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POET'S CORNER.

, HER VENGEANCE

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HER VENGEANCE BY B. R. P I] II O N U FF. Author of "The Choice," "The Spin of the Coin," etc., etc. CHAPTER XXI.-A METAMORPHOSIS. To Hugh and to his uncle it was a weird ex- perience enough, this ride in the night over the level prairie, beneath the clear star-strewn fcky, the faint darkness around them, in front Dodd's heavy figure motionless on the seat from which he drove. The intense silence of the great prairies was broken only by the sound of the horses' hoofs as they trotted steadily on, end only at long intervals did they catch sight! of a light gleaming in the windows of some isolated farm. "You will have to hold on tight here," said Dodd, turning presently in his seat; there is a steep ravine coming. I must see all is safe and tight." He got out of his wagon, and began to whistle tome merry tune, loud and shrill in the huge night. Apparently he found something wrong, for he came back to the side of the wagon, mut- tering something about wanting a candle. He foana one, and lighted it and held it up in the air above his head. The soft night breeze extinguished it. He lighted it and held it up again, higher than before, and Hugh leaned over the side of the wagon. "Why are you holding that so high" he ask- ed; "one might suppose you were signalling." Dodd dropped the candle with a curse, and put his foot upon it. "You can do what you like," he said with many oathe; "jump out and walk.away back to town if you don't like it." "Shall we?" said W<n-h to his uncle; "it would be wisest, I think." "When we are nearly at our destination? Don't be a fool," retorted Mr Hetherington obstinately, so obsessed by his dreams of manu- facturing diamonds that he had no thoughts for anything else nor any heed for warnings or suspicious occurrences; "go back indeed. What are you thinking of? Mr. Dodd, please drive on—we are only wasting time." "Look." said Hugh, and thought he saw an answering light flash out far ahead, but it vanished in a moment, and when his uncle looked he saw nothing. "What is the matter with you?" Mr. Hether- ington grumbled crossly, "do try to ph 1 bit." look here," said Dodd, aggressively, "if we are going on, that fellow has got to keep a civil tongue, or else me and him will scrap. "Oh, we will!" Mr. Hetherington promised easjerly. "All the same." said Hugh, "there is some- one following us." "Now you are lying," said Dodd. But even as he spoke, they all heard the sound of horse's hoofs, approaching the way they themselves had come. "Do you know who it is" asked Hugh, look- ing suspiciously at Dodd. At that Mr. Hetherington jumped out of the wagon with a show of agility no one would have grven. him credit for, and promptly collared "Have you bsen selling up?" he said fiercely. "I know no more than you who it is," said Dodd, without appearing to resent this, or making any attempt to free himself; "just you shut up and listen Hugh had jumped down from the wagon, too. "If you have been up to anything." he said quietly to Dodd, "I shall wring your neck." "Don't be a fool," retorted Dodd, "and make this other fool leave liold of me. Or else you draw the wagon out of the trail behind that bluff." He pointed to a group of poplars on their left hand. "Then come here, and we will watch and see who it is; likely enough it is iust some fellow on his way home after a whis- Key spree—but it is possible What was possible he did not say. but grew silent while Hugh led the horses behind the bluff, where he made them fast, and returned to the side of the trail, where he crouched down beside his uncle and Dodd. Nearer came the sound of the horse, driven tet a gallop; the light buggy it drew fairly bounded on the trail. "They must slow down here," said Dodd in a whisper, "this rough ground, and it will give us a chance to see." In fact, near where they waited, the buggy drew up sharply, and one of its occupants jump- ed down with a lighted lamp in his hand. "Hannah!" said Mr. HetheringtoD in a hoarse whisper, as the light of the lantern shon4 era the face of the man carrying it; "it is Hannah," and his face flushed darkly with anger and indignation. "The road dips here, my lord," they heard Hannah's voice saying "I think this will b" that ravine we were warned of; perhaps'I had better lead the horse across?" "Very well," answered another voice two of the unseen listeners at once recognised as be- longing to Lord Ambrose Boustead "Hi. hi!" shouted Mr. Hetherington, sud- õenly losing his grip on Dodd, and rushing for- ward. Hannah turned quickly, holding up his lan- tern, b,ut before he understood what was hap- pening the millionaire was upon him and had knocked hi mhead over heels. "Hullo!" cried Lord Ambrose, "what is all this?" and he leaned down from his seat to see what was happening. "You villain, you thief, you, come out of that," cried Mr. Hetherington, and seized him by the collar of his coat as he stopped, and fairly pulled him neck and crop from his seat to fall sprawling on the ground. The horse, startled by these violent proceed- ings, jumped forward, and Mr. Hetherington at once exploded into a yell—horrible, piercing, unique-so that it is no wonder the animal went off at a gallop, vanishing in the darkness at a speed that seemed to suggest it did not in- tend to pause that side of the Canadian