Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

9 erthygl ar y dudalen hon

The Face at the Window


[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED]. The Face at the Window BY H. BARTON BAKER. Dorothy Forrester was sitting in the old oak panelled parlour of the house which, time out of mind. had been the home of the stewards of W o;tbigh Manor. A cheerful wood fire blazed "l,on the hearth, and the table was set with all the appurtenances for a substantial tea. Though night lirul set in, Dorothy, whose pretty fair face lc ed sad and sorrowful in the glowing nrelig. absorbed in thought of an absent dear one. had forgotten to draw the curtrins across ( 3 wide, low set latticed window, through which came the darkness of the gloomy, boisterous, rainy, autumnal even- ing, in vivid contrast to the brightness and comfort of the rest of the apaitmeat. Presently a man's face was pressed against the latticed panes, and through the moaning and the sighing of the wind among the trees was heard a tapping at the glass. Dorothy started up, but her klarm was checked by a voice, which could be just heard through the wind, calling, "Don't be frightened, it is I, Ever, -Ct 1" Was she sleeping or was -ng? Was it he of whom she had been dreaming, whom she had parted from a year ago, whom she believed to be far away in a distant land, whom she feared that she might never see Rguin? Dorothy ran and opened the casement; a man raised himself from the garden bed be neath and clambered into the room, caught her in his arms and kissed her passionately. Trembling with surprise and agitation, she broke away from him, re-closed the lattice, and drew the curtains together. "Everard!" she exclaimed, "can it be you?" Well might she ask the question, for there was little to remind her of gay, handsome Everard Champion, as he lived in her mind's eye, in this haggard-looking, unkempt man, in soiled, worn Imperial Yeomanry uni- form that stood before her; only the bright loving eyes and the soft, musical voice were the same. "All the Veldt has left of me," he answered. "Dorothy give me something to eat, I am almost famishing—a mcst unlover- like remark," he added, laughing; "but I have not broken my fast to dav, I cannot get my arrears of pay from the War Office and am penniless, and so I have come down to Westleigh to make an appeal to my stony- hearted father. And where is yours?" "He has gone to Westieigh-green and may be back, any minute." "We shall hear him coming, and I must make my exit by the way I entered," cried Everard, cutting a thick slice of the ham that stood upon the table, and devouring it hungrily with a hunk of bread, while Dorothy plied him with other rid; 2chments. "I suppose I don't look much like the heir I to t, Champions who fought at Crecy and Agincourt," he said with a laugh, "but pro- bably when my ancestor made one of King Ilarry's host on St. Crispin's Day he was not much less of a tatterdemalion than I am now, though he wore steel instead of khaki." When his hunger was appeased, which was very quickly, he and Dorothy sat together before the fire, had clasped in hand, obli- I vioiis of the momentarily expected steward, < While he related something" of his adventures. "Yon never told n:e the of the Quarrel with your father," said Dorothy. j "Kc-o," answereck Everard, with some hesi- tation. I tation. < "Had it anything to do with me?" asked Dorothy, anxioi;dy. "W d. I told him I loved someone who, though she was not in the same rank of life as myself, was fitted to adorn any station, and that I would neter marry any other—I did not mention your name, or even indicate Whom it might' he. He treated my words with Contempt.) said lie had ether plans for my future, and if I refused to obey him he would discard, disown me, and not allow me a penny. We had a row. I started for London and enrolled in the Yeomanry." "Oh. Everard, did I not tell you it could ttever be, that such an engagement could only bring unhap|>inoss upon you, that I was not fitted to be yVmr wife "I will not hear you blaspheme your own dear self, which is the goddess of my idolatry," Ctied E.erard, catching her in his arms and Sniolheri ig her words with a kiss. "If I were • King none other should share my throne. My father cannot cut off the entail, and vera shall be mistress of Westleigh Manor yet. But we must keep our secret; he must not guess it, for your father's sake. And now I a going to beard tli- lion in his den. I am going up to the Manor for money I must and Will have." As he spoke the young man rose from his seat, and there was a fire in his eye that de- fcotud a coming siorrn. 'But if he refuses to see you?" said "orothy, anxiously. 'He would refuse if I gave him the chance, I know how to gain admission without asking his leave, ard he will suddenly find tn, standing before him." ■ Restrain yourself, dear; do not be vio- said Dorothy, laying her hands upon shoulder and looking up tearfully into his s.ce, wlifrein she read signs of excitement troubled her. Uja^wil^ my best, but I'm a desperate i was interrupted by the sound of horse's °<?^s approaching the house. It is my father. He will go round to the >•' 11 will have just time to gel eu S11e. ran to the window, p-dled aside the stains, threw open the lattice* and looked Wind All was no Hound save that of the is one imp-'Wtpnt thing I forgot to W began Everard. Cried some one is coming/' she i0?e a hasty kiss and vaulted out tjj ° t. darkness. Before she could close Wir.