Chapter 39424910

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Chapter NumberXX-(CONTINUED).
Chapter TitleA CRISIS.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article39424910
Full Date1888-05-12
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count2212
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleCairns Post (Qld. : 1884 - 1893)
Trove TitleHand and Ring
article text

Hand and Bing.

Br ANITA KATIIABINE (XBEEN.

CHAPTER XX- (COOTDÎUED).

A CRISIS. .

Quirn. Alas, how ia it with yon ?

That yon do bend your eye on vacancy, i And with the incorporal air do hold discourse?

Tour bedded hair, like life in excrements, Starta.up iud stands on end. ' .

Whereon do you look ?" Binn. On him I On him ! took you how pale ~ he glares 1 1 ' Hi« form and cause conjoined, preaching to stones," Would make them capable.-Do not look upon mo : Lest, with this piteous action, you convert My stern effects ; then, what I have to do

Will want true colour; tears, perchance, for blood."

-HAMLET.

His failure to find her at home when he returned that night added to his alarm, especially as he remembered the vivid thunderstorm that had deluged the town in the afternoon. Nor, though she came in very soon and offered both excuses and explanations for her absence, did he ex- perience any appreciable relief, or feel at all

satisfied that he was not threatened with some secret and terrible catastrophe. In- deed, the air of vivid and feverish excite- ment which pervaded every look of hers from this time, making each morning and evening distinctive in his memory as a season of fresh fear and renewed suspense, waa enough of itself to arouse this sense of an unknown, but surâly approaching danger. He Baw she waa on the look-out for some event, he knew not what, and studied the papers as sedulously as she, in the hope of coining upon some revelation that should lay bare the secret of this new condition of hers. At last he thought he had found it. Coming home one day from the court, he called her into his presence, and, without pause or preamble, exclaimed, with almost cruel abruptness :

" An event of possible interest to you has just taken place. The murderer of Mrs. Clemmens has just cut his throat."

He saw before he had finished the first clause that he had struck at the very citadel of her terrors and her woe. At the end of

the second sentence he knew, beyond all doubt now, what it was she had been fearing, if not expecting. Yet she said not a word, and by no movement betrayed that the steel had gone through and through her heart.

A demon-;the maddening demon of jeal- ousy-gripped him for the first time with

relentless force.

"Ah,you have been looking for it?" ho cried, in a choked voice. "You know this man, then-knew him, perhaps, before the murder of Mrs. Clemmens : knew him, and -and, perhaps, loved him ? "

She did not reply.

He struck his forehead with Iiis hand, as

if the moment was perfectly intolerable to

him.

*' Answer," he cried, " Did you know

Gouverneur Hildreth or not ?"

"Gouverneur Hildreth?" Oh, the sharp surprise/ the wailing anguish of her tone 1 Mr. Orcutt stood amazed. " It is not he

who has made this attempt upon his life! -not he !" she shrieked, like one appalled.

Perhaps because all other expression or emotion failed him, Mr. Orcutt broke forth into a loud and harrowing laugh. "And who else should it be ? " he cried. " What other mau stands accused of having murdered Widow Clemmens ? You are mad, Imogene ; you don't know what you say or what you

do."

"Yes, I am mad," she repeated-" mad !"

and leaned her forehead forward on the back of a high chair beside which she had been standing, and hid her face and struggled with herself for a moment, while the clock went on ticking, and the wretched surveyor of her sorrow stood looking nt her bend«« head like a man who does not know wbethei

it is he or she who is in the most danger o'. losing his reason.

At last a word struggled forth from be tween her clasped hands.

"When did it happen?" she gasped without lifting her head. "Tell me al about it. I think I can understand."

The noted lawyer smiled a bitter smile and spoke for the first time, without pity an( without mercy.

" He has been trying for some days ti effect his death. His arrest and the littl prospect there is of his escaping trial seen to have maddened his gentlemanly brain Fire-arms weie not procurable, neither wa poison nor a rope, but a pewter plate i enough in the hands of a desperate man He broke one in two last night, and-"

He paused, sick and horror-stricken. He face had risen upon him from the back c the chair, and was staring upon him lik that of a Medusa. Before tba; gaze tb flesh crept on his bones and the breath c life refused to pa?s his lips. Gazing at he with rising horror, he saw her atony lip slowly part.

" Don't go on," she whispered. " I ca Bee it all without the help of words." Thei in a tone that seemed to come from som

far-off world of nightmare, she painful] gasped, '* Is ho dead ? "

Mr. Orcutt was a man who, up to the las year, had never known what it was to es perience a real and controlling emotior Life with him had meant success in publi affairs, and a certain social pre-emiuenc hat made his presence in any place th signal of admiring looks and respectft

attentions. But let no man think thal

because his doom delays, it will never corni Passions such as he had deprecated i others, and desires such as he had believe impossible to himself, had seized upon hil with' ungovernable power, and in tlii moment especially he felt himself yieldin to their sway with no more power of resis ance than a puppet experiences in th grasp of a wirlwind. Meetiug that terribl eye of hers, burning with anxiety for

man he despised, and hearing that agonize question from lipB whoso touch he ha never known, he experienced a sudden wil and almost demoniac temptation. To hui back, the implacable "Yes" that, he ,fe]

? I nisi wool« ««rtlfo íH¿r Uk* » \**a worn«. to ' the -ground. . lint : the horrid impub passed,* and, with a"quick remembrance < the claims of honour upon one bearing h name ana owning his history, he controllf himself with a giant resolution, and mere! : dropping hie eyes from an anguish he dar«

no longer confront, answered, quietly :

"No; he has hurt himself severely ai has disfigured his good looks for life, but 1 will not die : or so the physicians think."

