Chapter 161822496

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Chapter NumberXXVI
Chapter TitleAN OLD SERVANT.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article161822496
Full Date1895-06-08
Page Number37
Corrections0
Word Count2575
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleThe Third Volume
article text

CHAPTER XXVI.

AN OLD ABQ7ANT.

Leaving the two men to talk over their dark seorets together, Jenny went into the garden. Her brow burned bb with fever, and her un derstanding was oonfueed by the thoughts whioh filled her mind. What was the meaning of her father'e words; Why had Mr. Hillieton come over from Kastboume to request her silenoe? And what was the oonneotion be tween him and her sole surviving parent? She paoed up and dawn the gravel walk vainly asking herself these questions, and raokirig her brain as to possible answers. Hitherto the sky of her young life had been pare and serene; but now, by her own aob —as though she had unoonsoiouslv wrought a malig nant spell—a sudden storm had arisen whioh

threatened to overturn the foundations of her small world. In the very unexpectedness of these events lay their terror.

As Tait shrewdly surmised, Jenny was by no means satisfied with the evidence of Hillis ton Attbe trial of Mrs. Larcher. So far as she oould judge from the nnsatisfaotory report in the Canterbury Obterver, he had given his ver sion of the affair glibly enough ; yet there seemed to be something behind whioh he was anxious to suppress. Definitely enough be seated that he had not been at "The Laurels" on the fatal night; that he had not aeenUaptain Larobersiuoe be left for Loudon; that he bad not noted whether Mrs. Larcher wore that all-important dagger when ehe left the ballroom. Bat, pressed by an evidently suspioious counsel, be aooouuted ao minutely tor every moment of bis time, bis evidenoe had about it euoh an air of frank falBonesB, that even unsophisticated Jenny saw that the man was autiDg a part. She did not believe him guilty ot the orime, but she was certain in her own mind tnat he knew who had struck the fatal blow. Nay, more, Jenny thought it

not impossible that he bad been at " The : Laurels" after 3 that morning in spite of his

denial, and bad seen the staged; take place. Tail's bints confirming her own doubts led her

to gravely doubt the purity o[ Mr. Uilliston'a 1

motives then and now.

lint what most perplexed the girl was the reason why the lawyer oalled to see her father on thesubjeot and requested her silence. She knew nothing of toe tiagedy save through the

papers — those old faded papers dated 18G(i, j whioh she had found in the garret. She was j not born when the murder took plane, so till liston oould not possibly wish to olose her mouth for her own sake. It was on her father's auoountt that Jenny feared. VVnat oould he know of an obsoure oriuie perpetrated in

oouutry town so many years ago? She oould recall no mention of his name in the report of the trial ; yet lus words led her to suspeoo that he was more oloaely connected with that tragic past than he ohose to admit. Could it be that ber father was a relatives! Jeriugham, and knowing that Jeriugham was still alive wished to "top all enquiries made as to bis whereabouts, lest he should be puuisbed for his early eui ? This was tbe ouly feasible sug gestion shu oould make, and yet it failed to satiety her loo exacting mind.

Again, there was Kerry. Kerry oertsinly had a personal interest in the case; else he could soarcoly have related the episode of the scarfpin. Moreover, ho had been very angry when he found her with the papers in her pos session and, putting those two things together, it would, eeem as if be knew inure than he ohose to tell. Jenny thought, for the gratification of her own ouriosity, she would ask ICerry to explaiu these matters; and so

went to the kitoheu in search of him. Maria was there, oross and deaf as usual, and inti mated that Kerry had been out some two hours on a message. This sounded extraor dinary to Jenny, who knew that the old servant raroly left the house ; but it argued that hur father was anxious to have him outof the way during tbe visit of Uilliston. What did it alt mean ? A horrible fear Beized tbe girl lest she should have set some machinery in motion whioh would end in orushing ber unhappy father. Unhappy he had always been and given to seclusion. There must be some reason for this, and Jenny felt a vague alarm whioh she oould neither express nor display. Dearly enough had she paid for meddliug with that old bundle of papers.

Again she returned to the garden, and went outside into the lane in order to see if Kerry was in sight. In a few minutes he oaine shuffling around the oorner, and his withered faoe relaxed into a grin when be saw her standing by the gate, fjhe was the apple of his eye, and though he eoolded her often himself yet he never let any one say a word against her. To look askance at Jenny was to lose Kerry's favour, and win his enmity

for ever.

