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Daddy's Girl
by L. T. Meade
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"It is very hot this morning," said the governess.

"Oh, that don't matter," replied Sibyl. "Miss Winstead, is your head sometimes so full that it seems as if it would burst?"

"No," answered Miss Winstead, "I cannot say it is."

"Full of thoughts, you know."

"No," replied the governess again. "Don't turn in your toes, Sibyl, walk straight, turn your toes out a little, so; keep step with me. Little ladies ought to walk properly."

Sibyl took great pains to follow Miss Winstead's instructions. She was always taking great pains now. A wonderful lot of her naughtiness and daringness had left her. She was trying to be good. It was extremely irksome, but when she succeeded she felt a great glow of pleasure, for she believed herself near to her father.

"Miss Winstead," she said suddenly, "I have been thinking of something. It is most terribly 'portant. Would you greatly mind if we went to see the Holmans before we go back?"

"We shan't have time," replied Miss Winstead.

"Oh, but I want to go," said Sibyl, knitting her brows, "don't let us go into the stupid Park, do come to the Holmans."

"I cannot do it, Sibyl, it is impossible. We must be back rather early for lunch to-day, as your mother is going into the country this afternoon."

"Mother going into the country, what for?"

"I cannot tell you, it is not my affair."

"That means that you know, but you won't tell."

"You can put it in that way if you like. I won't tell. Now come into the Park, we can sit on one of the chairs under the trees and keep cool."

Sibyl obeyed unwillingly. She felt, as she said afterwards, as if Miss Winstead had rubbed her the wrong way.

"I am like a pussy-cat when its fur is rubbed quite the wrong side up," thought the little girl. "I don't like it, not a bit."

Presently she slipped her hand through her governess's arm, and said in a coaxing voice—

"Do come home through Greek Street; I do want just to say one word to Mr. Holman, you can't think how 'portant it is."

"I cannot, Sibyl; you must not ask me again." Here Miss Winstead took out her watch.

"We must hurry home," she said; "I had not the least idea the time was going so fast."

They left the Park, and came back in time for lunch. During lunch both Mrs. Ogilvie and her little daughter were very silent. Sibyl was thinking of the Holmans, and how more than important it was that she should see them soon, and Mrs. Ogilvie had another thought in her head, a thought which caused her eyes to dance with pleasure.

"Why isn't Mr. Rochester here?" said the little girl at last.

"He could not stay," replied Mrs. Ogilvie. "You and he are great friends, are you not, Sib?"

"He is nice, he is very nice," said the child; "he and Lady Helen—oh, more than nice. I like 'em very much, don't you, mother?"

"Yes, dear." Mrs. Ogilvie got up. "Good-by, Sibyl, I shall be back late this evening."

"Good-by, mother dear."

Mrs. Ogilvie left the room. Miss Winstead, having finished her lunch, desired Sibyl to be quick with hers, and then to follow her to the schoolroom. There was no one in the room now but Sibyl and the footman, Watson. Watson began to remove the things. Sibyl played with a biscuit. Suddenly she looked full up at the young man.

"Are you tired after your ride this morning Watson?"

"No, Miss Sibyl, not at all."

"I wonder if you're awfully hungry, Watson?"

"Why so, Miss?"

"Because it's time for the servants' dinner."

"Well, Miss, I'm going down to the hall presently, when I shall have my appetite satisfied, thank you all the same for inquiring."

Watson greatly enjoyed having a private chat with Sibyl.

"You couldn't, p'waps," said the little girl, knitting her brows, "you couldn't, p'waps, come a short way down the street with me afore you begin your dinner?"

"Where do you want to go, Miss?"

"I want to see Mr. Holman; you know Mr. Holman, don't you, Watson? He is the dear, kind, nice, sorrowful man who keeps the dusty toys."

"I have heard of him from you, Miss."

"It's most 'portant that I should see him and his wife, and if you walked behind me, mother would not be very angry. Would you come, Watson? You might just put on your hat and come at once. I have not taken off my hat and coat. We can do it and be back afore Miss Winstead finds out."

Watson looked out of the window. He saw Mrs Ogilvie at that moment go down the steps, closing the door behind her. She walked away in the direction of the nearest railway station. She held a dainty parasol over her head. He turned to where the eager little face of Sibyl was watching him.

"If you're very quick, Miss," he said, "I'll do it."

"You are good," said Sibyl. "Do you know, Watson, that you're a very nice man—you have very good impulses, I mean. I heard father once say of a man who dined here that he had good impulses, and I think he had a look of you; and you have very good impulses, too. Now let's go; do let's be quick."

A moment later the footman and the child were in the street. Sibyl walked on in front, and Watson a couple of feet behind her. Holman's shop was fortunately not far off, and they soon entered it.

"Watson," said the little girl, "you can stand in the doorway. It's very private, what I has to say to the Holmans; you must on no account listen."

"No, Miss, I won't."

Sibyl now entered the shop. Mrs. Holman was alone there. She was attending in the shop while her husband was eating his dinner. She looked very sad, and, as Sibyl expressed it afterwards, rusty. There were days when Mrs. Holman did present that appearance—when her cap seemed to want dusting and her collar to want freshness. Her black dress, too, looked a little worn. Sibyl was very, very sorry for her when she saw her in this dress.

"Dear! dear!" she said; "I am glad I came. You look as if you wanted cheering up. Mrs. Holman, I've splendid news for you."

"What is that, my dear little lady? That you have got money to buy another toy? But Mr. Holman said only as late as last night that he wouldn't send you another worn-out toy not for nobody. 'Tain't fair, my love. It seems like playing on your generosity, my dear."

"But I like them," said the child; "I do really, truly. I paint them up with the paints in my paint-box and make them look as good as new. They are much more interesting than perfect toys, they are truly."

"Well, dear, your mother would not like it if she know we treated you in what my husband says is a shabby way."

"Don't think any more about that now, Mrs. Holman. You both treat me as I love to be treated—as though I were your little friend."

"Which you are, darling—which you are."

"Well, Mrs. Holman, I must hurry; I must tell you my good news. Do you remember telling me last week that you had a hundred pounds put away in the Savings Bank, and that you didn't know what to do with it. You said, 'Money ought to make money,' and you didn't know how your hundred pounds would make money. It was such a funny speech, and you tried to 'splain it to me, and I tried to understand."

"It was silly of my husband and me to talk of it before you, Missy. It is true we have got a hundred pounds. It is a nest-egg against a rainy day."

"Now again you are talking funnily; a nest-egg against a rainy day?"

"Against a time of trouble when we may want to spend the money."

"Oh, I understand that," answered the child.

"And I had it well invested, but the money was paid back, and there was nothing for it but to pop it into the Post Office Savings Bank."

"It's there still, is it?" said Sibyl, her eyes shining.

"Yes, dear."

"Well, now, what do you say to buying bits of gold with it?"

"Bits of gold with our hundred pounds?" said Mrs. Holman, staring at Sibyl.

"Yes, that is exactly what I mean; bits of gold. You will be able to if you keep it long enough. If you promise to keep that money safe you may be able to buy great lumps of gold out of my father's gold mine. My father has gone to Australia to——Oh, I must not tell you, for it really is an awful, awful secret; but, anyhow, when he comes back you'll be able to make a lot of money out of your money, to buy heaps of bits of gold. Will you promise to keep that hundred pounds till father comes home? That's what I came about, to ask you to promise, and Watson came with me because Miss Winstead wouldn't. Will you promise, dear Mrs. Holman?"

"Bless you, darling," said Mrs. Holman, "so that is why your father has gone away. It do sound exciting."

"It's awfully exciting, isn't it? We shall all be so rich. Mother said so, and mother ought to know. You'll be rich, and I'll be rich, and dear, dear nursie will be rich, and even Watson. Watson has got such good impulses. He'll be rich, too, and he shall marry the girl he is fond of; and there is a friend of mine, he wants to marry another girl, and they shall be rich and they shall marry. Oh, nobody need be sorrowful any more. Everybody will be quite happy when father comes back. You'll be able to have your shop in Palace Road, and oh, be sure you keep that hundred pounds till then."

Sibyl did not wait for Mrs. Holman to make any further remark. Mrs. Holman's eyes looked bright and excited; the child dashed out of the shop.

"Come, Watson," she said, "you'll have a splendid appetite for your dinner, and you have done a very good deed. You have denied yourself, Watson, and made a sorrowful woman happy. What do you think of that?"



CHAPTER XI.

About this time Mrs. Ogilvie was subjected to a somewhat severe form of temptation. It had been one of the biggest dreams of her life to possess a country place. She had never been satisfied with the fact that she and her husband must live in town except when they went to lodgings at the seaside, or were on visits to their friends. She wanted to have their own country place to go to just when she pleased, a place where she could invite her friends whenever the whim seized her. In an evil moment, almost immediately after Ogilvie had gone to Australia, she had visited a house agent and told him some of her desires.

"My husband is not prepared to buy a place now," she said in conclusion, "but he soon will be in a position to do so, and I want you to look round for me and tell me if anything nice happens to come into the market."

