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think how; you must have known where we kept things, and that mamma had taken our other manservant away. You must have brought your accomplice to hide in the barn and do the work while you played the gentleman! That is what Jacques Morin says; he says no one but a child would have taken you in as I did, and that you might have murdered us all. They are very angry with me."
There was conflict in her manner; few words would be said haughtily, as to some one not worthy of her notice, and then again a few words as to a friend. He saw that this conflict of her mind was increasing as she stood face to face with him, and with that consolation he submitted, at her request, to be more securely bound-the rope twisted round and round, binding his arms to his sides. It was a girl's device; he made no complaint.
known all about us, although I can't must present a wild appearance, and the domestic clothes-line, bound round and round his arms, prevented him from so much as pushing back the locks of hair which straggled upon his brow. He was rendered on the whole helpless; however murderous might be his heart, a tolerably safe companion. He interested himself by considering how Samson-like he could be in breaking the cords, or, even tied, how vigorously he could kick Morin, if he were not a girl's prisoner. He reflected with no small admiration upon the quick resource and decision that she had displayed; how, in spite of her almost childlike frankness, she had beguiled him into turning his back to the noose when a supposed necessity pressed her. He meditated for a few minutes upon other girls for whom he had experienced a more or less particular admiration, and it seemed to him that the characters of these damsels became wan and insipid by comparison. He began to have a presentiment that Love was now about to strike in earnest upon the harp of his life, but he could not think that the circumstances of this present attraction were propitious. What could he say to this girl, so adorably strongminded, to convince her of his claim to be again treated as a man and a brother? Letters? He had offered them to her last night, and she had replied that any one could write letters. Should he show that he was not penniless? She might tell him in the same tone that it was wealth ill-gotten. It was no doubt her very ignorance of the world that, when suspicion had once occurred, made her reject as unimportant these evidences of his respectability, but he had no power to give her the eyes of experience.
It seemed that Morin had no thought of following the thief; his faithfulness was limited to such service as he considered necessary, and was of a cowardly rather than a valiant sort. Courthope, when his first eagerness to seek passed off, was comforted by reflecting that, had he himself been free, it would have been futile for him to attempt such a quest while darkness lay over the land in which he was a stranger.
He was allowed to rest on the settle in the large inner kitchen, securely locked in, and so near Morin's room that his movements could be overheard. There, still in bonds, he spent the rest of the night.
When the March morning shone clear and white through the still falling snow, and the Morins began to bustle about their work for the day, the mental atmosphere in the kitchen seemed to have lost something of the excited alarm that had prevailed in the night. Courthope arose; the garments which he had donned in the night with frantic speed clothed but did not adorn him; he knew that he
These thoughts tormented him as he stood looking out of the window at the ever-increasing volume of the snow. How long would he be detained a prisoner in this house, and, when the roads were free, how could he find for Madge any absolute proof of his innocence? The track of the midnight thief was lost forever in the snow; if he had
succeeded in escaping as mysteriously absorbed him that he could not fix
as he had come-but here Courthope's mind refused again to enter upon the problem of the fiend-like enemy and the impassable snowfields which in the hours of darkness he had already given up, perceiving the futility of its speculation until further facts were known.
Courthope strolled through the rooms, the doors of which were now open. Morin permitted this scant liberty chiefly, the prisoner thought, because of a wholesome fear of being kicked. In the library at the end of the drawing-room he found amusement in reading the titles of the books down one long shelf and up another. Every book to which Madge had had access had an interest for him. Three cases were filled with books of law and history; there was but one from which the books had of late been frequently taken. It was filled with romance and poetry, nothing so late as the middle of the present century, nothing that had not some claim upon educated readers, and yet it was a motley collection. Upon the front rim of the upper shelf some one, perhaps the dead father in his invalid days, had carved a motto with a knife, the motto that is also that of the British arms. It might have been done out of mere patriotism; it might have had reference to this legacy of books left to the child-maidens, for whom, it seemed, other companionship had not been provided.
At length Courthope realized that there was one book which he greatly desired to take from the shelf. The Morin daughter was dusting in the room, and, with some blandishments, he succeeded in persuading her to lay it open upon the table where he could peruse it. To his great amusement he observed that she was very careful not to come within a yard or two of him, darting back when he approached, evidently thinking that the opening of the book might be a ruse to attack her by a sudden spring. At first the curious consciousness produced by this damsel's awkward gambols of fear so
his attention upon the book; flashes of amusement and of grave annoyance chased themselves through his mind like sunshine and shadow over mountains on a showery day; he knew not which was the more rational mood. Then, attempting the book again, anď turning each leaf with a good deal of contortion and effort, he became absorbed. It was the "Letters of a Portuguese Nun," and in the astonishment of its perusal he forgot the misfortune that had befallen the household, and his own discomfort and ignominy. The Morin girl had left him in the room, shutting the door.
