Albert Ross.

Love gone astray online

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Chapter Page

I. In a Venetian Gondola. . '3

II. The Strange Mr. Neiling. . .26

III. " I could lend you fifty thousand." . 33

IV. Becoming a Pauper 42

V. Darius Yates, Solicitor. . . 55

VI. " Then there's a father, too ?" . . 62
VII. " You'll be required to marry." . . 69

VIII. A Very Blunt Refusal 74

IX. " Shall it be you or he ?" . .82

X. An American Girl. .... 90

XI. Husband and Wife. .... 97

XII. "You must let me thank you." . . 108

XIII. Confessing to Mamma, .... 118

XIV. "Good-night, Gladys." . . . .126
XV. Life on the Riviera. . , . . 132

XVI. The Family Secret. . . . .138

XVII. Arrival of the Baby. ... 145

XVIII. " It's my husband's room.' . . . 156

XIX. The Chicago Wheat Pit. . . .168

XX. Colonel Newcombe Ruined. . . . 176


2138093 '


Chapter Page

XXI. "Just my luck !" !8i

XXII. Returning to London 187

XXIII. " You've got the prettiest wife." . . 195

XXIV. Plunged into Poverty 202

XXV. Mr. Julius Margrave 210

XXVI. " Is this the letter ?" . . . .220

XXVII. A Fair Proposition. .... 231

XXVIII. "Women are queer things." . . . 240

XXIX. A Cross-examination 252

XXX. Gladys in Peril. ..... 260

XXXI. " Stand back !" 272

XXXII. The History of a Crime. . . . 282
XXXIII, Everything Explained. . . . 290


AFTER a year of travel in Europe, Africa and Asia,
I am again at home, happy to breathe the air of my
native land and to greet friends steadfast and true.

The only new criticism that has come to me during
the past six months for most are mere repetitions
is because nearly all my novels treat of sex. Let us
see about that.

" Speaking of Ellen " and " Young Fawcett's Ma-
bel," are not based principally on the question of
sex. " Moulding a Maiden " is only secondarily so.
Most of the others are. What is the reason ?

My original success was with "Thou Shalt Not."
There was the question of sex, pure and simple. If
I had written first a romance of history, or of mur-
der, and attracted such attention from the reading
public, probably I should have taken a hint that my
forte was in that field.

" Let each do what he can do best."

There is great dramatic action in the sex issue. It
appeals to every man and woman with intelligence
of brain and pulses that move. It is creeping into



the novels of nearly every author of note. I think 1
will keep on awhile longer with it.

I have, however, written a story of mystery, based
on an assassination, that will appear some time, I do
not know when. If I rival the masters in that line I
shall certainly take the hint.

In the meantime you will find sex the ruling motif
in " LoVe Gone Astray," and I hope it will not prove

Cambridge, Mass., 1896.



M IF a young girl * goes astray ' " began my


" Weir ?" said I.

" And if some man, knowing that fact, himself be-
ing innocent of her fall, marries her "

" Yes."

"And in due time she bears a child, the result of
her indiscretion "

" I am listening."

" Can happiness possibly result from the union ?"

It was certainly a grave question. And I said to
my friend, as we sat at our coffee in the breakfast-
room of the Hole 1 Continental at Cairo, that I would
not like to answer it without further information.

" In the first place," I added, " men are not apt to
covet marriages made on the basis which you have
assumed. I should say it would be practically impos-
sible to obtain a respectable husband for a girl who had
committed such a fault, were the consequences what
you intimate."



My friend smiled.

"Supposing," he said, "the man was very poor
and the girl's father very rich ?"

I admitted that this might alter the case some-
what ; people nowadays did almost anything for
money. If this was the make-weight in the hypoth-
etical instance, I could answer with considerable cer-
tainty that happiness would not follow such a mar-

"I can imagine that a certain type of man might
go through a wedding ceremony with such a girl," I
said, " if he was sufficiently well paid for it. Such
a fellow would hardly be above retaining the position
he had taken, either, if his continued compensation
depended thereon. But the infant, when it was born,
would be a standing reminder of his shame, as well
as hers. Unless the secret was jealously guarded,
the public would know of what had transpired, and
its seal of disapproval would make the conditions
well nigh unbearable."

