|Chapter Title||TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION.|
|Newspaper Title||Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Third Volume|
Turret IS STKASQEB THAU FICTKKf.
This astonishing statement was received by Claude with a disbelieving smile; and so ooaviuoed was he. of its untruth that he affected anger at .what he really believed to be the flippanoy of Tait's conduct.
"It ib no doubt very amusing for you to ridicule my story," said hB'with cold dignity j " but it ib hardly the aot of a friend. Some matters ore too serious to form thesubject of a jest; and this"
"I am not jesting," interrupted Tait eagerly. "I asBure you that the tragedy whioh concemed your parentB forms the sub jeot-mattor of this novel. You oau read the book yourself, and eo be convinced that I am speaking the truth. The names and places are no doubt Actional, but the whole story is narrated plainly enough."
Laroher turned over the three volumes with a puzzled expression. That a story with which he had only become acquainted Within the laBt twenty-four hours ebould be printed iu a book, and that the book itself should be brought eo speedily under his. notice, seemed to biin quite inexplicable. The strangeness of the occurrence paralysed bis wili, and con
trary to his usual self-dependence he looked to |
Tait for guidance.
"What do you think of it?" he asked irresolutely.
" A.h 1 That requires some consideration,
my friend. But before we go into the matter ! let us understand our position towards each
other. You believe thia story of your father's I death J" ]
"Certainly. Mr. Hilliston would not tell me an untruth, and moreover the bundle of
extracts from provinoial newspapers confirms 1 his statement.' I truly believe that my father J George Laroher, was murdered at Horristou j in 180G by — and there you have me — I know ] not by whom. My own opinion is that ] Jeringham is" j
una moment, uiauae: lien us settle an
preliminaries. Are you resolved to take up
this matter ?"
"I am! I must dear the memory of my mother and avenge the death of my father."
" Wonld it not be better to lot sleeping dogs be!" suggested Tait with some hesita tion.
"I do not think so," replied Claude quietly. " Z am not a sentimental man, as you know; and my nature is of too practical a kind to busy itself with weaving ropes of sand. Yet in this instance I feel that it is my duty to hunt down and punish the coward who killed my father. When I find him and punish him, this ghost of '06 will be laid aside; otherwieeit will ooutinue to haunt and torture me all my life."
'' But your bnsiness !"
"1 shall lay aside my business till this matter is settled to my satisfaction. As you
know, I have a private inoome and am not oompelled to work for my daily bread. More over, the last four yesrs have brought me in plenty of money, so that I oan afford to indulge my fanoy. And my fancy," added Giaude in a grim tone, " is to dedicate the rest of my life to discovering the truth. Do you not approve of my decision !"
"Yes and no," said Tait evasively. "I think your buut for an undescribed criminal, whose orime dates back twenty-five years, is rather a waste of time. AU clues must have disappeared. It seems hopeless for you to think of solving the mystery. And if you do," continued the little man earnestly, "if you do, what possible pleasure oan you derive from suoh asolutiori? Your father is a mere name to you, so filial love oan have nothing to da with the matter. Moreover the criminal
may be dead—he may be"
" You have a thousand and one objections," said Laroher impatiently, " none of which have any weight with me. I am in the bands of Fate. A factor has entered into my life which has ohangod my future. Knowing what I know now I cannot rest until I learn tbetruth. Did yon know the story of Mozart!" he added abruptly.
"I know several stories of Mozart, But this special one I may not know."
"It is told either of Mozart or Mendels sohn ! I forget which," pursued Larehsr half to himself. "When Mozart — lot us say Mozart— was ill in bed one of his friends struck a discord on the piano, which required what is technically known as a resolution for its completion. The omission so tortured the sensitive ear of the musician that -when his friend departed he rose from his bed and completed the discord in aooordancs with musical theory. Till that was done he could not rest."
" Ana tlie point oi your paraoie:
" Can you not sob ? This iuoomplete case of murder is my discord. I must complete it by discovering the criminal, and so roundoff the case or submit to be tortured by itB hinted mystery all my lifp. It is not filial love, it is not sentiment, it is not even ourioeitj, it is simply a desire to complete a matter hitherto left undone. Till I know the sequel to the Horriston tragedy I shall feel in a state of suspense — and suspense," added Claude em phatically, " is torture to men of my tempera
" Your reason fs a trifis whimsical," said Tait, smiling at the applioation of this musical theory to the presont instance, "bat I oan understand your feelings. Indeed, I feel the same way myself."
