THE HOUSE OF WHISPERS
WILLIAM LE QUEUX
THE LAIRD OF GLENCARDINE
FROM OUT THE NIGHT
SEALS OF DESTINY
SOMETHING CONCERNING JAMES FLOCKART
THE MURIES OF CONNACHAN
CONCERNS GABRIELLE'S SECRET
CONTAINS CURIOUS CONFIDENCES
CASTING THE BAIT
REVEALS A MYSTERIOUS BUSINESS
DECLARES A WOMAN'S LOVE
CONCERNS THE WHISPERS
EXPLAINS SOME CURIOUS FACTS
WHAT FLOCKART FORESAW
CONCERNS THE CURSE OF THE CARDINAL
FOLLOWS FLOCKART'S FORTUNES
SHOWS A GIRL'S BONDAGE
DESCRIBES A FRENCHMAN'S VISIT
REVEALS THE SPY
SHOWS GABRIELLE DEFIANT
TELLS OF FLOCKART'S TRIUMPH
THROUGH THE MISTS
BY THE MEDITERRANEAN
WHICH SHOWS A SHABBY FOREIGNER
"WHEN GREEK MEETS GREEK"
SHOWS GABRIELLE IN EXILE
THE VELVET PAW
BETRAYS THE BOND
THE WHISPERS AGAIN
CONTAINS A FURTHER MYSTERY
REVEALS SOMETHING TO HAMILTON
DESCRIBES A CURIOUS CIRCUMSTANCE
OUTSIDE THE WINDOW
IS ABOUT THE MAISON LÉNARD
SURPRISES MR. FLOCKART
DISCLOSES A SECRET
IN WHICH GABRIELLE TELLS A STRANGE STORY
INCREASES THE INTEREST
"THAT MAN'S VOICE!"
CONTAINS THE CONCLUSION
THE HOUSE OF WHISPERS
THE LAIRD OF GLENCARDINE
"Why, what's the matter, child? Tell me."
"Nothing, dad—really nothing."
"But you are breathing hard; your hand trembles; your pulse beats
quickly. There's something amiss—I'm sure there is. Now, what is it?
Come, no secrets."
The girl, quickly snatching away her hand, answered with a forced laugh,
"How absurd you really are, dear old dad! You're always fancying
something or other."
"Because my senses of hearing and feeling are sharper and more developed
than those of other folk perhaps," replied the grey-bearded old
gentleman, as he turned his sharp-cut, grey, but expressionless
countenance to the tall, sweet-faced girl standing beside his chair.
No second glance was needed to realise the pitiful truth. The man seated
there in his fine library, with the summer sunset slanting across the
red carpet from the open French windows, was blind.
Since his daughter Gabrielle had been a pretty, prattling child of nine,
nursing her dolly, he had never looked upon her fair face. But he was
ever as devoted to her as she to him.
Surely his was a sad and lonely life. Within the last fifteen years or
so great wealth had come to him; but, alas! he was unable to enjoy it.
Until eleven years ago he had been a prominent figure in politics and in
society in London. He had sat in the House for one of the divisions of
Hampshire, was a member of the Carlton, and one year he found his name
among the Birthday Honours with a K.C.M.G. For him everybody predicted a
brilliant future. The Press gave prominence to his speeches, and to his
house in Park Street came Cabinet Ministers and most of the well-known
men of his party. Indeed, it was an open secret in a certain circle that
he had been promised a seat in the Cabinet in the near future.
Then, at the very moment of his popularity, a terrible tragedy had
occurred. He was on the platform of the Albert Hall addressing a great
meeting at which the Prime Minister was the principal speaker. His
speech was a brilliant one, and the applause had been vociferous. Full
of satisfaction, he drove home that night to Park Street; but next
morning the report spread that his brilliant political career had ended.
He had suddenly been stricken by blindness.
In political circles and in the clubs the greatest consternation was
caused, and some strange gossip became rife.
It was whispered in certain quarters that the affliction was not
produced by natural causes. In fact, it was a mystery, and one that had
never been solved. The first oculists of Europe had peered into and
tested his eyes, but all to no purpose. The sight had gone for ever.
Therefore, full of bitter regrets at being thus compelled to renounce
the stress and storm of political life which he loved so well, Sir Henry
Heyburn had gone into strict retirement at Glencardine, his beautiful
old Perthshire home, visiting London but very seldom.
He was essentially a man of mystery. Even in the days of his universal
popularity the source of his vast wealth was unknown. His father, the
tenth Baronet, had been sadly impoverished by the depreciation of
agricultural property in Lincolnshire, and had ended his days in the
genteel quietude of the Albany. But Sir Henry, without betraying to the
world his methods, had in fifteen years amassed a fortune which people
guessed must be considerably over a million sterling.
From a life of strenuous activity he had, in one single hour, been
doomed to one of loneliness and inactivity. His friends sympathised, as
indeed the whole British public had done; but in a month the tragic
affair and its attendant mysterious gossip had been forgotten, as in
truth had the very name of Sir Henry Heyburn, whom the Prime Minister,
though his political opponent, had one night designated in the House as
"one of the most brilliant and talented young men who has ever sat upon
the Opposition benches."
In his declining years the life of this man was a pitiful tragedy, his
filmy eyes sightless, his thin white fingers ever eager and nervous, his
hours full of deep thought and silent immobility. To him, what was the
benefit of that beautiful Perthshire castle which he had purchased from
Lord Strathavon a year before his compulsory retirement? What was the
use of the old ancestral manor near Caistor in Lincolnshire, or the
town-house in Park Street, the snug hunting-box at Melton, or the
beautiful palm-shaded, flower-embowered villa overlooking the blue
southern sea at San Remo? He remembered them all. He had misty visions
of their splendour and their luxury; but since his blindness he had
seldom, if ever, entered them. That big library up in Scotland in which
he now sat was the room he preferred; and with his daughter Gabrielle to
bear him company, to smooth his brow with her soft hand, to chatter and
to gossip, he wished for no other companion. His life was of the past, a
meteor that had flashed and had vanished for ever.
"Tell me, child, what is troubling you?" he was asking in a calm, kind
voice, as he still held the girl's hand in his. The sweet scent of the
roses from the garden beyond filled the room.
A smart footman in livery opened the door at that moment, asking,
"Stokes has just returned with the car from Perth, Sir Henry, and asks
if you want him further at present."
"No," replied his blind master. "Has he brought back her ladyship?"
"Yes, Sir Henry," replied the man. "I believe he is taking her to the
ball over at Connachan to-night."
"Oh, yes, of course. How foolish I am! I quite forgot," said the Baronet
with a slight sigh. "Very well, Hill."
And the clean-shaven young man, with his bright buttons bearing the
chevron gules betwixt three boars' heads erased sable, of the
Heyburns, bowed and withdrew.
"I had quite forgotten the ball at Connachan, dear," exclaimed her
father, stretching out his thin white hand in search of hers again. "Of
course you are going?"
"No, dad; I'm staying at home with you."
"Staying at home!" echoed Sir Henry. "Why, my dear Gabrielle, the first
year you're out, and missing the best ball in the county! Certainly not.
I'm all right. I shan't be lonely. A little box came this morning from
the Professor, didn't it?"
"Then I shall be able to spend the evening very well alone. The
Professor has sent me what he promised the other day."
"I've decided not to go," was the girl's firm reply.
"I fear, dear, your mother will be very annoyed if you refuse," he
"I shall risk that, dear old dad, and stay with you to-night. Please
allow me," she added persuasively, taking his hand in hers and bending
till her red lips touched his white brow. "You have quite a lot to do,
remember. A big packet of papers came from Paris this morning. I must
read them over to you."
"But your mother, my dear! Your absence will be commented upon. People
will gossip, you know."
"There is but one person I care for, dad—yourself," laughed the girl
"Perhaps you're disappointed over a new frock or something, eh?"
"Not at all. My frock came from town the day before yesterday. Elise
declares it suits me admirably, and she's very hard to please, you know.
It's white, trimmed with tiny roses."
"A perfect dream, I expect," remarked the blind man, smiling. "I wish I
could see you in it, dear. I often wonder what you are like, now that
you've grown to be a woman."
"I'm like what I always have been, dad, I suppose," she laughed.
"Yes, yes," he sighed, in pretence of being troubled. "Wilful as always.
And—and," he faltered a moment later, "I often hear your dear dead
mother's voice in yours." Then he was silent, and by the deep lines in
his brow she knew that he was thinking.
Outside, in the high elms beyond the level, well-kept lawn, with its
grey old sundial, the homecoming rooks were cawing prior to settling
down for the night. No other sound broke the stillness of that quiet
sunset hour save the solemn ticking of the long, old-fashioned clock at
the farther end of the big, book-lined room, with its wide fireplace,
great overmantel of carved stone with emblazoned arms, and its three
long windows of old stained glass which gave it a somewhat
"Tell me, child," repeated Sir Henry at length, "what was it that upset
you just now?"
"Nothing, dad—unless—well, perhaps it's the heat. I felt rather unwell
when I went out for my ride this morning," she answered with a frantic
attempt at excuse.
The blind man was well aware that her reply was but a subterfuge.
Little, however, did he dream the cause. Little did he know that a dark
shadow had fallen upon the young girl's life—a shadow of evil.
"Gabrielle," he said in a low, intense voice, "why aren't you open and
frank with me as you once used to be? Remember that you, my daughter,
are my only friend!"
Slim, dainty, and small-waisted, with a sweet, dimpled face, and blue
eyes large and clear like a child's, a white throat, a well-poised head,
and light-chestnut hair dressed low with a large black bow, she
presented the picture of happy, careless youth, her features soft and
refined, her half-bare arms well moulded, and hands delicate and white.
She wore only one ornament—upon her left hand was a small signet-ring
with her monogram engraved, a gift from one of her governesses when a
child, and now worn upon the little finger.
That face was strikingly beautiful, it had been remarked more than once
in London; but any admiration only called forth the covert sneers of
"Why don't you tell me?" urged the blind man. "Why don't you tell me the
truth?" he protested.
Her countenance changed when she heard his words. In her blue eyes was a
look of abject fear. Her left hand was tightly clenched and her mouth
set hard, as though in resolution.
"I really don't know what you mean, dad," she responded with a hollow
laugh. "You have such strange fancies nowadays."
"Strange fancies, child!" echoed the afflicted man, lifting his grey,
expressionless face to hers. "A blind man has always vague, suspicious,
and black forebodings engendered by the darkness and loneliness of his
life. I am no exception," he sighed. "I think ever of the
"No, dear," exclaimed the girl, bending until her lips touched his white
brow softly. "Forget it all, dear old dad. Surely your days here, with
me, quiet and healthful in this beautiful Perthshire, are better, better
by far, than if you had been a politician up in London, ever struggling,
ever speaking, and ever bearing the long hours at the House and the
eternal stress of Parliamentary life?"
"Yes, yes," he said, just a trifle impatiently. "It is not that. I don't
regret that I had to retire, except—well, except for your sake perhaps,
"For my sake! How?"
"Because, had I been a member of this Cabinet—which some of my friends
predicted—you would have had the chance of a good marriage. But buried
as you are down here instead, what chances have you?"
"I want no chance, dad," replied the girl. "I shall never marry."
A painful thought crossed the old man's mind, being mirrored upon his
brow by the deep lines which puckered there for a few brief moments.
"Well," he exclaimed, smiling, "that's surely no reason why you should
not go to the ball at Connachan to-night."
"I have my duty to perform, dad; my duty is to remain with you," she
said decisively. "You know you have quite a lot to do, and when your
mother has gone we'll spend an hour or two here at work."
"I hear that Walter Murie is at home again at Connachan. Hill told me
this morning," remarked her father.
"So I heard also," answered the girl.
"And yet you are not going to the ball, Gabrielle, eh?" laughed the old
"Now come, dad," the girl exclaimed, colouring slightly, "you're really
too bad! I thought you had promised me not to mention him again."
"So I did, dear; I—I quite forgot," replied Sir Henry apologetically.
"Forgive me. You are now your own mistress. If you prefer to stay away
from Connachan, then do so by all means. Only, make a proper excuse to
your mother; otherwise she will be annoyed."
"I think not, dear," his daughter replied in a meaning tone. "If I
remain at home she'll be rather glad than otherwise."
"Why?" inquired the old man quickly.
The girl hesitated. She saw instantly that her remark was an unfortunate
one. "Well," she said rather lamely, "because my absence will relieve
her of the responsibility of acting as chaperon."
What else could she say? How could she tell her father—the kindly but
afflicted man to whom she was devoted—the bitter truth? His lonely,
dismal life was surely sufficiently hard to bear without the extra
burden of suspicion, of enforced inactivity, of fierce hatred, and of
bitter regret. So she slowly disengaged her hand, kissed him again, and
with an excuse that she had the menus to write for the dinner-table,
went out, leaving him alone.
When the door had closed a great sigh sounded through the long,
book-lined room, a sigh that ended in a sob.
The old man had leaned his chin upon his hands, and his sightless eyes
were filled with tears. "Is it the truth?" he murmured to himself. "Is
it really the truth?"
FROM OUT THE NIGHT
There are few of the Perthshire castles that more plainly declare their
feudal origin and exhibit traces of obsolete power than does the great
gaunt pile of ruins known as Glencardine. Its situation is both
picturesque and imposing, and the stern aspect of the two square
baronial towers which face the south, perched on a sheer precipice that
descends to the Ruthven Water deep below, shows that the castle was once
the residence of a predatory chief in the days before its association
with the great Montrose.
Two miles from the long, straggling village of Auchterarder, in the
centre of a fine, well-wooded, well-kept estate, the great ruined castle
stands a silent monument of warlike days long since forgotten. There,
within those walls, now overgrown with ivy and weeds, and where big
trees grow in the centre of what was once the great paved courtyard,
Montrose schemed and plotted, and, according to tradition, kept certain
of his enemies in the dungeons below.
In the twelfth century the aspect of the deep glen was very different
from what it is to-day. In those days the Ruthven was a broad river,
flowing swiftly down to the Earn, and forming, by reason of a moat, an
effective barrier against attack. To-day, however, the river has
diminished into a mere burn meandering through a beautiful wooded glen
three hundred feet below, a glen the charms of which are well known
throughout the whole of Scotland, and where in summer tourists from
England endeavour to explore, but are warned back by Stewart, Sir
Henry's Highland keeper.
A quarter of a mile from the great historic ruin is the modern castle,
built mainly of stone from the ancient structure early in the eighteenth
century, with oak-panelled rooms, many quaint gables, stained glass, and
long, echoing corridors—a residence well adapted for entertaining on a
lavish scale, the front overlooking the beautiful glen, and the back
with level lawns and stretch of undulating park, well wooded and full of
The family traditions and history of the old place and its owners had
induced Sir Henry Heyburn, himself a Fellow of the Society of
Antiquaries, to purchase it from Lord Strathavon, into whose possession
it had passed some forty years previously.
History showed that William de Graeme or Graham, who settled in Scotland
in the twelfth century, became Lord of Glencardine, and the great castle
was built by his son. They were indeed a noble race, as their biographer
has explained. Ever fearless in their country's cause, they sneered at
the mandates from impregnable Stirling, and were loyal in every
Glencardine was a stronghold feared by all the surrounding nobles, and
its men were full of valour and bravery. One story of them is perhaps
worth the telling. In the year 1490 the all-powerful Abbot of Inchaffray
issued an order for the collection of the teinds of the Killearns' lands
possessed by the Grahams of Glencardine in the parish of Monzievaird, of
which he was titular. The order was rigorously executed, the teinds
being exacted by force.
Lord Killearn of Dunning Castle was from home at the time; but in his
absence his eldest son, William, Master of Dunning, called out a number
of his clansmen, and marched towards Glencardine for the purpose of
putting a stop to the abbot's proceedings. The Grahams of Glencardine,
having been apprised of their neighbour's intention, mustered in strong
force, and marched to meet him. The opposing forces encountered each
other at the north side of Knock Mary, about two miles to the south-west
of Crieff, while a number of the clan M'Robbie, who lived beside the
Loch of Balloch, marched up the south side of the hill, halting at the
top to watch the progress of the combat. The fight began with great fury
on both sides. The Glencardine men, however, began to get the upper hand
and drive their opponents back, when the M'Robbies rushed down the hill
to the succour of the Killearns. The tables were now turned. The Grahams
were unable to maintain their ground against the combined forces which
they had now to face, and fled towards Glencardine, taking refuge in the
Kirk of Monzievaird. The Killearns had no desire to follow up their
success any farther, but at this stage they were joined by Duncan
Campbell of Dunstaffnage, who had come across from Argyllshire to avenge
the death of his father-in-law, Robert of Monzie, who, along with his
two sons, had a short time before been killed by the Lord of
An arrow shot from the church fatally wounded one of Campbell's men, and
so enraged were the besiegers at this that they set fire to the
heather-thatched building. Of the one hundred and sixty human beings who
are supposed to have been in the church, only one young lad escaped, and
this was effected by the help of one of the Killearns, who caught the
boy in his arms as he leaped out of the flames. The Killearns did not go
unpunished for their barbarous deed. Their leader, with several of his
chief retainers, was afterwards beheaded at Stirling, and an assessment
was imposed on the Killearns for behoof of the wives and children of the
Grahams who had perished by their hands.
The Killearn by whose aid the young Graham had been saved was forced to
flee to Ireland, but he afterwards returned to Scotland, where he and
his attendants were known by the name of "Killearn Eirinich" (or
Ernoch), meaning Killearn of Ireland. The estate which he held, and
which is situated near Comrie, still bears that name. The site of the
Kirk of Monzievaird is now occupied by the mausoleum of the family of
Murray of Ochtertyre, which was erected in 1809. When the foundations
were being excavated a large quantity of charred bones and wood was
The history of Scotland is full of references to the doings at
Glencardine, the fine home of the great Lord Glencardine, and of events,
both in the original stronghold and in the present mansion, which have
had important bearings upon the welfare of the country.
In the autumn of 1825 the celebrated poetess Baroness Nairne, who had
been born at Gask, a few miles away, visited Glencardine and spent
several weeks in the pleasantest manner. Within those gaunt ruins of the
old castle she first became inspired to write her celebrated "Castell
Gloom," near Dollar:
Oh Castell Gloom! thy strength is gone,
The green grass o'er thee growin';
On Hill of Care thou art alone,
The Sorrow round thee flowin'.
Oh Castell Gloom! on thy fair wa's
Nae banners now are streamin';
The howlit flits amang thy ha's,
And wild birds there are screamin'.
Oh, mourn the woe! oh, mourn the crime
Frae civil war that flows!
Oh, mourn, Argyll, thy fallen line,
And mourn the great Montrose!
The lofty Ochils bright did glow,
Though sleepin' was the sun;
But mornin's light did sadly show
What ragin' flames had done!
Oh, mirk, mirk was the misty cloud
That hung o'er thy wild wood!
Thou wert like beauty in a shroud,
And all was solitude.
A volume, indeed, could be written upon the history, traditions, and
superstitions of Glencardine Castle, a subject in which its blind owner
took the keenest possible interest. But, tragedy of it all, he had never
seen the lovely old domain he had acquired! Only by Gabrielle's
descriptions of it, as she led him so often across the woods, down by
the babbling burn, or over the great ivy-covered ruins, did he know and
Every shepherd of the Ochils knows of the Lady of Glencardine who, on
rare occasions, had been seen dressed in green flitting before the
modern mansion, and who was said to be the spectre of the young Lady
Jane Glencardine, who in 1710 was foully drowned in the Earn by her
jealous lover, the Lord of Glamis, and whose body was never recovered.
Her appearance always boded ill-fortune to the family in residence.
Glencardine was scarcely ever without guests. Lady Heyburn, a shallow
and vain woman many years younger than her husband, was always
surrounded by her own friends. She hated the country, and more
especially what she declared to be the "deadly dullness" of her
Perthshire home. That moment was no exception. There were half-a-dozen
guests staying in the house, but neither Gabrielle nor her father took
the slightest interest in any of them. They had been, of course, invited
to the ball at Connachan, and at dinner had expressed surprise when
their host's pretty daughter, the belle of the county, had declared that
she was not going.
"Oh, Gabrielle is really such a wayward child!" declared her ladyship to
old Colonel Burton at her side. "If she has decided not to go, no power
on earth will persuade her."
"I'm not feeling at all well, mother," the girl responded from the
farther end of the table. "You'll make nice excuses for me, won't you?"
"I think it's simply ridiculous!" declared the Baronet's wife. "Your
first season, too!"
Gabrielle glanced round the table, coloured slightly, but said nothing.
The guests knew too well that in the Glencardine household there had
always been, and always would be, slightly strained relations between
her ladyship and her stepdaughter.
For an hour after dinner all was bustle and excitement; then, in the
covered wagonette, the gay party drove away, while Gabrielle, standing
at the door, shouted after them a merry adieu.
It was a bright, clear, moonlit night, so beautiful indeed that,
twisting a shawl about her shoulders, she went to her father's den,
where he usually smoked alone, and, taking his arm, led him out for a
walk into the park over that gravelled drive where, upon such nights as
that, 'twas said that the unfortunate Lady Jane could be seen.
When alone, the sightless man could find his way quite well with the aid
of his stick. He knew every inch of his domain. Indeed, he could descend
from the castle by the winding path that led deep into the glen, and
across the narrow foot-bridges of the rushing Ruthven Water, or he could
traverse the most intricate paths through the woods by means of certain
landmarks which only he himself knew. He was ever fond of wandering
about the estate alone, and often took solitary walks on bright nights
with his stout stick tapping before him. On rare occasions, however,
when, in the absence of her ladyship, he enjoyed the company of pretty
Gabrielle, they would wander in the park arm-in-arm, chatting and
The departure of their house-party had lifted a heavy weight from both
their hearts. It would be dawn before they returned. She loved her
father, and was never happier than when describing to him things—the
smallest objects sometimes—which he himself could not see.
As they strolled on beneath the shadows of the tall elms, the stillness
of the night was broken only by the quick scurry of a rabbit into the
tall bracken or the harsh cry of some night-bird startled by their
Before them, standing black against the night-sky, rose the quaint,
ponderous, but broken walls of the ancient stronghold, where an owl
hooted weirdly in the ivy, and where the whispering of the waters rose
from the deep below.
"It's a pity, dear, that you didn't go to the dance," the old man was
saying, her arm held within his own. "You've annoyed your mother, I
"Mother is quite happy with her guests, dad; while I am quite happy with
you," she replied softly. "Therefore, why discuss it?"
"But surely it is not very entertaining for you to remain here with a
man who is blind. Remember, you are young, and these golden days of
youth will very soon pass."
"Why, you always entertain and instruct me, dad," she declared; "from
you I've learnt so much archaeology and so much about mediaeval seals
that I believe I am qualified to become a Fellow of the Society of
Antiquaries, if women were admitted to fellowship."
"They will be one day, my dear, if the Suffragettes are allowed their
own way," he laughed.
And then, during the full hour they strolled together, their
conversation mostly consisted of questions asked by her father
concerning some improvements being made in one of the farms which she
had visited on the previous day, and her description of what had been
The stable-clock had struck half-past ten on its musical chimes before
they re-entered the big hall, and, being relieved by Hill of the wraps,
passed together into the library, where, from a locked cabinet in a
corner, Gabrielle took a number of business papers and placed them upon
the writing-table before her father.
"No," he said, running his thin white hands over them, "not business
to-night, dear, but pleasure. Where is that box from the Professor?"
"It's here, dad. Shall I open it?"
"Yes," he replied. "That dear old fellow never forgets his old friend.
Never a seal finds its way into the collection at Cambridge but he first
sends it to me for examination before it is catalogued. He knows what
pleasure it is to me to decipher them and make out their
history—almost, alas! the only pleasure left to me, except you, my
"Professor Moyes adopts your opinion always, dad. He knows, as every
other antiquary knows, that you are the greatest living authority on the
subject which you have made a lifetime study—that of the bronze seals
of the Middle Ages."
"Ah!" sighed the old man, "if I could only write my great book! It is
the pleasure debarred me. Years ago I started to collect material; but
my affliction came, and now I can only feel the matrices and picture
them in my mind. I see through your eyes, dear Gabrielle. To me, the
world I loved so much is only a blank darkness, with your dear voice
sounding out of it—the only voice, my child, that is music to my ears."
The girl said nothing. She only glanced at the sad, expressionless face,
and, cutting the string of the small packet, displayed three bronze
seals—two oval, about two inches long, and the third round, about one
inch in diameter, and each with a small kind of handle on the reverse.
With them were sulphur-casts or impressions taken from them, ready to be
placed in the museum at Cambridge.
The old man's nervous fingers travelled over the surfaces quickly, an
expression of complete satisfaction in his face.
"Have you the magnifying-glass, dear? Tell me what you make of the
inscriptions," he said, at the same time carefully feeling the curious
mediaeval lettering of one of the casts.
At the same instant she started, rose quickly from her chair, and held
A man, tall, dark-faced, and wearing a thin black overcoat, had entered
noiselessly from the lawn by the open window, and stood there, with his
finger upon his lips, indicating silence. Then he pointed outside, with
a commanding gesture that she should follow.
Her eyes met his in a glance of fierce resentment, and instinctively she
placed her hand upon her breast, as though to stay the beating of her
Again he pointed in silent authority, and she as though held in some
mysterious thraldom, made excuse to the blind man, and, rising, followed
in his noiseless footsteps.
SEALS OF DESTINY
Ten minutes later she returned, panting, her face pale and haggard, her
mouth hard-set. For a moment she stood in silence upon the threshold of
the open doors leading to the grounds, her hand pressed to her breast in
a strenuous endeavour to calm herself. She feared that her father might
detect her agitation, for he was so quick in discovering in her the
slightest unusual emotion. She glanced behind her with an expression
full of fear, as though dreading the reappearance of that man who had
compelled her to follow him out into the night. Then she looked at her
father, who, still seated motionless with his back to her, was busy with
his fingers upon something on the blotting-pad before him.
In that brief absence her countenance had entirely changed. She was pale
to the lips, with drawn brows, while about her mouth played a hard,
bitter expression, as though her mind were bent upon some desperate
That the man who had come there by stealth was no stranger was evident;
yet that between them was some deep-rooted enmity was equally apparent.
Nevertheless, he held her irresistibly within his toils. His
clean-shaven face was a distinctly evil one. His eyes were set too close
together, and in his physiognomy was something unscrupulous and
relentless. He was not the man for a woman to trust.
She stepped back from the threshold, and for a few seconds halted
outside, her ears strained to catch any sound. Then, as though
reassured, she pushed the chestnut hair from her hot, fevered brow, held
her breath with strenuous effort, and, re-entering the library, advanced
to her father's side.
"I wondered where you had gone, dear," he said in his low, calm voice,
as he detected her presence. "I hoped you would not leave me for long,
for it is not very often we enjoy an evening so entirely alone as
"Leave you, dear old dad! Why, of course not!" She laughed gaily, as
though nothing had occurred to disturb her peace of mind. "We were just
about to look at those seals Professor Moyes sent you to-day, weren't
we? Here they are;" and she placed them before the helpless and
afflicted man, endeavouring to remain undisturbed, and taking a chair at
his side, as was her habit when they sat together.
"Yes," he said cheerfully. "Let us see what they are."
The first of the yellow sulphur-casts which he examined bore the
full-length figure of an abbot, with mitre and crosier, in the act of
giving his blessing. Behind him were three circular towers with pointed
roofs surmounted by crosses, while around, in bold early Gothic letters,
ran the inscription
+ S. BENEDITI . ABBATIS . SANTI . AMBROSII . D'RANCIA +
Slowly and with great care his fingers travelled over the raised letters
and design of the oval cast. Then, having also examined the battered old
bronze matrix, he said, "A most excellent specimen, and in first-class
preservation, too! I wonder where it has been found? In Italy, without
"What do you make it out to be, dad?" asked the girl, seated in the
chair at his side and as interested in the little antiquity as he was
"Thirteenth century, my dear—early thirteenth century," he declared
without hesitation. "Genuine, quite genuine, no doubt. The matrix shows
signs of considerable wear. Is there much patina upon it?" he asked.
She turned it over, displaying that thick green corrosion which bronze
acquires only by great age.
"Yes, quite a lot, dad. The raised portion at the back is pierced by a
hole very much worn."
"Worn by the thong by which it was attached to the girdle of successive
abbots through centuries," he declared. "From its inscription, it is the
seal of the Abbot Benedict of the Monastery of St. Ambrose, of Rancia,
in Lombardy. Let me think, now. We should find the history of that house
probably in Sassolini's Memorials. Will you get it down, dear?—top
shelf of the fifth case, on the left."
Though blind, he knew just where he could put his hand upon all his most
cherished volumes, and woe betide any one who put a volume back in its
Gabrielle rose, and, obtaining the steps, reached down the great
leather-bound quarto book, which she carried to a reading-desk and at
once searched the index.
The work was in Italian, a language which she knew fairly well; and
after ten minutes or so, during which time the blind man continued
slowly to trace the inscription with his finger-tips, she said, "Here it
is, dad. 'Rancia, near Cremona. The religious brotherhood was founded
there in 1132, and the Abbot Benedict was third abbot, from 1218 to
1231. The church still exists. The magnificent pulpit in marble,
embellished with mosaics, presented in 1272, rests on six columns
supported by lions, with an inscription: "Nicolaus de Montava
marmorarius hoc opus fecit." Opposite it is the ambo (1272), in a
simple style, with a representation of Jonah being swallowed by a whale.
In the choir is the throne adorned by mosaics, and the Cappella di San
Pantaleone contains the blood of the saint, together with some relics of
the Abbot Benedict. The cloisters still exist, though, of course, the
monastery is now suppressed.'"
"And this," remarked Sir Henry, turning over the old bronze seal in his
hand, "belonged to the Abbot Ambrose six hundred and fifty years ago!"
"Yes, dad," declared the girl, returning to his side and taking the
matrix herself to examine it under the green-shaded reading-lamp. "The
study of seals is most interesting. It carries one back into the dim
ages. I hope the Professor will allow you to keep these casts for your
"Yes, I know he will," responded the old Baronet. "He is well aware what
a deep interest I take in my hobby."
"And also that you are one of the first authorities in the world upon
the subject," added his daughter.
The old man sighed. Would that he could see with his eyes once again;
for, after all, the sense of touch was but a poor substitute for that of
He drew towards him the impression of the second of the oval seals. The
centre was divided into two portions. Above was the half-length figure
of a saint holding a closed book in his hand, and below was a youth with
long hands in the act of adoration. Between them was a scroll upon which
was written: "Sc. Martine O.P.N.," while around the seal were the words
in Gothic characters:
+ SIGIL . HEINRICHI . PLEBANI . D' DOELSC'H +
"This is fourteenth century," pronounced the Baronet, "and is from
Dulcigno, on the Adriatic—the seal of Henry, the vicar of the church of
that place. From the engraving and style," he said, still fingering it
with great care, now and then turning to the matrix in order to satisfy
himself, "I should place it as having been executed about 1350. But it
is really a very beautiful specimen, done at a time when the art of
seal-engraving was at its height. No engraver could to-day turn out a
more ornate and at the same time bold design. Moyes is really very
fortunate in securing this. You must write, my dear, and ask him how
these latest treasures came into his hands."
At his request she got down another of the ponderous volumes of
Sassolini from the high shelf, and read to him, translating from the
Italian the brief notice of the ancient church of Dulcigno, which, it
appeared, had been built in the Lombard-Norman style of the eleventh
century, while the campanile, with columns from Paestum, dated from
The third seal, the circular one, was larger than the rest, being quite
two inches across. In the centre of the top half was the Madonna with
Child, seated, a male and female figure on either side. Below were three
female figures on either side, the two scenes being divided by a festoon
of flowers, while around the edge ran in somewhat more modern
characters—those of the early sixteenth century—the following:
+ SIGILLVM . VICARIS . GENERALIS . ORDINIS . BEATA . MARIA . D' MON .
"This," declared Sir Henry, after a long and most minute examination,
"is a treasure probably unequalled in the collection at Cambridge, being
the actual seal of the Vicar-General of the Carmelite order. Its date I
should place at about 1150. Look well, dear, at those flower garlands;
how beautifully they are engraved! Seal-making is, alas! to-day a lost
art. We have only crude and heavy attempts. The company seal seems
to-day the only thing the engraver can turn out—those machines which
emboss upon a big red wafer." And his busy fingers were continuously
feeling the great circular bronze matrix, and a moment afterwards its
He was an enthusiastic antiquary, and long ago, in the days when the
world was light, had read papers before the Society of Antiquaries at
Burlington House upon mediaeval seals and upon the early Latin codices.
Nowadays, however, Gabrielle acted as his eyes; and so devoted was she
to her father that she took a keen interest in his dry-as-dust hobbies,
so that after his long tuition she could decipher and read a
twelfth-century Latin manuscript, on its scrap of yellow, crinkled
parchment, and with all its puzzling abbreviations, almost as well as
any professor of palaeography at the universities, while inscriptions
upon Gothic seals were to her as plain as a paragraph in a newspaper.
More than once, white-haired, spectacled professors who came to
Glencardine as her father's guests were amazed at her intelligent
conversation upon points which were quite abstruse. Indeed, she had no
idea of the remarkable extent of her own antiquarian knowledge, all of
it gathered from the talented man whose affliction had kept her so close
at his side.
For quite an hour her father fingered the three seal-impressions,
discussing them with her in the language of a savant. She herself
examined them minutely and expressed opinions. Now and then she glanced
apprehensively to that open window. He pointed out to her where she was
wrong in her estimate of the design of the circular one, explaining a
technical and little-known detail concerning the seals of the Carmelite
From the window a cool breath of the night-wind came in, fanning the
curtains and carrying with it the sweet scent of the flowers without.
"How refreshing!" exclaimed the old man, drawing in a deep breath. "The
night is very close, Gabrielle, dear. I fear we shall have thunder."
"There was lightning only a moment ago," explained the girl. "Shall I
put the casts into your collection, dad?"
"Yes, dear. Moyes no doubt intends that I should keep them."
Gabrielle rose, and, passing across to a large cabinet with many shallow
drawers, she opened one, displaying a tray full of casts of seals, each
neatly arranged, with its inscription and translation placed beneath,
all in her own clear handwriting.
Some of the drawers contained the matrices as well as the casts; but as
matrices of mediaeval seals are rarities, and seldom found anywhere save
in the chief public museums, it is no wonder that the bulk of private
collections consist of impressions.
Presently, at the Baronet's suggestion, she closed and locked the
cabinet, and then took up a bundle of business documents, which she
commenced to sort out and arrange.
She acted as her father's private secretary, and therefore knew much of
his affairs. But many things were to her a complete mystery, be it said.
Though devoted to her father, she nevertheless sometimes became filled
with a vague suspicion that the source of his great income was not
altogether an open and honest one. The papers and letters she read to
him often contained veiled information which sorely puzzled her, and
which caused her many hours of wonder and reflection. Her father lived
alone, with only her as companion. Her stepmother, a young,
good-looking, and giddy woman, never dreamed the truth.
What would she do, how would she act, Gabrielle wondered, if ever she
gained sight of some of those private papers kept locked in the cavity
beyond the black steel door concealed by the false bookcase at the
farther end of the fine old restful room?
The papers she handled had been taken from the safe by Sir Henry
himself. And they contained a man's secret.
SOMETHING CONCERNING JAMES FLOCKART
In the spreading dawn the house party had returned from Connachan and
had ascended to their rooms, weary with the night's revelry, the men
with shirt-fronts crumpled and ties awry, the women with hair
disordered, and in some cases with flimsy skirts torn in the mazes of
the dance. Yet all were merry and full of satisfaction at what one young
man from town had declared to be "an awfully ripping evening." All
retired at once—all save the hostess and one of her male guests, the
man who had entered the library by stealth earlier in the evening and
had called Gabrielle outside.
Lady Heyburn and her visitor, James Flockart, had managed to slip away
from the others, and now stood together in the library, into which the
grey light of dawn was at that moment slowly creeping.
He drew up one of the blinds to admit the light; and there, away over
the hills beyond, the glen showed the red flush that heralded the sun's
coming. Then, returning to where stood the young and attractive woman in
pale pink chiffon, with diamonds on her neck and a star in her fair
hair, he looked her straight in the face and asked, "Well, and what have
She raised her eyes to his, but made no reply. She was hesitating.
The gems upon her were heirlooms of the Heyburn family, and in that grey
light looked cold and glassy. The powder and the slight touch of carmine
upon her cheeks, which at night had served to heighten her beauty, now
gave her an appearance of painted artificiality. She was undeniably a
pretty woman, and surely required no artificial aids to beauty. About
thirty-three, yet she looked five years younger; while her husband was
twenty years senior to herself. She still retained a figure so girlish
that most people took her for Gabrielle's elder sister, while in the
matter of dress she was admitted in society to be one of the leaders of
fashion. Her hair was of that rare copper-gold tint, her features
regular, with a slightly protruding chin, soft eyes, and cheeks perfect
in their contour. Society knew her as a gay, reckless, giddy woman, who,
regardless of the terrible affliction which had fallen upon the
brilliant man who was her husband, surrounded herself with a circle of
friends of the same type as herself, and who thoroughly enjoyed her life
regardless of any gossip or of the malignant statements by women who
Men were fond of "Winnie Heyburn," as they called her, and always voted
her "good fun." They pitied poor Sir Henry; but, after all, he was
blind, and preferred his hobbies of collecting old seals and dusty
parchment manuscripts to dances, bridge-parties, theatres, aero shows at
Ranelagh, and suppers at the Carlton or Savoy.
Like most wealthy women of her type, she had a wide circle of male
friends. Younger men declared her to be "a real pal," and with some of
the older beaux she would flirt and be amused by their flattering
Gabrielle's mother, the second daughter of Lord Buckhurst, had been dead
several years when the brilliant politician met his second wife at a
garden-party at Dollis Hill. She was daughter of a man named Lambert, a
paper manufacturer, who acted as political agent in the town of Bedford;
and she was, therefore, essentially a country cousin. Her beauty was,
however, remarked everywhere. The Baronet was struck by her, and within
three months they were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, the
world congratulating her upon a very excellent match. From the very
first, however, the difference in the ages of husband and wife proved a
barrier. Ere the honeymoon was over she found that her husband, tied by
his political engagements and by his eternal duties at the House, was
unable to accompany her out of an evening; hence from the very first
they had drifted apart, until, eight months later, the terrible
affliction of blindness fell upon him.
For a time this drew her back to him. She was his constant and dutiful
companion everywhere, leading him hither and thither, and attending to
his wants; but very soon the tie bored her, and the attractions of
society once again proved too great. Hence for the past nine
years—Gabrielle being at school, first at Eastbourne and afterwards at
Amiens—she had amused herself and left her husband to his dry-as-dust
hobbies and the loneliness of his black and sunless world.
The man who had just put that curious question to her was perhaps her
closest friend. To her he owed everything, though the world was in
ignorance of the fact. That they were friends everybody knew. Indeed,
they had been friends years ago in Bedford, before her marriage, for
James was the only son of the Reverend Henry Flockart, vicar of one of
the parishes in the town. People living in Bedford recollected that the
parson's son had turned out rather badly, and had gone to America. But a
year or two after that the quiet-mannered old clergyman had died, the
living had been given to a successor, and Bedford knew the name of
Flockart no more. After Winifred's marriage, however, London society—or
rather a gay section of it—became acquainted with James Flockart, who
lived at ease in his pretty bachelor-rooms in Half-Moon Street, and who
soon gathered about him a large circle of male acquaintances. Sir Henry
knew him, and raised no objection to his wife's friendship towards him.
They had been boy and girl together; therefore what more natural than
that they should be friends in later life?
In her schooldays Gabrielle knew practically nothing of this man; but
now she had returned to be her father's companion she had met him, and
had bitter cause to hate both him and Lady Heyburn. It was her own
secret. She kept it to herself. She hid the truth from her father—from
every one. She watched closely and in patience. One day she would speak
and tell the truth. Until then, she resolved to keep to herself all that
"Well?" asked the man with the soft-pleated shirt-front and white
waistcoat smeared with cigarette-ash. "What have you decided?" he asked
"I've decided nothing," was her blank answer.
"But you must. Don't be a silly fool," he urged. "You've surely had time
to think over it?"
"No, I haven't."
"The girl knows nothing. So what have you to fear?" he endeavoured to
Lady Heyburn shrugged her shoulders. "How can you prove that she knows
"Oh, she has eyes for nobody but the old man," he laughed. "To-night is
an example. Why, she wouldn't come to Connachan, even though she knew
that Walter was there. She preferred to spend the evening here with her
"She's a little fool, of course, Jimmy," replied the woman in pink; "but
perhaps it was as well that she didn't come. I hate to have to chaperon
the chit. It makes me look so horribly old."
"I wish to goodness the girl was out of the way!" he declared. "She's
sharper than we think, and, by Jove! if ever she did know what was in
progress it would be all up for both of us—wouldn't it? Phew! think of
"If I thought she had the slightest suspicion," declared her ladyship
with a sudden hardness of her lips, "I'd—I'd close her mouth very
"And for ever, eh?" he asked meaningly.
"Yes, for ever."
"Bah!" he laughed. "You'd be afraid to do that, my dear Winnie," added
the man, lowering his voice. "Your husband is blind, it's true; but
there are other people in the world who are not. Recollect, Gabrielle is
now nineteen, and she has her eyes open. She's the eyes and ears of Sir
Henry. Not the slightest thing occurs in this household but it is told
to him at once. His indifference to all is only a clever pretence."
"What!" she gasped quickly; "do you think he suspects?"
"Pray, what can he suspect?" asked the man very calmly, both hands in
his trouser-pockets, as he leaned back against the table in front of
"He can only suspect things which his daughter knows," she said.
"But what does she know? What can she know?" he asked.
"How can we tell? I have watched, but can detect nothing. I am, however,
suspicious, because she did not come to Connachan with us to-night."
"Walter Murie may know something, and may have told her."
"If so, then to close her lips would be useless. It would only bring a
heavier responsibility upon us—and——" But he hesitated, without
finishing his sentence. His meaning was apparent from the wry face she
pulled at his remark. He did not tell her how he had, while she had been
dancing and flirting that night, made his way back to the castle, or how
he had compelled Gabrielle to go forth and speak with him. His action
had been a bold one, yet its result had confirmed certain vague
suspicions he had held.
Well he knew that the girl hated him heartily, and that she was in
possession of a certain secret of his—one which might easily result in
his downfall. He feared to tell the truth to this woman before him, for
if he did so she would certainly withdraw from all association with him
in order to save herself.
The key to the whole situation was held by that slim, sweet-faced girl,
so devoted to her afflicted father. He was not quite certain as to the
actual extent of her knowledge, and was as yet undecided as to what
attitude he should adopt towards her. He stood between the Baronet's
wife and his daughter, and hesitated in which direction to follow.
What did she really know, he wondered. Had she overheard any of that
serious conversation between Lady Heyburn and himself while they walked
together in the glen on the previous evening? Such a contretemps was
surely impossible, for he remembered they had taken every precaution
lest even Stewart, the head gamekeeper, might be about in order to stop
trespassers, who, attracted by the beauties of Glencardine, tried to
penetrate and explore them, and by so doing disturbed the game.
"And if the girl really knows?" he asked of the woman who stood there
motionless, gazing out across the lawn fixedly towards the dawn.
"If she knows, James," she said in a hard, decisive tone, "then we must
act together, quickly and fearlessly. We must carry out that—that plan
you proposed a year ago!"
"You are quite fearless, then," he asked, looking straight into her fine
"Fearless? Of course I am," she answered unflinchingly. "We must get rid
"Providing we can do so without any suspicion falling upon us."
"You seem to have become quite white-livered," she exclaimed to him with
a harsh, derisive laugh. "You were not so a year ago—in the other
His brows contracted as he reflected upon all it meant to him. The girl
knew something; therefore, to seal her lips was imperative for their own
safety. She was their enemy.
"You are mistaken," he answered in a low calm voice. "I am just as
determined—just as fearless—as I was then."
"And you will do it?" she asked.
"If it is your wish," he replied simply.
"Good! Give me your hand. We are agreed. It shall be done."
And the man took the slim white hand the woman held out to him, and a
moment later they ascended the great oak staircase to their respective
The pair were in accord. The future contained for Gabrielle
Heyburn—asleep and all unconscious of the dastardly conspiracy—only
that which must be hideous, tragic, fatal.
THE MURIES OF CONNACHAN
Elise, Lady Heyburn's French maid, discovered next morning that an
antique snake-bracelet was missing, a loss which occasioned great
consternation in the household.
Breakfast was late, and at table, when the loss was mentioned, Gabrielle
offered to drive over to Connachan in the car and make inquiry and
search. The general opinion was that it had been dropped in one of the
rooms, and was probably still lying there undiscovered.
The girl's offer was accepted, and half an hour later the smaller of the
two Glencardine cars—the "sixteen" Fiat—was brought round to the door
by Stokes, the smart chauffeur. Young Gellatly, fresh down from Oxford,
begged to be allowed to go with her, and his escort was accepted.
Then, in motor-cap and champagne-coloured dust-veil, Gabrielle mounted
at the wheel, with the young fellow at her side and Stokes in the back,
and drove away down the long avenue to the high-road.
The car was her delight. Never so happy was she as when, wrapped in her
leather-lined motor-coat, she drove the "sixteen." The six-cylinder
"sixty" was too powerful for her, but with the "sixteen" she ran
half-over Scotland, and was quite a common object on the Perth to
Stirling road. Possessed of nerve and full of self-confidence, she could
negotiate traffic in Edinburgh or Glasgow, and on one occasion had
driven her father the whole way from Glencardine up to London, a
distance of four hundred and fifty miles. Her fingers pressed the button
of the electric horn as they descended the sharp incline to the
lodge-gates; and, turning into the open road, she was soon speeding
along through Auchterarder village, skirted Tullibardine Wood, down
through Braco, and along by the Knaik Water and St. Patrick's Well into
Glen Artney, passing under the dark shadow of Dundurn, until there came
into view the broad waters of Loch Earn.
The morning was bright and cloudless, and at such a pace they went that
a perfect wall of dust stood behind them.
From the margin of the loch the ground rose for a couple of miles until
it reached a plateau upon which stood the fine, imposing Priory, the
ancestral seat of the Muries of Connachan. The aspect as they drove up
was very imposing. The winding road was closely planted with trees for a
large portion of its course, and the stately front of the western
entrance, with its massive stone portico and crenulated cornice, burst
unexpectedly upon them.
From that point of view one seemed to have reached the gable-end of a
princely edifice, crowned with Gothic belfries; yet on looking round it
was seen that the approach by which the doorway had been reached was
lined on one side with buildings hidden behind the clustering foliage;
and through the archway on the left one caught a glimpse of the
ivy-covered clock-tower and spacious stable-yard and garage extending
northwards for a considerable distance.
Gabrielle ran the car round to the south side of the house, where in the
foreground were the well-kept parks of Connachan, the smooth-shaven lawn
fringed with symmetrically planted trees, and the fertile fields
extending away to the very brink of the loch.
The original fortalice of the Muries, half a mile distant, was, like
Glencardine, a ruin. The present Priory, notwithstanding its
old-fashioned towers and lancet windows, was a comparatively modern
structure, and the ivy which partially covered some of the windows could
claim no great antiquity; yet the general effect of the architectural
grouping was most pleasing, and might well deceive the visitor or
tourist into the supposition that it belonged to a very remote period.
It was, as a matter of fact, the work of Atkinson, who in the first
years of the nineteenth century built Scone, Abbotsford, and Taymouth
With loud warning blasts upon the horn, Gabrielle Heyburn pulled up; but
ere she could descend, Walter Murie, a good-looking, dark-haired young
man in grey flannels, and hatless, was outside, hailing her with
"Hallo, Gabrielle!" he cried cheerily, taking her hand, "what brings you
over this morning, especially when we were told last night that you were
so very ill?"
"The illness has passed," exclaimed young Gellatly, shaking his friend's
hand. "And we're now in search of a lost bracelet—one of Lady
"Why, my mother was just going to wire! One of the maids found it in the
boudoir this morning, but we didn't know to whom it belonged. Come
inside. There are a lot of people staying over from last night." Then,
turning to Gabrielle, he added, "By Jove! what dust there must be on the
road! You're absolutely covered."
"Well," she laughed lightly, "it won't hurt me, I suppose. I'm not
afraid of it."
Stokes took charge of the car and shut off the petrol, while the three
went inside, passing into a long, cool cloister, down which was arranged
the splendid collection of antiques discovered or acquired by Malcolm
Murie, the well-known antiquary, who had spent many years in Italy, and
died in 1794. In cases ranged down each side of the long cloister, with
its antique carved chairs, armour, and statuary, were rare Etruscan and
Roman terra-cottas, one containing relics from the tomb of a warrior,
which included a sword-hilt adorned with gold and a portion of a golden
crown formed of lilies in relievo of pure gold laid upon a mould of
bronze; another case was full of bronze ornaments unearthed near Albano,
and still another contained rare Abyssinian curios. The collection was
renowned among antiquaries, and was often visited by Sir Henry, who
would be brought there in the car by Gabrielle, and spend hours alone
fingering the objects in the various cases.
