|Chapter Title||The Story of the Cat's-eye Ring.|
|Newspaper Title||The North Queensland Register (Townsville, Qld. : 1892 - 1905)|
|Trove Title||The Mystery of Sea-Towers|
The Mystery of Sea
(ALIj RIGHTS RESERVED.)
' A.ntlior of "The Dis-Honorable," "Wyn
imm," "An Australian Bush Track." '"Gunnery of Church Consctt," etc.
The Story of the Cat's-eye Ring.
"I" should have preferred to have waited. Miss Ballantyne, until you had became more settled in your new home and surroundings before telling you what you ask ; but it might unduly excite your imagination and1" possibly your suspicion, if I kept back what it is only right, ana in accordance with the expressed wish of your uncle, that you should know."
How was it as Septimus Dorset thus commenced, that a feeling of repulsion arose1 in the mind of Beatrice ?-one of those mysterious monitions perhaps which sometimes come to us in life.
Long practice had made Septimus a smooth and easy-spoken man ; but somehow he was far less calm and confident as he thus addressed himself
to Beatrice, than usual, and the speech itself was unfortunate, for it suggested a dodbt which might otherwise never,
have entered Beatrice's mind.
She thought, however, that the oc casion demanded that she should be sympathetic, and she accordingly tried to look sympathetically ait Septimus, so as to, if possible, assist him in his self-imposed task.
But it was only partially successful. A whole world of suggestive, if con fused, thought had crowded into her mind, and it was not favorable to the
He was no doubt a fine-looking man. His light colored hair was thick and wavy, his forehead fairly intel lectual, his nose shapely, but his eyes (light blue), and mouth, and chin, were less satisfactory.
Beatrice had never before looked so closely at him as now. She noticed that be had a trick of suddenly draw ing his bVeath when speaking he fid getted with his hands too, and scarcely looked at his visitor as he gave the following account of the loss of the mysterious ring.
"Before I had any personal know ledge whatever of Mr Raymond Bal Iantyiie." be said, "T saw the ring
- to,v which I understand is ^ aluibW*; not so much on account of its Intrinsic worth, as of certain mys terious properties which it possesses.
The facts are as follows :
*' About three years ago a lady, close ly, veiled, called to see me about The transfer of some property which she bad recently inherited in India. .She to4 the wid'o'vr, she told me, of a -dis lin&Tiished military officer, recently dead.,,.' . -
. "There jras nothing very -difficult in fhe*rrtfrre of the business which she wished to have transacted, and rfvf-r I had taken down the particulars, tlic conversation turned upon India; Flio vrpp evidently an educated woman" a r! a TjiiTIfmt conversationalist. Iwsa so ;? I remember, in the sub let oi. conversation, ttiat I .sat telltrrfg'beyond o?.r usrial "hour of clos ing, and th« resfdr-iit clerk after awhile, came fco tfae door to ask If I called
kirn. (I should say that he is per mitted thus to remind me or any lag gard client I may have with me, of the lateness of the hour.)
"At this my visitor arose to go, on which it occurred to me to ask her to attach her signature to a letter I had
"She thea lifted her veil, and also removed her gloves, for the first time. The face was thai of a very handsome woman of about thirty or thirty-five, with large brown eyes, and a dark ciive skin, which just, but only just, suggested the possibility of Creole blood. She had two or three, hand seme rings upon her fingers, and among them .was a. cat's eye set. in heavy1 gold, with a circle of diamonds. - It at tracted my attention immediately^ for I thought it too large, and too con spicuous for a lady's hand.
"She had risen to sign the letter, but suddenly sat down again, and abruptly said, 'Mr. Dorset, I belong to the membership of the Silent Ones, will you excuse me if for a few-mom ents \ sit still and think, before signing
this document ?"
"I bowed my head, scarcely know ins what reply to make her, when she closed her right hand-upon the third finger of which was the ring and rested it carelessly upon the table iii such a manner that the jewel of the ring was directly opposite me. It must have been imagination, but it seemed to me as though the eye of the ring became possessed of human intel ligence, and that the hand had been placed in its position for some purpose; but I treated the thought with con tempt, and dropped my eyes upon the letter which still lay on the blotting pad upon the table in front of me.
"She sat there in perfect silence for fully ten minutes, during which time I seemed to pass through the whole of the.thirty-seven states described by the Buddhists. For the time I believe that I sat there wholly in the power of that strange woman, who. to use her own words, 'had gone into the silence."
'Never before had I realised the significance of human silence. I seem ed during those few minutes to ex perience all those emotions which, when carried to extremity, are . without voice. Terror, rage, astonishment, joy, peace, perfect sympathy, in turn pos sessed me. It was as though that woman's soul and my own had; inter penetrated each other, aud when at last she broke the lon^ pause, it
as though her words were the echo of some spirit music which I had already
heard elsewhere. «
'I had scarcely, recovered myself be fore I found that she had signed the document and was gone.
"I did not think very much of the incident after a few days, for. we were just then engaged in two-import ant law. cases; - but about a month afterward your uncle, Mr- Raymond Ba'Iantyne, called one afternoon at the office. He had just returned from :a two years'- absence;, from- the Colonies, he said, during. : which time he had visited . many peaces ih the East, and had been in several parts of India. The matter he 1 caffledr atwut -was nbt of any great importance^ and I should prcl>at*!y, jiQt - havethought so - much about his: visit, but - that - he - wore~on one hand a ring, singularly like that which had so much impressed me, upon the finger of Mrs Dalbert-for that wUs my lady visitor's name.
