The Last of the Costellos
After several years' service on the staff of a great daily
newspaper in San Francisco, Gerald Ffrench returned to his home in
Ireland to enjoy a three months' vacation. A brief visit, when the
time consumed in traveling was deducted, and the young journalist,
on this January afternoon, realized that it was nearly over, and
that his further stay in the country of his birth was now to be
reckoned by days.
He had been spending an hour with his old friend, Dr. Lynn, and the
clergyman accompanied him to the foot of the rectory lawn, and
thence, through a wicket gate that opened upon the churchyard,
along the narrow path among the graves. It was an obscure little
country burying-ground, and very ancient. The grass sprang
luxuriant from the mouldering dust of three hundred years; for so
long at least had these few acres been consecrated to their present
"Well, I won't go any further," says Dr. Lynn, halting at the
boundary wall, spanned by a ladder-like flight of wooden steps
which connected the churchyard with the little bye-road. "I'll say
good evening, Gerald, and assure you I appreciate your kindness in
coming over to see a stupid old man."
"I would not hear thine enemy say that," quoted Gerald with a light
laugh. "I hope to spend another day as pleasantly before I turn my
back on old Ireland." He ran up the steps as he spoke and stood on
the top of the wall, looking back to wave a last greeting before he
descended. Suddenly he stopped.
"What's that?" he asked, pointing down among the graves.
The rector turned, but the tall grass and taller nettles concealed
from his view the object, whatever it might be, which Gerald had
seen from his temporary elevation.
"It looks like a coffin," and coming rapidly down again the young
man pushed his way through the rank growth. The clergyman
In a little depression between the mounds of two graves lay a plain
coffin of stained wood. It was closed, but an attempt to move it
showed that it was not empty. A nearer inspection revealed that
the lid was not screwed down in the usual manner, but hastily
fastened with nails. Dr. Lynn and Gerald looked at each other.
There was something mysterious in the presence of this coffin above
"Has there been a funeral—interrupted—or anything of that kind?"
"Nothing of the sort. I wish Bolan were here. He might have
something to say about it."
Bolan was the sexton. Gerald knew where he lived, within a stone's
throw of the spot, and volunteered to fetch him. Dr. Lynn looked
all over the sinister black box, but no plate or mark of any kind
rewarded his search. Meanwhile, young Ffrench sped along the lower
road to Bolan's house.
The sexton was in, just preparing for a smoke in company with the
local blacksmith, when Gerald entered with the news of the uncanny
discovery in the churchyard. Eleven young Bolans, grouped around
the turf fire, drank in the intelligence and instantly scattered to
spread the report in eleven different directions. A tale confided
to the Bolan household was confided to rumor.
Blacksmith and sexton rose together and accompanied Gerald to the
spot where he had left Dr. Lynn, but Dr. Lynn was no longer alone.
The rector had heard steps in the road; it was a constabulary
patrol on its round, and the old gentleman's hail had brought two
policemen to his side. There they stood, profoundly puzzled and
completely in the dark, except for the light given by their bull's-
eye lanterns. But the glare of these lanterns had been seen from
the road. Some people shunned them, as lights in a graveyard
should always be shunned; but others, hearing voices, had suffered
their curiosity to overcome their misgivings, and were gathered
around, silent, open-mouthed, wondering. So stood the group when
Gerald and his companions joined it.
In reply to general questions Bolan was dumb. In reply to
particular interrogations he did not hesitate to admit that he was
"clane bate." Gerald, seeing that no one had ventured to touch the
grim casket, hinted that it would be well to open it. There was a
dubious murmur from the crowd and a glance at the constables as the
visible representatives of the powers that be. The officers
tightened their belts and seemed undecided, and Dr. Lynn took the
lead with a clear, distinct order, "Take off the lid, Andy," he
"An' why not? Isn't his riverince a magistrate? Go in, Andy, yer
sowl ye, and off wid it." Thus the crowd.
So encouraged, the blacksmith stepped forward. Without much
difficulty he burst the insecure fastenings and removed the lid.
The constables turned their bull's-eyes on the inside of the
coffin. The crowd pressed forward, Gerald in the front rank.
