Chapter 818535

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Chapter NumberXVIII
Chapter TitleJOHN LOKER MAKES A CONFESSION.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article818535
Full Date1881-07-09
Page Number4
Corrections5
Word Count6429
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2018-04-16
Newspaper TitleThe Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)
Trove TitleA Mystery
article text

FICTION.

(From English, American, and other Periodicals.)

A MYSTERY

CHAPTER XVIII.

JOHN LOKER MAKES A CONFESSION.

The man had risen on his elbow, and was staring with the most abject fear at Editha, trembling and shivering until his teeth chattered in his head.

His mind evidently was very weak -- so weak that under the influence of the sudden shock caused by seeing the young girl, he was babbling of secrets which otherwise he would never have dared to betray.

His first words had caused Editha only surprise ; but as he went on, her heart gave a sudden, wild bound, that for the moment turned her giddy and

faint.

She comprehended at once, when he spoke of having " cracked" her father's house and of taking her " trinkets," that she was in the presence of one who knew something about, and doubtless had par- ticipated in, that robbery so long ago, and for which crime Earle had so unjustly suffered.

A cry of thankfulness nearly escaped her lips at this almost overwhelming knowledge.

Earle would be free at last ; every taint would be obliterated, and he could henceforth walk the earth as proudly as the proudest.

This was the one thought that was uppermost in her mind, as she waited almost breathlessly for him

to say more.

" You see, miss," his wife here interfered, turning a white, anxious face to her, " he does not know what he is saying, and he is getting very much ex- cited. If -- if -- I thank you -- I bless you for your kindness and the comfort you have brought us, but if you will please go away now while I quiet

him --"

" No, no ; Maria, you shall not send her away !' exclaimed the sick man, growing more excited. "She shall stay now, and I'd tell her all about it, if she'll only promise not to send me to prison."

" No one shall send you there, John," Mrs. Loker tried to say quietly, though Editha could see that she was very much disturbed also.

The opportunity was one that must not be lost;

however.

She felt that the man was dying -- he could not live many days ; and if he knew anything that would clear Earle from dishonor, she must discover

it now.

She walked quickly and softly to his bedside, and speaking very kindly, said:

" Mr. Loker, do not be disturbed. I promise you that no harm shall come to you, and you shall have every comfort as long as you live if you can prove to me that what you have just stated is true."

Her tones were so gentle, and her eyes so mild and kind, that he was instantly reassured.

He fell back upon bia pillow, panting for breath. "Do you hear, Maria ? She says -- no harm shall

-- come. I've dreamed -- of her for weeks -- as she lay there sleeping -- so innocent -- and beautiful while -- we stole her treasures."

"Hush, John, please," whispered his wife, greatly

distressed.

" No, Maria. I want to tell her all about it now. It is Miss Dalton, isn't it ?" and he scanned her face eagerly, as if he feared he might possibly have made

a mistake.

" Yes; I am Miss Dalton ; and if you are able, I want you to tell me all about the night of which you speak," Editha answered.

" I'd have been glad to confess it then, rather than let that fine young fellow go to prison," he con- tinued, with a deep sigh ; " but Tom declared he'd kill me if I peached, and so I -- had to hold my tongue."

He paused for breath, and Mrs. Loker, turning beseechingly to Editha, said :

" Miss, I cannot bear him to run on so. Won't you please go?"

But Editha was determined she would not.

Here she had, in the strangest manner imagin- able, stumbled across one of the burglars who had so successfully committed a great robbery and then escaped punishment, while another had paid the penalty ; and she was resolved to learn the whole story now, if such a thing was possible.

If the man should die without confessing the guilt that seemed to lie so heavy on his conscience all possibility of clearing Earle from suspicion and restoring his fair fame would be forever lost.

She disliked to give the suffering woman pain, but Earle's character was dearer to her than aught else, and it would be a cruel wrong to him to heed her request and go.

The man was evidently anxious to confess his guilt; it lay heavy on his heart. He doubtless knew he could not live long, and he desired to make a clean breast of everything before he should die.

