|Chapter Title||ON THE TRACK.|
|Newspaper Title||Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Third Volume|
ON THE TRACK*
It was nearly G oolock when Claude returned to Jiarla-street, and Tait, already dressed for the evening, was waiting his arrival with con siderable impatience. His usual lmpertuba biiity had given place to a self-satisfied air, aa though he bad suooeeded in aooompliehing a diffioult laBk. .He uttered a joyful exolama tion when he saw Claude enter, but a look of apprehension passed over his faoe when he noted the altered appearanoe of hie friend.
" What is wrong ?" he asked, as Oiaude threw himself into a chair with a sigh of fatigue. "Do you bring bad news 1 My dear fellow, you are oompletely worn out. Here, Dormer, a glass of sherry for Mr. Larober."
The eervant, who was putting the finishing touches to the dinner-table, speedily obeyed this order, and Tait made liis friend drink the wine without delay. Then he proceeded to question bim regarding the reason of his
Sailor, but with his usual oaution first sent
lormer out of the room. Only when they
were alone did he venture to speak on the subject about whioh both were thinking.
"Weill" he demanded anxiously, "you
saw Mrs, Bezel ?"
" Yob 1 I was with her for two hours."
" Ah !'' eaid Tait, with groat satisfaction, "she must have told you a good deal in that time."
" She did. She told me more than I <
" Did it conoern your parents?"
" Good 1 Then you no doubt heard her ver sion of the crime."
These unsatisfactory replies, which dropped so strangely from Lareher's lips, at onoe puzzled and irritated the questioner.
" You don't seem anxious to confide in me," he said, in a piqued tone.
"I will tell you all. I am anxious to tell you all," replied Laroher, finding his tongue, " but I do Dot know how to begin."
"Oh, I shall save you the trouble by asking
you questions. In too first place, who is Mrs. Bezel ?"
" My mother."
Tait bounded from his oh air with an expres sion of inoredulity. This unexpected informa tion, so abruptly conveyed, was too much for
" Your mother!" he stammered, hardly thinking he had heard aright. "Are you in earnest. I oannot believe it. Acoording to the notioe in the newspapers, according to llilliston, your mother died in London in 18C7."
"She did not die. Her death was a feigned one, to esoapa the notoriety gained by her triai at Cauterbury."
" Did Mr. Hilliston know ehe was alive?"
"Yes. It was by his advice that ehe chanced her name."
"Oh 1 oh I" said Tait, with marked signi ficance. "Hilliston knew, Hilliston advised. Humph I John Parver may be right after
"Tait, be silent. You are speaking of my
" I beg your pardon, my dear fellow, but I really do not understand."
"You will shortly. I will tBll you the story of my mother's troubles and Hilliston's
" Hilliston's kindness," repeated Tait, in a sceptioal tone. Nevertheless he resumed his seat, and signified his willingness to hear the
The wine had done Olaude good and restored his self-possession ; so, now master of himself, be related all that had passed be tween himself and Mis. Bezel. Gifted with a retentive memory and no mean powers as a narrator, he Biiooeeded in giving Tait a vivid > impression of the conversation. The little i man, with his head slichtly on one side, like a
bright-eyed sparrow listened attentively, and not till the story was finished did he make an observation thereon. To this capability of listening without interruption Tait owed a great deal of his popularity.
"Truth iB stranger than fiotion after all," said he when Ulaude ended, "and the novel is lesB dramatio than the episode of real life. John Parver did not dare to insinuate that the supposed dead widow of the murdered man was alive. Humph 1 This oomplicates matters more then ever."
" At least it clears the oharaoter of Hillis
" Yea 1" assented Tait, doubtfully, " I sup poRQ it does."
"Can you doubt it?" said Laroher, dissatie fied with this grudging consent. "You oan now see whv (iillietou was agitated at our in terview—why he asked me not to see Mrs. Bezel so called—why ho called here the ssme evening to find out if I bad gone; and finally why he wished to prepare me before seeiug her by telling of the tragedy."
"Oh, I see all-that," said Tait quietly. "Ninemen out of ten would oonsider Millis ton a most disinterested person. But I am the tenth man, and am therefore eceptioal of hie motive."
