Trent's Trust and Other Stories
Part 2 out of 5
his face crimsoning, yet he dared not question him further, nor yet
defend her. Captain Dornton noticed it, and with a friendly tact,
which Randolph had not expected of him, rising again, laid his hand
gently on the young man's shoulder.
"Look here, lad," he said, with his pleasant smile; "don't you
worry your head about the ways or doings of the Dornton family, or
any of their friends. They're a queer lot--including your humble
servant. You've done the square thing accordin' to your lights.
You've ridden straight from start to finish, with no jockeying, and
I shan't forget it. There are only two men who haven't failed me
when I trusted them. One was you when I gave you my portmanteau;
the other was Jack Redhill when he stole it from you."
He dropped back in his chair again, and laughed silently.
"Then you did not fall overboard as they supposed," stammered
Randolph at last.
"Not much! But the next thing to it. It wasn't the water that I
took in that knocked me out, my lad, but something stronger. I was
"Shanghaied?" repeated Randolph vacantly.
"Yes, shanghaied! Hocused! Drugged at that gin mill on the wharf
by a lot of crimps, who, mistaking me for a better man, shoved me,
blind drunk and helpless, down the steps into a boat, and out to a
short-handed brig in the stream. When I came to I was outside the
Heads, pointed for Guayaquil. When they found they'd captured, not
a poor Jack, but a man who'd trod a quarterdeck, who knew, and was
known at every port on the trading line, and who could make it hot
for them, they were glad to compromise and set me ashore at
Acapulco, and six weeks later I landed in 'Frisco."
"Safe and sound, thank Heaven!" said Randolph joyously.
"Not exactly, lad," said Captain Dornton grimly, "but dead and sat
upon by the coroner, and my body comfortably boxed up and on its
way to England."
"But that was nine months ago. What have you been doing since?
Why didn't you declare yourself then?" said Randolph impatiently, a
little irritated by the man's extreme indifference. He really
talked like an amused spectator of his own misfortunes.
"Steady, lad. I know what you're going to say. I know all that
happened. But the first thing I found when I got back was that the
shanghai business had saved my life; that but for that I would have
really been occupying that box on its way to England, instead of
the poor devil who was taken for me."
A cold tremor passed over Randolph. Captain Dornton, however, was
"I don't understand," said Randolph breathlessly.
Captain Dornton rose and, walking to the door, looked out into the
passage; then he shut the door carefully and returned, glancing
about the room and at the storm-washed windows. "I thought I heard
some one outside. I'm lying low just now, and only go out at
night, for I don't want this thing blown before I'm ready. Got
anything to drink here?"
Randolph replied by taking a decanter of whiskey and glasses from a
cupboard. The captain filled his glass, and continued with the
same gentle but exasperating nonchalance, "Mind my smoking?"
"Not at all," said Randolph, pushing a cigar toward him. But the
captain put it aside, drew from his pocket a short black clay pipe,
stuffed it with black "Cavendish plug," which he had first chipped
off in the palm of his hand with a large clasp knife, lighted it,
and took a few meditative whiffs. Then, glancing at Randolph's
papers, he said, "I'm not keeping you from your work, lad?" and
receiving a reply in the negative, puffed at his pipe and once more
settled himself comfortably in his chair, with his dark, bearded
profile toward Randolph.
"You were saying just now you didn't understand," he went on
slowly, without looking up; "so you must take your own bearings
from what I'm telling you. When I met you that night I had just
arrived from Melbourne. I had been lucky in some trading
speculations I had out there, and I had some bills with me, but no
money except what I had tucked in the skin of that portmanteau and
a few papers connected with my family at home. When a man lives
the roving kind of life I have, he learns to keep all that he cares
for under his own hat, and isn't apt to blab to friends. But it
got out in some way on the voyage that I had money, and as there
was a mixed lot of 'Sydney ducks' and 'ticket of leave men' on
board, it seems they hatched a nice little plot to waylay me on the
wharf on landing, rob me, and drop me into deep water. To make it
seem less suspicious, they associated themselves with a lot of
crimps who were on the lookout for our sailors, who were going
ashore that night too. I'd my suspicions that a couple of those
men might be waiting for me at the end of the wharf. I left the
ship just a minute or two before the sailors did. Then I met you.
That meeting, my lad, was my first step toward salvation. For the
two men let you pass with my portmanteau, which they didn't
recognize, as I knew they would ME, and supposed you were a
stranger, and lay low, waiting for me. I, who went into the gin-
mill with the other sailors, was foolish enough to drink, and was
drugged and crimped as they were. I hadn't thought of that. A
poor devil of a ticket of leave man, about my size, was knocked
down for me, and," he added, suppressing a laugh, "will be buried,
deeply lamented, in the chancel of Dornton Church. While the row
was going on, the skipper, fearing to lose other men, warped out
into the stream, and so knew nothing of what happened to me. When
they found what they thought was my body, he was willing to
identify it in the hope that the crime might be charged to the
crimps, and so did the other sailor witnesses. But my brother
Bill, who had just arrived here from Callao, where he had been
hunting for me, hushed it up to prevent a scandal. All the same,
Bill might have known the body wasn't mine, even though he hadn't
seen me for years."
"But it was frightfully disfigured, so that even I, who saw you
only once, could not have sworn it was NOT you," said Randolph
"Humph!" said Captain Dornton musingly. "Bill may have acted on
the square--though he was in a d----d hurry."
"But," said Randolph eagerly, "you will put an end to all this now.
You will assert yourself. You have witnesses to prove your
"Steady, lad," said the captain, waving his pipe gently. "Of
course I have. But"--he stopped, laid down his pipe, and put his
hands doggedly in his pockets--"IS IT WORTH IT?" Seeing the look
of amazement in Randolph's face, he laughed his low laugh, and
settled himself back in his chair again. "No," he said quietly,
"if it wasn't for my son, and what's due him as my heir, I suppose--
I reckon I'd just chuck the whole d----d thing."
"What!" said Randolph. "Give up the property, the title, the
family honor, the wrong done to your reputation, the punishment"--
He hesitated, fearing he had gone too far.
Captain Dornton withdrew his pipe from his mouth with a gesture of
caution, and holding it up, said: "Steady, lad. We'll come to THAT
by and by. As to the property and title, I cut and run from THEM
ten years ago. To me they meant only the old thing--the life of a
country gentleman, the hunting, the shooting, the whole beastly
business that the land, over there, hangs like a millstone round
your neck. They meant all this to me, who loved adventure and the
sea from my cradle. I cut the property, for I hated it, and I hate
it still. If I went back I should hear the sea calling me day and
night; I should feel the breath of the southwest trades in every
wind that blew over that tight little island yonder; I should be
always scenting the old trail, lad, the trail that leads straight
out of the Gate to swoop down to the South Seas. Do you think a
man who has felt his ship's bows heave and plunge under him in the
long Pacific swell--just ahead of him a reef breaking white into
the lagoon, and beyond a fence of feathery palms--cares to follow
hounds over gray hedges under a gray November sky? And the
society? A man who's got a speaking acquaintance in every port
from Acapulco to Melbourne, who knows every den and every
longshoreman in it from a South American tienda to a Samoan beach-
comber's hut,--what does he want with society?" He paused as
Randolph's eyes were fixed wonderingly on the first sign of emotion
on his weather-beaten face, which seemed for a moment to glow with
the strength and freshness of the sea, and then said, with a laugh:
"You stare, lad. Well, for all the Dorntons are rather proud of
their family, like as not there was some beastly old Danish pirate
among them long ago, and I've got a taste of his blood in me. But
I'm not quite as bad as that yet."
He laughed, and carelessly went on: "As to the family honor, I
don't see that it will be helped by my ripping up the whole thing
and perhaps showing that Bill was a little too previous in
identifying me. As to my reputation, that was gone after I left
home, and if I hadn't been the legal heir they wouldn't have
bothered their heads about me. My father had given me up long ago,
and there isn't a man, woman, or child that wouldn't now welcome
Bill in my place."
"There is one who wouldn't," said Randolph impulsively.
"You mean Caroline Avondale?" said Captain Dornton dryly.
Randolph colored. "No; I mean Miss Eversleigh, who was with your
Captain Dornton reflected. "To be sure! Sibyl Eversleigh! I
haven't seen her since she was so high. I used to call her my
little sweetheart. So Sybby remembered Cousin Jack and came to
find him? But when did you meet her?" he asked suddenly, as if
this was the only detail of the past which had escaped him, fixing
his frank eyes upon Randolph.
The young man recounted at some length the dinner party at
Dingwall's, his conversation with Miss Eversleigh, and his
interview with Sir William, but spoke little of Miss Avondale. To
his surprise, the captain listened smilingly, and only said: "That
was like Billy to take a rise out of you by pretending you were
suspected. That's his way--a little rough when you don't know him
and he's got a little grog amidships. All the same, I'd have given
something to have heard him 'running' you, when all the while you
had the biggest bulge on him, only neither of you knew it." He
laughed again, until Randolph, amazed at his levity and
indifference, lost his patience.
"Do you know," he said bluntly, "that they don't believe you were
But Captain Dornton only continued to laugh, until, seeing his
companion's horrified face, he became demure. "I suppose Bill
didn't, for Bill had sense enough to know that otherwise he would
have to take a back seat to Bobby."
"But did Miss Avondale know you were legally married, and that your
son was the heir?" asked Randolph bluntly.
"She had no reason to suspect otherwise, although we were married
secretly. She was an old friend of my wife, not particularly of
Randolph sat back amazed and horrified. Those were HER own words.
Or was this man deceiving him as the others had?
But the captain, eying him curiously, but still amusedly, added: "I
even thought of bringing her as one of my witnesses, until"--
"Until what?" asked Randolph quickly, as he saw the captain had
"Until I found she wasn't to be trusted; until I found she was too
thick with Bill," said the captain bluntly. "And now she's gone to
England with him and the boy, I suppose she'll make him come to
"Come to terms?" echoed Randolph. "I don't understand." Yet he
had an instinctive fear that he did.
"Well," said the captain slowly, "suppose she might prefer the
chance of being the wife of a grown-up baronet to being the
governess of one who was only a minor? She's a cute girl," he
"But," said Randolph indignantly, "you have other witnesses, I
"Of course I have. I've got the Spanish records now from the
Callao priest, and they're put in a safe place should anything
happen to me--if anything could happen to a dead man!" he added
grimly. "These proofs were all I was waiting for before I made up
my mind whether I should blow the whole thing, or let it slide."
Randolph looked again with amazement at this strange man who seemed
so indifferent to the claims of wealth, position, and even to
revenge. It seemed inconceivable, and yet he could not help being
impressed with his perfect sincerity. He was relieved, however,
when Captain Dornton rose with apparent reluctance and put away his
"Now look here, my lad, I'm right glad to have overhauled you
again, whatever happened or is going to happen, and there's my hand
upon it! Now, to come to business. I'm going over to England on
this job, and I want you to come and help me."
