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HER VENGEANCE

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HER VENGEANCE BY E. R. PUNSHON. Author of "The Choice," "The Spin of the Coin," etc., etc. CHAPTER XXV.—EIRA RIDES. Eira sat quietly in her saddle, smoothing hei horse's neck and looking back towards the crowd of lynchers, sweeping on towards her grandfather's farm. What awful thing would happen when they got there? That mob, with a:l its passions roused, under the sway of a fanatic like Keene, its suspicions already given an object, would it stop to listen to the story of two disguised Englishmen, or would it not sweep that away as a mere fable put for- ward to baulk its desires? Would it pause to vffer its victims even the semblance of a chance to defend themselves? One might as well ex- pect the tiger searching for its prey to inquire bt its victim whether it wants to be eaten or cc). Yet only a little delay would save them. Delay That was the one thing necessary. J3ut how to win it? "Mr. Fear," she said, "you must listen to tne, please. There is something I want to lell you. Something very strange. These two inen who are suspected of this murder are not negroes at all. They are white men." "Oh, no!" said Frear, "it is two strange jiggers the boys are after "Yes, but they are really white men," ex- tlaimed Eira; "only they have disguised them- lelves as negroes." "Oh. you don't say!" returned Frear incre- dulously. "Ah. you don't believe me!" she cried. "Well," said Frear, "it ain't a too likely tale, is it? White men are not in the habit of letting on to be niggers, are they? Besides, this here Hetherington has played that trick before. Editor Keene was telling how he got out of the hands of a lynching bee down in Kansas some. years ago by letting on he was really a white man got- up as a nigger. By the time they had scrubbed him well, and made sure he was the kind of colour'that don't come off, the Sheriff had turned up. So Hethering ton escaped that time, because when the Sheriff brought him to trial his lawyer got him off ci some trick or another. But that is not a game he can play twice. Editor Keene told us all about it just to le us know what a smart nigger we had to deal with." "But that is all nonsense," said Eira. "I know the man. I met him in Europe when I wai there." "They've been stuffing you up, miss," said Frear. regarding her pityingly; "why. Editor Keene published his photo in his paper three months ago, and how could you know him in Europe when Keene had him photographed here? It is some other man you are thinking of. miss." He took out of his pocket, ae. he spoke, and showed to Eira, a copy of ftiat day's "Athens Clarion." There, under- flaming head lines, was an account of the Bryan murder, a wild denunciation of the negro race in general, and a fervent, frantic appeal to the American peo- ple 'to rise in their might, and inflict "a just, a sudden, Wld an awful punishment" on the murderers of Mrs. Bryan, in order that "the r honour of our women may be made secure" And adorning all this rigmarole was a large photograph of Mr. Hetherington, but repre- senting him as a negrc and in clothes similar to those he now wore. Eira knew this photograph at once. It was one that had been published in one of the London illustrated papers on the occasion of some public meeting in which Mr. Hethering- ton had taken a part. She herself had cut it but. and forwarded it to her grandfather, who had asked her for such a photograph, and evi- Hently he had had a reproduction prepared from it, preserving the millionaire's features, but representing him as a man of colour A Cold dread seized upcn her as she began to realize how wide flung was this net in which her grandfather had taken his enemy; how wide flung, and yet of how small a mesh, en- closing everything, and permitting nothing to escape. Even Keene, the fanatic, his supposed pnemy. even of him he made use! "This has all been planned on purpose," said Eira, very pale. "What?" asked Frear. "But don't you worry, miss; if this Hetherington is really white, he can easily prove it by the aid of a little soap and water." "No, no, for it won't come off," said Eira quickly. "Yes, I've often noticed that with ooloured folks," said Frear drily. "Anyways, white or black, if he is guilty of murdering Mrs. Bryan, he will deserve all he gets. They have just been stuffing you. miss, but a yarn like that ain't good enough for us. Of course, be only wants la few hours' delay, so that the Sheriff can come up and lodge him comfortably in gaol. and then they will try him, and then he will feppeal, and so on, tijl he gets off on some lawyer's trick or another. No, miss, that won't do for us." Eira took out her handkerchief, and put it to her throat. It seemed to her that all hope was escaping her. Everything had been pre- pared, everything had been arranged. This mob of lynchers, under the domination of that half-crazed fanatic, Editor Keene, would never pause to listen to any defence or to consider anything. The plea that the twfc suspected men were really white men in disguise had been carefully discounted, and would now only be greeted with ridicule as a clumsy trick to gain time. Her brief glance at the paper had been enough to show her how carefully the story had been prepared to throw suspicion on Mr. Hetherington and Hugh, and in such a case suspicion was equivalent to condemnation. Her grandfather, whose hand she recognised in all this, had thought of everything, prepared everything; she did not understand how, but it seemed to her that everything moved and went as he desired, that