My friend bowed.

" I refer to a case where the secret was kept in a
very narrow circle," he replied.

" Do you mean to say that you know, personally*
of a couple married in the way you suggest ?"

" Precisely."

" What was the result ?"

" If you have time to listen I will give you the en-
tire story," he said. " It may form the basis of a
future novel, and prove quite as interesting as one of
your own invention."

I had the time to listen, of course. One has time
for anything and everything agreeable in Cairo. The


best place to hear the tale was in a victoria, and with
my good dragoman, Hassan Mohammed, on the box
with the coachman, we set out at once on a drive to
the Pyramids. As the recital was only half through
when we reached the Mena House, we postponed the
remainder while we stopped there for an excellent
lunch. On the way back to Cairo my friend contin-
ued and finished the story.

It was indeed quite suitable for use, and I told my
friend, with thanks, that I should at once put it in
shape for my readers. I said I should make a few
alterations in it, for the sake of dramatic interest, but
in the main would follow the lines he had given me.

It would spoil my romance were I to answer on
this page the question that must be uppermost in
the reader's mind. I have already revealed almost
too much of the plot. For the rest I must refer you t
without more ado, to the chapters that follow.



IT was very early in the morning, and the Vene-
tian gondolier responded sleepily to the call of the
young American on the Piazzetta. The boatman
rowed leisurely to the bank, for the gentry to which
he belongs does not easily get excited, and helped
his fare into the gondola with a grace inherited
from generations of polite ancestors.

"Where?" he asked, in his Italian patois ; and the
young man, who hardly knew a word of the
language, had no difficulty in divining the meaning
of the question.

"Anywhere," he answered, with a wave of his
hand, as easily understood as the term used by the

He wanted an early row among the oddities
of Venice, and as he had been in the Silent City


but a short time, one direction was as agreeable to
him as another.

The gondolier took his long oar and began to pro-
pel his craft by those strange, sweeping motions that
so interest and puzzle one unused to this style of
rowing. Standing well back toward the stern, he
sent the beautiful creature of which he seemed a part
as gracefully through the water as any swan.

He rowed slowly, both from preference and be-
cause it was evident that haste was not desired by his
passenger. He rowed picturesquely, because there
is no other mode known to the gondolier of Venice,
from the uniformed attendant of a nabob to the
humblest freight boatman who brings a load of fire-
wood from the mainland or of vegetables from the
islands where the market gardens are located.

For a while the course of the boat lay along the
Grand Canal. It passed under the venerable Rialto,
as solid as London Bridge, in effect one massive
stone, that will be intact, as far as human judgment
can foresee, until the earth is in its final throes. On
either side of the Canal long lines of palaces shone
in the early light, their occupants, for the most part,
yet invisible.

Venice was still asleep. Lovely as she is at all
times, this stately creature is never so pretty as when
in repose. A glide along her watery streets just be-
fore sunrise is like moving silently through a garden
where nymphs lie in slumber.

In Venice there is no wheeled carriage of any de-
scription. Not a horse, mule, ox, goat, sheep, puts
his foot upon her pavements. The station at which
you arrive by train is at an extreme corner of the


city, and even its necessary noise is tempered by the
surroundings. The only vehicles of passenger or
goods service are the boats, which make hardly more
disturbance for the ear than a fish passing over the
same route.

Every sound and when the city awakes she is
capable of many sounds proceeds from the voices
of individuals, or the whirr of the sacred doves that
are fed by thousands at all hours in the Piazza of
St. Mark. The seller of various wares seems to feel
that it is incumbent upon him to mock the echoes of
the winding labyrinths over which one may stroll

The boatmen themselves, when there is a possible
occasion,- cry out to each other in weird tones, espe-
cially at narrow intersections of the side canals, to
prevent collision with craft approaching silently
from beyond the stone and brick of a corner. Be-
sides, in protest of the natural stillness of their city,
they quarrel for hours in front of the principal ho-
tels, with as much effect as a parcel of highly-plumed
birds in an African forest. But for these things
Venice would be as quiet as the schoolroom in which
the proverbial pin is about to drop, or as a graveyard
in a superstitious neighborhood.

