Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

12 erthygl ar y dudalen hon

 « C?LL Kiohis RMMVM.] [Copyright…


 « C?LL Kiohis RMMVM.] [Copyright in U.S.America. ?  T? w .f  I g For Life and Liberty I L ES By SYDNEY HUNGERFORD. EE! By SYDNEY HUNGERFORD. E ? Author of Condemned by Choice, Weighed in the Balance, &C. r? mm SYNOPSIS. t Shivliffky, Ballin garry, Ireland, had been the home of the Desmoids for ages. When the story opens the head of the family is dead in the house, leaving only one daughter, Noreen, a beautiful girl. The blow is all the harder to bear for the girl, because a week earlier the man she loved-Arthur Raiuham—had written breaking off the engagement-for no apparent reason. One of the servants, going up to the dead man's room, hears strange noises therein, and two other old servants, Martin dough and his wife, seem unnecessarily harsh with the girl when she recites the story. Noreen goes to bed, but at three o'clock in the morning is roused by a repetition of the mysterious sounds coming from the death- ) chamber. She calls Martin, but he is obviously terrified, j and Noreen searches for the origin of the sounds alone. Outside the fated room she sees the figure of a woman I and faints. The next morning Martin's conduct is strange. The reading of the will brings another blow to Noreen—she is left almost penniless, two bequests which nearly absorb the fortune being left to Martin Clough and his wife and Dr. McGrath, the family's medical adviser—the latter gets £ 5,000. There is no reason given for the legacy to McGrath, and the villagers talk. One Captain O'Hagan, who is passionately  but abortively fond of Noreen, in the course of a conversation with Nurse Hose Evans, has his suspicions confirmed. The -it? ?u:rformerly in charge of the dead squire, but after being summarily dismissed she accidentally overhears a con- versation between McGrath and Martin Clough which seems to prove that the death was hastened somewhat. O'Hagan hopes to use his knowledge as a lever to Noreen's affections, and goes on collecting evidence here and there. Leaving the servants to look after the old place, Noreen leaves Shanliffey for London. O'Hagnn pays a visit to Hannah Clough when he knows Martin is away, and frightens the poor woman by little details he has gathered. With his suspicions confirmed, he follows Noreen to 'i^ondon. At the house of her friends Noreen meets a Colonel Bannerman, who evidently knows something that is Dot to the credit of Dr. McGrath, for he suddenly stops in the recital of an incident in which the doctor is mentioned on learning that Noreen knows him. Captain O'Hagan calls on Noreen to play his cards, but he has reckoned without the cold reception he would receive. He immediately gets to the root of the matter by denouncing McGrath as a murderer, but Noreen declines to listen to him. Later he tries to force his presence on her at an exhibition, but receives a blow from the gentleman who in with her. Noreen has other admirers in London—among them Lord Thortield, whose offer of marriage she accepts, though she still loves Rainham. Meantime we are introduced to Rainham and his sister. They are leading a peculiarly lonely life in a Hampshire village. They have mysterious deaf and dumb servants, and a man in the house who is supposedly Rain- bam's valet has some remarkable hold over him Business takes Rainham to London, and fate takes him past a church where a wedding is being celebrated. Out of curiosity, he waits till the ceremony is over and the couple emerge from the church. The bride is Miss Noreen Desmond, now Lady Thorfield. ÅS she steps into the waiting carriage the eyes of the sum and the girl he loves meet. I CHAPTER XII. I THB NARRATIVE OF PAT DOOGAN. I Captain O'Hagan had just emerged from his club in Dublin. Passing a brilliantly lighted hotel, not of the best class, his eyes rested carelessly upon a roughly-dressed man lounging near the entrance. At the same time the latter looked up and mutual recognition followed. ¡ O'Hagan stopped, and Mr. Duggan, for it was he, shuffled up to him and touched his hat with a grin. Good evening, your honour: it's plaaed I t am to see you; but I hope the meeting won't bring me the bad luck the last one did. At least it won't be the same kind, for divil a bit can a man get the sack if he hasn't got a job." "You lost your situation at Earl's Court through talking to me?" said O'Hagan, walking along a few steps out of the glare of the gas lights. "Faith, sir, I did, indeed. That spalpeen of a foreman-bad luck to him !