Read BOOK THREE - HIDDEN SURPRISES of The House of the Whispering Pines, free online book, by Anna Katharine Green, on ReadCentral.com.

CHAPTER I - “HE OR YOU!  THERE IS NO THIRD”

A heavy summons lies like lead upon me,
And yet I would not sleep Merciful powers! 
Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature
Gives way to in repose.

Macbeth.

For several days I had been ill.  They were merciful days to me since I was far too weak for thought.  Then there came a period of conscious rest, then renewed interest in life and my own fate and reputation.  What had happened during this interval?

I had a confused memory of having seen Clifton’s face at my bedside, but I was sure that no words had passed between us.  When would he come again?  When should I hear about Carmel, and whether she were yet alive, or mercifully dead, like her sister?  I might read the papers, but they had been carefully kept from me.  Not one was in sight.  The nurse would undoubtedly give me the information I desired, but, kind as she had been, I dreaded to consult a stranger about matters which involved my very existence and every remaining hope.  Yet I must know; for I could not help thinking, now, and I dreaded to think amiss and pile up misery for myself when I needed support and consolation.

I would risk one question, but no more.  I would ask about the inquest.  Had it been held?  If she said yes ­ah, if she said yes! ­I should know that Carmel was dead; and the news, coming thus, would kill me.  So I asked nothing, and was lying in a sufficiently feverish condition when the doctor came in, saw my state, and thinking to cheer me up, remarked blandly: 

“You are well enough this morning to hear good news.  Do you recognise the room you are in?”

“I’m in the hospital, am I not?”

“Hardly.  You are in one of Mr. O’Hagen’s own rooms.” (Mr. O’Hagen was the head keeper.) “You are detained, now, simply as a witness.”

I was struck to the heart; terrified in an instant.

“What?  Why?  What has happened?” I questioned, rapidly, half starting up, then falling back on my pillow under his astonished eye.

“Nothing,” he parried, seeing his mistake, and resorting to the soothing process.  “They simply have had time to think.  You’re not the sort of man from which criminals are made.”

“That’s nonsense,” I retorted, reckless of his opinion, and mad to know the truth, yet shrinking horribly from it.  “Criminals are made from all kinds of men; neither are the police so philosophical.  Something has occurred.  But don’t tell me ­” I protested inconsistently, as he opened his lips.  “Send for Mr. Clifton.  He’s my friend; I can better bear ­”

“Here he is,” said the doctor, as the door softly opened under the nurse’s careful hand.

I looked up, saw Charles’s faithful face, and stretched out my hand without speaking.  Never had I needed a friend more, and never had I been more constrained in my greeting.  I feared to show my real heart, my real fears, my real reason for not hailing my release, as every one evidently expected me to!

With a gesture to the nurse, the doctor tiptoed out, muttering to Clifton, as he passed, some word of warning or casual instruction.  The nurse followed, and Clifton, coming forward, took a seat at my side.  He was cheerful but not too cheerful; and the air of slight constraint which tinged his manner, as much as it did mine, did not escape me.

“Well, old fellow,” he began ­

My hand went up in entreaty.

“Tell me why they have withdrawn their suspicions.  I’ve heard nothing ­read nothing ­for days.  I don’t understand this move.”

For reply, he laid his hand on mine.

“You’re stanch,” he began.  “You have my regard, Elwood.  Not many men would have stood the racket and sacrificed themselves as you have done.  The fact is recognised, now, and your motive ­”

I must have turned very white; for he stopped and sprang to his feet, searching for some restorative.

I felt the need of blinding him to my condition.  With an effort, which shook me from head to foot, I lifted myself from the depths into which his words had plunged me, and fighting for self-control, faltered forth, feebly enough: 

“Don’t be frightened.  I’m all right again; I guess I’m not very strong yet.  Sit down; I don’t need anything.”

He turned and surveyed me carefully, and finding my colour restored, reseated himself, and proceeded, more circumspectly: 

“Perhaps I had better wait till to-morrow before I satisfy your curiosity,” said he.

“And leave me to imagine all sorts of horrors?  No!  Tell me at once.  Is ­is ­has anything happened at the Cumberlands’?”

“Yes.  What you feared has happened ­No, no; Carmel is not dead.  Did you think I meant that?  Forgive me.  I should have remembered that you had other causes for anxiety than the one weighing on our minds.  She is holding her own ­just holding it ­but that is something, in one so young and naturally healthy.”

I could see that I baffled him.  It could not be helped.  I did not dare to utter the question with which my whole soul was full.  I could only look my entreaty.  He misunderstood it, as was natural enough.

“She does not know yet what is in store for her,” were his words; and I could only lie still, and look at him helplessly, and try not to show the despair that was sinking me deeper and deeper into semi-unconsciousness.  “When she comes to herself, she will have to be told; but you will be on your feet, then, and will be allowed, no doubt, to soften the blow for her by your comfort and counsel.  The fact that it must have been you, if not he ­”

He!" Did I shout it, or was the shout simply in my own mind?  I trembled as I rose on my elbow.  I searched his face in terror of my self-betrayal; but his showed only compassion and an eager desire to clear the air between us by telling me the exact facts.

“Yes ­Arthur.  His guilt has not been proven; he has not even been remanded; the sister’s case is too pitiful and Coroner Perry too soft-hearted, where any of that family is involved.  But no one doubts his guilt, and he does not deny it himself.  You know ­probably no one better ­that he cannot very consistently do this, in face of the evidence accumulated against him, evidence stronger in many regards, than that accumulated against yourself.  The ungrateful boy!  The ­the ­Pardon me, I don’t often indulge in invectives against unhappy men who have their punishment before them, but I was thinking of you and what you have suffered in this jail, where you have not belonged ­no, not for a day.”

“Don’t think of me.”  The words came with a gasp.  I was never so hard put to it ­not when I first realised that I had been seen with my fingers on Adelaide’s throat.  Arthur!  A booby and a boor, but certainly not the slayer of his sister, unless I had been woefully mistaken in all that had taken place in that club-house previous to my entrance into it on that fatal night.  As I caught Clifton’s eye fixed upon me, I repeated ­though with more self-control, I hope:  “Don’t think of me.  I’m not thinking of myself.  You speak of evidence.  What evidence?  Give me details.  Don’t you see that I am burning with curiosity?  I shan’t be myself till I hear.”

This alarmed him.

“It’s a risk,” said he.  “The doctor told me to be careful not to excite you too much.  But suspense is always more intolerable than certainty, and you have heard too much to be left in ignorance of the rest.”

“Yes, yes,” I agreed feverishly, pressing his hand.

“It all came about through you,” he blundered on.  “You told me of the fellow you saw riding away from The Whispering Pines at the time you entered the grounds.  I passed the story on to the coroner, and he to a New York detective they have put on this case.  He and Arthur’s own surly nature did the rest.”

I cringed where I lay.  This was my work.  The person who drove out of the club-house grounds while I stood in the club-house hall was Carmel ­and the clew I had given, instead of baffling and confusing them, had led directly to Arthur!

Seeing nothing peculiar ­or at all events, giving no evidence of having noted anything peculiar in my movement ­Clifton went evenly on, pouring into my astonished ears the whole long story of this detective’s investigations.

I heard of his visit at the mechanic’s cottage and of the identification of the hat marked by Eliza Simmons’s floury thumb, with an old one of Arthur’s, fished out from one of the Cumberland closets; then, as I lay dumb, in my secret dismay and perturbation, of Arthur’s acknowledged visit to the club-house, and his abstraction of the bottles, which to all minds save my own, perhaps, connected him directly and well-nigh unmistakably, with the crime.

“The finger of God!  Nothing else.  Such coincidences cannot be natural,” was my thought.  And I braced myself to meet the further disclosures I saw awaiting me.

But when these disclosures were made, and Arthur’s conduct at the funeral was given its natural explanation by the finding of the tell-tale ring in Adelaide’s casket, I was so affected, both by the extraordinary nature of the facts and the doubtful position in which they seemed to place one whom, even now, I found it difficult to believe guilty of Adelaide’s death, that Clifton, aroused, in spite of his own excitement, to a sudden realisation of my condition, bounded to his feet and impetuously cried out: 

“I had to tell you.  It was your due and you would not have been satisfied if I had not.  But I fear that I rushed my narrative too suddenly upon you; that you needed more preparation, and that the greatest kindness I can show you now, is to leave before I do further mischief.”

I believe I answered.  I know that his idea of leaving was insupportable to me.  That I wanted him to stay until I had had time to think and adjust myself to these new conditions.  Instinctively, I did not feel as certain of Arthur’s guilt as he did.  My own case had taught me the insufficiency of circumstantial evidence to settle a mooted fact.  Besides, I knew Arthur even better than I did his sisters.  He was as full of faults, and as lacking in amiable and reliable traits as any fellow of my acquaintance.  But he had not the inherent snap which makes for crime.  He lacked the vigour which, ­God forgive me the thought! ­lay back of Carmers softer characteristics.  I could not imagine him guilty; I could, for all my love, imagine his sister so, and did.  The conviction would not leave my mind.

“Charles,” said I, at last, struggling for calmness, and succeeding better in my task than either he or I expected; “what motive do they assign for this deed?  Why should Arthur follow Adelaide to the club-house and kill her?  Now, if he had followed me ­”

“You were at dinner with them that night, and know what she did and what she vowed about the wine.  He was very angry.  Though he dropped his glass, and let it shiver on the board, he himself says that he was desperately put out with her, and could only drown his mad emotions in drink.  He knew that she would hear of it if he went to any saloon in town; so he stole the key from your bunch, and went to help himself out of the club-house wine-vault.  That’s how he came to be there.  What followed, who knows?  He won’t tell, and we can only conjecture.  The ring, which she certainly wore that night, might give the secret away; but it is not gifted with speech, though as a silent witness it is exceedingly eloquent.”

The episode of the ring confused me.  I could make nothing out of it, could not connect it with what I myself knew of the confused experiences of that night.  But I could recall the dinner and the sullen aspect, not unmixed with awe, with which this boy contemplated his sister when his own glass fell from his nerveless fingers.  My own heart was not in the business; it was on the elopement I had planned; but I could not help seeing what I have just mentioned, and it recurred to me now with fatal distinctness.  The awe was as great as the sullenness.  Did that offer a good foundation for crime?  I disliked Arthur.  I had no use for the boy, and I wished with all my heart to detect guilt in his actions, rather than in those of the woman I loved; but I could not forget that tinge of awe on features too heavy to mirror very readily the nicer feelings of the human soul.  It would come up, and, under the influence of this impression I said: 

“Are you sure that he made no denial of this crime?  That does not seem like Arthur, guilty or innocent.”

“He made none in my presence and I was in the coroner’s office when the ring was produced from its secret hiding-place and set down before him.  There was no open accusation made, but he must have understood the silence of all present.  He acknowledged some days ago, when confronted with the bottle found in Cuthbert Road, that he had taken both it and another from the club-house just before the storm began to rage that night.”

“The hour, the very hour!” I muttered.

“He entered and left by that upper hall window, or so he says; but he is not to be believed in all his statements.  Some of his declarations we know to be false.”

“Which ones?  Give me a specimen, Charlie.  Mention something he has said that you know to be false.”

“Well, it is hard to accuse a man of a direct lie.  But he cannot be telling the truth when he says that he crossed the links immediately to Cuthbert Road, thus cutting out the ride home, of which we have such extraordinary proof.”

Under the fear of betraying my thoughts, I hurriedly closed my eyes.  I was in an extraordinary position, myself.  What seemed falsehood to them, struck me as the absolute truth.  Carmel had been the one to go home; he, without doubt, had crossed the links, as he said.  As this conviction penetrated deeply and yet more deeply into my mind, I shrank inexpressibly from the renewed mental struggle into which it plunged me.  To have suffered, myself, ­to have fallen under the ban of suspicion and the disgrace of arrest ­had certainly been hard; but it was nothing to beholding another in the same plight through my own rash and ill-advised attempt to better my position and Carmel’s by what I had considered a totally harmless subterfuge.

I shuddered as I anticipated the sleepless hours of silent debate which lay before me.  The voice which whispered that Arthur Cumberland was not over-gifted with sensitiveness and would not feel the shame of his position like another, did not carry with it an indisputable message, and could not impose on my conscience for more than a passing moment.  The lout was human; and I could not stifle my convictions in his favour.

But Carmel!

I clenched my hands under the clothes.  I wished it were not high noon, but dark night; that Clifton would only arise or turn his eyes away; that something or anything might happen to give me an instant of solitary contemplation, without the threatening possibility of beholding my thoughts and feelings reflected in another’s mind.

Was this review instantaneous, or the work of many minutes?  Forced by the doubt to open my eyes, I met Clifton’s full look turned watchfully on me.  The result was calming; even to my apprehensive gaze it betrayed no new enlightenment.  My struggle had been all within; no token of it had reached him.

This he showed still more plainly when he spoke.

“There will be a close sifting of evidence at the inquest.  You will not enjoy this; but the situation, hard as it may prove, has certainly improved so far as you are concerned.  That should hasten your convalescence.”

“Poor Arthur!” burst from my lips, and the cry was echoed in my heart.  Then, because I could no longer endure the pusillanimity which kept me silent, I rose impulsively into a sitting posture, and, summoning all my faculties into full play, endeavoured to put my finger on the one weak point in the evidence thus raised against Carmel’s brother.

“What sort of a man would you make Arthur out to be, when you accuse him of robbing the wine-vault on top of a murderous assault on his sister?”

“I know.  It argues a brute, but he ­”

“Arthur Cumberland is selfish, unresponsive, and hard, but he is not a brute.  I’m disposed to give him the benefit of my good opinion to this extent, Charlie; I cannot believe he first poisoned and then choked that noble woman.”

Clifton drew himself up in his turn, astonishment battling with renewed distrust.

“Either he or you, Ranelagh!” he exclaimed, firmly.  “There is no third person.  This you must realise.”

CHAPTER II - CARMEL AWAKES

One woe doth tread upon another’s heel,
So fast they follow.

Hamlet.

Later, I asked myself many questions, and wandered into mazes of speculation which only puzzled me and led nowhere.  I remembered the bottles; I remembered the ring.  I went back, in fancy, to the hour of my own entrance into the club-house, and, recalling each circumstance, endeavoured to fit the facts of Arthur’s story with those of my own experience.

Was he in the building when I first stepped into it?  It was just possible.  I had been led to prevaricate as to the moment I entered the lower gateway, and he may have done the same as to the hour he left by the upper hall window.  Whatever his denials on this or any subject, I was convinced that he knew, as well as I, that Carmel had been in the building with her sister, and was involved more or less personally in the crime committed there.  Might it not be simply as his accessory after the fact?  If only I could believe this!  If my knowledge of him and of her would allow me to hug this forlorn hope, and behold, in this shock to her brain, and in her look and attitude on leaving the club-house, only a sister’s horror at a wilful brother’s crime!

But one fact stood in the way of this ­a fact which nothing but some predetermined, underhanded purpose on her part could explain.  She had gone in disguise to The Whispering Pines, and she had returned home in the same suspicious fashion.  The wearing of her brother’s hat and coat over her own womanly garments was no freak.  There had been purpose in it ­a purpose which demanded secrecy.  That Adelaide should have accompanied her under these circumstances was a mystery.  But then the whole affair was a mystery, totally out of keeping, in all its details, with the characters of these women, save ­and what a fearful exception I here make ­the awful end, which, alas! bespoke the fiery rush and impulse to destroy which marked Carmel’s unbridled rages.

Of a less emotional attack she would be as incapable as any other good woman.  Poison she would never use.  Its presence there was due to another’s forethought, another’s determination.  But the poison had not killed.  Both glasses had been emptied, but ­Ah! those glasses.  What explanation had the police, now, for those two emptied glasses?  They had hitherto supposed me to be the second person who had joined Adelaide in this totally uncharacteristic drinking.

To whom did they now attribute this act?  To Arthur, the brother whose love for liquor in every form she had always decried, and had publicly rebuked only a few hours before?  Knowing nothing of Carmel having been on the scene, they must ascribe this act either to him or to me; and when they came to dwell upon this point more particularly ­when they came to study the exact character of the relations which had always subsisted between Adelaide and her brother ­they must see the improbability of her drinking with him under any circumstances.  Then their thoughts would recur to me, and I should find myself again a suspect.  The monstrous suggestion that Arthur had brought the liquor there himself, had poured it out and forced her to drink it, poison and all, out of revenge for her action at the dinner-table a short time before, did not occur to me then, but if it had, there were the three glasses ­he would not bring three; nor would Adelaide; nor, as I saw it, would Carmel.

Chaos!  However one looked at it, chaos!  Only one fact was clear ­that Carmel knew the whole story and might communicate the same, if ever her brain cleared and she could be brought to reveal the mysteries of that hour.  Did I desire such a consummation?  Only God, who penetrates more deeply than ourselves into the hidden regions of the human heart, could tell.  I only know that the fear and expectation of such an outcome made my anguish for the next two weeks.

Would she live?  Would she die?  The question was on every tongue.  The crisis of her disease was approaching, and the next twenty-four hours would decide her fate, and in consequence, my own, if not her brother Arthur’s.  As I contemplated the suspense of these twenty-four hours, I revolted madly for the first time against the restrictions of my prison.  I wanted air, movement, the rush into danger, which my horse or my automobile might afford.  Anything which would drag my thoughts from that sick room, and the anticipated stir of that lovely form into conscious life and suffering.  Her eyes ­I could see her eyes wakening upon the world again, after her long wandering in the unknown and unimaginable intricacies of ungoverned thought and delirious suggestion.  Eyes of violet colour and infinite expression; eyes which would make a man’s joy if they smiled on him in innocence; but which, as I well knew, had burned more than once, in her short but strenuous life, with fiery passions; and might, at the instant of waking, betray this same unholy gleam under the curious gaze of the unsympathetic ones set in watch over her.

