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even though it was at the height of its popularity and in the full tide of its success. He determined to send Beatrice under his sister’s care, and to devote himself now altogether to the pursuit of Cigole, even if he had to follow him to the world’s end. The search after him might not be long after all, for Cavallo felt sanguine of speedy success, and assured him that the traitor was in his power, and that the Carbonari in London were sufficiently numerous to seize him and send him to whatever punishment might be deemed most fitting.

With such plans and purposes Langhetti went to visit Beatrice, wondering how she would receive the intelligence of his new purpose.

It was two o’clock in the afternoon before he reached her lodgings. On going up he rapped. A servant came, and on seeing him looked frightened.

[Illustration: “WHAT LIFE WE HAVE LEFT SHALL BE SPENT IN TRAPPING THAT MISCREANT.”]

“Is Miss Despard in?”

The servant said nothing, but ran off. Langhetti stood waiting in surprise; but in a short time the landlady came. She had a troubled look, and did not even return his salutation.

“Is Miss Despard in?”

“She is not here, Sir.”

“Not here!”

“No, Sir. I’m frightened. There was a man here early this morning, too.”

“A man here. What for?”

“Why, to ask after her.”

“And did he see her?”

“She wasn’t here.”

“Wasn’t here! What do you mean?”

“She didn’t come home at all last night. I waited up for her till four.”

“Didn’t come home!” cried Langhetti, as an awful fear came over him.

“No, Sir.”

“Do you mean to tell me that she didn’t come home at her usual hour?”

“No, Sir–not at all; and as I was saying, I sat up nearly all night.”

“Heavens!” cried Langhetti, in bewilderment. “What is the meaning of this? But take me to her room. Let me see with my own eyes.”

The landlady led the way up, and Langhetti followed anxiously. The room were empty. Every thing remained just as she had left it. Her music was lying loosely around. The landlady said that she had touched nothing.

Langhetti asked about the man who had called in the morning. The landlady could tell nothing about him, except that he was a gentleman with dark hair, and very stern eyes that terrified her. He seemed to be very angry or very terrible in some way about Beatrice.

Who could this be? thought Langhetti. The landlady did not know his name. Some one was certainly interesting herself very singularly about Cigole, and some one else, or else the same person, was very much interested about Beatrice. For a moment he thought it might be Despard. This, however, did not seem probable, as Despard would have written him if he were coming to town.

Deeply perplexed, and almost in despair, Langhetti left the house and drove home, thinking on the way what ought to be done. He thought he would wait till evening, and perhaps she would appear. He did thus wait, and in a fever of excitement and suspense, but on going to the lodging- house again there was nothing more known about her.

Leaving this he drove to the police-office. It seemed to him now that she must have been foully dealt with in some way. He could think of no one but Potts; yet how Potts could manage it was a mystery. That mystery he himself could not hope to unravel. The police might. With that confidence in the police which is common to all Continentals he went and made known his troubles. The officials at once promised to make inquiries, and told him to call on the following evening.

The next evening he went there. The policeman was present who had been at the place when Potts met Beatrice. He told the whole story–the horses running furiously, the screams from the cab, and the appeal of Beatrice for help, together with her final acquiescence in the will of her father.

Langhetti was overwhelmed. The officials evidently believed that Potts was an injured father, and showed some coldness to Langhetti.

“He is her father; what better could she do?” asked one.

“Any thing would be better,” said Langhetti, mournfully. “He is a villain so remorseless that she had to fly. Some friends received her. She went to get her own living since she is of age. Can nothing be done to rescue her?”

“Well, she might begin a lawsuit; if she really is of age he can not hold her. But she had much better stay with him.”

Such were the opinions of the officials. They courteously granted permission to Langhetti to take the policeman to the house.

On knocking an old woman came to the door. In answer to his inquiries she stated that a gentleman had been living there three weeks, but that on the arrival of his daughter he had gone home.

“When did he leave?”

“Yesterday morning.”

CHAPTER XLI

THEY MEET AGAIN.

At four o’clock on the morning of Beatrice’s capture Brandon was roused by a rap at his bedroom door. He rose at once, and slipping on his dressing-gown, opened it. A man entered.

“Well?” said Brandon.

“Something has happened.”

“What?”

“She didn’t get home last night. The landlady is sitting up for her, and is terribly frightened.”

“Did you make any inquiries?”

“No, Sir; I came straight here in obedience to your directions.”

“Is that all you know?”

“All.”

“Very well,” said Brandon, calmly, “you may go.”

The man retired. Brandon sat down and buried his head in his hands. Such news as this was sufficient to overwhelm any one. The man knew nothing more than this, that she had not returned home and that the landlady was frightened. In his opinion only one of two things could have happened: either Langhetti had taken her somewhere, or she had been abducted.

A thousand fancies followed one another in quick succession. It was too early as yet to go forth to make inquiries; and he therefore was forced to sit still and form conjectures as to what ought to be done in case his conjecture might be true. Sitting there, he took a rapid survey of all the possibilities of the occasion, and laid his plans accordingly.

Brandon had feared some calamity, and with this fear had arranged to have some one in the house who might give him information. The information which he most dreaded had come; it had come, too, in the midst of a time of triumph, when she had become one of the supreme singers of the age, and had gained all that her warmest admirer might desire for her.

If she had not been foully dealt with she must have gone with Langhetti. But if so–where–and why? What possible reason might Langhetti have for taking her away? This conjecture was impossible.

Yet if this was impossible, and if she had not gone with Langhetti, with whom could she have gone? If not a friend, then it must have been with an enemy. But with what enemy? There was only one.

He thought of Potts. He knew that this wretch was capable of any villainy, and would not hesitate at any thing to regain possession of the one who had fled from him. Why he should wish to take the trouble to regain possession of her, except out of pure villainy, he could not imagine.

With such thoughts as these the time passed heavily. Six o’clock at last came, and he set out for the purpose of making inquiries. He went first to the theatre. Here, after some trouble, he found those who had the place in charge, and, by questioning them, he learned that Beatrice had left by herself in a cab for her home, and that Langhetti had remained some time later. He then went to Beatrice’s lodgings to question the landlady. From there he went to Langhetti’s lodgings, and found that Langhetti had come home about one o’clock and was not yet up.

Beatrice, therefore, had left by herself; and had not gone any where with Langhetti. She had not returned home. It seemed to him most probable that either voluntarily or involuntarily she had come under the control of Potts. What to do under the circumstances was now the question.

One course seemed to him the most direct and certain; namely, to go up to Brandon at once and make inquiries there. From the letters which Philips had sent he had an idea of the doings of Potts. Other sources of information had also been secured. It was not his business to do any thing more than to see that Beatrice should fall into no harm.

By ten o’clock he had acted upon this idea, and was at the railway station to take the express train. He reached Brandon village about dusk. He went to the inn in his usual disguise as Mr. Smithers, and sent up to the Hall for Mr. Potts.

Potts was not there. He then sent for Philips. After some delay Philips came. His usual timidity was now if possible still more marked, and he was at first too embarrassed to speak.

“Where is Potts?” asked Brandon, abruptly.

“In London, Sir.”

“He has been there about three weeks, hasn’t he?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“So you wrote me. You thought when he went that he was going to hunt up his daughter.”

“So I conjectured.”

“And he hasn’t got back yet?”

“Not yet.”

“Has he written any word?”

“None that I know of.”

“Did you hear any of them say why he went to get her?”

“Not particularly; but I guessed from what they said that he was afraid of having her at large.”

“Afraid? Why?”

“Because she knew some secret of theirs.”

“Secret! What secret?” asked Brandon.

“You know, Sir, I suppose,” said Philips, meekly.

Brandon had carried Asgeelo with him, as he was often in the habit of doing on his journeys. After his interview with Philips he stood outside on the veranda of the village inn for some time, and then went around through the village, stopping at a number of houses. Whatever it was that he was engaged in, it occupied him for several hours, and he did not get back to the inn till midnight.

On the following morning he sent up to the Hall, but Potts had not yet returned. Philips came to tell him that he had just received a telegraphic dispatch informing him that Potts would be back that day about one o’clock. This intelligence at last seemed to promise something definite.

Brandon found enough to occupy him during the morning among the people of the neighborhood. He seemed to know every body, and had something to say to every one. Yet no one looked at him or spoke to him unless he took the initiative. Last of all, he went to the tailor’s, where he spent an hour.

Asgeelo had been left at the inn, and sat there upon a bench outside, apparently idle and aimless. At one o’clock Brandon returned and walked up and down the veranda.

In about half an hour his attention was attracted by the sound of wheels. It was Potts’s barouche, which came rapidly up the road. In it was Potts and a young lady.