No, she must stay and learn what she could ; but first she felt that the sufferer ought to have some nourishment. He was already much exhausted from his recent excitement, and his strength would not hold out unless he could first have something

to eat.

Editha went to Milly and assisted her to prepare the broth, which was already warm, and the child then, with grateful thanks, took it to him and fed

him with her own hands.

He eagerly took all she gave him, as if he also was nearly famished, and then seized the soft roll which she had in her hand, eating it with evident relish.

His hunger satisfied, he beckoned Editha again

to his side.

"How came you here to-night, Miss Dalton?" he

asked.

She explained how it had happened, and he mut- tered, half to himself:

"Yes, yes, I see; you were sent here that justice might at last be done."

"John," pleaded his wife, anxiously, " you are not strong enough to talk any more."

She shrank from the disgraceful confession she saw he had determined to make.

" Maria, you keep still," he returned, with some show of impatience; "you know how heavy this thing has lain on my conscience ever since that youngster went to prison in my stead ; and now that fate has opened a way, I am going to make it right -- or as right as I can, if I die the next minute."

" Miss Dalton cannot stand," he added, with considerate thoughtfulness, " let her have your chair, and you sit on the bed."

In obedience to his request Mrs. Loker arose

from the chair, but instead of sitting upon the bed she sank down upon the floor beside it, and buried her face in the clothes with a groan.

Editha gladly took the seat thus vacated for her, for she, too, was weak and trembling with excite-

ment.

" I suppose you see that I cannot live long," John Loker said to her ; and holding up his thin hand between his eyes and the light, it looked almost transparent.

" You look very ill, sir," she answered gently.

" What's become of that young chap who was sen- tenced for that robbery?" he demanded, abruptly,

after a moment.

" He is in Europe now."

"He had true grit in him ; he never winced nor showed the white feather once during the trial," he said, in an admiring tone.

" How do you know ?" Editha asked, in surprise.

" Tom Drake and I sat by and heard the whole thing through."

" You did ?" she cried out, in pain. " How could you ?"

Only to think of it -- the real criminals so near to justice, and Earle convicted instead !

It was horrible !

" Yes, we heard the case clear through ; we heard the sentence passed upon him ; and he stood up so proud, and calm, and handsome, and bore it without a whimper."

"How could you ?" Editha again asked reproach- fully.

" I don't know Miss Dalton, but folks get hardened to almost anything nowadays," he replied, sighing. "It was cheeky, risky business for us to sit there, with some of those very diamonds and trinkets hidden away on our persons, and let another man be tried for what we had done."

Editha shuddered.

" I must confess," he went on, " that I never felt so mean in all my life as when I saw him turn white about the mouth when the jury brought in their verdict ; and then when you jumped up so brave and eager, and declared he was not guilty, I was so near confessing the whole thing that Tom laid a heavy hand on me, and told me, with a look in his eye that meant business, that he'd kill me on the spot if I made so much as a sign."

" Of course, I did not dare to move after that," he went on, with a deprecating look into the fair girl's reproachful eyes.

" But there is such a thing as turning State's evi- dence. Couldn't you have done that, and then if this other one was more guilty than you, he would have suffered tbe penalty, and you would have gone free ?" Editha asked, eagerly.

" I thought of that miss, and I know Tom sus- pected me too, for be dogged me all the time ; and then, I'd been entangled in so many other things, I should probably have got deeper into the mire. We reasoned that they would be easy with the young chap -- he'd only have a short sentence, when if they'd caught us we'd have had ten or fifteen years, for being old hands at the business."

" It was a wicked, cruel thing to do, to let an in- nocent man suffer as he suffered !" Editha ex-

claimed, forgetting for a moment, in her indignation that she was speaking to a dying man.

"I know it -- I see it now, miss, and I've been afraid to die with that on my mind ; perhaps it I confess the whole I shall feel easier. " I'll tell you the whole story if you like," he returned, humbly.

