Run to Earth
M. E. Braddon
Part 1 out of 11
Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Charlie Kirschner and Distributed Proofreaders
[Illustration: "I am in the power of a maniac" Honoria murmured.--Page
100. Henry French, del. E. Evans, sc.]
RUN TO EARTH
BY THE AUTHOR OF
"LADY AUDLEY'S SECRET," "AURORA FLOYD"
"ISHMAEL," "VIXEN," "WYLLARD'S WEIRD"
* * * * *
CHAPTER I. WARNED IN A DREAM
CHAPTER II. DONE IN THE DARKNESS
CHAPTER III. DISINHERITED
CHAPTER IV. OUT OF THE DEPTHS
CHAPTER V. "EVIL, BE THOU MY GOOD!"
CHAPTER VI. AULD ROBIN GRAY
CHAPTER VII. "O BEWARE, MY LORD, OF JEALOUSY!"
CHAPTER VIII. AFTER THE PIC-NIC
CHAPTER IX. ON YARBOROUGH TOWER
CHAPTER X. "HOW ART THOU LOST! HOW ON A SUDDEN LOST!"
CHAPTER XI. "THE WILL! THE TESTAMENT!"
CHAPTER XII. A FRIEND IN NEED
CHAPTER XIII. IN YOUR PATIENCE YE ARE STRONG
CHAPTER XIV. A GHOSTLY VISITANT
CHAPTER XV. A TERRIBLE RESOLVE
CHAPTER XVI. WAITING AND WATCHING
CHAPTER XVII. DOUBTFUL SOCIETY
CHAPTER XVIII. AT ANCHOR
CHAPTER XIX. A FAMILIAR TOKEN
CHAPTER XX. ON GUARD
CHAPTER XXI. DOWN IN DORSETSHIRE
CHAPTER XXII. ARCH-TRAITOR WITHIN, ARCH-PLOTTER WITHOUT
CHAPTER XXIII. "ANSWER ME, IF THIS BE DONE?"
CHAPTER XXIV. "I AM WEARY OF MY PART"
CHAPTER XXV. A DANGEROUS ALLIANCE
CHAPTER XXVI. MOVE THE FIRST
CHAPTER XXVII. WEAVE THE WARP, AND WEAVE THE WOOF
CHAPTER XXVIII. PREPARING THE GROUND
CHAPTER XXIX. AT WATCH
CHAPTER XXX. FOUND WANTING
CHAPTER XXXI. "A WORTHLESS WOMAN, MERE COLD CLAY"
CHAPTER XXXII. A MEETING AND AN EXPLANATION
CHAPTER XXXIII. "TREASON HAS DONE HIS WORST"
CHAPTER XXXIV. CAUGHT IN THE TOILS
CHAPTER XXXV. LARKSPUR TO THE RESCUE!
CHAPTER XXXVI. ON THE TRACK
CHAPTER XXXVII. "O, ABOVE MEASURE FALSE!"
CHAPTER XXXVIII. "THY DAY IS COME"
CHAPTER XXXIX. "CONFUSION WORSE THAN DEATH"
CHAPTER XL. "SO SHALL YE REAP"
WARNED IN A DREAM.
Seven-and-twenty years ago, and a bleak evening in March. There are
gas-lamps flaring down in Ratcliff Highway, and the sound of squeaking
fiddles and trampling feet in many public-houses tell of festivity
provided for Jack-along-shore. The emporiums of slop-sellers are
illuminated for the better display of tarpaulin coats and hats, so
stiff of build that they look like so many sea-faring suicides, pendent
from the low ceilings. These emporiums are here and there enlivened by
festoons of many-coloured bandana handkerchief's; and on every pane of
glass in shop or tavern window is painted the glowing representation of
Britannia's pride, the immortal Union Jack.
Two men sat drinking and smoking in a little parlour at the back of an
old public-house in Shadwell. The room was about as large as a
good-sized cupboard, and was illuminated in the day-time by a window
commanding a pleasant prospect of coal-shed and dead wall. The paper on
the walls was dark and greasy with age; and every bit of clumsy,
bulging deal furniture in the room had been transformed into a kind of
ebony by the action of time and dirt, the greasy backs and elbows of
idle loungers, the tobacco-smoke and beer-stains of half a century.
It was evident that the two men smoking and drinking in this darksome
little den belonged to the seafaring community. In this they resembled
each other; but in nothing else. One was tall and stalwart; the other
was small, and wizen, and misshapen. One had a dark, bronzed face, with
a frank, fearless expression; the other was pale and freckled, and had
small, light-gray eyes, that shifted and blinked perpetually, and
shifted and blinked most when he was talking with most animation. The
first had a sonorous bass voice and a resonant laugh; the second spoke
in suppressed tones, and had a trick of dropping his voice to a whisper
whenever he was most energetic.
The first was captain and half-owner of the brigantine 'Pizarro',
trading between the port of London, and the coast of Mexico. The second
was his clerk, factotum, and confidant; half-sailor, half-landsman;
able to take the helm in dangerous weather, if need were; and able to
afford his employer counsel in the most intricate questions of trading
The name of the captain was Valentine Jernam, that of his factotum
Joyce Harker. The captain had found him in an American hospital, had
taken compassion upon him, and had offered him a free passage home. On
the homeward voyage, Joyce Harker had shown himself so handy a
personage, that Captain Jernam had declined to part with him at the end
of the cruise: and from that time, the wizen little hunchback had been
the stalwart seaman's friend and companion. For fifteen years, during
which Valentine Jernam and his younger brother, George, had been
traders on the high seas, things had gone well with these two brothers;
but never had fortune so liberally favoured their trading as during the
four years in which Joyce Harker had prompted every commercial
adventure, and guided every speculation.
"Four years to-day, Joyce, since I first set eyes upon your face in the
hospital at New Orleans," said Captain Jernam, in the confidence of
this jovial hour. "'Why, the fellow's dead,' said I. 'No; he's only
dying,' says the doctor. 'What's the matter with him?' asked I.
'Home-sickness and empty pockets,' says the doctor; 'he was employed in
a gaming-house in the city, got knocked on the head in some row, and
was brought here. We've got him through a fever that was likely enough
to have finished him; but there he lies, as weak as a starved rat. He
has neither money nor friends. He wants to get back to England; but he
has no more hope of ever seeing that country than I have of being
Emperor of Mexico.' 'Hasn't he?' says I; 'we'll tell you a different
story about that, Mr. Doctor. If you can patch the poor devil up
between this and next Monday, I'll take him home in my ship, without
the passage costing him sixpence.' You don't feel offended with me for
having called you a poor devil, eh, Joyce?--for you really were, you
know--you really were an uncommonly poor creature just then," murmured
the captain, apologetically.
"Offended with you!" exclaimed the factotum; "that's a likely thing.
Don't I owe you my life? How many more of my countrymen passed me by as
I lay on that hospital-bed, and left me to rot there, for all they
cared? I heard their loud voices and their creaking boots as I lay
there, too weak to lift my eyelids and look at them; but not too weak
to curse them."
"No, Joyce, don't say that."
"But I do say it; and what's more, I mean it. I'll tell you what it is,
captain, there's a general opinion that when a man's shoulders are
crooked, his mind is crooked too; and that, if his poor unfortunate
legs have shrivelled up small, his heart must have shrivelled up small
to match 'em. I dare say there's some truth in the general opinion;
for, you see, it doesn't improve a man's temper to find himself cut out
according to a different pattern from that his fellow-creatures have
been made by, and to find his fellow-creatures setting themselves
against him because of that difference; and it doesn't soften a poor
wretch's heart towards the world in general, to find the world in
general harder than stone against him, for no better reason than his
poor weak legs and his poor crooked back. But never mind talking about
me and my feelings, captain. I ain't of so much account as to make it
worth while for a fine fellow like you to waste words upon me. What I
want to know is your plans. You don't intend to stop down this way, do
"Why shouldn't I?"
"Because it's a dangerous way for a man who carries his fortune about
him, as you do. I wish you'd make up your mind to bank that money,
"Not if I know it," answered the sailor, with a look of profound
wisdom; "not if I know it, Joyce Harker. I know what your bankers are.
You go to them some fine afternoon, and find a lot of clerks standing
behind a bran new mahogany counter, everything bright, and shining, and
respectable. 'Can I leave a few hundreds on deposit?' asks you. 'Why,
of course you can,' reply they; and then you hand over your money, and
then they hand you back a little bit of paper. 'That's your receipt,'
say they. 'All right,' say you; and off you sheer. Perhaps you feel
just a little bit queerish, when you get outside, to think that all
your solid cash has been melted down into that morsel of paper; but
being a light-hearted, easy-going fellow, you don't think any more of
it, till you come home from your next voyage, and go ashore again, and
want your money; when it's ten to one if you don't find your fine new
bank shut up, and your clerks and bran-new mahogany counter vanished.
No, Joyce, I'll trust no bankers."
"I'd rather trust the bankers than the people down this way, any day in
the week," answered the clerk, thoughtfully.
"Don't you worry yourself, Joyce! The money won't be in my keeping very
long. George is to meet me in London on the fifth of April, at the
latest, he says, unless winds and waves are more contrary than ever
they've been since he's had to do with them; and you know George is my
banker. I'm only a sleeping partner in the firm of Jernam Brothers.
George takes the money, and George does what he likes with it--puts it
here and there, and speculates in this and speculates in that. You've
got a business head of your own, Joyce; you're one of George's own
sort; and you are up to all his dodges, which is more than I am.
However, he tells me we're getting rich, and that's pleasant enough--
not that I think I should break my heart about it if we were getting
poor. I love the sea because it is the sea, and I love my ship for her
"Captain George is right, though," answered the clerk. "Jernam Brothers
are growing rich; Jernam Brothers are prospering. But you haven't told
me your plans yet, captain."
