Chapter 819940

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Chapter NumberXLIII (CONTINUED)
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article819940
Full Date1881-09-17
Page Number4
Corrections4
Word Count7793
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2018-04-17
Newspaper TitleThe Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)
Trove TitleA Mystery
article text

FICTION.

(From English, American, and other Periodicals.)

MYSTERY.

CHAPTER XLIII.-- (Continued.)

[?T]en minutes elapsed, and then a door softly [? opened] again. Earle turned, his heart leaping to [? his throat], but it was not Editha.

[? he saw] a stranger, a noble-looking woman, com-

[? ing toward] him, and wondered to see her there,

[?]ed courteously, but she cordially extended [? her hand], as her eyes sought his card which the [? servant] had given her, and upon which was engraved the two names he had always [?]. He made no display of his title, nor of his

position.

? "Mr.] Wayne," she said, " we hardly expected you [?]; but I am very glad you have arrived. My [? name is Mrs.] Sylvester, and I am the only one at liberty [?] to you just now."

[? Earle] returned her greeting, wondering who Mrs. Sylvester could be; certainly not the housekeeper, [? her] manner and bearing forbade him to believe she occupied that position ; and he had heard [? Editha] say they had no near relatives living.

[? She] might be some friend or neighbor come in to [?] her, and share her lonely vigils, he thought [? He en]quired if Miss Dalton was well, and noticed [? a] queer little smile wreathed the lady's lips, as

[? she repl]ied:

"She is quite well and is sleeping just now.

[? has] had an extremely distressing night, and

[?] persist in sitting up with him until {?]ning. The poor darling has been unre- [? mitting in] her care, and is nearly worn out," Mrs. [? Sylvester] concluded, speaking with great tender[?ness].

[? He] then inquired concerning Mr. Dalton's ill-

[? ness and ] its cause.

[? It] is a long, long story, and I will leave it for [? Editha to] tell you when she wakes, and you are [?]. I will only say, that it was brought on by

[?] excitement, during which he ruptured a

vessel."

[? He] expressed great surprise at this, and madam [? said]:

[? He rec]overed somewhat from the first attack of [?] and we were hoping his recovery would [?]ent, when he had another, since which he [? has been] rapidly failing. As soon as he became [?] that he could not live, he seemed to be ex- [? tremely] troubled regarding some injury which he [? had done] you, and wished you sent for immediately.

[? He will be] much relieved to know of your arrival, [? he has] been very restless and anxious ever since [?] sent the telegram."

[? "Is there] no possible hope of his recovery ?"

[? T]here is not the slightest hope of that. The [? doctor] does not think he can live many days. [? If y]ou will excuse me I will go and see if he [?] to see you, as he wished to be told the mo-

[? men you] arrived," madam concluded, rising, and [? with a grac]eful bow left him once more alone.

[? She had] not been gone many minutes when a ser- [? vent arrived], bearing a tray on which was arranged }? a tem]pting lunch.

{?] directed this to be served here," ex- [? plained the s]ervant, and again Earle wondered who [?] woman could be, who was evidently [?] the house.

[? He parto]ok of the lunch, however, with evident [?] e was hungry, having been too eager [?] to do justice to his breakfast that [?]. [? An h]our later madam returned, saying that [? Mr. Dalton] was ready and anxious to see him.

[?] nd followed her to the sick man's cham- [? ber, al]most wondering if it could be true that [?] t to stand at his own father's death-bed ; [?] before a son stood in such strange rela- [? tions towar]ds a parent.

[? He was sho]cked at the change in Mr. Dalton.

[?] an, and panting with every breath, he [?] up with pillows, and Earle knew at a [?] e could not live many days.

[?] sion of pain convulsed his features as [?] ed and his anxious eyes rested upon [?] an's handsome face and noble form; [?] a slight motion of his head, he signi- [?] or him to come and sit beside him.

[?] nge, sad meeting of a father and son ! [? One st]rong and manly and in the full vigor

[? the o]er pale, emaciated, and dying, and [?] encing nor expressing any natural

[?] ther.

[?] ity was touched as soon as he saw [?] e forget all his past bitterness, he [?] was one who claimed to be an im- [?] e, who had said he " hated him and all [?] r belonged lo him." He only thought of him,

[?] sick and dying man who needed sympathy

[?] not expect when you went away that [?] we met you would find your enemy laid [? low, did] you,?" Mr. Dalton asked, in a hollow [?]. Earle was seated, and searching his [?] keen glance.

