« ПредишнаНапред »
The medical man had no Parisian polish. He was rough and honest in his narrow little way, and he was troubled with a heart—a heart that had a kindly interest in this handsome Jocelyn he had from the time of jackets and tops, when the boy had been just as frank and fearless and handsome. “Ah, my dear,” exclaimed Madame Frissae, a graceful deprecation in the tone; “you are mistaken, dear doctor. Nobody hurried the beautiful Bernard.” “I say, ma'am,” interrupted Dr. Foster, “it’s no manner of use saying that, when my colleague and myself both understand General Jocelyn's wicked hatred of him, and we both believe that it was a put up job to get rid of him; and, curse it ! they have got rid of him with a vengeance—that is what I believe, ma'am.” “You are so wrong—ah, so wrong ! The general does not hate Bernard. The general is his best of friends.” The assurance was charmingly uttered, but it fell on deaf ears. “I know what I know,” was the dogged answer. “I tell you I was offered an enormous bribe to hurry him out of this house before it was safe; and, moreover, ma'am, the general's own nephew tries to hush up the very strong proof that the general himself attempted Bernard's life a few weeks ago, and now he has accomplished his purpose.” “Dr. Foster”— just a shade of alarm grew visible in Marie's face as she approached the sunburnt, tobaccochewing country doctor, and laying her hand, glittering with rings, upon his sleeve, said, in her most moving, coaxing tone—“Dr. Foster, you are deceived. Fulke himself was jealous of Bernard. He it was that wanted him to quit Jocelyn Hall. Fulke is engaged to Winifred, and Bernard is very handsome—ah, so beautiful! Don't you comprehend, doctor ? Fulke wanted you to hurry him off; but Bernard went in response to the telegraphic message to come. The dear general is misrepresented.” “That is all very well, ma'am,” was the rude answer. “Tell that to anybody who will believe you. I don't know anything] about their foolish love business; but I know this : General Jocelyn offered to increase our fees five thousand dollars if we would get Bernard about and out of the house at once. We couldn't do it, and we didn't get the five thousand. General Jocelyn offered us one thousand dollars bonus to forbid Miss Jocelyn entering the sick-room or seeing Bernard. We could forbid it conscientiously, and we did get the one thousand dollars. Now, ma'am, it's just this way—we might believe it was Mr. Fulkerson ; but Mr. Fulkerson hasn't five hundred a year, all told, and he couldn't raise one thousand cash any more than he could raise the five thousand ; and if General Jocelyn didn't feel in this way, how does he come to pay his money to carry out these nasty-looking designs. I think any jury would decide against him; and I say again, ma'am, that General Jocelyn is responsible for Bernard Jocelyn's death, and I don't care who knows it.” The Frenchwoman, despite her nimble wits, found herself strangely perplexed with this obstinate, unimpressible rustic sticking tenaciously to his damaging facts. “That's all about it, ma'am,” he said, taking up his hat, with a grim, unshaken determination in his aspect– “that's all about it, ma'am, and it's no use of your saying one word about it. I assert that if Bernard Jocelyn is dead, Bernard Jocelyn's uncle is guilty of his death. Good-day, ma'am. Don't forget, ma'am, that we got the one thousand dollars; but we didn't get the five thousand —our hands are clear of that. Good-day, ma'am.” The irate medical man stalked out of the room, and out of the house, and the wily, wary little Frenchwoman sank down into her chair, with an alarmed sense of having
been extinguished. This man's straightforward statements were quite unmoved and unswayed by her beautiful toilet and charming condescension. “The brute can't appreciate me ; and poor Hugh knows nothing ; he is innocent as an angel ; he cannot refuse money to that monster, and he cannot tell them why. Ah, mon Dieu / it is frightful. Fulke means to ruin him, if he does give him all he asks. Ah l if I had never spoken that little word to him of Hugh's secret ! One does not know that grudge against Winifred and Winifred's mother will soon be canceled now. Eh, Fulke, is it you? She looked up rather gloomily as he opened the door, an irrepressible elasticity and satisfaction discernible in his whole appearance. If Fulke had ever been gay, he might claim to be so now, but he had only been sardonically jocose, and that described his mood as he walked briskly