Imatges de pÓgina

sent a momentary flush to his sallow cheek. looked on, half curious, half angry, thorHe lifted his eyelids, and the shrewd sharp oughly discomfited. eyes darted a hasty glance into the speak- “But, Alick," ventured he, “you seem er's face, as if in search of a guiding hint to take for granted the truth of some unconcerning his own course. He met the known accusation. Who has dared thus sorrowful but kind calm look of Captain secretly malign me?" Alick with a nervous trepidation his best “Hush, Dick! Don't try to cheat me efforts could not conceal.

longer. You will lose my still clinging af. “Really, Alick, I am not quite sure I un- fection. I tell you, man, across all these derstand you. You know I said before I yawning years I cannot reach back to the had forgotten all those old affairs !” stam- hot passions of boyhood. I bear you no mered he.

anger. You see that I have sent for you in “ I think a little effort will enable you to friendliness. I give you the privilege of recall the facts. I said I had learned the helping me right what wrong lies in your truth, Dick. So you will understand that power. I know the whole miserable story; I realize now the folly of my unquestioning how you helped Gilbert Graeme dupe and confidence in your friendship. But, Dick, cheat me, how you poisoned my Miriam's man, times are changed; you are right sweet trustfulness and drove her into his there. If this discovery had come thirty, arms, to win his sister for yourself. Thank or even twenty years ago, instead of hav- Heaven! she was saved from the foulest ing you out here at Thurston Cottage, I wrong. She escaped, she fled. She was should have sent you a peremptory sum- lost to me who might have been the joy mons to take your choice of weapons. and pride of my life, but she escaped from Young blood is so hot; but mine is creep- the vile clasp of Gilbert Graeme." ing sluggishly now, Dick. I don't want to Richard Merton winced, but he put on leave the world with bitterness and hatred an aggrieved tone. in my heart. When, a month gone, I "Alick, who has been talking to you? learned how treacherously you dealt with From whence do you get this strange abme, when I thought of my barren, desolate surd story ?" cried he, stretching across the life, of my poor Miriam's wretched, wretch- table his long thin hand. ed history, I own I cursed you. But calm- “I have it from one who has never lied er thoughts followed. It is strange how I -from the grave itself, from my Miriam's have always clung to you, Dick; how warm dying message !” was the stern low-breatha return I have given to your cold liking! ed reply. I sat down, and began hunting up extenu- The outstretched hand, blazing with the ating circumstances to plead your cause. magnificent seal ring stamped with the I said it is not so very unnatural. Dick Merton crest, fell heavily to the table. The was always such an ambitious fellow, his honorable gentleman's sallow cheek wore marriage with Annabel Graeme seemed to a still more livid tiuge. The eyelids dropset him upon the ladder to success. If he ped over the crafty steel-cold eyes. He refused to conciliato her brother, he lost was overwhelmed with confusion. Sorthis much-desired wife. I told over to my- rowfully and gravely Captain Alick's eyes self just how you reasoned. You always followed the shifting emotions of his face. had such a lawyer brain, Dick. I know You see, Dick,” said he presently, "we you said it would be the best thing for me, are to talk as if you agreed to my views of that I was a giddy boy, ready to lose all my

the case. I am certain you repent heartily - best prospects for the sake of an obscure the unkind part you acted toward me. Beand penniless girl. You said it was the lieve me, after the first pangs were over I best thing to put the girl out of my path. should have dug a grave and buried the O Dick! Dick! You meant to do me a ugly recollectiou out of sight. You would kindness, but you blasted my whole life! never have known from me of my discovhers Man! man! it drives me frantic to ery, but for the reparation presented to recall it !

you, but for the atonement lying in your Captain Alick dropped his face, on which power." the great drops of perspiration had started, “ What is it?" asked the other, in a into his hands, and a great sob shook his husky voice. broad chest. The Honorable Richard “Listen! Miriam escaped from the trap

that aristocratic villain set for her. Be-, hard fate. She had her little year-old babe lieving me false, and well nigh losing her to comfort her, and the yearly annuity faith in mankind, she fled, covering care- paid by the terms of her benefactress's fully every vestige of her track. She lived will would keep her from poverty. So sbe as companion to an elderly invalid in Sic- settled down in that strange town upon

