|Chapter Title||THE GREAT UNKNOWN.|
|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)|
|Trove Title||A Mystery|
(From English, American, and other Periodicals.)
THE GREAT UNKNOWN.
A year went by.
To Editha Dalton it seemed to fly as if with magic wings, for she was yet a schoolgirl, and this last year was filled full with study and practice, and with all the bustle and excitement attendant upon preparing for graduating.
To Earle Wayne it passed in a slow, tedious, mo- notonous manner, with its changeless daily routine, to and from the workshops and simple meals ; its never-varying sights and sounds, bolts and bars. But notwithstanding he grew intensely wearied with all this, and oftentimes even heart-sick, yet his courage and his purpose never wavered. Every day was filled to the last moment with usefulness. Every day, when his task was completed, he drew forth his book and spent the remaining hours in study, storing his mind, increasing his knowledge of his chosen profession, and preparing to carve out for himself a future, which, in spite of his present misfortune, he fondly hoped would command the respect of all who knew, or should ever know him.
He was cheerful and patient, performed his tasks with alacrity, and without the grumbling so usual among convicts ; and by his never varying courtesy and good behavior, he won for himself the com- mendation of the officers, the good will of his com- panions, and, better than all, the days of grace allotted to those who are not reprimanded.
Every week on Saturday -- the day on which any one may receive remembrance from their friends in the way of fruit, flowers, and other delicacies there came to him some little token, that made his heart beat and thrill with pleasure.
Sometimes it was a simple bunch of rosebuds, which, expanding day by day, blossomed at length into full glory, cheering and filling his gloomy cell with their beauty and fragrance.
Sometimes it was a box of lilies of the valley, or violets, or heliotrope and myrtle blossoms; at others, a tempting basket of fruit, with a book or periodical of some kind; and Earle knew that his little friend had not forgotten him.
Faithfully, never missing a single day, they came for a year, when they suddenly ceased, and he re- ceived them no more.
No one can realize how the poor prisoner missed these bright evidences of remembrance, nor how eagerly he still looked for them every Saturday for a long time, thinking that perhaps Editha was away or sick, and could not send them for the time.
"She has forgotten me, after all," he sighed, sadly, after several months had passed, and he had not re- ceived a single flower ; and it seemed almost as if death had bereaved him of some dear one as he re- turned to his lonely cell at night, after his daily task was ended, and there was no sweet perfume to greet him, no bright blossoms to cheer him.
All that remained to comfort him was a little box filled with dried and faded flowers, that he had not had the heart to throw away, and the memory of the brightness that had been.
And what was the reason of all this? Had Editha forgotten?
Had she, amid the busy cares which occupied her time and attention at this time, grown careless and neglectful ?
No. It happened in this way:
At the end of a year she graduated, doing honor to both her instructors and herself.
There was a day set apart for public exercises, when the graduating class appeared before their many friends to show what they were capable of in the way of essays, poems, and other accomplish- ments, and to receive their diplomas.
Editha's poem was greeted with enthusiasm, a perfect storm of applause testifying to the apprecia- tion of the public, while floral offerings were show- ered at her feet, until there were enough to have stocked a florist in a small way.
Selecting the choicest of them all, she inclosed both bouquet and poem, together with a little ex- planatory note in a box, and dispatched it to Earle.
Unfortunately, Mr. Dalton encountered the ser- vant who was bearing this box to the express office, confiscated it, enjoining silence upon the bearer re- garding its untimely fate.
The poem he preserved, but the flowers were
ruthlessly cast into the flames.
" We'll put a stop to all this nonsense," he mut- tered, as he watched their beauty blacken and shrivel upon the glowing coals ; and from that day he took care that the lonely prisoner should receive no more flowers or tokens of remembrance from his little friend, who, though she never once failed to keep her promise, was yet destined, through the enmity of another, to appear unfaithful to her promises.
The second year passed, and it was a year fraught with events of pain and sorrow for our beautiful
Mrs. Dalton died -- a woman of fashion and folly, but always kind, in her way, to Editha ; and though
there had never been as much of sympathy and har-
mony between them as there should be between mother and daughter, yet it left her very, very
lonely, and occasioned her the deepest grief, that the one whom she had always called by that sacred name should be taken from her.
Six months later Richard Forrester suddenly sickened, and from the first they knew that it was
This blow appeared likely to crush Editha, for "Uncle Richard" had always been her friend and sympathizer.
To him she had always carried all her griefs, her hopes and fears (for which no one else appeared to have neither time nor interest); and she ever found him a ready listener, and come away comforted and lightened of her burden, whatever it was.
If she wanted a particular favor, it was to Uncle Richard she applied. He gratified every childish whim or wish, no matter what it was or what ex-
pense, time, or trouble it involved.
He was her confidant, too ; all her little school- girl secrets were whispered unreservedly in his ear and us she grew older her plans were submitted to his judgement rather than to that of either father or
He always discussed them with her as with an equal, and as if they were as interesting to him as to herself; while her parents were liable to say indulgently, yet with evident annoyance :
"Do as you like, child; but I am too busy to at- tend to anything of the kind."
