|Chapter Title||MISS FIRMAN.|
|Newspaper Title||Cairns Post (Qld. : 1884 - 1893)|
|Trove Title||Hand and Ring|
Hand :>n<l liiii»:.
Hi \\\i K111'un L G1.11 \. I
"I ciii.fess «Uli nil humility thut nt times the Uno
of «leiiiarcation Itetiveeii trilla and fiction is rendered I mi in.Ie&^itouiitl iinlistiuot, tliat 1 cuimot. ulwayn de- termine, with utiorrine; eertaiuty. whether nu event really Ii.-i]<iK-m-d te me, «tr whether I itnl.v drcumed
" Well, sir," returned Miss Firman, '. it is hard to read tile nature- and feel- ings uf any niau who has much character, and Crail; Mansell has a good deal of character. But I have always thought him a very honest and capable young mau, who might do us credit .some day, if lie were allowed to have his own way and not be interfered with too much. As for his feelings to- wards his aunt, tliey were doubtless those of gratitude, though I have never heard Iii m express himself in any very affectionate terms toward, her, owing, no iloubt, to u natural reticence of dis- position which has been observable in
liiin from childhood."
"You have, however, no reason to rielieve lie cherished, tiny feeling» of animosity toward his benefactress ? " continued the coroner, somewhat care- lessly, "or possessed any inordinate desire after the money she was ex- pecting to leave lum at her death ?"
"No, sir. Both having ¡ninds of their own, they frequently disagreed, especially on business matters ; but there was never any bitterness between them, as far as Í know, and 1 never heard liiin say anything about his ex- pectations one way or the other, lie is a man of much natural force, of strong, if not violent, trails of charac- ter : but he lins too keen ¡i sense of
his own dignity to intimate the exis-
tence of desires so discreditable to him.'"
There was something in this reply and the impartial aspect of the lady delivering it was worthy of notice, per- haps, /nul such it would have un- doubtedly received from Mr. Byrd, at least, if the words she had used in characterising this person had not struck iiiin so deeply that lie forgot to' note anything further.
" A mau of great natural force-of strong, if not violent traits of charac- ter," lie kept repeating to himself. "' The description, as I live, of the person whose picture 1 attempted to draw last night."
And, ignoring everything else, lie waited with almost sickening expecta- tion for the question that would link this nephew of Mrs. Gemmells either to the tragedy itself, or to that person still in the background, of whose secret connection with a man of this type lie
had obtained so curious and accidental a knowledge.
But it did not come. "With the quiet abandonment of til" hy no means ex- hausted topic, which convinced Mr. Byrd that tho coroner lind plans ¡mil suspicious to which the foregoing ques- tions had given no eluo, Dr. Treilwell leaned slowly forward, and, after sur- veying the witness with a glance of cautions inquiry, asked in a way to concentrate the attention of all present:
" You say that you knew the "Widow Gemmells well ; that you have always Leen on friendl)' terms with her, and are acquainted with her affairs. Does that mean you have been made, a con iidant, of her troubles, her responsi- bilities, and her cares ? "
" Yes, sir : that is, in as far as she ever made a confidant of any one. Mrs. Gemmells was not of complaining dis- position, neither was she by nature very communicative. Only at rare times did she make mention of herself or her troubles : but when she did, it was in- variably to me, sir-or so she used to say ; and she was not a woman to de- ceive you in such matters."
" Very well, then, you are in a posi- tion to tell uw something of her history, and why it is she kept herself so close after she came to this town? "
But Miss Firman uttered a vigorous
disclaimer to this.
" No, sir," said she, " I am not. Sirs. Gemmells' history was simple enough, but her reasons for living as she did have never been explained. She'was not naturally a quiet woman, and, when a girl, was remarkable for her spirits and fondness for coinpatiy.
" lias she had any great sorrow since you knew her-any serious loss or dis- appointment that might have soured her disposition, and turned her, as it were, against the world? "
" Perhaps ; she felt the death of her husband very much-indeed she has never been quite the same since she lost
" And when was that if you please? " " Full fifteen years ago, sir; just
lie-fore ahc carno to"th¡* town."
"Did you know-Mr. Gemmells ?"
" No, sir ; none of us knew him. The)' were married in some village out West, where he died-well, I think she wrote-a mouth if not less after their marriage. She was inconsolable for a time, ¡uni, though she consented, to come East, refused to take up her abode with any of her relatives, and so settled iu this place where she lias remained ever
The manner of the coroner suddenly changed to one of great impressivencss.
