Fergus Hume.

A Son of Perdition: An Occult Romance

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Mr. Enistor had written not only to Montrose but to his daughter with regard to the proposal, and when the two came together on this particular evening, they let one another know immediately that the fatal missives had been received. Luckily Mrs. Barrast, with a merry party, had gone to the Empire Music Hall and would not return until late. Montrose, as usual, had provided the box, purposely having done so to rid himself of an inconvenient third. Frederick was at the House, so he could not interfere, and Douglas had Alice all to himself in the large drawing-room. Mrs. Barrast, for the sake of propriety, had made him promise to await her return and have supper. Therefore everything was nicely arranged, and when quite alone, the lovers sat together on the sofa and looked into one another's eyes.

"Now," said Alice breathlessly, "the letters!"

"Not just yet," replied Montrose, taking her in his arms, "remember I have not seen you for forty-eight hours!"

"Oh, you foolish boy!"

Alice had some excuse for calling him so, although she liked the foolishness he displayed immensely. He dropped on his knees, holding her waist in his arms, and said all manner of delightful things, only interrupting his speeches to kiss her again and again and again. What he babbled need not be reported, as the talk of lovers, however pleasing to themselves, is extraordinarily silly when repeated to others. But the splendid glamour of love was over this pair, and what Douglas said sounded sublimely sensible to the girl, while the looks of Alice were those of a goddess to her adorer. Yet Montrose was a common-sense young man, and Miss Enistor only a tolerably pretty girl. The misleading passion of love excused each regarding the other as a divinity. They certainly did so and were as foolishly happy as Antony and Cleopatra were in their day of power. And like those famous lovers they would have regarded the world as well lost for love.

"But really!" cried Alice at last, recovering her reason first, which was natural since she was a woman, "we must be sensible."

"I think we are very sensible indeed."

"Other people would not think so."

"Why trouble about other people?" replied Montrose, reluctantly getting on his feet. "There are no other people. You and I are alone in the world."

"Indeed, I think we shall be unless my father consents," sighed Miss Enistor. "Not that there will be any loneliness with you beside me," she added.

"Darling!" Then another kiss and embrace before settling down to more prosaic conversation. "Tell me, dear, what does he say to you?"

"Much the same as he writes to you, Douglas, I expect." Alice took the letter from her pocket. "He is not angry as I expected he would be, and says nothing about Don Pablo. All he desires – so he says – is my happiness, and if he approves of you he is quite willing that we should marry."

"If he approves of me," echoed Montrose, reading the paternal letter over Alice's shoulder, "quite so.

But suppose he doesn't approve?"

"Don't try to cross the bridge until you come to it, Douglas. Why shouldn't my father approve, now that he evidently has given up his idea of my marrying Don Pablo? Has my father asked you down to Tremore?"

"Yes!" said Montrose, producing his letter in turn, "how clever of you to guess that, dearest."

"I did not guess it, as you might have seen if you read my father's letter properly," said Alice quickly. "He says that he has asked you down, or intends to ask you down. I don't know which."

"Oh, here is the invitation," remarked the young man, waving his letter. "Mr. Enistor says that before he can consent to place your future in my hands he must become well acquainted with me. He invites me to Tremore for a visit of one month. In four weeks he hopes to give his decision."

Alice disconsolately replaced her epistle in her pocket and watched her lover put away his communication. "That doesn't sound very promising."

"Oh, but I think it does," said Montrose hopefully. "I don't see what else he could say if he entertains at all the idea of my marrying you. It is only natural that he should wish to know what kind of a husband I am likely to be to his adored daughter."

"Oh!" said Alice ironically, "does my father call me that?"

"Twice he calls you that in his letter."

"He doesn't mean it," the girl assured Montrose in a troubled way; "my father and I endure one another's society, but little love exists between us. The fault isn't mine, Douglas, as I was willing enough to love him when I came from school. But father has always kept me at arm's length, and hitherto my life has been loveless – save for Julian."

"Julian!" There was a jealous note in the young man's voice. "That is the name of Mrs. Barrast's brother, is it not?"

"Yes. I call him Julian and he calls me Alice."

"Confound his impudence!" fumed Montrose angrily.

"No impudence at all, Douglas. Julian is my very good friend: nothing more, I assure you. But if I had not met you, and if my father had insisted upon my becoming Don Pablo's wife, I should have married Julian."

"Oh, Alice," in a tone of deep reproach, "do you love him and not me?"

"No. I respect him. If I loved him you would not now be sitting beside me."

Still Montrose was not satisfied. "Is he good-looking?"