From the moment of his attack Mr. Forrester had insisted upon the presence of Editha at his bedside; and there he lay and watched her, with his heart in
his eyes, as if he knew he was looking his last upon the fair face and sunny-haired head that had been so dear to him for so many years.
He had been stricken with paralysis while plead- ing a case in the court-room, and was brought to his home never to leave it again until he was borne forth by other feet, and laid away from the sight of
His body was almost entirely paralyzed; but, strange to say, his brain was clear, and he arranged regarding the disposal of many things which were not mentioned in his will, and concerning the last services that were to be observed over his own body.
" My little girlie," he said tenderly to Editha one day, as she sat beside him, holding one of his numb and withered hands, and longing to do something to relieve his helplessness, "you have always loved Uncle Richard a little, haven't you?"
" A little!" she said, choking back a sob, " No one in all the world has ever been to me what you have been. You have been my confidant -- my most inti- mate friend. I have never been able to go to papa, nor to poor mamma while she lived, and tell them my troubles as I have to you. I don't know why it was, but papa always laughed at and teased me, and mamma was too busy to attend to me. But you always put by everything and listened to me. Uncle Richard, I believe -- I ought not to say it, perhaps but I can just whisper it to you now -- I believe I love you best of any one in all the world," and Editha laid her cheek against his in a fond way, that told how very dear he was to her.
"My dear child, the dying man said, with start- ing tears and trembling lip, " your words are very precious, I have been a very lonely man for -- for many years, but you have been a great comfort to me. Now, I want to talk very seriously to you for a little while. Do you think you can bear it ?"
" Yes, but -- but I am afraid it will not do for you to talk ; the doctor said you must not have any excitement," Editha said, knowing full well what subject was uppermost in his mind, and shrinking from talking about it.
" It will not make any difference now, Edie, dear -- a few hours more or less will not matter to me --"
" Uncle, Richard!" gasped the fair girl, as if she
could not bear it.
" My dear, we both know that death must come to me soon," be said gently, but with a sad smile ; " the parting must come. If I do not get excited I suppose I may live a few hours longer ; but I have some things that must be said, whether they excite me or not, and which I can say only to you, and, as I said before, a few hours will not matter. Do not weep thus, my darling ; I cannot bear that," he added, as the golden head drooped upon his breast and Editha wept rebelliously.
"Uncle Richard, you are my only real friend ; I cannot, cannot, let you go. What shall I do without you ?"
" Edie, dear, you must not give way thus -- you must be brave and calm ; it excites me more than anything else to see you grieve so," he said, huskily, as his lips pressed her shining hair, and his eyes
were filled with tears.
She raised her head instantly and made an effort
"Then I will not trouble you any more. For- give me," and her red lips sought his, so pale and
' That is right, dear ; do not let this our last hour, perhaps, be wasted in tears and vain regrets."
"You know, Edie," he continued, after a few minutes' thought, " or at least I suppose you know, that I am considered to be very rich."
" Yes ; but oh ! if we could only give it all and have you well again," she mourned.
"Yes; gold is valueless when one comes to lie where I am to day, and there is nothing a man would not give in exchange for his life ; but that is something over which we can have no control, and so it is well at all times to be ready to go when we are called. But I want to tell you that several years ago I made a will, and made you my heiress ; I have never had any one to love as I have loved you, and so all that I accumulated was laid by for you. But now --"
He stopped, and a look of trouble and anxiety swept over his features,
" But what ?" Editha asked ; " have you any other wish now ? I shall not care, and everything shall be just as you would like it to be.
" Thank you, dear, and that is just the unselfish spirit that I like to see in you, and I know that you will make a good use of your fortune. But I have another wish ; it is something that I intended doing myself, but have unwisely kept putting it off, and now I must leave it for you to carry out."
"Thank you for trusting me to do so, whatever it may be," Editha said, feeling deeply touched and grateful that he should deem her worthy to carry out any plan of his.
" From the first," he said, " I have been deeply in-
terested in Earle --"
Editha started at the name, and the rosy tide swept over her fair face, while her eyes drooped half guiltily, as if she feared he suspected something of what her father had hinted so long ago regarding
The sick man observed it, and he regarded her keenly for a moment, then heaved a deep sigh.
" He came to me, you know, dear," he went on, " a poor, friendless boy of seventeen, and I, attracted by his honest face and engaging manner, gave him a place in my office. I was not long in discovering that I had found no ordinary character, and I resolved I would cultivate his talents, make a lawyer of him, and when he should attain a proper age, make him an equal partner in my business. But you know the unfortunate circumstances which have blighted his career, and will mar it all his life --"
"No, Uncle Richard, I do not believe that," Editha interrupted, firmly. " I know well enough that Earle is innocent of any crime, and I believe he will rise
above all his trouble."
" Yes, I, too, believe him innocent, and suffering a grievous wrong ; but unless his innocence is proven to the world, the disgrace of his imprisonment will cripple him all his life -- the world will always sneer at and scorn him."
" I shall not, Uncle Richard ; when he comes back to us, I shall be his friend just as I always have been, and I shall defend him wherever I go."
