PUBLISHED BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT. THE CROWNING OF ESTHER, By MO RICE GERARD, Author of Misterton," Oiit," "The Victoria Cross," "Black Gull Hock;" Joek o' tir Beach," "Murray Murgntroyd, Journalist," &c., &c. [0 O P Y E I G H T], CHAPTER I. The photograph of a certain bedroom will always remain in clear outline in my inii,.d I.; ot tliit a.,iytliin,- so very important occurred in it, but u a sti-mo-P perionce connected with that room a*. f history of my life dated, and the story bt.nan v>a.ch I Anitas nothing particular happened in that room so the apartment itaSf was .ordinary, and commou-p^ enough. I had slept in it every .?^btw^rrJfS winter and summer, autanm anu spun. ing it as more than part of the furniture10 n y jit, the table at which I dined, the cuairs,oa which I sat tbe carriages in which I rode. I had never marked it speciafly with the possessive pronoun .« even bedchambers they snare^wiaoz^ (1 d halt to me what the old-fas,.noneU n„.rSom, in that ^aslu-'ITad no l"usehoid goods scattered about it let the room lives in my memory, as x saw it one June morning" when I was eigi eea.. j A„,l the £ 3*% i'SLS or a dfeau,-„ll ft'wS'joi will. '"«■ »ls a i'"rson f,'om that which I liftd heen bcfoic. A marble-topped withstand occupies one side of the window and a wardrobe the other; m one corner are two shelves with a clock on the upper one, which solemnly ticks out the time in ft hoarse voice, which suggests the accumulated colds of several winters. On the second is a china vase intended to contain flotveis but in which, to my knowledge, no flowers ever rested. It would be a shame to put them there they could not have congruity with such a hideous product of the potter's art; the very Cupids below, with their undraped plump little bodies, might well have refused to support a. bowl with that hideous Satyr grinning into its white vacuum at one corner. There were some pictures, not pleasing enough, or done by too unimportant artists, for the dining-room or the staircase there was a large square of carpet of a nondescript faded yellow colour, flanked by polished boards. There was a brass French bedstead, low at head and foot, with one knob permanently departed. In that bed I slept comfortably enough, although without enthusiasm, for five times 35 nights, however many they may be. Really the way one goes on piling up the number of times you do the same thing in the course of an average lifetime is something 2tppalliiig 1 The circumstances of my hitherto uneventful life will be set down in the next chapter. I must begin with this experience, because I always now instinctively begin things from there, and go backwards or forwards as the case may be. It was a warm night; and I had thrown nearly every- thing off me, merely a sheet serving to give an idea of covering without the weight of clothes, which on such a sultry evening would have been insupportable. The window was open from the ton, and while I diligently wooed sleep, I could hear the baying of a dog at some farmstead probably miles away. All else was still. There was not sufficient breeze to stir the leaves of the pear tree, which grow right up to my window in the second storey. I knew there was a dying man in the house—the master, my great-uncle—and C although he was very old, the thought gave solemnity tomy feelings, when I knelt, in my white robe do nuit, to say my prayers against the low bed. I was so full of life myself my limbs full and tree. with the warm blood pulsing through them. It seemed so tenable and strange to think that life would one day merely be existence, and afterwards cease to be even that. I prayed that night that I might live-live it out to the very end. Before a week was over I prayed that I might die—die in my hot inexperienced youth, before ever I saw the light of nineteen years. bleep came to me at last, after I had spent an hour or two tossing from side to side, wondering where the dog lived, and whether it would ever leave off that melancholy baying. BefQre the sleep passed, the dream or visitation came to me. A shuddering sensation of physical dread passed Gver my limbs, seeming to drive the heart's blood back from whence it came. I felt a touch upon my lips I struggled to rouse my torpid faculties, and to awake. I wished to shout aloud but felt instinc- tively no voice could issue from lips so mysteriously touched. Then there came a sound as of wings—birds' wings, large birds; and I felt the room was full of them, skimming in the air as rooks do, flying from side to side over me. Yet I saw nothing in my dream, merely heard the wings. There was a pause, and the sound of wings ceased. Then my name was spoken three times, not loudly, but as by one who knew he was close to me, and could make me hear easily: Caroline Caroline < Caroline The voice was quite strange to me I had never heard it before. It was different from most men's voices, with an intonation of its own, strong and yet sweet. I felt if I heard it again I should know it. But perhaps this was not in my dream but came to me as I recalled all that I had passed through next (lity. Then it came again once, with an ominously signi- ficant word attached to it: and I heard no more. It said, Caroline Beware I must have slept after that; for when I awoke it was after six o'clock. The hot daylight from the already glowing Eastern sky was pouring into my chamber. And without in the passage there was a subdued stir, a confusion of stilled voices, differing from the familiar sounds of an awakening household and I guessed, but only partly, what that some- thing was. CHAPTER II. When I was six years old, a jolly, round, romp of a little girl, both my parents died of a fever my father, who was a naval officer, a captain I think, had brought home with him from abroad. Of him I remember scarcely anything; a vague suspicion of the presents he used to bring me-gaudy toys, and trinkets from foreign parts and Eastern ports, a scrubby beard which I felt it a reluctant duty to kiss more often than I cared, that is about all that remains. I suppose, like most sea-going men on active service, he was but little at home. My mother is a far dearer vision a being of loveliness and love, generally dressed in white. We lived at Lynn in Norfolk. All my childish recollections arc full of the smell of fisli, of tarred ropes, of the sound of foreign sailor voices, talking a lingo which I thought must be very wicked, it was so impossible to understand. Yet I loved those narrow streets, which I threaded with my mother by my side. No avenue of trees has ever seemed so grand to me as that walk to King John's Tower my imagin- ation was filled with the stories of an underground passage, right away from the Tower to Castle Rising. I loved, too, the big hassocks in the old square pew at grand old St. Margaret's Church., with which I played in a quiet unobstrusive fashion, during the long ser- mons, on the Sabbath. Then, when I was six, came the great first change of my life. The gentle influence and the scrubby beard alike passed out of it. The mystery of death shrouded us all for a time, and I only was left when the veil lifted—a solitary child. I know now that the next thing which came was the offer of a home to the fatherless and motherless child from my great-uncle. Squire Wrottisley (as he was always called). I was a Wrottisley, too-Caroline