into the library. “Have you seen it 7” he asked, without circumlocution. “Ciel / of course I've seen it, and heard it, too ; and, monsieur, I just want to know whether or not it is true 7" Her keen black eyes searched his face sharply. “It is true as the gospel, madame ; I told you he would have a shock, and that it might prove fatal. He did have a shock, and it did prove fatal,” was the pitiless answer, syllabled in brutal exultation. “What sort of a shock did he have 2" she demanded, in pettish disgust. “It was no better than murder.” “That may be,” was the meaning rejoinder ; “but it was a murder the law don't punish, and that is not to be said of all the crimes in the Jocelyn family.” “Ma foil it don't matter,” she retorted, angrily. “It don't matter ; we have set on foot strict inquiry, and they are expecting a reply to the telegram every moment.” “They ! Who?” demanded Fulke, angrily. “Winifred. Does she dare to do that openly, when, she is engaged to me? But curse it,” he added, grimly ; “I’ll settle all that after ; and now understand, madame, she will only hear the report of his death confirmed. I have asked no questions of her relations with this Jocelyn ; I don't care to hear them, to-morrow I will push my suit ; in one month she is to marry me; and to-day I will tighten the vise on IIugh Jocelyn—thanks for your hint that day in New Orleans.” “You fool,” burst out the Frenchwoman, enraged at his sneering triumph and effrontry. “You don't even guess it ; you are in the dark. Ah, mon Dieu / you know nothing.” “I know enough ; if there is any more inquiry behind that, I advise you in mercy to your dear friend, or whatever the general may be to you—I say, Madame Frissae, I advise you to withhold it,” contemptuously retorted Fulke. “Now listen to reason. I am not the man to fool with women's chatter and gabble ; I despise them all except Winifred, and you can't expect any man to think as much of you as of Winifred, because she is beautiful. I wouldn't marry her if she were not. But be reasonable, get the answer to that telegram for me, and I will help your plans along. Hugh is compelled to listen to me.” “I don't want your help, Fulke,” and the fiery temper flamed into the black eyes. Nevertheless, the Frenchwoman, wary and selfish and vindictive as she was, never forgot her own ends served by Fulke's grotesque, cruel love affair. “I don't ask your help ; ay, I scorn it, always, always; but, mon Dieu ! I do want you to marry Winifred and take her away to your own miserable, dismal house. I tell you my grudge against the girl and her mother is bitter and deep, and I am paying it now while I free Hugh of your griffes.”
“If you can do that," slowly supplemented Fulke. “I will do that, or—I will kill you, monsieur; be certain of that,” was the cool assurance. “Very well; now get me the answer to that telegram, and then do you go up and tell Hugh Jocelyn that my affairs must be settled. Upon second thoughts, I defer seeing him until to-morrow. Upon second thoughts, I will let you tell him that I wish him to consult with Winifred upon the day for our marriage, and that to-morrow I will call and ascertain what day she has named. I only stipulate that it must be within a month ; he should appreciate my extreme patience in the matter.” The Frenchwoman bent her head in intense thought for a moment after Fulke's harsh, discordant voice ceased. “I will do this ; ah, poor Hugh 1 but I will do this, Fulke, always understanding your bargain. Every foul, false insinuation against Hugh Jocelyn is to be contradicted, resuted ; you are to acknowledge to the doctors why you paid that thousand dollars to banish Winifred ; you are to silence those falsehoods about Hugh's detestation of Bernard ; you are to crush that vile suspicion you are spreading now of Hugh's animosity to his nephew ; you are to deliver the written compact to me the day you are married, and you are to swear that never by word, hint or token will you inform or abet inquiry of Hugh Jocelyn's crime twenty years ago in New Orleans. I tell you, monsieur, you are to keep to the letter of this bargain; and I warn you, monsieur, that if you dare break one single syllable of this compact, you do it at the peril of your life—for I will kill you.” Fulke scarcely liked the icy menace in the blazing, merciless eyes, full as hard and relentless as his own, and a thousandfold more desperately reckless. “The little devil meant every word she said. I haven't a doubt those scrawny fingers are quite capable of making good her