Brandon stood outside of the veranda, on the steps, in such a position as to be most conspicuous, and waited there till the carriage should reach the place. Did his heart beat faster as he recognized that form, as he marked the settled despair which had gathered over that young face–a face that had the fixed and unalterable wretchedness which marks the ideal face of the Mater Dolorosa?

Brandon stood in such a way that Potts could not help seeing him. He waved his arm, and Potts stopped the carriage at once.

Potts was seated on the front seat, and Beatrice on the back one. Brandon walked up to the carriage and touched his hat.

“Mr. Smithers!” cried Potts, with his usual volubility. “Dear me, Sir. This is really a most unexpected pleasure, Sir.”

While Potts spoke Brandon looked steadily at Beatrice, who cast upon him a look of wonder. She then sank back in her seat; but her eyes were still fastened on his as though fascinated. Then, beneath the marble whiteness of her face a faint tinge appeared, a warm flush, that was the sign of hope rising from despair. In her eyes there gleamed the flash of recognition; for in that glance each had made known all its soul to the other. In her mind there was no perplexing question as to how or why he came here, or wherefore he wore that disguise; the one thought that she had was the consciousness that He was here–here before her.

All this took place in an instant, and Potts, who was talking, did not notice the hurried glance; or if he did, saw in it nothing but a casual look cast by one stranger upon another.

“I arrived here yesterday,” said Brandon. “I wished to see you about a matter of very little importance perhaps to you, but it is one which is of interest to me. But I am detaining you. By-the-way, I am somewhat in a hurry, and if this lady will excuse me I will drive up with you to the Hall, so as to lose no time.”

“Delighted, Sir, delighted!” cried Potts. “Allow me, Mr. Smithers, to introduce you to my daughter.”

Brandon held out his hand. Beatrice held out hers. It was cold as ice, but the fierce thrill that shot through her frame at the touch of his feverish hand brought with it such an ecstasy that Beatrice thought it was worth while to have undergone the horror of the past twenty-four hours for the joy of this one moment.

Brandon stepped into the carriage and seated himself by her side. Potts sat opposite. He touched her. He could hear her breathing. How many months had passed since they sat so near together! What sorrows had they not endured! Now they were side by side, and for a moment they forgot that their bitterest enemy sat before them.

There, before them, was the man who was not only a deadly enemy to each, but who made it impossible for them to be more to one another than they now were. Yet for a time they forgot this in the joy of the ecstatic meeting. At the gate Potts got out and excused himself to Brandon, saying that he would be up directly.

“Entertain this gentleman till I come,” said he to Beatrice, “for he is a great friend of mine.”

Beatrice said nothing, for the simple reason that she could not speak.

They drove on. Oh, joy! that baleful presence was for a moment removed. The driver saw nothing as he drove under the overarching elms–the elms under which Brandon had sported in his boyhood. He saw not the long, fervid glance that they cast at one another, in which each seemed to absorb all the being of the other; he saw not the close clasped hands with which they clung to one another now as though they would thus cling to each other forever and prevent separation. He saw not the swift, wild movement of Brandon when for one instant he flung his arm around Beatrice and pressed her to his heart. He heard not the beating of that strong heart; he heard not the low sigh of rapture with which for but one instant the head of Beatrice sank upon her lover’s breast. It was but for an instant. Then she sat upright again, and their hands sought each other, thus clinging, thus speaking by a voice which was fully intelligible to each, which told how each felt in the presence of the other love unutterable, rapture beyond expression.

The alighted from the carriage. Beatrice led the way into the drawing- room. No one was there. Brandon went into a recess of one of the windows which commanded a view of the Park.

“What a beautiful view!” said he, in a conventional voice.

She came up and stood beside him.

“Oh, my darling! Oh, my darling!” he cried, over and over again; and flinging his arms around her he covered her face with burning kisses. Her whole being seemed in that supreme moment to be absorbed in his. All consciousness of any other thing than this unspeakable joy was lost to her. Before all others she was lofty, high-souled, serene, self- possessed–with him she was nothing, she lost herself in him.

“Do not fear, my soul’s darling,” said he; “no harm shall come. My power is every where–even in this house. All in the village are mine. When my blow falls you shall be saved.”

She shuddered.

“You will leave me here?”

“Heavens! I must,” he groaned; “we are the sport of circumstances. Oh, my darling!” he continued, “you know my story, and my vengeance.”

“I know it all,” she whispered. “I would wish to die if I could die by your hand.”

“I will save you. Oh, love–oh, soul of mine–my arms are around you! You are watched–but watched by me.”

“You do not know,” she sighed. “Alas! your father’s voice must be obeyed, and your vengeance must be taken.”

“Fear not,” said he; “I will guard you.”

She answered nothing. Could she confide in his assurance? She could not. She thought with horror of the life before her. What could Brandon do? She could not imagine.

They stood thus in silence for a long time. Each felt that this was their last meeting, and each threw all life and all thought into the rapture of this long and ecstatic embrace. After this the impassable gulf must reopen. She was of the blood of the accursed. They must separate forever.

He kissed her. He pressed her a thousand times to his heart. His burning kisses forced a new and feverish life into her, which roused all her nature. Never before had he dared so to fling open all his soul to her; never before had he so clasped her to his heart; but now this moment was a break in the agony of a long separation–a short interval which must soon end and give way to the misery which had preceded it–and so he yielded to the rapture of the hour, and defied the future.

The moments extended themselves. They were left thus for a longer time than they hoped. Potts did not come. They were still clinging to one another. She had flung her arms around him in the anguish of her unspeakable love, he had clasped her to his wildly-throbbing heart, and he was straining her there recklessly and despairingly, when suddenly a harsh voice burst upon their ears.

“The devil!”

Beatrice did not hear it. Brandon did, and turned his face. Potts stood before them.

“Mr. Potts!” said he, as he still held Beatrice close to his heart, “this poor young lady is in wretched health. She nearly fainted. I had to almost carry her to the window. Will you be good enough to open it, so as to give her some air? Is she subject to these faints? Poor child!” he said; “the air of this place ought surely to do you good. I sympathize with you most deeply, Mr. Potts.”

“She’s sickly–that’s a fact,” said Potts. “I’m very sorry that you have had so much trouble–I hope you’ll excuse me. I only thought that she’d entertain you, for she’s very clever. Has all the accomplishments–“

“Perhaps you’d better call some one to take care of her,” interrupted Brandon.

“Oh, I’ll fetch some one. I’m sorry it happened so. I hope you won’t blame me, Sir,” said Potts, humbly, and he hurried out of the room.

Beatrice had not moved. She heard Brandon speak to some one, and at first gave herself up for lost, but in an instant she understood the full meaning of his words. To his admirable presence of mind she added her own. She did not move, but allowed her head to rest where it was, feeling a delicious joy in the thought that Potts was looking on and was utterly deceived. When he left to call a servant she raised her head and gave Brandon a last look expressive of her deathless, her unutterable love. Again and again he pressed her to his heart. Then the noise of servants coming in roused him. He gently placed her on a sofa, and supported her with a grave and solemn face.

“Here, Mrs. Compton. Take charge of her,” said Potts. “She’s been trying to faint.”

Mrs. Compton came up, and kneeling down kissed Beatrice’s hands. She said nothing.

“Oughtn’t she to have a doctor?” said Brandon.

“Oh no–she’ll get over it. Take her to her room, Mrs. Compton.”

“Can the poor child walk?” asked Brandon.

Beatrice rose. Mrs. Compton asked her to take her arm. She did so, and leaning heavily upon it, walked away.

[Illustration: “THE DEVIL!” … POTTS STOOD BEFORE THEM.]

“She seems very delicate,” said Brandon. “I did not know that you had a daughter.”

Potts sighed.

“I have,” said he, “to my sorrow.”

“To your sorrow!” said Brandon, with exquisitely simulated sympathy.

“Yes,” replied the other. “I wouldn’t tell it to every one–but you, Mr. Smithers, are different from most people. You see I have led a roving life. I had to leave her out in China for many years with a female guardian. I suppose she was not very well taken care of. At any rate, she got acquainted out there with a strolling Italian vagabond, a drum- major in one of the regiments, named Langhetti, and this villain gained her affections by his hellish arts. He knew that I was rich, and, like an unprincipled adventurer, tried to get her, hoping to get a fortune. I did not know any thing about this till after her arrival home. I sent for her some time ago and she came. From the first she was very sulky. She did not treat me like a daughter at all. On one occasion she actually abused me and called me names to my face. She called me a Thug! What do you think of that, Mr. Smithers?”

The other said nothing, but there was in his face a horror which Potts considered as directed toward his unnatural offspring.

“She was discontented here, though I let her have every thing. I found out in the end all about it. At last she actually ran away. She joined this infamous Langhetti, whom she had discovered in some way or other. They lived together for some time, and then went to London, where she got a situation as an actress. You can imagine by that,” said Potts, with sanctimonious horror, “how low she had fallen.

