Chapter 115567601

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Chapter Number1. II.
Chapter Url
Full Date1891-05-16
Page Number4
Word Count3397
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleFreeman's Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1932)
Trove TitleHand and Ring
article text


.By A. K. Green.


?' Her step was royal — queen-like.' Longfellow. Tt WuS now half-post one. An hone and 0 half hid elapsad since the mdotf had boen laid upon her bed, and to all appeoranco tio change had taken place in her condition. 'Within the zoom where oba Icy wofq collected the doctor nod 0D6 nv tvrn nfliVhbnnpn of tho ferrmla S5S, who

watched every, breath obe dret7. and stood ?eody to notice the slightest e&onge in the atony face that, dica vyith the shodnv? ol death, t-taved apon them from the umufHed pillows. In tho sitting-room Lav7?eF Oeutt convened in 0 oab dued voice vyith Mr. Ferris, in s-egozd to such incidents o£ the rcidow'a life as hod come under Ms notieo ia tfao joato of thei? doily companion ship, while the ei'oud about tho gate ventod theis? iatai'o&t in loud esclomationa o£ urath against the tramp who had been found, and feho unknown humpback who had not. Out otory leads aa to the erocyd in hont 'I -don't think ohe'U ovee come to,' oaid one, who ffoca his dnsty coat might have been a smiles. ' Blows like that haven't much let-up about them.' 'Doctor onys she will di© before morning,' put in a pei't young miso, anxious to have hes? voice 'heard. ? Then it v?ill be murder and no mistake, and that brute oi 0 tremp trill baoft do high os Hainan.' ? DoD't condemn 0 man before you've had 0 chance to hear what he has to soy for himself,' cried another in c strictly judicial tone. i Hov? do you knovy as he came to thia houne at all ?' ? Mis* Perkins aays he did. ond Mpo. Phillipo too ; tboy saw him go into the (rote.1 'And whot also did they see? I smmint ho wasn't the only beggav thafc was rooming roand this mopnicg.' ?No; thes'Q was a tin peddles1 in the ptpeet, foe I sav/ Mm my owe oelf, and Mfs. Olarameno standing io the door flouriohinfj bes? broom at him. She rcos mighty chopfc with onch follro. Wouldn't woados? if oosae of the unholy wpotchoQ killed hep OBfc of spits. Thoy'se a uielsod Jot, the whole of them.' ? 'Wider? Clemmeno had a qaiefe temper, hnt she hod q mighty good hoovt notmthotanding. See how kind she vrna to them HabbslG.' 'And hoT7 hard oho was to that Pratt gipl.' ' Well, I bnov7s but——' And do en, and 00 on, in 0 ham sod a basa about the head of Mr, Bysd, who, engaged in tfcoaghfc aeeminoily far removed from the subject ia hand, ofcood leaning against the xeaeo, oaselsps and inaouciant. Suddenly these ^aa o lall, thea a ohoH e^y, then a womon'o vo:ee i;ose cloap, yxnging, Dad commanding, aad Mr. Bysd eaught tho follow ing wofdo : . ? What io thia I hear ? M?o. Clemmena dead P Stffuek dov/n by some wandorinft tsamp ? IVEuf dered ond io he? own houoe P' In an inettmt, every eye, inelttdiog Mp. Bysd'e, x?w fixed ^pon the speobei*. The cro^d parted, and tho yoting girl, t7ho hod spoken from the steeet, cdiqqo into the sots. She wos a remarkable-looking pe?ooa. Tall, large, and majestic in evovy pyoportioa of be unnouolly noble figuse, she was o? 0 make ond possessed a beatiDg to ottra-t attention had she borne a less sfcrikiog and baautifal countenance. Ao it was, the glance lingepad but a momfiit on the grand otifveo Dad lithe lovalineps of that mateh leB8 figate, and passed at onee to the face. Once these, it did not ooon zander ; foi' though ita beauty ivros iacontcsfcablo, the something thct ley behind that beauty vja^ mope incontestable Still, ond held you, in spite of yourself, long after yon had become acquainted \7\th the broad, white brow, the elea?, deep, changing grsy eye, tho straight but chopootefiptic nose, end the ?nc!dy, aepvoun lip. You felt that, young and beautiful as she was, and charming as flbe might be, she was also one of natafe'o insoluble myotenes— a woman whom you might study, obey, afore, but whom you could never bope to undorotaod ; a Sphinx without an OEdipuo. She wao dreaoed in dark green, and held hep gloves in her hand. Hep appearance was that of. one who had been profoundly startled. 