“I believe you,” said the American, feelingly. “Well do I know the arts of the woman who seems to have lured you into the depths of crime; yet low as you are fallen, Lieutenant Grantham—much as you have disgraced your country and profession, I cannot think you would willingly have sought the life of him who saved your own. And now rise, sir, and gain the place of your abode, before accident bring other eyes than my own to be witnesses of your shame. We will discourse of this tomorrow. Meanwhile, be satisfied with my promise, that your attempt shall remain a secret with myself.”
While he spoke, Colonel Forrester made a movement as if to depart. Aroused by the apprehension of losing her victim, Matilda, who had hitherto been an impatient listener, called wildly upon Gerald, who had now risen, to fulfil his compact; but the youth turned from her with a movement of disgust, exclaiming with bitterness—“leave me, woman, leave me!”
Matilda looked after him for an instant with an expression of intensest scorn, then springing to, and snatching up the dagger, which lay glittering a few paces from the spot on which she stood, she advanced silently, but rapidly, upon her retreating enemy. Colonel Forrester had gained his threshhold, and had already knocked for admittance, when he heard the deep voice of Matilda at his ear, exclaiming in a triumphant tone,
“Think you twice then to escape your doom, traitor?”
Before he could make an attempt to shield himself, the fatal steel had entered deep into his side. Uttering a groan, he sank senseless on the steps, whither Gerald, who had watched the action of his companion, had flown in the hope of arresting the blow. Confused voices, mingled with the tramp of feet, were now heard within the hall. Presently the door opened, and a crowd of servants, chiefly blacks, appeared with lights. The view of their bleeding master, added to the disguise of Gerald, and the expression of triumph visible in the pale countenance of Matilda, at once revealed the truth. By some the former was borne to his apartment, while the greater portion busied themselves in securing the two latter, who however made not the slightest effort at resistance, but suffered themselves to be borne, amid hootings and execrations, from the spot.
The different groups we have described as being gathered together in front of the hotel, had dispersed with the breaking up of the party, which Colonel Forrester, in compliment to those who entertained him, had been one of the last to quit; so that on passing through the streets not an idler was found to swell the sable crowd that bore the wretched prisoners onward to the common prison of the town. Just as they had arrived at this latter, and a tall and muscular negro, apparently enjoying some distinction in his master’s household, was about to pull the bell for admission, a man came running breathlessly to the spot, and communicated to the negro just mentioned, a message, in which the