|Newspaper Title||Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931)|
|Trove Title||Mystery of the Red House: An American Story of Thrilling Interest|
Mystery of the Red House
AN AMERICAN STORY OF THRIL LING INTEREST.
By Maey E. Betas.
I (Commenced %n the Evening News of Sep~ I tember 20 J CHAPTER IX.— Continued.
I What woman conld it be who had written I these lines, and why should her going to I the opera be called ' imprudent ' ? It was I not Honor Montcalm. The handwriting I was not hers Nor was it like her to express I hereelf in this way, I Hazard determined to be at the opera I house to-night, and see the woman who had I written this unsigned note to the lover of I Honor Montcalm. I He rfisolvfld. ton. to hunt un John Bowen.
and question htm more closely concerning the woman he had seen entering HeathclifB's gate the night of the murder With his usual energy, increased by excitement and by the thought that he was working against Heathcliff, he turned his attention to the newspaper files, found the mayor'sold speech, picked ont the damaging paragraphs, and succeeded, by the light of strong comment upon them, to give them a darker and more * damaging ' significance. He carried the article to the senior editor, who read it with a little twinkle of approval in the corners of his: eyes, bat only said, ' That'll do,' and sent it i nto the composing-room. As Hazard was going oat he called to him. ' Hall,' he said, / we have just sent a note to General Montcalm, asking permission to announce him as an independent candidate for governor. You had best follow it, and get his answer by word of mouth If he seems to hesitate, do your best to bring him around. He mnst be our man ; no other will answer.' ' I will do mon possible,' Hazard returned, and hastily catching up his hat, he took his ?way to the Montcalm mansion The general was suffering from a slight attack of asthma, but he welcomed his young visitor cordially. *I have just read the letter from your office,' he said ' I thank you and your friends for the compliment implied in your request. If I were at liberty to consult my own inclinations, .1 might possibly accept your proposal, but — ' * I trust, general, that you are not going to decline to be brought forward in this campaign. I know you have retired from the poiitical field, but duty to your State calls you back It cannot afford to miss you at a time when talent and integrity are so much needed at the helm of affairs. And ihe hour is ripe for success The recent nominations created no enthusiasm. Nor ton, the ^Republican nominee, is aSvorn-ont political hack. HeathcliS: has a local strength, but it wil! tell against him in the State. He is too much identified with Wallport, and every town in the State is jealous of Wallport's prosperity. Your interests lie in the lower part of the State, and your reputation is national. Now is the opportunity for an independent candidate to come in and sweep the iield. A man able, magnetic, of stainless public and private record, with his name haloed by memories of noble and seli -sacrificing deeds in a by gone strnggle — such a man as General Eolff Montcalm,' Hazard said, rising and bowing before the general with the grace of a young Mercury. The ex-politician smiled, well-pleased ; his fine eyes kindled . ' Your words stir me as the bugle blast stirs, the war-horse, my young friend,' he caid. '_ The passion for combat never dies out in the human ammai, and I confess I feel like rushiDg io the fray ; but there are considerations that hold mo back Money rather than merit declares the political con tents of to-day ; and I have not wherewithal to' gild my armour sufficiently.' ' Oh ! as to that, did not Colonel Dyke's letter explain ? I/a Rne, the banker, will furnish a heavy sum for campaign purposes, as much through hate of Heathclifl: as iiking for you. They are the rival rich men of the city, you know. Carleon will give liberally HeathclifE has gained his ill-will by his action - against gambling-saloons and the liquor business. Of course, general, a man of the world like you will not refuse to make use of a stepping-stone because it is put down by-a hanl not exactly clean. But may I ask if this money question is the only drawback - to vour acceptance ?'