There was an occupant. A young girl, white with the pallor of
death, lay under the light of the lanterns. The face was as placid
and composed as if she had just fallen asleep, and it was a
handsome face with regular features and strongly defined black
eyebrows. The form was fully dressed, and the clothes seemed
expensive and fashionable. A few raven locks straggled out from
beneath a lace scarf which was tied around the head. The hands,
crossed below the breast, were neatly gloved. There she lay, a
mystery, for not one of those present had ever seen her face
Murmurs of wonder and sympathy went up from the bystanders. "Ah,
the poor thing!" "Isn't she purty?" "So young, too!" "Musha,
it's the beautiful angel she is be this time."
"Does anyone know her?" asked the rector; and then, as there was no
reply, he put a question that was destined for many a day to
agitate the neighborhood of Drim, and ring through the length and
breadth of Ireland—"How did she come here?"
The investigation made at the moment was unsatisfactory. The grass
on all sides had been trampled and pressed down by the curious
throng, and such tracks as the coffin-bearers had made were
completely obliterated. It was clearly a case for the coroner, and
when that official arrived and took charge the crowd slowly
The inquest furnished no new light. Medical testimony swept away
the theory of murder, for death was proved to have resulted from
organic disease of the heart. The coffin might have been placed
where it was found at any time within thirty-six hours, for it
could not be shown that anyone had crossed the churchyard path
since the morning previous, and indeed a dozen might have passed
that way without noticing that which Gerald only discovered through
the accident of having looked back at the moment that he mounted
the wall. Still, it did not seem likely that an object of such
size could have lain long unnoticed, and the doctors were of
opinion that the woman had been alive twenty-four hours before her
body was found.
In the absence of suspicion of any crime—and the medical
examination furnished none—interest centered in the question of
identity; and this was sufficiently puzzling.
The story got into the newspapers—into the Dublin papers;
afterwards into the great London journals, and was widely discussed
under the title of "The Drim Churchyard Mystery," but all this
publicity and a thorough investigation of the few available clues
led to nothing. No one was missing; widely distributed photographs
of the deceased found no recognition; and the quest was finally
abandoned even in the immediate neighborhood. The unknown dead
slept beneath the very sod on which they had found her.
Gerald Ffrench, who, like most good journalists, had a strongly
developed detective instinct, alone kept the mystery in mind and
worked at it incessantly. He devoted the few remaining days of his
stay in Ireland to a patient, systematic inquiry, starting from the
clues that had developed at the inquest. He had provided himself
with a good photograph of the dead girl, and a minute, carefully
written description of her apparel, from the lace scarf which had
been wound round her head to the dainty little French boots on her
feet. The first examination had produced no result. Railway
officials and hotel-keepers, supplied with the photographs, could
not say that they had ever seen the original in life. Even the
coffin, a cheap, ready-made affair, could be traced to no local
dealer in such wares. A chatelaine bag, slung round the waist of
the dead girl, had evidently been marked with initials, for the
leather showed the holes in which the letters had been fastened,
and the traces of the knife employed in their hurried removal. But
the pretty feminine trifle was empty, and in its present condition
had nothing to suggest save that a determined effort had been made
to hide the identity of the dead. The linen on the corpse was new
and of good material, but utterly without mark. Only a
handkerchief which was found in the pocket bore a coat of arms
exquisitely embroidered on the corner.
The shield showed the head and shoulders of a knight with visor
closed, party per fess on counter-vair. Gerald, whose smattering
of heraldry told him so much, could not be sure that the lines of
the embroidery properly indicated the colors of the shield; but he
was sanguine that a device so unusual would be recognized by the
learned in such matters, and, having carefully sketched it, he sent
a copy to the Heralds' College, preserving the original drawing for
his own use. The handkerchief itself, with the other things found
on the body, was of course beyond his reach.
The answer from the Heralds' College arrived a day or two before
the approaching close of his vacation forced Gerald to leave
Ireland, but the information furnished served only to make the
The arms had been readily recognized from his sketch, and the
college, in return for his fee, had furnished him with an
illuminated drawing, showing that the embroidery had been accurate.
