by Carson Jay Lee
[Illustration: THE STAR! THE STAR! MOTHER!]
Or, Pierre and Paul
Lanier. A Romance of
CARSON JAY LEE
THE LAKESIDE PRESS
The United States of America and Great Britain.
Printed in Chicago, U.S.A.
STANDING WITH RELUCTANT FEET,
WHERE THE BROOK AND RIVER MEET.
CHAPTER I 1
The Double Scare.The Old Man's Arrest.Little Jack's
CHAPTER II 4
The Storm.Bill of Particulars not Demanded.Sage
of an Oxford Graduate.The Dream.
CHAPTER III 11
An Interesting Meeting.A Barrier and Siege.At the Parish
Church.Strange Sense of Familiarity at First
Friend from London.Alice Webster as an Interloper.Alice's
Infatuation.Visit of Paul Lanier.Lake Excursion.Two
CHAPTER IV 46
A London Conference.The Lawsuit.The Lake Tragedy.Paul's
Fright.Trip to London.Investigations of Sir Donald
and the Solicitors.The Hyde Park Confidence.Thames
Embarrassing Situation.Splash of Two Bodies.At
House of Jack Bray.A Mysterious Drive.
CHAPTER V 67
Parental Air Castles.An Unexpected Call.Hurried
Departure.Southampton Wharf Toughs and Bullying
Official.Sledge-Hammer Blows of Drooping
Pedestrian.Aboard Ship.An Ishmaelite Finding Casus
in Fate.Tempest on Bay of Biscay.
CHAPTER VI 73
Return from Opera.Esther Piqued at Alice's Conduct.Search
for Oswald and Alice.Finding of Hat and
by Reporters and Detectives.Sleuths Employed by
Sir Donald.An Optimist Turned Nemesis.Esther's Clouded
Vision.Sir Donald's Bluff.The Conspirators Quit
Donald and Esther Leave for Paris.
CHAPTER VII 85
Oswald in India.Calcutta too Cosmopolitan.Seeking
Employment.Trip to the Himalayas.
CHAPTER VIII 89
Pierre and Paul in Bombay.A Rich Englishman and his
Laniers Dine with Sir Charles Chesterton.Mutual Infatuation
of Paul and Agnes.Paul's Proposal.Sir Charles
Demands Pedigree and Inventory.Sir Charles and Pierre Vie
in Villainous Recitals.Matrimonial Decision Postponed.Sir
Charles and Pierre Sail for Calcutta.Paul's Growing
Infatuation.Agnes' Caprices.Thursday Evening Call.The
Eugene Aram Dream Lines Recital.Chesterton Rooms Vacated.
CHAPTER IX 101
Interest in Paris Poor.Losing Zeal for Man-Capture.The
Hospital Confession.The Convalescent's Mysterious
Trip to Calcutta.
CHAPTER X 132
At Himalaya Camp.Lion and Bear.For Good of
Kaiser and Tsar.Tippoo Kalidasa.Claude Leslie.Camp
Discussions.Citizen of the World.Doctrine of
York's Four Hundred.The Four Bandits.Decorating
Graves of the Robbers.Vot Sendimendals!
CHAPTER XI 155
Paul Haunted.That Grewsome Drapery of Seaweed.The
Sunday Call.Chesterton Rooms Vacant.Pierre's
Peters Sails from Bombay.
CHAPTER XII 160
Search for Dodge Family.Sir Donald and Esther
Metamorphosed Stranger.Mrs. McLaren Locates Mrs.
Dodge.Visit of Sir Donald.The Plot.Arrest of the
Conspirators.Dodge's Confession.Release of the Laniers.
CHAPTER XIII 186
Survey Expedition Disbanded.The Star.Oswald Sees Pierre
and Paul.Meets Esther and Sir Donald.The Call.Esther's
Changed Manners.Sir Donald's Tactics.
CHAPTER XIV 201
The Laniers Puzzled at Their Release.Tentacles of the
Octopus Contracting.Sir Donald and His Detectives
of Pierre and Paul.
CHAPTER XV 210
The Retrospect.Acquiesces in Fate's Opening Seals.
CHAPTER XVI 212
The Fugitives Disguised in London.Paul's Caprices.Advises
Pierre to Avoid River Fogs.Changed Shifts.
CHAPTER XVII 219
Back at Northfield.Esther's Musings.The
of Eugene Aram Dream Lines.
CHAPTER XVIII 225
On the Tramp Steamer.Odd Conceits.The Handsome
Stranger.The Consumptive.Ermine Function.It will be
All Right with Mother.The Image Reflection.The Stuttering
German.Human Transfiguration.Promethean Myth.White
Heat of Life's Crucible.Mother Left Out.Arrival at New
CHAPTER XIX 237
Thames Pantomimes.Pierre Discovers Paul's Craze.Seeks to
Elude Pursuer.A Long Swoon.Paul's Vigils.The Pose and
CHAPTER XX 247
Rasping Paradoxes.Becoming Pessimistic.Conference with
Chief Detective.Charles at Home.Criticises Oswald
Daniel Come to Judgment.
CHAPTER XXI 261
Studies Paul's Crazed Peculiarities.Paul Missing.His
New Dagger.The Alarm Clock.Sleeps on his Father's
Arm.Tragic Awakening.The Arrests.
CHAPTER XXII 268
The Corpus Delicti.Sir Donald's Queer Find.Bessie
Bottled.Cometh without Observation.Charles and the
Interesting Strangers.Visit of Veiled Woman.Night Trip
to Northfield.An Upturned Bloody Face.Paul in Esther's
Room.Call at Detective Headquarters.A
of the Arrests.A Recognition.Mute Benediction.
CHAPTER XXIII 302
A Strange Story.
CHAPTER XXIV 363
At the Threshold of a New World's View.The Modus
Vivendi.Letters to Sir Donald.Oswald and the
to Old Slip.The Arraignment.Turn Your Kidnaper
Loose.Diplomatic Man-Catcher.Oswald Attends
Church.Overcoming the World.Meets Claude Leslie in
Central Park.Enigma to Social Belles.Claude Leaves for
West.Marco Salvini.At Saint Vincent's.The
Star! The Star! Mother!Inverted Spike-Prints.Mystic
CHAPTER XXV 387
The Evening's Meeting.Angles of Cross-Purpose.Sir Donald's
Letter to Oswald.Paul Committed as a Madman.Pierre's Odd
Ethical Caprices.Do Equity.Esther Inspects Postmarks
and Consults Ship Schedules.An Expected Proposal.A Sad
Home-Coming.A Northfield Reunion.Ingenuous
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
PAGE THE STAR! THE STAR! MOTHER!
THERE WAS A FLASH OF STEEL, A BLOW AND THRUST,
FOLLOWED BY THE SPLASH OF TWO BODIES 60
WITH UPLIFTED HAND THE APPARITION SLOWLY ADVANCED
TOWARD THE COWERING PAUL, AS IF TO
WHEN WITHIN ABOUT A HALF-MILE, THE FOUR RAISED
THEIR WEAPONS 149
RAPTLY GAZING AT THE CHILD'S INNOCENT FACE, PAUL
SOFTLY CROONS SOME CRADLE MELODY 283
PO' SICK CHILE! YO' WHITE FACE 'MINDS ME OF MY
OWN MANDY CAR'LINE JUST 'FO' SHE DIED! 306
THEN BEHOLDING PIERRE IRONED AND HELPLESS, PAUL
BURST OUT IN A HYSTERICAL LAUGH 359
THIS SAGE REPLY IS HEARD BY THE EAVESDROPPING
Though to explain incurs a risk, the author accepts the hazard of a
word in advance.
While the novelist's license has been so used that there is need
neither to resent an innuendo nor to prove an alibi, yet,
substantially, the incidents narrated occurred within the time stated,
and nearly all the actors are still upon life's boards.
The conscientious tourist in search of that beautiful country-seat
and wood-fringed lake is advised to defer his visit. Perhaps the
exact locations are intended to be in doubt. Even that station might
be hard to find in an English train schedule.
Geographical accuracy may not be always essential. One noted writer
has told of infatuation for
An ounce of common, ugly, human dust,
and declared that
.... Places are too much,
Or else too little, for immortal man.
The reader of few or of many books may find reminders in these
pages. The author hastens to confess echoings from bygone days,
hintings of vagrant fancies, and whimsical reveries wherein appeared
the vague evasive outlines of half-remembered things.
If keeping that harmless old connoisseur of the image and
superscription, who insisted on positive rigor mortis, jailed so
long seem heartless, it should be remembered that some wrongs are more
apparent than real.
The antecedents of that mysterious fair-haired Find are still in
doubt, but this signifies little. Child-life is always a miracle more
inscrutable than the resurrection of Lazarus.
The hinted fate of Pierre and Paul Lanier may merit some criticism.
Perhaps summary justice should have been meted out; but in view of all
extenuating circumstances, may not judgment be suspended? Since
Eternity is so long, and in deference to that bias for saving, can
we not allow an appeal unto Cæsar?
CARSON JAY LEE.
CHAPTER I. THE SCARE AND ARREST
Passing along the street, apparently self-absorbed, there seems
little in this man to attract notice.
Why does the scared newsboy hurry by, thinking of that strange face?
Quickly the agitated countenance assumes a look of dignified
A block away the boy resumes his calls:
All about the murder of a young girl! Body found in the river!
Police on track of the murderer!
Poor little fellow! murmured Oswald. He gave me such a shock! But
how frightened he seemed when passing, with his innocent yell! How
foolish my scare! What do New York police know or care about a crime
committed in London years ago?
Curious to read what the city papers say of this homicide, Oswald
retraces his steps, turns a corner, and sees the boy waiting pay from a
pleasant-faced, careful old man, who holds to his purchase while
critically scrutinizing the coin, as if sorry to part with such image
and superscription without approved value.
Be the girl dead and be she drowned sure?
She's a goner! replied the boy.
This emphatic assurance of rigor mortis having convinced the old
gentleman that his money will be well invested, the deal is about to be
closed, when, seeing Oswald, little Jack sprints across the street,
down an alley, into the arms of a policeman.
Pfwhat yez roonin' loike yez a stalin' wagabond pfhwor? sternly
asks the officer.
That willanous-lookin' rascal round there is campin' on me trail.
With visions of a kidnaper of small boys fleeing from his wrath,
Michael P. O'Brien drags the terrified Jack out of the alley to the
street. Seeing the old man holding to the paper and looking dazed, upon
this gray-haired malefactor is placed the strong hand of the statute
in such case made and provided, and he is started toward the
police-station, with the soothing assurance:
Yez nadn't confiss yez guilt by discriminatin' ividince.
Seeing that matters are badly mixed, Jack sidles away toward the
opposite street-corner. His movement is noted by the policeman at the
exact moment that Jack again sees Oswald. Heedless of loud command to
Sthop, in the noime of the law, the youthful auctioneer of the
metropolitan press heads at right angles and is soon out of sight.
CHAPTER II. AFTER THE STORM
The day has been fearfully hot. Unconscious of surroundings, every
nerve seemingly relaxed, a young man is riding along the road toward
the station. Passing a wooded strip, there is a blinding flash. With
much effort, Oswald frees himself from the limb of a tree, which in
falling broke the neck of his horse. Bewildered with pain and drenched
to the skin, he is staggering around in the mud, when a light wagon,
drawn by a fine team, comes to a sudden halt at the fallen tree. The
driver turns his conveyance around and assists the soaked victim of the
storm to a seat. Retracing the way to another road, after a roundabout
journey they stop in front of a large mansion surrounded by a grove.
The injured man is assisted to a room. A servant soon brings dry
clothing and kindles a fire.
Oswald begins to meditate upon his mishap. Close call, murmurs he,
and just as I had completed that grand air-castle! At the very moment
when the acclaim was the loudest and the star of Langdon seemed
brightest, that blinding flash! That terrible shock, too, and such an
oppressive feeling, until the limb was removed from my breast! What
does it mean? How like and yet unlike my last night's dream! I feel so
cold, too. He stirs the fire, which is burning cheerily, and sits down
in the cushioned chair, the blood flowing from his mouth.
Oswald soon recovers from the hemorrhage, and is aroused from his
languor by the entrance of a fine-looking man whose general appearance
indicates a life of about fifty years.
Seeing the pale face, and noting its strong outlines, yet refined
expression, he stands for a moment in silent admiration.
How do you feel now?
Much better, thank you, is the feeble reply.
Perceiving his guest's weakness, he rings a bell, and upon the
prompt appearance of a servant, gives orders which are soon complied
with by the bringing of refreshments.
Oswald learns that his kind host bears the name of Donald Randolph,
and is the owner of the beautiful country-seat known as Northfield;
that he has a family consisting of a son and daughter; that the son is
away on a trip to India, the daughter visiting in London, but expected
home on the following day.
Wishing to know more of the girl, her age, whether single or
married, educated or otherwise, with the numerous further items of
information naturally desired by a young man of twenty-five, about the
daughter of an aristocratic, highly connected, wealthy English
gentleman, Oswald, however, has the tact and good breeding not to
demand a bill of particulars.
There being a brief pause here, as if both feel that an important
though delicate subject is under consideration, Sir Donald becomes the
inquisitor, learning much about Oswald's past life without asking many
questions. Sir Donald manifests such kindly, unfeigned interest, so
much sympathy with Oswald's plans for the future, heartily approving of
his highest aspirations, that the young man confides unreservedly, and
tells it well.
Oswald's father was the younger son of Herbert Langdon, and for many
years had been rector of an important parish. His parents had placed
Oswald under a tutor, who had prepared him for Oxford. He had finished
a course at this institution, and was taking a pleasure trip on
horseback when the accident befell him. He now aspires to be a
barrister, though until within a few years his secret ambition had been
to be a great military leader. He had read of St. Crispin,
Balaklava, the Battle of the Nile, Trafalgar, and Waterloo, but
the military spirit is subservient to that of commerce and diplomacy.
With much sage assurance he said:
Massed armies, long-range ordnance, impregnable forts,
steel-armored battle-ships, and deadly, explosive coast marine mines
are simply bellicose forms of pacific, neutral notes commanding the
'peace of Europe.' The jealousy of nations will not permit wars of
conquest for colonial extension, and the mouths of frowning cannon are
imperious pledges of international comity. Weak dynasties will find
tranquillity in the fears of more august powers. Even the unspeakable
Moslem will be unmolested in his massacres, to insure regular clipping
of Turkish bonds in money markets of European capitals.
Here Sir Donald suggested that possibly this pacific, commercial
tendency had its perils, and through unforeseen complications might
The enervating influences of wealth, the extreme conservatism
thereby fostered, and the resulting disposition to accept any
compromise rather than interfere with the free course of trade, may
create conditions breeding hostilities. May not such extreme aversion
to commercial disturbance, and disposition to think lightly of national
honor, compared with financial security, be bids for attack from more
hardy, martial peoples, having little respect for the prerogatives of
traffic or the hypocritical refinements of diplomatic craft? Are not
such conditions, with the luxurious licentiousness so natural thereto,
combined with the stolid indifference and poverty of the masses, most
potent factors in the decline and fall of nations?
Struck by the force of these suggestions, Oswald is silent.
Seeing that this interesting young man is pondering upon these
possibilities and resulting changes in the maps of the world, Sir
Donald watches him with much admiration. He thinks, I may not live to
behold much of this, but would like to see a cast of his horoscope.
After a brief pause, Oswald replies:
Serious contingencies may grow out of these tendencies of the
times. These may require diplomacy and forbearance among the powers.
Barbarous peoples would be at a great disadvantage in a conflict with
any of the greater nations of the earth. Personal prowess, resistless
in the whirlwind of the charge, is of little avail against modern
artillery or long-range ordnance. The destructive power of modern
military equipment will make adjustment of international differences by
He hedges at this point with the suggestion:
Still, some crazy autocrat or frenzied people at any time may bring
on far-reaching conflicts, and barbarous hordes will become menaces to
civilization if taught the art of modern warfare.
After a few minutes' further conversation of a general character,
Sir Donald bids Oswald good-night.
Being weary, Oswald soon after retired.
On the waters of a beautiful lake, under a cloudless sky, Oswald is
swiftly sailing. The breeze seconding his own skill, the boat seems
instinct with life. From the wooded bank, around a distant curve,
emerges a small sail with two persons aboard. Nearing the middle of the
lake, he sees a struggle, a splash, then a female form sinking in the
water. With its remaining occupant the boat speeds swiftly away,
disappearing beyond a jutting wooded point. Oswald's sail reaches the
spot, and he rescues the insensible form of a young woman. She revives
and becomes his loving friend. Soon a hateful, sinister face haunts
them. Many snares they unconsciously escape. There is a tangle in the
web of events. They stand upon the banks of a river, near a large city.
The girl clings to him despairingly. Their foe appears, and both are
struck from the bank into the river. Regaining the shore, Oswald flees.
Through terrible mazes he is driven over the earth, with the face of
the drowned girl before his eyes, the shadow of the gallows looming
grim and black at every turn.
With a groan Oswald awakes. The pain in his side and breast is
severe, but the dream seems much more real. He can not easily believe
it to be simply a chimera of an overwrought brain.
CHAPTER III. OSWALD MEETS ESTHER
Late on the following morning a servant called with breakfast. In
about an hour Sir Donald paid Oswald a visit.
Replying to a question as to his night's rest, he complained of
severe pains across his lungs. Sir Donald suggested that a physician be
called, but Oswald declined medical assistance.
After some pleasant talk, Sir Donald informed him that the servant
would be at his command until evening; that in the afternoon Esther
would return from London, and expected her father at the station,
adding: These little girls must be carefully attended.
Oswald felt a shade of disappointment at this fatherly allusion to
little Esther. Having pictured a graceful young woman of faultless
face, form, and manner, how strong his protest against the displacement
of this ideal, by a rollicking little tot, full of spoiled temper and
Oswald now sees in Sir Donald Randolph less to admire. Mentally
arraigning this aristocrat for his poor taste, he blames the silly
father for having such a daughter. Finally, deciding not to be unduly
harsh in his judgment, as there might have been mitigating
circumstances, he is feeling a sense of self-approval, when voices are
Looking from the window, he sees that pictured ideal coming up the
graveled walk, clasping the hand of Sir Donald, talking as though time
were covenant essence, with forfeiture imminent.
At once all resentment vanishes. This noble father is promptly
Oswald now feels an impulse to apologize for his former verdict and
judgment, but decides, as neither had been announced, to suppress both.
His pleased fancy pictures pleasant moonlight strolls, long rides on
horseback, frequent sails upon a wooded lake, numerous tête-à-têtes in
secluded bowers, a sweet girl's tender, wistful smiles, a whispered
proposal, with happy, conditional acceptance, soon followed by a grand
For nearly an hour little matters kept Sir Donald from visiting his
Oswald chafed under this prolonged neglect. Why should he, Oswald
Langdon, with assured honors waiting acceptance, receive such shabby
treatment? To leave promptly would be showing proper spirit.
However, there is little hazard of such commendable spiritual
Strange, Miss Randolph has no more curiosity and shows so little
Soon Sir Donald called, and asked if Oswald felt able to go
Fully, thank you! is the animated response.
Leaning on Sir Donald's arm, the young man descends, and enters the
family sitting-room, where he is presented to Esther Randolph.
Habitually at ease in exchange of formal social greetings, Oswald
feels a slight tremor of embarrassment upon his presentation to this
beautiful blushing girl. Such mixture of childish curiosity, impulsive
girlish candor, and unconscious grace, with hesitating modesty, womanly
dignity, and restraints of good breeding, all modulated by eye and
accent, blending with expressive facial lights and shades, is to Oswald
a new creation.
The look of questioning admiration is mutual, each evidently seeing
in the other an interesting enigma.
Wonderfully fascinated by this girl of twenty, Oswald spends a
delightful evening. So absorbed is he, that bodily pain and Sir Donald
are in abeyance. This fine specimen of mature, aristocratic manhood now
is interesting only as father of a unique daughter.
While pleased at Oswald's manly refinement and evident interest, the
girl feels no warmer thrill.
Esther's education had progressed under her father's care. Competent
teachers of high character were employed for so important work. The
mental culture, social training, and refined accomplishments of Esther
Randolph to such a father were matters of import. Nor were the subtle
interwoven relations of the intellectual and ethical with bodily
conditions, disregarded. She learned much by study wisely directed;
became proficient in the languages, vocal and instrumental music;
absorbed valuable general information from frequent talks with her
father; read with discrimination some of the best works of poetry,
romance, and literature; was familiar with the amenities of polite
society; yet this girl of twenty seemed totally unconscious of her rare
accomplishments, or bewitching perfections of face and form.
When she first met Oswald Langdon, Esther had not felt any symptoms
of the tender sentiment. Was not this handsome, refined, enthusiastic,
cultured young fellow, so strangely placed in her path, almost an ideal
of manly perfection?
In Oswald's life there had been little social sentiment. The formal
courtesies of polite society were hollow and tiresome. Though thought
by friends and acquaintances to be a young man of strong mind,
fascinating, magnetic manners, and high aspirations, with a brilliant
prospective career, he seemed careless of that dubious prestige whose
uncertain tenure is subject to the whims of the alleged select.
Oswald had met many well-connected, eligible young ladies. Their
manners had been kindly gracious. Most courteously and with instinctive
chivalry he had responded, but never felt any lasting interest. Now,
providentially, he has met Esther Randolph. Oswald Langdon and
providence cannot fail.
Sir Donald listened with pleasure to the animated talk of Esther and
Though fascinated with the girl, Oswald's manner toward the father
was respectfully considerate. Sir Donald was his kind benefactor, and
had a most charming daughter. Oswald Langdon had too much
self-respectand tactto ignore Sir Donald Randolph.
At ten o'clock the family and guest retired, the father to indulge
his soul's long habit of speculative conjecture, the daughter to sleep,
Oswald to think of Esther.
The stay of Oswald at Northfield was prolonged for a period of six
weeks. For nearly half of this time he was detained by his injuries and
the advice of the physician. Fearing hemorrhages as a result of the
injuries to his breast, Oswald finally had consented to receive medical
Enjoying the society of this interesting invalid, Sir Donald and
Esther had assured him that he was welcome to the extended hospitality
There were many delightful talks upon all sorts of subjects,
profound and otherwise. Esther often played, with exquisite skill,
selections from musical masters. At his request she sang songs of
grand, refined sentiment and of most entrancing melody.
Oswald was not at ease. Though Esther promptly responded to his
invitations to sing and play, even anticipating his wishes in
selections, seeming perfectly happy in his presence, Oswald saw that
this grand girl had thoughts and purposes in which he had no part.
The form of this barrier was shadowy, but real.
To some natures, vague, dim outlines of shapes are more potent than
those of an heroic mold.
There was in Oswald's high-strung, impulsive being, not tense,
imperious energy alone, but that craft which in emergency could plan
But how mass the forces of a masterful spirit against an evasive
Though perplexed by this intangible obstacle to his purposes, Oswald
continued, by varying tactics, his subtle bombardment, still
floundering in the mazes of the siege.
While impressed with her father's liberal views regarding the
infinite wideness of divine compassion toward human frailty, Esther had
a most exacting sense of personal obligation to a higher power.
It never occurred to this generous, conscientious girl that her
moral delinquencies should tax the healing properties or sensitive
texture of the seamless robe. Her conscience was peculiarly
responsive to all religious appeals wherein duty was imperative, and
her sentiments were so generous toward human want, that the natural
effect of such ethical experiences would be a life of self-sacrifice in
some line of charitable service.
This conscientious leaning was toward practical charity. At London,
during her recent visit, Esther had listened to eloquent, stirring
appeals from a brilliant pulpit orator, upon the subjects of charity
and sacrifice. Prominence was given to local endeavor in behalf of the
Such are, said he, exalted objects of divine solicitude. Hopeless
looks and dwarfish lives are fearful protests against the pitiless
avarice of the faithless rich. This or that conception of the
redemptive economy, or concerning the personnel of its central figure,
may be tolerated, but there can be no hopeful sign for him who actively
or passively oppresses God's 'little ones.'
A story has been told of One whose weary, homeless head, often
envied hole of fox and nest of bird; 'despised and rejected,' yet
making autocratic claims to kingly prerogatives over an empire more
limitless than that of Cæsar Augustus; having in marked degree, a
high-born soul's characteristic indifference to personal affronts, yet
terribly indignant at slights to the poor; Who, standing with His
imperial brow bared in oriental sun, His right hand resting in
benediction upon curly-headed babe, the other thrilling with prophetic
instinct of the leftward gesture of 'Depart,' uttered this sentiment,
Better a millstone necklace and deep-sea grave than offense against the
How heartless, for one reared in luxury, placed beyond the reach of
want, having refinements and accomplishments of intellectual drill,
leading a life of selfish ease, pampering every personal taste, while
millions of these needy wards lack common bread.
Names and sacrifices of noted philanthropists were eloquently
commented upon, and pathetic instances were narrated of noble women who
had spent their lives in this human ministry.
These appeals had awakened in Esther's mind a fixed resolve to
devote herself to some form of home missionary work. She fully had
determined to forego all associations and environments not conducive to
greatest usefulness in her chosen mission.
Trustingly waiting providential direction, Esther had returned from
London, doubting not that a life of contented service would unfold with
Thus panoplied with mail of self-consecration to an ideal, Esther
Randolph met and withstood the suit of Oswald Langdon.
Oswald never overtly exceeded the bounds of social propriety, nor
boorishly inflicted his presence upon Esther's attention. The high
constraints of native manliness and gentlemanly instinct precluded such
Esther's failure to appreciate this rare chance, and to acquiesce in
her lover's evident interest, resulted not from any strange apathy or
dislike, such as sometimes influences girlish choice. To her father she
said: I see in Oswald's remarkable individuality much to admire. His
refined, magnetic enthusiasm is contagious, and at times most
fascinating. His delicately guarded, subtle compliments, yet earnest,
sincere speech, interest me greatly. It was but natural that the
tender, wistful courtesies and considerate deference of this masterful
suitor should be pleasing to Esther's womanly spirit. This
high-principled girl, strong for self-sacrifice upon the altar of duty,
was intensely human. Oswald felt this charm, and readily yielded to its
As Esther became sensitive of her interest in Oswald's future, she
became more conscientiously determined upon absolute dedication of self
to higher purposes than earthly pleasures.
Being perplexed at the strange girl's conduct, Oswald concluded to
learn its cause. His waking hours, while alone, were spent in framing
all sorts of delicately worded questions and comments about subjects
which he thought of interest to Esther, calculated to draw out this
Unconscious of his craft, Esther's responses were void of light as
Oswald became wildly curious as to this mystery. It occurred to him
that there might have been a case of early infatuation.
To his skillfully framed, delicately propounded questions about her
past life, Esther answered frankly, with happy enthusiasm, giving each
Perhaps her aristocratic father had confided to Esther cherished
plans concerning proper social alliances, and this loyal daughter
yielded to the parental will.
Oswald's tactful delving unearthed no coercive find of restraining
or constraining parental influence designedly swaying Esther's choice
toward any fixed social status.
It was apparent that this girl felt toward her father a loving sense
of filial reverence. That Esther would defer to Sir Donald's
unexpressed or spoken will, Oswald doubted not.
There seemed to be such habitual interchange of parental and filial
regard, so much of loving care and trusting dependence between this
father and child, that Oswald knew in any emergency these would be far
more autocratic in power of high constraint than any dogmatic
assertions of authority or sentimental excesses.
Does she divine his purposes and evade the issue? Are any peculiar
English property entailments obstacles to his suit? Is this hateful
barrier some high family scheme of marital intrigue or establishment?
These and other less probable possible causes are canvassed by Oswald
with much tact and persistence.
Much of information derived by this resourceful inquisitor was not
through question or reply, but was elicited by adroitly worded opinions
upon remotely similar subjects adapted to time and occasion of their
utterance. Still the mystery deepened.
Oswald had been at Northfield for about three weeks, and was
entirely recovered from his injuries.
Though loth to leave this interesting home, he concluded to go. With
evident reluctance he stated his purpose to Sir Donald and Esther.
These so cordially urged longer stay that Oswald readily consented.
Why not stay here longer, and see more of Northfield?
He had no wish to find any sufficient answer to this question. To
his visual survey Northfield was then in smiling review.
Sir Donald suggested a ride on horseback. The air was pleasant and
the sky cloudless. Oswald admired the picturesque variety of wood,
stream, hill, and level field, with their blending, many-colored
shades. Esther commented with enthusiasm upon the incidents of each
loved spot, seeming a little girl again among the sweet scenes of her
childhood home. Sir Donald listened with pleased smile to Esther's
minute description of each coincidence of the past. At times there
crossed his refined, mobile face tremulous shades, suggestive of
pathetic memories. The panorama of twenty-five years was passing before
his reminiscent gaze, softened and blended by subdued tints of receding
Turning a wooded curve, they came upon a grassy nook by a pebbly
stream shaded with trees. The granite inscriptions with choicely
selected bushes and flowers needed no interpreter.
Esther saw that Sir Donald wished to be alone. Without spoken sign,
she rode on, accompanied by Oswald.
Sir Donald dismounted. This strong, mature, chastened man never
thought of wife and child as sleeping there. They dwelt too far and
safe for such pulseless rest. With clarified visions and adjusted
lenses these gazed from their high mounts of observation upon those
graves called human existence, not yet resurrected unto life.
Esther led the way along a narrow path to an open space, where she
and Oswald dismounted. Neither referred to Sir Donald's whim in
Oswald had spent a half-hour alone with this interesting girl
without reference to the mystery which had eluded his subtle, absorbing
inquiry for the past three weeks.
Upon being joined by Sir Donald, the party rode on for some distance
along the bank of a lake, until coming to a graveled road and following
its meandering course, they returned to the Northfield mansion.
Next day was the Sabbath. Oswald attended the parish church with Sir
Donald and Esther.
Having from early childhood felt the restraints of religious
training, Oswald yielded to the sweet solemnity of the hour. Though his
controlling aspirations, in their uncurbed impetuosity and youthful
conceit, were little consciously tinged with the higher sentiments of
ethical teaching, yet Christian principles were entitled to
unquestioned homage. Feeling slight commendation for that meek attitude
of majestic patience, led like a lamb to the slaughter, he thrilled
at sight of an heroic warrior figure, clad in royal
Bozrah-vintage-tinted purple, with powerful victor tread, returning
from Edom conquest. There was not much of comeliness in the marred
face of an unresenting Christ, but how fascinating the autocratic,
prophet-painted, empire-inscribed pose of Redemption's Champion, clad
in ermine of final decree, alternately welcoming his ancient Elect,
and with awful leftward gesture upon countless millions pronouncing the
changeless judgment of Depart.
Esther's lips quivered with sympathetic emotion at the divine
tenderness for human despair. In the miracles she saw heavenly
interposition to relieve earthly want. Barley loaves, fish, and wine
were for the hungry, thirsty, ravenous crowd. Clay anointings were for
the blind, quickened ears for deaf mutes, leprous healings for diseased
outcasts, and recalled vital breath to pulseless mortality, responsive
to human prayer. Esther faintly comprehended the inexorable justice of
final judgment, but pitied poor, erring, bewildered, helpless human
wanderers, gravitating so swiftly and surely to drear, friendless
caverns of eternal night.
Afterward, in comment to Oswald and Esther, Sir Donald said:
Is not patience royalty's most crucial test? How easy, kingly
assertion! How hard, autocratic forbearance! How little evidence of
omnipotence in vindictive wrath! Are not human weaknesses rightful
claimants to a divine protectorate? Are not the crowning glories of
these grand figures of Hebrew imagery in their pathetic antitypes? Is
not the progressive evolution of the ages more sublime than spontaneous
precocity? Restoring to normal functions ear, eye, and tongue is not so
miraculous as are continuous creations of auricular and visual senses,
with all the wondrous resulting harmonies of speech, sound, and song.
Healing an 'unclean' wretch of his foul disorder ranks not the healthy
rhythm of an infant's pulse. The inexplicable life of an interesting
young girl is more mysterious than was the resurrection of Lazarus.
The ritual had an unspeakable charm for Esther and Oswald.
Monday, Oswald saw Esther only briefly, as some matters of household
supervision absorbed her care. He felt lonely, but improved the time in
writing several letters which had been delayed. Such employment would
do when Esther was out of sight. It seemed a day lost.
Many years had receded into vague retrospect before the absorbing
interests of three brief weeks.
Upon Tuesday Sir Donald and Esther drove to the station. A girl
friend was expected on a visit from London.
Oswald spent the day in walking about the grounds and viewing the
rare beauties of Northfield. Aware that much of interest was being seen
by him for the first time, yet he experienced a strange sense of
familiarity with many objects in this changing panorama. He took an
extended stroll along the banks of the lake. He stops and soliloquizes:
Still the same unaccountable sensation! When and where have I
witnessed the counterpart of that timbered bank beyond the curve, with
the jutting wooded point in the distance? Why should the waters of a
running stream, with the glare of myriad lights, appear in the
background of this real landscape view? What have I done that a
fleeing, skulking form like my own flits back and forth in the distant
outlines? Where have I seen that despairing female face?
With insistent sense of some fateful impending ill, Oswald returned
Having been gone several hours, the sun was setting when he reached
the mansion grounds. Coming up a flower-fringed path, wondering at the
chimeras of the afternoon, he saw Esther seated on a bench near a
rosebush, and stepped toward her with a pleasant greeting, but cut it
short with a startled, Well!
The surprised cause of Oswald's exclamation blushed as she looked
into his strangely excited countenance.
Thinking there was some mistake of identity at the base of this
incident, Esther presented Oswald to her friend from London, Miss Alice
With much pleasant tact, Esther managed to divert the minds of her
young friends from this little mistaken affair to subjects more
Miss Webster has lived in London several years, and is an intimate
friend of my cousins dwelling there. She called upon them during my
recent visit. I pressed Alice to spend a few weeks at Northfield. We
look for a most delightful time.
How nice it will be that Mr. Langdon can be here and help us to
enjoy this treat! What lovely trips on horseback! Such sails on the
lake! Miss Webster sings divinely.
Esther's exquisite face shone with genuine anticipation, and Alice
seemed hopeful of perfect happiness.
Oswald did not just like the prospect. Though this London
acquisition to Northfield's select circle was an uncommonly pretty
young woman of twenty-two, tall, and a most strikingly interesting
brunette, Oswald had little disposition to be promiscuous in his tastes
for female charms. To his discriminating vision Esther Randolph was the
ideal of all he deemed desirable in womanly loveliness. If Oswald
Langdon had been consulted as to the advisability of this expected
visit, Alice Webster at that time would have been in London.
However, there were matters in the Randolph social set which had
taken shape without his molding hand.
Oswald considerately decided not to veto any absolute decrees of
fate, but felt that innocent, generous-hearted Alice Webster was an
interloper and a positive barrier to his purposes.
Let none fancy that this chafing, impetuous suitor, so impatient
toward any and all obstacles, permitted ocular evidence of these
sentiments to casual view. All was masked by the most refined, manly
courtesy and held in check by habitual self-control.
From the first Alice admired Oswald Langdon. His conduct toward her
was the perfection of manly consideration. Conscious of his
unreasonable resentment against her presence at Northfield at this
particular time, he made amends by strenuous efforts to entertain this
For nearly two weeks the time of these interesting young people was
occupied in varying rounds of social pleasure. The three seldom were
separated, except when Esther was called away to superintend some
household matter or joined Sir Donald.
Oswald planned many ways to be alone with Esther, but found such
seclusion impossible. Not that there was apparent disposition on her
part to thwart any of his plans, but on the contrary, Esther seemed
acquiescent in every whim of her guests.
Alice was happy in Oswald's company, and did not disguise her
Having been so considerate, Oswald could not now be indifferent
without causing sensitive pain.
Though Esther had concluded that her life's purpose never would
permit anything more than Platonic regard for Oswald Langdon, yet she
often wished that duty's path might be less narrow and exacting. The
cost of living with sole reference to a high spiritual ideal never
seemed so great as when she saw this fascinating, manly suitor,
evidently seeking her hand, but failing of proper encouragement,
turning his attention to another. Beyond this suppressed pain,
evidenced by slightly quivering lips, there was little to disturb
Esther's fixed resolve.
When Oswald had despaired of again seeing Esther except in company
of Alice, and was thinking of going home to await further plans, all
were surprised by the appearance of a young man from London.
That evening Sir Donald told Oswald the following story:
For many years Paul Lanier has known Alice, and they are quite
friendly. He was a frequent caller at her London home. Though Alice
never felt toward him much of interest and doubted his sincerity of
purpose, yet this tireless suitor persistently continued his
Paul is the son of a rich broker, who until recently has been the
guardian of Alice Webster.
Alice's father, William Webster, acquired wealth in India. Pierre
Lanier was his partner.
Reverses came. In a fit of insane madness over his losses, resort
was had to the suicide's refuge. Pierre Lanier settled the complicated
affairs of his dead partner. All was absorbed but a small estate in
England, yielding an annual rental of one hundred pounds. This income
has been devoted to the care and education of the orphan daughter,
Alice Webster, who at the time of her father's death was four years
old. Her mother died when Alice was a babe, and was buried at Calcutta.
Paul is the only son of Pierre Lanier, and until he reached the age
of sixteen lived with his father in India. Nine years ago his father
brought Paul to London, where he has since resided. Through his
father's finesse, Paul moved in select London circles. He attended the
same church as Alice Webster. The father being wealthy and of pleasant
address, Paul was regarded as a promising young man with good
prospects, but both, for some reason, seem interested in the future of
this young orphan girl with the moderate allowance.
Alice and Paul were much together, and became quite good friends.
Paul's father still resided abroad, but made frequent visits to London.
The growing friendship between these two young people seemed to meet
his hearty approval. About nine months ago Paul joined his father at
Calcutta, and Alice thought he was still there until she was surprised
by his unheralded appearance.
Less than a year previous to this meeting, Pierre Lanier was in
London. At this time Paul proposed to Alice that they be married during
his father's stay. Alice gently but positively declined this proposal.
Paul insisted, and was fiercely indignant at her continued refusal.
Finally, seeing there was then no hope of a favorable answer, his
tactics took more subtle form, and Paul said:
'It is unreasonable that I should expect an immediate answer. You
have known me as a boy, and have seen little of society. You will like
me better after seeing the hollow mockery of social compliments. My
love for you will be constant. Will you not kindly leave me some hope,
and wait a year before final decision? I will go abroad, hoping that at
the end of twelve anxious months Alice Webster will consent to become
Thus appealed to, this generous-hearted girl consented to grant the
desired time, and to defer until then the final reply. Soon after this
Pierre Lanier left London, and in a few weeks Paul went to India.
Oswald was much interested in this romance and awaited developments.
Alice experienced much uneasiness because of her promise to wait.
She felt determined upon refusing to become the wife of Paul Lanier,
but dreaded the ordeal. She doubted his sincerity, and felt dread of
both father and son. For several weeks before her visit at Northfield
Alice had experienced an unaccountable sense of being watched, and
often in her walks met a strange man with familiar, furtive, shifting
glances. Fully determined forever to end this unwelcome affair, Alice
gladly accepted Esther's invitation to visit Northfield. In the sweet
infatuation of the past few weeks Alice almost had forgotten her former
distresses, and was experiencing a sense of unmitigated pleasure at
this beautiful home. Her growing interest in Oswald Langdon would make
easier dismissal forever of Paul's attentions.
Though when in company of Esther and Oswald, Alice often had
experienced a temporary sense of being watched, yet her pleasure was
too genuine long to feel the presence of unreal objects. More than once
had the reflected shadow of Paul Lanier appeared in startling
clearness. Far from being homely or of unpleasant features, judged by
approved standards of manly beauty, yet compared with Oswald Langdon,
Paul Lanier was to Alice Webster an uninteresting deformity.
The two girls were sitting upon the lawn, in shade of a tree,
listening to Oswald's full, well-modulated voice reading from the
opening chapter of Aurora Leigh, when a neatly dressed,
stylish-appearing young man stood before them. Lifting his hat with a
low bow, he responded to Alice's startled Mr. Lanier! with
With apparent fear, Alice presented Paul to Esther and Oswald as her
friend from London, Mr. Paul Lanier.
Noting the dismay of Alice at his sudden appearance, and quickly
divining that her sentiments toward him had not improved, Paul bit his
lips with suppressed ire, but otherwise was outwardly impassive. Paul
made a hurried explanation to Alice's unspoken inquiries: I returned
from India sooner than expected. I learned of you being at Northfield,
and came from London to see you.
Alice endeavored to appear cheerful, but her efforts were apparent
Paul attributed her conduct to the presence of Oswald, and from that
moment became an implacable foe.
Oswald saw in the presence of Paul Lanier at Northfield, for the
avowed purpose of meeting Alice Webster, a chance to renew his quest.
So, far from attempting to supplant Paul, he wished him success, and
hoped Alice would think kindly of her old-time friend, who had traveled
from far India to see this capricious girl. Was not the infatuated Paul
handsome, stylish, and evidently sincere? Oswald felt a sense of pity
for the foolish prejudices of the silly Alice. His sympathies were
aroused in behalf of the slighted Paul, who would be justified in
cutting the acquaintance of such a perverse sweetheart. Oswald trusted
that Paul would consider before taking such a course. It would be well
for strong-minded, decisive men to practice forbearance with girlish
whims and fancies.
Ignoring the coolness of Alice, Paul was very courteous, seeming not
to notice her evident dislike.
The efforts of both young men to be alone with their objects of
interest were thwarted by the tact of Alice, who was attracted to the
side of Oswald or Esther, as varying circumstances required.
The evening was passed in conversation and instrumental music, yet
there were feelings of bitterness in that apparently happy group. Sir
Donald and Esther felt the pleasure growing out of generous, hospitable
entertainment, but there was much of unspoken recrimination between
What pent malice often is masked by smiling social courtesies!
Upon the next day Sir Donald proposed that all take a sail on the
lake and enjoy some excellent fishing.
To reach the water at a convenient spot near the boat, the gay
party, with lunch and fishing outfit, took a double carriage, Sir
Donald occupying a seat with the driver. All entered the boat, Sir
Donald with much skill handling the canvas. After an extended ride the
party landed on a shaded bank, where a fire was kindled. The fish and
coffee soon were steaming on a table before used by the family on
similar lake excursions.
After the meal Sir Donald lay down at a little distance and took a
nap. The rest of the party strolled together through the timber
skirting the shore.
Esther and Alice became separated by a narrow ravine, which
gradually widened until its sides became steep. Oswald had followed
Esther, who seemed perfectly happy, and unconscious of the widening
breach between them and her friend.
Paul had seen his chance to be alone with Alice. The girl had not
noticed how their path was being separated from that of her friends
until they had gone some distance. Then she thought of retracing her
steps, but Paul suggested that they might get farther away in this
manner, and that by continuing up the ravine a crossing soon would be
found. They kept on their way, Paul evincing his desire to find Esther
and Oswald by frequent calls. There were no responses. After an hour of
wandering, Alice became tired, and sat down to rest.
Paul now seemed worried over not finding Esther and Oswald. He
suggested that they wait to see if their friends would not come that
way. They more easily could get back to the point of separation by not
traveling farther. Alice approved of this plan, and both waited in the
shade of an overhanging tree on the bank of the ravine.
Paul was very kind, treating her anxiety with marked solicitude. He
succeeded in allaying her doubts as to the outcome of this incident,
and they talked freely upon little events of their past.
Gradually Paul approached the subject uppermost in his mind. Alice
tried to divert him until some better time. Her ingenuity was not equal
to the occasion in dealing with Paul Lanier. She became aware of this,
and tremblingly awaited the attack.
With softened accents and apparent deference, Paul asked:
Do you remember, Alice, the promise made me about a year ago?
That I would wait a year before deciding?
Yes, I believe you did say a year.
But, Mr. Lanier, that was only nine months ago.
While I have no right to hurry you, Alice, yet when a man's dearest
hopes are at stake, waiting three long months is a great trial.
Still, Mr. Lanier, to decide such an important question is a year
Mistaking her trembling earnestness for genuine interest in the
proper solution of this heart problem, Paul gravely urged:
In the time already passed since my proposal, you surely have
reached a decision, and it is cruel longer to keep me in suspense.
Alice began to cry.
Paul attributed her tearful, hesitating manner to yielding consent,
It will be better for me to now know my fate than to suffer the
uncertainties of three long months.
As Alice still hesitated, Paul boorishly insisted:
Do here and now decide my fate.
Thus pressed, Alice replied:
Mr. Lanier, I am so sorry to say that I never can become your
Alice continued in a stammering way to tell Paul why she could not
accept his proposal.
Seeing that the frightened girl had power to refuse, Paul Lanier
listened with stoic, dogged silence. His craft did not forsake him, but
encouraging Alice freely and fully to state her whole mind, he
Apparently dazed, Paul was some time silent; then with resigned air
I wonder why Mr. Langdon and Miss Randolph have not found us?
Perhaps it would be wise to return before it is late.
They started back, Paul showing no lack of courtesy toward this girl
who had crushed his hopes.
Alice felt rebuked by his conduct, and tried to be very kind in her
They met their friends near the point of separation. There were
mutual exchanges of surprises, but no one was pressed for explanations.
A strange self-abstraction seemed to control all. Without many words,
the four went together to the place where they had left Sir Donald. The
party was soon on the lake, sailing homeward. Finding the carriage in
waiting, they reached the Northfield residence at sunset.
Evidently all had enjoyed the outing, but they were weary, and soon
Both Paul and Oswald had reason to ponder the eventful experiences
of that day. Each felt keen disappointment, chafing at the perversity
Esther and Oswald had strolled along pleasantly for some time before
missing their friends. Not doubting but that the absent ones soon would
appear, Esther enjoyed being alone with Oswald for the first time since
the arrival of Alice. There was something in the refined manner of this
earnest man that strongly appealed to Esther's womanly sentiments. But
for duty's requirements, she would have yielded to the evident wish of
Oswald Langdon. Her conduct seemed less restrained, and there was an
absence of that preoccupied air so puzzling to Oswald. Realizing that
their lives would drift apart, Esther felt a sense of loneliness. Her
smiles were wistful in anticipation of solemn adieus.
Oswald observed this change in Esther's manner, vigilantly noting
each significant sign. Would he ever have another such favorable
opportunity to learn Esther's mind concerning the subject which so
engrossed all his interest? The time would be too brief for him to know
by the slow processes of the last four weeks. Might not this mystery be
solved and his own fate be determined by frank avowal of his love?
There was to Oswald's thoughts a decisive directness which could not
brook the slow action of less positive minds. He resolved to know his
future in the hopeful present.
They sat down in an embowered spot, under a small tree, upon a
grassy knoll. Oswald's manner was nervously excited, despite strenuous
effort to appear circumspect. He began in low voice to express his
sense of pleasure since coming to Northfield.
The happiest days of my life have been passed in your society. I
have often congratulated myself on the fortunate accident which
detained me at such a hospitable home, where the associations have been
so pleasant. Of my stay here I shall ever have most tender memories. It
seems to me that I have always known you, Miss Randolph. I never can
tell you and your father my appreciation of your kindnesses.
Here Esther interrupted his earnest talk by saying:
Father and I are the debtors. We have been overpaid by the pleasure
of your stay at Northfield. Mr. Langdon, there will be a void in our
home when you have gone away.
Oswald eagerly replied:
Why should I go away? Why not always be with you, Miss Randolph?
Startled by these sudden questions, Esther was speechless. She saw
the drift, but the form was too dubious to admit of responsive reply.
Then, with impetuous frankness, Oswald avowed his love for Esther
and interest in her future plans.
My love has grown stronger every day since we met. I have not known
you long, but what has time to do with such sentiments? I have so hoped
that you would reciprocate my love and think kindly of my suit. I have
often wondered at your preoccupation, but hope there is nothing in your
plans or purposes which will prevent our being forever united.
Pausing, Oswald noted Esther's tremor, but awaited her response.
In hesitating, plaintive voice, Esther said:
Mr. Langdon, I greatly appreciate your sentiments toward me, and
feel much interest in your future. No light consideration would
influence me in such an important decision. I have no words to tell you
how it pains me to decline such an honorable proposal. I too will
always have tender recollections of your stay at Northfield. My life
will be devoted to alleviating the sorrows of the poor and wretched.
This vow was taken before you came to Northfield, and I must not break
it, though the trial be indeed very hard. My life as your wife would be
against the plain dictates of duty and a breach of covenant with
Completely stunned, Oswald felt the decisive solemnity of Esther's
words, but could find no fitting reply. He had too much respect for her
good opinion, even though she crush his fondest hopes, to argue against
the grounds of her decision. There was something so intangible, yet
solemnly real, in this decisive consecration to holy ends that Oswald
experienced a sense of bewilderment and awe, rendering nerveless his
Following some further explanations by Esther for her fixed resolve,
they had returned and joined their friends without more than a few
Having retired to his room, Oswald pondered long and bitterly over
the unwelcome revelations of the day. Esther had told him that for a
long time she had been thinking of her chosen life-work, but was fully
decided in this resolve by the solemn words of a minister spoken while
she was at London. Oswald had no censure for this high-principled,
conscientious girl's infatuation, but indignantly railed against her
spiritual advisers. These promoters of high ethical philosophy were
safe from undue force of their own appeals, though more susceptible
hearts might be crushed through conscientious compliance. It maddened
Oswald that this lovely girl, with all her perfections of mind, face,
and form, should be cast, like a common worm, into the great, vulgar,
carnivorous mouth of human want. If Christ's ultimate aim were
alleviation of physical suffering, why not feed and heal all earth's
hungry, diseased millions, through diviner, broad-gauged philanthropy
than lagging processes of personal devotion?
Oswald recalled the hateful, cruel, bigoted zeal of a Calchas,
pressing upon Agamemnon at Aulis the unappeased wrath of the gods,
until to fill the canvas of Grecian fleet for Troy sail this so-called
King of Men could yield his household's idol to butcher-blade of
Could it be that the courteous, indulgent Sir Donald Randolph, with
his wealth of cultured, intellectual power, was such a cruel,
heartless, moral idealist as to approve of his daughter's immolation on
this slow-torturing funeral pyre?
Then, too, Esther's infatuation for such dreary life! Esther seemed
to think the infinite plans would fail without her coöperation. Diana's
intervention saved the weeping, trembling Iphigenia, but how find
available substitute or Tauris asylum for deluded Esther Randolph?
Thus chafing against the day's revelations, Oswald continued, until
wearied he relaxed from such tense state into uneasy sleep.
Paul Lanier's quickened sense of personal humiliation struggled with
the promptings of overpowering craft. At times his vindictive malice
planned revengeful surprises for the man who was in some way
responsible for Paul's treatment. True, Paul saw little in Oswald's
conduct toward Alice evincing any absorbing interest, and could detect
that Esther was the attraction; but had not this fascinating Englishman
come between him and the girl of his choice? With set lips he recalled
each slight received at Northfield, and meditated sure revenge. The
time is short, he mutters, and I must not long temporize upon
methods, but there must be cautious anticipation of all the
In his malicious ire Paul could have found it easy forever to
silence the voices of that sleeping household.
My manners shall mask devilish craft until success is assured.
There will be smiling, hypocritical acquiescence in Northfield plans,
then prompt, decisive action upon the part of Paul Lanier.
For hours Paul continued revolving in his mind various plans, but
reached no definite conclusion as to his course of action.
