Chapter 853452

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Chapter NumberIX
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article853452
Full Date1882-06-10
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count5105
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)
Trove TitleThe Lust for Gold
article text

FICTION.

(From Eoflitt!* American« and other Perlodlcali,)

The Lust for Gold.

CHAPTER IX.

" HAU HB BETEAYBD HIS TBÜST?"

" I did not think tbe girl would bold out like this. she is too obstinate for anything," muttered Mrs,' Waldron, as she closed nnd locked the door after Laura's exit ; then going back to the bed she drew the Bheet np over Ttixy's still, white face once

more.

" I waa sue she resumed, with a troubled brow

" that I could make her yield by holding this over her)

apd perhaps I may even yet if I can have patience. She may think she will defy me, but come right to the point, she, or any other girl, would he unwilling to have hei name bandied from mouth to mouth, or to

be dragged into a criminal court. I will not give it np entirely yet ; she may be frightened into it, and it would be a pity to lose both those fortunes. Ha ! I wonder how that hall-door came to be open 1 It must' have been the draught when Laura came in

from her room."

This last remark was caused by seeing the door leading into the hall swing to an« fro ; and going to it «he swung it back, looked out into the hell, then' softly closed it again and returned to her lonely vigil with the dead, milli morning should break.

She thought her secret was safe with herself and Lanra ; but there had been a listener in the ball who had overheard most of the conversation between Mrs. Waldron and her niece.

Eliot Harcourt had been immeasurably shocked when told of Trixy's death.

He had not thought of anything «o dreadful oc- curring after the crisis had passed, and his anxiety since had been mostly on Laura's account, fearing that the would break down after her ceaseless watch- ing and the excitement she had undergone.

But when they came to bim and said his little favorite was gone, it completely unnerved him. He could neither eat nor sleep, and shutting himself into his studio, he sat there like one stunned or paralysed all tbe night through.

Toward morning he thought he beard excited voices in that chamber ef death, where he knew that Mrs. Waldron had beaa watching alone ; and fearing that something was wrong, be stole noiselessly from his room across the hall, and was about to knock upon the door to offer hie assistance if anything was needed, when he saw that it was ajar, and almost at the esme momeat be heard Mrs. Waldron accuse Laura of the wilful murder of her cousin for the sake of coming into possession of her fortune.

Toe horrified to remember that lie wbb plnyiag the part of an eaveadtopper, he stood roqted to the spot and listened to all that followed,

He heard all about the vial containing poison and concealed in the ashes, and the tumbler from which it was supposed to have been administered, and of the drops that had been spilled upon Trixy's night robe. He heard Laura's amazed and agonized denial, her despairing wail for her lost cousin, and her final but firm rejection of Mrs, Waldron's proposal to keep silent and shield her if she would consent to marry William. He was startled, amazed, indignant at what he heard, and more than once he was upon the point of entering the room to defend the perse- cuted girl from her aunt's evident malice; but re- membering the dead, he recoiled from anything like a scene, and remained a silent witness of all that passed within that solemn chamber.

' All Bt once, as be stood there, be recalled what Trixy had told bim regarding Mrs. Waldron's insist- ing that she was engaged to marry her second son.

"Abai" be breathed to himself,"this begins to look V' ry like a plot on the part of madam to get possession of these fortunes ; it has always been a bitter pill to her that money was given to those girls. She believes in striking while the iron is hot, though ; Laura comes in peaaeesion of both fortunes now, and she is bound to secure thean if desperate measures will accomplish her purpose. It Beemt that Laura bss refused William," he said, the color rieing in his cheek; "poor childi I am glad I happened to overhear this for her sake."

He stole softly baek into his studio as Laura passed into bar room, and had only just closed the door when Mrs. Waldron's face peered anxiously into the

ball.

But the young artist was very much disturbed and excited by what he had heard, and for the remainder of the night could do nothing but pace restleasly back and forth in his room, trying to think'out the enigma. Trixy poisoned! and Laura-the only woman in the world who had ever stirred the great love in his heart-guilty of murder I

Impossible 1 the thought was one that he coald not bear to entertain for a single moment.

