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VENGEANCE IS MINE:" "! -I…

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VENGEANCE IS MINE:" I WILL REPAY. I POWERFUL NEW STORY STARTS TO-DAY. II Heaven help all whom it may concern. Jude Bryce has returned." I r 'CHAFTEITir^. The Homecoming. It WM four o'clock in the afternoon of a fitu day in late October, and the townlet of Stoke Bassett was in a high state of excitement. The little town was only a hour-and-a-half distance by rail from London, and the whole place had tnrned out to-day to celebrate the home-comkuj of Miles Deering, the son and heir of the lord of the manor, and his pretty and much-envied bride. ) There she is! There they are 1" came at last from the little throng gathered in front I of the principal shop in the High Street. Several carriages and a few cabs had already passed and had had their occupants duly remarked and discussed but now there came along an open landau which aroused so feverish an interest and discussed but now there came along an open landau which aroused so feverish an interest as showed that its arrival had been looked for aa the great evout of the afternoon. A very fine landau it was, drawn by a pair of roan horses, and in it there sat three persons-a man and two ladies. The man was tho newly-married Miles Deering, I the only son and heir of Sir Archibald Deering of Portman Square, London, and Quex Woods, Stoke Bassett, head of the firm of Archibald Deering & Company, Shipowners and General Merchants of Gracechurch Street, City. Opposite to Miles Derring in the carriage sat his bride of three weeks, Eve Deering, with her fair face alternately flushing and paling as she noticed the interest taken in her. A very charming bride, indeed, was she, and so the Stoke Bassett people thought and said to iach other, as they duly inspected and IJaluted her. But their eyes did not rest long upon her, for there was one at ner side who was better known to them than she,; and was dearer to them, and was also in their opinion far better worth looking at. I Better worth looking at? Yes, indeed Miles Deering's bride was like a violet in her girlish shy.; ness and purity and modest sweetness. But the girl who sat beside her—Lena Deering, the bridegroom's sister—was lovely with the rich loveliness of a glowing and glorious English rose. She takes the shine out of Mrs. Miles, doesn't she ? cried the old bookseller, who owned the shop aforesaid, uncompromisingly. Well, the man thatj gets her will be a lucky man, and no mistake. But where's the man who loves her best ? Why isn't he here with her ? Who's that ? asked a voice. "Who's that ? Why, John Stirling, of course. I'll back him to win her in spite of all your Captain rerriss's, though it may take him another ten years." With which sentiments the majority of the crowd igreed, for the domestic affairs of Quex Woods had lately been the chief topic of conversation in Stoke Bassett. And while John Stirling was a general favourite, Stoke Bassett did not take at all kindly to Captain Terriss, said to be from Texas, the latest suitor for Miss Deering's hand. The carriages had all passed now, and the crowd in the High Street was dispersing, men, women, md children alike going homeward, when suddenly i shock arrested them arrested them one and all' instantly, as if at a word of command. The noise )f a terrific crash, muffled by distance, yet still fear- ful, had reached them. There was an interval of paralysis, when none either spoke or moved. Then some of the men itarted to run Eastward towards the station. But the crowd as a body waited waited in consternation ind terror, holding its breath. And presently some !)f those that had gone in search of news came back to make the startling announcement "The train which was due here ten minutes after the special has met with an accident a quarter of a mile out from the station. Another train crashed into the back part of it. There are about five killed, they say, and half-a-dozen injured. They're saying that John Stirling is among the injured and that he's not expected to live." John Stirling fatally iTijiire-d-John Stirling, the brother of the bride who had just gone by, and the favourite of her new father-in-law, Sir Archibald Deering The shadow of a heavy gloom settled on the fading of the afternoon light. They did not go home now, but waited in the streets, talking in low voices of the disaster and expecting they knew not what. They had awaited barely a half- hour when voices among them were heard saying: "They are bringing John Stirling along to Quex Woods, because it is nearer than the hospital." So they bore John Stirling to Quex Woods, the home of the woman whom he secretly loved, and on the evening fixed for the ball in celebration of the return of his lately wedded sister after her honeymoon. It looks as if the Lord had taken away his chance of winning Lena Deering," said the old bookseller in a low voice to the group immediately about him. CHAPTER II. I In the Valley of the Shadow. I The home-coming ball was in progress at Qnex Woods, but an air of gloom seemed to have settled down upon the gathering. Many of the guests were asking each Aer whether it