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POPULAR NOVELS.
BY MAY AGNES FLEMING.

1. - GUY EARLSCOURT'S WIFE.
2. - A WONDERFUL WOMAN.
3. - A TERRIBLE SECRET.
4. - NORINE'S REVENGE.
5. - A MAD MARRIAGE.
6. - ONE NIGHT'S MYSTERY.
7. - KATE DANTON.
8. - SILENT AND TRUE.
9. - HEIR OF CHARLTON.
10. - CARRIED BY STORM.
11. - LOST FOR A WOMAN.
12. - A WIFE'S TRAGEDY.
13. - A CHANGED HEART.
14. - PRIDE AND PASSION.
15. - SHARING HER CRIME (_New_).


"Mrs. Fleming's stories are growing more and more popular every day.
Their delineations of character, life-like conversations, flashes of
wit, constantly varying scenes, and deeply interesting plots,
combine to place their author in the very first rank of Modern
Novelists."


All published uniform with this volume. Price, $1.50
each, and sent _free_ by mail on receipt of price,

BY
G. W. CARLETON & CO., Publishers,
New York.




SHARING
HER CRIME.

A Novel.

BY
MAY AGNES FLEMING,

AUTHOR OF

"GUY EARLSCOURT'S WIFE," "A TERRIBLE SECRET," "SILENT AND TRUE,"
"A WONDERFUL WOMAN," "LOST FOR A WOMAN,"
"ONE NIGHT'S MYSTERY," "A MAD MARRIAGE,"
ETC., ETC.

"A perfect woman, nobly planned,
To warn, to comfort, and command;
And yet a spirit still and bright,
With something of an angel light."


NEW YORK: Copyright, 1882, by
_G. W. Carleton & Co., Publishers_.

LONDON: S. LOW & CO.
MDCCCLXXXIII.


Stereotyped by
SAMUEL STODDER,
90 ANN STREET, N. Y.

TROW
PRINTING AND BOOK BINDING CO.,
N. Y.





CONTENTS.


CHAPTER PAGE

I. The Plotters 7

II. The Death of Esther 18

III. The Astrologer 24

IV. Barry Oranmore 29

V. Mount Sunset Hall 37

VI. Lizzie's Lover 49

VII. The Cypress Wreath 62

VIII. Gipsy 70

IX. A Storm at Mount Sunset Hall 82

X. Miss Hagar 91

XI. Gipsy Outwits the Squire 101

XII. The Tigress and the Dove 109

XIII. Gipsy Astonishes the Natives 119

XIV. The Moonlight Flitting 130

XV. The "Star of the Valley." 139

XVI. Our Gipsy 150

XVII. Gipsy's Return to Sunset Hall 158

XVIII. Archie 169

XIX. Gipsy's Daring 182

XX. The Sailor Boy's Doom 191

XXI. The Spider Weaves his Web 204

XXII. Fetters for the Eaglet 215

XXIII. The Bird Caged 222

XXIV. May and December 235

XXV. Archie's Lost Love 246

XXVI. Louis 254

XXVII. Love at First Sight 267

XXVIII. "The Old, Old Story." 277

XXIX. The Rivals 287

XXX. Gipsy Hunts New Game 296

XXXI. Celeste's Trial 306

XXXII. "The Queen of Song." 318

XXXIII. A Startling Discovery 328

XXXIV. Light in the Darkness 334

XXXV. The Death-bed Confession 341

XXXVI. Retribution 351

XXXVII. Another Surprise 357

XXXVIII. The Heiress of Sunset Hall 364

XXXIX. "Last Scene of All." 373





SHARING HER CRIME.




CHAPTER I.

THE PLOTTERS.


"'Tis a woman hard of feature,
Old, and void of all good nature.
'Tis an ugly, envious shrew,
Railing forever at me and you." - POPE.

It was Christmas Eve. All day long crowds of gayly dressed people had
walked the streets, basking in the bright wintry sunshine. Sleigh after
sleigh went dashing past, with merrily jingling bells, freighted with
rosy cheeks, and bright eyes, and youthful faces, all aglow with
happiness.

But the sun must set on Christmas Eve, as on all other days; and redly,
threateningly, angrily, he sank down in the far west. Dark, sullen
clouds came rolling ominously over the heavens; the wind blew piercingly
cold, accompanied with a thin, drizzling rain that froze ere it fell.

Gradually the streets were deserted as the storm increased in fury; but
the Yule logs were piled high, the curtains drawn, and every house,
_save one_, in the handsome street to which my story leads me, was all
aglow, all ablaze with light.

