the scene I had witnessed a passage in her own life since I
had left Liverpool? At the close of the act an usher carried
my card to her. Presently I was summoned to one of the
corridors where a lady was waiting for me.
"Is this Kendric Lane?" she asked, extending her hand.
"It is," I responded.
"I have heard of you often. Miss Bronson is an old
acquaintance of yours, whom you knew as Hester Chaffin.
Would you like to see her?"
"I wish to see her to-night, if possible," said I.
"May I ask you, then, to go to this address and wait for us
until the performance is over? Hand this card to the night
clerk of the hotel and he will show you to our rooms."
Scribbling a few words upon the card, she gave it to me, and
hurried behind the scenes.
Rayel and I immediately left the theatre and walked to our
apartments. The play would soon be over and we had no time
to lose. On the way home I noticed that he frequently turned
about and peered through the darkness as if expecting some
one to join us. He said nothing, however, and as I was so
preoccupied by my own thoughts, I did not ask for whom he
"Shall I not go with you?" he asked, when we had reached
"You had better wait up for me; I shall not be gone long," I
"I can walk back again when we get there, or perhaps I can
wait for you in the hotel?" said he.
He was not yet accustomed to life in a great city, and it
did not seem wise, either, to permit him to walk home alone,
or to wait for me in the hotel among strangers. He did not
seem quite content to stay, however, and there was a
troubled expression on his face, which was new to it, and
which I could not put out of my mind after I had left the
house. The hotel to which I had been directed was on Union
Square. It was not far from our apartments, and I intended
to walk there, but I had not gone half a block before the
street was lit up with a vivid flash of lightning, followed
by deafening thunder, and the wind blew damp in my face. I
hurried toward Third Avenue, intending to mount one of the
horse cars going down-town, but suddenly a fierce gust of
wind swept over me, sowing great drops of rain along the
pavement. I looked about for a cab. The street was deserted
and so dark that I could see nothing except the gloomy rows
of brown stone that stood on either side. While I was
looking backward another flash of lightning illumined the
street. What man was that coming in the distance? Was it
Rayel? No, that was scarcely possible. I had only caught a
momentary glimpse of him in the quick flash. He was tall and
erect like Rayel, and I thought the hat was his. But my
imagination must have tricked me after all, for nothing
showed clearly. I walked back a few steps and listened. I
could hear no footsteps, but then he might have followed me,
and I ought to be sure. So I called, "Rayel! Rayel!" twice,
and waited for an answer, but could hear none. I had not
time to go back to our rooms, as Hester was undoubtedly
waiting for me now, and Rayel was certainly not the man I
had seen, or he would have answered me. So I hurried along
without giving any further thought to my fears. But where
was Third Avenue? Its character was not then so sharply
defined as in these days of elevated rail-roads - perhaps I
had passed it. I had already walked a long distance, and I
had not yet recognized that thoroughfare. I could hear
footsteps behind me and I determined to wait a moment and
inquire my way.
"I am going there - walk along with me," said the man whom I
questioned. Just then we passed under a street lamp. I
observed that he wore a large coat and muffler and that he
was walking under an umbrella. Another man, also under an
umbrella, fell in with us at the next corner. As we walked
along in silence I heard some person coming at a run down
the street quite a distance behind us. I was listening to
this sound when I received a terrific blow on the back of
the head. I fell forward, one side of my face striking
heavily upon the pavement. Strangely enough, I seemed unable
to make any outcry, but I had not lost consciousness, for,
as I lay with my face resting on the wet stones, I could
feel the rain drops falling on it. I could hear those quick
footsteps coming nearer. Yes, I could hear Rayel's voice
shouting in a loud and angry tone, but, try as I would, I
could not utter a sound. As I listened, the two men clutched
me with strong hands and dragged me through an open door,
which quickly closed behind them. It was no sooner shut than
Rayel threw himself against it with terrific force. I could
hear the door groan and shake under the strain. Once - twice,
I was struck with cruel force upon the head - then a loud
roaring in my ears drowned everything.
