|Newspaper Title||Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931)|
|Trove Title||Mystery of the Red House: An American Story of Thrilling Interest|
Mystery of the Bed House
££ AKEEICAN STORY OF THBIL* LING lK'iEREST.
Bx Mart. E. . Betas.
^M (Commenced in the 'Evening News of Sep H ; - ieniberZO.) ? CHAPTEB LII.
^1 A dark night in November ; tlie stars ^M obscured, a mist of cold rain chilling the ^B atmospbere. But the lights of the eity ^H e'eam oat, and there is a continuous roll of
eamasies in the street below the dimly lighted room in which Hazard Hall sits alone He hears the roll ot the carriages ; he picture3 to himself the curveting horses, the fair forms upon the velvet cushions in side. **He hears them stop before the Sharon House, which is a blaze of 'gas, for it is the evening oil Inauguration Ball- General Montcalm was installed Governor o£ the State two days before; to-night the wealth, the intellect and beauty of Wallp n-fc are assembled in the urand ball-room of the Sharon House to do honor to the new chief ©f state. ? - ' This boy who sits alone in his dingy, ill farnished, almost garret room above a tow of shops, sinks his head on his hands and remembers how he had once imagined the ecese of to night A month ago, when he was working for Montcalm's election — scribbling, stump-speaking, lyin 2 unscrupu lously, he wonld lie at night unable to sleep, though it was usually past midnight, because of tb'e feveiish throbbing of his ambitions brain, and pictnre to himself that scene of prospective trinirph — his patron's inaugura tion of governor and the ball that would follow it He bad seen himself moving through the lighted room at the side of the fovernor — triumphant, envied, the incaia ent of an office of honor He had seen himself leading off the dance with Honor Montcalm — queen of the night by riqht of her regal beauty and ber proud position. One month ago this picture had seemed a etadow of wbat mi^ht well be. And now ! He raised his head and looked about him., then across at the glittering windows of the ball-room. Be had no part in that gay scene None would ask after him, no one *?ould miss hiaa He sat here at the uncurtained window with the mist of rain drifting in on his haggard face His clothes were rusty, his hair disordered, his cheekg hollow, and his ejes dull and hopeless. Was this the bright, elastic, self-conCdent boy, who had called himself an exponent of the Nineteenth Century* spirit of shrewdness . and push an-1 wide-awake tact ; who had believed in himself and in Mb power to compass his ends by dint of boldness and brains? One month ago he had been pointed out as a brilliant young journalist, the dash ing boy-speaker, the pet of, the probable governor, the attendant, perhaps the favored suitor, of Honor Montcalm. And now — vrhat a swift succession of misfortunes had ?brought him low He had lost the prestige ni boin^r Montcalm's pet. The story of his illegitimate origin had somehow gone abroad, ! \tua in that proud old city this alone was ^Bivalent to social ostracism. Then The 'Battler went down It had been fore (ioomed as a meteoric course Launched frith borrowed captial and much brains, but little ballast of system cr practical knowledge, it (like so many party iourna listic crafts) had just enough financial steam to fight through one stirring political campaign. One or its brilliant young editorial staff had gone to his neglected law, another had run off from his debtors, another had found a place on the old but sure daily which The Rattler bad been wont to ridicule as * the moss-backed terrapin.' But Hazard had not obtained any place With all his quiet, versatile talent, he was known to be not a steady ?worker He was too erratic to suit those old systematic stagers. And he had been too stinging in his satire against them. The light shafts he had sent had been too keenly barbed. Besides be was no longer a popular favorite. His extreme course against Heath cliff had reacted against him, and his own haufihty, caprieions manners made him enemies. He shut himself up and wrote earnestly and hopefully. Ee wrote an , article for^a review — it was declined; a sketch for a magazine — it was returned ; a spicy article for a New York daily — it came back with the comment ; ' Pretty fair but no . suitable for our columns.' Then he lost belief in his capacity. He had thought himself a genius ; it was evident he was not above mediocrity. He found it impossible to ob.'ain employment in his own line — he tried to get it in some other. But he did not succeed. To his sensitive, sore spirit it seemed that everv door was Darred. He became utterly desperate. He took to drinking. His habits had never been Bteadjr ; bnt he hadtnot befme drank to ex cess. How he took it as a nepenthe for the mortification, the shame, the misery that had come so crush ingly in the hour when be seemed on the high-road to success. He drank and the subtle poison- made him lose his . remaining energy and the power that was still in him to rise above the fate. Why aid he not leave Wallport P For one thin?, he nad no money. The fall of The .Rattxdb found him with no means, sad a number of little debts hanging ever him He parted with his books, his pictures and his watch1 He left his boarding-house and hid himself in the dingy half-attic several stories above a shoe-shop, whence he only emerged at night. Where were his friends in the meantime ? He had made
lew genuine friends. He was too careless, selfish and imperious. Some who came' forward^ He tepulsed coldly; he read pity in their eyes; and he was proud to accept pity He haughtily, almost rudely, rejected General Montcalm s offer of help. The icy words with which the head, of the old Montcalni line had rejected any personal intercourse with the basely born, scion bad £0 Blung the proud soul of the spoiled boy that he would have starred rather than take a favor from tbehasdsof his former patron. One day he received a leiter addressed in (General Montcalm's handwriting. Bis pale cheek flushed ; he tore open the envelope ; out 'dropped a, cheque for five hundred dollars, .and a card on which was written, * Do not refuse the enclosed ; it is simply in discharged of a debt.' He smiled bitterly. ' He would sot invite me to his house ; he would not shake hands with me in the street; does he thins. I would take his money ?' he saidj ashe crashed the card in lug fingers. ? 'K He thmst tha ohegw into «n *av»loj»,
