Robert Lytton: The Disappearance of John Acland

A True Story

In Thirteen Chapters

First published on 18th of September, 1869 in "All the Year Round"

CHAP­TER I

In the fol­low­ing ex­traor­di­nary nar­ra­tive noth­ing is fic­ti­tious but the names of the per­sons.

A

BOUT thir­ty-five or forty years ago, be­fore the bor­der ter­ri­to­ry of Texas had be­come a state of the great Amer­i­can Union, a Vir­gini­an gen­tle­man, liv­ing near Rich­mond, re­ceived from a gen­tle­man of Mas­sachusetts, liv­ing near Boston, a let­ter press­ing for punc­tu­al pay­ment of a debt owing to the writ­er of it by the per­son to whom it was ad­dressed. The debt was a heavy one. It was a loan for a lim­it­ed pe­ri­od, con­tract­ed part­ly on mort­gage and part­ly on other less valid se­cu­ri­ties. The pe­ri­od for which it was orig­i­nal­ly con­tract­ed had been fre­quent­ly re­newed at in­creas­ing rates of in­ter­est. The whole cap­i­tal would short­ly be due; and re­new­al of the loan (which seems to have been asked for) was firm­ly de­clined, on the ground that the writ­er of the let­ter was now wind­ing up his busi­ness at Boston prepara­to­ry to the un­der­tak­ing of an en­tire­ly new busi­ness at Charleston; whith­er it was his in­ten­tion to pro­ceed very short­ly. Such was the gen­er­al pur­port of this let­ter. The tone of it was cour­te­ous, but peremp­to­ry. The name of the gen­tle­man who re­ceived it we shall sup­pose to have been Cartwright, and that of the gen­tle­man who wrote it to have been Ack­land. Mr. Cartwright was the owner of an es­tate, not a very large one (which, with the read­er's per­mis­sion, we will call Glenoak), on the banks of the James River. The Cartwrights were an old Vir­gini­an fam­i­ly, much es­teemed for their an­tiq­ui­ty. Three gen­er­a­tions of male Cartwright ba­bies had been chris­tened Stu­art (be­cause, sir, the Cartwrights had al­ways fought for the Stu­arts, sir, in the old coun­try), and in Vir­ginia a very mod­er­ate amount of fam­i­ly an­tiq­ui­ty has al­ways com­mand­ed for the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of it as much con­sid­er­a­tion as is ac­cord­ed in Eng­land to the lin­eage of a Beau­fort or a Howard. The per­son­al rep­u­ta­tion of this pre­sent Philip Stu­art Cartwright, how­ev­er, was not al­to­geth­er sat­is­fac­to­ry. It was re­gret­ted that a man of his parts and prop­er­ty should have con­tribut­ed noth­ing to the strength and dig­ni­ty of the ter­ri­to­ri­al aris­toc­ra­cy of old Vir­ginia in the leg­is­la­ture of his state – a leg­is­la­ture of which the Vir­gini­ans were just­ly proud. The es­tate of Glenoak, if well man­aged, would have doubt­less yield­ed more than the in­come which was spent, not very rep­utably, by the owner of it, when­ev­er he had a run of luck at faro. But the es­tate was not well man­aged, and, be­tween oc­ca­sion­al but ex­trav­a­gant hos­pi­tal­i­ties on this es­tate, and equal­ly ex­trav­a­gant in­dul­gence in the stim­u­lant of high stakes and strong liquors at the hells and bars about Rich­mond, Mr. Philip Cartwright passed his time un­prof­itably enough; for pulling the devil by the tail is a fa­tigu­ing ex­er­cise, even to a strong man. Mr. Cartwright was a strong man, how­ev­er, and a hand­some man, and a tall. "Quite a fine man, sir," said his friends. "You may have seen Philip S. Cartwright as drunk as a hag, sir, but you will have al­ways found him quite the cav­a­lier." And, in truth, he had grand man­ners, and pleas­ant man­ners, too, this hard-liv­ing, dev­il- may-care gen­tle­man, which em­bel­lished the im­pres­sion of his vices. And he was a bold rider and a crack shot; ac­com­plish­ments which, in all An­glo-Sax­on com­mu­ni­ties, en­sure easy pop­u­lar­i­ty to their pos­ses­sor. Then, too, he had been left, early in life, a wid­ow­er; and if, since then, he had lived too hard, or lived too loose, this was an ex­ten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stance. More­over, he had but one child, a pret­ty lit­tle girl; and to her he had ever been a care­ful, ten­der, and de­vot­ed fa­ther. That was an­oth­er ex­ten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stance. He was doubt­less no man's enemy but his own; and the worst ever said of him was, that "Philip S., sir, is a smart man, smart and spry; but wants bal­last."

Mr. Cartwright lost no time in an­swer­ing Mr. Ack­land's let­ter. He an­swered it with the warmest ex­pres­sions of grat­i­tude for the con­sid­er­a­tion and for­bear­ance which he had hith­er­to re­ceived from the writ­er in the mat­ter of this large, and all too long out­stand­ing debt. He con­fessed that only a month ago he had been great­ly em­bar­rassed how to meet the obli­ga­tions now falling due; but he was all the more re­joiced, for that rea­son, to be now en­abled to as­sure his cor­re­spon­dent, that in con­se­quence part­ly of the un­usu­al ex­cel­lence of the pre­sent rice har­vest, and part­ly owing to other re­cent and un­ex­pect­ed re­ceipts to a con­sid­er­able amount, the cap­i­tal and in­ter­est of the debt would be duly paid off at the prop­er time. As, how­ev­er, Mr. Ack­land, in his let­ter, had ex­pressed the in­ten­tion of going to Charleston about that time, he (Mr. Cartwright) begged to re­mind him that he could not reach Charleston with­out pass­ing through Rich­mond on his way thith­er. He trust­ed, there­fore, that Mr. A. would af­ford him that op­por­tu­ni­ty of of­fer­ing to his New Eng­land friend a sam­ple of the hos­pi­tal­i­ty for which old Vir­ginia was just­ly cel­e­brat­ed. He was nat­u­ral­ly anx­ious to be the first south­ern gen­tle­man to en­ter­tain his dis­tin­guished cor­re­spon­dent on Vir­gini­an soil. He, there­fore, trust­ed that his es­teemed friend would hon­our him by being his guest at Glenoak for a few days; the more so, as he was de­sirous not only of in­tro­duc­ing Mr. A. to some of the most dis­tin­guished men of Vir­ginia, but also of fur­nish­ing him with let­ters to many in­flu­en­tial friends of his in South Car­oli­na, whose ac­quain­tance Mr. A. would prob­a­bly find use­ful in the course of his busi­ness at Charleston. If, there­fore, Mr. A. could man­age to be at Rich­mond on the – prox­i­mo, he (Mr. C.) would have the hon­our of meet­ing him there, and con­duct­ing him to Glenoak, where all would be in readi­ness for the im­me­di­ate and sat­is­fac­to­ry set­tle­ment of their ac­counts.

When Mr. Ack­land re­ceived this let­ter, he was sit­ting in his of­fice at Boston, and con­vers­ing with his cousin, Tom Ack­land. Tom Ack­land was a ris­ing young lawyer, and the only liv­ing rel­a­tive of our Mr. John Ack­land, of the firm of Ack­land Broth­ers. Ack­land's other broth­er, who was also Ack­land se­nior, had died some years ago, and Ack­land ju­nior had since then been car­ry­ing on the busi­ness of the firm, not very will­ing­ly, and not very suc­cess­ful­ly.

"What do you think of that, Tom?" said Mr. John Ack­land, toss­ing over the let­ter to his cousin.

"Well," said Tom, after read­ing it through, hasti­ly enough, " I think you had bet­ter ac­cept the in­vi­ta­tion, for I sus­pect it is about the only thing you will ever get out of Philip Cartwright. As to his pay­ing up, I don't be­lieve a word of what he says on that score."

"I don't much be­lieve in it nei­ther," said Mr. John, " and I'm sadly afraid the debt is a bad one. But I can't af­ford to lose it: and 'twill be a great bore to have to fore­close. Even then, too, I shan't re­cov­er half of the cap­i­tal. What do you think, Tom?"

Mr. Ack­land spoke with a weary tone of voice and an un­de­cid­ed man­ner, like a man who is tired of some load which he is ei­ther too weak or too lazy to shake off.

"Well, you must pass through Rich­mond, Jack, and Glenoak will be as pleas­ant a halt as you can have. Drink as much of Cartwright's wine, and smoke as many of his cigars as you can; for I doubt if you'll get back any of your money ex­cept in that kind. How­ev­er, you can af­ford to lose it, so don't be so down­heart­ed, man. And as for this Charleston busi­ness – "

"Oh!" said John Ack­land, im­pa­tient­ly, "the best of the Charleston busi­ness is that it is not Boston busi­ness. I am long­ing, Tom, to be away from here, and the soon­er I can start the bet­ter. Have you heard (I did yes­ter­day at the Al­bion) that Mary, I mean Mrs. Mor­dent, and her hus­band, are ex­pect­ed back in Boston next month?"

"Ah, Jack, Jack!" ex­claimed Tom, "you will get over this soon­er than you think, man, and come back to us one of these days with a bounc­ing, black-eyed Car­olini­an beau­ty, and half-a-dozen lit­tle Ack­land broth­ers and sis­ters too."

"I have got over it, Tom. At my time of life I don't think there is much, to get over." ,

" Your time of life, Jack! What non­sense."

"Well, I am not a pa­tri­arch, cer­tain­ly," said Mr. John Ack­land. "But I don't want to be a pa­tri­arch, Tom: and I don't think I ever shall be a pa­tri­arch. The best part of my life was short enough, Heav­en knows, and I hope (now that is over) that the worst part of it won't be very long. I don't think it will be very long, Tom. Any­how, I have no mind to meet Mr. and Mrs. Mor­dent again just now, so I shall ac­cept Cartwright's in­vi­ta­tion, and now, for mercy's sake, no more about busi­ness for to-day, Tom."

He did ac­cept the in­vi­ta­tion: and, at the date pro­posed, John Ack­land ar­rived at Rich­mond late in the evening of a hot June day. He was much fa­tigued by his long jour­ney and the heat of the weath­er; and not at all sorry to ac­cept an in­vi­ta­tion (which he re­ceived through Cartwright, who met him on his ar­rival) from Mr. D., the ac­com­plished ed­i­tor of the Rich­mond Couri­er, to sup and sleep at that gen­tle­man's house be­fore going on to Glenoak. Mr. D. hav­ing heard from Cartwright of Mr. Ack­land's in­tend­ed visit to the south, and know­ing that he could not ar­rive in Rich­mond till late in the evening, had, with true Vir­gini­an hos­pi­tal­i­ty, in­sist­ed on the two gen­tle­men pass­ing the night at his house in town; and it had been ar­ranged that Cartwright should drive Mr. D. and Mr. Ack­land over to Glenoak on the fol­low­ing day. Mr. Ack­land was very cor­dial­ly re­ceived by his Rich­mond host, an agree­able and cul­ti­vat­ed man. The fa­tigue of his long jour­ney se­cured him a good night's rest; and, being an early riser, he had in­dulged his cu­rios­i­ty by a soli­tary stroll through the town, be­fore the three gen­tle­men met at break­fast the next morn­ing. After break­fast, he was con­duct­ed by his two friends to see the lions of the place. When they had vis­it­ed the court-house and the sen­ate-house,

"Now, Mr. Ed­i­tor," said Cartwright, "I shall ask per­mis­sion to leave my friend here under your good care for an hour or so. I am going to fetch my lit­tle girl from school. You know she is at Miss Grind­ley's fin­ish­ing es­tab­lish­ment for young ladies; and though she is only ten years old, Miss G. as­sures me that Vir­ginia Cartwright is her most for­ward pupil. We will take this lit­tle puss with us, if you please. What o'clock is it now?"

Cartwright looked at his watch, and Mr. D. looked at his watch. Yawn­ing and look­ing at your watch are in­fec­tious ges­tures. John Ack­land also put his hand to his waist­coat-pock­et, and then sud­den­ly re­mem­ber­ing that his watch was not there, he felt awk­ward, and blushed. John Ack­land was a shy man, and a lazy man in ev­ery­thing but the ex­er­cise of self-tor­ment. He was in the habit of in­ter­pret­ing every tri­fle to his own dis­ad­van­tage. This un­for­tu­nate way of re­gard­ing all ex­ter­nal phe­nom­e­na was con­stant­ly dis­turb­ing his oth­er­wise ha­bit­u­al lan­guor with an in­ter­nal sen­sa­tion of ex­treme awk­ward­ness. And when­ev­er John Ack­land felt awk­ward he blushed.

"Twen­ty min­utes to one," said Mr. D.

"Good; then," said Cartwright, "in one hour, as near as may be, I and my lit­tle girl will be at your door with the wag­gon, and phaeton. Can you be ready by then?"

"All right," an­swered the ed­i­tor, "we shall just have time for a light lun­cheon."

"Will it be out of your way, Mr. D.," said Ack­land, after Cartwright had left them, " to pass by D'Oiley's, the watch- maker's, in – street?"

"Not at all. How do you hap­pen to know the name of that store, though?"

"I no­ticed it, whilst strolling through the town this morn­ing. My chronome­ter has been los­ing time since I came south; and I asked Mr. D'Oiley to look at it, say­ing I would call or send for it be­fore leav­ing town this af­ter­noon."

When the watch­mak­er hand­ed back the chronome­ter to Mr. Ack­land, " That watch was never made in the States, I reck­on, sir?" said he.

"No. It is En­glish."

"Gene­va works, though. I'll war­rant your chronome­ter, sir, to go right for six years now. Splen­did piece of work­man­ship, sir."

Mr. Ack­land was much pleased with his pret­ty lit­tle new ac­quain­tance, Vir­ginia Cartwright. She was a dark-eyed live­ly child, who promised to be­come a very beau­ti­ful woman, and was sin­gu­lar­ly grace­ful for that awk­ward age in the life of a young lady which clos­es her first decade. Her fa­ther seemed to be im­mense­ly proud of, as well as ten­der­ly at­tached to, the lit­tle girl. Every lit­tle in­ci­dent on their way to Glenoak sug­gest­ed to him some anec­dote of her child­hood which he re­lat­ed to his guest in terms, no doubt in­ad­e­quate­ly ex­pres­sive of her ex­traor­di­nary mer­its. Once he said, "Good God, sir, when I think what would be­come of that child if any­thing were to hap­pen – " But he fin­ished the sen­tence only by whip­ping on the hors­es.