Sir George Murie and Sir Henry Heyburn were close friends; therefore it
was but natural that Walter, the heir to the Connachan estate, and
Gabrielle should often be thrown into each other's company, or perhaps
that the young man—who for the past twelve months had been absent on a
tour round the world—should have loved her ever since the days when she
wore short skirts and her hair down her back. He had been sorely puzzled
why she had not at the last moment come to the ball. She had promised
that she would be with them, and yet she had made the rather lame excuse
of a headache.
Truth to tell, Walter Murie had during the past week been greatly
puzzled at her demeanour of indifference. Seven days ago he had arrived
in London from New York, but found no letter from her awaiting him at
the club, as he had expected. The last he had received in Detroit a
month before, and it was strangely cold, and quite unusual. Two days ago
he had arrived home, and in secret she had met him down at the end of
the glen at Glencardine. At her wish, their first meeting had been
Both their families knew of their mutual affection. Therefore, why
should she now make a secret of their meeting after twelve months'
separation? He was puzzled at her note, and he was further puzzled at
her attitude towards him. She was cold and unresponsive. When he held
her in his arms and kissed her soft lips, she only once returned his
passionate caress, and then as though it were a duty forced upon her.
She had, however, promised to come to the ball. That promise she had
Though he could not understand her, he made pretence of unconcern. He
regretted that she had not felt well last night—that was all.
At the end of the cloister young Gellatly found one of Lady Murie's
guests, a girl named Violet Priest, with whom he had danced a good deal
on the previous night, and at once attached himself to her, leaving
Walter with the sweet-faced, slim-waisted object of his affections.
The moment they were alone in the long cloister he asked her quickly,
"Tell me, Gabrielle, the real reason why you did not come last night. I
had looked forward very much to seeing you. But I was disappointed
"I am very sorry," she laughed, with assumed nonchalance; "but I had to
assist my father with some business papers."
"Your mother told everyone that you do not care for dancing," he said.
"That is untrue, Walter. I love dancing."
"I knew it was untrue, dearest," he said, standing before her. "But why
does Lady Heyburn go out of her way to throw cold water upon you and all
"How should I know?" asked the girl, with a slight shrug. "Perhaps it is
because my father places more confidence in me than in her."
"And his confidence is surely not misplaced," he said. "I tell you
frankly that I don't like Lady Heyburn."
"She pretends to like you."
"Pretends!" he echoed. "Yes, it's all pretence. But," he added, "do tell
me the real reason of your absence last night, Gabrielle. It has worried
"Why worry, my dear Walter? Is it really worth troubling over? I'm only
a girl, and, as such, am allowed vagaries of nerves—and all that. I
simply didn't want to come, that's all."
"Well, to tell you the truth, I hate the crowd we have staying in our
house. They are all mother's friends; and mother's friends are never
mine, you know."
He looked at her slim figure, so charming in its daintiness. "What a
dear little philosopher you've grown to be in a single year!" he
declared. "We shall have you quoting Friedrich Nietzsche next."
"Well," she laughed, "if you would like me to quote him I can do so. I
read Zarathustra secretly at school. One of the girls got a copy from
Germany. Do you remember what Zarathustra says: 'Verily, ye could wear
no better masks, ye present-day men, than your own faces,' Who could
"I hope that's not meant to be personal," he laughed, gazing at the
girl's beautiful countenance and great, luminous eyes.
"You may take it as you like," she declared with a delightfully
mischievous smile. "I only quoted it to show you that I have read
Nietzsche, and recollect his many truths."
"You certainly do seem to have a gay house-party at Glencardine," he
remarked, changing the subject. "I noticed Jimmy Flockart there as
"Yes. He's one of mother's greatest friends. She makes good use of him
in every way. Up in town they are inseparable, it seems. They knew each
other, I believe, when they were boy and girl."
"So I've heard," replied the young man thoughtfully, leaning against a
big glass case containing a collection of lares and penates—images
of Jupiter, Hercules, Mercury, &c., used as household gods. "I expected
that he would be dancing attendance upon her during the whole of the
evening; but, curiously enough, soon after his arrival he suddenly
disappeared, and was not seen again until nearly two o'clock." Then,
looking straight in the girl's fathomless eye, he added, "Do you know,
Gabrielle, I don't like that fellow. Beware of him."
"Neither do I. But your warning is quite unnecessary, I assure you. He
doesn't interest me in the least."
Walter Murie was silent for a moment, silent as though in doubt. A
shadow crossed his well-cut features, but only for a single second. Then
he smiled again upon the fair-faced, soft-spoken girl whom he loved so
honestly and so well, the woman who was all in all to him. How could he
doubt her—she who only a year ago had, out yonder in the park, given
him her pledge of affection, and sealed it with her hot, passionate
kisses? Remembrance of those sweet caresses still lingered with him. But
he doubted her. Yes, he could not conceal from himself certain very ugly
facts—facts within his own knowledge. Yet was not his own poignant
jealousy misleading him? Was not her refusal to attend the ball perhaps
due to some sudden pique or unpleasantness with her giddy stepmother?
Was it? He only longed to be able to believe that it might be so. Alas!
however, he had discovered the shadow of a strange and disagreeable
CONCERNS GABRIELLE'S SECRET
Along the cloister they went to the great hall, where Walter's mother
advanced to greet her. Full of regrets at the girl's inability to attend
the dance, she handed her the missing bracelet, saying, "It is such a
curious and unusual one, dear, that we wondered to whom it belonged.
Brown found it when she was sweeping my boudoir this morning. Take it
home to your mother, and suggest that she has a stronger clasp put on
The girl held the golden snake in her open hand. This was the first time
she had ever seen it. A fine example of old Italian workmanship, it was
made flexible, with its flat head covered with diamonds, and two bright
emeralds for the eyes. The mouth could be opened, and within was a small
cavity where a photo or any tiny object could be concealed. Where her
mother had picked it up she could not tell. But Lady Heyburn was always
purchasing quaint odds and ends, and, like most giddy women of her
class, was extraordinarily fond of fantastic jewellery and ornaments
such as other women did not possess.
Several members of the house-party at Connachan entered and chatted, all
being full of the success of the previous night's entertainment. Lady
Murie's husband had, it appeared, left that morning for Edinburgh to
attend a political committee.
A little later Walter succeeded in getting Gabrielle alone again in a
small, well-furnished room leading off the library—a room in which she
had passed many happy hours with him before he had gone abroad. He had
been in London reading for the Bar, but had spent a good deal of his
time up in Perthshire, or at least all he possibly could. At such times
they were inseparable; but after he had been "called"—there being no
necessity for him to practise, he being heir to the estates—he had gone
to India and Japan "to broaden his mind," as his father had explained.
"I wonder, Gabrielle," he said hesitatingly, holding her hand as they
stood at the open window—"I wonder if you will forgive me if I put a
question to you. I—I know I ought not to ask it," he stammered; "but it
is only because I love you so well, dearest, that I ask you to tell me
"The truth!" echoed the girl, looking at him with some surprise, though
turning just a trifle paler, he thought. "The truth about what?"
"About that man James Flockart," was his low, distinct reply.
"About him! Why, my dear Walter," she laughed, "whatever do you want to
know about him? You know all that I know. We were agreed long ago that
he is not a gentleman, weren't we?"
"Yes," he said. "Don't you recollect our talk at your house in London
two years ago, soon after you came back from school? Do you remember
what you then told me?"
She flushed slightly at the recollection. "I—I ought not to have said
that," she exclaimed hurriedly. "I was only a girl then, and I—well, I
"What you said has never passed my lips, dearest. Only, I ask you again
to-day to tell me honestly and frankly whether your opinion of him has
in any way changed. I mean whether you still believe what you then
She was silent for a few moments. Her lips twitched nervously, and her
eyes stared blankly out of the window. "No, I repeat what—I—said
—then," she answered in a strange hoarse voice.
"And only you yourself suspect the truth?"
"You are the only person to whom I have mentioned it, and I have been
filled with regret ever since. I had no right to make the allegation,
Walter. I should have kept my secret to myself."
"There was surely no harm in telling me, dearest," he exclaimed, still
holding her hand, and looking fixedly into those clear-blue, fathomless
eyes so very dear to him. "You know too well that I would never betray
"But if he knew—if that man ever knew," she cried, "he would avenge
himself upon me! I know he would."
"But what have you to fear, little one?" he asked, surprised at the
sudden change in her.
"You know how my mother hates me, how they all detest me—all except
dear old dad, who is so terribly helpless, misled, defrauded, and
tricked—as he daily is—by those about him."
"I know, darling," said the young man. "I know it all only too well.
Trust in me;" and, bending, he kissed her softly upon the lips.
What was the real, the actual truth, he wondered. Was she still his, as
she had ever been, or was she playing him false?
Little did the girl dream of the extent of her lover's knowledge of
certain facts which she was hiding from the world, vainly believing them
to be her own secret. Little did she dream how very near she was to
Walter Murie had, after a frivolous youth, developed at the age of
six-and-twenty into as sound, honest, and upright a young man as could
be found beyond the Border. As full of high spirits as of high
principles, he was in every way worthy the name of the gallant family
whose name he bore, a Murie of Connachan, both for physical strength and
scrupulous honesty; while his affection for Gabrielle Heyburn was that
deep, all-absorbing devotion which makes men sacrifice themselves for
the women they love. He was not very demonstrative. He never wore his
heart upon his sleeve, but deep within him was that true affection which
caused him to worship her as his idol. To him she was peerless among
women, and her beauty was unequalled. Her piquant mischievousness amused
him. As a girl, she had always been fond of tantalising him, and did so
now. Yet he knew her fine character; how deeply devoted she was to her
afflicted father, and how full of discomfort was her dull life, now that
she had exchanged her school for the same roof which covered Sir Henry's
second wife. Indeed, this latter event was the common talk of all who
knew the family. They sighed and pitied poor Sir Henry. It was all very
sad, they said; but there their sympathy ended. During Walter's absence
abroad something had occurred. What that something was he had not yet
determined. Gabrielle was not exactly the same towards him as she used
to be. His keen sensitiveness told him this instinctively, and, indeed,
he had made a discovery that, though he did not admit it now, had
He stood there at the open window chatting with her, but what he said he
had no idea. His one thought—the one question which now possessed
him—was whether she still loved him, or whether the discovery he had
made was the actual and painful truth. Tall and good-looking,
clean-shaven, and essentially easy-going, he stood before her with his
dark eyes fixed upon her—eyes full of devotion, for was she not his
She was telling him of a garden-party which her mother had arranged for
the following Thursday, and pressing him to attend it.
"I'm afraid I may have to be in London that day, dearest," he responded.
"But if I may I'll come over to-morrow and play tennis. Will you be at
home in the afternoon?"
"No," she declared promptly, with a mischievous laugh, "I shan't. I
shall be in the glen by the first bridge at four o'clock, and shall wait
for you there."
"Very well, I'll be there," he laughed. "But why should we meet in
secret like this, when everybody knows of our engagement?"
"Well, because I have a reason," she replied in a strained voice—"a
"You've grown suddenly shy, afraid of chaff, it seems."
"My mother is, I fear, not altogether well disposed towards you,
Walter," was her quick response. "Dad is very fond of you, as you well
know; but Lady Heyburn has other views for me, I think."
"And is that the only reason you wish to meet me in secret?" he asked.
She hesitated, became slightly confused, and quickly turned the
conversation into a different channel, a fact which caused him increased
doubt and reflection.
Yes, something certainly had occurred. That was vividly apparent. A gulf
lay between them.
Again he looked straight into her beautiful face, and fell to wondering.
What could it all mean? So true had she been to him, so sweet her
temperament, so high all her ideals, that he could not bring himself to
believe ill of her. He tried to fight down those increasing doubts. He
tried to put aside the naked truth which had arisen before him since his
return to England. He loved her. Yes, he loved her, and would think no
ill of her until he had proof, actual and indisputable.
As far as the eligibility of Walter Murie was concerned there was no
question. Even Lady Heyburn could not deny it when she discussed the
matter over the tea-cups with her intimate friends.
The family of the Muries of Connachan claimed a respectable antiquity.
The original surname of the family was De Balinhard, assumed from an
estate of that name in the county of Forfar. Sir Jocelynus de
Baldendard, or Balinhard, who witnessed several charters between 1204
and 1225, is the first recorded of the name, but there is no documentary
proof of descent before that time; and, indeed, most of the family
papers having been burned in 1452, little remains of the early history
beyond the names and succession of the possessors of Balinhard from
about 1250 till 1350, which are stated in a charter of David II. now
preserved in the British Museum. This charter records the grant made by
William de Maule to John de Balinhard, filio et heredi quondam Joannis
filii Christini filii Joannis de Balinhard, of the lands of Murie, in
the county of Perthshire, and from that period, about 1350, the family
has borne the name of De Murie instead of De Balinhard. In 1409 Duthac
de Murie obtained a charter of the Castle of Connachan, possession of
which has been held by the family uninterruptedly ever since, except for
about thirty years, when the lands were under forfeiture on account of
the Rebellion of 1715.
Near Crieff Junction station the lands of Glencardine and Connachan
march together; therefore both Sir Henry Heyburn and his friend, Sir
George Murie, had looked upon an alliance between the two houses as
quite within the bounds of probability.
If the truth were told, Gabrielle had never looked upon any other man
save Walter with the slightest thought of affection. She loved him with
the whole strength of her being. During that twelve long months of
absence he had been daily in her thoughts, and his constant letters she
had read and re-read dozens of times. She had, since she left school,
met many eligible young men at houses to which her mother had grudgingly
taken her—young men who had been nice to her, flattered her, and
flirted with her. But she had treated them all with coquettish disdain,
for in the world there was but one man who was her lover and her
hero—her old friend Walter Murie.
At this moment, as they were together in that cosy, well-furnished room,
she became seized by a twinge of conscience. She knew quite well that
she was not treating him as she ought. She had not been at all
enthusiastic at his return, and she had inquired but little about his
wanderings. Indeed, she had treated him with a studied indifference, as
though his life concerned her but little. And yet if he only knew the
truth, she thought; if he could only see that that cool, unresponsive
attitude was forced upon her by circumstances; if he could only know how
quickly her heart throbbed when he was present, and how dull and lonely
all became when he was absent!
She loved him. Ah, yes! as truly and devotedly as he loved her. But
between them there had fallen a dark, grim shadow—one which, at all
hazards and by every subterfuge, she must endeavour to hide. She loved
him, and could, therefore, never bear to hear his bitter reproaches or
to witness his grief. He worshipped her. Would that he did not, she
thought. She must hide her secret from him as she was hiding it from all
He was speaking. She answered him calmly yet mechanically. He wondered
what strange thoughts were concealed beneath those clear, wide-open,
child-like eyes which he was trying in vain to fathom. What would he
have thought had he known the terrible truth: that she had calmly, and
after long reflection, resolved to court death—death by her own
hand—rather than face the exposure with which she had that previous
night been threatened.
CONTAINS CURIOUS CONFIDENCES
A week had gone by. Stewart, the lean, thin-faced head-keeper, who spoke
with such a strong accent that guests from the South often failed to
understand him, and who never seemed to sleep, so vigilant was he over
the Glencardine shootings, had reported the purchase of a couple of new
Therefore, one morning Lady Heyburn and her constant cavalier, Flockart,
had walked across to the kennels close to the castle to inspect them.
At the end of the big, old-fashioned stable-yard, with grey stone
outbuildings ranged down either side, and the ancient mounting-block a
conspicuous object, were ranged the modern iron kennels full of pointers
and spaniels. In that big, old, paved quadrangle, the cobbles of which
were nowadays stained by the oil of noisy motor-cars, many a Graham of
Glencardine had mounted to ride into Stirling or Edinburgh, or to drive
in his coach to far-off London. The stables were now empty, but the
garage adjoining, whence came the odour of petrol, contained the two
Glencardine cars, besides three others belonging to members of that
merry, irresponsible house-party.
The inspection of the pointers was a mere excuse on her ladyship's part
to be alone with Flockart.
She wished to speak with him, and with that object suggested that they
should take the by-road which, crossing one of the main roads through
the estate, led through a leafy wood away to a railway level-crossing
half a mile off. The road was unfrequented, and they were not likely to
meet any of the guests, for some were away fishing, others had motored
into Stirling, and at least three had walked down into Auchterarder to
take a telegram for their blind host.
"Well, my dear Jimmy," asked the well-preserved, fair-haired woman in
short brown skirt and fresh white cotton blouse and sun-hat, "what have
"Very little," replied the easy-going man, who wore a suit of rough
heather-tweed and a round cloth fishing-hat. "My information is
unfortunately very meagre. You have watched carefully. Well, what have
you found out?"
"That she's just as much in love with him as before—the little fool!"
"And I suppose he's just as devoted to her as ever—eh?"
"Of course. Since you've been away these last few days he's been over
here from Connachan, on one pretext or another, every day. Of course
I've been compelled to ask him to lunch, for I can't afford to quarrel
with his people, although I hate the whole lot of them. His mother gives
herself such airs, and his father is the most terrible old bore in the
"But the match would be an advantageous one—wouldn't it?" suggested the
man strolling at her side, and he stopped to light a cigarette which he
took from a golden case.
"Advantageous! Of course it would! But we can't afford to allow it, my
dear Jimmy. Think what such an alliance would mean to us!"
"To you, you mean."
"To you also. An ugly revelation might result, remember. Therefore it
must not be allowed. While Walter was abroad all was pretty plain
sailing. Lots of the letters she wrote him I secured from the post-box,
read them, and afterwards burned them. But now he's back there is a
distinct peril. He's a cute young fellow, remember."
Flockart smiled. "We must discover a means by which to part them," he
said slowly but decisively. "I quite agree with you that to allow the
matter to go any further would be to court disaster. We have a good many
enemies, you and I, Winnie—many who would only be too pleased and eager
to rake up that unfortunate episode. And I, for one, have no desire to
figure in a criminal dock."
"Nor have I," she declared quickly.
"But if I went there you would certainly accompany me," he said, looking
straight at her.
"What!" she gasped in quick dismay. "You would tell the truth and—and
"I would not; but no doubt there are others who would," was his answer.
For a few moments her arched brows were knit, and she remained silent.
Her reflections were uneasy ones. She and the man at her side, who for
years had been her confidant and friend, were both in imminent peril of
exposure. Their relations had always been purely platonic; therefore she
was not afraid of any allegation against her honour. What her enemies
had said were lies—all of them. Her fear lay in quite a different
Her poor, blind, helpless husband was in ignorance of that terrible
chapter of her own life—a chapter which she had believed to be closed
for ever, and yet which was, by means of a chain of unexpected
circumstances, in imminent danger of being reopened.
"Well," she inquired at last in a blank voice, "and who are those others
who, you believe, would be prepared to denounce me?"
"Certain persons who envy you your position, and who, perhaps, think
that you do not treat poor old Sir Henry quite properly."
"But I do treat him properly!" she declared vehemently. "If he prefers
the society of that chit of a girl of his to mine, how can I possibly
help it? Besides, people surely must know that, to me, the society of a
blind old man is not exactly conducive to gaiety. I would only like to
put those women who malign me into my place for a single year. Perhaps
they would become even more reckless of the convenances than I am!"
"My dear Winnie," he said, "what's the use of discussing such an old and
threadbare theme? Things are not always what they seem, as the man with
a squint said when he thought he saw two sovereigns where there was but
one. The point before us is the girl's future."
"It lies in your hands," was her sharp reply.
"No; in yours. I have promised to look after Walter Murie."
"But how can I act?" she asked. "The little hussy cares nothing for
me—only sees me at table, and spends the whole of her day with her
"Act as I suggested last week," was his rejoinder. "If you did that the
old man would turn her out of the place, and the rest would be easy
"Ah!" he laughed derisively, "I see you've some sympathy with the girl
after all. Very well, take the consequences. It is she who will be your
deadliest enemy, remember; she who, if the disaster falls, will give
evidence against you. Therefore, you'd best act now, ere it's too late.
Unless, of course, you are in fear of her."
"I don't fear her!" cried the woman, her eyes flashing defiance. "Why do
you taunt me like this? You haven't told me yet what took place on the
night of the ball."
"Nothing. The mystery is just as complete as ever."
"She defied you—eh?"
Her companion nodded.
"Then how do you now intend to act?"
"That's just the question I was about to put to you," he said. "There is
a distinct peril—one which becomes graver every moment that the girl
and young Murie are together. How are we to avert it?"
"By parting them."
"Then act as I suggested the other day. It's the only way, Winnie,
depend upon it—the only way to secure our own safety."
"And what would the world say of me, her stepmother, if it were known
that I had done such a thing?"
"You've never yet cared for what the world said. Why should you care
now? Besides, it never will be known. I should be the only person in the
secret, and for my own sake it isn't likely that I'd give you away. Is
it? You've trusted me before," he added; "why not again?"
"It would break my husband's heart," she declared in a low, intense
voice. "Remember, he is devoted to her. He would never recover from the
"And yet the other night after the ball you said you were prepared to
carry out the suggestion, in order to save yourself," he remarked with a
"Perhaps I was piqued that she should defy my suggestion that she should
go to the ball."
"No, you were not. You never intended her to go. That you know."
When he spoke to her this man never minced matters. The woman was held
by him in a strange thraldom which surprised many people; yet to all it
was a mystery. The world knew nothing of the fact that James Flockart
was without a penny, and that he lived—and lived well, too—upon the
charity of Lady Heyburn. Two thousand pounds were placed, in secret,
every year to his credit from her ladyship's private account at
Coutts's, besides which he received odd cheques from her whenever his
needs required. To his friends he posed as an easy-going man-about-town,
in possession of an income not large, but sufficient to supply him with
both comforts and luxuries. He usually spent the London season in his
cosy chambers in Half-Moon Street; the winter at Monte Carlo or at
Cairo; the summer at Aix, Vichy, or Marienbad; and the autumn in a
series of visits to houses in Scotland.
He was not exactly a ladies' man. Courtly, refined, and a splendid
linguist, as he was, the girls always voted him great fun; but from the
elder ones, and from married women especially, he somehow held himself
aloof. His one woman-friend, as everybody knew, was the flighty,
go-ahead Lady Heyburn.
Of the country-house party he was usually the life and soul. No man
could invent so many practical jokes or carry them on with such
refinement of humour as he. Therefore, if the hostess wished to impart
merriment among her guests, she sought out and sent a pressing
invitation to "Jimmy" Flockart. A first-class shot, an excellent
tennis-player, a good golfer, and quite a good hand at putting a stone
in curling, he was an all-round sportsman who was sure to be highly
popular with his fellow-guests. Hence up in the north his advent was
always welcomed with loud approbation.
To those who knew him, and knew him well, this confidential conversation
with the woman whose platonic friendship he had enjoyed through so many
years would certainly have caused greatest surprise. That he was a
schemer was entirely undreamed of. That he was attracted by "Winnie
Heyburn" was declared to be only natural, in view of the age and
affliction of her own husband. Cases such as hers are often regarded
with a very lenient eye.
They had reached the level-crossing where, beside the line of the
Caledonian Railway, stands the mail-apparatus by which the down-mail for
Euston picks up the local bag without stopping, while the up-mail drops
its letters and parcels into the big, strong net. For a few moments they
halted to watch the dining-car express for Euston pass with a roar and a
crash as she dashed down the incline towards Crieff Junction.
Then, as they turned again towards the house, he suddenly exclaimed,
"Look here, Winnie. We've got to face the music now. Every day increases
our peril. If you are actually afraid to act as I suggest, then tell me
frankly and I'll know what to do. I tell you quite openly that I have
neither desire nor intention to be put into a hole by this confounded
girl. She has defied me; therefore she must take the consequences."
"How do you know that your action the other night has not aroused her
"Ah! there you are quite right. It may have done so. If it has, then our
peril has very considerably increased. That's just my argument."
"But we'll have Walter to reckon with in any case. He loves her."
"Bah! Leave the boy to me. I'll soon show him that the girl's not worth
a second thought," replied Flockart with nonchalant air. "All you have
to do is to act as I suggested the other night. Then leave the rest to
"And suppose it were discovered?" asked the woman, whose face had grown
"Well, suppose the worst happened, and it were discovered?" he asked,
raising his brows slightly. "Should we be any worse off than would be
the case if this girl took it into her head to expose us—if the facts
which she could prove placed us side by side in an assize-court?"
The woman—clever, scheming, ambitious—was silent. The question
admitted of no reply. She recognised her own peril. The picture of
herself arraigned before a judge, with that man beside her, rose before
her imagination, and she became terrified. That slim, pale-faced girl,
her husband's child, stood between her and her own honour, her own
safety. Once the girl was removed, she would have no further fear, no
apprehension, no hideous forebodings concerning the imminent future. She
saw it all as she walked along that moss-grown forest-road, her eyes
fixed straight before her. The tempter at her side had urged her to
commit a dastardly, an unpardonable crime. In that man's hands she was,
alas! as wax. He poured into her ear a vivid picture of what must
inevitably result should Gabrielle reveal the ugly truth, at the same
time calmly watching the effect of his words upon her. Upon her decision
depended his whole future as well as hers. What was Gabrielle's life to
hers, asked the man point-blank. That was the question which decided
her—decided her, after long and futile resistance, to promise to commit
the act which he had suggested. She gave the man her hand in pledge.
Then a slight smile of triumph played about his cruel nether lip, and
the pair retraced their steps towards the castle in silence.
CASTING THE BAIT
Loving and perishing: these have tallied from eternity. Love and death
walk hand-in-hand. The will to love means also to be ready for death.
Gabrielle Heyburn recognised this truth. She had the will to love, and
she had the resolve to perish—perish by her own hand—rather than allow
her secret to be exposed. Those who knew her—a young, athletic,
merry-faced, open-air girl on the verge of budding womanhood, so
true-hearted, frank, and free—little dreamed of the terrible nature of
that secret within her young heart.
She held aloof from her lover as much as she dared. True, Walter came to
Glencardine nearly every day, but she managed to avoid him whenever
possible. Why? Because she knew her own weakness; she feared being
compelled by his stronger nature, and by the true affection in which she
held him, to confess. They walked together in the cool, shady glen
beside the rippling burn, climbed the neighbouring hills, played tennis,
or else she lay in the hammock at the edge of the lawn while he lounged
at her side smoking cigarettes. She did all this because she was
Her most enjoyable hours were the quiet ones spent at Her father's side.
Alone in the library, she read to him, in French, those curious business
documents which came so often by registered post. They were so strangely
worded that, not knowing their true import, she failed to understand
them. All were neatly typed, without any heading to the paper. Sometimes
a printed address in the Boulevard des Capucines, Paris, would appear on
letters accompanying the enclosures. But all were very formal, and to
Gabrielle extremely puzzling.
Sir Henry always took the greatest precaution that no one should obtain
sight of these confidential reports or overhear them read by his
daughter. Before she sat down to read, she always shot the small brass
bolt on the door to prevent Hill or any other intruder from entering.
More than once the Baronet's wife had wanted to come in while the
reading was in progress, whereupon Sir Henry always excused himself,
saying that he locked his door against his guests when he wished to be
alone, an explanation which her ladyship accepted.
These strangely worded reports in French always puzzled the Baronet's
daughter. Sometimes she became seized by a vague suspicion that her
father was carrying on some business which was not altogether
honourable. Why should he enjoin such secrecy? Why should he cause her
to write and despatch with her own hand such curiously worded telegrams,
addressed always to the registered address: "METEFOROS, PARIS"?
Those neatly typed pages which she read could be always construed in two
or three senses. But only her father knew the actual meaning which the
writer intended to convey. For hours she would often be engaged in
reading them. Sometimes, too, telegrams in cipher arrived, and she would
then obtain the little, dark-blue covered book from the safe, and by its
aid decipher the messages from the French capital.
Questions, curious questions, were frequently asked by the anonymous
sender of the reports; and to these her father replied by means of his
private code. She had become during the past year quite an expert
typist, and therefore to her the Baronet entrusted the replies, always
impressing upon her the need of absolute secrecy, even from her mother.
"My affairs," he often declared, "concern nobody but myself. I trust in
you, Gabrielle dear, to guard my secrets from prying eyes. I know that
you yourself must often be puzzled, but that is only natural."
Unfamiliar as the girl was with business in any form, she had during the
past year arrived at the conclusion, after much debate within herself,
that this source of her father's income was a distinctly mysterious one.
The estates were, of course, large, and he employed agents to manage
them; but they could not produce that huge income which she knew he
possessed, for had she not more than once seen the amount of his balance
at his banker's as well as the large sum he had on deposit? The source
of his colossal wealth was a mystery, but was no doubt connected with
his curious and constant communications with Paris.
At rare intervals a grey-faced, grey-bearded, and rather stout
Frenchman—a certain Monsieur Goslin—called, and on such occasions was
closeted for a long time alone with Sir Henry, evidently discussing some
important affair in secret. To her ladyship, as well as to Gabrielle,
the Frenchman was most courteous, but refused the pressing invitations
to remain the night. He always arrived by the morning train from Perth,
and left for the south the same night, the express being stopped for him
by signal at Auchterarder station. The mysterious visitor puzzled
Gabrielle considerably. Her father entrusted him with secrets which he
withheld from her, and this often caused her both surprise and
annoyance. Like every other girl, she was of course full of curiosity.
Towards her Flockart became daily more friendly. On two occasions, after
breakfast, he had invited her to spend an hour or two fishing for trout
in the burn, which was unexpectedly in spate, and they had thus been
some time in each other's company.
She, however, regarded him with distinct distrust. He was undeniably
good-looking, nonchalant, and a thorough-going man of the world. But his
intimate friendship with Lady Heyburn prevented her from regarding him
as a true friend. Towards her he was ever most courteous, and paid her
many little compliments. He tied her flies, he fitted her rod, and if
her line became entangled in the trees he always put matters right. Not,
however, that she could not do it all herself. In her strong, high
fishing-boots, her short skirts hemmed with leather, her burberry, and
her dark-blue tam-o'-shanter set jauntily on her chestnut hair, she very
often fished alone, and made quite respectable baskets. To wade into the
burn and disentangle her line from beneath a stone was to her quite a
small occurrence, for she would never let either Stewart or any of the
under-keepers accompany her.
Why Flockart had so suddenly sought her society she failed to discern.
Hitherto, though always extremely polite, he had treated her as a child,
which she naturally resented. At length, however, he seemed to have
realised that she now possessed the average intelligence of a young
He had never repeated those strange words he had uttered when, on the
night of the ball at Connachan, he returned in secret to the castle and
beckoned her out upon the lawn. He had, indeed, never referred to his
curious action. Sometimes she wondered, so changed was his manner,
whether he had actually forgotten the incident altogether. He had showed
himself in his true colours that night. Whatever suspicions she had
previously held were corroborated in that stroll across the lawn in the
dark shadow. His tactics had altered, it seemed, and their objective
"It must be very dull for you here, Miss Heyburn," he remarked to her
one bright morning as they were casting up-stream near one another. They
were standing not far from a rustic bridge in a deep, leafy glen, where
the sunshine penetrated here and there through the canopy of leaves,
beneath which the burn pursued its sinuous course towards the Earn. The
music of the rippling waters over the brown, moss-grown boulders mingled
with the rustle of the leaves above, as now and then the soft wind swept
up the narrow valley. They were treading a carpet of wild-flowers, and
the air was full of the delicious perfume of the summer day. "You must
be very dull, living here so much, and going up to town so very seldom,"
"Oh dear no!" she laughed. "You are quite mistaken. I really enjoy a
country life. It's so jolly after the confinement and rigorous rules of
school. One is free up here. I can wear my old clothes, and go cycling,
fishing, shooting, curling; in fact, I'm my own mistress. That I
shouldn't be if I lived in London, and had to make calls, walk in the
Park, go shopping, sit out concerts, and all that sort of thing."
"But though you're out, you never go anywhere. Surely that's unusual for
one so active and—well"—he hesitated—"I wonder whether I might be
permitted to say so—so good-looking as you are, Gabrielle."
"Ah!" replied the girl, protesting, but blushing at the same time,
"you're poking fun at me, Mr. Flockart. All I can reply is, first, that
I'm not good-looking; and, secondly, I'm not in the least dull—perhaps
I should be if I hadn't my father's affairs to attend to."
"They seem to take up a lot of your time," he said with pretended
indifference, but, to his annoyance, landed a salmon parr at the same
"We work together most evenings," was her reply.
The question which he then put as he threw the parr back into the burn
struck her as curious. It was evident that he was endeavouring to learn
from her the nature of her father's correspondence. But she was shrewd
enough to parry all his ingenious cross-questioning. Her father's
secrets were her own.
"Some ill-natured people gossip about Sir Henry," he remarked presently,
as he made another long cast up-stream and allowed the flies to be
carried down to within a few yards from where he stood. "They say that
his source of income is mysterious, and that it is not altogether open
"What!" she exclaimed, looking at him quickly. "And who, pray, Mr.
Flockart, makes this allegation against my father?"
"Oh, I really don't know who started the gossip. The source of such
tales is always difficult to discover. Some enemy, no doubt. Every man
in this world of ours has enemies."
"What do you mean by the source of dad's income not being an honourable
The man shrugged his shoulders. "I really don't know," he declared. "I
only repeat what I've heard once or twice up in London."
"Tell me exactly what they say," demanded the girl, with quick interest.
Her companion hesitated for a few seconds. "Well, whatever has been
said, I've always denied; for, as you know, I am a friend of both Lady
Heyburn and of your father."
The girl's nostrils dilated slightly. Friend! Why, was not this man her
father's false friend? Was he not behind every sinister action of Lady
Heyburn's, and had not she herself, with her own ears, one day at Park
Street, four years ago, overheard her ladyship express a dastardly
desire in the words, "Oh, Henry is such a dreadful old bore, and so
utterly useless, that it's a shame a woman like myself should be tied up
to him. Fortunately for me, he already has one foot in the grave.
Otherwise I couldn't tolerate this life at all!" Those cruel words of
her stepmother's, spoken to this man who was at that moment her
companion, recurred to her. She recollected, too, Flockart's reply.
This hollow pretence of friendship angered her. She knew that the man
was her father's enemy, and that he had united with the clever, scheming
woman in some ingenious conspiracy against the poor, helpless man.
Therefore she turned, and, facing him boldly, said, "I wish, Mr.
Flockart, that you would please understand that I have no intention to
discuss my father or his affairs. The latter concern himself alone. He
does not even speak of them to his wife; therefore why should strangers
evince any interest in them?"
"Because there are rumours—rumours of a mystery; and mysteries are
always interesting and attractive," was his answer.
"True," she said meaningly. "Just as rumours concerning certain of my
father's guests possess an unusual interest for him, Mr. Flockart.
Though my father may be blind, his hearing is still excellent. And he is
aware of much more than you think."
The man glanced at her for an instant, and his face darkened. The girl's
ominous words filled him with vague apprehension. Was it possible that
the blind man had any suspicion of what was intended? He held his
breath, and made another vicious cast far up the rippling stream.
REVEALS A MYSTERIOUS BUSINESS
In the few days which followed, Lady Heyburn's attitude towards
Gabrielle became one of marked affection. She even kissed her in the
breakfast-room each morning, called her "dear," and consulted her upon
the day's arrangements.
Poor Sir Henry was but a cipher in the household. He usually took all
his meals alone, except dinner, and was very seldom seen, save perhaps
when he would come out for an hour or so to walk in the park, led by his
daughter, or else, alone, tapping before him with his stout stick. On
such occasions he would wear a pair of big blue spectacles to hide the
unsightliness of his gray, filmy eyes. Sometimes he would sit on one of
the garden seats on the south side of the house, enjoying the sunshine,
and listening to the songs of the birds, the hum of the insects, and the
soft ripples of the burn far below. And on such occasions one of his
wife's guests would join him to chat and cheer him, for everyone felt
pity for the lonely man living his life of darkness.
No one was more full of words of sympathy than James Flockart. Gabrielle
longed to warn her father of that man, but dared not do so. There was a
reason—a strong reason—for her silence. Sir Henry had declared that he
was interested in the man's intellectual conversation, and that he
rather liked him, though he had never looked upon his face. In some
things the old gentleman was ever ready to adopt his daughter's advice
and rely upon her judgment; but in others he was quite obstinate and
treated her pointed remarks with calm indifference.
One day, at Lady Heyburn's suggestion, Gabrielle, accompanied by
Flockart and another of the guests, a retired colonel, had driven over
in the big car to Perth to make a call; and on their return she spent
some hours in the library with her father, attending to his
That morning a big packet of those typed reports in French had arrived
in the usual registered, orange-coloured envelope, and after she had
read them over to the Baronet, he had given her the key, and she had got
out the code-book. Then, at his instructions, she had written upon a
yellow telegraph-form a cipher message addressed to the mysterious
"Meteforos, Paris." It read, when decoded:—
"Arrange with amethyst. I agree the price of pearls. Have no fear of
Smithson, but watch Peters. If London refuses, then Mayfair. Expect
report of Bedford."
It was not signed by the Baronet's name, but by the signature he always
used on such telegraphic replies: "Senrab."
From such a despatch she could gather nothing. At his request she took
away the little blue-covered book and relocked it in the safe. Then she
rang for Hill, and told him to send the despatch by messenger down to
"Very well, miss," replied the man, bowing.
"The car is going down to take Mr. Seymour to the station in about a
quarter of an hour, so Stokes will take it."
"And look here," exclaimed the blind man, who was standing before the
window with his back to the crimson sunset, "you can tell her ladyship,
Hill, that I'm very busy, and I shan't come in to dinner to-night. Just
serve a snack here for me, will you?"
"Very well, Sir Henry," responded the smart footman; and, bowing again,
he closed the door.
"May I dine with you, dad?" asked the girl. "There are two or three
people invited to-night, and they don't interest me in the least."
"My dear child, what do you mean? Why, aren't Walter Murie and his
mother dining here to-night? I know your mother invited them ten days
"Oh, why, yes," replied the girl rather lamely; "I did not recollect.
Then, I suppose, I must put in an appearance," she sighed.
"Suppose!" he echoed. "What would Walter think if you elected to dine
with me instead of meeting him at table?"
"Now, dad, it is really unkind of you!" she said reprovingly. "Walter
and I thoroughly understand each other. He's not surprised at anything I
"Ah!" laughed the sightless man, "he's already beginning to understand
the feminine perverseness, eh? Well, my child, dine here with me if you
wish, by all means. Tell Hill to lay the table for two. We have lots of
work to do afterwards."
So the bell was rung again and Hill was informed that Miss Gabrielle
would dine with her father in the library.
Then they turned again to the Baronet's mysterious private affairs; and
when she had seated herself at the typewriter and re-read the
reports—confidential reports they were, but framed in a manner which
only the old man himself could understand—he dictated to her cryptic
replies, the true nature of which were to her a mystery.
The last of the reports, brief and unsigned, read as follows:—
"Mon petit garçon est très gravement malade, et je supplie Dieu à genoux
de ne pas me punir si severement, de ne pas me prendre mon enfant.
"D'apres le dernier bulletin du Professeur Knieberger, il a la fièvre
scarlatine, et l'issue de la maladie est incertaine. Je ne quitte plus
son chevet. Et sans cesse je me dis, 'C'est une punition du Ciel.'"
Gabrielle saw that, to the outside world, it was a statement by a
frantic mother that her child had caught scarlet-fever. "What could it
really mean?" she wondered.
Slowly she read it, and as she did so noticed the curious effect it had
upon her father, seated as he was in the deep saddle-bag chair. His face
grew very grave, his thin white hands clenched themselves, and there was
an unusually bitter expression about his mouth.
"Eh?" he asked, as though not quite certain of the words. "Read it
again, child, slower. I—I have to think."
She obeyed, wondering if the key to the cryptic message were contained
in some conjunction of letters or words. It seemed as though, in
imagination, he was setting it down before him as she pronounced the
words. This was often so. At times he would have reports repeated to him
over and over again.
"Ah!" he gasped at last, drawing a long breath, his hands still tightly
clenched, his countenance haggard and drawn. "I—I expected that. And so
it has come—at last!"
"What, dad?" asked the girl in surprise, staring at the crisp
typewritten sheet before her.
"Oh, well, nothing child—nothing," he answered, bestirring himself.
"But the lady whoever she is, seems terribly concerned about her little
boy. The judgment of Heaven, she calls it."
"And well she may, Gabrielle," he answered in a hoarse strained voice.
"Well she may, my dear. It is a punishment sent upon the wicked."
"Is the mother wicked, then?" asked the girl in curiosity.
"No, dear," he urged. "Don't try to understand, for you can never do
that. These reports convey to me alone the truth. They are intended to
mislead you, as they mislead other people."
"Then there is no little boy suffering from scarlet-fever?"
"Yes. Because it is written there," was his smiling reply. "But it only
refers to an imaginary child, and, by so doing, places a surprising and
alarming truth before me."
"Is the matter so very serious, dad?" she asked, noticing the curious
effect the words had had upon him.
"Serious!" he echoed, leaning forward in his chair. "Yes," he answered
in a low voice, "it is very serious, child, both to me and to you."
"I don't understand you, dad," she exclaimed, walking to his chair
throwing herself upon her knees, and placing her arms around his neck.
"Won't you be more explicit? Won't you tell me the truth? Surely you can
rely upon my secrecy?"
"Yes, child," he said, groping until his hand fell upon her hair, and
then stroking it tenderly; "I trust you. You keep my affairs from those
people who seek to obtain knowledge of them. Without you, I would be
compelled to employ a secretary; but he could be bought, without a
doubt. Most secretaries can."
"Ford was very trustworthy, was he not?"
"Yes, poor Ford," he sighed. "When he died I lost my right hand. But
fortunately you were old enough to take his place."
"But in a case like this, when you are worried and excited, as you are
at this moment, why not confide in me and allow me to help you?" she
suggested. "You see that, although I act as your secretary, dad, I know
nothing of the nature of your business."
"And forgive me for speaking very plainly, child, I do not intend that
you should," the old man said.
"Because you cannot trust me!" she pouted. "You think that because I'm a
woman I cannot keep a secret."
"Not at all," he said. "I place every confidence in you, dear. You are
the only real friend left to me in the whole world. I know that you
would never willingly betray me to my enemies; but——"
"Well, but what?"
"But you might do so unknowingly. You might by one single chance-word
place me within the power of those who seek my downfall."
"Who seeks your downfall, dad?" she asked very seriously.
"That's a matter which I desire to keep to myself. Unfortunately, I do
not know the identity of my enemies; hence I am compelled to keep from
you certain matters which, in other circumstances, you might know. But,"
he added, "this is not the first time we've discussed this question,
Gabrielle dear. You are my daughter, and I trust you. Do not, child,
misjudge me by suspecting that I doubt your loyalty."
"I don't, dad; only sometimes I——"
"Sometimes you think," he said, still stroking her hair—"you think that
I ought to tell you the reason I receive all these reports from Paris,
and their real significance. Well, to tell the truth, dear, it is best
that you should not know. If you reflect for a moment," went on the old
man, tears welling slowly in his filmy, sightless eyes, "you will
realise my unhappy situation—how I am compelled to hide my affairs even
from Lady Heyburn herself. Does she ever question you regarding them?"
"She used to at one time; but she refrains nowadays, for I would tell
"Has anyone else ever tried to glean information from you?" he inquired,
after a long breath.
"Mr. Flockart has done so on several occasions of late. But I pleaded
"Oh, Flockart has been asking you, has he?" remarked her father with
surprise. "Well, I suppose it is only natural. A blind man's doings are
always more or less a mystery to the world."
"I don't like Mr. Flockart, dad," she said.
"So you've remarked before, my dear," her father replied. "Of course you
are right in withholding any information upon a subject which is my own
affair; yet, on the other hand, you should always remember that he is
your mother's very good friend—and yours also."
"Mine!" gasped the girl, starting up. Would that she were free to tell
the poor, blind, helpless man the ghastly truth! "My friend, dad! What
makes you think that?"
"Because he is always singing your praises, both to me and your mother."
"Then I tell you that his expressions of opinion are false, dear dad."
She was silent. She dared not tell her father the reason; therefore, in
order to turn the subject, she replied, with a forced laugh, "Oh, well,
of course, I may be mistaken; but that's my opinion."
"A mere prejudice, child; I'm sure it is. As far as I know, Flockart is
quite an excellent fellow, and is most kind both to your mother and to
Gabrielle's brow contracted. Disengaging herself, she rose to her feet,
and, after a pause, asked, "What reply shall I send to the report, dad?"
"Ah, that report!" gasped the man, huddled up in his chair in serious
reflection. "That report!" he repeated, rising to straighten himself.
"Reply in these words: 'No effort is to be made to save the child's
life. On the contrary, it is to be so neglected as to produce a fatal
The girl had seated herself at the typewriter and rapidly clicked out
the words in French—words that seemed ominous enough, and yet the true
meaning of which she never dreamed. She was thinking only of her
father's misplaced friendship in James Flockart. If she dared to tell
him the naked truth! Oh, if her poor, blind, afflicted father could only
DECLARES A WOMAN'S LOVE
At nine o'clock that night Gabrielle left her father, and ascended to
her own pretty room, with its light chintz-covered furniture, its
well-filled bamboo bookcases, its little writing-table, and its narrow
bed in the alcove. It was a nest of rest and cosy comfort.
Exchanging her tweed dress, she put on an easy dressing-gown of pale
blue cashmere, drew up an armchair, and, arranging her electric
reading-lamp, sat down to a new novel she intended to finish.
Presently Elise came to her; but, looking up, she said she did not wish
to be disturbed, and again coiled herself up in the chair, endeavouring
to concentrate her thoughts upon her book. But all to no purpose. Ever
and anon she would lift her big eyes from the printed page, sigh, and
stare fixedly at the rose-coloured trellis pattern of the wall-paper
opposite. Upon her there had fallen a feeling of vague apprehension such
as she had never before experienced, a feeling that something was about
Lady Heyburn was, she knew, greatly annoyed that she had not made her
appearance at dinner or in the drawing-room afterwards. Generally, when
there were guests from the neighbourhood, she was compelled to sing one
or other of her Italian songs. Her refusal to come to dinner would, she
knew, cause her ladyship much chagrin, for it showed plainly to the
guests that her authority over her step-daughter was entirely at an end.
Just as the stable-clock chimed half-past ten there came a light tap at
the door. It was Hill, who, on receiving permission to enter, said, "If
you please, miss, Mr. Murie has just asked me to give you this"; and he
handed her an envelope.
Tearing it open eagerly, she found a visiting-card, upon which some
words were scribbled in pencil. For a moment after reading them she
paused. Then she said, "Tell Mr. Murie it will be all right."
"Very well, miss," the man replied, and, bowing, closed the door.
For a few moments she stood motionless in the centre of the room, her
lover's card still in her hand. Then she walked to the open window, and
looked out into the hot, oppressive night. The moon was hidden behind
dark clouds, and the stillness was precursory of the thunderstorm which
for the past hour or so had threatened. Across the room she paced slowly
several times, a deep, anxious expression upon her pale countenance;
then slowly she slipped off her gown and put on a dark stuff dress.
Until the clock had struck eleven she waited. Then, assuming her
tam-o'-shanter and twisting a silk scarf about her neck, she crept along
the corridor and down the wide oak stairs. Lights were still burning;
but without detection she slipped out by the main door, and, crossing
the broad drive, took the winding path into the woods.
The guests had all left, and the servants were closing the house for the
night. Scarce had she gone a hundred yards when a dark figure in
overcoat and a golf-cap loomed up before her, and she found Walter at
"Why, dearest!" he exclaimed, taking her hand and bending till he
pressed it to his lips, "I began to fear you wouldn't come. Why haven't
I seen you to-night?"
"Because—well, because I had a bad headache," was her lame reply. "I
knew that if I went in to dinner mother would want me to sing, and I
really didn't feel up to it. I hope, however, you haven't been bored too
"You know I have!" he said quickly in a low, earnest voice. "I came here
purposely to see you, and you were invisible. I've run the car down the
farm-road on the other side of the park, and left it there. The mater
went home in the carriage nearly an hour ago. She's afraid to go in the
car when I drive."
Slowly they strolled together along the dark path, he with her arm held
tenderly under his own.
"Think, darling," he said, "I haven't seen you for four whole days! Why
is it? Yesterday I went to the usual spot at the end of the glen, and
waited nearly two hours; but you did not come, although you promised me,
you know. Why are you so indifferent, dearest?" he asked in a plaintive
tone. "I can't really make you out of late."
"I'm not indifferent at all, Walter," she declared. "My father has very
much to attend to just now, and I'm compelled to assist him, as you are
well aware. He's so utterly helpless."
"Oh, but you might spare me just half-an-hour sometimes," he said in a
slight tone of reproach.
"I do. Why, we surely see each other very often!"
"Not often enough for me, Gabrielle," he declared, halting in the
darkness and raising her soft little hand to his eager lips. "You know
well enough how fondly I love you, how—"
"I know," she said in a sad, blank tone. Her own heart beat fast at his
"Then why do you treat me like this?" he asked. "Is it because I have
annoyed you, that you perhaps think I am not keeping faith with you? I
know I was absent a long time, but it was really not my own fault. My
people made me go round the world. I didn't want to, I assure you. I'd
far rather have been up here at Connachan all the time, and near you, my
"I believe you would, Walter," she answered, turning towards him with
her hand upon his shoulder. "But I do wish you wouldn't reproach me for
my undemonstrativeness each time we meet. It saddens me."
"I know I ought not to reproach you," he hastened to assure her. "I have
no right to do so; but somehow you have of late grown so sphinx-like
that you are not the Gabrielle I used to know."
