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PAID IN HIS OWN COIN.

By Edward J. Goodman, Author of * Too Curious.’

VOL. lI.—CHAPTER XIII. VII] PARING FOR ACTION.

Among th< minor annoyances of life few are more vexatious than that which a man experiences - hen, arriving home at three o’clock in the morning, he finds himself on tho wrong hide of his street door, and suddenly remembers that bis latch key is on the other side. And when he recollects —though this is not often the case—that that key forms part of a united collection of other keys, giving access to secrets which he would hide from the world as he would protect his life, the situationnaturally becomes more than vexatious—it is alarming. Such was the position of Dr Abel Wynd at the moment when, for the first time, he discovered this act of forgetfulness. A shock of terror seized him at the thought of what might have happened in his absence through this neglect. True, there was little chance that anyone would misuse his keys to pry into his drawers and cupboards. Who was likely to do so ? His wife or Sarah ? Or Helen or Oliver Crayke, if eirher had happened to visit the house in iiis abs'oe. ? The thought was ridiculous, yet it made him uneasy. With trembling hand he pulled the doorbell, and in tho silence of tho night listened to its long tinkling with a beating heart, as the noise prevented him from hearing whether the signal had been noticed. But Ihe had not long to wait. In a few minutes he heard a voice and a cough, which he recognised as his wife’s. “ Who is there ?” cried Mrs Wynd timidly, though she was quick to guess the cause of the summons.

“ It is I,” replied the doctor impatiently ; open the door, will you ? Don’t keep me iwaiting here.” But as he was speaking, the door was • opened, and there stood his wife, shivering f in her nightdress, and with bare feet. “I suppose,” she said, “you left your ilatch-key at home, Abel?” Ho was glad to hear her say this. It ■implied that she, at least, had not found • his keys. “Of course I did,” he answered ; “ you have not seen it, have you ?” “Ohno !” said Mrs Wynd; “I am very -sorry you had to wait, but ’ “ Never mind that,” interrupted her husband. “Has anybody been here to.night ?” “ Only Mr Crayke.” 41 When did he come ?” “ About eight o’clock, I think.” “ And when did he leave ?” “ I don’t know. He was still hero when I wmt up to bed.” This was not at all remarkable ; still. Dr Wynd was so intensely anxious that even the possible opportunity presented to Crayke excited an involuntary suspicion and dread. But he was eager to ascertain whether his keys were safe, and he recollected the exact spot where he had left them, in the right-hand corner on his pedestal table, next to Oliver Crayke’s book. “ Did you give my message to Crayke ?” ho asked. “Yes, Abel,” replied bis wife; “I told him he would find his book on the table in your study.” “ And did he get it ?” “ I don’t know.” “There, that will do. You can go to bed.”

Then with a sigh Jane Wynd bade her husband good-night, and crept up stairs, coughing painfully, to her solitary room. Dr \Vynd -ow lighted the candle left on the hall tubl-, and entered the back room. A single glar -e assured him, to his great relief, that all was safe. There lay his hunch of keys in the exact position in which he had so caieleasly left them. There beside them lay Oliver Crayke’s book. It was -certain, therefore, that Crayke could not have entered the room.

Not that he suspected his friend of any desire to gratify an undue curiosity. Still, he was suspicious, lie would have felt uneasy if he iiad heard that there had been a child in the room while his keys were lying about it. He glancetV around the apartment. Everything was ir perfect order. No one could have entere 1 it in his absence. He even took the pr. jaution of opening the safe and its inner h> :Ker. There were the bottles and the m nuscript in their accustomed places, quite undisturbed. All was well. “ What a fool I am !” he reflected as he went up t- bed. “Who would have ventured to meddle with the keys? \et ought Ito keep those things ? If they were discovered by any chance, it might be awkward. But now could they be discovered ? Impossible. No, they are safe enough, and 1 may have need of them yet one of these days.” So Dr Abel Wynd went to bed, fatigued In body, but relieved in mind. Had he but gathered the slightest inkling of the recent acts and present thoughts and purposes of his wily guest, his slumbers would not have been quite so peaceful as they were. Oliver Crayke passed on his way homeward, his mind agitated by excitement, M At last,” he repeated, “at last I have the great secret, and the means of action. Yes, it is as I supposed. A poison, or compound of poisons, long ago discovered, long since forgotten. The process of mixture, the mode of application, as described in that old writing, correspond exactly with the account in my book. Where eould he have lighted upon it? That matters not. It is enough that he has it, and—aha ! —that I have it, too ! I do not wonder that it puzzled all the doctors. It is a safe drug—very safe, indeed. The administration of it may develop strange symptons, but once absorbed into the system no trace of it remains. A useful—a very useful—potion ; and I have enough here, so powerful is it, so small the dose that is needed, to deal with twenty cases. But how am I to uso it, now that I have it ? Ah 1 that is a question of time and opportunity. Meanwhile, I can try it. Yes, I can see how it works ; and if it succeeds in this case, I may employ it more effectually in another.” Oliver Crayke, more careful than his friend, had not left his latch-key at home, and he passed the gloomy portals of Gore House silently and unheard, as he had moved to and fro in Dr Wynd’s abode. Ho listened in his dark passage, but all was still, save that ho heard amid the silence tho heavy breathing of his uncouth servant, Jahtz, asleep in his accustomed lair.

