|Newspaper Title||Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||A Victim of Intrigue|
A Victim of Intrigue.
By "SILVER WATTEL," Author of "Reaping the Whirlwind," "How I Came to Australia," "Never to Know," &c.
I had been aiding since early morning. We were weary, both horse and rider. The sun was far down in the west, while yet some miles of dreary scrub lay between us and home. The monotonous landscape and the regular jog-trot pate we were going lulled me into a sleepy forgetfulness, when I suddenly became alert and my attention aroused by a cry utterly distinct from any
bird or beast. I drew rein and listened. Again it came, certainly a human cry, but feeble like the wail of a child. My bush- man's ears, accustomed not only to dis- cern between various sounds, but to note the direction whence they came, soon led me towards a small dump of stunted trees, where I found a man lying prostrate, evi- dently, I supposed, in utter weariness and exhaustion, quite unconscious and deaf to a child's plaintive cries. "Dadda! Dadda! wake, I'se hungry." As I approached more closely the child, apparently about two years old, looked up at me and pointing to the man, cried again— "I'se so hungry. Dadda won't wake." I stooped over the man to arouse him, when to my horror I discovered him to be quite dead. Alone as I was the situation was by no means enviable. I lifted the child up, giving it some food and water from my pack, which it ate, and drank greedily, but as I left the body and proceeded to mount again with the child before me its wail was rais- ed piteouely to "go back to dadda." I had been a family man for some years, and had, I considered, some experience in helping to manage infants, but certainly felt now at my wits' end. Fortunately my old horse knew his duty and was far too matter of fact to be disturbed by the cry- ing of a child. At last sleep overcame it and we reached home, where wife and chil- dren trooping out were met by the unusual sight of a small unknown child in my arms. The next morning, accompanied by seve- ral of my men, I set out on the gruesome task of burying the dead body. This we did after making minute search for any means of identification. He was an old man, had apparently travelled alone with his charge before him on the horse, which we found quietly grazing near, riding and camping, no doubt for several days and nights, for the pack was well provisioned. Nothing was found upon the body that could possibly give a clue; the clothes were those of a working man, fustian trousers and woollen jumper. In the pockets a silver watch of no great value, attached to a leather boot lace to serve for chain, a red pocket handkerchief, a sovereign and a few shillings, no writing or mark of any kind which could lead to discovery. We dug a grave and buried the body, marking the spot. I took charge of the few belongings mentioned above in case of any future event transpiring to prove identity. Of very different description was the clothing of the little girl; this was of the finest tex- Iture, but neither was mark found on any part of that. My girls made a great fuss over the child: my youngest being quite seven years old this little one was hailed as a pleasant ad- dition to the family. Very intelligent for her age was she and called herself "Ella", to which name we carefully adhered, but
no other syllable or sound by which we might guess a surname could we elicit from her little tongue. Five years went by and still no clue to her belongings, for those were the early days of the colony, when postal arrange- ments were imperfect, when telegraphs were unknown, when sailing ships alone brought tidings from home months old. We ourselves were miles away from any neighbors, with whom communication was difficult and infrequent. The child grew and was a great favorite with us all, seizing with avidity all the learning her little mind could hold. To in- struct her was a pleasure to my girls. But the study in which she most delighted was music, astonishing her teachers by her pro- gress. My two eldest daughters—I had but three—had received a fair education before leaving home, and it was my especial care that packets of the latest literature should be sent out from time to time; thus we kept ourselves in touch with the outer world. As for Ella, she would devour all books within her capacity, and indeed those beyond it, if she could get them. As I said, five years had passed; Ella was between seven and eight years old, so far as we could judge. My eldest daughter Janet was married just at this time and settled in Melbourne, and nothing would
content her but that the child, who had most particularly attached herelf to Janet, should continue to be her little companion in her new home. Her husband being most complaisant, in the matter, it was so set- tled. Sorry as we were to lose her, yet we felt it might be for her future good— for a future I had a prescient sense was before that child. That she was no daughter of the dead man, but a child of gentle birth, I felt convinced, and that she should have every advantage of education that the city could offer was my wish and intention. Before the end of another four years, during which we heard from time to time that Ella was making good progress with her studies under the best teachers that could be engaged, trouble came upon me— I was left a lonely man. My two other daughters had married and left me. Of course that was to be expected; but then my wife died. Janet implored me to come to them, so I sold my run and joined them in Melbourne. I found then that the reports she had given me of the child had been by no means exaggerated. Ella had grown to be a very pretty little maiden, and as to the advance she had made in her studies that was remarkable, especially in music; also her voice for singing promised to be exceedingly good. I am not writing or intending to write any account of my own affairs, but only that of the child who had been lost or stolen bv accident or design from its natural-
ral protectors, and thrown as it were into my arms, and upon the care and sympathy of my family, and was therefore, I consid- ered, consigned to me by an overruling Providence as a sacred trust. I considered it also my bounden duty to endeavor to discover her own parents and restore her to them and to her proper sphere in life, of that were possible and expedient, and to her rightful patrimony if any pertained to her. In this cause then I took the best means within my power and consulted with the proper authorities in Melbourne. On this a person called upon me as coming from the Detective Office to make every en- quiry about the child, and particularly to know and see what clothing she had upon her when found. This my dear wife had religiously kept and left in my care, and these I showed him. There was, as I said before, no mark nor anything especial about it excepting the texture and make, showing great refinement. But there
was also a beautiful and no doubt valuable Indian shawl, or at least it had been valu- able, but now somewhat worn and old, which had been folded around the child's shoulders. Of this the man took particular notice, and desired to take possession, as he said, to show to his superior officers as a quite possible clue. But nothing would alter my decision to retain it myself, at least for the present. I carried my point and had afterwards cause to congratulate myself upon my persistency. I heard nothing more until a short time afterwards, when we sailed for England; then I was surprised to find the same de- tective officer who had interviewed me to be one of the passengers. He came for ward and spoke to me again, telling me that he had been sent by the same vessel that he might the more easily keep my ward in view, as also to follow up the clue which there was great reason to believe had been obtained, adding that he was commissioned to spare no efforts, since the liberal sum I had already advanced enabled him to do so. This man made himself very agreeable to me and to Janet's husband, George Walden, and was always ready with any service he could render to Janet and to the little maid. In the latter's intelligent questions he appeared to take great plea- sure, showing and explaining everything about the ship and on the water. Nothing of any importance occurred worth relating until we reached Ports- mouth, when an accident happened which might have been fatal to my adopted daughter. Indeed Ella was nearly drown- ed on landing. How it happened I never could tell, or at least not until years after- wards. However, the child was saved, and I could not be too thankful for no worse re- sults than the discomfort and fright at the time. For the next three years, Ella applying herself diligently to study undei the best masters and professors, was fulfilling all the