|Chapter Number||V (CONTINUED)|
|Newspaper Title||Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)|
|Trove Title||Found Out|
BY THE AUTHOR OF " COMIN' THEO' THU EYE."
CHAPTER V. (CONTINUED).
"At any rate she did not separate them/' said Geoffrey, " they were always together, and rah neck-ànd-heck in. their sports and expenses, though Fitïhugh was on his last legs of credit, and Dashwood as . wealthy as he is now. They wore still known as the two handsomest men in the county, and with the two handsomest wives, for within three years of Fitzhugh's marriage, Dashwood himself married; only there was this difference in their wives-that while Fitzhugh was known to adore his, Dashwood's wife was known to publicly adore him, and welcomed his friends just as cordially as Mrs. Fitzhugh went outof, her way to avoid and dissever them from
" Oddly.enough the two women became friends and met often, but always abroad, or at the house of Fitzhugh ; and both were so lovely that men would ride 50 miles to see in the same ball-room the two who went by the names of Darkness and
" Katharine Dashwood is dark," said Mrs. Vi- vien, abruptly ; was her mother the darkness ?"
" Miss Dashwood is very fair," said Mr. Lang worthy, imperturbably ; "only her hair and,eyes lean to darkness-and her mother was fairer stil, with blue eyes and chestnut hair, while Mrs. Fitzhugh had the coloring of-of-" he glanced around as if for inspiration, and his eyes foll on a living illustration of his thought,-"of Mr. Velasquez," he said, almost unconsciously.
"Then, she must have been very beautiful," Baid the greatest lady present, with all the inso- lence of her rank,and looking at the young man; "and is Mr. Velasquez by .chance-a relation ?" ;
But as Mr. Velasquez neither stirred nor spoke, the halting story was again begun, though with considerable ' doubt as to the point from which it
started. ' '? ' ' ?"
" But the dark beauty always cut the fair one out, and some people said that one of the husbands did not like it ; but Dashwood had been married a year when all rivalries between the two women were over, and the end came."
"And one woman or the other was at the bottom of it !" said Lady Becky.
" No one was ever sure of it," said the story- teller, nervously, and at once thrown out of his bearings; "women ' don't always tell tho truth, you know, when they, aro mad with grief?"
" Or at any other time ?" said Lord Dolly, with an air of inquiry.
" We are getting' the story in shreds and tat- ters," said Mrs. Vivien, angrily ; " will everybody hold his tongue till it is told?" .
The men felt the insult inflicted by Mrs. Vi- vien's masculine pronoun, but the women resolved to deserve the honor, and buttoned their lips up tight, so that .the story now went on almost un-
disturbed to its close.
" The end came," said Mr. Langworthy (girding np his loins to tho task), " when Fitzhugh came over one morning to see Dashwood, and being pressed by his host to remain, he consented, then wrote a letter to his wife accounting for his ab- sence, and this letter, was duly sent and delivered. Now, Dashwood had a passion for all exercises of the sword, and would spend hours iii the fencing room practising aloné j and so angry was he at interruption that no one had the right of ëritréo to it save his friend Fitzhugh, and his butler.
"It was to this room that the two friends ad- journed later, and hither the butler presently brought a letter addressed to his master.
" He found the two gentlemen fencing, and apparently not in the best of humors j indeed, their play struck him as so dangerous, that he was glad to" stop it, and a6 the first pause, presented the letter and retired, but only to the other side of the door, which was thick. '
"For a while he heard nothing, then only the murmur bf voices, then something louder $ and at last a cry in his master's voice that made him run in, to see Fitzhugh in the act of plunging a rapier through his breast, and sink backwards to the
floor. ?' '; .
" Even at that moment of horror, the man thought he observed a scrap of white close to the rapier's hilt, but when he returned from the search for help on which his master sent him, the ^rapier was clean, save of blood, and only an open letter lay beside him. He picked it up, and at the inquest the letter was produced."
" A love-letter from his wife to his friend, pro-
bably." said Ladv Alice, cvnicallv.
" Nb-à letter from Dashwood's banker."
"Could any one proveíjliat'theléttár'Mjr.'Dasli¿. wood: received, and the letter produced, were one and tho same ?" said Mr. Velasquez, quietly.
