Chapter 115567064

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Chapter Number2. XX.
Chapter TitleA CRISIS.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115567064
Full Date1891-08-22
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count3421
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleFreeman's Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1932)
Trove TitleHand and Ring
article text

HAND AND 'RING. - . ?

By A. K. Gbeen.

BOOK IT. THE 'WEAVING OF A WEB. Chapter XX. A CRISIS.

Queen.— Alas, how is 't with you, That you do bend your eye on vacancy, And with the incorporal air do hold discourse ? Touc bedded hair, like life in excrements, Stouts up and stands on end. Whereon do you look ? Hamlet. — On him ! On Lira ! Look you how pale he glares ! His form and cause conjoin' d3 preaching to stone?, Would make them capable. — Do not look upon

Lest, with this piteous action, you convert My stern effects : then, what I have to do Will want true colotar ; tears, perchance, for blood. — Hahi/et. Tsas my coadovo may understand even bettor fthon JB^L'd and Hiclsory how it was that Imogens qqejo to write this letter, I must ask them to eooaidor certain incidents 4hct bod occurred ia D quartos £qb ffosBoved £som the syo o!c the de fectives. Me. Gfeutt'c mind hod never boon afc rest con ooraing the peculiar ofciitacSo assumed hy Jmogone Bare at the time o£ Mrs. Clemmens'a murder. Time nud thought had not mode it any more possible $02 him to bolievo novr than then that olio knew anything o£ toe matter beyond what DppeDffod to the gsneral eye : but h& eould nofc gorget £ha sing. It hcoDtod him. Fifty times D day ho asked himoeli what she had meant by eloimiag ao hoi? own a jewel which had been pieked ap £l3oq3 the flooe of a strange boaao at a time so dreadful, and which, ia despite of he? osplaaations to Mm, lie found it impoaaible to bolisvo wdd hsifQ op over eo-aid have been hes?s P Ho ^od ovoa tempted to oofe ho? ; but he neves did0 The 'v/okIo wonld mot come. Though they golteod Ggaia Dad again upon his Iip5s he could nofi £-ivo 'uttoffDEioo to them ; do, though with ovspy poesiag day he 2eU that the bond uniting 3ao2 to him was g?owing wealxes aad weokeF, Dnd fi&cst i£ GOEBofcbiog did nofc sooa inteevoae to oofobliola confidence between them, ho worald grosesfcly Jos© oil hop© of ths treasure for tbo poaoQDoioa of which he woa sow Feady to boEtou DW07 EsdI£ fche Eosaiiiniag yocxs of his life. Hob iaoroooing teticeaca, end the almost stony J0.0I1 ol miossy- that now confronted him. without Jet op hindsonee horn has? wide grey eyeo, were ao& ©aleelafeed to ffeaosiu'e him or moire his inatciEO psospocto look any brighter, Het? pain, i£ pnio it wG?o, op i-emorsp, i£ josnorse it could bo, woo Eofc of a kind to Seel the influence of time ; aod, stimels with diomny, alaraodin spite o£ himcalFj, if not fos hes season ot leaot for hia owa, ho wctehod hoi1 horn dcy to doy, feelioR that how ho would give hio life not merely to pocDooo feo^ but to andesotaad he? and the aooret that we 3 gnawing at hoi? hoatt. At loot thoga oamo a day when ho could no longoff i?esti?DiE himoolf. She had beea oeated in hia peaaenoe, and had boen handed a lettet? which £oe tho moment thopoQRhly seemed to ovep vr&elsH hop. Wo know what that letteu woo. It was tho nolo which had boon dqq4 ns a docop by the dotsetivo Hickory, but which oho fend eo saooou to doabt was a real communication 'horn OediIx MGaaellj degpite the Qtsonge handwsiting op tho QQvolope- It preyed her foe an inter view. It set the time and mentioned the place off meeting, and created foe the inotcnt sach a ^Qsmoil in bee noually steady b^aia that ohe eould not Jiide it Srom the oecvehing eyea fchat wotehed hos. 3 What in it, ImogeneP' inquired Mp. Oi'ontt, eluawiBg neae hop with a goBtoee o? onch uDoon teolloblo aasiety it looked ao if he we?e obonfc to DQateh tho lottos from ho? hand. Fob soply she jooe, walked to the grate, in which 0 low wood firs wqq baening, and plaDged Isho paper is amonft the oogIq. When it wos all ooHoumeds she tuvnQd and faced Mr. O?cutt. ? You moot excuse me,' ohe snurmared ; ' but tho letter wqd ono which I absolutely deofrod no oao to ego/ But he did net oeem to hoar her cpology. He Dtood with hia rqso fixed on the fipe, and his Imnt! clenched o^ain9t his heart, as if aomothing in tho foto of that wretched oheet of paper re saindad him of the love and hopo that were DheivellinR op before his syoo. She saw hio look oad drooped her head with d noddon low moan of mingled ohome and Daffior SDg. * Am I Mlliag yott ?' ohe Jointly oried. ' Are 33y otFDDgo, wild wayo driving you to despair P I tmd not thought o£ fhat. ' I Dm 00 solfisb, I had aot thought 0? that !' Thia ovidoBCG of foeiinR, the Srsfc ohe had ovor olaowo him, moved Mr. Orcutt deeply. Ad voaoiog toward har, with ouddeni pcoaion, ho Uook feGr by the hand, 4 Killing E3o ?' ho ropaatod. { Yea, yon ore killing eao. Djn'fc 50a see Jiov? fott I am grow ing old P Don'b you qgo hov/ tho daot Hod thiok apon tho boolio that uood to he my foIoco and delight P I do not uadof atond 50a, Imogens. I love yoH oad I do not understand yooi' gfief, or ?c^hefc it io that io offectinp^ yon in thia torrible \7ay- Tell me. Let me know tho nature of tho KOBoso with which I have to contend, and I can hoox all tho ussfc.' Tfoio oppoQl, foL'aod no it woo froas lipc unused £0 prayer, cooecc! to otnho hor, obuorbod though ?ho r:,'C:3 io hou own anEopnp,. Looking nt Mm vj'ith i-'ori sosocji'ss, oho teied to cponk, but the 'w7c'jf;G ffcluouafl oa liou toQgEO. Thoy osmo ofc lz% bOv70VO!?, Dnfl ISO liGuB{l liOB DDy I

