|Chapter Title||WITHIN THE CITY OFFICE.|
|Newspaper Title||Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Sexton's Secret|
WITHIN THB CITY OFFICE.
"Cyril Cyrilovitch is at the present moment engaged, ho bids me say."
It was the doorkeeper of one of the large city offices who thus responded to a some what hasty summons.
" Bat my business is urgent. Teli him so. He will exouse my entranoe when he knows the reason of it. " Here-come hurriedly give your master this slip of paper. It will serve to tell him who I am. Say that the bearer of this has just arrived in haste."
" Very well." But still the man hesi tated.
" I have no money to give you," oame oon fnsedly. "I am only a poor girl. Your master knows me."
A smile escaped the lazy dvornik'a (door keeper's) lips. " Cyril Cyrilovitch will aee you at once," was his next report. "Along the right corridor, please; and then first door on left."
Lisa passed swiftly onwards, No time was to be loBt.
" I am the bearer of an important message to you, Cyril Cyrilovitch," she began steadily -not too respeotfully either, it must be admitted-when onoe faoe to faoe with him
whose presence Bhe had thuB imperatively sought.
" A message for myself, Lisa 1 Well then, let me have it. I did not know, by-the-way,"
he added, carelessly, "that you had returned yet."
" I only lift Gratricieky yesterday." she re sponded ; nod her voice was for the moment hntky. "I have been travelling all night and only at rived an hoar ago in the great city."
" I see."
" My message is from the dead, Cyril Cyrilovitob."
He started a moment. The words were certainly not pleasant onea to whioh to listen.
41 Something fa wrong at hornet" and he had already risen to his feet. " My wife is ill?"
" Yon are mistaken, quite. I know nothing whatever about your home at present. For the last fortnight, as yon may perhaps remember, I have been engaged in nursing my poor father."
" Oh, yes; I had forgotten. He is better, I hope ?
He had then not noticed the new blaok dresB that told her tale,
" My father is gone where he will never know trouble more, or crnel temptation either," came with a marked tone of not only bitterness bat also contempt.
"Ah, yon have lost him 1 I'm sorry. Snoh, however, is the end of everything in life."
The stately, ever-courted speaker was always the gentleman in everything, and would remain so, undoubtedly, to the last. Even to the now necessarily mourning peasant girl was due the kindly sympathetic word. Thus, at any rate, reasoned Cyril Cyril ovitch.
"Bat it's abont the message that I now trouble yon," she interrupted; and she spoke as if indignant that he Bhonld thus dare to associate himself, even in the least degree, with that which touohed her own heart alone so sorely. "He plaoed that paper in my hand-there t take it; it is meant for yon when he was dying."
Again she paused. How shonld she muster courage with whioh to tell the tale, it seemed ?
'"You may perhaps one day find the man,' he said, 'to whom this shonld be given his name is written on the other side. Shonld
that day ever come, child, do your part.' Strange; was it not? She went on almoBt dreamily; for already her thoughts had stolen far away, and she was picturing the saene of death, of whioh she had bo lately been a witness. He little knew that which it wonld have been only too easy for me to whisper in his ear had the power of oonsoious ness still been his after I had read the ad dress. He did not even gueBB, in all reality, that I, Lisa, oould help him better far than any one else to find the man he Bought."
" A paper from your father I" came in a tone of nnfeigned astonishment. "You must be dreaming, ohild 1"
" Not I. It might be better, poBBibly, if I were. 1 The sexton's message.' Those are the words npon the outside. My father."
The wealthy oitizen had risen impulsively to his feet. His eyeB flashed fire.
" The Sexton of Graminsky 2 You are his daughter 1-is that true ?"
" You tell the tale yourself, Cyril Cyrilo vitch. My own lips could not tell the story more correotly. It is the Graminsky, too, which you also know, and of whioh we spoke the first time I saw you."
And this was Lisa, the once quiet-going country girl who only laBt spring bad under taken the post of maid in his wife's house hold. This was the link that would serve even to the end of time to chain the present with the past, riveting the chain of circum stances irrevocably.
But then another thought floated indis tinctly and also wildly through his brain what if this were, after all, only one of those strange coincidences occasionally met with in life's chapter? It might be such; and he wonld instantly endeavour to oontrol himself-act, in fact, as if his momentary display of asto nishment had been fraught with absolutely no meaning.
He would at once seek to divert the channel lof Lisa's thoughts; drawing her attention to other matters whioh might oause her to forget the fact that he had so strangely for an inBtant lost all self-posBession.
" I must send you home at onoe, child-aB Boon as possible, Your mistress will be glad to know that you are back again. Take her this basket of peaches; and here is another for yonrself in reward for all your oare of my boy; you are a good girl; and both your mistress and myself value your services,"
But already the girl's oheeks were tingling with indignation at being thus trifled with, as she considered it.
"We have not yet completed our busi ness, Cyril Cyrilovitch," she said, shortly. " It is with regard to the simple paper which I have just handed you" He interrupted her.
" It's all right," he said, with an assumed air of coolness. " The oontents, I dare say, can wait awhile. I'll attend to the little affair at my leisure. My present business must first be attended to," and he turned over, leisurely, the leaves of an account book whioh lay before him.
"But the missive" - the girl hesitated, though only for a moment-"muBt be opened now: whilst I am here, I mean."
" Preposterous. Simply rldioulous, in faot," and the lips of the much-reBpected oitizen were now tightly pressed together, " Go home, girl, I say, and don't interfere in business with whioh you have nothing to do."
" I am here in my dead father's stead," was the calm.interruption. " Open that letter ; read its oontents in my presence, as I ask; and yon shall then be lett alone. I will keep my word."
The girl was in very earnest. Cyril Cyrilovitch recognized thla fact at a glance, Shonld he yield? he mused, hurriedly ; thus putting an end to a scene that did not promise to be Bpeoially agreeable.
The next moment he had done the bidding of his baby-boy's Sacha's attendant. With unsteady fingers, although there was no apparent reason for this, he had broken the envelope; then read the illegibly written words within
"I have seen the woman whom yoa have injured. Against my own will she ascertained my secret. The sin of all this lies npon your own head. If ever this find you. remember the Sexton of GraminBky."
The papers fell from between the fingers of
Then withont daring to return even for a moment the fixed and earnest glance now seeking to meet his own, he strode aoross the offioe hastily, as if in quest of something in a bureau standing in a further corner.
The man was nnqnestionably agitated, although it was also evident that he strove hard to oonoeal the fact. Did the girl now watohlnghis every notion know his secret? This was his one and only thought. And if she did-why, then, might Heaven help him 1 Nothing else ever oonld. Suoh was the rioh man's hasty mental ejaculation.
He might miscalculate matters, however, again he reasoned. She might be in utter ignorance of everything; and in such oase death only, and the grave itself, held all for ever in safe and snrest keeping. The Sexton of GraminBky dead! Why, there was rest and comfort evon in the thought.
"I will now krop my second promise, Cyril Oyrilovitch, and leave yon alone," fell Qtion bis ears deoieively.
" Very well."
"Can I carry any moa«age to toy mistress, behrin ?" came now, in ft changed tone. The girl had now resumed her wonted form of address; was attain the peasant maid and attendant npon his child, as he had been in the habit of regarding her.
"Nothine beyond the fruit. I shall be heme myself in half an hoar. Mow, go! It is time."
8he hastened softly (onoe more along the corridor, passed out onoe more into the keen frosty air without; then free at last beneath tne open canopy of heaven, she clasped her hand* together and whispered
" Strange that I, too, ahonld have listened to the story. I wonder if he ersn smpeots the faot"