|Chapter Title||A STORMY INTERVIEW.|
|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)|
|Trove Title||A Mystery|
(From English, American, and other Periodicals.
A M Y S T E R Y
A STORMY INTERVIEW.
As may be supposed, the first care of Earle was to take measures to revive Editha. Eventually, con- sciousness come back to her; and with it, sweet know- ledge of the certainty that her misery was ended, and that she would once more return to the com- panionship of those who loved her. As well as her weak state would permit, she described to Earle what she could remember of her forcible abduction by Drake. In explanation of the scene which Earle had partly overheard, she said that Drake, who seemed possessed of remarkable mesmeric power, had from time to time sought by means of it, to learn from her the place where the confession was deposited which so deeply implicated him. And Earle's love for her deepened, -- if that could he, for it was already limitless -- when she told him how faithfully, even in bodily weakness, in spite of threats, in danger, and in constant apprehension of worse evil, she had kept her secret. Earle's good name was at stake ; the confession alone could clear it ; she would not reveal where it was hidden. And even when the miscreant who had her in his clutches compelled her to slumber, and sought to wrest the precious knowledge from her, in some mysterious way her will resisted his, and he failed again and again. But anxiety and privation were telling upon her, and it might have been that at last her tormentor would have succeeded. What wonder then that the reunited lovers saw the action of a special providence in the chance that had directed Earle's footsteps, just at that juncture, to that hotel.
When Editha seemed fully recovered, Earle ven- tured to speak of leaving her, that he might give in- formation of the capture of Tom Drake to the police officers. Drake's accomplice was of course still in the room as he passed to the door. He would have hesitated to trust Editha with her, if the young lady had not assured him that that the woman had often befriended her to some extent, and seemed indeed to do evil only at the behest of her worthless companion. But be locked the door, desired the clerk to send some female attendants to remove Editha to a more comfortable apartment, and then hastily made his way to the police bureau, where three officers were detailed to proceed with him to the hotel, and started at once, reaching it in a few moments.
The consternation of Earle and the officers when they discovered that both Tom Drake and his accomplice had escaped, can be better imagined than described. But there was no help for it; the former had undoubtedly had burglars' instruments in his possession, and, while Editha was being removed and attended to, had picked the lock upon the door where he was confined, and then re- leased his companion in mischief and fled.
The news that Miss Dalton was at last found, with many of the circumstances attending her discovery, spread like wild-fire, and soon brought numerous friends and acquaintances to see and congratulate her upon the happy event.
Mr. Felton was among the first, and the old gentle- man appeared as rejoiced to see her as if she had been his own child, and was enthusiastic in his praises of her courage and bravery in refusing to give up the precious document that could alone re-
store Earle his honor.
Mr. Dalton was immediately telegraphed to, and three days later he also made his appearance in her
room at the hotel.
She had improved very rapidly during those three days, and though she was still exceedingly weak and nervous, starting at the lightest noise, the wild light returning to her eyes, yet the color was begin- ning to return to her cheeks and lips, the music to her voice, and the old look of brightness to her face.
Mr. Dalton greeted Editha with some show of fondness, but he appeared anything but pleased when he heard of Earle's return, and that it was through his instrumentality that she obtained her release, and almost immediately his manner began to assume its former coolness toward her.
But Miss Dalton was not a daughter to be slighted by any means, when she had such a snug fortune of her own ; and it now began to be whispered quite generally that Mr. Dalton had been exceedingly un- fortunate in some of his speculations, and that it was a very fine thing that he could have her income to fall back upon during this rainy day.
While he was not exactly uncivil or aggressive in his treatment of Earle, yet he testified his displeasure at his presence by sullen looks, sarcasm, and sneers, until Earle more than once lost patience, and would have had it out with him, had he not feared that any trouble would be a serious injury to Editha in her weak state.
But although he was very forbearing and always courteous, yet he never seemed to gain any ground with his enemy, and at last resolved to bring mat-
ters to a crisis.
He called upon Mr. Dalton one morning at his own room, and formally proposed for Editha's hand in marriage. Of course he had anticipated a refusal, and of course he got it.
"I think, Mr. Dalton," he said, not at all dis- concerted, " that if you will listen while I explain to you something of the change that has occurred in my prospects during the last few months, you will not only be willing to waive all your objections, but give us both your blessing, instead of so curt a refusal."
Mr. Dalton sneered visibly at this ; indeed, his face was gradually acquiring an habitual sneer, as if things generally were disturbing his tranquility.
" Ahem ! Mr. Wayne, permit me to say that no change, of whatever nature, in your prospects would affect my decision. You cannot marry Miss
"But, sir, remember that no stain rests upon my name now, I am free from every taint."