Randolph's heart leaped. The appeal revived all his old boyish
enthusiasm, with his secret loyalty to the man before him. But he
suddenly remembered his past illusions, and for an instant he
"But the bank," he stammered, scarce knowing what to say.
The captain smiled. "I will pay you better than the bank; and at
the end of four months, in whatever way this job turns out, if you
still wish to return here, I will see that you are secured from any
loss. Perhaps you may be able to get a leave of absence. But your
real object must be kept a secret from every one. Not a word of my
existence or my purpose must be blown before I am ready. You and
Jack Redhill are all that know it now."
"But you have a lawyer?" said the surprised Randolph.
"Not yet. I'm my own lawyer in this matter until I get fairly
under way. I've studied the law enough to know that as soon as I
prove that I'm alive the case must go on on account of my heir,
whether I choose to cry quits or not. And it's just THAT that
holds my hand."
Randolph stared at the extraordinary man before him. For a moment,
as the strange story of his miraculous escape and his still more
wonderful indifference to it all recurred to his mind, he felt a
doubt of the narrator's truthfulness or his sanity. But another
glance at the sailor's frank eyes dispelled that momentary
suspicion. He held out his hand as frankly, and grasping Captain
Dornton's, said, "I will go."
Randolph's request for a four months' leave of absence was granted
with little objection and no curiosity. He had acquired the
confidence of his employers, and beyond Mr. Revelstoke's curt
surprise that a young fellow on the road to fortune should
sacrifice so much time to irrelevant travel, and the remark, "But
you know your own business best," there was no comment. It struck
the young man, however, that Mr. Dingwall's slight coolness on
receiving the news might be attributed to a suspicion that he was
following Miss Avondale, whom he had fancied Dingwall disliked, and
he quickly made certain inquiries in regard to Miss Eversleigh and
the possibility of his meeting her. As, without intending it, and
to his own surprise, he achieved a blush in so doing, which
Dingwall noted, he received a gracious reply, and the suggestion
that it was "quite proper" for him, on arriving, to send the young
lady his card.
Captain Dornton, under the alias of "Captain Johns," was ready to
catch the next steamer to the Isthmus, and in two days they sailed.
The voyage was uneventful, and if Randolph had expected any
enthusiasm on the part of the captain in the mission on which he
was now fairly launched, he would have been disappointed. Although
his frankness was unchanged, he volunteered no confidences. It was
evident he was fully acquainted with the legal strength of his
claim, yet he, as evidently, deferred making any plan of redress
until he reached England. Of Miss Eversleigh he was more
communicative. "You would have liked her better, my lad, it you
hadn't been bewitched by the Avondale woman, for she is the whitest
of the Dorntons." In vain Randolph protested truthfully, yet with
an even more convincing color, that it had made no difference, and
he HAD liked her. The captain laughed. "Ay, lad! But she's a
poor orphan, with scarcely a hundred pounds a year, who lives with
her guardian, an old clergyman. And yet," he added grimly, "there
are only three lives between her and the property--mine, Bobby's,
and Bill's--unless HE should marry and have an heir."
"The more reason why you should assert yourself and do what you can
for her now," said Randolph eagerly.
"Ay," returned the captain, with his usual laugh, "when she was a
child I used to call her my little sweetheart, and gave her a ring,
and I reckon I promised to marry her, too, when she grew up."
The truthful Randolph would have told him of Miss Evereleigh's
gift, but unfortunately he felt himself again blushing, and fearful
lest the captain would misconstrue his confusion, he said nothing.
Except on this occasion, the captain talked with Randolph chiefly
of his later past,--of voyages he had made, of places they were
passing, and ports they visited. He spent much of the time with
the officers, and even the crew, over whom he seemed to exercise a
singular power, and with whom he exhibited an odd freemasonry. To
Randolph's eyes he appeared to grow in strength and stature in the
salt breath of the sea, and although he was uniformly kind, even
affectionate, to him, he was brusque to the other passengers, and
at times even with his friends the sailors. Randolph sometimes
wondered how he would treat a crew of his own. He found some
answer to that question in the captain's manner to Jack Redhill,
the abstractor of the portmanteau, and his old shipmate, who was
accompanying the captain in some dependent capacity, but who
received his master's confidences and orders with respectful
It was a cold, foggy morning, nearly two months later, that they
landed at Plymouth. The English coast had been a vague blank all
night, only pierced, long hours apart, by dim star-points or weird
yellow beacon flashes against the horizon. And this vagueness and
unreality increased on landing, until it seemed to Randolph that
they had slipped into a land of dreams. The illusion was kept up
as they walked in the weird shadows through half-lit streets into a
murky railway station throbbing with steam and sudden angry flashes
in the darkness, and then drew away into what ought to have been
the open country, but was only gray plains of mist against a lost
horizon. Sometimes even the vague outlook was obliterated by
passing trains coming from nowhere and slipping into nothingness.
As they crept along with the day, without, however, any lightening
of the opaque vault overhead to mark its meridian, there came at
times a thinning of the gray wall on either side of the track,
showing the vague bulk of a distant hill, the battlemented sky line
of an old-time hall, or the spires of a cathedral, but always
melting back into the mist again as in a dream. Then vague
stretches of gloom again, foggy stations obscured by nebulous light
and blurred and moving figures, and the black relief of a tunnel.
Only once the captain, catching sight of Randolph's awed face under
the lamp of the smoking carriage, gave way to his long, low laugh.
"Jolly place, England--so very 'Merrie.'" And then they came to a
comparatively lighter, broader, and more brilliantly signaled
tunnel filled with people, and as they remained in it, Randolph was
told it was London. With the sensation of being only half awake,
he was guided and put into a cab by his companion, and seemed to be
completely roused only at the hotel.
It had been arranged that Randolph should first go down to
Chillingworth rectory and call on Miss Eversleigh, and, without
disclosing his secret, gather the latest news from Dornton Hall,
only a few miles from Chillingworth. For this purpose he had
telegraphed to her that evening, and had received a cordial
response. The next morning he arose early, and, in spite of the
gloom, in the glow of his youthful optimism entered the bedroom of
the sleeping Captain Dornton, and shook him by the shoulder in lieu
of the accolade, saying: "Rise, Sir John Dornton!"
The captain, a light sleeper, awoke quickly. "Thank you, my lad,
all the same, though I don't know that I'm quite ready yet to
tumble up to that kind of piping. There's a rotten old saying in
the family that only once in a hundred years the eldest son
succeeds. That's why Bill was so cocksure, I reckon. Well?"
"In an hour I'm off to Chillingworth to begin the campaign," said
"Luck to you, my boy, whatever happens. Clap a stopper on your
jaws, though, now and then. I'm glad you like Sybby, but I don't
want you to like her so much as to forget yourself and give me
Half an hour out of London the fog grew thinner, breaking into
lace-like shreds in the woods as the train sped by, or expanding
into lustrous tenuity above him. Although the trees were leafless,
there was some recompense in the glimpses their bare boughs
afforded of clustering chimneys and gables nestling in ivy. An
infinite repose had been laid upon the landscape with the
withdrawal of the fog, as of a veil lifted from the face of a
sleeper. All his boyish dreams of the mother country came back to
him in the books he had read, and re-peopled the vast silence.
Even the rotting leaves that lay thick in the crypt-like woods
seemed to him the dead laurels of its past heroes and sages.
Quaint old-time villages, thatched roofs, the ever-recurring square
towers of church or hall, the trim, ordered parks, tiny streams
crossed by heavy stone bridges much too large for them--all these
were only pages of those books whose leaves he seemed to be turning
over. Two hours of this fancy, and then the train stopped at a
station within a mile or two of a bleak headland, a beacon, and the
gray wash of a pewter-colored sea, where a hilly village street
climbed to a Norman church tower and the ivied gables of a rectory.
Miss Eversleigh, dignifiedly tall, but youthfully frank, as he
remembered her, was waiting to drive him in a pony trap to the
rectory. A little pink, with suppressed consciousness and the
responsibilities of presenting a stranger guest to her guardian,
she seemed to Randolph more charming than ever.
But her first word of news shocked and held him breathless. Bobby,
the little orphan, a frail exotic, had succumbed to the Northern
winter. A cold caught in New York had developed into pneumonia,
and he died on the passage. Miss Avondale, although she had
received marked attention from Sir William, returned to America in
the same ship.
"I really don't think she was quite as devoted to the poor child as
all that, you know," she continued with innocent frankness, "and
Cousin Bill was certainly most kind to them both, yet there really
seemed to be some coolness between them after the child's death.
But," she added suddenly, for the first time observing her
companion's evident distress, and coloring in confusion, "I beg
your pardon--I've been horribly rude and heartless. I dare say the
poor boy was very dear to you, and of course Miss Avondale was your
friend. Please forgive me!"
Randolph, intent only on that catastrophe which seemed to wreck all
Captain Dornton's hopes and blunt his only purpose for declaring
himself, hurriedly reassured her, yet was not sorry his agitation
had been misunderstood. And what was to be done? There was no
train back to London for four hours. He dare not telegraph, and if
he did, could he trust to his strange patron's wise conduct under
the first shock of this news to his present vacillating purpose?
He could only wait.
Luckily for his ungallant abstraction, they were speedily at the
rectory, where a warm welcome from Mr. Brunton, Sibyl's guardian,
and his family forced him to recover himself, and showed him that
the story of his devotion to John Dornton had suffered nothing from
Miss Eversleigh's recital. Distraught and anxious as he was, he
could not resist the young girl's offer after luncheon to show him
the church with the vault of the Dorntons and the tablet erected to
John Dornton, and, later, the Hall, only two miles distant. But
here Randolph hesitated.
"I would rather not call on Sir William to-day," he said.
"You need not. He is over at the horse show at Fern Dyke, and
won't be back till late. And if he has been forgathering with his
boon companions he won't be very pleasant company."
"Sibyl!" said the rector in good-humored protest.
"Oh, Mr. Trent has had a little of Cousin Bill's convivial manners
before now," said the young girl vivaciously, "and isn't shocked.
But we can see the Hall from the park on our way to the station."
Even in his anxious preoccupation he could see that the church
itself was a quaint and wonderful preservation of the past. For
four centuries it had been sacred to the tombs of the Dorntons and
their effigies in brass and marble, yet, as Randolph glanced at the
stately sarcophagus of the unknown ticket of leave man, its
complacent absurdity, combined with his nervousness, made him
almost hysterical. Yet again, it seemed to him that something of
the mystery and inviolability of the past now invested that
degraded dust, and it would be an equal impiety to disturb it.
