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CHAPTER XVIII. FINDING A WAY.
Gerald Winston endured several miserable, uneasy days following that of Lord Consinor’s public disgrace. He longed to call upon Aneth, but dared not intrude, and so compromised by sending her a daily gift of flowers. At last, however, he decided to see Mrs. Everingham and endeavor to ascertain Aneth’s condition, and whether her father’s fault was making her as sorrowful as he feared.

He found Mrs. Everingham at her rooms in the Savoy, and was admitted at once.

“I want to ask you about Miss Consinor,” he said, after he had been warmly greeted, for they were good friends and she was glad he had come.

“Aneth is very unhappy,” was the sober reply.

“I can understand her humiliation, of course,” he continued, with a sigh; “although I hoped she would be brave, and not take the unfortunate circumstance too much to heart.”

“She is young,” answered Mrs. Everingham, evasively, “and cannot view these things as composedly as we do. Moreover, you must remember that Lord Consinor’s trouble touches her more deeply than anyone else.”

“Unless it is the viscountess,” he suggested.{195}

“Oh, the poor viscountess knows nothing of it! She passes her time in an exclusive consideration of her own ailments, and will scarcely see her own daughter at all. Do you know, Gerald, I sometimes wonder how the child can be so sweet and womanly when her surroundings are so dreadful.”

“I know what you mean,” he said. “Consinor has always borne a doubtful reputation at home, and in past years Roane’s life has also been more or less disgraceful. But the old fellow seems to be conducting himself very properly since he came to Egypt, and it is possible he has reformed his ways.”

She did not reply at once, but sat musing until she asked, with startling abruptness:

“Gerald, do you love Aneth?”

He flushed and stammered in his endeavor to find words to reply. Since his interview with Kāra he had confessed to himself that he did love Aneth; but that another should discover his secret filled the big fellow with confusion.

“Why do you ask?” he faltered, to gain time.

“Because the girl needs true and loving friends more at this moment than in all her life to come,” said she, earnestly.

“I will be her true friend in any event,” he returned.

“But I must know more than that,” persisted Mrs. Everingham. “Tell me frankly, Gerald, do you love her?”{196}

“Yes.”

“Well enough to wish to make her your wife, in spite of her family’s shady history?”

“Yes,” he said again, looking at her inquiringly.

“Then I shall confide to you a great secret; for it is right that you should be apprised of what is going on; and only you—with my assistance, to be sure—can hope to defeat the cunning plot that threatens to separate Aneth from you forever.”

Thereupon she related to him the details of the interview she had overheard between Kāra and the girl, and told of the promise Aneth had made to save her grandfather from disgrace by marrying the Egyptian.

“But this is nonsense!” he exclaimed, angrily. “The man is a fool to wish to force any woman to marry him, and a scoundrel to use such means to accomplish his purpose.”

“I know; I have discussed this matter with Aneth long and earnestly, but all in vain. She is determined to sacrifice herself to save Lord Roane from this disgrace; and Prince Kāra is inflexible. For some unknown reason he has determined to make this girl his wife, although he did not talk like a lover, and she told him frankly she could never love or even esteem him. Really, it seems incomprehensible.”

“I know his reason well enough,” answered Winston, moodily. “He is acting under the influence of the strongest and most evil human passion—revenge. If you will kindly listen, my friend, I will relate a bit of{197} romance that should enable you to understand the Egyptian’s purpose.”

He proceeded to recount the story of Hatatcha and Lord Roane, adding his grounds for believing that Kāra had from the first contemplated the ruin of the entire Consinor family.

“This is horrible!” cried Mrs. Everingham, indignantly. “If what you say is true, this native prince is himself a grandson of Roane, and therefore Aneth’s cousin.”

“I have called his attention to that fact, and he declares it is no bar to his marrying her. I imagine his real meaning is that the relationship is no bar to his prosecuting his nefarious plans. Does Lord Roane know of this proposed sacrifice of his granddaughter for his sake?”

“No; and Aneth has made me promise to keep the secret from him. I cannot see that he would be able to assist us in any way, if he knew all that we know.”

“Perhaps not. Is the story true? Has Roane actually embezzled this money?”

“I do not know.”

“It seems to me,” said the young man, thoughtfully, “that our first action should be to discover the truth of Kāra’s assertion. He may have trumped up the charge to work upon Aneth’s feelings, and lead her to consent to marry him against her will.”

