James De Mille.

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Produced by Marlo Dianne




[Illustration: "These Are My Dearest Children."]




THE
CRYPTOGRAM.


A Novel.


By James De Mille,

Author of
"The Dodge Club," "Cord and Creese," "The American Baron," etc.


WITH ILLUSTRATIONS




New York:
Harper & Brothers, Publishers,
Franklin Square.
1872




CHAPTER I.


TWO OLD FRIENDS.


Chetwynde Castle was a large baronial mansion, belonging to the
Plantagenet period, and situated in Monmouthshire. It was a grand old
place, with dark towers, and turrets, and gloomy walls surmounted
with battlements, half of which had long since tumbled down, while
the other half seemed tottering to ruin. That menacing ruin was on
one side of the structure concealed beneath a growth of ivy, which
contrasted the dark green of its leaves with the sombre hue of the
ancient stones. Time with its defacing fingers had only lent
additional grandeur to this venerable pile. As it rose there - "standing
with half its battlements alone, and with five hundred years
of ivy grown" - its picturesque magnificence and its air of hoar
antiquity made it one of the noblest monuments of the past which
England could show.

All its surroundings were in keeping with the central object. Here
were no neat paths, no well-kept avenues, no trim lawns. On the
contrary, every thing bore the unmistakable marks of neglect and
decay; the walks were overgrown, the terraces dilapidated, and the
rose pleasaunce had degenerated into a tangled mass of bushes and
briers. It seemed as though the whole domain were about to revert
into its original state of nature; and every thing spoke either of
the absence of a master, or else of something more important
still - the absence of money.

The castle stood on slightly elevated ground; and from its gray stone
ivy-covered portal so magnificent was the view that the most careless
observer would be attracted by it, and stand wonder-struck at the
beauty of the scene, till he forgot in the glories of nature the
deficiencies of art. Below, and not far away, flowed the silvery Wye,
most charming of English streams, winding tortuously through fertile
meadows and wooded copses; farther off lay fruitful vales and rolling
hills; while in the distance the prospect was bounded by the giant
forms of the Welsh mountains.

At the moment when this story opens these beauties were but faintly
visible through the fast-fading twilight of a summer evening; the
shadows were rapidly deepening; and the only signs of life about the
place appeared where from some of the windows at the eastern end
faint rays of light stole out into the gloom.

The interior of the castle corresponded with the exterior in
magnificence and in ruin - in its picturesque commingling of splendor
and decay. The hall was hung with arms and armor of past generations,
and ornamented with stags' heads, antlers, and other trophies of the
chase; but rust, and mould, and dust covered them all. Throughout the
house a large number of rooms were empty, and the whole western end
was unfurnished. In the furnished rooms at the eastern end every
thing belonged to a past generation, and all the massive and
antiquated furniture bore painful marks of poverty and neglect. Time
was every where asserting his power, and nowhere was any resistance
made to his ravages. Some comfort, however, was still to be found in
the old place. There were rooms which were as yet free from the
general touch of desolation. Among these was the dining-room, where
at this time the heavy curtains were drawn, the lamps shone out
cheerily, and, early June though it was, a bright wood-fire blazed on
the ample hearth, lighting up with a ruddy glow the heavy panelings
and the time-worn tapestries. Dinner was just over, the dessert was
on the table, and two gentlemen were sitting over their wine - though
this is to be taken rather in a figurative sense, for their
conversation was so engrossing as to make them oblivious of even the
charms of the old ancestral port of rare vintage which Lord Chetwynde
had produced to do honor to his guest. Nor is this to be wondered at.
Friends of boyhood and early manhood, sharers long ago in each
other's hopes and aspirations, they had parted last when youth and
ambition were both at their height. Now, after the lapse of years,
wayworn and weary from the strife, they had met again to recount how
those hopes had been fulfilled.