"Very; in a large stolid Anglo-Saxon way. He's an artist, but I don't think one would call him clever except as a painter of pictures."

"I see that you don't love him," said Douglas, his brow clearing; "but does Hardwick – that is his name, isn't it? – love you?"

"No," rejoined Alice promptly, "he thought that he did, but he really does not in the way a woman wants to be loved. He proposed and I rejected him on those grounds. Now he understands that I am right, and we have settled to be great friends."

"All the same you said you would have married him if – "

"If my father had insisted on my becoming the wife of Don Pablo," interrupted Alice swiftly. "Can't you understand, Douglas? I detest this Spaniard, who is such a friend of my father, and of two evils I was prepared to choose the lesser. I did not want to marry Julian any more than I wanted to marry Don Pablo. But Julian is at least human, so – "

"Isn't Don Pablo human?" asked Montrose, interrupting in his turn.

"I don't believe he is," said Alice thoughtfully, "there is something dreadfully wicked about him. I can't explain, but when you meet him you will in some way guess my meaning."

"Humph! I shall certainly accept your father's invitation both to see this Spaniard and Hardwick also."

"And you understand my position?" urged Alice anxiously.

"Yes. I think I do. All the same I want you to assure me positively that you love no one else but me."

"There is no need to tell you what you already know," returned the girl in a calm positive way. "We are made for one another!"

"Darling!" he caught her in his arms, "I know. But I hope your father will think as we do."

"He means well," said Miss Enistor with a sigh of relief, "or he would not ask you down to Tremore."

It was at this interesting point in their interview that the lovers were interrupted. The footman opened the door to announce Dr. Eberstein, and when that gentleman entered the room the servant promptly retired. Montrose came forward with a look of amazed inquiry, which was reflected on the face of Alice. Both the young people were astonished by the unexpected appearance of the doctor.

"I thought you were still in Paris, Eberstein," cried Douglas, as his friend shook hands with both.

"I arrived in London to-day!"

"Why didn't you let me know?"

"There was no need to. It was necessary that you should quite understand one another before I came on the scene." Eberstein looked from one flushed face to the other with a smile. "You do understand, I see."

"We are engaged," blurted out Montrose awkwardly.

"Then that means an understanding," said the doctor cheerfully, with a benevolent look in his grey eyes. "I hope it means also mutual trust."

"I am quite sure it does," cried Alice vehemently, "nothing Douglas could say or do would ever make me doubt him."

"And I would believe in Alice if all the world were against her," said the young man decisively.

"That is good hearing," observed the doctor pleasantly, "union is strength."

"Every one knows that, don't they, doctor?" said Miss Enistor rather pertly.

"Perhaps," he replied, "but few practise it. You wonder why I have come here to-night. It is because you both need me. All seems to be sunshine at the present moment. You love one another devotedly: you think that Mr. Enistor is well disposed towards your engagement – "

"Oh!" interrupted Alice, with a frightened look in her eyes. "How do you know that my father is aware of our engagement?"

"The letters you received to-day – "

This time Montrose interrupted, and there was a note of awe in his voice. "I believe you know everything, Eberstein."

"I know that you are invited down to Cornwall, so that Mr. Enistor may judge if you are the man he would choose to be his son-in-law."

"But how do you know?" said Alice, startled. "You make me afraid!"

Eberstein took her hand and gazed directly into her eyes. "Are you sure that I make you afraid?" he asked gently.

"Why, no!" Alice felt the momentary fear vanish in an unaccountable way.

"And you trust me even though you have known me such a short time? Remember, you have only met me once, Miss Enistor." He loosened his soft, reassuring grasp and leaned back in his chair.

"I do trust you," said the girl promptly, "you have been kind to Douglas."

"Is that the sole reason?"

Alice stared at him doubtfully. "It is the only reason I can give. No one but a good man and a kind friend would have saved Douglas's life as you did."

"Perhaps no, perhaps yes," said the doctor enigmatically, "but I advised our friend here to keep Lady Staunton's money. My interest in him may not be so philanthropic as you imagine it to be."

"Doctor!" said Montrose indignantly, "how can you talk so?"

"Hush!" Eberstein threw up his hand. "I want Miss Enistor to speak."

"What can I say but that I trust you? I am sure there is some good reason why Douglas should keep my aunt's money. You would not have advised him to keep it otherwise."

"But if your father pointed out that he should have enjoyed the fortune and that I wish Montrose to keep it so that I can make use of the money through him? What then?"