“That is true,” she said. “How can we investigate the matter?”{198}

“Very easily. I will go to-morrow to the Rosetta Barrage and examine the embankment. Afterward I can look up the records and discover what sort of contract this man McFarland had, and how much money he collected for its execution. That will give us the truth of the matter, and I can accomplish it all in two days’ time.”

“Then go; but make haste, for every day is precious. We do not know when the prince may call upon Aneth to fulfil her promise.”

They discussed the situation a while longer, and then Winston withdrew to prepare for taking the early morning train.

The second evening after, he again called upon Mrs. Everingham.

“Well,” she inquired, eagerly, “what did you discover?”

“It is all true,” he answered, despondently. “The swindle has been cleverly consummated, and in just the way Kāra explained it to Aneth. There is no doubt of Lord Roane’s guilt; neither can we doubt that Kāra has both the power and the will to expose and imprison him if it suits his purpose to do so.”

“Then,” said Mrs. Everingham, firmly, “we must find another way to save Aneth. The poor child is heart-broken, and moans every moment that she is left alone with her misery. Lord Roane tries earnestly to comfort her, for I am sure he loves her as well as one of his character is capable of loving. But he imagines{199} she grieves over her father, and does not suspect the truth.”

“Is she still resolved upon keeping her promise?” he inquired.

“Yes; and that in spite of all I can say to move her. The girl has a gentle and loving nature, but underneath it is a will of iron and a stubbornness such as the early martyrs must have possessed. She holds her own happiness as nothing when compared with her grandfather’s safety.”

“Then what can we do?” he asked, pacing the floor nervously.

“We must resort to a cunning equal to Kāra’s in order to induce Aneth to break her foolish promise,” responded Mrs. Everingham, promptly.

“I fear I do not quite understand,” he said, stopping before her to read her countenance for the clue.

“I think—nay, Gerald, I am certain—the girl loves you; for I have questioned her skilfully during your absence and led her to speak of you, watching her tell-tale eyes as she did so. In my opinion it is this secret love for another that makes her sacrifice so grievous, and will end in breaking her heart.”

He blushed like a girl at hearing this, but was evidently reassured and delighted.

“Yet I do not understand even now, Mrs. Everingham,” he said.

“It is not so much that you are stupid as that you are a man,” she answered, smiling. “You must{200} become the instrument to save Aneth from herself. In a few moments I shall take you to see her. Her rooms are just across the hall, and doubtless she is at this moment alone, Lord Roane having left the hotel an hour ago. This evening I will give you countenance, but thereafter you must play your own game, and do your utmost to draw from Aneth a confession that she loves you. When you have done that, our case is won.”

“Why so?”

“Can’t you see, Gerald? No right-minded girl would ruin the life of the man she loves to save her grandfather from the consequences of his own errors. If she is in the mood to sacrifice, we will let her sacrifice Lord Roane instead of herself or you.”

“Oh!” he said, blankly. “I can’t do that, you know, Mrs. Everingham.”

“Why not?”

“It would not be honest or fair. And it would be selfish in me, and—and unmanly.”

“But I am not thinking of you at all, sir, except as the instrument. I am thinking of Aneth and her life’s happiness. Are you willing, on your part, to sacrifice her to such a man as Kāra, that he may crush her to gratify his revenge?”

“No; but—”

“Will you permit her, in her blindness and folly, to break her own heart and ruin her own life, when you know that you can save her?”

“No.”{201}

“The struggle is between you and Kāra. Lord Roane is a felon, and to save him from the penalty due his acts will be to merely postpone the day when another of his criminal misdeeds will be discovered. There is little possible redemption for a man who has attained his sinful years; but if the possibility did exist, the price would be too high. Opposed to the desirability of shielding this reprobate nobleman and giving Kāra his way—which simply means Aneth’s ruin—we must consider your mutual love and the prospect of a long life of happiness for you both. Do you dare to hesitate, Gerald Winston?”

“I will do exactly as you say, Mrs. Everingham,” he replied, impetuously. “I can’t let her go to this fiend—to the terrible fate that awaits her. Tell me what to do, and I will obey!”

“Your first duty will be to come with me to her room. And drop that long face, sir! Be cheery and lighthearted, and woo Aneth as tenderly as if you were wholly ignorant of the dreadful position she is in. Arrange to call again to-morrow, and in the future do not leave her alone for a single evening, and haunt her at all hours of the day. Remember that time is precious, and the situation demands all your skill and diplomacy. It cannot be a long siege; you must determine to capture her by attack.”