Wrottisley. The Squire lived in the extreme north of Derbyshire, where it borders on the Yorkshire Moors, and to that home I was speedily transferred. Under the same roof lived another great-relative of the Squire's only this was a boy—not a girl, and his name was not Wrattisley-Steplien Fleetwood. He was six years older than I, big and strong, with a mole scar and hair growing on it on his right cheek. I hated him, and he hated me from the day I entered the house. I remember well his saying to rne, when he came back from school at sixteen, I being ten So. you little fool, you think you fire going to have old uncle's property not if I know it. I would kill you first and he pinched my arms, in his long, strong fingers, until they were black and blue. I cried 1 don't want anything I hate you, cousin Stephen.' Don't call me cousin, you little fool, or I'll knock vour helld off.' And I never have called him cousin from that day to this, except when the Squire was by; uwl he made me, The Squire did not love chitdren ana neulier of us quite knew how to make the old man—for he seemed an old man to me even when I first cau-e into the house, at six years old—care for us. He had a strange sardonic way ol tahung, winch no child quite understands they feel they are being lauerhed at and children feel that and hate it even more than grown-up persons. I fancy he must have been a little blind. He tapped with his. stick as he walked along. I know the sound used to frighten me, especially when I heard it at night. Gradually a conception rose up in my mind that there was something, far from canny about the old Squire although I believe now it was nothing more than a sad old man's ways who had grown cross and eccentric from hr.ving nothing in the world to love, and disappointed because he had no lineal heir to leave all his fine property to. It was a fine property no one could doubt that. The house was comparatively modern, occupying the site of a much older building. Originally of red brick, it bad been cased with the white stone for which North Derbyshire is famous, at a great expense, I believe, by Squire Wrottisley's father. Except a few fruit trees, no green tiling grew against the walls but round three sides ran a portico supported by pillars twenty feet high, each a single stone. Gardens surrounded the house, and beyond them was a dry moat with a bridge across it in front of the entrance hall of the Moat House,' as it was called. Beyond were the beautiful Derbyshire hills, some of them covered with vendure to the top, some heather-clad, the home of flocks of sheep, and the haunt of numberless grouse and curlew. And PS fur IS the eye could see when a person was standing on the flat roof of the Moat House, every square rod of the soil belonged to Squire Wrottisley. Stephen Fleetwood had never known either of his parents. Perhaps this may account for his strange, rough, fierce character, although a good share of it must have been born in him. He had lived from his infancy at tha Moat House, which was certainly big enough to hold us all three. Taken in out of com- passion, iust as I was, for we neither of us had a pennyworth of patrimony that I ever heard of, Stephen, nevertheless, regarded himself as the rightful heir and future master of the Moat House, and of Wrottisley Chase, as the property round it was called. Oh, how mortally angry he was when, one day, I told him I was a Wrottisley, and lie wasn't! You little devil, you ever dare to say that to me again and he struck me, and I told Uncle,' as we were taught to call him, both what he had done and what he had called me. Uncle, for the only time in his life that I heard of, told the footman to give Stephen six strokes with a cane, and then shut him up in his bedroom for half a day on bread and water. I stood outside and heard the cane, every swish of it, and I heard Stephen cell out as each blow fell upon him I counted the strokes to see that he had the full number: and I was pleased. Wlik!n Stephen came out I told him I was glad, and he looked as if he would like to hit me again but he remembered the cane, and he didn't. Stephen was not one to forgive or forget. Neither am I. I am afraid, for that matter. We were a strange trio, the sardonic, indifferent old man, and the two children who never played together, and who only met to quarrel and hate one another. The next thing I remember as of sufficient importance to be set down here happened when Stephen was eighteen, and had left school, and seemed to me a man. There had been many talks, I know, between the Squire and Stephen as to what the latter was going to be. Stephen's father had been a doctor, and Uncle wanted him to learn his father's profession Stephen did go for a little while to a neighbouring medical man to see if he had a taste for drugs, but nothing came of it except some scrape of a serious nature which made the old man very angry. Stephen himself wished to be an actor. I heard Uncle tell him that he was ugly enough for Richard the Third; but that he could not go on playing that. Stephen was always very sensitive about remarks on his personal appearance. He muttered something now about it being a family likeness,' he supposed. Possibly,' my uncle said in his most sardonic man- ner but not the Wrottisley cast,' wtih a significant glance at me who was siLting in the wide, red-cushioned window seat. I think that besides the question of the property, which always seemed to be on Stephen's mind, the one other thing which made him hate me was the way everyone spoke of my beauty. Then they would add 'Never mind, Master Stephen, handsome is as'hand- some does, you know;' and they did know that ugly as was his mole-scarred face, what he did was uglier still. Stephen dare not report them for their insolence to him, because they knew too much. But I must come to what I was going to tell. One day I was sitting, with a volume of Scott's poems in my hands, in an arbour at some distance from the house, shaded by two large weeping willows. At the entrance the ivy, which grew in abundance, had been allowed to encroach upon the open doorway, so that anyone coming in had to push it on one side or else stoop very low. I was deep in The Lady of the Lake,' and had not looked up for some time when I did I was startled to -Lee Stephen' face looking in, with the ivy round it and such a hire of concentrated hatred upon it as I had never seen before, which is saying a good deal. He must have come up very silently. Of course he knew I was in the bower, as I always went there every morning. As soon as Stephen met my glance, he thrust the ivy away with a fierce push which would have broken any- thing of a more brittle nature, and strode in. I stood up, wondering whether he was not going to murder me straight away. Stephen gave me a great push with his open hand on my chest, which bore the mark for a week afterwards, and thrust me back on the sent. The volume of poems fell faee downwards with crumpled leaves on to the short grass, which formed the floor of the arbour. Stephen stamped fiercely upon it with his heel until the handsome cover cracked beneath his tread. It was the Squire's last present to mo on my twelfth birthday. Sit down, you little fool,' he said, and listen to what I have got to say.' I was not afraid, only fear- fully angry because he had destroyed my beautiful book and if I had been a boy, although six years his junior, I should have flown at him then and there. 