—turned me off that same night. Said I'd been drinking, and me as sober as Father O'Flaherty him- self." "I came back a day or two later to try and see you," said O'Hagan, "and they told me you had left. I'm sorry you should have lost your situation on my account. You're doing nothing now, then?" "Not a stroke, your honour. Couldn't get anything to do over there, so I got a job on board a boat bound for Cork-worked me passage and got back to the ould counthry. But, faith, the old counthry itself seems well able to do without Pat Duggan's services. Ah, I'm a misfortunate crature; and to think if only a certain gintleman hadn't gone and died-" "Look here, Duggan," said O'Hagan quickly, "I asked you once before what bear- ing Mr. Desmond's death could have upon i your affairs. I presume you mean you know j something of his past life which he wouldn't have wanted making public, eh?" Duggan winked slyly. "You might be farther away from the truth, sir, and that's a fact., but anyway it's small matter now one way or the other." O'Hagan regarded him keenly. What was this secret of Robert Desmond's past which Duggan guarded so jealously? A sudden wild suspicion came to him, to be rejected imme- diately as too preposterous for serious enter- tainment. "You've rather whetted my curiosity, Mr- Duggan," he said after a moment. "He«- ever, as you don't seem willing to gratify it, I'll not press you," and he began feeling in his pocket for a coin as a preliminary to re- suming his way. Duggan's eyes took on a curious expression in which a certain humour was not lacking. "I suppose now," he said, "your honour isn't likely to be wantine a trustworthy man in the stables at Clure House? Though I say it as shouldn't, there's not a better man with horses than Pat Duggan from Belfast to Cork, and it's ill work tramping the streets on an empty stomach, you know. "As a matter of fact," said O'Hagan with a grim smile of intelligence, "I am looking out for a really smart fellow as a groom, and if you can convince me of your fitness for the position, well, it's yours." "I'm much obliged to your honour, and as to my fitness faith there's ould Squire O'Neill of 'Derry Mount will spake a word for me gyre, although we did have a few words onced over the fading of his bay hunter." "Which ended in your dismissal, I sup- pose. "True for you, sir; but by this time it's likely he knows me worth. But we were spaking of Mishter Desmond just now, and if your honour can tind toime to listen, I'd like to give yer the particlers of a rather curious expayricnce that occurred to me one Novem- ber evening." "Go on," said O'Hagan. "It's nearly two years ago now, sir. It was one night, rather late on, when I happened to be taking a quiet sthroll near Squire Carey's house, The Grange. I was near that small coppice bordering on the cart track which runs from Miller's Lane right up to The Grange stables. It's a lonely sort of, place as your honour rpay know, and- "When was this?" interposed O'Hagan sharply. "I mean, what date?" "The eighteenth of November, sir." O'Hagan started, and seemed about tó make a remark, but checking himself the other proceeded: "I was standing in the shade of the trees when I heard the sound of a horse coming from the direction of The Grange. Presently it got near enough fo, me to see who it was, and I recognised Mr. Desmond. He was walking his horse, and I thought it likely he was going to take the field path a little past the coppice so's to get into Miller's Lane, which would be on his way home to Shan- liffey. Well, sir, he rode by without seeing me, and soon passed the field path; so, thinks I, he's going the long way round. Miller's Lane's a bit too dirty for him. Well. I wije still staring after him when I saw him sud- denly pull up. For a moment I wondered what for, then I saw someone else had come up and was talking to him. It was a lightish eort of a night, and after a bit I made him out to be Squire Carey." Duggan paused a moment to give full effect to his words, while O'Hagan's face grew suddenly pale. "At what hour was this?" he asked. "It'd be about nine o'clock, sir, I should gav. "Carey's dead body was found before ten," came from O'Hagan jerkily. "That's true, sir," said Duggan, "by ould Brennen, the coachman. Well, him and Mishter Desmond talked together for a few minutes, me keeping close in M to the shade of the trees so's not to be seen. "Why didn't you want to be seen?" de- manded O'Hagan sharply.. Duggan laughed. "Why? Sure, your honour, there's not much mystery about that. If a poor feller that's 'down on his luck is seen hanging about a place at night-time what do gentlemen say? He's after no good, say they; and so they have him up afore 'em and give him a month just by way of warning. Didn't Squire Carey give me fourteen once for-—" right," interrupted O'Hagan impati- ently, "I understand. You didn't want to be seen by these gentlemen, so you kept in the background, but near enough to see. Well, what happened?" "A good deal happened, sir," replied O'Hagan. "First the Squire and