|Chapter Number||THIRD PERIOD. LX.|
|Newspaper Title||South Australian Weekly Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1881 - 1889)|
|Trove Title||The Legacy of Cain|
THE LEGACY OF CAIN.
By WILEIB COLU.XS, Author cf 'The Woman in White,' 'The Evil Genius,'. &c, &c.
Published by special ammgen-cnt with the author. All rights reserve 1.] THIRD PERIOD. CHAPTER LX.
A little later on that evsnttul day, when 1 was most in need of all that your wisdom and kindness could do to guide me, came the telegram which annouuead that you were helpless under an attack of gout. As soon as I had in some degree got over my disappointment, I remem bered having told Euneece in my letter that I expected her kind old friend to come to us. With the telegram in my hand I knocked softly at Philip's door.
The voice that bade me come in was the gentle voice that I knew so well. Philip was sleeping. There by his bedside with his hand resting In her hand was Eaneec8, so completely restored to her own sweet self that I could hardly believe ia what I had seen not an hour since. She talked of you.when I showed her your message with affectionate interest and regret. Look back, my admirable friend, at what I have written on the two or three pages which precede this and explain the astounding contrast if you can. I was left alone to watch by Philip while Euneece went away to see her father. Soon afterwards Maria took my place ; I had been sent for to the next room to receive the doct jr.
He looked careworn ana gnevea. i said I was afraid he had brought bad news with him, , 'The woKt possible news,'' he answered. *' A terrible exposure threatens thiB family, and I am powerless to pre vent It.' He then asked me to remember the day when I had been surprised by the singular questions which he had put to me, and when he had engaged to explain himself after he had made some enquiries. Why, and how, he had set those enquiries on foot was what he had now to tell. I will repeat what he said in his own words, a4 nearly as I can remember them. While he was in attendance on Philip he had observed symptoms which made him sus pect that digitalis had been given to the young man In doses often repeated. Cases of attempted poisoning by this medicine were so rare that he felt bound to put his suspicions to the test by going round among the chemists' shops — excepting of course the shop at which his own prescrip tions were made up — and asking if they had lately dispensed any preparation of digitalis, ordered perhaps in a larger quantity than usual. At the second shop he visited the chemist laughed. ' Why, doctor,' he said, ' have you for gotten year own prescription?'' After this the prescription was asked for and produced. It was on tbe paper used by the doctor — paper which had his address printed at the top, and a notice added, tellisg patients who came to consult him for the second time to bring their prescrip tions with them. Then there followed In writing — 'Tincture of ^digitalis, one ounce' — with his signature at the end, not badly imitated, but a forgery never theless. The chemist noticed the effect which this discovery had produced on the doctor, and asked if that was his signa ture. He could hardly, as an honest man, have asserted that a forgery was a signa ture of his own writing. So he made the true reply, and asked who had presented the prescription. The chemist called to his assistant to come forward. ' Did you tell me that you knew by sight the young lady who brought this perserip tion ?' The assistant admitted it. ' Did yon tell me she was Miss Helena Gracedieu?' 'I did.' 'Are you sure of not having made any mistake?' 'Quite sure.' The chemist then said— ' ' I myself supplied the tincture of digitalis, and the young woman paid for it and took it away with her. You have had all the information that I can give, you, bIt; and I may now ask if yon can throw any light on this.' Our good friend thought of the poor minister, so sorely afflicted, and of the famous name so sincerely reapecbed in the town and in the country round, and said he could not undertake to give an Im mediate answer. The chemist was ex cessively angry. ' You know as well as I do,' he said, ' that digitalis, given in cer tain doses, Is - poison, and yon cannot deny that I honestly believed myself to be dispensing your prescription. While you are hesitating to give me an answer my character may suffer*; I may be suspected myself.' He ended- in declaring he should consult his lawyer. The doctor went home and questioned his servant. The man remembered the day of Mies Helena's visit in the afternoon, and the Intention that she expressed of