'I hate you I hissed out. IV]iat do you want You sneak, to destroy my book.' That old fool,' with a significant indication with his thumb towards the Moat House, gave it to you. He and I have had a row this morning and he-curse him has ordered me off the place. He says you are his heir and he will leave every stick of the Chase and every stone of the Moat House to you that you are a Wrottisley and I am not; although you arc a girl. Look you, I swear you shall never have it; you may beware of me until the day of your death.' And with that he struck me twice on the cheek with his open palm, and in a moment had thrust the ivy again on one side, and was gone. I felt the burning wrong and sting of that blow for. years afterwards but I never heard the word beware,' again until the night, from which everything in my life dates backwards and forwards, about which I spoke at the outset of my storv. It was true what Stephen told me. He and the Squire had had a quarrel, a fearful quarrel, that morn- ing abont Stephen's friendship and alliance in vice with a notorious poacher of the neighbourhood, named Giles Underwood, who lived in a low, cotton spinning village, jus outside the Chase estate. From that time Stephen never lived at the Moat House again, but as years went on the Squire some- times sent him money, and two or three times, in the six years that followed before the Squire's death, he came and stayed for a couple of nights, but the place was not congenial to him with its quiet, old-fashioned ways, any more than his company suited uncle or me. Personally, I neyQi* spoke to him on these visits but preserved an obstinate silence at meals and whenever I was in the same room with him. I never told Uncle of the scene, or I don't believe he would have extended to Stephen even the small amount of forgiveness and civility that worthy did receive from him. Stephen, we knew, had tried many things for a living, and had travelled over half the world in various capa- cities. At the last he met with a Mr De Havilland in one of the States of America, who was a clairvoyant, mesmerist, and conjuror. The two seemed to have suited each other; so I judge Mr De Havilland—that was his professional name—was no beauty and they struck up an alliance together. Once they came to Sheffield, and my uncle heard of their performing, and was very angry. I heard him thank God,' with a piety he rarely nssumed, that Stephen, at any rate, could not put Wrottisley on the bills. I have often thought of that remark since when there was a chance that my name might appear in letters equally large on a some- what similar poster. Soon after the quarrel with Stephen, Uncle made a will leaving all his property to me, but making a pro- vision of < £ 200 a year to Stephen, with the curious pro- vision that it was to be forfeited if he committed any offence against the law of the land and was condemned by a judge or jury of his country. The old man showed me this will, with its curious clause, some two years after it was made, with one of his sardonic smiles. I think the chances are in favour,' he said, of Stephen never enjoying that legacy unless I die soon, and he thinks it worth his while to keep straight. It was on that chance I made it two hundred instead of one. It will be better worth his while.' My uncle was a very fair judge of human nature although, of late years, he had seen only a very limited sample of it. The question of wills and property troubled me but I very little, as it does most girls, in those days of my youth. I was thoroughly well and strong, 1 and had plenty to eat, with an allowance for dress which, for- tunately for me afterwards, I never contrived to spend the whole of, and what could I want more? Still, there was some satisfaction in knowing that Stephen was not to inherit the Chase, and the Moat House for I knew he wanted it so badly. The Squire deposited one copy of that will with his lawyers whohad drawn it up. The other he placed in the top drawer of the writing-table in his library. If there were only one copy,' he remarked, in his calm cold way, Stephen would steal it; but two will baffle him.' One night, when Stephen was staying in the house. about six months before the Squire died., I came into the library late for a book, and found him reading the will. He did not hear me so I withdrew with the pleasant satisfaction that Stephen was aware of the cheerful possibilities his uncle had pictured with regard to his own future. CHAPTER III. Uncle had been failing, from a general decay of nature, for several months at the time my story opens. Latterly, he had kept solely to one room which was just beneath my bedroom, on the side of the Moat House where the trees grew and there was no portico. It was a long room with the bed at one end the part that was used as a bedroom was shut away by a very large screen. The rest had all the furniture of an ordinary sitting-room—a writing-table under the window, easy chairs, and a sofa. Towards the close of the Squire's illness, two nurses, who took alternate shifts, had been added to the establishment from a Nursing Home at Manchester. They were respectable women, at an age when youth is just bsginnmg to iaue into middle life. One of them had said to me one night: We think Squire Wrottiley cannot last more than twenty-four hours. The doctor has promised to come in at the end of his last round. Both of us will sit up to-night with the old gentleman, in case he sees his It was this expression, 'in case he seer- his end, which had been on my mind when I went to bed. !Not which had been on my mind when I went to bed. Not ) that Nurse Wreford meant anything special by it, more thanictating the fact that, in her opinion, the Squire's death was imminent. But the idell fastened upon my imagination Uncle was to see his end.' It was a weird and gruesome thOlgbt this meEting, this vision, this something that the dying man was to see and no one else. The parting of the ways, the plunge into abysuia! dark, the leaving of IIOUSJ and property, and life-an body behind I had seen pictures enough of the grisly visitant. There weve dozens of them in the old books in the big library of the Moat House. But one that was not of the customary skeleton order dwelt on my imaginatioii more than they all. A young girl was lying on a bed, very much as I did that night, a slight rohe of white falling froiii her frame showing- the open white bosom. But the bed was different, an old-fashioned half-tester with heavy curtains at the head. A dark hand had drawn the curtains on one side, and a shrouded monk- ish figure lef.nt over the bed. The girl's eyes met the gaze of that cowled head, with a glance half filmy, half terror-stricken. I knew the shrouded figure was Death. It was a fancy of some old n¡ecliæval artist to dress the sable monarch up as a monk. Probably he had no love for the order. Pictures had always a great fascina- tion for and power over me, and this one more than all. I felt that I might be that girl. There seemed no reason why she-should die, any more than I, except for one terrible bright red spot on her chest, which might have been a plague spot for she was full and rounded, with shoulders as shapely as my own. and apparently she seemed as life-enjoying as I