'Why don't Romeone answer meP' ohe aslred, after Dn in&toot'o pause, seemingly unconacioua that, ol'ke to thooe who knew ber and to tho^e who did not, hev air and manne? were such ao to naturally impose sileaee, ' Muat I go in'o the house in ovdoi? -o dad oat if thio good woman is dead 0? not P' ' Su?e ohe isa't dood yet,' spoke up a brawny butcher-boy, bolder than the sent. ' But she's sose huet, mifs, and the dootoss say oa these io no hope.' A change impoaoibJe to undevofand pofsed 076? the girl's faeo. Had oho been leoo vigorous of body, obe woxild hove ntoggered. Ao it was, she stood still, rigidly ofcill, and oeemed to oum xaon up her facultiep, till the very clinch of her fingeya spoko of tho strong control she waa potting up on heroelf. ? It is dreadful, dreadful !' slio murmured, this time in b whiopor, and oc if to Dome rising pro test in her own soul. ' J^o good can come of it, mono.' Thoa, aa if av/olceaing to the oeeno about hef, shook hoy bend and cried to thooo neiireot : ? It was 0. tromp who did it, I ouppooe ; ofc least, I om told go.' 4 A tramp has boen took up, miser, on onopicioD, as they eoll it.'

' If a tramp has been taken up en ooopicioo, then ho wes tho one who oooailod hor, oi couroo.' And pcs'iing 01 thoaab tho crowd that fell back o;ill more a^f-otruek thao before, she weLt into tho hocso. The murmur that folio (7ed ha? w?a anbdned but univorsil. It made ao imppesjiou on Mr. Bjrd. Ho had leaned forward to watch tho girl's retracting form, bufc finding his view in tercepted by tho wrinkled profile 01 an old crono who hGd leaned forward too, had drawn im patiently back. Something in that esoao'o a god face made him address her. 'Yon know the lady ?' he inquired. ' Ye?,' T7ao the cautious roply, givoo, however, with a leas he Sound net altogether pleaoant. 'She io a relative of. tho injured woman, or a friend, perhaps ?' The old woman's faoe looked frightful. ' No,' she muttered grimly ; ' they Era stran gers.' At this unexpected reoponse M-. Byrd made a pareaptible start forward. Tho oli woosaa'd hand fell at onee on hio ai'SH. ' Stay !' sho hoarsely whispared. 'By ctrcn gero I mean they don't vi°ifc each other. The town is too small for any of us to be stu'anf-ero.' Mr. Byrd nodded and escaped her clutch. ' This iD wojih seeing throogh,' he murmured, with the first gleam of interest he had ohown in the affair. And, hurrying forward, he suc ceeded in following the lady into the houso. The sight he met there did not tend to, al lay hio new-born interest. There she stood in iho centre of the sitting-room -tall, resolute, and commanding, her eyes 6sed on the door of tho room that contained the still breathing sufferer — Mr. Orcutt'o eyes fixed upon her. It Deemed ao if she hod asked one question and been answered ; there hnd not boea time for more. 8 1 do not know what to say in apology for my intrusion,' Bhe remarked. 