A large as­sem­bly of Vir­ginia no­ta­bles had been in­vit­ed to Glenoak to meet Mr. Cartwright's New Eng­land guest. " I am going to be shown off," thought John Ack­land to him­self; and he en­tered the house, hot and blush­ing, like the sun ris­ing through a fog. Among these no­ta­bles was Judge Grif­fin, " Our great­est legal au­thor­i­ty, sir," whis­pered Cartwright, as he pushed his guest for­ward, and pre­sent­ed him to the judge with ex­pres­sions of over­flow­ing eu­lo­gy and friend­ship.

Mr. Ack­land, of Boston city, was a rep­re­sen­ta­tive man, he said, " a splen­did spec­i­men, sir, of our great mer­chant princes of the North, whom he was proud to re­ceive under his roof. More than that, he him­self was under deep obli­ga­tions (why should he be ashamed to avow it?), the very deep­est obli­ga­tions to his wor­thy friend and hon­oured guest, John K. Ack­land!" Here Mr. Cartwright, ap­par­ent­ly under the im­pres­sion that he had been propos­ing a toast, paused, and pre­pared to lift his glass to his lips, but find­ing that he had, just then, no glass to lift, he in­formed the judge and his other guests that din­ner would soon be served, and ex­pressed a hope that in the mean­while Mr. Ack­land would favour him with a few mo­ments of his pri­vate at­ten­tion for the set­tle­ment of a mat­ter of busi­ness to which, in­deed, he part­ly owed the hon­our of that gen­tle­man's visit. The two gen­tle­men were then clos­et­ed to­geth­er for near­ly an hour. When they re­joined the rest of the com­pa­ny at din­ner, Mr. Cartwright ap­peared to have made (dur­ing their re­cent in­ter­view) a most favourable im­pres­sion on his New Eng­land guest. Host and guest were al­ready on terms of the most cor­dial in­ti­ma­cy with each other, and Cartwright him­self was in the high­est pos­si­ble spir­its. One of the com­pa­ny pre­sent on that oc­ca­sion, a very young gen­tle­man, who had had some bet­ting trans­ac­tions with the owner of Glenoak – trans­ac­tions from which he had de­rived a very high ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the re­mark­able 'cute­ness of that gen­tle­man – ex­pressed to his neigh­bour at table a de­cid­ed opin­ion that his friend Philip S. must cer­tain­ly have suc­ceed­ed, be­fore din­ner, in get­ting a pot o' money out of the Yan­kee, who looked as well pleased as peo­ple usu­al­ly do when they have done some­thing fool­ish. After din­ner, when the gen­tle­men lit their cigars, and strolled into the gar­den, Cartwright link­ing one arm in that of Judge Grif­fin, and the other in that of John Ack­land, ex­claimed,

"I wish, judge, that you, whose pow­ers of per­sua­sion are ir­re­sistible, would in­duce my friend here to lis­ten to rea­son. No, no!" he con­tin­ued, as John Ack­land made some ges­ture of im­pa­tience, " no, my es­teemed friend, why should I con­ceal the truth? The fact is, judge, that Mr. Ack­land and my­self have had some pe­cu­niary trans­ac­tions with each other, in which he has been cred­i­tor, let me add, the most for­bear­ing and con­sid­er­ate cred­i­tor that ever man had, and I, of course, debtor – "

"A high­ly hon­ourable one," put in John Ack­land.

"My dear sir, that is the very point in ques­tion. Allow me to de­serve the flat­ter­ing ep­i­thet. Judge Grif­fin shall de­cide the case. You must know, judge, that the un­for­tu­nate force of cir­cum­stances (why should I be ashamed to own it?) has com­pelled me to keep this gen­tle­man wait­ing an un­con­scionably long time for the re­pay­ment of a con­sid­er­able sum of money which he has been good enough to ad­vance to me, part­ly on my per­son­al se­cu­ri­ty. Under these cir­cum­stances, I was nat­u­ral­ly anx­ious that he should not, fi­nal­ly, be a loser by the gen­eros­i­ty of his pa­tience. It is, there­fore, need­less to say that the rate of in­ter­est of­fered by my­self for the re­newed post­pone­ment of the liq­ui­da­tion of this loan was, in the last in­stance, a high one. I am happy to say that I have, this af­ter­noon, had the plea­sure of re­fund­ing to my friend the en­tire cap­i­tal of the debt. On that cap­i­tal, how­ev­er, a year's in­ter­est was still owing. Of course I added the amount of it to that of the cap­i­tal. But he (won­der­ful man!) re­fus­es – ab­so­lute­ly re­fus­es – to re­ceive it. Tell him, judge (you know me), that he is de­priv­ing me of a lux­u­ry which I have too sel­dom en­joyed – the lux­u­ry of pay­ing my debts – and that the cap­i­tal – "

"Was a very largo one," in­ter­rupt­ed Mr. Ack­land, who had been lis­ten­ing with grow­ing im­pa­tience to this speech. " Par­don me if I con­fess that I had not count­ed on the en­tire re­cov­ery of it – es­pe­cial­ly so soon. The in­ter­est to which Mr. Cartwright has re­ferred was fixed in ac­cor­dance with that er­ro­neous im­pres­sion. For which – ahem – my ex­cuse must be, sir, that – well, that I am not – never was – a man of san­guine tem­per­a­ment. Sir, Mr. Cartwright has great­ly em­bar­rassed me. Under pre­sent cir­cum­stances, I re­al­ly – I could not – ahem – tax my friend here so heav­i­ly on a debt of – of – well, yes – of that amount, which has been so un­ex­pect­ed­ly – ahem. I re­al­ly – I – am not a usurer, sir, though I am a mer­chant."

Mr. Ack­land said all this with the dif­fi­cult hes­i­ta­tion of an ex­ceed­ing­ly shy man, which he was, and blush­ing up to the roots of his hair. As soon as he had strug­gled through the ef­fort of say­ing it, and there­by worked him­self into a state of feel­ing so de­fen­sive as to be al­most of­fen­sive, he ex­tri­cat­ed his arm from the em­brace of his host, and, with an awk­ward bow, has­tened to join the ladies in the ar­bour.

"Odd man, that," said Judge Grif­fin.

"Shy and proud," said Cartwright, " but as fine a fel­low as ever lived."

John Ack­land wrote from Glenoak to his Cousin Tom, ex­press­ing much plea­sure in his visit there. The change of scene and air had agreed with him, notwith­stand­ing the great heat of the sea­son, and he al­ready felt in bet­ter health and spir­its than when he left Boston. He re­lat­ed the re­sult of the in­ter­view which had taken place be­tween him­self and his host on the day of his ar­rival at Glenoak. He had the cash now with him in notes. But the amount was so large that he should of course ex­change them at the Rich­mond Bank for a cred­it on their cor­re­spon­dents at Charleston. It was a strange no­tion of Cartwright's to in­sist on pay­ing the money in notes.

"He seems to have been under the im­pres­sion that I should not have been equal­ly well sat­is­fied with his sig­na­ture. Which made me feel very awk­ward, my dear Tom."

He had felt still more awk­ward in con­sent­ing to take the last year's in­ter­est on that loan at the rate orig­i­nal­ly stip­u­lat­ed. Tom knew that he would not have raised it so high if he had ever had any hope of re­cov­er­ing the en­tire cap­i­tal at the ex­pi­ra­tion of the term. How­ev­er, there was no help for it. Cartwright would have it. Cartwright had be­haved ex­ceed­ing­ly well. Very much like a gen­tle­man. He had re­al­ly con­ceived a great re­gard for his pre­sent host. In de­spite of some ob­vi­ous faults of char­ac­ter, and he feared also of con­duct, there was so much good in the man. C. was a most pleas­ant com­pan­ion, and had shown the great­est del­i­ca­cy in this mat­ter. The man's af­fec­tion for his daugh­ter, too, was quite touch­ing; and the child her­self was charm­ing. John Ack­land then de­scribed his im­pres­sions of a slave plan­ta­tion at some length His ab­hor­rence of the whole sys­tem was even more in­tense than be­fore. Not be­cause he had no­ticed any great cru­el­ty in the treat­ment of the slaves on this plan­ta­tion, but be­cause the sys­tem was one which ren­dered even kind­ness it­self an in­stru­ment of degra­da­tion; and these un­for­tu­nate blacks ap­peared to him to be in a men­tal and moral con­di­tion which, with­out jus­ti­fy­ing it, gave a hideous plau­si­bil­i­ty to the cool as­ser­tion of their own­ers that coloured hu­man­i­ty is not hu­man­i­ty at all. He avoid­ed all dis­cus­sion on this sub­ject, how­ev­er, for, as Tom knew, there was noth­ing he hated so much as con­tro­ver­sy. At first he had felt " a lit­tle awk­ward " at being the only North­ern­er amongst so many slave pro­pri­etors. But now he felt quite at his ease with them all. Es­pe­cial­ly with Cartwright. 'Twas a pity that man had been born South. He had been brought up there to idle­ness and ar­ro­gance, but his nat­u­ral dis­po­si­tion fit­ted him for bet­ter things. Glenoak was a very pleas­ant place. So pleas­ant, that he was re­luc­tant to leave it. And, in fact, there was no real ne­ces­si­ty for going to Charleston so soon. The weath­er was hor­ri­bly hot. He had not yet been up to the ex­er­tion even of going to Rich­mond to de­posit the notes he had re­ceived from Cartwright. He thought he should prob­a­bly re­main some days longer – per­haps a fort­night longer – at Glenoak.

On the evening of the day he wrote this let­ter, how­ev­er, an in­ci­dent oc­curred which changed Mr. Ack­land's dis­po­si­tion to pro­long his stay at Glenoak.

CHAP­TER II

A

MONG Mr. Cartwright's guests was a young lady who had, or was sup­posed to have, an ex­traor­di­nary fac­ul­ty for de­scrib­ing peo­ple's char­ac­ters or sen­sa­tions; not by look­ing at their hand­writ­ing, but by hold­ing it in her hand, and thus plac­ing her­self (it was averred) in mag­net­ic rap­port with the writ­ers. She was a merry, good-na­tured girl, who did her spir­it­ing gen­tly, with­out pro­fess­ing much be­lief in it her­self, and al­ways ready to laugh hearti­ly with oth­ers at the re­sult when­ev­er (as some­times hap­pened) it was an un­mit­i­gat­ed fail­ure. This evening the ex­per­i­ment had been tried sev­er­al times with more than usual suc­cess; and sundry hy­per­crit­i­cal spec­ta­tors averred that Miss Simp­son had made a great many lucky guess­es.

"Well, now," said Cartwright, "that is not fair on Miss Simp­son. Here is the writ­ing of a per­son whom no­body pre­sent – not even my­self – has ever seen. Miss Simp­son shall try again with it, and I will bet you all that she guess­es right."

He drew a let­ter from his pock­et, and the young lady, after crum­pling it for a mo­ment in her hand, said, hes­i­tat­ing­ly,

"This is a woman's writ­ing."

"Right!" said Cartwright.

"A mar­ried woman," said Miss Simp­son, more bold­ly.

"Right again. Any chil­dren?"

"No."

"Quite right. Mar­ried long, eh?"

"About three months, I think."

"Won­der­ful!" ex­claimed Cartwright. "It is just three months and nine days."

Mr. Ack­land looked up, and looked red, and fid­get­ed in his chair.

"Oh, Cartwright," cried Judge Grif­fin, "that won't do. You put her lead­ing ques­tions."

"Well, let her go on by her­self," said Cartwright.

He had no­ticed John Ack­land's move­ments and was look­ing hard at his New Eng­land guest. Mr. Ack­land blushed again, and turned away his face.

"But she is not happy – no, not at all happy," said Miss Simp­son, mus­ing­ly.

"The devil she's not!" cried Cartwright; "but 'twas a love match, wasn't it?"

"I think so," replied Miss Simp­son, after a pause, and doubt­ful­ly.

"My with­ers are un­wrung," said Cartwright, look­ing round. "I swear I never saw the lady in my life."

"Does she care more for some­body else al­ready, ma'am, than for her hus­band?" asked the judge.

"More, yes," replied Miss Simp­son, "much, no. She must be a strange char­ac­ter. Not much feel­ing for any one, I should say, ex­cept for her­self. She jilt­ed him."

"Whom?" de­mand­ed all the lis­ten­ers to­geth­er.

"I don't know. But now I fancy she half re­grets him. There is a strange feel­ing about this let­ter."

"Pleas­ant for poor Mor­dent!" mut­tered Cartwright.

John Ack­land sprang to his feet. He was not red this time, but fright­ful­ly pale, and trem­bling vi­o­lent­ly.

"The let­ter! the let­ter!" he cried, and seized the hand of Miss Simp­son. The young lady start­ed at his touch.

"Oh, Mr. Ack­land," she cried, "why did no­body stop me? I never dreamed that it was you." But al­ready John Ack­land had left the room.

The next day Cartwright sought out his guest (Mr. Ack­land had not reap­peared in the draw­ing-room dur­ing the rest of that evening), and ex­pressed his re­gret for the painful in­ci­dent of the pre­ced­ing night.

"I had no idea you were even ac­quaint­ed with Mrs. Mor­dent," he said.

"But how do you hap­pen to be ac­quaint­ed with her?" asked John Ack­land.

"Strict­ly speak­ing," he said, "I am not ac­quaint­ed with her. Mor­dent and I were schoolfel­lows at West Point. He wrote to me some time ago in­form­ing me of his en­gage­ment to Miss Stevens; and, as I an­tic­i­pat­ed being ab­sent from Vir­ginia about that time, I want­ed him and his bride to pass their hon­ey­moon at Glenoak. I also asked him to send me a por­trait of the fu­ture Mrs. M. I have por­traits of all my friends' wives. A fancy of mine. He de­clined the in­vi­ta­tion, but sent me the por­trait, ac­com­pa­nied by a pret­ty lit­tle line from the lady her­self. That is what I placed in Miss Simp­son's hands last night; and I as­sure you that is all I know of Mrs. Mor­dent."