[?I] never wished you any ill, sir," he replied [?] ly.

[?] say the same regarding you, for there

[?] would not have done, for the sake of [?] bore your mother, to have hurled you [? pr]oud position you occupy."

[?] not drop all this now and forever ?"

[?] ed, gently, fearing he would become [?] topic was renewed.

[? I mus]t have my say out now. I've been [?] ngth for this, and I have much to tell [?] sooner it is over with, the better for [?] sentiments change when a body feels [?] from his grasp, and I felt that I would [?] to know before I die that I realize at last, [?] injuring others only, I have been my own [? worst ene]my. I don't know why I should always

have hated others for what has really been my own fault, for all through my life my folly has been the cause of all my disappointments.

" I have seen a child get angry with his toys -- his top or his ball, when it would not spin or bound as he wished it -- and vent his anger by destroying them, when it was only his own lack of judgment and skill that prevented his enjoying them. I sup- pose it was that same trait in me, only in a tenfold degree, that has made me wish to destroy every one who opposed or disappointed me in my schemes or ambition."

He paused a moment, and Earle watched him curiously. He had never heard anything so strange before.

" Had I lived for ten, twenty, or even forty years more, I suppose I should have gone on in the same way," Mr Dalton resumed " I suppose as long as I knew you were enjoying the position and possessions I had so coveted, I should have continued to hate you and striven to do you injury. But my hatred can do you no further harm now, nor me any good where I am going; neither money nor position, the two things that I have most coveted all my life, can benefit me further. I have never believed in a God, have tried to believe that man was like the brutes, and conse- quently must get all the enjoyment possible out of this life, but now that I have come to this" -- lifting his wasted hand and regarding it with a strange expression of wonder, and perplexity, and regret -- "I do not feel quite so confident that God and Eternity are not solemn truths. That the mind is something greater than the body, and will probably exist in another state, I am at last convinced, but I have no time to discuss metaphysics now. My life has been a failure, for I have missed everything for which I sought most eagerly; I have never known what it is to be really happy; I have done a great deal of evil, and I do not know of a single human being that is the better for my having lived in the world; the only good thing that I can think of con- nected with myself is, that no one will sorrow or be made unhappy by my death," and the smile that accompanied these words was intensely bitter.

" I have told you how I disliked you from the first simply because Richard Forrester was interested in you, and I was jealous of any one who was likely to win any thing from him. You know how I scorned you because Editha took a girlish fancy to you, and you dared to treat her as if you considered yourself her equal. I was so angry that day in court that

could have blotted you out of existence, had I pos- sessed the power, and throttled her, when she stood up so fearlessly in that crowded room and asserted your innocence. I was afraid she would learn to love you and persist in marrying you. I knew that Richard Forrester was rich, and that she would have all his money, but i meant she should get more by making a wealthy marriage; the more she had, the more I thought I should have, and stand the higher in the world for it."

Again he paused to rest, and Earle would have been glad if he would cease entirely; he knew all this, and he could not see the good of its all being rehearsed, neither could he understand toward what it was drifting, but he was soon to know, and a great surprise awaited him.

"When Richard Forrester died," he began again "and left you that ten thousand dollars, I vowed you should not have it, for I felt sure it would give you nastart in life, and you would want to marry Editha. I was bound she should wed a rich man, and I would not be thwarted. Then I made the dis- covery of who you were, and it your sentence had been for life, I would not have lifted my finger to have had it mitigated in the slightest degree. I

seemed to gloat over the fact that Marion's son, the son of the woman whose high spirit had prevented me from reaching the goal I sought, was thus dis- graced, and, not knowing that she was dead,

thought I could imagine some of her sufferings on account of it."

"I do not wonder that you shudder," he said, see- ing a quiver of pain run over Earle's body at this heartless speech, "and I can see now just how such fiendish malice appears to others. If I had known. however, that my marriage with Marion had been legal, you may be sure I should have adopted a very different course; if, when from motives of curiosity I opened that package belonging to you, I had dis- covered those papers in the cardboard pocket, my ambition and selfishness would have prompted me to court the favor of the heir of Wycliffe But I did not know, and when you told me, and refused to let me share your honors, my ire increased tenfold and I vowed I would make you suffer for it in some way."

