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[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.] HER VANISHED LOVER. BY EDITH C. KENYON, Author of" Which was the I-leiress ? The Hand of his Brother," "The Squire of Lonsdale," &c. CHAPTER XXIV. MRS. EDEN'S ACCIDENT. THE following night is a very wet one. Rain pours down as it it is never going to stop, it patters on the roof above Jessie's head, making the attic full of sound, and it fills dfoft spouting round the house to over- flowing, causing little waterfalls in various directions. Jessie, tossing wakefully on her bed, recollects that her step-mother looked at her very pitifully, more than once, before she withdrew to go to her own room for the night. Was the elder woman wanting to be let off a journey in the rain, in quest of the lIDaD she called George? Was she longing ifor Jessie to speak to her aside, saying she could wait another twenty-four hours before fulfilling her promise to obtain the infor- mation about Mr. Harcourt ? If so she was disappointed, for Jessie never once thought of letting her off that night journey, wet though it was. "I could not wait in sus. pense another twenty-four hours," she says Ito herself, "I could not." And perhaps, although Mrs. Eden said the man was not coming to the farmhouse again, he may not be far off. But how it pourr, I Rain like that will soak anyone through and through in a few minutes. Jessie finds herself wondering uneasily what the man George is to her step-mother. its he her lover? Their words, their state- ments about being true and faithful to eadh other and their kisses at, parting seem to testify that it is so. And there is the hor- rible thought that Mrs. Eden has actually Eromised to bestow on this vile man some of er husband's wea,ring-apparel, even whilst the latter is actually alive. The woman may well look guilty and miserable. She is a wicked, deceitful creature! Having arrived at tl^is conclusion, Jessie fails asleep, and after a* time, dreams that the sees her step-mother lying in a dark, wet dyke, crying pitifully. The girl awakes with a start, tells herself it is only a dream, and then, settling herself more comfortably on her pillows, goes to Bleep again. But once more she hears sobs and cries, and sees the dim outline of Mrs. Eden's figure prostrate in a dark, wet dyke. Awaking again, Jessie tells herself there Is something in the dream, and sitting up in bed, she listens. There is a slight lull in the storm, the rain falls less noisily upon the tiles, the sound of pouring water is diminished. Rising, Jessie goes to the window and opens it. A_gusfc<*f -coofr'iaijght wind blows io, laden with rain-drops. They sprinkle Jessie's face and soft flannel nightgown; but she scarcely heeds that, for her ears have caught the sound of a distant anguished cry of, Help I Help! Help!" It is her step-mother's voice, and she is apparently in great*trouble somewhere out- side. Jessie seizes hold of her dress, slips it on, and covers it with a long waterproof cloak, drawing the hood over her head. Then she Sttts on her stoutest pair of boots, and runs ownstairs. At Dick's door she pauses a moment, or two. Shall she awake him ? It would be an immense comfort to hitvehim with her. But no. Dick is not to know anything about it. With a sigh, Jessie turns from the door, and runs down the remaining stairs. The house door is on the latch, Jessie slips through, closing it behind her. The night is very dark, the moon being ob- scured by heavy rain-clouds; the wind is subsiding a little, but the rain descends Steadily. For a few moments Jessie stands motion- less, listening intently, without hearing the sound of her step-mother's voice, then, all at once, the cry she heard before, "Help I Help! Help! is repeated. It proceeds from the copse, or thicket, near the house, and Jessie hurries there as fast as she can run, calling reassuringly, *'I'm coming! I'm coming! But this is easier said than done, for it is so dark under the trees, and the footpaths fin the copse are so narrow, and so crooked, ;that she comes into collision with the trees, first on one side and then on another, and knocks herself badly in different places, ■whilst brambles catch hold of her dress and tear it. Yet still the pitiful cries for help spur her on to fresh efforts, and she perseveres, feeling no fear, indeed conscious of only one emotion, and that is her strong desire to come to the rescue of her unhappy step- mother. At last she arrives at the further end of the copse, where a broad ditch and low hedge separate it from a field, beyond which is a large beech plantation. The cries pro- ceed from the ditch. It is her dream come true. "Helpl Help! Help!" "Mother, is that you down in the ditch?" ,cries Jessie, hanging over it, dimly discern- ing a blacker spot than the rest, from which the cries proceed. "Ay, Jess, ay. I've fallen in here. And I believe my leg is broken. I cannot move it. It hurts awfully." "Oh, dear," exclaims Jessie, "how did Vou fall in ? I missed my way in the dark and wet. I thought I'd got to the bridge. I was halt mad wi' trouble, you know. I hadn't t money to take wi' me I ought ;to have had. And the next