border. "Well, I am blessed!" said Dodd in amaze- ment, "who would have thought the old man had all that get up to him?" "Come back to the wagon," said Mr. Hether- incton, running towards them. This seeming the wisest course to pursue, the three men ran at the best of their speed to the bluff, where Hugh had hitched the horses to a convenient poplar. They tumbled in, Dodd snatched the reins, and in a moment they were off, followed by cries of raere and wild sum- monses to stop that came from the darkness behind them, and by a sound of running to and fro as Lord Ambrose and Hannah, picking themselves up, realised what had happened, and set off in a wild and hopeless pursuit, first of Dodd's wagon, and next of their own buggy, which was already fully a mile away aesar's ghost," chuckled Dodd, turning to look admiringly at Mr. Hetherington, "that was slick, that was!" Mr. Hetherinjrton was breathing hard. and his face was still flushed with indignation. "What did they want?" he demanded, "com- ingr prying into my affairs, trying to see what they can get for themselves; one could hardly believe such people existed out of gaol; think 1 they would like a share in the diamonds, I suppose." "Diamonds? What diamonds?" asked Dodd wonderingly. "Eh? Oh, nothing )., answered Mr. Hether- ington, and then Hugh heard him whisper to himself: "All the kingdoms of the world, and the fflory of them." "Oh, well." said Dodd, turning to his horses, "it was real slick, and I didn't think you had it in you, and if them two fellows chase their horse and buggy that way, they'll get pretty badly lost. It's real bad land over there for miles—not much water, and nary a farm nor nothing." Having delivered himself of this opinion, Dodd became occupied with his horses, and said no more. Hr. Hetherington sank into his own thoughts of diamonds, and their manufacture; of all that that great secret, meant; of such wealth as few human beings have ever dreamed of, all concentrated in his hands; of his power spread far over the earth till there should hardly be his equal in the whole world. "And Delia," EHid to himself. "Delia is getting over her for Hugh very nicely, I believe, and—well, if an American heiress can be in the running for the Italian throne, where need Delia fear to aim, when she has such wealth and power behind her as this secret will give us?" But at that moment Delia, lying1 awake in her bed at the hotel, was thinking neither of principalities and powers, nor of Hugh. but only of the small, calm-eyed young man who had retaliated so disconcertingly on her out- breaks of temper. Delia had a curious notion that if she were much with such a man, losing one;6 temper would soon pall as an amusement. Then she made up her mind she would like to kill him, but could not hide from herself that the early death of this young man would ap- pear to her as a great misfortune. As for Hugh, his thoughts were busy neither with thoughts of wealth, nor with dreams of power, nor yet with Delia, nor of Lord Am- brose and his man chasing their runaway horse through the darkness, and probably get- ting hopelessly lost, nor 6ven of the danger- ous errand they themselves were engaged on. Instead, it was of Eira that he dreamed, and of the look he hoped would grow upon her face when she saw him approach. This was his dream, and to realize it he would have fac- ed a thousand times greater dangers; and now he dreamed it as his uncle dreamed of diamonds bigger than the world has known, and as another, an old man not now far away, dreamed of a dead son whose spilt blood still cried unavailingly to heaven. While as for Eira herself, she was sound asleep, having fallen into a mood of resigna- tion, and believing that the past chapter of her life was closed for ever. Dodd turned in his seat. "We are nearly there?" he said; "can you See that light?" They looked, and far away saw a small light twinkling, raised, as it seemed, some little dis- tance above the level of the prairie. "That is Noah's light, that is," said Dodd; "when you see that, you know he is working away at his inventions." With mingled feelings, the two Englishmen saw this light shining out over the lonely prai- ries; this light that marked the end of their journey, that marked the scene of the coming great experiment which might mean so much to the whole world. A touch of awe, as it were, affected them both, as they contemplated that faint light shining over the silent, immemorial prairies of this far northern land, the beacon of a man's audacious hope to make diamonds as easily as nature herself made them in those tremulous days when the whole earth was but a flaming laboratory for her to perform her experiments in. "It's a little light, that," said Mr. Hether- ington under his breath. "Enough for us," said Dodd, just catching his words. It was not often Hugh felt himself much stirred by the first object of their expedition. These diamonds by the bushel were not for him; he was not the Sinbad who, having pene- trated the valley, was to fill bis pockets there; but even he thrilled at the sight of that soli- tary lamp, and imagined to himself how far its rays would reach, how dazzling its illumination would become, if but that his uncle's dreams came true. He was losing, too, a good deal of the sense of danger that had oppressed him till now; or, if not losing it. he was at any rate learning to disregard it. For the first time he understood