With all his survey of the situation in its remotest bearings, and
determination to practice dissembling, cautious craft, Paul's decisive
acts in this brooding tragedy were to be the result of passionate
CHAPTER IV. LAKE AND RIVER TRAGEDIES
The Northfield household was early astir upon the morning after the
lake ride. Neither Oswald nor Paul had any hint of the other's fate.
Oswald possessed too much gentlemanly instinct to abate his
respectful treatment of both father and daughter. Through craft, Paul
was very courteous. He announced his intention to return that
afternoon. With many expressions of regret, Paul left Northfield.
Pierre Lanier is in London. Paul and his father hold a conference,
at which present and future plans are discussed. The refusal of Alice
Webster to become Paul's wife and her apparent infatuation for Oswald
Langdon are talked over. Pierre says:
We must bring about this marriage in some way, Paul. To fail would
be very serious. That other fellow shall not marry Alice. The man who
came with me from Calcutta will do as I say. He shall begin the suit
now. The income from this remnant of her father's fortune is Alice's
sole support. She does not know of the defect in her title to the
property. Alice will be frantic when the papers are served. Both of us
will favor her side of the case and pose as sympathetic friends.
Gradually we can show Alice our good intentions. When her helplessness
and poverty become clear, how easy to renew your proposal. She will
have faith in your sincerity then, Paul. To escape a life of want the
girl will become the wife of wealthy Paul Lanier. You would make Alice
a fine husband, Paul.
Next day an action involving the title to the London property
belonging to Alice Webster, and for an accounting of accrued rents, was
begun by William Dodge. Soon afterward proper papers were duly served.
Upon learning of this Alice was distracted. Trembling with
excitement, she appealed to Sir Donald. This generous-hearted barrister
felt much sympathy for Alice. It was decided that Sir Donald would go
To divert Alice's mind from these worries, Oswald and both girls
take frequent sails upon the lake. The interest of Alice in Oswald
seems growing, and she is cheerful only in his company.
One day he does not join them in their lake excursion, but Sir
Donald takes his place. A few hours later Oswald goes down to the
shore. Not finding his friends, he sets out in a small sail-boat,
expecting to see them somewhere on the lake.
Soon he sees another sail move out from the shore in the distance.
Lifting his field-glasses, he learns that there are but two persons
aboard, a man and woman. The boat is similar to the one which Sir
Donald must have taken, but where is Esther or Alice? The boat moves
away rapidly. Both figures are now standing. Applying the glasses to
determine which of the girls is on board, he beholds a struggle. The
girl falls overboard and sinks out of sight. The boat pulls rapidly
away, passing out of view beyond a timbered point not far distant.
Oswald's sail is soon at the place where he had seen the girl
disappear. Looking around, he is surprised to behold the apparently
lifeless form on the surface of the water.
The mystery is cleared when he sees that a projecting bush holds up
the body by contact with a knotted scarf around the neck of the drowned
Oswald places the limp form in the bottom of the boat, and soon
reaches the shore. Removing the body to a grassy bank, he sees Esther
and Sir Donald approaching.
They are terribly shocked. He begins to explain, when there is a
movement, with positive signs of returning consciousness. Soon the eyes
open with a wild stare. Slowly the wet figure revives. All are
surprised to recognize Alice Webster returned to life.
The girl seems dazed, but at length knows her friends. For a while
explanations are deferred. Without search for the missing boat, all are
taken by Oswald in his sail, and are soon at the point of embarking,
where a carriage awaits them. Reaching Northfield, they enter its
doors, without reference to the day's events.
In about an hour Alice is able to relate her experiences. In the
mean time, Oswald had acquainted Esther and Sir Donald with his part in
this mysterious drama. The explanation is startling.
I was sitting on the shore near the boat. Both of you had taken a
stroll, and were out of sight. I heard stealthy steps, and looking up
was frightened to see Paul Lanier. He spoke very gently, begging my
pardon for the intrusion. Then Paul said: 'I have heard of your
trouble, Miss Webster, and came to offer my sympathy and help. Father
and I will be able to render you some assistance, as we know all the
facts. Will you do us the honor to accept our aid in thwarting this
unjust attempt to rob you of all means of support?'
I was surprised at the kind offer, and consented. After a while
Paul spoke of seeing two people among the trees farther up the lake,
and said he thought they must have been Miss Randolph and her father.
He then said, 'Why not take a sail in that direction, and meet them
returning?' I consented, and we started up the lake. The boat headed
for the point extending out from the other shore. I asked Paul where we
were going. He answered, 'We can reach that point over there, and get
back in time to meet your friends.' His reply was testy and manner
unexpected. I grew suspicious, and insisted on our return. Paul became
angry, and did not heed my demands. In my fear, I arose and grasped his
arm. He fiercely told me to sit down, using a fearful oath. I refused,
and said some wild, bitter things. He then roughly pushed me back, and
I fell overboard.
The mystery of Paul Lanier's conduct greatly puzzled all. However,
it was evident that he had not intended the consequence of his rash
act. This was the result of brutal passion at her resistance to some
other design. What could he have intended in his deceitful ruse? He
must have been convinced of her death, and fled, using the boat to gain
time. All were sure that Alice nevermore would be troubled by Paul
Lanier. He would flee, pursued by the supposed Nemesis of his victim.
In this their conclusion was natural, but not based on subtle
knowledge of Paul's character. He possessed marvelous cunning and much
personal courage. No one but Alice saw him in the boat, and he thinks
she is at the bottom of the lake. His coming to Northfield was in
disguise, known only to Pierre Lanier. In the same manner Paul returned
The affair had taken a most unpremeditated turn, but father and son
will accept the tragic result with resignation. Had their plans finally
miscarried, there would have been a removal of Alice Webster. Better
for their consciences that her death was due to sudden passion and
accident than to malice aforethought.
Both scanned all the daily papers for news of Alice's disappearance,
but were perplexed by failure to see such reference. Not being able
longer to bear the suspense, Paul, in new disguise, again appeared in
the vicinity of Northfield. Inquiring as to any incidents of note
occurring in that neighborhood, he learns only of other petty gossip.
He dares not visit the residence, but watches for its familiar faces.
At length his tireless zeal is rewarded.
Paul is hidden in a thick undergrowth of bushes, nearly opposite the
point in the lake where Alice Webster had sunk from sight. Looking from
his retreat, he sees the ghost of the drowned girl approaching. In
terror, Paul cowers before this supernatural figure which passes his
hiding-place. Esther and Oswald come in view.
It now dawns on Paul that in some mysterious way Alice had been
rescued from the lake. He fears that news of the incident has been
suppressed until complete evidence can be secured against him.
Doubtless Alice had informed her friends, who are now on his trail. But
Paul's conduct will be other than they expect. By remaining disguised
in the immediate vicinity of his crime he will keep advised of their
Waiting until all have passed, Paul leaves his hiding-place and
follows at safe distance. It is not his intention to be seen by any of
the party, as he wishes to spy upon their movements, but in event of
discovery no one will recognize Paul Lanier in such disguise.
Moving around in a circle, Paul reaches a point within hearing
distance of where the three are likely to stop for rest and
conversation. A narrow, steep-banked ravine will separate him from
them, but near enough for distinct hearing.
Screened from view by some low, thick bushes, where he can note
their actions, Paul awaits the coming of Esther, Alice, and Oswald, who
are now together.
The three sit down on the grassy bank opposite Paul's retreat. Soon
Alice begins to discuss the subject of her London financial trouble,
and tells Oswald she intends to accompany Sir Donald there on the next
day. Will you not go with us and make my home yours while in the
To this invitation, given in most bewitching manner, the young man
courteously demurs. Just now he has little curiosity for London
scenery. In fact, Oswald feels a lingering fondness for Northfield.
But the prospect takes an unexpected turn. Esther's sense of the
proprieties asserts itself. She likes London very much, and wishes to
accompany her father. It will be so nice to see the sights with papa!
Oswald now sees wherein he may be of service in assisting Sir Donald
to understand this case. As he thinks of some time practicing the legal
profession, until a wider field opens, this will be a good chance to
acquire a little preliminary knowledge. He now has little doubt but
that Alice will win her case. With the coöperation of Oswald Langdon,
Sir Donald Randolph cannot fail.
This confidence is contagious. Alice and Esther now feel that the
case is won.
Next day Sir Donald, Oswald, Esther, and Alice go to London. On the
same train there is an odd-looking, strangely dressed, heavily
whiskered man, who says nothing, but keeps track of the Northfield
party until all enter the home of Alice Webster.
Sir Donald learns that the plaintiff, William Dodge, is from
Calcutta. Recently arrived from India, he had instituted the action.
There was no record of any deed connecting the Webster estate with the
original title. How the decree of court adjudging title to Alice as
sole heir of William Webster had been obtained was a mystery. Perhaps
some unrecorded conveyance from rightful owners to William Webster had
been presented, and upon these the decree was based.
Solicitors were employed by Alice. In support of her rights they
could find no record or other evidence. However, they began most
exhaustive search to locate the different grantors whose names appeared
in the Dodge chain of title.
Sir Donald suspected that the Dodge papers were forgeries, or were
obtained from record owners who had conveyed to the father of Alice and
afterward deeded the same property to the Dodge grantors. Possibly
there might be a number of unrecorded deeds. Perhaps the records had
Numberless possible contingencies were suggested to his legal
acumen. Contrary to his usual secretive habit, Sir Donald suggests
these to Oswald, who in turn comments upon them to Alice and Esther,
with all the gravity of original discovery.
Sir Donald's reports to Alice were brief, giving little information,
except ultimate facts as to results of the investigations. Upon most
matters relating to proposed tactics, Sir Donald was silent.
Oswald marveled at the obtuseness of this eminent barrister. Why not
unravel this web of connivance with dispatch? Time, distance, and every
contingency, immediate or remote, were merely incidental. Oswald
Langdon will see that the solicitors and Sir Donald Randolph do not
One day Alice pressed Sir Donald for an opinion of the probable time
required to have the cloud upon her title removed, and said: I hope
you will frankly tell me all the difficulties likely to confront you in
the case. The matter surely can be decided in a short time. From what
Oswald has told me, I certainly will win.
Sir Donald explained many uncertainties of the case. His talk was so
sincere, evincing such understanding of the puzzling mazes of the
matter, that Alice could not fail to see her chances of success were at
best very doubtful. In spite of Sir Donald's promise to devote time and
money to vindicate her title, Alice felt despondent over the outlook.
She appealed to Oswald for hopeful assurance, explaining fully what had
been said by Sir Donald.
Oswald saw the gravity of her trouble, and could say little to
mitigate it. Naturally he was frank, and would not indulge in flattery
or deceit. He longed to encourage Alice, but could find no truthful
words of hope.
Alice saw his evident sympathy, and felt pleased despite her utter
Esther proposed that they take a stroll in some of the public
grounds. The three afterward were seated in Hyde Park. Esther moved
away, as Alice seemed anxious to talk with Oswald upon some
Alice related Paul Lanier's proposal, and dwelt at length upon the
many persecutions she had endured, culminating in the lake tragedy.
I always felt an unaccountable dread of both Paul and his father.
Can it be that there is some conspiracy concerning my father's estate
in India? Is my existence in the way of their schemes? Would my death
or marriage with Paul help them? I feel that all my acts are known. How
suddenly Paul appeared at the lake! They now may be watching us!
Looking around, Oswald was struck by the attitude of a
plain-appearing man, with heavy whiskers, seated about twenty feet
distant, evidently listening. Oswald said nothing about this, as he did
not wish to increase her fears, and the stranger's conduct seemed due
to vulgar curiosity.
Alice was so despondent over her financial stress, that she knew not
what to do.
What will become of me, Mr. Langdon, if I fail in the case?
Oswald spoke hopefully, and thought there would be some way out of
her trouble. Esther came up, and he then proposed a moonlight boat-ride
on the Thames. He would rent a rowboat, and was quite good with the
oars. They decided to take the ride. Soon after the three returned to
the home of Alice.
Sir Donald invited both the girls and Oswald to attend an opera that
evening. Esther explained that they had agreed upon a boat-ride. But
perhaps Alice and Mr. Langdon would find the opera just as pleasant.
To please Alice, the matter was finally settled by Esther
accompanying her father to the opera and the others taking the ride.
Oswald did not approve of this arrangement, but offered no objection.
During the evening Alice seemed nervous. She would exert her most
bewitching arts to interest Oswald, and then remain silent. Many
pleasant complimentary remarks would be cut off abruptly, as if the
speaker refrained from further comment through maidenly hesitation or
restraint. He noticed her odd manner, but being much absorbed in
thoughts of the opera, was not inclined to be sensitive or critical.
After some time had been passed in this manner, she suggested that they
tie up the boat to a projecting bush on the bank of the stream and take
a stroll along the shore.
Alice and Oswald walked along the bank for a few minutes, coming to
some overhanging shrubbery, where there was a seat, used by strollers
along that side of the Thames. They sat down within a few feet of the
shore. The girl still acted strangely, appearing to have some matter in
thought importunate for expression, but nervously suppressed. Oswald
inquired if Alice were still worrying over her financial troubles,
adding some hopeful remarks as to the future, even if the property
should pass into the possession of another. His manner was sympathetic.
Overcome by her emotions and his words, she began to cry.
Oswald was now in a dilemma. He could face danger with unflinching
nerves, but was a novice in such an emergency. Doing what any young man
with generous impulses naturally would do under such circumstances, he
attempted to allay the fears of his hysterical companion. There was
little of premeditated propriety in his words or conduct.
Alice now confessed to Oswald her love. Much as I dread being left
penniless, such poverty would be nothing compared to loss of you. With
all the worry and uncertainty caused by this villainous conspiracy
against my father's estate, shadowed by fear of the hateful Paul
Lanier, life since meeting you at Northfield has been a joyous dream.
Without you I cannot live, pursued by the cunning malice and crafty
scheming of these persecutors. Will you forgive me, Mr. Langdon, for
not waiting a proposal? You have been so kind, I cannot believe you
To say that Oswald was embarrassed by this unexpected burst of
feminine emotion would be mild expression of his feelings. He was
stunned and speechless. What could he say in reply? The utter
helplessness of Alice, with her despondent future outlook, pursued by
enemies whose aims were cruelly vague, against all restraints of
maidenly sentiment declaring love for one having no responsive feeling
other than pity, was pathetic. Had he not unwittingly contributed to
her misery by his unguarded conduct? Would not his denial of her
strange suit be a base betrayal? Alice had thought his conduct sincere.
How could he now crush this poor girl's hopes by frank statement of his
With staring, inquisitive eyes Alice watched Oswald's troubled face
while these thoughts were passing through his mind. She could not
mistake his embarrassment. With dawning presentiment of his unspoken
decision, this despairing girl, standing erect, gave one glance at the
river. Her action was quickly noted by Oswald, who sprang between Alice
and the shore. She begged him to have pity. You have made me love you!
Do not cast me off! Whatever happens, save me from that hateful
villain, Paul Lanier!
There is a flash of steel, a blow and thrust, followed by the splash
of two bodies. A form stoops over the projecting shore until the waters
have hidden both from view. By aid of the moonlight, scanning the
stream far as can be seen in its onward course, this peering watcher
seems fearful that his victims may escape from the river. At the sound
of voices, he mutters an oath and skulks away.
Oswald rises and swims against the current. Grasping an overhanging
shrub in contact with the water's surface, by great effort he manages
to reach land.
[Illustration: THERE WAS A FLASH OF STEEL, A BLOW AND THRUST,
FOLLOWED BY THE SPLASH OF TWO BODIES.]
Before starting upstream, Oswald looked for any appearance of Alice.
There was no sign. When on the shore, he tried to go down the river in
hope of rescuing her, but loss of blood and his fatigue prevented.
Hearing distant voices, it dawns on Oswald that he will be suspected
of having caused the death of Alice Webster. They had gone for this
night row, and were last seen together. Whether the body shall be found
or not, he will be suspected of having murdered the girl. Who will
believe his statement of the facts?
These thoughts and his weakened state still kept Oswald rooted to
the spot, undecided what to do. The voices grow more distinct. He
detects the excitement of those approaching. Shall he await their
appearance, or meet them coming and explain all?
In this dilemma Oswald follows the impulse seeming to him most
rational. Avoid these strangers about whom he knows nothing; confide
first in his friends; with them and the police search for the body of
With these conclusions rapidly formed, Oswald rises to his feet.
Weak from loss of blood, but with forced energy, he starts in an
opposite direction from that of the voices, intending to make a circle,
and coming in their rear, follow cautiously until these strangers have
passed up the stream beyond the point where the boat is tied to the
shore. He then will return the boat. After reporting to Sir Donald and
Esther, the police shall be notified, and together they will search for
the missing body.
Oswald continued for some distance, but saw no chance, without
detection, of getting back of those in the rear. In this way he
traveled until entirely exhausted. Crawling a few rods out of their
path, but in full view, he watched them, expecting to be seen.
Four men passed between him and the shore. One remarked: Say,
pards, that empty boat down there looks suspicious. Why hasn't anybody
showed up? Wonder what's their bloody lay.
Oh, you're a little off, old chappie, to-night! Guess that red
bottle you emptied got you a bloody eye!
The quartette gave a boisterous laugh, and passed by.
When these were out of sight, Oswald arose and started back toward
the boat, but soon was compelled again to sit down. Despairing of his
ability to return that night, he crawled into some bushes away from the
path, and slept.
The sun is brightly shining when he awakes. His left arm is sore,
but he finds that it is only a deep flesh wound, which had caused
excessive flow of blood. The complications of his position daze Oswald.
How can he return and give information of Alice Webster's death? What
reasonable excuse can be assigned for his delay? How seemingly
transparent this yarn! Will it not be evident that he manufactured a
tissue of falsehoods, and to clinch these preposterous lies inflicted
on himself this slight wound?
Return is not to be considered. There is no avoiding the gallows but
in flight. But how escape?
Oswald feels feverish thirst, and hoping to find clear water follows
toward its source a muddy little rivulet emptying into the river. In
this way he travels about a mile from shore, where, in the corner of a
fenced strip of ground, are a boy and a girl drinking from a clear
Frightened by this pale-looking, bareheaded tramp, the children
fled. Oswald drank deeply of the refreshing water, and was moving away,
when a loud voice commanded him to stop. Looking up, Oswald saw a burly
citizen, just over the fence, puffing with swelling sense of
Oswald's combative faculties are aroused, and in defiant attitude he
awaits the attack.
Who be ye, man, and what ye doing here?
Oswald explained that he was a stranger there, and had slept on the
bank of the river. His hat was lost. He hoped that no harm had been
done. He had money, and would pay for all damages.
The refined manner of speech and good looks made a favorable
impression upon the staring proprietor.
Oswald saw his advantage, and appealed to this red-faced inquisitor
for breakfast, adding that he would pay well.
Greatly mollified, the other invited him into the house, and set
before his guest a substantial meal.
It occurred to Oswald that by show of liberality he might gain very
valuable assistance in extricating himself from his terrible fix. He
tossed a half-crown toward his host, who stared in blank amazement.
That is right; keep it all, my kind friend.
With much show of appreciation the coin was pocketed.
By the way, have you a good horse and cart?
You bet I has!
Say, friend, don't you wish to make some money?
That's what I does!
Well, I must be forty miles away to-night sometime, and here are
three half-crowns for the drive. How soon can you start?
Inside of an hour.
Tossing the coins to his excited host, Oswald said: Get ready right
off! Tell no one, and there is a sovereign at the end of our ride! Have
you an old duster and hat?
Rushing to a closet, Dick Bray produced the desired outfit, which
had a most superannuated look.
Keep the stuff, and welcome! said Dick, with an air of much
With closed lips, Dick set about preparations for the eventful
In less than an hour they were jogging along the road at pretty
lively gait for their slow-geared outfit.
Oswald assumed a most taciturn manner, which convinced Dick that he
was some high-born chap who had been on a lark and wished to keep
shady. The thought of that sovereign restrained Dick's curiosity so
thoroughly that but little was said by either.
Unused to such long, vigorous journeys, the horse required much
urging, and then made distance slowly. At four o'clock the next morning
they came within two miles of Oswald's home. Dick received the promised
coin, and was advised to go back a few miles and rest up. Oswald lived
near, and would walk the rest of the way.
Say nothing, and perhaps I can do more some time!
Thus adjured, Dick Bray parted with Oswald Langdon, fully determined
to be very secretive about that mysterious drive.
CHAPTER V. OSWALD'S FLIGHT
Reverend Percy Langdon has been conversing with his wife about the
future career of their only boy. Conscious of Oswald's brilliant powers
and high ambitions, both feel a natural sense of parental pride in this
son who is their one earthly hope. The fond mother talks of this manly,
stalwart youth, using childhood's endearing terms, and expresses
solicitude for his present welfare, while the father, with habitual
sense of superior perception, positively but tenderly allays her fears.
Oswald is safe anywhere. Our boy can be trusted in any emergency.
He will make his mark. I wonder what position Oswald will occupy in a
few years! How proud he is of his mother!
But, Percy, dear, Ossie has his father's temper and is so
self-willed at times!
Now go to sleep, little mother!
A hurried knock is heard at the front door. Startled by such early,
unexpected call, there is no response. The knock is repeated loudly,
and the bell rings. Springing up, the rector cautiously opens the door,
when a dusty figure hastily pushes into the dark hall.
Reverend Percy Langdon grapples with the intruder, who holds on, but
attempts no violence. Father! is the low-spoken greeting. Don't
frighten mother, and I will explain.
After some hurried talk, sobs, and heart-breaking good-bys, a figure
steals out in the dawning light, and starts for Southampton.
Oswald walked rapidly. After about two hours he was overtaken by a
man driving a horse attached to a buckboard. He received a hearty
invitation to take a ride. He learned that the man was going ten miles,
to meet a friend on business. To all questions Oswald gave evasive
replies. At nine o'clock they arrived at the place named. Oswald walked
on until noon, when he sat down in a secluded spot and ate a meal.
Resuming his journey, he soon reached a small station. Here he boarded
a train for Southampton, arriving at his destination without noteworthy
He lodged at a cheap sort of an inn. Finding that a steamer left the
next morning for Calcutta, he gave orders to call him in proper time.
Having purchased passage, Oswald is at the wharf, disguised in
ill-fitting duster and broad-brimmed hat, ready to embark. Some
rough-looking men are at the dock, to whom this seedy stranger is a
butt of much coarse comment. Incensed at their ridicule, Oswald longs
to chastise them, but moves away.
Noting the evident wish of their victim to escape further abuse,
these follow. Oswald stops short, but says nothing. A powerful bully,
posing as leader, steps on Oswald's foot, aiming a blow at his drooping
headgear. A terrific left-hander shoots out, encountering the jaw of
our swaggering tough, who strikes the resounding planks with little
ceremony. Two more rush at Oswald, when, dropping his satchel, both
stretch their lengths on the wharf from right and left hand blows dealt
almost together. Just then the bell sounds for departure, when a big
officer comes up, puffing with surplus fat and official importance.
Seeing three men stretched out, and learning that the odd-looking
fellow then hurrying on board is the cause, he brandishes his club,
striking Oswald on the shoulder, in pompous tones announcing his
arrest. Oswald remonstrates, and attempts to explain that he is not the
aggressor, but to all such, this swelling representative of the Crown's
outraged dignity turns a deaf ear.
Giving a rough push, the officer starts away with his prisoner.
Oswald has great respect for constituted authority, but conscious of
the complications which may result through delay, and smarting under
the uncalled-for arrogance of this guardian of the public peace, drops
his valise, and with two quick blows so completely paralyzes this
uniformed official, that he fails to respond until after the vessel is
When on board Oswald discards his long duster and broad brim.
No one recognizes in his dignified air of indifference the personnel
of that drooping pedestrian who had electrified onlookers with such
skillful sledge-hammer blows, so disastrous to bully insolence and
Gradually Oswald's tense faculties relax, and an overwhelming
reactive despondency takes possession of his being.
The experiences of the last few days pass before his vision.
Retrospect is terrible. In this maze it avails not that he is guiltless
of crime. The circumstances affirm his criminality. Is he not a refugee
Sitting alone upon the upper deck, he thus interrogates himself:
Why not return, face my accusers, and know the worst? Why flee from
the specter of a crime committed by another? Are my hands stained with
human blood? Is not my soul blameless?
Then in bitterness he says:
Yes, return and be hung! Listen to adroitly narrated lies of
detectives, caring only for vindication of their theories of guilt!
Witness the heartless curiosity of vulgar crowds feasting on rumor and
depraved gossip! Meet the cold, relentless gaze of those demanding
satisfaction of outraged law! Hear the distorted evidence of witnesses,
the impassioned appeal of the public prosecutor, as with hypocritical
craft he urges the jury to hang no innocent man, and then pleads with
them not to make the law a byword by turning loose a red-handed
murderer! Watch the judge with solemn gravity adjust his glasses,
preparatory to a dignified summing-up, conclusive of the prisoner's
guilt! See the set lips of the 'unbiased twelve' as they retire for
consideration of their verdict! Sit crushed under the terrible 'Guilty'
and bootless, formal blasphemy, 'May God have mercy on your soul'! With
pinioned arms and bandaged eyes hear the suppressed hum of moband
thenthe awful black!
As these thoughts surged through his mind, Oswald registered a vow
never to expiate the crime of another. I will wander over the earth
until old age; will face every danger of desert wilds; will resist to
death any efforts for my arrest; but no gallows ever shall be erected
for Oswald Langdon.
The injustice of his position confronted him with such force that
Oswald felt defiant of all law. He would be an Ishmaelite, finding
casus belli in all the purposes of fate.
The instinct of self-defense and gravity of his position precluded
sympathetic feeling for friends innocently involved in results of the
tragedy. Such sentiments will come when present stress is less
Emerging from the English Channel, they are in the Bay of Biscay. A
storm is raging. Sailors fear wreck, but Oswald feels not a tremor.
What are ocean's pending perils to this human castaway, about whose
hunted soul seem closing the tentacles of fate?
Roar of tempest, blinding electric flash, rushing wave, descending
spray, creaking timbers, with instinctive ravening of ocean's hungry
hordes, are luring, friendly greetings compared to merciless clamor of
that receding shore.
Spending its spasmodic heat, the storm subsides, and the ship plows
on toward destined port.
CHAPTER VI. THE TRIPLE WEB
Sir Donald and Esther returned from the opera expecting to meet
their friends. Admitted by the servant, they were informed that Alice
and Oswald were still out. A little surprised, they expect them
momentarily. After waiting some time, Esther expresses the opinion that
possibly an accident occurred, causing the delay. Sir Donald has no
fear but what Alice and Oswald soon will arrive. They have enjoyed the
ride and gone farther than intended.
Esther sees the probability of this, but feels piqued at their
Alice should know better than to stay out so late! Perhaps they
have not started back yet!
Sir Donald looks up and notes his daughters evident excitement. Her
flashing eyes and quivering lips tell their story.
Esther feels that she has shown too much interest, and resorts to
pretty arts of dissembling.
Sir Donald is indulgent. He acquiesces in Esther's artful show, and
with much animation they chat away for another hour on subjects which
seem to have new interest for this charming girl. Finally both retire.
They listen, expecting the bell soon to announce the return of Alice
Both Esther and Sir Donald arose early. They were puzzled at the
strange absence of their friends. Some accident must have befallen
them. Perhaps assistance is needed. However, it would be wise to avoid
undue haste and notoriety. The innocent conduct and mishaps of their
friends must not be made the theme of vulgar gossip.
Restrained by these refined sentiments, Esther and Sir Donald waited
until afternoon before taking any action. Then they started out
together, and procuring a boat, rowed up the Thames in the direction
which Oswald and Alice had taken, the keeper going with them.
After about an hour the boat was found, and all landed at this
point. No signs of the missing couple were seen. It was decided that
Sir Donald and Esther should row farther up the stream, while the
keeper searched the shore for any signs of the young people. Soon all
Oswald's hat was found upon the bank at the rustic seat. Their
search up and down the river revealed no other clew. They returned
It seemed certain that both had disappeared at the place where the
hat was found. In some way they had gone over the bank. There may have
been a bloody tragedy, but most likely Alice had fallen over into the
stream, and Oswald, attempting her rescue, both were drowned.
The police were notified. Careful search up and down both sides of
the stream gave no further clew. All the means available for rescue of
the bodies were employed. Finally a lace handkerchief was found. Esther
identified it as the property of Alice. The delicately embroidered
initials A.W. made its identity complete. Both had been murdered or
were accidentally drowned.
The papers commented upon this mysterious affair. Reporters vied in
their narratives of exciting coincidences.
Sir Donald and Esther were harassed by all sorts of questions as to
the antecedents of their friends. Between desire to be courteous and
dictates of discretion, they often were much puzzled.
Detectives, each with his own theory, made frequent calls. While
polite, these inquisitors were most persistent in their persecutions.
What cared they for refined scruples? The presence of both missing
parties at Northfield, their conduct while there, and Oswald's stay at
the home of Alice in London were dwelt upon at length. Failing to get
full replies responsive to direct questions, shrewdly phrased opinions
delicately hinting at possible infatuation of one or the other were
Sir Donald, though much annoyed, could answer with apparent
frankness, yet conceal what he wished not told, but Esther had greater
difficulty. Their inquisitors soon became aware of this. Not desiring
notoriety, but shrinking from apparent concealment, Esther's distress
At first Sir Donald refrained from further instruction to Esther
than simple suggestion of care in her answers. But this inexperienced
girl was no match for detectives or reporters, who quizzed her
Sir Donald came to the rescue with a vigor most decisive.
One reporter had been offensively persistent. An amateur detective
was pressing Sir Donald with his theory of the case.
Oswald suggested the night ride, and lured Alice to the rustic seat
for the purpose of murdering the girl. To avoid blame for her betrayal,
she was thrown into the river. His hat was left at the spot as evidence
that he too met death. Oswald fled, and is now somewhere in disguise.
Sir Donald managed to suppress his indignation at the substance and
manner of this statement. Just then the reporter in the next room asked
Esther by direct question what he had been urging by innuendo:
Was there anything in the conduct of your friends while at
Northfield or in London which indicated that they were unduly
Before time for reply, the reporter was lifted through the front
door, landing beyond the porch. No one seeming to appreciate our
sleuth's brilliant theory, he promptly left.
Both Sir Donald and Esther regretted the notoriety likely to result
from this affair, but none of its details were published.
Soon after, there appeared in a London paper this comment:
It is pretty generally agreed that a certain gentleman and his
daughter know more than they feel safe to relate about the mysterious
disappearance of Oswald Langdon and Alice Webster. Their evident
embarrassment when questioned regarding the conduct of the missing
parties is significant. There is such a thing as being an accessory to
crime by concealment. There is no wrath like that of, etc. A little
detective work along a certain line might unearth some startling finds.
A hint to the wise is sufficient.
Sir Donald received a marked copy of the paper containing this
screed, but concealed it from his daughter. This precaution was
unavailing, as another copy, conspicuously marked, was delivered by
special carrier to Esther.
Both were greatly distressed by these insinuations. Every one would
know to whom reference was made. However, there was nothing which could
be done. To resent this attack would be most indiscreet.
Relying upon the probability that Sir Donald and Esther were
sufficiently disciplined by this publication, other inquisitors
Sir Donald's manner was so frigid that none cared to persist. No one
had the audacity further to interview Esther.
Instead of returning at once to Northfield, they remained several
days in London. Realizing that there might be some suspicion cast upon
them, Sir Donald was on his mettle. So far from shrinking from public
gaze, he openly moved about his affairs with dignified composure. He
consulted one of the most noted London detectives, retaining his agency
to unravel the Dodge conspiracy, lake tragedy, and these mysterious
This agency undertook to solve the three complex issues involved,
convinced that these were so interwoven as to form one web. Skillful
assistants were intrusted with particular lines of investigation.
Double shifts were employed in watching each of the Laniers. A trusted
lieutenant, skilled in intricate work, was sent to India.
Sir Donald keenly felt the unpleasant notoriety. He had been
attacked at the most sensitive, vital point of his nature. Never before
had he experienced any sense of social ostracism. No thought of family
shame ever had suffused his cheek. And his beloved Esther! This
motherless girl, whose clinging, obedient love and trusting dependence
had wound their silken tendrils around every pulsing fiber of his soul!
That penny-liners could make coarse reference or express vague
innuendo about this pure-minded, sensitive girl seemed horrible. He
could have trampled to death such offenders with deliberate fury, yet
this vengeance but more surely would crush Esther's hopes. For her sake
he must be patient. Time, property, and every available means will find
employment in her vindication. There shall be permitted no maudlin
sentiment of pity in this undertaking. Certain retribution shall be
whetted by each delay.
This former impersonation of complacent optimism, acquiescing in all
human experiences as special essentials of the infinite plan, shrinks
from such crucial test. This is surely a noted exception. A daughter's
tender heartstrings are too sensitive for such stoic touch.
Sir Donald chafes at slow processes of retributive justice. How
tardy the infinitesimal grind! Would that the wheels speed their
The former Sir Donald Randolph is changed. His old philosophical,
speculative, idealistic bent is as completely in abeyance as though
stricken with rudimentary palsy. In their stead is an alert, untiring,
relentless Nemesis, more pitiless because of intense, novel zeal.
But Sir Donald is handicapped. Not that time or money is lacking.
These are available. What about Esther? Her comment upon the absence of
Oswald and Alice that night had been painfully distinct. The
unmistaken, mute language of her eyes and quivering lips was clearer.
Her pretty, persistent dissembling was confirmation. Subsequent
suspicious innuendoes had aggravated her feelings. He asks himself:
Shall I neglect this troubled child to engage in ferreting out crime?
Why should Esther's sorrows merit her father's neglect?
Seeing a picture of justice blinded, he exclaims: What mocking
irony in judicial pose of blind goddess poising nicely adjusted
balance, whose crude, arbitrary registers reckon not of vicarious
Sir Donald's first duty is at home. Justice can find agents more
expert than he, but its ministry is too coarse for the subtle
sentiments of the fireside.
Sir Donald and Esther returned to Northfield.
Though taking her father into many little girlish confidences,
Esther had not told him of her life's mission or of Oswald's proposal.
She still remained silent. Both subjects were painful. Her father's
worries should not be increased.
Esther sees no way to begin her chosen work. Recent troubles cloud
her vision. She shrinks from the notoriety. That which was once grand
charity and self-sacrifice is now crafty, hypocritical show.
She knows her father's proud sense of propriety and abhorrence of
every sham profession cannot be reconciled to such step at this time.
Has not this field been interdicted by Providence? Are her faculties to
find employment in the more congenial ministries of home?
Esther feels a sort of vague responsibility for the tragic
occurrences of the past few weeks. True, she had acted from high moral
sense of duty, but conscience is often dogmatic.
Esther knows Oswald was sincere. That she loved this manly, refined,
courteous suitor she is most painfully certain. But for her
acquiescence in the infatuation of Alice Webster, Oswald never would
have encouraged the growing sentiment of this girl. Had Esther remained
at Northfield, Oswald would have stayed away from London. But for
Esther's apparent desire that Oswald and Alice take the boat-ride while
she accompanied Sir Donald to the opera, both now would be alive.
Esther charged herself with being the cause of all Sir Donald's
sorrows, and wished to bear his burdens.
For several months Sir Donald and Esther remained at Northfield.
Occasionally they went to London, Esther accompanying her father upon
these brief trips. Each felt sympathy for the other. Such generous
sentiments, while bringing additional solicitude, have their
compensations. Personal griefs gradually recede. Vain regrets are
merging in tender companionship and mutual sympathy. Each tries to bear
the other's load. Thereby selfish grief grows less acute.
Gradually Sir Donald's champing impatience for speedy retribution
sufficiently subsides for intelligent survey of the situation. From the
nature of the case, time, patience, and much discretion are required.
Isolated circumstances shall find coherent connections, chasms of time
and latitude are to be bridged.
Sir Donald keeps advised of what is being done by the agency.
Circumstances have been reported, but there are many missing links. One
report concluded thus: Both Pierre and Paul Lanier are still in
London. It is sure that these are confederates of William Dodge. The
tireless, systematic camping of the detectives upon the Lanier trails
found them both in frequent conference with Dodge. All were disguised.
When casual reference to the Dodge suit was made in hearing of either
father or son, Lanier conduct had careful watchers. Their speech and
silence were alike significant. The fact that neither Dodge nor Lanier
ever had met the other was noted.
Sir Donald surprised the opposition by having the Dodge case set for
There was a conference held at the office of the Dodge solicitors.
William Dodge and both Laniers were present, two of the party being in
disguise. Soon after, the case of William Dodge against Alice Webster
was dismissed by the complainant.
At a London meeting, the Bureau chief said to Sir Donald: Your
bluff worked well. It is now sure that Dodge is the tool of the
Laniers. Alice Webster's death rendered this conspiracy unavailing. The
interests to be subserved by the bringing of this action are in another
venue. India is the proper jurisdiction. William Webster's estate and
Pierre Lanier are the real parties in interest.
William Dodge quit London, and both Laniers sailed for Calcutta.
Sir Donald and Esther left Northfield for Paris.
CHAPTER VII. SOUTHAMPTON TO CALCUTTA
The conclusion of Oswald Langdon to sail for India was hurriedly
formed while at Southampton. There were many other places more likely
to have been the choice of mature deliberation.
Oswald had a glimpse of his assailant at the river. The blow upon
the head of Alice and thrust following were in quick succession, but he
received an impression as to their enemy's identity. He had seen the
same heavily whiskered face on the trip from Northfield to London, and
in Hyde Park. Had not he observed that listening attitude, while Alice
was relating her troubles with Paul Lanier? This eavesdropper knew
their arrangements for the night ride. Doubtless this man followed
along the shore and saw them at the rustic seat. Screened behind the
bushes, he heard all their conversation. Either through premeditated
malice or sudden passion, the blows had been struck. Paul Lanier was
the only man who could have any object in this assault. Paul had
learned of Alice's escape from the lake. He surely thought she had told
all about this affair, and Paul had followed them in disguise. By
silencing forever this the only witness to his crime, he could defy
hearsay testimony. It became necessary to kill both. Perhaps Paul fled
soon as Alice and Oswald fell over the bank. Possibly he may have seen
Oswald reach the shore. It might be that Paul knew of the flight, and
deliberately permitted it, to insure his final ruin.
These thoughts harassed Oswald after his arrival in India. Was not
this supposed asylum the home of Pierre Lanier? If identified, and the
body of Alice were found, how could Oswald escape conviction as her
murderer? His flight would be conclusive.
Oswald felt strong determination. He would neither skulk nor court
observation. If seen here by either Pierre or Paul Lanier, he would
face the issue. Fully convinced that in degree both were guilty of this
murder and of an attempt upon his own life, he reasoned that neither
would risk further notoriety than such as might be essential to their
Oswald wishes that he had sailed to some other country, but his
money now is nearly spent, and employment must be obtained. What can he
do? Where and of whom shall he seek work? His life had been spent
mostly at school. True, he is a physical athlete, but how farm this
barren resource? If chance come to explore remote wilds, this will
accord with his restless spirit, while insuring immunity from arrest.
At Calcutta, Oswald made ostensible search for employment. Many
gazed at this fine-looking Englishman and shook their heads.
The fact is that Oswald was looking for something he felt little
curiosity to find. His manner was so courteous, there being such an air
of refinement, that he gained much information about business
enterprises. This was his real purpose.
Calcutta was too cosmopolitan. There could be little hope of
isolation in this Indian metropolis. Its ever-changing population came
from all quarters of the globe. To remain hidden in shunned districts,
among moral and social lepers, would be living death. How else stay in
Calcutta and not be recognized? The thought of constant disguise was
repugnant. He shrank from the appearance of falsehood. Realizing the
urgent necessity of concealment, he must be reserved and silent, having
no confidants. In what remote part of this great empire can he be lost
to curious observation while employed in congenial work?
To one who recommended certain hard work, but spoke of its perils,
Perilous undertakings shall have no terrors. Dangers will be
welcomed as the spice of life. My restless energies crave occupation,
but there must be no menial taint. Mental and physical toil are not to
be shunned, but my hands shall remain clean.
Oswald feels some relaxation of tense dread. He begins to take a
less somber view of the situation. Possibly his missing hat had been
found and identified. Perhaps the London public thought both had been
drowned. Might it not be that no search was made for him, his death
being conceded? Strange if detectives were now on the trail of Paul
Lanier. Was Paul likely to sail for Calcutta when this would be the
place searched for the fugitives? Would Pierre Lanier return to India,
or remain in London until the mysterious disappearances ceased to
interest the public mind? The Laniers would not care to meet the man
they had attempted to murder and thought dead. Possibly to remove a
witness they again might conspire directly against his life.
Oswald's chance for employment comes in most desirable form. An
engineering party contemplates a trip to the Himalaya Mountains.
Oswald finds the chief, offers his services, and is employed at good
pay. The work requires an indefinite absence from Calcutta. No
information is given as to details. The purposes of this expedition are
sealed. Its destination is near the point where three empires meet.
CHAPTER VIII. STRANGE ROMANCE OF
PAUL AND AGNES
William Dodge took an extended trip over the continent, finally
settling down for a prolonged stay at Paris. The Laniers sailed for
Calcutta, but landed at Bombay.
Paul assumed an air of elegant refinement. It was rumored that
father and son were fabulously wealthy. To all such gossip both seemed
indifferent. Their hauteur and reserve insured desired social entrée,
while hedging against impertinent curiosity.
Paul was lionized. After attending gatherings of Bombay élite, Paul
condescended to manifest interest. The niece of an English aristocrat
had arrested his attention.
Sir Charles Chesterton was rich and unmarried. Agnes Randall was his
favorite. It was reported that this uncle had willed the bulk of his
immense wealth to Agnes. Paul Lanier had heard casual reference to
these bits of gossip, but seemed bored. What were vulgar expectations
to refined possessor of unlimited capital?
But the good qualities of this lovely girl found appreciation. Spite
of reputed wealth and high expectations, her manners had interested
Paul Lanier. He accepted invitations to dine with both uncle and niece.
No curiosity as to financial matters was manifested. Such common
sentiment was too low for Paul.
This rich Englishman and his interesting niece recently had arrived
Both were interested in Paul's antecedents and future prospects. The
growth of this sentiment was natural and reserved, neither premature
After suitable time Pierre Lanier received an invitation to dine
with Sir Charles. Agnes was present. Their guest was treated with due
respect, as the father of such elegant son. Pierre was elated. Under
the influence of rare wines, Sir Charles and Pierre became
confidential. Sir Charles seemed fully absorbed in his own financial
conquests. At first he listened with impatience to any of Pierre's
guarded talk. Sir Charles' recitals were so insinuating that Pierre
felt much constraint toward polite bragging. However, the secretive
habit of a lifetime sealed his lips against boastful avowals. Vintage
warmth elicited nothing more than a few guarded hints at possible craft
in acquisition of untold wealth.
This interesting quartette became so exclusive that little attention
was paid to other Bombay society. It soon was rumored that Paul Lanier
and Agnes Randall were mutually smitten. The report was confirmed by
the manner of all. In their confidences, Sir Charles and Pierre
casually referred to this gossip. It was talked over between Agnes and
Paul. Neither evinced any disposition to discipline the tattling
Paul proposed marriage. Agnes felt disposed to grant his suit, but
would abide her uncle's decision. To Paul this appeared proper. He
entertained the highest respect for Sir Charles Chesterton. Much as
Paul desired this marriage, he would defer to the judgment of her fond
It was arranged that Paul should submit the matter the next day. At
the time appointed the subject came up in the private room of Sir
Charles. Paul was graciously received. From Sir Charles' manner Paul
was sure that Agnes had spoken to her uncle of the proposal, and had
received a favorable response. He avowed his love for Agnes, and their
intention to abide Sir Charles' decision.
This gracious uncle for a while remains silent. His prolonged pause
embarrasses Paul. Sir Charles asks where Paul was born, where his
relatives reside, their names, his father's antecedents, their future
intentions as to home and business, what portions of the world they had
seen, adding, These questions may seem impertinent, but I wish to know
all about the one seeking the hand of my favorite niece and heir.
Encouraged, Paul answers quite fully. Sir Charles seems satisfied.
After an extended pause, during which Paul shifts about in nervous
anticipation, Sir Charles tells him there is yet another important
matter, often neglected, but of which, before deciding, he must have
To my mind the present and future property interests of the
proposed husband of Agnes Randall are vital considerations. This young
girl would not think of such matters, but I have lived longer, and
never will consent to her marrying a pauper. I anticipate living a few
years, and whoever becomes the husband of Agnes Randall must have
sufficient property to support her elegantly during this time. After I
am through with earth there will be no danger about the future of my
niece, as my will provides for that.
Paul assures Sir Charles that both he and his father are very
Sir Charles seems much pleased. He hopes Paul will not consider him
impertinent, but there must be a more definite statement of financial
I must have an inventory. The list must be full, including every
description of property, real and personal, with exact location of each
separate parcel. If you desire, I will furnish such a statement of my
property, which is all willed to Agnes, but there must be one furnished
Paul is willing to tell Sir Charles all about the matter, but cannot
now properly describe their properties as required.
Sir Charles says:
Mr. Lanier, tell all you know, to be made more definite later.
With paper and pencil Sir Charles makes notes. The recital is quite
minute and without reserve. Sir Charles is much gratified. His memory
refreshed by interjected inquiries, Paul tells so much that there is
little need of promised statement. However, Sir Charles does not waive
In good spirits, Paul leaves to confer with Pierre Lanier.
The wily father is much pleased at his son's matrimonial prospects,
but says: Paul, I do not like his insistence on details, but perhaps
you ought to humor him. So far as information cannot be evaded, the
truth should be told, for possibly this stubborn fellow may take time
and trouble to verify your statements.
The list is prepared with care. Within three days the completed
statement is presented to Sir Charles, who promises to look it over.
Agnes and Paul are often together. They exchange mutual confidences,
each expressing the fond hope that her uncle will be satisfied.
Incidentally Paul speaks of his past experiences, giving wrong names,
places, dates, and associations. He is encouraged to do this by the
artless curiosity and interest of this fond girl, whose past at times
seems entirely merged in that of her lover.
Frequently Agnes speaks of Paul's reminiscent confidences when her
uncle is present. Some trifling changes are made by Paul, but she is
too fond to be sensitive. Her memory is defective. Even Paul's guarded
mention of boyish excesses is interesting. Both uncle and niece approve
of the youthful sower's occupation. There are seasons for distributing
Pierre Lanier accepts frequent invitations to call upon these
aristocratic friends. He and Sir Charles are growing still more
The matrimonial decision is further postponed, but in such frank,
honest manner, that waiting is not difficult.
In strict confidence, Sir Charles tells of many dubious successes.
He knows the elder Lanier will not betray a friend's trust. Without
prying into secrets of his guest, Sir Charles touches on outskirts of
many crafty exploits, suggestive of more complex villainies. Pierre
Lanier is greatly interested, but the narrative always lacks coherence
at the most thrilling point.
By his questionable tactics Sir Charles had amassed great wealth,
which covered all moral turpitude with silken mantle.
Gradually the habitual secrecy of Pierre Lanier loses its
restraining discretion. These cronies become inseparable. Under
influence of insidious drinks, they vie in recitals of villainous
craft. Sir Charles enjoins strict secrecy.
Never let Paul and Agnes know what their father and uncle have done
Sir Charles seems to revel in such reminiscences. He has his friend
repeat parts of narratives at different times, and never tires of these
Sir Charles promises to decide concerning Paul's proposal within
three months. This is most exasperating, but there is no help. He will
take a trip to Calcutta, and postpone decision until his return.
It is evident to both Laniers that Sir Charles intends to test their
statements of property interests at that point. The elder Lanier has
business there, and will be pleased to accompany Sir Charles. Paul
prefers to remain in Bombay, and is delighted that Agnes has no thought
of going on this trip. Sir Charles is glad to visit Calcutta with his
dear friend Pierre Lanier. They sail together.
Paul's calls upon Agnes are frequent. These seem indifferent to
Bombay society, finding ample diversion in each other's presence. There
is about Agnes such bewitching air of refinement, coupled with
suggestive, romantic interest, that Paul yields completely to the
charm. Her conduct varies, and there are capricious feminine moods.
Paul sees in these, hints of possible estrangement, and suits his
manners to every change.
Agnes discreetly limits Paul's calls to proper times. The intervals
between these visits he endures under protest. Paul becomes still more
hopelessly infatuated, and is ready to applaud any suggestion of this
charming girl. Loyal to her unspoken whims, he would not hesitate at
any act she might seem to approve. Agnes' caprices multiply with Paul's
increasing acquiescence. There are many blanks in her narratives, and
Paul feels these must be properly filled.
Agnes seems bored at commonplace talk, never appearing really happy
except when listening to Paul's telling of questionable exploits
wherein he was the central figure. Hints at successful craft,
vindictive temper, swift retribution, and bootless pursuit are sure of
thrilling appreciation. But those bewitching smiles subsiding, Paul is
obliged to regain favor by more explicit recitals, seconded by her
By slow processes the story is told. Names, dates, and places have
been misstated, but such inadvertences are not misleading.
Circumstances correct particular errata.
Some time after the departure of Sir Charles and Pierre Lanier for
Calcutta, Agnes informs Paul that her uncle has sailed for Bombay. She
had received word to that effect, and his letter was of most cheerful
Paul expects a favorable decision, and with pleasant emotions awaits
the arrival of Sir Charles. Agnes requests that Paul defer again
calling before Thursday. This will be two days, but she wishes to avoid
scandal. Comments have been made by cheap tattlers about his frequent
Perhaps in a little while there will be no need for such care.
Paul is pleased at the modest suggestion. He looks forward to
marriage with this aristocratic heiress, and the future is most
luminous. Even haunting memories of Alice Webster and Oswald Langdon
fail to dampen Paul's expectant joy. These recede, their menacing
voices stilled by hope's siren lullaby.
Upon Thursday evening Paul calls upon Agnes, according to
appointment. The servant ushers him into the private room of Sir
Charles. This seems strange, but Paul thinks it some caprice of Agnes.
There is but one chair in the room, and this faces the door through
which Paul expects Agnes to enter. The lights are dim and throw fitful
shadows. Though feeling a superstitious sense, Paul's strong nerves
brace against all uncanny sentiments. He attempts to turn on more
light, but finds this is impossible. He shifts uneasily, finally
picking up a paper lying on a small table within reach. Date and title
startle him. How came this copy of London Press of such date in
possession of Sir Charles or Agnes? Paul's hand shakes as he glances
over the paper's contents. He beholds, under heavily marked red lines,
the account of the Thames tragedy.
Just then the door opens from an adjoining room. Draped in seaweed,
the form of Alice Webster appears, blood oozing from her bruised
temple, long damp tresses clinging to her neck and face. With uplifted
hand, the apparition slowly advances toward the cowering Paul, as if to
strike. Paralyzed with terror, the guilty wretch falls upon the floor,
begging for mercy. Slowly the ghost, without change of mien, passes
backward through the open door, disappearing in rayless darkness.
[Illustration: WITH UPLIFTED HAND THE APPARITION SLOWLY ADVANCED
TOWARD THE COWERING PAUL, AS IF TO STRIKE.]
