Final Proof: or, The Value of Evidenceскачать книгу бесплатно
"You may guess the hubbub that followed. Women and men congregated in groups asking each other what it all meant. Some demanded their wraps and the opportunity to leave instantly. Others declared that they were quite willing, nay, anxious, to await the d?nouement, which would certainly prove interesting. 'At least it was well to know who of their number might be a thief,' etc.
"In these circumstances, I undertook to relieve the tension and restore tranquillity. I went up to Madame Damien, and said to her in a low tone:
"'If you will let me speak to you alone for two minutes I will recover the lost pearls.'
"'What do you know? What can you do?' she asked eagerly. 'Come into this room; we will be alone.'
"I followed her into an anteroom, and we stood as we talked. She was laboring under such excitement that it was impossible for her to sit quietly.
"'Tell me first just how the pearls were taken, Madame.'
"'That is the miserable part of it. To think that a thief could take them from my neck! It is mortifying. All I know is that I was in one of the refreshment-rooms, standing near the window that opens into the ballroom. I knew nothing, felt nothing, until like a flash they were twitched from my neck. I clutched at them, but too late. The thief had stood in the ballroom, and passed her arm through the window, till she reached and unlocked the clasp of the necklace. Then with one quick tug, she had the pearls. I cried out, and the stupid people crowded about me so that it was a whole minute, a precious minute, before I could get out into the ballroom. It was empty, of course. The woman had hurried into one of the small rooms. But she has not left the house and she shall not, until the pearls are in my possession again.'
"'You allude to the thief as a woman. How did you discover that, since from your account you could hardly have seen her?'
"'No; I saw no one. But I know it was a woman. Never mind how I know. What, though, if it were – no! no! Impossible. He is not here; besides, he would not dare.'
"Of course I understood that she referred to our friend Romeo, and I might also have thought of him, had I not made sure that he was not present after the unmasking.
"'If you did not see the thief, you cannot be sure it was a woman,' I continued. 'Now, Madame, I have a proposal to make. I will purchase your pearls.'
"'You will do nothing of the sort, Mr. Mitchel. You got my ruby, but you will not get the pearls. Besides, I have not them to deliver, even if I were willing to sell them to you.'
"'That is the attractive feature of my proposition. I will pay for the pearls, their full value, and I will undertake to recover them.'
"'But I tell you I won't sell them. And besides, how could you recover them?'
"'I will tell you nothing in advance, except that I guarantee to recover them, and that, I imagine, is the main object with you.'
"'What do you mean? You talk in riddles.'
I will make my purpose clear to you. You obtained those pearls to-night, and – '
"'How do you know that?'
"'And you obtained them for a purpose,' I went on, ignoring her interruption. 'You made a man give them to you, because you were determined that another woman should not have them.'
"'You are a magician,' she cried in wonder.
"'You are angry at the loss of the pearls, not so much because of their value, as because you fear they may be restored to that other woman. You even think that she herself is the thief.'
"'You are right; I do think that. What other woman would do such a thing as to steal a string of pearls from a woman's very person?'
"'What if I tell you that she is not in the house?'
"'Ah, then you know her? Who is she? Tell me who she is and you may have the pearls.' Madame spoke eagerly.
"'I will only tell you enough to convince you that she is not the thief. You remember after one of the quadrilles passing a girl and saying, "That girl is a sphinx"?'
"'Yes; was she – '
"'Yes. Now if you search your rooms you will not find her. I know this because I have looked for her for half an hour.'
"'If not she, then the thief was some emissary of hers. Those pearls shall never reach her. Never! never! never! I'll search every person in this house first.'
"'And accomplish what? Nothing, except to ruin yourself before the world. Remember, your guests have rights. Already you have insulted them by having the doors locked. Come, we are wasting time. Sell me the pearls, and I will promise you two things. First, I will satisfy your guests and restore you to their good opinion. Secondly, I will recover and keep those pearls. Your rival shall never wear them.'
"'Your rival. Why mince matters? Is it not evident to you that I know all the details of this affair?'
"'You are a devil! Have your own way then. Take the pearls at your own price, and pay for them when you like. All I demand is that you fulfil your agreement. She must not have them. Good night. I cannot meet my guests again. Explain things for me, will you?'
"She was nothing but a woman again – a conquered woman, relying upon the chivalry of her conqueror.
"'Trust me,' I replied. 'Lean on me and I will escort you to the stairway.'
"All eyes followed us as we crossed the ballroom, and Madame looked ill enough to evoke pity. At any rate, my explanation was accepted generously, and Madame was forgiven."