addressed it to General Montcalm, and dropped it into the mail-box. Heathcliff s overtures met with no better success. The mayor's heart- was full of pity for the boy. He went to see him one night at his boardins-house ' He offered to assist him in any way he might ; he assured him of the sincerity of his motives, but the embittered boy would not believs him. He answered coldly that he was no beggar for money or for friendship ? all he as&ed was to be left alone. Soon after this he'quitthe boarding-house and left no word as to where he had gone. As he was never seen in the streets' in the day, it was supposed by the few who thought about him at all, that he had left Wallport. His ' den ' was in xhe heart 01 the city. He shunned companion ship, but the rattle and roar of the streets, the screams and hiss of the locomotive that came up to him took away the sense of utter solitude. By day, he sat and brooded over his wrongs, or tried to forget them in drink. He could no longer afford wine ; he resorted to the coarser stimulant — whisky. At night he slouched his hat over his face and went out to walk the streets aimlessly, that he might tire himself and be able to sleep He scurried on like a haunted thing, looking out from his slouched hat— out at the windows to houses in which he had once been a welcome visitor — at Montcalm's study, where he had eat planning political schemes with the General, where he had sat beside Honor Montcalm Every day his clothes grew rustier, hi3 face irore haggard, his energies weaker, his prospects more hopeless. One meal a day came to him from a second-rate eating-house which he had once scorned to patronise, for this boy was dainty to fastidiousness in his food and clothes. But his means were now exhausted. He had spent his last dime to day, to buy the stimulant which had become necessary to bolster his relaxed nerves. He took out the little blue and gold purse which Lottie had made and sent him on his last birthday Nobody but little Lottie kept count of his birthdays. The recollection of her came over him to-night wita a flitting thought of seeking her. For she was in the city. He had seen the flaming bills on the walls announcing that the troupe to which, she was attached would play in Wallport to-night. Be had read the newspaper praises of the ' rising young actress.' ' Kising' was what he had been called little more than a month ago. ' And now,' he said to himself, with a harsh laugh, ' now I bid fair to ' rise' in the world at a rope's end. I am the dog going downhill, which everbody feels in duty bound to kick.' No, he would not go to ses Lottie. The last time he had seen her he had patronised her in his airy, en prince manner. She had been no little hurt, and she retorted in ore of her flashes of piquant anger, her blue eyes raining and lightning at the same time. It was natural she should feel a littie malicious ly triumphant at his coming down. But Lottie's heart was tender as a child's. She would pity him, and pity from her he could not bear. He would not subject himself to it. He would not go to see her. Go to see her, indeed ! He laughed self scornfullv at the thought as he glanced at his reflection in the little cracked mirror on the mantelpiece ' I look like a tramp or a gaol -bird,' he said to himself. His cheeks were sunken, his eyes blood-shot. His nervas were un strung; his hands trembled. He felt flaccid and miserable. ? I must have a drink.' he said, and he took up the little purse. He turned, it wrong side out. A tiny coin fell into his hand. He knew what ifc was, though he had forgotten it was there It was a little gold dollar — one of the three (he had given two to a child) which the purse contained when it came to him. * These are for seed,' Lottie wrote, * and for good luck. Mind you don't lose them or spend them, unless you bring good to somebody, else you'll lose your luck ' ' Lose my luck,' he repeated sardonically. He turned to the window, for the band bad begun to play in the bail-loom across the street. What a glorious merry burst! One end of the long ball-room faced this street The large glowing windows were nearly opposite where he sat. He could see figures crossing the light spaces — magnificently dressed women and distinguished-looking men. Many famous beauties and noted men will grace General Montcalm's inaugu ration ball. What happy faces ! Ah ! there are two young men he knows well- And there is Vaughn, now upon The Times, formerly one of his confreres in the poor dead Battlee. Would he himself were dead. He had wished this often of late. He has done more than wish With that reckless disgust of life which strangely enough assails the young more than the otd, in time of trouble, he has thought of death as a refuge. He has planned to take his own life. But bow ? His keenly sensitive nerves shrink from the' thought of pain, his imagination recoils from the vision of death and the grave. He tries to think of some way to die painlessly. Concentrated prnasic acid. Yes, that kills with the swiftness of lightning, but how to obtain it ? No druggi3t will S6ll such deadly poison. A shot through the brain or the breast ? But what if this trembling hand sent the leaden messenger through a part not vital? People had lived with balls in their lungs — lived to suffer through long years. People have lived with bullets im bedded in their brainB— - lived to be idiots or paralytics — fate worse, than death ? To open a veia and bleed to death, they had told him was almost painless, but he could imagine the eickening horror of watehine your own life blood flow ont in a
great crimBon jet. Then the faintness — the numbness seizing tho limbs, the body the heart. If one might inhale an anaesthetic the instant the vein was opened, and be insensible to the gush of one's red life, the sickness 'the numbnes? ! Penknife and chloroform — these would do the death business painlessly. ~ The ghastly thought flashed into his fevered brain an he sprung to his feet, maddened by the merry music — the brilliant scene painted on the darkness of the night, in which his own cay insouciant set moved happy, and heedless of his misery. He must have a drink. There was Lottie's little gold dollar. He had it -clinched in his palm. It was for * luck ', she had said. Well, luck was gone for ever. The charm had not worked — let the talisman go. He crashed his hat over his eyes and went ont into the street. He -would not enter one of the glittering fashion able (!) liquor shops He might meet some one who knew him. He harried down the side. walk and turned into another street. (SO SB CONTOTdfiwJ ? ' ? *~ ?