threat. But she don’t know Fulke,” he commented, listening to the sharp, decisive tap of her heel, as Marie walked swiftly along the passage overhead. “No, Fulke is not the man to knuckle down to any chattering magpie of a bedizened Jezebel.” Humming the refrain of a drinking-song, quite surprising on the lips of such a cautiously circumspect person as Fulke claimed to be, he walked away, in his peculiar slouching gait, down the avenue. He had just passed the porter's lodge, when the servant dispatched with Winifred's message returned from the station. Fulke glanced back as the sound of horse's hoofs caught his ear, but it was growing very dark, and the man seemed in a wonderful hurry, and for once his vigilant effrontry was in fault. The servant galloped on, and Fulke, after a moment's hesitation, said, “It is rather soon for an answer yet,” and resumed his walk. Five minutes later the sealed telegram was handed to General Jocelyn. “Take it to my daughter,” he ordered, without breaking the seal. Wilson found Winifred in her dressing-room; she had not thought of making a toilet for dinner. The girl sat before the dressing-table, her head bowed on her folded arms, her golden hair falling around her in shining masses. She shivered as Mammie Jane came across the room and laid the official envelope on the table, among the jewels and ribbons and laces. Winifred shivered, but she did not move or touch it; her intense eagerness had faded into intense dread. “Open it, honey. Maybe it ain't so, chile," urged Mammie Jane, passing the black, motherly hand tenderly over the girl's soft, rippling hair. “Maybe there's comfort in it, and maybe there's not. If it was not as Marse Fulke had set eyes on yon for hissef, I'd hey a hope; but
it allers comes as Marse Fulke wants. God-a-mighty Lissef can't harm Marse Fulke. It comes just as he wants. They are touched and took when he wills it. Open the telegram, chile.” Winifred broke the seal slowly; her fingers were as cold as if life and warmth had fled for ever. She drew out the folded paper mechanically, her face ashen and deadly in hue; drew it out and read the words slowly and deliberately-words of fire scorching and searing themselves upon the passionate heart. The paper fell from her helpless hands. Winifred never moved or uttered a sound ; she was stunned. The paper was on the floor, but the mes. sage was on her heart and brain—and the message was this : “Bernard Jocelyn died March 7th. There is no doubt of his death. His effects are at the City Hotel, awaiting a claimant.”
It was a rough morning. March 7th was not what old sailors, with recollections of frightful tempests and boiling seas, might call a rough morning. Nevertheless, the wind blew a steady gale as the vessel, with sails spread, stood out to sea, and the crew took their last glimpse of their own land for many a long, weary month. The captain and first mate were holding consultation in the captain's cabin, while sharp orders and loud responses rang out above the howling wind. The vessel itself seemed built to withstand shock and storm. Extra heavy planks and timbers, iron-plates and stanchions betokened strength, and pointed out, in plain terms, that the ship would cruise among crashing icebergs and drifting mountains of Arctic ice. The plainest comfort, absolutely devoid of luxury ; stores scientifically reduced in quantity, and strong in quality, all bespoke in nautical phrase to the initiated a long and perilous absence, in regions where simply enough to eat and keep warm reached the summit of human effort. They were amply prepared for accident and emergency, just as other ships, as strong and well stored, had gone before them, never to return. However, these were old salts, carrying the best of all storage for Arctic waters, viz., experience. The experience of many a voyage to the ice-bound seas, nevertheless, with their goodly share of this, no one knew that he would ever behold his own land again. Captain Colman, bluff, decided, a trifle stern-looking, and marvelously rugged, weather-beaten and lined in appearance, turned sharply and quickly around as the mate said, slowly: “Ay, sir; he seems coming round; but it's a queer notion going on a cruise like this in a condition like that.” “Well, sir, there's time enough to recover, the Lord knows, before he's like to need his strength; he's not shipped before the mast, that a trifle of ailing need be very serious. But I admit, sir, the youngster is in bad plight for what we have before us. It's no child's