Chapter 161820287

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Chapter NumberXI
Chapter TitleA STARTLING DISCOVERY.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article161820287
Full Date1895-04-27
Page Number37
Corrections0
Word Count2022
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleThe Third Volume
article text

CHAPTER XL

A STARTLING DISCOVERY.

In one of his novels Balzao makes the per tinent remark that " It ie impossible for man to understand the heart of woman, seeing thati her Creator Himself does not understand it." ' These are not the precise words, but the sentiment is the same. And who, indeed, can understand a woman's heart; who oan aver

that he has a complete comprehension of her oharaoter T Very young men lay claim to such knowledge, but sb they grow older, and the vanity of youth gives way to the modesty begotten fay experience, they no longer pre tend to snob omnisoienoe, and humbly admtt their inability to solve the riddle of femi ninity. Had the Sphynx proposed euoh an enigma to (Edipuo he would not have been able to guesB it, and ao meeting the fate of other viotimB, would have deprived Thebes of a king and Sophooles of a tragedy.

Vet if we bear in mind that women work rather from impulse than from motive, we may airive at some knowledge of the organ in question. If a woman is impulsive, and moBS women are, ahe ants directly on those impulses; and ep startles men by paradoxical notions. As a rule the male intelleot has lOgioal reasons wherefrom it deduoes motives upon which to aot. Not so with womon. They obey the-impulse of the moment, reck less of the oonsequenoe to themselves or to any one else. Consequently it is impossible to foretell how a woman will aot in a given ciroumstanoe, but it may be asserted that she wilt obey the latest thought in her mind. Even from this point of view the feminine mind is still a riddle; but one whioh is more oapableof explanation.

For example, Mrs. Bezel read "TheWbim of Fate," and thus after twenty-five years the Horriston tragedy was freshly impressed on her brain. Seized with remorse, terrified by the memory of the orime, she, noting on the impulse, wrote to Hilliston stating that she intended to see Claude Laroher and reveal all. The dismay of the lawyer at this mad proposal, and his steady opposition thereto, turned what was originally a mere whim into a fixed idea. She saw a way of punishing

the man tor the withdrawal of bis lore ten

years, before when ahe loet ber beauty and became paralysed. Delighted at learning that she had a till some power to wound him, ehe pereieted in her projeot, and so wrote the letter to Laroher whioh he received the day after hie arrival in London.

To baffle Hilliston and prevent him from intercepting the letter, ehe w&b obliged to use all ber wite, and ao hit on the idea of learning the name of the young man's club. How ehe managed to obtain it is beat known toherself; but Hilliatob, never dreaming of this pertina city, was unable to thwart ber schemes, and beyond writing to Claude telling him to oall, oould do nothing. Had be guessed that abo would address her invitation to the olub he might have called and obtained it in the oha raoter of Larcher's guardian; but knowing her helpless oondition the thought that it might be there never entered hie mind. So the letter arrived, was duly answered, and Claude was ooming to-day at 3 o'clock to hear what Mrs. Bezel had to say.

The visit, though due to her own action, was a source of considerable anxiety ; for she was not at all oertain of what she would say. It was impossible to tell all without inoulpat iug Hilliston, and this, for reasons of her own, Mrs. Bezel was "unwilling to do. AU her talk of the previous night had been so much rodo montade to frighten the man she hated, but ehe was too well aware of her dependent position to chink of doing him an injury. Her impulse had led her into deep water, as she ltuew instinotively.

She was a woman who had lived every mo ment of her life, but now stretched on a bed of sickness she missed ber former triumphs and exoitements. This visit promised a groat deal of amusement and the use of muoh diplomacy, therefore she was unwilling to abandon her plans. At the same time she was determined to give the young man as little information as she possibly could. It would not be through her agency that the mask would

be torn from Hilliston'sfaoe. She was resolved on that point.

Yet the matter, starting originally from an impulse, had now gone too far for her to draw baok. Claude bad seen the papers and there from must have guessed that she desired to impart oertaiu information with regard to the orime whioh had oost bim a father. Mrs. Bezel therefore compromised the matter, and settled in her own mind to tell him half the

truth, or at all events only sufficient to interest him without aiding bim. Had she been a man, and had taken this decision all would have gone woll, but being a woman Bhe reckoned without her impulse, and it be trayed ber.

Moreover, she bad a revelation to make whioh would effectively tie Laroher's hands should he learn too much ; but this she did not intend to make unlees driven into a corner. She was in that oorner beforo the

interview was finished, though she little expeobed to get there. Hilliaton, clever aa he was, oould not understand her present actioDB; she did not understand them herself, elseebe would uot have ventured to receive Claude Larcher.

He duly arrived at 3 o'olock and Mrs. Bezel glanoed approvingly at his stalwart figure and handsome faoe. Claude had one of those sympathetio yet manly natureB to which women are instinctively drawn by the law of sex, and Mrs. Bezel proved no exception to this rule. She was too thoroughly a woman not to relish masculine aooiety, and despite her perplexity was glad she had eent the invitation, if only for the sake of talking to this splendid'looking young i.ian. There was another reason whioh she revealed in a moment of impulse. But that

was later on.