the ily, three dreary years. Her protectress Mediterranean shore. The child growing dying, left her a moderate competence. up towards womanhood, aroused again her Still keeping an assumed name, to shield anxiety that the truth should be proved, her from a nameless dread of Sir Gilbert and her rights demanded. By a blessed Greame, she lived in the little foreign providential discovery she at last learned town in strict retirement. A singular train how cruelly she had been betrayed, and of circumstances brought her in contact how miserably I had been cheated. She with a wealthy Englishman, sent to that says, in her touching letter, that it roused mild air to favor delicate lungs. I need all ber failing strength. She knew she not dwell upon the particulars. He discov- could rely upon my help. With her dying ered the same attractions which held me blessing, she sent to my care her precious under so close a spell, and threw himself child and her injured cause." at her feet. He offered her the protection Captain Alick paused, and looked over of an honorable name and manly heart. anxiously into the face of his guest. It She was alone, friendless, nearly broken- was half averted, but showed trace of emobearted. She accepted the staff put be- tion, which gave him much encouragement. neath ber trembling bands. She married “ Dick," he exclaimed, impulsively, him, living as quietly as suited her tastes “Miriam is dead and gone! it is hopeless and his feeble health. He died two years to seek to help her to her own rights; but afterward, very suddenly, and when sbe we can grant her dying wish. We can give came forward as his wife, the foreign agent ber child her rightful heritage. I am an of his family coolly put her claims aside. unlearned, blunt old sailor. I am afraid I They declared there had been no marriage, should bungle at the matter; such things that it was tacitly understood by all his ac- are out of my line. I see that it needs quaintance she was merely the mistress se- adroit, delicate handling, or matters will lected to solace the failing healih of the be imjured instead of benefited. I can invalid. They offered a moderate pension, work straightforward, but I am at loggerbut persisteutly refused to recognize her. heads directly I try to set sly traps. It is She spurned this insulting proffer, and just the thing for you, Dick; you never sought for proofs. To her horror, she failed in your life at such a job. Will you found every trace of the performance of undertake it? Mind, all the expense shall the legal ceremony carefully obliterateil. be taken from my rse if you fail. If you The very clergyman was nowhere to be succeed, this dear little girl can well afford found. She knew nothing about him, ex- to recompense you generously from that cepting that he was a Scotchman, who said noble property.he had left his pulpit for a brief vacation. “ You have not told me what estate it is His name was very carelessly written upon to which the claim is laid ?" said the Honthe certificate he gave them. She reinem- orable Richard, picking up a walnut, and bered her husband's remarking it; but she meditating a move toward the nutcrackers. was very positive it was signed John Mac- His host was evidently a litlle embarlean, and that he came from Edinburgh. rassed. One hand had been nervously finThe defiant tone of her communications gering a small roll of paper in the pocket from her husband's family disgusted as of his loose sacque coat. He drew it out well as distressed her. She knew the price- now, glanced over the lines hastily, and, less papers must have been stolen from turning down the edge of the paper, laid it their desk during the confusion ensuing down on the table before the other's eye. upon his sudden death. Her first efforts The walnut fell as suddenly as if a blow proving unavailing, having no trusty friend had fallen upon those long slim fingers, to turn to, tbis poor forlorn creature- and rolled across the table, falling with a created, Dick, to adorn and beautify any light bound to the polished oaken floor. spbere in life, you must bear me out in Confusion!' exclaimed the honorable that assertion-passively acquiesced in her gentleman, in a startled angry voice.

“I know you are surprised, Dick. You think I should be wronging the innocent did not think you were once more crushing if I wrested the estate from my ward's poor Miriam, when your prompt diplomacy hands. You know- -or perhaps you do not settled so decisively that 'foreign upstart know-that he is as good as engaged to my claim upon Wilmot's property,' and the old daughter." place."

“I suspected it; but it does not alter the Captain Alick Thurston, this is really matter. Why should it?” too much !” exclaimed Richard Merton, The wily man of the world had by this starting up from the table. “I certainly time, in a measure, recovered the wits did not come down here to meet with in- which had been sadly routed by this sudsult. You have been imposed upon. You den and astounding revelation. He rallied were always too quixotic. I tell you that all his faculties, and slowly returned to his Miriam was a cheat-you were well rid of

seat. her"

“Let us try to look at the affair coolly," “Hold !" thundered Captain Alick, also said he, in his accustomed smooth and oily leaping from his chair. “ Beware, Dick tones. “It is possible I may see it differMerton how you use that sacred name ently. I must have a little quiet refleclightly. I tell you the girl was as much my tion, to know exactly what is right." wife, in the sight of Heaven, as though “Heaven grant you may find it! and to forty priests bad stood over us. Our hearts add another, and, to me, irresistible appeal, were exchanged, our nuptial vows uttered let me summon one more interested than solemnly, in the Almighty presence.

either of us.” Through all these years I have borne He rang the bell as he spoke, and said around a bereaved empty breast. She has quietly to the servant who appeared: turned to me fearlessly, from her very bed