'The following day Mr Ballantyne called at the office in a state of great excitement, lie had lost a eat's-eye ring, he said, which he greatly valued, lie had worn it on the previous daj, and thought that . he . might have chanced to have dropped it, in the office. Would I have the place search
*1 did this of course, to oblige him; but it was as I expected it would be. a-vain .quest.
'The ring,.I felt sure, had left our office upon your uncle's finger. How ever, as lie seemed disinclined to go, I respectfully questioned liim as to his doings after he had left t3ie office, and found out that he had visited a friend at Carlton, and had .afterwards driven to the Towers in a hired conveyance. This I-found out was a hansom cab, and that he had gone in it, direct from Carlton.
'It suddenly occurred to me that the address given me by Mrs Dalbert was in Carlton. I thought it singular, and suggested that I presumed he had re turned home alone.
'He did not answer me at all promptly, and seemed confused, but then replied 'certainly, certainly I was
alone. Why do you ask such a ques- .
'I suggested then that an' effort should be made to find. <tlie cabman, who might know something of the ring, but your uncle put the suggestion on one side. He knew the. man very well lie.said, he had driven him home before; he was perfectly honest.
'I was, however, still suspicious, and had an advertisement inserted in the "Age" for the cabman. I did this knowing that your uncle read the "Argus" and would be unlikely to see it. The advertisement was so worded, however, that I felt very hopeful that it would reach the eye of someone who would tell the cabman. This proved correct, for a day or two after ward the .cabman called in response to
'He was shown into my room. I at once took a bold stand and asked him what time it was when he re turned to Melbourne after driving Mr. Ballantyne and a lady, to Sea-Gliff.
. 'He -^answered without hesitation that it was exactly a quarter to ten.
'Mr Ballantyne lost a valuable ring
that night'I said.
'It was not left in the cab.' replird
the man. . -
*1 want to get to the bottom of thi? matter/ I said, .' So I-'will £et: you to at once drive me out to Mrs Dal .bert's place at Carlton.'
' It was a random shot, but proved to .be quite correct, and a few minutes afterward we -were bowling along Elizabeth Street toward Carltonl
. 'I found Mis Dalbert 'as I had ex pected, and. made an excuse for calling, which seemed to satisfy her. I said nothing about Mr" Ballantyne. hut : noted that there sparkled -unon " lier . finger the: ring which had r previously made so strange an impression iipoii " me. ."I did not 'think it wise to ask any questions, and left the" house: under the'impresslon that there imist be two lings, of similar materials and^-work njanship, 'and'that Gne %p_d bp-r-h worii byEaymondBa31nnty^e and "the ctfc<n" by Mrs DalWr in- accordance with Some mntriajr /reement.
: *1 won^ / whether your uncle
-when, in Inc, / met with; Mrs Dalbert and joined *ihe 'membership of the
'It was about tfils fimBi Ba|
lantyne, tliat your unele put-the whole of his legal affairs in the hands of my firm, and for the further explanation thereof brought in a sort of baiiiff op caretaker, who had had charge of the Towers during his absence. This man was named Rosedale, and was singu larly like your uncle ; indeed,- except that he was somewhat stouter, they might causally have been taken for the same person. I believe that he was not really a servant, but-a mechan ical engineer reduced in circumstances. He and your unele were evidently very friendly and intimate, and I heard it said that during your uncle's absence, Rosedale had told some of the neigh bours that he was a relation.
'A few weeks afterward sorsie legal business took me out to Sea-Cliff and 1 was shown into the Tower library to see Mr Ballantyne. To my surprise 1 found upon his hand Lire s-eye ring.
" I at once congratulated him on having found it, when to my embar rassment he looked long and ii^edly at the ling without replying "to me.
At last he said, " Mr Dorset, never allow yourself to be fascinated by a woman, or a ring. Either one alone may involve you in difficulty5 and trouble; but the two together may bring ruin and death."
"I was surprised at his wurd.>, which seemed almost meaning ;c? me then, and was about to make ooiiitf response, when he .abruptly caliea my attention to the business which Lluu called me to the Towers. - .
"I can only explain my.
conduct on the supposition thai" 1 us under some occult fascination.
" I went again to Carlton ana .. Mrs Dalbert, but on her lmgti
was no ring. I made excuses aiiw called a second and third time ; but on the last occasion the house was closed and Mrs Dalbert had left no address, and no clue by whick s^e could be traced. For two years after that I never met your uncle, but what I noticed that he wore the ring.'Short ly before his death, however, -I saw him again, but the ring was not on his. hand, and I thought that he had suddenly aged very much.
"He lifted up his hand and said "See, Dorset, I have lost the rmg again.' 1 knew then that there had only been one ring - all the lime.
"We heard of your uncle's death almost immediately after. Two dif ferent persons swore that they saw him deliberately throw himself over the rocks. The body was never re covered, as you know, the supposi tion being that it was carried by an ocean current out to sea and there devoured by sharks. I was startled, however, when taking possession of his personal effects and papeas, as trustee on behalf of the heir, to find this memorandum in one of the draw ers of a private escritoire :
Septimus at this handed Beatrice a slip of paper on which there was .written, the following in Raymond Ballaniytie's peculiarly cramped hand writing; " I, Raymond Ballantyne, hereby direct my solicitors tliat Should - my: death- occur unaccountably, sud
denly, or by violence, he sha-I iicrress
it upon my heir to b&w&i-e of a'jaym'-.
wtomah wearing a cat's-ey'e ring."