PAID IN HIS OWN COIN.
By Edward J. Goodman, Author of 'Too Curious.' VOL. 111.-CHAPTER XL AT GORE HOUSE. Side by side, like stealthy bea3ts of prey, those men went forth upon their murderous errand. The night was dark and cloudy, and there was an oppressive closeness in the air. A storm was gathering, and they siad not proceeded far when the first tokens •of its coming was revealed. A flicker of lightning glimmered in the sky, followed by the distant rumbling of thupder. No rain •had yet begun to fall, and Oliver Crayke hastened his footsteps to avoid the approacning downpour. The dimly lighted streets were very quiet ano' almost wholly deserted. None but a few chanc passers-by, hurrying like themselves, encountered them, and no one seemed to notice them. Thus for a while they pursued their journey together in silence, each busy with his own dark
thoughts. The heart ot Abel Wynd was full of terror and doubt, and the outbreak of the storm did not tend to allay his dread. He longed eagerly, savagely, for the accomplishment of the deed that Crayke had planned; he gloated over that promise of revenge, the prospect of seeing his hated enemy dead before his eyes, and yet he shrank from the mission on which he and his companion were bent. He feared Crayke and mistrusted him. True, he failed to see what purpose that man could now have for deceiving him again ; besides, he recognised a motive in his dark design. Yet he had deceived him before, and had exhibited a capacity for crime surpassing even his own. Of what foul treachery might not such a man be capable ? He did not like that business—he feared its risk—he suspected the good faith of his accomplice. Again and again he felt prompted to turn back. Yet again and again the fierce craving for levenge, the fascination of that promised spectacle of Mark Elliot lying dead before him, sustained what little courage he possessed, and, though with trembling limbs, he still kept pace with his companion. And Oliver Crayke reflected too. How craftily his scheme was woven, and how assured was its success! The doctor—the doctor ! Ah ! he would indeed be a fitting victim, and how the world would wonder at the news when the facts were disclosed! Suspicion would light on him, but only just enough to start inquiry, and plunge society into strange bewilderment. He pictured to himself the scene at the trial—the long protracted trial —of which he would be the central figure and the hero; the questioning of the witnesses; the development of the conflicting and perplexing facts ; the utter chaos and confusion of the case; the blind gropings of justice in its futile efforts to clutch the truth; and then the result—the grand, inevitable result—suspicion, strong suspicion ; but no proof—no possible legal proof. Ah! the trial of Abel (A ynd, with all its mystery and doubt, would be a farce to this one ! So the two men journeyed through the streets, while the lightning played upon their path, and tho thunder rumbled in their ears. Heated and panting for breath, they at last reach a certain point where both, with one accord, stopped short. Abel Wynd was well aware that they were near their destination, and he feared lest he might be observed to enter Oliver Crayke's abode. He looked about him nervously from side to side, but no person was in sight, there was no sound of any footstep close at hand, Crayke interpreting his fears, observed :
" The road is clear. Come on." " You do not think we are likely to be seen ?" faltered Dr Wynd. " No chance of that," was the reply.
Leaving the broad thoroughfare which they had been traversing, the twa men plunged into a labyrinth of dark and tortuous streets, lighted only here and there by a flickering lamp, or a momentary flash in the sky, and soon they reached the gloomy portal of Gore House. Here Abel Wynd paused as his companion pushed back the gate; but at this moment a step was heard in tho distance—the measured footfall of a policeman—and Crayke whispered : " Quick !go in—you will be seen !" The trembling man passed through the gate, and Crayke closed it behind him. He was thsre, within the dreary precints of that awful dwelling place, the scene of ghastly crimes in days gone by, and a gleam of lightning lit up for an instant its grotesque outlines. He shuddered at the sight of that blood-stained house, and of the gaunt forms of the withered trees, whose leafless branches Beemed to point like accusing fingers at the dark secrets locked within its walls. But he was forced to follow his companion across the path of the neglected garden, and up the broken stone steps to the house door. Quietly Oliver Crayke inserted his key in the latch, and as quietly put back the heavy oaken door, and entered the hall. Dr Wynd followed him, and noted with sinking heart the closiDg of the door, which seemed to his imagination like the sealing of a tomb. A light was dimly burning in a small bronze lamp left upon the hall table. Oliver Crayke took it up, and with a gesture motioned Wynd to follow him. Still he hesitated, alarmed by a new doubt. " We are not alone in the house," he suggested in a whisper. " Your servant—the dwarf—where is he V
" Asleep," replied Oliver Crayke. "Come this way." Then, proceeding along the passage, past the foot of the wide oak staircase to the rear of the premises, Crayke, followed by Wynd, presently gained the door of the kitchen, and pushing it open, and raising the lamp above his head, showed his companion the ape-like form of Jabez huddled up on the mat before the fireplace. The dwarf, sure enough, was hushed in profoundest slumber, breathing heavily. " He sleeps well and long," observed his master.