What would her first word be?  Whither would her first thought fly?  To Adelaide or to me; to Arthur or to her own frightened and appalled self?  I maddened as I dwelt upon the possibilities of this moment.  I envied Arthur; I envied the attendants; I envied even the servants in the house.  They would all know sooner than I. Carmel!  Carmel!

Sending for Clifton, I begged him to keep himself in communication with the house, or with the authorities.  He promised to do what he could; then, perceiving the state I was in, he related all he knew of present conditions.  No one was allowed in the sick room but the nurse and the doctor.  Even Arthur was denied admission, and was wearing himself out in his own room as I was wearing myself out here, in restless inactivity.  He expected her to sink and never to recover consciousness, and was loud in his expressions of rebellion against the men who dared to keep him from her bedside when her life was trembling in the balance.  But the nurse had hopes and so had the doctor.  As for Carmel’s looks, they were greatly changed, but beautiful still in spite of the cruel scar left by her fall against the burning bars of her sister’s grate.  No delirium disturbed the rigid immobility in which she now lay.  I could await her awakening with quiet confidence in the justice of God.

Thus Clifton, in his ignorance.

The day was a bleak one, dispiriting in itself even to those who could go about the streets and lose themselves in their tasks and round of duties.  To me it was a dead blank, marked by such interruptions as necessarily took place under the prison routine.  The evening hours which followed them were no better.  The hands on my watch crawled.  When the door finally opened, it came as a shock.  I seemed to be prepared for anything but the termination of my suspense.  I knew that it was Clifton who entered, but I could not meet his eye.  I dug my nails into my palms, and waited for his first word.  When it came, I felt my spirits go down, down ­I had thought them at their lowest ebb before.  He hesitated, and I started up: 

“Tell me,” I cried.  “Carmel is dead!”

“Not dead,” said he, “but silly.  Her testimony is no more to be relied upon than that of any other wandering mind.”

CHAPTER III - “BREAK IN THE GLASS!”

This inundation of mistempered humour
Rests by you only to be qualified.

King John.

It was some time before I learned the particulars of this awakening.

It had occurred at sunset.  A level beam of light had shot across the bed, and the nurse had moved to close the blind, when a low exclamation from the doctor drew her back, to mark the first faint fluttering of the snowy lids over the long-closed eyes.  Afterwards she remembered what a picture her youthful patient made, with the hue of renewed life creeping into her cheeks, in faint reflection of the nest of roseate colour in which she lay.

Carmel’s hair was dark; so were her exquisitely pencilled eye-brows, and the long lashes which curled upward from her cheek.  In her surroundings of pink ­warm pink, such as lives in the heart of the sea-shell ­their duskiness took on an added beauty; and nothing, not even the long, dark scar running from eye to chin could rob the face of its individuality and suggestion of charm.  She was lovely; but it was the loveliness of line and tint, just as a child is lovely.  Soul and mind were still asleep, but momentarily rousing, as all thought, to conscious being ­and, if to conscious being, then to conscious suffering as well.

It was a solemn moment.  If the man who loved her had been present ­or even her brother, who, sullen as he was, must have felt the tie of close relationship rise superior even to his fears at an instant so critical, ­it would have been more solemn yet.  But with the exception of the doctor and possibly the nurse, only those interested in her as a witness in the most perplexing case on the police annals, were grouped in silent watchfulness about the room, waiting for the word or look which might cut the Gordian knot which none of them, as yet, had been able to untangle.

It came suddenly, as all great changes come.  One moment her lids were down, her face calm, her whole figure quiet in its statue-like repose; the next, her big violet eyes had flashed open upon the world, and lips and limbs were moving feebly, but certainly, in their suddenly recovered freedom.  It was then ­and not at a later moment when consciousness had fully regained its seat ­that her face, to those who stood nearest wore the aspect of an angel’s.  What she saw, or what vision remained to her from the mysterious world of which she had so long been a part, none ever knew ­nor could she, perhaps, have told.  But the rapture which informed her features and elevated her whole expression but poorly prepared them for the change which followed her first glance around on nurse and doctor.  The beam which lay across the bed had been no brighter than her eye during that first tremulous instant of renewed life.  But the clouds fell speedily and very human feelings peered from between those lids as she murmured, half petulantly: 

“Why do you look at me so?  Oh, I remember, I remember!”

And a flush, of which they little thought her weakened heart capable, spread over her features, hiding the scar and shaming her white lips.  “What’s the matter?” she complained again, as she tried to raise her hands, possibly to hide her face.  “I cannot move as I used to do, and I feel ­I feel ­”

“You have been ill,” came soothingly from the doctor.  “You have been in bed many days; now you are better and will soon be well.  This is your nurse.”  He said nothing of the others, who were so placed behind screens as to be invisible to her.

She continued to gaze, first at one, then at the other; confidently at the doctor, doubtfully at the nurse.  As she did so, the flush faded and gave way to an anxious, troubled expression.  Not just the expression anticipated by those who believed that, with returning consciousness, would come returning memory of the mysterious scene which had taken place between herself and sister, or between her sister and her brother, prior to Adelaide’s departure for The Whispering Pines.  Had they shared my knowledge ­had they even so much as dreamed that their patient had been the companion of one or both of the others in this tragic escapade ­how much greater would have been their wonder at the character of this awakening.

“You have the same kind look for me as always,” were her next words, as her glance finally settled on the doctor.  “But hers ­Bring me the mirror,” she cried.  “Let me see with my own eyes what I have now to expect from every one who looks at me.  I want to know before Lila comes in.  Why isn’t she here?  Is she with ­with ­” She was breaking down, but caught herself back with surprising courage, and almost smiled, I was told.  Then in the shrill tones which will not be denied, she demanded again, “The mirror!”

Nurse Unwin brought it.  Her patient evidently remembered the fall she had had in her sister’s room, and possibly the smart to her cheek when it touched the hot iron.

“I see only my forehead,” she complained, as the nurse held the mirror before her.  “Move it a little.  Lower ­lower,” she commanded.  Then suddenly “Oh!”

She was still for a long time, during which the nurse carried off the glass.

“I ­I don’t like it,” she acknowledged quaintly to the doctor, as he leaned over her with compassionate words.  “I shall have to get acquainted with myself all over again.  And so I have been ill!  I shouldn’t have thought a little burn like that would make me ill.  How Adelaide must have worried.”

“Adelaide is ­is not well herself.  It distressed her to have been out when you fell.  Don’t you remember that she went out that night?”

“Did she?  She was right.  Adelaide must have every pleasure.  She had earned her good times.  I must be the one to stay home now, and look after things, and learn to be useful.  I don’t expect anything different.  Call Adelaide, and let me tell her how ­how satisfied I am.”

“But she’s ill.  She cannot come.  Wait till tomorrow, dear child.  Rest is what you need now.  Take these few drops and go to sleep again, and you’ll not know yourself to-morrow.”

“I don’t know myself now,” she repeated, glancing with slowly dilating eyes at the medicine glass he proffered.  “I can’t take it,” she protested.  “I forget now why, but I can’t take anything more from a glass.  I’ve promised not to, I think.  Take it away; it makes me feel queer.  Where is Adelaide?”

Her memory was defective.  She could not seem to take in what the doctor told her.  But he tried her again.  Once more he spoke of illness as the cause of Adelaide’s absence.  Her attention wandered while he spoke of it.

“How it did hurt!” she cried.  “But I didn’t think much about it.  I thought only of ­” Next moment her voice rose in a shriek, thin but impetuous, and imbued with a note of excited feeling which made every person there start.  “There should be two,” she cried. “Two!  Why is there only one?”

This sounded like raving.  The doctor’s face took on a look of concern, and the nurse stirred uneasily.

“One is not enough!  That is why Adelaide is not satisfied; why she does not come and love and comfort me, as I expected her to.  Tell her it is not too late yet, not too late yet, not too late ­”

The doctor’s hand was on her forehead.  This “not too late,” whatever she meant by it, was indescribably painful to the listeners, oppressed as they were by the knowledge that Adelaide lay in her grave, and that all fancies, all hopes, all meditated actions between these two were now, so far as this world goes, forever at an end.

“Rest,” came in Dr. Carpenter’s most soothing tones.  “Rest, my little Carmel; forget everything and rest.”  He thought he knew the significance of her revolt from the glass he had offered her.  She remembered the scene at the Cumberland dinner-table on that fatal night and shrank from anything that reminded her of it.  Ordering the medicine put in a cup, he offered it to her again, and she drank it without question.  As she quieted under its influence, the disappointed listeners, now tip-toeing carefully from the room, heard her murmur in final appeal: 

“Cannot Adelaide spare one minute from ­from her company downstairs, to wish me health and kiss me good night?”

Was it weakness, or a settled inability to remember anything but that which filled her own mind?

It proved to be a settled inability to take in any new ideas or even to remember much beyond the completion of that dinner.  As the days passed and news of her condition came to me from time to time, I found that she had not only forgotten what had passed between herself and the rest of the family previous to their departure for the club-house, but all that had afterwards occurred at The Whispering Pines, even to her own presence there and the ride home.  She could not even retain in her mind for any appreciable length of time the idea of Adelaide’s death.  Even after Dr. Carpenter, with infinite precautions, revealed to her the truth ­not that Adelaide had been murdered, but that Adelaide had passed away during the period of her own illness, Carmel gave but one cry of grief, then immediately burst forth in her old complaint that Adelaide neglected her.  She had lost her happiness and hope, and Adelaide would not spare her an hour.

This expression, when I heard of it, convinced me, as I believe it did some others, that her act of self-denial in not humouring my whim and flying from home and duty that night, had made a stronger impression on her mind than all that came after.

She never asked for Arthur.  This may have grieved him; but, according to my faithful friend and attorney, it appeared to have the contrary effect, and to bring him positive relief.  When it was borne in on him, as it was soon to be borne in on all, that her mind was not what it was, and that the beautiful Carmel had lost something besides her physical perfection in the awful calamity which had made shipwreck of the whole family, he grew noticeably more cheerful and less suspicious in his manner.  Was it because the impending inquiry must go on without her, and proceedings, which had halted till now, be pushed with all possible speed to a finish?  So those who watched him interpreted his changed mood, with a result not favourable to him.

With this new shock of Carmel’s inability to explain her own part in this tragedy and thus release my testimony and make me a man again in my own eyes, I lost the sustaining power which had previously held me up.  I became apathetic; no longer counting the hours, and thankful when they passed.  Arthur had not been arrested; but he understood ­or allowed others to see that he understood, the reason for the surveillance under which he was now strictly kept; and, though he showed less patience than myself under the shameful suspicion which this betokened, he did not break out into open conflict with the authorities, nor did he protest his innocence, or take any other stand than the one he had assumed from the first.

All this gave me much food for thought, but I declined to think.  I had made up my mind from the moment I realised Carmel’s condition, that there was nothing for me to do till after the inquest.  The public investigation which this would involve, would show the trend of popular opinion, and thus enlighten me as to my duty.  Meanwhile, I would keep to the old lines and do the best I could for myself without revealing the fact of Carmel’s near interest in a matter she was in no better condition to discuss now than when in a state of complete unconsciousness.

Of that inquest, which was held in due course, I shall not say much.  Only one new fact was elicited by its means, and that of interest solely as making clear how there came to be evidences of poison in Adelaide’s stomach, without the quantity being great enough for more than a temporary disturbance.

Maggie, the second girl, had something to say about this when the phial which had held the poison was handed about for inspection.  She had handled that phial many times on the shelf where it was kept.  Once she had dropped it, and the cork coming out, some of the contents had escaped.  Frightened at the mishap, she had filled the phial up with water, and put it, thus diluted, back on the shelf.  No one had noticed the difference, and she had forgotten all about the matter until now.  From her description, there must have been very little of the dangerous drug left in the phial; and the conclusions of Dr. Perry’s autopsy received a confirmation which ended, after a mass of testimony tending rather to confuse than enlighten, the jury, in the non-committal verdict: 

Death by strangulation at the hands of some person unknown.

I had expected this.  The evidence, pointing as it did in two opposing directions, presented a problem which a coroner’s jury could hardly be expected to solve.  What followed, showed that not only they but the police authorities as well, acknowledged the dilemma.  I was allowed one sweet half hour of freedom, then I was detained to await the action of the grand jury, and so was Arthur.

When I was informed of this latter fact, I made a solemn vow to myself.  It was this:  If it falls to my lot to be indicted for this murderous offence, I will continue to keep my own counsel, as I have already done, in face of lesser provocation and at less dangerous risk.  But, if I escape and a true bill should be found against Arthur, then will I follow my better instinct, and reveal what I have hitherto kept concealed, even if the torment of the betrayal drive me to self-destruction afterwards.  For I no longer cherished the smallest doubt, that to Carmel’s sudden rage and to that alone, the death of Adelaide was due.

My reason for this change from troubled to absolute conviction can be easily explained.  It dated from the inquest, and will best appear in the relation of an interview I held with my attorney, Charles Clifton, very soon after my second incarceration.

We had discussed the situation till there seemed to be nothing left to discuss.  I understood him, and he thought he understood me.  He believed Arthur guilty, and credited me with the same convictions.  Thus only could he explain my inconceivable reticence on certain points he was very well assured I could make clear if I would.  That he was not the only man who had drawn these same conclusions from my attitude both before and during the inquest, troubled me greatly and deeply disturbed my conscience, but I could indulge in no protests ­or, rather would indulge in no protests ­as yet.  There was an unsolved doubt connected with some facts which had come out at the inquest ­or perhaps, I should call it a circumstance not as yet fully explained ­which disturbed me more than did my conscience, and upon this circumstance I must have light before I let my counsel leave me.

I introduced the topic thus: 

“You remember the detached sentences taken down by the nurse during the period of Carmel’s unconsciousness.  They were regarded as senseless ravings, and such they doubtless were; but there was one of them which attracted my attention, and of which I should like an explanation.  I wish I had that woman’s little book here; I should like to read for myself those wandering utterances.”

“You can,” was the unexpected and welcome reply.  “I took them all down in shorthand as they fell from Dr. Perry’s lips.  I have not had time since to transcribe them, but I can read some of them to you, if you will give me an idea as to which ones you want.”

“Read the first ­what she said on the day of the funeral.  I do not think the rest matter very much.”

Clifton took a paper from his pocket, and, after only a short delay, read out these words: 

December the fifth:  Her sister’s name, uttered many times and with greatly varied expression ­now in reproach, now in terror, now in what seemed to me in tones of wild pleading and even despair.  This continued at intervals all through the day.

“At three P.M., just as people were gathering for the funeral, the quick, glad cry:  ‘I smell flowers, sweet, sweet flowers!’”

Alas! she did.

“At three-forty P.M., as the services neared their close, a violent change took place in her appearance, and she uttered in shrill tones those astonishing words which horrified all below and made us feel that she had a clairvoyant knowledge of the closing of the casket, then taking place: 

“‘Break it open!  Break it open! and see if her heart is there!’”

“Pause there,” I said; “that is what I mean.  It was not the only time she uttered that cry.  If you will glance further down, you will come across a second exclamation of the like character.”

“Yes; here it is.  It was while the ubiquitous Sweetwater was mousing about the room.”

“Read the very words he heard.  I have a reason, Clifton.  Humour me for this once.”

“Certainly ­no trouble.  She cried, this time:  ’Break it open!  Break the glass and look in.  Her heart should be there ­her heart ­her heart!” Horrible! but you insisted, Ranelagh.”

“I thought I heard that word glass,” I muttered, more to myself than to him.  Then, with a choking fear of giving away my thought, but unable to resist the opportunity of settling my own fears, I asked:  “Was there glass in the casket lid?”

“No; there never is.”

“But she may have thought there was,” I suggested hastily.  “I’m much obliged to you, Clifton.  I had to hear those sentences again.  Morbidness, no doubt; the experience of the last three weeks would affect a stronger-minded man than myself.”  Then before he could reply:  “What do you think the nurse meant by a violent change in her patient?”

“Why, she roused up, I suppose ­moved, or made some wild or feverish gesture.”

“That is what I should like to know.  I may seem foolish and unnecessarily exacting about trifles; but I would give a great deal to learn precisely where she looked, and what she did at the moment she uttered those wild words.  Is the detective Sweetwater still in town?”

“I believe so.  Came up for the inquest but goes back to-night.”

“See him, Clifton.  Ask him to relate this scene.  He was present, you know.  Get him to talk about it.  You can, and without rousing his suspicion, keen as they all say he is.  And when he talks, listen and remember what he says.  But don’t ask questions.  Do this for me, Clifton.  Some day I may be able to explain my request, but not now.”

