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The Lone

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'liKS ETC.' i ■ il' COPYR1QHTE.P 1694 6t TMC AUTHOR CHAPTER VI. Having made up my mind what course to pursue, I returned to Maralimináter, took leave of my rolatives and loft that ' eveniug for London. There I remained two days reviewing the sti-ange events iu whieb I had lately been au actor. At 011e moment it was iu my mind : don what certainly seemed to be a hopeless search, for I could but see it ■wa3 a matter of great difíioulty to lay my hand on the assa.ssin of Franois. It would be better, I thought, to place the matter in thu hands of th-j pólice and let them thrash it out for themselves. Two reasons prevented my taking this ignoble course. One was that Francis Brairfield had been a collego friend, and I was unwilling that his death should go unavenged. The story of his love for Olivia, which he had told me at the inn, contained the elemeuts of a strange romance fitly capped by his tragic end. I feit certain that Felix, througli his hired bravo - for I could cali Strent by no other name - h id enconipassed the death of his brother. Felix was passionately in love with Olivia, and the unexpected rut-.iru of Francia not only threatened to take her away fvom him, bnt also to reveal the scoumirelly fashion in which he had behavëd. At one blow Felix ! would lose her love and respect. Therefore his motive for avërting such a i tastrophe was a Btrong 012':. That he thould determine on fratricide was a i íerrible thought, but there was no other oourse left to hiru by which to sroure the woman he loved and the respect he -valued. It was the mad action of a weak, passionate man, such as I knew Felix to be. Too cowardly himself to strike the fatal blow, he had hired Strent to carry out his plans, and the death had been duly accomplished, though in what way I was quite unable to say. It was suffleient for me to know that Francis was dead, and I feit myself called upon to avenge his death. The other motive was perhaps the stronger one of detective fever. I was a bachelor. I had a good income and uothing to do. Therefore this uuest waa one of great interest to me. I had often I hunted bsasts, but this man hunt was a inuch more powerful incentive to exoitement. I could hardly sleep for thinking of the case and was constantly engaged in piecing together the puzzle. As yet I had 110 clear clew to f ollow, ■but the flrst thing to be settled was the identity of Felix at Marshminster with Felix at Paris. Once I established that j point and proved conclusively tbat Felix had never left England, I would be in a positiou to prosecute the search in the neighborhood of Marshminster. I own that there was an additional reason in the pique I feit at the scornful disbeliel of Olivia. She evidently considered aiy story pure fletion, and the strange disappearance of the corpse from the inn confirined her in this belief. Irritated by such contempt, I was resolved to bring home the crime to Felix and to prove conclusively to her that he was masquerading as her lover, the dead Francis. It would be a cruel blow when assured of the truth, but it was better that she should suffer temporary pain than drag out a lifelong agony chained to a man whom I knew to be a proflígate, a liar tind a murderer. At the end of two days I confirmed myself in t;;e resolutiou to hunt down the criminal anddecided as the first step to go to Paris. Leaving Victoria by the night mail, I arrived in the French capital next morning. Anxious to lose no further time, I hastened at once to the Hotel des Etrangers, in the Rué de St. Honore, and there took up myquarters. Recovered from the fatigues of the jonrney, I partook of luncheon and then made inquiries about Felix Briarfield. To my surprise, I not only discovered that he was in Paris, but that he was in the hotel at that moment. "Has he been staying here for any length of time?" I asked the manager. "For six weeks, monsieur, and now talks of going to Italy, " was the 1 ishing reply. To say that I was surprised would give but a faiut idea of what I felt. That the assertion of Olivia should thus prove true was alrnost impossible of belief. If Felix was here and had been here for the past six weeks, it could not possibly be he whom I had met at Marshminster. Assuming this to be the case, who was the man of the Fen inn who called himself Francis? My head was whirling with the endeavor to grapple with these thoughts. Suddenly an idea flashed into my brain which tnight possibly