John Ack­land's im­pa­tience to leave Glenoak was now, how­ev­er, ex­ces­sive. "Every time," he said to him­self, "that I must face again the peo­ple in this house is in­tol­er­a­ble pain to me."

Cartwright sug­gest­ed to him that if re­solved on so hasty a de­par­ture, he need not re­turn to Rich­mond. "By going across coun­try," he said, "you will save a long day's jour­ney, and catch the Charleston coach at a point which is near­er here than Rich­mond. I can send your lug­gage on by the cart, this morn­ing, and lend you a horse to ride there this af­ter­noon. We will dine early, and if you start from here on horse­back at four o'clock, you will be at your des­ti­na­tion be­fore night­fall, and a good hour be­fore the coach is due there. I will be your guide across the plan­ta­tion, and put you on your road, which you can­not pos­si­bly miss. I would glad­ly ac­com­pa­ny you the whole way thith­er, if I had not some busi­ness with my over­seer which must be set­tled to-night. You can leave the horse at your des­ti­na­tion with the ostler there. I know him, and can trust him to bring it back safe­ly to Glenoak. What say you?" "That would cer­tain­ly be my best and pleas­an­test plan," said Mr. Ack­land, "and re­al­ly I am much obliged to you for propos­ing it. But I sup­pose I ought to go to Rich­mond about those notes."

"No ne­ces­si­ty for that, I think," an­swered Cartwright. "At least if you are in a hurry. At the next stage after you join the coach, you will be obliged to stop the greater part of the morn­ing. I know a very re­spectable banker whose of­fice is close to the hotel where you change hors­es and dine. I will give you a line to him if you like, and you can change the notes there."

"You are most kind, my dear friend, and I can­not suf­fi­cient­ly thank you. But do you think it would be safe to carry such a large sum in notes so far?"

"If you carry them about your per­son, yes. Lug­gage some­times gets mis­laid; but you need not be afraid of rob­bers. Our roads are not so un­safe as all that, Mr. Ack­land, sir. I have trav­elled all across this coun­try, sir, on horse­back with­out ever hav­ing any mis­ad­ven­ture, and once you are out of the plan­ta­tion you have only a few miles be­tween you and the coach. By the way, let me lend you my trav­el­ling belt."

"Then, in­deed," said John Ack­land, "if it does not se­ri­ous­ly in­con­ve­nience you, I shall glad­ly ac­cept your kind offer. For I con­fess that even your hos­pi­tal­i­ty – -"

"Yes, yes!" said Cartwright, "I un­der­stand. And great­ly as I re­gret this de­par­ture, I can­not press you to stay. There will be no in­con­ve­nience at all, and I will at once give or­ders about your lug­gage."

After din­ner, when John Ack­land and his host were mount­ing their hors­es, "We shall have a cool ride, I think," said Cartwright, "and there's plen­ty of time, so that we can take it easy. I shouldn't won­der if we put up some game as we go along. We had bet­ter take our guns with us."

"I'm not much of a sports­man, I'm afraid," said John Ack­land, with his cus­tom­ary blush.

"Oh," laughed the other, "I dare say you are a bet­ter shot than I. You North­ern­ers are such mod­est gen­tle­men. Any how, there's no harm in hav­ing out the guns. You see they are in no­body's way. That's how we sling 'em in our coun­try, rough but handy. Now then."

"Good- bye to Glenoak," said John Ack­land, rather sadly, look­ing up at the house and wav­ing his hand. His melan­choly had been ex­ces­sive dur­ing the whole day.

"Not good-bye al­to­geth­er, I hope," said Cartwright.

And off they start­ed.

CHAP­TER III

I

T was not yet dark when Cartwright re­turned alone to Glenoak. He found Judge Grif­fin, as­sist­ed by the bet­ting young gen­tle­man, work­ing his way through a bot­tle of brandy and a box of cigars in the ar­bour.

"Well, Cartwright," said the judge, "I sup­pose your friend's off, eh?"

"Yes. Poor old Ack­land! Good fel­low as ever lived. I shall quite miss him."

"Very ami­able man," said the judge.

"Bet you a pony, Cartwright," said the bet­ting young gen­tle­man.

"What on? Here, you black block-head, bring an­oth­er bot­tle of brandy, ice, and so­da-wa­ter. And look alive, do you hear? 'Gad, sir, I've swal­lowed a bushel of dust, and am as dry as mud in a brick- kiln."

"Bet you," re­sumed the bet­ting young gen­tle­man, "that the Yan­kee don't reach the coach to-night. Bet you, any­how, he'll come to grief."

"What do you mean?" said Cartwright, sharply.

"Well, sir," re­spond­ed that promis­ing youth, "I reck­on you should never have set him on that black mare of yours."

"Pooh," said Cartwright, "the mare's as quiet as a mouse."

"If you know how to ride her; but he don't. Very queer seat, that Yan­kee. Now she has him to her­self, if she puts her head down he'll have no more chance with her, I reck­on, than a cat in hell with­out claws," said the bet­ting young gen­tle­man, ap­par­ent­ly much pleased with the orig­i­nal­i­ty and el­e­gance of that strik­ing fig­ure of speech.

"I tell you the mare's as quiet as a mouse," growled Cartwright. "Pray do you sup­pose, my young friend, that your re­mark­able fa­cil­i­ty for falling head-fore­most off the back of any four-legged an­i­mal can be ac­quired with­out very pe-cu-liar prac­tice? You've been prac­tis­ing it your­self a good long time, you know."

The bet­ting young gen­tle­man, not find­ing any suf­fi­cient­ly ex­pres­sive re­tort in the ready-made idiom of his na­tive tongue, was care­ful­ly prepar­ing one, when the judge in­ter­posed with,

"Find any game, Cartwright?"

"No," said Cartwright, " not to speak of. I had only one shot, and Ack­land none." "Guessed I heard a gun about an hour ago," said the bet­ting young gen­tle­man.

"Lord bless you and me, judge," said Cartwright, " if this child here ain't going to die, I do be­lieve, of a de­ter­mi­na­tion of in­tel­li­gence to the brain. The pe­cu­liar acute­ness of his youth­ful fac­ul­ties, is some­thing quite as­ton­ish­ing."

"Well, I guess I wasn't born yes­ter­day," re­spond­ed the dis­con­cert­ed sub­ject of this sar­cas­tic com­pli­ment, "and when you were as young as I am – -"

"I never was as young as you are, sir," said Cartwright.

"Well, never mind that. What did you bag, old boy?"

"Noth­ing, young rev­erend."

"Never knew you miss be­fore, Cartwright."

"Well, I don't often miss, when the game is as easy – as easy as I most­ly find it when­ev­er I have the plea­sure of a crack with you, my young friend."

In this spright­ly con­ver­sa­tion Mr. Philip Cartwright was still ex­er­cis­ing his wit and hu­mour, when that "black block­head," as his mas­ter called him, en­tered the ar­bour, look­ing as white as a black man can look, and whis­pered some­thing to him.

"Re­turned? im­pos­si­ble!" cried Cartwright, spring­ing up.

"What's the mat­ter?" cried the two other gen­tle­men; "Ack­land back again?"

"No, but the mare's back again, rid­er­less, cov­ered with foam, and the sad­dle turned. The mare I lent him."

"Told you he'd come to grief with her. Shouldn't won­der if she's broke his neck," ex­claimed the bet­ting young gen­tle­man, with joy­ful ex­ul­ta­tion.

"Tell Sam to sad­dle my horse in­stant­ly," cried Cartwright. "Not the one I had out to-day, a fresh one."

"Why, where are you going, Cartwright?" asked the judge, not very well pleased at the prospect of in­ter­rupt­ed pota­tions and a dull evening.

"To look for poor Ack­land. And at once."

"But it's a good twelve miles' ride."

"Can't help that, judge. If any­thing has hap­pened to my poor friend, if the mare has thrown him, he may be in want of as­sis­tance. I saw him safe through the plan­ta­tion. If any­thing has hap­pened to him, it can­not have been long after I left him, or the mare would hard­ly have got home by now, even at a gal­lop. Stay, I'd bet­ter take the wag­gon, I think. If he's hurt we shall want it. Who will come with me?"

"Not I," said the judge. "I'm too old. But I tell you what, Cartwright, if you'll order an­oth­er bot­tle I'll sit up for you."

"I'll come," said the bet­ting young gen­tle­man.

"Pooh," cried Cartwright, with in­ef­fa­ble con­tempt. "You're no use. I must be off." And off he went.

When he re­turned to Glenoak about three o'clock in the morn­ing, the judge had kept his word, and was sit­ting up for him, hav­ing near­ly fin­ished his sec­ond bot­tle. Cartwright dropped into a chair hag­gard and ex­haust­ed. He had been to the Coach's point and back, but had dis­cov­ered noth­ing, ex­cept, in­deed, that nei­ther horse nor rider had ar­rived that evening from Glenoak at the inn at that town, and that the Charleston coach had taken in no pas­sen­gers there.

"The whole thing is a mys­tery," he said. "It fair­ly beats me."

"And beat you look," said the judge; "you'd best take a cock­tail and go to bed. Found no trace of him on the road?"

"Noth­ing."

"Nor heard any­thing of him?"

"Noth­ing; ab­so­lute­ly noth­ing."

The next morn­ing all the slaves on Mr. Cartwright's es­tate were as­sem­bled and in­ter­ro­gat­ed about the miss­ing gen­tle­man. Judge Grif­fin him­self con­duct­ed the in­quiry, and very severe­ly he did it. Of course, they all con­tra­dict­ed each other and them­selves, and floun­dered about in a fath­om­less slough of un­in­tel­li­gi­bil­i­ty; for, what­ev­er nat­u­ral in­tel­li­gence they pos­sessed was ex­tin­guished by the ter­ror of the great judge, or lost in the labyrinths of cross-ex­am­i­na­tion. One old negro in par­tic­u­lar, "whose name was Uncle Ned," re­vealed such a pro­fun­di­ty of stu­pid­i­ty, that the judge said, "Cartwright, that nig­ger of yours is the stupi­dest nig­ger in all nig­ger­dom."

"He is," said Cartwright, "and if the black beast don't mind what he's about I'll sell him – whip him first, and sell him af­ter­wards."

"He won't fetch much, I reck­on," said the judge.

"I'll skin him alive and make squash pie of him, and eat him with pep­per, and salt, and vine­gar," said Cartwright, show­ing all the teeth in his hand­some mouth, and look­ing very much like a hun­gry ogre. "I have my eye on him," he added, "and he knows it."

Poor Uncle Ned did in­deed ap­pear to have a very live­ly sense of the un­com­fort­able hon­our of hav­ing Mr. Cartwright's eye on him. For he trem­bled vi­o­lent­ly, and looked like an old black um­brel­la with all its whale­bones work­ing in a high wind.

One thing, how­ev­er, re­sult­ed from this in­ves­ti­ga­tion. None of Mr. Cartwright's ne­groes had seen any­thing, none of them had heard any­thing, none of them knew any­thing, that could shed the small­est light on the fate of John Ack­land.

All Mr. Cartwright's guests were great­ly ex­cit­ed about the events of the pre­vi­ous evening, es­pe­cial­ly the ladies.

"We have done all that can be done for the pre­sent, my dear ladies," said Judge Grif­fin, "but I re­gret to say that as yet we have no clue to this mys­tery. By the way, Cartwright, sup­pose we try Miss Simp­son?"

"Oh, pray, no!" said that young lady; "you know, I have al­ready been so very un­lucky about poor Mr. Ack­land."

"But you can't hurt his feel­ings now, my dear, as, un­for­tu­nate­ly, he is not here; and re­al­ly it is just pos­si­ble that you may be able to sug­gest some­thing."

"Psha!" cried Cartwright, im­pa­tient­ly; "you don't mean to say you se­ri­ous­ly be­lieve in that non­sense, judge?"

"Non­sense or not, there is no harm in try­ing," said the judge, "and you have, doubt­less, some let­ter of Ack­land's that will do."

"But," said Miss Simp­son, "it ought to be, please, some­thing writ­ten very re­cent­ly, if pos­si­ble."

"Stay!" ex­claimed Cartwright, "I have the very thing. I be­lieve it was the last thing John Ack­land wrote in this house. Any­how, the writ­ing is not a week old."

"What is it?" said the judge.

"Why, his re­ceipt, to be sure, for the money I paid him the other day."

Mr. Cartwright ap­peared to re­gard this doc­u­ment as one of pe­cu­liar in­ter­est. He in­sist­ed on hand­ing it round, and show­ing it to every one: re­mark­ing at the same time that "Ack­land wrote a bold­er hand than any one could have sup­posed from the look of the man." The only per­son to whose hands he did not seem par­tic­u­lar­ly will­ing to en­trust it, was Miss Simp­son. All the party, how­ev­er, were eager for the ex­per­i­ment to begin, and that young lady was much urged to try her mag­net­ic pow­ers on the doc­u­ment.

"Don't crum­ple it!" cried Cartwright, ner­vous­ly, as she took up the paper some­what re­luc­tant­ly.

Hard­ly had she touched it, how­ev­er, be­fore Miss Simp­son's whole frame seemed to be con­vulsed by a sharp spasm.

"Take it away!" she cried "take it away! You have put me in rap­port with a – -."

The rest of this ex­cla­ma­tion was in­audi­ble. But Miss Simp­son had faint­ed. It was a long time be­fore she was re­stored to con­scious­ness; and then she de­clared that she had no rec­ol­lec­tion of any­thing which had passed.

"I tell you what it is," said Philip Cartwright to Judge Grif­fin that evening, "this is a very se­ri­ous busi­ness; and we ought not to be los­ing time about it. You must come with me, judge, to Rich­mond to-mor­row."

"Do you sus­pect vi­o­lence or foul play?" said the judge.

"I don't know," an­swered Cartwright, "I don't like the look of it. I be­lieve that John Ack­land when he left Glenoak had a large sum of money with him. For I had some talk with him about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of chang­ing it at the first stage to Charleston. We ought to lose no time, I think, in set­ting the po­lice to work."

