BY RODRIGUES OTTOLENGUI
Copyright, 1895, by G. P. Putnam's Sons. J
Two days after the events just related Emily Remsen's maid announced that she had just received news that her mother was very ill, and that she had been notified to go to her at once.
Her mother, she said, lived in Elizabeth, N. J.
She wished to go at the earliest possible moment, and begged that her cousin Lucette should be allowed to attend to her duties till her return, which she hoped would be in a very few days. Asked if her cousin was competent, she said yes, and especially apt at arranging the hair, having served an apprenticeship with a French hairdresser.
Indeed the girl's real name was Lucy, but she had changed it to Lucette to pretend that, being French, she was necessarily a good maid.
In Miss Remsen's mind this changing of her name was nothing in the girl's favor, but as her own maid was thus suddenly taken from her, and as this other was offered at once, she agreed to the proposal.
Lucette arrived during the afternoon, and Miss Remsen was delighted with her. Expecting a talkative, intrusive person, assuming Frenchified mannerisms, she was surprised to find a quiet, unpretentious creature," who immediately showed herself to be well acquainted with the duties required of her.
Within the first 24 hours she found herself so much better served than by her absent maid that she almost wished that the mother would require her for a long time. Dora, too, was charmed with Lucette.
"Queen," said she the next afternoon, "what do you think of your new maid?"
"Who? Lucette?" answered the sister. "Oh, I think she does very well."
"Does very well? Why, Queen, she is a jewel. If you do not appreciate her, I wish you would bequeath her to me when Sarah returns."
"Oh, ho! So my young miss wants a maid to herself, does she?"
"Oh, no, Not especially, but I want to keep Lucette in the family. She is a treasure. Dressing the hair is not her only accomplishment, either, though I never saw yours look more beautiful. She has just arranged the table for our afternoon tea, and I never saw anything like it. It is just wonderful what that girl can do with a napkin in the way of decoration."
"Oh, yes," said Emily, "Lucette is clever, but don 't let her know that we think so. It might make her less valuable. Now tell me, Dora, dear, who is coming this afternoon?"
"Oh ! The usual crush, I suppose."
"Including Mr. Randolph?"
"Queen, there is a mystery about him. Let me tell you. In the first place, he has not been here for over a week, and then yesterday I saw him coming down Fifth avenue, and - would you believe it? - just as I was about to bow to him he turned down a side street."
"He did not see you, my dear, or he surely would have spoken. He would have been too glad."
"Well, if he did not see me, he must have suddenly contracted nearsightedness; that is all I have to say."
Shortly after company began to arrive, and very soon the rooms were filled by a crowd which is aptly described by the term used by Dora. One goes to these affairs partly from duty and partly from habit. One leaves mainly from the instinctive sense of self preservation inherent in all.
Dora was besieged by a number of admirers and took pleasure in avoiding Mr. Randolph, who was assiduous in his attentions. He seemed anxious to get her off into the seclusion of a corner, a scheme which the young lady frustrated without appearing to do so.
Mr. Thauret was also present, though he did not remain very long. He chatted a short time with Emily on conventional subjects, and then worked his way to the side of Dora, where he lingered longer.
He said several pretty things to her, such as she had heard already in different forms from other men, but with just a tone which seemed to indicate that he spoke from his heart rather than from the mere passing fancy of pleasing.
It was very skillfully done. There was so little of it that no one, certainly not an inexperienced girl like Dora, could suspect that it was all studied.
Yet after he had gone, and the company was thinning out, Mr. Randolph found his long sought opportunity, and sat down for a tete-a-tete with Dora. He began at once.
"Miss Dora, why do you allow a cad like that Frenchman to make love to you?"
"Are you alluding to my friend, Mr. Thauret? She accentuated the word "friend" merely to exasperate Mr. Randolph, and succeeded admirably.
"He is not your friend. In my opinion he is nobody's friend but his own."
