The Master Revenge - H.A. Cody - ebook
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It happens that you are a hostage to circumstances. The main character, Nathan, is trying to clear his name from an unfair accusation. After 12 years, holding in prison on a false charge of theft. Can he do it? After all, now everyone looks at him differently.

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Liczba stron: 402

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Contents

1. Silent Expression

2. Mutual Need

3. An Accident

4. Comrades in Distress

5. Repairing the Fence

6. A Broken Shaft

7. Through the Window

8. A Startling Confession

9. The Struggle

10. The Fugitive

11. Restitution

12. The Flight

13. Behind Prison Bars

14. Stern Terms

15. A Helping Hand

16. Stricken Down

17. A Star and a Toad

18. Inspiration

19. The Night Visitor

20. A Desperate Attempt

21. Repairing Things

22. When the Bell Rang

23. Destruction

24. Where Flows the Brook

25. For the Sake of a Child

26. The Vision

27. What the World Needs

28. Face to Face

29. As a Man Soweth

30. The Completed Revenge

31. After Long Years

CHAPTER 1

Silent Expression

The warm June day was drawing to a close, and the sun was hanging low over the far-off western horizon. Not a breath of wind stirred the quivering air, and the mirror-like river reflected the trees along the shore. The birds chirped and twittered, and the drowsy hum of insects sounded on all sides. There was a restful peace on water and land. Nature was in her gentlest mood, and harmony reigned supreme.

A man standing beneath the wide-spreading branches of a great patriarchal oak surveyed the entrancing scene with kindling eyes. He was a powerfully-built man, clad in rough work-a-day clothes. He presented a striking appearance as he stood there, his flowing beard and mass of iron-gray hair enhancing the effect. He leaned slightly upon an axe with which he had been chopping, while at his feet lay a newly cut piece of ground-ash. But his mind had wandered from his work, and, like a thirsty man, he was drinking into his soul the beauty surrounding him.

“And for twelve years I missed all that,” he at length murmured. “Twelve years!”

His right hand clutched hard the butt of his axe handle, and an angry expression crept into his eyes. For a few seconds the memory of the past had blotted out the joy of the present. He believed that he had steeled his heart to forget forever the degrading bondage of those twelve years. But now he knew that he had not fully succeeded. The iron had gone too far into his soul to be healed by a few months of freedom.

The sound of children’s voices aroused him, and turning quickly around toward the river, he saw a small boat coming upstream quite close to the shore. A woman was rowing, and seated astern were two small children. Not wishing to be seen, the man stepped aside into a thicket of bushes to wait until the boat should pass. This did not take long, and as it cut through the water just abreast of the big oak, the hidden man gave a great start, and only with difficulty suppressed an exclamation of astonishment. He had caught sight of the woman’s face, and heard her speak to the children.

“We must go back now,” she was saying. “We have come quite a distance, so must get home before dark.”

“Let us go ashore near that big tree,” one of the children suggested. “It’s such a nice-looking place.”

“No, dear, not now,” the woman replied. “We can come another day and have our supper here. How would you like that?”

“Oh, great!” This from both children. “And will daddy come, too?”

“Perhaps so.”

The woman swung the boat around, and began to row downstream with long steady strokes. The man among the bushes watched her until she could no longer be seen. He was trembling with excitement, and the perspiration stood out in beads upon his forehead. At length his tense body relaxed, and he sank down upon a fallen tree by his side. His eyes still stared after the receding boat and remained in that direction long after it had disappeared from view. At last he rose to his feet, picked up the ash stick, threw it over his left shoulder, and with axe in hand, walked slowly away from the shore. Reaching a path, he followed this until he came to a clearing, and in view of a small house beyond. Not once did he look at the steadily-increasing glory of the western sky, and the beauties of nature appealed to him no longer. Something of far greater importance filled his mind and soul, making him oblivious of all else.