The agent had replied that he would be sure to let his client know if anything suitable came his way. Very soon places, apparently quite to Mrs. Ogilvie's heart, did come in the agent's way, and then somehow, in some fashion, other house agents got wind of Mrs. Ogilvie's desire, and now scarcely a post came that did not bring her most tempting prospectuses with regard to country places. There was one in particular which so exactly pleased her that she became quite distrait and restless except when she was talking of it. She went to see this special place several times. It was on the Thames just above Richmond. The grounds sloped down to the water. The house itself was built in a low, rambling, eccentric fashion. It covered a considerable extent of ground; there were several gardens, and they were all nicely kept and were bright with flowers, and had many overhanging trees. The house itself, too, had every modern comfort. There were many bedrooms and several fine reception rooms, and there were tennis and croquet lawns in the grounds, all smooth as velvet and perfectly level. There were also kitchen-gardens, and some acres of land, as yet undevoted to any special purpose, at the back of the house. It was just the sort of place which a man who was in a nice position in society might be glad to own. Its late owner had given it the somewhat eccentric title of Silverbel, and certainly the place was as bright and charming as its name.

This desirable little property was to be obtained, with its surrounding acres, for the modest sum of twenty thousand pounds, and Mrs. Ogilvie was so fascinated by the thought of being mistress of Silverbel, on the lovely winding River Thames, that she wrote to her husband on the subject.

"It is the very best place of its kind in the market," she wrote. "It was sold to its present owner for thirty thousand pounds, but he is obliged to live abroad and is anxious to sell it, and would give it for twenty thousand. I want you, when you receive this, to wire to me to carry on negotiations in your absence. I have already consulted our lawyer, Mr. Acland. He says the house is drained, and the air of the place would be just the kind to suit Sibyl. She would enjoy so much her row on the river, and all our friends would like it. With the money you must now have at your disposal you can surely gratify me with regard to Silverbel."

Mrs. Ogilvie had, of course, not yet received any answer to her letter, but she visited Silverbel twice a week, and took Sibyl also to see the beautiful place.

"It will be yours when father comes home," she said to the child.

Sibyl skipped about madly.

"It's just too 'licious!" she said. "Is this one of the things God gives us because we are rich? Isn't it kind of Lord Jesus to make us rich? Don't you love Him very, very much, mother?"

Mrs. Ogilvie always turned aside when Sibyl spoke to her about her love for the Lord Jesus. Not that she considered herself by any means an irreligious woman. She went to church always once, and sometimes twice on Sunday. She subscribed to any number of charities, and as the little girl now spoke her eyes became full of a soft light.

"We can have a bazaar here," she said, "a bazaar for the Home for Incurables at Watleigh. Lady Severn was talking to me about it last night, and said how terribly it needed funds. Sibyl, when father comes back we will have a great big bazaar here at lovely Silverbel, and a marquee on the lawn, and we will ask all the most charitable people in London to take stalls; some of the big-wigs, you know."

"Big-wigs?" said Sibyl, "what are they?"

"People, my dear child, who are high up in the social scale."

"I don't understand, mother," answered Sibyl. "Oh, do look at this rose, did you ever see such a perfect beauty? May I pick it, mother? It is just perfect, isn't it, not quite full out and yet not a bud. I'd like very much to send it to my ownest father."

"Silly child! Yes, of course you may pick it, but it will be dead long before it reaches him."

"It's heart won't be dead," said Sibyl. She did not know why she made the latter remark. She often did say things which she but half understood. She carefully picked the rose and fastened it into the front of her white dress. When she returned to town that evening she put the rose in water and looked at it with affectionate interest.

"What a pretty flower! Where did my darling get it?" said nurse.

"At Silverbel, the beautiful, beautiful place that father is going to buy when he is rich. You can't think how good mother is growing, nursie; she is getting better and better every day."

"H'm!" said nurse.

"Why do you make those sort of noises when I speak of my mother? I don't like it," said the child. "But I must tell you about Silverbel. Mother says it is practicalically ours now. I don't quite know what she means by practicalically, but I suppose she means that it is almost our place. Anyhow, when my dearest rich father comes back it will be ours, and we are going to make poor Mr. Holman quite rich, and you, darling nursie, quite rich, and—and others quite rich. We are going to have a great big bazaar at Silverbel, and the big-wigs are coming to it. Isn't it a funny word! perhaps you don't know what big-wigs are, but I do."

Nurse laughed.

"Eat your supper and go to bed, Miss Sibyl. You are staying up a great deal too late, and you are learning things you had better know nothing about."

Meanwhile Mrs. Ogilvie downstairs was having a consultation with her lawyer.

"I don't want to lose the place," she said. "My husband is safe to be satisfied with my decision."

"If you have really made up your mind to pay twenty thousand pounds for the place, and I cannot say that I think it at all dear," replied the lawyer, "I have no objection to lending you a couple of thousand pounds to pay a deposit. You need not complete the purchase for at least three months, and I have not the slightest doubt I can further arrange that you may go into possession, say—well, any time you like after the deposit money is paid."

"Can you really?" said Mrs. Ogilvie, her eyes growing dark and almost passionate in their eagerness.

"At the worst it could be taken off your hands," he answered; "but doubtless, from what you tell me, Ogilvie will be well able to complete the thing; only remember, pray remember, Mrs. Ogilvie, that this is rather a big matter, and if by any chance your husband does not find the Lombard Deeps all that Lord Grayleigh expects"—he paused and looked thoughtful. "I can lend you the money if you wish it," he said then abruptly.

"The money to enable me to pay a deposit?" she said.

"Yes; two thousand pounds; I believe the owners will take that on condition that the purchase is completed, say, in October."

"My husband will be back by then. I have a great mind to agree," she said. She almost trembled in her eagerness. After a moment's pause she spoke.

"I will accept your offer, Mr. Acland. I don't know where to go in August and September, and Silverbel will be the very place. Mr. Ogilvie will thank you most heartily for your generous trust in us both when he comes back."

"I have plenty of funds to meet this loan," thought the lawyer. "I am safe so far." Aloud he said, "Then I will go and see the owners to-morrow."

"This clinches the matter," said Mrs. Ogilvie, "I will begin ordering the furniture immediately."

The lawyer and the lady had a little further conversation, and then Mrs. Ogilvie dressed and went out to dine, and told many of her friends of her golden dreams.

"A place in the country, a place like Silverbel, has always been the longing of my life," she said, and she looked pathetic and almost ethereal, as she spoke, and as though nothing pleased her more than a ramble through country lanes with buttercups and daisies within reach.

On the following Sunday, Rochester happened to lunch with Mrs. Ogilvie and her little daughter. Mrs. Ogilvie talked during the entire meal of the beautiful place which was soon to be hers.

"You shall come with Sibyl and me to see it to-morrow," she said. "I will ask Lady Helen to come, too. I will send her a note by messenger. We might meet at Victoria Station at eleven o'clock, and go to Silverbel and have lunch at the little inn on the river."

Rochester agreed somewhat eagerly. His eyes brightened. He looked at Sibyl, who gave him a meaning, affectionate, sympathetic glance. She would enjoy very much seeing the lovers wandering through beautiful Silverbel side by side.

"It's the most darling, lovely place," she said; "nobody knows how beautiful it is. I do hope it will soon be ours."

"When our ship comes in, it will be ours," said Mrs. Ogilvie, and she laughed merrily and looked full of happiness.

When the servants left the room, however, Rochester bent forward and said something to Mrs. Ogilvie which did not please that good lady quite so much.

"Have you heard the rumors with regard to the Lombard Deeps Gold Mine?" he asked.

"What rumors?" Mrs. Ogilvie looked anxious. "I know nothing whatever about business," she said, testily, "I leave all that absolutely to my husband. I know that he considers the mine an excellent one, but his full report cannot yet have reached England."

"Of course it has not. Ogilvie's report in full cannot come to hand for another six weeks. I allude now to a paragraph in one of the great financial papers, in which the mine is somewhat depreciated, the gold being said to be much less to the ton than was originally supposed, and the strata somewhat shallow, and terminating abruptly. Doubtless there is no truth in it."

"Not a word, not a word," said Mrs. Ogilvie; "but I make a point of being absolutely ignorant with regard to gold mines. I consider it positively wrong of a woman to mix herself up in such masculine matters. All the sweet femininity of character must depart if such knowledge is carried to any extent."

"Lady Helen knows about all these sort of things, and yet I think she is quite feminine," said Rochester; and then he colored faintly and looked at Sibyl, whose eyes danced with fun.

Mrs. Ogilvie slowly rose from the table.

"You will find cigars in that box," she said. "No, Sibyl, you are not to stay with Mr. Rochester; come to the drawing-room with me."

"Oh, do let her stay," earnestly pleaded the young man, "she has often sat with me while I smoked before."

"Well, as you please, but don't spoil her," said the mother. She left the room, and Sibyl curled herself up luxuriously in a deep armchair near Mr. Rochester.

"I have a lot of things to ask you," she said; "I am not going to be like my ownest mother, I am going to be like Lady Helen. I want to understand about the gold mine. I want to understand why, if you give your money to a certain thing, you get back little bits of gold. Can you make the gold into sovereigns, is that what happens?"

"It is extremely difficult for me to explain," said Rochester, "but I think the matter lies in a nutshell. If your father gives a good report of the mine there will be a great deal of money subscribed, as it is called, by different people."

"What's subscribed?"

"Well, given. You know what it means when people ask your mother to subscribe to a charity?"

"Oh, yes, I know quite well; and Mr. and Mrs. Holman, they may subscribe, may they?"

"Yes, whoever they may be. I don't know Mr. and Mrs. Holman, but of course they may intend to subscribe, and other people will do the same, and if we give, say, a hundred pounds we shall get back perhaps one hundred and fifty, perhaps two hundred."

"Oh, that's very nice," said Sibyl; "I seem to understand, and yet I don't understand."

"You understand enough, my dear little girl, quite enough. Don't puzzle your poor little brain. Your mother is right, these are matters for men."

"And you are quite certain that my father will say that the beautiful mine is full of gold?" said Sibyl.

"He will say it if the gold is there."