Miss Eversleigh, again believing his agitation caused by the memory
of his old patron, tactfully hurried him away. Yet it was a more
bitter thought, I fear, that not only were his lips sealed to his
charming companion on the subject in which they could sympathize,
but his anxiety prevented him from availing himself of that
interview to exchange the lighter confidences he had eagerly looked
forward to. It seemed cruel that he was debarred this chance of
knitting their friendship closer by another of those accidents that
had brought them together. And he was aware that his gloomy
abstraction was noticed by her. At first she drew herself up in a
certain proud reserve, and then, perhaps, his own nervousness
infecting her in turn, he was at last terrified to observe that, as
she stood before the tomb, her clear gray eyes filled with tears.
"Oh, please don't do that--THERE, Miss Eversleigh," he burst out
"I was thinking of Cousin Jack," she said, a little startled at his
abruptness. "Sometimes it seems so strange that he is dead--I
scarcely can believe it."
"I meant," stammered Randolph, "that he is much happier--you know"--
he grew almost hysterical again as he thought of the captain lying
cheerfully in his bed at the hotel--"much happier than you or I,"
he added bitterly; "that is--I mean, it grieves me so to see YOU
grieve, you know."
Miss Eversleigh did NOT know, but there was enough sincerity and
real feeling in the young fellow's voice and eyes to make her color
slightly and hurry him away to a locality less fraught with
emotions. In a few moments they entered the park, and the old Hall
rose before them. It was a great Tudor house of mullioned windows,
traceries, and battlements; of stately towers, moss-grown
balustrades, and statues darkening with the fog that was already
hiding the angles and wings of its huge bulk. A peacock spread its
ostentatious tail on the broad stone steps before the portal; a
flight of rooks from the leafless elms rose above its stacked and
twisted chimneys. After all, how little had this stately
incarnation of the vested rights and sacred tenures of the past in
common with the laughing rover he had left in London that morning!
And thinking of the destinies that the captain held so lightly in
his hand, and perhaps not a little of the absurdity of his own
position to the confiding young girl beside him, for a moment he
half hated him.
The fog deepened as they reached the station, and, as it seemed to
Randolph, made their parting still more vague and indefinite, and
it was with difficulty that he could respond to the young girl's
frank hope that he would soon return to them. Yet he half resolved
that he would not until he could tell her all.
Nevertheless, as the train crept more and more slowly, with halting
signals, toward London, he buoyed himself up with the hope that
Captain Dornton would still try conclusions for his patrimony, or
at least come to some compromise by which he might be restored to
his rank and name. But upon these hopes the vision of that great
house settled firmly upon its lands, held there in perpetuity by
the dead and stretched-out hands of those that lay beneath its
soil, always obtruded itself. Then the fog deepened, and the
crawling train came to a dead stop at the next station. The whole
line was blocked. Four precious hours were hopelessly lost.
Yet despite his impatience, he reentered London with the same dazed
semi-consciousness of feeling as on the night he had first arrived.
There seemed to have been no interim; his visit to the rectory and
Hall, and even his fateful news, were only a dream. He drove
through the same shadow to the hotel, was received by the same
halo-encircled lights that had never been put out. After glancing
through the halls and reading room he hurriedly made his way to his
companion's room. The captain was not there. He quickly summoned
the waiter. The gentleman? Yes; Captain Dornton had left with his
servant, Redhill, a few hours after Mr. Trent went away. He had
left no message.
Again condemned to wait in inactivity, Randolph tried to resist a
certain uneasiness that was creeping over him, by attributing the
captain's absence to some unexpected legal consultation or the
gathering of evidence, his prolonged detention being due to the
same fog that had delayed his own train. But he was somewhat
surprised to find that the captain had ordered his luggage into the
porter's care in the hall below before leaving, and that nothing
remained in his room but a few toilet articles and the fateful
portmanteau. The hours passed slowly. Owing to that perpetual
twilight in which he had passed the day, there seemed no
perceptible flight of time, and at eleven o'clock, the captain not
arriving, he determined to wait in the latter's room so as to be
sure not to miss him. Twelve o'clock boomed from an adjacent
invisible steeple, but still he came not. Overcome by the fatigue
and excitement of the day, Randolph concluded to lie down in his
clothes on the captain's bed, not without a superstitious and
uncomfortable recollection of that night, about a year before, when
he had awaited him vainly at the San Francisco hotel. Even the
fateful portmanteau was there to assist his gloomy fancy.
Nevertheless, with the boom of one o'clock in his drowsy ears as
his last coherent recollection, he sank into a dreamless sleep.
He was awakened by a tapping at his door, and jumped up to realize
by his watch and the still burning gaslight that it was nine
o'clock. But the intruder was only a waiter with a letter which he
had brought to Randolph's room in obedience to the instructions the
latter had given overnight. Not doubting it was from the captain,
although the handwriting of the address was unfamiliar, he eagerly
broke the seal. But he was surprised to read as follows:--
DEAR MR. TRENT,--We had such sad news from the Hall after you left.
Sir William was seized with a kind of fit. It appears that he had
just returned from the horse show, and had given his mare to the
groom while he walked to the garden entrance. The groom saw him
turn at the yew hedge, and was driving to the stables when he heard
a queer kind of cry, and turning back to the garden front, found
poor Sir William lying on the ground in convulsions. The doctor
was sent for, and Mr. Brunton and I went over to the Hall. The
doctor thinks it was something like a stroke, but he is not
certain, and Sir William is quite delirious, and doesn't recognize
anybody. I gathered from the groom that he had been DRINKING
HEAVILY. Perhaps it was well that you did not see him, but I
thought you ought to know what had happened in case you came down
again. It's all very dreadful, and I wonder if that is why I was
so nervous all the afternoon. It may have been a kind of
presentiment. Don't you think so?
I am afraid Randolph thought more of the simple-minded girl who, in
the midst of her excitement, turned to him half unconsciously, than
he did of Sir William. Had it not been for the necessity of seeing
the captain, he would probably have taken the next train to the
rectory. Perhaps he might later. He thought little of Sir
William's illness, and was inclined to accept the young girl's
naive suggestion of its cause. He read and reread the letter,
staring at the large, grave, childlike handwriting--so like
herself--and obeying a sudden impulse, raised the signature, as
gravely as if it had been her hand, to his lips.
Still the day advanced and the captain came not. Randolph found
the inactivity insupportable. He knew not where to seek him; he
had no more clue to his resorts or his friends--if, indeed, he had
any in London--than he had after their memorable first meeting in
San Francisco. He might, indeed, be the dupe of an impostor, who,
at the eleventh hour, had turned craven and fled. He might be, in
the captain's indifference, a mere instrument set aside at his
pleasure. Yet he could take advantage of Miss Eversleigh's letter
and seek her, and confess everything, and ask her advice. It was a
great and at the moment it seemed to him an overwhelming
temptation. But only for the moment. He had given his word to the
captain--more, he had given his youthful FAITH. And, to his
credit, he never swerved again. It seemed to him, too, in his
youthful superstition, as he looked at the abandoned portmanteau,
that he had again to take up his burden--his "trust."
It was nearly four o'clock when the spell was broken. A large
packet, bearing the printed address of a London and American bank,
was brought to him by a special messenger; but the written
direction was in the captain's hand. Randolph tore it open. It
contained one or two inclosures, which he hastily put aside for the
letter, two pages of foolscap, which he read breathlessly:--
DEAR TRENT,--Don't worry your head if I have slipped my cable
without telling you. I'm all right, only I got the news you are
bringing me, JUST AFTER YOU LEFT, by Jack Redhill, whom I had sent
to Dornton Hall to see how the land lay the night before. It was
not that I didn't trust YOU, but HE had ways of getting news that
you wouldn't stoop to. You can guess, from what I have told you
already, that, now Bobby is gone, there's nothing to keep me here,
and I'm following my own idea of letting the whole blasted thing
slide. I only worked this racket for the sake of him. I'm sorry
for him, but I suppose the poor little beggar couldn't stand these
sunless, God-forsaken longitudes any more than I could. Besides
that, as I didn't want to trust any lawyer with my secret, I myself
had hunted up some books on the matter, and found that, by the law
of entail, I'd have to rip up the whole blessed thing, and Bill
would have had to pay back every blessed cent of what rents he had
collected since he took hold--not to ME, but the ESTATE--with
interest, and that no arrangement I could make with HIM would be
legal on account of the boy. At least, that's the way the thing
seemed to pan out to me. So that when I heard of Bobby's death I
was glad to jump the rest, and that's what I made up my mind to do.
But, like a blasted lubber, now that I COULD do it and cut right
away, I must needs think that I'd like first to see Bill on the
sly, without letting on to any one else, and tell him what I was
going to do. I'd no fear that he'd object, or that he'd hesitate a
minute to fall in with my plan of dropping my name and my game, and
giving him full swing, while I stood out to sea and the South
Pacific, and dropped out of his mess for the rest of my life.
Perhaps I wanted to set his mind at rest, if he'd ever had any
doubts; perhaps I wanted to have a little fun out of him for his
d----d previousness; perhaps, lad, I had a hankering to see the old
place for the last time. At any rate, I allowed to go to Dornton
Hall. I timed myself to get there about the hour you left, to keep
out of sight until I knew he was returning from the horse show, and
to waylay him ALONE and have our little talk without witnesses. I
daren't go to the Hall, for some of the old servants might
I went down there with Jack Redhill, and we separated at the
station. I hung around in the fog. I even saw you pass with Sibyl
in the dogcart, but you didn't see me. I knew the place, and just
where to hide where I could have the chance of seeing him alone.
But it was a beastly job waiting there. I felt like a d----d thief
instead of a man who was simply visiting his own. Yet, you mayn't
believe me, lad, but I hated the place and all it meant more than
ever. Then, by and by, I heard him coming. I had arranged it all
with myself to get into the yew hedge, and step out as he came to
the garden entrance, and as soon as he recognized me to get him
round the terrace into the summer house, where we could speak
I heard the groom drive away to the stable with the cart, and, sure
enough, in a minute he came lurching along toward the garden door.
He was mighty unsteady on his pins, and I reckon he was more than
half full, which was a bad lookout for our confab. But I
calculated that the sight of me, when I slipped out, would sober
him. And, by ---, it did! For his eyes bulged out of his head and
got fixed there; his jaw dropped; he tried to strike at me with a
hunting crop he was carrying, and then he uttered an ungodly yell
you might have heard at the station, and dropped down in his
tracks. I had just time to slip back into the hedge again before
the groom came driving back, and then all hands were piped, and
they took him into the house.
And of course the game was up, and I lost my only chance. I was
thankful enough to get clean away without discovering myself, and I
have to trust now to the fact of Bill's being drunk, and thinking
it was my ghost that he saw, in a touch of the jimjams! And I'm
not sorry to have given him that start, for there was that in his
eye, and that in the stroke he made, my lad, that showed a guilty
conscience I hadn't reckoned on. And it cured me of my wish to set
his mind at ease. He's welcome to all the rest.