would not be kinder towards their hosts to leave the house at once than to stay. The cotillon w?s beginning and the daughter of the house had some days ago promised to dance it with the man who now lay upstairs injured and unconscious—John Stirling. She consented now, at lher mother's urging, to take Captain Terriss for* her partner in his stead, and he was leading her to her place, when a keen-featured, middle- aged man who had long been known as the best doctor in or around Stoke Bassett, hurriedly pushed his way through the fashionable throng. Miss Deering, may I have a word with you ?" eCYes-yes." She said, eagerly. "Mr. Stirling has asked me to find you and tell you that he prays you to come and speak with him for a few moments. Will you do it 1 The girl turned to her partner. Captain Terriss, I am so very sorry to disappoint you, but you must find some other partner for the cotillon. I am going upstairs to see Mr. Stirling." A cloud of mortification darkened the face of the dashing young gentleman from Texas. "Can't you wait and go to him afterwards, Miss Deering ?" The wish of a sick man comes before every- thing else," she answered, almost with a touch of rebuke in her voice. With her heart beating faster she turned and went away with the doctor, unconscious in her anxious eagerness that nearly every eye in the room followed her movements. The doctor entered the sick room first and walked softly to the bedside. "Miss Deering has come to you," the girl heard him say in a low voice as he bent over the bed, "she is here with me now." "Ah!" the word escaped the sick man's lips as if it broke from them against his will, that is good of her. And now, will you leave us for a few minutes? I want to be alone with her-alone." Lena Deering heard him say these words and then watched Dr. Brunker whisper to the nurse and then lead her from the room. She moved then to the bedside and stood there looking down at the sick man. He put out one of his hands as if seeking something, and she bent down and took it in hers, speaking then for the first time. "You asked for me?" she said very quietly. I was glad, because I had suffered very much while waiting to hear that you were conscious. It has been terrible to dance and to smile, knowing that you were here—like this." A fleeting gleam of joy came into the eyes of the sick man. "Yon were sorry, then!" he asked her, quickly. "You grieved for me?" I do grieve for you very deeply." Lena Deering bent her head lower over his hand. "Heaven knows we would have given all we have in the world to spare you this fearful salamity. 0 You have all our sympathy, Mr. Stirling. It has been so terrible for poor Eve, too-to have her home-coming shadowed by a blow like this! But you will soon get well— rou will get well again before very long John Stirling strove to shake his head. A Aaage expression was creeping over his face. "I shall never get well again," he said. She started back with a iquick, low cry. Then she stocped over him again, even more tenderly than before. No,-iio! t-be said, hurriedly. "You are making a mistake. You niut be making a mistake. You are feeling, no doubt, as if your life was crushed and broken but it is not so--it cannot, be o." John Stirling smiled faintly. His hand clung to hers again. "God bless you for saying this—for trying to comfort me. To know that yon cate-tlittt you feel for me- would help me to live if anything could, but nothing can. When I recovered my sums just now I asked the doctoi-thi- old ot,e, Dr. Brunker-H I were going 10 die. He would not. tell me at first, but I insisted and at last he told me the truth, very unwillingly. He told me that my injuries are so bad that I canuot recover. So I wanted to tee you, to say—to tell you—while yet there is time Presently my-ctrengtli will go, and I may not be able to speak. That would be best for you, perhaps, but not for me. I want to die knowing that I have bared my heart to you- that you know and will not forget, even though your life be always full of light and joy, as it is now." He tried to raise himself, but the effort was vain. and a moan broke from his ashen lips. It is only the knowledge that I am dying that gives me courage to tell you what I am going to tell yon now." He panted. "And that is that I love you—I love you—I love you His strong baiid-sueb a strong hand it had been a few short hours before clung tighter yet to her small, delicate one. I love you wiili all the strength that is in me," he whispered, hoarsely, daring to say all now that his tongue had once been unloosed. "Lena! Lena! I have loved you and wanted you for ye;irs "Mr. Stirling John!" She saw a shiver shake him. It is true It is true his eyes told her even more surely than did his voice. "I should never have old you but for this deaib-blow which has struck me. I should never have dared to speak. What ri»ht could I have had to hope for you ? I had no great name to give you, no fortune, I am the son of one of your father's dearest friends, it is true, and if I had Jived I should soon have become a junior parti-er in the firm of Archibald Deering & Co.: but how much would these things count with you? For years my heart has longed and ached to tell