At the morning hour when young Gilbert Gray
rode in his gondola under the fcialto these noises
had only faintly begun, and the delight he felt in his
excursion was correspondingly great.

He wanted the effect of solitude. With the gon-
dolier hidden from sight by his rearward position,
the boat seemed propelled by a sail or the force of a
tide. Until men have mastered the currents of the


upper air, and can voyage whither they please in the
ether, there will be no effect so nearly like it as to
float on the bosom of a Venetian canal.

The drift adown the current of a river does not
give the same impression, for there is a tiresome row
in prospect before the starting point can be regained.
No boat propelled by machinery, even the tidy little
naptha launch, equals it, for the noise of the wheels
cannot entirely be deadened and the smell of the
chemicals waft themselves in spite of all precaution
to the nostrils. The trimmest yacht may give more
excitement as she skims bird-like across the waters
of the sea, but she does not lull the senses and trans-
port the dreamer into another world, from which he
may return at pleasure.

Only the gondola does this.

Why did Gilbert Gray wish for solitude ? He was
twenty years of age, and in the possession of perfect
health. Most youths like him would have irked the
stillness of the canals and welcomed joyfully the first
signs of that noisier awakening that would come
with the sunrise.

Gilbert was sentimental. The strangeness of the
situation gave him a real delight. He lay back in
the comfortable seat, stretched his legs and gave
himself up to reverie. His brain dwelt on the poetic
quality of this peculiar place. Its history, of which
he had read much, passed slowly through his mind.
He wished he had lived some centuries earlier to
have seen these islands when the argosies of the
whole world came there with treasures of distant
lands, and when St. Mark's environs held a gorgeous
pageant from one year's end to another's.


To enjoy Venice thoroughly one must precipitate
himself into that dead and buried past, for to-day
only the shadow of the mighty substance is left.

The young man had watched the litter of lazzaroni
leaning from stately balconies. He saw that decay
had fastened upon the vitals of this glorious creature,
on whose breast he had been permitted, too late, to
rest his head. To appreciate Venice he must forget
the present.

The morning hour, just before the sun comes out
of the Adriatic, is the best time for this.

The Grand Canal is some hundreds of feet in width
during the major part of its course. The intersect-
ing "streets" are seldom more than twenty. When
an hour had passed, and the sun was peeping over
the rosy tints of the east, the passenger lifted a hand
without turning in his seat and intimated that he
would vary his course by entering one of the side
streams. He nodded, still without turning, when the
boatman said " Piccola ?" in an interrogative tone.
They understood each other very well, and with a
sweep of the long oar, that bore no apparent relation
to the effect it gave, the Italian turned his prow in
the direction indicated, and with another sent his
barque between the high ranges of buildings that
bordered the " rio."

The light encroaching on the outer world had lit-
tle effect, as yet, on these secluded passages. The
undisturbed quality of the voyage was, if anything,
improved by the change. So little prospect was
there of another gondola approaching from the oppo-
site direction that Gilbert's boatman forgot to utter
his usual cry at the doubtful corners.


The intersecting canals, that seemed to offer a
succession of impossible turns for the long craft,
proved equal to its passage in the skillful manipula-
tion of the rower, whose art was little less than mar-
velous. He found plenty of room where none was
visible, not even grazing the walls with either end of
his boat, and all without the least apparent effort.

If anything was needed to make the young Ameri-
can certain he had passed from earth to Fairyland
the magic perfection of these difficult passages suf-
ficed. Under numerous little arched bridges he
floated, and when at last he emerged upon the
Grand Canal he uttered the word he had heard
" Piccola," and was immediately rowed again into a
succession of the minor ones.

Finally the march of the early morning began to
have its effect in various ways. Through windows
women could be seen preparing breakfasts. Other
gondoliers came, rowing sleepily toward the centres
from which passengers might be expected. Market
boats, loaded high with the brightest tomatoes, cab-
bages, potatoes and fruit appeared. Young people
were seen, as the public squares were passed, going
to labor. Beggars thought it not too early to ply
their trade the most flourishing and perhaps the
most lucrative in Venice. Shutters were taken down
from dingy shops, and goods arranged to beguile the
expected customer. Services in the churches, of
which the city boasts more than a hundred, attracted
those who had the time and inclination for them.

