|Chapter Title||MR. ORCUTT.|
|Newspaper Title||Cairns Post (Qld. : 1884 - 1893)|
|Trove Title||Hand and Ring|
Hand and Bing.
Bx Ami KATHABTJTE GREEK.
CHAPTER XXILT-(COKTETTJED) .
It was sn insinuation against her veracit he never contd have made, or she hav listened - to, a few weeks before ; bat th ?nield of her pride, was broken betweei them, and neither he nor she seemed to gi vi any thought to the reproach conveyed ii these words.
"What I have to say is the truth," shi murmured. " I have not manufactured any thing."
With an astonishment he took no pains U conceal, Mr. Orcntt anxiously surveyed her He could not believe this was so, yet ho« could he convict her of falsehood in the fac< of that suffering expression of resolve whicl she wore. His methods as a lawyer came tc
" Imogene," he slowly responded, " if, at you say, yon are in possession of positive evidence against this Mansell, how comes if that you jeopardised the interests of the mai you loved by so long withholding youi testimony ?"
But instead of the flush of confusion which he expected, she flashed upon him with s sudden revelation of feeling that made him involuntarily stare.
"ShallI tell you?" she replied. "Yoi will have to know some time, and why no' now ? I kept back the truth," she replied advancing a step, but without raising hei eyes to his, "because it is not the asperse*
Hildreth that I love but-"
Why did she pause? What was it sh« found so hard to speak? Mr. Orcutt's ex pression became terrible.
" But the other," she murmured at last. " The other ?"
It was now her turn to start and look al
kim in surprise, if not in some fear.
"What other" he cried, seizing her bj the hand. " Name him, I will have n< farther misunderstanding between us."
" Is it necessary ?" she asked, with bitter ness. "Will heaven spare me nothing?' Then, as she saw no relenting in the üxec gaze that held her own, whispered in : Sollow tone: "You have just spoken thc
Incredulity, anger, perplexity, all thi emotions that were seething in this man's troubled soul, spoke in that simple exclama- tion. Then silence settled upon the room, during which she gained control over her- self, and he the semblance of it if no more, She was the first to speak.
" I know," said she, " that this avowal on my part seems almost incredible to you: but it is no more so than that which you sc readily received from me the other day in reference to Gouverneur Hildreth. A woman who spends a month away from home makes acquaintances which she does not always
mention when she comes back. I saw Mr. Mansell in Buffalo, and-=" turning, she confronted the lawyer with her large grey eyes, in which a fire burned such as he had never seen there before-"and grew to esteem him," she went on. "For the first time in my life I found myself in the pre- sence of aman whose nature commanded mine. His ambition, his determination, his unconventional and forcible character woke
aspirations within me such as I had never known myself capable of before. Life, which had stretched out before me with a somewhat monotonous outlook, changed to a panorama of varied and wonderful ex- periences, as I listened to his voice and met the glance of hu eye ; and soon, before he knew it, and certainly before I realised it, words of love pasted between tu, and the agony of that struggle began which bas ended-Ah, let me not think how, or J shall gomad!"
Mr. Orcntt, who had watched her with a lover's fascination during all this attempted explanation, shivered for a moment at thu last bitter cry of love and despair, but spoke np, when he did speak, with a coldness thai verged on severity.
" So you loved another man when yon came back to my home and listened to the words of passion which came from my lips, and the hopes of future bliss and happiness that welled np from my heart?"
'. Yes," she whispered, " and, as you will remember, I tried to suppress those hopes and torn a deaf ear to those words, though I had but little prospect of marrying a mai whose fortunes depended upon the success of an invention he could persuade no one tc
"Yet yon brought yourself to listen to those hopes on the afternoon of the murder," he suggested, ironically.
" Can you blame me for that ?" she cried, "remembering how you pleaded, and what a revulsion of feeling I was labouring nuder?"
A smile, bitter as the fate .which loomed before him, and scornful as the feelings that secretly agitated his breast, parted Mr. Orcuttfs pale lips for an instant, and he seemed about to give utterance to some passionate rejoinder, but he subdued him- self with a determined effort, and quietly waiting till his voice was under full control, remarked with lawyer-like brevity at last :
" Yon have not told me what evidence you have to give against young Mansell ?"
Her answer came with equal brevity, if not equal quietness..
"No; I have told Mr. Ferris; is not that enough ?"
But he did not consider it so, " Ferris is a District Attorney," said he, and has de- manded your confidence for the purposes of justice ; while I am your friend. The action you have taken is peculiar, and yon may need advice. But how can I give it or how can you receive it unless there is a complete understanding between us ?"
Struck in spite of herself, moved, perhaps, by a hope she. had not allowed herself to contemplate before, she looked at him long and earnestly..,
" twt do you really wish to help aw?" abe inquired. "Are yon ao generous ai to forgive the pain, and possibly the humilia- tion, I have inflicted upon you, and lend me your assistance in case my testimony works its due effect, and he be brought to trial instead of Mr. Hildreth ?"
It was a searching and a pregnant ques- tion, for which Mr. Orcutt was possibly not folly prepared, but his newly gained control did not give way.
"I must insist upon hearing the facts before I say anything of my intentions," he averred. "Whatever they may be, they cannot be more startling in their character than those which have been urged against
"But they are," she whispered. Then, with a quick look around her, she put her mouth close to Mr. Orcntf s ear and breathed:
"Mr. Hildreth is not the only man who, unseen by the neighbours, visited Mrs. Clemmcns's house on the morning of the murder. Craik Mansell was there also."
"Craik Mansell! How do you know
that ? " Ah," he pursued, with the scornful
intonation of a jealous man, "I forgot that jon are lovers.