play, sir. I'll step in after a bit and take his bearings.” “Do, sir, by all means. I am not satisfied myself,” and the mate walked away rather irresolutely, very much as if only half his mind had been expressed, and as if the mental reservation was by far the most important part. “No luggage, and half dead, I may say, and away to the poles in that plight—a ship without rigging. It's confoundedly strangel” he muttered. “But it's the captain's business, not mine.” He paused, however, and looked into the cabin in passing, just as the tall figure stretched on the couch moved uneasily, and the dark-gray eyes opened slowly, with a look of inquiry in them as they rested upon the bronzed face of the first-mate. “Ay, Mr. Jocelyn,” he said, briskly; “glad to see you coming around. I began to think you were in bad condition to ship with us.” Bernard Jocelyn brushed his hand across his eyes, evidently making great effort to remember, or even comprehend, who this pleasant seafaring man was, and what he meant. “Thanks. I believe I have been ill again. I—it's confoundedly hard for a man that has never been sick before in his life to quite understand being so.” Bernie spoke apologetically, and still brushed his hand across his eyes, in a vain effort to clear his bewildered brain. “I seemed to come around all right, and I don't seem to comprehend how it is I am knocked up again. Have I been ill for any length of time * My head certainly has a tired, dizzy feeling.” “You came aboard last night, badly knocked up. But Devèy explained that it was a recent illness, over-exertion, or something of the kind. Devèy is one of the crew —a new hand, gotten aboard by your interest, I believe. Ay, sir?” questioned the mate. Again the intense perplexity drifted into Bernie's countenance, the struggle to remember. “Devèy !—my interest ?” he repeated, vaguely. “Ay. Here is the captain,” explained the mate, as Captain Colman at this moment appeared. “Good-morning, Mr. Jocelyn. You're righting up again. Tough pull of it. I was afraid last night when you came aboard. Devèy said you'd had an accident.” “Devèy 1” again repeated Bernie, vaguely. “What does he know of it 2 The fellow is right, however; I had a confoundedly ugly accident before I left Jocelyn Hall, and had some fear that I might not be able to make the voyage; but I don't seem to see how I got aboard at last, and what knocked me up again.” Bernie looked at the captain and mate interrogatively, as he raised himself slowly from the pillows, and sat on the side of the berth, tugging at his long mustache in a halfbewildered way. He was an odd contrast to the two seamen, with his magnificent proportions, his waving brown hair and white hands and the graceful, débonnaire manner. “Oh, Devèy brought you aboard last night. General Jocelyn is your uncle, I believe. Well, he has shipped Devèy with us. Old sailor, I believe,” answered the captain, taking a pinch of snuff. Bernard smiled the intensely perplexed smile of one at a downright loss to understand. “I remember that the fellow Devèy—an infernal scoundrel, by-the-way—traveled with me from Jocelyn Hall, but I was not aware that my uncle used his interest to get him aboard ship—that must be a mistake,” Bernie said, in his tranquil way. “Beg pardon; there is no mistake about it,” was the decisive answer. “The fellow understands his business; won't have a chance for any rascality. You look weak, Mr. Jocelyn. I recommend a still pull of grog; it brings a man round sooner than anything else." “Thanks,” replied Bernard ; “I have some better tonic in my chest.” “Your chest " queried both men, glancing significantly at a diminutive trunk lying near Bernie's feet. “Yes, sir; fortunately, I made complete arrangements for the expedition before my recent illness—in fact, as soon as I received your instructions on the snbject. My
anxiety to make the voyage stood me in good stead this time.” The perplexity in Bernie's countenance apparently was reflected in the two faces opposite him. The captain took another pinch of snuff. “As soon as I have my chest, I believe I will try the tonic. I am rather used up,” added Bernie. “The truth is, Mr. Jocelyn,” abruptly remarked Captain Colman; “the truthis—you came aboard without any chest or belongings except that rather light craft there at your feet, sir, and the fellow Devèy said it was all the rigging you shipped with.” Bernie looked startled as he slowly rejoined : “The deuce take the fellow, Devèy, if my chest is not on board ; he must have deliberately left it, and yet