promise of her childhood for intelli- gence, making great progress in every branch, but more especially her voice, un- der training, was becoming one of her most attractive gifts. We had settled in one of the best neigh- borhoods of London and formed some friendships. Janet had entertained a few friends at dinner one evening, and it was afterwards, when by permission the child appeared in the drawing-room, I wishing to accustom her to the presence of strangers, desired her to sing a simple song to Janet's accompaniment. Obediently, and to please me, the child readily but shyly complied. Her pretty voice, heard for the first time by the guests, was an evident surprise. During her singing my attention was at- tracted to Colonel Highbury, an old army officer, who, as her voice rose, appeared evidently though silently agitated. Divining his wish to remain unobserved, I waited until the emotion had passed, then, the song ended, and during a murmur of ap- plause, I spoke to him, without appearing to have noticed his disturbance. He warm- ly praised the child's voice and congratu- lated me upon my daughter's gift. I told him then, in as few words as possible—the time and occasion being scarcely suitable for a detailed history—the circumstances of the case. As I spoke his features seem- ed scarcely under his control, his agitation returned with redoubled force. He rose to go, praying me to pardon his abrupt de- parture, he was an "old man," he felt "in- disposed." I accompanied him to his car-
riage, but once out of the room he turned and said— "Mr. Daverell, I am more interested in this than you can imagine. Will you call upon me to-morrow and give me the de- tails of this strange story? It may be that —but I dare not trust myself to speak just now." Greatly agitated myself, I willingly gave the required promise and bade him adieu. Returning I met Ella on the stair- case, who ran to me, clasping my arm and looking anxiously into my face, asked quite excitedly— "Father! father! What was the matter with that dear old man? Was he ill?" "Surely," I thought to myself, "there is some affinity here;" but kissing her I merely told her I hoped "only a passing faintness." I lost no time, but the next day called upon Colonel Highbury and found him eagerly waiting to receive me. He told me then that it was not only the voice, but the face and the manner which had reminded him so forcibly, agonisingly of his own daughter, who with her husband had been massacred in the Indian mutiny. He also showed me a small portrait of this daughter, which Ella certainly resembled, so far as a child's features could be traced in those of the woman. Then I related to him fully all the child's history so far as I knew it. He listened with intense interest. "This is an exceedingly strange story," he said. "My daughter had one child, a little girl, which when about a year and a half old, she found it necessary to send to England away from the enervating climate of India. The mutiny broke out about a month afterwards. How I escaped is a miracle. But after all was over I re- turned home with a broken-heart to be told that the baby had died upon the voy- age. Now, if there were any treachery it can only be accounted for in this way. A large estate and considerable property were left three generations ago, whimsically en- tailed upon the female side of the family, descending from mother to daughter. But in default of an heiress in direct line it was to go to another branch altogether, the family of which now existing, or any member of it, I am utterly unacquainted with, nor ever concerned myself to en quire. Now should this be indeed my own grandchild there will be great difficulty to establish her identity and her rightful claim, but we will confer with the lawyers and see if anything can be done. You say the detective who followed you from Australia has been able to trace no clue?" "Nothing whatever," I replied. "The child was christened Elaine—there is even something in that sound corres- ponding with the name you say she called herself. No, I could judge of nothing by the clothes or the Indian shawl you men- tion. The child sailed in the care of an ayah, a most faithful creature, of years service, and was consigned to my sister in England: but, as I say, the mutiny turned all our thoughts and prevented my hearing anything further until I returned home myself." "But," I ventured to remark, "the origi- nal story may be true—the child may have died and this be a mere accidental like- ness.' "I cannot think it—there is something more than fancy here—the contrary must be proved without a shadow of doubt be- fore I can persuade myself that she is not of my own flesh and blood." Then I told him of Ella's anxiety when she thought him ill. "Ah!" he said, 'you see the feeling is mu- tual; let me see her frequently—allow her to be constantly with me, that the bond be- tween us may be strengthened." We had never made her story a secret to Ella, and had been pleased that she should have always considered herself a
child belonging to us—always calling my wife and me mother and father but now, conferring with George and Janet, and also with Colonel Highbury, it was de- cided that it would be unwise to disturb the child's mind with a matter that ap- peared impossible to prove. She was of an affectionate, retiring, and; by no means effusive disposition; therefore it surprised me when I led Ella to the colonel to see her run to his side and ask anxiously— "Dear Colonel Highbury, are you quite well?" For answer the old man folded the child in his arms and kissed her affectionately. I left her sitting at his feet, her hand upon his knee, looking up into his face, answering all his questions, talking to him with the instinctive love and confidence of real relationship. For the next week or two she was his constant companion but then, unfortunately, an epidemic of influenza became most prevalent, to which several of our household fell victims (Ella and myself among the rest), confining us to the house. For myself, I quickly re- covered, when urgent business summoned me from home. It was a pretty country village to which I was bound as executor to a will, and on leaving I remember wish- ing Ella could accompany me to recruit her strength. I had cause also to remem- ber afterwards that as I said this a maid who had always been Ella's special at- tendant, being then present, remarked respectfully, "It would do her good, sir." I was away but a week or little more, when on returning home I could not ac- count for an overwhelming feeling of de- pression; or at least I did try to account for it by my recent indisposition and con- sequent weakness, but yet could not over come a presentiment of coming calamity. When I did reach home I found indeed that there had been only too much cause for the foreboding. In the first place Janet was very ill with the same epidemic, but worse than all was to follow, when the first question asked me could be only an- swered by blank amazement, "Where is
Ella?" "Where is Ella?" was echoed through the house with the utmost consternation and dismay. It appeared that a telegram had arrived two days after I left as coming from me, directing that Ella should be sent with her maid by a certain train which would be met by myself at the village sta- tion. Accordingly the maid, Janet being too ill, undertook to pack up and take all responsibility, which indeed there was no reason but to entrust to her, for she had ever had the character of a very reliable young woman and had always appeared much attached to Ella. And so the child had left with her maid, pleased at the thought of her visit to the country, and George and Janet, bidding her good-bye, had rested content until she should return with me. So soon as we could collect our senses George and I drove rapidly to Scotland Yard, and then made the further discovery that the supposed detective who had followed us from Australia was total- ly unknown there, instead of, as he had always represented, being entirely under the control and direction of that supreme
office. I saw it all. For years the child had been vigilantly watched, and the maid also, whom we had trusted so implicitly, had been a paid agent and spy. Ella's ene- mies had evidently taken alarm at the discovery of her parentage and had seized a propitious moment for their diabolical scheme of abduction. It is not necessary to dwell on the agony of mind into which we were plunged, or Janet's serious illness aggravated by grief. For the poor old man, Ella's undoubted grandfather, I had the most profound sympathy, also anxiety lest this great blow should prove too much for him to bear. A year and a half has passed since. Of course no efforts nor money have been spared in search for the dear lost child, but so far not a trace has been obtained.
