Chapter 39420539

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Chapter NumberVll.-(CONTINUED.)
Chapter TitleMISS FIRMAN.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article39420539
Full Date1888-02-11
Page Number4
Corrections1
Word Count1799
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2017-02-05
Newspaper TitleCairns Post (Qld. : 1884 - 1893)
Trove TitleHand and Ring
article text

Hand and Ring.

BY ANNA KATHARINE GREEN,

CHAPTER Vll.—(CONTINUED.)

MISS FIRMAN.

" I confess with all humility that at times the line of demarcation between truth and fiction is rendered so indefinite and indistinct, that I cannot always de- termine, with unerring certainty, whether an event really happened to me, or whether I only dreamed

it."—LONGBELLOW.

And with a complacent smile, Dr. Trethwell handed over a letter which

had been brought to him by the detec- tive who that morning arrived from

New York.

With a dim sense of foreboding which he would have found difficult to ex- plain, Mr. Byrd opened the note and read the following words :

DEAR SIR,—I send with this a man fully competent to conduct a case of any ordinary difficulty. I acknowledge that it is for our interest that you employ him to the exclusion of the person mentioned in your letter. But if you or that person think that he can ren- der you any real assistance by his interfer- ence, he is at liberty to act in his capacity of detective in as far as he can without di- vulging too widely the secret of his connec- tion with the force.

"The superintendent need not be concerned," said Mr. Byrd, returning the note with a constrained bow. " I shall not interfere in this matter."

" You will miss a good thing, then," remarked the coroner, shortly, looking keenly at the young man.

"I cannot help it," observed the other, with a quick sigh of impatience or re- gret. "I should have to see my duty very clearly and possess the very strongest reasons for interfering before I presume to offer either advice or as- sistance after a letter of this kind."

" And who knows but what such reasons may yet present themselves?" ventured the coroner. Then seeing the young man shake his head, he made haste to add in a business-like tone of one preparing to take his leave, " At all events the matter stands open for the present ; and if in the course of to-day's enquiry you see fit to change your mind, it will be easy enough to notify me.' And without waiting for any further remonstrance, he gave a quick nod and passed hastily out.

The state of mind in which he left

Mr. Byrd was anything but enviable. Not that the young man's former deter-

mination to let this matteralone had been

in any wise shaken by this unexpected concession on the part of the superin- tendent, but that the final hint con- cerning the inquest had aroused his old interest to quite a formidable degree and, what was worse, had reawakened certain feelings which since-last night it had been his most earnest endeavour

to subdue. He felt like a man pursued by an implacable fate, and dimly won-

dered whether he would be allowed to escape before it was too late to save him- self lasting uneasiness, if not lifelong regret.

A final stroke of business for Mr.

Ferris kept him at the court-house most of the morning: but his duty in that direction being at an end, he no longer found any excuse for neglecting the task imposed upon him by the coroner. He accordingly proceeded to the cottage where the inquest was being held, and finding each and every available room there packed to its utter- most by interested spectators, took up

his stand on the outside of a curtained window, where with but the slight craning of his neck he could catch very satisfactory view of the different witnesses as they appeared before the jury. The day was warm and he was by no means uncomfortable, though he could have wished that the advantage of his position had occasioned less envy in the breasts of the impatient crowd that was slowly gathering at his back ; or, rather, that their sense of these advan- tages might, have been expressed in some more pleasing way than by the various

pushes he received from the more or

less adventurous spirits who endea-

voured to raise themselves over his shoulder or insinuate themselves under his arms.

The room into which he looked was

the sitting-room, and it was, so far as he could judge in the first casual glance he threw into it, occupied by strangers.

This was a relief. Since it had be- come his duty to attend this enquiry, he wished to do so with a free mind, unhindered by the watchfulness

of those who knew his interest in the affair, or by the presence of persons around whom his own imagination had involuntarily woven a network of sus- picion that made his observation of them at once significant and painful.

The proceedings were at a standstill when he first came upon the scene.

A witness had just stepped aside, who, from tho impatient shrugs of many persons present, had evidently added little if anything to the testimony already given. Taking advantage of the moment, Mr. Byrd leaned forward and addressed a burly man who sat directly under him.

" What have they been doing all the morning?" he asked. "Anything im- portant?"

