If you intend to make an attempt

Knowing what he did of Neil Webster. Mr. Cass quite prepared to see
him faint upon hearing the terrible truth. But to his unconcealed
astonishment the young man, beyond losing his colour, remained unmoved.

“I should like to hear the whole story, please,” he said, quietly.

Mr. Cass was almost frightened by his calmness. “A glass of wine—-”

“No. I want nothing. You have told me the worst. What remains to be
said can affect me but little. The whole story, please, from the
beginning. When I am in possession of the facts I may be able to see
some way of saving my mother from her unjust fate.”

“Her unjust fate!” repeated Mr. Cass, with a flush. “Why, man alive,
she had all the justice the English law could give.”

“Did she admit her guilt?

“She neither admitted nor denied it. Not a word would she say, good or
bad, for or against. Throughout the trial she maintained an absolute
silence, and went to prison uncomplainingly.”

“To my mind that looks likes innocence.”

The merchant moved restlessly in his chair. “Do not force me to say
unpleasant things,” he remarked, irritably.

“I want you to say exactly what you feel,” retorted Neil. “I am here to
hear the truth, however disagreeable. It is only by knowing all that
I can help my mother. If you will not tell me, then I must see the
lawyers who were concerned in the case. I don’t think they will mind
giving me pain. But if you are the friend I take you to be, you will
speak out.”

His self-possession was so much at variance with his usual demeanour
that Mr. Cass stared.

“If you will have it, then,” he said roughly, “I believe your mother
was guilty. Had there been the slightest chance of proving her
innocence, she would have done so for your sake.”

“Ah! my poor mother!” Nell’s face grew soft and tender, and a look of
deep affection came into his eyes. “My mother–how she loved me!”

“Can you remember her love?” asked Mr. Cass, doubtfully.

“Now I can.” He raised his hand to his forehead. “It all comes back to
me–all. That dream has given me the key to the past, and the memories
of my childhood rush back upon me. I know how I hated my father”–his
face grew dark–“and I know, also, how badly he treated my mother. If
she killed him, she did right.”

Mr. Cass shuddered. “I quite believe all that,” he said, drily. “You
were born hating your father, and your mother taught you to look upon
him as your worst enemy. That you should deem her action in killing him
a right one is exactly what you would believe, having regard to your
childish feelings towards him. Indeed, I believe that had you grown
up while your father was still in existence you would have killed him

“Very probably,” remarked Neil, just as drily. “Indeed. I did try!”

“What? I don’t understand!”

“I daresay not, seeing my mother kept silence from the time of her
arrest. But I remember that on the night my father was murdered at the
Turnpike House I flew at him with a knife. I forgot all that took place
after that, except that I was in the room and saw his dead body lying
under the open window–the open window,” he repeated, quietly, and with
significance. “Do not forget that, Mr. Cass.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that someone else might have killed him. The window was open.
Why should it have been open unless the true murderer had gained
entrance by it, and had fled through it when his deed was accomplished?
I do not believe that my mother is guilty, in spite of her silence. She
has some reason for holding her tongue.”

“I can’t think what the reason can be,” replied Mr. Cass, wearily,
leaning his head on his hands. “For love of you she would have chosen
to remain free; yet when a word–according to you–might have saved
her, she held her tongue and risked the gallows.”

For the first time Neil Webster shuddered. “How was it she escaped
that?” he asked, in a low voice.

“The case was so extraordinary that a petition to the Home Secretary
was got up, and he commuted the sentence to one of imprisonment for
life. Yet I must tell you the general opinion was that she was guilty.
She was pitied for all that when the story of her husband’s brutality
came out in the evidence.”

“And my father?” said Neil, impatiently raising his head. “Tell me

Mr. Cass hesitated a moment.

“Jenner deserved his fate. He treated his wife abominably; she had been
left to starve. After having been put to many shifts—-”

Webster raised his hand with a cry of pain. “I remember; don’t!” he
said. “My poor mother! I can recall in some degree–that is, so far as
a child could have understood–our terrible life in London. Then we
came down here.”

“Yes, I did what I could for your mother, for I had always respected
her very much. But she was a difficult person to manage; and she
refused my help on the ground that it was charity.”

“So it was,” Neil said between his teeth. “And I have lived on your
charity ever since!”