"That has been said of so many that it is no new idea."
"But to be serious, Miss Dora. You must not allow this fellow to worm his way into your circle, and, more than all, you must not allow him to make love to you. "
" You surprise me, Mr. Randolph. I had no idea that Mr. Thauret was making love to me. I could relate everything that he said, and it would scarcely bear out your assumption."
"That is only his cunning. He is too shrewd to speak plainly so soon." And yet this young philosopher was not wise enough to see that he was damaging his own cause by putting ideas into the girl's mind which had not yet entered there,
"Why, Mr. Randolph, you are really becoming amusing. You are like Don Quixote fighting windmills. You imagine a condition, and then give me a warning. It is entirely unnecessary, I assure you.
Mr. Thauret was not acting in any such way as you impute to him.''
"You are not angry with me, I hope. You know what prompted me to speak?"
"No, I fear I am not so clever as you at reading other people's motives."
"But surely you must have guessed that"-
Dora looked at him so candidly that he was abashed. It was his opportunity to declare himself, and he might have done so had not Mr. Mitchel entered the room at that moment. Seeing him, Mr. Randolph thought of the peculiar position he would be in if his friend should be proved to be a criminal.
For this reason he hesitated, and thus lost a chance which did not recur again for a very long time. He replied in a jesting tone, and soon after left the house.
The company had departed. Dora had gone to her own room, leaving Mr. Mitchel and Emily alone together.
"Emily, my Queen," said Mr. Mitchel, taking one of her hands carelessly within both of his, as they sat upon a tete-a-tete sofa,
"I almost believe that I am dreaming when I think that you love me."
"Listen, little woman. I am in an odd mood tonight, and I wish very much to talk to you. May I?"
For answer she touched him lightly, lovingly, on the face with her disengaged hand and bowed assent.
"Then listen while I make my confession. I am different from other men, much as I count you different from all women. I have met many, in all the capitals of Europe, and here in my own country. I have never been affected by any as I was by you. In the first instant of meeting you I had chosen you for my wife. When I asked for you, I had not the least idea that you would refuse until, having spoken, I saw the bold audacity of my words, and for half an instant the idea lived with me that I was too presumptuous."
"You were not, my Roy. Like you, I have passed lovers by as unaffected as by the ocean breezes. When I met you, I said to myself, 'This is my master."
"God bless you, Emily. Let me continue.
I have chosen you to be my wife. As heaven is my witness, I shall never deceive you in aught. But - and this is the hard test which your love must endure - I may be compelled at times to keep you in ignorance of some things. Do you think that your love is great enough to believe that when I do so it is from love of you that I keep a secret from you?"
"Roy, perhaps this is conceit, but if so, still I say it. A weaker love than mine would say to you, 'I trust you, but I love you so that you need not hesitate to share your secrets with me. ' I tell you that I trust you implicitly; that I am content to hear your secrets or not, as your own judgment and love for me shall decide."
"I knew that you would speak so. Had you said less I should have been disappointed. I will tell you then at once that there is a secret in my life which I have shared with no one, and which I am not willing yet to reveal to you. Are you still content?"
"Do you doubt it? Do you think that I would make an assertion only to draw back from my boast as soon as tried?"
"Do, my Queen, but it is asking much to ask a woman to marry while there is a secret which cannot be told - especially when there are those who may believe that there is shame or worse concealed.''
"No one would dare to so misjudge you!"
"Indeed, but you are mistaken. There are those who do not count me as irreproachable as I may seem to you. What if I were to tell you that a detective watches me day and night?"
"Oho! That would not frighten me. You have explained all about your wager. I suppose Mr. Barnes is keeping an eye on you. Is that it?"
"Partly that, and partly because he thinks that I am connected with this murdered woman. To a certain extent he is right."
"You mean that you knew her?"
"Yes." Mr. Mitchel paused to see whether she would ask another question after his admission. But she meant all that she had said when asserting that she trusted him. She remained silent.
