Chapter 39422428

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Chapter NumberXIV.-(CONTINUED.)
Chapter TitleA LAST ATTEMPT.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article39422428
Full Date1888-03-31
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count2351
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleCairns Post (Qld. : 1884 - 1893)
Trove TitleHand and Ring
article text

Hand and Ring.

Br Ax>'A KATUAIUÎÎE G-JIEEX.

CHAPTER. XIV.-(CÜ.\TIXUKU.)

A LAST ATTEMPT.

" Vf hen Fortune mean? to mcu most plod,

yhe bo!u upon them with a threateainir eye."

' Kisa JOH*.

Mr. Mansell was not at the breakfast-table when Mr. Byrd e-uno down. His duties at the mill wove peremptory, and he had already taken his coffee and gone. Hut Mr. Brown was there, and at sight of him Mr. Bvrd's caution took alarm, and he bestowed upon this intrusive busybody a close and searching scrutiny. It, however, elicited nothing in the way of his own enlighten- ment beyond the fact that this fellow, total stranger" though he seemed, was for some

inexplicable raison an enemy to himself or j

his plans.

Not that Mr. Brown manifested this by

any offensive token of dislike or even of mis- trust. On the contrary, he was excessively polite, and let slip: no opportunity of drag- ging Mr. Byrd into the conversation. Yet, for"nll that, a secret influence was already at -work against the detective, and he could not attribute it to any other source than the jealous efforts of this man. Miss Hart was actually curt to him, and in the attitude of the various persons about the board he de-

tected a certain reserve which ha«l been «ntlwjly iluciit from tlieir manner the eren ing before.

But while placing, as he thought, due weight upon this fellow's animosity, he had no idea to what it would lead till he went upstairs. Mrs. Hart, who had hitherto treated him with the utmost cordiality, now called him into the parlour, and told him frankly that she would be obliged to him if hs would let her have his room. To be sure, she qualified the seeming harshness of her request by an intimation that a permanent occupant had applied for it, and offered to pay his board at the hotel till he could find a room to suit him in another house ; but the fact remained, that she was really in a nutter to rid herself of him, and no subterfuge could hide it ; and Mr. Byrd, to whose plans the full confidence of those around him was essential, found himself obliged to acquiesce in her desires, and announce at once his willingness to depart.

Instantly ? she was all smiles, and over- whelmed him with overtures of assistance ; but he courteously declined her help, and, flying from her apologies with what speed he could, went immediately to his room. Here

he sat down to deliberate.

The facts he had gleaned, despite the in- terference of his unknown enemy, were

three :

First, that Craik Mansell had found ex- cuses for not attending the inquest, or even the funeral of his murdered aunt.

Secondly, that he had a strong passion for invention, and had even now the model of a machine on hand.

And third, that he w is not at home, wher- ever he was, on the morning of the murder in Sibley.

" A poor and meagre collection of insig- nificant facts," thought Mr. Byrd. "Too poor and meagre to avail much in stemming the tide threatening to overwhelm Gouver-

neur Hildreth."

But what opportunity remained for making them weightier ? He was turned from the house that held the few persons from whom he could hope to glean moro complete and satisfactory information, and he did not know where else to seek it, unless he went to the mill. And thia was an alternative from which he shrank, na it would, in the first placo, necessitate a revelation of his real character ; and, secondly, make known the fact that Mr. Mansell was under the Bur veillrinoo of thu police, if not in the actual attitude of a suspected man.

A quick and hearty, " Shure, you are very good, sir!" uttered in the hall without, roused him from his meditations, and turned his thoughts in a new direction. What il he conld learn something from the servants i He had not thought of them. This girl now, whose work constantly carried her int« the various rooms on this floor, would, ol course, know whether Mr. Mansell had beet away on the day of the murder, even if she could not tell the precise time of his return At all events, it was worth while to test bei with a question or two before he left, eve: if he had to resort to the means of spurrinf her memory with money. His failure ii other directions did not necessitate a failure here.

He accordingly called her in, and showin her a bright silver dollar, asked her if she thought it good enough pay for a shon anwer to a simple question.

To his great surprise, she blushed am drew back, shaking her head, and mutterin; that her mistress didn't like to have tin .girls talk to the young men about the house and finally going off with a determined toss of her frowBy head, that struck Mr. Byr( aghast, and made him believe more thai .ver that Iiis evil star hung in the ascendant and that the sooner he quit the house tl»

better.

In ten minutes he was in the street.

- But one thing now remained for him to do He must make the acquaintance of one o: the mill-owners, or possibly of an overseer 01 accountant, and from him learn where Mr Mansell had been at the time of his aunt's murder. To this duty he devoted the day hut here also he was met by unexpected diffi- culties. Though be took pains to disguist himself before proceeding to the mill, all th* endeavours which he made to obtain an in terview there with any responsible persoi were utterly fruitless. Whether his ill-luct at the house had followed him to thia place he could not tell, but, for some reasou 01 «ther, there was not one of the gentlemer for whom he inquired but had some excuse for not seeing him ; and, worn out at last with repeated disappointments, if not op- pressed fay the doubtful looks he received from the various subordinates who carried his messages, he left the building, and pro ,k.ceeded pto.make ..iue..tol. the only maana now

.lett sim « ootnpaaainit hta end.

Thia was to visit Mr. Goodman, the one member of the firm who was not at his pos1 tbat day, and see if, from him, he coule . gather the single fact he was in search of.

'.Perhaps the atmosphere of distrust with which I au! surrounded in this quarter, hoi not roached this gentleman's house," though! be. And, having learned from the directory where the house was, he proceeded iinuie diately to it.

