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   Chapter 5 No.5

Through stained glass By George Agnew Chamberlain Characters: 4181

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The next day was the first of the long vacation, and with it came an addition to the Leighton household. Mammy was given a temporary helper, a shrewd little maid, with a head thirty years old on shoulders of twelve. Lalia was her name. The Reverend Orme had chosen her from among his charity pupils. He himself gave her his instructions-never to leave Shenton except to run and report the moment he escaped from her charge.

Lalia was accepted without suspicion by the children not as a nurse, but as a playmate. Weeks passed. The four played together with a greater harmony than the three had ever attained. Day after day the Reverend Orme sat waiting in his study and brooding. The dreaded call never came. He began to distrust his messenger.

Then one stifling afternoon as he sat dozing in his chair a sharp rap on the study door awakened him with a start.

"Master! Master!" called Lalia's voice.

"Yes, yes," cried Leighton; "come in."

As he rose from his chair Lalia entered. She was breathless with running.

"Master," she said, "Shenton did quarrel with us. He has gone to

Manoel-to his house."

"Manoel!" cried Leighton, "Manoel!" and strode hatless out into the glaring sun, across the lawn, and down the loquat avenue.

Lewis, standing with Natalie in the orange-orchard, stared, wondering, at that hurrying figure. Never had he seen the Reverend Orme walk like that, hatless, head hanging and swinging from side to side, fists clenched. Where could he he going? Suddenly he knew. The Reverend Orme was going to Manoel's house. Shenton was there. Lalia came running to them. "Hold Natalie!" Lewis cried to her, and sped away to warn Shenton of danger. He ran with all the speed of his eight years, but from the first he felt he was too late. The low-hanging branches of the orange-trees hindered him.

When he burst through the last of them, he saw the Reverend Orme's tall figure, motionless now, standing at the soiled, small-paned window of Manoel's house. As he stared, the tall figure crouched and stole out of sight, around the corner toward the door

. Lewis rushed to the window and looked in. It seemed to him only a day since he had had to drag a log to stand on to see through this same window.

Shenton was sitting on the bench beside the table, his black, curly head hanging to one side. Beyond him sat Manoel, leering and jabbering. Between them was a bottle. Lewis's lips were opening for a cry of warning when the door was flung wide, and the Reverend Orme stepped into the room. Lewis could not see Shenton's face, but he saw his slight form suddenly straighten.

Then he realized with a great relief that the Reverend Orme was not looking at Shenton; his gaze was fastened on Manoel. Lewis, too, turned his eyes on Manoel. Cold sweat came out over him as he saw the terror in Manoel's face. The leer was still there, frozen. Over it and through it, like a double exposure on a single negative, hung the film of terror. The Reverend Orme, his hands half outstretched, walked slowly toward Manoel.

Suddenly the Portuguese crouched as though to spring. As quick as the gleam of a viper's tongue, Leighton's long arms shot out. Straight for the man's throat went his hands. They closed, the long, white fingers around a swarthy neck, thumbs doubled in, their knuckles sinking into the throat. Lewis felt as though it were his own eyes that started from their sockets. With a scream, he turned and ran.

He cast himself beneath the shelter of the first low-hanging orange-tree. He saw the Reverend Orme stalk by, bearing Shenton in his arms. For the first time in his life Lewis heard the sobs of a grown man, and instinctively knew himself the possessor of a secret thing-a thing that must never be told.

At the house, alarmed by Natalie's incoherent, excited chatter and Lalia's stubborn silence, Mrs. Leighton waited in suspense. Leighton entered with his burden and laid it down. Then he turned. She saw his face.

"Orme!" she cried, "Orme!" and started toward him, groping as though she had been blinded.

"Touch me not, Ann," spoke Leighton, with a strange calmness. "Thank

God! the mark of Cain is on my brow."

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