But he readily saw that the facts to which he had listened weuld, if brought to light, have s very bad look, and the evidence against Laura be almost over- whelming.

He could not bring himself to believe that Trixy ? had been murdered, and yet-"it might not be im- possible," he thought, aghast, with a sudden sus- picion.

If Mrs. Waldron was capoble of trying to drive a

young girl like Laura, by any such means, into a j

marriage that waa hateful to her, in order to gain her fortune, might she not also be capable of this

dark deed-might it not be a part of her plan, since ]

Trixy was so nearly gone, to get her entirely out of the way, and tben weaving this web around Laura,

think to get possession of both fortunes at one |

stroke P

It seemed that she had threatened to be revenged

upon Laura, and truly it looked as if she was either I

determined to gain her point, or be terribly revenged [

upon the lovely girl.

I see it all," hesoid, moodily,"Aunt Roxy was always grasping and avaricious. It seems to me some one told me that there was a fuss of some

kind, when she was young, about her marrying for I

money ; she was determined Trixy should marry |

Fred, and Laura William; she has been bound to have the* handling of Mr. Albert Waldron's money from the first. Trixy is dead, whether by fair means

or foul I do not know, and now she is going to make j

a bold stroke for the prize."

- Tbe young artist wai deeply troubled ; he did not |

know what to do about the matter.

He longed to comfort Laura in her misery, and | yet dare not speak of the dreadful thing to her. He

feared to go to Mrs. Waldron and tell her that he j

bad overheard this conversation, for it might drive

her to have Laura arrested at once.

" It looks very dark for her, poor girl I" he mur- mured, " and what a plot it is I If she is tried and convicted, and"-a shudder took the place of the

dreadful word, then, acoording to Mr. Waldron's will j -beth girls dead, the money all falls to this family.''

The more he thought the matter over, the more j excited and troubled he grew.

He knew that what he had overheard would not help Laura's cause one whit. Mrs. Waldron bad been very guarded in every word she had

uttered. Not an expression had dropped from her | lipi which could in any way be construed to implicate her in the matter, Everything pointed to

Laura-the tumbler, from which, to all appearances, j the poison had been administered, was one Laura had used for over a year. How came it in Trixy's

room?

The vial was known to have had poison in it ;

that too' had been in Laura's possession during the I

last two months ; how came it in Trixy's room now, j

and concealed in the ashes P

"Has the child really been poisoned-by accident ; or design-or ia this merely a farce got up by that woman to frighten Laura into submission Í" Eliot said, gloomily. " Dr. Sutherland affirmed that she died of an affection of the heart, but it is possible ho may be at fault ; he feared something of the kind, and doubtless jumped to that conclusion when he found that she was dead. But I shall never rest until I know, and what can I do Î"

The next day, Mrs. Waldron, wearied out with watching, remained in her own room until late in the afternonn. Laura also secluded herself, and would admit no one to her presence, refusing both

food and comfort.

Ia theafteraopn the undertaker arrived to per- form- the necessary duties for the dead, for the funeral was appointed for nine o'clock the following morning, and Mrs. Waldron had given orders that everything should be arranged that day, in order to

save confusion, the next.

Whenall was dene, they sent for her to ascertain if she approved.

They had dressed Trixy in soft white robe», and laid her in a beautiful white velvet casket, and she looked like some lovely virgin asleep upon a couch of snow. But for her hueless lips, and the marble- like rigidity of her features, it was almost impossible

to believe that she could be dead.

Neither her face nor the still hands claaped upon her bosom appeared to be emaciated as one would have supposed after so severe an illness ; they were almost as rouad and life-like bb they had been in health ; a faint smile wreathed her lips, and her hair hBd been arranged in a way to make her look very

natural.

Mrs. Waldron exclaimed at once upon seeing

her:

" I cannot believe that she is dead," she said, and laid her hand upon the fair forehead. "It seems absolutely wicked to put anything so life-like away

into the earth."