Paul recovers, and rising resumes his seat. Straining his bewildered
gaze, he sees that the door is shut. He is alone. Everything is as
before. It must have been an hallucination, but how dreadfully real the
appearance of drowned Alice Webster! Where is Agnes? Soon he hears a
voice in the next room.
With solemn inflection it repeats from Hood's Eugene Aram these
'Nothing but lifeless flesh and bone,
That could not do me ill;
And yet I feared him all the more
For lying there so still:
There was a manhood in his look
That murder could not kill.
* * * * *
'So wills the fierce avenging sprite
Till blood for blood atones.
Ay, tho' he's buried in a cave,
And trodden down with stones,
And years have rotted off his flesh,
The world shall see his bones.'
There is a minute's pause.
Wonder what detains Mr. Lanier!
Tremblingly Paul opens the door between the rooms, and there are
many surprised remarks, followed by explanations.
Agnes says: I heard the bell, and supposed you entered the
sitting-room. I continued my toilet, and was delayed by missing
articles of apparel. The new servant, in her zeal, disarranged
everything. Without directions from me about your expected appearance,
the servant ushered you by mistake into my uncle's private room.
The bewitching manner and artless talk of Agnes soon quiet Paul's
excited nerves. No hint is given of his strange apparition. The evening
passes pleasantly, though at times Paul feels a creepy sense of dread.
He is loth to leave. From mute signs he concludes it is better to go.
Paul hurries away about midnight.
Within half an hour the rooms occupied by Sir Charles and Agnes are
vacated. Two figures in male attire enter a closed conveyance, and are
driven rapidly in an opposite direction from that taken by Paul Lanier.
CHAPTER IX. THE HOSPITAL CONFESSION
Sir Donald Randolph and Esther remained several months at Paris.
While keeping fully advised of all developments reported to the
London detective bureau, Sir Donald seemed absorbed in sight-seeing.
His zeal in unmasking the conspiracy resulting in the double murder was
unabated. That Paul Lanier, at the instigation of his father, committed
the homicides, partial developments tended to prove. From Calcutta and
Bombay advices received at London there was no doubt that some fraud
had been perpetrated against the estate of William Webster by his
partner in India.
Sir Donald felt much concern for the welfare of Esther. Not having
his retributive zeal to support her in this trial, she brooded more
over the recent past. He tried to divert her mind to pleasant subjects,
thereby weaning from sorrowful memories.
There was much in Paris life to engross youthful attention. This,
with her generous sympathy for her father's troubles and effort to
mitigate his painful remembrances, prevented gloomy melancholy. Yet
Esther could not be joyous. Both Oswald and Alice were transfigured.
Her love for the one and pity for the other grew in tender pathos.
Oswald Langdon ever would be an ideal of courteous, refined,
considerate, earnest, high-souled manhood, whose last of life had
touched her being's most sensitive vibratory chords.
Father and daughter were much admired by Parisian social élite.
Their rare intelligence, culture, and refined manners had an
irresistible charm. However, there was that about both which repelled
familiar personal association. They moved amid gay festivities as if
their thoughts were elsewhere.
This abstraction and mutual care for each other's wants tinged their
conduct with romantic interest. In all the whirl and surge of Parisian
life, these unique faces never failed to attract notice. Neither
seeking nor avoiding social recognition, they became quite extensively
known among prominent French families and cosmopolitan notables
domiciled at this Mecca of migratory moneyed aristocracy.
Sir Donald's intellectual acumen and rare versatility could not fail
to impress all with whom he came in contact. His elegance of manner and
diction, easy grace, with air of accustomed self-poise suggested
habitual luxurious environment.
Esther's finely molded, expressive features, faultless form, pensive
grace, and rare feminine accomplishments seemed natural paternal dower.
Doors flew open as if by magic; desired entrée smiled eager beckoning;
refined circles gave freedom of their domain. Many arts of indirection
were employed by eligible madames, monsieurs, and visiting notables of
both sexes to remove that invisible yet formidable barrier of reserve.
Courteous evasion or mild indifference or other countercraft parried
every assault. In some few instances, vague or more positive-mannered
cuts silenced curious inquiry, but these were rare. After one
successful evasion, he remarked to Esther: Refined, resolute reserve
has many arts for warding off both vulgar and cultured impertinence.
Esther found time to learn much about the condition of Paris poor.
Sir Donald encouraged this whim as tending to divert her mind from the
past and to exert a wholesome influence. Many little helpful ministries
among this class could be credited to her brief sojourn in this
European capital. Esther frequently visited at the hospitals. Her calls
were so ordered that notoriety was avoided. Naturally timid, she now
shrank from publicity as contagion, but would take necessary hazards.
Esther's zeal grows with knowledge of human want. Service becomes
high privilege. Ward of want is now sanctuary. She sometimes has
glimpses of angelic competition.
Smiling at his daughter's helpful infatuation, Sir Donald often
accompanied her in these calls. He soon feels symptoms of mild
interest. The contagion is pleasing. These visits grow in length and
frequency. Sir Donald is losing zeal for man-capture. He is in danger
of yielding to the delusive heresy which sees more of interest in human
suffering than in crime.
One stormy day father and daughter are at a hospital. They had
thought of staying away until after the rain was over, but Esther
seemed lonely, and Sir Donald proposed an immediate call. They rode in
a closed carriage, taking some delicacies to those who had learned to
watch for their coming.
A piteous moan attracts Esther's quick ear and sympathy. Going
softly down the aisle, she places her hand upon the fevered brow of a
new inmate. The sufferer opens his eyes with a startled look. She asks
his name and ailment. There is an expression of supplication on the
Am I dreaming? No, it cannot be Miss Randolph.
Yes, I am Esther Randolph. Won't you kindly tell me your name?
Seeing his hesitation, Esther added: Whisper it! I will not tell!
Sir Donald came near, but was motioned to stop. He understood her
reason, and moved away. There was no response.
Perhaps I can do something for you!
Not now. I shall soon be where help never comes.
Esther begged him to permit her to send for a minister.
There is no use! My crimes are too great!
Esther could not leave this strange sufferer with his goading
conscience. She suggested that perhaps by telling her of his past life
some good might result to the living. He remained silent for a while.
Yes; but how atone for the death of the innocent? No, I did not
kill them! I never knew about the murders until both were drowned!
He seemed in fevered reverie. Esther, now excited, but controlling
her voice, soothingly said:
Tell me all your troubles. You are safe.
But they will kill me if I tell! They never fail to have revenge.
But if you are dying, why go before God without telling all? How
can they hurt you for telling? whispered Esther.
True; but if I should not die?
Tell all, and you shall not be harmed.
He looked long in her face and eyes.
Yes, I will tell none but you. I have seen you and your father in
London. Where is your father now?
Here in this ward.
There is a startled look.
But Sir Donald Randolph is my enemy!
Esther assured him that her father never would betray the trust of a
He seemed convinced, but indulged in further soliloquy.
Why should they care to follow me? The case is dismissed. I had
nothing to do with the murders.
Esther sees the tragic coherence of these rambling remarks. She
urges him to confess all.
Better to tell father also. Perhaps he can protect you from your
enemies. I am sure father never will betray your trust.
Sir Donald was called, and with Esther heard the confession.
My name is William Dodge. Yes, I am the man who commenced that
villainous suit against poor Alice Webster. Don't look so hard at me! I
did not kill her! I never murdered Oswald Langdon.
It is so hard to be poor and out of work. To think of Mary and the
four children without food or clothing! Why, I was so desperate at
times that I would have murdered for money! What was the life of one
rich, useless old man to that of my Mary and our starving children? But
I was not to be a murderer. No, old Pierre Lanier saved me from that
crime. Bad as he is, that must be said in his favor. How scared the old
rascal was when I fired! He spoke so strangely. Said: 'My good man, you
are surely mistaken, but what can I do for you? Here are some coins,
all I have with me, but come along and you shall have more.' I had
fired at him, but missed my aim. There was no one in sight in that
deserted part of Calcutta. I mistrusted his motives, but needing money,
went with him. He stopped, and we sat down on a deserted bench by the
side of an old vacant house. What a sly, insinuating old villain he
was! Telling me that there must be some reason for my strange action in
shooting, but that he would help me if I trusted him.
I told him of my poverty and helpless family. He seemed to pity us,
and said: 'I do not blame you in the least. I admire your spirit. What
can you do?'
I told him that my former work had been bookkeeping, but that I had
been discharged for dishonesty, through the connivance of another
employe, who stole the money and turned suspicion on me.
Old Pierre Lanier then became very sympathetic. I could make a neat
little fortune and provide for my family's immediate wants without
committing murder. He would commit any crime before those depending on
him for support should suffer. If I would come with him, we would talk
I expressed fear that he would surrender me to the police.
'Is not your revolver full of cartridges? Here, take my pistol.
Soon as you see me attempting any treachery, shoot to kill. My good
friend, I have use for you. If you can serve me, your family shall be
well cared for, and I will find more money for you to-night.'
With this strange assurance, so positively stated, I went with him.
We entered his room, and the lights were turned on. Bringing pen,
paper, and ink, he sat down by a table and wrote several names.
'Please copy these just like originals.'
I did as requested.
'Good! Now these,' handing me paper with other signatures.
'Very good! Please copy the body of the papers.'
Then he told me of his wish to procure conveyances, purporting to
come from the persons whose signatures I had copied, of property
situated in London. This property was in the possession of a girl
there. I was to draft these, and sign the proper names to them as
grantors and witnesses. We would go to London, and at the right time
begin the action for the possession of the property. He did not imagine
the case ever would come to trial, but I must wait until advised to
quit. My pay would be one thousand pounds and all expenses. He said the
girl's title was defective, but that easily could be remedied. In the
mean time my family must be provided for. 'Take these to bind the
What could I do but accept the offer and the money? It is easy for
those having life's comforts and luxuries to be honest. What idea have
such of temptation's power? Look in haggard, despairing face of wife
and hear the cries of hungry children! Then be honest! Refuse to stain
your soul for bread! I tell you, hunger has no soul!
Overpowered by passionate memories, he fell back exhausted. Tears
were streaming down the cheeks of Esther. Sir Donald's vision was
obscured by mists. He turned away his face.
Punish such criminal? It is more likely that both these would incur
liability as accessories after the fact.
In a few minutes strength for further confessions returned.
I often met Pierre and Paul Lanier in Calcutta. Neither of them
told me directly that Paul desired to marry Alice Webster, but I was
sure that this was the wish of both. I thought that if the marriage
occurred, there would be a dismissal of the action, otherwise it would
be pressed. In this I was but partly right. They never intended the
case should be tried. It was begun to bring about the marriage. When
Alice was drowned and the case was set for trial, it had to be
dismissed. Paul and his father were with me when I told the solicitors
I heard Paul tell his father before Alice Webster's death that they
would never hear from that girl again. She was at the bottom of the
lake. Pierre Lanier replied:
'It is bad business, Paul, but can't be helped. Better an accident
than intentionally, my boy.'
They never knew I heard their talk. I suspected some foul play, but
was surprised to have Alice and the rest of you pointed out after your
arrival in London.
Paul, his father, and I often met in London, but without being seen
together. After it was rumored that Alice and Oswald Langdon had been
drowned in the Thames, I felt much worried. That same evening of the
night when they disappeared I heard Paul tell his father of the
proposed boat-ride, but that Oswald and the two girls were going. They
agreed that Paul should trail them and learn what he could. Paul told
his father what he had heard in the park. Both seemed much enraged, but
Pierre Lanier cautioned Paul to be patient and not lose his temper.
'Whatever happens, he must not marry her!' said Paul.
'That's right, my boy; but remember the lake, and keep cool. Make
no rash breaks next time.'
I was present at this conversation, but appeared not to notice
their subdued talk. My curiosity was aroused by their suggestive
remarks. I left about dusk. Soon after, Paul came out. I kept out of
his sight, but watched him closely. He stopped beyond where the boats
were. I watched at a suitable distance. Soon Oswald and Alice came down
to the stream, and procuring a boat, rowed up the river. Paul followed
them. Very curious to know the result, I yet feared for my own safety.
If he intended any violence, I would be safer elsewhere. It would be
dangerous for him to learn that I knew of his crime. He would find an
effective way of silencing a witness. Besides, I might be suspected.
These thoughts determined me to return. My curiosity was
sufficiently aroused for me to shadow the neighborhood of Paul's room.
My own room was in another block, but where I could see Paul if he came
back the most direct route from the river. Part of the time I sat by
the darkened window, looking out in the direction of the stream; at
other times I strolled up and down the street. Then I would stand in
the dark hallway.
About three hours after his disappearance up the shore of the river
I heard hurried steps, and slipped out into the hallway at entrance of
the stairs and watched. Paul walked rapidly by, and I followed at safe
distance. He soon entered his room. I returned and retired, but felt
that some fearful crime had been committed.
Next morning I bought daily papers, to learn if anything had
happened to Oswald or Alice. Feeling uneasy, I haunted the neighborhood
of Alice's home, but saw no signs. In the afternoon I visited the point
where the boat had been taken. The keeper remarked:
'What could have happened to that good-lookin' jay and bloomin'
sweetheart of his'n? I doesn't care how much they spoons, but I wants
Much excited, I was walking around, wondering what had happened,
when you two were seen coming. Feeling ashamed to meet the friends of
the girl against whom had been brought the villainous suit, I moved up
the stream to where there would be a good view of your actions. Pretty
soon both of you and the keeper started up the river in a boat. I then
knew neither Oswald nor Alice had returned. That they had been killed
by Paul Lanier I was now sure.
A sense of indirect complicity in this crime oppressed my heart. I
skulked away and hid in my room. Uneasy there, I went over to Paul's
quarters, but he was not in. His father was there, and seemed nervous.
The old man asked if I had heard any news, adding that he had not been
in the street yet. I noticed some of that morning's papers upon the
table. He watched me suspiciously, but I acted unconcerned. I affected
not to notice his nervous manner, but noted all. Listening intently to
every sound, he would answer me mechanically, then would get up, slowly
yawn, and shuffle toward the window fronting the street. Glancing each
way, he then would be seated. His questions, answers, remarks, pauses,
and whole manner confirmed me in the conviction that he had been
informed of some act of Paul's resulting in the death of the missing
parties. He finally became quiet, and made no responses to my talk. I
knew he wished to be alone, and rose to go. Following to the door, he
was extremely polite, begging me to call again next day, sure. As I
left, the door closed quickly, the bolt was thrust, and the lock
clicked. I waited near, but where he could not see me.
In about fifteen minutes a stooped form, with snow-white, flowing
beard, feebly emerged from the hallway. Bending over a heavy cane, this
old man looked through large colored glasses up, down, and across the
street. He slowly started in an opposite direction from where I was
standing. After he had turned the corner, I walked rapidly around the
block, and saw the old man still pegging away, watching everything
along his path. Soon his steps quickened, and I was compelled to walk
rapidly. Finally he turned a corner, entering a narrow alley extending
between rows of low buildings. I crossed to the other side of the
street, and passed down to the alley, but the old man had disappeared.
I was sure that either Pierre or Paul Lanier, in this disguise, was
now hiding in one of these low buildings along the alley. Though much
excited, I knew better than longer to continue my stay in that quarter.
I returned to watch the entrance to the room occupied by Paul and his
In about two hours this same stooping figure slowly came up the
street and entered the hallway. I was sure that Pierre Lanier had
visited Paul, and was keeping him posted.
That evening I went down to the boathouse and learned about the
finding of Oswald's hat. The boat had been found. I felt creepy, and
that night retired early.
Next morning's papers told of the disappearances. In the afternoon
I went over to Paul's room. Both were in, and greeted me with great
apparent pleasure. They wondered why I did not come sooner. After a
while Paul carelessly asked me if I had read any of the morning papers.
Neither he nor his father had been on the street, except for meals. I
told him that there had been considerable in the papers about our
mutual friends. Here were the accounts. I expressed doubt of their
correctness, and carelessly remarked:
'Guess it's some reporter's fake.
Paul read, and seemed greatly surprised. His father looked it all
over, and wondered if there were any truth in the reports. They
suggested that if it should turn out true, we must consider well our
course of action. Suspicion might point to me as the one interested in
the death of Alice Webster. My suit recently commenced against her
might be construed as interesting me in having the girl put out of the
I was terribly shocked. They continued to arouse my fears until I
was frantic. Both spoke of this mysterious disappearance as most
unfortunate for me under the circumstances. It seemed to me there was
little chance to escape. Old Pierre Lanier thought I must remain in
seclusion until matters cleared up. It would not do for me to be seen.
Perhaps if I kept out of sight, no one would think of me in connection
with this affair. They advised me to change my room to a certain
quarter of the city, and remain there until Paul procured suitable
I was paralyzed with fear, and did as they told me. Going back to
my room, I waited until Paul entered. He came in without knocking. I
was startled by the appearance of a strange man with slouch hat and
heavy brown whiskers. He removed the disguise. I was told to pack my
valise and trunk and get ready to move. A false beard was handed me
with some old clothes. Paul told me to put them on. Giving the name of
my new quarters, and cautioning me to remain there until he called,
Paul ran downstairs and brought up the man who was to remove my
baggage. Telling me the man had his directions and would know just
where to go, Paul left. After a roundabout trip we reached my
destination. I was surprised to see the driver enter the same alley
down which had passed on the previous day that strange old man. With
feelings of dread I followed up a back stairway into a low room, where
my stuff was deposited.
'This is the place,' said the driver, and left.
Soon after, Paul entered in the same disguise. This, he said, was
to be my home until further arrangements could be made.
'Father and I will be over every day and report. I will show you
where to board near here. Your name is to be Joshua Wilkins.'
I remained in this place several weeks, going out frequently. Both
Pierre and Paul called often, always in disguise. Occasionally we went
about London together. It seemed to me at times that we were being
shadowed. Sometimes when I was alone, strangers in my hearing would
speak about either Paul or Pierre Lanier, and watch me, as if they knew
our acquaintance. Frequently the Dodge case against Alice Webster was
mentioned. There would be talk about the disappearances of Alice and
Oswald. It always seemed to me that I was being watched. Paul and
Pierre Lanier were affected in the same way. Strangers would refer to
these subjects in their presence. Both had denied ever seeing William
Oh, how miserable I was during all this time! I was suspicious of
everybody and trembled at common noises. Any unexpected look of
stranger caused a start. It was in vain that I reasoned against this
foolish fear. My misery was so great that I contemplated suicide. It
seemed to me that both of the Laniers gloated over my wretchedness.
They enlarged on the perils of my situation. I really believe they
wished me to take my own life. From things which I then did under their
advice I often think they intended deserting me. If the bodies of Alice
and Oswald had been found, I believe these villains would have procured
my arrest for the murders. I was completely in their power, and it now
seems that they were weaving a web for my destruction. They owed me
nine hundred pounds, and I knew things against them. I bore up under it
all, for the sake of Mary and the children. Old Pierre had given me in
all one hundred pounds before we started for London. I gave most of
this to Mary.
Poor Mary! I have not heard from her for many weeks. Now I am here
in this hospital, dying!
Serves me right for killing that poor girl! Yes, I'm to blame that
Oswald Langdon and Alice Webster were drowned! But tell the jury, Mary
and the children were hungry! Tell them that. Tell the judge about Mary
and the children. Don't forget to tell the judge that! Tell everybody
There was a long silence. With scared faces Sir Donald and Esther
bent over the motionless form. The attending physician felt the wrist,
listened for heart-throbs. A cordial was administered. That deathlike
swoon lasted for several minutes, followed by slow return to
consciousness. It was evident that further attempt of the sick man to
relate his experiences with these archconspirators then would be
unadvisable. The physician said there was some hope of the man's
recovery, but that quiet and rest were imperative. Sir Donald and
Esther were loth to go, but the hospital rules were strict. They left,
much interested in the fate of William Dodge.
The confession, though confirming Sir Donald's theory of this
conspiracy, was startling. That Paul Lanier had murdered both Oswald
and Alice was evident. But what had become of the bodies? Could it be
that the hat and handkerchief were placed where found to mislead as to
manner of deaths? Were the bodies still in the river, or buried
elsewhere? Perhaps the remains of Oswald and Alice had been reduced to
ashes and scattered to the winds. How could the necessary evidence be
obtained? How bring their murderers to justice without proof of the
corpus delicti? Could this dying man know other facts furnishing a
clew to establish their deaths? Would it be right to harass him with
further inquiry upon the verge of the tomb? Why employ his slender
thread of life in unraveling this intricate web. Better point him to
that hope which is the refuge of a sinful soul.
But is there any way of saving this guilty wretch, with his crimes
unconfessed? First confession, then shriving of the penitent.
Limit the mercy of Heaven? Is the Infinite compassion contingent
upon finite fellow tactics?
Sir Donald and Esther felt more solicitude for the sick man's
recovery than in further revelations.
Next day they are early callers at the hospital. William Dodge is
still alive, but delirious. He slept much of the night, but is flighty,
making many wild, incoherent speeches. Receiving permission to see him,
Sir Donald and Esther approach the cot.
No, Mary, I will never let you or the children starve! I got the
money from Pierre Lanier! Dear old Pierre Lanier saved my Mary and the
children! Put that down! Yes, the old rascal saved Mary and the
children from starving! Put that down! Old Pierre saved me from being a
murderer! Write that in the book, too! No, I never struck either of
them! It was Paul Lanier! He murdered them! Your boy is not a murderer!
Mother, I am innocent! Mary's folks said William Dodge could not
provide for Mary! I did though! But Mary cried about the children! How
Mary and the children ate that night! I got it all from dear old Pierre
There was another pause, and the delirious man seemed to sleep.
Suddenly he struck his clenched hand upon the spread and stared wildly.
You miserable murderer! Keep that money, and I will hang you! Send
it to me, or I will tell how Paul killed Alice Webster and Oswald
Langdon! That's right! Pay me, and it's all right! I'll never squeal! I
need it for Mary and the children! They'll be happy now!
Sir Donald and Esther make daily calls until it is safe to see their
interesting invalid. Recovery is slow. Sir Donald broaches the subject
of the Thames tragedy. Dodge does not remember much of his former talk,
but seems willing to divulge all he knows. He trusts that these kind
friends will not betray his confidence. The Laniers would murder him if
Receiving positive assurance that there will be nothing said until
Dodge is consulted, the narrative is again begun. Sir Donald tells him
the substance of former statements.
Well, I will complete the horrible story, relying on your promise
never to tell without my consent. Those Laniers would surely find a
swift way of silencing me if they knew I had told. Often I am afraid
that they will have me assassinated, anyhow.
Both of them came together to my hiding-place, much excited. My
case against Alice was set for trial. Her barrister had procured the
setting. They were much perplexed at this, and wondered if Alice and
Oswald had turned up. Both were pale, and Paul trembled violently. He
was not shamming this time. His father was nervous, but advised Paul to
keep cool or all would be lost. We went together that night to see my
solicitors. Pierre said he had seen them before, and that they would be
in their office waiting for me. Pierre and Paul were disguised. I was
to tell the solicitors that the case should be dismissed, as my
witnesses could not be found.
We entered the office, and found both solicitors there. When I told
them to have the case dismissed they were much surprised.
'A continuance can be procured on proper showing.'
Pierre Lanier scowled, and looking at me, shook his head.
I insisted upon its dismissal, as the witnesses could not be relied
upon. One solicitor said:
'You have a complete chain of title deeds, and need no other
witnesses, except to prove their genuineness.'
Old Pierre frowned, and I replied:
'It is better to quit. I do not care to press the case.'
They looked at each other and at us suspiciously.
Old Pierre then spoke up, saying:
'My friend wishes to drop the case. I understand that he owes you
part of your fee. What were you to pay them, Mr. Dodge?'
I replied, 'Two hundred pounds.'
'How much have you paid?'
'Well, I know you have little money to waste on this case. These
gentlemen have been paid well for what has been done thus far. If you
need fifty pounds more to pay them off, I will loan the amount.'
His proposition was promptly accepted. It was arranged that the
case should be dismissed and the money paid. This was done.
The Laniers now seemed anxious to get rid of me. I insisted on
payment of the remaining nine hundred pounds. They expostulated with
me; said it was outrageous; what good had I done them?
To my remark that I was to quit upon their advice, and had done so,
'Yes, but who imagined Alice would be drowned?'
'You are suspected of putting her out of the way!'
I was so angry that I looked straight at him, and said:
'You know more about that than I do!'
I have often been sorry for this thrust, but it went home. Paul
grew pale, and stared at me frightfully.
'Here, boys, none of your foolish quarreling!' said Pierre. 'Mr.
Dodge is entitled under the contract to the money. It shall never be
said that Pierre Lanier failed to keep his word. We must stand by each
other whatever happens. Mr. Dodge has a family, and long as I live they
shall be provided for. I could beat him out of the money, as the
contract was illegal and void. He could be prosecuted for conspiracy
and fraud. Mr. Dodge will be suspected of murdering that man and girl.
I have already heard rumors to that effect. But we must stand together.
It would never do for Mr. Dodge to return home now. He must stay away
from Calcutta a year, at least. Paul and I will go to Calcutta. We will
let you know all that happens. You must not write to London, or to any
one but me. I will deliver your letters to Mary, and mail hers to you.
Your name must be James Wilton. When it is safe, I will write you to
I saw the force of these directions, but asked how I was to live
during my stay from home, and what provisions would be made for my
Pierre replied: 'To-morrow you shall have one hundred pounds. I
will give Mary one hundred pounds on my arrival in Calcutta. In one
year I will pay each of you an additional hundred pounds. By that time,
in all probability, you can return, and I will pay the balance in five
equal annual installments.'
This arrangement was made between us. I was in their power, and did
just as he said. In a short time I sailed for Paris with the promised
payment. The Laniers were to sail for Calcutta soon after. I have never
received any letter from either of them since. A letter came to me from
Mary, speaking of having received one hundred pounds, but not knowing
from whom. It was placed to her credit in a Calcutta bank, and notice
to that effect was left at the house. The letter was addressed to James
Wilton in a disguised hand, but the inside sheet was in Mary's
handwriting. She had been told at the bank that I was in Bombay.
Doubtless her letter went there, and was forwarded by some one
instructed by Pierre Lanier to me at Paris.
Letters from my wife came regularly. I continued to write, as
directed by Pierre Lanier, and Mary received my letters. It was evident
that Pierre had furnished the information of my being in Bombay, and I
kept up the delusion.
Life here in Paris, without employment, harassed by uncertainty,
compelled to pass under an assumed name, away from my family, and
obliged to keep up a deceitful correspondence with Mary, who supposed I
was in Bombay, became very miserable. Still there was no alternative. I
dreaded any failure to comply with the wishes of the Laniers. They
would hesitate at no crime to protect themselves. I believed they
suspected me of thinking Paul had murdered Oswald Langdon and Alice
Webster. It would be safer for me to be away from them. Would they not
plot my death if I were at Calcutta? If suspected or pursued, they
might accuse me of the crime, and both conspire to secure my
After some time spent in Paris, Mary's letters ceased. I waited
anxiously, but none came. Writing for explanations, I received no
answer. My fears were aroused. Was she sick? Did my letters reach her?
Were her letters and mine intercepted? Were detectives on my trail?
Could it be that the Laniers were being pursued for those murders? Had
they decided to throw me off?
A thousand fears haunted me. I was in constant dread of being
identified, yet looked daily for a letter from Mary. Sometimes I would
fully decide to start for Calcutta, regardless of consequences, but
abandoned the plan. I took sick. Becoming very weak, a physician was
consulted. After a few visits, he directed that I be removed to the
hospital. Here I have been for weeks, without hearing from my wife or
family. What can I do to hear of them? Oh, can't you do something in my
behalf? Help me to hear from Mary and the children!
Sir Donald asked many questions about the deaths of Oswald and
Alice, but elicited little further information. He was convinced that
nothing had been concealed. There was no positive proof of their
deaths. How could this missing link be procured?
Both Sir Donald and Esther were much interested in the family of
William Dodge. That this husband and father had been led into crime
through poverty was apparent. His love for hungry wife and children
placed him at the mercy of this archvillain, who, with his murderous
son, had caused so much suffering.
Sir Donald well knew that to keep inviolate his agreement with
William Dodge would be a technical concealment of crime. Yet he would
have accepted any fate rather than betray such trust.
Strict compliance with penal statutes may require much individual
William Dodge was most unhappy. Each movement made seemed to further
involve him in hopeless entanglement. The mistake which resulted in his
wildly aimed cartridge missing its intended victim saved him from guilt
But how judge of any event by its immediate circle? Only that far
cycle whose ever-widening circuit merges eternal radii can fully
compass the puissance of human action.
Under stress of immediate death he had fully confessed all. Now even
the one dubious remnant of personal honor, according to crime's
unwritten code, is swept away.
How could the wretch, about to escape all human reckoning, making
cowardly confession of crime involving fellow-guilt, hope that his
confidences would remain inviolate? One of the penalties of faithless
duplicity is that all trust in fellow-fealty dies.
William Dodge now feared that those who so kindly watched over his
hospital cot would betray his trust. They doubtless were solicitous for
his recovery, that he and the Laniers might be brought to ultimate
justice. What respect could be expected of these for pledges given to
one who had conspired against a helpless orphan? Why should they not
speed the conviction of him whose intrigues were accessory to this
How hard to conceive of better than self!
Neither Sir Donald nor Esther ever thought of punishment for the man
just saved from the grave. Both felt that this poor fellow and his
family were their special wards. All moral taint was covered by the
mantle of sympathetic interest. Sir Donald had concluded that something
must be done in behalf of those at Calcutta. It would not do to write,
as this might in some way lead to inquiry for the absent father. He
would avoid any course of action tending to affect the safety of this
poor fellow with his burden of troubles.
There are persons who cannot do a mean act.
Though at times loth to leave Paris, Sir Donald and Esther will
visit Calcutta. Thereby they may learn all about the Dodge family, and
perhaps render needed assistance.
It has been three days since the hospital visit. Esther has been
sick. When able to sit up, she insists upon his making a call upon
their interesting convalescent and telling him of the proposed trip to
India. Judge of Sir Donald's surprise upon being informed that William
Dodge had been removed from the hospital. At his request a conveyance
bore him away the previous evening, but no one knew where. Not a word
had been said by him giving any clew to his intentions. Nothing was
uttered about Sir Donald or Esther.
This strange conduct greatly mystified Sir Donald. He framed all
sorts of queries as to possible causes. Had their failure to make daily
calls aroused Dodge's suspicion? Was this poor fellow afraid of their
betraying him? Did he think that having procured a full confession,
they had no further interest except his conviction of crime? Had the
identity and whereabouts of William Dodge been discovered? Were his
silence and removal only parts of an adroitly planned detective ruse?
Could it be that the Laniers were at the bottom of this strange move?
What if William Dodge were to be tried for murdering Oswald Langdon and
Alice Webster? Had the Laniers accused him of these crimes? Strange if
Paul were to be tried as principal and the other two as accessories.
Possibly the detectives had a complete chain of evidence connecting
these with the murders and the bodies were discovered.
Sir Donald is much perplexed. This must not be communicated to the
London office. In all this tangle there is one clear point. Whatever
the result, Sir Donald will shield William Dodge. That family must be
found and kept from want. Delay and premature action are alike
He compromises by a brief stay in Paris, better to know how to
proceed. Failing to learn anything more, Sir Donald and Esther leave
CHAPTER X. AT THE HIMALAYAS
Traversing many weary miles of that vast Indian Empire, the survey
party reaches the Himalaya range.
Twenty-five persons are in the camp. The guide is an intelligent
Hindu. There are one German, a Russian, and an American. Ample
provisions had been made for the journey. The chief is absolute head of
the undertaking, but void of light as to its ultimate purposes.
From the outset Oswald is well treated. In his looks is that which
claims respect. While feeling gratitude for employment and evident
good-will, Oswald's experiences of the recent past make him pensive.
This abstraction had been noted. His prompt obedience to all orders
wins approval. He never makes inquiries as to the purposes of this
expedition. His chief reciprocates by not referring to Oswald's
antecedents and by relieving him from the natural curiosity of
For a long time they are employed in surveying the mountain passes
and approaches. Maps are made and grades established. For many miles on
both sides of the range the country is explored, and numberless cipher
annotations are placed on the charts. Much care is taken in survey of
streams and the location of springs.
Oswald becomes greatly interested in this work, but asks only
questions about technical parts. He learns much of triangulation and of
aneroid computations. Vernier and arc readings become familiar.
At times tripod and transit seem revolving belcher of deadly hail.
Glaring eastward from rocky summit is a lion rampant. This figure
slowly retreats backward with sullen roar. Now upon the mountain apex
appears a huge grizzly form, looking from shaggy, impassive brows
toward sea and plain and jungle. A mighty horde sweeps down, emerging
from pass and rocky fastnesses. This army, scattering over the plain,
is swelled by Moslem, Sikh, Hindu, Parsee, and Buddhist allies, until
its millions hold India's domain. The perspective becomes confused,
outlines jumble, figures are inverted, lights and shadows intermingle
their chameleon hues, until under widened folds of British and Russian
canvas Lion and Bear divide the foray, still regarding each other
with rolling eyes of prey.
From such chimeras Oswald turns to more prosaic matters.
Many books had been brought on this far journey. Long, tedious hours
are beguiled in the perusal of their contents. History, politics, war,
poetry, religion, and romance are freely discussed by different members
of the party during hours spent in camp. Both German and Russian speak
English fairly well; the Hindu guide is easily understood. There is a
plentiful supply of rifles, swords, knives, and ammunition. When
possible, all camp near together, taking proper precautions against
attacks from roving bands of marauders.
Oswald's most intimate associates are the chief, German, American,
and Russian. These are not afflicted with curiosity as to each other's
past. The chief is under sealed orders; both German and Russian had
left their respective countries for good of Kaiser and Tsar; the
American is an adventurous son of millionaire residing in New York.
Weary of ennui in the metropolis, this Yankee aristocrat seeks
diversion in trips to all parts of the globe. All of these are
recipients of classic culture.
Oswald's experiences had been most limited, but of greatest
intensity. Since his Northfield romance, pain of years had crowded into
a few brief months. The face of Esther Randolph is indelibly painted on
his memory. Now free from haunting fear of detection, Oswald can more
rationally review the events driving him into indefinite exile from
home and friends. Doubtless Sir Donald and Esther believed him dead.
They never could accuse him of murdering Alice Webster, but surely
would charge this crime and his own death upon Paul Lanier. The lake
tragedy was conclusive. Would not Esther have sad recollections of the
man who sought her hand and met such death? That she would never marry
another he is sure. Has this lovely girl entered upon her chosen
mission? To himself he says:
One so pure should find refuge from earth's coarse pleasures in
holy consecration to spiritual ideals. How grand the influences of
those moral advisers whose teachings had directed her feet aright.
Could I only see father and mother! What sleepless nights they must
have passed since my disguised exit from that home, months ago! If I
could only write to or hear from them! It may be that this horrible
condition of things is proper punishment for my presumptuous pride, but
why should the innocent suffer? When will this mystery be cleared? What
is being done to convict the guilty?
Oswald now hopes that English justice will not be delinquent. Surely
detectives can unravel this complicated web. Why are these sleuths so
tardy? He now chafes at the slow zeal of those whose pursuit of Oswald
Langdon would have been resisted to the death. These ministers of
justice, in honest, tireless search for the murderer of Oswald Langdon
and Alice Webster, even now would reckon lightly of their own lives if
they attempted his arrest. But this high-spirited youth feels no tremor
of physical fear. The gallows have no terrors other than those of
unmerited ignominy. Oswald would rush on swift death if thereby the
name of Langdon could be cleared.
He thus upbraids himself: My flight from London was cowardly.
Better with moral determination to have faced all and accepted my fate.
The death of Alice Webster is unavenged; her slayer is at large, a
human beast of prey; father and mother are in frightful suspense; the
spectral hand of the drowned girl beckons me to revenge upon her
murderer; but ignoring all these, I am a selfish, cowardly 'derelict,'
fearful of possible harm.
Then he exclaims: Not too fast! Has not English justice gloated
over conviction of the innocent? What fearful irony in some of its
swift so-called vindications! How can public clamor be satisfied but by
sacrifice when there is a victim at hand? What hope that detectives
would pursue Paul Lanier for the murder of Alice Webster with Oswald
Langdon conveniently near? Are not my absence and supposed death
necessary to the unraveling of this intricate plot? In what other way
can the name of Langdon be cleared from pending disgrace?
Oswald now desires to live until justice triumphs. He sometimes
feels assurance that all will be righted. It is difficult to restrain
his curiosity within discreet bounds.
The camp discussions help to divert his thought from somber
reflections. These informal debates take wide range.
Karl Ludwig is a versatile German. Though thinking it discreet to
absent himself from fatherland, Karl is at heart loyal to his sturdy
young Kaiser. To Karl the memories of imperial Teutonic succession and
achievements are proud heritage. He would champion the real cause of
his emperor against the world. In event of foreign attack Karl would
subscribe without reserve to the divine rights of William. There is
in his heart no place for treason.
Like many other exiles from native land, Karl was a real menace to
constituted authority. Speech led him into proscribed provinces.
Harmless in overt act or intent, his words were deadly explosives,
charged with dynamo energy sufficient to wreck every throne of Europe.
To poetic or reflective mind Karl's startling metaphors were
harmless hyperbole or garrulous trope of brilliant, idealistic
sentiment, but such fired credulous natures to white heat of anarchy.
It became essential to German tranquillity that Karl Ludwig be
Not aware of proper rating by officials of fatherland, Karl took
passage for Calcutta, landing with culture, pride, and imagination at
this Indian metropolis.
Ivan Shelgunoff graduated from Moscow University. He had imbibed
sentiments harmless in theory, but inimical to practical policies of
Russian civics. Having no intention of posing as factional disturber of
the public peace, his indiscreet utterances reach ear of vigilant
official. Not fascinated with prospect of indefinite Siberian exile,
Ivan procured leave to quit the domain of the Tsar, finding habitation
under the British flag in this seaport near the mouth of the Ganges.
Yet Ivan Shelgunoff is proud of Russian traditions and statecraft,
feeling no bitterness toward Nicholas II., but filial reverence for
this recently crowned youthful patriarch-autocrat.
Intrusted with enforcement of police regulations, Ivan soon would
abandon plausible theories of individual freedom as Utopian chimeras,
not adapted to exigencies of practical civic needs. Siberian penal
exile would become essential part of police supervision, with possible
excesses, as in all provisions for the suppression of crime.
Oswald comes to regard Karl Ludwig and Ivan Shelgunoff with much
interest. Their critical, liberal sentiments, so well expressed, are
appreciated by his subtle perception. Through these garrulous,
versatile commentators his horizon is vastly extended. Readily
appropriating the good, he notes defects and makes judicious
comparisons. Seldom drawn into discussion or comment, his evident
interest insures hearty good-will. However, these vocal encyclopedias
of wisdom generally and of statecraft in particular at times are
surprised by Oswald's responses to their direct appeals. By a subtle
system of intellectual buccaneering this reserved Englishman winnows
from much chaffy verbiage the real seeds of thought. In fresh-turned
fallow of his fertile fancy the grain germinates into better growths.
They wonder at his quick perception, profound discrimination, and
marvelous craft of readjustment. That this British subject can see in
the different policies of more absolute powers and in less flexible
modes of civic alignment so much to commend or excuse to them is queer
indeed. They surmise that by habitual globe-trotting Oswald has become
a citizen of the world.
Strange that he who would resent the least show of arbitrary
interference with his own interests finds so much to justify in
rigorous German and Russian policies.
When Oswald did express an opinion on any of the subjects under
discussion, Karl and Ivan seemed to accept his comments as oracle,
making no adverse suggestions. Such deference is no infrequent tribute
to well-bred reserve.
To some criticisms of Karl Ludwig, Oswald showed much sympathy with
aspirations of Emperor William for military resources promptly
available in all emergencies. He said:
Increased land and naval equipment should be voted by the Reichstag
in the interest of German tranquillity. Such expenditures are economic
precautions against expensive wars. Thereby the solvency of the German
exchequer would be moderately insured. So far from unduly fostering a
bellicose spirit tending to war, these would be tactful preventives of
wasteful foreign and civil broils. Fifty years' current expense to
insure the empire's peace would not equal waste of one such serious
conflict. There is no doubt that this sturdy sovereign possesses much
military spirit. This is natural heritage, coming down in direct royal
line from hero ancestry. Fostered by severe German tactics, it tends
toward ambition for martial prestige, but has been consecrated to the
arts of peace. It is but natural that such trend and discipline tinge
this consecration with heroic shades. These are not the results of
diseased caprice, but suggest potent considerations which it would be
well to respect. Let none think that William would falter in any
crisis. The same imperial foresight prompting some strange assertions
of royal prerogatives would head German armies, for success of colonial
extension, in chastisement for wanton treaty violations, or to preserve
the integrity of his empire. Much lightly has been written about the
caprices of this ruler, but genius always was peculiar.
After an impressive silence, Oswald resumes:
Cares of empire have strange tendencies and special warrant.
Dreamily looking at Karl, Oswald then, as if in reverie, quotes:
'And some among you held, that if the King
Had seen the sight, he would have sworn the vow;
Not easily, seeing that the King must guard
That which he rules, and is but as the hind
To whom a space of land is given to plow,
Who may not wander from the allotted field,
Until his work be done.'
At another time there had been an animated discussion between Ivan
Shelgunoff and Karl Ludwig as to the comparative merits of Russian and
German dynasties, with the peculiar institutions of both countries.
Direct appeal being made to Oswald for an opinion, he avoids invidious
comparisons, and says:
Nicholas II. is crowned head of an absolute dynasty. The royal line
of Romanoff succession found in him rightful representative of its
august power. Whatever may be said about the rigor of Russian rule and
its conflict with Nihilistic tendencies, the quarrel so far as pertains
to this young sovereign is that of a true inheritor.
Nicholas succeeded to Russian policies as essential allies of his
crown. These are united in newly welded bonds of imperial wedlock.
Their divorce would be destruction of his throne.
Representative liberty is a comparative ideal. The Russian peasant
enjoys frugal life with his family and few humble friends. Is it likely
that such feel the autocratic pressure of their Tsar? Perhaps there may
be many cases wherein private rights have been ruthlessly invaded, but
are not such results usually due to insolent perversions by minor
officials? Doubtless many innocent suspects are sent into hopeless
exile through official zeal, still like effects often result from
similar causes in liberal commonwealths.
Looking in questioning banter at Claude Leslie, Oswald says:
It has been rumored that in the great republic beyond the Atlantic
they sometimes do a little 'railroading.'
Tippoo Kalidasa is an interesting Hindu. With self-inflicted
cognomen and many eccentric notions about all sorts of subjects, Tippoo
can talk well and to the point. Though a professed disciple of modern
Brahmanism, he had deeply imbibed Buddhistical precepts and philosophy.
The lessons learned in childhood at his island home never were
Leaving Ceylon about his eighteenth year, Tippoo had traveled much
in China, Japan, and over parts of Siberia before going to India.
Everywhere had been accented in human lives the influence of that noble
prince, the founder of Buddhism. True, Tippoo saw in these writings
frequent contradictions, yet the character of this Indian teacher was
Faith rarely insists on absolutely consistent verities.
Much travel among peoples of other beliefs, and study of new
religious tenets had modified these earlier views. In reflective moods,
Tippoo saw much to criticise in this ancient philosophy, which, though
indelibly stamped upon its modern successor, as a professed system of
religious teaching, had become almost a stranger in the land of its
original growth. Still these early influences are most potent. In all
emergencies of thought or feeling, Tippoo Kalidasa soulfully repeats
I take refuge in Buddha!
Though Oswald's mind is not excessively tinged with the speculative
or ethical, he finds much of interest in the talk of this unique guide.
So rudely having been torn from all early environments, with such
shock of utter change in thought and impulse, is it strange that former
trend is broken? While tempering the white heat of aspiration, Oswald's
recent troubles widened his horizon. But novel tempers are not wholly
the results of changed circumstances. Latent powers and senses are
At times the memories of recent experiences weigh upon Oswald's
mind, but are not always present. There is little menace of arrest and
much youthful elastic spirit. Imperious will is in abeyance. There are
moods of chastened relaxation from self-consciousness, with peculiar
sense of relief and compensation.
Many an hour is beguiled by these two widely different men in
comment upon this philosophy of the East. A moral system claiming the
fealty of so great a part of earth's population surely is an important
subject for human study.
Much pleased at the interest of this dignified Englishman trying to
understand the tenets of an ancient faith, Tippoo talks freely and
profoundly, giving numerous explanatory versions from his own fertile
Oswald notes the strong points, beautiful sentiments, practical
beneficence, and occult theories of this oriental belief. He becomes
enamored of the life and teachings of Prince Guatama.
To some criticisms of Ivan Shelgunoff, Oswald replies:
Original doctrines often are distorted by ignorant interpreters.
Great ideas are degraded by dogmatic priestcraft.
There is no danger of Oswald becoming a partisan of this creed. He
is impressed with its defects, though appreciating the sublimity of
general tenets. Oswald does not like the doctrine of Merger. This
assertive Briton has no desire to lose identity in Brahm. Oswald
Langdon as dissolved dewdrop in shoreless sea were too vague.
From listening to these German, Russian, and Hindu philosophers,
Oswald enjoys talking with Claude Leslie. This rich American has none
of that reputed affectation of some western aristocrats. His manners
are frank, without any suggestion of pretense. Having the entrée of
Gotham select circles, Claude sailed on an extended tour of the world.
He had visited at leisure nearly every port and important city of
earth. With a quick sense of the remarkable in ordinary commonplace, he
had seen much of interest. His descriptions greatly entertained Oswald,
who never tired of listening to Claude's narratives. Indeed it may be
well surmised that from some of the broad-gauge ideas and epigrammatic
sayings of Claude Leslie came much of Oswald's changed views and
disposition to justify or excuse in others that which he formerly
considered as utterly without warrant.
How little does the awakened alert sense reckon of the initial
processes of its quickening!
The most fascinating parts of Claude's talks are about persons,
places, events, anecdotes, and incidents familiar to this Yankee
aristocrat before starting on his prolonged tour of the world.
Oswald becomes greatly interested in the affairs of this land beyond
the seas. Much had been written about impressions of America and
Americans. He had read some of these erudite, mildly drawn caricatures,
and is not predisposed toward the homes or characters of those
cousins across the Atlantic. A few that he had met in England
strengthened this prejudice. Shallow attempts to ape everything English
had disgusted this frank, open-hearted, perceptive Briton, with his
innate abhorrence of sham pretensions.
Americanism as typified by Claude Leslie is a new revelation. Such
incarnation of a great national character evokes his English pride of
kinship. He feels a most complacent sense of British responsibility for
American progress. In response to some of Claude's comments, Oswald
With such pedigree, why should not this bounding thoroughbred win
Oswald begins to feel potent suggestions that much of human
prejudice results from long-range ignorance. That this narrow-gauge,
contracting visual handicap is a real social, religious, and political
astigmatism he now and then quite clearly sees.
Claude Leslie's comments upon Gotham social and business life are
those of a close observer. His criticisms are judicious. Though
frequently barbed, these shafts never are tipped with malice.
Replying to opinions expressed by Karl Ludwig about reported whims
of New York's Four Hundred, Claude says:
These practices result from local conditions. Those living there
must conform to the unwritten social law, or risk the ostracising
penalties. To some, caste observances are irksome and utterly sham,
while to others the very breath of life. It ought not to be expected
that all curb their tastes to conform to the fastidious notions of a
few, nor should this fashionable minority be unduly blamed for
exclusive whims. There always have been and will be select circles.
Those sensitively chafing against this would be better employed in
rising superior to such things. Even those who set the social pace
often feel rebellious toward this dictator. Beneath the disguise of
caste New York's select circle love, hate, despair, trust, doubt,
rejoice, and suffer in degree like others. I have found such life dull,
but concede the right to 'pay the price.' Temperaments differ. Constant
touch with their kind is a necessity to many.
From Karl, Claude looks questioningly to that other attentive
listener. Oswald gazes at a mountain-ledge and slowly answers:
It may be that the generous Allgiver, indulging even queer tastes
of bird scavengers, not always is vexed at human caprice, but with
tender, amused smile watches many of our peculiar antics.
Oswald is much interested in Claude Leslie's comments upon American
political and business methods. These, while somewhat similar to those
in England, yet radically differ. Disposed to doubt the wisdom of such
departures from accustomed ideals, Oswald is often inquisitively
critical. Claude explains nearly all to the satisfaction of his friend.
Though sensible of defects, Claude is thoroughly American in his tastes
Oswald resolves to visit that western land, and to see for himself,
but this trip shall abide the course of events. The whole subtly
interwoven web of the Lanier conspiracy first shall be unraveled. The
dead avenged, his name stainless, Oswald Langdon will sail for that
western republic, no longer a hunted refugee.
How elusive Fate's alliance!
For many months the survey party has tramped up and down the slopes
of the Himalayas. Nothing has happened to interfere with the purposes
of this undertaking. The chief is preparing for return to Calcutta.
Oswald and Karl Ludwig have taken a ride of several miles from camp.
In the distance Karl sees a solitary horseman. Through his
field-glasses he notes that the distant rider is beckoning toward some
farther point. Four horsemen, with rifles across their saddles, are now
in sight. Oswald has been hidden from view of these by a slope upon
which Karl reined his horse. The four when within about a mile veer to
the right. It soon becomes evident to Karl that these are trying to get
between him and the camp. He tells Oswald his fears, who promptly joins
Karl, facing these unknown horsemen. Making a turn near the trail, the
four rapidly approach. Both drop their bridle-reins, grasping the
repeating, long-range weapons.
[Illustration: WHEN WITHIN ABOUT A HALF-MILE, THE FOUR RAISED THEIR
When within about a half-mile the four raise their guns at once.
Karl and Oswald elevate their weapons, and the six discharges seem
together. Karl's rifle drops, and he hurriedly loosens his feet from
the stirrups, as the horse sinks, shot through the brain. Oswald again
shoots, when his horse falls to the ground. The remaining two of the
enemy press forward, firing repeatedly. Karl has been disabled by a
wound in the right arm, and can render no further help. His gun has
rolled down the slope, out of reach.
His horse dead and Karl wounded, Oswald again fires, while shots
whiz by his head. Only one of the attacking party is now advancing.
Oswald fires his remaining charge, but fails to stop his foe, who takes
Seeing that his only chance to escape being killed is by feigning
death, Oswald drops heavily to the ground. With yell the other spurs
forward, followed in the distance by another, who, having lost his
horse, now rushes to be in at the death.
Having signaled Karl to make no resistance, Oswald is lying in
apparent stupor when the horseman rides up and dismounts. Bending over
the prostrate form, his long black hair is grasped by Oswald's left
hand, who, springing to his feet and giving that strong right arm a
swing, strikes the surprised bandit such hard blow under the left ear
that there is no need for another. Picking up the rifle dropped by his
quivering foe, Oswald fires the remaining charge after the fleeing form
of the other robber.
Grasping the bridle of the steed standing by the side of its dead
master, Oswald leads the animal to where Karl is lying with cocked
revolver in his left hand.
Karl had obeyed Oswald's signal, but watched the effect of this
ruse, intending to assist if necessary.
Oswald tears off the sleeve of his shirt and bandages Karl's arm.