I can remember well the first return of consciousness. It
was like the slow breaking of dawn in the sky. I could hear
Hark! hark! my soul! angelic voices swelling O'er earth's
green fields and ocean's wave-beat shore.
I could just distinguish those words. Where was I? Strange
thoughts began trooping through my mind. Then a great wave
of emotion swept over me. I could hear a low moaning sound
that came from my own throat. I could feel the hot tears
rolling down my cheeks. A gentle hand was brushing them away
and some one was speaking to me. I was lying on a soft bed.
A sweet-faced woman was bending over me, whom I had never
"Where am I?"
"In the hospital," she answered.
"The singing - who is singing?" I asked.
"It is the chapel choir," she answered; "the services are
nearly over now. It is Sunday."
"Is Rayel here?"
"Your friend? yes, he has been with you every day."
"Almost a month."
I tried to ask other questions, but a drowsy feeling
overcame me and I fell asleep.
When I awoke again Rayel was sitting beside me. As I opened
my eyes he leaned over and kissed my hands.
"They thought you were dead once," he said; "but I knew you
were not dead - I knew you were not dead." I lay for a moment
trying to collect my thoughts. My head was in tight bandages
and something was binding my chest.
"Where is Hester?" I asked. Rayel did not answer. He was not
there, but somebody was holding one of my hands. It was a
lady kneeling beside me, her face leaning forward upon the
bed. Who could it be? I closed my eyes and listened to the
rustling of withered leaves outside the window, and the low
humming of insects in the autumn sun. These were prophetic
sounds, and they opened the gates of thought and memory. A
new life was coming now. What was it to be? Again I felt
myself drifting into sleep. I tried to keep my eyes open and
resist the drowsiness that overcame me, but in vain. When I
awoke Rayel had returned.
"You have slept a long time," said he.
"When I fell asleep a lady was here."
"Yes, it was our 'Woman,'" he replied - "the lady you love.
She has come every day to see you."
"Where is she now?"
"She had to go away, but she will soon come back again."
"Who brought me here?"
"I broke down the door - I found you there. You could not see
me nor speak to me, but I knew you were not dead. The men
were gone. I carried you out into the street. A policeman
met me, and I told him what had happened. Then the ambulance
came and we put you into it, and you were brought here. For
a long time you lay like my father after he was dead. Your
face was white - like snow. They had stabbed you in the
side - they would have killed you if I had not broken the
"Who struck me?" I asked.
"I knew," he said, his eyes flashing, "I knew the devil was
in their heads - that is why I wished to go with you. They
followed us that night."
"Who?" I asked, eagerly.
"The Count de Montalle and another man."
My cousin's answer amazed me.
"Have you made known your suspicions?" I asked.
"No. I have been waiting to talk with you first."
"Do not speak of it yet to any one," I said. "Let us await
I foresaw that Rayel would only get a reputation for
insanity if pressed to the point of explaining his
suspicions. It seemed quite likely, also, that any futile
discussion of the subject would defeat justice.
That day brought me a letter from Hester, whom I had been
looking for with much impatience since I had begun to feel
more like myself. She would shortly have fulfilled all her
professional engagements, and would then return at once to
New York. "I wonder," she added, somewhat coquettishly, "if
you will be glad to see me." On this point there was no
doubt in my mind, and although my strength increased
rapidly, the days passed with tedious slowness after that.
I was sitting by the window one morning, looking out upon
the moving throng in the opposite street, when the door of
my room was suddenly opened. I supposed that one of the
physicians had come to see me, and I waited for him to
It was Rayel who spoke my name, but somehow his voice did
not seem quite natural, and I turned to greet him.
"This is our 'Woman,'" said he, advancing toward me with
Hester upon his arm.
I rose feebly to my feet, confused by the sudden
announcement, and took her extended hand. We looked into
each other's eyes for a moment without speaking. My own were
rapidly filling with tears, and I could see her but dimly.
"What a fine outlook you have!" she said, in a tremulous
voice, turning suddenly to the window and looking out upon
the trees now half stripped of their foliage by the autumn
winds. We both stood staring out of the window in silence.
