A Shadowed Love - Fred M. White - ebook

A Shadowed Love ebook

Fred M White

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Molly and Dick are two adventurers who came to London to earn money. Molly was an artist and Dick was a writer. Things went well. However, after 2 years they were frustrated, they became poor. Molly and Dick were faced with big troubles, through which they needed to go.

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Liczba stron: 516

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Contents

Chapter I. Hard Up

Chapter II. An Adventure In The Square

Chapter III. A Vanished Memory

Chapter IV. "I Know Her"

Chapter V. The Moth Catcher

Chapter VI. The Restored Photograph

Chapter VII. Greigstein

Chapter VIII. One Of The Stately Homes Of England

Chapter IX. "The Tiger Moth"

Chapter X. Policy Of Silence

Chapter XI. White Heather

Chapter XII. Mr. Martlett

Chapter XIII. Blackmail

Chapter XIV. A Discovery

Chapter XV. A Lighted Match

Chapter XVI. A Counterfeit Presentment

Chapter XVII. A Friend In Need

Chapter XVIII. A Visitor

Chapter XIX. Fencing

Chapter XX. A Perfect Confidence

Chapter XXI. Under The Stars

Chapter XXII. Halcyon

Chapter XXIII. A Ray Of Hope

Chapter XXIV. Anxious Moments

Chapter XXV. Lawyer And Client

Chapter XXVI. Lost

Chapter XXVII. Mary Takes A Walk

Chapter XXVIII. Lady Stanmere Sees A Ghost

Chapter XXIX. Another Visitor

Chapter XXX. The Prodigal

Chapter XXXI. "If I Could Only See"

Chapter XXXII. A Whited Sepulchre

Chapter XXXIII. A Russian Cigarette

Chapter XXXIV. Venner In London

Chapter XXXV. The Writing On The Tablet

Chapter XXXVI. More Blind Than One

Chapter XXXVII. Face To Face

Chapter XXXVIII. After The Storm

Chapter XXXIX. "Is This Thing True?"

Chapter XL. "Not Yet"

Chapter XLI. Von Wrangel Captures Another Specimen

Chapter XLII. One Way Out

Chapter XLIII. On The Terrace

Chapter XLIV. Seymour Sees A Face

Chapter XLV. A Failure

Chapter XLVI. In Trouble

Chapter XLVII. Not Quite A Failure After All

Chapter XLVIII. Retaliation

Chapter XLIX. The First Blow

Chapter L. Fixing The Time

Chapter LI. An Eye-Witness

Chapter LII. Scotched

Chapter LIII. Cause Celèbre

Chapter LIV. Cross Purposes

Chapter LV. Free!

Chapter LVI. Cleared

Chapter LVII. Mary Sees At Last

Chapter LVIII. "Eyes Clearer Grown"

Chapter LIX. L'Envoi

I. HARD UP

Nothing from the hot languid street below but a grumbling, whining voice or two. A mean London street off the river in August. How men who know the country and have the scent of the sap in their nostrils can toil and moil under such conditions is known only to themselves and their God.

High up a cheap low-flash lamp added to the heat of a third-floor room, and gave a spice of danger to the occupant’s more sordid condition. The man, bending over a penny exercise book, rose as there came from below a succession of knocks growing gradually louder. The dull double thud came presently far down below. A small servant came presently and laid a letter by the writer’s elbow.

It was no manuscript returned or stereo-typed note of acceptance, nothing more than a curt intimation that unless the rent of the third floor of No. 19, Pant-street, was paid before twelve o’clock to-morrow a distress would be levied. These things are not idle threats in Pant-street.

“What is it, Dick?” a pleasant voice asked from the outer darkness.

“Rent,” Dick Stevenson said between his teeth. “Midday to-morrow. Our last anchor gone–‘a poor thing, but mine own.’”

Molly Stevenson groaned. It seemed dreadfully disloyal, but she had been wondering lately if Dick was the genius that they had both fondly imagined. They all used to be under this delusion in the old vicarage.

Molly was to be a great artist, and Dick to combine Scott and Dickens and a few great lights of fiction. The streets of London were paved with gold, and so those noble-hearted, simple young folks walked into it hand in hand two years ago, since which time–

But that is an old story, and has been told time out of mind. The prosaic fact was three pounds twelve shillings were due for rent, and that, if the sum was not paid by high noon to-morrow, two struggling geniuses would be turned into the street.

