|Chapter Title||A STRANGE COINCIDENCE.|
|Newspaper Title||Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Third Volume|
A STRAKCE OOINCIDENOB.
In spite of Tait'e methodiaal habits, circum stances beyond hie control often occurred to upeet them. On the previous day thsnnoxy peoted arrival of Claude had altered his plans for the day, and alter his return from the theatre on the same evening, he had—contrary to bis rule—passed the night in reading. The invaluable Dormer had procured " A Whim of Fate" from Mudie'e, and Tait found ib lying on the table in oompany with biscuits and wine. Hxoited-by the performance, he did
not feel inclined to retire at his usual hour tff
midnight, and while sipping his wine picked up the ffrst volume to wile away the time till he should feel sleepy.
Alas I this novel, about which every one in London was talking, proved anything but soporiSo, and for the whole of that night Tait sat in his oomfortable ohsir devouring the three volumes. The tale was one of mystery^ and until he learned the solution Tait, conven tional and incurious as be was, could not tear himself from the fascination of the printed page. When the riddle was read, when the oriminal was hunted down, when the bad were punished -and the good rewarded, the dawn was already breaking in the east. In his Jermyn-street hotel, Claude Larcher was rising stiff and tired from the perusal of a tragedy in real life ; in his Earl's-street Cham bers, Spenser Tait was closing the third volume of John Parver'e work. Each had paeBed a wakeful night, each had been fasci nated by the account of the crime, the one real, the other fiotional. So does Fate, whose designs no one can presume to explain^ duplicate our lives for the gaining of her own ends.
Bather disgusted by his departure from the conventional, and heartily blaming the too-in genious John Parver for having oauaed suah departure, Tait tumbled hastily into bed, in order to snatoh a few hours' sleep. Dormer, ignorant of his master's vigil, _woke him remorselessly at his usual hour, with the un- ? expected intelligence that Mr. Laroher was waiting to Bee liirn in the sitting-room. From the telegram of the previous night and this early visit, Tait rightly concluded that hia friend was in trouble, so without watting to take his bath he hurriedly slipped on a dress ing-gown and appeared sleepy and dishevelled in the sitting-room. Larcher. who looked likewise dissipated, arose to hia feet as the little man entered, and they eyed one another in astonishment, for the appearance of each was totally at variance with their
? "Well," said Tait, interrogatively, "I see you've been making a night of it."
" I might eay the same of yon," replied Lar oher, grimly. " A more dissioated looking; wretch I never saw. Have you fallen into bad habits at your age ?"
" That depends on what you call bad habits^ Clande. I have not been round the town if that is what you mean. Hut, seduced by the novel of a too-ingenious author, I have eat up all night devouring his three volumes. Such a thing has not occurred with me Binoe I unfortunately tried to read myself to sleep with 'Jane Evre.' Charlotte Bronte and John Parser are both answerable for my white nights. But yon,"continued Tait, surveying his friend in a quizzical manner, "am I to un derstand that"
" You are to understand that my night has been a duplicate of your own," interrupted Larclier, ourtlv.
"What 1 Have yon been reading 'ThB Whim of Fate!'"
"No, .my friend ; X have not. While you were devouring fiction I have been making myself acquainted with a tragedy in red
Laroher thereupon savagely threw on the breakfast-table a roll of papers and looked defiantly at Mb friend. Tone and expression failed to elicit surprise.
"Oh !" said Tait reflectively, "then Hillis ton gave yob bad news after all. I guessed 4i'e would from your refusal to accompany me to the theatre last night."
"You guessed rightly. He gavemesuoh newe ae I never exoected to hear. You will find it amply set forth in those papers which I have been reading all night."
"D°arme. I; trust it is nothing serious; Has Mrs. Bezel"-— . ?
"I don't know anything about Mrs. Bezel," said Lweher loudly; so far ae she is coucerned -I am -as-much in the dark aa ever. But my parents"——?
w. " What -of them ?" interrupted Tait, utter- i : Ingtfie first though: that came into hit mind ]
- Are they alive after all ?" j
"No. They we dead,sure enough," mul- j ^?ieredOieude gloomily. ' •• j p.:"In that case what can Mr. UiHiston or
Mrs. Bezel have to say about them," '/de
manded the"other, looking puzzled.. "No j scandal about Queen Elizabeth, I hope," ?
" Confound .it, man, don't be so flippant. ]
fib-W I've had bad news, I tell you. My father"— ] Sv'V''. hero Ltroher gulped down hie emotion i >with some difficulty — "my father was mur irlV.',"- dered." •
" Murdered 1" repeated Tail, looking aghast, at well he might,
i.;; ? "Yes.1 My mother was accused of having iif jr murdered him. There you have it,"
gfV-.. It was some Jitle time bBfore Tait oouldfaoe
the skeleton eo junexpeotedly produoed from hli-i " the Larchor cupboard. Hitherto his acquain
- _ tance with orime had been mainly derived Mjl-t . from fiction alter tbe stylo ol John Parver or
? from the columns of the Press; but now he ;V: was brought face to face with a tragedy Bgf"-;.indirectly connected with the dearest friend,
wad naturally enough did not like the eituu- j 3^;-':S i tion. Nevertheless, like the wise little man
he was, he made no comment on the truth . : eo suddenly blurted out, but pushed his
' friend into a oomfortable chair and proposed i ,. ? breakfast. j " Breakfast 1" oried Claude, clutching his
MV-... hair ; "I could not sat a morsel. Hare you no j v.;:. feelings, you little monster, to propose break- | ?: ' fast to" me after hearing suoh hideous news ?