"Still I must believe in you and trust you," persisted Alice steadily. "My father does not want the fortune." Eberstein smiled slightly. "Oh, I assure you he does not. He has said nothing about it. As to doubting you, doctor, he does not know you."

"He will some day and then he may doubt me. Remember when he does and tries to turn you against me that I have foretold the possibility of such a warning. You say you will trust me. Good! I accept the assurance. Montrose?"

"I believe in you now as I always have done," said the young man eagerly. "I don't understand why you are talking in this way, though."

"You don't understand many things at present," said Eberstein dryly; "when you do, pain will come with the knowledge. Necessary pain. Go to Cornwall and meet Mr. Enistor. While the sun still shines you will not see me. But when dark clouds obscure the light, then I shall be at your side."

"You will come to Cornwall?" asked Alice quickly.

"When the need arises."

"Will it arise?"

Eberstein looked from one to the other quietly. "Yes! The need will arise."

"What need?" demanded Montrose, bewildered.

"Enough for the day is the evil thereof," said Eberstein serenely, "and that also applies to the good. All is well with you as yet, so enjoy the passing moment and draw from peace the necessary strength for conflict. Gold must be refined in the fire, and you must both be cast into the furnace. Yet be not afraid. The same God who saved Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego will save you. You are neither of you afraid," he ended positively.

Arm in arm the lovers stood and they glanced at one another as the doctor spoke. "We are not afraid," they declared simultaneously, and spoke the truth.

"Behold then," said Eberstein solemnly, "how great is Love which can cast out fear!" and over them he made the holy sign.


It was August when Alice returned home. As soon as her father learned that she had become engaged to Montrose, he sent for her. Now that the mouse had entered the trap there was no need for the girl to remain in London and spend money. Mrs. Barrast was sorry to lose the companionship of Miss Enistor, not only because she liked her as much as one of her shallow nature could like any one, but for a more selfish reason. With Alice departed Montrose, and although he did not go immediately down to Cornwall, he scarcely came near the house in Hans Crescent. Thus Mrs. Barrast was deprived of the many presents which she loved to receive. However, she had done very well, and made the best of her loss, since the girl's visit, because of Montrose's love-making, had not been unprofitable to her. Mrs. Barrast was very affectionate when Alice departed, and made her promise to return when she became Mrs. Douglas Montrose. Alice readily consented, for though Amy was vain and selfish, yet the fact that the love-romance had taken place beneath her roof made the girl regard her as a most excellent friend. All the same she was not sorry to return to Cornwall, as she was weary of the frivolous London life.

In the railway train Alice became quite depressed. She was coming back to dreary Tremore, to her father's uncongenial society, and perhaps to the unpleasant attentions of Don Pablo. But on this latter point she was reassured by her father's letter. Although he had not quite consented to the marriage with Montrose, and would not consent until he had seen the young man, yet, in the face of his half-approval, he certainly would not allow her to be troubled by Don Pablo. Certainly the Spaniard had great influence with the squire of Polwellin, and might not be inclined to surrender the girl whom he desired to make his wife. But Douglas, as Alice reflected, would soon be on the spot, and he would deal with Narvaez, if the old man became troublesome. On the whole, therefore, even though matters were a trifle unsettled, Alice concluded that the new life would be better than the old. At all events she would not be quite so lonely, and that was something. Of course Dr. Eberstein had predicted trouble, but also he had agreed to come down when the trouble arrived. This comforted the girl not a little, as she had the greatest confidence in Montrose's friend. Why, she could scarcely say, as she knew next to nothing about him. But his mere look, let alone the touch of his hand, was enough to make her feel strangely brave and happy. If Don Pablo was all evil, Dr. Eberstein was all good. Yet why one should be this and the other that, Alice could not tell. Doubtless, as Douglas had suggested, Eberstein could have enlightened both on this point. But he had not done so, and beyond warning them that they could count upon his help in the trouble which was surely coming, he had said very little. Therefore, these two young people had to walk by faith, and very bravely did so.

At Perchton, which was the nearest station to Polwellin, Alice quite expected to find her father waiting for her, since, little as he loved her, he must surely be anxious to see how she looked after her long absence. But Mr. Enistor was not on the platform, and Alice with a rather forlorn feeling alighted from her compartment. In London she had grown accustomed to love and attention, so the neglect of the present moment brought on her depression again. But that vanished in a trice when a strong hand took the small bag she was carrying, and a strong voice sounded in her ears.

"Here you are at last," said Julian brightly. "I have been waiting for nearly an hour, Alice."