' It is not. That difficulty might be over come. There is another which weighs on me more cogently. Mr: Heathcliff is the favorite candidate, and Mr. Heathciift is my daughter's accepted suitor.' * Accepted ?' The blood dropped from Hazard's -glowing cheeks. ' I did not know ; I had not heard that Heathcliff had been accepted,' Tie almost stammered. * Yes, three days ago. Yon see, there is an insuperable obstacle to my seizing the opportunity offered me ' ' But,' said Hazard, into whose mind had flashed the circumstance of the note he had read on Heathcliff's desk, with its 'best and dearest.1 'But what if this obstacle were removed — if the engagement were broken ?' ! Broken ? Ira Heathcliff trifle with a daughter of Montcalm ? He wonld not dare.' . ' Such was not my meaning. If Miss Montcalm should herself dissolve the engage ment ?' 'Honor is no coquette. She. is deeply attached to her betrothed. And Mr Heath cliff is a man of unblemished character — a fine, strong nature.' ' Certainly,' interposed Hazard, wincing at -this praise of his rival 'But — pardon jriy per&iBterice-rcireumstances, now nnfore eeen. may occur to break off this tie. If this should be/will you then consent to hare the HATTiER announce you as a candidate for governor ?* .',.-:?:?.? 'Why; yes; but—' ;. : . .? , ' Thanks ; we will be'' discreetly 'silent until permitted to speak, though a few paragraphs thrown -out as feelers may not be amiss ? Oncte more, 1st me ask pardon for my importunity and thank you for allowing me to trespass bo long upon your time. Grcod. morning, general,* . ? ..? As Hazard walked through the hall on his ?way ont of the honee, a strain of music arrested hie steps The door of the drawing room was open; he coald see Mibs Mont calm at the painb.; She looked up, nodded to him^iroaeiatiditsKB^ to the* door. - .'?'-?'' The white iasinme^bat caught the folds of her lilac: inuslin robe at the throat was not whiter tfean tbe neck a«tl Jace above St. Yet inttibuBnT^irible-lifee Bkin she had wiy dark ^s and i»ro wa, while her hair, was ;*
soft-bronze yellow— the color of young fern leaves when they first unroll. This rare combination increased the strangeness which gave an ideal charm to Honor Montcalin's beauty. ' I have just left your father,' Hazard said, in explanation of his presence. * Your music drew me like a spell Apropo3 of music, you are going, of couree, to hear the opera to-night. For once the entire company is excellent, if we may trust the musical critics. It will be a rare treat for our city.' * Yes. I am sorry to miss it, but I am due at Mrs Duval's to-night.' Her party is in compliment to her sister, Miss Hunt, and it would be thought unkind if I failed to be there.' ' I, too, have a card from Mra. I)ural. May I be so happy as to attend you ?* * I am going with my father, if, he is. well enough. And Mr. Heathcliff will accom pany us,' she added, a faint blush, rising to her cheek, ' If Mr. Heathcliff should fail to come, may I take his place ?' She looked up in surprise, ' It is not likely that he will fail to come/ she said- Then,' seeing that Hazard still looked at her with eyes of eager questioning, she added : * If anything should keep Mr, Heathcliff from coming, I will be glad to avail myself of your escort. I do not really think my father will care to go .' ' Thank you,' Hazard said, and bowed his adieu He had based his request solely upon those words written on the card that lay on HeathciifE's table.
CHAPTER X. At eight o'clock that evening. Hazard rang the door bell at General Montcalm's, and was shown into bhe drawing-room. No one was there He walked the floor im patiently, listening for Keatheliff's step At length there was a silken rustle, and Honor came in,, fair and stately, wearing pure white with pearls. ' Mr. HeathelifE is late,' Hazard said. She answered quietly. ' He is not coming. I had a note from him a few hours ago.' ' His dereliction is my good fortune,' Hazard whispered, trembling with elation, as he folded the white opera cloak about her. She eeemed to resent his tone * Mr. Heathcliff has duties that cannot yield to pastimes/ she said coldly. ' And he supposed my father was going with me/ ' Then Heathclifc did not go to the opera. 'I heard — I mean I thought — ' * What ?' she asked, giving him a sharp, level glance. ' Nothing ; I spoke too fast. Shall we go now ?' 