Cartwright, ac­com­pa­nied by Judge Grif­fin, went to Rich­mond the next day. And they did set the po­lice to work. And the po­lice worked hard for a fort­night, and made a great many in­quiries, and sug­gest­ed a great many in­ge­nious hy­pothe­ses, but dis­cov­ered ab­so­lute­ly noth­ing.

"All we can do now," said the judge, "is to send or write to Charleston. But, mean­while, don't you think we ought to com­mu­ni­cate with Mr. Ack­land's friends in the north, or rel­a­tives, if he has any? Do you know any of them?"

"Yes," said Cartwright, "I had thought of that be­fore. But the painful ex­cite­ment of our in­quiries here dur­ing the last few days had put it out of my mind. I am not per­son­al­ly ac­quaint­ed with any re­la­tions of poor Ack­land. But I be­lieve he has a cousin at Boston – a Mr. Tom Ack­land – a lawyer, I think – and I'll write to him at once. I don't think I can do any more good here, judge."

"Cer­tain­ly not," said the judge; "you've done all that man can do, and more than any man could have done with­out the wits and en­er­gy of Philip Cartwright."

"But I'm quite knocked up," said Cartwright, "and I shall re­turn to Glenoak to­mor­row."

Mr. Philip Cartwright, how­ev­er, did not re­turn to Glenoak quite so soon as he said. For on the evening of that mor­row he was still at Rich­mond, and en­gaged in the trans­ac­tion of a very im­por­tant lit­tle piece of busi­ness.

CHAP­TER IV

I

N the city of Rich­mond, Vir­ginia, Unit­ed States, and in a back street of a cer­tain quar­ter of that town which was not very well re­put­ed, there ex­ist­ed a cer­tain gam­bling-house which was very ill re­put­ed. As it is for­tu­nate­ly pos­si­ble for the read­er of this ve­ra­cious his­to­ry to enter that house with­out los­ing ei­ther his char­ac­ter or his purse, he is here­by in­vit­ed to do so, and to grope his way, as best he can, up a dark and greasy stair­case till he reach­es the third land­ing, where, in a small room to which "strangers are not ad­mit­ted," he will find Mr. Philip S. Cartwright in close con­ver­sa­tion with a Mex­i­can gen­tle­man late­ly ar­rived in Rich­mond. This Mex­i­can gen­tle­man is of such mod­est and re­tir­ing habits, that al­though he has been res­i­dent about three weeks in the cap­i­tal of Vir­ginia, and is a gen­tle­man of strik­ing ap­pear­ance and var­ied ac­com­plish­ments, he is as yet un­known to any of the in­hab­i­tants of that city, with the ex­cep­tion of two or three en­ter­pris­ing spir­its who are in­ter­est­ed in the for­tunes of the es­tab­lish­ment which he has hon­oured by se­lect­ing as his tem­po­rary place of abode. Per­haps, also, the name of this in­ter­est­ing for­eign­er (which fig­ures on his vis­it­ing-cards as Don Ramon Cabr­era y Cas­tro) may be not al­to­geth­er un­known to some pro­fes­sion­al stu­dents of char­ac­ter whose re­search­es are record­ed in the se­cret archives of the Rich­mond Po­lice. But, if this be so, nei­ther he nor they have as yet taken any steps to­wards in­creas­ing their ac­quain­tance with each other. To the se­lect few who have been priv­i­leged to hold un­re­strict­ed per­son­al in­ter­course with Don Ramon dur­ing his short res­i­dence at Rich­mond, he is fa­mil­iar­ly known as the Don. He is a gen­tle­man of pol­ished man­ners and pol­ished nails; an epi­cure­an philoso­pher, who takes the evil with the good of life cheer­ful­ly and calm­ly. By the side of the don, even the de­scen­dant of the cav­a­liers looks coarse and un­der­bred.

"I tell you," said Cartwright, "it was all no use. You must get up early if you want to catch a Yan­kee nap­ping. He would have noth­ing to do with it. Said it wasn't in his line of busi­ness. Bref, that cock wouldn't fight, sir."

"Just so," said the don, with­out look­ing up from the oc­cu­pa­tion in which he was then ab­sorbed, for he was par­ing his nails. They were very pol­ished, very pink, and very spiky nails. "You failed, in short, my dear friend."

"Not my fault," replied Cartwright: "I did what I could."

"Of course," said the don; "and Don Fil­ip­po can't do more than a man can do. You did what you could, but you couldn't dis­pose of the notes. Just so. Where are they?"

"Here," said Cartwright, "and you'll find them all right." He pushed a lit­tle black box across the table, which seemed to be com­mon prop­er­ty of the two gen­tle­men, for the don took a small key from his own pock­et, opened the box, and tak­ing from it a bun­dle of bank-notes, held up one of them against the can­dle (mak­ing a trans­paren­cy of it), and con­tem­plat­ed it with a ten­der, mus­ing, and melan­choly eye.

"They are beau­ti­ful­ly made," he mur­mured, soft­ly; "just look at the wa­ter-mark, mi queri­do Don Fil­ip­po. A mas­ter­piece of art!"

"Yes," said Cartwright, "they couldn't beat that in New York."

"Not in all the world – not in heav­en it­self!" sighed, the don, with that sub­dued voice ex­pres­sive of sen­su­ous op­pres­sion which is in­spired by the con­tem­pla­tion of any per­fect­ly beau­ti­ful ob­ject.

"But I reck­on you'd bet­ter not drop 'em about Rich­mond," said Cartwright.

"You think so?" re­spond­ed the don, mus­ing­ly; "you re­al­ly think so?"

"Our peo­ple are too sharp now. They were caught once, but I take it they won't be caught twice."

"Caught once?"

"Out and out. Two years ago. By a Quak­er chap trav­el­ling down South for the prop­a­ga­tion of Chris­tian knowl­edge, and var­i­ous lit­tle man­u­fac­tured ar­ti­cles of your sort."

"Then it's no use my stay­ing here?" said the don.

"Don't think it is," said Cartwright.

"And I think you'd bet­ter pay my bill be­fore I leave, my dear friend."

"I'll do what I promised," said Cartwright.

"You re­al­ly think, then," said the don, "that there is no open­ing for in­vest­ment at Rich­mond?"

"That's a fact," said Cartwright

"But you for­get." re­sumed his com­pan­ion, "that if I did in­vest any por­tion of this lit­tle cap­i­tal for the ben­e­fit of your city, sir, and if that benev­o­lent spec­u­la­tion un­hap­pi­ly failed, I at least should be spared the pain of con­tem­plat­ing the fail­ure, since I should no longer be in the States."

"It would fail," said Cartwright, "be­fore you could get clear of the States, and the Union has ex­tra­di­tion treaties."

"Not with all the world," replied the don; "not with all Amer­i­ca even. Not with Texas, for in­stance."

"Well, why not try Texas at once? Cap­i­tal place. Just over the fron­tier, and just be­yond the law."

"I am think­ing of it," said the don. "But there are draw­backs. Judge Lynch, for in­stance, bowie-knives, and tar-bar­rels, if a man has the mis­for­tune to lose pop­u­lar­i­ty. Be­sides, 'tis a devil of a dis­tance; and though, of course, you will pay trav­el­ling ex­pens­es"

"That's not in the bar­gain," ex­claimed Cartwright, thrust­ing his hands in his pock­ets, and walk­ing up and down the room, not very un­like a Ben­gal tiger in a small cage. "I never agreed to that, don."

"But you will agree to it, of course. Friends must help each other, spe­cial­ly such in­ti­mate friends as you and I. And just now, you know, you are so rich – at least, so much rich­er than I."

"I ain't rich," said Cartwright; "and you know it. But I have an idea, don."

"Fe­lici­ta!" cried the don, bow­ing. "Ideas are valu­able prop­er­ties. Yours es­pe­cial­ly, my dear friend. Vir­ginia mines; you don't work 'em half enough. I sup­pose you want a part­ner. What are the terms?"

"I want you to go down to Charleston."

"It is out of my way."

"Ex­pens­es paid."

"And from there to Texas?"

"And from there to Texas."

"Busi­ness at Charleston like­ly to last long?"

"A month at longest. Pos­si­bly less."

"Say a month, then. Charleston's a dear city. Month's board, lodg­ing, car­riage hire, small plea­sures – "

"Paid."

"For a for­eign gen­tle­man of dis­tinc­tion. Liv­ing twice as dear for for­eign­ers as for na­tives. Risk paid, too. Risk's ev­ery­thing in the cal­cu­la­tion, you know. May be heavy. Haven't heard what it is yet."

"None in the world. But I must think the mat­ter over. Meet me here to-mor­row night at the same hour. If we agree as to terms, can you start at once?"

"The soon­er the bet­ter, my dear friend."

"Then to mor­row night."

"I shall await you here."

"And now," said Cartwright, "to get out of this cursed den with­out being seen. Don't for­get to-mor­row night."

So the two gen­tle­men part­ed for that evening.

They met again on the fol­low­ing night ac­cord­ing to ap­point­ment. On each oc­ca­sion the con­ver­sa­tion be­tween them was car­ried on in Span­ish, the only lan­guage which Don Ramon spoke flu­ent­ly. In the in­ter­val be­tween their first and sec­ond in­ter­view, Cartwright was busi­ly en­gaged all day and a great part of the night, too, in his own room at the hotel. Prob­a­bly in some oc­cu­pa­tion of a lit­er­ary na­ture; for be­fore he began it he pur­chased a great quan­ti­ty of writ­ing ma­te­ri­als, var­i­ous kinds of inks, var­i­ous kinds of pens, var­i­ous kinds of paper, and when he had fin­ished it, he left be­hind him, as he un­locked the door and went out to keep his ap­point­ment with Don Ramon, not even a pen or a scrap of paper. The work on which he had been so as­sid­u­ous­ly em­ployed must have ab­sorbed all these ma­te­ri­als, and per­haps spoiled many of them; for in the room, as he left it, there was a strong smell of burnt pens and burnt paper.

On the mor­row of that night Don Ramon left Rich­mond, not by the or­di­nary con­veyance, but by a horse and buggy, which he had pur­chased for the pur­pose, since, he said, he was trav­el­ling for his plea­sure. And to a gen­tle­man who could af­ford to pay for his plea­sure, noth­ing was less pleas­ant than to be booked from place to place like a par­cel. The same day Philip Cartwright re­turned to Glenoak.

CHAP­TER V

M

R. CARTWRIGHT had not for­got­ten, be­fore re­turn­ing to Glenoak, to write to Mr. Ack­land's cousin at Boston, as he had promised Judge Grif­fin. That let­ter in­formed Tom Ack­land of his cousin's sud­den im­pa­tience to leave Glenoak, in con­se­quence of an un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent hav­ing ref­er­ence to the name of a lady at Boston, with whom the writ­er be­lieved that Mr. John Ack­land had been ac­quaint­ed pre­vi­ous to her mar­riage. It nar­rat­ed the cir­cum­stances al­ready known to the read­er, of the de­par­ture from Glenoak, the mys­te­ri­ous re­turn of the horse, and the fail­ure of Mr. Cartwright, as­sist­ed by his friend, Judge Grif­fin, and by the Rich­mond po­lice, to dis­cov­er any tid­ings of his late guest.

On the evening of his re­turn to Glenoak, Mr. Cartwright was in ex­cel­lent spir­its. He kissed his lit­tle daugh­ter with more than usual pa­ter­nal unc­tion, when she bade him good-night that evening.

He was pleas­ant­ly awak­ened next morn­ing, by a despatch from the inn at the coach's halt­ing town, in­form­ing him that Mr. Ack­land had just sent to fetch away his lug­gage which had been lying there, in charge of the land­lord, ever since the day on which John Ack­land left Glenoak. The land­lord had de­liv­ered the lug­gage to Mr. Ack­land's mes­sen­ger, on re­ceipt of an order from Mr. Ack­land which the mes­sen­ger had pro­duced, au­tho­ris­ing him to re­ceive it on Mr. Ack­land's be­half. This order the land­lord now for­ward­ed to Mr. Cartwright, in con­se­quence of the in­quiries which that gen­tle­man had been mak­ing with ref­er­ence to Mr. Ack­land. The mes­sen­ger who called for the lug­gage had in­formed the land­lord that he had come from Pe­ters­burg, where Mr. Ack­land had been laid up by the ef­fects of a bad ac­ci­dent; from which, how­ev­er, he was now so far re­cov­ered that he in­tend­ed to leave Pe­ters­burg early next morn­ing, ac­com­pa­nied by a gen­tle­man with whom he had been stay­ing there, and by whom, at Mr. Ack­land's re­quest, this mes­sen­ger had been sent for the lug­gage.

Mr. Cartwright lost no time in com­mu­ni­cat­ing this good news, both to his friends at Rich­mond, and to Mr. Ack­land's cousin at Boston. In doing so, he ob­served that he feared Mr. Ack­land could not have com­plete­ly re­cov­ered from the ef­fects of his ac­ci­dent – what­ev­er it was – when he signed the order for­ward­ed to Glenoak; for he had no­ticed that in the sig­na­ture to this order, the usu­al­ly bold and firm char­ac­ter of John Ack­land's hand­writ­ing had be­come shaky and sprawl­ing, as though he had writ­ten from a sick bed.

Now Tom Ack­land was ren­dered so anx­ious, that he re­solved to leave Boston in search of his cousin; and he cer­tain­ly would have done so if he had not re­ceived on the fol­low­ing day, this let­ter, writ­ten in a strange hand, and dated from Pe­ters­burg.