'But the death, or almost the death, of a peroon of whom wo have all heard seems to ma so terrible that——' But here M?. Orcutt interrupted gently, el moat tenderly, but with a fatherly authority which Mr. Byrd espeoted to see her respect 8 Imogen©,' he oboerved, ' fchio io no place for you ; the hoiroi? of tho event frao made you for get yourself ; go home and fcruofc me to tell you on my rataro. all that it ia advisable for you to kaow,' But she did aofc evess moefc his glaaoa X7ith hai1 otsody eyes, ' Thank you,' ohe protected ; bat I ooanot go till I have oeea the place where thia woebqb fell and the weapon with which ohe woo struck. I want to oeo it all. Mr. Ferao, will you show sbq P' Aad without giving any rsaooa for this osteoordinaBy Beqaeot, she ofce-od waiting with that oir o£ eoa= ssiouQ QUthosity which io oomotimeo given by great beauty whoa united to c distiDguishod pes° oonal prsiseae©. The District Attorney, tokoa aback, saoved toward tho dining-stora door, ' I will eonnulfc with the coroner,' said be. Bat ohe waited fog no man's leave. Follow ing clooe behind him ohe entered apon fcfoe eceBo oi the tragedy. ' Where was tho pco? woman hit P' she in quired. They told her ; they ohowed hei? all she de» sfaod and esked hoe no queGfeiona. She owed them, all but Mr. Orcutt— him ohe both os fconished oad alarmed. ' And a tramp did all this ?' ohe finally ex claimed, in the odd, amusing tone she hod used onee before, while her eyes fell thoughtlessly to the floor. Suddenly ohe started, or so Mr. Byrd fondly imagined, aad moved a pace, set ting Q6r foot carefully down upan a eortain spot in the carpet beaeoth her. ' She boa spied something,' he thought, and watched her to see if she would stoop. But dc, Qhe held heroelf still more erectly than before, and seemed, by hep rather desul tory inquiries, to be striding to ©ngege the at tention of the otheisfrom herself. ' There io oomeone surely tapping at this door,' she intimated, pointing -o the one that opened into the lane. Dr. Tredwell moved to oee. 'Io there not?' oho repeated, glancing at Mr. Ferrio. He, too, turned to see. But there wos atill an eye regarding her from bohind the sitting-room door, and, perceiving it, ohe impatiently coaoed her efforts. She wag not mistakca about the tapping. A man was at the dost whom both seemed to kDow. ' I come from tho tavern where they are hold ing this tracjp in custody,' announced fcho aew comor in a voice too low to penetrate into the rr otn. ' Ho in frightened almost out of his wits. S^ema to think he ws.s taken up for theft', and makes do boneo of Baying that ho did take a spoon or two from 0 house where he was let in for a bite. He ^evo up the spoono and expects to go to gaol, bat saems to hav« no ideG that any worse suspicion is hanging over him. Thoae that stand around think he is innocent of the murder.' ' Humph ! well, we will see,' ejooulafced Mr. Perns ; and, turning back, he met, with a cer tain aos-t of complacence, the eyes of the young lady who had boon, somewhat impatiently await ing his appearance, ' It oeesao there arc doubtg, aftei? all, about the temp being tue aosoilant.' The otast fhe gave woo oudden and involun tory. She took a otep forward and then paused as if liODitating. Instantly, Ms. Byrd, who had not forgotten tho omall object sho had boen oovoi'iDg with her foot, countered leiourely for ward, and, spying 0 ring oa tho floor where she had been otending, unconcernedly picked it up. Sho did not gooeq fco aofcico him. Looking at Mr. Ferris with oyos whooo startled, if no$ alDrmcd, expression sho did not ouccoed in hid ing irjotn tho detective, ohe isiquired iu 0 s.ifled VOiop : 1 What clo yoB moan P Whot Isno fcliiq man