" Indeed! I am glad that you are so happy as to think so," he returned, satirically.
Earle flushed, but controlling his indignation, he
" I not only think so, but all the world will be obliged to acknowledge it very soon, as I have already taken measures to have John Loker's con- fession made public."
" What the world may think does not concern me at all; you will please consider my answer as final and unalterable," and he waved his hand as if to dismiss the subject entirely.
Again the hot blood rushed to Earle's very fore- head, and it was all he could do not to let his temper fly.
" Will you please to give me some reason for what seems to me an unreasonable refusal ?" he asked, quietly; then, after an instant's thought, he added.
" I have lately fallen heir to quite a handsome property, and can place Miss Dalton in a position befitting her worth."
" I regret, for your sake, that I am unable to con- fer the favor requested upon one so noble and heir to such brilliant prospects ; but even were it possible, allow me to ask what name you would bestow upon Miss Dalton?" and the look accompanying this question was so cunning and full of malice that for a moment Earle was startled.
'' The woman I wed will never have cause to blush for the name she bears, sir," he replied, with an indignant flush, and wondering if it was possible that Mr. Dalton could know aught concerning his previous history.
" Ah ! indeed," was the sarcastic reply. " I trust -- I hope truly that you may find one worthy to bear it. Miss Dalton cannot, I decline that honor for
" Miss Dalton is of age, I believe, sir," Earle said very quietly, but the words were rather ominous.
" Miss Dalton is about twenty-two. Mr. --ah -- Wayne."
Why was it, Earle wondered, that Mr. Dalton al- most always addressed him in this peculiar way now, with a pause, a interjection, and that strange emphasis on his last name?
But he replied to his last remark with a dignity
that became him well :
" Then, sir, we will leave the question for her to decide, and abide by her verdict. I desired to ren- der you all due courtesy, but, of course, you are as well aware as I that my seeking your approval was a mere matter of form. Good-morning, sir."
" Good-morning," Mr. Dalton returned, with a mocking bow, and saw him depart with a sinister smile and an almost fiendish chuckle.
Earle immediately sought Editha, and communi- cated the result of the interview to her.
" I shall not ask you to run away with me, my darling," he said, with a fond smile, "for I must marry my wife in an honorable way. Neither shall I use any arguments to try to persuade you to defy your father and marry me openly. I shall leave it entirely with you. It must be just as your own heart dictates. Editha, you must decide this mat- ter for yourself and me."
" Oh, Earle, it is hard," she said. " My heart tells me that I belong to you while a feeling of pity and affection prompts me to consider as far as is right, the feelings and wishes of my father. I cannot un- derstand him; he is so changed since mamma and Uncle Richard died. I sometimes fear that his mind is affected."
Earle thought that his mind was affected decidedly, being possessed with an evil spirit of some kind.
" An impassable barrier seems to have arisen be- tween us," Editha continued, sadly ; " and he has taken such an unaccountable dislike to you that it seems very strange to me. Let me think it all over for one night, Earle. Come to me tomorrow at this time and you shall have my answer."
Earle complied with her request and left her, feel- ing sad and depressed himself.
He knew that he ought to return immediately to Wycliffe. He had been gone a long time now, and was trespassing more than he liked upon Mr. Tres- salia's good nature ; but he did not feel as if he could even think of such a thing as returning and leaving
The more he considerad the matter the more in- explicable Mr. Dalton's fierce spite against him ap- peared. It seemed so almost childishly unreason- able that he would not even listen while he told him of his prospects. He seemed to talk as if he was aware of something very shameful and degrading connected with him, and yet he could not under- stand how Mr. Dalton, here in America, could pos- sible know aught of his previous history, or the shadow of shame that had hung over his early
" Then, too, his declaring that " no change of what- ever nature" in his prospects could affect his answer, seemed to imply some deep and bitter personal hatred that, not being conscious of ever having done him on injury, he could not fathom.
" It surely could not be," he thought " because Richard Forrester had so kindly remembered him at the time of his death and it was a petty feeling of jealousy."
He had not touched the money which Editha had so nobly insisted upon investing for him. It still lay accumulating in the bank, and would remain there until the end of time for any use that he would
make of it.
And so, after perplexing his brain over the mat- ter, only to become more deeply puzzled, he resolved to let it drop, hoping that everything would come out right in the end.
Notwithstanding Mr. Dalton's sarcastic and al- most insulting language and manner to him, Earle did not cherish the least feeling of ill will toward
At the time a feeling of indignation and impatience at his injustice would momentarily arouse his hot blood, but this soon passed, and he sincerely pitied him for being the slave of such unholy passions as
The next morning, feeling very uneasy and apprehensive of he knew not what, he called, as
Editha had desired.
