Chapter 162355683

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Chapter NumberXII
Chapter TitleA CHANCE MEETING.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article162355683
Full Date1899-02-11
Page Number38
Corrections0
Word Count1951
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleThe Red-Headed Man
article text

CHAl'TER XII —A CHANCE MEETING.

A1 though Torry doubted the truth of Donna Maria's answer, he was too clever to let his face and tongue betray him. To con tradict so high-spirited a woman would be to reduce her to haughty silence, perhaps to send her out of the room with uo chance of resuming the conversation. The detec tive desired to learn all she .knew while she was in the humour to speak; therefore, he hehl his peace in the face of her doubtful statement. He then recollected Meek's de claration that the lady who had visited the Duke-street chambers on that fatal Saturday had worn a peculiar ring—a silver hoop set with three turquoise stones. Incidentally he looked at Maria's hands, and noted with some chagrin that she wore no rings at all.

Ihis discovery, made him doubt his own perspicuity, and he half-believed that she "light have spoken the truth after all.

"Ilie last time I saw Mr. Grent," said Maria, seeing that the man did not speak, "was on Friday evening. He dined here, and afterwards said good-bye to his wife and myself, as he intended to leave for Italy on Saturday or Sunday. A few days #1 forwards we heard that he was dead."

"Who informed you?"

"Mr. Leighbourne and Mr. Yass. They fame down to break the news as gently as

possible to my aunt."

"1 suppose those two young gentlemen were oiten here?" said Barrel, with an afterthought tiiat one or both might love

the beautiful speaker.

"Naturally," she replied coldly. "Espe cially Mr. Yass, who was secretary to my uncle. His duties brought him often to

Wray House."

"Miss," said Tony, looking sharply at the lady, "have you any idea who murder

ed Mr. Grent?"

"No!" she exclaimed passionately. "I swear by all the saints 1 do not know."

"Had he any enemies?" "None that I know of."

"Bid Julia Brawn ever speak ill of him?" "Certainly not. hshe would not have ,dared to do so to me, under pain of instant dismissal. But you surely don't suspect

her?"

"No." confessed Torry dismally, "I do not. It was a man's arm which dealt the Mow. But what the deuce was your maid doing in Mortality-lane?"

"Are you sure it is Julia?"

"Certain. We found her dead near the Needle on the Embankment, and the lace of her mantle was torn. A portion of it was in the death-grin of her former master. <)h. it is the same woman without

doubt."

"TIow was she dressed?" asked Maria with feminine curiosity.

"In that hat, a fawn-coloured mantle trimmed with black lace, and—why—why!

what is the matter?"

"A fawn-coloured mantle," stammered Maria, who had half-risen from her chair, and was staling at Tony with bonified eves—"with lace, and—and black braid?"

"Yes, yes; do you know it?"

"I do—1 do! Mother of Sorrows have pity on me!" She crossed herself rapidly, and walking to the window, looked out, quiver ire with emotion. The two men stared at one another; then Tony walked forward and touched the girl's arm. She shrank

away with a cry.

"What do you know of that mantle?" he a*ked softly.

Maria. hesitated, and shook her head; then, evidently making up her mind, she in- cd to face Tony. "1 have to ask your pardon," said she in low tones. "T doubted if (he woman who met my uncle was Julia. v'ov I know that it was her. 1 gave her thai mantle. All, God! to think she would

be -o evil."

"We do" not know that," replied Tony, acccpiing the explanation as sufficient, '"-he may have been more sinned .against than sinning. . In any ease, she has paid

l'cr lot- follies with her life."

"''uor wretch! And who killed her?"

"J don't know; but I am sure her lover—? the man she left lic-r situation to marry— killed Mr. Grent. If I could only learn that fellow's personal appearance. He must have done his courting here, as Julia was in your sen-ice for so long. You never

saw him, miss?"

"No; but the servants might have done

so "

"An excellent idea!" cried Tony, rub bine his hands. "Mr. Barrel, will you be so kind as to remain here? Miss Sandoval, please take me to see your butler; lie, if anv one, will know the tint]). Failing him, I'll irv the housekeeper."

"Very well, sir," said Donna Maria, ris ing and walking towards the door. "I hope you'll be able to discover the truth."

"Yon wish to punish the assassin of your nncV?" said Barrel, more for the sake of asking a last question than because he

m eded a repiy.

"1'unish him!" cried the girl, drawing herself up to her stately height. "I would give ten years of my life to see a rope

round his cowardly neck."

After which passionate speech she passed

out of the room.

"Spice of temper there," chuckled Torry, and followed her, leaving Barrel aloue in

the room. .

The young man walked up and down to calm his spirit and quieten his brain. Al ways of a passionate and sensuous nature, be had h'tiicrfo curbed his instincts bv a strong will, and subdued his love of plea sure it) order to serve his art the more faithfully. He had never been in love, and in a somewhat cold-blooded fashion bad regarded the other sex more or less as object studies, to be analysed merci lessly for the creation of types in fiction. But the god of love, who will not be denied, and who. sooner or later, asserts his empire over ail bom of the flesh, had

278

come to Frank Darrel, in all liis might, i and the heart-free man of an hour since wag now m danger of becoming the slave of a woman. . It was incredible, Darrel ar gued, that he could have fallen in love with one whom he had known scarcely an

hour; who had entered into his life only i

Yet, how otherwise was he

able to account for the strange excitement, winch possessed him? He wan hot one ] moment, cold the next; burning as with lever, chilled as with ague; and ever be

.-fj , • eyes appeared that lovely face, with the glorious eyes and rich colouring. Donna Maria was a tropical flower, burn ing and gorgeous; and the splendour of her beauty, the passion of the spirit which named in "her eyes, and governed the in flections of her voice, moved the heart of Darrel strangely. The miracle of the man b life had occurred; and—although he scarcely knew it—he was in love. And why should not love be born of a glance? The improbable is always the possible.

