|Newspaper Title||Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Third Volume|
It was only natural that a silence should ensue between these two so strangely brournt together. Claude, seated pale and anguished in bis chair, tried to colleot his thoughts, and stared wildly at his mother. She, with her faoe buried iu the cushions, sobbed bitterly. After the way in whioh her sou had spoken it was cruel that she should have been foroed to make euok a revelation at eunh a moment. He condemned, he reproached her conduct iu the past, and ehe again tasted the full bitterness of tbe cup whioh had been held to her lipB twenty-five years before.
On bis part Claude did not know what to say—he hardly knew what to think. Con vinoed by a perusal of tbe papers that his mother was morally guilty of his father's death, he was overwhelmed to find that she was still alive, and capable, for all he kne w, of offering a defence tor her share in the tragedy. After all he had no right to judge her until he heard what she had to say, Blood is thioker than water, and she was his mother.
Now he saw the reason why Hilliston objected to his o&Uing at liampstead ; why he advised him to let sleeping dogs lie. After so long a period it was worse than useless to bring mother and son together. Their thoughts, their aims, their lives were entirely diverse, and only pain oould be caused by suob a meeting. Claude silently acknowledged the wisdom of HilliBton's judgment, but at the same time could hardly refrain from condemn ing him for having kept bun so long in igno rauoe of the truth.
Mrs. Bezel—as we must still continue to oall her—was astonished at this long silenoe, but raised her head to oast a timid glanoo at Claude. His brow was gloomy, his lips were firmly set, and he looked anything but over joyed at the revelation whioh she had made. Guessing his thoughts, tbe unhappy woman made a gesture of despair, and spoke in a low voice broken by sobs.
" Yon, too, condemn me."
" No, mother," he replied, and Mrs. Bezel winoed bb she heard him aokuowledgo tbe relationship. "I do nob oondemn you. I have heard one side of the question, I must now hear the other—from you."
" What more can I toll yon than what
vnrt alrnadv know." she fiAid. drvinir 1
"I must know the reason why you let mo think you dead all those years."
" It was by my own wish, and by the advice or Mr. Hilliston."
Olaudebithislip at the mention of thisname, and oast a hasty glance round the splendidly furnished room. A frightful suspioion bad entered his mind ; but she was his mother, and he did not dare to give it utterance. His mother guessed his thoughts and spared him the pain of speaking. With a womanly disregard for the truth she promptly lied ooncerning the relationship which her eon suspected to exist between hie guardian and herself.
"You need not lookso black, Claude, and think ill of me. I am unfortunate, but not guilty. All that you see here iB mine—pur chased by my own money."
" Yourown money,"repliedClaude, heaving
a sigh of relief.
" Yes ! Mr. Hilliston, who has been a good friend to me, saved sufficient out of iny mar riage settlement to enable me to furnish this oottage and live oomfortably. It is just at well," added she bitterly, "else I might have died in the streets."
" But why did you lot Hilliston bring meup to thick I was an orphan."
" I did not wiBh to shadow your life. I did not wish you to ohange your name. I had to uhange miue and retire from the world, but that was part of my punishment."
" Still, if"
" It was impossible I tell you, Claude," in terrupted his mother impatiently. " When you grew up you would have asked questions, and then I would have been forced to tell you all."
"Yet, in spite of your precautions! do know all. If you took all this trouble to hide the truth, why reveal it to me now?"
Mrs. Bezel pointed to three books lying on an adjacent table. Claude quite understood what she meant.
"I see," he remarked before she oould speak, "you think that the author of that
book knows about my father's murder."
" I'm oertain he does. But what he knows, or how he knows, I oaunot say. tftill, I am certain of one thing—that hs telle the story from hearsay."
" Wnat makes you think that?"
"It would take too long to telt yon my reasons. It la enffioient to state that the fiotitioua base differs.from, the real oaee in several important particulars. For instanoe," she added, with a. derisive smile, "the guilty person is said to be Michael Dene, and
" Is drawn from Mr. Hilliston."
''How do you know that!" she asked with a startled air.
Olsnde shrugged his shoulders. "I have eyes to read and brainstooomprebend,"hessid quietly. "There is no doubt in my mind that the lawyer in the fiotion is meant for the lawyer of real life. Otherwise I think the writer drew on his imagination. It was neces sary for him to end his story by fixing on one of she characters as a oriminnl; and owing to the exigencies of the plot as developed by him. self, he ohoBe Miohael Dene, otherwise Mr. Hilliston, as the murderer."
" But you don't think'
"Oh, no! I don't think Mr. Hilliston is guilty. I read the trial very carefully, and moreover I do not see what motive he oould have had to oominit the crime."
"The motive of MiohaelDeneislovefor the murdered man's wife."
" In other words the author assumes that Hilliston loved yon," said Olaude, ooolly; " but I have your assurance that suoh is not the case."
"You speak to me like that,"cried Mre. Bezel, angrily, " to your mother."