"And if it is not?"

"Then he will tell the truth."

"Of course," said Sibyl, proudly. "My father couldn't tell a lie if he was even to try. It would be impossible, wouldn't it, Mr. Rochester?"

"I should say quite impossible," replied Rochester firmly.

"You are awfully nice, you know," she said; "you are nice enough even for Lady Helen. I do hope father will find the mine full up to the brim with gold. Such a lot of people will be happy then."

"So they will," replied Rochester.

"And darlingest mother can have the beautiful place. Hasn't the new place got a lovely name—Silverbel?"

"It sounds very pretty, Sibyl."

"And you will come to-morrow and see it, won't you?"

"Yes."

"And you will bring Lady Helen?"

"Your mother will bring Lady Helen."

"It's all the same," replied Sibyl. "Oh, I am so glad."

She talked a little longer, and then went upstairs.

Miss Winstead often spent Sunday with her friends. She was not in the schoolroom now as Sibyl entered. Sibyl thought this was a golden opportunity to write to her father. She sat down and prepared to write a letter. This was always a somewhat laborious task. Her thoughts flowed freely enough, but her hand could not wield the pen quite quick enough for the eager thoughts, nor was her spelling perfect, nor her written thoughts quite so much to the point as her spoken ones. Nevertheless, it was full time for her father to hear from her, and she had a great deal to say. She took a sheet of paper, dipped her pen in the ink, and began:

"DARLINGIST FATHER,—Yesterday I picked a rose at Silverbel, the place that mother wants us to have when you com bak rich. Here's the rose for you. Pwaps it will be withered, father, but its hart will be alive. Kiss it and think of Sibyl. It's hart is like my hart, and my hart thinks of you morning, noon, and night, evry night, father, and evry morning, and allways, allways during the hole of the day. It's most portant, father, that you should come back rich. It's most solum nesesarey. I do so hope the mine will be full up to the brim with gold, for if it is a lot of people here will be made happy. Have you found the mine yet, father, and is it ful to the brim of gold? You don't know how portant it is. It's cos of Mr. and Mrs. Holman, father, and their dusty broken toys, and cos of nursie and her spectakles, and cos of one who wants to marry another one, and I mustn't tell names, and cos of the big-wigs, father. Oh, it is portant.

"Your lovin "SIBYL."

"He'll understand," thought Sibyl; "he's wonderful for seeing right through a thing, and he'll quite know what I mean by the 'heart of the rose,'" and she kissed the rose passionately and put it inside the letter, and nurse directed the letter for her, and it was dropped into the pillar-box that same night.

The letter was not read by the one it was intended for until—but that refers to another part of the story.



CHAPTER XII.

The next day was a glorious one, and Lady Helen, Mr. Rochester, Mrs. Ogilvie, and Sibyl all met at Victoria Station in time to catch the 11.20 train to Richmond, the nearest station to Silverbel. There a carriage was to meet them, to take them to the house. They were to lunch at a small inn close by, and afterwards have a row on the river; altogether a very delightful day was planned.

It was now the heart of a glorious summer—such a summer as does not often visit England. The sky was cloudless; the sun shone, but the great heat was tempered by a soft, delicious breeze.

Sibyl, all in white, with a white shady hat making her little face even more lovely than usual, stood by her mother's side, close to a first-class carriage, to await the arrival of the other two.

Lady Helen and Rochester were seen walking slowly down the platform. Sibyl gave one of her gleeful shouts, and ran to meet them.

"Here you both is!" she said, and she looked full up at Lady Helen, with such a charming glance of mingled affection and understanding, that Lady Helen blushed, in spite of herself.

Lady Helen Douglas was a very nice-looking girl, not exactly pretty, but her gray eyes were capable of many shades of emotion. They were large, and full of intelligence. Her complexion was almost colorless. She had a slim, graceful figure. Her jet-black hair, which she wore softly coiled round her head, was also thick and beautiful. Sibyl used to like to touch that hair, and loved very much to nestle up close to the graceful figure, and take shy peeps into the depths of the eyes which seemed to hold secrets.

"You do look nice," said Sibyl, speaking in a semi-whisper, but in a tone of great ecstasy, "and so does Mr. Rochester. Do you know, I always call him nice Mr. Rochester. Watson is so interested in him."

"Who is Watson?" asked Lady Helen.

"Don't you know, he is our footman. He is very nice, too; he is full of impulses, and they are all good. I expect the reason he is so awfully interested in dear Mr. Rochester is because they are both having love affairs. You know, Watson has a girl, too, he is awfully fond of; I 'spect they'll marry when father comes back with all the gold. You don't know how fond I am of Watson; he's a very great, special friend of mine. Now here's the carriage. Let's all get in. Aren't you both glad you're coming, and coming together, both of you together, to visit Silverbel. It's a 'licious place; there are all kinds of little private walks and shrubberies, and seats for two under trees. Two that want to be alone can be alone at Silverbel. Now let's all get into the carriage."

Poor Rochester and Lady Helen at that moment thought Sibyl almost an enfant terrible. However, there was no help for it. She would have her say, and her words were bright and her interest of the keenest. It mattered nothing at all to her that passers-by turned to look and smiled in an amused way.

Mrs. Ogilvie was in an excellent humor. All the way down she talked to Lady Helen of the bazaar which she had already arranged was to take place at Silverbel during the last week in August.

"I had meant to put it off until my husband returned," she remarked finally, "but on reflection that seemed a pity, for he is scarcely likely to be back before the end of October, and by then it would be too late; and, besides, the poor dear Home for Incurables needs its funds, and why should it languish when we are all anxious, more than anxious, to be charitable? Mr. Acland, my lawyer, is going to pay a deposit on the price of the estate, so I can enter into possession almost immediately. I am going to get Morris & Liberty to furnish the place, and I shall send down servants next week. But about the bazaar. I mean it to be perfect in every way. The stalls are to be held by unmarried titled ladies. Your services, Lady Helen, must be secured immediately."

"Oh, yes," cried Sibyl, "you are to have a most beautiful stall, a flower stall: what do you say?"

"If I have a stall I will certainly choose a flower stall," replied Lady Helen, and she smiled at Sibyl, and patted her hand.

They soon arrived at Richmond, and got into the carriage which was waiting for them, and drove to Silverbel. They had lunch at the inn as arranged, and then they wandered about the grounds, and presently Sibyl had her wish, for Rochester and Lady Helen strolled away from her mother and herself, and walked down a shady path to the right of the house.

"There they go!" cried the child.

"There who go, Sibyl?" asked Mrs. Ogilvie.

"The one who wants to marry the other," replied Sibyl. "Hush, mother, we are not to know, we are to be quite blind. Aren't you awfully incited?"

"You are a very silly, rude little girl," replied the mother. "You must not make the sort of remarks you are always making to Mr. Rochester and Lady Helen. Such remarks are in very bad form. Now, don't take even the slightest notice when they return."

"Aren't I to speak to them?" asked Sibyl, raising her eyes in wonder.

"Of course, but you are not to say anything special."

"Oh, nothing special. Am I to talk about the weather?"

"No; don't be such a little goose."

"I always notice," replied Sibyl, softly, "that when quite strangers meet, they talk about the weather. I thought that was why. Can't I say anything more—more as if they were my very dear old friends? I thought they'd like it. I thought they'd like to know that there was one here who understanded all about it."

"About it?"

"Their love, mother, their love for—for each other."

"Who may the one be who is supposed to understand?"

"Me, mother," said Sibyl.

Mrs. Ogilvie burst into a ringing laugh.

"You are a most ridiculous little girl," she said. "Now, listen; you are not to take any notice when they come back. They are not engaged; perhaps they never will be. Anyhow, you will make yourself an intensely disagreeable child if you make such remarks as you have already made. Do you understand?"

"You has put it plain, mother," replied Sibyl. "I think I do. Now, let's look at the flowers."

"I have ordered the landlord of the inn to serve tea on the lawn," continued Mrs. Ogilvie. "Is it not nice to feel that we are going to have tea on our own lawn, Sibyl?"

"It's lovely!" replied Sibyl.

"I am devoted to the country," continued the mother; "there is no place like the country for me."

"So I think, too," replied Sibyl. "I love the country. We'll have all the very poorest people down here, won't we, mother?"

"What do you mean?"

"All the people who want to be made happy; Mr. and Mrs. Holman, and the other faded old people in the almshouses that I went to see one time with Miss Winstead."

"Now you are talking in your silly way again," replied Mrs. Ogilvie. "You make me quite cross when you talk of that old couple, Mr. and Mrs. Holman."

"But, mother, why aren't they to be rich if we are to be rich? Do you know that Mrs. Holman is saving up her money to buy some of the gold out of father's mine. She expects to get two hundred pounds instead of one. It's very puzzling, and yet I seem to understand. Oh, here comes Mr. Landlord with the tea-things. How inciting!"

The table was spread, and cake, bread and butter, and fruit provided. Lady Helen and Rochester came back. They both looked a little conscious and a little afraid of Sibyl, but as she turned her back on them the moment they appeared, and pretended to be intensely busy picking a bouquet of flowers, they took their courage in their hands and came forward and joined in the general conversation.

Lady Helen elected to pour out tea, and was extremely cheerful, although she could not help reddening when Sibyl brought her a very large marguerite daisy, and asked her to pull off the petals and see whether the rhyme came right.

"What rhyme?" asked Lady Helen.

"I know it all, shall I say it to you?" cried Sibyl. She began to pull off the different petals, and to repeat in a childish sing-song voice:—

"One he loves, two he loves, three he loves they say, Four he loves with all his heart, five he casts away, Six he loves, seven she loves, eight they both love, Nine he comes, ten he tarries, Eleven he woos, twelve he marries."

