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LALL KIGHTS RESERVED.) I HER…

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LALL KIGHTS RESERVED.) I HER VANISHED LOVER. I BY EDITH C. KENYON. Author 01 Which was the Heiress 11 The Hand oj his Brother, The Squire of Lonsdaledec. CHAPTER XXII. I GERALD'S SIGNET RING. I TWENTY-SIX hours afterwards, Jessie awakes I in the dead of night, miserably conscious that someone has been in her room and that she has been robbed. How she obtained the impression she cannot tell; she only knows that it is a very real one. Sitting up in bed, she feels for the matches she left on a chair close by, and finds they are not there. Alarmed at this, for she remembers perfectly leaving them there the night before, She gets out of bed, and going to her chest of drawers, searches for a reserve match-box, left there in case of need. Even in the dark she can tell by feeling it that her drawer has been rummaged and disarranged, her purse is not in the corner in which she keeps it, and her matches have been taken away also. A thief has been in the room her instinc- tive feelings that it is so are true ones. A thief has certainly taken away her match- boxes and rummaged her drawers. She feels naturally most nervous, and, longing for light more than anything else, draws up her dark green window blind, letting in the pale moonlight. At the same time she hears her door opening softly, and for one moment feels as if she could not stir, then, turning, perceives it closing in the dim light. It is a minute or more before she can nerve herself to cross the little room, and open the door. Peering out into the blackness of the narrow passage and staircase, she can per- ceive nothing. But sounds of some person stealthily descending the lower stairs come to her ears. Putting on her dressing-gown as rapidly as possible, never thinking of the danger to herself, but only wishful to pursue the burglar, she hastens down the attic stairs. Dick I Dick she cries—not too loudly, lest she should disturb her father down- stairs-" Dick! as she passes her brother's door. There is no answer. Dick's outdoor, hard- working life conduces to make him a heavy sleeper. Susan's door comes next Jessie calls her, and hurries on without waiting for any response. Downstairs the night air blows coldly in at the open door. There are voices outside, and Jessie stands still a moment to listen. "I tell you, it's not enough a man's voice is saying very roughly. "What's ten pounds? Nothing, when I've to go so far- just think, the other side of the world. For it must be Australia, or Tasmania. America's played out for me." You've had a deal of money, George, one way or another, time after time." Jessie starts. It is her step-mother's voice, querulous, too, and very miserable. What is she doing out there with this man ? You fool!" he bursts out with, passion- ately. "You fool! I must have at least thirty pounds, or I can't do it." "Nay, George," says the woman's voice. Not all that! You must make less do." "Now, come. Be generous, Hannah I I've always stuck to you all throllgh-" "Hush!" she says, querulously. "Don't talk of things. Least said soonest mended." I've been very faithful to you-" Will you hold your noise?" she says, adding, You know there's that ten pounds I gave you last time you was here, and-" "But that's al1 gone," interposes the voice," and you must remember I shall want an -autfit "I must let you havevome of my hus- band's clothes. He'll never want them any more. The doctor says, although he may stay with us some time, he will never leave his bed." Horrible Jessie can scarcely believe she hears aright. She has credited her step- mother with real true love for her husband, and that has often made her appear in a better light than she would otherwise have attained to. But, now, can it be she who is going to parfe with her husband's clothes to another man—presumably a lover—whilst he whom she has sworn to love and cherish. I as long as life shall last is still living? A great longing comes over the girl to rush out and cry shame upon this wickedness, and part the guilty lovers, and save her father's honour. She might have done so. She would cer- tainly have done something had it not been that at that instant a sudden gust of wind blew the house door to and the door of the front kitchen open, revealing the bed on which her father lay, in the dim light of a night-liglit burning on the table near him. "Hannah he called, being awakened by the noise, Hannah Fearful of startling him, Jessie hesitated to reply. Her mother could not hear. "Hannah!" called Mr. Eden again, ex- citedly. Hannah Where are you ? There's someone in the house. Someone is hiding behind the curtain by the door. I'm sure there is someone. Would to God that I were not so helpless Hannah Will no one come?" There is agony in the calling voice. Jessie can no longer resist the inclination to go to him. Dad," she says, coming forward, I am here. It's all right, dearest." She has taken his hand now, and is kissing him on his brow. "I thought I heard something; so ran downstairs. What do you want ? "Look!" lie says, pointing to a