Albert Ross.

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" I will do my best," he said, simply.

He went back to the Linnette house and crept
softly up the stairs. Writing a note explaining that
urgent business called him away, and that he would
communicate again as soon as possible by mail, he
slipped it under Eva's door. Then, taking his satchel


Jn his hand, he went as he had come, carrying the
key to the entrance with him.

Before starting on his way to Ellsworth, however,
he stood a long time gazing at the roof that had
sheltered him, and his fine eyes were dimmed with
the tears he could not restrain.




The delight of Roland Linnette at being recon
ciled with his uncle was fully shared by Miss Arline.
The old gentleman remained to dinner with them,
and became more and more impressed with the
sweet and modest bearing of his nephew's young
housekeeper. He refrained, by arrangement with
Roland, from referring in any way to the startling
information he had imparted to him, while in Maud's
presence. But after he had departed (first assuring
his nephew that his former income would be given
him, and that he had only to present his letter of
credit to the Barings' correspondent) the young man
could not help telling Maud something of what he
had learned.

" It is the greatest secret," he said, "and I ought
not to say a word, but "

"Then, don't," she interposed, mildly. "Two
can keep a secret much better than three."

" I can't help it," said Roland. " I must at least
give you an inkling. My uncle you won't ever
tell, will you ?"

Maud shook her head, with a smile. She liked
him very much, when he was in a mood like this.

" Well, years ago, you see, my uncle married. He
kept it from almost every one, except his wife and a


sister of hers. And when he was away on a journey,
Mrs. L. presented him with a child. No, she didn't
eijther that was just the trouble."

Maud's pretty face exhibited a puzzled look at
this statement.

" It was this way," said Roland, making another
start. " She had a child, but she did not present it to
her husband. She died, in fact, and a wicked fairy
her sister stole the innocent babe and carried it
off to her castle in the country, sending word to the
father that his wife died before the birth, you under-
stand. And through all these decades he never heard
of the truth till within a week or two."

The strangeness of this story was admitted by the
listener, who asked what object the sister had in
perpetrating the deception.

" The greatest in the world," replied Roland.
" She was in love with my esteemed relation herself,
and wanted something to console her for his loss.
Then she supposed him a poor man, who would be
rather pleased than otherwise to get rid of the care
of an infant, for he had never told her or his wife
that he was a nabob. When a woman is in love my
dear, she will do anything."

He looked archly at Miss Arline as he said this,
and she cast down her eyes and reddened in a
charming way.

" Won't she ?" he asked. " When a woman is in
love, won't she do anything ?"

Maud said she did not know, never having had
any experience.


" You are a story teller," replied Roland. " You
certainly have been in love with Guy."

The mention of this name made the girl put on a
very serious look. She replied that she had never
been in love with that young gentleman, and that
Roland knew it well.

" All right, then," said he. " We will let the Dai-
ton episode pass. But at the present moment you
are very much in love with Jiff, and that you dare
not dispute."

To this Maud made a still more vigorous protest,
but her companion insisted that he was right, and
greatly enjoyed her discomfiture when she could
not, in response to his challenge, look him straight
in the eyes and tell him the contrary.

" The fates have ordained it, Maud," he continued,
when he had succeeded in making her laugh in spite
of herself. "Bad as I am, wicked as I have been,
there is mercy in store for me. I am to be made a
better man by the power of your love."

She would not admit this, but she listened with a
high-beating heart, while he told her that he should
never be satisfied until a clergyman had bound her
to him for life. And she looked still more pensive
when he divulged the fact that his uncle had probed
the depth of her feelings even in the short time he
was at the house, and had spoken in the most com-
plimentary terms of her.

. " We are nearer in worldly wealth than we used
to be," he added, " if that could make any difference
to him. What little chance I had of inheriting his
property is disposed of by the discovery be has just


related to me. If he finds his child I shall never
tread the soil of Montvale as its owner. Confound
him !" he exclaimed, comically. " He acted as if I
ought to be excessively pleased at the news ! Why,
it knocks me out of a clear million !"

