MoboReader> Literature > The Trial, Or, More Links of the Daisy Chain

   Chapter 12 No.12

The Trial, Or, More Links of the Daisy Chain By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 48838

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04


Let us meet,

And question this most bloody piece of work,

To know it farther.-Macbeth

'If you please, sir, Master Hardy from the Vintry Mill wants to see you, said a voice at Dr. May's door early in the morning; and the Doctor completed his dressing in haste, muttering to himself exclamations of concern that the old man's malady should have returned.

On entering the study, Hardy's appearance, whiter than even the proverbial hue of his trade, his agitation of feature, confused eye, and trembling lip, inspired fears that the case was more alarming than had been apprehended; but to cheer him, the Doctor began, 'Frightened about yourself, Master Hardy, eh! You've come out without breakfast, and that's enough to put any man out of heart.'

'No, sir,' said the old man, 'it is nothing about myself; I wish it were no worse; but I've not got the heart to go to tell the poor young gentleman, and I thought-'

'What-what has happened to the boy?' exclaimed Dr. May, sharply, standing as if ready to receive the rifle shot which he already believed had destroyed Leonard.

'That's what we can't say, sir,' returned Hardy; 'but he is gone, no one knows where. And, sir, my poor master was found at five o'clock this morning, in his chair in his sitting-room, stone dead from a blow on the head.'

'Mind what you are saying!' shouted the Doctor passionately. 'You old scoundrel, you don't mean to tell me that you are accusing the lad!'

'I accuse nobody, sir,' said the old man, standing his ground, and speaking steadily, but respectfully, 'I wouldn't say nothing to bring any one into trouble if I could help it, and I came to ask you what was to be done.'

'Yes, yes; I beg your pardon, Hardy, but it sounded enough to overset one. Your poor master murdered, you say!'

Hardy nodded assent.

'And young Ward missing? Why, the burglars must have hurt the poor fellow in defending his uncle. Have you searched the place?'

'I never thought of that, sir,' said Hardy, his countenance much relieved; 'it would be more like such a young gentleman as Mr. Ward.'

'Then we'll get over to the mill as fast as we can, and see what can be done,' said Dr. May, snatching up his hat and gloves. 'You come and walk with me to Bankside, and tell me by the way about this terrible business. Good heavens! they'll have thrown the boy into the river!'

And calling out that his carriage should follow to Bankside, the Doctor dashed up-stairs, and knocked at Ethel's door. 'My dear,' he said, 'there has been a robbery or something at the Vintry Mill. I must go and see Henry Ward about it. Poor old Axworthy is murdered, and I'm terribly afraid Leonard has met with some foul play. You or Mary had better go and see about Ave presently, but don't believe a word of anything till you see me again.'

And shutting the door, while Ethel felt as if the room were reeling round with her, Dr. May was in a few seconds more hastening along by Hardy's side, extracting from him the little he had to tell. The old man had been unlocking the door of the mill at five o'clock, when he was summoned by loud shrieks from the window of Mr. Axworthy's sitting-room, and found that the little maid had been appalled by the sight of her master sunk forward from his gouty chair upon the table, his hair covered with blood. Hardy had been the first to touch him, and to perceive that he had long been dead. The housekeeper, the only other servant who slept in the house, had rushed in half-dressed; but neither nephew appeared. Young Axworthy had gone the previous day to the county races, leaving the time of his return doubtful, and Leonard Ward did not answer when called. It was then found that his room was empty, his bed untouched, and the passage window outside his door left open. The terrified servants held confused consultation, and while the groom had hurried off to give the alarm at Whitford, and ride on in search of Sam Axworthy, Hardy had taken another horse and started to inform Henry Ward, but his heart failing him, he had come to beg the Doctor to break the intelligence to the family.

Dr. May had few doubts that the robbers must have entered by the passage window, and meeting resistance from Leonard, must have dragged him out, and perhaps thrown him from it, then having gone on to their murderous work in the old man's sitting-room. In that great rambling house, where the maids slept afar off, and the rats held nightly gambols, strange noises were not likely to be observed; and the thought of Leonard lying stunned and insensible on the grass, made the Doctor's pace almost a run, as if he were hastening to the rescue.

When Mr. Ward sent down word that he was not up, Dr. May replied that he must see him in bed, and followed upon the very heels of the messenger, encountering no amiable face, for Henry had armed himself for defence against any possible reproaches for his treatment of any patient. Even when Dr. May began, 'Henry, my poor fellow, I have frightful news for you,' his month was opening to reply, 'I knew we should lose that case,' let the patient be who he might, when the few simple words put to flight all petulant jealousy, and restored Henry Ward to what he had been when in his hour of sickness and affliction he had leant in full confidence on Dr. May's unfailing kindness.

He was dressed by the time the brougham was at the door, and would have hurried off without telling his sister of the alarm; but Dr. May, knowing that the town must soon be ringing with the news, was sending him to Averil's room, when both rejoiced to see Mary enter the house. Charging her to keep Averil quiet, and believe nothing but what came from themselves, they thrust on her the terrible commission and hastened away, dwelling on the hope that every moment might be important.