For my part, I could not have spoken if I had known what to
say. How she had changed! The blushing little miss who had
awakened the pangs of first love in my youthful heart was a
beautiful young woman, now full grown and arrayed in costly
finery. Rayel was the first to speak.
"You must be glad to meet again - you have loved each other
so long," said he.
Honest Rayel! He knew our hearts - their longings, their
histories, and also the vanity and pride that dwelt in them.
Why should there be any concealment between her and me?
"It has been a long time - a very long time to me, Hester,
for I have loved you ever since we first met."
She turned toward me, her eyes filled with tears, and I drew
her to my heart and kissed her fondly.
"We have only known each other as children, Kendric," said
she. "Your heart may change and mine may change - let us wait
Then she left us, promising to come again next day.
Hester and her maid looked in upon me every morning after
that, until I was able to leave the hospital. During these
visits we told each other the eventful story of our lives
since the night of our parting at her father's gate. Her
first appearance on the stage had been, as I suspected,
literally represented in the play. For years she had been
permitted to accompany her father behind the scenes, and
nights when the cast was short she had played small parts
with great success. The glamour and excitement of stage life
had proved distasteful to her. She assured me that it was
her intention never to go back to it, and this strengthened
my hope that she would some day consent to become my wife.
Rayel had told her, during my illness, the strange story of
his life. She knew nothing, however, of his wonderful
powers, until I had related to her some of the experiences
which had revealed them to me. He had said nothing to her, I
learned, about our discovery of the picture.
"Who painted the remarkable portrait of you which we saw at
the theatre?" I asked her one day.
"It was painted, I believe, by a French nobleman, who
presented it to me here in New York. I suppose it looks a
little as I did once, but it is certainly too flattering and
much too maidenly for me now.
"The Frenchman is an impostor and worse," I said. "The
portrait was painted by Rayel and sold to a broker of the
name of Paddington, from whom the Frenchman borrowed or
Her amazement could scarcely be overestimated when I told
her what occurred at Mr. Paddington's dinner-party.
"The Frenchman," she said, "has been paying me unwelcome
attentions ever since the first night of my appearance in
New York. He became so odious to me at length that I refused
to accept any of his gifts, and, in spite of the protests of
my managers, returned everything he had sent me, including
I did not tell her that it was this same Frenchman to whom I
was indebted for my wounds. Of that I must wait for more
palpable evidence, though not for my own convincing. It
seemed strange to me then that just at the moment this
thought was passing through my mind she asked me whom I
suspected of having committed the assault. It occurred to me
after she had gone that possibly she had some cause to
suspect the man who had been the subject of our
Rayel always came late in the day, when there was no chance
of meeting other callers, and stayed with me until bedtime.
As returning strength brought back to me that interest in
life which prompts keen observation, I could see that a
great change was coming over him. His face wore a melancholy
look which indicated too clearly that his mind was suffering
under some sad oppression. He was as gentle and considerate
as ever, and as tireless in his efforts to increase my
comfort, but he rarely spoke now, except in reply to my
questions. He would sit by my side for hours, gazing out of
the window with a vacant look in his eyes, until the light
of day grew dim and the lamps were lighted. When supper was
served to us I could never induce him to eat.
"What is the trouble, Rayel?" I asked, one evening. "You are
not yourself lately."
Neither of us had spoken for a long time. He turned
suddenly, as if startled by my words, his lips quivered, and
stammering almost incoherently, he rose to his feet. Then he
stood erect before me for a moment, looking sadly and
thoughtfully into my eyes.
"Nothing, Kendric," he said presently, in a deep tone that
trembled with emotion. "I think I have been working too hard
and need exercise - that is all." Then he grasped my hand
warmly and bade me good night.
I believe his answer to my question was the first lie that
he had ever spoken.
