Chapter 161819391

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Chapter NumberIII
Chapter TitleTHE REVELATION OF FRANCIS HILLSTON.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article161819391
Full Date1895-04-06
Page Number37
Corrections0
Word Count1935
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleThe Third Volume
article text

CHAPTER III.

TUB REVELATION OF EUANCIS HILUSTON.

Onot) upon a time popular imagination pictured a lawyer as a a viavorotH orealurn, arrayed in rusty black, with bulging blue bag, and dry forensic lore on bis tongue, fjo was tile child of Themis represented inendlosa Adelphi faroes, and his moral nature, as uon oeived by the ingenious playwright, was evou less inviting than his exterior. He was a scamp, a rogue, a compiler of interminable bills, au exaotor of tho last shilling, a legal Shylactc, hard-fisted and avaricious. To a great extent this type is a thing of the past, for your latter-day lawyer is an alert, well dressed personage, social and amiable. Still

he is looked on with awe as a dispenser of j

justioe—very often of injustioe—and not all the line raiment in the world oanrobhimof his anoient reputation ; when be was a dread being to the dwellers of Grab-street, who mostly had the task of limning bis portrait, and so, impartial revenge pictured him as

above. j

All of wliioh preamble leads up to the fact that Francis Uilliston was a lawyer of the

new school, despite iiis sixty and more years, i In appearance he was uot unlike a farmer, and indeed owned a few arable acres iu Kent, where he played the role of a modern Cinoin natus. There he afTeoted rough olothing and an interest in agriaulturul subjects, but iu

town, in his Lincoln's Inn Fields office, he was j solemnly arrayed in a frock coat with other { garments to match, and conveyed into bis twinkling eyes an expression of dignified learning. He was a different man in London to what he was in Kent, and was a kind of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde for moral transforma tiona. On this speoial oooasion frook-ooated legality was uppermost.

Yet he unbent for a moment or bo when receiving Claude Laroher, for, childless himBelf, the young man was to him a very Absalom ; and he loved'him with an affeotion truly paternal. No one can have the oonduot of a

child up tothe age of twenty—at which period : Olaude made his debut in ChoBngineering world . —withoutfeelinga tugging at the heart-strings.

Had Lurcher been indeed hit eon and he a [ father in jplaoe of a guardian, be aould have i scarcely reosived the young man more warmly, j or have weloomed him With more heartfelt

affeotion. ]

y But the first outburst over, and Olaude duly greeted and seated in a oonvenient ohair, Mr. Hillieton reourred to his legal etiffness, and with no smile on bis lips sateyeing his visitor. He had au awkward conversation before him, and was mentally wondering as to the best way of breaking the ioe. Claude spared him the trouble by at once plunging headlong into the subjeot of Margaret Bezel and her mys

terious letter.

" Here you are, Sir," said he, handing it to bis guardian. "I have brought the letter of this woman with me as you wished, and I have aUo abstained from seeing her in aooordanoe with your desire."

" Humph I" muttered Hilliston, skimming the letter with a legal eye. "I thought she would write."

"Do you know her, Sirt"

"Oh yes!" said the other drily. "I know her. But," be added after a thoughtful pause, " I have not set eyes on her for at least five and-twenty years."

"Twenty-five years," repeated Claude,

thoughtful in his turn. "It was about that time I came into your house."

Hilliston looked up sharply, as though oon eeiving that the remark was made with inten tion, but satisfied thetit wasnot.frora thenbsent expression in Laroher's faoe, he resumed his perusal of the lettor, and commented thereon.

" What do you think of this communica tion. Claude ?"

"I don't know what tn think,"replied the young man promptly. " I confess I amouriouB tn know why this woman wishes to see mo. Who is she?"

" A. widow lady with a small inoome."

" Hoes she know anything of my family?"

" Why do you ask that 1" demanded Hillis ton. sharply, and, as it seemed to Claude, a trifle nnoasily.

" Well, as 1 am a stranger to her, she oannott wish to 898 me on any personal matter, Sir.

And as you mention that you have not seen ; her for five-and-twenty years, about which time my parents died, I naturally

thought"

" That I had some object in asking you not to seo her!"

"Well, yes."

" You are a man of experienoe now, Olaude,"said Hilliston with apparont irrele vance, "and have been alt over tho world. Consequently you know that life is full of—

trouble."

" I believe eo, but hitherto no trouble has

corns ray way.

" You might expeot that it would oome sooner or later, Olaude. It has come now."

"Indeed," eaid Lurcher in a joking tone, "am I about to lose my small income of five hundred a yoar."

\ "No, that is safe enough, answered Hillis

ton, abruptly, rising to his feet. "The 'rouble of which I speak will nob affeot your material welfare. Indeed, if you are a hardened man of the world, aa you might be, it need affeot you very little in any oase. Tou are not responsible for the sine of a former generation, and as you hardly remember your parents, cannot have any sympathy with their worries."

| " I oertainlv remember very little of my

parents, sir," said Lurcher, moved by the significance of this speech. "Yet I have a faint memory of two faoes. One a dark, handsome face, with kind eyes, the other a beautiful, fair countenance."