A long, deep, shuddering sigh swe; through the room.

"Thank God!" came from her lips, ai then all was quiet again.

He looked up in haste ; he could not be

the silence.

" Imogene-" he began, but instant paused in suprise at the change which hi taken place inlier expression., "What i you intend to do?" was his quick deuian " Yon look as I have never seen you 1»

before."

" Do not ask mo !" she returned. " have no words for what I am going to à What you must do is to see tliat Gouverne; Hildreth. ÍB released from prison. He ia n guilty, mindi you; he never committed ti crime of which he is suspected, and in f shame of which suspicion he has this il attempted his life.- If he is kept in t restraint which is so humiliating to him, ai if he dies there, it will be murder-do y hear ? murder ! And he iciil die there if ÍB not released; I know his feelings only t

welL"

"But, Imogene-"

"Hush! don't argue. 'Tis a matter life and death, I tell you. He must released ! I know," she went on, hurried " what it is you want to say. You think y

cannot do this ; that the evidence is all j against him ; that ho went to prison of his own free will and cannot hope for release till his guilt or innocence has been properly inquired into. But I know you can effect his enlargement if you will. You are a lawyer, and understand all the crooks and turns by which a man can sometimes be made to evade the grasp of justice. Use your knowledge. Avail yourself of your in- fluence with the authorities, and I-" she paused and gave him a long, long look.

Ho was at her side in an instant.

" You would-what ?" he cried, taking her hand in his and pressing it impulsively.

" I would grant you whatever you aBk," she murmured, in a weariful tone.

"Would you be my wife?" he passion- ately inquired.

" Yes," was the choked reply ; *' if I did

not die first."

He caught her to his breast in rapture. Ho knelt at her side and threw his arms about her waist.

" You shall not die," he cried. " You shall live and be happy. Only marry me to-day."

" Not till Gouverneur Hildreth be

released," she interposed, gently.

He started ns if touched by a galvanic battery, and slowly rose up and coldly

looked at her.

" Bo you love him so madly you would sell yourself for his sake ?" he sternly de-

manded.

With a quick gesture she threw back her head as though the indignant " No" that sprang to her lips would Hash out whether she would or not. But she restrained her- self in time.

. " I cannot answer." abo returned.

I But he was master now-master of this

dominating spirit that had held him in check for so long a time, and he was not to be put

off.

" You must nnswer," he sternly com- manded. " I have the right to know the extent of your feeling for this man, and I will. Do you love him, Imogene Dare ? Toll mc, or I here swear that I will do nothing for him, either now or at a time when he may need my assistance more than you

know."

This threat, uttered as he uttered it, could have but one effect.; Turning aside, so that he should not see the shuddering revolt in her eyes, she mechanically whispered :

"And what if I did ? Would it bo so

very strange ? Youth admires youth, Mr. Orcutt, and Mr. Hildreth is very handsome and very unfortunate.- Do not oblige mc to say more."

Mr. Orcutt, across whose face a dozen different emotions had flitted during thc utterance of these few words, drew back till half the distance of the room lay between

them.

"Nor do I wish to hear anymore," he rejoined, dowly. " You have said enough, quite enough. I understand now all the past-all your terrors and all your secret doubts and unaccountable behaviour. The man you loved was in danger, and yon did not know how to manage his release. Well, well, I am sorry for you. Imogene. 1 wish 1 could help you. I love you passionately, and would make yon my wife in face of your affection for this man if I could do for you what you request. . But it is impos- sible. Never during the whole course of my career has a blot rested upon my integrity as a lawyer. I am. known as an honest man,

and honest will I remain known to tho last.

Besides, I could do nothing to effect his enlargement if I tried. Nothing but the plainest proof that he is innocent, or that another man is guilty, would avail now to release him from the suspicion which his own

admissions have aroused."

" Then there is no hope ?" was her slow and despairing reply.

"None, at present, Imogene," was his stern, almost despairing answer.

¡ As Mr. Orcutt sat over his lonely hearth

that evening, a servant brought to bim the

following letter, i -

" DEAR FKIEND,-It is not fit that I should remain any longer under your roof. I have a duty before me which separates me for ever from the friendship and protection of

honourable men and women. No home but

such as I can provide for myself hy the work of my own hands shall henceforth shelter the disgraced head of Imogene Dare. Her fate, whatever it may prove to be, she bears alone, and you, who have been so kind, shall never suffer from any association with one whose name must hencefortli become the sport oi the crowd, if not the execration of the virtuous. If your generous heart rebels at this, choke it relentlessly down. I shall be already gone when you read these lines, and nothing you could do or say would make me eoine tack. Good-bye, ¡md may Heaven grant you forgetfulness of one whose only return to your benefactions has been to make you suffer almost as much as she suffers

herself."

As Mr. Orcutt read these last lines, District Attorney Ferris was unsealing the anony- mous missive which has already been laid before my readers.