The shield was party per fess, argent above, azure below, and from
this Gerald concluded that the handkerchief had been marked by
someone accustomed to blazonries; he thought it likely that the
work had been done in a French convent. The motto, Nemo me impune
lacessit, appeared below. The bearings and cognizance were those
of the noble family of Costello, which had left Ireland about the
middle of the seventeenth century and had settled in Spain. The
last representative had fallen some sixty years ago at the battle
of Vittoria, in the Peninsular war, and the name was now extinct.
So pronounced the unimpeachable authority of the Heralds' College.
And yet Gerald had seen those very arms embroidered on a
handkerchief which had been found in the pocket of a nameless girl,
whose corpse he himself had been the first to discover some two
weeks before, in the lonely little burying-ground at Drim. What
was he to think? Through what strange, undreamed-of ramifications
was this affair to be pursued?
The day before his departure, Ffrench walked over to the rectory to
say good-bye to Dr. Lynn. Gerald knew that the rector was an
authority in county history, and thought it possible that the old
gentleman could tell him something about the Costellos, a name
linked with many a Westmeath tradition. He was not disappointed,
and the mystery he was investigating took on a new interest from
what he heard. The Costellos had been one of the midland
chieftains in Cromwell's time; the clan had offered the most
determined resistance, and it had been extirpated root and branch
by the Protector. The Ffrench estate of Ballyvore had once formed
portion of the Costello property, and had been purchased by
Gerald's ancestor from the Cromwellian Puritan to whom it had been
granted on confiscation.
The young man was now deeply interested in the inquiry, and to it
he devoted every movement of the time he could still call his own.
But the last day of Gerald's visit slipped away without result, and
one fine morning Larry, his brother's servant, drove him into
Athlone to take the train for Queenstown.
"Ye'll not be lettin' another six years go by without comin' home
agen, will ye, sir?" said the groom, who was really concerned at
"I don't know," answered Gerald; "it all depends. Say, Larry!"
"Keep an eye out, and if anything turns up about that dead girl,
let me know, won't you?" Ffrench had already made a similar
request of his brother, but he was determined to leave no chance
"An' are ye thinkin' of that yet, an' you goin' to America?" said
Larry with admiring wonder.
"Of course I'm thinking of it. I can't get it out of my head,"
replied Gerald impatiently.
"Well, well d'ye mind that now?" said the groom meditatively.
"Well, sir, if anything does turn up, I'll let ye know, never fear;
but sure she's underground now, an' if we'd been goin' to larn
anything about the matter, we'd ha' had it long ago."
Gerald shook hands with the faithful Larry at parting, and left a
sovereign in his palm.
The groom watched the train moving slowly out of the station.
"It's a mortal pity to see a fine young jintleman like that so far
gone in love with a dead girl."
This was Larry's comment on his young master's detective tastes.
At Queenstown Ffrench bought a paper and looked over it while the
tender was carrying him, in company with many a weeping emigrant,
to the great steamer out in the bay. From time to time the
journals still contained references to the subject which was
uppermost in Gerald's thoughts. The familiar words, "The Drim
Churchyard Mystery," caught his eye, and he read a brief paragraph,
which had nothing to say except that all investigations had failed
to throw any light on the strange business.
"Ay, and will fail," he mused, as the tender came alongside the
steamer; "at any rate, if anything is found out it won't be by me,
for I shall be in California, and I can scarcely run across any
And yet, as Gerald paced the deck, and watched the bleak shores of
Cork fading in the distance, his thoughts were full of the banished
Costellos, and he wondered with what eyes those exiles had looked
their last on the Old Head of Kinsale a quarter of a millennium
ago. Those fierce old chieftains, to whom the Ffrenches—proud
county family as they esteemed themselves—were but as mushrooms;
what lives had they lived, what deaths had they died, and how came
their haughty cognizance, so well expressing its defiant motto, on
the handkerchief of the nameless stranger who slept in Drim
churchyard—Drim, the old, old graveyard; Drim, that had been
fenced in as God's acre in the days of the Costellos themselves?
Was it mere chance that had selected this spot as the last resting-
place of one who bore the arms of the race? Was it possible the
girl had shared the Costello blood?
Gerald glanced over his letter from the Heralds' College and shook
his head. The family had been extinct for more than sixty years.