CHAPTER II. With the last chapter Mr. Daverell's narrative necessarily ends, and Ella's history must be told by others. Happily as the little girl had look- ed forward to her journey, yet when the day came she seemed depressed and grieved at the thought of leaving Janet. Throwing her arms round her neck, she said, "But I am selfish to be glad to go when you are ill; I wish now I could stay. I do not want to leave you." Janet reas- sured the child, saying she would soon be well, and they parted, little divining the treachery that was dividing them. It seemed to Ella a much longer train journey than she had been told it would be. Evening was closing in; it soon became too dark to see the places through which they passed. Once at a small sta- tion they stopped for refreshments and on they whirled again. Ella asked no more questions, for drowsiness overcame her and she fell fast asleep. She was still in a heavy sleep when they reached the jour- ney's end, and there, instead of the coun- try village where Mr. Daverell was to meet them, ships and steamers loomed in the distance, proving this to be a seaport town. The maid looked out anxiously and at last succeeded in attracting the atten- tion of a man standing on the platform, and who had evidently been searching for her among the passengers. Quickly com ing forward, and putting his head in at the window, he saw Ella in deep sleep and asked in a low voice— "Is everything all right?" "Yes, she will not wake yet—carry her out—I will look after the luggage and fol- low you quickly." Ella did not awake until the next morn- ing, and then her surprise and alarm may be imagined when she found herself on a steamer going she knew not where. But feeling ill from mal-de-mer, aggravated by the effects of the drug which had been given her and which had caused her heavy risen, she felt too much depressed and bewildered to press many questions, but was told by Sophia, the maid, that during Ella's very sound sleep, and on reaching one of the stations, a tele- gram had been found awaiting them, by which Mr. Daverell had directed them to follow him to Calais by a steamer just leaving and where he would meet them. Ella had scarcely time to take in the situation before she found herself amid the inevitable noise and bustle of landing. Bewildered, the poor child looked every where for her guardian and protector. Sophia seemed also much perplexed that her master failed to appear, but a gentle man, a fellow-passenger who had shown Ella much polite attention on landing, now proffered his advice—that the young lady, in the absence of her father, should await his coming at a neighboring convent, where the sisters would show her every kindnees. This man, as may be sunposed, was no other than he of the Dover platform. Sophia, thanking him, took his advice, leaving their address with an official for Mr. Daverell when he should appear. They drove then at once to the address given by this man, who gave his name as Nor- ton, telling them that a relation of his was one of the sisters of the convent, which was also a young ladies' seminary, volunteering himself to go forward and prepare the mother prioress for their com-
ing. The prioress received them with the warmest welcome, inviting them to make that their home until Mr. Daverell arriv- ed. A week passed, while Ella looked for her guardian everyday, Sophia, too, ap- peared very anxious, often making tours around the neighborhood, inspecting, so she said, the visitors' books at all the hotels, yet with no result. At the end of a week an event occur- red which plunged the poor girl into still greater distress, leaving her stranded among strangers, besides filling her with grief and horror. This was no less than the dreadful news brought to her one
morning by the sister—Mr. Norton's rela- tion—that he had "just called with the sad intelligence of an acci- dent having happened to Sophia." She had been run over and killed on the spot on one of the busy thoroughfares and her body taken to the morgue. Ella was, of course, not allowed to see the body, being told that it would be too ghastly a sight, but Mr. Norton had identified her and she would be buried by the authorities. The prioress endeavored to comfort Ella with the greatest solicitude, and wrote home directly to the address Ella gave, she herself also enclosing a letter to Janet, detailing all that had befallen her, and asking pathetically where "dear father" was that he had failed her so. Of course this letter never reached England, being given to Mr. Norton to post; yet an answer purporting to come from Janet was re- ceived in due course, not in Janet's hand writing, but from a nurse at Janet's dic- tation, Janet being "too ill to write her self." This letter, lamenting and grieving with the little girl in all that had befallen her, expressed much surprise that Ella had received no telegram directing her to re- turn home at once with Sophia, as unex- pected business had prevented "father's journey at the last minute." The letter went on to thank the prioress warmly for the protection and kindness afforded tc Ella, while begging that she might be al- lowed to remain still longer until some arrangement could be made for her escort home, remitting at the same time a sum for the expense she had incurred. Then six weeks of silence passed, after which a letter to the prioress from an attorney on behalf of Mr. Daverell informed her that through the closing of a copper mine in
Australia, imperilling great loss of pro- perty, his client had deemed it necessary to set sail at once in company with his son-in-law, Mr. Walden, to be present on the spot, and that as it might be necessary to remain in Australia for a year or two. Mrs. Walden, now recovering from illness, would follow when strong enough to travel. The attorney went on to explain that the principal object for his writing was to ask the lady prioress if it would be possible to make an arrangement that might be pleas- ing to both that lady and to Miss Daverell —Mr. Daverell's adopted daughter—for her to remain at the convent for a time; that Miss Daverell had received so far a liberal education, but that she being still quite young—he was informed that her age was 15 years—it would be advantageous to her to pursue her studies further, and to train her for the position in the future of in- structress in some private family. To do so, might he suggest that Miss Daverell should give her services by imparting the knowledge she had already acquired to those younger than herself in return for the completion of her own education? Ella had now been an inmate of tne convent about two months, and in that time had gained for herself a very general good feeling; had even made special friendships with one or two English girls in the free spirit of camaraderie usual among them. With the mother-prioress herself, as also with her subordinates, Ella had won great favor; therefore tne prioress will- ingly met the suggestions of Mr. Daver-
ell through his attorney, and wrote in answer, making very liberal terms and say- ing that for her age Ella was an exceeding- ly well-informed and accomplished young lady, and would be an acquisition in the capacity indicated by him in his letter. . :? -! diluted and nuiiuitu '? .k.' . i had been, so long as she could remember, she felt keenly now the great change in her life. Fortunate as she felt herself to be in meeting with so much kindness from ut- ter strangers, yet they were strangers in a strange land, and often when alone Ella's heart would almost break with longing to behold again the faces of those she loved, and as days and weeks went by their silence became to her inex- plicable. That Janet should write no single word now that she was re- covering, as the attorney had said, was strange; her father, too, or he whom she had always called father, and who had proved himself to be so well worthy of the title, he was now removed from her sight to the very ends of the earth, and that without word or sign. Why—why had they so deserted her? These thoughts were enough to fill the mind of a girl of her age and disposition with distress and grief, but Ella would not give way to any morbid broodings; she seemed to herself to have grown years older in these few weeks. Hitherto accounted and treated as but a child, she felt herself to be a child no longer, given now a position over those still younger than herself also strengthened her character. Realising her position and knowing her own history as she did she braced herself to the life before her, reso- lutely determined to work hard and make the best of the present opportunity for per- fecting herself so far as possible for her fu- ture. Thus three years passed tranquilly by; then an offer was made for Ella which the prioress advised her to avail herself of, and this was to accompany to India a
lady whose husband held a position in the Civil Service there. This she accepted, and it was with much regret on both sides when Ella bade good-bye to the inmates of the convent. With the prioress especially, who had proved so kind a friend, providing her a home when a second time she had been cast homeless and friendless on the world, was she grieved to part. And now a new life in Calcutta opened before Ella, the experiences of which, whether of plea- sure or pain, she had yet to prove. And her first experience was to find that Mrs. Cromley was an exact contrast to the kind prioress; exacting and insolent, regarding Ella in the light of a mere servant. Mr. Cromley, a middle-aged man, quiet and re- served, she seldom saw, excepting at break- fast, when she waited on him alone, for Mrs. Cromley, posing as an invalid, never appeared at that hour. One day passed much as another - attending Mrs. Cromley on a very early drive, before the sun was up, all through the sultry day endeavoring to appease her fretfulness by amusing her, either by reading aloud or by any other means that could be de- vised, and when once the dis- covery of Ella's good voice was made then, exactions were made upon it to the utmost of its strength for Mrs. Cromley's amusement alone. One morning af- ter the early drive, when Ella had seen Mrs. Cromley. comfortably resting and composed for sleep, going to the breakfast-room, she found Mr Cromley
in conversation with another gentleman, evidently a visitor just arrived. No intro- duction was deemed necessary to his wife's ' - ;??-?? companion, but after a civil good-morning Mr. Cromley requested her to give them both some breakfast. Ella took her place, and, excepting when quite necessary, spoke no word; indeed, but little conversation was carried on at all between the other two, and Ella was glad when she could make her escape. "Pretty girl that. Who is she?" "Only your sister's companion." This was the question and answer when Ella had left the room.