Eurlb's face was very grave and pale as he listened, and it seemed as it he was almost living over again the troubles he had been through, to be re- minded of them in this way.

"There was only one way that I could do this," Mr Dalton said, with a troubled glance at the white set face by his side, " and that was through Editha; you loved her, and she loved you, and I gloated over the fact that through her I could make you miser- able, though you stood on the very pinnacle where I had longed to climb, and even though I sacrificed her in so doing."

Earle'e lips twitched nervously at this, and had not the man before him been helpless and dying his indignation must have burst forth at this start- ling and inhuman statement.

Mr. Dalton noticed his emotion, and his lips curled

in a bitter smile.

"One is not often allowed the privilege of reading such a page of heart-history as I am turning for you to-day -- one does not often meet a father, who could cherish such bitterness and antagonism to- ward his only son, and so utterly devoid of natural affection also for the child whom he has reared from infancy ; but I will make no half-confession -- I want you to know just how black my record has been, and then I will make what restitution there is in my

power.

" With all my other sins, I had a secret that I had kept for more than twenty years, and expected it would die with me. I did not believe there was a soul living who knew aught of it, or who could ever

discover it.

" But there was; justice was on my track, and, like an avenging Nemesis, pursued me with a relent- less determination. I fled -- I hid -- I vowed I would not be thwarted out of every scheme I had formed; but all to no purpose, and one day I was brought face to face with a foe, of whose existence I had not dreamed until only a short time before.

"Foiled at every point, my last weapon wrested from me, I lost all control of myself, and in my angor and mortification ruptured a blood vessel in the lungs, and knew that my days were numbered.

"It was not a pleasant thing to know that death had set his mark upon me, and for awhile I tried to fight the conviction; but it was of no use, and then I began to think; and one has very different ideas regarding the end and aim of man, when 'Death sits grinning bis horrible, ghastly smile upon him,' than when in the full vigor of life.

" Like two vivid pictures your life and mine arose up before me -- my own full of pride, ambition, and selfishness, with no principle of truth or goodness in it, and ending in utter wreck ; yours, in the face of mountain-like difficulties, filled with the beauty of high resolves, noble purposes, and unwavering rectitude and nobility, not the least of which was

the fact, that even while smarting beneath the fiercest strokes of your enemy you did not cease to be generous -- that ten thousand dollars, with all my arrogance and bravado, has lain heavy on my con- science ever since you made it over to me.

" I am nearly done. I could not rest -- I could not die until I had told you all this. I do not ask you to forgive me ; the words would seem but mockery to you. The purity of your life, standing out in such bold relief against the blackness of mine, en- raged me. If I could have seen you angry -- if I could really have found a flaw in you, perhaps I should not have always been so bitter. I say it always angered me, until I was obliged to lie here and think. Now it shames me, and I would be glad if I could annihilate from your memory the shame of having had such a father. I cannot make any atonement for the past to either you or Editha. I can only wish that your future may be as full of happiness as you both deserve, and perhaps I may be able to contribute a trifle to it by being the first to tell you that Editha is not my child at all !"

CHAPTER XLIII.

MADAM SYLVESTER'S STORY.

Earle nearly bounded from his seat at this start- ling intelligence, and then controlling himself for the sake of the sick man, sank back into his chair with a low, suppressed cry, his face almost as color- less as that of the dying man's upon the pillow.

"Editha not your child!" he said at last, in a strained, unnatural voice, his heart beating with great, heavy throes.

"No ; not a drop of my blood flows in her veins,''

Mr. Dalton panted.

His strength was all gone, now that his story was told, and it was with difficulty that he spoke at all.

" Whose child is she, then ?" Earle asked, trem- bling with eagerness, a glad gleam leaping into his eyes in spite of his sad surroundings, and his sym- pathy for the panting form upon the bed.

Madam Sylvester now came to the bedside.

She had entered so quietly a few moments before that neither Earle nor Mr. Dalton was aware of her presence until this moment.

"Mr. Dalton must rest now; he is nearly ex- hausted," she said, adding : " I will summon the nurse, and as Editha is still sleeping, and you are doubtless anxious to have this mystery explained, I will finish the story of Editha's parentage."

Earle instantly arose, and a sudden thought made him glance at her more keenly than he had yet done ; then, with a look of sympathy at the panting sufferer, he turned to follow her.

Mr. Dalton had seen that look, however, and it stirred his soul to its very depths.