“My dear lad”–Mr. Cass laid his hand on the young man’s arm–“don’t
be so thin-skinned. Whatever I have done, you have more than repaid me
by your success. And if you feel that you cannot bring yourself to
accept the money I have spent upon your education, why, then, pay me a
sum to be agreed upon between us. Surely that will set your mind at

Neil shook his head. “The obligation remains the same,” he said,
gloomily. “I shall ever remain grateful to you, and I will repay the
money. I know that whosoever else may be a scoundrel–and the world is
full of them–you, at least, are a good man.”

Mr. Cass winced as Neil held out his hand. But the feeling passed away
in a moment, and he did not refuse the proffer of friendship.

“The best of us are bad,” he said, with a sigh, “but I do my best to
behave as a man should. However,” he added, glancing at the clock,
“it is growing late. Will you hear the rest of this story to-morrow

“No,” and Neil settled himself resolutely in his chair. “Now that I
have heard so much I want to know all. My mother lived in the Turnpike
House, did she not?”

“Yes; it was a tumble-down old place, and belonged to Heron’s father.”

“To Heron’s father?” Neil made a wry face, for he did not like the

“She paid no rent for it,” continued Mr. Cass, taking no notice of the
interruption. “Heron refused to accept any. Then she did sewing for
several people in the village. My sister, Mrs. Marshall, who was then
unmarried, gave her work, and sometimes food–when she would accept it,
which was not often. In this way, then, she lived, and found all her
joy in you!”

“I have a faint memory of that terrible life,” said Neil, musingly. “My
poor mother, with her bright hair and blue eyes, always so kind and
tender to me. Then that night–ah! how it all comes back to me! The
dream–the dream!” and in his agitation he rose to his feet. “It was a
shadow of the past–that dream. I was playing with a toy horse by the
fire; my mother was sewing. Then he came–my father. I remember running
at him with a knife, and afterwards–nothing.”

“Is that the very last of your memories?” asked Mr. Cass, watching him
keenly, and with an uneasiness he found it hard to disguise.

Neil Webster sat down and passed his hand again across his eyes with
a weary gesture. “Yes–no–that is, I remember the dead body with the
blood–and afterwards the cold–the mist–the–the—-” He made a
gesture as though brushing away the past. “I remember nothing more!”

“The cold and the mist are easily explained,” Mr. Cass said after a
pause. “Your mother, after the murder, took you in her arms and fled
from the scene of her crime.”

“Don t say that!” cried the young man. “Give her the benefit of the

Mr. Cass smiled sadly. “Unfortunately, there was no doubt, my dear boy.
Your father was killed with a buck-handled knife which had been used to
cut bread, and—-”

“The knife–the knife!” muttered Neil, straining his memory. “Yes, it
was with a buck-handled knife I ran at him!”

“The knife was your mother’s, and was found beside the body of the dead
man. Undoubtedly your father came back after his release from prison,
and insulted the woman he had ruined—-”

“I can’t bear it–not a word more of that. Only the fact.”

“Well, there must have been a quarrel, and your mother–goaded beyond
herself, no doubt–struck at your father with the knife which was lying
on the table.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because the table was spread for supper, and the knife was of the kind
that is used to cut bread.”

“I remember something about eating,” muttered Neil. “Go, on, please.”

“The murder was discovered next morning by a woman who had gone to
the Turnpike House to get Mrs. Jenner was doing for her. She gave the
alarm, and suspicion fell at once upon your mother. The police were
informed, and search was made. Your mother was found five miles away,
under a hedge, insensible, with you in her arms. She had succumbed to
cold and but she still lived.”

“Would she had died altogether!” said Neil, sadly.

“You were in a high fever, raving mad.”

“What did I rave about?”

“About the dead man and the blood; and you frequently cried out to your
mother to kill him. That had something to do with bring the crime home
to her.”

“Cruel–cruel, to take a child’s ravings as evidence!”

“That was not done,” said Mr. Cass sharply. “The law treated the
prisoner”–Neil winced–“perfectly fairly. But the suspicion was
instilled into the hearts of those who had heard your words.”

“She didn’t deny the charge?”

“She denied nothing–hardly opened her mouth, in fact. I got a lawyer
to her–I saw her myself and implored her to speak but she obstinately
refused. All she asked was, that I should take charge of you, which I
promised I would do.”