Then Maud talked with him quietly for a long
time of the troubles that came with wealth, and the
greater happiness that people in moderate means
enjoyed. Before they parted that night he had
urged her again and again, without result, to give
him a definite promise to be his wife.

" You are so changeable," she said. " It seems
but yesterday that you could only think and talk of
Miss Warren."

"I know it," he admitted, ruefully. "I can't
understand it in the least. It was nothing but pity
nothing whatever. I was drawn into it before I
knew what I was doing."

" The same as you are in my case V she suggested.

"Not at all. I loved you, dear, the day I first saw
you, when that dunce of a Hanson sent you after
me. I- can see you now, standing there in the snow,
with your pretty cheeks reddened by the exercise of
walking, and the cold air, and the "

She bade him " Hush !" and said it was time she

" And won't you promise to be mine ?" he pleaded.

"Not to-night."

" Well, then," he answered, pretending to misua-
derstand, " the first thing in the morning, at any rate,
Not later than noon, I must insist. Really, Maud, if
you hold me off till dinner time I shall die."


Her head was aching, as she went to her room, and
found her dressmaker friend asleep before her. The
happiness Roland held out to her was too great.
She did not believe it could ever come.

Willard Linnette consulted daily with his detec-
tives, growing impatient at the slowness of their
movements. Happening to hear the name of Rye-
gate mentioned, Roland informed his relation that
his late friend, Guy Dalton, had once lived in that
place. This led to a consultation with the chief of
the bureau that was managing the search, and it was
decided that Guy ought to be found and an attempt
made to put him upon the case at once.

But Guy was no easier to find than the long-lost
child. As the reader knows, he was, during part of
this time, in the Linnette mansion at Montvale, and
later, on the errand suggested by Mr. Hobbs, of
which Mr. Linnette had no knowledge.

41 1 have an idea," said the manufacturer, at last.
"You remember, Roland, that Miss Warren wrote
to him once of course you do. Perhaps she has his
present address. It is at least worth trying. I am
going home to-morrow on business and I will try to
find out."

When Eva learned that Mr. Linnette had returned
she thought it wisest to appear at dinner. She had
a curiosity to note whether there was anything un-
usual in his manner. She saw at once that all traces
of anger seemed to have disappeared. He greeted
her with great kindness, and when the meal was


ended he inquired if she would favor him with her
presence for a few minutes in the library.

Knowing no reason why she should refuse, though
wondering greatly at the request, the girl complied
without comment. Mr. Linnette followed her and
closed the door behind them.

" Some weeks ago," he said, in an ordinary tone,
after motioning her to a chair and taking another,
" I spoke to you on a matter very distasteful to me,
and my manner of alluding to it was hardly, I fear,
less so to you. I now wish to say "

She thought it best to set him right, before he had
gone any farther in that direction.

" If you are referring to your nephew, sir, I can
save you the necessity. I shall never speak or write
to him again."

" So I supposed," he said, in the same voice. " I
have had an interview with him in fact, several of
them. He tells me that for a time he was in the
habit of hearing from you several times a week, and
that it is quite a while since he received any reply to
his communications. He believes that you must
have heard from a certain source of an unpleasant
occurrence that took place in his apartment, even
before he wrote you, resigning all claim to your

There were four unopened letters of Roland's in
Charlotte's possession. She had been told never to
bring another to her mistress with his superscriptioa
on the envelope, and she had put these away among
her own things.

" I do not like to discuss this matter," said Eva,


with a sigh. " I felt justified in all that I did, even
when it was against your wishes ; but now it is ended,
and I hope we shall never have to allude to it

Mr. Linnette bowed profoundly. He had feared
an outbreak of regret and passion, and was much
relieved at the manner in which she referred to his
nephew. It argued, he reasoned, that she had not
been as deeply attached to him as he feared.

" I hope," he went on to say, " you are con-
vinced that whatever I have done has been with an
honest regard for your best welfare. I am quite
glad to let this incident pass without further com-
ment. What I now wish to ask you is if you can tell
me the address of of Mr. Guy Dalton."

