The Bronze Bell

Produced by Suzanne Shell, Janice Piette, Sheila Vogtmann,
Elaine Walker, and Project Distributed
Proofreaders

THE BRONZE BELL

By LOUIS JOSEPH VANCE

1909

To

F. E. Z.

Chatelaine of Juniper Lodge

This story is dedicated by one to whom her hospitality, transplanted
from its Kentucky home, will ever remain a charming memory.

[Illustration: “NOT ONCE DID HE LOOK BACK WHILE AMBER WATCHED—HIMSELF

DIVIDED BETWEEN AMUSEMENT, ANNOYANCE, AND ASTONISHMENT” (PAGE 14)]

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I DESTINY AND THE BABU
II THE GIRL AND THE TOKEN
III MAROONED
IV THE MAN PERDU
V THE GOBLIN NIGHT
VI RED DAWN
VII MASKS AND FACES
VIII FIRST STEPS
IX PINK SATIN
X MAHARANA OF KHANDAWAR
XI THE TONGA
XII THE LONG DAY
XIII THE PHOTOGRAPH
XIV OVER THE WATER
XV FROM A HIGH PLACE
XVI SUNRISE FOR TWO
XVII THE WAY TO KATHIAPUR
XVIII THE HOODED DEATH
XIX RUTTON’S DAUGHTER
XX A LATER DAY
XXI THE FINAL INCARNATION

CHAPTER I

DESTINY AND THE BABU

Breaking suddenly upon the steady drumming of the trucks, the prolonged
and husky roar of a locomotive whistle saluted an immediate
grade-crossing.

Roused by this sound from his solitary musings in the parlour-car of
which he happened temporarily to be the sole occupant, Mr. David Amber
put aside the magazine over which he had been dreaming, and looked out
of the window, catching a glimpse of woodland road shining white
between sombre walls of stunted pine. Lazily he consulted his watch.

“It’s not for nothing,” he observed pensively, “that this railroad
wears its reputation: we are consistently late.”

His gaze, again diverted to the flying countryside, noted that it had
changed character, pine yielding to scrub-oak and second-growth—the
ragged vestments of an area some years since denuded by fire. This,
too, presently swung away, giving place to cleared land—arable acres
golden with the stubble of garnered harvests or sentinelled with
unkempt shocks of corn.

In the south a shimmer of laughing gold and blue edged the faded
horizon.

Eagerly the young man leaned forward, dark eyes the functions of
waiting-room and ticket and telegraph offices. From its eaves depended
a weather-worn board bearing the legend: “Nokomis.”

The train, pausing only long enough to disgorge from the baggage-car a
trunk or two and from the day-coaches a thin trickle of passengers,
flung on into the wilderness, cracked bell clanking somewhat
disdainfully.

By degrees the platform cleared, the erstwhile patrons of the road and
the station loafers—for the most part hall-marked natives of the
region—straggling off upon their several ways, some afoot, a majority
in dilapidated surreys and buckboards. Amber watched them go with
unassumed indifference; their type interested him little. But in their
company he presently discovered one, a figure so thoroughly foreign and
aloof in attitude, that it caught his eye, and, having caught, held it
clouded with perplexity.

Abruptly he abandoned his belongings and gave chase, overtaking the
object of his attention at the far end of the station.

“Doggott!” he cried. “I say, Doggott!”

His hand, falling lightly upon the man’s shoulder, brought him squarely
about, his expression transiently startled, if not a shade truculent.

Short and broad yet compact of body, he was something round-shouldered,
with the stoop of those who serve. In a mask of immobility,
full-colored and closely shaven, his lips were thin and tight, his eyes
steady, grey and shallow: a countenance neither dishonest nor
repellent, but one inscrutable. Standing solidly, once halted, there
remained a suggestion of alertness in the fellow’s pose.

“Doggott, what the deuce brings you here? And Mr. Rutton?”

Amber’s cordiality educed no response. The grey eyes, meeting eyes
dark, kindly, and penetrating, flickered and fell; so much emotion they
betrayed, no more, and that as disingenuous as you could wish.

“Doggott!” insisted Amber, disconcerted. “Surely you haven’t forgotten
me—Mr. Amber?”

The man shook his head. “Beg pardon, sir,” he said; “you’ve got my nyme
‘andy enough, but I don’t know you, and—”

“But Mr. Rutton?”

“Is a party I’ve never ‘eard of, if you’ll excuse my sayin’ so, no
more’n I ‘ave of yourself, sir.”

“Well!” began Amber; but paused, his face hardening as he looked the
man up and down, nodding slowly.

“Per’aps,” continued Mr. Doggott, unabashed, “you mistyke me for my
brother, ‘Enery Doggott. ‘E was ‘ome, in England, larst I ‘eard of ‘im.
We look a deal alike, I’ve been told.”

“You would be,” admitted Amber drily; and, shutting his teeth upon his
inherent contempt for a liar, he swung away, acknowledging with a curt
nod the civil “Good-arfternoon, sir,” that followed him.

The man had disappeared by the time Amber regained his kit-bag and

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