The sneer, natara! as it was, perhaps, seemed to go to her heart and wake its fiercest indignation.
"Hush," cried she, towering upon him with an ominous flash of her proud eye. " Do not turn the knife in that wound, or you will seal my lips for ever." And she moved hastily away from his side. But in another instant she determinedly returned, saying : " This is no time for indulging in
. one's sensibilities. I affirm that Craik Man-
sell visited his aunt on that day, because the ring which wai picked np on the floor of her dining-room-you remember the' ring, Mr. Prenti?"
Remember it! Did he not? All his many perplexities in its regard crowded upon him as he made a hurried bow of acquiescence.
"It belonged to him," she continued. " He had brought it for me-it had been his mother's. Only the day before he had tried to put it on my finger in a meeting we had in the woods at the back of his aunt?s house. But I refused to allow him. The prospect ahead was too dismal and unrelenting for us to betroth ourselves, whatever our hopes or wishes might be."
" You-you had a meeting with this man in the woods the day before his aunt was assaulted," echoed Slr. Orcutt, turning upon her with an amazement that swallowed up
"And he afterwards visited her house?" " Yes."
" And dropped that ring there ? "
Starting slowly, as if the thoughts roused by this short statement of facts were such as demanded instant consideration, Hr. Orcutt walked to the other side of the room, where he paced up and down in silence for some minutes. When he returned it was the lawyer instead of the lover who stood
" Then it was the simple fact of finding this gentleman's ring on the floor of Mrs Clemmens's dining-room that makes you
consider him the murderer of his aunt ?" he
asked, with a tinge of something like irony
in his tone.
" No," she breathed rather than answered. "That was a proof, of course, that he had been there, but I should never have thought of it as an evidence of guilt if the woman herself had not uttered, in our hearing that tell-tale exclamation of ' Ring and Hand,' and if, in the talk I held with Mr.; Mansell the day before, he had not betrayed-Why do you stop me ?" she whispered.
" I did not stop you," he hastily assured her. " I am too anxious to hear what you have to say. Go on, Imogene. What did this Mansell betray? I-I ask as a father might," he added, with some dignity and no
But her fears had taken alarm, or her caution been aroused, and she merely said :
" The five thousand dollars which his aunt leaves him is just the amount he desired to
start him in life."
" Did he wish such an amount ?" Mr. Or- cutt asked.
" Very much."
" And acknowledged it in the conversation he had with you ?"
" Imogene," declared the lawyer, " if you do not want to insure Mr. ManseU's in- dictment, I would suggest to you not to lay too great stress upon any talk you may have
held with him."
But she cried with unmoved sternness, and a relentless crushing down of all emotion that was at once amazing and painful to see :
"The innocent is to be saved from the
gallows, no matter what the fate of the guilty may be."
And a short but agitated silence followed, which Mr. Orcutt broke at List by saying :
"Are these all the facts you have to give
She started, cast him a quick look, bowed her head, and replied :
There was something in the tone of this assertion that made him repeat his question.
*' Are these all the facts you have to give
me ? "
Her answer came ringing and emphatic
" Yes," she avowed-" all."
With a look of relief, slowly smoothing
ont the deep farrows of his brow, Air. Orcutt, for the second time, walked thought- fully »way in evident consultation with his own thoughts. This time he wrns gone ao long, the suspense became almost intolerable to imogene. Feeling that she could endure it no longer, she followed him at last, and laid her hand upon his arm.
"Speak," she impetuously cried. "Tell me what you think ; what I have to expect."
But he shook his head.
" Wait," he returned ; wait till the Grand Jury has brought in a bill of indictment. It will, doubtless, be against one of these two men ; but I must know which before I can say or do anything."
"And do you think there can be any doubt
about which of these two it wiU be ?" she
inquired, with sudden emotion.
"There is always doubt," he rejoined, " about anything or everything a body of men may do. This is a very remarkable case, Imogene," he resumed, with increased sombreness; "the most remarkable one, perhaps, that has ever come under my observation. What the Grand Jury will think of it ; upon which party, Mansell or Hildreth, the weight of their suspicion will fall, neither I nor Ferris, nor any other man, can prophesy with any assurance. The evidence against both is, in so far as we know, entirely circumstantial. That you believe Mr. Mansell to be the guilty party-"
Believe !" she murmured ; " I know it." "Thatyou believe him to be the guilty party," the wary lawyer pursued, as if he had not heard her, " does not imply that they will believe it too. Hildreth comes of a bad stock, and his late attempt at suicide tells wonderfully against him; yet, the facts you have to give in Hansell's disfavour are strong also, and Heaven only knows what the upshot will be. However, a few weeks will determine all that, and then-" Pausing, he looked at her, and, as he did so the austerity and self-command of thc law- yer vanished out of sight, and the passion- ate gleam of a fierce and overmastering love shone again in his eyes. "And then," he cried, " then we will see what Tremont Orcutt can do to bring order out of thia
There was so much resolve in his look, such a hint of promise in his tone, that she flushed with something almost akin to hope.
" Oh, generous-" she began. . "" _.
Bot ba stopped bar baf on aha eoald mmj more. ' I
"Wait," he repeated; "wait tin we see what action will be taken by the Grand. Jury." And taking her hand, he looked earnestly, if not passionately, in her face. " Imogene," he commenced, " if I should succeed:-" But there he himself stopped short with a quick recalling of his own words, perhaps. "No," he cried, "I will say no more till we see which of these two men is to be brought to trial." And, pressing her hand to his lips, he gave her one last look in which was concentrated all the secret passions which had been called forth by this hour, and hastily left the
TO BE CONTINUED.