"What has brought Gilbert out to In- dia?" asked Mrs. Cromley of her husband later. "Oh, these young men of means don't know what to do with themselves. I believe one or two friends of his in the army, returning at the end of their furlough, in- duced him to come with them. One of these, Major Harland, brought his sister with him, and Gilbert tells me that she and he have become engaged on the voy- age." "How many girls does that make? When we were in England he was madly in love with Jessie Marsh; and we had not lelt a month before we heard that that was broken off. I can never make out if it is his fault or the girl's in any case." "Yes, he is a queer fellow, and so I told him, and counted up all his cases. Oh, he is too cautious to risk being called over the coals, but I fancy he is too jea- lous—a little of that may be all very well, but girls won't put up with too much of it." When Mrs. Cromley made the discovery that Ella's music, and especially her sing-
ing, could be turned to account in enter- taining her guests those gifts were often called into requisition. She who, except in the capacity almost of lady's maid, had never been admit- ted to the drawing-room, now found herself often among the guests, though only in the vicinity of the piano. It was a few evenings after she had met Mrs. Cromley's brother at breakfast that she saw him again standing by the side of a young lady whose features seemed familiar to her, but whom she could not recollect to have met before, until the lady herself addressed her. "Miss Daverell, I am glad to see you again.' It was Miss Harland, one of the English girls at the convent, but who had left some time before her self. The two girls fell easily into the oid friendly style of chatting, recalling the life of the convent and talking over old scenes, until Ella was suddenly reminded of the present and brought up short by Mrs. Cromley's cold voice, with a look of sur- prise, requesting her to sing. "I have never been in such a situation as that. I don't like Mrs. Cromley, though she is Gilbert's sister." This was a remark of Miss Harland's to her brother afterwards. "A very pretty girl with a splendid voice. How did she come there?" asked Major Harland. Then Miss Harland related all Ella's story, which had never been a secret, add- ing, "She is a lady in all her instincts and feelings." "Quite a romantic story," remarked her brother. "You should ask her out with you sometimes; her life can't be very plea- sant there." And gladly acting on this advice, Julia Harland drove round as often as she thought prudent, without im- perilling unpleasantness for Ella, asking Mrs. Cromley's permission for her old friend's company. The selfish woman chafed very much, but could not afford to make herself disagreeable to Gilbert's fian- cee, who was also an heiress. So Ella's life became much more plea- sant, although she always paid for these visits through Mrs. Cromley's increased irritability whenever she returned. But Ella endured all this for the more happy life opening out to her, and as time went on each visit seemed more pleasant than the last. Perhaps there was some little cause for this, for Ella could but feel her cheeks glow and her heart beat quicker when she constantly found Major Harland lingering near her chair; never absent if it were possible to be present at his own house, or that of their friends, by whom Ella was now always included in invita- tions. Ella never allowed her own plea- sure to interfere with her duties, even re- doubled her attentions to Mrs. Cromley, but she had to listen to covert innuendoes about "the patronage of wealthy people," and "the mistake of taking people out of their proper sphere," and so on. But there was a glow at Ella's heart— a plea- sant prescience of something to happen, which made her very cheerful under it all. "You are fortunate in your companion, Laura," Gilbert Cudlier remarked one day to his sister. "She looks a lady - you won't keep her long, I fancy." "What nonsense you talk, Gilbert. She is a nobody; I had her from the convent where she had been taken in charity. She has no friends or relations; nothing to de- pend upon but what she can earn her- self." "For all that she is taken up very much; Julia is very fond of her; would have no objection to her as sister-in-law either." "What are you talking about? You don't surely mean -? Oh, Major Har- land would never be such a fool; impos- sible." Not at all impossible, and I don't think he would be such a very great fool after all." This was information that set Mrs. Crom- ley brooding for some time alter Gilbert left her. Utterly, selfish, utterly, heartless, where the feelings of others ran counter to her own, she determined that the com- panion who suited her so well, who being really a lady, never jarred upon her nerves by any gaucherie, and could never be replaced, should not require replacing for many a long day, if it were possible to pre- vent it in any way; at any rate she would stop this affair by some means. And the result of her brooding was quite worthy of the woman. This was to fabricate a tissue of falsehoods, which she even justified her- self in doing; indeed, she persuaded her self that what she said was really true in the aggregate. "I can see Miss Daverell quite plumes her- self on Major Harland's attentions," she said to Gilbert the next day. "She has become quite arrogant on the strength of them. I believe she fancies that it is even possible to hold a better position than my- self some day. The fact is this, Gilbert— dear Julia, confiding and affectionate as she is, thinks that she sees in the young woman, Miss Daverell, whom she meets to-day, the same innocent, unsophisticated schoolgirl of two or three years ago, but she is really nothing more nor less than a schemer and an adventuress. Knowing herself to be thrown upon her own re- sources she uses them to the best advan- tage, and so lays all her arts to catch the major." Gilbert, being of a rather weak charac- ter, relied much upon his eldest sister's
judgment, and considering her to be a very shrew woman, took all she said for granted, and especially when Mrs Cromley wound up with the remark, "You know, Gilbert, if this girl whom nobody knows anything about, who she is, or where she came from, if she were to succeed in what she is aiming at, she would be a connection of ours, and rather a near one of your own, and not one to be at all proud of." Gilbert turned like a weathercock at his sister's will, took the matter to heart, see- ing it quite in the light she had put it, and acted upon it at once by retailing to Julia all Mrs. Cromley had said, adding to it his own convictions of the justness of her remarks, and hoped Julia would see "the force of them." Mrs. Cromley saw she had made an im- pression upon Gilbert and determined to pursue her tactics still further by convinc- ing Ella, if possible, that it was but folly to attach importance to the major's atten- tions. With this end in view she set her self to be unusually pleasant, entering into conversation with Ella, seeming interested in her future, giving her advice, then tact- fully veering round to talk of her brother Gilbert and Julia Harland, and of the major, of whom she remarked that it was quite time his engagement with the lady at home ended in marriage, but added that he (the major) was "an arrant flirt." Then to secure the success of her interference, she, being already prepared for removal to the hills for the hot season, carried Ella off the very qext day, thus preventing another meeting with her friends. And so Ella's pleasant dreams vanished in an hour, leav- ing her life a greater blank than ever since her peep into a brighter world. During the journey to the hills Ella one night be- came for a few minutes speechless with fright at the strange apparition in the moonlight of a dead woman's face, and the eyes of Sophia, the maid, peering intently at her. The ghost vanished in a moment, but Ella could not forget it, nor banish the remembrance from her mind for some weeks. The bracing air of the hills, how- ever, soon had a good effect upon her spirits, and although she felt keenly the loss of her friends, and though the memory of that pleasant time was mingled with humiliation at the thought of her own folly, she took heart in assuring herself that neither by word nor look had she betrayed her secret. Endeavoring, then, to banish the memory of the major from her mind, she allowed her thoughts to be diverted by her new surroundings; often strolling out at early sunrise, the only hour in the day which she might rely upon for her own, her senses drank in the beauty of those fresh scenes, finding as usual their natural expression in song. It was on one of these mornings as she stood watching the sunrise, singing as she stood, she did not observe the figure
of an old native woman emerge from a bungalow close by and listen intently as she sang. But after some minutes Ella was startled by the old woman almost spring- ing upon her, exclaiming—"Memsahib's voice! my memsahib's voice! Aye, it is my own memsahib come back again." Ella, supposing the poor creature de- mented, spoke gently and soothingly to her, but the woman drew her into the bun- galow, stroking and kissing her hands. Then she began to pour out a long story in her own way of telling it of a dear memsahib and her husband and their little baby; how that the baby had been given into her charge and with it she had sailed for England. That on the voyage she had been ill—quite dead, as she de- scribed her state—and that when she came to life again she found herself in Ceylon and the baby gone. That she took ship again back to India, where she found great confusion, for she reached there, just at the end of the mutiny, when soldiers were everywhere, and she was told that the sahib and the memsahib had been killed. Ella felt sure that this story was her own, especially when the ayah insisted so much upon the likeness of face and manner to her mother, besides the voice which had first attracted her. It was something - some satisfaction even to know so much of her antecedents; yet, if no further infor- mation could be ever obtained there was little practical use to be made of the know- ledge. It will be remembered that Ella had not been told at the time of Colonel Highbury's strong belief in his relation- ship to her; but when one day—for Ella often sought the ayah for long talks about her parents—the ayah happened to mention her memsahib's father, pronoun- cing his name and title in her own way, yet so sufficiently like in sound to that of Colonel Highbury, that the truth was sud- denly flashed into her mind "This, then, was her own grandfather." She remem bered then how she had heard him speak of India and most painfully of the mutiny; which still more confirmed it. She deter- mined to write to him directly, detailing all the story of finding the ayah, and also mentioning the surname of her father and mother, which Ella had defined as nearly as possible from the ayah's pronunciation to be "Grantly." She sent this letter, with many hopes and fears that it might find him, since, failing to hear from the Dave- rells, she had written to him once before, but without result. Ella told nothing of all this to Mrs. Cromley, to whom little else was of interest besides her own ail- ments. She had heard nothing of the Har- lands but that they had left Calcutta for a short time. With no friends to consult, no one to sympathise in all her hopes and fears, her heart was sometimes almost bursting with a tumult of expectation, al- ternating with despair. CHAPTER III. "Are Mrs. Cromley and Miss Daverell still away?" Major Harland asked of his sister after their return to Calcutta. "Yes; and I have written to Ella twice, but have had no answer. I shouldn't won- der if that Mrs. Cromley intercepted the letters." "What reason could she have for doing such a thing?" "Mere selfishness. She set Gilbert remon- strating with me for making what he called friendships beneath me." "Beneath you! beneath you! I tell you she would be an ornament to any society," and the major started from his chair, up- setting it in the excitement of his indig- nation. "I tell you I don't care who she is, or where she came from, she has re- finement to the very tips of her fingers. The cad! The cad! I beg your pardon, Julia," he added, trying to get cool, "I am sorry if I hurt your feelings, but— but—that was a little too much." "Oh, I can bear it," she replied. "The fact is, we had a great quarrel over the question and I haven't seen him since." The brother and sister were sitting at breakfast during this conversation and at this point the letters were brought in. The major, sorting them, said, "Here is a letter of introduction from Colonel High- bury, enclosing a card from a Mr. Daverell, evidently just arrived from England. I thought Miss Daverell had no relations. However, I will read the letter to you."
