MoboReader> Literature > The Lost Lady of Lone

   Chapter 24 THE VINDICATION.

The Lost Lady of Lone By Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Sout Characters: 20085

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02


Mr. Guthrie now requested that the witness Ferguson might be recalled.

The order was given. And the Lone saddler's red-headed apprentice took the stand.

Mr. Guthrie referred to the notes that had been passed to him by the Duke of Hereward, and then said:

"Witness, you told the jury that on the night before the murder of Sir Lemuel Levison, you were employed in your master's service up to a late hour."

"Ay, your honor; but I waur fain to see the wedding decorations, for a' that," said the boy.

"Precisely. But now tell the jury what was the service upon which you were employed to so late an hour that night."

"It wad be a bit wedding offering to our laird, wha hae always favored his ain folks wi' his custom. It waur a Russia leather traveling dressing-bag for his lairdship, the whilk the master had ta'en unco guid care suld be as brawa bag as ony to be boughten in Lunnen town itsel', whilk mysel' was commissioned, and proud I waur, to tak', wi' my master's duty, to his lairdship."

"Doubtless. Now tell the jury at what hour you took this wedding offering to Lord Arondelle."

"Aweel, it wad be about half-past nine o'clock. I went wi' the dressing-case to the Arondelle Arms, where his lairdship and his lairdship's feyther, the auld duk' were biding. The hostler telt me that his lairdship had gane for a walk o'er the brig to Castle Lone. Sae I were fain to wait there for him."

"How long did you wait?"

"Na lang. I was na mair than five minutes before I saw his lairdship coming o'er the brig toward the house. And sune his lairdship came into the inn, and I made my bow, and offered his lairdship the wedding-gift, wi' my maister's respectful guid wishes. His lairdship smiled pleasantly, and tauld me to fetch it after him up to his chamber. I followed my laird up-stairs to his ain room, where his lairdship's valet, Mr. Kerr, was waiting on him. His lairdship wrote a braw note of acknowledgements to my maister, and gie it me to take away. My laird also gie me a half-sovereign, for mysel'. I dinna tak' the note just then to my maister. I saw by the clock on the mantel that it only lacked a quarter to ten o'clock, sae I e'en made my duty to his lairdship and run down stairs, ran a' the way o'er to Castle Lone, for I war fain to see the decorations. I got to Malcolm's Tower just in time to hear the auld clock in the turret strike eleven, and to see the mon and the woman meet thegither in the shadows."

"Are you sure that you could not identify that man or woman?"

"Anan?"

"Would you know either of them again?" inquired Mr. Guthrie, changing the manner of his question.

"Na! I tauld ye sae before. They were half hidden i' the bushes."

"You say it was a quarter to ten when you left Lord Arondelle in his room at the inn?"

"Ay, war it."

"And that it was eleven o'clock when you witnessed the meeting between the man and the woman at Castle Lone!"

"Ay, war it. And I had to run a' the way to do it in that time. It waur guid rinning."

"You left his lordship's valet with him, do you say?"

"Ay, I did. And the head waiter o' the Arondelle Arms, too, wha was just gaeing in wi' his lairdship's supper."

"That will do. You may now stand down," said Mr. Guthrie.

The shock-headed apprentice, who had done such good service to his Grace the Duke of Hereward, and such damage to the false witness against him, now left the stand and made his way through the crowd to his distant seat.

Mr. Guthrie once more got upon his feet to address the Bench, and said:

"May it please the Court, I move that the testimony of the Crown's witness, Rose Cameron, alias Rose Scott, be set aside as totally unreliable; and, further, that she be indicted for perjury."

Upon this motion of Mr. Guthrie there followed some discussion among the lawyers.

Finally it was decided to put the duke's valet, the hotel waiter, and other witnesses, on the stand, who would be able to corroborate or rebut the evidence given by the lad Ferguson, and thereby break down or establish the testimony offered by Rose Cameron.

James Kerr was, therefore, called to the witness-stand, sworn and examined.