Mishter Desmond talked together quietly enough, but after a bit they raised their voices, till they were shouting like showmen at a fair, and thinks I, faith, there's going to be a bit of a barney presently. You see, sir, I knew neither of the parties was what you'd call lambs, and as they got more and more ex- cited I began to think there'd be trouble." "They fought then? said O'Hagan breathlessly. "But no, that couldn't be. Carey was found with the back of his head smashed in. He must have been struck from behind-probably with a cudgel. He was murdered, right enough. All the evi- dence pointed to that." Duggan shook his head gravely. "You're right, sir, murder it was. If it had a been a fair fight, even with sthicks, one wouldn't have thought so much of it. But the blow was struck as the squire was turning away. You see, as they got hotter and hotter I crept up a bit nearer, to try and find out what the row was about, and I "Do you mean to say you saw Desmond kill Carey?" gasped O'Hagan. "Good God, j man, do you know what you are saying?" "I don't say he killed him, sir," said Duggan. "All I say is he struck him a blow on the head just as he was turning to go, and down he dropped like an ox." "Struck him with what?" "The butt end of his whip, so far as I could see." "And then?" "He jumped off his horse and knelt be- side him for a moment. Then he gave a sort of groan and was into the saddle in a jiffy and riding madly up the lane with a face like a corpse. He passed close to me- nearly rode me down, for I'd stepped out into the middle of the lane by then, not caring whether I was seen or not." "He saw you then?" "He did, sir, as plain as he'd ever seen me in his life. And the look in his face as he went past-it was awful. If the devil him- self had been at his heels he couldn't have looked' worse. And as to his riding, I never saw a man ride like it. It seemed to me he didn't care whether he broke his neck or not." "What did you do then? Did you go up to Carey? Duggan didn't answer immediately. He seemed to be considering, but at length he said: "Well, sir, I did make a few steps in his direction, but all of a sudden it struck me that I was just going about the shortest way to get myself fitted with a hempen collar free of charge. Who'd believe my story if Desmond, liked to deny it; and a fool he'd be not to. You see, it was a very lonely place, and, so far as I could see, there was no one about. Just think, your honour, suppose I'd gone and got myself mixed up in the busi- ness, where would I have been? You see, what made it worse was Squire Carey having onced give me fourteen days at the sessions. Everybody would have said I'd done it out of revenge. Give a dog a bad name, sir- you know the rest. And as I didn't mean to put this ould neck of mine into a noose, well, I just took to my heels and ran." "I suppose there's something in what you say," admitted O'Hagan. "All the same He paused meaningly. "All the same, I ought to have risked my neck and gone and seen what I could do for the squire, you mean, sir; but I don't think the gintleman lost much through my keep- ing away." "That's true. From the evidence there's little doubt he was killed instantly. The blow must have been a terrible one; but didn't the doctors say they thought it was done with a heavy bludgeon? I shouldn't have thought the butt end of a hunting crop would have dealt such a deadly blow—at least, not to the extent of smashing in the skull. Duggan looked at his companion rather queerly. "Oh, as to that, I'm not saying the blow he gave him killed him. I only say he knocked him down, and after kneeling beside him for a moment rode off with the terror of hell in his face. I don't say he killed him. Perhaps it was all a coincidence; perhaps someone else came up just afterwards and finished him off. Who knows?" O'Hagan shot a swift glance at the man shuffling along by his side. "Irony's out of place in a matter of this kind, Duggan," he said. "You must under- stand your story is a remarkable one. At the same time, I'm not casting any doubt upon it. On the contrary, I've reason to be- lieve it's true, quite apart from what you've told me." A sudden change came over Patrick Dug- gan's face. He looked startled, almost frightened. "What do you mean, sir?" he asked un- easily. "No matter," said O'Hagan. "Only you've not the first man who directed my suspicions to Mr. Desmond." Duggan looked as if he would like to put further questions, but seeing nothing in his companion's face to encourage him, he ab- stained. "Well, sir," he said, "I didn't think any- body else was about at the time; but of course there's no knowing." O'Hagan made no reply. His thoughts had travelled back to a March\ day eighteen months ago, and he seemed once more to hear words of awful import which John