He could not shake off the feeling that he was about to meet some dreadful impending fate; it seemed almost as if a voiceless, wordless warning was impressing him, and he found himself involun- tarily repeating the words of one who said :
"Often do the spirits
Of great events stride on before the events, And in to-day already walks to-morrow."
He found Editha calm, but looking weary and very sad, as if the struggle of deciding had been too much for her strength.
She arose and went toward him, looking so pale that she seemed more like some beautiful spirit about to fade from his sight than a woman whom he longed to call " wife."
"I have decided, Earle," she said, the tears shin- ing in her eyes as she held out both hands to him in greeting.
He took them and drew her toward him, search-. ing her fair face with his anxious eyes,
" My darling !" he said, in low, intense pleading
"I am going with you!" she whispered, and his arms instantly encircled her, a low-spoken thanks- giving and blessing falling from his lips, the burden rolling from his heart.
"Papa is already so estranged from me," sbe con- tinued, " that I know I should be miserable to let you go back alone; you would be very unhappy
The closer clasp of the arms infolding her con- firmed the truth of her statement, and told her how very dear she was to him.
The golden head dropped and rested trustfully against his shoulder, and she went on :
" Perhaps, when he sees how determined I am, he may relent and consent to go with us. At all events, I feel that I have no right to ruin both our lives, and yield to an unreasonable command of his."
Before Eirle could reply, Mr. Dalton himself
entered the room.
" Ah ! quite an affecting tableau," he said, with a disagreeable sneer ; " it seems to be my privilege to -- to have the benefit of these interesting scenes."
His eyes glittered with anger as they rested upon Earle, but he continued, speaking to Editha :
"I must beg pardon for the intrusion; I merely came to say that I want you to be ready to go to Newport next week."
He had never spoken quite so peremptorily to her before ; he had been more willing to consult her convenience and pleasure, more especially since he had in a measure been dependent upon her income to supply his own wants.
She yad seen, too, the look of malignant hatred which he had cast upon Earle, and her spirit arose in rebellion against it.
She had quietly withdrawn from her lover's em- brace when the door opened, but remained stand- ing by his side.
" Papa, I -- I am not going to Newport this sum- mer," she said, with outward calmness; but Earle could almost feel her tremble, and his heart ached for her, in prospect of the conflict which he knew
" Not going to Newport !" Mr. Dalton said, with raised eyebrows and well-feigned surprise. " Who ever heard of such a thing as our not going to New- port during the summer ? Of course you are going to Newport, Editha; I could not think of leaving you at here alone, and -- I should be so exceedingly lonesome," and he shot a cunning glance at the young couple, that disagreeable sneer still upon his lips.
"Papa, I am really sorry if you will be lonely --" began Editha, a tremble in her voice, when Earle quietly laid his hand upon hers and stopped her.
"Mr. Dalton," he said, in a cold, business-like tone, " we may as well come to the point, and have this matter settled once for all. Editha has already decided to return with me to Europe as my wife."
Instead of a blaze of anger, as he had expected, Mr. Dalton chuckled audibly, and gleefully rubbed his hands together, as if this were really a delightful piece of news to him.
But he took no more notice of Earle than if he had not been there.
Instead, he again addressed himself to Editha :
" My dear, did I understand that last statement of Mr. -- ah -- Wayne's correctly ?"
" You did, papa," she answered, but it was a great
effort for her to utter the three short words.
"You have decided to spend your future in Europe ?"
" Yes, sir."
She ventured to glance at him.
She could understand neither his tone nor his mood,
" You will leave your native land, and go with a stranger to a foreign country ?"
" Earle is no stranger, papa," she said, quickly, "we have known him for years, and surely you ought to be willing to trust me with one so good and
true as he is. "
"So good and true!" he repeated, mockingly ; " you are exceedingly fond of Mr. Wayne ?"
"Yes, sir, I am," Editha now said, boldly, and turning her flashing eyes full upon him.
Her indignation was rising -- her patience giving out under his scathing sarcasms.
" Mr. Wayne ought to be a happy man -- he doubt- less is a happy man in having so brave and fair a champion. It is so beautiful to witness such entire trust and confidence -- such fervent affection. My dear, you can go to Europe with Mr. Wayne if you choose. I suppose, seeing that you have attained your majority, as he has once hinted to me, but you cannot go as his wife!"
The whole sentence was spoken with great appa- rent calmness and deliberation, but his eyes glowed like a burning flame upon the lovers standing so proudly side by side.