"Well, since you say I had better cut this quarter, I suppose I must;
though I like to see the rigging above the housetops, and to hear the
jolly voices of the sailors, and to know that the 'Pizarro' lies hard
by in the Pool. However, there's an old aunt of mine, down in a sleepy
little village in Devonshire, who'd be glad to see me, and none the
worse for a small slice of Jernam Brothers' good luck; so I'll take a
place on the Plymouth coach to-morrow morning, and go down and have a
peep at her. You'll be able to keep a look-out on the repairs aboard of
the 'Pizarro', and I can be back in time to meet George on the fifth."
"Where are you to meet him?"
"In this room."
The factotum shook his head.
"You're both a good deal too fond of this house," he said. "The people
that have got it now are strangers to us. They've bought the business
since our last trip. I don't like the look on them."
"No more do I, if it comes to that. I was sorry to hear the old folks
had been done up. But come, Joyce, some more rum-and-water. Let's
enjoy ourselves to-night, man, if I'm to start by the first coach to-
morrow morning. What's that?"
The captain stopped, with the bell-rope in his hand, to listen to the
sound of music close at hand. A woman's voice, fresh and clear as the
song of a sky-lark, was singing "Wapping Old Stairs," to the
accompaniment of a feeble old piano.
"What a voice!" cried the sailor. "Why, it seems to pierce to the very
core of my heart as I listen to it. Let's go and hear the music,
"Better not, captain," answered the warning voice of the clerk. "I tell
you they're a bad lot in this house. It's a sort of concert they give
of a night; an excuse for drunkenness, and riot, and low company. If
you're going by the coach to-morrow, you'd better get to bed early to-
night. You've been drinking quite enough as it is."
"Drinking!" cried Valentine Jernam; "why, I'm as sober as a judge.
Come, Joyce, let's go and listen to that girl's singing."
The captain left the room, and Harker followed, shrugging his shoulders
as he went.
"There's nothing so hard to manage as a baby of thirty years old," he
muttered; "a blessed infant that one's obliged to call master."
He followed the captain, through a dingy little passage, into a room
with a sanded floor, and a little platform at one end. The room was
full of sailors and disreputable-looking women; and was lighted by
several jets of coarse gas, which flared in the bleak March wind.
A group of black-bearded, foreign-looking seamen made room for the
captain and his companion at one of the tables. Jernam acknowledged
their courtesy with a friendly nod.
"I don't mind standing treat for a civil fellow like you," he said;
"come, mates, what do you say to a bowl of punch?"
The men looked at him and grinned a ready assent.
Valentine Jernam called the landlord, and ordered a bowl of rum-punch.
"Plenty of it, remember, and be sure you are not too liberal with the
water," said the captain.
The landlord nodded and laughed. He was a broad-shouldered,
square-built man, with a flat, pale face, broad and square, like his
figure--not a pleasant-looking man by any means.
Valentine Jernam folded his arms on the rickety, liquor-stained table,
and took a leisurely survey of the apartment.
There was a pause in the concert just now. The girl had finished her
song, and sat by the old square piano, waiting till she should be
required to sing again. There were only two performers in this
primitive species of concert--the girl who sang, and an old blind man,
who accompanied her on the piano; but such entertainment was quite
sufficient for the patrons of the 'Jolly Tar', seven-and-twenty years
ago, before the splendours of modern music-halls had arisen in the
Valentine Jernam's dark eyes wandered round the room, till they lighted
on the face of the girl sitting by the piano. There they fixed
themselves all at once, and seemed as if rooted to the face on which
they looked. It was a pale, oval face, framed in bands of smooth black
hair, and lighted by splendid black eyes; the face of a Roman empress
rather than a singing-girl at a public-house in Shadwell. Never before
had Valentine Jernam looked on so fair a woman. He had never been a
student or admirer of the weaker sex. He had a vague kind of idea that
there were women, and mermaids, and other dangerous creatures, lurking
somewhere in this world, for the destruction of honest men; but beyond
this he had very few ideas on the subject.
Other people were taking very little notice of the singer. The regular
patrons of the 'Jolly Tar' were accustomed to her beauty and her
singing, and thought very little about her. The girl was very quiet,
very modest. She came and went under the care of the old blind pianist,
whom she called her grandfather, and she seemed to shrink alike from
observation or admiration.
She began to sing again presently.
She stood by the piano, facing the audience, calm as a statue, with her
large black eyes looking straight before her. The old man listened to
her eagerly, as he played, and nodded fond approval every now and then,
as the full, rich notes fell upon his ear. The poor blind face was
illuminated with the musician's rapture. It seemed as if the noisy,
disreputable audience had no existence for these two people.
"What a lovely creature!" exclaimed the captain, in a tone of subdued
"Yes, she's a pretty girl," muttered the clerk, coolly.
"A pretty girl!" echoed Jernam; "an angel, you mean! I did not know
there were such women in the world; and to think that such a woman
should be here, in this place, in the midst of all this tobacco-smoke,
and noise, and blasphemy! It seems hard, doesn't it, Joyce?"
"I don't see that it's any harder for a pretty woman than an ugly one,"
replied Harker, sententiously. "If the girl had red hair and a snub
nose, you wouldn't take the trouble to pity her. I don't see why you
should concern yourself about her, because she happens to have black
eyes and red lips. I dare say she's a bad lot, like most of 'em about
here, and would as soon pick your pocket as look at you, if you gave
her the chance."
Valentine Jernam made no reply to these observations. It is possible
that he scarcely heard them. The punch came presently; but he pushed
the bowl towards Joyce, and bade that gentleman dispense the mixture.
His own glass remained before him untouched, while the foreign seamen
and Joyce Harker emptied the bowl. When the girl sang, he listened;
when she sat in a listless attitude, in the pauses between her songs,
he watched her face.
Until she had finished her last song, and left the platform, leading
her blind companion by the hand, the captain of the 'Pizarro' seemed
like a creature under the influence of a spell. There was only one exit
from the room, so the singing-girl and her grandfather had to pass
along the narrow space between the two rows of tables. Her dark stuff
dress brushed against Jernam as she passed him. To the last, his eyes
followed her with the same entranced gaze.
When she had gone, and the door had closed upon her, he started
suddenly to his feet, and followed. He was just in time to see her
leave the house with her grandfather, and with a big, ill-looking man,
half-sailor, half-landsman, who had been drinking at the bar.
The landlord was standing behind the bar, drawing beer, as Jernam
looked out into the street, watching the receding figures of the girl
and her two companions.
"She's a pretty girl, isn't she?" said the landlord, as Jernam shut the
"She is, indeed!" cried the sailor. "Who is she?--where does she come
from?--what's her name?"
"Her name is Jenny Milsom, and she lives with her father, a very
"Was that her father who went out with her just now?"
"Yes, that's Tom Milsom."
"He doesn't look very respectable. I don't think I ever set eyes on a
"A man can't help his looks," answered the landlord, rather sulkily;
"I've known Tom Milsom these ten years, and I've never known any harm
"No, nor any good either, I should think, Dennis Wayman," said a man
who was lounging at the bar; "Black Milsom is the name we gave him over
at Rotherhithe. I worked with him in a shipbuilder's yard seven years
ago: a surly brute he was then, and a surly brute he is now; and a
lazy, skulking vagabond into the bargain, living an idle life out at
that cottage of his among the marshes, and eating up his pretty
"You seem to know Milsom's business as well as you do your own, Joe
Dermot," answered the landlord, with some touch of anger in his tone.
"It's no use looking savage at me, Dennis," returned Dermot; "I never
did trust Black Milsom, and never will. There are men who would take
your life's blood for the price of a gallon of beer, and I think Milsom
is one of 'em."
Valentine Jernam listened attentively to this conversation--not
because he was interested in Black Milsom's character, but because he
wanted to hear anything that could enlighten him about the girl who had
awakened such a new sentiment in his breast.
The clerk had followed his master, and stood in the shadow of the
doorway, listening even more attentively than his employer; the small,
restless eyes shifted to and fro between the faces of the speakers.
More might have been said about Mr. Thomas Milsom; but it was evident
that the landlord of the 'Jolly Tar' was inclined to resent any
disrespectful allusion to that individual. The man called Joe Dermot
paid his score, and went away. The captain and his factotum retired to
the two dingy little apartments which were to accommodate them for the
All through that night, sleeping or waking, Valentine Jernam was
haunted by the vision of a beautiful face, the sound of a melodious
voice, and the face and the voice belonged alike to the singing-girl.
The captain of the 'Pizarro' left his room at five o'clock, and tapped
at Joyce Marker's door with the intention of bidding him goodbye.
"I'm off, Joyce," he said; "be sure you keep your eye upon the repairs
between this and the fifth."
He was prepared to receive a drowsy answer; but to his surprise the
door was opened, and Joyce stood dressed upon the threshold.
"I'm coming to the coach-office with you, captain," answered Harker. "I
don't like this place, and I want to see you safe out of it, never to
come back to it any more."
"Nonsense, Joyce; the place suits me well enough."
"Does it?" asked the factotum, in a whisper; "and the landlord suits
you, I suppose?--and that man they call Black Milsom? There's something
more than common between those two men, Captain Jernam. However that
is, you take my advice. Don't you come back to this house till you come
to meet Captain George. Captain George is a cool hand, and I'm not
afraid of him; but you're too wild and too free-spoken for such folks
as hang about the 'Jolly Tar'. You sported your pocket-book too freely
last night, when you were paying for the punch. I saw the landlord spot
the notes and gold, and I haven't trusted myself to sleep too soundly
all night, for fear there should be any attempt at foul play."
"You're a good fellow, Joyce; but though you've pluck enough for twenty
in a storm at sea, you're as timid as a baby at home."
"I'm like a dog, captain--I can smell danger when it threatens those I
love. Hark! what's that?"
They were going down stairs quietly, in the darkness of the early
spring morning. The clerk's quick ear caught the sound of a stealthy
footstep; and in the next minute they were face to face with a man who
was ascending the narrow stairs.
"You're early astir, Mr. Wayman," said Joyce Harker, recognizing the
landlord of the 'Jolly Tar'.
"And so are you, for the matter of that," answered the host.