"I am curious to know," said Mr. Barnes, "how you recovered or expected to recover those pearls?"
"It certainly was a unique bargain, to purchase stolen property while yet in the possession of the thief. I will tell you what I did. After leaving Madame in the care of her maids at the foot of the stairway, I returned to the ballroom, and made a little speech. Addressing the throng that crowded about me, I said:
"'Friends, I beg that you will forgive Madame Damien's hasty words. She was overwrought, and spoke irresponsibly. She had just met with a serious loss under most peculiar circumstances. Imagine her standing at the refreshment table, while one of her guests intrudes an arm through the window behind her, unclasps and removes from her neck a string of pearls worth a fabulous sum of money. Naturally her first thought was to recover the pearls, and to her distracted mind the only way seemed to be to demand that no one should leave the house. Of course she now regrets her words, for no loss can excuse such treatment of guests. But I am sure you will forgive her, especially the ladies, who will appreciate her feelings. Now, in regard to the pearls I may state that I have undertaken to recover them. Fortunately I witnessed the theft, though from a distance, so that I could not prevent it. But I know who took the pearls, and who has them. Consequently it is unnecessary to cause anyone any further annoyance in the matter. To the thief, I will say that I understand the motive of the theft, and that I am in a position to promise that that motive can be consummated if the pearls are returned to me within three days. If they are not returned, it will be necessary to have the person arrested and imprisoned.'"
"A bold stroke, and ingenious too," exclaimed Mr. Barnes. "The thief, of course, could not know whether you saw the act or not, and if a person of high social position it would be too great a risk not to return the pearls."
"So I argued. Of course, had it been a man, he might have taken even that risk, believing that my threat was a 'bluff,' as we say in poker. But a woman – a woman would not take such a risk, especially as I promised that her purpose could still be fulfilled."
"Now it is my turn to be mystified. Did you not say that your sphinx maiden was absent? Who else could steal the pearls? What other woman, I mean?"
"Why, no other woman, of course. Therefore it followed that my little mysterious maiden must have been present, which merely means that as soon as she found that Madame would insist upon having the pearls, she boldly plotted to recover them. Her first move was to rush off and change her costume. You see, I was the one she most feared. Others might know her face, but they would not know her reasons for committing such an act. I could do that but I could recognize her by her costume only. Thus I was sure that she was still in the house, though differently attired."
"How did your plan result?"
"Of course she brought me the pearls, though not until the third day. She delayed action as long as she dared. Then she came to me openly and confessed everything. It was really a pitiful tale. She was an orphan, living with an aged aunt. She met the young man, and at once they loved. After a time she began to suspect that he was not absolutely true to her, and she followed him to the first masquerade to spy upon him. She overheard enough that night to make her believe that the young man was making a dupe of her. Then she also heard the men plotting the robbery, and feared that he might be hurt. Seeing me she told me enough to prevent that. Then she went home, and brooded over her sorrow until she decided to go into a convent. Then came the second f?te, and the temptation once more to watch her fickle swain. This time what she heard brought her happiness, for did he not give up the other woman for her? Did he not even yield up his greatest family treasure, the pearls?
"She decided to recover the pearls, and she had the courage to carry out her purpose. When compelled through fear of arrest to bring them to me, she was delighted to know that they would not be restored to Madame Damien. It was when I told her this, that she drew from her bosom the pink pearl which is now in the centre of the string, but which does not belong to the set as they came from the brow of the idol.
"'There is a story,' said she, 'that these pearls each represent the price of a maiden's honor; the price of withdrawing from the service of God's temple. So I will add this pearl to the string, for I had promised to devote myself to God's work, and now I am going to my lover. This pearl was worn by my mother, and it is said that her mother also wore it, and that her blood stained it the color that it is. Her stupid husband, my grandfather, doubted her wrongfully and stabbed her with a dagger, so that she died. I think the pearl is worthy of a place among the others.'
"I took the pink pearl, agreeing with her that it might better be with the others. Then, as she turned to go, I asked her:
"'Why did you choose the costume of the Sphinx for the ball?'
"Her reply astonished me, as it will you. She said:
"'Why, I did not represent the Sphinx. I was dressed as Isis.'
"A strange coincidence, was it not?"
A PROMISSORY NOTE
Mr. Mitchel walked into the office of Mr. Barnes one afternoon as the clock struck two.
"Here I am, Mr. Barnes," said he. "Your note asked me to be here at two, sharp. If your clock is right, I have answered your summons to the second."