An hour passed-it might have been about nine of the clock-when Courthope began to be roused from his absorption in the book by a sound in the next room. It was a low, uncertain sound, but evidently that of sobbing and tears. He stopped, listened; his heart was wrung with pity. It was not the sharp little Eliz who cried like that! He knew such sobs did not come from the stormy and uncontrolled bosoms of the French servants. He was convinced that it was Madge who was weeping, that she was in the long drawing-room, within which he had heard no footfall that morning.
He went nearer the door. His excited desire was to offer her some sympathy, to comfort, or if possible to help, became intolerable. So conscious he was of a common interest between them that not for a moment did the sense of prying enter his mind.
He heard then a few whispered words: "Father, oh, father, we were so happy with him! It is almost the only time that we have been quite happy since you went away."
The sense of the broken whispers came tardily to Courthope's understanding through the smothering door. The handle of the door was on a level with the hands that were bound to his sides; he turned himself in order to bring his fingers near it.
Before he touched it he heard Madge sob and whisper again: "I was so happy, father; I thought it was such
fun he had come. I like gentlemen, and we never, never see any except the ones that come out of books."
To Courthope it suddenly seemed that the whole universe must have been occupied with purpose to bring him here in order to put an end to her gloom and flood her life with sunshine; the universe could not be foiled in its attempt. Young love argues from effect to cause, and so limitless seemed the strength of his sentiment that the simplicity of her mind and the susceptibility of her girlhood were to him like some epic poem which arouses men to passion and strong deeds. Ignominiously bound as he was, his heart lightened; all doubt of his mission to love her and its ultimate success passed from him. He turned the handle and pushed the door half open. The long drawing-room was almost dark; the shutters had not been opened; the furniture remained as it had stood when the brilliant assembly of the previous evening had broken up; the large fireplace was full of ashes; the atmosphere was deadly cold. Courthope stood in the streak of light which entered with him. Upon the floor, crouching, her cheek leaning against the lower part of her father's picture, was Madge King. She was dressed in a blanket coat; moccasins were upon her feet; a fur cap lay upon the ground beside her. At the instant of his entrance she lifted her bare head, and across the face flushed with tears and prayers there flashed the look of haughty intolerance of his presence. She had thought that he was locked up in one of the kitchens; she told him so, intensely offended that he should see her tears. It was for that reason that she did not rise or come to the light, only commanding and imploring him to be gone.
gone. We found that out this morning, for what we had used for the feast had been put in a basket until we could store it away; it is all taken."
He was shocked and enraged to hear of this further loss. He did not attempt to reason with her; he had ceased to reason with himself.
"You trusted me when you let me in last night," he said. "Don't you think that you would have had some perception of it last night if I had been entirely unworthy? Think what an utter and abominable villain I must be to have accepted your hospitality-to have been so very happy with you-" So he went on appealing to her heart from the sentiments that arose in his
Madge listened only for a reasonable period; she rose to her feet. “I must go," she said.
He found that she proposed to walk on snow-shoes three miles to the nearest house, which belonged to a couple of parish priests, where she would be certain of obtaining a messenger to carry the news of the robbery to the telegraph station. She could not be brought even to discuss the advisability of her journey; Morin could not be sent, for the servants and Eliz would go mad with terror if left alone.
To Courthope's imagination her journey seemed to be an abandonment of herself to the utmost danger. If between the two houses she failed to make progress over high drifts and against a heavy gale, what was to hinder her from perishing? Then, too, there was that villain, who had seemed to stalk forth from the isolated house afar into the howling night. as easily as the Frankenstein's demon, and might even now be skulking near-a dangerous devil-able to run where others must trudge toilsomely.
Madge, it seemed, had only come to that room to make her confession and invoke protection at the shrine of the lost father; she was ready to set forth without further delay. She would not, in spite of his most eloquent pleading, set Courthope at liberty to make of him either messenger or companion.
"The evidence," she said sadly, "is his words a look of mingled curiosity,
all against you. I am very sorry."
She seemed to realize that it strange to be discussing her safety with her prisoner. Very curlous was the conflict in her face; her strong natural companionableness, her suspicion of him, and her sense of the dignity which her situation demanded, contending together. It seems easier to her to disregard his words than to give all the answers which her varying feelings would prompt. She was tying on a mink cap by winding a woollen scarf about her head.
"Miss Madge! Miss King! It is perfectly intolerable! It-it is intolerable!" He stepped nearer as he spoke. A thought came over him that even the conventional title of "Miss" which he had given her was wholly inappropriate in a situation so strong-that he and she, merely as man and woman, as rational beings, were met together in a wilderness where conventions were folly. "I cannot allow you to risk your life in this way." There was a tense emphasis in his words; he felt the natural authority of the protector over the tender thing to be protected, the intimate authority which stress of circumstance may give.