" Why, what further proof would you: have ?" said Langworthy, wheeling round to look at the youngman, "amessenger from a bank brought it, the butler delivered it, and the very same letter and envelope were found by Fitzhugh-besides, his own.wife had cashed the cheque !
" But the butler spoke of something white probably some scrap of paper-on his rapier," said Mr. Velasquez, in the same quiet tone; "may not two letters on totally different subjects have got mixed pn that fatal occasion ?" -
" There was never any such question of such an accident," ; said Mr. . Langworthy, coldly, " nor couldjeven the idea occur to any sane man. Cir- cumstantial; evidence so entirely supported that of Mr. Dashwood at the mquest ' that,-had he given any other, he must haye beon proved a liar. He gave . that evidence reluctantly enough, but without the slightest hesitation, to the following
" On the day iu question, Fitzhugh hagridden over to see him, soon after breakfast, and in the course of the morning they had a conversation about a small.piece of land" Fitzhugh wished to sell, and that he wished to buy j and having
* The copyright of *' Found Out" has been purchased hy the proprietors of. tho Town and Country Journal," for exolnsive publication,
agreed as to terms, he wrote a cheque for th« amount and gave it to his friend, asking him t( stay and dine with him that evening, Mrs. Dash wood being then ill upstairs, and in some danger from a chill she had taken after her confinement ^ ^ " Fitzhugh assented, but said he must write tc his wife not to expect him home, and he went into the library for that purpose, whither pre- sently Dashwood followed him, and the letter being ready, a servant was rung for, and a mounted messenger despatched with it, the time being about half-past 1 o'clock.
"They then lunched together and went to the stables, afterwards playing billiards, and finally went to the fencing-room, where they had been practising rapier play for about half an hour, when the butler brought him a letter from the manager of his bank, who wrote that a cheque for a very largo amount, signed by Mr. Dashwood, had been presented by Mrs. Fitzhugh, and cashed within the last hour, but after her departure, something unusual about the signature attracted the cashier's attention, and he had come to him with the cheque, which was for .63,000; The cheque handed to Fitzhugh that morning in pay- ment of the piece of land was ¿8300 (the exact price that had, for some weeks past, been placed on it by the seller), and Mr. Dashwood's first im- pression was that he had made some mistake in the figures in filling in the cheque; and he at once handed the letter to Fitzhugh, asking hirai at the same time if he had looked at the cheque before enclosing it in the note he had sent to
Mr. Laugworthy paused, and a quick breatn ran like a sigh round the listening circle, while into Mr. Velasquez's eyes leaped a fire that made a curious contrast -with the quietude of his man-
ner, as he said:
"Does this account rest solely on Mr. Dash
wood's testimony ?"
" It does," said Mr. Lang worthy. " On the tes- timony . of a man of unblemished honour, and whose every word, as I have before said, is sub-
stantiated by facts."
, "If tho dead could speak, they might possi- bly tell a different tale," said Mr. Velasquez,
y", I doubt it," said Geoffrey, "and as Mr. Dash wood's guest,-you would do well to keep such
doubts to yourself."
"I am not his guest," replied the young man, quietly; "I am here as Mr. B.'s servant, and provided 'for'like .any other of his goods and
' ."Pretty cool that; for'a man - who aspires to Mr. ' Dashwood's most valuable belongings !" whispered Lady Becky, in an audible aside, to
" " Why will you talk ?" cried Mrs. Vivien, im- patiently ; "wo shall have Dashwood himself walking in before the tale is half over ! What did Fitzhugh say when he confronted him with
. " At first he said it was a mistake-then con- fessed that, being on the verge of ruin, ' the thought had struck him as he was enclosing the cheque to his wife to substitute for it another, and Dash wood's cheque-book lying beside him, he had torn one out, and in a moment of madness had filled it in and forged the signature, then en- dorsing the cheque in his own hand-writing, de- spatched it to his wife with a request that she would1 drive ai one« to tho bank and get it cashed. He had not expected discovery to come so soon; but now it was hero, he threw himself on his friend's mercy, promising to refund the ; money if . Dashwood would acknowledge the signature to be his own." .' .