" No," was the surly reply. " A score of folks have had their say, but not one of them has told anything worth listening to. Nobody has seen anything, nobody knows anything. The murderer might have risen up through the floor to deal his blow, and having given it, sunk back again with the same supernatural claptrap, for all these stupid people seem to know about

him."

The man had a loud voice, and as he made no attempt to modulate it, his

words were heard on all sides. Natur-

ally many heads were turned toward him, and more than one person looked at him with an amused smile. Indeed, of all the various individuals in his im-

mediate vicinity, only one forbore to take any notice of his remark. This was a heavy, lymphatic, and some- what abstracted-looking fellow of non- descript appearance, who stood stiff and straight as an exclamation point against the jamb of the door-way that led into

the front hall.

" But have no facts been obtained, no conclusions readied, that would serve to awaken suspicion or put jus- tice on the right track ?" pursued Mr. Byrd, lowering his voice in intimation

for the other to do the same.

But that other was of an obstinate

tendency, and his reply rose full and

loud.

" No, unless it can be considered, proved that it is only folly to try and

find out who commits a crime in these

days. Nothing else has come to light as far as I can see, and that much we

all knew before."

A remark of this kind was not calcu-

lated to allay tho slight inclination to mirth which his former observation had

raised, but the coroner rapping with his pen on the table at this moment, every other consideration was lost in the natural curiosity which every on

felt as to who the next witness would be.

But the coroner had something to say before he called for further testi-

mony.

" Gentlemen," he remarked, in a clear and commanding tone that at once

secured attention and awakened in-

terest. " we have spent the morning in examining the persons who live in this street, with a view to ascertaining if possible, who was in conversation with Mrs. Clemmens at the time the tramp went up to her door."

Was it a coincidence, or was there something in the words themselves that called forth the stir that at this moment took place among the people assembled directly before Mr. Byrd? It was of the slightest character, and was merely momentary in its duration ; neverthe- less, it attracted his attention, es- pecially as it seemed to have its origin in a portion of the room shut off from his observation by the corner of the wall already alluded to.

The coroner proceeded without pause. " The result, as you know, has not been satisfactory. No one seems to be

able to tell us who it was that visited Mrs. Clemmens on that day. I now propose to open another examination of a totally different character, which I hope may be more conclusive in its re- sults. Miss Firman, are you prepared to give your testimony ?"

Immediately a tall, gaunt, but plea-

sant-faced woman arose from the dim

recesses of the parlour. She was dressed with decency, if not taste, and took her stand before the jury with a lady-like yet perfectly assured air that promised well for the correctness and discretion of her answers. The coroner at once addressed her.

" Your full name, madam ?"

" Emily Letitia Firman, sir."

"Emily!" ejaculated Mr. Byrd, to himself, with a throb of sudden in- terest. " That is the name of the mur-

dered woman's correspondent."

" Your birthplace," pursued the coroner, " and the place of your pre- sent residence?"

"I was born in Danbury, Connecti- cut," was the reply, "and I am living in Utica, where I support my aged mother by dressmaking."

"How are you related to Mrs. Clem- mens, the lady who was found murdered here two days ago ?"

" I am her second cousin ; her grand- mother and my mother were sisters."

" Upon what terms have you always lived, and what can you tell us of her other relatives and connections ?"

" We have always been friends, and I can tell you all that is generally known of the two or three remaining persons of her blood and kindred. They are, first, my mother and myself, who, as I have before said, live in Utica, where I am connected with the dress- making establishment of Madame Tre- belle ; and, secondly, a nephew of hers, the son of a favourite brother, whom she has always supported, and to whom she has frequently avowed her inten- tion of leaving her accumulated savings."

" The name of this gentleman and his residence? "

"His name is Mansell—Craik Mansell —and he lives in Buffalo, where he has a situation of some trust in the large paper manufactory of Harrison, Good- man, & Chamberlin."

Buffalo ! Mr. Bryd gave an involun- tary start, and became, if possible, doubly attentive.

The coroner's questions went on.

'' Do you know this young man ? "

" Yes, sir. He has been several times to our house in the course of the

last five years."

" What can you tell us of his nature and disposition, as well as of his regard for the woman who proposed to benefit him so materially by her will ? "

TO BE CONTINUED.