Chapter 70985006

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Chapter NumberXX (CONTINUED).
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70985006
Full Date1885-10-10
Page Number32
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Word Count3635
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Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAustralian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)
Trove TitleFound Out
article text

The Novelist.

Found Out*

BY THB ÁuTHOB OP "COMIN' THEO' THE EYE."

CHAPTER XX (CONTINUED).

He had been no better than a madman whe iii the shock of discovering her girlish love f Jack, he had resolved to sacrifice himself for he and rise whatever power he might have over hi father to secure her happiness with that your man. To-night the virile selfishness in him ro¡ up, and flung all scruples, all self-renunciation b; and cried out that having- won Kitty's love h would keep it, that having discovered his righi he would use them, and that even if she showe some faint relentings towards her former lovei he would crush them through her father, by th might of a certain scrap of paper that he held i

his possession.

And did she not love him ! Had she not durin¡ the past few days given him enough encourage ment to satisfy a bolder man ? Had she not a the "meet" that morning out Jack Stormont! more than once as coldly, as deliberately, as if sh' had looked him straight in the eyes and turne« away ? Perhaps she had felt the difference be tween the love of a boy and the worship of a man and she had yielded as swiftly to the charm ai he had yielded to her. And pray, since the work began, was there ever a lover who considered i unnatural that his passion should be reciprocatec with the rapidity of lightning ?

Poor Stormonth, poor fellow ! And he had be haved like a boor, and like the beaten man thal lie knew himself that afternoon. Yet he had beer honest in telling all he knew to his cousin's ad vantage, and honest, too, in giving his opinion tc

the reverse.

" To-morrow," said Mr. Velasquez as he sai down at the table upon which a lamp stood, " to- morrow shall decide it, and next day Mr. B. comes, and for the present I must leave her."

He took from his breast a pocket-book, out of which he drew some closely written sheets in the handwriting of his mother. He perused them carefully ; they ran as follows :

. " When Mr. Fitzhugh asked me to marry him, I had for months been pursued by the attentions of his friend, Maliinger Dashwood. There was no comparison between the men : the one all genero- sity, fire, and honor, passionate to an extreme 5 the other cold, polished, fascinating, with an evil heart that sometimes looked out of his eyes, and appalled you. Perhaps he loved me-in a bad man's life there ie usually one attachment that at its rise was pure, but there can be no purity in the love that persists in its suit when all hope of its honorable fulfilment is over, and its declara- tion becomes a crime. I think that some men make love because they happen to be in the mood, and a woman is near ; others take a violent fancy, and sicken of it as quickly; others, again, sit down deliberately to woo a woman, and the more they hate her. that she will not yield, the more

they love her.

"It was after ray marriage that Mallingei Dashwood began, his most determined siege, and I Had to endure it silently, for I would not betraj Him to his friend-my husband. We were abroad for two years, and no matter where we went, hi was there, but before we returned to England, J spoke to him.

;' Do not dare to cross the threshold of Queen Una's Palace when we go there,' I said,f or I will tell my husband of every word and look you have given'me.' '

He only smiled, and said as he turned away, 'You, will-change;' but he never came to our house from that day to this; though his wife, God . bless her ! often did. I was very happy when we settled down in our new home, and my only cause of discontent was my husband's constant com- panionship with Maliinger Dashwood ; but as I would not receive our neighbor, or even give my réasons for disliking him, Fitzhugh became silent on the subject, and set down my dislike of him to a , young wife's usual distaste for the bachelor friend who takes her husband away from her. And yet we met, more or less constantly, at other peo- ple's houses, and he never ceased, by sign or look, to remind me that he loved me, and that he pitied me. I felt the lash of his pity-for I knew that, however dear I was to Fitzhugh, I was powerless to keep him at my side when Mailinger Dashwood beckoned, and for many lonely days and many lonely nights I had to thank the man whose su- premacy of will and charm every one bowed to save myself.

