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L-ALJ, JXlliUXS RESERVED. J #i>###. I A MIDNIGHT EXPRESS f By HELEN WALLACE X X Author of "Blind Hopes," &c. <|> i1<t># "I may do it yet," exclaimed Jim Fellowes to himself, clutching at his bag and rug and leaping out before the leisurely local traim, dawdling into the junction ten minutes late, had come to a standstill. The wind was driving through the great arch of the station, the big arc lamps, fiz- zing and spluttering amid the steam and smoke overhead, were burning unsteadily. Fellowes made a rush towards the platform, where the concentrated bustle showed that the up-express was jUtit. starting. As he came abreast of the tail-lights the whistle sounded. He made a dash for the nearest door, scrambled in somehow, and found himself in a firgt-class smoking compartment, in com- pany with one other passenger. "Not such a bad hit after all," Fellowes thought, with the complacence which every one feels in catching the last train at the last minute. Then he cast a careless glance at his fellow-traveller, who, with his cap pulled well down, and a magnificent fur coat hunched up to his ears, was apparently sound asleep in the further corner of the carriage. "Must be one of the Seven Sleepers if my bundling in has not roused him—wish I could follow his example," was Fellowes' passing thought, before his own pre-occupations gripped him again. And the dry, feverish brightness of his eyes, and the overstrained anxiety of his face suggested that he was sorely in need of that profound sleep which he momentarily envied before he forgot all about the sleeper. He had worn a very different look when, a day or so ago, he had passed through Mereton Junction. Hope and expectation were leaping in every pulse, thrilling in every vein. All but a year had passed since on last Christmas Eve he had looked into Joy Grantley's eyes, and had seen the love and the loyalty shining there, and since they two had stolen away from the great glowing rooms and the music and the dancing, and under the starlight had planned their future together. Fellowes was no match, of course, for the daughter of the rich financier who had turned the grey old grange into a palace. "A rising barrister," "a coming man," so men spoke of him, but what was that compared with what Joseph Grantley had a right to expect for his one daughter. But Joy had made her choice, and Fellowes had been con- scious that it was not as an, unknown man that he was now returning to her. The com- mission which had caused his long year's absence in Australia had established his name. His foot was well planted on the ladder; he might climb high, and, for Joy's sake, what would he not do? There had been no letters exchanged during his absence, so much Joseph Grantley had insisted on, but no doubt had dimmed the young man's high confidence. Under the watching stars Joy had given him her sacred pledge, and now he was on his way to claim it. He believed in her as he believed in, his God. When the liner had touched at Plymouth, he had landed and had gone straight to Wave Manor—everything else could wait. Arrived at the little station, he spoke to no one, but hurried away through the familiar lanes to a wicket-gate by which the house was more quickly reached than by the long circuit of the avenue. Even Nature conspired to heighten his mounting rapture of hope and anticipation. December though it was, the sky was blue, the glossy leaves of the ivy shone in the sun, from a swinging bough a robin thrilled its sweet, plaintive song. He was too absorbed in the prospect before him to notice the unkempt air of the shrubbery walk, and when he emerged on the broad sweep in front of the house he stood stone- still, like a man who has been struck a stun- ning blow. The long rows of windows were shuttered fast, and even in the morning sun the whole place wore the forlorn, desolate look which a deserted house so soon acquires. But a worse shock awaited him when he learned that Joseph Grantley had died sud- denly in Londom, and there were darker hints that he had cut through the desperate tangle of his affairs by suicide. It was certain, at lea5t, that he had been utterly ruined. His chief creditor was Arthur Levy, who had for- merly seemed his closest friend, and who it was thought would get possession of the Manor. Miss Grantley had hurried up to town when the dreadful news had come, but she had never returned; the house was shut up, and no one knew where she was. It had been no one's business to ascertain. Nor for all his inquiries could Fellowes learn more than this from former friends and neighbours and dependents, and all the little world of which Joy had been the gracious, gladsome queen. He had gone here and there, following up various suggestions, but all in vain, and now he was on his way to seek for his lost love in the whirlpool of London. If all other clues failed, Levy, he believed, must know something of the vanished girl, but his heart sank and his face darkened at the thought. He remembered the man only too well-of the grosser Hebrew type, a reputed millionaire, and an avowed admirer of "Miss Joy," as he familiarly called her, trading on his friendship with her father, a friendship and a familiarity which Joy alike detested. And it was on this man that he might be dependent for news of Joy! No wonder that, sunk in black thoughts and blacker dread, Fellowes was unconscious of himself or his surroundings. By and