Chapter 148381508

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Chapter NumberXXIV
Chapter TitleTHE VOICE OF THE CLOCK.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article148381508
Full Date1893-12-16
Page Number2
Corrections0
Word Count4252
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleEastern Districts Chronicle (York, WA : 1877 - 1927)
Trove TitleMaoriland Ho! Nature's Enchanting Wonder Isle. A Weird and Entrancing Romance
article text

CHAPTER XXIV.

THE VOICE OF TUB CLOCK.

Roger Folkoa appeared particularly anxious to iuauguruto himself into the good graces of - Mr ItalpU Jocclyjf, J.P. He explained Ilia mission. aud acknow ledged that none of the people at Pioe f alb-though thay certainly were good fellow* in the main, possessed the infor mation he wanted. Now, Mr Joeelyn being a mine owner, and fully informed respecting the provinoe, was just the gen tleman he wanted to advise him in the selection of a.sound investment. The .magistrate was flatterod, and readily promised all the aid that lay in his poivcr. Mr joeelyn held fast to a graud old maxim, vie., that the secret of success in this world was to make use of friends and foes alike forona'a«wn especial bene fit. The agent evidently had capital at his back, and it was just possible that the inan might bo turned to account. It waawhiie revolving this matter in his , fljjud that a messenger, who had not

.pared his bono, brought the magistrate a letter marked " private and confiden

. tial." He waa under the verandah smok

ing-when'Uie missive was placed in his 'hands. Spite of his habitual caution, Mr Jocalyn's face paled ns he read it.

I ' "No bad news, I trust," said FolfceB, who was lounging negligently in company, but somewhat observant of his com panion the while,

' The (magistrate turned with a smile, , and thrust the letter into the breast pocket of liia coat, as the horseman wheeled round aud rode away. *' My 1 news is certainly not very interesting,

: ha answered, looking after the messen ger. " A dangerous lunatic, whom I had considerable trouble in plaoing safely , under look and bey, has been released by , a parcel of fools who do not understand ; their business. However, as a magistrate . I have done my duty. If the fellow they . have released happens U> murder some one, be it on their heads, not mine."

I RugerFolkes gave a grunt of approval. | " Xs the man really dangorous, sir ?"

" My dear sir, he's a raving lunatio, if avw thtire was one in the world. I would not l)e alone with him lor five min utes for all the wealth of the Indies."

Bit Joaelyn hid either been negligent, ? or -had thruit the letter too hastily into

his coat, for, when.ha moved away five -minutes afterwards in fosponse to a call from the major, who happened to be in the garden, the erumpled despateh fell to the ground urmotiood by the owner.

r Hbgor Folkea eyed the papnr n mo tn.ent, ^ook it up, and coolly rcud its con tents, Jt did not tak,e the agent a mo ment, ifor the epistle was very short, and had evidently been written in haste.

It ran :-" Our vitit to Olenoourt has tailed. The general ambushed ready to reoeive us. Bad to fight our way out. i Black Bullock and Dangtara shot dead.' Barjew wounded in the arm. Rendez vous-' Dolphin."-B. B. PS.-' Your

friend tha'lunatio is getting ready to ride

ovor to Pitiefalle with the natet. Asi at anv cost."

Roper Follies crumpled tliolottor again between liin palms. Looking round quiet ly tn boo that no ono was near, Ho tossed it over tlio verandah rail. " Hallo, Mr Jocolyn," he called to that gentleman, who waBsnmoc.>ni<id»i'nblediBtniiee away, and who turned quickly at the BimlmonB, *' look there I you have dropped some thing."

.locelyn picked up liis property, and with a " thank you," walked off again.

" A oaol card," muttered tlio agent, resting liia anna on the wood work of tlio porlico, and looking nftor I ho retreating magistrate. " So bunhrangers have been nt (jlencourl, oh, and they've pot a pop poring. Humph 1 I don't see tlio drift

of it. What link is there between Air Jocolyn and Pun! ftnrjew, or hit gang of rulliuns, nud pray who is B. B."

He puffed vigorously at his cheroot for :i few minutes, trying (o solve the pro blom. " Anyhow, I'll find out," he con tinued, p.icing to and fro. " Your friend the lunatic- that's Grange, I suppose, is getting ready to carry the news lo Piun falls. That iB to let Miss Hilda Ashford know what's been up. Uy gad t I'm all at sea-fogged completely ns the sailors say. The captain is instructed to act. Well, I'll keep watch over the actor."