" When I heard he was about to marry, I re- joiced, for I thought, ' He is tired at last.' But when he brought her home, and I met her abroad -fair, fragile-loving creature who clung to his arm, and found her heaven in his eyes-I knew that he was unchanged, and that she would not change him. One day at some affair, he caught me alone, and asked if we might not bo friends ? Isaidj'No!' and just after, his wife came in fainting, and I helped to recover her-after that we were friends. I never went to her house, but she often came to mine, and, though she loved me so much, she never had courage to ask me why I disliked her husband. I believe she thought I was jealous of his influence over Fitzhugh, and perhaps she shared in my feelings, since Dash- wood in his turn was so constantly away from her, and she grudged every hour he passed out of her sight. I had one drop of sweet in my cup that even Mallinger Dashwood could not embitter-it was my little son. He was two-and-a-half years old when Lady Alicia came to the Towers, and we would often play together with him, and months later she would say how she hoped her child would be a boy, as Mallinger Dashwood wished. I

thought then that his character might chance ¡ when he had a child of his own, and that some day he and I might clasp hands as friends, but the day after his little daughter was born, 1 met him accidentally out walking, and he never be- haved worse, or spoke worse than then. I could

iiot go to poor Alicia, though I soon hoard tha she had been very ill, and it was because I wa anxious to get news of her, that I did not try anr hinder my husband from riding over to the Tower; on the day when he met his death. I have though since that my Inst words prepared the weapor that destroyed him, for I said, ' I want soim money so badly, Fitz ; there are the servants anc the household bills to pay. Have you anything I coming in soon ?'

"He kissed me, and said, ' Don't worry, Tita, ] am selling a bit of land to Dashwood, and nc doubt he'll conclude the purchase this afternoon ; it's only a hundred and fifty, but better than

nothing.'

" I kissed him too before he rode away-O ! how cold that kiss seemed to me afterwards, but I was angry with him that he could sell a rood of his ground, or take a shilling from Mallinger Dash- wood. Poor though he might be, wc were of the haute noblesse of tho county, and the Dashwoods were mushrooms of less than a hundred years' growth, and in every game of chance, of skill, of strength, of love even, no Fitzhugh had ever been beaten by a Dashwood.

" Only a few hours had elapsed when a servant brought me a letter addressed in my husband's hand, and as I opened the envelope an enclosure fell out-it was a cheque. Tho mere touch of it seemed to burn me. I shook it from my knee, and read the letter. There wore just a few loving lines to say he found Dashwood very lonely, and that he was going to stay the afternoon, and dine with him, and added in a postscript that Lady Alicia was no worse ; and just under this he had scratched, as if with another pen, ' X enclose a cheque-get it cashed at once,' and I thought it just like him to send it me at once, not liking me to be worried about money a moment longer than he could help. But he did not know how I would rather have starved than see him sell his land to his friend, and when at last I picked the cheque up, I would not even look at it, but thrust it into my purse, and Svhen my ponies came round I drove into the town to thc bank, and cashed it. I thought the man looked oddly at me when he asked how I would take the money, and I said mechanically, ' Notes and gold,' and when he said he would cive me a hundred in cold. I stared at