“I’m at your service,” he replied; but he looked hurt at being thus set to work in the dark, and I dared say nothing to ease the situation.  I did not dare even to prolong the conversation on this subject, or on any other subject.  In consequence, he departed speedily, and I spent the afternoon wondering whether he would return before the day ended, or leave me to the endurance of a night of suspense.  I was spared this final distress.  He came in again towards evening, and this was what he told me: 

“I have seen Sweetwater, and was more fortunate in my interview than I expected.  He talked freely, and in the course of the conversation, described the very occurrence in which you are so interested.  Carmel had been lying quietly previous to this outbreak, but suddenly started into feverish life and, raising herself up in her bed, pointed straight before her and uttered the words we have so often repeated.  That’s all there was to it, and I don’t see for my part, what you have gained by a repetition of the same, or why you lay so much stress upon her gesture.  What she said was the thing, though even that is immaterial from a legal point of view ­which is the only view of any importance to you or to me, at this juncture.”

“You’re a true friend to me,” I answered, “and never more so than in this instance.  Forgive me that I cannot show my appreciation of your goodness, or thank you properly for your performance of an uncongenial task.  I am sunk deep in trouble.  I’m not myself and cannot be till I know what action will be taken by the grand jury.”

If he replied, I have no remembrance of it; neither do I recall his leave-taking.  But I was presently aware that I was alone and could think out my hideous thought, undisturbed.

Carmel had pointed straight before her, shouting out:  “Break in the glass!”

I knew her room; I had been taken in there once by Adelaide, as a sequence to a long conversation about Carmel, shortly after her first return from school.  Adelaide wished to show me the cabinet in the wall, the cabinet at which Carmel undoubtedly pointed, if her bed stood as it had stood then.  It was not quite full, at that time.  It did not contain Adelaide’s heart among the other broken toys which Carmel had destroyed with her own hand or foot, in her moments of frenzied passion ­the canary, that would not pick from her hand, the hat she hated, the bowl which held only bread and milk when she wanted meat or cake.  Adelaide had kept them all, locked behind glass and in full view of the child’s eyes night and day, that the shame of those past destructive moments might guard her from their repetition and help her to understand her temper and herself.  I had always thought it cruel of Adelaide, one of the evidences of the flint-like streak which ran through her otherwise generous and upright nature.  But its awful prophecy was what affected me most now; for destruction had fallen on something more tender than aught that cabinet held.

Adelaide’s heart!  And Carmel acknowledged it ­acknowledged that it should be there, with what else she had trampled upon and crushed in her white heat of rage.  I could not doubt her guilt, after this.  Whatever peace her forgetfulness had brought ­whatever innocent longing after Adelaide ­the wild cry of those first few hours, ere yet the impressions of her awful experience had succumbed to disease, revealed her secret and showed the workings of her conscience.  It had not been understood; it had passed as an awesome episode.  But for me, since hearing of it, she stood evermore convicted out of her own mouth ­that lovely mouth which angels might kiss in her hours of joyous serenity; but from whose caress friends would fly, when the passion reigned in her heart and she must break, crush, kill, or go mad.

CHAPTER IV - AT TEN INSTEAD OF TWELVE

Forget the world around you.  Meantime friendship
Shall keep strict vigils for you, anxious, active,
Only be manageable when that friendship
Points you the road to full accomplishment.

Coleridge.

“I don’t care a rush what you do to me.  If you are so besotted by your prejudices that you refuse to see the nose before your face; if you don’t believe your own officer who swore he saw Ranelagh’s hands upon my sister’s throat, then this world is all a jumble and it makes very little difference to me whether I’m alive or dead.”

When these words of Arthur Cumberland were repeated to me, I echoed them in my inmost soul.  I, too, cared very little whether I lived or died.

The grand jury reeled off its cases and finally took up ours.  To the last I hoped ­sincerely I think ­that I should be the man to suffer indictment.  But I hoped in vain.  A true bill was brought against Arthur, and his trial was set for the eighteenth of January.

The first use I made of my liberty was to visit Adelaide’s grave.  In that sacred place I could best review my past and gather strength for the future.  The future!  Was it under my control?  Did Arthur’s fate hang upon my word?  I believed so.  But had I strength to speak that word?  I had expected to; I had seen my duty clearly enough before the sitting of the grand jury.  But now that Arthur was indicted ­now that it was an accepted fact that he would have to stand trial instead of myself, I was conscious of such a recoil from my contemplated action that I lost all confidence in myself and my stoical adherence to what I considered the claims of justice.

Standing in the cemetery grounds with my eyes upon the snow-covered mound beneath which lay the doubly injured Adelaide, I had it out with myself, for good and all.

I trusted Arthur; I distrusted Carmel.  But she had claims to consideration, which he lacked.  She was a woman.  Her fall would mean infinitely more to her than any disgrace to him.  Even he had seemed to recognise this.  Miserable and half-hearted as his life had been, he had shown himself man enough not to implicate his young sister in the crime laid to his charge.  What then was I that I should presume to disregard his lead in the difficult maze in which we were both lost.  Yet, because of the self-restraint he manifested, he had my sympathy and when I left the cemetery and took my mournful way back into town, it was with the secret resolution to stand his friend if I saw the case really going against him.  Till then, I would consider the helpless girl, tongue-tied by her condition, and injured enough already by my misplaced love and its direful consequences.

The only change I now allowed myself was an occasional midnight stroll up Huested Street.  This was as near as I dared approach Carmel’s windows.  I feared some watchful police spy.  Perhaps I feared my own hardly-to-be-restrained longings.

Mr. Fulton’s house and extensive grounds lay between this street and the dismal walls beyond the huge sycamore which lifted itself like a beacon above the Cumberland estate.  But I allowed myself the doubtful pleasure of traversing this course, and this course only, and if I obtained one glimpse through bush and tree of the spot whither all my thoughts ran continuously, I went home satisfied.

This was before Carmel left with her nurse for Lakewood.  After that event, I turned my head no more, in taking my midnight stroll.  I was not told the day or hour of her departure.  Happily, perhaps, for us both, for I could never have kept away from the station.  I should have risked everything for one glimpse of her face, if only to satisfy my own judgment as to whether she would ever recognise me again, or remember what had occurred on that doleful night when the light of her intellect set in the darkness of sin and trouble.

The police had the same idea, I think, for I heard later that she was deliberately driven past The Whispering Pines, though the other road was more direct and less free, if anything, from possible spectators.  They thought, no doubt, that a sight of the place might reawaken whatever memories remained of the last desperate scene preceding her brother and sister’s departure for this out-of-the-way spot.  They little knew how cruel was the test, or what a storm of realisation might have overwhelmed her mind as her eye fell on those accursed walls, peering from their bower of snow-laden, pines.  But I did, and I never rested till I learned how she had borne herself in her slow drive by the two guarded gateways:  merrily, it seems, and with no sign of the remembrances I feared.  The test, if it were meant for such, availed them nothing; no more, indeed, than an encounter with her on the road, or at the station would have availed me.  For the veil she begged for had shrouded her features completely, and it was only from her manner that those who accompanied her, perceived her light-heartedness and delight in this change.

One sentence, and one only, reached my ears of all she said before she disappeared from town.

“If Adelaide were only going, too!  But I suppose I shall meet her and Mr. Ranelagh somewhere before my return.  She must be very happy.  But not so peaceful as I am.  She will see that when we meet.  I can hardly wait for the day.”

Words which set me thinking; but which I was bound to acknowledge could be only the idle maunderings of a diseased mind from which all impressions had fled, save those of innocence and futile hope.

One incident more before I enter upon the serious business of the trial.  I had no purpose in what I did.  I merely followed the impulse of the moment, as I had so often done before in my selfish and thoughtless life, when I started one night for my walk at ten o’clock instead of twelve.  I went the old way; and the old longing recurring at the one charmed spot on the road, I cast a quick look at the towering sycamore and the desolated house beneath, which, short as it was, roused feelings which kept my head lowered for the remainder of my walk north and to the very moment, when, on my return, the same chimneys and overhanging roofs came again into view through the wintry branches.  Then habit lifted my head, and I paused to look again, when the low sound of a human voice, suppressed into a moan or sob, caused me to glance about for the woman or child who had uttered this note of sorrow.  No one was in sight; but as I started to move on, I heard my name uttered in choked tones from behind the hedge separating the Fulton grounds from the city sidewalk.

I halted instantly.  A lamp from the opposite side of the street threw a broad illumination across the walk where I stood, but the gate-posts behind threw a shadow.  Had the voice issued from this isolated point of darkness?  I went back to see.  A pitiful figure was crouching there, a frail, agitated little being, whom I had no sooner recognised than my manner instantly assumed an air of friendly interest, called out by her timid and appealing attitude.

“Ella Fulton!” I exclaimed.  “You wish to speak to me?”

“Hush!” she prayed, with a frightened gesture towards the house.  “No one knows I am here.  Mamma thinks me in bed, and papa, who is out, may come home any minute.  Oh, Mr. Ranelagh, I’m in such misery and no one but you can give me any help.  I have watched you go by night after night, and I have wanted to call out and beg you to come in and see me, or let me go and meet you somewhere, and I have not dared, it was so late.  To-night you have come earlier, and I have slipped out and ­O, Elwood, you won’t think badly of me?  It’s all about Arthur, and I shall die if some one does not help me and tell me how I can reach him with a message.”

As she spoke the last words, she caught at the gatepost which was too broad and ponderous to offer her any hold.  Gravely I held out my arm, which she took; we were old friends and felt no necessity of standing on any sort of ceremony.

“You don’t wish to bother,” was her sensitive cry.  “You had rather not stop; rather not listen to my troubles.”

Had I shown my feelings so plainly as that?  I felt mortified.  She was a girl of puny physique and nervous manner ­the last sort of person you would expect Arthur Cumberland to admire or even to have patience with, and the very last sort who could be expected to endure his rough ways, or find anything congenial to herself in his dissipated and purposeless life.  But the freaks of youthful passion are endless, and it was evident that they loved each other sincerely.

Her tremulous condition and meek complaint went to my heart, notwithstanding my growing dread of any conversation between us on this all-absorbing but equally peace-destroying topic.  Reassuringly pressing her hand, I was startled to find a small piece of paper clutched convulsively within it.

“For Arthur,” she explained under her breath.  “I thought you might find some way of getting it to him.  Father and mother are so prejudiced.  They have never liked him, and now they believe the very worst.  They would lock me up if they knew I was speaking to you about him.  Mother is very stern and says that all this nonsense between Arthur and myself must stop.  That we must never ­no matter whether he is cleared or ­or ­” Silence, then a little gasp, after which she added with an emphasis which bespoke the death of every hope:  “She is very decided about it, Elwood.”

I hardly blamed the mother.

“I ­I love Arthur.  I don’t think him guilty and I would gladly stand by him if they would let me.  I want him to know this.  I want him to get such comfort as he can out of my belief and my desire to serve him.  I want to sacrifice myself.  But I can’t, I can’t,” she moaned.  “You don’t know how mother frightens me.  When she looks at me, the words falter on my tongue and I feel as if it would be easier to die than to acknowledge what is in my heart.”

I could believe her.  Mrs. Fulton was a notable woman, whom many men shrank from encountering needlessly.  It was not her tongue, though that could be bitter enough, but a certain way she had of infusing her displeasure into attitude, tone, and manner, which insensibly sapped your self-confidence and forced you to accept her bad opinion of you as your rightful due.  This, whether your judgment coincided with hers or not.

“Yet your mother is your very best friend,” I ventured gently, with a realisation of my responsibility which did not add much to my self-possession.

She seemed startled.

“Not in this, not in this,” she objected, with a renewal of her anxious glances, this time up and down the street.  “I must get a word to Arthur.  I must.”

I saw that she had some deeper reason than appeared, for desiring communication with him.  I was debating how best to meet the situation and set her right as to my ability to serve her, without breaking down her spirit too seriously, when I felt her feverish hand pressing her little note into my unwilling palm.

“Don’t read it,” she whispered, innocent of all offence and only anxious to secure my good offices.  “It’s for Arthur.  I’ve used the thinnest paper, so that you can secrete it in something he will be sure to get.  Don’t disappoint me.  I was sorry for you, too, and glad when they let you out.  Both of you are old playmates of mine, but Arthur ­”

I had to tell her; I had to dash her small hopes to the ground.

“Forgive me, Ella,” I said, “but I cannot carry him this message or even get it to him secretly.  I am watched myself; I know it, though I have never really detected the man doing it.”

“Oh!” she ejaculated, terror-stricken at once.  “Is there any one here, behind these trees or in the street on the other side of the hedge-row?”

I hastened to reassure her.

“No, no.  If I’ve been followed, it was not so near as that.  I cannot do what you ask for several reasons.  Arthur will credit you with the best of impulses without your incurring any such risk.”

“Yes, yes, but that’s not enough.  What shall I do?  What shall I do?”

I strove to help her.

“There is a man,” said I, “who sees him constantly and may be induced to assure Arthur of your belief and continued interest in him.  That man is his lawyer, Mr. Moffat.  Any one will tell you how to reach him.”

“No, no,” she disclaimed, hurriedly, breathlessly.  “My last hope was in you.  You wouldn’t think the worse of me for ­for what I’ve done; or let mother know.  I couldn’t tell a stranger even if he went right to Arthur with it.  I’m not made that way.  I couldn’t stand the shame.”  Drawing back a step she wrung her small hands together, exclaiming, “What an unhappy girl I am!” Then stepping up to my side, she whispered in my ear:  “There is something I could say which might ­”

I stopped her.  Right or wrong, I stopped her.  I hadn’t the courage just then to face the possibilities of what lay at the end of this simple sentence.  She possessed evidence, or thought she did, which might help to clear Arthur.  Evidence of what?  Evidence which would implicate Carmel?  The very thought unnerved me.

“I had rather not be the recipient of this confidence if it is at all important or at all in the line of testimony.  Remember the man I mentioned.  He will be glad to hear of anything helpful to his client.”

Her distress mounted to passion.

“It’s ­it’s something that will destroy my mother’s confidence in me.  I disobeyed her.  I did what she would never have let me do if she had known.  I ­I used to meet Arthur in the driveway back by the barns.  I had a key made to the little side door so that I could do it.  I used to meet him late.  I would get up out of bed when mother was asleep, and dress myself and sit at the window until I heard him come up the street.  Then I would steal down and catch him on his way to the stables.  I ­I had a good reason for this, Elwood.  He knew I would be there, and it brought him home earlier and not quite so ­so full of liquor.  If he was very bad, he would come up the other way and I would sit waiting and crying till three o’clock struck, then creep into my bed and try to sleep.  Nights and nights I have done this.  Nothing else in life seemed so important, for it did hold him back a little.  But not so much as if he had loved me more.  He loved me some, but he couldn’t have loved me very much, or he would have sent me some word, or seen me, if but for a minute, since Adelaide’s death.  And he hasn’t, he hasn’t! and that makes it harder for me to acknowledge the watch I kept on him, and how I know he never went through our grounds for the second time that night.  He went once, about nine, but not later.  I am certain of this, for I was looking out for him till three in the morning.  If he came back and then returned afterwards to town, it was through his own street, and that takes so long, he would never have been able to get to the place they said he did at the time they have agreed upon.  Oh!  I have studied every word of the case, to see if what I had to tell would help him any.  Father cannot bear to see me with a newspaper in my hand, and mother comes and takes them out of my room; but I have managed to read every word since they accused him of being at the club-house that night, and I know that he needs some one to come out boldly in his cause, and I want to be that some one, and I will be, too, whatever happens to me, if ­if I must,” she faintly added.

I was dumb, but not from lack of interest, God knows, or from unsympathetic feeling for this brave-hearted girl.  The significance of the situation was what held me speechless.  Here was help for Arthur without my braving all the horrors of Carmel’s downfall by any impulsive act of my own.  For a moment, hope in one burning and renewing flame soared high in my breast.  I was willing to accept my release in this way.  I was willing to shift the load from my own back to the delicate shoulders of this shrinking but ardent girl.  Then reason returned, if consideration halted, and I asked myself:  “But is the help she offers of any practical worth?  Would her timid declarations, trembling as she was between her awe of her parents and her desire to serve the man she loved, weigh in the balance against the evidence accumulated by the district attorney?”

It seemed doubtful.  She would not be believed, and I should have to back up her statement with my own hitherto suppressed testimony.  It was a hard case, any way I looked at it.  A woman to be sacrificed whichever course I took.  Contemplating the tremulous, half-fainting figure drooping in the shadows before me, such native chivalry as remained to me, urged me to spare this little friend of mine, so ungifted by nature, so innocent in intention, so sensitive and so shrinking in temperament and habit.  Then Carmel’s image rose before me, glorious, impassioned, driven by the fierce onrush of some mighty inherent force into violent deeds undreamed of by most women; but when thus undriven, gentle in manner, elevated in thought, refined as only a few rare characters are refined; and my heart stood still again with doubt, and I could not say:  “It is your duty to save him at all hazards.  Brave your father, brave your mother, brave public opinion and possibly the wrecking of your whole future, but tell the truth, and rid your days of doubt, your nights of remorse.”  I could not say this.  So many things might happen to save Arthur, to save Carmel, to save the little woman before me.  I would trust that future, temporise a bit and give such advice as would relieve us both from immediate fear without compromising Arthur’s undoubted rights to justice.