The quaint dwarf was quiet enough now, and he was never turbulent at any time. His master’s expedient, whatever it may have been, had effectually subdued him, and he obeyed Oliver Crayke’s every order without a murmur. All impulse to rebellion was checked by the memory of that fearful night when, scared and horrified by the recollection, ho shrunk with dismay at the prosEect that his master might once more “make im dream.” And not only in his presence, but even in his absence also, had Oliver Crayke by this means reduced his wayward servitor to complete subordination. There were no more violent conflicts betweenJabez and the street boys. His savage spirit seemed to be broken, and the roughs of the neighborhood, finding that their attempts to goad the once malignant dwarf into fury were met only by sullen silence on his part, gradually desisted from their persecution, as it no longer afforded them any sport. . ~ Oliver Crayke had thus converted the unruly Jabez into an obedient, humble, and useful servant, who went about his work quietly and industriously, like some tamed beast. And he could even be trusted alone in the house, where Crayke often left him for hours together, and occasionally even for days, when absent on some expedition to a distant town, where a case of murder was under trial.

“Yes,” Oliver Crayke reflected, “he is very useful to me, and I must not waste him. I must not go too far if I can help it. No purpose would be served by destroying him. Who would interest himself in the fate of this wretched creature ? Even were it suspected, the case could attract no curiosity, no notoriety. But there may be some risk, and it will be well to be prepared.” These thoughts passed through Oliver Cmyke's miaa a? ha stoed to hid ghastly

library after studying an old volume which he had tukeu down from one of his shelves, and in which lie had found tho counterpart of tho recipe and directions contained in Dr Wynd’s manuscript. Replacing the book, he then proceeded to remove the heavy table that stood in the centre of the narrow room. Having with some difficulty pushed itafow feet from its place, ho went to the wall on the side opposite that which fronted the garden, and lifted a small portion of tho panelling which had been made to work upwards in grooves. By this means he was enabled to push for a few inches into the wall behind tho panel one of the planks of the floor, causing it to slide back like a similar plank in the stage of a theatre. The result was that in the space lately covered by the table a small aperture was made. Into this he now inserted his hand, seizing the boarding on which the table hud stood, and showing that it constituted a trap door so closely fitted to the rest of the flooring that its nature could not otherwise have been detected.

Raising the heavy trap, Oliver Crayke peered into tho dark vault which was thereby disclosed. Horribly dark it was, and presumably deep. A faint, musty odor, as cf a long disused charnel-house, issued from its depths. Then he stooped and examined the opening with the candle which he held in his hand. The light thus thrown into the black abyss revealed the fact that access to the depths below was furnished by a ladder, the topmost rungs of which alone were visil.de, Crayke did not gaze long into thisgloomy vault, but presently closed the trap-door, re) laced the plank in the flooring, shut the panel, and dragged back the table to the spot where it had stood before,