And that's why I'm going away--never to return. I'm sorry I
couldn't take you with me, but it's better that I shouldn't see you
again, and that you didn't even know WHERE I was gone. When you
get this I shall be on blue water and heading for the sunshine.
You'll find two letters inclosed. One you need not open unless you
hear that my secret was blown, and you are ever called upon to
explain your relations with me. The other is my thanks, my lad, in
a letter of credit on the bank, for the way you have kept your
trust, and I believe will continue to keep it, to
P.S. I hope you dropped a tear over my swell tomb at Dornton
Church. All the same, I don't begrudge it to the poor devil who
lost his life instead of me.
As Randolph read, he seemed to hear the captain's voice throughout
the letter, and even his low, characteristic laugh in the
postscript. Then he suddenly remembered the luggage which the
porter had said the captain had ordered to be taken below; but on
asking that functionary he was told a conveyance for the Victoria
Docks had called with an order, and taken it away at daybreak. It
was evident that the captain had intended the letter should be his
only farewell. Depressed and a little hurt at his patron's
abruptness, Randolph returned to his room. Opening the letter of
credit, he found it was for a thousand pounds--a munificent
beneficence, as it seemed to Randolph, for his dubious services,
and a proof of his patron's frequent declarations that he had money
enough without touching the Dornton estates.
For a long time he sat with these sole evidences of the reality of
his experience in his hands, a prey to a thousand surmises and
conflicting thoughts. Was he the self-deceived disciple of a
visionary, a generous, unselfish, but weak man, whose eccentricity
passed even the bounds of reason? Who would believe the captain's
story or the captain's motives? Who comprehend his strange quest
and its stranger and almost ridiculous termination? Even if the
seal of secrecy were removed in after years, what had he, Randolph,
to show in corroboration of his patron's claim?
Then it occurred to him that there was no reason why he should not
go down to the rectory and see Miss Eversleigh again under pretense
of inquiring after the luckless baronet, whose title and fortune
had, nevertheless, been so strangely preserved. He began at once
his preparations for the journey, and was nearly ready when a
servant entered with a telegram. Randolph's heart leaped. The
captain had sent him news--perhaps had changed his mind! He tore
off the yellow cover, and read,--
Sir William died at twelve o'clock without recovering
For a moment Randolph gazed at the dispatch with a half-hysterical
laugh, and then became as suddenly sane and cool. One thought
alone was uppermost in his mind: the captain could not have heard
this news yet, and if he was still within reach, or accessible by
any means whatever, however determined his purpose, he must know it
at once. The only clue to his whereabouts was the Victoria Docks.
But that was something. In another moment Randolph was in the
lower hall, had learned the quickest way of reaching the docks, and
plunged into the street.
The fog here swooped down, and to the embarrassment of his mind was
added the obscurity of light and distance, which halted him after a
few hurried steps, in utter perplexity. Indistinct figures were
here and there approaching him out of nothingness and melting away
again into the greenish gray chaos. He was in a busy thoroughfare;
he could hear the slow trample of hoofs, the dull crawling of
vehicles, and the warning outcries of a traffic he could not see.
Trusting rather to his own speed than that of a halting conveyance,
he blundered on until he reached the railway station. A short but
exasperating journey of impulses and hesitations, of detonating
signals and warning whistles, and he at last stood on the docks,
beyond him a vague bulk or two, and a soft, opaque flowing wall--
But one steamer had left that day--the Dom Pedro, for the River
Plate--two hours before, but until the fog thickened, a quarter of
an hour ago, she could be seen, so his informant said, still lying,
with steam up, in midstream. Yes, it was still possible to board
her. But even as the boatman spoke, and was leading the way toward
the landing steps, the fog suddenly lightened; a soft salt breath
stole in from the distant sea, and a veil seemed to be lifted from
the face of the gray waters. The outlines of the two shores came
back; the spars of nearer vessels showed distinctly, but the space
where the huge hulk had rested was empty and void. There was a
trail of something darker and more opaque than fog itself lying
near the surface of the water, but the Dom Pedro was a mere speck
in the broadening distance.
A bright sun and a keen easterly wind were revealing the curling
ridges of the sea beyond the headland when Randolph again passed
the gates of Dornton Hall on his way to the rectory. Now, for the
first time, he was able to see clearly the outlines of that spot
which had seemed to him only a misty dream, and even in his
preoccupation he was struck by its grave beauty. The leafless
limes and elms in the park grouped themselves as part of the
picturesque details of the Hall they encompassed, and the evergreen
slope of firs and larches rose as a background to the gray
battlements, covered with dark green ivy, whose rich shadows were
brought out by the unwonted sunshine. With a half-repugnant
curiosity he had tried to identify the garden entrance and the
fateful yew hedge the captain had spoken of as he passed. But as
quickly he fell back upon the resolution he had taken in coming
there--to dissociate his secret, his experience, and his
responsibility to his patron from his relations to Sibyl
Eversleigh; to enjoy her companionship without an obtruding thought
of the strange circumstances that had brought them together at
first, or the stranger fortune that had later renewed their
acquaintance. He had resolved to think of her as if she had merely
passed into his life in the casual ways of society, with only her
personal charms to set her apart from others. Why should his
exclusive possession of a secret--which, even if confided to her,
would only give her needless and hopeless anxiety--debar them from
an exchange of those other confidences of youth and sympathy? Why
could he not love her and yet withhold from her the knowledge of
her cousin's existence? So he had determined to make the most of
his opportunity during his brief holiday; to avail himself of her
naive invitation, and even of what he dared sometimes to think was
her predilection for his companionship. And if, before he left, he
had acquired a right to look forward to a time when her future and
his should be one--but here his glowing fancy was abruptly checked
by his arrival at the rectory door.
Mr. Brunton received him cordially, yet with a slight business
preoccupation and a certain air of importance that struck him as
peculiar. Sibyl, he informed him, was engaged at that moment with
some friends who had come over from the Hall. Mr. Trent would
understand that there was a great deal for her to do--in her
present position. Wondering why SHE should be selected to do it
instead of older and more experienced persons, Randolph, however,
contented himself with inquiries regarding the details of Sir
William's seizure and death. He learned, as he expected, that
nothing whatever was known of the captain's visit, nor was there
the least suspicion that the baronet's attack was the result of any
predisposing emotion. Indeed, it seemed more possible that his
medical attendants, knowing something of his late excesses and
their effect upon his constitution, preferred, for the sake of
avoiding scandal, to attribute the attack to long-standing organic
Randolph, who had already determined, as a forlorn hope, to write a
cautious letter to the captain (informing him briefly of the news
without betraying his secret, and directed to the care of the
consignees of the Dom Pedro in Brazil, by the next post), was glad
to be able to add this medical opinion to relieve his patron's mind
of any fear of having hastened his brother's death by his innocent
appearance. But here the entrance of Sibyl Eversleigh with her
friends drove all else from his mind.
She looked so tall and graceful in her black dress, which set off
her dazzling skin, and, with her youthful gravity, gave to her
figure the charming maturity of a young widow, that he was for a
moment awed and embarrassed. But he experienced a relief when she
came eagerly toward him in all her old girlish frankness, and with
even something of yearning expectation in her gray eyes.
"It was so good of you to come," she said. "I thought you would
imagine how I was feeling"-- She stopped, as if she were
conscious, as Randolph was, of a certain chill of unresponsiveness
in the company, and said in an undertone, "Wait until we are
alone." Then, turning with a slight color and a pretty dignity
toward her friends, she continued: "Lady Ashbrook, this is Mr.
Trent, an old friend of both my cousins when they were in America."
In spite of the gracious response of the ladies, Randolph was aware
of their critical scrutiny of both himself and Miss Eversleigh, of
the exchange of significant glances, and a certain stiffness in her
guardian's manner. It was quite enough to affect Randolph's
sensitiveness and bring out his own reserve.
Fancying, however, that his reticence disturbed Miss Eversleigh, he
forced himself to converse with Lady Ashbrook--avoiding many of her
pointed queries as to himself, his acquaintance with Sibyl, and the
length of time he expected to stay in England--and even accompanied
her to her carriage. And here he was rewarded by Sibyl running out
with a crape veil twisted round her throat and head, and the usual
femininely forgotten final message to her visitor. As the carriage
drove away, she turned to Randolph, and said quickly,--
"Let us go in by way of the garden."
It was a slight detour, but it gave them a few moments alone.
"It was so awful and sudden," she said, looking gravely at
Randolph, "and to think that only an hour before I had been saying
unkind things of him! Of course," she added naively, "they were
true, and the groom admitted to me that the mare was overdriven and
Sir William could hardly stand. And only to think of it! he never
recovered complete consciousness, but muttered incoherently all the
time. I was with him to the last, and he never said a word I could
"What did he say?" asked Randolph uneasily.
"I don't like to say--it was TOO dreadful!"
Randolph did not press her. Yet, after a pause, she said in a low
voice, with a naivete impossible to describe, "It was, 'Jack, damn
He did not dare to look at her, even with this grim mingling of
farce and tragedy which seemed to invest every scene of that sordid
drama. Miss Eversleigh continued gravely: "The groom's name was
Robert, but Jack might have been the name of one of his boon
Convinced that she suspected nothing, yet in the hope of changing
the subject, Randolph said quietly: "I thought your guardian
perhaps a little less frank and communicative to-day."
"Yes," said the young girl suddenly, with a certain impatience, and
yet in half apology to her companion, "of course. He--THEY--all
and everybody--are much more concerned and anxious about my new
position than I am. It's perfectly dreadful--this thinking of it
all the time, arranging everything, criticising everything in
reference to it, and the poor man who is the cause of it all not
yet at rest in his grave! The whole thing is inhuman and
"I don't understand," stammered Randolph vaguely. "What IS your
new position? What do you mean?"
The girl looked up in his face with surprise. "Why, didn't you
know? I'm the next of kin--I'm the heiress--and will succeed to
the property in six months, when I am of age."
In a flash of recollection Randolph suddenly recalled the captain's
words, "There are only three lives between her and the property."
Their meaning had barely touched his comprehension before. She was
the heiress. Yes, save for the captain!
She saw the change, the wonder, even the dismay, in his face, and
her own brightened frankly. "It's so good to find one who never
thought of it, who hadn't it before him as the chief end for which
I was born! Yes, I was the next of kin after dear Jack died and
Bill succeeded, but there was every chance that he would marry and
have an heir. And yet the moment he was taken ill that idea was
uppermost in my guardian's mind, good man as he is, and even forced
upon me. If this--this property had come from poor Cousin Jack,
whom I loved, there would have been something dear in it as a
memory or a gift, but from HIM, whom I couldn't bear--I know it's
wicked to talk that way, but it's simply dreadful!"
"And yet," said Randolph, with a sudden seriousness he could not
control, "I honestly believe that Captain Dornton would be
perfectly happy--yes, rejoiced!--if he knew the property had come
There was such an air of conviction, and, it seemed to the simple
girl, even of spiritual insight, in his manner that her clear,
handsome eyes rested wonderingly on his.