Richard Forrestor's fading eyes lighted with admiration as they rested upon the spirited face be- side him, and he listened to these brave and fearless
"l am proud of you, Editha, for standing up so
bravely for the right, even though others may curl
the lip at you for doing it. It is no wonder that I love you, dear," he added, with wistful tenderness; " if -- if I only might have had -- ah ! what was I saying?"
He stopped suddenly, while a shudder shook him, and Editha not understanding his last words, feared his mind was wandering :
Presently, however, he resumed :
" But what I wanted to tell you was this : Since Earle's misfortune I have planned to do something for him as soon as his time expires. He will be fitted for the bar by that time if he follows the course I have marked out for him, and I intended offering him a partnership with me ; or, in case he did not feel like remaining here, giving him something handsome with which to start life somewhere else. But I can do neither now -- I cannot even add a codicil to my will, as I would like to do in his favor, I am so helpless," and he glanced down at his pal- sied hands with a heavy sigh.
" That is just like you, Uncle Richard ; but he can have the money even if you are not able to change your will,'' Editha said, in a glad tone.
" Yes, that is what I want ; when he comes out from that dismal place, he will feel as if every man's hand is against him, and I want him to be independent until he can win his way and establish himself somewhere. I want you, Editha, to give him ten thousand dollars -- I shall leave you a very handsome fortune, dear -- more than a hundred and fifty thousand, and you will not miss that sum."
" No indeed! Earle shall have twice that if you would like. I do not need so much money, for I have papa to take care of me, you know."
Richard Forrester's lips curled slightly at her last words. No one knew better than he how Sumner Dalton had been able to provide as handsomely as he had for his family during the past years. But he said, positively :
" No, Editha, just ten thousand and no more ; and if he is the man I think he is, he will double it him- self in a little while. Earle Wayne will make a noble man, but -- there is some mystery connected with his early life."
" A mystery? Of what nature ?"
"I do not know ; he would not tell me, and that business of his that he went to transact on the day before the robbery, you remember, he said was con- nected with his past, and he would not reveal it and that was one reason why the trial went against
"Yes, I remember, and I have often wondered what it could be," the young girl answered, thought- fully.
" You are perfectly willing that he should have a portion of your fortune ?" he asked, regarding her
" Not only willing, but very glad, Uncle Richard,"
she replied, heartily.
He heaved a sigh of relief as if that was a burden
off his mind.
" He could not legally claim anything, even if he knew of my wish to give him this, because my will leaves you everything ; but you will surely settle upon him this amount, as soon as his time is out ?"
" Yes, I promise you that I will do exactly as you wish; and Uncle Richard," she added, with a little smile, " you know that you have always taught me that I must keep my promises."
" That is right, and now there is one thing more. In the private drawer of my safe there is a sealed package belonging to Earle, and which he committed to my care for the time of his imprisonment. This I also give into your bands to keep for him, and when you settle the money upon him you can return it to him ; and under no circumstance allow the seal to be broken."
" Certainly not. I accept this as a sacred trust, and I will be faithful to the letter."
"Thank you, dear; that is all, I believe; and now --" with a yearning look into the sweet, flushed face, " you will not forget 'Uncle Richard' -- you will always think kindly of him ?"
" As if I could ever think of you in any other way,'' Editha said, reproachfully, and with starting tears.
" My life has not been all smooth, darling. In my younger days there were things that happened which I could not help ; and yet -- and yet --" with a shadow of pain on his brow, " perhaps I might have helped them in a degree if I had tried. but if -- if you should ever hear anything that seems strange or wrong to you, you will try not to blame me -- you will love me still?" he pleaded, yearningly.
" Uncle Richard, you can not ever have done any- thing so very wrong. You must not talk so, if you do, I shall not be able to listen to you calmly. I shall break down in spite of myself, and I must not for your sake," Editha said, brokenly, and feeling as if her heart must burst with its weight of sorrow.
" Well, well, dear, I will say no more, and it is pleasant to know you trust me so. You cannot know how much I have always loved you, You have been like a little green oasis in the desert of my heart ; always a source of comfort and joy to me, I hope, my darling, that nothing will ever cloud your future, but if there should you will still love and think of me kindly -- you will not blame Uncle Richard for anything?" he still persisted, as if some great and sudden fear had overtaken him at the last
"No, no indeed! I cannot bear it. How strangely you talk," the fair girl said, deeply distressed by his
words, and fearing that death was taking the
strength and vigor of his mind.
"I know -- I know ; I ought not trouble you thus,
but -- " with a deep-drawn sigh, " there are so many
sad things in life. God bless you, my darling -- my
own darling -- God ever bless and keep you from all
sorrow and harm."
He lay silent for several minutes, looking up into her face, as if he knew it was the last time, and he must fix its every lineament upon his memory be- fore the great unknown wrapped him in its mystic
At length he whispered:
" Now kiss me, dear, and go out into the fresh air, I have kept you too long ; your cheeks are pale, your
eyes are dim. I fear I have been selfish to keep you
here so much."
Editha stooped with a sob and kissed him upon his lips, his cheek, his eyes, his hair, with passionate fervor, and then went away, glad to be alone for a little while, that she might give vent unrestrained to her nearly breaking heart.