boon tolling yoc P You say ' it woe not the temp. Wlso, fihoa, woo itP' ' That io o queotioa ws cannot onawot1/ re joined Mr. Fdi-rio, aatoniahod at hor heat, while Lqw^op O.-oaffc, moving forward, attempted onoe Qjo vo to i'eoall har io horoalf. 4 Imogeno.' ho ploaded— ' Imogens, cqIeq youroolf. This io not a mafitor oi 00 much im postanee to you that you need agitate yoafBolf uo violently ia regard to it. Come, come, I be ooeeh you, and Ioqvo tho affaii s of jusfcico to the attentsoo of thooc whoao duty it is to look nfter them.' But bejond acknowledging big well-meont interferonco by a deprecatory glauee, she slod immovable, lookiag from Dr. T^edwell to Mr. Ferris, and bock again {0 Dp. Tredwell, cs if ohe oought in 'their face (some confirmation of a hideous doubt or feop that had orison in her own mindo Suddenly she felt a touch on her arm. 'Exonaa me, madam, but io th's yoars?1 inquired a smooth and careless voice ove? her shoulder. Ao though awakening from c draam ahe tuvned ; they all turned. Mr, Byrd wua hold iag out in hia palm a ring blazing with a dia mond of no mean lustre or value, Tho sight of onch a jewel, presented at such a moment, completed the aotoniohnient of her fnondo. Propsing forward, fkry stared! at the coofcly ornament, aud thoa at her, Mr. Oroatt's face especially a9euming a otai'tlod osprocoioQ of minglod surprine and apprshenaion, that soon attracted tho attention 0^ tho othepa and led fco an interohanQO of looks shaft doao^od 0 mutual but Dot unpleaoant underotanding. (I found it at you? foet,' osplainod tho dotac tivo, otill ccFGlenoly, but with jnat that delicate ohtide of respect in hia voice .necessary to ex presn 0 gentleman's sense of prpsqmption in tbuo ocldrossiag a atrange and boaufiifal yonng lady. Tho tone, ii not the explanation, oaemed to calm her, ao powerful natures aro calmed in the stveBo of g auddea orisio. ' Thanlr you,' she returned, not -without oignQ of great owQefcnoDS in ho? look and mannes.1. ' Yen, it is mine,' ohe oddod olowly, Teaohinfj out her hand sad taking too ring. ' I tnuot havo dropped it wiJhouc Irnowiag it.' And meeting tho oye oi Me. Ofeufct Ssed upon hap with that startled look of inquiry already alladed to. sho fluohed, but ploosa the jewol nonchalantly on her fingep. This cool DopropriatioQ o£ comething he had no Eoaooo to boliovo hero Qtofcled the youthful dotsctive isameosarably. He had -aot ospooted ouch d ' doaouomenfe ' to fcho little ds?&ma he had proposed with oaoh quiot ooouvance, and tbocgli with the quick solf-contjol that distiimuiohed him he fo?bo?o to ohow bio ouspnoe, he aono the looo folt bafflod ond ill ct eaoe; nil the snore that the two gentlemen pseoont, who opp^ored to be the woet diointereoted in their regard for thio yoon^ lcdy Goemed to accept thia aofc on her pnsfc as gensinGj and thei'oforo aot to bo ques tioned. 6Itioa oliso that is loot,' tbonght ho. 'I hove mnde a mess o£ wy first unassisted eSorto at real detective work.' And, inwardly dio guoted with himself, he drew back into the other I'oom and took up his stand at a remote window, Tho Dligbfc otij? he mode in e?osQing the room Deemed to break a spoil ond rostore the mindo of all prooent fo their proper balaaoo. Mr Oreufcfc threw off tho shadow that had momen tarily distmbad hio quiet and coonred mien, and advancing once more held out his arm with even more kindneso than before, paying impres sively : ' Now you will suvaly consent to accompany me home. You cannot mean to remain here any longer, can you, imogeneP' Bat before oho could reply, before her hand could lay itself oa his arm, a sadden huah like thofc of awo passad solemnly through the room, and the physician, who hsd been net to watch over the dying gasps of the poor sufferer within, appeared on the threshold of the bedroom door, holding up hio hand with a look thai at once oommandod attention and awoke the moafe pain ful expectancy in She hearts of all who beheld him : ' She stirs ; ohe moveo her lipo,' ho QnnouocQd, and again paused, liatening. Immediately thero wao & ooiud from the dimnooa bshind him, a low sound, inarticulate at fieat, but preaontly gfowiag load enough and plain enough to be hoafd in the utmost receGseo of tho fufthermo9t room on that floor. 