"Do you really think so?" she said thoughtfully. "And yet HE knows
that I am like him. Yes," she continued, answering Randolph's look
of surprise, "I am just like HIM in that. I loathe and despise the
life that this thing would condemn me to; I hate all that it means,
and all that it binds me to, as he used to; and if I could, I would
cut and run from it as HE did."
She spoke with a determined earnestness and warmth, so unlike her
usual grave naivete that he was astonished. There was a flush on
her cheek and a frank fire in her eye that reminded him strangely
of the captain; and yet she had emphasized her words with a little
stamp of her narrow foot and a gesture of her hand that was so
untrained and girlish that he smiled, and said, with perhaps the
least touch of bitterness in his tone, "But you will get over that
when you come into the property."
"I suppose I shall," she returned, with an odd lapse to her former
gravity and submissiveness. "That's what they all tell me."
"You will be independent and your own mistress," he added.
"Independent," she repeated impatiently, "with Dornton Hall and
twenty thousand a year! Independent, with every duty marked out
for me! Independent, with every one to criticise my smallest
actions--every one who would never have given a thought to the
orphan who was contented and made her own friends on a hundred a
year! Of course you, who are a stranger, don't understand; yet I
thought that you"--she hesitated,--"would have thought differently."
"Why, with your belief that one should make one's own fortune," she
"That would do for a man, and in that I respected Captain Dornton's
convictions, as you told them to me. But for a girl, how could she
be independent, except with money?"
She shook her head as if unconvinced, but did not reply. They were
nearing the garden porch, when she looked up, and said: "And as
YOU'RE a man, you will be making your way in the world. Mr.
Dingwall said you would."
There was something so childishly trustful and confident in her
assurance that he smiled. "Mr. Dingwall is too sanguine, but it
gives me hope to hear YOU say so."
She colored slightly, and said gravely: "We must go in now." Yet
she lingered for a moment before the door. For a long time
afterward he had a very vivid recollection of her charming face, in
its childlike gravity and its quaint frame of black crape, standing
out against the sunset-warmed wall of the rectory. "Promise me you
will not mind what these people say or do," she said suddenly.
"I promise," he returned, with a smile, "to mind only what YOU say
"But I might not be always quite right, you know," she said naively.
"I'll risk that."
"Then, when we go in now, don't talk much to me, but make yourself
agreeable to all the others, and then go straight home to the inn,
and don't come here until after the funeral."
The faintest evasive glint of mischievousness in her withdrawn eyes
at this moment mitigated the austerity of her command as they both
Randolph had intended not to return to London until after the
funeral, two days later, and spent the interesting day at the
neighboring town, whence he dispatched his exploring and perhaps
hopeless letter to the captain. The funeral was a large and
imposing one, and impressed Randolph for the first time with the
local importance and solid standing of the Dorntons. All the
magnates and old county families were represented. The inn yard
and the streets of the little village were filled with their quaint
liveries, crested paneled carriages, and silver-cipher caparisoned
horses, with a sprinkling of fashion from London. He could not
close his ears to the gossip of the villagers regarding the
suddenness of the late baronet's death, the extinction of the
title, the accession of the orphaned girl to the property, and
even, to his greater exasperation, speculations upon her future and
probable marriage. "Some o' they gay chaps from Lunnon will be
lordin' it over the Hall afore long," was the comment of the
It was with some little bitterness that Randolph took his seat in
the crowded church. But this feeling, and even his attempts to
discover Miss Eversleigh's face in the stately family pew fenced
off from the chancel, presently passed away. And then his mind
began to be filled with strange and weird fancies. What grim and
ghostly revelations might pass between this dead scion of the
Dorntons lying on the trestles before them and the obscure,
nameless ticket of leave man awaiting his entrance in the vault
below! The incongruity of this thought, with the smug complacency
of the worldly minded congregation sitting around him, and the
probable smiling carelessness of the reckless rover--the cause of
all--even now idly pacing the deck on the distant sea, touched him
with horror. And when added to this was the consciousness that
Sibyl Eversleigh was forced to become an innocent actor in this
hideous comedy, it seemed as much as he could bear. Again he
questioned himself, Was he right to withhold his secret from her?
In vain he tried to satisfy his conscience that she was happier in
her ignorance. The resolve he had made to keep his relations with
her apart from his secret, he knew now, was impossible. But one
thing was left to him. Until he could disclose his whole story--
until his lips were unsealed by Captain Dornton--he must never see
her again. And the grim sanctity of the edifice seemed to make
that resolution a vow.
He did not dare to raise his eyes again toward her pew, lest a
sight of her sweet, grave face might shake his resolution, and he
slipped away first among the departing congregation. He sent her a
brief note from the inn saying that he was recalled to London by an
earlier train, and that he would be obliged to return to California
at once, but hoping that if he could be of any further assistance
to her she would write to him to the care of the bank. It was a
formal letter, and yet he had never written otherwise than formally
to her. That night he reached London. On the following night he
sailed from Liverpool for America.
Six months had passed. It was difficult, at first, for Randolph to
pick up his old life again; but his habitual earnestness and
singleness of purpose stood him in good stead, and a vague rumor
that he had made some powerful friends abroad, with the nearer fact
that he had a letter of credit for a thousand pounds, did not
lessen his reputation. He was reinstalled and advanced at the
bank. Mr. Dingwall was exceptionally gracious, and minute in his
inquiries regarding Miss Eversleigh's succession to the Dornton
property, with an occasional shrewdness of eye in his
interrogations which recalled to Randolph the questioning of Miss
Eversleigh's friends, and which he responded to as cautiously. For
the young fellow remained faithful to his vow even in thinking of
her, and seemed to be absorbed entirely in his business. Yet there
was a vague ambition of purpose in this absorption that would
probably have startled the more conservative Englishman had he
He had not heard from Miss Eversleigh since he left, nor had he
received any response from the captain. Indeed, he had indulged in
little hopes of either. But he kept stolidly at work, perhaps with
a larger trust than he knew. And then, one day, he received a
letter addressed in a handwriting that made his heart leap, though
he had seen it but once, when it conveyed the news of Sir William
Dornton's sudden illness. It was from Miss Eversleigh, but the
postmark was Callao! He tore open the envelope, and for the next
few moments forgot everything--his business devotion, his lofty
purpose, even his solemn vow.
It read as follows:--
DEAR MR. TRENT,--I should not be writing to you now if I did not
believe that I NOW understand why you left us so abruptly on the
day of the funeral, and why you were at times so strange. You
might have been a little less hard and cold even if you knew all
that you did know. But I must write now, for I shall be in San
Francisco a few days after this reaches you, and I MUST see you and
have YOUR help, for I can have no other, as you know. You are
wondering what this means, and why I am here. I know ALL and
EVERYTHING. I know HE is alive and never was dead. I know I have
no right to what I have, and never had, and I have come here to
seek him and make him take it back. I could do no other. I could
not live and do anything but that, and YOU might have known it.
But I have not found him here as I hoped I should, though perhaps
it was a foolish hope of mine, and I am coming to you to help me
seek him, for he MUST BE FOUND. You know I want to keep his and
your secret, and therefore the only one I can turn to for
assistance and counsel is YOU.
You are wondering how I know what I do. Two months ago I GOT A
LETTER FROM HIM--the strangest, quaintest, and yet THE KINDEST
LETTER--exactly like himself and the way he used to talk! He had
just heard of his brother's death, and congratulated me on coming
into the property, and said he was now perfectly happy, and should
KEEP DEAD, and never, never come to life again; that he never
thought things would turn out as splendidly as they had--for Sir
William MIGHT have had an heir--and that now he should REALLY DIE
HAPPY. He said something about everything being legally right, and
that I could do what I liked with the property. As if THAT would
satisfy me! Yet it was all so sweet and kind, and so like dear old
Jack, that I cried all night. And then I resolved to come here,
where his letter was dated from. Luckily I was of age now, and
could do as I liked, and I said I wanted to travel in South America
and California; and I suppose they didn't think it very strange
that I should use my liberty in that way. Some said it was quite
like a Dornton! I knew something of Callao from your friend Miss
Avondale, and could talk about it, which impressed them. So I
started off with only a maid--my old nurse. I was a little
frightened at first, when I came to think what I was doing, but
everybody was very kind, and I really feel quite independent now.
So, you see, a girl may be INDEPENDENT, after all! Of course I
shall see Mr. Dingwall in San Francisco, but he need not know
anything more than that I am traveling for pleasure. And I may go
to the Sandwich Islands or Sydney, if I think HE is there. Of
course I have had to use some money--some of HIS rents--but it
shall be paid back. I will tell you everything about my plans when
I see you.
P. S. Why did you let me cry over that man's tomb in the church?
Randolph looked again at the date, and then hurriedly consulted the
shipping list. She was due in ten days. Yet, delighted as he was
with that prospect, and touched as he had been with her courage and
naive determination, after his first joy he laid the letter down
with a sigh. For whatever was his ultimate ambition, he was still
a mere salaried clerk; whatever was her self-sacrificing purpose,
she was still the rich heiress. The seal of secrecy had been
broken, yet the situation remained unchanged; their association
must still be dominated by it. And he shrank from the thought of
making her girlish appeal to him for help an opportunity for
revealing his real feelings.
This instinct was strengthened by the somewhat formal manner in
which Mr. Dingwall announced her approaching visit. "Miss
Eversleigh will stay with Mrs. Dingwall while she is here, on
account of her--er--position, and the fact that she is without a
chaperon. Mrs. Dingwall will, of course, be glad to receive any
friends Miss Eversleigh would like to see."
Randolph frankly returned that Miss Eversleigh had written to him,
and that he would be glad to present himself. Nothing more was
said, but as the days passed he could not help noticing that, in
proportion as Mr. Dingwall's manner became more stiff and
ceremonious, Mr. Revelstoke's usually crisp, good-humored
suggestions grew more deliberate, and Randolph found himself once
or twice the subject of the president's penetrating but smiling
scrutiny. And the day before Miss Eversleigh's arrival his natural
excitement was a little heightened by a summons to Mr. Revelstoke's
As he entered, the president laid aside his pen and closed the
"I have never made it my business, Trent," he said, with good-
humored brusqueness, "to interfere in my employees' private
affairs, unless they affect their relations to the bank, and I
haven't had the least occasion to do so with you. Neither has Mr.
Dingwall, although it is on HIS behalf that I am now speaking." As
Randolph listened with a contracted brow, he went on with a grim
smile: "But he is an Englishman, you know, and has certain ideas of
the importance of 'position,' particularly among his own people.