' I wish I ooald woop, if only to chow yoa I em not utterly devoid 0* womanly nympothy foi' pn DDguiuh I cannot cure But tho fountain of my tf ara is dried at ito nouyco. I do not think I can ever weep cgaia. I om condomood to trend a path of mioorj? and doopoir, and must tr^vorco it to tho oad without wooknoes and without help. Do not ask rao v?hy, £or 1 can aover tell you. And do not detain mo now, ov try to make me talk, for I nmofc go where I can bo nlono and ailent.' She wqq olipping away, but ho caught her by tho wriot and drew her back. His pain and per plexity had roachad their olimos. ' Yoo mast apeak,1 ho oried, 'I have pcltared long enough with thia mattoi?. You must tell me what it ia that ia deotroying yous hoppineoo and mine.' Bat her eyep, taming towards him, Deemed to echo that * mum' in a look of disdain eloquent enoagh to scorn all help from wordo, and ia the indomitable dotermination of her whole aspect he saw that ho might glny her, but that ho could never moke her opoab. Loosing her with a gesture of despair, ho turned away. When he glanced back again ohe woo gone. The regalfc of this interview waa naturally on increaaed doubt and anxiety on his part. He could aofc attend to his duties with any degroa of precision, b© was so h&unted by uneasy tur misaa qq to what might have beea the contents of the letter which he had thus seen her destroy before hia eyes. As for her wordsj they tvsro like her conduct, ass inaolvable mystery, for which he hod do key. His failure to find her at iiosne when be re £a?ned thnfc night added to bis alarm, ecpecially as he remembarecl tho vivid thunder-otovm that hod delngsd the town in the afternoon, 'Nov, though aha came in ve?y soon and offered both spouses and explanations for her absence, did he Gspetience any appreciable relief, or feel at all satisfied that he was not threatened with some oeeret and terrible catastrophe. Indeed, the air of vivid and feverish excitement whioh pervaded every look of hers from thia time, making each morning aad evening distinctive in his memory as a oenson of fresh feos? and re newed suopoase, woo enough of itself to arouse this sense of an unknown, but surely approach ing danger. He saw she waa on the look-out for some event, he knew not wba*, and studied tho papers os sedulously as Qhe, in the hope of coming upon some revelation that should lay bare the secret o? this new condition of uera. At lost he thought he had found it. Coming home one day frora the court, he called her into his presence, and, without pause or pre amble, exclaimed with olmo&t cruel abrupt 5 An event of possible interest to you has juat taken place. The murderer of Mrs. Clemmens b,QO just cut his throa1'.' He saw before he had finished the first clause that ho had struck at the very citadel of her -e'- rors and her woe, At the end of the second sentence ho knew, beyond all doubt now, what it was she had been fearing, if not expecting. Yet ohe said not a word, and by no movement betrayed that the steel hod gone through and through her heart. A demon— tbs maddening demon of jealonoy —gripped him for the first; time with relent .less force. ' Ah, yon have been looking for it ?' ho ovied in a choked voice. ' You knew this mont then —knew him, perhaps, before the murder of Mro. Clemmens: knew him, and— ant), peehaps, loved himP' She did not reply. He struck his fovohead with hia hand, cs if the moment was perfectly intolerable fo him. ' Anower,' he cried. ? Did you know Gouver near Hildreth or not p1 ' G-ouvevneur Hildreth p' Oh, the sharp sur prise, the wailing anguish of her tone ! Mr. Orcutt stood amazed. 'It ia not he who has made this attempt upon his life!— not he !' she shrieked, like one appalled. Perhaps because all other expression or emotion failed him, Mr. Orontt broke forth into a loud and borrowing laugh. ' And who oloe should it beP' he cried. ''What other man stands accused of having murdered Widow Clemmens P You are mad, Imogene ; you don't know what you say or what you do/ ' Yes, I am mad,' she repeated — 'mad !' end leaned her forehead forward on the beck of a high chair benido which she had been standing, and hid her faoo and struggled with herself for a moment, while the clock went on ticking, and the wretohad surveyor of her sorrow stood looking at her bended head like a mon who does not know whether it is he or she wqo is in most danger of losing hia reason. At last a word smuggled forth from between her clasped handp. 4 When did it happen ?' she gasped, without lifting her bond. ' Tell me all about it, I think I can understand.' The noted lawyer smiled a bittos.1 smile, Dad apoko fos? the first time, without pity ond with out moroy, ' He hao been trying for oome dayo to offeot hio death. Hio arrest ami the little prospect those is of his escaping trial aeem to bavo mad dened hia gentleEacsly brain. Firoarsao wore not procurable, Boithoy v/cd poison no?!? a vope, but a powEor plato io oaough in tbo boudo of a doopo.ato man. Ho broke one in tv70 last night1, and - — -' Ho paucod, siok and hori'ov-steicken. Hen1 foeo had rioon upon him From tho buck of tho choh'f end won staving upoa him liko that oS a Medunn. Before that gaao tho fleoh crept oa his boneo and the breath of life Eofaood to pi^a hio lip?. Gazing afc her with giuing horroi1, ho ddv/ her atony lipo alor/ly part, ' Dou't {^0 oq,' oho whispered, ' 1 ona 000 it all without the Xiolp o£ vordo.' ThoBp m a tono tbofc qoomscl to eomo 2som como fog-o£[ world

