G. A. (George Alfred) Henty.

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DOROTHY'S DOUBLE

BY G. A. HENTY

AUTHOR OF 'RUJUB THE JUGGLER' 'IN THE DAYS OF THE MUTINY' 'THE CURSE OF
CARNE'S HOLD' ETC.


IN THREE VOLUMES - VOL. III.

London
CHATTO & WINDUS, PICCADILLY
1894

PRINTED BY
SPOTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE
LONDON




CHAPTER XVII


Higher and higher rose the flames as fresh sticks were constantly piled
on. The blood again began to circulate through the veins, and enjoyable
as the heat was, the sharp tingling in the hands and feet caused the
girls acute pain. Then came a feeling of pleasant drowsiness.

'It will do them no harm to go to sleep, I suppose?' Mr. Hawtrey asked
Giuseppe.

'No, monsieur. Now that they are warm it is the best thing for them. We
will keep up the fire.'

Scarcely a word had yet been spoken. Both Mr. Hawtrey and his friend
were completely exhausted. Since they had left the glacier they had
staggered along in a half-stupefied condition, feeling that in spite of
their exertions they were gradually becoming more and more chilled. As
soon as the fire blazed up and there was nothing more to do for the
girls, they had thrown themselves down near the fire, and a feeling of
drowsiness, against which they had been fighting ever since the storm
struck them, was now almost overpowering. Giuseppe produced from his
wallet a bottle of wine and some cold meat and bread. These had formed
part of the supply that had been brought up for lunch. The rest had been
left behind, at the spot where they had started on the glacier.

'Let us eat, monsieur,' he said to Captain Armstrong.

'But the others will want something when they wake.'

'Conrad will start as soon as he has eaten, monsieur, to get help. It is
two o'clock now; he will be down at the village in three hours, and will
bring up porters and food. The ladies will not be able to walk. It has
been a narrow escape.'

'It has indeed. We all owe our lives to you, my good fellows.'

'It is our business,' the man said simply; 'we were wrong in letting you
go on to the glacier, but we did not think the storm would have come on
so quickly. Sometimes the clouds will be like that for hours before they
burst; but it is getting late in the season, and we ought to have run no
risks.'

Just as they had finished their meal Giuseppe exclaimed, 'I hear a
shout!'

The others listened, and above the roaring of the wind in the pines
overhead they heard the sharp bark of a dog.

'It must be a rescue party,' Conrad said, leaping to his feet. 'They are
sure to have seen the clouds rolling down the mountains, and would know
that there was a storm raging up here,' and accompanied by Giuseppe he
hurried away in the direction from which the sound had come, shouting
occasionally as they went.

In five minutes Captain Armstrong heard them returning, and the sound of
voices and of stumbling feet among the rocks showed that they had a
party with them. He rose to his feet just as the figures of the guides,
with three or four men, emerged from the mist.

'Thank God we have found you, Armstrong!' Lord Halliburn said, grasping
his hand. 'We have had a terrible fright about you all. It was somewhere
about eleven when one of the guides ran up to the hotel saying that
there was a storm raging amongst the hills, that the clouds had swept
across the Mer de Glace, and he was certain the party that had gone up
this morning must have been overtaken by it. You may imagine that we
lost no time. The guides knew what to do, and got together twenty men,
with stretchers and ropes; then we got a lot of blankets from the hotel,
and brandy, cold soup, and things of that sort, and started. Till we
were more than half way up we were inclined to believe that the fears of
the guides were exaggerated, for although we could see the clouds flying
fast overhead there was not a breath of wind. However, for the last hour
we have had a desperate fight for it. Though we had brought wraps with
us, the wind and driving snow were terrible, and we began to despair of
ever seeing any of you alive again. We were almost as surprised as
delighted when your guides met us and assured me that you were all safe.
Where are the others?'

'There they are, sound asleep. The heat of the fire after the bitter
cold sent them off at once.'

'Do not disturb them till we have heated some soup and got some boiling
water ready,' Giuseppe said. 'Some hot soup for the ladies, and some of
the same with some hot spirits and water for the men, will do wonders
for them.'