He wishes me, therefore, to warn you of what HE calls the
'disparity' of your position and that of a young English lady--Miss
Eversleigh--with whom you have some acquaintance, and in whom," he
added with a still grimmer satisfaction, "he fears you are too
Randolph blazed. "If Mr. Dingwall had asked ME, sir," he said
hotly, "I would have told him that I have never yet had to be
reminded that Miss Eversleigh is a rich heiress and I only a poor
clerk, but as to his using her name in such a connection, or
dictating to me the manner of"--
"Hold hard," said Revelstoke, lifting his hand deprecatingly, yet
with his unchanged smile. "I don't agree with Mr. Dingwall, and I
have every reason to know the value of YOUR services, yet I admit
something is due to HIS prejudices. And in this matter, Trent, the
Bank of Eureka, while I am its president, doesn't take a back seat.
I have concluded to make you manager of the branch bank at
Marysville, an independent position with its salary and
commissions. And if that doesn't suit Dingwall, why," he added,
rising from his desk with a short laugh, "he has a bigger idea of
the value of property than the bank has."
"One moment, sir, I implore you," burst out Randolph breathlessly.
"if your kind offer is based upon the mistaken belief that I have
the least claim upon Miss Eversleigh's consideration more than that
of simple friendship--if anybody has dared to give you the idea
that I have aspired by word or deed to more, or that the young lady
has ever countenanced or even suspected such aspirations, it is
utterly false, and grateful as I am for your kindness, I could not
"Look here, Trent," returned Revelstoke curtly, yet laying his hand
on the young man's shoulder not unkindly. "All that is YOUR
private affair, which, as I told you, I don't interfere with. The
other is a question between Mr. Dingwall and myself of your
comparative value. It won't hurt you with ANYBODY to know how high
we've assessed it. Don't spoil a good thing!"
Grateful even in his uncertainty, Randolph could only thank him and
withdraw. Yet this fateful forcing of his hand in a delicate
question gave him a new courage. It was with a certain confidence
now in his capacity as HER friend and qualified to advise HER that
he called at Mr. Dingwall's the evening she arrived. It struck him
that in the Dingwalls' reception of him there was mingled with
their formality a certain respect.
Thanks to this, perhaps, he found her alone. She seemed to him
more beautiful than his recollection had painted her, in the
development that maturity, freedom from restraint, and time had
given her. For a moment his new, fresh courage was staggered. But
she had retained her youthful simplicity, and came toward him with
the same naive and innocent yearning in her clear eyes that he
remembered at their last meeting. Their first words were,
naturally, of their great secret, and Randolph told her the whole
story of his unexpected and startling meeting with the captain, and
the captain's strange narrative, of his undertaking the journey
with him to recover his claim, establish his identity, and, as
Randolph had hoped, restore to her that member of the family whom
she had most cared for. He recounted the captain's hesitation on
arriving; his own journey to the rectory; the news she had given
him; the reason of his singular behavior; his return to London; and
the second disappearance of the captain. He read to her the letter
he had received from him, and told her of his hopeless chase to the
docks only to find him gone. She listened to him breathlessly,
with varying color, with an occasional outburst of pity, or a
strange shining of the eyes, that sometimes became clouded and
misty, and at the conclusion with a calm and grave paleness.
"But," she said, "you should have told me all."
"It was not my secret," he pleaded.
"You should have trusted me."
"But the captain had trusted ME."
She looked at him with grave wonder, and then said with her old
directness: "But if I had been told such a secret affecting you, I
should have told you." She stopped suddenly, seeing his eyes fixed
on her, and dropped her own lids with a slight color. "I mean,"
she said hesitatingly, "of course you have acted nobly, generously,
kindly, wisely--but I hate secrets! Oh, why cannot one be always
A wild idea seized Randolph. "But I have another secret--you have
not guessed--and I have not dared to tell you. Do you wish me to
be frank now?"
"Why not?" she said simply, but she did not look up.
Then he told her! But, strangest of all, in spite of his fears and
convictions, it flowed easily and naturally as a part of his other
secret, with an eloquence he had not dreamed of before. But when
he told her of his late position and his prospects, she raised her
eyes to his for the first time, yet without withdrawing her hand
from his, and said reproachfully,--
"Yet but for THAT you would never have told me."
"How could I?" he returned eagerly. "For but for THAT how could I
help you to carry out YOUR trust? How could I devote myself to
your plans, and enable you to carry them out without touching a
dollar of that inheritance which you believe to be wrongfully
Then, with his old boyish enthusiasm, he sketched a glowing picture
of their future: how they would keep the Dornton property intact
until the captain was found and communicated with; and how they
would cautiously collect all the information accessible to find him
until such time as Randolph's fortunes would enable them both to go
on a voyage of discovery after him. And in the midst of this
prophetic forecast, which brought them so closely together that she
was enabled to examine his watch chain, she said,--
"I see you have kept Cousin Jack's ring. Did he ever see it?"
"He told me he had given it to you as his little sweetheart, and
There was a singular pause here.
"He never did THAT--at least, not in that way!" said Sybil
And, strangely enough, the optimistic Randolph's prophecies came
true. He was married a month later to Sibyl Eversleigh, Mr.
Dingwall giving away the bride. He and his wife were able to keep
their trust in regard to the property, for, without investing a
dollar of it in the bank, the mere reputation of his wife's wealth
brought him a flood of other investors and a confidence which at
once secured his success. In two years he was able to take his
wife on a six months' holiday to Europe via Australia, but of the
details of that holiday no one knew. It is, however, on record
that ten or twelve years ago Dornton Hall, which had been leased or
unoccupied for a long time, was refitted for the heiress, her
husband, and their children during a brief occupancy, and that in
that period extensive repairs were made to the interior of the old
Norman church, and much attention given to the redecoration and
restoration of its ancient tombs.
MR. MACGLOWRIE'S WIDOW
Very little was known of her late husband, yet that little was of a
sufficiently awe-inspiring character to satisfy the curiosity of
Laurel Spring. A man of unswerving animosity and candid
belligerency, untempered by any human weakness, he had been
actively engaged as survivor in two or three blood feuds in
Kentucky, and some desultory dueling, only to succumb, through the
irony of fate, to an attack of fever and ague in San Francisco.
Gifted with a fine sense of humor, he is said, in his last moments,
to have called the simple-minded clergyman to his bedside to assist
him in putting on his boots. The kindly divine, although pointing
out to him that he was too weak to rise, much less walk, could not
resist the request of a dying man. When it was fulfilled, Mr.
MacGlowrie crawled back into bed with the remark that his race had
always "died with their boots on," and so passed smilingly and
It is probable that this story was invented to soften the ignominy
of MacGlowrie's peaceful end. The widow herself was also reported
to be endowed with relations of equally homicidal eccentricities.
Her two brothers, Stephen and Hector Boompointer, had Western
reputations that were quite as lurid and remote. Her own
experiences of a frontier life had been rude and startling, and her
scalp--a singularly beautiful one of blond hair--had been in peril
from Indians on several occasions. A pair of scissors, with which
she had once pinned the intruding hand of a marauder to her cabin
doorpost, was to be seen in her sitting room at Laurel Spring. A
fair-faced woman with eyes the color of pale sherry, a complexion
sallowed by innutritious food, slight and tall figure, she gave
little suggestion of this Amazonian feat. But that it exercised a
wholesome restraint over the many who would like to have induced
her to reenter the married state, there is little reason to doubt.
Laurel Spring was a peaceful agricultural settlement. Few of its
citizens dared to aspire to the dangerous eminence of succeeding
the defunct MacGlowrie; few could hope that the sister of living
Boompointers would accept an obvious mesalliance with them.
However sincere their affection, life was still sweet to the rude
inhabitants of Laurel Spring, and the preservation of the usual
quantity of limbs necessary to them in their avocations. With
their devotion thus chastened by caution, it would seem as if the
charming mistress of Laurel Spring House was secure from disturbing
It was a pleasant summer afternoon, and the sun was beginning to
strike under the laurels around the hotel into the little office
where the widow sat with the housekeeper--a stout spinster of a
coarser Western type. Mrs. MacGlowrie was looking wearily over
some accounts on the desk before her, and absently putting back
some tumbled sheaves from the stack of her heavy hair. For the
widow had a certain indolent Southern negligence, which in a less
pretty woman would have been untidiness, and a characteristic hook
and eyeless freedom of attire which on less graceful limbs would
have been slovenly. One sleeve cuff was unbuttoned, but it showed
the blue veins of her delicate wrist; the neck of her dress had
lost a hook, but the glimpse of a bit of edging round the white
throat made amends. Of all which, however, it should be said that
the widow, in her limp abstraction, was really unconscious.
"I reckon we kin put the new preacher in Kernel Starbottle's room,"
said Miss Morvin, the housekeeper. "The kernel's going to-night."
"Oh," said the widow in a tone of relief, but whether at the early
departure of the gallant colonel or at the successful solution of
the problem of lodging the preacher, Miss Morvin could not
determine. But she went on tentatively:--
"The kernel was talkin' in the bar room, and kind o' wonderin' why
you hadn't got married agin. Said you'd make a stir in Sacramento--
but you was jest berried HERE."
"I suppose he's heard of my husband?" said the widow indifferently.
"Yes--but he said he couldn't PLACE YOU," returned Miss Morvin.
The widow looked up. "Couldn't place ME?" she repeated.
"Yes--hadn't heard o' MacGlowrie's wife and disremembered your
"The colonel doesn't know everybody, even if he is a fighting man,"
said Mrs. MacGlowrie with languid scorn.
"That's just what Dick Blair said," returned Miss Morvin. "And
though he's only a doctor, he jest stuck up agin' the kernel, and
told that story about your jabbin' that man with your scissors--
beautiful; and how you once fought off a bear with a red-hot iron,
so that you'd have admired to hear him. He's awfully gone on you!"
The widow took that opportunity to button her cuff.
"And how long does the preacher calculate to stay?" she added,
returning to business details.
"Only a day. They'll have his house fixed up and ready for him
to-morrow. They're spendin' a heap o' money on it. He ought to be
the pow'ful preacher they say he is--to be worth it."
But here Mrs. MacGlowrie's interest in the conversation ceased, and
In her anxiety to further the suit of Dick Blair, Miss Morvin had
scarcely reported the colonel with fairness.
That gentleman, leaning against the bar in the hotel saloon with a
cocktail in his hand, had expatiated with his usual gallantry upon
Mrs. MacGlowrie's charms, and on his own "personal" responsibility
had expressed the opinion that they were thrown away on Laurel
Spring. That--blank it all--she reminded him of the blankest
beautiful woman he had seen even in Washington--old Major
Beveridge's daughter from Kentucky. Were they sure she wasn't from
Kentucky? Wasn't her name Beveridge--and not Boompointer?