Sibyl repeated this nonsense with extreme gusto, and when the final petal on the large daisy proclaimed that "twelve he marries," she flung the stalk at Rochester and laughed gaily.

"I knew you'd have luck," she said. Then she caught her mother's warning eye and colored painfully, thus making the situation, if possible, a little more awkward.

"Suppose we go for a row on the river this lovely afternoon," said Lady Helen, starting up restlessly. She had talked of the coming bazaar, and had wandered through the rooms at Silverbel, and had listened to Mrs. Ogilvie's suggestions with regard to furniture and different arrangements until she was almost tired of the subject.

Rochester sprang to his feet.

"I can easily get a boat," he said; "I'll go and consult with mine host."

He sauntered across the grounds, and Sibyl, after a moment's hesitation, followed him. A boat was soon procured, and they all found themselves on the shining silver Thames.

"Is that why our house is called Silverbel?" asked Sibyl. "Is it 'cos we can see the silver shine of the river, and 'cos it is belle, French for beautiful?"

"Perhaps so," answered the mother with a smile.

The evening came on, the heat of the day was over, the sun faded.

"What a pity we must go back to London," said Sibyl. "I don't think I ever had such a lovely day before."

"We shall soon be back here," replied Mrs. Ogilvie. "I shall see about furnishing next week at the latest, and we can come down whenever we are tired of town."

"That will be lovely," said Sibyl. "Oh, won't my pony love cantering over the roads here!"

When they landed at the little quay just outside the inn, the landlord came down to meet them. He held a telegram in his hand.

"This came for you, madam, in your absence," he said, and he gave the telegram to Mrs. Ogilvie. She tore it open. It was from her lawyer, Mr. Acland, and ran as follows:

"Ominous rumors with regard to Lombard Deeps have reached me. Better not go any further at present with the purchase of Silverbel."

Mrs. Ogilvie's face turned pale. She looked up and met the fixed stare of her little daughter and of Rochester. Lady Helen had turned away. She was leaning over the rails of the little garden and looking down into the swiftly flowing river.

Mrs. Ogilvie's face grew hard. She crushed up the telegram in her hand.

"I hope there is nothing wrong?" asked Rochester.

"Nothing at all," she replied. "Yes, we will come here next week. Sibyl, don't stare in that rude way."

The return journey was not as lively as that happy one in the morning.

Sibyl felt through her sensitive little frame that her mother was worried about something. Rochester also looked anxious. Lady Helen alone seemed unconscious and distrait. When the child nestled up to her she put her arm round her waist.

"Are you sad about anything, darling Lady Helen?" whispered Sibyl.

"No, Sibyl; I am quite happy."

"Then you are thinking very hard?"

"I often think."

"I do so want you to be awfully happy."

"I know you do, and I think I shall be."

"Then that is right. Twelve he marries. Wasn't it sweet of the marguerite daisy to give Mr. Rochester just the right petal at the end; wasn't it luck?"

"Yes; but hush, don't talk so loud."

Mr. Rochester now changed his seat, and came opposite to where Lady Helen and the child had placed themselves. He did not talk to Lady Helen, but he looked at her several times. Presently he took one of Sibyl's hands, and stroked it fondly.

"Does Lady Helen tell you beautiful stories too?" asked Sibyl, suddenly.

"No," he answered; "she is quite naughty about that. She never tells me the charming stories she tells you."

"You ought to," said Sibyl, looking at her earnestly; "it would do him good. It's an awfully nice way, if you want to give a person a home truth, to put it into a story. Nurse told me about that, and I remembered it ever since. She used to put her home truths into proverbs when I was quite young, such as, 'A burnt child dreads the fire,' or 'Marry in haste, repent at leisure,' or——"

"Oh, that will do, Sibyl." Lady Helen spoke; there was almost a piteous appeal in the words.

"Well," said Sibyl, "perhaps it is better to put home truths into stories, not proverbs. It's like having more sugar. The 'home truth' is the pill, and when it is sugared all over you can swallow it. You can't swallow it without the sugar, can you? Nursie begins her stories like this: 'Miss Sibyl, once upon a time I knew a little girl,' and then she tells me all about a horrid girl, and I know the horrid girl is me. I am incited, of course, but very, very soon I get down to the pill. Now, I am sure, Mr. Rochester, there are some things you ought to be told, there are some things you do wrong, aren't there, Mr. Rochester?"

"Oh, Sibyl, do stop that ceaseless chatter," cried her mother from the other end of the carriage; "you talk the most utter nonsense," and Sibyl for once was effectually silenced.

The party broke up at Victoria Station, and Mrs. Ogilvie and her little daughter drove home. As soon as ever they arrived there Watson informed Mrs. Ogilvie that Mr. Acland was waiting to see her in the library.

"Tiresome man!" she muttered, but she went to see him at once. The electric light was on; the room reminded her uncomfortably of her husband. He spent a great deal of time in his library, more than a very happy married man would have done. She had often found him there with a perplexed brow, and a heart full of anxiety. She had found him there, too, in his rare moments of exultation and happiness. She would have preferred to see the lawyer in any room but this.

"Well," she said, "why did you send me that ridiculous telegram?"

"You would not be surprised if you had read the article which appeared to-day in The Financial Enquirer."

"I have never heard of The Financial Enquirer."

"But City men know it," replied Mr. Acland, "and to a great extent it governs the market. It is one of our leading financial papers. The rumors it alludes to may be untrue, but they will influence the subscriptions made by the public to the share capital. In fact, with so ominous an article coming from so first-rate a source, nothing but a splendid report from Ogilvie can save the mine."

Mrs. Ogilvie drummed with her delicate taper fingers on the nearest table.

"How you puzzle a poor woman with your business terms," she said. "What do I know about mines? When my husband left me he said that he would come back a rich man. He gave me his promise, he must keep his word."

"He will naturally keep his word if he can, and if the mine is all that Lord Grayleigh anticipates everything will be right," replied Acland. "There is no man more respected than Ogilvie in the City. His report as assayer will save the situation; that is, if it is first-rate. But if it is a medium report the capital will not be sufficiently subscribed to, and if the report happens to be bad the whole thing will fall through. We shall know soon now."

"This is very disturbing," said Mrs. Ogilvie. "I have had a long, tiring day, and you give me a headache. When is my husband's report likely to reach England?"

"Not for several weeks, of course. It ought to be here in about two months' time, but we may have a cablegram almost any day. The public are just in a waiting attitude, they want to invest their money. If the mine turns out a good thing shares will be subscribed to any extent. Everything depends on Ogilvie's report."

"Won't you stay and have some supper?" said Mrs. Ogilvie, carelessly. "I have said already that I do not understand these things."

"I cannot stay, I came to see you because it is important. I want to know if you really wish to go on with the purchase of Silverbel. I am ready to pay a deposit for you of L2,000 on the price of the estate, which will, of course, clinch the purchase, and this deposit I have arranged to pay to-morrow, but under the circumstances would it not be best to delay? If your husband cannot give a good report of the mine he will not want to buy an expensive place like Silverbel. My advice to you, Mrs. Ogilvie, is to let Silverbel go. I happen to know at this moment of another purchaser who is only waiting to close if you decline. When your husband comes back rich you can easily buy another place."

"No other place will suit me except Silverbel," she answered.

"I strongly recommend you not to buy it now."

"And I intend to have it. I am going down there to live next week. Of course, you arranged that I could go in at once after the deposit was paid?"

"Yes, on sufferance, subject to your completing the purchase in October."

"Then pray don't let the matter be disturbed again. I shall order furniture immediately. You are quite a raven, a croaker of bad news, Mr. Acland."

Mr. Acland raised his hand in deprecation.

"I thought it only fair to tell you," he answered, and the next moment he left the house. As he did so, he uttered a solitary remark:

"What a fool that woman is! I pity Ogilvie."



CHAPTER XIII.

It was the last week in July when Mrs. Ogilvie took possession of Silverbel. She had ordered furniture in her usual reckless fashion, going to the different shops where she knew she could obtain credit. The house, already beautiful, looked quite lovely when decorated by the skilful hands which arranged draperies and put furniture into the most advantageous positions.

Sibyl's room, just over the front porch, was really worthy of her. It was a bower of whiteness and innocence. It had lattice windows which looked out on to the lovely grounds. Climbing roses peeped in through the narrow panes, and sent their sweet fragrance to greet the child when the windows were open and she put her head out.

Sibyl thought more than ever of her father as she took possession of the lovely room at Silverbel. What a beautiful world it was! and what a happy little girl she, Sibyl, thought herself in possessing such perfect parents. Her prayers became now passionate thanks. She had got so much that it seemed unkind to ask Lord Jesus for one thing more. Of course, He was making the mine full of gold, and He was making her father very, very rich, and everyone, everyone she knew was soon to be happy.

Lady Helen Douglas came to stay at Silverbel, and this seemed to give an added touch to the child's sense of enjoyment, for Lady Helen had at last, in a shy half whisper, told the eager little listener that she did love Mr. Rochester, and, further, that they were only waiting to proclaim their engagement to the world until the happy time when Sibyl's father came back.

"For Jim," continued Lady Helen, "will take shares in the Lombard Deeps, and as soon as ever he does this we can afford to marry. But you must not speak of this, Sibyl. I have only confided in you because you have been our very good friend all along."

Sibyl longed to write off at once to her father to hurry up matters with regard to the gold mine.

"Of course, it is full of gold, quite full," thought the child; "but I hope father will write, or, better still, come home quickly and tell us all about it."