waiting for his master's return. He had shown her Into the parlor, which opened into the consulting-room. No other visitor was in the house at the time or had arrived during the rest of the day. The doctor's own experience when he got home led fr-»' to conclude that Helena had gone Into the consulting room. He had entered that room for the purpose of writing some prescriptions, and had f onnd the leaves of paper that he used diminished in number. After what he had heard and what he had discovered (to say nothing of what he suspected), It occurred to him to look along the shelves of his medical library. . He found a volume treating of poisons, with a slip of paper left between the leaves ; the poison described at the place so marked being digitalis and the paper used being one of his own pre scription-papers. ''If, as I fear, a legal investigation Into Helena's conduct is a possible event,' the doctor concluded, 'there Is the evidence that I shall be obliged to give when I am called as a witness.' It Is my belief that I could have felt no greater dismay if the long arm of the law had laid its hold on me while he was speaking. I asked what was to be done. ' If &he leaves the house at once,' the doctor replied, 'she may escape the infamy of being charged with an attempt at murder by poison ; and hi her absence I can answer for Philip's life. I don't urge yon to warn her, because that might be a dangerous thing to do. It is for you to decide, . as a member of the family, whether you will ran the risk.' I tried to speak to him of Eaneece, and to tell him what 1 have already related to yourself. He was in no humor to listen to me. 'Keep it for a fitter time,' he answered ; ' and think of what I have just said to yon.' With that, he left me on his way to Philip'* room. Mental exertion was completely beyond me. Can you understand a poor middle aged vpiaiter being frightened into doing a dangerous thing ? That may teem to
be nonsense ; but if you ask why I took a morsel of paper and wrote the warning which I was afraid to communicate by word of mouth — why I went upstairs with my knees knocking together and opened the door of Helena's room just wide enough to let my hand pass through — why 1 threw the paper in aiid banged the door to again and ran downstairs as I ! have never run Bince 1 was a little girl — I can only say, in the way of explanation, what I haveeaid already — I was frightened into doing it What 1 have written thus far I ah all send to you by to -night's post. j The doctor came to me after he had j se6n Philip and spoken with Euneece. He was in a hurry as usual. ' One of two things,' he said. 'Either that girl is crazy, or she 1b one in a thousand. I Bhall put off insisting on Philip's removal till to-morrow. A. day's delay will tell me if Miss Euneece's sense and courage are to be trusted.' Having no donbt of her sense and courage myself I was not surprised when those good qualities shosred themselves on the doctor's departure. While I remained at home on the watch, keeping the doors of both rooms locked, Euneece went out to get Philip's medi cine. She came back, followed by a boy carrying a portable apparatus for cooking. 'All that Philip want*, and all that we want,' she explained, ' we can provide for ourselves, Cive me a morsel of paper to write on.' Ushooking the little pencil attached to her watch chain, she paused and looted towards the door. ''Somebody listen ing,' she whispered. ' ' Let them listen. ' ' She wrote a list of necessaries in the way of things to eat and things to drink, and asked me to go out and get them myself. ' I don't doubt the sec vante,' she said, speaking dissiaedy eccugh to be heard outside ; ' bub I am afraid of what a poisoner's cunning and a poison er'e desperation may do in a kitchen which is open to her.' I went away oa my errand — discovering no listener oub eide, I need hardly say. On my return I found the door of communication wish Philip's room closed, bat no longer locked. ' We can no if attend on him in turn,' she said, ' without opening either of tbe doors which lead into the hall. At Eight we can relieve each other, and eaib. of us can get sleep as we want it in the large armchair in the dining-room. Philip must be safe under our charge or the doctor will insist on taking him to the hospital. When we want Maria's help from time to time we can employ her under our own superintendence. Have jou anything else, Selina, to suggest -?' There was nothing left to suggest. Young and inexperienced as she was, ho w (I asked) had she contrived to think of all this ? She answered simply — ' I'm sure
I don't know ; my thoughts came to i&e while I was looking at Philip.' Soon afterwards I found an opportunity of enquiring if Helena had left the house. She had just rung her bell, and Maria had found her quietly reading in her room. Hours afterwards, when I was on the watch at night, I heard Philip's door softly tried from the outside. Her dreadful purpose had not been given up even yet. It had been a disappointment to me to receive no answer to the telegram which I had eent to Mr. Dunboyne the elder. The next day's post brought the explana tion in a letter to Philip from his father, directed to him at the hotel here. This showed that my telegram, giving my ad dress at this house, had not been received. Mr, Dunboyne announced that he had returned to Ireland, finding the air of London unendurable after the sea-breezes at home. If Philip had already married his father would leave him to a life of genteel poverty with Helena Gracedieu. If he had thought better of it his welcome was waiting for him. Little did Mr. Dunboyne know what changes had taken place since he and his son had last met, and what hope might yet present itself of brighter days for poor Euneece'^ I thought of writing to him. But how could that crabbed old man re- ceive a confidential letter from a lady who was a stranger 2 My doubts were set at rest by Philip himself. He asked me to write a few lines of reply to hia father, declaring that