" If my majority gives me the right to choose upon one point it does upon the other also, I suppose," she returned, coldly.
" Oh, no, my dear, you are entirely mistaken there," returned Mr. Dalton, with aggravating affability, and darting a fiery glance at Earle.
" Papa, I do not understand you in this mood at all," Editha said, with some hauteur, " but I will say, once for all, that I think you are exceedingly unkind as well as unreasonable. What possible objection can you have to Earle in a moral point of
A gleam of malicious amusement flashed over his
face as he answered :
"You must excuse me, Editha, but -- really -- I should not presume to set myself up as a judge upon Mr. -- ah! -- Wayne's morals -- nor indeed upon the morals of any one."
" Then I do not consider that you have any right, for a mere prejudice, to ruin both his life and mine -- our united happiness depends upon this union, and -- papa, I shall marry Mr. Wayne -- if not with your consent, then without it," she concluded, firmly.
" My dear -- allow me to repeat -- you cannot marry Mr. Wayne."
" And I repeat that I shall do so." Mr. Dalton chuckled again.
"Mr. Wayne will, I suppose, be very proud to bestow his name upon you," he said, significantly.
" Allow me to ask what you mean to insinuate by that assertion?" Earle here interposed, flushing deeply.
" Wayne is a name that one might well be proud of, if one had a right to it," he answered, maliciously.
" And you mean me to understand that you think I have no right to it ?"
" I have my doubts upon the matter."
" You think I am an impostor -- that I have been seeking Miss Dalton's affections under false preten- tions -- under an assumed name ?" Earle demanded, with dignity.
" I have had some such idea ; yes," Mr. Dalton answered, with a strange smile.
" Mr. Dalton, what do you mean? -- What do you really know about me ?"
Mr Dalton replied only by a low laugh, and Earle continued, with some excitement :
" My name is Earle Wayne -- it is the name that my mother gave to me upon my birth, and I will now
"Your mother!" he interrupted, and a scornful, bitter laugh rang out, making both his listeners shudder, it was so fiendishly unnatural.
" Papa, why do you talk like this -- why are you so prejudiced against Earle?" Editha burst forth,
unable to bear any more.
"Prejudice is a very mild term, Editha" he replied, with glittering eyes.
*' What reason have you for hating him, then ?" she cried, passionately.
" I have the very best reason in the world, accord- ing to my judgment, for hating not only him, but all that ever belonged to him," Mr. Dalton answered, with deliberate emphasis.
" Sir," exclaimed Earle, in startled surprise, " what do you know about me, or those belonging to me? and why do you still persist in saying that Miss Dalton cannot be my wife, when she has distinctly stated that she has decided the matter ? What pos- sible barrier can there be to our union save the petty spite you so ignobly manifest toward me ?"
Mr. Dalton laughed again at this, a low, mocking laugh, and rubbed his hands in sardonic glee, while Earle regarded him in amazed perplexity, and Editha wondered if her father was not losing his mind that he should act thus.
" Does it surprise you, young man, that I appear to have some knowledge of you ? and shall I tell you, Editha Dalton, why you can never become his wife ?" he asked, and Editha shivered and grew white at
his ominous words.
"You know," he continued, still addressing her " that I never tolerate or forgive opposition from any one -- never forgive either a fancied or a real wrong. Mine is a peculiar temperament, I know, yet I am what I am, and those who foil or oppose me must take tbe consequences. I have never loved your devoted admirer, and since I have discovered his secret --"
" Secret !" breathed both his listeners, in surprise.
" Yes, secret. Had you no secret when you came to Richard Forrester?" demanded Mr. Dalton of Karle, and gnawing his lip savagely.
" Yes, I own that I had," Earle answered, with a sigh; but --"
" But a smooth tongue and lying lips will gloss al- most anything over," his enemy interrupted, sneer ingly.
" Papa, you are fearfully unjust. Earle is the soul of truth," Editha cried indignantly, adding :
" What if he had a secret ? -- he had a right to it, and no one should seek to pry into it. At any rate, I do not believe it is anything that affected his honor or nobility."
" Thank you, Editha," Earle said, gratefully. " I had a secret, but, thank Heaven, it need be a secret no longer, and if you will both listen calmly, I will explain its nature to you ; I have only been waiting for a favorable opportunity to do so."
"You hear, Editha; he has a secret, and such a secret! Shall I tell it ? I think I can do so much more effectively than he. He is a --"
We will not write the horrible word that sent every bit of blood back upon Editha's heart, and made Earle speechless from astonishment and in- dignation.