"You are punctuality itself, Mr. Mitchel. Sit down. I am in a good humor. I flatter myself that I have done a clever thing, and we are going to celebrate. See, there is a cold bottle, and a couple of glasses waiting your arrival."
"You have done something clever, you say? Some bright detective work, I suppose. And you did not honor me this time by consulting me?"
"Oh, well," said the detective, apologetically, "I should not be always bothering you with my affairs. It's business with me, and only amusement with you. When I have a matter of grave importance I like to have your assistance, of course. But this case, though interesting, very interesting, in fact, was really quite simple."
"And you have solved it?"
"Oh, yes; it is completed. Wound it up at noon to-day; ended happily, too. Let me fill your glass, and I'll tell you all about it."
"We will drink to your success. 'All's well that ends well,' you know, and this case you say is ended?"
"Oh, yes; the tale is complete down to the word 'finis.' Let me see, where shall I begin?"
"Why, at the beginning, of course. Where else?"
"Sounds like a reasonable suggestion, yet it is not always so easy to tell just where a story does begin. I often wonder how the romance writers get their stories started. Does a love story, for example, begin with the birth of the lovers, with their meeting, with their love-making, or with their marriage?"
"I am afraid that love stories too often end with the marriage. If yours is a love story, perhaps you may as well begin with the meeting of the lovers. We will take it for granted that they were born."
"So be it. I will transpose events slightly. Here is a document which was forwarded to me by mail, and evidently the sender expected me to receive it before the visit of a man who intended to consult me in a serious case. Oddly enough, the man called before the package reached me. Thus I had his story soonest; but perhaps it will be better for you to read this first, after which you will better comprehend the purpose of my client."
Mr. Mitchel took the type-written pages and read as follows:
"My dear Mr. Barnes: —
"Within a few hours after reading this statement you will receive a visit from a man who will introduce himself as William Odell, which is not his true name, a circumstance which, however, is of no consequence. He will ask you to interpose your reputed skill to save him from fate. I am ready to admit that you have great skill and experience, but it will be utterly useless for you to interfere in this matter, for, as I have said, the man is seeking to escape from a doom which is his fate. Who ever altered what was fated to be? We may philosophize a little and ask what it is that we mean, when we speak of 'fate'? My view is that fate, so called by men, is naught but the logical and necessary effect of a cause. Thus if the cause exists, the effect must follow. So it is with this man, whom we will call Odell. The cause exists, has existed for a number of years. The time for the effect is now approaching; he knows this; he knows that it is fate, – that he cannot escape. Yet, with the hope of a hopeless man, in his last extremity he will ask you to turn aside, or at least to defer, this fate. This you cannot do, and that you may understand the utter futility of wasting your time, which I presume is valuable, I send you this statement of the facts. Thus comprehending the incidents precedent to the present situation, you will appreciate the inevitable nature of the occurrence which this miserable man seeks with your aid to set aside."
"I thought you said this was a simple case, Mr. Barnes," said Mr. Mitchel, interrupting his reading.
"I found it so," replied Mr. Barnes, sipping his wine.
"The writer says that the 'occurrence' was 'inevitable,' yet am I to understand that you prevented it?"
"He thought it to be inevitable. I disagreed with him, and prevented it."
"I hope you have not been over-confident."
"There is no danger. Did I not tell you that the affair ended?"
"So you did. I forgot that. This paper is entertaining. I will read on."
The statement went on as follows:
"I was born and reared and spent all my life in Texas. In fact, you may consider me a cowboy, though it is long since I have thrown a lariat, and one would hardly count me a boy now. What a life do we lead down there on the Texas plains! Miles and miles of country stretching in easy undulations from the rising-place to the set of the sun. Day after day in the saddle, till one imagines himself a part of the animal which he bestrides. How often in play have I dropped a red bandana, and then picked it from the grass as I galloped my horse by at top speed!
"One day I was riding along, free from all worldly care, happy, contented. My horse was going easily, though we had several miles yet to cover. Glancing carelessly ahead, neither seeking nor expecting adventure of any kind, I thought I saw, a hundred yards or more ahead of me, the bright red of a handkerchief in the grass. A bandana dropped by a cowboy perhaps. With nothing better to do, I touched my horse's flank, and with instant response his head was down and we charged the spot. Leaning so low on one side that I could have touched the ground easily with my hand, we rapidly neared that bit of color, and I was almost upon it before I realized that it was something more than a lost handkerchief, – that it was really a bundle of some sort. Yet in time I noted this, and therefore exerted enough strength when I clutched it to lift it firmly from the ground, though the weight of it astonished me. Swinging myself back upon my horse, I brought him to a walk, that I might better examine my prize. Imagine my feelings when I found that the little bundle contained a thing of life – a baby girl!