Old Hardy had already mounted his cart-horse, and for him farm roads so shortened the distance, that he received them at the entrance of the courtyard, which was crowded with excited gazers and important policemen.

'Found him?' was the instantaneous question of both; but Hardy shook his head so sadly, that the Doctor hastily exclaimed, 'What then?'

'Sir,' said Hardy very low, and with a deprecating look, 'he did go up by the mail train to London last night-got in at Blewer station at 12.15. They have telegraphed up, sir.'

'I'll lay my life it is all a mistake,' said Dr. May, grasping Henry's arm as if to give him support, and looking him in the face as though resolved that neither should be cast down.

'That's not all, sir,' added Hardy, still addressing himself to the elder gentleman. 'There's his rifle, sir.'

'Why, he was not shot!' sharply cried Dr. May. 'You told me so yourself.'

'No, sir; but-You'll see for yourself presently! There's the blood and gray hairs on the stock, sir.'

'Never fear, Henry; we shall see,' said Dr. May, pressing on, and adding as soon as they were out of hearing, 'Nothing those folks, even the best of them, like so well as laying on horrors thick enough.'

A policeman stood at the house door to keep off idlers; but Dr. May's character and profession, as well as his municipal rank, caused way to be instantly made for them. They found a superintendent within, and he at once began, 'Most unfortunate business, Mr. Mayor-very mysterious;' then, as a sign from the Doctor made him aware of Henry Ward's near concern, he added, 'Shall I inform young Mr. Axworthy that you are here?'

'Is he come?'

'Yes, sir. He had only slept at the Three Goblets, not half a mile across the fields, you know, Mr. Mayor-came home too late to disturb the house here, slept there, and was on the spot at the first intelligence-before I was myself,' added the superintendent a little jealously.

'Where is he?'

'In his room, sir. He was extremely overcome, and retired to his room as soon as the necessary steps had been taken. Would you wish to see the room, sir? We are keeping it locked till the inquest takes place; but-'

Henry asked, 'When?' his first word since his arrival, and almost inarticulate.

He was answered that it would probably be at two that afternoon; the Whitford coroner had intimated that he was ready, and the down train would be in by one. A telegram had just arrived, reporting that the electric message had anticipated the mail train, and that young Mr. Ward would be brought down in time.

'Never mind, never heed, Henry,' persisted Dr. May, pressing the young man's arm as they proceeded to the door of the sitting-room; 'he must be intensely shocked, but he will explain the whole. Nay, I've no doubt we shall clear him. His rifle, indeed! I could swear to his rifle anywhere.'

The superintendent had by this time opened the door of the sitting-room, communicating on one side with the office, on the other with the old man's bed-room.

Except that the body had been carried to the bed in the inner chamber, all remained as it had been found. There were no signs of robbery-not even of a struggle. The cushions of the easy-chair still bore the impress of the sitter's weight; the footstool was hardly pushed aside; the massive library table was undisturbed; the silver spoons and sugar-tongs beside the tumbler and plate on the supper tray; the yellow light of the lamp still burnt; not a paper was ruffled, not a drawer pulled out. Only a rifle stood leaning against the window shutter, and towards it both friend and brother went at once, hoping and trusting that it would be a stranger to their eyes.

Alas! alas! only too familiar were the rich brown mottlings of the stock, the steel mountings, the eagle crest, and twisted H. E. cipher! and in sickness of heart the Doctor could not hide from himself the dark clot of gore and the few white hairs adhering to the wood, and answering to the stain that dyed the leather of the desk.

Henry could not repress an agonized groan, and averted his face; but his companion undaunted met the superintendent's eye and query, 'You know it, sir!'

'I do. It was my son-in-law's present to him. I wonder where he kept it, for the ruffians to get hold of it.'

The superintendent remained civil and impassive, and no one spoke to break the deathly hush of the silent room, filled with the appliances of ordinary business life, but tainted with the awful unexplained mark that there had been the foot of the shedder of blood in silence and at unawares.

The man in authority at length continued his piteous exhibition. Dr. Rankin of Whitford had arrived on the first alarm; but would not the gentlemen see the body? And he led them on, Dr. May's eyes on the alert to seize on anything exculpatory, but detecting nothing, seeing only the unwieldy helpless form and aged feeble countenance of the deceased, and receiving fresh impressions of the brutality and cowardice of the hand that could have struck the blow. He looked, examined, defined the injury, and explained that it must have caused instant death, thus hoping to divert attention from his pale horror-stricken companion, whose too apparent despondency almost provoked him.

At the Doctor's request they were taken up the staircase into the corridor, and shown the window, which had been found nearly closed but not fastened, as though it had been partially shut down from the outside. The cedar bough almost brushed the glass, and the slope of turf came so high up the wall, that an active youth could easily swing himself down to it; and the superintendent significantly remarked that the punt was on the farther side of the stream, whereas the evening before it had been on the nearer. Dr. May leant out over the window-sill, still in the lingering hope of seeing-he knew not what, but he only became oppressed by the bright still summer beauty of the trees and grass and sparkling water, insensible of the horror that brooded over all. He drew back his head; and as the door hard by was opened, Leonard's little dog sprang from her basket kennel, wagging her tail in hopes of her master, but in her disappointment greeting one whom dogs always hailed as a friend,

'Poor little doggie! good little Mab! If only you could tell us!' and the creature fondly responded to his gentle hand, though keeping aloof from Henry, in mindfulness of past passages between them, while Henry could evidently not bear to look at her.

