“Frederick, I have a final word to say—a last farewell. Up to this hour I have endured your attentions, or, let us say, accepted them, for I always found you handsome and agreeable, if not the master of my heart. But now it is love that I feel, love; and love with me is no fancy, but a passion—do you hear?—a passion which will make life a heaven or hell for the man who has inspired it. You should have thought of this when you opposed me.”
And with a look in which love and hatred contended for mastery, she bent and imprinted a kiss upon his forehead. Next moment she was gone.
Or so he thought. But when, after an interval of nameless recoil, he rose and attempted to stagger from the place, he discovered that she had been detained in the hall by two or three men who had just come in by the front door.
“Is this Miss Page?” they were asking.
“Yes, I am Miss Page—Amabel Page” she replied with suave politeness. “If you have any business with me, state it quickly, for I am about to leave town.”
“That is what we wish to prevent,” declared a tall, thin young man who seemed to take the lead. “Till the inquest has been held over the remains of Mrs. Webb, Coroner Talbot wishes you to regard yourself as a possible witness.”
“Me?” she cried, with an admirable gesture of surprise and a wide opening of her brown eyes that made her look like an astonished child. “What have I got to do with it?”
“You pointed out a certain spot of blood on the grass, and—well, the coroner’s orders have to be obeyed, miss. You cannot leave the town without running the risk of arrest”
“Then I will stay in it,” she smiled. “I have no liking for arrests,” and the glint of her eye rested for a moment on Frederick. “Mr. Sutherland,” she continued, as that gentleman appeared at the dining-room door, “I shall have to impose upon your hospitality for a few days longer. These men here inform me that my innocent interest in pointing out to you that spot of blood on Mrs. Webb’s lawn has awakened some curiosity, and that I am wanted as a witness by the coroner.”
Mr. Sutherland, with a quick stride, lessened the distance between himself and these unwelcome intruders. “The coroner’s wishes are paramount just now,” said he, but the look he gave his son was not soon forgotten by the spectators.
A GRAND WOMAN
There was but one topic discussed in the country-side that day, and that was the life and character of Agatha Webb.
Her history had not been a happy one. She and Philemon had come from Portchester some twenty or more years before to escape the sorrows associated with their native town. They had left behind them six small graves in Portchester churchyard; but though evidences of their affliction were always to be seen in the countenances of either, they had entered with so much purpose into the life of their adopted town that they had become persons of note there till Philemon’s health began to fail, when Agatha quit all outside work and devoted herself exclusively to him. Of her character and winsome personality we can gather some idea from the various conversations carried on that day from Portchester Green to the shipyards in Sutherlandtown.