Meanwhile, Ella Fulton had become distracted by new fears.  The sound of sleigh-bells could be heard on the hill.  It might be her father.  Should she try to reach the house, or hide her small body, like a trapped animal’s, on the dark side of the hedge?  I was conscious of her thoughts, shared her uncertainties, notwithstanding the struggle then going on in my own mind.  But I remained quiet and so did she, and the sleigh ultimately flew past us up the road.  The sigh which broke from her lips as this terror subsided, brought my disordered thoughts to a focus.  I must not keep her longer.  Something must be said at once.  As soon as she looked my way again, I spoke: 

“Ella, this is no easy problem you have offered me.  You are right in thinking that this testimony of yours might be of benefit to Arthur, and that you ought to give it in case of extremity.  But I cannot advise you to obtrude it yet.  I understand what it would cost you, and the sacrifice you would make is too great for the doubtful good which might follow.  Neither must you trust me to act for you in this matter.  My own position is too unstable for me to be of assistance to any one.  I can sympathise with you, possibly as no one else can; but I cannot reach Arthur, either by word or by message.  Your father is the man to appeal to in case interference becomes necessary and you must speak.  You have not quite the same fear of him that you have of your mother.  Take him into your confidence ­not now but later when things press and you must have a friend.  He’s a just man.  You may shock his fatherly susceptibilities, you may even lose some of his regard, but he will do the right thing by you and Arthur.  Have confidence that this is so, and rest, little friend, in the hope and help it gives you.  Will you?”

“I will try.  I could only tell father on my knees, but I will do it if ­if I must,” she faltered out, unconsciously repeating her former phrase.  “Now, I must go.  You have been good; only I asked too much.”  And with no other farewell she left me and disappeared up the walk.

I lingered till I heard the faint click of her key in the door she had secretly made her own; then I moved on.  As I did so, I heard a rustle somewhere about me on street or lawn.  I never knew whence it came, but I felt assured that neither her fears nor mine had been quite unfounded; that a listener had been posted somewhere near us and that a part, if not all, we had said had been overheard.  I was furious for an instant, then the soothing thought came that possibly Providence had ordained that the Gordian knot should be cut in just this way.

But the event bore no ostensible fruit.  The week ended, and the case of the People against Arthur Cumberland was moved for trial.

CHAPTER V - ALL THIS STOOD

It’s fit this royal session do proceed;
And that, without delay, their arguments
Be now produc’d and heard

King Henry VIII.

There was difficulty, as you will conceive, in selecting an unprejudiced jury.  But this once having been accomplished, the case went quickly and smoothly on under the able guidance of the prosecuting attorney.

I shall spare you the opening details, also much of the preliminary testimony.  Enough that at the close of the sixth day, the outlook was a serious one for Arthur Cumberland.  The prosecution appeared to be making good its claims.  The quiet and unexpectedly dignified way in which, at the beginning, the defendant had faced the whole antagonistic court-room, with the simple plea of “Not Guilty,” was being slowly but surely forgotten in the accumulated proofs of his discontented life under his sister’s dominating influence, his desire for independence and a free use of the money held in trust for him by this sister under their father’s will, the quarrels which such a situation would naturally evoke between characters cast in such different moulds and actuated by such opposing tastes and principles, and the final culmination of the same at the dinner-table when Adelaide forced him, as it were, to subscribe to her prohibition of all further use of liquor in their house.  Following this evidence of motive, came the still more damaging one of opportunity.  He was shown to have been in the club-house at or near the time of Adelaide’s death.  The matter of the bottles was gone into and the event in Cuthbert Road.  Then I was called to the stand, and my testimony asked for.

I had prepared myself for the ordeal and faced it unflinchingly.  That I might keep intact the one point necessary to Carmel’s safety, I met my inquisitors, now as before, with the utmost candour in all other respects.  Indeed, in one particular I was even more exact in my details than at any previous examination.  Anxious to explain my agitated and hesitating advance through the club-house, prior to my discovery of the crime which had been committed there, I acknowledged what I had hitherto concealed, that in my first entrance into the building, I had come upon a man’s derby hat and coat hanging in the lower hall, and when questioned more minutely on the subject, allowed it to appear that it was owing to the disappearance of these articles during my stay upstairs, that I had been led into saying that some one had driven away from The Whispering Pines before the coming of the police.

This, as you will see, was in open contradiction of my former statements that I had seen an unknown party, thus attired, driving away through the upper gateway just as I entered by the lower.  But it was a contradiction which while noted by Mr. Moffat, failed to injure me with the jury, and much less with the spectators.  The impression had become so firmly fixed in the public mind and in that of certain officials as well, that my early hesitations and misstatements were owing to a brotherly anxiety to distract attention from Arthur whose clothing they believed me to have recognised in these articles I have mentioned ­that I rather gained than lost by what, under other circumstances would have seriously damaged my testimony.  That I should prevaricate even to my own detriment, at a preliminary examination, only to tell the truth openly and like a man when in court and under the sanctity of an oath was, in the popular estimation, something to my credit; and Mr. Moffat, whose chief recommendation as counsel lay in his quick appreciation of the exigencies of the moment, did not press me too sharply on this point when he came to his cross-examination.

But in other respects he drove me hard.  An effort was made by him, first of all, to discredit me as a witness.  My lack of appreciation for Adelaide and my secret but absorbing love for Carmel were inexorably brought out:  also the easy, happy-go-lucky tenor of my life, and my dogged persistence in any course I thought consistent with my happiness.  My character was well known in this town of my birth, and it would have been folly for me to attempt to gloss it over.  I had not even the desire to do so.  If my sins exacted penance, I would pay it here and now and to the full.  Only Carmel should not suffer.  I refused to admit that she had given any evidences of returning my reckless passion.  My tongue would not speak the necessary words, and it was not made to.  It was not her character but mine which Mr. Moffat was endeavouring to assail.

But though I was thus shown up for what I was, in a manner most public and undesirable, neither the rulings of the court, nor the attitude of the jury betrayed any loss of confidence in me as a credible witness, and seeing this, the wily lawyer shifted his ground and confined himself to an endeavour to shake me on certain definite and important points.  How were the pillows heaped upon the couch?  What ones at top, what ones at bottom?  Which did I remove first, and why did I remove any of them?  What had I expected to find?  These questions answered, the still more-to-be-dreaded ones followed of just how my betrothed looked at the moment I uncovered her face.  Were the marks very plain upon her throat?  How plain; and what did I mean by saying that I felt forced to lay my thumbs upon them?  Was that a natural thing to do?  Where was the candle at that moment?  How many feet away?  A candle does not give much light at that distance, was I sure that I saw those marks immediately; that they were dark enough and visible enough to draw my eyes from her face which would naturally attract my gaze first?  It was horrible, devilish, but I won through, only to meet the still more disturbing question as to whether I saw any other evidences of strangulation besides the marks.  I could only mention the appearance of the eyes; and when Mr. Moffat found that he could not shake me on this point, he branched off into a less harrowing topic and cross-examined me in regard to the ring.  I had said that it was on her hand when I bade good-bye to her in her own house, and that it was not there when I came upon her dead.  Had the fact made me curious to examine her hand?  No.  Then I could not tell whether the finger on which she wore it gave any evidence of this ring having been pulled off with violence?  No.  I could not swear that in my opinion it was?  I could not.

The small flask of cordial and the three glasses, one clean and the others showing signs of having been used, were next taken up, but with no result for the defence.  I had told all I knew about these in my direct examination; also about such matters as the bottles found on the kitchen table, the leaving of my keys at the Cumberland house, and the fact, well known, that the two bottles of wine left in the wine-vault and tabulated by the steward as so left in the list found in my apartments, were of an exclusive brand unlikely to be found anywhere else in town.  I could add nothing more, and, having spoken the exact truth concerning them, from the very first, I ran no chance of contradicting myself even under the close fire of the opposing counsel.

But there was a matter I dreaded to see him approach, and, which, I was equally sure, with an insight unshared I believe by any one else in the whole courtroom, was equally dreaded by the prisoner.

This was the presence in the club-house chimney of the half-burned letter I had long ago been compelled, in my own defence, to acknowledge having written to the victim’s young sister, Carmel Cumberland.  As I saw District Attorney Fox about to enter upon this topic, I gathered myself together to meet the onslaught, for in this matter I could not be strictly truthful, since the least slip on my part might awaken the whole world to the fact that it could only have come there through the agency of Carmel herself.

What Mr. Moffat thought of it ­what he hoped to prove in the prisoner’s behalf by raking this subject over ­it was left for me to discover later.  The prisoner was an innocent man, in his eyes.  I was not; and, while the time had not come for him to make this openly apparent, he was not above showing even now that the case contained a factor which weakened the prosecution ­a factor totally dissociated with the openly accepted theory that the crime was simply the result of personal cupidity and drunken spite.

And in this he was right.  It did weaken it ­weakened it to the point of collapse, if the counsel for the defence had fully acted up to his opportunity.  But something withheld him.  Just at the moment when I feared the truth must come out, he hesitated and veered gradually away from this subject.  In his nervous pacings to and fro before the witness stand, his eye had rested for a moment on Arthur’s, and with this result.  The situation was saved, but at a great loss to the defendant.

I began to cherish softened feelings towards Arthur Cumberland, from this moment.  Was it then, or later, that he began in his turn to cherish new and less hostile feelings towards myself?  He had hated me and vowed my death if I escaped the fate he could now dimly see opening out before himself; yet I could see that he was glad to see me slip from my tormentor’s hands with my story unimpeached, and that he drew his breath more deeply and with much more evidence of freedom, now that my testimony had been thoroughly sifted and nothing had come to light implicating Carmel.  I even thought I caught a kindly gleam in his eye as it met mine at this critical juncture, and by its light I understood my man and what he hoped from me.  He wished me at any risk to himself, to unite with him in saving Carmel’s good name.  That I should accede to this; that I should respect his generous wishes and let him go to unmerited destruction for even so imperative an obligation as we both lay under, was a question for the morrow.  I could not decide upon it to-day ­not while the smallest hope remained that he would yet escape conviction by other means than the one which would wreck the life we were both intent on saving.

Several short examinations followed mine, all telling in their nature, all calculated to fix in the minds of the jury the following facts: 

(Pray pardon the repetition.  It is necessary to present the case to you just as it stood at this period of my greatest struggle.)

1. ­That Arthur, swayed by cupidity and moved to rage by the scene at the dinner-table, had, by some unknown means of a more or less violent character, prevailed upon Adelaide to accompany him to The Whispering Pines, in the small cutter, to which, in the absence of every servant about the place, he himself had harnessed the grey mare.

2. ­That in preparation for this visit to a spot remote from observation and closed against all visitors, they, still for some unknown reason, had carried between them a candlestick and candle, a flask of cordial, three glasses, and a small bottle marked “Poison”; also some papers, letters, or scraps of correspondence, among them the compromising line I had written to Carmel.

3. ­That, while in this building, at an hour not yet settled, a second altercation had arisen between them, or some attempt been made by the brother which had alarmed Adelaide and sent her flying to the telephone, in great agitation, with an appeal to the police for help.  This telephone was in a front room and the jury was led to judge that she had gained access to it while her companion ransacked the wine-vault and brought the six bottles of spirit up from the cellar.

4. ­That her outcry had alarmed the prisoner in his turn, causing him to leave most of the bottles below, and hasten up to the room, where he completed the deed with which he had previously threatened her.

5. ­That poison having failed, he resorted to strangulation; after which ­or before ­came the robbery of her ring, the piling up of the cushions over the body in a vain endeavour to hide the deed, or to prolong the search for the victim.  Then the departure ­the locking of the front door behind the perpetrator; the flight of the grey horse and cutter through the blinding storm; the blowing off of the driver’s hat; the identification of the same by means of the flour-mark left on its brim by the mechanic’s wife; the presence of a portion of one of the two abstracted bottles in the stable where the horse was put up; and the appearance of Arthur with the other bottle at the door of the inn in Cuthbert Road, just as the clock was striking half-past eleven.

This latter fact might have been regarded as proving an alibi, owing to the length of road between the Cumberland house and the place just mentioned, if there had not been a short cut to town open to him by means of a door in the wall separating the Cumberland and Fulton grounds ­a door which was found unlocked, and with the key in it, by Zadok Brown, the coachman, when he came home about three next morning.

All this stood; not an item of this testimony could be shaken.  Most of it was true; some of it false; but what was false, so unassailable by any ordinary means, that, as I have already said, the clouds seemed settling heavily over Arthur Cumberland when, at the end of the sixth day, the proceedings closed.

The night that followed was a heavy one for me.  Then came the fateful morrow, and, after that, the day of days destined to make a life-long impression on all who attended this trial.

CHAPTER VI - “I AM INNOCENT”

All is oblique,
There’s nothing level in our cursed natures,
But direct villainy.  Therefore, be abhorred
All feasts, societies, and throngs of men! 
His semblable, yea, himself, Timon disdains.

Timon of Athens.

I was early in my seat.  Feeling the momentousness of the occasion ­for this day must decide my action for or against the prisoner ­I searched the faces of the jury, of the several counsel, and of the judge.  I was anxious to know what I had to expect from them, in case my conscience got the better of my devotion to Carmel’s interests and led me into that declaration of the real facts which was forever faltering on my tongue, without having, as yet, received the final impetus which could only end in speech.

To give him his rightful precedence, the judge showed an impenetrable countenance but little changed from that with which he had faced us all from the start.  He, like most of the men involved in these proceedings, had been a close friend of the prisoner’s father, and, in his capacity of judge in this momentous trial, had had to contend with his personal predilections, possibly with concealed sympathies, if not with equally well-concealed prejudices.  This had lent to his aspect a sternness never observable in it before; but no man, even the captious Mr. Moffat, had seriously questioned his rulings; and, whatever the cost to himself, he had, up to this time, held the scales of justice so evenly that it would have taken an audacious mind to have ventured on an interpretation of his real attitude or mental leaning in this case.

From this imposing presence, nobly sustained by a well-proportioned figure and a head and face indicative of intellect and every kindly attribute, I turned to gaze upon Mr. Fox and his colleagues.  One spirit seemed to animate them ­confidence in their case, and unqualified satisfaction at its present status.

I was conscious of a certain ironic impulse to smile, as I noted the eager whisper and the bustle of preparation with which they settled upon their next witness and prepared to open their batteries upon him.  How easily I could call down that high look, and into what a turmoil I could throw them all by an ingenuous demand to be recalled to the stand!

But the psychological moment had not yet come, and I subdued the momentary impulse and proceeded with my scrutiny of the people about me.  The jury looked tired, with the exception of one especially alert little man who drank in even the most uninteresting details with avidity.  But they all had good faces, and none could doubt their interest, or that they were fully alive to the significance of the occasion.

Mr. Moffat, leading counsel for the defendant, was a spare man of unusual height, modified a little, and only a little, by the forward droop of his shoulders.  Nervous in manner, quick, short, sometimes rasping in speech, he had the changeful eye and mobile expression of a very sensitive nature; and from him, if from any one, I might hope to learn how much or how little Arthur had to fear from the day’s proceedings.  But Mr. Moffat’s countenance was not as readable as usual.  He looked preoccupied ­a strange thing for him; and, instead of keeping his eye on the witness, as was his habitual practice, he allowed it to wander over the sea of heads before him, with a curious expectant interest which aroused my own curiosity, and led me to hunt about for its cause.

My first glance was unproductive.  I saw only the usual public, such as had confronted us the whole week, with curious and increasing interest.  But as I searched further, I discerned in an inconspicuous corner, the bowed head, veiled almost beyond recognition, of Ella Fulton.  It was her first appearance in court.  Each day I had anticipated her presence, and each day I had failed to see my anticipations realised.  But she was here now, and so were her father and her cold and dominating mother; and, beholding her thus accompanied, I fancied I understood Mr. Moffat’s poorly concealed excitement.  But another glance at Mrs. Fulton assured me that I was mistaken in this hasty surmise.  No such serious purpose, as I feared, lay back of their presence here to-day.  Curiosity alone explained it; and as I realised what this meant, and how little understanding it betokened of the fierce struggle then going on in the timid breast of their distracted child, a sickening sense of my own responsibility drove Carmel’s beauty, and Carmel’s claims temporarily from my mind, and following the direction of Ella’s thoughts, if not her glances, I sought in the face of the prisoner a recognition of her presence, if not of the promise this presence brought him.

His eye had just fallen on her.  I was assured of this by the sudden softening of his expression ­the first real softening I had ever seen in it.  It was but a momentary flash, but it was unmistakable in its character, as was his speedy return to his former stolidity.  Whatever his thoughts were at sight of his little sweetheart, he meant to hide them even from his counsel ­most of all from his counsel, I decided after further contemplation of them both.  If Mr. Moffat still showed nervousness, it was for some other reason than anxiety about this little body hiding from sight behind the proudly held figures of father and mother.

The opening testimony of the day, while not vital, was favourable to the prosecution in that it showed Arthur’s conduct since the murder to have been inconsistent with perfect innocence.  His belated return at noon the next day, raging against the man who had been found in an incriminating position on the scene of crime, while at the same time failing to betray his own presence there till driven to it by accumulating circumstances and the persistent inquiries of the police; the care he took to avoid drink, though constant tippling was habitual to him and formed the great cause of quarrel between himself and the murdered Adelaide; his haunting of Carmel’s door and anxious listening for any words she might let fall in her delirium; the suspicion which he constantly betrayed of the nurse when for any reason he was led to conclude that she had heard something which he had not; his behaviour at the funeral and finally his action in demanding to have the casket-lid removed that he might look again at the face he had made no effort to gaze upon when opportunity offered and time and place were seemly:  these facts and many more were brought forward in grim array against the prisoner, with but little opposition from his counsel and small betrayal of feeling on the part of Arthur himself.  His stolid face had remained stolid even when the ring which had fallen out of his sister’s casket was shown to the jury and the connection made between its presence there and the intrusion of his hand into the same, on the occasion above mentioned.  This once thoughtless, pleasure-loving, and hopelessly dissipated boy had not miscalculated his nerve.  It was sufficient for an ordeal which might have tried the courage and self-possession of the most hardened criminal.