Crayke then returned to the passage, and guiding Dr Wynd to his sitting room, entered it with him, and closed the door. He placed the small lamp on the table, and then lighted the larger one, described before, the grisly form of which was that of a skeleton holding on high a skull. The sight of this grim object caused Abel Wynd to shudder; but it gave him an excuse for speaking, as the silence had become oppressive. " That is a strange lamp," he remarked. " Yes; I purchased it abroad," was Oliver Crayke's sole reply. Dr Wynd stood for a while watching the kindling of the light, and its cheerful gleam was welcome to him, as it rendered less vivid the reflection of the lightning, which at intervals still played without. Oliver Crayke's guest cast a nervous glance around the apartment, but nothing caught his eye that seemed to him significant. Crayke watched him as he thus surveyed the room, and then pointed to the oaken panelling opposite the entrance. " That wall seems solid." he remarked. " It seems so," replied Dr Wynd. "But it is not." " Indeed!" " Yes, this has a door," and with a motion of his hand he indicated a section of the panelling in the centre of the wall. "A door?" " Aye—examine it." Thus directed, Abel Wynd approached the wall and carefully inspected the panel pointed out to him. " I see no door," he said, puzzled to guess why his attention had been drawn to such a matter. ««^o—it is well concealed, observed Oliver Crayke, adding: "but see." Taking a key from his pocket, he lifted an ornamental portion of the panel-work, revealing the hidden keyhole. Then, unlocking the secret door, he pushed it back, disclosing the narrow room upon the other side. Abel Wynd stepped back in alarm, lest his eyes might encounter some horrid object emerging from the darkness. Bat Crayke, passing through the door, and holding the smaller lamp above his head, said : . ..
" Come in—this is my study." A glance round the inner room revealed to Ur Wynd no terrifying sight, though the apartment seemed forbidden enough. He perceived that it was unlighted by any window, and must, therefore, be absolutely dark by day. Gradually he made out the few objects which the room contained, and
he noticed the long rows of bookshelves which formed Crayke's library. «' What books are these?" he inquired. "Look at some of them and judge for yourself," replied Mr Crayke. His host stood behind him, holding the lamp above his head, as Abel Wynd took down one volume after another and examined its contents. Murder—murder—nothing but murder, seemed the one topic of this strange collection. Dr Wynd had seen enough, and turned to Oliver Crayke. " Why," he asked, " have you brought me to this place ?" "To show its secrets—and their uae." There was a slight emphasis on the last word, accompanied by a peculiar meaning look, which caused a shudder to pass through Abel Wynd's frame. _ He stood awaiting further explanation in nervous expectancy. •'The vault I spoke of is below,' said Crayke; and he pointed with his finger at the floor. " You would not believe in its existence, I will show it to you." Dr Wynd started. He now understood why he had been brought into that gloomy library. He gazed at the ground, but it told him nothing. So far as he could see, it was simply composed of solid, closelyfitting boards. He looked inquiringly at his host, who then asked : " Would you like to see it?" "Is it necessary?" replied Wynd, his fears overcoming his curiosity.
"It is." " Why so ?" " To remove your doubts and scruples.' " Do as you p'leasc," said Wynd, wondering what new and horrible disclosure his host was about to make.
Oliver Crayke now placed the lamp in Abel Wvnd's trembling hand, requesting him to hold it. Then he pushed aside the heavy table in the centre of tho room. Next, passing to the movable p-uiel in the wall, he lifted it and thrust back the sliding plank
that partly traversed the floor, revealing the aperture by which the trap-door in the ground waa opened. This he raised, disclosing the deep, black cavity beneath, whence ascended strange musty odors. Abel Wynd started back appalled. The lamp shook in his hand, and Oliver Crayke took it from him. Then, pointing to the vault, he said: " He will lie there to-morrow." " What—what is it ?" asked Dr Wynd, in a voico quivering with terror. "A grave," was Crayke's reply; "a grave where others lie—where none who lie there ever will be found." "It is horrible !" cried Wynd with a shudder.