About two months after Gerald's return to California a despatch was
received from the Evening Mail's regular correspondent in
Marysville, relating the particulars of an encounter between the
Mexican holders of a large ranch in Yuba County and certain
American land-grabbers who had set up a claim to a portion of the
estate. The matter was in course of adjudication in the Marysville
courts, but the claimants, impatient at the slow process of the
law, had endeavored to seize the disputed land by force. Shots had
been fired, blood had been spilled, and the whole affair added
nothing to Yuba County's reputation for law and order. The matter
created some talk in San Francisco, and the Evening Mail, among
other papers, expressed its opinion in one of those trenchant
personal articles which are the spice of Western journalism. Two
or three days later, when the incident had been almost forgotten in
the office, the city editor sent for Gerald Ffrench.
"Ffrench," said that gentleman, as the young man approached his
desk, "I've just received a letter from Don Miguel y—y—something
or other. I can't read his whole name, and it don't matter much.
It's Vincenza, you know, the owner of that ranch where they had the
shooting scrape the other day. He is anxious to make a statement
of the matter for publication, and has come down to the Bay on
purpose. Suppose you go and see what he has to say? He's staying
at the Lick."
The same morning Gerald sent up his card and was ushered into the
apartment of Don Miguel Vincenza at the Lick House.
The senor was a young man, not much older than Gerald himself. He
had the appearance and manners of a gentleman, as Ffrench quickly
discovered, and he spoke fluent, well-chosen English with scarcely
a trace of accent, a circumstance for which the interviewer felt he
could not be sufficiently grateful.
"Ah, you are from the Evening Mail," said the young Spaniard,
rising as Gerald entered; "most kind of you to come, and to come so
promptly. Won't you be seated? Try a cigar. No? You'll excuse
me if I light a cigarette. I want to make myself clear, and I'm
always clearest when I'm in a cloud." He gave a little laugh, and
with one twirl of his slender fingers he converted a morsel of
tissue paper and a pinch of tobacco into a compact roll, which he
lighted, and exhausted in half-a-dozen puffs as he spoke.
"This man, this Jenkinson's claim is perfectly preposterous," he
began, "but I won't go into that. The matter is before the courts.
What I want to give you is a true statement of that unfortunate
affair at the ranch, with which, I beg you to believe, I had
nothing whatever to do."
Senor Vincenza's tale might have had the merit of truth; it
certainly lacked that of brevity. He talked on, rolling a fresh
cigarette at every second sentence, and Gerald made notes of such
points as he considered important, but at the conclusion of the
Spaniard's statement the journalist could not see that it had
differed much from the published accounts, and he told the other as
"Well, you see," said Vincenza, "I am in a delicate position. It
is not as if I were acting for myself. I am only my sister's
agent—my half-sister's, I should say—poor little Catalina;" and
the speaker broke off with a sigh and rolled a fresh cigarette
before he resumed.
"It's her property, all of it, and I cannot bear to have her
misrepresented in any way."
"I understand," said Gerald, making a note of the fact. "The
property, I suppose, passed to your sister from—"
"From her father. I was in the land of the living some years
before he met and wooed and won my widowed mother. They are both
dead now, and Catalina has none but myself to look out for her,
except distant relatives on the father's side, who will inherit the
property if she dies unmarried, and whom she cordially detests."
Gerald was not particularly romantic, but the idea of this fair
young Spaniard, owner of one of the finest ranches in Yuba County,
unmarried, and handsome too, if she were anything like her mother,
inflamed his imagination a little. He shook hands cordially with
the young man as he rose to go, and could not help wishing they
were better acquainted.
"You may be sure I will publish your statement exactly as you have
given it to me, and as fully as possible," said Gerald. Before the
young heiress had been mentioned, the journalist had scarcely seen
material enough in the interview for a paragraph.
It is fair to presume that Senor Vincenza was satisfied with the
treatment he received in the Evening Mail, for a polite note
conveyed to Ffrench the expression of his thanks. So that incident
passed into the limbo of forgetfulness, though Gerald afterwards
took more interest in the newspaper paragraphs, often scant enough,
which told of the progress of the great land case in the Marysville
A curt despatch, worded with that exasperating brevity which is a
peculiarity of all but the most important telegrams, wound up the
matter with an announcement that a decision had been reached in
favor of the defendant, and that Mr. Isaac Hall, of the law firm of
Hall and McGowan, had returned to San Francisco, having conducted
the case to a successful issue. Gerald was pleased to hear that
the young lady had been sustained in her rights, and determined to
interview Mr. Hall, with whom he was well acquainted. Accordingly,
after two or three unsuccessful attempts, he managed to catch the
busy lawyer with half an hour's spare time on his hands, and well
enough disposed to welcome his young friend.