Placing the German on the robber's steed, he leads the animal to where
the nearest horse is lying wounded. Dispatching the beast, he continues
on until they reach another of the attacking party, who appears to be
mortally wounded by a shot in the side, but is still living.
Oswald again presses forward to the point where the first man and
horse had fallen in the fight. Both are dead. The other horse is not in
That upon Oswald's second shot taking effect the riderless steed
escaped is evident, but where is the fourth horseman? Two are dead, one
is mortally wounded, and another escaped.
They go on toward the camp. After traveling in this way over five
miles, they are met by three of the camping party on horseback. It is
now arranged that Oswald ride one of these horses, leading the one
ridden by Karl to camp, while the others go up the trail and guard the
dying bandit until a cart can be sent to bring in the wounded man, the
two dead bodies, the guns, bridles, and saddles. After a few hours
more, Oswald and Karl reach camp.
The thrilling adventures related, the cart, accompanied by several
of the party on horseback, is sent out, and in due time all are under
This incident warns them that strict watch must be kept to avoid
surprises from roving bands infesting some of these mountain
The four bandits evidently were a scouting party. Seeing Oswald and
Karl, they had ventured an attack. Their tactics in trying to cut off
return of the two showed knowledge of the camp's location.
Though painful, Karl's wound healed rapidly.
Oswald was lionized. Many times Karl told how that quiet Englishman
rode up to his side and faced the horsemen when they were trying to cut
the two off from camp. Karl would insist that all of Oswald's shots
took effect except the last, and he thought that perhaps this slightly
wounded the fleeing bandit. That feint of death, vigorous resurrection,
and terrific right-hander electrified the garrulous Karl, who is
tireless in praise of Oswald's prowess.
Though thankful for their narrow escape, Oswald feels no elation. At
least one human being suddenly had been sent by him before his Maker,
and another through his act is about to cross the dark river. His
conscience is clear, but why was he not spared this sad notoriety?
From the wounded man's features, it was believed that he came from
Spain or Mexico. His rambling, delirious utterances were a jargon of
mixed tongues. He lived for a week at the camp, but never gave any clew
to his identity.
Oswald was the most frequent watcher at the cot of the dying man,
anticipating every want, appearing to thereby seek atonement for the
In the last hour Oswald borrowed from one of the party a crucifix.
Holding this before the glazing eye of the conscious bandit, he gently
lifts the right arm, placing the emblem within the hand which is then
laid across the breast.
With a smile, clasping this sacred symbol, the outlaw passes into
There were no papers on the three dead men giving any clew. They
were buried about one mile from camp.
In another week the survey party is ready to break camp for return
Accompanied by Karl Ludwig, Oswald visits the graves of the
highwaymen and places thereon bunches of wild flowers gathered from
slope of the Himalayas. Karl laughs at this whim of the Englishman.
Vot sendimendals! Bud id vill nod hurdt you, und der flowers vitter
Karl's arm was in evidence.
Both returned to camp, and soon all were on the road for Calcutta.
CHAPTER XI. PAUL'S BEWILDERMENT
Pondering over the strange events of the evening, Paul Lanier lay
awake all night after return from his visit with Agnes Randall. Longer
he thought, deeper became the mystery. He mutters: Not one weird
circumstance alone, but such grouping of ghostly coincidents! Being
ushered into the private room of Sir Charles was explained by Agnes,
but why that fitful glare of lights? How came that copy of London
Press, with underscored reference to the Thames murders, in
possession of Sir Charles Chesterton? All this might concur in time and
place through odd happenings, but that horrible tableau! The murdered
Alice Webster, with gory temple, long, damp tresses clinging to her
form, in striking pose, advancing and receding, mutely gesticulating
such fearful prophetic menace, was too real for chimerical conjecture
or mere coincidence. How came that door closed just after the tableau?
That declamation! Such pertinent lines and ghostly utterances, so
exactly imitating the voice of Alice!
Paul began to think there must be something wrong with his head.
Never before had he felt any such queer sensations, except when Alice
approached his hiding-place along shore of the lake. Strange about that
grewsome drapery of seaweed!
Paul is now startled with the conviction that Alice Webster, borne
by the Thames current, had drifted out to sea. He exclaims: Can it be
that her body has been found and identified? What could the spectral
voice have meant by the prophecy about burial 'in a cave' and 'trodden
down with stones'? What if the body of Oswald Langdon, too, has passed
out to the boundless deep, and his fleshless skeleton now is awaiting
identification in some rock-sealed ocean cave!
That fearful threat about will of 'fierce avenging sprite!' How
escape that sure blood-atonement?
It now seems to Paul that all the sleuths of fate are hunting him
for these murders.
Rising haggard and feverish, he takes a glass of strong brandy and
braces himself for the day. After light breakfast, he starts out for a
walk, but avoids familiar faces.
Agnes had told Paul not to call again before Sunday evening. Still
revolving in his mind weird incidents of the previous night, this
restless youth passes the time, and again sleeps but little.
All the next day, until time for his call upon Agnes, Paul spends in
nervous, troubled conjecture, but can find no solution of this elusive
problem. The strain is terrible and his look is alert. He avoids all
acquaintances and gives startled looks into vacancy, as if fearing
invisible attack. With quick, furtive glances, his right hand grasping
concealed dagger, Paul scans strange faces, but there is suggestion of
helplessness in facial shades, as if consciously battling against
unseen, pitiless foes.
Promptly at the appointed hour Paul rings the bell at apartments of
Sir Charles. There is no response. Impatiently waiting for some time,
the bell is again rung. Still no one responds. Going around to
apartments occupied by the family, Paul again rings, when the
proprietor appears. Upon asking if Miss Randall were at home, Paul is
startled by the information that the Chesterton rooms have been
Excitedly curious, Paul inquires when and where Miss Randall moved.
He learns that the rooms were vacated shortly after midnight two days
before, without notice. The rent had been paid until the first of the
next month, and the keys were found in the doors. The proprietor had
watched from his window, but did not see Miss Randall leave the house.
Two men left in the vehicle.
Paul returned to his room more startled and mystified than before.
The occupants of that midnight conveyance disturbed his waking hours
and haunted his dreams. What had become of Agnes Randall? Perhaps the
girl had been abducted, but why did she not enter the conveyance?
Possibly Agnes had been murdered. Could it be that her body was removed
in one of the large trunks? He becomes terribly interested in solving
this puzzle, but hesitates to investigate.
The circumstances immediately preceding this strange affair render
his will nerveless. The menacing voices of his murdered victims warn
him to be cautious. With all his excitement, Paul will shun notoriety
by discreet silence.
Pierre Lanier and Sir Charles are daily expected. It now occurs to
Paul that his position will be most embarrassing. What theory can he
advance to Sir Charles for the absence of Agnes? Will not Sir Charles
suspect him of foul play? Had not Paul called that evening and left
late? When Sir Charles inquires at the house and hears the whole story,
Paul's connivance in this abducting scheme will seem clear.
Between two tragic plots, one real, the other mysterious, Paul is
much bewildered. How escape deserved reckoning in the one and unmerited
accounting in the other?
The young man's ingenuity again comes to his aid. All intangible,
ghostly menace downs before this real danger. Paul quits his room, and
in disguise watches for incoming steamer from Calcutta. He will seek
first chance to explain all to Pierre Lanier. Father and son then will
determine what to do.
Disguised, Paul haunts the wharf. Neither Sir Charles nor Pierre
Lanier arrives. Much perplexed, Paul nervously awaits the distribution
of the mail, and receives a letter from his father. Eagerly tearing it
open, he is startled by its contents.
Pierre had written:
Take first steamer. Important business here. Come in old suit.
It is sure that something serious is contemplated. Such guarded
allusion to Paul's former disguise tells of some proposed desperate
Paul makes hurried preparations for departure.
Soon after on a mail steamer sails a stooped old man with long
beard, and known on ship as Josiah Peters.
CHAPTER XII. SHADOWED IN CALCUTTA
After usual incidents of ship life, Sir Donald and Esther are at
A few days were spent in rest and sight-seeing before active search
for the Dodge family was begun. Sir Donald had been in the neighborhood
of the former Dodge home, and by inquiry learned that the family had
moved. Questions as to present whereabouts of former occupants failed
to elicit any satisfactory information. All that he heard from the
neighbors was that Mrs. Dodge and children left suddenly in a closed
conveyance, never returning nor disposing of the house furniture. The
owner had taken possession of the premises and leased to another
Having inquired every day for about two weeks and learned nothing
more of this family, Sir Donald concluded to make thorough search.
The postoffice, rent-collecting agencies, hospitals, and poor lists,
hotel-registers, mortuary records, with many other means of discovery,
were unavailingly employed. Investigation at the bank where Mary Dodge
drew the hundred pounds failed to disclose any clew to the identity of
the depositor or of her movements.
Difficulties served to whet Sir Donald's desire for success. He
employed discreet persons to search different districts of the city and
enlisted the police in locating the Dodge family. In this way much time
passed, but no clew was found.
Sir Donald pressed this search, not only because of interest in the
welfare of the family, but as likely to furnish additional links in the
chain of circumstantial proofs against the Laniers. He doubted not that
Pierre Lanier had effected their removal.
From London advices he learned that this villain was then in
Calcutta, disguised, but shadowed by detectives who were not to be
hampered in their methods. To Esther he said:
If these sleuths knew of the Paris confession and would coöperate
with me, how easily the family might be located. But this would
necessitate taking them into the Dodge confidence with all its perils
for that unhappy man. This I must not do. For me to do such a thing is
impossible. I am handicapped by scruples having no warrant in legal
code, but more autocratic than mandate of Kaiser or Czar.
Esther resumes her Paris habit of visiting at the hospitals. Sir
Donald occasionally accompanies his daughter. Returning from one of
these calls, Esther speaks of the curious actions of a shabbily dressed
old man then in sight, whom she often had met. Sir Donald recalls
frequently having seen this same seedy, aged individual. They slowly
walk along with well-dissembled unconcern, turning several unusual
corners, with the old pedestrian always in view. They will keep watch
of this stranger without arousing his suspicion.
That afternoon Sir Donald employed a small boy to accompany him at a
short distance, ready at a given signal to follow an old, poorly
dressed man, learn his home, and give immediate notice.
In the evening the boy reported having trailed this old party for
several hours, until he was lost in a distant part of the city.
The boy was engaged for further service and cautioned not to tell,
but to watch every day for Sir Donald's appearance on the street.
This spying is kept up for over a week, the stranger mysteriously
disappearing each day at the same place. Turning an angle in a narrow
lane, this seedy-looking old chap vanishes as by magic, there being no
opening anywhere for his sudden exit. The boy gets scared, and refuses
longer to keep up his part of the program.
Sir Donald promises to hire another boy to help in this work. It is
arranged that they meet next morning at eight o'clock in front of the
hotel, when the two boys will go to the place where the old man so
strangely disappeared. Leaving the new assistant in full view of this
turn, facing toward the street from which the stranger made the abrupt
exit, the other boy is to quickly come back and await Sir Donald.
This ruse is carried out to the letter, with interesting results.
Sir Donald has been kept in sight by this feeble tramp while moving
about the city, and the boy warms the accustomed trail until the usual
place of disappearance is reached. The new picket runs up, and both
boys stroll along down this last turn of narrow lane, following a
black-whiskered, neatly dressed, quick-stepping fellow, until entering
a stairway he is lost to sight.
The boys return and report.
The game has been located, and Sir Donald can investigate at
Having driven past this stairway before sunrise of the next day, and
noted the surroundings, Sir Donald returns to his hotel, charges the
little fellows to say nothing, pays them well, and dispenses with their
After making the final turn, this stooping, slow-paced, shabbily
dressed form is changed into an erect, agile, dapper, dudish-looking
specimen, barring the coal-black beard and heavy moustache. Though this
transformation takes place in full view of the juvenile picket, the boy
cannot explain any of the details, but is sure of the miracle. A small
package is all that is taken up the stairway.
That this disguise was assumed to spy upon Sir Donald's actions is
evident. It is quite probable that no stranger would act thus, except
he had reasons for wishing not to be identified. Whoever has resorted
to such shifts must be interested either in thwarting search for the
Dodge family or in unmasking of the Lanier plot. Solution of this
affair doubtless will aid in solving one or the other of these vexing
Here again there is difficulty. Sir Donald must neither visit this
hiding-place nor openly take part in learning about the man who has
been shadowing them. This might defeat or embarrass both
investigations. He dislikes confiding in too many people and must tell
no one about the Dodge confession, nor will he furnish any clew by
which this wretched man may be compromised. After revolving in his mind
many plans, Sir Donald concludes to employ two persons who shall
constantly shadow this stranger and report.
Though questioned by the men employed in this work, he declines to
furnish any explanation of his purposes.
The pay will be good and the object is honorable. No crisis shall
be forced, but I will exercise discretion upon the facts. Full, correct
reports are required. Dispatch is not essential.
With double shifts employed in this affair, Sir Donald and Esther
pursue their accustomed habits of life in Calcutta.
Though possessing much power of concentration toward the
accomplishment of a fixed purpose, Sir Donald could think of other
things while exclusive agencies were working out his will. Too many
voices were awaiting hearing for him to stop his ears through
infatuation of one narrow aim. Specialist fame had little charm for
this comprehensive, broad-gauged, yet delicately adjusted soul. One of
his odd sayings seemed characteristic of the man:
If all culture were so much acquired stock for use in a future
life, how limited the patrimony of those famous specialists, under new
conditions, whose 'occupation is gone.'
This mutual spying is kept up with no decisive results. Nothing
happens to justify Sir Donald in bringing matters to a crisis, and
there never seems any certainty that an emergency is in sight. Taking
into account all the circumstances, Sir Donald thinks that perhaps this
queer masquerader is engaged in special work in hope of thereby
locating some criminal. That this human enigma knows something of Sir
Donald's purposes in sailing for Calcutta is apparent, but that there
is any desire to thwart them is doubtful. Can it be that one of London
sleuths in his employ is playing such waiting game, hoping to find
No one knows of the Dodge confession but Esther and Sir Donald.
Probably this fellow on detective work to bag all or one of the
conspirators against Alice Webster had heard of Sir Donald's efforts to
locate the Dodge family, and is keeping posted as to results. It is
sure that this spy is neither Dodge nor one of the Laniers. Sir Donald
will relax the hunt and await results.
With Esther he now rides about the city, paying no apparent heed to
other than incidental interests.
Esther enlists her father in little charitable enterprises. She
enters into the spirit of these with happy zeal. With quickened pulses
and quiet joy, this refined, cultured, sweetly sympathetic girl is
tireless in her gentle ministries. Unostentatious in her work, yet such
service cannot escape comment.
Charitably inclined people call upon father and daughter. These
calls are both welcome and distasteful. Thereby opportunities are
brought to their notice, but tinkling notoriety jars upon refined
benevolent sense. Overzealous would-be almoners of desired bounties
press special claims with deferential yet impertinent persistence.
Jostled and bored by these shallow enthusiasts, Sir Donald and
Esther find it expedient to give and minister by stealth. Such course
evokes adverse comment, but for this they care little. Hearing of some
criticisms upon his failure to contribute through a certain channel,
Sir Donald remarks to Esther:
The rending instinct is not monopolized by that breed anciently
stampeded 'down a steep place into the sea.'
Esther looks puzzled, then shocked, but accepts her father's smile
and caress as a full apology.
For several weeks this kind of life is passed, each day having some
charity to its account. Though still earnestly hoping that the Dodge
family may be found, Sir Donald begins to realize that there are many
needy wards not so hard to locate. He becomes impressed with the
democracy of human want and with the subtle vibrations of common
Father and daughter have called upon a poor family, about whose
destitution they learned on the previous day. Substantials for
immediate want are brought. In response to sympathetic questions, the
poor, grateful mother tells her pitiful story.
A young mechanic and a trusting, happy girl marry in Edinburgh. He
is skillful, with good pay. They live frugally, but in comfort. The
firm has a branch house in Calcutta. There is a vacancy, and this young
man is offered the position. All expenses of the family for the trip
will be paid, and the salary is better. Strongly attached to kindred in
Edinburgh, they yet decide to seek better conditions in this far land.
They sail, and find their new home pleasant. Promotion follows and
life's outlook is cheerful. Four children surround the family board,
their future prospects bright, no fear of want harassing the fond
parents, who doubt not the permanence of lucrative employment.
A slight dispute arises between manager and foreman. Neither yields
the immaterial point, and the small breach widens, resulting in the
latter's discharge. He seeks other work, but finds none. Two children
sicken and die. The husband soon is stricken with fever, and after a
severe sickness of many weeks recovers, but with disordered mind. He
becomes violent, and is removed to an asylum. All their savings soon
are gone, and the mother, with two hungry children, knows not which way
to turn for help. In this dilemma they are visited by a kind-hearted
woman whose husband had been bookkeeper for the same firm, but was
discharged for dishonesty. Her husband had gone to England on some
business, and was now in Bombay, but sent money. Funds and supplies
came regularly from this generous friend, but months ago these ceased.
She called at this kind woman's home, but was surprised to learn of
her removal, no one knew where. Supplies and money soon were gone, and
for several months she and her children lived on scant fare from wages
for odd jobs of sewing and housework.
She had been obliged to move into this poor part of the city because
of cheaper rents. That week she had met Mary Dodge in one of the narrow
lanes and called her by name, but received no response. The woman must
have heard her, as she looked scared and hurried on, entering an old
cabin just around the corner. Out of work, her children famishing, she
met a kind gentleman, who, learning her distress, said he knew of a
wealthy Englishman and his daughter, and would acquaint them with her
Without any question, Sir Donald and Esther drove back. In a few
hours both returned, a cartload of supplies and some clothing
accompanying their conveyance.
Sir Donald inquired where Mary Dodge lived. The thankful woman
volunteered to show him, and they drove for some distance, when Esther
was left in charge while Mrs. McLaren piloted Sir Donald through
winding lanes to within a few rods of the cabin which Mrs. Dodge had
been seen entering. Without being observed, they were soon back to the
McLaren shanty. Promising to return, father and daughter, much elated,
drove to their hotel.
Now that Mary Dodge has been found, discretion must be used. It will
not do frankly and fully to discuss with her the situation. Such
additional confidence would be fraught with indefinite, harmful
Sir Donald plans many ways of getting at the desired information. He
will not even tell this wife about having met her husband in Paris
until more is known of present feeling between them.
Why did she move so suddenly? What the cause for living secluded in
such part of Calcutta? How occurred her poverty? Who advised the
change? From whence came means of subsistence? Are marital sentiments
still cherished?were some of the questions first to be solved.
No well defined details of methods to be employed could be arranged,
but rising very early, Sir Donald rode over to near the Dodge cabin,
accompanied by the driver, who was left in charge of the conveyance. By
the early move it was likely no one would follow to spy upon his
Knocking at the low door, he hears hurried movements. Soon a blind
is pushed slightly aside, and a scared face peers from the narrow
opening. Again knocking, there is no response. To allay any possible
fears, he gently says:
Open to a friend of the family!
There was something in the tone inspiring confidence, and he was
timidly admitted. That inquisitive, frightened look confirmed Sir
Donald's fears. Taking the proffered stool, he sat down, much
How shall he broach this sensitive subject and wound anew tender
sensibilities of the innocent sufferer from the crimes of others?
Sir Donald follows the sense of compassion, which often is the acme
of intrinsic craft. Glancing at the poor cot on which a sick girl is
lying, he kindly inquires as to her ailment. Learning that it is some
sort of low fever, about which the doctor has not expressed any
positive opinion, Sir Donald suggests changes involving outlay of
money, and says that these will be attended to at once. In apparently
offhand manner, an order is written out on an uptown firm for several
articles of food, clothing, bedding, and small household furniture.
Handing this to the surprised woman, he remarked:
It's all righta part of my business.
Noting that the pleased look had been followed by one of uneasy
perplexity, he says:
Perhaps you are a little modest about presenting such an order, or
the firm do not know you, Mrs. Dodge?
The poor woman knows not what reply to make.
Having won the confidence of Mrs. Dodge, Sir Donald bluntly says:
Do not be alarmed. I know your name and something of your past, but
I am a real friend of the family, and can be trusted. Tell me just as
much or little as you please, but let me know all about present
troubles. You are not to blame, and your children must be cared for.
Seeing that she still wavered, Sir Donald gently says:
You need not tell me about anything, but what can I do for you?
Before time for reply, the sick child feebly said:
Mamma, isn't papa gone a long time?
The mother looked frightened, and quickly stepped to the cot, as if
to caution the invalid.
Yes; but, mamma, he has been gone so long, and does not write! Is
Bombay a great way off, mamma?
Moved by impulse to caution the child, motherly instinct toward
uttering comforting assurance and wifely loyalty to her husband's
safety, the poor woman, stammering incoherently, looked helplessly at
But, mamma, the old gentleman said last night that papa might come
any time, with lots of money.
Fully convinced that this loyal wife still trusted in her absent
husband and was fearful of possible identification, Sir Donald now
concludes to learn the whole truth.
Telling Mrs. Dodge that he has news for her, they sit down on a
bench at the farther end of the cabin.
Kindly but positively asserting that he knew much more than she
about her husband's past life, and could do him much harm, he stated
his desire was to help. Some professed friends were Mr. Dodge's
enemies, interested in ruining him to shield themselves. These were
adroit, and posed as her friends while plotting the ruin of both. It
was to save the whole family from deceitful schemes that he now begged
her to trust him implicitly, keeping back nothing.
You owe it to yourself and children to let me know all, that I may
help in these troubles.
Mamma, I dreamed about Brother Benny last night.
Still Mrs. Dodge hesitated.
Benny reached out his arms and said, 'Come, Sister Nellie!'
The reserve which Sir Donald's adroit appeals fail to remove yields
to that childish clamor, coercive as brooding of halcyon when the wind
How the husband unjustly had been suspected, discharged, and failed
to get employment; to what depths of poverty the family had sunk; the
fortunate meeting of William Dodge with Pierre Lanier, who had
important business and would pay so well; such opportune relief when
the family were hungry and destitute; the husband's trip to London and
stay in that far-off city; his removal to Bombay, with other incidents
previously related at the Paris confession, were told.
Still Mrs. Dodge said nothing about the particular points so vital
to Sir Donald.
Money was sent and letters written. Her husband unavoidably was
detained for a long time in Bombay, but expected to get the London
business finished through negotiations with parties there. It took a
long time to hear from Bombay. He gave her money before leaving for
London, and she received an additional one hundred pounds. The family
lived well, but not extravagantly, on this. She helped a needy woman
who had several small children. Her husband wrote that he soon would be
home and have more money. About the time he was expected back a friend
came and shocked her with the news that influential persons opposed to
Pierre Lanier had conspired to procure his arrest along with that of
William Dodge. To outwit these enemies both of the Laniers and her
husband must disappear. Their tricky foes would watch the mails and
harass the Dodge family. For the present all writing must cease, and
the Dodge family move. This removal must be prompt, and nothing was to
be said about it. She did as advised. Her surprise was great at being
conveyed in a roundabout way for several hours, and unloaded with the
children, after midnight, in a narrow street. This friend said not to
be frightened, as all would soon be fixed, and conducted them through
the winding lanes to the cabin. The family had lived there ever since
and never heard from William Dodge.
Another pause. Mrs. Dodge hesitates to proceed further. Sir Donald
What time did Pierre Lanier call last night?
Looking straight at Mary Dodge, answer could not be evaded.
At about ten o'clock.
Was Paul with him?
Yes, is the startled reply.
Why did they come disguised?
Please do not ask me any more! pleads the poor woman.
Mrs. Dodge, you and your husband are in danger from these two
villains. Tell me everything!
They were being shadowed, and I must go with them.
On account of the London business.
Were you to go with them to see your husband?
Near the wharf.
Did you go?
No, I could not leave my sick child.
The steamer arrived last night?
You did not see your husband?
He is in danger; tell me all about it!
Greatly frightened, Mary Dodge continues:
They urged me to go anyhow, as it would not take long. I positively
refused to leave my sick girl at that time of night. Pierre Lanier
frowned and Paul looked awfully fierce. They scared me so! It then
seemed to me that they would kill us both.
Pierre owes my husband several hundred pounds, and I know about
Were the Laniers and Mr. Dodge to come back with you to this
Pierre said for me to go with them to a house; they would leave and
soon return with my husband, and we could talk it all over.
It is well for you that you did not go.
Why do you think that?
You never would have returned.
But have they murdered my husband?
It is probable that your refusal to go saved his life. When did the
Laniers say they would again call?
When they left, Pierre said:
'We may call again to-night and bring some one to stay with the
I replied, 'Do bring William with you!'
'Not yet; it would be unsafe.'
Realizing that an emergency in the life of the Dodge family is at
hand, and that there must be prompt action to prevent tragic results,
Sir Donald gives directions.
Mrs. Dodge must stay in the balance of the day, with bolted doors.
If at night the Laniers call, she is to admit them. Sir Donald and
another man will come in the early evening, and occupy the next room,
which shall be without light. She must have only a dim candle in the
other room. Watch will be kept of the Lanier movements. If any violence
be thought of, she need have no fear of results. Sir Donald and his
assistant will protect her.
Much agitated, Mary Dodge consents, fully convinced of Sir Donald's
That evening at twilight supplies are brought, and the two spies
take their places in the dark room.
After about three hours, a knock is heard, and Mary Dodge unbolts
the door. Two disguised figures are admitted. From Mrs. Dodge's
questions, it is sure they are Pierre and Paul Lanier. An arrangement
has been effected by which she can see her husband the next day at two
o'clock. The location is given, and she must go heavily veiled. They
will not call for her. Neither of them will be present at the meeting.
She and her husband can talk matters over and then act for the best.
Not knowing whether to accept or reject this proposition, Mrs. Dodge
passes by the slightly open door, and from a signal decides to do as
advised. She promises to be on hand at appointed time and place.
Father and son hurry away, elated at their prospects of success in
this dark plot.
Leaving his fellow-watcher on guard, Sir Donald returns to the
Next day, Mary Dodge calls at an old house in the suburbs of
Calcutta, and promptly is admitted. Husband and wife are clasped in
At this juncture, Pierre and Paul Lanier emerge from a trapdoor,
cutting off escape. With cocked pistols and drawn daggers, they advance
upon the terror-stricken pair.
A loud command to stop is heard, while a half-dozen armed men file
through the outside door. The Laniers and William Dodge are placed
under arrest, handcuffed together, and marched off to prison.
It is hard to say who was more surprised by this unexpected turn,
Sir Donald or Mary Dodge.
The head of Calcutta police had been consulted by Sir Donald, was
told of the proposed visit at the old house, and he promised to be
present in time to prevent any violence from the Laniers. Why had he
come with such force and arrested the three? When pressed for an
explanation of his conduct in arresting William Dodge, the officer
laughed, and said:
You just wait a while!
Mary Dodge now suspects the good faith of Sir Donald, but he so
earnestly assures her of his own surprise at results that she is
From cable advices it is sure that the London agency knows nothing
about such a move. Sir Donald cabled facts of the arrests to chief of
the London detective bureau, and requested instructions. From the reply
it is evident that something is wrong.
Recent reports from Bombay make it clear that William Dodge is
there, but eludes more definite location. However, tireless vigilance
is being used with hopes of success. Letters addressed to William Dodge
at Bombay were delivered, but not recently. Pierre and Paul Lanier
lived at Bombay and cut a social figure. They posed as wealthy
aristocrats, and Paul was lionized. He seemed haughty, but paid for
information about eligible heiresses. Both were very much interested in
a rich Englishman and his handsome niece. It was rumored that a
marriage had been arranged between these young people. The Englishman
and old Pierre took a trip to Calcutta together. About the time of
their expected return, both Paul and the girl disappeared. It was sure
they did not sail from Bombay. The whole affair is shrouded in mystery,
but it is reasonably certain that William Dodge and Paul Lanier are
somewhere in or near Bombay. Pierre is being shadowed in Calcutta.
This was the substance of London advices previous to the arrests.
That these are honest reports Sir Donald has no doubt. There has
been time for both Paul and William Dodge to have sailed from Bombay,
but Sir Donald is sure that a mistake has been made. The only evidence
of Dodge ever having been in Bombay is that his wife wrote him there,
while her husband was actually at Paris. Too, he had learned from Mrs.
Dodge that for many weeks Paul has been disguised in Calcutta.
The whole matter is much tangled, and Sir Donald doubts the
efficiency of those employed to unravel this web.
The Laniers are puzzled and greatly alarmed. Their captors do not
deign to explain. To all indignant protests these reserved officials
are evasive. Threats are jokingly parried.
The prisoners are separately jailed. No communication is permitted
between them. Days pass without any visits, except for bringing of
meals. There is manifested no disposition to engage any of the three in
talk upon the subject of their arrests.
William Dodge doubts not that Sir Donald Randolph has betrayed his
trust. Though neither of the Laniers nor Dodge had seen him on the day
of the arrests, yet all knew he was in Calcutta. The Laniers in
disguise frequently had passed him and Esther on the streets.
This indefinite waiting is most trying to the nerves of all. Neither
Pierre nor Paul knew what action was taken with Dodge. Both imagined
that he was being pumped. Neither knew but that the other was
undergoing some sort of prying ordeal.
William Dodge wondered that no one talked to him. Perhaps the
Laniers had accused him of the Thames murders. The bringing of that
suit in his name, death of Alice Webster, dismissal of the case, with
subsequent skulking, aliases and disguises, would make a strong
circumstantial chain. Against the charge of murder he could oppose only
his own word. His admitted actions, confession, and motive would be
William Dodge sees himself on trial for the murder of Alice Webster,
with Pierre and Paul Lanier posing as friends of justice, aiding its
commissioned officers in vindication of an outraged law.
His weak impulses of fear and self-preservation settled down into a
sort of despairing stupor. He had sent for Sir Donald, but either the
message was not delivered, or that aristocrat declined to come.
Possibly Sir Donald had been refused admittance to the prison. Mary
Dodge had not visited her husband in custody, but perhaps such absence
was discreet. Still, an almost frantic desire to see his family, at
times affected him. Then followed brief stoical relapses, again
replaced by fitful determination to tell the whole tale, regardless of
As weeks passed without any formal arraignment or attempt to engage
them in talk on the subject of their arrests, neither being permitted
to see the other or William Dodge, all inquiries for cause of
imprisonment smilingly evaded, the strain on both Pierre and Paul
became almost unbearable. Either could face definite crises with
resourceful, audacious craft, but how meet indefinitely such waiting,
obscure, elusive tactics?
All knew they were entitled to speedy arraignment, and that such
extended custody without criminal charge, aid of counsel, or
confronting of witnesses was a serious abridgment of their rights, but
why protest? They were guilty of felonious crimes. Could it advantage
these villains to have speedy trials? William Dodge dreaded
arraignment. Both Laniers feared the worst. Over against consuming,
chafing, harassing uncertainty, is hesitating, cowering dread.
What could be the object of Calcutta police officials in this queer
procedure? Why should these sworn conservators of public rights,
ruthlessly trample upon statutory prerogatives? Were their oaths mere
There is said to be both letter and spirit in statutes. This is an
elastic shift. Affirmative rights may be negatived by inadequate
remedies. Police supervision is paradoxical. While not versed in subtle
interpretations, it is alive to the right of a little wrong.
At length the reserve of jail officials slightly relaxes. There are
vague hints that confessions have been made. The prisoners become
wildly curious, but replies to their questions are evasive.
Dodge is frantic. Suggestions that could come only from Lanier
treachery startle him. His worst fears are to be realized. Doubtless
Pierre and Paul have charged him with the Thames murders. Thoroughly
convinced of their perfidy, he sends for head of the police department,
and confesses all.
Like tactics have been employed with Pierre and Paul. Much disposed
as each feels to seek personal safety in charging guilt upon Dodge,
neither knows what the other has divulged. Natural secretiveness and
craft make each alertly suspicious. Neither Lanier suspects the other
of double dealing as to interests of either. Both take refuge in
Finally father and son are brought together in presence of police
officials, and jointly informed as to certain parts of the Dodge
confession. They look questioningly at each other, neither making any
reply. Both seem to see that this meeting was had to remove any
hesitation either may have felt, through ignorance of possible
admissions or denials of the other.
For days, varying tactics are employed with these astute criminals,
but all such fail to elicit from either even a response. At last this
inquisition ceases. One day Pierre and Paul Lanier were discharged.
Greatly mystified at this unexpected move, neither cares to press
Without arraignment upon any formal charge, William Dodge still
chafes in Calcutta prison.
CHAPTER XIII. THE GREAT SURPRISE
For many weeks, journeying from camp on slope of the Himalayas,
without much to vary monotonous daily routine, the survey party arrives
at Calcutta. All are paid, and the expedition is disbanded.
To Oswald Langdon, choosing some congenial life pursuit now is a
serious problem. Liberal pay for service just ended places him beyond
the necessity of immediate employment. His faculties might find
agreeable exercise in the legal forum, but this seems interdicted by
menacing voices and spectral beckonings. Whichever way he turns there
loom past wraiths, restless as ghosts of unburied Grecian slain. These
must find soothing specific, ere he tastes elixir of life's destiny.
But how proceed to lay these menacing forms? What has been done to
ferret out this crime? Who is suspected? Has the body of Alice Webster
been discovered? Possibly the strange disappearances have ceased to
excite comment. Even Sir Donald Randolph and Esther may remember these
only as unpleasant reminiscences.
Father and mother! What of them?
An unutterable homesickness overwhelms him. Looking with mute appeal
toward the sky, a star twinkles with softened light. Blending with
ominous shadows of a receding cloud, this tender radiance seems
prophetic. Oswald feels a chastened sense, but strange assurance.
Two persons pass the hotel. The walk and general appearance of both
seem familiar. They are engaged in hurried conversation. No other two
men ever duplicated such combinations of voice, walk, gesture, and
general appearance. His Northfield and London foes are near.
Pierre and Paul did not see Oswald, but hurried by. On the previous
day they had quit the prison. The Calcutta press contained no reference
to their release. Having arrived in Calcutta only three days ago,
Oswald knows nothing of the arrests. He has no desire to meet either of
these rascals, but will go about his own affairs. He feels tempted to
assume a disguise and learn something of their purposes, but recoils at
With all this uncertainty checking and thwarting his aspirations,
Oswald cannot easily assume a false guise. True, at Dick Bray's, he
donned an old hat and duster, but these were expedients of hunted
self-defense, discarded soon as aboard ship.
Upon the following day, still undecided what course to pursue,
wondering at the Lanier coincidence of the previous evening, Oswald
turns a street-corner, where a great surprise meets his gaze.
Standing on the threshold of a business house, facing the street, is
The looks of recognition are mutual. Esther steps slightly forward,
but suddenly recoils with a look of scared embarrassment.
Controlling all emotion, Oswald passes on as if nothing had
happened. Crossing at the next corner to opposite sidewalk, he sees
Esther still staring.
Sir Donald joins his daughter, and noting her agitated look,
inquires if she is not well.
Esther then relates her strange impression, clinging hard to her
Sir Donald assures his daughter that such queer freaks of imaginary
recognition often occur.
She still is nervously uncertain.
Even Sir Donald is not fully satisfied with his own theory.
Without suggestion to Esther, he consults registers of several
hotels, but sees nothing to satisfy his curiosity. Concluding that this
queer impression of Esther is through some striking similarity between
the looks of a passer-by and those of that unfortunate youth now no
more, Sir Donald dismisses the subject.
Oswald controlled outward show of emotion at sight of the girl whose
image had been in view every waking hour since their first meeting at
Northfield. That this was Esther Randolph, her look of recognition
fully confirmed. Why is she in Calcutta, and where is Sir Donald?
The young man hardly can prevent retracing his steps and again
meeting the girl. But his conduct will not permit of such course.
Possibly something happened in London to clear the Thames tragedy of
all its mystery and to relieve him of any suspicion as being the
murderer. But this cannot be. The presence of both Laniers undisguised
upon the public streets of Calcutta is proof that justice has been
Gladly would he face all and end this horrible perplexity but for
On the following day, Sir Donald and Esther take a drive. Esther
excitedly points toward two men passing up the side of the street,
slightly in advance of the horses. Sir Donald is struck with the
appearance of the taller youth.
Just opposite the men, Sir Donald and Esther amazedly look at
Oswald. Their astonished gaze meets his, and he colors perceptibly.
Karl Ludwig notices the looks of recognition, and turns around. Oswald
impulsively raises his hat, and the conveyance stops.
Telling Karl Ludwig that he has some business with these people and
will join him soon, Oswald steps out into the street. To the apparently
self-composed greetings of Sir Donald and Esther, Oswald quietly
responds. Asking them their number, it is arranged that he shall call
that evening. With habitual courtesy they separate, Sir Donald and
Esther riding up the street, and Oswald joining Karl Ludwig at the next
Each actor perceived the embarrassment of the situation, and
prevented any public display.
Sir Donald and Esther have no further interest in Calcutta drives.
They soon return to their hotel, there to await the appearance of
Esther is all suppressed excitement, and Sir Donald tries to divert
her by little fatherly expedients.
Now that there is no longer possibility of concealment, Oswald feels
a sense of relief, and is eager for the meeting. To these friends he
will tell all, and of them learn the whole news about the mysteries of
Karl Ludwig jollies Oswald about those friends who seemed so
surprised to see him.
Der voman vas luffly, und dot chentlemans vas bedder looging den
At appointed time Oswald enters the hotel and sends up his card. An
invitation to call at the Randolph rooms promptly follows. Conducted
there, he is admitted.
The gracious, kindly greetings do much to relieve his embarrassment,
but Oswald knows that a frank statement should be made, as preliminary
to any further courtesies. On his part have been many strange acts.
This is a fateful emergency, but he will meet it manfully and without
dissimulation or deceit.
His opening is characteristic.
My conduct has been inconsistent and contradictory, unsatisfactory
to myself, and, I have often suspected, cowardly, yet there was no
consciousness at any time of intentionally having wronged any human
Esther's quick sympathies prompt the reply:
Father and I both believe you innocent, Mr. Langdon!
This burst of compassionate confidence pleases yet slightly
Giving his daughter a look of mildest remonstrance, Sir Donald
mutely invites Oswald to continue.
Looking into the loyally expressive eyes of Esther, Oswald says:
Often I have longed for a chance to explain to you both my strange
conduct, but many things prevented. Every succeeding act in the whole
miserable series made telling harder. I saw Miss Randolph yesterday,
but pretended not to recognize her, fearing the result of being
But you ought not to have doubted us, Mr. Langdon!
Not knowing just how to explain this unwarranted, agnostic caprice,
Oswald discreetly proceeds with his general line of defense.
After meeting Miss Randolph yesterday, and through fear of being
known, so rudely passing her by, I felt an impulse to go back,
apologize, and tell the whole story, but was restrained by motives
which were honest, but difficult to understand. Hard as it was to know
that friends were within easy reach who could explain much I longed to
hear, and possibly aid me to clear a horrible mystery, yet I determined
to continue as before, until the Langdon name bears no stain.
But, Mr. Langdon, your family name is stainless!
Sympathizing with this earnest youth trying so hard to explain
apparent misconduct, yet hedging against unfavorable impressions until
all be told, nervously amplifying preliminaries through evident dread
of more startling revelations, Sir Donald refrained from comment.
After other preambles, seconded by Esther's eager sympathy and by
Sir Donald's grave, kindly reserve, Oswald tells all.
There was no attempt to palliate a single inconsistency or to deny
one dubious act. Anticipating surprise at numerous apparently weak
performances, he neither minimized nor evaded, urging, however:
My flight was responsible for all subsequent acts. My own judgment
and conscience did not always approve these actions, neither did they
condemn them. These eccentric courses were unhappy, immature shifts,
concerning which I was never at ease. You have heard all, and I hope
will not unduly censure.
With flushed cheeks, Esther inquiringly looked at her father, who
during the whole recital had not spoken.
Deliberately rising, Sir Donald took Oswald's hand, and looking into
those unflinching eyes, said:
Mr. Langdon, I believe you fully and censure nothing. Possibly at
times you may have acted indiscreetly, but of this I have doubts.
Here Esther, with happy, beaming face, extended her hand, and Oswald
listened to congratulations, mutely acknowledging his great sense of
Placed in proper light before these friends, he soon asks about
father and mother.
Neither Sir Donald nor Esther had heard anything of Oswald's
Oswald again experiences some unaccountable feeling. It is now
growing late, and he rises to go. Promising to call upon the following
evening, the young man passes out into the moonlight and soon reaches
Oswald is desirous to hear more of the Thames tragedy. At his next
call this matter is discussed quite fully.
The failure of Oswald and Alice to return from night row on the
Thames; search for them next day; finding of his hat and her
handkerchief; comments of London press; persecutions of detectives;
persistent impertinence of reporters; trip of Sir Donald and Esther to
Paris; sailing of father and daughter for Calcutta; attempts to locate
Mrs. Dodge; being shadowed by strangely disguised man, with all
pertaining incidents; visits to poor family, and clew thereby obtained;
call upon Mrs. Dodge, her statement, and matters culminating in arrest
of the three conspirators; queer, unwarranted proceedings of Calcutta
officials in detention without warrant, charge, or arraignment of three
men, resulting in discharge of the Laniers and continued imprisonment
of William Dodgeall were graphically narrated by Sir Donald.
Oswald asks many questions as to matters that have puzzled his mind
while pondering over this tangled web. Some of these are cleared, but
many remain unanswered.
What can be the meaning of these arrests? Why were the Laniers
discharged and William Dodge detained? Could it be possible that the
Laniers procured the arrests, their own being only a blind? Was there
collusion between officials and the Laniers? How account for their
strange acquiescence in this lawless imprisonment? Had all or any of
the three villains confessed? Were the submission of the Laniers to
such long, unwarranted custody and their final discharge in accord with
an arrangement whereby they had charged William Dodge with murder? Upon
what theory did William Dodge submit to continued detention without
These and similar questions were discussed by Sir Donald and Oswald,
but no satisfactory answers could be given.
Oswald said to Sir Donald: Perhaps your detective employes effected
the arrests upon insufficient evidence, and seeing that there was no
possibility of convicting the Laniers, had them released. This possibly
might account for their part in the farce, but does not throw any light
on the Dodge episode.
Sir Donald scouted such theory, replying: I have unbounded faith in
the London bureau, and am fully assured that these arrests were neither
planned nor acquiesced in by that office.
After explanations of the reasons for this belief, Oswald felt sure
Sir Donald was right.
Esther is now happy. This fascinating suitor of former years, whom
she had mourned as dead, is alive and more interesting than ever. His
sorrowful experiences and open avowal of all strange conduct encircle
that brow with a romantic halo. How Oswald Langdon has suffered! She is
sure there is not one blamable act in his whole course of conduct. If
Oswald should renew that proposalwell, her ideas have undergone a
change. She will reconsider the whole matter, anddo what
herwellperhapsyes, that is so!
All Oswald's former love for Esther Randolph, intensified by pensive
memories and lonely wandering, now pulses anew. He sees in Esther's
changed manners most encouraging incentives to his reviving hopes. He
believes she now would accept a proposal and become his bride.
There has been a noticeable tendency in her talks toward former
associations, with delicately worded hints at changed views, resulting
from more mature knowledge.
But there has been a change in Oswald Langdon. The alchemy worked
capriciously, but the product has been transmuted. That impetuous,
masterful will is less persistent. There is a more refined,
discriminating sense of subtle distinctions.
Oswald Langdon will not renew former suit. Not yet may he face the
world an unsuspected man. The death of Alice Webster still remains a
mystery. Her murderer, escaping farcical arrest, is now at large. The
agencies employed to unravel this triple conspiracy seem ineffective.
He will not pose as suspected murderer of an innocent girl. Until this
mystery is cleared, he will not think of marriage with Esther Randolph.
This grand, pure-minded, cultured girl shall not blush as wife of a
supposed villain whose hands seem crimson with human blood. He can live
and wait and plan and suffer, if need be, to the end of life, a lone
wanderer, but no woman shall blush for his reputation.
Oswald feels no sense of present concern for maternal solicitude,
but wonders at such marked indifference.
While much pleased at knowledge that Oswald Langdon escaped the
murderous assault by Paul Lanier, and fully believing in Oswald's
absolute innocence of crime, Sir Donald is alive to the situation.
There can be no possible doubt as to the mutual sentiments of Esther
and Oswald. That now these would grow stronger is the inevitable logic
Oswald's supposed death under such mysterious circumstances tends to
intensify Esther's memories of the past. That all such tender
recollections, augmented by romance of last few days and renewed
associations, would be an irresistible magnet between these two
dissimilar, yet mutually attracting souls, Sir Donald cannot doubt.
Nor does his mature judgment recoil at the issue. All fatherly
intuitions approve of such choice. Every physical, ethical, and
domestic consideration favors this union. Under other circumstances,
this discreetly indulgent father could tenderly yield his beloved child
to such a suitor.
Yet not only shall this union of young hearts be prevented, but
association must cease. What explanation can Oswald Langdon offer the
world for the disappearance of Alice Webster, or for his own strange
conduct? It matters not that Sir Donald and Esther have no doubts of
Oswald's honor. Nor will it suffice that this far-seeing,
discriminating father approves of Oswald's actions in the whole affair
as almost absolute necessities to the ends of justice. The conduct of
this unfortunate youth must be tested in a less friendly forum, before
a tribunal with penchant toward an exhaustive array of incriminating
Sir Donald Randolph cannot permit further association of his
daughter with one who may be suspected of criminal act or intrigue.
Neither depth of affection nor vital impulse of the heart may control
in this network. Esther Randolph may not become the wife of him who is
in imminent danger of arraignment as a murderer.
To Esther he said:
It is now clear to me that Oswald's continued absence from England
and India is requisite to the unraveling of that subtly interwoven web.
The public still must believe him dead. If they knew of Oswald's flight
and after hiding, the Laniers could move about with brazen effrontery.
The farcical arrests of these villains, followed by such queer release
from imprisonment, may have some reference to such information. Can it
be that this strange procedure had its inception in knowledge of his
whereabouts, and in a suspicion that the Laniers and William Dodge knew
incriminating facts which they theretofore suppressed through motives
of discretion or self-interest? Probably the Laniers yielded to
pressure, and falsely accused Oswald of murdering Alice Webster. Even
now, fate's coils may be closing about his doomed life.
Esther was very pale, but made no reply.
There was to Sir Donald a most decisive leaning toward prompt action
in an emergency. About many subjects he ruminated with speculative
ease, but dallied little in matters affecting Esther's interests.
At the very time that Oswald fully vowed not to think of marriage
with Esther Randolph until after the Laniers had been whipped of
justice, Sir Donald was moving toward the hotel where this young man
stopped, revolving in his mind how to broach his wishes without
Their conference was short. When Sir Donald was explaining the
requisite precautions, Oswald noted his embarrassment, and anticipated
all without reference to the central figure. The girl whose image posed
before the heart-visions of both was not named during this interview.
CHAPTER XIV. THE FLIGHT OF PIERRE
The Laniers are elated but puzzled at their release from Calcutta
imprisonment. They are haunted with doubt as to the extent of the Dodge
confession. That some sort has been made they are sure. Suggestions and
statements of actual facts connected with the London suit and Thames
homicides had been startling, but there are many missing links in the
chain. The elder Lanier readily can see that these omissions may have
been through either ignorance or craft. If the former, then Dodge only
partly has confessed; if the latter, there is great and imminent peril.
That Sir Donald Randolph had some part in this affair is evident.
His and Esther's presence in Calcutta and the search for Mary Dodge are
Why is William Dodge still held in custody? Did those who advised
the arrests counsel his further detention in hope of more complete
confession? Is he held awaiting stronger proofs as to the plot against
the property of Alice Webster? Perhaps he is to be tried as principal
in that crime, and they are to be arrested later as accessories. If the
bodies of Alice and Oswald have not been found, perhaps there are no
satisfactory proofs of these murders. William Dodge has no evidence of
Paul's guilt, but doubtless suspects the truth. The arraignment of
Dodge on the charge of attempted fraud against the London property of
Alice would lead to most serious exposures, furnishing dangerous clews
to past villainies in this immediate venue.
Hedging against such contingents, Pierre had decided not to return
to Bombay. The danger was so great that he gave up thought of sailing
with Sir Charles Chesterton. The risk of Dodge revelations through
pressing search and inquiries of Sir Donald, then in Calcutta, was so
serious as to check all interest Pierre had felt in the prospective
match between Paul and the heiress, Agnes Randall.
Determined thoroughly to keep posted as to the progress of Sir
Donald's investigations in Calcutta, Pierre had made most plausible
excuses to Sir Charles, for not accompanying him back to Bombay to
witness the nuptials between Paul and Agnes. The prospect of Paul's
marriage with this rich heiress would not compensate for losses which
might result from this Randolph inquisition.
There must be decisive action. All scruples shall down before this
great danger to Lanier interests. Two more voices must be silenced.
Then discovery will be impossible.
Having written to William Dodge at Paris, Pierre had shadowed Sir
Donald and Esther and kept track of Mary Dodge until the arrival of his
son. Thereafter the two divided this work, awaiting the coming of
Pierre had received word that Dodge would sail and stating as to
probable time of his arrival in Calcutta. There had been delays because
of storms, but the vessel is sighted, and both Laniers hurry to the
Dodge cabin. There is time to escort this credulous wife to the place
where they will soon bring her long-absent husband. All details have
been arranged with care. Action will be promptly decisive. As the
Thames hushed voices, so shall here be forever stilled tell-tale
murmurs of these menace tones.
What trifles thwart mature plans!
There could be no doubt of Mary Dodge's consent. This fond wife, who
hitherto unmurmuringly had complied with all hard details of
concealment, submitting without complaint to scant supplies, given and
accepted as gratuitous alms, waiting and longing for her husband's safe
return, surely would obey all instructions, moving with alacrity to
lure and death.
But strong motives may run counter. That holy instinct which has all
authority of original implanting asserts its high-born function. Little
Nellie is too sick to be left alone; William Dodge can wait; Pierre
Lanier may frown; Paul may look darkly fierce; Mary Dodge may tremble;
but she will not leave that helpless invalid whatever betides.
It recks little how anciently or from what rudimentary beginnings
this peerless impulse dates its growth; whether spontaneous breath of
divine instillment, or evolved through cycles of the eternal past, such
has sanction and warrant of the Infinite.
Thwarted here, Lanier craft resorts to most plausible shift.
Suspecting that possibly this timid woman hesitates to go with them, at
such late hour, to a strange place, there to await the uncertain coming
of her husband, they devise other plans to obviate this objection,
finally deciding upon the one resulting in the arrests.
William Dodge had received Pierre Lanier's letter sent to Paris.
While convalescent at the hospital this reached him, addressed to his
alias, and caused such sudden removal, without leaving of any
explanation for Sir Donald or Esther Randolph. Having sent a nurse for
his mail, he received the invitation to return. Pierre Lanier had
written him that things looked better, but still were a little shaky.
By using proper precaution, all would turn out favorably. He need not
write Mary, as she and the children were well. By promptly returning,
he could see his wife and children. There were good reasons for Mary's
failure to answer his letters. All would be explained on his arrival in
Calcutta. Affairs soon would shape so that he could pay the whole
balance yet due. As some precautions were wise, it would be advisable
for Dodge to dress as at London, sail under his past alias, and wait at
Calcutta landing until Pierre met him and gave instructions. An answer
was requested, stating when and how Dodge would make the return trip.