"There is no need to extend this part of my tale. How the child got there I never learned. Whether it was dropped from a wagon travelling along the trail, or deposited there purposely by one of those fiends who accept the pleasures of life and shirk its responsibilities, I do not know. Indeed, at the time I took but a passing interest in the affair. I had picked up a baby on the plains. What of it? How could a cowboy like myself be expected to evince any great interest in a baby? My father was rich, and I had always been indulged in all things, though always held rigidly by what I was taught to consider the rules of honor. I had had a taste of the big world too, for I had been first at a military academy, and afterwards had graduated from Harvard. Then I had gone back to Texas, back to the life on horseback in the open air, the life that I loved best. So you can understand that women and babies had not yet come into my mind as necessary adjuncts to life.
"The child was given into the care of the very negro mammy who had practically reared me, my mother having died when I was yet a boy. Thus it was not until Juanita – I forget how she got the name, but so she was called – was twelve, that I began to feel some personal responsibility in relation to her future. My father meantime had died, and I was master of the old home, the ranch and all the stock. Thus there was no lack of money to carry out whatever plan might seem best. I took counsel with some women of our town, and the end of it was that Juanita was sent as far north as Atlanta to boarding-school. Here she remained until she was sixteen, but she never really enjoyed herself. A child of the plains almost literally, one might say, living through her earlier girlhood with little if any restraint, the duties of the school-room were irksome to her, and she longed to be back in Texas. This yearning grew upon her so that at length she began to make references to her feelings in her letters. I had missed her from about the place more than I should have imagined possible, and the strong inclination was to grant her wishes and bring her back; but I knew the value of education, and felt in duty bound to urge her continuance of her studies. When first she went, it had been arranged that she should remain in Atlanta studying for eight years, but finally I offered as a compromise that she might come home at the end of six, at which time she would have been eighteen. You may guess my surprise when one morning on my return from a long ride after the cattle, I saw a horse dashing swiftly towards me, and when close enough, recognized Juanita on his back. Breathless she pulled up beside me, and before I could speak cried out:
"'Now don't say you are going to send me back. Don't say it! Don't! Don't! Don't! It would break my heart!'
"What could I do? There she was, exuberant in her happiness, all the wild energy of her animal spirits aroused by the exhilaration of that liberty for which she had so long yearned. Of course I thought a good deal, but I said nothing.
"'Watch me!' she exclaimed. 'I haven't forgotten how to ride. See!'
"Like a flash she was off towards a clump of bushes fifty yards away. I called after her, fearing that four years of school life would have left her less of a horsewoman than she imagined. But she only laughed, and when near the hedge raised her horse with the skill of an adept and cleared it by a foot.
"During the next two years the whole tenor of my life was changed. Juanita went with me everywhere. Like myself she lived in the saddle, and soon she could throw a lariat or round up a herd of cattle as well as almost any of my men.
"What wonder that I learned to love the girl? Philosophers tell us that two may meet, exchange glances, and love. Madness! That is admiration, magnetic attraction, passionate desire, – what you please, – it is not love. Love may spring from such beginning, but not in an instant, a day, an hour. Too many have been wrecked by that delusion, wedding while intoxicated with this momentary delirium, and awaking later to a realization of a dread future. For what can be worse misery than to be married and not mated? No, love thrives on what it feeds on. Daily companionship, hourly contact breeds a habit in a man's life, creates a need that can but be filled by the presence of the one who excites such heart longings. Thus we learn to love our horse or dog, and the possession of the animal satisfies us. So when we come to love a woman, to love her with that love which once born never dies, so, too, possession is the only salve, the only solution. After two years I realized this, and began to think of marrying my little one. 'Why not?' I asked myself. True, I was forty, while she was but eighteen. But I was young in heart, energy, and vitality. And who had a greater right to possess her than myself? None. Then a dreadful thought came to me. What if she did not love me in return? My heart turned cold, but I never dreamed of coercing her. I would tell her my wish, my hope, and as she should answer so should it be.
"This was my determination. You will admit that I was honorable. Having formed my conclusion I sought a favorable moment for its execution. At this you may wonder. Were we not together daily, riding side by side, often alone with God and Nature for hours together? True! But I dreaded a mistake. Should I speak when her heart was not ready, the answer might blight my life.