I don’t understand why he brought me aboard without my baggage. I remember feeling weak and ill at the city hotel, and Devèy brought me some coffee ; and the truth is, captain, I can't recall anything from that moment to this. Isuppose I was ill, but it is a miracle that I am here at all. All the same I don't see how I can weather it without my sea-chest.” “You’ll find it tough work after October. Winter in the Arctic regions is no small matter. But we can help you out, and there are the fur clothes; they are everything,” good-humoredly replied the captain. “It’s a strange thing in the fellow, and either gross carelessness or rascality. The Winter will be hard on you.” “The Winter ?” echoed Bernie. “Do you propose to spend the Winter at the Pole 2 I thought we had orders to quit the icebergs before October ?” Captain Colman and his mate stared at Bernie, as if some doubt of his sanity intruded itself. “I never heard of such orders, sir,” sharply retorted the captain. “You don't suppose the matter rests with me, or that we are going on such a cruise as this without knowing what we are about 2 A Winter—we are to spend several Winters at the Pole, sir.” Again the startled surprise broke into Bernard Jocelyn's face, surprise and dismay depicted in every lineament. “Your letter of instructions—I have it in that handtrunk there—stated especially that we would not pass the Winter in the northern waters.” The captain glanced at the mate interrogatively. “I never wrote a letter of instructions, Mr. Jocelyn. There was no time to do so.” A hot, crimson flush rushed over Bernie's face, then receded, leaving it paler than usual. He was weak, and strangely ill and feverish; his brain whirled dizzily; he could not comprehend, and these men only added to his nervous bewilderment. He spoke with an effort to suppress a faint irritability. “I beg your pardon, sir. I received my letter of instructions when I received my appointment, three months ago.” “Three months ago? Your appointment 2" echoed captain and mate, in sharp amazement. “Why, sir, it is only last week that General Jocelyn arranged for you to ship as a volunteer for this cruise to the north.” Bernard Jocelyn looked strangely ill and weary. His head grew confused and harassed, and an odd sensation of lightness came over him. He supported himself with the pillows nervously, and his voice was higher in pitch as he said : “I don't seem to understand it. Open the trunk and see for yourself. There is the letter, signed by Captain Thoresby, of the Arctic Expedition.” “Then I am not the man, for I am not Captain Thoresby, of the Arctic Expedition.”
Bernard pressed both hands to his head and sank heavily on the pillows. “Great God I" he ejaculated, “they have played me false at last ! In God's name, who are you?” “Captain Colman, of the whaler Arcturus, bound for Spitzbergen on a four years’ whaling expedition.” The words were clear and distinct enough, but they elicited no response. As Fulke had predicted, a violent shock had come to Bernard Jocelyn.
CHAPTER XIII. “AH ! WHAT DoES IT MATTER Now 7"
MADAME FRIssaE could never be said to shirk anything she consented to undertake; therefore, when she told Fulke that she would take his message to the general, in reference to the final adjustment of the matrimonial project, to which he held with such terrible tenacity, Marie did it without delay or circumlocution. “Ah, mon Dieu !” she said, that night, when Hugh Jocelyn came from the after-dinner wine, and Marie, instead of Winifred, handed him a cup of tea. Winifred excused herself from dinner, so that the Frenchwoman did the honors—presided in her place with such overweening delight, and such naive pride, that the host was almost consoled for the absence of the dainty, beautiful creature, always smiling upon him from the opposite end of the table. “I have a communication, Hugh. Come on the sofa, cher ami / I hesitate to tell it you, but—ah, the insupportable barbarity of the savage hurries me on. Sit here by me, Hugh, and let me whisper it.” General Jocelyn looked alarmed, like one who feels that at any moment a terrible calamity could fall and overwhelm him. Nevertheless, he availed himself of the proffered seat among the cushions, beside the flashy little Frenchwoman. “What is it, Marie 2 What can it be 2" he asked, reluctantly. “It is—ah, how hard to speak it !” she began, with wellfeigned hesitation, glancing at him from behind her fan with a half-shy, rather effective side-glance. “Hugh, I have been faithful and true, haven't