This was the gist of the Lanier letter as deciphered by William
Dodge, though Pierre so thoroughly had hedged against possible
miscarriage as to render intelligent interpretation impossible, except
to one in possession of Dodge's sources of information.
Being able to move about the ward, though still weak, William Dodge
is electrified. Without delay he sends the same nurse to order a cab,
soon after quits the hospital, going to a new lodging-house in a suburb
of Paris. Here he has a relapse, lasting many weeks, but slowly
recovers. He then starts for Calcutta, previously having written to
Pierre Lanier, addressed to the designated alias, giving guarded
details of proposed trip. There have been unavoidable delays, rough
seas, numerous squalls, and much impatient chafing, but passengers
At the landing, Pierre Lanier, in old familiar disguise, pulls
Dodge's arm, and upon recognition, giving former signal to follow at
discreet distance, moves quickly. For some distance trailing, Dodge
sees Pierre enter a closed vehicle, beckoning him to follow. After an
extended drive, they stop in a sparsely settled suburb of the city.
Pierre alights, followed by Dodge, with Paul in the rear. No other
driver being in sight, Dodge thinks that Paul has performed this
service. To all attempts at discussion of the situation, during the
ride, Pierre insists on absolute silence.
When inside of the old house, the three seated on a bench at a small
table, before a tallow candle, the one window blinded, and the door
securely fastened, Pierre Lanier explains why such secrecy has been
Sir Donald Randolph had arrived in Calcutta and made inquiries for
the Dodge family. Months before it had become necessary for Mary Dodge
not to write, as I could neither remain in Bombay nor trust the
forwarding of letters to any other person. Detectives employed by Sir
Donald kept strict watch of the mails. It was in compliance with my
instructions that Mary moved, ceased writing, and since remained in
seclusion. I and Paul saw her to-day, and she knows of your expected
arrival. We arranged this place of meeting. You must stay here until
further plans for the safety of all can be devised. To-night we will
again see Mary, and have her call to-morrow at two o'clock in the
afternoon, when you both can talk it all over. It is hoped that matters
will so clear up as to necessitate but very brief longer disguise or
Nothing was said about the recent death of little Benny Dodge, nor
was Nellie's sickness mentioned. To all Dodge's questions concerning
his family, ingenious replies were made.
Food and cots had been provided. Pierre and Paul soon left to
acquaint Mary Dodge with her husband's arrival and to arrange for the
morrow's meeting, promising a speedy return. About midnight they came
back and reported. Pierre remained only a short time, but Paul stayed
until morning, when he left, with caution that William Dodge be sure to
keep concealed until the afternoon's meeting.
By a rear entrance both Laniers passed to their hiding-place in the
basement, under the trapdoor. Soon followed the strange procedure
resulting in the release of these two murderous villains, while their
intended victim, who had confessed, still remains unarraigned behind
* * * * *
Such cumulative perversities of fate bewilder the Laniers. They
daily become more perplexed.
Paul's recital of events at Bombay, preceding his departure for
Calcutta, alarmed and mystified his father, who could suggest no
plausible theory for such ghostly groupings.
It is now sure that the Laniers dare not risk further attempt at
removal of either William or Mary Dodge. They would be suspected. It
will be dangerous longer to remain in Calcutta, with the Dodges liable
at any time to make more startling confessions. There is fear that both
Laniers still are shadowed and may be arrested for one or more
offenses. Strange that no charge was preferred against them for their
murderous assaults on William and Mary Dodge. There could be no doubt
in this case, and the proofs would be overwhelming.
To Pierre Lanier's crafty, well-informed intelligence this phase is
most alarming. While much relieved by failure of the authorities to
press this charge, he feels convinced that such official laches were
prompted by overpowering motives, boding more serious dangers. Large
moneyed interests or the running down of capital offenders, must be the
ends justifying such laxity of official zeal.
There is a strong impulse toward immediate flight, restrained
through fear that their every act is being watched.
Each day the mazes of this labyrinth grow more puzzling.
While Pierre and Paul feel the tentacles of this octopus contracting
around their guilty souls, the persons and agencies which they doubt
not are tightening these irresistible coils, foiled, perplexed, and
chagrined, have no well-defined ideas upon the subject.
Neither Sir Donald Randolph nor the London detective agency ever
aided, abetted, or advised this strange proceeding, nor did those
employed by Sir Donald to ferret out Lanier crimes know aught
concerning any part of such proposed move, except that he had
interfered to save the lives of William and Mary Dodge.
To all Sir Donald's inquiries the head of Calcutta police gave no
other answer than, You just wait awhile.
In fear of they knew not just what, the Laniers fled from Calcutta,
toward no fixed destination, desperately resolved never again to be
CHAPTER XV. THE RETROSPECT
Sir Donald Randolph so forcibly had stated the reasons why Oswald
Langdon should leave Calcutta, that this positive young man could not
procrastinate. He felt that dispatch was duty, and delay criminal. His
movements since return from Himalaya camp had been indiscreet, tending
toward the defeat of justice. He soliloquizes:
It seems a miraculous intervention which has prevented my
recognition by Pierre and Paul Lanier. How fortunate the meeting with
Sir Donald and Esther! That I ever responded to their questioning looks
resulted from Karl Ludwig's pause, and was contrary to most emphatic
resolve, never to make myself known to either of these friends, until
those causing my troubles are brought to strict account. What other
course than that thus impulsively pursued, could have prevented my
being finally discovered by these crafty wretches, who would not
scruple at any villainous scheme to further self-interest. Esther and
Sir Donald fully believe in my innocence, approving of all conduct
since that fateful flight from bank of the Thames. Thus strangely I
have been advised of every fact known by these friends about this
tragedy. My trip to the Himalayas and all incidents of the past two
years were providential. How else possibly could I have met Karl
Ludwig, whose pause and look caused those mutual recognitions?
Every detail in Oswald's experiences, from the moment his body
pitched over the bank into Thames current, to present consciousness,
passes in vivid review. Each seems ordered by an overruling, kindly
care. This luminous retrospect widens, until it rests like benediction
upon all life's past, casting forward halo encircling the Beyond.
Wistfully gazing toward that tender radiance-location, Oswald is
swiftly borne by a small sail, to where an ocean steamer is anchored.
Boarding the ship, he is assigned to a room. At an early morning hour,
the vessel weighs anchor.
Oswald sees no rational prospect of cleared future destiny, but
feels strangely acquiescent in Fate's opening seals.
CHAPTER XVI. THE FUGITIVES DISGUISED
Hurrying along a narrow street, are three men, two abreast, and one
following apparently unconcerned, but closely watching each movement.
Turning into a dark alley, the pair disappear down a rickety stairway.
Their shadow passes across to a small one-story cabin, with
single-light window, commanding a view of that cellar entrance.
Pierre and Paul Lanier, newly disguised, again are in London. Since
their departure from Calcutta, these villains had wandered, making
brief stays at various points, always disguised, never without haunting
fears. Different aliases had been assumed, each new departure having
been most adroitly maneuvered. It seems impossible that such crafty
covering of their doubling trails can baffle pursuit, yet each shrewd
move sharpens apprehension by suggestions of new dangers. This growing
bewilderment and stress of fear had kept them moving in uncertain
rounds, varied by occasional abrupt tangents, until within zone of most
heinous crimes, when drawn by that gravity existent between the
criminal and the venue of his offense, both had landed in London,
fearful for the future, without any decisive purposes or settled
convictions as to their lines of action.
Sir Donald and Esther were absent from England, but Pierre learned
that they had sailed from Calcutta months before. William Dodge had
been released from prison, going somewhere unknown to either Lanier.
That this formerly subservient assistant in crime is now a foe, they
cannot doubt. The desperate, treacherous assault upon husband and wife
in Calcutta ended all hope of further coöperation between them and
their would-be murderers. Just what line of investigation is being
pressed they only can conjecture. Further scheming to silence any of
their pursuers would not do.
It is sure that there has been no discovery of either Thames victim.
This tragedy is only a reminiscence in London, but that horrible Bombay
tableau and the mysterious disappearance of Agnes Randall can neither
be forgotten nor explained.
Both Laniers are most intensely superstitious and fearful of
intangible attack. However, there is a more or less fixed resolve to
abate no strictness of disguises, while keeping advised of London
happenings, prepared for any desperate emergency.
Pierre never leaves the city, but Paul, thoroughly disguised, makes
occasional visits in the vicinity of Northfield.
Neither Sir Donald nor Esther has returned. By guarded questions
Paul learns nothing as to their present whereabouts.
That lake exerts a strange fascination upon Paul's fancy. Extended
strolls along the Thames are frequent. Hours are spent near that rustic
seat. Often bending over the bank, Paul peers up and down and across
the river. Sometimes he rows for miles, carefully examining each
projecting branch or shrub, furtively watching all intruders upon his
strange search. This occupation grows more absorbing. Moonlight strolls
and boat-rides are frequent. Paul insists on night shifts, and that his
father then shall remain at their room.
Pierre knows nothing of this growing infatuation. While noticing
Paul's reticence and abstraction, Pierre attributes these to the
perplexities of their situation. To his father's questions about night
happenings Paul becomes irresponsive, and when pressed, fiercely
petulant. Pierre is much suprised at this, but is gravely patient,
hoping for tractable, less capricious moods. There are occasional
bursts of penitence, followed by more irresponsive, resentful silences
Pierre becomes alarmed, fearing that Paul will bring on some crisis,
through these strained tempers. Refraining from further questioning,
the father humors his son's strange moods, determined to keep him under
careful watch. Pierre will follow Paul and note any indiscreet habits,
that there may be no serious mistakes at this stage. It will not do to
chide this now perverse boy, who has been so habitually and fearfully
filial in the past.
Pierre begins to feel a presentiment of some ominous crisis, wherein
Paul may fail him.
In degree and perverted sense Pierre Lanier loved his only son. Many
dark schemes had been suggested and pressed to success, prompted by
mixed motives of personal acquisition and fatherly providence. This man
is not a villain from mere criminal impulse. His tastes have an elegant
bent. Relentless tenacity, overpowering avarice, and dissembling craft
are his cardinal traits. To these all æsthetic impulses and higher
sentiments must minister.
While cruelly conscienceless in pursuit of desired ends, Pierre
Lanier, unlike Paul, never permitted passion to interfere with matured
or maturing plans.
Having much of his father's fastidious taste, persistent tenacity,
and crafty avarice, Paul is deficient in this cold-tempered power of
Pierre is aware of this weakness. Many fatherly precepts to correct
such passionate tendency had been uttered. However, this deliberate,
cold-blooded man had found his son's hasty temper of service, and in
emergency did not hesitate to fan its slumbering fires.
During recent years many crafty lessons had been taught and learned.
From the time when Paul began to press his attentions upon Alice
Webster, to present disguised straits in London suburb, this teacher
and pupil had been seldom long apart. Practical demonstrations had
convinced Pierre that his son was very apt.
Paul has been more reticent and absorbed; he eats little; trifles
annoy him; his father's presence is offense; at Pierre's curious look
or speech Paul frowns or is pertly insolent. Suddenly starting,
aimlessly pausing, fiercely scowling, vacantly staring, he is again
seated. Passing hatless and partially disguised up the rickety cellar
stairs, he turns upon his father, resentment gleaming from those
glowing black eyes, then weak and nerveless submits to restraint,
abjectly penitent, mutely concurring in paternal rebuke.
Pierre finds it necessary to remain indoors when Paul is at their
room. That his son is averse to this the father plainly sees. Yet such
displeasure is strangely vague. There is no spoken protest.
Paul twitches uneasily, glancing suddenly and often at his watch.
Asked as to the time, he looks into vacancy, again consults his watch,
starts up, moves about, sits down, makes no reply, the neck relaxes,
and the whole body droops in apparent collapse.
Pierre resolves that during this strange indisposition Paul must not
go out alone. Such conduct would attract notice. Paul might bring on
notoriety by some fierce, resentful act. It is certain that such
suggestion will anger him, but there is no remedy.
After humoring Paul's every whim and doing many little positive
kindnesses, Pierre, in most persuasive tones, begs as a special favor
that they change shifts for once.
I will watch to-night, while you get some sleep.
The young man springs up, glowers at his father, scowls, and then
From now until the hour for Pierre's new shift Paul is most
dutifully considerate, frequently gratefully commenting upon his
father's kindnesses. He insists upon preparing their evening meal, and
cooks some savory dishes, which he smilingly serves. With filial
solicitude, Paul counsels his father to avoid river fogs and malarial
At this damp season it is better to stay away from the Thames.
Pierre is much pleased at this changed temper, and smiles his great
appreciation. Promising to return before it is late, Pierre leaves,
both uttering soft-toned good-bys.
CHAPTER XVII. BACK AT NORTHFIELD
After a long absence, Sir Donald and Esther are back at Northfield.
Many parts of Europe and the Orient were visited. Father and daughter
saw much of interest. Their stops had been sufficiently prolonged for
comfort and intelligent impression.
Though in regular communication with the London office, Sir Donald
knows nothing about the present location of either Lanier.
That William Dodge disappeared from Calcutta seems certain. After
the death of Nellie this unfortunate man was released. News of her
illness and of his boy's death at length reached Dodge through the
doctor. All attempts of Mary Dodge to hear from her husband while he
was in prison were unavailing. Little Nellie's appeals to see papa
Under patrol of verbal promise the prisoner was permitted to attend
the burial. He returned according to pledge. In about ten days
thereafter he was released. The family soon moved, and there is no clew
to present whereabouts.
Neither Sir Donald nor Esther heard anything from Oswald Langdon.
Since Oswald's departure from Calcutta, Sir Donald anxiously had waited
for notice of clew to Lanier guilt. He believed London agents honestly
were seeking more decisive results, but there was little immediate or
remote prospect of success. At the last Calcutta conference, Sir Donald
promised Oswald to spare no zeal in bringing these villains to swift
Convinced that absence from England and India was essential to
success of plans then in operation, Oswald hesitated not, but promptly
It was agreed between them that any decisive act or clew should be
communicated by letter to Paris, thence forwarded to whatever point
they should direct. Sir Donald's letters would be directed to an agreed
alias. Both would use guarded terms, but to them intelligible. There
would be no letter from Sir Donald except upon some important
development. Should Oswald stop long at any point, he was to write,
that unnecessary delay might be avoided.
They had decided that any attempt of Oswald at ferreting out these
crimes would be dangerous. Such action might hamper the London bureau
and hasten a crisis exculpating the Laniers.
Sir Donald had told Esther the cause of Oswald's sudden departure.
She was saddened, but made no protest. That the innocent should suffer
such unjust banishment shocked Esther's ideas of right providence. Why
were such straits permitted?
Esther begins to see that the world groans beneath weight of
unmerited burdens. Under fairest skies gleam sacrificial blades.
Balmiest airs minister to altar-fires. Bird-carols and zephyr-murmurs
are but medley variations to minor chords of vicarious pain.
Esther now has occasional convictions that some wrongs may continue
indefinitely. Can it be that transient evil is lasting good? Are there
more clamorous voices than those of physical need? Shall the less
ravenous, yet infinitely more real, soul-hunger wait on alms and
That such moods of questioning thought bear intimate reference to
Oswald's hard fate no way lessens their deep sincerity. Heart queries
are wonderfully profound.
No word of complaint escapes Esther's lips, nor does she doubt the
wisdom of their proposed course. Deeply solicitous for Oswald's
vindication, this loyally sympathetic girl would hesitate at no
personal sacrifice in his behalf. It is hard that she can do nothing to
Aware of her father's interest in her every wish and aspiration,
Esther refrains from any suggestion which may cause additional care.
Sir Donald's observing vision notes each emotional clew. Many
unspoken queries find vocal reply. Delicate points are cleared by
suggestive indirection. Neither completely yields to profitless
conjecture. They magnetize Northfield.
One bright day Sir Donald and Esther take a stroll about the
familiar grounds. The air is laden with perfume of flowers. Both are
charmed with exquisite plant and foliage shades. Many exclamatory
comments are uttered by the enthusiastic daughter, more gravely
confirmed by her gently reserved father. They quit the mansion grounds
for a stroll along the wood-fringed lake. Past the family graves, where
a pensive hour is spent, they walk to where a small sail is locked fast
by the pebbly shore. Sir Donald fails to loosen the fastening. Farther
down is a rowboat, in which they start out on the lake.
Moving along with the breeze, both yield to meditation. Former
tragic happenings upon this peaceful lake come to mind. Each ripple is
tremulous with saddened retrospect. Every voice of wind and branch is
keyed to minor utterance. These, with monotonous swish of slow waves,
blending with notes of leaf-hid birds, seem miserere and requiem.
At this projecting shrub, bright-eyed, sweet-voiced, vivacious,
loving, impulsive Alice Webster had been rescued by Oswald Langdon;
yonder is the wooded point toward which Paul Lanier was sailing when,
maddened by her frightened resistance and stinging protests, he roughly
pushed Alice overboard. Here is the bank upon which the body again
became instinct with life's returning pulses.
Such panorama, with varying lines of sorrowful perspective, passed
before Sir Donald's and Esther's view. Each colored the pathetic
pictures with like yet different hues, from peculiar tints of inner
Sir Donald is struck by singular grouping of assault, projecting
shrub, knotted tie, Oswald's sail and opportune rescue; Esther's memory
reverts to that eloquent avowal beyond the distant ravine. Some
misgivings as to her own conduct on that occasion are now felt. There
is an accusing sense of vague responsibility for after tragic
happenings. That true penitence often means restitution is a cardinal
tenet in Esther's creed. This is now most soothing conscience specific.
If Esther wrongfully withheld from that earnest, masterful,
persuasive suitor his just dues, she now feels such ethical qualms as
to prompt payment with usury.
Moving with the breeze, the boat is nearing the point where Esther,
Alice Webster, and Oswald Langdon were seated when Paul Lanier listened
to that proposed London trip made necessary by the suit of William
Soon are heard tones of impassioned declamation. With unearthly
unction the voice repeats those dream-lines so dramatically uttered in
hearing of Paul Lanier at Bombay.
Again and again come the words, Fierce avenging sprite, till
blood for blood atones, buried from my sight, and trodden down with
stones. Then follow loud, hollow, unnatural guffaws, succeeded by,
And years have rotted off his flesh. There are muttered curses, a
blood-curdling, demoniacal yell, then in solemn, guttural tones, The
world shall see his bones.
These disconnected yet coherent utterances cease. Soon are heard
Profoundly moved, Sir Donald turns the boat and vigorously rows back
to the shore. Both are glad to reach land, and rapidly walk homeward.
Neither is superstitious, but such ghostly utterances, with all
drapings of time and place, weirdly tinted by so pensive, reminiscent
sentiments, rouse dormant fancies. Each feels a mystic sense of some
CHAPTER XVIII. ON THE TRAMP
From Calcutta Oswald sails without definite destination. The ship's
prospective course is unknown. This tramp steamer has an oddly
assorted cargo. Her officers and crew are a motley mixture of different
nationalities. Cabin and steerage passengers hail from many parts of
Oswald learns that there is little prospect of touching at any
Indian or English port. The trip will be of uncertain duration, lasting
many months, possibly more than a year.
The first day's sail is characteristic. There are fair skies, balmy
breezes, smooth seas, followed by clouds, squalls, churning waves, and
In noisiest turbulence of typhoon wrath this reserved Englishman
sways and tosses with the ship's motion, raptly listening to
low-pitched, soft-keyed voice rising above the storm.
What is ocean's tumult to this long-range undertone?
Outriding storm fury, the steamer for needed repairs anchors off
Indian shore, whence she continues her eccentric course.
Long days, late into the night, are passed by Oswald sitting on and
walking the decks. This homeless wanderer on havenless seas recks
little of log-book or transit. Unlike sure-winged passage-bird, he
knows not his journey's issue. So perverse have been fate's courses
that this high-strung, assertive mariner hesitates to direct life's
drifting argosy. There are looks of indecision, tense resolve, and
helpless perplexity. Eagerly scanning the arched blue, he notes stellar
assurance. Hushed as by cradle-song, every harassing emotion subsides.
Some odd, inquisitive conceits grow out of these moods. Gazing from
steamer deck into lighted canopy he soliloquizes: What vigils are
those old guards commissioned to keep over this sail? Even if cares of
universe now absorb divine solicitude, has there not been, in long ages
of the eternal past, ample time to assign watchers over a few afloat on
ocean's fickle domain? May not that kindly indulgent Sense, missing no
carrion note of clamorous raven-cry, quicken at stress of higher
life-forms pulsing with infinite longings of a human soul?
This peculiar personality seems to reach convictions by more direct
processes than others. Meandering courses of intricate reasonings are
not to his likingthat divinely intuitive, far-seeing, inner-focalized
ray shoots straight as plummet and far as God.
Oswald observes many interesting occurrences aboard the steamer.
With perceptive craft he scans faces and notes special traits of
fellow-passengers. Neither back nor profile view long can dissemble. By
some sorting sense he segregates those few whom his judgment commends
to more than casual notice. These are so watched as not to be aware.
These entries occur in his diary:
We have been out many weeks. One clear-cut, expressive face rivets
my view. This stranger appears to be about my age. He is tall,
straight, and well-proportioned. I find nothing to correct. Called upon
for a manly model to be produced instanter, I unhesitatingly would
point at this interesting unknown. There is something in facial lights
and shades like and unlike indistinct pictures whose outlines are
This enigma is utterly unconscious of such close observation.
Though within ten feet, he has not noticed me reclining in a
steamer-chair on deck. The stranger sits down on a bench along the
outer railing. Soon a middle-aged man joins him, and the two engage in
conversation. Their talk is plainly audible. They make pleasant
comments, evincing much general information and discriminating
The older man is in poor health, but is hectically cheerful. There
is that pathetically wearied look of one engaged in unequal contest
with the insinuating, elusive, relentless microbe.
Hopefully seeking to loosen the slowly contracting hold of this
persistent 'strangler,' the sick man has traveled in strange lands and
over many waters.
The other has seen much of interest, and feels hopeful aspirations
of young manhood. Many clear-cut, positive views are expressed in
courteous, deferential manner, but in no uncertain or ambiguous phrase.
Over the invalid's face pass pleased, softened shades at some
uniquely stated, positive opinions. Such are characteristic. Maturing
thought produces milder tints, but truer perspective.
My sympathies go out to this sick passenger. I long to speak and
act kindly. Forgetting personal stress, I am touched at thought of
fellow-helplessness. Yet there must be no sentimental indiscretions. To
converse with either would invite questioning. Direct answers might be
unsafe. Evasive replies would excite suspicion.
I now little fear any personal results of fate's perversities. From
hunted sense of unmerited outlawry I have passed to that of 'ermine'
function. Aware that my discreet silences and acts may conserve the
ends of justice, I will do nothing in contempt of such high ministry.
In times of more than wonted assurance I would not accept complete
vindication. There must be exact justice meted for an outraged law.
Father can await his boy's final clearance from guilty suspicions in
patient abeyance to public weal. Mother will approveher high sense of
duty mustso unselfish were her plansyes, it will be all right with
Strangely affected, Oswald looks upward, intensely curious at
lowering clouds obscuring the sky. Then follows a sense of unutterable
loneliness and bewilderment. Soon a softened radiance steals through
the storm blackness. There is suggestion of mild reproof in that image
reflection. With reverent, submissive mien Oswald quits the deck.
The diary thus continues:
Weeks are spent at sea without stop. Only at long intervals does
the sick man leave his room. Each appearance shows greater weakness,
but no lack of cheerful emotion. The intellectual sense seems to
quicken, as if through transparent fleshly gauze that expectant soul
lay open to 'prick of light.' There cannot be much longer prolonging of
the unequal contest. To sympathetic interest he is so considerately
thankful that it is doubtful who is the comforter. Still 'raptured with
the world,' he surveys life's receding shores, as if booked for its
more luminous, harmonious antitype.
The younger traveler is all attention, anticipating every want. His
kindnesses, delicately unobtrusive, yet frank and hearty, leave no
I am charmed with such refined tact. Discreet scruples would be set
aside but for sure conviction that no want of the invalid is unobserved
One day neither passenger appears on deck. This excites no comment.
For over a week I catch only brief views of the younger man. It is then
'The consumptive is dead.'
I learn where the body lies, and that on the following day there is
to be a burial at sea. I am admitted to the room where stretches mortal
remnant of once complex, interwoven humanity.
Odd fancies flit across my visual camera. Does that enfranchised
soul look down from far observatory height at wave-rocked ship like
mature manhood on baby rock-a-by? Fanned by soothing breezes of
emerald-hued sea, does this glad convalescent meander at will along
either tree-fringed shore, with happy child-impulsiveness gathering
bouquets of that foliage which is for the 'healing of the nations'?
Little need for further globe-trotting in case of this once
observing traveler, who now
'... has seen the secret hid
Under Egypt's pyramid.'
To-day occurs the brief ocean obsequies. These are unimportant. It
signifies little when or where or how this ceremony is observed. By
that mysterious, anciently affirmed gravity the real wanderer has found
genial habitation. It matters not through what varying molds passes the
disintegrating and reincarnating dust. Essential identity lasts always.
Ego consciousness is sure.
This eccentric 'tramp' steamer passes through many experiences.
Being propelled by both wind and steam, she often veers with capricious
'trades,' making peculiar tacks, through some odd adjustment of time,
air, and coal. Points not marked upon more pretentious charts receive
and bill barter products. The vessel often drops anchor far from land,
in channels having neither wharf nor breakwater.
Queer methods of transfer from ship and shore amuse me. Seeing
horses and cattle swimming to and from the vessel, their noses
projecting over the sides of rowboats, is interesting. Even trained
circus animals are subject to this moist ordeal. By crude tackle and
steam-turned windlass, suspended in midair, the poor beasts find ship
asylum a most welcome port of entry. One passenger is both amusing and
annoying. This odd-geared Teuton hails from Hamburg. Like most
stuttering unfortunates, he is a chronic talker. He stutters
garrulously in several tongues. There are serious impediments in his
pumping gestures. His tongue, hands, and feet, like stringed orchestra,
seem trying to arrive at an amicable understanding, but never find the
My reserve piques him. Professional solicitude is aroused. This
German Æsculapian expert is anxious for a diagnosis. Perhaps this still
Englishman requires a prescription.
For days I am amused and bored by the German's antics. Late at
night, after an unusually hot day, the vessel drops anchor. A circus
aggregation is taken aboard. After a two-hours' stop the ship moves on.
All berths and available sleeping-places are occupied. The clown,
trapeze performers, bareback riders, and various acrobatic artists are
compelled to sleep on deck. This is but little inconvenience in such
warm weather. They are stretched and curled in different shapes on
benches along the outer railings.
It is about two o'clock in the morning, and a storm is coming. Soon
the waves dash and the rain pours down.
I see a small bundle on the deck. It obstructs the approaches to
the 'scupper' in front of my cabin door. About to step out and clear
this watercourse, I see that 'sorrel-top,' corpulent, garrulous German
doctor gently unwind the soaked package and tenderly gaze at an
upturned childish face. Apparently not approving of this unorthodox
baptismal procedure, the boy is borne away. Curled up in the German's
warm berth, this little eight-year-old bareback rider, wearied with the
night's performance, sleeps until the next evening, unconscious of what
has happened. Our fussy old 'granny' sits out on deck, rolling and
pitching with the boat's motion, wondering what ails that chap who
never talks to anybody.
From now on I believe in human transfiguration. Coarse red hair is
silky auburn; fat face is luminous with refined, expressive lights;
stuttering voice is musical as mother's lullaby; and two gray eyes
shine like optics of those high sentinels who, keeping ceaseless
childhood watch, 'do ever behold the face of our Father.'
Such long voyage gives time for much reflection. Many old,
indistinct recollections are photographed anew. Seen through readjusted
visual lens, these create strange emotions. Things witnessed and heard
in childhood now are understood more clearly. Vague impressions from
books are brought out in more definite relief. My dreams take on
changed trend from waking thoughts and emotional moods. Though fanciful
tinting is somber-hued, I have growing assurance that all tends to
I dream of Promethean myth. Chained god writhes on Tarpeian rock,
Jove's black eagle tearing at the quick flesh, senseless of the cruel
feast. Poet's conceit is not too extravagant or remote. He who in any
age filches from time-lock combination light for his kind, must have
his Caucasus, whereon, blind scavangers of fate, batten harpy gorge,
while not a kindly drop softens Olmypus' cold, drear scowl. No prayer
moves those tense lips, but Caucasus groans with the voiceless
petition, and Olympus' huge molars chatter with the prophetic
beseeching. No uttered petition from bound victim, but unutterable
longings of passionate, helpless hearts and blood lift 'void hands' of
imperious need. Earth and sea abjure allegiance to blind force,
affirming endless fealty to human weal.
Numberless odd ethical impressions grow out of Oswald's peculiar
experiences and inner consciousness. Former intense aspiring confidence
in personal destiny no longer veils visions nor drowns voices then
waiting their appropriate sense.
Uniquely worded sentiments, embodied in his father's sermons and
parish talks, come to mind. Most of these are approved, but some seem
strangely grotesque. To Oswald's tense perception the general tenor is
along severely orthodox lines, but as to occult verities the style
appears flippantly superficial. Many comments upon rewards of virtue
and refined craft in uprightness seem gayly ironical. Such jar upon
Oswald's strained sense.
Still that larger, if not better, view makes him less exacting. He
is more tolerant of honest, dogmatic assertion, believing it to result
from environment. Early precept and conviction are elements transmuted
by white heat of life's crucible.
Reverend Percy Langdon occupies a conspicuous place in all his son's
plans, contingent on clearance from that horrible menacing shadow
brooding over the stricken home. As to the idolized mother, it is
different. She is left out.
One day the vessel anchors in a European port. Oswald hears the
distinguished-appearing stranger talking about quitting the steamer for
a brief stay. Soon will follow a trip to an English home. There is
boyish enthusiasm at the prospect of a visit with loved ones after
absence of years.
Oswald's straining sense hears no definite clew to the disembarking
traveler's home port. Indistinct mention of some familiar English towns
and scenery makes Oswald very curious, but he must not be inquisitive.
There is renewal of that fathomless homesickness, deep resolve, and
After partial unloading of cargo, taking on of other commodities,
and the booking of a few new passengers, the ship weighs anchor. Long
cruising in continental waters, stopping at numerous unimportant
points, making little steerage exchanges, she anticipates extended
voyage, and heading for the Atlantic, steams for New York.
Now the vessel veers little from direct courses. Late one cloudy
afternoon she rounds Sandy Hook, and after a day's quarantine, finds a
With strong sense of relief, Oswald quits the ship. He is taken by
hack to a well-appointed hotel near junction of Thirty-third Street and
CHAPTER XIX. THAMES PANTOMIMES
Covertly watching for new or suspicious faces, Pierre Lanier finds
himself at the river-bank. His eyes bulge with frightened surprise.
Moving upstream, oars dipping in clear moonlight, is a familiar
figure. Stoop and motion cannot be mistaken.
The father stares after that disappearing form. His indecision is
short. Following along the bank, every sense alert, he resolves to
watch his son and solve this enigma. Cautiously keeping out of view,
Pierre is slightly in the rear of the boat. They are nearing the rustic
seat where sat Oswald Langdon and Alice Webster on that fatal night
years before. The boat stops at a projecting tree-branch. Pierre is
petrified with a new fear! Dagger in hand, Paul examines this
obstruction, looking thence toward either bank. He resumes the oars,
again pausing at thick overhanging bushes. Peering under, around, and
through the foliage, Paul rubs the glistening blade on upturned
shoe-sole. Sheathing his weapon, he slowly moves toward the point
whence the two bodies had disappeared into swollen stream. Directly
opposite the rustic seat, he stops. Looking up, down, and across the
river, Paul stands, steadying the boat with both oars, his thin-bladed
dagger flashing from close-set jaws. Back and forth across the river,
through moonlight shades, slowly moves this horrible tableau. Staring
at reflected shadows, Paul shrinks backward. Dropping an oar, he grasps
the pearl handle of his oft-whetted blade. With forward poise, in
striking attitude, every nerve at tense strain, stands this crazed
tragedian. Pierre is near enough to hear mutterings. Soon the relaxing
form is again seated, while boat and dozing occupant drift downstream.
Pierre Lanier feels bewildered. These fearfully real hallucinations
have neither antidote nor specific. Of what avail is craft against such
emotional outlawry? This irresponsible infatuation of his son will rise
like Banquo wraith, a menacing interloper at all councils, doggedly
irresponsible, yet insistent.
Truly the Furies are massing their evasive yet resistless squares
against this guilty soul.
How dread is the coherence of crimes and their effects!
That father and son might have luxurious refinements, trusting
business associate deliberately is harassed under friendly guise of
sympathetic interest to bankruptcy and death. As sworn legal
representative, trust funds are misappropriated and retained through
perjured accounting. To insure immunity from prosecution and continued
possession of stolen estate, is planned the marriage between his son
and defrauded ward. That girlish opposition to such hateful union may
be crushed occurs the villainous conspiracy, involving remaining
pittance of once princely estate, William Dodge's unfortunate
connivance, and Paul's murderous assaults. This fearful category is
followed by enforced concealments in disreputable dens of poverty,
disguised skulkings along unlighted streets, furtive watches, deceitful
ruses, scared embarkings for distant ports, new schemes for wealthy
alliance, horrible tableaus, attempts at other murders, suspense of
imprisonment, strange releases, and harassing uncertainty, compelling
renewed flight, resulting in purposeless return of arch-criminals to
scene of their most heinous crimes.
In this hunted maze, taxing every power of crafty, defensive
vigilance, yawns a new pursuing vortex. From such menacing depths may
not the eye withdraw nor step recede. This fearful presence is neither
chimera of transient nightmare nor creation of evanescent day-dream.
Like ever-present sprite, its boding menace pose shifts in accord with
each changing view and altered visual range.
Stunned by this shock, Pierre Lanier gropingly stumbles along the
Thames bank, following the drifting boat. Through all this
bewilderment, self-preserving interest guides his course. Keeping close
watch of that relaxed, dozing form, he recklessly tramples all
impediments. Habitual, calculating craft of years is merged in this
all-absorbing zeal to prevent indefinite exposure and contingent
reckoning. It matters not that Nemesis, keeping pace with his own
course, rustles through obstructing foliage. Crackling branches and
pursuing footstep echoes are unheeded by this new, engrossing fear.
By great effort Pierre has followed the boat for miles, only briefly
losing sight of his son. They are nearing the starting-point. Round a
small curve the boat drifts with the shifting current. Pierre spurts
forward to regain the lost view. Striking a grass-concealed bowlder, he
pitches forward, falling heavily upon the bank. By hard effort he
prevents rolling over into the stream. Regaining his feet, Pierre finds
that one leg is badly sprained. He continues down the shore, but moves
slowly. The boat and Paul are out of sight.
There is return of cautious fear. When scrambling back from the
yawning depths, Pierre caught sight of a face partly screened by
foliage of near bushes. He is startled. With certainty that his son has
passed out of sight, the father now seeks to elude this mute intruder.
Moving downstream, each step causing a groan, he is aware that this spy
is following him, but at a cautious pace. After painful, harassed
hours, this limping form, slowly descending those rickety cellar
stairs, enters at a low opening, and totally collapsing, falls upon the
The dim twilight is streaming through barred cellar transom when
Pierre Lanier opens his eyes from that long swoon. It is several
minutes before he vaguely comprehends what has happened. Gradually the
situation dawns upon his mind. Recalling his weaned entrance at the
cellar door and habitual testing of its catch, his memory is thereafter
a blank. He mutters:
How came I on Paul's cot? Why such comfortable arrangement of
pillows and quilts? What means that array of bottles, cups, saucers,
and glasses on the chair at my head? Can it be that I am in hospital
Pierre starts up with fright, stares wildly, and settles back with a
groan. His leg pains terribly. Removing the light coverlid, he sees
that the foot and ankle are tightly bandaged. Again he mutters: There
is odor of liniment! Who but an expert could have so neatly sewed those
bands? Surely this is our own room. Has a doctor called and performed
professional service? Where is Paul?
By much effort Pierre gets up and staggers to the transom. The
outside scenery is familiar. The door is locked. Turning the catch, he
looks out and up the stairs, but sees no one. With puzzled expression
he says: Everything belonging to our room and wardrobe is here except
Paul's usual London disguise. Paul must be out on some venturesome
Gradually Pierre's habitual craft returns. Whatever happens he must
keep cool. Taking a discreet bracer of brandy and examining his
pistols, Pierre lies down on the cot. There are toothsome eatables on
the table. These he now devours with ravenous relish, but partakes
sparingly of the tempting liquors. Between set teeth Pierre says:
There must be self-control and iron nerves. I will not trust any
fictitious strength. Only a steady brain and hand tensely nerved by my
cold-tempered yet dynamic will must keep this watch. If by any possible
chance only Paul knows of my plight, then there is hope. Should it
transpire that the spying figure seen on Thames bank has followed me
home and is responsible for after happenings, longer dallying must
cease. Perhaps Paul is now in custody. Those who shall come for Pierre
Lanier will witness a change and have short shrift.
Lying with cocked pistols held in each hand under the light spread,
this determined sentinel watches that cellar entrance.
After a half-hour, steps are heard on the stairs. Pierre's vigilant
ear detects his son's gait. Quickly resetting pistol-hammers and
placing both weapons under his pillow, the much relieved father feigns
sleep under screen of upturned arm, watching lower half of cellar door.
It seems a long while before the door opens. Convinced that his son
is alone, Pierre has no use for the pistols. Even should Paul meditate
any violence, his father cannot resort to armed resistance. Ready to
slay any other who hinders mature plans or attempts his arrest, Pierre
Lanier may not hurt this crazed boy.
There is in that depraved soul at least one sacred precinct where
this hunted, distracted, youthful head may find sanctuary. At this
indulgent bar there is such accusing sense of self-accounting for all
unfilial excesses as to preclude harsh judgment.
The door slowly opens. The lock clicks softly. Noislessly tiptoeing
across the room, Paul looks long and anxiously at his sleeping father.
At length he notes that most of the refreshments have disappeared. He
does not perceive the significance of this fact, but thinks his father
has continued in such queer stupor. Gently stroking the paternal brow,
Paul sits down. With silk handkerchief immersed in brandy, the son rubs
his father's temples and removes dirt-stains caused by fall of previous
evening. Slowly lifting the quilt, Paul critically examines
foot-bandages. Gently covering the swollen member, he resumes his
watch, in subdued undertones uttering most tender, filial sympathies,
hopes, and regrets.
It is doubtful if that listening sleeper ever before heard such
soothing, softly modulated tones. Hoping that Paul would give some clew
to recent events, Pierre lay long in this dissembling stupor. Fearing
from his son's nervous preparations that he soon may start out on some
night trip up the Thames, Pierre concludes to learn what has happened.
Slowly opening his eyes and staring at Paul, he asks: What time is it,
With much sympathy, Paul replies: I found you unconscious this
morning lying on the cellar floor. I carried you to the cot, and from
involuntary movements discovered the sprained ankle. After stitching on
the saturated bandages, I brought out refreshments and liquors. You did
not use these, but continued unconscious, responding only in
mutterings. I watched all day until evening, and then went out a few
minutes for some needed provisions. No reference was made to the
previous night's experiences.
Much relieved, Pierre shows great appreciation of his boy's kindly
Paul is pleased at these grateful comments. He now and then glances
at his watch. Nervously walking to the door, he returns and sits down
by his father's side. With much filial solicitude he says:
Father, you should never venture out on late night watches. This
attack was the result of last night's vigil.
You are getting older, father, and can't stand night work. It will
never do to risk such an attack at night. I cannot bear the thought of
sleeping while you are wandering about London, liable to be paralyzed
at any moment in some dark alley. I need my father's counsels too badly
to risk losing him through such rash exposure.
Growing excited, Paul grasps his dagger, and glowering at the
shrinking, reclining form, dramatically waves the glistening blade as
he utters the injunction:
Never go out again at night in London!
Cowed by this unexpected pose and threat, Pierre Lanier promises to
stay in nights.
I know my dear son is right! My own Paul always will care for his
poor old father!
Paul grows quiet. With shamefaced, submissive mien he sheathes the
thin, gleaming blade. Then follow suppressed sobs and hysterical
assurances of future obedience.
With childish penitence this hardened youth, steeped in murderous
guilt and crazed by tragic memories almost to the point of
irresponsible parricide, hiding his face upon his father's breast,
cries himself to sleep.
CHAPTER XX. THE CONFERENCE
Their extended visits abroad endear Sir Donald's and Esther's home
memories. Northfield seems both haven and rose-scented bower of rest.
Yet there are many pensive reflections. Over brightest views often
settle shadows of tragic retrospect.
Neither Sir Donald nor Esther sees cleared future earthly prospects.
Both are uncertain as to issues in which each feels vital interest.
Since they listened to that suggestive declamation, neither cared
for another sail on the lake. Those oddly tinted pictures, combining in
tragic intermingled groupings blending lights and shades of lake and
river, pass before their soul sights with ever-varying hues.
Neither Sir Donald nor Oswald Langdon has written. London detective
bureau has lost all clews to whereabouts of the Laniers.
Sir Donald cannot locate either William or Mary Dodge. The lagging
justice momentum is at full stop.
Those red-handed villains continue their insolent defiance of
outraged law. For more than a generation one victim has been waiting
avenging. Still the murdered ward lifts unavailing hands toward brassy
heavens, imploring just reckoning upon her brutal slayer. Over earth
and sea, in unmerited exile, wanders an unfortunate victim of lying
circumstance, fearless to a fault of personal harm, yet bound by filial
fetters in unswerving fealty to family prestige and parental name.
Doting father and mother sit around a desolate hearth, helpless to
help, powerless to temper or withdraw the barbed arrow which has
transfixed their souls. Tenderly fostered, idolized daughter, modestly
brilliant, grandly human, with strong, sweet penchant toward
self-sacrifice and for lowly, unassuming ministry, yet love-loyal to
banished suitor, must bide uncertain issues, enduring that
heartsickness which may find no specific.
These rasping human paradoxes are warrant for much bewildering
thought. At such even Sir Donald Randolph's speculative, complacent
optimism well may stagger.
How ironical seems talk of time's compensation! Who now may prate,
Evil is good misunderstood? Surely such cogent blending requires some
powerfully focalized far observatory height!
As to London detective tactics, Sir Donald is becoming pessimistic.
To Esther he says: Indeed, there is little in results to justify
further employment of this much vaunted agency. That there have been
perplexities I am fully aware. Having given the subject such careful
thought, I am not disposed either to minimize obstacles or to cavil at
Upon review of incidents in this fruitless pursuit, I am impressed
with the fact that all clews obtained came from your infatuation for
hungry or sick people. The Paris hospital confession, finding of Mary
Dodge in Calcutta suburb seclusion, revelations of this unhappy
sufferer from Lanier subornation, and saving of both intended victims
through timely intervention at that deserted houseall are due to your
I fail to see that I have directly contributed to these
discoveries. It is not apparent that any of my well-matured plans even
promised success. Every subtly framed purpose has failed.
London sleuths are camping on cold trails, tracing misleading
clews, poising for unavailing swoop upon flown quarry, densely ignorant
of real Lanier purposes. These highly paid pursuers of ever-eluding
outlaws knew nothing of that murderous assault upon William and Mary
Dodge until after I had cabled the news to London. Their shifts had
been so ineffective that no plausible theory could be advanced for
farcical arrests, unwarranted detentions, failure to prosecute for
undisputed felonious assaults, strange releases, or continued custody
of the intended victim.
But for my promise made to Oswald Langdon, I now might abandon this
search. There seems no justification for further employment of
detectives. The expense has been large. Results are unimportant.
That fellow so trustingly followed my advice, and promptly sailed
without purposed haven on the tramp steamer, it now would be heartless
desertion not to continue even doubtful agencies in solution of this
most vexing problem.
Sir Donald well knows that his daughter feels interest in the
success of this pursuit. Though mute as to proposed tactics, her
startled mien, hopeful inquiring glances, close attention, quivering
lips, turned-away, drooping eyelids, reserved silences, and far-off
looks, cannot dissemble. Sir Donald sees these signs and interprets
them aright. To Esther he says: I will continue this undertaking.
Loyalty to human duty shall be my concern. Results may owe other
allegiance. There may be accounting for those interlopers who, crossing
boundaries of warranted care, trespass upon exclusive 'preserves' of
more imperious power. Such presumption may be 'les majeste' against
With such sentiment Sir Donald dismisses all idea of quitting this
Determined to do his utmost toward solution of all difficulties
hindering unraveling of this web, he will visit London and talk over
the whole matter with head of detective bureau.
In company with Esther, Sir Donald reaches London. They stop at a
prominent hotel. He soon calls at the bureau headquarters and waits for
appearance of the chief, who is closeted upon some important job. After
about an hour Sir Donald is admitted. The chief warmly grasps him by
the hand, expresses pleasure at his call, and with enthusiasm says:
After years' unavailing pursuit of the Laniers, there is now hope
For months all trace of these villains had been lost, and our
agency was about to quit the job, when by chance a sure clew is found.
For some time both have been disguised in London. They occupy a
basement room in a suburb of the city. Recently this discovery was
made. One of our men was watching near a river boathouse for a burglar
suspect who sometimes frequented that locality. A rowboat is seen
drifting down the Thames. In the uncertain light it seems to have no
occupant. As the boat nears, a stooping form appears to waken from a
sort of stupor. The boat is turned toward the shore and fastened by a
rope. The man walks rapidly down the bank, followed by this spy. After
a long chase, he is trailed to an old stairway, down which the stranger
This was three days previous to present time. Double shifts were
set to watch this basement entrance, resulting in seeing two men go out
and in. From their strange conduct it became evident that both were in
disguised hiding from some dreaded exposure, or were premeditating
crime. The older limps in his walk. He goes out only in daylight, soon
returning to their room. Nights are favored by the younger man, who
acts very strangely. During all next day after this discovery employes
of our agency watched that cellar entrance. The older man limped out
toward evening, and was followed to a stall, where he purchased a few
eatables. Soon after his return, the other passed out and moved rapidly
away. He was followed to the river-bank. Unfastening the same boat used
on previous evening, he rowed upstream. Our spy followed, keeping out
of view. Soon this trailer is surprised to see just ahead a form emerge
from clustering bushes, and watching the boatman, skulk along in same
direction. To avoid detection our spy moves more slowly, at times
waiting in shelter of bank shrubbery. In this way he is some distance
back down the stream from the boat. The rower frequently pauses at
points along banks of the river, and then moves on. Opposite a
projecting bank there is a long stop. Here the man stands up. He moves
back and forth across the river. The other watcher stands a little way
down the stream, intently looking. Through uncertain shadows the one in
rear dimly sees flash of a blade. It seems as if a thrust is made at
some object in the water. After several minutes the man is seated, and
turns downstream. It appears that the boat is simply drifting.
Fore-most sentinel starts back, keeping nearly opposite. This compels
the one farther down to make a circle and hide among some bushes
several rods from shore. Coming back to the rear, he discreetly trails
along at some distance, keeping boat and other spy in view. Near the
boathouse the rower turns toward shore. Forward watcher stops a few
rods upstream until the boat is fastened, then follows down the bank.
After a long tramp our employe sees the forward man pass down those
rickety cellar stairs, and the other spy cross over narrow alley into a
small shanty, with window opposite that basement entrance.
Upon report of these incidents reaching the office, double watches
are assigned to shadow both cellar and cabin occupants. It becomes
evident that the cabin tenant is simply spying upon conduct of the
others. Fearing that any decisive attempt to learn his 'lay' may work
unnecessary complications, he has not been molested.
This same Thames programme and tableau were enacted each of the two
succeeding nights. On last afternoon, shortly before dusk, both men
came up the stairs. They walk along together for a while, when the
elder stops at a stall where loaves of bread are exhibited. One of our
agency men is just ahead, lounging along lazily, but intently
listening. The elder, who slightly limps, softly says:
'Get back early, Paul!' then glances nervously ahead. In subdued
whisper comes the reply, 'Yes, father.'
That evening former performance is repeated. This important clew
was reported at headquarters shortly before your call.
It cannot be otherwise than that Pierre and Paul Lanier are in
London, occupying the basement room down those old stairs. Paul makes
these night trips up the Thames to scene of his crimes. His conduct
stamps him as the murderer of Alice Webster and Oswald Langdon.
Sir Donald holds his peace while shrewd guesses are made as to
causes of such suggestive actions.
Still referring to his memoranda, the chief continues:
Paul is partially deranged. The bodies pitched over the steep bank,
and he imagines will escape. Knowing that Alice Webster had been
rescued from the lake, he fears she may rise from Thames depths.
Pausing at shrubbery along the shore and scrutinizing of projecting
branches is through knowledge of how she was saved from that lake
immersion. Perhaps Paul is sane on all subjects except the murders.
Even as to these he may manifest much craft. Such crazed freaks sooner
or later will lead to sure exposure. Pierre knows his son's disordered
mental state. It is only necessary that both be well watched. Paul's
irresponsible craze will do the rest. The 'lay' of this spy can only be
surmised. Perhaps these villains are suspected of other crimes. It is
improbable that any self-constituted detective is on their trails.
However, this sleuth will be persistently shadowed. It is possible that
thereby some important 'find' may occur. By such course our bureau will
hedge against all interference.
Sir Donald is greatly encouraged. That the agency fully believes in
murder of Oswald Langdon by Paul Lanier is immaterial. The death of
Alice Webster is only too certain. Paul thinks he has slain both. It is
not strange if thoughts of his awful crimes have caused at least
partial madness. Sir Donald says: This homicidal mania may lead to
queer freaks. There are no reliable rules to follow in treatment of
such a man. It will be necessary to guard against every possible
surprise. Paul must be so carefully and constantly watched as to render
his being at large harmless. Otherwise, more deaths may be chargeable
to his account.
The chief agrees, and replies:
It will not do for you or your daughter to remain in London. Sight
of either of you might cause the Laniers to leave. Stay of these
villains in London will promote exposure of their crimes through Paul's
mad infatuation. It is possible Paul sometimes may appear in vicinity
of Northfield. There is no telling but that his disordered fancy may
find material in former lake memories.
Sir Donald sees the force of these suggestions. He will employ
guards at Northfield and along shores of the lake. Father and daughter
go home that afternoon. As if in reverie, he says:
I feel renewed confidence in the London agency. There have been
many obstacles. The system employed was faultless. It is unreasonable
to judge by the results. Have not my own most subtle, well-matured
plans proved unavailing? You never thought of taking part in this
scheming for man-capture, yet every important link discovered should be
credited to your sweet infatuation. I hardly have treated this agency
with proper consideration.
While kept posted by it, I have concealed much. Neither Paris
hospital confession, nor Mary Dodge's story, nor strange romance of
Oswald Langdon has been hinted at by me.
There is no telling how much such information, promptly
communicated, might have affected plans of these sleuths in unraveling
such complicated villainies.
It is true this agency might not have respected my scruples as to
possible effects of such disclosures upon the fate of William Dodge or
of Oswald Langdon. Such confidences still shall remain inviolate.
Thus cogitating and talking, Sir Donald passes the time between
London and Northfield. Esther intently listens, but is silent. They
pass up the flower-fringed path to front porch. Then there are joyful
recognitions, ejaculated questions, and happy, tearful welcomes.