Neil looked up sharply, and asked the pointed question “Why?”

“I don’t think you should ask me that,” Mr. Cass said, somewhat pained.
“Have I not proved myself a friend to you? Was it not natural that I
should feel sympathy for a girl who had been a member of my household.
Your mother, remember, had been governess to my eldest daughter? And
your father had been in my employment. Why should you suspect me of any
motive save that of sorrow for the ruin of a woman–whom I had liked as
a bright girl–and pity for a helpless child?”

“Forgive me if I am wrong.” Neil shook hands with much penitence. “But
I am suspicious now of all the world. Heaven help me! Go on.”

“There is very little more to tell. I took charge of you as I had
promised, and I placed you with Mrs. Jent, who is an old servant of
mine. You were seriously ill, and were not expected to live. Seeing
that your mother was in gaol and your father dead by her hand, I used
to think sometimes that it would have been better for you to have died.”

“I’m glad I did not,” cried Neil with vehemence. “I have lived to
vindicate my mother’s innocence.”

“You are not likely to where others have failed,” Mr. Cass said, sadly.
“However, although I thought it would better for yourself and for all
concerned that you should not recover, I did not feel justified in
letting you slip through my fingers. I got the best doctors to see you,
and they managed to pull you round after months of suspense. But the
memory of your childhood, up to the time of your illness, was gone from
you for ever. It was just as well, seeing how terrible that childhood
had been. I made no attempt to revive your dormant memory, and I warned
Mrs. Jent not to say anything either. We supplied you with a fictitious

“I know,” said Neil, with a faint smile. “The American parents! I
believed in them until I went to New York. Then I made enquiries; but
as I could find no trace of them, and could hear nothing about them, I
began to doubt their existence. If it had not been for my relating that
dream, you would not have informed me of the truth.”

“No,” Mr. Cass said, honestly. “I would not, seeing what pain it must
have inflicted upon you. I should have simply requested you to forget
Ruth, and go away; the rest I would have spared you.”

“I thank you for your forbearance,” Neil said, politely, but coldly.
“But Providence knew that I had a duty to perform, and so gave me back
the past. Oh, it was no miracle!” he went on, with a shrug. “I am not
a believer in the supernatural, as you know. I can see how it all came
about. Can’t you?”

“No; I confess that I am amazed that the dream should have been so
accurate, or, indeed, that it should have come to you at all.”

“Dreams, I have heard, are only the impressions of our waking hours in
more confused forms,” said Webster, quietly. “And as I had received no
injury to the brain itself, my memory was only dormant, not destroyed.
It was awakened by the sight of the face in that photograph.”

“Ah! so it was,” Mr. Cass said. “And the sight recalled your
instinctive hatred for the man. That was why you fainted.”

“Exactly; and no doubt, all that night, my brain was busily running
back through the years. Then I found the Turnpike House.”

“What took you there?”

Neil shrugged his shoulders. “It might have been accident; but I do not
think it was. My own belief is that the awakening of memory drew me
there, and when I got into that room all came back to me in my sleep.
However, I know the truth now, so nothing else matters. Henceforth I
devote myself to proving the innocence of my mother.”

“You will never do that,” Mr. Cass said, decisively.

“You think so because you believe her guilty.”

“I believe her wrongs drove her mad, and that it was in a fit of
madness she killed her husband. Yes.”

“Well, I don’t agree with you,” Neil said. “The first thing I intend to
do is to see her. Where is she?”

Cass wrote down the information on a slip of paper, and threw it
across the table to the young man. “But I think you are starting on
a wild-goose chase,” he said. “Take my advice, and leave the matter
alone. You are Neil Webster, the violinist. You have no connection with

“No, I am Gilbert Jenner, the son of a murdered man and of a woman
wrongfully accused. I loved your daughter, Mr. Cass–I love her
still–but I give her up. I will not see her again. To-morrow morning I
leave this house for ever!”

“No,” said his host, with decision. “If you intend to make an attempt
to prove your mother’s innocence, I have a right to help you, and to
know your plans. So be it. Do your appointed work.” He offered his
hand. “As to Ruth—-”

Neil interrupted him. “She is a dream of the past. My new life has
nothing to do with love–but with revenge.”