large curtain his wife has caused to be hung quite across the end of the kitchen to keep off the draughts. Look There is someone behind the curtain. There, see!" Even as she looks a covered form behind the curtain runs away towards the open door, and vanishes without revealing itself. "Quick, Jessie cries her father. "See who it is But when Jessie reaches the curtain by the door and lifts it, she can see nothing in the darkness beyond. "Follow him!" again says her father, excitedly. See where he goes. Where is Dick?" he adds. "Would to goodness I could move." His groan is heartrending. Jessie hesitates a moment, then, thinking the figure which has vanished from the room must be in collusion with the two out- side, she crosses over to the house door, and opens it softly. )( Good-bye, dear Hannah, the man's voice -luc is saying in much more kindiy tones. "Then, I will wait there until you give me the thirigs-I won't come here again." "No no." Mrs. Eden speaks hurriedly. "Be sure you lie hidden," she adds breath- lessly. "Oh, dear: I never thought, once, you would come to this," she breaks down, weeping. s> "Now, don't let us have any nonsense, the man says, "you can comfort yourself with thinking that at least you are faithful and true." "Well, I am," Mrs. Eden sobs. "You know, George, I am not one to change." There is the sound of kisses and hasty IC Good-byes," and Jessie slips back into the kitchen occupied by her father, to avoid meeting his faithless wife as she re-enters. "Who was it ? asks Mr. Eden. Did you see him ?" T "I couldn't see any face, answers Jessie. Mother is coming now. I will go to bed." "You here, Jess! 11 exclaims Mrs. Eden, rather crossly, as she enters. "Yes, I heard father callidg." Why' Richard ? Have you been calling? "Yes. Loudly. Where have you been? I called because I heard someone in thg house. And there was someone behind the curtain. Wasn't there, Jessie ? Yes," the girl answers, looking keenly at her step-mother. 111 Weil, I never!" cries Mrs. Eden, in ap- parently genuine surprise. "I left you," she adds, to her husband, "because I fancied I heard someone trying the house door." Burglars ? queries he. I suppose so,"she answers shortly. Then she looks at Jessie, and changes coun- tenance. "You go to bed," she remarks in a sour manner. Jessie kisses her father, and then, leaves the room quietly, full of suspicions of her step-mother, but not able to give utterance to any of them lest she should excite her father. For the doctor has warned them that, inasmuch as excitement in the first instance led to his apoplectic seizure, a recurrence of it might result in death. I may as well fasten the house door," thinks Jessie, as she passes it, and she lifts the latch a moment, and looks out before closing the bolts. As she does so a hand is thrust forward out of the darkness, and a man's voice says in a Avhisper, "Here, take this ring, and wear it in memory of me." The hand has found hers now, and is pressing a ring into it. Before she has time to say a word the owner of the ring has fled into the night, and she is left alone. Quickly closing the door, she bolts and locks it. Then, not liking to disturb her father and step-mother by calling the latter out to receive the ring which she expects was meant for her, Jessie goes upstairs, taking it with her. Passing by Susan's room she espies a light under the door, and calls softly as she raps tt it, "Susie, dear, let me come in." Immediately the light goes out, but there is no answer. Taking this as a sign that she is not wanted, Jessie passes on upstairs to her own room. It is still in darkness, except for the rays of pale moonlight lying across it, which make tha dark shadows in the corners look intensely black. Feeling about for a match-box, Jessie at length succeeds in finding one, and, striking light, looks about for her candlestick. It has been put on the mantel-piece Jessie lights the candle with feverish haste, and then, looks at the ring. It is a plain gold signet ring; the stone being sardonyx. Immediately upon seeing it Jessie gives a little cry of amazement. "Why," she exclaims aloud, "it is my Ger,i,ld's I With feverish haste, she turns the ring round that she may read the inscription inside it:— Gerald Harcourt, Front his mother on his 21st birthday." CHAPTER XXIII. MRS. EDEN'S PROMISE. YES, it is Gerald Harcourt's ring. There is no doubt about that. But it was not Gerald Harcourt who pressed it into Jessie's hands as she stood in the darkness at the house door, nor was it Gerald Harcourt who said at the same time, "Here, take this ring, and wear it in memory of ii-ie I It was a great strong, rough hand that put the ring into hers, and it was a coarse, un- cultured voice that bade her take the ring and keep it in memory of the speaker. Whose voice was it? That of the man who had been talking with her step-mother so long outside, and, yes, she remembered now what it had reminded her of, it was the voice of the tramp who had frightened her one day out on the common, when Archi- bald Slater, himself in all probability a bigger scoundrel, had come to the rescue. But how came that tramp to have Gerald Harcourt's