He reached out his wasted hand as if to stay him, and said, weakly, while his features writhed in pain :

" A good father might have been proud to own you as his son. as it is, I cannot even ask you to take my hand."

Earle turned quickly and bent over him, his manly face softened to almost womanly tenderness and beauty -- not from the dawn of any filial affection ; that could not be, after all the bitter past -- but from pity and compassion for a soul standing alone upon the brink of eternity, with nothing to lean upon as he entered the dark valley of the shadow of death, and no hope in the mysterious future toward which he was hastening.

As his humanity would have prompted him to reach out his strong right hand to save either friend or foe in case of danger, so his grand nature yearned to lead this darkened mind into the light of hope.

" We will not talk of the past any more," he said, gently ; " it is gone, and it is vain to dwell upon it. The future is what we must think of now."

" The future -- my future! What will it be like, I wonder ?" Sumner Dalton asked, helplessly, and searching that noble face with painful earnestness, as if he could tell him.

"The future means 'heaven' to those who are ready for it," was the grave, significant reply.

"Yes, yes; but to those who are not ready for it?" came breathlessly from the blue lips of the sufferer.

" All may be ready for it if they will," Earle an- swered, in low, sweet tenes. Then seeing how ex- cited Mr. Dalton was becoming, he added :

" You must rest now ; you have talked long, and are very weary. I will come to you again when you have slept, and we will talk more of this."

" You will stay -- you will not go away until -- after --" the dying man began, wildly, but finished with a groan. The thought of death was anguish.

"I will stay for the present -- as long as you need me," Earle replied, understanding him, and pitying him deeply.

A sigh of relief followed this assurance.

In the hour of his weakness and need he turned, with a strange feeling of confidence to the strong, true nature which he had once so scorned and despised.

His eyes followed the manly form wistfully as it quietly passed from the room, then, with a weary sigh, he turned upon his pillow and slept.

Madam Sylvester led Earle back to the room where she had first met him, and motioning him to a chair, took one herself near him.

" I know you ore anxious to see Editha," she said, but she is not yet awake. I peeped into her room

on my way to Mr. Dalton's, and the dear child has not moved since I looked in before. She was nearly worn out this morning when she went to rest."

" Now I will do as you say -- leave this interesting story for her to finish, or relieve your suspense and tell you myself while she sleeps," she added, with her charming manner.

" Tell me, by all means," Earle said, earnestly. " I cannot endure the suspense, and I am utterly amazed by Mr. Dalton's last statement to me."

" It is not to be wondered at, and your amazement probably will not end there. Your query, when he told you Editha was not his child, very naturally was. 'Whose is she, then ?" My lord, I am Editha's

mother!"

Earle looked the astonishment that he could not express, and yet the shadow of a suspicion of this had crossed his mind just before leaving Mr. Dal-

ton's room.

" I never believed anything would ever again give me such joy as this knowledge does," Earle said, with a deep-drawn sigh of thankfulness, and be- ginning to realize something of the joy that might

be in store for him.

Editha, no longer regarded as a sister, might now

be claimed as a wife.

Madam smiled. She greatly admired the hand- some young marquis, and her heart was very light to know of the brilliant future that lay before her beautiful daughter.

" It gives me pleasure to hear you say that," she said. " And now, if you have patience, I will tell you my sad story, and all regarding Editha's parentage, as I have already related it to her."

" I have patience," Earle said, smiling, and madam began :

"Nearly twenty-three years ago I met with the saddest loss that ever falls to the lot of woman -- the loss of a love that would have brightened all my future life. From my early girlhood I had had an affection for an own cousin, and was beloved in re- turn by him. As we grew older that affection in-

creased, until at the age of eighteen I was betrothed to him. Soon after, he went to sea, hoping on his

return to be able to make me his wife. He had a share in a trading vessel, and if they made a success- ful voyage he hoped to realize a handsome sum, which, with what he already had, would enable him to support a wife. Three months later, came the news of the loss of the vessel, and his name was among the list of those who perished. Our engage- ment had been a secret, and so it was only in secret that I could mourn. In the presence of others, of course, I must appear the same as usual, and so to hide the grief that was burning my heart to ashes, I assumed a reckless gaiety that deceived every one. About this time a stranger appearedin our circle, He was wealthy, fascinating, and very handsome. He appeared attracted by my beauty, as my friends were pleased to term my good looks, and paid me much attention. My family were pleased with him, I liked him, and when he offered me marriage, I ac- cepted him, thinking that, perhaps, under new ex- citement, and change of scene and country, I might find some balm for my wounded heart. We were married, and spent several months in travelling, and then, contrary to my expectations, my husband pre- ferred to remain indefinitely in Paris, and we set up

