|Chapter Title||PREPARING THE GROUND.|
|Newspaper Title||Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Third Volume|
rnai'ABiNG thk ground.
Aware that Claude would hear eoouer or later of hie visit to Payn ton, the lawyer wrote to forestall the information, skilfully alleging a business engagement ae his excuse for the. visit. " I would have oalled on you," he con tinued, " but that it was already late when I left my client, Mr. Paynton, and 1 bad to return to iSastbourne in time for dinner. However, I hope to ooms over again shortly, and then you must call me how you are getting on with yout oase. 1 am afraid you will learn nothing at Thorston."
"Heknows better than that," said Tait, to whom the letter was shown ; " he L aware that we have cut the ground from under hiB feet so far as Jenny is concerned. .Moreover, I am oertain that lie is the author of that annoy mous letter of a few days sinco."
"Ho you really think he came here to ask Miss Paynton to keep silenoe ?" asked Claude, returning the letter to hie pooket.
" My dear follow 1 am certain of it. And be also wishes to show us that be knows Paynton, so as to warn us against asking questions in that quarter."
"Indeed, 1 think it is useless to do so" said Laroher doubtfully, "you know we oalled yesterday and were refused admitt&noe."
"Oh, I spoke to Mr. Linton about that," replied Tait easily ; " it seems that such is invariably the oase, as this hermit will see no
"Why? Wbatoan be his reason forsuoh persistent seclusion?"
"I oan'teay, unless your surmiBe is oorrecb,
and he is Jeringham." j
"I am sure hois," said Claude emphabi- |
cally. " Why was the bundle of newspapers I containing an aooount of the murder found in j ; his house? What is Denis Bantry doing there i
if Paynton is not Jeringham?"
"The shoe is on the other foot," remarked
Tait, .drily. . " What is Denis Banbry doing I .there-if Paynton is Jeringham? You forget, J Claude, that we suspeot Jeringham as the criminal. If this were so, or if Paynton were Jeringham, I hardly think your father's de voted servant would be at bis beck and oall,
unless," added Tait as an after thought,. "Denis Bantry is also implioatod as we imagine."
"I can't understand it,"oried Claude,oatoh ingup his hat; "in plaoe of growing olearer I the matter seems to beoome more involved. How do you intend to prooeed? It seems to
me that we are at a dead stop." _ 1
" By no means, my dear fellow. There is Kerry alias Denis Bantry, to be examined.
We must learn the truth from bim." j
" He won't tell it I Particularly if our sus picions are oorreob."
" Perhaps nob, bub I have provided against that failure. You mu9t appeal to him as the
sou of his old master, while I am absent." 1
" Absent! Whore are you going?"
"Can't you guess? To Horriston, of course, in order to pick up what informa tion I can. There are sure to be people still alive who remember your father and mother; who. reoolleob the trial, and ore still acquainted with Mr. Hilliston. I expeob te learn a good deal about that gentleman there ; and perhaps something about Jering hara and his disappearance."
" Humph ! I doubt if you will be success ful," replied Claude gloomily, "however, there is no harm in trying. Whore are we going now ?"
"I told you before we set out. To call on the Vioar. As we oan't see Jenny at her father's house we must meet her in another person's. She is like a daughter to Mrs. Linton, and is oonstantly at the Vicarage,"
" And no doubt young Linton loves her."
"I'm sure ho doss. Hive you any objec tion?" demanded Tait slily.
"None, none," said Claude hastily, "I have only met her for a few minutes, you know. But she is a remarkably pretty girl, and from what you eay seems to be olever. Toe good bv half for that idiot."
"Idiot! John Farver, novelist, and lion of the season, an idiot? You forget he wrote
the book of the voar." !
"So he says," responded Larcher, drily. ; "But for my part I believe Jenny Paynton i has more to do with it than he. I have no doubt ehe wrote it."
Further conversation was put an end to for the time being by their arrival at the vioarage. Mr. Linton,'a stiff old gentleman witha severe face, received them very kindly, and unbent so far as in him lay. H6 had been acquainted with Tait for many years, and it waB during a visit to him that the little man had seen and purohased Thorston Manor. Knowing him to be wealthy, and being well disposed towards , him for his own sake, Mr. Linton was anxious
to make the Lord of the manor at home in his < house. Vioars oannot afford to negleob opulent parishioners.
"I hope, Mr. Tait, that you will shortly take up your abode altogether at the Manor," said he pompously. " I am not in favour of an absentee landlord."
" Oh, vou'll see a good deal of me, Mr. Linton, I assure you. I am toe muoli in love with the beauties of the plaoe to stay long away. Moreover, I am nob a roamer like my friend Laroher here."
" It is neoessity with me," said Claude, smiling. " I assure you, sir, I am nob the wandering vagabond Tait would make me out to be."
"It is proper to see the world," said the Vioar with heavy playfulness; " and when you have made your fortune in far countries, Mr. Laroher, you may settle down in this favoured spot."
" I oould wish for nothing better, Mr. Linton ; but the time is yet far off for
•"Myson is also fond of travelling,"con tinued Mr. Linton. "Now that he is making a good inaome he tells me that it is his inten tion to go to. Italy."