Meanwhile Claude, seated by her couoh in the window, was wondering who she was and why she had Bought this interview. He was certainly aware that ehe bad some information to impart concerning the fate of his parents, hut as he had not seen her name in the papers containing an account of the case, he was at a loss to fix her identity. His doubts were noon set at rest. Mrs. Bezel was a more prominent actor in the Horriston tragedy than he had any idea of.

•'You were doubtless astonished to get my letter," said Mrs. Bezel when the first greet ings were over, "especially as you do not remember your parents, and my name is also unknown to you."

"Were you a friend of my parents, madam ?" asked Claude, too anxious for in formation to reply directly to her remark.

" Yes -, I—I knew them. That is I lived

at Horriston,"stammered Mrs. Bezel, passing a handkerohief across her dry lips.

" You lived at Horriston? At the time of the murder."

_ Mrs. Bezel nodded ; she was not yet eufii ciently self-controlled (or speech.

"Ia bhatoase," continued Claude eagerly,

"you mult know all the details o£, the orime." .

"Only those that were reported in the papers 1"

"Still, you must "be acquainted with those oonoerned in the tragedy. With my father, with Jeringbam, Denis Bantry—with Hons,

his sister."

" Yes," said Mrs. Bezel,oalmly. "I knew them alt"

"Hare you any idea who committed the orime?"

" Not the slightest."

" But you must hare some suspicions ?"

"Oh, yes! But they may be wrong. I : believe that Mr. Jeringlmm had something to

do with it."

" Oh !" said Claude, remembering Hiltia ton's opinion, "some believe him to be guilty."

"I cannot say for certain," replied Mra. Bezel, shaking her head. " The flight of Mr. Jeringham certainly Bhowed that he had some* thing to conceal."

" What kind of man waa Mr. Jeringham 1"

" Tall and fair. Amiable as a rule, hut liable to violent passions."

" Was ho not in love with my mother before ahe'married my father?"

Mrs. Bezel turned away her head, and the

oolour rose to her faoe. The nervous move ment of ber hands pluoking at her dress showed how profoundly she was moved by this question.

"I believe so. But she—Mrs. Laroher loved her husband."

"Then why was my father jealous of Jer ingham ?" said Claude, who could not recon cile this statemsnt with the evidenoe given at

the trie]

" How should I know ?" oried Mrs. Bezel, turning on him with sudden passion. "If George Laroher had not been so blinded by jealousy he would have seen that there was nothing between them. Your mother knew Jeringbam all her life—they were like brother and sister. It is true he wished to marry her, but when he saw that her heart was given to your father, he bowed to herdeoieion. He oame to Horriston as her Iriend, not as her

lover."

" But he was oonstantly with her."

"Do you dare to speak thus of your mother,

"I— loannot help doing so," stammered Claude, startled hy the anger in her voice. " God knows I wish to revere the memory of my mother, but I cannot help seeing that she was morally responsible for the tragedy."'

"She was not. She was not," eaid Mrs. Bezel, vehemently. How dare you speak thus? Your father neglected her; he left her to the companionship of Mark Jeringham, while hs indulged in his predileotion for literary work. All day long he shut himself up in his study, and let his wife sit alone and miserable. Was it any wonder then that she should turn to her old friend for ooiiBolation. There was nothing between them—nothing to whioh any Pharisee could have taken ex ception.''

" But surely my father was sufficiently een

Bible to see all this?"

" He saw nothing, or what be did see was distorted by his jealousy. The police in their endeavour to fix the crime on your mother took the same view of the relations between her and Jeringbam. Oh, I know what you read iu those papers shown to you by Mr.

Hillistou."

So surprised was Claude by this unexpected 1 introduction of his guardian's name that he could not suppress a start.

" How do you know that Mr. Hillistou showed me the papers?"

Mrs. Bozel saw that she had said too much, but, unable to go baok on her words, rapidly resolved to make that revelation whioh she had hitherto intended to keep as a last

resouroe.

" Mr. Hilliston told me that he had done " Do you know him?"

"Yes,"eaid Mrs. Bezel, seizing her oppor tunity to lead up to the revelation. I know bim as the best aud kindest of men. I know him as one who had been a good friend to you —orphan as you thought yourself."

"Orphan as I thought myself," muttered Claude, turning pale. " It is not true—am I

not an orphan 1" I

"No!"

"Great heavens ! What is this you tell me?

My father" I

"Your father is doad. Ha was murdered, as you know."

"Then my mother I"

Mrs. Bezel looked at the agonized fane of the young man, and oovorad her own with a quick inward breath.

" She lives!"

"My mother I She lives I Are you mad? She died in London shortly aftei her aoquittal."

"So it was supposed, but it was not true. Could you expeot that unhappy woman to face the soorn and oontempt of the world after haviug been accused of her husband's murder? She did not die, save to the world. She flod from society and sought refuge here—here where she lies a helpless

invalid.

"Mrs. Bezel 1"

"I am not Mrs. Bezel.- I am your mother.' " God ! My mother!"