" And safe," said Crayke. Then, still holding the lamp, he, to Dr Wynd's dismay, approached the entrance to the vault, and placing one foot upon the ladder which led to the depths below, began to descend, exclaiming as he did so: " Follow me!" "No—no !" cried Wynd. " For Heaven's sake, Crayke, do not go down and leave me here !" " Follow me," again said Crayke, whose feet now rested on one of the upper runge of the ladder. " I cannot—l dare not! Crayke, Crayke, come back ! Do not leave me here in the darkness—l cannot bear it!" " Descend," said Crayke, who had now stepped lower, till his head alone was seen. "Descend. You will take no harm, and see a sight to please you." Lower and lower he sank, and fainter grew the light. Wynd, in an agony of terror, flew to where the door had been—that opening in the panelled wall which led to the ajacent room ; but he could not find it, for it had been closed by Crayke. There was now but the faintest glimmer of
light emerging from the vault below, and each moment Wynd expected that he would be left in utter darkness Then he heard Crayke's voice Bounding hollow in the dismal depth : " Are you coming ?" What was he to do ? He feared to follow Craykc, yet he was afraid to remain. Ho dared not be aloue in that dreadful room, where every now and then a crash of thunder shook his very soul. It were better, ho thought, to follow Crayke and have his company and protection, than stay there in the darknes3 and the silence more awful than the storm.
So at last ho set his foot upon the ladder, and slowly descended. Step by step he went down lower and yet lower—a dreadful depth. At length he reached the foot and stood on solid ground. The atmosphere was noisome to the sense, close, heavy, and earthy, but rendered, yet more s ckening by a strange fetid odor. Oliver Crayke stood by his side, atill holding the bronze lamp above his head, and soon his eye became accustomed to the dim light, and ho perceived the objects around him. The vault was not large; he could see its walls glistening in the rays of the lamp, dripping with moisture and covered with fungoid growths. But those things at his feet, white and gleaming, what were they ? Oliver Crayke touched a heap of them with his foot, and they gave forth a dull, rattling sound.
" What are these?" asked Wynd " Bones," replied Crayke. '« Bones of what ?" "Of dead—of murdered men."
" Crayke," exclaimed Wynd in acutest terror, "for God's sake let us leave this place !" "Not yet." said Crayke. "see here," and, stooping, he picked up a skull broken on the brow as though by some heavy
weapon. " I cannot look at it," cried Wynd, averting his terrified gaze. "Put it down, and let us go." " These bones," continued Crayke calmly, " have lain here for fifty years; and here for fifty years and more will lie the bones of yonr enemy and mine." Abel Wynd again entreated his companion to depart. " Have you seen enough ?" asked Crayke. " Yea, more than enough," replied Wynd, and added once again : " let us go." Then Oliver Crayke moved to the foot of the ladder and began to ascend, his horrorstricken confederate following close behind him.
"Let me go first," said Dr Wynd; "I need your help. lam faint and week." " Nay," answered Crayke, " it is best for you to follow," and suddenly breaking fro.n him, he ascended the ladder with quick and agile steps. Abel Wynd stood below for a moment paralysed on the spot. A fearful suspicion broke upon his mind. Oliver Crayke meant to leave him there—there in that living grave, to die and rot among those hideous bones. He would ascend to the room above, and close the trap upon him. Oh! why had he trusted himself with such a man in such a place ? "Crayke!" ho cried, as he stood there powerless to move, "Crayke, for God's sake do not leave me here! Oh ! man, have mercy on me ! I have not injured you ; I wish to serve you. I will forgive all! Do not doommeto perish in this awful place. Think of my poor wife awaiting me at home! Oh ! Crayke—Crayke—have mercy—mercy !" Oliver Crayke had now reached the surface, and waited, listening to the almost maddened man's appeal. He did not attempt to check him, but remained till his agony of fear had exhausted itself and he seemed sinking into a state of dull despair. Then at last he spoke. "Come up, man; ascend the ladder." This invitation gave Dr Wynd a gleam of hope. But did he mean it ? Was he only waiting till he neared the top ? and did he then design to close the door upon him ? Thus, shaking in every limb, he slowly crept up the ladder, step by step, till he, too, reached the surface; and then he fell helpless, and almost senseless, to the ground. Oliver Crayke stood beside him, quietly waiting till he should recover. Presently he gathered strength and rose. " You seem alarmed," said Crayke. " Yes. I thought—l thought " " That I would leave you down below ?" "No—no—you could not do so vile a deed."