ring in his possession ? Has he robbed him ? Can Gerald possibly be in that neighbourhood ? Jessie's heart bounds at the thought. The rich colour comes into her cheeks, her eyes shine. She feels animated with renewed strength Of body and mind. "Oh, Gerald," she whispers. Dear, if you are near, if you are returning to me, my happiness will be complete. Oh, Gerald 1 She kisses the ring, and holds it near to her. The very sight of it fills her once more with loving confidence in its owner. She remem- bers his unfailing tenderness towards her, Llie:cl)ivalry of his every word and action. She recalls his love, which revealed itself to her in all he did. Never once does she think of her more recent doubts of him they have gone, vanished, never to return. The ring she holds in her hand is a talisman before which all distrust and want of love vanish as completely as if they had never been. Oh, dear, but come thou back to me, V/hatever change the year hath wrought I find not here one single thought That cries against my love for thee, she says, with trembling lips and a tender smile upon her face. She sits for some time lost in happy thoughts, and is only recalled to herself by her door being flung open, as her step- mother bursts iu. "Mercy on us, Jessie!" cries she. "Do yon know there have been thieves in the house?" Yes, yes. They have been here, too "Been here? And you sit there, looking as if something too good to be true has hap- pened What's this ? She points to Jessie's open drawer, the condition of which reveals considerable disorder. "Someone has been searching in that drawer and has taken away my purse," says Jessie, quickly, looking straight at Mrs. Eden. "My goodness! And they've taken my money Oh, Jessie the Woman's voice is grief-stricken, "I'd been saving a bit of money, over twenty pounds this ever so long, for a special purpose-a very special purpose, and it has been taken out of my box. It has clean gone." "But what can you expect?" begins Jessie. "What can you expect when you encourage tramps about the place ? I J? J? saw "What! you saw him? asks Mrs. Eden, in tones of consternation. "Yes, I saw him; and you were conver- sing with him." Mrs. Eden's colour changes. Jessie," she says, "Jessie, it isn't him! He hasn't got the money. It was for Mm I wan ted i t." "Why for him?" asks Jessie, coldly. What is he—this tramp to you ? "He's not a tramp. He is an old friend, Jess. A very old friend." "Indeed? "Yes. And that is not the point. Who has got my money? That is what I want to know." And who has taken mine? "Mine was in a box which I always keep where I sleep. It was, to-night, in a box in the front kitchen, and while I was out she hesitates. Seeing the man ? suggests Jessie. Yes—seeing the man, it disappeared. Now, Jess, tell me this? What was you doing in the sick room with your father ? "I told you. Hearing someone up in the house, stealing downstairs, I followed in pursuit. Then I heard my father calling and went to him." "Was that all? Did you take nothing from my box, Jessie Eden ? Surprised at the question, Jessie answered, Of course I did not. I might as well ask you, niother, if you took my ten pounds? Mrs. Eden shakes her head. "Then it's clear," she says, at length, its quite clear that the same party that took my money took yours." And that person was not the—tramp ? "No, no. I was out talking with him." Jessie knows this. "Then probably it was the person behind the curtain who eluded my pursuit," she suggests. That's him. I wonder who 'twas." So do I." ITe's,Fol; cletii off in -iiiy case." "Yes." Jessie is silent g, minute or two, then she says, "As I was looking out after him I overheard some of your conversation with that man and did not like it. Oh, mother! How could you ? The last words are full of indignant appeal. Mrs. Eden bursts out crying, sinking into a chair and rocking herself to and fro. It's not what you think." she gasps out. "It's not what you think——" More tears follow; then she sobs, "I'm a miserable woman A miserable woman Her grief is so pitiable and so despairing, that, in spite of her anger on her father's account, Jessie feels the utmost compassion, and rising, lays her hand kindly on the elder woman's shoulder. Tel! me all about it," she says softly. "Tell you? You — his daughter? God forbid!" Dashing away her tears, Mrs. Eden rises to her feet. Jessie stiffens visibly at this evidence of guilt. She even makes a slight gesture towards the door, significant of her wish to be alone. Her mother rises slowly. "Jess," she says, "it's a bad job! A right bad job! But you'll make matters a hundred times worse if you tell your father. Remember the doctor says any excitement now will be fatal to him." "I don't forget that," says Jessie. "I never forget that for a moment. She begins to think of Dick. Shall she tell him ?" With the intuition of another's thoughts which one has sometimes, Mrs. Eden di- vined what was in her mind. Jessie," she exclaims, you mustn't tell Dick! Dick can never keep in a thing. He'll tell his father, I am certain, if he knows about it. He'll burst out with it, there and then." Yes, Jessie is aware Dick, at his age, has no