you, but I would not. I could not. It. would have seemed like offering you an insult." Ah, no Ah, no The love of a good man is never an insult," Lena Deering denied, softly, yet proudly. It does honour to any woman—yes, even though she be a queen." You were a queen to me," he Nvitispeted, ardently. And you cannot know with what oalousy and pain I have seen that Tjrriss was vinning you. Can you think how it has hurt me ,to see this rich Texan interloper watching you and following you hour by hour, and playing the part of lover to you—the part which I longed to play but might not ? Can you think how I have suffered? Heaven knows, and it is perhaps in pity that Heaven sends me this death. When I am gone and you are Terriss's wife, you will forget these wild words of a suffering man. And just now, when I heard that I could not live, 1 said to myself that, at least, one blessing would come to me with death which life could not have given me the blessing of being able to tell you at last that my heart beats for you. Lena !-Lena He broke off, his voica momentarily failing him. He closed his eyes for an instant. Wlieu he opened them again he was conscious that th, vision in white was no longer standing, but wat kneeling beside his bed. 'OJohn she whispered, tremulously, John A second time John Stirling tried to raise him- self, and a second time he sank back helplessly, with a moan. But a light had come into his eyes which no mere bodily pain could banish. "John!" she whispered again, and in the lamplight he saw a quick blush dye her tear-wet cheeks. I love you, too. I never knew it until to-night! but I know it now. I am yours iu heart, John, and I shall be yours until- QJlltil-" Until the end comes I he whispered. "Yes. Until the end." "Now I can afford to die," he murmured. Even if it be to-night, I can afford to die." His brave eyes feasted on her face, and a strain of the music of the dance reached them from Win. CHAPTEB Til- Saved I Miles Deering was breakfasting late and alone the next morning-in fact the hour woum have better suited lunch when the butlei wrought him a card. "Mr. Pinkerton has come, and is asking to see jfou, Sir," he said. "I've shown him into the ib™Mr. Pinkerton 1" Miles Deering leaned back in his chair in apparently the most extreme astonishment. And,. oddly enough, the colour was leaving his face. Mr. Pinkerton he repeated slowly. Mr. Pinkerton was the head clerk in the office of Messrs. Archibald Deering and Co., of Grace. church Street, and a visit from him at Quex Woods was a very remarkable and portentous sign, especially when Sir Archibald was in town, and he had gone up by an early tram that morning. • "Very well," said the son and heir of the head of the firm, after a pause, addressing the footman. You can tell Mr. Pinkerton I am coming at once." And in a few minutes he confronted his father's and his own head clerk-for he was his father's partner in the great Deering business. A "Good-morning, Mr. Pinkerton. Sorry to keep you waiting. 7 What's up "Sir Archibald Deering has sent me Sir, to see you and return with you by the next train." "Go back with you to London ?" "Sir Archibald wishes it, Sir. Somt thing very serious has happened and ho says he cannot move in the matter until you come. The auditors have discovered a good deal wrong with the books. There are defalcations to the extent of close upon twenty thousand pounds." Defalcations!" Miles Deering repeated the ominous word in a tone that cleverly indicated the sheerest amazement. "It is astounding! t is perfectly incredible Are you sure that there has been no mistake ? The clerk shook his head. Unfortunately, Sir, there is no room for any doubt whatever. The I' books have beeu examined most carefully and there is no mistake possible, and one of the wn.-st features of the ugly business is th<t the accounts have been cooked most ingeniously cooked. Whoever the embezzler is, he has done his work most cleverly. But we had better not waste time in talking, Sir. I could give you the det ils iu the train. There is a train at eleven-forty- five which we might catch if you can hurry." But the young man hesitated. < "I have an important letter or two to NY I., t, ¡ he said hastily. "Let me see is the next train after that ? Twelve-thirty ? That will do. We will go by that." Miles hurried out of the room, crossed the inner hall, hesitated for a moment at the foot of the stair-case and then mounted the stairs and walked with a nervous step a'ong the corridor to the room where John Stirling broken and racked with suffering. Softly he entered. There was no one in the room except, the patient and his day nurse. The sick n an himself lay with closed eyes. In spite of the urgency of his business here, Miles Deering stopped to draw a sharp breath at siyht of the face it was so drawn, so haggard, so changed from what it had been but yesterday morning. c, jofln the visitor uttered the name in a startled voice, "yon are better ? The sick man smiled and feebly put out his hand. "Only better ill so far as I am nearer a better world, Miles. That is the only way in which I shall ever be better now." The other stared at him. "And yet you look happy—radiantly happy he