It was uttered with a venomous hatred such as few are capable of either feeling or showing, and then, without waiting to note the effect of his wards, he went on, in wild and excited tones :
" Now, my fair champion of high-toned morality, is not that a piece of news to make your ears tingle ? You have dared to oppose me time and again," he continued, with a scowl at her ; " you have set aside my wishes and authority to favor him, until I am determined that you shall suffer for it; and your punishment, as well as his, will be no light one. Now, what have you to say ? Have I not advanced a good and sufficient reason for your not marrying him, or shall I be obliged to add another and stronger one ?"
He glared upon the fair girl his whole face work- ing with the passion that raged within him.
For a moment she could not speak.
She glanced from him to Earle, who stood very pale, but calm, and with a slight curl upon his hand- some lips.
For an instant he had been tempted to cast the lie in the teeth of his foe, then he decided to await Editha's reply.
She had not been whiter on that night when he had found her in the power of Tom Drake than she was at this moment, and a weary hunted look shone in her blue eyes.
" I do not believe it," she said, drawing herself to her full height, " but even if it were true, it is not a sufficient reason, for the sin and shame are not his, they belong to a previous generation.
A wild, mocking lough burst from Mr. Dalton's lips at this.
" Such disinterested devotion it has never been my pleasure to witness before," he cried.
Earle's deep-drawn sigh of gratitude and thank- fulness at Editha's reply had not been lost upon him and it had seemed to work him up to the highest pitch of excitement.
" Mr. Dalton --" the young man began.
" Hush ! will you ? I'll attend to you when I get through with her," he said, with a gesture of authority ; " this girl has got to learn that she can- not defy me with impunity. Now, miss, as I've driven that nail home, hadn't I better clinch it ? Shall I tell you yet more to convince you that you can never marry this nameless vagabond ?" and be bent toward her until his evil face almost touched
She drew back from him with an involuntary ex- pression of disgust.
Then she said, with a strangely sinking heart and shaking voice :
"If you have anything more to tell me, please tell it quick!"
" A 'good and sufficient reason' I told you I had," he returned, very slowly and deliberately, and glanc- ing from one to the other to mark the effect of his words. " Yes, it is, and I think you will both be obliged to acknowledge it when I tell you that Earle Wayne, as he calls himself, is is MY OWN SON!"
" Revenge, at first though sweet,
Bitter ere long back on itself recoils."
Earle suddenly reeled at these astounding words, as if some one had struck him a heavy blow.
" Mr. Dalton ! Sir !" he cried, aghast, and re- garding him for the moment in helpless amaze-
" Papa !" Editha exclaimed, an expression of utter incredulity upon her face,
She really thought that her father was deranged.
She believed that he had cherished his bitterness towards Earle until he had become a monomaniac upon that point, and now, under the excitement of the moment, and their defiance of him, he had lost his reason entirely.
"Does all this surprise you, my children?" Mr. Dalton asked, with a gloating emphasis upon that last word, and with a malicious grin at Earle. " It is not to be wondered at," he went on ; but it is true, nevertheless. Earle Wayne, as he calls him- self, though he has no more right to the name than I have, is bone of my bone, and flesh of my
Earle was terribly moved by his speech.
His breath came labored and heavily, his teeth were locked together, and his hands were clinched until they were fairly livid.
He took one fierce stride forward, as if he could have felled the man to the floor, then suddenly
stopped, and asked, in low, concentrated tones :
" Prove what you have said ! Is your real name Dalton ?" yet even as he asked the question a cold sweat settled upon his forehead and about his mouth,
" Yes, l have always answered to the name of George Sumner Dalton, though for brevity's sake I dropped the first name many years ago."
" George Sumner Dalton !" repeated Earle, me- chanically.
"Yes, you have it correct. Do you recognise any part of it?" was the mocking reply.
" I see, I see," murmured the young man, pressing his hands upon his temples, and looking if he was paralyzed with the suddenness of the intelligence.
Then all his mother's sufferings, all the wrongs and disgraces of his own early life, suddenly surged over him with overwhelming force, and he turned fiercely upon the man who dared to stand there and taunt him with those cruel facts.
" Then you are the man whom I have been look- ing for for seven long years !" he cried. " You are the wretch who plotted to betray my mother, and you dare stand there and own the dastardly act -- you dare acknowledge the deed that makes you a man to be shunned and despised by all true, good men, brands you worse than a second Cain, and makes me loathe you until my very soul is sick, not- withstanding that the same blood may flow in our
" Earle ! Earle ! what are you saying ?" cried Editha, wildly, and springing to his side, as the burning words fell with almost blighting force from his lips. " Spare him, Earle -- I do not think he knows what he has been saying -- this wild, wild story cannot be true; he must be mad!"
