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A Strange Friendship: A Story of New Zealand

Chapter XII. Dolly's Story

page 119

Chapter XII. Dolly's Story.

The next day two mounted constables came out. They were busy at the creek. Kate is asked no questions, and wished to hear nothing. In the morning Hugh Maberley was over, and we of course showed him the locket, and told him of the place where it had been discovered. He took it in his hand, and turned it over and over on his palm with a very grave face.

“You gave it to her did you not, Mr. Maberley?” I ventured to inquire.

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He looked surprised at the question.

“I?” he said. “No, indeed, I never gave her that locket; I never saw it before in my life. What do you mean, Miss Dolly?”

“She told me so,” I said faintly, trying to recall exactly what Violet had said about it on the first and last day I saw her wear it.

He looked extremely puzzled; then shook his head.

“There must be some mistake,” he said. “I never yet ventured to offer Miss Violet as handsome a present as that; and I doubt if she would have accepted it from me if I had.”

So on every side the mystery increased; the darkness seemed to thicken.

Towards the middle of the afternoon, Harry suddenly burst into the house. He gathered up Kate, Lizzie, myself, and the baby, as if it were in page 121 one handful, bundled us all into Kate's bed-room, and locked us in. Then we heard him go out again.

Kate and I, pale as death, sat holding each other's hands, scarcely daring to breathe, while Lizzie walked up and down the room with the baby.

What was happening outside?

At last Kate became faint with the suspense, and Lizzie had to lay the baby down while she opened the window, while I bathed Kate's forehead with eau-de-Cologne. Through the open window a faint, compressed murmur of many voices stole in, with here and there a louder tone, as of one who gave directions, rising above the rest.

At last Harry returned, flushed and excited.

“They have found a body in the creek,” he said. “Nonsense, Kate” (for she uttered a cry), “it is the body of! a man.”

We breathed freely again, and Harry went on.

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“The men were going to carry it through the yard, and over the bridge to the stables, and I did not want any of you to look out just then, so I fastened you in here.”

“The body of a man,” repeated Kate with a shudder.

“Yes,” returned Harry. “And what is odd about it is, that the police say it is one of themselves who had been despatched lately into this neighbourhood, and reported missing. They don't, of course, let out what his business here was.”

“Was he a tall, fair man?” asked I.

“Yes,” returned Harry. “He was here the other day. Don't you recollect? I saw him in the yard, and he asked the way to Fernyhurst.”

Then it was the face of my dream, and the man who had puzzled us at the time we saw him was a policeman in plain clothes! What could have page 123 been his errand at Alan Ainsleigh's house? What connecting link could there have been between this policeman and Violet that her locket should have been found at the place where he was, drowned?

We wearied ourselves with vain conjectures to which none of us could frame any answer, until Harry was obliged to go back again, and leave us once more alone.

“Take courage,” he said, as he went out; “I do not believe that Violet is dead, and I do not think that the police believe it either. But they looked grave over her locket, and asked leave to retain it in their hands for the present.”

Later in the day we received the satisfactory intelligence that nothing further had been discovered in or near the creek, and that the two constables were going away for the present. And page 124 so, though “the day was weary, and never so long, at last it rang to evensong,” and the second night since Violet was lost came down upon the land.