Carey had hoarsely whispered into his ear as they left the inn at Ballingarry. He had re- jected them at the time as a distorted, un- reasonable suspicion born of long and un- healthy brooding over his father's fate, but now that suspicion, wildly improbable as he had deemed it, was being strangely verified. Desmond a murderer! The thought sent an unholy thrill through him. Noreen's father a cowardly assassin, who had cheated the hangman by falling into the Lands of as hangman by villain as himself! It 'was amazing, almost unthinkable, but true. And Noreen, Viscountess Thorfield, wife of that proud, high-minded, ultra-sensitive noble- man, who shrank from the publicity and un- dignified clamour of a contested election, a murderer's daughter! He could have laughed aloud in his exultant malice. Truly his hour was approaching. Fate had put into his hands a sharp weapon which he would use without mercy against the girl whose scornful contempt had so stung him. He roused himself with an effort and turned to Duggan. "Of course, he eaid, "you are prepared to swear to the truth of the story you have just told me in open court, should the necessity ever arise T "I've told the truth," returned the other doggedly. "All the same, I don't see what good's to be got by raking the matter up. Desmond's dead. You can't hang a dead man. "l'isn't as though he was alive. Besides, folks are just as likely to say I had a hand in it now as when rt first happened. There's only my word against Desmond, though of course he can't deny it as he'd have done sharp enough if he'd been alive. Still, you never know." "I think I can relieve your mind about that, Duggan. Should the case ever como into court there'll no doubt be strong corro- borative evidence brought forward in support of your story." Again there came a half-purzled, half- frightcncd look into Duggan's eyes, but he answered carelessly: On, as to that, sir, it makes no difference to me as long as I don't get into trouble." They walked on in silence for a few moments, then O'Hagan said: Had Desmond lived you would have made a good thing out of what you saw that mght, eh? nig'lh'htc other man shrugged his shoulders. "I'm a poor man, sir, and I don't see why I shouldn't make a thrifto- when I get the chance. Besides, Squire Carey was no friend to me, and why should I help to put the rope ciround Mr. Desmond's neck for his sake? Not that Desmond was much better, perhaps, but at least he wasn't on the Bench when I got jugged." "You're a philosopher, Mr. Duggan," ob- served drily. "Is that what they calls it, your honour?" inquired Duggan innocently. "Well, the law has another name for it. Have you never heard of an accessory after the fact?" Duggan shook his head. Can't say as I have, sir. O'Hagan laughed. "It is to be hoped you never will. And now I'll leave you. I think," he added with a grim smile, ''you've proved your fitness for the situation I spoke of. Duggan touched his hat and grinned. "I thank your honour. You'll find, me well up tov the work. I'm as much at home in the stable as the bastes themselves." O'Hagan then gave him certain instruc- tions relative to his new appointment, and handing him some money turned and with a brief nod strode away. Well," muttered Duggan dubiously, gazing after the captain's retreating form, "I'm blest if I know whether I've behaved like King Solomon or Tom Fool, blabbing all that, but anyway," and his eye brightened as he regarded the money in his palm, "here's something to get a drop of the cratur with. I'll be afther drinkin' the captain's health." And smacking his lips with antici- patory relish he slouched away. It might be supposed that Captain O'Hagan, having become possessed of appa- rently conclusive evidence as to the identity of Squire Carey's murderer, would lose no time in communicating the same to his friend John Carey, whose own suspicions, vague and intangible though they were, had long pointed in the same direction. But such a course by no means commended itself to the captain. His revenge on Noreen was to have a far more exquisite flavour than would re- sult from the mere springing of such a charge against her dead father. With a subtle in- genuity he prepared his plans so that Noreen herself should be the chief instrument to her own undoing. Hers should be the unwitting hand to deal the blow at her own and her husband's honourable fame; to drag the proud name of Thorfield in the mire;, to make it a byword on the lips of others. O'Hagan rubbed his hands with glee as ho pictured the girl's despairing horror and self- reproach when, too late, she learnt the truth —that her father, whose murder at the hands of his friends she sought to avenge, was him- self guilty of a similar crimK How her bitter relentlessneas against McGrath would recoil on her own head! In