Chapter 70983534

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Chapter NumberX
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70983534
Full Date1885-09-05
Page Number32
Corrections0
Word Count1651
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAustralian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)
Trove TitleFound Out
article text

CHAPTER X.

If I had known she was beloved,

^ She had never been loved by me, ~

.'. ' . ?- '. ?

But if both unmasked on the instant, only one threw off his domino as if it suffocated him, pr as if he wanted the free use of his right arm. - ,

Thus disclosed, Velasquez saw a stranger," yet one whose features were curiously familiar, while Jack started violently} for in spite of the Spa- nish coloring, there was the mouth and chin, the height and noble air of that very Fitzhugh whose blood Btained the boards on which they stood. V

"I fear I have intruded on an assignation/' said Jack, fiercely, " but no doubt the lady will

return-meanwhile I will withdraw.''. », ;

" I had no appointment with any lady here to- night/'said Velasquez. :, _ ,

"Then you are happier still-since she loved ' you sufficiently to follow you hither."

" That, sir, is none of your business." "It may be more than you suppose."

" I am open to conviction. Prove your right, and I will leave you to await the lady's return."

Jack laughed. To mental shock had succeeded sober reason ; and if jealousy still swayed him, if he suspected that ho had thrust his billet into the wrong hand (while Katharine's visit to the fenc- ing-room was a provious arrangement with Velas- quez), he was yet resolved to await the issue of events, and learn the truth with his own eyes and ears from the sweet lips of Kitty, whoin to doubt

were worse than death.

" We will place ourselves in the hands of the lady," said Jack; "she shall choose between us, and you shall have the first chance. I will return ! to the fireplace (a roomy retreat, if ignominious) i as soon as the least sign bf her shall appear."

[ Velasquez stood mask in hand, outwardly cold as

ice, inwardly a prey to the wildest emotions that

[can convulse a man's soul. To the, intoxicating

I ioy that Katharine's confession of love had given

him, the touch of her hand, the very kiss -, that had offered itself like -Heaven to Ms lipsj had rudely succeeded the shock of Dashwood s immi- nent approach, the hurried flight to a place of concealment, whence, every nerve on stretch from fear of detection,. he-had listened to the soliloquy that had but just stopped short of the

truth.

The fireplace was large, the presence of another man unsuspected in that turmoil of -excitement which for the moment- closed his senses against everything save Dashwood's voice ;. and when he emerged into the room; and Jack Stormonth fot lowed, it was with difficulty he strangled a cry. Now he was confronted with a man whom instinct told him was Kitty's lover, and .the splendid gift she had but now seemed to ravish on-him, dwn> died to ashes when he saw himself - as the false recipient, not the true. " - ? ' < v .

"As you please," he said at-last; so carelessly; that Jack's jealous heart sank j for was hot the calm strength of confidence in his rival's tone?. And that this was MB rival he knew well enough'] had he not from outside the ball-room; witnessed Kitty's absorption in the young man on the first night they met ? Had he not on the mere to* night seen how they were never more than a few minutes apart, and being named lovers hy the masqueraders around ? - .

" I don't think I will retire just yet/*, said Jack, coolly. ," Time scarcely passes so agreeably when one is waiting, for another main's possible sweet heart as for his own. But I think I have met you before/' and he looked hard at thé young'main with an odd feeling that some obliquity of vision gave him back his own face, but altered, as in a cracked looking-glass.

"I am Tito Velasquez-at your service."

"And my.uncle, Fitzhugh, married Tita Velas quez," said. Jack, in a startled voice, "so that accounts for the resemblance-and his soliloquy just now." ,

"And you are a FitzhughP" exclaimed Velas, qùèz, stepping back.

. " No-I am Jack Stormonth j my mother was a Fitzhugh, sister to the man who-died."

"By his own hand" "Undoubtedly."

"There may have been a mornl force that guided his wjll, as surely as if. a physical one snatched the rapier from his hand and despatched him," said Velasquez,, "and in thought and deed I hold Mallinger Dashwood'guilty of my father^

death."

" You have no proof," said Jack, Stormonth^ "in fact, every tittle of evidence points the other way, even to the.confidence .to which we were eavesdroppers just now. I hate the man as much as-" he paused abruptly.