"No—not to you." Then, taking the still trembling man by the hand, Crayk© led him from the library to the outer room, and placed him in a chair. He did not like to be left even there, but at least it was better than remaining in that awful vault, and a few moments' reflection told him that lie had given way to foolish and unfounded frars. So when Oliver Crayke returned, after having restored his library to its former
condition, and closed the panel door, Dr Wynd felt more composed, but still unnerved by the shock of the fearful cxierience he had passed through. " Will you take some wine or brandy?" asked Crayke. A new alarm inspired him. Could he dare to drink under Oliver Crayke's roof, knowing what that man had in his possession ? "No,"heßaid; "I do not need it. lam better now." There he sat in the chair in which Crayko had placed him, beside the table on which stood that grim, fantastic lamp, while Crayke seated himself on the opposite side, and gazed at him long and calmly in silence. The storm had ceased, the thunder had died away, and no sound was heard but the 1 hissing of the rain without. Crayke waited I yet until his guest had grown more at ease, [ and then he spoke: " Are you satisfied ?" "With what?" " With Mark Elliot's resting-place." "It is horrible." "Is it not? Too horrible for him." "No—no," cried Abel Wynd, aroused at the thought that Crayke might be relenting. "Let him die—let him lie there till his bones are like the rest. Curse him ! Curse him!" "How," asked Crayke, "would you have him die ?" " What do you mean ?" " Shall he have a draught to kill him, or only to stupefy him ?" " Why Btupefy him ?" Crayke pointed to the inner room, and said :
"To Dut him there— alive!" Abel Wynd looked into the cold, passionless face of his companion. So appalling a proposal horrified even him. Yet he thought for a moment. Ah! that would be a sweet revenge—to drug his enemy, and then lower, or throw him, inco that vault, and wait till he had recovered consciousness; cut off his means of escape; gloat over his agony of despair ; taunt him, deride him, and then leave him to starve and die ! That would be almost as sweet as the lovo of Helen Musgrave. "Yes," he answered, "that would be best." " It shall be done," said Oliver Crayke. And then the two men sat together, once more silent. Abel Wynd lost himself in pleasant dreams. The plan seemed to realise his most sanguine visions of revenge, and it appeared safe. Yes, quite safe. He was to have no hand in the deed ; but only to witness its results, and help to carry his enemy to his grave. He would remain in that house till nightfall, and then return home. No one would see him; no one but Oliver Crayke could know of what had been done. Mark Elliot would be missed, and searched for, but he would never be found —never in such a hiding place as that. And then his wretched wife. She could not last long, and perhaps he might induce Crayke to give him back that which he had taken, and which he might use again. Thus, free at last, what chances he might have to rescue the Musgraves from their troubles, and gain the favor of sweet Helen ! It was a desperate hope, but it was a hope, at least; and so he sat and dreamed of it. All the while Oliver Crayke remained gazing at him—steadily, calmly, intently. Wynd did not heed his glances at first, so deeply plunged was he in thought. But presently he noticed them, and felt uneasy under those cold grey eyes. He could not meet their gaze, and yet was fascinated by it. Why did he stare at him so? Ho looked up now and again, and still those eyes were upon him—dreadful eyes, which seemed at last aB though the body in which they were fixed had melted away and vanished, leaving them only, glaring at him with a horrible, stony stare, that froze his blood and numbed his brain. He tried to close his own eyes to that awful gaze; but in vain. He sought to speak, but could not. What was this strange influence that had come upon him ? Was he awake, or sleeping? Oh, that Crayke would end that horrid silence ! At last his companion spoke. " You seem fatigued. Come up and rest."
Abel Wynd arose almost mechanically, as Crayke rose too. The latter beckoned to him, and Wynd felt forced, he knew not why, to follow. Whither was he leading him ? He could not tell, but yet he could not refuse to go. Still did those cold, glittering eyes gaze into his, and paralyse his will; still was that hand held up beckoning him to follow. Oliver Crayke moved to the door, stepping backwards as he went, and holding the lamp on high, while Abel Wynd moved slowly after him, like a man in a trance. Out into the passage, up the broad oak staircase, up to a room above—a large, gloomy apartment, iu the centre of which stood a oed of ancient make, with tall posts at the four corners, and hung with heavy curtains. Oliver Crayke pointed to the bed, and, with his eyes still fixed on Wynd's, exclaimed : " Lie there, and take some rest."
His guest obeyed him, and in a moment was lying motionless beneath that strange man's gaze. Oliver Crayke looked upon him in silence, then turned and left him, bidding him " good-night." ( To be continual.)
Permanent link to this item
PAID IN HIS OWN COIN., Evening Star, Issue 8006, 7 September 1889, Supplement
PAID IN HIS OWN COIN. Evening Star, Issue 8006, 7 September 1889, Supplement
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