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The Kidnapped President By Guy Boothby Characters: 22811

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


It was a cold and foggy day in November when the steamer which I had boarded in Barbadoes reached the Thames. I had been absent from England more than four months, and the veriest glutton for excitement could not have desired more than had fallen to my lot.

Having bade my fellow-passengers good-bye, I caught the first available train to town only to discover, when I reached Fenchurch Street, that I should have some considerable time to wait at Waterloo before I could get on to Salisbury. I accordingly cast about me for a way of employing my time. This resolved itself in a decision to call upon my old friend, Mr. Winzor, in order to obtain from him the letter I had entrusted to his charge. As I made my way along the crowded streets I could not help contrasting them to the sun-bathed thoroughfares of La Gloria. In my mind's eye I could see again the happy-go-lucky cafés on the tree-shaded pavement, the white houses with their green shutters; and, behind the city, the mountains towering up, peak after peak, into the azure sky.

At last I turned into the street I remembered so well, and approached the office of my old friend. I ascended the steps and pushed open the glass door. Somewhat to my surprise a strange clerk accosted me. When I inquired for Mr. Winzor, the surprised look upon the youth's face told me that something unusual had happened.

"Don't you know that he is dead?" he inquired.

"Dead?" I cried, in genuine consternation. "Good heavens! you don't mean that!"

"He died more than six weeks ago," the young man replied. "He had some papers to sign in that room, and when his chief clerk went in to get them he found the old gentleman stone dead."

I was more distressed than I could say at this news. The little lawyer had been a kindly friend to me, and also to my mother.

Thanking the clerk for his information I left the office and made my way to Waterloo. There I took the train to Salisbury, and, on arrival at the cathedral city, set out for Falstead.

At this last stage of my story I will not weary you with a long description of my home coming. Let it suffice that I at last reached the village and found myself approaching the house of my childhood. The tiny gate had scarcely closed behind me when the front-door opened and my mother hastened to greet me.

When we reached her little drawing-room I questioned her concerning Molly.

"I expect her every moment," said my mother.

As she spoke the click of the gate caused me to go to the window with all speed.

Shall I describe what followed? Would it interest you to know how Molly and I greeted each other? I think not. I will inform you, however, that I was more than repaid for all I had been through by the way in which I was received.

Later in the evening we went for a walk together.

"Dick, dear," said my sweetheart, "you have not told me how your venture prospered."

This was the question I had been dreading.

"It has not prospered at all," I said. "The fact is, I have made nothing out of it. I am ashamed to say so, but I am poorer than when I left England four months ago."

To my surprise she received my information with perfect equanimity.

"But I am afraid you don't understand what it means to me, darling," I said. "And, before we go any further, I am going to tell you the whole story. Though it may make you think differently of me, I feel that I should let you know all."

I thereupon set to work and told her everything, from the moment of my first meeting with Silvestre on board the Pernambuco to my return to Falstead that evening. I finished with the information that there was still upwards of five thousand pounds of Silvestre's money to my credit in the Salisbury bank. I told her that it was my intention not to keep a halfpenny of it, but to send it anonymously to a London hospital.

"And I think you would be right, Dick," the sweet girl answered. "Do not keep it. It would only bring us bad luck. And now, what about our marriage?"

I shook my head.

"I fear, dear, we shall have to go on waiting," I said. "I must try and get another berth, but whether or not I shall be able to do so Heaven only knows."

"Dick, dear," she said, slipping her arm through mine as she spoke, "I cannot keep the secret from you any longer. I ought to have told you before."

"And what is this wonderful secret?" I inquired.

"I doubt whether I look it, Dick, but I am a very rich woman."

"A rich woman!" I cried incredulously. "What do you mean by that?"

For the moment I thought she was joking, but one glance at her face showed me that she was serious.

"I mean what I say," she answered. "I am a very rich woman. When poor old Mr. Winzor died he left me all his fortune-nearly forty thousand pounds."

I could scarcely contain my astonishment.

"Was it not good of him?" she continued. "Forty thousand pounds at three per cent. is twelve hundred pounds a year, is it not?"

Even then I was too much surprised by her information to be able to realize the change that had taken place in Molly's position.

"Are you not glad, dear?" she said at last.

"Yes, yes," I replied, "but I cannot quite understand it yet. It seems too good to be true."

"We shall be able to do so much with it," she said, drawing closer to me and lifting her sweet face to mine.

"I am luckier than I deserve to be," I answered.

And doubtless, my dear reader, you will say it was the truth.

* * *

Molly and I have been married five years. We have a boy of three, and a baby girl who promises to be the manager of her mother. We lead a very quiet life in a house we have built for ourselves on the outskirts of Falstead. There is not a happier man in the world than I am, nor has any man a sweeter wife. So far I have not returned to Equinata. As a matter of fact I do not suppose that I shall ever do so, for grievous changes have occurred there. As all the world is aware, Fernandez was assassinated while reviewing his troops on the Grand Plaza, two years after I left, while Sagana met with the same untimely fate a year later. Immediately on hearing the news I made inquiries as to the whereabouts of the Se?orita, only to hear that she had fled the country and had entered a convent in the neighbourhood of Rio.

Perhaps she is happier there!

THE END

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