The question was so unexpected that the girl's
cheek flushed brightly. She thought at first that
this was merely an ingenious way of showing that he
knew the concealment of which she had been guilty.
One glance at the calm face of the millionaire dissi-
pated this impression, but still she was uncertain
what answer to make him. She felt that she had no
right to reveal Guy's whereabouts until she had
consulted with the young man.

" Was there any indication of his residence in the
letter he wrote you ?" asked Mr. Linnette.

" I have not said that he wrote me any letter, she
answered, diplomatically.

Mr. Linnette looked troubled.

" I had hoped you could tell me where to find
him," he said, gravely. " It is on a matter of much
importance. I have hired the largest detective



bureau in New York to hunt for him, so you can
judge for yourself that it is no small affair."

Eva began to tremble again. What offence had
Guy committed ? Was there no man whose life was
what it should be ? There could be no prejudice on
her account, as Mr. Linnette could not know of her
relations with him. She had accused this man once
in her thoughts of slandering his nephew, and had
found that his charges were only too well founded.

" Eva," asked Mr. Linnette, after a pause, "are we
good friends again ?"

" Why, yes, sir, I hope so."

" You believe that all I have done has been
actuated by a regard for your welfare ?"

She assented cordially.

** And do you care as much for me as as you
did before any of these things occurred ?"

He was bending toward her, and there was a depth
of emotion in his voice for which she could not
account. Again she answered in the affirmative.

" From the day you came to live here," he said,
*' you have been very dear to me. I love you as
well indeed, I think far more than most men love
their daughters. It would break my heart to find
anything like a permanent estrangement growing up
between us. Dear child, I want to say much more
to you than I dare, and some day I hope to have the
courage I need. You like me you are sure you like

Tears stood in his eyes. Quite innocent of what
he had in mind, she felt a profound pity for the senti-
ments that had brought such visible sorrow to this


eld man, who had done so much for her. Rising,
she put her arms around his neck as she had done
a hundred times in younger years, and laid her fair
cheek to his.

For a few moments he did not move. Then he
arose and walked with her to the hallway.

" God bless you !" he said, in broken tones, as she
said good-night to him, and went slowly up> :he




Thf? second day after Guy Dalton's sudden disap-
pearance from Montvalc, Eva received a letter from
him, through the agency of Mrs. Merrill. In it he
told her nothing of the business upon which he had
embarked, except that it was a secret which he had
promised not to divulge. But there was something
in this letter of more importance to its recipient than
any other subject could be. Page after page was
covered with protestations of the most ardent

" I could not speak these words when in your
presence," said the letter, " but now that I am able to
call pen and paper to my assistance, I can no longer
repress them. Within the past week I have learned
that life without you would be unendurable. Even
my unfortunate condition, penniless and without a
permanent situation of any kind, cannot keep me
from telling you the truth. It seems presumptuous
to reveal the state of my feelings, when I have no
home to offer, but I may not always be as poor as I
am now. With the hope of winning you to inspire
me, I shall yet surmount the obstacles in my path.
Dear, dear Eva, if so I may call you, say I have not
offended you, for if I have, I will never come into
your presence or send you another line."


Clasping this letter to her heart, Eva felt for the
first time the wonderful sensation of true reciprocal
love. The sentiment she had conceived for Roland
Linnette was quite different from that which had
been growing up so rapidly in her bosom for Guy
Dalton. Roland was the first young man with whom
she had ever come in contact. Her secluded life left
her ready to find perfection in any well-appearing
person of the opposite sex, if sufficiently good-
natured and attractive. But for Guy she had a much
more powerful emotion. During the hours she had
spent in his company she had longed earnestly for
some spoken word to indicate that her feeling to-
ward him was returned. The least expression, tell-
ing of his love, would have sufficed to let loose the
full tide of her own affection. And now, when his
su-dden and unannounced departure had filled her
with alarm and foreboding, came this sweet proof of
all she could ask.

Her happiness was so great that for a few days
she did not even communicate the news to Charlotte.

Three letters came in quick succession from Guy,
the third one saying he should return on the follow-
ing evening. The maid was told to be on the watch
for him, and before he arrived Eva had told her
all. Charlotte, happy at anything that pleased her
young mistress, rejoiced also. As soon as Dalton
appeared on the premises he was taken into Eva's
presence and left alone with her.