“Could you possibly get that money from ‘The Record?’” Molly asked.

Dick shook his head. ‘The Record’ only paid on Fridays, it was nearly ten o’clock, and the business manager of the morning journal in question would have gone home before now. Moreover, he was a member of the firm who left a great deal to his well-trained subordinates.

“It is nearly six pounds, Molly,” Dick said, “a little stroke of luck that came just in the nick of time between ourselves and the workhouse. Still I’ll try it.”

They were busy enough in the office of “The Record.” A score of pale-faced clerks were slaving away under the brilliant bands of light thrown by the electrics. Without looking up, a cashier asked Stevenson’s business.

“Mr. Spencer gone for the day,” was the quick reply. “Won’t be back till Friday, anyway. Account? Let me see. There was an account passed for you–six pounds odd. Get it on Friday in due course.”

“If I could only have it now?”

“Rubbish. We don’t do business like that, as you ought to know by this time. If I paid that I should get myself into trouble.”

Dick turned heavily away. The cashier was not to blame, he was a mere machine in the office. As Dick passed into the street somebody followed him.

“I’m awfully sorry,” he stammered, “but you see I recognised you, Mr. Stevenson. My father was head gardener at Stanmere, and many a kindness we used to get from the rector and your mother. Are you–er, are you–”

The bright eyed lad hesitated in confusion.

“Hard up,” Dick said, grimly. “I recognise you now, young Williams. How about those Ribstone Pippins that his lordship–”

“Please don’t jest with me,” the other said, imploringly. “I came out to tell you that Mr. Spencer has gone home. His address is 117 Cambria Square–he has one of those big flats there. If you go and see Mr. Spencer and tell him exactly how you stand, he will give you an order on the counting-house at once. Mr. Spencer will do anything for anybody.”

“That’s very good of you,” Dick said, gratefully. “As it happens, I have never seen Mr. Spencer. What is he like?”

“Tall and spare, with a long grey beard. He’s an enormously rich man, and practically our paper belongs to him. He never goes out in the daytime because he has something queer the matter with his eyes. During the year I have been in the office I have never seen him in the daytime.”

Apparently Mr. Spencer of ‘The Record’ was a difficult person to find. It was a long time before the porter motioned Dick into the lift. Eventually a sombre-looking man in black livery conveyed him into a sitting-room, the solitary light of which was so shaded down that the intruder could see nothing but dim shadows. Presently out of these shadows loomed a tall figure, with the suggestion of a beard on his face.

“You wished to see me,” he said. His voice was kindly, but there was a strange note of agitation in it. There was no reason why this rich and powerful man should be frightened, but undoubtedly he was. “Your name is strange to me.”

Dick explained more or less incoherently. As he stumbled on nervously his almost unseen companion seemed to gain courage.

“It’s a dreadful liberty,” Dick mumbled. “But my little home is all I have, and–and the money is owing to me, and–”

“And you most assuredly shall have it,” Mr. Spencer interrupted. “My secretary has unfortunately gone out, or I could give you a cheque now. But my card and a line or two on it will produce the money at the office. And if you call and see me there after nine to-morrow night I’ll see what I can do for you.”

Dick murmured his thanks.

The sudden kindness, the prospect of something beyond this terrible hand-to-mouth kind of existence, had thoroughly unhinged him. As he stood there, a little white-haired terrier trotted along the passage and sniffed at him with an eye to friendship. Dick stooped with a kindly pat, and the dog licked his hand.

“Your coat is coming off, sir,” Dick said, huskily. “Look at my trousers, the best pair I have, and between ourselves, doggie, the only pair. And all smothered with white hairs. And if the editor of ‘The Times’ sent for me suddenly, why–”

Dick paused, conscious that he was talking pure nonsense. He was also conscious of the sudden opening of a door at the end of the corridor, a brilliant bath of light, and the figure of the most beautiful girl Dick had ever seen in his life. He was destined never to forget the perfect symmetry of that lovely face and the deep pathos of those dark blue eyes. A man came out, half turning to kiss the face of the girl, evidently previous to his departure.

“Exquisite!” Dick muttered. “At the same time it strikes me that I am more or less playing the spy. There’s an air of mystery about them that appeals to the novelist’s imagination. Good-night, doggie!”