In a lull of the storm the sounds of music and merry-making would rise
and swell on the air, as light feet tripped merrily amid the mazes of
the dance; or a silvery peal of laughter would break easily on the
wayfarer's ear. The reflection of the light through the crimson curtains
shed a warm, rosy glow over the snowy ground, brightening the gloom of
that stormy winter's night.

But rising dark, grim, and gloomy amid those gayly lighted mansions,
stood a large, quaint building of dark-red sandstone. It stood by
itself, spectral, shadowy, and grand. No ray of light came from the
gloomy windows that seemed to be hermetically sealed. All around was
stern, black, and forbidding.

And yet - yes, from one solitary window there _did_ stream a long, thin
line of light. But even this did not look bright and cheerful like the
rest; it had a cold, yellowish glare, making the utter blackness of the
rest of the mansion blacker still by contrast.

The room from which the light issued was high and lofty. The uncarpeted
floor was of black polished oak, as also were the wainscoting and
mantel. The walls were covered with landscape paper, representing the
hideous Dance of Death, in all its variety of frightful forms. The high
windows were hung with heavy green damask, now black with dirt and age.
A large circular table of black marble stood in one shadowy corner, and
a dark, hard sofa, so long and black that it resembled a coffin, stood
in the other.

A smoldering sea-coal fire, the only cheerful thing in that gloomy room,
struggled for life in the wide, yawning chimney. Now it would die away,
enveloping the apartment in gloom, and anon flame fitfully up, until the
ghostly shadows on the wall would seem like a train of ghastly specters
flitting by in the darkness. The elm trees in front of the house trailed
their long arms against the window with a sound inexpressibly dreary;
and the driving hail beat clamorously, as if for admittance.

On either side of the fire-place stood two large easy-chairs, cushioned
with deep crimson velvet. In these, facing each other, sat two
persons - a man and a woman - the only occupants of the room.

The woman was tall, straight, and stiff, and seemingly about fifty years
of age. Her dress was a rustling black satin, with a small crape
handkerchief fastened on her bosom with a magnificent diamond pin. Her
hands, still small and white, were flashing with jewels as they lay
quietly folded in her lap. A widow's cap rested on her head, which was
alternately streaked with gray and jet. But her face - so stern, so
rigid, no one could look upon it without a feeling of fear. The lips - so
thin that she seemed to have no lips at all - were compressed with a look
of unswerving determination. Her forehead was low and retreating, with
thick black eyebrows meeting across the long, sharp nose, with a look at
once haughty and sinister. And from under those midnight brows glittered
and gleamed a pair of eyes so small, so sharp and keen - with such a look
of cold, searching, _steely_ brightness - that the boldest gaze might
well quail before them. On that grim, hard face no trace of womanly
feeling seemed ever to have lingered - all was stern, harsh, and
freezingly cold. She sat rigidly erect in her chair, with her
needle-like eyes riveted immovably on the face of her companion, who
shifted with evident uneasiness beneath her uncompromising stare.

He was a man of forty, or thereabouts, so small of stature that,
standing side by side, he could scarcely have reached the woman's
shoulder. But, notwithstanding his diminutive size, his limbs were
disproportionately large for his body, giving him the appearance of
being all legs and arms. His little, round bullet-head was set on a
prodigiously thick, bull-like neck; and his hair, short, and bristling
up over his head, gave him very much the look of the sun, as pictured in
the almanacs.

This prepossessing gentleman was arrayed in an immaculate suit of black,
with a spotless white dickey, bristling with starch and dignity, and a
most excruciating cravat. Half a dozen rings garnished his claw-like
hands, and a prodigious quantity of watch-chain dangled from his vest.
The worthy twain were engaged in deep and earnest conversation.

"Well, doctor," said the lady, in a cold, measured tone, that was
evidently habitual, "no doubt you are wondering why I sent for you in
such haste to-night."

"I never wonder, madam," said the doctor, in a pompous tone - which,
considering his size, was quite imposing. "No doubt you have some
excellent reason for sending for me, which, if necessary for me to know,
you will explain."

"You are right, doctor," said the lady, with a grim sort of smile. "I
_have_ an excellent reason for sending for you. You are fond of money, I
know."

"Why, madam, although it is the root of all evil - - "

"Tush, man! There is no need for Satan to quote Scripture just now," she
interrupted with a sneer. "Say, doctor, what would you do to earn five
hundred dollars to-night?"