The sick man watched her with fond and longing eyes as she glided from the room, and then mur-
mured prayerfully :
" Heaven grant that that sin may never shadow her life. Farewell, my sweet Editha -- the only gleam of real happiness my life has ever known."
When early morning came, dim and quiet, and
chill with the heavy dew, the palsied limbs had grown cold and stiff ; the great heart had ceased its sluggish beating ; the sightless eyes were closed ;
the noble face had settled into peace; and the soul
had passed through death's portal and waked in
Yes, Richard Forrester was dead ! and thus his
life flowed out from its mysterious urn into the
CHAPTER V "I SHALL KEEP MY PLEDGE." Richard Forrester's affairs were duly setttled, and his property -- an exceedingly handsome property, too -- passed into the hands of Editha Dalton.
The young girl had grown wonderfully womanly
and dignified during the last two years.
She was not like the careless, sparkling impulsive Editha who had so dauntlessly stood up in the crowded court-room and defended the hero of our
story on that sad day when he received a felon's
She was more grave and self-contained; more
thoughtful and dignified, but not a whit less sweet
If anything, the gentle gravity of the deep blue eyes with their steady, searching glance, possessed a greater charm than when they had been so full of mirth and laughter; the calm, self-possessed man- ner was more fascinating than the careless gaiety
of the light-hearted shoolgirl.
She persisted -- much to her father's inward vexa- tion and disgust, for he had fondly hoped to have the handling other money matters -- in going over all her uncle's papers, and becoming thoroughly
acquainted with all the points of business pertaining
He had said he felt sure she would make good use of the fortune which he left her, and she knew that in order to do so, she must understand in the begin-
ning everything concerning it.
So she listened with the strictest attention while the prosy lawyer whom Richard Forrester had ap- pointed to settle his affairs explained, now and then putting an intelligent question, which showed that
her mind was strong and clear to grasp every
She would allow no one save herself to examine the private drawer of Richard Forrester's safe, al- though Mr. Dalton stood by chafing at her obsti- nacy, and longing to see for himself what it con-
She found, as she expected, the package belonging to Earle, of which her uncle had spoken.
" What have you there, Editha?" her father asked, as, after examining its address and seal, she was
about to return it to the drawer.
"It is something -- some papers, I think, that belong to Earle," Editha answered, and he noticed the flush that sprang to her cheek aa she pronounced
" Let me see it," he said, holding out his hand
" You can examine the outside, papa, if you like, but the package is not to be opened," she said, as
she reluctantly handed it to him.
" Indeed ! and by whose authority do yoy speak so emphatically ?" Mr. Dalton demanded, with a sneer, as he curiously examined the bold, clear writing upon the wrapper, and wondered what secrets it
" By Uncle Richard's, papa," Editha replied, flrmly, the flush growing deeper on her cheek at his sneer.
He spoke oftener now to her in that way than he had ever done before, and not a day passed that he did not wound her deeply, and make her feel as if her only remaining friend was becoming alienated
Mr. Dalton, on his part, was very much chagrined that she should presume to act so independently.
It was a great disappointment to him that he could not control her large income, which he had
intended should contribute as much to his own
enjoyment as to hers.
Money was his god; not to hoard and keep, but
for the pleasure he could get from it; and he knew how to live for that end as well as any one in the
But Editha, after acquainting herself thoroughly j with the details of her position as her uncle's heiress, had again committed everything into the hands of Mr. Forrester's lawyer, Mr. Felton, saying he was to manage for her just as he had done for him, and it was better he should do so since he understood everything, than to make any change.
"By your Uncle Richard's, eh ?" repeated Mr.
Dalton, as he still regarded the package belonging
to Earle Wayne.
" Yes, sir ; the last day of his life he gave me some directions, and among other things committed these
papers to my keeping until Earle's time should
expire, and charged me under no circumstances to
allow the seal to be broken."
" Pshaw! what a fuss over a little mess of papers;
and what can it matter to any one if we look inside!
It is sealed with a regular seal, too ; I have con-
siderable curiosity to know what silly secret the
young convict regards so sacredly."
I " I do not think it is very kind, sir, to speak of Earle in that way ; and whether it is silly or not, it
is his secret, and no one has any right to it but himself," Editha answered with dignity and some
show of spirit.
''It seems to me you are unaccountably interested, and very valiant in your defence of a convicted criminal," retorted Mr, Dalton, considerably irritated by his daughter's independence.
" I am deeply interested in Earle Wayne, papa; he was my friend before he was so unfortunate -- he is my friend still," she bravely returned.
" I suppose you even intend to take him under the hadow of your sheltering wing when he comes out of prison," he sneered.
" I shall certainly not withhold my friendship from him while he is in every way worthy to retain it;
and besides --"
" Besides what?" Sumner Dalton asked, with blaz- ing eyes, as she hesitated.
He had no idea that there was so much fire and spirit bottled up in the little lady, who until quite
recently had appeared to him only a light-hearted,
True she had been wilful at times, but he had not minded it when it was confined to the little things of childhood; and never having had any other children, it had been but a pleasure to pet her and indulge her in everything.