The city was awakening. Gilbert Gray's beauti-
ful dream was being spoiled. He roused himself
with impatience, for he would have preferred that


the reverie had gone on for some hours longer. The
morning had been slightly chilly, for the date was
late in October, but the warmly dressed youth had
experienced no discomfort. The mercury was now
mounting, slowly but surely, and the less fortunate
Venetians, who had no means to purchase fuel, were
crawling out into the sunshine like a species of lizard.
There were months before them of colder nights
than these, and they had not yet begun to grumble.
The very poor are your true fatalists, and the more
ignorant of these people knew, though they might
not have been able to put it into words, that " what
must be must be."

Somewhat sulkily Gray signaled to his boatman
that he would return to the waters of the Grand
Canal. If Venice was indeed awake, she would look
better, he thought, from that point. The main
street of the city repaid him for the change, in the
glowing colors reflected from her palace walls, as the
glints of the sun came in contact with the shades
that art and time have combined to render lovely.

Other foreigners were out now, as well as himself,
taking what they thought a very early view of the
city. He marked the various types of tourists and
looked rather longer than was quite polite at a party
of young girls, chaperoned by a sour-faced and el-
derly female. That they were English he made sure
by the glowing color of their cheeks, as well as by
the peculiar fashion of their hair and the demureness
of their demeanor.

Then his attention was attracted by an Italian
girl, hardly more than fifteen years of age, who
wielded the forward oar in a boat that transported


baskets of coal from one of the steamers to the
shore. The girl was strikingly pretty, with the dark
hair and eyes of her race ; and there was a freedom
in the way she moved her arms that would have
given pleasure to a painter. She apparently boasted
but one garment, a calico printed gown that came
only to her knees and was loosely fastened at the
breast. The lower portion of her brown legs was en-
tirely uncovered and the skirt blew in perfect free-
dom about the upper parts. She wore no hat, and
her hair hung in a careless braid to the level of her

The girl returned Gilbert's interested look, finding
him quite as well worth noting as he found her, and
they were apparently trying to decide which should
outstare the other when a short, crisp word from the
master of her boat called her attention to her work.
With a farewell glance that expressed regret as
plainly as any formed sentence, the child bent her
young energies with redoubled strength to the oar
and did not look again in Gray's direction.

" How pretty these Italian girls always are !" he
murmured to himself. " And why is it that they
grow so soon into ugly, wrinkled, sallow-faced old
hags? Does Nature punish them for having taken
more than their share in infancy ? To think this
sprite will look, thirty years from now, like that crone
who waits on the riva, ready to swindle a soldo from
me if I carry out my purpose of landing on her
piratical territory !"

At the risk of paying the tribute, however, the
American motioned to his gondolier that he wished
to reach the shore, and a few moments later he stood


upon the marble steps that face the Pillars. After
settling in a more than liberal way with the boatman,
and seeing the unfailing shrug of dissatisfaction that
cabbies of all nations are wont to use, no matter
what they are paid, he put a silver piece of small
value into the woman's outstretched hand and
turned to see if the pretty child in the coal boat had
disappeared from view. There she was, pushing
with all her strength at her oar, her face turned from
him, the print gown blowing about her shapely legs,
having forgotten already, no doubt, that such a
young man as he existed.

Slightly piqued he took a few steps up the walk,
turned to look at her again and then dismissed her
from his mind. Though there was at least five years in their ages, it would have been a pleas-
ure had he found her stealing a covert glance in his
direction. Such are the sentiments of a young fellow
of twenty, more often than one might think, and
there was nothing in this hero of ours to take him
out of the common in this particular.

The three hours that he had been out of bed, made
Gray quite ready for a cup of coffee and a roll, even
though so much of the time had been spent in dream-
ing. As he walked briskly toward the Piazza, he
saw that a pall of murky clouds hung over the city,
broken here and there by the rising sun, as if the ele-
ments were masquerading in clothes for which they
had no use.