“Ay,” be thought, “that will do. If any accident should happen, the secret could be hidden there, as those secrets were hidden many a year ago, never be discovered. Never discovered, notwithstanding tho suspicion that was cast upon this house by the deeds that were, discovered. Fools ! They thought they had found out ail ; but they had solved only a part of the mystery, that which lay beneath their noses. The rest was left to me to me, Oliver Crayke, whoso name they will hear of some day, and who will puzzle them again. Yes —yes—this will do—if wanted. But I must take care that it shall not be wanted.” For several days Oliver Crayke spent much time in his own house. He visited the Wynds on the day after his discovery, asked for the book that he had left behind, and said he had forgotten to take it away on the previous night. Dr VVyiul incidentally mentioned the fact of his having left his keys at home, speaking of it in a light and jocular tone, but watched the countenance of his friend keenly as he spoke. Oliver Crayke, however, seemed to regard the incident with absolute indifference, and as calling for no remark. Evidently, thought Dr Wynd, be had known nothing about it. It was absurd even to think such a thing barely possibl ■. On taking his leave, Mr Crayke intimated that he was likely to be absent from town on business for some days, and promised to call again on his return. The days that followed were, as we have said, spout by him for the most part at Gore House - spout in study and reflection. But after a while be began to take action. He bestowed much cartful attention on the quarters occupied by Jabez, while his servant was absent on various domestic errands, to ascertain what were his habits of life. By this means bo found that tho dwarf was sometimes accustomed to leave his food only partially consumed, and there would often stand on the rough table at which he took hia meals a cup or glass_containing a portion of the beer or other liquid with which he had refreshed himself. Jabez, whenever he returned, would invariably find his master in his own sitting room, usually engaged in reading, and never suspected fur a moment that he had visited tho kitchen. One day Oliver Crayke called the dwarf to him as though to give him some ordinary order. The ungainly creature obeyed the summons, but shuffled into the room with a step even more unsteady and awkward than usual, while his eyes looked dull and heavy, the perspiration stood upon hia forehead, and he seemed shivering in every limb. , “Get me a cup of tea, Jabez, said lua master, eyeing him closely. “Tea':” echoed the dwarf with a halfdazed air. “ Yes,” replied Crayke. “Do you understand me ?”

The man stared at his master with a vacant, bewildered, and terrified expression, and seemed as though making an effort to overcome a sense of drowsiness that was creeping over him. “ What is the matter with you, Jahez? asked Crayke, and, receiving no anssver, added: “Are you ill?” “111? Yes, ill. lam going to sleep. I am going to dream,” answered the wretched dwarf, clasping his head with his hands. “Oh ! master, don’t don’t make me dream ?” . .

“There, go,” said Crayke, perceiving that the dwarf might drop down insensible before him at any moment. Thus dismissed, Jabez shambled out of the room, staggering like a drunken man. “ It works,” mused Oliver Crayke when Jabez had disappeared, and then he resumed the perusal of his hook. About half an hour afterwards Crayke stole quietly out of his room and crept softly to the kitchen. The door was ajar, and looking through the opening, he perceived that the dwarf was lying huddled up on the mat before the fireplace, wrapped in a death like sleep. Crayke approached him, turned him over on his back, and examined his hideous features, on which an unwonted calm and pallor had settled down. “He cannot be dead,” thought Crayke, and placing his hand on the region of the dwarf’s heart, ho added : “ No, it beats—though faintly. He must recover.” And recover he did, after an interval of an hour or two ; but the wretched creature still looked very dazed and ill. He seemed, besides, terribly alarmed, as though apprehensive of having somehow disobeyed his master or neglected his orders, and tried to make clumsy excuses for himself. “ Never mind, Jabez," said Oliver Crayke; “go to bed. You are not well. Co—you will not dream to-night.” When once the dwarf had become himself again, he soon forgot the fact of his illness, the cause of which he never seemed to question. “I see how it works now, reflected Crayke. “ The experiment has succeeded, and must sullice, I must not repeat it—in this case, at least.” After this Mr Crayke was supposed to have returned to town, and during the next few days he paid a round of visits. He first went to see Mr Copple, as usual, talked with him about book bargains, either effected or contemplated. After a while he asked whether the publisher had yet been paid anything on account by Mr Musgrave. “ Not yet,” replied Mr Copple, “I did mention the subject to him some weeks ago, and he promised to consider it and let me know ; but I have heard nothing from him since.” “ You have made no further application? inquired Mr Crayke. “Not at present,” replied Mr Copple. “ I have duly acted on your request not to press Mr Musgrave, as, of course, I am quite content with your guarantee, my dear sir, especially as you so liberally undertake to make up for any loss of interest on the principal.” “Just so,” said Mr Crayke. “But I think it would be advisable now to ask Mr Musgrave for the balance,” “As you please Mr Crayke,” answered the publisher. “I am entirely in your hands. Do you desire that the application should be urgent ?” «* No—not very urgent,” said Mr Crayke, “ Send in an account with a hint that a settlement will be acceptable, eh, Mr Crayke?” “ Something of that sort. “And the stock,’’continued tho publisher. “ There is a large quantity of the book still in hand, and a great many returns from the shops. I really would be inclined to recommend Mr Musgrave to let the remainders go for pretty nearly anything they can fetch.” “ It might be as well to make the suggestion, Mr Copple,” said Mr Crayke. “I will do so, sir,” was the reply. Two or three days afterwards Oliver Crayke called at Eden Villa, and found Mr