him, but be was counting tbem out and presently gave them to me in a bag, with fourteen bani notes, and asked me to look them over and see that they were right. I glanced at them ; the top note was for a hundred, the second was for a hun- dred, so was the third-but I looked no farther. Something chilled me to the very heart, and for tho first time I felt the icy breath of dishonor. I gathered up the notes and gold and came away, but I do not know how I drove home. I remember nothing until I found myself sitting by a table upon which I had dashed all the money down, and sat staring at it-for my husband's honor was in its midst. He had no land to sell of the value of fifteen hundred pounds ; with the exception of a few fields that he had inherited from his mother, he had no power to sell a rood of the ground that he called his own. So Mallinger Dashwood must have lent nearly the whole of this money-and a Fitzhugh had stooped to accept it ! Oh ! my love, my dear, to think that I could have hated you then-and at that very moment you were lying dead, doomed to your death by the enemy who always called you his friend. I don't know how long it was before people came to me, and told me that he was dead, and how he died. I think that in my madness of shame for him I was glad at first when they told me j for I thought, ' He had some pride left, and so he died/ But all at once it came home to me that he was dead-that I should never seo my blue-eyed, bright-haired Alan again-and I broke away from them all, and I ran or stumbled every step of the way to Mal- linger Towers with those behind who could not overtake me, and when I got to the house, I bade one of the servants take me to the fencing-room, and he stared, but guided me there .... and on the ground, with a rapier through his heart, and his frozen blue eyes looking upward, lay Alan, with a dark frown of horror, shame, and agony imprinted on his face. By his side stood Mallin- ger Dashwood, looking down at him, but as across that body our eyes met, I read triumph in his, and something devilish, mocking, triumphant-and I knew that in some hideous unknown way he had

brought about my husband's death.

" Then I knelt down and put my arms round the poor clay, that lay slanting, with the bright steel of the rapier showing far behind his back, and I put my mouth to his, and I swore that I would bring his guilt home to the man whose will had guided the weapon, even if his hand had not driven it there. For I saw imprinted on . my I husband's face an expression of unutterable

shame and horror, and mingling with it a griev I ous look, as if with his last breaih he reproached I some one who had betrayed him .... I have

seen such a look before in a child's face when it is I cruelly wonged, and yet cannot speak to defend

itself .... and somehow I knew that he had

j died with his faith in me broken, and that the I man he called his friend had broken it. You will

say he was a coward to die so, but he was fiery and passionate, he could not live without honor, he could not live without me, and so-he died.

" God knows what words I said to Mallinger Dashwood then, but I remember how he looked, and how my curses beat against him, and recoiled as if from stone, and then an awful sense of his implacable power seized me, and I fell down with my arms round the poor murdered body, and so, locked together, we were carried away from the house. When I came to my senses I was still be- side him, but they had washed and stretched my bonnie love, my bridegroom, only they could not smooth out the expression stamped on his face, or hide the rift that yawned in his side. Night and day I was with him, and sometimes fell into an exhausted sleep, with my head, upon his breast ; but whenever I was not thinking of the days that had gone by, I was struggling to find out some way by which I could discover tho real truth as to how and why he died. A sufficient reason seemed to be found when my friends came to me, and told me that the signature to the cheque I had cashed by his desire was a forgery, and that he had,forged it. They gave me all the details, and the" servant's evidence. Do you think that for i

! ono moment I listened to or believed it ? Did 1 not know that his dead hand was as clean as mine¡ and that in life it was incapable of such a deed f They did not understand my Alan-and I laughed at them, and they went away saying that I was mad, and how it was Mallinger Dashwood who had been wronged, not my husband. When they had all gone, I knelt down beside him, and twined his cold hand round my neck, and I whispered to him : ' Love, husband, can't you tell me, can't you give me a clue ?' But I got no answer, only T thought that grievous look of betrayal grew fainter as I gazed at him, and thc fancy seized me that perhaps in some other state of existence he knew, and that when I went to him, he would come to meet me, knowing me for his true, his faithful Tita .... but though he could not speak, something seemed to pass from his dead heart to my living one as I pressed it against his breast, and as it took form and shape I thought I saw enacting before me tho following

scene :

" Two men were fencing in a room lined with magnificent armour, fencing with fury, though the buttons on their foils showed that they had commenced to play for amusement only. They paused as a servant entered, and delivered to one of them a letter which he read with his back to his adversary, but when lie turned, it was with a look of pointed significance, and an evil sneer curled his mouth as he thrust tho letter into his breast, abd took up his rapier to resume the game. I saw the second man stride forward, and with threatening gestures demand the letter. I saw the first hesitate, and fall back as if he simulated fear, but he offered no resistance when the other snatched from his breast the letter, and, rapier in hand, read it. I saw a mortal change over- spread his face ; I saw a woman's writing, my own, on the page before him ; then, without a word, without moving a step from where he stood, he ran the letter through with Iiis rapier, and the rapiër through his heart-and died.