"Five hundred dollars?" said the doctor, his small eyes sparkling, while
a gleam of satisfaction lighted up his withered face.

"Yes," said the lady, "and if well done, I may double the sum. What
would you do for such a price?"

"Rather ask me what I would _not_ do."

"Well, the job is an easy one. 'Tis but to - - "

She paused, and fixed her eyes on his face with such a wild sort of
gleam that, involuntarily, he quailed before her.

"Pray go on, madam. I'm all attention," he said, almost fearing to break
the dismal silence. "'Tis but to - _what_?"

"Make away with - a woman and child!"

"Murder them?" said the doctor, involuntarily recoiling.

"Do not use that word!" she said, sharply. "Coward! do you really blanch
and draw back! Methought one of your profession would not hesitate to
send a patient to heaven."

"But, madam," said the startled doctor, "you know the penalty which the
law awards for murder."

"Oh, I perceive," said the woman, scornfully, "it is not the crime you
are thinking of, but your own precious neck. Fear not, my good friend;
there is no danger of its ever being discovered."

"But, my _dear_ madam," said the doctor, glancing uneasily at the stern,
bitter face before him, "I have not the nerve, the strength, nor
the - - "

"_Courage!_" she broke in, passionately. "Oh, craven - weak,
chicken-hearted, miserable craven! Go, then - leave me, and I will do it
myself. You dare not betray me - you _could_ not without bringing your
neck to the halter - so I fear you not. Oh, coward! coward! why did not
heaven make _me_ a man?"

In her fierce outburst of passion she arose to her feet, and her tall
figure loomed up like some unnaturally large, dark shadow. The man
quailed in fear before her.

"Go!" she said, fiercely, pointing to the door, "You have refused to
_share my crime_. Go! poor cowardly poltroon! but remember, Madge
Oranmore never forgives nor forgets!"

"But, my dear Mrs. Oranmore, just listen to me one moment," said the
doctor, alarmed by this threat. "I have not refused, I only objected. If
you will have the goodness to explain - to tell me what I must do, I
will - see about it."

"See about it!" hastily interrupted the lady. "You _can_ do it - it is in
your power; and yes, or no, must be your answer, immediately."

"But - - "

"No buts, sir. I will not have them. If you answer yes, one thousand
dollars and my future patronage shall be yours. If you say no, yonder is
the door; and once you have crossed the threshold, beware! Now, Doctor
Wiseman, I await your reply."

She seated herself again in her chair; and, folding her hands in her
lap, fixed her hawk-like eyes on his face, with her keen, searching
gaze. His eyes were bent in troubled thought on the floor. Not that the
crime appalled him; but if detected - _that_ was the rub. Doctor Wiseman
was, as his name implies, a man of sense, with an exceedingly
accommodating conscience, that would stretch _ad libitum_, and never
troubled him with any such nonsense as remorse. But if it were
discovered! With rather unpleasant vividness, the vision of a hangman
and halter arose before him, and he involuntarily loosened his cravat.
Still, one thousand dollars _were_ tempting. Doctor Nicholas Wiseman had
never been so perplexed in his life.

"Well, doctor, well," impatiently broke in the lady, "have you
decided - _yes_ or _no_?"

"Yes," said the doctor, driven to desperation by her sneering tone.

"'Tis well," she replied, with a mocking smile, "I knew you were too
sensible a man to refuse. After all, 'tis but a moment's work, and all
is over."

"Will you be good enough to give me the explanation now, madam?" said
the doctor, almost shuddering at the cold, unfeeling tone in which she
spoke.

"Certainly. You are aware, doctor, that when I married my late husband,
Mr. Oranmore, he was a widower with one son, then three years old."

"I am aware of that fact, madam."

"Well, you also know that when this child, Alfred, was five years of
age, _my_ son, Barry, was born."

"Yes, madam."

"Perhaps you think it unnecessary for me to go so far back, doctor, but
I wish everything to be perfectly understood. Well, these two boys grew
up together, were sent to school and college together, and treated in
every way alike, _outwardly_; but, of course, when at home, Barry was
treated best. Alfred Oranmore had all the pride of his English
forefathers, and scorned to complain; but I could see, in his flashing
eyes and curling lips, that every slight was noticed. Mr. Oranmore never
interfered with me in my household arrangements, nor did his son ever
complain to him; though, if he had, Mr. Oranmore had too much good sense
to mention it to _me_."