A few minutes later Mr. Hawtrey was roused. He looked round in
bewilderment at the men clustered on the other side of the fire.

'Thank you and your friends most heartily, Halliburn, for hurrying so
promptly to our rescue,' he said, as soon as he understood the
situation. 'One of the guides told me when we got here that he was going
to start for help, but that would have meant six or seven hours' delay,
and the sooner the girls are in bed the better for them.'

Mr. Fortescue was next aroused, and then he and Mr. Hawtrey woke the
girls. They, however, were unable to rise to their feet, their limbs
being completely stiffened by cold and fatigue. A basin of hot soup with
bread broken into it restored them wonderfully.

'How are we to get down, father?' Dorothy asked.

'You will be carried, dear; the men have brought up stretchers and
plenty of blankets and wraps, and there are mules for Fortescue and
myself half a mile lower. We can manage to get as far as that, though I
feel as if I had been beaten almost into a jelly. It is Lord Halliburn
and his friends who have brought this party to our rescue, dear,' for
the men had, at the suggestion of the guide, all retired a short
distance from the fire when the girls were awakened, as he said that it
was better that they should not be confused by seeing themselves
surrounded by strange faces.

'It is very good of them,' Dorothy said. 'I was wondering vaguely while
I was taking the soup where it had come from, and could not make out
what you meant by the stretchers and mules, because I remember we sent
those that we came up on, back to the hotel. Where is Lord Halliburn?'

'Halliburn, will you and your friends show yourselves,' Mr. Hawtrey
said. 'The ladies are now ready to receive company.'

There was but a short chat, then the stretchers were brought up and the
girls helped to take their places upon them. They were then covered up
closely with blankets. The porters lifted them, and the party started
down the hill, the older men being assisted by a porter on each side,
for they were scarcely able to drag themselves along. Being urged by Mr.
Hawtrey to go on at once, the rescue party and Captain Armstrong pushed
forward at the top of their speed. Being now well wrapped up they felt
the cold but little, and in half an hour reached the spot where the
mules were awaiting them, and then proceeded quietly down the hill, the
porters with the ladies being already far ahead.

On the way down Captain Armstrong related the incidents of their
adventure.

'It was touch and go,' he said. 'Another quarter of an hour on that
glacier would, I believe, have finished us all. It was not fatigue so
much as it was the loss of heart that one felt. The wind seemed to go
right through one, and to take all one's pluck out. I wonder the ladies
are alive.'

'I can quite understand that,' Lord Halliburn said. 'I had no idea what
it would be like until we got into it, and then, though the porters had
brought up warm wraps for us, it was terrible. I should quite have given
up hope had not the guides persisted that if you had got off the glacier
you might have taken shelter somewhere under the lee of a rock, and that
if so we might find you unharmed.'

'It was too late when we got off the glacier to think of it. The ladies
were already almost insensible, and the rest of us so chilled to the
bone that no shelter would have been of any use unless we could make a
fire. That, of course, was out of the question, so our only chance was
to make straight down the mountain. That was nothing to the work on the
ice.'

'Hawtrey and Fortescue seem badly knocked up,' Lord Ulleswater said.

'Yes, they were completely exhausted by the time they got into that
ravine. I don't think they could have gone much farther; they dropped
off to sleep the instant we lighted the fire, and if we could not have
done so I fancy they would never have woke again. The women bore up
bravely as long as they had strength to struggle on. They literally went
on until they dropped.'

'There is a mule here for you, Armstrong; indeed there are mules for all
of us, for we brought six.'

'I am very glad to hear it, for I feel wonderfully shaky about the knees
now it is all over.'

'No wonder,' Lord Ulleswater said; 'it is bad enough coming down the
hill by oneself, but carrying a lady, it must have been hard work
indeed.'

