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- TRENT'S TRUST & OTHER STORIES - 10/45 -
young girl's expression as she stared at Miss Avondale's departing figure.
"If you ever come to England, Mr. Trent," she said, with a pretty dignity in her youthful face, "I hope you will find some people not quite so rude as my cousin and"--
"Miss Avondale, you would say," returned Randolph quietly. "As to HER, I am quite accustomed to her maturer superiority, which, I am afraid, is the effect of my own youth and inexperience; and I believe that, in course of time, your cousin's brusqueness might be as easily understood by me. I dare say," he added, with a laugh, "that I must seem to them a very romantic visionary with my 'trust,' and the foolish importance I have put upon a very trivial occurrence."
"I don't think so," said the girl quickly, "and I consider Bill very rude, and," she added, with a return of her boyish frankness, "I shall tell him so. As for Miss Avondale, she's AT LEAST thirty, I understand; perhaps she can't help showing it in that way, too."
But here Randolph, to evade further personal allusions, continued laughingly: "And as I've LOST my 'trust,' I haven't even that to show in defense. Indeed, when you all are gone I shall have nothing to remind me of my kind benefactor. It will seem like a dream."
Miss Eversleigh was silent for a moment, and then glanced quickly around her. The rest of the company were their elders, and, engaged in conversation at the other end of the apartment, had evidently left the young people to themselves.
"Wait a moment," she said, with a youthful air of mystery and earnestness. Randolph saw that she had slipped an Indian bracelet, profusely hung with small trinkets, from her arm to her wrist, and was evidently selecting one. It proved to be a child's tiny ring with a small pearl setting. "This was given to me by Cousin Jack," said Miss Eversleigh in a low voice, "when I was a child, at some frolic or festival, and I have kept it ever since. I brought it with me when we came here as a kind of memento to show him. You know that is impossible now. You say you have nothing of his to keep. Will you accept this? I know he would be glad to know you had it. You could wear it on your watch chain. Don't say no, but take it."
Protesting, yet filled with a strange joy and pride, Randolph took it from the young girl's hand. The little color which had deepened on her cheek cleared away as he thanked her gratefully, and with a quiet dignity she arose and moved toward the others. Randolph did not linger long after this, and presently took his leave of his host and hostess.
It seemed to him that he walked home that night in the whirling clouds of his dispelled dream. The airy structure he had built up for the last three months had collapsed. The enchanted canopy under which he had stood with Miss Avondale was folded forever. The romance he had evolved from his strange fortune had come to an end, not prosaically, as such romances are apt to do, but with a dramatic termination which, however, was equally fatal to his hopes. At any other time he might have projected the wildest hopes from the fancy that he and Miss Avondale were orphaned of a common benefactor; but it was plain that her interests were apart from his. And there was an indefinable something he did not understand, and did not want to understand, in the story she had told him. How much of it she had withheld, not so much from delicacy or contempt for his understanding as a desire to mislead him, he did not know. His faith in her had gone with his romance. It was not strange that the young English girl's unsophisticated frankness and simple confidences lingered longest in his memory, and that when, a few days later, Mr. Dingwall informed him that Miss Avondale had sailed for England with the Dornton family, he was more conscious of a loss in the stranger girl's departure.
"I suppose Miss Avondale takes charge of--of the boy, sir?" he said quietly.
Mr. Dingwall gave him a quick glance. "Possibly. Sir William has behaved with great--er--consideration," he replied briefly.
Randolph's nature was too hopeful and recuperative to allow him to linger idly in the past. He threw himself into his work at the bank with his old earnestness and a certain simple conscientiousness which, while it often provoked the raillery of his fellow clerks, did not escape the eyes of his employers. He was advanced step by step, and by the end of the year was put in charge of the correspondence with banks and agencies. He had saved some money, and had made one or two profitable investments. He was enabled to take better apartments in the same building he had occupied. He had few of the temptations of youth. His fear of poverty and his natural taste kept him from the speculative and material excesses of the period. A distrust of his romantic weakness kept him from society and meaner entanglements which might have beset his good looks and good nature. He worked in his rooms at night and forbore his old evening rambles.