Why don't you give me sympathy, and j ^ try and help mo, instead of-sitting at your! '*•" . confounded rasher of bacon like a graven 1
image." j ii " I'll do all in my power later on," said j . . , Tait quietly, "butyou arc upset by this news,
.and no wonder. Try and eat a little, then .-. yon can tell me all about it and I will give - yon the best advice in my power."
Thus adjured, Claude drew in hie chair and managed to eat a morsel of toast aud drink a . cup of coffee, after whioh he lighted his pips and smoked furiously ; while Tait, anxious that his friend Bhould regain hiB self-control, made a lengthened me»I and talked of divers matters. Breakfast , over, he also filled his favourite pips and drawing a ohair close to that of Lurcher's waited for an ex planation.
"Well, Claude, said he attar a pause, during winch the other showed no disposition to speak, "tell me your trouble."
"I have told you," grumbled Larcber angrily; "if you want to know any more about it read those papers."
" It would take too long, and as it happens 1 am already tired with reading. Tell me about the affair as shortly as possible, and then we can go through the papers together. You eay your father was murdered. Who committed the crime ?"
"No one knows? Theoriminal is still nt large."
" After five-and-twenty years he is likely to remain so."
"No! cried Larcher vehemently, striking the table. I'll hun t him down and find him out, and put a rope round his neck, so help me
"You say your mother was accused of the orime," said Tait, ignoring this out burst.
"Yes. But she was acquitted on the evidence of my father's valet. Shortly afterwards she died in London. I don't wonder at it," said poor Olaude distractedly ; "the shame, the disgrace. If she survived she was bitterly punished. I should like to seethe man who would dare to asperse her memory."
"No one will do so," said Tait soothingly. "Control yourself, my dear fellow, and we will look into thiB matter together. I have juet been reading about a orime, but I did not think I would be so soon concerned in dealing with one."
" You will help me, Tait ? You will stand by mo ?"
•'My dear friend, oan you ask? Iam com pletely at your service, and together we will do all in our power todiBOovorthemurdererof your father and clear the memory of your mother."
"It is clear. She was acquitted by the jury. Don't you dare to"
"I don't dare to say anything," inter rupted Tait impatiently; "do be reasonable, my good fellow. So long as I am ignorant I can Bay nothing. Tell me the particulars and we may arrive at some conclusion. Now then, give toe a 'precis'of the osse."
Dominated by the superior oe'.m of his iriend, Claude related the Larcher affair as succinctly as possible. The details of the oase bad impressed themselves too strongly ou his brain for hitn to hesitate in the narration, and • keeping bis emotions well in hand he managed to give a fairly minute account of the tragedy which had taken place at Horriston in the year 18C6.
The effeot on Tait was surprising. _ A look of blank astonishment overspread his face as Laroher proceeded with his story, and when it was finished he looked anxiously at his friend. Apart from the details of the oase he was deeply interested in the matter from another poiDb of view. Laroher waited to hear what his friend thought of the case, but instead of Commenting thereon Tait both aoted and Bjjolto in an apparently irrelevant manner.
Without a word he heard Claude to the end, Chen rose from his seat and walking to the other end of the room returned with three volumes bound in red oloth.
"This book is called 'The Whim of Fate,'" said he, placing the volumes at Lurcher's elbow. " Have you read it?"
"Confound it, what do you mean?" burst nut Claude with justifiable wrath, "I tell yon of a serious matter whioh nearly concerns myself, and you prattle about the last fashion
"Wait a minute,"said Tait, laying a de taining hand on his friend's ooatsleeve. " There is more method in my madness than you give me oredit for."
" What do you mean ?"
"The story you tell me is most extraor dinary. But'the information lam about to impart to you is more extraordinary still. You say this orime at Horriston was oom jmittnd twenty-five'years ago?"
"Yes, you oan see by the date of those newspapers."
" It has very likely faded out of all me
"Of course! I don't suppose any one is Bow alive who gives it a thought."
"Well," said Tait, "it is oertainly
" What is curious ? Explain yourself."
" The story you tell me now was known to t^elast night."
Laroher looked at his friend in unconcealed surprise and .promptly contradicted what seemed to be a foolish assertion.
" That is impossible, Tait. I heard it only last night myself."
"Nevertheless I read it last night."
" Read it last night 1" repeated Laroher, sooptiaally.
"'Tn this book," said Tait, laying his hand
on the novel.
" What Jo you mean?" demanded the other impatiently.
"Imeu that John Pareer, theauthor of this book, has utilized th«: eronts whiahtook place at Horriston in 1860 for the purpose of writing • work of iiotion. The story you tell me ia told in these pages, and your family tragedy in the talk of literary Loudon. .