her efforts to lay bare the crime of another she had brought to light her father's secret, which but for her might never have become known. Her hand would tear away. the veil which preserved his memory from dishonour. It was a jest grimly sardonic in its humour. She might hang McGrath perhaps, but at what a coat to her- self and the man whose proud and un- blemished name she boe. "Lady Thorfield, daughter of Desmond the murderer, you know!" O'Hagan could fancy the words being uttered with ill-suppressed malice and with a shrug of bare shoulders by many a scandal-loving society dame whenever Noreen appeared or her name was men- tioned. How the girl would writhe in an agony of self-abasement! And Lord Thor- field, --t& a mar. c-f his proud sensitiveness- what exquisite torture His wife-his own wife—the daughter of a murderer, who would probably have died at the hands of the com- mon hangman had McGrath not saved that functionary the trouble. The captain, who had been pacing up and down his own room while these thoughts were passing through his mind, here flung himself into a chair with a grim chuckle. "The whole thing's capital!" be said, "a veritable bon bouohe in the way of getting even,' as Mr. Duggan calls it. And now for the details. I must go carefuUy. Noreen mustn't see my hand in the affair at all; but that. I think, can be managed. Ill play Rose as my first card. I must eee her at once. I'll write." CHAPTER XIII. I A FATEFUL INTERVIEW. I Noreen Desmond, or rather Noreen, Lady Thorfield as she then was, had recognised her old lover among the little knot of people gathered at the church door on the occasion of her marriage, with a sudden thrill of emo- tion which almost betrayed itself to her hue- band. She was thankful for the bridal veil which helped to oonceal her agitation, but despite her utmost efforts to regain her com- posure she was conscious that her manner was strained and unnatural during the brief drive. homewards, and she was devoutly thankful when the carriage drew up at the door of her uncle's house in Eaton-place and she could escape for a season from the affec- tionately inquiring gaze of her husband. The girl was angry with herself, and still more angry with Arthur Rainham. How dared he inflict his presence upon her at such a time, taking her unawares and making her dis- play such agitation? It was cruel and un- manly. He must have known his appear- anee at that moment, so utterly unex- pected, would startle her, but if he thought that feeling was anything deeper than the embarrassment natural to the occasion he was utterly mistaken. He was nothing to her now-nothing. Had she not told her hus- band, when he had questioned her on the subject, that even if Arthur Rainham wished to renew the engagement she would not do so. He had passed out of her life for ever. Despite all these emphatic self-assurances, however, Noreen was uneasily tonscious that the sight of her old lover had revived memo- ries and feelings that she had hoped were dead and buried. She had caught but one fleeting glimpse of his face; had she had time to study it more closely and mark the look of utter, despairing misery the conviction, fraught, alas! as much with pleasure as pain, that Rainham loved her still as passionately as ever could not have escaped her. At no distant date she was destined to realise that fact to the full, but then emotions of even more tragic intensity would invest it with subordinate importance. One effect of the rencontre and its conse- quent revelation of her own feelings was to make Noreen almost morbidly anxious never to give her husband just cause to regret their marriage. Perhaps her very anxiety not to fail in any wifely observances of a tender character was itself evidence of something lacking, but if Lord Thorfield noticed this he did not let the fact appear. Perhaps he ac- cepted it as inevitable. Repeatedly during the few days preceding his departure for the front Lord Thorfield had urged his wife not to let his absence in- terfere -.vith her social engagements. "Surround yourself with plenty of bright companions, Noreen," he'd said. (I shall be happier for knowing you are having a good time while I am away. Lady Kilburn, I know, expects you in Dublin next month- of course you'll go?" And Noreen promised readily enough, for she greatly liked her husbaitd's cousin, and the prospect of seeing her own country again was very pleasant to her. She thought" she would run down to Shanliffey, too, on the conclusion of her Dublin visit. It would be nice to see the old place again and renew her acquaintance with the friends of her voutli. Perhaps with the last thought there mingled a slight satisfaction not altogether uncon- nected with her altered position as the wife of a wealthy nobleman. She little guessed what