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- A Fascinating Traitor - 30/66 -
they separate--even if one goes to Europe--you can watch one and I the other. You can always frighten money out of old Johnstone if we tell each other all, and I can follow that woman over Europe and dog her till she is driven crazy. She will fear me just as long as old Hugh Johnstone is alive, for I could sell her out to him. No one else cares. They must both live to be our bankers. Now tell me, why did either or both of them go to Calcutta--what for?" Ram Lal figuratively washed his hands in invisible water.
"Running water, passing silently, leaves no story behind, Sahib," he said, simply. "We have not caught our eels yet. But they are both coming back into our eel pot." And as the days dragged on Alan Hawke beguiled the time with the most energetic inroads into Justine Delande's heart.
"Some one must break the line of the enemy," darkly mused Alan Hawke, as in the unrestrained intimacy of their long, morning rides, he influenced the Swiss woman's heart, love-tortured, to a greater passionate surrender.
"It maybe all in all to me, in my secret career, your future fidelity," he pleaded. '"It will be all in all to you, and to your sister. There will be your home, the friendship of an enormously rich woman! The girl will have a million pounds! And you and I, Justine, shall not be cast off, as one throws away an old sandal." The cowering woman clung closer daily to the man who now molded her will to his own.
The absence of Johnstone and Madame Louison seemed confirmation of the rumors of coming bridals.
"They will come back, as man and wife!" growled old Verner, to Captain Hardwicke, "and then, look out for a second bridal! Hawke and the heiress!" But Harry Hardwicke only smiled and bided his time. His daily morning ride led him to the double gateway, to at least nearby the isolation of the lovely Rose who was filling his heart with all beauty and brightness.
Major Alan Hawke had withdrawn himself into a stately solitude at the Club. His evenings were spent with Ram Lal, and his mornings with the deluded Justine, who dared not now write to the calm-faced preceptress in Geneva how far the tide of love had swept her on. In the long afternoons, Major Hawke was apparently busied with the "dispatches" which duly mystified the Club quid mines, as they were ostentatiously displayed in the letter-box. No one but Ram Lal knew of the abstraction from the mail, and destruction of these carefully sealed envelopes of blank paper. But the thieving mail clerk in their secret pay, laughed as he consigned them later to the flames.
The astute Major was not aware that he was being daily watched by secret agents representing both the absent ones whom he desired to dupe. But a daily letter was dispatched by a local banker to a well-known Calcutta firm, which reached Madame Louison, and old Hugh Johnstone, busied at his lawyers, or sitting alone at night with Douglas Fraser in Calcutta, smiled grimly, when he, too, received his data as to Hawke's progress. A growing coldness which had cut off Hardwicke's friendship seemed to interest Hugh Johnstone. "I suppose that old Willonghby thinks Hawke is spying upon him. Just as well!"
There had been a lightning activity in the old man's movements before Madame Louison arrived in Calcutta. He was fighting for his future peace and his coveted honors. The lawyer with whom he spent his first day was astounded at the peculiar nature of the last will and testament which the old nabob ordered him to draft at once. "The steamer, Lord Roberts, goes to-morrow, and I wish a duplicate to be deposited here in the bank, under your care, as I shall write to my senior executor regarding it."
The nabob's remark, "Make your fees what you will. I give you carte blanche!" had silenced the remonstrances which rose to the lawyer's lips. "I know what I am doing, Hodgkinson," said Hugh Johnstone. "Blood is thicker than water! I can trust nothing else. These two men as executors will exactly carry out my wishes. In naming a guardian by will, for my daughter, I do not forget that she is yet a child at eighteen, and, at twenty-one, she may be the destined prey of many a fortune hunter! As for my directions and restrictions, I know my own mind!"
When Hugh Johnstone, Esq., of Delhi and Calcutta, had seen the fleet steamer, Lord Roberts, sail away for London, bearing a carefully registered document addressed to "Professor Andrew Fraser, St. Agnes Road, St. Heliers, Jersey, Channel Islands, England," he could not remember a detail forgotten in the voluminous letters of positive orders now also on their way to his distant brother. He smiled grimly as he entered the P. and O. office, and, after a private interview with the manager, called his nephew, Douglas Fraser, away to a private luncheon. They had first visited the one bank, which Johnstone trusted, and there deposited a sealed document to the order of "Douglas Fraser, executor." The young man had been alarmed at his stern old uncle's curtness, on the return trip from Allahabad, his strange manner and his grim silence. But he was simply astounded when his nabob relative quietly said:
"I have obtained a six months' leave of absence for you! Let no one know of your movements. Leave your rooms and baggage just as they are. I will now move in there, and put one of my servants in charge while you are gone. I have made my will and named your father as my executor and the guardian of my daughter, and you are to succeed, in case of his death! There will be a small fortune for you both in the fees, and neither of you are forgotten in the will! I have drawn two thousand pounds in notes for you, and here is a bank draft on London for three thousand more!" The young man was sitting in open-mouthed wonder, when the nabob sharply said: "Now! Have your wits about you! I bear all the expenses here, and your office pay goes on. You will be promoted on your return. The manager of the P. and O. is my lifelong friend."