cried, wondering. "You, are haggard and pale and altered, of course, but the look in your eyes suggests thab .cl you have just come in for a fortune." That is not the best thing that could happen to 3, or to any other man," rejoined John Stirling, gravely, yet brightly, there are better things in life than coming in for a fortune, Miles. You, as a newly-married man ought to know this. Yes, there are many better things-and the best of them all has come to me, although only for a few short hours. But this is my heart's secret, but; you are looking terribly ill, Miles. What is the matter ? Has anything gone wrong with you 1 His friend and brother-in-law nodded. Yes, everything has gone wrong .with me. 1 am in a terrible difficulty, John-in difficulty and even danger—and I want you to help me —to help me for Eve's sake more even than for mine." He glanced aside apprehensively at the nurse. The sick man read his meaning and said faintly: Nurse Nurse will you leave me alone for a few minutes with Mr. Deering ? The pleasant-faced woman in her hospital uniform smiled her assent and softly went away. John Stirling set his lips tightly and turned his head upon his hot pillow. His brother-in-law bent over him. "John!" he whispered; "John! listen to me. I've an awful story to tell you. It concerns you nearly as closely as it does me, because I've married your sister, and if I'm shown up she will be ruined, too." "Sliowniip? Ruined?" Miles Deering nodded. "Yes. Half an hour ago Pinkerton came down to say that the auditors have discovered something wrong in the books. There have been defalcations amounting to close upon twenty thousand pounds. Did you know anything about it, John ? Did ) Oil suspect it ?" John Stirling looked up sharply. "Did I know? Did I suspect anything? Certainly not. Should I have kept silent it I had had any suspicions ? Should I have let the criminal work go on? Surely, Miles, you know me better than that Even as it is, I feel that there must be some mistake—that it cannot be. There is not one of all the men who have access to the books whose honour and honesty I could in>t vouch for as for my own," "Not so, John. You are wrong. You can't answer for other men. You would have vouched for me, but you would have been wrong. For 1 did it-I YOM." Yes, I. I'd got into difficulties over horses and the Stock Exchange, and I needed money and the governor wouldn't give it to me, so I took it—fifty at a time at first, then a hundred and then five and six hundred at a time until I'd got close on twenty thousand pounds. 1 cooked the accounts so carefully that I never thought the deficit would be found out; but they 0 found it out somehow, and I'm in a tight corner." "My God!" gasped John Stirling. "You! You And you have married Eve His hands that had been clenched with pain now remained clenched with despair. f Miles it's not true. You must be ill Miles Deering laughed a short bitter laugh. "It's no good you're deluding yourself, John I've done the ugly job, and the only questio; now is, how am I to get out of it." "There is only one way in which I can b saved, and with me my wife—only one way." "What is that way 1" The sick man spoki quickly and eagerly. "It is this, John." Miles took one of hi; brother-in-law's clenched hands in his, aut. gripped it desperately. It is this, John-thai you take my guilt upon yourself. No, no don', start! You are a doomed man. I need not mince matters about that, for you your8011 have just told me so. You must die, and almost at once—perhaps this very night—while I may live to be an old man of eighty. You cannot be, punished even if you were guilty of murder. You could not now he called upon to pay any earthly penalty. You cannot suffer at all, while you can save me—ine, your friend, the son of the man who has been a second father to you, and the husband of your sister." "Miles "Look here, John Do you remember the days when we were at college together 1 Do you remember what chums we were, and how one day you said to a fellow who told some nasty lie about me that you were prepared to defend my honour as firmly as your own ? Do you remember that, John ? Well, now you've got a chance to defend my honour. You've only got to scrawl a few words on a scrap of paper and sign your name under them, and the thing will be done. You'll have saved me and Eve and my father's name, and my mother's happiness father's name, and my mother's happiness and Lena's pride. I believe you love Lena. Think of what it would mean to her-to her happiness and "her future—if I were publicly ex- posed as a thief! Think of it, John." "My God!" came once more from the lips of the man who lay racked with suffering. Miles bent lower over him. "Will you do it John?" lie panted. "Will you do it and save me ? It won't matter to you. You're going to die. And if God sees these things, as we are told He does, He'll count this to your credit in the next world. What do you say? Will you do it and save me ? And then the answer came faintly and agon- isedly from the helpless man on the bed. Yes. Miles Deering drew a deep breath of unutterable relief. He felt in his pockets and presently pro- iuced a piece of paner and a pencil. "You must write