The two men were of distinguished appearance. Lord Chetwynde was of
about the medium size, with slight figure, and pale, aristocratic
face. His hair was silver-white, his features were delicately
chiseled, but wore habitually a sad and anxious expression. His whole
physique betokened a nature of extreme refinement and sensibility,
rather than force or strength of character. His companion, General
Pomeroy, was a man of different stamp. He was tall, with a high
receding brow, hair longer than is common with soldiers; thin lips,
which spoke of resolution, around which, however, there always dwelt
as he spoke a smile of inexpressible sweetness. He had a long nose,
and large eyes that lighted up with every varying feeling. There was
in his face both resolution and kindliness, each in extreme, as
though he could remorselessly take vengeance on an enemy or lay down
his life for a friend.

As long as the servants were present the conversation, animated
though it was, referred to topics of a general character; but as soon
as they had left the room the two friends began to refer more
confidentially to the past.

"You have lived so very secluded a life," said General Pomeroy, "that
it is only at rare intervals that I have heard any thing of you, and
that was hardly more than the fact that you were alive. You were
always rather reserved and secluded, you know; you hated, like
Horace, the _profanum vulgus_, and held yourself aloof from them, and
so I suppose you would not go into political life. Well, I don't know
but that, after all, you were right."

"My dear Pomeroy," said Lord Chetwynde, leaning back in his chair,
"my circumstances have been such that entrance into political life
has scarcely ever depended on my own choice. My position has been so
peculiar that it has hardly ever been possible for me to obtain
advancement in the common ways, even if I had desired it. I dare say,
If I had been inordinately ambitious, I might have done something;
but, as it was, I have done nothing. You see me just about where I
was when we parted, I don't know how many years ago."

"Well, at any rate," said the General, "you have been spared the
trouble of a career of ambition. You have lived here quietly on your
own place, and I dare say you have had far more real happiness than
you would otherwise have had."

"Happiness!" repeated Lord Chetwynde, in a mournful tone. He leaned
his head on his hand for a few moments, and said nothing. At last he
looked up and said, with a bitter smile:

"The story of my life is soon told. Two words will embody it
all - disappointment and failure."

General Pomeroy regarded his friend earnestly for a few moments, and
then looked away without speaking.

"My troubles began from the very first," continued Lord Chetwynde, in
a musing tone, which seemed more like a soliloquy than any thing
else. "There was the estate, saddled with debt handed down from my
grandfather to my father. It would have required years of economy and
good management to free it from encumbrance. But my father's motto
was always _Dum vivimus vivamus_ and his only idea was to get what
money he could for himself, and let his heirs look out for
themselves. In consequence, heavier mortgages were added. He lived in
Paris, enjoying himself, and left Chetwynde in charge of a factor,
whose chief idea was to feather his own nest. So he let every thing
go to decay, and oppressed the tenants in order to collect money for
my father, and prevent his coming home to see the ruin that was going
on. You may not have known this before. I did not until after our
separation, when it all came upon me at once. My father wanted me to
join him in breaking the entail. Overwhelmed by such a calamity, and
indignant with him, I refused to comply with his wishes. We
quarreled. He went back to Paris, and I never saw him again.

"After his death my only idea was to clear away the debt, improve the
condition of the tenants, and restore Chetwynde to its former
condition. How that hope has been realized you have only to look
around you and see. But at that time my hope was strong. I went up to
London, where my name and the influence of my friends enabled me to
enter into public life. You were somewhere in England then, and I
often used to wonder why I never saw you. You must have been in
London. I once saw your name in an army list among the officers of a
regiment stationed there. At any rate I worked hard, and at first all
my prospects were bright, and I felt confident in my future.

"Well, about that time I got married, trusting to my prospects. She
was of as good a family as mine, but had no money."

Lord Chetwynde's tone as he spoke about his marriage had suddenly
changed. It seemed as though he spoke with an effort. He stopped for
a time, and slowly drank a glass of wine. "She married me," he
continued, in an icy tone, "for my prospects. Sometimes you know it
is very safe to marry on prospects. A rising young statesman is often
a far better match than a dissipated man of fortune. Some mothers
know this; my wife's mother thought me a good match, and my wife
thought so too. I loved her very dearly, or I would not have
married - though I don't know, either: people often marry in a whim."

General Pomeroy had thus far been gazing fixedly at the opposite
wall, but now he looked earnestly at his friend, whose eyes were
downcast while he spoke, and showed a deeper attention.