account for the mystery. "Can it be," thought I, "that ifc was Felix whom I met at the inu - Felix, who tried to pass himself off as Francis aixl then inventad that lying story? Perhaps he waa not dead, as I thought, but merely plunged into a trance. When he revived, seeing the uselessuess of fighting with Francis, he fled back to Paris. ' ' All this time I stared hard at the manager. In reality I was puzzling out the mystery and not paying any attention to the man before me. He, however, grew weaiy under my regard and moved uneasily. "Mr. Briarfield is now in his room, monsieur. Shall I take to him your card?" "If you please, " I answered mechanically and handed it to him. In a few moments a waiter carne with a message stating that Mr. Briarfield would be glad to see mo. I followed the man in a state of the utmost bewilderment_and found myself in the presence of Felix before I knew what to say or do. He was so like Francis, whom I thought was lying dead at the Feu inn - so like the man who passed as Olivia's lover - that for the moment I could do nothiiig but stare at him. Yet he could be neithor of the two, for o:ie was dead, and the other I had left behind at Marshminster. "How are you, Denharu?" he said, somewhat surprised at niy strange conduct. "And why do you stare so stcadily at me?" "Are you Felix Briarfield?" I gasped. "As you see, " he answered, raising his eyebrows. "Surely you know me well enough to dispense with so foolish a question. ' ' "And your brother?" "He is at Marshminster, I believe, with Miss Bellin, to whom he is engaged. Why do yon ask so strange a question?" I sat down on the sofa and buried my face in my hands. Either I was out of my mind or the victitn of sonie terrible hallucination. I certainly had met Francis at the inn and beheld him dead under its roof. As surely had I seen the man I believed to be Felix at Marshminster. Yet here in Paris I beheld an individual who was neither the dead friend nor the living lover, and he called himself Felix Briarfield. "I must be mad! I must be mad!" was all I could say for the moment. "What is the matter, Deuham?" asked Briarfield, touching my shoulder. "Are you ill?" For answer I seized first oue hand and then the other. On neither appeared the least scratch. Yet the man whom I believed to be Francia had a ragged wound on the right hand. My theory of a trance vanished into thin air at this proof that the men were distiuct. Astounded by my action, Felix drew back j in aome alarm. "How strangely you act, Denham I" j he said uneasily. "Is there anything I wrong?" "Do you think I am mad?" I asked irritably. "Your action just now waa scarcely the act of a sane person. Why did you' examine my hands?" ' 'To see if they were cut in any way. ' ' He turned the palms of his hands toward me and shook his head with a slight laugh. "You see," he said, smiling, "they are absolutely free from cut or wound. Why do you expect them to be marred?" I made no reply, but passed my hand across my brow. The situation in which I found myself wan so strange and i bariassing that I did not know how to proceed. In the presence of facts I could not but admit that my story would Boand but a wild invention. "Come, Denham," said Briarfield foothingly. "Tou are doubtless in some trouble and Iiave come to me for help and advice. 111 give both to the best of my ability. " "I want neither, " I muttered in a! low voice, "butif you will answer some '. questions I wish to ask you will oblige me greatly. ' ' Briarfield drew back with a queer look in his eyes, as if he thought my j madness was iucreasing. However, he overéame the dread my actions apparently caused him and answered civilly enaugh: ' 'Certainly, if it will do you any good. What is it you wish to know?' ' "Were you in Englaud withiu the last seven days?" "No; I have not been in England for at least six weeks. " "Do you kuow the Feu imi?" "Never heurd of it in all my life. " "Are you acquainted with a girl j named Rose Strent?" "I don't even know her name. " "When did your brother Fraucis return to England from South America?" "Three mouths ago. " "Have you seen him since his return?" "Froquently in London, but he is now, I believe, at Marshminster. " "Do you know he is eugaged to Miss Bellin?" "Of course I do," said Briarfield. "The marriage takes place shortly, and I am to be the best man - that is, if I return in time. ' ' "What do you mean?" "Well, I'm going to Italy tomorrow, " j said the young man, shrugging his j shoulders, "and it is just possible that I may prolong my tour to the