I?” she abruptly questioned. “Yes, yes, Marie—faithful enough, save for that one fatal lapse which has given Fulke the power to ruin me. Yes,” he said, bitterly, “you were faithful for a time. But a woman's fidelity is, perhaps, at best, of limited duration.” The eyes behind the fan flashed, but fiery as she might be to all the world, to Hugh Jocelyn she was singularly mild, almost humble, save on that one point of leaving Jocelyn Hall. “And you say that,” was the low response, “when you know what I forfeited for your sake, when you know what contempt and scorn was flung upon me, and I bore it for you—for you, without the reward of a word or shadow of tenderness from you ; yet you will not forgive the little tiny word I whispered to Fulke, when he did so tease and harass it from me. How could I know that he would pounce upon it, and ferret it out to have a hold upon you, make a wheel of it to break my friend upon 2 And you will not forget or forgive it.” “Ay,” he returned, putting his hand over his eyes, “I have no time to forget it.” “And no will to forgive it. Ah, Hugh, poor Marie is toiling now to rescue you from Fulke's clutches. See if I am not. He has promised to resign that compact into my hand—to unloose his claws and be silent for ever when—"
“When 2 when 2 Why don't you finish, Marie 2 When will Fulke do this wonderfully generous thing 2" Hugh Jocelyn's skeptical, ironic tone piqued her. From any one else she would have resented it with fiery indignation, but the tawdry, reckless, faded woman was dangerously tender to this one man, whose ruin she had. perhaps, achieved that morning in New Orleans when wily Fulke won her secret away. “When 2 Ah, Hugh, look more kindly on your poor little friend. You, who have been so generous to me, can you not be kind, too—just a little bit kind 7" The wooing tones came stealing past his ear with a deprecating pathos, genuine enough, but wholly in vain. “When did you say?” he asked, gazing beyond her into the fire with the troubled, preoccupied expression always on his face now. She bit her lip angrily, but he never observed it. She at least expected a small share of consideration from him. Marie was content to take whatever scant dole of his affection she might chance to win. “When Winifred becomes his wife.” “Ah, is that it 2 My poor child ! Does he still hold the father's life in the balance to compel the daughter to marry him 2 God what have I come to ?” gloomily answered the general. “Ah !” Marie said, in a soothing tone, “he tells me to say many hard things.” “What are they 2” responded Hugh Jocelyn, hopelessly. “Surely I should be used to hard things by this time— to degradation, if anybody, can become accustomed to that.” Madame Frissae leaned nearer, and suddenly stooped and kissed the concealed hand. “Hugh, Hugh, you break my heart 1 I kiss the degradation. It is nothing—nothing. You are always grand and noble.” He started, and drew the disfigured hand away. “I did not mean that. Great God 1 I must bear that hideous brand of shame for all eternity God in heaven ' how could you remind me of that ?" A certain horror seemed to seize him, as if some new bolt had stricken him. “Did he—in God's name, Marie—did he ask you anything more of that ? Did you tell ?” “No, no. Oh, Hugh, I told him nothing !” She spoke in tearful earnest, softly touching the hand as she spoke. “He only guesses, and tortures you with cunningly worded insinuations. What does it matter if they saw the hand itself, Hugh 7” He shuddered as he answered, slowly: “It is there for ever—the brand of unmerited shame. But with one crime on my soul, who will believe me guiltless of the other ? Ah, God l it is there, merited or unmerited. The sin is branded on my hand for ever, and no human eye shall gloat over my degradation while I live.” “Hugh, you can be free and safe, and shall be. Listen to me. You must see Winifred in the morning, and insist —nay, command her to say what day she will marry Fulke. Hugh, you must do this.” “Marie, is this what Fulke asked you to say ?" he interrupted. “Go on ; do his bilding; he is master here.” “Oh, cruel, cruel Hugh I am compelled to say this— to break it to you, dear, dear Hugh. He compels me. You know those are his only terms. He is hard as adamant ; because Fulke is mad in love with Winifred. He loves her, Hugh, and people are always good to those they love. They must be that; and Winifred will not mind —now that Bernard is dead—she will not mind taking Fulke.” Hugh Jocelyn raised his head quickly, almost eagerly.