This was not so easy of accomplishment as Roger Folkes had anticipated. As evening foil Mr Joceiyn pleaded a bilious headache, and retired within the pre cincts of his own room. Dinner was served without him. Once during the meal the host despatched Teratiga to en quire if his guest would like anything sent in to him, but the servant returned saying Mr Joceiyn was asleep.

It appeared oniy reasonable that tho agent should express a deBire to viBit hia friend later on. Major Woldon, how ever, suggested that sleep was the best euro for biliousness. Besides, Folkes had promised to play several duets with the ladies ; therefore there was no help for it but to submit with tho best grace pos sible. It waB after ten o'clock ere the

| flautist found an opportunity of escupe

from tho music-room. Finding his way at length to the magistrate's room he knocked gently at the door. No response was given from within. A louder knock producing nothing in tho way of reply, Roger Folkes turned the handle of tho door, and entered. A small oil lamp burned on a table by the window. Tho light was turned down eo as to shroud the apartment in Bemi darkness. The in truder turned up the light, but Mr Joco lyn was not thero.

"I thonsht oa much," muttered tho baffled Folkes between bis white testli. Serves mc right (or being such a darned fool-going fooling about when I should be attending to business. Hotrsontever, I mean to make ud for lost time." lie locked the door on the inside as he spoke, and taking the lamp in his hand looked oarufully round him. A black lonthor valise-the only article in tho place be longing to the magistrate-stood on a chair by the bed. Placing the light in a convenient position Folkes, without more ado, unfastened the straps and turned the contents of the trunk out on the floor. Besides a change of clothing and some cigars, there was also a small, square box, in shajw like a lady's jewel case, but in reality the receptacle for a pocket re volver. Within were three compart ments, one for the weapon, another for the caps, and a third for cari ridges. The first compartment was empty, but there remained one or two cartridges ; twisting tlie conical shaped ball out of one of tho latter, Folkes held it towards the light, and read tho name of the maker- 'Parke nod Son, Loudon,' stamped-in small let ters rour.d the riin. It was an improved six-chambered arm, so diminutive that it Could bo carried' in one's vest pocket, but deadly at fifty paces, and making a report not louder than the cracking of a whip.

Thrusting tho ball into his pocket

Roger Folkes placed tho articles in the I

valise again. and rammed to tho diM- j

in^room. There was a nice fire, and the lamp burned brightly, but the house was still, and the initiates all abed, sate the host, who came to enquire about Jocc

b»- .

" I ve just como from his room," siiid the aff'.'iit. yawning, " and I think lie's all right."

" Glad to hear it. Good night," re sponded the major.

Tho clock in the Imll chimed half-past twelve when Teranga came iu to put .out the light.

" You noed not wait," said Folkos, looking up from the book ho was reading. " I'm not sleepy, and ahull not rotirc yet

awhile. Go to bed."

| With a low Balaam the Maori weut off

to his lnir, over to the storehouse.

By and bye Folkes arose and bolted the hall door, lie had made certain that there was no other moda of ingress from without except hero. Tlion he went back to the fire with his book, and

waited.

It was curious to ait and listen to the voice of that old clock. Its loud mono tony shaped itself into alt manner of odd names and places to tho ears of him who sat and listened to its glib tongue. " Go to bed I Jocelyn Vanborough I Look alive, Roger Folkes I Allan Grange ! dead, dead !" Then the cadence would change - * Fern-dell-forn-dell-fern -dell," it said, with solemn regu larity.

The agent was a practical man, with a uerve cf iron; but this ticking noiae nppcarod to gibber at him from out its oaken case, as if it were some sprite cal ling from the silonco of the night. So irntuting became tho sound that he got up and stopped the pendulum. It was then a quarter to two o'clock a.tn.

Going back to the fire the man Bits down resolutely to read, He is wakeful, without being restless. Cool and watch ful as a cat near a niouso hole. The lamp burns dimly beneath the pretty coloured shade, and the red glow of tho fire grows dull and dark. la tho inidst of tho reigning utillnoss coribb a slight sound. Sj slight, indeed, but that the watcher is evidently ou the alert it would have passed unnoticed.

Roger Folkes raised his head and lis toned breathlessly. Some one was fum bling at the look of tlie hall door. He turned down tho lamp, and went stealth ily into the corridor. The grating of several keys in tho lock sounded on fcis eors, then followed something like a string of muttered imprecations, and anon a patter of recoding footsteps. The ogeut hesitated a moment, then strode forward and opened the door. All without was dark and silent, save for tho footsteps, whioh returned with un certain swiftness, and the tall form of the magistrate oamo out of tlie gloom into the radius of the dim light boarn ing' from the open doorway of the sitting

room.