by, and mingling with these only too definite forebodings, there came a strange uneasy presage of ill, a sense of something sinister impending. Fellowes glanced again at the sleeping man, vaguely wishing that he would make -some sound or motion-anything to break the strange still- ness which seemed to have settled down in spite of the roar of the train. Then he decided that since his companion's sleep seemed hardly natural, he had better keep awake, and with the decision a slight drowsiness must have stolen over him. Next moment he was startled broad awake by a loud sudden rattle. He sprang to his feet. It was only the further window which had fallen down, letting in a swoop of icy wind. He crossed the carriage, leaned over the sleeping man, and muttering, "Dead asleep still" slammed up the window not too gently. As he did so he noticed that the sleeper was holding some- thing in his open hand, at which he had apparently been gazing. The yellow gleam of the gas light fell on a. gold circlet in the form of a twining ribbon. It framed a girl's face. Involun- tarily Fellowes stooped nearer. That setting was familiar, though doubtless there were hundreds like it. Then his heart seemed to stop, every power of his being was arrested. It was like the shock when a steamer's engines stop in mid-ocean—next instant every pulse was racing madlt again. With a brain on fire he snatched the miniature from the limp hand. A fair face smiled at him, in the deep violet eyes, on the sweet young lips was the innocent radiant happiness which had made her name so appropriate. Know it? Followes knew it as he knew his own soul. It was the miniature Joy had had painted a year ago as a Christmas gift to her father. She had got a copy made for Jim, which had jour- neyed with him ever since, and which at that moment was next hiff bursting heart. From the painted face his eyes leaped to the sleeping one. He knew that, too! The heavy, aquiline features, the cruel, sensual mouth, with its over-full, over-red lips. Was he dreaming or mad? Joy's portrait in Levy's hand! And he had been gloating over it before he had sunk into his swinish sleep! Like » wild beast on the spring Fellowes clutched the rich fur collar. "Wake up and answer me! How did you get this?" he cried, shaking the sleeper violently. There was neither stir nor answer. The head rolled helplessly to and fro. The gas- light fell full upon the yellow pallor of the face, upon the staring, sightless eyes. As if Daisied, Fellowea' hand droooed down. I u-rèat Tjixi in neaven, tne man was geaa asleep indeed' He was dead. That vague, creeping dread was made plain. Life had I been instinctively shrinking from the pre- sence of Death before the shock of the truth had burst upon him. The carriage rocked sharply round a curve, the dead body swayed and lurched forward into Fellow* very arms. With a cry of horror he thrust it from him and dropped back into his seat, while the train plunged on through the black night. Presently Fellowes staggered to his feet. The gross, heavy body had sunk into a huddled heap, which told its own tale. Levy was past human help, that was plain, but there was no sign of wound or struggle. The diamonds still sparkled on his shirt front, on his thick fingers; the watch ticked in his pocket, though the heart was still. By his side was an open bag full of papers. The man was gone beyond human arraignment, but there, among those papers, might be the answer Fellowes sought. Hardly knowing what he did. Fellowes turned them over with desperate hands. Some he thrust aside, some his trained lawyer's eye glanced over with infinite amazement. These he put carefully together, but what he panted for—some trace of Jov —was not amongst them. Then he drew a deep breath, set his teeth, and turned to- the thing in the corner. A spasm of actual physical nausea seized him as he laid hands on that sumptuous fur coat again. It was hatefully, horriblv like robbing the dead, but what could he do? He thrust his hands into the pockets, shudder- ing at the contact with the still warm body—loose money, a hotel bill, a gorgeous cigarette-case, a gold match-box. Ah! a letter-case! Within-a bundle of crisp notes, a letter of two from various Florries and Lillies, some stray memoranda and scribbled addresses, and in a pocket by itself a cheap sheet of paper, and on it the words "Friday night-the same place and hour." There was neither name nor date nor ad- dress, but it was Joy Grantley's writing. Of that there could be no faintest doubt. Fel- lowes fell back with a groan. He would have changed places with the stiffening corpse if he could. Then he clutched at the door, while the mad impulse seized him tc fling himself and his wrath and despair out into the midnight, and under the thundering grind of the iron wheels. With hard-held breath Fellowes stood out- side one of several doors on a narrow land- ing at the top of a mean tenement house. He looked ten years older than the man who had landed at Plymouth, or even than the man who had leaped into the train at Mereton only a few days ago. But what had those few days not. held? The wretched busi- ness of the inquest, when a verdict of "Death from the visitation of God" had been returned, and the legal formalities by which as Miss, Grantley's representative. Fel- lowes had lodged a claim upon the de- ceased's papers, had been but a small part. The first sickening shock, the first storm of jealous fury over, Fellowes had