"Mr. Hall," said Gerald, dropping into the spare chair in the
attorney's private room, "I want to ask you a few questions about
that Marysville land case."
"Fire ahead, my boy; I can give you twenty minutes," answered the
lawyer, who was disposed to make a great deal more of the victory
he had won than the newspapers had hitherto done, and who was
consequently by no means averse from an interview. "What do you
want to know?"
"Hard fight, wasn't it?" asked the journalist.
"Yes," replied Mr. Hall, "tough in a way; but we had right on our
side as well as possession. A good lawyer ought always to win when
he has those; to beat law and facts and everything else is harder
scratching; though I've done that too," and the old gentleman
chuckled as if well satisfied with himself.
"That's what your opponents had to do here, I suppose?" remarked
Gerald, echoing the other's laugh.
"Pretty much, only they didn't do it," said the lawyer.
"I met Vincenza when he was down last month," pursued Gerald. "He
seems a decentish sort of a fellow for a greaser."
"He's no greaser; he's a pure-blooded Castilian, and very much of
the gentleman," answered Hall.
"So I found him," said Gerald. "I only used the 'greaser' as a
generic term. He talks English as well as I do."
"That's a great compliment from an Irishman," remarked Mr. Hall
with another chuckle.
"I suppose the sister's just as nice in her own way," went on
Gerald, seeing an opportunity to satisfy a certain curiosity he had
felt about the heiress since he first heard of her existence. "Did
she make a good witness?"
"Who? What sister? What the deuce are you talking about?" asked
"Why, Vincenza's sister, half-sister, whatever she is. I
understood from him that she was the real owner of the property."
"Oh, ay, to be sure," said Mr. Hall slowly; "these details escape
one. Vincenza was my client; he acts for the girl under power of
attorney, and really her name has hardly come up since the very
beginning of the case."
"You didn't see her, then?" said Gerald, conscious of a vague sense
"See her?" repeated the lawyer. "No; how could I? She's in Europe
for educational advantages—at a convent somewhere, I believe."
"Oh," said Gerald, "a child, is she? I had fancied, I don't know
why, that she was a grown-up young lady."
"I couldn't tell you what her age is, but it must be over twenty-
one or she couldn't have executed the power of attorney, and that
was looked into at the start and found quite regular."
"I see," replied Gerald slowly; but the topic had started Mr. Hall
on a fresh trail, and he broke in—
"And it was the only thing in order in the whole business. Do you
know we came within an ace of losing, all through their confounded
careless way of keeping their papers?"
"How did they keep them?" inquired Gerald listlessly. The suit
appeared to be a commonplace one, and the young man's interest
began to wane.
"They didn't keep them at all," exclaimed Mr. Hall indignantly.
"Fancy, the original deed—the old Spanish grant—the very keystone
of our case, was not to be found till the last moment, and then
only by the merest accident, and where do you suppose it was?"
"I haven't an idea," answered Gerald, stifling a yawn.
"At the back of an old print of the Madonna. It had been framed
and hung up as an ornament, I suppose, Heaven knows when; and by-
and-by some smart Aleck came along and thought the mother and child
superior as a work of art and slapped it into the frame over the
deed, and there it has hung for ten years anyhow."
"That's really very curious," said Gerald, whose attention began to
revive as he saw a possible column to be compiled on the details of
the case that had seemed so uninteresting to his contemporaries.
"Curious! I call it sinful—positively wicked," said the old
gentleman wrathfully. "Just fancy two hundred thousand dollars
hanging on the accident of finding a parchment in such a place as
"How did you happen to find it?" asked Gerald. "I should never
have thought of looking for it there."
"No; nor any other sane man," sputtered the lawyer, irritated, as
he recalled the anxiety the missing deed had caused him. "It was
found by accident, I tell you. Some blundering, awkward, heaven-
guided servant knocked the picture down and broke the frame. The
Madonna was removed, and the missing paper came to light."