"So I waited day after day, no moment seeming more propitious than another. Yet when I did speak, it was all so simple, that I wondered at myself for my long anxiety. We had been riding together for three or four hours, when, reaching a shaded knoll in which I knew there was a cold spring where we might refresh ourselves and our horses, we stopped. As she jumped from her horse, Juanita stood a moment looking back and forth across the plains, and then, in full enjoyment of the scene, she exclaimed:
"'Isn't it all grand! I could live here forever!'
"My heart leaped, and my tongue moved unbidden:
"'With me?' I cried. 'With me, Juanita?'
"'Why, yes; with you, of course. With whom else?'
"She turned and gazed into my eyes frankly, wondering at my question, and my hand burned as with a fever as I took hers in mine, and almost whispered:
"'But with me, little one, as my own? As my very own? As my little wife, I mean?'
"A dainty blush beautified her cheek, but she did not turn away her eyes as she answered:
"'Why, yes. As your wife, of course. I have always thought you meant it should be. Always lately, I mean.'
"So she had understood before I had known myself. She had been simply waiting, while I had been worrying. I had but to reach forth my hand and grasp my happiness. Well, I had been an ass not to know, but at last the joy was mine.
"Be sure there was little further delay. The wedding was simple yet impressive. Cowboys came from miles around, and one and all they kissed the bride. We had a feast on the grass, the tables extending a quarter of a mile, and all were welcome. There were no cards of invitation; all within fifty miles were my neighbors, and all neighbors were expected at the cowboy's wedding. The ceremony was held out in the open air, and five hundred men stood with bared heads as the worthy father gave me my treasure and declared her mine before God and them.
"Thus Juanita came to be mine own. First given to me by that Providence who rules the Universe, when the unguided steps of my horse carried me to the tiny bundle lying on a boundless plain, and lastly given to me with her own consent by the worthy man who united us in the name of the Father of us all. Was she not mine then, and thenceforward forever? Could any man rightly take her from me? You shall hear.
"A year passed. A year of happiness such as poets prate of and ardent men and maids hope for, but rarely realize. Then the serpent entered my Eden. The tempter came, in the form of this man who tells you that his name is Odell, but who lies when he tells you so. He was from the North, and he had a fine form and a fair face. Fair, I mean, in the sense that it was attractive to women. He soon had the few young women of our neighborhood dangling after him, like captured fish on a blade of palmetto. I saw all this, and, seeing, had no suspicion that with the chance to choose from so many who were still unclaimed, he would seek to win my own dear one.
"I cannot dwell on this. Indeed, I never knew the details, only the finale. The blow came as unsuspected as might an earthquake in a land where tranquillity had reigned for centuries. I had been away all day, and for once my wife had not ridden with me. I had myself bidden her remain at home, because of the intense heat of an August sun. She had begged to go with me, perhaps fearing to be left alone. But I knew nothing, suspected nothing of the ache and terror in her heart. When I got back, it was already dark, and having been away from Juanita all day, I called for her at once. The empty echoes of my voice coming back as the only answer to my cry struck my heart with a chill, and a nameless, hideous dread seized me. Had anything happened? Was she ill, or dead? Dead it must be, I thought, or she would have answered. I wandered through the house; I searched the whole place; I sprang back upon my horse and rode from house to house throughout that whole awful night. I discovered nothing. No one could tell me aught. At daybreak I returned fagged out, with a vague hope that perhaps I had made some blunder and that she was still at home. At last, in the room where I kept my accounts and transacted business, I found a note upon my desk which explained the horrible truth. Here is a copy of it. Note the hideous braggadocio. It read:
"'I. O. U. One wife. (Signed) L – R – .'
"That you may fully appreciate how this taunt stung, I must remind you that, as I have said, my father had taught me to follow most rigidly the rules of honor. In transactions involving even very great sums of money, it was not uncommon amongst us cattlemen to acknowledge an indebtedness in this primitive, informal way, – simply writing upon a slip of paper, perhaps torn from the edge of a newspaper, 'I. O. U.', giving the amount, and adding the signature. No dates were really necessary, though sometimes added, because the possession of the paper proved the debt, the cancellation by payment always leading to the destruction of the I. O. U.
"Thus this heartless young brute from the North had not only stolen from me my chief treasure, but he had left behind an acknowledgment of his debt in that form which was most binding among us.
"Does it cause you surprise to have me say that I carefully preserved that bit of paper, and swore to make him meet the obligation when the day of reckoning might come? This explains to you that cause, which at the outset I said brings with it a result which now is, and always has been, inevitable.
