|Chapter Number||IV (CONTINUED)|
|Newspaper Title||Cairns Post (Qld. : 1884 - 1893)|
|Trove Title||Hand and Ring|
ni illili Bing.
juim» Axxa Katiiaiujje Gbkex.
/ " You am a riddle, solve you who can."-Knowles.
/' Ah, now she showed feeling; now / she started and drew back, putting
out her hands as if the ide» was insup- portable tu lier. But it was only for a
moment. Before ho could snv to him-
self that it was all orcr, that his worst fears had been ti ue, and that nothing hut the sense of some impassable gulf
between them could have made her re-
coil from him like this, she had dropped her hands, and turned toward bim with
a look whose deep inquiry and evidont struggle, after an understanding of his claims, spoke of a mind clouded by trouble, hut not alienated from him- self hy fear.
She did not speak, however-not for some few minutes, and when she did, her words carne in short and hurried gasps.
" You are kind," this was what she
said. " To he your-wife"- she had | difficulty in uttering the word, but it
arno at lust-" would he an honour and a protection. X appreciate "botli ; I.am in no mood to-night to listen to words of love from any man. Perhaps
six months hence-"
But he already had her in his arms. The joy and relief he felt were so great he could not control himself.
" lmogenc,' he murmured ; " my Imo- gene !" and scarcely heeded her "when, in a hurst of subdned agony, she asked to be released, saying thst^ she was ill and tired, and must be allowed to with- draw to her room.
But a second appeal awoke him from his dreaiji. If his worst fears were without foundation-if her mind was pure of aught that unfitted her to be his wife-there was yet much that was mysterious in her conduct, and conse- quently, much which ho longed to nave explained.
"Imogene," he said, "I must ask you to remain a moment longer. Hard as it is for me to distress you, there is a question which I feel it necessary to ask before you go. It is in reference to the fearful crime which took place to-day. "Why did you take such an interest in it, and why lias it had such an effect upon you that you look like a changed woman to-night ?"
Disengaging herself from his arms, she looked at him with the sot com- posure of one driven to Lay, and asked :
" Is there anything strange in my being interested in a murder perpetra- ted on a person whose name 1 have frequently heard mentioned in this
" No," lie murmured, " no ; but what led you to her home ? It was not a
spot for a young lady to he in, and any I
other woman would have shrunk from , so immediate a contact with crime." i
Imogene's hand was on the door,
but rite turned bac Vc.
-~ ** X um¡ i\ot liHo other woroon," »lie
declared. " "When I hear of anything strange or mysterious, I want to un- derstand it. I did not stop to ask what people would think of my conduct."
"But your grief and terror, Imo- gene ? They are real, and not to be disguised. Look in the glass over there, .ind you will seo what an effect all this has had upon you. If Mrs. Clcmmens is a stranger to you if you know no moro of her than you have always led me to suppose, why should you have been so unnaturally impressed by to-day's tragedy?"
It was a searching question, and her eye fell slightly; but her steady de- meanor did not fail her.
" Still," said she, " because I am not like other women. I cannot forget such
horrors in a moment." And she ad-
vanced again to the door upon which
?he laid her hand.
Unconsciously his eye followed the movement, and rested somewhat inquir- ingly upon that hand. It was gloved, but, to all appearance, was without the ling which he had seen her put on at
the widow's house.
She seemed to comprehend his look. Meeting his eye with unshaken firm- ness, she resumed, iu a low and con- strained voice :
" You are wondering about the riug that formed a portion of the scene we are discussing. Mr. Orcutt, I told the gentleman who handed it to me to-day
that it was mine. That should be enough for the man who professes suf- ficient confidence in me to wish to make roe his wife. But since your looks confess a curiosity in regard to this diamond, I will say that I was as much astonished as anyone to seo it picked up from the floor at my feet.
The last time I had seen it was when I
dropped it, somewhat reckletmly, into a pocket. How or when it fell out, I cannot say. As for the ring itself," she haughtily added, " young ladies fre- quently possess articles of whoso exis-
tence their friends arc unconscious."
Here was an attempt at an explana- tion which, though meagre, and far from satisfactory, had at least a oasis in possibility. But Mr. Orcutt, as I have before said, was certain that the ring was lying on the floor of the room where it was picked up, before Imogene had made her appearance there, and was therefore struck with dismay at
this conclusive evidence of her false- hood.
Yet, as he said to himself, she might have some association with the ring might even have un owner's claim upon it, incredible as this appeared, without being in the possession of such know- ledge as definitely connected it with this crime. And, led by this hope, he laid his hand on hers as it was softly turning the knob of the door and said, with emotion,
" Imogene, one moment. This is a subject which I am anxious to drop. In your condition it is almost cruelly to urge it upon you ; but of one thing I must be assured before you leave my presence, and that is, that whatever secrets you may bide in your soul, or whatever motive may have governed
your treatment of mc and my suit to- night, they do not spring from any real or supposed interest in this crime, which ought, from its nature, to sepa- rate you and me. I ask," ho quickly added, as he saw her give a start of in- jured pride or irrepressible- dismay, " not because 1 have any doubts on the subject myself, but because some of the persons who bave unfortunately been witness to your strange and exci- ted conduct to-day, have presumed to hint that nothing short of a secret knowledge of the crime or criminal could explain your action upon the scene of tragedy."
And with ii look which, if she had observed it, might have roused her to a urnse of tho critical position in which she stood, lie pnusod and held his breath for her reply.
It did not como.
" Itnogene ?"
Cold and hard the words sounded liis hand went like lightning to his
"Are you going to answer?" lie asked, at last.
" What is the answer to be, Yes or Ko?"
Site turned upon him lier large (¡ray eyes. There wa« misery ill their depths but there was a haughtiness, also, which only truth could impart.
" My answer is, No !" said she.
And, without another word, she glided from tho room.
Next morning Mr. Byrd found three notes awaiting his perusal. The first
was a notification from the coroner to the effect that tho "Widow Clemmcns had quietly breathed her last at mid- night. The second, a hurried line from Mr. Ferris, advising lum to make use of the day concerning a certain matter of theirs in the next town ; and the third, a letter from Mr. Orcutt, coucliod in the following terms :
Mb. Bybd :
Dear Sir-I have seen the person named between us, and I here state, upon my honour, that she is in possession of no facts which it concerns the authorities to know.
Tkehent B. OlîCUTT.