of nfghfcmapo, she painfnlly gasped, ? Is ho dead P' Mr- Orcult was a man who, np to tho last year, had ticvai- k.-;ov7n wh^.t it was to experience a renl and controlling cmotioa. Li?o with hire bad meant sacceao ia public ailh'vs, end a cer'ain oocial pi'G-aminonco that Kc.de his prcs?nce in ony place the signal of admiring Icolis and re spectful attentiono. But lot no man think thct, because bis doom dolayo, it will neyor come Pasoioao such ao he had deprecated in others, and desires ouch as ho believed impossible ti himself, had seized upon him with ungovernable power, and in this moment especially he felt Mn- seif yielding to their sway with no more power of reoishnoo than a puppet experiences in the grasp of a whirlwind. Meeting that terrible eye of herp, burning with anxiety for a man ho despised and hearing that ogonizad question from lips whose [touch he had never kaown, he experienced a sudden wild and almost de moniac temptation to hurl beck (he implacable 1 Yob' that he felt certain would strike her liko a dead woman to tho ground. But the hornd impuls9 passed, and, with a qu'ck remembronce of tho clQims of honour upon ens bearing hio Duffle and owning his history he controlled him self with c great resolution, and merely dropping; his eyes from aa anguish he daifed no longer coa fron^, QDSJ/ered, quietly: ''No; ho has huit himself severely and has disfigured his good l:oka fo? lifo, but he V7ill not die : or S3 the phyaiciors think.' A loag, deep, shuddonag sigh swept through the room, 'Thank God !' enmo from herhpp, and then all was quiet again. He looked up in haste ; ho could not banr the silence. 'Imogenee — — =' he bogan, buf; instantly paused in surprise at the change which had taken place in her expression. 5 What do you intend to do P' waa hia quick demand. 'You look as I have neves; soen yen look be fore.' -? 'Do not ask me !' she returned. eI hove to words fo? whut I am going to do. What you must do is to aee that G-oavevnsur Hildfeth is released from prison. He '-Q not' guilty, mind yon ; he never committed this c?im3 of which h& is suspected, and in the shame of which ens picion be has this day attempted his life. If he is kept in the restraint which is ao humiliating to him, and if he dies there, it will be muvdor - do you hear P osurdor ! Aad he will die there if he ia no'o released ; I know his feelings only too well.' 'Bat, Imogene — -' ' Hush ! don't orgae. 'Tig a matter 0? life and death, I tell you. He mu3t be released ! I know,' she wenfc oas hurriedly, ' wh^t it is you want to say. You think you cannot do this ; that the evidence is all against him ; that he ^ent to pri. oa of his own free will and cannot hope for releass till his guilt or innocence has been properly inquired into. Bat I know yoa can efbet his enlargement if yoa will. You oro a lawyer, and understand all the crooks and tuTno by which a man can sometimes bo made to evade the grasp of justice. Us a your know ledge. Avail yourself of your inflaence with the authorities, and I ? ' she paused and gave him D long, long look. He was ct her side in an iDsfcant. ' You would — what P' he ened, taking her hand in Ms and pressing it impulsively. ' I would grant you whatever you ask,' she murmured, in a weariful tone, 'Would you be my wife ?' he paGS:oaately in quired. ?Yeo/ was the choked reply ; 'if I did not die fiiot.' He caught bos to hio breast in rapture. He knelt at her side and threw aia arms about her waist 'You shall Hot die,' ho cried. 'You nhall liva and be happy. Only marry me to-day.' 'Rot till Gouverneur Hildrsth. be released,' she interposed, gently. He started as if touched by a galvanic buttery, and slowly rose up and coldly looked at her. ' Do you love him i?o madly yon would sell yoursolf fo? his sake P' he sternly de manded. With G quick gesture she threw bock her head as though the indignant 'No' that sprang to her lips would fhsh out whothei1 she would o? not. But she restrained heisslf in time. 'I cannot onower,' ohe returned. But he woo master now — mister of thin dominating spirit that bed held him in check for eo long a -ime, aud he was net to be put off. 'Yoa must answer,' he sternly commanded. ' I have the right to know the extent of you? feeling for this man, ond I will. Do you love him, Imogone Dare? Tell me, or I here swear that I will do nothing for him, either bow or nt a time when he may need my assistance more than you know.' This throat, uttered os he uttered it, could have but one efteefr. Turning aside, so that ho should not see the shuddering revolt in her eyes, she meohanically whispered : 'And what if I did P Would ifc bo go very strange P Youth admires youth, Mr. Orcutfc, and Mr. Hildreth io very handsome and very un fortunate. Do aot oblige me to say more.' ^ Mr, Oi'cutt, oerona whose face d dozen diffe TOnfc emotiono had flitted during the uttei'aaceof these fow words, drew back till half the distance o£: the room lay between them. 5 ISTor do I wish to hoar any move/ he rojoinod, slowly. ' You bovo oaid enough, qaite euouftfa. I understand bow all the past— all your terror ?- and oil your coce'oe doubta and ancccoautablo behaviour. Tbe saaa you loved was in daogor, cud yoa did nofc know hov/ to menogo his Eoloooe. Woll, well, I eta oosry for yoa, Imogcmo. I wish I could holp you. I lore yon pafoioaotoly, cud would ma'ko you my wife in £aco o£ your aifousioa 2ov thia iiiiiH ii 1 coaid do £ov you what you ifbqiioot. But it io imposDi'wlo. ifovoi1 dtisiag tho wisolo codsdo o£ say ecwou Iidq a blot