“Well, I didn’t know what to do. I was afraid to make a public demand for her through the law, for then it would all get into the papers; it would be an awful disgrace, and the whole county would know it. So I waited, and a few weeks ago I went to London. A chance occurred at last which threw her in my way. I pointed out to her the awful nature of the life she was leading, and offered to forgive her all if she would only come back. The poor girl consented, and here she is. But I’m very much afraid,” said Potts in conclusion, with a deep sigh, “that her constitution is broken up. She’s very feeble.”

Brandon said nothing.

“Excuse me for troubling you with my domestic affairs; but I thought I ought to explain, for you have had such trouble with her yourself.”

“Oh, don’t mention it. I quite pitied the poor child, I assure you; and I sincerely hope that the seclusion of this place, combined with the pure sea-air, may restore her spirits and invigorate her in mind as well as in body. And now, Mr. Potts, I will mention the little matter that brought me here. I have had business in Cornwall, and was on my way home when I received a letter summoning me to America. I may have to go to California. I have a very honest servant, whom I have quite a strong regard for, and I am anxious to put him in some good country house till I get back. I’m afraid to trust him in London, and I can’t take him with me. He is a Hindu, but speaks English and can do almost any thing. I at once remembered you, especially as you were close by me, and thought that In your large establishment you might find a place for him. How is it?”

“My dear Sir, I shall be proud and happy. I should like, above all things, to have a man here who is recommended by one like you. The fact is, my servants are all miserable, and a good one can not often be had. I shall consider it a favor if I can get him.”

“Well, that is all arranged–I have a regard for him, as I said before, and want to have him in a pleasant situation. His name is Asgeelo, but we are in the habit of calling him Cato–“

“Cato! a very good name. Where is he now?”

“At the hotel. I will send him to you at once,” said Brandon, rising.

“The sooner the better,” returned Potts.

“By-the-way, my junior speaks very encouragingly about the prospects of the Brandon Bank–“

“Does he?” cried Potts, gleefully. “Well, I do believe we’re going ahead of every thing.”

“That’s right. Boldness is the true way to success.”

“Oh, never fear. We are bold enough.”

“Good. But I am hurried, and I must go. I will send Asgeelo up, and give him a letter.”

With these words Brandon bowed an adieu and departed. Before evening Asgeelo was installed as one of the servants.

CHAPTER XLII

LANGHETTI’S ATTEMPT.

Two days after Brandon’s visit to Potts, Langhetti reached the village.

A searching examination in London had led him to believe that Beatrice might now be sought for at Brandon Hall. The police could do nothing for him. He had no right to her. If she was of age, she was her own mistress, and must make application herself for her safety and deliverance; if she was under age, then she must show that she was treated with cruelty. None of these things could be done, and Langhetti despaired of accomplishing any thing.

The idea of her being once more in the power of a man like Potts was frightful to him. This idea filled his mind continually, to the exclusion of all other thoughts. His opera was forgotten. One great horror stood before him, and all else became of no account. The only thing for him to do was to try to save her. He could find no way, and therefore determined to go and see Potts himself.

It was a desperate undertaking. From Beatrice’s descriptions he had an idea of the life from which she had fled, and other things had given him a true idea of the character of Potts. He knew that there was scarcely any hope before him. Yet he went, to satisfy himself by making a last effort.

He was hardly the man to deal with one like Potts. Sensitive, high- toned, passionate, impetuous in his feelings, he could not command that calmness which was the first essential in such an interview. Besides, he was broken down by anxiety and want of sleep. His sorrow for Beatrice had disturbed all his thoughts. Food and sleep were alike abominable to him. His fine-strung nerves and delicate organization, in which every feeling had been rendered more acute by his mode of life, were of that kind which could feel intensely wherever the affections were concerned. His material frame was too weak for the presence of such an ardent soul. Whenever any emotion of unusual power appeared he sank rapidly.

So now, feverish, emaciated, excited to an intense degree, he appeared in Brandon to confront a cool, unemotional villain, who scarcely ever lost his presence of mind. Such a contest could scarcely be an equal one. What could he bring forward which could in any way affect such a man? He had some ideas in his own mind which he imagined might be of service, and trusted more to impulse than any thing else. He went up early in the morning to Brandon Hall.

Potts was at home, and did not keep Langhetti long waiting. There was a vast contrast between these two men–the one coarse, fat, vulgar, and strong; the other refined, slender, spiritual, and delicate, with his large eyes burning in their deep sockets, and a strange mystery in his face.

“I am Paolo Langhetti,” said he, abruptly–“the manager of the Covent Garden Theatre.”

“You are, are you?” answered Potts, rudely; “then the sooner you get out of this the better. The devil himself couldn’t be more impudent. I have just saved my daughter from your clutches, and I’m going to pay you off, too, my fine fellow, before long.”

“Your daughter!” said Langhetti. “What she is, and who she is, you very well know. If the dead could speak they would tell a different story.”

“What the devil do you mean,” cried Potts, “by the dead? At any rate you are a fool; for very naturally the dead can’t speak; but what concern that has with my daughter I don’t know. Mind, you are playing a dangerous game in trying to bully me.”

Potts spoke fiercely and menacingly. Langhetti’s impetuous goal kindled to a new fervor at this insulting language. He stretched out his long, thin hand toward Potts, and said:

“I hold your life and fortune in my hand. Give up that girl whom you call your daughter.”

Potts stood for a moment staring.

“The devil you do!” he cried, at last. “Come, I call that good, rich, racy! Will your sublime Excellency have the kindness to explain yourself? If my life is in your hand it’s in a devilish lean and weak one. It strikes me you’ve got some kink in your brain–some notion or other. Out with it, and let us see what you’re driving at!”

“Do you know a man named Cigole?” said Langhetti.

“Cigole!” replied Potts, after a pause, in which he had stared hard at Langhetti; “well, what if I do? Perhaps I do, and perhaps I don’t.”

“He is in my power,” said Langhetti, vehemently.

“Much good may he do you then, for I’m sure when he was in my power he never did any good to me.”

“He will do good in this case, at any rate,” said Langhetti, with an effort at calmness. “He was connected with you in a deed which you must remember, and can tell to the world what he knows.”

“Well, what if he does?” said Potts.

“He will tell,” cried Langhetti, excitedly, “the true story of the Despard murder.”

“Ah!” said Potts, “now the murder’s out. That’s what I thought. Don’t you suppose I saw through you when you first began to speak so mysteriously? I knew that you had learned some wonderful story, and that you were going to trot it out at the right time. But if you think you’re going to bully me you’ll find it hard work.

“Cigole is in my power,” said Langhetti, fiercely.

“And so you think I am, too?” sneered Potts.

“Partly so.”

“Why?”

“Because he was an accomplice of yours in the Despard murder.”

“So he says, no doubt; but who’ll believe him?”

“He is going to turn Queen’s evidence!” said Langhetti, solemnly.

“Queen’s evidence!” returned Potts, contemptuously, “and what’s his evidence worth–the evidence of a man like that against a gentleman of unblemished character?”

“He will be able to show what the character of that gentleman is,” rejoined Langhetti.

“Who will believe him?”

“No one can help it.”

“You believe him, no doubt. You and he are both Italians–both dear friends–and both enemies of mine; but suppose I prove to the world conclusively that Cigole is such a scoundrel that his testimony is worthless?”

“You can’t,” cried Langhetti, furiously.

Potts cast a look of contempt at him–

“Can’t I!” He resumed: “How very simple, how confiding you must be, my dear Langhetti! Let me explain my meaning. You got up a wild charge against a gentleman of character and position about a murder. In the first place, you seem to forget that the real murderer has long since been punished. That miserable devil of a Malay was very properly convicted at Manilla, and hanged there. It was twenty years ago. What English court would consider the case again after a calm and impartial Spanish court has settled it finally, and punished the criminal? They did so at the time when the case was fresh, and I came forth honored and triumphant. You now bring forward a man who, you hint, will make statements against me. Suppose he does? What then? Why, I will show what this man is. And you, my dear Langhetti, will be the first one whom I will bring up against him. I will bring you up under oath, and make you tell how this Cigole–this man who testifies against me–once made a certain testimony in Sicily against a certain Langhetti senior, by which that certain Langhetti senior was betrayed to the Government, and was saved only by the folly of two Englishmen, one of whom was this same Despard. I will show that this Langhetti senior was your father, and that the son, instead of avenging, or at any rate resenting, his father’s wrong, is now a bosom friend of his father’s intended murderer –that he has urged him on against me. I will show, my dear Langhetti, how you have led a roving life, and, when a drum-major at Hong Kong, won the affections of my daughter; how you followed her here, and seduced her away from a kind father; how at infinite risk I regained her; how you came to me with audacious threats; and how only the dread of further scandal, and my own anxious love for my daughter, prevented me from handing you over to the authorities. I will prove you to be a scoundrel of the vilest description, and, after such proof as this, what do you think would be the verdict of an English jury, or of any judge in any land; and what do you think would be your own fate? Answer me that.”