" You 1"
"Why not? I'm reading 'The Whim of Fate.' I could not go to rest without knowing the end, and I feel a like ouriosity towards this tragedy of resl life. I shall not be oon tent till I learn the truth. My feelings are precisely the same as your own. Therefore," pursued Tait with emphasis, " I propose to assist you in your search. We will discuss the matter calmly and see what is best to be done. In spite of the lapse of five-and twenty years, who knows but what we may lay hands on the murderer of your father, who is no doubt now living in fancied seourity."
" Unless he is dead."
" Who is making the objections now?" said Tait, smiling. "Well, Claude, will yon acoept me as your brother detective in this matter ?"
" Willingly, and I thank you for this proof of your friendship."
" I ana afraid there is an element of selfish
ness mixed np in my offer," said Tait, shrug ging his shoulders; "it is not every day that one oan find an interesting case like this to dissect. Excitement is the joy of life, and
I rather think we will be able to extract * great deal from this investigation. Come 1 We now understand one another."
Laroher grasped the hand held out to him and gratefully accepted the aid thus offered. From that moment the two dedioated them selves to hunt down the uriminat at whose hands Greorge Iiaroher had met his death. It at a? strange jimpact as hadeverbeen made.
Halting Nemosie, who had rested «U these: year*, oitoa mora resumed her stealthy1 pro gress, «nd before her ran these two young men as ministers of her long-delayed revenge. This junction of unforeseen ctroums jances savoured of thedramatio. '
"The first thing to -be done," said Tait when the compact araa thus concluded, "is to read both oases."
" Both oases!" repeated Claude curiously." "Ves! You remember how Browning gives half-a-dozen aspects of theeameoase in his ' Ring and the Book.1 In a minor degree we benefit in the same manner. There," said Tait, pointing to the roll of newspapers, " is the oase from the real point of view, and here,
in these three volumee we will find the same oase as considered in a fiotional fashion by the novelist. Br reading both we may come to same oonelusion whence to start in our talk. Last night you read the newspapers; I the novol. To-doy we will raverae the prooess. I will view the affair as set forth by the provincial Press and you will devour the three volumes of John Farvor as I did last night."
" Aud aftsrwardBf"
"Eh 1 IVhbcan say ?"replied Tait, shrug ging his Bhoulders. Several sojourns in Parie had lefb their traoe in Gallic gestures and possibly in Gallio flippancy. " We must know what foundation'we have before we build."
Claude nodded. He was of the same way of thioking himself, and oommented on his friend's speech after his own fashion.
"Yes,"said he a trifle vindictively, "we must build our gallows ebanoh and Btrong. Yon oan prooeed with your toilet, and after
wards we will read novels and newspapers, as ; .you suggest. The result of our reading must appear in our actions. I rather think," he added slowly, " that the result will he a visit to Mr. Hilliston."
Without doubt. Ho wag an aye-witness,
and it is always preferable to obtain evidence j firsthand." ,
" Then,"said Claude reflectively, " there is
"Quito sol The enterprising lady who
started the whole thing. Was she also on ? eya-witness?" |
" I can't eay 1 Her name does nob appear in the newspapers."
" Humph ?" muttered Tait, scratching his chin. " Nor in those three volumes oau I find a character likely to develop into Mrs. Bezel of Harapstead."
" I wonder who she can be," said Claude curiously, "or what she cau have to do with the oase."
"That we must find out. Depend upon it there is mors in this oase than in newspapers or novel. We must find out all about Mrs. Bezel, and," eaid Tait, with emphasis, "we must learn all that is to be learned ooucerning John Parver."
" Who is John Parver 1"
" Who was the Man in the Iron Mask V replied Tait in a bantering tone. "Ioannot say. But whomsoever he may be, he knows all about this oase."
"There is that possibility, certainly," assented the other smoothly, "but I hardly think it likely. A. man of to-day would not readily come across the acoounb of a tragedy occurring in a little known town twenty-five years ago. Do you know," he added, after a pause, " that it ocours to me that the publica tion of this book containing an account of the , ease may have been the oause whioh incited Mrs. Bezel to write the letter."
" t thought so myself. Mrs. Bezel may think the John Parver is a nom de plume assumed by Claude Laroher."
" Or another alternative. Mrs. Bezel may be John Parver herself. _ It is the fashioa nowadays for women to write under the name of men."
There was a few minutes' eilenoe, during which each man was intent on hie own thoughts. Tait, whose brain turned quicker than that of Larcher, was the first to break
" Well," eaid he, moving briskly towards his bedroom door, "before wo can say or do anything we must learn the foots of the
As he vanished into his room Claude laid his hand on the first of the three volumes.