"Your father and mother, Claude."

"Yes. So muoh I remember of them. Bub what have they to do with Margaret Be:',el—

or Mrs. Bezel, as I suppose she is called! Why does she want to see me !"

" To tell you a story whioh I prefer to relate myself."

"About whom?"

" About your parents." "But they are dead !"

" Yes,"said Hilliston. "They am dead." Ho walked about the room, opened a box, and took out a roll of papers, yellow with age. Those were neatly tied up with red tape and ascribed "The Lareber Affair." Placing them on the table before him, Hilliston re sumed liia seat and looked steadfastly at his ward. Claude, vaguely aware that some un pleasant communication was about to be made to him, sat silently waiting the words of ill omen, and his naturally fresh colour faded to a dull white with apprehension.

"I havo nhvavB loved you like a son, Claude,"said Hilliston, solemnly, "eversince you came to my house a tiny boy of five. It lias been my aim to educate you well, to advance your interests, to make you happy, and above all," added the lawyer, loweriug his votoe, " to keep the contents of these papers seorob from you."

Claude said nothing, though Hilliston paused to enable him tospeak, but sat waiting further explanation.

" I thought the past was dead and buried," resumed hi3 guardian, in a low voioe. " So for as I can see it is foolish to ralce up old eo&ndals —oid crimea."

" Crimea !" said Claude, rising involuntarily

to his feet.

"Crimes," repeatad Hilliston, sadly. "The time has como when you must know the truth about your parents. The woman who wrote this letter has been silent for five-andt-wenty years. Now, for some reason with which I am unacquainted, she is determined to see you and reveal all. A. few months ago sheoaliod here to tell me so. I implored her to keep siient, pointing out that no good oould oomn of acquainting you with bygone evils; hut she refused to listen to me, and left this office with the full intention of finding you out, and making her revelation."

" But I have been in New Zealand."

" She did not know that, nor did 1 tell her,' eaid Hiliiston, grimly, " in fuot. I refused to give her your address, but she is not the woman to be easily beaten, as 1 well know. I guessed she would find out the name of your club and write to you there, therefore I sent that letter to yon so as to oounter-plot the creature. I expected that you would find a letter from her at yourclubon your arrival. I was right. Here is the letter. She has euo ceededgofar, but I have managed tocheok mate hor by obtaining the first interview with you. Should you oall on her—and after read ing these papers I have little doubt but that you will do eo—ehe will be able tg tell you nothing new. I cannot crush the viper, bat at leaBt I oan draw its fangs."

" You epeak hardly of this woman, sir."

" I have reason to," said Hiliiston quietly. "But for this woman lyour father would Btill bo alive."

"What do you mean?"

" I mean that your father, George Laroher,

was murdered 1"

" Murdered!"

"Yes. Murdered at Horriston in Kent, in the year 18GG."

Stunned by this reformation, which he was far from expecting, Claude sank down in his chair with a look of horror on bis face, while Hiliiston spoke rapidly.

"I have kept thia BBoreb ell these years because I did not want yonr young life to b*

shadowed by the knowledge of yonr father'*' fate. . But now lira, Bezel intenda to tell yon

the truth, and will give you a garbled version . of the same, making herself outa martyr., I. must be beforehand with her, and I with yon to take those papers and read the account of the oaee whioh ended • m the acquittal of your

mother."

"My mother! Acquitted! Do you •

mean"

"I mean that Mrs. Laroherwasaoousedof . the murder of her husband, and was tried and aoquitted." • ?

"Great heavens 1 But she is now dead,"

"I say no more," said Hilliston, evading a direot reply. "You will know the truth when you read these papers."

Laroher mechanically took the packet held

out to him and placed it in his pocket. Then he rose to go. A thousand questions were on the tip of hie tongue, but he dare not ask one. It would be better, be thought, to learn the truth from the papers in plaoe of hearing it from the lips of Francis Hilliston, who might, for all he knew, give as garbled a version of the affair as Mrs. Bezel. Hilliston guessed his thoughts and approved of the unspoken

dEoiaion,

" I think you are right," be said, with de liberation. " It ia best that you should learn the truth in that way. When you have read those papers oome and see me about them"'

"One moment, sir! Who killed my father 1"

"I oacnotsay. Your mother was suspected, and proved innooent. A friend of your father was also suspected and" ,

" And proved innocent ?"

"Not He was never arrested, he was never tried, he vanished on the night of the murder and has not been heard of ainoe. How I oan tell you no more. Go and read th* papers, Claude."

Laroher took up his hat and hurried towards the door in a meohanio&l manner. There he paused.

" Does Mrs. Bezel know the truth?"

Hilliston, arranging the papers on his tablet looked up with a faoe which bad unexpectedly grown srrey and old.

" Ybb !" he. said quickly. "I think Mrs, Bezel knows the 'truth.' "