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- The Right of Way, Volume 5. - 10/10 -

a morning-room, where, opening a pair of French windows, she passed out onto the lawn. He followed, not more than a dozen paces behind her. His safety lay in getting outside, where he could easily hide among the bushes, should someone else appear and an alarm be raised.

She crossed the lawn swiftly, a white, ghostlike figure. In the middle of the lawn she stopped short once as if in doubt what to do--as a thought-reader pauses in his search for the mental scent again, ere he rushes upon the object of his search with the certainty of instinct.

Presently she moved on, going directly towards a gate that opened out on the cliff above the river. In Charley's day this gate had been often used, for it gave upon four steep wooden steps leading to a narrow shelf of rock below. From the edge of this cliff a rope-ladder dropped fifty feet to the river. For years he had used this rope-ladder to get down to his boat, and often, when they were first married, Kathleen used to come and watch him descend, and sometimes, just at the very first, would descend also. As he stole into the grounds this evening he had noticed, however, that the rope-ladder was gone, and that new steps were being built. He had also mechanically observed that the gate was open.

For an instant he watched her slowly moving towards the gate. At first he did not realise the situation. Suddenly her danger flashed upon him. Passing through the gateway, she must fall over the cliff.

Her life was in his hands.

He could rush forward swiftly and close the gate, then, raising an alarm, get away before he was seen; or--he could escape now.

What had he to do with her? A weird, painful suggestion crept into his brain: he was not responsible for her, and he was responsible for a woman up there by the hospital, whose home was the valley of the Chaudiere!

If Kathleen were gone, what barrier would there be between him and Rosalie? What had he to do with this strange disposition of events? Kathleen was never absent from her church twice on Sundays; she was devoted to work of all sorts for the church on week-days--where was her intervening personal Providence? If Providence permitted her to die?-- well, she had had two years of happiness with the man she loved, at some expense to himself--was it not fair that Rosalie should have her share? Had he the right to call upon Rosalie for constant self-sacrifice, when, by shutting his eyes now, by being dead to Kathleen and her need, as he was dead to the world he once knew, the way would be clear to marry Rosalie?

Dead--he was dead to the world and to Kathleen! Should his ghost interpose between her and the death now within two-score feet of her? Who could know? It was grim, it was awful, but was it not a wild kind of justice? Who could blame? It was the old Charley Steele, the Charley Steele of the court-room, who argued back humanity and the inherent rightness of things.

But it was only a moment's pause. The thoughts flashed by like the lightning impressions of a dream, and a voice said in his ear, the voice of the new Charley with a conscience:

"Save her--save her!"

Even as he was conscious of another presence on the lawn, he rushed forward noiselessly. Stealing between Kathleen and the gate-she was within five feet of it he closed and locked it. Then, with a quick glance at her sleeping face-it was engraven on his memory ever after like a dead face in a coffin--he ran along the fence among the shrubbery. A man not fifty feet away called to him.

"Hush--she is asleep!" Charley whispered, and disappeared.

It was Fairing himself who saw this deed which saved Kathleen's life. Awaking, and not finding her, he had glanced towards the window, and had seen her on the lawn. He had rushed down to her, in time to see her saved by a strange bearded man in habitant dress. His one glance at the man's face, as it turned towards him, produced an extraordinary effect upon his mind, not soon to be dispelled--a haunting, ghostlike apparition, which kept reminding him of something or somebody, he could not tell what or whom. The whispering voice and the breathless words, "Hush--she is asleep!" repeated themselves over and over again in his brain, as, taking Kathleen's hand, he led her, unresisting, and still sleeping, back to her room. In agitated thankfulness he resolved not to speak of the event to Kathleen, or to any one else, lest it should come to her ears and frighten her.

He would, however, keep a sharp lookout for the man who had saved her life, and would reward him duly. The face of the bearded habitant came between him and his sleep.

Meanwhile this disturber of a woman's dreams and a man's sleep was hurrying to an inn in the town by the waterside, where he met another habitant with a team of dogs--Jo Portugais. Jo had not been able to bear the misery of suspense and anxiety, and had come seeking him. There was little speech between them.

"You have not been found out, M'sieu'?" was Jo's anxious question.

"No, no, but I have had a bad night, Jo. Get the dogs together."

A little later, as Charley made ready to go back to Chaudiere, Jo said:

"You look as if you'd had a black dream, M'sieu'." With the river rustling by, and the trees stirring in the first breath of dawn, Charley told Jo what had happened.

For a moment the murderer did not speak or stir, for a struggle was going on in his breast also; then he stooped quickly, caught his companion's hand, and kissed it.

"I could not have done it, M'sieu'," he said hoarsely. They parted, Jo to remain behind as they had agreed, to be near Rosalie if needed; Charley to return to the valley of the Chaudiere.


Good fathers think they have good daughters Shure, if we could always be 'about the same,' we'd do


The Right of Way, Volume 5. - 10/10

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