Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

3 erthygl ar y dudalen hon

A Duel to the Death

Newyddion
Dyfynnu
Rhannu

[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED,] A Duel to the Death By ETHEL TERRY CHAPTER I, MARKED CARDS. '"Marked cards." A sudden hush fell on the men assembled together. The evening had been a pleasant one. Luke Solomon was host; Lisle and Brantwood, picked bridge players, were present; young D'Arcy, as keen as mustard on the game; JLiawrence and Hamilton to look OD It was Brice D'Ar('y who had caused the panic to fall on the genial company. They had settl. t down to their game imme- diately after dinner. Lisle and Solomon had elected to play Brantwood and D'Aray. Tii- JUen were all well blessed with the sood things of this world. They could afford to play high—to losa heavily—and Brice D'Arcy was losing very heavily. It seemed to him, as Hie looked round th« xichly appointed hall, that he always lost heavily in this house. The thought made him pause for a moment, and brought his eyes to the face of his host. Luke So!omon, millionaire, was not n aant person to look upon. As he glancivi un- easily from the cards in his hand to the face of his partner Opposite, D'Arcy could not help wondering why he was tolerated at all-- why any decent folk; dined at his table. The greed of gain was writ large on the Jew's dark countenance. A lock of oily black hair, which had escaped from its plasteri'.g of pomade, hung across his narrow forehead. His small bright eyes were shining with ex- citement. The importance of winning £ 100 seemed a matter of iiie or death to the man who could write a cheque for a hundred uiou- oudd and hardly miss ít. I D'Arcv's honest blu« eyes left the revolt- ing face-travelled to the cards in Solo- mon's hand—and remained there. Th3 young man's eyes narrowed as he watched, as if he were trying to focus something more cor- rectly, something which had caused his good- natured boyish face to harden into strangely severe lines. The game went on in silence. "Rubber!" Lisle called out in a tew moments. A.-4 he totted up the score he glanced curi- ously at Brice D'Arcy. The lad was comfort- ably off; he was twttre of the fact, but the heavy losses, which were of little account to Lord Brantwood, must mean a ood deal to him. All the luck had been with the nost *11 r1 his partner. A brief intervaji for drinks and the men re- turned to the table. A new rubber was com- menced. It was Solomon's deal and declara- tion. He glanced at his cards and sorted them slowly with an air of satisfaction. "No trumps," he said. There was a long silence. Three of the men were waiting for the accustomed ques- tion from the fourth. But Brice D'Arcy had no intention of asking his partner if he might play to "no trumps" or not. Instead, he pushed back his chair and. drew himself up to his goodly height 'of six foot two. "Marked cards," he cried defiantly. The hush that fell over )the players lasted tut a moment, then LawMnc« started ward. "Brice, for God's sake," be whipped. "Marked" cards,iMice said again' delibe- rately. "That blackguard has cheated ua tr- night, as he has probably cheated us on saany nights before. It seemed to the others, after that first ter- rible silence, that Solomon was behaving with exemplary patience, "Gentlemen," he said, fls he collected tie Cards, scattered over floor and table, "may I ask your opinion of these: Lord JBrantwood was the first to avail him- #elf of the offer. He e?:amined each card, and handed them on to Lisle. "There is no sign of a mark," he said re- luctatitly. 1 "It is some devil's trick." the younger man burst out. "He palmed them when he picked them up just now. In his last deal I saw that he had four marked cards in his hand." Lirfle had thrown the pack on the table. it, was evident from his expression that ae had found nothing wrong- Solomon looked across at his opponent. "Toil will apologise, sir?" he asked. "No." "You will fight, then?" D'Arcy flung back his, fair head with a laugh of derision. I "Fight a little enr like you? No thanks." The insult in the tone was unpardonable. Solomon leaned forward and struck the con- temptuous mouth, which had dared to ridi- cule him. "Now will you fight, you coward?" the Jew shouted. A drop of blood fell from the bruised lips, and lay a crimson spot on the green cloth of the table. D'Arcy wiped another away. "With the greatest-,of jpieasttjje/' he re- plied. Where I "Here." .i • When?" "To-night." A little gasp ran