"Ah I there ye are, me darling, Miss Jenny," he said with a familiarity of an old servant. " Watching and waiting for poor old Kerry. Sure, it it a sunbeam you are in this dark lane."

" Kerry ! I want to speak to you."

The change in her tone" etruok him at onoe, and he peered sharply into her fresh face with his blearod eyes. A look of wonder stole into them at the eight of her white oheeka, and be orossod himself before replying astoavert any ovil that might befall. Kerry always lived in a state of suspense waiting for a bolt from the blue. Jenny's soared face almost assured him that it had fallen.

" What is it, alannah ?" he asked, pausing at the gate. " Is anything wrong?

" Oh, no I nothing is wrong, Kerry I What oould be wrong?" said Jenny nervously; " only papa has a visitor."

"Augh! His reverenoet"

"Mo; not the Vioar. A stranger — or at least almost a Btranger," she eaid half to herself. " It is many years since Mr. Hilliston oame here."

" Mr. HilliBton !" oried Kerry, with an ashen face. "The black curse on him and his I What ie he doing with the master?"

" I don't know, Kerry," replied Jenny,

rather astonished at the old man's vehe menoa ; "he has been with father over two hour*."

"And I was sent away," muttered Kerry under his breath, " sorrow befall you, blaok attorney that you are. Never did you croBs a threshold without bringing grief to all hearts. It was an evil day we saw you, and an evil day when we see you aguin."

He uplifted h bands as though about to invoke a ourse on Hil'i6ton, then unex pectedly letting them fall he turned sharply on Jenny.

" How did he oome, mi«s?"

" By train from Eastbourne—no doubt he

walked from the station."

" I'll drive him baolt," exolaimed Kerry in quite an amiable voioe, "Sure be'll be weary ou bis legs. Why not ? I'll borrow his reverenoe's trap and the little mare with the white forelegs, but"

" Kerry, father might not like it."

" Get along with ye," eaid Kerry cheer fully, "sure his reverence has offered the trap a hundred times. I'll take it on myself to explain to the master. Keep Mr. Hilliston here till he sees me arriving up this road — a dirty one it iB, too, bad oess to it."

He was hurrying off when Jenny stopped him. She saw that his borrowing of tbevioar'e honey-trap was a mere exouse to get Hilliston to himself for half an hour, and rendered more ourious than ever by Kerry's artful way of arranging matters, she ran after him and pulled his eleeve.

"Kerry! Kerry 1 Has Mr. Hilliston oome over to see papa abont the Laroher affair ?"

" How should I know," retorted Kerry, relapsing into his orusty humour. "For shame, Mias Jenny, Is it yonr business or mine ?"

"It is mine," said the girl with a resolute look on her faoe. " Mr. Hilliston came over to ask me to. be silent about what was oontained in those papers you took from me."

" How does hs know of that, miss?"

" Because all London now knows the story of the Laroher affair."

"Aught Get away vnihye. Sure it's a fool-you're making of old Kerry," said the servant in an inoreduloue and angry tone.

"Indeed.Tamdoingnoeuoh thing. I did not know there was - any harm in reading those papers, and X did so. But I did more than that, Kerry. I told the 'story of the tragedy to Frank Linton, and he has written a book on the trial."

"A book I With the real names!"

" No! The names are fictitious, and the soeneis laid in a different plaoe. But the whole story is told in the novel."

"Does the master know?" asked Kerry, muttering something between his teeth,

"He does now. Mr. Hilliston saw the book -m London, and oame over to toil him, and to ask me to Bay no more about

it."

" What's that for, anyhow ?" demanded Kerry, who seemed to scent new danger.

"Because Mr. Laroher is here I"

Kerry filing up his hands with a-ory of astonishment. "Mr. Laroher, miss. Who are yon telling about?"

"Ob, Mr. Olaude Laroher," said Jenny, rather alarmed, for he bad gripped her arm, " the son of the deoeased man. Ho is staying at the Manor House with Mr.

Tait."

For a few minntes Kerry stood looking at the ground in siienoe. Up to the present be bad euooeeded in preserving hiB oalm, but the last pieoe of news upset him altogether, and he burst into violent speooh.