'I did not feel that much. The weight, well up on the shoulders, was
nothing, and I kept so close behind the guide that I walked in his
footsteps. I went on blindly, without thinking much about the path one
way or the other; the thing that worried me most was that either Hawtrey
or Fortescue might give out, and I could not think what we should do
then. They stumbled very often, and I kept expecting to hear a fall. By
the pace the guides went at I felt sure that we could carry the women
down, and I thought that the warmth of our bodies would keep life in
them; but if Hawtrey or Fortescue fell, I did not see what we should do.
We could not leave him there to die, and yet to stop would have been
death to all of us. Well, here are the mules, and I am not sorry for
it.'

It was not until they were on something like level ground that they
could quicken the pace of the animals. They were not long before they
overtook the porters with the litters, and then, as they could do
nothing there, they rode on ahead to see that everything was in
readiness for their reception. With the exception of Captain Armstrong
none of the party were able to leave their beds next day, but on the
following morning Mr. Hawtrey and Mr. Fortescue were both up in time to
say good-bye to Lord Halliburn and his friends, who were starting for
Martigny. With the girls it was a longer matter. Clara Fortescue was
delirious on the morning after their return, and an English doctor
staying in the hotel at once pronounced it to be an attack of rheumatic
fever; the other two had symptoms of the same malady, but these passed
off, and on the fourth day both were able to get up, and on the
following day were on sofas in the sitting-room.

'Well, you have made a nice business of it, young ladies,' Mr. Singleton
said, when he paid them his first visit; 'this is what comes of
mountaineering. You would have done much better to have stopped down
here in the valley, instead of pretty nearly frightening us all to
death, besides risking your own lives and injuring your health. I am
glad to hear that your sister is a little better this morning, Miss
Fortescue; the doctor thinks that the worst has passed, though she will
still have a troublesome time of it.'

'I am sorry we frightened you all, Mr. Singleton,' Dorothy said.

'Well, Mrs. Fortescue and I had a bad time of it, Dorothy. Of course, we
could not quite realise the danger, for down here the sun was shining
brightly all the morning. I don't think Mrs. Fortescue did quite realise
it until you arrived, but I knew the guides here would not have been so
alarmed unless there had been real danger. I should have come up with
the party but I knew that so far from being of the slightest use I
should only have been a trouble to them. It was fortunate Halliburn and
his two friends happened to be in the hotel; almost everyone else was
out, and they took the management of the expedition in their hands, and
hurried things up wonderfully. I never liked the man so much before as I
did then. It was a tremendous relief when they rode in with Armstrong
and brought us the news that you would be here in half an hour, and that
although you were exhausted and worn out with the terrible time you had
had they hoped that you would be none the worse for it. I think I
realised what you had gone through most when your fathers came in, a
quarter of an hour after you had been carried up to your rooms. They had
to be lifted off their mules, and helped upstairs, where hot baths had
been got ready for them, and if two strong, hearty men were so utterly
exhausted, one could easily understand what a time you must have gone
through.'

'Yes, but we were carried, Mr. Singleton,' Ada Fortescue said; 'I don't
remember much about it, I was so cold and miserable, but I know that
once I almost laughed at the thought that I was being carried like a
package, on a guide's back, and what my mother would think of it if she
saw me.'

'What did you feel, Dorothy?'

'I don't quite know what I felt,' she said reluctantly, and with
somewhat heightened colour. 'I know I felt ashamed of myself; I used to
think that I was as strong in my way as men are in theirs, and it seemed
to me disgraceful that I should have to be carried. Then I could not
help thinking, where the road was very steep, and I could hear the guide
in front telling Captain Armstrong where he should step, that he might
slip, and we should be both killed together. Otherwise, I felt safe, for
I could tell that he was walking firmly, and was not feeling my weight
too much. I don't think I lost consciousness at all; my body felt quite
warm, but my hands and my feet were as if they were dead. I should not
have been at all surprised to find that I had lost them altogether.'

In the afternoon Captain Armstrong was admitted to see the invalids. He
at once laughed down Dorothy's attempt to thank him for having saved her
life.