terrible things were fated to happen before she saw her old home again She had been at the Viceregal Lodge three days when the first act in the drama planned by Captain O'Hagan was opened by the re- ceipt of a letter from Nurse Evans request- ing an interview on a matter of the utmost importance. "What on earth can the woman have to say to me," murmured Noreen, turning the letter over in her hand in much perplexitv. She was not particularly drawn to the nurse. True, she had seen but little of her during the time she had been at Shanliffey, but that little had not very favourably im- pressed her. She was also aware that she had been dismissed by Dr. McGrath for neglect of duty or incompetence, and that had tended to still further prejudice her against the woman. W" I suppose I must see her," decided Noreen, "though with all her air of mys- tery I don't suppose she has anything' of much importance to communicate. Shed better call on Wednesday." And so on Wednesday morning Nurse Evans called at the Viceregal residence, and was ushered by a tall be-powdered footman into Noreen's presence. Following O'Hagan's advice, she began her story in a dull and not too intelligent manner, carefully avoiding all appearance of personal animus against McGrath. At first Noreen stared at her in blank, un- comprehending amazement, but when she could no longer fail to understand the significance of her companion's words a feel- ing of sickness came over her, and her face grew pale. "What do you mean?" she cried hoarsely. "Do you know what you are saying? Dr. McGrath was my father's greatest friend. The suggestion is horrible. I ought not to listen to you." "As to that, Lady Thorfield," returned the nurse with dignity, "I have done my duty in telling you what occurred. Of course, if you think the words meant no- thing there's an end of the matter. I don't say Dr. McGrath killed your father, what- ever I may think. I only say that for some reason best known to himself" he wished to get me out of the way, my presence standing in the way of some scheme he had on foot. He said so quite distinctly in my hearing, as I've just told you, and the charge of care- lessness he made against me was made simply with that object." "You say my father was not, in your opinion, seriously ill when you left?" Noreen put the question in a jerky, de- tached sort of way. She almost hated her- self for continuing the conversation with this woman instead of dismissing her im- mediately. Of course, 'it was an utterly monstrous charge to bring against her father's old friend, Dr. McGrath; and Mar- tin, too, who had been in her father's ser- vice since her childhood, an attached, faith- ful servant. "Lady Thorfield, I'm absolutely certain your father was well on the way to recovery on the day I left Shanliffey. He ought to have been sitting up even then; and ten days later he was dead." The nurse spoke with considerable vehe- mence, quite forgetting her role of dull stupidity, which, indeed, was far from natu- ral to her. Noreen sank back in her chair with a shiver. In spite of herself she could not help being impressed by the woman's earnest manner. "He may have had a relapse," she breathed faintly. The nurse shrugged her shoulders scepti- cally. "Of course, it's possible, if you prefer to take that view," she said, "but in my opinion everything points in another direc- tion. For instance, madam, take the house- keeper, Mrs. Clough. If there was nothing wrong why should she act in the strange manner she does. She's completely changed; everybody in the district is remarking that she's not like the same woman. Her whole manner is that of one suffering under the weight of a terrible secret. I have no doubt whatever that she's aware of what's hap- Eened, and the knowledge is too much for er. "Hannah!" faltered Noreen, "you don't mean to say that she 11 Oh, that was too horrible, too incredible. Hannah, who had nursed her as a baby and had always exhibited the greatest affection for her! The very thought of such diabolical wickedness was too much. Noreen roused herself. "Nurse Evans," she said, and her voice was stronger and more determined than it had been before, "I ought not to have ap- peared for a moment to share the fearful suspicions you have conceived. Not that I have done so, certainly; but I have listened to you, and-and asked one or two questions. I know there is some terrible misunderstand- ing somewhere. It is utterly incredible that my father could have met with his death at the hands of Dr. McGrath and Martin." very well, my laay, of course, it you don't mean to proceed further with it I sup- pose I needn't trouble. I should have thought, though, if you had the faintest sus- picion of foul play, you would never have rested till it was either verified or disproved. I know if it was