"My dear Tom. You will be sur­prised to re­ceive from me, so soon after my last, a let­ter in a strange hand. And, in­deed, I have a long story to tell you in ex­pla­na­tion of this fact; but, for the sake of my kind amanu­en­sis, as well as for my own sake (for I am still too weak to dic­tate a long let­ter), the story must be told briefly." The let­ter then went on to men­tion that Mr. John Ack­land had left Glenoak soon­er than he had in­tend­ed at the date of his last let­ter to his cousin, avail­ing him­self of Mr. Cartwright's loan of a horse to catch the Charleston coach. How Cartwright had ac­com­pa­nied him through the plan­ta­tion, and had in­sist­ed on tak­ing a cou­ple of guns with them, "though I as­sured him that I am no sports­man, my dear Tom;" how, in con­se­quence of a shot fired sud­den­ly by Cartwright from his sad­dle, at a hare which he missed, the mare on which John Ack­land was rid­ing had be­come rather restive, "mak­ing me feel very un­com­fort­able, my dear Tom;" how, after part­ing with Cartwright, and prob­a­bly a lit­tle more than half way to his des­ti­na­tion, at a place where there were cross-roads, Mr. Ack­land had en­coun­tered a buggy with two per­sons in it (an En­glish gen­tle­man and his ser­vant, as it af­ter­wards turned out), and how this buggy, cross­ing the road at full speed close in front of his horse, had caused the horse to rear and throw him. He had im­me­di­ate­ly lost con­scious­ness. For­tu­nate­ly, the per­sons in the buggy saw the ac­ci­dent, and has­tened to his as­sis­tance; the mare, in the mean while, hav­ing taken to her heels. Find­ing him in­sen­si­ble and severe­ly in­jured, they had con­veyed him with great care to Pe­ters­burg, whith­er they were going when he met them. There they ob­tained for him med­i­cal as­sis­tance. He be­lieved he had been deliri­ous for many days. He could not yet use his right arm, and he still felt a great deal of pain about the head. He was, how­ev­er, suf­fi­cient­ly re­cov­ered to feel able to leave Pe­ters­burg, trav­el­ling eas­i­ly and by slow stages. His kind friend, Mr. Forbes, the En­glish gen­tle­man who had taken such care of him, was going to meet his yacht at Cape Hat­teras, in­tend­ing to sail to the Ha­van­nah, and had kind­ly of­fered to take him in the yacht as far as Charleston. John Ack­land hoped the sea voy­age would do him good. They in­tend­ed to start im­me­di­ate­ly – that evening or early next morn­ing. Tom had bet­ter ad­dress all let­ters for the pre­sent to the post-of­fice, Charleston.

A few lines were added by Mr. Forbes, to whom this let­ter had been dic­tat­ed. They de­scribed Mr. Ack­land's in­juries as se­ri­ous, but not at all dan­ger­ous. A bad com­pound frac­ture of the right arm, bro­ken in two places. The sur­geon had at first feared that am­pu­ta­tion might be nec­es­sary; but Mr. Forbes was happy to say that the arm had been set, and he trust­ed Mr. Ack­land would even­tu­al­ly re­cov­er the use of it. There had been a se­vere con­cus­sion of the brain, but for­tu­nate­ly no frac­ture of the skull. Mr. Ack­land had made good progress dur­ing the last week. Mr. Forbes was of opin­ion that Mr. Ack­land was suf­fer­ing in gen­er­al health and spir­its from the shock of the fall he had had, rather than from any or­gan­ic in­jury.

On re­ceipt of this let­ter, Tom Ack­land wrote to his cousin, ad­dress­ing his let­ter to the post-of­fice at Charleston, and en­clos­ing a line ex­pres­sive of his thanks, &c. for Mr. Forbes, to whom he hoped John Ack­land would be able to for­ward it. He also wrote to Mr. Cartwright, thank­ing that gen­tle­man for his kind in­ter­est and ex­er­tions, and com­mu­ni­cat­ing to him what he had heard of his cousin from Mr. Forbes. When Cartwright men­tioned the con­tents of this let­ter to Judge Grif­fin: "I al­ways thought," said the judge, " that the man would turn up some how or other. We need not have taken such a deal of trou­ble about him." All fur­ther pro­ceed­ings with a view to ob­tain­ing in­for­ma­tion about John Ack­land were im­me­di­ate­ly stayed: and Mr. Cartwright made a hand­some pre­sent to the po­lice of Rich­mond for their " valu­able as­sis­tance."

CHAP­TER VI

I

T was some time be­fore Tom Ack­land heard again from his cousin. When he did hear, John Ack­land's let­ter was writ­ten by him­self, but was al­most il­leg­i­ble. He apol­o­gised for this, dwelling on the pain and dif­fi­cul­ty with which he wrote, even with his left hand. He thought his bro­ken arm must have been very ill set. As for busi­ness, he had not yet been able to at­tend to any. He would send Tom's let­ter to Mr. Forbes. But he re­al­ly didn't know whether it would ever find him. He be­lieved that gen­tle­man must have left the Ha­van­nah. As for him­self, he had found the jour­ney by sea to Charleston very fa­tigu­ing, and it had done him no good. The whole let­ter breathed a spir­it of pro­found de­jec­tion. It com­plained much of fre­quent pain and con­stant op­pres­sion in the head. Life had be­come an in­tol­er­a­ble bur­den. He, John Ack­land, had never wished for a long life, and now de­sired it less than ever. He was so con­stant­ly chang­ing his quar­ters (not hav­ing yet found any sit­u­a­tion which did not hor­ri­bly dis­agree with him), that Tom had bet­ter con­tin­ue to di­rect his let­ters to the post-of­fice.

Some ex­pres­sions in the let­ter made Tom. Ack­land al­most fear that John's mind had be­come af­fect­ed. He wrote at once im­plor­ing his cousin to re­turn to Boston if well enough to trav­el, and of­fer­ing, if he were not, to start for Charleston at once, in order to be with him.

John Ack­land, in his reply, as­sured his cousin that he felt quite un­able to un­der­take the fa­tigue of even a much short­er jour­ney than the jour­ney from Charleston to Boston. He begged that Tom would not think of join­ing him at Charleston. He could not at pre­sent bear to see any one. Even half an hour's con­ver­sa­tion, es­pe­cial­ly with any one he knew, ex­cit­ed him al­most be­yond en­durance. He avoid­ed the sight of human faces as much as he could. His only safe­ty was in com­plete seclu­sion. Every one was in a con­spir­a­cy to dis­tress and in­jure him. He might tell Tom, in strict con­fi­dence, that all the peo­ple in Charleston were so afraid of his set­ting up busi­ness in that town, that they were de­ter­mined to ruin, and even to mur­der him if they could. There were per­sons (he had seen them) who fol­lowed him about, wher­ev­er he went, in order to poi­son the air when he was asleep; but he had been too sharp for them The let­ter con­clud­ed with some quo­ta­tions from Rousseau on the sub­ject of sui­cide. It bore such ev­i­dent traces of men­tal de­range­ment, that Tom Ack­land re­solved to lose no time in going to Charleston. A state­ment which at­tract­ed his at­ten­tion in the next morn­ing's news­pa­pers, con­firmed his worst fears, and great­ly in­creased his anx­i­ety to ar­rive there.

CHAP­TER VII

A

T this time, some po­lit­i­cal friends of Mr. Dob­bins, whose opin­ions had been ad­vo­cat­ed with great abil­i­ty in the Rich­mond Couri­er on a sub­ject of a ques­tion so hotly de­bat­ed be­tween North and South that it had threat­ened to break up the Union, in­vit­ed that gen­tle­man to a pub­lic ban­quet at one of the prin­ci­pal ho­tels in Rich­mond. Mr. Cartwright was pre­sent at this din­ner; so was Judge Grif­fin; so was Dr. Simp­son, the broth­er of the mag­net­ic young lady; so were other of John Ack­land's fel­low-guests at Glenoak.

The din­ner was a Union din­ner, the speech­es were Union speech­es, the event cel­e­brat­ed was the tri­umph of Union sen­ti­ment in har­mo­ny with South­ern suprema­cy. After the great po­lit­i­cal guns had fired them­selves off, the ladies were "ad­mit­ted from be­hind the screen," toasts of gal­lantry and per­son­al com­pli­ment were pro­posed, and the minor or­a­tors ob­tained a hear­ing. None of these was more vol­u­ble than Mr. Cartwright. He rose to pro­pose a toast. The toast was a Union toast, for it unit­ed the ab­sent with the pre­sent. He would in­vite the com­pa­ny to drink to the health of " Our ab­sent friends."

At this mo­ment Mr. Cartwright was dis­agree­ably in­ter­rupt­ed by a bus­tle and buzz of voic­es among the sable at­ten­dants at the door. " Order! order!" cried Judge Grif­fin, in­dig­nant­ly look­ing round.

"Please, Massa Judge," cried one burly nig­ger, bold­er than his fel­lows, "Massa Ack­land he be in de next room, and want to speak bery 'tic'lar with Massa Cartwright."

"By Jove, Cartwright! do you hear that?'' ex­claimed the judge. " What, Ack­land? John Ack­land?"

"Yessir. Massa John Ack­land he be in a bustin' big hurry, and wait­in' to see Massa Cartwright bery 'tic'lar."

"Why not call him in?" sug­gest­ed the judge. " Every one will be happy to see him, after all the trou­ble he has cost some of us.''

"No, no," cried Cartwright, much over­come by the sur­prise. "Gen­tle­men, I will not de­tain you longer. To our ab­sent friends! And now," he added, emp­ty­ing his bumper with an un­steady hand, "I am sure you will all ex­cuse me, since it seems that one of my ab­sent friends is wait­ing to see me."

CHAP­TER VIII

M

R. CARTWRIGHT hur­ried to the door, and next mo­ment found him­self face to face: not with Mr. John, but with Mr. John's cousin Tom, Ack­land.

Mr. Tom Ack­land in­tro­duced him­self: "My ex­cuse," said he, "is, that I am only at Rich­mond for a few hours, on my way to Charleston, and that, ac­ci­den­tal­ly hear­ing from one of the helps here that you hap­pened to be in the hotel, I was anx­ious to ask you whether you had late­ly heard from my cousin, or re­ceived any news of him from Charleston?"

"None," said Cartwright. "I trust there is noth­ing the mat­ter?"

"You have not even seen his name men­tioned in the news­pa­pers?"

"No."

"Yet I pre­sume a para­graph I have here from a Boston paper, must also have ap­peared in the Rich­mond jour­nals. Pray be so good as to look at it."

The para­graph ran thus:

"The fol­low­ing has ap­peared in the Charleston Mes­sen­ger of Oc­to­ber 18th. On the 16th in­stant, about two hours after sun­down, a Span­ish gen­tle­man, who hap­pened to be walk­ing to­wards Charleston along the right bank of Coop­er River, was star­tled by what he be­lieved to be the sound of a human voice speak­ing in loud tones. The voice ap­par­ent­ly pro­ceed­ed from the same side of the river as that along which he was walk­ing, and not many yards in ad­vance of him. As the night was al­ready dark, he was un­able to dis­tin­guish any ob­ject not im­me­di­ate­ly be­fore him, and, as he was but im­per­fect­ly ac­quaint­ed with the En­glish tongue, he was also un­able to un­der­stand what the voice was say­ing. He was, how­ev­er, so strong­ly under the im­pres­sion that the voice was that of a per­son ad­dress­ing a large au­di­ence in an­i­mat­ed tones, that he fully be­lieved him­self to be in the im­me­di­ate vicin­i­ty of a camp meet­ing, or other sim­i­lar as­sem­blage, and was some­what sur­prised to per­ceive no lights along that part of the bank from which the voice ap­par­ent­ly pro­ceed­ed. Whilst he was yet lis­ten­ing to it, the voice sud­den­ly ceased, and was suc­ceed­ed by the sound of a loud splash, as of some heavy body falling into the water. On has­ten­ing to the spot from which he sup­posed these sounds to have arisen, he was still more sur­prised to find it de­sert­ed. On ex­am­in­ing the ground, how­ev­er, as well as he could by the light of a few match­es which he hap­pened to have with him, he dis­cov­ered two pieces of prop­er­ty, a hat and a book, but noth­ing which in­di­cat­ed the owner of them, and no trace of any strug­gle which could lead him to sup­pose that their un­known owner had been de­prived of them by vi­o­lence. After shout­ing in every di­rec­tion, with­out ob­tain­ing any an­swer, this gen­tle­man then took pos­ses­sion of the hat and book, and, on re­turn­ing to Charleston, de­posit­ed them, with the fore­go­ing ex­pla­na­tion of the man­ner in which he had dis­cov­ered them, at the F.-street po­lice-sta­tion. From the ex­am­i­na­tion of these ob­jects by the po­lice, it ap­pears that both the book and the hat are in­scribed with the name John K. Ack­land. The book, as we are in­formed, is the sec­ond vol­ume of a small pock­et edi­tion of the Nou­velle Héloise, and the page is turned down and marked at the fol­low­ing pas­sage:

' Chercher son bien, et fuir son mal, en ce qui n'of­fense point autrui, c'est le droit de la na­ture. Quand notre vie est un mal pour nous, et n'est un bien pour per­son­ne, il est donc per­mis de s'en délivr­er. S'il y a dans le monde une maxime évi­dente et cer­taine, je pense que c'est celle-là; et si l'on ve­nait à bout de la ren­vers­er, il n'y a point d'ac­tion hu­maine dont on ne pût faire un crime.'

On the mar­gin op­po­site this pas­sage some­thing is writ­ten, but in char­ac­ters which are quite il­leg­i­ble. The vol­ume ap­par­ent­ly be­longs to a Boston edi­tion. In­spec­tor Jenks, of the Fifth Ward Po­lice Di­vi­sion, has lost no time in in­ves­ti­gat­ing this mys­te­ri­ous oc­cur­rence. We un­der­stand that the river has been dragged, but with­out the dis­cov­ery of any human body. It is to be ob­served that if a body, falling into the river at the spot in­di­cat­ed, by the gen­tle­man by whom the above-men­tioned prop­er­ty was de­posit­ed at the F.-street sta­tion, had float­ed with­in an hour after its im­mer­sion, it is quite with­in pos­si­bil­i­ty that it might have been car­ried out to sea be­fore the fol­low­ing morn­ing, that is to say, sup­pos­ing it to have fall­en into the river at that point, where the cur­rent is ex­treme­ly strong, not later than 10.30 P.M. It is, how­ev­er, ex­treme­ly im­prob­a­ble that a human body could have been float­ed out to sea in this man­ner with­out being ob­served. It is equal­ly im­prob­a­ble that any per­son could have per­ished with­in the neigh­bour­hood of Charleston, whether by ac­ci­dent or vi­o­lence, on the night of the 16th with­out the dis­ap­pear­ance of that per­son hav­ing ex­cit­ed at­ten­tion in some quar­ter up to the pre­sent mo­ment. Our own im­pres­sion is that the whole af­fair has been an in­ge­nious hoax. This im­pres­sion is, at least, borne out by the fact that the name of Ack­land (which cer­tain­ly is not a Charleston name) is not known at, and does not ap­pear on the books of, any hotel in this city, that the ad­ver­tise­ments of the po­lice have, up to the pre­sent mo­ment, elicit­ed no claimant for the hat and book now on view in F.-street, and that, from the in­quiries hith­er­to made, it ap­pears that no per­son in or about Charleston has been miss­ing since the night of the 16th in­stant. With a view, how­ev­er, to the pos­si­bil­i­ty of this mys­te­ri­ous Mr. J. K. Ack­land ever hav­ing ex­ist­ed, ex­cept in the imag­i­na­tion of some mis­chievous wag, Union jour­nals are re­quest­ed to copy, in order that the friends and re­la­tions of the miss­ing gen­tle­man (if there be any) may be made ac­quaint­ed with the fore­go­ing in­for­ma­tion."