The house toward which he was slowly moving nestled on a gentle elevation commanding a good view of the river. It was partly surrounded by tall fir and spruce trees, thus forming an excellent protection from the severe winds of winter. As a rule the man always gazed with admiration upon the building which was the work of his own hands. Sometimes he would pause for a few minutes to note its neat proportions, and the snug verandah where it was his custom to sit on warm evenings. But now he did not notice the house as he walked up the path, opened the door and entered. The air inside seemed exceptionally close, so he hurried outside again, and paced rapidly up and down the gravel walk in front of the building. This he did until darkness enshrouded the land. He then went back into the house, lighted a lamp and sat down before a small table containing several books, writing-paper, pen and ink. Here he remained for a while in deep thought. At length he seized the pen, and with feverish haste began to write:

“I am strangely stirred to-night, so must give expression to the thoughts which agitate my mind and soul. There is no one to whom I can speak, and none would understand if I did. To put my feelings upon paper may give me some relief–it is the only thing I can do.

“I saw Helen to-night after twelve long years. She had no idea that I was watching her as she sat in the boat with her two little ones. Most likely she has forgotten me, and long ago ceased to care whether I am dead or alive. But I have never forgotten her, and during my years of bondage she was ever before me. She does not seem to have changed much in that time, judging by the glimpse I had of her this evening. She bore herself with that same regal grace as when I knew her, and her voice was as musical as ever. But how I long to look into her eyes, and see if the same old expression is there such as I remember that last night I was with her, and left her standing among the flowers at the gate of her home.”

The man ceased writing, and gazed off into space. He then laid down the pen, rose to his feet, and paced up and down the small room. After a while he resumed his seat, and continued:

“I never committed the crime with which I was charged. God knows I had no knowledge of it whatsoever. But a strange combination of circumstances placed the blame upon me, and I was convicted. I did the best I could for the Trust Company where I was employed, and was making rapid progress. I enjoyed my work, and looked eagerly forward to the time when I could ask Helen to become my wife. I believe that she loved me, and would have been glad to share life’s lot with me. But when the money was missing, and a large amount it was, I was at once suspected. I had gone to Standridge for a brief holiday. It was there I was arrested the day after my arrival, and several of the missing bonds were found in one of my grips. How they got there I never knew, and perhaps never will. But I am going to try to find out, and do all that I can to solve the mystery and clear my name. The evidence was strong against me, and I could say nothing in my own defence except my past good record. The sentence was a stiff one, but the judge who pronounced it was a hard man, and showed no mercy. This was strange, as Ned Preston, his own son, worked with me, and we were roommates. And it was Ned who married Helen! I knew that he wanted her, but he had no chance, so I believed, against me. She told me over and over again that she did not care for the fellow, and I was not surprised at that. He was the most conceited man I ever met, and hard to endure for any length of time. He was a boaster and a great spendthrift, and his father often had to send him money. He led a fast life, and when I once warned him, he told me to mind my own business and he would mind his. Anyway, he has succeeded, and is now a leading man in the city, and Helen is his wife, while I am a jail-bird! He has everything to live for, the respect of all, and a home with loved ones there. And what have I, who tried to do my duty and live an honest life? Nothing but a few acres of land, and a house where I eat and sleep, but which never resounds with voices of happy children, and where no one awaits my coming home. Oh, it is hard! And yet I am used to hardness. I have steeled my heart to endure until my aim in life is accomplished and I clear myself from the black stigma that rests upon me.

“Although my life at the Penitentiary was hard, yet there were compensations. At first Helen wrote to me quite often. She believed that I was innocent, and that was a great comfort. Then her letters suddenly ceased. I can never forget the agony of those days of waiting for her messages which never came. I cannot fully describe the loneliness of my cell when for hours I would lie awake and think, until at times I was almost like a madman. Often I beat with my fists against my cell door. Why I did so I do not know, but those who have experienced what I have will understand the terrible insane feeling which comes over one locked for hours in a silent cell, with none to speak to, and his own despairing thoughts for company.