She began to count the days now to her father's return, and was altogether in such a happy mood that it was delightful to be in her presence or to see her joyful face.

Sibyl was nearly beside herself with delight at having exchanged her dull town life for this happy country one. She quickly made friends with the poor people in the nearest village, who were all attracted by her bright ways and pretty face. Her mother also gave her a small part of the garden to do what she liked with, and when she was not digging industriously, or riding her pony, or talking to Lady Helen, or engaged in her lessons, she followed her mother about like a faithful little dog.

Mrs. Ogilvie was so pleased and contented with her purchase that she was wonderfully amiable. She often now sat in the long evenings with Sibyl by her side, and listened without impatience to the child's rhapsodies about her father. Mrs. Ogilvie would also be glad when Philip returned. But just now her thought of all thoughts was centred on the bazaar. This bazaar was to clinch her position as a country lady. All the neighbors round were expected to attend, and already she was busy drawing up programmes of the coming festivities, and arranging with a great firm in London for the special marquee, which was to grace her lawn right down to the river's edge.

The bazaar was expected to last for quite three days, and, during that time, a spirited band would play, and there would be various entertainments of all sorts and descriptions. Little boats, with colored flags and awnings, were to be in requisition on the brink of the river, and people should pay heavily for the privilege of occupying these boats.

Mrs. Ogilvie clapped her hands almost childishly when this last brilliant idea came to her, and Sibyl thought that it was worthy of mother, and entered into the scheme with childish enthusiasm.

The third week in August was finally decided as the best week for the bazaar, and those friends who were not going abroad promised to stay at Silverbel for the occasion.

Some weeks after Mrs. Ogilvie had taken possession of Silverbel, Mr. Acland called to see her.

"We have had no cable yet from your husband," he said, "and the rumors continue to be ominous. I wish with all my heart we could silence them. I, myself, believe in the Lombard Deeps, for Grayleigh is the last man to lend his name or become chairman of a company which has not brilliant prospects; but I can see that even he is a little anxious."

"Oh, pray don't croak," was Mrs. Ogilvie's response and then she once again likened Mr. Acland to the raven.

"You are a bird of ill-omen," she said, shaking her finger playfully in his face.

He frowned as she addressed him; he could not see the witticism of her remark.

"When people are perfectly happy and know nothing whatever with regard to business, what is the good of coming and telling these dismalities?" she continued. "I am nothing but a poor little feminine creature, trying to do good, and to make myself happy in an innocent way. Why will you come and croak? I know Philip quite well enough to be certain that he would not have set foot on this expedition if he had not been satisfied in advance that the mine was a good one."

"That is my own impression," said Mr. Acland, thoughtfully; "but don't forget you are expected to complete the purchase of Silverbel by the end of October."

"Oh! Philip will be back before then," answered Mrs. Ogilvie in a light and cheerful tone. "Any day now we may get a cablegram. Well, sweetheart, and what are you doing here?"

Sibyl had entered the room, and was leaning against the window frame.

"Any day we may expect what to happen, mother darling?" she asked.

"We may expect a cable from father to say he is coming back again."

"Oh! do you think so? Oh, I am so happy!"

Sibyl skipped lightly out of the room. She ran across the sunny, radiant garden, and presently found herself in a sort of wilderness which she had appropriated, and where she played at all sorts of solitary games. In that wilderness she imagined herself at times a lonely traveler, at other times a merchant carrying goodly pearls, at other times a bandit engaged in feats of plunder. All possible scenes in history or imagination that she understood did the child try to enact in the wilderness. But she went there now with no intention of posing in any imaginary part. She went there because her heart was full.

"Oh, Lord Jesus, it is so beautiful of you," she said, and she looked up as she spoke full at the blue sky. "I can scarcely believe that my ownest father will very soon be back again; it is quite too beautiful."

A few days after this, and toward the end of the first week in August, Sibyl was one day playing as usual in the grounds when the sound of carriage wheels attracted her attention. She ran down to see who was arriving, and a shout of delight came from her when she saw Lord Grayleigh coming down the drive. He called the coachman to stop and put out his head.

"Jump into the carriage, Sib, I have not seen you for some time. When are you going to pay me another visit at Grayleigh Manor?"

"Oh, some time, but not at present," replied Sibyl. "I am too happy with mother here to think of going away. Isn't Silverbel sweet, Lord Grayleigh?"

"Charming," replied Grayleigh. "Is your mother in, little woman?"

"I think so. She is very incited about the bazaar. Are you coming to the bazaar?"

"I don't know, I will tell you presently."

Sibyl laid her little hand in Lord Grayleigh's. He gave it a squeeze, and she clasped it confidingly.

"Do you know that I am so monstrous happy I scarcely know what to do," she said.

"Because you have got a pretty new place?"

"No, no, nothing of that sort. It's 'cos father is coming back afore long! He will cable, whatever that means, and soon afterward he'll come. I'm always thanking Lord Jesus about it. Isn't it good of Him to send my ownest father back so soon?"

Lord Grayleigh made no answer, unless an uneasy movement of his feet signified a sense of discomfort. The carriage drew up at the porch and he alighted. Sibyl skipped out after him.



"Shall I find mother for you?" she said. "Oh, there she is on the lawn. Darlingest mother, she can think of nothing at present but the bazaar, when all the big-wigs are to be present. You're a big-wig, aren't you? I asked nurse what big-wigs were, and she said people with handles. Mother said they were people in a good social position. I remember the words so well 'cos I couldn't understand 'em, but when I asked Miss Winstead to 'splain, she said mother meant ladies and gentlemen, and when I asked her to tell me what ladies and gentlemen was, she said people who behaved nicely. Now isn't it all very puzzling, 'cos the person who I think behaves nicest of all is our footman, Watson. He has lovely manners and splendid impulses; and perhaps the next nicest is dear Mrs. Holman, and she keeps a toy-shop in a back street. But when I asked mother if Watson and Mrs. Holman were big-wigs, she said I spoked awful nonsense. What do you think, Lord Grayleigh? Please do try to 'splain."

Lord Grayleigh had laughed during Sibyl's long speech. He now laid his hand on her arm.

"A big-wig is quite an ugly word," he said, "but a lady or a gentleman, you will find them in all ranks of life."

"You haven't 'splained a bit," said the little girl. "Mother wants big-wigs at her bazaar; you are one, so will you come?"

"I will answer that question after I have seen your mother."

Lord Grayleigh crossed the lawn, and Sibyl, feeling dissatisfied, turned away.

"He doesn't look quite happy," she thought; "I'm sorry he is coming to take up mother's time. Mother promised, and it's most 'portant, to ride with me this evening. It's on account of poor Dan Scott it is so 'portant. Oh, I do hope she won't forget. Perhaps Miss Winstead would come if mother can't. I promised poor Dan a basket of apples, and also that I'd go and sit with him, and mother said he should cert'nly have the apples, and that she and I would ride over with them. He broke his arm a week ago, poor fellow! poor little Dan! I'll go and find Miss Winstead. If mother can't come, she must."

Sibyl ran off in search of her governess, and Lord Grayleigh and Mrs. Ogilvie, in deep conversation, paced up and down the lawn.

"You didn't hear by the last mail?" was Lord Grayleigh's query.

"No, I have not heard for two mails. I cannot account for his silence."

"He is probably up country," was Lord Grayleigh's answer. "I thought before cabling that I would come and inquire of you."

"I have not heard," replied Mrs. Ogilvie. "Of course things are all right, and Philip was never much of a correspondent. It probably means, Lord Grayleigh, that he has completed his report, and is coming back. I shall be glad, for I want him to be here some time before October, in order to see about paying the rest of the money for our new place. What do you think of Silverbel?"

"Oh, quite charming," said Lord Grayleigh, in that kind of tone which clearly implied that he was not thinking about his answer.

"I am anxious, of course, to complete the purchase," continued Mrs. Ogilvie.

"Indeed!" Lord Grayleigh raised his brows.

"Mr. Acland lent me two thousand pounds to pay the deposit," continued the lady, "but we must complete by the end of October. When my husband comes back rich, he will be able to do so. He will come back rich, won't he?" Here she looked up appealingly at Lord Grayleigh.

"He will come back rich, or we shall have the deluge," he replied, oracularly. "Don't be uneasy. As you have not heard I shall cable. I shall wire to Brisbane, which I fancy is his headquarters."

"Perhaps," answered Mrs. Ogilvie, in an abstracted tone. "By the way, if you are going back to town, may I make use of your carriage? There are several things I want to order for my bazaar. It is to be in about a fortnight now. You will remember that you are one of the patrons."

"Certainly," he answered; "at what date is the bazaar to be held?"

She named the arranged date, and he entered it in a gold-mounted engagement book.

"I shall stay in town to-night," continued Mrs. Ogilvie. "Just wait for me a moment, and I will get on my hat."

Soon afterward the two were driving back to the railway station. Mrs. Ogilvie had forgotten all about her engagement to Sibyl. Sibyl saw her go off with a feeling of deep disappointment, for Miss Winstead had a headache, and declined to ride with the little girl. Dan Scott must wait in vain for his apples. But should he wait? Sibyl wondered.

She went down in a discontented way to a distant part of the grounds. She was not feeling at all happy now. It was all very well to have a heart bubbling over with good-nature and kindly impulses; but when those impulses were flung back on herself, then the little girl felt that latent naughtiness which was certainly an integral part of her character. She saw Dan Scott's old grandfather digging weeds in the back garden. Dan Scott was one of the gardener's boys. He was a bright, cheery-faced little fellow, with sloe-black eyes and tight-curling hair, and a winsome smile and white teeth. Sibyl had made friends with him at once, and when he ceased to appear on the scenes a week back, she was full of consternation, for Dan had fallen from a tree, and broken his arm rather badly. He had been feverish also, and could not come to attend to his usual work. His old grandfather had at first rated the lad for having got into this trouble, but then he had pitied him.

