Chapter 39429860

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter TitleA STARTLING COINCIDENCE.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article39429860
Full Date1887-12-21
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count1787
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleCairns Post (Qld. : 1884 - 1893)
Trove TitleHand and Ring
article text

Hand mid Ring.

BT ANNA KATHARINE GREEN.

CHAPTER I.

A STARTLING COINCIDENCE.

" By thc pricking of my thumbs,

Soinotuini; Kicked this wuy comes."-MACnrTH.

"And after what we have heard, inex- plicable," asserted Mr. Ferris. " To be told of a supposable case of murder one minu'e, and Iben to see it exemplified in this dread fid way the next, is an experience of no commou order. I own I aui overcome by it." And he flung open a door that com- municated with the lane, and let the outside air sweep in.

" That door was unlocked," remarked Mr.

Lord, glancing nt Mr. Orcutt, who strod with severe, set face, looking down at t he outstretched form which, for several years

now, had so often sat opposite to him at his

noonday dinner.

With astart the latter looked up. " What did you say ? The door unlocked ? There is nothing strange in that. She never locked ber doors, though she was so very deaf I often advised her to," And he allowed his eyes to run over the wide stretch of low, un- cultivated ground before him, that, in the opinion of mauy persons, was such a decided blot upon the town. "There is no one in sight," be reluctantly admitted.

"No," responded the other. " The ground

is unfavourable for escape. Jt is marshy ?ad covered with aa»ke'xrna&. 'A man conJd make his way, however, between thc hil- locks into those woods yonder, if he were driven by fear or understood the path well. What is the matter, Orcutt ?"

" Nothing," affirmed the latter, " nothing, I thought I heard a groan."

"You heard me make an exclamation," spoke up Mr. Ferris, who by this time had sufficiently overcome his emotion to lift the head ¿f the prostrate woman and look in her

face. " 'I his woman is not dead."

" Wh'it !" they both cried, bounding for

word.

" See, she breathes," continued the for- mer, pointing to her slow laboring chest. " The villain, whoever he w as, did not do his work well ; she may be able to tell us some- thing yet."

" I do not think so," murmured Mr. Orcutt. " Such a blow as that must have

destroyed her faculties, if not her life. It

wa3 of cruel force."

" However that may be, she ought to be taken care of now," cried Mr. Ferris. " I wish Hr. Tredwell was here."

" I will go for him," signified the other.

Hut it was not necessary. Scarcely had the lawyer turned to execute this mission, when a sudden muriner was heard nt the door, and a dozen or so citizeus burst into the house, among them the very person named. Being coroner as well as physician he at once assumed authority. The widow was carried into her room, which was on the same flour, and a brother practitioner sent for, who took his place at her head and waited for any sign of returning conscious- ness. The crowd, remanded to the yard, spent their time alternately in fugitive que. - tiouiugs of each other's countenances, and in eager lookout for the expected return of the strange young man who had been sent after the incomprehensible humpback of whoui »ll had heard. The coroner, closeted with the District Attorney in the dining room, busied himself in neting certain

evident facts.

" I am. perhaps, forestalling my duties in interfering before the woman is dead," in- timated the former. " But it is only a matter of a few hours, and any facts we can gleau in the intérim must brf of value to a

Vl-ol'Ur ooudii.-t of .th* ixio.mry T shall ti.» called upou to hold. 1 shall therefore uuike the same note of the positiou of aff irs as I would da if she was dead i and to bejtin willi, I nish you to observa that she was hit while setting the clock." And he pointed to the open door of the huge old-fashioned timepiece which occupied that comer of the

room in which she had been found. " She hud not even finished her tusk," he next remarked, "for the clock is still ten minutes slow, wliile her watch is just right, ns you will see by comparing it with your own. She was attacked from behind, and to all appearances unexpectedly. Had she turned, her forehead would have been struck, while, as all can see, it is the back of her head that has suffered, nud that from a vight-hand blow. Her deafness was undoubtedly the cause of her immobility under the approach

of such au assailant. She did not hear his

step, and, being so busily engnged, saw nothing of the cruel hand uplifted to destroy her. 1 doubt if she even knew what hap- pened. The mystery is that anyone could have sufficienlty desired her death to engage in such a cold-blooded butchery. If plunder were wanted, why was not her watch tnkrn from her ? And see, here is a pile of small change lying besides her plate on the table »thing a tramp would make for at once."