was myself. I knew that the visitor had come to claim her and I shuddered as I undressed ttitt- night, to think that he might come aid claim me. In a week in my loneliness I wished he would. As I dressed and went down that morning, I did not need to be told that the unbidden one had been in the Meat House. It was expressed in the very air of the place, in the subdued, almost stealthy footfalls on the stairs. No windows were to be heard flung up with hasty hand; the housemaid's broom was not taken from its place. The economy of existence was suspended. It was the dark king's Sabbath, which all kept faithfully. On the stairs I met Nurse Wreford, who had spoken to me the night previously. She was going to have told me what had happened but I motioned to her that it was not necessary, that I knew already. Her face sur- prised me not a little. Surely she must have seen this thing in the pursuit of her calling hundreds of times, for she had probably been a nurse these twenty odd years. Neither was her patient one to move her deeply, to awaken her sympathy, or touch her love, or bespeak the depths of tenderness lying somewhere in every womanly native. He had been his cynical, cold, reserved self all through his days of illness to the very last. Yet Nurse Wreford was moved, troubled, frightened almost with a white, drawn, Beared look, I could not help but notice. I passed by her on the stairs, and entered the room below mine, the long, low, half-sitting, lialf-bedroora, in which Uncle had died. I entered the room, and was going to close the door after me, but Nurse Wreford followed me I should have preferred to be alone, but did not say so. I passed round the screen, and for the third time in my life was face to face with the dead. The body was already laid out, and was resting even to the face under a linen sheet of the finest quality marked at one corner with the Wrottisley crest, as all the linen of the Moat House was. A single deep blue, almost black, pansy lay upon the sheet. If the dead man could have been said to have a favourite flower, the pansy was the one. A vase on his mantel-shelf had been fresh filled from the garden every day during the latter part of his ill- ness. Perhaps the pansy had something to do with his lost youth, and some romance that had been bound up and lost with it. This is only supposition and worth very little, except that caring for any flower seemed go contrary to the nature of the cynical old man. I drew the sheet down sufficiently to look upon the face, not disturbing the pansy which rested upon the chest. On many faces, perhaps most, at such a time there is a look of returned youth, of peace and rest, such as has probably been foreign to it for years. There was none such on the Squire's, as I gazed down upon it that June morning. It was stern and set, almost harsh and angry. I turned to Nurse Wreford, who was standing just behind, almost touching me. I do not think the Squire looks very comfortable,' I said, using words which I felt expressed what I meant, but which I knew were wholly inadequate to the chamber of death. She paused before she replied, as if something within her struggled to say more, and her will repressed the suggestion. No. miss I do not think he is. I think at the last he either did or suffered a great wrong, f cannot tell which and that can't make a man happy where he is gone.' I looked at her, thinking the night watch and the— to me—terrible event which had marked its tenour must have affected her nervous system, and made her not quite herself. I replied, therefore, simply Where is he gone Ah, that is the question.' Then, dropping her voice, she added Perhans he is nearer to us even now thau we think.' I shuddered slightly, and put the sheet back again. The idea was not refreshing-. What did I feel P I had not loved the old man. Nobody could—except his favourite dog. He simply would not let you. But now he was gone I felt his miss terribly. I had grown used to his existence, his personality, all those twelve years—the most important in anyone's life—that I had been under the roof-tree of the Moat House. He had been kind to me after a fashion. At any rate, he had never been unkind. He had sheltered me from danger, and the stress and moil and toil of life, as I was not ungrateful for this negative protection. Now I was absolutely alone. I was more fatherless and motherless, because I knew more than on the day that, at six years old, I had first crossed the hall step below. I had no friend in the world and I had one enemy, a bitter, implacable enemy, whose face with its ugly mole scar rose up before me in imagination on the opposite side of our great-uncle's bed, as I had seen it on the morn- ing of the quarrel which was to bear fruit now (as I imagined), peering at me from between the ivy growths in the arbour. Where Stephen Fleetwood was now, I had not the slightest idea. That I should see him shortly, as soon as the news got blazed abroad, I felt perfectly sure. What I did not know was that I should see him within an hour. My mind still dwelling on Stephen Fleetwood, I crossed the room mechanically, with no particular intention, governed by some controlling instinct within, which was certainly not born of any effort of my reasoning faculties. I went straight to the writing-table at the further end remote from the bed. Perhaps I intended to look out from the window which was wide open just above it. I cannot tell. Whereas what I did is photographed absolutely clearly on my recollection, the motives which prompted me are in a perfectly impenetrable haze. Lying on the writing-table was a sheet of long blue foolscap, which attracted my attention in a moment. In a second I was alert once more. Dream and senti- ment had alike vanished. Even my feminine mind grasped the fact in an instant that this was a Will—a N ew W Nurse Wreford had followed me with her silent tread, the outcome of long habits acquired during years of nursing. I took up the sheet of foolscap, and read as follows:— I, Nicholas Reginald Wrottisley, of the Moat House, Wrottisley Chase, in the County of Derbyshire, a man upon whom death is fast coming but whose mind and tacuities are as clear as they have ever been, do hereby declare that this is my last will and testament, revoking all former wills whatsoever by me set forth. I also declare that I am moved to make this will at the last moment of my life by the feeling that I have done a great wrong, during the later years of my age, to my great-nephew, Stephen Fleetwood, and specially by some expressions I have used in regard to him in my former will. I ask him to pardon me, and I now declare him—the aforesaid Stephen Fleetwoocl-iiiy sole legatee and heir- at-law to all my property, real as well as personal.' This will was signed by Nicholas Reginald Wrottisley, and witnessed by Ann Wreford and Margaret Green- slade (the two nurses), with the usual formalities signi- fying that the testator had signed in their presence, and that they had signed in his presence, and in that of each other. The will was dated that very morning. I turned upon Nurse Wreford, who was very white, and more dazed than ever. Is this true? I asked. I I suppose it is,' she assented. I You suppose it is. What do you mean by your sup- pose I spoke sharply, feeling that I could have shaken the sense out of her. She put up her hands feebly