Potts spoke with savage vehemence. The frightful truth flashed at once across Langhetti’s mind that Potts had it in his power here to show all this to the world. He was overwhelmed. He had never conceived the possibility of this. Potts watched him silently, with a sneer on his face.

“Don’t you think that you had better go and comfort yourself with your dear friend Cigole, your father’s intended murderer?” said he at length. “Cigole told me all about this long ago. He told me many things about his life which would be slightly damaging to his character as a witness, but I don’t mind telling you that the worst thing against him in English eyes is his betrayal of your father. But this seems to have been a very slight matter to you. It’s odd too; I’ve always supposed that Italians understood what vengeance means.”

Langhetti’s face bore an expression of agony which he could not conceal. Every word of Potts stung him to the soul. He stood for some time in silence. At last, without a word, he walked out of the room.

His brain reeled. He staggered rather than walked. Potts looked after him with a smile of triumph. He left the Hall and returned to the village.

CHAPTER XLIII.

THE STRANGER.

A few weeks after Langhetti’s visit Potts had a new visitor at the bank. The stranger entered the bank parlor noiselessly, and stood quietly waiting for Potts to be disengaged. That worthy was making some entries in a small memorandum-book. Turning his head, he saw the newcomer. Potts looked surprised, and the stranger said, in a peculiar voice, somewhat gruff and hesitating,

“Mr. Potts?”

“Yes,” said Potts, looking hard at his visitor.

He was a man of singular aspect. His hair was long, parted in the middle, and straight. He wore dark colored spectacles. A thick, black beard ran under his chin. His linen was not over-clean, and he wore a long surtout coat.

“I belong to the firm of Bigelow, Higginson, & Co., Solicitors, London. –I am the Co.”

“Well!”

“The business about which I have come is one of some importance. Are we secure from interruption?”

“Yes,” said Potts, “as much as I care about being. I don’t know any thing in particular that I care about locking the doors for.”

“Well, you know best,” said the stranger. “The business upon which I have come concerns you somewhat, but your son principally.”

Potts started, and looked with eager inquiry at the stranger.

“It is such a serious case,” said the latter, “that my seniors thought, before taking any steps in the matter, it would be best to consult you privately.”

“Well,” returned Potts, with a frown, “what is this wonderful case?”

“Forgery,” said the stranger.

Potts started to his feet with a ghastly face, and stood speechless for some time.

“Do you know who you’re talking to?” said he, at last.

“John Potts, of Brandon Hall, I presume,” said the stranger, coolly. “My business concerns him somewhat, but his son still more.”

“What the devil do you mean?” growled Potts, in a savage tone.

“Forgery,” said the stranger. “It is an English word, I believe. Forgery, in which your son was chief agent. Have I made myself understood?”

Potts looked at him again, and then slowly went to the door, locked it, and put the key in his pocket.

“That’s right,” said the stranger, quietly.

“You appear to take things easy,” rejoined Potts, angrily; “but let me tell you, if you come to bully me you’ve got into the wrong shop.”

“You appear somewhat heated. You must be calm, or else we can not get to business; and in that case I shall have to leave.”

“I don’t see how that would be any affliction,” said Potts, with a sneer.

“That’s because you don’t understand my position, or the state of the present business. For if I leave it will be the signal for a number of interested parties to make a combined attack on you.”

“An attack?”

“Yes.”

“Who is there?” said Potts, defiantly.

“Giovanni Cavallo, for one; my seniors, Messrs. Bigelow & Higginson, and several others.

“Never heard of any of them before.”

“Perhaps not. But if you write to Smithers & Co. they will tell you that Bigelow, Higginson, & Co. are their solicitors, and do their confidential business.”

“Smithers & Co.?” said Potts, aghast.

“Yes. It would not be for your interest for Bigelow, Higginson, & Co. to show Smithers & Co. the proofs which they have against you, would it?”

Potts was silent. An expression of consternation came over his face. He plunged his hands deep in his pockets and bowed his head frowningly.

“It is all bosh,” said he, at last, raising his head. “Let them show and be d—d. What have they got to show?”

“I will answer your question regularly,” said the stranger, “in accordance with my instructions”–and, drawing a pocket-book from his pocket, he began to read from some memoranda written there.

“1st. The notes to which the name of Ralph Brandon is attached, 150 in number, amounting to L93,500.”

“Pooh!” said Potts.

“These forgeries were known to several besides your son and yourself, and one of these men will testify against you. Others who know Brandon’s signature swear that this lacks an important point of distinction common to all the Brandon signatures handed down from father to son. You were foolish to leave these notes afloat. They have all been bought up on a speculation by those who wished to make the Brandon property a little dearer.”

“I don’t think they’ll make a fortune out of the speculation,” said Potts, who was stifling with rage. “D–n them! who are they?”

“Well, there are several witnesses who are men of such character that if my seniors sent them to Smithers & Co. Smithers & Co. would believe that you were guilty. In a court of law you would have no better chance. One of these witnesses says he can prove that your true name is Briggs.”

At this Potts bounded from his chair and stepped forward with a terrific oath.

“You see, your son’s neck is in very considerable danger.”

“Yours is in greater,” said Potts, with menacing eyes.

“Not at all. Even supposing that you were absurd enough to offer violence to an humble subordinate like me, it would not interfere with the policy of Messrs. Bigelow, Higginson, & Co., who are determined to make money out of this transaction. So you see it’s absurd to talk of violence.”

The stranger took no further notice of Potts, but looked again at his memoranda; while the latter, whose face was now terrific from the furious passions which it exhibited, stood like a wild beast in a cage, “willing to wound, but yet afraid to strike.”

“The next case,” said the stranger, “is the Thornton forgery.”

“Thornton!” exclaimed Potts, with greater agitation.

“Yes,” said the stranger. “In connection with the Despard murder there were two sets of forgeries; one being the Thornton correspondence, and the other your correspondence with the Bank of Good Hope.”

“Heavens! what’s all this?” cried Potts. “Where have you been unearthing this rubbish?”

“First,” said the stranger, without noticing Potts’s exclamation, “there are the letters to Thornton, Senior, twenty years ago, in which an attempt was made to obtain Colonel Despard’s money for yourself. One Clark, an accomplice of yours, presented the letter. The forgery was at once detected. Clark might have escaped, but he made an effort at burglary, was caught, and condemned to transportation. He had been already out once before, and this time received a new brand in addition to the old ones.”

Potts did not say a word, but sat stupefied.

“Thornton, Junior, is connected with us, and his testimony is valuable, as he was the one who detected the forgery. He also was the one who went to the Cape of Good Hope, where he had the pleasure of meeting with you. This brings me to the third case,” continued the stranger.

“Letters were sent to the Cape of Good Hope, ordering money to be paid to John Potts. Thornton, Senior, fearing from the first attempt that a similar one would be made at the Cape, where the deceased had funds, sent his son there. Young Thornton reached the place just before you did, and would have arrested you, but the proof was not sufficient.”

“Aha!” cried Potts, grasping at this–“not sufficient proof! I should think not.” His voice was husky and his manner nervous.

“I said ‘was not’–but Messrs. Bigelow, Higginson, & Co. have informed me that there are parties now in communication with them who can prove how, when, where, and by whom the forgeries were executed.”

“It’s a d—-d infernal lie!” roared Potts, in a fresh burst of anger.

“I only repeat what they state. The man has already written out a statement in full, and is only waiting for my return to sign it before a magistrate. This will be a death-warrant for your son; for Messrs. Bigelow, Higginson, & Co. will have him arrested at once. You are aware that he has no chance of escape. The amount is too enormous, and the proof is too strong.”

“Proof!” cried Potts, desperately; “who would believe any thing against a man like me, John Potts–a man of the county?”

“English law is no respecter of persons,” said the stranger. “Rank goes for nothing. But if it did make class distinctions, the witnesses about these documents are of great influence. There is Thornton of Holby, and Colonel Henry Despard at the Cape of Good Hope, with whom Messrs. Bigelow, Higginson, & Co. have had correspondence. There are also others.”

“It’s all a lie!” exclaimed Potts, in a voice which was a little tremulous. “Who is this fool who has been making out papers?”

“His name is Philips; true name Lawton. He tells a very extraordinary story; very extraordinary indeed.”

The stranger’s peculiar voice was now intensified in its odd, harsh intonations. The effect on Potts was overwhelming. For a moment he was unable to speak.

“Philips!” he gasped, at length.