round ^he group. D'Arcy pushed back )ii|\(ehair, his face aglow with the excitement of the moment. "Good, then let's get to work," he cried. You have the choice of weapons. Which •hall it be? Re vol vers? ? I "No." What then?" Cigarettes." The others looked tip in surprise. There Was a general sigh of relief. So their host had been joking with the boy after alL D'Arcy saw the effect of the words. He tuug out his hand impatiently. "I am not a child, Mr. Solomon," he said, haughtily. Solomon's reply was to draw out an elabor- ate gold case. He opened it slowly and selec- ted a cigarette with tare. You will oblige m? Mr. D'Arcy?" Brice drew out his case reluctantly. In another moment two cigarettes were lying- two specks of white-on the dark background Of the cloth. "Gentlemen," Solomon turned dramati- cally to the company, "I do not know if you are aware that my father was killed in a duel. When my mother Ifty, dying I gave her my promise that I would never be involved in a quarrel of that nature. But Mr. Brice D'Arcy has accused me of swindling my guests. It is impossible to overlook this. I therefore suggest a way out of the difficulty. The two cigarettes you seg, before you are of different lengths. The one I took from my own case is longer than the one Mr. D'Arcy tendered. You have all heard of the Ameri- can duel. My opponent and I will draw lots Who draws the short cigarette—draws death. JJefore twenty-four hours have passed the loser must have devised some means of tak- ing his own life, with such skill that the sui- cide must appear to be the result of an acci- dent. Lawrence interrupted at that moment. "I protest," he cried, angrily. "It is, He paused.as a liand v.as laid on his shoal- der. "Dear old pal," D'Arcy whispered. "Leave me to manage this alone. Mr. Solo- mon," he continued, raising his voice, I agree to your proposal. Who will hold the cigarettes?" Colonel Lisfe came forward. I am ready to do so on one condition," he said, that there shall be this loophole of escape. The loser must end his existence to- morrow afternoon, punctually at five o'clock, in whichever waj he deems fit. Should, how- ever, anything intervene, exactly at the ap- pointed hour to prevent him from carrying out his intention, the compact between you is null and void. The IOiler goes a free man. Of course, nothing must be arranged to in- tervene. It is only if Chance step in." The two men hesitated for a moment. "I agree," Solomon said, at last. D'Arcy merely nodded an affirmative. Colonel Lisle bent forward and picked up the cigarettes. He turned away for a moment as he adjusted them between his fin- gers. Who chooses fixst?" he asked. Solomon hurried forward. "I believe I have that privilege. Mr D'Arcy was the first offender." "Bendy." Lisle said, hurriedly. "Right." Solomon bent forward and drew. t, D'Arcy's hand had never been more steady, as he followed suit. There was a breathless silence as the two men measured cigarettes. The Jew was the first to announce the re- sult to the waiting company. "I am sorry he said, quietly. It was all sufficient. The men left soon after the event. They could not trust themselves to speak. Lawrence wrung his friend's hand. "Good-bye, old paL" "Good-bye." Solomon accompanied his guests to the door. As his squat figure disappeared be- hind the heavy curtain which guarded the entrance to the outer hall, Brice D'Arcy leant forward swiftly and picked up the cigarette which his opponent had drawn from his elaborate case. He carried it to the light and examined it carefully. Then as he ran his fingers down it's white length a grim laugh caught his breath. Fate has hardly a chance," he muttered, when men mark their cigarettes as well as their cards." CHAPTER II. "ANTOINSTT«." Johnson, Mr.. Brice D'Arcy's vaiet, was worried on this bright October morning. He confided to the cook, who was of a sympathe- tic disposition, that he did not know what was the matter with his master, but some- thing was up. The cook gave her opinion freely, as she dished up the breakfast. Mr. D'Arcy bad been dining at the big lious6 in Park-lane the pre- vious evening. She didn't hold with young men j/Iayimg cards up to all hours of the morning. In any case, there was no call for Mr. Johnson to worry. But Mr. Johnson could not help worrying If he had be^n permitted to peep over his master's shoulder and read the letter he was writing, all his worst fears would have been realised. Brice D'Arcy had spent the night getting his affairs into order. The