They gazed round the room, but it conveyed no elucidation of the mystery. There were Leonard's books in their range on the drawers, his fossils in his cupboard, his mother's photograph on his mantel-piece, his sister's drawings on the wall. His gray uniform lay on the bed as if recently taken off, his ordinary office coat was folded on a chair, and he seemed to have dressed and gone in his best clothes. While anxiously seeking some note of explanation, they heard a step, and Sam Axworthy entered, speaking fast and low in apology for not having sooner appeared, but he had been thoroughly upset; as indeed he looked, his whole appearance betraying the disorder of the evening's dissipation, followed by the morning's shock.

Most unfortunate, he said, that he had not returned earlier. His friend Black-Tom Black, of Edsall Green-had driven him home in his dog-cart, set him down at the turn to cross the fields-moon as light as day-no notion, of the lateness till he got in sight of the great clock, and saw it was half-past twelve; so knowing the early habits of the place, he had thought it best to turn back, and get a bed at the Three Goblets. If he had only come home, he might have prevented mischief! There ensued a few commonplace words on the old man's infirm state, yet his independent habits, and reluctance to let any servant assist him, or even sleep near him. Sam spoke as if in a dream, and was evidently so unwell, that Dr. May thought it charitable to follow the dictates of his own disgust at breaking bread in that house of horrors, and refuse offers of breakfast. He said he must go home, but would return for the inquest, and asked whether Henry would remain to meet his brother.

'No, no, thank you,' said Henry huskily, as with the driest of throats, and a perceptible shudder, he turned to go away; the Doctor pausing to caress little Mab, and say, 'I had better take home this poor little thing. She may come to harm here, and may be a comfort to the sister.'

No objection came from Sam, but Mab herself ran back to her house, and even snarled at the attempt to detach her from it. 'You are a faithful little beast,' he said, 'and your master will soon be here to set all straight, so I will leave you for the present;' and therewith he signed farewell, and breathed more freely as he gained the outer air.

'I'll tell you what, Henry,' he said, as they drove out of the courtyard, 'we'll bring out Bramshaw to watch the case. He will see through this horrible mystery, and throw the suspicion in the right quarter, whatever that may be, depend upon it.'

Henry had thrown himself back in the carriage with averted face, and only answered by a groan.

'Come, don't be so downcast,' said Dr. May; 'it is a frightful affair, no doubt, and Leonard has chosen a most unlucky moment for this escapade; but he will have a thorough warning against frolics.'

'Frolics indeed!' said Henry, bitterly.

'Well, I'll be bound that's all he has attempted, and it has got him into a horrid scrape; and ten to one but the police have got the real ruffians in their hands by this time.'

'I have no hope,' said Henry.

'More shame for you not to feel a certain confidence that He who sees all will show the right.'

'If!' said Henry, breaking off with a sound and look of such intense misery as almost to stagger the Doctor himself, by reminding him of Leonard's violent temper, and the cause Henry had to remember his promptness of hand; but that Ethel's pupil, Aubrey's friend, the boy of ingenuous face, could under any provocation strike helpless old age, or, having struck, could abscond without calling aid, actuated by terror, not by pity or repentance, was more than Dr. May could believe, and after brief musing, he broke out in indignant refutation.

'I should have thought so. I wish I still could believe so' sighed Henry; 'but-' and there they lapsed into silence, till, as they came near the town, Dr. May offered to set him down at Bankside.

'No! no, thank you,' he cried in entreaty. 'I cannot see her-Ave.'

'Then come home with me. You shall see no one, and you will look up when you are not faint and fasting. You young men don't stand up against these things like us old stagers.'

As the carriage stopped, several anxious faces were seen on the watch, but the Doctor signed them back till he had deposited Henry in his study, and then came among them.

Gertrude was the first to speak. 'O, papa, papa, what is it! Mrs. Pugh has been here to ask, and Ethel won't let me hear, though Tom and Aubrey know.'

'I took refuge in your order to believe nothing till you came,' said Ethel, with hands tightly clasped together.

'It is true, then?' asked Tom.

'True that it looks as bad as bad can be,' said the Doctor, sighing heavily, and proceeding to state the aspect of the case.

'It is a trick-a plot,' cried Aubrey passionately; 'I know it is! He always said he would run away if they tried to teach him dishonesty; and now they have done this and driven him away, and laid the blame on him. Ethel, why don't you say you are sure of it?'

'Leonard would be changed indeed if this were so,' said Ethel, trembling as she stood, and hardly able to speak articulately.

Aubrey broke out with a furious 'If,' very different from Henry Ward's.

'It would not be the Leonard we knew at Coombe,' said Ethel. 'He might be blind with rage, but he would never be cowardly. No. Unless he own it, nothing shall ever make me believe it.'

'Own it! For shame, Ethel,' cried Aubrey. And even the Doctor exclaimed, 'You are as bad as poor Henry himself, who has not got soul enough to be capable of trusting his brother.'