"Yes, do," she cried, eagerly. " It can do no harm to confess it now, and it will be an act of justice to the innocent ; it will clear Mr. Wayne from the dis- grace that otherwise must always rest upon him."

" Wayne! Yes, that was his name. What was the other ? It was a sort of high-sounding one, if I re- member right," he asked.

"Earle Wayne was the name," Editha replied,

wth a rising flush as she pronounced it.

Whether it was " high-sounding" or not, it was the dearest name in all the world to her, and she could not speak it without a thrill.

" He was a particular friend o'yours, wasn't he? ' be inquired, with a quick, searching look into the glowing face.

"Yes, but I'm ready to hear your story now."

She did not deem it at all necessary to enter into the particulars of her relationship with Earle for his

benefit.

" Well, as you say, it can do me no harm to confess it now, and Tom Drake can't hurt me, either -- nobody will dare touch a dying man, though he did swear he'd kill me if I ever lisped a word of it. I know he meant what he said, and, miss, though I've been driven to stealing for a living, yet I've always loved my wife and child "

He paused abruptly and glanced at those two faithful ones -- the only ones in all the world who cared that he was dying, and who would miss him

when he was dead.

" It's bean torture to me lately," he went on, with emotion, "to see them going cold and hungry, taking the bread from their own mouths to keep life a little longer in my worthless body, but, miss, folks that are down in the world and driven into a corner can love just as strong as those who never knew a

want."

" Indeed, I do not doubt it," Editha said, feeling a deep pity for him, notwithstanding he had so deeply injured one whom she so fondly loved.

"I know it is but adding insult to injury, but miss if you -- if I could only be assured they need not want for bread when I am gone, it would be a great comfort," he added, with a wistfulness that brought the tears to her eyes.

"They shall not -- I promise you that I will see that they do not suffer," she said, heartily.

" I do not deserve it from you, Miss Dalton, after using him so," he said.

He seemed to have an intuitive idea of how mat- ters stood between her and Earle, and her kindness moved him deeply, and Editha just then heard a smothered sob from the woman kneeling beaide the

bed.

" Have you a pencil and a piece of paper about you ?" John Loker asked, after resting a few mo- ments. " I want you to write down what I am going to tell you, and then I will sign it. It will be

strange 'last will and testament,' " he added, with a bitter smile, " but perhaps it will do as much good as if I left a large fortune."'

Editha thought it would, too.

Yes, she had a pencil, and there was some paper in her French book that she had taken to write an exercise on, and had not used. She produced these, and using her books for a table, she was ready to write down the confession that would secure to her betrothed an unspotted name, and place him where no man's scorn would dare assail him.

CHAPTER XIX

THE FACE AT THE WINDOW.

" I'll give you a description of Tom Drake first, so you will not fail to know him if you should ever see him," John Loker said, when Editha motioned him to begin.

"He's a scamp, if there ever was one abroad in the world, and it would be a good thing for the public if he should yet have to serve a term of years

somewhere.

" He is a tall, broad-shouldered, burley-looking man, with an ugly face on him, square, heavy jaws, and fierce black eyes.

"His hair is red, too, something you don't often see with black eyes. There is a piece gone, too, from tha lobe of his lett ear, where he was once shot by a policeman, and came near losing his life. He has a scar under his right eye, and the little finger on his left hand is missing , that was done in blow- ing open a safe at one time."

Editha did not think she could fail to know him after this description, and she already felt a sort of creeping horror in her veins, as in her mind's eye

she saw this dreadful man.

" Well, miss," the invalid continued , " about that robbery , we'd planned to do the thing -- or, rather, he'd planned it all, and I was to help do the dirty work -- a long, long time before we found a chance to carry it out. We'd got all the bearings, and knew just how every room in the house lay before we ever

entered it.

"On that night -- it was cloudy and dark, if you remember -- Tom cut out a pane of glass from one of the area windows with a diamond he had on pur- pose, while I watched to see that no one was around.