Musgrave and his wife and younger daughter in a state of great distress. “ I don’t like to say anything against Mr Copple,” said the poet, “as you so kindly introduced him to me. But really, my dear Mr Crayke, I don’t think ho has done me justice—l don’t, indeed.” “ I think,” broke in Tessie, “ that he has behaved infamously.” “No, no, my dear,” expostulated her father ; “ I won’t say that. Mr Copple is a man of business, and I suppose thinks first of his own interests, and not those of literature. But I must say his request for money seems to me at least premature, while to propose that the remaining copies of my books shall bo sold cheap, or for what they will fetch, is cruel, positively cruel-” “It is simply atrocious!” cried Tessie; “ almost dishonest. For if father’s books wore sold cheap, no doubt someone, perhaps a friend of Mr Copple’s, would buy them all up, and sell them some day at an immense protit when father’s name has become famous.”

“ Nothing more likely,” chimed in Mrs Musgrave, “ Dear Tessie is always so acute.”

“ Meanwhile,” said the poet, “ what is to be done ? Could you give me any advice, Mr Crayke ?” “I will speak to Mr Copple myself,” replied Oliver Crayke, “ and ask give your work a further chance of becoming known and successful.”

“ That is very good of you,” exclaimed the poet, and both Mrs Musgrave and Tessie overwhelmed him with expressions of gratitude. “ What a nice man Mr Crayke is 1” cried Tessie when he had gone, “I wish we could see more of him.”

“ Yes,” said Mr Musgrave ; “ he has been a good friend to me so far, and he will be doing me a great service if he impresses on that stupid man, Copple, the necessity of having patience, and waiting for my book to grow. It is, as it were, but a sapling just planted, and yet he seems to expect to see it already expanding like a wide-spread-ing oak.” Two days elapsed, and Oliver Crayke once more presented himself at Eden Villa. He was welcomed more effusively than ever, and was eagerly asked whether he had seen Mr Copple. “ Yes, Mr Musgrave,” ho replied ; “ I have spoken to him.” “ And what does lie say ?” inquired Tessie,

“ He will not trouble your father for the present,” answered Mr Crayke, “ The account will stand over for a time, and the books will be left at the shops.” Tessie was so delighted that she felt almost inclined to embrace M r Crayke, while the poet and his wife expressed their gratitude in no measured terms. “ You have done me another service, my dear sir—a great service !” exclaimed Mr Musgrave. “ You have given fresh life to my work, and it will still have a chance of immortality.” “I hope so,”said Mr Crayke. Once more the spirits of the three Musgraves rose, and they talked with confidence about the future. Oliver Crayke could not visit them so often as he did without becoming pretty well acquainted with their domestic affairs—their anxieties and disappointments, their pecuniary difficulties, and the assistance rendered to them by Helen and her brothers. The subject, in fact, had more than once Doen discussed in his presence. He now made kind and sympathetic inquiries touching their worldly interests, and expressed a hope that matters in this respect showed some improvement. “ Yes,” said Mrs Musgrave ; “Helen has obtained a new engagement as governess to the daughter of one of Dr Fill lot’s patients, and I believe she gets very well paid for it. But we do not obtain much advantage from it, as there arc so many bills owing; and you know our son Ralph has ceased to help us, and has gone into lodgings. It is very selfish of him.” “So it is mother,” exclaimed Tessie. “ If there is one quality in people that I dislike more than another, it is selfishness. ”

“Ah:" crie-d the poet; “selfishness is a blight that withers all the virtues of mankind. 1 have, I think, dwelt rather happily on this point in my third canto. I am glad to say there is no such defect in my nature. Thus my most earnest hope of fortune is not for myself, but for those dear to me ; anti the first thing I shall do when once I become prosperous will be to repay our good Helen for all that she has done for

us.' . . Mrs Musgrave and Tesaie murmured approval of this generous pledge, though with some mental reservation to the effect that Helen should be amply repaid after justice had been duly rendered to their own superior claims, “ Meanwhile,” suggested Mr Crayke, “ no doubt you would not object to some additional source of income.”