how it was that his uncle pressed on so heed- lessly, caring nothing for warnings, disregard- ing every precaution, heedless of all that was suspicious, obsessed by his dream of diamonds- diamonds. "All the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them," he heard his uncle whisper un- der his breath, and it seemed to Hugh that something of the ardour of the chase entered into his own blood. "Here we are." said Dodd, drawing up before a small building, just visible in the faint dark- ness of the night; "jump out, this is my shanty. Get in as quick as you can, for if anyone sees you. and sees you are white, we shall be done for." Jumping down, he hurried them into a small house of the ordinary prairie type. consisting of one large living room with a lean-to behind and an attic overhead. It was furnished roughly enough with a big cooking stove in the middle of the room, and some wooden chairs, and a table under the window. There was a blind to the window, and Dodd drew it before he lighted he lamp. "Wouldn't do to be seen," he explained; "not till you have turned yourself into nig- gers." He made the door fast, and showed them a ladder at one side of the room, giving access to the attic above. He climbed this, bidding them follow him, and they found themselves in a bare apartment with sloping sides, just under the high roof of the shanty. Up here there was no furniture at all. though four bunks had been arranged, two along each side of the room, at each end of which there was a win- dow. These had no window blinds, and Dodd proceeded to cover them with newspapers, and then from under one of the bunks ha drew a tin bath. "There you are," he said. "I'll go and get some water, and that bottle of dye stuff old Noah gave me." He disappeared through the trap door and down the ladder, and presently returned with a pail of water, and a small bottle of a clear, sparkling liquid. "I'll get some more water," he said, "then you can each have a pailful; you will have to change these store clothes, too, they would never do for a brace, of niggers." He vanished again, and Hugh took up the bottle he had brought and looked at it. "Are you going through with this" he said. of course," declared Mr. Hetherinsr- ton. plainly astonished at he question: "I w-euld do and risk a good deal more than that to get a chance to be present at such an ex- periment. Wouldn't you?" He poured the water into the bath and add- rd a few drops from the bottle according to Dodd's directions, and then stripped and step- ped in. The effect was extraordinary. The moment his toes touched the water they seemed to absorh from it some curio property of blackness, growing instantaneously black at the first contact. Sitting down in the bath he rubbed himself all over and then stepped out again, every inch of his body as black as any negro's. "By Jove," he said, looking a little frighten- ed. "that is queer stuff." Hugh followed his example and stepped out as black as he With every inch of their nak- ed skins shining and black, Hugh and his un- cle looked oddly at each other. "Nobody would believe we were white men now." said Hugh; "not if we swore we were." "So much the better." said Mr. Hethering- ton laughing, and Hugh laughed, too, touched by something comic in the situation. So they laughed together, for indeed they knew not what they did. CHAPTER XXII.—THE MAN WITHOUT A NOSE. In addition to this disguise of their darkened skin that Hugh and his uncle had adopted, Dodd had provided them with clothing less cal- culated to attract attention than that made by first-class London tailors which they had hitherto been wearing "Gosh," exclaimed Dodd, when he returned presently to the attic to see how they had been getting on. "Gosh," he repeated, admiring their black skin, which, together with the rag- ged straw hats, the untidy clothing, the flan- nel shirts, and the heavy boots they had assum- ed, had turned them into very natural-looking negro labourers, "gosh, I would not have known you myself for white men. It's terrible," he said, shuddering, and, to Hugh's fancy, there was something like horror in his eyes as he spoke. He told them they must be careful not to wash for fear of the colouring matter on their skins "running," and then he suggested they had better get a little rest as it was already past three in the morning, and they were to be presented to Mr. Siddle at ten o'clock. They lay down as he suggested, but neither of them slept, for now that the moment was so near Mr. Hetherington's imagination was on fire with dreams of diamonds of a brilliance incompara- ble and of a size such as mortal eyes had never yet beheld. And Hugh thought of Eira, and wondered if she would know him in his present guise. Soon after eight o'clock Dodd called them and they went downstairs and had breakfast. Dodd would net let them wash for fear of their spoiling their disguise, so they had to be con- tent with a rub with a dry towel, Dodd re- marking smilingly that they had no need to be particular as the dirt would not show on their present complexions. It was a brilliantly fine day, the sun shining with great power, and going out on the little, verandah in front of the house they had for the first time a view of the place to which they had at last come, after so lonp a journey and on so strange an errand. It seemed a lonely

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, HER VENGEANCE