Chapter 161819933

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Chapter NumberVIII
Chapter TitleBOTH SIDES OF THB QUESTION.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article161819933
Full Date1895-04-20
Page Number36
Corrections0
Word Count1614
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleThe Third Volume
article text

CHAPTER vnr.

BOTH BIDES OF THB QUESTION.

Man a life haa frequently been compared to a river. In ahildhoud it is » trickling thread, in youth a scream, in manhood a majestic river, and finally in old age is swallowed up in the ooean of death. A very pretty parable, but somewhat stale. It is time that life was indicated by a new metaphor. Let us there fore compare the life of man to the ooean it self. Like the ooean, life has its oalmB and storms, its sullen rages, itB caressing moments; and like the ooean—for this is the main point of the illustration—it has its profound depths, containing a hundred secrets unknown to the outer world. Francis Hilliston was like the ooean; all knew the surface; few were acquainted with the depths below.

A man who leade a double life need never feel dull. He may be nervous, anxious, fear ful lest hiB seoret should be disoovered, but the ooustant vigilance required to hide it preserves him from the ouffee of ennui. He ever keeps the best side of his nature uppermost; bis smiles are for the world, his brow is smoothed to lull suspicion ; but to continue the simile of the ocean, iu the depths lie many terrible things whiob never oome to the surface; things which he soaroely dare admit even to himself. Frauds Hilliston was one of these men.

livery one knew Hilliston, of Lincoln's Inn FieldB, or thought he did, whiah is quite a different thing. He was widely respected in the' profession ; he was papular in society; hand and glove with prominent and wealthy personages. His house at Kensington Gore was riohly furnished; his wife was handsome and fashionable; he gave splendid entertain ments, at whioh noue was more joound than the host himself; he waB, outwardly, all that was prosperous and popular. In bis profes sional oapaoity he was the repository of a thousand secrets, but of these noue was more terrible than the one locked up in his own

breast. .

Long years of training, constant) necessity, had caught him how to control his emotions, to turn his face into a mask of inscrutability;

yetbeBUCceeded illattimea.aB witness bis inter-, view with the two young men. Not all his powers of self-repression oould keep hiB face from turning grey, nor prevent the perspira tion beading his brow, nor steady bis voioe to

well - bred indifferenoe. Usually he buc- ] ceeded in masking bis emotion; this time he bad failed, and, worst of all, he knew that he

bad failed,

It^was not Claude that he feared, for the young man wbb not of a suspicious nature; and even had he been so, would certainly have scoffed at the idea of attributing any evil to the one who had been to him a father. Tait, silent, observant, and oynioa), was the person to be dreaded. Accustomed by his profession to read faoeB, HiUiston bad seen that the quiet little man was possessed of one of those in quisitive penetrative natures wbioh suepeotall men, and from a look, a gesture, a pause, can draw evidence to Bupport any suspioion they

may entertain.

Certainly Tait had no reason to distrnst Hilliston when he entered the room, but during the interview he appeared dissatisfied witb the lawyer's manner. That Hilliston should attempt to dissuade Claude from prose outing a searoh for bis father's murderer seemed strange; but that he should betray suoh marked agitation at the idea of such soarohing taking place wob stranger still. Altogether Tait left the offioe in a very dis satisfied state of mind. Hilliston had suffi cient penetration to note this, and when left alone was at his wits' end bow to baffle the un warrantable curiosity of this intruder.

"I don't mind Claude,"hesaid, pacing up and down the room; '* he has not sufficient brain-power to find out anything I do not want him to know. But this Tait is danger ous. He is one of those dogged creatures who puts his nose to the soent and never leaveB the trail till the prey is oaptured. It is with him 2 have to deal, not with Claude."

His agitation almost mastered him, and he hurriedly took a small bottle from a drawer in his desk. Dropping the oontents of this into a glass of water he drank o(f the draught, and in a short space of time regained his com posure in some measure- Then he sat down to think, and plot, and plan how to baffle the vigilance of Tait.

