Skip to main content
Hide Articles List

5 articles on this Page

I REPORTER" RAILWAY GUIDE.…

Advertising

1 &-£ £ ? [ALL RIGHTS RESERVED].…

News
Cite
Share

1 & £ £ ? [ALL RIGHTS RESERVED]. 5$5 M 1 For Love and Honour I m S i ? By HAROLD BINDLOSS, ? Author of A Wide Dominion," His Adversary's Daughter," Theft$j ¡i Kingdom of Courage," The Mistress of Bonaventure," &c. 1+1 ms *&: m>- mz *fy xre *fg ftp* m.^miW.W. 7^ m1^ m1mW^ W1mlS&ffllmWW^^Wz^W?• ^Wkxw^im^W< CHAPTER XXV. It was a clear and breezy afternoon when Harry entered the Low Wood garden on the 4ay of his return, which was, as it happened, the one on which he had promised to climb the Pike with Christopher and Vane. They were waiting for him with Alison, who in- tended to accompany them part of the way, and Arnold, to whom Harry had said nothing about Salter's confession vet. He had re- frained from doing so in order not to in ter- fere with the others' enjoyment, but he looked forward with grim expectancy to an interview with Arnold during the evening. "You intend to try the chimney, then?" said Christopher. It's a pretty stiff climb, and in my opinion the top part of the gully "beneath it is quite as bad." I daresay I can manage it," laughed Harry. In that case, we'll be glad to have you." said Vane. We can spread out four people conveniently so as to help one another, and fortunately the stones are dry. We'll get off if you're ready." They set out, Arnold walking in front with Christopher, because he could hardly trust himself to speak to Harry. The latter was a constant menace, for Arnold was now con- vinced that he could explain her owner's con- nection with the loss of the Calabria. Expo- sure would mean ruin. but the guilty man fancied that if he could only avert that peril It", might by some means tide over the other difficulty with the shareholders in the mine. Arnold's nerves were badly on edge that afternoon, and before leaving Ruleholme he had tried to steady them with brandy. The chimney was dangerous to any but practised eragsmen, and all the climbers' faculties would be needed in its ascc t. They plodded up a steep hillslope in the sun- shine, and at last stopped, breathless, where the ridge they followed ended abruptly at the foot of a towering crag. On the one hand, a fairly safe path led along its bise; on the other, shingly screes ran down almost preci- pitously to the top of a lower crag, beyond which there opened up a vast hollow. A river awn out in frothy threads among the boul- ders flowed through the depths of it, and the sound of its turmoil came up faintlv. Winding precariously across the face of the screes, a tiny shefp track led towards a broad and almost vertical fissure in the rock with a few rents in the sides of it. and here and there a narrow projecting ledge. One could ^ross the screes by the sheep track, but no- where else, because the stones they were com- pose d of rested on a slope which barely sufficed to keep them in position. Indeed, soon after the party stopped a number of them went clattering down the declivity and plunged into the gulf. It was significant that no sound -rose out of it to mark the shock of their descent. Christopher uncoiled the rope he carried. It's a good while since I've used it and it looks a little frayed, but it ought to stand." he said. We'll make Vane leader, and I'll go next. Arnold, you had better follow, with Harry behind you." They tied themselves on carefully, and Christopher turned to Alison. If you go by the cragfoot and over the shoulder, you'll pro- bably reach the top before us." The girl moved away until she reached a spot from which the whole of the ascent would be visible, when she sat down to watch the climbers. She was wearing a light straw hat and a dress of pale grey, which matched the colour of the stones she took her place among, and she afterwards decided that it would have been difficult for anybody to see her so long as she kept still. The men were some little time in reaching the gully, and it struck her that Arnold did not move along the narrow path with a cragsman's certainty; indeed, he made a slight stumble while she watched him. Harry, on the other hand, seemed very much at ease, and she noticed his fine poise, sure-footedness, and fearless stride. She wondered how she could have found so much fault with him, and then remembered that Arnold had insidiously played upon her prejudices to the detriment of the younger man. She would believe -nothing in the latter's disfavour now. The party stopped a moment at the bottom of the rift, and then set about the ascent, Vane leading carefully; and, having confi- dence in his skill, she glanced round at the ncircling hills. High peak and shattered crag ran up, ethereally serene, into the soft blue sky; gleaming in places, dappled here and there with cool shadow. It was a scene to feast the eyes upon; but Alison remem- bered