Becoming more reminiscent over his second drink, the colonel could
vaguely recall only one Boompointer--a blank skulking hound, sir--a
mean white shyster--but, of course, he couldn't have been of the
same breed as such a blank fine woman as the widow! It was here
that Dick Blair interrupted with a heightened color and a glowing
eulogy of the widow's relations and herself, which, however, only
increased the chivalry of the colonel--who would be the last man,
sir, to detract from--or suffer any detraction of--a lady's
reputation. It was needless to say that all this was intensely
diverting to the bystanders, and proportionally discomposing to
Blair, who already experienced some slight jealousy of the colonel
as a man whose fighting reputation might possibly attract the
affections of the widow of the belligerent MacGlowrie. He had
cursed his folly and relapsed into gloomy silence until the colonel
For Dick Blair loved the widow with the unselfishness of a generous
nature and a first passion. He had admired her from the first day
his lot was cast in Laurel Spring, where coming from a rude
frontier practice he had succeeded the district doctor in a more
peaceful and domestic ministration. A skillful and gentle surgeon
rather than a general household practitioner, he was at first
coldly welcomed by the gloomy dyspeptics and ague-haunted settlers
from riparian lowlands. The few bucolic idlers who had relieved
the monotony of their lives by the stimulus of patent medicines and
the exaltation of stomach bitters, also looked askance at him. A
common-sense way of dealing with their ailments did not naturally
commend itself to the shopkeepers who vended these nostrums, and he
was made to feel the opposition of trade. But he was gentle to
women and children and animals, and, oddly enough, it was to this
latter dilection that he owed the widow's interest in him--an
interest that eventually made him popular elsewhere.
The widow had a pet dog--a beautiful spaniel, who, however, had
assimilated her graceful languor to his own native love of ease to
such an extent that he failed in a short leap between a balcony and
a window, and fell to the ground with a fractured thigh. The dog
was supposed to be crippled for life even if that life were worth
preserving--when Dr. Blair came to the rescue, set the fractured
limb, put it in splints and plaster after an ingenious design of
his own, visited him daily, and eventually restored him to his
mistress's lap sound in wind and limb. How far this daily
ministration and the necessary exchange of sympathy between the
widow and himself heightened his zeal was not known. There were
those who believed that the whole thing was an unmanly trick to get
the better of his rivals in the widow's good graces; there were
others who averred that his treatment of a brute beast like a human
being was sinful and unchristian. "He couldn't have done more for
a regularly baptized child," said the postmistress. "And what mo'
would a regularly baptized child have wanted?" returned Mrs.
MacGlowrie, with the drawling Southern intonation she fell back
upon when most contemptuous.
But Dr. Blair's increasing practice and the widow's preoccupation
presently ended their brief intimacy. It was well known that she
encouraged no suitors at the hotel, and his shyness and
sensitiveness shrank from ostentatious advances. There seemed to
be no chance of her becoming, herself, his patient; her sane mind,
indolent nerves, and calm circulation kept her from feminine
"vapors" of feminine excesses. She retained the teeth and
digestion of a child in her thirty odd years, and abused neither.
Riding and the cultivation of her little garden gave her sufficient
exercise. And yet the unexpected occurred! The day after
Starbottle left, Dr. Blair was summoned hastily to the hotel. Mrs.
MacGlowrie had been found lying senseless in a dead faint in the
passage outside the dining room. In his hurried flight thither
with the messenger he could learn only that she had seemed to be in
her usual health that morning, and that no one could assign any
cause for her fainting.
He could find out little more when he arrived and examined her as
she lay pale and unconscious on the sofa of her sitting room. It
had not been thought necessary to loosen her already loose dress,
and indeed he could find no organic disturbance. The case was one
of sudden nervous shock--but this, with his knowledge of her
indolent temperament, seemed almost absurd. They could tell him
nothing but that she was evidently on the point of entering the
dining room when she fell unconscious. Had she been frightened by
anything? A snake or a rat? Miss Morvin was indignant! The widow
of MacGlowrie--the repeller of grizzlies--frightened at "sich"!
Had she been upset by any previous excitement, passion, or the
receipt of bad news? No!--she "wasn't that kind," as the doctor
knew. And even as they were speaking he felt the widow's healthy
life returning to the pulse he was holding, and giving a faint
tinge to her lips. Her blue-veined eyelids quivered slightly and
then opened with languid wonder on the doctor and her surroundings.
Suddenly a quick, startled look contracted the yellow brown pupils
of her eyes, she lifted herself to a sitting posture with a hurried
glance around the room and at the door beyond. Catching the quick,
observant eyes of Dr. Blair, she collected herself with an effort,
which Dr. Blair felt in her pulse, and drew away her wrist.
"What is it? What happened?" she said weakly.
"You had a slight attack of faintness," said the doctor cheerily,
"and they called me in as I was passing, but you're all right now."
"How pow'ful foolish," she said, with returning color, but her eyes
still glancing at the door, "slumping off like a green gyrl at
"Perhaps you were startled?" said the doctor.
Mrs. MacGlowrie glanced up quickly and looked away. "No!--Let me
see! I was just passing through the hall, going into the dining
room, when--everything seemed to waltz round me--and I was off!
Where did they find me?" she said, turning to Miss Morvin.
"I picked you up just outside the door," replied the housekeeper.
"Then they did not see me?" said Mrs. MacGlowrie.
"Who's they?" responded the housekeeper with more directness than
"The people in the dining room. I was just opening the door--and I
felt this coming on--and--I reckon I had just sense enough to shut
the door again before I went off."
"Then that accounts for what Jim Slocum said," uttered Miss Morvin
triumphantly. "He was in the dining room talkin' with the new
preacher, when he allowed he heard the door open and shut behind
him. Then he heard a kind of slump outside and opened the door
again just to find you lyin' there, and to rush off and get me.
And that's why he was so mad at the preacher!--for he says he just
skurried away without offerin' to help. He allows the preacher may
be a pow'ful exhorter--but he ain't worth much at 'works.'"
"Some men can't bear to be around when a woman's up to that sort of
foolishness," said the widow, with a faint attempt at a smile, but
a return of her paleness.
"Hadn't you better lie down again?" said the doctor solicitously.
"I'm all right now," returned Mrs. MacGlowrie, struggling to her
feet; "Morvin will look after me till the shakiness goes. But it
was mighty touching and neighborly to come in, Doctor," she
continued, succeeding at last in bringing up a faint but adorable
smile, which stirred Blair's pulses. "If I were my own dog--you
couldn't have treated me better!"
With no further excuse for staying longer, Blair was obliged to
depart--yet reluctantly, both as lover and physician. He was by no
means satisfied with her condition. He called to inquire the next
day--but she was engaged and sent word to say she was "better."
In the excitement attending the advent of the new preacher the
slight illness of the charming widow was forgotten. He had taken
the settlement by storm. His first sermon at Laurel Spring
exceeded even the extravagant reputation that had preceded him.
Known as the "Inspired Cowboy," a common unlettered frontiersman,
he was said to have developed wonderful powers of exhortatory
eloquence among the Indians, and scarcely less savage border
communities where he had lived, half outcast, half missionary. He
had just come up from the Southern agricultural districts, where he
had been, despite his rude antecedents, singularly effective with
women and young people. The moody dyspeptics and lazy rustics of
Laurel Spring were stirred as with a new patent medicine. Dr.
Blair went to the first "revival" meeting. Without undervaluing
the man's influence, he was instinctively repelled by his
appearance and methods. The young physician's trained powers of
observation not only saw an overwrought emotionalism in the
speaker's eloquence, but detected the ring of insincerity in his
more lucid speech and acts. Nevertheless, the hysteria of the
preacher was communicated to the congregation, who wept and shouted
with him. Tired and discontented housewives found their vague
sorrows and vaguer longings were only the result of their
"unregenerate" state; the lazy country youths felt that the
frustration of their small ambitions lay in their not being
"convicted of sin." The mourners' bench was crowded with wildly
emulating sinners. Dr. Blair turned away with mingled feelings of
amusement and contempt. At the door Jim Slocum tapped him on the
shoulder: "Fetches the wimmin folk every time, don't he, Doctor?"
"So it seems," said Blair dryly.
"You're one o' them scientific fellers that look inter things--what
do YOU allow it is?"
The young doctor restrained the crushing answer that rose to his
lips. He had learned caution in that neighborhood. "I couldn't
say," he said indifferently.
"'Tain't no religion," said Slocum emphatically; "it's jest pure
fas'nation. Did ye look at his eye? It's like a rattlesnake's,
and them wimmin are like birds. They're frightened of him--but
they hev to do jest what he 'wills' 'em. That's how he skeert the
widder the other day."
The doctor was alert and on fire at once. "Scared the widow?" he
"Yes. You know how she swooned away. Well, sir, me and that
preacher, Brown, was the only one in that dinin' room at the time.
The widder opened the door behind me and sorter peeked in, and that
thar preacher give a start and looked up; and then, that sort of
queer light come in his eyes, and she shut the door, and kinder
fluttered and flopped down in the passage outside, like a bird!
And he crawled away like a snake, and never said a word! My belief
is that either he hadn't time to turn on the hull influence, or
else she, bein' smart, got the door shut betwixt her and it in
time! Otherwise, sure as you're born, she'd hev been floppin' and
crawlin' and sobbin' arter him--jist like them critters we've left."
"Better not let the brethren hear you talk like that, or they'll
lynch you," said the doctor, with a laugh. "Mrs. MacGlowrie simply
had an attack of faintness from some overexertion, that's all."
Nevertheless, he was uneasy as he walked away. Mrs. MacGlowrie had
evidently received a shock which was still unexplained, and, in
spite of Slocum's exaggerated fancy, there might be some foundation
in his story. He did not share the man's superstition, although he
was not a skeptic regarding magnetism. Yet even then, the widow's
action was one of repulsion, and as long as she was strong enough
not to come to these meetings, she was not in danger. A day or two
later, as he was passing the garden of the hotel on horseback, he
saw her lithe, graceful, languid figure bending over one of her
favorite flower beds. The high fence partially concealed him from
view, and she evidently believed herself alone. Perhaps that was
why she suddenly raised herself from her task, put back her
straying hair with a weary, abstracted look, remained for a moment
quite still staring at the vacant sky, and then, with a little
catching of her breath, resumed her occupation in a dull,
mechanical way. In that brief glimpse of her charming face, Blair
was shocked at the change; she was pale, the corners of her pretty
mouth were drawn, there were deeper shades in the orbits of her
eyes, and in spite of her broad garden hat with its blue ribbon,
her light flowered frock and frilled apron, she looked as he
fancied she might have looked in the first crushing grief of her
widowhood. Yet he would have passed on, respecting her privacy of
sorrow, had not her little spaniel detected him with her keener
senses. And Fluffy being truthful--as dogs are--and recognizing a
dear friend in the intruder, barked joyously.
The widow looked up, her eyes met Blair's, and she reddened. But
he was too acute a lover to misinterpret what he knew, alas! was
only confusion at her abstraction being discovered. Nevertheless,
there was something else in her brown eyes he had never seen
before. A momentary lighting up of RELIEF--of even hopefulness--in
his presence. It was enough for Blair; he shook off his old
shyness like the dust of his ride, and galloped around to the front
But she met him in the hall with only her usual languid good humor.