"That infernal woman has dene it all," he muttered, savagely; "she has lighted the fire. Let ub see how she will put it out. But she cannot put it out," he added, striking his forehead with his clenched fist; " it will blaze and burn. I shall burn with it unless"—

There was a strange smile on his lips, as an idea entered bis mind, and be glanoed quickly

at his watoh.

" Four o'olock. Claude cannot possibly oall on Margaret to-day, so I have yet time to prepare her tor his visit. I must silence her at any oost. She must hold her tongue or ruin us both. Great heavens 1 to think that she should break out like this after five-aud twenty years. It is enough to drive me

in ad.

By this time be had put on his glares, and strotohed his hand towards his hat, whiob stood on a Bide table. A glanoe in the glass showed biin how old and grey he looked, and the sight waB so unexpected that he started in dinmay.

" Bah 1 I look as though I was going to fail," he said to himself, "but I must not fail. I dare not fail. At Bixty, rioh, honoured, respected, I am not going to fall from the pedestal I have reaohed. I shail reassure Claude. I shall baffle Tait. I shall silence Margaret. The first move in the game is mine.

Calm, dignified, easy, he left his offioe, and stepped into the brougham waiting at the door. To judge by appearances one would have thought him the moat respectable and upright man in London. No one knew what lurked behind that benevolent expression. His mask had fallen for the moment when Tait was present; now it was on again, and he went forth to deceive the world. Yet he

had an uneasy oqusoiousness that one man at least guessed his real oharaater.

"Never mind,"he thought, as the footman closed the door of the brougham, "it will be strange if, with my age and experience and reputation and money, I cannot baffle him."

He did not go' direct home, as it was yet early, and he had one or two things to do iu oonneotion with bis new task. First he drove to Tait's ohambers, and ascertained from the - porter that the two young men were within.

" Never mind sending up my name; I won't disturb them," be said, when the porter re quested his card. " I only wished to speak to Mr. Tait about a box at the theatre."

"If it is the Lyceum you mean, Sir, I have just got two stalls for Mr, Tait."

" A.h 1 I may see them there." replied Hillieton negligently, and as he drove away reflected "Good. They have not yet been to Hamp9tead, nor do they intend to go to-night. Mr. Tait has yet to leara the value of time."

Driving through Fiooadilly he stopped at a bookshop, end with some difficulty, for the demand was large; obtained a copy of "The Whim ot Fate. He .bewail to read it in the brongham, and skimmed its pages so rapidly that by the time he reached Kensington .Gore, he bad nearly finished the first volume. He did not . rcToognise himself in the oharaot6r of Miohael Dene, and beoame more convinced

than ever that the coincidence of the Laroher affair forming the plot of a novel, was due to tbe author's reading the oafs in some old provincial newspaper. On every page he betrayed that, to him, the story was hearsay. .

Fortunately Mrs. Hilliston was driving in the Park, so the lawyer shut himself up in his library, and went on reading the story. He did net see his wife till dinner, which took place at 8 o'olook, and then descended in his ordinary clothes, looking ill and pale. Some thing he had read in the novel had startled him more than he oared to oonfess—even to himself.

"You must excuse my dress, Louise," he said ou taking bis seat, "but I have been so engrossed with a novel that I did not hear the dreBBing bell."

"It has not bad a pleasant effeot on yon," replied hie wife, emiling, " you do not look at all well."

" I am not well," eaid Hilliston, who merely trifled with hie food, " you must excuse me going with you to the Lamberts to-night, as I think 1 shall call in and see my dootor."

"Are you as bad as all that?" questioned Mrs. Hilliston, anxiously, " Why not send for. Dr. Bland ?"

"I prefer going to see him, Louise. You will probably not be back till 3 in the morn iug, so I will go to bed immediately on my return. Have no fear, my dear, it is only a trifling indisposition."

After these plain statements it was rather etrauge that Hillieton, in place of driving to Dr. Bland'e, who lived in Hill-street, should direob the oab, which be pioked up by the park railings, to drive to Hampstead.