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Theresa had a happy day with her husband at
Brighthelmstone before he set off on his return
to London. She watched him riding away, his
servant following with his portmanteau. Often
and often did Duke look back at the figure of
his wife, waving her handkerchief, till a turn of
the road hid her from his sight. He had to pass
through a little village not ten miles from his
home, and there a servant, with his letters and
further luggage, was to await him. There he
found a mysterious, imperative note, requiring
his immediate presence at Crowley Castle.
Something in the awe-stricken face of the
servant from the castle, led Duke to question
him. But all he could say was, that Victorine
lay dying, and that Madam Hawtrey had said
that after that letter the master was sure to
return, and so would need no luggage.
Something lurked behind, evidently. Duke rode home
at speed. The vicar was looking out for him.
"My dear boy," said he, relapsing into the old
relations of tutor and pupil, " prepare yourself."

"What for?" said Duke, abruptly; for the
being told to prepare himself, without being
told for what, irritated him in his present mood.
"Victorine is dead?"

"No! She says she will not die until she has
seen you, and got you to forgive her, if Madam
Hawtrey will not. But first read this: it is a
terrible confession, made by her before me, a
magistrate, believing herself to be on the point
of death!"

Duke read the papercontaining little more
in point of detail than I have already given
the horrible words taken down in the short-hand
in which the vicar used to write his mild prosy
sermons: his pupil knew the character of old.
Duke read it twice. Then he said: " She is
raving, poor creature!" But for all that, his
heart's blood ran cold, and he would fain not
have faced the woman, but would rather have
remained in doubt to his dying day.

He went up the stairs three steps at a time,
and then turned and faced the vicar, with a look
like the stern calmness of death. "I wish to
see her alone." He turned out all the watching
women, and then he went to the bedside where
Victoriue sat, half propped up with pillows,
watching all his doings and his looks, with her
hollow awful eyes. "Now, Victorine, I will
read this paper aloud to you. Perhaps your
mind has been wandering; but you understand
me now?" A feeble murmur of assent met his
listening ear. "If any statement in this paper
be not true, make me a sign. Hold up your hand
for God's sake hold up your hand. And if
you can do it with truth in this, your hour of
dying, Lord have mercy upon you; but if you
cannot hold up your hand, then Lord have
mercy upon me!"

He read the paper slowly; clause by clause
he read the paper. No sign; no uplifted hand.
At the end she spoke, and he bent his head to
listen. " The CountessTheresa you know
she who has left me to die aloneshe"—then
mortal strength failed, and Duke was left alone
in the chamber, of death.

He stayed in the chamber many minutes, quite
still. Then he left the room, and said to the
first domestic he could find, " The woman is
dead. See that she is attended to." But he
went to the vicar, and had a long long talk with,
him. He sent a confidential servant for little
Maryon some pretext, hardly careful, or
plausible enough; but his mood was desperate,
and he seemed to forget almost everything but
Bessy, his first wife, his innocent girlish bride.

Theresa could ill spare her little darling, and
was perplexed by the summons; but an explanation
of it was to come in a day or two. It came.

"Victorine is dead; I need say no more. She
could not carry her awful secret into the next
world, but told all. I can think of nothing but
my poor Bessy, delivered over to the cruelty of
such a woman. And you, Theresa, I leave you
to your conscience, for you have slept in my
bosom. Henceforward I am a stranger to you.
By the time you receive this, I, and my child, and
that poor murdered girl's mother, will have left
England. What will be our next step I know
not. My agent will do for you what you need."

Theresa sprang up and rang her bell with
mad haste. " Get me a horse!" she cried, " and
bid William be ready to ride with me for his
lifefor my lifealong the coast, to Dover!"

They rode and they galloped through the night,
scarcely staying to bait their horses. But when
they came to Dover, they looked out to sea upon
the white sails that bore Duke and his child
away. Theresa was too late, and it broke her
heart. She lies buried in Dover churchyard.
After long years Duke returned to England; but
his place in parliament knew him no more, and
his daughter's husband sold Crowley Castle to a



How the Doctor found his way into our
society, none of us can tell. It did not occur to
us to inquire into the matter at the time, and
now the point is lost in the dim obscurity of
the past. We only know that he appeared
suddenly and mysteriously. It was shortly after
we had formed our Mutual Admiration Society,
in this very room in Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgings.
We were discussing things in general in our
usual amiable way, admiring poets, worshipping
heroes, and taking all men and all things for
what they seemed. We were young and
ingenuous, pleased with our own ideas, and with
each other's; full of belief and trust in all things
good and noble, and with no hatred, save for
what was false, and base, and mean. In this
spirit we were commenting with indignation
upon a new heresy with regard to the age of
the world, when a strange voice broke in upon
our conversation.

"I beg your pardon; you are wrong. The
age of the world is exactly three millions eight
hundred and ninety-seven thousand four
hundred and twenty-five years, eight months,