thing I knew I was in here 'AMODgSt t'water and niud. I'm that numbed, I wish I was dead!" She, breaks into a scream of pain and despair. Jessie feels singularly helpless, as she !bends over her. How can she possibly lift her step-mother's heavy helpless body out of the ditch? Alone, unaided, she can dc nothing. Mother," she cries, I must run] foi help." "Nay You mustn't leave me, Jess You mustn't leave me." I must fetch Dick and two of the men." "Nay, not so, Jess," screams Mrs. Eden, "you mustn't do that, if you care for yout dear father. For he'd get to know. and it would kill him. It'u'd be better for me tc die than that shouldl,happen-ay, better a thousand times." But I can't let you die cries Jessie. ] can't let you die. I must fetch someone." There is no reply. The rain beats down on Jessie's umbrella, it beats down also on the sodden heap within the ditch, wherein the 4ark cold water is rising slowly but surely. "Let me be;" comes in a sobbing voice from out of the darkness. The ditch 1] oe full of water before long, then I shall drown; 'Twill be a fitting end for me to ■come to I ..I 1 can't let you drown," cries Jessie. £ al fe^h someone I will." totay where you are. I'm not worth (troubling about. My best days for working? are over. Your father does not love me ihalf so much as he loves you—he'll be happy With you happier far than with me. And ;S(isaii-My ousan, caras more for Slater's little finger than for me who have done mv best for bpr .all her life. Ay' dear she breaks off, with a cry of pain. "I shall fetch someone, mother," says ,Jessie, loudly. "You shall not die here, like a rat in a hole. "Then fetch George. "Who?" Jessie does not-quite catch the > » 1.MJ- TT George — the tramp child. He a stronger than many men. He can lift me out o' here and carry me home. But mind, you must make him leave me on the thres- hold, and run away again before folks see him. Mind that, Jess, if I'm swooning, and can't remind him. There is a price set on his head you know-so much gold for the man who can find him." "Where is he?" asks Jessie, tremblingly. What a ruffian he must be! There is no answer. Only the steady beat- ing of the rain upon the trees and ground, her umbrella and the sodden object in the ditch. In the distance/the riiiiil)ling ()f a railway train is to he heard. Looking round, Jessie thinks the night is darker than it was before, Afraid lest Mrs. Eden is sinking into un- consciousness, she shoutsj again, Mother, where is he ? What ? proceeds faintly from the ditch. "Where is George?" Jessie hopes the name will arouse her. "Oh, George ? Aye, fetch him. He's in the beech wood. Just you run across the next field, and when you get to the wood shout, Coo-ey," low at first, and louder and louder till he comes. He'll think it's me, and 'II come last enough. Bring him 'ere. Tell him it's Hannah, and he'll come, if it's into the very arms of the police. He'll come, for, with all his faults, he does care for me." All right," Jessie says, as cheerily as she can, then, making her way along the ditch till she comes to a foot-bridge, she passes over it into the field lying between the copse and the beech wood. At another time she would have been afraid to cross this field in the dark, not knowing whether she would run against an old horse left for the winter out at grass, or fall into some open drain, or meet with some mischance, But now her whole mind is concentrated on the object she has in view, and, thinking of nothing else, she runs as well as she can through the heavy water- laden grass, her wet garments clinging around her, and impeding her progress more and more. Coo-ey Coo-ey she calls, long before she has reached the wood, and she feels intensely relieved when an answering Cooey comes from out of its blackness. Coo-ey she calls again, standing still where she is. "Coo-ey!" the answer comes in a man's voice, evidently rather nearer her. Can it be true that she feels intensely relieved because a tramp and a ruffian, with a price set upon his head, is coming to meet her, in the small hours of the morning, in a lonely field, with the dense blackness of a dark wet night upon it ? "Hullo! Hannah, why don't you come on?" questions the man, advancing nearer. "Hannah has met with an accident- Why, that's not her!" he interrupts with. Who are you?" he demands, breath- lessly. Hf am Hannah's step-daughter." What ? Yonfineladyll" Jessie disregards this. Poor Hannah has fallen into a dyke and broken her leg she cries. "What? Hannah broken her leg in a dyke?" Yes. I have found her there. But I cannot move her, and the water is rising. She'll be drowned-" By-—! come on then. Come on Catch- ing hold of Jessie's arm he sets off running across the field, straight as an arrow from its bow, to the little bridge. Jessie is carried along more rapidly than she can possibly run alone. She is held up, too, by the man's powerful grasp, and borne forward by his superior force. Once or twice, when she stumbles, she is lifted up and borne along as fast as before. She will never forget that run in all her life. Only when they reach the foot-bridge does George slacken speed, that he may pilot Jessie safely over it. "Show me the