Press enter after choosing selection

The One False Step

The One False Step image
Parent Issue
Public Domain
OCR Text

" Do yon know, Waltor, it in ex&CÜy ono year to-day sinco wc ñrst met ? Just thinlc of it. One year to-day I" " Yea, Ella, darliug ; and ono jear today heneo wo'll be oíd mam' - " lint hero a dainty hand was applied blushingly to tho daring lips. And tho glowiug prediction remained incomplete. The subject was ehanged with a proniptness that aeemed a simultaneous inspiration, and along tlio summer lañe the handaome pair joyously jaunted in their cosy basket pliaoton. Walter Carleton was a rising yonng merchant, the junior member of a New York í'.rm. He was of British birth, and his dark complexion, erisp ebon curls, and deep black eyes he derived from his Castilian mother. Ella Goodrich was aii Una-like cicature, in the first flash of her gorgeous womanhood. Slie was a aark-breci blondo, and tho only daughter of wealthy oíd Dr. Goodrich, of Kirkland. Walter had received his earliest heartwound from the dart of Ella's beauty at a Saratoga hop, and siuce theii the course of their love had run as smoothly as two enthusiastic hearts could make it. Dr. Goodrich, besides closely observing the young man, had made the necessary inquiries respecting liim, with üie result of thoroughly satisfying his amiable partner and himself on the propriety of their daughter's choice. It was really a pleasant afternoon - late in the sumnier - and tho gray pony with the basket phaeton and the pa r of turtle doves jogged along with a se it of "sober certainty of waking bliss," as Milton happily phrased it. Tho milos flcw by on angel's wlng, and when Walter consulted his watch, lo and behold ! it was within a few minutes of the Kirkland dmner hour ; and they were a good live miles away ! " We must make all liaste back," cried Ella, "pa dislikes to wait for linnor. Rufe, old man," this to the grey pony, ' ' you must put your best foot f oremost;" whereupon Rufe's mistress proceeded to admonish Mm with rein and whip. Now, Bufo liad not boon used to this cavalier treatment, and he began to protest against it by munifold head-shakings, tail-switchiugs, elephantine hops and snortings, and generally by moving forward rathor slower than before. Whereupon Ella scolded the perverse brute, and Walter took the whip and administered a sharj) cut across the foreleg. Tliis was enough. Rufus instantly performed some compound circus trick, and cleverly soparated himself and the shafts from the body of tho phaeton. Beforo you could say Jack Robinson the pair of lovers were rolling in the dust, and " Rufe " was complacently regardiiig the havoc he had made. Dusted and discontented, Walter and Ella regaiued their feet moro seared than hurt and amused than vexed. Ella said there was a blaoksmith-shop a short distauce off, and thither Walter ran while she watched the wreek and told "Rufo" what a disreputable old villain he was. Wlicu Walter returned witn the mechanic, a tall, bouy-looking man with lingo red whiskcrs and an immense Panama liat was talking to Ella. And not merely talking ; it cerned to Walter that, the man was anuoying her, and tempting to tako her hand - a liberty sh'i Beomed to repel with indignant enrgy. "Well, bo friends, auyhow. Ella, if yon won't shake hands," he of tho red whiakers was sayii_g, as Walter, with ilashing oyes and vengof ui looks, unseon, approached. "Stand ofï, sir!" cried he, pushing the intrader violentry aside. " By what right do yon presume to annoy this young lady ?" Ella uttered a little scream. The man staggered, and aearly feil ; bui, regaining his equilibrium, he quickly faced round, and fleroely fixed hia reddiah, ohostnut c.yra apon ais issailant. " Walter Carleton, as I'm a breathing sinner !" "3r. Farjeou ?" with a violent start and change of oolor. "Good God, you here ! I )eg youi pardon for my rudeness. I did not see your face ; it was bo unexpeoted. Why, how in tho name - I mean how on earth did you ever turn up here '!" "O, that is eiusily