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“ Then the Captain stood up in his strength and height, without any pride and without any shame, only in the power of a simple heart, and he said words fit to hang him—
“This is my doing! There is no one else to blame. If my father is dead, I have killed him!'
“Several of us now were looking in, and the news going out like a winnowing woman with no one to shut the door after her; our passage was crowding with people that should have had a tar-brush in their faces. And of course a good score of them ran away to tell that the Captain had murdered his father. The milkman stood there with his yoke and cans, and his naily boots on our new oilcloth, and, not being able to hide himself plainly, he pulled out his slate and began to make his bill.
“Away with you all!' your father said, coming suddenly out of the
* dining-room, while the doctor was unbuttoning my lord, who was dead with all his day clothes on; and everybody brushed away like flies at the depth of his voice and his stature. Then he bolted the door, with only our own people, and the doctor, and the constable inside. Your mother was sleeping like a lamb, as I could swear, having had a very tiring day the day before, and being well away from the noise of the passage, as well as at a time when they must sleep, whenever sleep will come, Miss. Bless her gentle heart, what a blessing to be out of all that scare of it !
“ All this time, you must understand, there was no sign yet what had happened to his lordship, over and above his being dead. All of us thought, if our minds made bold to think, that it must have pleased the Lord to take his lordship, either with an appleplexy, or a sudden heartstroke, or, at any rate, some other gracious way not having any flow of blood in it. But now, while your father was gone upstairs—for he knew that his father was dead enough—to be sure that your mother was quiet, and perhaps to smooth her down for trouble, and while I was run away to stop the ranting of the children, old Dr. Diggory and that rural officer were handling poor Lord Castlewood. They set him to their liking, and they cut his clothes off—so Susan told me afterwards--and then they found why they were forced to do so, which I need not try to tell you, Miss. Only they found that be was not dead from any wise visitation, but because he had been shot with a bullet through his heart.
“ Old Dr. Diggory came out shaking, and without any wholesome sense to meet what had arisen, after all his practice with dead men, and he called out “Murder !' with a long thing in his hand, till my master leaped down the stairs, twelve at a time, and laid his strong hand on the old fool's mouth.
«« Would you kill my wife?' he said ; 'you shall not kill my wife.'
“Captain Castlewood,' the constable answered, pulling out his staff importantly, consider yourself my prisoner.'
“ The Captain could have throttled him with one hand, and Susan thought he would have done it. But instead of that he said, “ Very well ; do your duty. But let me see what you mean by it.' Then he
walked back again to the body of his father, and saw that he had been murdered.
“But oh, Miss Erema, you are so pale! Not a bit of food have you had for hours. I ought not to have told you such a deal of it to once. Let me undo all your things, my dear, and give you something cordial; and then lie down, and sleep a bit.”
“No, thank you, nurse," I answered, calling all my little courage back. “No sleep for me until I know every word. And to think of all my father had to see and bear! I am not fit to be his daughter."
“WELL, now,” continued Mrs. Strouss, as soon as I could persuade her to go on; “if I were to tell you every little thing that went on among them, Miss, I should go on from this to this day week, or I might say this day fortnight, and then not half be done with it. And the worst of it is that those little things make all the odds in a case of that sort, showing what the great things were. But only a counsellor at the Old Bailey could make head or tail of the goings on that followed.
“For some reason of his own, unknown to any living being but himself, whether it were pride (as I always said) or something deeper (as other people thought), he refused to have any one on earth to help him, when he ought to have had the deepest lawyer to be found. The constable cautioned him to say nothing, as it seems is laid down in their orders, for fear of crimination. And he smiled at this, with a high contempt, very fine to see, but not bodily wise. But even that jack-in-office could perceive that the poor captain thought of his sick wife upstairs, and his little children, ten times for one thought he ever gave to his own position. And yet I must tell you that he would have no denial, but to know what it was that had killed his parent. When old Dr. Diggory's hands were shaking, so that his instrument would not bite on the thing lodged in his lordship's back, after passing through and through him, and he was calling for somebody to run for his assistant,who do you think did it for him, Miss Erema? As sure as I sit here, the Captain! His face was like a rock, and his hands no less; and he said, “ Allow me, doctor. I have been in action.' And he fetched out the bullet—which showed awful nerve, according to my way of thinking—as if he had been a man with three rows of teeth.