"My office," said Lord Chetwynde, "was a lucrative one, so that I was
able to surround my bride with every comfort; and the bright
prospects which lay before me made me certain about my future. After
a time, however, difficulties arose. You are aware that the chief
point in my religion is Honor. It is my nature, and was taught me by
my mother. Our family motto is, _Noblesse oblige_, and the full
meaning of this great maxim my mother had instilled into every fibre
of my being. But on going into the world I found it ridiculed among
my own class as obsolete and exploded. Every where it seemed to have
given way to the mean doctrine of expediency. My sentiments were
gayly ridiculed, and I soon began to fear that I was not suited for
political life.

"At length a crisis arrived. I had either to sacrifice my conscience
or resign my position. I chose the latter alternative, and in doing
so I gave up my political life forever. I need not tell the
bitterness of my disappointment. But the loss of worldly prospects
and of hope was as nothing compared with other things. The worst of
all was the reception which I met at home. My young, and as I
supposed loving wife, to whom I went at once with my story, and from
whom I expected the warmest sympathy, greeted me with nothing but
tears and reproaches. She could only look upon my act with the
world's eyes. She called it ridiculous Quixotism. She charged me with
want of affection; denounced me for beguiling her to marry a pauper;
and after a painful interview we parted in coldness."

Lord Chetwynde, whose agitation was now evident, here paused and
drank another glass of wine. After some time he went on:

"After all, it was not so bad. I soon found employment. I had made
many powerful friends, who, though they laughed at my scruples, still
seemed to respect my consistency, and had confidence in my ability.
Through them I obtained a new appointment where I could be more
independent, though the prospects were poor. Here I might have been
happy, had it not been for the continued alienation between my wife
and me. She had been ambitions. She had relied on my future. She was
now angry because I had thrown that future away. It was a death-blow
to her hopes, and she could not forgive me. We lived in the same
house, but I knew nothing of her occupations and amusements. She went
much into society, where she was greatly admired, and seemed to be
neglectful of her home and of her child. I bore my misery as best I
could in silence, and never so much as dreamed of the tremendous
catastrophe in which it was about to terminate."

Lord Chetwynde paused, and seemed overcome by his recollections.

"You have heard of it, I suppose?" he asked at length, in a scarce
audible voice.

The General looked at him, and for a moment their eyes met; then he
looked away. Then he shaded his eyes with his hand and sat as though
awaiting further revelations.

Lord Chetwynde did not seem to notice him at all. Intent upon his own
thoughts, he went on in that strange soliloquizing tone with which he
had begun.

"She fled - " he said, in a voice which was little more than a
whisper.

"Heavens!" said General Pomeroy.

There was a long silence.

"It was about three years after our marriage," continued Lord
Chetwynde, with an effort. "She fled. She left no word of farewell.
She fled. She forsook me. She forsook her child. My God! Why?"

He was silent again.

"Who was the man?" asked the General, in a strange voice, and with an
effort.

"He was known as Redfield Lyttoun. He had been devoted for a long
time to my wretched wife. Their flight was so secret and so
skillfully managed that I could gain no clew whatever to it - and,
indeed, it was better so - perhaps - yes - better so." Lord Chetwynde
drew a long breath. "Yes, better so," he continued - "for if I had
been able to track the scoundrel and take his life, my vengeance
would have been gained, but my dishonor would have been proclaimed.
To me that dishonor would have brought no additional pang. I had
suffered all that I could. More were impossible; but as it was my
shame was not made public - and so, above all - above all - my boy was
saved. The frightful scandal did not arise to crush my darling boy."

The agitation of Lord Chetwynde overpowered him. His face grew more
pallid, his eyes were fixed, and his clenched hands testified to the
struggle that raged within him. A long silence followed, during which
neither spoke a word.

At length Lord Chetwynde went on. "I left London forever," said he,
with a deep sigh.

"After that my one desire was to hide myself from the world. I wished
that if it were possible my very name might be forgotten. And so I
came back to Chetwynde, where I have lived ever since, in the utmost
seclusion, devoting myself entirely to the education and training of
my boy.