The next morning Neil Webster was conspicuous by his absence. His
excuse was that he had been suddenly recalled to town on business. Mrs.
Marshall was not deceived, and on the first available opportunity she
drew her brother aside.

“You have got rid of him, I see,” she remarked, with evident
satisfaction. “But Ruth will not submit quietly to all this. In the
first place, she will refuse to believe that he has given her up;
such a sacrifice is beyond the conception of a pretty girl. In the

“Wait a bit, Inez. Let us dispose of Number One first of all. Ruth will
be convinced that Webster has given her up, for the simple reason that
he has left a letter telling her so.”

“Ah! Then that is wily she has not come down to breakfast. I daresay
she is weeping and storming in her room. I’ll go and—-”

“No, no. Leave her alone. If you go and annoy her, there is no knowing
what she will do. You know how headstrong—–”

“You should have trained her better,” said his sister.

“All the training in the world will not tame our mother’s blood in
her–or in you, for the matter of that!”

“I know I am strong-minded, if that is what you mean.”

“Well, if you like to call obstinacy strongmindedness, there is no need
to argue. No doubt we both mean the same thing—-”

“With a difference,” finished Mrs. Marshall.

Jennie Brawn was loud in her lamentations when she came to hear of the
Master’s departure. She went at once to Ruth, and found that young lady
far from tearful, pacing her bedroom in a towering rage. Jennie paused
at the door; she saw that Ruth had a pencil-scribbled note in her hand.

“What is the matter?” asked Miss Brawn, amazed at this exhibition of
temper. Ruth pounced upon her.

“Matter enough!” she cried, flourishing the letter. “Here is Neil gone
to town in the most unexpected manner–without even an excuse to me!
Read this, Jennie.”

“He says he is called away on business,” said that young lady, when she
had mastered the contents of the note. “Well, that is, no doubt, the

“The truth! Pshaw! You don’t know men, my dear. They tell lies in the
most plausible manner. But Neil cannot deceive me! All I want to know
is who the woman is!”

Miss Brawn’s freckled face grew crimson. “You have no right to say such
a thing as that! It is not like a lady!”

“I am a woman before I am a lady,” cried Ruth. “And a jealous woman at
that. Don’t I know how all the creatures swarm after him just because
he is handsome and famous! He has told me all sorts of things about the
notes and the presents they send him, and—-”

“It was not nice of him to do that,” remarked Jennie, for once blaming
her idol.

“Well,”–Ruth dropped into a chair fairly worn cut by her rage–“it was
not his fault. I worried him into telling me everything. He did not
want to–I must do him that justice.”

“How did you worry him into betraying others?”

“You are a woman and ask that? Oh, I forgot–you are not in love–or
rather, no man is in love with you. Why, you stupid little creature if
a man loves a woman, he’ll do anything she tells him. Besides, he did
not mention names; he only told me that he got heaps of presents and
letters. But I want to know who the woman is he has gone up to meet.”

“I daresay there is no woman.”

“My dear Jennie, you don’t know men.”

“Mr. Webster is devoted to you.”

“So he says. Humph!”

“Ruth! Why, he shews it in every way.”

“All put on!” cried Miss Cass, determined not to be pacified. “But I’ll
get the truth out of my father. I hear from the servants that Neil was
with him in the library for three hours last night.”

“Then that is the explanation. Your father has refused his consent to
the marriage, and the Master has gone away.”

“Nonsense! Do you think he would give me up like that, and leave me so
cold a letter? No. There is something else–a woman, I am sure. But
I’ll get the truth out of my father. I have as wild a temper as Aunt
Inez when I am roused. I can be nice enough, Jennie, as you know, but,
oh, how nasty I can be when I make up my mind!”

“You have evidently made up your mind now,” said Miss Brawn, who had
known all about Ruth’s temper when they were at school together. And
at this juncture, judging from previous experience, she considered it
prudent to retire, before she herself could be brought under the harrow.

Ruth, left alone, did not rage any more. She put on her prettiest
dress, bathed her eyes, which were reddened with tears, and went down
to try and cajole her father.

Mr. Cass was in the library; and one look at her face was enough
to tell him why she had come. He argued, however, from her studied
amiability, that she was in a particularly aggravating mood. But long
experience of his mother and sister had taught him how to deal with
this sinister sweetness. He was immediately on his guard; for, as he
well knew, if the truth was to be got out of him, his daughter was the
one to get it.