There was a second of hesitation, and then the fair
girl allowed her lover to take her in his arms.

* You do really forgive me, then ?" murmured


Guy, who wore a haggard look, as of one who has
passed sleepless nights.

For answer she gave him her lips to kiss ; he
needed no other.

" Have you been doing anything wrong ?" asked
Eva, as soon as she could speak.

"Wrong?" he repeated, with a dazed look.

" Yes. Mr. Linnette has been here inquiring for
you. He says detectives are looking for you in all

Then she told him the entire conversation she had
had with Mr. Linnette in the library, as far as she
could recall it.

14 1 give you my word," he answered, breathing
more easily, " that I have done nothing of which you
would not approve. Don't tell me, darling, that
you lost faith in me !"

The girl, embracing him again, declared that
such a supposition was the farthest possible thing
from the truth. But even though he were a criminal,
she protested, she could do no less than love him.

" I have thought so much of the dangers we run,"
she added, " that everything alarms me. Oh, I wish
we could be married at once ! Then, whatever hap-
pened, they could not tear us apart !"

The young man gazed at her with tenderness.
What an innocent flower she was to open her full
heart to him.

" I wish it as heartily as you, my love," he said.
" If I had any money I could call my own, I would
ask you to run away with me this very night. When


we had found a minister and were made one, we
could laugh at all their threats and insinuations."

The idea of an elopement completely fascinated
the girl. To go away with him, to stand before a
clergyman and hear the words that should make
him her husband that was charming indeed !
When she heard Dalton's suggestion, she burst into
enthusiastic praise of it.

" Oh, that would be heavenly !" she cried. M And
as for money, I have enough to last us several
weeks. I will go with you immediately, if you
think best."

Guy doubted the expediency of taking this child
from her home, with the grave questions of future
support that he knew would soon come upon him.
But how could he resist the pleading eyes and the
flushed cheeks with which she offered to throw her-
self into his arms ? He found, on examining the
money she hastened to bring him, that there was
nearly a hundred and fifty dollars of it. It is easier
to look on the bright side than on the dark one
when a luscious young maiden offers to lead the way.
Within an hour the plans for flight began to be

. "It is hardly twelve o'clock," he said, looking at
the timepiece on the mantel. " I can go to Ells-
worth, rouse the stable keeper, and get here with a
carriage by half-past three. You can have the things
that are absolutely necessary to take packed in
valises by that time, and Charlotte can bring them
out to the door in the wall where I entered. Luck-
ily," he added, going to a window, 4< there is no moon


and the night is dark as pitch. You cannot take a
great many things, and you must select carefully
those you will need most. You are certain you can
rely on Charlotte ?"

Eva laughed merrily.

"She is as sure as my own hand," she answered-
" Go at once, and get your carriage. You will have
to walk so far ! I am very sorry for you, but I'm
worth it, am I not ?"

Before the hour announced Dalton returned with
his vehicle, but he did not permit it to come nearer
than a hundred yards of the place he had agreed
upon. He found Eva all ready as, indeed, she had
been for a long time and Charlotte wearing her
outer wraps and an air of mystery.

" Is she going with us ?" he whispered in a rather
blank tone.

" Now, my dear Guy," laughed Eva, " isn't that a
peculiar question ? Did you imagine I was going to
travel alone with a man before I was married to
him ? And what do you think would become of
poor Charlotte if I left her here to bear the blame of
my escape ?"

He saw the force of both reasons, but he felt com-
pelled, lest she should think him worse than he was,
to pretend he had alluded to the extra expense that
a third person would entail.

" That's true," mused Eva, thoughtfully. " Per-
haps, if we continue to be very poor, I shall have to
find a new place for her by-and-by. But now, really,
I couldn't go a step without her ; you must see thai.


Let me show you the letters I have written to leave

behind me."