a home of our own in the suburbs of the city. Be- fore the end of a year a little child was given to us a blue eyed, golden-haired daughter, whom we both loved with almost idolatrous affection, and it seemed as if Heaven had at last sent healing to my sore spirit, for I became calmly and quietly happy; my acute grief had passed, and though my deepest affection was in the ocean grave of my sailor lover, yet I looked forward to a future of quiet happiness with the new ties that bound me to life.

" My baby -- Editha we had named her -- was only three months of age, whon one day, as my husband and I were watching her as she lay crowing and laughing in her cradle, the door behind us opened, and some one entered the room. We both turned, and I saw a form gaunt and trembling, a face pale and wasted, but dearer than life to me. It was Louis Villemain, my lost lover, whom I believed lying cold in death at the bottom of the sea!

"I was young, impulsive, and not yet strong after the birth of my child, and the shock was more than I could bear. With one wild cry of joy, I sprang forward and threw myself upon his bosom forget- ful that I was already a wife and a mother, forgetful of my husband's presence, of every thing, save that Louis was alive, and had returned. I murmured fond, wild words of love and delight, words which a wife has no right to speak save in the ear of her husband, and mine, sitting there, listened horror- struck, and learned the whole. It was only when, exhausted with my joy, I lay weeping on Louis' bosom, that I was at last aroused to consciousness of what I had done, by my husband's stern sarcasm:

" What may be the meaning of this exceedingly affecting scene, allow me to ask!" he said, hissing the words between his teeth, and then with a shriek I realized our relative positions and fell fainting to

the floor.

"I need not dwell upon what followed," madam said, with a sigh. "When I came to myself, Louis was gone, and my husband, angry and wretched at discovering how he had been deceived, was very un- reasonable, and poured forth such a storm of jealous wrath upon me that I was nearly crushed. I con- fessed everything to him then, I pleaded my sorrow and weakness, and implored his forgiveness and mercy, but he denounced me as on unfaithful wife, at least at heart, and vowed that from that day we should live as strangers, and yet for our child's sake every outward propriety must be observed. I was more wretched than I can express, and very un- wisely poured forth my troubles into Louis' ear, when he came the next day and sought me alone. I could not deny that the old love was stronger than the new, and the future looked like darkest gloom to me -- my husband's respect and confidence gone -- my lover returned to look reproach upon me from sad and hollow eyes, and my conscience constantly upbraiding me for having married a good and noble man when I had no heart to give him. I felt like a forsaken thing, and always morbidly sensitive. I was tenfold more so then in my weakened, nervous state. I do not pretend to excuse my sin -- I can only tell it just as it happened. Louis, as wretched as myself, comforted me with the old, tender words thut he used to speak, and, bemoaning my sad fate in being linked to such a cruel husband, urged me to fly with him on a new vessel that he was to com- mand, and be happy in our own way. The vessel was to sail in a few days, and with passionate elo- quence he pictured the delight of the free, beauti- ful, roving life we would lead. I consented, and one day, when my husband was absent for a few hours, I took my baby and fled. Louis had gone on before me, and was to meet me at the seaport town from which the vessel was to sail. Not being able to leave home until afternoon I was obliged to stop over night at a small town, about half way from the port. I was more lonely than I can tell you, as alone and unprotected I retired and lay with my baby in my arms, thinking of what I had done. I thought of my dead mother and her early teachings -- of the words she used to love and repeat from the sacred book, and the earnestness with which she used to impress their meaning upon me, and the horror and guilt of the step I was contemplating over- whelmed me. My baby awoke at midnight and

would not be coaxed to sleep again; so, lighting the candle, I lay there and watched her play, and talk, and coo in her charming little way. Every now and then she would stop, look around the room as if she know she was in a strange place, and then glance up at me with great serious eyes that seemed to question my conduct and reproach my rashness. I thought of my husband, who, though he had been hasty and somewhat cruel in his reproaches, was yet a good true man. I pictured the despair he would feel when he should return and find his wife and child

gone, his home desolate, his name dishonored; and all the horror of my rash act rushed with over- whelming force upon me, I threw myself upon my knees beside my bed and wept out my repentance there, resolving that early morning should find me returning like the prodigal to my home. I acted upon that resolve, first dispatching a note to Louis telling him of my resolution, and entreating him not to come to me again, nor seek to hold any com- munication with me.

