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require her. Where is she 1"

For a moment Flora believed that he did
not yet know the truth ; then, the unpleasant-



HEART. 1)9



ness of the task before lier arousino- her
resentment, and some of her hardihood
returning, '' Am I your wife's keeper T she
said, then quailed again before him, and for
the space of a brief moment, forgot herself

For the first time the possibility that this
elopement might be anything but a folly, am
error of judgment, on the part of the prime
movers in it, that it might mean worse than
death to a strong man's heart, came home to
her as she looked in her brother's face, and,
for the first time in her life, regarded him.
He was but a savage, but he had something
that she herself lacked, that she could not
have compassed for untold gold, and for a
brief moment her paltry nature forgot itself —
and understood.

" She went of her own free Avill," she said,
speaking nothing but nakedest truths, beneatli
the force of those compelling eyes^ that com-
pelling grasp ; " so far as I know she never
saw him but three times, twice in my presence,
once out of it ; nevertheless, when he asked
her to go, she v:entr

For a moment Adam's grasp slackened v.n

47—2



100 " CHERRY RIPE /'

Flora's wrist, for a moment the stern hunger
of the righteous seeker for his own, wavered
in his eyes, then his hold strengthened, his
voice grew hard. " And knowing what had
gone before, what this man had been to her,"
he said, *' you anticipated no evil from their
meeting T

''Knowing ivliat had gone before f repeated
Flora, in tones of purest, most unmistakable
amazement. " Why, they never met, to my
knowledge, more than three times in their
lives ! Once at Hampton Court, where I in-
troduced them to each other; once here, on a
Sunday afternoon ; and once when she was
out with Colin and Floss, the day before they
ran away !"

''And you did not know," said Adam,
'' that he had formerly been her lover, that
it was at one time uncertain whether she
became his wife, not mine V

Flora w^ithdrew her head, as far as she was
able, and looked at her brother with utter
dumbfoundered amazement. Here was no
acting, as Adam knew; this astute woman,
w^ho thought herself a match for most people.



HEART. 101



was taken altogether at a disadvantage, had
been derided, n>ade a gull of, by a schoolgirl.

'^ Why, I introduced them to each other,"
she said at last ; ^' I told her his whole story
from beginning to end, and she never said a
word, not one single word, of any previous
acquaintance ! And I thought her such a
little fool," she added, half aloud, ''utterly
incapable of concealing a thought from
anybody !"

*'She told you nothing 1" said Adam, the
studied deceit displayed by Mignon revealing
itself more and more clearly at every step he
took in his investigations.

'' She never uttered one syllable," said
Flora decisively, '' to lead me to believe that
she had ever spoken to him in her life until
we met him in Bushey Park, the morning
you went away. Her behaviour to him then
struck me as being very strange, for I heard
her, twice over, begrmno^ him to take her to
remote parts of the grounds, but in both
instances he refused ; and indeed, from the
little I have seen of the affair, I should be
far more inclined to think that Mimon lias



102 " CHERRY RIPE .'



run away with Mr. La Mert, than Mr. La
Mei*t with Mignon !"

" She seemed to Hke him — to be attracted
by him T said Adam, calmly.

" She never gave him a moment's peace,"
said Flora with conviction, and still speaking
truth accordino' to her lis^hts ; " when he
called here that Sunday afternoon, she man-
aged, unkno^T^i to me, to entertain him for
over an hour before I knew he was in the
house — indeed, I have good reason to believe
that she actually opened the door to him on
that occasion so that I should not hear him
come in."

Adam had relinquished his grasp of Mrs.
Dundas's wrist, and with her left hand she
was quietly chafing it.

" He did not call again," she continued,
''and Mio'non o-rew so restless and out of
sorts, that nothing on earth seemed to keep
her quiet. ' Do you think he will come
soon f she used to say ; and when I said no,
I thought he had gone away, she seemed
miserable. She took Colin and Floss out for
a walk the day before yesterday, and it seems



HEART. 103



{from my cross-examination of the children
to-day) met some one who walked with her all
the way, and the description of whose appear-
ance exactly talhes with that of Mr. La Mert.
She came here yesterday about eight o'clock,
but seemed very restless, and, on her Avishing
me good-night, I asked her if she were ex-
pecting anybody. She said 'Perhaps.' I
then asked if I should see her as usual this
morning. She said, 'Yes, unless . . , .'
and never finished the sentence. It seems she
went upstairs and kissed Floss over and over
again, and the next I heard of her was Prue
coming round, mad with fear and sorrow,
saying that Mr. La Mert had taken her
away. Now, judging by after events, the
only reasonable supposition is, that the elope-
ment was planned and arranged during that
walk yesterday afternoon."