"My captain is off by an early coach, and I'm going to walk to the
office with him," returned Joyce.
"Off by an early coach, is he? Then, if he can stop to drink it, I'll
make him a cup of coffee."
"You're very good," answered Joyce, hastily; "but you see, the captain
hasn't time for that, if he's going to catch the coach."
"Are you going into the country for long, captain?" asked the landlord.
"Well, no; not for long, mate; for I've got an appointment to keep in
this house, on the fifth of April, with a brother of mine, who's
homeward-bound from Barbadoes. You see, my brother and me are partners;
whatever good luck one has he shares it with the other. We've been
uncommon lucky lately."
The captain slapped his hand upon one of his capacious pockets as he
spoke. Dennis Wayman watched the gesture with eager eyes. All through
Valentine's speech, Joyce Harker had been trying to arrest his
attention, but trying in vain. When the owner of the 'Pizarro' began to
talk, it was very difficult to stop him.
The captain bade the landlord a cheerful good day, and departed with
his faithful follower.
Out in the street, Joyce Harker remonstrated with his employer.
"I told you that fellow was not to be trusted, captain," he said; "and
yet you blabbed to him about the money."
"Nonsense, Joyce. I didn't say a word about money."
"Didn't you though, captain? You said quite enough to let that man know
you'd got the cash about you. But you won't go back to that place till
you go to meet Captain George on the fifth?"
"Of course not."
"You won't change your mind, captain?"
"Because, you see, I shall be down at Blackwall, looking after the
repairs, for it will be sharp work to get finished against you want to
sail for Rio. So, you see, I shall be out of the way. And if you did go
back to that house alone, Lord knows what they might try on."
"Don't you be afraid, Joyce. In the first place I shan't go back there
till twelve o'clock on the fifth. I'll come up from Plymouth by the
night coach, and put up at the 'Golden Cross' like a gentleman. And, in
the second place, I flatter myself I'm a match for any set of
land-sharks in creation."
"No, you're not, captain. No honest man is ever a match for a
Jernam and his companion carried the captain's portmanteau between
them. They hailed a hackney-coach presently, and drove to the "Golden
Cross," through the chill, gray streets, where the closed shutters had
a funereal aspect.
At the coach-office they parted, with many friendly words on both
sides; but to the last, Joyce Harker was grave and anxious.
The last he saw of his friend and employer was the captain's dark face
looking out of the coach-window; the captain's hand waved in cordial
"What a good fellow he is!--what a noble fellow!" thought the wizen
little clerk, as he trudged back towards the City. "But was there ever
a baby so helpless on shore?--was there ever an innocent infant that
needed so much looking after?"
* * * * *
Valentine Jernam arrived at Plymouth early the next morning, and walked
from Plymouth to the little village of Allanbay, in which lived the
only relative he had in the world, except his brother George. Walking
at a leisurely pace along the quiet road, Captain Jernam, although not
usually a thoughtful person, was fain to think about something, and
fell to thinking over the past.
Light-hearted and cheery of spirit as the adventurous sailor was
now-a-days, his childhood had been a very sad one. Motherless at eight
years of age, and ill-used by a drunken father, the boy had suffered as
the children of the poor too often suffer.
His mother had died, leaving George an infant of less than twelve
months old; and from the hour of her death, Valentine had been the
infant's sole nurse and protector; standing between the helpless little
one and the father's brutality; enduring all hardships cheerfully, so
long as he was able to shelter little Georgy.
On more than one occasion, the elder boy had braved and defied his
father in defence of the younger brother.
It was scarcely strange, therefore, that there should arise between the
two brothers an affection beyond the ordinary measure of brotherly
love. Valentine had supplied the place of both parents to his brother
George,--the place of the mother, who lay buried in Allanbay
churchyard; the place of the father, who had sunk into a living death
of drunkenness and profligacy.
They were not peasant-born these Jernams. The father had been a
lieutenant in the Royal Navy; but had deservedly lost his commission,
and had come, with his devoted wife, to hide his disgrace at Allanbay.
The vices which had caused his expulsion from the navy had increased
with every year, until the family had sunk to the lowest depths of
poverty and degradation, in spite of the wife's heroic efforts to
accomplish the reform of a reprobate. She had struggled nobly till the
last, and had died broken-hearted, leaving the helpless children to the
mercy of a wretch whose nature had become utterly debased and
Throughout their desolate childhood the brothers had been all in all to
each other, and as soon as George was old enough to face the world with
his brother, the two boys ran away to sea, and obtained employment on
board a small trading vessel.
At sea, as on shore, Valentine stood between his younger brother and
all hardships. But the rough sailors were kinder than the drunken
father had been, and the two lads fared pretty well.
Thus began the career of the two Jernams. Through all changes of
fortune, the brothers had clung to each other. Despite all differences
of character, their love for each other had known neither change nor
diminution; and to-day, walking alone upon this quiet country road, the
tears clouded Valentine Jernam's eyes as he remembered how often he had
trodden it in the old time with his little brother in his arms.
"I shall see his dear face on the fifth," he thought; "God bless him!"
The old aunt lived in a cottage near the entrance to the village. She
was comfortably off now--thanks to the two merchant captains; but she
had been very poor in the days of their childhood, and had been able to
do but little for the neglected lads. She had given them shelter,
however, when they had been afraid to go home to their father, and had
shared her humble fare with them very often.
Mrs. Jernam, as she was called by her neighbours, in right of her sixty
years of age, was sitting by the window when her nephew opened the
little garden-gate: but she had opened the door before he could knock,
and was standing on the threshold ready to embrace him.
"My boy," she exclaimed, "I have been looking for you so long!"
That day was given up to pleasant talk between the aunt and nephew. She
was so anxious to hear his adventures, and he was so willing to tell
them. He sat before the fire smoking, while Susan Jernam's busy fingers
plied her knitting-needles, and relating his hair-breadth escapes and
perils between the puffs of blue smoke.
The captain was regaled with an excellent dinner, and a bottle of wine
of his own importation. After dinner, he strolled out into the village,
saw his old friends and acquaintances, and talked over old times.
Altogether his first day at Allanbay passed very pleasantly.
The second day at Allanbay, however, hung heavily on the captain's
hands. He had told all his adventures; he had seen all his old
acquaintances. The face of the ballad-singer haunted him perpetually;
and he spent the best part of the day leaning over the garden-gate and
smoking. Mrs. Jernam was not offended by her nephew's conduct.
"Ah! my boy," she said, smiling fondly on her handsome kinsman, "it's
fortunate Providence made you a sailor, for you'd have been ill-fitted
for any but a roving life."
The third day of Valentine Jernam's stay at Allanbay was the second of
April, and on that morning his patience was exhausted. The face which
had made itself a part of his very mind lured him back to London. He
was a man who had never accustomed himself to school his impulses; and
the impulse that drew him back to London was irresistible.
"I must and will see her once more," he said to himself; "perhaps, if I
see her face again, I shall find out it's only a common face after all,
and get the better of this folly. But I must see her. After the fifth,
George will be with me, and I shan't be my own master. I must see her
before the fifth."
Impetuous in all things, Valentine Jernam was not slow to act upon his
resolution. He told his aunt that he had business to transact in
London. He left Allanbay at noon, walked to Plymouth, took the
afternoon coach, and rode into London on the following day.
It was one o'clock when Captain Jernam found himself once more in the
familiar seafaring quarter; early as it was, the noise of riot and
revelry had begun already.
The landlord looked up with an expression of considerable surprise as
the captain of the 'Pizarro' crossed the threshold.
"Why, captain," he said, "I thought we weren't to see you till the
"Well, you see, I had some business to do in this neighbourhood, so I
changed my mind."
"I'm very glad you did," answered Dennis Wayman, cordially; "you've
just come in time to take a snack of dinner with me and my missus, so
you can sit down, and make yourself at home, without ceremony."
The captain was too good-natured to refuse an invitation that seemed
proffered in such a hearty spirit. And beyond this, he wanted to hear
more about Jenny Milsom, the ballad-singer.
So he ate his dinner with Mr. Wayman and his wife, and found himself
asking all manner of questions about the singing-girl in the course of
his hospitable entertainment.
He asked if the girl was going to sing at the tavern to-night.
"No," answered the landlord; "this is Friday. She only sings at my
place on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays."
"And what does she do with herself for the rest of the week?"
"Ah! that's more than I know; but very likely her father will look in
here in the course of the afternoon, and he can tell you. I say,
though, captain, you seem uncommonly sweet on this girl," added the
landlord, with a leer and a wink.
"Well, perhaps I am sweet upon her," replied Valentine Jernam "perhaps
I'm fool enough to be caught by a pretty face, and not wise enough to
keep my folly a secret."
"I've got a Little business to see to over in Rotherhithe," said Mr.
Wayman, presently; "you'll see after the bar while I'm gone, Nancy.
There's the little private room at your service, captain, and I dare
say you can make yourself comfortable there with your pipe and the
newspaper. It's ten to one but what Tom Milsom will look in before the
day's out, and he'll tell you all about his daughter."
Upon this the landlord departed, and Valentine Jernam retired to the
little den called a private room, where he speedily fell asleep,
wearied out by his journey on the previous night.
His slumbers were not pleasant. He sat in an uneasy position, upon a
hard wooden chair, with his arms folded on the table before him, and
his head resting on his folded arms.
There was a miserable pretence of a fire, made with bad coals and damp
Sleeping in that wretched atmosphere, in that uncomfortable attitude,
it was scarcely strange if Valentine Jernam dreamt a bad dream.
He dreamt that he fell asleep at broad day in his cabin on board the
'Pizarro', and that he woke suddenly and found himself in darkness. He
dreamt that he groped his way up the companion-way, and on to the deck.
There, as below, he found gloom and darkness, and instead of a busy
crew, utter loneliness, perfect silence. A stillness like the stillness
of death reigned on the level waters around the motionless ship.
The captain shouted, but his voice died away among the shrouds.