My dear Major—I am introducing to you Mr. Daverell, the bearer of this letter, of whom I have known for some years. The reason of his sailing for India is as anxiously interesting to me as to himself—that is, to discover, if possible, a lost child. Your sister, Julia, in writing to my niece, Mary Lithgrove, mentioned a Miss Daverell as a friend of her own. The name is not a very common one, and that fact, added to her remark upon a very beautiful voice, goes far to convince me that this is the same child, who gave great promise of such a gift, and who was spirited away in a most unaccountable manner between three and four years ago from the pro- tection of Mr. Daverell, who had been as a father to her from babyhood. It is too long a story to write here. Mr. Daverell will give you the details if you are interested to hear them; suffi- cient to say now that I have an intuitive be- lief, for several reasons, that this is my own grandchild, who was supposed to have died upon the voyage home from India in the care of an ayah. The mutiny broke out immediately after, when my dear daughter and her husband fell, and quite a sufficient motive may be supposed for the crime—if the child were really stolen, instead of having died as reported—is that she is the sole heiress of a very considerable pro- perty, which otherwise goes, and has gone at the child's supposed death, to a different branch al- together, people of whose name I have been ignorant until informed by my lawyer. You will understand that I write all this to you, relying, as I am sure I may, on the interest of a long-standing friendship, beginning with your father and myself, to give every possible infor- mation in this (to me and Mr. Daverell) most momentous question.—Yours very sincerely, ALFRED H. HIGHBURY. "And so the dear girl will have found her relations at last," exclaimed Julia. "To think she should be Colonel Highbury's granddaughter! How glad I am. No more snubbings from that odious woman." "I will go at once and find this Mr. Daverell,' said the major. "We had bet- ter ask him to dinner, Julia." "Oh, by all means; but you have had no breakfast, Harry. Let me fill your cup." "No, thanks, no; I have quite finished. I will go at once and see Mr. Daverell and will bring him here this evening. Good bye." And the major went out with an un- usually gloomy face. When Mr. Daverell was presented to Julia she saw before her a man scarcely passed middle life, of a distinguished and stately bearing, and upon whose face was expressed all that was generous and good. "This, then," she thought, "has been the guardian of Ella's childhood. Ella was for- tunate indeed." Learning from Mr. Cromley that his wife would not return until after a few more weeks, Mr. Daverell determined to go at once to the hills and gladly accepted the major's proffered company for the journey. When they arrived Mrs. Cromley received them graciously, having been apprised of their coming by letter from her husband. She was most effusive in her congratula- tions upon the happy discovery and spoke of Ella with the warmest affection. "Ah!" she said, "my loss will be great, and my only consolation in the knowledge of her happiness. We have been quite as sisters. I shall be desolate without her. But you are anxious to meet her. She does
not know of your arrival, and her surprise will be great. She was complaining of headache; I insisted upon her taking the fresh air, but that was quite an hour ago. She will certainly be 'here immediately." "Yet another hour elapsed and Ella had not returned. They became uneasy, as evening was closing in. Coolies were sent to look for her. Mr. Daverell and the major were standing in the verandah anxi- ously touting, when a native woman ap- peared before them asking for Mr. Dave- rell. "You Sahib Davell?" she asked excited ly. "Missy Sahib name Davell too, but that not her name. Her name Gantly." "Woman! What do you know of her? Tell me how you know her name." Then the old ayah related all the story she had told to Ella and how she had dis- covered her by her voice and her likeness to her mother. "Do you know this?" asked Mr. Dave- rell, producing the old Indian shawl. Yes, she knew it instantly; it was the shawl with which she had wrapped the baby. There was now no proof wanting. This was indeed Colonel Highbury's granddaughter, and yet now on the very point of discovery she had disappeared again. "Can it be possible," said Mr. Daverell to the major, "that this is again the dia- bolical work of the enemy? Always on the alert, they may have come to know of this fresh development, and, taking fright, have spirited her away." "The very thought is agonising," replied the major. "Woman," he added, turning to the old ayah, "find her and you shall be rewarded." Every effort was made to find her, living or dead. High and low they searched, hill and valley, precipice and stream, all with out effect. Days of anguish passed—a week —still no clue. Putting themselves in com- munication with the Government, by whom every possible help was afforded, Major Harland returned to the city, while Mr. Daverell remained on the spot, each keeping vigilant watch from their different standpoints for any incident which might throw the faintest light upon the mystery. Major Harland, whose hopes of winning Ella had received a severe check on dis- covering her to be a wealthy heiress, now threw every other thought to the winds but that or saving her from any horrible fate, which his fears conjured to his ima- gination. On horseback one evening, as the shadows were falling, lost in deep and painful thought, his eyes upon the ground, he did not observe two native women ad- vancing from a little distance. One of these, suddenly leaving the side of her companion, ran up to him, touching the horse's reins as if to arrest its steps, while the other woman left behind, starting with surprise at the precipitate action, stood watching her gesticulations and excited talking with out being able to hear a word. In another moment the major had thrown himself from the saddle, and, bounding towards her, exclaimed, "Miss Daverell, is it really you?" It was indeed Ella disguised, with dark- ened face and in native dress, evidently escaped from some peril or imprisonment by the aid of the faithful ayah by her side, who now overjoyed, threw herself at the feet of the "Good Sahib," embracing his very boots. After a few words the major remounted his horse and rapidly retraced the few miles to his house, hurriedly leav- ing it again with the rickshaw to bring the tired wanderer home, leaving his sister Julia bewildererd by the joyful tidings she could scarcely believe to be true. It was not long before Mr. Daverell came upon the scene to meet again his long-lost "daughter," and to listen as in the house of her friends she related the story of her mysterious disappearance. She had wan- dered, she told them, about half a mile from home upon that eventful evening, when two coolie servants whom she knew met her leading a horse, and telling her that the memsahib was ill and had sent them to take her back quickly. Ella has- tened to mount, not at all surprised at what she supposed to be one of Mrs. Crom- ley's capricious moods. The path by which she had come not being available for the horse, they led her round hy a way she had not known before. It was a circuitous
path, often rough and precipitous, twilight deepened, it became soon almost dark. Ella began to feel nervous in such a place— these coolies her only guides. "Surely," she thought, "however circuitous the path she should have reached home, long ere this." At that moment she heard the trot of another horse advancing toward them, and the next moment was relieved to recognise the voice of Gilbert Cudlier calling to ask who was there. Ella an- swered for herself and explained her posi- tion. "You are on the wrong road," he said, when to her surprise the coolies turned and fled, Gilbert pursuing them, flourishing his whip and hurling threats after them, imperatively commanding them to return, but they, paying no heed, quickly disappeared. Seeing pursuit was useless be returned to her, expressing great indignation at their stupidity in leading her so far out of the right track. Ella thought, though she did not say, that their sudden flight at Gilbert's coming had even a suspicious appearance and felt thankful for his opportune arrival. Ella had not seen Gilbert since she had left Calcutta, and had heard no remak that could lead her to suppose his sister expected him in the hills; therefore his sudden appearance was doubly surprising. "Do not be alarmed, Miss Daverell," he said, "though I confess we are in an awk- ward position. We are miles away from home, and I am too little acquainted with this place to find the way easily, and those wretches will say they