For a moment the two men stood silently looking at each other. By the obscure reflection of the lamp Folkes noted the haggard faoo, wild eyes, aud trembling lipi of Jooelyn,

"Shut the ioor," ho said with a. shu&cier ai>3 a map of h'u white teeth, which Peorned larger and whiter for his livid face. " Ugh ! I'm glad there it a!

liro. This infernnl fit. of bile Iiaa turned into apue, nB it always does with me if I am troubled at this time of year. Why are vou not in bed ?" . ~

The captain had turned up the light, and had drawn a spat to the fire ere ha asked the question.

" Reading ? Humph! One would hardly take you for a midnight etudont," added lie, iu a husky voice.

" My dear sir, I fear that you are ill," responded the other, gravely. " Let me

call-"

" Call no one," interrupted Jocelyn, rifting to liis feot. " Bah I it is only a shivering fit, and will soon pass. Will you have the goodness to give mo a little brandy ?"

A decanter stood on a side table, at, Follies el bow end, which ho paused to his companion. Mr Jocelyn puured put fully half a tumbler of the raw spirit, nnd drank it aB if it hid been no'mure than

so much wntor. f

" All, I was a fool to venture out into the cold night nir," ho says, presently, growing mure steady uitd colluctud under thu influence of the strong potation. "1 have not had such a severe bout for, years ; but it will pass-it will past."

Roger Folkca resumed his solit, but never removed his look from Jooelyn's ghastly face.

" la there no one up but yourself," asked I he latter, iib his eyes wandered round the room. J

*. Not a soul. They are nlj asleep hours ago," responds the agent, blowly. " I do not know What possessed ijio, but I felt wakeful to-ffight. Luckily I found " Eugene Aram " here, and eo sat down to read. Do you feel better, sir? 7

*' Aye, thanks," and the magistrate reaches forth and takes up till book. ' This iB a dreadful story,'' he adds, turn* ing over the leaves with his restless fingers. "It is Gome years sincqI read it, Wit if I remember rightly uie plot revolves round a murderer who is drought to justice years after the perpetration of his crime V" _ ?)

Roger Folkes smiles. " It "is la most fascinating story," lie replied,and was evidently written tu show the truth of tlio threadbare adage, murder toillioul."

Ralph Jocelyn lavs down the (volume Eoftly, and betakes himself to- luother refresher of the brandy. It is wonderful to note the rapid change that takis place in him. Ten miuutes ago lie looked bent

and bowed like an old mau-hjs eyes sunken, his haggard face au ashen grey, with a livid pallor extending eveb to his hands, which shook and trembled as if he had {jeun strickon with palsy.

Tiio agent, watching him, saw* the working of a Btrong will brought into play, auil Allied by juet uuftioion^ stimu lant to calm the tiurves without impairing that organ of caution which phrenologists

call secrctivnnuss.

in less than iialf an hour Mr Jocelyn is himself again. "What a confouuded fool I 11111 to riBk my health in the way 1 have done," ho cries, with a kind of | apology in hia voice and iq his look, j " Egad 1 it's surprising to me how I

found my way back."

j " Majjr Wuldon had nu idea that you were abroad," hazards Folkes by way of

a feeler.

.' Of course uot, my dear fellotr. You see it was about nine o'clock when I be gau to feel dreadfully sick aud faint. Thinking the fresh, cool air would-revive uio, aud not wishing to disturb you at dinner, I strolled off by the path leading to the upper cascade. Somehow, I must hare laisiakcu the track, for when I at tempts d to retrace my steps I became altogether confused, and wondered about this way aud that iu the darkness until quite exhausted. 1 was about lo give it up aud wait for morning when 1 hap pened to dUcover this light, which guided me back again to the house."

Koger Folkes nodded approvingly. " The midnight oil 1ms not been burned iu vain, since it proved a beaoon in your case," he responds. " By the way, you must have been to grass. Your coat is

torn and soiled."

" Egad, ao it is," responds the other with a laugh that was meant to be jocular,

but which resounded hollow and harsh,

j on the deep siiiliioss around. "I had

one or two severe fallit, which have knocked me completely out of time. It's a rough country even in daylight here abouts. Hark 1 What was that ?"