She dropped her hands from tying the scarf under her chin, returning for 626 LIVING AGE. VOL. XII.
indecision, and distrust.
Quick as she looked upon him, his mind's eye looked upon himself; there he stood in grotesque undress, bound around with the cords of an extraordinary disgrace. He blamed himself at the moment for not having had his hair cut more recently, for he knew that it stood in a wild shock above his head, and he felt that it dangled in his eyes. Then a gust of emotion rose and choked his utterance, momentary desire for laughter or groans of vexation, and in the minute that he was mute, the girl, sitting down upon a low stool, began tightening the strings of her moccasins, which, after the first putting on, had relaxed with the warmth of the feet. Her business-like preparations for the road maddened him.
"Don't you see," said he, "what disgrace you are heaping upon me? What right have you to deny to me, a gentleman and your guest, the right Consider to serve and protect you. to what wretchedness you consign me if I am left here to think of you fighting alone with this dangerous storm, or attacked by blackguards who we know may not be far away!"
She said in a quiet, practical, girlish way, "It was I who was responsible for letting you in last night, and then this happened-the most unheard of thing. We never heard of any but a petty theft ever committed in this whole region before. Now I am bound to keep you here until we can hear where father's silver is."
"You don't believe that I have done it! I am sure you do not" (he believed what he said). "Why haven't you the courage to act upon your conviction? You will never regret it."
"Eliz says that she saw you quite distinctly."
"Eliz is a little fool," were the words that arose within him, but what he said was, "Your sister is excitable and nervous; she saw the thief undoubtedly, and by some miserable freak of fortune he may have resembled me." "Does that seem at all likely?"
"Well, then, there was blance, and she fancied it."
She stood up, looking harassed but without relenting. "I must go there is nothing else to be done. Do you think I would stay here when a day might make all the difference in recovering the things which belonged to my father? Do you think that I am going to lose the things that belonged to him just because I am too much of a coward to go out and give the alarm?"
She walked away from him resolutely, but the thought of the lost treasures and all the dear memories that in her mind were identified with them seemed to overcome her. She drew her hand hastily across her eyes, and then, to his dismay, the sorrow for her loss emphasized her wavering belief in his guilt; for the first time he realized how strong it was. Impelled by emotion she turned again and came shrinkingly back into his presence.
"I have not reproached you," she said, "because I thought it would be mean in case you had not done it; but it seems that you must have done it. Won't you tell me where the other man has taken our things? They cannot be of any value to you compared with their value to us; and, oh, indeed I would much rather give you as much money as you could possibly make out of them, and more too, if you would only tell me which way this man has gone, and send word to him that he must give them back! I will pledge you my word of honor thatFor the first time he was offended with her. He stepped back with a gesture of pride, which in a moment he saw she had construed into unwillingness to give the booty up.
she will not give any money to get the things back; she would not care if you kept them so long as she could punish you."
Every word of her gentle pleading made the insult deeper and more gross, and the fact that she was who she was only made the hurt to his pride the sorer. He would not answer; he would not explain; he would let her think what she liked; it is the way of the injured heart.
Angry too, and confirmed in her suspicion, she turned proudly away. He saw her, as she crossed the hall, take up a pair of snow-shoes that she had left leaning against the wall, and without further farewell to any one turn toward the front door.
He knew then what he must do. Without inward debate, without even weighing what his act's ultimate consequences might be, he followed her. "I will do what you ask. I give you my word of honor-and there is honor, you know, even among thieves-that I will do all in my power to bring back everything that has been stolen. Give me snow-shoes. Keep my horse and my watch and my luggage as surety that I mean what I say. I cannot promise that I can get back the silver from the other man, but I will do far more than you can do. I will do more than any one else could do. If it is within my power I will bring it back to you."
She considered for a little time whether she would trust him or not. It seemed, curiously enough, that from first to last she had never distrusted her first instinct with regard to his character, but that her child-like belief that in the unknown world all things were possible, allowed her to
"I could promise to give you the believe also in his criminality. Now money; I could promise that you should not be tracked and arrested. I have enough in the savings-bank of
that he had, as she thought, made his confession and promised restitution, it was perhaps the natural product of
my own that I could get out without her conflicting thost to and feelings
our lawyer or mamma knowing, and you don't know how dear, how very dear, everything that belonged to father is to Eliz and me. If you wait here tied until my stepmother comes
that she should
his oft-repeated vows, and make the paction with him.
She did not consult the Morins; perhaps she knew that she would only