He had hitherto always laughed when she opposed him, and often teased her for the sake of arousing
her antagonism, which made her appear so pretty and brilliant.
Now, however, it was another matter.
She was setting up her will in stubborn opposition to his, and upon matters of vital importance to his
He had no notion of allowing her to compromise herself by befriending a miserable criminal, and he
was bound to put a stop to it in some way.
"Besides what?" he repeated, as she did not im-
She looked at him askance, as if she was some-
what doubtful of the propriety of telling him any-
But at length she said :
"You know that Uncle Richard was also deeply
interested in, and entertained a high regard in
" Please adopt a different way of speaking of him; I do not like you to use his name so familiarly," interrupted Mr. Dalton, with an angry tap of his
" Very well ; for Mr. Wayne, then," she said [?]
ing; "and during my last interview with him, he said he regarded him as a young man of great ability and promise, and that he intended as soon as he was fitted for the bar to make him a
partner in his business. All this he was going to do for one whom you appear to hold in such con- tempt, and as soon as is time should expire, if he
would accept it,"
" I do believe that Richard Forrester was born with a soft spot somewhere, after all --" began her father, impatiently.
" Yes, sir, and it was an his heart," Editha inter- rupted, quietly, but with an ominous sparkle in her
She could not tamely listen even to her father if anything disparaging was said of her beloved
Mr. Dalton glanced at her as if resenting the in- terruption, and then continued :
" He was keen enough in business, and in making money, but he has shown himself almost an imbecile about some other things during the forty years that
" Papa, do you forget that you are speaking of the dead?" Editha asked, in low, constrained tones.
"No ; but I have no patience with such foolishness as he has more than once been guilty of," was the impatient reply.
"What has Uncle Richard done that is so very foolish? He told me on that last day that his life had not been all smooth. What has be done ?" Editha asked, with evident anxiety.
"No matter -- no matter," Mr. Dalton said, hastily ; then, as if anxious to change the subject, asked :
" Is that all you were going to tell me?"
"No; but I'm afraid you will be even more dis- pleased with the rest of it than with what I have already told you," the younger girl said, doubtfully,
"At all events, let us hear it."
" He said if he had not been so helpless he would have added a codicil to his will, and given Ear-- Mr. Wayne something handsome to star in life with, when his three years should expire --"
"And he made me promise that I would settle ten thousand dollars upon him just as soon as he should be free, and at the same time return his package to
"Ten thousand dollars!" exclaimed Sumner Dal- ton, aghast.
" I don't believe it, Editha Dalton. It is more like a sickly, sentimental fancy of your own," was the
Mr. Dalton was furious at the thought.
Ten thousand dollars of Editha's fortune to be given away to a beggar and a criminal!
" I do not believe it, I say! Such a monstrous pro- ceeding could never have originated in the brain of
a sane man."
"Papa, was I ever guilty of telling you a false- hood?" the young girl demanded, turning upon him, all the pride of her nature aroused by his words,
"Not that I know of -- but --"
" Then do not dare to accuse me of it now. I am
telling you only truth, and the wishes of a dying
man. Uncle Richard's wishes in this respect are sacred to me, even if my own heart and my friend- ship for Mr. Wayne did not prompt me to do him this little kindness out of my abundance."
"Little kindness! it would not take very many such little kindnesses to make a beggar of yourself,"
sneered Mr. Dalton, wrathfully.
" I pledged myself to execute this wish just as soon as Earle's time expires, and I shall fulfil my pledge to the letter," Editha returned, somewhat
"Not if I know it, Miss Dalton? Such folly such rashness, I could never allow you to be guilty
" Papa," she began pleadingly, her face full of pain, her eyes full of tears, " Why are you so changed toward me lately ? You and I are all that are left of our family. We have no near relatives; we are almost alone in the world. Do not, please do not, let there be any estrangment, any disagreement be-
Mr. Dalton's face softened for the moment.
"Certainly not, my dear," he replied, adopting his usual fond tone and manner ; " there need be no estrangement, no disagreement, if you will be reason- able ; but of course I cannot allow you to squander your money in the way you propose doing."
" My money! How came it mine? whose was it
before it became mine?"
" Richard Forrester's, of course," he said, with some
" Yes ; and before it became mine, he reserved this ten thousand to be given to Earle. Surely he had a right to do with his own as he would."
" Very true ; but you forget -- his will was made years ago, giving you everything."
" He did not know Earle then ; but said if he could only have had the use of his bands, he would have added a codicil to his will in his favor."
"But he did not do it. The will stands just as it always has, and he can claim nothing. No part of your fortune is legally his."
" He told me it was his wish, and I shall give Earle the money," Editha answered firmly.
" You will not," asserted Mr, Dalton, positively.
"Papa, do you know how much I am worth in
" A hundred and seventy-five thousand strong -- a handsome fortune, a very handsome fortune a young girl like you to possess," he said, rubbing his hands together with an air of satisfaction, as if he expected to reap no little benefit from the said for-
"That is more than Uncle Richard thought, owing no doubt, to the successful sale of that block I did not wish to keep, and Mr. Felton advised me to sell. Uncle Richard told me there would be more than a hundred and fifty thousand, but you see I have nearly twenty-five thousand more than he expected, and even after giving Earle what he wished, I shall have more than he thought."