^ow a sonant came into the 1 wx -h. the tea. All wr.g snug again how- hai, the time mi iron looking, grizzled- ««$S i! flowed. .1 the -r? Fow white and jfoL you look?" he said, fixing his keen iiV upon her. f&thcJi'tS £ rov;i11g' rather anxious about you, ''I Witj, Ti5nt V'P to the Manor before I returned *bon' T6 Money from the sale, I don't care <■ J.T having it iu the i10Urie. aui it turn ontr" Slis tern the Squire in a fumfc. •ince nas been getting worse and WGTSH I Everard we at 0: so suddenly. I • DorotV,,1 row about?" ftnd k led herself with cutting the the tea. bread aad batter ssnd pcwiiing, o&v I dori t know what's come to sens t,ogv,a tiayr., When I was young I had to ohe. 7r.\ father without question. Ah, it's a wicked rebellions age." John Forrester was not thinking of Everard Champion at that moment, but of liii own. son whom he had expelled from Iv! through much more serious provocation Uian Everard had given the Squire. When he had finished his tea he lit his pip. and ensconced himself in an easv chair by <V-. fire, wrapt in gloomy thoughts" about "thai oaa scapegrace son of whom he had heard iu Cuing for a year, but who wr-s very much in h-d mi ad that night, while Dorothy 'iV' troubled with dark forebodings as to what might be the result of her lover's meeting with his stern and passionate father. T}ie.v were roused by the sound of a gaHop- ing horde. It stopped at the garden gate and a man's voice was heard shouiino*, "Mr Forrester, Mr. Forrester." ° V; h t's th:1t-sorncthing wron<^?" ex- claimed the steward, as he. hurried out into II" nflco""qe that led from the parlour. With an awful presentiment of evil Dorothy followed him. A man, white and scared, was coming to- wards them—Forrester recognised him as one of the servants from the Manor. "Mr. Forrester-t-Mr. Forrester," he cried breathlessly. "Come up at once-the Squire has been murdered!" Dorothy's mind became blank, when she re- covered consciousness she was leaning against the wall of the passage. Her father was gone. She was alone. The house was de- serted, and it was with difficulty she groped her way back to the parlour and sank down sick and faint into a chair. There had been a terrible quarrel, she thought. Mr. Champion, in his fierce and ungovernable temper, perhaps, had struck his son-and then Oh, God Burying her face in her hands and cowering in her chair she shivered from head to foot with the hor- ror of the picture s-ip conjured up. Suddenlv she lifted her face and listened. Hark! There was an impatient tapping at the casement, and the we!! known voice— "Dorothy, Dorothy!" She had the pre- sence of mind to lock the door before she tore back the curtains and unfastened the win- dow, and the next moment E erard Cham- pion leaped into the room. Dorothy fell back rrid clung to a* chair, while he refastened the casement and drew the curtains. Hi en he turned to the white-faced girl. "Dorothy," he said, looking into her eyes. "you have he-al'd of-you think me guilty, but I swear before God I am innocent." His lips were colourless and his speech indistinct, for his tongue was parched, but there was ;Ul intensity in his tone and manner that could not fair to convince. Wi'-h a cry of thanksgiving Dorothy fell I imta Ms. arms, choking her sobs upon his Breast'. He half carried her to a couch and sat down beside her holding her in his arms. "Let me tell you what I know," he went on. "There is an old window covered by ivy in the disused part of the Manor that I have frequently availed myself of when I wanted to get in and out of the house without being Observed. I climbed up the ivy, entered through the window, and made my way n :v- seett towards the library, where my father ifiosflr spends his evenings. There was not a servant about. I pushed open the door, and there to my horror I saw him lying back life- less in his chair, his throat covered with blood. Papers and an empty money bag were lying upon the table. Horror-struck as I was it rushed upon me what it would melliu to be caught in such a position. I rang the bell violently to bring help, and made my way back as I came. Ton know the old wliig that I am speaking of feces the stab- I ling. By the time I had scrambled down Use; L ivy all the place was in en uproar. A ser- vant galloped ofT to Westieigh-green to fetcli a doctor and inform the police, while a second was dispatched to your father." Dorothy listened to this narrative with irre- pressible relief; for every other consideration was lost in the thought that it dispelled all the terrible suspicion of a moment before. "Robbery evidently was the object of the crime," continued Everard, "for I heard that the money Mr. Forrester had a little while before handed over to my father was gone. But you may imagine my eonsterna- tion and bewilderment when I overheard one of the footmen say that a man in khaki, run- rung, through the hall door, had been seen." As he spoke Dorothy gripped his hand with a whispered "Huh." Both distinctly heard the sound of someone or something brushing against the window. They sprang to their feet. Someone is there," whispered Dorothy. "You have been followed. Go in there," pointing to a large closet, "while I look if I there is anyone outside." Everard glided into the hiding-place, keep- ing the door slightly ajar, so as to be ready to dart out should any danger menace her. A wild gust of wind shook the window and dashed the rain against it, as Dorothy, with trembling hands, pulled the curtains apart. A cry broke from her lips as she saw a wild 1: cadaverous face pressed against the diamond