" Miss Finnan," he now asked, " did it ever strike you that the hermit life she led was due to any fear or appre- hension which she may have secretly
Tlie question was peculiar and no
one wondered at the start which the
good woman gave. But what mainly struck Air. Byrd. and gave to the mo- ment a seeming importance, was the fact that she was not alone in her sur-
prise or even her expression of it ; that
Hie indefinable stir lie had before ob- served had again taken place in the crowd before bim, and that this time there was no doubt about its having been occasioned by the movements of a person whose elbow lie could just per- ceive projecting beyond the door-way
that led into the hall.
Hut there wa« no time for specula- tion .is to whom this pei«»on might he The toionu i quistions vvue uuj moment gi mung nuut l.ipul, .mil Miss l'nm.m\ aiiswcis iiioie liituiestiug
' J asked," her«, the. coroner wa«, heard to say, " w bethel, m jour nitei com se with Mr« Gemmells, jon hau ever had reason to suppose »he was the victim of any secret or jierson ii apple licnsion th it might have caused her to seclude Iieiself is she did ?' Or ltt me
put it in aiiotliei way Cm lou tell me wbethel jon know ot aux othci person beides tins nephew ot titi s who
is likelv to be benchtcd In Mi« Cle-ni 111011«'» death ? '
"Oh, sir," was the hasty and some whit excited icplv,"xou mean yoting Mr llilditth'' " *
The w.i) in which this was sud, to «ethel with the slight flush of satisfac- tion oi surpiise which io»e to the coiouei\ binn, nntiir.illv iwoko the sluinbeung excitement ot the crowd and made a sm til .«ens ition A low mur-
mur ian through the looms, amid w Inch Mr Bj rd thought he heald a suppres-
sed but bitter e\cl unation He could not be sure of it, however, and had]list made up his mind that his ears liad de-
ten cd him, when lus attention was
attracted bj a shifting m the position ot the sturdj thick-set man w ho had been leaning against the opposite wall,
but who non tiossed and took ins stand beside the jamb, on the other side of which sat the unknown indi-
vidual toward whom so mau«, inijuirnig glances had hitherto been dnecttd
The quietness with w Inch this change was made, and the slight, almost impel
contable alteiation m the manner otthe pt ison making it, bl ought a sudden enlightenment to Mr Bud, aiidhe.it onto made up his limul that this dull, ab-ti.iLtcd looking moitculiti Itanium with suth apparent unconcern against the wall, was the new detective who had been sent up that morning from Kew Yoik His curiosity iiiicg.udtn the identity ot the individual lound the corner was not lessened bj this
Meantime the eoiouei had answeied the hastj exclamation of the w ituess, bj disclaiming the existence of .mr spctial meaning of his own, and li id futthtii molo pitssed the question as to
who this Mr Htldreth was
¡"she unmcdiitcli answeied "i
gcntlcmtn of Toledo, sir, a xoung mm who could onlj come into his pioptitv b\ the de tth of Mrs Cleinmens "
'How -1 You hive not spoken of .mi suth peiaou as connected with
" Xo, ' was her stead\ i espouse , " nor was he so tonneeted bj .in«, tie ot f.nully m fiicndshi|> Indttd 1 do not know as tliey weieevei acquainted, oi, as tor that matter, evei saw etch other's taces The fact to w Inch 1 allude w is simply the lcsult of a will, sir, made by Hildroth's gi.indfatlier "
"A will*' Explain jouisolf I do
not undei stand,"
" Well, sir, 1 do not know much about the law, and maj mako a do¿eii mistaken in tellmii y ou" « hat you \\ nth to know , but what I uudeistaîid about the matter is this Mr llildtetli, tho grandfather ot the gentleman of whom 1 have just spoken, having a large pro- perty, which he wanted to leave m a bulk to his grandchildren,-their father being a xerj dis-ipited and reckless man,-made his will in such a way as to prevent its distribution among his heirs till after the death of two peisons w horn lit meutiontd bj n une Ot these two persons one was the son ot his held tlcik, a \oung boy, who sickened and died shoitly attii Mi llildrctli himself, and the other mj cousin, the poor murdeied woman, who was then a little gul visiting the tamilj
I do not know how she carne to be
chosen hy lum for this purpose, unless it was that she was paiticuiarh round and ruddj ns a child, and looked as if she might live for maur j ears "
"And the Hildretiis * Whit of them during these j cars .> "
"Well, 1 lannot exactly saj, as 1 neiei had any acquaintance with them mv self But I know that the father, w lio*-e dissipated h ibits ii ere the cause of this peculiar will tying up the propei tj, died some little time ago, also one oi two of his clnldien, but bej omi that 1 know little except that the lcmaiuiiig heirs arc a young gentle- man and one oi two joung gills all ot
the woildlitst and most tasluouablc
The e lionel, who had followed a'l this with the gre.itest mtticsf, now asked it she knew the first name of the young gentleman
" les, ' she said, " I do It is Gouv -
TO BE CONTINUED