"And that was the turning-point of the case. Very interesting
indeed," said Gerald, who saw in the working out of this legal
romance a bit of detective writing such as his soul loved. "I
suppose they'll have sense enough to put it in a safer place next
"I will, you may bet your life. I've taken charge of all the
family documents; and if they get away from me, they'll do
something that nothing's ever done before;" and the old lawyer
chuckled with renewed satisfaction as he pointed to the massive
safe in a corner of the office.
"So the deed is there, is it?" asked Gerald, following Mr. Hall's
"Yes, it's there. A curious old document too; one of the oldest
grants I have ever come across. Would you like to see it?" and the
lawyer rose and opened the safe.
It was a curious old document drawn up in curious old Spanish, on
an old discolored piece of parchment. The body of the instrument
was unintelligible to Ffrench, but down in one corner was something
that riveted his attention in a moment and seemed to make his heart
There was a signature in old-fashioned angular handwriting,
Rodriguez Costello y Ugarte, and opposite to it a large, spreading
seal. The impression showed a knight's head and shoulders in full
armor, below it the motto, Nemo me impune lacessit, and a shield of
arms, party per fess, azure below, argent above, counter-vair on
the argent. Point for point the identical blazonry which Ffrench
had received from the Heralds' College in England—the shield that
he had first seen embroidered on the dead girl's handkerchief at
"What's the matter with you? Didn't you ever see an old Spanish
deed before, or has it any of the properties of Medusa's head?"
inquired Mr. Hall, noticing Gerald's start of amazement and intent
scrutiny of the seal.
"I've seen these arms before," said the young man slowly. "But the
name—" He placed his finger on the signature. "Of course, I knew
Vincenza's name must be different from his half-sister's; but is
"Ugarte? Yes," said the lawyer, glancing at the parchment.
"I mean the whole name," and Gerald pointed again.
"Costello!" Mr. Hall gave the word its Spanish pronunciation,
"Costelyo," and it sounded strange and foreign in the young man's
ears. "Costello, yes, I suppose so; but I don't try to keep track
of more of these Spaniards' titles than is absolutely necessary."
"But Costello is an Irish name," said Gerald.
"Is it? You ought to know. Well Costelyo is Spanish; and now, my
dear boy, I must positively turn you out."
Gerald went straight home without returning to the office.
He unlocked his desk, and took from it the two results of his first
essay in detective craft. Silently he laid them side by side and
scrutinized each closely in turn. The pale, set face of the
beautiful dead, as reproduced by the photographer's art, told him
nothing. He strove to trace some resemblance, to awaken some
memory, by long gazing at the passionless features, but it was in
vain. Then he turned to the illuminated shield. Every line was
familiar to him, and a glance sufficed. It was identical in all
respects with the arms on the seal. Of this he had been already
convinced, and his recollection had not betrayed him. Then he
placed the two—the piteous photograph and the proud blazonry—in
his pocket-book, and left the room. The same evening he took his
place on the Sacramento train en route for Marysville.
When Gerald reached San Luis, the postoffice address of the Ugarte
ranch, a disappointment awaited him. Evening was falling, and
inquiry elicited the fact that Don Vincenza's residence was still
twelve miles distant. Ffrench, after his drive of eighteen miles
over the dusty road from Marysville, was little inclined to go
further, so he put up his horse at a livery stable, resolved to
make the best of such accommodations as San Luis afforded.
The face of the man who took the reins when Ffrench alighted seemed
familiar. The young fellow looked closer at him, and it was
evident the recognition was mutual, for the stableman accosted him
by name, and in the broad, familiar dialect of western Leinster.
"May I niver ate another bit if it isn't Masther Gerald Ffrench!"
he said. "Well, well, well, but it's good for sore eyes to see ye.
Come out here, Steve, an' take the team. Jump down, Masther
Gerald, an' stretch yer legs a bit. It's kilt ye are entirely."
A swarthy little Mexican appeared, and led the tired horses into
the stable. Then the young journalist took a good look at the man
who seemed to know him so well, and endeavored, as the phrase goes,
to "place him."