He said that he had been in the service of the duke's family ever since he was nine years of age, first as page to the late duchess, but for the last three years as valet to the present duke; that he was with his master at the "Arondelle Arms" on the night of the murder; that the duke, who was then the Marquis of Arondelle, left the inn at half-past eight o'clock, to walk over the bridge to Castle Lone; that he returned at half-past nine, accompanied to his room by the boy Ferguson, who brought a handsome Russia leather travelling-case; that the marquis sat down to his writing-table, wrote a note and gave it to the boy, who immediately left the house.

"At what hour was this?" inquired Mr. Guthrie.

"It was a few minutes before ten. The clock struck very soon after the boy left. I remember it well, because his lordship's supper had been ordered for ten, and the waiter just entered to lay the cloth when the lad left, and his lordship sat down to supper at ten precisely. After the supper-service had been removed, his lordship went to his writing-desk and wrote for an hour, and then sealed and dispatched a packet directed to the Liberal Statesman. I took it myself to the Post-Office, to ensure its being in time for the midnight mail. It was then about half-past eleven o'clock. I was gone on my message for about five minutes. On my return I found my master where I had left him, sitting at his writing-desk, arranging his papers. But when I entered he locked his desk and said he would go to bed. I waited on him at his night toilet. And then, as the inn was very much crowded, I slept on a lounge in my master's bed-room. The house was full of noise; so many of the Scots were present, making merry over the approaching marriage of their chieftain's son. Neither my master nor myself rested well that night. I arose early to see my master's bath. The marquis arose at eight o'clock."

Such was the substance of James Kerr's testimony, which perfectly corroborated that of the lad Ferguson, and greatly damaged that of Rose Cameron.

The hotel waiter happened to be among those who had cast all their worldly interests to the winds, abandoned their callings of whatever sort, and come at all risk of consequences to be present at the trial. He was found in the court-room, called to the witness-stand, sworn and examined.

His testimony corroborated that of the two last witnesses, and utterly broke down that of Rose Cameron.

There was further consultation between the Bar and the Bench. Finally the testimony of the Crown's witness was set aside, and a warrant was made out for the arrest of Rose Cameron, otherwise Rose Scott, upon the charge of perjury.

The warrant was sent out to the sheriff's room, to which, after leaving the witness-stand, Rose Cameron had been conducted.

And now the crowd in the court-room, composed chiefly of neighbors, friends, kinsmen, and clansmen of the young Duke of Hereward, breathed freely.

The thunder-cloud had passed.

Their hero was vindicated. Truly they had never for an instant doubted his integrity, much less had they suspected him of a heinous, an atrocious crime. Still, it was an immense relief to have the black shadow of that bloody charge withdrawn.

There was but one more witness for the prosecution to be examined; that witness was no less a person than the young Duke of Hereward himself.

He was called to the stand, and sworn.

Every pair of eyes in the court-room availed themselves of the opportunity afforded by the elevated position of the witness-stand, to gaze on the man who had so recently been the subject of such a terrible accusation; and all admired the calmness, self-possession, and forbearance of his conduct during the fearful ordeal through which he had just passed.

He simply testified as to the finding of the dead body, the position of the corpse, the condition of the room, and so forth. He was not subjected to a cross-examination, but was courteously notified that he was at liberty to retire.

He resumed his former seat.

The case for the prosecution was closed.

Mr. Kinlock, junior counsel for the prisoner, arose for the defence. He made a short address to the jury, in which he spoke of the slight grounds upon which his unhappy client had been charged with an atrocious crime, and brought to trial for his life. The law demanded a victim for that heinous crime, which had shocked the whole community from its centre to its circumference, and his unfortunate client had been selected as a sin offering. He reminded the jury how the very esteem and confidence of the master and the fidelity and obedience of the servant had been most ingeniously turned into strong circumstantial evidence, to fix the assassination of the master upon the servant. The deceased, had entirely trusted the prisoner; had given him a pass-key with which he might enter his chambers at any hour of the day or night; and hence it was argued that the prisoner, being the only one who had the entree to the deceased's apartments, must have been the person who admitted the murderer to his victim. The prisoner had faithfully obeyed his master's orders for the day, in declining to enter his rooms before his bell should ring; and thence it was argued that he only delayed to call his master because he knew that master lay murdered in his room, and he wished to give the murderers, with whom he was said to be confederated, time to make good their escape. He was sure, he said, that a just and intelligent jury must at once perceive the cruel injustice of such far-fetched inferences. In addition he would call witnesses who would testify to the good character of the accused, and prove that the great esteem and confidence in which he had been held by his late master was abundantly justified by the excellent character and blameless conduct of the serva

nt.