Then came the great event of the day, in anticipation of which the court-room had been packed, and every heart within it awakened by slow degrees to a state of great nervous expectancy.  The prosecution rested and the junior counsel for the defence opened his case to the jury.

If I had hoped for any startling disclosure, calculated to establish his client’s alleged alibi, or otherwise to free the same from the definite charge of murder, I had reason to be greatly disappointed by this maiden effort of a young and inexperienced lawyer.  If not exactly weak, there was an unexpected vagueness in its statements which seemed quite out of keeping with the emphatic declaration which he made of the prisoner’s innocence.

Even Arthur was sensible of the bad effect made by this preliminary address.  More than once during its delivery and notably at its conclusion, he turned to Mr. Moffat, with a bitter remark, which was not without effect on that gentleman’s cheek, and at once called forth a retort stinging enough to cause Arthur to sink back into his place, with the first sign of restlessness I had observed in him.

“Moffat is sly.  Moffat has something up his sleeve.  I will wait till he sees fit to show it,” was my thought; then, as I caught a wild and pleading look from Ella, I added in positive assertion to myself, “And so must she.”

Answering her unspoken appeal with an admonitory shake of the head, I carelessly let my fingers rest upon my mouth until I saw that she understood me and was prepared to follow my lead for a little while longer.

My satisfaction at this was curtailed by the calling of Arthur Cumberland to the stand to witness in his own defence.

I had dreaded this contingency.  I saw that for some reason, both his counsel and associate counsel, were not without their own misgivings as to the result of their somewhat doubtful experiment.

A change was observable in this degenerate son of the Cumberlands since many there had confronted him face to face.  Physically he was improved.  Enough time had elapsed since his sudden dropping of old habits, for him to have risen above its first effects and to have acquired that tone of personal dignity which follows a successful issue to any moral conflict.  But otherwise the difference was such as to arouse doubt as to the real man lurking behind his dogged, uncommunicative manner.

Even with the knowledge of his motives which I believed myself to possess, I was at a loss to understand his indifference to self and the immobility of manner he maintained under all circumstances and during every fluctuation which took place in the presentation of his case, or in the temper of the people surrounding him.  I felt that beyond the one fact that he could be relied upon to protect Carmel’s name and Carmel’s character, even to the jeopardising of his case, he was not to be counted on, and might yet startle many of us, and most notably of all, the little woman waiting to hear what he had to say in his own defence before she threw herself into the breach and made that devoted attempt to save him, in his own despite, which had been my terror from the first and was my terror now.

Perjury! but not in his own defence ­rather in opposition to it ­that is what his counsel had to fear; and I wondered if they knew it.  My attention became absorbed in the puzzle.  Carmel’s fate, if not Ella’s ­and certainly my own ­hung upon the issue.  This I knew, and this I faced, calmly, but very surely, as, the preliminary questions having been answered, Mr. Moffat proceeded.

The witness’s name having been demanded and given and some other preliminary formalities gone through, he was asked: 

“Mr. Cumberland, did you have any quarrel with your sister during the afternoon or evening of December the second?”

“I did.”  Then, as if not satisfied with this simple statement, he blurted forth:  “And it wasn’t the first.  I hated the discipline she imposed upon me, and the disapproval she showed of my ways and the manner in which I chose to spend my money.”

A straightforward expression of feeling, but hardly a judicious one.

Judge Edwards glanced, in some surprise, from Mr. Moffat to the daring man who could choose thus to usher in his defence; and then, forgetting his own emotions, in his instinctive desire for order, rapped sharply with his gavel in correction of the audible expression of a like feeling on the part of the expectant audience.

Mr. Moffat, apparently unaffected by this result of his daring move, pursued his course, with the quiet determination of one who sees his goal and is working deliberately towards it.

“Do you mind particularising?  Of what did she especially disapprove in your conduct or way of spending money?”

“She disapproved of my fondness for drink.  She didn’t like my late hours, or the condition in which I frequently came home.  I did not like her expressions of displeasure, or the way she frequently cut me short when I wanted to have a good time with my friends.  We never agreed.  I made her suffer often and unnecessarily.  I regret it now; she was a better sister to me than I could then understand.”

This was uttered slowly and with a quiet emphasis which reawakened that excited hum the judge had been at such pains to quell a moment before.  But he did not quell it now; he seemed to have forgotten his duty in the strong interest called up by these admissions from the tongue of the most imperturbable prisoner he had had before him in years.

Mr. Moffat, with an eye on District Attorney Fox, who had shown his surprise at the trend the examination was taking by a slight indication of uneasiness, grateful enough, no doubt, to the daring counsellor, went on with his examination: 

“Mr. Cumberland, will you tell us when you first felt this change of opinion in regard to your sister?”

Mr. Fox leaped to his feet.  Then he slowly reseated himself.  Evidently he thought it best to let the prisoner have his full say.  Possibly he may have regretted his leniency the next moment when, with a solemn lowering of his head, Arthur answered: 

“When I saw my home desolated in one dreadful night.  With one sister dead in the house, the victim of violence, and another delirious from fright or some other analogous cause, I had ample time to think ­and I used that time.  That’s all.”

Simple words, read or repeated; but in that crowded court-room, with every ear strained to catch the lie which seemed the only refuge for the man so hemmed in by circumstance, these words, uttered without the least attempt at effect, fell with a force which gave new life to such as wished to see this man acquitted.

His counsel, as if anxious to take advantage of this very expectation to heighten the effect of what followed, proceeded immediately to inquire: 

“When did you see your sister Adelaide for the last time alive?”

A searching question.  What would be his reply?

A very quiet one.

“That night at the dinner-table.  When I left the room, I turned to look at her.  She was not looking at me; so I slammed the door and went upstairs.  In an hour or so, I had left the house to get a drink.  I got the drink, but I never saw Adelaide again till I saw her in her coffin.”

This blunt denial of the crime for which he stood there arraigned, fell on my heart with a weight which showed me how inextinguishable is the hope we cherish deep down under all surface convictions.  I had been unconscious of this hope, but it was there.  It seemed to die a double death at these words.  For I believed him!  Courage is needed for a lie.  There were no signs visible in him, as yet, of his having drawn upon this last resource of the despairing.  I should know it when he did; he could not hide the subtle change from me.

To others, this declaration came with greater or less force, according as it was viewed in the light of a dramatic trick of Mr. Moffat’s, or as the natural outburst of a man fighting for his life in his own way and with his own weapons.  I could not catch the eye of Ella cowering low in her seat, so could not judge what tender chords had been struck in her sensitive breast by these two assertions so dramatically offset against each other ­the one, his antagonism to the dead; the other, his freedom from the crime in which that antagonism was supposed to have culminated.

Mr. Moffat, satisfied so far, put his next question with equal directness: 

“Mr. Cumberland, you have mentioned seeing your sister in her coffin.  When was this?”

“At the close of her funeral, just before she was carried out.”

“Was that the first and only time you had seen her so placed?”

“It was.”

“Had you seen the casket itself prior to this moment of which you speak?”

“I had not.”

“Had you been near it?  Had you handled it in any way?”

“No, sir.”

“Mr. Cumberland, you have heard mention made of a ring worn by your sister in life, but missing from her finger after death?”

“I have.”

“You remember this ring?”

“I do.”

“Is this it?”

“It is, so far as I can judge at this distance.”

“Hand the ring to the witness,” ordered the judge.

The ring was so handed.

He glanced at it, and said bitterly:  “I recognise it.  It was her engagement ring.”

“Was this ring on her finger that night at the dinner-table?”

“I cannot say, positively, but I believe so.  I should have noticed its absence.”

“Why, may I ask?”

For the first time the prisoner flushed and the look he darted at his counsel had the sting of a reproach in it.  Yet he answered:  “It was the token of an engagement I didn’t believe in or like.  I should have hailed any proof that this engagement was off.”

Mr. Moffat smiled enigmatically.

“Mr. Cumberland, if you are not sure of having seen this ring then, when did you see it and where?”

A rustle from end to end of that crowded court-room.  This was an audacious move.  What was coming?  What would be the answer of the man who was believed not only to have made himself the possessor of this ring, but to have taken a most strange and uncanny method of disposing of it afterward?  In the breathless hush which followed this first involuntary expression of feeling, Arthur’s voice rose, harsh but steady in this reply: 

“I saw it when the police showed it to me, and asked me if I could identify it.”

“Was that the only time you have seen it up to the present moment?”

Instinctively, the witness’s right hand rose; it was as if he were mentally repeating his oath before he uttered coldly and with emphasis, though without any show of emotion: 

“It is.”

The universal silence gave way to a universal sigh of excitement and relief.  District Attorney Fox’s lips curled with an imperceptible smile of disdain, which might have impressed the jury if they had been looking his way; but they were all looking with eager and interested eyes at the prisoner, who had just uttered this second distinct and unequivocal denial.

Mr. Moffat noted this, and his own lip curled, but with a very different show of feeling from that which had animated his distinguished opponent.  Without waiting for the present sentiment to cool, he proceeded immediately with his examination: 

“You swear that you have seen this ring but once since the night of your sister’s death, and that was when it was shown you in the coroner’s office?”

“I do.”

“Does this mean that it was not in your possession at any time during that interim?”

“It certainly does.”

“Mr. Cumberland, more than one witness has testified to the fact of your having been seen to place your hand in the casket of your sister, before the eyes of the minister and of others attending her funeral.  Is this true?”

“It is.”

“Was not this a most unusual thing to do?”

“Perhaps.  I was not thinking about that.  I had a duty to perform, and I performed it.”

“A duty?  Will you explain to the jury what duty?”

The witness’s head rose, then sank.  He, as well as every one else, seemed to be impressed by the solemnity of the moment.  Though the intensity of my own interest would not allow my eyes to wander from his face, I could imagine the strained look in Ella’s, as she awaited his words.

They came in another instant, but with less steadiness than he had shown before.  I even thought I could detect a tremor in his muscles, as well as in his voice: 

“I had rebelled against my sister’s wishes; I had grieved and deceived her up to the very night of her foul and unnatural death ­and all through drink.”

Here his eye flashed, and for that fleeting moment he looked a man.  “I wished to take an oath ­an oath I would remember.  It was for this purpose I ordered the casket opened, and thrust my fingers through the flowers I found there.  When my fingers touched my sister’s brow, I inwardly swore never to taste liquor again.  I have kept that oath.  Difficult as it was, in my state of mind, and with all my troubles, I have kept it ­and been misunderstood in doing so,” he added, in lower tones, and with just a touch of bitterness.

It was such an unexpected explanation, and so calculated to cause a decided and favourable reaction in the minds of those who had looked upon this especial act of his as an irrefutable proof of guilt, that it was but natural that some show of public feeling should follow.  But this was checked almost immediately, and Mr. Moffat’s voice was heard rising again in his strange but telling examination: 

“When you thrust your hand in to take this oath, did you drop anything into your sister’s casket?”

“I did not.  My hand was empty.  I held no ring, and dropped none in.  I simply touched her forehead.”

This added to the feeling; and, in another instant, the excitement might have risen into hubbub, had not the emotions of one little woman found vent in a low and sobbing cry which relieved the tension and gave just the relief needed to hold in check the overstrained feelings of the crowd.  I knew the voice and cast one quick glance that way, in time to see Ella sinking affrightedly out of sight under the dismayed looks of father and mother; then, anxious to note whether the prisoner had recognised her, too, looked hastily back to find him standing quietly and unmoved, with his eyes on his counsel and his lips set in the stern line which was slowly changing his expression.

That counsel, strangely alive to the temper and feelings of his audience, waited just long enough for the few simple and solemn words uttered by the accused man to produce their full effect, then with a side glance at Mr. Fox, whose equanimity he had at last succeeded in disturbing, and whose cross-examination of the prisoner he had still to fear, continued his own examination by demanding why, when the ring was discovered in Adelaide’s casket and he saw what inferences would be drawn from the fact, he had not made an immediate public explanation of his conduct and the reasons he had had for putting his hand there.

“I’m not a muff,” shot from the prisoner’s lips, in his old manner.  “A man who would take such an oath, in such a way, and at such a time, is not the man to talk about it until he is forced to.  I would not talk about it now ­”

He was checked at this point; but the glimpse we thus obtained of the natural man, in this indignant and sullen outburst, following so quickly upon the solemn declarations of the moment before, did more for him in the minds of those present than the suavest and most discreet answer given under the instigation of his counsel.  Every face showed pleasure, and for a short space, if for no longer, all who listened were disposed to accept his assertions and accord the benefit of doubt to this wayward son of an esteemed father.

To me, who had hoped nothing from Moffat’s efforts, the substantial nature of the defence thus openly made manifest, brought réanimation and an unexpected confidence in the future.

The question as to who had dropped the ring into the casket if Arthur had not ­the innocent children, the grieving servants ­was latent, of course, in every breast, but it had not yet reached the point demanding expression.

Meanwhile, the examination proceeded.

“Mr. Cumberland, you have stated that you did not personally drop this ring into the place where it was ultimately found.  Can you tell us of your own knowledge who did?”

“I cannot.  I know nothing about the ring.  I was much surprised, probably more surprised than any one else, to hear of its discovery in that place.”

The slip ­and it was a slip for him to introduce that more ­was immediately taken advantage of by his counsel.

“You say ‘more,’ Why should it be more of a surprise to you than to any one else to learn where this missing engagement ring of your sister’s had been found?”

Again that look of displeasure directed towards his questioner, and a certain additional hardness in his reply, when he finally made it.

“I was her brother.  I had a brother’s antipathies and rightful suspicions.  I could not see how that ring came to be where it was, when the only one interested in its restoration was in prison.”

This was a direct blow at myself, and of course called Mr. Fox to his feet, with a motion to strike out this answer.  An altercation followed between him and Mr. Moffat, which, deeply as it involved my life and reputation, failed to impress me, as it might otherwise have done, if my whole mind had not been engaged in reconciling the difficulty about this ring with what I knew of Carmel and the probability which existed of her having been responsible for its removal from her sister’s hand.  But Carmel had been ill since, desperately ill and unconscious.  She could have had nothing to do with its disposal afterwards among the flowers at her sister’s funeral.  Nor had she been in a condition to delegate this act of concealment to another.  Who, then, had been the intermediary in this business?  The question was no longer a latent one in my mind; it was an insistent one, compelling me either to discredit Arthur’s explanation (in which case anything might be believed of him) or to accept for good and all this new theory that some person of unknown identity had played an accessory’s part in this crime, whose full burden I had hitherto laid upon the shoulders of the impetuous Carmel.  Either hypothesis brought light.  I began to breathe again the air of hope, and if observed at that moment, must have presented the odd spectacle of a man rejoicing in his own shame and accepting with positive uplift, the inevitable stigma cast upon his honour by the suggestive sentence just hurled at him by an indignant witness.

The point raised by the district attorney having been ruled upon and sustained by the court, Mr. Moffat made no effort to carry his inquiries any further in the direction indicated; but I could see, with all my inexperience of the law and the ways of attorneys before a jury, that the episode had produced its inevitable result, and that my position, as a man released from suspicion, had received a shock, the results of which I might yet be made to feel.

A moment’s pause followed, during which some of Mr. Moffat’s nervousness returned.  He eyed the prisoner doubtfully, found him stoical and as self-contained as at the beginning of his examination, and plunged into a topic which most people had expected him to avoid.  I certainly had, and felt all the uncertainty and secret alarm which an unexpected move occasions where the issue is momentous with life or death.  I was filled with terror, not for the man on trial, but for my secret.  Was it shared by the defence?  Was Mr. Moffat armed with the knowledge I thought confined to myself and Arthur?  Had the latter betrayed the cause I had been led to believe he was ready to risk his life to defend?  Had I mistaken his gratitude to myself; or had I underrated Mr. Moffat’s insight or powers of persuasion?  We had just been made witness to one triumph on the part of this able lawyer in a quarter deemed unassailable by the prosecution.  Were we about to be made witnesses of another?  I felt the sweat start on my forehead, and was only able to force myself into some show of self-possession by the evident lack of perfect assurance with which this same lawyer now addressed his client.

The topic which had awakened in me these doubts and consequent agitation will appear from the opening question.

“Mr. Cumberland, to return to the night of your sister’s death.  Can you tell us what overcoat you put on when leaving your house?”

Arthur was as astonished and certainly as disconcerted, if not as seriously alarmed, as I was, by this extraordinary move.  Surprise, anger, then some deeper feeling rang in his voice as he replied: 

“I cannot.  I took down the first I saw and the first hat."

The emphasis placed on the last three words may have been meant as a warning to his audacious counsel, but if so, it was not heeded.

“Took down?  Took down from where?”

“From the rack in the hall where I hang my things; the side hall leading to the door where we usually go out.”

“Have you many coats ­overcoats, I mean?”

“More than one.”

“And you do not know which one you put on that cold night?”

“I do not.”

“But you know what one you wore back?”

“No.”

Short, sharp, and threatening was this no.  A war was on between this man and his counsel, and the wonder it occasioned was visible in every eye.  Perhaps Mr. Moffat realised this; this was what he had dreaded, perhaps.  At all events, he proceeded with his strange task, in apparent oblivion of everything but his own purpose.

“You do not know what one you wore back?”

“I do not.”

“You have seen the hat and coat which have been shown here and sworn to as being the ones in which you appeared on your return to the house, the day following your sister’s murder?”