'Hand! ring!' was the burden 0? the short ejaculation they hoard. ' Bing ! hand !' till a oudden gasp cut short the fearful itesation, Gnd ail was ailent again. ' Great hanvena !' enme in nwa-atruols whisper' hom Mr. Ferris, ao he p*eas«d hastily toward the place f?om whenoo theas words had issued. Bat the physician at once s'opped oad silsneed him, 'She may speak again,' he oigc[esfcoc2. 'Wait.' But, though they listened breathlesoly, and with ever-growing suspense, no further break occurred in tho deep silence, and ooon the doctor announced ; ' She has sunk bock ?.nto hei? old ofcote ; she may rouse again and che may not.' Aq though roloaaad from aoms painful tension, the coroner, the Dioteiot Attorney, the detective all looked up. They found Miss Dqeq standing by tho open window, with her face turned to the lGndocapo, and Ml1. Oreult gazing at hoe with an ejipsetsioQ oi perplexity that hed almost the oppeDi'anoo ol diomoy. This look pnts^d ln otantly from tho lawyer's oouatonaucG as ho met tho eyeo of his foiondo, but .Mr. Byrd, who wds otill smiting undo? q sense of his lot© dexoat, could not but wonder what that Rentlsmaa had Sijen in Misb Dtivo during the period of their lots pfeooenpaUon, to coll up tiueh an ospreoDion to Lio noBally lioop tiad oompoood fooo. Sijo elials o£ hois white* bosjti oa fcfye yindow

sill told nothing; but when in a few moments later ahe turned towards them apQin, Mr. Byrd saw, or thought ho can-, the last lingering re mains of a greet horror fading out of hep eyes, and was sot ourpntied when ohe walked up to Mr. Orcutf, and aaid, somewhat hoa?sely : 'I wish to go home now. Thia place is c terrible one fco be in.' Mr. Oi'eutf-, who was only too elad to comply with her reqaefct, again ofFerad her hia arm, Bnt aasions as thoy evidently were to quit the house, they weio not allowed to do go without ex» poriGneing another shock, Jaat as they were passing tho d- or of the room whore the wounded woman lay, the phyoieian in attendance a^ain' appeared before them with that silently up lifted hand. 'Hush!' taid he; 'she stirs again. I think ab© h going to speak.' Oaca more tbafc torrible saopense held each and ovo?y ono enthralled ; ones moro that faint, inarticulate murmur eddied through the hous-1, growing gradually into apooch that this time took a form that cordled the blood of the lioteDoro, aad made Mr. G?eutt aad the soung woman at his side drop apart from each othes? an though a dividing sword had paesed between them* ?-* ' ' May the ven^eaace of Hoavsn light upoa the head o£ him who hes brought mo to this pass,' were the words that now fogo ringing and oloas ffom that bed of death. ' May the fate 4hat haa coma upon mo bo visited upon him caeaeues foe measure, blow fa? bloiv, death for death,' Strange and awe-iDspiring words, that drev7 \ pall ovoi3 that houae and made tho dullest person there gasp for breath. In the silence that fol lowed—a ailenee that could bo so It— the whit© faeeo o£ lawyou aad phyoician, coFoaer and de» teotivo, tuened and coofronted eaeh other, 'Bat the yoasjjj lady who lingered in their midat looked fit bo ona, turBod to no one. Shuddering and white, oho otood gazing before hor ao if oho already bohsld that xetnbufcivo hand desoend ing upon tho Ruilty ; then, ao eho awoko f o th© oilenee of thocs a?ound hop, gave & quick atart and fleshed forward to the door and so out into the otroot, boforo Ms. Orcutt could soudq him aelf etsffioieutly from the stupor of the moment V to follow her. '' (To bo continued.)