Mr. Kinlock then proceeded to call his witnesses.

They were the fellow-servants of the accused. Some of them were the very same witnesses that had been called by the prosecution, and were now re-called for the defence. One and all, in turn, testified to the uniform good behavior of the valet while in the service of Sir Lemuel Levison, deceased.

The presiding judge, Baron Stairs, summed up the evidence in a very few words.

The evidence against the prisoner at the bar was circumstantial only. It had appeared in evidence that some servant of the family had admitted the assassin to the house. It did not appear who that servant was. The valet John Potts, was the only one who had the pass-key to the apartments of the deceased. That circumstance had fixed suspicion upon him; had brought him to trial; the trial had brought out no new facts; the witness principally relied on by the prosecution had not only failed to give any testimony to convict the prisoner, but had certainly perjured herself to shield the real criminal, whoever he was, and to accuse a noble personage, whose high character and lofty station alike placed him infinitely above suspicion. On the other hand, many witnesses had testified to the good character and conduct of the prisoner, and the estimation in which he had been held by his late master. Such was the evidence, pro and con.

His lordship concluded by saying that the jury might now retire and deliberate upon their verdict, remembering that in all cases of uncertainty they should lean to the side of mercy.

The jury arose from their seats, and, conducted by a bailiff, retired to the room provided for them.

Many of the people now left the court-room to get refreshments.

But as the judges remained upon the bench, the Duke of Hereward kept his seat. He felt sure that the jury would not long deliberate before bringing in their verdict.

Meanwhile he turned to glance at the prisoner.

John Potts looked like a man without a hope in the world. We have already seen that an awful change had come over him since the day of his arrest, three months before. Now, as he leaned forward where he sat, and rested his head upon his skeleton hands, that clasped the top of the railing of the dock, his face, or what could be seen of it, was ghastly pale with agony, while his emaciated frame trembled from head to foot. He looked like a guilty man. And his looks were now, as they had been from the moment in which the dead body of his master had been discovered, the strongest testimony against him.

For all that, you know, they cannot hang a man merely because he looks as if he ought to be hung.

After an absence of about fifteen minutes, the jury, led by a bailiff, returned to the court-room.

The prisoner looked up, shivered, and dropped his head upon his clasped hands again.

The dead silence of breathless expectation in the court-room was now broken by the solemn voice of the Clerk of Arraigns, inquiring, in measured tones:

"Gentlemen of the jury, have you agreed upon your verdict?"

"We have," answered the foreman, a jolly, red-headed, round bodied Banff baker.

"Prisoner at the bar, stand up and look upon the jury," ordered the clerk.

The poor, abject, and terrified wretch tottered to his feet and stood, pallid, shaking, and grasping the front rails of the dock for support.

"Gentlemen of the jury, look upon the prisoner. How say you, is the prisoner at the bar guilty or not guilty of the felony herewith he stands charged?" demanded the clerk.

"We find the charge against the prisoner to be-Not Proven," answered the foreman, speaking for the whole in a strong, distinct voice, that was heard all over the court-room. [A]

On hearing the verdict which saved him from death, even if it did not vindicate him, John Potts let go the rails of the dock and fell back in his chair in a half-fainting condition.

"The prisoner is discharged from custody. The Court is adjourned," said the presiding baron, rising and leaving his seat.

While one of the bailiffs was kindly supporting the faltering steps of the released prisoner, in taking him from the dock, and while the crowd in the court-room were pouring out of the front doors, the presiding judge, Baron Stairs, came down to the place where the young Duke of Hereward still sat. He had known the duke's father, and had also known the duke himself from boyhood. He now held out his hand cordially, saying:

"I am very glad to see your grace, though the occasion is a painful one. Let me congratulate you on your marriage, I wish you every good thing in life. You have already got the best thing-a good wife. I knew Miss Levison. A finer young woman never lived. I congratulate you with all my heart, Duke!"

"I thank you very much, Lord Stairs," said the bridegroom, warmly returning the greeting of the judge.