"Of course it is certain that had I been able to find my betrayer while my anger still raged, and my anguish yet at its most acute point, I would simply have shot the man on sight, recklessly, thoughtlessly. But I could not get trace of him, and so had time to think.
"Too late I learned that I had made one dreadful error. I have told you my views of love, how engendered and how nourished. My mistake was in thinking that such a love is the necessary rather than merely the possible result of constant companionship between congenial spirits. In my own heart the fire of true love burned only too brightly, but with Juanita, poor child, it was but the glow reflected from my own inward fires that warmed her heart. She was happy with me, sharing my life, and when I asked her to marry me, mistook her calm friendship for what she had heard called love. Love she had never experienced. When later the younger man devoted himself to her, she was probably first merely intoxicated by an overpowering animal magnetism, which was nothing but passion. But even as I have admitted that this impulsive desire may drift into the truer, nobler quality of love, so, later, I found, must have been the case with my cherished one.
"A full year passed before I had the least idea of the whereabouts of the elopers. Then one day the mail brought me a brief, plaintive note from her. All she wrote was, 'Dear one, forgive me. Juanita.' The date showed that it had been written on the anniversary of our wedding, and from this I knew that the day had brought to her remorseful memories of me. But the envelope bore a postmark, and I knew at last that they were in a suburb of the great metropolis.
"I started for New York that very night, bent on vengeance. But one approaches a revengeful deed in a different spirit a year after the infliction of the wrong, and so by the time I reached my destination, my mind had attained a judicial attitude, and my purpose was tempered by the evident wisdom of investigating before acting. I had little difficulty in finding the nest to which my bird had flown, and a happy nest it appeared to be. It seems like yesterday, and the picture is distinct before my vision. I came cautiously towards the cottage, which was surrounded by a grassy lawn, and my heart came into my throat with a choking sensation as suddenly I saw her there, my little Juanita, lazily swinging in a hammock under a great elm, singing! Singing so merrily that I could not doubt that she was, for the moment at least, happy. So, then, she was happy – happy with him. The thought affected me in a twofold manner. I resented her happiness for myself, and gloried in it for her own sake. I did not venture to interrupt her life by intruding myself into it. I quietly prosecuted my inquiries, and learned that she was known as his wife, indeed that a regular marriage had taken place. Thus at least he gave her the apparent protection of his name. Moreover, I found that he was still kind to her, and that the two were counted a happy couple.
"Therefore I returned to Texas, and never again set eyes upon my dear one, in life. But before leaving I perfected arrangements whereby I might receive regular communications, and so be in the position to know how it fared with Juanita, and I am bound to admit that the reports were ever favorable. So far as I know, he always treated her with loving kindness. In exchange for this, he must count that he has been left undisturbed by me. On that score, then, we are quits. But the paper on which he wrote that infamous I. O. U. remained, and so long as it was in my possession it was an obligation still to be met.
"Five years elapsed, and then one day suddenly I was summoned by telegraph. Juanita was ill – was likely to die. I sped North as fast as the swiftest express train could travel, but I arrived three hours after her sweet spirit had flown. He did not recognize me as I mingled with the crowd in the house at the funeral, and so got a last glimpse of her face. But after the grave was filled, and the little mound was covered with flowers, the mound which held all that had stood between him and fate, I stepped forward and stood where his eyes must meet mine.
"At first he did not recognize me, but presently he knew me, and the abject terror that came into his face brought to me the first sensation of pleasure that I had experienced since that hour in which I had found my home deserted. I stepped back into the crowd, and I saw him look about eagerly, and pass his hand across his eyes, as though brushing aside some horrible vision. But he was soon to learn that it was no spectral fancy, but myself with whom he had to deal.
"I waited till nightfall and then sought him at his house, and told him my purpose. I showed him that bit of paper on which he had scrawled the words 'I. O. U. One wife,' and I told him that in exacting a settlement we would change the letter 'w' to the letter 'l.' That for my wife, I would expect his life, in return. I gave him a respite of a few days, but this he will explain to you. I know this, for twice have I seen him approach your offices, and then alter his mind and depart without going in. But his fate is now so near that by to-morrow, at the latest, he will no longer have the courage to delay. He will go to you. He will lie to you. He will endeavor to obtain your aid. Fool! Of what avail? He cannot escape even if you undertake to assist him. But after reading the truth, as here written, will you?"
Mr. Mitchel put down the last page of the statement, and, turning to Mr. Barnes, he said:скачать книгу бесплатно