"Why not?" And she laughed, a strange, hollow laugh. "Explain yourself."
"In the days gone by, before I went abroad, you were not so particular
about our meetings being clandestine. You did not care who saw us or
what people might say."
"I was a girl then. I have now learnt wisdom, and the truth of the
modern religion which holds that the only sin is that of being found
"But why are you so secret in all your actions?" he demanded. "Whom do
"Fear!" she echoed, starting and staring in his direction. "Why, I fear
nobody! What—what makes you think that?"
"Because it has lately struck me that you meet me in secret
because—well, because you are afraid of someone, or do not wish us to
"Why, how very foolish!" she laughed. "Don't my father and mother both
know that we love each other? Besides, I am surely my own mistress. I
would never marry a man I don't love," she added in a tone of quiet
"And am I to take it that you really do love me, after all?" he inquired
"Why, of course," she replied without hesitation, again placing her arm
about his neck and kissing him. "How foolish of you to ask such a
question, Walter! When will you be convinced that the answer I gave you
long ago was the actual truth?"
"Men who love as fervently as I do are apt to be somewhat foolish," he
"Then don't be foolish any longer," she urged in a matter-of-fact voice,
lifting her lips to his and kissing him. "You know I love you, Walter;
therefore you should also know that it I avoid you in public I have some
good reason for doing so."
"A reason!" he cried. "What reason? Tell me."
She shook her head. "That is my own affair," she responded. "I repeat
again that my affection for you is undiminished, if such repetition
really pleases you, as it seems to do."
"Of course it pleases me, dearest," he declared. "No words are sweeter
to my ears than the declaration of your love. My only regret is that,
now I am at home again, I do not see so much of you, sweetheart, as I
"Walter," she exclaimed in a slow, changed voice, after a brief silence,
"there is a reason. Please do not ask me to tell you—because—well,
because I can't." And, drawing a long breath, she added, "All I beg of
you is to remain patient and trust in me. I love you; and I love no
other man. Surely that should be, for you, all-sufficient. I am yours,
and yours only."
In an instant he had folded her slight, dainty form in his arms. The
young man was satisfied, perfectly satisfied.
They strolled on together through the wood, and out across the open
corn-fields. The moon had come forth again, the storm-clouds had passed,
and the night was perfect. Though she was trying against her will to
hold aloof from Walter Murie, yet she loved him with all her heart and
soul. Many letters she had addressed to him in his travels had remained
unanswered. This had, in a measure, piqued her. But she was in ignorance
that much of his correspondence and hers had fallen into the hands of
her ladyship and been destroyed.
As they walked on, talking as lovers will, she was thinking deeply, and
full of regret that she dared not tell the truth to this man who, loving
her so fondly, would, she knew, be prepared to make any sacrifice for
her sake. Suppose he knew the truth! Whatever sacrifice he made would,
alas! not alter facts. If she confessed, he would only hate her. Ah, the
tragedy of it all! Therefore she held her silence; she dared not speak
lest she might lose his love. She had no friend in whom she could
confide. From her own father, even, she was compelled to hide the actual
facts. They were too terrible. What would he think if the bitter truth
The man at her side, tall, brave, strong—a lover whom she knew many
girls coveted—believed that he was to marry her. But, she told herself
within her grief-stricken heart, such a thing could never be. A barrier
stood between them, invisible, yet nevertheless one that might for ever
debar their mutual happiness.
An involuntary sigh escaped her, and he inquired the reason. She excused
herself by saying that it was owing to the exertion of walking over the
rough path. Therefore they halted, and, with the bright summer moonbeams
falling upon her beautiful countenance, he kissed her passionately upon
the lips again and yet again.
They remained together for over an hour, moving along slowly, heedless
of where their footsteps led them; heedless, too, of being seen by any
of the keepers who, at night, usually patrolled the estate. Their walk,
however, lay at the farther end of the glen, in the coverts remote from
the house and nearer the high-road; therefore there was but little
danger of being observed.
Many were the pledges of affection they exchanged before parting. On
Walter's part they were fervent and passionate, but on the part of his
idol they were, alas! only the pretence of a happiness which she feared
could never be permanent.
Presently they retraced their steps to the edge of the wood beyond which
lay the house. They found the path, and there, at her request, he left
her. It was not wise that he should approach the house at that hour, she
So, after a long and fervent leave-taking, he held her in a last
embrace, and then, raising his cap, and saying, "Good-night, my darling,
my own well-beloved!" he turned away and went at a swinging pace down
the farm-road where he had left his car with lights extinguished.
She watched him disappear. Then, sighing, she turned into the dark,
winding path beneath the trees, the end of which came out upon the drive
close to the house.
Half-way down, however, with sudden resolve, she took a narrower path to
the left, and was soon on the outskirts of the wood and out again in the
The night was so glorious that she had resolved to stroll alone, to
think and devise some plan for the future. Before her, silhouetted high
against the steely sky, rose the two great, black, ivy-clad towers of
the ancient castle. The grim, crumbling walls stood dark and frowning
amid the fairy-like scene, while from far below came up the faint
rippling of the Ruthven Water. A great owl flapped lazily from the ivy
as she approached those historic old walls which in bygone days had held
within them some of Scotland's greatest men. She had explored and knew
every nook and cranny in those extensive ruins. With Walter's
assistance, she had once made a perilous ascent to the top of the
highest of the two square towers, and had often clambered along the
broken walls of the keep or descended into those strange little
subterranean chambers, now half-choked with earth and rubbish, which
tradition declared were the dungeons in which prisoners in the old days
had been put to the rack, seared with red-hot irons, or submitted to
other horrible tortures.
Her feet falling noiselessly, she entered the grass-grown courtyard,
where stood the ancient spreading yew, the "dule-tree," under which the
Glencardine charters had been signed and justice administered. Other big
trees had sprung from seedlings since the place had fallen into ruin;
and, having entered, she paused amidst its weird, impressive silence.
Those high, ponderous walls about her spoke mutely of strength and
impregnability. Those grass-grown mounds hid ruined walls and broken
foundations. What tales of wild lawlessness and reckless bloodshed they
all could tell!
Many of the strange stories she had heard concerning the old
place—stories told by the people in the neighbourhood—were recalled as
she stood there gazing wonderingly about her. Many romantic legends had,
indeed, been handed down in Perthshire from generation to generation
concerning old Glencardine and its lawless masters, and for her they had
always possessed a strange fascination, for had she not inherited the
antiquarian tastes of her father, and had she not read many works upon
folklore and such-like subjects.
Suddenly, while standing in the deep shadow, gazing thoughtfully up at
those high towers which, though ruined, still guarded the end of the
glen, a strange thing occurred—something which startled her, causing
her to halt breathless, petrified, rooted to the spot. She stared
straight before her. Something uncanny was happening there, something
that was, indeed, beyond human credence, and quite inexplicable.
CONCERNS THE WHISPERS
What had startled Gabrielle was certainly extraordinary and decidedly
uncanny. She was standing near the southern wall, when, of a sudden, she
heard low but distinct whispers. Again she listened. Yes. The sounds
were not due to her excited imagination at the recollection of those
romantic traditions of love and hatred, or of those gruesome stories of
how the Wolf of Badenoch had been kept prisoner there for five years and
put to frightful tortures, or how the Laird of Weem was deliberately
poisoned in that old banqueting-hall, the huge open fireplace of which
still existed near where she stood.
There was the distinct sound of low, whispered words! She held her
breath to listen. She tried to distinguish what the words were, but in
vain. Then she endeavoured to determine whence they emanated, but was
unable to do so. Again they sounded—again—and yet again. Then there
was another voice, still low, still whispering, but not quite so deep as
the first. It sounded like a woman's.
Local tradition had it that the place held the ghosts of those who had
died in agony within its noisome dungeons; but she had always been far
too matter-of-fact to accept stories of the supernatural. Yet at that
moment her ears did not deceive her. That pile of grim, gaunt ruins was
a House of Whispers!
Again she listened, never moving a muscle. An owl hooted weirdly in the
ivy far above her, while near, at her feet, a rabbit scuttled away
through the grass. Such noises she was used to. She knew every
night-sound of the country-side; for when she had finished her work in
the library she often went, unknown to the household, with Stewart upon
his nocturnal rounds, and walked miles through the woods in the night.
The grey-eyed, thin-nosed head-keeper was her particular favourite. He
knew so much of natural history, and he taught her all he knew. She
could distinguish the cries of birds in the night, and could tell by
certain sounds made by them, as they were disturbed, that no other
intruders were in the vicinity. But that weird whispering, coming as it
did from an undiscovered source, was inhuman and utterly uncanny.
Was it possible that her ears had deceived her? Was it one of the omens
believed in by the superstitious? The wall whence the voices appeared to
emanate was, she knew, about seven feet thick—an outer wall of the old
keep. She was aware of this because in one of the folio tomes in the
library was a picture of the castle as it appeared in 1510, taken from
some manuscript of that period preserved in the British Museum. She, who
had explored the ruins dozens of times, knew well that at the point
where she was standing there could be no place of concealment. Beyond
that wall, the hill, covered with bushes and brushwood, descended sheer
for three hundred feet or so to the bottom of the glen. Had the voices
sounded from one or other of the half-choked chambers which remained
more or less intact she would not have been so puzzled; but, as it was,
the weird whisperings seemed to come forth from space. Sometimes they
sounded so low that she could scarcely hear them; at others they were so
loud that she could almost distinguish the words uttered by the unseen.
Was it merely a phenomenon caused by the wind blowing through some crack
in the ponderous lichen-covered wall?
She looked beyond at the great dark yew, the justice-tree of the
Grahams. The night was perfectly calm. Not a leaf stirred either upon
that or upon the other trees. The ivy, high above and exposed to the
slightest breath of a breeze, was motionless; only the going and coming
of the night-birds moved it. No. She decided once and for all that the
noise was that of voices, spectral voices though they might be.
Again she strained her eyes, when still again those soft, sibilant
whisperings sounded weird and quite inexplicable.
Slowly, and with greatest caution, she moved along beneath the wall, but
as she did so she seemed to recede from the sound. So back she went to
the spot where she had previously stood, and there again remained
There were two distinct voices; at least that was the conclusion at
which she arrived after nearly a quarter of an hour of most minute
Once she fancied, in her excitement, that away in the farther corner of
the ruined courtyard she saw a slowly moving form like a thin column of
mist. Was it the Lady of Glencardine—the apparition of the hapless Lady
Jane Glencardine? But on closer inspection she decided that it was
merely due to her own distorted imagination, and dismissed it from her
Those low, curious whisperings alone puzzled her. They were certainly
not sounds that could be made by any rodents within the walls, because
they were voices, distinctly and indisputably voices, which at some
moments were raised in argument, and then fell away into sounds of
indistinct murmuring. Whence did they come? She again moved noiselessly
from place to place, at length deciding that only at one point—the
point where she had first stood—could the sounds be heard distinctly.
So to that spot once more the girl returned, standing there like a
statue, her ears strained for every sound, waiting and wondering. But
the Whispers had now ceased. In the distance the stable-clock chimed
two. Yet she remained at her post, determined to solve the mystery, and
not in the least afraid of those weird stories which the country-folk in
the Highlands so entirely believed. No ghost, of whatever form, could
frighten her, she told herself. She had never believed in omens or
superstitions, and she steeled herself not to believe in them now. So
she remained there in patience, seeking some natural solution of the
But though she waited until the chimes rang out three o'clock and the
moon was going down, she heard no other sound. The Whispers had suddenly
ended, and the silence of those gaunt, frowning old walls was
undisturbed. A slight wind had now sprung up, sweeping across the hills,
and causing her to feel chill. Therefore, at last she was reluctantly
compelled to quit her post of observation, and retrace her steps by the
rough byroad to the house, entering by one of the windows of the
morning-room, of which the burglar-alarm was broken, and which on many
occasions she had unfastened after her nocturnal rambles with Stewart.
Indeed, concealed under the walls she kept an old rusted table-knife,
and by its aid it was her habit to push back the catch and so gain
entrance, after reconcealing the knife for use on a future occasion.
On reaching her own room she stood for a few moments reflecting deeply
upon her remarkable and inexplicable discovery. Had the story of those
whisperings been told to her she would certainly have scouted them; but
she had heard them with her own ears, and was certain that she had not
been deceived. It was a mystery, absolute and complete; and, regarding
it as such, she retired to bed.
But her thoughts were very naturally full of the weird story told of the
dead and gone owners of Glencardine. She recollected that horrible story
of the Ghaist of Manse and of the spectre of Bridgend. In the library
she had, a year ago, discovered a strange old book—one which sixty
years before had been in universal circulation—entitled Satan's
Invisible World Discovered, and she had read it from beginning to end.
This book had, perhaps, more influence upon the simple-minded country
people in Scotland than any other work. It consisted entirely of
relations of ghosts of murdered persons, witches, warlocks, and fairies;
and as it was read as an indoor amusement in the presence of children,
and followed up by unfounded tales of the same description, the
youngsters were afraid to turn round in case they might be grasped by
the "Old One." So strong, indeed, became this impression that even
grown-up people would not venture, through fear, into another room or
down a stair after nightfall.
Her experience in the old castle had, to say the least, been remarkable.
Those weird whisperings were extraordinary. For hours she lay reflecting
upon the many traditions of the old place, some recorded in the historic
notices of the House of the Montrose, and others which had gathered from
local sources—the farmers of the neighbourhood, the keepers, and
servants. Those noises in the night were mysterious and puzzling.
Next morning she went alone to the kennels to find Stewart and to
question him. He had told her many weird stories and traditions of the
old place, and it struck her that he might be able to furnish her with
some information regarding her strange discovery. Had anyone else heard
those Whispers besides herself, she wondered.
She met several of the guests, but assiduously avoided them, until at
last she saw the thin, long-legged keeper going towards his cottage with
Dash, the faithful old spaniel, at his heels.
When she hailed him he touched his cap respectfully, changed his gun to
the other arm, and wished her "Guid-mornin', Miss Gabrielle," in his
strong Scotch accent.
She bade him put down his gun and walk with her up the hill towards the
"Look here, Stewart," she commanded in a confidential tone, "I'm going
to take you into my confidence. I know I can trust you with a secret."
"Ye may, miss," replied the keen-eyed Scot. "I houp Sir Henry trusts me
as a faithfu' servant. I've been on Glencardine estate noo, miss, thae
"Stewart, we all know you are faithful, and that you can keep your
tongue still. What I'm about to tell you is in strictest confidence. Not
even my father knows it."
"Ah! then it's a secret e'en frae the laird, eh?"
"Yes," she replied. "I want you to come up to the old castle with me,"
pointing to the great ruined pile standing boldly in the summer
sunlight, "and I want you to tell me all you know. I've had a very
uncanny experience there."
"What, miss!" exclaimed the man, halting and looking her seriously in
the face; "ha'e ye seen the ghaist?"
"No, I haven't seen any ghost," replied the girl; "but last night I
heard most extraordinary sounds, as though people were within the old
"Guid sake, miss! an' ha'e ye actually h'ard the Whispers?" he gasped.
"Then other people have heard them, eh?" inquired the girl quickly.
"Tell me all you know about the matter, Stewart."
"A'?" he said, slowly shaking his head. "I ken but a wee bittie aboot
"Who has heard them besides myself?"
"Maxwell o'Tullichuil's girl. She said she h'ard the Whispers ae nicht
aboot a year syne. They're a bad omen, miss, for the lassie deed sudden
a fortnicht later."
"Did anyone else hear them?"
"Auld Willie Buchan, wha lived doon in Auchterarder village, declared
that ae nicht, while poachin' for rabbits, he h'ard the voices. He telt
the doctor sae when he lay in bed a-deein' aboot three weeks
aifterwards. Ay, miss, I'm sair sorry ye've h'ard the Whispers."
"Then they're regarded as a bad omen to those who overhear them?" she
"That's sae. There's bin ithers wha acted as eavesdroppers, an' they a'
deed very sune aifterwards. There was Jean Kirkwood an' Geordie
Menteith. The latter was a young keeper I had here aboot a year syne. He
cam' tae me ae mornin' an' said that while lyin' up for poachers the
nicht afore, he distinc'ly h'ard the Whispers. Kennin' what folk say
aboot the owerhearin' o' them bein' fatal, I lauched at 'im an' told 'im
no' to tak' ony tent o' auld wives' gossip. But, miss, sure enough,
within a week he got blood-pizinin', an', though they took 'im to the
hospital in Perth, he deed."
"Then popular superstition points to the fact that anyone who
accidentally acts as eavesdropper is doomed to death, eh? A very nice
outlook for me!" she remarked.
"Oh, Miss Gabrielle!" exclaimed the man, greatly concerned, "dinna treat
the maitter lichtly, I beg o' ye. I did, wi' puir Menteith, an' he deed
juist like the ithers."
"But what does it all mean?" asked the daughter of the house in a calm,
matter-of-fact voice. She knew well that Stewart was just as
superstitious as any of his class, for some of the stories he had told
her had been most fearful and wonderful elaborations of historical fact.
"It means, I'm fear'd, miss," he replied, "that the Whispers which come
frae naewhere are fore-warnin's o' daith."
EXPLAINS SOME CURIOUS FACTS
Gabrielle was silent for a moment. No doubt Stewart meant what he said;
he was not endeavouring to alarm her unduly, but thoroughly believed in
supernatural agencies. "I suppose you've already examined the ruins
thoroughly, eh?" she asked at last.
"Examined them?" echoed the gray-bearded man. "I should think sae,
aifter forty-odd years here. Why, as a laddie I used to play there ilka
day, an' ha'e been in ilka neuk an' cranny."
"Nevertheless, come up now with me," she said. "I want to explain to you
exactly where and how I heard the voices."
"The Whispers are an uncanny thing," said the keeper, with his broad
accent. "I dinna like them, miss; I dinna like tae hear what ye tell me
"Oh, don't worry about me, Stewart," she laughed. "I'm not afraid of any
omen. I only mean to fathom the mystery, and I want your assistance in
doing so. But, of course, you'll say no word to a soul. Remember that."
"If it be yer wush, Miss Gabrielle, I'll say naething," he promised. And
together they descended the steep grass-slope and overgrown foundations
of the castle until they stood in the old courtyard, close to the
ancient justice-tree, the exact spot where the girl had stood on the
"I could hear plainly as I stood just here," she said. "The sound of
voices seemed to come from that wall there"; and she pointed to the gray
flint wall, half-overgrown with ivy, about six yards away.
Stewart made no remark. It was not the first occasion on which he had
examined that place in an attempt to solve the mystery of the nocturnal
whisperings. He walked across to the wall, tapping it with his hand,
while the faithful spaniel began sniffing in expectancy of something to
bolt. "There's naething here, miss—absolutely naething," he declared,
as they both examined the wall minutely. Its depth did not admit of any
chamber, for it was an inner wall; and, according to the gamekeeper's
statement, he had already tested it years ago, and found it solid
"If I went forward or backward, then the sounds were lost to me,"
Gabrielle explained, much puzzled.
"Ay. That's juist what they a' said," remarked the keeper, with an
apprehensive look upon his face. "The Whispers are only h'ard at ae
spot, whaur ye've juist stood. I've seen the lady a' in green masel',
miss—aince when I was a laddie, an' again aboot ten year syne."
"You mean, Stewart, that you imagined that you saw an apparition. You
were alone, I suppose?"
"Yes, miss, I was alane."
"Well, you thought you saw the Lady of Glencardine. Where was she?"
"On the drive, in front o' the hoose."
"Perhaps somebody played a practical joke on you. The Green Lady is
Glencardine's favourite spectre, isn't she—perfectly harmless, I mean?"
"Ay, miss. Lots o' folk saw her ten year syne. But nooadays she seems to
ha'e been laid. Somebody said they saw her last Glesca holidays, but I
dinna believe 't."
"Neither do I, Stewart. But don't let's trouble about the unfortunate
lady, who ought to have been at rest long ago. It's those weird
whisperings I mean to investigate." And she looked blankly around her at
the great, cyclopean walls and high, weather-beaten towers, gaunt yet
picturesque in the morning sunshine.
The keeper shook his shaggy head. "I'm afear'd, Miss Gabrielle, that
ye'll ne'er solve the mystery. There's somethin' sae fatal aboot the
whisperin's," he said, speaking in his pleasant Highland tongue, "that
naebody cares tae attempt the investigation. They div say that the
Whispers are the voice o' the De'il himsel'."
The girl, in her short blue serge skirt, white cotton blouse, and blue
tam-o'-shanter, laughed at the man's dread. There must be a distinct
cause for this noise she had heard, she argued. Yet, though they both
spent half-an-hour wandering among the ruins, standing in the roofless
banqueting hall, and traversing stone corridors and lichen-covered,
moss-grown, ruined chambers choked with weeds, their efforts to obtain
any clue were all in vain.
To Gabrielle it was quite evident that the old keeper regarded the
incident of the previous night as a fatal omen, for he was most
solicitous of her welfare. He went so far as to crave permission to go
to Sir Henry and put the whole of the mysterious facts before him.
But she would not hear of it. She meant to solve the mystery herself. If
her father learnt of the affair, and of the ill-omen connected with it,
the matter would surely cause him great uneasiness. Why should he be
worried on her account? No, she would never allow it, and told Stewart
plainly of her disapproval of such a course.
"But, tell me," she asked at last, as returning to the courtyard, they
stood together at the spot where she had stood in that moonlit hour and
heard with her own ears those weird, mysterious voices coming from
nowhere—"tell me, Stewart, is there any legend connected with the
Whispers? Have you ever heard any story concerning their origin?"
"Of coorse, miss. Through all Perthshire it's weel kent," replied the
man slowly, not, it seemed, without considerable reluctance. "What is
h'ard by those doomed tae daith is the conspiracy o' Charles Lord
Glencardine an' the Earl o' Kintyre for the murder o' the infamous
Cardinal Setoun o' St. Andrews, wha, as I dare say ye ken fra history,
miss, was assassinated here, on this very spot whaur we stan'. The Earl
o' Kintyre, thegither wi' Lord Glencardine, his dochter Mary, an' ane o'
the M'Intyres o' Talnetry, an' Wemyss o' Strathblane, were a year later
tried by a commission issued under the name o' Mary Queen o' Scots; but
sae popular was the murder o' the Cardinal that the accused were
"Yes," exclaimed the girl, "I remember reading something about it in
Scottish history. And the Whispers are, I suppose, said to be the
ghostly conspirators in conclave."
"That's what folk say, miss. They div say as weel that Auld Nick himsel'
was present, an' gied the decision that the Cardinal, wha was to be
askit ower frae Stirlin', should dee. It is his evil counsel that is
h'ard by those whom death will quickly overtake."
"Really, Stewart," she laughed, "you make me feel quite uncomfortable."
"But, miss, Sir Henry already kens a' aboot the Whispers," said the man.
"I h'ard him tellin' a young gentleman wha cam' doon last shootin'
season a guid dale aboot it. They veesited the auld castle thegither,
an' I happened tae be hereaboots."
This caused the girl to resolve to learn from her father what she could.
He was an antiquary, and had the history of Glencardine at his
So presently she strolled back to Stewart's cottage, and after receiving
from the faithful servant urgent injunctions to "have a care" of
herself, she walked on to the tennis-lawn, where, shaded by the high
trees, Lady Heyburn, in white serge, and three of her male guests were
"Father," she said that same evening, when they had settled down to
commence work upon those ever-arriving documents from Paris, "what was
the cause of Glencardine becoming a ruin?"
"Well, the reason of its downfall was Lord Glencardine's change of
front," he answered. "In 1638 he became a stalwart supporter of
Episcopacy and Divine Right, a course which proved equally fatal to
himself and to his ancient Castle of Glencardine. Reid, in his Annals
of Auchterarder, relates how, after the Civil War, Lord Dundrennan, in
company with his cousin, George Lochan of Ochiltree, and burgess of
Auchterarder and the Laird of M'Nab, descended into Strathearn and
occupied the castle with about fifty men. He hurriedly put it into a
state of defence. General Overton besieged the place in person, with his
army, consisting of eighteen hundred foot and eleven hundred horse, and
battered the walls with cannon, having brought a number of great
ordnance from Stirling Castle. For ten days the castle was held by the
small but resolute garrison, and might have held out longer had not the
well failed. With the prospect of death before them in the event of the
place being taken, Dundrennan and Lochan contrived to break through the
enemy, who surrounded the castle on all sides. A page of the name of
John Hamilton, in attendance upon Lord Dundrennan, well acquainted with
the localities of Glencardine, undertook to be their guide. When the
moon was down, Dundrennan and Lochan issued from the castle by a small
postern, where they found Hamilton waiting for them with three horses.
They mounted, and, passing quietly through the enemy's force, they
escaped, and reached Lord Glencardine in safety to the north. On the
morning after their escape the castle was surrendered, and thirty-five
of the garrison were sent to the Tolbooth of Edinburgh. General Overton
ordered the remaining twelve of those who had surrendered to be shot at
a post, and the castle to be burned, which was accordingly done."
"The country-folk in the neighbourhood are full of strange stories about
ghostly whisperings being heard in the castle ruins," she remarked.
Her father started, and raising his expressionless face to hers, asked
in almost a snappish tone, "Well, and who has heard them now, pray?"
"Several people, I believe."
"And they're gossiping as usual, eh?" he remarked in a hard, dry tone.
"Up here in the Highlands they are ridiculously superstitious. Who's
been telling you about the Whispers, child?"
"Oh, I've learnt of them from several people," she replied evasively.
"Mysterious voices were heard, they say, last night, and for several
nights previously. It's also a local tradition that all those who hear
the whispered warning die within forty days."
"Bosh, my dear! utter rubbish!" the old man laughed. "Who's been trying
to frighten you?"
"Nobody, dad. I merely tell you what the country people say."
"Yes," he remarked, "I know. The story is a gruesome one, and in the
Highlands a story is not attractive unless it has some fatality in it.
Up here the belief in demonology and witchcraft has died very hard. Get
down Penny's Traditions of Perth—first shelf to the left beyond the
second window, right-hand corner. It will explain to you how very
superstitious the people have ever been."
"I know all that, dad," persisted the girl; "but I'm interested in this
extraordinary story of the Whispers. You, as an antiquary, have, no
doubt, investigated all the legendary lore connected with Glencardine.
The people declare that the Whispers are heard, and, I am told, believe
some extraordinary theory regarding them."
"A theory!" he exclaimed quickly. "What theory? What has been
"Nothing, as far as I know."
"No, and nothing ever will be discovered," he said.
"Why not, dad?" she asked. "Do you deny that strange noises are heard
there when there is so much evidence in the affirmative?"
"I really don't know, my dear. I've never had the pleasure of hearing
them myself, though I've been told of them ever since I bought the
"But there is a legend which is supposed to account for them, is there
not, dad? Do tell me what you know," she urged. "I'm so very much
interested in the old place and its bygone history."
"The less you know concerning the Whispers the better, my dear," he
Her father's ominous words surprised her. Did he, too, believe in the
fatal omen, though he was trying to mislead her and poke fun at the
"But why shouldn't I know?" she protested. "This is the first time, dad,
that you've tried to withhold from me any antiquarian knowledge that you
possess. Besides, the story of Glencardine and its lords is intensely
fascinating to me."
"So might be the Whispers, if ever you had the misfortune to hear them."
"Misfortune!" she gasped, turning pale. "Why do you say misfortune?"
But he laughed a strange, hollow laugh, and, endeavouring to turn his
seriousness into humour, said, "Well, they might give you a turn,
perhaps. They would make me start, I feel sure. From what I've been
told, they seem to come from nowhere. It is practically an unseen
spectre who has the rather unusual gift of speech."
It was on the tip of her tongue to explain how, on the previous night,
she had actually listened to the Whispers. But she refrained. She
recognised that, though he would not admit it, he was nevertheless
superstitious of ill results following the hearing of those weird
whisperings. So she made eager pretence of wishing to know the
historical facts of the incident referred to by the gamekeeper.
"No," exclaimed the blind man softly but firmly, taking her hand and
stroking her arm tenderly, as was his habit when he wished to persuade
her. "No, Gabrielle dear," he said; "we will change the subject now. Do
not bother your head about absurd country legends of that sort. There
are so many concerning Glencardine and its lords that a whole volume
might be filled with them."
"But I want to know all about this particular one, dad," she said.
"From me you will never know, my dear," was his answer, as his gray,
serious face was upturned to hers. "You have never heard the Whispers,
and I sincerely hope that you never will."
WHAT FLOCKART FORESAW
The following afternoon was glaring and breathless. Gabrielle had taken
Stokes, with May Spencer (a girl friend visiting her mother), and driven
the "sixteen" over to Connachan with a message from her mother—an
invitation to Lady Murie and her party to luncheon and tennis on the
following day. It was three o'clock, the hour when silence is upon a
summer house-party in the country. Beneath the blazing sun Glencardine
lay amid its rose-gardens, its cut beech-hedges, and its bowers of
greenery. The palpitating heat was terrible—the hottest day that
At the end of the long, handsome drawing-room, with its pale blue carpet
and silk-covered furniture, Lady Heyburn was lolling lazily in her chair
near the wide, bright steel grate, with her inseparable friend, James
Flockart, standing before her.
The striped blinds outside the three long, open windows subdued the
sun-glare, yet the very odour of the cut flowers in the room seemed
oppressive, while without could be heard the busy hum of insect life.
The Baronet's handsome wife looked cool and comfortable in her gown of
white embroidered muslin, her head thrown back upon the silken cushion,
and her eyes raised to those of the man, who was idly smoking a
cigarette, at her side.
"The thing grows more and more inexplicable," he was saying to her in a
low, strained voice. "All the inquiries I've caused to be made in London
and in Paris have led to a negative result."
"We shall only know the truth when we get a peep of those papers in
Henry's safe, my dear friend," was the woman's reply.
"And that's a pretty difficult job. You don't know where the old fellow
keeps the key?"
"I only wish I did. Gabrielle knows, no doubt."
"Then you ought to compel her to divulge," he urged. "Once we get hold
of that key for half-an-hour, we could learn a lot."
"A lot that would be useful to you, eh?" remarked the woman, with a
"And to you also," he said. "Couldn't we somehow watch and see where he
hides the safe-key? He never has it upon him, you say."
"It isn't on his bunch."
"Then he must have a hiding-place for it, or it may be on his
watch-chain," remarked the man decisively. "Get rid of all the guests as
quickly as you can, Winnie. While they're about there's always a danger
of eavesdroppers and of watchers."
"I've already announced that I'm going up to Inverness next week, so
within the next day or two our friends will all leave."
"Good! Then the ground will be cleared for action," he remarked, blowing
a cloud of smoke from his lips. "What's your decision regarding the
"The same as yours."
"But she hates me, you know," laughed the man in gray flannel.
"Yes; but she fears you at the same time, and with her you can do more
by fear than by love."
"True. But she's got a spirit of her own, recollect."
"That must be broken."
"And what about Walter?"
"Oh, as soon as he finds out the truth he'll drop her, never fear. He's
already rather fond of that tall, dark girl of Dundas's. You saw her at
the ball. You recollect her?"
Flockart grunted. He was assisting this woman at his side to play a
desperate game. This was not, however, the first occasion on which they
had acted in conjunction in matters that were not altogether honourable.
There had never been any question of affection between them. The pair
regarded each other from a purely business standpoint. People might
gossip as much as ever they liked; but the two always congratulated
themselves that they had never committed the supreme folly of falling in
love with each other. The woman had married Sir Henry merely in order to
obtain money and position; and this man Flockart, who for years had been
her most intimate associate, had ever remained behind her, to advise and
to help her.
Perhaps had the Baronet not been afflicted he would have disapproved of
this constant companionship, for he would, no doubt, have overheard in
society certain tittle-tattle which, though utterly unfounded, would not
have been exactly pleasant. But as he was blind and never went into
society, he remained in blissful ignorance, wrapped up in his mysterious
"business" and his hobbies.
Gabrielle, on her return from school, had at first accepted Flockart as
her friend. It was he who took her for walks, who taught her to cast a
fly, to shoot rooks, and to play the national winter game of
Scotland—curling. He had in the first few months of her return home
done everything in his power to attract the young girl's friendship,
while at the same time her ladyship showed herself extraordinarily well
disposed towards her.
Within a year, however, by reason of various remarks made by people in
her presence, and on account of the cold disdain with which Lady Heyburn
treated her afflicted father, vague suspicions were aroused within her,
suspicions which gradually grew to hatred, until she clung to her
father, and, as his eyes and ears, took up a position of open defiance
towards her mother and her adventurous friend.
The situation each day grew more and more strained. Lady Heyburn was,
even though of humble origin, a woman of unusual intelligence. In
various quarters she had been snubbed and ridiculed, but she gradually
managed in every case to get the better of her enemies. Many a man and
many a woman had had bitter cause to repent their enmity towards her.
They marvelled how their secrets became known to her.
They did not know the power behind her—the sinister power of that
ingenious and unscrupulous man, James Flockart—the man who made it his
business to know other people's secrets. Though for years he had been
seized with a desire to get at the bottom of Sir Henry's private
affairs, he had never succeeded. The old Baronet was essentially a
recluse; he kept himself so much to himself, and was so careful that no
eyes save those of his daughter should see the mysterious documents
which came to him so regularly by registered post, that all Flockart's
efforts and those of Lady Heyburn had been futile.
"I had another good look at the safe this morning," the man went on
presently. "It is one of the best makes, and would resist anything,
except, of course, the electric current."
"To force it would be to put Henry on his guard," Lady Heyburn remarked,
"If we are to know what secrets are there, and use our knowledge for our
own benefit, we must open it with a key and relock it."
"Well, Winnie, we must do something. We must both have money—that's
quite evident," he said. "That last five hundred you gave me will stave
off ruin for a week or so. But after that we must certainly be well
supplied, or else there may be revelations well—which will be as ugly
for yourself as for me."
"I know," she exclaimed. "I fully realise the necessity of getting
funds. The other affair, though we worked it so well, proved a miserable
"And very nearly gave us away into the bargain," he declared. "I tell
you frankly, Winnie, that if we can't pay a level five thousand in three
weeks' time the truth will be out, and you know what that will mean."
He was watching her handsome face as he spoke, and he noticed how pale
and drawn were her features as he referred to certain ugly truths that
might leak out.
"Yes," she gasped, "I know, James. We'd both find ourselves under
arrest. Such a contretemps is really too terrible to think of."
"But, my dear girl, it must be faced," he said, "if we don't get the
money. Can't you work Sir Henry for a bit more, say another thousand.
Make an excuse that you have bills to pay in London—dressmakers,
jewellers, milliners—any good story will surely do. He gives you
anything you ask for."
She shook her head and sighed. "I fear I've imposed upon his good-nature
far too much already," she answered. "I know I'm extravagant; I'm sorry,
but can't help it. Born in me, I suppose. A few months ago he found out
that I'd been paying Mellish a hundred pounds each time to decorate Park
Street with flowers for my Wednesday evenings, and he created an awful
scene. He's getting horribly stingy of late."
"Yes; but the flowers were a bit expensive, weren't they?" he remarked.
"Not at all. Lady Fortrose, the wife of the soap-man, pays two hundred
and fifty pounds for flowers for her house every Thursday in the season;
and mine looked quite as good as hers. I think Mellish is much cheaper
than anybody else. And, just because I went to a cheap man, Henry was
horrible. He said all sorts of weird things about my reckless
extravagance and the suffering poor—as though I had anything to do with
them. The genuine poor are really people like you and me."
"I know," he said philosophically, lighting another cigarette. "But all
this is beside the point. We want money, and money we must have in order
to avoid exposure. You—"
"I was a fool to have had anything to do with that other little affair,"
"It was not only myself who arranged it. Remember, it was you who
suggested it, because it seemed so easy, and because you had an old
score to pay off."
"The woman was sacrificed, and at the same time an enemy learnt our
"I couldn't help it," he protested. "You let your woman's vindictiveness
overstep your natural caution, my dear girl. If you'd taken my advice
there would have been no suspicion."
Lady Heyburn was silent. She sat regarding the toe of her patent-leather
shoe fixedly, in deep reflection. She was powerless to protest, she was
so entirely in this man's hands. "Well," she asked at last, stirring
uneasily in her chair, "and suppose we are not able to raise the money,
what do you anticipate will be the result?"
"A rapid reprisal," was his answer. "People like them don't
"Yes, I see," she remarked in a blank voice. "They have nothing to lose,
so they will bring pressure upon us."
"Just as we once tried to bring pressure upon them. It's all a matter of
money. We pay the price arranged—a mere matter of business."
"But how are we to get money?"
"By getting a glance at what's in that safe," he replied. "Once we get
to know this mysterious secret of Sir Henry's, I and my friends can get
money easily enough. Leave it all to me."
"This matter you will please leave entirely to me, Winnie," he repeated
with determination. "We are both in danger—great danger; and that being
so, it is incumbent upon me to act boldly and fearlessly. I mean to get
the key, and see what is within that safe."
"But the girl?" asked her ladyship.
"Within one week from to-day the girl will no longer trouble us," he
said with an evil glance. "I do not intend that she shall remain a
barrier against our good fortune any longer. Understand that, and remain
perfectly calm, whatever may happen."
"But you surely don't intend—you surely will not—"
"I shall act as I think proper, and without any sentimental advice from
you," he declared with a mock bow, but straightening himself instantly
when at the door was heard a fumbling, and the gray-bearded man in blue
spectacles, his thin white hand groping before him, slowly entered the
CONCERNS THE CURSE OF THE CARDINAL
Gabrielle and Walter were seated together under one of the big oaks at
the edge of the tennis-lawn at Connachan. With May Spencer and Lady
Murie they had been playing; but his mother and the young girl had gone
into the house for tea, leaving the lovers alone.
"What's the matter with you to-day, darling?" he had asked as soon as
they were out of hearing. "You don't seem yourself, somehow."
She started quickly, and, pulling herself up, tried to smile, assuring
him that there was really nothing amiss.
"I do wish you'd tell me what it is that's troubling you so," he said.
"Ever since I returned from abroad you've not been yourself. It's no use
denying it, you know."
"I haven't felt well, perhaps. I think it must be the weather," she
But he, viewing the facts in the light of what he had noticed at their
almost daily clandestine meetings, knew that she was concealing
something from him.
Before his departure on that journey to Japan she had always been so
very frank and open. Nowadays, however, she seemed to have entirely
changed. Her love for him was just the same—that he knew; it was her
unusual manner, so full of fear and vague apprehension, which caused him
so many hours of grave reflection.
With her woman's cleverness, she succeeded in changing the topic of
conversation, and presently they rose to join his mother at the
tea-table in the drawing-room.
Half-an-hour later, while they were idling in the hall together, she
suddenly exclaimed, "Walter, you're great on Scottish history, so I want
some information from you. I'm studying the legends and traditions of
our place, Glencardine. What do you happen to know about them?"
"Well," he laughed, "there are dozens of weird tales about the old
castle. I remember reading quite a lot of extraordinary stories in some
book or other about three years ago. I found it in the library here."
"Oh! do tell me all about it," she urged instantly. "Weird legends
always fascinate me. Of course I know just the outlines of its history.
It's the tales told by the country-folk in which I'm so deeply
"You mean the apparition of the Lady in Green, and all that?"
"Yes; and the Whispers."
He started quickly at her words, and asked, "What do you know about
them, dear? I hope you haven't heard them?"
She smiled, with a frantic effort at unconcern, saying, "And what harm,
pray, would they have done me, even if I had?"
"Well," he said, "they are only heard by those whose days are numbered;
at least, so say the folk about here."
"Of course, it's only a fable," she laughed. "The people of the Ochils
are so very superstitious."
"I believe the fatal result of listening to those mysterious Whispers
has been proved in more than one instance," remarked the young man quite
seriously. "For myself, I do not believe in any supernatural agency. I
merely tell you what the people hereabouts believe. Nobody from this
neighbourhood could ever be induced to visit your ruins on a moonlit
"That's just why I want to know the origin of the unexplained
"How can I tell you?"
"But you know—I mean you've heard the legend, haven't you?"
"Yes," was his reply. "The story of the Whispers of Glencardine is well
known all through Perthshire. Hasn't your father ever told you?"
"Because, no doubt, he fears that you might perhaps take it into your
head to go there one night and try to listen for them," her lover said.
"Do not court misfortune, dearest. Take my advice, and give the place a
very wide berth. There is, without a doubt, some uncanny agency there."
The girl laughed outright. "I do declare, Walter, that you believe in
these foolish traditions," she said.
"Well, I'm a Scot, you see, darling, and a little superstition is
perhaps permissible, especially in connection with such a mystery as the
strange disappearance of Cardinal Setoun."
"Then, tell me the real story as you know it," she urged. "I'm much
interested. I only heard about the Whispers quite recently."
"The historical facts, so far as I can recollect reading them in the
book in question," he said, "are to the effect that the Most Reverend
James Cardinal Setoun, Archbishop of St. Andrews, Chancellor of the
Kingdom, was in the middle of the sixteenth century directing all his
energies towards consolidating the Romish power in Scotland, and not
hesitating to resort to any crime which seemed likely to accomplish his
purpose. Many were the foul assassinations and terrible tortures upon
innocent persons performed at his orders. One person who fell into the
hands of this infamous cleric was Margaret, the second daughter of
Charles, Lord Glencardine, a beautiful girl of nineteen. Because she
would not betray her lover, she was so cruelly tortured in the
Cardinal's palace that she expired, after suffering fearful agony, and
her body was sent back to Glencardine with an insulting message to her
father, who at once swore to be avenged. The king had so far resigned
the conduct of the kingdom into the hands of his Eminence that nothing
save armed force could oppose him. Setoun knew that a union between
Henry VIII. and James V. would be followed by the downfall of the papal
power in Scotland, and therefore he laid a skilful plot. Whilst advising
James to resist the dictation of his uncle, he privately accused those
of the Scottish nobles who had joined the Reformers of meditated treason
against His Majesty. This placed the king in a serious dilemma, for he
could not proceed against Henry without the assistance of those very
nobles accused as traitors. The wily Cardinal had hoped that James
would, in self-defence, seek an alliance with France and Spain; but he
was mistaken. You know, of course, how the forces of the kingdom were
assembled and sent against the Duke of Norfolk. The invader was thus
repelled, and the Cardinal then endeavoured to organise a new expedition
under Romish leaders. This also failing, his Eminence endeavoured to
dictate to the country through the Earl of Arran, the Governor of
Scotland. By a clever ruse he pretended friendship with Erskine of Dun,
and endeavoured to use him for his own ends. Curiously enough, over
yonder"—and he pointed to a yellow parchment in a black ebony frame
hanging upon the panelled wall of the hall—"over there is one of the
Cardinal's letters to Erskine, which shows the infamous cleric's smooth,
insinuating style when it suited his purpose. I'll go and get it for you
The young man rose, and, taking it down, brought it to her. She saw that
the parchment, about eight inches long by four wide, was covered with
writing in brown ink, half-faded, while attached was a formidable oval
red seal which bore a coat of arms surmounting the Cardinal's hat.
With difficulty they made out this interesting letter to read as
"RYCHT HONOURABLE AND TRAIST COUSING,—I commend me hartlie to you,
nocht doutting bot my lord governour hes written specialye to you at
this tyme to keep the diet with his lordship in Edinburgh the first day
of November nixt to cum, quhilk I dout nocht bot ye will kepe, and I
know perfitlie your guid will and mynd euer inclinit to serue my lord
governour, and how ye are nocht onnely determinit to serue his lordship,
at this tyme be yourself bot als your gret wais and solistatioun maid
with mony your gret freyndis to do the samin, quhilk I assuris you sall
cum bayth to your hier honour and the vele of you and your houss and
freyndis, quhilk ye salbe sure I sall procure and fortyfie euir at my
power, as I have shewin in mair speciale my mynd heirintil to your
cousin of Brechin, Knycht: Praing your effectuously to kepe trist, and
to be heir in Sanct Androwis at me this nixt Wedinsday, that we may
depairt all togydder by Thurisday nixt to cum, towart my lord governour,
and bring your frendis and servandis with you accordantly, and as my
lord governour hais speciale confidence in you at this tyme; and be sure
the plesour I can do you salbe evir reddy at my power as knawis God,
quha preserve you eternall.
"At Sanct Androwis, the 25th day of October (1544). J. CARDINALL OFF
"To the rycht honourable and our rycht traist cousing the lard of Dvn."
"Most interesting!" declared the young girl, holding the frame in her
"It's doubly interesting, because it is believed that Erskine's brother
Henry, finding himself befooled by the crafty Cardinal, united with Lord
Glencardine to kill him and dispose of his body secretly, thus ridding
Scotland of one of her worst enemies," Walter went on. "For the past
five years stories had been continually leaking out of Setoun's inhuman
cruelty, his unscrupulous, fiendish tortures inflicted upon all those
who displeased him, and how certain persons who stood in his way had
died mysteriously or disappeared, no one knew whither. Hence it was
that, at Erskine's suggestion, Wemyss of Strathblane went over to
Glencardine, and with Charles, Lord Glencardine, conspired to invite the
Cardinal there, on pretence of taking counsel against the Protestants,
but instead to take his life. The conspirators were, it is said, joined
by the Earl of Kintyre and by Mary, the sixteen-year-old daughter of
Lord Charles, and sister of the poor girl so brutally done to death by
his Eminence. On several successive nights the best means of getting rid
of Setoun were considered and discussed, and it is declared that the
Whispers now heard sometimes at Glencardine are the secret deliberations
of those sworn to kill the infamous Cardinal. Mary, the daughter of the
house, was allowed to decide in what manner her sister's death should be
avenged, and at her suggestion it was resolved that the inhuman head of
the Roman Church should, before his life was taken, be put to the same
fiendish tortures as those to which her sister had been subjected in his
"It is curious that after his crime the Cardinal should dare to visit
Glencardine," Gabrielle remarked.
"Not exactly. His lordship, pretending that he wished to be appointed
Governor of Scotland in the place of the Earl of Arran, had purposely
made his peace with Setoun, who on his part was only too anxious to
again resume friendly relations with so powerful a noble. Therefore,
early in May, 1546, he went on a private visit, and almost unattended,
to Glencardine, within the walls of which fortress he disappeared for
ever. What exactly occurred will never be known. All that the Commission
who subsequently sat to try the conspirators were able to discover was
that the Cardinal had been taken to the dungeon beneath the north tower,
and there tortured horribly for several days, and afterwards burned at
the stake in the courtyard, the fire being ignited by Lord Glencardine
himself, and the dead Cardinal's ashes afterwards scattered to the
"A terrible revenge!" exclaimed the girl with a shudder. "They were
veritable fiends in those days."
"They were," he laughed, rehanging the frame upon the wall. "Some
historians have, of course, declared that Setoun was murdered at Mains
Castle, and others declare Cortachy to have been the scene of the
assassination; but the truth that it occurred at Glencardine is proved
by a quantity of the family papers which, when your father purchased
Glencardine, came into his possession. You ought to search through
"I will. I had no idea dad possessed any of the Glencardine papers," she
declared, much interested in that story of the past. "Perhaps from them
I may be able to glean something further regarding the strange Whispers
"Make whatever searches you like, dearest," he said in all earnestness,
"but never attempt to investigate the Whispers themselves." And as they
were alone, he took her little hand in his, and looking into her face
with eyes of love, pressed her to promise him never to disregard his
She told him nothing of her own weird experience. He was ignorant of the
fact that she had actually heard the mysterious Whispers, and that, as a
consequence, a great evil already lay upon her.
FOLLOWS FLOCKART'S FORTUNES
One evening, a few days later, Gabrielle, seated beside her father at
his big writing-table, had concluded reading some reports, and had
received those brief, laconic replies which the blind man was in the
habit of giving, when she suddenly asked, "I believe, dad, that you have
a quantity of the Glencardine papers, haven't you? If I remember aright,
when you bought the castle you made possession of these papers a
"Yes, dear, I did," was his answer. "I thought it a shame that the
papers of such a historic family should be dispersed at Sotheby's, as
they no doubt would have been. So I purchased them."
"You've never let me see them," she said. "As you know, you've taught me
so much antiquarian knowledge that I'm becoming an enthusiast like
"You can see them, dear, of course," was his reply. "They are in that
big ebony cabinet at the end of the room yonder—about two hundred
charters, letters, and documents, dating from 1314 down to 1695."
"I'll go through them to-morrow," she said. "I suppose they throw a good
deal of light upon the history of the Grahams and the actions of the
great Lord Glencardine?"
"Yes; but I fear you'll find them very difficult to read," he remarked.
"Not being able to see them for myself, alas! I had to send them to
London to be deciphered."
"And you still have the translations?"
"Unfortunately, no, dear. Professor Petre at Oxford, who is preparing
his great work on Glencardine, begged me to let him see them, and he
still has them."
"Well," she laughed, "I must therefore content myself with the
originals, eh? Do they throw any further light upon the secret agreement
in 1644 between the great Marquess of Glencardine, whose home was here,
and King Charles?"
"Really, Gabrielle," laughed the old antiquary, "for a girl, your
recollection of abstruse historical points is wonderful."