as if to ward of my anger, as though it had taken the mate- rial shape of a blow. I cannot think how we came to do it. It is against our rUles: I cannot imagine what happened, or how it was done.' What do you mean? I questioned helplessly, think- ing hers was the feeblest intellect and the worst balanced mind of any with which I had ever had to do. Why, we must have signed it you see Nurse Greenslade's name is printed, and she always prints. Oilly it is against the rules and we cannot remember. It was a trying night,' she added after a pause, apolo- getically. I did not profess to understand her. But the last remark fitted into the explanation I had already given myself of Nurse Wreford's evidently hopeless mental condition. It may lose us our places if it gets about,' she went on. Yet we must have done it, for there are our sig- natures. Yet it is dead against the rules, which say, No nurse is to sign any document, deed, or will in any house to which she is sent but is to adhere strictly to the duties of her calling, never meddling in the private affairs of her patients.' Then, after a pause, she went on, in a lower tone, which was almost sepulchral in the depth of its stillness 'And we must have signed it, too; for we found him there when—when—when we found him there when we roused ourselves these last words, for which she had evidently been searching her brain, seemed to satisfy her. He died there sit- ting- at that table, not in his bed. Look-his head dropped and blotted the paper there before the ink was dry.' So far this was true, at any rate for her own sig- nature, 'Ann Wreford '—she had signed as the second witness, the last writing on the paper, in fact-was slightly blotted and smudged. I felt it was hopeless to question the woman further. I was only getting more involved every moment in the maze of this woman's mental confusion. The great fact remained. There was the will, not, indeed, in the dead man's handwriting, but the signature was his without a doubt, and it was duly witnessed and attested by the two nurses in attendance. That it was dead against their rules, as Nurse Wreford confessed, mattered r nothing in the world to me. I was an outlaw, and I Stephen Fleetwood the heir. The oiG. man at the last moment in a dying freak, which in some ways did not accord Vw-uilv with the sardonic character of his mind, had turned topsy-turvy the policy of his dpclining vearg, lH., made Stepen Fleetwood the heir and left me one in the cold. I only wondered he bad not added, to complete the grim humour of the thing, a similar clc.use about me and a jury of my countrymen, to the one lie had put in his last will about his great-nephew 8tC'phen. I said so to myseif bitterly—and wronged him: heaven forgive me for traducing the d(d in my moment of bitter disappointment. That wculd have been just like the Squire.1 Out lo-id I in;ld So Stephen Fleetwood has outwitted the eld man after all and instead of stealing the old will, he has managed to make him .write a new one.' Hardly bad the words issued out of my mouth than the man himself stood before me in the room. There we were facing one another, I with the will, and the in fresh upon it, making him the heir, still iu my hand, he with a malicious grin of triutrph and isittisfaction lighting up his steel grey eyeii and ugly mole scar. And beyond the screen lay the dead man undor his sheet, and on his face that look of disappoint- ment and rage, stereotyped by the master stone- ma?on—Death. f (To be continued.) -+- [PCBLISIIED BY SPECIAL ARB.i.XGEMENT.]
THE FORGE OF LIFE, By J. MONK FOSTER, Author of "A Pit-Brow Lassie." "'The Cotton King," Slaves of Fate," The Watchman of Orsden Moss," In Red Snow Written," Judith Saxon," The Queen of the Factory," &c., &c. COPYRIGHT. Thus at the flaming forge of life Our fortunes must be wrought, And on its sounding anvil shaped Each burning deed and thought." Longfellow. CHAPTER XL VIII.-THlt ROMANCE OF THF REAL. For a day or two all the good folk of Pentonmoor had been fairly agotr with excitement. A few hoars after Miss Ashbourne and her friend bad that interview with Captain Walters, and the Rev Charles Bardesley had appeared on the scene with the dying confession of the German, the atirring news had got bruited about the town; the last editions of the evening papers had got hol. of both stories, and ere the short spring day gave place to night the romantic close of the Pentonmoor dyna- mite outrages was in the mouths of all men and women. Somehow the truth had got out also respecting the flight of the two girls from Braxholme Park, coming back to Pentonmoor to save Frank Elles- mere, instead of journeying to London to join Russell- Wentworth. Molly had not insisted upon her late maid maintaining a scrupulous silence on that point and so Miss Thompson had spoken freely to all and sundry whom she met respecting the frcts of the case. Next day everybody knew that Russell-Went- worth had gone to London to obtain a special licence to marry Moilv Ashbourne; that at the last minute Molly had refused to marry him and bad come back home to save her old lover from prison that Frank had been with her in the Moorhurst grounds at the very moment when the blinding flashes and roars of the dynamite explosions had startled the mid- night air, and that rather than betray the girl's indiscretion in meeting him secretly when she was Russell-Wer.tworth's promised wife, he bad pre- ferred to go to gaol, from which he had been saved only by Molly's ultimate bravery and the confession of the djing German. These things had been the talk of the whole town. Maids and women in cotton mills and workshops had eagerly discussed the doings of the fair ex-factory lass who had ultimately declined to wed even a real baronet's son while her own true lover lay iu prison. At the ironworks and in the mines those who bad known Frank spoke enthu- siastically of his fidelity to a woman who had cast him off; and wondered how he would reward the fickle damsel who had rendered him such tardy justice. Next evening the newspapers contained the full text of the dead German's confession, and above it was a statement to the effect that Frank Ellesmere bad been liberated. Those matters but served to keep the public interest alive; and later, when it became known that Simon Eilesmere had left the town, and that the released man had not returned to it, folk began to ask one another if it was not likely that the two Ellesmeres bad shaken the dust of the place from their feet and gone to return no more. But it was a few days later still ere the climax in the excitement reached its greatest height. Then both the local newspapers published an article which literally astounded everybody save those already in the know." The article referred to was identically the same in both. It was to the following effect :— A ROMANCE OF REAL LIFE. It is an old time-honoured saying that truth is stranger than fiction and that it is literally so most of our readers will be inclined to admit after a perusal of the following strange, curious, romantic yet absolutely matter of fact chronicle which we have the privilege to give first to the world. That storv in itself is of so remarkable a character-will be considered so far-fetched' and fantastic in its very nature-that we should not dare to give pub- licity to it had we not been assured by the careful reference