Chapter 161819666

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Chapter NumberIV
Chapter TitleWHAT OCCURRED AT HORRISTON.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article161819666
Full Date1895-04-13
Page Number37
Corrections0
Word Count2888
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleThe Third Volume
article text

ORA.VTER IV.

WHAT OCOOHBBU AT HOBBIBTON.

After Chan fatal interview Claude wont neither to the house at Kensington '-tore nor to the ohambers of his friend Tait. With the papers given toliim by Hiilisbon in bi9 pocket he repaired to a quiet hotel in Jerinyn-street, where he was well known, and there secured a bedroom for the night. A wire speedily brought his luggage from the railway station, and thus being settled for the moment, he pro oeded to acquaint himself witb the tragedy of his parents' lives.

It was some time before ho could make up his mind to read the papers, and, dreading the disagreeable relation, he put off the perusal till such time as be retired to bod. A note dispatched to the Club intimated to Tait that that the eceond seat at the Curtain Theatre would he uuoocupied, and then Claude tried to rid himself of distraoting thoughts by a rapid walk in the Park. 80 do men dally with with the inevitable, and vainly attempt to stay the march of Fate.

Dmnor was a more farce with the young man, for he could neither eat nor drink, and afterwards he dawdled about the smoke-room, putting off the reading of the papers as lung as he could. A superstitious fanlingof coming evil withheld hitn from immediately learning the truth; and it was not until ch« clock struck 10 that he summoned up sufficient courage to repair to his bedroom.'

With the papers 'spread out on a small table lie sat down at half-past 10, reading by the light of a single candle. A seoond and a third were needed before he arose from his chair, and tho grey dawn was glimmering through the window blinds as ho laid down the lastsheeb. Then his face was as grey as the light spreading over street and house, forhe know that his father had been foully mur dered, and that his dead mother had been morally if not legally guilty of the crime. The tragedy—a strange mixture of the sordid and the romantio—took place at Horriston, in Kent, in the year 18(1(5, and the following aro the main faots, as exhibited by the provincial Press.

In the year 1800 George Iiataher and his wife oame to settle at Ilorriston, attracted thereto by the romantio ,b»a«ty of the soanary nnd the oheerful society of that rising water ing- plaoe. Since that time Horriston, after a feeble struggle for supremaoy, has Buooumbed to powerful rivals, aud is once more a sleepy little provincial town, unknown to invalid or doctor. But when Mr. and Mrs. Lumber settled there it was a papular resort for visitors from all quarters of the three kingdoms, and the young couple were extremely liked by the gay society whioh filled the town. For five years they live there, but during the sixth ooourred the tragedy whioh slew the husband and plaosd the wife in the dook.

The anteoodeu tb of the pur were irreproach able in every respect*. He was a fairly rich man of thirty-live, who, holding a commission in the army, had mot with his wife—then Miss Barker—at Cheltenham. She was a beautiful girl, fond of dross and gait}', the belle of her native town, and the greatest flirt of the ooiintry side. Handsome George Laroher, in all the bravery of martial trappings, anme like the young priuoe of the fairy tale, and carried off the beauty from all rivals, She, knowing him to In cioli, seeing him to be handsome, and aware that -ho was well connected, accepted hie hand, and eo they were married, to the great discomfiture of many eighiug swains. There was love on his side at least, but whether Julia Barker returned that pas sion in any great degree it is hard to say. The provincial reporter hinted that a prior attach ment had engaged her heart, ami though she married 1,archer for his money, and looks, and position, yet bIib only truly lovod one man— one Mark Jeringliam, who afterwards tigarod in the tragedy at llorriston.

To all outward appearand* Captain and Mrs. Lurcher were a pattern oeuple, and popular with military aud civil society. Then, iu obsdienoe to tbe wish of his wife, George Larcher sold out, and within a few months of their marriage they came to live at Horciston. Hore they took a house known »« "The Lau rels," which was perched on acliff of moderate height, overlooking the River Ssrway, and proceeded to entertain the gay eooiety of the neighbourhood. One son wub born to them a year after they took up their abode at "The Laare!s,"and be was five years of age when the tragedy took place which caused the death of his parent. Claude had no difficulty in recognising himself as the orphan bo patlieti oally alluded to by the flowery provincial reporter.

Thehouseholdof George Laroher oonsisted of 8iXBervnnis,amoDg whom two werepartioularly interesting. The one was the Captain's valet, Denis Bantry, an Irieh soldier in the same regiment as his master, who had been bought out by Larcher when ho took leave of military glory. Altaohed to the Captain by many aots of kindness, Denis was absolutely devoted to him, and was no unimportant personage in

tho new heme. The other servant was Mona Bantry, thesisterof Denis, a handsome, bright eyed lass from County Kerry,who noted asmaid to Mrs. Laroher. The remaining servants oall for no special mention, but this Irish oouple must be particularly noted as having been mixed up with the tragedy.