“Ask Widow Nancy to say to the young of death. Dick! Dick! how can I have lady that I should feel honored by her loved you so? Is your heart a stone in- presence here for a few moments." deed? Have all these years of familiar in- The servant disappeared, and the pair tercourse with trickery, and fraud, and waited in silence full fifteen minutes; then giant wrongs, crushed out from you a quick light steps were heard coming man's honor? I had counted strongly on through the hall. The host smiled softly, your help. I thought you would gladly and, as if to brush off all traces of sternmake this atonement, to ease the night- ness and agitation from his face, passed his mare remorse which it seemed must weigh hand hastily across forehead, cheek and heavily on your soul. Once more I appeal

inouth. The guest cast an uneasy, disto you, in the name of all things sacred, to turbed glance toward the door, and then help me in this matter. I know it will be involuntarily rose to his feet. hard. I think I understand the sorest point. But, Dick, money is not everything in this world; surely you must have seen

CHAPTER II. that. And you will have enough. You You have seen faces, oftener in pictures are well aware that everything I have is than elsewhere, but at rare intervals, in left to you and yours. My will is still un- reality, which affected you with a vague changed; but, Dick, I must certainly make and yet very distinct sensation of mingled a new one, if you persist in denying the awe and delight. Such sweet serene light claim of this hapless orphan. Miriam's shone in the eyes, such a depth of purity child must not be left to the chance of hovered around the tranquil lips, such an winning her right. From this day she is indescribable refinement, and goodness, my adopted daughter. But you will con- and innocence, shone through every lineasent, Dick?"

ment. He stood up erect, his eye flashing, his This young girl who came floating noble face illumined with a grand enthusi- through the dark-panelled doorway toward asm, and before him was the livid sneering these two men of such widely different countenance of his guest.

character and experience, was of just such “Say you will consent to help me, lovely presence. Her very coming seemed Dick ?” pleaded Captain Alick.

to brighten the room, as a sunbeam or a “I do not believe a word of her story. I blossom can enliven the gloomiest scene. Even the fierce angry clamoring in Rich- “I am sure you are tired,” said Captain ard Merton's worldly heart cowered down, Alick, at last. and for a moment held its peace, while his She shook her head playfully, but he host, with a thrilling smile, rose to meet her. continued, peremptorily:

You sent for me, Captain Alick. If “Not another note. I must not be too there is anything I can do for you, I shall extravagant, even in so pure an enjoyment. be so glad; but I fear there is no way in Run away, birdling, and ask Widow Nancy which I may repay your goodness."

to look out for the honey jars, since I am The voice was sweet and clear, the ac- quite confident you feed surreptitiously cent slightly foreign. Captain Alick took upon them to obtain the dulcet tone for in his the wee white hand, and answered, your songs.” fondly:

Laughing merrily, Genevieve withdrew. "Nay, my child, you must forget this Captain Alick looked over triumphantly thought of obligation. Have I not adopt- into his guest's face. ed you into my heart as a beloved daugh- “You cannot blame me now, Dick, for ter? Is not your very presence in this dull my earnest desire to restore to so peerless old place the richest largess I could ask? a creature the rightful fortune and noble Come hither, my child. Here is an old name of her father. She will be the brightcomrade of mine; one who shared all my est star at court." boyish life, who has always held a warm Does she know herself of this claim ? corner in my heart. This is Mr. Richard She is indeed a very charming girl. But, Merton, Genevieve.”

Alick, in such an important matter one This girl, reared in the utmost seclusion, must move cautiously and deliberately. wholly unlearned in the courtly etiquette The subject requires careful consideraupon which the ladies of his acquaintance tion." prided themselves, turned toward him with “She knows nothing. It is five weeks a graceful unconsciousness,

which the now since she arrived, and I have scarcely Honorable Richard inwardly admitted was thought of any other subject. There is no the very perfection of lady-like ease. need of further consideration on my part,"

“I am very glad to see you, Mr. Merton, returned the captain, impatiently. Captain Alick is so kind to me, I already “But certainly there is on mine. I am love him so dearly, that I cannot but of a slower, less impetuous nature. Let choose take his friend for mine upon the me have the papers to read to-night when first meeting.”

I retire to my chamber. I promise you to "I hope you will find him a good and give it careful thought, and in the morning generous friend,” said Captain Alick, you shall know my candid opinion.” while Mr. Merton bowed his acknowledge “I don't want your opinion. I want ment of Genevieve's address. “ You see your answer, yes or no.