it long afterwards with a shiver of horror. A sharp crash startled her, and looking back she saw Harry dodge a stone which came clattering down the gully. Bouncing out of the latter, it struck the screes, and, Tolling down them, plunged out of sight over the precipice below. It occurred to Alison that if a man slipped down the rift the same fate would befall him. Then she heard Harry call to Arnold: 18' Now you have kicked that ledge down, you'll have to steady me up. Perhaps you'd Abetter take a hitch round something." Arnold, who was a few yards above him, "wound the rope about a fang of ragged stone, and Harry ascended with his feet against the rock. After he had crawled up on a nar- row shelf they climbed a little higher, and then the three lower figures stopped while Vane, crossing the gully, effected what zeemed to be a particularly difficult ascent. Standing on a ledge he steadied the rope for Christopher, who came up in turn, followed by Arnold. As the ledge would scarcely hold them all, the two former began to move up to an easier place, while Arnold waited to hold the rope for Harry. A stone broke under the latter's foot, and as his weight momentarily ,came upon the rope Alison saw a small xagged strip start out from it, and unwind for a few inches. The rope was old, and she supposed that a worn strand had chafed through when Arnold had last made it fast. Some of the stones were very sharp. It was evident that Harry had not noticed the stranded part, which was above him, but he immediately found handhold and called out to Arnold to give him a lift. Alison could see the latter plainly, because the air was very clear. He was standing eecurely on the ledge, looking down on Harry, and it was obvious that he must see that the rope was unsafe. She expected him to warn the man below, but to her astonish- ment he did nothing of the kind; then, look- ing more closely, she started as she noticed his face. It was set and white, and there was a look which sent a shiver through her in his <eyes. He was going to tighten the stranded rope, and Harry would trust his weight to it, confiding in him. The two men were now some sixty feet above the bottom of the gully, and Harry stood with his hand in a cranny and one foot on a tiny projection, while his opposite foot and arm swung out in mid-air. Alison clenched both hands tight as she watched. The man's position looked very in- secure, and she dare not cry out, for fear of etartling him into letting go and so precipita- ting the catastrophe. She realised that this would be the probable result, though she was for the moment scarcely c&pable of thinking. All her faculties were in the grasp of a numb- ing, enervating dread. The blood ebbed from her face; she felt weak and shivery. As it happened, her horror was fully justi- fied. Arnold had not planned the thing; in- deed, he had only noticed that the rope was stranded a moment or two earlier, but he was desperate, and his enemy was in his hands. So little was needed to deliver him from the worst of his anxieties; he had only to keep silent, and allow the man who could ruin him to trust to the rope. Nobody would cast any blame upon the latter's companions; acci- dents to climbers were not uncommon among those fells. A man had been killed a few months earlier when making a similar ascent. Twisting the rope about a projecting knob, Arnold set his teeth as he braced himself for the expected strain; but he no longer looked down-his nerve was not sufficient for that. Alison, however, was looking up, and, notic- ing what he missed, the sight set her heart beating furiously. Harry cast a quick glanCt aloft, and, instead of seizing the rope above Jaim, sprang boldly from the rock and clutched at another cranny a yard or so to one side of him. He clung to it with both hands, and in another moment found a place for one foot, after which his voice rang out harsh and imperative. "Slack up!" he cried. "Don't heave. I •an manage it alone." Alison held her breath as she watched him scramble up, though she knew he was safe from Arnold; now her father and Vane must have heard the warning shout, it could not be disregarded without betraying the intention of the man who failed to obey it. He climbed en to the ledge, and she neither saw nor heard what immediately followed. Her sight seemed to fail her, and she collapsed, limp and nerveless, at the foot of the stone she had rested against. Recovering by-and-bye, she became conscious of an intense, unspeakable relief; for the few moments during which Harry had been in imminent peril had brought her a full revelation. She knew now that she was willing to take this man on trust unreservedly, because she loved him. Then a sudden, burning anger against Arnold ob- sessed her. He had cunningly traduced her lover; he had not shrunk from a dastardly at- tempt to destroy him. The latter was almost