"Ah, my old friend, that boy has proved the one solace of my life.
Well has he repaid me for my care. Never was there a nobler or
a more devoted nature than his. Forgive a father's emotion, my
friend. If you but knew my noble, my brave, my chivalrous boy, you
would excuse me. That boy would lay down his life for me. In all his
life his one thought has been to spare me all trouble and to brighten
my dark life. Poor Guy! He knows nothing of the horror of shame that
hangs over him - he has found out nothing as yet. To him his mother is
a holy thought - the thought of one who died long ago, whose memory he
thinks so sacred to me that I dare not speak of her. Poor Guy! Poor
Guy!"

Lord Chetwynde again paused, overcome by deep emotion. "God only
knows," he resumed, "how I feel for him and for his future. It's a
dark future for him, my friend. For in addition to this grief which I
have told you of there is another which weighs me down. Chetwynde is
not yet redeemed. I lost my life and my chance to save the estate.
Chetwynde is overwhelmed with debt. The time is daily drawing near
when I will have to give up the inheritance which has come down
through so long a line of ancestors. All is lost. Hope itself has
departed. How can I bear to see the place pass into alien hands?"

"Pass into alien hands?" interrupted the General, in surprise. "Give
up Chetwynde? Impossible! It can not be thought of."

"Sad as it is," replied Lord Chetwynde, mournfully, "it must be so.
Sixty thousand pounds are due within two years. Unless I can raise
that amount all must go. When Guy comes of age he must break the
entail and sell the estate. It is just beginning to pay again, too,"
he added, regretfully. "When I came into it it was utterly
impoverished, and every available stick of timber had been cut down;
but my expenses have been very small, and if I have fulfilled no
other hope of my life, I have at least done something for my
ground-down tenantry; for every which I have saved, after paying
the interest, I have spent on improving their homes and farms, so
that the place is now in very good condition, though I have been
obliged to leave the pleasure-grounds utterly neglected."

"What are you going to do with your son?" asked the General.

"I have just got him a commission in the army," said Lord Chetwynde.
"Some old friends, who had actually remembered me all these years,
offered to do something for me in the diplomacy line; but if he
entered that life I should feel that all the world was pointing the
finger of scorn at him for his mother's sake; besides, my boy is too
honest for a diplomat. No - he must go and make his own fortune. A
viscount with neither money, land, nor position - the only place for
him is the army."

A long silence followed. Lord Chetwynde seemed to lose himself among
those painful recollections which he had raised, while the General,
falling into a profound abstraction, sat with his head on one hand,
while the other drummed mechanically on the table. As much as half an
hour passed away in this manner. The General was first to rouse
himself.

"I arrived in England only a few months ago," he began, in a quiet,
thoughtful tone. "My life has been one of strange vicissitudes. My
own country is almost like a foreign land to me. As soon as I could
get Pomeroy Court in order I determined to visit you. This visit was
partly for the sake of seeing you, and partly for the sake of asking
a great favor. What you have just been saying has suggested a new
idea, which I think may be carried out for the benefit of both of us.
You must know, in the first place, I have brought my little daughter
home with me. In fact, it was for her sake that I came home - "

"You were married, then?"

"Yes, in India. You lost sight of me early in life, and so perhaps
you do not know that I exchanged from the Queen's service to that of
the East India Company. This step I never regretted. My promotion was
rapid, and after a year or two I obtained a civil appointment. From
this I rose to a higher office; and after ten or twelve years the
Company recommended me as Governor in one of the provinces of the
Bengal Presidency. It was here that I found my sweet wife.

"It is a strange story," said the General, with a long sigh. "She
came suddenly upon me, and changed all my life. Thus far I had so
devoted myself to business that no idea of love or sentiment ever
entered my head, except when I was a boy. I had reached the age of
forty-five without having hardly ever met with any woman who had
touched my heart, or even my head, for that matter.

"My first sight of her was most sudden and most strange," continued
the General, in the tone of one who loved to linger upon even the
smallest details of the story which he was telling - "strange and
sudden. I had been busy all day in the audience chamber, and when at
length the cases were all disposed of, I retired thoroughly
exhausted, and gave orders that no one should be admitted on any
pretext whatever. On passing through the halls to my private
apartment I heard an altercation at the door. My orderly was speaking
in a very decided tone to some one.