Long-absent son and brother is home again. Charles has been around
the world. Though sending and receiving frequent letters, he had not
written about his proposed return.
This surprise drives from the minds of Sir Donald and Esther all
unpleasant memories of recent years. Return of this handsome young man,
safe, sound, and joyous, to his childhood home after such long absence
is happiness enough for the present. Many days pass before Sir Donald
can fix his thoughts upon the Lanier affair. However, two servants have
been detailed to watch along shores of the lake and to report any
strange actions they may see. One is on day and the other on night
duty. Similar precautions are taken about the mansion grounds.
Sir Donald hesitates to say anything to his son about these strange
experiences. Still it is unwise to withhold such confidences. Charles
is energetic, quick-witted, discreet, and decisive. He may prove a most
valuable ally, and must be on guard against Lanier plots.
After hearing the story, Charles Randolph makes numberless inquiries
and suggestions, but finds that his father has considered every phase
of this entangled affair. The son talks most about that other spy who
trailed the Laniers. He is greatly interested in those strange
shadowings by mysterious person in Calcutta, and in disconnected
dream-lines so dramatically declaimed by some wood-concealed orator
along the lake shore. Charles is anxious to solve these mysteries. He
suggests some decisive plans.
Sir Donald listens patiently, and quietly refers to the many
Charles is disposed to criticise the conduct of Oswald Langdon.
This man acted unwisely. He should have faced all with manly courage,
and accepted the consequences.
His father so minutely elaborates each mitigating circumstance, with
such profound array of all interests to be promoted by Oswald's whole
course, that Charles feels an accusing sense. He frankly admits his
Esther's troubled face grows radiant. Sir Donald and Charles
exchange looks. Their talk drifts to lighter subjects.
Esther and Charles are much together. Enthusiastic reminiscences
often are followed by irrelevant questions and vague comments. From
pensive moods Esther rallies with pretty, dissembling, sisterly
All this has a charming pathos for Charles. He shrewdly diagnoses
these symptoms. With much brotherly craft Charles approves of Oswald
Langdon's erratic courses, speaking hopefully about prospects of full
vindication. Such references electrify Esther. She makes little effort
to hide her glad appreciation. After these sage comments, Esther gazes
admiringly into her brother's face. This ermineless expounder
counterfeits much gowned gravity, looking wisely impartial.
To dispel moody, pensive abstractions requires that oft and anew
this Daniel come to judgment.
CHAPTER XXI. PIERRE'S SEARCH FOR
Paul Lanier's crazed caprices grow more frequent. Tractable moods
are now exceptional. Occasional lapses from petulant, domineering
tempers to childish penitence and assurance of future amends greatly
relieve Pierre's harassed mind, but such are rare.
The worried father is powerless to provide against any dreaded
disclosures or notoriety. All disguises and secretive craft seem void
of availing use, subject to such irresponsible, persistent crazes.
Pierre may not flee. Distracted by his son's emotional outlawry and
fearful infatuation, Pierre Lanier has no desire to forsake the crazed
Paul. He will risk ignominious arrest and gallows' accounting rather
than leave this insane youth to his fate.
At times is felt a certain sense of dogged resignation. This
cautious, crafty, resourceful schemer becomes strangely quiescent. With
this stoical temper come moods of questioning reflection. He mutters:
How fearfully void have been my plans and dubious courses! To what
purpose was a trusting partner duped by hypocritical sympathy, lured to
bankrupt's expedients and goaded to self-murder? Wherein consisted
worth of embezzled funds? For whose advantage was the guileless ward
defrauded out of princely inheritance? That villainous sham suit and
those Thames murders, of what avail were such crimes? To what end was
that subservient tool suborned, and afterward, with trusting wife,
murderously assaulted in deserted Calcutta suburb?
That these should be followed by such terribly harassing flights,
culminating in purposeless return to London, Paul's dreadful disorder
and present helpless mazes seems direct sentence execution upon Pierre
Lanier. Are not all these fateful perversities cumulative wrath upon my
own guilty head?
Such remorseless avenging!
It seems to Pierre Lanier that Nemesis has found the most
susceptible joint in his conscious being, and with relentless
persistence is testing its capacity for torture.
Attempts at stoical endurance are but briefly availing. The dreadful
presence of Paul's craze will not avaunt. This haunting incarnation of
Lanier guilt and accounting shifts its boding menace but to appear more
real at each altered view.
Helpless to provide against any of the dreaded contingents hedging
them about, Pierre's whole care is absorbed in avoiding Paul's
capricious displeasure. He studies his son's crazed peculiarities.
Childhood memories seem to exert most potent control over Paul's
unfilial tendencies. However, such influences are uncertain, partaking
of childish perverseness.
Since that time when Pierre learned his son's horrible Thames
infatuation, he had not spied upon Paul's night vigils. Months have
dragged their slow tortures.
At length there is a variation in daily worries at the Lanier room.
Paul is missing. In fearful suspense the startled father waits all the
first day and night. Doubtless Paul has made some bad break. Perhaps
this insane boy has committed an assault on some real or imaginary foe.
Possibly he is in need or in custody!
Pierre waits until the second morning, then, thoroughly disguised,
goes out to look for Paul. Up and down the Thames, from the boathouse
to a point miles above the rustic seat, this search is continued that
day and the following night without avail. Guarded inquiry at police
headquarters fails to disclose any clew.
Pierre's anxiety becomes so great that he relaxes habitual craft of
a lifetime in his solicitude for Paul's safety. Pierre sees this poor,
helpless, disordered child in want, bruised, and bleeding, calling in
vain for his father's help. Paul is a little, trusting, crying,
helpless lad again, but without that father's providing or protecting
Just before day of the fourth night after Paul's strange
disappearance Pierre is aroused from sleep by deep, guttural sounds. He
is petrified at the sight!
Black, uncombed hair in tangled disorder, blood-stains on face,
hands, and bedraggled clothing, brandishing a new long-bladed dagger,
stands Paul, staring into vacancy, incoherently muttering.
Wearied by his long search, despairing of Paul's return, Pierre
Lanier had lain down and slept several hours. His loaded pistols are at
hand. These now are useless. Pierre will not even make show of such
defense. He may not trust his forbearance in this emergency. There is
surfeit of tragic memories. Life's weight is sufficiently heavy without
added burden of child-murder.
Paul continues staring, muttering, and brandishing his gleaming
weapon. Pierre feigns slumber, but from shaded, half-closed eyes
intently watches his son.
An alarm-clock sounds the morning hour of five. Paul starts,
shivers, tiptoes to the door and tries the catch. He furtively looks at
the transom, behind room furniture, and suspended clothing. Peering
under both cots, he shrinks from reflected shadows. Then gazing
confidingly at the paternal face, Paul snuffs out the candle, and with
childish assurance snuggles down on his father's arm.
Hours pass before Pierre Lanier ventures to rise. He hesitates to
move the hunted, distracted head. It seems heartless cruelty to risk
disturbing this wearied child.
Memories of Paul's trusting, boyish faith come to mind. Pierre lives
over again in swift review years of a misspent past. With comprehensive
view of its wasted, perverted chances, the broad compass of desolating
and desolated perspective is horrible.
Insensible of that relaxed weight upon his cramped arm, this guilty
wretch hardly can suppress a groan. There is limit to conscious
endurance. At this point Pierre looks toward the ceiling. Such upward
glance slightly relaxes his tense strain. The relief is suggestive.
Pierre gently strokes Paul's temples, and in low tones says: In
this begrimed, blood-stained face I behold another boyish image, marred
by paternal influence.
A ray of light steals through the transom, falling athwart that
upturned youthful brow. Pierre smiles almost credulously. How deep that
More habitual concern soon is felt. Where is Paul's pearl-handled
dagger? How came he in possession of this new weapon? What mean these
blood-stains and bedraggled clothes? Was tragic pose at time of
Pierre's startled awakening suggestive of some murderous assault by the
Absorbed in other emotions, Pierre had given no heed to these
weighty problems. Powerless to enforce counsels of his own experienced
craft, Pierre now and then lapsed into vaguely sentimental moods.
Slowly withdrawing that benumbed arm, Pierre noiselessly arises from
the cot. He examines the dagger and mutters: It is new and of English
make! There is no other clew. Has some additional danger been
Pierre can but wait, powerless to avert or modify any impending
crisis. It will avail nothing to catechise the secretive Paul, who is
garrulous upon irrelevant hallucinations only.
During that day and the following night Paul slept, waking only
once, about nine o'clock in the evening. This was his usual hour for
trip up the Thames. Paul stared around sleepily, looked at his watch,
dubiously scanned the new dagger, slowly sank back and slept on until
At seven Paul awoke with ravenous appetite. Pierre had prepared a
substantial meal. This the hungry youth devoured with relish.
After breakfast Paul listlessly moved about the room. Spying in a
small mirror his dirty, blood-besmeared face and matted hair, Paul
starts backward, grasps the new weapon, stabs at that mirrored
reflection, stares about wildly, and with maniacal yell bolts for the
To intercept this rash break, Pierre grasps his son about the waist,
throwing him heavily upon the stone floor. Paul's writhing twists
cannot loosen that hold. His muttering threats and curses move not
Pierre's stern resolve. Frothing at the lips, Paul struggles
desperately. He attempts to yell, but his voice weakens into gurglings.
The neck relaxes and he sinks back unconscious.
Pierre loosens his hold. Bending over, he feels the pulse. Pressing
his ear upon Paul's breast, he listens for heartbeats. Such look of
blank despair and awful groan!
There is a noise on the stairs. Pierre heeds it not. He gazes at his
son, his sight darkens, and bewildering rumblings are heard. Pierre
gropes about blindly, stumbling across Paul's unconscious form.
The knocking grows louder, then the catch is forced, and five
uniformed officials crowd through that cellar door.
CHAPTER XXII. SIR DONALD'S FIND
All seems calm at Northfield. Frictionless domestic appointments
hint not the sentient pulsing of care.
Surrounded by every comfort, the idolized recipient of fatherly and
brotherly attentions, Esther grows still more pensive. Many surprises
are planned for her diversion. Esther tries hard to be pleased, but it
is apparent that her thoughts are elsewhere.
Servants patrol the Northfield mansion grounds. There are daily and
nightly watches along the shores of the lake. London communications
report no changes in Lanier habits. Pierre seldom leaves that cellar
room. Paul keeps up his night tableaus on the Thames.
To some vigorous suggestions of Charles, Sir Donald replies: It is
not prudent to hasten any crisis. Immature exposure would be unwise.
None of the circumstances of this strange infatuation are legally
conclusive of Lanier guilt. Without more direct proofs, such cogent
evidence would not be even admissible.
How establish the 'corpus delicti'? Granted that either Oswald or
Alice had been murdered, Paul's significant craze is legally
irrelevant. Other bodies may have found quietus in Thames depths.
The facts in possession of London bureau are incompetent to
establish guilty connivance of either Lanier in any crime except those
assaults on the Dodges in Calcutta.
Though morally certain that these were prompted through fear of
Dodge revelations, yet missing links render Lanier disguises, with
suggestive craft and crazes, judicially meaningless.
Aided by proof of either death and by sworn evidence of William
Dodge, all irrelevant, circumstantial happenings would become
powerfully coherent. I am sure of both, but can prove neither. I would
stint neither labor nor cost to procure competent evidence of Alice
Webster's death at the hands of Paul Lanier. Without other
justification than yet afforded, I may not betray the Dodge confidence.
No motive shall prompt disclosures as to Oswald Langdon.
However, there need be no present qualms about concealment in the
Dodge matter. Upon trial of either Lanier for murder of Alice Webster,
neither Esther nor I would be heard to testify about the Dodge
confession. This is inadmissible hearsay. In an action against these
three villains growing out of that vile conspiracy to coerce this
unhappy girl into an obnoxious marriage, the Paris hospital confession
might be admissible, but such reckoning now would be purposeless.
The only way is to continue present shadowings and defensive
precautions, while awaiting some decisive clews to missing links in
this elusive chain.
Sir Donald's conscience is not clear as to this waiting game. The
risk to innocent parties from Paul's crazed fancies and murderous
tendencies is serious, while any possible disclosures are uncertain.
There is danger that Paul's passionate tempers may involve him in some
altercation. Such might result in his death.
Then Oswald Langdon's vindication would be remotely doubtful, and
Esther's hopesthere always is a break at this point in Sir Donald's
To either follow or abandon present tactics is dangerous. It weighs
upon Sir Donald's troubled consciousness that on his chosen line of
action hangs Esther's hopes, with this contingent menace.
An unexpected incident checks Esther's growing pensiveness.
Sir Donald has become more worried. It seems impossible to divert
his daughter's mind from the sorrowful infatuation.
Revolving in his troubled thoughts ways to relieve these despondent
moods, Sir Donald is returning from a trip to the station. There seems
no alternative but to await the uncertain issues of Lanier exposures.
His horse shies at a moving bush by the roadside. A scared face peers
through the foliage. With impulsive kindness he stops and speaks
assuringly to this juvenile spy.
Losing her fright, the little girl takes a few steps toward the
smiling horseman, then stands shyly mute, awaiting more persuasive
Interested and charmed, Sir Donald dismounts, and fondling the
straggling curls, inquires about the little one's name, home, and age.
These are given with innocent candor, but Sir Donald is not familiar
with Just-Bessie-That's-All, or Granny. Having quite thorough
knowledge of places within several miles of Northfield, he never has
heard about the lane up by the meadow, down by the woods.
The little stranger has no apparent idea of what Papa or Mamma
signifies. Personal acquaintance seems limited to Granny and
Five years old next summer is quite definite. To the question,
How did my little Bessie get here? she looks scared, and replies,
Bessie hanged on!
Concluding that this four-year-old had clung to the rear of some
passing vehicle, and then dropped off, without the driver's knowledge,
Sir Donald will take her to his home and make proper inquiry for
Placing the hatless, barefooted tot before him on the spirited
horse, he is soon at the Northfield mansion.
The child eats ravenously. It is evident some considerable time
elapsed between that unbidden ride and queer find.
After a big meal, little Bessie climbs upon Sir Donald's lap and is
soon asleep. This pretty picture greets Esther and Charles on their
return from a lake stroll.
Esther's sympathies are aroused. She arranges the softest kind of a
cot in her own room. The downy spreads seem too heavy. Looking at the
portrait of Sister Edith, Esther's eyes glow with a peculiar light.
Having gently washed dirt-stains from the little hands, face, and
feet, Esther leads the way to where Sir Donald reluctantly deposits his
A load lifts from his heart. Temporary specific is found for that
persistent heartsickness. The remedy seems so natural. Recent Paris and
Calcutta retrospect chides his dullness of perception. He now fears
Granny may veto the treatment.
Esther does not sleep well. She makes too many inspections of that
cot. The stone-bruises on Bessie's feet may prove fatal! What can cure
the sun-browned face and hands? Suppose the child should roll off on
Two delicately embroidered handkerchiefs, saturated with healing
lotion, she bandages around those bruised soles. Tanned face and hands
are treated with other soothing liquid that does no harm. Chairs are
placed at sides and ends of the cot. Bessie is bottled in effective
blockade of cushioned upholstery.
A strange noise is heard. Intently watching the little sleeper,
Esther locates this vocal mystery. She fears Bessie's throat and lungs
The spreads do not fit. A strange impulse comes. It dilates her
vision. She trembles a little.
Looking through the open door, Esther sees the smiling portraits of
her mother and Edith. Both profiles approve her caprice. She softly
steps to a curtained alcove. There, in mahogany and curved-glass
wardrobe, are relics of sister Edith.
Esther selects some downy hand-embroidered silk and lace-fringed
spreads. These replace those covering that besieged cot.
With tremulous content she takes a long, approving look at Bessie
and extinguishes the light.
Straits of one self-banished outlaw are not dreamed of this night.
Indefinite perils and unmerited gallows' menace to this interesting
erstwhile suitor startle not love-loyal girlish fancy.
Little bruised feet, sunburnt face and hands, with straggling blond
curls, usurp such function.
There is rustle of wings and happy smiling of familiar faces! The
panorama concludes with vision of sleeping waif, upon love-beleaguered
cot, illumined by mystic halo, and some high-browed watchers, gazing
from child to maiden, uttering strangely significant speech about one
of the least of these.
Upon the next morning both Sir Donald and Esther rise late. Bessie
still sleeps. With some doubt Esther leads her father to the cot. She
is not quite sure about that quilt episode.
Sir Donald gazes at the child, and his eyes grow lustrous. Stooping
down, he kisses the baby brow. Giving Esther a querulous smile, he
returns to the library.
* * * * *
Weeks have passed since the arrival of Bessie at Northfield. Sir
Donald made conscientious inquiry for Granny. No one knows the
child's antecedents. Bessie can furnish no clearer clews to her
identity. She is happy in her new home. Many little surprises for the
pleasure of Bessie are planned by the generous Esther. Interest in
childish whims is so genuine as to check pensive, abstracted moods.
These ministrations revive drooping spirits. Bessie's eccentricities
become Northfield household tonic.
Commenting on this change to Esther, Sir Donald says: Relaxed
emotional tension and less concentrated musings permit more hopeful
view and brighter horoscope. I now feel greatly relieved. This generous
disposition of yours I now regard as acme of human dower. Its Paris and
Calcutta whims once seemed pretty symptoms of harmless infatuation. I
am now impressed with the mystic coherence of detached coincidents.
There is ever-widening horizon to that which 'cometh without
Charles Randolph is in London. Much interested in the issue of
Lanier action, Charles chafes under long delays. He so earnestly had
tried to cheer Esther by favorable comments upon the conduct of Oswald
Langdon and by hopeful words about early vindication as to become a
most zealous advocate.
As neither Lanier knew Charles, Sir Donald consented that he visit
Charles called at detective headquarters. Through his father's
recommendation he was taken into full confidence. He assumed a disguise
and shadowed the Laniers. Both at that basement room and upon the
Thames he noted Lanier crafty shifts and fearfully significant crazes.
Soon after reaching London, Charles became much interested in a
middle-aged gentleman and a young lady who sometimes dined together at
the same hotel where he was stopping. His diary tells its own story:
Both have most serious, refined manners, and talk little except
with each other. There seems to be some near relationship between them,
but just what, I cannot determine. Occasionally the girl dines alone.
Each has a low, well-modulated voice. It seems to me that there is
restraint in their speech.
The man has a dissemblingly observing glance, and while apparently
unconcerned, notes all. The girl's face wears an expression of sad yet
almost hopeful pensiveness.
I rarely have seen so striking a girlish face. Such finely molded
features with mobile lights and shades suggest romantic interest. It
seems to me that this beautiful, pensive young woman is capable of both
deathless devotion and much zeal in any fixed resolve.
That her companion is no common mortal I clearly see. However, this
impressible young man is most concerned with feminine traits.
It dawns upon me that both are aware of my presence. There is an
almost imperceptible feigning of unconcern. Occasionally their eyes
exchange significant glances, followed by commonplace remark or quiet
It seems to me that there is coincidence in dining-hours. These
people never precede, but almost invariably follow my appearance in the
dining-room. At rare intervals I have detected interest in their
observations of my table locality. The girl has slightly colored at my
guarded admiring glances, and seemed nervously affected.
Averse to needless or indiscreet notoriety at this particular time,
I refrain from inquiry. Much as antecedents and purposes of these
people interest me it will not be wise to risk vocal curiosity. I feel
not only the restraints of good breeding, but of the situation. The
Lanier exposures may be not even remotely hampered by sentimental
interest in this young woman with most potent suggestions of a romantic
I resolve to dismiss this subject from further thought. I will
devote my whole time clearing up the Thames tragedy. This resolution is
not so easy to carry out. That fascinating, pathetically mobile face
confronts my inner vision. It seems to invoke sympathy and help in some
Such claims not lightly may be disregarded. Intangible verities are
Even when spying upon Paul Lanier's crazed performances, I often am
startled by reflection of that other face with its questioning pathos
of mute appeal.
There has been a break in these regular nightly tableaus. Paul
fails to appear. For some reason this insane actor abandons his
accustomed river pantomimes. This is reported at headquarters. I wonder
what has occurred to cause the change. Close watch of Lanier movements
makes it certain that Paul left the cellar room, but had not returned.
I spent most of the night along the river, but Paul did not appear.
At the office there is much curiosity, but it is thought probable
that upon the following night Paul will resume his fearful infatuation.
He again fails to appear. An employe is sent to Northfield.
I am absorbed in this unexpected change from Lanier habits. It is
reported that Pierre knows not of his son's whereabouts. The older
Lanier had gone out disguised in search of Paul. He had spent all of
the previous night along the river-banks. Another day and night pass.
Pierre has made inquiries at police headquarters for any news of
I now recall seeing neither of those interesting strangers within
the last three days. I wonder if they really are gone. Perhaps I have
been so much absorbed in disappearance of Paul Lanier as not to observe
Upon reflection this is impossible. The sight of that sorrowful
face would have riveted my attention. I would have noted the
suggestive, dissembling, observing unconcern of her companion.
There seems connection between the disappearance of these and that
of Paul Lanier. The thought is startling. I now see some sure relation
between the conduct of these strangers and the Lanier case. Such
erratic conviction is most illogical, but positive. It is one of those
I am sitting in my room at the hotel. It is the fourth night after
Paul's last crazed performance upon the Thames. I see no natural or
logical coherence between Paul's disappearance and that of these
interesting strangers, but cannot free myself from this queer
conviction. I am feeling an uneasy sense of the mysterious. What is
transpiring at Northfield?
There is a timid tap! Going to the door, he is surprised to see a
veiled female figure. The woman steps into the room.
Making a hurried, nervous apology for her strange conduct, she urges
Charles to go home without delay. There may be danger to those you
Much mystified and alarmed by such unlooked-for warning, he begs for
an explicit statement.
The reply rebukes him.
Is it not enough that I come to warn you? Must I explain private
matters? Would I come thus without good reason? Why not act promptly
and ask no questions?
These hurried interrogatories are both command and appeal. Charles
promptly apologizes, giving assurances that he will at once heed her
warning. In persuasive tones he asks:
May I see you again?
The answer comes:
Possibly. I must decide that.
Without further word, this visitor passes out.
Making sudden preparations, Charles calls a cab and is soon at the
station. In a few minutes more he is on the way to Northfield.
The substance and manner of this warning were mysteriously
suggestive. Doubtless the veiled disguise was to avoid identification
or some personal complications. This woman must know something about
the Thames tragedy. There is relation between her strange visit and
Paul Lanier's disappearance. Paul is surely in the neighborhood of
Charles is convinced that this visitor is one of the interesting
strangers he so often has seen in the hotel dining-room. He recalls
reported former mysterious shadowings at Calcutta and along the Thames.
That spying upon the Laniers at the cellar room comes vividly to mind.
How strange those declamatory utterances in hearing of his father and
Esther, along shore of the lake. Northfield loved ones must be in
imminent danger to prompt such warning.
This brooding mystery grows fearfully fascinating. It nerves Charles
to intense resolve. He longs for opportunity to strike some decisive
blow. Is there time to protect those at home from impending peril? The
urgent warning seemed to imply that dispatch is essential and may yet
The thundering train moves too slowly. It seems ages before his
destination is reached. Rushing from the car, Charles soon procures a
horse, and digging the spurs into sides of the animal, gallops
At the entrance to Northfield mansion grounds his horse shies at a
prostrate body just inside the gate.
Dismounting, Charles is startled at an upturned bloody face. He
recognizes one of the household servants. The body is yet warm.
Charles is soon upon the porch. The door is locked. Passing around
beneath his father's room windows, he finds these closed. Through lace
drapings of Esther's room, he sees glimmer of a light. All outside
doors are securely fastened. He is completing circuit of the house,
when a rope is seen dangling from a second-story window. Grasping this,
Charles pulls hard. It is attached to some immovable object in the
upper hallway. He pauses, puzzled, then says: An exit has been
planned, but how was the entrance effected? Some one passed into the
house through that hall window, and probably now lurks within. Perhaps
all within have been murdered!
Charles ascends the rope and enters the hallway. In the dim
moonlight he sees a rod with hook attached. This is flexibly adjusted
to the rope and drawn across lower window-casings.
Comprehending at a glance the method of entrance, he noiselessly
passes along the hall and winding aisles into a room next that occupied
by Esther. The connecting door is open. Glancing at the reflecting
surface of a mirror, Charles is stupefied with horror. He staggers to
Knife in hand, Paul Lanier is bending over the sleeping Bessie.
[Illustration: RAPTLY GAZING AT THE CHILD'S INNOCENT FACE, PAUL
SOFTLY CROONS SOME CRADLE MELODY.]
Charles raises his loaded pistol, taking aim. The finger pressing
lightly responsive trigger seems paralyzed.
Raptly gazing at the child's innocent face, Paul softly croons some
cradle melody. Oblivious to all hazards, unmoved by murderous craze
prompting this night attempt upon lives of Northfield foes, Paul gently
mutters a childhood refrain, thereby seeking to lull fancied
wakefulness of this sleeping waif, of whose existence until then he had
Still standing at the open door, with cocked pistol aimed at this
crazed outlaw, Charles trembles violently. The sight and Paul's words
unnerve his will.
The child moves upon her cot, talking disconnectedly.
Please, Granny, don't cry! Bessie hanged on!
Esther partially awakens. Vacantly gazing at the cot, she slumbers
Paul furtively looks about. Glaring at Esther, he moves toward the
open door, stops, and then inspects his bloody knife. Muttering, Paul
tiptoes back to Bessie's cot.
Again Charles raises his pistol, ready to fire.
Like robed priest upon ordained human sacrifice, Paul gazes at this
dreaming four-year-old. Gently drawing the blade across his
finger-tips, he sighs deeply. With low moan and gestured dissent, Paul
again sheathes the knife. Moving away rapidly, by Charles, through
adjoining room, he unerringly retraces his way to the hall window.
Descending the pendent rope, Paul disappears in the darkness.
In explanation, Charles afterward said: No one but me witnessed
this scene. I followed Paul to the window and witnessed his descent. To
have slain this outlaw would have been easy. Only to save life would I
take this responsibility. Sight of any Northfield sleeper under Paul's
uplifted knife would have nerved me to unerring shot. However, too much
had been said about the necessity of Lanier exposures for reckless
attack upon Paul. This worthless life is too valuable for inconsiderate
squandering. Upon its precarious, oft-jeopardized tenure hang potent
issues and kindred weal.
I called one of the laborers upon the premises. Together we carried
into a small building the lifeless form found at entrance to the
The dead man had been repeatedly stabbed. From his torn clothing
and Paul's bloody, dirt-begrimed appearance, it was evident there had
been a fierce struggle. This servant was surprised and assaulted while
I did not awaken any of the family. It was not thought prudent to
follow Paul. At such dark hour the craft of this madman would elude
Paul had entered the house to slay his enemies, and was restrained
only by sight of Bessie. This surprise had diverted his murderous
thoughts, thereby saving the lives of father and Esther.
Charles and his assistant remain on guard until morning. It is not
much feared that Paul will return that night, but they take
Sir Donald rises early. He is greatly surprised at seeing Charles in
the library. The night's experiences are graphically narrated. Sir
Donald is profoundly moved. That London warning is mysterious. Murder
of the faithful servant grieves him sorely. Paul's queer entrance
evinces strange cunning. That this madman with bloody knife unhindered
had entered Esther's room, and only by merest, unaccountable, crazed
caprice was diverted from his murderous purpose, is too horrible for
To allay his father's fears requires repeated assurances from
Charles that both Esther and Bessie are safe. Sir Donald clings to his
son's arm for support. Again looking proudly at Charles, he fondles
this smiling youth, and excitedly hails him Savior of Northfield!
Charles restrains his father from calling Esther and Bessie.
It will be better not to say anything about Paul's entering the
house. It would worry sister.
Servants are called, and the dead body is moved to a vacant building
some distance from the mansion grounds. After official inquiry into the
cause of death, the deceased is buried.
Sir Donald feels conscious-smitten. To Charles he says: This life
has been sacrificed to promote Esther's welfare. In pursuance of
questionable tactics and furtherance of doubtful ends one death just
has occurred. That many others have not been chronicled is surprising.
Looking at Esther and Bessie, gratitude for their preservation from
Paul Lanier's murderous knife is blended with grief for the dead
servant and an insistent sense of indirect, personal accounting.
Selfish, exclusive Randolph tactics always have failed. That our
beloved Esther has not fallen a victim to her father's deliberate
precautions resulted mainly from accidental finding of a juvenile human
estray, without known guardian or antecedents. Even that mysterious
warning was far more availing for fireside defense than my fatherly
solicitude and protecting care. Nothing but a strange, crazed diversion
restrained that blood-stained dagger. But for that, your unerring aim
would have been too late.
I am now resolved that this insane wretch no longer shall menace
human life. Lanier exposures must abide safe public interests. It now
seems criminally imbecile longer to permit this madman to jeopardize
lives of so many. Even Paul Lanier's own existence demands his
detention in a madhouse.
Sir Donald determines that on the following day he will insist upon
Paul's arrest. Only formal official inquiry as to the death of the
servant prevents him taking the first train for London. This disposed
of, the trip is made upon the following day.
Going to detective headquarters, Sir Donald is admitted to the
chief's room. This man of many shifts is but coldly courteous. He
awaits Sir Donald's explanations without interruptions. The whole
tragic affair is explained, but there is no responsive suggestion.
Sir Donald urges the necessity of Paul's arrest and detention.
The chief is strangely reticent.
Sir Donald looks at him inquiringly, then detects a sneering
expression. Waiting for some response, he is silent for a few moments.
Rising with dignity, Sir Donald moves toward the door. This unfeigned
resentment convinces the chief that there is a mistake. Sir Donald
Randolph has not been playing double. The indignant pathos of that
honest face precludes dissembling. Hastening to apologize for his
error, the chief informs Sir Donald that both Pierre and Paul Lanier
are in custody.
This morning the arrests were made, but without coöperation of our
Paul has been at Northfield. He haunted the shores of the lake. Our
employe sent from London saw Paul lurking in the woods, and followed
him to a steep ravine. Here Paul vanished. The spy waited, screened by
some bushes, expecting to see him again. This watch was continued until
Paul did not appear upon the following day. The employe returned to
London and reported. About same hour the watcher assigned to duty in
neighborhood of the Lanier room saw Paul go down the basement stairs.
This was after four in the morning. Neither Lanier left the room that
day or the following night.
Charles did not report to the office, and we could not locate him
anywhere in London. It was thought that Paul had been at Northfield,
but attempted no violence, and that moved by some insane influence he
had returned to London.
Awaiting Northfield advices and Charles' appearance, the agency was
dumfounded at news that both Laniers had been arrested. It occurred
about eight o'clock this morning. We are not yet advised as to the
causes for this unexpected move. The matter is being investigated.
Because of Charles' disappearance without notice, and these
unaccountable arrests, we believed that you were in league with other
parties to bring about Lanier accounting for their many crimes.
It was known that a veiled woman called upon Charles the night he
left London. After the arrests it had been rumored that Charles left
London for Northfield on the night of this mysterious call and did not
return. This female stranger and a middle-aged man were often together,
and shadowed the Laniers. Our agency employes kept close watch of that
spy who witnessed Paul's Thames crazes, and from his alley window
overlooked the basement entrance. He had been followed and repeatedly
seen with this male companion. That both the man and woman boarded at
the same hotel where Charles stopped had been discovered. This spy
sometimes called there. Charles had said nothing about these
circumstances, and, we suspected, did not care to confide in the
The manner of Lanier arrests strongly confirmed our suspicions that
some independent procedure was being pressed, with your knowledge and
I was indignant at such supposed double-dealing. Strenuous,
untiring efforts for years have been made to unravel this Lanier web.
The agency dealt frankly with you, and is entitled to like treatment.
You always insisted on caution and against premature action. The trials
and convictions of these villains for double murder of Alice Webster
and Oswald Langdon were not to be hampered by any other criminal issue.
Taking into consideration all of these facts, your sudden change of
purpose and advocacy of Paul's immediate arrest seemed the climax of
Believing that you were cognizant of all that had been done and
procured the arrests, your report of recent Northfield incidents still
further nettled me. To advise immediate arrests already made at your
instigation was insulting effrontery. This apparently hypocritical talk
intensified my suspicions into positive conviction of your deceit. Now
I am sure there is a mistake somewhere. All of us are victims to
counter-purposes of mysterious allied agencies.
Sir Donald saw the force of these explanations. He excused all as
natural to the circumstances.
Both discussed the arrests in many possible and probable bearings.
It was concluded that these bore relation to those before made in
Calcutta. They can only wait. The mystery will soon clear.
For a while at least there will be no danger from Paul's murderous
mania. If these outlaws again are released, Sir Donald will procure
Paul's detention as a madman. He will stay a few days in London, ready
for any emergency.
Though Paul is in close confinement, securely ironed, Sir Donald
feels uneasy for the safety of Esther and Bessie. He sends for them and
Charles. They join him in London. All find accommodations at the hotel
where Charles had stopped.
The family and Bessie are seated in the dining-room. Soon those
interesting strangers slowly enter and take seats at a near table, not
appearing to notice the Randolph group. The woman faces Sir Donald and
Esther, but keeps her eyes cast down, coloring deeply. Her companion
notes the gossiping shades, but appears unconcerned. It is evident that
without looking at any person in particular, he critically surveys
those staring in that direction.
Esther is pale and tremulous with excitement. Sir Donald's view has
been riveted upon that same fascinating face; he longs for a look at
those downcast eyes; the outlines and expression are familiar.
Fine, glossy, raven-black hair is combed in profusion over brow and
temples, but to him the disguise is apparent. An upward glance reveals
that her identity is suspected. Esther's concentrated, startled stare
and Sir Donald's look of recognition cannot be misunderstood. Charles
sees that there is some strange discovery pending. From Esther and Sir
Donald he looks inquiringly to that other troubled, flushed face.
The object of such combined curiosity casts an appealing glance at
her companion, then quickly rising, leaves the dining-room.
Waiting for a few moments, the man, slowly and with no appearance of
Sir Donald briefly hesitates, then abruptly quits the table.
Stepping to the stairway, he sees the man ascending. Calling to him,
Sir Donald craves an interview upon very important business.
With show of hesitation and vexed impatience, the stranger answers,
Sir Donald ascends, and begging pardon for his abrupt manners, says:
If I am not mistaken, the young lady who just left the table in
such distress is supposed to be dead.
The man looks blank.
Years ago she was reported drowned in the Thames.
Sir Donald sees that he is right.
Her name is Alice Webster.
Raising his hand appealingly, the stranger beckons Sir Donald to
follow. They enter a room at the extreme rear of the building. It
connects with one adjoining. This door is quickly closed. Offering Sir
Donald a seat at the farther side, the stranger asks him to speak in
Comprehending that the woman is in the other room and that her
companion desires her not to hear their talk, Sir Donald does as
I am overjoyed that Alice is alive.
Why? is the brief response.
Sir Donald hesitates; then cautiously replies:
For many reasons.
Realizing that this man is craftily fencing against some hazard, Sir
Donald will await more definite disclosures.
The stranger perceives this. He must confide in Sir Donald, and
thereby secure his aid.
Suppose it should prove that you are right, what then?
We all would be too happy, is the guarded reply.
Would you and your family keep such knowledge secret until we
consented to its publicity?
Here Sir Donald judiciously temporizes.
No light consideration would prompt any of us to oppose your
wishes. However, to save an innocent person from suspicion of murder or
to promote the happiness of some loved one, I would tell all.
The stranger here looks puzzled.
I cannot grasp your meaning. Who is suspected of murder? Whose
happiness could be promoted by such disclosures?
Sir Donald is now sure that this man knows nothing of the facts
prompting these reservations.
Alice Webster and Oswald Langdon are supposed to be dead. Alice is
alive and now in the adjoining room. Paul Lanier committed the assault.
Pierre Lanier has defrauded Alice out of a large estate. She is alive
and interested in recovery of the property. I would do all in my power
to aid her. Against any breaches of confidence I decline to make
pledges. The time and money I have spent to right her wrongs show my
sincerity. What assurances should you require that I will not betray
this poor, long-suffering girl?
The stranger seems affected by Sir Donald's positive speech and
honest look. He is silent for a few moments, then rises and tells Sir
Donald that what has been said will be considered.
I doubt not we can arrive at some friendly understanding. If
desired I will meet you here this evening at eight. It will not be
necessary to suggest that nothing be said about our conversation.
Sir Donald promises to call at the appointed hour.
Esther and Charles were in her room. Neither felt further table
interest after this morning's surprise. Esther had told her convictions
to Charles, and he was much elated. By turns she looked scared and
joyous. With much impatience both awaited their father's return.
His report excites them still more. The time between morning and
that evening appointment seems very long.
It is now sure that in some mysterious way Alice Webster escaped
death at the hands of Paul Lanier. This simplifies all. Oswald Langdon
needs no longer wander. That heavy load of fatherly care is about to
lift forever. Esther's troubles will vanish. Storm-clouds will cease to
lower over the Randolph fireside.
Only fear that through some fateful perversity he might lose the
opportunity of seeing Alice and of clearing up this vexing affair
nerved Sir Donald to such abrupt manners. This was an emergency in
which decorum would be imbecile. What if these now escape? Possibly
this cautious, far-seeing man may advise Alice to deny her identity or
to remain in seclusion. There may be good reasons why the girl should
seek to avoid scandal.
Sir Donald will take every precaution to prevent their escape. He
suggests these thoughts to Charles, and they are on guard. Both watch
outside entrances to the hotel.
Neither the girl nor man appears at either meal. This further
arouses suspicion. Just after dark a man and woman pass out of the side
hall door. Charles follows them. The two move rapidly down the street.
Charles crosses to the opposite side and keeps them in view. For some
distance this line of action is pursued. They enter a passing cab, and
This move is bewildering. Sir Donald is now aroused. He will keep
this appointment, and if the stranger fail to appear, take decisive
steps. He has seen Alice Webster, and would swear to her identity. This
pair shall be traced, and the facts be given publicity. He will write
to Oswald Langdon that Alice is surely alive. He sends Charles to
detective offices with advices for the shadowing of these runaways.
He makes the appointed call. The other is there, receiving him
courteously. His presence mystifies Sir Donald. It is impossible that
this man could have gone out and returned.
The stranger opens with the remark:
I talked the matter over with the girl, and she is undecided.
Sir Donald responds, About what?
She does not understand what you mean by your references to some
one who may be suspected of murder and to some loved one whose
happiness might be promoted by disclosures.
Sir Donald replies:
These are matters I will not discuss further.
The man irritably responds:
Then we decline to talk any more upon the subject. You are welcome
to your delusion.
Here Sir Donald grows indignant.
Alice Webster is alive and subject to your control. Through your
advice she has left this house, intending to evade discovery. You are
both watched. I know facts which would overjoy Alice. I may not confide
them to either until her identity is confessed and her conduct
explained. I have no desire to reveal a single fact about her escape
from the Thames or her strange concealment, until she can be protected.
I doubt not Alice feels regrets for the past. It is positively known
that she had nothing to do with the assault upon Oswald Langdon. An
eye-witness to this crime saw Alice and Oswald both fall into the
river. Fully confide in me, and I will aid you in recovery of the big
estate taken from Alice by Pierre Lanier. Do this without explicit
pledges of any kind. I make no promises.
The stranger hesitates.
If we are to tell you all, why do you refuse us your confidence?
Sir Donald replies:
When the existence of Alice Webster is clearly proven, and her
strange disappearance accounted for, I will explain what you ask.
There is a long pause. The stranger looks into Sir Donald's face
fixedly, then grasping his hand, says:
I will trust you implicitly. We will now find my niece.
The two pass out, down the stairs, and upon the street. The stranger
beckons to a cabman. In about half an hour they stop in front of an
inn. Giving the driver instructions, the stranger leads the way to a
door, which he unlocks. Both enter, and Sir Donald is left with
assurance that the man soon will return.
In about fifteen minutes Alice Webster appears, followed by this
male enigma. She looks scared and greatly confused.
Sir Donald advances, and with courtesy says:
I am happy to see you, Alice!
The girl stammers and sinks back on the sofa. She soon becomes
calmer, and presents her uncle, Thomas Webster.
After a few remarks, the uncle leaves Sir Donald and Alice alone.
Seeing Alice's embarrassment, Sir Donald kindly says:
I have not the least criticism of your conduct, Alice. Tell me all,
and I will be your friend. It has turned out gloriously!
Thus encouraged, the girl begins her strange recital.
How years before, with Oswald Langdon, she took the night row on the
Thames, strolled along the river-bank, and chatted at the rustic seat,
is brokenly described. The assault and fall of both into swollen stream
are shudderingly explained. Alice pauses.
Must I tell the rest?
Sir Donald speaks assuringly.
They hear suppressed murmurs at outside entrance to the hallway.
Thomas Webster goes to the door. Three men are in sight. One inquires
for Sir Donald Randolph.
It is important that we see him at once.
Alice still pauses.
Hurriedly her uncle enters. He advises Sir Donald to see these
callers without delay.
Going to the hall door, Sir Donald recognizes Charles, who explains
their unceremonious call.
I went as directed to the detective office and reported. After some
little time employes who had shadowed that Thames spy arrived. These
expressed the opinion that the couple who left the hotel were the girl
and this same mysterious watcher, and that they went directly to this
inn. The strange spy often had gone there, presumably to report. These
two employes and I took a cab to the hotel where we have stopped. We
there learned that you and a middle-aged man a short time before
entered a cab and were driven away. Then we believed that the two had
gone to this inn. To circumvent any escape or trick upon you, I then
insisted on finding you without delay. We have just arrived and will do
as you think advisable.
Sir Donald stepped back into the room and briefly explained to
Thomas Webster what had occurred. They decided it would be better not
to tarry longer. On the next day Alice could finish her story. These
detective employes need not further trouble themselves in this matter.
Scandal easily could be avoided. The next day, at three o'clock, Alice
and her uncle would meet Sir Donald at his hotel, and she would tell
all. Sir Donald would return with Charles and the detectives.
Bidding the two good-night, Sir Donald, Charles, and the detectives
return at once to the hotel. Cautioning these sleuths still to shadow
this pair and report, Sir Donald and Charles join Esther, who, with the
sleeping Bessie in her arms, has been awaiting their return.
These talk over the probable facts of this strange romance, and
agree that whatever may have been her conduct, they will befriend
Alice. The poor girl doubtless suffered greatly. What sorrowful
memories were suggested by that sad face! All soon will be cleared.
Oswald Langdon now may return without shame. Esther's eyes are
tearfully luminous; Charles looks proudly expectant; over Sir Donald's
fascinating features settles a gravely wistful smile.
Triple content concentrates in mute benediction upon curly head of
baby tramp, dreaming unspeakable mysteries upon the arm of Esther.
CHAPTER XXIII. A STRANGE STORY
The appointed meeting takes place. Alice still is nervous.
Though her uncle had spoken most assuringly, she shrinks from the
ordeal. Only through repeated assurances, much prompting, and many
questions upon the part of Sir Donald is the strange story told.
At the rustic seat on the river-bank, Oswald and I talked over my
troubles. I was overcome at thoughts of the dark outlook. Oswald tried
to comfort me. Perhaps our conduct was indiscreet, but I alone am to
Here Sir Donald's curiosity is quickened, but he refrains from
question or comment.
Hurriedly passing over this point, Alice tells of having suddenly
risen and stepped with suicidal intent toward the bank. There was
nothing any longer in life for me. Oswald must have perceived my
impulse, as he sprang between me and the stream.
Using some harsh language about Paul Lanier, I begged Oswald not to
forsake me. Just then a man came from behind a bush. Before time to
warn Oswald, a blade gleamed in the moonlight. At almost the same
moment I was stunned by a blow on the head, and lost all consciousness.
After an indefinite period I felt confused sensations, and awoke as
from a horrible dream. Some time elapsed before surroundings could be
discerned. Objects seemed evasive and bewilderingly unreal. The low
ceiling swayed up and down, back and forth. The candle glowed and
flickered, moving around, followed by table and chairs. Such a dreadful
sensation of helpless bewilderment! There were harsh janglings of
unnatural voices and glitter of fiendish eyes.
When again aroused, I felt a dull, painful stupor. Then objects
assumed distorted shapes, with wildly variegated tints, shrouded by
How long this continued I can only surmise. All my ideas were
confused. It seemed an age before any rational sense was felt. During
these terrible hours there was frequent recurrence of those harsh,
grating accents and repellent looks from sinister faces. Of these
experiences I can give no clearer account. The brain-pressure caused by
the temple blow produced queer sensations and frightful fancies.
Sir Donald listened with patient sympathy to these harrowing
details. Such might be irresponsive, but doubtless had been fearfully
real to Alice.
Thought of that terrible chapter in her life's history so affects
Alice as to cause almost hysterical emotion.
At length I felt a sense of quiet rest and relief. It seemed as
though we were again at Northfield. The air was musical with songs of
birds. Oswald and Esther were with me; Oswald was reading. A shadow
falls athwart the flower-fringed walk! I look up, and there stands Paul
Lanier, as at his other Northfield call, after return from India!
While looking at him with feelings of repulsion, the apparition
changes. We are on the lake, and I am remonstrating with Paul, who pays
no heed to my words. I speak more plainly and grasp his arm! Paul rises
and pushes me overboard!
I am on the shore with Oswald, you and Esther bending over me.
Oswald and I are at the rustic seat, standing on the river-bank.
Paul Lanier steps from behind a bush, takes a quick step, and strikes
me into the water!
The dream was so real that I awoke with a scream.
Now fully aroused, I see a dark form disappear from the low, open
door of the cabin. The sun is shining. I look around the poorly
furnished room. I am lying on a cot. There is but one window. How came
Trying to sit up, I am too weak, and the effort tires me. After
several minutes a scared, black face peers through the smoke-bedimmed
Slowly this colored woman enters the room. Her face relaxes into a
broadened grin. Showing two full sets of teeth, she stares as if
curious what to say.
'Law! chile, yo' scare Sarah Angeline mos' to def!'
I put out my hand.
The wench soothingly says:
'Don' be 'fraid of Sarah Angeline; she won't hurt yo', honey!'
I motioned the old woman to be seated.
With much show of sympathy old Sarah sat down by the cot.
I now asked where we were and how I came there.
She looked troubled, and replied:
''Deed, chile, I'se 'fraid to tell yo'! Dey mought hurt yo', honey,
an' beat po' ole Sarah Angeline moughty considerable!'
The sound of coarse voices is heard coming around the cabin.
Much excited, old Sarah raises her hand, whispering:
'Shut yo' eyes an' don' say nuffin'!'
There are four in the party now entering. From their voices I
detect that two are men and the others women. They pass into the other
room. I hear their talk, but cannot catch its drift.
I was too weak for strong purpose, and with presentiment of harm,
had no strength for resistance. I must have dozed. Old Sarah is now
arranging some things upon a small table at head of the cot. To my look
she soothingly says:
'Yo' needn't be 'larmed; dey's all gone 'way. Yo' bettah pahtuk of
some refreshments now. Dis tea an' toast moughty good for de s'port of
yo' 'feebled system.'
After partaking of the food, I felt tired and dizzy, and closing my
eyes, appeared to sleep. The old negress moved around the room,
muttering to herself. She gently placed her hand upon my brow, then
'Po' sick chile! Yo' white face 'minds me of my own Mandy Car'line
just 'fo' she died!'
Softly stroking back my hair over this bruised temple, old Sarah
'Suah some one struck yo' powerful hard! P'raps dis yere purty
chile 'fused his offah an' he fro' her in the ribbah.'
[Illustration: PO' SICK CHILE! YO' WHITE FACE 'MINDS ME OF MY OWN
MANDY CAR'LINE JUST 'FO' SHE DIED!]
In semi-conscious stupor and with faint sense of the meaning of
this talk, I dozed on.
'Dey would fo'sake yo', honey, and leave po' old Sarah Angeline,
'less I leaves yo' heah to die all 'lone by yo'self in the dark.'
I looked up into the black face bending over my cot.
'Good Lawd, chile, doan' yo' look that way at po' old Sarah
Angeline! Bress yo' heart, chile, I'se nevah gwine to fo'sake dis yere
white baby in her powerful trials and deep 'flictions'deed I won'
Then, fully conscious, I again asked where we were and how it all
happened. My recollections of that terrible night on the Thames seemed
shrouded with a bewildering haze.
The old black woman hesitated, shaking her head. Old Sarah for a
while was silent, and then yielded:
'Yo' po' sick chile, yo' knows Sarah Angeline can't 'fuse yo'
nuffin' when yo' mo' and mo' 'zembles my Mandy Car'line ebery bressed
minit, lookin' so pleadin' in her ole black mudder's eyes just 'fo' she
After many solemn warnings, 'nevah to say nuffin' to nobody, nevah,
nevah!' the old negress told all she knew about how I came to be at
this den in a London suburb.
There had been a robbery in the city. Suspicion fell on two rough
characters. These, with their girl companions, for several months had
occupied this same two-room cabin.
Old Sarah had been installed as housekeeper for the four, and
received quite good pay. She knew they were bad characters, but needed
the money for her children and invalid husband, living in the same
The four had been up the river, and were returning downstream. They
saw two persons sitting near the bank. Fearing that these were spies
upon their track, the men permitted the boat to drift past this point.
Both forms on the shore seemed to rise and stand. The four were now
past, a few rods downstream. They moved very slowly, all cautiously
looking at the two on the shore. Just then a third form was visible.
All saw a knife glisten in the moonlight, followed by a blow and
thrust. The two fell into the river, sinking out of sight.
The men quickly rowed toward the point of the stream where the
bodies sank. Several rods down something gripped one of the oars. A
face appeared above the water. The hands held that oar, until the girl
was drawn into the boat. Nothing was seen of the other who had fallen
into the stream.
Now convinced that these were not spies, the four rowed up and down
past this point, but seeing no signs, concluded to abandon the search.
With the girl lying unconscious in bottom of the boat, rowing
downstream for some distance, they landed on the opposite side of the
river. Efforts to revive her were successful, but she relapsed again
into an unconscious state.
The two men advised leaving her there, and that no one say anything
about what they had seen or done. They were suspected of this robbery.
This incident would make them notorious. The girl would die, anyhow.
This plan was about to be adopted when voices were heard down the
stream. The men, followed by the girls, rapidly bore me to an old,
abandoned shed, about one hundred rods from shore. Here all remained
until about three o'clock the next morning. As I was still alive, they
finally concluded it would be less dangerous to take me to their cabin.
Both girls favored this plan. The men were afraid to follow their own
impulses, depending upon secrecy of these fickle-minded females. The
four, with their load, reached the cabin just before daylight. Old
Sarah let them in, and was cautioned to say nothing, under penalty of
I had remained here over a week, in charge of this kind-hearted old
negress, being nearly all this time in a seemingly comatose state, with
only brief spells of semi-consciousness. No physician had been called,
as these bad characters wished to avoid notoriety. London papers had
referred to the deaths by drowning or murder of Oswald Langdon and
Alice Webster. These two highwaymen dreaded any mention of their names
in such connection. Old Sarah kept their secret, for fear of losing her
position and of personal violence.