Presently a glimmer of star-light pierced the universal gloom, and in
that uncertain light a shadowy figure came gliding towards him across
the ocean--a face shone upon him beneath the radiance of the stars. It
was the face of the ballad-singer.
The shadow drew nearer to him, with a strange gliding motion. The
shadow lifted a white, transparent hand, and pointed.
To a tombstone, which glimmered cold and white through the gloom of sky
The starlight shone upon the tombstone, and on it the sleeper read this
inscription--"_In memory of Valentine Jernam, aged 33_."
The sailor awoke suddenly with a cry, and, looking up, saw the man they
called Black Milsom sitting on the opposite side of the table, looking
at him earnestly.
"Well, you are a restless sleeper, captain!" said this man: "I dropped
in here just now, thinking to find Dennis Wayman, and I've been looking
on while you finished your nap. I never saw a harder sleeper."
"I had a bad dream," answered Jernam, starting to his feet.
"A bad dream! What about, captain?"
"About your daughter!"
DONE IN THE DARKNESS.
Before Thomas Milsom, otherwise Black Milsom, could express his
surprise, the landlord of the 'Jolly Tar' returned from his business
excursion, and presented himself in the dingy little room, where it was
already beginning to grow dusk.
Milsom told Dennis Wayman how he had discovered the captain sleeping
uneasily, with his head upon the table; and on being pressed a little,
Valentine Jernam told his dream as freely as it was his habit to tell
everything relating to his own affairs.
"I don't see that it was such a very bad dream, after all," said Dennis
Wayman, when the story was finished. "You dreamt you were at sea in a
dead calm, that's about the plain English of it."
"Yes; but such a calm! I've been becalmed many a time; but I never
remember anything like what I saw in my dream just now. Then the
loneliness; not a creature on board besides myself; not a human voice
to answer me when I called. And the face--there was something so awful
in the face--smiling at me, and yet with a kind of threatening look in
the smile; and the hand pointing to the tombstone! Do you know that I
was thirty-three last December?"
The sailor covered his face with his hands, and sat for some moments in
a meditative attitude. Bold and reckless though he was, the
superstition of his class had some hold upon him; and this bad dream
influenced him, in spite of himself.
The landlord was the first to break the silence. "Come, captain," he
said; "this is what I call giving yourself up to the blue devils. You
went to sleep in an uncomfortable position, and you had an
uncomfortable dream, with no more sense nor reason in it than such
dreams generally have. What do you say to a hand at cards, and a drop
of something short? You want cheering up a bit, captain; that's what
Valentine Jernam assented. The cards were brought, and a bowl of punch
ordered by the open-handed sailor, who was always ready to invite
people to drink at his expense.
The men played all-fours; and what generally happens in this sort of
company happened now to Captain Jernam. He began by winning, and ended
by losing; and his losses were much heavier than his gains.
He had been playing for upwards of an hour, and had drunk several
glasses of punch, before his luck changed, and he had occasion to take
out the bloated leathern pocket-book, distended unnaturally with notes
But for that rum-punch he might, perhaps, have remembered Joyce
Harker's warning, and avoided displaying his wealth before these two
men. Unhappily, however, the fumes of the strong liquor had already
begun to mount to his brain, and the clerk was completely forgotten. He
opened his pocket-book every time he had occasion to pay his losses,
and whenever he opened it the greedy eyes of Dennis Wayman and Black
Milsom devoured the contents with a furtive gaze.
With every hand the sailor grew more excited. He was playing for small
stakes, and as yet his losses only amounted to a few pounds. But the
sense of defeat annoyed him. He was feverishly eager for his revenge:
and when Milsom rose to go, the captain wanted him to continue to play.
"You shan't sneak off like that," he said; "I want my revenge, and I
must have it."
Black Milsom pointed to a little Dutch clock in a corner of the room.
"Past eight o'clock," he said; "and I've got a five-mile walk between
me and home. My girl, Jenny, will be waiting up for me, and getting
anxious about her father."
In the excitement of play, and the fever engendered by strong drink,
Valentine Jernam had forgotten the ballad-singer. But this mention of
her name brought the vision of the beautiful face back to him.
"Your daughter!" he muttered; "your daughter! Yes; the girl who sang
here, the beautiful girl who sang."
His voice was thick, and his accents indistinct. Both the men had
pressed Jernam to drink, while they themselves took very little. They
had encouraged him to talk as well as to drink, and the appointment
with his brother had been spoken of by the captain.
In speaking of this intended meeting, Valentine Jernam had spoken also
of the good fortune which had attended his latest trading adventures;
and he had said enough to let these men know that he carried the
proceeds of his trading upon his person.
"Joyce wanted me to bank my money," he said; "but none of your banking
rogues for me. My brother George is the only banker I trust, or ever
mean to trust."
Milsom insisted upon the necessity of his departure, and the sailor
declared that he would have his revenge. They were getting to high
words, when Dennis Wayman interfered to keep the peace.
"I'll tell you what it is," he said; "if the captain wants his revenge,
it's only fair that he should have it. Suppose we go down to your
place, Milsom! you can give us a bit of supper, I dare say. What do you
say to that?"
Milsom hesitated in a sheepish kind of manner. "Mine's such a poor
place for a gentleman like the captain," he said. "My daughter Jenny
will do her best to make things straight and comfortable; but still it
is about the poorest place that ever was--there's no denying that."
"I'm no fine gentleman," said the captain, enraptured at the idea of
seeing the ballad-singer; "if your daughter will give us a crust of
bread and cheese, I shall be satisfied. We'll take two or three bottles
of wine down with us, and we'll be as jolly as princes. Get your trap
ready, Wayman, and let's be off at once."
The captain was all impatience to start. Dennis Wayman went away to get
the vehicle ready, and Milsom followed him, but they did not leave
Captain Jernam much time for thought, for Dennis Wayman came back
almost immediately to say that the vehicle was ready.
"Now, then, look sharp, captain!" he said; "it's a dark night, and we
shall have a dark drive."
It was a dark night--dark even here in Wapping, darker still on the
road by which Valentine Jernam found himself travelling presently.
The vehicle which Dennis Wayman drove was a disreputable-looking
conveyance--half chaise-cart, half gig--and the pony was a
vicious-looking animal, with a shaggy mane; but he was a tremendous
pony to go, and the dark, marshy country flew past the travellers in
the darkness like a landscape in a dream.
The ripple of the water, sounding faintly in the stillness, told
Valentine Jernam that the river was near at hand; but beyond this the
sailor had little knowledge of his whereabouts.
They had soon left London behind.
After driving some six or seven miles, and always keeping within sound
of the dull plash of the river, the landlord of the 'Jolly Tar' drew up
suddenly by a dilapidated wooden paling, behind which there was a low-
roofed habitation of some kind or other, which was visible only by
reason of one faint glimmer of light, flickering athwart a scrap of
dingy red curtain. The dull, plashing sound of the river was louder
here; and, mingling with that monotonous ripple of the water, there was
a shivering sound--the trembling of rushes stirred by the chill night
"I'd almost passed your place, Tom," said the landlord, as he drew up
before the darksome habitation.
"You might a'most drive over it on such a night as this," answered
Black Milsom, "and not be much the wiser."
The three men alighted, and Dennis Wayman led the vicious pony to a
broken-down shed, which served as stable and coach-house in Mr.
Valentine Jernam looked about him. As his eyes grew more familiar with
the locality, he was able to make out the outline of the dilapidated
It was little better than a hovel, and stood on a patch of waste
ground, which could scarcely have been garden within the memory of man.
By one side of the house there was a wide, open ditch, fringed with
rushes--a deep, black ditch, that flowed down to the river.
"I can't compliment you on the situation of your cottage, mate," he
said; "it might be livelier."
"I dare say it might," answered Black Milsom, rather sulkily. "I took
to this place because everybody else was afraid to take to it, and it
was to be had for nothing. There was an old miser as cut his throat
here seven or eight year ago, and the place has been left to go to
decay ever since. The miser's ghost walks about here sometimes, after
twelve o'clock at night, folks say. 'Let him walk till he tires himself
out,' says I. 'He don't come my way; and if he did he wouldn't scare
me.' Come, captain."
Mr. Milsom opened the door, and ushered his visitor into the lively
abode, which the prejudice of weak-minded people permitted him to
The girl whom Jernam had seen at the Wapping public-house was sitting
by the hearth, where a scrap of fire burnt in a rusty grate. She had
been sitting in a listless attitude, with her hands lying idle on her
lap, and her eyes fixed on the fire; but she looked up as the two men
She did not welcome her father's return with any demonstration of
affection; she looked at him with a strange, wondering gaze; and she
looked with an anxious expression from him to his companion.
Dennis Wayman came in presently, and as the girl recognized him, a
transient look, almost like horror, flitted across her face, unseen by
"Come, Jenny," said Milsom; "I've brought Wayman and a friend of his
down to supper. What can you give us to eat? There's a bit of cold beef
in the house, I know, and bread and cheese; the captain here has
brought the wine; so we shall do well enough. Look sharp, lass. You're
in one of your tempers to-night, I suppose; but you ought to know that
don't answer with me. I say, captain," added the man, with a laugh, "if
ever you're going to marry a pretty woman, make sure she isn't troubled
with an ugly temper; for you'll find, as a rule, that the handsomer a
woman is the more of the devil there is in her. Now, Jenny, the supper,
and no nonsense about it."
The girl went into another room, and returned presently with such fare
as Mr. Milsom's establishment could afford. The sailor's eyes followed
her wherever she went, full of compassion and love. He was sure this
brutal wretch, Milsom, used her badly, and he rejoiced to think that he
had disregarded all Joyce Harker's warnings, and penetrated into the
scoundrel's home. He rejoiced, for he meant to rescue this lovely,
helpless creature. He knew nothing of her, except that she was
beautiful, friendless, lonely, and ill-used; and he determined to take
her away and marry her.
He did not perplex himself with any consideration as to whether she
would return his love, or be grateful for his devotion. He thought only
of her unhappy position, and that he was predestined to save her.