done des- perate battle with himself, and Joy's violet eyes, her innocent smile, had pleaded her own cause. What right had he to judge her? To what straits might not a scoundrel like Levy drive a girl, left suddenly orphaned and desolate? The man was dead, and it was well he was, for Fellowes knew that had it been from a living and not from a lifeless hand that he had snatched the miniature, he might well in that red, ruth- less rage have been Levy's murderer. But to find Jov-that must be his one task. Only let him see her again, then—then he would know. He had visited every one of these scribbled addresses—with strange enough results often-he had made ceaseless inquiries, he had bribed Levy's entourage lavishly. No need to dwell upon the breath- less efforts of these crowded days. At last he had got what seemed to be a clue. Now it was Friday night-hope or despair lay for him behind that narrow, shabby door. Would no one come? He knocked again. The door opened a seam, a hard, sallow face peered out. "I have come to see your lodger. She is expecting me," said Fellowes boldly. It seemed impossible, but the door opened, he stood in a dark, musty strip of passage. The woman, apparently crushed out of all interest or even ordinary curiosity, opened a door without any pretence of knocking. "The gent to see you," she said indiffe- rently, and jostled past Fellowes towards her own quarters again. Behind that door, in the midst of the sordid room, a girl was standing with clenched hands and tense mouth. Against her cheap, scanty black gown, her face showed white as the wind-flowers in April woods. Her wide violet eyes were dark with hard-held emotion. Bitter pride, mortal dread, burning wrath, and passionate repul- sion struggled in their depths. The knock- ing at the door had startled her to her feet. He was here—the moment had come at last, then. It was an eternity while the landlady's slip-shod feet trailed across the passage- then a man's voice-a man's step—the door opened—God help her now! for she need look for neither ruth nor mercy at this man's hands. She compelled herself to keep her eyes fixed on the opening door, though she shrank from what, next instant, it must re- veal. It opened wide. The dark, low- ceiled room rang to a mighty cry: "You—you—oh, Jim—Jim!" Her very soul seemed to go forth in that cry. and like a dissolving snow-wreath slip- ping down a mountain side, she would have sunk down, but Fellowes sprang forward, caught and held her fast. Doubt and fear vanished at once and for ever. Hearts and lips met-no words were needed. "Joy, darling-why did you not wait for me-why did you hide from me—could you not trust me?" exclaimed Fellowes in tender reproach, when words were possible, looking into the violet eyes which seemed too large for the pale, wistful face. "It was for your sake-for your future," faltered Joy. "It was all so sudden, so dreadful. When I arrived from Wave, father, poor father, was dead."—with a choking sob—"and he was in the house." There was no need to ask who he was. "He told me terrible things-things I couldn't believe about my poor father, but he said they were true—he had proofs; but if I would marry him he would protect father's name." "Marry him!" ejaculated Fellowes. That hound!" "I would have died first," said Joy pas- sionately-utter truth spoken in her voice and eyes. "But to let you marry me, marry the daughter of a the word would not come "would have been to ruin you—to blight your whole life. He said he would see to that. I thought if I could hide from him-yes, and from you, too—for your own sake-it was the only way. I left the house at night-I took nothing with me, I felt I should be a thief if I did, and I did escape him for a time, but he tracked me down wherever I went—oh, it has beeji horrible," covering her eyes. "And at last I had to promise that I would see him to-night, and when the knock came I thought it was he, but it was you-it was you! her voice rising clear and jubilant, her pallid face irradiated with a glory which restored to Fellowes a Joy higher and nobler than even he remembered. "He lied to you, Joy," exclaimed Fel- lowes. "He lied to your father. It is trtie he nearly ruined him, but not quite, and in the most amazing way I got the proofs of his frauds. It is too late for your poor father. I can't bring back the old days, but you may spend Christmas at Waye—you will have your home again." TWrft wnpt it moment's silence. Joseph Grantley had not been an over-tender father. He had wanted a son to carry on hit name, to inherit his acres, and. fegi not cloak,e(i His msappointrneiu. fJLll lll daughter did not remember that now. Then the present called her. youth and love and nature claimed their own. She slid her hand gently into the young man's and said softly: Our home Again the poor room was flooded witVi a rapturous silence, and then Joy suddenly started. "But—but where is hl'?'" f'¡he whispered, looking fearfully round, as if. though her lover's arms were about her. her bliss was not yet secure. Where he can trouble you no more. Levy is dead, said Fellowes, a deep stern note in his voice. "God knows to what I might not have been tempted, but I was saved from it." In a few brief words he told of that ghastly night-watch in the rushing train. The verdict was iue visitation of God. he said in a low voice, "and with all reverence. Joy, it has indeed been such for us."



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