So fiir. Flora had spoken truth, and Adam,
in spite of his prejudices, had believed her.
But now something of the outraged vanity of
the woman who had been hoodwinked and
.deceived displayed itself

'''He never admired, her," she said; "ho



104 ''CHERRY RIPE r

preferred something niore formed, more fasci-
nating. He will weary of her as he has
wearied of all the rest, and, though he is per-
fectly free, we can scarcely hope that there
w^ill be so respectable an issue to the affair as
that he will marry her !"

''Marry herf said Adam, w^ho stood rigid^
motionless, a grim figure in the midst of the
pretty fripperies of the room ; then he lifted
his clenched right hand to heaven, his hps
moved, he was registering an oath on high.

" She shall never be wife to two men," he
said, " his blood or mine, for on God's earth
we two breathe not toQ*ether . . . ." and
Flora looked, and saw upon his face the look
that they indeed are happy w ho live and die
without beholding — the awful, unappeasable
WTath and hunger for the life of another that,
justified by the old savage, simple creeds of
right and wrong, is sternly righteous and
just, that, measured by the new and paltering"^
creed, is — murder.

Flora neither shrank from him nor blenched^
nay, in that moment she hotly admired this-
hitherto contemned brother as she sat.



HEART. 105.



scarcely daring to breathe, her eyes fixed
upon his face.

The shrift of Phihp La Mert would be
short indeed, she thought, if they were
brouofht face to face while this mood of her
brother's lasted.

'^ Forgive me," he said, " I have wronged
you . . . ." then he left her. And, her
selfish indifference rudely destroyed, she sat,,
the blood cold and sluomsh in her veins,
throuoii the lono^ hours of the nisfht, watchino;
and waiting for she knew not what, listening
for sounds she dared not determine, although
reason and common sense alike told her that
it was not possible that the guilty should be
overtaken, or justice administered that night..




CHAPTER II.

" Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That dost not bite so nigh

As benefits forgot ;
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp

As friend remembered not."




iT Mr. La Mert's club, the name of
which Adam discovered by means
of an old Army List, he was so
fortunate as to be able to obtain that o'entle-
man's present address. A heavy bribe had
somewhat to say to his good luck, also the
chance that he had addressed his inquiries to
the only person who could possibly have an-
swered them ; nevertheless, a fierce throb of
satisfaction at this first slight victory over
•circumstances stirred in his veins as he sped,



HEART, 107



as fast as horse's feet could carry him, along
the way that he had but newly come. For,
on lookino' down at the direction with which
the man had famished him, it had somewhat
surprised him to find that it was a place but
two miles distant from Lilytown. So his Avife's
lover had been living almost at her gates pro-
bablv ever since her marriao-e, as doubtless she
was aware, therefore manifested no surprise
Avhatever on the occasion of meeting him with
Flora in Bushey Park. It had, of a truth,
been for him, then, and not for Muriel, that
she had refused to leave Kosemary and stayed
on there alone : it was that she mii^ht have
opportunities of meeting this man at her
leisure that she had been so anxious for her
husband to depart for the Highlands ; it had
been from fear of the knowledge being com-
municated to him that she had kept the fact
of his neisrhbourhood a secret from even
Prue ; and it had been the knowledge of his
own speedy return that had caused the guilty
pair to hasten the arrangements for their
flight and carry them out on the very eve of
his arrival.



108 ''CHERRY RIPE



He did not expect to find them at this place
— he knew that it was the very last thing likely
or possible — but he hoped to get a trace, a
clue, that might enable him to commence his
pursuit of them in the right direction.

It was close upon midnight when he ar-
rived at one of those low picturesque cottages
by the river that seem peculiar to the banks
of the Thames.

Not a light was visible in the windows —
the household, if any, had evidently retired
to rest ; repeated and loud knocking, how-
ever, presently drew forth a sleepy and re-
luctant personage, half-dressed, who owned
to being the coachman, while his wife, who
followed at her leisure, Avas plainly enough
the cook.

Was Mr. La Mert at home?