'Yes,' ehe answered . But in spite of her haughty indifference, Hazard felt sure that his suggestion about the opera had sunk into her mind He was not surprised at her ready assent to his proposal that they should look in at the opera before going to the party. , ' The curtain was np, the piece was in pro gress, as they took their seats Hazard swept a hasty glance around the theatre. He failed to see Heathcliff, but a second more careful survey showed him the object of his search, seated in a lace-curtained box. And there was a woman beside him Only the outlines of her shape conld be seen through the lace draperies, and these wers half hidden by a light shawl. Her face was turned toward the stage She wore a black bonnet and a black gauze veil. Hazard glanced at Honor. A slight flush mantled her usually marble cheek, her eyes were turned to the box where sat her affianced, who had broken hia engagement with her that he might take acother woman to the opera And thab woman — what was she like ? Hazard fervently hoped that she might prove young and beautiful. He had even a wild fancy that behind that veil might be the features of Laura Montcalm. As the opera proceeded, the lady, evidently absorbed the music, leaned further out of the box — beyond the shadow of the curtains. Hazard was watching her through his opera glass. A sudden noise in the back part of the house made her tarn her head quickly. Hazard gave vent to a muttered imprecation. The woman was old ; the woman was hideously ugly. White hair and wrinkles and a nose large and hooked in shape could be seen by the aid of the glass in spite of the veil. But this was not all. One side of her face was very dark, nearly black. He looked around at Miss Montcalm for an explanation. He conld but notice how Honor's face had brightened. ' It is Miss Pause,' she whispered. * The queer old maid recluse who lives by herself in that gloomy old place, the Bed House. She is dreadfully disfigured — is hump shouldered and' has a purple mark over all one side of her face. She is Very sensitive to ridicule, wears a veil all the time, and never goes out or sees anyone but Mr. Heathcliff. All her charities are dispensed through him ; she is very kind-hearted and liberal to the poor Her house has a wall around it, and a locked gate guarded by a dusky Cerberus. I have seen her. out but once before ; then she was riding with Mr. Heathcliff- She is music-mad, he told me once ; that explains wby she is out to-night, invalid though she ia . Of course, Mr. H^athclifl: had to come with her. He gave up the party that the poor old recluee might not miss a rare pleasure.' Her voice had a satisfied tone, which in creased Hazard's irritation. He was keenly disappointed. He had hoped that singular note might lead to the discovery of some secret; but in Honor's words, he saw a very commonplace solution of the mystery. The writer was an invalid ; this was the reason she feared her friend might think it 'im prudent ' for her to go out at night. * What a fool~I am,' thought Hazard. c But why 'should she call him her beet and dearest ? Truly an odd fashion of address ing one's business manager^ Phoo! women usually express themselves in an absurdly extravagant way.' . . Still, do what he might, lie could not divest himself, of _ the feeling that some mystery surrounded the writer of the not*. ' A shadowy suspicion stole into ids mind. He turnad to Bonor - v H '; 'How long has Miss JPaust been living here ?' he asked. , . ., '?'?'/. f O ! a good many years . She catne iere with * consumptive brother when I was a school-girl. 3*he ;broth6^ 4ied ; she hasonly one relative in the world, Mr. SeathclilE sayB-rra brother who lives in'St^aauaj^^i '.'; c She has lived iiere a good many :iyei&ft,': repeated Hanaro/ and his Ytigofe «nsplci*ii melted into nothing But he kepttheppera glaBS fixed apon the yeJied woman, 4i*tcmJig her with a %scina^pd jgaze. _;??,;..-? r,.?-\ ;-- ? ?: T When the curtain :'$BJ0L'.;^|^''flbe.i5tBt)jh^;
theatre, Mr. Heatheliffc had risen to make ' his way to Honor, but seeing thai she was leaving, he paused, fheir eyes me); ; his were anxious, deprecating ; her bi-amin? look reassurred him. Hazard bit his lip in voxation. Evidently Honor Montcalm re garded her future husband with implicit trust How could he shake her proud faith ? ^-rhe whom she thpught of only as her father's protege. He had the first dance with her after tbey came into the ballroom. His hand trembled as it held hers ; he feared she must notice it, but she was calmly un conscious. He lead her to a seat, and a crowd of admirers 'came around her. Sho left them presently to take the arm of an old war comrade of her father, who had his wife on his qther arm Hazard stood look ing after her fascinated, maddened by her ?gweefc, cold beauty. ' She is a woman, therefore to be won,* he quoted at last. Then he quitted the ball room and went back to the opera-house — not entering, only walking back and forth before the building waiting till the play was over. At length, the crowd began pouring out of the doors, and soon he discerned the mayor's tall form, overtopping all others ; and leaning heavily on his arm was the veiled woman. The defect in her shape was plainly apparent now ; and as she passed the gas-light nejr which Hazard was standing, be had a fall view, through her veil, of the discolored half of her face. But notwithstanding this, so strong was the impression made upon him by the note, t'hat he determined to follow Heathcliff and the eccentric old lady They entered a