'I only did for you, Miss Hawtrey, exactly what the guides did for Miss
Fortescue and her sister; there is nothing very terrible in carrying a
weight when you get it comfortably fixed. Why, the porters in the Andes
think nothing of carrying people right over the mountains; it is only a
matter of getting weight properly balanced. I saw how the guides did;
they knotted the shawls over their caps just above the peak. They carry
weights here you know, as they do in most mountain countries, with a
strap across the forehead. Coming over the ice I really did feel you
heavy, though I had two others to help me with you, but the cold seemed
to have taken all one's strength out of one, and the weight was all on
one side; coming down was nothing in comparison. I believe I could have
carried you right down to the hotel here with an occasional rest. I was
as warm as a toast when we got into the wood. You must not think or say
anything more about it; if you do I shall straightway pack up my kit and
take my place in the next diligence wherever it may be going to. And
now, were you able to walk into this room pretty easily?'

'We are both very stiff; I felt curiously weak, just as if I had had a
long illness, but the doctor says it will soon pass off and that in a
week we shall both be walking about again.'

'I rather think this will change our plans, Armstrong,' Mr. Hawtrey
said; 'by the time we get back it will be far on in October and wetting
damp and cold up in Lincolnshire, and the doctor advises me that it
would be better to cross the Alps and spend a few weeks in Northern
Italy, so as to set Dorothy completely up and to work the cold out of
her system. I have not settled upon it yet, but I think that is probably
what we will do. It is of no use running the risk of her getting
rheumatism. But at any rate, we shall be here for another week or ten
days, by which time I hope Clara Fortescue will have fairly turned the
corner.' And so they lingered on.

In a week the two girls were able to get about again, to enjoy the
sunshine in the valley. The hotel was nearly empty now, the season being
over. Clara Fortescue was fairly through the fever, though still very
weak; it was, however, only a question of time. Captain Armstrong still
remained. Dorothy could no longer disguise from herself why he was
staying. Up to the day of the expedition up to the Mer de Glace she had
refused to admit the idea into her mind. She had before told him
distinctly that she could never care for him in the way he wanted, and
she had believed he had accepted the decision as final. They were great
friends, and he had enjoyed their stay at Martigny just as she had done,
and she had observed no difference in his manner to her or her two
friends - in fact, if anything, she had thought, and was rather pleased
than otherwise, that he was oftener by the side of Ada Fortescue than by
her own.

There had been, however, something in his manner during that terrible
time that had opened her eyes; something perhaps in the tone of his
voice when he cheered her on, or in the clasp of his arm as he aided her
father to carry her, that had told her the truth, and when he still
lingered on at Chamounix she knew what was coming. What she did not know
was what her answer would be. She liked him very much; he had saved her
life; she was sure he would do his best to make her happy; and yet she
did not feel that she loved him as she thought a woman should love a man
who was to be her husband. She had made one mistake and had regretted it
bitterly. She had become engaged without feeling that love, and had
vowed to herself that never again would she say 'Yes' unless her whole
heart went with her words. She had had her girlish hero, and for years
had thought that no one was like him. Had he come back a little earlier,
and had he still remained her ideal, she would never have become engaged
to Lord Halliburn.

She had fancied that he was unchanged until a moment when he had failed
in the perfect trust she had thought he had placed in her. Now he had
gone away for months to America and that dream was over altogether. She
had felt his journey as a personal grievance. Of course, after the
offence he had given, it made no difference to her; she did not wish to
see him; it was unpleasant for both of them. Nevertheless, she was
somewhat sore at his acquiescing so readily in her decision that their
old relations were entirely a thing of the past. In fact, she was
unreasonable, and was vexed with herself for being so. It was annoying
to her now that she should think of him at all. He had gone altogether
out of her life, and would in a few months be back in India again; but
the thought of the breach and its cause brought back again strongly to
her the events of the two months previous to her leaving England.

These had been almost forgotten of late, but she acknowledged, as she
thought it over, that her position was practically the same as it had
been. She was still exposed to the charge of theft, and although it had
been arranged that there should be a compromise, yet in the minds of the
two tradesmen who had been victimised and of their assistants she was a
thief, and although those who knew her best were convinced of her
innocence, a whisper of the affair might yet get abroad, and were the
facts known she would be generally condemned. Besides, at any moment the
system might be recommenced, she might again be branded as a thief, and
the tale of the compromise effected in the first cases would add weight
to the charge. It was for this reason that she had broken off her
engagement with Lord Halliburn, and had then declared to herself that
never would she place herself in a similar position until she was
absolutely and entirely cleared from all suspicion, and freed from any
chance of a repetition of it.