fact that one of the cigarettes had been tampered with, and, therefore, the duel had not been a fair one, had not made the least difference to his plans. It would be a difficult thins to prove, he decided. He thanked Heaven that he had no rela- tives to mourn his death. Lawrence would miss him, he knew-and one other. It was to that other he was now pennir.g a farewell letter. His task completed, he blotted the sheet of paper and carried it to the window.. His little flat looked out on Hyde-park. It was a glorious day. The sun was peep- ing through the trees, lighting up the leaves with their gorgeous tints of green and bronze and gold. A few late flowers were striving to make gay the borders. A party of early riders went cantering past. Behind them a girl was riding alone with her groom. She was a very pretty girl. Brice threw up his window and watched her for a minute. She was riding a spirited chestnut horse, and her hair, beneath a neat brown hat, was al- most the same glossy shade as her steed's. "I should like to know her," the man said to himself. "1 believe I have seen a photo- graph of her somewhere. I wonder-" He winced as he remembered that in a few short hours it would not matter to him whether a girl had hair like a ripe chestnut and cheeks of the rose. He shook the troublesopie thought away, and unfoldei his letter. It read as follows: "My dear old friend, "I know the news I am going to tell you will make you sad, but I want to ask you not to grieve too deeply. "Last night I played bridge at the house of a man whose name I will hot mention. I suddenly discovered that he was playing with marked cards, and when I accused him of it he struck me and Tefused- to fight it out like a man. "He invented one of those beastly Ameri- can duels. We drew lots, and I lost. "The stipulation was that at five o'clock this afternoon I was to put an end to my ex- istence. In the event of anything preventing t$ istence. In the event of anything preventing me from carrying out my intention, exactly at the hour arranged, our agreement is can- celled, but coincidence is not going to be as kind to me as all that. "I have arranged to leave Charing-cross this afternoon by the 2.20 boat express to Folkestone, arriving there at 4.10. "At five o'clock I shall be crossing to Bou'logne. It will be an easy matter to slip overboard, and folks will only wonder why Brice D'Arcy, who was not a bad swimmer, should have sunk like a log. "You have always instilled into me a mighty reverence for good old British pluck, and I am not going to funk the greatest or- deal of the lot. "Your god-son, "BRICE." This letter was addressed to "Miss Antoi- r.ette Fraser, Grand Hotel, Paris." D'Arcy sealed the letter and rang the bell. In a minute Johnson appeared in the door- way. "Post this for me, Johnson," his master said. "After breakfast I want' my bag packed. I am going across to Paris for a couple of days." "Very good, air." The man stood on the mat for one moment; looking critically at the envelope in his hand. "What does this new move mean," he puzzled, as he ran down the stone stairs. As he crossed the road to a pillar bos op- posite, he bumped into a natty little person who was coming in the other direction. He raised his hat with a murmured apology, when a startled feminine scream made him pause. "Why, if it isn't Mr. Johnson." Johnson swung round and regarded the natty little person in surprise. "Miss Barry?" he queried. "Now whoever would have thought of seeing you. You ought to be in Paris, you know. I am just on my way to post a letter from my master to your mistress. Is Miss Fraser in London?" "Miss Antoinette is at Queen's-gate, but 11 Johnson was in a hurry. His breakfast was getting cold. He thrust the letter into his talkative companion's small gloved hand. 'Will you please give this to her at once. Good morning." He lifted his hat and left the indignant Miss Barry flourishing the envelope. When he got indoors he entered into a lively discussion with cook, and in the excite- ment of the war of words he forgot to tell his master that Miss Antoinette Fraser was in London all the time. Ellen Barry worried her pretty head all the way home. She felt almost certain that Mr. Brice did not know that Miss Fraser had adopted her niece, and yet Johnson hr-d been so certain that the note was for Miss An- toinette. Stupid fellow, if he had only waited for her to explain. The church clocks in the neighbourhood were striking half past eight when the maid ran down the area steps of a large mansion in Queen's-gate. She let herself in by the back door, and ran upstairs to a bedroom on the first floor. A tall girl, standing before the dressing table, turned as she entered. "You left the message at Lady Sinclair's, Barry?" "Yes, Miss." "Thank you. Is that the post?" She held out her hand for the letter. "It didn't come by post Miss Antoinette. 