incredible, but it was true. The man she had looked up to as a model of uprightness was a swindler, a liar, and a would-be murderer. A little later she looked up again, and, to her vast astonishment, saw the four figures crawl one by one up a difficult part of the chimney. It was unthinkable that they should go on together; but they were obvi- ously doing so, Which made it clear that Harry had taken none of them into his con- fidence. After all, he would now be on his guard, and Arnold dare not try again but she knew she could not meet the latter without be- traying herself, and rising with an effort she turned back down the hill. She was waiting in the garden when her father and Vane returned, and once more a horrible fear came upon her when she saw that they were alone. "Where's Harry?" she called out, hurry- ing towards them as they entered the gate. He left us at the bottom of the fell," said Christopher, who looked at her rather sharply; said he'd go back to the inn, though I understood he was coming home with us." Ah said Alison. with vast relief. Did Arnold go with him? "No," replied Vane, who glanced at his companion. Arnold went straight on to Ruleholme. They were not men who readily betrayed their feelings, but the girl was quick to notice signs of constraint in their voices and manner. Why did you let him go on after-the rope stranded?" she asked. Both of them looked at her, and her father answered: On the whole, it was rather easier than going down would have been." He paused, and added, quietly: "Where were you? Among the stones, near the foot of the gully," said Alison, once more burning with swift anger. I think, by your face, you must have suspected something. What are you going to do? Christopher raised his hand. The less said on this subject the better. Harry, how- ever, has asked Vane and I to go over to Ruleholme this evening, and we have pro- mised to do so." < Is that all he told you? Yes," said her father, grimly. "Harry is not particularly communicative, as I daresay you have noticed." He signed to Vane, and turning away they moved off towards the house together. Alison stood still a moment, with her heart beating a good deal faster than usual, and then going in by another door slipped away quietly to her own room. She had been almost in- sufferably overstrung during the past two hours, and she wanted to be alone. CHAPTER XXVI. On walking over to Rulehohne in the even- ing, Christopher and Vane found Harry await- ing them near the entrance lodge, and they glanced at each other when they saw his face, which was grim and very resolute. Indeed, it struck Christopher that Harry looked a differ- ent man from the one who had set out to climb the Pike with them a few hours earlier. I thank you both for coming, but I must ask you to wait a little for an explanation," he remarked. What I have to say must be said in Arnold's presence." They walked through the grounds, which looked unusually well cared for and beautiful in the evening light with the misty fells clos- ing in behind them. Arnold had chosen a very fair spot to build his house in, and nothing that money or the landscape gar- dener's art could do to enhance its charm had been neglected, but Christopher felt that disaster was hanging over his kinsman that night. In a quieter way, the quarry-owner h ?gd h i'h a re had as high a regard as his daughter for the family honour, and he was determined that Arnold should not drag it through the mire. When they reached the house they were shown into the spacious library, which was growing shadowy, though there would be nearly an hour's daylight outside yet. Arnold sat at a table, and on the whole, both Vane and Christopher were mildly surprised at see- ing him, though they knew their kinsman had courage of a kind. He nodded as they came in. Sit down," he said. Harry requested this interview, and as he hasn't acquainted me with his pur- pose, I'll leave him to open it! Harry waited until they were seated, and then, drawing forward a chair, took out a folded sheet of foolscap. I'm afraid I shall have to speak at some length," he said. One of you is Arnold's cousin; the other his brother-in-law, which is why I have asked you here. You are both just men, and though any prejudices you may have will be in Arnold's favour, I am willing that you should decide between us." I think we can promise to listen with an unbiassed mind," said Vane. I had one purpose in visiting this coun- try," Harry went on. "I wanted to clear my father's name. It is some years since I dis- covered that he was not to blame for the loss of the Calabria." He saw Christopher's slight start and the astonishment in Vane's eyes; but Arnold listened with an unmoved face. One could have fancied that he had expected this. "I knew the task I meant to undertake would need time and money, and I waited and worked desperately until at last fortune