"But I fear I must condole with you also. It was really too bad to have your honeymoon eclipsed at its rising, by a summons to attend as a witness on a criminal trial!-too bad! However, fortunately, the trial was a short one. And you are now at liberty to fly to your bride! I hope the duchess is well," added his lordship.

"She has never been quite well, I grieve to say, since the catastrophe at Lone," answered the duke, evasively.

"Ah, no! ah no! It cannot be expected that she should be so yet. It will take time! It will take time! By the way, where are you stopping, my dear Duke? I am at the 'Prince Consort!' Will you come home with me and dine?" heartily inquired the baron.

"Many thanks, my lord. But I am not staying in town. I must hurry back to Lone this evening in order to secure the midnight express to London. The most important business demands my immediate presence there," gravely replied the young duke.

"Ah, of course! of course! the bride! the duchess! Certainly, my dear duke. I will not press you further," said the baron, laughing cordially.

Neither of the gentlemen made the slightest allusion to the testimony given by the crown's evidence which had cast so foul and false an aspersion on the character of the duke.

By this time the court-room was nearly emptied.

The duke and the baron walked out together.

The crowd had dispersed from before the court-house.

The duke and the baron shook hands and parted on the sidewalk.

"Give my warm respects to the duchess. Tell her grace that I shall hope to meet her and present my congratulations in person, on her return from the Continent. That will be in time for the meeting of Parliament, I presume," said his lordship, as he was about to step into his carriage.

"Thanks, my lord. Yes, I hope so," answered his grace, as he lifted his hat and turned away.

The baron's carriage drove off to his hotel.

The duke walked rapidly to the inn, where he had ordered his post-chaise to be put up.

He partook of a light luncheon while his horses were being harnessed, and then entered the chaise, attended by his valet, and ordered the coachman to drive as fast as possible, without hurting the horses, to Lone.

He was most anxious to reach the "Arondelle Arms," to see if any telegram from Detective Setter had reached the office for him.

So long as the road ran through the Firwood, and was comparatively smooth and level, the coachman kept his horses at their best speed; but when it entered the mountain pass of the chain running around Loch Lone, he was compelled to drive slowly and carefully.

The sun set before they emerged from the pass, and it was nearly dark when the chaise drew up before the Arondelle Arms.

The duke got out of the chaise, and passed through the little assemblage of villagers who were standing there discussing the verdict of the jury. He hurried at once to the bar-room to inquire if any letter or telegram had come for him.

"Na, naething o' the sort," replied the landlord, who, seeing the disappointment expressed upon the duke's face, added: "But, under favor, your grace, there's time eneuch yet. Your grace hae na been twenty-four hours awa' fra Lunnun."

Without waiting to answer the host, the young duke hurried out, and walked rapidly off to the telegraph office, which was at the railway station.

"Ye see yon lad?" said the landlord to his wife. "He hanna been a day fra his bride, and yet he expects to hae a letter or a message frae her every minute. Aweel we hae a' been fules in our time!"

So saying the philosophical host of the Arondelle Arms gave his mind to the service of his numerous customers, who had come from the trial at Banff very hungry and thirsty, and now filled the bar-room with their persons, and all the air with their complaints.

They were not at all satisfied with the verdict. They had had a murder, and they had a right to have a hanging. They had been defrauded of their prospect of this second entertainment, and they were not well pleased.

Meanwhile, the duke hurried off to the telegraph office, to see if by any chance a telegram had been received there for him and detained.

When he entered the little den, he found the operator at work. He forebore to interrupt the man until the clicking of the wires ceased. Then he asked:

"Can you tell if there is any message here for me?-the Duke of Hereward," added his grace, seeing the puzzled look of the operator, who was a stranger in the country.

"Yes, your grace. It has only just now come," respectfully answered the young man, as he drew out a long, narrow strip of thick, white paper, upon which the message had been stamped by the instrument, and proceeded to select an official envelope in which to inclose it.

"Never mind that. Give it to me at once," said the duke, taking the strip from the hand of the operator and hastily perusing it.

The message ran thus:

"Old Church Court, Kensington, London, October 31st, 3 P.M.

"To His Grace the Duke of Hereward, Arondelle Arms, Lone, N.B. She is found. Pray come to London immediately. It is important.

J.A. Setter."

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