Chapter 135846543

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Chapter NumberXCII
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1891-10-01
Page Number2
Word Count2700
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleNewcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954)
Trove TitleMinnigrey: A Romance
article text MINNIGREY. A 33OJ!IANCE. OHAPTER XCII (ContinueZ). 'Could I credit,' he muttered, 'the fables which churchmen tell us, and fools believe, I should think the hand of. Heaven was raised to thwart me. Married!' he added; 'my nophew married! and this gipsy brat his heir; Madge must have betrayed me; she alone knew the secret of my existence. Hag! fiend! devil! curse her! curse her!' A rustling in the boughs of the huge chestnut tree which overhung the wall of the park just where he was sitting, attracted the speaker's attention. He looked up suspiciously; but the evening was already too far advanced even for his piercing eye to penetrate the leafy shade. Drawing a pistol from his belt, he was just upon the point of firing into the tree, when the sound of the ap proaching carriage caused him to change his intention. ' Pshaw !' he said, 'I grow childish; it is but some night-bird in search of prey.' At the same moment that the speaker replaced the weapon in his girdle, Lanah, whose pistol had covered him all the while, silently un cocked it, and concealed it in his breast. The cunning gipsy made a slight rustling in the branches of the tree again, and imitated the cry of an owl. The last doubt vanished from the mind of Hanway as he heard it. 'As I thought,' he said; 'an owl hunting for-its prey amongst the branches.' As the carriage approached, the speaker gave a low, peculiar whistle. His grandson recognised the signal, and impatiently commanded the post boys to stop. ' He will escape me yet!' muttered Lanah, between his clenched teeth; 'no matter, I'll follow him to the end of the world.' 'So,' said Edward Howard, 'all your plotting, crimes, and scheming have been foiled! I have been dis graced, insulted, and baffled." 'I know it all,' replied Hanway; I was present.' 'You!' repeated the young man, in a tone of surprise. 'I,' said his grandfather, 'saw you shrink like a cur before the menace of General Talbot.' 'And this tale-this new-found heir, passionately demanded the young man. 'Ts true" replied his grandfather; 'a thousand circumstances confirm it. It was the instinct of your blood which taught you to hate the boy when first you met him in the woods of Epping; but the boy has become a man-the serpent is full-grown; wonder you it should sting you ?' 'All is lost !' observed the young man, in a tone of despair. 'Lost!' repeated Hanway, with a look of contempt; 'nothing is lost to him who possesses courage and per severance. A brother and three children- the offspring of the man I hated and the woman I once loved-stood between me and the honours of my race. Where are they now?-ask of the grave!' ' Still the heir remains!' replied Edward, bitterly. 'Trueo,' said the old man, sneer ingly; ' a prisoner-caged-at my mercy l' 'He has escaped you once!' bitterly observed his grandson; 'one thing has been wanting in all your plans." 'And what was that ?' 'The security which death alone can give. Hate and avarice are strong guardians, but the grave is a surer one!' ' Boy:!' exclaimed the old man im patiently; 'I have sported with it till it has become familiar to me; and yet, unless urged by strong necessity, I shrink froan the shedding of the blood of my:race. Let the necessity at once arrive, I regard it like water !' i The necessity has arrived.' "It has,' resumed iLanway, with an air of determination; ' and to you I commit the task. Your rival is in the keeping of his enemy, Paul Kemp. Show him this token from me, and he will deliver him into your hands. See that your arm be strong, and your heart fail you not! You will endounter the ruffian any evening, between the hours of seven and eight, in the cloisters of Westminster. The prison of your enemy is not far distant !' As he spoke, he drew from his finger an antique ring, engraved with the head of some Roman deity, and placed it in his grandson's hands, who secured the token with trenibling eagerness. The- idea of Gus, bound and at his mercy, caused his heart to beat with that ferocious transport which the tiger may be supposed to feel when its victim lies prostrate beneath its grasp, and its fangs are at its throat! ' Good!' thought Lanah, who over heard every word of their conversa tion. 'Perhags I may baulk you both yet !' 'Do you not return with me?' de manded Edward Howard, addressing his grandfather. 'No. I have work to accomplish here. Farewell! When we next meet you will be Earl of Eserick.' ' Or 'nothing,' replied the young man, returning towards the carriage. • And so they parted, without the -. least sign of affection or respect; for where the hideous compact of guilt exists, neither can endure. For a few moments the gipsy re mained undecided whether to start immediately for London, in order to watch over the life of our hero, or to follow the steps of the old man. Re membering that Edward Howard could not meet with Paul Kemp till the following evening, he decided on the completion of his original inten tion. 