his marriage with Helena was broken off — that he had not given up all hope of being permitted to offer the sincere expression of his penitence to Euneece — and that he wonld gladly claim his welcome as soon as he was well enough to undertake the jour ney to Ireland. When he had signed the letter* 1 was so'pleased that I made a smart remark. I said, ' ThiB 1b a treaty of peace between father and son.' When the doctor came on the same day and found an improvement in Philip's health he was satisfied. On the day after there was more improvement. He spoke kindly and even gratefully to Euneece. Ko more allusions to the hospital as a place of safety escaped him. He asked me cautiously for news of Helena, I could only tell him that she had gone out at her. customary lime and had re turned at her customary time. He did not attempt to conceal that my reply had made him uneasy. 'Are you still afraid that she may sccceed in poisoning Philip ?' I asked. 'I am afraid of her cunning,' he answered. 'If she is charged with attempting to poison young Dunboyne, fthe has some system of defence, you may rely on it, for which we are not prepared. There, in my opinion, is the true reason for her extraordinary insensibility to her own danger.' Two more days passed, and we were still safe under the protection of lock and key. On the evening of the second day^ which was a Monday) Maria came to me in great tribulation.' On asking what was the matter I received a disquieting reply — ' Miss Helena is tempting me. She is so miserable at being prevented from seeing
Mr. Philip and helping to nurse him that it is quite distressing to see her. At the same time, miss, it's hard on a poor ser vant. She asks me to take the key secretly oat of the door and lend it to her at night for a few minutes only. I'm really afraid I shall be led into doing it if she goes on persuading me much longer.' I commended Maria for feeling scraples which proved her to be the best of good girls, and promised to relieve her from all fear of future temptation. This was easily done. Euneece kept the key of Philip's door In her pocket, and I kept the key of the dining-room door in mine. Chatter LXI. On the next day (a Tuesday) in the week, an event took place which Euneece and 1 viewed with distrust. Early in the afternoon a yonng man called with a note for Helena. It was to be given to her immediately, and no answer was required. Maria had just closed the house door, and was on her way upstairs with the letter when she was called back by another ring at the bell. Our visitor was the doctor, coming to see Philip at the nsnal hour. He spoke to Maria in the hall— ' I think T see a note in your hand. WaB it given to you by the young man who has just left the house ?' ' Yes, sir.' 'If he's your sweetheart, my dear, I have nothing more to say.' 'Good gracious, doctor, how you do talk ! I never saw the young man before i in my life.' j 'In that case, Maria, I will ask you i to let me look at the address. Aha ! Mischief !' The moment I heard that I threw open the dining-room door. Curiosity is not easily satisfied. When it is it wants to [eee, when it sees, it wants to know. Every lady will agree with me in this observation. ' Pray come in,' I said, 'One minute, Mub Jillgall. My girl, j when yon give Miss Helena that note, try to get a e)y look at her when she opens &j
and come and tell me what you have seen.' He joined me in the, dining-room and closed the door. ' The other day,' he ; went on, *' when I told you what I ; had discovered in tha chemist's shop, I think I mentioned a young man who waa called to speak to a question of identity —an assistant who knew Mi&a Helena Grao^dieu by sight.' ' ' Yea, yea 1'' ' That young man left the note which Maria has just taken upstairs.' ' * Who wrote it, doctor, and whit does it say j' 'Questions naturally asked, Miss Jill iiall — and not easily answered. Where i3 Euneece ? Her quick wit might help ua.' She had gone out to boy some fruit and flowers for Philip, Tbe doctor accepted his disappointment iPsigriedi'y. ' Let us try whafc we can do without her,' he said. 'That young m&i/e ir.;tst::c has been in consultation (job may remember why) with Ms lawyer, ai.d tliie.-ia sr.ay be threatened with an iuvesugvinn before the magistrates. If tiiis w:Jd lava? ..f mine tarns out to have Lit the tiiark the poisoner upstairs has got- a warning ' I jitk.ii! if 'the chemist had written the note. Foolish enough of me when I came to thiiik of it. The chemist would scarcely act a frieiidly part toward Helena when she was answerable for the awkward po sition in which he had placed himself. Perhaps the young man who had left the warning was also the writer of the warn leg. The doctor reminded me thab he was all but a stranger to Helena. ' We are not usually interested,' he remarked, 'in a person whoai ire only knonr by sight.' -'Remember that he is a young man,' I ventured to say. This was a strong hint, but the doctor failed to see it. He had evidently forgotten his own youth. I made another attempt. ' And vile as Helena is,' I continued, ' we cannot deny that thisdisgrase to her sex is a handsome young lady.' He saw it at last. ' Woman's wit,' he cried, ' ' You have hit it, Miss Jillgall. The youcg fool is smitten with her, and has given her a chance of making her escape.' ' Do yoa think she will take the chance 1' ' For all our sates, I pray G ad sha may. But 1 don'c feel uure about it.' ' Why V ' Recollect what you and Eunioe have done. You have shown your suspicion of her without an attempt to conceal it. If you had put her in prison you could not have more compietely defeated her in fernal design. Do you think she is a likely person to submit to that without an effort to be even with you.' Just as be said those terrifying words Maria came back to us. He asked at once what had kept her so long upstairs. The girl had evidently something bo say which had inflated her (if I may use such an expression) with a sense of her o wn importance. 