A man sat reclining before a roaring fire. His dark eyes reflected the flames. A bushy, black beard hid part of his face. Green and red velvet adorned his figure. Beside him, in another armchair, a younger man sat. He was thin, bony, and tall and his eyes stood out in his face. Brown deerskin covered him.
“Coming here, you say?” the big man’s voice was deep, almost harsh.
“Yes. The Governor is holding the land we want, you know, the one old Humandor left.”
“Aye. You said that there’s a risk of a plague coming here?”
“Yes, but Lady Jane said there’s not too bad of a risk.”
“Bah! Never trust a woman to judge whether something can be risked or not!”
“Mr. Cummings, how do we prevent the governor from holding the land?”
“By getting rid of the client.”
“You mean Lady Jane?! We’d be expelled from this valley forever!” the younger man was horrified.
“Not only Lady Jane, but this cousin of hers as well. Perhaps even the old governor.” He said thoughtfully.
“Mr. Cummings, I assure you that it is impossible to do this!”
“Why, Russel? If we can make Sir George be overcome by this plague, would it not be easy to explain that the rest of the household that he stayed with would be victims to it too?” he rubbed his hands gleefully. “And there would be no evidence to betray us.”
They sat for awhile, both gazing into the fire, then Russel abruptly rose and said goodnight, asking when he should start out the next day, to see if he could make the governor change his mind. Cummings told him before dawn. He departed on silent feet, leaving the dark man to brood over his dark, deep thoughts.
That night, Russel lay tossing on his bed. Get rid of Lady Jane? He thought, why, that’s as bad as outright murder! But on the other hand…No, no, I won’t do it! But he will punish me. I don’t care! I can’t believe what that Dudley Cummings wants me to do! Yet…no. I WON’T DO IT!
It felt good to have decided. I’ll go over to Lady Jane’s now, he thought, and tell her everything, but first…
He rose, dressed, and, with the same, noiseless walk, he made his way to the room of his colleague, Hubert. Entering, he beheld a sleeping figure, which he shook awake, at the same time covering the other man’s mouth with his hand.
“Hubert! Hubert!” he whispered softly but urgently. The other man awoke, and rose to the edge of the bed.
“What is it, Russel?” he queried.
“Listen, Hubert. Dudley Cummings wants to destroy Lady Jane and her entire household, including the cousin that is coming here. Pretend you don’t know any of this. I can’t go through with it. I love Lady Jane, just like all the people of this valley, except for Mr. Cummings, and I couldn’t bear to see her killed. I’m going to join her. I want you, when my absence is learned of, to tell Mr. Cummings that I went to the governor’s house early and was killed. You found my body and buried it. Understand? I don’t want my presence known to anyone, especially Dudley Cummings. He would kill me at any cost if he found out. Agreed?”
The two men silently shook hands. Their friendship was too deep for one to turn against the other. Russel left the room, crept out the back door and vanished into the black night.