place," he says quite hoarsely. Jessie is-a little time before she finds it. There is not a ray of light to help her. But she is guided by low murmurs which evi- dently proceed from one in great pain. Listening intently, she distinguishes the words- "Lord, ha' mercy! Ha' mercy on my soul! I'm a miserable sinner!" "Look, she is down there," says Jessie, catching hold of George's hand, and. causing him to look down to a certain place where a black heap sways, as the ditch water washes it up and down. With an exclamation, George throws off his coat, and plunges into the ditch. In three minutes his strong arms lift Mrs. Eden bodily out, and lay her on the bank beside Jessie, who instantly seizes hold of her, lest she should roll back. "Wait a moment," says George, when he has floundered out of the ditch. He goes for a gate he knows of, lifts it off its hinges, and brings it to the women. Jessie then assists him to place Hannah upon it. But, alas, when she essays to carry one end of the extemporised litter, she finds her strength utterly inadequate for it. My word! that is a go!" cries the man, quite savagely. "What a poor bit of a thing you are!" "A poor bit of a thing," Jessie feels, but she cannot help it. She tries and tries again, but in vain, she cannot aid him to carry that dead weight on the stretcher. George gives himself a mighty shake, grumbles out an oath or two, and, lifting the wet, sodden body of Hannah Eden in his arms, sets off staggering towards the farm. Jessie follows humbly enough, being quite unable to assist this superbly strong man. They proceed slowly and in perfect silence until they reach the farmhouse. Then, and nou tin tnen, George lays his mixden down on the door-step, and falls down himself in a dead faint. Jessie, hastening into the house, procures some brandy in a cup. This she forces down the man's throat, which causes him instantlv to revive. Seizing hold of the cup with his own band, he drains it at one draught, and then, slowly rises. Is anyone up in the house ? he asks. No." Should I be seen by anyone if I carry her in and lay her on a sofa ? Jessie hesitates for a momajit. It will not do for her mother to be^n the front kitchen, where her father is. He must be spared the sight of her now, and the know- ledge of the details of the illness which must inevitably follow. "Not if you lay her upon the couch in the parlour," she says. "Show me the way," says he, and then, guided by Jessie, carries the mistress of the house straight into the parlour, and lays her on the soft rug before the fireplace. "This," he remarks, will look more natu- ral when the others come in than if she is laid on the couch, as they will know you could not possibly have laid her there unaided." "Yes," assents Jessie. "You'll have to call someone up to go for the doctor to come and set her leg," he says, next, "and then, you must try and bring her round. A drop of that brandy you gave me will do it. Poor old lass, I must just look in her pocket to see if she has the little sum of money in it that she was going to give me to-night." Jessie making no objection, George takes Mrs. Eden's purse from her pocket and, without opening it, hurries out of the house, and away into the darkness. It is not until he has gone that Jessie recollects she has obtained no information from him about Gerald Harcourt. CHAPTER XXV. I A STARTLING- REVELATION. OH Jess, Jess, you must help me! What- ever shall I do if you don't ? His life depends upon it." "IwHl do what I can to help you," an- swers Jessie, sweetly, rt„Tf you will tell me all about it, quietly and calmly, without exciting yourself." It is the following evening. A bed has been made up for poor Mrs. Eden in the parlour, the doctor has set her broken leg, and Jessie, with Jane's assistance, has bathed her, and made her as comfortable as possible, in soft clean Jinen, fragrant with sweet lavender. The poor woman has suf- fered much. Even now the limbs that have lain so long in the ditch-water are racked with rheumatic pains. The sufferer has been delirious, astonishing everyone with her strange talk and excited cries to George to come to her. But now, at last, after some sleep, she seems to be more herself, and is endeavouring to divest her mind of the nightmare-like burden that oppresses it. I'll try," she makes answer now, very querulously, "I'll try. And I'll trust you, Jess, if you'll promise me that you won't tell your father. You must not tell him one word of what I say to you Jess." "I don't wish to promise that," says Jessie. "It is possible that I may think it my duty to tell him." "Nay, Jess, nay. IVII never be your duty to tell your father what would maybe cause his death." "Will he be so excited if he hears it?" "Aye, that he will," answers the other, bitterly. You could not tell him anything of me that would excite him more." Jessie is convinced now that the case bears the very worst complexion. She feels sick with apprehension, and worn out with fatigue. After her terrible adventures of the night before she had to rouse the house —all its inmates except her father, who heard soon enough that his wife had met with an accident, and then had to be soothed and