Then turning to a servant, she continued :

" 60 to Mr. Harcourt's door, aad ask kim if he will step here a moment."

Eliot appeared after a minute or two, but looking haggard and sad.

"Doyou want meP" he asked, ina constrained

tone, of his aunt.

" Yes ; I wiihed you to see her, Eliot-you have such good taste-and tell me if you think of any improvement that can be mad«, before the glass is put over her," she replied, while she wondered at

his coldnesB toward her.

He stood looking dowa at the pale girl who had brightened many a weary hour for bim with her merry wit and pleasant chat/while the great tears arose to kia eyes and rolled slowly over his cheeks,

" Is she not beautiful ?" Mrs, Waldron asked, weeping in sympathy.

He bowed his ¿ead in assent, and wondered if ehe had forgottou how often she had called her " a fright," and taunted her about her personal appear-

ance.

" How perfectly life-life she looks," continued Mrs. Waldron, as she laid one of the dusky euria a little closer to the white cheek. "I think I never saw any one before who looked so natural. Would you suggest any change in the arrangement of her robe, hair, or position P"

"No nothing could be better than to leave her just as she is," he answered with a heavy sigh.

"Then you may as well put the glass over at once," Mrs. Waldron said turning to the undertaker

" Why do you put the glass over it all ?" Eliot asked, qnickly; "it seems dreadful to shut her in, and she would look bo much more natural, or as if ebe were sleeping, without."

" Ob, that would not do at all-no one must touch her again, and I should not feel safe to leave her

moment without the glass," his aunt replied decidedly.

Eliot said no more, but the keenest ping that he had yet experienced pierced bia heart, when the glass cover was put on, and dear little Trixy was shut away by herself into her narrow ghostly house. To-morrow the outer velvet covering would be put over all, and she woald be borne away for ever from their sight.

"Who will stay here to-night?"he asked, with white, pained Ups, as they were about leaviDg the room. ,. "~> -~-'

' Your uncle waa intending todo so, but he is laid up with a raging headache, and so I suppose I shall be obliged to, as I do not feel like aaking either Fred or William, and J could not trust a servant," Mrs. Waldron said, wearily.

A sudden shook ran throughout Eliot Harcourt's whole body, and a peculiar gleam shot into his eyes.

"Would you trust mop" he hsked, and waited breathlessly for her answer, and without daring to look at her lest she should mistrust his motive and refuse.

" Trust yeu P yes, indeed. But you look almost sick yourself," she answered, remarking his haggard

appearance.

But inwardly she was very much relieved by his offer, and had no notion of rejecting it.

" I am well enough, thank you-only sorrowful over this deep trouble, and I will gladly take your place to-night, if you can have confidence in me."

" Thank you-you are very good, Eliot. I believe I shall go to bed, and really rest for the first time since Trixy was taken ill. You have rolled a great burden from my heart," Mrs. Waldron replied, gratefully. .

She made bim go down and drink tea with her, and then went to bed and slept soundly all night long, while he watched above with the dead.

Before ten o'clook every sound in that stately mansion had subsided, and every room, save that solemn chamber and the upper hall, where a single tiny jet of gas burned dimly, was shrouded in dark- ness, and all the weary ones, excepting that lonely watcher by Trixy's remains, were soundly sleeping, Even Laura, wretched and almost despairing though she was, was forced to yield to exhausted nature, and every sense was locked in profoundest slumber.

Half an hour before midnight there came a stealthy step to the door of Trixy's room upon the inside.

There was a moment of silence, then the slight click of a key as it turned the lock, the silver knob moved noiselessly, and the door was softly opened a little space.

Eliot Harcourt's face-stern, white, and resolute appeared in the aperture.

He glanced up and down the hall onoe or twice stood listening intently for a moment, then came out, shut and locked the door without making a sound, put the key in his pocket, and then stole silently away to his own room.

Had he betrayed his trust ?-had he deserted his poit?

CHAPTER X.

BOHNE TO THB TOMB.