Nothing had occurred to shake that determination. She had no right to
enter upon any engagement until she stood above all suspicion. The man
himself might trust her blindly, might scoff at the idea of her doing a
dishonourable action, but that would not suffice to shield either him or
her from the consequences of the charge. What a life would theirs be
were she generally believed to be a thief. Society would close its doors
against them. A consciousness of her innocence might support them, but
the life would be none the less painful and humiliating. Dorothy arrived
at this conclusion not without a certain amount of unacknowledged sense
of relief. It obviated the necessity for giving a direct answer to the
question that was to be asked her. She felt that she could not again say
'No,' yet she shrank from saying 'Yes'; so when, the next day, Captain
Armstrong, happening to find her alone, told her that his love was
unchanged since he had spoken to her in the spring, except that he loved
her more, and asked if she could not give him a different answer to that
with which she had sent him away, she said:

'I am sorry - so sorry, Captain Armstrong. It was a great pain to me to
say "No" before, and if I had dreamt when you joined us at Martigny that
you still thought of me in that way, I should have told you frankly at
once that it were better for us both that you should not stay there; but
I thought you had come to regard me as a friend, and it was not until
that day on the ice I felt it was not so. It was a great pain to me to
say "No" before. I liked you very much then, but, as I told you, not
enough for that. I like you even more now; it would be impossible that I
could help it when we have been so much together, and you did so much
for me that day. I like you so much that if I were free - - ' he would
have broken in but she checked him by a motion of her hand.

'I am not otherwise than free in that way,' she said; 'I have broken off
with Lord Halliburn for good and all, and yet I am not free. Had I been
so I do not know what my answer would have been. I don't think I could
have brought myself to say "No"; I feel sure I could hardly have said
"Yes." I think I must have said, "I do not quite know." I have made one
mistake; I must not make another. I like you very much, but I do not
think that it is the love that a woman should give to her husband. Give
me a little more time to think before I answer you.'

'I should have been well content, Dorothy; I would have waited as long
as you liked; but I don't understand how it is that you are not free.'

'You have a right to know. It is because I am disgraced; because as long
as this disgrace hangs over me I can never marry.'

'You mean those ridiculous stories that were in the papers, Dorothy. Do
you think that I should care for a moment for such things as those, or
that they have brought the slightest taint of disgrace upon you in the
minds of those that know you?'

'That was the beginning of it,' she said, 'but there was worse; and it
was that made me break off my engagement. I doubt now whether in any
case I could have held to it. I had begun to feel I had made a mistake
before that came, but even had I not done so it would have been the
same. I am accused of theft.'

'Of theft, Dorothy!' he repeated in incredulous scorn. 'You suspected of
theft!'

'And on evidence so strong,' she went on quietly, 'that even my father
for a moment suspected me, and my dear friend, Mr. Singleton, believed
that I had been mixed up in some disgraceful transaction; and others,
who I thought knew me well, and would have trusted me, as I know you
would have done, believed me guilty - not of theft, but of the previous
accusations. There are shopmen in London ready to swear in a court of
law that I obtained diamonds and other goods from them, and to-morrow
fresh charges may be made, and ere long I may stand in the dock as a
thief.'

Captain Armstrong looked at her as if he doubted her sanity.

'But no one in his senses could think such a thing, Dorothy.'

'But I have told you that even those who knew me best did, for a moment,
think so. Mr. Charles Levine, the lawyer, is a clear-headed man, and yet
even he, after hearing all the facts, was convinced of my guilt. I will
tell you more - it is fair that I should do so,' and she gave him the
history of the postcards, then of the robbery at the jeweller's, of Mr.
Singleton lending her the money, of the other robbery on the same day,
and of Captain Hampton seeing her in conversation on that afternoon with
the man they believed to be the author of the postcards.

'You see,' she said, 'that here is the evidence of three or four


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