to the highest authorities and sources that this romance of real life is literally true. "For some considerable period now a^ young gentleman who was known commonly as Frank Eilesmere' has been a prominent figure among the ironworkers of this town. The man's personality was striking enough in itself, and of late days a variety of circumstances have combined to throw the fierce light of public notice still more strongly upon him. A little while ago some thousands of workers were locked out at the Pentonmoor Ironworks. Into the rights and wrongs of that affair it is no business of ours to enter. But from the outset of the struggle 'Frank Ellesuiere' threw in his lot with his co-workers, and in private and public he defended the action of the men. Then came those deplorable dynamite outrages, aud, almost instantly suspicion fell on the man in question. As everybody will remember, this young man was arrested on suspicion, and ultimately, the mere weight of circumstantial evidence, which we need not recapitulate, seemed to justify the committal of the accused to the Assizes. How that, event ended we may pass over. From two widely dif- ferent sources ample proof of 'Frank Eilesmere's indisputable guiitlebsness was forthcoming, and he was set free not alone without a stain npoc his character, but. with the sympathy and warmest respect of the whole community. But the strangest part of the chronicle has yet to be told. The indignities to which the young man was subjected have not been without an ade- quate recompense. Ono effect of the fierce light cast upon Frank Eilesmere' has been to lay bare an almost incredible fact. This young man is proved to be the closest relatiou-tbe son, no ]ess- of Pentonmoor's greatest citizen, Sir Russell- Went- worth, Bart., M.P. The facts of this curious piece of life history are as singular as they are involved. Considerations of space debar us from entering into the details here and now. But a sufficient outline of the whole may be indicated, in order to enable the reader to arrive at a sensible understanding of the case. Briefly stated then, the facts are these A year or two before the present Sir Russell- Wentworth married the widow of the late Jonathau Went,worth, he contracted a marriage with a young and b' autiful Cheshire lady of the name of Made- line Ur-y. But unfortunate circumstances cuuve man and wife apart; they never met again, and when Frederic Russell—as he then was—heard of his first wife's death he married again, never dreaming that Madeline Grey had left a son. That son was adopted by Simon Eilesmere the lad took his adopted father's name; many yr. "8 drifted away, and then the two Ellesmeres c.e to Pentonmoor, as many townsfolk will still remem- ber well enough. As Simon Ellesmera fiile. a responsible position under Sir Russell-Wentw they were often thrown together; and at last i arrest and imprisonment of Simon's supposed n led to the prosecution of inquiries, which decided beyond the shadow of a doubt that Frank Elles- uiere was in sober truth the son of Madeline Grey and Frederic Russell. So incontestable are all these fpcts that we are authorised to say that the worthy Member for Pentonmoor has no desire to dispute them. Kay, further, Sir Russell-Wentwortn will not only acknowledge his elder son in an honourable man- ner, but is prepared to make such provision for his future as the worthy baronet's great fortune will enable him so easily to do. Moorhurst Lodge is at present untenanted, and we understand that the Russell-Wentworths will permanently reside henceforth at their new place in Sussex. But it is anticipated that Francis Grev Russell Frank Ellesmere's lawful cognomen-wil
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| CAM RE TAX R A J L WAY j CHEAP WTEEK-END EXCURSION TICKETS Are now issued on EVERY FHILAY AND SATURDAY. •Birmingham. Wolverhampton. Walsall, Peterboiough, ^Leicester, *L>erby, Burton-on-T rent, Stafford, ♦Coventry, II ilanchester, Preston, Blackburn, Bolton, Leeds, Dewsbury, Huddersfield, Liver- pool, Birkenhead, Wig-an, and Warring- ton, from I Oswestry, Llanymynech, Llanfyllin, Montgomery elshpool, Newtown, Llanidloes, Machvnlleth, Bonh, Aberystwyth, Aberdorey, Towyn, Bar. I mouth, Dolgeiley, Harlech. Portmadoc. Penrhyn. deudraeth, Crice;eth, and Pwllheli. SIMILAR TICKETS ARE ALSO ISSUED I From Aberystwyth, Bonn, Aberdovev Towyn Barmouth, Dolgel ley, Harlech, Penrhyndendraetfa Portmadtc, Criccieth, and Pwllheli to" SHREWSBURY. Tickets to bese stations are not issued from Welshpool. EXTEXiJED ARRANGEMENTS KOK THE ISSCE OF TOURIST TICKETS FROM CA^KKIAX STATIONS TO THE VARIOUS HEALTH RESORTS IN ENGLAND, SCOTLAND, AND IRELAND' ARE NOW IN OPERATION. For full particulars see Tourist Programmes, which may be naci at all stations. EVERY FRIDAY AND SATURDAY, CHEAP WEEK-END & 10 DAYS, TICKETS Will be issued from Liverpool, Manchester Stock- port, Chester, Crewe, Stafford, Shrewsbury, Brad. ford, Leeds, Oldham, Huddersfield, Halifax. Roch- oaie, Wakefield, Blackburn, Choriev, Accrington^ Burnley, Bolton, VVigan, Warrington, Preston Leicester, Derby, Burton, Stoke, Burslem, Hanley Birkenhead, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Wed- nesbury, Walsall, Peterborough, Northampton, Hull, Sheffield, Barnsley, &-c., &-c., to Oswestry. Llanvmynech, Llanfvllin, Welshpool, Montgomery, Newtown, Llanid- loes, Machynlleth, Borth, Abervstwyth, Aberdovey, Towyn, Barmouth. Dolgellev, Harlech, Portraadoc, Criccieth, & Pwllheli. CHEAP WEEK END TICKETS (Friday and Saturday to' Monday or Tuesday) will be issued on EVERY FRIDAY AND SATURDAY Also 14 DAYS' EXCURSION TICKETS From nearly all Cambrian Inland Stations, to I Machynlletb, Borth, Aberystwyth. Aber. dovey, Towyn, Barmouth, Dolgelley, Harlech, Portmpdoc, Criccieth, and Pwllheli, also to Rhayader, Builth Wells, & Brecoa. o- ON EVERY THURSDAY and SATURDAY in JANUARY, FULL-DAY & HALF-DAY EXCUBSION TICKETS will be issued to LIVER. POOL (Lime Street, Edge Hill, Spellow, or Walton), via Whitcburch and Crewe, and to SEACOMBE, via Eilesmere. Wrexham, and Hawarien Bridge; and to MANCHESTER (Lon- don Road), as under :—From Oswestry, ul] day at 840 a.m. aild naif-day at 11 50a.m. and 1 55 p.m. (via Whitchurch and Crewe) from Ellesmere at 9 0 a.m for full day, and 12 5 and 2 15 p.m. for half-day; to Seacombe only (via Wrexham) 9 5 a.m. for full day, and 12 10 p.m. for half-day Third-cisss fares for full day To Seacombe and Liverpool, 3s 6a To Manchester, 4s. Half-day To Seacombe, Liverpool and Manchester. 2s 6d. Passengers return the same day from Liverpool (Lime Street) at 6 50 p.m., or 11 55 p.m., Edge Hill at 12 0 midnight, Seacombe 7 5 p.m. and from Manchester (London Road) at 7 0 p.m., or 12 0 midnight. RAMS Are now conveyed between Stations on the Cambrian Railways, at a charge as for Two Dogs, with a MINIMUM OF TWO SHILLINGS EACH RAM EVERY THURSDAY AND SATURDAY Is JANUARY, 1900, CHEAP rAY EXCURSIONS WILL BE RUN TO LIVERPOOL AND MANCHESTER From Llanidloes 6 40 a.ra., Newtown 7 12, Mont- gomery 7 28, Welshpool 7 50, Llanvmynech 8 15, Llanfyllin 7 35, Oswestry 8 40, Ellesmere 9 0. and Fenn's Bank 9 21. For times of trains at intermediate statione, s handbills. — — ON EVERY THURSDAY and SATURDAY in JANUARY and until further notice. Cheap Day and Half-Day EXCURSION TICKETS wil be issued to SEACOMBE, and HAWARDEN (for Harwarden Castle), from Uswestry, Ellesmere, Overton-on-Dee, Bangor-on-Dee, and Marchwiel. 