“ This bullet is just like those of my own pistol !' he cried, and he sat down hard with amazement. You may suppose how this went against him, when all he desired was to know and tell the truth; and people said that of course he got it out, after a bottleful of doctors failed, because he knew best how it was put in.'
"I shall now go and see the place, if you please, or whether you
please or not,' my master said. "Constable, you may come and point it out, unless you prefer going to your breakfast. My word is enough, that I shall not run away. Otherwise, as you have acted on your own authority, I shall act on mine, and tie you until you have obtained a warrant. Take your choice, my man; and make it quickly, while I offer it.'
“The rural polishman stared at this, being used on the other hand to be made much of. But, seeing how capable the Captain was of acting up to anything, he made a sulky scrape, and said, “Sir, as you please for the present,' weighting his voico on those last three words, as much as to say, 'Pretty soon you will be handcuffed.' Then,' said my master, ‘I shall also insist on the presence of two persons, simply to use their eyes without any fear or favour. One is my gardener, a very
but apt to be late in the morning. The other is a faithful servant, who has been with us for several years. Their names are Jacob Rigg and Betsy Bowen. You may also bring two witnesses, if you choose. And the miller's men of course will come. But order back all others.'
“That is perfectly fair and straight-forward, my lord,' the constable answered, falling naturally into abeyance to orders. "I am sure that all of us wishes your lordship kindly out of this rum scrape. But my duty is my duty.'
“With a few more words we all set forth, six in number, and no more; for the constable said that the miller's men, who had first found the late Lord Castlewood, were witnesses enough for him. And Jacob Rigg, whose legs were far apart (as he said) from trenching celery, took us through the kitchen garden, and out at a gap, which saved everybody knowing
“Then we passed through a copse or two, and across a meadow, and then along the turnpike-road, as far as now I can remember. And along that we went to a stile on the right, without any house for a long way off. And from that stile a foothpath led down a slope of grassland to the little river, and over a hand-bridge, and up another meadow full of trees and bushes, to a gate which came out into the road again, a little to this side of the Moonstock Inn, saving a quarter of a mile of road, which ran straight up the valley and turned square at the stone bridge to get to the same inn.
“I cannot expect to be clear to you, Miss, though I see it all now as I saw it then, every tree, and hump, and hedge of it; only about the distances, from this to that, and that to the other, they would be beyond me. You must be on the place itself; and I never could carry distancesno, nor even clever men, I have heard my master say. But when he came to that stile he stopped, and turned upon all of us clearly, and as straight as any man of men could be. Here I saw my father last, at a quarter past ten o'clock last night, or within a few minutes of that time. I wished to see him to his inn, but he would not let me do so, and he never bore contradiction. He said that he knew the way well, having
fished more than thirty years ago, up and down this stream. He crossed this stile, and we shook hands over it, and the moon being bright, I looked into his face, and he said, “My boy, God bless you!” Knowing his short ways, I did not even look after him, but turned away, and went straight home along this road. Upon my word as an Englishman, and an officer of Her Majesty, that is all I know of it. Now let us go on to the-to the other place.'
“ We all of us knew in our hearts, I am sure, that the Captain spoke the simple truth, and his face was grand as he looked at us. But the constable thought it his duty to ask"Did
you hear no sound of a shot, my lord? For he fell within a hundred yards of this.'
“I heard no sound of any shot whatever. I heard an owl hooting, as I went home, and then the rattle of a heavy waggon, and the bells of horses. I have said enough. Let us go forward.'
