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who all but killed . your wife" the words seemed to stick in his throat-"on this very spot I stand on? It was me! And if I had killed her outright it would have been no murder, but a just vengeance on her treachery to me. But she repented of it, Roy. She gave me her confidence in the end-more than she ever gave you, though you are her husband.
"Listen. When I returned from America, and found how I'd been cheated in my absence, I never once faltered in my determination to be revenged. I hung about Blackdykes at night to see how things were geing with the happy pair. Ha, ha! Happy pair, indeed! I soon found that there was little love on Marie's side of the bargain. Three nights I watched her slip out alone to this very spot on which I stand. I saw her pick a few stones from the cairn each time, drop them amongst the trees, and then return to the farm. On the third night I guessed her secret, and in my just anger at her treachery". it was strange how he insisted throughout on the "justice" of his own actions and the "treachery" of every one else -"I discharged my gun at her before I saw that there was a better and more subtle vengeance to be had. Fortunately I only wounded her slightly. Ay, Seaton, you never guessed that I was close by when you rushed forward to render first aid. You tried to deceive me from the first. You've been in league with my enemies from
the day you came to Hopeton, but all along I've watched you and taken your measure.
"I thought my shot was a blunder; but it turned out a good move in the end, for it brought Marie over to my side. I had to wait weeks before I saw her again; but when she came again to the wood—as she did at last-I let a few nights pass, and then I stepped boldly forward and had it out with her. Oh, but she is a cunning one is Maria! She deceived me in her translation of the Flemish letter, for our ancestor's servant knew where the treasure was hidden, and his letter contained directions for finding it. Marie kept this information to herself, and when I was safely out of the country she married you, Roy. not for love! No, no, don't you believe it! She married you in order to get close to the spot where the treasure was hidden. She never told you her secret-not her. If she had ever loved you she would have shared it with you; but she slipped out alone, night after night, to the wood, and laid the cairn flat.
"I watched her each night, until one by one she had lifted the heavy stones and spread them round the clearing. I was not fool enough to come out of hiding until she had finished the heavy work. Ha, ha, Seaton! You may pride yourself on your chess; but when it comes to real life, I can match my cunning against yours-ay, and beat the lot of you."
It was typical of the whole
self-seeking pack that you are
treasure at this very spot I stand on. Hamish was no liar or boaster. The chest Was packed to the brim with gold
bearing and actions of the man, this mean dealing with to hear that we found the his fellow-conspirator. It made one shiver to hear him exult in his own meanness. I dared not look at the others, but sat half-fascinated with horror to hear a fellow-being gloat over what most men would give a fortune to hide.
"When I disclosed myself at last, Marie all but fainted with fear. I soon had the whole story out of her-how she used you, Roy, as a cleak to cover her theft of the treasure; how she got her directions from the letter of Hamish's servant, and faked up a false translation; how, little by little, she meant to get the treasure to a safe place, and then leave you for ever. Ha, ha, ha! A nice wife you sold your birthright to steal, and a pleasant recollection you'll have of your married life!"
At last I looked at Roy. I felt I must see how he was behaving under his ordeal. He sat with a dazed look upon his face, as though he only half comprehended what was being said. I saw that Marigold had come close to him and held his hand in hers, but I could swear he did not know it.
"When she saw that I had her in my power," continued the Laird pitilessly, "she soon agreed to share the treasure with me. It was the best she could do for herself. But I never meant she should have her share. Not me! And not a halfpenny of it will she ever lay hands on!
"It will gratify you all
guineas from England, louis from France, doubloons frem Spain, dobras from Portugal; a mixed lot, but all good yellow gold that had been scraped together with infinite trouble, and all worth far more than its face value to-day. All mine, every farthing of it, and I defy the cleverest of you to dook me of a stiver.
"Ay, and better than the gold itself is to stand here and see your greedy faces blank with disappointment. What, Morgan! You with your cheap Yankee ounning to stand up against the like of me! You to call yourself a Tanish! Why, man, you are a living insult to the race. Generations of degenerate Yankee blood has diluted the Tanish strain until it produces a miserable double-dealing rat that would be a disgrace to the meanest family in the land. And you thought you could beat me! Did you think I didn't know you had sneaked into Kilbrennan, suborned my boy's tutor, and made underhand love to my daughter?
"Ay, Seaton, you thought you had managed to get Duncan under your thumb nicely! It never struck you that I had but to ask him and he would tell anything he knew. You didn't think it worth while to hide from him your visits to Forbes or your meetings with Morgan, but there's little you
did that I hadn't first-hand him back his wife's love-for
news of. And I played the lot of you up fine-I that was the deddering old fool you thought you could all turn round your fingers.
"You, Morgan, can go back to the States and paint your pictures, and thank God you go with a whole neck, for heaven knows it has been a trial to me to keep from twisting it. You would marry my daughter, would you? Now you know the meaning of my promise. You should have her when you found the treasure. Well, the treasure was found before ever the premise was made.
"As for you, Marigold, you will get back to Hopeton and stay there a shrivelled old maid until the day you drop dead with a sigh of relief from your misery. You have gone against me for months. You have plotted against me with this contemptible Seaton, who would orow over me because he can play chess better than I canand not so very much better after all!"
It was curious how my mastery over him at ohess had rankled in his diseased mind. It was for that alene, I believe, that he hated me, although no doubt he would have found some other grievance against me had this one been non-existent.