"What am I to do?" gasped the young man, fearing his uncle was losing his wits.
"You are to disappear from Calcutta to-night. Go without a word to a living soul! You are neither to write to a soul in India, nor open your mouth to a human being, in transit. You are to go by Madras, take the first steamer to Brindisi, and then hurry by rail to Paris and Granville, and to St. Heliers. You will find your detailed orders there with your father. Then stay there, await my orders from here, not leaving your father's side, a moment. Now, I tell you again, your future fortunes depend upon your exact obedience! I will give you my private wishes after we have had luncheon. The only thing that you will have in writing is an address to which I wish you to cable each day after you land at Brindisi, until you turn over your business to your father. You may cable also from Aden and Port Said."
The luncheon was "a short horse and soon curried." For a half an hour Hugh Johnstone earnestly whispered to his nephew, whose face was grave and ashen. At last the old man concluded, "Here is a letter to use at Delhi. There will be a telegram already in the hands of the two parties intended.
"'Remember! You are to go, but once, from here to your lodgings. Then simply disappear! Take nothing but a mackintosh, an umbrella, and your traveling bag. Buy at Madras what you want. Here's a couple of hundred pounds. You will find the engine at the station now in waiting for you. The whole line is open for you. Do your Delhi work at night. The train will be made up for you the very moment you arrive at Delhi. I give you just one day to connect with the Rangoon at Madras. You are not for one single moment to lose your charge from sight till on the steamer. From Brindisi, the directions I have given cover all. Here is an envelope for the Swiss woman which will make her your friend. Now go, Douglas! This is the foundation of your fortune. If you succeed, you will have all I leave behind in India. In case of any trouble in India, telegraph instantly to this address, and I will join you at once. Memorize this address, and destroy it then! Telegraph to me from Delhi, but only when you start. And, when you sail from Madras, only the name of the steamer. The trainmen will do the rest. They have their orders already. Is there anything else?"
The young man pulled himself together. "It's like the Arabian Nights!"
"Go ahead, now, and show yourself a man!" cried Hugh Johnstone, almost in anguish. "I do not wish to see you again until you have earned your fortune! One last word: You are to make no explanations whatever!"
The young envoy grasped his kinsman's hands, crying: "You may count on me in life and death! I'll do your bidding."
Old Johnstone drank a bottle of pale ale and composedly smoked a cheroot, after he had watched the stalwart, rosy young Briton stride away on his strange journey. A robust, frank-faced, fine young fellow of twenty-six, with the fair brow and clear blue eyes of the "north countree," was manly Douglas Fraser.
Toiling resolutely to rise, step by step, in the service of the Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Company, he had never dreamed of the sudden favor of his rich kinsman, and yet, loyal as the good Sir James Douglas, he silently took up his quest.
"I can't understand the old gentleman." he mused as he hurried a half an hour later into the station, though prudently selected by-streets. "There may be some old official entanglement hanging over him yet. Some reason why he would quit India quietly, or perhaps some one who owes him a grudge. At any rate I'll do my duty to him like a man--to him and to the others--like a gentleman."
Hugh Johnstone measuredly betook his way to Douglas Fraser's lodgings.
Before the old man was settled on Douglas's cozy wicker lounge, the pilot engine was tearing away with the young voyager, who had simply stepped out of his own life to make a sudden fortune.
"Now, damn you, Alixe Delavigne," hoarsely muttered the old man, when alone, "I will see you to-morrow! You shall rule me until I get these two coffers out of the bank, and until our home-coming at Delhi. Then, you jade," he growled, "Ram Lal shall do the business for you, even if it costs me ten thousand pounds!" which proves that an old tiger may be toothless and yet have left to him strong claws to drag his prey down. "Money will do anything in India or anywhere else!" the old nabob growled, forgetting that even all the yellow gold of the Rand or the gleaming diamonds of the Transvaal will not avail to fill the burned-out lamp of life!
The prolonged absence of the embryo Sir Hugh Johnstone was a matter of public comment in Delhi, while the knowing ones winked
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