he oontrolled events and ordered even the future to arrange itself as he wished, bending men and things together to the awful destruction of the destroyer of his son. A horror grew in her of herself, that she had in her veins the blood of a manwho could plan his vengeance thus, and turn all things to its service. "This is all lies," she cried, flinging on the ground the paper Frear had given her. "A man might think you wanted to save these two niggers," observed Frear. "So I do," she answered recklessly. "Well, now," he said slowly, "if you helped men like them there to escape, the boys would take vou to be as bad as them. A white wo- man help the murderers of a white woman to escane!" and his face showed a stern horror at the idea. Eiro had been holding her hand, her hand- kerchief in it, to her throat. She took it awAy now, and leaned her hand, still holding the handkerchief, on his horse's croup, while, lean- ing over, she looked up anxiously into his face. "Mr. Frear," she said, fixing her eyes en- kreaticglv on his, and moving her hand with thj handkerchief in it towards his horse's tail. "Mr. Frear, will you believe me if I fell you know these two men are white men, and are innocent?" 'Til believe they have been stuffing you with a yarn that won't go down with the boys," bo answered, "but that's all." "Very well, let us go on to town, then," she said. withdrawing her hand. "Right," said Frear, and on a sudden his horse lashed out viciously with his hind legs. "Here, what's the matter?" exclaimed Frear. The animal reared, span rauod on its hind logs, and snorted wildly. "Down, you beast," j cried Frear, and hit it on the nose. At that it took the bit between its teeth and galloped awav like a mad thing, ia spite of all its rider could do to check it. For, under cover of her handkerchief, Eira had taken her brooch out from where she wore it at her neck. and had slipped it under the taii of Frear's horse. As soon as the animal moved, it pricked it; the fastor it moved, the more deeply the pin of the brooch pierced maddened with pain and indignation, the ani- mal was now galloping wildly over the prairie, vainly endeavouring to escape the pain that bit it from behind, the bewildered Frear being quite unable to check or control it. "Pray heaven the brooch docs not 6lip out," said Eira to herself, and turning her own horse's head, she set herself to ride as she had never ridden yet, not even when she had been pursued by the lynchers. just a, little while before. For then she had only been frightened and bpwildered, but now despair had wrought her powers up to the last pitch of her capa- city. She heard Frear shouting from behind, but paid no heed She rode with a wise reckless- ness, coaxing from her horse every ounce of speed he possessed, and not fearing to take such chances down ravines, by gopher holes, over a wire fence that crossed her path. as at other moments she would have trembled at the thought of. At last she came in sight of the mob of lyn- chers, and making a detour she gained a deep ravine by which she hoped to head them un- perceived. In this she succeeded, for they had no thought of danger from their rear; and, indeed, the idea of any man or woman of the white race endeavouring to thwart their purpose would have been inconcpivable to most of them. Along the bottom of the ravine Eira rode her swiftest, and heard as she rode the sound of the march- ing of the lynchers on her left hand. But if she had lost the earlier race, this one she won, and she emerged from the ravine half a mile in front of the lynchers and behind a clump of poplars that hid her from their view. Blessing heaven for the friendly trees, she galloped on, still urging her horse to faster and ever faster peed. Nobly the gallant beast responded, not knowing why, knowing only his mistress had need of his bast services, and wil- ling for her sake and at her call to spend him- self to the death. There was froth at his mouth, and his pace was not always steady, but still his speed never slackened, ahd 80 with a rush they came and passed like thunder through the negro settlement, and on, followed by a low cry of fear from the throats of those who saw her pass, for all understood, that she who rode like this was pursued by some danger be- yond the ordinary. Past the village there was a stretch of bare prairie, of perhaps a quarter of a mile. This seemed to her intexminabie, and yet her horse still galloped with unslackened speed. At last the outer fence was reached, and when she saw the gate was closed she set her horse straight at it, and shut her eyes, and prayed. The horse did not rise to the jump, for he could not. but charged it full. With a great crash the gate went down, and horse and rider with it. The horse lay still, but Eira jumped up and ran. The gate of the inner fence was closed, and she remembered the tales, of how this was charged with electricity, and of how to touch it was certain death. Bu* she had not time for doubts, and she seized the gate ,and tore it open, and passed on unharmed. Run- ning straight forward, she tried the door of the building. That was locked, so she began to beat upon it, and to cry out loudly, and then her grandfather looked out from the window above. "Who is there?" he said. "I," she cried, "let me in, let me in." He seemed to hesitate, and then drew back his head. There was some lever above which lie could touch, and by which the door opened. As Eira beat on it again, it yielded to her blows, and she ran in and down the passage and up the stairs beyond and into the great labor- atory which she knew well. The three men stood there together. Her grandfather was by the window. Hugh, with his arms folded. leaned against the wall. Mr. Hetherington had been storming, raging, de- nouncing. threatening, and now. somewhat exhausted by the vehemence of the. outbreak to which he had given way, he turned to look at Eira. "What's this he said. "Eira." said Mr. Siddle, reading, her pur- pose in her eyes, "this man is your father's murderer." "I would not be his," said Eira, and turned to the two Englishmen. "You have been taken in a trap," she said; "your only hope is to es- cape at once." "I'll not," cried Mr. Hetherington, "they won't dare touch me." "Come here, and look," said Eirn, and drew him to the window. A mile away the mob of lynchers was visi- ble. coming on very swiftly and silently, and led by a solitary man driving a light buggv. CHAPTER XXVI.