Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Emory Women Writers Resource Project

The Last Stroke, an electronic edition

by Lawrence L. Lynch [Van Deventer, Emma Murdoch]

date: [189-]
source publisher: Ward, Lock & Co., Limited
collection: Genre Fiction

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CHAPTER XVIII.
SUDDEN FLITTINGS.

FOR two weeks Ruth Glidden stood at the right hand of Mrs. Myers, and supplemented the trained nurse in the sick room.

At first she only entered while the patient slept, but after a few days the stupor began to lessen, and the flightiness, with which it had alternated, to decrease. And then one day he knew them, and, by the doctor's orders, the nurse withdrew and Ruth came to the bedside and sat down beside him.

"Robert, dear," she said, smiling down upon him, "you have very nearly let that wretched footpad spoil the good looks of the only lover I ever had, and to prevent further mischief I am come to take care of you." She said very little more then, but gradually the patient found himself being ruled by her nod, and liking the tyranny; so that when he was told that he was going | | 209 away to try what change of air and scene would do for his maltreated head, he listened to her while she told him a tale which seemed to interest her much, and through which the names Ferrars, Myers, Hilda, and the pronouns "they" and "them" often occurred. And then it came about that, supported to a carriage and transferred then to a swinging cot, he was taken on board a Pullman sleeper, and, with nurse and attendant, was whirled away southward.

Two days later, James Myers said good-bye to wife and friends and set sail, on board the good ship Etruria en route for Europe.

"Yes," he said to an acquaintance whom he met at the wharf. "I've wanted to make the trip, you know, for a long time, and now a matter of business, the looking up of certain titles and records, makes the journey needful, and I can combine pleasure and business." And then he turned away to say a few last words to Francis Ferrars before the signal sounded, and he must say good-bye to his anxious wife, to serious-faced Ruth Glidden.

"And now," said the detective to Ruth, "the next flitting will be toward Glenville."

Before the end of that week Mrs. Myers, who stood staunchly by Ruth, and would not hear of her going alone, Ruth herself, and a keen-eyed maid | | 210 --not the one who had accompanied the young heiress home from Europe, but another supplied by Mr. Ferrars--all arrived at Glenville, and took quarters at the Glenville House, where Hilda Grant soon sought her friend, and promised herself much comfort in her society.

At first, Miss Glidden did not seem to desire acquaintances, and Mrs. Jamieson complained that she found herself almost deserted, Hilda was so preoccupied with her newly-arrived friend. But this was soon changed.

Miss Glidden and her party had at first been placed in quarters which the young lady did not find to her taste. There must be a pleasanter chamber for her friend, Mrs. Myers, and a reception room for their joint use, and it ended in her securing the little parlour suite adjoining that of Mrs. Jamieson.

For a time even this close proximity did not seem to break the ice, and while having been introduced by Hilda, the two ladies were for some days strangers still.

For reasons which Ferrars might have explained if he would, Hilda Grant had not visited Robert Brierly while he lay under the care of doctor and nurse, and now that they were together, the two girls, having first exchanged fullest personal confidences, had much to say about Robert and his dead brother.

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At the end of their first confidential talk Ruth had said: "Apropos of this, Hilda, my dear, let me remind you that I have not outgrown my dislike of being quizzed or questioned by the simply curious, for the sake of curiosity. I know what a small town is, and so, I warn you not to let the dear inhabitants know that I am more than a friend of your own. To proclaim me a friend of the Brierlys as well, will be just to expose us both to the inquisitive, and to set vivid imaginations at work."

Hilda's eyes studied her face a moment. "I think you will not be troubled. My acquaintances all know that I do not willingly talk on that terrible subject. Even Mrs. Jamieson, who saw its fearful beginning and who is with me often, seldom speaks of it to me."

"The pretty widow? Mr. Ferrars, pardon me, your cousin, spoke of her more than once," and Ruth cast a keen side glance at her friend's face.

"And she speaks of him, now and then."

"As which?"

"As my cousin; for so she believes him to be."

"And you think them mutually interested? I must really see more of my pretty neighbour."