“Dear papa,” she said, sinking into a chair beside the desk and patting
his hand. “I am in great trouble.”

“I know,”–determined that he would carry the war into the enemy’s camp.
“Mr. Webster was with me last night.”

Ruth started to her feet with a tragic expression on her face. “And
you have forbidden our marriage!” she cried, and her air was that of a

“What else did you expect?” her father asked. “Neil is a good fellow,
but he is not the son-in-law I want. And, indeed, I should be sorry,
for his own sake, to see him marry you. He is too gentle and kind. What
you want, my young lady, is a master.”

“No man shall ever master me,” his daughter said, calmly. “And has he
given me up without a word?”

“No; he said a good many words. But I am adamant, so far as this
ridiculous marriage is concerned. He accepted the inevitable after some
fighting, and took his departure this morning before you were up. I
see,” he added, glancing at the note in her hands, “that he has written
to you.”

“Yes.” Ruth gave it to him. “But it explains nothing.”

“It explains all there is to explain,” said Mr. Cass. “Let the matter
drop now. Neil has gone away on business; so we will say nothing about
his love for you. You’ll soon get over it.”

“Indeed I shan’t!” sobbed the girl, now on the tearful tack. “It is
cruel of you to send him away when I love him so. I don’t believe he
gave me up because you refused. There is something else.”

“There is nothing else.” Mr. Cass’s tone was decisive.

But Ruth’s fine ear caught something of hesitation in his voice, and
she dropped her handkerchief from her eyes with a triumphant air. “I
knew there was something else. What is it–something about his parents?”

Mr. Cass started and changed colour at this chance shot. “Good Heavens,
child! Who told you anything about his parents?” he said; and no sooner
had he said it than he repented his rashness. For thereby she had
gained an advantage which she would not be slow to seize.

“Why,” she said, very slowly, with her eyes fixed on her father’s
perturbed face, “it was just this way. Neil told me all about his
parents having died in America, and how you had brought him up at

“Did he tell you nothing else?” Mr. Cass was beginning to feel that she
was too much for him.

This was an opportunity which the girl was too clever to lose. “Well, he
did not tell me everything,” she said. “He couldn’t, you know.”

“I’m glad he had that much sense,” Mr. Cass said, with relief.

“Ah, papa, now I have caught you!” cried Miss Cass, clapping her hands.
“I know nothing, then, except that you brought him up. But you admit
there is something else which has stopped the marriage?”

He saw that he had been over-reached. “I can tell you nothing,” he said.

“Very well, papa,” she said, turning to go, “I’ll write to Neil and ask
him to tell me the truth.”

“He won’t tell you.”

“Oh, yes, he will. He loves me, and I can get any thing out of him.”

“Girl! Ruth,”–her father seized her arm–“if you can be sensible, do
not write to Webster. He has gone out of your life of his own free

“I will never–never believe that!” and she flushed angrily. “Do you
think I don’t know when a man loves me or not? I will see him and learn
the truth.”

“I forbid it, and Ruth saw that her father was very angry. With the
cunning of a woman who is determined to get her way, she suddenly
yielded, feeling that she could best gain her ends under the mask of

“Very well, papa,” she said, with a few tears; “but it is very hard on
me. I love him, and you have sent him away–for no fault of his own,
I’m sure.”

“He is not in fault–he is unfortunate—-”

“In his parents?” she asked.

“Amongst other things,” was the reply. “My dear child”–he took her
hand–“if you are wise, you will leave things as they are. I should
like you to marry Heron; but if you do not wish it. I will not press
the matter. As to Neil, put him out of your head, once and for all. He
can never be your husband! Now go.” And he pushed her gently outside
the library door.

“What on earth can it be?” thought the girl, as she took her way to the
winter garden. “Has Neil committed some crime, or has—-”

She had reached this point in her meditations when she suddenly came
upon Mr. Marshall. He was pale, and had a look of alarm on his face.
When he saw her he gave a startled cry. “Why, good gracious, uncle,
what is the matter?” asked Ruth.

“Oh, it’s you!” replied Marshall. “I thought–never mind what I
thought. I’m upset.”