The lady compressed her lips with stately dignity, and the doctor looked
down with something as near a smile as his wrinkled lips could wear.
_He_ knew very well Mr. Oranmore would not have interfered; for never
after his marriage had the poor man dared to call his soul his own. The
lady, however, did not perceive the smile, and went on:

"When Barry left college, he expressed a desire to travel for two or
three years on the Continent; and I readily gave him permission, for Mr.
Oranmore was then dead. Alfred was studying law, and I knew his dearest
wish was to travel; but, as a matter of course, it was out of the
question for _him_ to go. I told him I could not afford it, that it
would cost a great deal to pay Barry's expenses, and that he must give
up all idea of it. Barry went, and Alfred staid; though, as things
afterward turned out, it would have been better had I allowed him to
go."

Her eyes flashed, and her brows knit with rising anger, as she
continued;

"You know old Magnus Erliston - Squire Erliston, as they call him. You
know also how very wealthy he is reputed to be - owning, besides the
magnificent estate of Mount Sunset, a goodly portion of the village of
St. Mark's. Well, Squire Erliston has two daughters, to the eldest of
whom, in accordance with the will of his father (from whom he received
the property), Mount Sunset Hall will descend. Before my husband's
death, I caused him to will his whole property to my son Barry, leaving
Alfred penniless. Barry's fortune, therefore, is large, though far from
being as enormous as that Esther Erliston was to have. Well, the squire
and I agreed that, as soon as Barry returned from Europe they should be
married, and thus unite the estates of Oranmore and Erliston. Neither
Barry nor Esther, with the usual absurdity of youth, would agree to this
arrangement; but, of course, their objection mattered little. I knew I
could easily manage Barry by the power of my stronger will; and the
squire, who is rough and blustering, could, without much difficulty,
frighten Esther into compliance - when all our schemes were suddenly
frustrated by that meddler, that busy-body, Alfred Oranmore."

She paused, and again her eyes gleamed with concentrated hatred and
passion.

"He went to Mount Sunset, and by some means met Esther Erliston. Being
what romantic writers would call one of 'nature's princes,' he easily
succeeded in making a fool of her; they eloped, were married secretly,
and Squire Erliston woke up one morning to learn that his dainty heiress
had abandoned papa for the arms of a _beggar_, and was, as the wife of a
penniless lawyer, residing in the goodly city of Washington.

"Pretty Esther doubtless imagined that she had only to throw herself at
papa's feet and bathe them with her tears, to be received with open
arms. But the young lady found herself slightly mistaken. Squire
Erliston stamped, and raged, and swore, and frightened every one in St.
Mark's out of their wits; and then, calming down, 'vowed a vow' never to
see or acknowledge his daughter more. Esther was then eighteen. If she
lived to reach her majority, Mount Sunset would be hers in spite of him.
But the squire had vowed that before she should get it, he would burn
Sunset Hall to the ground and plow the land with salt. Now, doctor, I
heard that, and set myself to work. Squire Erliston has a younger
daughter; and I knew that, if Esther died, that younger daughter would
become heiress to all the property, and she would then be just as good a
wife for Barry as her sister. Well, I resolved that Esther should no
longer stand in my way, that she should never live to reach her
majority. Start not, doctor, I see that you do not yet know Madge
Oranmore."

She looked like a very fiend, as she sat smiling grimly at him from her
seat.

"Fortune favored me," she continued. "Alfred Oranmore, with two or three
other young men, going out one day for a sail, was overtaken by a sudden
squall - they knew little about managing a boat, and all on board were
drowned. I read it in the papers and set out for Washington. After much
difficulty I discovered Esther in a wretched boarding-house; for, after
her husband's death, all their property was taken for debt. She did not
know me, and I had little difficulty in persuading her to accompany me
home. Three days ago we arrived. I caused a report to be circulated at
Washington that the wife of the late Alfred Oranmore had died in great
poverty and destitution. The story found its way into the papers; I sent
one containing the account of her death to Squire Erliston; so all
trouble in that quarter is over."

"And _Esther_?" said the doctor, in a husky whisper.

"Of her we will speak by and by," said the lady, with a wave of her
hand; "at present I must say a few words of my son Barry. Three weeks
ago he returned home; but has, from some inexplicable cause, refused to
reside here. He boards now in a distant quarter of the city. Doctor,
what says the world about this - is there any reason given?"

"Well, yes, madam," said the doctor, with evident reluctance.

"And what is it, may I ask?"

"I fear, madam, you will be offended."

"'Sdeath! man, go on!" she broke in passionately. "What sayeth the
far-seeing, all-wise world of him?"