'I do trust,' said Ethel, looking up. 'I shall trust his own word,' and she sat down without speaking, and knitted fast, but her needles clattered.

'And how about that poor girl at Bankside?' said the Doctor.

'I went down there,' said Tom, 'just to caution the servants against bringing in stories. She found out I was there, and I had to go in and make the best of it.'

'And what sort of a best?' said the Doctor.

'Why, she knew he used to get out in the morning to bathe, and was persuaded he had been drowned; so I told her I knew he was alive and well, and she would hear all about it when you came back. I brought the youngest child away with me, and Gertrude has got her up-stairs; the other would not come. Poor thing! Mary says she is very good and patient; and I must say she was wonderfully reasonable when I talked to her.'

'Thank you, Tom,' said his father with warmth, 'it was very kind of you. I wonder if Ave knew anything of this runaway business; it might be the saving of him!'

'I did,' said Aubrey eagerly; 'at least, I know he said he would not stay if they wanted to put him up to their dishonest tricks; and he talked of that very window!'

'Yes, you imprudent fellow; and you were telling Mrs. Pugh so, if I hadn't stopped you,' said Tom. 'You'll be taken up for an accomplice next, if you don't hold your tongue.'

'What did he say?' asked the Doctor, impatiently; and then declared that he must instantly go to Bankside, as soon as both he and Henry had taken some food; 'for,' he added, 'we are both too much shaken to deal rationally with her.'

Ethel started up in shame and dismay at having neglected to order anything. The Doctor was served in the study alone with Henry, and after the briefest meal, was on his way to Bankside.

He found Averil with the crimson cheek and beseeching eye that he knew so well, as she laid her trembling hand on his, and mutely looked up like a dumb creature awaiting a blow.

'Yes, my dear,' he said, tenderly, 'your brother needs prayer such as when we watched him last year, he is in peril of grave suspicion.' And as she stood waiting and watching for further explanation, he continued, 'My dear, he told you everything. You do not know of any notion of his of going away, or going out without leave?'

'Why is Leonard to be always suspected of such things?' cried Averil. 'He never did them!'

'Do you know?' persisted Dr. May.

'But you are mayor!' cried Averil, indignantly, withdrawing her hand. 'You want me to accuse him!'

'My dear, if I were ten times mayor, it would make no difference. My jurisdiction does not even cross the river here; and if it did, this is a graver case than I deal with. I am come, as his friend, to beg you to help me to account for his unhappy absence in any harmless way. Were it ever so foolish or wrong, it would be the best news that ever I heard.'

'But-but I can't,' said Averil. 'I never knew he was going out! I know he used to get out at the passage window to bathe and fish before the house was astir-and-you know he is safe, Dr. May?'

Dr. May would almost sooner have known that he was at the bottom of the deepest pool in the river, than where he was. 'He is safe, my poor child. He is well, and I trust he will be able to prove his innocence; but he must so account for his absence as to clear himself. Averil, there is a charge against him-of being concerned in your uncle's death.'

Averil's eyes dilated, and she breathed short and fast, standing like a statue. Little Minna, whom the Doctor had scarcely perceived, standing in a dark corner, sprang forward, exclaiming, 'O, Ave, don't be afraid! Nobody can hurt him for what he did not do!'

The words roused Averil, and starting forward, she cried, 'Dr. May, Dr. May, you will save him! He is fatherless and motherless, and his brother has always been harsh to him; but you will not forsake him; you said you would be a father to us! Oh, save Leonard!'

'My dear, as I would try to save my own son, I will do my utmost for him; but little or nothing depends on me or on any man. By truth and justice he must stand or fall; and you must depend on the Father of the fatherless, who seeth the truth! as this dear child tells you,' with his hand on Minna's head, 'he cannot be really injured while he is innocent.'

Awed into calm, Averil let him seat her beside him, and put her in possession of the main facts of the case, Minna standing by him, her hand in his, evidently understanding and feeling all that passed.

Neither could throw light on anything. Leonard had been less communicative to them than to Aubrey, and had kept his resolution of uncomplainingly drinking the brewst he had brewed for himself. All Averil could tell was, that her uncle had once spoken to Henry in commendation of his steadiness and trustworthiness, though at the same time abusing him for airs and puppyism.

'Henry would tell you. Where is Henry?' she added.

'In my study. He could not bear to bring you these tidings. You must be ready to comfort him, Ave.'

'Don't let him come,' she cried. 'He never was kind to Leonard. He drove him there. I shall always feel that it was his doing.'

'Averil,' said Dr. May gravely, 'do you forget how much that increases his suffering? Nothing but mutual charity can help you through this fiery trial. Do not let anger and recrimination take from you the last shreds of comfort, and poison your prayers. Promise me to be kind to Henry, for indeed he needs it.'

'O, Dr. May,' said Minna, looking up with her eyes full of tears, 'indeed I will. I was cross to Henry because he was cross to Leonard, but I won't be so any more.'

Ave drooped her head, as if it were almost impossible to her to speak.

