Chapter 61305571

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Chapter NumberIV
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article61305571
Full Date1899-12-09
Page Number6
Corrections0
Word Count3189
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleClarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 - 1915)
Trove TitleFrom Convict to Countess
article text

Aix RIGHTS RESERVED.

FROM CONVICT

TO COUNTESS.

A NOVEL- BY DR. GREY.

CHAPTER IV.

Continued from Tuesday's issue.

Whispers flew round the court during the delay rando by thc entry of the Countess to the witness hos. 5' What does ho mean," enquired tho ladies ono of another. " Was Bud leigh corresponding with her?"

"Very likely," ,wns tho reply. " Still water runs,jleep-si io may be bold enough, in spite oE lier largo innocent eyes."

" Fraser ! " said a junior barrister to another, " tlicro is something behind this." " It makes no différence how-

ever," said his friend, " Yongo has a mere theory and no proofs. She will bc convicted, there is no chance oE on acquittal." -

V But tho Countess ?"

. She Viii not help her, sho is pressing for a conviction."

Young! fellows iii court looked ou Alma witli added interest. " Hy jove; Budleigh was always quiet, hut he lins good taste, yon can't' deny tluit ? " *' No doubt," said two or three of tho fair sex, " she wished sho could got bim ; of course her paleness nnd sweet ? ness, her sad and appealing glances,

aro nil put on."

"" Silenco iñ tho court," called tho crier, as tho Countess eutored tho box, instantly a dead stillness fell upon the

multitude.

; The Countess, deposed, " Slio know tho prisoner -at tho bar. Sho lind formerly becu governess iu her family. She had invariably given satisfaction. Was quito sure sho had never changed her good opinion of Miss Groy until the present ense."

"Now," said Yongo, " tho Earl 13 abroad, I believe ?" .

."Yes." ?.?-,.'

" He left a few mouths ngo ? ' '. ?

, " Yes." " Without much uotiso of his intention to leave homo? "

"Yes." ;..

. '.'.Quito suddenly in fact. Now, .what wns his special reason for leaving this.country ? " '..

" He lind no special reason." " Why thou dill he go r "

"Merely to enlarge his. mind by travel, and to complete his knowledge

of the world 1 "

" You deny, then, that he had a special ron son ? " ,

."Yes!" .-. -

" How long was lie to bo away ?.". "Two years!" -f ' ' ''

" Was it understood that'the gover- ness was to remain nt tho castle till tlioiEarl returned ? "

".Not that I nm aware of ! "

'"?Aro you nwnro thnt Miss Grey

receives letters from tho Karl? "

"Not to my knowledge ! "

".Now, on. your onth, is not Miss Grey engaged to your son with your knowledgo and consent, and that it is owing to your objeotion that ho is out of the kingdom, hut that in'two years, time ho Khali return mid claim her? ",

The ' Countess paused, then slowly replied, " I know nothing of any en- gagement!"

.'.'.Thon this clinrge lins not been made or manufactured for tho purpose of breaking oft' tho match between

.,.;Miss'Grey(nnd the Earl ? " ' . 'j - v.'jjt*!Cortaiuly .not !," and the Countess

left the box.

.Yongo called for Lcitchficld, post- master of Budleigh.

¿Ho , admitted that letters, in,. the j

handwriting of thu prisoner, ' were ? posted at the Budleigh office to the

.Earl's' address abroad,'and that-two letters at least lind been received nd

dfosscd to Miss Grey, Budleigh Court, apd that she received thom. Ho also admitted that, out of curiosity, ho ex- amined the foreign stamps upon tho envelopes that they proved to be from the same country, and town to which tile Enrl lind told him to forward his

Jotters.' . Loitchliold grew somewlint Testivo at this point aud counsel grew severe,With him;...

'"Now, my .man," ho said, "have tho goodness to look at me mid not at tho Countess. Ho you know then, .wlicro tho Earl's letters were to bo ad- dressed after ho loft England ?"

"Yes!"

" Where to ? " "To Paris!"

, " Now, tell .mo, was tho post marl: on Miss Grey's letters, you gave to her, Paris ? " .

"It was!"

Now,' Leitchfiold, take these . en Tolopcs in your hand,"

" Do you rocognÍ8e the handwriting on any of them ? "

Af tor a pause, " I do." 'Í On how many ?'?

