The Face of the Abbot

L.T. Meade
The Face of the Abbot
By L.T. Meade and Robert Eustace.
From The Strand magazine, December 1902.

If Madame Sara had one prerogative more than another it was that of
taking people unawares. When least expected she would spring a mine
at your feet, engulf you in a most horrible danger, stab you in the dark,
or injure you through your best friend; in short, this dangerous woman
was likely to become the terror of London if steps were not soon taken
to place her in such confinement that her genius could no longer assert
Months went by after my last adventure. Once again my fears
slumbered. Madame Sara's was not the first name that I thought of
when I awoke in the morning, nor the last to visit my dreams at night.
Absorbed in my profession, I had little time to waste upon her. After all,
I made up my mind, she might have left London; she might have
carried her machinations, her cruelties, and her genius elsewhere.
That such was not the case this story quickly shows.
The matter which brought Madame Sara once again to the fore began in
the following way.
On the 17th of July, 1900, I received a letter; it ran as follows:--
"23, West Terrace,
"Charlton Road, Putney.
"DEAR MR. DRUCE,--I am in considerable difficulty and am writing
to beg for your advice. My father died a fortnight ago at his castle in

Portugal, leaving me his heiress. His brother-in-law, who lived there
with him, arrived in London yesterday and came to see me, bringing
me full details of my father's death. These are in the last degree
mysterious and terrifying. There are also a lot of business affairs to
arrange. I know little about business and should greatly value your
advice on the whole situation. Can you come here and see me
to-morrow at three o'clock? Senhor de Castro, my uncle, my mother's
brother, will be here, and I should like you to meet him. If you can
come I shall be very grateful.--Yours sincerely,
I replied to this letter by telegram:---
"Will be with you at three to-morrow."
Helen Sherwood was an old friend of mine; that is, I had known her
since she was a child. She was now about twenty-three years of age,
and was engaged to a certain Godfrey Despard, one of the best fellows
I ever met. Despard was employed in a merchant's office in Shanghai,
and the chance of immediate marriage was small. Nevertheless, the
young people were determined to be true to each other and to wait that
turn in the tide which comes to most people who watch for it.
Helen's life had been a sad one. Her mother, a Portuguese lady of good
family, had died at her birth; her father, Henry Sherwood, had gone to
Lisbon in 1860 as one of the Under-Secretaries to the Embassy and
never cared to return to England. After the death of his wife he had
lived as an eccentric recluse. When Helen was three years old he had
sent her home, and she had been brought up by a maiden aunt of her
father's, who had never understood the impulsive, eager girl, and had
treated her with a rare want of sympathy. This woman had died when
her young charge was sixteen years of age. She had left no money
behind her, and, as her father declined to devote one penny to his
daughter's maintenance, Helen had to face the world before her
education was finished. But her character was full of spirit and
determination. She stayed on at school as pupil teacher, and afterwards
supported herself by her attainments. She was a good linguist, a clever

musician, and had one of the most charming voices I ever heard in an
amateur. When this story opens she was earning a comfortable
independence, and was even saving a little money for that distant date
when she would marry the man she loved.
Meanwhile Sherwood's career was an extraordinary one. He had an
extreme stroke of fortune in drawing the first prize of the Grand
Christmas State Lottery in Lisbon, amounting to one hundred and fifty
million reis, representing in English money thirty thousand pounds.
With this sum he bought an old castle in the Estrella Mountains, and,
accompanied by his wife's brother, a certain Petro de Castro, went there
to live. He was hated by his fellow-men and, with the exception of De
Castro, he had no friends. The old castle was said to be of extraordinary
beauty, and was known as Castello Mondego. It was situated some
twenty miles beyond the old Portuguese town of Coimbra. The
historical accounts of the place were full of interest, and its situation
was marvellously romantic, being built
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