His reception wag by no means cordial Hr. Goodman had been ill the night before and was in no mood to see strangers.

" Mansell ? " he coolly repeated, in ac knowledgment of the other's inquiry as ti whether he had a person of that name in hil employ. " Yes ; our hook-keeper's name i Mansell. May I ask"-and here Mr. Byre felt himself subjected toa thorough, if no severe scrutiny-" why you come to me wit! inquiries concerning him."

" Because," the determined detective re sponded, adopting at once the bold course "you can put me in possession of a fae

which it eminently befits the cause of justice to know. I nm an emissary, sir, from tbi District Attorney at Sibley, and the point J want settled is, where Mr. Mansell was 01 the morning of the twenty-sixth of Septem

ber?"

This was business, and the look that in voluntarily leaped into Mr. Goodman's ey« proved that he considered it so. He die not otherwise betray this feeling, however but turned quite calmly toward a chair, inte which he slowly settled himself before replying:

"And why do you not ask the genttemai himself where he was ? He probably wonk be quito ready to tell you."

Thc inflection he gave to these words warn;-d Mr. Byrd to be careful. The truth was, Mr. Goodman was Slr. Mansell's best friend, and as such had his own reasons for not being especially communicative in regard to this strauger. The detective vaguely felt this, and immediately changed

his manner.

" I have no doubt of that, sir," he ingenu-

ously answered. " But Mr. Mansell has had so much to distress him lately, that I was desirous of saving him from the unpluasant

¡ ness which such a question would necessarily

cause. It is only a small matter, sir. A person-it is not essential to state whom has presumed to raise the question among the authorities in Sibley as to whether Mr. Mansell, as heir of Mr?. Clcmmeus's small property, might not have had some hand in her dreadful death. There was no proof to sustain the assumption, and Mr. Mansell was not even known to have been in the town on or after the day of her murder ; but justice, having listened to the aspersion, felt bound to satisfy itself of its falsity ; and I was sent here to'learn where Mr. Mausell was upon that fatal day. I lind he was not in Buffalo. But this does not mean he was in Sibely, and I am sure that, if yon will, yon can supply me with facts that will lead to a com- plete and satisfactory u!ii>i for him."

But the hard caution of the other was not to be moved.

"lam sorry," said he, " hut 1 can give you no information in regard to Mr. Man

sell's travels. You will have to ask the gentleman himself."

" You did not send him out on busiuess of your own, then ? "

.' No.

" But you knew he was going ? "

" Yes."

" And can tell when he came hack ? " "He was in his place on Wednesday."

The cold, dry nature of these replies con- vinced Mr. Byrd that something more than the sullen obstinacy of an uncommunicative man lay behind this determined reticence. Looking at Mr. Goodman inquiringly, he calmly remarked :

" You are a friend of Mr. Mansell í " The answer came quick and coldly :

" He ¡3 a constant visitor at my house." Mr. Byrd made a respectful bow.

" You can, then, have no doubts of his ability to provo an alibi ? "

" I have no doubts concerning Mr. Man- sell," was the stern and uncompromising reply.

Mr. Byrd at once felt he had received his dismissal. But before making up his mind to go, he resolved upon one further effort. Calling to aid his full power of acting, he slowly shook his head with a thoughtful air, and presently murmured half aloud and half, as it were, to himself :

" I thought, possibly, he might have gone to Washington." Then, with a casual glance at Mr. Goodman, added: " He Í3 an inventor, I believe ? "

" Yes," was again the laconic response.

'. Has he not a machine at present which he desires to bring to the notice of some capitalist?"

"I believe he has," was the forced and none too amiable answer.

Mr. Byrd at once leaned confidingly for-

ward.

" Don't you think," he asked, " that he may have gone to New York to consult with someone about this pet hobby of his ? It would certainly bo a natural thing for him to do, and if I only knew it was so I could go back to Sibley with an easy conscience."

His disinterested air, and the tone of kindly concern which he had adopted, seemed nt List to produce its effect on his companion. Eelaxing a trille of his aus- terity, Mr. Goodman went so far as to admit that Mr. Mansell had told him that business connected with his patent lind called him out of town -, but beyond this he would allow nothing ; and Mr. Byrd, baffled in his at- tempts to elicit from this man any distinct acknowledgment of Mr. Mansell's where- abouts at the critical time of Mrs. Clommens' death, made a final bow and turned towards the door.

It was only at this moment he discovered that Mr. Goodman and himself had not been alone in the room ; that curled up in one of the window-seats was a little girl of some ten or twelve years of age, who at the first tokens of his taking his departure slipped shyly down to the floor and ran before him out into the hall. He found her by the front door when he arrived there. She was standing with her hand on the knob, and presented such a picture of childish eagerness, tempered by childish timidity, that he involuntarily paused before her with a smile. She needed no further encourage-

ment.

" Oh, sir, I know about Mr. Mansell ! " she cried. "He wasn't in that place you talk about, for he wrote a letter to papa just the day before he came back, and the post- mark on the envelope was Monteith. I remember, because it was the name of the man who made our big map." And, looking up with that eager zeal which marks the liking of very little folks for some one favourite person among their grown acquaint- ances, she added, earnestly : " I do hope you won't let them say anything bad about Mr. Mansell, he is so good."

And without waiting for a reply, she ran off, her curls dancing, her eyes sparkling, ' all her little innocent form alive with the i joy of having done a kindness, as she

thought, for her favourite. Mr. Mansell.

Mr. Byrd, on the contrary, felt a strange I pang that the information he had sought for

so long and vainly should come at last from the lips of an innocent child.

Monteith, as you remember, was the next station to Sibley.

TO BE CONTINUED.