turned in my favour," Harry added. Then I came over here, and found that the minds of all I met had been poisoned against me. I was a stranger from the wilds, with a tainted record; the son of a man who died in un- deserved disgrace. For that I have to thank his cousin." Statement is not proof," Arnold re- marked, with an approach to a sneer. "Are you in a position to convince anybody that you were a model of propriety?" "No," said Harry; "the charges insinu- ated against me contained just enough truth to make their contradiction almost impos- sible. I owe that to my own thoughtlessness and love of a frolic; I -shall not deny them. I leave myself in my friends' hands." I think you can look for justice," Vane informed him. "Thank you," said Harry. "Now I'll ask your attention to this confession made by the Calabria's chief engineer." There was dead silence, except for his im- pressivel* y level voice, while he read out Salter's statement. Arnold leant forward, with his elbow on the table, as if he did not wish to miss a word Vane sat, verv still, wii.h 1811 expressionless countenance ana cnristo- pher's face grew very stern. "Is this the truth?" the latter broke out, looking at his cousin, when at length Harry laid down the paper. Arnold, who did not answer him, turned to the younger man. What do you expect of me? An endorsement of this document, declar- ing that you have heard it and find it correct." Suppose I refuse? You won't refuse," Harry retorted, drily. "It wouldn't be safe." Vane started, as if he were astonished at this, and glanced across at Christopher, who made him a sign to be silent. "What do you mean by that?" Arnold de- manded. "What I said. TTarry answered. "Don't force me to explain. "If I sign the admission you ask for?" In that case, you shall have a week or two in which to get out of the country, or do anything else you consider advisable, before I make any use of it." "Then give me the paper." Christopher stood up. Arnold," he said, Vane has promised for me that I'd see jus- tice done; but you can't admit the whole of this horrible thing. For the credit of the family, you must make some defence." Arnold smiled sourly. I'm afraid it would be difficult, and probably not worth while, as understand in a minute or two. He turned to Harry: "The paper! It was handed him, and, seizing a pen. he wrote a few lines across the foot of it, and then flung it on the table. "I must ask you to attest it," Harry ad- dressed the others. Vane took up the pen and wrote; but Chris- topher, to whom he handed it, laid it down. too much to expect of me," he said. He's my cousin." "So was Captain Jack, whom he ruined," Vane reminded him. The man married my sister and the truth's bitter, but I've pledged myself to decide without favour be- tween him and Harry. Besides, for another reason, I ask you to sign." Christopher did so, and there was a few moments' tense silence, which Arnold broke. You're probably astonished that made no fight," he said. The truth is, it didn't seem worth while, because I'm threat- ened with disaster in another quarter." He paused, and taking a letter and a telegram from his pocket handed them to Christopher. c. Yon can read them and pass them on to Vane." The letter, which was dated a few days earlier, was from a lawyer, and demanded on grounds which were concisely stated a re- turn of certain capital invested in the mine. The telegram, which had arrived in the last hour. requested an immediate compliance with the terms of the letter, failing which legal proceedings would be instituted. Christopher knitted his brows, but he made no comment until he had handed the paper* to his companion. From this, it looks as if the flotation of the company was a deliberate swindle," he broke out. I'm inclined to think you are liable to be prosecuted criminally." "That," said Arnold, is my own opinion. I must confess that the applicants have got hold of several facts which I fancied would never come out." He rose, and stood leaning against the table. "Until the telegram arrived I had some expectation of being able to arrange a compromise, but as this is now impossible I'm in your hands. There's only one thing to do, and that, as Harry suggested, is to leave the country." None of us will stand in the way of your doing so," Vane informed him, drily. "It enough," said Arnold. "You'll have to do more than that. I've been practi- cally insolvent for a long while, and the last pound of' ready money I could raise has been spent in an attempt to stave off the crisis. Once or twice it looked M if I would succeed; but there's only ruin in front of me to-night. If I stay here I shall, no doubt, shortly be arrested. "What do you want? Christopher in- quired. First, an assurance that Maud will be provided for." "It's promised," said Christopher; and Harrv broke in, I'll see to that." My claim's first," added Vane. You