"Well?" said Tom Ack­land, when Cartwright had fin­ished his pe­rusal of this state­ment.

"Well," an­swered Cartwright, "I also in­cline to think it a hoax."

"I wish I could think so too," said Mr. Tom; "but I have many sad rea­sons to think more se­ri­ous­ly of it."

"When do you go on to Charleston?" asked Mr. Cartwright.

"Be­fore day­break to-mor­row."

"Ever been there be­fore?"

"Never."

"Then you must let me come with you. I know some­thing of that city, have friends there, and may be of use."

"Re­al­ly, my dear sir, I could not pos­si­bly think of al­low­ing you to sac­ri­fice – - "

"No sac­ri­fice, sir. Noth­ing I would not do for the sake of your cousin, Mr. Ack­land. He was once very use­ful to me, sir; very use­ful and very kind. And no man shall say that Phil Cartwright ever for­got a kind­ness done him. I can pack up in an hour, and the soon­er we start the bet­ter."

So Mr. Cartwright ac­com­pa­nied Mr. Tom Ack­land to Charleston. And Mr. Tom Ack­land was in­ex­press­ibly touched by that proof of friend­ship for his cousin.

CHAP­TER IX

O

N in­quiry at the po­lice sta­tion in Charleston, S.C., Mr. Tom Ack­land, ac­com­pa­nied by Mr. Cartwright, was shown the hat and book men­tioned by the Charleston Mes­sen­ger. Mr. Tom Ack­land rather thought that he had once seen the book in the pos­ses­sion of his Cousin John. But of this he could not feel sure. The name, both in the book and in the hat, was print­ed. The hand­writ­ing on the mar­gin of the page op­po­site the marked pas­sage in the book proved to be quite il­leg­i­ble, but bore a strong re­sem­blance to the sprawl­ing and un­steady char­ac­ters of the last two let­ters re­ceived by Mr. Tom Ack­land from his cousin. In­side the hat they found the mark of a George­town maker, part­ly ef­faced. The po­lice, after their first in­quiries in Charleston, hav­ing jumped to the con­clu­sion that they were being hoaxed, had treat­ed the whole af­fair so care­less­ly that they had not even at­tempt­ed to fol­low up this in­di­ca­tion. Cartwright was the first to point it out. In con­se­quence of this dis­cov­ery, Mr. Tom Ack­land im­me­di­ate­ly pro­ceed­ed to George­town, and had no dif­fi­cul­ty in find­ing there, the hat­ter whose name and ad­dress Cartwright had de­tect­ed in­side the hat. On ex­am­in­ing the hat, and re­fer­ring to his books, the hat­ter iden­ti­fied it as hav­ing been sold on the 29th of last Septem­ber. To whom? He could not say. So many dif­fer­ent hats were sold in the course of a day, to so many dif­fer­ent peo­ple. He would ask his young men. One of his young men thought he had sold a hat of that de­scrip­tion some time ago, but could not pos­i­tive­ly say it was on the 29th of Septem­ber, to a gen­tle­man who had one arm in a sling. Right arm? Could not re­mem­ber, but thought it was the right arm. Hat was paid for in ready money. Was the gen­tle­man on foot, or in a car­riage? Thought he was on foot, but could not re­mem­ber dis­tinct­ly.

This was all the in­for­ma­tion Tom Ack­land could ob­tain at George­town. He in­quired at all the ho­tels there, but could not find the name of Ack­land in­scribed in any of their books. On his re­turn to Charleston, Cartwright told him that his own in­quiries at the ho­tels and board­ing- hous­es in that city had been equal­ly in­fruc­tu­ous.

On in­quir­ing at the post-of­fice, they were in­formed that let­ters had cer­tain­ly been re­ceived there for John K. Ack­land, Esq., and reg­u­lar­ly de­liv­ered to a gen­tle­man so call­ing him­self, who ap­plied for them daily. What sort of look­ing gen­tle­man? Very in­valid-look­ing gen­tle­man, al­ways muf­fled up to the chin in a long cloak, and seemed to suf­fer from cold even when the weath­er was op­pres­sive­ly hot.

"Was he at all like this gen­tle­man?" asked Cartwright, point­ing to Tom Ack­land.

Re­al­ly couldn't recal any re­sem­blance.

No­ticed any­thing else par­tic­u­lar about him?

Yes. He car­ried one arm in a sling, and limped slight­ly.

Any­thing else?

Yes. Spoke with rather an odd ac­cent.

Yan­kee ac­cent?

Well, hard­ly. Couldn't well say what it was like. But the gen­tle­man rarely spoke at all, and seemed rather deaf.

Had been for his let­ters late­ly?

Not since the 15th of Oc­to­ber. There was one let­ter still lying there to his ad­dress. Ex­pla­na­tions hav­ing been given by the two gen­tle­men, this let­ter was even­tu­al­ly, with the sanc­tion of the po­lice of­fi­cer who ac­com­pa­nied them, hand­ed over to Mr. Tom Ack­land, that gen­tle­man hav­ing claimed it on be­half of his cousin. It proved to be his own reply to John Ack­land's last let­ter to him­self.

Had the gen­tle­man never com­mu­ni­cat­ed to the post-of­fice his ad­dress in Charleston?

Never.

Tom groaned in the spir­it. He could no longer en­ter­tain the least doubt that his worst fears had been but too well found­ed. The ab­so­lute and uni­ver­sal ig­no­rance which ap­peared to pre­vail at Charleston of the ex­is­tence of any such per­son as John Ack­land would have been al­to­geth­er in­ex­pli­ca­ble if John Ack­land's own let­ters to Tom, al­lud­ing to the pro­found seclu­sion in which he had been liv­ing ever since his ar­rival in that city, did not part­ly ex­plain it. No such per­son hav­ing ever been seen or heard of on 'Change, or at any of the banks in Charleston, how had John Ack­land been liv­ing? Cartwright sug­gest­ed that it was pos­si­ble that he might have been liv­ing all this while on the money which he him­self had paid over to him in notes at Glenoak.

"That is true," thought Tom Ack­land; for he re­mem­bered that his cousin, in his last let­ter from Glenoak, had stat­ed that the notes were still in his pos­ses­sion. But noth­ing short of in­san­i­ty could ac­count for his not hav­ing de­posit­ed them, since then, at any bank. Un­hap­pi­ly such an hy­poth­e­sis was by no means im­prob­a­ble. Who was that Span­ish gen­tle­man who pro­fessed to have dis­cov­ered the hat and book of John Ack­land's on the bank of the river? Could he have been John Ack­land's as­sas­sin? But if so, why should he have spon­ta­neous­ly at­tract­ed at­ten­tion to the dis­ap­pear­ance of his vic­tim, and pro­mot­ed in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the cir­cum­stances of it? His story, as re­port­ed by the Charleston Mes­sen­ger, was in­deed so ex­trav­a­gant as to jus­ti­fy the opin­ion ex­pressed by that jour­nal. But Tom Ack­land had in his pos­ses­sion let­ters from his cousin which made the story ap­pear far less im­prob­a­ble to him than it might rea­son­ably ap­pear to any one not ac­quaint­ed with the state of John Ack­land's mind dur­ing the last month. It was very un­lucky that there was now no pos­si­bil­i­ty of see­ing and speak­ing with that Span­ish gen­tle­man. For the gen­tle­man in ques­tion, after hav­ing post­poned his de­par­ture in order to aid the in­quiries of the po­lice, had left Charleston about two days be­fore Tom Ack­land's ar­rival there, on being as­sured by the au­thor­i­ties that his pres­ence was not re­quired. And he had left be­hind him no in­di­ca­tion of his pre­sent where­abouts.

This was the po­si­tion of af­fairs with Mr. Tom Ack­land, and his in­quiries ap­peared to have come to a hope­less dead lock, when, late one night, Mr. Cartwright (who had been ab­sent dur­ing the whole of the day) burst into his room with the an­nounce­ment that he had ob­tained im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion about John Ack­land.

It had oc­curred to him, he said, that John Ack­land must, from all ac­counts, have been a con­firmed in­valid for the last few months. If so, he would prob­a­bly have sought some coun­try lodg­ing in the neigh­bour­hood of Charleston, where the sit­u­a­tion was health­i­est, with­out being in­con­ve­nient­ly far from town, in case he should re­quire med­i­cal as­sis­tance. Act­ing at once on this sup­po­si­tion (which, in order not to ex­cite false hopes, in case it should lead to noth­ing, he had re­frained from com­mu­ni­cat­ing to Tom), he had de­ter­mined to visit all the en­vi­rons of Charleston. He had that morn­ing se­lect­ed for his first voy­age of dis­cov­ery a lo­cal­i­ty only a few miles dis­tant from Charleston, which he knew to be a par­tic­u­lar­ly healthy sit­u­a­tion. His in­quiries there were not suc­cess­ful, and he was on the point of re­turn­ing to Charleston, when he for­tu­nate­ly rec­ol­lect­ed that he had not yet vis­it­ed a lit­tle lodg­ing-house where he re­mem­bered hav­ing once taken rooms him­self, many years ago, when he was at Charleston with his poor wife, then in very weak health. He was not aware whether that house still ex­ist­ed, but he thought he would try; and he had been re­ward­ed for his pains by learn­ing from its land­la­dy that some time ago a gen­tle­man, who said his name was Ack­land, called there, saw the house, and took it for six months. He paid the rent in ad­vance, and had placed his ef­fects in the house. But, to the best of the land­la­dy's be­lief, he had not once slept at home since he be­came her ten­ant. He fre­quent­ly came there, in­deed, dur­ing the day, and had some­times taken his meals there. But on all such oc­ca­sions it was his habit to lock the door of his room as long as he was in it. Noth­ing would in­duce him to touch food in the pres­ence of any one. She had served him his din­ner often, but had never seen him eat it. Some­times he car­ried part of it away with him; and once he told her that he did this in order to have the food anal­ysed. He ap­peared to be under a con­stant im­pres­sion that his food was poi­soned; and the land­la­dy was of opin­ion that her lodger was a de­cid­ed mono­ma­ni­ac, but that he was per­fect­ly harm­less. She said he was a very ec­cen­tric gen­tle­man, but an ex­cel­lent ten­ant. He had been at the house on the morn­ing of the 16th (she re­mem­bered the date be­cause of a wash­ing bill which he told her to pay for him on that day, and for which she has not yet been re­im­bursed). He re­mained at home dur­ing the whole of the day, but locked up his room as usual. About six o'clock in the evening he went out, lock­ing the doors of all the sit­ting-rooms and bed­rooms, and tak­ing the key with him. Be­fore leav­ing the house, he told her that he was like­ly to be ab­sent for some time, as he was pur­sued by en­e­mies, and that there would prob­a­bly be in­quiries about him, but she was not to no­tice them, and on no ac­count to men­tion his name to any one. "She has never seen him since. But her de­scrip­tion of him pre­cise­ly tal­lies with that which was given us at the post-of­fice. She is a very old woman, rather blind, rather deaf, and very stupid. I don't think she can ei­ther read or write. Most of this in­for­ma­tion I ob­tained from the nig­ger gal who does all the work of the house. She even­tu­al­ly promised to have the locks opened in our pres­ence to-mor­row; and I have set­tled that, if agree­able to you, we will drive over there after break­fast." Thus Cartwright to Tom Ack­land.

Poor Tom Ack­land was pro­found­ly af­fect­ed by this fresh ev­i­dence of zeal and sym­pa­thy on the part of Mr. Cartwright. But Cartwright him­self made light of his own ef­forts. "Pooh, pooh, my dear sir!" he said, in reply to Tom's re­peat­ed ex­pres­sions of grat­i­tude; "if he was your cousin, was he not also my friend?"

When Tom Ack­land en­tered the first room, from which the lock was re­moved, in the house to which Cartwright con­duct­ed him on the fol­low­ing day, one glance round it told him all, and, with a low moan of pain, he fell upon the bed and sobbed. There, on that bed, was the dress­ing-gown which poor John Ack­land had worn the last evening on which he and Tom had sat to­geth­er dis­cussing John's plans for the fu­ture. There, in the wardrobe, were John Ack­land's clothes; there, on the shelf, were John Ack­land's books; there, on the table, were John Ack­land's pa­pers. And among those pa­pers Tom af­ter­wards found an un­fin­ished let­ter ad­dressed to him­self. It was writ­ten in those sprawl­ing shaky char­ac­ters which Tom had late­ly been learn­ing, sadly, to de­ci­pher, and which were so all un­like the once firm and well-formed hand­writ­ing of his cousin. "God bless you, dear Tom!" (the let­ter said). "My last thought is of you. I have borne it long. I can­not bear it longer. No­body will miss me but you. And you, if you could see me as I am now, if you could know all that I have been suf­fer­ing, even you, would sure­ly wish for me that re­lief from mis­ery which only death can give. They are after me day and night, Tom. They have left me no peace. Mary Mor­dent is at the bot­tom of it all. She hides her­self. But I know it. I have no heart to post this let­ter, Tom. I have no strength to fin­ish it. Good-bye, Tom. Don't fret. Dear, dear Tom, good-bye."