" We then easily entered by that window, and made as short work as possible of clearing out every thing of value that we could lay our hands on

in the house.

" It was about the neatest and most profitable job that was ever done in a private house, and not a soul awoke through it all.

" There were the silver spoons and gold-lined salt cellars, and a lot of other stuff in the china closet out of the dining-room, all clean, solid silver too. We cracked the safe in the library, and though we did not get much money we got a lot of diamonds belonging to your mother, miss, like enough -- and then we went up stairs to see what we could find

there.

" I didn't much mind taking the things we found below. I'd got hardened to stealing a good while before that, but when we came to your room where you lay asleep, looking so innocent and pretty, with all that soft stuff ruffled round your neck and wrists, my heart failed me, for I thought of Milly here, whom I suppose I love just as well as rich folks love their children, and I knew just how she'd have loved all the pretty things we saw lying about

you.

" I begged Tom to leave your rings, and trinkets, and knick-knacks, but he growled at my nonsense, and grabbed everything he could lay his hands upon, I holding the lantern and revolver all the while.

" Once I thought what should I do if you awoke and found us there ? And, miss, I'd have shot him, bad as I was myself, and about as much to blame for that dirty business, before I would have let him lay so much as a finger upon you."

The sick man was here seized with a violent fit of coughing, which so exhausted him that it was some time before he could resume his confession again.

Editha beckoned Milly to bring him some more of the warm broth, which she did, and this appearing to revive him be was soon able to go on.

" Have you got all I have told you written down ?' he asked, glancing at the paper in her lap.

" Yes, everything," Editha answered.

"She had had ample time to do so, for he was ob- liged to stop every little while to rest and recover

his breath.

" That is right," he said, " don't leave out anything for I must make a clean breast of it all, now that I have begun , and, miss if the thing can be done, I want that handsome young chap -- and he's a lawyer I hear -- to bring Tom Drake to justice, for a bigger rascal does not walk the earth.

" Why, miss, if you will believe me, he pocketed all the swag and I never got so much as a penny's worth of it for my share in that night's job."

" But I thought you told me that you wore it con- cealed upon your person at the time of Mr. Wayne's trial," Editha said, regarding him in surprise, and thinking his statements did not correspond very

well.

" And so we did, miss -- the diamonds -- we didn't dare hide them with the other stuff for fear they might happen to be found, and so they were sewed into the lining of our vests ; but after awhile Tom said he'd found a chance to send them off and turn them into money, and took those I had away from me. "I've never seen anything of them since -- he

never would tell me whether he had sold them or not, and I've never had a dollar for my share in that job.

" I was raving mad over it, until I had that fall, and then since I've been sick and had a chance to think it all over, I've been glad that I didn't get any- thing."

The invalid was here interrupted by another coughing turn, and while Editha was waiting for it to pass, she happened to cast her eye toward the window back of the bed, and there a sight greeted her that seemed to stop the beating of her heart, and freeze the blood in her veins, and a numbness seized her limbs, rendering her powerless to move for the time being. It was the face of a man -- and such a face! -- pressed close against the pane, and his ear -- an ear with part of the lobe gone -- covering a small hole in the glass.

He was a "burly looking man' with an " ugly face" on him, " heavy jaws," and "fierce," restless " black eyes."

His hair, too, was red, and -- there could be but one person in the world answering to that descrip-

tion !

In an instant -- in that one flash of her eye, Editha had recognized Tom Drake, the burglar and mid- night robber!

How long had he been there ? How much had he heard, and did he recognize her as John Loker had done? were the thoughts that flashed through her brain during that brief moment that her quick, startled glance rested upon that appalling sight. Her first impulse was to cry out with fright, but with an effort she controlled it, and glanced hastily at the other occupants of the room, to see whether they were in any danger of also discovering the presence of the listener.

She was glad to find that she alone was conscious of it.