Next day I was discharged from the hospital, and Rayel and I
were driven to our apartments. He had a number of surprises
prepared for me. A large painting on his easel, awaiting
some finishing touches, compelled my attention as soon as I
entered the room. It represented a scene in our own lives,
which had lasted but a second, but which could never be
forgotten by either of us. He had seen me when I stood
looking backward in that vivid flash of lightning - there
could be no doubt of it now, for here was the scene
transferred to canvas. The shaft of white light shaking and
darting across the black sky like a gleaming sword; the man
on the sidewalk looking backward with a startled glance; the
big drops of rain falling sidelong in the wind - these were
all reproduced on the canvas. His later pictures were
characterized by a cynical tendency, which I observed with
regret. It was evident that his sensitive mind had taken
impressions from its brief contact with men, which were
sadly affecting his thought.
He showed me numerous letters, many of which were from women
who desired to visit his studio and see his work. Indeed, my
cousin had apparently grown suddenly famous in the American
metropolis. He was the victim rather than the victor of
fame, however, and regarded the matter with very serious
concern. The press of New York had been full of gossip
concerning his "eccentricities" since the event which had
put my life in danger. One of the society journals had
printed a highly colored version of that little episode at
the house of the Paddingtons, and had concluded its article
by saying that the fair Miss Paddington had fallen madly in
love with her father's strange guest.
That night, as we were sitting by the grate fire in our own
rooms, Rayel, encouraged by our seclusion, began to emerge
from the silence to which he had seemingly gone back for
refuge in time of trouble.
"We shall soon be ready to start for England," I said.
"I do not wish to go to England, Kendric," said he. "For a
long time I have thought over it. Let me go back to the old
house and live by my father's grave, until the good Lord
takes me to a better home. I would miss you, dear Kendric,
and every day I would look for you to come, but I shall be
His words touched me deeply, and I was not prepared to
answer him with perfect calmness, although I had lately
suspected that his despondency would lead to this resolve.
"Why must we separate now, after we have become so dear to
each other?" I asked. "Something has happened to change your
purpose since I have been ill - tell me what it is."
"To speak frankly, Kendric, I must say that the world has
sadly disappointed me. It is full of vanity and deceit and
selfishness. Every day brings to me some hideous revelation
which the mercy of heaven has hidden from others. I have
seen the righteous forsaken of men, and the wicked receiving
homage; I have seen the unjust triumphing over the just; I
have seen some reveling in abundance while others were
begging for bread. Everywhere I have found want and misery
staring me in the face.
"Remembering what Christ said, I sold all I had and gave to
the poor, and now there is nothing more I can do. My best
pictures, my money and all my extra clothing have gone to
feed the hungry and cover the naked. And even now, when I
have nothing left to give, I find as much misery as before.
Often, since I have been alone, I have had nothing to eat
and no fire to keep me warm. Then I feared to tell you what
I had done, and I bore it in silence, hoping that I might
earn more money by painting. But I could not work. When
Hester came back I told her all my troubles, and she gave me
money, not only for my own use but for the use of others who
needed it more than I. She and I have wandered about the
city by day and by night, ministering to the sick and the
He ceased speaking, his head bent forward upon his hands. It
was indeed a serious situation into which a too generous
heart had betrayed him. Nearly all his fortune had descended
to him in cash on deposit, and payable either to my order or
to his. He had therefore saved nothing for himself that had
been available for the satisfaction of his good impulses.
Instead of displeasing me, however, as he feared, his action
only increased my love for him, if that were possible.
"Do not let these things trouble you, Rayel," I said. "We
shall find no difficulty, I think, in earning money enough
for our needs. I cannot see you shut yourself away from the
world: you have yet an important work to do among men. You
are now morbidly sensitive to the misery that surrounds us,
but you will feel it less keenly as it grows more familiar."
"You do not understand me, Kendric," said he, starting from
his chair, and pacing restlessly up and down the room. "I
cannot deceive you any longer. In begging you to leave me,
it is your own happiness I am thinking of. Please go as soon
as possible," he pleaded, laying his hand gently upon my
shoulder. "Take her with you, and let me stay."
My heart seemed suddenly to have stopped beating.
"My God, Rayel!" I exclaimed. "Are we both in love with the
"No, Kendric, no," he said quickly, taking my hand. "I do
not mean that. I would not permit myself to love her,
knowing that you love her also."