A slight sound in the background made the ladies start and look round to see Mr. Velasquez, pale, with flaming eyes, his lofty figure towering above them all in the rage and passion that
"A Fitzhughbeg like a craven to a Dashwood !" he said, in low intense tones, before which the women' shrunk-" was ever there such a clumsily eoneoetedj preposterous talo ?" 1 < .
" Pray, sir," said Mr. Langworthy, on looking round, " are you a relation ?"
"Perhaps," said Mr. Velasqtiez, carelessly ; " but I should like to hear the end of this romance. After Mr. Fitzhugh had gone down on his knees to Mr. Dashwood, what happened ?" -
"What happened was witnessed by the butler," said Mr. Langworthy, turning his back on the young man ; "what went before occupied a very few moments. As Dashwood for a moment hesi- tated, appalled at his friend's guilt, Fitzhugh suddenly slipped tho button from his foil, and ran himself through the heart, falling,backwards
at the very moment that the servant rushed in, 1 startled at tho cry Dashwood had uttered, when too late he perceived .Fitzhugh's intention." :
But the man who would rather die than face dishonor was scarcely the man to forge his friend's name," said Mrs. Vivien, thoughtfully ; " it is a curious'story, and the only explanation of it is a woman. How did Mrs. Fitzhugh take it?" she added, abruptly.
"When they, came to tell her that he was dead,
they found her sitting beside a table on which. was thrown in a heap a mass of, bank notes and gold, at which she seemed to look in loathing as
"'When they told her. the .truth, she said, ' It was well for him to die, since ho could take alms from hia enemy !' and those around said her face was not half so terrible then^as when; two hours before", she had returned from that errand, which her husband had begged bf her to undertake.
"Then even as she spoke (they said) her face changed, and she threw up her arms, called upon him as if she knew he lived tb answer, then like amad woman fled out, and across the whole three miles-of country till she reached the Towers, and all stood back as she went straight to the fencing room where her husband still layland Dashwood still stood, in his soul lamenting that he had not been quicker with the word and look of forgive- ness that might have saved his friend's life."
Mr. Velasquez laughed, and Mr. Langworthy swore beneath his breath. 1 ;
" Go on," said Mrs..Vivien, imperiously.
" She threw herself down by that scarcely cold body and implored him to speak to her, to forgive
her for being angry with him j then, as she realised that he was dead, rose up and raved like a mad woman at Dashwood, accusmg him of having murdered his friend 5 then, when they showed her tho poor hand already stiffened on the rapier as he lay, she cried out that Dashwood had worked upon him by some lies or devilish arts, and added certain wild accusations that no one heeded, and which, in truth, reflected but little credit on
" What were the accusations ?" said Mr. Velas- quez and Mrs. Vivien, simultaneously.
" She accused him of having made love to her," said Geoffrey, dryly, " both before and since her marriage-particularly since. She said he had himself contrived to get the cheque forged, and that poor as her husband was, he would have died rather than accept charity from Dashwood."
"And she spoke the truth," said Velasquez.
" They were the ravings of a madwoman," went on Langworthy, in a matter-of-fact tone, " crazed by her loss, and probably were repented as soon as uttered ; for soon she went away quietly with her dead, and when he was buried (and in Chris- tian ground, for the verdict was mercifully brought in as death through misadventure) she departed with he only child, a son, and has not been heard of since. Fitzhugh Court was mortgaged to its last acre, and passsd at once into other hands j but to the very end Dashwood tried to help the deluded woman j and even when his wife lay dead in the house (for her illness had terminated fatally) he repeatedly sought an interview with j Mrs. Fitzhugh, which was invariably and violently
denied. So there the story ends," added mr. Langworthy, in a tone of relief, "and I've told it about as badly as a tale could be told."
"No, it doesn't end there," said Lady Becky, sharply; "there is something behind it all something that will come out one of these days,
or I am much mistaken."
" I think it will," said Mr. Velasquez, quietly.
"What?" said a voice not far distant, and the master of the house advanced into the charmed circle that sat by the. fireside, and which broke up hastily at his approach.
" Oh, nothing I we have only, been .telling sto-
ries," said Mrs. Vivien, stifling a yawn, "and we¡ are all ready for bed"-and in .another minute, like a broken string of bright-colored beads, ? the ladies had passed up the staircase and out of