The day of Trixy Waldron's funeral dawned-cold, dismal, stormy.

The house, with its closed shutters and heavy cur- tains, was almost dark-a cheerless, comfortless atmosphere pervaded every room, and every face was shrouded in gloom and sadness.

At nine o'clock the few friends of the family assembled íb Mrs. Waldron's parlor around that spotless casket, to pay their last duties to one who only a little more than one short week ago had been as bright, and active, end vigorous as any one

among them.

The services were private, consequently no great formality was observed upon the occasion.

The casket had been placed in the centre of the room upon low trestles, where every eye csuld plainly see the slight form and pale face beneath the transparent lid.

Laura had come down alone at the appointed hour and took a seat by herself at one end of the room where she sat throughout the service, with her stony eyeB fixed upon the pure white casket. Bhe made no outward demonstration of grief, but her face wore a white, pinched look, as if her Buffering had withered

wt

forever ita bloom, ar. ".""," j.^.fi ndanc

drawn with pain. !2fl/¿ ¡O Ä

Mr inri Mr« WiiMm mWt ^f11*?* )}& »hort hi

Mr.andMrs.WaIdro j amo »od^-^alosé fa

it finest bombazine, ann e ? tf-=r0f the bordered handkerchief, i _j&* i Bundine p

seats at the left of theirj AGHTAlft.^ »'Ä^

Eliot Harcourt satoj^ """¡¿¡.Rh> : itÄnh* the casket, but he seeme. to the coig© lil rath - ill at ease, his glance wa^ of Lor¿ t C(. ti ». ? CHAI tinually from Laura to \t fom IJU Ï VereLT M while he appeared wholly, th y w."T« ;».* rather haughty self, Und¿ 2®° BUi - .

As Laura entered, he loo»40/K^e o£ the lattl searchingly at her; but she asl^Sifo, ï despairing glance at bim, did not apra¿}T/T the i his presence, nor indeed that of any one eW>toa from

The gray-haired pastor-a tender-heartMr^iBay8 £

friend of his family, Bnd one who had wato llation development of Mrs. Waldron's two faijume to the with exceeding interest-seemed deeply profita, oi Very affectionately and benignantly he spomle, male young girl-her bright, winning ways, her g the and impulsive manner, and the respectful atteniyed

with which she had always listened to his (natty x tiona. But the only gleam of real comfort turn i Laura gleaned from his words was his allusion ocee the deep affection which Trixy had always maiwill fetted for her, and his tenderly expressed tin or«

that though one had been taken and the other 'fifty the broken thread of their lives would be reunif he I when both should meet in that " city not made wit? " hands," and where there should be no more sorrov3n or pain. Qe

The services were concluded at last, and the friends were allowed one more look before the outer lid should forever shut their dear one from their sight.

Mr. and Mrs. Waldron, with their two sons, arose together and stood around ber ; and it would seem, from the excessive grief which Mrs. Waldron dis- played as if Trixy bad been her one idol, instead of the " trial" and " fright" of her life. The others, although not so demonstrative, were not the less sincere in their sorrow.

Eliot Harcourt alone remained seated, his face palo and agitated, his eyes keen and restless, but other-

wise motionless as a statue.

Laura was the last to approach the spotless casket' and now her unnatural composure seemed to forsake

her.

Trembling, and with her face buried in her hand- kerchief, shs tottered forward. She knew, or rather felt, that Mrs. Waldron was watching her every movement, and that, if ever the time came when she should charge her openly with that horrible deed» her appearance now would be dragged forward, com- mented upon, and misconstrued against her.

Eliot Harcourt also eyed her narrowly. He had watched the others closely, particularly his aunt, as they came forward, but his whole mind and atten* tion seemed to be concentrated upon the movements of this fair girl, whom he had grown to love with his

whole soul.

For several moments she stood beside the casket without nncovering her face, weeping, trembling, wretched; then, with a visible effort, she rem .'ed her handkerchief, and bent forward to look.