“Oh, Aunt Inez has been giving you a bad time,” said the girl, with
some amusement. She knew very well what a tight hand that lady kept
over her elderly Don Juan; and when her uncle nodded, she continued: “I
am upset myself, uncle. He has gone away!”

“Are you talking of Neil Webster?” he asked, with an obvious effort.

“Yes; did you know how much I cared for him, uncle–and–what’s the

For Mr. Marshall, with an ejaculation, had jumped up and was looking at
her with an expression of dismay. “Nothing is the matter,” he gasped,
and it was quite evident that he was not speaking the truth. “But I
must confess I did not know that you cared for him. Ridiculous! Why, he
can never marry you.”

“So papa says,” replied Ruth, somewhat disconsolately. “He has refused
his consent.”

“Quite right–quite right. Ruth, put the ocean between yourself
and that man; but never have anything to do with him. It is”–he
looked–round and approached his lips to her ear–“it is dangerous.
Don’t say I told you!” And before she could recover from her
astonishment he had slipped away with an alacrity surprising in so
heavy a man.

Ruth remained standing, utterly perplexed by the manner of her usually
careless and good-natured uncle. “I wonder if he knows why Neil has
gone away?” she thought. “I will find out the reason,” she went on to
herself “I am as obstinate as they are. Since they won’t tell me I will
write to Neil.”

This she proceeded to do, demanding to know the cause of his departure.
“If you love me as you say, you will not give me up at my father’s
bidding. I am ready to brave his anger for your sake. Can you not be as
brave as I?”

The reply came, as she had expected, by return, and it was with a
violently beating heart that she tore it open. “I must give you up,” he
wrote. It is in vain to fight against the destiny that parts us. I love
you still; but it is my duty to forget you. Do the same, for only in
that way can you be happy.

“Oh, he is mad!” cried Ruth, angrily. “And if he thinks he can put me
off in this way he will find his mistake. I will know!” She stamped her
foot. “I will–I will!”

Notwithstanding Ruth’s refusal of him, Geoffrey Heron had not gone
away; he was too deeply in love with her for that, and remained like a
moth fluttering round a candle. Sometimes he felt annoyed with himself;
but he was no longer his own master. Then, much to his surprise, the
girl sought him of her own free will. He was delighted, though he
wisely strove not to shew it. She suggested a walk, in order that they
might not be interrupted.

After some preliminary skirmishing, she led the conversation up to the
departure of Neil Webster.

“I am sorry,” she said, with a sigh.

“You need hardly tell me that,” replied Geoffrey, not very amiably, for
he was annoyed by the speech and the sigh. “I know he is the lucky man.”

“If he is lucky, he does not value his luck.”

“What do you mean? I understood from Miss Brawn that you were engaged
to marry him.”

“Ah! that’s just it. I was engaged, but now–he has gone away without a
word. I don’t believe he cares one bit about me.”

“What a fool! Oh, Ruth, if you only knew!”

“I do know,” she said, kindly; “you want me to be your wife. Well, I
refused, because I could not really love you; but you know that I do
like you extremely.”

“Even that is something.”

“And if it were not for Neil–well, I might bring myself to marry you.”

“No,” he said, firmly. “I also have my pride. Much as I want you to be
my wife, I will not consent to that unless you can tell me that you
love me.”

“Won’t liking do?”

“No,”–gruffly–“liking will certainly not do.”

“I might grow to love you in time.”

“I wish you could–but–what does all this mean?”

She thought for a moment; then she said: “I hope you won’t think me
bold for speaking openly. But the fact is–well, I was engaged to Neil,
and he–he has broken our engagement.”

“Ah!” exclaimed the young man. “And how can I remedy the situation?”

“Go to him and ask why he went away.”

“I cannot. Do you expect me to bring my rival back to you?”

“If you loved me and wished me to be happy, you would.”

“I don’t want to see you happy with another fellow,” and his manner was
eminently human. “I want you to myself.”

“Well, you will not get me by behaving in this way!” cried Ruth, now
thoroughly exasperated. “This is the very first time I have ever asked
you to do anything for me, and you refuse!”

Geoffrey temporised. “Supposing Webster were to persist in his refusal
to come back to you, would there be a chance for me?”

Miss Cass looked straight before her, with her nose in the air.

“I really don’t know,” she said coldly. “I make no bargains.”

“Very well,” said Geoffrey, most unexpectedly, “I’ll do it.”