reticence, no reticence at all. If I don't tell him," she begins, if I don't tell him 11 01), you won't! You won't! You're a sensible girl. You won't say a word to him," as she speaks, Mrs. Eden is bustling out of the room, when it occurs to her to add," "The man won't come here again. I've forbidden it. He won't come near the place." "That is well," says Jessie, "otherwise I should have to take steps." Mrs. Eden has gone before Jessie recollects that she has said nothing to her about the ring, Gerald's ring, which must really have been intended for Mrs. Eden, because the man who gave it was her friend. But how came he into possession of that ring? Puzzling over the matter, it is hours before Jessie falls asleep, and in consequence does not awake before Dick batters away at her door, calling out, "We've had breakfast, Jessie, and I'm off to look after the plough- ing of the four-acre field. Are you ill ? Or what is the matter ? "rIll all right, dear boy," answers Jessie. I've been awake a good deal in the night. There—there were noises. Did you hear any ? "None," replies Dick. "I say, Jessie," he adds, you ought to do a spell of plough- ing, then you wouldn't be plagued with nerves." He goes downstairs hurriedly. Jessie draws out Gerald's ring from beneath her pillow, and looks at it, with I misty eyes. Even if there were no inscrip- tion upon it she Avould know it amongst scores of similar ones, she says to herself, and again she kisses it very fondly. When, an hour afterwards, she comes downstairs, she finds her breakfast waiting for her in the parlour, on a small round table by the fire, and Jane informs her that her mistress is busy in the sick room and Miss Susan has gone to Wakefield. A little later in the day, when they are alone, Jessie seizes an opportunity to show her step-mother the ring and inform her in what way it came into her possession. "It was meant for me, Jess," says Mrs. Eden, looking alarmed. "It's—it's one I've seen—t'man wear." I can scarcely think that," rejoins Jessie, "Tramps do not wear rings like this one." Give me it. You must, it was meant for me." "It was pressed into my hand," says Jessie, "and more, it is the ring of a very dear friend of mine. I shall not part with it unless I first ascertain that the man who brought it here came by it honestly." Mrs. Eden's face changes colour. What are you going to do with it?" she asks, breathlessly. Jessie thinks for a moment, then she answers, "It is of very great importance to me to know how this ring came into your -friend's possession. If you can get the truth from him about that, I will not hand the ring over to the police—otherwise-:—" she pauses significantly, and then, instead of completing her sentence, informs Mrs. Eden that the ring was Gerald Harcourt's, and, as a clue to the mystery of his non-appearance, is of great interest to her. Mrs. Eden, with feverish eagerness, be- seeches Jessie to keep the ring, promising that she will ascertain from the man where and how he met with it. Satisfied that she can do no more, Jessie goes out for a stroll presently, and whilst pausing near the house door, to break off a pretty spray or two of yellow jessamine, which, winter though it is, adorns the walls of the house, her attention is arrested by the sight of a gold nencil-case lying on the ground. Quickly she picks it up, looking at it closely with great amazement. It also is Gerald Harcourt's. She has seen him use it, and his name is inscribed upon it. Jessie trembles now, with fear lest some evil should have befallen the man she loves. That lie has been robbed she is certain, that he may have been murdered, too, is a most alarming thought. Giving up the idea of a stroll, she returns into the house, and beckons to her mother to come to her out of the sick room. "Well, Jess, what is it now?" asks Mrs. Eden, avoiding her eyes. "I have found this on the ground out- side," answers Jessie, holdingout the pencil- case for her to see. "It is Mr. Harcourt's, too. How can that man have obtained pos- session of Mr. Harcourt's things? You must tell me where he is? I must speak to lJÏm-I must ask him." "Oh, Jess." Mrs. Eden catches hold of her arm excitedly. "Jess, you can't know. I can't tell you." If you don't I shall place this affair in the hands of the police." Oh, you mustn't do that! You mustn't do that!" cries her step-mother, wringing her hands. The police must not know." Then you must tell me where the man is." I can't—I can't." "You must take me to him." "Nay, Jess, nay. I can't." "But I must see him, and speak to him-" "Look here, Jess," interposes the other, hastily, you want to know where Mr. Har- court is, as well as when George," the name slips out in her excitement, "got the things. Well, if you'll leave it to me, I'll find out for you to-night, I will indeed—I will find out all about it." "Will you?" Jessie looks doubtfully at her. Oh, Jess, you may believe me. I'll keep my word," is the solemn answer, as Mrs. Eden looks straight at her, through stream- ing tears. "I believe you," says Jessie, touched in spite of herself, 1, 1 believe you." (To be continued.)

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