|Chapter Title||AN APPEAL TO HEAVEN. Her step was royal-queen-like.- LONGLLOW.|
|Newspaper Title||Cairns Post (Qld. : 1884 - 1893)|
|Trove Title||Hand and Ring|
AN APPEAL TO HEAVEN. ¡ " Har ttep waa royal-quoen-üke."
It wiis now half-past one. An hour and a half bad elapsed since the widow had been laid on the bed, and to all appearance no change had taken place in her "condition. Within the room where she lay Vere col- lected the doctor and one or two neighbours of the female sex. who watched every breath she drew, and stood ready to noticiv the slightest change in the stony face that, dim with the shadow of death, stared upon them from the unruffled pillows. In the sitting room lawyer Orcutt conversed in a subdued voice with Mr. Ferris, in regard to such incidents of the widow's life as had come under bis notice in the years of their "daily companionship, while the cowd about the gate vented their interest in loud exclama- tions of wrath against the tramp who had been found, and the unknown humpback who had not. Our story leads us into the
crowd in front.
"I don't think she'll ever, come to," said one, who from his dusty coat might have been a miller. " Blows like that haven't much let-up about them."
"Doctor says she will die before morn- ing," put in a pert young miss, anxious to
have her voice heard.
" Then it will be murder and no mistake, and that brute nf a tramp will hang ns high
" Don't condemn a mnn before you've had a chance to hear what he ha* to say for him- self," cried another in a strictly judicial tone. " How do you know as he came to this house at all ?"
"Miss Perkins says he did, and Mrs. Phillips too ; they saw him go into the gate."
" And what else did they see ? I warrant he wai-n't the only beggar that was roaming
round this morning.".
.' Ifn t them ?»'*?" <V tin peddler In tb«' street, for I raw him my own self, and M rs. Clcmmeng standing iu the door flourishing her br-om nt him. She wis mighty short with such folks. Wouldn't wonder if ¡orne of the unholy wretches killed ber .out of ?pite. They're a wicked, lot the whole of
" Widow ClemmeUB had a quick temper, but she had a miirhty good heart notwith- standing. See how kind she was to them
" And how bard Bhe was to that Pratt girl."
" Well, I know, but-" And so on and so on, in a hum and a buzz about the head of Mr. Byrd, who, engaged in thought seemingly far removed, from the subject in hand, stood loaning against the fence, care less aud iiiíourúinf. Suddenly there was a lull, then a short cry, then a woman's voice rose clear, ringing, nnd commanding,* and Mr. Byrd caught the following words :
" What is this I hear ? Mrs. Clemmene dead? Struck down by some wandering tramp ? Murdered in her own house ?"
In an instant, every eye,'including Mr. Byrd's, was fixed upon the speaker. Thc crowd parted, and the young girl, who had spoken from the street,' came into the pite She was a remurkable-looking person. Tall, large, aud majestic in ever propotion ol an unusually noble figure, she was of a make and possessed a bearing to attract attention had she borne a less -triking and beautiful countenance. As it was, the glance lingered but a moment on the grand curves and lithe loveliuess of that matchless figure, and paned at once to the fare. Once there, it did not soon wander; for though its beauty was incontestable, the, something that lav behind that beauty was more incontestable still, and held yon, in spite of yourself, long after you had become acquainted with the broad while brow, the clear, deep, changing grey eye, the ruddy, nervous lip. You felt that, young and beautiful as «he was, and shaming us she might be, she was also one of nature's unsolvable mysteries-a woman whom you might study, obey, adore, but whom you could never hope to understand ; a Sphinx without an (Edipns. She was dressed in dark green, and held btr gloves
"Why don't someone answer met" she asked, after au instant's pause,* seemingly unconscious that, alike to those who knew her aud to those who did not, her air and manner were such as to uaturally impose silence. " Must I go into the house in order to find out if this good woman is dead or
" Sbure she isn't dead yet,". spoke up a brawny butcher-boy, bolder than the rest. " But she's sore hurt, miss, and the doctors say ta how there is no hope."
A change impossible lo understand passed over the girl's lace. Hud the been less rigorous of body, she would have staggered. As it was, she stood still, rigidly still, and seemed to summon up ber faculties, till the very clinch of her fingers spoke of the strong control^he was putting upon herself.
" It in dreadful, dreadful !" she murmured, this time in a whisper, and as if to some rising protest in her own soul. " Mo good can come of it, none." Then, as if awakening to ?he scene about her, shook her head and cried to those nearest : " It wus a trauir who did it, I suppose; at least, I am told
"A tramp has been took np, miss, on suspicion, as they call it."
" If a tramp has been taken up on sus picion, then he was the one who assailed her, of course." And pushing on through
the crowd that fell bock still more awe-struck than before, she went into the house.
The murmur that followed her was sub dued but universal, lt dinde no impression on Mr. Byrd. He had leaned forward t< watch the girl's retreating form, but, finding his view intercepted by the wrinkled profile of mn old crone who had leaned forward too hid drawn impatiently back. Something ii that crone's aged face made him addresi
" You know the lady i " he inquired.
" Yea," waa the cautions reply, given, how- ever, with a lear he found not altogether pleasant.
" She is a relative of the injured woman, or a friend, perhaps "t"
The old woman's face looked frightful.
" No," she muttered grimly ; " they are strangers."
- At this unexpected response Mr. Byrd made a perceptible start forward. The old
woman's hand fell at once on bis arm.
" Stay !" she hoarsely whispered. " By strangers I moan they don't visit each other. Thc town is too sundi for any of us to be
Mr. Byrd nodded and escaped her clutch.
" Thia is worth seeing through," he mur- mured, with the first gleam of interest he had shown in the affair. And, hurrying for- ward, he succeeded in following the lady
into the house.
The sight he met there did not tend to allay bis new-born interest. There she stood in the centre of the sitting-room-tall, resolute, and commanding, her eyes fixed
on the door of the rooai that contained the
still breathing sufferer-Mr. Orcutt's eyes fixed upon her. It seemed as if she had naked one question and been answered ;
there had not been time for more.
"I 'dô: not-know what to say in apology for my intrusion," Bbe remarked. " But the death, or almost the death, of a person of whom we have nil beard, seems to nie so terrible that--"
Bat here Mr. Orcutt interrupted gently, uluinnt tenderly, liut ' with a fatherly authority which Mr. Byrd expected to see her respect. ~
" Imogene," he observed, " this is no place for you j the horror of tho event ha» made you forget yourself; go home and trust me to tell you on my return all that it is advisable for you to know." ,
But she did not even meet his glancé with her steady eyes. "Thank you," she pro- tested ; " but Ï cannot go till I have mn the place where this woman fell and the weapon with which she was struck. I want to see it all. Mr. Ferris, will you show me ?" And without giving any. reason for this extraordinary request, she stood wait- ing with that air of conscious authority which is sometimes niven by great beauty when united to a distinguished personal
'. TO BE CONTINUED.