“At that time there were two things which kept me from either going stark mad or developing into a caged beast. One was the letters I received from my parents. They believed in me, and until they died they wrote me noble words of encouragement. May God bless them! The other, was my work. I learned the carpenter trade, and became quite efficient. I always liked to work with wood, even when a child. I hold firmly to the opinion that it is one of the noblest of the trades. Was not the Great Master Himself a carpenter and worked in His father’s shop? A carpenter is not only a builder but a repairer, and Christ was both, as His wonderful life of teaching and service shows. It was some comfort to me to feel that the Great Carpenter suffered, who was much more innocent than myself. I often thought of all this as I worked at the bench and tried hard to follow His example of noble patience and forgiveness. But I am afraid that I often came far short of the ideal. And I feel so now after years of struggle, especially so since I looked upon Helen’s face to-night, and old memories came flooding through my mind with the realization of what I have lost in life.

“And all the time I thought of Helen. I tried to believe that she had not forgotten, that she had written, but her letters had gone astray. It is wonderful how a desperate man will cling to the slightest hope. But it was all I had, so cling I did until I received word that she was married. The newspaper account of the wedding was sent to me in an envelope, but who sent it I never knew. I cannot think it was Helen, for such cruelty was not in her make-up. It must have been an enemy who wished to add to my bitterness. The wedding account was a long one, and told in detail about the bride, and how beautiful she looked as she stood at the altar rail. I did not need the paper to tell me that, for it was impossible for Helen to look anything else but beautiful. The description of the groom was most flattering. He was Judge Preston’s only son, a young man who occupied a prominent position in the business world, and a great favorite in social circles.

“I do not remember much what happened during the weeks that followed the reception of this news. I was like a man dazed, beyond all power of thought. But gradually my mind cleared, and a new feeling possessed me. The uncertainty was ended, and Helen could never be mine. And yet there was some comfort in the thought that although she had married Ned Preston she did not really belong to him but to me. I dreamed of her at night, and through the day she was with me more than ever. I have never been able to understand why this was so although I have meditated upon it a great deal. Perhaps Helen was thinking of me as I was thinking of her, and in some mysterious way our souls were in sweet communion. Anyway, I received much consolation which helped me to endure my tedious bondage.

“About this time I turned my attention to earnest reading and study. I had always been fond of books, but in my solitude I found in them a great source of light and inspiration such as I had never experienced before. There was a fairly good library in the Penitentiary, and I, like the other prisoners, was allowed to have one book at a time in my cell. Sundays, which hitherto had been almost unbearable, now became a pleasure, and I read to my heart’s content. Numerous books I read, but my chief delight was in the Bible, and I wondered why I had so long neglected that marvellous volume. It was there that I first learned of God’s wonderful dealings with man, the final triumph of the just and the overthrow of the wicked. As a boy I had often been advised to read and study the Bible, but had always scoffed at the idea. To me it was a most uninteresting Book, of no practical use in life. Now I see where I was wrong, although it took years of suffering to open my eyes to the light. It is my daily joy and companion now, and I bless my imprisonment for that.

“And next to the Bible came Emerson’s Essays. When I first read them I called myself a fool for having overlooked them for so long. There are several I know almost by heart, such as ‘Self Reliance,’ ‘Compensation,’ and ‘Courage.’ How they braced my moral fibre I cannot fully describe.

“I also read the ‘Life’ of Dante, and some of his works. What appealed to me most of all was his great love for Beatrice. His case was similar to my own. He loved her, and yet he lost her, for she married another. How well I remember these words of his:

‘When I had lost the first delight of my soul I remained so pierced with sadness that no comforts availed me anything, yet after some time my mind sought to return to the method by which other disconsolate ones had sought consolation, and I set myself to read that little known book of Boetius in which he consoled himself when a prisoner and an exile.’

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