A low exclamation escaped her-a cry that attract- ed the attention of every one in the room, and made Eliot Harcourt half start to his feet with an ashen face.

Was he afraid that she would betray herself ? did he fear that after all she might be guilty of the deed of which she had been accused, or what was it that made bim grow so white and appear so troubled and nervous P

"^Ereathi'e8sly ne watched her while she lingered over tbaWftir' Ufsless figure, and noted how blue and

piached h\r 1¡P8 Rrew>and tno wild> almost frenzied

look, that cJP" iat0 b6r eyeB

Wsb thepaK,in* B0[exceedingly bitter? Was she

seeking in that \f,^^^^to ^ that loved

face indelibly upon her heart P V . . >

She shook like a reed-her teeth ehattuL^"^

bly, and she was obliged to put out one hand against the casket in order to keep herself from falling.

Mrs. Waldron's eyes were riveted upon her with a strangely malicious look for she knew how this ex- cessive agitation would tell against her, if ever her plans should ripen for action.

Eliot chancing to glance toward her, saw the look and he could bear no more.

Kisiig, he approached Laura, and gently took her hand to lead her away.

She started, as if from a blow, at his touch, moaned with pain, but stood rooted to the spot, staring with a sort of fascinated gaze upon Trixy's face.

" Come away, Laura," Eliot urged, gently, " they are all waiting for you."

She shivered from head to foot, turned, cast one wild, despairing look np into his face, and then, with a gasp, dropped senseless at his feet.

He stooped quickly, gathered her into his arms, bore her from the room, up stairs to her own chamber, where, summoning the housekeeper, he gave her into her care, and then went back to hie post below.

The casket had been covered, locked, and the key given to Mrs. Waldron while he was gone, and he bowed his head with a deep-drawn sigh that waB almost a groan, and which caused more than one pair of eyes to rest pityingly upon him.

It had been currently reported that the young artist had been deeply interested in the piquant little heiress, and that her death was a bitter blow to him.

The bearers now came forward, covered the casket with a velvet pall, and then bore it out into the storm and cold, the sleet beating pitilessly upon it and them as they went.

Then the friends followed one by one, the long line of carriages-many of them curtained and empty, and with solemn tread the funeral cortege proceeded to Greenwood, that beautiful but silent city of the dead, where the great Waldron tomb was opened, and one more was added to the number of Its voiceless, pulseless occupants.

CHAPTER XI.

"I WILL NEVBB MABHZ TOCB SON."

When the family returned from their ead errand, Laura was found to be raving with delirium, and the burden of her madness seemed to consist in a vehement denial of some act, of which no one ap- parently could gather the meaning.

" I did not-I did not ; oh I you know I would not do it," she cried, almost incessantly.

" Her cousin's death has broken her down com- pletely." Dr. Sutherland said, " and no wonder, for she neither ate nor slept during her sickness, Her constitution is not as strong as-Miss Waldron's was, and I am afraid, madam, that your trials are not

ended."

But Mrs. Waldron did not appear to be very deeply moved by this intelligence, She took her post by her bedside to assist the nurse, as a matter of course ; but she expressed neither fear nor hope

as to the result.

Once, while mixing a powder for the sick girl, she suddenly stopped in the act with compressed lips

and scowling brow,

" If she would but die-that would end the matter once for all," she muttered.

" Marm P" inquired the nurse, looking up,

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to possess oil the1, /«es and elegances which richt," supply, had been *. ' aim from her girlhood, 8he had labored for this, she had planned and contrived for it for thirty years, and this was the end oi it all Ï

Aside from the house in which she lived she was a ftB beggar 1 with nothing to support the elegance and fl style to which she had been accustomed for so long, B< It was a shock that she could not calmly bear. te

She knew she could sell-th»t her fine mansion,. iD with its rioh furnishings, would bring her a hand« 3. some sum, the interest upon which would give her a a moderate support. But she could not bring her ¡j proud spirit down to contemplate any moderation ,B of that sort ; while the idea of allowing all her beau« ,g tifnl surroundings to go under the hammer, end of . retiring to an obscure position, filled her with mor- i ; tification and rage. )]

For a week she shut herself into her own room, ir and nursed her anger and disappointment. ii

When she CBme forth again there were hard, set a lines about her mouth, and a look or resolve in her « cold eyes, which told that her week of seclusion had x not been one of sorrow meekly borne, nor employed >

in humbly seeking for resignation or fortitude to J

meet the trials of the future.