"You love the daughter/' said Velasquez, " and I love her, too," : : ;

Jack laughed again.

"Let us be frank," he said, "though our court- ship need not . hinder our being enemies-pre- sently. Three days ago she loved me ; if you.have changed her fancy in, that time, keep her, and try to discern your good fortune. If. sh«* has a heart (and I know .she has one) she- will presently come stealing back, and she - shall choose be- tween us/' , ' .

I Velasquez made no.. answer-^the. bitter truth Was sinking into a soul inured to suffering, that in the very moment of his foregoing vengeance for the sake of love, love itself had passed,him by, leaving him poorer far than ffchen he had' crossed the threshold of the ropm .in which bis

father had met his death. " > , ¡ (1;

Katharine , had fooled him-unwittingly, per-

haps, but, still, she had fooled hun, and the tide , pf bitterness that her . supposed love for him had.-, stayed, rushed back with overwhelminer yehe- ' menee upon a heart. that almost from its first beat had known but sorrow, , ¡ <

: "There can be no quesion of choice between ' us," he said, haughtily j probably Miss Dashwood . would be: as surprised at the idea as if one of hër father's-lackeys .pitted himself against you. I

entered tthis room as a spy, and I have met' the ' fate that every,spy deserves-detection and dis-

grace." . v :J.,.'/ vf " ¡ " Not disgrace !" cried Jack, touched1 im spite pf himself i and not yet purged of some lingering

doubts of his. Kitty. " You came here to seek some : key to the riddle of :your father's death. "And ? your mother was not the only one who swore it had. never been solved-for mine persists in it to

this day that, in spite of all' the circumstantial . évidence, the real truth about his death was neverv known.'' '' :!/;':f- "' ? ^??H^--1 I " But it shall be," said Velasquez, in a ; hard

voice. , : ' ' ? ;-~ <

! How .wiltyou arrive at it ?" said Jack, ViTcno can't force kim to. speak-and by what letter's 01 documents is impossible to conviót him?" '?<?'? >?'}

"One letter only is needed," said JVelasquez, " the letter through which my father ran his' ra- pier, and his rapier through his heart. If thu letter be destroyed there is no proof-unless a confession can be wrung from MalingerDash

wood's lips."

" What was in the letter ?" said Jack.

i " Two persons only know; that-a dead mari and a living one. But my mother is convinced that it was forged by Dashwood in her¡haridwritifl?, and substituted by him for the one brought by the butler to this room, that by some devilish ingenuity hej contrived- for my father to see it, and thât finding in it proof s" of my mother's faith-

lessness; and unable to* survive :his 'dishonor, he.

slew himself."

" This is a most: extraordinary theory," ex- claimed. Jack, startled into forgetting to listen for Kitty'ö Btep, "one that only a woman's brain could originate. I never knew until to-night' there had; been any question of love between

i them."- .. ? . - . . " -

" The love was all on his side-if love it could., be called," said Velasquez. " He asked her to be his wife, and after her marriage to his friend,

pursued her with a guilty pa-ssion that seemed; only intensified by her scorn of him j until atlast the desperate expedient seems to.have ocpuKea to him to so humiliate my father in her eyes, that disgust for him would throw her into the arms of. her lover." . . ''- i

"But the cheque/' cried Jack, "thé'forged cheque-"

"Was forged hy the hand that wrote the letter/' said Velasquez.; "How easy for Dashwood to open the envelope addressed to my mother, take out the cheque enclosed in the note, and Substi- tute another-how easy for him later to remove my mother's (supposed) letter from my father's dead body, and leave in its place the banker's, in which the signature to the cheque was denounced as a forgery!" ;r .

"But he swore on his oath that he had never signed the cheque," said Jack, who felt himself plunged into an unreal world, and that Maliinger Dash wood's sudden entry would not much dis- turb him and-hist ! what goes there ; does not a shadow' move close to the wall out yonder? And whose but a woman's foot should fall. so. lightly that soarce can it be heard P And which of the two figures that Bhe so softly approaches .shps noiselessly towards the fireplace, so that when her eyes have pierced the gloom, she stands doubting and trembling, her heart sinking with the thought that, once again she is doomed to a bitter disappointment.