—THE FLIGHT. In the upper chamber a dreadful silence reigned Without, the sun shone burningly on the level and quiet prairie, over which there marched the mob of lynchers. Within no one spoke or moved for a space of which it cannot well be said how long it lasted. It seemed to thfm long enough, and yet probably was not more than a few seconds. In fact, it cannot have been really long, for the lynchers did not seem appreciably nearer when Mr. Hethering ton stirred slightly, and pointing with his hand, said: but what do they want?" "You," said Noah Siddle. "Your only chance is to escape at once," interposed Eira quickly. "I met them and they tried to keep me, but I got away to tell you. They believe Mrs. Bryan was murdered by two strange negroes, and you appear two strange negroes; that is enough for them In their present state of mind." "But if we tell them we are reaHy white ■ men?" said Hugh. "They will not believe you," returned Eira; "you are taken in a trap and all that has been arranged, thought of, provided against. For three months past they have been told of a ne- gro desperado, named Hetherington; your photograph has been coloured, and published as his; a story has been told of his tricking other lynchers by pretending to be a white man disguised; you must reach town, and get pro- tection—if that be possible." "You put the case admirably," said Mr. Sid- dle "and, by the way, my dear Eira, do you know our experiment has turned out brilliantly successful? Now diamonds can be made as easily as the latest patent breakfast food. Just think of that—just think of all that means to the man who holds such a. secret as that." They all three looked at them, and all of them understood. This, then, was that malformed old man's revenge, and his noseless face was terrible in its expression of an awful triumph Not satisfied merely to destroy his enemy, he piust first bring him within reach of the fruition of all his wildest hopes, then, at the moment of triumph, hurl him down into the most strangely dreadful fate that any man of his race has ever endured. Putting out his hand, Noah Siddle took up the diamonds Or) the ta- ble and played with them, watching Mr Heth- erington the while. "Absolute success," he said. "What does not the world offer to a man holding such a secret? Eh, Mr. Hetherington 1" "This is your doing, then," said Hugh. "Every step you have taken of late, said Noah Siddle, "you have taken as I wished; the very words you have spoken I have put into your mouth when you slept and when you woke, when you movedT and when you were still, it was all as I had arranged." "Perhaps you arranged the murder of this Mrs. Bryan, too?" suggested Hugh. "Why, so I did," said Noah, with a laugh. "I see you are a bright young fellow, and can guess as smartly as the next man." "Grandfather," said Eira, "have you not done enough? You can save us now, if you will? Will you, grandfather?" she said again, but she spoke without hope, for the look on vthat strange, noseless face was hardly human. "Why. yes, I will," he said, to her surprise, "on just one condition—one small condition— let them give me back my eon, and then I will saTO them." "They are coming, we must escape," mutter- ed Mr. Hetherington, and made a staggering step towards the door. All his violence had left him, all his reso- j lution, his force of will and character, all seem- ed to have gone. He was like a man daunted and broken, his one idea flight; the sight of the swift, ominous oncoming of the lynchers had struck fear into his soul. "It is our only chance," said Eira; "come," and without quite thinking what she did she gave her hand to Hugh. "You are going, then, James Hethering- ton?" asked Noah Siddle. "What! will you not take a diamond or two with you? Diamonds are cheap now, you know." But Mr. Hetherington paid no heed, for he was not thinking of diamonds. Skin for skin— aye, all that a man hath he will give for his life; and Noah Siddle's revenge had been too sub- tie in this, that now it added nothing to the horror of his victim's position that he was leaving behind him all the great secret for which he had endured and risked and'lost so much. He, Hugh, Eira, one after the other, they went out of the room, and Noah was left alone to play with the newly manufactured diamonds, and to listen to the sounds that increased, and told of the nearing approach of the lynchers. At the door of the building, as they came out into the open air, Hugh bent and kissed Eira's hand, and then released it. "If we are able to escape, we may be able to thank you properly later on," he said; "we cannot now." "I must come with you," she said, as pale as death. "Oh, no, no," he said with distress in his voice.

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POET'S CORNER.

HER VENGEANCE