And she clung to him trembling in every limb, her teeth chattering with nervousness.
Earle himself shuddered as her words fell upon his ear, and his very heart seemed dying within him, as he bent a look of keenest anguish upon her face.
Sumner Dalton his father and hers !
Could any torture more horrible than the know- ledge of that fact be poured out upon him ?
Yet he saw that she did not credit his story -- ah ! it seemed too wild for any one to credit ! But he
knew it was true.
He put his arm around her and led her to a seat.
" My darling -- my darling!" he cried, in a voice of despair, " can we ever bear it ? I thought our sor- rows were all at an end ; they have but just begun. God give us both strength to bear it."
" Earle," she said, with a piteous look into his quivering face, " you do not believe what he has said? Oh !" clasping her hands with a frightened look, " just think what it means, if it should be true. You do not believe it, Earle ?"
He bowed his head until his forehead touched her golden hair, and groaned aloud.
" My darling, I believe the knowledge will kill me but I know that it is true," he said, in a hoarse and
She shrank from his sheltering arm with a cry that rang in his ears for years.
Folding his arms tight across his breast, as if to keep his hands from performing a swift and terrible vengeance, Earl instantly turned, and faced the man who owned himself his father.
" You know it, do you ?" Mr. Dalton said, before he could speak, " You own the relationship, then ? You know all your mothers' story, and how she
cheated me, and kept from me the knowledge of who she was, the position she occupied, and the great wealth she was to inherit some day ? If she had told me, I should to-day have been the father of the Marquis of Wycliffe, and occupying one of the proudest positions in England. I would have mar- ried her honorably if she bad told me, but she cheated me out of a magnificent fortune, and I stand here to-day a ruined man, a beggar. Do you wonder that I hated you, for her sake, when I found out who you were ? Do you wonder that I have always hated Marion Vance for defrauding me thus ?"
" Hold !" cried Earle, so sternly that he stopped involuntarily ; " do not dare to take my mother's pure name upon your vile lips, nor vent your petty spite upon her for what you were alone to blame ?"
" Pure name !" burst forth the furious man, reck- lessly. "Doubtless you are very proud of it -- the name that you should bear instead of the one you do, But I have had my revenge, or at least a part of it ; for if, through her obstinacy, I lost the glory which should have been mine, I did not suffer alone -- she was driven out, a nameless outcast, from her ances- tral home, never to enter there again, while her proud inheritance descended to another branch of the fam- ily, though I don't know who, and made her off- spring a beggar.
" If she had only told me, that night in London," he went on, talking more to himselr than to any one else, " I would gladly have married her on the spot. But she didn't ; when she found I wouldn't compro- mise myself, she let her -- pride ruin both her and me ; and how I have hated her ever since. But her suffering was the greater, and I know her sensitive soul must have nearly died within her at the idea of entailing her disgrace upon her offspring. Ah ! if I could have found her after that, I'd have made her pay the penalty for cheating me so !" he concluded, with intense bitterness, remembering what he had
" Do not forget that you were the traitor," Earle said. " You lured her on to destruction with soft words and smiles; you won her pure heart and tempted her into a secret marriage, professing to love her as simple Marion Vance, and for the inno- cent love she lavished upon you. You did all this to amuse yourself and pass away an idle summer ! She believed you, and trusted to your honor ; and she gloried in her secret, because of the joyful surprise she would be able to give you when you should go with her to her father to confess that she was your wife. If you had been true to her, if you had not tried to play that dastardly trick upon her, you might have attained to the grestness which your mean and ambitious soul coveted. You cheated yourself, and now the meanest of all traits that weak human nature is heir to, is revealed in you -- you hate the one you sought to injure, simply because you overreached yourself, and the wrong recoiled in a measure upon you."
Sumner Dalton glared angrily at him, for Earle read his degraded nature like an open book, and it was by no means pleasant to be compelled to view the picture he had drawn.
"You appear to know all about your mother's his- tory," he said at last, with some curiosity.
" Yes," he answered, with a look of pain ; " I know it all -- how she suffered when you did not come to her ; how anxious she grew when she discovered that her honor must be vindicated, and you did not even write to her in answer to her heartrending appeals ; how she determined that she would be acknow- ledged as your lawful wife, and sought you in London one dismal night, and begged you, with all the eloquence which she could command, to right the wrong you had done her. Had you consented, she resolved to tell you then and there of the bril- liant future awaiting you. But you spurned her from you instead, you turned coldly from her and her almost idolatrous love, mocking her misery, and telling her that the woman you married must be endowed with wealth and position; if she could assure you of these you would consent to make her an honorable wife, but you would not marry her to
save her from the shame that you had brought upon her. Then it was that she learned your utter heart Iessness -- that you cared for nothing or for no one,
but yourself and the things that would serve to gratify your selfish ambition, She would not be
an unloved wife, and she knew that when you should discover the greatness you had missed you would be rightly punished, and so, in her pride, she turned from you in silence regarding her prospects, vowing that she would not wed you then if it would save both your lives ; she resolved to bear her shame alone, knowing that the day was not far distant when you would be willing to sacrifice much to undo that wrong -- when you would curse yourself for your folly.