" What nonsence, child I"
"It is not nonsense. The money was set apart for him, and I should be a thief and a robber not to do with it as I was bidden. I have promised, and I shall fulfil," Editha returned, steadfastly.
"Not with my consent, miss," Sumner Dalton cried, hotly.
"Then it will have to be done without it," she answered, sadly.
" That cannot be, you are under age -- you are only nineteen, and it will be more than a year before you are free to act upon your own authority. Meantime, I am your legal guardian, and you can transfer no property without my consent," her father replied, triumphantly.
"Is that so ?" Ediths asked, with a startled look. "That is so, according to the law of this State."
"Papa, you cannot mean what you say. You must allow me to do this thing ; you would not be so dishonorable as to withhold this money from Earle when it is really his. He has only about nine months longer to stay --"
"A year, you mean," Mr. Dalton interruped.
" No ; his 'days of grace' amount to three months, and so he will be free in about nine ; and he will be absolutely penniless -- he will have nothing upon which to begin life. It would be cruel to keep this money from him when it is rightfully his, and he will need it so much. Pray, papa, be kind and reasonable, and let me do as Uncle Richard wished," pleaded the fair girl, earnestly.
"Richard Forrester didn't know what he wished
himself, or he would never have been guilty of such folly."
" Papa, you know that his mind was as clear as either yours or mine is at this moment," Editha ex claimed, nearly ready to weep at this cruel opposi-
" It does not matter ; I shall never consent to your fooling away ten thousand dollars in any such man- ner, so let this end the controversy at once," he re-
" Poor Earle!" sighed Editha, regretfully, " then he'll have to wait a whole year for it. It is too
"Wait a year for it -- what do you mean?" de-
manded Mr. Dalton, sharply.
" I moan, papa, that if I cannot give it to him without your consent, that he will have to wait for it until I am twenty-one. But the very day that I attain my majority I shall go to Mr. Felton and have him make over ten thousand dollars to Earle Wayne," and the gentle blue eyes met his with a look that told him she would do just as she had said.
" Do you defy me then? You will not dare!" he cried, actually quivering with anger at her words.
"I have promised, and I shall dare to keep my
Editha had grown very pale, but she spoke very
firmly and steadily.
Sumner Dalton shot a dark look at the defiant little figure standing to quietly erect opposite him,
and muttered an oath under his breath.
Then, apparently thinking it unwise to say more upon the subject just then, he turned his attention again to the package which he still held in his
Editha's eyes followed his, and she held out her hand, saying:
"I will replace that in the safe now, if you
" I wonder what there is in it?" he said, curi- ously.
Her lip curled a little, but she made no reply, still standing with outstretched hand, waiting for him to
give it to her.
" I've half a mind to open it," he muttered.
"No, indeed.'" she cried, in alarm, and taking a
" Pshaw! it can do no harm -- it cannot contain anything so very remarkable."
" Sir, pray do not allow me to lose all the respect I have for my own father," Editha cried, sternly, her eyes ablaze, her face flushing a painful crimson, her form dilating with surprise, indignation, and grief.
A peculiar, mocking laugh was all the reply he made to this, but he handed back the package ; not, however, without inwardly resolving to ascertain, before very long, what it contained.
Editha hastily returned it to the private drawer, locked it and the safe securely, and then, without a word, left the room,
WHAT WAS IT?
Sumner Dalton was a supremely selfish man.
From his earliest boyhood his chief aim had been to get gold, no matter how, that he might fill his life to the brim with pleasure, and his highest ambition was to walk among the proudest of the land, and mingle in their enjoyments as an equal.
Naught but a golden key would unlock the door leading into these charmed regions, therefore gold
became his idol.
When everything went smoothly, he was easy and tolerably good-natured ; but when opposed or dis- appointed by any one in his plans or schemes, it was anything but pleasant for those about him, and he did not allow an opportunity to pass to revenge him-
self of the offence.
He did not believe in grieving his life away for the dead, people must die and be buried; the world was made for the enjoyment of the living, and it was his maxim to improve those pleasures to the utmost
while he lived,
His wife died the last of October, Richard For- rester the following April ; and in June, when the hot weather came on, he told Editha to prepare for the season at Newport, as he intended spending the summer there as usual, with perhaps a trip to Sara- toga and Long Branch, by way of variety.
Editha, with her heart saddened from her recent bereavement, would have much preferred remaining quietly at home ; feeling too, that there was more of comfort there in its large, airy, and beautiful rooms, than in a crowded, fashionable hotel, where at the most, she could have but too or three apartments, and those comparatively small and close.
Then she had no heart for the glitter and confusion of society ; those two dead faces, so cold and fixed, were too fresh in her memory for her to take any pleasure in the gaieties of the world.
She ventured a protest when Mr. Dalton spoke of his intentions, but he peremptorily silenced her, by asking her if she supposed she was going to have everything her own way since she had got to be an
He had treated her very coolly, and they had seemed to be growing farther and farther apart ever since that spirited interview regarding Richard For- rester's bequest to Earle Wayne.