"Not at all. There was a mystery, I remember, and mysteries always
"Well," he replied after a few moments' hesitation, "I fear you will not
find the solution of that point, or of any other really important point,
contained in any of the papers. The most interesting records they
contain are some relating to Alexander Senescallus (Stewart), the fourth
son of Robert II., who was granted in 1379 a Castle of Garth. He was a
reprobate, and known as the Wolf of Badenoch. On his father's accession
in 1371, he was granted the charters of Badenoch, with the Castle of
Lochindorb and of Strathavon; and at a slightly later date he was
granted the lands of Tempar, Lassintulach, Tulachcroske, and Gort
(Garth). As you know, many traditions regarding him still survive; but
one fact contained in yonder papers is always interesting, for it shows
that he was confined in the dungeon of the old keep of Glencardine until
Robert III. released him. There are also a quantity of interesting facts
regarding 'Red Neil,' or Neil Stewart of Fothergill, who was Laird of
Garth, which will some day be of value to future historians of
"Is there anything concerning the mysterious fate of Cardinal Setoun
within Glencardine?" asked the girl, unable to curb her curiosity.
"No," he replied in a manner which was almost snappish. "That's a mere
tradition, my dear—simply a tale invented by the country-folk. It seems
to have been imagined in order to associate it with the mysterious
Whispers which some superstitious people claim to have heard. No old
castle is complete nowadays without its ghost, so we have for our share
the Lady of Glencardine and the Whispers," he laughed.
"But I thought it was a matter of authenticated history that the
Cardinal was actually enticed here, and disappeared!" exclaimed the
girl. "I should have thought that the Glencardine papers would have
referred to it," she added, recollecting what Walter had told her.
"Well, they don't; so why worry your head, dear, over a mere fable? I
have already gone very carefully into all the facts that are proved, and
have come to the conclusion that the story of the torture of his
Eminence is a fairy-tale, and that the supernatural Whispers have only
been heard in imagination."
She was silent. She recollected that sound of murmuring voices. It was
certainly not imagination.
"But you'll let me have the key of the cabinet, won't you, dad?" she
asked, glancing across to where stood a beautiful old Florentine cabinet
of ebony inlaid with ivory, and reaching almost to the ceiling.
"Certainly, Gabrielle dear," was the reply of the expressionless man.
"It is upstairs in my room. You shall have it to-morrow."
And then he lapsed again into silence, reflecting whether it were not
best to secure certain parchment records from those drawers before his
daughter investigated them. There was a small roll of yellow parchment,
tied with modern tape, which he was half-inclined to conceal from her
curious gaze. Truth to tell, they constituted a record of the torture
and death of Cardinal Setoun much in the same manner as Walter Murie had
described to her. If she read that strange chronicle she might, he
feared, be impelled to watch and endeavour to hear the fatal Whispers.
Strange though it was, yet those sounds were a subject which caused him
daily apprehension. Though he never referred to them save to ridicule
every suggestion of their existence, or to attribute the weird noises to
the wind, yet never a day passed but he sat calmly reflecting. That one
matter which his daughter knew above all others caused him the most
serious thought and apprehension—a fear which had become doubly
increased since she had referred to the curious and apparently
inexplicable phenomenon. He, a refined, educated man of brilliant
attainments, scouted the idea of any supernatural agency. To those who
had made mention of the Whispers—among them his friend Murie, the Laird
of Connachan; Lord Strathavon, from whom he had purchased the estate;
and several of the neighbouring landowners—he had always expressed a
hope that one day he might be fortunate enough to hear the whispered
counsel of the Evil One, and so decide for himself its true cause. He
pretended always to treat the affair with humorous incredulity, yet at
heart he was sorely troubled.
If his young wife's remarkable friendship with the man Flockart often
caused him bitter thoughts, then the mysterious Whispers and the
fatality so strangely connected with them were equally a source of
A few days later Flockart, with clever cunning, seemed to alter his
ingenious tactics completely, for suddenly he had commenced to bestir
himself in Sir Henry's interests. One morning after breakfast, taking
the Baronet by the arm, he led him for a stroll along the drive, down to
the lodge-gates, and back, for the purpose, as he explained, of speaking
with him in confidence.
At first the blind man was full of curiosity as to the reason of this
unusual action, as those deprived of sight usually are.
"I know, Sir Henry," Flockart said presently, and not without
hesitation, "that certain ill-disposed people have endeavoured to place
an entirely wrong construction upon your wife's friendship towards me.
For that reason I have decided to leave Glencardine, both for her sake
and for yours."
"But, my dear fellow," exclaimed the blind man, "why do you suggest such
"Because your wife's enemies have their mouths full of scandalous lies,"
he replied. "I tell you frankly, Sir Henry, that my friendship with her
ladyship is a purely platonic one. We were children together, at home in
Bedford, and ever since our schooldays I have remained her friend."
"I know that," remarked the old man quietly. "My wife told me that when
you dined with us on several occasions at Park Street. I have never
objected to the friendship existing between you, Flockart; for, though I
have never seen you, I have always believed you to be a man of honour."
"I feel very much gratified at those words, Sir Henry," he said in a
deep, earnest voice, glancing at the grey, dark-spectacled face of the
fragile man whose arm he was holding. "Indeed, I've always hoped that
you would repose sufficient confidence in me to know that I am not such
a blackguard as to take any advantage of your cruel affliction."
The blind Baronet sighed. "Ah, my dear Flockart! all men are not
honourable like yourself. There are many ready to take advantage of my
lack of eyesight. I have experienced it, alas! in business as well as in
my private life."
The dark-faced man was silent. He was playing an ingenious, if
dangerous, game. The Baronet had referred to business—his mysterious
business, the secret of which he was now trying his best to solve.
"Yes," he said at length, "I suppose the standard of honesty in business
is nowadays just about as low as it can possibly be, eh? Well, I've
never been in business myself, so I don't know. In the one or two small
financial deals in which I've had a share, I've usually been 'frozen
out' in the end."
"Ah, Flockart," sighed the Laird of Glencardine, "you are unfortunately
quite correct. The so-called smart business man is the one who robs his
neighbour without committing the sin of being found out."
This remark caused the other a twinge of conscience. Did he intend to
convey any hidden meaning? He was full of cunning and cleverness.
"Well," Flockart exclaimed, "I'm truly gratified to think that I retain
your confidence, Sir Henry. If I have in the past been able to be of any
little service to Lady Heyburn, I assure you I am only too delighted.
Yet I think that in the face of gossip which some of your neighbours
here are trying to spread—gossip started, I very much fear, by Miss
Gabrielle—my absence from Glencardine will be of distinct advantage to
all concerned. I do not, my dear Sir Henry, desire for one single moment
to embarrass you, or to place her ladyship in any false position. I——"
"But, my dear fellow, you've become quite an institution with us!"
exclaimed Sir Henry in dismay. "We should all be lost without you. Why,
as you know, you've done me so many kindnesses that I can never
sufficiently repay you. I don't forget how, through your advice, I've
been able to effect quite a number of economies at Caistor, and how
often you assist my wife in various ways in her social duties."
"My dear Sir Henry," he laughed, "you know I'm always ready to serve
either of you whenever it lies in my power. Only—well, I feel that I'm
in your wife's company far too much, both here and in Lincolnshire.
People are talking. Therefore, I have decided to leave her, and my
decision is irrevocable."
"Let them talk. If I do not object, you surely need not."
"But for your wife's sake?"
"I know—I know how cruel are people's tongues, Flockart," remarked the
"Yes; and the gossip was unfortunately started by Gabrielle. It was
surely very unwise of her."
"Ah!" sighed the other, "it is the old story. Every girl becomes jealous
of her step-mother. And she's only a child, after all," he added
"Well, much as I esteem her, and much as I admire her, I feel, Sir
Henry, that she had no right to bring discord into your house. I hope
you will permit me to say this, with all due deference to the fact that
she's your daughter. But I consider her conduct in this matter has been
Again the Baronet was silent, and his companion saw that he was
reflecting deeply. "How do you know that the scandal was started by
her?" he asked presently, in a low, rather strained voice.
"Young Paterson told me so. It appears that when she was staying with
them over at Tullyallan she told his mother all sorts of absurd stories.
And Mrs. Paterson who, as you know, is a terrible gossip—told the Reads
of Logie and the Redcastles, and in a few days these fictions, with all
sorts of embroidery, were spread half over Scotland. Why, my friend
Lindsay, the member for Berwick, heard some whispers the other day in
the Carlton Club! So, in consequence of that, Sir Henry, I'm resolved,
much against my will and inclination, I assure you, to end my friendship
with your wife."
"All this pains me more than I can tell you," declared the old man. "The
more so, too, that Gabrielle should have allowed her jealousy to lead
her to make such false charges."
"Yes. In order not to pain you. I have hesitated to tell you this for
several weeks. But I really thought that you ought at least to know the
truth, and who originated the scandal. And so I have ventured to-day to
speak openly, and to announce my departure," said the wily Flockart. He
was putting to the test the strength of his position in that household.
He had an ulterior motive, one that was ingenious and subtle.
"But you are not really going?" exclaimed the other. "You told me the
other day something about my factor Macdonald, and your suspicions of
"My dear Sir Henry, it will be far better for us both if I leave. To
remain will only be to lend further colour to these scandalous rumours.
I have decided to leave your house."
"You believe that Macdonald is dishonest, eh?" inquired the afflicted
"Yes, I'm certain of it. Remember, Sir Henry, that when one is dealing
with a man who is blind, it is sometimes a great temptation to be
"I know, I know," sighed the other deeply. They were at a bend in the
drive where the big trees met overhead, forming a leafy tunnel. The
ascent was a trifle steep, and the Baronet had paused for a few seconds,
leaning heavily upon the arm of his friend.
"Oh, pardon me!" exclaimed Flockart suddenly, releasing his arm. "Your
watch-chain is hanging down. Let me put it right for you." And for a few
seconds he fumbled at the chain, at the same time holding something in
the palm of his left hand. "There, that's right," he said a few minutes
later. "You caught it somewhere, I expect."
"On one of the knobs of my writing-table perhaps," said the other.
"Thanks. I sometimes inadvertently pull it out of my pocket."
A faint smile of triumph passed across the dark, handsome face of the
man, who again took his arm, as at the same time he replaced something
in his own jacket-pocket. He had in that instant secured what he wanted.
"You were saying with much truth, my dear Flockart, that in dealing with
a man who cannot see there is occasionally a temptation towards
dishonesty. Well, this very day I intend to have a long chat with my
wife, but before I do so will you promise me one thing?"
"And what is that?" asked the man, not without some apprehension.
"That you will remain here, disregard the gossip that you may have
heard, and continue to assist me in my helplessness in making full and
searching inquiry into Macdonald's alleged defalcations."
The man reflected for a few seconds, with knit brows. His quick wits
were instantly at work, for he saw with the utmost satisfaction that he
had been entirely successful in disarming all suspicion; therefore his
next move must be the defeat of that man's devoted defender, Gabrielle,
the one person who stood between his own penniless self and fortune.
"I really cannot at this moment make any promise, Sir Henry," he
remarked at last. "I have decided to go."
"But defer your decision for the present. There is surely no immediate
hurry for your departure! First let me consult my wife," urged the
Baronet, putting out his hand and groping for that of Flockart, which he
pressed warmly as proof of his continued esteem. "Let me talk to
Winifred. She shall decide whether you go or whether you shall stay."
SHOWS A GIRL'S BONDAGE
Walter Murie had chosen politics as a profession long ago, even when he
was an undergraduate. He had already eaten his dinners in London, and
had been called to the Bar as the first step towards a political career.
He had a relative in the Foreign Office, while his uncle had held an
Under-Secretaryship in the late Government. Therefore he had influence,
and hoped by its aid to secure some safe seat. Already he had studied
both home and foreign affairs very closely, and had on two occasions
written articles in the Times upon that most vexed and difficult
question, the pacification of Macedonia. He was a very fair speaker,
too, and on several occasions he had seconded resolutions and made quite
clever speeches at political gatherings in his own county, Perthshire.
Indeed, politics was his hobby; and, with money at his command and
influence in high quarters, there was no reason why he should not within
the next few years gain a seat in the House. With Sir Henry Heyburn he
often had long and serious chats. The brilliant politician, whose career
had so suddenly and tragically been cut short, gave him much good
advice, pointing out the special questions he should study in order to
become an authority. This is the age of specialising, and in politics it
is just as essential to be a specialist as it is in the medical, legal,
or any other profession.
In a few days the young man was returning to his dingy chambers in the
Temple, to pore again over those mouldy tomes of law; therefore almost
daily he ran over to Glencardine to chat with the blind Baronet, and to
have quiet walks with the sweet girl who looked so dainty in her fresh
white frocks, and whose warm kisses were so soft and caressing.
Surely no pair, even in the bygone days of knight and dame, the days of
real romance, were more devoted to each other. With satisfaction he saw
that Gabrielle's apparent indifference had now worn off. It had been but
the mask of a woman's whim, and as such he treated it.
One afternoon, after tea out on the lawn, they were walking together by
the bypath to the lodge in order to meet Lady Heyburn, who had gone into
the village to visit a bedridden old lady. Hand-in-hand they were
strolling, for on the morrow he was going south, and would probably be
absent for some months.
The girl had allowed herself to remain in her lover's arms in one long
kiss of perfect ecstasy. Then, with a sigh of regret, she had held his
hand and gone forward again without a word. When Walter had left, the
sun of her young life would have set, for after all it was not exactly
exciting to be the eyes and ears of a man who was blind. And there was
always at her side that man whom she hated, and who, she knew, was her
bitterest foe—James Flockart.
Of late her father seemed to have taken him strangely into his
confidence. Why, she could not tell. A sudden change of front on the
Baronet's part was unusual; but as she watched with sinking heart she
could not conceal from herself the fact that Flockart now exercised
considerable influence over her father—an influence which in some
matters had already proved to be greater than her own.
It was of this man Walter spoke. "I have a regret, dearest—nay, more
than a regret, a fear—in leaving you here alone," he exclaimed in a
low, distinct voice, gazing into the blue, fathomless depths of those
eyes so very dear to him.
"A fear! Why?" she asked in some surprise, returning his look.
"Because of that man—your mother's friend," he said. "Recently I have
heard some curious tales concerning him. I really wonder why Sir Henry
still retains him as his guest."
"Why need we speak of him?" she exclaimed quickly, for the subject was
"Because I wish you to be forewarned," he said in a serious voice. "That
man is no fitting companion for you. His past is too well known to a
"His past!" she echoed. "What have you discovered concerning him?"
Her companion did not answer for a few moments. How could he tell her
all that he had heard? His desire was to warn her, yet he could not
relate to her the allegations made by certain persons against Flockart.
"Gabrielle," he said, "all that I have heard tends to show that his
friendship for you and for your father is false; therefore avoid
him—beware of him."
"I—I know," she faltered, lowering her eyes. "I've felt that was the
case all along, yet I——"
"Yet what?" he asked.
"I mean I want you to promise me one thing, Walter," she said quickly.
"You love me, do you not?"
"Love you, my own darling! How can you ask such a question? You surely
know that I do!"
"Then, if you really love me, you will make me a promise."
"Only one thing—one little thing," she said in a low, earnest voice,
looking straight into his eyes. "If—if that man ever makes an
allegation against me, you won't believe him?"
"An allegation! Why, darling, what allegation could such a man ever make
"He is my enemy," she remarked simply.
"I know that. But what charge could he bring against you? Why, if even
he dared to utter a single word against you, I—I'd wring the ruffian's
"But if he did, Walter, you wouldn't believe him, would you?"
"Of course I wouldn't."
"Not—not if the charge he made against me was a terrible one—a—a
disgraceful one?" she asked in a strained voice after a brief and
"Why, dearest!" he cried, "what is the matter? You are really not
yourself to-day. You seem to be filled with a graver apprehension even
than I am. What does it mean? Tell me."
"It means, Walter, that that man is Lady Heyburn's friend; hence he is
"And what need you fear when you have me as your friend?"
"I do not fear if you will still remain my friend—always—in face of
any allegation he makes."
"I love you, darling. Surely that's sufficient guarantee of my
"Yes," she responded, raising her white, troubled face to his while he
bent and kissed her again on the lips. "I know that I am yours, my own
well-beloved; and, as yours, I will not fear."
"That's right!" he exclaimed, endeavouring to smile. "Cheer up. I don't
like to see you on this last day down-hearted and apprehensive like
"I am not so without cause."
"Then, what is the cause?" he demanded. "Surely you can repose
confidence in me?"
Again she was silent. Above them the wind stirred the leaves, and
through the high bracken a rabbit scuttled at their feet. They were
alone, and she stood again locked in her lover's fond embrace.
"You have told me yourself that man Flockart is my enemy," she said in a
"But what action of his can you fear? Surely you should be forearmed
against any evil he may be plotting. Tell me the truth, and I will go
myself to your father and denounce the fellow before his face!"
"Ah, no!" she cried, full of quick apprehension. "Never think of doing
"Why? Am I not your friend?"
"Such a course would only bring his wrath down upon my head. He would
retaliate quickly, and I alone would suffer."
"But, my dear Gabrielle," he exclaimed, "you really speak in enigmas.
Whatever can you fear from a man who is known to be a blackguard—whom I
could now, at this very moment, expose in such a manner that he would
never dare to set foot in Perthshire again?"
"Such a course would be most injudicious, I assure you. His ruin would
mean—it would mean—my—own!"
"I don't follow you."
"Ah, because you do not know my secret—you——"
"Your secret!" the young man gasped, staring at her, yet still holding
her trembling form in his strong arms. "Why, what do you mean? What
"I—I cannot tell you!" she exclaimed in a hard, mechanical voice,
looking straight before her.
"But you must," he protested.
"I—I asked you, Walter, to make me a promise," she said, her voice
broken by emotion—"a promise that, for the sake of the love you bear
for me, you will not believe that man, that you will disregard any
allegation against me."
"And I promise, on one condition, darling—that you tell me in
confidence what I, as your future husband, have a just right to
know—the nature of this secret of yours."
"Ah, no!" she cried, unable longer to restrain her tears, and burying
her pale, beautiful face upon his arm. "I—I was foolish to have spoken
of it," she sobbed brokenly: "I ought to have kept it to myself. It
is—it's the one thing that I can never reveal to you—to you of all
DESCRIBES A FRENCHMAN'S VISIT
"Monsieur Goslin, Sir Henry," Hill announced, entering his master's room
one morning a fortnight later, just as the blind man was about to
descend to breakfast. "He's in the library, sir."
"Goslin!" exclaimed the Baronet, in great surprise. "I'll go to him at
once; and Hill, serve breakfast for two in the library, and tell Miss
Gabrielle that I do not wish to be disturbed this morning."
"Very well, Sir Henry;" and the man bowed and went down the broad oak
"Goslin here, without any announcement!" exclaimed the Baronet, speaking
to himself. "Something must have happened. I wonder what it can be." He
tugged at his collar to render it more comfortable; and then, with a
groping hand on the broad balustrade, he felt his way down the stairs
and along the corridor to the big library, where a stout, grey-haired
Frenchman came forward to greet him warmly, after carefully closing the
"Ah, mon cher ami!" he began; and, speaking in French, he inquired
eagerly after the Baronet's health. He was rather long-faced, with beard
worn short and pointed, and his dark, deep-set eyes and his countenance
showed a fund of good humour. "This visit is quite unexpected,"
exclaimed Sir Henry. "You were not due till the 20th."
"No; but circumstances have arisen which made my journey imperative, so
I left the Gare du Nord at four yesterday afternoon, was at Charing
Cross at eleven, had half-an-hour to catch the Scotch express at King's
Cross, and here I am."
"Oh, my dear Goslin, you always move so quickly! You're simply a marvel
The other smiled, and, with a shrug of the shoulders, said, "I really
don't know why I should have earned a reputation as a rapid traveller,
except, perhaps, by that trip I made last year, from Paris to
Constantinople, when I remained exactly thirty-eight minutes in the
Sultan's capital. But I did my business there, nevertheless, even though
I got through quicker than messieurs les touristes of the most
estimable Agence Cook."
"You want a wash, eh?"
"Ah, no, my friend. I washed at the hotel in Perth, where I took my
morning coffee. When I come to Scotland I carry no baggage save my
tooth-brush in my pocket, and a clean collar across my chest, its ends
held by my braces."
The Baronet laughed heartily. His friend was always most resourceful and
ingenious. He was a mystery to all at Glencardine, and to Lady Heyburn
most of all. His visits were always unexpected, while as to who he
really was, or whence he came, nobody—not even Gabrielle herself—knew.
At times the Frenchman would take his meals alone with Sir Henry in the
library, while at others he would lunch with her ladyship and her
guests. On these latter occasions he proved himself a most amusing
cosmopolitan, and at the same time exhibited an extreme courtliness
towards every one. His manner was quite charming, yet his presence there
was always puzzling, and had given rise to considerable speculation.
Hill came in, and after helping the Frenchman to take off his heavy
leather-lined travelling-coat, laid a small table for two and prepared
Then, when he had served it and left, Goslin rose, and, crossing to the
door, pushed the little brass bolt into its socket. Returning to his
chair opposite the blind man (whose food Hill had already cut up for
him), he exclaimed in a very calm, serious voice, speaking in French, "I
want you to hear what I have to say, Sir Henry, without exciting
yourself unduly. Something has occurred—something very strange and
The other dropped his knife, and sat statuesque and expressionless. "Go
on," he said hoarsely. "Tell me the worst at once."
"The worst has not yet happened. It is that which I'm dreading."
"Well, what has happened? Is—is the secret out?"
"The secret is safe—for the present."
The blind man drew a long breath. "Well, that's one thing to be thankful
for," he gasped. "I was afraid you were going to tell me that the facts
"They may yet be exposed," the mysterious visitor exclaimed. "That's
where lies the danger."
"We have been betrayed, eh? You may as well admit the ugly truth at
"I do not conceal it, Sir Henry. We have."
"By somebody here—in this house."
"Here! What do you mean? Somebody in my own house?"
"Yes. The Greek affair is known. They have been put upon their guard in
"By whom?" cried the Baronet, starting from his chair.
"By somebody whom we cannot trace—somebody who must have had access to
"No one has had access to my papers. I always take good care of that,
Goslin—very good care of that. The affair has leaked out at your end,
not at mine."
"At our end we are always circumspect," the Frenchman said calmly. "Rest
assured that nobody but we ourselves are aware of our operations or
intentions. We know only too well that any revelation would assuredly
bring upon us—disaster."
"But a revelation has actually been made!" exclaimed Sir Henry, bending
forward. "Therefore the worst is to be feared."
"Exactly. That is what I am endeavouring to convey."
"The betrayal must have come from your end, I expect; not from here."
"I regret to assert that it came from here—from this very room."
"How do you know that?"
"Because in Athens they have a complete copy of one of the documents
which you showed me on the last occasion I was here, and which we have
never had in our possession."
The blind man was silent. The allegation admitted of no argument.
"My daughter Gabrielle is the only person who has seen it, and she
understands nothing of our affairs, as you know quite well."
"She may have copied it."
"My daughter would never betray me, Goslin," said Sir Henry in a hard,
distinct voice, rising from the table and slowly walking down the long,
"Has no one else been able to open your safe and examine its contents?"
asked the Frenchman, glancing over to the small steel door let into the
wall close to where he was sitting.
"No one. Though I'm blind, do you consider me a fool? Surely I recognise
only too well how essential is secrecy. Have I not always taken the most
"You have, Sir Henry. I quite admit that. Indeed, the precautions you've
taken would, if known to the world, be regarded—well, as simply
"I hope the world will never know the truth."
"It will know the truth. They have the copies in Athens. If there is a
traitor—as we have now proved the existence of one—then we can never
in future rest secure. At any moment another exposure may result, with
its attendant disaster."
The Baronet halted before one of the long windows, the morning sunshine
falling full upon his sad, grey face. He drew a long sigh and said,
"Goslin, do not let us discuss the future. Tell me exactly what is the
"The present situation," the Frenchman said in a dry, matter-of-fact
voice, "is one full of peril for us. You have, over there in your safe,
a certain paper—a confidential report which you received direct from
Vienna. It was brought to you by special messenger because its nature
was not such as should be sent through the post. A trusted official of
the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs brought it here. To whom did he
"To Gabrielle. She signed a receipt."
"And she broke the seals?"
"No. I was present, and she handed it to me. I broke the seals myself.
She read it over to me."
"Ah!" ejaculated the Frenchman suspiciously. "It is unfortunate that you
are compelled to entrust our secrets to a woman."
"My daughter is my best friend; indeed, perhaps my only friend."
"Then you have enemies?"
"Who has not?"
"True. We all of us have enemies," replied the mysterious visitor. "But
in this case, how do you account for that report falling into the hands
of the people in Athens? Who keeps the key of the safe?"
"I do. It is never out of my possession."
"At night what do you do with it?"
"I hide it in a secret place in my room, and I sleep with the door
"Then, as far as you are aware, nobody has ever had possession of your
key—not even mademoiselle your daughter?"
"Not even Gabrielle. I always lock and unlock the safe myself."
"But she has access to its contents when it is open," the visitor
remarked. "Acting as your secretary, she is, of course, aware of a good
deal of your business."
"No; you are mistaken. Have we not arranged a code in order to prevent
her from satisfying her woman's natural inquisitiveness?"
"That's admitted. But the document in question, though somewhat guarded,
is sufficiently plain to any one acquainted with the nature of our
The blind man crossed to the safe, and with the key upon his chain
opened it, and, after fumbling in one of the long iron drawers revealed
within, took out a big oblong envelope, orange-coloured, and secured
with five black seals, now, however, broken.
This he handed to his friend, saying, "Read it again, to refresh your
memory. I know myself what it says pretty well by heart."
Monsieur Goslin drew forth the paper within and read the lines of close,
even writing. It was in German. He stood near the window as he read,
while Sir Henry remained near the open safe.
Hill tapped at the bolted door, but his master replied that he did not
wish to be disturbed. "Yes," the Frenchman said at last, "the copy they
have in Athens is exact—word for word."
"They may have obtained it from Vienna."
"No; it came from here. There are some pencilled comments in your
"They were dictated by me."
"Exactly. And they appear in the copy now in the hands of the people in
Athens! Thus it is doubly proved that it was this actual document which
was copied. But by whom?"
"Ah!" sighed the helpless man, his face drawn and paler than usual,
"Gabrielle is the only person who has had sight of it."
"Mademoiselle surely could not have copied it," remarked the Frenchman.
"Has she a lover?"
"Yes; the son of a neighbour of mine, a very worthy young fellow."
Goslin grunted dubiously. It was apparent that he suspected her of
trickery. Information such as had been supplied to the Greek Government
would, he knew, be paid for, and at a high price. Had mademoiselle's
lover had a hand in that revelation?
"I would not suggest for a single moment, Sir Henry, that mademoiselle
your daughter would act in any way against your personal interests;
"But what?" demanded the blind man fiercely, turning towards his
"Well, it is peculiar—very peculiar—to say the least."
Sir Henry was silent. Within himself he was compelled to admit that
certain suspicion attached to Gabrielle. And yet was she not his most
devoted—nay, his only—friend? "Some one has copied the report—that's
evident," he said in a low, hard voice, reflecting deeply.
"And by so doing has placed us in a position of grave peril, Sir
Henry—imminent peril," remarked the visitor. "I see in this an attempt
to obtain further knowledge of our affairs. We have a secret enemy, who,
it seems, has found a vulnerable point in our armour."
"Surely my own daughter cannot be my enemy?" cried the blind man in
"You say she has a lover," remarked the Frenchman, speaking slowly and
with deliberation. "May not he be the instigator?"
"Walter Murie is upright and honourable," replied the blind man. "And
yet—" A long-drawn sigh prevented the conclusion of that sentence.
"Ah, I know!" exclaimed the mysterious visitor in a tone of sympathy.
"You are uncertain in your conclusions because of your terrible
affliction. Sometimes, alas! my dear friend, you are imposed upon,
because you are blind."
"Yes," responded the other, bitterly. "That is the truth, Goslin.
Because I cannot see like other men, I have been deceived—foully and
grossly deceived and betrayed! But—but," he cried, "they thought to
ruin me, and I've tricked them, Goslin—yes, tricked them! Have no fear.
For the present our secrets are our own!"
REVEALS THE SPY
The Twelfth—the glorious Twelfth—had come and gone. "The rush to the
North" had commenced from London. From Euston, St. Pancras, and King's
Cross the night trains for Scotland had run in triplicate, crowded by
men and gun-cases and kit-bags, while gloomy old Perth station was a
scene of unwonted activity each morning.
At Glencardine there were little or no grouse; therefore it was not
until later that Sir Henry invited his usual party.
Gabrielle had been south to visit one of her girlfriends near Durham,
and the week of her absence her afflicted father had spent in dark
loneliness, for Flockart had gone to London, and her ladyship was away
on a fortnight's visit to the Pelhams, down at New Galloway.
On the last day of August, however, Gabrielle returned, being followed a
few hours later by Lady Heyburn, who had travelled up by way of Stirling
and Crieff Junction, while that same night eight men forming the
shooting-party arrived by the day express from the south.
The gathering was a merry one. The guests were the same who came up
there every year, some of them friends of Sir Henry in the days of his
brilliant career, others friends of his wife. The shooting at
Glencardine was always excellent; and Stewart, wise and serious, had
prophesied first-class sport.
Walter Murie was in London. While Gabrielle had been at Durham he had
travelled up there, spent the night at the "Three Tuns," and met her
next morning in that pretty wooded walk they call "the Banks." Devoted
to her as he was, he could not bear any long separation; while she, on
her part, was gratified by this attention. Not without some difficulty
did she succeed in getting away from her friends to meet him, for a
provincial town is not like London, and any stranger is always in the
public eye. But they spent a delightful couple of hours together,
strolling along the footpath through the meadows in the direction of
Finchale Priory. There were no eavesdroppers; and he, with his arm
linked in hers, repeated the story of his all-conquering love.
She listened in silence, then raising her fine clear eyes to his, said,
"I know, Walter—I know that you love me. And I love you also."
"Ah," he sighed, "if you would only be frank with me, dearest—if you
would only be as frank with me as I am with you!"
Sadly she shook her head, but made no reply. He saw that a shadow had
clouded her brow, that she still clung to her strange secret; and at
length, when they retraced their steps back to the city, he reluctantly
took leave of her, and half-an-hour later was speeding south again
towards York and King's Cross.
The opening day of the partridge season proved bright and pleasant. The
men were out early; and the ladies, a gay party, including Gabrielle,
joined them at luncheon spread on a mossy bank about three miles from
the castle. Several of the male guests were particularly attentive to
the dainty, sweet-faced girl whose charming manner and fresh beauty
attracted them. But Gabrielle's heart was with Walter always. She loved
him. Yes, she told herself so a dozen times each day. And yet was not
the barrier between them insurmountable? Ah, if he only knew! If he only
The blind man was left alone nearly the whole of that day. His daughter
had wanted to remain with him, but he would not hear of it. "My dear
child," he had said, "you must go out and lunch. You really must assist
your mother in entertaining the people."
"But, dear dad, I much prefer to remain with you and help you," she
protested. "Yesterday the Professor sent you five more bronze matrices
of ecclesiastical seals. We haven't yet examined them."
"We'll do so to-night, dear," he said. "You go out to-day. I'll amuse
myself all right. Perhaps I'll go for a little walk."
Therefore the girl had, against her inclination, joined the
luncheon-party, where foremost of all to have her little attentions was
a rather foppish young stockbroker named Girdlestone, who had been up
there shooting the previous year, and had on that occasion flirted with
During her absence her father tried to resume his knitting—an
occupation which he had long ago been compelled to resort to in order to
employ his time; but he soon put it down with a sigh, rose, and taking
his soft brown felt-hat and stout stick, tapped his way along through
the great hall and out into the park.
He felt the warmth upon his cheek as he passed slowly along down the
broad drive. "Ah," he murmured to himself, "if only I could once again
see God's sunlight! If I could only see the greenery of nature and the
face of my darling child!" and he sighed brokenly, and went on, his chin
sunk upon his breast, a despairing, hopeless man. Surely no figure more
pathetic than his could be found in the whole of Scotland. Upon him had
been showered honour, great wealth, all indeed that makes life worth
living, and yet, deprived of sight, he existed in that world of
darkness, deceived and plotted against by all about him. His grey
countenance was hard and thoughtful as he passed slowly along tapping
the ground before him, for he was thinking—ever thinking—of the
declaration of his French visitor. He had been betrayed. But by whom?
His thoughts were wandering back to those days when he could see—those
well-remembered days when he had held the House in silence by his
brilliant oratory, and when the papers next day had leading articles
concerning his speeches. He recollected his time-mellowed old club in
St. James's Street—Boodle's—of which he had been so fond. Then came
his affliction. The thought of it all struck him suddenly; and,
clenching his hands, he murmured some inarticulate words through his
teeth. They sounded strangely like a threat. Next instant, however, he
laughed bitterly to himself the dry, harsh laugh of a man into whose
very soul the iron had entered.
In the distance he could hear the shots of his guests, those men who
accepted his hospitality, and who among themselves agreed that he was "a
terrible bore, poor old fellow!" They came up there—with perhaps two
exceptions—to eat his dinners, drink his choice wines, and shoot his
birds, but begrudged him more than ten minutes or so of their company
each day. In the billiard-room of an evening, as he sat upon one of the
long lounges, they would perhaps deign to chat with him; but, alas! he
knew that he was only as a wet blanket to his wife's guests, hence he
kept himself so much to the library—his own domain.
That night he spent half-an-hour in the billiard-room in order to hear
what sport they had had, but very soon escaped, and with Gabrielle
returned again to the library to fulfil his promise and examine the
seal-matrices which the Professor had sent.
To where they sat came bursts of boisterous laughter and of the
waltz-music of the pianola in the hall, for in the shooting season the
echoes of the fine mansion were awakened by the merriment of as gay a
crowd as any who assembled in the Highlands.
Sir Henry heard it. The sounds jarred upon his nerves. Mirth such as
theirs was debarred him for ever, and he had now become gloomy and
misanthropic. He sat fingering those big oval matrices of bronze,
listening to Gabrielle's voice deciphering the inscriptions, and
explaining what was meant and what was possibly their history. One which
Sir Henry declared to be the gem of them all bore the manus Dei for
device, and was the seal of Archbishop Richard (1174-84). Several
documents bearing impressions of this seal were, he said, preserved at
Canterbury and in the British Museum, but here the actual seal itself
had come to light.
With all the enthusiasm of an expert he lingered over the matrice,
feeling it carefully with the tips of his fingers, and tracing the
device with the nail of his forefinger. "Splendid!" he declared. "The
lettering is a most excellent specimen of early Lombardic." And then he
gave the girl the titles of several works, which she got down from the
shelves, and from which she read extracts after some careful search.
The sulphur-casts sent with the matrices she placed carefully with her
father's collection, and during the remainder of the evening they were
occupied in replying to several letters regarding estate matters.
At eleven o'clock she kissed her father good-night and passed out to the
hall, where the pianola was still going, and where the merriment was
still in full swing. For a quarter of an hour she was compelled to
remain with the insipid young ass Bertie Girdlestone, a man who
patronised musical comedy nightly, and afterwards supped regularly at
the "Savoy"; then she escaped at last to her room.
Exchanging her pretty gown of turquoise chiffon for an easy wrap, she
took up a novel, and, switching on her green-shaded reading-lamp, sat
down to enjoy a quiet hour before retiring. Quickly she became engrossed
in the story, and though the stable-chimes sounded each half-hour she
remained undisturbed by them.
It was half-past two before she had reached the happy dénouement of
the book, and, closing it, she rose to take off her trinkets. Having
divested herself of bracelets, rings, and necklet, she placed her hands
to her ears. There was only one ear-ring; the other was missing! They
were sapphires, a present from Walter on her last birthday. He had sent
them to her from Yokohama, and she greatly prized them. Therefore, at
risk of being seen in her dressing-gown by any of the male guests who
might still be astir—for she knew they always played billiards until
very late—she took off her little blue satin slippers and stole out
along the corridor and down the broad staircase.
The place was in darkness; but she turned on the light, and again when
she reached the hall.
She must have dropped her ear-ring in the library; of that she felt
sure. Servants were so careless that, if she left it, it might easily be
swept up in the morning and lost for ever. That thought had caused her
to search for it at once.
As she approached the library door she thought she heard the sound as of
some one within. On her opening the door, however, all was in darkness.
She laughed at her apprehension.
In an instant she touched the switch, and the place became flooded by a
soft, mellow light from lamps cunningly concealed behind the bookcases
against the wall. At the same moment, however, she detected a movement
behind one of the bookcases against which she stood. With sudden
resolution and fearlessness, she stepped forward to ascertain its cause.
Her eyes at that instant fell upon a sight which caused her to start and
stand dumb with amazement. Straight before her the door of her father's
safe stood open. Beside it, startled at the sudden interruption, stood a
man in evening-dress, with a small electric lamp in his clenched hand. A
pair of dark, evil eyes met hers in defiance—the eyes of James
"You!" she gasped.
"Yes," he laughed dryly. "Don't be afraid. It's only I. But, by Jove!
how very charming you look in that gown! I'd love to get a snapshot of
you just as you stand now."
"What are you doing there, examining my father's papers?" she demanded
quickly, her small hands clenched.
"My dear girl," he replied with affected unconcern, "that's my own
business. You really ought to have been in bed long ago. It isn't
discreet, you know, to be down here with me at this hour!"
"I demand to know what you are doing here!" she cried firmly.
"And, my dear little girl, I refuse to tell you," was his decisive
"Very well, then I shall alarm the house and explain to my father what I
SHOWS GABRIELLE DEFIANT
Gabrielle crossed quickly to one of the long windows, which she unbolted
and flung open, expecting to hear the shrill whir of the burglar-alarm,
which, every night, Hill switched on before retiring.
"My dear little girl!" exclaimed the man, smiling as he strolled
leisurely across to her with a cool, perfect unconcern which showed how
completely he was master, "why create such a beastly draught? Nothing
will happen, for I've already seen to those wires."
"You're a thief!" she cried, drawing herself up angrily. "I shall go
straight to my father and tell him at once."
"You are at perfect liberty to act exactly as you choose," was
Flockart's answer, as he bowed before her with irritating mock
politeness. "But before you go, pray allow me to finish these most
interesting documents, some of which, I believe, are in your very neat
"My father's business is his own alone, and you have no right whatever
to pry into it. I thought you were posing as his friend!" she cried in
bitter protest, as she stood with both her hands clenched.
"I am his friend," he declared. "Some day, Gabrielle, you will know the
truth of how near he is to disaster, and how I am risking much in an
endeavour to save him."
"I don't believe you!" she exclaimed in undisguised disgust. "In your
heart there is not one single spark of sympathy with him in his
affliction or with me in my ghastly position!"
"Your position is only your own seeking, my dear child," was his cold
response. "I gave you full warning long ago. You can't deny that."
"You conspired with Lady Heyburn against me!" she cried. "I have
discovered more about it than you think; and I now openly defy you, Mr.
Flockart. Please understand that."
"Good!" he replied, still unruffled. "I quite understand. You will
pardon my resuming, won't you?" And walking back to the open safe, he
drew forth a small bundle of papers from a drawer. Then he threw himself
into a leather arm-chair, and proceeded to untie the tape and examine
the documents one by one, as though in eager search of something.
"Though Lady Heyburn may be your friend, I am quite sure even she would
never for a moment countenance such a dastardly action as this!" cried
the girl, crimsoning in anger. "You come here, accept my father's
hospitality, and make pretence of being his friend and adviser; yet you
are conspiring against him, as you have done against myself!"
"So far as you yourself are concerned, my dear Gabrielle," he laughed,
without deigning to look up from the papers he was scanning, "I offered
you my friendship, but you refused it."
"Friendship!" she cried, in sarcasm. "Your friendship, Mr. Flockart!
What, pray, is it worth? You surely know what people are saying—the
construction they are placing upon your friendship for Lady Heyburn?"
"The misconstruction, you mean," he exclaimed airily, correcting her.
"Well, to me it matters not a single jot. The world is always
ill-disposed and ill-natured. A woman can surely have a male friend
without being subject to hostile and venomous criticism?"
"When the male friend is an honest man," said the girl meaningly.
He shrugged his shoulders and continued reading, as though utterly
disregarding her presence.
What should she do? How should she act? She knew quite well that from
those papers he could gather no knowledge of her father's affairs,
unless he held some secret knowledge of the true meaning of those
cryptic terms and allusions. To her they were all as Hebrew.
Only that very day Monsieur Goslin had again made one of those
unexpected visits, remaining from eleven in the morning until three;
afterwards taking his leave, and driving back in the car to Auchterarder
Station. She had not seen him; but he had brought from Paris for her a
big box of chocolates tied with violet ribbons, as had been his habit
for quite a couple of years past. She was a particular favourite with
the polite, middle-aged Frenchman.
Her father's demeanour was always more thoughtful and serious after the
stranger's visits. Business matters put before him by his visitor
always, it seemed, required much deep thought and ample consideration.
Some papers brought to her father by Goslin she had placed in the safe
earlier that evening, and these, she recognised, were now in Flockart's
hands. She had not read them herself, and had no idea of their contents.
They were, to her, never interesting.
"Mr. Flockart," she exclaimed very firmly at last, "I ask you to kindly
replace those papers in my father's safe, relock it, and hand me the
"That I certainly refuse to do," was the man's defiant reply, bowing as
"You would prefer, then, that I should go up to my father and explain
all I have seen?"
"I repeat what I have already said. You are perfectly at liberty to tell
whom you like. It makes no difference whatever to me. And, well, I don't
want to be disturbed just now." Rising, he walked across to the
writing-table, and taking a piece of note-paper bearing the Heyburn
crest, rapidly pencilled some memoranda upon it. He was, it seemed,
taking a copy of one of the documents.
Suddenly she sprang towards him, crying, "Give me that paper! Give it to
me at once, I say! It is my father's."
He straightened himself from the table, pulled down his white dress-vest
with its amethyst buttons, and, looking straight into her face, ordered
her to leave the room.
"I shall not go," she answered boldly. "I have discovered a thief in my
father's house; therefore my duty is to remain here."
"No. Surely your duty is to go upstairs and tell him;" and he bent
again, resuming his rapid memoranda. "Well," he asked defiantly, a few
moments later, seeing that she had not moved, "aren't you going?"
"I shall not leave you here alone."
"Don't. I might run away with some of the ornaments."
"Oh, yes!" exclaimed the girl bitterly, "you taunt me because you are
well aware of my helplessness—of what occurred on that
never-to-be-forgotten afternoon—of how completely you have me in your
power! I see it all. You defy me, well knowing that you could, in a
moment, bring upon me a vengeance terrible and complete. It is all
horrible!" she cried, covering her face with her hands. "I know that I
am in your power. And you have no pity, no remorse."
"I gave you full warning," he declared, placing the papers upon the
table and looking at her. "I gave you your choice. You cannot blame me.
You had ample time and opportunity."
"But I still have one man who loves me—a man who will yet stand my
friend and defend me, even against you!"
"Walter Murie!" he laughed, with a quick gesture of disregard. "You
believe him to be your friend? Recollect, my dear Gabrielle, that men
are deceivers ever."
"So it seems in your case," she exclaimed with poignant bitterness. "You
have brought scandalous comment upon my father's name, and yet you are
"Because, as I have already told you, your father is my friend."
"And it is his money which you spend so freely," she said, in a low,
hard voice of reproach. "It comes from him."
"His money!" he exclaimed quickly. "What do you mean? What do you
"Simply that among my father's accounts a short time back I found two
cheques drawn by Lady Heyburn in your favour."
"And you told your father of them, of course!" he exclaimed with
sarcasm. "A remarkable discovery, eh?"
"I told him nothing," was her bold reply. "Not because I wished to
shield you, but because I did not wish to pain him unduly. He has
worries sufficient, in all conscience."
"Your devotion is really most charming," the man declared calmly,
leaning against the table and examining her critically from head to
foot. "Sir Henry believes in you. You are his dutiful daughter—pure,
good, and all that!" he sneered. "I wonder what he would say if
he—well, if he knew just a little of the truth, of what happened that
day at Chantilly?"
"The truth! Ah, and you would tell him—you!" she gasped in a broken
voice, her sweet, innocent face blanched to the lips in an instant. "You
would drag my good name into the mire, and blast my life for ever with
just as little compunction as you would shoot a rabbit. I know—I know
you only too well, Mr. Flockart! I stand in your way; I am in your way
as well as in Lady Heyburn's. You are only awaiting an opportunity to
wreck my life and crush me! Once I am away from here, my poor father
will be helpless in your hands!"
"Dear me," he sneered, "how very tragic you are becoming! That
dressing-gown really makes you appear quite like a heroine of provincial
melodrama. I ought now to have a revolver and threaten you, and then
this scene would be complete for the stage—wouldn't it? But for
goodness' sake don't remain here in the cold any longer, my dear little
girl. Run off to bed, and forget that to-night you've been walking in
"Not until I see that safe relocked and you give me the false key of
yours. If you will not, then you shall this very night have an
opportunity of telling the truth to my father. I am prepared to bear my
shame and all its consequences——"
The words froze upon her pale lips. On the lawn outside the half-open
glass door there was at that moment a light movement—the tapping of a
"Hush!" cried Flockart. "Remember what I can tell him—if I choose!"
In an instant she saw the fragile figure of her father, in soft felt-hat
and black coat, creeping almost noiselessly past the window. He had been
out for one of his nocturnal walks, for he sometimes went out alone when
suffering from insomnia. He had just returned.
The blind man went forward only a few paces farther; but, finding that
he had proceeded too far, he returned and discovered the open door. Near
it stood the pair, not daring now to move lest the blind man's quick
ears should detect their footsteps.
"Gabrielle! Gabrielle, my dear!" exclaimed the Baronet.
But though her heart beat quickly, the girl did not reply. She knew,
however, that the old man could almost read her innermost thoughts. The
ominous words of Flockart rang in her ears. Yes, he could tell a
terrible and awful truth which must be concealed at all hazards.
"I felt sure I heard Gabrielle's voice. How curious!" murmured the old
man, as his feet fell noiselessly upon the thick Turkey carpet.
"Gabrielle, dear!" he called. But his daughter stood there breathless
and silent, not daring to move a muscle. Plain it was that while passing
across the lawn outside he heard her voice. He had overheard her
declaration that she was prepared to bear the consequences of her
Across the room the blind man groped, his hand held before him, as was
his habit. "Strange! Remarkably strange!" he remarked to himself quite
aloud. "I'm never mistaken in Gabrielle's voice. Gabrielle, dear, where
are you? Why don't you speak? It's too late to-night to play practical
Flockart knew that he had left the safe-door open, yet he dared not move
across the room to close it. The sightless man would detect the
slightest movement in that dead silence of the night. With great care he
left the girl's side, and a single stride brought him to the large
writing-table, where he secured the document, together with the
pencilled memoranda of its purport, both of which he slipped into his
Gabrielle dared not breathe. Her discovery there meant her ruin.
The man who held her in his toils cast her an evil, threatening glance,
raising his clenched fist in menace, as though daring her to make the
slightest movement. In his dark eyes showed a sinister expression, and
his nether lip was hard. She was, alas! utterly and completely in his
The safe was some distance away, and in order to reach and close it he
would be compelled to pass the man in blue spectacles now standing,
puzzled and surprised, in the centre of the great book-lined apartment.
Both of them could escape by the open window, but to do so would be to
court discovery should the Baronet find his safe standing open. In that
case the alarm would be raised, and they would both be found outside the
house, instead of within.
Slowly the old man drew his thin hand across his furrowed brow, and
then, as a sudden recollection dawned upon him, he cried, "Ah, the
window! Why, that's strange! When I went out I closed it! But it was
open—open—as I came in! Some one—some one has entered here in my
With both his thin, wasted hands outstretched, he walked quickly to his
safe, cleverly avoiding the furniture in his course, and next second
discovered that the iron door stood wide open.
"Thieves!" he gasped aloud hoarsely as the truth dawned upon him. "My
papers! Gabrielle's voice! What can all this mean?" And next moment he
opened the door, crying, "Help!" and endeavouring to alarm the
In an instant Flockart dashed forward towards the safe, and, without
being observed by Gabrielle, had slipped the key into his own pocket.
"Gabrielle," cried the blind man, "you are here in the room. I know you
are. You cannot deceive me. I smell that new scent, which your aunt
Annie sent you, upon your handkerchief. Why don't you speak to me?"
"Yes, dad," she answered at last, in a low, strained voice, "I—I am
"Then what is meant by my safe being open?" he asked sternly, as all
that Goslin had told him a little while before flashed across his
memory. "Why have you obtained a key to it?"
"I have no key," was her quick answer.
"Come here," he said. "Let me take your hand."
With great reluctance, her eyes fixed upon Flockart's face, she did as
she was bid, and as her father took her soft hand in his, he said in a
stern, harsh tone, full of suspicion and quite unusual to him, "You are
trembling, Gabrielle—trembling, because—because of my unexpected
The fair girl with the sweet face and dainty figure was silent. What
could she reply?
TELLS OF FLOCKART'S TRIUMPH
"What are you doing here at this hour?" Gabrielle's father demanded
slowly, releasing her hand. "Why are you prying into my affairs?" He had
not detected Flockart's presence, and believed himself alone with his
The man's glance again met Gabrielle's, and she saw in his eyes a
desperate look. To tell the truth would, she knew, alas! cause the
exposure of her secret and her disgrace. On both sides had she suddenly
become hemmed in by a deadly peril.