“Yes. You sent him on business to Smithers & Co. He has not yet returned. He does not intend to, for he was found out by Messrs. Bigelow, Higginson, & Co., and you know how timid he is. They have succeeded in extracting the truth from him. As I am in a hurry, and you, too, must be busy,” continued the stranger, with unchanged accents, “I will now come to the point. These forged papers involve an amount to the extent of–Brandon forgeries, L93,500; Thornton papers, L5000; Bank of Good Hope, L4000; being in all L102,500. Messrs. Bigelow, Higginson, & Co. have instructed me to say that they will sell these papers to you at their face without charging interest. They will hand them over to you and you can destroy them, in which case, of course, the charge must be dropped.”

“Philips!” cried Potts. “I’ll have that devil’s blood!”

“That would be murder,” said the stranger, with a peculiar emphasis.

His tone stung Potts to the quick.

“You appear to take me for a born fool,” he cried, striding up and down.

“Not at all. I am only an agent carrying out the instructions of others.”

Potts suddenly stopped in his walk.

“Have you all those papers about you?” he hissed.

“All.”

Potts looked all around. The door was locked. They were alone. The stranger easily read his thought.

“No use,” said he, calmly. “Messrs. Bigelow, Higginson, & Co. would miss me if any thing happened. Besides, I may as well tell you that I am armed.”

The stranger rose up and faced Potts, while, from behind his dark spectacles, his eyes seemed to glow like fire. Potts retreated with a curse.

“Messrs. Bigelow, Higginson, & Co. instructed me to say that if I am not back with the money by to-morrow night, they will at once begin action, and have your son arrested. They will also inform Smithers & Co., to whom they say you are indebted for over L600,000. So that Smithers & Co. will at once come down upon you for payment.”

“Do Smithers & Co. know any thing about this?” asked Potts, in a voice of intense anxiety.

“They do business with you the same as ever, do they not?”

“Yes.”

“How do you suppose they can know it?”

“They would never believe it”

“They would believe any statement made by Messrs. Bigelow, Higginson, & Co. My seniors have been on your track for a long time, and have come into connection with various parties. One man who is an Italian they consider important. They authorize me to state to you that this man can also prove the forgeries.”

“Who?” grasped Potts.

“His name is Cigole.”

“Cigole!”

“Yes.”

“D— him!”

“You may damn him, but that won’t silence him,” remarked the other, mildly.

“Well, what are you going to do?” growled Potts.

“Present you the offer of Messrs. Bigelow, Higginson, & Co.,” said the other, with calm pertinacity. “Upon it depend your fortune and your son’s life.”

“How long are you going to wait?”

“Till evening. I leave to-night. Perhaps you would like to think this over. I’ll give you till three o’clock. If you decide to accept, all well; if not, I go back.”

The stranger rose, and Potts unlocked the door for him.

After he left Potts sat down, buried in his own reflections. In about an hour Clark came in.

“Well, Johnnie!” said he, “what’s up? You look down–any trouble?”

At this Potts told Clark the story of the recent interview. Clark looked grave, and shook his head several times.

“Bad! bad! bad!” said he, slowly, when Potts had ended. “You’re in a tight place, lad, and I don’t see what you’ve got to do but to knock under.”

A long silence followed.

“When did that chap say he would leave?”

“To-night.”

Another silence.

“I suppose,” said Clark, “we can find out how he goes?”

“I suppose so,” returned Potts, gloomily.

“Somebody might go with him or follow him,” said Clark, darkly.

Potts looked at him. The two exchanged glances of intelligence.

“You see, you pay your money, and get your papers back. It would be foolish to let this man get away with so much money. One hundred and two thousand five hundred isn’t to be picked up every day. Let us pick it up this time, or try to. I can drop down to the inn this evening, and see the cut of the man. I don’t like what he said about me. I call it backbiting.”

“You take a proper view of the matter,” said Potts. “He’s dangerous. He’ll be down on you next. What I don’t like about him is his cold- bloodedness.”

“It does come hard.”

“Well, we’ll arrange it that way, shall we?”

“Yes, you pay over, and get your documents, and I’ll try my hand at getting the money back. I’ve done harder things than that in my time and so have you–hey, lad!”

“I remember a few.”

“I wonder if this man knows any of them.”

“No,” said Potts, confidently. “He would have said something.”

“Don’t be too sure. The fact is, I’ve been troubled ever since that girl came out so strong on us. What are you going to do with her?”

“Don’t know,” growled Potts. “Keep her still somehow.”

“Give her to me.”

“What’ll you do with her?” asked Potts, in surprise.

“Take her as my wife,” said Clark, with a grin. “I think I’ll follow your example and set up housekeeping. The girl’s plucky; and I’d like to take her down.”

“We’ll do it; and the sooner the better. You don’t want a minister, do you?”

“Well, I think I’ll have it done up ship-shape, marriage in high life; papers all full of it; lovely appearance of the bride–ha, ha, ha! I’ll save you all further trouble about her–a husband is better than a father in such a case. If that Italian comes round it’ll be his last round.”

Some further conversation followed, in which Clark kept making perpetual references to his bride. The idea had taken hold of his mind completely.

At one o’clock Potts went to the inn, where he found the agent. He handed over the money in silence. The agent gave him the documents. Potts looked at them all carefully.

Then he departed.

CHAPTER XLIV.

THE STRANGER’S STORY.

That evening a number of people were in the principal parlor of the Brandon Inn. It was a cool evening in October; and there was a fire near which the partner of Bigelow, Higginson, & Co. had seated himself.

Clark had come in at the first of the evening and had been there ever since, talking volubly and laughing boisterously. The others were more or less talkative, but none of them rivaled Clark. They were nearly all Brandon people; and in their treatment of Clark there was a certain restraint which the latter either did not wish or care to notice. As for the stranger he sat apart in silence without regarding any one in particular, and giving no indication whether he was listening to what was going on or was indifferent to it all. From time to time Clark threw glances in his direction, and once or twice he tried to draw some of the company out to make remarks about him; but the company seemed reluctant to touch upon the subject, and merely listened with patience.

Clark had evidently a desire in his mind to be very entertaining and lively. With this intent he told a number of stories, most of which were intermingled with allusions to the company present, together with the stranger. At last he gazed at the latter in silence for some little time, and then turned to the company.

“There’s one among us that hasn’t opened his mouth this evening. I call it unsociable. I move that the party proceed to open it forthwith. Who seconds the motion? Don’t all speak at once.”

The company looked at one another, but no one made any reply.

“What! no one speaks! All right; silence gives consent;” and with these words Clark advanced toward the stranger. The latter said nothing, but sat in a careless attitude.

“Friend!” said Clark, standing before the stranger, “we’re all friends here–we wish to be sociable–we think you are too silent–will you be kind enough to open your mouth? If you won’t tell a story, perhaps you will be good enough to sing us a song?”

The stranger sat upright.

“Well,” said he; in the same peculiar harsh voice and slow tone with which he had spoken to Potts, “the request is a fair one, and I shall be happy to open my mouth. I regret to state that having no voice I shall be unable to give you a song, but I’ll be glad to tell a story, if the company will listen.”

“The company will feel honored,” said Clark, in a mocking tone, as he resumed his seat.

The stranger arose, and, going to the fire-place, picked up a piece of charcoal.

Clark sat in the midst of the circle, looking at him with a sneering smile. “It’s rather an odd story,” said the stranger, “and I only heard it the other day; perhaps you won’t believe it, but it’s true.”

“Oh, never mind the truth of it!” exclaimed Clark–“push along.”

The stranger stepped up to the wall over the fire-place.

“Before I begin I wish to make a few marks, which I will explain in process of time. My story is connected with these.”

He took his charcoal and made upon the wall the following marks:

[Illustration: ^ /|\ [three lines, forming short arrow]

R [sans-serif R]

+ [plus sign] ]

He then turned, and stood for a moment in silence.

The effect upon Clark was appalling. His face turned livid, his arms clutched violently at the seat of his chair, his jaw fell, and his eyes were fixed on the marks as though fascinated by them.

The stranger appeared to take no notice of him.

“These marks,” said he, “were, or rather are, upon the back of a friend of mine, about whom I am going to tell a little story.

“The first (/|\) is the Queen’s mark, put on certain prisoners out in Botany Bay, who are totally insubordinate.

“The second (R) signifies ‘run away,’ and is put on those who have attempted to escape.

“The third (+) indicates a murderous assault on the guards. When they don’t hang the culprit they put this on, and those who are branded in this way have nothing but hard work, in chains for life.

“These marks are on the back of a friend of mine, whose name I need not mention, but for convenience sake I will call him Clark.”

Clark didn’t even resent this, but sat mute, with a face of awful expectation.