" I reached home at noon the next day, but my husband had already discovered my flight. I sup- pose I might have told him some story -- that I had

only been to visit a friend in my loneliness, or something of that kind, and he might have accepted it; but I did not, I went to him and confessed the whole, imploring his pardon, and swearing fidelity for the future. I think if he could have had time to think it over, and consider the matter, he would have acted differently; but his heart was already too sore to bear more, and his naturally fierce tem- per swept all reason before it. He took my baby from my arms and bade me 'go,' refusing to believe I had not flown with Louis instead of to him. I

prayed him to leave me my child, my beautiful, blue-eyed, fair-haired Editha, but he told me I was no fit mother to rear a child, and he refused me even the comfort of a parting caress. He said hard

cruel things to me in that fit of passion -- words that

broke my heart, seared my brain, and drove me

nearly crazed from the sight of every familiar face.

I never saw him again -- I never heard aught of him for long, long years. After I had recovered some- what from the first shock of my wild grief, I began to reason with myself. I know I had sinned deeply

-- I had committed a great wrong in marrying one man when my heart was another's, even though I believed that other dead ; and I had enhanced that wrong a hundred fold in yielding to Louis' persuasions and consenting to fly with him. True I had repented before it was too late to turn back, but it was a bitter blow to my husband ; it was an act of treachery,

and I could not blame him for his first wild outbreak. But I felt that it was cruel in him to be so relentless -- when I had confessed all ; if he had but been merci- ful -- if he could but have consented to give me a place at his hearth-stone until he had tested my sincerity, I feel that a comparatively happy life might have eventually been ours. I wrote to him times without number, begging him to let me come to him and be the faithful wife and mother I knew I was capable of being ; but he never returned me one word in reply -- never told me aught of my child, over whom my heart has yearned as only a mother's heart can yearn for her only darling.

" A short time after our separation I received a letter from Louis telling me of his marriage with an Italian lady, and begging me to forgive him for the wrong he had done me in tempting me from my duty as a wife. A year later, news of his death reached me, and then I sought my brother, the only living relative I then had. He received me kindly, and has devoted himself to my comfort and happi- ness ever since, and we have lived for each other, and for the good we could do to others who have suffered and sinned. I have had much of peace -- I have even known something of happiness, since no one can relieve the wants of others, and witness their comfort and gratitude, without being blessed for the good wrought. But I am wearying you with my long, sorrowful story," madam said, stopping

with a sad smile.

"No; it is thrillingly interesting, but so sad," Earle said, longing to hear the remainder.

"I shall soon finish now. I told you, I believe, that my husband was an American, did I not?"

" No! is it possible ?" Earle exclaimed, greatly surprised.

' Yes; and for years I have longed to come to the United States to visit his native land, hoping that by some chance I might glean some news of him and my child. My brother and I visited the place that used to be his home, but he had been gone from there for many yeare. After the death of his parents he had removed to some city, but no one could tell us where, and no one knew anything of his having a child, and were even surprised to learn that he had ever been married. We could trace him no farther, and I gave up all hope, believing that my child must have died before it reached this country, and so he had never owned the fact of his marriage.

" We thought we might as well visit some of the points of interest here before returning home, and it was while at Newport that I found Editha."

"Surely you could not have recognized her after so many years ?" Earle said, thinking she meant to imply that.

" Oh, no, although we were both strongly attracted to each other at once. She was ill ; she had seen sorrow something akin to mine -- that I knew as soon as I looked into her sad eyes -- and just as I had discovered its nature, and was seeking a better acquaintance with her, she and her father suddenly disappeared from Newport. I learned through Mr. Tressalia that they had gone to Saratoga, and, being determined to know something more of her, and wishing also to visit Saratoga, we followed them thither. Immediately upon our appearance Mr. Dalton became strangely excited, and behaved in the most unaccountable manner.

" We arrived at night while they were at a garden party.

" We went to seek them, and after a short interview Editha and Mr. Dalton withdrew. Early the next morning, before any of us had arisen, they had departed leaving no trace behind them as to their destination."