"Dad," she cried suddenly, "do I not know all about your affairs
already? Do I not act as your secretary? With what motive should I open
Without response, the blind man moved back to the open door, and,
placing his hand within, fingered one of the long iron drawers. It was
unlocked, and he drew it forth. Some papers were within—blue,
legal-looking papers which his daughter had never seen. "Yes," he
exclaimed aloud, "just as I thought. This drawer has been opened, and my
private affairs pried into. Tell me, Gabrielle, where is young Murie
just at present?"
"In Paris, I believe. He left London unexpectedly three days ago."
"Paris!" echoed the old man. "Ah," he added, "Goslin was right—quite
right. And so you, my daughter, in whom I placed all my trust—my—my
only friend—have betrayed me!" he added brokenly.
"I have not betrayed you, dear father," was her quick protest. "To whom
do you allege I have exposed your affairs?"
"To your lover, Walter."
To Flockart, whose wits were already at work upon some scheme to
extricate himself, there came at that instant a sudden suggestion. He
spoke, causing the old man to start suddenly and turn in the direction
of the speaker.
As the words left his lips he raised a threatening finger towards
Gabrielle, a sign of silence to her of which the old man was
unfortunately in ignorance.
"I think, Sir Henry, that I ought to speak—to tell you the truth,
painful though it may be. Five minutes ago I came down here in order to
get a telegraph-form, as I wanted to send a wire at the earliest
possible moment to-morrow, when, to my surprise, I saw a light beneath
the door. I——"
"Oh, no, no!" gasped the girl, in horrified protest. "It's a lie!"
"I crept in quietly, and was very surprised to find Gabrielle with the
safe open, and alone. I had expected that she was sitting up late,
working with you. But she seemed to be examining and reading some papers
she took from a drawer. Forgive me for telling you this, but the truth
must now be made plain. I startled her by my sudden presence; and,
pointing out the dishonour of copying her father's papers, no matter for
what purpose, I compelled her to return the documents to their place. I
fold her frankly that it was my duty, as your friend, to inform you of
the incident; but she implored me, for the sake of her lover, to remain
"Mr. Flockart!" cried the girl, "how dare you say such a thing when you
know it to be an untruth; when——"
"Enough!" exclaimed her father bitterly. "I'm ashamed of you, Gabrielle.
"I would beg of you, Sir Henry, not further to distress yourself,"
Flockart interrupted. "Love, as you know, often prompts both men and
women to commit acts of supreme folly."
"Folly!" echoed the blind man. "This is more than folly! Gabrielle and
her lover have conspired to bring about my ruin. I have had suspicions
for several weeks; now, alas! they are confirmed. Walter Murie is in
Paris at this moment in order to make money out of the secret knowledge
which Gabrielle obtains for him. My own daughter is responsible for my
betrayal!" he added, in a voice broken by emotion.
"No, no, Sir Henry!" urged Flockart. "Surely the outlook is not so black
as you foresee. Gabrielle has acted injudiciously; but surely she is
still devoted to you and your interests."
"Yes," cried the girl in desperation, "you know I am, dad. You know that
"It is useless, Flockart, for you to endeavour to seek forgiveness for
Gabrielle," declared her father in a firm, harsh voice, "Quite useless.
She has even endeavoured to deny the statement you have made—tried to
deny it when I actually heard with my own ears her defiant declaration
that she was prepared to bear her shame and all its consequences! Let
her do so, I say. She shall leave Glencardine to-morrow, and have no
further opportunity to conspire against me."
"Oh, father, what are you saying?" she cried in despair, bursting into
tears. "I have not conspired."
"I am saying the truth," went on the blind man. "You and your lover have
formed another clever plot, eh? Because I have not sight to watch you,
you will copy my business reports and send them to Walter Murie, who
hopes to place them in a certain channel where he can receive payment.
This is not the first time my business has leaked out from this room.
Only a short time ago certain confidential documents were offered to the
Greek Government, but fortunately they were false ones prepared on
purpose to trick any one who had designs upon my business secrets."
"I swear I am in ignorance of it all."
"Well, I have now told you plainly," the old man said. "I loved you,
Gabrielle, and until this moment foolishly believed that you were
devoted to me and to my interests. I trusted you implicitly, but you
have betrayed me into the hands of my enemies—betrayed me," he wailed,
"in such a manner that only ruin may face me. I tell you the hard and
bitter truth. I am blind, and ever since your return from school you
have acted as my secretary, and I have looked at the world only through
your eyes. Ah," he sighed, "but I ought to have known! I should never
have trusted a woman, even though she be my own daughter."
The girl stood with her blanched face covered by her hands. To protest,
to declare that Flockart's story was a lie, was, she saw, all to no
purpose. Her father had overheard her bold defiance and had, alas! most
unfortunately taken it as an admission of her guilt.
Flockart stood motionless but watchful; yet by the few words he uttered
he succeeded in impressing the blind man with the genuineness of his
friendship both for father and for daughter. He urged forgiveness, but
Sir Henry disregarded all his appeals.
"No," he declared. "It is fortunate indeed, Flockart, that you made this
discovery, and thus placed me upon my guard." The poor deluded man
little dreamt that on the occasion when Flockart had taken him down the
drive to announce his departure from Glencardine on account of the
gossip, and had drawn Sir Henry's attention to his hanging watch-chain,
he had succeeded in cleverly obtaining two impressions of the safe-key
attached. In his excitement, it had never occurred to him to ask his
daughter by what means she had been able to open that steel door.
"Dad," she faltered, advancing towards him and placing her soft, tender
hand upon his shoulder, "won't you listen to reason? I assure you I am
quite innocent of any attempt or intention to betray you. I know you
have many enemies;" and she glanced quickly in Flockart's direction.
"Have we not often discussed them? Have I not kept eyes and ears open,
and told you of all I have seen and learnt? Have——"
"You have seen and learnt what is to my detriment," he answered. "All
argument is useless. A fortnight or so ago, by your aid, my enemies
secured a copy of a certain document which has never left yonder safe.
To-night Mr. Flockart has discovered you again tampering with my safe,
and with my own ears I heard you utter defiance. You are more devoted to
your lover than to me, and you are supplying him with copies of my
"That is untrue, dad," protested the girl reproachfully.
But her father shook her hand roughly from his shoulder, saying, "I have
already told you my decision, which is irrevocable. To-morrow you shall
leave Glencardine and go to your aunt Emily at Woodnewton. You won't
have much opportunity for mischief in that dull little Northampton
village. I won't allow you to remain under my roof any longer; you are
too ungrateful and deceitful, knowing as you do the misery of my
"Go to your room," he ordered sternly. "Tomorrow I will speak with your
mother, and we shall then decide what shall be done. Only, understand
one thing: in the future you are not my dear daughter that you have been
in the past. I—I have no daughter," he added in a voice harsh yet
broken by emotion, "for you have now proved yourself an enemy worse even
than those who for so many years have taken advantage of my
"Ah, dad, dad, you are cruel!" she cried, bursting again into a torrent
of tears. "You are too cruel! I have done nothing!"
"Do you call placing me in peril nothing?" he retorted bitterly. "Go to
your room at once. Remain with me, Flockart. I want to speak to you."
The girl saw herself convicted by those unfortunate words she had
used—words meant in defiance of her arch-enemy Flockart, but which had
placed her in ignominy and disgrace. Ah, if she could only stand firm
and speak the ghastly truth! But, alas! she dared not. Flockart, the man
who held her in his power, the man whom she knew to be her father's
bitterest opponent, a cheat and a fraud, stood there triumphant, with a
smile upon his lips; while she, pure, honest, and devoted to that
afflicted man, was denounced and outcast. She raised her voice in one
last word of faint protest.
But her father, angered and grieved, turned fiercely upon her and
ordered her from his presence. "Go," he said, "and do not come near me
again until your boxes are packed and you are ready to leave
"You speak as though I were a servant whom you've discharged," she said
"I am speaking to my enemy, not to my daughter," was his hard response.
She raised her eyes to Flockart, and saw upon his dark face a hard,
sphinx-like look. What hope of salvation could she ever expect from that
man—the man who long ago had sought to estrange her from her father so
that he might work his own ends? It was upon her tongue to turn upon him
and relate the whole infamous truth. Yet so friendly had the two men
become of late that she feared, even if she did so, that her father
would only see in the revelation an attempt at reprisal. Besides, what
if Flockart spoke? What if he told the awful truth? Her own dear father,
whom she loved so well, even though he had misjudged her, would be
dragged into the mire. No, she was the victim of that man, who was a
past-master of the art of subterfuge; the man who, for years, had lived
by his wits and preyed upon society.
"Leave us, and go to your room," again commanded her father.
She looked sadly at the white, bespectacled countenance which she loved
so well. Her soft hand once more sought his; but he cast it from him,
saying, "Enough of your caresses! You are no longer my daughter! Leave
us!" And then, seeing all protest in vain, she sighed, turned very
slowly, and with a last, lingering look upon the helpless man to whom
she had been so devoted, and who now so grossly misjudged her, she
tottered out, closing the door behind her.
"Has she gone?" asked Sir Henry a moment later.
Flockart responded in the affirmative, laying his hand upon the shoulder
of his agitated host, and urging him to remain calm.
"That's all very well, my dear Flockart," he cried; "but you don't know
what she has done. She exposed a week or so ago a most confidential
arrangement with the Greek Government, a revelation which might have
involved me in the loss of over a hundred thousand."
"Then it's fortunate, perhaps, that I discovered her to-night," replied
his guest. "All this must be very painful to you, Sir Henry."
"Very. I shall not give her another opportunity to betray me, Flockart,
depend upon that," the elder man said. "My wife warned me against
Gabrielle long ago. I now see that I was a fool for not taking her
"Certainly it's a curious fact that Walter Murie is in Paris," remarked
the other. "Was the revelation of your financial dealings made in Paris,
do you know?"
"Yes, it was," snapped the blind man. "I believed Walter to be quite a
good young fellow."
"Ah, I knew different, Sir Henry. His life up in London was not—well,
not exactly all that it should be. He's in with a rather shady crowd."
"You never told me so."
"Because you did not believe me to be your friend until quite recently.
I hope I have now proved what I have asserted. If I can do anything to
assist you I am only too ready. I assure you that you have only to
Sir Henry reflected deeply for a few moments. The discovery that his
daughter was playing him false caused within him a sudden revulsion of
feeling. Unfortunately, he could not see the expression upon the
countenance of his false friend. He was wondering at that moment whether
he might entrust to him a somewhat delicate mission.
"Gabrielle shall not return here," her father said, as though speaking
"That is a course which I would most strongly advise. Send the girl
away," urged the other. "Evidently she has grossly betrayed you."
"That I certainly intend doing," was the answer. "But I wonder,
Flockart, if I might take you at your word, and ask you to do me a
favour? I am so helpless, or I would not think of troubling you."
"Only tell me what you wish, and I will do it with pleasure."
"Very well, then," replied the blind man. "Perhaps I shall want you to
go to Paris at once, watch the actions of young Murie, and report to me
from time to time. Would you?"
A look of bright intelligence overspread the man's features as a new
vista opened before him. Sir Henry was about to take him into his
confidence! "Why, with pleasure," he said cheerily. "I'll start
to-morrow, and rest assured that I'll keep a very good eye upon the
young gentleman. You now know the painful truth concerning your
daughter—the truth which Lady Heyburn has told you so often, and which
you have never yet heeded."
"Yes, Flockart," answered the afflicted man, taking his guest's hand in
warm friendship. "I once disliked you—that I admit; but you were quite
frank the other day, and now to-night you have succeeded in making a
discovery that, though it has upset me terribly, may mean my salvation."
THROUGH THE MISTS
Sir Henry refused to speak with his daughter when, on the following
morning, she stole in and laid her hand softly upon his arm. He ordered
her, in a tone quite unusual, to leave the library. Through the morning
hours she had lain awake trying to make a resolve. But, alas! she dared
not tell the truth; she was in deadly fear of Flockart's reprisals.
That morning, at nine o'clock, Lady Heyburn and Flockart had held
hurried consultation in secret, at which he had explained to her what
"Excellent!" she had remarked briefly. "But we must now have a care, my
dear friend. Mind the girl does not throw all prudence to the winds and
turn upon us."
"Bah!" he laughed, "I don't fear that for a single second." And he left
the room again, to salute her in the breakfast-room a quarter of an hour
later as though they had not met before that day.
Gabrielle, on leaving her father, went out for a long walk alone, away
over the heather-clad hills. For hours she went on—Jock, her Aberdeen
terrier, toddling at her side, in her hand a stout ash-stick—regardless
of the muddy roads or the wet weather. It was grey, damp, and dismal,
one of those days which in the Highlands are often so very cheerless and
dispiriting. Yet on, and still on, she went, her mind full of the events
of the previous night; full, also, of the dread secret which prevented
her from exposing her father's false friend. In order to save her
father, should she sacrifice herself—sacrifice her own life? That was
the one problem before her.
She saw nothing; she heeded nothing. Hunger or fatigue troubled her not.
Indeed, she took no notice of where her footsteps led her. Beyond Crieff
she wandered, along the river-bank a short distance, ascending a hill,
where a wild and wonderful view spread before her. There she sat down
upon a big boulder to rest.
Her hair blown by the chill wind, she sat staring straight before her,
thinking—ever thinking. She had not seen Lady Heyburn that day. She had
seen no one.
At six o'clock that morning she had written a long letter to Walter
Murie. She had not mentioned the midnight incident, but she had, with
many expressions of regret, pointed out the futility of any further
affection between them. She had not attempted to excuse herself. She
merely told him that she considered herself unworthy of his love, and
because of that, and that alone, she had decided to break off their
A dozen times she had reread the letter after she had completed it.
Surely it was the letter of a heart-broken and desperate woman. Would he
take it in the spirit in which it was meant, she wondered. She loved
him—ah, loved him better than any one else in all the world! But she
now saw that it was useless to masquerade any longer. The blow had
fallen, and it had crushed her. She was powerless to resist, powerless
to deny the false charge against her, powerless to tell the truth.
That letter, which she knew must come as a cruel blow to Walter, she had
given to the postman with her own hands, and it was now on its way
south. As she sat on the summit of that heather-clad hill she was
wondering what effect her written words would have upon him. He had
loved her so devotedly ever since they had been children together! Well
she knew how strong was his passion for her, how his life was at her
disposal. She knew that on reading those despairing lines of hers he
would be staggered. She recalled the dear face of her soul-mate, his hot
kisses, his soft terms of endearment, and alone there, with none to
witness her bitter grief, she burst into a flood of tears.
The sad greyness of the landscape was in keeping with her own great
sorrow. She had lost all that was dear to her; and, young as she was,
with hardly any experience of the world and its ways, she was already
the victim of grim circumstance, broken by the grief of a self-renounced
love gnawing at her true heart.
The knowledge that Lady Heyburn and Flockart would exult over her
downfall and exile to that tiny house in a sleepy little
Northamptonshire village did not trouble her. Her enemies had triumphed.
She had played the game and lost, just as she might have lost at
billiards or at bridge, for she was a thorough sportswoman. She only
grieved because she saw the grave peril of her dear father, and because
she now foresaw the utter hopelessness of her own happiness.
It was better, she reflected, far better, that she should go into the
dull and dreary exile of an English village, with the unexciting
companionship of Aunt Emily, an ascetic spinster of the mid-Victorian
era, and make pretence of pique with Walter, than to reveal to him the
shameful truth. He would at least in those circumstances retain of her a
recollection fond and tender. He would not despise nor hate her, as he
most certainly would do if he knew the real astounding facts.
How long she remained there, high up, with the chill winds of autumn
tossing her silky, light-brown hair, she knew not. Rainclouds were
gathering, and the rugged hill before her was now hidden behind a bank
of mist. Time had crept on without her heeding it, for what did time now
matter to her? What, indeed, did anything matter? Her young life, though
she was still in her teens, had ended; or, at least, as far as she was
concerned it had. Was she not calmly and coolly contemplating telling
the truth and putting an end to her existence after saving her father's
Her sad, tearful eyes gazed slowly about her as she suddenly awakened to
the fact that she was far—very far—from home. She had been dazed,
unconscious of everything, because of the heavy burden of grief within
her heart. But now she looked forth upon the small, grey loch, with its
dark fringe of trees, the grey and purple hills beyond, the grey sky,
and the grey, filmy mists that hung everywhere. The world was, indeed,
sad and gloomy, and even Jock sat looking up at his young mistress as
though regarding her grief in wonder.
Now and then distant shots came from across the hills. They were
shooting over the Drummond estate, she knew, for she had had an
invitation to join their luncheon-party that day. Lady Heyburn and
Flockart had no doubt gone.
That, she told herself, was her last day in the Highlands, that
picturesque, breezy country she loved so well. It was her last day amid
those familiar places where she and Walter had so often wandered
together, and where he had told her of his passionate devotion. Well,
perhaps it was best, after all. Down south she would not be reminded of
him every moment and at every turn. No, she sighed within herself as she
rose to descend the hill, she must steel herself against her own sad
reflections. She must learn how to forget.
"What will he say?" she murmured aloud as she went down, with Jock
frisking and barking before her. "What will he think of me when he gets
my letter? He will believe me fickle; he will believe that I have
another lover. That is certain. Well, I must allow him to believe it. We
have parted, and we must now, alas! remain apart for ever. Probably he
will seek from my father the truth concerning my disappearance from
Glencardine. Dad will tell him, no doubt. And then—then, what will he
believe? He—he will know that I am unworthy to be his wife. Yet—yet is
it not cruel that I dare not speak the truth and clear myself of this
foul charge of betraying my own dear father? Was ever a girl placed in
such a position as myself, I wonder. Has any girl ever loved a man
better than I love Walter?" Her white lips were set hard, and her fine
eyes became again bedimmed by tears.
It commenced to rain, that fine drizzle so often experienced north of
the Tweed. But she heeded not. She was used to it. To get wet through
was, to her, quite a frequent occurrence when out fishing. Though there
was no path, she knew her way; and, walking through the wet heather, she
came after half-an-hour out upon a muddy byroad which led her into the
town of Crieff, whence her return was easy; though it was already dusk,
and the dressing-bell had gone, before she re-entered the house by the
servants' door and slipped unobserved up to her own room.
Elise found her seated in her blue gown before the welcome fire-log, her
chin upon her breast. Her excuse was that she felt unwell; therefore one
of the maids brought her some dinner on a tray.
Upon the mantelshelf were many photographs, some of them snap-shots of
her schoolfellows and souvenirs of holidays, the odds and ends of
portraits and scenes which every girl unconsciously collects.
Among them, in a plain silver frame, was the picture of Walter Murie
taken in New York only a few weeks before. Upon the frame was engraved,
"Gabrielle, from Walter." She took it in her hand, and stood for a long
time motionless. Never again, alas! would she look upon that face so
dear to her. Her young heart was already broken, because she was held
fettered and powerless.
At last she put down the portrait, and, sinking into her chair, sat
crying bitterly. Now that she was outcast by her father, to whom she had
been always such a close, devoted friend, her life was an absolute
blank. At one blow she had lost both lover and father. Already Elise had
told her that she had received instructions to pack her trunks. The
thin-nosed Frenchwoman was apparently much puzzled at the order which
Lady Heyburn had given her, and had asked the girl whom she intended to
visit. The maid had asked what dresses she would require; but Gabrielle
replied that she might pack what she liked for a long visit. The girl
could hear Elise moving about, shaking out skirts, in the adjoining
room, and making preparations for her departure on the morrow.
Despondent, hopeless, grief-stricken, she sat before the fire for a long
time. She had locked the door and switched off the light, for it
irritated her. She loved the uncertain light of dancing flames, and sat
huddled there in her big chair for the last time.
She was reflecting upon her own brief life. Scarcely out of the
schoolroom, she had lived most of her days up in that dear old place
where every inch of the big estate was so familiar to her. She
remembered all those happy days at school, first in England, and then in
France, with the kind-faced Sisters in their spotless head-dresses, and
the quiet, happy life of the convent. The calm, grave face of Sister
Marguerite looked down upon her from the mantelshelf as if sympathising
with her pretty pupil in those troubles that had so early come to her.
She raised her eyes, and saw the portrait. Its sight aroused within her
a new thought and fresh recollection. Had not Sister Marguerite always
taught her to beseech the Almighty's aid when in doubt or when in
trouble? Those grave, solemn words of the Mother Superior rang in her
ears, and she fell upon her knees beside her narrow bed in the alcove,
and with murmuring lips prayed for divine support and assistance. She
raised her sweet, troubled face to heaven and made confession to her
Then, after a long silence, she struggled again to her feet, more cool
and more collected. She took up Walter's portrait, and, kissing it, put
it away carefully in a drawer. Some of her little treasures she gathered
together and placed with it, preparatory to departure, for she would on
the morrow leave Glencardine perhaps for ever.
The stable-clock had struck ten. To where she stood came the strident
sounds of the mechanical piano-player, for some of the gay party were
waltzing in the hall. Their merry shouts and laughter were discordant to
her ears. What cared any of those friends of her step-mother if she were
in disgrace and an outcast?
Drawing aside the curtain, she saw that the night was bright and
starlit. She preferred the air out in the park to the sounds of gaiety
within that house which was no longer to be her home. Therefore she
slipped on a skirt and blouse, and, throwing her golf-cape across her
shoulders and a shawl over her head, she crept past the room wherein
Elise was packing her belongings, and down the back-stairs to the lawn.
The sound of the laughter of the men and women of the shooting-party
aroused a poignant bitterness within her. As she passed across the drive
she saw a light in the library, where, no doubt, her father was sitting
in his loneliness, feeling and examining his collection of
She turned, and, walking straight on, struck the gravelled path which
took her to the castle ruins.
Not until the black, ponderous walls rose before her did she awaken to a
consciousness of her whereabouts. Then, entering the ruined courtyard,
she halted and listened. All was dark. Above, the stars twinkled
brightly, and in the ivy the night-birds stirred the leaves. Holding her
breath, she strained her ears. Yes, she was not deceived! There were
sounds distinct and undeniable. She was fascinated, listening again to
those shadow-voices that were always precursory of death—the fatal
BY THE MEDITERRANEAN
It was February—not the foggy, muddy February of dear, damp Old
England, but winter beside the bright blue Mediterranean, the winter of
the Côte d'Azur.
At the Villa Heyburn—that big, square, white house with the green
sun-shutters, surrounded by its great garden full of spreading palms,
sweet-smelling mimosa, orange-trees laden with golden fruit, and bright
geraniums, up on the Berigo at San Remo—Lady Heyburn had that afternoon
given a big luncheon-party. The smartest people wintering in that most
sheltered nook of the Italian Riviera had eaten and gossiped and
flirted, and gone back to their villas and hotels. Dull persons found no
place in Lady Heyburn's circle. Most of the people were those she knew
in London or in Paris, including a sprinkling of cosmopolitans, a
Russian prince notorious for his losses over at the new cercle at
Cannes, a divorced Austrian Archduchess, and two or three well-known
"Dear old Henry" remained, of course, at Glencardine, as he always did.
Lady Heyburn looked upon her winter visit to that beautiful villa
overlooking the calm sapphire sea as her annual emancipation. Henry was
a dear old fellow, she openly confided to her friends, but his
affliction made him terribly trying.
But Jimmy Flockart, the good-looking, amusing, well-dressed idler, was
living down at the "Savoy," and was daily in her company, driving,
motoring, picnicking, making excursions in the mountains, or taking
trips over to "Monte" by the train-de-luxe. He had left the villa
early in the afternoon, returned to his hotel, changed his smart
flannels for a tweed suit, and, taking a stout stick, had set off alone
for his daily constitutional along the sea-road in the direction of that
pretty but half-deserted little watering-place, Ospedaletti.
Straight before him, into the unruffled, tideless sea, the sun was
sinking in all its blood-red glory as he went at swinging pace along the
white, dusty road, past the octroi barrier, and out into the country
where, on the left, the waves lazily lapped the grey rocks, while upon
the right the fertile slopes were covered with carnations and violets
growing for the markets of Paris and London. In the air was a delightful
perfume, the freshness of the sea in combination with the sweetness of
A big red motor-car dashed suddenly round a corner, raising a cloud of
dust. An American party were on their way from Genoa to the frontier
along the Corniche, one of the most picturesque routes in all the world.
James Flockart had no eyes for beauty. He was too occupied by certain
grave apprehensions. That morning he had walked in the garden with Lady
Heyburn, and had a long chat with her. Her attitude had been peculiar.
He could not make her out. She had begged him to promise to leave San
Remo, and when asked to tell the reason of this sudden demand she had
"You must leave here, Jimmy," she had said quite calmly. "Go down to
Rome, to Palermo, to Ragusa, or somewhere where you can put in a month
or so in comfort. The Villa Igiea at Palermo would suit you quite
well—lots of smart people, and very decent cooking."
"Well," he laughed, "as far as hotels go, nothing could be worse than
this place. I'd never put my nose into this hole if it were not for the
fact that you come here. There isn't a hotel worth the name. When one
goes to Monte, or Cannes, or even decaying Nice, one can get decent
cooking. But here—ugh!" and he shrugged his shoulders. "Price higher
than the 'Ritz' in Paris, food fourth-rate, rooms cheaply decorated, and
a dullness unequalled."
"My dear Jimmy," laughed her ladyship, "you're such a cosmopolitan that
you're incorrigible. I know you don't like this place. You've been here
six weeks, so go."
"You've had a letter from the old man, eh?"
"Yes, I have," she replied, and he saw that her countenance changed; but
she would say nothing more. She had decided that he must leave San Remo,
and would hear no argument to the contrary.
The southern sun sank slowly into the sea, now grey but waveless. On the
horizon lay the long smoke-trail of a passing steamer eastward bound. He
had rounded the steep, rocky headland, and in the hollow before him
nestled the little village of Ospedaletti, with its closed casino, its
rows of small villas, and its palm-lined passeggiata.
A hundred yards farther on he saw the figure of a rather shabby,
middle-aged man, in a faded grey overcoat and grey soft felt-hat of the
mode usual on the Riviera, but discoloured by long wear, leaning upon
the low sea-wall and smoking a cigarette. No other person was in the
vicinity, and it was quickly evident from the manner in which the
wayfarer recognised him and came forward to meet him with outstretched
hand that they had met by appointment. Short of stature as he was, with
fair hair, colourless eyes, and a fair moustache, his slouching
appearance was that of one who had seen better days, even though there
still remained about him a vestige of dandyism. The close observer
would, however, detect that his clothes, shabby though they were, were
of foreign cut, and that his greeting was of that demonstrative
character that betrayed his foreign birth.
"Well, my dear Krail," exclaimed Flockart, after they had shaken hands
and stood together leaning upon the sea-wall, "you got my wire in
Huntingdon? I was uncertain whether you were at the 'George' or at the
'Fountain,' so I sent a message to both."
"I was at the 'George,' and left an hour after receipt of your wire."
"Well, tell me what has happened. How are things up at Glencardine?"
"Goslin is with the old fellow. He has taken the girl's place as his
confidential secretary," was the shabby man's reply, speaking with a
foreign accent. "Walter Murie was at home for Christmas, but went to
"And how are matters in Paris?"
"They are working hard, but it's an uphill pull. The old man is a crafty
old bird. Those papers you got from the safe had been cunningly prepared
for anybody who sought to obtain information. The consequence is that
we've shown our hand, and heavily handicapped ourselves thereby."
"You told me all that when you were down here a month ago," Flockart
"You didn't believe me then. You do now, I suppose?"
"I've never denied it," Flockart declared, offering the stranger a
Russian cigarette from his gold case. "I was completely misled, and by
the girl also."
"The girl's influence with her father is happily quite at an end,"
remarked the shabby man. "I saw her last week in Woodnewton. The change
from Glencardine to an eight-roomed cottage in a village street must be
"Only what she deserves," snapped Flockart. "She defied us."
"Granted. But I cannot help thinking that we haven't played a very fair
game," said the man. "Remember, she's only a girl."
"But dangerous to us and to our plans, my dear Krail. She knows a lot."
"Because—well, forgive me for saying so, my dear Flockart—because
you've been a fool, and have allowed her to know."
"It wasn't I; it was the woman."
"Lady Heyburn! Why, I always believed her to be the soul of discretion."
"She's been too defiant of consequences. A dozen times I've warned her;
but she will not heed."
"Then she'll land herself in a deep hole if she isn't careful," replied
the foreigner, speaking very fair English. "Does she know I'm here?"
"Of course not. If we're to play the game she must know nothing. She's
already inclined to throw prudence to the winds, and to confess all to
"Confess!" gasped the stranger, paling beneath his rather sallow skin.
"Per Bacco! she's not going to be such an idiot, surely?"
"We were run so close, and so narrowly escaped discovery after I got at
those papers at Glencardine, that she seems to have lost heart,"
"But if she acted the fool and told Sir Henry, it would mean ruin for
us, and that would also mean——"
"It would mean exposure for Gabrielle," interrupted Flockart. "The old
man dare not lift his voice for his daughter's sake."
"Ah," exclaimed Krail, "that's just where you've acted injudiciously!
You've set him against her; therefore he wouldn't spare her."
"It was imperative. I couldn't afford to be found prying into the old
man's papers, could I? I got impressions of his key while walking in the
park one day. He's never suspected it."
"Of course not. He believes in you," laughed his friend, "as one of the
few upright men who are his friends! But," he added, "you've done wrong,
my dear fellow, to trust a woman with a secret. Depend upon it, her
ladyship will let you down."
"Well, if she does," remarked Flockart, with a shrug of the shoulders,
"she'll have to suffer with me. You know where we should all find
The man pulled a wry face and puffed at his cigarette in silence.
"What does the girl do?" asked Flockart a few moments later.
"Well, she seems to have a pretty dull time with the old lady. I stayed
at the 'Cardigan Arms' at Woodnewton for two days—a miserable little
place—and watched her pretty closely. She's out a good deal, rambling
alone across the country with a collie belonging to a neighbouring
farmer. She's the very picture of sadness, poor little girl!"
"You seem to sympathise with her, Krail. Why, does she not stand between
us and fortune?"
"She'll stand between us and a court of assize if that woman acts the
fool!" declared the shabby stranger, who moved so rapidly and whose
vigilance seemed unequalled.
"If we go, she shall go also," Flockart declared in a threatening voice.
"But you must prevent such a contretemps," Krail urged.
"Ah, it's all very well to talk like that! But you know enough of her
ladyship to be aware that she acts on her own initiative."
"That shows that she's no fool," remarked the foreigner quickly. "You
who hold her in the hollow of your hand must prevent her from opening up
to her husband. The whole future lies with you."
"And what is the future without money? We want a few thousands for
immediate necessities, both of us. The woman's allowance from her
husband is nowadays a mere bagatelle."
"Because he probably knows that some of her money has gone into your
pockets, my dear boy."
"No; he's completely in ignorance of that. How, indeed, could he know?
She takes very good care there's no possibility of his finding out."
"Well," remarked the stranger, "that's what I fear has happened, or may
one day happen. The fact is, caro mio, we are in a quandary at the
present moment. You were a bit too confident in dealing with those
documents you found at Glencardine. You should have taken her ladyship
into your confidence and got her to pump her husband concerning them. If
you had, we shouldn't have made the mess of it that we have done."
"I must admit, Krail, that what you say is true," declared the
well-dressed man. "You are such a philosopher always! I asked you to
come here in secret to explain the exact position."
"It is one of peril. We are checkmated. Goslin holds the whole position
in his hands, and will keep it."
"Very fortunately for you he doesn't, though we were very near exposure
when I went out to Athens and made a fool of myself upon the report
furnished by you."
"I believed it to be a genuine one. I had no idea that the old man was
"Exactly. And if he displayed such clever ingenuity and forethought in
laying a trap for the inquisitive, is it not more than likely that there
may be other traps baited with equal craft and cunning?"
"Then how are we to make the coup?" Flockart asked, looking into the
colourless eyes of his friend.
"We shall, I fear, never make it, unless——"
"Unless what?" he asked.
"Unless the old man meets with an accident," replied the other, in a
low, distinct voice. "Blind men sometimes do, you know!"
WHICH SHOWS A SHABBY FOREIGNER
Felix Krail, his cigarette held half-way to his lips, stood watching the
effect of his insinuation. He saw a faint smile playing about Flockart's
lips, and knew that it appealed to him. Old Sir Henry Heyburn had laid a
clever trap for him, a trap into which he himself believed that his
daughter had fallen. Why should not Flockart retaliate?
The shabby stranger, whose own ingenuity and double-dealing were little
short of marvellous, and under whose watchful vigilance the Heyburn
household had been ever since her ladyship and her friend Flockart had
gone south, stood silent, but in complete satisfaction.
The well-dressed Riviera-lounger—the man so well known at all the
various gay resorts from Ventimiglia along to Cannes, and who was a
member of the Fêtes Committee at San Remo and at Nice—merely exchanged
glances with his friend and smiled. Quickly, however, he changed the
topic of conversation. "And what's occurring in Paris?"
"Ah, there we have the puzzle!" replied the man Krail, his accent being
an unfamiliar one—so unfamiliar, indeed, that those unacquainted with
the truth were always placed in doubt regarding his true nationality.
"But you've made inquiry?" asked his friend quickly.
"Of course; but the business is kept far too close. Every precaution is
taken to prevent anything leaking out," Krail responded.
"The clerks will speak, won't they?" the other said.
"Mon cher ami, they know no more of the business of the mysterious
firm of which the blind Baronet is the head than we do ourselves," said
"They make enormous financial deals, that's very certain."
"Not deals—but coups for themselves," he laughed, correcting
Flockart. "Recollect what I discovered in Athens, and the extraordinary
connection you found in Brussels."
"Ah, yes. You mean that clever crowd—four men and two women who were
working the gambling concession from the Dutch Government!" exclaimed
Flockart. "Yes, that was a complete mystery. They sent wires in cipher
to Sir Henry at Glencardine. I managed to get a glance at one of them,
and it was signed 'Metaforos.'"
"That's their Paris cable address," said his companion.
"Surely you, with your network of sources of information, and your own
genius for discovering secrets, ought to be able to reveal the true
nature of Sir Henry's business. Is it an honest one?" asked Flockart.
"I think not."
"Think! Why, my dear Felix, this isn't like you only to think; you
always know. You're so certain of your facts that I've always banked
The other gave his shoulders a shrug of indecision. "It was not a
judicious move on your part to get rid of the girl from Glencardine," he
said slowly. "While she was there we had a chance of getting at some
clue. But now old Goslin has taken her place we may just as well abandon
investigation at that end."
"You've failed, Krail, and attribute your failure to me," protested his
companion. "How could I risk being ignominiously kicked out of
Glencardine as a spy?"
"Whatever attitude you might have taken would have had the same result.
We used the information, and found ourselves fooled—tricked by a very
crafty old man, who actually prepared those documents in case he was
"Admitted," said Flockart. "But even though we made fools of ourselves
in Athens, and caused the Greek Government to look upon us as rogues and
liars, the girl is suspected; and I for one don't mean to give in before
we've secured a nice, snug little sum."
"How are we to do it?"
"By obtaining knowledge of the game being played in Paris, and working
in an opposite direction," Flockart replied. "We are agreed upon one
point: that for the past few years, ever since Goslin came on the scene,
Sir Henry's business—a big one, there is no doubt—has been of a
mysterious and therefore shady character. By his confidence in
Gabrielle, his care that nobody ever got a chance inside that safe, his
regular consultations with Goslin (who travelled from Paris specially to
see him), his constant telegrams in cipher, and his refusal to allow
even his wife to obtain the slightest inkling into his private affairs,
it is shown that he fears exposure. Do you agree?"
"Most certainly I do."
"Well, any man who is in dread of the truth becoming known must be
carrying on some negotiations the reverse of creditable. He is the
moving spirit of that shady house, without a doubt," declared Flockart,
who had so often grasped the blind man's hand in friendship. "In such
fear that his transactions should become known, and that exposure might
result, he actually had prepared documents on purpose to mislead those
who pried into his affairs. Therefore, the instant we discover the
truth, fortune will be at our hand. We all want money, you, I, and Lady
Heyburn—and money we'll have."
"With these sentiments, my dear friend, I entirely and absolutely
agree," remarked the shabby man, lighting a fresh cigarette. "But one
fact you seem to have entirely overlooked."
"The girl. She stands between you, and she might come back into the old
man's favour, you know."
"And even though she did, that makes no difference," Flockart answered
"Because she dare not say a single word against me."
Krail looked him straight in the face with considerable surprise, but
made no comment.
"She knows better," Flockart added.
"Never believe too much in your own power with a woman, mon cher ami,"
remarked the other dubiously. "She's young, therefore of a romantic turn
of mind. She's in love, remember, which makes matters much worse for
"Because, being in love, she may become seized with a sentimental fit.
This ends generally in a determination of self-sacrifice; and in such
case she would tell the truth in defiance of you, and would be heedless
of her own danger."
Flockart drew a long breath. What this man said was, he knew within his
own heart, only too true of the girl towards whom they had been so cruel
and so unscrupulous. His had been a lifelong scheme, and as part of his
scheme in conjunction with the woman who was Sir Henry's wife, it had
been unfortunately compulsory to sacrifice the girl who was the blind
man's right hand.
Yes, Gabrielle was deeply in love with Walter Murie—the man upon whom
Sir Henry now looked as his enemy, and who would have exposed him to the
Greek Government if the blind man had not been too clever. The Baronet,
after his daughter's confession, naturally attributed her curiosity to
Walter's initiative, the more especially that Walter had been in Paris,
and, it was believed, in Athens also.
The pair were, however, now separated. Krail, in pursuit of his diligent
inquiries, had actually been in Woodnewton, and seen the lonely little
figure, sad and dejected, taking long rambles accompanied only by a
farmer's sheep-dog. Young Murie had not been there; nor did the pair now
correspond. This much Krail had himself discovered.
The problem placed before Flockart by his shabby friend was a somewhat
disconcerting one. On the one hand, Lady Heyburn had urged him to leave
the Riviera, without giving him any reason, and on the other, he had the
ever-present danger of Gabrielle, in a sudden fit of sentimental
self-sacrifice, "giving him away." If she did, what then? The mere
suggestion caused him to bite his nether lip.
Krail knew a good deal, but he did not know all. Perhaps it was as well
that he did not. There is a code of honour among adventurers all the
world over; but few of them can resist the practice of blackmail when
they chance to fall upon evil days.
"Yes," Flockart said reflectively, as at Krail's suggestion they turned
and began to descend the steep hill towards Ospedaletti, "perhaps it's a
pity, after all, that the girl left Glencardine. Yet surely she's safer
with her aunt?"
"She was driven from Glencardine!"
"By her father."
"You sacrificed her in order to save yourself. That was but natural.
It's a pity, however, you didn't take my advice."
"I suggested it to Lady Heyburn. But she would have nothing to do with
it. She declared that such a course was far too dangerous."
"Dangerous!" echoed the shabby man. "Surely it could not have placed
either of you in any greater danger than you are in already?"
"She didn't like it."
"Few people do," laughed the other. "But, depend upon it, it's the only
way. She wouldn't, at any rate, have had an opportunity of telling the
Flockart pulled a wry face, and after a silence of a few moments said,
"Don't let us discuss that. We fully considered all the pros and cons,
at the time."
"Her ladyship is growing scrupulously honest of late," sneered his
companion. "She'll try to get rid of you very soon, I expect."
The latter sentence was more full of meaning than the speaker dreamed.
The words, falling upon Flockart's ears, caused him to wince. Was her
ladyship really trying to rid herself of his influence? He laughed
within himself at the thought of her endeavouring to release herself
from the bond. For her he had never, at any moment, entertained either
admiration or affection. Their association had always been purely one of
business—business, be it said, in which he made the profits and she the
"It would hardly be an easy matter for her," replied the easy-going,
"She seems to be very popular up at Glencardine," remarked the
foreigner, "because she's extravagant and spends money in the
neighbourhood, I suppose. But the people in Auchterarder village
criticise her treatment of Gabrielle. They hear gossip from the
servants, I expect."
"They should know of the girl's treatment of her stepmother," exclaimed
Flockart. "But there, villagers are always prone to listen to and
embroider any stories concerning the private life of the gentry. It's
just the same in Scotland as in any other country in the world."
"Ah!" continued Flockart, "in Scotland the old families are gradually
decaying, and their estates are falling into the hands of blatant
parvenus. Counter-jumpers stalk deer nowadays, and city clerks on their
holidays shoot over peers' preserves. The humble Scot sees it all with
regret, because he has no real liking for this latter-day invasion by
the newly-rich English. Cotton-spinners from Lancashire buy
deer-forests, and soap-boilers from Limehouse purchase castles with
family portraits and ghosts complete."
"Ah! speaking of the supernatural," exclaimed Krail suddenly, "do you
know I had a most extraordinary and weird experience when at Glencardine
about three weeks ago. I actually heard the Whispers!"
Flockart stared hard at the man at his side, and, laughing outright,
said, "Well, that's the best joke I've heard to-day. You, of all men, to
be taken in by a mere superstition."
"But, my dear friend, I heard them," said Krail. "I swear I actually
heard them! And I—well, I admit to you, even though you may laugh at me
for being a superstitious fool—I somehow anticipate that something
uncanny is about to happen to me."
"You're going to die, like all the rest of them, I suppose," laughed his
friend, as they descended the dusty, winding road that led to the
palm-lined promenade of the quiet little Mediterranean watering-place.
"WHEN GREEK MEETS GREEK"
On their left were several white villas, before which pink and scarlet
geraniums ran riot, with spreading mimosas golden with their feathery
blossom, for Ospedaletti makes a frantic, if vain, bid for popularity as
a winter-resort. Its deadly dullness, however, is too well known to the
habitué of the Riviera; and its casino, which never obtained a licence,
imparts to it the air of painful effort at gaiety.
"Well," remarked the shabby man as they passed along and out upon the
sea-road in the direction of Bordighera, "I always looked upon what the
people at Auchterarder said regarding the Whispers as a mere myth. But
now, having heard them with my own ears, how can I have further doubt?"
"I've listened in the Castle ruins a good many times, my dear Krail,"
replied the other, "but I've never heard anything more exciting than an
owl. Indeed, Lady Heyburn and I, when there was so much gossip about the
strange noises some two years ago, set to work to investigate. We went
there at least a dozen times, but without result; only both of us caught
"Well," exclaimed Krail, "I used to ridicule the weird stories I heard
in the village about the Devil's Whisper, and all that. But by mere
chance I happened to be at the spot one bright night, and I heard
distinct whisperings, just as had been described to me. They gave me a
very creepy feeling, I can assure you."
"Bosh! Now, do you believe in ghosts, you man-of-the-world that you are,
my dear Felix?"
"No. Most decidedly I don't."
"Then what you've heard is only in imagination, depend upon it. The
supernatural doesn't exist in Glencardine, that's quite certain,"
declared Flockart. "The fact is that there's so much tradition and
legendary lore connected with the old place, and its early owners were
such a set of bold and defiant robbers, that for generations the
peasantry have held it in awe. Hence all sorts of weird and terrible
stories have been invented and handed down, until the present age
believes them to be based upon fact."
"But, my dear friend, I actually heard the Whispers—heard them with my
own ears," Krail asserted. "I happened to be about the place that night,
trying to get a peep into the library, where Goslin and the old man
were, I believe, busy at work. But the blinds fitted too closely, so
that I couldn't see inside. The keeper and his men were, I knew, down in
the village; therefore I took a stroll towards the ruins, and, as it was
a beautiful night, I sat down in the courtyard to have a smoke. Then, of
a sudden, I heard low voices quite distinctly. They startled me, for not
until they fell upon my ears did I recall the stories told to me weeks
"If Stewart or any of the under-keepers had found you prowling about the
Castle grounds at that hour they might have asked you awkward
questions," remarked Flockart.
"Oh," laughed the other, "they all know me as a visitor to the village
fond of walking exercise. I took very good care that they should all
know me, so that as few explanations as possible would be necessary. As
you well know, the secret of all my successes is that I never leave
anything to chance."
"To go peeping about outside the house and trying to took in at lighted
windows sounds a rather injudicious proceeding," his companion declared.
"Not if proper precautions are taken, as I took them. I was weeks in
that terribly dull Scotch village, but nobody suspected my real mission.
I made quite a large circle of friends at the 'Star,' who all believed
me to be a foreign ornithologist writing a book upon the birds of
Scotland. Trust me to tell people a good story."
"Well," exclaimed Flockart, after a long silence, "those Whispers are
certainly a mystery, more especially if you've actually heard them. On
two or three occasions I've spoken to Sir Henry about them. He ridicules
the idea, yet he admitted to me one evening that the voices had really
been heard. I declared that the most remarkable fact was the sudden
death of each person who had listened and heard them. It is a curious
phenomenon, which certainly should be investigated."
"The inference is that I, having listened to the ghostly voices, am
doomed to a sudden and violent end," remarked the shabby stranger quite
Flockart laughed. "Really, Felix, this is too funny!" he said. "Fancy
your taking notice of such old wives' fables! Why, my dear fellow,
you've got many years of constant activity before you yet. You must
return to Paris in the morning, and watch in patience."
"I have watched, but discovered nothing."
"Perhaps I'll come and assist you; most probably I shall."
"No, don't! As soon as you leave San Remo Sir Henry will know, and he
"That you are in search of the truth, and of fortune in consequence."
"He believes in me. Only the other day I had a letter from him written
in Goslin's hand, repeating the confidence he reposes in me."
"Exactly. You must remain down here for the present."
Flockart recollected the puzzling decision of Lady Heyburn, and remained
"Our chief peril is still the one which has faced us all along," went on
the man in the grey hat—"the peril that the girl may tell about that
awkward affair at Chantilly."
"She dare not," Flockart assured him quickly.
Krail shook his head dubiously. "She's leading a lonely life. Her heart
is broken, and she believes herself, as every other young girl does, to
be without a future. Therefore, she's brooding over it. One never knows
in such cases when a girl may fling all prudence to the winds," he said.
"If she did, then nothing could save us."
"That's just what her ladyship said the other day," answered Flockart,
tossing away his cigarette. "But you don't know that I hold her
irrevocably. She dare not say a single word. If she dare, why did she
not tell the truth about the safe?"
"Probably because it was all too sudden. She now finds life in that
dismal little village intolerable. She's a girl of spirit, you know, and
has always been used to luxury and freedom. To live with an old woman in
a country cottage away from all her friends must be maddening. No, my
dear James, in this you've acted most injudiciously. You were devoid of
your usual foresight. Depend upon it, a very serious danger threatens.
She will speak."
"I tell you she dare not. Rest your mind assured."
"She shall not!"
"How, pray, can you close her mouth?" asked the foreigner.
Flockart's eyes met his. In them was a curious expression, almost a
Krail understood. He shrugged his shoulders, but uttered no word. His
gesture was, however, that of one unconvinced. Adventurer as he was,
ingenious and unscrupulous, he lived from hand to mouth. Sometimes he
made a big coup and placed himself in funds. But following such an
event he was open-handed and generous to his friends, extravagant in his
expenditure; and very soon found himself under the necessity to exercise
his wits in order to obtain the next louis. He had known Flockart for
years as one of his own class. They had first met long ago on board a
Castle liner homeward bound from Capetown, where both found themselves
playing a crooked game. A friendship begotten of dishonesty had sprung
up between them, and in consequence they had thrown in their lot
together more than once with considerable financial advantage.
The present affair was, however, not much to Krail's liking, and this he
had more than once told his friend. It was quite possible that if they
could discover the mysterious source of this blind man's wealth they
might, by judiciously levying blackmail through a third party, secure a
very handsome income which he was to share with Flockart and her
The last-named Krail had always admitted to be one of the cleverest
women he had ever met. His only surprise had been that she, as Sir
Henry's wife, was unable to get at the facts which were so cleverly
withheld. It only showed, however, that the Baronet, though deprived of
eyesight, was even more clever than the unscrupulous woman he had so
Krail held Lady Heyburn in distinct distrust. He had once had dealings
with her which had turned out the reverse of satisfactory. Instinctively
he knew that, in order to save herself, if exposure ever came, she would
"give him away" without the least compunction.
What had puzzled him for several years, and what, indeed, had puzzled
other people, was the reason of the close friendship between Flockart
and the Baronet's wife. It was certainly not affection. He knew Flockart
intimately, and had knowledge of his private affairs; therefore he was
well aware of the existence of an unknown and rather insignificant woman
to whom he was in secret devoted.
No; the bond between the pair was an entirely mysterious one. He knew
that on more than one occasion, when Flockart's demands for money had
been a little too frequent, she had resisted and attempted to withdraw
from further association with him. Yet by a single word, or even a look,
he could compel her to disgorge the funds he needed, for she had even
handed him some of her trinkets to pawn until she could obtain further
funds from Sir Henry to redeem them.
As they walked together along the white Corniche Road, their faces set
towards the gorgeous southern afterglow, while the waves lapped lazily
on the grey rocks, all these puzzling thoughts recurred to Krail.
"Lady Heyburn seems still to remain your very devoted friend," he
remarked at last with a meaning smile. "I see from the New York Herald
what pleasant parties she gives, and how she is the heart and soul of
social merriment in San Remo. By Jove, James! you're a lucky man to
possess such a popular hostess as friend."
"Yes," laughed Flockart, "Winnie is a regular pal. Without her I should
have been broken long ago. But she's always ready to help me along."