Dr. May patted Minna's dark head caressingly, and said to the elder sister, 'I will not urge you more. Perhaps you may have Leonard back, and then joy will open your hearts; or if not, my poor Ave, the sight of Henry will do more than my words.'

Mary looked greatly grieved, but said nothing, only following her father to take his last words and directions. 'Keep her as quiet as you can. Do not worry her, but get out this root of bitterness if you can. Poor, poor things!'

'That little Minna is a dear child!' said Mary. 'She is grown so much older than Ella, or than she was last year. She seem

s to understand and feel like a grown-up person. I do think she may soften poor Ave more than I can; but, papa, there is excuse. Mr. Ward must have made them more miserable than we guessed.'

'The more reason she must forgive him. O, Mary, I fear a grievous lesson is coming to them; but I must do all I can. Good-bye, my dear; do the best you can for them;' and he set forth again with a bleeding heart.

At the attorney's office, he found the principal from home, but the partner, Edward Anderson, on the qui vive for a summons to attend on behalf of his fellow-townsman, and confident that however bad were the present aspect of affairs, his professional eye would instantly find a clue.

Aubrey was in an agony of excitement, but unable to endure the notion of approaching the scene of action; and his half-choked surly 'Don't' was sufficient to deter his brother Thomas, who had never shown himself so kind, considerate, and free from sneer or assumption. In 'hours of ease' he might seem selfish and exacting, but a crisis evoked the latent good in him, and drew him out of himself.

Nor would Henry return to Bankside. After many vacillations, the moment for starting found him in a fit of despair about the family disgrace, only able to beg that 'the unhappy boy' should be assured that no expense should be spared in his defence; or else, that if he were cleared and returned home, his welcome should be most joyful. But there Henry broke off, groaned, said they should never look up again, and must leave the place.

Except for Averil's own sake, Dr. May would almost have regretted his exhortations in favour of her eldest brother.

In due time the Doctor arrived at the mill, where the inquest was to take place, as the public-house was small, and inconveniently distant; and there was ample accommodation in the large rambling building. So crowded was the court-yard, that the Doctor did not easily make his way to the steps of the hall door; but there, after one brief question to the policeman in charge, he waited, though several times invited in.

Before long, all eyes turned one way, as a closed fly, with a policeman on the box, drove in at the gateway, stopped, and between the two men on guard appeared a tall young figure.

The Doctor's first glance showed him a flushed and weary set of features, shocked and appalled; but the eyes, looking straight up in their anxiety, encountered his with an earnest grateful appeal for sympathy, answered at once by a step forward with outstretched hand. The grip of the fingers was heated, agitated, convulsive, but not tremulous; and there was feeling, not fear, in the low husky voice that said, 'Thank you. Is Henry here?'

'No, he is too-too much overcome; but he hopes to see you at home to-night; and here is Edward Anderson, whom he has sent to watch the proceedings for you.'

'Thank you,' said Leonard, acknowledging Edward's greeting. 'As far as I am concerned, I can explain all in a minute; but my poor uncle-I little thought-'

There was no opportunity for further speech in private, for the coroner had already arrived, and the inquiry had been only deferred until Leonard should have come. The jury had been viewing the body, and the proceedings were to take place in the large low dining-room, where the southern windows poured in a flood of light on the faces of the persons crowded together, and the reflections from the rippling water danced on the ceiling. Dr. May had a chair given him near the coroner, and keenly watched the two nephews-one seated next to him, the other at some distance, nearly opposite. Both young men looked haggard, shocked, and oppressed: the eye of Axworthy was unceasingly fixed on an inkstand upon the table, and never lifted, his expression never varied; and Leonard's glance flashed inquiringly from one speaker to another, and his countenance altered with every phase of the evidence.

The first witness was Anne Ellis, the young maid-servant, who told of her coming down at ten minutes after five that morning, the 6th of July, and on going in to clean the rooms, finding her master sunk forward on the table. Supposing him to have had a fit, she had run to the window and screamed for help, when Master Hardy, the foreman, and Mrs. Giles, the housekeeper, had come in.

James Hardy deposed to having heard the girl's cry while he was unlocking the mill door. Coming in by the low sash-window, which stood open, he had gone up to his master, and had seen the wound on the head, and found the body quite cold, Mrs. Giles coming in, they had carried it to the bed in the next room; and he had gone to call the young gentlemen, but neither was in his room. He knew that it had been left uncertain whether Mr. Samuel would return to sleep at home between the two days of the county races, but he did not expect Mr. Ward to be out; and had then observed that his bed had not been slept in, and that the passage window outside his room was partly open. He had then thought it best to go into Stoneborough to inform the family.

Rebecca Giles, the housekeeper, an elderly woman, crying violently, repeated the evidence as to the discovery of the body. The last time she had seen her master alive, was when she had carried in his supper at nine o'clock, when he had desired her to send Mr. Ward to him; and had seemed much vexed to hear that the young man had not returned from rifle practice, little thinking, poor old gentleman!-but here the housekeeper was recalled to her subject. The window was then open, as it was a sultry night, but the blind down. Her master was a good deal crippled by gout, and could not at that time move actively nor write, but could dress himself, and close a window. He disliked being assisted; and the servants were not in the habit of seeing him from the time his supper was brought in till breakfast next morning. She had seen Mr. Ward come home at twenty minutes or half after nine, in uniform, carrying his rifle; she had given the message, and he had gone into the sitting-room without putting down the rifle. She believed it to be the one on the table, but could not say so on oath; he never let any one touch it; and she never looked at such horrid murderous things. And some remarks highly adverse to the volunteer movement were cut short.