At times my chances of recovery had been doubtful. I had been
delirious, but most of the time lay in a stupor. What to do with me the
four could not devise. All dreaded an invasion by the police. They had
discussed the proposition to leave me in the cabin, the four quitting
London for some distant city, the men going first singly, the two girls
following later. Still they feared that old Sarah would inform the
police, as she had overheard this talk, and was much distressed about
losing her job. It then was proposed that the five take some other
house, and abandon me to my fate.
To this old Sarah vigorously objected, and said:
'I'se nevah gwine to fo'sake dat po' sick white baby who 'minds me
so powerful much of my own little Mandy Car'line just 'fo' she j'ined
de angel band!'
This settled that proposal.
Revolving in their minds many schemes to dispose of me and of the
colored woman, the two robbers could not think of any safe plan. Too,
they feared that these girls might confess. They threatened and
flattered the negress, who said nothing in reply.
The night before had been the worst. The four, drinking heavily,
lost their discretion. A loud quarrel ensued. One of the drunken brutes
staggered into the room where we were lying asleep. He stood there,
glaring first at one, then at the other. His actions aroused old Sarah,
who, springing up and grasping a large bottle standing on the shelf,
struck the besotted wretch such hard blow in the face that he fell
heavily upon the cabin floor. This created a commotion, causing a noisy
Old Sarah never flinched, but threatened to murder the first one
who touched 'dat po' sick, unfortunate chile, who has no kind mudder to
gib her good device, an' 'zembles my own little angel baby, Mandy
The girls were not so far gone as to have no fear of results. They
succeeded in getting these drunken villains into the other room. The
excited wench slammed the door and bolted it.
Through all this fuss I had not shown any signs of life, except
heavy breathing and slight moaning. The faithful old colored woman kept
watch until morning.
The four breakfasted late, and afterward went out singly.
Having finished her morning work, old Sarah returned to watch at
the cot. The poor old servant was feeling a sense of superstitious
dread. She had just turned away her face when I made that awful
In nervous, dramatic manner Alice related these experiences, with
old Sarah's account of what had happened. Memories of this eventful
period had shadowed after days and given somber hues to many dreams.
At breaks in the narrative Sir Donald made tactful suggestions,
courteously prompting its continuation. As to those parts which Alice,
through evident maidenly reserve, passed over hurriedly, he did not
urge more explicit recital. However, his suggestions evinced thorough
recollection of all that had been said and a tenacious hold on the
natural drift of the story.
Aided by Sir Donald's discreet suggestions, promptings, and
questioning, Alice continued her strange romance.
For several days nothing of much account occurred at that old
cabin. I suffered from peculiar pains in the head and confused
sensations, sleeping much, but having frightful dreams. During waking
hours my memory seemed almost blank, with only bewildering hints of
events. Sleep was dreaded, as dreams again presented the awful past.
Time, place, and incidents were grossly distorted. Yet each day I grew
Slowly the brain-pressure relaxed. Dreams grew less fantastic. I
had more distinct memories. With returning strength and clearer
understanding of my condition came thoughts of past misfortunes. My
then helpless position was appalling. That for an indefinite period I
must be dependent upon the bounties of those depraved creatures who had
rescued me from the Thames current seemed horrible. The presence of
these I continually loathed and feared. It appeared fate's cruel decree
that I should escape Paul Lanier's murderous designs but to suffer this
prolonged, indefinite, loathsome danger. Yet such distress served to
check the despondent outlook of future years. I became anxious for some
Old Sarah was my only hope, but could not devise any plan to help
me. I studied that black, sympathetic face for inspiration. It seemed
that my mute appeals greatly pained her, but she could give only
high-sounding encouragement, while solemnly pledging everlasting
devotion to one who 'mo' and mo' 'zembles my own little bressed baby,
Mandy Car'line just 'fo' she died!'
After weeks of suspense, only the girls returned from night visits
to London scenes. They looked much depressed. Old Sarah was taken into
their confidence, and appeared greatly troubled. The next day both
girls moved, taking only articles of clothing, saying nothing as to
where they were going.
The old servant seemed much affected, but soon grew more cheerful.
She told me that these men had been arrested, charged with the robbery.
The girls suspected the police would come that day to search the cabin
for stolen stuff. They would go away, and old Sarah must keep quiet.
She was to claim as her own everything in the cabin. The four had been
only boarders, about whom she was to know nothing. As the price of her
secrecy she could keep everything in the rooms. There were sufficient
supplies for at least a month.
All this and much more old Sarah told me in a hysterical burst of
confidence. When entirely recovered, I could find my friends, and she
would go home to her family.
To me this unexpected turn was a great relief, and my
simple-hearted old benefactress grew quite hopeful.
The police raid did not occur. None of the four ever came back.
What became of these criminal suspects I never heard.
After a few weeks I was able to walk about the cabin. Determined
soon as possible to cease dependence upon this poor old servant who so
generously had befriended me in such need, I longed for speedy
recovery. Old Sarah seemed to dread the hour when her 'new baby chile'
would go away.
The colored woman indulged in much grief at our parting, bewailing
it as a fresh bereavement. She explained that Mandy Caroline was her
oldest child, and died at the age of twenty-four. Though having many
other children, it seemed to her that I was a heaven-sent substitute
for this lost daughter.
Sarah and her husband were slaves on a Georgia plantation before
the close of the American Civil War. They came to London as servants in
the family of an Englishman who had been traveling through the Southern
States. They afterward married in London.
The colored woman would not listen to any talk of future repayment,
but so pressed upon me the acceptance of a few small coins that I took
I had intended to go home and explain all, but felt much fear after
starting. How could my strange disappearance and long stay be
explained? What would be thought of my staying in this disreputable den
with criminals and social outcasts? To whom could appeal be made for
proof, but to this poor, old wench, who had been in the employment of
the four, two of whom are charged with highway robbery? Would not my
friends and acquaintances feel averse to further association with such
a person? They might suspect that both Oswald and I had practiced
deceit in our disappearances.
These thoughts overwhelmed me with an unbearable burden of doubt
and dread. I became confused and bewildered. My sense of London
locations grew hazy.
Calling to a passing 'coster,' I begged him to take me to some
He objected, but upon learning that I was sick and had lost my way,
In about an hour he stopped at a cozy little house. Helping me to
alight, he told me that lodging could be obtained there at reasonable
rates. He generously declined to accept payment for the ride.
I staggered into the hallway and sat down in a fainting condition
upon one of the stair steps. Still dizzy, with severe pains in the head
and sensations of nausea, I was shown a room.
The proprietor gazed at me with surprise. Seeing my weakness, he
Soon after, a servant called, but hearing that it was only a slight
attack, requiring quiet rest, disappeared.
After several hours, I awoke with a start. The proprietor's wife,
portly and sympathetic, stood staring in at the half-open door. She
eagerly accepted my stammering invitation to come in and be seated.
Seeing that I was weak and embarrassed, she refrained from questions as
to my name or connections. I gave prompt assurances that my
indisposition was not serious.
Soon a tempting meal was served. Following more sympathetic
suggestions, the kind-hearted lady withdrew.
Left alone, I, late into the night, thought over my perplexing
situation, but could not devise any plan of action. The only settled
conviction reached was not then to meet any friends or acquaintances,
but to await the clearing of the dark clouds.
In this extremity came thoughts of past rescues. How strange my
escapes from lake and river! Had not Paul Lanier's cruel malice been
thwarted? That black benefactress surely had been an angel of
deliverance from loathsome perils in London suburb. Perhaps I yet would
live to outwit the crafty Laniers. Surely there would be a way out of
these helpless, bewildering mazes.
For some time I remained at this inn, neither going upon the street
nor making inquiry. The landlady restrained all her curiosity as to my
past life and present distress. With motherly kindness she shielded me
from all questioning. I decided to leave London for some obscure
English town, and there seek employment. What to do was very
indefinite, but there must be something done.
As I barely had enough money to pay my bill, how to reach such a
place was an important problem. In my weak state this obstacle grew
more and more difficult. In desperation I was about to quit the inn
penniless, and look for work. I had paid and was ready to start out on
this hard search.
From a whispered talk with her husband the landlady returned, and
in a motherly way, placing one arm around me, slipped several small
coins into my hand. I was hesitating, when a carriage stopped in front
of the open door where we were standing.
Quickly stepping down, a well-dressed gentleman gave low-spoken
directions to the driver and entered the inn. With apparently
unconcerned look he surveyed those present, but was visibly interested
as I turned my face.
I tarried, between curiosity and dread of identification, but
became more confused, and started for the outside door. Bidding the
surprised landlady a hurried good-by, I passed out and down the street.
Having gone three blocks and paused at a corner, uncertain which way or
where to go, looking back I saw the same carriage which a short time
before stopped at the inn rapidly approaching.
I started on, and had gone only a few rods when the stranger
passed. He turned around, stared, and the carriage stopped.
The man stepped out, and coming up to me, in low, hurried tones
'Excuse my rudeness! You are Alice Webster! Don't you know your
Between recognition and shame at my strange conduct I stammered
some confused greeting.
Seeming to notice this painful embarrassment, uncle gently said:
'Do not worry, Alice. Your Uncle Tom is all right! Get into the
carriage, and we will go anywhere you say! You have something to tell
me, but take lots of time to tell it.'
Seeing my hesitation, he carelessly says:
'I will not take you home now, little girl.'
My fears allayed, I accepted the invitation. We took a long drive,
making many turns, uncle talking about the scenery, weather, and other
subjects, but never hinting at any explanation of my conduct. Once I
started to speak of what weighed upon my mind, but was silenced by:
'After a while, little girl; no hurry about that.'
The day was warm. Giving orders to stop at a park, Uncle Thomas
told me that we would take a stroll and have a confidential chat. When
seated under a tree in a secluded part of the grounds, he says:
'Now, Alice, tell Uncle Tom all your troubles. Make it just as bad
as possible. I like to hear thrilling stories from real life.'
Set at ease by this pleasant, insinuating bantering, I told all.
When speaking of my final determination neither to go home nor to meet
any old acquaintances, I hesitated to assign reasons for such course.
Uncle seemed to understand this, and at once said:
'No, you must not go home yet. We have much important work to do,
and must soon quit London. We would leave to-day but for a little
We then decided to stop at a secluded hotel, where identification
would be doubtful, and when Uncle Thomas finished that 'little matter'
would take a trip.
During several days I saw little of Uncle Thomas. He did not stay
at the hotel, but made brief daily visits. One evening he called, and
'How would my little girl like a sea voyage?'
I gleefully replied:
'That would be splendid!'
'Well, be ready to-morrow morning at seven. I will be here then.'
With these words he left.
Upon the next day Uncle Thomas appeared. Taking out of a
traveling-bag a pretty gown, neat jacket, and stylish hat, he told me
to put these on, comb my hair low over the temples, and wear a veil,
which was then produced.
I made the change, and the simple disguise was quite effective.
Uncle Thomas looked droll in old-fashioned long-tailed coat, ample
trousers, sorrel whiskers, and silk tile.
We took a closed carriage for the train, and in short time were on
our way to Southampton, where soon after passage was procured on an
ocean steamer for Bombay. Uncle Thomas had said nothing about his
plans; I was ready to go anywhere away from London, and would trust my
uncle's judgment implicitly.
He had suggested that I speak to no one on the train, at the wharf,
or aboard ship. This disguise should be kept up during the journey.
In the privacy of my cabin Uncle Thomas explained that he wished
our identity unknown, as persons were on the vessel whom it was
necessary for him to 'shadow.' To watch the movements of these was his
main reason for sailing so suddenly. Keeping track of them had been his
work for some time in London. Learning their intention to sail from
Southampton on this steamer, he had decided to take the trip. These had
come from London on the same train. They were booked for Calcutta, but
would land at Bombay.
Uncle Thomas was 'shadowing' two noted criminals. I must not be
inquisitive, but Uncle Tom would tell all about it at the proper time.
If on the voyage he appeared to neglect me, it would be to watch and
checkmate these cunning rascals. If any one acted strangely or seemed
to watch me, I was to appear unconcerned. He would take charge of the
clothes which I had worn at and since the Thames assault until our
departure from the London hotel.
Much impressed by uncle's precautions, I strictly observed them
during the whole voyage, never entered the dining-room, and rarely went
on deck. Meals were served in my cabin.
Uncle Thomas made many brief calls, speaking cheerily, but never
referring to his interesting watch. The few times I saw him on deck he
seemed not to know me.
Only once during the whole trip did it appear to me that Uncle
Thomas was alert.
A slim, dudish man, with close-cut, coal-black beard and heavy
mustache, carelessly passed by, but seemed to give some signal, simply
a slight backward turn of the wrist. Uncle turned abruptly and went
After a tedious voyage, we landed at Bombay.
Uncle Thomas had said that if possible he would secure private
rooms somewhere in the city.
From the landing this same dudish-looking man and two others went
away together. Then uncle and I left, and after some time found three
nicely furnished rooms in a private house, which we occupied during our
stay in Bombay.
At this point in the narrative Sir Donald grows eager, and looks at
the striking, flushed face of this beautiful girl with an admiring,
querulous stare. New light is dawning upon some reported occurrences in
that far Indian seaport. But it is apparent that Alice has grown weary
with the strain of recital.
Sir Donald suggests deferring further explanations for half an hour
while he attends to some small errands. Seeing Esther and Charles, he
tells them not to stay in on his account.
Promptly at the appointed time Sir Donald is back for the story's
In about a week after arrival at Bombay Uncle Thomas said:
'I have kept some things secret for fear of worrying you at a time
when you required rest and quiet. The sea voyage has done you much
good, and you are now strong enough to help me a little in my work.
While traveling through different countries at times I have been
engaged in detective employment. The job now on hand staggers me. I am
trailing two of the most adroit villains that ever committed crime.
Embezzlement, perjury, conspiracy, attempts to kill and murder are some
of the offenses these have committed. Perhaps you have heard their
names? Pierre and Paul Lanier.'
I gave a scream.
'Do not be alarmed, little girl! Uncle Tom will take good care of
Uncle Thomas had arrived in London a few days after the report of
Thames drownings was published. Careful inquiry into all the
circumstances made it clear to him that the Laniers killed both Oswald
Langdon and me. Aided by an assistant, he went to work on the case.
He and this man shadowed both Laniers and William Dodge at London.
Through this assistant was learned that a young woman, wounded nigh
unto death, had been rescued from the river by four disreputable
characters, and that for weeks she lodged in an old cabin, and only a
few days before left for her home in the city.
These facts had been related by an old colored woman who nursed the
girl back to life and shielded her from indignities attempted by one of
Feeling strong assurance that this girl might be his niece, he made
diligent search, going to numerous hotels and other places, but never
stating his purpose nor giving any hint of this settled conviction.
On the morning of my leaving the inn he learned that a costermonger
had found a young woman, sick and bewildered, who, having lost her way,
was taken by him to a public-house. He learned the man's name and home.
Finding him, the desired information was given. Rapidly driving to the
inn, he entered, and saw my embarrassment. After my hurried departure
he made some careless inquiry about an object of assumed interest, soon
left, and found me trying to evade identification by running away from
my own Uncle Tom.
He understood my reasons for not wishing to go home, and thought I
acted wisely. Uncle Thomas said:
'Alice, if you will be brave and help me, we will yet outwit those
'It will be hard for you at times, and most disgusting, but the aim
justifies the means. The big estate stolen from your father by Pierre
Lanier yet may be recovered, and perhaps both Laniers be brought to
strict account for the murder of Oswald Langdon. I will devote time and
money to this purpose, and need your help.'
To this generous appeal I could not be indifferent. While dreading
the thought of having anything to do with these cruel foes, refusal
would be base ingratitude. In fear I promised, but then had no idea of
such long, terrible mixing in future 'shadowings.' The fearful part I
was to play could not then have been clear to uncle's mind, but grew
out of the situation's intensely dramatic promptings and tragic power.
Through this same assistant who had helped keep watch of the
Laniers, Uncle Thomas was advised as to their conduct since arrival at
Bombay. This man had come from London and Southampton with them. He
lodged at the same hotel.
Paul freely spent money with a number of young fellows, who gave
him information about the wealthier people of the city.
Pierre and Paul were reported as very rich. They were seeking
acquaintance with wealthy Bombay families. Both had been invited to a
social function at the home of a prominent man.
Uncle Thomas said:
'Alice, the money Paul is spending rightfully belongs to you. This
red-handed wretch will try to marry some aristocratic heiress. How fine
to snare him into a trap!'
Then he suggested that with little difficulty I could assume an
'Your previous voice-culture will help out the ruse. The Laniers
doubt not that you are lying in the Thames. Neither Lanier knows me.
There may be a few people in Bombay who would recognize your Uncle Tom.
I will avoid such, and as a precaution assume a new disguise. Through
this assistant of mine I will acquire reputation of immense wealth. As
Sir Charles Chesterton, a bachelor and multi-millionaire I will soon be
an object of social interest. Much attention will be paid you as the
niece and heir of such a rich uncle. You will be known as Agnes
Randall. Thoroughly disguised and under these assumed names, we will
entertain the Laniers. By playing well our parts, perhaps the whole
Lanier conspiracy may be laid bare, these wretches be brought to strict
account, and you recover your father's stolen estate.'
Looking into my eyes, Uncle Thomas soothingly said:
'Take plenty of time to think about it, little girl. Uncle Tom
always will be within call, and never let you be harmed. Be brave, and
it will come out all right. What proper avenging of Brother William's
death, your own wrongs, and of Oswald Langdon's murder!'
With but faint hint of terrible after strain, nerved by these
strong appeals, I entered into this fearful covenant.
Soon after this conversation Sir Charles Chesterton and Agnes
Randall received invitations to a ball given by a prominent Bombay
resident. They there met Paul Lanier.
Formally presented, Paul soon became very affable, paying marked
attention to both niece and uncle. From the first, Paul appeared
predisposed in favor of these new acquaintances.
I was shocked, feeling a sense of fear mingled with utter aversion.
The past so overwhelmed me as to render even common civilities
loathsome, yet I endeavored to play the part assigned.
Gayeties of the occasion helped to ease my emotional strain, but
when all was over I felt much relieved.
Uncle Thomas was greatly elated. He praised my acting, predicting
That assistant had dropped suggestive hints concerning Chesterton
wealth, and about a will bequeathing to favorite niece the bulk of a
During the evening Uncle Thomas found opportunities for brief chats
with Paul, and had been very pleasant.
Paul appeared favorably impressed with Uncle Thomas. He hardly had
deigned to notice any one except Agnes Randall and Sir Charles
After this ball I often felt uneasy and presentiments of dread. In
dreams appeared vivid reproductions of past scenes.
Uncle Thomas startled me with the announcement that he had invited
Paul Lanier to dine at our apartments. We were to royally entertain
Paul, but would be 'duly reserved, as befitted our wealthy and
This affair passed off without hitch. Within two days Paul called.
Uncle Thomas and I treated him with apparent consideration. When
Paul was leaving, uncle said:
'Call any time and often, Mr. Lanier.'
Paul seemed greatly pleased with uncle's cordiality, and left
Seeing how frightened I was, Uncle Thomas said:
'Uncle Tom always will be eavesdropping when that lover calls.'
My uncle had met Pierre Lanier. Shortly following Paul's call,
Pierre received an invitation to dine with Sir Charles Chesterton.
Uncle Thomas proved a most entertaining host, telling of many thrilling
adventures in which he had personal part. His recitals greatly
To me it seemed that uncle frequently had been mixed up in doubtful
schemes, but always evaded detection. I began to doubt his morals, and
finally concluded he had been a cruel, heartless trickster.
Pierre seemed to note my pained embarrassment, and checked some
vague hints at his own villainous past.
I suffered much during Pierre's stay. Having thought Uncle Thomas
the soul of honor, engaged in a high-principled crusade against crime,
generously sacrificing time and means to punish guilt and to right the
wrongs of the helpless, to hear him in low tones glibly telling of
villainous performances, often furtively glancing at me as if fearing I
might catch the drift of his talk, made me heartsick with growing
mistrust and painful forebodings. Uncle's narratives had been so
realistic that I began to dread Pierre's departure. My face must have
expressed some of these feelings, for when Pierre left, Uncle Thomas
looked me straight in the eyes and banteringly said:
'What a villainous fellow Uncle Tom is, anyhow! I never knew before
I was so bad! If that close-mouthed old wretch dines here often, my
little girl will think him better than Uncle Tom!'
I began to see uncle's crafty tactics, and must have looked at him
in a questioning, half-apologetic way.
Uncle Thomas responded with:
'Oh, you little suspicious innocence! I was only pumping.'
I felt a heavy load lift from my heart, with growing admiration for
this wonderful uncle who could so dissemble. The thought that I, too,
might act such part and lure the cruel, vindictive, infatuated Paul by
consummate deceit now became fascinating.
Uncle Thomas's cunning suggested great possibilities in clearing
the Lanier conspiracy. Neither Pierre nor Paul suspected my identity.
They then thought Alice Webster at the bottom of the Thames. All
friends believed me dead. I could return to London only when past
conduct was justified. Without this horrible affair fully cleared,
there could be nothing in life for me. What pressing claims awaited my
actions! Here only was opportunity.
For many long years father's wrongs had been awaiting avenging;
Oswald Langdon was sleeping in Thames slime; I was an exile, robbed of
home and fortune; and the guilty Laniers were at large, seeking to
ensnare another victim.
As supposed heir to fabulous wealth, how the real heiress would be
avenged! With what dissembling arts the infatuated Paul would be lured
to unwitting confessions! Through feminine wiles I would learn the
facts of Lanier guilt, and bring both to justice. Why longer fear any
harm from either of these cruel foes?
Nerved by these sentiments, I became impatient for the test. Since
through such strain, maidenly scruples had been stifled, I felt equal
to any demands upon my dissembling arts.
Both uncle and niece attended other social gatherings at which the
Laniers were present.
Though Pierre and Paul were much flattered by Bombay élite, they
seemed most interested in Sir Charles Chesterton and Agnes Randall.
The girl appeared to enjoy Paul's attentions. Soon it was rumored
that Paul and Agnes were engaged.
Paul proposed, and was conditionally accepted. He asked uncle's
consent, who insisted on an inventory of all property belonging to the
Laniers. Paul furnished the list. Uncle Thomas took time to look it
over, and made copies. Concealed in a folding wardrobe, that assistant
heard all Paul's talk.
Paul called often. Through questions and hints from me, he told
much of his past life, but gave wrong names, places, and dates. I would
appear pleased at any story which promised some revelation as to
Calcutta or London incidents. Paul was vague, and would abruptly change
the subject. Then I appeared bored and listless, when he would tell
more, but less disconnected, stories about his past. At each suggestive
hint I would show renewed interest, again lapsing into listless
preoccupation, uneasy dissatisfaction, or frigid unconcern. Paul noted
each changing mood, suiting his conduct to these varying caprices.
At times I would feel an overwhelming sense of disgust at such
deceitful, unmaidenly occupation. Past recollections intruded with
Looking at the infatuated Paul, whose fingers, then nervously
twitching, surely would strangle me if he knew, I often shuddered and
felt deathly sick, but from such sensations rallied, with strong
resolve well to act my part.
Even these moods appeared to interest Paul, who was most
Through uncle's advice, Paul's calls were limited. Though dreading
these visits, there yet was a sort of fascination in my strange part.
The reaction from such strain was so depressing that I sought relief in
renewed excitement, and despite fear and loathing, felt a growing
passion and feverish zeal for success in outwitting these villains who
were responsible for all my sorrows. The more to stimulate Paul's
disclosures of past villainies, I made suggestive hints at infatuation
for dubious exploits and admiration of cruel, vengeful, crafty
successes which elude detection.
Paul grows more confidingly boastful, omitting many connecting
All the main facts of his Northfield and London crimes are related,
but with ingenious disguises.
For some of the parts in these tragedies, fictitious characters are
substituted in place of real actors and the places are changed.
I appear wonderfully thrilled at these recitals, and ask many
questions about obscure parts, insisting on frequent repetitions.
Pierre Lanier accepted numerous invitations to dine with Sir
At first Uncle Thomas showed lack of interest in Pierre's guarded
talk. As the intimacy between the two grew closer, Pierre relaxed much
of his secretive caution. Over their glasses Uncle Thomas and Pierre
seemed to compete with each other in tales of villainous performances.
When Pierre grew unusually confidential, and touched on Calcutta or
London crimes, Uncle Thomas would show signs of approval, but sometimes
appeared to caution his guest against indiscreet revelations. After
relating some horrible yarns about his own successes in amassing
fabulous wealth and merciless crushing of all who impeded him in such
schemes, Uncle Thomas would say:
'It is not proper for me to enjoin secrecy. I know you will never
betray a friend's trust.'
Pierre grows more confidential. He boasts of having acquired vast
interests in Calcutta and India. With some changes, he tells about his
heartless persecution, under friendly guise, of a slow-witted,
unsuspecting, rich Englishman, a former associate in large business
Having induced this partner to make some large cash advances upon
collaterals, and himself received the bulk of the money, he then
brought about a crisis in which the Englishman required much ready
funds. When, through Pierre's scheme, it became impossible for the
partner to tide over such shortage, a Shylock accomplice, upon most
grinding terms, advanced from cash formerly loaned by Pierre's
unsuspecting victim a sufficient sum briefly to postpone the
accounting. When the debts matured, payment was demanded. The helpless
debtor made frantic attempts to raise the money, but failed.
These pledged collaterals had been turned over to the last
money-lender, but in reality to Pierre Lanier, who claimed to have lost
them in a recent robbery.
The creditor was obdurate, threatening legal proceedings to enforce
his claims. Pierre enlarged upon the probability that all his partner's
personal estate, if sold under the hammer, would not pay these debts.
His business associate then would be worse than penniless. He induced
the frantic debtor to deed him all real property except a small parcel
in London, promising to sell at advantage, pay the claims, and
faithfully account for the residue.
After the deed had been delivered, Pierre induced this accomplice
to threaten his harassed victim with arrest for fraud and conspiracy in
thus disposing of all property.
Under guise of friendly adviser, Pierre appeared much worried over
his partner's troubles. He magnified the impending disgrace of
bankruptcy and imprisonment.
The proud, sensitive debtor, after a few days' hopeless worry,
goaded by threats, made desperate through Pierre's crafty, hypocritical
sympathy and deceitful insinuations, was found in the river.
This partner had one child, a girl, who afterward died. There had
been attempts to deprive Pierre of this property, which was now of
great value. All adverse claims had been quieted. The shares of stock
had advanced and dividends were regular. From the proceeds he and Paul
were insured luxurious living and large, increased incomes, with
swelling bank credits.
At times Pierre would seem to repent of his confidences and to plan
against discovery by some adroit qualifications, but Uncle Thomas eased
all concern by saying:
'Oh, that's all right! I am deeper in the pool than you.'
Whenever Pierre told of these exploits, the assistant was
listening. Uncle Thomas kept his promise to act as eavesdropper during
After both Pierre and Paul had confided many of the facts of their
criminal conspiracy and other offenses, Uncle Thomas told me that he
purposed taking a trip to Calcutta. Thus might be learned details of
what Pierre had suggested but ingeniously disguised. Perhaps, if we
went together, the Laniers might grow suspicious. He would not leave me
in Bombay if I feared to remain. I could limit Paul's calls to suit
myself, and that assistant would be at my service.
Trembling at the thought of being alone in Bombay, Uncle Thomas far
off in Calcutta, and the Laniers making frequent calls, I felt desolate
at the outlook. He guessed at my emotions, and said:
'Just say the word, little girl, and Uncle Tom stays!'
I then advised him to go alone, but to return as soon as possible.
Upon hearing of uncle's intentions, Pierre concluded to sail for
Calcutta at the same time. Learning that I purposed remaining in
Bombay, Paul decided that he did not care then to take another sea
Uncle Thomas was gratified at both conclusions. He could use Pierre
in Calcutta, and though it good to separate these rascals for a while.
I felt much relieved that but one of these dreaded foes would
remain in Bombay during uncle's absence. Uncle Thomas and Pierre Lanier
Paul made frequent calls. By practicing all sorts of capricious
humors, I sought to smother feelings of dread and aversion, but at
times became so interested in these deceitful practices and in watching
their effects upon Paul as to forget former persecutions. While thus
absorbed, it often seemed that the past had been but a cruelly delusive
dream. It could not be that the soft, insinuating tones of Paul Lanier
masked such base, bloody purposes. Those bejeweled fingers, tremulously
eager to caress, surely were not those of a red-handed murderer! Yet if
my wiles succeeded, those hands would wear manacles, those fingers
convulsively clutch at vacancy, and that musical voice choke with tense
strain of the hangman's knot.
At such times pity would unnerve my strong resolve, but Paul's
realistic repetitions of his crimes dispelled such illusions, and I
again aspired to be a scheming, determined Nemesis, aided by lure of
Some time before uncle's return I had received a letter stating
when he would sail, but did not tell Paul until after his arrival in
Bombay. Then, with assumed glee, I informed him that uncle had left
Calcutta and within a week would be back. His letter was cheerful, and
he seemed to be very happy. I requested him to defer again calling for
Paul called on Thursday evening.
Uncle Thomas, that assistant, and I had prepared a great surprise.
I often had noticed that Paul was very superstitious, fearful of
unreal dangers. It occurred to me that a scare would be suitable
entertainment for Paul's last visit. Uncle Thomas had planned our
departure from Bombay for Calcutta on the next steamer. The vessel
would sail on Friday morning, and our passage already had been engaged.
We would go aboard soon after midnight, and the ship was to sail in the
I chose a tableau for Paul. Aided by Uncle Thomas and that
assistant, the performance was staged. During that day there had been
two rehearsals. That assistant manipulated the lights. Uncle Thomas had
produced a copy of London Press containing a graphic account of
the Thames drownings. This he ornamented with heavy red headlines. The
paper is lying on a small table in uncle's room.
Dressed in that Thames clothing, over which hangs a draping of
seaweed, my hair combed back from the temples, I await Paul's evening
With loaded pistols Uncle Thomas occupies my room. Fully armed, the
assistant is hiding in the folding wardrobe.
The house-servant is directed to admit any male caller into the
room usually occupied by Sir Charles Chesterton.
The bell is soon rung, and Paul is ushered according to directions.
Pouring over my head a pitcher of warm water, daubing the temple
scar with thin, red liquid paint, from darkened room I watch Paul
through slightly open connecting door, which has been effectively
braced against pressure from that side.
Paul picks up the paper, glares frightfully, turns deathly pale,
and shakes with fear.
Just then, with uplifted hand, I slowly enter, approaching Paul as
if to strike him down. Paul falls upon the floor, begging me to spare
Slowly stepping backward, and passing into the next room, I softly
close the connecting door. Quickly slipping off the disguise, removing
the paint-stains and arranging my hair, I recite parts of a poem about
Eugene Aram, then light the gas and say something about Mr. Lanier
being late. Paul opens the connecting door, and I explain how the
Paul seems satisfied, but nervous. He remains longer than usual,
appearing afraid to leave. As midnight is near, I assume a listless air
of indifference. Paul takes the hint, and goes.
Shortly afterward, two vehicles drive up. Trunks are first taken,
accompanied by that assistant sleuth. Disguised in suit of his clothes,
I enter the other conveyance. Uncle Thomas soon follows. In a short
time after bidding Paul Lanier good-night, I was asleep aboard the
steamer, and did not awake until miles at sea.
Sir Donald intently had listened to that part of the girl's
narrative about the trip from London to Southampton, and thence to
Bombay. His wonder and admiration grew with her frank, dramatic, yet
timid recital of tactics employed to elicit incriminating clews from
the secretive Laniers. Alice had shown marked heroism remaining alone
at Bombay, and in her strange treatment of the infatuated Paul. These
experiences had left an indelible impress upon Alice, whose confiding
sincerity and generous impulsiveness always must bear effects of the
shock, but that tableau and recital revealed a tragic craft foreign to
such a nature, bordering the verge of madness.
How under pressure intense natures evolve new traits and latent
powers become dominant!
Seeing that Sir Donald seemed in a reverie, Alice awaited invitation
to proceed. Her face bore such a weary, questioning look that he
proposed that they join Esther and Charles. To this Alice nervously
I ought to see Uncle Thomas.
Sir Donald then suggested that she see her uncle, and that both dine
with his family. Alice objected with some energy, closing with these
Not until my whole story is told will I meet Esther or your son.
Sir Donald admired the commendable deference and spirit of the
girl's sentiments. It was then arranged that on the following day Alice
would finish her story.
The next afternoon the recital is continued.
Though the trip from Bombay to Calcutta was rough, I felt great
relief. The strain since arrival at Bombay had been fearful. Sitting on
deck, gently swaying with the ship's motion, watching seabirds, looking
at approaching squalls, or tossing in stress of tropic storms, proved a
restful quiet for my fevered consciousness. Such change reversed the
whole current of thought, driving away the awful past. Neither Lanier
would harass me on this journey.
Uncle Thomas left his old-time assistant at Bombay to shadow Paul.
Arrangements to communicate with each other had been made. If Paul
should quit Bombay, that assistant would be on the same vessel. We
surmised that Paul would join his father at Calcutta.
On board ship, Uncle Thomas and I assumed new disguises. In
Calcutta we were known as father and daughter.
Later Uncle Thomas often met Pierre Lanier, but himself remained
Soon after our arrival, that assistant landed at Calcutta and
reported to Uncle Thomas. Paul and he came from Bombay on the same
After the tenants left, Paul had called at Chesterton apartments.
To his questions the family could give no satisfactory information.
Paul seemed much worried over the removal of Agnes Randall. He received
a letter and awaited departure of next steamer for Calcutta.
Paul engaged passage and was booked as 'Josiah Peters.' He was
disguised as an old man, with stooping walk and white, flowing beard.
Uncle Thomas continued his investigations of Calcutta property
interests formerly owned by my father, but gained little further
Both Pierre and Paul were closely watched. Uncle enlisted the head
of Calcutta police department to help shadow these men and to keep him
advised of their conduct. From him uncle learned that you and Esther
were there. You had been making search and inquiry for the Dodge
family. In hopes to gain helpful clews and to keep posted as to exact
condition of other investigations of Lanier crimes, that assistant
shadowed you and Esther. At the same time Uncle Thomas and the police
watched the Laniers.
The assistant was a slim, dark-complexioned, trim man, with black
close-cut whiskers and heavy mustache, but posed as an old, shabbily
dressed fellow, with halting gait, gray hair, and snow-white beard,
moving feebly by aid of a cane.
Pierre had been traced to a cabin in a poor part of the city, where
lived a needy woman with a family of small children. The Laniers
inquired about the probable time when a certain vessel was expected,
and haunted the landing. Night of the ship's arrival both visited this
cabin and afterward saw passengers go ashore. One of these followed
Alice now told about the Laniers and this stranger going to that
deserted house in city suburb; how Pierre and Paul again called at the
cabin, and of visit from veiled woman next day at that old house.
Unexpected swoop of police and arrest of the three men followed. The
stranger was William Dodge, and veiled caller his wife. As Sir Donald
knew these facts, she would not relate them, further than to explain
some things which he might wish to know.
Aided by Calcutta police, Uncle Thomas closely watched every
movement of the Laniers, while his assistant shadowed you and Esther.
Through you the police official learned that William Dodge was
expected on the next steamer, and about his being in danger from these
villains. In the same way the proposed meeting in that deserted house
Precautions against assaults upon Mr. and Mrs. Dodge were taken.
Uncle Thomas and his assistant thought the time had come for a bold
move. By arresting both Laniers and William Dodge the whole conspiracy
would be confessed. William Dodge would accuse the Laniers, and they
would implicate him. With Paul's and Pierre's Bombay confidences,
corroborated by Dodge's expected confession, conviction of the Laniers
would follow. William Dodge would explain that in bringing the London
suit he was only a pliant tool of the Laniers, and they would blame all
on him. Then he would retaliate by telling about the Thames murders.
These recriminations, the vague Bombay confessions, supplemented by
other facts already known, and further information obtainable through
such powerful clews, would unravel the whole web of criminal
connivance, bringing both Pierre and Paul to strict account.
Alice then told of the tactics employed, William Dodge's Calcutta
confession, and the Lanier reserve. Dodge had no actual knowledge of
Paul's assaults upon Alice and Oswald, but related what he knew of the
circumstances. He fully explained his and Lanier complicity in bringing
the suit, with all after procedure in the action, including its
Alice narrated some parts of this confession, which agreed with that
formerly made in Paris hospital by William Dodge. It was full, but
Strenuous efforts to induce the Laniers to talk were fruitless.
They made no responses. We surmised that neither cared to assert his
rights by demanding a hearing or trial. They were kept jailed several
weeks, in expectation of some revelations. At last the officers and
Uncle Thomas decided to turn them loose, but still to keep William
Dodge in custody. Thus might Lanier conduct be observed without danger
of this important witness being spirited away or forever silenced.
William Dodge himself did not protest against his continued
For a few days Pierre and Paul nervously moved about in Calcutta,
and then quit the city.
That assistant left at the same time, and following them to
different points, reaches London, lodging across an alley, in full view
of the basement stairway leading to the room occupied by Pierre and
For a long time after the Laniers sailed, Uncle Thomas and I
remained in Calcutta.
Letters telling of Lanier movements came from that assistant to
Uncle Thomas. Then during the following weeks nothing was heard. We
began to worry, fearing some accident had happened. Perhaps he had
fallen victim to Lanier vengeance. This would be most unfortunate for
me. Sufficient facts already had been discovered upon which to base
actions against Pierre Lanier for frauds upon the estate of my father,
and for that London conspiracy involving the suit begun by William
Dodge. I could not think of such notoriety until the Thames assaults
and murder were cleared, and never would risk public scandal among
friends in London.
These were the motives inducing uncle to advise that Pierre and
Paul be released from Calcutta imprisonment. Too, the murder of Oswald
Langdon must be avenged.
Sir Donald smiled at Alice's earnest explanations, but awaited her
At length came a letter from London informing Uncle Thomas of
Lanier arrivals and shadowings by his old-time helper. We soon after
sailed for England. Full details were given by that assistant, and with
much zeal Uncle Thomas resumed his former work.
Much of the time I kept out of public view, lodging at the obscure
Pierre seldom left the basement room at night, but Paul then made
many strange excursions, often prowling up and down the Thames.
The assistant began to notice queer freaks in Paul's conduct. The
first evidences of these were after their return to London.
The reports startled me, as it seemed Paul feared I yet might rise
from the river, and that he was determined to prevent it. Many nights
Paul would skulk along the river-banks and peer over into the Thames
from the place where we had been struck into the stream. Later he took
boat-rides up and down the river, past this spot, closely scrutinizing
projecting shrubs until opposite the rustic seat, when, rowing back and
forth across the river, Paul would pause and strike at some reflection
from the water, then be seated and drift downstream.
As these incidents were related by that assistant and Uncle Thomas,
I felt horrible dread. This craze of Paul's seemed almost a judgment
upon my head. Such determined malice against the girl he had slain, yet
feared still might rise from her slimy grave, was beyond belief, yet I
could not doubt the evidences. My curiosity was increased, and I felt a
strong desire to witness Paul's new infatuation. In male disguise I
watched from hiding some of this madman's night performances upon and
along the river.
Though at first dreadfully shocked and nearly dead with fright, my
curiosity grew with each watch. Uncle Thomas refused longer indulgence,
except at rare intervals.
Before our arrival at London that assistant had followed Paul to
Paul's conduct there had been strange, but he seemed desirous of
learning the whereabouts of you and Esther.
Later, Paul again visited Northfield, and I witnessed some of his
actions. Uncle Thomas, the assistant, and I were hidden in thick
shrubbery near the spot where Northfield visitors often sat along the
lake. Paul had been skulking through the woods, but could not see us.
Between us and him was that steep ravine. Suddenly Paul struck a tragic
pose, lifted his right hand, advanced a few steps, then slowly stepped
backward out of sight beyond a cluster of bushes.
These movements, though very startling, were followed by still
Soon out of leafy stillness came quotations from that poem partly
declaimed by me at Bombay.
Such utterances at that time and place from this crazed outlaw,
reiterated with madman's unction, were horrible.
After repetition of phrases, 'buried from my sight,' 'and trodden
down with stones,' Paul hesitated, as if pondering the improbability of
such fate to his victims' mortal remains; then broke out in a
I was eager, and prompted:
'And years have rotted off his flesh,'
Paul turned, facing that way, uttered terrible curses, gave a
crazed yell of fear, and stood staring into vacancy, when in deep
gutturals I repeated:
'The world shall see his bones.'
At this Paul staggered, made wild thrusts with his dagger in
direction whence came these promptings, and then fled.
On the next train, watched by that assistant, Paul returned to
Uncle Thomas and I saw you with Esther rowing upon the lake. This
was just after Paul's flight. Until then we did not know of your return
I felt a growing interest in Paul's Thames tableaus. One night
Uncle Thomas allowed me to watch with him along the river-bank. Paul
takes his usual row up the Thames. We are hiding in some shrubbery
beyond the rustic seat. Paul's boat arrives opposite that point in the
river, and he repeats former performances.
After steadying the boat with an oar, holding in set teeth that
gleaming dagger, moving back and forth across the river, peering over
at watery reflections, and making savage thrusts, Paul is again seated,
drifting down the stream.
Uncle Thomas and I are following, when another spy emerges from a
cluster of bushes farther down, keeping slightly in rear of the boat, a
short distance from shore.
Uncle and I are a few feet apart. I am ahead. Both of us are eager,
but cautious. The grass and bushes rustle, but that spy is too intent
for hearing or fear. The chase grows exciting.
Drifting around a curve, the boat is out of sight. That stranger
runs forward, trips and falls on the river's brink. I was alarmed, as
it seemed sure that this man would fall into the current. I paused at
the edge of leafy foliage. To my relief the fallen man recovers his
footing. Giving a look to where I stood partly concealed, he hurries
on, badly limping, as if in pain. Uncle Thomas signaled me to keep
back, and we followed cautiously at greater distance, but soon after
lost sight of this limping spy.
I was nearly exhausted with the chase. Just before reaching the
point of starting, we rested over an hour, and then went to the inn.
Next day that assistant told of both Pierre and Paul having spent
most of the night away from their room. Contrary to custom, Pierre went
out first. A few minutes afterward, Paul left, starting in an opposite
direction from that taken by his father. Puzzled at this change in
Lanier habits, and fearing some new flight, the assistant followed, but
soon losing sight of Paul, returned to watch that cellar stairway.
After midnight, Paul came back. Limping around the corner, faint
and exhausted, hours later, Pierre staggered down the stairs.
We were then sure this spy was Pierre Lanier, who for the first
time had witnessed Paul's Thames infatuation. This was confirmed later
by Pierre's limping walk.
It became apparent to Uncle Thomas and his assistant that other
shadowings were occurring. Spies upon their actions, as well as those
of the Laniers, watched regular shifts. They suspected that in some way
you were responsible for this, but doubted that you had any hint of
Another discreet helper was employed by Uncle Thomas, to report any
interesting happenings at Northfield.
That you visited London and called at a detective agency was
reported. This helper followed you back to Northfield, and reported
Charles Randolph's return from abroad. Later the same spy followed your
son to London, and told Uncle Thomas at what hotel Charles stopped.
In slight disguise we quit the inn, going to this hotel, and with
but short absences remaining until I was recognized by you and Esther.
It was known to us that Charles helped shadow the Laniers, often
calling at the same detective agency formerly visited by you.
Both Uncle Thomas and I had noticed that Charles seemed interested
in us, but we attributed this to possible detection of our guarded
observations of his actions. I sometimes wondered at Charles's
interest, fearing that possibly he suspected my identity. At meals this
feeling embarrassed me, but Uncle Thomas insisted on our dining at the
same time, when he could watch Charles's actions.
To me it often seemed strange that persons planning for like ends,
engaged in similar work to right human wrongs and to punish the guilty,
should spy upon each other, scheming and operating at cross-purposes. I
hardly could refrain from appealing to Charles to help in my troubles,
and from the first was sure he would be such a good, faithful friend.
Why should not you, Charles, and Esther become my confidential allies,
helping us to unravel this web? I hinted this to Uncle Thomas, who
would not think of such a 'rash break.'
Later on, for a few days, we stopped at the inn.
It had been reported that Paul was showing quarrelsome traits, and
at any time might commit some murderous assault. These agency sleuths
had become troublesome, hampering Uncle Thomas in his determined
watches upon Lanier conduct. Through competing zeal at any time might
occur some unfortunate clash. Those agency employes were argus-eyed,
watching each move made by him and his assistants. Doubtless the man
sent by Uncle Thomas to Northfield was being shadowed and his doings
were reported to agency headquarters.
For these reasons Uncle Thomas decided that we would return to that
obscure inn. This change was made at a late hour, and I went alone.
Uncle Thomas left before, and by a long route reached the ambush beyond
the rustic seat.
Next morning he reported that Paul did not appear. Calling at the
cabin where that old-time assistant kept watch, Uncle Thomas learned
that early the previous evening Paul left, but had not returned. Pierre
was in the basement room.
The following night Uncle Thomas watched along the river, but again
was disappointed. Next morning he called upon that assistant, but
finding the door securely fastened, returned and slept a few hours. In
the afternoon he again called, but could obtain no response.
That night Uncle Thomas resumed his watch along the Thames. He saw
Pierre Lanier prowling up and down the river, followed by that same
assistant. Next morning Pierre inquired of police officials as to any
arrests made within the last two days and nights. He then returned to
the basement room, trailed by that assistant and Uncle Thomas.
Pierre had gone out the previous morning, during all that day and
the following night searching for Paul. The third night after Paul's
disappearance was spent by Pierre along the river, trailed as before.
Next day Pierre did not return to his room until afternoon.
In the early evening a letter came by special messenger to Uncle
Thomas at the inn. It was from that helper at Northfield, stating that
Paul Lanier was then skulking about in the timber along the lake. On
the previous night Paul had been close to the Northfield mansion
grounds, but evidently became aware that a sentinel was on guard. Paul
surely meditated mischief, but the writer thought sufficient
precautions against surprise had been taken by Sir Donald Randolph.
The contents of this letter, with knowledge of Paul's crafty malice
and murderous zeal, greatly alarmed me. It seemed that ordinary
watchfulness would not avail against Paul's crazed, homicidal mania. If
you or Esther fell a victim to Paul's knife, it would be chargeable to
your friendship for me. Was it right that through acquiescence in any
mode of procedure advised by others I should permit such friends to be
ruthlessly butchered by a madman?
To Uncle Thomas I told my fears, but he thought there was little
danger to any one at Northfield through Paul's crazy breaks.
'For months this insane wretch has been a harmless lunatic,
practicing his night tableaus through some purposeless infatuation.'
With this remark he dismissed the subject, but went out, secured a
cab, and drove to that cabin across the alley from the Lanier room. The
assistant was directed to take the first train for Northfield, and keep
close watch of Paul's every act. Uncle Thomas remained at the cabin.
After uncle went out I still felt nervous and a strong presentiment
that peril hung over the Randolph household. With each effort to think
of other things, this feeling grew stronger. There was something so
awful as to overpower all habitual obedience to Uncle Thomas.
I thought of Charles Randolph. Perhaps Charles was at the hotel,
unconscious of dangers threatening those he loved. Without any plan of
action I caught up the veil presented at London by Uncle Thomas, sped
from my room, hailed a passing cabman, urging him to drive fast to that
hotel. Going at once to the room occupied by Charles Randolph, I
knocked, and was admitted. On the way there I had thought out a mode of
broaching the subject to Charles and of hiding my identity, but when in
his presence this all became blank, and some other things were said. He
promised to go home at once, and I returned to the inn.
I did not tell Uncle Thomas about this call. He remained at that
cabin all night, the next day, and until the following morning.
I called at the cabin. Uncle Thomas told me that Paul was in
London. This seemed strange, but he explained that there was an early
morning train from station near the Northfield premises. Paul doubtless
came back, on that train, and reached the room before daylight. That
day neither Paul nor Pierre was seen on the street. My uncle closely
watched the basement room.
On early morning train of the following day both assistants came
from Northfield and hurried to that old cabin. They explained Paul's
assault on a guard at entrance to the Northfield mansion grounds and
the murder of the sentinel.
Uncle Thomas acted promptly. He went out and called up a prominent
police official, notifying him to bring help and arrest two desperate
The three men waited at the entrance to that old stairway until
five police officials appeared.
Listening at the basement door, these heard scuffling inside,
curses, and suppressed yells. Then all noises ceased. There was no
response to continued knockings. The door yielded to pressure, and the
With dirty, blood-stained clothing, hair disheveled, and face
begrimed, froth upon his lips, lay Paul upon the stone floor. Across
Paul's breast was Pierre, pale and motionless.
At first both were thought dead. It was soon discovered that Pierre
had only swooned. Water was dashed upon his face. He revived and stared
about vacantly. Slowly what had happened dawned upon his mind, but he
seemed stupid, saying nothing.
Pierre intently gazed at Paul's unconscious form, but looked blank
when questioned by the officials.
[Illustration: THEN BEHOLDING PIERRE IRONED AND HELPLESS, PAUL
BURST OUT IN A HYSTERICAL LAUGH.]
After some time Paul showed signs of returning consciousness,
slowly revived, and seeing his captors, became furious. Then beholding
Pierre ironed and helpless, Paul burst out in a hysterical laugh, which
was followed by frantic appeals for protection against his father's
imagined wrath. Both were taken to prison.
For various reasons Uncle Thomas then had procured the arrests. As
news of that Northfield murder came through his agents, it was his duty
to inform the proper officials. For months he and his employes had
shadowed both Laniers, witnessing Paul's crazed acts, and it was known
that they had done this. These assistants were in the immediate
neighborhood of Northfield when this murder occurred. It would be
inquired, why such continued shadowings, yet failure to prevent this
crime? The whole matter would be thoroughly probed. This murder could
not be concealed without guilty responsibility. Proof of Oswald
Langdon's death was not conclusive. It never might be clearer with Paul
hung or in a madhouse. If we had taken proper action to restrain this
madman, the murder never would have occurred. Better to take decisive
steps and assist the officers than appear to condone crime. All we had
planned and worked for would fare better through prompt procedure.
Possibly out of this very tangle might come clearance of the unhappy,
Such motives prompted Uncle Thomas to decisive action in procuring
these second arrests of Pierre and Paul Lanier.
Just how or when my part in this drama is to be revealed neither
Uncle Thomas nor I yet have decided. I greatly dread the trial.
At times I seem standing, dizzy, bewildered, and speechless, upon
the brink of a yawning chasm. Then appears a light beyond, beckoning me
to try the plunge.
Occasionally, in day-dreams, a hand, not spectral, but inspiringly
real and familiar, seems drawing me toward new earthly life and joy;
but such fancies are fleeting. The old dread of social ostracism and of
suspicious aversion returns with increased power. I have no
consciousness of wrong-doing, yet maidenly ideals have been shocked by
my conduct, and the place for Alice Webster is outside the pale of
Afternoon of the day upon which occurred the arrests Uncle Thomas
decided again to move. To show no attempt at privacy, we returned to
the hotel. Both of us were surprised to see your family in the
Uncle Thomas could act unconcerned under any circumstances, but I
felt so helplessly embarrassed. As you and Esther looked so intently I
was sure you saw through that simple disguise. A sense of shame at such
conduct made me faint and heartsick. To escape this I quit the table,
going to my room. Soon after, through the open connecting door, I saw
you and Uncle Thomas enter, and then knew a crisis had come.