The supper was laid upon the rickety deal table, and the three men sat
down. Valentine would have waited till his host's daughter had seated
herself; but she had laid no plate or knife for herself, and it was
evident that she was not expected to share the social repast.
"You can go to bed now," said Milsom. "We're in for a jolly night of
it, and you'll only be in the way. Where's the old man?"
"Gone to bed."
"So much the better: and the sooner you follow him will be so much the
better again. Good night."
The girl did not answer him. She looked at him for a few moments with
an earnest, inquiring gaze, which seemed to compel him to return her
look, as if he had been fascinated by the profound earnestness of those
large dark eyes; and then she went slowly and silently from the room.
"Sulky!" muttered Mr. Milsom. "There never was such a girl to sulk."
He took up a candle, and followed his daughter from the room.
A rickety old staircase led to the upper floor, where there were three
or four bed-chambers. The house had been originally something more than
a cottage, and the rooms and passages were tolerably large.
Thomas Milsom found the girl standing at the top of the stairs, as if
waiting for some one.
"What are you standing mooning there for?" asked the man. "Why don't
you go to bed?"
"Why have you brought that sailor here?" inquired the girl, without
noticing Milsom's question.
"What's that to you? You'd like to know my business, wouldn't you? I've
brought him here because he wanted to come. Is that a good answer? I've
brought him here because he has money to lose, and is in the humour to
lose it. Is that a better answer?"
"Yes," returned the girl, fixing her eyes upon him with a look of
horror; "you will win his money, and, if he is angry, there will be a
quarrel, as there was on that hideous night three years ago, when you
brought home the foreign sailor, and what happened to that man will
happen to this one. Father," cried the girl, suddenly and passionately,
"let this man leave the house in safety. I sometimes think my heart is
almost as hard as yours; but this man trusts us. Don't let any harm
come to him."
"Why, what harm should come to him?"
For some time the girl called Jenny stood before her father in silence,
with her head bent, and her face in shadow; then she lifted her head
suddenly, and looked at him piteously.
"The other!" she murmured; "the other! I remember what happened to
"Come, drop that!" cried Milsom, savagely; "do you think I'm going to
stand your mad talk? Get to bed, and go to sleep. And the sounder you
sleep the better, unless you want to sleep uncommonly sound for the
future, my lady."
The ruffian seized his daughter by the arm, and half pushed, half flung
her into a room, the door of which stood open. It was the dreary room
which she called her own. Milsom shut the door upon her, and locked it
with a key which he took from his pocket--a key which locked every door
in the house. "And now, I flatter myself, you're safe, my pretty
singing-bird," he muttered.
He went down stairs, and returned to his guest, who had been pressed to
eat and drink by Dennis Wayman, and who had yielded good-naturedly to
that gentleman's hospitable attentions.
* * * * *
Alone in her room, Jenny Milsom opened the window, and sat looking out
into the inky darkness of the night, and listening to the voices of the
three men in the room below.
The voices sounded very distinctly in that dilapidated old house. Every
now and then a hearty shout of laughter seemed to shake the crazy
rafters; but presently the revellers grew silent. Jenny knew they were
busy with the cards.
"Yes, yes," she murmured; "it all happens as it happened that night--
first the loud voices and laughter; then the silence; then--Great
Heaven! will the end be like the end of that night?"
She clasped her hands in silent agony, and sank in a crouching position
by the open window, with her head lying on the sill.
For hours this wretched girl sat upon the floor in the same attitude,
with the cold wind blowing in upon her. All seemed tranquil in the room
below. The voices sounded now and then, subdued and cautious, and there
were no more outbursts of jovial laughter.
A dim, gray streak glimmered faint and low in the east--the first pale
flicker of dawn. The girl raised her weary eyes towards that chill gray
"Oh! if this night were only ended!" she murmured: "if it were only
ended without harm!"
The words were still upon her lips, when the voices sounded loud and
harsh from the room below. The girl started to her feet, white and
trembling. Louder with every moment grew those angry voices. Then came
a struggle; some article of furniture fell with a crash; there was the
sound of shivered glass, and then a dull heavy noise, which echoed
through the house, and shook the weather-beaten wooden walls to their
After the fall there came the sound of one loud groan, and then subdued
murmurs, cautious whispers.
The window of Jenny Milsom's room looked towards the road. From that
window she could see nothing of the sluggish ditch or the river.
She tried the door of her room. It was securely locked, as she had
expected to find it.
"They would kill me, if I tried to come between them and their victim,"
she said; "and I am afraid to die."
She crept to her wretched bed, and flung herself down, dressed as she
was. She drew the thin patchwork coverlet round her.
Ten minutes after she had thrown herself upon the bed, a key turned in
the lock, and the door was opened by a stealthy hand. Black Milsom
looked into the room.
The cold glimmer of day fell full upon the girl's pale face. Her eyes
were closed, and her breathing was loud and regular.
"Asleep," he whispered to some one outside; "as safe as a rock."
He drew back and closed the door softly.
* * * * *
Joyce Harker worked his hardest on board the 'Pizarro', and the repairs
were duly completed by the 4th of April. On the morning of the 5th the
vessel was a picture, and Joyce surveyed her with the pride of a man
who feels that he has not worked in vain.
He had set his heart upon the brothers celebrating the first day of
their re-union on board the trim little craft: and he had made
arrangements for the preparation of a dinner which was to be a triumph
in its way.
Joyce presented himself at the bar of the 'Jolly Tar' at half-past
eleven on the appointed morning. He expected that the brothers would be
punctual; but he did not expect either of them to appear before the
stroke of noon.
All was very quiet at the 'Jolly Tar' at this hour of the day. The
landlord was alone in the bar, reading a paper. He looked up as Joyce
entered; but did not appear to recognize him.
"Can I step through into your private room?" asked Joyce; "I expect
Captain Jernam and his brother to meet me here in half an hour."
"To be sure you can, mate. There's no one in the private room at this
time of day. Jernam--Jernam, did you say? What Jernam is that? I don't
recollect the name."
"You've a short memory," answered Joyce; "you might remember Captain
Jernam of the 'Pizarro'; for it isn't above a week since he was here
with me. He dined here, and slept here, and left early in the morning,
though you were uncommonly pressing for him to stay."
"We've so many captains and sailors in and out from year's end to
year's end, that I don't remember them by name," said Dennis Wayman;
"but I do remember your friend, mate, now you remind me of him; and I
remember you, too."
"Yes," said Joyce, with a grin; "there ain't so many of my pattern.
I'll take a glass of rum for the good of the house; and if you can lend
me a paper, I'll skim the news of the day while I'm waiting."
Joyce passed into the little room, where Dennis took him the newspaper
and the rum.
Twelve o'clock struck, and the clerk began to watch and to listen for
the opening of the door, or the sound of a footstep in the passage
outside. The time seemed very long to him, watching and listening. The
minute-hand of the Dutch clock moved slowly on. He turned every now and
then towards the dusky corner where the clock hung, to see what
progress that slow hand had made upon the discoloured dial.
He waited thus for an hour.
"What does it mean?" he thought. "Valentine Jernam so faithfully
promised to be punctual. And then he's so fond of his brother. He'd
scarcely care to be a minute behindhand, when he has the chance of
seeing Captain George."
Joyce went into the bar. The landlord was scrutinizing the address of a
letter--a foreign letter.
"Didn't you say your friend's name was Jernam?" he asked.
"Then this letter must be for him. It has been lying here for the last
two or three days; but I forgot all about it till just this minute."
Joyce took the letter. It was addressed to Captain Valentine Jernam, of
the 'Pizarro', at the 'Jolly Tar', care of the landlord, and it came
from the Cape of Good Hope.
Joyce recognized George Jernam's writing.
"This means a disappointment," he thought, as he turned the letter over
and over slowly; "there'll be no meeting yet awhile. Captain George is
off to the East Indies on some new venture, I dare say. But what can
have become of Captain Valentine? I'll go down to the 'Golden Cross,'
and see if he's there."
He told Dennis Wayman where he was going, and left a message for his
captain. From Ratcliff Highway to Charing Cross was a long journey for
Joyce; but he had no idea of indulging in any such luxury as a hackney-
coach. It was late in the afternoon when he reached the hotel; and
there he was doomed to encounter a new disappointment.
Captain Jernam had been there on the second of the month, and had never
been there since. He had left in the forenoon, after saying that he
should return at night; and in evidence that such had been his
intention, the waiter told Joyce that the captain had left a carpet-
bag, containing clean linen and a change of clothes.
"He's broken his word to me, and he's got into bad hands," thought
Harker. "He's as simple as a child, and he's got into bad hands. But
how and where? He'd never, surely, go back to the 'Jolly Tar', after
what I said to him. And where else can he have gone? I know no more
where to look for him in this great overgrown London than if I was a
In his perfect ignorance of his captain's movements, there was only one
thing that Joyce Harker could do, and that was to go back to the "Jolly
Tar," with a faint hope of finding Valentine Jernam there.
It was dusk by the time he got back to Ratcliff Highway, and the
flaring gas-lamps were lighted. The bar of the tavern was crowded, and
the tinkling notes of the old piano sounded feebly from the inner room.
Dennis Wayman was serving his customers, and Thomas Milsom was drinking
at the bar. Joyce pushed his way to the landlord.
"Have you seen anything of the captain?" he asked.
"No, he hasn't been here since you left."
"You're sure of that?"
"He's not been here to day; but he's been here within the week, hasn't
he? He was here on Tuesday, if I'm not misinformed."
"Then you _are_ misinformed," Wayman said, coolly; "for your seafaring
friend hasn't darkened my doors since the morning you and he left to go
to the coach-office."
Joyce could say nothing further. He passed through the passage into the
public room, where the so-called concert had begun. Jenny Milsom was
singing to the noisy audience.
The girl was very pale, and her manner and attitude, as she sat by the
piano, were even more listless than usual.