Editha was deeply hurt that he should consider her so selfish and wilful, and finally said she would go to Newport if he wished.
" I do wish it; and Editha, I want you to leave all that sombre black trumpery at home, and put on something gay and pretty," he added, with a disap- pointing glance at her mourning robes.
" Papa! surely you do not mean me to take off my mourning!" she exclaimed, in blank astonishment.
" Yes, I do. There can be no possible good in wearing such gloomy-looking things ; they are per-
But mamma has only been gone about nine months, and Uncle Richard not quite three, and --"
A quick rush of tears into the sad blue eyes, and a great choking lump in her throat suddenly stopped
" Your mother would not wish to see you in such dismal garments, she could never endure black any way ; and your Uncle Richard would much prefer to see you looking bright and cheerful," replied Mr.
Editha knew this was true, but it seemed almost like treason to her beloved ones, to lay aside all evi- dences of her sorrow, and go back to the gay habili- ments of the world. But she submitted to this edict of Dalton also for the sake of peace ; and though she could not bring her mind to assume gay colours, yet she brought charming suits of finest white cambric and lawn, and muslins delicately sprigged with lavender, with richer and more elegant damase, silk and lace, all white, for evening wear.
It was an exceedingly simple wardrobe, yet rich and charming withal, and even her fastidious father could find no fault when he saw her arrayed in it.
The night before they were to leave, at midnight, Sumner Dalton might have been seen creeping steal- thily down stairs, and into Editha's private library.
It a room that once had been her mother's morning sitting-room, and where she had had all her uncle's books, pictures, and safe removed after his death, and here she spent much of her time, reading the books he had loved, sewing a little, painting a little, and thinking a great deal of the friend who had been so very dear to her.
Mr. Dalton acted as if he felt very much like an intruder or a thief, as he glided noiselessly into this room, closing and locking the door after him,
He went directly to the safe, and taking a bunch of keys from his pocket, he selected one, and pro-
ceeded to unlock it.
"Did the foolish little chit think to keep her secrets
from me?" he sneered, as he easily turned the lock and the door swung noiselessly back. " She'll find she will be obliged to use more stratagem than she possesses in her small head before she can outwit an old one like mine," he continued, as he proceeded to search every drawer the safe contained.
None were locked save the private drawer in which he had seen Editha place Earle's package, and he found nothing of any interest in any of them.
Selecting another key from his bunch, he quickly opened the private drawer, and a grunt of satisfac- tion immediately escaped him, showing that now he
had found what he wanted.
He took it out and the light revealed the package which Editha had sought to treasure so sacredly.
" There was always something mysterious about that proud scamp," he muttered, eying the package curiously, " and now if there is anything here to tell me who and what he is, I'm going to know it. He said his business that night," he continued, reflec- tively, " concerned only his own private interests, and was connected with his early life ; perhaps I shall leam something more about those 'private in- terests,' and that ' early life.'"
He removed the light from the floor, where he had put it to see to unlock the safe, to the table, seated himself comfortably in a revolving chair, took out a handsome pocket-knife, and in the most careful and delicate manner imaginable removed entire the heavy seal of wax from the package.
Putting this in a place of safety that no harm might come to it, he removed the wrapping of heavy paper and began to inspect its contents.
They consisted chiefly of letters addressed to Earle, in a delicate, feminine hand, the sight of which made Sumner Dalton start violently and grow
a sudden crimson.
"PshawI" he said, impatiently, and drawing a deep breath " there are hundreds of women who
write a similar hand."
He opened one or two of the letters and read
They were all dated from a little town in England and were addressed to " My dear son," and simply signed, " Your loving mother."
There was not much of interest in them to him, only now and then there was an expression which seemed to touch some long dormant chord of memory
and made him shiver as he read.
He soon grew weary of this occupation however, and laid the letters aside to examine further.
There were several pretty drawings wrapped in tissue paper, a sketch, in water colors, of a charming little cottage, half hidden by vines and climbing roses, and in one corner of this there were three tiny
Sumner Dalton nearly bounded from his chair as he read them-repeating them aloud as he did so.
The color forsook his face, his lips twitched ner- vously, and startled anxious expression sprang to
He hastily thrust the drawing on one side and went on now more eagerly with his quest.
The only remaining things in the package were a large envelope containing a few photographs, and a very heavy piece of parchment -- more like cardboard about five inches wide and eight long, and upon which there was some writing in cipher that he
could not read.
It seemed to be there more as a foundation to build the package upon than anything else, and Mr. Dalton attaching no importance whatever to it, pushed it to one side, and turned his attention to the pictures.
One by one he took them up and looked at them, but there was no familiar face, and they were mostly pictures of young boys and girls, evidently school- mates of Earle's.
At last he came to what seemed to be carefully enclosed in a separate envelope.
He opened this, and found that its contents were wrapped about with tissue paper.
" Some pretty girl who has captivated his boyish fancy -- who knows but it may be a picture of Editha herself ?" he muttered, with a scornful smile at the
He removed the wrapper, and two pictures drop- ped upon the table, and also a lock of auburn hair, tied with a blue ribbon,
He took up one of the pictures with a yawn.