“I have.”

“Also the hat and coat found on a remote hook in the closet under the stairs, bearing the flour-mark on its under brim?”

“Yes, that too.”

“Yet cannot say which of these two overcoats you put on when you left your home, an hour or so after finishing your dinner?”

Trapped by his own lawyer ­visibly and remorselessly trapped!  The blood, shooting suddenly into the astounded prisoner’s face, was reflected on the cheeks of the other lawyers present.  Even Mr. Fox betrayed his surprise; but it was a surprise not untinged by apprehension.  Mr. Moffat must feel very sure of himself to venture thus far.  I, who feared to ask myself the cause of this assurance, could only wait and search the partially visible face of little Ella for an enlightenment, which was no more to be found there than in the swollen features of the outraged Arthur.  The excitement which this event caused, afforded the latter some few moments in which to quell his own indignation; and when he spoke, it was passionately, yet not without some effort at restraint.

“I cannot.  I was in no condition to notice.  I was bent on going into town, and immediately upon coming downstairs went straight to the rack and pulled on the first things that offered.”

It appeared to be a perfect give-a-way.  And it was, but it was a give-a-way which, I feared, threatened Carmel rather than her brother.

Mr. Moffat, still nervous, still avoiding the prisoner’s eye, relentlessly pursued his course, unmindful ­wilfully so, it appeared ­of the harm he was doing himself, as well as the witness.

“Mr. Cumberland, were a coat and hat all that you took from that hall?”

“No, I took a key ­a key from the bunch which I saw lying on the table.”

“Did you recognise this key?”

“I did.”

“What key was it?”

“It belonged to Mr. Ranelagh, and was the key to the club-house wine-vault.”

“Where did you put it after taking it up?”

“In my trousers’ pocket.”

“What did you do then?”

“Went out, of course.”

“Without seeing anybody?”

“Of course.  Whom should I see?”

It was angrily said, and the flush, which had begun to die away, slowly made its way back into his cheeks.

“Are you willing to repeat that you saw no one?”

“There was no one.”

A lie!  All knew it, all felt it.  The man was perjuring himself, under his own counsel’s persistent questioning on a point which that counsel had evidently been warned by him to avoid.  I was assured of this by the way Moffat failed to meet Arthur’s eye, as he pressed on hastily, and in a way to forestall all opposition.

“There are two ways of leaving your house for the city.  Which way did you take?”

“The shortest.  I went through my neighbour’s grounds to Huested Street.”

“Immediately?”

“As soon as I could.  I don’t know what you mean by immediately.”

“Didn’t you stop at the stable?”

A pause, during which more than one person present sat breathless.  These questions were what might be expected from Mr. Fox in cross-examination.  They seemed totally unsuited to a direct examination at the hands of his own counsel.  What did such an innovation mean?

“Yes, I stopped at the stable.”

“What to do?”

“To look at the horses.”

“Why?”

“One of them had gone lame.  I wanted to see his condition.”

“Was it the grey mare?”

Had the defence changed places with the prosecution?  It looked like it; and Arthur looked as if he considered Mr. Moffat guilty of the unheard of, inexplainable act, of cross-examining his own witness.  The situation was too tempting for Mr. Fox to resist calling additional attention to it.  With an assumption of extreme consideration, he leaned forward and muttered under his breath to his nearest colleague, but still loud enough for those about him to hear: 

“The prisoner must know that he is not bound to answer questions when such answers tend to criminate him.”.

A lightning glance, shot in his direction, was the eloquent advocate’s sole reply.

But Arthur, nettled into speaking, answered the question put him, in a loud, quick tone:  “It was not the grey mare; but I went up to the grey mare before going out; I patted her and bade her be a good girl.”

“Where was she then?”

“Where she belonged ­in her stall.”

The tones had sunk; so had the previously lifted head; he no longer commanded universal sympathy or credence.  The effect of his former avowals was almost gone.

Yet Mr. Moffat could smile.  As I noticed this, and recognised the satisfaction it evinced, my heart went down, in great trouble.  This esteemed advocate, the hero of a hundred cases, was not afraid to have it known that Arthur had harnessed that mare; he even wanted it known.  Why?  There could be but one answer to that ­or, so I thought, at the moment.  The next, I did not know what to think; for he failed to pursue this subject, and simply asked Arthur if, upon leaving, he had locked the stable-door.

“Yes ­no, ­I don’t remember,” was the bungling, and greatly confused reply.

Mr. Moffat glanced at the jury, the smile still on his lips.  Did he wish to impress that body with the embarrassment of his client?

“Relate what followed.  I am sure the jury will be glad to hear your story from your own lips.”

“It’s a beastly one, but if I’ve got to tell it, here it is:  I went straight down to Cuthbert Road and across the fields to the club-house.  I had not taken the key to the front door, because I knew of a window I could shake loose.  I did this and went immediately down to the wine-vault.  I used an electric torch of my own for light.  I pulled out several bottles, and carried them up into the kitchen, meaning to light the gas, kindle a fire, and have a good time generally.  But I soon found that I must do without light if I stayed there.  The meter had been taken out; and to drink by the flash of an electric torch was anything but a pleasing prospect.  Besides ­” here he flashed at his counsel a glance, which for a moment took that gentleman aback ­“I had heard certain vague sounds in the house which alarmed me, as well as roused my curiosity.  Choosing the bottle I liked best, I went to investigate these sounds.”

Mr. Moffat started.  His witness was having his revenge.  Kept in ignorance of his counsel’s plan of defence, he was evidently advancing testimony new to that counsel.  I had not thought the lad so subtle, and quaked in secret contemplation of the consequences.  So did some others; but the interest was intense.  He had heard sounds ­he acknowledged it.  But what sounds?

Observing the excitement he had caused, and gratified, perhaps, that he had succeeded in driving that faint but unwelcome smile from Mr. Moffat’s lips, Arthur hastened to add: 

“But I did not complete my investigations.  Arrived at the top of the stairs, I heard what drove me from the house at once.  It was my sister’s voice ­Adelaide’s.  She was in the building, and I stood almost on a level with her, with a bottle in my pocket.  It did not take me a minute to clamber through the window.  I did not stop to wonder, or ask why she was there, or to whom she was speaking.  I just fled and made my way as well as I could across the golf-links to a little hotel on Cuthbert Road, where I had been once before.  There I emptied my bottle, and was so overcome by it that I did not return home till noon the next day.  It was on the way to the Hill that I was told of the awful occurrence which had taken place in the club-house after I had left it.  That sobered me.  I have been sober ever since.”

Mr. Moffat’s smile came back.  One might have said that he had been rather pleased than otherwise by the introduction of this unexpected testimony.

But I doubt if any one but myself witnessed this evidence of good-humour on his part.  Arthur’s attitude and Arthur’s manner had drawn all eyes to himself.  As the last words I have recorded left his lips, he had raised his head and confronted the jury with a straightforward gaze.  The sturdiness and immobility of his aspect were impressive, in spite of his plain features and the still unmistakable signs of long cherished discontent and habitual dissipation.  He had struck bottom with his feet, and there he would stand, ­or so I thought as I levelled my own glances at him.

But I had not fully sounded all of Alonzo Moffat’s resources.  That inscrutable lawyer and not-easily-to-be-understood man seemed determined to mar every good impression his unfortunate client managed to make.

Ignoring the new facts just given, undoubtedly thinking that they would be amply sifted in the coming cross-examination, he drew the attention of the prisoner to himself by the following question: 

“Will you tell us again how many bottles of wine you took from the club-house?”

“One.  No ­I’m not sure about that ­I’m not sure of anything.  I had only one when at the inn in Cuthbert Road.”

“You remember but one?”

“I had but one.  One was enough.  I had trouble in carrying that.”

“Was the ground slippery?”

“It was snowy and it was uneven.  I stumbled more than once in crossing the links.”

“Mr. Cumberland, is there anything you would like to say in your own defence before I close this examination?”

The prisoner thus appealed to, let his eye rest for a moment on the judge, then on the jury, and finally on one little white face lifted from the crowd before him as if to meet and absorb his look.  Then he straightened himself, and in a quiet and perfectly natural voice, uttered these simple words: 

“Nothing but this:  I am innocent.”

CHAPTER VII - THE SYLLABLE OF DOOM

I alit
On a great ship lightning-split,
And speeded hither on the sigh
Of one who gave an enemy
His plank, then plunged aside to die.

Prometheus Unbound.

Recess followed.  Clifton and I had the opportunity of exchanging a few words.  He was voluble; I was reticent.  I felt obliged to hide from him the true cause of the deep agitation under which I was labouring.  Attached as he was to me, keenly as he must have felt my anomalous position, he was too full of Moffat’s unwarrantable introduction of testimony damaging to his client, to think or talk of anything else.

“He has laid him open to attack on every side.  Fox has but to follow his lead, and the thing is done.  Poor Arthur may be guilty, but he certainly should have every chance a careful lawyer could give him.  You can see ­he makes it very evident ­that he has no further use for Moffat.  I wonder under whose advice he chose him for his counsel.  I have never thought much of Moffat, myself.  He wins his cases but ­”

“He will win this,” I muttered.

Clifton started; looked at me very closely for a minute, paled a little ­I fear that I was very pale myself ­but did not ask the question rising to his lips.

“There is method in the madness of a man like that,” I pursued with a gloom I could not entirely conceal.  “He has come upon some evidence which he has not even communicated to his client.  At least, I fear so.  We must be prepared for any untoward event.”  Then, noticing Clifton’s alarm and wishing to confine it within safe bounds, I added:  “I feel that I am almost as much on trial as Arthur himself.  Naturally I am anxious at the appearance of anything I do not understand.”

Clifton frowned.  We were quite alone.  Leaning forward, he touched my arm.

“Elwood,” said he, “you’ve not been quite open with me.”

I smiled.  If half the bitterness and sorrow in my heart went into that smile, it must have been a sad and bitter one indeed.

“You have a right to reproach me,” said I, “but not wholly.  I did not deceive you in essentials.  You may still believe me as guiltless of Adelaide’s violent death as a man can be who drove her and hers into misery which death alone could end.”

“I will believe it,” he muttered, “I must.”  And he dropped the subject, as he made me see, forever.

I drew a deep breath of relief.  I had come very near to revealing my secret.

When we returned to the court-room, we found it already packed with a very subdued and breathless crowd.  It differed somewhat from the one which had faced us in the morning; but Ella and her parents were there and many others of the acknowledged friends of the accused and of his family.

He, himself, wore the heavy and dogged air which became him least.  Physically refreshed, he carried himself boldly, but it was a boldness which convinced me that any talk he may have had with his lawyer, had been no more productive of comfort than the one I had held with mine.

As he took the witness chair, and prepared to meet the cross-examination of the district attorney, a solemn hush settled upon the room.  Would the coming ordeal rob his brow of its present effrontery, or would he continue to bear himself with the same surly dignity, which, misunderstood as it was, produced its own effect, and at certain moments seemed to shake even the confidence of Mr. Fox, settled as he seemed to be in his belief in the integrity of his cause and the rights of the prosecution.

Shaken or not, his attack was stern, swift, and to the point.

“Was the visit you made to the wine-vault on the evening of the second of December, the first one you had ever paid there?”

“No; I had been there once before.  But I always paid for my depredations,” he added, proudly.

“The categorical answer, Mr. Cumberland.  Anything else is superfluous.”

Arthur’s lip curled, but only for an instant; and nothing could have exceeded the impassiveness of his manner as Mr. Fox went on.

“Then you knew the way?”

“Perfectly.”

“And the lock?”

“Sufficiently well to open it without difficulty.”

“How long do you think you were in entering the house and procuring these bottles?”

“I cannot say.  I have no means of knowing; I never thought of looking at my watch.”

“Not when you started?  Not when you left Cuthbert Road?”

“No, sir.”

“But you know when you left the club-house to go back?”

“Only by this ­it had not yet begun to snow.  I’m told that the first flakes fell that night at ten minutes to eleven.  I was on the golf-links when this happened.  You can fix the time yourself.  Pardon me,” he added, with decided ill-grace as he met Mr. Fox’s frown.  “I forgot your injunction.”

Mr. Fox smiled an acrid smile, as he asked:  “Whereabouts on the golf-links?  They extend for some distance, you remember.”

“They are six hundred yards across from first tee to the third hole, which is the nearest one to Cuthbert Road,” Arthur particularised.  “I was ­no, I can’t tell you just where I was at that moment.  It was a good ways from the house.  The snow came on very fiercely.  For a little while I could not see my way.”

“How, not see your way?”

“The snow flew into my eyes.”

“Crossing the links?”

“Yes, sir, crossing the links.”

“But the storm came from the west.  It should have beaten against your back.”

“Back or front, it bothered me.  I could not get on as fast as I wished.”

Mr. Fox cast a look at the jury.  Did they remember the testimony of the landlord that Mr. Cumberland’s coat was as thickly plastered with snow on the front as it had been on the back.  He seemed to gather that they did, for he went on at once to say: 

“You are accustomed to the links?  You have crossed them often?”

“Yes, I play golf there all summer.”

“I’m not alluding to the times when you play.  I mean to ask whether or not you had ever before crossed them directly to Cuthbert Road?”

“Yes, I had.”

“In a storm?”

“No, not in a storm.”

“How long did it take you that time to reach Cuthbert Road from The Whispering Pines?”

Mr. Moffat bounded to his feet, but the prisoner had answered before he could speak.

“Just fifteen minutes.”

“How came you to know the time so exactly?”

“Because that day I did look at my watch.  I had an engagement in the lower town, and had only twenty minutes in which to keep it.  I was on time.”

Honest at the core.  This boy was growing rapidly in my favour.  But this frank but unwise answer was not pleasing to his counsel, who would have advised, no doubt, a more general and less precise reply.  However, it had been made and Moffat was not a man to cry over spilled milk.  He did not even wince when the district attorney proceeded to elicit from the prisoner that he was a good walker, not afraid in the least of snow-storms and had often walked, in the teeth of the gale twice that distance in less than half an hour.  Now, as the storm that night had been at his back, and he was in a hurry to reach his destination, it was evidently incumbent upon him to explain how he had managed to use up the intervening time of forty minutes before entering the hotel at half-past eleven.

“Did you stop in the midst of the storm to take a drink?” asked the district attorney.

As the testimony of the landlord in Cuthbert Road had been explicit as to the fact of his having himself uncorked the bottle which the prisoner had brought into the hotel, Arthur could not plead yes.  He must say no, and he did.

“I drank nothing; I was too busy thinking.  I was so busy thinking I wandered all over those links.”

“In the blinding snow?”

“Yes, in the snow.  What did I care for the snow?  I did not understand my sister being in the club-house.  I did not like it; I was tempted at times to go back.”

“And why didn’t you?”

“Because I was more of a brute than a brother ­because Cuthbert Road drew me in spite of myself ­because ­” He stopped with the first hint of emotion we had seen in him since the morning.  “I did not know what was going on there or I should have gone back,” he flashed out, with a defiant look at his counsel.

Again sympathy was with him.  Mr. Fox had won but little in this first attempt.  He seemed to realise this, and shifted his attack to a point more vulnerable.

“When you heard your sister’s voice in the club-house, how did you think she had got into the building?”

“By means of the keys Ranelagh had left at the house.”

“When, instead of taking the whole bunch, you took the one key you wanted from the ring, did you do so with any idea she might want to make use of the rest?”

“No, I never thought of it.  I never thought of her at all.”

“You took your one key, and let the rest lie?”

“You’ve said it.”

“Was this before or after you put on your overcoat?”

“I’m not sure; after, I think.  Yes, it was after; for I remember that I had a deuce of a time unbuttoning my coat to get at my trousers’ pocket.”

“You dropped this key into your trousers’ pocket?”

“I did.”

“Mr. Cumberland, let me ask you to fix your memory on the moments you spent in the hall.  Did you put on your hat before you pocketed the key, or afterwards?”

“My hat?  How can I tell?  My mind wasn’t on my hat.  I don’t know when I put it on.”

“You absolutely do not remember?”

“No.”

“Nor where you took it from?”

“No.”

“Whether you saw the keys first, and then went for your hat; or having pocketed the key, waited ­”

“I did not wait.”

“Did not stand by the table thinking?”

“No, I was in too much of a hurry.”

“So that you went straight out?”

“Yes, as quickly as I could.”

The district attorney paused, to be sure of the attention of the jury.  When he saw that every eye of that now thoroughly aroused body was on him, he proceeded to ask:  “Does that mean immediately, or as soon as you could after you had made certain preparations, or held certain talk with some one you called, or who called to you?”

“I called to nobody.  I ­I went out immediately.”

It was evident that he lied; evident, too, that he had little hope from his lie.  Uneasiness was taking the place of confidence in his youthful, untried, undisciplined mind.  Carmel had spoken to him in the hall ­I guessed it then, I knew it afterward ­and he thought to deceive this court and blindfold a jury, whose attention had been drawn to this point by his own counsel.

District Attorney Fox smiled.  “How then did you get into the stable?”

“The stable!  Oh, I had no trouble in getting into the stable.”

“Was it unlocked?”

A slow flush broke over the prisoner’s whole face.  He saw where he had been landed and took a minute to pull himself together before he replied:  “I had the key to that door, too.  I got it out of the kitchen.”

“You have not spoken of going into the kitchen.”

“I have not spoken of coming downstairs.”

“You went into the kitchen?”

“Yes.”

“When?”

“When I first came down.”