No, he was not. Master had left the
preceding day, or rather night, and they
didn't know at all when to expect him
back.

He (the coachman) had driven his master
to Lilytown the preceding evening ?

Ceiiainly, it was his duty to drive Mr. La.



HEART. lOD



Mert when he used his carriage, which wasn't
once in three months.

Where had he di'iven hini after going to
Lilytown \

That was his business. (Hesitation, con-
sequent on a meeting of palms.) Well, master
hadn't given no orders to him to hold his
tongue, and there wasn't much to tell. After
taking up a young lady at Rosemary, he'd
drove to Brentford Station, and then he got
his orders to go home, Avhich he did. Mr.
Coles, Mr. La Mert's man, had accompanied
them as far as Brentford, and had returned
with himself home.

Mr. Montrose would like to see Mr. Coles?
This somewhat doubtfully ; he (the coach-
man) would do his best, but Mr. Coles did
not like beinor disturbed, and he was not in
the best of tempers — and would Mr. Montrose
come in and wait while he went upstairs ?

No, Mr. Montrose would not wait within,
but stood without, apparently as patient as
the steaming horse, or the driver who, with
arms folded on the top of his hansom, slept
with one eye and ear open.



110 " CHERR V RIPE P

It was a long while before Mr. Coles ap-
peared, elegantly arrayed, his whole manner
and air indicative of immense disgust at being
disturbed in his slumbers at such an hour.

He was not without an inkling of the state
of the case, but whereas in all previous affairs
of the kind his master had treated him with
a certain contemptuous confidence, leaving all
minor details to him for arrangement, in tMs
instance the confidential servant Avas as much
in the dark as everybody else, and he re-
sented the lack of information very keenly.
For the first time during the ten years he
had served Mr. La Mert, that gentleman had
elected to manage his own affairs, absolutely
to depart on a journey without him, and the
vanity and the heart of Mr. Coles were alike
insulted and wounded.

He was at first in doubt as to whether
another outraged husband stood before him ;
he had seen a good many first and last, and
knew the manner, the look, even the voice,
by heart. There Avas something unusual
about this one, and Mr. Coles felt his languid
curiosity to be quickened.



HEART. 1 1 r



He could give no further information than
the coachman had done. Luggage % His
master had taken none. And then, utterly
baffled, Adam had asked himself, Were they
all in a conspiracy to deceive him, and did
they withhold from him some knowledge that
would make of his vengeance a sure and
swift certainty, instead of leaving him, blindlv
groping hither and thither, a giant bound
by withies, the forces that should hew down
and destroy poured out like water in th©^
utter negation of impotent helplessness ?

No ; these people were probably speakino-
truth. Was it likely that their master would
wilfully set the pursuer on his track? But as
he drove rapidly away, his clenched hand, all
gashed and bleeding w^itli the force with which
it struck the iron before him, he asked himself
what should be his next step in this thing ?
He must think, he must plot, he must con-
trive, when he was conscious of but one raoino;
thirst, of but one headlong impulse, the thirst
to slay, the madness to overtake, the crying
Tequisition of body and soul that he should
come face to face with this man, who had



112 " CHERRY RIPE /'

taken his hand in friendship, who in the sight
of God had vowed the blackest, most damn-
able He that liar ever took between his hps ;
to find him nou\ with this wicked dehrium
strong upon him, with hand, heart, pm-pose,
all willing and set to the same deed ....
not later, when they had cooled by reflection
or aged by time, but now.

He lifted his bleak face to heaven and cried
aloud that this craving of his heart w^as good
and righteous in God's eyes, and that he
would not dare lift his head again among his
fellows if this thing came to his hand and he
refrained from it — refrained from crushing
the breath out of this man accursed, whose
life had been the scythe before which fell
the sweetest, fairest flowers of youth and in-
nocence, who existed but to destroy, to jdoI-
lute, and to deface, knowing neither ruth nor
pity, and even defying all instincts of nature
in his pursuit of the object of his passion ; for
mio'ht not the heart of a devil, thouixht Adam,
have been satisfied with the ruin of the one
girl without accompliehlng that of the other
young sister-life also ]



HEART. 113



The morning was early yet when he reached
Scotland Yard, and placed in the hands of
the authorities such information as might
lead to the tracing of the steps of the missing
pair.