As the year wore on to the anniversary of his arrival, he thought much of the dead man who had inspired his fortunes, and with it a sense of his old doubts and suspicions revived. His reason had obliged him to accept the loss of the fateful portmanteau as an ordinary theft; his instinct remained unconvinced. There was no superstition connected with his loss. His own prosperity had not been impaired by it. On the contrary, he reflected bitterly that the dead man had apparently died only to benefit others. At such times he recalled, with a pleasure that he knew might become perilous, the tall English girl who had defended Dornton's memory and echoed his own sympathy. But that was all over now.
One stormy night, not unlike that eventful one of his past experience, Randolph sought his rooms in the teeth of a southwest gale. As he buffeted his way along the rain-washed pavement of Montgomery Street, it was not strange that his thoughts reverted to that night and the memory of his dead protector. But reaching his apartment, he sternly banished them with the vanished romance they revived, and lighting his lamp, laid out his papers in the prospect of an evening of uninterrupted work. He was surprised, however, after a little interval, by the sound of uncertain and shuffling steps on the half-lighted passage outside, the noise of some heavy article set down on the floor, and then a tentative knock at his door. A little impatiently he called, "Come in."
The door opened slowly, and out of the half obscurity of the passage a thickset figure lurched toward him into the full light of the room. Randolph half rose, and then sank back into his chair, awed, spellbound, and motionless. He saw the figure standing plainly before him; he saw distinctly the familiar furniture of his room, the storm-twinkling lights in the windows opposite, the flash of passing carriage lamps in the street below. But the figure before him was none other than the dead man of whom he had just been thinking.
The figure looked at him intently, and then burst into a fit of unmistakable laughter. It was neither loud nor unpleasant, and yet it provoked a disagreeable recollection. Nevertheless, it dissipated Randolph's superstitious tremor, for he had never before heard of a ghost who laughed heartily.
"You don't remember me," said the man. "Belay there, and I'll freshen your memory." He stepped back to the door, opened it, put his arm out into the hall, and brought in a portmanteau, closed the door, and appeared before Randolph again with the portmanteau in his hand. It was the one that had been stolen. "There!" he said.
"Captain Dornton," murmured Randolph.
The man laughed again and flung down the portmanteau. "You've got my name pat enough, lad, I see; but I reckoned you'd have spotted ME without that portmanteau."
"I see you've got it back," stammered Randolph in his embarrassment. "It was--stolen from me."
Captain Dornton laughed again, dropped into a chair, rubbed his hands on his knees, and turned his face toward Randolph. "Yes; I stole it--or had it stolen--the same thing, for I'm responsible."
"But I would have given it up to YOU at once," said Randolph reproachfully, clinging to the only idea he could understand in his utter bewilderment. "I have religiously and faithfully kept it for you, with all its contents, ever since--you disappeared."
"I know it, lad," said Captain Dornton, rising, and extending a brown, weather-beaten hand which closed heartily on the young man's; "no need to say that. And you've kept it even better than you know. Look here!"
He lifted the portmanteau to his lap and disclosed BEHIND the usual small pouch or pocket in the lid a slit in the lining. "Between the lining and the outer leather," he went on grimly, "I had two or three bank notes that came to about a thousand dollars, and some papers, lad, that, reckoning by and large, might be worth to me a million. When I got that portmanteau back they were all there, gummed in, just as I had left them. I didn't show up and come for them myself, for I was lying low at the time, and--no offense, lad-- I didn't know how you stood with a party who was no particular friend of mine. An old shipmate whom I set to watch that party quite accidentally run across your bows in the ferry boat, and heard enough to make him follow in your wake here, where he got the portmanteau. It's all right," he said, with a laugh, waving aside with his brown hand Randolph's protesting gesture. "The old bag's only got back to its rightful owner. It mayn't have been got in shipshape 'Frisco style, but when a man's life is at stake, at least, when it's a question of his being considered dead or alive, he's got to take things as he finds 'em, and I found 'em d--- bad."
In a flash of recollection Randolph remembered the obtruding miner on the ferry boat, the same figure on the wharf corner, and the advantage taken of his absence with Miss Avondale. And Miss Avondale was the "party" this man's shipmate was watching! He felt his face crimsoning, yet he dared not question him further, nor yet defend her. Captain Dornton noticed it, and with a friendly tact, which Randolph had not expected of him, rising again, laid his hand gently on the young man's shoulder.
"Look here, lad," he said, with his pleasant smile; "don't you worry your head about the ways or doings of the Dornton family, or any of their friends. They're a queer lot--including your humble
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