jumped into a waiting cab, spoke a word to the cabman, and was driven off in the direc tion the carriage had taken, keeping that irehicle in sight. Hazard had seen the Bed House, but never before bad he noticed how isolated it was even in the midst of the city. It was situated on a large corner lot npon a hill, bwo sides of which were cut down to the pavement, forming a high, steep terrace, called with rock Surmounting this terrace was a spiked iron railing, and behind this a thick evergreen hedge. The grounds inside svere deeply shaded with shrubbery and trees. Several live-oaks and magnolias were grouped about the tall, sombre house, hiding. ;ven the roof from the view of those passing ilong the street below. Half a dozen stone steps m the terrace led up to a gate in the iron fence. Heathciift was handing the veiled woman up these steps is Hazard drove slowly past. The carriage tiid been sent away ; the mayor was going in with the strange recluse. The gate was unlocked by the ' dusky Derberus,' the pair passed through, and were lost to sight. Hazard signalled the cabman to stop when bhey reached the next block, and he alighted, iismissed the cab, and walked back to the gloomy corner house that held the objects of his curious attention. So high and steep was the terrace that nothing could be seen beyond the spiked fence and the overtopping hedge. He crossed to the opposite side of the street Standing there, he could see a mass of dark foliage rising up beyend the hedge, and through it one gable of the house. But there was no gleam of light proceeding from He recrossed the street, and walked slowly around the triangular rock wall. He was about to quit the place, and banish the vague idea that any mystery attached to it, when he heard a sound of singing pro ceeding from the dark, silent old house. He stood still on the instant, and listened. Yes, it was the fragment of an air from the opera — * La Favorita ' — which had been sung to-night. And what a sweet, rich, fresh voice it was that thrilled fprth, and then was silent as a bird suddenly sings cut in its dream on some moonlight night; and then is as suddenly still. The song -burst was just a few notes, fchat was all It broke off, as though the singer had suddenly been checked bj some warning thought or word. But that strain was ettongh. to excite Hazard's imagination. *I don't go from here to-night until I make some effort to see what is inside this old house — regular nunnery-looking concern, that it is,' he said to himself. ' That was never the voice of old Miss Faust — never.' He turned the corner and valsed on until he reached the house adjoining Miss Faust's. It was enclosed by a neglected fence, and the building inside was tall, narrow and very much dilapidated. A placard on the door announced that it was * To Kent.' Hazard caught the gleam of light playing on the tops of some tall oleander growing near the wall. 'Evidently the light came through an open window of the lied House. If he could only see into tfciat window ! From its secluded situation in the rear of this building, and at the end furthest from the street, he imagined this must !-e a very private boudoir or bedroom. If there was any mysterious inmate of the Red House who wished to be unseen and unsuspected, this wonld probably be her sanctuary. Here, believing herself safe from observa tion, screened by trees, and with only a vacant house adjoining, she would feel safe to open her window for the sake of fresh air ; perhaps to stand before it and reveal horself to the gaze of one who might secure a post of observation. ' If he could only obtain such a post ! Hazard looked about him. Close at hand was a tall magnolia tree. He was active as a catamount, and, with an agile spring, he caught the lower bough and swung himself to a seat in the tree. Then he climbed higher — climbed until he reached a point oh a level with the window whence the light proceeded. The blind was open, the curtain withdrawn. He conld see a Iterated and prettily furnished interior— -pictures on the wall, and a hand some dressing-case and tall mirror, but no occupant— no living preface. Well, he would wait until he did see some one— wait aii liour if necessary. His position in the tree was rather cramped, but that did not matter. He did not mind discomf ortv when he had su object in view. Otherwise, he -was amusingly luxurious in his predilections for one of his Bohemian lot. ?' .-' ' (TO BB CONTHTOBD.) .J. ' ' :