Uncle Thomas related what you had said, and I was greatly puzzled.
Your reasons for not promising to keep his proposed confidences then
and ever since seemed unaccountable. He advised that we return to the
inn, there to await clearing of increasing difficulties.
What since occurred you well know. I hope to be forgiven for all my
strange, unmaidenly conduct. The very worst has been told, except that
words can never tell the painful experiences and sorrowful memories of
the unhappy past.
Pausing, Alice gave a look of questioning appeal into the
expressive, sympathetic face of Sir Donald Randolph. He seemed
struggling with some unwonted emotional impediment to proper speech.
Rising, he extended his hand, took that of this interesting young
woman, and bowing low, in a husky voice said:
Make no apologies, Alice! You are all right.
Alice felt much relieved, but the strain had been great. For a while
she leaned back in wearied collapse.
Sir Donald suggested that she await her uncle, while he saw his
family. After the evening meal, he would esteem it a favor to have all
meet at Esther's room.
This invitation was accepted.
Sir Donald notified Thomas Webster that Alice awaited him, adding:
What a grand girl!
CHAPTER XXIV. OSWALD IN NEW YORK
Oswald awakes early upon his first morning in New York. The
significance of present surroundings dawns upon his mind. He is in the
metropolis of that country about which so much had been written, told,
What vistas of destiny since that protest and affirmation received
the sword's decisive arbitrament! With what sense of opportune occasion
these two kindred nations are surely drawing toward that modus
vivendi, tentatively flexible, yet more potential, responsive, and
insistent than treaty covenants, triple alliances, or proscribed
spheres of influence.
But how capricious fate's fast-loose antics with individual destiny!
Not with complacent retrospect and cleared prospective does this
intensely impressionable Englishman stand at the threshold of a new
That complex web remains intact, the dead lifts unavailing hands,
justice is laggard, while the name of Langdon shrinks from pending
Springing up, he soon descends to the hotel office. After breakfast
he writes that promised letter. Not knowing anything of Sir Donald
Randolph's present address or plans, Oswald writes him at Paris.
Being very curious as to the Lanier affair, and to avoid delay, he
addresses copies to Calcutta and to Sir Donald's Northfield station.
The letter is brief, announcing his safe arrival at New York, intention
to remain until some report comes from Sir Donald, and explaining that
similar copies will be mailed to each of places named. He would mail
and receive all letters at the general postoffice. No reference is made
to the Laniers, as he knows Sir Donald will not need such reminder.
That day Oswald remained at the hotel. The notes of a trained
orchestra charmed his musical sense, while sight of superbly clad,
richly bejeweled hotel guests was interesting diversion.
Next morning he dined at a restaurant near the corner of
Thirty-third Street and Broadway. Taking an elevated Sixth Avenue car,
he rides to Park Place, thence walking to the postoffice and mailing
his three letters. This important move now made, he is ready for
Standing by the statue of that young patriot whose life was so
freely offered upon Freedom's altar, Oswald marveled at such unselfish
infatuation as found voice in words:
I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.
Crossing to other side of Broadway, he narrowly escapes collision
with an electric car. From the irritated conductor comes:
Well, chump, you are just off of grass!
This cheerful compliment is followed by another, more pointedly
suggestive, from a wag who calls out:
Indade yez a bloody jude from owld Loondin, but yez betther moind
yer own way, or the polace will copper yez shoor!
For a few moments the modus vivendi is much strained, but Oswald
quickly recovers his self-control, and slowly strolls down street,
pausing at St. Paul's Chapel.
Having read the chiseled memorial of that American officer who fell
in attack upon Quebec, Oswald passes on, turning at Trinity Church into
When at the corner of Nassau, he stands for a few moments in front
of the Sub-Treasury Building, looking up at the statue of America's
This heroic figure is fitting impersonation of successful revolt
against oppressive exactions.
Oswald's sense of antithesis pictures in somber background that
doomed spy hurried to his fate, and another swinging, strangling shape
expiating through hangman's device the proven crime of high treason.
Such diversions are not conducive to cheerful reverie. His spirits
droop lower under the clammy handicap. Memory of those greetings from
petulant conductor and guying wag again intrudes.
Oswald is nearly opposite the Custom-House when just before him that
All about the murder of a young girl! Body found in the river!
Police on track of the murderer!
Tragic memories of those eventful years, augmented by petty,
suggestive, yet meaningless recent affronts, shaded by somber-hued
reveries, congest about the center of Oswald's sensitive consciousness
at the parrot-like yell of a child.
Thought that past concealments and identity known, he now is closely
trailed by New York police for the crime of Paul Lanier rouses Oswald's
fighting temper to fierce heat.
There is no doubt that under such momentary emotional pressure this
guiltless fugitive then would have incurred homicidal accounting by
resisting to the death any attempted arrest.
Little Jack's fright at that awful stare was natural.
The scared newsboy again resumes his stereotyped yell at corner of
Nassau and Wall Streets.
Oswald had turned back, intending to procure a paper and learn about
this reported murder. Returning to Trinity Church, he sees the boy,
farther down on opposite side of Broadway, waiting pay for copy then so
tenaciously gripped by that careful old financier, who had insisted
upon assurance of positive rigor mortis as condition precedent to
Oswald starts across in direct line to where these are standing. At
sight of Oswald, little Jack, speedily waiving payment, cuts across
Broadway, down Exchange Alley, where he jostles reveries of that
brass-buttoned official, and, through official duress, pilots him back
to the street. Here Michael Patrick O'Brien hastily fits Jack's
description of Oswald to that dazed old man, whom he pompously arrests
and valiantly escorts toward Old Slip police station.
At a distance of a few rods, Oswald had watched the whole
proceeding, and followed, curious to learn cause of the arrest.
Sight of that willanous-lookin' rascal still trailing him causes
Jack to sidle over Broadway, and ignoring Michael's loud command,
disappear at the next crossing.
Oswald concluded that there must be some mistake about this arrest.
The man's conduct had appeared void of all criminal intent. The boy
seemed to shun Oswald himself, through some unaccountable aversion.
Probably the policeman's zeal had caused a serious blunder. The little
fellow's strange scare, with hasty, ill-advised official action,
resulted in arrest and possible detention of this harmless old
Oswald paused to reflect. Why should he concern himself, in a
strange land, about such an affair? This mistake soon would be righted.
For Oswald to show any interest or make inquiries, might lead to
complications. What if he should be required to testify? His real name,
former home, and antecedents might be asked. These must be given or he
would be committed for contempt. Better not to meddle with this matter.
Oswald boards a Broadway car and gets off at Thirty-third Street.
Going to his room, he ponders over the incidents of that morning
absence. Recollections of his conduct are not pleasant. The experiences
were annoying, but only his own action seems blameworthy. In some way
he was responsible for the circumstances leading to arrest of that
feeble old man, yet made no explanation or protest. What an initiative
in a new world was such selfish, unfeeling discretion! Why hope for
exalted aid in his own troubles, while shirking opportunity to help the
Oswald left the hotel, returning to corner of Wall Street and
Broadway. Inquiring of a shop-keeper, Where are persons arrested in
this neighborhood taken by the police? he receives the answer:
To police precinct station No. 2.
Going there, Oswald asks about an old man, that morning arrested on
Broadway, near Trinity Church.
No such prisoner had been brought to that station.
He learns there will be a session of police court that afternoon at
the new Criminal Court Building. The prisoner will be there for
Oswald takes the elevated train to Franklin Street, goes over to
this building, and awaits opening of that afternoon's session.
Looking about the court-room, he sees that same innocent-appearing
old chap, still expostulating with his stern captor, who soothes him
with the assurance:
Yez will warble a different chune at Sing Sing!
Oswald decides to await the court's action in this case before
making any explanations. Possibly no interference may be necessary. He
observes that the newsboy is not present.
For over two hours Oswald listens to the proceedings of this
tribunal. The docket is cleared of many trivial cases, and more serious
matters are sent to the Special or General Sessions.
All this seems strangely offhand and informal, but he reasons that
such, being of daily occurrence, sentimental scruples are in natural
Michael Patrick O'Brien is signaled by a court official, steps
proudly forward, and makes an explanation of his morning's prowess.
With skeptical smile the magistrate looks at that felonious,
would-be kidnaper of a juvenile innocent, and asks for the boy.
Michael explains little Jack's sprinting performance, adding:
It was ivident, yer honner, that the skeert child feart that owld
vilyun more than the noime of the law.
Just then an officer who had been on duty near the South Ferry
stepped forward and cleared the situation.
This old man is a peaceful, respected resident, living a little way
from Battery Park. He has grown sons and daughters in the city. With a
score of grandchildren making bedlam at his home, it is not likely he
would steal a newsboy.
The old man looked both relieved and vexed. This unexpected
intervention would help him out of trouble, but he preferred not being
recognized in such a rôle. At the station he had refused to tell his
name or residence.
With a smile, the judge said:
Turn your kidnapper loose!
Escorted by the crestfallen Michael, he left, returning to the
station for money and watch.
The last words Oswald heard from this diplomatic representative of
New York man-catchers were:
Indade yez in luck to have inflooenz! It was me own resarve that
yez did not git the limits! If iver Oi nades a rickomindashun, yer
noime will head the soobscripshun!
Oswald learned that in the vicinity of this arrest, Broadway was the
dividing line between police precincts Nos. 1 and 2. Having been
arrested on the east side of Broadway, the old man was taken to
precinct station No. 1, or Old Slip.
Michael Patrick O'Brien was not a member of the regularly appointed
city police force. He was a special, this being his initial exploit.
Oswald viewed numerous objects of interest while awaiting that
letter from Sir Donald Randolph. Though aware that through uncertainty
of Sir Donald's stay at any particular place there might be prolonged
delay, he feels sure that when his letter is received, answer will be
Often is felt unutterable loneliness. There is nothing like immense
crowds of strangers in a strange land to make individual segregation
At times only that image-something, somehow, from somewhere,
reflected into recesses of his consciousness, avails against childish
fretting and petulant protest. From outer or inner depths, occasionally
come suggestive glimpses and assuring voices.
The first Sabbath after his arrival in New York Oswald attended
church. Not since that Northfield visit had this son of a clergyman
heard a sermon or prayer.
The familiar ritual of the Episcopal Church is not used, yet
responsive chords vibrate to some mystic touch. The church is plain and
music faulty. In pulpit utterances there is nothing strikingly trite or
profound. The preacher has none of oratorical gifts. Oswald cannot
account for his own interest. While those imperfectly sharped and
flatted notes are sounding, he wonders if that peculiarly adjusted,
harmonious Sense, quickening at scream of seagull or roar of ravenous
beast, would not miss these poorly pitched tones more than Gabriel's
highest or Creation's ever-echoing oratorio.
Listening to doctrinal directions as to ceremonial observances
radically differing from other beliefs, Oswald thinks of the
big-hearted Father, tenderly amused at zeal of His children in their
many ways of seeking that coveted smile.
Despite these surroundings, the morning's moods had been so
comfortable that in the evening Oswald attended services at one of New
York's prominent churches, where he listened to grand music by a
skillful choir, and a scholarly sermon from an able preacher.
But the emotional key ranged capriciously.
A good-looking assistant, in dictatorial tones, told the world's
Helper what was expected. The choir sang well a hymn, the burden of
which was expressed in oft-repeated phrase:
Save Thy servant who trusteth in Thee.
Oswald found himself wondering if there ever were any real need for
such prayer. Loss of one such trusting, faithful soul would drape the
stars in blackest bunting.
After the reading of scriptural selections, a slim,
consumptive-looking youth, with a sympathetic, long-range voice,
exquisitely sang a solo, the most effective part of which was:
O Israel, He redeemeth thee.
From recollections of Bible accounts, Oswald thought Israel required
frequent redemption, though that apostrophized by the impressive
exclamation was neither exclusively nor peculiarly Semitic.
The preacher's theme was Overcoming the World.
Though the subject was ably and eloquently treated, that listener
found his ideas ranging at various angles to those of the speaker. It
seemed so characteristic of venerable manhood to dwell on old heroes
whose exploits impressed youthful fancy, so hard to canonize any person
whom we had met and understood.
In commenting upon great deeds of famous men, the nearest approach
to present times was the preacher's reference to George Washington.
During the week Oswald had been reading about conspicuous actors in
the American Civil War, and still more recent history of the Republic.
Martial dreams had been renewed. While those ancient notables were
being paraded before that congregation, others more recent posed upon
Tall, lank ghost, thy patient, kindly brow marred by assassin's
lead! Mighty warrior shade, bearing upon thy tense, heroic face traces
of Mount McGregor's pain! Thou from Atlanta march! Thou from Winchester
ride! Thou from Mentor Mecca, thy glazing orbs lighting with boyhood's
longing for ocean's trackless wave! And ye mighty hosts of marching and
countermarching nineteenth-century worthies, witness bear to worth of
your most thrilling times!
Still that sermon was very well prepared, and doubtless met the
preacher's critical approval.
It ought not to be expected that this able divine gauge his
expressed thoughts by fancies of an erratic youth under abnormal,
Gazing at some of those richly attired communicants as in elegant
carriages they were driven homeward, Oswald wondered if it were easy or
hard for such to overcome the world.
Though shunning the forming of any intimate friendships, Oswald
longed for that sympathy which comes from human contact. Watching the
exchanges of mutual good-will between many, he envied their freedom
from his own restraints. At times even effusive flutterings of social
butterflies seemed rational compared with such hampering reserve and
Oswald was an omnivorous reader, but never could restrain his
interest to set pace of the author's art. In this haste many little
touches of sentiment were overlooked, but strong points were quickly
grasped and held by a tenacious memory. His waking hours were occupied
mostly in sight-seeing and in this rapid process of book and paper
As in his perusal of American military exploits, which revived
boyish fancies tempered by maturing thought, so sentiments appealing to
lapsed memories and living pictures that suggested even profiles or
silhouettes of once familiar views took on new significance and
The second Sunday after Oswald's arrival in New York he attended
morning services at St. Thomas' Church, and afterward strolled over to
Central Park. He is seated near the statue of Alexander Hamilton. While
pondering over the tragic fate of this great secretary, Oswald failed
to notice an elegantly dressed gentleman who in passing stared
inquiringly. Looking up, he sees a familiar face smiling in questioning
surprise. Claude Leslie grasps Oswald's extended hand, and with many an
ejaculated Well! leads him to the carriage.
During Oswald's reverie, Claude, in passing, caught a view of that
handsome face which so often lighted with its fine expressions in
Himalaya camp. The carriage stops, and Claude returns to confirm his
impression. With offhand cordiality, Claude takes charge of this
Though Oswald feels some embarrassment and a little doubt as to the
outcome, he can but rejoice at such welcome change. Fortunately Claude
is alone in the carriage. Explanations need not be heard by others.
Besides, Claude had shown respect for Oswald's reserve.
During their ride through the park they chat pleasantly about former
experiences. Claude asks where his friend is stopping, and suggests
that when convenient he would like to show him the sights. However, he
will not intrude on Oswald's time, except when agreeable.
I have all the time there is, but you may have your own plans.
That evening Oswald accepted an invitation to dine at his friend's
elegant apartments. There were no other guests.
Claude learns that Oswald will not object to limited acquaintance
with congenial people, and likes seeing objects of local interest.
They mingled quite freely with prominent male residents, and met not
a few popular local celebrities of the gentler sex.
Though having no hint as to the nature of Oswald's troubles, Claude
was most considerate. When shielding his friend from possible
embarrassments, there was such apparent offhand frankness that for the
time Oswald forgot former stresses. Even Claude's silences or evasive
replies to questions about his friend's past life seemed casual
inadvertence or preoccupation.
Claude Leslie had easy entrée to both business and social circles.
Oswald attributed gracious greetings and cordial welcomes to
Doubtless he owed much to this source, but his own chastened
manners, refined, brilliant conversation, suggestiveness of romantic
interest, and good looks, were the most potent factors.
Among male acquaintances then formed were some prominent in business
and politics. Oswald met young men who were social favorites in
exclusive circles. Some of these soon afterward won robust renown at
Las Guasimas and upon the slopes of San Juan.
Oswald's pensive reserve made him an interesting enigma to social
belles. Claude jokingly remarked:
It is evident that this Englishman is not seeking matrimonial
alliance with any 'Gotham' heiress.
In explanation of his friend's occasional preoccupied, listless
irresponsiveness, Claude said:
Perhaps there is a continuing infatuation across the Atlantic.
One day Claude proposed that Oswald, as his guest, accompany him on
a sight-seeing tour of the Western States. This was just what would
have most pleased Oswald but for that expected letter from Sir Donald
He every day looked for a reply. Oswald could not think of then
leaving on a prolonged trip.
Expressing gratitude for the invitation, he declined, assigning his
daily expectation of important news from England.
Claude excused Oswald, adding, in pleasant banter:
I hope congratulations soon will be in order, but bring her to New
To this Oswald responded with a sadly suggestive smile.
Next day, at the Grand Central Station, these friends parted.
Oswald greatly missed Claude Leslie's congenial society and
contagious enthusiasm. That expressive face became familiar to
general-delivery mail-clerks, who could tell the non-arrival of
expected letter, yet carefully looked, for his better assurance.
In this extremity Oswald seeks the society of an Italian guide, who
as protégé of Claude Leslie often piloted these friends through parts
of darker New York.
From the first Oswald felt an interest in Marco Salvini. This grew
with each meeting. Though much pleased, the guide often responded with
looks of blank wonder. Claude Leslie had noted this capricious favor,
but regarded it as an out-growth from Oswald's peculiar temperament,
influenced by self-inflicted social reserve. But these marked
attentions soon suggested to Claude a cause more significant. The
guide's likeness to that bandit who died in Himalaya camp was most
striking. It seemed that this sentimental Englishman yet felt
compunction for that fatal shot.
After Claude's departure, Oswald's fancy again reverts to this
Italian. Going to neighborhood of Five-Points, he calls at proper
number, but gets no information, except that Marco Salvini has been
away two days. In front of Five-Points House of Industry he pauses to
A new sensation of dizziness is felt. Oswald braces against the
brick wall, facing Five-Points Mission. The bewildering faintness is
brief, yet he still stands in reverie. In recent years much had been
done for this formerly depraved neighborhood. His thoughts cross the
sea to an embowered spot, near a beautiful lake, where one timidly and
in faltering accents had announced her solemn consecration to like
humble yet exalted ministry. In striking contrast appears a chafing,
petulant suitor, privately protesting against such infatuation and
indignantly railing at spiritual advisers. The sacrifice now seems more
rational, and the advice kindly considerate. Was that modestly
brilliant, sweetly fascinating girl engaged in her chosen mission?
Oswald recalls Claude Leslie's accounts of charitable deeds and
gifts by benevolent persons in support of this beneficent work among
the poor. How worthy of emulation the helpful ministries and charities
of one Gotham heiress, proceeds of whose inherited millions are finding
distribution in these and kindred lines!
Passing along Park Street to Mott intersection, Oswald meets the
priest who officiates at the church near there.
That guide had spoken of this man, and Oswald thinks here is a
possible chance to learn present whereabouts of Marco Salvini.
He is shocked to hear that two days before this Italian had been
nearly crushed to death by a car collision, and is now at St.
Oswald loses no time in delay. Going promptly to the hospital, he is
admitted to proper ward. Upon assurance of his friendship for the
injured man, he is permitted to remain. For a week he watches, eating
and sleeping little.
Oswald becomes ill, and is soon delirious. For a long time his
strong will had braced against the insidious disease. The fever laid
sure hold on that athletic frame, and its course was relentless.
Two days after Oswald was stricken, Marco Salvini died.
The continuous attentions of this quiet stranger at that Italian's
cot had attracted the notice and won the regard of those in charge.
From this patient there were neither confidences nor complaints.
During earlier deliriums utterances seemed held in check by that
coercive will, but as the disease wasted vital energies speech became
With some disregard to order of their occurrence, many tragic
happenings were reënacted during these delirious states.
Oswald is again at Northfield, along the lake, and upon the Thames.
They are now on the road from Calcutta.
What a dreary stretch! 'So foolish was I and ignorant!'
The scene changes to Himalaya slope.
Lie still, Karl! I will hit him hard!
From another room come violin strains of Ave Maria.
Opening his eyes with a start, they settle upon the crucifix pendent
from the neck of the sweet-faced nun.
Poor fellow! I shot too straight!
Again he gazes on that sacred symbol.
'Thou that takest awaytakest awayaway the sin of the
world'his sin, poor fellow! Mine too!
Staring at his upturned palm lying on the spread, he exclaims:
See that mark? It's blood! I shot too straight.
Higher rise the notes of the violin.
Rapturously those grand eyes turn toward the ceiling.
Look! look! Wild flowers arch the mountains! See the graves, Karl!
The clouds drop wreaths!
There is another quiet lapse, then the patient tosses feverishly.
The weeping nun says:
He is making a hard fight!
In startling response comes:
'I was ever a fighter, so one fight more,
The best and the last!'
His view seems dazzled by the lights, and the good priest suggests
that his eyes be shaded.
'I would hate that death bandaged my eyes and forbore
and bade me creep past!'
For a while Oswald seems quietly sleeping, then in confused accents
mutters, and starting up, calls out:
'Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set
And blew; Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.'
These quotations fall upon the ears of priest and Sister of Charity
with awfully solemn accents. They feel in presence of double mystery of
life and death.
There is now naught to break the impressive silence but ticking of a
clock and distant rumble of the elevated trains. No word had been
uttered by this patient giving any clew to his religious training. The
friend at whose cot this stranger so faithfully watched was a professed
believer. Too, those fixed glances at the crucifix and solemn
utterances suggested belief in the atoning merits. Priest and nun
exchange inquiring looks, then intently gaze at that quiet sleeper.
Oswald stirs, opens his eyes, tosses feebly, and in low tones says:
A squall! They reef the sails! A typhoon!
After brief pause he whispers audibly:
Dark! So dark! Then exclaims:
The star! the star! Mother!
Somewhere in pulsing zone, circling this vexed human state, there is
commotion. Rock-posing Barjona, think not to question this outgoing! At
sight of inverted spike-prints echoes not yet that morning crowing in
Faster than light, swifter than sweep of angelic herald, quicker
than aught else than Infinite quickening at human prayer, speeds the
mystery of motherhood.
Gently ministering to most intricate throbbings of that suspended
spirit consciousness, as her own had dominated embryo pulsings pending
expectant miracle of birth, each disordered beat is soothed to rest.
Who may more than hint those voices, sounding not above the din of
lifewhisperings to That, not always checked by vesturing clay nor
indexed by crude registers of flesh?
Oswald lay long in this still sleep. The fevered crisis past, he
slowly returns to conscious memory. There seems no curiosity as to
future plans. When there is but slight danger of relapse, the nun who
had been present at critical stage asks his name, and suggests that he
may desire his mail brought to the hospital. This seems proper. It soon
arrives. There is only one letter, but this bears a suggestive
postmark. Its contents electrify Oswald, who hardly can restrain his
joy. His impulse is to confide the good news to that kind-hearted
sister who stands smiling at this handsome patient. Oswald checks his
feelings and remarks:
It is only good news from England, sister!
The nun now learns that Oswald's home is near London, and that he
has been away for years.
The rigid reserve relaxes, and he talks freely, yet saying nothing
about causes for such absence. Recovery is now rapid. The letter
arrived in New York about three weeks before its delivery at the
Not knowing anything about Oswald's past life or name, there had
been no call for his mail.
As he would not be able to take the sea voyage for several days, a
letter is sent, addressed to Sir Donald Randolph, stating the reasons
for delay in receiving and answering, with expectation of being able to
start homeward within two weeks. This had been dictated to an obliging
The now happy convalescent hardly can suppress within discreet
bounds his longing for speedy return. Within three weeks from this date
Oswald Langdon is aboard ship, booked for Southampton.
CHAPTER XXV. A ROGUE'S HEART AND
That evening's meeting was most interesting. Out of consideration
for the feelings of Alice, Charles Randolph was absent until after
those girl friends had exchanged tearful greetings and all
embarrassments of the reunion were past. Sir Donald's and Esther's
unfeigned hospitality eased any possible misgivings or restraints of
their guests. Father and daughter seemed influenced by a glad hope that
their future lives would find congenial association through this
renewed confiding. Soon Sir Donald and Thomas Webster are conferring
privately. That conditional promise is being kept sacred. The pledge is
now without scruple. Reasons for such puzzling reservations are told.
In abbreviated summary Sir Donald relates his own and detective tactics
during that long pursuit of the Laniers.
Both clearly see the strange, romantic threads restraining them
within coercive limits, interdicting helpful alliances while leading
all at divergent angles of cross-purpose.
At a Randolph conference, Sir Donald said:
I will privately tell the uncle about Oswald Langdon's escape from
Thames drowning and strange after conduct. Of this miracle Alice can
learn through her Uncle Thomas.
Charles Randolph, who had endured with becoming fortitude his
voluntary absence, returns at the exact time limit. He is now formally
presented to the girl whose image fascination so often had intruded
upon his sentimental musings, assuming conspicuous place in ambitious
Sir Donald and that interesting uncle remain in extended conference,
but their absence leaves little void.
After they joined the circle, all lingered until a late hour. They
separated with mutual understanding that all would plan and act
Sir Donald had not written to Oswald Langdon. He thought it prudent
to wait until after Alice's completed story. There now can be no need
of further delay. This unhappy wanderer must be notified of recent
revelations. After the evening meeting Sir Donald wrote a clear,
ringing letter, in substance stating that Alice Webster was rescued
from the Thames; for good reasons, until recently, concealed her
identity; now lived with a relative in London, and had spent the
evening with his family. Both Laniers were under arrest, and could not
escape. There was no possible necessity for Oswald to remain away
longer. Charles Randolph had returned from a long absence, and Esther
was well. Alice Webster did not yet know of Oswald's being alive, but
would hear it soon. All past troubles were clearing, and the future was
hopeful. Oswald could reach Northfield soon as a letter from New York,
but it would be better to write anyway. The letter closed with cheering
Esther and Charles join me in congratulations, and hope for your
speedy safe return.
This was that delayed epistle which so electrified an interesting
convalescent in hospital ward across the sea.
While at Northfield before the arrests, Sir Donald had received
Oswald's letter from New York announcing arrival and intention to
remain until answer came.
As there then was no very sure prospect of the conspiracy being
speedily cleared, Sir Donald delayed answering until some definite
progress could be reported. When at Calcutta it had been agreed that
Sir Donald should not write except upon some important development.
Oswald seemed to have forgotten this, as he expected sure reply upon
receipt of his letter by Sir Donald.
Thinking that Oswald might inquire for mail under the agreed alias,
Sir Donald also sent a copy so addressed. Because of Oswald's truthful
response when questioned by the nun, this copy never was delivered.
Sir Donald and his friend now devoted their combined counsels to
securing for Alice her father's estate.
Paul Lanier surely would be officially declared insane. This
wretched victim of parental greed and criminal connivance could only
excite most profound pity. Against this poor crazed creature neither
now feels the least vindictive impulse.
Proper proceedings are instituted, resulting in Paul Lanier being
committed as a madman. Nothing was said about Lanier crimes except
killing of that Northfield sentinel.
In the struggle Paul and the guard had exchanged daggers.
Paul's crazed actions were sufficiently described by witnesses to
make insanity conclusive. There had been such evident reserve as to
convince onlookers of some suppressed evidence through understood,
concerted restraints. Pierre was brought before the tribunal, but
declined to testify. Paul frantically appealed to his father:
Save your own Paul from these stranglers!
He then lapsed into reverie, and muttered:
The world shall see his bones!
After Paul had been adjudged insane, Pierre sent for Sir Donald
Randolph to visit him in prison.
That proceedings were about to be commenced against him Pierre had
no doubt. Since his arrest a settled conviction that he was now within
the coils of justice had been always present. Paul's hopeless
derangement seemed to unnerve that cold-tempered, persistent will.
Pierre never had planned crime without some reference to the future
of his only son. All heartless scheming and precautions had tended to
unrest, culminating in Paul's dreadful disorder. Possibly justice
longer might be impeded, but its course would be none the less sure and
Old religious precepts, forgotten in tense devotion to criminal
purposes, come to mind. Odd sentimental moods occasionally are felt.
Pierre keeps thinking about his own responsibility for Paul's awful
state. In the solitude of his cell, he mutters:
That inherited taint which, through soothing specific of quiet
living, for two generations lay dormant, now spreads its ravages within
Paul's distracted brain. All this is the work of one who knew of that
mental disorder in maternal line, yet heeding not, nor giving care to
its restraint or healing, has slain his boy's reason through tenacious
holding to the fruits of crime.
Paul's mother gave her life for his, yet I, his father, who
tenderly reared the motherless babe through early childhood, and
proudly looked upon maturing growth, sacrificed all upon the flameless
altar of consuming greed.
At times Pierre's remorse is horrible. He thinks not of defrauded,
murdered ward. Paul's victims raise no spectral hands of menace. To
Pierre all other crimes shrink aghast at this most heinous incarnation
of a father's guilt. He becomes indifferent to his own life. In
despairing solicitude, he exclaims:
Only that some relief come to that distracted head I gladly would
pay the penalties of all my crimes!
This desperate man even beseeches heaven for his son's relief. He
prays not for himself, nor cares for personal deliverance. In
all-absorbing concern for the crazed Paul, he dares appeal to divine
compassion, without thought of self or pardon. Strange infatuation!
Pierre grows hopeful, and feels some queer sense of grateful
obligation. He slowly gropes and stumbles, while tenaciously turning
his soul's blind orbs toward this dimly glimmering yet hopeful ray.
Pierre faintly recollects the account of the Gadirean tenant of the
Paul's case is not so serious as that, but who will pity my poor
Pierre thinks of Sir Donald Randolph. This high-principled champion
of the defrauded, murdered Alice Webster is Pierre's and Paul's
uncompromising pursuer. That any other had set or kept in operation
such tireless shadowings Pierre has no thought. This man can be neither
cajoled nor bribed, yet may soften at frank avowal or direct appeal.
Pierre gives no thought to his own accountings. Through troubled
night he has been thinking about his crazed boy. Suppose it might
transpire that the prison portal swings open and he walks forth into
the light of day a free man, what is there in life for Pierre Lanier?
The only ogre shape whose boding presence for him has terrors is this
avenging sprite, Paul's growing craze.
Pierre could seek respite in suicide, but not thus might escape a
father's heavy accounting. He has no thought of such evasive shift. In
all the worlds, it seems to Pierre, there is none but he to pity Paul.
But for the irrational hope of in some way ministering to stresses of
this afflicted son, that guilty, wretched parent would, with bared brow
and unflinching front, welcome fate's worst.
Pierre will make a decisive throw of the fateful dice. Calling the
turnkey, he asks for paper and pencil. These are brought. Pierre writes
a brief note to Sir Donald Randolph, handing it open to the surprised
watcher. It is a simple request that Sir Donald come at once to see
Pierre Lanier upon important matters.
Upon reference to superiors the note is sent by special messenger to
Sir Donald's hotel. In a short time Sir Donald Randolph and Pierre
Lanier are holding their first conference.
Knowing the crafty past of this schemer, Sir Donald anticipated some
astute proposition in the Lanier interest. He was ill-prepared for one
so direct and ingenuous.
Without the slightest attempt at preliminary fencing, Pierre says:
I am run to cover and hopelessly besieged. I have no favors to ask,
except such as may help my poor boy. I defrauded Alice, as you well
know. I am ready to turn over to her estate, or to that of William
Webster, all the proceeds of my embezzlement. The whole thing will
amount in value to about six hundred thousand pounds. Do with me as you
please, but because of my thus making your work easy it would not be
amiss to have a care for Paul's comfort and cure. Except for that
wronged child's good I care not what becomes of me.
To say that Sir Donald was surprised were mild reference to his
amazement. For some moments he sat speechless, then in husky tones
Your proposition seems most fair and honorable. I will think it
over, and soon return.
In leaving, Sir Donald extends his hand. Pierre hesitates, then
offers his own. Grasping that reserved palm, Sir Donald feels it
tremble, while Pierre's body seems to collapse against the wall of his
That there is any shamming or covert deceit in this strange
proposition, Sir Donald now has not a semblance of suspicion.
After a conference with Thomas Webster, Sir Donald hastens back to
the prison. He assures Pierre that the offer will be accepted.
No pledges have been exacted and none will be given, but it will be
my pleasure to alleviate in all possible ways Paul's unfortunate
Sir Donald then says:
May it not be hoped that you can find some help in your own
To this Pierre makes no reply, but turns away his face. In leaving,
Sir Donald asks:
When will it best suit you to give an inventory and make
The sooner the better. Please attend to it at once. You will know
just how to proceed.
Next day Sir Donald visits at the prison, and obtains a full
statement of property in Calcutta and London in which the estate of
William Webster has interest. There is nothing said about the manner in
which Pierre obtained possession. This strange criminal is making no
detailed confession, but Sir Donald doubts not that restitution will be
complete. Pierre tells what Calcutta banks are custodians of papers,
shares of stock, other muniments of title and moneys. Minute
descriptions of real property and chattels are given. Much of all this
is held by trusted agents as ostensible owners, but he gives their
names and addresses. Pierre will sign proper orders, and convey at any
time all his interests and equities.
At an early after visit all necessary papers are duly executed, and
Thomas Webster is constituted Pierre's lawful agent to make any further
transfers. Pierre tells where may be found those unrecorded deeds
perfecting Alice Webster's title to the London property.
The now earnest man evinces a strong determination that restitution
be complete. To some suggestion of Sir Donald and Thomas Webster, that
certain formalities could be waived, as they have no doubt of Pierre's
good faith, he becomes impatient, and insists on compliance with every
Fortified with these documents, Thomas Webster soon left for
Nothing had been hinted about escapes of Oswald Langdon and Alice
Webster from Paul's murderous assaults. Pierre still believes these had
fallen victims to Paul's passionate, hasty revenge. Until the
restitution becomes absolute by full recovery of all, Pierre will not
be told about their strange escapes or after experiences.
There now will be no occasion for bringing of civil actions against
Pierre Lanier. Even that conspiracy to defraud Alice out of London
property can not be clearly established. That Pierre had to do in any
of Paul's murderous assaults is not susceptible of competent proof,
except in those upon the Dodges in Calcutta. Of these favorable
circumstances Pierre knows little and cares less. But for Paul he would
have found grim satisfaction in paying the most extreme penalties.
That uncle, before starting on his trip, arranged for delay in
proceedings against Pierre Lanier, and suggested that the whole case
might be simplified by judicious waiting.
Pierre makes no demand for a hearing or arraignment. All remains in
status quo through irregular, concurring sufferance.
Sir Donald and family, accompanied by Alice Webster, leave for
A letter is daily expected from Oswald Langdon. Alice and Charles
seem forgetful of all former experiences. The attraction is mutual.
They talk and laugh as though no shadow ever crossed the path of either
or hung like a menacing cloud over that Northfield household. Alice
heard of Oswald's escape and romantic conduct. She so long had thought
of him as dead that these reports sound like ghostly recitals. Oswald
Langdon's living, corporeal presence would seem as one long dead, whose
reëmbodied spirit had been clothed anew with vesture of flesh. In
dreams had she not beheld that drowned form lying at bottom of the
fateful river? In far Bombay Alice conjured Oswald's fleshless skeleton
into a fearful ogre fright for Paul Lanier. Again, along the lake had
she stampeded this crazed madman by impressive promptings about those
bleaching bones. To Alice Webster Oswald Langdon is surely dead. But
how instinct and tremulous with pulsing life is that other handsome,
manly presence whose eyes seek hers! Does he not know her strange
romance, yet seem to feel that all is right? Charles's unfeigned
admiration and growing interest cannot escape that father's observing
glances, yet Sir Donald seems pleased. Esther sees all, and smiles
approval. If these who know the worst make no protest, why should Alice
feel scruples about the unhappy past?
Esther's expressive face lights at all announcements of letters, but
grows pensive at each inspection of tell-tale postmarks. Sir Donald
looks over each mail's assortment, and his eyes seek Esther's. That
indulgent father remarks:
Oswald Langdon may be away from New York a few days, and some time
could elapse between receipt of my letter and sailing of ship carrying
From day to day that letter is looked for, and Esther seems as
though hourly expecting some interesting visitor at Northfield. Her
pretty dissembling is sure proof, but all concur in its bewitching
In the privacy of her room Esther consults maps of travel and
transatlantic ship schedules. Names, dates, and descriptive particulars
are confusing. Many very essential items of information seem lacking.
What ship will Oswald take from New York? Is it seaworthy? When will
the ship sail? Will the vessel be crowded or the cargo too heavy? Are
there severe storms at this season?
All these and many other items of general information about ocean
travel have been omitted.
Tremulously confiding in Brother Charles, now regarded as
sufficiently sentimental for a safe bureau agent of nautical
information, all Esther's puzzling queries are answered in clearest
Yes, there can be no doubt; Oswald took the very safest ship
sailing out of New York; that vessel is never crowded or overloaded; in
fact, only enough cargo is aboard for proper ballast; at this season
the Atlantic is very calm; the ship is now near Southampton.
This is sufficient for present assurance. As days pass without
expected letter or arrival, Esther grows skeptical as to Charles's
marine lore, and appeals to her father. Sir Donald smiles at her
recital of Charles's positive assurances, and tenderly toying with
Esther's glossy tresses, says:
All will be well; I have no fears. Daughter mine, times and tides,
storms and calms, clouds and sunlight, come not amiss.
Next day Sir Donald received a second letter. Its contents accounted
for all delay and waiting. With certainty that Oswald will not leave
New York before two weeks from date of this letter, Esther feels a
sense of resignation. He has escaped death, and soon will start
homeward. She feels some fear of a possible relapse, but reasons that
Oswald will take proper precautions. Delaying sailing showed
discretion. Esther has some doubts about two weeks being sufficient
after such a terrible sickness. Just then she would have advised
waiting a few days longer.
The next fortnight passes slowly. Then came a letter from Oswald to
Sir Donald. Under advice of his physician, he will wait another week
before starting homeward. His passage is already engaged, and he gives
the ship's name, with date when it will leave New York Harbor. After
arrival at Southampton, he will visit his parents, and then at
Northfield. Some pleasant things were written about anticipated
reunions, and the letter closed with wish for remembrance to Esther,
Alice Webster, and Charles Randolph.
There is regret at this waiting, but all approve Oswald's doing as
advised by the physician.
Alice and Charles are not pensive over any delays. In conscious
adjustment to the happy present, neither past nor future clouds their
clear, sunlighted skies. Both feel that their lives soon will blend.
Before that expected proposal neither doubted its utterance or
acceptance. It came as easily as come responsive, happy greetings from
eager lips and lustrous eyes. There is no doubt of that uncle's
approval, but the nuptial ceremony can abide his return from Calcutta.
The next day after this betrothal came another letter from Oswald to
Sir Donald, telling of his safe arrival at Southampton. He will visit
his parents, and in three days from that date be at Northfield.
All experience a sense of expectant pleasure. Sir Donald feels that
past worries are receding into waning retrospect. Charles is happy in
his own right. Alice longs for a sight of that Thames resurrection
while looking into the handsome face then smiling its admiration of her
own. Bessiewell, this little fair-haired find says all sorts of
pretty, indiscreet things, interrupts tête-à-têtes, intrudes upon
conferences, artlessly domineers over everybody, closing each day's
performances by going to sleep upon the arm of Sir Donald.
Without mishap Oswald reaches Southampton. The ocean voyage had been
pleasant, and he feels buoyantly hopeful. He is impatient for the home
reunion with father and mother. Anticipating their glad surprise at his
safe return, Oswald pauses at the familiar portal out of which he had
fled a disguised fugitive years before. He hesitates, then rings the
bell. The door is opened, and his father looks inquiringly. There is
glad recognition, and the rector leads his son to a chair, but both
remain standing. Looking tearfully upward, the father holds Oswald's
hand and says nothing. Both fix their eyes upon a new oil portrait.
Sinking into a chair, Oswald whispers:
Where is mother?
To this comes only:
For an hour these stricken ones sit with clasped palms, neither
crying nor indulging in spoken grief. Then, as if by mutual impulse,
both talk of other things.
Oswald speaks of past troubles and present deliverances. He is now
free from all suspicion, and can face the world without fear. Alice
Webster is alive, and the Laniers are in custody.
The rector tells of his continued ministerial work and lonesome
That evening neither referred to their great loss. Upon the
following day Oswald's father told about the mother's troubles after
the son's flight, and related some of the incidents of her last
sickness. Neither parent ever confided to any human being Oswald's
plight, nor had either the least information about his fate.
Mother talked and dreamed of her absent son. In sleep she sang
cradle lullabys and gently reproved her 'own little Ossie.' For hours
she would sit looking out of the window, expecting your return.
Without apparent cause came that fatal attack. After a few days the
physician said there was no hope. His diagnosis revealed no malignant
disease, but indicated a total collapse of vital forces. For hours
mother would lay at the window, clasping your boyhood miniature, often
turning it toward the light of the sun or stars. Just before going into
her last long sleep mother looked out into the rayless dark, and
'Percy, dear, see that star! It is coming this way. Now I will go
and find Ossie!'
She has been dead two years.
Each bearing flowers, father and son visit the grave. Wife and
mother is not there, but these floral tokens are sacred to loving,
pathetic memories. Her ministries know, but feel not earthly
Oswald stands long with bowed, uncovered head. Neither speaks. There
are no tears. Reverend Percy Langdon passes his arm through that of his
son and slowly leads homeward.
Upon the next day Oswald starts for Northfield. He promises soon to
return and talk over plans with his father.
Upon Oswald's spirits has settled deep pensiveness, so solemn as to
check all buoyant exuberance, for the time restraining joyous tremor at
thought of those waiting Northfield greetings.
There are upon the faces of that early-risen household looks of
expectation. All seem self-possessed, except Esther. While bewitchingly
trying to be very circumspect, Esther is consciously excited. Starting
up, checking the impulse, with forced composure slowly sitting down,
Esther steals glances at Alice and Charles, asks questions, answers to
which do not interest her in the least, then hugs the spoiled Bessie,
and quits the room.
Sir Donald drives alone to the station. Soon the train arrives.
After greetings, Oswald enters the carriage, and they slowly drive
toward that elegant home. Sir Donald notes Oswald's subdued responses.
His intuition suggests some recent sad revelation at the parental
fireside. He inquires about Oswald's home visit and the health of his
parents. The reply sounds like echo of requiem toll.
Mother went away!
Words of condolence would be incongruous. Silence is more
expressive. Without reference to past tragic happenings, these talk
about current matters of incidental interest, and are soon at the
Entering the family sitting-room, Charles is first presented. Then
from an obscure corner, with scared smile upon her face, advances Alice
Webster. Both look inquiringly as they extend their hands. Bessie gazes
with large, curious eyes, and all are seated.
Sir Donald has relieved the tense embarrassment by some casual
comments, when in the next room is heard timid, hesitating steps.
Turning toward the connecting arch, Oswald's eyes meet those of Esther
Randolph. Timidly advancing, Esther extends her hand, which soon
trembles in his own, but hints not at withdrawal. That palm's tremulous
lingering is most subtle, yet ingenuous assurance. Oswald's heart
quickens at the sign.
The evening is passed in refined conversation. Oswald's pensive
musings cannot last in such environment. There is no haste to talk over
past sorrows. Both Oswald and Charles recall having met on that tramp
As if for Oswald's better assurance, Esther lingers near, never
seeming at ease except in his presence. At times she gazes upon that
erratic erstwhile suitor as if fearful he again may leave upon some
strange journey. Often to Esther it seems Oswald is unduly reserved,
fearing long looking into her eyes or lingering touches of that
confiding hand as useless toying with forbidden things. Her woman's
intuition suggests the cause. Upon the lake's wooded shore years ago
did she not respond to that eloquent avowal with stated consecration
upon the altar of self-sacrifice? Oswald may believe that this decision
is final. Too, this handsome, fascinating, imperious, masterful man has
been away ample time to grow cold or meet some other attraction.
In their tête-à-têtes Esther shows continuing interest for
charitable matters. She tells about Paris and Calcutta hospitals. Those
calls at cabins in Calcutta suburb are related with harrowing incidents
of the mothers' poverty. Oswald listens intently, but does not
moralize. Esther looks troubled, and refers to happenings when Oswald
first visited Northfield and Alice Webster was her guest. That quiet
listener hears all, but seems in pensive reverie.
[Illustration: THIS SAGE REPLY IS HEARD BY THE EAVESDROPPING
They are sitting in secluded bower within the mansion grounds. Sir
Donald is taking his accustomed afternoon nap. Alice and Charles are
out for a drive. Bessie is just awake, and has come out to survey her
vested belongings. Esther hears the child's happy humming, and looking
appealingly at Oswald, propounds this puzzling interrogatory:
Under all the circumstances, Mr. Langdon, would you advise a young
girl, withwith such a good homewho has such a kind father and
brotherandwellyou knowlike metotospend her life in
Quickly looking into that flushed face and those questioning eyes,
Oswald needs no further assurance. Impulsively encircling the
unresisting form, he answers upon those upturned lips. This sage reply
is heard by the eavesdropping Bessie, who, as self-constituted
ceremonial dictator, emerges and joins their hands in the wordless
Soon, slowly leading Esther and carrying that spoiled four-year-old
toward the mansion, Oswald says:
I will speak to your father. Esther's reply is a happy smile.
Thomas Webster's Calcutta trip had been a complete success. Alice
received a letter from her Uncle Thomas, and expected him to be at
Northfield within six weeks. A double wedding is set for a date soon
after that uncle's Northfield visit. Oswald returns to his father's
home and tells the good news. By Esther's and Sir Donald's special
request, the rector soon accompanies Oswald back to Northfield. In this
hospitable mansion father and son spend much of the time until those
Sir Donald receives a letter from Thomas Webster requesting him to
be in London on a certain date. These two allies hold a conference, and
upon the following day Pierre Lanier is released from prison. There had
been no formal charge requiring investigation. All concerned had
acquiesced in this irregular, unauthorized detention. Having fully
accomplished that Calcutta mission, and received, direct to Alice,
transfers of all property listed by Pierre Lanier, there could be no
possible good result from longer detention of this miserable man.
Pierre is stupefied by this unexpected release. He seems neither
elated nor curious at such good fortune. Sir Donald was at the prison
when Pierre came out. They walked away together. To Sir Donald's
What can I now do for you, Mr. Lanier? there is a long silence,
then comes reply:
How is Paul?
Hearing that Paul is being kindly treated, Pierre looks grateful,
That is right. Paul is not to blame.
Sir Donald now offers to do all in his power for Pierre's future
I will consider it a privilege to help you.
Pierre smiles vacantly, stands in reverie, then extending his hand,
in low tones says:
My boy is innocent! His father did it all.
With Sir Donald's assurance that in a few days he will meet Pierre
at a designated place in London, and tell him some good news, they
When first confined in the asylum Paul had been fierce and violent.
This was followed by more pacific moods, and he became quite tractable.
At times Paul indulged in childish speech, and cried for his father's
coming. After a long reverie Paul once said:
No, I did not drown them! That was Alice atatwhat's the name of
that place? That strong fellow could swim. What's his name? Yes, that's
Within a week after Thomas Webster's return occurred those happy
nuptials. Because of tragic happenings there were few invited guests.
All had resulted well. Past sorrows cast their inevitable forward
shadows, but the present is nevertheless joyous in full content,
luminous with halo of future hopes.
Each day Pierre Lanier calls at the asylum. Through Sir Donald's
previous suggestion, Pierre is accorded special privileges. Paul grows
hysterically joyful when his father comes. Alone after these
oft-recurring visits, Paul sobs bitterly.
From Sir Donald and Thomas Webster Pierre scrupulously declines any
offers of personal assistance. This is not through pique or pride.
That restitution had been in nature of a bid for Paul's deliverance,
but these would-be almoners were not contracting parties. To his
clingingly audacious supplications in behalf of the crazed Paul, Pierre
had heard an imperious voice whisper:
Pierre is not quite sure that this is a divinely stated condition
precedent, but will treat it as such.
With gropingly tenacious faith he stumbles toward this hinted
adjudication. Without suspicion of selfish motive or accepted personal
benefit, Pierre will keep his part of the solemn pact.
Paul is not to blame! That awful inherited taint and a father's
dominating, all-consuming greed!
These are at least mitigating claims.
Who may contest Paul's right before the face of the Most High?
Paul seems improving. Pierre is elated. That shriveled heart pulses
with new hope. He even presumes to thank heaven for covenant fealty.
With consummate audacity Pierre now hopes there may be found some
extenuating circumstances in his own case.
Soon after the nuptials Sir Donald meets Pierre Lanier in London and
tells him of the marriage ceremonies. Pierre turns pale, stares, and
sinks upon the floor of his room. Sir Donald supports the trembling
form. The romantic coincidences are partly related. Pierre smiles
hopefully. Sir Donald invites him to confirm the queer story by a visit
to Northfield, but Pierre is fully convinced.
Then Paul did not kill them! My boy is innocent! Excuse me, please;
now I will go to the asylum.
Sir Donald and Thomas Webster return to Northfield. Neither newly
married couple took a wedding journey. The four had planned spending
their honeymoons at Paris. Just before the nuptials, in presence of
that little autocrat now nearing the ripe age of five years, Sir Donald
is speaking about some objects of interest to be visited by these
travelers. Bessie begins to cry, and clinging to Esther's hand, says:
Stay here with me and papa!
There is instant approval. Oswald says, Why not? Sir Donald and
Uncle Thomas both declare in favor of the change; Alice joyously
assents; Charles announces his cheerful acquiescence; Esther kisses
Bessie and is smilingly content.
Uncle Thomas tells about meeting Mr. and Mrs. Dodge while at
Calcutta. When William Dodge was released from custody he accepted a
lucrative position obtained for him by Thomas Webster, and promised
when required to testify about the Lanier conspiracy against Alice.
This weak-principled man still retained the position, and was waiting
to comply with his agreement.
That assistant sleuth who had trailed the Laniers from Southampton
to Bombay, accompanied old Josiah Peters over to Calcutta, then
shadowed Sir Donald and Esther, kept track of Lanier peregrinations
until this pair landed in London, watched at the alley cabin, followed
both along the Thames, and was present at their final arrests, had gone
on a recent trip to Alaska gold fields.
Alice Randolph insists on Uncle Thomas accepting fifty thousand
pounds for his services and reimbursement. The uncle proposes a
compromise of half that sum, but Alice and Charles are obstinate. To
avoid a serious rupture between relatives, Uncle Thomas yields.
In their complete content pity is felt for Paul Lanier. Alice cannot
forget her part in that Bombay tableau or in those lake promptings.
Looking at Bessie, they often think of that crazed outlaw's strange
caprice in sparing lives of Northfield sleepers upon the memorable
It is with much satisfaction that all learn of Paul's possible
recovery. Pierre's strange restitution and refusal to accept any aid
from either Sir Donald or Thomas Webster is matter for frequent
Paul grows more tractable, showing signs of returning reason. Pierre
becomes devoutly thankful.
Some believe Pierre hypocritical; others say:
He cannot fool Heaven!
Many look upon this enigma, the while thinking of one who went to
his own place.
Eternity is so long! A lost soul is such a fearful loss!
Possibly that ancient Tenderness, with bias for saving, hopefully
shadows Pierre and Paul Lanier.