For some months all weut well at "The Laurels," and it seemed as though the Lar

ohers were devoted to one another. But this i was only outwardly, for the aharaoter of Julia developed rapidly alter marriage into that of a vain, frivolous woman, eager of admiration,

extravagant as regards dress, and negleotfui j

of the infant son. Laroher, a thoroughly

domesticated man, greatly resented the atti- j tude taken by bis wife, and the resentment 1 led to frequent quarrels. _ He wob arinoyed by : her frivolity and continuous absenoe from

home, while ahe began to diBlike her grave husband, who _ would have made her — as ehe expressed it —a mere domestic drudge. Bnb the pair managed to hoodwink the world as to their real feelings to one another! and it was only when the trial of Mrs. Laroher o&meon that the truth was revealed. In all

Kent there was no more uphappy home than that at " The Laurels."

? To make matters worse MarkJeringham paid a visit to Hoirriatob, and having known Mn. Laroher from ofcildhood naturally enough beoame a frequent .visitor. Ha was every-1 where at the heels of the former belle of Chel tenham, whoenoouragedhimin his attentions. Laroher remonstrated with his wife on her folly, but she sanoily'refused to alter her line ofoonduot. Hut for the scandal oi the thing Laroher would have forbidden Jeringham the house: and, to mark his disapprobation, gave him the oold shoulder on every oooasion. Nevertheless, this inconvenient person per sisted in thrusting himself between husband and wife, to the anger of the former and the delight of the Matter. The introduc tion of this third element only made mattera

worse.

The house was divided into oamps. for Mona supported her mistress in her frivolity, and, indeed, teemed herself to have an admi ration for handsome Mark Jeringham, who was very generous in money matters. Denis, in whose eyes hiB maBter was perfect, hated

the interloper as much as Larohor, and loudly ' protested against the attention of Mona and

his mie trees. %

Another friend who supported Laroher was Fr&nois Hilliston, then a gay young lawyer of thirty-five, who often paid a visit to Horriston. He also frequented "The Lau rels," but was muoh disliked by Mrs, Laroher, wbo greatly resented bis loyal friendship for her husband. Things were in thiB position on the 23rd of June, 18GC. when eventB occurred which resulted in' the murder of Captain Laroher, the disappearance of Jeringham, and the arrest of Mrs. Larcber on a obarge of

murder.

A masked bail in fancy dress was to be given at the Town llall on that night, and hither Mrs. Laroher was going as Mary Queen of Snots, sooompanied by Jeringham in the character of Darnley. George Laroher refused to be pre sent, and went up to London on the night in question, leaving his faithful friend Hilliston to look after his matrimonial interests at the ball. Before he left a terrible eeene took place between himself and bis wife, in whioh he for bade ber to go to the dance, but she defied him, and said she would go without his permission. Whereupon Larcher left tho house, and went up to London, sweating that he would never return until his wife asked his pardon, and renounced the friendship of Jer

ingham.

N iw here began the mystery which no ono was able to fathom. Mrs. Larcher wont to the ball with Jeringham, and having, as she Baid to Hilliston, who was »lso at the ball, enjoyed herself greatly, returned home at 3 in the morning. The next day she was ill in bad, although she had lbfc the Town .Hail in perform health, and Mark Jeringham had disappeared. Lar:her was not seen in the neighbourhood for five days, and presumably

was still in London, so during his abseuce Mrs. Lurcher kept her bed. Then his body, considerably disfigured, wasfoundat the mouth of tbo River Har way, some four miles down. Curious to slate it was clothed in a fancy dress similar to that worn by jeringham on the nightof the ball.

On thedisooveryof the body public curiosity was greatly excited, and a thousand rumours flew from mouth to mouth. That a crime had been oommitted no one doubted for a moment, as an examination proved that George Laroher had been etabbed to the heart by some slender, sharp instrument. The matter passed into the hands of the police, and they paid a vieit to " Tlia Laurels" for the purpose of see ing what light Mrs. Larcher could throw on tue matter. At this awful period of her frivolous life Franois Hilliston stood her friend, and it was he who interviewed the officers of the law when they called.

Mrs. Lsreher was still in bed, and, under the doctor's orders, refused to rise therefrom, or to reoeive her visitors. She protested to Hillieton. who in his turn rsported her sayings to the police that ehe knew nothing about the matter. She had not seen her husband since he left her on the twenty-third of June, and

no one was more astonished or horror-struck than she at the news of his death. According to her story, she bad left the ball at 3 o'clook, and had driven to "TheLaurels" with Jering ham. He had parted from her at the door of

the house, and had walked back to Horriston. I Hi* reason for not entering and for not using the oarriage to return was that he did not wish to give colour to the scandal as to the relations whioh existed between them, whioh Mrs, Larcher vowed and protested were purely platnnio.