Milly, overcome by the genial warmth after her exposure to tbe cold, and also by the effective quietus of a full stomach, had fallen asleep by the stove her head resting against the side of the house; while Mrs. Loker still kept her motionless position by the bedside, her head buried in the clothes; whether she was also asleep or not Editha could not tell, but she earnestly hoped she was, for she feared, she knew not what, if the man at the window should become aware that his presence was dis-

covered.

The window was at the head of the bed, so of course the invalid was wholly unconscious of, and in no danger of knowing that he had another listener

to his confession.

The man himself, Editha thought, had not seen her glance that way, for his ear had been laid against the hole in the glass, and he appeared to be listening intently.

After the first excess of fright had passed, the stagnated blood rushed through her veins in a swift torrent, sending sharp, tingling pains throughout her whole body, until it seemed as if she was literally

swathed in nettles.

But she gave no outward sign.

Her thoughts flaw to Earle, her manly lover across

the sea.

She held in her hands the evidence, which, a little more complete, and signed by the man before her, would vindicate his honor, and restore him the re- spect and confidence of all who knew him.

So she resolved to sit quietly there until this was accomplished, though she wondered if her weak and trembling fingers would be able to hold the pencil and trace the words that yet remained to be spoken.

She did not even dare to consider how she was to get home in the fast gathering gloom with that precious paper in her possession ; she did not dare to think whether that dreadful creature outside would allow her to leave that place, and carry with her the evidence that would serve to doom him to a felon's cell for a long and tedious term of years.

She only found herself wondering how he had at- tained his position at that window, for she knew they were in the second story of the building, and it seemed a marvel to her that be should be there at all.

Had be seen and recognized her while she was talking with Milly outside, and then, fearing what would follow, obtained a ladder and climbed to the

window ?

It was a puzzle to ber, but she did not know of the low building attached to the house, and which ren- dered it very easy for any one to climb and look in upon that poverty-stricken family within.

Neither could she know that it had of late been a custom with that wicked man to go there every few nights, to see how fast the only person in the world who knew his dread secrets was dying.

Tom Drake longed to be rid of the accomplice who knew so much of his evil course, and who he constantly feared would turn against bim.

He had heard that day that John Loker was dying, and, determined to see for himself how near be was to his end, he had, as soon as the darkness favored him, climbed to his usual post.

His consternation can be better imagined than described as be beheld and recognized Editha Dalton, of all persons in the world the last one he expected to find there, sitting by the dying man's bedside, writing the confession that branded him the thief

and robber that he was.

And Editha, notwithstanding that every nerve in ner body was vibrating with pain from her startling discovery, still sat there, apparently calm and un- moved, waiting to hear the rest.

She even turned in her chair a little at last, as if carelessly changing her position.

But it was done with a purpose.

She was afraid, if she sat directly opposite that window, the magnetism and fascination, horrible though it was, of that terrible face and those fierce eyes, which affected her as face and eyes had never done before, would irresistibly draw her glance in that direction, and betray her knowledge of the presence there.

" Well, miss," the sick man resumed at length and the sound of his voice breaking the silence that had been so fraught with horror to her, sent a pain- ful shock through her whole being -- "we got out of the house with our booty, which we carried in a bag, without disturbing any one, and we were con- gratulating ourselves that we had done a wonderful seat and profitable job, when, just as we came around the corner by the front entrance, a young chap pounced out upon us, and felled Tom to the ground with a swinging, unexpected blow.

" He then came for me as brave as a young giant, and I grappled with him.

" He gave me a tough struggle of it I can tell you but I knew the boxing game better than he, and it wasn't long before I had him laid out as flat as a

flounder.

" I did it just in the nick of time, too, for a 'cop' having got wind that something wrong was up, came running down the street, so I just dropped a bracelet, which Tom had made me stuff in my pocket, down beside the fallen hero, to turn the

scent upon him, and took to my heels.