Laroher's expression did not change. Ee turned a trifle paler, and oompressed bis lips firuily, otherwise he gave no outward sign of his emotion. Knowing so muoh of the case as he did, bo could not look on this woman in the light of a mother. She had indireotly con tributed to his father's death; she had deserted him for twsnty-five years; and now that she olaimed his filial reverence, he was unwilling to yield it to her. Perhaps he was unjust and harsh to think this, but the natural tie between tbem was so weakened by time and ignoranoe that he oould find no affection in his heart to bestow on her. To him she was a stranger—nothing more. .
"Bet us understand each other,"he said, coldly. " That you are my mother is nodoubt true, but I ask you if you havo performed your maternal duties. Yon obliterated your self from my life ; yoti loft me to be brought up by strangers—in all ways yon only oon suited your own desires. Can you thus ex
jibuu mw vu yieiu yuu uuau un
whioh every mother has a right to expect from her son. If you"
"Enough, sir,"said Mrs. Bezel, white with anger. " Say no more. I understand you only too well, and now regret that I sought this in terview, whioh has resulted so ill. I hoped that you would be glad to find your mother still alive; that you would cherish her in her affliction. I Bee I was wrong. You are as oold and bitter as was your father."
" My father 1"
" Yes. Do you think that all the wrong was on my side? Had I nothing to forgive him ? Ah 1 I see by your faoe that you know to what I allude. It was your father aud my husband who betrayed me for Mona Ban try."
"You have no proof of that," said Claude
n a low voice.
" I have every proof. The girl told me with her own lipa. I returned from that ball at 3 o'olook in tho morning, and Mr. Jeringham left me at the door. I entered the house alone and proceeded to my sitting-room. There I found Mona and—my hueband."
" Ah ! He did not return from London on the night."
"Yes. He returned, thinking I was out of the way in order to eee his mistress. In his presence she confessed her guilt. I looked to him for denial, and he hung his head. Then, hardly knowing what I did, overcome with rage, I snatched the dagger whioh I wore as part of my oostume, and"
" And killed him." shrieked Olaude spring ing to his feet. " For heaven's sake, do not confess thia to me."
"Why not? I did no wrong! I did not kill him. I fainted before I could cross the room to where he stood. When I reonvered I was alone. My husband and Wona Bantry had disappeared. Tben I retired to bed and was ill for days. I know no more of tho case."
" Is this true?" asked Olaude anxiously.
" Why should it not be true? Do you think I would invent a story like that to asperse the memory of your father. Vilely as be treated me I loved him. I do not know who killed him. The dagger I wore disappeared with him. It was found in the garden. His body in the river four miles down. But I declare to you solemnly thai I am ignorant of whoso hand struck the blow. It might have been Mona, or Jeringham, or"
"Or Hilliston 1"
" You are wrong there," replied his mother ooolly, " or else your judgment has been per verted by that book. Mr. Hilliston was still at the ball when tho tragedy occurred. HiB evidence at the trial proved that. Don't say
a ivnrf) AC/iirtftfc him. F?a hft» Haph a emevA
friend to you—and to me."
" I do not deny that I"
"You oannot. When I was arrested and tried for a crime which I never committed he etood by me. When I left the Court alone and friendless he stood by mo. I decided to feign death to escape the obloquy which attaches to every fiuspeoted criminal. He found me this refuge and installed me here as Mrs. Bezel. He took ctiaraa of you and brought you up, and looked after your money and mine. Don't you dare to speak against
Exhausted by the fury with whioh she had spoken, the unfortunate woman leaned hack in her chair. Claude, already regretting his harshness, brought a glass of water, whioh he plaoed to her lips. After a few minutes ehe revived, and feebly waved him away ; but he was not to be bo easily dismissed.
"I am sorry I spoke as I did, mother," he I said tenderly, arranging her pillows. Now that I have beard your story, I see that you have Buffered gre'-tlv. It is not my right to reproach you. No doubt you noted for the best, therefore I do not eay a word against you or Mr. HilliBton, but ask you to forgive
The tears were rolling down Mrs. Bezel's
cheek' as he spoke thus, and, without uttering I a word, she put her hand in his in token of | forgiveness. Claude pressed his lip to ber
faded oh' ek, and thus reconciled—as much as I possible under theoircumstances—tliey began to
talk of the oase.
" What do you iDtond to do?" asked Mrs. I Bezel, weakly. I 1 " Find out who killed my father."
" It is impossible—after twenty-five years. ] I have told you all I know, nud you seo I
oannot help you. I do not know whom to j
" You surely have soma suspicions,
"No, I have no suspioions. Whosoever killed your father took the dagger out of my sitting-room."
" Perhaps lilona"
"I think not. She had no reason to kill him."
" He had wronged her."
"And me,"cried Mrs. Bezel, vehemently.
"Do not talk any moreofthese.thinge, Claude, I know nothing —I oan tell yon nothing more."
" Then I must try and findont John Parver, end learn how he beoame acquainted with the story."
"That is why I sent for you: why I; revealed myself: why I told you all I have i suffered. . Find John Paver, and tell me who he is, what he is."
This Olaude promised to do, and as his mother was worn out by the long conversation be shortly afterwards took hie leave. As he detoended Fitsjohn's Avenne a thought flashed into hiB mind as to the identity of John
" I wonder if John Parver is Mark Jerlng hatn ?" said Olaude.
The question was to be answered on that ] very evening.