panes. For a moment she re-closed the hang- ings, holding them tightly together. Everard half emerged from the closet, but she waved him back. "Hide, hide," she whispered, half emerged from the closet, but she waved 9 him back. "Hide, hide," she whispered, "don't stir for your liie, it is my brother Jack." With an exclamation, which expressed I something more than astonishment, Everard withdrew again, but still kept the door ajar. Strange thoughts. were rushing upon his mind. Again Dorothy pulled open the curtains. The face was still there. "Dorothy," whispered a hoarse voice, "for God's sake let me in. I know you are alone." She admitted him. He was a young man about five and twenty, the same age as Everard, the same build, but with a bad, weak face, that was now con- vulsed by fear. Like Everard, he was dressed in tki. There were stains upon it and upon his hand that looked like blood. "I have met with an accident-what are yq-u staring at like an idiot? Go to rrry old room quick as lightning and bring me down some clothes. I can change in tliere," point- ing to the closet where Everard was con- cealed. Dorothy stood gazing at him with a face not less full of horror than his own. "But what does it mean. Where have you been? Where have you come from?" she gasped. "Ask no questions, but do as I tell you," cried the rxvtfian, advancing threateningly. As he did so an iron hand gripped him by the back of the neck. "Let me go, let me go," he howled, "you shan't take me alive. I tell you I've not done anything "You lie, you villain, you are tli. murderer of 'my father," answered the stern voice of Everard, chapping bis grip so as to bring the fellow face to "face with him. Jacko F .eyvesterlw, iww dropped, and Everard had to hold him up to save him from falling to the ground. "My poor Dorothy," pursued Everard, "it I is a dreadful revelation to make to you, but I there is no help for it. I met this man at the j office in London where the Yeomanry were en- J rolled bent upen «tiie same errand as myself, j He attached himself to me and I did my best t to keep him straight, but not very success- fully. He came home in the same ship with $ me. He stuck to me like a leech, and fol- lowed me to Westleigh, where I,left him while I came on here. All this I was going to tell you when your father's arrival hurried me away." Dorothy listened as though carved in stone; this was the end of all, the bond of their love was for ever cancelled in blood. "What has this to do with the murder of the old Squire," demanded the ruffian, trying to pluck up courage. "It's more likely to be I your work than mine, and you want to make me the scapegoat." "You scoundrel!" retorted Everard be- tween his clenched teeth. "I understand it: all. You heard at Westieigh-green of the sale. You followed your father to the Manor. You would have been villain enough to attack him, but he is hale and strong, so you pre- ferred an old man. You know every inch of the Manor. You could easily gain admittance unseen. Now look me in the face and ten me I lie. Look me in the face and swear to n:, by your hopes of salvation that you are inno- eent 1" But the miscreant could not look into these flaming eyes, he could only cower and tremble. With withering contempt Everard went on, "Monstrous as your crime is, I will not give you to the hangman. I spare you for others' sake. Dorothy fetch him the clothes and then let him go. I leave him to God." "Oh, Everard, how noble you are!" Dorothy burst forth. Ten minutes afterwards the murderer was fleeing from the Red Spectre through the ttorm and darkness. When they were alone again, Everard would fain have taken the crushed and sob- bing girl in his arms, but she shrank from him. "No, no, Everard," she cried. "You must never touch ms, never think of me again. I am stained with blood." Absorbed in each other, neither had heard the door open, and both were unconscious oi another's presence until they were startled by the harsh voice of John Forrester. another's presence until they were startled by the harsh voice of John Forrester. t "What is this about? Who are Mr Everard The name was uttarecl in no friendly and with a suspicious look. "What of my father. Is he still living," demanded Everard. "Yes, and likely to live. He fainted fron loss of blood, but the wound is not danger ous. He was attacked from behind—by a ma- in khaki. Do you know anything about ii young man?" "Nothing," answered Everard, firmly. "Well, I'm glad to hear it, but it's my dl.:t; to send for the constable and detain yon til he comes. And r.t the same time I want t- know what you are doing here alcne with m daughter ?'' ( As Forrester laid his hand upon tJ, bell Dorothy cried out: "Hold, father, I mr speak, much as it costs me. Your SOll-J. brother Jack—is the criminal, and for on sako .Mr. Everard has lot him escape." The steward, with a livid face, looked one to the other for a second or two as ii i- had been death struck. Then with a cry Heaven he fell senseless upon the floor. A few davs afterwards the body of tin wretched Jack Forrester was found floafin;: upon the surface of a deep pond about a mil ftom the house. In his wild flight throni; the darkness, a?:d the beating rain beroi-v'h the shadow of the trees, he had fallen into it. Squire Champion quickly recovered from his injuries, but not long afterwards he was killed in the hunting field, so Everiad became master of Westleigh Manor, and Dorothy was installed as its mistress.





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