eiplained," said J)r. Parjeon, with a meaning look. "You see, af ter we ptirtod ut Liverpool dock-" "Ah yes; just so," said Walter, nervously. "Ella, my deur, Dr. Farjeon and T are old aoquamtanoea - friendsand all that, you know. Doctor, I shall be glad to meet you; that is, confound this mishap; we must get it repaired, and get home at once; tnuán'1 we, El(.;i?" Ella had looked with speéchless sur prise at the ohilling effect the dootor's sudden appearanee had upon her lover. It had oompletely fcransfaraed him, ornshittg his gayety as orne ornahiee a flower iu tho hand. With a supercüions "good by, Misa Goodrich," imd " I'll see yon this eyening, Walter,"" Dr. F&rjeori prooeeded on his way; wben, with a mortiñed look, Walter said : "Why, Ella, ■wliatcvcr is tbat man i doiug lici-o " " lf yon luid not interrupted him, he would havo told yon soon onough, tho I hateful, detestable fellow, " she replied, i "Ho lately bought pa's practice; and has come prowliug abuut our house mul pèrsecuting rae ever sinoe; but to-day : I made him feel how intenscly I despised him. How on earth did yon over form tbat Jack-Sheppard-looking sawbono's . acqunintance ?" j "Merely professionally iu Europe," i replied Walter, dryly. ] Wslter's attempts at cheerfüllíess dnring the hoincward drive were Bpastnodio failures ; and after dinner a gloom Bettled upon him whioh Ella vainly , Rought to dispcl. He said lie liad a slight headachc, attribntable, probably, , to tho shock in the ifternoon drive. Jnst as night was closing in, Dr. Parjeon was seen walking in the direotioij of tho house, and somewhat abrjiptly , Walter uttered some unsatisfaetory , planatiou and joined him. Thetwomcu ( proceeded towurd the hcraloek grove, ■ and Ella, watching from au upper ] dow, could seo that the doctor gesticulated threateningly, and that Walter, her ( daring aud chivalrous Walter, seemod to malie piteous appeals to the other's , bearanoe ! "What can it mean ? Oh, whatoyer ■ can it mean?" aobbed the yearning young heart, n.s she stxjod, weiivy and wrotched, watching the retreating iorms till they melted into the darkness. Iu about an hour Walter (etnrned. He was almost boisterously cheerful. There was triumph in his oye and satisfaction on his brow. Next day was urday, and lilla and he spent a delightful day, notwithstandiug that he informed hor business would calLhim to the city on Monday, but only for a few days. After that he said ho would return and , spend a wholo imiutorrupted fortuightat Kirldand. On Sunday ovening the lovers attended the village c'hureh; aud as the congregation were dispersiug, a lad iu a slouch hat Üiat almost concealed his features, suddenly approached Walter, aud, witli a quick and dextrous mpvement, placed íi uoto in his hand and disappeared. The actioii was so suddeu that the mesaeuger had vaiiishcd before, tho yoting man had recovered from his surprise ; and although Ella was close by lin side, ahe neithcr naw the envoy uor the missive he delivered. Walter was tacitum and reneenve at tibe Kupper-table, and' later in the evcniug he said he thonght he would walk over to Albany before bed time, sleep at tho Delavan, and get tho early boat in the moruing. Ella was clearly yexed and disappointed, but she bade him au allW-tionate adieu nótwithstanding. Next morning she rose later thari usual, and on roaching the breakfiiHttable fouud great escitement. Tho parHon and the villago druggist were there, so was tho ancient Miss Nccdleton, tho scandal purveyor of the place. " Piercod through the brain from ear to ear I" cried the spinster. "Well, not exactly," said tho druggist, "the ball seems to have entered the highest portion of the forehead rather to tho left óf the medial line, aud prooeedcd downward through and to the base of the sknll." "That soems very extraordinary, doesn't it?" put in the parson. "I should have faneied tho ball traveled the eontvary direction - upward - and that the poor fellow was shot from behind." "Butthero is the ball lodged as deBoribed," said