" Aha! Mr. Dalton must have had some suspicion of who you wore, and for reasons of his own desired to keep the knowledge from Editha!" exclaimed Earle, getting really excited over this strange history.

CHAPTER XLIV.

"WHAT A STRANGE STORY!"

"Did you ever meet Mr. Dalton before?" Earle asked, excusing himself for his involuntary inter- ruption.

"No, never ; but I will soon explain how he re- cognized me, though I should never have known any- thing of him -- should never have found my child even then, had it not been for your cousin, Paul Tressalia," replied madam.

"Poor Paull" Earle sighed, thinking how his hopes were doomed to be blighted at every turn.

"Mr. Tressalia has suffered deeply," madam re- turned, " but he is rising above it nobly. I really believe if it had not been for his kind and judicious care of Editha after he returned to Newport, she would have sunk into a decline. He bravely re- nounced all his hopes of winning her, when she told him that she could never love another, and devoted himself to cheering her, and no one has expressed himself more truly glad over those recent discoveries than your noble cousin."

" He is a truly brave man, and deserves a better fate than has overtaken him just in the prime of his life," Earle said, regretfully.

"A 'better fate' will yet come to him, I feel sure, and his life will yet be rounded and completed by the hand of One who knows best how to fashion the lives He has given us," madam answered, with grave thoughtfulness.

" As I told you," she continued, after a moment, "on our arrival at Saratoga, we repaired imme- diately to the garden party, and while there I man- aged to draw Editha one side of a little quiet chat, during which she opened her heart to me. I had heard something of her sad story from Mr. Tressalia before, but she related it to me more fully. She spoke of her uncle several times, telling of his deep interest in you, of his fondness for her, and that he had, in dying, bequeathed all his fortune to her, save the sum he had wished you to have. I casually in- quired his name, but before she could reply, Mr. Dalton interrupted us and took Editha away. The next morning I arose quite early, considering the lateness of the hour that I had retired the night previ- ous, feeling very restless, and apprehensive of I knew

not what.

" I met Mr. Tressalia in a small sitting-room as I went below, and immediately began taking of the conversation I had had with Editha the night be-

fore.

"'What was Miss Dalton's uncle's name -- the one who left her his fortune ?" I asked, during the inter- view.

" ' Richard Forrester,' he returned ; and I sank into a chair, feeling as if a heavy hand had suddenly been laid upon my heart and stopped its beating.

" You will not wonder," madam continued, her face paling with emotion oven then at the remem- brance, " when I tell you that Richard Forrester was my husband!"

"Your husband!" repeated Earle, fairly dazed with astonishment.

"Yes, my husband and Editha's father. I saw through it all in an instant. Mr. Dalton's wife was his sister, and to her he had committed his child. It was no wonder that I had been attracted toward her from the very first ; it was no wonder that when I met her for the first time in Redwood Library at Newport, that my heart thrilled with something stronger than sympathy for her sorrow and pity for her suffering. She was my own, own Child, and it was the instinct of the mother claiming her offspring, even before she recognized her. She was my baby, my pet, my little bud of promise, which had been so cruelly wrested from my arms more than twenty years ago.

And madam's tears flowed freely even now. Her joy was so new that she could not speak of it with- out weeping.

" What a strange, strange story I" Earle exclaimed. " Richord Forrester Editha's father! That accounts then, for the intense love which he always seemed to

bear her."

"He did love her, then -- he did not visit her mother's sin upon the life of the child ?" madam asked, eagerly.

" No, indeed ; he seemed to love her most devotedly: She never came into his presence but that his eyes followed her every movement, with a strange, intense gaze, at which I often wondered. But I cannot understand why he should hove resigned all claim upon her -- why he denied himself all the comfort of her love, and had her reared as Sumner Dalton's child," Earle said, thoughtfully.

" You will understand it as I go on," madam re- turned, wiping her tears. " Of course, after that dis- covery, I was nearly wild to claim my child, and Mr. Tressalia went at once to arouse Mr. Dalton and de- mand a full explanation of all the past in my behalf. You can imagine something of our consternation when he discovered that he had departed on an early train, taking Editha with him, and no one could tell us whither they had gone. We returned to Newport thinking they might have gone back there, but they were not there. Mr. Tressalia said that Mr. Dalton had visited Long Branch the previous summer, and possibly we might find them there; so to Long Branch we repaired, but with the same success. We visited one or two other watering-places with a like result, and then returned to New York, thinking we might find them at home; but their house was closed, and we know not which way to turn then. But I was desperate. The fact of Sumner Dalton's flying from me would have alone convinced me that Editha waa

my child if nothing else bad, and I was determined I would never give up the chase until I found her."