"People have already remarked upon your remarkable friendship," said his
friend, "and many ill-natured allegations have been made."
"Oh, yes, I'm quite well aware of that, my dear fellow. It has pained me
more than enough. You yourself know that, as far as affection goes, I've
never in my life entertained a spark of it for Winnie. We were children
together, and have been friends always."
"Quite so!" exclaimed Krail, smiling. "That's a pretty good story to
tell the world. But there's a point where mere friendship must break,
"What do you mean?" asked the other, glancing at him in surprise.
"Well, the story you tell other people may be picturesque and romantic,
but with me it's just a trifle weak. Lady Heyburn doesn't give her
pearls to be pawned, out of mere friendship, you know."
Flockart was silent. He knew too well that the man walking at his side
was as clever an intriguer and as bold an adventurer as had ever moved
up and down Europe "working the game" in search of pigeons to pluck. His
shabbiness was assumed. He had alighted at Bordighera station from the
rapide from Paris, spent the night at a third-rate hotel in order not
to be recognised at the Angst or any of the smarter houses, and had met
him by appointment to explain the present situation. His remarks,
however, were the reverse of reassuring. What did he suspect?
"I don't quite follow you, Krail," Flockart said.
"I meant to imply that if friendship only links you with Lady Heyburn,
the chain may quite easily snap," he remarked.
He looked at his friend, much puzzled. He could see no point in that
Krail read what was passing in the other's mind, and added, "I know,
mon cher ami, that affection from her ladyship is entirely out of the
question. The gossips are liars. And——"
"Sir Henry himself is quite aware of that. I have already spoken quite
plainly and openly to him, and suggested my departure from Glencardine
on account of ill-natured remarks by her ladyship's enemies. But he
would not hear of my leaving, and pressed me to remain."
Krail looked at him in blank surprise. "Well," he said, "if you've been
bold enough to do this in face of the gossip, then you're a much
cleverer man than ever I took you to be."
For answer, Flockart took some letters from his breast-pocket, selected
one written in a foreign hand, and gave it to Krail to read. It was from
the hermit of Glencardine, written at his dictation by Monsieur Goslin,
and was couched in the warmest and most confidential terms.
"Look here, James," exclaimed the shabby man, handing back the letter,
"I'm going to be perfectly frank with you. Tell me if I speak the truth
or if I lie. It is neither affection nor friendship which links your
life with that woman's. Am I right?"
Flockart did not answer for some moments. His eyes were cast upon the
ground. "Yes, Krail," he admitted at last when the question had been put
to him a second time—"yes, Krail. You speak the truth. It is neither
affection nor friendship."
SHOWS GABRIELLE IN EXILE
Midway between historic Fotheringhay and ancient Apethorpe, the
ancestral seat of the Earls of Westmorland, lay the long, straggling,
and rather poverty-stricken village of Woodnewton. Like many other
Northamptonshire villages, it consisted of one long street of cottages,
many of them with dormer windows peeping from beneath the brown thatch,
the better houses of stone, with old mullioned windows, but all of them
more or less in stages of decay. With the depreciation in agriculture,
Woodnewton, once quite a prosperous little place, was now terribly
shabby and depressing.
As he entered the village, the first object that met the eye of the
stranger was a barn with the roof half fallen away, and next it a ruined
house with its moss-grown thatch full of holes. The paving was ill-kept,
and even the several inns bore an appearance of struggles with poverty.
Half-way up the long, straight, dispiriting street stood a cottage
larger and neater-looking than the rest. Its ugly exterior was
half-hidden by ivy, which had been cut away from the diamond-paned
windows; while, unlike its neighbours, its roof was tiled and its brown
door newly painted and highly varnished.
Old Miss Heyburn lived there, and had lived there for the past
half-century. The prim, grey-haired, and somewhat eccentric old lady was
a well-known figure to all on that country-side. Twice each Sunday, with
her large-type Prayer-book in her hand, and her steel-rimmed spectacles
on her thin nose, she walked to church, while she was one of the
principal supporters of the village clothing-club and such-like
institutions inaugurated by the worthy rector.
Essentially an ascetic person, she was looked upon with fear by all the
villagers. Her manner was brusque, her speech sharp, and her criticism
of neglectful mothers caustic and much to the point. Prim, always in
black bonnet and jet-trimmed cape of years gone by, both in summer and
winter, she took no heed of the vagaries of fashion, even when they
reached Woodnewton so tardily.
The common report was that when a girl she had been "crossed in love,"
for her single maidservant she always trained to a sober and loveless
life like her own, and as soon as a girl cast an eye upon a likely swain
she was ignominiously dismissed.
That the sharp-tongued spinster possessed means was undoubted. It was
known that she was sister of Sir Henry Heyburn of Caistor, in
Lincolnshire; and, on account of her social standing, she on rare
occasions was bidden to the omnium gatherings at some of the mansions in
the neighbourhood. She seldom accepted; but when she did it was only to
satisfy her curiosity and to criticise.
The household of two, the old lady and her exemplary maid, was assuredly
a dull one. Meals were taken with punctual regularity amid a cleanliness
that was almost painful. The tiny drawing-room, with its row of
window-plants, including a pot of strong-smelling musk, was hardly ever
entered. Not a speck of dust was allowed anywhere, for Miss Emily's eye
was sharp, and woe betide the maid if a mere suspicion of dirt were
discovered! Everything was kept locked up. One maid who resigned
hurriedly, refusing to be criticised, afterwards declared that her
mistress kept the paraffin under lock and key.
And into this uncomfortably prim and proper household little Gabrielle
had suddenly been introduced. Her heart overburdened by grief, and full
of regret at being compelled to part from the father she so fondly
loved, she had accepted the inevitable, fully realising the dull
greyness of the life that lay before her. Surely her exile there was a
cruel and crushing one! The house seemed so tiny and so suffocating
after the splendid halls and huge rooms at Glencardine, while her aunt's
constant sarcasm about her father—whom she had not seen for eight
years—was particularly galling.
The woman treated the girl as a wayward child sent there for punishment
and correction. She showed her neither kindness nor consideration; for,
truth to tell, it annoyed her to think that her brother should have
imposed the girl upon her. She hated to be bothered with the girl; but,
existing upon Sir Henry's charity, as she really did, though none knew
it, she could do no otherwise than accept his daughter as her guest.
Days, weeks, months had passed, each day dragging on as its predecessor,
a wretched, hopeless, despairing existence to a girl so full of life and
vitality as Gabrielle. Though she had written several times to her
father, he had sent her no reply. To her mother at San Remo she had also
written, and from her had received one letter, cold and unresponsive.
From Walter Murie nothing—not a single word.
The well-thumbed books in the village library she had read, as well as
those in the possession of her aunt. She had tried needlework, problems
of patience, and the translation of a few chapters of an Italian novel
into English in order to occupy her time. But those hours when she was
alone in her little upstairs room with the sloping roof passed, alas! so
Upon her, ever oppressive, were thoughts of that bitter past. At one
staggering blow she had lost all that had made her young life worth
living—her father's esteem and her lover's love. She was innocent,
entirely innocent, of the terrible allegations against her, and yet she
was so utterly defenceless!
Often she sat at her little window for hours watching the lethargy of
village life in the street below, that rural life in which the rector
and the schoolmaster were the principal figures. The dullness of it all
was maddening. Her aunt's mid-Victorian primness, her snappishness
towards the trembling maid, and the thousand and one rules of her daily
life irritated her and jarred upon her nerves.
So, in order to kill time, and at the same time to study the antiquities
of the neighbourhood—her father having taught her so much deep
antiquarian knowledge—it had been her habit for three months past to
take long walks for many miles across the country, accompanied by the
black collie Rover belonging to a young farmer who lived at the end of
the village. The animal had one day attached itself to her while she was
taking a walk on the Apethorpe road; and now, by her feeding him daily
and making a pet of him, the girl and the dog had become inseparable. By
long walks and short train-journeys she had, in three months, been able
to inspect most of the antiquities of Northamptonshire. Much of the
history of the county was intensely interesting: the connection of old
Fotheringhay with the ill-fated Mary Queen of Scots, the beauties of
Peterborough Cathedral, the splendid old Tudor house of Deene (the home
of the Earls of Cardigan), the legends of King John concerning King's
Cliffe, the gaunt splendour of ruined Kirby, and the old-world charm of
Apethorpe. All these, and many others, had great attraction for her. She
read them up in books she ordered from London, and then visited the old
places with all the enthusiasm of a spectacled antiquary.
Every day, no matter what the weather, she might be seen, in her thick
boots, burberry, and tam o'shanter, trudging along the roads or across
the fields accompanied by the faithful collie. The winter had been a
comparatively mild one, with excessive rain. But no downpour troubled
her. She liked the rain to beat into her face, for the dismal,
monotonous cheerlessness of the brown fields, bare trees, and muddy
roads was in keeping with the tragedy of her own young life.
She knew that her aunt Emily disliked her. The covert sneers, the
caustic criticisms, and the go-to-meeting attitude of the old lady
irritated the girl beyond measure. She was not wanted in that painfully
prim cottage, and had been made to understand it from the first day.
Hence it was that she spent all the time she possibly could out of
doors. Alone she had traversed the whole county, seeking permission to
glance at the interior of any old house or building that promised
archaeological interest, and by that means making some curious
Many people regarded the pretty young girl who made a study of old
churches and old houses as somewhat eccentric. Local antiquaries,
however, stared at her in wonder when they found that she was possessed
of knowledge far more profound than theirs, and that she could decipher
old documents and read Latin inscriptions with ease.
She made few friends, preferring solitude and reflection to visiting and
gossiping. Hers was, indeed, a pathetic little figure, and the
countryfolk used to stare at her in surprise and sigh as she passed
through the various little hamlets and villages so regularly, the black
collie bounding before her.
Quickly she had become known as "Miss Heyburn's niece," and the report
having spread that she was "a bit eccentric, poor thing," people soon
ceased to wonder, and began to regard that pale, sad face with sympathy.
The whole country-side was wondering why such a pretty young lady had
gone to live in the deadly dullness of Woodnewton, and what was the
cause of that great sorrow written upon her countenance.
Her daily burden of bitter reflection was, indeed, hard to bear. Her one
thought, as she walked those miles of lonely rural byways, so bare and
cheerless, was of Walter—her Walter—the man who, she knew, would have
willingly given his very life for hers. She had met her just punishment,
and was now endeavouring to bear it bravely. She had renounced his love
One afternoon, dark and rainy, in the gloom of early March, she was
sitting at the old-fashioned and rather tuneless piano in the damp,
unused "best room," which was devoid of fire for economic reasons. Her
aunt was seated in the window busily crocheting, while she, with her
white fingers running across the keys, raised her sweet contralto voice
in that old-world Florentine song that for centuries has been sung by
the populace in the streets of the city by the Arno:
In questa notte in sogno l'ho veduto
Era vestito tutto di braccato,
Le piume sul berretto di velluto
Ed una spada d'oro aveva allato.
E poi m'ha detto con un bel sorriso;
Io no, non posso star da te diviso,
Da te diviso non ci posso stare
E torno per mai pin non ti lasciare.
Miss Heyburn sighed, and looked up from her work. "Can't you sing
something in English, Gabrielle? It would be much better," she remarked
in a snappy tone.
The girl's mouth hardened slightly at the corners, and she closed the
piano without replying.
"I don't mean you to stop," exclaimed the ascetic old lady. "I only
think that girls, instead of learning foreign songs, should be able to
sing English ones properly. Won't you sing another?"
"No," replied the girl, rising. "The rain has ceased, so I shall go for
my walk;" and she left the room to put on her hat and mackintosh,
passing along before the window a few minutes later in the direction of
It was always the same. If she indulged herself in singing one or other
of those ancient love-songs of the hot-blooded Tuscan peasants her aunt
always scolded. Nothing she did was right, for the simple reason that
she was an unwelcome visitor.
She was alone. Rover was conducting sheep to Stamford market, as was his
duty every week; therefore in the fading daylight she went along,
immersed in her own sad thoughts. Her walk at that hour was entirely
aimless. She had only gone forth because of the irritation she felt at
her aunt's constant complaints. So entirely engrossed was she by her own
despair that she had not noticed the figure of a man who, catching sight
of her at the end of Woodnewton village, had held back until she had
gone a considerable distance, and had then sauntered leisurely in the
direction she had taken.
The man kept her in view, but did not approach her. The high, red
mail-cart passed, and the driver touched his hat respectfully to her.
The man who collected the evening mail from all the villages between
Deene and Peterborough met her almost every evening, and had long ago
inquired and learnt who she was.
For nearly two miles she walked onward, until, close by the junction of
the road which comes down the hill from Nassington, the man who had been
following hastened up and overtook her.
She heard herself addressed by name, and, turning quickly, found herself
face to face with James Flockart.
THE VELVET PAW
The new-comer stood before Gabrielle, hat in hand, smiling pleasantly
and uttering a greeting of surprise.
Her response was cold, for was not all her present unhappiness due to
"I've come here to speak to you, Gabrielle—to speak to you in
"Whatever you have to say may surely be said in the hearing of a third
person?" was her dignified answer. His sudden appearance had startled
her, but only for a moment. She was cool again next instant, and on her
guard against her enemy.
"I hardly think," he said, with a meaning smile, "that you would really
like me to speak before a third party."
"I really care nothing," was her answer. "And I cannot see why you seek
me here. When one is hopeless, as I am, one becomes callous of what the
future may bring."
"Hopeless! Yes," he said in a changed voice, "I know that; living in
this dismal hole, Gabrielle, you must be hopeless. I know that your
exile here, away from all your friends and those you love, must be
soul-killing. Don't think that I have not reflected upon it a hundred
"Ah, then you have at last experienced remorse!" she cried bitterly,
looking straight into the man's face. "You have estranged me from my
father, and tried to ruin him! You lied to him—lied in order to save
The man laughed. "My dear child," he exclaimed, "you really misjudge me
entirely. I am here for two reasons: to ask your forgiveness for making
that allegation which was imperative; and, secondly, to assure you that,
if you will allow me, I will yet be your friend."
"Friend!" she echoed in a hollow voice. "You—my friend!"
"Yes. I know that you mistrust me," he replied; "but I want to prove
that my intentions towards you are those of real friendship."
"And you, who ever since my girlhood days have been my worst enemy, ask
me now to trust you!" she exclaimed with indignation. "No; go back to
Lady Heyburn and tell her that I refuse to accept the olive-branch which
you and she hold out to me."
"My dear girl, you don't follow me," he exclaimed impatiently. "This has
nothing whatever to do with Lady Heyburn. I have come to you from purely
personal motives. My sole desire is to effect your return to
"For your own ends, Mr. Flockart, without a doubt!" she said bitterly.
"Ah! there you are quite mistaken. Though you assert that I am your
father's enemy, I am, I tell you, his friend. He is ever thinking of you
with regret. You were his right hand. Would it not be far better if he
invited you to return?"
She sighed at the thought of the blind man whom she regarded with such
entire devotion, but answered, "No, I shall never return to
"Why?" he asked. "Was it anything more than natural that, believing you
had been prying into his affairs, your father, in a moment of anger,
condemned you to this life of appalling monotony?"
"No, not more natural than that you, the culprit, should have made me
the scapegoat for the second time," was her defiant reply.
"Have I not already told you that the reason I'm here is to crave your
forgiveness? I admit that my actions have been the reverse of
honourable; but—well, there were circumstances which compelled me to
act as I did."
"You got an impression of my father's safe-key, had a duplicate made in
Glasgow, as I have found out, and one night opened the safe and copied
certain private documents having regard to a proposed loan to the Greek
Government. The night I discovered you was the second occasion when you
went to the library and opened the safe. Do you deny that?"
"What you allege, Gabrielle, is perfectly correct," he replied. "I know
that I was a blackguard to shield myself behind you—to tell the lie I
did that night. But how could I avoid it?"
"Suppose I had, in retaliation, spoken the truth?" she asked, looking
the man straight in the face.
"Ah! I knew that you would not do that."
"You believe that I dare not—dare not for my own sake, eh?"
He nodded in the affirmative.
"Then you are much mistaken, Mr. Flockart," she said in a hard voice.
"You don't understand that a woman may become desperate."
"I can understand how desperate you have become, living in this 'Sleepy
Hollow.' A week of it would, I admit, drive me to distraction."
"Then if you understand my present position you will know that I am
fearless of you, or of anybody else. My life has ended. I have neither
happiness, comfort, peace of mind, nor love. All is of the past. To
you—you, James Flockart—I am indebted for all this! You have held me
powerless. I was a happy girl once, but you and your dastardly friends
crossed my path like an evil shadow, and I have existed in an inferno of
remorse ever since. I——"
"Remorse! How absurdly you talk!"
"It will not be absurd when I speak the truth and tell the world what I
know. It will be rather a serious matter for you, Mr. Flockart."
"You threaten me, then?" he asked, his eyes flashing for a second.
"I think it is as well for us to understand one another at once," she
They had halted upon a small bridge close to the entrance to Apethorpe
"Then I'm to understand that you refuse my proffered assistance?" he
"I require no assistance from my enemies," was her defiant and dignified
reply. "I suppose Lady Heyburn is at the villa at San Remo as usual, and
that it was she who sent you to me, because she recognises that you've
both gone a little too far. You have. When the opportunity arises, then
I shall speak, regardless of the consequences. Therefore, Mr. Flockart,
I wish you good-evening;" and she turned away.
"No, Gabrielle," he cried, resolutely barring her path. "You must hear
me. You don't grasp the point of my argument."
"With me none of your arguments are of any avail," was her response in a
bitter tone. "I, alas! have reason to know you too well. For you—by
your clever intrigue—I committed a crime; but God knows I am innocent
of what was intended. Now that you have estranged me from my father and
my lover, I shall confess—confess all—before I make an end of my
He saw from her pale, drawn face that she was desperate. He grew afraid.
"But, my dear girl, think—of what you are saying! You don't mean it;
you can't mean it. Your father has relented, and will welcome you back,
if only you will consent to return."
"I have no wish to be regarded as the prodigal daughter," was her proud
"Not for Walter Murie's sake?" asked the crafty man. "I have seen him. I
was at the club with him last night, and we had a chat about you. He
loves you very dearly. Ah! you do not know how he is suffering."
She was silent, and he recognised in an instant that his words had
touched the sympathetic chord in her heart.
"He is not suffering any greater grief than I am," she said in a low,
mechanical voice, her brow heavily clouded.
"Of course I can quite understand that," he remarked sympathetically.
"Walter is a good fellow, and—well, it is indeed sad that matters
should be as they are. He is entirely devoted to you, Gabrielle."
"Not more so than I am to him," declared the girl quite frankly.
"Then why did you write breaking off your engagement?"
"He told you that?" she exclaimed in surprise.
The truth was that Murie had told Flockart nothing. He had not even seen
him. It was only a wild guess on Flockart's part.
"Tell me," she urged anxiously, "what did he say concerning myself?"
Flockart hesitated. His mind was instantly active in the concoction of a
"Oh, well—he expressed the most profound regret for all that had
occurred at Glencardine, and is, of course, utterly puzzled. It appears
that just before Christmas he went home to Connachan and visited your
father several times. From him, I suppose, he heard how you had been
"You told him nothing?"
"I told him nothing," declared Flockart—which was a fact.
"Did he express a wish to see me?" she inquired.
"Of course he did. Is he not over head and ears in love with you? He
believes you have treated him cruelly."
"I—I know I have, Mr. Flockart," she admitted. "But I acted as any girl
of honour would have done. I was compelled to take upon myself a great
disgrace, and on doing so I released him from his promise to me."
"Most honourable!" the man declared with a pretence of admiration, yet
underlying it all was a craftiness that surely was unsurpassed. That
visit of his to Northamptonshire was made with some ulterior motive, yet
what it was the girl was unable to discover. She would surely have been
cleverer than most people had she been able to discern the hidden,
sinister motives of James Flockart. The truth was that he had not seen
Murie, and the story of his anxiety he had only concocted on the spur of
"Walter asked me to give you a message," he went on. "He asked me to
urge you to return to Glencardine, and to withdraw that letter you wrote
him before your departure."
"To return to Glencardine!" she repeated, staring into his face. "Walter
wishes me to do that! Why?"
"Because he loves you. Because he will intercede with your father on
"My father will hear nothing in my favour until—" and she paused.
"Until I tell him the whole truth."
"That you will never do," remarked Flockart quickly.
"Ah! there you're mistaken," she responded. "In all probability I
"Then, before you do so, pray weigh carefully the dire results," he
urged in a changed tone.
"Oh, I've already done that long ago," she said. "I know that I am in
your hands, utterly and irretrievably, Mr. Flockart, and the only way I
can regain my freedom is by boldly telling the truth."
"You must never do that! By Heaven, you shall not!" he cried, looking
fiercely into her clear eyes.
"I know! I'm quite well aware of your attitude towards me. The claws
cannot be entirely concealed in the cat's paw, you know;" and she
laughed bitterly into his face.
The corners of the man's mouth hardened. He was about to speak and show
himself in his true colours; but by dint of great self-control he
managed to smile and exclaim, "Then you will take no heed of these
wishes of the man who loves you so dearly, of the man who is still your
best and most devoted friend? You prefer to remain here, and wear out
your young life with vain regrets and shattered affections. Come,
Gabrielle, do be sensible."
The girl did not speak for several moments. "Does Walter really wish me
to return?" she asked, looking straight at him, as though trying to
discern whether he was really speaking the truth.
"Yes. He expressed to me a strong wish that you should either return to
Glencardine or go and live at Park Street."
"He wishes to see me?"
"Of course. It would perhaps be better if you met him first, either down
here or in London. Why should you two not be happy?" he went on. "I know
it is my fault you are consigned to this dismal life, and that you and
Walter are parted; but, believe me, Gabrielle, I am at this moment
endeavouring to bring you together again, and to reinstate you in Sir
Henry's good graces. He is longing for you to return. When I saw him
last at Glencardine he told me that Monsieur Goslin was not so clever at
typing or in grasping his meaning as you are, and he is only awaiting
"That may be so," answered the girl in a slow, distinct voice; "but
perhaps you'll tell me, Mr. Flockart, the reason you evinced such an
unwonted curiosity in my father's affairs?"
"My dear girl," laughed the man, "surely that isn't a fair question. I
had certain reasons of my own."
"Yes; assisted by Lady Heyburn, you thought that you could make money by
obtaining knowledge of my father's secrets. Oh yes, I know—I know more
than you have ever imagined," declared the girl boldly. "You hope to get
rid of Monsieur Goslin from Glencardine and reinstate me—for your own
ends. I see it all."
The man bit his lip. With chagrin he recognised that he had blundered,
and that she, shrewd and clever, had taken advantage of his error. He
was, however, too clever to exhibit his annoyance.
"You are quite wrong in your surmise, Gabrielle," he said quickly.
"Walter Murie loves you, and loves you well. Therefore, with regret at
my compulsory denunciation of yourself, I am now endeavouring to assist
"Thank you," she responded coldly, again turning away abruptly. "I
require no assistance from a man such as yourself—a man who entrapped
me, and who denounced me in order to save himself."
"You will regret these words," he declared, as she walked away in the
direction of Woodnewton.
She turned upon him in fierce anger, retorting, "And perhaps you, on
your part, will regret your endeavour to entrap me a second time. I have
promised to speak the truth, and I shall keep my promise. I am not
afraid to sacrifice my own life to save my father's honour!"
The man stood staring after her. These words of hers held him
motionless. What if she flung her good name to the winds and actually
carried out her threat? What if she really spoke the truth? Ay, what
BETRAYS THE BOND
The girl hurried on, her heart filled with wonder, her eyes brimming
with tears of indignation. The one thought occupying her whole mind was
whether Walter really wished to see her again. Had Flockart spoken the
truth? The serious face of the man she loved so well rose before her
blurred vision. She had been his—his very own—until she had sent off
that fateful letter.
In five minutes Flockart had again overtaken her. His attitude was
appealing. He urged her to at least see her lover again even if she
refused to write or return to her father.
"Why do you come here to taunt me like this?" she cried, turning upon
him angrily. "Once, because you were my mother's friend, I believed in
you. But you deceived me, and in consequence you hold me in your power.
Were it not for that I could have spoken to my father—have told him the
truth and cleared myself. He now believes that I have betrayed his
business secrets, while at the same time he considers you to be his
"I am his friend, Gabrielle," the man declared.
"Why tell me such a lie?" she asked reproachfully. "Do you think I too
"Certainly not. I give you credit for being quite as clever and as
intelligent as you are dainty and charming. I——"
"Thank you!" she cried in indignation. "I require no compliments from
"Lady Heyburn has expressed a wish to see you," he said. "She is still
in San Remo, and asked me to invite you to go down there for a few
weeks. Your aunt has written her, I think, complaining that you are not
very comfortable at Woodnewton."
"I have not complained. Why should Aunt Emily complain of me? You seem
to be the bearer of messages from the whole of my family, Mr. Flockart."
"I am here entirely in your own interests, my dear child," he declared
with that patronising air which so irritated her.
"Not entirely, I think," she said, smiling bitterly.
"I tell you, I much regret all that has happened, and——"
"You regret!" she cried fiercely. "Do you regret the end of that
woman—you know whom I mean?"
Beneath her straight glance he quivered. She had referred to a subject
which he fain would have buried for ever. This dainty neat-waisted girl
knew a terrible secret. Was it not only too true, as Lady Heyburn had
vaguely suggested a dozen times, that her mouth ought to be effectually
He had sealed it once, as he thought. Her fear to explain to her father
the incident of the opening of the safe had given him confidence that no
word of the truth regarding the past would ever pass her lips. Yet he
saw that his own machinations were now likely to prove his undoing. The
web which, with her ladyship's assistance, he had woven about her was
now stretched to breaking-point. If it did yield, then the result must
be ruin—and worse. Therefore, he was straining every effort to again
reinstate her in her father's good graces and restore in her mind
something akin to confidence. But all his arguments, as he walked on at
her side in the gathering gloom, proved useless. She was in no mood to
listen to the man who had been her evil genius ever since her
school-days. As he was speaking she was wondering if she dared go to
Walter Murie and tell him everything. What would her lover think of her?
What indeed? He would only cast her aside as worthless. No. Far better
that he should remain in ignorance and retain only sad memories of their
"I am going to Glencardine to-night," Flockart went on. "I shall join
the mail at Peterborough. What shall I tell your father?"
"Tell him the truth," was her reply. "That, I know, you will not do. So
why need we waste further words?"
"Do you actually refuse, then, to leave this dismal hole?" he demanded
"Yes, until I speak, and tell my father the plain and ghastly story."
"Rubbish!" he ejaculated. "You'll never do that—unless you wish to
stand beside me in a criminal dock."
"Well, rather that than be your cat's-paw longer, Mr. Flockart!" she
cried, her face flushing with indignation.
"Oh, oh!" he laughed, still quite imperturbed. "Come, come! This is
scarcely a wise reply, my dear little girl!"
"I wish you to leave me. You have insulted my intelligence enough this
evening, surely—you, who only a moment ago declared yourself my
Slowly he selected a cigarette from his gold case, and, halting, lit it.
"Well, if you meet my well-meant efforts on your behalf with open
antagonism like this I can't make any further suggestion."
"No, please don't. Go up to Glencardine and do your worst for me. I am
now fully able to take care of myself," she exclaimed in defiance. "You
can also write to Lady Heyburn, and tell her that I am still, and that I
always will remain, my blind father's friend."
"But why don't you listen to reason, Gabrielle?" he implored her. "I
don't now seek to lessen or deny the wrongs I have done you in the past,
nor do I attempt to conceal from you my own position. My only object is
to bring you and Walter together again. Her ladyship knows the whole
circumstances, and deeply regrets them."
"Her regret will be the more poignant some day, I assure you."
"Then you really intend to act vindictively?"
"I shall act just as I think proper," she exclaimed, halting a moment
and facing him. "Please understand that though I have been forced in the
past to act as you have indicated, because I feared you—because I had
my reputation and my father's honour at stake—I hold you in terror no
longer, Mr. Flockart."
"Well, I'm glad you've told me that," he said, laughing as though he
treated her declaration with humour. "It's just as well, perhaps, that
we should now thoroughly understand each other. Yet if I were you I
wouldn't do anything rash. By telling the truth you'd be the only
sufferer, you know."
"The only sufferer! Why?"
"Well, you don't imagine I should be such a fool as to admit that what
you said was true, do you?"
She looked at him in surprise. It had never occurred to her that he,
with his innate unscrupulousness and cunning, might deny her
allegations, and might even be able to prove them false.
"The truth could not be denied," she said simply. "Recollect the cutting
from the Edinburgh paper."
"Truth is denied every day in courts of law," he retorted. "No. Before
you act foolishly, remember that, put to the test, your word would stand
alone against mine and those of other people.
"Why, the very story you would tell would be so utterly amazing and
startling that the world would declare you had invented it. Reflect upon
it for a moment, and you'll find, my dear girl, that silence is golden
in this, as in any other circumstance in life."
She raised her eyes to his, and met his gaze firmly. "So you defy me to
speak?" she cried. "You think that I will still remain in this accursed
bondage of yours?"
"I utter no threats, my dear child," replied Flockart. "I have never in
my life threatened you. I merely venture to point out certain
difficulties which you might have in substantiating any allegation which
you might make against me. For that reason, if for none other, is it not
better for us to be friends?"
"I am not the friend of my father's enemy!" she declared.
"You are quite heroic," he declared with a covert sneer. "If you really
are bent upon providing the halfpenny newspapers with a fresh sensation,
pray let me know in plenty of time, won't you?"
"I've had sufficient of your taunts," cried the girl, bursting into a
flood of hot tears. "Leave me. I—I'll say no further word to you."
"Except to forgive me," He added.
"Why should I?" she asked through her tears.
"Because, for your own sake—for the sake of your future—it will surely
be best," he pointed out. "You, no doubt, in ignorance of legal
procedure, believed that what you alleged would be accepted in a court
of justice. But reflect fully before you again threaten me. Dry your
eyes, or your aunt may suspect something wrong."
She did not reply. What he said impressed her, and he did not fail to
recognise that fact. He smiled within himself when he saw that he had
triumphed. Yet he had not gained his point.
She had dashed away her tears with the little wisp of lace, annoyed with
herself at betraying her indignation in that womanly way. She knew him,
alas! too well. She mistrusted him, for she was well aware of how
cleverly he had once conspired with Lady Heyburn, and with what
ingenuity she herself had been drawn into the disgraceful and amazing
True it was that her story, if told in a criminal court, would prove so
extraordinary that it would not be believed; true also that he would, of
course, deny it, and that his denial would be borne out by the woman
who, though her father's wife, was his worst enemy.
The man placed his hand on her shoulder, saying, "May we not be friends,
She shook him off roughly, responding in the negative.
"But we are not enemies—I mean we will not be enemies as we have been,
shall we?" he urged.
To this she made no reply. She only quickened her pace, for the twilight
was fast deepening, and she wished to be back again at her aunt's house.
Why had that man followed her? Why, indeed, had he troubled to come
there? She could not discern his motive.
They walked together in silence. He was watching her face, reading it
like a book.
Then, when they neared the first thatched cottage at the entrance to the
village, he halted, asking, "May we not now become friends, Gabrielle?
Will you not listen, and take my advice? Or will you still remain buried
"I have nothing further to say, Mr. Flockart, than what I have already
said," was her defiant response. "I shall act as I think best."
"And you will dare to speak, and place yourself in a ridiculous
position, you mean?"
"I shall use my own judgment in defending my father from his enemies,"
was her cold response as, with a slight shrug of her shoulders, she
turned and left him, hurrying forward in the darkening twilight along
the village street to her aunt's home.
He, on his part, turned upon his heel with a muttered remark and set out
again to walk towards Nassington Station, whence, after nearly an hour's
wait in the village inn, he took train to Peterborough.
The girl had once again defied him.
THE WHISPERS AGAIN
Was it really true what Flockart had told her? Did Walter actually wish
to see her again? At one moment she believed in her lover's strong,
passionate devotion to her, for had she not seen it displayed in a
hundred different ways? But the next she recollected how that man
Flockart had taken advantage of her youth and inexperience in the past,
how he had often lied so circumstantially that she had believed his
words to be the truth. Once, indeed, he had openly declared to her that
one of his maxims was never to tell the truth unless obliged. After
dinner, a simple meal served in the poky little dining-room, she made an
excuse to go to her room, and there sat for a long time, deeply
reflecting. Should she write to Walter? Would it be judicious to explain
Flockart's visit, and how he had urged their reconciliation? If she
wrote, would it lower her dignity in her lover's eyes? That was the
great problem which now troubled her. She sat staring before her
undecided. She recalled all that Flockart had told her. He was the
emissary of Lady Heyburn without a doubt. The girl had told him openly
of her decision to speak the truth and expose him, but he had only
laughed at her. Alas! she knew his true character, unscrupulous and
pitiless. But she placed him aside.
Recollection of Walter—the man who had held her so often in his arms
and pressed his hot lips to hers, the man who was her father's firm
friend and whose uprightness and honesty of purpose she had ever
admired—crowded upon her. Should she write to him? Rigid and staring,
she sat in her chair, her little white hands clenched, as she tried to
summon courage. It had been she who had written declaring that their
secret engagement must be broken, she who had condemned herself.
Therefore, had she not a right to satisfy that longing she had had
through months, the longing to write to him once again. The thought
decided her; and, going to the table whereon the lamp was burning, she
sat down, and after some reflection, penned a letter as follows:—
"MY SWEETHEART, MY DARLING, MY OWN, MY SOUL—MINE—ONLY MINE,—I am
wondering how and where you are! True, I wrote you a cruel letter; but
it was imperative, and under the force of circumstance. I am full of
regrets, and I only wish with all my heart that I might kiss you once
again, and press you in my arms as I used to do.
"But how are you? I have had you before my eyes to-night, and I feel
quite sure that at this very moment you are thinking of me. You must
know that I love you dearly. You gave me your heart, and it shall not
belong to any other. I have tried to be brave and courageous; but, alas!
I have failed. I love you, my darling, and I must see you soon—very
"Mr. Flockart came to see me to-day and says that you expressed to him a
desire to meet me again. Gratify that desire when you will, and you will
find your Gabrielle just the same—longing ever to see you, living with
only the memories of your dear face.
"Can you doubt of my great, great love for you? You never wrote in reply
to my letter, though I have waited for months. I know my letter was a
cruel one, and to you quite unwarranted; but I had a reason for writing
it, and the reason was because I felt that I ought not to deceive you
"You see, darling, I am frank and open. Yes, I have deceived you. I am
terribly ashamed and downhearted. I have tried to conceal my grief, even
from you; but it is impossible. I love you as much as I ever loved you,
and I swear to you that I have never once wavered.
"Grim circumstance forced me to write to you as I did. Forgive me, I beg
of you. If it is true what Mr. Flockart says, then send me a telegram,
and come here to see me. If it be false, then I shall know by your
"I love you, my own, my well-beloved! Au revoir, my dearest heart. I
look at your photograph which to-night smiles at me. Yes, you love me!
"With many fond and sweet kisses like those I gave you in the
well-remembered days of our happiness.
"My love—My king!"
She read the letter carefully through, placed it in an envelope, and,
marking it private, addressed it to Walter's chambers in the Temple,
whence she knew it must be forwarded if he were away. Then, putting on
her tam o' shanter, she went out to the village grocer's, where she
posted it, so that it left by the early morning mail. When would his
welcome telegram arrive? She calculated that he would get the letter by
mid-day, and by one o'clock she could receive his reply—his reassurance
So she went to her bed, with its white dimity hangings, more calm and
composed than for months before. For a long time she lay awake, thinking
of him, listening hour by hour to the chiming bells of the old Norman
church. They marked the passing of the night. Then she dropped off to
sleep, to be awakened by the sun streaming into the room.
That same morning, away up in the Highlands at Glencardine, Sir Henry
had groped his way across the library to his accustomed chair, and Hill
had placed before him one of the shallow drawers of the cabinet of
There were fully half a dozen which had been sent to him by the curator
of the museum at Norwich, sulphur-casts of seals recently acquired by
The blind man had put aside that morning to examine them, and settled
himself to his task with the keen and pleasurable anticipation of the
They were very fine specimens. The blind man, sitting alone, selected
one, and, fingering it very carefully for a long time, at last made out
its design and the inscription upon it.
"The seal of Abbot Simon de Luton, of the early thirteenth century," he
said slowly to himself. "The wolf guards the head of St. Edmund as it
does in the seal of the Benedictine Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, while the
Virgin with the Child is over the canopy. And the verse is indeed
curious for its quaintness:"
+ VIRGO . DEUM . FERT . DUX . CAPUD . AUFERT . QUOD . LUPUS . HIC . FERT +
Then he again retraced the letters with his sensitive fingers to
reassure himself that he had made no mistake.
The next he drew towards him proved to be the seal of the Vice-Warden of
the Grey Friars of Cambridge, a pointed one used about the year 1244,
which to himself he declared, in heraldic language, to bear the device
of "a cross raguly debruised by a spear, and a crown of thorns in bend
dexter, and a sponge on a staff in bend sinister, between two threefold
flagella in base"—surely a formidable array of the instruments used
in the Passion.
Deeply interested, and speaking to himself aloud, as was his habit when
alone, he examined them one after the other. Among the collection were
the seals of Berengar de Brolis, Plebanus of Pacina (in Syracuse), and
those of the Commune of Beauvais (1228); Mathilde (or Mahaut), daughter
of Henri Duke of Brabant (1265); the town of Oudenbourg in West
Flanders, and of the Vicar-Provincial of the Carmelite Order at Palermo
(1350); Jacobus de Gnapet, Bishop of Rennes (1480); and of Bondi Marquis
of Sasolini of Bologna (1323).
He had almost concluded when Goslin, the grey-bearded Frenchman, having
breakfasted alone in the dining-room, entered. "Ah, mon cher Sir
Henry!" he exclaimed, "at work so early! The study of seals must be very
fascinating to you, though I confess that, for myself, I could never see
in them very much to interest one."
"No. To the ordinary person, my dear Goslin, it appears no doubt, a most
dryasdust study, but to a man afflicted like myself it is the only study
that he can pursue, for with his finger tips he can learn the devices
and decipher the inscriptions," the blind Baronet declared. "Take, for
instance, only this little collection of a dozen or so impressions which
they have so kindly sent to me from Norwich. Each one of them tells me
something. Its device, its general character, its heraldry, its
inscription, are all highly instructive. For the collector there are
opportunities for the study of the historical allusions, the
emblematology and imagery, the hagiology, the biographical and
topographical episodes, and the other peculiarities and idiosyncrasies
in all the seals he possesses."
Goslin, like most other people, had been many times bored by the old
man's technical discourses upon his hobby. But he never showed it. He,
just the same as other people, made pretence of being interested. "Yes,"
he remarked, "they must be most instructive to the student. I recollect
seeing a great quantity in the Bargello at Florence."
"Ah, a very fine collection—part of the Medici collection, and contains
some of the finest Italian and Spanish specimens," remarked the blind
connoisseur. "Birch of the British Museum is quite right in declaring
that the seal, portable and abounding in detail, not difficult of
acquisition nor hard to read if we set about deciphering the story it
has to tell, takes us back as we look upon it to the very time of its
making, and sets us, as it were, face to face with the actual owners of
The Frenchman sighed. He saw he was in for a long dissertation; and,
moving uneasily towards the window, changed the topic of conversation by
saying, "I had a long letter from Paris this morning. Krail is back
again, it appears."
"Ah, that man!" cried the other impatiently. "When will his
extraordinary energies be suppressed? They are watching him carefully, I
"Of course," replied the Frenchman. "He left Paris about a month ago,
but unfortunately the men watching him did not follow. He took train for
Berlin, and has been absent until now."
"We ought to know where he's been, Goslin," declared the elder man.
"What fool was it who, keeping him under surveillance, allowed him to
slip from Paris?"
"The Russian Tchernine."
"I thought him a clever fellow, but it seems that he's a bungler after
"But while we keep Krail at arm's length, as we are doing, what have we
to fear?" asked Goslin.
"Yes, but how long can we keep him at arm's length?" queried Sir Henry.
"You know the kind of man—one of the most extraordinarily inventive in
Europe. No secret is safe from him. Do you know, Goslin," he added, in a
changed voice, "I live nowadays somehow in constant apprehension."
"You've never possessed the same self-confidence since you found
Mademoiselle Gabrielle with the safe open," he remarked.
"No. Murie, or some other man she knows, must have induced her to do
that, and take copies of those documents. Fortunately, I suspected an
attempt, and baited the trap accordingly."
"What caused you to suspect?"
"Because more than once both Murie and the girl seemed to be seized by
an unusual desire to pry into my business."
"You don't think that our friend Flockart had anything to do with the
affair?" the Frenchman suggested.
"No, no. Not in the least. I know Flockart too well," declared the old
man. "Once I looked upon him as my enemy, but I have now come to the
conclusion that he is a friend—a very good friend."
The Frenchman pulled a rather wry face, and remained silent.
"I know," Sir Henry went on, "I know quite well that his constant
association with my wife has caused a good deal of gossip; but I have
dismissed it all with the contempt that such attempted scandal deserves.
It has been put about by a pack of women who are jealous of my wife's
good looks and her chic in dress."
"Are not Flockart and mademoiselle also good friends?" inquired Goslin.
"No. I happen to know that they are not, and that very fact in itself
shows me that Gabrielle, in trying to get at the secret of my business,
was not aided by Flockart, for it was he who exposed her."
"Yes," remarked the Frenchman, "so you've told me before. Have you heard
from mademoiselle lately?"
"Only twice since she has left here," was the old man's bitter reply,
"and that was twice too frequently. I've done with her, Goslin—done
with her entirely. Never in all my life did I receive such a crushing
blow as when I found that she, in whom I reposed the utmost confidence,
had played her own father false, and might have ruined him!"
"Yes," remarked the other sympathetically, "it was a great blow to you,
I know. But will you not forgive mademoiselle?"
"Forgive her!" he cried fiercely, "forgive her! Never!"
The grey-bearded Frenchman, who had always been a great favourite with
Gabrielle, sighed slightly, and gave his shoulders a shrug of regret.
"Why do you ask that?" inquired Sir Henry, "when she herself admitted
that she had been at the safe?"
"Because——" and the other hesitated. "Well, for several reasons. The
story of your quarrel with mademoiselle has leaked out."
"The Whispers—eh, Goslin?" laughed the old man in defiance. "Let the
people believe what they will. My daughter shall never return to
As he had been speaking the door had opened, and James Flockart stood
upon the threshold. He had overheard the blind man's words, and as he
came forward he smiled, more in satisfaction than in greeting.
CONTAINS A FURTHER MYSTERY
"My dear Edgar, when I met you in the Devonshire Club last night I could
scarcely believe my own eyes. Fancy you turning up again!"
"Yes, strange, isn't it, how two men may drift apart for years, and then
suddenly meet in a club, as we have done, Murie?"
"Being with those fellows who were anxious to go along and see the show
at the Empire last night, I had no opportunity of having a chat with
you, my dear old chap. That's why I asked you to look in."
The two men were seated in Walter's dingy chambers on the second floor
in Fig-Tree Court, Temple. The room was an old and rather frowsy one,
with shabby leather furniture from which the stuffing protruded,
panelled walls, a carpet almost threadbare, and a formidable array of
calf-bound volumes in the cases lining one wall. The place was heavy
with tobacco-smoke as the pair, reclining in easy-chairs, were in the
full enjoyment of very excellent cigars.
Walter's visitor was a tall, dark man, some six or seven years his
senior, a rather spare, lantern-jawed young fellow, whose dark-grey
clothes were of unmistakable foreign cut; and whose moustache was
carefully trained to an upward trend. No second glance was required to
decide that Edgar Hamilton was a person who, having lived a long time on
the Continent, had acquired the cosmopolitan manner both in gesture and
"Well," exclaimed Murie at last, blowing a cloud of smoke from his lips,
"since we parted at Oxford I've been called to the Bar, as you see. As
for practice—well, I haven't any. The gov'nor wants me to go in for
politics, so I'm trying to please him by getting my hand in. I make an
odd speech or two sometimes in out-of-the-world villages, and I hope,
one day, to find myself the adopted candidate for some borough or other.
Last year I was sent round the world by my fond parents in order to
obtain a broader view of life. Is it not Tacitus who says, 'Sua cuique
vita obscura est'?"
"Yes, my dear fellow," replied Hamilton, stretching himself lazily in
his chair. "And surely we can say with Martial, 'Non est vivere, sed
valere vita'—I am well, therefore I am alive! Mine has been a rather
curious career up to the present. I only once heard of you after
Oxford—through Arthur Price, who was, you'll remember, at Balliol. He
wrote that he'd spoken one night to you when at supper at the Savoy. You
had a bevy of beauties with you, he said."
Both men laughed. In the old days, Edgar Hamilton had been essentially a
ladies' man; but, since they had parted one evening on the
station-platform at Oxford, Hamilton had gone up to town and completely
out of the life of Walter Murie. They had not met until the previous
evening, when Walter, having dined at the Devonshire—that comfortable
old-world club in St. James's Street which was the famous Crockford's
gaming-house in the days of the dandies—he had met his old friend in
the strangers' smoking-room, the guest of a City stockbroker who was
entertaining a party. A hurried greeting of surprise, and an invitation
to call in at the Temple resulted in that meeting on that grey
Six years had gone since they had parted; and, judging from Edgar's
exterior, he had been pretty prosperous.
Walter was laughing and commenting upon it when his friend, removing his
cigar from his lips, said, "My dear fellow, my success has been entirely
due to one incident which is quite romantic. In fact, if anybody wrote
it in a book people would declare it to be fiction."
"That's interesting! Tell me all about it. My own life has been humdrum
enough in all conscience. As a budding politician, I have to browse upon
blue-books and chew statistics."
"And mine has been one of travel, adventure, and considerable
excitement," declared Hamilton. "Six months after I left Oxford I found
myself out in Transcaucasia as a newspaper correspondent. As you know, I
often wrote articles for some of the more precious papers when at
college. Well, one of them sent me out to travel through the disturbed
Kurdish districts. I had a tough time from the start. I was out with a
Cossack party in Thai Aras valley, east of Erivan, for six months, and
wrote lots of articles which created a good deal of sensation here in
England. You may have seen them, but they were anonymous. The life of
excitement, sometimes fighting and at others in ambush in the mountains,
suited me admirably, for I'm a born adventurer, I believe. One day,
however, a strange thing happened. I was riding along alone through one
of the mountain passes towards the Caspian when I discovered three wild,
fierce-looking Kurds maltreating a girl, believing her to be a Russian.
I called upon them to release her, for she was little more than a child;
and, as they did not, I shot two of the men. The third shot and plugged
me rather badly in the leg; but I had the satisfaction that my shots
attracted my Cossack companions, who, coming quickly on the spot, killed
all three of the girl's assailants, and released her."
"By Jove!" laughed Murie. "Was she pretty?"
"Not extraordinarily—a fair-haired girl of about fifteen, dressed in
European clothes. I fainted from loss of blood, and don't remember
anything else until I found myself in a tent, with two Cossacks patching
up my wound. When I came to, she rushed forward, and thanked me
profusely for saving her. To my surprise, she spoke in French, and on
inquiry I found that she was the daughter of a certain Baron Conrad de
Hetzendorf, an Austrian, who possessed a house in Budapest and a château
at Semlin, in South Hungary. She told us a curious story. Her father had
some business in Transcaucasia, and she had induced him to take her with
him on his journey. Only certain districts of the country were
disturbed; and apparently, with their guide and escort, they had
unwittingly entered the Aras region—one of the most lawless of them
all—in ignorance of what was in progress. She and her father,
accompanied by a guide and four Cossacks, had been riding along when
they met a party of Kurds, who had attacked them. Both father and
daughter had been seized, whereupon she had lost consciousness from
fright, and when she came to again found that the four Cossacks had been
killed, her father had been taken off, and she was alone in the brutal
hands of those three wild-looking tribesmen. As soon as she had told us
this, the officer of the Cossacks to which I had attached myself called
the men together, and in a quarter of an hour the whole body went forth
to chase the Kurds and rescue the Baron. One big Cossack, in his long
coat and astrakhan cap, was left to look after me, while Nicosia—that
was the girl's name—was also left to assist him. After three days they
returned, bringing with them the Baron, whose delight at finding his
daughter safe and unharmed was unbounded. They had fought the Kurds and
defeated them, killing nearly twenty. Ah, my dear Murie, you haven't any
notion of the lawless state of that country just then! And I fear it is
pretty much the same now."
"Well, go on," urged his friend. "What about the girl? I suppose you
fell in love with her, and all that, eh?"
"No, you're mistaken there, old chap," was his reply. "When she
explained to her father what had happened, the Baron thanked me very
warmly, and invited me to visit him in Budapest when my leg grew strong
again. He was a man of about fifty, who, I found, spoke English very
well. Nicosia also spoke English, for she had explained to me that her
mother, now dead, had been a Londoner. The Baron's business in
Transcaucasia was, he told me vaguely, in connection with the survey of
a new railway which the Russian Government was projecting eastward from
Erivan. For two days he remained with us; but during those days my wound
was extremely painful owing to lack of surgical appliances, so we spoke
of very little else besides the horrible atrocities committed by the
Kurds. He pressed me to visit him; and then, with an escort of our
Cossacks, he and his daughter left for Tiflis; whence he took train back
"For six months I remained, still leading that roving, adventurous life.