"Aught it's sorrow that is ooming to this house, and the blaok ourse will be on the threshold. Oold will the hearth bs soon, and the old master will be driven out. Ohone I and we and time will have sent him into the oold world. Whirra! Whirra 1"

Jenny was so dumbfounded by the unex pected eloquenoe of the old man that she could do nothing but stare at him. He oaugbt her eye, and, seeing that he bad been indiB oreet in so betraying hirnBelf he out short hie lamentations, wiped his eyes, and relapsed onoe more into the cruBty, faithful Kerry whom uhe kuew. But he gave her a word of warning before he took his departure. "Bay nothing of this, Miss Jenny," he remarked, "sure it's an old fool I am. Keep a silent tongue as the master and lawyer wisbe- you to do, and then, please the saints, thingB will go

the hotter."

" But Kerry, before you go. tell me. What is Mr. Hilliston to my father ?"

"He is ynur father's best friend, miss," said Kerry with emphasis, "his bBSt and his worst;" and witb that eniguiatio reply he hurried off down the lane in the direction

of tbo vioarage, leaving Jenny in a Btate of

bewilderment.

She oould understand nothing, and at that moment sorely needed some friend witb whom she oould oonsult. Kerry gave her no satis faction, and spoke so indotiuitely that his conversation mystified in plaoe of enlighten ing her. It was no use to make a confidant of Frank Linton, as, notwithseandinghia London reputation, which ehe had greatly contributed to, Jenny did not consider him sufficiently steady to be told of the commotion raised by bis novel in her immediate oirole. She oould therefore disouss the matter with no one, and so annoyed was ehe by the whole affair thatshe by no meanB oould bring herself to go baok to the house while Hilliston was yet there. Ho would be gone, ehe trusted, in another half hour or eo, and, pending his departure, she strolled along the lane in the hope of evading

him.

But she only esoaped Soylla to fall into Clarybdie, for as she turned the oorner Tait and Olaude met ber almost faoeto faoe. Jenny would have given muob to escape this awk ward meeting, and intimated her wish for solitude by passing the young men with a ourt bow. The sight of Olaude, the memory of hie father's death, coupled with thesuspioionsshe entertained, wrought ber up to a pitoh of ex oitemeut whioh she had great difficulty in oonoealing. She was, therefore, greatly an noyed when Tait took off his bat and placed himself direotly in her path. The little man thought it was too favourable en opportunity

forintroduotion to be overlooked.

" Don't go away, Miss Paynton," be said smiling. " I wish to introduoe you to my friend, Mr. Laroher. Claude, this ia Mies Paynton, of whom you have beard me apeak."

"How do you do. Mire Paynton," aaid Claude with a suave bow. I hope you will pardon the irregularity of this intro

duction. '

This remark made Jenny laugh, and eet her more at ease. She was not particular as to formB and oeremonies herself, and the idea that a young man should apologize for suoh a trifle struck her as ridiouloue. Moreover, a glance assured her that Mr. Laroher was by no means a formidable person. He was de cidedly good looking, and had pleas&Dt bine eyes, with a kindly look, so apeeoh and glance broke the ioe at once between thnm.

" Do you stay here long, Mr. Laroher ?" she asked, pointedly ignoring her previous oon

vorsation with Tait.

"As long as I may," he replied, smiling, " London does not invite me at this time of the year. I prefer the fragraut ooantry to the dusty town."

"He is a true lover of the Gelds, Miss Paynton," broke in Tait, admiring her self possession, "and insisted that I should oorne out for a walk so that he might lose no time in steeping himself in the sweetness of nature, Quite idyllic, isn't it?"

"Quite! said Jenny lightly. " Good-by at present, Mr. Laroher. 1 am going to the vicarage, and have not a moment to spare. Mr. Tait, oan I speak with you a minute?"

Tait obeyed with alacrity, and Claude was left to muse on the fresh charm of Jenny, and the sweetness of ber voioe. Her trim figures her exquisite neatness and springing gait, made him admire her greatlv, and when Bhe tripped away with a smiling nod he was so taken up in watohing her that he failed to observe the grave faoe with which Tait joined him.

"As I thought," said thiB latter when they

resumed their walk.

" What is up now ?"

"Oh 1 nothing more than usnal. Hillieton has called on Paynton already. Ho is there

now."

"You don't say eo. I did not think he would have beon so smart. However, you have atolen a march on him. Do you intend to see him now ? To wait his coming out?"

"Why, no,"said Tait, after a moment's deliberation. " Rather let us go home again that Hilliston may not see us. I wish to wait and see what excuse be will make for not oalling on you. You'll get a letter full of lies to-morrow, Claude."