Dr. Goodrich. " What has happeneil, pa?" cried Ella, uuablo longor to boar tho cruel suspense. ' ' Doctor Farjeon has boen rmurdered ! ' ' cried the parson, tho druggist, aud tho spinster in chorus, " murdored at ten o'clock last night by an assassin, who escaped from the surgery window." " O, she 's fainting !" cried the mother, rushing to her; "poor darling how the horrid ne ws has shocked her ! " When sho recovered she was in her J room with her parents. Once alone, she thought long and earnestly of the j edy ; the mysterious relations between i her lover and the murdered man, tho sudden departure lastniglitof the former, and his strange iits of gloom since he first met the doctor. But, O ! it couldn't be. It was monstrous - it was cruel - it was iinpardonable to mix Walter, even iu iinagiiiation, with siiph a erhne. No, no; it wasn't Walter. That was certain. Hhe would at once write to hiui, and teil him what a very terrible crime had been committed. Of course he would wantto hear about if from Kirldand before he j read it iu the newspaper. So she wrote ft long letter (o Walter; and whil she wii-, engaged on that pleasant task tho pólice and idle villagers were BOQuring the country for tho assassin. More than (iji! had s(!cn him enter the doctor's house the preeeding evening and could generally describo his apiiearauce. It "was twiliglit when. Ella started with ler letter to the post-oflioe, half a mile listant, and it was almost dark whon she eachcd the outer grounds of the Kirkand bomesteal. As she approachcd the jato, hidden amone; a clump of niaples, i maii's foim, with outstrelclied arms. larted before het, and naid in a hollow roice: "My darlingEUa!" She looked au eager, wild look ; her ïaart gave oueaiokening Leavo, and, with i sensation of ohoking, she gaspecï: "O, my God, Walterl Bdjy it wasn't ron - say it wasn't you !" He put liis arm around her, anillod iier uBresifltingly Loto the héort of the shrubbery. Then, with treunrious earaoctooss, btrt with despair in evei-y tone, lie said: "So help hip, Hcavenly Father, Ella ! I am notguilty of- iniirder !" She was Btrickendumb. Every tense ol' Imt ('iiif; was oonoentrated in hearing; and she gazed flxèdly at his palled faoe wheu the moon ütane out, and held his right hand in both ol' hers, while he whispered lus strauge, sad, teniblfl ,'itory. Brkilly, it Wiis tliis: When a fatherloss lad he was placed in a Liverpool banking-house, where he was a favorite. Gradually he mingled in "fast" society and frequented the gomblmg table ; and, oace, in a terrible strait, he forged his patrou's nami'. Strickcn down withsickaessimmediately after, and fever and delirium RiipervenBg, he ravcd incessantly about hií crime. Dr. Farj;on, then a gnidiiatc, attended liim, and possessed himself of the facts of tin! crime, and when he recovered brought the patrón to the penitent's bedridei He was pajrdoned on proniiso of ainendment, on oonditiou that he would leave England forever. Dr. Farjcon was mortiHed aUhis display of magnanimity, and wlwn he parted from Walter, said: " Mr Careful in Ameriofí, or T may fiaVë to play tho detective iu another rolo. " "You know, " contiiiued Úie fugitivo, iM the aobbing giii hung m his neck - "jiinknow liow we niel; bntyou do oot know that when we were alono tíie Bame night he tliroatened to exposé lie termed my "antecedente," nnless I wonld pay him 5,000 hush moncy. He laid that he passionately loved you, Ella; tbatyun laughod at liim uní despisod Ldtn, inaomuob that he literally raved knd cursed at tho prospect of our . tiesa. "Well, last evening, as we left ohurch, x lad put a noto in iny hand; and, when ilouc, I oponed it and found it an imperitive commimd to moet liim at hja house betweea ly'no and ten. That ík why I met you - " " Well ?" sho oagerly cried. " I wont. He iusolently told me I must "como dowu"with$20,0Ö0withmaweek, i Drhe would brand me beforo tho world. 