He had no more objections to offer, and he read
the letters with interest. The first one was as
follows :

" MY DEAREST MAMMA : You could not be my mother
and not know what love is. A few hours, at the latest, after
you read this, I shall be Mrs. Guy Dalton ! Does not that
sound strange for little Eva ?

" And who is Guy ? you may inquire. He is the handsom-
est, sweetest, dearest man in the world, and I love him.
That's all.

" I should have confided in you ; yes, that is true. But
you might have thrown a hundred obstacles in our way, and
that would not have been agreeable to us.

" Charlotte is going, too. As soon as we are settled
enough to have a permanent address I shall let you know
of it.

" In the meantime, dear mother, believe me,

" Your dutiful daughter,

" ETA."

And the second one read like this :


" DEAR FRIEND : Do not think me ungrateful for all
your kindness. Indeed, 1 am not. I have left your house
with him who is to be my husband, because love is the
Strongest feeling in the breast of woman.

"You told me last night that you had detectives search-
ing for Mr. Dalton. They need search no longer. As soon
as we are married and in a home, he will tell you where to
find him. He knows of no crime that should cause him to
evade you.


" Think of me as gently as you can. Forgive me as soon
as you can. And, if it is possible, come to us and be the
same dear ' Uncle Willard ' you have been to me so long.
" Your ' little treasure/


Willard Linnette rose at his usual early hour that
morning, ate his breakfast and went mechanically to
His office. When Tom Hobbs came in they talked of
the ill success of the detectives.

"There's one good thing ought to come out of this
matter, at any rate," said Hobbs. " Now that you
know you've a grown-up child you won't think any
more of making a fool of yourself."

An expression of pain flitted across Mr. Linnette's

" That is your delicate way of referring to my
regard for Miss Warren, I presume," he said.

" Exactly."

The manufacturer suppressed an inclination to
reply in an impatient manner, for he knew the good
intentions of this old friend so well.

"Ah, Tom!" he cried, " the coming on of years
does not deaden the heart in a healthy man, nor does
the springing up of love in his bosom indicate decay
of the mental faculties. She has promised me to
have nothing more to do with Roland. I see no rea-
son to change my mind. No child will regret to
learn that a father's last days are to be brightened
by the companionship of a beautiful and loving


The door opened at this moment and one of the
clerks entered.

" Mrs. Warren has come down, sir, and says she
must see you immediately."

"Show her in," said Mr. Linnette. "Don't go,
Hobbs," he added. " There need be no secrets be-
tween us three."

But when Mrs. Warren came into the room it was
seen that she was laboring under great excitement.
The traces of tears were on her cheeks, and she
repressed another outburst with the greatest dif-
ficulty. Both gentlemen rose to proffer her their
chairs, but she would accept neither.

" Oh, Mr. Linnette !" was all she could say, and
this she repeated not less than a dozen times in
rapid succession, clasping her hands together in

" What is it ?" asked her employer, taking alarm.
" Is Eva ill ?"

She wrung her hands in pain.

" Oh, Mr. Linnette ! How can I tell you ? Read
these letters !"

Each sentence came with a gasp, and then Mrs.
Warren, handing him the missives, sank into one
of the chairs offered her and began to sob violently.

The manufacturer took the letters and began to
read first the one addressed to himself. He had
only reached the words " with him who is to be my
husband," when a mist came over his eyes. He
thought at the moment that Roland had lied to him
after all that his pretence of love for Maud Arline
was a mere blind to conceal his real intention, and


that it was with him that Eva had gone away. He
staggered against the desk at which he had been
sitting, and handed the notes to Hobbs.

"Read them, Tom ; I can't," he ejaculated, in a
smothered voice. " Read them distinctly that I may
know the worst."

Hobbs did as he was bidden. Linnette listened as
one listens to a voice at the distant end of a telephone.
He did not understand the situation perfectly until
the second letter was read. He believed at first that
Dalton had only been a co-conspirator with his
nephew. But when the plain declaration was made,
" I shall be Mrs. Guy Dalton," he uttered a stifled
cry, threw up his arms and fell fainting to th
office floor.




Maud Arline was too much in love with Roland

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Online LibraryAlbert RossLove at seventy → online text (page 16 of 18)