need have no uneasiness about my niece's future. "Then," said Arnold, "I'll have to ask you for live hundred pounds. Considering the disgrace my arrest would bring upon you, it's a reasonable demand. It should. I think, set, me on mv feet in, we'll say, South America." "You shall have it," said Vane; and when Christopher and Harry added assurances to the same effect. Arnold looked at them with a sneer. It seems there's a competition among you for the honour of getting rid of me." he re- marked. You can arrange the thing be- tween you, but Christopher deals with my bank, and I've a cheque-book here. I've only to add that if I leave very shortly I can get the night train." Christopher wrote him out a cheque, which he pocketed. Thanks," he said. I'm not likely to cause you any further anxiety. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll go and give orders to the groom." None of them made any answer, and there was an awkward silence when he left them without another word. By-and-bye, however. Harry addressed Christopher. About that cheque," he said. As the one who brought about the climax, it seems to me I'm liable." No," objected Vane. My idea is that we should divide it, but we'll talk it over again. There's another point—your manner led me 'to believe that you had some further charge against Arnold." Harry met his gaze steadily, and then broke into a little grim smile. It was a purely personal matter." Vane turned to Christopher, and Harry saw the look that passed between them. I didn't think you had noticed what took place this afternoon," the latter added. Now I see I was wrong, but it's a subject upon which there is nothing to be said." Christopher laid a hand upon his shoulder. "Harry," he said, "with all respect to him, your father was a little hare-brained, and on your own admission you have been so too; but there was remarkably fine stuff in him, and there is no doubt that he has passed it on to his son." Again Harry smiled. Why should I have spoken? What right have I-an outsider, a Westerner from the wild?—to come here and tarnish the honour of the family? Haven't I done enough—to save my father's credit—- already?" Christopher made a gesture of reproval. Your forbearance does you credit, but you must never call yourself an outsider again. You are one of us. We are glad to welcome you, for your father's sake—and your own." He broke off abruptly, and then pointed to the engineer's confession which was still lying on the table. What are you going to do with this? It requires some thought," said Harry. It's clearly my duty to send it to the under- writers, but that's not likely to lead to any exposure. They would, no doubt, have to sub- stantiate their claim before they could even figure as Arnold's creditors, and it strikes me as very improbable that they would institute legal proceedings against an absconding bank- rupt. Apart from that, I shall probably give the story to the Western Press—I scarcely expect it will reach this country—but we'll discuss the matter again. One thing is certain —neither MauU nor Alison must ever hear a word of it." You're a generous man," Vane answered, and Christopher smiled at Harry. Perhaps I'd better mention that Alison was sitting among the stones at the foot of the gully this afternoon," he said. Harry flushed at this. Well," lis answered, simply, I'm sorry." Next moment, there was a rattle of wheels outside, and Vane, who took out his watch, sighed with relief. "He'll get the train," he remarked. "It hu been a rather startling and painful day, and I'm glad it's over. I think we'll tell Maud together to-morrow; I believe she has retired early. Christopher agreed, and then turned to Harry. WTill you come over in, say, half an hour? Alison will expect some explana- tion as soon as we get in." They went out together; but Harrv left them at the lodge, and, walking up the dale, turned back towards Low Wood by another road. It was a soft, clear night, with a half- moon in the sky, and it struck him that he had never seen the valley look so beautiful. As he approached Low Wood he saw a white- clad figure waiting at the gate, and when he reached it Alison stretched out her hand to him. I am badly ashamed," she said. You *aust trv to frrt-oifp me narry neia ner nantl fast. It would ho very easy, only I can't do so, because you aren't to blame. Your attitude was perfectly warranted and very natural." I was horribly uncharitable," the girl protested. You have been splendidly gener- ous. I have made my father tell me." Harry smiled. "I came over for one pur- pose, but long before I accomplished it I made up my mind to stay for another. You can't be cruel enough to spoil it for me. II you'll give me a minute I'll try to tell yor. what it is." He did so, and when he broke off and drew her masterfully into his arms she did not reAiafc [THE END.1

Advertising

NEWS IN BRIEF.