"'Tis said he has brought a wife with him from Europe, whom he wishes to
conceal."

"Ha! ha!" laughed the lady, scornfully. "Yes, I heard it too - a
barefooted bog-trotter, forsooth! But 'tis false, doctor! false, I tell
you! You must contradict the report everywhere you hear it. That any one
should dare to say that my son - my proud, handsome Barry - would marry a
potato-eating Biddy! Oh! but for my indignation I could laugh at the
utter absurdity."

But the fierce gleam of her eye, and the passionate clenching of her
hand, bespoke her in anything but a laughing humor.

"I would not for worlds this report should reach Lizzie Erliston," she
said, somewhat more calmly. "And speaking of her brings me back to her
sister. Doctor, Esther Oranmore lies in yonder room."

He startled slightly, and glanced uneasily in the direction, but said
nothing.

"Doctor," continued Mrs. Oranmore, in a low, stern, impressive voice,
while her piercing eyes seemed reading his very soul, "_she must never
live to see the sun rise again_!"

"Madam!" he exclaimed, recoiling suddenly.

"You hear me, doctor, and you _must_ obey. She must not live to see
Christmas morning dawn."

"Would you have me murder her?" he inquired, in a voice quivering
between fear and horror.

"If you will call it by that name, yes," she replied, still keeping her
blazing eyes fixed immovably on his face. "She and her child must die."

"Her child!"

"Yes, come and see it. The night of its birth must be that of its
death."

She rose, and making a motion for him to follow her, led the way from
the apartment. Opening a heavy oaken door, she ushered him into a dim
bed-room, furnished with a lounge, a square bedstead, whose dark drapery
gave it the appearance of a hearse, and a small table covered with
bottles and glasses. Going to the lounge, she pointed to something
wrapped in a large shawl. He bent down, and the faint wail of an infant
met his ear.

"_She_ is yonder," said the lady, pointing to the bed; "examine these
bottles; she will ask you for a drink, _give_ it to her - you understand!
Remember, you have promised." And before he could speak, she glided from
the room.




CHAPTER II.

THE DEATH OF ESTHER.


"What shrieking spirit in that bloody room
Its mortal frame hath violently quitted?
Across the moonbeam, with a sudden gleam,
A ghostly shadow flitted." - HOOD.

For a moment he stood still, stunned and bewildered. Understand? Yes, he
understood her too well.

He approached the bed, and softly drew back the heavy, dark curtains.
Lying there, in a troubled sleep, lay a young girl, whose face was
whiter than the pillow which supported her. Her long hair streamed in
wild disorder over her shoulders, and added to the wanness of her pale
face.

She moaned and turned restlessly on her pillow, and opened a pair of
large, wild eyes, and fixed them on the unprepossessing face bending
over her. With lips and eyes opened with terror, she lay gazing, until
he said, in as gentle a voice as he could assume;

"Do not be afraid of me - I am the doctor. Can I do anything for you,
child?"

"Yes, yes," she replied, faintly; "give me a drink."

He turned hastily toward the table, feeling so giddy he could scarcely
stand. A tiny vial, containing a clear, colorless liquid, attracted his
eye. He took it up and examined it, and setting his teeth hard together,
poured its contents into a glass. Then filling it with water he
approached the bed, and raising her head, pressed it to her lips. His
hand trembled so he spilt it on the quilt. The young girl lifted her
wild, troubled eyes, and fixed them on his face with a gaze so long and
steady that his own fell beneath it.

"Drink!" he said, hoarsely, still pressing it to her lips.

Without a word she obeyed, draining it to the last drop. Then laying her
back on the pillow, he drew the curtain and left the room.

Mrs. Oranmore was sitting, as she had sat all the evening, stern and
upright in her chair. She lifted her keen eyes as he entered, and
encountered a face so pallid and ghastly that she almost started. Doctor
Wiseman tottered rather than walked to a seat.

"Well?" she said, inquiringly.

"Well," he replied, hoarsely, "I have obeyed you."

"That _is_ well. But pray, Doctor Wiseman, take a glass of wine; you are
positively trembling like a whipped schoolboy. Go to the sideboard; nay,
do not hesitate; _it_ is not poisoned."

Her withering sneer did more toward reviving him than any wine could
have done. His excitement was gradually cooling down beneath those calm,
steady eyes, bent so contemptuously upon him.

He drank a glass of wine, and resumed his seat before the fire, watching
sullenly the dying embers.

"Well, you have performed your task?"



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