“My friend Clark had led a life of strange vicissitudes,” said the stranger, “having slipped through the meshes of the law very successfully a great number of times, but finally he was caught, and sent to Botany Bay. He served his time out, and left; but, finally, after a series of very extraordinary adventures in India, and some odd events in the Indian Ocean, he came to England. Bad luck followed him, however. He made an attempt at burglary, and was caught, convicted, and sent back again to his old station at Botany Bay.

“Of course he felt a strong reluctance to stay in such a place, and therefore began to plan an escape; he made one attempt, which was unsuccessful. He then laid a plot with two other notorious offenders. Each of these three had been branded with those letters which I have marked. One of these was named Stubbs, and another Wilson, the third was this Clark. No one knew how they met to make their arrangements, for the prison regulations are very strict; but; they did meet, and managed to confer together. They contrived to get rid of the chains that were fastened around their ankles, and one stormy night they started off and made a run for it.

“The next day the guards were out in pursuit with dogs. They went all day long on their track over a very rough country, and finally came to a river. Here they prepared to pass the night.

“On rising early on the following morning they saw something moving on the top of a hill on the opposite side of the river. On watching it narrowly they saw three men. They hurried on at once in pursuit. The fugitives kept well ahead, however, as was natural; and since they were running for life and freedom they made a better pace.

“But they were pretty well worn out. They had taken no provisions with them, and had not calculated on so close a pursuit. They kept ahead as best they could, and at last reached a narrow river that ran down between cliffs through a gully to the sea. The cliffs on each side were high and bold. But they had to cross it; so down on one side they went, and up the other.

“Clark and Stubbs got up first. Wilson was just reaching the top when the report of a gun was heard, and a bullet struck him in the arm. Groaning in his agony he rushed on trying to keep up with his companions.

“Fortunately for them night came on. They hurried on all night, scarcely knowing where they were going, Wilson in an agony trying to keep up with them. Toward morning they snatched a little rest under a rock near a brook and then hurried forward.

“For two days more they hastened on, keeping out of reach of their pursuers, yet still knowing that they were followed, or at least fearing it. They had gone over a wild country along the coast, and keeping a northward direction. At length, after four days of wandering, they came to a little creek by the sea-shore. There were three houses here belonging to fishermen. They rushed into the first hut and implored food and drink. The men were off to Sydney, but the kind-hearted women gave them what they had. They were terrified at the aspect of these wretched men, whose natural ferocity had been heightened by hardship, famine, and suffering. Gaunt and grim as they were, they seemed more terrible than three wild beasts. The women knew that they were escaped convicts.

[Illustration: HE TOOK HIS CHARCOAL AND MADE UPON THE WALL THE FOLLOWING MARKS.]

“There was a boat lying on the beach. To this the first thoughts of the fugitives were directed. They filled a cask of water and put it on board. They demanded some provisions from the fisherman’s wife. The frightened woman gave them some fish and a few ship-biscuits. They were about to forage for themselves when Wilson, who had been watching, gave the alarm.

“Their pursuers were upon them. They had to run for it at once. They had barely time to rush to the boat and get out a little distance when the guard reached the bench. The latter fired a few shots after them, but the shots took no effect.

“The fugitives put out to sea in the open boat. They headed north, for they hoped to catch some Australian ship and be taken up. Their provisions were soon exhausted. Fortunately it was the rainy season, so that they had a plentiful supply of water, with which they managed to keep their cask filled; but that did not prevent them from suffering the agonies of famine. Clark and Stubbs soon began to look at Wilson with looks that made him quiver with terror. Naturally enough, gentlemen; you see they were starving. Wilson was the weakest of the three, and therefore was at their mercy. They tried, however, to catch fish. It was of no use. There seemed to be no fish in those seas, or else the bits of bread crumb which they put down were not an attractive bait.

“The two men began to look at Wilson with the eyes of fiends–eyes that flamed with foul desire, beaming from deep, hollow orbits which famine had made. The days passed. One morning Wilson lay dead.”

The stranger paused for a moment, amidst an awful silence.

“The lives of these two were preserved a little longer,” he added, in slow, measured tones.

“They sailed on. In a few days Clark and Stubbs began to look at one another. You will understand, gentlemen, that it was an awful thing for these men to cast at each other the same glances which they once cast on Wilson. Each one feared the other; each watched his chance, and each guarded against his companion.

“They could no longer row. The one sat in the bow, the other in the stern, glaring at one another. My friend Clark was a man of singular endurance. But why go into particulars? Enough; the boat drifted on, and at last only one was left.

“A ship was sailing from Australia, and the crew saw a boat drifting. A man was there. They stopped and picked him up. The boat was stained with blood. Tokens of what that blood was lay around. There were other things in the boat which chilled the blood of the sailors. They took Clark on board. He was mad at first, and raved in his delirium. They heard him tell of what he had done. During that voyage no one spoke to him. They touched at Cape Town, and put him ashore.

“My friend is yet alive and well. How do you like my story?”

The stranger sat down. A deep stillness followed, which was suddenly broken by something, half groan and half curse. It was Clark.

He lifted himself heavily from his chair, his face livid and his eyes bloodshot, and staggered out of the room.

CHAPTER XLV.

BEATRICE’S JOURNAL CONCLUDED.

September 7, 1849.–[This part begins with a long account of her escape, her fortunes at Holby and London, and her recapture, which is here omitted, as it would be to a large extent a repetition of what has already been stated.]–After Brandon left me my heart still throbbed with the fierce impulse which he had imparted to it. For the remainder of the day I was upheld by a sort of consciousness of his presence. I felt as though he had only left me in person and had surrounded me in some way with his mysterious protection.

Night came, and with the night came gloom. What availed his promise? Could he prevent what I feared? What power could he possibly have in this house? I felt deserted, and my old despair returned.

In the morning I happened to cross the hall to go to Mrs. Compton’s room, when, to my amazement, I saw standing outside the Hindu Asgeelo. Had I seen Brandon himself I could scarcely have been more amazed or overjoyed. He looked at me with a warning gesture.

“How did you get here?” I whispered.

“My master sent me.”

A thrill passed through my veins.

“Do not fear,” he said, and walked mysteriously away.

I asked Mrs. Compton who he was, and she said he was a new servant whom _He_ had just hired. She knew nothing more of him.

September 12.–A week has passed. Thus far I have been left alone. Perhaps they do not know what to do with me. Perhaps they are busy arranging some dark plan.

Can I trust? Oh, Help of the helpless, save me!

Asgeelo is here–but what can one man do? At best he can only report to his master my agony or my death. May that Death soon come. Kindly will I welcome him.

September 15.–Things are certainly different here from what they used to be. The servants take pains to put themselves in my way, so as to show me profound respect. What is the meaning of this? Once or twice I have met them in the hall and have marked their humble bearing. Is it mockery? Or is it intended to entrap me? I will not trust any of them. Is it possible that this can be Brandon’s mysterious power?

Impossible. It is rather a trick to win my confidence: But if so, why? They do not need to trick me. I am at their mercy.

I am at their mercy, and am without defense. What will become of me? What is to be my fate?

Philips has been as devoted as ever. He leaves me flowers every day. He tries to show sympathy. At least I have two friends here–Philips and Asgeelo. But Philips is timid, and Asgeelo is only one against a crowd. There is Vijal–but I have not seen him.

September 25–To-day in my closet I found a number of bottles of different kinds of medicine, used while I was sick. Two of these attracted my attention. Once was labeled “_Laudanum_,” another was labeled “_Hydrocyanic Acid–Poison._” I suppose they used these drugs for my benefit at that time. The sight of them gave me more joy than any thing else that I could have found.

When the time comes which I dread I shall not be without resource. _These shall save me._

October 3.–They leave me unmolested. They are waiting for some crushing blow, no doubt. Asgeelo sometimes meets me, and makes signs of encouragement.

To-day Philips met me and said: “Don’t fear–the crisis is coming.” I asked what he meant. As usual he looked frightened and hurried away.

What does he mean? What crisis? The only crisis that I can think of is one which fills me with dread. When that comes I will meet it firmly.

October 10.–Mrs. Compton told me to-day that Philips had gone to London on business. The poor old thing looked very much troubled. I urged her to tell me what was the matter, but she only looked the more terrified. Why she should feel alarm about the departure of Philips for London I can not imagine. Has it any thing to do with me? No. How can it? My fate, whatever it is, must be wrought out here in this place.

October 14.–The dreaded crisis has come at last. Will not this be my last entry? How can I longer avoid the fate that impends?

This afternoon He sent for me to come down.

I went to the dining-room expecting some horror, and I was not disappointed. The three were sitting there as they had sat before, and I thought that there was trouble upon their faces. It was only two o’clock, and they had just finished lunch.

John was the first to speak. He addressed me in a mocking tone.

“I have the honor to inform you,” said he, “that the time has arrived when you are to be took down.”