" But what motive oan he have for"
"That is just it," interrupted Tait viva cionely. " I oan't see his motive, but I will find it out some day,"
" Well, you can speak for yourself," said Claude, frowning. " After what my motliBr has 'old me, I believe HiUiston to be au up right and honourable man."
" You are quite right to do so on the evidence. Still, if I were you I would not lreep him informed of all our movements, un less — Do you intend to go on with the matter?" he aBked ahruptly.
" Assuredly ! I am determined to find out who killed my father."
Tait walked to the fireplace ana took up his position on the hearthrug. An idea had entered his mind, which he did not intend to
put into words. Nevertheless it waB indirectly the reason for hiB next speech.
"I think, after all, it would be best to take Hilliston's advice and let eleeping dogs lie."
He had not oaloulated the effect of these words on his hearer, for Clande also arose from his ohair, and looked at him with angry surprise.
"I don't understand you,"he said coldly; " some hours back, and you were more eager than I to pursue the unknown crimanal. Now
youwisYtb withdraw. May! askthewawB of this sudden change. "
It seems to meuseleai to hops to find the„ assassin," replied Toil, shrugging hie •honlderi. " One omnnot discover * needle in aheystaok."
"U yea yon oan—by patient research.*
"Well, even that would be easier than to hope to solve a mystery whioh has been im penetrable for five-and-twenty years/' .
"It has been impenetrable for thaktime be oauBe no oue has tried to solve it. This is not your real reason for wishing to end the case. What is your reason! Speak. I insist opon knowing the truth."
The other did not reply, but thrust his hands deeper into hie pooketi and main tained a masterly eilenoe. Irritated by this negative attitude, Olaude placed hishande on the little man's shoulders and looked at him indignantly.
" I know "hat your reason le, Tait," he said rapidly. "It is not that you fear we may learn too little, but that you ezpeot that we
will learn too mush."
"Yes," replied Tait, simply, "that ie the reason. Is it not an all-sufficient one for you to pause!"
" No," shouted Olaude, savagely. " It is all sufficient for me to go on. Yon tbink that I may discover that Hilliston ie the criminal, or learn that my mother ie aooountable for the crime. T tell you no such thing will happen.
Hilliston was not near ' The Laurels' on the fatal morning. My mother—I have told you how she exonerated herself, and the exonera tion was substantiated by DeniB Bantry. Both
'' It may be so. But who is guilty ?"
" Jeringbam. I believed that be discovered that my father had returned, and perhaps knowing of this intrigue between bim and Mona Bantry, remained at' The Laurels' un known to my mother, in order to assist her as
" How did Jeringliam obtain possession of the dagger}"
"I oatmotsay. We roost find oat. Bathe did obtain possession of the dagger, and during a quarrel.with my father killed him with it. He fled to avoid the ooasequenoes. Oh, yes ! I swear that Jeringham is guilty. But I will bunt him down, if I have to do it
"You will not do it alone," said Tail, quietly. " I am with you still."
" Bat 70a said"
" I know what I eaid 1 I think it is beEt to leave well alone. But since you ate set on learning the truth I will help you to the best of my ability. Only," added Tait, explicitly, "should you discover the truth to be unpala
table do not blame me."
" I won't blaine you. I am certain that you will find that I am right, and that Hillieton and my mother bad nothing to do with the affair. Help me, that ib all I ask. I will bear the oonsequences."
" Very good ! Then we had better get to work,"said Tait, dryly, "just go and dress, my dear fellow, or you'll keep dinner wait ing."
"Why should I dress! I am nob going out to-night."
"Indeed you are. We are due at Mrs. Dur ham's ' At home' at 10 o'clook."
"I shan't go. I'm in no mood for frivo lity. I would rather etay at home and think over the case. It ie only by hard work that we can hope to learn the truth."
"Very true. At the same time it ieneoes sary for you to go out to-night, if only to meet
with .lohn Parver."
"The author of 'The Whim of Fate,"' asked Claude, eagerly. " Ie he in town 1"
" Ycb ; and be will be at Mrs. Durham's to night. We must see him and find out where he obtained tbemateriale for his novel."
" Do you think Buch information will lead to any result!" asked Claude dubiously.
"I don't think, I am sure of it," retorted Tait, impatiently. *' Now go and dress."
Larcher departed without a word'"