my father-" "If I had the faintest suspicion I should not rest, Nurse Evans," interposed Noreen haughtily; "but I have already told you the suspicion you have conceived is utterly wild and untenable." "I think differently, madam," retorted the nurse, angry that her mission seemed doomed to failure, "and I venture to think the police would take the same view." "The police would probably wish to know why you allowed nearly two years to elapse before giving information." Nurse Evans shrank back under this thrust, and her rather ruddy cheeks whitened perceptibly. "I—I explained," she faltered. "I told you that it was not until quite recently that I— 1-" "If it has taken nearly two years for your suspicions to become strong enough to war- rant your speaking to me, then," pursued Noreen, "it is hardly surprising that they haven't impressed me." The nurse bit her lip savagely. "There is this difference at least, my lady. "You have all the facts that have- come to my knowledge up to the present to go on. I don't say suspected Dr. McGrath at first, but I suspect him now; and, what is more, there's a good many folks in Ballingarry who would, tod, if they ?new what I've told you. People are beginning to turn against him as it ie. He's nothing like so popular as he used to be." Noreen looked startled. "You've been in Ballingarry, then, re- cently ? "Certainly; I've stayed there on several occasions, and seen quite enough to strengthen my suspicions to a practical cer- tainty. There's one thing, my lady," pro- ceeded the nurse, "that you might do with- out committing yourself very far—consult some friend in whom you have confidence. You must know some gentleman who would be capable of advising you. Surely you must admit that much is called for by what I have told you." Noreen started and changed colour. Like a flash her mind went back to that day moro than a year ago when Colonel Bannerman had lunched at Eaton Place. His visit fol- lowed immediately on Dr. McGrath's, and be met the latter as he was leaving the house. She remembered his reference to the doctor at lunch and his marked embarrassment on learning that McGrath was such an intimate friend of the family. What had Colonel Bannerman been going to say when her unale "s hastily-interposed remark checked him? That he had a deep-rooted dislike to the doctor Noreen felt quite certain. "That fellow McGrath," she remembered, were the contemptuous words in which he alluded to him. Why did he dislike him? Was the feel- ing, indeed, nothing stronger than dislike? ?n the time the incident rather puzzled her, and she had been tempted to ask her uncle for an explanation, but it had soon faded from her mind; but now it suddenly assumed the dreariest significance. As to Nurse Evans's suggestion, sooner or later she knew he would have to follow it. Struggle as she might against the thought of breathing such a horrible suspicion to a thirds person, the burden of deciding as to the value to be placed on the nurse's evidence was more than she could support. To ignore it altogether was manifestly impossible. Had her husband been in England she would of course have consulted him, secure in his judgment and discretion but failing him. who so suitable as Colonel Bannerman? Not her uncle cer- tainly kindly and considerate as he was. she fait he was not the man for the present emergency. But the colonel she had met fre- quently during the past year. and bad taken a great fancy to him—a sentiment, by the way, which the gallant officer fully recipro- cated. She had, too. the utmost confidence in his shrewdness and honour. Yes. if she confided in anyone, it would be in Colonel Bai-nerman. Seeing the impression her words had made. Nurse Evans had the rare wisdom not to spoil their effect by further persuasion. She rose at once to take her leave. "If you would care to have my address, Lady Thorfield, this will find me at any time. I Perhaps you might wish to communicate with me. "Certainly I will keep your address. Nurse Evans; and perhaps some apology is due to you for receiving your information in the way I did, but I—I have been deeply startled and shocked, as you can imagine. I admit, though, that there is something difficult to understand in the words you heard Dr. McGrath utter. I may possibly follow your suggestion and seek the advice of a friend in whom I have confidence. Please accept my thanks for calling. In the meantime, you will not, I presume, mention this matter tc others ?'' "I am quite content to leave it in yout hands, madam. If, after further considera- tion, you decide my suspicions are ill- founded, then I suppose the matter will b< at an end." Noreen inclined her head in agreement, and a moment later the nurse had passed out of the room (To -be Continued.)

[No title]







[No title]



[No title]