have left you safely to my escort, so that my sister will rest for some time yet quite contented." Ella could not but feel alarmed; it was now quite dark; the situation was serious. But Gilbert showed himself now in an alto- gether new light, instead of the super- cilious and unpleasant manner which had always marked his bearing towards herself before, he was now most deferential and thoughtfully considerate, endeavoring to allay her fears in the kindest manner, ap- parently deeply meditating upon some plan of extrication from this dilemma. They were going a slow pace over the rugged ground, he leading her horse by the side of his own, when suddenly he exclaimed— "Do you see that light? Now I know where we are. Though we cannot possibly get home to-night we shall at least be welcomed at that bungalow, where some friends of my sister's have been liv- ing for some months. Rest here, Miss Dave- rell, while I go forward and make our situation known to them, then I will re- turn to you." So saying, he left her, and after about half an hour came back telling her that though the family had returned to the city an old native woman had been left behind, who would make her as comfortable as possible, under the circumstances. There was no alternative, though Ella felt the doubtful and unpleasant position in which she was placed. Ella was too anxious to be able to sleep that night, and the next morning rose un- refreshed and very desirous to return home as soon as possible. Yet it was some hours before Gilbert appeared. At last
he came, with a perplexed expression upon his face, asking her to listen to him; he had something very important to say. "My dear Miss Daverell," he began, as she strolled outside with him in the bright morning sun, "I am more anxious and per- plexed upon your account than I can ex- press, and the task I have set myself is of so delicate a nature that I shrink from it. Yet for your sake alone I must go through with it. You are so young, so unsophisticated, and so unsuspecting or the world's wicked tongue. This unfortunate episode may—nay, must prove most dis- astrous to you." Ella could not suppress an exclamation. "Mr. Cudlier, it is impossible that anyone could blame me. I will relate the whole circumstance. Mrs. Cromley will believe me, and she—your own sister—will believe you." "This is most painful to me." he said half to himself, then aloud—"How can I tell you. I know what my sister is and in what light she will regard this. She holds such rigid views and condemns with swift judgment, and you have no protector, not a relation or friend to stand by you." "Oh, what can I do? What can I do?" she exclaimed in agony. There was silence for some minutes, ex- cepting for Ella's sobs, which she could not restrain. In a few minutes Gilbert spoke again, but in a hesitating, subdued, yet most earnest voice. 'There is one way—only one way, dear Miss Daverell, but I fear to say it lest you should think I am but selfishly taking ad- vantage of your unhappiness, but believe me, though my one hope in life rests upon your decision, your happiness alone, is be- fore all else. I have secretly cherished thoughts of you for months past; your evi- dent indifference to me has alone kept me silent. From the first time I saw you I could but contrast you with others—good as they might be—as she—Miss Harland is —to whom I was then engaged—I could but acknowledge with the bitterest regret that through my precipitancy I had failed to win the best and only woman to whom I could devote every thought of love; and now that she and I have quarrelled and that is entirely at an end I am at least free to speak, and in speaking suggest to you the only way I can see possible to res- cue you from the terrible position which may really be the wrecking of your whole life. Forgive me if I am too outspoken in my earnestness; the exigence of the occa- sion urges me to put the truth so forcibly before you as your one friend and your de- voted lover. Will you listen to me and to my scheme for your sal- vation ? We will make a rapid journey towards the city, where I will engage the services of a priest, whom I know well; we will have witnesses whose integrity cannot be doubted. A run- away marriage it will be, but bona-fide in every respect. A runaway marriage can and will be very soon for given; the romance of the thing will inte- rest everybody ; a nine-days' talk, and then it will settle down, and you will take your place as my wife and shine in the society for which you were made, either in India or in England, wherever you may choose. Only the decision must be made at once, my dear girl, every hour complicates mat- ters and makes them harder to sur- mount.' Never was unfriended girl in such a strait before, so thought poor Ella as she listened to all this without being able to utter a word. Her case was desperate, as he had represented it, and if the world were indeed so cruel, what was left to her but this? But she did not love this man; notwithstanding his apparent sin- cerity, she could not fully believe in his truth, she could not reconcile this sudden devotion to herself with his former man- ner to her. Locked now in her room, she endeavored to think out the situation, and told herself that being entirely without blame surely it would be wiser to stand by the risk of being believed. One moment, then, she determined to return to Mrs Cromley with or without Gilbert's escort, but the next, as the cold, hard face of that woman rose before her mental vision; edded to the remembrance of what her brother had
said, she shuddered as she imagined the possible reception that awaited her. The day was advancing. Gilbert sent a mes- sage by the native woman to ask her de- cision. She returned an answer begging him to leave the place and her to find whatever means she might for returning by herself—she would take her courage in both hands and throw herself on his sis- ters mercy. To this he answered again that nothing would induce him to leave her to face alone his sister's tongue and through hers the world's. Another hour passed. Again he sent reminding her that the longer she remained here the greater the difficulties involved. Ella's distress was almost driving her demented. Had she the smallest affection for Gilbert, or did not a love, though hopeless, still linger in her heart, she might not have hesitat- ed so long. The consciousness that no pre- ventable act of her own had brought her into such a dilemma stirred a feeling of indignation and rebellion against her fate and the only alternative offered her. Then followed an hour of benumbing despair, scarcely caring what befell her. Again a knock at her door. As she opened it, to her surprise the old woman, instead of standing to deliver her message, pushed herself inside, and turning shut and lock- ed the door again. It was becoming dusk, so that until the woman spoke Ella did not discover that instead of she who was in charge of the place, there stood no other than the good old ayah herself.The re- vulsion of reeling from despair to joy was so overwhelming that Ella burst into
tears, but the ayah motioned her to silence, and in a low voice told of the coming of Mr. Daverell and the major, and of the panic caused by her disappear- ance. But more than all this, she told Ella of revelations she had herself elicited from the coolies by means of threats. That they—the coolie servants—had been bribed to overtake and mislead her as they had done; that Gilbert's appearance and their flight had been all concerted acting, for what purpose she could not guess; but that a conference between Mrs. Cromley and her brother had been partly overheard, in which the name of Mr. Daverell had been often used, and this conference took place but a few hours before the arrival of Mr. Daverell and the major, when Gil- bert Cudlier had suddenly arrived in the hills. As may be supposed, Ella's joy was un- bounded at the news of her father's coming. Other questions were for the time quite secondary to these—that her "father" had traced her, that she would soon see him again and rest under his protection. But she was not allowed much time to think of anything but the ayah's plans for escape and in making her disguise complete. When darkness fell they sallied out and left the scene of so much trouble, the ayah leading Ella day by day, travelling and resting, until they reached the city, and so fortunately met the major. Mr. Daverell, as has been said, was hastily summoned from the hills with the news of Ella's safety, when "father and daughter" joyfully met again. To him she related the history of her life since she had left his roof. Ella was shocked at the duplicity of Sophia and of her evident accomplice Norton, and this re- minded her of the apparition of Sophia's ghost during her journey to the hills, rais- ing still further suspicions as to the truth of her reported death. The mystery which surrounded her life was, to Ella, unac- countable, for to her simple mind wealth, if it rightly belonged to her, was an ut- terly inadequate reason for so much plot ting. But that, she thought, could not