Sibyl the day before had promised old Scott that she and her mother would ride to Dan's cottage and present him with a basket of early apples. There were some ripening now on the trees, long in shape, golden in color, and full of delicious juice.

Sibyl had investigated these apples on her own account, and pronounced them very good, and had thought that a basket of the fruit would delight Dan. She had spoken to her mother on the subject, and her mother, in the height of good-humor, had promised that the apples should be gathered, and the little girl and she would ride down a lovely country lane to Dan's cottage. They were to start about six o'clock, would ride under the shade of some spreading beech trees, and come back in the cool of the evening.

The whole plan was delightful, and Sibyl had been thinking about it all day. Now her mother had gone off to town, and most clearly had forgotten her promise to the child.

"Well, Missy," said old Scott as he dug his spade deep down into the soil; "don't stand just there, Missy, you'll get the earth all over you."

Sibyl moved to a respectful distance.

"How is Dan?" she asked, after a pause.

"A-wrastling with his pain," answered Scott, a frown coming between his brows.

"Is he expecting me and mother with the beautiful apples?" asked Sibyl, in a somewhat anxious tone.

"Is he expecting you, Missy?" answered the old man, raising his beetling brows and fixing his black eyes on the child. "Is he a-counting the hours? Do ducks swim, Missy, and do little sick boys a-smothered up in bed in small close rooms want apples and little ladies to visit 'em or not? You said you'd go, Missy, and Dan he's counting the minutes."

"Of course I'll go," replied Sibyl, but she looked anxious and distrait. Then she added, "I will go if I possibly can."

"I didn't know there was any doubt about it, Missy, and I tell you Dan is counting the minutes. Last thing he said afore I went out this morning was, 'I'll see little Missy to-day, and she is to bring me a basket of apples.' Seems to me he thinks a sight more of you than the fruit."

Sibyl turned pale as Scott continued to speak in an impressive voice.

"Dear, dear, it is quite dreadful," she said, "I could cry about it, I could really, truly."

"But why, Missy? What's up? I don't like to see a little lady like you a-fretting."

"Mr. Scott, I'm awfully, awfully sorry; I am terribly afraid I can't go."

Old Scott ceased to delve the ground. He leant on the top of his spade and looked full at the child. His sunken eyes seemed to burn into hers.

"You promised you'd go," he said then slowly.

"I did, I certainly did, but mother was to have gone with me, and she has had to go to town about the bazaar. I suppose you couldn't take back the apples with you when you go home to-night, Mr. Scott?"

"I could not," answered the old man. He began to dig with lusty and, in the child's opinion, almost venomous vigor.

"Besides," he added, "it wouldn't be the same. It's you he wants to see as much as the fruit. If I was a little lady I'd keep my word to the poor. It's a dangerous thing to break your word to the poor; there's God's curse on them as do."

Sibyl seemed to shrink into herself. She looked up at the sky.

"Lord Jesus wouldn't curse a little girl like me, a little girl who loves Him," she thought; but, all the same, the old man's words seemed to chill her.

"I'll do my very best," she said, and she went slowly across the garden. Old Scott called after her:

"I wouldn't disappoint the little lad if I was you, Missy. He's a-counting of the minutes."

A clock in the stable yard struck five. Old Scott continued to watch Sibyl as she walked away.

"I could take the apples," he said to himself; "I could if I had a mind to, but I don't see why the quality shouldn't keep their word, and I'm due to speak at the Mission Hall this evening. Little Miss should know afore she makes promises. She's a rare fine little 'un, though, for all that. I never see a straighter face, eyes that could look through you. Dear little Missy! Dan thinks a precious sight of her. I expect somehow she'll take him the apples."

So old Scott went on murmuring to himself, sometimes breaking off to sing a song, and Sibyl returned to the house.



CHAPTER XIV.

She walked slowly, her eyes fixed on the ground. She was thinking harder than she had ever thought before in the whole course of her short life. When she reached the parting of the ways which led in one direction to the sunny, pretty front entrance, and in the other to the stables, she paused again to consider.

Miss Winstead was standing in the new schoolroom window. It was a lovely room, furnished with just as much taste as Sibyl's own bedroom. Miss Winstead put her head out, and called the child.

"Tea is ready, you had better come in. What are you doing there?"

"Is your head any better?" asked Sibyl, a ghost of a hope stealing into her voice.

"No, I am sorry to say it is much worse. I am going to my room to lie down. Nurse will give you your tea."

Sibyl did not make any answer. Miss Winstead, supposing that she was going into the house, went to her own room. She locked her door, lay down on her bed, and applied aromatic vinegar to her forehead.

Sibyl turned in the direction of the stables.

"It don't matter about my tea," she said to herself. "Nursie will think I am with Miss Winstead, and Miss Winstead will think I am with nurse; it's all right. I wonder if Ben would ride mother's horse with me; but the first thing is to get the apples."

The thought of what she was about to do, and how she would coax Ben, the stable boy, to ride with her cheered her a little.

"It's awful to neglect the poor," she said to herself. "Old Scott was very solemn. He's a good man, is Scott, he's a very religious man, he knows his Bible beautiful. He does everything by the Psalms; it's wonderful what he finds in them—the weather and everything else. I asked him before the storm came yesterday if we was going to have rain, and he said 'Read your Psalms and you'll know. Don't the Psalms for the day say "the Lord of glory thundereth"?' and he looked at a black cloud that was coming up in the sky, and sure enough we had a big thunderstorm. It's wonderful what a religious man is old Scott, and what a lot he knows. He wouldn't say a thing if it wasn't true. I suppose God does curse those who neglect the poor. I shouldn't like to be cursed, and I did promise, and Dan will be waiting and watching. A little girl whom Jesus loves ought to keep her promise. Well, anyhow, I'll get the apples ready."

Sibyl rushed into the house by a side entrance, secured a basket and entered the orchard. There she made a careful and wise selection. She filled the basket with the golden green fruit, and arranged it artistically with apple-leaves.

"This will tempt dear little Dan," she said to herself. There were a few greengages just beginning to come to perfection on a tree near. Sibyl picked several to add to her pile of tempting fruit, and then she went in the direction of the stables. Ben was nowhere about. She called his name, he did not answer. He was generally to be found in the yard at this hour. It was more than provoking.

"Ben! Ben! Ben!" called the child. Her clear voice sounded through the empty air. There came a gentle whinny in response.

"Oh, my darling Nameless Pony!" she thought. She burst open the stable door, and the next instant stood in the loose box beside the pony. The creature knew her and loved her. He pushed out his head and begged for a caress. Sibyl selected the smallest apple from the basket and gave it to her pony. The nameless pony munched with right good will.

"I could ride him alone," thought Sibyl; "it is only two or three miles away, and I know the road, and mother, though she may be angry when she hears, will soon forgive me. Mother never keeps angry very long—that is one of the beautiful things about her. I do really think I will go by my lone self. I made a promise. Mother made a promise too, but then she forgets. I really do think I'll go. It's too awful to remember your promise to the poor, and then to break it. I wonder if I could saddle pony? Pony, darling, will you stay very quiet while I try to put your saddle on? I have seen Ben do it so often, and one day I coaxed him to let me help him."

Just then a voice at the stable door said—

"Hullo! I say!" and Sibyl, starting violently, turned her head and saw a rough-headed lad of the name of Johnson, who sometimes assisted old Scott in the garden. Sibyl was not very fond of Johnson. She took an interest in him, of course, as she did in all human beings, but he was not fascinating like little Dan Scott, and he had not a religious way with him like old Scott; nevertheless, she was glad to see him now.

"Oh, Johnson," she said eagerly, "I want you to do something for me so badly. If you will do it I will give you an apple."

"What is it, Miss?" asked Johnson.

"Will you saddle my pony for me? You can, can't you?"

"I guess I can," answered Johnson. He spoke laconically.

"Want to ride?" he said. "Who's a-goin' with yer?"

"No one, I am going alone."

Johnson made no remark. He looked at the basket of apples.

"I say," he cried, "them's good, I like apples."

"You shall have two, Johnson; oh, and I have a penny in my pocket as well. Now please saddle the pony very fast, for I want to be off."

Johnson did not see anything remarkable in Sibyl's intended ride. He knew nothing about little Missy. As far as his knowledge went it was quite the habit for little ladies to ride by themselves. Of course he would get the pony ready for her, so he lifted down the pretty new side-saddle from its place on the wall, and arranged it on the forest pony's back. The pony turned his large gentle eyes, and looked from Johnson to the child.

"It don't matter about putting on my habit," said Sibyl. "It will take such a lot of time, I can go just as I am, can't I, Johnson?"

"If you like, Miss," answered Johnson.

"I think I will, really, Johnson," said Sibyl in that confiding way which fascinated all mankind, and made rough-headed Johnson her slave for ever.

"I might be caught, you know, if I went back to the house."

"Oh, is that it?" answered Johnson.

"Yes, that's it; they don't understand. No one understands in the house how 'portant it is for me to go. I have to take the apples to Dan Scott. I promised, you know, and it would not be right to break my promise, would it, Johnson?"

Johnson scratched his head.

"I guess not!" he said.