Roger Folkes raised his eyes. Over the speaker's face there- came a suddeu and a fearful change as he held up both his hands iu a listening attitude. " Did you not hear n cry 1" he asks.

" No/' replies tlie agent, slowly. " I heard nothing but your 'own voice."

There is a pause, in whioh Jpcelyn rallies himself by a gres.t etlort. " 1 am altogether out of sorts," he says, pre sently, and again helping himself oopious ly to the brandy. " My idea was to have spent a few days ruralising amongst the hills, but I am not equal to a day's idle ness. I'll go home first thing to-morrow morning. Ho one knows what may happen when one is ailing."

lie rises, and shivers perceptibly. " Let me advise you to retire," says the agent. " Sleep may restore you tu your wonted self sooner than anything else. Why, your coat is soaking wet. Allow me to help you off with it. iibre is a chair for it by the tire."

Mr Jocelyn ib about to comply, but pauses. '. Nay, my good fellow," be remarks with a siuije. "That jackanapes the Maori will see it, and tell his master

that I liavo been iu the river. Believe: me, I should not like my old friend Wel

don to imagine I wont about the country | with ouly one coat to my back.. Are you going to bed !"

"Not yet. I want to finish my

book."

"I suppose it's late-or early I should say J"

" Half-past two," says Folkes, looking <

at his watch.

" Indeed, so early. Good night." Aud I Jocelyn goes out into the hall, and along the corridor with hasty and uncertain; step. I

The agent listens, and tlion begins to stare with grave and moody faae at the fire. His fit of musing lasts fully half an hour or more. Then he goes abruptly to the clock and starts it going. ~

" Now what has boon your game, my worthy J.P. V" he mutton, as he goes back to the grate and turns .to it that portion of his person whioh Englishmen never show to an enemy. "Eh I You think to hoodwink me with your bilious attaok, and ao forth. No you don't, my fine fellow 1 Let - me ttiink. J have missed my' chanoeof aotu*lly hmwing what this jn&u has been after

o'clock last' night, but puUii^;this and that together, I may find a clu» to, a, shrewd guess. Did he go outto meet Allan Grange? Mr Jooelyn's oorresppn dent writes that Grange is the messenger from Gleneourt to Piiiefalla, nhd that ha must be mot at all risk. Qoodl'It'ia dlear

both Jocelyn and his iiifqtTndht feArtihis fellow. He .'« their wsm^andVijluoky,

determined one to boot. Tiio magistrate times his man-goes out and waits in nmbush tlio wiiy he mustsuioly come. Humph 1 I'd uivo twenty pound to have my hand in the packet of your wot jer kin, Mr Jocelyn, I guess 1 slwiuld find that miniature revolver missing from tlio ease in your trunk ; the pistol is there. I saw that when you refused to put your coat to thofhe. Bother you for an old chattering clock-you are at it again with

your worry. Can't let a man think out

his littlo idea without putting your spoke, in ? Listen to the impudent beggar- - Jocelyn Vanborough-gone to bed-Limk alive-Roger Fulkes - Roger-Folkes

Fernrtell 1"

"Well done, old grnndame," continuod Folkes,' apostrophising the clock. "If you don't bo quiet 1 Bhull be obligod to stop your clappcr. Where on oarth is Fcrndell ? Is tharo such a plane, or is it only a fancy of mine along with the rest f I'll inako .rnjuiry, though. It will bo daylight in half ati hour. Some of the handB are sure to be astir. What a devil of a long night it bus been to be euro."

He rakeB the fire together and seats himself before it, watching the flickering blaze rise and fall into a thousand strange and weird shapes. Fanes of some ho knowB hare passed away for ever, come and go again across his vision in quick succession. Mountains and rivers and scenes that aro not of tlio Southern

Hemisphere flit by after the face shadows until the dawn, breaking over tlio east, puts to the blush both dingy lamp and fading fire.

He opens the casement and floods the room with rose colored light, fringed with gold. Tlie morning air is cool and fru-.J grant to his tired eyes-tired and weary with watching. As ho stands gazing out at the fresh landscape, now unrolling it self before tho youtig morn, someone

goes by whistling the snatch of a song. I It is one of the Btatiou hands, who lifts his cap in salutation. Roger Folkes waves his hand, and the man approaches.

" Good morning," lie 6avs, carelessly.. " By the way, how far is it to Fern

dell?"

fThe shot was a random one, but it

hit the mark.