1 met Johnson, Mr. D'Arcy's man, and he asked me to give this to you." Antoinette Fraser tore open the letter. "Mr. D'Arcy. Auntie's godson, Brice D'Arcy—but I don't know-" Her eyes travelled down the first page, covered with fine writing, and the sentence was never finished. Antoinette Fraser was looking her best after her canter in the Park. She was very tall, and slender as a willow. The brown riding habit she was wearing showed off to perfection every line of her graceful figure. Her eyes ,Vre large brown wondering, like those of a happy child. But it was her hair which attracted universal attention wherever she went-glgrious wavy hair, the colour of a ripe chestnut, braided in heavy plaits round her small head. Barry stood waiting for her mistress to speak, the momentous letter took a very long time to master. Antoinette read it through, once, twice and yet again. When she laid. it down the colour had left her cheeks. She caught a glimpse of. herself in her mirror. Her lips were quivering—this would never do. There was so little time. "Antoinette Fraser," she was saying, over and over again to herself, "pull yourself to- gether, and don't be a weak idiot. Think- for God's sake think-out some way to save a brave man's life." Her glance wandered ir. despair from the letter on the dressing table to a novel which she had been reading the previous evening. She had flung it aside in disgust. The plot was so thin—absurd—impossible. It lay there opened, and the remembrance of the absurd plot brought hope to her heart, and a plan of salvation for a man under sentence of death. A moment's consideration, and her plans were made. "Barry," she said, quickly. "Pack a box immediately, with a few necessary things. I have not had very good news from Paris, and I am going out to my aunt. I shall leave Charing-cross by the 10 o'clock train, so you will have to hurry." "But your breakfast, Miss?" the maid gasped. "Bring me a cup of coffee up here—only de be quick." A little later a smart carriage drove up Queen's-gate. An idle errand boy, loitering beside the pavement, caught a glimpse of chestnut hair through one of the windows. "Ginger for pluck," he observed to a boo. companion standing by. The girl in the carriage heard, and caught her breath in a sob. "God grant it," she whispered. CHAPTER III. "MY COUSIN JACK. When the 4.10 boat express arrived at Folkestone on the afternoon of October 15, 1, a tall girl was observed running in and out of groups of excited passengers. An old gentleman whom she jostled grunted some remark about the bad manners of the present generation, but the offender turned to him such a saeet, troubled face that he forgot his own affairs, and hurried after her to ask if he could be of any assist- ance. She thanked him gratefully, and ex- {ilained, her eyes full of tears, that she was ooking for a relative who had not arrived. At that moment the old gentleman noticed m tall, good-looking you,ng man, who was gazing at his fair companion with a puzzled expression in his blue eyes. The old gentleman touched the girl's arm. expression in his blue eyes. The old gentleman touched the girl's arm. "Ahem," he murmured. The girl swung round, and caught sight of the good-looking young man at last. For one moment the kindly old gentleman feared that she was going to faint. Then she ran for- ward, a warm blush on her cheek, a glad light in her dark eyes. I "Jack—my best of cousins," she cried. -How glad-liow thankful—I am to see you." It had seemed a curious coincidence to I Brice D'Arcy that the girl he had seen for the first time riding in the Park that morn- ing should suddenly appear before him on the platform at Folkestone that afternoon, bat when the charming vision greeted him as a beloved relative, he positively gasped for breath. He took the little hands stretched out to him and stammered, "I am afraid you have- "Been waiting a long time. Yes, Jack, dear, but nothing matters now you have come. Brice hastened, reluctantly, to explain. "You have made a mistake," he faltered. "Jack!" The voice was tender, pleading, enough tz 1 melt a heart of stone, and Brice