"Ye don't mind me, yer honor, an' how wud ye? But I mind yersilf
well. Sure it's often I've druv ye and Mr. Edward too. I used to
wurruk for Mr. Ross of Mullinger. I was Denny the postboy—Denis
Driscoll, yer honor; sure ye must know me?"
"Oh yes, to be sure—I remember," said Gerald, as recollection
slowly dawned upon him. "But who'd have thought of finding you in
a place like this? I didn't even know you'd left Ross's stables."
"Six or siven months ago, yer honor."
"And have you been here ever since? I hope you are doing well,"
"Iver since, sor, an' doin' finely, wid the blessin' o' God. I own
that place," pointing to the stable, "an' four as good turnouts as
ye'd ax to sit behind."
"I'm glad of it," said Gerald heartily. "I like to hear of the
boys from the old neighborhood doing well."
"Won't ye step inside, sor, an' thry a drop of something? Ye must
be choked intirely wid the dust."
"I don't care if I do," answered Gerald. "I feel pretty much as if
I'd swallowed a limekiln."
A minute later the two were seated in Denny's own particular room,
where Gerald washed the dust from his throat with some capital
bottled beer, while his host paid attention to a large demijohn
which contained, as he informed the journalist in an impressive
whisper, "close on to a gallon of the real ould stuff."
Their conversation extended far into the night; but long before
they separated Gerald induced Denny to despatch his Mexican helper,
on a good mustang, to the Ugarte ranch, bearing to Senor Vincenza
Mr. Ffrench's card, on which were penciled the words: "Please come
over to San Luis as soon as possible. Most important business."
For the tale told by the ex-postboy, his change of residence and
present prosperity, seemed to throw a curious light on the Drim
Senor Vincenza appeared the following morning just as Gerald had
finished breakfast. The ranchero remembered the representative of
the Evening Mail and greeted him cordially, expressing his surprise
at Gerald's presence in that part of the country. The Spaniard
evidently imagined that this unexpected visit had some bearing on
the recently decided lawsuit, but the other's first words dispelled
"Senor Vincenza," Ffrench said, "I have heard a very strange story
about your sister, and I have come to ask you for an explanation of
The young Spaniard changed color and looked uneasily at the
"What do you mean?" he asked. "I do not understand you. My sister
is in Europe."
"Yes," answered Gerald, "she is in Europe—in Ireland. She fills a
nameless grave in Drim churchyard."
Vincenza leaped to his feet, and the cigarette he had lighted
dropped from his fingers. They were in Gerald's room at the hotel,
and the young man had placed his visitor so that the table was
between them. He suspected that he might have to deal with a
desperate man. Vincenza leaned over the narrow table, and his
breath blew hot in Ffrench's face as he hissed, "Carambo! What do
you mean? How much do you know?"
"I know everything. I know how she died in the carriage on your
way from Mullingar; how you purchased a coffin and bribed the
undertaker to silence; how you laid her, in the dead of night,
among the weeds in the graveyard; how you cut her name from the
chatelaine bag, and did all in your power to hide her identity,
even carrying off with you the postboy who drove you and aided you
to place her where she was found. Do you recognize that
photograph? Have you ever seen that coat-of-arms before?" and
Ffrench drew the two cards from his pocket and offered them to
The Spaniard brushed them impatiently aside and crouched for a
moment as if to spring. Gerald never took his eyes off him, and
presently the other straightened up, and, sinking into the chair
behind him, attempted to roll a cigarette. But his hand trembled,
and half the tobacco was spilled on the floor.
"You know a great deal, Mr. Gerald Ffrench. Do you accuse me of my
"No," answered Gerald. "She died from natural causes. But I do
accuse you of fraudulently withholding this property from its
rightful owners, and of acting on a power of attorney which has
been cancelled by the death of the giver."
There was a moment's silence, broken only by a muttered oath from
Vincenza as he threw the unfinished cigarette to the ground, and
began to roll another, this time with better success. It was not
till it was fairly alight that he spoke again.
Listen to me, young man," he said, "and then judge me as you hope
to be judged hereafter—with mercy. My sister was very dear to me;
I loved her, O God, how I loved her!" His voice broke, and Gerald,
recalling certain details of Denny's narrative, felt that the
Spaniard was speaking the truth. It was nearly a minute before
Vincenza recovered his self-command and resumed.