calmed—send for a doctor, arrange that Mrs. Eden should not be placed in the same room with her husband, lest her outcries, her illness and her delirium might be too much for him, wash and tend her with her own hands, calm Susan's hysterics, and look after everyone and everything. If Jane had not been, as it were, her right hand she would surely have broken down. As it was Dick's many questions and her father's speculations as to how it was Mrs. Eden broke her leg bewildered and fatigued her until she scarcely knew what she answered. "Why, Jessie, you've contradicted your- self again," said Dick, at last. Whereupon Jessie faced him boldly. "Dick,' she said," I'm not going to say where I found mother. That is her secret, and I shall not betray it." "Oh, well, do as you like," said the young man, huffily. Then Jessie laid a pleading hand on his arm, saying entreatingly, "Dick, dear, help me to satisfy father without telling him, for I'm dreadfully tired." At this appeal Dick's good nature was res- tored, and he gallantly undertook to talk to their father about it. The matter ended with his begging his father not to ask for particulars until Mrs. Eden was well enough to explain how the sad accident happened.. "I see you think the very worst of me, Jess," says the sick woman now, "but you needn't. I'm bad enough, God knows. But I'm not faithless to my husband. You start! Ah! I see you thought that of me. Well, you good people can be very hard! But I'm a true wife to my Richard." She stops short, groaning. I'm afraid it makes your pains worse to talk," suggests Jessie, giving her a restora- tive. Lie still, now, and try to sleep." "Nay, nay. There is not much time if my lad's life is to be saved. Sleep! Shall I sleep when, starving and driven to despair he gives himself up to the police? Is that what you would do, Jessie Eden, if you loved a man." "But you say he is not your lover." True. He is my brother." "Your brother? Oh!" Jessie's tone is incredulous. The man does not in the least resemble her step-mother. "Yes, my brother George," continues the sick woman; seven years younger than me, and left to my care by my mother when she lay dying. Ay, and I did care for him, too. I did all a sister could do. But I was so poor I could not keep him with me. I had to take situations, and board him out with people and pay for his schooling. And he got into bad ways and ran away, and got among thieves and took to thieving and was sent to prison-and became a jail-bird." Think of that, Jessie Eden, the young brother who was the apple of my eye; him as I'd starved myself to keep comfortably. Ay, dear, I nearly died of grief and shame." She breaks down, weeping bitterly. Oh, God, she says, in a broken whisper which Jessie can only just hear, Oh, God, I was a good woman, then. Thou knowest I was. But my heart broke, and I did not care what happened I" "Poor mother I Jessie kisses her hot brow, laying her cool hand upon it caress- ingly. "Ay, you feel for me now. I thought sometimes you would if you knew all. Indeed I feel for you very much." Mrs. Eden gives her a look, so full of gratitude and grief that the girl's heart is inexpressibly touched. Never in all her knowledge of her step-mother has she imagined that underneath that hard and vulgar exterior there beats a throbbing, tender human heart. We are all so hard upon each other in this world, through which we move in various disguises. Even the best of us continually fail to credit the worst with what little good he really pos- sesses. Only the Divinely Omniscient can see that which is hidden from our eyes, and therefore only He can judge at all righteously. "I went to see George in prison," con- tinues his sister, "and he seemed sorry for his wrong-doing, and when he came out, I met him at the gate and took him to live with me, in another town, where he could make a fresh start. I took a little shop, thinking he could assist me with it, and that we might make a living, and I could keep him straight. I was a bit hard with him no doubt. It isn't my way to mince matters and speak soft when there's thunder in my heart. No, I never could do that." She pauses, the moisture standing out upon her brow, her eyes glistening with fever. Jessie gives her a drink, and wipes the perspiration from her face with great ten- derness. •'(xs.n-^td w.isa'b good at getting up in the morning," continues the sick woman, and that was always my strong point. We had words about it, often and often, and one day when I was out he robbed the till, and then ran away." She breaks down, crying bitterly at the remembrance. "This will never do. Poor mother will be delirious soon," thinks Jessie. Aloud she says, Don't tell me any more just now." "Ay, but I must—I must. There is no time to be lost. I will hurry on. When he was in prison again they sent for me. He seemed repentent, and promised amend- ment. So I took him home when he was free, and it was the same story over again. At last, I could keep a home together no longer^ but had to go out to service, and lie drifted away from me. One night it hap- pened burglars broke into the house where I was living. They were caught. One of 'em was George." She stops