"On one." .

"Which ono'?"" >

" On this! " . /. # \

" Well, whoso handwriting is it? "

"Tho Earl's!"

"Oh you know tho Earl's hand-

writing thon ?" . i

"Yos!" ! " I repeat again, do not look at the

. Countess, look at the jury. Tell them, |

aince you can idontify the Earl's writ- ing, wero the letters addressed to Miss Grey addressed in the hand- writing of the Earl of Budleigh ? "

The witness hesitated.

. " Were they addressed in tho Earl's handwriting ?-'.' he repeated. - '?

"'Yes ! Sir."

." I,will repeat it again if you pre- tend you did not hear. ' Did tho Enrl writo to Miss Grey ? ' "

"Yea! he did."

" Yes, he did. . And why couldn't you say so at first? " '

Sensation in court. . . . .

!This slender foundation was all that Yonge could got to; build'upon. .He submitted that the correspondence be- tween, the governess and the Earl had boen proved,'and'that it corroborated tho alleged, engagement between the parties. That his client had accepted an offer of marriage from the Earl, and

that one of tho two stolen letters con- tained a reference to that fact, which letters/could riot' be found or traced ' after, her arrest. And with an eloquent

appeal to tho jury drawing their atten- tion to Alma's youth, orphaned, and

friendless condition, and to herinability, through force of circumstances, to'call

her betrothed to give evidence on her. behalf, and to tho loss of his letters through her arrest, and demanding the benefit of any doubt there might be in the minds of the jury; he sat down.

The prosecuting counsel, in reply, characterised tho defence as ingenious, but unsupported by facts. " If I allowed myself to be carried into the region of romnnce, like my learned friend, I could, like lum, invent, without diffi- culty, a theory which would fit in with his proofs.

"I might allege a liason between the Earl and tho beautiful young prisoner at tho bar who has been an inmate of his home for twelve months.

Starting with an assumption, like my learned friend, it follows that it was quite possible that, the Earl might feel ..remorse, for the past, and repentance

would induce him to leave the attrac-

tive society of a charming girl hy going abroad, which, otherwise, he felt ho had' not sufficient resolution to do

and then, again, thero was a third and not so creditable a reason, that it has been proved possible for a man to grow sated and weary, of oven the most handsome adventuress, and that any of those suppositions could explain tho fact of letters passing between the parties."

"But, gentlemen," .ho »said, "I abandon the field ' of invention .to my learned friend and I'will keep to sober and well proved facts. ' Against un- supported theory I place tho sworn testimony of the Earl's mother. Tho Countess testifies that, so far as her knowledgo extends, there was. no engagement, and I press this upon your

attention that the facts, proved by tho | prpsecution, that tho stolen goods wore in the possession of the- prisoner and were recovered from her; and those facts, proved by the police, have not been disturbed by the defence. And I would venture to say, gentleman, that there'ean be «no doubt in your minds of tho prisoner's guilt. If her guilt is not proved beyond doubt, then I say it would lie'utterly-impossible to sheet homo any crime. And I would urgo .upon your consideration the fact that tho youth, beauty, education, and re- finement of the prisoner : her. evident

strength of character.and charming, address, make her all tho moro .dangerous to society and fatal to tho peace of families into whose home she may have, tho- misfortune to gain, access.' "'? " ' " " ' ";.' ?

" I am instructed to press for a con- viction; and such a sentence as shall protect society from the machinations of the .'prisoner for many years to come.".; He sat down. '

? The-judge aummod up dead against tho acciiBod," and the jury after a brief absence returned a verdict of " Guilty.".

"Prisoner at. tho bar stand up for

sentence." ,

- Alma rose white and giddy, the' judge's ,voice seemed to como from miles and milos away.

. It said :;" Prisoner at the bar, tho sentence bf the' court is that you be transported to Botany Bay for the term of 14 years." ......

Alma staggered and grasped the sido of the dock, then steeled herself for. the worst, and after one gasp and shudder she bore up with supreme courage, Bhe

crushed down her inclination to shriek aloudi and shook hands with her

counsel.

" Thank you, Mr. Yonge," she said, " you have dono all you could for me."