My leg was well again, but my journalistic commission was at an end, and
one day I found myself in Odessa, very short of funds. I recollected the
Baron's invitation to Budapest, therefore I took train there, and found
his residence to be one of those great white houses on the Franz Josef
Quay. He received me with marked enthusiasm, and compelled me to be his
guest. During the first week I was there I told him, in confidence, my
position, whereupon he offered me a very lucrative post as his
secretary, a post which I have retained until this moment."
"And the girl?" Walter asked, much interested.
"Oh, she finished her education in Dresden and in Paris, and now lives
mostly with her aunt in Vienna," was Hamilton's response. "Quite
recently she's become engaged to young Count de Solwegen, the son of one
of the wealthiest men in Austria."
"I thought you'd probably become the happy lover."
"Lover!" cried his friend. "How could a poor devil like myself ever
aspire to the hand of the daughter of the Baron de Hetzendorf? The name
doesn't convey much to you, I suppose?"
"No, I don't take much interest in unknown foreigners, I confess,"
replied Walter, with a smile.
"Ah, you're not a cosmopolitan nor a financier, or you would know the
thousand-and-one strings which are pulled by Conrad de Hetzendorf, or
the curious stories afloat concerning him."
"Curious stories!" echoed Murie. "Tell me some. I'm always interested in
Hamilton was silent for a few moments.
"Well, old chap, to tell you the truth, even though I've got such a
comfortable and lucrative post, I'm, even after these years,
"By the real nature of the Baron's business."
"Oh, he's a mysterious person, is he?"
"Very. Though I'm his confidential secretary, and deal with his affairs
in his absence, yet in some matters he is remarkably close, as though he
"You live always in Budapest, I suppose?"
"No. In summer we are at the country house, a big place overlooking the
Danube outside Semlin, and commanding a wide view of the great Hungarian
"The Baron transacts his business there, eh?"
"From there or from Budapest. His business is solely with an office in
the Boulevard des Capucines in Paris, and a registered telegraphic
address also in Paris."
"Well, there's nothing very mysterious in that, surely. Some business
matters must, of necessity, be conducted with secrecy."
"I know all that, my dear fellow, but—" and he hesitated, as though
fearing to take his friend into his confidence.
"Well—but there, no! You'd laugh at me if I told you the real reason of
"I certainly won't, my dear Hamilton," Murie assured him. "We are
friends to-day, dear old chap, just as we were at college. Surely it is
not the place of a man to poke fun at his friend?"
The argument was apparently convincing. The Baron's secretary smoked on
in thoughtful silence, his eyes fixed upon the wall in front of him.
"Well," he said at last, "if you promise to view the matter in all
seriousness, I'll tell you. Briefly, it's this. Of course, you've never
been to Semlin—or Zimony, as they call it in the Magyar tongue. To
understand aright, I must describe the place. In the extreme south of
Hungary, where the river Save joins the Danube, the town of Semlin
guards the frontier. Upon a steep hill, five kilometres from the town,
stands the Baron's residence, a long, rather inartistic white building,
which, however, is very luxuriously furnished. Comparatively modern, it
stands near the ruins of a great old castle of Hetzendorf, which
commands a wide sweep of the Danube. Now, amid those ruins strange
noises are sometimes heard, and it is said that upon all who hear them
falls some terrible calamity. I'm not superstitious, but I've heard
them—on three occasions! And somehow—well, somehow—I cannot get rid
of an uncanny feeling that some catastrophe is to befall me! I can't go
back to Semlin. I'm unnerved, and dare not return there."
"Noises!" cried Walter Murie. "What are they like?" he asked quickly,
starting from his chair, and staring at his friend.
"They seem to emanate from nowhere, and are like deep but distant
whispers. So plain they were that I could have sworn that some one was
speaking, and in English, too!"
"Does the baron know?"
"Yes, I told him, and he appeared greatly alarmed. Indeed, he gave me
leave of absence to come home to England."
"Well," exclaimed Murie, "what you tell me, old chap, is most
extraordinary! Why, there is almost an exactly similar legend connected
"Glencardine!" cried his friend. "Glencardine Castle, in Scotland! I've
heard of that. Do you know the place?"
"The estate marches with my father's, therefore I know it well. How
extraordinary that there should be almost exactly the same legend
concerning a Hungarian castle!"
"Who is the owner of Glencardine?"
"Sir Henry Heyburn, a friend of mine."
"Heyburn!" echoed Hamilton. "Heyburn the blind man?" he gasped, grasping
the arm of his chair and staring back at his companion. "And he is your
friend? You know his daughter, then?"
"Yes, I know Gabrielle," was Walter's reply, as there flashed across him
the recollection of that passionate letter to which he had not replied.
"Is she also your friend?"
"She certainly is."
Hamilton was silent. He saw that he was treading dangerous ground. The
legend of Glencardine was the same as that of the old Magyar stronghold
of Hetzendorf. Gabrielle Heyburn was Murie's friend. Therefore he
resolved to say no more.
REVEALS SOMETHING TO HAMILTON
Edgar Hamilton sat with his eyes fixed upon the dingy, inartistic,
smoke-begrimed windows of the chambers opposite. The man before him was
acquainted with Gabrielle Heyburn! For over a year he had not been in
London. He recollected the last occasion—recollected it, alas! only too
well. His thin countenance wore a puzzled, anxious expression, the
expression of a man face to face with a great difficulty.
"Tell me, Walter," he said at last, "what kind of place is Glencardine
Castle? What kind of man is Sir Henry Heyburn?"
"Glencardine is one of the most beautiful estates in Scotland. It lies
between Perth and Stirling. The ruins of the ancient castle, where the
great Marquis of Glencardine, who was such a figure in Scottish history,
was born, stands perched up above a deep, delightful glen; and some
little distance off stands the modern house, built in great part from
the ruins of the stronghold."
"And there are noises heard there the same as at Hetzendorf, you say?"
"Well, the countryfolk believe that, on certain nights, there can be
heard in the castle courtyard distinct whispering—the counsel of the
devil himself to certain conspirators who took the life of the notorious
"Has any one actually heard them?"
"They say so—or, at any rate, several persons after declaring that they
had heard them have died quite suddenly."
Hamilton pursed his lips. "Well," he exclaimed, "that's really most
remarkable! Practically, the same legend is current in South Hungary
regarding Hetzendorf. Strange—very strange!"
"Very," remarked the heir to the great estate of Connachan. "But, after
all, cannot one very often trace the same legend through the folklore of
various countries? I remember I once attended a lecture upon that very
"Oh, of course. Many ancient legends have sprung from the same germ, so
that often we have practically the same fairy-story all over Europe. But
this, it seems to me, is no fairy story."
"Well," laughed Murie, "the history of Glencardine Castle and the
historic family is so full of stirring episodes that I really don't
wonder that the ruins are believed to be the abode of something
supernatural. My father possesses some of the family papers, while Sir
Henry, when he bought Glencardine, also acquired a quantity. Only a year
ago he told me that he had had an application from a well-known
historical writer for access to them, as he was about to write a book
upon the family."
"Then you know Sir Henry well?"
"Very well indeed. I'm often his guest, and frequently shoot over the
"I've heard that Lady Heyburn is a very pretty woman," remarked the
other, glancing at his friend with a peculiar look.
"Some declare her to be beautiful; but to myself, I confess, she's not
"There are stories about her, eh?" Hamilton said.
"As there are about every good-looking woman. Beauty cannot escape
unjust criticism or the scars of lying tongues."
"People pity Sir Henry, I've heard."
"They, of course, sympathise with him, poor old gentleman, because he's
blind. His is, indeed, a terrible affliction. Only fancy the change from
a brilliant Parliamentary career to idleness, darkness, and knitting."
"I suppose he's very wealthy?"
"He must be. The price he paid for Glencardine was a very heavy one;
and, besides that, he has two other places, as well as a house in Park
Street and a villa at San Remo."
"Cotton, or steel, or soap, or some other domestic necessity, I
Murie shrugged his shoulders. "Nobody knows," he answered. "The source
of Sir Henry's vast wealth is a profound mystery."
His friend smiled, but said nothing. Walter Murie had risen to obtain
matches, therefore he did not notice the curious expression upon his
friend's face, a look which betrayed that he knew more than he intended
"Those noises heard in the castle puzzle me," he remarked after a few
"At Glencardine they are known as the Whispers," Murie remarked.
"By Jove! I'd like to hear them."
"I don't think there'd be much chance of that, old chap," laughed the
other. "They're only heard by those doomed to an early death."
"I may be. Who knows?" he asked gloomily.
"Well, if I were you I wouldn't anticipate catastrophe."
"No," said his friend in a more serious tone, "I've already heard those
at Hetzendorf, and—well, I confess they've aroused in my mind some very
"But did you really hear them? Are you sure they were not imagination?
In the night sounds always become both magnified and distorted."
"Yes, I'm certain of what I heard. I was careful to convince myself that
it was not imagination, but actual reality."
Walter Murie smiled dubiously. "Sir Henry scouts the idea of the
Whispers being heard at Glencardine," he said.
"And, strangely enough, so does the Baron. He's a most matter-of-fact
"How curious that the cases are almost parallel, and yet so far apart!
The Baron has a daughter, and so has Sir Henry."
"Gabrielle is at Glencardine, I suppose?" asked Hamilton.
"No, she's living with a maiden aunt at an out-of-the-world village in
Northamptonshire called Woodnewton."
"Oh, I thought she always lived at Glencardine, and acted as her
father's right hand."
"She did until a few months ago, when——" and he paused. "Well," he
went on, "I don't know exactly what occurred, except that she left
suddenly, and has not since returned."
"Her mother, perhaps. No girl of spirit gets on well with her
"Possibly that," Walter said. He knew the truth, but had no desire to
tell even his old friend of the allegation against the girl whom he
Hamilton noted the name of the village, and sat wondering at what the
young barrister had just told him. It had aroused suspicions within
They sat together for another half-hour, and before they parted arranged
to lunch together at the Savoy in two days' time.
Turning out of the Temple, Edgar Hamilton walked along the Strand to the
Metropole, in Northumberland Avenue, where he was staying. His mind was
full of what his friend had said—full of that curious legend of
Glencardine which coincided so strangely with that of far-off
Hetzendorf. The jostling crowd in the busy London thoroughfare he did
not see. He was away again on the hill outside the old-fashioned
Hungarian town, with the broad Danube shining in the white moonbeams. He
saw the grim walls that had for centuries withstood the brunt of battle
with the Turks, and from them came the whispering voice—the voice said
to be that of the Evil One. The Tziganes—that brown-faced race of gipsy
wanderers, the women with their bright-coloured skirts and head-dresses,
and the men with the wonderful old silver filigree buttons upon their
coats—-had related to him many weird stories regarding Hetzendorf and
the meaning of those whispers. Yet none of their stories was so curious
as that which Murie had just told him. Similar sounds were actually
heard in the old castle up in the Highlands! His thoughts were wholly
absorbed in that one extraordinary fact.
He went to the smoking-room of the hotel, and, obtaining a
railway-guide, searched it in vain. Then, ordering from a waiter a map
of England, he eagerly searched Northamptonshire and discovered the
whereabouts of Woodnewton. Therefore, that night he left London for
Oundle, and put up at the old-fashioned "Talbot."
At ten o'clock on the following morning, after making a detour, he
alighted from a dogcart before the little inn called the Westmorland
Arms at Apethorpe, just outside the lodge-gates of Apethorpe Hall, and
making excuse to the groom that he was going for a walk, he set off at a
brisk pace over the little bridge and up the hill to Woodnewton.
The morning was dark and gloomy, with threatening rain, and the distance
was somewhat greater than he had calculated from the map. At last,
however, he came to the entrance to the long village street, with its
church and its rows of low thatched cottages.
A tiny inn, called the "White Lion," stood before him, therefore he
entered, and calling for some ale, commenced to chat with the old lady
who kept the place.
After the usual conventionalities about the weather, he said, "I suppose
you don't have very many strangers in Woodnewton, eh?"
"Not many, sir," was her reply. "We see a few people from Oundle and
Northampton in the summer—holiday folk. But that's all."
Then, by dint of skilful questioning, he elucidated the fact that old
Miss Heyburn lived in the tiled house further up the village, and that
her niece, who lived with her, had passed along with her dog about a
quarter of an hour before, and taken the footpath towards Southwick.
Ascertaining this, he was all anxiety to follow her; but, knowing how
sharp are village eyes upon a stranger, he was compelled to conceal his
eagerness, light another cigarette, and continue his chat.
At last, however, he wished the woman good-day, and, strolling half-way
up the village, turned into a narrow lane which led across a farmyard to
a footpath which ran across the fields, following a brook. Eager to
overtake the girl, he sped along as quickly as possible.
"Gabrielle Heyburn!" he ejaculated, speaking to himself. Her name was
all that escaped his lips. A dozen times that morning he had repeated
it, uttering it in a tone almost of wonder—almost of awe.
Across several ploughed fields he went, leaving the brook, and, skirting
a high hedge to the side of a small wood, he followed the well-trodden
path for nearly half-an-hour, when, of a sudden, he emerged from a
narrow lane between two hedgerows into a large pasture.
Before him, he saw standing together, on the brink of the river Nene,
two figures—a man and a woman.
The girl was dressed in blue serge, and wore a white woollen
tam-o'-shanter, while the man had on a dark grey overcoat with a brown
felt hat, and nearby, with his eye upon some sheep grazing some distance
away, stood a big collie.
Hamilton started, and drew back.
The pair were standing together in earnest conversation, the man facing
him, the girl with her back turned.
"What does this mean?" gasped Hamilton aloud. "What can this secret
meeting mean? Why—yes, I'm certainly not mistaken—it's Krail—Felix
Krail, by all that's amazing!"
DESCRIBES A CURIOUS CIRCUMSTANCE
To Hamilton it was evident that the man Krail, now smartly dressed in
country tweeds, was telling the girl something which surprised her. He
was speaking quickly, making involuntary gestures which betrayed his
foreign birth, while she stood pale, surprised, and yet defiant. The
Baron's secretary was not near enough to overhear their words. Indeed,
he remained there in concealment in order to watch.
Why had Gabrielle met Felix Krail—of all men? She was beautiful. Yes,
there could be no two opinions upon that point, Edgar decided. And yet
how strange it all was, how very remarkable, how romantic!
The man was evidently endeavouring to impress upon the girl some plain
truths to which, at first, she refused to listen. She shrugged her
shoulders impatiently and swung her walking-stick before her in an
attempt to remain unconcerned. But from where Hamilton was standing he
could plainly detect her agitation. Whatever Krail had told her had
caused her much nervous anxiety. What could it be?
Across the meadows, beyond the river, could be seen the lantern-tower of
old Fotheringhay church, with the mound behind where once stood the
castle where ill-fated Mary met her doom.
And as the Baron's secretary watched, he saw that the foreigner's
attitude was gradually changing from persuasive to threatening. He was
speaking quickly, probably in French, making wild gestures with his
hands, while she had drawn back with an expression of alarm. She was
now, it seemed, frightened at the man, and to Edgar Hamilton this
increased the interest tenfold.
Through his mind there flashed the recollection of a previous occasion
when he had seen the man now before him. He was in different garb, and
acting a very different part. But his face was still the same—a
countenance which it was impossible to forget. He was watching the
changing expression upon the girl's face. Would that he could read the
secret hidden behind those wonderful eyes! He had, quite unexpectedly,
discovered a mysterious circumstance. Why should Krail meet her by
accident at that lonely spot?
The pair moved very slowly together along the path which, having left
the way to Southwick, ran along the very edge of the broad, winding
river towards Fotheringhay. Until they had crossed the wide pasture-land
and followed the bend of the stream Hamilton dare not emerge from his
place of concealment. They might glance back and discover him. If so,
then to watch Krail's movements further would be futile.
He saw that, by the exercise of caution, he might perhaps learn
something of deeper interest than he imagined. So he watched until they
disappeared, and then sped along the path they had taken until he came
to a clump of bushes which afforded further cover. From where he stood,
however, he could see nothing. He could hear voices—a man's voice
raised in distinct threats, and a woman's quick, defiant response.
He walked round the bushes quickly, trying to get sight of the pair, but
the river bent sharply at that point in such a manner that he could not
get a glimpse of them.
Again he heard Krail speaking rapidly in French, and still again the
girl's response. Then, next instant, there was a shrill scream and a
Next moment, he had darted from his hiding-place to find the girl
struggling in the water, while at the same time he caught sight of Krail
disappearing quickly around the path. Had he glanced back he could not
have seen the girl in the stream.
At that point the bank was steep, and the stillness of the river and
absence of rushes told that it was deep.
The girl was throwing up her hand, shrieking for help; therefore,
without a second's hesitation, Hamilton, who was a good swimmer, threw
off his coat, and, diving in, was soon at her side.
By this time Krail had hurried on, and could obtain no glimpse of what
was in progress owing to the sharp bend of the river.
After considerable splashing—Hamilton urging her to remain calm—he
succeeded in bringing her to land, where they both struggled up the bank
dripping wet and more or less exhausted. Some moments elapsed before
either spoke; until, indeed, Hamilton, looking straight into the girl's
face and bursting out laughing, exclaimed, "Well, I think I have the
pleasure of being acquainted with you, but I must say that we both look
like drowned rats!"
"I look horrid!" she declared, staring at him half-dazed, putting her
hands to her dripping hair. "I know I must. But I have to thank you for
pulling me out. Only fancy, Mr. Hamilton—you!"
"Oh, no thanks are required! What we must do is to get to some place and
get our clothes dried," he said. "Do you know this neighbourhood?"
"Oh, yes. Straight over there, about a quarter of a mile away, is
Wyatt's farm. Mrs. Wyatt will look after us, I'm sure." And as she rose
to her feet, regarding her companion shyly, her skirts clung around her
and the water squelched from her shoes.
"Very well," he answered cheerily. "Let's go and see what can be done
towards getting some dry kit. I'm glad you're not too frightened. A good
many girls would have fainted, and all that kind of thing."
"I certainly should have gone under if you hadn't so fortunately come
along!" she exclaimed. "I really don't know how to thank you
sufficiently. You've actually saved my life, you know! If it were not
for you I'd have been dead by this time, for I can't swim a stroke."
"By Jove!" he laughed, treating the whole affair as a huge joke, "how
romantic it sounds! Fancy meeting you again after all this time, and
saving your life! I suppose the papers will be full of it if they get to
know—gallant rescue, and all that kind of twaddle."
"Well, personally, I hope the papers won't get hold of this piece of
intelligence," she said seriously, as they walked together, rather
pitiable objects, across the wide grass-fields.
He glanced at her pale face, her hair hanging dank and wet about it, and
saw that, even under these disadvantageous conditions, she had grown
more beautiful than before. Of late he had heard of her—heard a good
deal of her—but had never dreamed that they would meet again in that
"How did it happen?" he asked in pretence of ignorance of her
She raised her fine eyes to his for a moment, and wavered beneath his
"I—I—well, I really don't know," was her rather lame answer. "The bank
was very slippery, and—well, I suppose I walked too near."
Her reply struck him as curious. Why did she attempt to shield the man
who, by his sudden flight, was self-convicted of an attempt upon her
Felix Krail was not a complete stranger to her. Why had their meeting
been a clandestine one? This, and a thousand similar queries ran through
his mind as they walked across the field in the direction of a long,
low, thatched farmhouse which stood in the distance.
"I'm a complete stranger in these parts," Hamilton informed her. "I live
nowadays mostly abroad, away above the Danube, and am only home for a
"And I'm afraid you've completely spoilt your clothes," she laughed,
looking at his wet, muddy trousers and boots.
"Well, if I have, yours also are no further good."
"Oh, my blouse will wash, and I shall send my skirt to the cleaners, and
it will come back like new," she answered. "Women's outdoor clothing
never suffers by a wetting. We'll get Mrs. Wyatt to dry them, and then
I'll get home again to my aunt in Woodnewton. Do you know the place?"
"I fancy I passed through it this morning. One of those long, lean
villages, with a church at the end."
"That's it—the dullest little place in all England, I believe."
He was struck by her charm of manner. Though bedraggled and dishevelled,
she was nevertheless delightful, and treated her sudden immersion with
Why had Krail attempted to get rid of her in that manner? What motive
They reached the farmhouse, where Mrs. Wyatt, a stout, ruddy-faced
woman, detecting their approach, met them upon the threshold. "Lawks,
Miss Heyburn! why, what's happened?" she asked in alarm.
"I fell into the river, and this gentleman fished me out. That's all,"
laughed the girl. "We want to dry our things, if we may."
In a few minutes, in bedrooms upstairs, they had exchanged their wet
clothes for dry ones. Then Edgar in the farmer's Sunday suit of black,
and Gabrielle in one of Mrs. Wyatt's stuff dresses, in the big folds of
which her slim little figure was lost, met again in the spacious
They laughed heartily at the ridiculous figure which each presented, and
drank the glasses of hot milk which the farmer's wife pressed upon them.
Old Miss Heyburn had been Mrs. Wyatt's mistress years ago, when she was
in service, therefore she was most solicitous after the girl's welfare,
and truth to tell looked askance at the good-looking stranger who had
Gabrielle, too, was puzzled to know why Mr. Hamilton should be there.
That he now lived abroad "beside the Danube" was all the information he
had vouchsafed regarding himself, yet from certain remarks he had
dropped she was suspicious. She recollected only too vividly the
occasion when they had met last, and what had occurred.
They sat together on the bench outside the house, enjoying the full
sunshine, while the farmer's wife chattered on. A big fire had been made
in the kitchen, and their clothes were rapidly drying.
Hamilton, by careful questions, endeavoured to obtain from the girl some
information concerning her dealings with the man Krail. But she was too
wary. It was evident that she had some distinct object in concealing the
fact that he had deliberately flung her into the water after that heated
Felix Krail! The very name caused him to clench his hands. Fortunately,
he knew the truth, therefore that dastardly attempt upon the girl's life
should not go unpunished. As he sat there chatting with her, admiring
her refinement and innate daintiness, he made a vow within himself to
seek out that cowardly fugitive and meet him face to face.
Felix Krail! What could be his object in ridding the world of the
daughter of Sir Henry Heyburn! What would the man gain thereby? He knew
Krail too well to imagine that he ever did anything without a motive of
gain. So well did he play his cards always that the police could never
lay hands upon him. Yet his "friends," as he termed them, were among the
most dangerous men in all Europe—men who were unscrupulous, and would
hesitate at nothing in order to accomplish the coup which they had
What was the coup in this particular instance? Ay, that was the
OUTSIDE THE WINDOW
Late on the following afternoon Gabrielle was seated at the
old-fashioned piano in her aunt's tiny drawing-room, her fingers running
idly over the keys, her thoughts wandering back to the exciting
adventure of the previous morning. Her aunt was out visiting some old
people in connection with the village clothing club, therefore she sat
gloomily amusing herself at the piano, and thinking—ever thinking.
She had been playing almost mechanically Berger's "Amoureuse" valse and
some dreamy music from The Merry Widow, when she suddenly stopped and
sat back with her eyes fixed out of the window upon the cottages
Why was Mr. Hamilton in that neighbourhood? He had given her no further
information concerning himself. He seemed to be disinclined to talk
about his recent movements. He had sprung from nowhere just at the
critical moment when she was in such deadly peril. Then, after their
clothes had been dried, they had walked together as far as the little
bridge at the entrance to Fotheringhay.
There he had stopped, bent gallantly over her hand, congratulated her
upon her escape, and as their ways lay in opposite directions—she back
to Woodnewton and he on to Oundle—they had parted. "I hope, Miss
Heyburn, that we may meet again one day," he had laughed cheerily as he
raised his hat, "Good-bye." Then he had turned away, and had been lost
to view round the bend of the road.
She was safe. That man whom she had known long ago under such strange
circumstances, whom she would probably never see again, had been her
rescuer. Of this curious and romantic fact she was now thinking.
But where was Walter? Why had he not replied to her letter? Ah! that was
the one thought which oppressed her always, sleeping and waking, day and
night. Why had he not written? Would he never write again?
She had at first consoled herself with the thought that he was probably
on the Continent, and that her letter had not been forwarded. But as the
days went on, and no reply came, the truth became more and more apparent
that her lover—the man whom she adored and worshipped—had put her
aside, had accepted her at her own estimate as worthless.
A thousand times she had regretted the step she had taken in writing
that cruel letter before she left Glencardine. But it was all too late.
She had tried to retract; but, alas! it was now impossible.
Tears welled in her splendid eyes at thought of the man whom she had
loved so well. The world had, indeed, been cruel to her. Her enemies had
profited by her inexperience, and she had fallen an unhappy victim of an
unscrupulous blackguard. Yes, it was only too true. She did not try to
conceal the ugly truth from herself. Yet she had been compelled to keep
Walter in ignorance of the truth, for he loved her.
A hardness showed at the corners of her sweet lips, and the tears rolled
slowly down her cheeks. Then, bestirring herself with an effort, her
white fingers ran over the keys again, and in her sweet, musical voice
she sang "L'Heure d'Aimer," that pretty valse chantée so popular in
Voici l'heure d'aimer, l'heure des tendresses;
Dis-moi les mots très doux qui vont me griser,
Ah! prends-moi dans tes bras, fais-moi des caresses;
Je veux mourir pour revivre sous ton baiser.
Emporte-moi dans un rêve amoureux,
Bien loin sur la terre inconnue,
Pour que longtemps, même en rouvrant les yeux,
Ce rêve continue.
Croyons, aimons, vivons un jour;
C'est si bon, mais si court!
Bonheur de vivre ici-bas diminue
Dans un moment d'amour.
The Hour of Love! How full of burning love and sentiment! She stopped,
reflecting on the meaning of those words.
She was not like the average miss who, parrot-like, knows only a few
French or Italian songs. Italian she loved even better than French, and
could read Dante and Petrarch in the original, while she possessed an
intimate knowledge of the poetry of Italy from the mediaeval writers
down to Carducci and D'Annunzio.
With a sigh, she glanced around the small room, with its old-fashioned
furniture, its antimacassars of the early Victorian era, its wax flowers
under their glass dome, and its gipsy-table covered with a
hand-embroidered cloth. It was all so very dispiriting. The primness of
the whatnot decorated with pieces of treasured china, the big
gilt-framed overmantel, and the old punch-bowl filled with pot-pourri,
all spoke mutely of the thin-nosed old spinster to whom the veriest
speck of dust was an abomination.
Sighing still again, the girl turned once more to the old-fashioned
instrument, with its faded crimson silk behind the walnut fretwork, and,
playing the plaintive melody, sang an ancient serenade:
Di questo cor tu m'hai ferito il core
A cento colpi, piu non val mentire.
Pensa che non sopporto piu il dolore,
E se segu cosi, vado a morire.
Ti tengo nella mente a tutte l'ore,
Se lavoro, se velio, o sto a dormre …
E mentre dormo ancora un sonno grato,
Mi trovo tutto lacrime bagnato!
While she sang, there was a rap at the front-door, and, just as she
concluded, the prim maid entered with a letter upon a salver.
In an instant her heart gave a bound. She recognised the handwriting. It
The moment the girl had left the room she tore open the envelope, and,
holding her breath, read what was written within.
The words were:
"DEAREST HEART,—Your letter came to me after several wanderings. It has
caused me to think and to wonder if, after all, I may be mistaken—if,
after all, I have misjudged you, darling. I gave you my heart, it is
true. But you spurned it—under compulsion, you say! Why under
compulsion? Who is it who compels you to act against your will and
against your better nature? I know that you love me as well and as truly
as I love you yourself. I long to see you with just as great a longing.
You are mine—mine, my own—and being mine, you must tell me the truth.
"I forgive you, forgive you everything. But I cannot understand what
Flockart means by saying that I have spoken of you. I have not seen the
man, nor do I wish to see him. Gabrielle, do not trust him. He is your
enemy, as he is mine. He has lied to you. As grim circumstance has
forced you to treat me cruelly, let us hope that smiling fortune will be
ours at last. The world is very small. I have just met my old friend
Edgar Hamilton, who was at college with me, and who, I find, is
secretary to some wealthy foreigner, a certain Baron de Hetzendorf. I
have not seen him for years, and yet he turns up here, merry and
prosperous, after struggling for a long time with adverse circumstances.
"But, Gabrielle, your letter has puzzled and alarmed me. The more I
think of it, the more mystifying it all becomes. I must see you, and you
must tell me the truth—the whole truth. We love each other, dear heart,
and no one shall force you to lie again to me as you did in that letter
you wrote from Glencardine. You wish to see me, darling. You shall—and
you shall tell me the truth. My dear love, au revoir—until we meet,
which I hope may be almost as soon as you receive this letter.—My love,
my sweetheart, I am your own WALTER."
She sat staring at the letter. He demanded an explanation. He intended
to come there and demand it! And the explanation was one which she dared
not give. Rather that she took her own life than tell him the ghastly
He had met an old chum named Hamilton. Was this the Mr. Hamilton who had
snatched her from that deadly peril? The name of Hetzendorf sounded to
be Austrian or German. How strange if Mr. Hamilton her rescuer were the
same man who had been years ago her lover's college friend!
She passed her white hand across her brow, trying to collect her senses.
She had longed—ah, with such an intense longing!—for a response to
that letter of hers, and here at last it had come. But what a response!
He intended her to make confession. He demanded to know the actual
truth. What could she do? How should she act?
Holding the letter in her hand, she glanced around the little room in
He loved her. His words of reassurance brought her great comfort. But he
wished to know the truth. He suspected something. By her own action in
writing those letters she had aroused suspicion against herself. She
regretted, yet what was the use of regret? Her own passionate words had
revealed to him something which he had not suspected. And he was coming
down there, to Woodnewton, to demand the truth! He might even then be on
If he asked her point-blank, what could she reply? She dare not tell him
the truth. There were now but two roads open—either death by her own
hand or to lie to him.
Could she tell him an untruth? No. She loved him, therefore she could
not resort to false declarations and deceit. Better—far better—would
it be that she took her own life. Better, she thought, if Mr. Hamilton
had not plunged into the river after her. If her life had ended, Walter
Murie would at least have been spared the bitter knowledge of a
disgraceful truth. Her face grew pale and her mouth hardened at the
She loved him with all the fierce passion of her young heart. He was her
hero, her idol. Before her tear-dimmed eyes his dear, serious face rose,
a sweet memory of what had been. Tender remembrances of his fond kisses
still lingered with her. She recollected how around her waist his strong
arm would steal, and how slowly and yet irresistibly he would draw her
in his arms in silent ecstasy.
Alas! that was all past and over. They loved each other, but she was now
face to face with what she had so long dreaded—face to face with the
inevitable. She must either confess the truth, and by so doing turn his
love to hatred, or else remain silent and face the end.
She reread the letter still seated at the piano, her elbows resting
inertly upon the keys. Then she lifted her pale face again to the
window, gazing out blankly upon the village street, so dull, so silent,
so uninteresting. The thought of Mr. Hamilton—the man who held a secret
of hers, and who only a few hours before had rescued her from the peril
in which Felix Krail had placed her—again recurred to her. Was it not
remarkable that he, Walter's old friend, should come down into that
neighbourhood? There was some motive in his visit! What could it be? He
had spoken of Hungary, a country which had always possessed for her a
strange fascination. Was it not quite likely that, being Walter's
friend, Hamilton on his return to London would relate the exciting
incident of the river? Had he seen Krail? And, if so, did he know him?
Those two points caused her the greatest apprehension. Suppose he had
recognised Krail! Suppose he had overheard that man's demands, and her
defiant refusal, he would surely tell Walter!
She bit her lip, and her white fingers clenched themselves in
Why should all this misfortune fall upon her, to wreck her young life?
Other girls were gay, careless, and happy. They visited and motored and
flirted and danced, and went to theatres in town and to suppers
afterwards at the Carlton or Savoy, and had what they termed "a ripping
good time." But to her poor little self all pleasure was debarred. Only
the grim shadows of life were hers.
Her mind had become filled with despair. Why had this great calamity
befallen her? Why had she, by her own action in writing to her lover,
placed herself in that terrible position from which there was no
escape—save by death?
The recollection of the Whispers—those fatal Whispers of
Glencardine—flashed through her distressed mind. Was it actually true,
as the countryfolk declared, that death overtook all those who overheard
the counsels of the Evil One? It really seemed as though there actually
was more in the weird belief than she had acknowledged. Her father had
scouted the idea, yet old Stewart, who had personally known instances,
had declared that evil and disaster fell inevitably upon any one who
chanced to hear those voices of the night.
The recollection of that moonlight hour among the ruins, and the
distinct voices whispering, caused a shudder to run through her. She had
heard them with her own ears, and ever since that moment nothing but
catastrophe upon catastrophe had fallen upon her.
Yes, she had heard the Whispers, and she could not escape their evil
influence any more than those other unfortunate persons to whom death
had come so unexpectedly and swiftly.
A shadow passed the window, causing her to start. The figure was that of
a man. She rose from the piano with a cry, and stood erect, motionless,
IS ABOUT THE MAISON LÉNARD
The big, rather severely but well-furnished room overlooked the busy
Boulevard des Capucines in Paris. In front lay the great white façade of
the Grand Hotel; below was all the bustle, life, and movement of Paris
on a bright sunny afternoon. Within the room, at a large mahogany table,
sat four grave-faced men, while a fifth stood at one of the long
windows, his back turned to his companions.
The short, broad-shouldered man looking forth into the street, in
expectancy, was Monsieur Goslin. He had been speaking, and his words had
evidently caused some surprise, even alarm, among his companions, for
they now exchanged glances in silence.
Three of the men were well-dressed and prosperous-looking; while the
fourth, a shrivelled old fellow, in faded clothes which seemed several
sizes too large for him, looked needy and ill-fed as he nervously chafed
his thin bony hands.
Next moment they all began chatting in French, though from their
countenances it was plain that they were of various nationalities—one
being German, the other Italian, and the third, a sallow-faced man, had
the appearance of a Levantine.
Goslin alone remained silent and watchful. From where he stood he could
see the people entering and leaving the Grand Hotel. He glanced
impatiently at his watch, and then paced the room, his hand thoughtfully
stroking his grey beard. Only half an hour before he had alighted at the
Gare du Nord, coming direct from far-off Glencardine, and had driven
there in an auto-cab to keep an appointment made by telegram. As he
paced the big room, with its dark-green walls, its Turkey carpet, and
sombre furniture, his companions regarded him in wonder. They
instinctively knew that he had some news of importance to impart. There
was one absentee. Until his arrival Goslin refused to say anything.
The youngest of the four assembled at the table was the Italian, a
rather thin, keen-faced, dark-moustached man of refined appearance.
"Madonna mia!" he cried, raising his face to the Frenchman, "why, what
has happened? This is unusual. Besides, why should we wait? I've only
just arrived from Turin, and haven't had time to go to the hotel. Let us
get on. Avanti!"
"Not until he is present," answered Goslin, speaking earnestly in
French. "I have a statement to make from Sir Henry. But I am not
permitted to make it until all are here." Then, glancing at his watch,
he added, "His train was due at Est Station at 4.58. He ought to be here
at any moment."
The shabby old man, by birth a Pole, still sat chafing his chilly
fingers. None who saw Antoine Volkonski, as he shuffled along the
street, ever dreamed that he was head of the great financial house of
Volkonski Frères of Petersburg, whose huge loans to the Russian
Government during the war with Japan created a sensation throughout
Europe, and surely no casual observer looking at that little assembly
would ever entertain suspicion that, between them, they could
practically dictate to the money-market of Europe.
The Italian seated next to him was the Commendatore Rudolphe Cusani,
head of the wealthy banking firm of Montemartini of Rome, which ranked
next to the Bank of Italy. Of the remaining two, one was a Greek from
Smyrna, and the other, a rather well-dressed man with longish grey hair,
Josef Frohnmeyer of Hamburg, a name also to conjure with in the
The impatient Italian was urging Goslin to explain why the meeting had
been so hastily summoned when, without warning, the door opened and a
tall, distinguished man, with carefully trained grey moustache, and
wearing a heavy travelling ulster, entered.
"Ah, my dear Baron!" cried the Italian, jumping from his chair and
taking the new-comer's hand, "we were waiting for you." And he drew a
chair next to his.
The man addressed tossed his soft felt travelling hat aside, saying,
"The 'wire' reached me at a country house outside Vienna, where I was
visiting. But I came instantly." And he seated himself, while the chair
at the head of the table was taken by the stout Frenchman.
"Messieurs," Goslin commenced, and—speaking in French—began
apologising at being compelled to call them together so soon after their
last meeting. "The matter, however, is of such urgency," he went on,
"that this conference is absolutely necessary. I am here in Sir Henry's
place, with a statement from him—an alarming statement. Our enemies
have unfortunately triumphed."
"What do you mean?" cried the Italian, starting to his feet.
"Simply this. Poor Sir Henry has been the victim of treachery.—Those
papers which you, my dear Volkonski, brought to me in secret at
Glencardine a month ago have been stolen!"
"Stolen!" gasped the shabby old man, his grey eyes starting from his
head; "stolen! Dieu! Think what that means to us—to me—to my house!
They will be sold to the Ministry of Finance in Petersburg, and I shall
"Not only you will be ruined!" remarked the man from Hamburg, "but our
control of the market will be at an end."
"And together we lose over three million roubles," said Goslin in as
quiet a voice as he could assume.
The six men—those men who dealt in millions, men whose names, every one
of them, were as household words on the various Bourses of Europe and in
banking circles, men who lent money to reigning Sovereigns and to
States, whose interests were world-wide and whose influences were
greater than those of Kings and Ministers—looked at each other in blank
"We have to face this fact, as Sir Henry points out to you, that at
Petersburg the Department of Finance has no love for us. We put on the
screw a little too heavily when we sold them secretly those three
Argentine cruisers. We made a mistake in not being content with smaller
"Yes, if it had been a genuinely honest deal on their side," remarked
the Italian. "But it was not. In Russia the crowd made quite as great a
profit as we did."
"And all three ships were sent to the bottom of the sea four months
afterwards," added Frohnmeyer with a grim laugh.
"That isn't the question," Goslin said. "What we have now to face is the
peril of exposure. No one can, of course, allege that we have ever
resorted to any sharper practices than those of other financial groups;
but the fact of our alliance and our impregnable strength will, when it
is known, arouse the fiercest antagonism in certain circles."
"No one suspects the secret of our alliance," the Italian ejaculated.
"It must be kept—kept at all hazards."
Each man seated there knew that exposure of the tactics by which they
were ruling the Bourse would mean the sudden end of their great
"But this is not the first occasion that documents have been stolen from
Sir Henry at Glencardine," remarked the Baron Conrad de Hetzendorf. "I
remember the last time I went there to see him he explained how he had
discovered his daughter with the safe open, and some of the papers
actually in her hands."
"Unfortunately that is so," Goslin answered. "There is every evidence
that we owe our present peril to her initiative. She and her father are
on bad terms, and it seems more than probable that though she is no
longer at Glencardine she has somehow contrived to get hold of the
documents in question—at the instigation of her lover, we believe."
"How do you know that the documents are stolen?" the Baron asked.
"Because three days ago Sir Henry received an anonymous letter bearing
the postmark of 'London, E.C.,' enclosing correct copies of the papers
which our friend Volkonski brought from Petersburg, and asking what sum
he was prepared to pay to obtain repossession of the originals. On
receipt of the letter," continued Goslin, "I rushed to the safe, to find
the papers gone. The door had been unlocked and relocked by an unknown
"And how does suspicion attach to the girl's lover?" asked the man from
"Well, he was alone in the library for half an hour about five days
before. He called to see Sir Henry while he and I were out walking
together in the park. It is believed that the girl has a key to the
safe, which she handed to her lover in order that he might secure the
papers and sell them in Russia."
"But young Murie is the son of a wealthy man, I've heard," observed the
"Certainly. But at present his allowance is small," was Goslin's reply.
"Well, what's to be done?" inquired the Italian.
"Done?" echoed Goslin. "Nothing can be done."
"Why?" they all asked almost in one breath.
"Because Sir Henry has replied, refusing to treat for the return of the
"Was that not injudicious? Why did he not allow us to discuss the affair
first?" argued the Levantine.
"Because an immediate answer by telegraph to a post-office in Hampshire
was demanded," Goslin replied. "Remember that to Sir Henry's remarkable
foresight all our prosperity has been due. Surely we may trust in his
judicious treatment of the thief!"
"That's all very well," protested Volkonski; "but my fortune is at
stake. If the Ministry obtains those letters they will crush and ruin
"Sir Henry is no novice," remarked the Baron. "He fights an enemy with
his own weapons. Remember that Greek deal of which the girl gained
knowledge. He actually prepared bogus contracts and correspondence for
the thief to steal. They were stolen, and, passing through a dozen
hands, were at last offered in Athens. The Ministry there laughed at the
thieves for their pains. Let us hope the same result will be now
"I fear not," Goslin said quietly. "The documents stolen on the former
occasion were worthless. The ones now in the hands of our enemies are
"But," said the Baron, "you, Goslin, went to live at Glencardine on
purpose to protect our poor blind friend from his enemies!"
"I know," said the man addressed. "I did my best—and failed. The
footman Hill, knowing young Murie as a frequent guest at Glencardine,
the other day showed him into the library and left him there alone. It
was then, no doubt, that he opened the safe with a false key and secured
"Then why not apply for a warrant for his arrest?" suggested the
Commendatore Cusani. "Surely your English laws do not allow thieves to
go unpunished? In Italy we should quickly lay hands on them."
"But we have no evidence."
"You have no suspicion that any other man may have committed the
theft—that fellow Flockart, for instance? I don't like him," added the
Baron. "He is altogether too friendly with everybody at Glencardine."
"I have already made full inquiries. Flockart was in Rome. He only
returned to London the day before yesterday. No. Everything points to
the girl taking revenge upon her father, who, I am compelled to admit,
has treated her with rather undue harshness. Personally, I consider
mademoiselle very charming and intelligent."
They all admitted that her correspondence and replies to reports were
marvels of clear, concise instruction. Every man among them knew well
her neat round handwriting, yet only Goslin had ever seen her.
The Frenchman was asked to describe both the girl and her lover. This he
did, declaring that Gabrielle and Walter were a very handsome pair.
"Whatever may be said," remarked old Volkonski, "the girl was a most
excellent assistant to Sir Henry. But it is, of course, the old story—a
young girl's head turned by a handsome lover. Yet surely the youth is
not so poor that he became a thief of necessity. To me it seems rather
as though he stole the documents at her instigation."
"That is exactly Sir Henry's belief," Goslin remarked with a sigh. "The
poor old fellow is beside himself with grief and fear."
"No wonder!" remarked the Italian. "None of us would care to be betrayed
by our own daughters."
"But cannot a trap be laid to secure the thief before he approaches the
people in Russia?" suggested the crafty Levantine.
"Yes, yes!" cried Volkonski, his hands still clenched. "The Ministry
would give a hundred thousand roubles for them, because by their aid
they could crush me—crush you all. Remember, there are names
there—names of some of the most prominent officials in the Empire.
Think of the power of the Ministry if they held that list in their
"No," said the Baron in a clear, distinct voice, his grey eyes fixed
thoughtfully upon the wall opposite. "Rather think of our positions, of
the exultation of our enemies if this great combine of ours were exposed
and broken! Myself, I consider it folly that we have met here openly
to-day. This is the first time we have all met, save in secret, and how
do we know but some spy may be on the boulevard outside noting who has
"Mille diavoli!" gasped Cusani, striking the table with his fist and
sinking back into his chair. "I recollect I passed outside here a man I
know—a man who knows me. He was standing on the kerb. He saw me. His
name is Krail—Felix Krail!"
"Is he still there?" cried the men, as with one accord they left their
chairs and dashed eagerly across to the window.
"Krail!" cried the Russian in alarm. "Where is he?"
"See!" the Italian pointed out, "see the man in black yonder, standing
there near the kiosque, smoking a cigarette. He is still watching. He
has seen us meet here!"
"Ah!" said the Baron in a hoarse voice, "I said so. To meet openly like
this was far too great a risk. Nobody knew anything of Lénard et
Morellet of the Boulevard des Capucines except that they were
unimportant financiers. To-morrow the world will know who they really
are. Messieurs, we are the victims of a very clever ruse. We have been
so tricked that we have been actually summoned here and our identity
The five monarchs of finance stood staring at each other in absolute
SURPRISES MR. FLOCKART
"Well, you and your friend Felix have placed me in a very pleasant
position, haven't you?" asked Lady Heyburn of Flockart, who had just
entered the green-and-white morning-room at Park Street. "I hope now
that you're satisfied with your blunder!"
The man addressed, in a well-cut suit of grey, a fancy vest, and
patent-leather boots, still carrying his hat and stick in his hand,
turned to her in surprise.
"What do you mean?" he asked. "I arrived from Paris at five this
morning, and I've brought you good news."
"Nonsense!" cried the woman, starting from her chair in anger. "You
can't deceive me any longer."
"Krail has discovered the whole game. The syndicate held a meeting at
the office in Paris. He and I watched the arrivals. We now know who they
are, and exactly what they are doing. By Jove! we never dreamed that
your husband, blind though he is, is head of such a smart and
influential group. Why, they're the first in Europe."
"What does that matter? Krail wants money, so do we; but even with all
your wonderful schemes we get none!"
"Wait, my dear Winnie, remain patient, and we shall obtain plenty."
It was indeed strange for a woman within that smart town-house, and with
her electric brougham at the door, to complain of poverty. The house had
been a centre of political activity in the days before Sir Henry met
with that terrible affliction. The room in which the pair stood had been
the scene of many a private and momentous conference, and in the big
drawing-room upstairs many a Cabinet Minister had bent over the hand of
the fair Lady Heyburn.
Into the newly decorated room, with its original Adams ceiling, its
dead-white panelling and antique overmantel, shone the morning sun, weak
and yellow as it always is in London in the spring-time.
Lady Heyburn, dressed in a smart walking-gown of grey, pushed her fluffy
fair hair from her brow, while upon her face was an expression which
told of combined fear and anger.
Her visitor was surprised. After that watchful afternoon in the
Boulevard des Capucines, he had sat in a corner of the Café Terminus
listening to Krail, who rubbed his hands with delight and declared that
he now held the most powerful group in Europe in the hollow of his hand.
For the past six years or so gigantic coups had been secured by that
unassuming and apparently third-rate financial house of Lénard et
Morellet. From a struggling firm they had within a year grown into one
whose wealth seemed inexhaustible, and whose balances at the Credit
Lyonnais, the Société Générale, and the Comptoir d'Escompte were
possibly the largest of any of the customers of those great
corporations. The financial world of Europe had wondered. It was a
mystery who was behind Lénard et Morellet, the pair of steady-going,
highly respectable business men who lived in unostentatious comfort, the
former at Enghien, just outside Paris, and the latter out in the country
at Melum. The mystery was so well and so carefully preserved that not
even the bankers themselves could obtain knowledge of the truth.
Krail had, however, after nearly two years of clever watching and
ingenious subterfuge, succeeded, by placing the group in a "hole" in
calling them together. That they met, and often, was undoubted. But
where they met, and how, was still a complete mystery.
As Flockart had sat that previous afternoon listening to Krail's
unscrupulous and self-confident proposals, he had remained in silent
wonder at the man's audacious attitude. Nothing deterred him, nothing
Flockart had returned that night from Paris, gone to his chambers in
Half-Moon Street, breakfasted, dressed, and had now called upon her
ladyship in order to impart to her the good news. Yet, instead of
welcoming him, she only treated him with resentment and scorn. He knew
the quick flash of those eyes, he had seen it before on other occasions.
This was not the first time they had quarrelled, yet he, keen-witted and
cunning, had always held her powerless to elude him, had always
compelled her to give him the sums he so constantly demanded. That
morning, however, she was distinctly resentful, distinctly defiant.
For an instant he turned from her, biting his lip in annoyance. When
facing her again, he smiled, asking, "Tell me, Winnie, what does all
"Mean!" echoed the Baronet's wife. "Mean! How can you ask me that
question? Look at me—a ruined woman! And you——"
"Speak out!" he cried. "What has happened?"
"You surely know what has happened. You have treated me like the cur you
are—and that is speaking plainly. You've sacrificed me in order to save
"From exposure. To me, ruin is not a matter of days, but of hours."
"You're speaking in enigmas. I don't understand you," he cried
impatiently. "Krail and I have at last been successful. We know now the
true source of your husband's huge income, and in order to prevent
exposure he must pay—and pay us well too."
"Yes," she laughed hysterically. "You tell me all this after you've
"Blundered! How?" he asked, surprised at her demeanour.
"What's the use of beating about the bush?" asked her ladyship. "The
girl is back at Glencardine. She knows everything, thanks to your
"Back at Glencardine!" gasped Flockart. "But she dare not speak. By
heaven! if she does—then—then—"
"And what, pray, can you do?" inquired the woman harshly. "It is I who
have to suffer, I who am crushed, humiliated, ruined, while you and your
precious friend shield yourselves behind your cloaks of honesty. You are
Sir Henry's friend. He believes you as such—you!" And she laughed the
hollow laugh of a woman who was staring death in the face. She was
haggard and drawn, and her hands trembled with nervousness which she
strove in vain to repress. Lady Heyburn was desperate.
