An Adventure at Brownville (2)
"But this is crazy," I said. "I'm sure that you're in danger. I must tell the police."
Eva woke up a little when she heard this. Her expression changed. She became cold and polite.
"This is my business, not yours," she said.
"But your sister died here-in Brownville," I said. "And she died suddenly. Now you are in danger. The people of Brownville might be in danger too. You must tell me what happened. Didn't you love your sister?"
"Yes, I loved her," said Eva. "But I love him more. Do you think that the police will believe you? You heard a secret conversation. If you talk about it, I'll say that your words are lies. No one will believe your story."
Suddenly she smiled. It was a beautiful, sweet smile. I could not believe her words. They were so hard and cold.
Eva held my hand tightly. "Come with me," she said. "We'll walk together. He will be away all night. He won't know that you've been with me. We'll walk and talk. And you'll forget what you've seen and heard. You'll forget about us."
Truly, I did not know the ways of women then. I was happy to walk in the garden with Eva Maynard. I was a little in love with this beautiful young woman. We talked about the people of Brownville. And we talked about their love of gossip. I did not want to go to my bed.
Before I said goodnight, I asked Eva to walk with me the next day.
"There's an old mill on the top of the hill. Will you walk there with me tomorrow afternoon? We can enjoy the fine views from the mill."
"If he's not here, yes. I'll walk there with you," said Eva.
I went to bed feeling happy. I smiled happily as I fell asleep. The next morning, I awoke feeling even happier.
"Today is going to be a special day," I thought.
Eva was not in the dining-room at lunchtime. Maybe I had hoped for too much. I am only a school teacher in a small town. And I am not very rich, or very handsome. But I was not disappointed. Eva came into the garden. Benning must have gone away! I was the happiest man in the world!
Eva said nothing as I followed her up the path to the old mill. She knew the way there because she had walked to the mill many times with her guardian.
Eva and I did not have a conversation, but she sang songs. She sang happy and sad songs. Her feelings changed as quickly as clouds pass across the sky. One minute-sunshine. The next minute-shadow. I was happy to be with her, whatever she felt. She walked and I followed.
When we came to the mill, she did not stop walking. She crossed an old wooden bridge and took the path up the high hill. It was the path to a place called the Eagle's Nest. This was where the path ended, on a cliff high above the forest. The view from Eagle's Nest was beautiful.
I was a little afraid. The view was fine, but I did not like to go near the edge of the cliff. The ground was more than two hundred feet below us. But Eva stood on the cliff's edge and looked up, not down.
Suddenly I heard footsteps, and Richard Benning came and stood beside us.
"I saw you walking on the path," he said carelessly, "so I came up too."
Eva turned toward us. She still stood on the edge of the cliff. Her eyes were shining and she was smiling. There was a look of love on her face.
"I'm so glad that you came," she said.
She was staring at Benning. Her loving expression showed that she was telling the truth. But then I saw something else in her expression.
Eva's mouth was smiling, but suddenly there was fear in her eyes. She looked like a frightened animal. With a smile on her lips and fear in her eyes, Eva stepped backward. She fell over the edge of the cliff to the ground below.
Benning and I ran down the path to the bottom of the cliff. He got there before me.
I did not want to look at Eva's body. Beautiful Eva was no longer beautiful. Benning looked at her carefully but he did not touch her.
"She's dead, quite dead," he said. "I'll go to the town and get a police officer. Please stay here with the body."
I did not know what to say. I was shocked.
Benning started to walk toward Brownville. Then he turned and looked at me.
You saw what happened," he said carelessly. "It was an accident. Eva killed herself. I saw her step off the edge of the cliff and you saw it too."
"You're a killer!" I said. "You're a damned killer! You didn't touch her, but I know that you killed her."
Benning turned his back toward me and walked away. As he walked through the forest, I heard him singing. He was singing a song from Verdi's opera, Rigoletto.
"La donna e mobile..."
- THE END -