William Andrews, groom, had been called by Anne Ellis, had seen the wound, and the blood on the desk, and had gone to fetch a surgeon and the police from Whitford. On his return, saw the rifle leaning against the shutter; believed it to be Mr. Ward's rifle.

Charles Rankin, surgeon, had been called in to see Mr. Axworthy, and arrived at seven o'clock A. M. Found him dead, from a fracture of the skull over the left temple, he should imagine, from a blow from a heavy blunt instrument, such as the stock of a gun. Death must have been instantaneous, and had probably taken place seven or eight hours before he was called in. The marks upon the rifle before him were probably blood; but he could not say so upon oath, till he had subjected them to microscopic examination. The hair was human, and corresponded with that of the deceased.

Samuel Axworthy had slept at the Three Goblets, in consequence of finding himself too late for admission at home. He had been wakened at half-past five, and found all as had been stated by the previous witnesses; and he corroborated the housekeeper's account of his uncle's habits. The rifle he believed to belong to his cousin, Leonard Ward. He could not account for Leonard Ward's absence on that morning. No permission, as far as he was aware, had been given him to leave home; and he had never known his uncle give him any commission at that hour.

The different policemen gave their narrations of the state of things-the open window, the position of the boat, &c. And the ticket-clerk at the small Blewer Station stated that at about 12.15 at night, Mr. Ward had walked in without baggage, and asked for a second-class ticket to London.

Leonard here interposed an inquiry whether he had not said a day ticket, and the clerk recollected that he had done so, and had spoken of returning by four o'clock; but the train, being reckoned as belonging to the previous day, no return tickets were issued for it, and he had therefore taken an ordinary one, and started by the mail train.

The London policeman, who had come down with Leonard, stated that, in consequence of a telegraphic message, he had been at the Paddington Station at 6.30 that morning; had seen a young gentleman answering to the description sent to him, asked if his name were Leonard Ward, and receiving a reply in the affirmative, had informed him of the charge, and taken him into custody. The bag that he placed on the table he had found on the young man's person.

Every one was startled at this unexpected corroboration of the suspicion. It was a heavy-looking bag, of reddish canvas, marked with a black circle, containing the letters F. A. Gold; the neck tied with a string; the contents were sovereigns, and a note or two.

Dr. May looked piteously, despairingly, at Leonard; but the brow was still open and unclouded, the eye glanced back reassurance and confidence.

The policeman added that he had cautioned the young man to take care what he said, but that he had declared at once that his uncle had sent him to lodge the sum in Drummond's Bank, and that he would show a receipt for it on his return.

The coroner then proceeded to examine Leonard, but still as a witness. Edward Anderson spoke to him in an undertone, advising him to be cautious, and not commit himself, but Leonard, rather impatiently thanking him, shook him off, and spoke with freedom and openness.

'I have nothing to keep back,' he said. 'Of course I know nothing of this frightful murder, nor what villain could have got hold of the rifle, which, I am sorry to say, is really mine. Last evening I used it at drill and practice on Blewer Heath, and came home when it grew dusk, getting in at about half-past nine. I was then told by Mrs. Giles that my uncle wished to speak to me, and was displeased at my staying out so late. I went into his room as I was, and put my rifle down in a corner by the window, when he desired me to sit down and listen to him. He then told me that he wished to send me to town by the mail train, to take some cash to Drummond's Bank, and to return by to-day's four o'clock train. He said he had reasons for wishing no one to be aware of his opening an account there, and he undertook to explain my absence. He took the sum from the private drawer of his desk, and made me count it before him, £124 12s. in sovereigns and bank-notes. The odd money he gave me for my expenses, the rest I put in the bag that I fetched out of the office. He could not hold a pen, and could therefore give me no letter to Messrs. Drummond, but he made me write a receipt for the amount in his memorandum book. I wished him good night, and left him still sitting in his easy-chair, with the window open and the blind down. I found that I had forgotten my rifle, but I did not go back for it, because he disliked the disturbance of opening and shutting doors. While I was changing my dress, I saw from the window that some one was still about in the court, and knowing that my uncle wished me to avoid notice, I thought it best to let myself out by the passage window, as I had sometimes done in early mornings to bathe or fish, and go across the fields to Blewer Station. I got down into the garden, crossed in the punt, and went slowly by Barnard's hatch; I believe I stopped a good many times, as it was too soon, and a beautiful moonlight night, but I came to Blewer soon after twelve, and took my ticket. At Paddington I met this terrible news.'

As the boy spoke, his bright eyes turned from one listener to another, as though expecting to read satisfaction on their faces; but as doubt and disbelief clouded all, his looks became almost constantly directed to Dr. May, and his voice unconsciously passed from a sound of justification to one of pleading. When he ceased, he glanced round as if feeling his innocence established.