Taken up with his own thoughts, Darrel did not observe that the man and woman who had been walking in the garden were' entering the room through one of the .rrench windows. An exclamation of astonishment from the lady roused him from his brown study, and he turned to explain his presence. As he did so, the man, a light-haired, fresh-coloured young folicw of thirty, ran forward with a'smile

and outstretched hand.

"Darrel, my dear boy, is tin's you?" he

cried, heartily.

"Roderick Mortimer!" said Darrel, clasp

ing the stranger's hand.

"Not now. I am Robert Blake. An Irish uncle left me property on the condi tion that I took his name. The property has gone, but the name remains. No won der you didn't recognise your old school

fellow by it."

"I should know you anj-where; you are

not altered at all."

"Faith! that's a compliment," said Blake airily; "but it's my maimers I'm forgetting.

airily; ^

Lvdia, my dear, let me present to you an* old friend and schoolfellow, Mr. Frank Dar rel, barrister and novelist, which means that he has left the law and taken to the profits. Darrel, my boy, Miss Lydia Har gone, who will very shortly be changed into Mrs. Roderick Biake, of Rainbow Castle Cloudeuekoo Land." '

"Roderick, how you do rattle on!" said Lydia, smilingly. "1 am glad to see you,

Mr. Darrel."

The governess was a. fairdiaired, bland woman, with grey eyes and a rather hard mouth. She was not beautiful, but pos sessed an attractive jnanncr, and was dressed with a quiet perfection that showed excellent taste. In spite of her lack of good looks there was that about her—what the Italians call siinpatica—which would attract at least eight men out of ten. As she pressed Frank's hand and smiled at him with her grey eyes, he felt that here was a woman who could have made hiin love her. But Miss Hargone, as Frunx judged, needed to employ the arts of \ ivicn to capture hearts; whereas, as in his own case, these same hearts were thrown at the feet of Donna Maria merely because of her splen did beauty. Each woman was attractive in

her own way.

?vkak are 5'0U doing down here?" said Blake, throwing himself into a chair

I was not aware that you knew Mrs.

Grent.'

reidied Darrel, flushing a little. J. eame down here with a detec

tive.

Lydia started, and with a little shudder raised her hands in dismay. "Not about | that dreadful murder?"

"Yes, Miss Hargone; about that dreadful minder. 1 am assisting the detective in charge ot the case to investigate it "

"Are yon, now?" cried Blake, 'whose ui ogue became marked when lie grew ex cited. "Sure, it's not thief - catching you ve taken up?" 6

"Oh, no; 1 am merely investigating the

case m an amateur way."

y<?" , discovered anything, Mr. Dariel!' asked Lydia, softly.

Frank shrugged his shoulders. "A few tilings, ' he said, "but nothing likely to ieau to the detection ol the assassin."'

"But there are two of lliem, thev sav " remarked Blake. "It's in the papers. One man killed poor old Grent; the other mur deix-fl that wretched woman/'

"Well," said Darrel, deliberately, "for my part, I believe that both crimes were

committed by the same man."

i, Jlenllj , cried Lydia, much astonished.

J low do you know?"

"it is too long to explain the theorv upon which my belief is founded," said Frank but I am sure that the man who killed Grent also assassinated .Julia Brawn "

•bi hv ii, , 'inv,;i ' said Bla,ie> sta,ti»g "IB maid." 'S mim<- of ]Joiina ^''ias

,-'T° 'r "lai<1 wil° ]eft got mar , ncd a iortmght ago," said Lvdia

And the maid who was 'murdered a neck since remarked Fi-ank, much

uf'I. the astonishment of the pair.

"if tb-rt /nC' -, ?<e' *lal>I'ing his thigh.

if tlut doesnt beat Bannagher; and Bannaglicr beats-ihc devil. Two Vonle lom the one house. Begad, Darrel I'd

w. ,w "lorry—who is lie?'

sai7Frinkte"4f dla'^. of the case,"

saiu i lank. At present lie is, with Donu-i

hi c^iiet*"'""""6 th& liervanls- A,b here

ft rema,k> Guite in tJie stvle of the old transpontine melodrama drama the dooi qieued, and Donna Maria, followed by 'JWy, entered the room. barrel ev plained to the lady that he had discovered an old school-fellow in Mr. Roderick Blake

£!"exf?Hrthe detecti™ to his friend' h Hai:§0,ue- This accomplished Jie asked lorry if he had hem successful! fnnnd°' nt,faid ft1? detfotixe dismally. "FVe found out nothing. Not one of the ser

vants has seen the fellow."

a?ohe Torrv mechanically looked at Miss Harcone s bice. She was staring at him hard; therefore, with some em barrassmenk his eyes dropped to her hands. Then he made a discovery; for on the third finger of her right hand was a silver ring set with three blue stones.