Page images



Doom, astounded, threw the dagger from him with an exclamation. His eyes, large and burning yet with passion, were wholly for Count Victor, though his daughter, Olivia, stood there at his side holding the light that had revealed the furies to each other, her hair in dark brown cataracts on her shoulders, and eddying in bewitching curls upon her ears and temples, that gleamed below like the foam of mountain pools.

“Father, father! what does this mean?" she cried. “There is some fearful mistake here.”

“That is not to exaggerate the position at all events,” thought Count Victor, breathing hard, putting the knife unobserved behind him. He smiled to this vision, and shrugged his shoulders. He left the elucidation of the mystery to the other gentleman, this counsellor of forgiveness and peace, clad head to foot in the garb he contemned, and capable of some excellent practice with daggers in the darkness.

“I'll never be able to say how much I regret this, Count Victor,” said Doom. “Good God! your hands were going, and in a second or two more "

“For so hurried a farce,” said Count Victor, “the lowered light was something of a mistake, n'est ce pas? I-1-I just missed the point of the joke,”

and he glanced at the dagger glittering sinister in the corner of the stair.

“I have known your mistake all along," cried Olivia. “Oh, it is a stupid thing this. I will tell you! It is my father should have told you before."

The clangour of the outer door closing recalled that there was danger still below. Olivia put a frightened hand on her father's arm. “A thousand pardons, Montaiglon,” cried he; “but here's a task to finish." And without a word more of excuse of explanation he plunged downstairs.

Count Victor looked dubiously after him, and made no move to follow.

“Surely you will not be leaving him alone there?” said Olivia. “Oh! you have not your sword. I will get your sword.” And before he could reply she had down to his room. She returned with the weapon. Her hand was all trembling as she held it out to him. He took it slowly; there seemed no need for haste below now, for all was silent except the voices of Doom and Mungo.

“ It is very good of you, Mademoiselle Olivia," said he. “I thank you, but-but-you find me in a quandary. Am I to consider M. le Baron as ally or-or-or- " He hesitated to put the brutal alternative to the daughter.

Olivia stamped her foot impetuously, her visage disturbed by emotions of anxiety, vexation, and shame.

“Oh, go! go!” she cried. “You will not, surely, be taking my father for a traitor to his own house for a murderer."

“I desire to make the least of a pleasantry I am incapable of comprehending, yet his dagger was un. comfortably close to my ribs a minute or two ago," said Count Victor, reflectively.

“Oh!" she cried. “Is not this a coil ? I must even go myself," and she made to descend.

“Nay, nay,” said Count Victor softly, holding her

- back. “Nay, nay; I will go if your whole ancestry were ranked at the foot.”

“It is the most stupid thing,” she cried, as he left her; “I will explain when you come up. My father is a Highland gentleman.”

“So, by the way, was Drimdarroch,” said Montaiglon, but that was to himself. He smiled back into the illumination of the lady's candle, then descended into the darkness with a brow tense and frowning, and his weapon prepared for anything.

The stair was vacant, so was the corridor. The outer door was open; the sound of the sea came in faint murmurs, the mingled odours of pine and wrack borne with it. Out in the heavens à moon swung among her stars most queenly and sedate, careless altogether of this mortal world of strife and terrors; the sea had a golden roadway. A lantern light bobbed on the outer edge of the rock, shining through Olivia's bower like a will-o'-the-wisp, and he could hear in low tones the voices of Doom and his servant. Out at sea, but invisible, for beyond the moon's influence, a boat was being rowed fast: the beat of the oars on the thole-pins came distinctly. And in the wood behind, now cut off from them by the riding waves, owls called incessantly.

It was like a night in a dream, like some vast wheeling chimera of fever—that plangent sea before, those terrors fleeing, and behind, a maiden left with her duenna in a castle demoniac.

Doom and Mungo came back from the rock edge, silently almost, brooding over a mystery, and the three looked at each other.

"Well, they are gone,” said the Baron at last, showing the way to his guest.

“What, gone!” said Montaiglon, incapable of restraining his irony. “Not all of them?"

"O Lord! but this is the nicht!” cried the little servant who carried the lantern. “I micht ha'e bided a' my days in Fife and never kent what war was. The only thing that daunts me is that I

heel was likeiding w wood benthold

should hae missed my chance o' a whup at them, fur they had me trussed like a cock before I put my feet below me when they pu'd me oot."

He drew the bars with nervous fingers, and seemed to dread his master as much as he had done the en my. Olivia had come down to the corridor; aloft Annapla had renewed her lamentations; the four of them stood clustered in the narrow passage at the stair-foot.

“What for did ye open the door, Mungo ?” asked Doom, - not the Doom of doleful days, of melancholy evenings of study and of sour memories, not the done man, but one alert and eager, a soldier, in the poise of his body, the set of his limbs, the spirit of his eye.

“Here's a new man!” thought Montaiglon, silently regarding him. “Devilry appears to have a marvellous power of stimulation."

"I opened the door,” said Mungo, much perturbed.

“For what?” said Doom shortly. “There was a knock."

“I heard it. The knock was obvious; it dirled the very roof of the house. But it was not necessary to open at a knock at this time of morning; ye must have had a reason. Hospitality like that to half-a. dozen rogues from Arroquhar, who had already made a warm night for ye, was surely stretched a little too far. What did ye open for ?"

Mungo seemed to range his mind for a reply. He looked to Montaiglon, but got no answer in the Frenchman's face; he looked over Montaiglon's shoulder at Olivia, standing yet in the tremor of her fears, and his eye lingered. It was no wonder, thought Count Victor, that it lingered there.

“ Come, come, I'm waiting my answer!” cried Doom, in a voice that might have stirred a corps in the battlefield.

“I thought there wasna mair than ane," said Mungo.

ing to do, bupoken, and I alloken is that I th

“But even one! At this time of morning! And is it your custom to open to a summons of that kind without finding out who calls ? "

"I thought I kent the voice,” said Mungo, furtively looking again at Olivia.

And whose was it, this voice that could command so ready and foolish an acquiescence on the part of my honest sentinel Mungo Boyd ?” asked Doom incredulously.

“Ye can ask that!” replied the servant desperately; “it's mair than I can tell. All I ken is that I thought the voice fair-spoken, and I alloo it was a daft-like thing to do, but I pu’ed the bar. I had nae sooner dune't nor I was gripped by the thrapple and kep' doon by a couple o' the blackguards that held me a' the time the ither three or four were

Doom caught him by the collar and shook him angrily.

“Ye lie, ye Fife cat; I see't in your face!”

"I can speak as to the single voice and its humility, and to the sudden plucking forth of this gentleman," said Count Victor quietly, at sea over this examination. But for the presence of the woman he would have cried out at the mockery of the thing.

"You must hear my explanation, Montaiglon," said Doom. “ If you will come to the hall, I will give it. Olivia, you will come too. I should have taken your hints of yesterday morning, and the explanation of this might have been unnecessary.

Doom and his guest went to the salle; Olivia lingered a moment behind.

“Who was it, Mungo ?” said she, whisperingly to the servant. “I know by the face of you that you are keeping something from my father."

"Am I?” said he. “Humph! It's Fife very soon for Mungo Byde, I'm tellin' ye.”

“But who was it?" she persisted. "The Arroquhar men," said he curtly; "and that's all I ken aboot it," and he turned to leave her.

« PreviousContinue »