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- The Mystery of a Hansom Cab - 20/55 -
What could his confession bring but sorrow and regret to one whom he loved better than his life.
"Madge!" he answered, gravely, taking her hand again, "you do not know what you ask."
"Yes, I do!" she replied, quickly. "I ask you to save yourself--to prove that you are not guilty of this terrible crime, and not to sacrifice your life for the sake of--of--"
Here she stopped, and looked helplessly at Calton, for she had no idea of the reason of Fitzgerald's refusal to speak.
"For the sake of a woman," finished Calton, bluntly.
"A woman!" she faltered, still holding her lover's hand.
"Is--is--is that the reason?"
Brian averted his face.
"Yes!" he said, in a low, rough voice.
A sharp expression of anguish crossed her pale face, and, sinking her head on her hands, she wept bitterly. Brian looked at her in a dogged kind of way, and Calton stared grimly at them both.
"Look here," he said, at length, to Brian, in an angry voice; "if you want my opinion of your conduct I think it's infamous--begging your pardon, Miss Frettlby, for the expression. Here is this noble gill, who loves you with her whole heart, and is ready to sacrifice everything for your sake, comes to implore you to save your life, and you coolly turn round and acknowledge another woman."
Brian lifted his head haughtily, and his face flushed.
"You are wrong," he said, turning round sharply; "there is the woman for whose sake I keep silence;" and, rising up from the bed, he pointed to Madge, as she sobbed bitterly on it She lifted up her haggard face with an air of surprise.
"For my sake!" she cried in a startled voice.
"Oh, he's mad," said Calton, shrugging his shoulders; "I shall put in a defence of insanity."
"No, I am not mad," cried Fitzgerald, wildly, as he caught Madge in his arms. "My darling! My darling! It is for your sake that I keep silence, and I shall do so though my life pays the penalty. I could tell you where I was on that night and save myself: but if I did, you would learn a secret which would curse your life, and I dare not speak--I dare not."
Madge looked up into his face with a pitiful smile as her--tears fell fast.
"Dearest!" she said, softly. "Do not think of me, but only of yourself; better that I should endure misery than that you should die. I do not know what the secret can be, but if the telling of it will save your life, do not hesitate. See," she cried, falling on her knees, "I am at your feet--I implore you by all the love you ever had for me, to save yourself, whatever the consequences may be to me."
"Madge," said Fitzgerald, as he raised her in his arms, "at one time I might have done so, but now it is too late. There is another and stronger reason for my silence, which I have only found out since my arrest. I know that I am closing up the one way of escape from this charge of murder, of which I am innocent; but as there is a God in heaven, I swear that I will not speak."
There was a silence in the cell, broken only by Madge's convulsive sobs, and even Calton, cynical man of the world as he was, felt his eyes grow wet. Brian led Madge over to him, and placed her in his arms.
"Take her away," he said, in a broken voice, "or I shall forget that I am a man;" and turning away he threw himself on his bed, and covered his face with his hands. Calton did not answer him, but summoned the warder, and tried to lead Madge away. But just as they reached the door she broke away from him, and, running back, flung herself on her lover's breast.
"My darling! My darling!" she sobbed, kissing him, "you shall not die. I shall save you in spite of yourself;" and, as if afraid to trust herself longer, she ran out of the cell, followed by the barrister.
MADGE MAKES A DISCOVERY.
Madge stepped into the cab, and Calton paused a moment to tell the cabman to drive to the railway station Suddenly she stopped him.
"Tell him to drive to Brian's lodgings in Powlett Street," she said, laying her hand on Calton's arm.
"What for?" asked the lawyer, in astonishment.
"And also to go past the Melbourne Club, as I want to stop there."
"What the deuce does she mean?" muttered Calton, as he gave the necessary orders, and stepped into the cab.
"And now," he asked, looking at his companion, who had let down her veil, while the cab rattled quickly down the street, "what do you intend to do?"
She threw back her veil, and he was astonished to see the sudden change which had come over her. There were no tears now, and her eyes were hard and glittering, while her mouth was firmly closed. She looked like a woman who had determined to do a certain thing, and would carry out her intention at whatever cost.
"I intend to save Brian in spite of himself," she said, very distinctly.
"Ah, you think that, being a woman, I can do nothing," she said, bitterly. "Well, you shall see."
"I beg your pardon," retorted Calton, with a grim smile, "my opinion of your sex has always been an excellent one--every lawyer's is; stands to reason that it should be so, seeing that a woman is at the bottom of nine cases out of ten."
"The old cry."
"Nevertheless a true one," answered Calton. "Ever since the time of Father Adam it has been acknowledged that women influence the world either for good or evil more than men. But this is not to the point," he went on, rather impatiently.
"What do you propose to do?"
"Simply this," she answered. "In the first place, I may tell you that I do not understand Brian's statement that he keeps silence for my sake, as there are no secrets in my life that can justify his saying so. The facts of the case are simply these: Brian, on the night in question, left our house at St. Kilda, at eleven o'clock. He told me that he would call at the Club to see if there were any letters for him, and then go straight home."
"But he might have said that merely as a blind."
Madge shook her head.
"No, I don't think so. I did not ask him where he was going. He told me quite spontaneously. I know Brian's character, and he would not tell a deliberate lie, especially when there was no necessity for it. I am quite certain that he intended to do as he said, and go straight home. When he got to the Club, he found a letter there, which caused him to alter his mind."
"From whom was the letter?"
"Can't you guess," she said impatiently. "From the person, man or woman, who wanted to see him and reveal this secret about me, whatever it is. He got the letter at his Club, and went down Collins Street to meet the writer. At the corner of the Scotch Church he found Mr. Whyte, and on recognising him, left in disgust, and walked down Russell Street to keep his appointment."
"Then you don't think he came back."
"I am certain he did not, for, as Brian told you, there are plenty of young men who wear the same kind of coat and hat as he does. Who the second man who got into the cab was I do not know, but I will swear that it was not Brian."
"And you are going to look for that letter?"
"Yes, in Brian's lodgings."
"He might have burnt it."
"He might have done a thousand things, but he did not," she answered. "Brian is the most careless man in the world; he would put the letter into his pocket, or throw it into the waste-paper basket, and never think of it again."
"In this case he did, however."
"Yes, he thought of the conversation he had with the writer, but not of the letter itself. Depend upon it, we shall find it in his desk, or in one of the pockets of the clothes he wore that night."
"Then there's another thing," said Calton, thoughtfully. "The letter might, have been delivered to him between the Elizabeth Street Railway Station and the Club."
"We can soon find out about that," answered Madge; "for Mr. Rolleston was with him at the time."
"So he was," answered Calton; "and here is Rolleston coming down the
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