The Chief Legatee eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 230 pages of information about The Chief Legatee.

Mr. Harper started to raise her, for Ransom stood petrified.  But no sooner had the lawyer made his presence known by this impetuous movement, than Ransom woke from his trance and, darting down, lifted the girl in his arms and began moving with her towards the house.  As he passed the lawyer he muttered between set teeth: 

“She’s caused me all my misery.  But she looks too much like Georgian for me to see another man touch her.  God will care for my poor darling’s body.”

CHAPTER XIV

A DETECTIVE’S WORK

Morning.

The living household was about its tasks for all the horror of the night before, and the still unrelieved suspense as to the fate of one of its members.

The maid, who had sat on watch in the upper hall for so many hours the evening before, was again at her post, but this time with her eye fixed only on one door, the door behind which slept the exhausted Anitra.  Ransom’s room was empty; he was in the sitting-room below, closeted with the lawyer.

Some one had been there before them.  The tray of bottles and glasses had been removed from the table, and in their place were to be seen a woman’s damaged hat and a small tortoise-shell comb.  Mr. Harper’s hand was on the former, which was wound about with a wet veil.

“I think I recognize this,” said he.  “At least I have a distinct impression of having seen it before.”

“It was picked up with the veil still on it near the entrance of the lane,” explained Ransom.

“Then there can be no doubt that it is the hat Miss Hazen wore during her journey.  She tossed it off the moment her foot touched the ground, and taking the shawl from her neck pulled it over her head instead.  You remember that she had no hat on when they brought her in.”

“I remember.  This is Miss Hazen’s hat without any doubt.”

The lawyer eyed the speaker with curious interest.  There was something in his tone that he did not understand.

“And this?” he ventured, laying a respectful finger on the comb.

“Found in the open field between the house and the mill-stream.”

“Do you recognize it?”

“No.  Georgian wore such combs, but I cannot absolutely say that this is hers.”

“I can.  You see this little gold work at the top?  Well, I have an eye for such things and I noticed this comb in her hair last night.  There were two of them just alike.”

Instinctively the two men sat with their eyes fixed for a minute on this comb, then, equally instinctively, they both looked up and gazed at each other long and hard.  It was the lawyer who first spoke.

“I think that we should have no further secrets between us,” said he.  “Here is Mrs. Ransom’s will.  There is a name mentioned in it which I do not know.  Perhaps you do.”  Here he laid the document on the table.

Mr. Ransom eyed it but did not take it up.  Instead, he drew a crumpled paper from his own pocket and, handing it to the lawyer, said:  “First, I should like you to read the letter which she left behind for me.  My feelings as a husband would lead me to hold it as a sacred legacy from all eyes but my own; but there is a mystery hidden in it, a mystery which I must penetrate, and you are the only man who can assist me in doing so.”

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The Chief Legatee from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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