"You may think even now, some of you, that you can get the better of me," he went on. "Roy there might claim the treasure because it was found on his land. Let him! Even if he won, it would not give
he never had it. Morgan may put in a claim on the strength of Hamish's will,-I tell you the gold is treasure-trove, and if any one of you speaks the law will claim the lot. But could the law find it? Ha, ha! It's safely hidden, and none but Marie and me know where to look. There's no little pictures to follow for it now, and soon it will be where I alone can find it. Marie must pay for her treachery.
"You've heard what I have to say. You, Marigold, get back to Hopeton and reconcile yourself as best you can to the punishment you deserve." It did not even occur to him that his daughter might disobey his commands. "Roy, never let the sight of your accursed face cross my eyes again. I'll send your wife back to you if you want her. and if she'll go, which I very much doubt. She has squeezed you of all she wanted, and it is not likely that she will return.
"As for you, Morgan, you Yankee jackanapes, that fancied he could marry among the Tanishes, you will find your bags flung on the read outside the gates of Hopeton. What becomes of you matters nothing to me. You are well repaid for your treatment of me in the States. You can take your friend and oatspaw Seaton with you when you go. He'll find a month's salary thrown out with his baggage, but like yourself he shall not darken my door again. If that doddering old quack Forbes likes to take him in
and marry him to his long tongued red-headed girl, so much the better for my vengeance on the whole pack of you, for she'll harry the life out of him with her infernal clatter."
The small-minded rancour that filled him bubbled out at its lowest in this attack on poor Betty. But we all had to have our share, so Betty must suffer with the rest.
The Laird paused in his tirade and looked us over with his bloodshot eyes, glewering under his heavy grey eyebrows.
"I daresay this is the happiest day of my life," he said meditatively, his voice exhausted with his long effort of vituperation. "To have you all here under my thumb, cowed by the exposure of your own trieks and double-dealings, to see your greed for my gold disappointed by my own efforts, to have the man who stole my promised wife beaten and disillusioned-it's meat and drink to me, meat and drink."
His voice tailed off towards the end. The mad fury which he had held dammed throughout the past weeks had carried him along thus far by the force of its own torrent. As he stood still leaning upon the spade, he looked an older man than ever I had seen him-a worn done man to be pitied rather than disliked.
When he ceased to speak a dead silence reigned in the clearing. No one moved, no one spoke. Each awaited some
word or action on the part of the other. the other. I glanced around me and saw that Marigold was quietly weeping, with her head resting on her brother's shoulder. Roy's face told me nothing. It was cold and blank, like the face of the dead. Jabez Morgan, with hands clasped on his updrawn knees, looked at the Laird through his deceptive spectacles. It was hopeless to guess at his thoughts.
Early in this painful scene Betty had slipped her arm quietly through mine and drawn closer to me. Her head was bewed so that I could not see her face, but I could feel the trembling of the arm that rested in mine.
After all, it was the Laird himself who brought the scene to an end. With one last malignant look round those whom, in his distorted mind, he considered his victims, he straightened himself and cast aside the spade upon which he had leant throughout.
"Come, Marigold," he exclaimed harshly, "we are going back to Hopeton!"
Marigold looked up with a quick frightened glance, first at her father-then at Jabez Mergan.
"No, no, you must not go there. You are mine, Marigold," oried the latter, starting to his feet.
She shook her head sadly but firmly.
"He needs me most," she murmured in a faint voice which hardly reached me.
Again Morgan protested.
in until I can claim you as my wife," he pleaded. "You cannot go back there."
"I must," replied Marigold more firmly. "He needs me most."
"Ha, ha, ha!" broke in the Laird's harsh laughter. "You see how little power you have over a Tanish, Morgan. Come along, Marigold."
As he started across the clearing, his daughter rose with woeful face to follow him. Betty ran to her side and seized her arm.
"Come home with me, dear," she begged. "Even if it is only for to-night." But Marigold gently drew her arm away.
not leave him alone." She spoke in a low voice, but so firmly that Betty realised how futile it was to attempt to move her.
The delay irritated the Laird.
"Come on," he shouted. "I'll have no more parleying between my daughter and this orowd of sycophants. Get you home, girl, and thank God that your punishment for being a traitor to your own father is no worse. As for you," he turned and grinned malignantly at those of us who remained-"as for you, may I never see one of your accursed faces again.'
With that, almost driving "It is no use, Betty, dear. his unfortunate daughter beI am wanted at Hopeton. fore him, he disappeared into There is little Duncan. I ean- the wood.
What I have now to tell I did not see with my own eyes, but have pieced together from what I heard long afterwards. . . .
It was a very painful time for Marigold-that walk back to Hopeton. At first her father raved and stormed at her for what he was pleased to call her intrigue with Morgan, but gradually the reaction set in after his violent fit of passion, and he became so weak and tired that he was compelled to accept the support of his daughter's
It took them quite an hour to reach the house, so that it must have been eight o'clock
or a little later when they arrived.
At the thought of seeing Marie, and recounting to her the tale of his vengeance on his enemies, the Laird brisked up. He strode into the diningroom, calling loudly for his daughter-in-law. The room was empty. From room to room he strayed without coming upon her for whom he sought.
Returning to the hall, he shouted for Mrs Cunningham, the housekeeper. The old lady hurried from her room, with the look of anxiety that was always on her face when her master called for her.
"Where is my son's wife?" demanded the Laird,