All at once young Gray's eyes encountered an ob-
ject that took his attention from the firmament and
brought it solidly to the earth at his feet. Lying at
the base of the column that bears upon its summit


the bearded lion of St. Mark, was a man of but little
more than his own age, dressed in garments that
showed him to be no native of Venice, and that also
indicated the unlikelihood of his being in the habit
of selecting the pavement for his bed. The figure
was in a very deep slumber, and the face so covered
by one of the arms, the other being used as a head-
rest, that the features could not be distinguished.

Gilbert paused and gazed for some minutes at the
recumbent form, not willing to leave it there, and
yet uncertain whether he had either the right or the
inclination to disturb a sleep that, whatever else
might be said of it, was apparently refreshing and
grateful to its owner.

Several passers paused to join the onlooker, and
then went their ways with a laugh. A cloud of
pigeons flew over from the Piazza and alighted
near him, in expectation of a handful of corn, to be
had of itinerant venders at three cents a package.
Half absently Gray bought some grain and took up
the time in scattering it on the ground. It gave him
an excuse for staying in the neighborhood.

The story of the Samaritan came into his head, and
he was neither a priest nor a Levite. If the man on
the stones needed any little help he would be glad
to give it to him. It was not likely he had selected
that hard bed from choice. Still Gilbert had a hesi-
tation about interfering with the business of other
people. Perhaps he would be not only unthanked
but insulted if he took this sleeper by the arm and
shook him into wakefulness.

An idea occurred as the outgrowth of what he was
doing. He could let the pigeons awake the slum-


berer, and it would then be easy to see whether any-
thing further was advisable.

Scattering the maize slowly, Gray saw the birds
devour it as hungrily as if they and their ancestors
had not been fed hourly for more than a thousand
years within a hundred feet of that spot. Stray
grains that he threw lit upon the coat and then upon
the hat of the sleeper, bringing the pigeons without
delay to the same localities, with the fearlessness
that centuries have bred in these pets of Venice.

Presently a dozen of the feathered things were
perched upon the figure of the prostrate man, pecking
greedily for every grain that could be found ; and
still he slept on. It was only when one of the birds
flying from above, lit on the rim of the soft hat, and
came with a great flapping of wings into his very
face, that the sleeper turned and made an involun-
tary motion to brush away the disturber. The re-
moval of the protecting arm allowed the sunlight to
fall upon his eyelids, and the awakening that had
taken so long was accomplished.

" A-h-h !" he muttered, rousing himself into a
sitting posture, and stretching his stiff limbs.

After making which remark he sat up, and with
his back against the column of St. Mark, looked

The Palace of the Doges, the Church of San
Marco, and the rows of shops opposite, impressed
themselves upon his vision. Then the doves, and
last of all, young Mr. Gray.

" A-h-h !" he said again.

He reached his hand toward a pocket of his vest,
and finding neither watch nor chain there he said


" Ah !** for the third time and began to get upon his

"What time is it ?" he asked, yawning, and Gray,
delighted that the conversation had thus begun,
responded that it was between seven and eight

The man spoke English, and was apparently a
native of the British Isles.

" Eight o'clock !" he replied, incredulously.

" Why, it was after ten when " He paused and

contracted his eyebrows. " Confound it ! I believe
I've slept here all night !"

This looked so probable that the person to whom
it was addressed only answered witli a smiling nod.
He had " sized up " the sleeper rapidly during the
last minute. The movement toward the watch that
had disappeared told its own story. Hard luck of
some kind had caused the owner of the timepiece to
part with it.

The clothes of the sleeper were of good cut, and
they had not suffered seriously from contact with a
dry and reasonably clean pavement. He brushed
off the dust with care and then stretched himself

"If you will excuse the liberty in a stranger," said
Gray, " I was just going to get some coffee ; would
you like to accompany me ?''

The Englishman cast a quick look of suspicion at
the speaker, and then tried to conceal his action.

" I suppose I am a curiosity to you," said he

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Online LibraryAlbert RossLove gone astray → online text (page 1 of 18)