One day she sought Laura's room, an inflexible

purpose written upon her hard face. j

Miss Freston was rapidly getting well now, though

her face was still absolutely colorless, save for the . faint line of red which had recently began, to tinge j her lips, while her eyes were heart-breakingly won« , derful in expression.

She had been left very much to herself of late I indeed had scarcely seen any one since the nurse- ! went away, save the servants who came to wait upon. , her. Mrs. Waldron had been concerned with other , things, even if she had not utterly lacked sympathy with the unhappy girl.

William and Fred avoided her, the former because

he could not forgive her for her rejection of his suit T"

and the latter on account of ber sadness ; and it^-'eat seemed as if she was entirely cut off from ever yf' j one. , ^j^ * ^¿n'tteftte-iBS?ittl tea^a»jr ' 3^Trapt

over some flowers-l6vely"waxen camellia» and fra- grant heliotrope-touching them tenderly, almost reverently, witb her white, slender fingers, and-en- joying to the utmost their beauty and sweetness.

She looked very delicate and beautiful herself, sit- ting in her crimson velvet chair, elad in a spotless wrapper, which was hardly purer than her face, her golden bair wound about her head like a crown, and those lovely flowers in her lap,

Mrs. Waldron's face hardened as she saw the pretty pretty picture ; she knew that, fair, and sweet, and gentle though she looked-as if a rude breath would have the power to destroy her-she knew I say, that in spite of this, she had no more power over her than she had over the winds of heaven.

She looked a very reed, to be swayed or bent whithersoever she would; but she knew that strong« est steel was as nothing compared to the spirit which dwelt in that frail body.

"Where did you get your flowers, Laura?' she asked, by way of opening a conversation, and seating; herself opposite the young girl,

Eliot-Mr. Harcourt-just sent them in to me," she answered, with drooping lids, while the leaBt bit of color tinged her check.

"Oh,indeed 1" ejaculated her guest, with a search« ing look into her face, her lips settling into ric lines;"I was not aware that Eliot was,

with such an abundance of money ähat heTcould afford to waste it upon such exragf8Îre trifles M

those."

Laura did not reply to tbiavsSroastic speech, bat the tell-tale color deepened/in her cheeks; a faafr which Mrs. Waldron did no/f fail to notice, and which she thought might be an ./Indication of some feeling that could, perhaps, explain her obstinacy regarding;

William's hopes.

" I have come to have a talk with you regarding the future,'' she said, abruptly, after an awkward

silence.

laura looked up at her, her face all alive with sympathy, for she knew that the past six or eight weeks must have been very trying to her. At the same time a feeling of uneasiness filled her heart and clouded her eyes.

" Perhaps you do not know," the woman resumed " that when your uncle died he was bankrapt, and I am to day a -beggar-"

She was interrupted by a cry of surprise from

Laura.

" Yes, a beggar ; I do not need to choose my words, for no other will express my condition so well," she continued, bitterly. "I have not a dollar in the world that I can call my own, except what this house represents-not even enough to pay the insurance and taxes, which will both become due in a few

weeks."

" I am very sorry ; I did not once suspeot but that Uncle William left you very comfortably situated. But, Aunt Roxy," Laura went on eagerly, her face flushing with tender, generouB impulses, " ^o not be troubled or anxious about money mattera; I shall be only too glad to help you in any way~-to relieve you from any difficulty, I trust you will feel free to rely upon me."

Mrs. Waldron regarded the girl with blazing eyes . and scornfully curling lips.

"Did you imagine for one moment that I came here to sue for charity to yout" Bhe asked, proudly, " Thank you for your exceedingly disinterested offer,