I paid no attention whatever to these words. I felt calm. The old sense of superiority came over me, and I looked at Him without a tremor.

My tyrant glanced at me with a dark scowl. “After your behavior, girl, you ought to bless your lucky stars that you got off as you did. If I had done right, I’d have made you pay up well for the trouble you’ve given. But I’ve spared you. At the same time I wouldn’t have done so long. I was just arranging a nice little plan for your benefit when this gentleman”–nodding his head to Clark–“this gentleman saved me the trouble.”

I said nothing.

“Come, Clark, speak up–it’s your affair–“

“Oh, you manage it,” said Clark. “You’ve got the ‘gift of gab.’ I never had it.”

“I never in all my born days saw so bold a man as timid with a girl as you are.”

“He’s doin’ what I shouldn’t like to try on,” said John.

“See here,” said my tyrant, sternly, “this gentleman has very kindly consented to take charge of you. He has even gone so far as to consent to marry you. He will actually make you his wife. In my opinion he’s crazy, but he’s got his own ideas. He has promised to give you a tip-top wedding. If it had been left to me,” he went on, sternly, “I’d have let you have something very different, but he’s a soft-hearted fellow, and is going to do a foolish thing. It’s lucky for you though. You’d have had a precious hard time of it with me, I tell you. You’ve got to be grateful to him; so come up here, and give him a kiss, and thank him.”

So prepared was I for any horror that this did not surprise me.

“Do you hear?” he cried, as I stood motionless. I said nothing.

“Do as I say, d–n you, or I’ll make you.”

“Come,” said Clark, “don’t make a fuss about the wench now–it’ll be all right. She’ll like kissing well enough, and be only too glad to give me one before a week.”

“Yes, but she ought to be made to do it now.”

“Not necessary, Johnnie; all in good time.”

My master was silent for some moments. At last he spoke again:

“Girl,” said he. “You are to be married tomorrow. There won’t be any invited guests, but you needn’t mind that. You’ll have your husband, and that’s more than you deserve. You don’t want any new dresses. Your ball dress will do.”

“Come, I won’t stand that,” said Clark. “She’s got to be dressed up in tip-top style. I’ll stand the damage.”

“Oh, d–n the damage. If you want that sort of thing, it shall be done. But there won’t be time.”

“Oh well, let her fix up the best way she can.”

At this I turned and left the room. None of them tried to prevent me. I went up to my chamber, and sat down thinking. The hour had come.

This is my last entry. My only refuge from horror unspeakable is the Poison.

Perhaps one day some one will find my journal where it is concealed. Let them learn from it what anguish may be endured by the innocent.

May God have mercy upon my soul! Amen.

October 14, 11 o’clock.–Hope!

Mrs. Compton came to me a few minutes since. She had received a letter from Philips by Asgeelo. She said the Hindu wished to see me. He was at my door. I went there. He told me that I was to fly from Brandon Hall at two o’clock in the morning. He would take care of me. Mrs. Compton said she was to go with me. A place had been found where we could get shelter.

Oh my God, I thank thee! Already when I heard this I was mixing the draught. Two o’clock was the hour on which I had decided for a different kind of flight.

Oh God! deliver the captive. Save me, as I put my trust in thee! Amen.

CHAPTER XLVI.

THE LAST ESCAPE.

The hour which Beatrice had mentioned in her diary was awaited by herewith feverish impatience. She had confidence in Asgeelo, and this confidence was heightened by the fact that Mrs. Compton was going to accompany her. The very timidity of this poor old creature would have prevented her from thinking of escape on any ordinary occasion; but now the latter showed no fear. She evinced a strange exultation. She showed Philips’s letter to Beatrice, and made her read it over and over again. It contained only a few words.

“The time has come at last. I will keep my word to you, dear old woman. Be ready tonight to leave Brandon Hall and those devils forever. The Hindu will help you.

“EDGAR.”

Mrs. Compton seemed to think far more of the letter than of escaping. The fact that she had a letter seemed to absorb all her faculties, and no other idea entered her mind. Beatrice had but few preparations to make; a small parcel contained all with which she dared to encumber herself. Hastily making it up she waited in extreme impatience for the time.

At last two o’clock came. Mrs. Compton was in her room. There was a faint tap at the door. Beatrice opened it. It was Asgeelo. The Hindu stood with his finger on his lips, and then moved away slowly and stealthily. They followed.

The Hindu led the way, carrying a small lantern. He did not show any very great caution, but moved with a quiet step, thinking it sufficient if he made no noise. Beatrice followed, and Mrs. Compton came last, carrying nothing but the note from Philips, which she clutched in her hand as though she esteemed it the only thing of value which she possessed.

[ILLUSTRATION: “THE GIGANTIC FIGURE OF ASGEELO STOOD ERECT, ONE ARM CLUTCHING THE THROAT OF HIS ASSAILANT, AND THE OTHER HOLDING THE KNIFE ALOFT.”]

In spite of Beatrice’s confidence in Asgeelo she felt her heart sink with dread as she passed through the hall and down the great stairway. But no sound disturbed them. The lights were all out and the house was still. The door of the dining-room was open, but no light shone through.

Asgeelo led the way to the north door. They went on quietly without any interruption, and at last reached it. Asgeelo turned the key and held the door half open for a moment. Then he turned and whispered to them to go out.

Beatrice took two or three steps forward, when suddenly a dark figure emerged from the stairway that led to the servants’ hall and with a sudden spring, advanced to Asgeelo.

The latter dropped the lamp, which fell with a rattle on the floor but still continued burning. He drew a long, keen knife from his breast, and seized the other by the throat.

Beatrice started back. By the light that flickered on the floor she saw it all. The gigantic figure of Asgeelo stood erect, one arm clutching the throat of his assailant, and the other holding the knife aloft.

Beatrice rushed forward and caught the uplifted arm.

“Spare him!” she said, in a low whisper. “He is my friend. He helped me to escape once before.”

She had recognized Vijal.

The Hindu dropped his arm and released his hold. The Malay staggered back and looked earnestly at Beatrice. Recognizing her, he fell on his knees and kissed her hand.

“I will keep your secret,” he murmured.

Beatrice hurried out, and the others followed. They heard the key turn in the door after them. Vijal had locked it from the inside.

Asgeelo led the way with a swift step. They went down the main avenue, and at length reached the gate without any interruption. The gates were shut.

Beatrice looked around in some dread for fear of being discovered. Asgeelo said nothing, but tapped at the door of the porter’s lodge. The door soon opened, and the porter came out. He said nothing, but opened the gates in silence.

They went out. The huge gates shut behind them. They heard the key turn in the lock. In her excitement Beatrice wondered at this, and saw that the porter must also be in the secret. Was this the work of Brandon?

They passed down the road a little distance, and at length reached a place where there were two coaches and some men.

One of these came up and took Mrs. Compton. “Come, old woman,” said he; “you and I are to go in this coach.” It was too dark to see who it was; but the voice sounded like that of Philips. He led her into the coach and jumped in after her.

There was another figure there. He advanced in silence, and motioned to the coach without a word. Beatrice followed; the coach door was opened, and she entered. Asgeelo mounted the box. The stranger entered the coach and shut the door.

Beatrice had not seen the face of this man; but at the sight of the outline of his figure a strange, wild thought came to her mind. As he seated himself by her side a thrill passed through every nerve. Not a word was spoken.

He reached out one hand, and caught hers in a close and fervid clasp. He threw his arm about her waist, and drew her toward him. Her head sank in a delicious languor upon his breast; and she felt the fast throbbing of his heart as she lay there. He held her pressed closely for a long while, drawing quick and heavy breaths, and not speaking a word. Then he smoothed her brow, stroked her hair, and caressed her cheek. Every touch of his made her blood tingle.

“Do you know who I am?” said at last a well-known voice.

She made no answer, but pressed his hand and nestled more closely to his heart.

The carriages rushed on swiftly. They went through the village, passed the inn, and soon entered the open country. Beatrice, in that moment of ecstasy, knew not and cared not whither they were going. Enough that she was with him.

“You have saved me from a fate of horror,” said she, tremulously; “or rather, you have prevented me from saving myself.”

“How could you have saved yourself?”

“I found poison.”

She felt the shudder that passed through his frame. He pressed her again to his heart, and sat for a long time in silence.

“How had you the heart to let me go back when you could get me away so easily?” said she, after a time, in a reproachful tone.

“I could not save you then,” answered he, “without open violence. I wished to defer that for the accomplishment of a purpose which you know. But I secured your safety, for all the servants at Brandon Hall are in my pay.”

“What! Vijal too?”