“That is not in accordance with your direct testimony.  On the contrary, you said that on coming downstairs you went straight to the rack for your overcoat.  Stenographer read what the prisoner said on this topic.”

A rustling of leaves, distinctly to be heard in the deathlike silence of the room, was followed by the reading of this reply and answer: 

Yet you cannot say which of these two overcoats you put on when you left your home an hour or so after finishing your dinner?

I cannot.  I was in no condition to notice.  I was bent on going into town and, on coming downstairs, I went straight to the rack and pulled on the first things that offered.

The prisoner stood immobile but with a deepening line gathering on his brow until the last word fell.  Then he said:  “I forgot.  I went for the key before I put on my overcoat.  I wanted to see how the sick horse looked.”

“Did you drop this key into your pocket, too?”

“No, I carried it into the hall.”

“What did you do with it there?”

“I don’t know.  Put it on the table, I suppose.”

“Don’t you remember?  There were other keys lying on this table.  Don’t you remember what you did with the one in your hand while you took the club-house key from the midst of Mr. Ranelagh’s bunch?”

“I laid it on the table.  I must have ­there was no other place to put it.”

“Laid it down by itself?”

“Yes.”

“And took it up when you went out?”

“Of course.”

“Carrying it straight to the stable?”

“Naturally.”

“What did you do with it when you came out?”

“I left it in the stable-door.”

“You did?  What excuse have you to give for that?”

“None.  I was reckless, and didn’t care for anything ­that’s all.”

“Yet you took several minutes, for all your hurry and your indifference, to get the stable key and look in at a horse that wasn’t sick enough to keep your coachman home from a dance.”

The prisoner was silent.

“You have no further explanation to give on this subject?”

“No.  All fellows who love horses will understand.”

The district attorney shrugged this answer away before he went on to say:  “You have listened to Zadok Brown’s testimony.  When he returned at three, he found the stable-door locked, and the key hanging up on its usual nail in the kitchen.  How do you account for this?”

“There are two ways.”

“Mention them, if you please.”

“Zadok had been to a dance, and may not have been quite clear as to what he saw.  Or, finding the stable door open, may have blamed himself for the fact and sought to cover up his fault with a lie.”

“Have you ever caught him in a lie?”

“No; but there’s always a first time.”

“You would impeach his testimony then?”

“No.  You asked me how this discrepancy could be explained, and I have tried to show you.”

“Mr. Cumberland, the grey mare was out that night; this has been amply proved.”

“If you believe Zadok, yes.”

“You have heard other testimony corroborative of this fact.  She was seen on the club-house road that night, by a person amply qualified to identify her.”

“So I’ve been told.”

“The person driving this horse wore a hat, identified as an old one of yours, which hat was afterwards found at your house on a remote peg in a seldom-used closet.  If you were not this person, how can you explain the use of your horse, the use of your clothes, the locking of the stable-door ­which you declare yourself to have left open ­and the hanging up of the key on its own nail?”

It was a crucial question ­how crucial no one knew but our two selves.  If he answered at all, he must compromise Carmel.  I had no fear of his doing this, but I had great fear of what Ella might do if he let this implication stand and made no effort to exonerate himself by denying his presence in the cutter, and consequent return to the Cumberland home.  The quick side glances I here observed cast in her direction by both father and mother, showed that she had made some impulsive demonstration visible to them, if not to others and fearful of the consequences if I did not make some effort to hold her in check, I kept my eyes in her direction, and so lost Arthur’s look and the look of his counsel as he answered, with just the word I had expected ­a short and dogged: 

“I cannot explain.”

It was my death warrant.  I realised this even while I held Ella’s eye with mine and smoothed my countenance to meet the anguish in hers, in the effort to hold her back for a few minutes longer till I could quite satisfy myself that Arthur’s case was really lost and that I must speak or feel myself his murderer.

The gloom which followed this recognition of his inability, real or fancied, to explain away the most damning feature of the case against him, taken with his own contradictions and growing despondency, could not escape my eye, accustomed as I was to the habitual expression of most every person there.  But it was not yet the impenetrable gloom presaging conviction; and directing Ella’s gaze towards Mr. Moffat, who seemed but little disturbed either by Mr. Fox’s satisfaction or the prisoner’s open despair, I took heart of grace and waited for the district attorney’s next move.  It was a fatal one.  I began to recognise this very soon, simple as was the subject he now introduced.

“When you went into the kitchen, Mr. Cumberland, to get the stable-door key, was the gas lit, or did you have to light it?”

“It ­it was lit, I think.”

“Don’t you know?”

“It was lit, but turned low.  I could see well enough.”

“Why, then, didn’t you take both keys?”

“Both keys?”

“You have said you went down town by the short cut through your neighbour’s yard.  That cut is guarded by a door, which was locked that night.  You needed the key to that door more than the one to the stable.  Why didn’t you take it?”

“I ­I did.”

“You haven’t said so.”

“I ­I took it when I took the other.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes; they both hung on one nail.  I grabbed them both at the same time.”

“It does not appear so in your testimony.  You mentioned a key, not keys, in all your answers to my questions.”

“There were two; I didn’t weigh my words.  I needed both and I took both.”

“Which of the two hung foremost?”

“I didn’t notice.”

“You took both?”

“Yes, I took both.”

“And went straight out with them?”

“Yes, to the stable.”

“And then where?”

“Through the adjoining grounds downtown.”

“You are sure you went through Mr. Fulton’s grounds at this early hour in the evening?”

“I am positive.”

“Was it not at a later hour, much later, a little before eleven instead of a little before nine?”

“No, sir.  I was on the golf-links then.”

“But some one drove into the stable.”

“So you say.”

“Unharnessed the horse, drew up the cutter, locked the stable-door, and, entering the house, hung up the key where it belonged.”

No answer this time.

“Mr. Cumberland, you admitted in your direct examination that you took with you out of the clubhouse only one bottle of the especial brand you favoured, although you carried up two into the kitchen?”

“No, I said that I only had one when I got to Cuthbert Road.  I don’t remember anything about the other.”

“But you know where the other ­or rather remnants of the other, was found?”

“In my own stable, taken there by my man Zadok Brown, who says he picked it out of one of our waste barrels.”

“This is the part of bottle referred to.  Do you recognise the label still adhering to it as similar to the one to be found on the bottle you emptied in Cuthbert Road?”

“It is like that one.”

“Had you carried that other bottle off, and had it been broken as this has been broken would it not have presented an exactly similar appearance to this?”

“Possibly.”

“Only possibly?”

“It would have looked the same.  I cannot deny it.  What’s the use fooling?”

“Mr. Cumberland, the only two bottles known to contain this especial brand of wine were in the clubhouse at ten o’clock that night.  How came one of them to get into the barrel outside your stable before your return the next day?”

“I cannot say.”

“This barrel stood where?”

“In the passage behind the stable.”

“The passage you pass through on your way to the door leading into your neighbour’s grounds?”

“Yes.”

The dreaded moment had come.  This “Yes” had no sooner left Arthur’s lips than I saw Ella throw out her innocent arms, and leap impetuously to her feet, with a loud “No, no, I can tell ­”

She did not say what, for at the hubbub roused by this outbreak in open court, she fainted dead away and was carried out in her dismayed father’s arms.

This necessarily caused a break in the proceedings.  Mr. Fox suspended his cross-examination and in a few minutes more, the judge adjourned the court.  As the prisoner rose and turned to pass out, I cast him a hurried glance to see what effect had been made upon him by this ingenuous outburst from one he had possibly just a little depreciated.  A great one, evidently.  His features were transformed, and he seemed almost as oblivious of the countless eyes upon him as she had been when she rose to testify for him in her self-forgetful enthusiasm.  As I observed this and the satisfaction with which Mr. Moffat scented this new witness, ­a satisfaction which promised little consideration for her if she ever came upon the stand ­I surrendered to fate.

Inwardly committing Carmel’s future to the God who made her and who knew better than we the story of her life and what her fiery temper had cost her, I drew a piece of paper from my pocket, and, while the courtroom was slowly emptying, hastily addressed the following lines to Mr. Moffat who had lingered to have a few words with his colleague: 

“There is a witness in this building who can testify more clearly and definitely than Miss Fulton, that Arthur Cumberland, for all we have heard in seeming contradiction to the same, might have been on the golf-links at the time he swears to.  That witness is myself.

“ELWOOD RANELAGH.”

The time which elapsed between my passing over this note and his receiving and reading it, was to me like the last few moments of a condemned criminal.  How gladly would I have changed places with Arthur, and with what sensations of despair I saw flitting before me in my mind’s eye, the various visions of Carmel’s loveliness which had charmed me out of myself.  But the die had been cast, and I was ready to meet the surprised lawyer’s look when his eve rose from the words I had written and settled steadily on my face.  Next minute he was writing busily and in a second later I was reading these words: 

“Do you absolutely wish to be recalled as a witness, and by the defence?  M.”

My answer was brief: 

“I do.  Not to make a confession of crime.  I have no such confession to make.  But I know who drove that horse.  R.”

I had sacrificed Carmel to my sense of right.  Never had I loved her as I did at that moment.

CHAPTER VIII - EXPECTANCY

I see your end,
’T is my undoing.

King Henry VIII.

A turning-point had been reached in the defence.  That every one knew after the first glance at Mr. Moffat, on the opening of the next morning’s session.  As I noted the excitement which this occasioned even in quarters where self-control is usually most marked and such emotions suppressed, I marvelled at the subtle influence of one man’s expectancy, and the powerful effect which can be produced on a feverish crowd by a well-ordered silence suggestive of coming action.

I, who knew the basis of this expectancy and the nature of the action with which Mr. Moffat anticipated startling the court, was the quietest person present.  Since it was my hand and none other which must give this fresh turn to the wheel of justice, it were well for me to do it calmly and without any of the old maddening throb of heart.  But the time seemed long before Arthur was released from further cross-examination, and the opportunity given Mr. Moffat to call his next witness.

Something in the attitude he now took, something in the way he bent over his client and whispered a few admonitory words, and still more the emotion with which these words were received and answered by some extraordinary protest, aroused expectation to a still greater pitch, and made my course seem even more painful to myself than I had foreseen when dreaming over and weighing the possibilities of this hour.  With something like terror, I awaited the calling of my name; and, when it was delayed, it was with emotions inexplicable to myself that I looked up and saw Mr. Moffat holding open a door at the left of the judge, with that attitude of respect, which a man only assumes in the presence and under the dominating influence of woman.

“Ella!” thought I.  “Instead of saving her by my contemplated sacrifice of Carmel, I have only added one sacrifice to another.”

But when the timid faltering step we could faintly hear crossing the room beyond, had brought its possessor within sight, and I perceived the tall, black-robed, heavily veiled woman who reached for Mr. Moffat’s sustaining arm, I did not need the startling picture of the prisoner, standing upright, with outheld and repellant hands, to realise that the impossible had happened, and that all which he, as well as I, had done and left undone, suffered and suppressed, had been in vain.

Mr. Moffat, with no eye for him or for me, conducted his witness to a chair; then, as she loosened her veil and let it drop in her lap, he cried in tones which rang from end to end of the court-room:  “I summon Carmel Cumberland to the stand, to witness in her brother’s defence.”

The surprise was complete.  It was a great moment for Mr. Moffat; but for me all was confusion, dread, a veil of misty darkness, through which shone her face, marred by its ineffaceable scar, but calm as I had never expected to see it again in this life, and beautiful with a smile under which her deeply shaken and hardly conscious brother sank slowly back into his seat, amid a silence as profound as the hold she had immediately taken upon all hearts.

CHAPTER IX - “WHERE IS MY BROTHER?”

Let me see the writing. 
My lord, ’t is nothing. 
No matter, then, who sees it;
I will be satisfied, let me see the writing.

Richard II.

What is the explanation of Carmel’s reappearance in town and of this sensational introduction of her into the court-room, in a restored state of health of which no one, so far as known, had had any intimation save the man who was responsible for her appearance?  The particulars are due you.

She had passed some weeks at Lakewood, under the eye of the nurse who was detailed to watch, as well as tend her.  During these weeks she gave no sign of improvement mentally, though she constantly gained strength otherwise, and impressed everybody with the clear light in her eye and the absence of everything suggestive of gloom in her expression and language.  There was the same complete loss of memory up to the time of the tragic occurrence which had desolated her home; the same harping at odd moments on Adelaide’s happiness and her own prospect of seeing this dear sister very soon which had marked the opening days of her convalescence.  But beyond and back of all this was some secret joy, unintelligible to the nurse, which helped rather than retarded the sick girl’s recovery, and made Carmel appear at times as if she walked on air and breathed the very breath of Paradise ­an anomaly which not only roused Miss Unwin’s curiosity, but led her to regard with something like apprehension, any change in her patient’s state of mind which would rob her of the strange and unseen delights which fed her secret soul and made her oblivious of the awful facts awaiting a restored memory.

Meanwhile Carmel was allowed such liberty as her condition required; but was never left alone for a moment after a certain day when her eye suddenly took on a strange look of confused inquiry, totally dissociated with anything she saw or heard.  A stir had taken place in her brain, and her nurse wanted to take her back home.  But this awakening ­if such it could be called, was so short in its duration and was followed so immediately by a string of innocent questions about Adelaide, that Nurse Unwin concluded to remain a few days longer before risking this delicately balanced mind amid old scenes and the curious glances of her townspeople.

Alas! the awakening was to take place in Lakewood and under circumstances of the most ordinary nature.  Carmel had been out and was just crossing the hall of her hotel to the elevator, when she stopped with a violent start and clutching the air, was caught by her nurse who had hurried up at the first intimation of anything unusual in the condition of her patient.

The cause of this agitation was immediately apparent.  Near them sat two ladies, each with a small wine-glass in her hand.  One was drinking, the other waiting and watching, but with every apparent intention of drinking when the other had ceased.  A common sight enough, but it worked a revolution in Carmel’s darkened mind.  The light of youthful joyousness fled from her face; and the cheek, just pulsing softly with new life, blanched to the death-like hue of mortal suffering.  Dropping her eyes from the women, who saw nothing and continued to sip their wine in happy ignorance of the soul-tragedy going on within ten feet of them, she looked down at her dress, then up at the walls about her; and then slowly, anxiously, and with unmistakable terror, at the woman in whose arms she felt herself supported.

“Explain,” she murmured.  “Where am I?”

“At Lakewood, in a hotel.  You have been ill, and are only just recovering.”

Her hand went up to her cheek, the one that had been burned, and still showed the deep traces of that accident.

“I remember,” said she.  Then with another glance at her dress, which had studiously been kept cheerful, she remarked, with deep reproach:  “My sister is dead; why am I not in black?”

The nurse, realising her responsibility (she said afterwards that it was the most serious moment of her life), subdued her own astonishment at this proof of her young patient’s knowledge of a crime of which she was universally supposed to be entirely ignorant, and, bestowing a reassuring smile on the agitated girl, observed softly: 

“You wore too ill to be burdened with black.  You are better now and may assume it if you will.  I will help you buy your mourning.”

“Yes, you look like a kind woman.  What is your name, please, and are we here alone in this great hotel?”

Now, as a matter of expediency ­to save Carmel from the unendurable curiosity of the crowd, and herself from the importunities of the New York reporters, Miss Unwin had registered herself and her charge under assumed names.  She was, therefore, forced to reply: 

“My name is Huckins, and we are here alone.  But that need not worry you.  I have watched over you night and day for many weeks.”

“You have?  Because of this slight burn?” Again Carmel’s hand went to her cheek.

“Not on account of that only.  You have had a serious illness quite apart from that injury.  But you are better; you are almost well ­well enough to go home, if you will.”

“I cannot go home ­not just yet.  I’m ­I’m not strong enough.  But we shouldn’t be here alone without some man to look after us.  Miss Huckins, where is my brother?”

At this question, uttered with emphasis, with anxiety ­with indignation even ­Miss Unwin felt the emotion she had so successfully subdued up to this moment, betray itself in her voice as she answered, with a quiet motion towards the elevator:  “Let us go up to our room.  There I will answer all your questions.”

But Carmel, with the waywardness of her years ­or perhaps, with deeper reasoning powers than the other would be apt to attribute to her ­broke softly away from Miss Unwin’s detaining hand, and walking directly into the office, looked about for the newspaper stand.  Miss Unwin, over-anxious not to make a scene, followed, but did not seek to deter her, until they were once again by themselves in the centre of the room.  Then she ventured to speak again: 

“We have all the papers in our room.  Come up, and let me read them to you.”

But Fate was making ready its great stroke.  Just as Carmel seemed about to yield to this persuasion, some lingering doubt drew her eyes again to the stand, just at the very moment a boy stepped into view with the evening bulletin, on which had just been written these words: 

The Last Juror Obtained in the Trial of Arthur Cumberland for the Murder of His Sister, Adelaide.

Carmel saw, and stood ­a breathless image of horror.  A couple of gentlemen came running; but the nurse waved them back, and herself caught Carmel and upheld her, in momentary dread of another mental, if not physical, collapse.

But Carmel had come back into the world of consciousness to stay.  Accepting her nurse’s support, but giving no sign of waning faculties or imperfect understanding of what she had seen, she spoke quite clearly and with her eyes fixed upon Miss Unwin: 

“So that is why I am here, away from all my friends.  Was I too ill to be told?  Couldn’t you make me know what was happening?  You or the doctors or ­or anybody?”

“You were much too ill,” protested the nurse, leading her towards the elevator and so by degrees to her room.  “I tried to arouse you after the crisis of your illness had passed; but you seemed to have forgotten everything which took place that night and the doctors warned me not to press you.”