short for a minute or two, but without weeping—a curious, grey look has crept over her face. Again Jessie endeavours to prevent her continuing the grievous narrative. But in vain Mrs. Eden declares she must proceed. "He got five years of penal servitude for that," she says, "and came back to me a ticket-of-leave man. Meanwhile I had mar- ried your father. And, now, Jess, listen, an' I I'll tell why he must never know about George. Some busybody had told him ail. and he asked me if it was true, saying that, much as be loved me, for his children s sake h.e ç(,)¡Ut;ùlvbimseJf w¡th the sister of a \1. I convIct-a. housebreaker. I was mad wi love for him, Jess, I never loved but him, so I said it wasn't true. And he believed me and married me." She pauses. But as Jessie says nothing she continues, in low grief-stricken tones. It was an awful day for me when George turned up again. Your father heard me talking and me trying to persuade George to go away and not let him find out. I never knew your father so angry as he was then. Susan was three years old, and he said if it wasn't for her he'd separate from me-a wife, he said, as he could never respect again. Oh, he was mad I I never thought he could be like that. But he did for George what few would have done in his place. After making George promise that he would never return to England, he paid his passage to New York and sent fifty pounds there to be given him when he landed. As for me, Jess, he made me promise that I would never see George again in this country, or hold any communication with him here. I intended to keep that solemn promise, true as I'm here, I did. But George broke his vow and returned to Eng- land. He went into set vice in this country, robbed his master, and then gradually re- turned to his old trade of housebreaking. He is supposed to have injured a gentleman, who died, in a fight they had at one place. But George says he never touched him, it was his pal who did the job. The police thought as it was George though, and they have offered a reward for his capture. He has been here to try and persuade me to let him have money to go to Australia. There he'd be safe and out of the way of the police. I meant to do it-I meant to do it, and he would have gone by this but for my accident." "George took your purse out of your pocket," interposes Jessie. It did not contain much money. There were only ten pounds in it. What was stolen that night from my box was 220-1 intended giving him ZW. Then he could have gone clean away to New Zealand, or Australia." Perhaps it was he who stole the money." suggests Jessie. Not he. He was outside talking with me. He could not get it. But I have some more. I have some more in the top drawer in the big mahogany chest of drawers up- stairs in my bedroom. And I want you Jess, to just go and get it, and then take it to George for me. You'll find him in the big cave in the beech wood. You know where it is. He's hiding there." Jessie knows the place well. It is a cave about the size of a small room, entered by a round hole, just large enough to crawl through. Situated in a lonely part of the wood it is hidden by trees and creepers from the sight of the uninitiated. She and Dick as children visited it sometimes and explored it tremblingly. But she does not feel at all inclined to go there with money for the wretched man who is using it as his hiding- place. Oh, I can't," she says, shrinking from the very idea of such a task, I can't. He deserves punishment. Indeed—indeed he is a wicked man—punishment may be the very best thing for him." "Not for George Every time be has to bear the penalty for his sins be becomes worse," cries the sick woman excitedly. "And he has promised me—he has promised me most sacredly that this time, in a new country, where he has never been before, he will turnover a new leaf and do differently." But Jessie shakes her head. By Mrs. Eden's own confession, George has made and broken many similar promises. A very painful scene ensues. Mrs. Eden beseeches and entreats Jessie to do this great kindness for her, which no one else can do so well and so secretly. Jessie answers that her duty to her father, who would be deeply grieved if she visited and spoke to the,man, and her own sense of right-for she feels he ought to suffer for breaking the law of the land—prevent her being able to do it. Then, when all other arguments fail to move Jessie, Mrs. Eden urges that, unless the girl visits George in the cave, she will never know how he came into possession of Gerald Harcourt's ring and pencil-case. Whereas if she takes him the money she can demand a full explanation. This considera- tion weighs heavily with Jessie, who longs exceedingly to hear news of Gerald. It makes her listen when her step-mother goes on to say that, if the police take George now, he will be tried and condemned for murder- ing a gentleman whom he never really touched. He will thus receive far more than the punishment which is his due. At last, very reluctantly, with many mis- givings, Jessie consents to take George the money, little knowing to what that will lead. ( To be continued.)


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