Having communicated all that w^as neces-
sary, and given a written description of the
personal appearance of both lady and gentle-
man, he proceeded to ask a few questions.

When might news of them be expected ?
What place would be the likeliest in which
to seek them — the Continent or beyond ?

And then his hand had involuntaril}-
closed, and the inspector looking up keenly
at this calm young man, whose flaming eyes
seemed the only living. thing about him, de-
cided that this was the husband, not the
brother, as he had at first supposed, judging
by the age given of the young lady.

*' They have had time to get out of the
country," said the inspector ; 'Mn all pro-
bability they have safely reached the Con-
tinent by now, but by noon to-day (since your
instructions are so liberal) inquiry will be on
their track ; and looking to the peculiar cir-

VOL. III. Ji-S



114 "CHERRY RIPE f

cumstances of the case, the youth of the
lady, the fact that they are Avithout luggage,
and one or two minor things you have men-
tioned, I should say that we shall in all pro-
bability have news of some kind for you
to-morrow. Your present address ?"

" I leave England to-morrow morning,"
said Adam, ''to pursue this search myself.
You will send any infonnation you may ac-
quire to me wherever I may be."

'^ You actually meditate such a wild-goose
chase ?" said the inspector calmly ; ^' then let
me tell you, sir, that you err. You can do
nothing. You run a strong chance of miss-
ing valuable information that might enable
you to overtake them, and you have about
as much chance of finding them as if, to use
a homely comparison, you looked for a needle
in a bundle of hay. If you will remain close
by, within almost instant reach of news, you
w411 then have some reasonable chance of suc-
•cess. There is absolutely nothing for you to
do but to wait."

To wait ! To sit calmly down, for days,
perhaps weeks, with this lust of hatred burn-



HEART. 115

ing out his heart, this undying hunger eating
his life away, to wait .... while they two
went their way, unhindered, unlet .... He
stood i^erfectly still, a short, desperate battle
between passion and reason going forward in
his mind ; then his stiff hand relaxed, his
bent brows straightened.

" I will wait," he said calmly ; and nothing
proved the gigantic strength of this man more
than those three simple w^ords, that with his
blood boiling within him, with each muscle,
nerve, and vein strung to extremest tension
of action, he could elect to calmly sit down —
and wait.

To wait until a messenofer should come to
him, when he would rise up and go his way,
and do that w^hich he had set to his own
right hand, neither hasting nor faltering, but
knomnef what Vv^ould be at the end of hi.s



'to



journey — and prepared.



All that day he sat alone in his deserted
house, and none came to, or disturbed him,
for none durst, until night fell, and brought
to him — Colin,

48—2



116 " CHERRY RIPE /"

What comfort could this poor fellow offer,
what words of healing could he speak, to a
man who uttered no railings against Heaven,
spoke no word of complaint, but just sat
grimly waiting there until the summons
should come that would take him straight
into the presence of his wife's destroyer ?

The simple words of love and sorrow that
he had been, about to speak died upon his
lips ; in the intensity of this man's absorption
Colin felt himself to be blotted out and swept
aside, and not possessing the presumption of
those little souls who are abashed at nothing,
he was fain to stand silent, though perhaps
that unspoken language of love which can
convey itself without words unconsciously
reached and soothed the lonely, stricken
heart of the silent watcher.

Importuned and wearied by Flora to take
her away out of all this wretchedness and
discomfort, for the breath of tragedy sickened
her small soul, and she was really afraid of
what Adam might do in his haste, she carried
her point so far that on the next morning but
one the Dundases set out for Glen-luce.



HEART. 117



'' For God's sake/' Adam had said when
his hand met Cohn's in a farewell grasp,
^'keep my father away — and don't comeback,
old fellow; you can't help me, no one can
do anv o-ood " — and then the two men had
looked hard in each other's faces, as not
knowing how long a farewell they might be
taking of each other, and Adam was left in
unbroken silence till the end.

At intervals food was brought and set
before him ; it remained for the most part
untouched, but now and again he took and
ate sparingly, as one who knows that all his
strength will be required in the days that
are coming.

Prue ventured not into his presence, the
weight of his unspoken condemnation lay
heav^ upon her ; yet keener even yet
was her sense of personal loss, and, like a
lioness robbed of her whelps, she wandered
up and down the house and garden, rest-
ing neither by night nor day, fiercely longing
to set out in search of her mistress, yet held
inactive by the same inexorable necessity that
rendered her master powerless, looking out



118 "'CHERRl



with eyes weary througli watching, for the
letter or message that her httle mistress had
promised with her parting words to send.