4£ 4f» fit* if % if-,

" I came out of my tranco almost as cold and I stiff as the dead in my arms, hut with every de-

tail of the scene stamped upon my brain, and by an effort of will, I can at any moment recall it, like any other event that I have actually

witnessed.

" Did any one hearken to me when I cried aloud for vengeance on that innocent blood P Was I reckoned anything but a madwoman when 1 ac- cused Mallinger Dashwood of substituting ano- ther letter-a letter forged in my handwriting for the one that had come from the bank, and tl: at my husband never saw ? No ! I was only a degree less infamous than my husband, and in one respect more infamous still, since by my ac . cusations I revealed the fact that Mallinger Dash- wood had been my lover, both before and . since my marriage. Not a woman in the county but believed I must have given him some encourage I ment for the guilty suit that I published, not a I man but reckoned the name of Alan Fitzhugh a

hopelessly stained one, and that for him it were

I better to be dead than living. I could make no

fight against (¡his enemy, I could only rail like a woman in the teeth of evidence that all others accepted, nor could even construe into guilt a letter that I received from him before I left Queen Una's Palace-a letter in which he asked me to be his wife. -The poor Alicia was dead, leaving her little baby behind her. and I had wept for her the tears that I could not shed above my dead sweetheart. I tore the letter in " two halves and sent it back to him ; I refused to look upon his face when he tried to force himself upon I me, but I grew nervous at last, and resolved to

I go away, somewhere that he could not find me,

or persecute me with his hateful love.

" My lawyer pitied me, while he despised my illusions, and privately he found a tenant for Queen Una's Palace, and a quiet home abroad for my boy and me, to which we went in secret, under my mother's maiden name of Velasquez. Have I said but little of my boy, my Tito, his father's likeness in height and strength, in feature even, save that he had my dark coloring, and hair and eyes ? It is not that I did not love him at that dreadful time, but that I loved his father more, and even now when I write of these things, my blood burns, my limbs tremble, I see once more the tragedy in the fencing-room, I am torn again by the fierce longing to clear my darling's name in the eyes of those who believed in his guilt, and to bring home his death to the man who caused it. If the letter is in existence, it would prove much, but to obtain possession of that letter is as unlikely as that Mallinger Dashwood still pos-

sesses it.

<c Let me confess here that one mad, sinful way of arriving at the truth did, in the earlier days of my. widowhood, suggest itself to me. I would ac- cept his suit, simulate love for him, then, when he was weak as water in my hands, I would draw from him the whole story and betray him. But such desperate counsels soon left me, and in the training up of my young son, in watching over his childhood, his youth, and early manhood, much

j of the bitterness has been washed out of my heart,

and my lips now would refuse to utter the curses that I once poured out upon the murderer of my

husband."

The page ended there: on the other side were some lines in fresher ink, that had apparently been added recently :- : , '

" My son has obtained the post of private secre- tary, or rather one of the secretaries, toMr. JÖ. The great man brought his wife here to drink the waters, she took a fancy to Tito, and the thing was done. He has left me often before, so why do I trouble at his leaving now ? It is because he will probably meet Mailinger Dashwood in Mr. B/s circle, may even go with Mr. B. to stay at the Towers, as I ffnd the two men are on terms of intimacy ; he may even stand in the room where his father died, and have at his very elbow the evidence that might clear that father ; yet I ex- pect nothing from his discoveries, but some harm done to his future, when Mailinger Dashwood sees in him Alan Mtzhugh's son."

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