" But see here," said Beckwith, never looking away,
never raising his voice, never relaxing his face, never
unclenching his hand. '' See what a dull wolf you
have been, after all ! The infatuated drunkard who
never drank a fiftieth part of the liquor you plied
him with, but poured it away, here, there, everywhere
— almost before your eyes; who bought over the
fellow you set to watch him and to ply him, by
outbidding you in his bribe, before he had been at
his work three days — with whom you have observed
400 HUNTED DOWN.
no caution, yet who was so bent on ridding the earth
of you as a wild beast, that he would have defeated
you if you had been ever so prudent — that drunkard
whom you have, many a time, left on the floor of
this room, and who has even let you go out of it,
alive and undeceived, when you have turned him
over with your foot — has, almost as often, on the
same night, within an hour, within a few minutes,
watched you awake, had his hand at your pillow
when you were asleep, turned over your papers,
taken samples from your bottles and packets of
powder, changed their contents, rifled every secret
of your life ! "
He had had another pinch of snuff in his hand,
but had gradually let it drop from between his fin-
gers to the floor ; where he now smoothed it out
with his foot, looking down at it the while.
"That drunkard," said Beck with, "who had free
access to your rooms at all times, that he might
drink the strong drinks that you left in his way,
and be the sooner ended, holding no more terms
with you than he would hold with a tiger, has had
his master key for all your locks, his tests for all
your poisons, his clew to your cipher-writing. He
can tell you, as well as you can tell him, how long
it took to complete that deed, what doses there
were, what intervals, what signs of gradual decay
upon mind and body; what distempered fancies
were produced, what observable changes, what physi-
cal pain. He can tell you, as well as you can tell
him, that all this was recorded day by day as a les-
son of experience for future service. He can tell
you, better than you can tell him, where that jour-
nal is at this moment."
HUNTED DOWN. 401
Slinkton stopped the action of his foot, and looked
" No," said the latter, as if answering a question
from him. " Not in the drawer of the writing-desk
that opens with a spring ; it is not there, and it
never will be there again."
"Then you are a thief!" said Slinkton,
Without any change whatever in the inflexible
purpose, which it was quite terrific even to me to
contemplate, and from the power of which I had
always felt convinced it was impossible for this
wretch to escape, Beckwith returned, —
" And I am your niece's shadow, too."
With an imprecation Slinkton put his hand to his
head, tore out some hair, and flung it to the ground.
It was the end of the smooth walk ; he destroyed
it in the action, and it will soon be seen that his use
for it was past.
Beckwith went on : " Whenever you left here, I
left here. Although I understood that you found
it necessary to pause in the completion of that pur-
pose, to avert suspicion, still I watched you close,
with the poor confiding girl. When I had the diary,
and could read it word for word, — it was only about
the night before your last visit to Scarborough, —
you remember the night ? you slept with a small
flat vial tied to your wrist, — I sent to Mr. Samp-
son, who was kept out of view. This is Mr. Samp-
son's trusty servant standing by the door. We
three saved your niece among us."
Slinkton looked at us all, took an uncertain step
or two from the place where he had stood, returned
to it, and glanced about him in a very curious way, —
as one of the meaner reptiles might, looking for a
402 HUNTED DOWN.
hole to hide in. I noticed, at the same time, that a
singular change took place in the figure of the man
— as if it collapsed within his clothes, and they
consequently became ill-shapen and ill-fitting.
''You shall know," said Beckwith, "for I hope
the knowledge will be bitter and terrible to you,
why you have been pursued by one man, and why,
when the whole interest that Mr. Sampson repre-
sents would have expended any money in hunting
you down, you have been tracked to death at a sin-
gle individual's charge. I hear you have had the
name of Meltham on your lips sometimes ? "
I saw, in addition to those other changes, a sud-
den stoppage come upon his breathing.
"When you sent the sweet girl whom you mur-
dered (you know with what artfully made-out
surroundings and probabilities you sent her) to
Meltham's office, before taking her abroad to ori-
ginate the transaction that doomed her to the grave,
it fell to Meltham's lot to see her and to speak with
her. It did not fall to his lot to save her, though I
know he would freely give his own life to have done
it. He admired her ; — I would say he loved her
deeply, if I thought it possible that you could
understand the word. When she was sacrificed, he
was thoroughly assured of your guilt. Having lost
her, he had but one object left in life, and that was
to avenge her and destroy you."
I saw the villain's nostrils rise and fall convul-
sively ; but I saw no moving at his mouth.
" That man Meltham," Beckwith steadily pursued,
"was as absolutely certain that you could never
elude him in this world, if he devoted himself to
your destruction with his utmost fidelity and ear-
HUNTED DOWN. 403
nestness, and if he divided the sacred duty with no
other duty in life, as he was certain that in achiev-
ing it he would be a poor instrument in the hands
of Providence, and would do well before Heaven in
striking you out from among living men. I am that
man, and I thank God that I have done my work ! "
If Slinkton had been running for his life from
swift-footed savages, a dozen miles, he could not
have shown more emphatic signs of being oppressed
at heart and laboring for breath than he showed now,
when he looked at the pursuer who had so relent-
lessly hunted him down.
" You never saw me under my right name before ;
you see me under my right name now. You shall
see me once again in the body, when you are tried
for your life. You shall see me once again in the
spirit, when the cord is round your neck, and the
crowd are cr3-ing against you ! "
When Meltham had spoken these last words, the
miscreant suddenly turned away his face, and seemed
to strike his mouth with his open hand. At the
same instant, the room was filled with a new and
powerful odor, and, almost at the same instant, he
broke into a crooked run, leap, start, — I have no
name for the sjiasm, — and fell, with a dull weight
that shook the heavy old doors and windows in their
That was the fitting end of him.
When we saw that he was dead, we drew away
from the room, and Meltham, giving me his hand,
said, with a weary aii", —
" I have no more work on earth, my friend. But
I shall see her again elsewhere."
It was in vain that I tried to rally him. He
404 HUNTED DOWN.
might have saved her, he said ; he had not saved her,
and he reproached himself ; he had lost her, and he
'< The purpose that sustained me is over, Sampson,
and there is nothing now to hold me to life. I am
not fit for life ; I am weak and spiritless ; I have
no hope and no object ; my day is done."
In truth, I could hardly have believed that the
broken man who then spoke to me was the man who
had so strongly and so differently impressed me
when his purpose was before him. I used such
entreaties with him as I could ; but he still said,
and always said, in a patient, undemonstrative way,
— nothing could avail him, — he was broken-
He died early in the next spring. He was buried
by the side of the poor young lady for whom he had
cherished those tender and unhappy regrets; and
he left all he had to her sister. She lived to be a
happy wife and mother ; she married my sister's
son, who succeeded poor Meltham; she is living
now, and her children ride about the garden on my
walking-stick when I go to see her.
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