“We obeyed him at once; and even the constable looked right and left, as if he had been wrong. He signed to the miller's man to lead the way, and my lord walked proudly after him. The path was only a little narrow track, with the grass, like a front of hair, falling over it on the upper side, and on the under, dropping away like side curls; such a little path that I was wondering how a great lord could walk over it. Then we came down a steep place to a narrow bridge across a shallow river; a bridge made of only two planks and a rail, with a prop or two to carry them. And one end of the hand-rail was fastened into a hollow and stubby old hawthorn tree, overhanging the bridge and the water a good way. And just above this tree, and under its shadow, there came a dry cut into the little river, not more than a yard or two above the wooden bridge, a water-trough such as we have in Wales, Miss, for the water to run in, when the farmer pleases; but now there was no water in it, only gravel.
“The cleverest of the miller's men, though neither of them had much intellect, stepped down at a beck from the constable, right beneath the old ancient tree, and showed us the marks on the grass and the gravel made by his lordship where he fell and lay. And it seemed that he must have fallen off the bridge, yet not into the water, but so as to have room for his body, if you see, Miss, partly on the bank, and partly in the hollow of the meadow-trough.
“Have you searched the place well ?' the captain asked; have you found any weapon or implement?'
“We have found nothing but the corpse, so far,' the constable answered in a surly voice, not liking to be taught his business. My first duty was to save life, if I could. These men, upon finding the body ran for me, and knowing who it was, I came with it to your house.' «« You acted for the best, my man.
Now search the place carefully, while I stand here. I am on my parole, I shall not run away. Jacob, go down and help them.'
“Whether from being in the army, or what, your father always spoke in such a way that the most stiff-neckedest people began without thinking to obey him. So the constable and the rest went down, while the captain and I stood upon the plank, looking at the four of them.
“For a long time they looked about, according to their attitudes, without finding anything more than the signs of the manner in wbich the
poor lord fell, and of these the constable pulled out a book and made a pencil memorial. But presently Jacob, a spry sort of man, cried Hulloa ! whatever have I got hold of here? Many a good crawfish have I pulled out from this bank, when the water comes down the gulley; but never one exactly like this here afore.'
“\ Name of the Lord !' cried the constable, jumping behind the hawthorn-stump; ‘don't point it at me, you looby! It's loaded, loaded one barrel, don't you see? Put it down, with the muzzle away from me.'
“ • Hand it to me, Jacob,' the Captain said ; 'you understand a gun, and this goes off just the same. Constable Jobbins, have no fear. Yes, it is exactly as I thought. This pistol is one of the double-barrelled pair which I bought to take to India. The barrels are rifled; it shoots as true as any rifle, and almost as hard up to fifty yards. The right barrel has been fired, the other still is loaded. The bullet I took from my father's body most certainly came from this pistol.'
“ Can 'e say, can 'e say then, who done it, master ?' asked Jacob, a man very sparing of speech, but ready at a beck to jump at constable and miller's men, if only law was with him. • Can 'e give a clear account, and let me chuck ’un in the river ?'
“No, Jacob, I can do nothing of the kind, your father answered ; while the Rural man came up and faced things, not being afraid of a fight half so much as he was of an accident; by reason of his own mother having been blown up by a gunpowder start at Dartford, yet came down all right, Miss, and had him three months afterward, according to his own confession; nevertheless, he came up now, as if he had always been upright in the world, and he said, 'My lord, can you explain all this ?'
“ Your father looked at him, with one of his strange gazes; as if he were measuring the man, while trying his own inward doing of his own mind. Proud as your father was, as proud as ever can be without cruelty, it is my firm belief, Miss Erema, going on a woman's judgment, that if the man's eyes had come up to my master's sense of what was virtuous, my master would have up and told him the depth and contents of his mind and heart; although totally gone beyond him.
“ But Jobbins looked back at my lord with a grin, and his little eyes, hard to put up with. 'Have you nothing to say, my lord? Then, I am afeared I must ask you just to come along of me.' And went with him, Miss, as quiet as a lamb; which Jobbins said, and even Jacob fancied, was a conscience sign of guilt,