"At last we discovered that they were boarding quietly at a hotel, and one morning while seated in their private parlour, Mr. Dalton reading, Editha sewing, we walked in upon them unannounced, be- yond a light knock upon their door.

"The look upon Mr. Dalton's face upon beholding us was a strange one -- it was amazement, rage, and despair combined, while Editha immediately sprang forward with a cry of joy to welcome us.

"'l am unable to account for this intrusion," Mr. Dalton said, loftily, and instantly recovering his self- possession.

" ' I can explain it in a few words,' I returned,' calmly. ' I have come to claim my child !'

'"I do not understand you,' he answered, with well-feigned surprise, but growing white as a piece of cloth at my words.

"'You do understand me, Mr. Dalton,' I said sternly, ' and you know that I speak the truth when I claim this dear girl as my child and Richard For-

rester's.

"I turned to clasp her in my arms, but she had sunk, white and trembling, into a chair.

" ' I should like to see the proofs of that state- ment,' Mr. Dalton sneered.

'' I did not reply, but bending down I took both Editha's hands in mine, and said :

" ' My dear child, tell me the date of your birth.'

"'Editha, I command you to hold no communica-

tion with that woman,' Mr. Dalton cried, shaking from bead to foot with passion.

" Editha looked from one to the other in helpless amazement for a moment, then she said :

"'Surely, papa, it can do no harm for me to give the date of my birth,' then fixing her eyes wistfully on my face, and with lips that quivered painfully she added, ' I was born October 24th, 1843.'

'"My child and Richard Forrester's -- my little blue-eyed fair-haired girl, that her father named Editha for the happiness she brought him, was born October 24th, 1843. My love, did no one ever tell you that you resembled Richard Forroster? ' I asked gathering her close in my arms, for I knew she was mine, and I would never relinquish her again, unless after hearing my story she should refuse to acknow- ledge me as her mother.

" ' Yes, it was often remarked,' she returned, ' but momma always said it was not strange since Uncle

Richard was her brother.'

" ' Not " Uncle Richard" any longer, my darling,' I said, ' but your own father.'

" ' My father ! and you were his wife -- you are my mother ?" she said, studying my face, and trembling in every nerve.

'"It is a falsehood! Editha, leave the room in- stantly, and I will deal with these people myself. Go, I say : that woman is no fit companion for my daughter!' Mr. Dalton shouted, and strode toward me, his hands clenched and his face blazing with fury.

" Whatever his intentions were he never reached me, for the blood all at once gushed from his mouth; and he fell fainting to the floor.

" Of course, everything was at once forgotten in the confusion that followed, and the alarm occa- sioned by his condition. He had a very violent hemorrhage, and the doctor gave very little hope of his rallying ; but his constitution was strong, and after a couple of weeks he began to gain strength and flesh, and the physician then said, with the exer- cise of great care, he might live for a good while. Meantime, Editha and I clung to each other with all the fondness and delight it is possible for a long- parted mother and child to experience. There was no doubt in our own minds that we belonged to each other, although Mr. Dalton was still very sul- len and morose on the subject, and would confess nothing. But one day he was attacked with an- other bleeding turn, so severe that we all knew he could not live long, and he seemed conscious him- self that he could not rally from it. Then he seemed willing to talk upon the subject so fraught with in- terest to us all. Editha sought him one day, and begged him to tell her all the truth; then he con- fessed that it was all as I had supposed, and that the moment he saw me at Newport he knew me from a picture that he had once seen in Mr. Forrester's possession. He said that when my husband re- turned from Europe with his little child he took her directly to his sister, who had no children, and begged her to adopt it as her own. He told all the story of his marriage, and the sad events which fol- lowed it, and said he never wished his child to know that any sorrow was connected with her early life -- he wished her to grow up happy and free from all

care, and he would gladly forego the comfort of call- ing her his own, that no shadow need ever come upon her. In return for the consent of Mr. and Mrs. Dalton to adopt her, he settled upon them fifty thousand dollars, and promised them that Editha should have all his fortune if she outlived him.

(To be continued.)