'You gave a receipt, Mr. Ward,' said the coroner. 'Will you tell us where it is likely to be?'

'It must be either on or in my uncle's desk, or in his pocket. Will some one look for it? I wrote it in his memorandum book-a curious old black shagreen book, with a silver clasp. I left it open on the desk to dry.'

A policeman went to search for it; and the coroner asked what the entry had been.

'July 5th, 1860. Received, £120. L. A. Ward,'-was the answer. 'You will find it about the middle of the book, or rather past it.'

'At what time did this take place?'

'It must have been towards ten. I cannot tell exactly, but it was later than half-past nine when I came in, and he was a good while bringing out the money.'

The policeman returned, saying he could not find the book; and Leonard begging to show where he had left it, the coroner and jury accompanied him to the room. At the sight of the red stain on the desk, a shuddering came over the boy, and a whiteness on his heated brow, nor could he at once recover himself so as to proceed with the search, which was still in vain; though with a voice lowered by the sickness of horror, he pointed out the place where he had laid it, and the pen he had used; and desk, table, drawer, and the dead man's dress were carefully examined.

'You must know it, Sam,' said Leonard. 'Don't you remember his putting in the cheque-old Bilson's cheque for his year's rent-twenty-five pounds? I brought it in, and he put it away one day last week. You were sitting there.'

Sam stammered something of 'Yes, he did recollect something of it.'

Inquiries were made of the other persons concerned with Mr. Axworthy. Hardy thought his master used such a book, but had never seen it near; Mrs. Giles altogether disbelieved its existence; and Sam could not be positive-his uncle never allowed any one to touch his private memorandums.

As, with deepened anxiety, Dr. May returned to the dining-room, he caught a glimpse of Henry Ward's desponding face, but received a sign not to disclose his presence. Edward Anderson wrote, and considered; and the coroner, looking at his notes again, recurred to Leonard's statement that he had seen some one in the yard.

'I thought it was one of the men waiting to take my cousin Axworthy's horse. I did not know whether he had ridden or gone by train; and I supposed that some one would be looking out for him.'

Questions were asked whether any of the servants had been in the yard, but it was denied by all; and on a more particular description of the person being demanded, Leonard replied that the figure had been in the dark shade of the stables, and that he only knew that it was a young man-whether a stranger or not he did not know; he supposed now that it must have been the-the murderer, but at the time he had thought it one of the stable-men; and as his uncle had particularly wished that his journey should be a secret, the sight had only made him hasten to put out his light, and depart unseen. It was most unfortunate that he had done so.

Others ironically whispered, 'Most unfortunate.'

The coroner asked Mr. Anderson whether he had anything to ask or observe, and on his reply in the negative, proceeded to sum up the evidence for the consideration of the jury.

It seemed as if it were only here that Leonard perceived the real gist of the evidence. His brow grew hotter, his eyes indignant, his hands clenched, as if he with difficulty restrained himself from breaking in on the coroner's speech; and when at length the question was put to the jury, he stood, the colour fading from his cheek, his eyes set and glassy, his lip fallen, the dew breaking out on his brow, every limb as it were petrified by the shock of what was thus first fully revealed to him.

So he stood, while the jury deliberated in low gruff sorrowful murmurs, and after a few minutes, turned round to announce with much sadness that they could do no otherwise than return a verdict of wilful murder against Leonard Ward.

'Mr. Leonard Ward,' said the coroner, a gentleman who had well known his father, and who spoke with scarcely concealed emotion, 'it becomes my painful duty to commit you to Whitford Gaol for trial at the next assizes.'

Dr. May eagerly offered bail, rather as the readiest form of kindness than in the hope of its acceptance, and it was of course refused; but he made his way to the prisoner, and wrung his chill hand with all his might. The pressure seemed to waken the poor lad from his frozen rigidity; the warmth came flowing back into his fingers as his friend held them; he raised his head, shut and re-opened his eyes, and pushed back his hair, as though trying to shake himself loose from a too horrible dream. His face softened and quivered as he met the Doctor's kind eyes; but bracing himself again, he looked up, answered the coroner's question-that his Christian name was Leonard Axworthy, his age within a few weeks of eighteen; and asked permission to fetch what he should want from his room.

The policeman, in whose charge he was, consented both to this, and to Dr. May being there alone with him for a short time.

Then it was that the boy relaxed the strain on his features, and said in a low and strangled voice, 'O, Dr. May, if you had only let me die with them last year!'

'It was not I who saved you. He who sent that ordeal, will bring you through-this,' said Dr. May, with a great sob in his throat that belied his words of cheer.

'I thank Him at least for having taken her,' said Leonard, resting his head on the mantel-shelf beneath his mother's picture, while his little dog sat at his foot, looking up at him, cowed and wistful.

Dr. May strove for words of comfort, but broke utterly down; and could only cover his face with his hands, and struggle with his emotion, unable to utter a word.

Yet perhaps none would have been so comforting as his genuine sympathy, although it was in a voice of extreme distress that Leonard exclaimed, 'Dr. May, Dr. May, pray don't! you ought not to grieve for me!'

'I'm a fool,' said Dr. May, after some space, fighting hard with himself. 'Nonsense! we shall see you out of this! We have only to keep up a good heart, and we shall see it explained.'