"If I don't take them, he'll fret and fret," said Sibyl; "and he'll never trust me again; and the curse of God is on them that neglect the poor. Isn't it so, Johnson? You understand, don't you?"

"A bit, perhaps, Missy."

"Well, I am very much obliged to you," said the little girl. "Here's two apples, real beauties, and here's my new penny. Now, please lead pony out, and help me to mount him."

Johnson did so. The hoofs of the forest pony clattered loudly on the cobble stones of the yard. Johnson led the pony to the entrance of a green lane which ran at the back of Silverbel. Here the little girl mounted. She jumped lightly into her seat. She was like a feather on the back of the forest pony. Johnson arranged her skirts according to her satisfaction, and, with her long legs dangling, her head erect, and the reins in her hands, she started forward. The basket was securely fastened; and the pony, well pleased at having a little exercise, for he had been in his stable for nearly two days, started off at a gentle canter.

Sibyl soon left Silverbel behind her. She cantered down the pretty country road, enjoying herself vastly.

"I am so glad I did it," she thought; "it was brave of me. I will tell my ownest father when he comes back. I'll tell him there was no one to go with me, and I had to do it in order to keep my promise, and he'll understand. I'll have to tell darling mother, too, to-night. She'll be angry, for mother thinks it is good for me to bear the yoke in my youth, and she'll be vexed with me for going alone, but I know she'll forgive me afterward. Perhaps she'll say afterward, 'I'm sorry I forgot, but you did right, Sibyl, you did right.' I am doing right, aren't I, Lord Jesus?" and again she raised her eyes, confident and happy, to the evening sky.

The heat of the day was going over; it was now long past six o'clock. Presently she reached the small cottage where the sick boy lived. She there reined in her pony, and called aloud:

"Are you in, Mrs. Scott?"

A peevish-looking old woman wearing a bedgown, and with a cap with a large frill falling round her face, appeared in the rose-covered porch of the tiny cottage.

"Ah! it's you, Missy, at last," she said, and she trotted down as well as her lameness would let her to the gate. "Has you brought the apples?" she cried. "You are very late, Missy. Oh, I'm obligated, of course, and I thank you heartily, Miss. Will you wait for the basket, or shall I send it by Scott to-morrow?"

"You can send it to-morrow, please," answered Sibyl.

"And you ain't a-coming in? The lad's expecting you."

"I am afraid I cannot, not to-night. Mother wasn't able to come with me. Tell Dan that I brought him his apples, and I'll come and see him to-morrow if I possibly can. Tell him I won't make him an out-and-out promise, 'cos if you make a promise to the poor and don't keep it, Lord Jesus is angry, and you get cursed. I don't quite know what cursed means, do you, Mrs. Scott?"



"Oh, don't I," answered Mrs. Scott. "It's a pity you can't come in, Missy. There, Danny, keep quiet; the little lady ain't no time to be a-visiting of you. That's him calling out, Missy; you wait a minute, and I'll find out what he wants."

Mrs. Scott hobbled back to the house, and the pony chafed restlessly at the delay.

"Quiet, darling; quiet, pet," said Sibyl to her favorite, patting him on his arched neck.

Presently Mrs. Scott came back.

"Dan's obligated for the apples, Miss, but he thinks a sight more of a talk with you than of any apples that ever growed. He 'opes you'll come another day."

"I wish, I do wish I could come in now," said Sibyl wistfully; "but I just daren't. You see, I have not even my riding habit on, I was so afraid someone would stop me from coming at all. Give Danny my love. But you have not told me yet what a curse means, Mrs. Scott."

"Oh, that," answered Mrs. Scott, "but you ain't no call to know."

"But I'd like to. I hate hearing things without understanding. What is a curse, Mrs. Scott?"

"There are all sorts," replied Mrs. Scott. "Once I knowed a man, and he had a curse on him, and he dwindled and dwindled, and got smaller and thinner and poorer, until nothing would nourish him, no food nor drink nor nothing, and he shrunk up ter'ble until he died. It's my belief he haunts the churchyard now. No one likes to go there in the evening. The name of the man was Micah Sorrel. He was the most ter'ble example of a curse I ever comed acrost in my life."

"Well, I really must be going now," said Sibyl with a little shiver. "Good-by; tell Dan I'll try hard to come and see him to-morrow."

She turned the pony's head and cantered down the lane. She did not consider Mrs. Scott a specially nice old woman.

"She's a gloomy sort," thought the child, "she takes a gloomy view. I like people who don't take gloomy views best. Perhaps she is something like old Scott; having lived with him so long as his wife, perhaps they have got to think things the same way. Old Scott looked very solemn when he said that it was a terrible thing to have the curse of the poor. I wonder what Micah Sorrel did. I am sorry she told me about him, I don't like the story. But there, why should I blame Mrs. Scott, for I asked her to 'splain what a curse was. I 'spect I'm a very queer girl, and I didn't really keep my whole word. I said positive and plain that I would take a basket of apples to Dan, and go and sit with him. I did take the apples, but I didn't go in and sit with him. Oh, dear, I'll have to go back by the churchyard. I hope Micah Sorrel won't be about. I shouldn't like to see him, he must be shrunk up so awful by now. Come along, pony darling, we'll soon be back home again."

Sibyl lightly touched the pony's ears with a tiny whip which Lord Grayleigh had given her. He whisked his head indignantly at the motion and broke into a trot, the trot became a canter, and the canter a gallop.

Sibyl laughed aloud in her enjoyment. They were now close to the churchyard. The sun was getting near the horizon, but still there was plenty of light.

"A little faster, as we are passing the churchyard, pony pet," said Sybil, and she bent towards her steed and again touched him, nothing more than a feather touch, on his arched neck. But pony was spirited, and had endured too much stabling, and was panting for exercise; and, just at that moment, turning abruptly round a corner came a man waving a red flag. He was followed by a procession of school children, all shouting and racing. The churchyard was in full view.

Sibyl laughed with a sense of relief when she saw the procession. She would not be alone as she passed the churchyard, and doubtless Micah Sorrel would be all too wise to make his appearance, but the next instant she gave a cry of alarm, for the pony first swerved violently, and then rushed off at full gallop. The red flag had startled him, and the children's shouts were the final straw.

"Not quite so fast, darling," cried Sibyl; "a little slower, pet."

But pet and darling was past all remonstrances on the part of his little mistress. He flew on, having clearly made up his mind to run away from the red flag and the shouting children to the other end of the earth. In vain Sibyl jerked the reins and pulled and pulled. Her small face was white as death; her little arms seemed almost wrenched from their sockets. She kept her seat bravely. Someone driving a dog-cart was coming to meet her. A voice called—

"Hullo! Stop, for goodness' sake; don't turn the corner. Stop! Stop!"

Sibyl heard the voice. She looked wildly ahead. She had no more power to stop the nameless pony than the earth has power to pause as it turns on its axis. The next instant the corner was reached; all seemed safe, when, with a sudden movement, the pony dashed madly forward, and Sibyl felt herself falling, she did not know where. There was an instant of intense and violent pain, stars shone before her eyes, and then everything was lost in blessed unconsciousness.



CHAPTER XV.

On a certain morning in the middle of July the Gaika with Ogilvie on board entered the Brisbane River. He had risen early, as was his custom, and was now standing on deck. The lascars were still busy washing the deck. He went past them, and leaning over the taffrail watched the banks of low-lying mangroves which grew on either side of the river. The sun had just risen, and transformed the scene. Ogilvie raised his hat, and pushed the hair from his brow. His face had considerably altered, it looked worn and old. His physical health had not improved, notwithstanding the supposed benefit of a long sea voyage.

A man whose friendship he had made on board, and whose name was Harding, came up just then, and spoke to him.

"Well, Ogilvie," he cried, "we part very soon, but I trust we may meet again. I shall be returning to England in about three months from now. When do you propose to go back?"

"I cannot quite tell," answered Ogilvie. "It depends on how soon my work is over; the sooner the better, as far as I am concerned."

"You don't look too well," said his friend. "Can I get anything for you, fetch your letters, or anything of that sort?"

"I do not expect letters," was Ogilvie's answer; "there may be one or two cables. I shall find out at the hotel."

Harding said something further. Ogilvie replied in an abstracted manner. He was thinking of Sibyl. It seemed to him that the little figure was near him, and the little spirit strangely in touch with his own. Of all people in the world she was the one he cared least to give his thoughts to just at that moment.

"And yet I am doing it for her," he muttered to himself. "I must go through with it; but while I am about it I want to forget her. My work lies before me—that dastardly work which is to stain my character and blemish my honor; but there is no going back now. Sibyl was unprovided for, and I have an affection of the heart which may end my days at any moment. For her sake I had no other course open to me. Now I shall not allow my conscience to speak again."

He made an effort to pull himself together, and as the big liner gradually neared the quay, he spoke in cheerful tones to his fellow-passengers. Just as he passed down the gangway, and landed on the quay, he heard a voice exclaim suddenly—

"Mr. Ogilvie, I believe?"

He turned, and saw a small, dapper-looking man, in white drill and a cabbage-tree hat, standing by his side.

"That is my name," replied Ogilvie; "and yours?"

"I am Messrs. Spielmann's agent, and my name is Rycroft. I had instructions to meet you, and guessed who you were from the description given to me. I hope you had a good voyage."

"Pretty well," answered Ogilvie; "but I must get my luggage together. Where are you staying?"

"At the Waharoo Hotel. I took the liberty to book you a room. Shall we go up soon and discuss business; we have no time to lose?"

"As you please," said Ogilvie. "Will you wait here? I will return soon."

