Chapter 160789171

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Url
Full Date1889-05-25
Page Number43
Word Count1013
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleThe Sexton's Secret
article text






The Russian Sexton sfiook his head reso lutely. "It won't do," he said, "1 can't agree to the plan, bahrin (an expression denoting? respeot), no matter in whioh way I look at the affair. No, no, bahrin," came in, however, no hesitating fashion. " Your asking too much, and that's the truth, of an

old man like me."

Again the heavy raowflakeB drifted in the speaker's face, as with scooping shoulders he stood there in the preBenoe of his companion, who had thns sought him ont in hia simple peasant's hat at that late evening hoar.

The stranger had declined entering. Pos sibly he preferred speaking of that whioh had served to bring him there to~night ont of doors, beneath the broad open canopy of


" Absurd," was the sharp retort, " That's too rldionlous. The very ideal A sexton refuses a certainly unusually good bribe."

"Well, you see," came in response, "it doesn't altogether seem to me-as an expe rienced sexton, yoa understand-that it's quite a safe business, then. Difficulty might come out of it. And then "

"And then-what would become of Deme trieff, the sexton! That's where the shoe pinches; isn't it V

" Where shonld we both be ? That's more likely to be the question?" was again the sharp retort. The other laughed, glanced about him a moment as if somewhat irritated by the old man's stubbornness, and then


" Fifty roubles is a good price, old man, for having absolutely nothing more to do than keep a quiet tongue in yonr head."

" Ay, ay. Bat jast suppose the tongues of other folks don't keep quiet, what then, bahrin t The result might not then be quite so pleasant for myself."

" What 1 Yoa think I might break faith with you {" and again the other laughed.'

*' No; but others might," oame slowly and impressively,

" That's all nonsense. The seoret lies be tween our two selves-yon and I. No one else in all this wide earth will ever be the wiser for it."

There was a pause, the Sexton evidently felt himself in the horns of a dilemma. Fifty roubles down was certainly a temptation. Such a sum might probably never agaia be thus thrust in his path.

The next moment he had decided.

" All right, then," he said, at last; with the least possible amount of trepidation in his manner, " If it must be BO then, it mast. To-morrow morning, then, bahrin. And punc tually,"

The stranger's purpose was aooompliehed, and it seemed as if he cared little to wwte further words upon the matter which h»d served to bring him that bitterly frosty snow olad eve within the shadow of the thick pine


" We shall meet again, then," he observed abruptly, already moving away from Deme triefi's door. " Bear in mind, however," and the stringer bad retraoed his steps a moment -" it will be to yonr own advantage, always, to be true to yourself in this affair. Should you ever dare to reveal our secret-for it is ours, reoollect-the law will simply take its own course. Yon have officially, went on the stranger, "agreed to carry oat my plan. I-remember again-am only a private indi


"It's too late to draw baob now," was the IsBt parting shot dealt him by the Sexton. " So, good evening, bahrin."

" A queer sort of case," mused the old man as he once more crept shiveringly towards his grimy-looking stove and chafed his sbrivelled-np fingers before its, at thiB moment, open doorway. " Bat I may as well go through with the affair-why not?" and the words fell with an air of oalm reflection. " Fifty roubleB ate & fortune 1 Ha I-ha ! It's a blessing, though, that Lisa was absent to-night. Yes, the secret is my own," he went on soliloquizing, now somewhat cheerily; " and, what s more, nothing earthly will now serve to drag it out of me, Eh, you, Lisa, child I" and he started now as if considerably Beared, glanoing around him meanwhile right and left: " why, I thought yoa had not yet returned from the Tillage,"

"A pleasant surprise, isn't it,dear father!" was the simple, pretty answer.

" Strange 1" as the few idle village loiterers remarked carelessly to on* another the fol lowing day, whilst standing by an inBtant and watching the scene that was being enac ted within that ancient time-honoured ceme tery, " Not one of us can call to memory the woman who lies buried here. One thing, however, is pretty dear-that the individual who after such a lone lapse of time thus takes it into his head to pay honour to the dead, does so certainly in handsome fashion. It's a costly ornament to erect in an old fashioned sort of place like this."

Thus whispered some of the few curious


When, however, they presumed to question the Sexton on the subject their cariosity was soon allayed. " The lady died Bome years ago, as you see," was the answer, " and family circumstances occurred which made it ^impossible at the time to ereot any fitting monument to her memory. That's the story, my friendB; and now you know all

about it.

The workers engaged upon the task accom plished their part tolerably quickly. It was an easy piece of business to fix the already carefully-prepared stonework.

And then, when the Bkilled workmen had completed everything and taken their depar ture, the Sexton was once more left alone.

The brief inscription which now stood be fore him-indited, of coarse, in Bussian characters-served only in a small degree - to enlighten his darkness regarding the matter in question

*' In memory of Icodore, the wife of Cyril Cyrilovitch."

The date also was of coarse duly appended.

' Humph 1 I can't say I'm muoh wiser than 1 was before," soliloquized the reader gruffly, turning away disappointedly as he spoke.