" lt was not a thief that struck her."

" Well, well, we don't know. I have my own theory," admitted the coroner ; " but, of course, it will not do for me to mention it here. 'The stick was taken from that pile laid leady on the hearth," he went on. '* Odd, significantly odd, that in all its essen- tial details this affair should tally so com- pletely with the supposable case of crime given a moment before by the deformed wretch you tell me about."

" Not if that man was a madman and the assailant," suggested tin District Attorney.

'. Tiue, but I do not think he was mad from »hat you have told me. But let us see what the commotion is. Some one has evidently arrived."

Mr. Byrd, who, to explain nt once, was a young aud intelligent detective who had been brought from New York for purposes connected with the case then before the court, glanced carefully in the direction of tbe coroner and quietly replied :

.. Til» humpback.>d «wap. y.»

him, hos disappeared. - Whether be will be found or not I cannot Bay. Hunt ig on his track, and will report to you in an hour. The tramp whom you saw slinking out of this street while we stood on the court- house steps is doubtless the man whom you wost want, and him \ve have captured."

" You have ?" repeated Mr. Ferris,eyeing, with good-natured irony, the young man's ' gentlemanly but rather indifferent face.

" And what makes you think it is the tramp who is the guilty one in this case ? Because that ingenious stranger saw fit to make him such a prominent figure in his suppositions ?"

'* No, sir," replied the detective, flushing with a momentary embarrassment he how- ever speedily overtime ; " I do not found my opinions upon any luau's remarks. I only-Excuse me," said he, with a quiet air

of self-control that was not without its effect

upon the sensible man he was addressing ; " if you will tell me how, where, and undei what circumstances this poor murdered woman was found.perhaps 1 shall be bettei able to explain my reasons for believing in the tramp as the guilty 'party ; though th« belief, even of a detective) goes for but little in matters of this kind, us yon and these other gentlemen very well know."

Step here, then," signified Mr. Ferris, who, accompanied by the coroner, had already passed around the table. " Do you see that clock ? She was w inding it when she wa; struck, and fell almost at its foot. The weapon which did the execution lies ovei there; it is a stick of firewood,as yongee, and was caught up from that pile on the hearth. Now recall what that humpback said about choosing a thoroughfare for a murder (and this house is a thoroughfare), and the peculiar stress which he laid upon the choice of a weapon, and tell me why yon think he ia innocent of this immediate and roost remarkable exemplification of bis revolt - ing theory ?"

"Let me first nsk," ventured the other, with iv remaining tinge of embarrassment coloring his cheek, " if yon have reason to think this woman had 1 een lying long wheie she was found, or was she struck soon before the discovery ?"

"S»n. The dinner was still smoking in the ki ikon, where it had been dished up ready for serving."

" Then," declared the detective, with sud- den confidence, " a , single word will satisfy yon that the humpback was not the man who delivered this stroke. To lay that woman low at the fcot of this clock would require the presence of the assailant in the room. Now, the humpback was not here this morn- ing, but in the court-room. 1 know this, for

I saw him there." |

" You did ? You are sure of that ?" cried, in a breath, both his beare», somewhat taken aback by this revelation.

" Yes. He sat down by the ùcor. I noticed him particularly."

" Humph ! that is odd," quoth Mr. Ferris, with the testiness of an irritable mun who

sees himself contradicted in a publicly ex- pressed theory.

.' Very odd." repeated the coroner; EP odd, I am iuçliucd to think he did not sit there every moment' of the time. It is but a step

\ from the court-house here ; he might well

have taken the trip and returned while you wiped your eye-glasses or were otherwise engaged."

Mr. Byrd did not see fit to answer this.

The tramp is an ugly-looking customer," he remarked, iu what was almost a careless tone of voice, t i

" Mr. .Ferris covered with his hand the pile of loose change that was yet lyiug on thc (Able, and shortly observed :

" A tramp to commit such a crime must be actuated either by rage or cupidity ; that you will acknowledge. Now, the fellow who struck this woman could not have been excited by any sudden auger, for the whole position of her body when found proves that she had not even turned to face the intruder, much less engaged in an altercation with him. Yet how could it have been money he was after, when a tempting bit like this re- mained undisturbed upon the table ? "

I TO BE CONTINUED.

I