"I have not done what I wished.

When the Earl returns may I consider myself still your advocate r "

" Yes."

, ' " One word moro: Was the Countess perjured? "

,.- "Yee!-Before God,'' the' Earl will prove it."

" I believe you, Miss Grey."

The constable opened tho door of the dock, ho laid his hand upon her

shoulder, and she waa hurried away j to Newgate. . , , j

, CHAPTER V. j

A CHUTAIS'-MAS EELI, "AMONG THIEVES.]

From Dover- to Calais-from Calais 'to Paris-from Paris to Rome-the wandering Earl, accompanied by his faithful . henchman, journeyed on.

Getting a letter from Alma at Paris1 ho told her to write one more to Paris, .for which ho would wait, and then address her letters to Homo until further'notice. Ho dwelt On his love and longing, and reckoned up how many days of>his service had expired, told of his unchanging devotion, and, in fact, said all that ho ought to have said. It was tho old old tale--always old, always newr-which recalls a laugh or a tear as the case may be, and then tho pilgrims passed on.

" Through all the cornfields green, ' and " sunny vines," " O pleasant land of France," and into fair Italy, they, came to Rome, the Imperial city of the world-tho ancient,- tho domi- nating.

' Home interested Eric as no othor

city had dono or could do. The grand historic past gripped the Englishman,

iii spite of his insular' contempt for, everything that was not English/and

there ho remained month after month, investigating Roman af chitecture, an- tiquities,' and art. #

He leased also an ancient palace of vast size, constructed, of marble, once the abode of a noble and prinooly family, now decayed and impoverished | (the grand hall of which would hold an ordinary cottage), for the ridiculous sum of £30 per year, but that was all the impoverished noble asked for tho use of his stately home;

There was an evident stagnation and paralysis resting on tho Papal States. Poverty, mendicancy, and brigandage alono flourished. Still Romo was Rome. She lived on her past reputation, and excited a glamour ' and fascination upon the mind very

difficult to resist.

Eric -was minded to seo something of the country as well as the city, and accordingly he engaged a carriage nud driver, and mude his way, over hill nuil dale, through forest and mountain to his heart's content. " Look, Jim," ho'said, during ono of his excursions, " .See tlioso fields have no fences-only a narrow ditch divides one farm from another, and tho vines are tvnined on pollard ulm trees."

Then tho road loft the cultivated land and skirted for miles tho spins of

a wooded mountain. The track became

moro nnd more enfolinged, and wound up and circled round the points of tho spurs, nnd crossed mountain torrents, the wheels of tho enrriage grinding over the white pebbles, and the horses' feet ' splashing in the limped stream. At times the rond descended, declining sharply through dark defiles overhung with trees. Hnlf-wny down, one of these descents a scream floated from tho nzuro above them. Eric looked

up fur away ngninst n small white eli md-a great euglo poised himself with ontspread wings in mid air, while the carriage wheels ground through ruts or skidded on sandy sidolands.

As they reached level ground a shot echoed sharply through tho trees before them. The postillinn pulled up short, nnd all listened, then a scream rang through the forest, faint and

shrill-thon another.

Eric snid : " That was not an eagle's scream, I think." .

. " Ko, sir," " I think it was a woman's. It sounded so shrill and hitter." . '.

Tho postillinn began to get tho carringa round.

."What ave you doing, driver," said

tho Earl.

" Wo cannot go forward, Excel lenza," answered the drivor, pulling tho reins with hands that trembled visibly.

"Whynot?"

" Because of the brigands." "What brigands?"

" (Jumillo and his gang, they have been seen in tho district."

" Why did you not say so before ?"

"Ah, pardon Exccllenza," " I nm a poor ? man, and tho pay is worth tho risk." _

" Hold tho horses quiet, nnd listen, you frightened hound."

Then they heard a long quiver- ing wail ; it was a woman's voice beyond doubt.

"Now, Jim," snid tho Enrl, "Take tho drivers londcdwhip, and one of my pistols; I have my -hunting - knife. Let us creep down nnd reconnoitre." " Don't stir, you scoundrel, ho. ndded to tile driver, till I como back."