" Tom served me a mean trick though," the man went on, with a scowl, "for he had only been slightly stunned by his fall ; and while I was fighting with the young chap, instead of coming to my help, he picked up the bag, cleared out and hid it, and it was only a piece of good luck that I got off at all. He said afterward that he thought I was able to take care of myself, and he was afraid if he did not slip off with the booty the noise of the rumpus would bring a 'cop' along, and we'd lose it all. But he'd got it hid before I found him, and I never saw anything of it afterward excepting the diamonds.

"I coaxed, begged, and threatened, but he kept putting me off with excuses and of course I'd been with him so much in this dirty work that he knew I would not dare turn against him, for I should only get as deep into the mire as he would.

"As long as I was well, and able to help him in his plots, I managed to squeeze enough out of him to keep us tolerably comfortable; but after I got sick we all began to suffer.

" Miss Dalton," the man said, excitedly. " Tom Drake is a rich man ; he's got money and swag enough hid up to keep a dozen families handsome all their lives. Why, those diamonds o' your mother's were a fortune in themselves, and we've been starving and freezing here for the last two months ; he's known it, too, and wouldn't give us a dime to buy a loaf of bread with !

"But I'm dying now; he can't harm me, and the law can't touch me, and I've outwitted him at last ; his meanness is half that's made me want to show him up, and if you will only bring him to justice, you'll do the world a favor, besides clearing that fine young chap, who was as brave as a lion, from dis- grace ; for I tell you Tom Drake is one of the worst robbers in the United States."

He paused, and Editba thought he had got through.

She hoped he had, for she felt she could not sit there much longer ; it was as much as she could do to keep in her chair, and feel that that fearful face, with those fierce, restless black eyes, was looking down upon her, watching her every movement.

But the invalid resumed, after resting a moment.

"We -- Tom and me -- went to court every day while the youngster was being tried for the robbery we had committed ; and we thought it fine fun that the scent had been so completely turned from us to him. It was as clear a case of circumstantial evidence as I ever heard of, and many's the joke we've cracked at that poor fellow's expense. But, miss, I must confess I've had mighty uncomfortable dreams over it since lying here sick, and thinking of him locked in behind those bolts and bars, for three long years, and he as innocent as a baby all the time, and we abroad doing more of the devil's work."

He really appeared deeply moved, and Editha knew that he must have suffered on account of it.

" I've been a bad man," he continued, with a sigh of regret, " and I suppose I'll get my deserts where I'm going ; but I know I shall deserve it all, what- ever it may be."

" Have you written everything just as I've told you ?" he asked again, anxiously, turning his sunken eyes upon the closely-written sheets in her lap.

"Yes; I have everything correct, I think," Editha answered, longing to know if that dreadful face was still glaring upon them, yet not daring to look.

" Then give me the pencil, and hold the paper while I sign it. I want this business off my mind ; then perhaps I'll feel easier," he said, eagerly, and holding out his thin hand for the pencil.

Editba placed it between his fingers, and then holding her books with the paper laid on them so that be could write, he laboriously scrawled beneath what she had already written :

" I swear that this is the living truth.

"JOHN LOKER.''

" Thank you," Editha said, with a breath of relief, hastily folding the paper, and wondering where and how she should hide it from those fierce, restless eyes above her.

She ventured to flash one swift glance out of the corners of her eyes toward the window, and, to he intense relief, she found that there was nothing

there.

Tom Drake had disappeared as silently and as suddenly as he had come.

But her heart instinctively told her that that was

not the last of him.

Perhaps he was even now hiding somewhere near, waiting to pounce upon her when she should go out of that wretched place, and wrest that precious

confession from her.

But he should not have it -- he must not have it ; she would make a bold fight, frail woman though she was, before she would yield up the only thing in the world that would clear her betrothed lover's name from dishonor.

She had one hope, else her courage would have failed her utterly -- the policeman whom she had asked to have a care for her safety, and who had

been so civil to her.

But she had been gone much longer than she had told him she would be, and possibly he had become tired of waiting for her, and gone away.

A tumult of thoughts like these filled her mind and nearly bewildered her, but above and over all was a stern determination never to part with that paper, until all the world should know of its con-

tents.