"What, then, do you mean?" I asked.
"That there is danger," he answered huskily, sinking into a
chair. "I am a fool not to have thought of it long ago!"
His words seemed to sting me, and for a moment I could not
"You know what is in her heart, Rayel," I said presently.
"Tell me, is it false, or is she, as I have thought, a pure
and noble woman?"
"She is pure and worthy of your love," he answered. "Her
life has been much exposed to temptation, but her character
has been greater than any temptation. When she began to go
with me among the poor I did not know what love was. I had
never felt the power of it, nor did I think of the danger to
all of us. When at last it came upon me, and I saw what it
meant, I resolved not to see Hester again until God had
given me strength to subdue that passion. For days my heart
was near breaking. When you asked me to tell you what made
me sad, I had not the courage to do it. Then I told you a
lie. I did the very thing which I have so much condemned in
others. This trouble has taught me to comprehend and to pity
the frailty of men. I look forward with fear and dread for
my own sake.. I shall be safe in my father's house. I must
go back, but, before I go, forgive me. Tell me that you do
not despise me."
As he ceased speaking he laid his hand upon my shoulder and
peered into my face with a frightened and appealing look.
"Despise you!" I repeated. "No. You are dearer to me now
than ever. What you have told me will bring us closer to
each other, if we consider it wisely. As yet there is no
pledge between Hester and myself, save the assurance given
by unuttered thoughts. Her heart is free. I have no right to
claim it. If she loves you I shall wish you both much joy."
"That will not be necessary, Kendric. I had rather die than
know that I had come between you. I cannot even risk the
danger of it. I must leave you to-morrow."
"Under no circumstances will I consent to that. My promise
to your father and my duty to you forbid it. To go back now
would be cowardly and unworthy of you. With my help and
guidance you can do great things. We must face the world
with stout hearts. As to this trouble, let us concern
ourselves about it as little as possible. I believe that
whatever may be best for all will happen if we but wait with
Rayel made no answer, and for some moments we both sat
looking at the glowing embers in silence.
"I shall obey your wish," he said presently; "I cannot do
otherwise. I am like a child, and must look to you for
instruction in all things. Perhaps there will come a time
when I can repay you."
"It will be a pleasure for me to help you as I would a
brother, and you will owe me no gratitude for it," I said.
We sat discussing our plans for the future until near
midnight. When we went to bed at last, Rayel looked happier
than I had seen him before since my recovery at the
When I awoke it was near midday. I went to call Rayel and
found that he was gone.
After waiting for him nearly an hour I went to a neighboring
restaurant for breakfast. On returning I found that he had
not yet come back. Alarmed at his continued absence I went
at once to Hester's apartments, scarcely expecting, however,
to find him there, but confident that she would be able to
tell me where he was likely to go.
"No doubt he has gone on some good errand," she said. "Has
he not told you of his charitable enterprises?"
"He told me last night how they had reduced his fortune."
"Poor fellow!" she continued. "In his zeal for others he
quite forgot his own needs. I would have told you about it,
but that he implored me to spare you any knowledge of his
condition. I think we shall be able to find him. Let us go
Hester and I set out at once, walking rapidly against a
biting east wind toward the river. On reaching Second Avenue
we took a car and rode down among the big tenements towering
into the sky on all sides in the lower part of the city.
Alighting in the midst of these human hives, we made our way
through a wretched crowd, shivering in the livery of
destitution, down a long and narrow alley. Entering one of
the doorways we climbed a steep flight of stairs, above
which was a squalid throng pressing about an open door on
the landing. The women held children in their arms, and many
of them were crying bitterly. The men stood in silence
peering curiously over the heads of the further throng into
the crowded chamber. Some of them greeted Hester with great
respect, and moved aside that we might have room to enter.
As we neared the door I could hear a babel of strange
tongues and the voices of women calling down the blessings
of Heaven upon some one in their midst. It was Rayel. He
stood in a corner of the room holding two little children in
his arms, and the crowd was pressing forward as if eager to
speak with him. He was talking in a low voice to those
nearest him, but I was unable to catch his words. There were