the loving woman shyly said. "IT
MEANS THAT YOU ARE NOT TO GO!"
They were still tranced there in their happiness when the silver
bells chimed out again. The ruddy fire-light lit up their faces,
glowing with the hidden love which had at last found its voice as
the shadow of parting fell upon them.
"Auf wiederschen, dearest heart!" cried Atwater. "We will lead
the noble life together, please God, to the end!"
"Hand in hand, and heart to heart," whispered the loving woman,
whose happy eyes saw no cloud of the past now lowering upon her.
And, even in the flush of the new-born joy she was true to her
"No shame rests upon my father's name," she murmured, that night,
in her prayers. "The works that men do live after them, and in his
name I will build up a monument of good works over the tomb where
the secret of his life's temptation lies buried with him."
The gleaming stars shone down tenderly upon the happy lover speeding
homeward, for the bells of joy were ringing in his awakened heart.
"I must try and get these glad tidings to our wanderers abroad,"
And this, stripped of some merely personal happenings, with a
gracious confirmation by Alice, was the budget of good news which
greeted the Witherspoons on their arrival at Calcutta.
"Jack!" joyously cried Madame Francine, "I have only been waiting
for this official confirmation for some months. Alice writes me to
hasten back so as to be the star guest of the coming wedding."
"I have had a firm faith also," drily rejoined her husband, "that
in due time Alice's field of philanthropy would enlarge itself to
include our friend. And so, it's all well that ends well! Here's
for home, then, when you will!"