"'It is impossible,' I heard him say. 'His Excellency has given
positive orders to admit no one to-day.'

"I walked on, paying but little heed to this. Applications were
common after hours, and my rules on this point were stringent. But
suddenly my attention was arrested by the sound of a woman's voice.
It affected me strangely, Chetwynde. The tones were sweet and low,
and there was an agony of supplication in them which lent additional
earnestness to her words.

"'Oh, do not refuse me!' the voice said. 'They say the Resident is
just and merciful. Let me see him, I entreat, if only for one
moment.'

"At these words I turned, and at once hastened to the door. A young
girl stood there, with her hands clasped, and in an attitude of
earnest entreaty. She had evidently come closely veiled, but in her
excitement her veil had been thrown back, and her upturned face lent
an unspeakable earnestness to her pleading. At the sight of her I was
filled with the deepest sympathy.

"'I am the Resident,' said I. 'What can I do for you?'

"She looked at me earnestly, and for a time said nothing. A change
came over her face. Her troubles seemed to have overwhelmed her. She
tottered, and would have fallen, had I not supported her. I led her
into the house, and sent for some wine. This restored her.

"She was the most beautiful creature that I ever beheld," continued
the General, in a pensive tone, after some silence. "She was tall and
slight, with all that litheness and grace of movement which is
peculiar to Indian women, and yet she seemed more European than
Indian. Her face was small and oval, her hair hung round it in rich
masses, and her eyes were large, deep, and liquid, and, in addition
to their natural beauty, they bore that sad expression which, it is
said, is the sure precursor of an early death. Thank God!" continued
the General, in a musing tone, "I at least did something to brighten
that short life of hers.

"As soon as she was sufficiently recovered she told her story. It was
a strange one. She was the daughter of an English officer, who having
fallen in love with an Indian Begum gave up home, country, and
friends, and married her. Their daughter Arauna had been brought up
in the European manner, and to the warm, passionate, Indian nature
she added the refined intelligence of the English lady. When she was
fourteen her father died. Her mother followed in a few years. Of her
father's friends she knew nothing, and her mother's brother, who was
the Rajah of a distant province, was the only one on whom she could
rely. Her mother while dying charged her always to remember that she
was the daughter of a British officer, and that if she were ever in
need of protection she should demand it of the English authorities.
After her mother's death the Rajah took her away, and assumed the
control of all her inheritance. At the age of eighteen she was to
come into possession, and as the time drew near the Rajah informed
her that he wished her to marry his son. But this son was detestable
to her, and to her English ideas the proposal was abhorrent. She
refused to marry him. The Rajah swore that she should. At this she
threatened that she would claim the protection of the British
government. Fearful of this, and enraged at her firmness, he confined
her in her rooms for several months, and at length threatened that if
she did not consent he would use force. This threat reduced her to
despair. She determined to escape and appeal to the British
authorities. She bribed her attendants, escaped, and by good fortune
reached my Residency.

"On hearing her story I promised that full justice should be done
her, and succeeded in quieting her fears. I obtained a suitable home
for her, and found the widow of an English officer who consented to
live with her.

"Ah, Chetwynde, how I loved her! A year passed away, and she became
my wife. Never before had I known such happiness as I enjoyed with
her. Never since have I known any happiness whatever. She loved me
with such devotion that she would have laid down her life for me. She
looked on me as her savior as well as her husband. My happiness was
too great to last.

"I felt it - I knew it," he continued, in a broken voice. "Two years
my darling lived with me, and then - she was taken away.

"I was ill for a long time," continued the General, in a gentle
voice. "I prayed for death, but God spared me for my child's sake. I
recovered sufficiently to attend to the duties of my office, but it
was with difficulty that I did so. I never regained my former
strength. My child grew older, and at length I determined to return
to England. I have come here to find all my relatives dead, and you,
the old friend of my boyhood, are the only survivor. One thing there
is, however, that imbitters my situation now. My health is still very



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