'The wolf first,' he muttered, 'and then the cub!' Full of this resqlution, he glided like a serpent from his, and, as the carriage drove off, darted across the road, and concealed himself in the hedge which ran parallel with the park wall. Fortunately Hanway had not time to observe him. Keeping tile object of his hatred still in view he continued to follow him, at -a short distance, till he turned down the narrow footpath leading to Dingley Church. 'I have him now!' he said. 'The justice of the Romany is on his track!' The next instant he slid like a shadow into the road, and followed in the same direction. CHAPTER XCIII. Vain was the man, and false as vain, Who said, were he ordained to run His long career of lifo again, He would do all that he had done. -MooaE. Mandrake had returned to his lonely cottage. The events of the day had made a profound impression on him He felt assured that the mystery which he had so long been brooding over, was on the point of being cleared. The last act of Bawtree--for he doubted not that the murder of Dame Hawlett was the work of his hands revolted him. Not that the old man felt the least alarm for his own safety. So firm was his conviction that he was destined to witness the termination of the career of the evil genius of the house of Eserick, that he did not even take the usual precaution of fastening the door of his abode. 'It would be useless,' he thought; 'we must meet before we die.' He had not long been seated, before the latch was gently raised, as if some person were cautiously trying it. ' Come in, Doctor Bawtree ' he ex claimed. 'There is no one here but Death and the sexton. I have been waiting for you nearly twenty years, but you come at last!' The door opened slowly, and Han way, who had partially removed his disguise, entered the humble abode. Before speaking a word, he carefully drew the bolt. Mandrake smiled scorn fully ; for his raven had welcomed the intruder with one of his prophetic croaks-an infallible sign with his master that his visitor was doomed to leave his bones in Dingley. For some moments the two aged men gazed on each other in silence. In the cool, easy air of the sexton, Hanway thought he detected an at tempt to conceal his terror. He was mistaken : Mandrake looked only as he felt. 'I perceive,' he said, ' you know me ?' 'Know you ' repeated the sexton, with a low chuckle. 'Of course I do. I knew you from the first hour you settled at Dingley. Many in the village wondered where you came from, who you were, and what family you belonged to. The fools,' he added, with a grin, 'little thought how many skeletons of the same iron race were lying coffined in the vaults of the old church!' Despite his self-possession Hanway changed colour. The allusion to his birth and family was too palpable to be mistaken. 'It is to you, then' he replied, bitterly, ' that I owe the report of my existence.' ' To me ?' repeated Maudrake; 'no. I have never breathed the secret of your existence to any living ear. I have sometimes talked about you to the dead.' 'The dead ' 'Ay, the dead!' repeated the old man. 'It is a law of nature, that when the heart is oppressed with a fearful secret, we must reveal it someone-it relieves the mind. So I e'en whispored my secrets to the dead.' For some moments the gravedigger and his visitor remained gazing on each other in silence. Formerly Man drake had stood in conniderable awe of the mysterious Dr. Bawtree-now he no longer feared him. His mark, as he called it, was upon him; and he chuckled at the thought that he should bury him at last. £ One more of the race !' he muttered. 'One more .' 'And what,' said Banway, who was the first to break the silence, 'have you whispered to the dead ?' 'That which you,' replied the old msan, 'have doubtless oft repeated to yourself-for even you must have some conscience-that is, if you really are human. First your nephew, next Lady Ellen, now her sister; to say nothing of the old crone whoselips you sealed for ever.' Hanway shuddered, for he recol lected several others whose names might have been added to the list. ' But it is all up with you at last I' continued the sexton; 'the avenger is on your track.' ' Pshaw I' replied the visitor,' with a oontemptuous smile. 'If you allude to this pretended heir-this gipsy, Gus--' ' But I don't alludeto him,' observed Mandrake. * To whom, then ?' 'To one whom you cannot reach, with all your wiles-and I believe that they are more. numerous than your names-whose shadow encompasses the earth-whose hand, though it has neither flesh, sinews, bones, nor muscles, is heavy, and whose blow is death-whose grave even Old Time will not last long enough to dig-to Justice!' There was something almost monaoc ing in the tone in which the speaker announced his prediction. Despite the firmness of character which Hanway had thrcugh lifo displayed, he trembled at the denunciation of the poor igno. rant rustic.:. 