'I don't know; I can't understand,' said Leonard, passing his hand over his weary forehead. 'Why could they not believe when I told them just how it was?'

At that moment the policeman opened the door, saying, 'Here, sir;' and Henry hurried in, pale and breathless, not looking in his brother's face, as he spoke fast and low.

'Ned Anderson says there's nothing at all to be made of this defence of yours; it is of no use to try it. The only thing is to own that he found fault with you, and in one of your rages-you know-'

'You too, Henry!' said Leonard, in dejected reproach.

'Why-why, it is impossible it could have been otherwise-open window, absconding, and all. We all know you never meant it; but your story won't stand; and the only chance, Anderson says, is to go in for manslaughter. If you could only tell anything that would give him a clue to pick up evidence while the people are on the spot.'

Leonard's face was convulsed for a moment while his brother was speaking; but he recovered calmness of voice, as he mournfully answered, 'I have no right to wonder at your suspicion of me.'

Henry for the first time really looked at him, and instinctively faltered, 'I beg your pardon.'

'Indeed,' said Leonard, with the same subdued manner, 'I cannot believe that any provocation could make me strike a person like that old man; and here there was none at all. Except that he was vexed at first at my being late, he had never been so near kindness.'

'Then is this extraordinary story the truth?'

'Why should I not tell the truth?' was the answer, too mournful for indignation.

Henry again cast down his eyes, Leonard moved about making preparations, Dr. May leant against the wall-all too much oppressed for speech; till, as Leonard stooped, poor little Mab, thrusting her black head into his hand, drew from him the words, 'My doggie, what is to become of you?'

A sort of hoarse explosion of 'Ave' from Henry was simultaneous with the Doctor's 'I tried to get her home with me in the morning, but she waited your orders.'

'Miss May would not have her now. After all, prussic acid would be the truest mercy' said Leonard, holding the little creature up to his face, and laying his cheek against her silken coat with almost passionate affection.

'Not while there are those who trust your word, Leonard; as Ethel said this morning.'

He raised the face which he had hidden against the dog, and looked earnestly at the Doctor as if hardly venturing to understand him; then a ray of real gladness and comfort darted into his eyes, which so enlivened Dr. May, that he was able to say cheerfully, 'We will take good care of her till you come for her.'

'Then, Henry,' said Leonard, 'it is not unkindness, nor that I remember things, but indeed I think it will be better for you all, since Dr. May is so-so-' The word kind was so inadequate, that it stuck in his throat. 'Take this to Ave,' putting his mother's likeness in his hand, 'and tell her I will write,'

'Poor Ave!'

Leonard imploringly shook his head; the mention of his sister shook him more than he could bear; and he asked the time.

'Nearly six.'

'Only six! What an endless day! There, I am ready. There is no use in delaying. I suppose I must show what I am taking with me.'

'Wait,' said his brother. 'Cannot you say anything to put us on the track of the man in the yard?'

'I did not see him plain.'

'You've no notion?' said Henry, with a movement of annoyance.

'No. I only looked for a moment; for I was much more anxious to get off quietly, than to make any one out. If I had only waited ten minutes, it might have been the saving of his life, but my commission was so like fun, and so important too, that I thought of nothing else. Can it be not twenty-four hours ago?'

'And why don't you explain why he sent you?'

'I cannot say it so certainly as to be of the slightest use,' said Leonard.

'He never expressed it either; and I have no right to talk of my suspicions.'

'Eh! was it to put it out of Sam's way?'

'So I suppose. Sam used to get all he chose out of the poor old man; and I believe he thought this the only chance of keeping anything for himself, but he never told me so. Stay! Bilson's cheque might be tracked. I took it myself, and gave the receipt; you will find it entered in the books-paid on either the twenty-third or fourth.'

'Then there's something to do, at any rate,' cried Henry, invigorated. 'Anderson shall hunt out the balance and Sam's draughts on it. I'll spare no expense, Leonard, if it is to my last farthing; and you shall have the best counsel that can be retained.'

Leonard signed thanks with some heartiness, and was going to the door, when Henry detained him. 'Tell me, Leonard, have you no suspicion?'

'It must have been the person I saw in the court, and, like a fool, did not watch. The window was open, and he could have easily got in and come out. Can't they see that if it had been me, I should have made off at once that way?'

'If you could only tell what the fellow was like!'

'I told you he was in the dark,' said Leonard, and without giving time for more, he called in the man outside, showed the clothes and, books he had selected, put them into his bag, and declared himself ready, giving his hand to the Doctor, who drew him near and kissed his brow, as if he had been Harry setting forth on a voyage.

'Good-bye, my dear fellow; God bless you; I'll soon come to see you.'

'And I,' said Henry, 'will bring Bramshaw to see what is to be done.'

Leonard wrung his brother's hand, murmuring something of love to his sisters; then put Mab into Dr. May's arms, with injunctions that the little creature understood and obeyed, for though trembling and whining under her breath, she was not resisting.

It might be to shorten her distress as well as his own that Leonard passed quickly down-stairs, and entered the carriage that was to take him to the county gaol.

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