Convinced that that face no longer glared upon her, she slipped it within her bosom and buttoned her dress close over it. Then she arose to go.

Yet she could not bear to leave that dying man, perhaps never to see him alive again, without a few comforting words. His own last words had told her that he feared the future -- that he dreaded to go forth into the great and mysterious eternity, and she longed to give him a little cheer, even though she knew that every moment's delay but increased her own danger.

"I must leave you now," she said, gently, and bending nearer to him, a great pity shining in her lovely face, " and I thank you more than I can tell you for the act of justice that you have at last

done."

" I thank you, miss," he, said, feebly, and with quivering lips, " for being so kind and gentle to me, and I hope you'll forgive me as well, for my share in that night's business," he concluded, humbly.

Could she forgive it ?

Editha's heart gave a little startled leap at the humble request. She could readily forgive the robbery, and the loss of so much that was valuable; but could she forgive the wrong done to Earle ?

Could she ever overlook those long, weary days of suffering which he had borne -- the scorn, insult, and abuse heaped upon him, and the disgrace which had followed him ever since ?

But he was to be free from it all at last. To be sure, those years could not be given back to him, but all other fetters were to drop from him. She held the key that was to unlock them, and John Loker, the man now asking so meekly for pardon, had given it to her.

"Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.' The Divine words came to her like a message of light.

"Yes, I do forgive you," she said, sweetly, "and God will forgive you even more freely, and take away all the dread you have of the future, if you

ask him."

Thank you again, miss; those are good words," he said, with a sigh of relief and thankfulness that

she had forgiven him.

" And cannot you believe them ?" she asked -- "that God will forgive you, too ?"

He shook his head wearily.

" My mother used to teach me about God when I was a boy, but I've forgotten him, and been bad for so long, that I guess I ain't of much account to him

now."

The pathos with which he said it, and the look of stony despair in his eyes made Editha's heart ache

for him.

" Do you not regret that your life has been so full of wrong, and such a failure ?" she asked.

" Yes, indeed, miss," he replied, earnestly. " I'm bitter sorry, and I've thought it all over, and over again, the long nights I've had to lie awake here with the cough, but I couldn't see any way out

of it."

"Jesus is the way, the truth, and the light," came involuntarily from Editha's lips.

" Yes, I've heard that more times than I can count -- but I can't understand it, some way," he said with

a perplexed look.

Editha sighed.

What could she say to comfort him? And the thought came to her, that after all she would rather be in Earle's place, having patiently and innocently suffered a great wrong, even though the cloud which now overshadowed him should never be dissipated until that day when all things shall be revealed, than to be lying here like this guilty one, upon the borders of eternity, with no hope beyond, even though his life of sin had escaped all worldly chas-

tisement.

" If you were in some dark and dangerous place," she said, again, and speaking very slowly and ear- nestly, " and I should tell you to take my hand, for I knew the way, and would lead you safely out would you refuse to do as I asked you?"

" Truth, no, miss ; and you would not have to ask me more than once, either. But the future is mighty dark to me, and you can't lead me through

that."

" No, but the Friend of Sinners can."

" Friend of Sinners!" he repeated, feebly. " That

sounds pleasant."

" That is just what Jesus Christ is," Editha an- swered, eagerly. " Put your hand in His ; it is al- ways held out to all who need help ; and He will lead you safely out of all danger."

Another deep-drawn sigh was all the reply she re- ceived to this; and after waiting a moment, she said

again:

" I must not stay longer, now, but I will come and

see you again soon."

" You'll not find me here, miss, I fear," he said, with a wistful look at her, as if to see her again would do him good, " but they'll be here, and you have said you'll be good to them," indicating by a glance his wife and child, who were both now heavily sleeping.

" Yes, I will see that they are made comfortable, and I will leave this, so that if you need anything you can send Milly for it."

Editha put a five-dollar note in his wasted hand as she spoke, and then with a kind good-night to him, she aroused his wife, after which she want away alone into the dark and dismal night.

(To be continued.)