it," he said hoarsely. "Can you do it ? Can you use your hand to write ? "Yes; only put the paper on something hard." The guilty man fetched a book and held the paper steadily upon it, while the innocent man strove to write. After a moment John Stirling gave up the attempt. "I can't do it," he said despairingly, at last. With an inward oath, Miles took the pencil. "I'll write it :md you can sign it," he said, sharply. Then after a moment: No; perhaps I'd better call the nurse." And he rang the bell. Promptly the nurse reappeared and Miles motioned her to a seat. "Mr. Stirling desires to make a statement." he said. "Will you sit by him and wiite what he dictates?" She seated herself with pen and paper before them and then slowly John Stirling spoke these words "1. John Stirling, do hereby confess that I, and I alone, am guilty of the embezzlement of over twenty thousand of money belonging to the firm of Archibald Deering & Company, in 11 y which firm I hold alid have held a position of confidence. Now you must manage to sign it," said Miles, handing him the paper. "Just write your name. You must do it. You must force yourself to do it. Only two words- two little words—'John Stirling '—ah By the sheer driving force of iron will, the sick man's shaking fingers had traced with the pencil the letters of the name "John Stirling," and the man whom he had saved snatched the paper back. Now the nurse will witness it," he said, and the unsuspecting woman added her signature— Ailsa Perl." "All's well, John." said Miles. But John Stirling had swooned. And many times Lhat day Miles Deering crept back to the door f that room and listened anxiously to the sick man's laboured breathing. If only he would die to-night ho muttered. If only he would die to-night." CHAPTER IV. f Thou shalt not bear false witness." I Something approaching a miracle had happened at Quex Woods. For a fortnight John Stirling's life had hung by a thread. Life and Death had fought for him above his bed, and at last Life had conquered. A London specialist had been summoned to see him, and this great man had declared that he would surely live. And there had been rejoicing at Quex Woods; rejoicing,in all hearts save the hearts of the master of the house himself and of his son Miles. For the latter had cast honour to the winds, and shown his father the confession which he induced John Stirling to sign. Up to the present, Sir Archibald had spoken no word to the sick man about the grave and painful subject. But to-day he felt he must speak. To-day it would be safe to speak, for to-day he an 1 Miles and Stirling found themselves alone. "The time has come, John," said the head of the great firm, when I must speak to you about your confession of guilt with regard to the lately discovered defalcations in the firm's books. Surely 1 need not t,.il you how grieved and shaken I was by that confession to know that you—you whom I loved and honoured—you the son of my old and trusted friend should, have been guilty of embezzlement you, who in. another few months would have become a' partner in the firm God knows, the blow has smitten me body and soul." "Sir Arcliibal,l John Stirling had started on his couch. You are judging me wrongly, Sir Archibald, I am not guilty of this thing." Not guilty Not ?" I I No, as Heaven is my witness, I am not guilty." A tremor ran through the figure of Miles Deering, as he stood at the distant window. "Is not this your confession?" Sir Archibald Deering drew from his pocket a folded paper and; opened it before Jr;hu Stirling's eyes. Is not this your signature ? The accused man took the document and read it slowly. Then he 111 closed his set lips to answer. The signature is mine—yes. But ask your son what the truth is." A word from him will set the matter right. He will tell you the truth. Miles cried Sir Archibald in astonishment. Miles Deering had become suddenly haggard and his face was of a greyish pallor; yet he looked1 in John's eyes and lied coolly. A word from me ? I know nothing about the- accursed business, except that you dictated that confession to me and signed it, and told me witw your own lips that you were guilty." **#■*»•» That night an unexpected and remarkable letter was delivered at Quex Woods, for Miles Deering. It's contents were brief. Written on the front of a half sheet of paper were these- words: "See Exodus, twentieth chapter, sixteenth; verse. At this curious unsigned message Miles laughed aloud. But his laugh was mirthless, and he rose from his chair, and with unsteady hands- took down a Bible from one of the library shelves- Turning the pages with hasty, unaccustomed fingers, lie found the place he sought, and read: '• Thousltalt not bear false viliuess against thy neighbour." He looked again at the half-sheet of paper, for some sign of its seuder. On the front of it there- was no sign, but when lie looked on the back of it he found some more words faintly written.. They were these I I I kno w the truth. Jude Bryce." [The continuation of this powerful story will be found in ANSWERS, the great family paper,. ready at all newsagents on aud after Tuesday,, October 29th, Price Id.]

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