It seemed to be the girFs unhappy lot to
age and wither all those who loved her best,
and this poor faithful serving-woman lost all
her comely look of second youth, and grew
quite grey and middle-aged, in the days that
followed immediately on Mignon's departure.

All through the long hours of the day and
night the master sat, moving neither hand
nor foot, and waited, and endured.

There are men who, when a great calamity
overtakes them, are able in a measure to pass
it off in phihppics against fate, in fury against
the cause of their punishment, in loud-voiced
floods of lamentation, that washes away a
large portion of the burden imposed upon
them ; there are others who make no effort
to shift or remove it, who, whether it crush
them or no, accept it in all its utter dead
weight, and, sitting passively down, endure
it. And even as there are men that in their
hour of supreme agony are capable of re-
ceiving comfort and support from the hand



HEART. 119



of a friend, so there are others, the mighty of
heart and strong of Avill, who, when God's
hand hes heav}^ upon them, are absolutely
alone ; into whose intense isolation of soul no
man or woman can enter, and to whom the
combined sympathy and love of the people
they value most on earth is idle and worth-
less as the breath of summer wind that
caresses the summit of a lofty rock.

It was Avith Adam as with these latter : a
curse had fallen upon him from heaven, he
desired the help of no man to enable him to
bear it ; full front he sat down with his ruin
and disgrace, and abated no jot of its magni-
tude to his conscience.

It has been said that " Personality, as the
universal characteristic of man, advances to
the phenomenal in the form of individuality."
Now individuality is prone to get its owner
into trouble, since the laws of human nature
forbid the exaggeration of any of its charac-
teristics without incurring the penalty of
danger.

Thus, Adam's dogged determination, that
in its higher fonn is strength of mind, in its



120 ''CHERRY RIPE



lower profound and wrong-headed obstinacy,
was, backed by his intense individuahty, Hkely
to hurry him into the error of arrogating to
himself the sole right of the Creator, and of
charging his soul with the sin of bloodshed.

A weaker man had been cowed by his
punishment; this one rose above and mas-
tered it, nor reckoned his life over because he
had gotten a bad blow ; rather he dared to
look forward to the time when, his vengeance
taken, he would map his future out and do
o'ood work in it, findino- in the fruits of am-
bition joys even greater than had been denied
to him by love.

So he thouo'ht in his io-norance, not know-
ing that as yet between him and his calamity
was reared a high wall, that one breath of
human pity, one touch of nature sweeping
across his soul, should cause to fall in ruins
about him. For the shame of this thino^ that
had befallen him had not yet come home to
him; the intense, creeping shame of body even
more than of mind, that is that man's portion
whose wife has dishonoured him in the flesh,
had not once run hke madness throusrh his



HEART. 121



veins ; hitherto, indeed, he had not once
thought of the woman Avho had betrayed him.

He had spoken of her, he had provided
against her, had acknowledged her existence
to himself by so doing, but she had not once
been consciously present to his mind or eyes.

As an incarnate wrong, as an embodiment
of shame, she found part in his outlook ; but
as the living, breathing, winsome maiden
whom he had loved and married, he knew
her not, nor would she ever again be before
him in the old familiar guise until the death-
throes of his love for her were upon him,
until he took his last gaze upon her ere
closing the coffin-lid of memory upon her for
ever.

About the middle of the third day, the
purely physical hunger to overtake Philip La
Mert that had devoured him departed, his
eyes were no longer dim with blood and
passion, his pulses beat more slowly, and in
his veins the liquid fire slackened, and grew
chill ; yet now that the fever had left him,
that he was able to see with the eyes of
.reason, his judgment deliberately ratified



122 ''CHERRY RIPE!



the decision at which his heart had arrived.
And if the immediate passionate desire for
his enemy's hfe had grown fainter, less
urgent, it Avas but the liquid metal trans-
formed into a hard resisting mass, even more
terrible than the other in its solid streno^th.

If his landscape no longer contained out of
all the world but two figures, Philip La Mert's
and his own ; if he were able to look ahead
and see aught but the one picture stamped
upon his brain, of they two face to face, with
death for the portion of the one or the other,
it was not because the picture was any the


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