" Ton;ace.proud of your sod, Mri Linton," said Taitgemally.' *
"Without doubt!—without doubt! The book he wrote ie clever, although! do not dare for sensational writing myself,'.'
" It paya. The taste of the age is in the .direotion of sensationalism." .
" Certainly, oertainly ; and I suppose it is only natural that Franois should write some frivolity. He was never a deep scholar. What does astonish me," added the vioar, raising his eyebrows, "is that a student like Mr. Paynton should desire to read the book." Tait and Claude glanced at one another with the same thought in their minds respect ing this information. Informed by HilliBton of the use made by Linton of the Laroher affair, Paynton was anxious to see in what light the oasa had been plaoed. This ourfoBity argued that the reoluee bad been one of the aotore in the tragedy; if so, be oould only be Jeringham sinoe Captain Larcher was dead, and they knew both Denis. Bantry and Franois Hillision, The vioar, worthy man, was quite ignorant of the effeob produced by this announcement; nor was he undeceived by the artful reply of Tait.
" Naturally Mr. Paynton wants to read the book,"said the latter, diplomatically. "If I mistake not be has a great liking for Frank."
"Indeed, yes," responded Mr. Linton, thankfully. " He taught Franois Latin along with Jenny. Ho would have made a soholar of him. .1 am indeed Borry that my son failed to profit by his association with ao brilliant a student. He might have written a better book."
Clearly the vicar was bp no means im pressed with the sensationalism of "A Whim of Fate," and would rather his son had written an honest pamphlet or a grave tragedy than have produced so meretricious a pieae of three volume frivolity. However, he had no time to talk further on this matter, for as he ended his epeeoh the subjeot of it entered the room with Jenny and Mrs. Linton. The former started and flushed as she eaw Claude, and remembered his romantic history and former meeting.
' My wife, Mr. Larcher. You know Mr. Tait, of. course, ray dear. Miss l'aynton, Mr. Laroher, and my son."
" I have already bad. the pleasure of meet ing Mr. Frank Linton in town,"said Claude, holding out his hand. The young author took it willingly enough, and then the oompany resolved itself into two groups, the vioar and his wife conversing with Tait, while Claude, seoonded by Frank, made himself agreeable to Jenny. Neither the lady nor the author were .pleased with this arrangement, as the former folt uneasy when she remembered her father's position, while the latter felt jealous of Claude's superior good looks. Frank Linton was, of oourse, ignorant that be was in the oompany of the son of the Horriston viotim ; he did not even know the names of the people or that of the place, and had simply written the story on the meagre information afforded by Jenny. He could not, therefore, understand the interest which those two dis
played in one another, and so grew jealouB on, seeing it.
It would be useless to report this conversa tion, which in the main oonsisted of frivolities. Warned by her father, Jenny was on her guard, and oarefully. avoided any allusion to the Larcher affair. On his part, not knowing the retioence Jenny, had praotised with regard to Linton, Claude tried to lead the conversa
tion into a groove likely to deal with the novel ? and oase. At one point he did this so clumsily that Jenny spoke outright on the subject.
"Let us talk no more of that, Mr. Larcher," she said quietly. " I told Mr. Taitall 1 knew the other day."
"I have to thank you" began Claude, when she out him short, and turned the con versation into another channel. The young man was disappointed in this, but neverthe less fell in with her humour, and when, follow
ing Tait's example, he arose to go, he waB , quiteoharmed with this oountry girl.
" I hope you will oome soon again," said the vioar, hospitably, as be shook hands. " We must have a party shortly. Our friends, Mr. and Mrs. HilliBton, have promised to oome and stay the night during next week."
" Another move and a foolish one," thought Tait, but said aloud, " We will be charmed, Mr. Liuton, the more so as Mr. Hilliston is my friend's guardian—or rather was."
Jenny looked startled at this, and ber rioh colour faded when ehe said good-bye to Claude. The mystery of the affair was beginning to worry her, and she oould by no means understand the relation of Hilliston to Laroher ; Hilliston, who was the guardian and friend ; Hilliston, who, judging from the veto put on her speaking, was iniinioal to Claude. Untroubled by their conversation Claude held but one idea when bo left the house with Tait.
"I'm afraid I am in lore,"said he, looking at his friend.
" What, at first sight ? Impossible !"
" Shakespeare did not thing so, or ho would not have written Romeo and Juliet. Yes, I believe I am in love. Jenny is as fresh and fair, and pure and sweet, as a mountain daisv."
" You had better tell Linton eo," said Tait dryly, whereat Laroher laughed. He was too oonfident in his own powers to be timorous of rivalry with the oelebrated individual.
" There is no need to tell him," ho said lightly, "the poor man wai eaten up with jealousy when I spoke to Miss Paynton. By the way, did you aee that she changed colour when you mentioned that Hilliston had been my guardian
" It was natural that she should. Hilliston is a suspicious person in her eyes, and this dis covery will perplex her still more regarding his relations with you. Jenny is a very clever young woman, but I wonder if she is clear enough to put this and that together."
"To arrive at what conclusion?"
" At tho most logical conclusion. That her father is Jeringham, whom she suepectsof the orime."