D'Arcy's heart was by no means of a flinty character. "Jack," the voice quivered. "You are not j going to tell me that you cannot cross by this boat. Auntie 'Nette wired to me to meet you here, as she will not let me travel alone." i Brice cleared his throat nervously. "I am going by this boat, but I am not-- I "Not going with me?" { The girl buried Her face in a minute handkerchief, and began to cry. Brice felt an unutterable cad." j "Don't cry, he pleaded, "I only want to explain that I am not- your cousin Jack." The girl raised iher face to the troubled j countenance bent over her. Her expressive features were suggestive of lofty scorn. She turned on her heel, and looked back over a "If you want to insult me I contemptuous shoulder. He hurried after her and caught her arm. "Not for the whole wide world, but bonestly you have mistaken me for somebody else." The girl looked up, her eyes shining through a mist of tears. "Jack-darling," she breathed. "Do you think I could mistake the dear friend and companion of my youth. If you wish to travel without me tell me so, but don't try to deceive me by such an apparent untruth. "But I don't want to travel without you," he groaned, which statement happened to be absolutely correct. Antoinette caught her breath in a cry of thanksgiving. She bad won her first move in the game. Brice followed her meekly as she swept porters, with their luggage, before her. After all, he reasoned, it would do no harm to humour the poor girl. She would go below directly they got on board, imagining that fhe confounded cousin whom he so closely re- sembled was on deck. When they started on their journey, how- ever, Brice discovered that matters were not fcoiug to be as easy as he had imagined. His uaknown cousin refused to retire below. She nated stuffy saloons. She would rather stay on deck with her dear boy. Brice fretted and fumed. It was the irony of Fate. How he would have enjoyed this little adventure if things had been otherwise. After some time he took out his watch. To his horror he found that it was ten minutes to five. Something must be done if he were going to play the game fair. He sprang to his feet and drew his com- panion up. "I want you ta go below," he entreated. "You are so pale. It is much too cold for you on deck." Antoinette laughed, and leant over the rail. "Do let me stay. Look at these darling little waves. Brice caught her arm. "For Heaven's sake be careful. You nearly overbalanced. Can you swim?" "I—I don't know." "Well, if you can't you must not be so daring. I really want you to go below— dear," he whispered. Her eyes softened, and smiled into his. Well, I will, tyrant. Please give me my coat." He turned to do her bidding. There was a loud splash. He sprang round to find that the girl had disappeared. Brice D'Arcy always said afterwards that he would rather save two men from drowning than one woman. The girl appeared to keep her head above water with a certain method, and give voice to the most ear-piercing shrieks for help. Yet she resisted all his attempts pf. sitocour. I When at last they were dragged, dripping, I on board, and surrounded by a ring of excited passengers, the girl surprised them all by in- quiring the. time. An obliging tripper pulled out his watch. "A quarter past five, Miss," he said. "You have plenty of time to smarten up before we arrives at Berloine." "Thank you," the heroine of the occasion whispered gratefully, and she slipped dowa, an unconscious heap, ou the deck. Before the boat arrived at Boulogne An- toinette asked to see her rescuer. When he came into the saloon he took some pains to explain to her that he was not fier cousin Jack, and to his surprise she ac- cepted the statement without comment. The climax was reached when, on ex- changing names, they discovered that An- toinette's Auntie Nette was Brice's god- mother. "And are you sorry that you are not my cousin?" the girl asked, peeping at him through a veil of bronzed, wet hair. "No, I am not," he declared, firmly. "Be- cause I hope-" "Because you hope?" she asked. "I must tell you that another day," he said. "Another day" came three months later, when Brice D'Arcy told the one hope, which had been born on the day he held her wet head against his heart, to the girl he loved. There are just two things that Antoinette D'Arcy has never told her adoring husband, the whereabouts of her cousin Jack, and that she won the goldmedaJ at school for swim- ming.

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