Joyce Harker did not stop long in the concert-room. He went back to the
bar. This time there was no one but Milsom and Wayman in the bar, and
the two seemed to be talking earnestly as Joyce entered.
They left off, and looked up at the sound of the clerk's footsteps.
"Tired of the music already?" asked Wayman.
"I didn't come here to hear music," answered Joyce; "I came to look for
my captain. He had an appointment to meet his brother here to-day at
twelve o'clock, and it isn't like him to break it. I'm beginning to get
uneasy about him."
"But why should you be uneasy? The captain is big enough, and old
enough, to take care of himself," said the landlord, with a laugh.
"Yes; but then you see, mate, there are some men who never know how to
take care of themselves when they get into bad company. There isn't a
better sailor than Valentine Jernam, or a finer fellow at sea; but I
don't think, if you searched from one end of this city to the other,
you'd find a greater innocent on shore. I'm afraid of his having fallen
into bad hands, Mr. Wayman, for he had a goodish bit of money about
him; and there's land-sharks as dangerous as those you meet with on the
"So there are, mate," answered the landlord; "and there's some queer
characters about this neighbourhood, for the matter of that."
"I dare say you're right, Mr. Wayman," returned Joyce; "and I'll tell
you what it is. If any harm has come to Valentine Jernam, let those
that have done the harm look out for themselves. Perhaps they don't
know what it is to hurt a man that's got a faithful dog at his heels.
Let them hide themselves where they will, and let them be as cunning as
they will, the dog will smell them out, sooner or later, and will tear
them to pieces when he finds them. I'm Captain Jernam's dog, Mr. Dennis
Wayman; and if I don't find my master, I'll hunt till I do find those
that have got him out of the way. I don't know what's amiss with me to-
night; but I've got a feeling come over me that I shall never look in
Valentine Jernam's honest face again. If I'm right, Lord help the
scoundrels who have plotted against him, for it'll be the business of
my life to track them down, and bring their crime home to them--and
I'll do it."
After having said this, slowly and deliberately, with an appalling
earnestness of voice and manner, Joyce Harker looked from Dennis Wayman
to Black Milsom, and this time the masks they were accustomed to wear
did not serve these scoundrels so well as usual, for in the faces of
both there was a look of fear.
"I am going to search for my captain," said Joyce. "Good night, mates."
He left the tavern. The two men looked at each other earnestly as the
door closed upon him.
"A dangerous man," said Dennis Wayman.
"Bah!" muttered Black Milsom, savagely; "who's afraid of a hunchback's
bluster? I dare say he wanted the handling of the money himself."
All that night Joyce Harker wandered to and fro amidst the haunts of
sailors and merchant captains; but wander where he would, and inquire
of whom he would, he could obtain no tidings of the missing man.
Towards daybreak, he took a couple of hours' sleep in a tavern at
Shadwell, and with the day his search began again.
Throughout that day the same patient search continued, the same
inquiries were repeated with indomitable perseverance, in every likely
and unlikely place; but everywhere the result was failure.
It was towards dusk that Joyce Harker turned his back upon a tavern in
Rotherhithe, and set his face towards the river bank.
"I have looked long enough for him among the living," he said; "I must
look for him now amongst the dead."
Before midnight the search was ended. Amongst the printed bills
flapping on dreary walls in that river-side neighbourhood, Joyce Harker
had discovered the description of a man "found drowned." The
description fitted Valentine Jernam, and the body had been found within
the last two days.
Joyce went to the police-office where the man was lying. He had no need
to look at the poor dead face--the dark, handsome face, which was so
familiar to him.
"I expected as much," he said to the official who had admitted him to
see the body; "he had money about him, and he has fallen into the hands
"You don't think it was an accident?"
"No; he has been murdered, sir. And I think I know the men who did it."
"You know the men?"
"Yes; but my knowledge won't help to avenge his death, if I can't bring
it home to them--and I don't suppose I can. There'll be a coroner's
inquest, won't there?"
At the inquest, next day, Joyce Harker told his story; but that story
threw very little light on the circumstances of Valentine Jernam's
The investigation before the coroner set at rest all question as to the
means by which the captain had met his death. A medical examination
demonstrated that he had been murdered by a blow on the back of the
head, inflicted by some sharp heavy instrument. The unfortunate man
must have died before he was thrown into the water.
The verdict of the coroner's jury was to the effect that Valentine
Jernam had been wilfully murdered by some person or persons unknown.
And with this verdict Joyce Harker was obliged to be content. His
suspicions he dared not mention in open court. They were too vague and
shadowy. But he called upon a celebrated Bow Street officer, and
submitted the case to him. It was a case for secret inquiry, for
careful investigation; and Joyce offered a handsome reward out of his
While this secret investigation was in progress, Joyce opened the
letter addressed to Valentine by his brother George.
"DEAR VAL," wrote the sailor: "_I have been tempted to make another
trip to Calcutta with a cargo shipped at Lisbon, and shall not be able
to meet you in London on the 5th of April. It will be ten or twelve
months before I see England again; but when I do come back, I hope to
add something handsome to our joint fortunes. I long to see your honest
face, and grasp your hand again; but the chance of a big prize lures me
out yonder. We are both young, and have all the world before us, so we
can afford to wait a year or two. Bank the money; Joyce will tell you
where, and how to do it; and let me know your plans before you leave
London. A letter addressed to me, care of Riverdale and Co., Calcutta,
will be safe. Good luck to you, dear old boy, now and always, and every
good wish.--From your affectionate brother_," "GEORGE JERNAM."
It was Joyce Harker's melancholy task to tell Valentine Jernam's
younger brother the story of the seaman's death. He wrote a long
letter, recording everything that had happened within his knowledge,
from the moment of the 'Pizarro' reaching Gravesend to the discovery of
Valentine's body in the river-side police office. He told George the
impression that had been made upon his brother by the ballad-singer's
"_I think that this girl and these two men, her father, Thomas Milsom,
and Dennis Wayman, the landlord of the 'Jolly Tar', are in the secret--
are, between them, the murderers of your brother. I think that when he
broke his promise to me, and came back to this end of London, before
the fifth, he came lured by that girl's beauty. It is to the girl we
must look for a key to the secret of his death. I do not expect to
extort anything from the fears of the men. They are both hardened
villains; and if, as I believe, they are guilty of this crime, it is
not likely to be the first in which they have been engaged. The police
are on the watch, and I have promised a liberal reward for any
discoveries they may make; but it is very slow work_."
This, and much more, Joyce Harker wrote to George Jernam. The letter
was written immediately after the inquest; and on the night succeeding
that inquiry, Joyce went to the 'Jolly Tar', in the hope of seeing
Jenny Milsom. But he was doomed to disappointment; for in the concert-
room at Dennis Wayman's tavern he found a new singer--a fat, middle-
aged woman, with red hair.
"What has become of the pretty girl who used to sing here?" he asked
"Milsom's daughter?" said Wayman. "Oh, we've lost her She was a regular
she-devil, it seems. Her father and she had a row, and the girl ran
away. She can get her living anywhere with that voice of hers; and I
don't suppose Milsom treated her over well. He's a rough fellow, but an
"Yes," answered Joyce, with a sneer; "he seems uncommonly honest.
There's a good deal of that sort of honesty about this neighbourhood, I
think, mate. I suppose you've heard about my captain?"
"Not a syllable. Is there anything wrong with him?"
"Ah! news seems to travel slowly down here. There was an inquest held
this morning, not so many miles from this house."
The landlord shrugged his shoulders.
"I've been busy in-doors all day, and I haven't heard anything," he
Joyce told the story of his captain's fate, to which Dennis Wayman
listened with every appearance of sympathy.
"And you've no idea what has become of the girl?" Harker asked, after
having concluded his story.
"No more than the dead. She's cut and run, that's all I know."
"Has her father gone after her?"
"Not a bit of it. He's not that sort of man. She has chosen to take
herself off, and her father will let her go her own way."
"And her grandfather, the old blind man?"
"He has gone with her."
There was no more to be said about the girl after this.
"I'll tell you what it is, Mr. Wayman," said Joyce, "I'm likely to be a
good bit down in this neighbourhood, while I'm waiting for directions
about my poor captain's ship from his brother Captain George, and as
your house suits me as well as any other, I may as well take up my
quarters here. I know you've got plenty of room, and you'll find me a
"So be it," answered the landlord, promptly. "I'm agreeable."
Joyce deliberated profoundly as he walked away from the 'Jolly Tar'
"He's too deep to be caught easily," he thought. "He'll let me into his
house, because he knows there's nothing I can find out, watch as I may.
Such a murder as that leaves no trace behind it. If I had been able to
get hold of the girl, I might have frightened her into telling me
something; but it's clear to me she has really bolted, or Wayman would
never let me into his house."
For weeks Joyce Harker was a lodger at the 'Jolly Tar'; always on the
watch; always ready to seize upon the smallest clue to the mystery of
Valentine Jernam's death; but nothing came of his watching.
The police did their best to discover the key to the dreadful secret;
but they worked in vain. The dead man's money had been partly in notes
and gold, partly in bills of exchange. It was easy enough to dispose of
such bills in the City. There were men ready to take them at a certain
price, and to send them abroad; men who never ask questions of their
So there was little chance of any light being thrown on this dark and
evil mystery. Joyce watched and waited with dog-like fidelity, ready to
seize upon the faintest clue; but he waited and watched in vain.
* * * * *
Nearly a year had elapsed since the murder of Valentine Jernam, and the
March winds were blowing amongst the leafless branches of the trees in
the Green Park.
In the library of one of the finest houses in Arlington Street, a
gentleman paced restlessly to and fro, stopping before one of the
windows every now and then, to look, with a fretful glance, at the dull
sky. "What weather!" he muttered: "what execrable weather!"
The speaker was a man of some fifty years of age--a man who had been
very handsome and who was handsome still--a man with a haughty
patrician countenance--not easily forgotten by those who looked upon
it. Sir Oswald Eversleigh, Baronet, was a descendant of one of the
oldest families in Yorkshire. He was the owner of Raynham Castle, in
Yorkshire; Eversleigh Manor, in Lincolnshire; and his property in those
two counties constituted a rent-roll of forty thousand per annum.