Surely this was not worth the loss of so much sleep and the treachery he had employed to gain his
But -- what is this ?
Something that makes the blood rush back upon his heart with suffocating force -- his eyes to start with horror, and a clammy moisture to ooze out from every pore.
It is the face of a beautiful woman of perhaps
thirty-five years !
Dark, abundant hair crowned the small, shapely head, set most gracefully upon a pair of sloping
Grave, sad eyes looked up at the horror-stricken face, with an expression which strangely moved the
A straight, delicate nose, and a mouth sweet and gentle in expression, but deeply lined with suffering,
completed the picture.
Underneath, and traced in the same delicate chirography which the letters bore, were the words:
" Mother, to her dear boy."
With trembling hands Summer Dalton laid it down and took up the other picture, and gazed as if fascinated upon it. It was the same face, only evidently taken fifteen or twenty years previous.
It was a magic face, one of bewildering, entranc- ing beauty, and full of mirth and careless glee.
Rippling curls that caught the sunlight with every breath, dancing eyes of the loveliest expression, the same straight delicate nose as seen in the other like- ness, and a sweet mouth whose bright and careless smile told of not a care in all the world. This was the picture that held Sumner Dalton spell-bound with a strange horror.
Underneath, in the same delicate hand, were the three tiny initials that he had seen upon the sketch
The strong man groaned aloud as he looked ; the photograph dropped from his nerveless fingers, and he shook like one with the ague.
He wiped the sweat from his brow ; he rubbed his eyes as if to clear his vision, and looked again com- paring the two faces.
But only to groan again more bitterly than before. There could be no doubt that both pictures were of the same person, only taken at different times ; one, during happy childhood days, the other at a maturer age, and to gratify the wishes of her son.
"Earle Wayne her son! Earle Wayne, the priso- ner, the -- criminal! Great Heaven !" he cried, with ashen lips, and in tones expressive of intense horror
Then with a round oath he threw both pictures from him as if they burned him, and leaping to his feet began pacing excitedly back and forth upon the
" What shade of evil has sent this thing to con- front me at this late hour of my life ?" he cried, with exceeding bitterness. " Did I not have enough of disappointment and regret to bear at that time
without being reminded of it in this way now ? I was cheated, foiled out of what I would almost have given half a life-time to have attained -- oh ! if I had only known -- why was there not some one to tell
me? Why --"
He stopped in the midst of his walk, and clutched his hands and ground his teeth in fiercest wrath.
"I was a fool -- an idiot: I hate myself, I hate her ; I hate all the world, who knew and did not tell
me. And he is her son! he is --
"Ah ! I have never loved him any too well -- I love him far less now, for -- he it a living monument of my defeat. No wonder he is so proud -- no wonder he bore his trial with such fortitude, if he possesses a tithe of the spirit and resolution that she possessed and displayed more than twenty years ago. I wish he had five times three years to serve ; but I'll crush him when he comes out, as I would like to crush every one who knew at that time, and did not tell me.
He may go to the --. It is nothing to me if he is innocent, and yet a prisoner. It shall not disturb me, and I will not have my enjoyment destroyed by this grim phantom of the past. I'll cast care and worry to the winds, be merry, and go my own way, but let him look out, that he does not cross my path again," he concluded, with a fierceness that was
terrible to observe.
He lifted his head defiantly as he uttered those words, but continued pacing back and forth for another half hour, muttering constantly, but indis- tinctly, to himself.
"Ugh ! but it gives me a sickly feeling in spite of myself," he said, at length, as be went back to the table and began to gather up the papers scattered
He folded the pictures in their wrappers as he had found them, putting the auburn lock of hair between them, though the touch of it sent the cold chills down his back and another fierce oath to his lips.
He gazed curiously again at the piece of parch- ment with the peculiar writing upon it, and won- dered if it contained any meaning of importance ; but he at last arranged everything just as he had found it, folding the outside wrapper carefully over
He then melted a little wax from Editha's stand and dropped upon it to fasten it, after which he carefully pressed the original seal into its proper place.
It was all very neatly and nicely done, and no one save an expert, would ever bave imagined that the package had been tampered with at all.
He replaced it just as he had found it in the pri- vate drawer of the safe, locked it, closed and locked the safe, and then stole noiselessly away to his own chamber, and to bed.
But no sleep came to him that night, "to weigh his eyelids down, or steep his senses in forgetful
Visions of the past seemed to haunt him with a vividness which appeared to arouse every evil passion
in his nature.
He tossed incessantly on his pillow, and groaned, and raged, and swore, first at himself and then at all the world, for some wrong, real or imaginary, which he had suffered during the earlier years of
Some secret he evidently had on his mind, which filled him first with remorse and then with anger; and so the night wore out and the morning broke, and found him haggard, hollow-eyed, and exhausted from the storm of fury which had raged so long in
What was it?
What was this strange secret connected with his previous history, with Earle Wayne, and with the beautiful woman whose pictures he had found in the package which had been given into Richard Forrester's hands for safe keeping?
(To be continued.)