“No, not Vijal; he was incorruptible; but all the others. They would have obeyed your slightest wish in any respect. They would have shed their blood for you, for the simple reason that I had promised to pay each man an enormous sum if he saved you from any trouble. They were all on the look out. You never were so watched in your life. If you had chosen to run off every man of them would have helped you, and would have rejoiced at the chance of making themselves rich at the expense of Potts. Under these circumstances I thought you were safe.”

“And why did you not tell me?”

“Ah! love, there are many things which I must not tell you.”

He sighed. His sombre tone brought back her senses which had been wandering. She struggled to get away. He would not release her.

“Let me go!” said she. “I am of the accursed brood–the impure ones! You are polluted by my touch!”

“I will not let you go,” returned he, in a tone of infinite sweetness. “Not now. This may be our last interview. How can I let you go?”

“I am pollution.”

“You are angelic. Oh, let us not think of other things. Let us banish from our minds the thought of that barrier which rises between us. While we are here let us forget every thing except that we love one another. To-morrow will come, and our joy will be at an end forever. But you, darling, will be saved! I will guard you to my life’s end, even though I can not come near you.”

Tears fell from Beatrice’s eyes. He felt them hot upon his hand. He sighed deeply.

“I am of the accursed brood!–the accursed!–the accursed! You dishonor your name by touching me.”

Brandon clang to her. He would not let her go. She wept there upon his breast, and still murmured the words, “Accursed! accursed!”

Their carriage rolled on, behind them came the other; on for mile after mile, round the bays and creeks of the sea, until at last they reached a village.

“This is our destination,” said Brandon.

“Where are we?” sighed Beatrice.

“It is Denton,” he replied.

The coach stopped before a little cottage. Asgeelo opened the door. Brandon pressed Beatrice to his heart.

“For the last time, darling,” he murmured.

She said nothing. He helped her out, catching her in his arms as she descended, and lifting her to the ground. Mrs. Compton was already waiting, having descended first. Lights were burning in the cottage window.

“This is your home for the present,” said Brandon. “Here you are safe. You will find every thing that you want, and the servants are faithful. You may trust them.”

He shook hands, with Mrs. Compton, pressed the hand of Beatrice, and leaped into the coach.

“Good-by,” he called, as Asgeelo whipped the horses.

“Good-by forever,” murmured Beatrice through her tears.

CHAPTER XLVII.

ROUSED AT LAST.

About this time Despard received a call from Langhetti. “I am going away,” said the latter, after the preliminary greetings. “I am well enough now to resume my search after Beatrice.”

“Beatrice?”

“Yes.”

“What can you do?”

“I haven’t an idea; but I mean to try to do something.”

Langhetti certainly did not look like a man who was capable of doing very much, especially against one like Potts. Thin, pale, fragile, and emaciated, his slender form seemed ready to yield to the pressure of the first fatigue which he might encounter. Yet his resolution was strong, and he spoke confidently of being able in some mysterious way to effect the escape of Beatrice. He had no idea how he could do it. He had exerted his strongest influence, and had come away discomfited. Still he had confidence in himself and trust in God, and with these he determined to set out once more, and to succeed or perish in the attempt.

After he had left Despard sat moodily in his study for some hours. At last a visitor was announced. He was a man whom Despard had never seen before, and who gave his name as Wheeler.

The stranger on entering regarded Despard for some time with an earnest glance in silence. At last he spoke: “You are the son of Lionel Despard, are you not?”

“Yes,” said Despard, in some surprise.

“Excuse me for alluding to so sad an event; but you are, of course, aware of the common story of his death.”

“Yes,” replied Despard, in still greater surprise.

“That story is known to the world,” said the stranger. “His case was publicly tried at Manilla, and a Malay was executed for the crime.”

“I know that,” returned Despard, “and I know, also, that there were some, and that there still are some, who suspect that the Malay was innocent.”

“Who suspected this?”

“My uncle Henry Despard and myself.”

“Will you allow me to ask you if your suspicions pointed at any one?”

“My uncle hinted at one person, but he had nothing more than suspicions.”

“Who was the man?”

“A man who was my father’s valet, or agent, who accompanied him on that voyage, and took an active part in the conviction of the Malay.”

“What was his name?”

“John Potts.”

“Where does he live now?”

“In Brandon.”

“Very well. Excuse my questions, but I was anxious to learn how much you knew. You will see shortly that they were not idle. Has any thing ever been done by any of the relatives to discover whether these suspicions were correct?”

“At first nothing was done. They accepted as an established fact the decision of the Manilla court. They did not even suspect then that any thing else was possible. It was only subsequent circumstances that led my uncle to have some vague suspicions.”

“What were those, may I ask?”

“I would rather not tell,” said Despard, who shrank from relating to a stranger the mysterious story of Edith Brandon.

“It is as well, perhaps. At any rate, you say there were no suspicions expressed till your uncle was led to form them?”

“No.”

“About how long ago was this?”

“About two years ago–a little more, perhaps. I at once devoted myself to the task of discovering whether they could be maintained. I found it impossible, however, to learn any thing. The event had happened so long ago that it had faded out of men’s minds. The person whom I suspected had become very rich, influential, and respected. In fact, he was unassailable, and I have been compelled to give up the effort.”

“Would you like to learn something of the truth?” asked the stranger, in a thrilling voice.

Despard’s whole soul was roused by this question.

“More than any thing else,” replied he.

“There is a sand-bank,” began the stranger, “three hundred miles south of the island of Java, which goes by the name of Coffin Island. It is so called on account of a rock of peculiar shape at the eastern extremity. I was coming from the East, on my way to England, when a violent storm arose, and I was cast ashore alone upon that island. This may seem extraordinary to you, but what I have to tell is still more extraordinary. I found food and water there, and lived for some time. At last another hurricane came and blew away all the sand from a mound at the western end. This mound had been piled about a wrecked vessel–a vessel wrecked twenty years ago, twenty years ago,” he repeated, with startling emphasis, “and the name of that vessel was the _Vishnu_.”

“The _Vishnu_!” cried Despard, starting to his feet, while his whole frame was shaken by emotion at this strange narrative. “_Vishnu_!”

“Yes, the _Vishnu_!” continued the stranger.

“You know what that means. For many years that vessel had lain there, entombed amidst the sands, until at last I–on that lonely isle–saw the sands swept away and the buried ship revealed. I went on board. I entered the cabin. I passed through it. At last I entered a room at one corner. A skeleton lay there. Do you know whose it was?”

“Whose?” cried Despard, in a frenzy of excitement.

“_Your father’s_!” said the stranger, in an awful voice.

“God in heaven!” exclaimed Despard, and he sank back into his seat.

“In his hand he held a manuscript, which was his last message to his friends. It was inclosed in a bottle. The storm had prevented him from throwing it overboard. He held it there as though waiting for some one to take it. I was the one appointed to that task. I took it. I read it, and now that I have arrived in England I have brought it to you.”

“Where is it?” cried Despard, in wild excitement.

“Here,” said the stranger, and he laid a package upon the table.

Despard seized it, and tore open the coverings. At the first sight he recognized the handwriting of his father, familiar to him from old letters written to him when he was a child–letters which he had always preserved, and every turn of which was impressed upon his memory. The first glance was sufficient to impress upon his mind the conviction that the stranger’s tale was true.

Without another word he began to read it. And as he read all his soul became associated with that lonely man, drifting in his drifting ship. There he read the villainy of the miscreant who had compassed his death, and the despair of the castaway.

That suffering man was his own father. It was this that gave intensity to his thoughts as he read. The dying man bequeathed his vengeance to Ralph Brandon, and his blessing to his son.

Despard read over the manuscript many times. It was his father’s words to himself.

“I am in haste,” said the stranger. “The manuscript is yours. I have made inquiries for Ralph Brandon, and find that he is dead. It is for you to do as seems good. You are a clergyman, but you are also a man; and a father’s wrongs cry to Heaven for vengeance.”

“And they shall be avenged!” exclaimed Despard, striking his clenched hand upon the table.

“I have something more before I go,” continued the stranger, mournfully –“something which you will prize more than life. It was worn next your father’s heart till he died. I found it there.”

Saying this he handed to Despard a miniature, painted on enamel, representing a beautiful woman, whose features were like his own.

“My mother!” cried Despard, passionately, and he covered the miniature with kisses.

“I buried your father,” said the stranger, after a long pause. “His remains now lie on Coffin Island, in their last resting-place.”

“And who are you? What are you? How did you find me out? What is your object?” cried Despard, eagerly.

“I am Mr. Wheeler,” said the stranger, calmly; “and I come to give you these things in order to fulfill my duty to the dead. It remains for you to fulfill yours.”

“That duty shall be fulfilled!” exclaimed Despard. “The law does not help me: I will help myself. I know some of these men at least. I will do the duty of a son.”

The stranger bowed and withdrew.

Despard paced the room for hours. A fierce thirst for vengeance had taken possession of him. Again and again he read the manuscript, and