Miss Glidden and her party had been a week in | | 212 Glenville when "Mr. Ferris-Grant" arrived, and spent a few days in the village, making his home at the doctor's cottage, and passing most of his time with Hilda and her friends. Mrs. Jamieson had now made better progress with her fair and stately neighbour, and they might have been seen strolling toward the school-house together, or driving along the terrace road--for Mrs. Jamieson had declared that the tragedy of the lake shore had spoiled the lakeside road for her--in Doran's pony carriage, and, sometimes with "Miss Grant's cousin" for charioteer.

One evening the little party sauntered away from the pretty hotel together to walk to Hilda's home and sit for an hour upon Mrs. Marcy's broad and shaded piazza, which Mrs. Jamieson declared so charmingly secluded, after the chatter and movement, the coming and going upon that of the Glenville House.

They had been taking tea with Mrs. Myers and Ruth, Hilda, Mrs. Jamieson, and the sham cousin, who seemed to rather enjoy his rôle, if one might judge by his manner, and they seemed inclined to pass the remainder of the evening together.

They had not been long seated upon the vine-shaded piazza when Doctor Barnes came up the walk and dropped down upon the upper step, like one | | 213 quite at home. It was now more than two weeks since Robert Brierly had been carried southward and the people of Glenville, for the most part, had heard most discouraging reports from the invalid, most of them given forth by the doctor, or "Sam" Doran, who, by the way, had been for the past month entertaining a warmly welcomed and much quoted "first cousin" from "out west."

The doctor held a letter in his hand, and seeing this, Miss Grant's cousin asked carelessly:

"Any news of general interest in that blue envelope, doctor?"

They could not see the doctor's face, but his voice was very grave when he replied, "I'm sorry to say yes. Our friend down south is in a very bad way."

"Mr. Brierly?" exclaimed Mrs. Jamieson. "Oh, doctor, tell us the worst." And then she murmured to Ruth, who sat near her, "Miss Grant's friend, you know, but of course you do. I have grown as much interested in his welfare, somehow, as if he were not really a stranger, whom I never saw but once."

The doctor had left his place, and crossed to the open window, through which the lamp-light shone upon the open letter.

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"I think I can see to read it," he said, and bent over the sheet. "The writer says:

"I fear our friend will not see many more Florida suns; will not be here with us long. The change has been surprisingly rapid, and the heart is now seriously implicated. Do not be surprised if ill news comes at an early day."

He folded the letter. "Ill news should always be briefly told," he said. When the ladies came in, that night, having parted from the two gentlemen who had escorted them as far as the piazza steps, they found Miss Glidden's maid hovering in the passage, near her mistress's door.

"Miss Glidden, ladies," she began in evident agitation, "I have been terribly frightened. Some one has been in your room, and, I fear, in that of this lady also. I sat, for an hour, on the back piazza with two of the housemaids, and when I came up, only a few steps from this room, some one slipped out from Mrs. Jamieson's door and round the corner toward the south hall. I did not think about it until I had gone into your room to make all ready for the night, and then I saw the closet door open, and the things upon your table pulled about as if some one had hurried much, and had left, when they | | 215 found it was not a sleeping room. Then I thought of the next room, of the person coming out so still and so sly----"

Miss Glidden pushed past the maid, and opened her own door. "Look in your room, Mrs. Jamieson," she said, "and see if you have really been robbed before we alarm the house. Susan, go with her."

Mrs. Jamieson found that her door was indeed unlocked, and her inner room showed plainly that a hasty hand had searched, here and there.

"It's lucky that I never leave money where it can be got at," she said to Ruth, when she had taken in the full extent of the mischief, "and that I haven't taken my jewel box from the hotel safe, for three days. Even my purse was in my chatelaine with me. I find absolutely nothing gone. But my boxes, my frocks, my boots and wraps, even, have been pulled about. It's very strange. The thief must have been frightened away before anything was taken."

"Perhaps," suggested Miss Glidden, "the person wanted clothing, and heard Susan coming down the hall."

It was very strange, but, although they called the landlord, and told him privately of the invasion, and though there was a quiet but strict investigation, nothing came of it, and no one was even suspected.