Tom Ack­land re­turned to Boston with two con­vic­tions. One, that his un­for­tu­nate cousin had per­ished by sui­cide on the night of the 16th of Oc­to­ber; the other, that Philip Cartwright was a most un­selfish, warm-heart­ed fel­low. The whole story of John Ack­land's mys­te­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ance and lamentable death had ex­cit­ed too much cu­rios­i­ty, and been too hotly dis­cussed, both at Rich­mond and Boston, to be soon for­got­ten in ei­ther of those lo­cal­i­ties. Se­ri­ous quar­rels had arisen (in Rich­mond at least), and old ac­quain­tances had be­come es­tranged in con­se­quence of the ve­he­mence with which di­verse the­o­ries were main­tained by their re­spec­tive par­ti­sans on the sub­ject of John Ack­land's fate. But time went on, and, as time went on, the story be­came an old story which no one cared to refer to, for fear of being voted a bore. There were not want­ing at Rich­mond, how­ev­er, some few per­sons by whose sus­pi­cious fan­cies Philip Cartwright, against all ev­i­dence to the con­trary, re­mained un­char­i­ta­bly con­nect­ed with the mys­te­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ance and sub­se­quent sui­cide of the Boston mer­chant, in a man­ner much less flat­ter­ing to that gen­tle­man's char­ac­ter than Mr. Tom Ack­land's grate­ful rec­ol­lec­tion of his friend­ly ex­er­tions at Charleston.

CHAP­TER X

M

R. D'OILEY, the watch­mak­er, was a strange mix­ture of prac­ti­cal shrewd­ness and an in­vet­er­ate ap­petite for the mirac­u­lous. Spir­i­tu­al­ism had not then been in­vent­ed. Oth­er­wise Mr. D'Oiley would sure­ly have been one of its most en­thu­si­as­tic dis­ci­ples. But on the sub­ject of an­i­mal mag­netism, elec­tro-bi­ol­o­gy, pre­sen­ti­ments, clair­voy­ance, and sec­ond sight, Mr. D'Oiley was great and ter­ri­ble. The whole story of John Ack­land, in all its de­tails, had been dis­cussed in every cir­cle of Rich­mond so­ci­ety, high and low. Mr. D'Oiley was well up in it; and he had formed very de­cid­ed opin­ions about it. He con­fid­ed them to the wife of his bosom.

"Just look at the case with­out prej­u­dice," said Mr. D'Oiley, in the con­fi­dence of the nup­tial couch. "How does it stand, ma'am? It is well known that Cartwright owed Ack­land a large sum of money. It is equal­ly well known, ma'am, that Cartwright never had a large sum of money – of his own. How, then, did he get the money with which he says he paid off his debt to Ack­land? There are only two ways, my dear, in which that man could have got that money. Ei­ther by a loan from some other per­son, to be re­paid at the short­est pos­si­ble date, or by a forgery. The first is not prob­a­ble. The sec­ond is. In ei­ther case it would have been a mat­ter of vital im­por­tance to Cartwright to re­gain pos­ses­sion of the money he paid to Ack­land. In the one case, in order to liq­ui­date the sec­ond loan on which he must have raised it; in the other case, to re­cov­er the forged draft be­fore it fell due. The mo­ment he had suc­ceed­ed in se­cur­ing Ack­land's re­ceipt for the money, he had noth­ing more to fear from Ack­land. Why did Cartwright talk so much about his trans­ac­tions with Ack­land? Why did he show about Ack­land's re­ceipt for the money, if it were not to avert sus­pi­cion from him­self after Ack­land's dis­ap­pear­ance, by mak­ing every one say, 'Cartwright could have had no mo­tive to mur­der Ack­land, for he owed him noth­ing'? Mark my words, Mrs. D. Time will show that John Ack­land never left Vir­ginia alive, and that he fell by the hand of Philip Cartwright."

"But in that case," ob­ject­ed Mrs. D., "why has the body never been found?"

"Time will show," replied Mr. D'Oiley, orac­u­lar­ly. "But you don't sup­pose that dead bod­ies are in the habit of walk­ing about with their heads in their hands and show­ing them­selves off, like wax­works? Eh?"

It is need­less to say that both Mr. and Mrs. D. be­lieved even more in Miss Simp­son's mag­net­ic gift than did Miss Simp­son her­self. That young lady, when­ev­er the sub­ject of John Ack­land was re­ferred to, as­sured her friends that she did not doubt she had talked a great deal of non­sense about Mr. Ack­land, but she had not the least rec­ol­lec­tion of any­thing she might have said. This sub­ject was in­ex­press­ibly dis­taste­ful to her, and she re­quest­ed that it might not be dis­cussed in her pres­ence. What was very ex­traor­di­nary, and very much re­marked, was the in­vin­ci­ble re­pug­nance which, ever since that day at Glenoak, Miss Simp­son ap­peared to en­ter­tain to­wards Mr. Cartwright. She stu­dious­ly avoid­ed him, and if ever she hap­pened, un­avoid­ably, to find her­self in the same room with him, or even to meet him in the street, it was no­ticed that she be­came vis­i­bly ag­i­tat­ed, and turned away her eyes from him with an ex­pres­sion of hor­ror. She ei­ther could not, or would not, give any ex­pla­na­tion of this con­duct, but grad­u­al­ly and im­per­cep­ti­bly Miss Simp­son's stu­dious avoid­ance of Mr. Cartwright af­fect­ed the re­la­tions and in­ti­mate friends of this young lady, with an un­com­fort­able and un­favourable im­pres­sion in re­gard to that gen­tle­man. Nor did time, as it went by, im­prove ei­ther the for­tunes, the char­ac­ter, or the rep­u­ta­tion of Philip Cartwright. He ne­glect­ed his prop­er­ty more than ever, and was con­stant­ly ab­sent from Glenoak, haunt­ing the hells, bars, and bowl­ing-al­leys of Rich­mond and all the neigh­bour­ing towns, ap­par­ent­ly with no other pur­pose than to get rid of time dis­rep­utably. He drank fierce­ly, and the ef­fects of ha­bit­u­al in­tox­i­ca­tion began to ren­der his char­ac­ter so sav­age and sullen that in the course of a few years he en­tire­ly lost that per­son­al pop­u­lar­i­ty which he had for­mer­ly en­joyed.

Poor Vir­ginia Cartwright had a sad and soli­tary life of it at Glenoak. Her fa­ther's af­fec­tion for her was undi­min­ished; nay, it seemed stronger than ever, but there was a fierce­ness and wild­ness about it which was rather ter­ri­ble than sooth­ing. And he him­self had yet the grace to feel that he was no fit com­pan­ion for his daugh­ter. He was rarely with her, and, though nu­mer­ous friends at Rich­mond and in the neigh­bour­hood never ceased to urge her to visit them, and al­ways re­ceived her with a sort of com­pas­sion­ate ten­der­ness of man­ner, yet their kind­ness only wound­ed and em­bar­rassed her. For Vir­ginia Cartwright was sen­si­tive­ly proud, and proud even of her dis­rep­utable par­ent. So the poor young lady lived in great seclu­sion at Glenoak, of which she was undis­put­ed mis­tress; and where, by her care and good sense, she con­trived to pre­vent the prop­er­ty from al­to­geth­er going to the dogs.

CHAP­TER XI

O

NE af­ter­noon in Jan­uary (a bright clear frosty af­ter­noon, when the ice was white on the James River), Miss Cartwright or­dered her pony car­riage and drove her­self over to Rich­mond. It was just six years since the date of John Ack­land's visit to Glenoak, and Miss Cartwright was just six­teen years of age. Any one who saw her as she drove into Rich­mond that af­ter­noon, with the glow in her dark South­ern cheek height­ened by the healthy cold, would have ad­mit­ted that Vir­ginia Cartwright had nobly ful­filled John Ack­land's prophe­cies of her fu­ture beau­ty. Peo­ple turned in the street to ad­mire her as she passed. After vis­it­ing var­i­ous stores where Miss Cartwright made var­i­ous lit­tle pur­chas­es, the pony car­riage stopped at the door of Mr. D'Oiley, the watch­mak­er, and Miss Cartwright alight­ing, left her watch with one of the shop­men to be cleaned and re­paired, and re­turned to her by the post­man, as soon as pos­si­ble. Just as she was leav­ing the shop Mr. D'Oiley en­tered it from his back par­lour.

"That is a very valu­able chronome­ter of yours, miss," said Mr. D'Oiley, tak­ing up the watch and ex­am­in­ing it. "Not Amer­i­can make. No. I never saw but one watch like this in my life. May I ask, miss, where you pur­chased it?"

"I did not pur­chase it," said Vir­ginia. "It was a gift, and I value it high­ly. Pray be care­ful of it, and re­turn it to me as soon as you can." So say­ing, she left the shop.

Mr. D'Oiley screwed his mi­cro­scope into his eye, opened Miss Cartwright's chronome­ter, and probed and ex­am­ined it. Sud­den­ly a gleam of tri­umphant in­tel­li­gence il­lu­mined Mr. D'Oiley's fea­tures. Tak­ing the watch with him he with­drew into the back par­lour, and, care­ful­ly clos­ing the door, took down from the shelf sev­er­al vol­umes of old ledgers, which he ex­am­ined care­ful­ly. At last Mr. D'Oiley found what he was look­ing for. "The Lord," ex­claimed Mr. D'Oiley, "the Lord has de­liv­ered Philip Cartwright into mine hand!"

After near­ly an hour's se­cret con­sul­ta­tion with the wife of his bosom, Mr. D'Oiley then re­paired to the house of Dr. Simp­son, where he sought and ob­tained an in­ter­view with that gen­tle­man.

"Dear me!" said Dr. Simp­son. "What is the mat­ter Mr. D'Oiley? You seem quite ex­cit­ed."

"I am ex­cit­ed, sir. This is a mighty se­ri­ous mat­ter, Dr. Simp­son. And truly the ways of Prov­i­dence are won­der­ful. Now, look at this watch. Did you ever see a watch like it be­fore?"

"Not that I know of," said the doc­tor.

"I never did, sir, and I sup­pose I've seen as many watch­es as any man in these Unit­ed States. Now, you fol­low me, Dr. Simp­son. And keep your eyes, sir, on this re-mark­able watch that you see here in my hand. Six years ago that Mr. Ack­land, who was your fel­low-guest at Glenoak, called at my store, and asked me to clean this re­mark­able watch, and set it. I took par­tic­u­lar no­tice of this re­mark­able watch, be­cause it is a most re-mark­able watch, sir. And I took down the num­ber of it in my books. I said to Mr. Ack­land, when I hand­ed his watch back to him, 'This is a very re­mark­able watch, sir.' 'Well, sir,' says he, 'it is a re­mark­able watch, but it loses time, sir.' 'It won't lose time now, sir,' says I; 'I'll war­rant that watch of yours to go right for six years now that I've fixed it up,' said I. Well, sir, and the watch has gone right for six years. It's just six years and six months, Dr. Simp­son, sir, since Mr. Ack­land got this watch fixed up by me, and took it with him to Glenoak. And it's not six hours since Miss Cartwright called at my store, and brought me this very re-mark­able watch to fix up again."

"God bless my soul!" cried Dr. Simp­son."

"You may well say that, Dr. Simp­son, sir," re­spond­ed Mr. D'Oiley. "I said to Miss Cartwright, 'May I make so bold, miss, as to ask where you hap­pened to pur­chase this watch of yours?' 'Didn't pur­chase it,' says she, 'it was a gift,' and off she goes."

"But you don't mean to say – "

"I do mean to say it, sir. I mean to say that I don't be­lieve Mr. Ack­land would have given this very valu­able chronome­ter to Vir­ginia Cartwright who was a mere chit, when Mr. A. was at Glenoak. I mean to say, sir, that I do be­lieve, and al­ways have be­lieved, and al­ways will be­lieve, that Mr. Ack­land was foul­ly mur­dered."

"Hush! hush!" ex­claimed the doc­tor: "you have no right to say that, Mr. D'Oiley."

"But I do say it, sir," con­tin­ued the watch­mak­er, en­er­get­i­cal­ly, " I do say it – to you at least, Dr. Simp­son, sir. For I know that if you don't say it too, sir, you think it. And I know that Miss Simp­son thinks it. And I say more, sir. I say that the man who gave this watch to Vir­ginia Cartwright was a rob­ber, as well as a mur­der­er. That's what I say, sir."

"But you mustn't say it," said the doc­tor, "not un­less you are pre­pared to – "

"Sir," said Mr. D'Oiley, "I am pre­pared to place this watch in the hands of jus­tice."

"But you have no right to do any­thing of the kind. Jus­tice will of course re­store it to its pre­sent legal owner, Miss Cartwright. And let me tell you, Mr. D'Oiley, that this is a very del­i­cate mat­ter, in which any im­pru­dence may eas­i­ly bring you to trou­ble. Will you leave the watch – at least for a few days – in my hands? Miss Cartwright will doubt­less be able to ex­plain sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly her pos­ses­sion of it. I will promise to see her im­me­di­ate­ly, and, if nec­es­sary, her fa­ther also. What do you say?"

Mr. D'Oiley would not con­sent to re­lin­quish pos­ses­sion of the watch, which, as he again de­clared, "the Lord had de­liv­ered into his hands," but he re­luc­tant­ly agreed to take no fur­ther steps in the mat­ter until Dr. Simp­son had seen Miss Cartwright. The doc­tor went to Glenoak next day and did see Miss Cartwright: from whom he learned that she had re­ceived the watch from her fa­ther as a birth­day gift, on the oc­ca­sion of her last birth­day a year ago.

Where was her fa­ther? In Maysville, she be­lieved. But it was near­ly a month since she had heard from him. To Maysville went the doc­tor, and the first man he met at the bar of the Maysville hotel was Philip Cartwright. Cartwright was fu­ri­ous when he learned the ob­ject of the doc­tor's visit. "Of course," he said, "the watch had be­longed to his poor friend John Ack­land, who had given it to him as a part­ing gift, the very day on which he left Glenoak. And tell that scoundrel, D'Oiley," he added, "that if he don't im­me­di­ate­ly re­store it to my daugh­ter, I'll ar­rest him for a thief."

That gen­tle­man, how­ev­er, was nei­ther dis­con­cert­ed nor de­spon­dent.