He stooped down, gave the terrier a friendly pat, and was gone.

II. AN ADVENTURE IN THE SQUARE

“You’ll get on,” the cashier said with grim admiration, as he glanced at Mr. Spencer’s card with its few pencilled lines. “There’s your money.”

“Thanks,” Dick replied. “Would you mind giving me that card back? It’s sentimental, of course, but I should like to keep it. And if I can do anything for you–”

“Well, you can, as it happens. There’s your card. There’s a letter come for the governor which is marked urgent. I’ve got nobody I can send without inconvenience, and if it is not too much out of your way perhaps you will take it?”

It was a little cooler now, a few drops of rain had fallen, but not more than sufficient to lay the dust. Cambria Square was getting dark, a brooding silence lay over the gardens. Dick delivered his letter to the surly hall porter, and then turned his face eastwards. A few drops of the late rain pattered from leaf to leaf; there was a pleasant smell of moist earth in the air. By shutting his eyes Dick could conjure up visions of Stanmere.

The sound of hurried footsteps brought him to earth again. As he re-crossed to the pavement a tall figure, with streaming beard and white agitated face came round the corner almost into his arms. On the impulse of the moment Dick shot out a strong arm and detained him.

“I hope there is nothing wrong, sir?” he asked, meaningly.

The tall man with the beard paused and rubbed his eyes. He had every appearance of one who flies in his sleep from some terror.

“Did you see anybody?” he whispered. “A man who had–but of course you didn’t, the thing is utterly absurd. Sir, are you a man of imagination?”

Dick replied that unless he possessed imagination, he had cruelty mistaken his vocation in life. The strange man with the wild air was utterly unknown to him, and yet there was something in his voice that was familiar. The terror was gradually dying from his face; he was growing sane and quiet again. It was a fine, broad, kindly face, but there was the shadow of some great trouble haunting the deep-set grey eyes.

“I must have astonished you just now,” he said. “As a matter or fact, I have had a great many years abroad. Sunstroke, you understand; since when I have never been quite the same. I can manage my property as well as anybody; for months I am quite myself, and then these attacks come suddenly. Always at night when I am alone in the dark; I come out to try and cure myself. At the same time, are you quite sure that you met nobody?”

“If you would like,” Dick suggested, “I shall be glad to walk a little way–”

The stranger replied somewhat curtly to the effect that there was no occasion for anything of the kind. He passed on with a steady step, leaving Dick to his more or less amused thoughts. Such a character might be useful to him in fiction. The whole facts of the case appealed to the young novelist’s imagination. Here was a rich and prosperous man, envied and flattered and admired, who was constantly pursued by some haunting terror. Perhaps in the early days he had committed some great crime; perhaps some dreadful vengeance was hanging over his head.

But the noble, kindly face belied all that. No doubt the explanation given was no more than the truth. The poor fellow suffered in that peculiar form, and he was doing his best to shame himself out of it.

“I’ll take another turn round the square,” Dick said to himself. “It’s foolish, but I am too restless to go home quite yet.”

It was very still there. Most of the lights were out in the staid houses by this time, a policeman clanked along and disappeared. Then a murmur of voices arose, the distant sound of laboured breathing, a shout and a strangled cry. It was all strange and dreamy for a moment, then the reality of tragedy flashed upon the listener. He might be in time to prevent outrage or worse.

He turned the corner quickly. As he did so, his tall friend with the beard came along. He was running fast, with the free and easy stride of the athlete, running with an ease surprising in one of his time of life, his beard streaming in the breeze caused by his own swift motion. He was without a hat; there was a certain ferocious furtiveness in his eyes, but the broad, noble face had not changed. It was not the face of a man in terror now, but the face of one who flies from some crime.

He dodged Dick, who stood to bar his progress, with the greatest ease. The smile on his face was of contempt. There was not the slightest sign of recognition on it. And Dick could have sworn that his late companion had worn a black tie, yet there he was again with a vivid red one.

Meanwhile the groans were still going on. Dick sped rapidly round the corner. The whole thing had happened so quickly that no time had been lost. Just by one of the pillars of the stout, square railings, was a patch of blood. From somewhere close by moaning could be heard.

“Where are you?” Dick whispered.

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