"Yes, we were very dear to each other; brought up as brother and
sister, how could we fail to be? But her father never liked me,
and he placed restrictions upon the fortune he left her so that it
could never come to me. My mother—our mother—had died some years
before. Well, Catalina was wealthy; I was a pauper, but that made
no difference while she lived. We were as happy and fond a brother
and sister as the sun ever shone upon. When she came of age she
executed the power of attorney that gave me the charge of her
estate. She was anxious to spend a few years in Europe. I was to
take her over, and after we had traveled a little she was to go to
a convent in France and spend some time there while I returned
home. But she was one of the old Costellos, and she was anxious to
visit the ancient home of her race. That was what brought us to
"I thought the Costello family was extinct," said Gerald.
"The European branch has been extinct since 1813, when Don Lopez
Costello fell at Vittoria; but the younger branch, which settled in
Mexico towards the end of the eighteenth century, survived until a
few months ago—until Catalina's death, in fact, for she was the
last of the Costellos."
"I see," said Gerald; "go on."
"She was very proud of the name, poor Catalina, and she made me
promise in case anything happened to her while we were abroad that
she should be laid in the ancient grave of her race—in the
churchyard of Drim. She had a weak heart, and she knew that she
might die suddenly. I promised. And it was on our way to the spot
she was so anxious to visit that death claimed her, only a few
miles from the place where her ancestors had lived in the old days,
and where all that remains of them has long mouldered to dust. So
you see, Mr. Ffrench, that I had no choice but to lay her there."
"That is not the point," said Gerald; "why this secrecy? Why this
flight? Dr. Lynn, I am sure, would have enabled you to obey your
sister's request in the full light of day; you need not have thrown
her coffin on the ground and left to strangers the task of doing
for the poor girl the last duties of civilization." Gerald spoke
with indignant heat, for this looked to him like the cruellest
"I know how it must seem to you," said Vincenza, "and I have no
excuse to offer for my conduct but this. My sister's death would
have given all she possessed to people whom she disliked. It would
have thrown me, whom she loved, penniless on the world. I acted as
if she were still living, and as I am sure she would have wished me
to act; no defence, I know, in your eyes, but consider the
"And did you not realize that all this must come out some day?"
"Yes, but not for several years. Indeed, I cannot imagine how it
is that you have stumbled on the truth."
And Gerald, remembering the extraordinary chain of circumstances
which had led him to the root of the mystery, could not but
acknowledge that, humanly speaking, Vincenza's confidence was
"And now you have found this out, what use do you intend to make of
it?" asked the Spaniard after a pause.
"I shall publish the whole story as soon as I return to San
Francisco," answered Gerald promptly.
"So for a few hundred dollars, which is all that you can possibly
get out of it, you will make a beggar of me."
"Right is right," said the young Irishman. "This property does not
belong to you."
"Will you hold your tongue—or your pen—for fifty thousand
dollars?" asked the Spaniard eagerly.
"No, nor for every dollar you have in the world. I don't approve
your practice and I won't share your plunder. I am sorry for you
personally, but I can't help that. I won't oust you. I will make
such use of the story as any newspaper man would make, and so I
give you fair warning. You may save yourself if you can."
"Then you do not intend to communicate with the heirs?" began
"I neither know nor care who they are," interrupted Gerald. "I am
not a detective, save in the way of my profession, and I shall
certainly not tell what I have discovered to any individual till I
give it to the press."
"And that will be?" asked the Spaniard.
"As soon as I return to San Francisco," answered Ffrench. "It may
appear in a week or ten days."
"Thank you, senor; good morning," said Vincenza, rising and leaving
Three days later Senor Miguel Vincenza sailed on the outgoing
Pacific mail steamer bound for Japan and China. He probably took a
considerable sum of money with him, for the heirs of Catalina
Costello y Ugarte found the affairs of the deceased in a very
tangled state, and the ranch was mortgaged for nearly half its
Gerald Ffrench's story occupied four pages of the next issue of the
Golden Fleece, and was widely copied and commented on over two
continents. Larry, the groom at Ballyvire, read the account in his
favorite Westmeath Sentinel, and as he laid the paper down
exclaimed in wonder—
"Begob, he found her!"