1 was greatly exoited. I could uot raise K mueh money, aud I called hirn i brious ñames. He secmed to think I tneftnt liim personal harm, aud, being naturallya ooward, he drew hia pistoL I seÍEed it, aud in tho strugglo it was disharged wheD bh our hands were alxwe our hoads. You know tho rosnlt. I umjiod from tho wiudow aud Üod, I knew not wlnthor. "Thon, it was only a dreadful icoilent," she burst out. " You have j mitted no crimo. It wis not yoiufault." "Ah! Ella, dearesí, who but yoursolf nill believe - will be conviuced oí this í" " Whoro is ÖW note - tho noti he sent you last night? That will show something," sho eagerly said. "Lost, Ella." The unhappy maiden utterod a dospairing cry and fainted away, aud almost ut the same moment two omoers sprang tlirough the branches and arrested Walter Oarleton for tho muider of Simón Faroon. "Appoarances are cortainly vory muob igiiinst the young man." Dr. Qoodrioh was foroed to admit to his wife, as they observed sodio symptoms of recovei;y in their daughter's brain fever. " Still Éme explánation may be fortbooming. I can't believo youug Oarleton a delibérate murderer." The prisouor's lawyor was wovking liko Ei boaver. Yet he was unablo to account for th; (lis:ipi)Oiiranc! of tho note, or te discover the mossenger who had delivcred it at tho church door. ÍS i-itlior turned up it would explaintheprisoner's motivo in visiting the doctor that night, wbile tho direotiou of the wouml, as well : as the pistol, whicb was tho dead mnn's, would )i(libly be suUioiout to acquit tho pritioaor. Tho Coroner's jury fully committod the young man after they had heanl tlio ovidence of the two offloers who arrostod lñm, and who overhoard his damaging i-oníossioiis to jSliss Goodriob. Everybody admítted that it would ;,' hárd with him, when an unexpected ctae oáme to light. Therc was an idiotie lad in tho village who had a manía for stealing - espeoially articles of wearing apparel ; and whenevor poor Willie Webster was scen out ! of doors with a parcel he was pretty sure to be overhauled by the first villager be met. One morning, at tho stage to whiob OM story has reached, the lunatic lad was observed by the parson to leave the i residence of the late doctor with a larga bundle. Visions of a wholesale kleptomania rushed through tho holy man's brain, and he speedüy pursned and captured Tlie loor fol]ow's storv was straight enough. Sally Mabane, tbc doctor's servan t, had givon him the clothes fdr himself, and they woren't the doctor's clothes either ; they were Sally 's clothes - Sally's own clothes, and nobody elso's. The parson steered tho lunntic and tho bundlo back i Sally Mabane's presence, and sharnly cross-examined her. Albeit she was a tough cïïstomer, the olergyman plied her with the terrona of he judgme.nt day, of the undying worm and the qucnchless brimstone lireuntil she wiltod and made an opon confession. Sho had severa! times worn these boy 's clothes on tho lato master's business. In fact, ho, had procured thom for her. She had worn them the last time on Sunday night, when sho delivered the no,e to young Carleton. She wopt violontly when the parson said he did not believe her story, uud tliroatened to have hor arrested. " I assure you, ;úr, it's all hm," sho saii, weeping violently; " I hayen't told no lie, sir, hcj'o is tbi; vory letter ï tuk tho young gentleman, sir; I sow master write it, and I know it by tnat mark on the iuside, for I k;uv him write it ; it was lying in the suigery open, just like that ('showing bow) when I finw saw him lying dead." When tho trial carne on Sally Mabano's evidence and tlie fatal Sunday-evening letter led to Walter Oarleton's aoquittal. 15ut the Liverpool story of filé one falso step tbat plungod two young hoarts in misery aud produeed this blight and desolation also carne to light. He nevor mirried Ella Goodrich, for there wíus an earlier and later toint upon his name - a forger and a liomicide. On the second armiversary of their acquaintanoe the lovers rodo in the basket pbaeton bohind Bufe for the last time. And tho next díiy sho entered a inonasteryj aud he sailed for South America.


Old News
Michigan Argus