" No, your Excellenm." ? < . -'*

Tiley crept on from troo ' .to-, tree, until they came to a little glade'. It might bo fifty yards across ; there in tho middle was.' a village cart. Tho white horse which had drawn it lay dend in tho shafts, with a bullet bolo between the eyes. A man about 40 years of ago-loy beside it, tho blood trickling from a wound in his head.

Slifiekingntintervnls, mid struggling, in the hands of two.men, .was a woman, young nnd handsome, about twenty-four or twenty-five ? years of ngo, whoso hnnds wero being bound bohind her back by a third man. The woman's clothing was rich and fine, but sndly disordered and torn by the desperate resistance sho had made before being overcome, and another villain was rifling tho cart, while yet another was going through tho pockets

of the senseless man.

" There are only five blackguards," said tho Earl, " and a woman calling for help, with a rush wo can manage to knock over a couple, and then wo are good enough for tho other three."

" I nm with you, sir," said Jim, and both rushed silently from cover into the open. Half-way across tho glade,

then a shrill whistle from an unseen brigand who. was keeping watch waist deep in the fern, told the Earl that there was .ono more foo to deal with

than he had counted on.

The brigands looked doubtful for nn instant, but seeing there were only two men attacking, they recovered from their momentary surprise, and their knives flashed in the sunlight. They drew together. So far the meditated surprise had failed.

Tho Earl, as he closed, fired tho pistol he held, as ho did so, the man aimed at, swerved. Yet tho bullet lodged in his shoulder and dropped him. Throwing away his discharged woapon, Eric twisted his coat which he had'carried, round his arm, and. was attacked at the same moment by tho two men who released tho woman. It required all tho Earl's skill and activity to parry tho thrusts aimed at his heart, and as he raised, his knife, his wrist received a stunning blow from behind, which caused his weapon to fly a dozen feet away. . The sentinel had crept up and struck him with. a branch-of a, tree., In ail instant he. was overpowered- and bound. . ?

Jim Blade a manful effort to help his master ; a sweeping blow from his

stalwart arm would have knocked out

tho brains from one of his opponents, but tho man interposed his arm to save

his head. The bone cracked under

the blow, and the arm dropped use- lessly down by the owner's side. Jim was rushing, elated by his success, to his master, when just as he reached tho Earl a looped rein fell around his neck, and the poor fellow was pulled

back and choked into surronder.

Ono of the men rushed into the bush were the woman was retreating, and attora short chase, caught.her, and dragged her roughly through tho

Bhrubs back to tho cart.

" Where did these fools come from

Pietro ?" inquired the leader.

"I know not; tSey sprang from cover. I only had just time to give tho signal ; they look liko Englishmen, and all the English are mad-but they should pay a good ransom,' all tho English are rich."

"Aro they secured safely?"

" Si Cuniillo-ao fear of them, getting loose."

A shrill -whistle sounded down tho hill.

"Quick," Cumillocried. "Thet\vo< injured men lead up the track. Give mo the woman, sho is too pretty to leave. Thc two prisoners next Jncoppo, take charge of them, and usfr your pistol or knifo if necessary. You others act as uar guard, and beat ofE pursuit. Now, quick mnrch !"

They left tho road and followed n. shelving' narrow tract along tho moun-

tain side. Tho Earl took a last look

as they plunged into the woods and climbed the rocky path. The wounded' brigands were just visiblo ns tliey struggled on abend. Tho thick-set, brawny lender came close upon tlicir hocls with his struggling captive, aud1' tho Earl looked on the unfortunate woman with deepest pity. Thc cloth- ing was torn from her shoulders and bosom, the kees of her bodice werc buvst, and it bungin strips from" lier

waist. As her face turned towards. Uric ho saw it convulsed with ties pair, ns, in her unavailing efforts to escape, she clutched at every . branch: and shrub with both hands, while her captor's strong arm thrown around her waist drugged her away, and', onward towards thu brigands' lair, and ns she realised there was no cscnpo" the horror in her eyes made thc Earl shudder. Presently her screams censed,, and she snnk down. Cumillo stooped,,

raised her, nnd throw her over his - Shoulder, so that her limp neck and. shoulders hung down his back, to- gether with tho long plaits of her blnck hair, while now nnd again a pistol shot echoed up the pass fromi below, while tho brigands checked pursuit.