“And Arthur ­poor Arthur, has been the sufferer!  Tell me the whole story.  I can bear it,” she pleaded.  “I can bear anything but not knowing.  Why should he have fallen under suspicion?  He was not even there.  I must go to him!  Pack up our clothing, Miss Huckins.  I must go to him at once.”

They were in their own room now, and Carmel was standing quite by herself in the full light of the setting sun.  With the utterance of this determination, she had turned upon her companion; and that astute and experienced woman had every opportunity for observing her face.  There was a woman’s resolution in it.  With the sudden rending of the clouds which had obscured her intellect, strange powers had awakened in this young girl, giving her a force of expression which, in connection with her inextinguishable beauty, formed a spectacle before which this older woman, in spite of her long experience, hesitated in doubt.

“You shall go ­” began the nurse, and stopped.

Carmel was not listening.  Another change of thought had come, and her features, as keenly alive now to every passing emotion as they had formerly been set in a dull placidity, mirrored doubts of her own, which had a deeper source than any which had disturbed the nurse, even in these moments of serious perplexity.

“How can I?” fell in unconscious betrayal from her lips.  “How can I!” Then she stood silent, ghastly with lack of colour one minute, and rosy red with its excess the next, until it was hard to tell in which extreme her feeling spoke most truly.

What was the feeling?  Nurse Unwin felt it imperative to know.  Relying on the confidence shown her by this unfortunate girl, in her lonely position and unbearable distress, she approached Carmel, with renewed offers of help and such expressions of sympathy as she thought might lure her into open speech.

But discretion had come with fear, and Carmel, while not disdaining the other’s kindness, instantly made it apparent that, whatever her burden, and however unsuited it was to her present weak condition, it was not one she felt willing to share.

“I must think,” she murmured, as she finally followed the nurse’s lead and seated herself on a lounge.  “Arthur on trial for his life! Arthur on trial for his life! And Adelaide was not even murdered!”

“No?” gasped the nurse, intent on every word this long-silenced witness let fall.

“Had he no friend?  Was there not some one to understand?  Adelaide ­” here her head fell till her face was lost to sight ­“had ­a ­lover ­”

“Yes.  Mr. Elwood Ranelagh.  He was the first to be arrested for the crime.”

The soul in Carmel seemed to vanish at this word.  The eyes, which had been so far-seeing the moment before, grew blank, and the lithe young body stiff with that death in life which is almost worse to look upon than death itself.  She did not speak; but presently she arose, as an automaton might arise at the touch of some invisible spring, and so stood, staring, until the nurse, frightened at the result of her words and the complete overthrow which might follow them, sprang for a newspaper and thrust it into her patient’s unwilling hand.

Was it too late?  For a minute it seemed to be so; then the stony eyes softened and fell, the rigidity of her frame relaxed, and Carmel sank back again on the sofa and tried to read the headlines on the open sheet before her.  But her eyes were unequal to the task.  With a sob she dropped the paper and entreated the nurse to relate to her from her own knowledge, all that had passed, sparing her nothing that would make the situation perfectly clear to one who had been asleep during the worst crisis of her life.

Miss Unwin complied, but with reservations.  She told of Adelaide having been found dead at The Whispering Pines by the police, whom she had evidently summoned during a moment of struggle or fear; of Ranelagh’s presence there, and of the suspicions to which it gave rise; of his denial of the crime; of his strange reticence on certain points, which served to keep him incarcerated till a New York detective got to work and found so much evidence against her brother that Mr. Ranelagh was subsequently released and Arthur Cumberland indicted.  But she said nothing about the marks on Adelaide’s throat, or of the special reason which the police had for arresting Mr. Ranelagh.  She did not dare.  Strangulation was a horrible death to contemplate; and if this factor in the crime ­she was not deceived by Carmel’s exclamation that there had been no murder ­was unknown as yet to her patient, as it must be from what she had said, and the absolute impossibility, as she thought, of her having known what went on in The Whispering Pines, then it had better remain unknown to her until circumstances forced it on her knowledge, or she had gotten sufficient strength to bear it.

Carmel received the account well.  She started when she heard of the discovery of Ranelagh in the club-house on the entrance of the police, and seemed disposed to ask some questions.  But though the nurse gave her an opportunity to do so, she appeared to hunt in vain for the necessary words, and the narrative proceeded without further interruption.  When all was done, she sat quite still; then carefully, and with a show of more judgment than might be expected from one of her years, she propounded certain inquiries which brought out the main causes for her brother’s arraignment.  When she had these fully in mind, she looked up into the nurse’s face again and repeated, quite calmly, but with immovable decision, the order of an hour before: 

“We must return at once.  You will pack up immediately.”

Miss Unwin nodded, and began to open the trunks.

This, however, was a ruse.  She did not intend to take her patient back that night.  She was afraid to risk it.  The next day would be soon enough.  But she would calm her by making ready, and when the proper moment came, would find some complication of trains which would interfere with their immediate departure.

Meanwhile, she would communicate at the earliest moment with Mr. Fox.  She had been in the habit of sending him frequent telegrams as to her patient’s condition.  They had been invariable so far:  “No difference; mind still a blank,” or some code word significant of the same.  But a new word was necessary now.  She must look it up, and formulate her telegram before she did anything else.

The code-book was in her top tray.  She hunted and hunted for it, without being able to lay her hands on it.  She grew very nervous.  She was only human; she was in a very trying position, and she realised it.  Where could that book be?  Suddenly she espied it and, falling on her knees before the trunk, with her back still to Carmel, studied out the words she wanted.  She was leaning over the tray to write these words in her note-book, when ­no one ever knew how it happened ­the lid of the heavy trunk fell forward and its iron edge struck her on the nape of the neck, with a keen blow which laid her senseless.  When Carmel reached her side, she found herself the strong one and her stalwart nurse the patient.

When help had been summoned, the accident explained, and everything done for the unconscious woman which medical skill could suggest, Carmel, finding a moment to herself, stole to the trunk, and, lifting up the lid, looked in.  She had been watchful of her nurse from the first, and was suspicious of the actions which had led to this untoward accident.  Seeing the two little books, she took them out.  The note-book lay open and on the page thus disclosed, she beheld written: 

Ap Lox Fidestum Truhum

Ridiculous nonsense ­until she consulted the code.  Then these detached and meaningless words took on a significance which she could not afford to ignore: 

Ap A change. 
Lox Makes remarkable statements. 
Fidestum Shall we return? 
Trubum Not tractable.

Carmel endeavoured to find out for whom this telegram was intended.  There was nothing to inform her.  A moment of indecision was followed by quick action.  She had noticed that she had been invariably addressed as Miss Campbell by every one who had come into the room.  Whether this was a proof of the care with which she had been guarded from the curiosity of strangers, or whether it was part of a system of deception springing from quite different causes, she felt that in the present emergency it was a fact to be thankful for and to be utilised.

Regaining her own room, which was on the other side of their common sitting-room, she collected a few necessary articles, and placed them in a bag which she thrust under her bed.  Hunting for money, she found quite an adequate amount in her own purse, which was attached to her person.  Satisfied thus far, she chose her most inconspicuous hat and coat, and putting them on, went out by her own door into the corridor.

The time ­it was the dinner-hour ­favoured her attempt.  She found her way to the office unobserved, and, going frankly up to the clerk, informed him that she had some telegrams to send and that she would be out for some little time.  Would he see that Miss Huckins was not neglected in her absence?

The clerk, startled at these evidences of sense and self-reliance in one he had been accustomed to see under the special protection of the very woman she was now confiding to his care, surveyed her eloquent features beaming with quiet resolve, and for a moment seemed at a loss how to take this change and control the strange situation.  Perhaps she understood him, perhaps she only followed the impulses natural to her sex.  She never knew; she only remembers that she smiled, and that his hesitation vanished at that smile.

“I will see to it,” said he.  Then, as she turned to go, he ventured to add, “It is quite dark now.  If you would like one of the boys to go with you ­“.  But he received no encouragement, and allowed his suggestion to remain unfinished.

She looked grateful for this, and was pulling down her veil when she perceived two or three men on the other side of the room, watching her in evident wonder.  Stepping back to the desk, she addressed the clerk again, this time with a marked distinctness: 

“I have been very ill, I know, and not always quite myself.  But the shock of this accident to my nurse has cleared my brain and made me capable again of attending to my own affairs.  You can trust me; I can do my errands all right; but perhaps I had better have one of the boys go with me.”

The clerk, greatly relieved, rang his bell, and the gentlemen at the other end of the room sauntered elsewhere to exchange their impressions of an incident which was remarkable enough in itself, without the accentuation put upon it by the extreme beauty of the girl and the one conspicuous blemish to that beauty ­her unfortunate scar.  With what additional wonder would they have regarded the occurrence, had they known that the object of their interest was not an unknown Miss Campbell, but the much pitied, much talked-of Carmel Cumberland, sister of the man then on trial for his life in a New York town.

With her first step into the street, Carmel’s freshly freed mind began its work.  She knew she was in a place called Lakewood, but she knew little of its location, save that it was somewhere in New Jersey.  Another strange thing! she did not recognise the streets.  They were new to her.  She did not remember ever having been in them before.

“Where is the railroad station?” she inquired of the boy who was trotting along at her side.

“Over there,” he answered, vaguely.

“Take me to it.”

He obeyed, and they threaded several streets whose lighted shops pleased her, notwithstanding her cares; such a joy it was to be alive to things once more, and capable of remembrance, even though remembrance brought visions at which she shuddered, and turned away, appalled.

The sight of the station, from which a train was just leaving, frightened her for a moment with its bustle and many lights; but she rallied under the stress of her purpose, and, entering, found the telegraph office, from which she sent this message, directed to her physician, at home, Dr. Carpenter: 

“Look for me on early train.  All is clear to me now, and I must return.  Preserve silence till we meet.”

This she signed with a pet name, known only to themselves, and dating back to her childish days.

Then she bought a ticket, and studied the time-table.  When quite satisfied, she returned to the hotel.  She was met in the doorway by the physician who was attending the so-called Miss Huckins.  He paused when he saw her, and asked a few questions which she was penetrating enough to perceive were more for the purpose of testing her own condition than to express interest in his patient.  She answered quietly, and was met by a surprise and curiosity which evinced that he was greatly drawn towards her case.  This alarmed her.  She did not wish to be the object of any one’s notice.  On the contrary, she desired to obliterate herself; to be counted out so far as all these people were concerned.  But above all, she was anxious not to rouse suspicion.  So she stopped and talked as naturally as she could about Miss Huckins’s accident and what the prospects were for the night.  These were favourable, or so the doctor declared, but the injured woman’s condition called for great care and he would send over a capable nurse at-once.  Meanwhile, the maid who was with her would do very well.  She, herself, need have no worry.  He would advise against worry, and suggested that she should have a good and nourishing dinner sent to her room, after which she should immediately retire and get what sleep she could by means of an anodyne he would send her.

Carmel exerted herself.

“You are very good,” said she, “I need no anodyne.  I am tired and when I once get to bed shall certainly sleep.  I shall give orders not to be disturbed.  Isn’t that right?”

“Quite right.  I will myself tell the nurse.”

He was going, but turned to look at her again.

“Shall I accompany you to the door of your room?” he asked.

She shook her head, with a smile.  This delay was a torment to her, but it must be endured.

“I am quite capable of finding my room.  I hope Miss Huckins will be as well in a week from now as I am at this moment.  But, doctor ­” she had been struck by a strange possibility ­“I should like to settle one little matter before we part.  The money I have may not be quite safe in my hands.  My memory might leave me again, and then Miss Huckins might suffer.  If you will take charge of some of it on her account, I shall feel relieved.”

“It would be a wise precaution,” he admitted.  “But you could just as well leave it at the desk.”

“So I can,” she smiled.  Then, as his eye remained fixed on her:  “You are wondering if I have friends.  We both have and I have just come from telegraphing to one of them.  You can leave us, with an easy mind.  All that I dread is that Miss Huckins will worry about me if her consciousness should return during the night.”

“It will not return so soon.  Next week we may look for it.  Then you can be by to reassure her if she asks for you.”

Carmers eyes fell.

“I would not be a cause of distress to her for the world.  She has been very good to me.”  Bowing, she turned in the direction of the office.

The doctor, lifting his hat, took his departure.  The interview might have lasted five minutes.  She felt as though it had lasted an hour.

She followed the doctor’s advice and left half the money she had, in charge of the clerk.  Then she went upstairs.  She was not seen to come down again; but when the eight-forty-five train started out of the station that night, it had for a passenger, a young, heavily veiled girl, who went straight to her section.  A balcony running by her window had favoured her escape.  It led to a hall window at the head of a side staircase.  She met no one on the staircase, and, once out of the door at its foot, her difficulties were over, and her escape effected.

She was missed the next morning, and an account of her erratic flight reached the papers, and was published far and wide.  But the name of Miss Caroline Campbell conveyed nothing to the public, and the great trial went on without a soul suspecting the significance of this midnight flitting of an unknown and partially demented girl.

At the house of Dr. Carpenter she met Mr. Moffat.  What she told him heartened him greatly for the struggle he saw before him.  Indeed, it altered the whole tone of the defence.  Perceiving from her story, and from what the doctor could tell him of their meeting at the station that her return to town was as yet a secret to every one but themselves, he begged that the secret should continue to be kept, in order that the coup d’etat which he meditated might lose none of its force by anticipation.  Carmel, whose mind was full of her coming ordeal, was willing enough to hide her head until it came; while Dr. Carpenter, alarmed at all this excitement, would have insisted on it in any event.

Carmel wished her brother informed of her return, but the wily lawyer persuaded her to excuse him from taking Arthur into his confidence until the last moment.  He knew that he would receive only opposition from his young and stubborn client; that Carmel’s presence and Carmel’s determination would have to be sprung upon Arthur even more than upon the prosecution; that the prisoner at the bar would struggle to the very last against Carmel’s appearance in court, and make an infinite lot of trouble, if he did not actually endanger his own cause.  One of the stipulations which he had made in securing Mr. Moffat for his counsel was that Carmel’s name was to be kept as much as possible out of the proceedings; and to this Mr. Moffat had subscribed, notwithstanding his conviction that the crime laid to the defendant’s charge was a result of Ranelagh’s passion for Carmel, and, consequently, distinctly the work of Ranelagh’s own hand.

He had thought that he could win his case by the powers of oratory and a somewhat free use of innuendo; but his view changed under the fresh enlightenment which he received in his conversation with Carmel.  He saw unfolding before him a defence of unparalleled interest.  True, it involved this interesting witness in a way that would be unpleasant to the brother; but he was not the man to sacrifice a client to any sentimental scruple ­certainly not this client, whose worth he was just beginning to realise.  Professional pride, as well as an inherent love of justice, led him to this conclusion.  Nothing in God’s world appealed to him, or ever had appealed to him, like a prisoner in the dock facing a fate from which only legal address, added to an orator’s eloquence, could save him.  His sympathies went out to a man so placed, even when he was a brute and his guilt far from doubtful.  How much more, then, must he feel the claims of this surly but chivalrous-hearted boy, son of a good father and pious mother, who had been made the butt of circumstances, and of whose innocence he was hourly becoming more and more convinced.

Could he have probed the whole matter, examined and re-examined this new witness until every detail was his and the whole story of that night stood bare before him, he might have hesitated a little longer and asked himself some very serious questions.  But Carmel was not strong enough for much talk.  Dr. Carpenter would not allow it, and the continued clearness of her mind was too invaluable to his case for this far-seeing advocate to take any risk.  She had told him enough to assure him that circumstances and not guilt had put Arthur where he was, and had added to the assurance, details of an unexpected nature ­so unexpected, indeed, that the lawyer was led away by the prospect they offered of confounding the prosecution by a line of defence to which no clew had been given by anything that had appeared.

He planned then and there a dramatic climax which should take the breath away from his opponent, and change the whole feeling of the court towards the prisoner.  It was a glorious prospect, and if the girl remained well ­the bare possibility of her not doing so, drove him prematurely from her presence; and so it happened that, for the second time, the subject of Adelaide’s death was discussed in her hearing without any mention being made of strangulation as its immediate cause.  Would her action have been different had she known that this was a conceded fact?

Mr. Moffat did not repeat this visit.  He was not willing to risk his secret by being seen too often at the doctor’s house; but telephonic communication was kept up between him and her present guardian, and he was able to bear himself quietly and with confidence until the time drew near for the introduction of her testimony.  Then he grew nervous, fearing that Nurse Unwin would come to herself and telegraph Carmel’s escape, and so prepare the prosecution for his great stroke.  But nothing of the kind happened; and, when the great day came, he had only to consider how he should prepare Arthur for the surprise awaiting him, and finally decided not to prepare him at all, but simply to state at the proper moment, and in the face of the whole court-room, that his sister had recovered and would soon take her place upon the stand.  The restraint of the place would thus act as a guard between them, and Carmel’s immediate entrance put an end to the reproaches of whose bitterness he could well judge from his former experience of them.

With all these anxieties and his deeply planned coup d’etat awaiting the moment of action, Ella’s simple outburst and even Ranelagh’s unexpected and somewhat startling suggestion lost much of their significance.  All his mind and heart were on his next move.  It was to be made with the queen, and must threaten checkmate.  Yet he did not forget the two pawns, silent in their places ­but guarding certain squares which the queen, for all her royal prerogatives, might not be able to reach.