“Not at all,” replied Mr Musgrave. “But where are we to look for it?” “Your son’s room, I understand,” said Mr Crayke, “ is just now vacant.” “Yes,” sighed Mrs Musgrave, “it is. We have no use for it.” “Would you care to take a visitor ?” asked Mr Crayke, “ A visitor ?” echoed Mrs Musgrave; but the meaning of the question flashed upon her in a moment, and she exchanged glances with her husband and daughter. “What! a lodger?” exclaimed Tessic. “Oh ! I don’t think we would like that—to have a stranger in the house.” “ I don’t mean a stranger, but a friend," said Mr Crayke. “But we have no friends who would care to lodge with us,” Mrs Musgrave objected. “ Not one ?” Mr Crayke inquired. “ I don’t know of anyone.” “ I do,” said Mr Crayke. “Indeed!” exclaimed Mrs Musgrave; “ who is it?” “ Myself,” Mr Crayke said quietly, The three Musgraves were so surprised at this announcement that they could not for some moments find words in which to express their astonishment. They sat looking at each other and then at Mr Crayke, who thought it well to give them time to reflect over his proposal. Thus there was a brief pause in conversation, and then Mr Crayke resumed it, saying; “I trust my suggestion is not unwelcome. “ Oh, not at all!” exclaimed the poet and his wife and daughter in a breath, “ I am a lonely man,” said Mr Crayke, “ and society is pleasant to me, especially such as yours,” He looked earnestly from one to the other. He could see that the idea he had thrown out was gaining ground in the minds of all of them, and ho moved a stop further to improve the position. “ I would,” he said, “ gladly pay wellpay anything for such a privilege.” This settled matters; but the poet naturally shrank from the notion that he was actuated by mercenary motives. He considered that his hospitality had been appealed to, not his personal Interests. “ I am sure, Mr Crayke,” said he, “we should be very glad indeed to receive you here as our guest—our resident guest—eh, my dears ?” “Certainly,” cried Mrs Musgrave and Tessie in a breath.

“ And,” he continued, “if we were in a position to entertain you entirely as such, no one could be more welcome hero.” “No one,” chorused his wife and daughter. “But,” Mr Musgrave went on, “if you insist upon—what shall I say?—placing yourself in a position of independence with regard to us, why—well—yes—perhaps it would make it more comfortable for you.” Mrs Musgrave and Tessie nodded approval. Father had put the matter very prettily very delicately. As for Mr Crayke, he was well satisfied, for he had gained his point. And then he proceeded to make a proposal as to terms, so handsomeindeed, so tempting—that it proved irresistible. Mr Musgrave made a show of protest on the score of the amount; but Mr Crayke was quietly obstinate. He must either be allowed to pay the weekly sum he had proposed, or deny himself the inestimable pleasure and advantage of his friends’ society. So the matter was concluded, and Mr Crayke took his departure, leaving the Musgraves highly elated at the profitable arrangement they bad made. “ What will Helen say to that, I wonder?” exclaimed Tessie.

“ It does not matter what Helen says, my dear,” remarked Mrs Musgrave with dignity ,* “ sU is not mistress ol the house.

If I am satisfied to receive Mr Crayke as our guest, that must be enough for her.” “Of course,” cried her husband and daughter. Still, they felt a little anxious to learn what Helen’s opinion would be on the subject, and they awaited her relur? home that day with some trepidation, Helen received the news with some surprise, but with her usual caution. Yet, after a little consideration, she perceived the advantages of the proposal. I lie amount which Mr Urayke offered to pay for his board and lodgings was so very liberal as to constitute quite a substantial addition to their income. Then, ho was a very quiet, harmless sort of man, and would be a comfort to her father, to whom he had already rendered assistance, and might be useful again. On the whole, the arrangement pleased her very well, and she said so. So everybody was made happy all round by the prospect of Oliver Crayke’s residence at Eden Villa. “And to think!” cried Tessie triumphantly, when Helen had left the room, “ to think that it was all our doing !” ( To be continued.)

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18890608.2.37.2

Bibliographic details

PAID IN HIS OWN COIN., Issue 7928, 8 June 1889, Supplement

Word Count
4,383

PAID IN HIS OWN COIN. Issue 7928, 8 June 1889, Supplement

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