"He still believes in me, eh?" asked the man, thinking deeply, for his
clever brain was already active to devise some means of escape from what
appeared to be a distinctly awkward dilemma. He had never calculated the
chances of Gabrielle's return to her father's side. He had believed that
"I understand that my husband will hear no word against you," replied
the tall, fair-haired woman. "But when I speak he will listen, depend
"You dare!" he cried, turning upon her in threatening attitude. "You
dare utter a single word against me, and, by Heaven! I'll tell what I
know. The country shall ring with a scandal—the shame of your attitude
towards the girl, and a crime for which you will be arraigned, with me,
before an assize-court. Remember!"
The woman shrank from him. Her face had blanched. She saw that he was
equally as determined as she was desperate. James Flockart always kept
his threats. He was by no means a man to trifle with.
For a moment she was thoughtful, then she laughed defiantly in his face.
"Speak! Say what you will. But if you do, you suffer with me."
"You say that exposure is imminent," he remarked. "How did the girl
manage to return to Glencardine?"
"With Walter's aid. He went down to Woodnewton. What passed between them
I have no idea. I only returned the day before yesterday from the South.
All I know is that the girl is back with her father, and that he knows
much more than he ought to know."
"Murie could not have assisted her," Flockart declared decisively. "The
old man suspects him of taking those Russian papers from the safe."
"How do you know he hasn't cleared himself of the suspicion? He may have
done. The old man dotes upon the girl."
"I know all that."
"And she may have turned upon you, and told the truth about the safe
incident. That's more than likely."
"She dare not utter a word."
"You're far too self-confident. It is your failing."
"And when, pray, has it failed? Tell me."
"Never, until the present moment. Your bluff is perfect, yet there are
moments when it cannot aid you, depend upon it. She told me one night
long ago, in my own room, when she had disobeyed, defied, and annoyed
me, that she would never rest until Sir Henry knew the truth, and that
she would place before him proofs of the other affair. She has long
intended to do this; and now, thanks to your attitude of passive
inertness, she has accomplished her intentions."
"What!" he gasped in distinct alarm, "has she told her father the
"A telegram I received from Sir Henry late last night makes it only too
plain that he knows something," responded the unhappy woman, staring
straight before her. "It is your fault—your fault!" she went on,
turning suddenly upon her companion again. "I warned you of the danger
Flockart stood motionless. The announcement which the woman had made
Felix Krail had come to him in Paris, and after some hesitation, and
with some reluctance, had described how he had followed the girl along
the Nene bank and thrown her into the deepest part of the river, knowing
that she would be hampered by her skirts and that she could not swim.
"She will not trouble us further. Never fear!" he had said. "It will be
thought a case of suicide through love. Her mental depression is the
common talk of the neighbourhood."
And yet the girl was safe and now home again at Glencardine! He
reflected upon the ugly facts of "the other affair" to which her
ladyship sometimes referred, and his face went ashen pale.
Just at the moment when success had come to them after all their
ingenuity and all their endeavours—just at a moment when they could
demand and obtain what terms they liked from Sir Henry to preserve the
secret of the financial combine—came this catastrophe.
"Felix was a fool to have left his work only half-done," he remarked
aloud, as though speaking to himself.
"What work?" asked the hollow-eyed woman eagerly. But he did not satisfy
her. To explain would only increase her alarm and render her even more
desperate than she was.
"Did I not tell you often that, from her, we had all to fear?" cried the
woman frantically. "But you would not listen. And now I am—I'm face to
face with the inevitable. Disaster is before me. No power can avert it.
The girl will have a bitter and terrible revenge."
"No," he cried quickly, with fierce determination. "No, I'll save you,
Winnie. The girl shall not speak. I'll go up to Glencardine to-night and
face it out. You will come with me."
"I!" gasped the shrinking woman. "Ah, no. I—I couldn't. I dare not face
him. You know too well I dare not!"
DISCLOSES A SECRET
The grey mists were still hanging upon the hills of Glencardine,
although it was already midday, for it had rained all night, and
everywhere was damp and chilly.
Gabrielle, in her short tweed skirt, golf-cape, and motor-cap, had
strolled, with Walter Murie at her side, from the house along the
winding path to the old castle. From the contented expression upon her
pale, refined countenance, it was plain that happiness, to a great
extent, had been restored to her.
When he had gone to Woodnewton it was to fetch her back to Glencardine.
He had asked for an explanation, it was true; but when she had refused
one he had not pressed it. That he was puzzled, sorely puzzled, was
At first, Sir Henry had point-blank refused to receive his daughter. But
on hearing her appealing voice he had to some extent relented; and,
though strained relations still existed between them, yet happiness had
come to her in the knowledge that Walter's affection was still as strong
Young Murie had, of course, heard from his mother the story told by Lady
Heyburn concerning the offence of her stepdaughter. But he would not
believe a single word against her.
They had been strolling slowly, and she had been speaking expressing her
heartfelt thanks for his action in taking her from that life of awful
monotony at Woodnewton. Then he, on his part, had pressed her soft hand
and repeated his promise of lifelong love.
They had entered the old grass-grown courtyard of the castle, when
suddenly she exclaimed, "How I wish, Walter, that we might elucidate the
secret of the Whispers!"
"It certainly would be intensely interesting if we could," he said, "The
most curious thing is that my old friend Edgar Hamilton, who is
secretary to the well-known Baron Conrad de Hetzendorf, tells me that a
similar legend is current in connection with the old château in Hungary.
He had heard the Whispers himself."
"Most remarkable!" she exclaimed, gazing blankly around at the ponderous
walls about her.
"My idea always has been that beneath where we are standing there must
be a chamber, for most mediaeval castles had a subterranean dungeon
beneath the courtyard."
"Ah, if we could only find entrance to it!" cried the girl
enthusiastically. "Shall we try?"
"Have you not often tried, and failed?" he asked laughingly.
"Yes, but let's search again," she urged. "My strong belief is that
entrance is not to be obtained from this side, but from the glen down
"Yes, no doubt in the ages long ago the hill was much steeper than it
now is, and there were no trees or undergrowth. On that side it was
impregnable. The river, however, in receding, silted up much earth and
boulders at the bend, and has made the ascent possible."
Together they went to a breach in the ponderous walls and peered down
into the ancient river-bed, now but a rippling burn.
"Very well," replied Murie, "let us descend and explore."
So they retraced their steps until, when about half-way to the house,
they left the path and went down to the bottom of the beautiful glen
until they were immediately beneath the old castle.
The spot was remote and seldom visited. Few ever came there, for it was
approached by no path on that side of the burn, so that the keepers
always passed along the opposite bank. They had no necessity to
penetrate there. Besides, it was too near the house.
Through the bracken and undergrowth, passing by big trees that in the
ages had sprung up from seedlings dropped by the birds or sown by the
winds, they slowly ascended to the frowning walls far above—the walls
that had withstood so many sieges and the ravages of so many centuries.
Half a dozen times the girl's skirt became entangled in the briars, and
once she tore her cape upon some thorns. But, enjoying the adventure,
she went on, Walter going first and clearing a way for her as best he
"Nobody has ever been up here before, I'm quite certain," Gabrielle
cried, halting, breathless, for a moment. "Old Stewart, who says he
knows every inch of the estate, has never climbed here, I'm sure."
"I don't expect he has," declared her lover.
At last they found themselves beneath the foundations of one of the
flanking-towers of the castle walls, whereupon he suggested that if they
followed the wall right along and examined it closely they might
discover some entrance.
"I somehow fear there will not be any door on the exposed side," he
The base of the walls was all along hidden by thick undergrowth,
therefore the examination proved extremely difficult. Nevertheless,
keenly interested in their exploration, the pair kept on struggling and
climbing until the perspiration rolled off both their faces.
Suddenly, Walter uttered a cry of surprise. "Why, look here! This seems
like a track. People have been up here after all!"
And his companion saw that from the burn below, up through the bushes,
ran a narrow winding path, which showed little sign of frequent use.
Walter went on before her, quickly following the path until it turned at
right-angles and ended before a low door of rough wood which filled a
small breach in the wall—a breach made, in all probability, at the last
siege in the early seventeenth century.
"This must lead somewhere!" cried Walter excitedly; and, lifting the
roughly constructed wooden latch, he pushed the door open, disclosing a
A dank, earthy smell greeted their nostrils. It was certainly an uncanny
"By Jove!" cried Walter, "I wonder where this leads to?" And, taking out
his vestas, he struck one, and, holding it before him, went forward,
passing through the breach in the broken wall into a stone passage which
led to the left for a few yards and gave entrance to exactly what
Gabrielle had expected—a small, windowless stone chamber probably used
in olden days as a dungeon.
Here they found, to their surprise, several old chairs, a rough table
formed of two deal planks upon trestles, and a couple of half-burned
candles in candlesticks which Gabrielle recognised as belonging to the
house. These were lit, and by their aid the place was thoroughly
Upon the floor was a heap of black tinder where some papers had been
burnt weeks or perhaps months ago. There were cigar-ends lying about,
showing that whoever had been there had taken his ease.
In a niche was a small tin box containing matches and fresh candles,
while in a corner lay an old newspaper, limp and damp, bearing a date
six months before. On the floor, too, were a number of pieces of
paper—a letter torn to fragments.
They tried to piece it together, laying it upon the table carefully, but
were unsuccessful in discovering its import, save that it was in
Russian, from somebody in Odessa, and addressed to Sir Henry.
Carrying the candles in their hands, they went into the narrow passage
to explore the subterranean regions of the old place. But neither way
could they proceed far, for the passage had fallen in at both ends and
was blocked by rubbish. The only exit or entrance was by that narrow
breach in the walls so cunningly concealed by the undergrowth and closed
by the rudely made door of planks nailed together. Above, in the stone
roof of the chamber, there was a wide crack running obliquely, and
through which any sound could be heard in the courtyard above.
They remained in the narrow, low-roofed little cell for a full
half-hour, making careful examination of everything, and discussing the
probability of the Whispers heard in the courtyard above emanating from
that hidden chamber.
For what purpose was the place used, and by whom? In all probability it
was the very chamber in which Cardinal Setoun had been treacherously
done to death.
Though they made a most minute investigation they discovered nothing
further. Up to a certain point their explorations had been crowned by
success, yet the discovery rather tended to increase the mystery than
That the Whispers were supernatural Gabrielle had all along refused to
believe. The question was, to what use that secret chamber was put?
At last, more puzzled than ever, the pair, having extinguished the
candles, emerged again into the light of day, closing and latching the
little door after them.
Then, following the narrow secret path, they found that it wound through
the bushes, and emerged by a circuitous way some distance along the
glen, its entrance being carefully concealed by a big lichen-covered
boulder which hid it from any one straying there by accident. So near
was it to the house, and so well concealed, that no keeper had ever
"Well," declared Gabrielle, "we've certainly made a most interesting
discovery this morning. But I wonder if it really does solve the mystery
of the Whispers?"
"Scarcely," Walter admitted. "We have yet to discover to whom the secret
of the existence of that chamber is known. No doubt the Whispers are
heard above through the crack in the roof. Therefore, at present, we had
better keep our knowledge strictly to ourselves."
And to this the girl, of course, agreed.
They found Sir Henry seated alone in the sunshine in one of the big
bay-windows of the drawing-room, a pathetic figure, with his blank,
bespectacled countenance turned towards the light, and his fingers
busily knitting to employ the time which, alas! hung so heavily upon his
Truth to tell, with Flockart's influence upon him, he was not quite
convinced of the sincerity of either Gabrielle or Walter Murie.
Therefore, when they entered, and his daughter spoke to him; his
greeting was not altogether cordial.
"Why, dear dad, how is it you're sitting here all alone? I would have
gone for a walk with you had I known."
"I'm expecting Goslin," was the old man's snappy reply. "He left Paris
yesterday, and should certainly have been here by this time. I can't
make out why he hasn't sent me a 'wire' explaining the delay."
"He may have lost his connection in London," Murie suggested.
"Perhaps so," remarked the Baronet with a sigh, his fingers moving
Murie could see that he was unnerved and unlike himself. He, of course,
was unaware of the great interests depending upon the theft of those
papers from his safe. But the old man was anxious to hear from Goslin
what had occurred at the urgent meeting of the secret syndicate in
Gabrielle was chatting gaily with her father in an endeavour to cheer
him up, when suddenly the door opened, and Flockart, still in his
travelling ulster, entered, exclaiming, "Good-morning, Sir Henry."
"Why, my dear Flockart, this is really quite unexpected. I—I thought
you were abroad," cried the Baronet, his face brightening as he
stretched out his hand for his visitor to grasp.
"So I have been. I only got back to town yesterday morning, and left
Euston last night."
"Well," said Sir Henry, "I'm very glad you are here again. I've missed
you very much—very much indeed. I hope you'll make another long stay
with us at Glencardine."
The man addressed raised his eyes to Gabrielle's.
She looked him straight in the face, defiant and unflinching. The day of
her self-sacrifice to protect her helpless father's honour and welfare
had come. She had suffered much in silence—suffered as no other girl
would suffer; but she had tried to conceal the bitter truth. Her spirit
had been broken. She was obsessed by one fear, one idea.
For a moment the girl held her breath. Walter saw the sudden change in
her countenance, and wondered.
Then, with a calmness that was surprising, she turned to her father, and
in a clear, distinct voice said, "Dad, now that Mr. Flockart has
returned, I wish to tell you the truth concerning him—to warn you that
he is not your friend, but your very worst enemy!"
"What is that you say?" cried the man accused, glaring at her. "Repeat
those words, and I will tell the whole truth about yourself—here,
before your lover!"
The blind man frowned. He hated scenes. "Come, come," he urged, "please
do not quarrel. Gabrielle, I think, dear, your words are scarcely fair
to our friend."
"Father," she said firmly, her face pale as death, "I repeat them. That
man standing there is as much your enemy as he is mine!"
Flockart laughed satirically. "Then I will tell my story, and let your
father judge whether you are a worthy daughter," he said.
IN WHICH GABRIELLE TELLS A STRANGE STORY
Gabrielle fell back in fear. Her handsome countenance was blanched to
the lips. This man intended to speak—to tell the terrible truth—and
before her lover too! She clenched her hands and summoned all her
Flockart laughed at her—laughed in triumph. "I think, Gabrielle," he
said, "that you should put an end to this deceit towards your poor blind
"What do you mean?" cried Walter in a fury, advancing towards Flockart.
"What has this question—whatever it is—to do with you? Is it your
place to stand between father and daughter?"
"Yes," answered the other in cool defiance, "it is. I am Sir Henry's
"His friend! His enemy!"
"You are not my father's friend, Mr. Flockart," declared the girl,
noticing the look of pain upon the afflicted old gentleman's face. "You
have all along conspired against him for years, and you are actually
conspiring with Lady Heyburn at this moment."
"You lie!" he cried. "You say this in order to shield yourself. You know
that your mother and I are aware of your crime, and have always shielded
"Crime!" gasped Walter Murie, utterly amazed. "What is this man saying,
But the girl stood, blanched and rigid, her jaw set, unable to utter a
"Let me tell you briefly," Flockart went on. "Lady Heyburn and myself
have been this girl's best friends; but now I must speak openly, in
defence of the allegation she is making against me."
"Yes, speak!" urged Sir Henry. "Speak and tell me the truth."
"It is a painful truth, Sir Henry; would that I were not compelled to
make such a charge. Your daughter deliberately killed a young girl named
Edna Bryant. She poisoned her on account of jealousy."
"Impossible!" cried Sir Henry, starting up. "I—I can't believe it,
Flockart. What are you saying? My daughter a murderess!"
"Yes, I repeat my words. And not only that, but Lady Heyburn and myself
have kept her secret until—until now it is imperative that the truth
should be told to you."
"Let me speak, dad—let me tell you——"
"No," cried the old man, "I will hear Flockart." And, turning to his
wife's friend, he said hoarsely, "Go on. Tell me the truth."
"The tragedy took place at a picnic, just before Gabrielle left her
school at Amiens. She placed poison in the girl's wine. Ah, it was a
"I am innocent!" cried the girl in despair.
"Remember the letter which you wrote to your mother concerning her. You
told Lady Heyburn that you hated her. Do you deny writing that letter?
Because, if you do, it is still in existence."
"I deny nothing which I have done," she answered. "You have told my
father this in order to shield yourself. You have endeavoured, as the
coward you are, to prejudice me in his eyes, just as you compelled me to
lie to him when you opened his safe and copied certain of his papers!"
"You opened the safe!" he protested. "Why, I found you there myself!"
"Enough!" she exclaimed quite coolly. "I know the dread charge against
me. I know too well the impossibility of clearing myself, especially in
the face of that letter I wrote to Lady Heyburn; but it was you and she
who entrapped me, and who held me in fear because of my inexperience."
"Tell us the truth, the whole truth, darling," urged Murie, standing at
her side and taking her hand confidently in his.
"The truth!" she said, in a strange voice as though speaking to herself.
"Yes, let me tell you! I know that it will sound extraordinary, yet I
swear to you, by the love you bear for me, Walter, that the words I am
about to utter are the actual truth."
"I believe you," declared her lover reassuringly.
"Which is more than anyone else will," interposed Flockart with a sneer,
but perfectly confident. It was the hour of his triumph. She had defied
him, and he therefore intended to ruin her once and for all.
The girl was standing pale and erect, one hand grasping the back of a
chair, the other held in her lover's clasp, while her father had risen,
his expressionless face turned towards them, his hand groping until it
touched a small table upon which stood an old punch-bowl full of
"Listen, dad," she said, heedless of Flockart's remark. "Hear me before
you condemn me. I know that the charge made against me by this man is a
terrible one. God alone knows what I have suffered these last two years,
how I have prayed for deliverance from the hands of this man and his
friends. It happened a few months before I left Amiens. Lady Heyburn,
you'll recollect, rented a pretty flat in the Rue Léonce-Reynaud in
Paris. She obtained permission for me to leave school and visit her for
a few weeks."
"I recollect perfectly," remarked her father in a low voice.
"Well, there came many times to visit us an American girl named Bryant,
who was studying art, and who lived somewhere off the Boulevard Michel,
as well as a Frenchman named Felix Krail and an Englishman called
"Hamilton!" echoed Murie. "Was his name Edgar Hamilton—my friend?"
"Yes, the same," was her quiet reply. Then she turned to Murie, and
said, "We all went about a great deal together, for it was summer-time,
and we made many pleasant excursions in the district. Edna Bryant was a
merry, cheerful girl, and I soon grew to be very friendly with her,
until one day Lady Heyburn, when alone with me, repeated in strict
confidence that the girl was secretly devoted to you, Walter."
"To me!" he cried. "True, I knew a Miss Bryant long ago, but for the
past three years or so have entirely lost sight of her."
"Lady Heyburn told me that you were very fond of the girl, and this, I
confess, aroused my intense jealousy. I believed that the girl I had
trusted so implicitly was unprincipled and fickle, and that she was
trying to secure the man whom I had loved ever since a child. I had to
return to school, and from there I wrote to Lady Heyburn, who had gone
to Dieppe, a letter saying hard things of the girl, and declaring that I
would take secret revenge—that I would kill her rather than allow
Walter to be taken from me. A month afterwards I again returned to
Paris. That man standing there"—she indicated Flockart—"was living at
the Hôtel Continental, and was a frequent visitor. He told me that it
was well known in London that Walter admired Miss Bryant, a declaration
that I admit drove me half-mad with jealousy."
"It was a lie!" declared Walter. "I never made love to the girl. I
admired her, that's all."
"Well," laughed Flockart, "go on. Tell us your version of the affair."
"I am telling you the truth," she cried, boldly facing him. One day Lady
Heyburn, having arranged a cycling picnic, invited Mr. Hamilton, Mr.
Kratil, Mr. Flockart, Miss Bryant, and myself, and we had a beautiful
run to Chantilly, a distance of about forty kilometres, where we first
made a tour of the old château, and afterwards entered the cool shady
Fôret de Pontarmé. While the others went away to explore the paths in
the splendid wood I was left to spread the luncheon upon the ground,
setting before each place a half-bottle of red wine which I found in the
baskets. Then, when all was ready, I called to them, but there was no
response. They were all out of hearing. I left the spot, and searched
for a full twenty minutes or so before I discovered them. First I found
Mr. Krail and Mr. Flockart strolling together smoking, while the others
were on ahead. They had lost their way among the trees. I led them back
to the spot where luncheon was prepared; and, all of us being hungry, we
quickly sat down, chatting and laughing merrily. Of a sudden Miss Bryant
stared straight before her, dropped her glass, and threw up her arms.
'Heavens! Why—ah, my throat!' she shrieked. 'I—I'm poisoned!'
"In an instant all was confusion. The poor girl could not breathe. She
tore at her throat, while her face became convulsed. We obtained water
for her, but it was useless, for within five minutes she was stretched
rigid upon the grass, unconscious, and a few moments later she was
still—quite dead! Ah, shall I ever forget the scene! The effect
produced upon us was appalling. All was so sudden, so tragic, so
"Lady Heyburn was the first to speak. 'Gabrielle,' she said, 'what have
you done? You have carried out the secret revenge which in your letter
you threatened!' I saw myself trapped. Those people had some motive in
killing the girl and placing this crime upon myself! I could not speak,
for I was too utterly dumfounded."
"The fiends!" ejaculated Walter fiercely.
"Then followed a hurried consultation, in which Krail showed himself
most solicitous on my behalf," the pale-faced girl went on. "Aided by
Flockart, I think, he scraped away a hole in a pit full of dead leaves,
and there the body must have been concealed just as it was. To me they
all took a solemn vow to keep what they declared to be my secret. The
bottle containing the wine from which the poor American girl had drunk
was broken and hidden, the plates and food swiftly packed up, and we at
once fled from the scene of the tragedy. With Krail wheeling the girl's
empty cycle, we reached the high road, where we all mounted and rode
back in silence to Paris. Ah, shall I ever rid myself of the memory of
that fatal afternoon?" she cried as she paused for breath.
"Fearing that he might be noticed taking along the empty cycle, Krail
threw it into the river near Valmondois," she went on. "Arrived back at
the Rue Léonce-Reynaud, I protested that nothing had been introduced
into the wine. But they declared that, owing to my youth and the
terrible scandal it would cause if I were arrested, they would never
allow the matter to pass their lips, Mr. Hamilton, indeed, making the
extraordinary declaration that such a crime had extenuating
circumstances when love was at stake. I then saw that I had fallen the
victim of some clever conspiracy; but so utterly overcome was I by the
awful scene that I could make but faint protest.
"Ah! think of my horrible position—accused of a crime of which I was
entirely innocent! The days slipped on, and I was sent back to Amiens,
and in due course came home here to dear old Glencardine. From that day
I have lived in constant fear, until on the night of the ball at
Connachan—you remember the evening, dad?—on that night Mr. Flockart
returned in secret, beckoned me out upon the lawn, and showed me
something which held me petrified in fear. It was a cutting from an
Edinburgh paper that evening reporting that two of the forest-guards at
Pontarmé had discovered the body of the missing Miss Bryant, and that
the French police were making active inquiries."
"He threatened you?" asked Walter.
"He told me to remain quiet, and that he and Lady Heyburn would do their
best to shield me. For that reason, dad," she went on, turning to the
blind man, "for that reason I feared to denounce him when I discovered
him with your safe open, for that reason I was compelled to take all the
blame and all your anger upon myself."
The old man's brow knit. "Where is my wife?" he asked. "I must speak to
her before we go further. This is a very serious matter."
"Lady Heyburn is still at Park Street," Flockart replied.
"I will hear no more," declared the blind Baronet, holding up his hand,
"not another word until my wife is present."
INCREASES THE INTEREST
"But, dad," cried Gabrielle, "I am telling you the truth! Cannot you
believe me, your daughter, before this man who is your enemy?"
"Because of my affliction I am, it seems, deceived by every one," was
his hard response.
To where they stood had come the sound of wheels upon the gravelled
drive outside, and a moment later Hill entered, announcing, "A gentleman
to see you very urgently, Sir Henry. He is from Baron de Hetzendorf."
"From the Baron!" gasped the blind man. "I'll see him later."
"Why, it may be Hamilton!" cried Murie; who, looking through the door,
saw his old friend in the corridor, and quickly called him in.
As he faced Flockart he drew himself up. The attitude of them all made
it apparent to him that something unusual was in progress.
"You've arrived at a very opportune moment, Hamilton," Murie said. "You
have met Miss Heyburn before, and also Flockart, I believe, at Lady
Heyburn's, in Paris."
"Sir Henry," Walter said in a quiet tone, "this gentleman sent by the
Baron is his secretary, the same Mr. Edgar Hamilton of whom Gabrielle
has just been speaking."
"Ah, then, perhaps he can furnish us with further facts regarding this
most extraordinary statement of my daughter's," the blind man exclaimed.
"Gabrielle has just told her father the truth regarding a certain tragic
occurrence in the Forest of Pontarmé. Explain to us all you know,
"What I know," said Hamilton, "is very quickly told. Has Miss Heyburn
mentioned the man Krail?"
"Yes, I have told them about him," the girl answered.
"You have, however, perhaps omitted to mention one or two small facts in
connection with the affair," he said. "Do you not remember how, on that
eventful afternoon in the forest, when searching for us, you first
encountered Krail walking with this man Flockart at some distance from
"Yes, I recollect."
"And do you remember that when we returned to sit down to luncheon
Flockart insisted that I should take the seat which was afterwards
occupied by the unfortunate Miss Bryant? Do you recollect how I spread a
rug for her at that spot and preferred myself to stand? The reason of
their invitation to me to sit there I did not discover until afterwards.
That wine had been prepared for me, not for her."
"For you!" the girl gasped, amazed.
"Yes. The plot was undoubtedly this—"
"There was no plot," protested Flockart, interrupting. "This girl killed
Edna Bryant through intense jealousy."
"I repeat that there was a foul and ingenious plot to kill me, and to
entrap Miss Heyburn," Hamilton said. "It was, of course, clear that Miss
Heyburn was jealous of the girl, for she had written to her mother
making threats against Miss Bryant's life. Therefore, the plot was that
I should drink the fatal wine, and that Miss Gabrielle should be
declared to be the murderess, she having intended the wine to be
partaken of by the girl she hated with such deadly hatred. The marked
cordiality of Krail and Flockart that I should take that seat aroused
within me some misgivings, although I had never dreamed of this
dastardly and cowardly plot against me—not until I saw the result of
their foul handiwork."
"It's a lie! You are trying to implicate Krail and myself! The girl is
the only guilty person. She placed the wine there!"
"She did not!" declared Hamilton boldly. "She was not there when the
bottle was changed by Krail, but I was!"
"If what you say is true, then you deliberately stood by and allowed the
girl to drink."
"I watched Krail go to the spot where luncheon was laid out, but could
not see what he did. If I had done so I should have saved the girl's
life. You were a few yards off, awaiting him; therefore you knew his
intentions, and you are as guilty of that girl's tragic death as he."
"What!" cried Flockart, his eyes glaring angrily, "do you declare, then,
that I am a murderer?"
"You yourself are the best judge of your own guilt," answered Hamilton
"I deny that Krail or myself had any hand in the affair."
"You will have an opportunity of making that denial in a criminal court
ere long," remarked the Baron's secretary with a grim smile.
"What," gasped Lady Heyburn's friend, his cheeks paling in an instant,
"have you been so indiscreet as to inform the police?"
"I have—a week ago. I made a statement to M. Hamard of the Sûreté in
Paris, and they have already made a discovery which you will find of
interest and somewhat difficult to disprove."
"And pray what is that?"
Hamilton smiled again, saying, "No, my dear sir, the police will tell
you themselves all in due course. Remember, you and your precious friend
plotted to kill me."
"But why, Mr. Hamilton?" inquired the blind man. "What was their
"A very strong one," was the reply. "I had recognised in Krail a man who
had defrauded the Baron de Hetzendorf of fifty thousand kroners, and for
whom the police were in active search, both for that and for several
other serious charges of a similar character. Krail knew this, and he
and his friend—this gentleman here—had very ingeniously resolved to
get rid of me by making it appear that Miss Gabrielle had poisoned me by
"A lie!" declared Flockart fiercely, though his efforts to remain
imperturbed were now palpable.
"You will be given due opportunity of disproving my allegations,"
Hamilton said. "You, coward that you are, placed the guilt upon an
innocent, inexperienced girl. Why? Because, with Lady Heyburn's
connivance, you with your cunning accomplice Krail were endeavouring to
discover Sir Henry's business secrets in order, first, to operate upon
the valuable financial knowledge you would thus gain, and so make a big
coup; and, secondly, when you had done this, it was your intention to
expose the methods of Sir Henry and his friends. Ah! don't imagine that
you and Krail have not been very well watched of late," laughed
"Do you allege, then, that Lady Heyburn is privy to all this?" asked the
blind man in distress.
"It is not for me to judge, sir," was Hamilton's reply.
"I know! I know how I have been befooled!" cried the poor helpless man,
"befooled because I am blind!"
"Not by me, Sir Henry," protested Flockart.
"By you and by every one else," he cried angrily. "But I know the truth
at last—the truth how my poor little daughter has been used as an
instrument by you in your nefarious operations."
"Hear me, I say!" went on the old man. "I ask my daughter to forgive me
for misjudging her. I now know the truth. You obtained by some means a
false key to my safe, and you copied certain documents which I had
placed there in order to entrap any who might seek to learn my secrets.
You fell into that trap, and though I confess I thought that Gabrielle
was the culprit, on Murie's behalf, I only lately found out that you and
your accomplice Krail were in Greece endeavouring to profit by knowledge
obtained from here, my private house."
"Krail has been living in Auchterarder of late, it appears," Hamilton
remarked, "and it is evidently he who, gaining access to the house one
night recently, used his friend's false key, and obtained those
confidential Russian documents from your safe."
"No doubt," declared Sir Henry. Then, again addressing Flockart, he
asked, "Where are those documents which you and your scoundrelly
accomplice have stolen, and for the return of which you are trying to
make me pay?"
"I don't know anything about them," answered Flockart sullenly, his face
"He'll know more about them when he is taken off by the two detectives
from Edinburgh who hold the extradition warrant," Hamilton remarked with
a grim smile.
The fellow started at those words. His demeanour was that of a guilty
man. "What do you mean?" he gasped, white as death. "You—you intend to
give me into custody? If you do, I warn you that Lady Heyburn will
"She, like Miss Gabrielle, has only been your tool," Hamilton declared.
"It was she who, under compulsion, has furnished you with means for
years, and whose association with you has caused something little short
of a scandal. Times without number she has tried to get rid of you and
your evil influence in this household, but you have always defied her.
Now," he said firmly, looking the other straight in the face, "you have
upon you those stolen documents which you have, by using an assumed name
and a false address, offered to sell back to their owner, Sir Henry. You
have threatened that if they are not purchased at the exorbitant price
you demand you will sell them to the Russian Ministry of Finance. That
is the way you treat your friend and benefactor, the man who is blind
and helpless! Come, give them back to Sir Henry, and at once."
"You must ask Krail," stammered the man, now so cornered that all
further excuse or denial had become impossible.
"That's unnecessary. I happen to know that those papers are in your
pocket at this moment, a fact which shows how watchful an eye we've been
keeping upon you of late. You have brought them here so that your friend
Krail may come to terms with Sir Henry for their repossession. He
arrived from London with you, and is at the 'Strathavon Arms' in the
village, where he stayed before, and is well known."
"Flockart," demanded the blind man very seriously, "you have papers in
your possession which are mine. Return them to me."
A dead silence fell. All eyes save those of Sir Henry were turned upon
the man who until that moment had stood so defiant and so full of
sarcasm. But in an instant, at mention of Krail's presence in
Auchterarder, his demeanour had suddenly changed. He was full of alarm.
"Give them to me and leave my house," Sir Henry said, holding up his
thin white hand.
"I—I will—on one condition: if I may be allowed to go."
"We shall not prevent you leaving," was the Baronet's calm reply.
The man fumbled nervously in the inner pocket of his coat, and at last
brought out a sealed and rather bulgy foolscap envelope.
"Open it, Gabrielle, and see what is within," her father said.
She obeyed, and in a few moments explained the various documents it
"Then let the man go," her father said.
"But, Sir Henry," cried Hamilton, "I object to this! Krail is down in
the village forming a plot to make you pay for the return of those
papers. He arrived from London by the same train as this man. If we
allow him to leave he will inform his accomplice, and both will escape."
Murie had his back to the door, the long window on the opposite side of
the room being closed.
"It was a promise of Sir Henry's," declared the unhappy adventurer.
"Which will be observed when Krail has been brought face to face with
Sir Henry," answered Murie, at the same time calling Hill and one of the
gardeners who chanced to be working on the lawn outside.
Then, with a firmness which showed that they were determined, Hamilton
and Murie conducted Flockart to a small upstairs room, where Hill and
the gardener, with the assistance of Stewart, who happened to have come
into the kitchen, mounted guard over him.
His position, once the honoured guest at Glencardine, was the most
ignominious conceivable. But Sir Henry sat in gratification that at
least he had got back those documents and saved the reputation of his
friend Volkonski, as well as that of his co-partners.
"THAT MAN'S VOICE!"
Stokes the chauffeur had driven Murie and Hamilton in the car down to
the village, where the last-named, after a conversation with the police
inspector, went to the "Strathavon Arms," together with two constables
who happened to be off duty, in plain clothes.
They found Krail sitting in the bar, calmly smoking, awaiting a message
from his accomplice.
Upon Hamilton's recognition he was, after a brief argument, arrested on
the charge of theft from Glencardine, placed in the car between the two
stalwart Scotch policemen, and conveyed in triumph to the castle, much,
of course, against his will. He demanded to be taken straight to the
police station; but as Sir Henry had ordered him to be brought to
Glencardine, and as Sir Henry was a magistrate, the inspector was bound
to obey his orders.
The man's cruel, colourless eyes seemed to contract closer as he sat in
the car with his enemy Hamilton facing him. He had never dreamed that
they would ever meet again; but, now they had, he saw that the game was
up. There was no hope of escape. He was being taken to meet Sir Henry
Heyburn, the very last man in all the world he wished to face. His
sallow countenance was drawn, his lips were thin and bloodless, and upon
his cheeks were two red spots which showed that he was now in a deadly
Gabrielle, who had been weeping at the knees of her father, heard the
whirr of the car coming up the drive; and, springing to the window,
witnessed the arrival of the party.
A moment later, Krail, between the two constables, and with the local
inspector standing respectfully at the rear, stood in the big, long
library into which the blind man was led by his daughter.
When all had assembled, Sir Henry, in a clear, distinct voice, said, "I
have had you arrested and brought here in order to charge you with
stealing certain documents from my safe yonder, which you opened by
means of a duplicate key. Your accomplice Flockart has given evidence
against you; therefore, to deny it is quite needless."
"Whatever he has said to you is lies," the foreigner replied, his accent
being the more pronounced in his excitement. "I know nothing about it."
"If you deny that," exclaimed Hamilton quickly, "you will perhaps also
deny that it was you who secretly poisoned Miss Bryant in the Pontarmé
Forest, even though I myself saw you at the spot; and, further, that a
witness has been found who actually saw you substitute the wine-bottles.
You intended to kill me!"
"What ridiculous nonsense you are talking!" cried the accused, who was
dressed with his habitual shabby gentility. "The girl yonder,
mademoiselle, killed Miss Bryant."
"Then why did you make that deliberate attempt upon my life at
Fotheringhay?" demanded the girl boldly. "Had it not been for Mr.
Hamilton, who must have seen us together and guessed that you intended
foul play, I should certainly have been drowned."
"He believed that you knew his secret, and he intended, both on his own
behalf and on Flockart's also, to close your lips," Murie said. "With
you out of the way, their attitude towards your father would have been
easier; but with you still a living witness there was always danger to
them. He thought your death would be believed to be suicide, for he knew
your despondent state of mind."
Sir Henry stood near the window, his face sphinx-like, as though turned
"She fell in," was his lame excuse.
"No, you threw me in!" declared the girl. "But I have feared you until
now, and I therefore dared not to give information against you. Ah, God
alone knows how I have suffered!"
"You dare now, eh?" he snarled, turning quickly upon her.
"It really does not matter what you deny or what you admit," Hamilton
remarked. "The French authorities have applied for your extradition to
France, and this evening you will be on your way to the extradition
court at Bow Street, charged with a graver offence than the burglary at
this house. The Sûreté of Paris make several interesting allegations
against you—or against Felix Gerlach, which is your real name."
"Gerlach!" cried the blind man in a loud voice, groping forward. "Ah,"
he shrieked, "then I was not mistaken when—when I thought I recognised
the voice! That man's voice! Yes, it is his—his!"
In an instant Krail had sprung forward towards the blind and defenceless
man, but his captors were fortunately too quick and prevented him. Then,
at the inspector's orders, a pair of steel bracelets were quickly placed
upon his wrists.
"Gerlach! Felix Gerlach!" repeated the blind Baronet as though to
himself, as he heard the snap of the lock upon the prisoner's wrists.
The fellow burst out into a peal of harsh, discordant laughter. He was
endeavouring to retain a defiant attitude even then.
"You apparently know this man, dad?" Gabrielle exclaimed in surprise.
"Know him!" echoed her father hoarsely. "Know Felix Gerlach! Yes, I have
bitter cause to remember the man who stands there before you accused of
the crime of murder."
Then he paused, and drew a long breath.
"I unmasked him once, as a thief and a swindler, and he swore to be
avenged," said the Baronet in a bitter voice. "It was long ago. He came
to me in London and offered me a concession which he said he had
obtained from the Ottoman Government for the construction of a railroad
from Smyrna to the Bosphorus. The documents appeared to be all right and
in order, and after some negotiations he sold the concession to me and
received ten thousand pounds in cash of the purchase-money in advance. A
week afterwards I discovered that, though the concession had been
granted by the Minister of Public Works at the Sublime Porte, it had
been sold to the Eckmann Group in Vienna, and that the papers I held
were merely copies with forged signatures and stamps. I applied to the
police, this man was arrested in Hamburg, and brought back to London,
where he was tried, and, a previous conviction having been proved
against him, sent to penal servitude for seven years. In the dock at the
Old Bailey he swore to be avenged upon me and upon my family."
"And he seems to have kept his word," Walter remarked.
"When he came out of prison he found me in the zenith of my political
career," Sir Henry went on. "On that well-remembered night of my speech
at the Albert Hall I can only surmise that he went there, heard me, and
probably became fiercely resentful that he had found a man cleverer than
himself. The fact remains that he must have gone in a cab in front of my
carriage to Park Street, alighted before me, and secreted himself within
the portico. It was midnight, and the street was deserted. My carriage
stopped, I got out, and it then drove on to the mews. I was in the act
of opening the door with my latch-key when, by an unknown hand, there
was flung full into my eyes some corrosive fluid which burned terribly,
and caused me excruciating pain. I heard a man's exultant voice cry,
'There! I promised you that, and you have it!' The voice I recognised as
that of the blackguard standing before you. Since that moment," he added
in a blank, hoarse voice, "I have been totally blind!"
"You got me seven years!" cried the foreigner with a harsh laugh, "so
think yourself very lucky that I didn't kill you."
"You placed upon me an affliction, a perpetual darkness, that to a man
like myself is almost akin to death," replied his accuser very gravely.
"Secure from recognition, you wormed yourself into the confidence of my
wife, for you were bent upon ruining her also; and you took as partner
in your schemes that needy adventurer Flockart. I now see it all quite
plainly. Hamilton had recognised you as Gerlach, and you therefore
formed a plot to get rid of him and throw the crime upon my poor
unfortunate daughter, even though she was scarcely more than a child. In
all probability, Lady Heyburn, in telling the girl the story regarding
Murie and Miss Bryant, believed it, and if so she would also suspect my
daughter to be the actual criminal."
"This is all utterly astounding, dad!" cried Gabrielle. "If you knew who
it was who deliberately blinded you, why didn't you prosecute him?"
"Because there was no witness of his dastardly act, my child. And I
myself never saw him. Therefore I was compelled to remain in silence,
and allow the world to believe my affliction due to natural causes," was
his blank response.
The sallow-faced foreigner laughed again, laughed in the face of the man
whose eyesight he had so deliberately taken. He could not speak. What
had he to say?
"Well," remarked Hamilton, "we have at least the satisfaction of knowing
that both this man and his accomplice will stand their trial for their
heartless crime in France, and that they will meet their just punishment
according to the laws of God and of man."
"And I," added Walter, in a voice broken by emotion, as he again took
Gabrielle's hand tenderly, "have the supreme satisfaction of knowing
that my darling is cleared of a foul, dastardly, and terrible charge."
CONTAINS THE CONCLUSION
After long consultation—Krail having been removed in custody back to
the village—it was agreed that the only charges that could be
substantiated against Flockart were those of complicity in the ingenious
attempt upon Hamilton's life by which poor Miss Bryant had been
sacrificed, and also in the theft of Sir Henry's papers.
But was it worth while?
At the Baronet's suggestion, he was allowed freedom to leave the
upstairs room where he had been detained by the three stalwart servants;
and, without waiting to speak to any one, he had made his way down the
drive. He had, as was afterwards found, left Auchterarder Station for
London an hour later.
The painful impression produced upon everybody by Sir Henry's statement
of what had actually occurred on the night of the great meeting at the
Albert Hall having somewhat subsided, Murie mentioned to the blind man
the legend of the Whispers, and also the curious discovery which
Gabrielle and he had made earlier in the morning.
"Ah," laughed the old gentleman a trifle uneasily, "and so you've
discovered the truth at last, eh?"
"The truth—no!" Murie said. "That is just what we are so very anxious
to hear from you, Sir Henry."
"Well," he said, "you may rest your minds perfectly content that there's
nothing supernatural about them. It was to my own advantage to cause
weird reports and uncanny legends to be spread in order to preserve my
secret, the secret of the Whispers."
"But what is the secret, Sir Henry?" asked Hamilton eagerly. "We,
curiously enough, have similar Whispers at Hetzendorf. I've heard them
myself at the old château."
"And of course you have believed in the story which my good friend the
Baron has caused to be spread, like myself: the legend that those who
hear them die quickly and suddenly," said the old man, with a smile upon
his grey face. "Like myself, he wished to keep away all inquisitive
persons from the spot."
"But why?" asked Murie.
"Well, truth to tell, the reason is very simple," he answered. "As we
are speaking here in the strictest privacy, I will tell you something
which I beg that neither of you will repeat. If you do it might result
in my ruin."
Murie, Hamilton, and Gabrielle all gave their promise.
"Then it is this," he said. "I am head of a group of the leading
financial houses in Europe, who, remaining secret, are carrying on
business in the guise of an unimportant house in Paris. The members of
the syndicate are all of them men of enormous financial strength,
including Baron de Hetzendorf, to whom our friend Hamilton here acts as
confidential secretary. The strictest secrecy is necessary for the
success of our great undertakings, which I may add are perfectly honest
and legitimate. Yet never, unless absolutely imperative, do we entrust
documents or letters to the post. Like the house of Rothschild, we have
our confidential messengers, and hold frequent meetings, no 'deal' being
undertaken without we are all of us in full accord. Monsieur Goslin acts
as confidential messenger, and brings me the views of my partners in
Paris, Petersburg, and Vienna. To this careful concealment of our plans,
or of the fact that we are ever in touch with one another, is due the
huge successes we have made from time to time—successes which have
staggered the Bourses of the Continent and caused amazement in Wall
Street. But being unfortunately afflicted as I am, I naturally cannot
travel to meet the others, and, besides, we are compelled always to take
fresh and most elaborate precautions in order to conceal the fact that
we are in connection with each other. If that one fact ever leaked out
it would at once stultify our endeavours and weaken our position. Hence,
at intervals, two or even three of my partners travel here, and I meet
them at night in the little chamber which you, Walter, discovered
to-day, and which until the present has never been found, owing to the
weird fables I have invented regarding the Whispers. To Hetzendorf, too,
once or twice a year, perhaps, the members pay a secret visit in order
to consult the Baron, who, as you perhaps may know, unfortunately enjoys
very precarious health."
"Then meetings of Frohnmeyer, Volkonski, and the rest were held here in
secret sometimes?" echoed Hamilton in surprise.
"On certain occasions, when it is absolutely necessary that I should
meet them," answered Sir Henry. "They stay at the Station Hotel in
Perth, coming over to Auchterarder by the last train at night and
leaving by the first train in the morning from Crieff Junction. They
never approach the house, for fear that servants or one or other of the
guests may recognise them, but go separately along the glen and up the
path to the ruins. When we thus meet, our voices can be heard through
the crack in the roof of the chamber in the courtyard above. On such
occasions I take good care that Stewart and his men are sent on a false
alarm of poachers to another part of the estate, while I can find my way
there myself with my stick," he laughed. "The Baron, I believe, acts on
the same principle at his château in Hungary."
"Well," declared Hamilton, "so well has the Baron kept the secret that I
have never had any suspicion until this moment. By Jove! the invention
of the Whispers was certainly a clever mode of preserving the secret,
for nobody cares deliberately to court disaster and death, especially
among a superstitious populace like the villagers here and the Hungarian
Both Gabrielle and her lover expressed their astonishment, the latter
remarking how cleverly the weird legend of the Whispers invented by Sir
Henry had been made to fit historical fact.
* * * * *
When the eight o'clock train from Stirling stopped at Auchterarder
Station that evening, a tall, well-dressed man alighted, and inquired
his way to the police-station. The porter knew by his accent that he was
a Londoner, but did not dream that he was "a gentleman from Scotland
Half an hour later, after a chat with the rural inspector, the pair went
along to the cell behind the small village police-station in order that
the stranger should read over to the prisoner the warrant he had brought
with him from London—the application of the French police for the
arrest and extradition of Felix Gerlach, alias Krail, alias Benoist,
for the wilful murder of Edna Mary Bryant in the Forest of Pontarmé,
The inspector had related to the London detective the dramatic scene up
at Glencardine that day, and the officer of the Criminal Investigation
Department walked along to the cell much interested to see what manner
of man was this, who was even more bold and ingenious in his criminal
methods than many with whom his profession brought him daily into
contact. He had hoped that he himself would have the credit of making
the arrest, but found that the man wanted had already been apprehended
on the charge of burglary at Glencardine.
The inspector unlocked the door and threw it open, but next instant the
startling truth became plain.
Felix Krail lay dead upon the flagstones. He had taken his life by
poison—probably the same poison he had placed in the wine at the fatal
picnic—rather than face his accuser and bear his just punishment.
* * * * *
Many months have now passed. A good deal has occurred since that
never-to-be-forgotten day, but it is all quickly related.
James Flockart, unmasked as he has been, never dared to return. The last
heard of him was six months ago, in Honduras, where for the first time
in his life he had been compelled to work for his living, and had, three
weeks after landing, succumbed to fever.
At Sir Henry's urgent request, his wife came back to Glencardine a week
after the tragic end of Gerlach, and was compelled to make full
confession how, under the man's sinister influence, both she and
Flockart had been forced to act. To her husband she proved beyond all
doubt that she had been in complete ignorance of the truth concerning
the affair in the Pontarmé Forest until long afterwards. She had at
first believed Gabrielle guilty of the deed, but when she learned the
truth and saw how deeply she had been implicated it was impossible for
her then to withdraw.
With a whole-hearted generosity seldom found in men, Sir Henry, after
long reflection and a desperate struggle with himself, forgave her, and
now has the satisfaction of knowing that she prefers quiet, healthful
Glencardine to the social gaieties of Park Street, Paris, or San Remo,
while she and Gabrielle have lately become devoted to each other.
The secret syndicate, with Sir Henry Heyburn at its head, still
operates, for no word of its existence has leaked out to either
financial circles or to the public, while the Whispers of Glencardine
are still believed in and dreaded by the whole countryside across the
Edgar Hamilton, though compelled to return to the Baron, whose right
hand he is, often travels to Glencardine with confidential messages, and
documents for signature, and is, of course, an ever-welcome guest.
The unpretentious house of Lénard et Morellet of Paris now and then
effects deals so enormous that financial circles are staggered, and the
world stands amazed. The true facts of who is actually behind that
apparently unimportant firm are, however, still rigorously and
Who would ever dream that that quiet, grey-faced man with the sightless
eyes, living far away up in Scotland, passing his hours of darkness with
his old bronze seals or his knitting, was the brain which directed their
marvellously successful operations!
The Laird of Connachan died quite suddenly about seven months ago, and
Walter Murie succeeded to the noble estate. Gabrielle—sweet, almost
child-like in her simple tastes and delightful charm, and more devoted
to Walter than ever—is now little Lady Murie, having been married in
Edinburgh a month ago.
At the moment that I pen these final lines the pair are spending a
blissful honeymoon at the great old château of Hetzendorf, high up above
the broad-flowing Danube, the Baron having kindly vacated the place and
put it at their disposal for the summer. Happy in each other's love and
mutual trust, they spend the long blissful days in company, wandering
often hand in hand, for when Walter looks into those wonderful eyes of
hers he sees mirrored there a perfect and abiding affection such as is
indeed given few men to possess.
Together they have in secret explored the ruins of the ancient
stronghold, and, by directions given them by the Baron, have found there
a stone chamber by no means dissimilar to that at Glencardine.
Meanwhile, Sir Henry Heyburn, impatient for his beloved daughter to be
again near him and to assist him, passes his weary hours with his
favourite hobby; his wife, full of sympathy, bearing him company. From
her, however, he still withholds one secret, and one only—the Secret of
the House of Whispers.