possibly have been the motive which had prompted Mrs. Cromley and her brother to work her an injury; that is, if the ayah's story were true. "What interest could they have in my career?" she asked of Julia Harland. "Did they really desire to work me an injury from pure malevolence? I cannot believe that. I had scarcely spoken to Mr. Cud- lier. When I met him here or at his sister's he hardly deigned to address me. He was your lover and had no eyes but for you. Is what he told me true—that you had quarrelled?" "Perfectly true; and if I tell you what the quarrel was about, I fancy you will consider his subsequent conduct still more unaccountable. I think that in this case I am quite justified in telling you, which otherwise I should never have done, for it was about yourself that he made me so exceedingly angry and indignant, sug- gesting, by the advice of his sister, that the friendship between us was not quite—per- haps—not quite advisable." Ella was struck dumb for a moment and then remarked, "And so, because I had so unfortunately lost sight of my relations, I was even to be denied friendship?" "Yes; he showed himself in a most des- picable light; it was true disillusion- ment for me. As for Harry, when he heard of it I never saw him so angry." "I am very fortunate to possess such friends in you both." "I think there is more than mere friend ship between us, dear," said Julia. "You have taken me on trust when only a desolate waif. I have at times felt my position keenly, especially when alone in the hills." "Did you not get my letters?" asked Julia. "Did you write to me? No, I received none." "Could Mrs. Cromley have intercepted them? Knowing her sentiments regard- ing you raised my suspicions at the time when I found you did not answer them." "If so, then, there may be some truth in the ayah's story of her complicity with her brother, and her conscience may supply a reason far my abrupt departure. At least, in his case, what you have told me of him shows me that I was right in dis- trusting him; otherwise the ayah's story was scarcely sufficient proof." "You have had a happy deliverance, and when you leave here you will be glad to forget such unpleasant expe- riences." "I shall have one deep regret— that of leaving you." "It will be a sad parting for me; but I am determined to follow soon." Several cable messages passed between Colonel Highbury and Mr. Daverell. Lawyers were set going briskly. The pre- sent possessors of the large estate showed fight, ready to contest the matter to the bitter end. Ella must return home at once, that was imperative, and an early date was fixed for her departure. The old ayah found a comfortable home among the servants of the Harland household until such time as she should accompany Mr. Daverell and Ella to England as a most necessary witness in the coming lawsuit. In the meantime she was never tired of telling the other servants how she had lost and found her "Missy" Sahib. CHAPTER IV. Once again in England among all her old surroundings, welcomed by Janet and
George, and especially by the dear old colonel claiming her for his own grand- daughter, the past few years of separation was like a hideous dream. That she was an heiress had little weight with her, that vast wealth was hers by right, but how great the efforts necessary to prove it, were to Ella matters quite secondary to the knowledge that she was no longer a waif and stray without kith or kin in the world. But to her guardians the contest promised no easy victory. That proofs of Ella's identity were principally depending upon an old Indian woman's word they could but acknowledge to be very fragile. The information that the present posses- sor's name was Cudlier was surprising, but this was nothing to the purpose either. The ayah had been ill the whole voyage through and since landing had kept her- self entirely aloof, apparently very sensi- tive of her dark skin, among the English servants. Quite out of her element, ill and miserable; holding no converse with anyone, nothing could be elicited from her even by Ella but her wish to be left alone. Tha change of scene, of surround- ings and climate, had evidently affected her very unfortunately. How she would carry herself through the coming ordeal was a problem yet to be solved—certainly, the prospect of success was not very en- couraging. And the problem was solved very much to the discomfiture not of the adverse aide, but of their own. However self-evident the fact that treachery had been practised against Ella, the prioress herself, who was brought from France for the purpose, attesting to the forged letters in Janet's name, and on behalf of Mr. Daverell, whose voyage to Australia had been an entire fabrication; although also the miniature portrait of the colonel's daughter bore great resemblance to Ella, yet nothing of all this was considered ab- solute proof of Ella's identity with the lost baby. But the culminating point was reached when the ayah's memory, if not her intellect, failed her entirely, and she asserted that she had never seen the old Indian shawl before. Thus the usurpers triumphed and their cause was lost. "But," said Ella, "I am no worse off than before. I am found of my own again, claimed by my own grandfather—that is happiness enough for me." A few months after this Julia and Major Harland returned home. Ella had never entirely smothered her sen- timings for the major, though struggling bravely to hide them, and now that he was constantly by her side his presence became a real torture. Remembering Mrs. Cromley's information of his engagement and of his flirting proclivities, she avoided him in every possible way, but successfully hiding her feelings, as Ella believed she had done, they had not quite escaped Julia's quick observation, who, knowing Ella's frank nature, could not divine the reason for her reserve. Julia had quite shared her brother's sentiments when Ella stood in the light of a probable heiress, but now that barrier was removed she could see no other, and determined to probe the matter, which she did in a diplomatic and quite delicate manner, and so made the discovery that again Mrs. Cromley had been the evil genius. Yet keeping her own counsel, while smiling at her success, she rallied her brother upon his gloomy looks, telling him that "Faint heart, &c.," until she prevailed at last and drove him on to his fate. Ella met him with cold surprise that his love could be so easily transferred. Of course this sent him utterly "at sea" as to her mean- ing, until the explanation was at length arrived at, and when on her side she dis- covered that wealth might have divided them, even failing Mrs. Cromley's mischief, she and he both agreed that wealth was well lost. CHAPTER V. At the corner of one of the poor, low alleys which may be found skirting even the best neighborhoods of West London, an old blind beggar stood one evening ap- pealing to the sympathies of passers-by in a wail, "Please buy matches of the poor
blind!" He had approached the place, led by a dog, tapping the pavement with his stick to guide his steps. He had stood here for some time when he was joined by a woman. "I thought you were never coming," he said surlily. "How can I help it when I have to wait and watch my time as I do? I tell you I'm sick and tired of this life. I can't and won't bear it much longer." "Don't talk about 'won'ts.' Do you think mine is any better, going about in this guise every day? We must wait a bit longer yet. I saw the old curmudgeon yesterday. It will be all right in the end, and then we shall make a good thing out of it, or if not," he added, setting his teeth and clinching his fist, "I'll know tho reason why." They talked on for some time longer and then separated, the man going his ap- parently blind way in one direction, while the woman took another, and disappeared through the back gate of a gentleman's mansion. The old ayah, failure and disappoint- ment as she had been through the trial, was still moping and miserable. They de- sired to send her back to India, but she was too often confined to her bed, yet with no particular ailment that anyone could discover. Ella made frequent visits to the old woman, feeling much distressed that she had left her native place with such disastrous effects to her intellect. Even for her "Missy, Sahib" she seemed to have lost all interest and care, never rais- ing her head to greet her by word or look, only muttering a few unintelligible sen- tences in her own dialect. But when one day the old woman was missing altogether Ella and her friends were doubly distressed and grieved, fearing some sad fate for the poor demented creature, and they had her diligently searched for, but without re- sult. Colonel Highbury and Ella were con- siderably startled one evening when sitting together by hearing the newsboys in the streets shouting, "Murder of the Hon. Henry Cudlier, M.P. Found murdered in * his bed!" When the paper was brought into the room the colonel said- "Give me the paper, my dear. It will be too shocking for you to read." Taking it from Ella's hand he dis- covered that the victim of so awful a tragedy was no other than he who had so fraudulently possessed himself of his granddaughter's property for so many years. The deed had been done with such caution as to leave no trace behind. Rewards were offered for any information that might lead to con- viction, but the deed rested in mystery