'To justice !' he repeated, mechani cally. 'Ay. A coffin has been opened in Dingley Church, and a body examined. I need not toll you whose, or the date upon the lid.' ' And who has dared-' ' Dared!' repeated the sexton. 'Did I not tell you it was the work of jus tice? In my way from Dingley Mlanor I looked in at the church, for the vicar and a party of strangers from London had been during the day, to demand the keys.' ' Well !' 'I guessed their errand, and was not far wrong-indeed, I seldom am,' con tinued the speaker, with an air of corm placency. 'I entered the vault--you know the one I mean-your father's bones rest there.' 'Mine never will!' exclaimed the murderer, with a sigh. 'Oh, yes they will 1' hastily answered the Esexton: ' my mark is upon you.' 'And what did you see there ?' de manded Hanway-for so we shall con tinue to call him. ' An open coffin--yournephew's! I was astonished,' added Mandrake, ' to see how the worms had spated him. I recognised his features in an instant; but I always said the vaults of Dingley were dry and wholesome. It must be a pleasure to be buried there. So the strange gentlemen doubtless thought, fdr they had removed the stomach of the earl, and -' Ere he could finish, the wretched man, who instantly understood the purpose-in fact, the only one-for which such violation of the dead could have been permittedl, fell from his chair, as if he had received a sudden blow upon the brain. The raven croaked repeatedly whilst his master raised the person of his visitor, and replaced him in the chair. After a few convulsive struggles, in which life and death seemed contend ing for mastery in the old man's iron frame, he slowly opened his eyes, which he fixed inquiringly upon Man drake. 'It's all true,' said the sexton, with a knowing nod. 'Have you the keys of the church ?' demanded Hanway. 'I have.' 'And of.the vault ?' ' Of the vault, too,' added the sex ton. 'Then lead me there. I must see with my own eyes the truth of what you have told me. If it be real, Icare not how soon I sleep beside them.' Without waiting longer than the time necessary for Mandrake to take down the keys from the iron peg on which they hung, the' speaker left the cottage. The sexton east a knowing look after him, as he prepared to follow. 'I knew I should bury him at last !' he chuckled. The raven gave a yet louder croak, and, hopping from his perch, would have followed; but his master drove him back, and carefully closed the door of the cottage after him. As Mandrake and his companion crossed the churchyard, by the very avenue in which the life of Gus had formerly been attempted, the gipsy Lanah glided through the long, damp grass, like a serpent, after them. He held his knife between his teeth. Perhaps he was anxious to see what took them to the church at such an hour, before he struck the blow. OHAPTER XCIV. Years had elapsed since Hanway or rather the Honourable Geoffrey Howerd-had stood beneath the quaint old roof of Dingley Church; and the memories and thoughts of other days came crowding on him. As he slowly moved up the chancel, followed by Marmaduke Mlandrake, his eyes in voluntarily rested on the richly carved oaken gallery in which he had been accustomed to sit when a child, and he almost expected to see it filled by the stately, graceful, familiar forms of those whom he had loved in his youth, but whose ashes had long been resting in the gloomy vault whose entrance was surmounted by the escutcheon of his race. Vainly he en deavoured to shake off the feelings which the hour and place had awakened. There are moments when, despite the lessons of the world, and the armour of cold philosophy, we feel that we are human-when the heart which we imagine we have schooled to granite, returns to olay-soft and duc tile clay, capable of receiving the tenderest impressions. Under a deep arch, which previous to the Reformation had most probably been one of the lateral chapels of the church, was a stately monument erected to the memory of his mother. The statue which adorned it had been executed in Italy, and was esteemed a fine likeness of the deceased countess. As Geoffrey stood gazing on the well-remembered features, he thought of the days of his youth, the brother whom he had once loved, the mother who had loved them both-and his heart swelled with unusual emotion; his eye became less bright; had he remembered how, he would have prayed, but prayer was denied him. The harsh, raven-like voice of the sexton startled him from his reveries, and in an instant the heart of Geoffrey Howard became granite again. * I have heard,' observed the sexton, alluding to the statue, 'that it wor very like her l' 'Thank you?' muttered his com panion through his clenched teeth. Mandrake regarded him with an air of surprise. He did not comprehend him. 'Thank mel' he repeated; 'for what ' 'There was a truant angel lingering by my side, and thou behast scared him from me !' To bde Continued.