Nevertheless, Blair was not abashed.
"I can't put you in splints and plaster like Fluffy, Mrs.
MacGlowrie," he said, "but I can forbid you to go into the garden
unless you're looking better. It's a positive reflection on my
professional skill, and Laurel Spring will be shocked, and hold me
Mrs. MacGlowrie had recovered enough of her old spirit to reply
that she thought Laurel Spring could be in better business than
looking at her over her garden fence.
"But your dog, who knows you're not well, and doesn't think me
quite a fool, had the good sense to call me. You heard him."
But the widow protested that she was as strong as a horse, and that
Fluffy was like all puppies, conceited to the last degree.
"Well," said Blair cheerfully, "suppose I admit you are all right,
physically, you'll confess you have some trouble on your mind,
won't you? If I can't make you SHOW me your tongue, you'll let me
hear you USE it to tell me what worries you. If," he added more
earnestly, "you won't confide in your physician--you will perhaps--
But Mrs. MacGlowrie, evading his earnest eyes as well as his
appeal, was wondering what good it would do either a doctor, or--
a--a--she herself seemed to hesitate over the word--"a FRIEND, to
hear the worriments of a silly, nervous old thing--who had only
stuck a little too closely to her business."
"You are neither nervous nor old, Mrs. MacGlowrie," said the doctor
promptly, "though I begin to think you HAVE been too closely
confined here. You want more diversion, or--excitement. You might
even go to hear this preacher"--he stopped, for the word had
slipped from his mouth unawares.
But a swift look of scorn swept her pale face. "And you'd like me
to follow those skinny old frumps and leggy, limp chits, that
slobber and cry over that man!" she said contemptuously. "No! I
reckon I only want a change--and I'll go away, or get out of this
for a while."
The poor doctor had not thought of this possible alternative. His
heart sank, but he was brave. "Yes, perhaps you are right," he
said sadly, "though it would be a dreadful loss--to Laurel Spring--
to us all--if you went."
"Do I look so VERY bad, doctor?" she said, with a half-mischievous,
The doctor thought her upturned face very adorable, but restrained
his feelings heroically, and contented himself with replying to the
pathetic half of her smile. "You look as if you had been
suffering," he said gravely, "and I never saw you look so before.
You seem as if you had experienced some great shock. Do you know,"
he went on, in a lower tone and with a half-embarrassed smile,
"that when I saw you just now in the garden, you looked as I
imagined you might have looked in the first days of your widowhood--
when your husband's death was fresh in your heart."
A strange expression crossed her face. Her eyelids dropped
instantly, and with both hands she caught up her frilled apron as
if to meet them and covered her face. A little shudder seemed to
pass over her shoulders, and then a cry that ended in an
uncontrollable and half-hysterical laugh followed from the depths
of that apron, until shaking her sides, and with her head still
enveloped in its covering, she fairly ran into the inner room and
closed the door behind her.
Amazed, shocked, and at first indignant, Dr. Blair remained fixed
to the spot. Then his indignation gave way to a burning
mortification as he recalled his speech. He had made a frightful
faux pas! He had been fool enough to try to recall the most sacred
memories of that dead husband he was trying to succeed--and her
quick woman's wit had detected his ridiculous stupidity. Her laugh
was hysterical--but that was only natural in her mixed emotions.
He mounted his horse in confusion and rode away.
For a few days he avoided the house. But when he next saw her she
had a charming smile of greeting and an air of entire obliviousness
of his past blunder. She said she was better. She had taken his
advice and was giving herself some relaxation from business. She
had been riding again--oh, so far! Alone?--of course; she was
always alone--else what would Laurel Spring say?
"True," said Blair smilingly; "besides, I forgot that you are quite
able to take care of yourself in an emergency. And yet," he added,
admiringly looking at her lithe figure and indolent grace, "do you
know I never can associate you with the dreadful scenes they say
you have gone through."
"Then please don't!" she said quickly; "really, I'd rather you
wouldn't. I'm sick and tired of hearing of it!" She was half
laughing and yet half in earnest, with a slight color on her cheek.
Blair was a little embarrassed. "Of course, I don't mean your
heroism--like that story of the intruder and the scissors," he
"Oh, THAT'S the worst of all! It's too foolish--it's sickening!"
she went on almost angrily. "I don't know who started that stuff."
She paused, and then added shyly, "I really am an awful coward and
horribly nervous--as you know."
He would have combated this--but she looked really disturbed, and
he had no desire to commit another imprudence. And he thought,
too, that he again had seen in her eyes the same hopeful, wistful
light he had once seen before, and was happy.
This led him, I fear, to indulge in wilder dreams. His practice,
although increasing, barely supported him, and the widow was rich.
Her business had been profitable, and she had repaid the advances
made her when she first took the hotel. But this disparity in
their fortunes which had frightened him before now had no fears for
him. He felt that if he succeeded in winning her affections she
could afford to wait for him, despite other suitors, until his
talents had won an equal position. His rivals had always felt as
secure in his poverty as they had in his peaceful profession. How
could a poor, simple doctor aspire to the hand of the rich widow of
the redoubtable MacGlowrie?
It was late one afternoon, and the low sun was beginning to strike
athwart the stark columns and down the long aisles of the redwoods
on the High Ridge. The doctor, returning from a patient at the
loggers' camp in its depths, had just sighted the smaller groves of
Laurel Springs, two miles away. He was riding fast, with his
thoughts filled with the widow, when he heard a joyous bark in the
underbrush, and Fluffy came bounding towards him. Blair dismounted
to caress him, as was his wont, and then, wisely conceiving that
his mistress was not far away, sauntered forward exploringly,
leading his horse, the dog hounding before him and barking, as if
bent upon both leading and announcing him. But the latter he
effected first, for as Blair turned from the trail into the deeper
woods, he saw the figures of a man and woman walking together
suddenly separate at the dog's warning. The woman was Mrs.
MacGlowrie--the man was the revival preacher!
Amazed, mystified, and indignant, Blair nevertheless obeyed his
first instinct, which was that of a gentleman. He turned leisurely
aside as if not recognizing them, led his horse a few paces
further, mounted him, and galloped away without turning his head.
But his heart was filled with bitterness and disgust. This woman--
who but a few days before had voluntarily declared her scorn and
contempt for that man and his admirers--had just been giving him a
clandestine meeting like one of the most infatuated of his
devotees! The story of the widow's fainting, the coarse surmises
and comments of Slocum, came back to him with overwhelming
significance. But even then his reason forbade him to believe that
she had fallen under the preacher's influence--she, with her sane
mind and indolent temperament. Yet, whatever her excuse or purpose
was, she had deceived him wantonly and cruelly! His abrupt
avoidance of her had prevented him from knowing if she, on her
part, had recognized him as he rode away. If she HAD, she would
understand why he had avoided her, and any explanation must come
Then followed a few days of uncertainty, when his thoughts again
reverted to the preacher with returning jealousy. Was she, after
all, like other women, and had her gratuitous outburst of scorn of
THEIR infatuation been prompted by unsuccessful rivalry? He was
too proud to question Slocum again or breathe a word of his fears.
Yet he was not strong enough to keep from again seeking the High
Ridge, to discover any repetition of that rendezvous. But he saw
her neither there, nor elsewhere, during his daily rounds. And one
night his feverish anxiety getting the better of him, he entered
the great "Gospel Tent" of the revival preacher.
It chanced to be an extraordinary meeting, and the usual
enthusiastic audience was reinforced by some sight-seers from the
neighboring county town--the district judge and officials from the
court in session, among them Colonel Starbottle. The impassioned
revivalist--his eyes ablaze with fever, his lank hair wet with
perspiration, hanging beside his heavy but weak jaws--was
concluding a fervent exhortation to his auditors to confess their
sins, "accept conviction," and regenerate then and there, without
delay. They must put off "the old Adam," and put on the flesh of
righteousness at once! They were to let no false shame or worldly
pride keep them from avowing their guilty past before their
brethren. Sobs and groans followed the preacher's appeals; his own
agitation and convulsive efforts seemed to spread in surging waves
through the congregation, until a dozen men and women arose,
staggering like drunkards blindly, or led or dragged forward by
sobbing sympathizers towards the mourners' bench. And prominent
among them, but stepping jauntily and airily forward, was the
redoubtable and worldly Colonel Starbottle!
At this proof of the orator's power the crowd shouted--but stopped
suddenly, as the colonel halted before the preacher, and ascended
the rostrum beside him. Then taking a slight pose with his gold-
headed cane in one hand and the other thrust in the breast of his
buttoned coat, he said in his blandest, forensic voice:--
"If I mistake not, sir, you are advising these ladies and gentlemen
to a free and public confession of their sins and a--er--
denunciation of their past life--previous to their conversion. If
I am mistaken I--er--ask your pardon, and theirs and--er--hold
myself responsible--er--personally responsible!"
The preacher glanced uneasily at the colonel, but replied, still in
the hysterical intonation of his exordium:--
"Yes! a complete searching of hearts--a casting out of the seven
Devils of Pride, Vain Glory"--
"Thank you--that is sufficient," said the colonel blandly. "But
might I--er--be permitted to suggest that you--er--er--SET THEM THE
EXAMPLE! The statement of the circumstances attending your own
past life and conversion would be singularly interesting and
The preacher turned suddenly and glanced at the colonel with
furious eyes set in an ashy face.
"If this is the flouting and jeering of the Ungodly and Dissolute,"
he screamed, "woe to you! I say--woe to you! What have such as
YOU to do with my previous state of unregeneracy?"
"Nothing," said the colonel blandly, "unless that state were also
the STATE OF ARKANSAS! Then, sir, as a former member of the
Arkansas BAR--I might be able to assist your memory--and--er--even
corroborate your confession."
But here the enthusiastic adherents of the preacher, vaguely
conscious of some danger to their idol, gathered threateningly
round the platform from which he had promptly leaped into their
midst, leaving the colonel alone, to face the sea of angry upturned
faces. But that gallant warrior never altered his characteristic
pose. Behind him loomed the reputation of the dozen duels he had
fought, the gold-headed stick on which he leaned was believed to
contain eighteen inches of shining steel--and the people of Laurel
Spring had discretion.
He smiled suavely, stepped jauntily down, and made his way to the
entrance without molestation.
But here he was met by Blair and Slocum, and a dozen eager
"What was it?" "What had he done?" "WHO was he?"
"A blank shyster, who had swindled the widows and orphans in
Arkansas and escaped from jail."
"And his name isn't Brown?"
"No," said the colonel curtly.
"What is it?"
"That is a matter which concerns only myself and him, sir," said
the colonel loftily; "but for which I am--er--personally
A wild idea took possession of Blair.
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