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"It was certainly some one from outside, who slipped in through some open door in the dark, while every one was out upon the piazzas, or in the grounds. These halls are not lighted until quite dark, sometimes, I find. I am thankful that you met with no loss, ladies," said mine host.

Next morning Mrs. Myers declared herself more than ready to leave Glenville. The thought of being in a house where an intruder found it so easy to make free with a lady's wardrobe, was not pleasant, and she hoped Ruth would not ask her to spend another week in the town. In fact she only stipulated for a fortnight's visit with her friend, Miss Grant, upon which Ruth promised that they would really go very soon, although she was enjoying herself.

Three days later a party of the Glenville's guests set off, after an early breakfast, for a long drive and a day's fishing, at a spot some miles distant and near the north end of the lake, at a famous picnic ground. Mrs. Jamieson was one of the merry crew, and she urged Ruth Glidden to join them, as did the others, all; but Ruth "never fished and detested picnics;" besides, the other people, she declared, were for the most part utter strangers, and Hilda and "Mr. Grant" were not invited.

When Mrs. Jamieson came back with the rest of | | 217 the tired merry-makers she knocked at Ruth's door to announce her return.

There was no response, and she entered her own rooms where she found, conspicuously placed, a note. It was in a strong masculine hand, and she opened it quickly, looking first at the name at the bottom of the sheet. It was F. Grant.

She caught her breath, and sat down to read, wondering still and her heart beating strangely.

"DEAR MADAM"--

so ran the note "You will be surprised, I know, to hear of our so sudden departure. Poor Brierly is dead, and we start to-day by the four o'clock express, hoping thus to reach the city before the party from the south arrive there. They started, we learn, on Tuesday morning. Mrs. Myers and Miss Glidden have kindly accompanied us, that my cousin may have the comfort of her friends' companionship, and the protection of the elder lady, whose guest she will be. In the haste of departure I am commissioned to say what they would have gladly said in person. For myself, while I trust we may meet again, and soon, may I presume to ask--in the event of your going away from Glenville, for my cousin has said it was possible--that you will let the doctor know where we may in future | | 218 address you? In the hope of seeing you again, at an early date, I am,

"Sincerely and hopefully, "F. GRANT."

An hour later she sent for Doctor Barnes, who came promptly.

"Doctor," she began, as soon as he had entered her room, and closed the door. "I won't try to deceive you. I have had twinges of neuralgia to-day, and my bottle is quite empty. But I want, most of all, to hear more about this sudden flitting. They have left me just a line of farewell. Of course I know about poor Mr. Brierly. There's no doubt of his death."

"Not the least in the world, I regret to say."

"It is very sad, but I suppose they were prepared for the news."

"Yes."

"Now tell me about Miss Grant. Is she not coming back to her school?"

"I don't quite know. Her cousin, who is a very successful man in business, goes abroad soon, and he would like to have her among her friends. Miss Glidden is anxious to keep her for a time at least. I believe she, Miss Grant, had a few words with Doran. I fancy it will end in her resignation."

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"Then how I wish she would come abroad, if not with her cousin, then with me. For I shall go soon, I quite think. In fact there are business matters, of my husband's, money matters that require my presence. I must write to Miss Grant."

"Then address her at the Loremer House for the present. Miss Glidden has a suite of rooms there."

A week later Mrs. Jamieson, accompanied by her friend, Mrs. Arthur, looked in upon Doctor Barnes.

"I have come to say good-bye, doctor," said the former. "I leave here in the morning. My brother-in-law, who is on his way eastward, after a second hurried western trip, will be in the city to-morrow; I meet him there, and we sail in three days. Mr. Grant has written me that the ladies are all out of the city, so I shall not see them, but he thinks they will all be in London before the end of summer."

Thus of all the active dramatis persona of our story, but few were left in Glenville by mid-July.

"And so the pretty widow's gone," said Samuel Doran to the doctor, the day after this final flitting. "Looks like Glenville couldn't be a healthy place in July. Even my 'first cousin from out west' skipped out sort of sudden yesterday; couldn't stay another minute."

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"You don't look heartbroken," suggested the doctor.

"Oh, I can spare him. Anyhow, I guess 'twas time he went. Powerful eater, that first cousin of mine," and Doran grinned from ear to ear.

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