Furthermore, she asserted that her illness was caused by a disoovery which she had made on the night of the ball, that Mona B&r.trv was about to beoome a mother, and to all appearance she believed that the father of the coming ohild was none other than her husband. Far from thinking that ho had been murdered, she had been waiting for his return in order to upbraid him for his profligacy and to demand adivoroe. Mona Bantry had disap peared immediately after the disoovery of her ruin, and Mrs. Lireher professed she did not knew whore she was.

This story, which was feasible enough, satis fied the police authorities for the moment, and they retired, only to return three days later with a warrant for the arreBtof Mrs. Larcher. In the interval a dagger had been found in the grounds of "The Laurels" on the banks of the river, and as it was stained with blood and exactly fitted the wound, it was oonoludod that with this weapon the orime had been oommitted. Hnquiry resulted in the informa tion being obtained that Mrs. Larcher in her character of Mary Queen of Soots had worn this dagger on the night of the ball. Hence, it was evident, so aaid the police, that she had killed ber husband.

The theory of the |>olice was that Captain Laroher had returned from London on the night of the ball, and had witnessed the part ing of his wife and Jeringham at the door. Filled with jealous rage, he had upbraided bis wife in the sitting-room, the window of whiob looked out on the cliff overhanging the river. In a moment of fury ehe had doubtless enatohed the dagger from her girdle and stabbed him to the heart, then, terrified at what she bad done, had thrown the body out of the window, trusting that the stream would carry it away, and so conoeai her orime. This the river had done, for the body had been discovered four miles down, where it had been carried by the current. Ab to the dagger being in the grounds in plaoe of the room, the police—never at a loss for a theory—sug gested that Mrs. Larcher had stolen out of the house and had thrown the dagger over the

bank where it was subsequently discovered.

Mrs. Laroher asserted her innocenoe, and reiterated her statement that she had not seen her husband sinoe the day of the ball. He bad not returnedpn that night, as the servants oould testify. The only domestics who had not retired to bed when she returned at 3 o'olook were Mona and Denis. Of these the first had gone away to hide her shame, and all enquiries and advertisements failed to find her. But at the trial Denis—muoh broken down at the ruin of hiB sister—Bwore that Captain Laroher had not returned from Lon don on that evening, and that hire. Laroher had gone straight to the sitting-roum, where Bhe first made the discovery of Mona'a iniquity, and then had afterwards retired to

bed. Mrs. Laroher asserted that the dagger |

had been lost by her at'the ball, and she knetjp||^

not into whosehands it bad fallen.

The trial,'which took place at-pahterbnty^'T;^ was a nine days'wonder, and opinions' w'ew ?';?»§ divided as to the guilt of the erring wife. "Onq°-;;p> party held that she had oommitted the crime

in the manner stated by the polioe, while the i! others 'asserted that Jeringham was .the- : a oriminal, and had disappeared in order th "N

escape the conse^nenoes of his guilt. " Doubt?

less,"said they, he had been met by Laroher after leaving the honse, and had killed him

during a quarrel." The use of the dagger was .. accounted for by these wiseaores by a belidf that Mrs. Laroher had given it to Jeringham aB a love token when she parted from him ifr

the door of " The Laurels." " ?

The evidenoe of Denis that he had been with

or near Mrs. Laroher til' she retired to. bed,* ? and that the Captain had not aet foot in the

house on that evening, turned the tide of ^ evidence in favour of the unfortunate woman.

She was aoquitted of the orime, and went to -

London, but there died—as appeared from the . newspapers—a few weeks afterwards, billed by anxiety and shame. The ohild Clande was taken oharge of by Mr. Hiliistan, who had been a good friend to Mrs. Laroher during her troubles, and so the matter faded from the publio mind.

What beoame of Jeringham no one ever knew. His viotim—at some supposed Laroher to be—was duly buried in the Horriston Ceme

tery—but all the efforts of the police failed tb _ find the man who was morally, if not legally, guilty of the orime. Denis also was lost in the London crowd, and all those who had been present at the tragedy at "The Laurels" were scattered far and«wide. New matters attracted the attention of the fickle public, and the Laroher affair was forgotten in due

course.

The mystery was never solved. Who was guilty of the crime? That question was never answered. Some aoousea Mrs. Larohest despite her acqaital and death. Others in sisted that Jeringham was the oriminal; but no one could be certain ot the^ruth.

HilliBton, seeing that Mr. and Mrs. Laroher were dead, that Mona, Denis, and Jeringham bad disappeared, wisely kept the matter eeoret from Claude, deeming that it would be folly to di.turb the mind of the lad with an insoluble riddle of so terrible a nature. So fob five-and-twenty vears the matter had remained in abeyance. Now it seemed as though it were about to be reopened by Mrs. Bezel,

"And who?" asked Claude of himself, aa be finished his history in the grey dawnof the moruing, "who is.Mrs. Bezel?"

To say the least he had a right to ask him self this question, for it was curious that tho name of Mrs. Bezel was not even mentioned in conneotion with that undisoovered crime of five-and-twenty years before.