'Please to let me tell it, sir,' she answered, ' in my own way. Miss Eelena turned aB pale as aah.es when she opened the letter, and then she took a turn in the room, and then she looked at me with a Bmile— well, miss, I can only say that I felt that smile in the small of my back. I tried to get to the door. She stopped me. She says — ' Where's Mis3 Eunice ?' I says — 'Gone out.' She says — 'Is there anybody in tb.8 dravring room V I says—' No, miss ' She says — * Tell Miss Jillgall I want to speak to her, and say I am waiting in the drawing ing-room.' It's every word of it true! And if a poor servant may give an opinion, I don't like the look of it.' The doctor dismissed Maria. ' What ever it is,' he eaid to me, ' yoa must go and hear it.' I am not a courageous woman ; I ex pressed myself as being willing to go to her if the doctor went with me. He said that was Impossible ; she would probably refuse to speak before any witness, and certainly before him. But he promised to look after Philip in my absence, and to wait below if it really bo happened that I wanted him. I need only ring the bell, and he would come to me the moment he heard it. Such kindness as this roused my courage, I suppose. At any rate I went upstairs. She was standing by the fireplace, with her elbow on the chimneyplece and her head resting on her hand. I stopped juat Inside the door, waiting to hear what she had to say. In this position her slde-fase only was presented to me. It was a ghastly face. The eye that I could see turned wickedly on me when I came in — then turned away again. Otherwise she never moved. I confess I trembled, bat I did my best to disguise it. She broke out suddenly with what she had to say — ' I won't allow this state of things to go on any longer. My horror of an exposure which will disgrace the family has kept me silent, wrongly silent, so far. Philip's life Is in danger. I am forgetting my duty to my affianced husband if I allow myself to be kept away from him any longer. Open those locked doors and re lieve me from the eight of yoa. Open the doors, I say, or yon will both of you — yon the accomplice, she the wretch who directs you — repent tt to the end of your lives.' In my own mind I asked myself if she had gone mad. But I only answered — ' I don't understand you.' She said again — 'You are Eunice's accomplice.' 'Accomplice in what ?' I aaked. She turned her head slowly and faced me. I shrank from looking at her. *' All the circumstances prove It,' she went on. ' I have supplanted Eunice in Philip's affection. She was once engaged to marry him ; I am engaged to marry him now. She is resolved that he shall never make me his wife. He will die If I delay any longer. He will die if I don't crash her, like the reptile she is. She comes here, and what does she do 2 Keens him prisoner under his own suoer
Intendence. Who gets his medicine ? She gets it. Who cooks his food? She cooks It. The doors are locked. I might be a witness of what goes on, and I am kept out. The servants who ought to wait on him are kept out. She can do what she likes with his medicine ; she can do what she likes with his food ; she is infuriated with him for deserting her and promising to marry me. Give him back to my care, or, dreadful as It is to de nounce my own sister, I shall claim pro tection from the magistrates. I lost all fear of her ; l stepped close up to the place at which she was standing ; I cried out, 'Of what, in God's name, do yen accuse your sister %' She answered, ' I accuse her of poison ing Philip Dnnboyne.' I ran out of the room ; I rushed head loDg down the stairs. The doctor heard me and came running into the hall. I caught hold of him like a mad woman. 'Euneece 1' My breath was gone; J could only say ' Eaneece.' He dragged me into the dining-room. There was wine on the sideboard, which he had ordered medically for Philip. He forced me to drink some of it It ran through me like fire ; it helped me to speak. 'Now tell me,' he said, 'what has she done to Eunice V 'She ' brings a horrible accusation agalnBt her,' I answered. ' ' What is the accusation ?'' I told him. He looked me through and through. 'Take care,' he said. 'No hysterics, no exaggeration. Yon* may lead to dreadful consequences if you are not sore of your self. If it's really true, say it again.' I said it again— quietly this time. These gentle sweet-tempered men are dreadful when they are once roused. I meant to have repeated to him what had paeaed upstairs. There wasafuryin his face that burnt op the words on my lips. He snatched his hat off the hall table. ' What are you going to do 2' I asked. 'My duty.' Me was oat of th* house before I could epeek to him sgain.