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'> They iuclade Bookings from Bath, Bristol, Cam. bridge, Darlington, Duruatn, Glouceoter, Lincoln Cheltenham, Harrogate, Middlesborough, Sew- castle-on-T*. ne, N'otniagham, Norwich, hcarbprough, Sunderland, lynv.-iiiwat.h, Worcester, &c. PIC-NIC PLEASURE PARTIES' Tickets, at reduced fares, are issned (with certair limitations) at all Cambrian Stations to Parties tint, less than Six First-class or Ten I iiirul-el, passero-ers desirous of making Pleasure Excursions to places on or adjacent to tins railway. Sin^e fares for double journe; will be charged for parties of 30 First-class or 50 Thira-ciass pas- sengers. To obtain these tickets application must be made to Mr. W. H. Gough, Superintendent of the Line Oswestry or at ajy of the Stations not less that three days before the date of the Excursion. Further information regarding Excursion Train* and Tourist Arrangements on the Cambrian Rail- wars can be obtained on application to Mr W. B. Gough, Superintendent of the Line. Oswestrv. 0. S. DENNISS. Oswestry, Oct., 1899. General Manager PRLXTJXG of every description executed with dispatch at the Conny TIMES Offcee. Welsh- Pool. I irst-elass Commercial Work a speciality j Ks'imates given.
shortly take possession of the fine old house and make his home there, when, it is rumoured, he will again resume his work at the ironworks, but in a higher sphere. To the father and son so strangely and happily brought together we wish, and feel assured our readers will wish also, long life and all happiness." Thousands perused the foregoing narrative, and murmured their admiring wonder; tens of thou- sands heard of it, and declared that it was just like a bit out of a play or a sensational novel anc the babble and wonder caused by the event in Penton- I moor was ni p] v tremendous for a short time. Aud of all the myriads who read, talked, and wondered, not half-a-dozen were aware of what had transpired behind the ssenes. That the facts were as the local papers had stati3d them there was no gainsaying. The whole story must be true or the newspaper foik would never have dared to relate it in such a categorical manner. Had it been otherwise Sir Russell-Wentworth would have been down on editors and proprietors at once with an action for scandalous libel. So the crowd took the whole matter for granted, and didn't bother o'ermuch so far as the missing details were concerned. How the world would have stormed, laughed, shouted, jibed at, denounced, the opulent aud honoured baronet had it but known, not a portion of the truth, but the whole of it, from the time of that simple and quiet wedding in the Isle of Man, to the denouement in the con- eervatory at Moorhurst. As a matter of fact that statement in the papers had been inspired by the Ironmaster himsell. Realising, as he had done, that the revelation of the whole of the damning truth could only be pre- vented by the voluntary publication of so much of it as would set his elder son right in the eyes of the world, he had grappled with the difficulty man- fully, with the result already indicated. But to acknowledge Frank Eilesmere as his son by an earlier marriage was only the easier half of the sore trouble he was called upon to grapple and overcome. His second wife was no wife at all, in face of the law, until he made her so, and to explain his own weakness and earlv iniquity was a task that must be faced and fought with. Even in that matter Sir Russell-Wentworth had borne hinaself like a man. On the morning follow- ing that stormy iutenriew with Simon Eilesmere he bad hurried away to Braxholme Park; had the courage to throw himself on Lady Russell-Went- worth's mercy and tell her all; and after that loving woman's tempest of tears, reproaches, lamentations and denunciations had worn itself away, she had the common sense to follow the baronet's advice, and pursue the only path re- maining out of the harrowing deadlock. Proceeding to the Metropolis, as already indi- cated, the Member for Pentonmoor and his good lady had sought the counsel of an eminent divine, had explained the quandary in which they found themselves entangled, and thus it had chanced that while Russeli-Wentworth was seeking a special lioence in order to make Aloliv Ashbourne his wife, that young gentleman's father and mother were making arrangements to be quietly married. By the time Sir Russell-Wentworth and his wife returned to Braxholme Park "Frank Eilesmere" was a free man again, Molly Ashbourne was back at Pentonmoor, Simon Ellesmers had retired for ever from his post at the Ironworks, and the iron. master's second son had vanished on along holiday in a perfect fury of discomfiture and envenomed spleen. CHAPTER XLIX.—"ALLS WELL THAT ENDS WFLL." Fortunately for pretty Molly Ashbourne, that young damsel bad not to face her mother alone when she set foot again so unexpectedly in her home. Her big, honest-hearted father gpened the door for her; he cried out in hearty joy at the sight of her sweet face, and with him at her back the lass no longer was afraid to encounter her maternal parent's acrid tongue. Once safe inside the house, poor Molly had giver vent to her long pent-up feelings, and for some time neither the forgeman nor his wife could make any- thing of her swift, fierce, and quite uncontrolled fit of weeping. But at length the girl mastered her emotion, and then her budget of news was tumbled out in some fashion. She told her father everything—omitting none of the multitude of details with which the reader is already acquainted, and when she had concluded she was much more contented for although Mrs Ash- bourne's brow was thunderous, and her fine eyes I were flashing daggers at her daughter, the brawny irouworker's commendations of Molly's common- sense and bravery were warm, even enthusiastic. I y ou'o done quite reet, lass Ashbourne cried, as be kissed the girl's rare, wet face proudly. "'Twas a mistake to e'er set up for bein' a lady at a', an' I've said so many a time. But I'm glad j you'vo getteu rid of that young prig, au' come back I home again. Frank Ellesmere's worth a hundred o' Hussell-Wentworih's sort any day in't' week- an' I've allus said so!" For several days mother and daughter passed one another in the house almost like strangers. The forgeman had juat commenced work again, and Mrs Ashbourne and Molly were often left together. The ¡ girl could guess the drift of her parent's thoughts, and yet she hersalf was happy beyond measure in re having escaped that marriage her mother had set her heart upon. But a few days wrought. a great change in the elder woman. Then it had become known that "Frank Ellesmere" was in reality Sir Rnssell- Weutworth's elder son, and that announcement worked a swift revolution in the spirit of the ambitious mother's dreams. Too late she realised how much she had missed or lost in urging her comely offspring to set her cap at Russell-Went- worth. Through her Molly had discarded the sub- stance to grasp at its shadow. Instantly the transition of feeling was apparent in Mrs Ashbourne. She humbled herself befoie her daughter became sympathetic, friendly, importun- ate in her advances. One day when she and Mollv were alone—it was the day following those start- ling announcements iu the local newspapers—the mother seized