“I—I’ll try,” he said, nervously.

And so he met Aneth again, for the first time since her trouble had come upon her, and he performed his{202} part so creditably that Mrs. Everingham had but little fault to find with her coadjutor. The sight of the girl’s swollen eyelids and her sad and resigned expression of countenance so aroused his loving pity and indignation at the cruel plot that had enmeshed her, that he could scarcely restrain the impulse to declare at once his love and entreat her to give him an immediate right to protect her.

Perhaps Aneth read something of his love for her in his eager face, for she joined with Mrs. Everingham in sustaining the flow of small talk that was likely to prove her best safeguard, and in this way was led to forget for the moment her cares and fears. She hesitated a moment when Gerald proposed to bring her a new book next afternoon, but finally consented. Therefore, he left her feeling more buoyant and hopeful than he had thought could be possible a few short hours before.

From that evening his former shyness disappeared, and he pushed his suit with as much ardor as he dared, utterly ignoring Aneth’s evident desire to restrain him from speaking too plainly. But sometimes she, too, forgot her impending fate, and gave way to the delight of these happy moments. Already she knew that Gerald loved her, for her woman’s instinct was alert, and at night she lay upon her bed and wailed miserably because the gates of paradise had suddenly opened before her, and her willing feet were so bound that she might not enter.{203}

During these days Lord Roane devoted much of his time to his grandchild, treating her with almost reverential tenderness and striving in every possible way to cheer her spirits. The old man realized that his probation might be short. At any moment Kāra was liable to fulfil his threat and expose him to the authorities, and involuntarily he caught himself listening at all times for the footfall of the official coming to arrest him. He even wondered why he had escaped so long, knowing nothing of the manner in which Aneth had saved him.

And the girl, noting his loving care for her and marking the trouble that often clouded his handsome face, was encouraged in her resolve to carry out her compact with Kāra rather than see her aged grandfather thrust into prison, humiliated and disgraced.

Between her awakening love for Gerald Winston and her desire to save the family honor, the girl was indeed in pitiable straits. Yet never for a moment did she hesitate as to which way the path of duty led.

She felt that every day she remained unmolested by the Egyptian was a precious boon to be grateful for, yet always she dreaded Kāra’s summons. However, he was in no hurry, realizing the bitterness to her of these days of waiting, and enjoying the prolongation of her sufferings. All the love that Kāra had formerly borne the girl seemed to have dissolved as if by magic, and in its place had grown up schemes for so horrible a vengeance that he often wondered whether Hatatcha herself might not have hesitated to accomplish it.{204}

But Kāra did not hesitate. The very diablerie of the thing fascinated and delighted him, and he anticipated the event with eager joy.

Tadros spent much of his time at the hotel, in charge of Kāra’s elaborate system of espionage. His functions as dragoman gained for him special privileges, and the hall porter allowed him free access to the lobby; yet he was only able to enter the upper halls when he could plead some definite errand. This excuse was provided by a guest of the hotel, an agreeable Frenchman who was in Kāra’s employ and maintained a surveillance over the interior of the establishment, while a half-dozen Arabs and Copts watched carefully the exterior. Thus Tadros was enabled to keep in close touch with the movements of Lord Roane and Aneth, as well as to spy upon those who might visit them, and his orders were to report promptly to Kāra any suspicious circumstances which might indicate that his victims were planning their escape.

But, from the dragoman’s reports, all seemed well, and his prospective prey apparently made no effort to evade their fate.

Kāra depended much upon Aneth’s delicate sense of honor and her strength of character, and read her so truly that there was little chance of her disappointing him. Roane, however, caused him a little uneasiness, and the Egyptian’s spies shadowed him wherever he went. But Kāra misjudged the old gentleman if he supposed that Roane would tamely submit to Aneth’s{205} sacrifice had he known her secret. The girl understood him better, and although she did not know of his indignant rejection of Kāra’s offer to shield him at the expense of his granddaughter’s happiness, Aneth knew that if Roane learned the truth he would at once give himself up to justice in order to save her; and here was a danger the clever Egyptian had not even suspected.

In many of his dealings Roane was doubtless an unprincipled knave; but certain points of character were so impressed upon ............
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