"Oh, Julian!" she took his hand, to press it warmly. "I am so glad you are here. I was feeling quite dismal because father has not come to meet me."

"I thought you would be. Yesterday I asked him if he intended to come to Perchton, but as he said that he had no time I came in his stead."

"And left your painting. How good of you."

"Not at all. We are brother and sister, are we not?"

"I don't think many brothers would take so much trouble to be kind to their sisters," said Alice brightly. "Did father send the carriage?"

"No. One of the horses is laid up. But a friend of mine has a motor, so I made him lend it to take you to Tremore. Where is your baggage?"

"Oh, I must look for it in the van and get a porter and – "

"You'll do nothing of the sort," interrupted Hardwick quickly, "go and sit in the motor; there it is. I can see to your boxes. How many?"

"Two large and one small," said Alice, and gladly settled herself in the very comfortable vehicle, while Julian went back into the station.

Shortly he returned with a porter and the boxes were duly placed on the motor. Julian stepped in beside the girl, and a word to the chauffeur sent the splendid machine humming down the narrow street like a giant bee. Then the two had time to look at one another, and Julian approved of the girl's appearance. Love had made her blossom like a rose. She was less ethereal than she had been, and the sad look on her delicate face had vanished. Also, as Mrs. Barrast had attended to her frocks, and had introduced her to Madame Coralie, the girl was singularly smart and attractive as regards clothes. A smile was on Julian's face as he looked at her.

"You went away a duckling and you return a swan," he said.

"Oh, what a doubtful compliment," said Alice gaily; "am I then, or rather was I, an ugly duckling?"

"No, my dear, you were never an ugly duckling, but what I mean is that you have turned from a fairy into a pretty nymph."

"That is better," said Miss Enistor graciously, as the motor whizzed out of the town and began to climb the long winding road to the moors. "You are improving, Julian. But you don't ask me how I have enjoyed myself."

"There is no need. Your appearance speaks for you."

Alice laughed. "Do you think that my looks are due simply to a short season of pleasure in London?"

"Well, not exactly," rejoined Hardwick in his stolid way; "in fact, seeing that you have been staying with Amy, I expected you to look more fagged than you do. Amy makes a toil of pleasure and is certainly a very wearing woman to live with."

"She is a dear," said Miss Enistor warmly, "and has been most kind. But you are right about her feverish pursuit of pleasure," she said, with an after-thought. "Amy never rests!"

"And never lets any one else rest, which is worse," said Julian grimly; he looked at her sideways. "Yes! Mere London pleasure cannot account for your happy looks. Well, let me know who he is!"

"Let you know who he is?" repeated Alice, blushing and looking prettier than ever, "do you mean – "

"I think you know what I mean. You are in love at last."

Like a woman Alice did not reply directly to the remark. "Are you very angry, Julian?" she asked, laying a timid hand on his arm.

"My dear, I am not angry at all. We are brother and sister, you know. Long ago I discovered that you were right as to my proposal and I was wrong. All that I could do for you was to accept the situation of your future husband if Don Pablo insisted upon marrying you. But I presume I can now resign that position," ended Hardwick gravely.

"He is called Douglas Montrose," said Alice, still evasive.

"A very pretty name for Prince Charming. Yes, your father mentioned to me that the young man had written to him, and he also mentioned that Montrose is the fortunate person who has inherited Lady Staunton's money. So Amy got her own way, as I knew she would. An inveterate matchmaker is Amy."

Alice opened her eyes widely. "Did you guess then?"

"Not so much guess as know," replied Hardwick composedly. "Amy wrote about her desire that you should become Mrs. Montrose."

"And you?"

"I was pleased, of course. Amy told me how deeply you loved the man."

"She could not tell that for certain," pouted Alice doubtfully.

"I am not so sure of that. Women are proverbially clever and shrewd in anything that has to do with love-making. However, it seems she was right: your bright eyes and crimson cheeks tell me as much."

"I may as well confess that I love Douglas," admitted Alice boldly, "and he loves me. Already we have asked father's consent to our marriage."

"He will give it without doubt, Alice. It is a happy way of getting back the lost money."

"Oh the money! the money!" she cried petulantly; "you talk just as Amy talks, Julian. As if I cared for money. I love Douglas, and if he were a pauper I would marry him. And my father has not jumped at the chance of getting back the money, as you seem to think. He won't say yes and he won't say no."

"He must say something," remarked Julian, with a shrug.

"Nothing. He refuses to give his decision until he knows more about Douglas."

Hardwick nodded. "That is natural and sensible. So the young man is coming to Tremore to be put through his paces?"

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