rested npoa my integrity cs 0 lawyer. I am knov?n as an honest man, and honest will I le niain known to the last. Besideo, I eonld Jo nothing to effect his enlargement if I tried. Nothing but the plainest proof that he is inno cent, or that another man is guilty, would avail now to release him from the suspicion which his own admissions have aroused,' 'Then there io no hope?1 was her slow and despairing reply, 'None at presant, Imogene/ waa his stern, al mo t rs despairing answer. As Mr. Orcutt sat ovez his lonely hearth that evening a savant beought to him the following letter : 'Dear Emend,— It io not fit that I should ree3,au any longer under yoar roof, I have a dufy before me which soparatao me for eve? from the friendship and protection of hoaonroble men end women. No home but tush oa I can provide for myself by the work of my own hands sball henceforth shelter the d:s^?aced head o£ Imogens Dorr?. Her fate, whatever it may prove to be, she bears alone, and you, who have been 00 kind, snail never ouffor from any asoociation with one whose name must henceforth become the sport of the crowd, if not the execration o£ the visMuoup. If your generous heart rebels at thia, choke it relentlessly down. I shall be al ready gone when you Bead these lines, and no» thing yoa eould do or say would make me come back. G-ood-bye, and may Heaven grant you ro?getfulaess of one whoae only return to your benefactions hao been to make you Qnff.ee al most as much ao she snffero hasself.' As Mr. Orcutt read these last linec. District Atttraey Ferris was unsealing the anonymous missive which hao already be£n laid bafore my readers. (To he continued.)