"It is my con­vic­tion, sir," said he, "it has long been my con­vic­tion, sir, that I shall be guid­ed by the fin­ger of Prov­i­dence to un­rav­el this great mys­tery, and bring de­tec­tion home to as black a crim­i­nal as ever bur­dened God's earth, sir. And since you tell me, Dr. Simp­son, sir, that I have no help for it but to re­store this watch to its un­right­ful owner, I shall take it back to Glenoak, and place it in Miss Cartwright's hands, my­self."

CHAP­TER XII

M

ISS CARTWRIGHT thanked the watch­mak­er for tak­ing so much care of her watch, and bring­ing it back to her, with his own hands. She begged that he would take some re­fresh­ment be­fore leav­ing Glenoak, and re­main there as long as he pleased. The weath­er was not very invit­ing; but if he liked to ride or walk in the plan­ta­tion, Mr. Spinks, the over­seer, would show him over it.

Mr. D'Oiley thanked Miss Cartwright for her kind con­de­scen­sion to "a poor over- worked son of the busy city, miss." He was not much of an eques­tri­an, and Mr. Cartwright's steeds had the rep­u­ta­tion of being dan­ger­ous to bad rid­ers, like him­self. But there was noth­ing he liked so much as a good coun­try walk on a fine frosty day; and, with Miss Cartwright's kind per­mis­sion, he would glad­ly take a stroll about these beau­ti­ful premis­es be­fore re­turn­ing to town.

The first thing that roused Mr. D'Oiley's cu­rios­i­ty, when he com­menced his stroll about the beau­ti­ful premis­es, was the shriek­ing of a mis­er­able old negro who was wail­ing under the lash.

"What is the man's fault?" he in­quired of the over­seer who was stand­ing by, to see that pun­ish­ment was thor­ough­ly in­flict­ed.

"Man, you call him, do you?" re­spond­ed Mr. Spinks, "I call him, sir, a darned pig-head­ed brute. We can't, none of us, get him to take that load of ice into the ice-house, and it's spoil­ing."

"Well, but," said Mr. D'Oiley, "the load seems a heavy one, and he don't look good for much."

"Good for much? He ain't good for any­thing."

"Why won't you take the ice, Sambo?" asked the watch­mak­er.

"I ain't Sambo," said the negro, sul­len­ly and cow­er­ing, "I'm Ned, old Uncle Ned."

"Well, why won't you do as you're told, Uncle Ned?"

"'Cause poor old Ned he no dare, massa. Old Ned he no like Bogie in de ice-house. Bogie, he worse nor massa by night, and massa he worse nor Bogie by day. Poor Uncle Ned, he berry bad time of it."

Mr. D'Oiley had an­oth­er il­lu­mi­na­tion.

"Well now, you look here, Mr. Spinks. Reck­on I'd like to buy that nig­ger o' you, sir. He ain't worth much, you know."

"Well, sir, he ain't bright. That's a fact. But there's a deal o' field work in him yet. And he was raised on the plan­ta­tion, you see, and knows it well."

"Ah, in­deed!" said the watch­mak­er, as though very much sur­prised to hear it.

"Knows it well, does he? Say a hun­dred dol­lars for him, Mr. Spinks?"

"Not two hun­dred, sir."

"Name your fig­ure, sir."

"Not less than a thou­sand, Mr. D'Oiley. I as­sure you, sir, Mr. Cartwright wouldn't hear of it. He's un­com­mon fond of this nig­ger. He's quite a par­tial­i­ty for this nig­ger, has Mr. Cartwright, sir."

"Did you say a thou­sand, Mr. Spinks?"

"I did, sir."

"Split the dif­fer­ence, Mr. Spinks. Make it five hun­dred, sir."

"Done, sir."

"Done with you, sir," re­turned the watch­mak­er; "and if you'll take my cheque for it, I'll carry him back in my buggy. Noth­ing like set­tling things at once."

"Take your note of hand for a mil­lion, sir," re­spond­ed the over­seer, de­light­ed to have sold a bro­ken-down nig­ger so ad­van­ta­geous­ly, at dou­ble the mar­ket price.

That very night the owner of Glenoak re­turned un­ex­pect­ed­ly to his an­ces­tral man­sion. His first act was to send for Mr. Spinks. " I want to see Uncle Ned, Mr. Spinks. Send the brute up im­me­di­ate­ly."

"Uncle Ned? Why, Mr. Cartwright, I've just sold him, and very ad­van­ta­geous­ly. He's not been worth his keep for the last three years."

Words can­not de­scribe the fran­tic parox­ysm of wrath into which Mr. Cartwright was thrown by this an­nounce­ment.

"But, in­deed, Mr. Cartwright," ex­pos­tu­lat­ed the over­seer, "I thought that, in your in­ter­est, when I found Mr. D'Oiley will­ing to give five hun­dred – "

"You sold him to D'Oiley?"

"Yes, sir, this af­ter­noon."

"You vil­lain!" howled Cartwright, spring­ing at the throat of the over­seer. But his hu­mour sud­den­ly changed. "Never mind, now," he growled, fling­ing the over­seer against the wall, "the mis­chief's done now. Order round the wag­gon and team this mo­ment, and bring me all the money you have in the house, and then get out of my sight."

Mr. Cartwright strode up-stairs, and en­tered his daugh­ter's room. " Virgy," he said, with a dim eye and a husky voice, "I'm going away – I'm going at once, and I'm going far, far, far. If you stay at Glenoak, Virgy, may-be we shan't meet again; any­how not for a long, long while. If you'll come with me we'll never part, my girl; but the way's a long one, and the fu­ture's dark as night, and there's dan­ger be­hind us. What will you do, Virgy?"

"O fa­ther, fa­ther!" cried the fright­ened girl, "how can you ask? I will never leave you!"

That night, Philip Cartwright and his daugh­ter left Glenoak, never to re­turn.

CHAP­TER XIII

I

T was about a fort­night after Glenoak had been de­sert­ed by its own­ers that the much-in­jured Mr. Spinks, whilst de­bat­ing with him­self the knot­ty ques­tion whether it were best to re­tain his sit­u­a­tion, in the hope of fur­ther plun­der, or to throw it up in vin­di­ca­tion of his out­raged dig­ni­ty, was un­pleas­ant­ly sur­prised by a sec­ond visit from Mr. D'Oiley, ac­com­pa­nied by Dr. Simp­son, Judge Grif­fin, Mr. In­spec­tor Tanin, and half a dozen con­sta­bles.

"Now, Mr. Spinks," said In­spec­tor Tanin, "you'll be good enough, if you please, sir, to set all hands on, to re­move the ice out of that there ice-house of yours. I have a search-war­rant, sir, to .search these premis­es. And do you know what this is, Mr. Spinks? It's a war­rant for the ar­rest of Philip S. Cartwright, when­so­ev­er and where­so­ev­er he can be found in the ter­ri­to­ry of the Unit­ed States."

"On what charge?" asked Mr. Spinks.

"Mur­der," replied the in­spec­tor, la­con­i­cal­ly.

Mr. Spinks was per­suad­ed. Mr. Cartwright's slaves were or­dered to open Mr. Cartwright's ice-house and re­move the ice.

Be it known to the read­er that every coun­try-house in Amer­i­ca is pro­vid­ed with an ex­cel­lent ice-house of the sim­plest and most prac­ti­cal kind. It con­sists of a deep ex­ca­va­tion in the earth, roofed over with a point­ed thatch. These ice-hous­es are al­ways well filled in the win­ter, and rarely, if ever, quite emp­tied dur­ing the sum­mer. It was long past dark be­fore the men at work in the ice-house at Glenoak had re­moved all the loose ice from the pit. The lower lay­ers were hard as gran­ite, and could only be bro­ken up by the pick­axe: so that the work went on slow­ly, by torch-light. At last Mr. In­spec­tor, who had de­scend­ed into the pit to su­per­in­tend this final op­er­a­tion, called to those above for a stout rope. The rope was not im­me­di­ate­ly forth­com­ing; and when the sub­mis­sive Spinks (who had been despatched to get one from the cart-house) re­turned with it in his hand the ex­cite­ment of the spec­ta­tors was in­tense. Uncle Ned, at his most ur­gent re­quest, had been ex­empt­ed from the or­deal of this ex­pe­di­tion to Glenoak.

"Now pull!" cried Mr. In­spec­tor from the bot­tom of the pit, "and pull gen­tly."

The rope came up heav­i­ly. No won­der. There was a dead body fas­tened to the end of it. That dead body was the body of John Ack­land. All pre­sent who had ever seen Ack­land recog­nised it at once, in de­spite of the lac­er­at­ed skull and par­tial­ly man­gled fea­tures. For the ice had so won­der­ful­ly pre­served the hideous se­cret con­fid­ed to its frozen clasp, that the mur­dered man looked as fresh­ly dead as if he had per­ished only an hour ago.

In the sub­se­quent search of Glenoak a copy of John Ack­land's let­ter to his cousin was found in Mr. Cartwright's desk. He had not taken the pre­cau­tion of de­stroy­ing it. Doubt­less he had felt that if once the body of John Ack­land were dis­cov­ered at Glenoak, it lit­tle mat­tered what else was dis­cov­ered there. And when he learned from his over­seer that Uncle Ned had been sold to D'Oiley, he knew that he was a ru­ined man, and that his paramount con­cern was to place him­self as quick­ly as pos­si­ble be­yond the reach of the law.

Mr. D'Oiley's tri­umph was great. He had worked hard for it. Never had he ex­er­cised so much in­ge­nu­ity and pa­tience as in the moral ma­nip­u­la­tion where­by he had fi­nal­ly elicit­ed from Uncle Ned the rev­e­la­tions which had led to the dis­cov­ery.

This was the sub­stance of them: Philip Cartwright, whilst rid­ing with his un­for­tu­nate guest through his own plan­ta­tion, had slack­ened pace, and falling a lit­tle to the rear of his com­pan­ion's horse, de­lib­er­ate­ly shot John Ack­land through the back of the head. The wound­ed gen­tle­man im­me­di­ate­ly fell from his sad­dle. Cartwright qui­et­ly alight­ed, and find­ing that there was still a faint flut­ter of life left in his vic­tim, beat him about the head till he beat the life out of him with the butt-end of his gun. He then care­ful­ly ex­am­ined the mare which Mr. Ack­land had been rid­ing, wiped every trace of blood from the sad­dle, turned it, and with a sharp cut of his whip start­ed the beast into a gal­lop, in a di­rec­tion away from the house. Thus left alone with the dead body, his next care was to dis­pose of it. All this hap­pened in broad day­light, a good hour be­fore sun­down. Mr. Cartwright's own slaves were still at work in the sur­round­ing fields. They must have heard the re­port of the firearm; they might pos­si­bly have wit­nessed the fall of the vic­tim. But what of that? They were slaves. Philip Cartwright well knew that in no Amer­i­can court of jus­tice could a white man be con­vict­ed of crime on the ev­i­dence of a man of colour. He knew that none of his slaves could give ev­i­dence against him, even if they had wit­nessed every par­tic­u­lar of his crime. He tied his own horse to a tree, and walked leisure­ly to the gate of the field. Lean­ing over it he per­ceived some of his own ne­groes at work in the ad­join­ing ground; amongst them an old negro, whom he knew by ex­pe­ri­ence that he could in­tim­i­date and cow, more eas­i­ly even than the oth­ers. He beck­oned this slave to him, and said cool­ly, as if it were the most nat­u­ral an­nounce­ment in the world, "I have just shot a man down; you must come along, Uncle Ned, and help me to carry the body into the ice- house." It was late in the sum­mer sea­son and the ice-house at Glenoak was near­ly empty. Quite empty it never was. With some dif­fi­cul­ty Cartwright and the slave re­moved the upper layer of ice, and buried the body un­der­neath it. "And now look ye here," said Cartwright, "if ever you utter to a human being about what's in that ice- house, or what I've told you, or what you've just been doing, I'll flay you alive and roast you. af­ter­wards. All the same I won't have any talk­ing, or hint­ing, or wink­ing. Do you un­der­stand? If you don't teach your eyes to for­get what they've seen, I'll gouge 'em out. If you don't teach your ears to for­get what they've heard I'll cut 'em off. If you don't teach your tongue to be silent, I'll tear it out by the roots. So now you know what I mean. Get along with you." Be­fore bury­ing John Ack­land's body, how­ev­er, the mur­der­er had ri­fled the dead man, and re-pos­sessed him­self of the forged notes which John Ack­land (as Cartwright well knew) car­ried in the belt lent to him by Cartwright ex­press­ly for that pur­pose. Un­luck­i­ly for Mr. Cartwright, while he was en­gaged in this op­er­a­tion his eye was tempt­ed by what Mr. D'Oiley had called "that very re-­mark­able watch, sir," and he hasti­ly thrust John Ack­land's chronome­ter into his own pock­et. But for this su­per­flu­ous felony, in all human prob­a­bil­i­ty Philip Cartwright would have car­ried safe­ly with him to his own grave the se­cret of his great crime.

The first ques­tion asked by the pre­sent writ­er of the Vir­gini­an gen­tle­man from whom he re­ceived the de­tails of this strange story was, "How did Philip Cartwright die?"

"Well, you see the law couldn't reach him in Texas, which wasn't then an­nexed. But John Ack­land's cousin, and some of his friends in the North, and some down here in Vir­ginia, con­sti­tut­ed them­selves a com­mit­tee of vengeance. They were sworn to have Philip Cartwright's life, but to have it ac­cord­ing to law. They found him in Texas, not far over the bor­der, where he had set up a faro bank; and they dis­guised them­selves, and they fre­quent­ed the bank, and they played against him, and bet­ted with him, till one night they suc­ceed­ed in tempt­ing him over the bor­der, on the chance of pluck­ing a fat pi­geon there; but the of­fi­cers of jus­tice were wait­ing for him there; and by gad, sir, we ar­rest­ed him, and tried him all square, and hanged him hard."

"And his daugh­ter?"

"Poor girl, she didn't long sur­vive her jour­ney to Texas, and the rough life she had of it there. It was bet­ter for her. She was spared the knowl­edge of her fa­ther's guilt, and the hu­mil­i­a­tion of his death, and she loved the black­guard to the last."