" I judge from your words to-day that the time did come -- that you suffered keenly when you dis- covered that the trap you had set for your victim, had also sprung on yourself.
"As I said before, you are the man for whom I have been searching for the last seven years -- that was the business upon which I went that night when this house was robbed and returning became entangled in the affair. I thought I had gained a clue to the whereabouts of a George Sumner, and I meant if I found you to brand you the traitor and the coward that you are --."
" Softly, softly, young man," interrupted Summer Dalton, a white light gleaming from his eyes. "I suppose you mean by that that you would like to pommel me within an inch of my life, but this is a country which does not permit such things -- there are penalties for such indiscretions as those, and as you have already served one term for the benefit of the State, I hardly think you would enjoy another."
Oh, how the heart of Earle Wayne rebelled against
this insult !
But he knew that retribution did not always fall upon the offender in the form of blows, and he an- swered, with quiet scorn :
" You mistake, sir, I would not degrade myself enough to lay even a finger upon you."
This shot told ; Earle could see by the twitching of the muscles about the mouth and the sudden clenching of his hands, and he replied, with malev-
"Yes, what you say is true -- I am the George
Sumner who enticed Marion Vance into a secret marriage. I got Austin Osgood to perform the cere-
mony, a clever fellow, and always up to all sorts of mischief, but the scamp has never shown his face to
me since, for some unaccountable reason. I
must confess, I did feel a little squeamish and sorry for the girl when she took on so ; but when I found how she had deceived me, I had not a regret -- I gloried in her shame, and the shame she must entail upon her offspring. I gloried in the suffering I knew she would experience, as, day after day, she looked upon her child, and thought of the noble inheritance she had deprived it of by her folly.
" A week after she came to me one of my friends told me the story of Marion Vance's dishonor -- how that all the world knew then that she had been driven from her father's house in disgrace. It was then that I learned who she was, and what I had lost. I left everything, and began to search for her, resolved I would make her marry me, so that our child might be born in wedlock and inherit the estates of Wycliffe.
" But she had hidden herself so securely that she could not be found, and when the time had passed that must elapse before her child was born I gave up the search and returned to America. But I had learned to hate her with all the strength of my nature, and if by any means I had ever encountered her I would have crushed her as relentlessly as I would crush a reptile. When I discovered that you were her son, I knew that through you I could doubtless make her suffer, and I meant to crush you
too. Now you know why I have been your bitter
foe all these years," he concluded, with a look so baneful that Earle turned away in disgust.
" My mother is forever beyond your reach -- she died more than seven years ago," he said, solemnly.
A slight shiver disturbed Sumner Dalton's frame but he made no reply.
" How did you discover that I was Marion Vance's child?" Earle asked after a few moments of silence.
Mr. Dalton laughed, but a feeling of shame made him color notwithstanding.
"Perhaps you remember leaving a package of papers with Richard Forrester for safe keeping while you were absent for three years," he said, recklessly. "He left them with Editha when he died, and being somewhat curious to know what was so carefully guarded by so large a seal, I took the liberty to inspect them, little thinking that I should discover so near and dear a relative by so do- ing."
Editha here started up, and lifting her white face
from her trembling hands, cried out :
"Thank you ; a very respectful way of addressing a parent," Mr. Dalton sneered,while Earle's lip curled
disdainfully, and a hot flush again mounted to his
"I must say, however," Mr. Dalton continued, " that the package was not worthy of the effort it cost me to open it, and contained nothing of interest to me, beyond the pictures and writing that proved to me that you were Marian Vance's child - unless perhaps, I except some hieroglyphics on a piece of cardboard, that I could not read." '
Earle's expression was a peculiar one as he asked " Did you examine that piece of cardboard critic- ally ?"
" No, I tossed it one side when I found I could
not read it."
"I have it with, me now -- I always carry it with
me, for it contains matter of the most vital import- ance to me, and might possibly interest you consi- derably."
He drew it from his pocket as he spoke, and held it so that Mr. Dalton could see the writing in cipher.
He recognised it instantly.