Within half an hour the two men were driving in the direction of the hotel. Rycroft had engaged a bedroom and private sitting-room for Ogilvie. He ordered lunch, and, after they had eaten, suggested that they should plunge at once into business.

"That is quite to my desire," said Ogilvie. "I want to get what is necessary through, in order to return home as soon as possible. It was inconvenient my leaving England just now, but Lord Grayleigh made it a condition that I should not delay an hour in examining the mine."

"If he wishes to take up this claim, he is right," answered Rycroft, in a grave voice. "I may as well say at once, Mr. Ogilvie, that your coming out is the greatest possible relief to us all. The syndicate ought to do well, and your name on the report is a guarantee of success. My proposal is that we should discuss matters a little to-day, and start early to-morrow by the Townville to Rockhampton. We can then go by rail to Grant's Creek Station, which is only eight miles from the mine. There we can do our business, and finally return here to draw up the report."

"And how long will all this take?" asked Ogilvie.

"If we are lucky, we ought to be back here within a month."

"You have been over the mine, of course, yourself, Mr. Rycroft?"

"Yes; I only returned to Brisbane a week ago."

"And what is your personal opinion?"

"There is, beyond doubt, alluvial gold. It is a bit refractory, but the washings panned out from five to six ounces to the ton."

"So I was told in England; but, about the vein underneath? Alluvial is not dependable as a continuance. It is the vein we want to strike. Have you bored?"

"Yes, one shaft."

"Any result?"

"That is what your opinion is needed to decide," said his companion. As Rycroft spoke, the corners of his mouth hardened, and he looked fixedly at Ogilvie. He knew perfectly well why Ogilvie had come from England to assay the mine, and this last question took him somewhat by surprise.

Ogilvie was silent. After a moment he jumped up impatiently.

"I may as well inquire for any letters or cables that are waiting for me," he said.

Rycroft lit his pipe and went out. He had never seen Philip Ogilvie before, and was surprised at his general appearance, and also at his manner.

"Why did they send him out?" he muttered. "Sensitive, and with a conscience: not the sort of man to care to do dirty work; but perhaps Grayleigh was right. If I am not much mistaken, he will do it all the same."

"I shall make my own pile out of this," he thought. He returned to the hotel later on, and the two men spent the evening in anxious consultation. The next day they started for Rockhampton, and late in the afternoon of the fourth day reached their destination.

The mine lay in a valley which had once been the bed of some prehistoric river, but was now reduced to a tiny creek. On either side towered the twin Lombard peaks, from which the mine was to take its name. For a mile on either side of the creek the country was fairly open, being dotted with clumps of briggalow throwing their dark shadows across the plain.

Beyond them, where the slope became steep, the dense scrub began. This clothed the two lofty peaks to their summits. The spot was a beautiful one, and up to the present had been scarcely desecrated by the hand of man.

"Here we are," said Rycroft, "here lies the gold." He pointed to the bed of the creek. "Here is our overseer's hut, and he has engaged men for our purpose. This is our hut, Ogilvie. I hope you don't mind sharing it with me."

"Not in the least," replied Ogilvie. "We shall not begin operations until the morning, shall we? I should like to walk up the creek."

Rycroft made a cheerful answer, and Ogilvie started off alone. He scarcely knew why he wished to take this solitary walk, for he knew well that the die was cast. When he had accepted Lord Grayleigh's check for ten thousand pounds he had burnt his boats, and there was no going back.

"Time enough for repentance in another world," he muttered under his breath. "All I have to do at present is to stifle thought. It ought not to be difficult to go forward," he muttered, with a bitter smile, "the downhill slope is never difficult."

The work of boring was to commence on the following morning, and the camp was made close to the water hole beneath some tall gum trees. Rycroft, who was well used to camping, prepared supper for the two. The foreman's camp was about a hundred yards distant.

As Ogilvie lay down to sleep that night he had a brief, sharp attack of the agony which had caused him alarm a couple of months ago. It reminded him in forcible language that his own time on earth was in all probability brief; but, far from feeling distressed on this account, he hugged the knowledge to his heart that he had provided for Sibyl, and that she at least would never want. During the night which followed, however, he could not sleep. Spectre after spectre of his past life rose up before him in the gloom. He saw now that ever since his marriage the way had been paved for this final act of crime. The extravagances which his wife had committed, and which he himself had not put down with a firm hand, had led to further extravagances on his part. They had lived from the first beyond their means. Money difficulties had always dogged his footsteps, and now the only way out was by a deed of sin which might ruin thousands.

"But the child—the child!" he thought; something very like a sob rose to his lips. Toward morning, however, he forced his thoughts into other channels, drew his blanket tightly round him, and fell into a long, deep sleep.

When he awoke the foreman and his men were already busy. They began to bore through the alluvial deposit in several directions, and Ogilvie and Rycroft spent their entire time in directing these operations. It would be over a fortnight's work at least before Ogilvie could come to any absolute decision as to the true value of the mine. Day after day went quickly by, and the more often he inspected the ore submitted to him the more certain was Ogilvie that the supposed rich veins were a myth. He said little as he performed his daily task, and Rycroft watched his face with anxiety.

Rycroft was a hard-headed man, troubled by no qualms of conscience, anxious to enrich himself, and rather pleased than otherwise at the thought of fooling thousands of speculators in many parts of the world. The only thing that caused him fear was the possibility that when the instant came, Ogilvie would not take the final leap.

"Nevertheless, I believe he will," was Rycroft's final comment; "men of his sort go down deeper and fall more desperately than harder-headed fellows like myself. When a man has a conscience his fall is worse, if he does fall, than if he had none. But why does a man like Ogilvie undertake this sort of work? He must have a motive hidden from any of us. Oh, he'll tumble safe enough when the moment comes, but if he doesn't break his heart in that fall, I am much mistaken in my man."

Four shafts had been cut and levels driven in many directions with disappointing results. It was soon all too plain that the ores were practically valueless, though the commencement of each lode looked fairly promising.

After a little over a fortnight's hard work it was decided that it was useless to proceed.

"There is nothing more to be done, Mr. Ogilvie," said Rycroft, as the two men sat over their supper together. "For six months the alluvial will yield about six ounces to the ton. After that"—he paused and looked full at the grim, silent face of the man opposite him.

"After that?" said Ogilvie. He compressed his lips the moment he uttered the words.

Rycroft jerked his thumb significantly over his left shoulder by way of answer.

"You mean that we must see this butchery of the innocents through," said Ogilvie.

"I see no help for it," replied Rycroft. "We will start back to Brisbane to-morrow, and when we get there draw up the report; I had better attend to that part of the business, of course under your superintendence. We must both sign it. But first had we not better cable to Grayleigh? He must have expected to hear from us before now. He can lay our cable before the directors, and then things can be put in train; the report can follow by the first mail."

"I shall take the report back with me," said Ogilvie.

"Better not," answered his companion, "best trust Her Majesty's mails. It might so happen that you would lose it." As Rycroft spoke a crafty look came into his eyes.

"Let us pack our traps," said Ogilvie, rising.

"The sooner we get out of this the better."

The next morning early they left the solitude, the neighborhood of the lofty peaks and the desecrated earth beneath. They reached Brisbane in about four days, and put up once more at the Waharoo Hotel. There the real business for which all this preparation had been made commenced. Rycroft was a past master in drawing up reports of mines, and Ogilvie now helped him with a will. He found a strange pleasure in doing his work as carefully as possible. He no longer suffered from qualms of conscience. The mine would work really well for six months. During that time the promoters would make their fortunes. Afterward—the deluge. But that mattered very little to Ogilvie in his present state of mind.

"If I suffer as I have done lately from this troublesome heart of mine I shall have gone to my account before six months," thought the man; "the child will be provided for, and no one will ever know."

The report was a plausible and highly colored one.

It was lengthy in detail, and prophesied a brilliant future for Lombard Deeps. Ogilvie and Rycroft, both assayers of knowledge and experience, declared that they had carefully examined the lodes, that they had struck four veins of rich ore yielding, after crushing, an average of six ounces to the ton, and that the extent and richness of the ore was practically unlimited.

They spent several days over this document, and at last it was finished.

"I shall take the next mail home," said Ogilvie, standing up after he had read his own words for the twentieth time.

"Sign first," replied Rycroft. He pushed the paper across to Ogilvie.

"Yes, I shall go to-morrow morning," continued Ogilvie. "The Sahara sails to-morrow at noon?"

"I believe so; but sign, won't you?"

Ogilvie took up his pen; he held it suspended as he looked again at his companion.

"I shall take a berth on board at once," he said.

"All right, old chap, but sign first."

Ogilvie was about to put his signature to the bottom of the document, when suddenly, without the least warning, a strange giddiness, followed by intolerable pain, seized him. It passed off, leaving him very faint. He raised his hand to his brow and looked around him in a dazed way.

"What is wrong," asked Rycroft; "are you ill?"

"I suffer from this sort of thing now and then," replied Ogilvie, bringing out his words in short gasps. "Brandy, please."

Rycroft sprang to a side table, poured out a glass of brandy, and brought it to Ogilvie.

"You look ghastly," he said; "drink."

Ogilvie raised the stimulant to his lips. He took a few sips, and the color returned to his face.

"Now sign," said Rycroft again.

"Where is the pen?" asked Ogilvie.

He was all too anxious now to take the fatal plunge. His signature, firm and bold, was put to the document. He pushed it from him and stood up. Rycroft hastily added his beneath that of Ogilvie's.

"Now our work is done," cried Rycroft, "and Her Majesty's mail does the rest. By the way, I cabled a brilliant report an hour back. Grayleigh seemed anxious. There have been ominous reports in some of the London papers."

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