Will you help we have been discussing grave and knotty right this defrauded orphan ?” questions over our wine. Will you come “If you like that statement better, you into the little parlor, and charm away the shall have my ay or nay in the morning.cobwebs with one of those sweet melodies Very well. You understand those payou warble like any forest birdling ?” pers are merely copies. The main thing is

“I shall be too proud and happy. I will to find this Scotch minister; then, of do my best. How glad I am you love course, the matter is settled. Perhaps you singing!

already know something about him. You She led the way joyfully, and with un- certainly were the principal manager of affected readiness seated herself at the the affair, and the guardian of the successpiano, and commenced a sweet Italian ful heir." hymn, giving the words in English. The Captain Alick said this half defiantly, gentlemen could do no otherwise than lis- half apologetically, and kept his eye resoten attentively. Her voice was wonder- lutely upon Richard Merton's face. fully sweet, and had evidently been care- It kept its impassive coldness. He was fully cultured. She sang song after song,

no longer to be startled into impolitic or now and then glancing around with a undignified emotions. pleased smile to mark the rapt enchanted

“I am certain you dou't mean your look on her friend's face.

words as unkind as their real significance implies. It's a long time since we have “Bah! it gives me a shiver to think of been together, Alick, and it's not often I it. It is extremely imprudent. A man of get away from public business, say nothing your age diving like a boy! What if anyof my own. Let's be good friends, if we thing happened ?" can, Alick!"

“Pooh! I'm as good as half a dozen So spoke this wily schemer, well know- young men of the day. When I begin to ing how deeply such a tone and thought feel old, I shall take Tim along with me, would sink into the honest generous heart to pull me out of trouble. I'm good for beside him.

some time yct. I had the cramp one morn“Amen to that, Dick! What an old-time ing, but I got back safe. Hillo, Tiin! genial ring it has, when you call me Alick where are you? Go and bring me some of in that voice! It brings up the days when those choice cigars I keep out of the way of we were at school together, and when the rabble. You wont find their equal nothing in the world could make me so now, Dick. I bought them myself of an proud as a patronizing nod or wink from old Manilla merchant, on my last East Inyou. You were so much cleverer at books dian cruise. I am on the last thousand than I, Dick, you rogue; but when it came now, and they grow more and more to wrestling or pulling the oars, I got ahead choice.” again, old boy. Our lives might have been Tim, a stout, stalwart fellow, bearing unmapped out then from those very traits. I mistakable evidences of his sea proclivities hated deep problems heartily, and took to in his gait and sailor dress, darted out from the water as naturally as a duck. Heigh- his post in the corridor. A noble fellow ho! well, I have done some good in my was Tim, deserving something beyond casline, while in the service. It's a question, ual notice, with a heart as brave and a though, if I should have been so snugly

soul as true as steel. He had entered the harbored in retirement, if I had depended

service of his beloved master when he was upon my country's appreciation of my ser- only simple Lieutenant Thurston, and he vices. But I have always rejoiced heartily had never left him since by night or day, to see you mounting so steadily upward, and never was simple nature more thorand have been proud to know how quick oughly spaniel-like in its devotedness than you could unravel what seems to be such Tim's affection for Captain Alick. In the a hopeless snarl in the political affairs of honest servant's eyes, that gentleman was the nation. Yes, yes, Dick, let's be friends

not alone the best and kindest, but he was always."

also the greatest man in the world. “How fast it is growing dark! Shall we Captain Alick was not a man to undertry a cigar on the terrace? I'm sure you value such faithful attachment. Tim was haven't given up your old sea habits, as re- his right hand man, often his chosen configards a pipe.”

dant. “Not I. There's another old trick I The two gentlenieu paced to and fro cling to still, though I suppose Father with their cigars all the evening long. GenTime will stiffen up my joints, pretty soon, evieve, sitting at the dim library window, so I must give it up. I take my morning with her fair cheek pressed against the swim just as regular on the lake over there, glass, could see the two forms passing as I used to from the salt tide."

backward and forward, the tall and slim, “ You must find it irksome on chilly and the broad stout figure, and now and mornings," was the careless rejoinder. then came floating to her ear the mingling

“Not I. It renews my youth, freshens voices. Presently the gliminering spark me, mind and body. It is one of my pet which had accompanied them vanished. theories. Come, try it with me in the The cigars were finished. morning. I've a jaunty little boat I row They were coming in. The girl rose out into the lake, just after the sun peéps from her half-reelining position, shook out up. It's better than wine to quicken the the folds of her white dress, and went to blood, when you come up lingling with meet them, thinking perhaps they would your dive down into the cool freshness be- like music. She came upon them just as low, and inhale the reviving air.”

they were halting beneath the effulgence The Honorable Richard shrugged his of the hali lamp. shoulders.

I think I will go to my chamber, Alick.

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