and was likely so to rest. "And the pro- perty? Well, that must go to his heirs; it is no use our stirring in the matter further." So said the colonel in conversa- tion with Mr. Daverell. One day Ella and Janet were sitting together planning a matter of no less consequence than the trous seau, when a servant entered say- ing that a woman urgently requested
to speak to Miss Daverell. As the man was speaking the woman herself slid past him into the room, but waited until he had made his exit before she spoke. Alone with Janet and Ella the woman threw up her thick veil and revealed the well-remem- bered face of Sophia. "Oh, Miss Ella. I'lI tell you all," she said, as they looked at her in astonish- ment, "it has not been my fault. I haven't been able to help myself; indeed, I haven't, but I can't live any longer with such things on my conscience. Now he- now that awful murder is the last drop I've been a tool for others for years; but I did manage that you should be taken care of, or I don't know what might have become of you. I did manage that you should be taken to the convent. I always loved you, Miss Ella; but I have lived a dog's life. I've been frightened for my very life for year - made to be a spy and follow you everywhere. He—that husband of mine, Norton—has been in the pay of Mr. Cudlier, but now that he has been murdered in his bed I'll be done with it all. I'll tell it all out and brave the devil himself. Miss Ella, I'm the daughter of the man who was found dead by your side, baby as you were then, in Australia. Didn't I know the watch with its leather chain when you used to snow it to me? It was my own father's watch. Will you believe me when I say that the pretended detective who followed you from Australia was my own brother? Then I had to do my husband's bidding while I was your maid at Mr. Daverell's. Well, I was too frightened to disobey. I was disguised as an Indian woman among Major Harland's servants. It was I, not the ayah, whom you brought from India, and so purposely failed you in the lawsuit. It was I, not the ayah, all the time feigning illness, only waiting Nor- ton's time, while he went about disguised, sometimes as an old blind beggar. At last I was tired of the life and so ashamed of deceiving you that I ran away, and you thought that the poor old ayah had gone off somewhere, perhaps out of her mind. I've been hiding from Norton, but now, after that dreadful murder - that's the last drop. I want to see him no more; away from him I'll lead a better life. I only ask you to forgive me and protect me (look at these black marks on my throat), and I'll lay down my life for you." Janet and Ella sat half-stunned, listen- ing to these dreadful revelations. At last Ella found her voice, and asked, "Did Mrs. Cromley know all this—did she know who I was?" "Not until Mr. Daverell came to India for you. Then Norton interviewed Mr. Gilbert, who went post-haste to tell his sister. Then they thought that the pro- perty would all go from them, and that the best plan to secure it would be for Mr. Gilbert to marry you." "Do you know the name that is really mine, Sophia?" "No, Miss Ella, that has always been a great secret even from Norton; we have only known that it was yourself Mr. Cud- lier was so much concerned about all these years." Sophia was immediately driven to the colonel, to whom she repeated this tale of iniquity. "Yes, it is a shameful story, my dear," he said to Ella, "but although it goes to prove the truth still further—if further proof were wanted by ourselves—yet the law would require more than this woman's bare word, who does not even know your rightful name. So after all the matter just remains where it did before her confes- sion." But the affair did not long remain as be- fore. Ella one day was entering the colonel's study, and finding him in close conversation with her "father," as she still always called Mr. Daverell, would have retreated, but was called back by her grandfather. "We want you, my dear, to read this letter." Glancing at the letter and recognising Mrs. Cromley's writing she could scarcely repress a shudder. She read as follows:— Dear Colonel Highbury—Unnerved as I have been by the awful calamity overwhelming my family, and following so closely upon the haras- sing and disgraceful lawsuit, I have determined, being, the sole heiress to my late father's property, to wash my hands of the whole matter. Convinced that some curse must rest upon its possessors, I freely relinquish all claim.— Yours, &c., LAURA CROMLEY. Accompanying this was a letter from her lawyer, in which he cautiously alluded to his client's determination to give up all claim to the property and estate lately con- tested in the law courts. A day or two after this Colonel Highbury's own lawyer called and was closeted with him for some time; the details of their conversation the colonel afterwards related to Mr. Daverell. It appeared that among the mur- dered man's papers had been found some letters, cautiously worded, but evidently bearing upon some secret business. In one were words conveying a threat of disclosure unless more liberal terms were agreed to. In another the name of Grantly actually appeared, and in another reference to an accident to "the child on landing at Ports- mouth," and the "great risk of such at tempts." But with the unaccountable in- cautiousness sometimes marring the plots of the most practised criminals and lead- ing directly to their conviction, these let ters had been allowed to remain undestroy- ed, though sealed and locked up, but prov- ing conclusively the whole iniquitous scheme. Since disclosure of this affair must involve the whole Cudlier family in terrible disgrace and dishonor, while fur- ther contest must inevitably end but one way, the lawyers advised their concession of the whole property without further de- mur. But since no surviving member of the late Mr. Cudfier's family had been in any way cognisant of the misappropria- tion, but, on the contrary, was en- tirely ignorant and innocent of the whole proceeding, it would be deemed a gracious act of con- sideration on the part of Miss Grantly's guardians should they allow the quiet and private transference of the whole estate and property without any exposure. After consulting together the colonel and Mr. Daverell quite agreed that exposure was unnecessary, and, under the circum- stances, would be cruel; therefore they intimated their perfect acquiescence in a private transference. "It will be a terrible humiliation to Mrs. Cromley," remarked Ella. "Cannot some division be made?" "You are a minor, my dear child, and, in that case, even were we willing, we could not possibly agree to such a thing. Is it not sufficient that we make no men ion of the interest on the property and the rents from the estate which should have been accumulating these nearly twenty years?" Still Ella looked uncomfortable, not quite satisfied with the decision. "You forget, Ella," said her father, smiling, "Mrs. Cromley could not possibly accept any part of the property, since she is 'convinced that a curse must rest on the possessors.'" Major and Mrs. Harland returned to
India after their wedding and sought out the poor old ayah, soothing her indignation at Sophia's deceptions, and making her well-being and comfort their great care until the day of her death. After another year the major, by Ella's persuasion, gave up his commission and re- turned to England that she might comfort the last remaining years of her aged grand- father;. To Mr. Daverell, too, who had filled the place of father to her with such generous love, she felt bound by a tie even stronger than mere blood-relation- ship. Though her heritage had been wrest- ed from her and the bonds of kin- ship for years so cruelly broken, Ella could but acknowledge with great thankfulness how wonderfully she had been cared for and with what loving kindness and tender mercies she had been preserved.