" These hierolglyphics as you call them, merely tell you what the cardboard contains."
"What it contains?'' repeated Mr. Dalton, his curiosity now fullly aroused. To him it appeared only a single piece of rather heavy cardboard.
" Yes ; if you had examinad it carefully you would have noticed that it is apparently composed of three layers, but the middle one is cut out very near the edge, so as to allow of some closely written sheets of thin paper to be inserted. I remove one end of what appears the middle layer thus, and you perceive that the papers easily slide out of their pocket."
He held it upside down, gave it a little shake, and some very thin sheets of paper, upon which there was writing, with another long, narrow slip which
was not so thin, fell upon the table.
" This, perhaps, may contain something of interest to you," Earle said, taking the latter up and holding
it before Mr. Dalton.
It was the marrioge certificate which the old rec- tor had given Marion on the evening of her marriage.
He laughed long, loud, and scornfully as he saw it.
"I always thought Austin Osgood carried matters
i little too far, when he dared to sign the old rec--
tor's name to a real marriage certificate, and give it
to Marian. But I suppose it made it seem more real to the [?], only I wonder at her keeping the useless paper after she discovered the fraud. As for Austin,
[? as I said] before, I never saw him again. Perhaps he thought he had gone too far in the matter and was afraid he might be overhauled for forgery.
Earle did not make any reply to these remarks; he merely returned the certificate to the cardboard pocket, and took up another paper.
"Here is some information that I stumbled upon purely by accident -- no, I should not say that," he added, in a reverent tone, " I ought to say, a Divine Providence led me to it. Shall I read it to you, or will you read it yourself. It is very closely con- nected with that little drama, in St. John's Chapel at
Mr. Dalton moved uneasily in his chair.
Somehow the words of this grave, calm young man, with his self-contained bearing, and a suspicion of great reserve force about him, made him feel as if he might have the advantage in his hands.
He began to fear that these papers might contain something very disagreeable, and something that had been reserved especially for him.
What could Earle Wayne have been searching for him for during all these years ?
Surely, not merely to acquaint him with the fact that he knew he was the illegitimate son of himself
and Marion Vance I
But he held out his hand for the paper, preferring
to read for bimself,
Earle gave it to him, saying :
"This is simply a copy of something in Bishop Gratton's diary. I made it myself from the
Sumner Dalton unfolded that paper with a feeling of great uneasiness, and began to read how the sex- ton had confessed to trouble on his mind to the rec- tor -- how the old man had himself gone to the chapel, and concealing himself, had seen a young man come into the robing-room, disguise himself, and then proceed to assume the sacred vestures.
He read how the rector had interposed, ascer- tained the names of the young couple, driven the accomplice ignominiously from the field, filled out and signed the marriage certificate, and then him- self proceeded to the chapel and married the unsus-
A terrible oath leaped from Sumner Dalton's lips, and the paper dropped from his nerveless hand as he finished reading this startling revelation.
" It is a lie !" he cried, his face ashen, and a great fear in his eyes.
" It is no lie," Earle returned, sternly. " I went myself to see the place where I supposed my gentle mother had been so cruelly deceived. I sought the sexton, and he told me concerning his part in the transaction, and then directed me to Bishop Graf- ton's daughter for further information, he being
" She was only too glad to aid me -- told me of her father's diary, and what she had read of this there. She then brought it to me, and kindly allowed me to make this copy. The signature upon the marriage certificate corresponds exactly with his own in the journal, and Miss Grafton is perfectly willing that any one interested or concerned in this matter should see the original.
"There is a little more," Earle added, taking up another paper, " which I think will convince you be- yond a doubt of the truth of what you have already
He then read himself aloud how the good man'd heart had been troubled on account of the young and tender maiden, and, fearing that some great trouble might come to her, he had resolved to make that last entry in his diary.
" Married in St, John's Chapel, Winchelsea, August 11th, l8-, by the Reverend Joshua Grafton, Bishop and Rector of St. John's parish, George Sumner, of Bye, to Miss Marion Vance, also of Rye, I take my
oath that this is a true statement.
JOSHUA GRAFTON, Rector. "Sept. 10th, l8--."
For what seemed a long time after the reading of this Sumner Dalton sat as if turned to stone, his face white as his shirt-bosom, his eyes wild and staring, and his hands locked together in a painful
Then starting up with an exclamation of horror,
he cried :
"Then I have been doubly cheated and duped! No wonder that Austin Osgood never dared to come
near me again.
"And," Earle said, quietly and impressively, "Marion Vance's honor was never marred by the shadow of a stain, though she suffered the same as if it had been, and -- her son was not born illegitimate !"
(To be continued.)