He was a bachelor, and having nearly reached his fiftieth year it was
considered unlikely that he would marry.
Such at least was the fixed idea of those who considered themselves the
likely inheritors of the baronet's wealth. The chief of these was
Reginald Eversleigh, his favourite nephew, the only son of a younger
brother, who had fallen gloriously on an Indian battle-field.
There were two other nephews who had some right to look forward to a
share in the baronet's fortune. These were the two sons of Sir Oswald's
only sister, who had married a country rector, called Dale. But Lionel
and Douglas Dale were not the sort of young men who care to wait for
dead men's shoes. They were sincerely attached to their uncle; but they
carefully abstained from any demonstration of affection which could
seem like worship of his wealth. The elder was preparing himself for
the Church; the younger was established in chambers in the Temple,
reading for the bar.
It was otherwise with Reginald Eversleigh. From his early boyhood this
young man had occupied the position of an adopted son rather than a
There are some who can bear indulgence, some flowers that flourish best
with tender rearing; but Reginald Eversleigh was not one of these.
Sir Oswald was too generous a man to require much display of gratitude
from the lad on whom he so freely lavished his wealth and his
affection. When the boy showed himself proud and imperious, the baronet
admired that high, and haughty spirit. When the boy showed himself
reckless and extravagant in his expenditure of money, the baronet
fancied that extravagance the proof of a generous disposition,
overlooking the fact that it was only on his own pleasures that
Reginald wasted his kinsman's money. When bad accounts came from the
Eton masters and the Oxford tutors, Sir Oswald deluded himself with the
belief that it was only natural for a high-spirited lad to be idle, and
that, indeed, youthful idleness was often a proof of genius.
But even the moral blindness of love cannot last for ever. The day came
when the baronet awoke to the knowledge that his dead brother's only
son was unworthy of his affection.
The young man entered the army. His uncle purchased for him a
commission in a crack cavalry regiment, and he began his military
career under the most brilliant auspices. But from the day of his
leaving his military tutor, until the present hour, Sir Oswald had been
perpetually subject to the demands of his extravagance, and had of late
suffered most bitterly from discoveries which had at last convinced him
that his nephew was a villain.
In ordinary matters, Sir Oswald Eversleigh was by no means a patient or
long-suffering man; but he had exhibited extraordinary endurance in all
his dealings with his nephew. The hour had now come when he could be
patient no longer.
He had written to his nephew, desiring him to call upon him at three
o'clock on this day.
The idea of this interview was most painful to him, for he had resolved
that it should be the last between himself and Reginald Eversleigh. In
this matter he had acted with no undue haste; for it had been
unspeakably distressing to him to decide upon a step which would
separate him for ever from the young man.
As the timepiece struck three, Mr. Eversleigh was announced. He was a
very handsome man; of a refined and aristocratic type, but of a type
rather effeminate than powerful. And pervading his beauty, there was a
winning charm of expression which few could resist. It was difficult to
believe that Reginald Eversleigh could be mean or base. People liked
him, and trusted him, in spite of themselves; and it was only when
their confidence had been imposed upon, and their trust betrayed, that
they learned to know how despicable the handsome young officer could
be. Women did their best to spoil him; and his personal charms of face
and manner, added to his brilliant expectations, rendered him an
universal favourite in fashionable circles.
He came to Arlington Street prepared to receive a lecture, and a severe
one, for he knew that some of his late delinquencies had become known
to Sir Oswald; but he trusted in the influence which he had always been
able to exercise over his uncle, and he was determined to face the
difficulty boldly, as he had faced it before.
He entered the room with a smile, and advanced towards his uncle, with
his hand outstretched.
But Sir Oswald drew back, refusing that proffered hand.
"I shake hands only with gentlemen and honest men," he said, haughtily.
"You are neither, Mr. Eversleigh."
Reginald had been used to hear his uncle address him in anger; but
never before had Sir Oswald spoken to him in that tone of cool
contempt. The colour faded from the young man's face, and he looked at
his uncle with an expression of alarm.
"My dear uncle!" he exclaimed.
"Be pleased to forget that you have ever addressed me by that name, or
that any relationship exists between us, Mr. Eversleigh," answered Sir
Oswald, with unaltered sternness. "Sit down, if you please. Our
interview is likely to be a long one."
The young man seated himself in silence.
"I have sent for you, Mr. Eversleigh," said the baronet, "because I
wished to tell you, without passion, that the tie which has hitherto
bound us has been completely broken. Heaven knows I have been patient;
I have endured your misdoings, hoping that they were the thoughtless
errors of youth, and not the deliberate sins of a hardened and wicked
nature. I have trusted till I can trust no longer; I have hoped till I
can hope no more. Within the past week I have learned to know you. An
old friend, whose word I cannot doubt, whose honour is beyond all
question, has considered it a duty to acquaint me with certain facts
that have reached his knowledge, and has opened my eyes to your real
character. I have given much time to reflection before determining on
the course I shall pursue with one who has been so dear to me. You know
me well enough to be aware that when once I do arrive at a decision,
that decision is irrevocable. I wish to act with justice, even towards
a scoundrel. I have brought you up with the habits of a rich man, and
it is my duty to save you from absolute poverty. I have, therefore,
ordered my solicitors to prepare a deed by which an income of two
hundred a year will be secured to you for life, unconditionally. After
the execution of that deed I shall have no further interest in your
fate. You will go your own way, Mr. Eversleigh, and choose your own
companions, without remonstrance or interference from the foolish
kinsman who has loved you too well."
"But, my dear uncle--Sir Oswald--what have I done that you should treat
me so severely?"
The young man was deadly pale. His uncle's manner had taken him by
surprise; but even in this desperate moment, when he felt that all was
lost, he attempted to assume the aspect of injured innocence.
"What have you done!" cried the baronet, passionately.
"Shall I show you two letters, Reginald Eversleigh--two letters which,
by a strange combination of circumstances, have reached my hands; and
in each of which there is the clue to a shameful story--a cruel and
disgraceful story, of which you are the hero?"
"You shall read them," replied Sir Oswald. "They are addressed to you,
and have been in your possession; but to so fine a gentleman such
letters were of little importance. Another person, however, thought
them worth preserving, and sent them to me."
The baronet took up two envelopes from the table, and handed them to
At the sight of the address of the uppermost envelope, Reginald
Eversleigh's face grew livid. He looked at the lower, and then returned
both documents to his uncle, with a hand that trembled in spite of
"I know nothing of the letters," he faltered, huskily.
"You do not!" said his uncle; "then it will be necessary for me to
Sir Oswald took a letter from one of the envelopes, but before reading
it he looked at his nephew with a grave and mournful countenance, from
which all traces of scorn had vanished.
"Before I heard the history of this letter, I fully believed that, in
spite of all your follies and extravagances, you were at least
honourable and generous-hearted. After hearing the story of this
letter, I knew you to be base and heartless. You say you know nothing
of the letter? Perhaps you will tell me that you have forgotten the
name of the writer. And yet you can scarcely have so soon forgotten
The young man bent his head. A terrible rage possessed him, for he knew
that one of the darkest secrets of his life had been revealed to his
"I will tell you the history of Mary Goodwin," said the baronet, "since
you have so poor a memory. She was the favourite and foster-sister of
Jane Stukely, a noble and beautiful woman, to whom you were engaged.
You met Jane Stukely in London, fell in love with her as it seemed, and
preferred your suit. You were accepted by her--approved by her father.
No alliance could have been more advantageous. I was never better
pleased than when you announced to me your engagement. The influence of
a good wife will cure him of all his follies, I thought, and I shall
yet have reason to be proud of my nephew."
"Spare me, sir, for pity's sake," murmured Reginald, hoarsely.
"When did you spare others, Mr. Reginald Eversleigh? When did you
consider others, if they stood in the way of your base pleasures, your
selfish gratifications? Never! Nor will I spare you. As Jane's engaged
lover, you were invited to Stukely Park. There you saw Mary Goodwin.
Accident threw you across this girl's pathway very often in the course
of your visit; but the time came when you ceased to meet by accident.
There were secret meetings in the park. The poor, weak, deluded girl
could not resist the fascinations of the fine gentleman--who lured her
to destruction by means of lying promises. In due time you left Stukely
Park, unsuspected. Within a few days of your departure, the girl, Mary
"For six months nothing was heard of the missing Mary Goodwin; but at
the end of that time a gentleman, who remembered her in the days of her
beauty and innocence at Stukely Park, recognized the features of Miss
Stukely's _protegee_ in the face of a suicide, whose body was exhibited
in the Morgue at Paris. The girl had been found drowned. The Englishman
paid the charges of a decent funeral, and took back to the Stukelys the
intelligence of their _protegee's_ fate; but no one knew the secret of
her destruction. That secret was, however, suspected by Jane Stukely,
who broke her engagement with you on the strength of the dark
"It was to you she fled when she left Stukely Park--in your
companionship she went abroad, where she passed as your wife, you
assuming a false name--under which you were recognized, nevertheless.
The day came when you grew weary of your victim. When your funds were
exhausted, when the girl's tears and penitence grew troublesome--in the
hour when she was most helpless and miserable, and had most need of
your pity and protection, you abandoned her, leaving her alone in
Paris, with a few pounds to pay for her journey home, if she should
have courage to go back to the friends who had sheltered her. In this
hour of abandonment and shame, she chose death rather than such an
ordeal, and drowned herself."