east. In that case I may be absent from England for at least six months or more. During that time Francis will doubtleas inarry Olivia, and I shall not be able to be at the wedding. ' ' ' ' You have not been in England within the last six weeks. You dou't know the Fen inn nor of the existence oL Rose Strent, " I sumnied up. "Then I am the viccim of some extraordiuary hallucinaiion. " "You are very extraordiuary altogether, " retorted Briarfield. "Now I have answered your questions, pray :mswer mine. Why do you ask all these things?" "it is a strange story and ene vhich you will scarcely believe." "Let me hear it Thtis adjured, I told him the story of my adventure at the inn, but suppressed all inention of the belief I then entertained that the brothers had chauged ñames. He listened attentively and eyed me with some concern. At the conclusión of the narrativo he cqusidered for a few moments beforo making any reply. "1 hardly kuow what to s:iy, " he said at length. "Your story is very circurustantial, yet yoa must have been deceived by the chance resemblance. " "I swear that the man I met at the Fen inn was your brother Francis. ' ' "How can that be when Francis was at Bellin Hall, and Olivia said he had not been out of the house. Besides, you say the man whom you believed to be Francia vraa murdered, yet you left Francis alive and well at Marshniinster." "I thought Francis was you. " "Ahí Deceived by our resemblanoe, no doubt. ' ' "Yes, I think so," I replied, not wishing to tell him my snspicions. "Well. you seo you rnade a mistake. Francis is at Marshininster, and I am here, I suppose, " he added jokingly. "You are quite convinced that I am Félix?" "I was quite convinced the other man was Francis. ' ' "Great heavens, man, you surely don't doubt that Iam Félix Briarfield?" he cried irritably, risiug to his f eet. "I don't! I can't!" ' 'Perhaps you thought it was I whom you met at the inn?" "No, beeause the man I met at the inn is dead. Besides he had a wound on his right hand, and you have not. " "It's a queer business altogether, " said Briarfield, walking to and fro. "I cannot but agree with your idea of hallucination. ' ' "I tell you it is too real for hallucinatiou. ' ' "Then how can you explain it?" he demanded sharply, passing before me. "I can't explain it, ' I replied help lessly. "If you had discovered the corpse when you returned to the inn, there might be some chance of solving the mystery. But you adniit there wae no corpse there. ' ' "Not the vestige of one. " "Then that proves the thing to be hallucination, ' ' he said triumphantly. "If the man was murdered, who would take the trouble to remove the corpse?" "Strent might have done so to conceal the evidence of his crime. " "He fled the previ ous night by your own acknowledgmont. Thewhole thing is ridiculous. If I were you, Denham, I would see a dootor. That brain of yours is in a dangerous state. " "In spite of all you say, I am certain , it was Franeis I met at the inn. ' ' "How can that be when he whom you met is dead and Francis is alive? ! It could not be Francis, and as I have not been out of Paris it could not have been me. ' ' "Then who was it?" "Some stranger, no doubt, in whom i tou saw a facial resemblance to us. " "Impossiblel" "So I think, " said Briarfield signiflcantly. "For my part, I think you are subject to delusions. Do not pursue thia case, my friend, or you may find yourself in a lunatic asylum. " "Will you come over to Marshminster and help me to solve the mystery?" "Certainly not, Denham. My plana are all made for Italy, and I go thera tomorrow. I certainly don't intend to put them off for such a wild goose chase as you wish me to indulge in. " I took up my hat and prepared to go. The matter was beyond my comprehensioxi. "There is nothing for me but to return to England. ' ' "Do," said Briarfield in a pitying tone, "and give up following this willo'-the-wisp. " "It seems hopelees enough. " "Well, so f ar as I can see, it seems j madness - nothing more nor less. My brother Francis is at Marshminster. You see me here, so it is absolutely impossible you could have met either oí us at that inn, the more so as the man you met is dead, and we are both ; alive. ' ' "Yes. Facts are too strong for me, " j I said, holding out my hand. "Goodby, Briarfield. Many thanks for your kindness; but, oh, man," I added, with a burst of bitterness, "what does it all mean?" "It's hailacinatiou, " said Briarfield. "Place yourself at ouce in the hands of a doctor. ' '


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