Mr. Mitchel continued:
"Naturally Mr. Barnes is desirous of learning how much I know. There are urgent reasons why I do not wish him to do so. You have it in your power to aid me."
"I will do so!"
"You have not heard what it is that I wish."
'I do not care what it is. I will do it if you ask me."
"You are worthy of my love."
He drew her gently toward him and kissed her lightly on the lips. "I say it not in egotism, for I love you as much as man may. Were you unworthy - I should never love again."
"You may trust me, Roy."
Her words were simple, but there was a passion of truth contained in their utterance.
"I will tell you at once what I wish, for it must be done promptly. You must be ready -
Who is that?"
Mr. Mitchel spoke the last two words in a sharp tone, rising from his seat and taking" a step forward".
The large room was but dimly lighted, the gas having been lowered to please Emily, who abhorred well lighted rooms. At the farther end some one was standing, and had attracted Mr. Mitchel's attention. It was Lucette, and she replied at once:
"Your mother sent me to know if you are ready for supper, Miss Emily."
"Say that we will be in in a few minutes," replied Emily, and Lucette left the room.
"Who is that girl?" asked Mr. Mitchel.
Emily explained how the new had been engaged, and. Mr. speaking in a tone loude
By necessary, said:
"She seems to be a quiet, good girl. Rather too quiet, for she startled me coming in so noiselessly. Shall we go in? What I have to tell you will keep. It is something I wish you to do for me the day after tomorrow."
After supper Mr. Mitchel took the two girls and their mother to the theater, much to the delight of the latter, who was always shocked whenever Emily went unattended by a chaperon.
The party walked going and coming, and as Dora and her mother were ahead Mr. Mitchel had ample opportunity to explain to his fiancee the favor which he wished her to do for him.
When leaving the house that night he said :
"You will not see me again for a couple of days. Keep well till then."
Lucette, who had overheard this remark, was therefore rather astonished to see Mr. Mitchel walk in the next morning as early as 10 o'clock. She was still more surprised to have her mistress announce that she was going out. What puzzled her most of all was that Emily went out alone, leaving Mr. Mitchel in the parlor. In fact, this seemed to give her so much food for reflection that, as though struck by the conclusions arrived at, she herself prepared to go out.
As she was passing along the hall, however, the parlor door opened and Mr. Mitchel confronted her.
"Where are you going, Lucette?"
"I have an errand to do, sir," she replied with a slight tremor.
"Come into the parlor first. I wish to speak to you."
She felt compelled to obey, and walked into the room, Mr. Mitchel opening the door and waiting for her to pass through. He then followed, after closing the door behind him, locking it and taking the key from the lock.
"Why did you do that?" asked Lucette angrily.
"You forget yourself, Lucette. You are a servant, and good servant such as you have proved that you know how to be never ask questions. However, I will answer you. I locked the door because I do not wish you to get out of this room."
"I won't be locked in here with you. I am a respectable girl."
"No one doubts it. You need not get excited. I am not going to hurt you in any way."
"Then why have you brought me in here:"
"Simply to keep you here till - well, say till 12 o'clock. That is about two hours. Do you mind?"
"Yes, I do mind. I won't be kept in here alone with you for two hours."
"You amuse me. How will you prevent it?"
Lucette bit her lip, but said nothing. She saw that there was no help for her. She might scream, of course, but Mrs. Remsen and Dora had gone out before Emily. She and Mr. Mitchel were alone in the apartment. She might attract the attention of the janitor or of people in the street. As this idea occurred to her she glanced toward the window. Mr. Mitchel divined her thoughts in a moment.
"Don't try screaming, Lucette," said he, "for if you do I will be compelled to gag you. You will find that very uncomfortable for two hours."
"Will you tell me why you wish to keep me here?"
"I thought I did tell you. The fact Is, I do not wish you to do that little errand of yours."
"I don't understand you."
(To be continued.)