"I give you my honour, Sir Oswald, I meant to act liberally. I
meant,"--the young man interrupted; but his uncle did not notice the
"I will read you this wretched girl's letter," continued the baronet;
"it is her last, and was left at the hotel where you deserted her, and
whence it was forwarded to you. It is a very simple letter; but it
bears in every line the testimony of a broken heart:--
"'_You have left me, Reginald, and in so doing have proved to me most
fully that the love you once felt for me has indeed perished. For the
sake of that love I have sacrificed every principle and broken every
tie. I have disgraced the name of an honest family, and have betrayed
the dearest and kindest friend who ever protected a poor girl. And now
you leave me, and tell me to return to my old friends, who will no
doubt forgive me, you say, and shelter me in this bitter time of my
disgrace. Oh, Reginald, do you know me so little that you think I could
go back, could lift my eyes once more to the dear faces that used to
smile upon me, but which now would turn from me with loathing and
aversion? You know that I cannot go back. You leave me in this great
city, so strange and unknown to me, and you do not care to ask yourself
any questions as to my probable fate. Shall I tell you what I am going
to do, Reginald? You, who were once so fond and passionate a lover--
you, whom I have seen kneeling at my feet, humbly born and penniless
though I was--it is only right that you should know the fate of your
abandoned mistress. When I have finished this letter it will be dark--
the shadows are closing in already, and I can scarcely see to write. I
shall creep quietly from the house, and shall make my way over to that
river which I have crossed so often, seated by your side in a carriage.
Once on the bridge, under cover of the blessed darkness, all my
troubles will be ended; you will be burdened with me no longer, and I
shall not cost you even the ten-pound note which you so generously left
for me, and which I shall enclose in this letter. Forgive me if there
is some bitterness in my heart. I try to forgive you--I do forgive you!
May a merciful heaven pardon my sins, as I pardon your desertion of
There was a pause after the reading of the letter--a silence which Mr.
Eversleigh did not attempt to break. "The second letter I need
scarcely read to you," said the baronet; "it is from a young man whom
you were pleased to patronize some twelve months back--a young man in a
banking office, aspiring and ambitious, whose chief weakness was the
desire to penetrate the mystic circle of fashionable society. You were
good enough to indulge that weakness at your own price, and for your
own profit. You initiated the banker's clerk into the mysteries of
card-playing and billiards. You won money of him--more than he had to
lose; and after being the kindest and most indulgent of friends, you
became all at once a stern and pitiless creditor. You threatened the
bank-clerk with disgrace if he did not pay his losses. He wrote you
pleading letters; but you laughed to scorn his prayers for mercy, and
at last, maddened by shame, he helped himself to the money entrusted to
him by his employers, in order to pay you. Discovery came, as discovery
always does come, sooner or later, in these cases, and your friend and
victim was transported. Before leaving England he wrote you a letter,
imploring you to have some compassion on his widowed mother, whom his
disgrace had deprived of all support. I wonder how much heed you took
of that letter, Mr. Eversleigh? I wonder what you did towards the
consolation of the helpless and afflicted woman who owed her
misfortunes to you?"
The young officer dared not lift his eyes to his uncle's face; the
consciousness of guilt rendered him powerless to utter a word in his
"I have little more to say to you," resumed the baronet. "I have loved
you as a man rarely loves his nephew. I have loved you for the sake of
the brother who died in my arms, and for the sake of one who was even
dearer to me than that only brother--for the sake of the woman whom we
both loved, and who made her choice between us--choosing the younger
and poorer brother, and retaining to her dying day the affection and
esteem of the elder. I loved your mother, Reginald Eversleigh, and when
she died, within one short year of her husband's death, I swore that
her only child should be as dear to me as a son. I have kept that
promise. Few parents can find patience to forgive such follies as I
have forgiven. But my endurance is exhausted; my affection has been
worn out by your heartlessness: henceforward we are strangers."
"You cannot mean this, sir?" murmured Reginald Eversleigh.
There was a terrible fear at his heart--an inward conviction that his
uncle was in earnest.
"My solicitors will furnish you with all particulars of the deed I
spoke of," said Sir Oswald, without noticing his nephew's appealing
tones. "That deed will secure to you two hundred a year. You have a
soldier's career before you, and you are young enough to redeem the
past--at any rate, in the eyes of the world, if not before the sight of
heaven. If you find your regiment too expensive for your altered means,
I would recommend you to exchange into the line. And now, Mr.
Eversleigh, I wish you good morning."
"But, Sir Oswald--uncle--my dear uncle--you cannot surely cast me off
The baronet rang the bell.
"The door--for Mr. Eversleigh," he said to the servant who answered his
The young man rose, looking at his kinsman with an incredulous gaze.
He could not believe that all his hopes were utterly ruined; that he
was, indeed, cast off with a pittance which to him seemed positively
But there was no hope to be derived from Sir Oswald's face. A mask of
stone could not have been more inflexible.
"Good morning, sir," said Reginald, in accents that were tremulous with
He could say no more, for the servant was in attendance, and he could
not humiliate himself before the man who had been wont to respect him
as Sir Oswald Eversleigh's heir. He took up his hat and cane, bowed to
the baronet, and left the room.
Once beyond the doors of his uncle's mansion, Reginald Eversleigh
abandoned himself to the rage that possessed him.
"He shall repent this," he muttered. "Yes; powerful as he is, he shall
repent having used his power. As if I had not suffered enough already;
as if I had not been haunted perpetually by that girl's pale,
reproachful face, ever since the fatal hour in which I abandoned her.
But those letters; how could they have fallen into my uncle's hands?
That scoundrel, Laston, must have stolen them, in revenge for his
He went to the loneliest part of the Green Park, and, stretched at full
length upon a bench, abandoned himself to gloomy reflections, with his
face hidden by his folded arms.
For hours he lay thus, while the bleak March winds whistled loud and
shrill in the leafless trees above his head--while the cold, gray light
of the sunless day faded into the shadows of evening. It was past seven
o'clock, and the lamps in Piccadilly shone brightly, when he rose,
chilled to the bone, and walked away from the park.
"And I am to consider myself rich--with my pay and fifty pounds a
quarter," he muttered, with a bitter laugh; "and if I find a crack
cavalry regiment too expensive, I am to exchange into the line--turn
foot-soldier, and face the scornful looks of all my old acquaintances.
No, no, Sir Oswald Eversleigh; you have brought me up as a gentleman,
and a gentleman I will remain to the end of the chapter, let who will
pay the cost. It may seem easy to cast me off, Sir Oswald; but we have
not done with each other yet."
* * * * *
OUT OF THE DEPTHS.
After dismissing his nephew, Sir Oswald Eversleigh abandoned himself
for some time to gloomy thought. The trial had been a very bitter one;
but at length, arousing himself from that gloomy reverie, he said
aloud, "Thank Heaven it is over; my resolution did not break down, and
the link is broken."
Sir Oswald had made his arrangements for leaving London that afternoon,
on the first stage of his journey to Raynham Castle. There were few
railroads six-and-twenty years ago, and the baronet was in the habit of
travelling in his own carriage, with post-horses. The journey from
London to the far north of Yorkshire was, therefore, a long one,
occupying two or three days.
Sir Oswald left town an hour after his interview with Reginald
It was ten o'clock when he alighted for the first time in a large,
bustling town on the great northern road. He had changed horses several
times since leaving London, and had accomplished a considerable
distance within the five hours. He put up at the principal hotel, where
he intended to remain for the night. From the windows of his rooms was
to be seen the broad, open market-place, which to-night was brilliantly
lighted, and thronged with people. Sir Oswald looked with surprise at
the bustling scene, as one of the waiters drew the curtains before the
"Your town seems busy to-night," he said.
"Yes, sir; there has been a fair, sir--our spring fair, sir--a cattle
fair, sir. Perhaps you'd rather not have the curtains drawn, sir. You
may like to look out of the window after dinner, sir."
"Look out of the window?--oh, dear no! Close the curtains by all
The waiter wondered at the gentleman's bad taste, and withdrew to
hasten the well-known guest's dinner.
It was long past eleven, and Sir Oswald was sitting brooding before the
fire, when he was startled from his reverie by the sound of a woman's
voice singing in the market-place below. The streets had been for some
time deserted, the shops closed, the lights extinguished, except a few
street-lamps, flickering feebly here and there. All was quiet, and the
voice of the street ballad-singer sounded full and clear in the
Sir Oswald Eversleigh was in no humour to listen to street-singers. It
must needs be some voice very far removed from common voices which
could awaken him from his gloomy abstraction.
It was, indeed, an uncommon voice, such a voice as one rarely hears
beyond the walls of the Italian opera-house--such a voice as is not
often heard even within those walls. Full, clear, and rich, the
melodious accents sent a thrill to the innermost heart of the listener.
The song which the vagrant was singing was the simplest of ballads. It
was "Auld Robin Gray."
While he sat by the fire, listening to that familiar ballad, Sir Oswald
Eversleigh forgot his sorrow and indignation--forgot his nephew's
baseness, forgot everything, except the voice of the woman singing in
the deserted market-place below the windows.
He went to one of the windows, and drew back the curtain. The night was
cold and boisterous; but a full moon was shining in a clear sky, and
every object in the broad street was visible in that penetrating light.
The windows of Sir Oswald's sitting-room opened upon a balcony. He
lifted the sash, and stepped out into the chill night air. He saw the
figure of a woman moving a way from the pavement before the hotel very
slowly, with a languid, uncertain step. Presently he saw her totter and
pause, as if scarcely able to proceed. Then she moved unsteadily
onwards for a few paces, and at last sank down upon a door-step, with
the helpless motion of utter exhaustion.
He did not stop to watch, longer from the balcony. He went back to his
room, snatched up his hat, and hurried down stairs. They were beginning
to close the establishment for the night, and the waiters stared as Sir
Oswald passed them on his way to the street.
In the market-place nothing was stirring. The baronet could see the
dark figure of the woman still in the same attitude into which he had
seen her sink when she fell exhausted on the door-step, half-sitting,
half-lying on the stone.
Sir Oswald hurried to the spot where the woman had sunk down, and bent
over her. Her arms were folded on the stone, her head lying on her
"Why are you lying there, my good girl?" asked Sir Oswald, gently.
Something in the slender figure told him that the ballad-singer was
young, though he could not see her face.
She lifted her head slowly, with a languid action, and looked up at the
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