an opportunity of speaking. Mary, dear, I am ever so pleased now that you ran away from young Russell-Wentworth at "the last moment. Even had you married him folks would always have blamed you for throwing up a poor lover for a rich one. Besides, I alwavs really cared more for Frank than I did for his half-brother he was ever so honest, handsome, and straight-tor- ward in his ways. I am afraid, mother," Molly answered that you never tried to show h.im your real feel- ings then." IVell. you know why," Mrs. Ashbourne said with a flushed face. It was for your sake, lone that I acted as I did." I believe you, mother. But we were both vr-ng, and we deserve to suffer now." Bnt, Molly," and the mother's voice dropped to a confidential whisper, "if you have willingly lost Sir RUSBel1- Wentworth's younger son you may win the elder one yet, I think." Mother and the girl's sweet face flamed with | shame and wrath for an instant. Do you imagine j that I shall ever dare to face that wronged man again ? I feel that I should die of otter shame if I were to meet him even. Oh, mother mother!" Molly cried, in a sadden tempest of remorseful tears, you have helped me to wreck mv life. I know now when it is too late. all that Frank was and is to me. If he were a beggar—an outcast—I would follow him to the world's end but now he would rightly shun me, as he would a vile woman." 1 was wrong-we were both wrong, dear," the mother answered. But I never dreamt how noble a man could be till I learnt that Frank, even lov- ing you as he did refused to say the words which would not only have secured him his liberty, but would have torn you from Russell -WentwortL's side. That was love indeed "And that was the man whose love I flouted, whose keart I trod upon, for the sake of that thing his half-brother! But God is just and my panish- ment is deserved." He must love you still, dear Mary. Such men as he never forget the woman they first adore. Cheer up, dear, the best may happen yet." I tell yon that I shall never dare to look him in the face again!" Molly answered, bitterly. I am ¡' going back to the mill on Monday, and henceforth I will never dream of raising my eyes to a man again. I have made my bed and I must lie upon it now The girl was as good as her word. In a few davs everybody knew that Molly Ashbourne was back again at her looms in tie factory and only the most callous, ignorant and impertinent of her work- mates ever thought of questioning her about or twitting her upon her unfortunate chopping and changing of lovers. But even the least observant of her co-workers and acquaintances were able to note the marked alteration in the girl. Hitherto her glorious beauty had made Molly self-satisfied and egotistic she had been saucy, full of sharp words and sweet smiles had carried herself as one who knew that her per- fect womanly graces made her a very queen of those among whom she worked and lived. those among whom she worked and lived. Now she was staid and thoughtful-eyed as a much older woman; her utterances were few and never frivoloas even some of her rare colouring had vanished, and she seemed no longer to take an absorbing interest in her own lc veliness. She went out but seldom of an evening after work was done; on Saturday nights she was to be seen only with her parents, and her Sundays were devoted to school and church. And thus a month, almost two, slipped away, and Simon Ellesmere and Frank Grey Russell were still conspicuoas at Pentonmoor by their absence. Then at the beginning of June a faint ripple of interest stirred the town, owing to the rumour that preparations were being made at Moorhurst Lodge for the incoming of the new master. Molly Ashbourne was one of the first to near of this. Coming home from the factory one evening she chanced to come across her old friend and one- time maid, Hester Thompson. In a moment tue girl had greeted the other warmly, saying How glad I am to see you, Molly. And I've great news for you, too. To-morrow morning I go back to Moorhurst; and in a week your old—well, Mr Francis Grey Russell, and Simon Eilesmere will be back again to stay." Molly's face flamed red, then paled, and as soon as possible she hurried away. At home she fled to her own little room and had a good cry there, and when Mrs Ashbourne heard the news it was a day later, and her daughter didn't tell her. In a week Frank and Simon were domiciled at Moorhurst; and a couple of days afterwards tJoe town WM talkiag about them both. They had been off on a long holiday it seemed; had been to a score of places at homo and on the Continent; and both men had oomo back krenzed and better-looking and more ch«ery-tongned than ever. As the days want 011 it seemed to Molly that all her little world had met and talked to Frank. Her father was full of him one evening. The new master of Moorhurst was just as honest, good-natured and unpretentious as of old. He had met a crowd of his former friends and workmates; had spoken to one and all of them in his -cheery wav; h:, taken them into a hostelry and at-ood treat like a man and a brother; was going to visit the ironworks on the following day had stated that the works were to be converted into a great limited company, that he was going to be one of the directors, and that fine times were in store for the ironworkers. Molly winced, but she made no sign. Deep down in her heart there lurked one passionate desire. Herself unseen, how she would like to look upon her big handsome lover again. How willingly she would have bartered five years of her life only to know now what he thought of her. Had contempt, disgust, hatred, rooted up all the nobler feelings he had once cherished ? One evening chance and:tb;o- desire of a friendly workmate took Molly in the direction of Penling- ham. They were returning shortly before dusk when Molly's companion met her lover not far from Old Penton. So Molly SAid good night to the other two, and set out homeward alone. As she drew near the summit of the upland road her thoughts flew back to another summer evening many months before. She was driving then with Rassell. Weutworth. and her poor discarded lover was standing on the roadside petrified, while his delighted rival was laughing aloud at his rival's amaze and pain. She bit her lip in mute agonised woe at that reoollection, and the next instant she herself was chained to the earth. There, not a score of yards away trom her, was Frank himself. A sob was wrung from her blanched lips, but she could not evade him. A few moments more and they would be abreast, and she knew not how to act. She would have flown had her limbs been willing—uhe prayed dumbly that the earth might swailow her and her shame. Then she was faintly conscious that he was near her and speaking. Miss Ashbourne—Molly! Are we to be friends?'' Why not despise, loathe, curse me!" she cried huskily, with bent face and quivering lips. Because, Molly, I love you still. Do I not know that you redeemed yourself at the last moment P Haven't I heard that, even if the poor German bad not confessed your word would have set me free ? I love you. Mollv—I shall iove you for ever, God knows, and I want you to be my wife 1 tShe could not answer her heart was too full for words. But when he raised her wet face and kissed it he read her answer in her eyes. Then he clasped her te him and kissed her a hundred times. TuiE END.