“You come, Sir Jasper,” she said, slowly, “to see the last of your work. You come to gloat over your dead victim, and exult that she is out of your way. But I tell you to beware! Zenith in her grave will be a thousand times more terrible to you than Zenith ever was alive!”
The baronet looked at her with a darkly troubled face.
“Why do you hate me so?” he said. “Whatever wrong I did her, I never wronged you.”
“You have done me deadly wrong! My mother’s wrongs are mine, and here, by her grave, I vow vengeance on you and yours! Her dying legacy to me was her hatred of you, and I will pay the old debt with double interest, my noble, haughty, titled father!”
She turned with the last words and sped away like an evil spirit, vanishing in the gloom among the graves.
Two dying bequests.
This midsummer night was sultry and still. The darkness was like the darkness of Egypt, lighted every now and then by a vivid Hash of lightning, from what quarter of the heavens no man knew. The inky sky was invisible—no breath of air stirred the terrible calm. The midsummer night was full of dark and deadly menace.
Hours ago a fierce and wrathful sunset had burned itself out on a brassy sky. The sun, a lurid ball of fire, had sunk in billows of blood-red cloud, and pitch blackness had fallen upon earth and sky and sea. Everything above and below breathed of speedy tempest, but the midnight was drawing near, and the storm had not yet burst.
And on this black June night Sir Jasper Kingsland lay on his stately bed, dying.
The lofty chamber was but dimly lighted. It was a grand, vast room, paneled in black oak, hung with somber draperies, and carpeted in rich dark Brussels.
Three wax candles made white spots of light in the solemn gloom; a wood-fire burned or rather smoldered, in the wide hearth, for the vast rooms were chilly even in midsummer; but neither fire-light nor candle-light could illumine the ghostly depths of the chamber. Shadows crouched like evil things in the dusky corners, and round the bed, only darker shadows among the rest, knelt the dying man’s family—wife and daughter and son. And hovering aloof, with pale, anxious faces, stood the rector, the Reverend Cyrus Green, and Doctor Parker Godroy.
The last hope was over, the last prayer had been said, the last faint breaths uttered between the dying lips. With the tide going out on the shore below, the baronet’s life was ebbing.
Lady Kingsland, kneeling in tearless grief by her husband’s side, bent over him to catch the faint whisper.
“My dearest, I am here. What is it?”
“Where is Everard?”
Everard Kingsland, a fair-haired, blue-eyed, handsome boy, lifted his head from the opposite side. It was a handsome, high-bred face—the ancestral face of all the Kingslands—that of this twelve-year-old boy.