*" Fcrndell is about two miles t'other side o' that hill," replied the fellow,, pointing to a brokcu peak half a mile

away.

" I'te a werry pretty place, sir, but lonely like."

The agent decidcd promptly. " Look here, I have a fancy to kco this place," lie replied. " It's only a matter of half an hour's wulk ; we can bo back again' before breakfast. What's yu:ir name, my

man V

" Jem, sir ; Jem Rawlins."

" I suppose you can find time to show me the way, Jem ?"

" I can, sir, with pleasure," replied the other. " Wuuld you liko to go on horau

back ?"

" No ; wo will walk, Jem, thank you.

Wait for me a moment."

Rogor Folkes went to his room, and

returned at ihe end of live minutes ready

for his walk, aud the pair started off

over tho hill.

Tlio dawn broke clear and cloudless, savo for the grey mist rising up from tho lowlaudB stretching away towards the town of Uavolock. lit tlie dim kauri forest surrounding Fcrndell signs of awakening life and animation began to make themselves heard ami seen. The lofty trees were rich iu colouring-yor goous red and crimson aud russet brown peeping from beneath thick foliage of dark and lighter green. Birds fluttered in and uut of the leafy nroades, and sang their morning song, taking no heed of a still, silent dread tiling which lay stiff

aud stark beneath their rich liucd habita tion.

Jem Rawlins was tho lirst to see it, for ho stopped suddenly in liis walk, and clutching his companion, cried out, .' mercy, sir ; took there !"

Under the kauri pines, half liiddcu by the thick giowtli of terns and supplejack, lay the corpso of a man. The early eun rested on the pallid face upturned to the skieB iu silent appeal-a lac? which bore still an expression of intense anger and hatred, ai if the lust thoughts had been bitter aud revengeful.

Roger Folkes caught his breat h with a quick Kpnsin. for he recognised the bmly as that of Allan Grange. There could be no mistaking the stem, grim and rugged features of the old soldier, nor the crip plod limb, which uow lay curled up under the body.

The poor fellow's death must have been swift and euddeu. All tliat. could be seen was a sir,all perforation between the eyes, from which the fresh blood still oozed slowly, showing unmiat»k«ably thai there had been cowardly murder done, wherein the assailant had shot his victim full in the face without a note of warning.

The agent noted these things at a glance. He knelt down, by Ihe budy, while his companion shrank back iu mo mentary terror. There is a feeling of dread at all times in tho presence of death, but the perception becomes doubly intensified at the sight ot ruthless but chery.

*' Is he dead, sir ?" said Jem.

" Aye I dead as a herring, my lad."

"GoodLord I It's awful."

StrangeBt of all things they should find a small revolver in the dead man's clutch.

It was the sWe kind o, weapon and the make as the one possessed by Mr Joce lyn.

Not at the moment, but aftern-ards, when'tho body had been romoved to the hut of an old charcoal burner close by where it had boon discovered^ did Folkes set himself to work out the tangled thread of these circumstances.

Had Allan Grange killed himself ? No. That'thoory was out of the, ques tion. Then who hud killed him f L'ho bullet taken from Jocolyu's trunk fitted the revolver exactly, for there were two chambers empty. Looking at tho maker's

name it was found to bo identical with that of the bullet; weapon and ammuni tion were the same. Of course there was more than one revolver of the class iu the country, but the weapon was a rucont im provement on the old arm, and very ex pensive. It was altogether unlikely that Grange would carry «uch a toy. How ever, it would be easy to asoertain tho fact in due course.

If Roger Folkes had been a man with a turn for psychology he might havo tried to solve the. probfom why tho clock

utterod tho word "Furndell.", He had nevor e.oen the spot in question-never heard of it in fact previously, yot as plain as if the tonguo of living, breathing mortal had spoken -it, (he name sounded in his ears, and fised itself on his memory. Fortunately our friend was a'hard-hendbd j/raotical fellow,'widdid nrttttoulila'hijm

self' i^iH'sb'strurie''questi((c^. HBrd^as1 tpitW^or,' . Whiji hid 'dbpq it f ' ( ?

Whatever, Wnefiuijons,, ho. jnaykwa. arrived at in, regard to tho, mucdor,.t|i« agent: kept.-them - to. himself. - It. waa vi'rgiii'_' 'on dusk"*lieu .he -.returned :ta< PinufiiUfl, where ncwa of the,«yeut iiud' thrown a gloom.otter the .'otherwise happy

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