Part 7 out of 7
All this and more did Mr. Moffat dilate upon. But I could no longer fix
my mind on details, and much of this portion of his address escaped me.
But I do remember the startling picture with which he closed. His
argument so far, had been based on the assumption of Arthur's ignorance
of Carmers purpose in visiting the club-house, or of Adelaide's attempt
at suicide. His client had left the building when he said he did, and
knew no more of what happened there afterward than circumstances showed,
or his own imagination conceived. But now the advocate took a sudden
turn, and calmly asked the jury to consider with him the alternative
outlined by the prosecution in the evidence set before them.
"My distinguished opponent," said he, "would have you believe that the
defendant did not fly at the moment declared, but that he waited to
fulfil the foul deed which is the only serious matter in dispute in his
so nearly destroyed case. I hear as though he were now speaking, the
attack which he will make upon my client when he comes to review this
matter with you. Let me see if I cannot make you hear those words, too."
And with a daring smile at his discomforted adversary, Alonzo Moffat
launched forth into the following sarcasm:
"Arthur Cumberland, coming up the kitchen stairs, hears voices where he
had expected total silence--sees light where he had left total darkness.
He has two bottles in his hands, or in his large coat-pockets. If they
are in his hands, he sets them down and steals forward to listen. He has
recognised the voices. They are those of his two sisters, one of whom had
ordered him to hitch up the cutter for her to escape, as he had every
reason to believe, the other. Curiosity--or is it some nobler
feeling--causes him to draw nearer and nearer to the room in which they
have taken up their stand. He can hear their words now and what are the
words he hears? Words that would thrill the most impervious heart, call
for the interference of the most indifferent. But _he_ is made of ice,
welded together with steel. He sees--for no place save one from which he
can watch and see, _viz_.: the dark dancing hall, would satisfy any man
of such gigantic curiosity--Adelaide fall at Carmel's feet, in
recognition of the great sacrifice she has made for her. But he does not
move; he falls at no one's feet; he recognises no nobility, responds to
no higher appeal. Stony and unmoved, he crouches there, and watches and
watches--still curious, or still feeding his hate on the sufferings of
the elder, the forbearance of the younger.
"And on what does he look? You have already heard, but consider it.
Adelaide, despairing of happiness, decides on death for herself or
sister. Both loving one man, one of the two must give way to the other.
Carmel has done her part; she must now do hers. She has brought poison;
she has brought glasses--three glasses, for three persons, but only two
are on the scene, and so she fills but two. One has only cordial in it,
but the other is, as she believes, deadly. Carmel is to have her choice;
but who believes that Adelaide would ever have let her drink the
"And this man looks on, as the two faces confront each other--one white
with the overthrow of every earthly hope, the other under the stress of
suffering and a fascination of horror sufficient to have laid her dead,
without poison, at the other one's feet. This is what he sees--_a
brother!_--and he makes no move, then or afterwards, when, the die cast,
Adelaide succumbs to her fear and falls into a seemingly dying state on
"Does he go now? Is his hate or his cupidity satisfied? No! He remains
and listens to the tender interchange of final words, and all the late
precautions of the elder to guard the younger woman's good name. Still he
is not softened; and when, the critical moment passed, Carmel rises and
totters about the room in her endeavour to fulfil the tasks enjoined upon
her by her sister, he gloats over a death which will give him
independence and gluts himself with every evil thought which could blind
him to the pitiful aspects of a tragedy such as few men in this world
could see unmoved. _A brother_!
"But this is not the worst. The awful cup of human greed and hatred is
but filled to the brim; it has not yet overflowed. Carmel leaves the
room; she has a telephonic message to deliver. She may be gone a minute;
she may be gone many. Little does he care which; he must see the dead,
look down on the woman who has been like a mother to him, and see if her
influence is forever removed, if his wealth is his, and his independence
"Safe in the darkness of the gloomy recesses of the dancing hall, he
steals slowly forward. Drawn as by a magnet, he enters the room of
seeming death, draws up to the pillow-laden couch, pulls off first one
cushion, and then another, till face and hands are bare and--
"Ah!--there is a movement! death has not, then, done its work. She
lives--the hated one--_lives_! And he is no longer rich, no longer
independent. With a clutch, he seizes her at the feeble seat of life; and
as the breath ceases and her whole body becomes again inert, he stoops to
pull off the ring, which can have no especial value or meaning for
him--and then, repiling the cushions over her, creeps forth again, takes
up the bottles, and disappears from the house.
"Gentlemen of the jury, this is what my opponent would have you believe.
This will be his explanation of this extraordinary murder. But when his
eloquence meets your ears--when you hear this arraignment, and the
emphasis he will place upon the few points remaining to his broken case,
then ask yourself if you see such a monster in the prisoner now
confronting you from the bar. I do not believe it. I do not believe that
such a monster lives.
"But you say, _some one_ entered that room--_some one_ stilled the
fluttering life still remaining in that feeble breast. Some one may have,
but that some one was not my client, and it is his guilt or innocence we
are considering now, and it is his life and freedom for which you are
responsible. No brother did that deed; no witness of the scene which
hallowed this tragedy ever lifted hand against the fainting Adelaide, or
choked back a life which kindly fate had spared.
"Go further for the guilty perpetrator of this most inhuman act; he
stands not in the dock. Guilt shows no such relief as you see in him
to-day. Guilt would remember that his sister's testimony, under the
cross-examination of the people's prosecutor, left the charge of murder
still hanging over the defendant's head. But the brother has forgotten
this. His restored confidence in one who now represents to him father,
mother, and sister has thrown his own fate into the background. Will you
dim that joy--sustain this charge of murder?
"If in your sense of justice you do so, you forever place this degenerate
son of a noble father, on the list of the most unimaginative and
hate-driven criminals of all time. Is he such a demon? Is he such a
madman? Look in his face to-day, and decide. I am willing to leave his
cause in your hands. It could be placed in no better.
"May it please your Honour, and gentlemen of the jury, I am done."
If any one at that moment felt the arrow of death descending into his
heart, it was not Arthur Cumberland.
I am a tainted wether of the flock,
Meetest for death; the weakest kind of fruit
Drops earliest to the ground, and so let me.
You cannot better be employ'd, Bassanio,
Than to live still, and write my epitaph.
_Merchant of Venice_.
Why linger over the result. Arthur Cumberland's case was won before Mr.
Fox arose to his feet. The usual routine was gone through. The district
attorney made the most of the three facts which he declared inconsistent
with the prisoner's innocence, just as Mr. Moffat said he would; but the
life was gone from his work, and the result was necessarily
The judge's charge was short, but studiously impartial. When the jury
filed out, I said to myself, "They will return in fifteen minutes." They
returned in ten, with a verdict of acquittal.
The demonstrations of joy which followed filled my ears, and doubtless
left their impression upon my other senses; but my mind took in nothing
but the apparition of my own form taking his place at the bar, under
circumstances less favourable to acquittal than those which had
exonerated him. It was a picture which set my brain whirling. A phantom
judge, a phantom jury, a phantom circle of faces, lacking the
consideration and confidence of those I saw before me; but not a phantom
prisoner, or any mere dream of outrageous shame and suffering.
That shame and that suffering had already seized hold of me. With the
relief of young Arthur's acquittal my faculties had cleared to the
desperate position in which this very acquittal had placed me.
I saw, as never before, how the testimony which had reinstated Carmel in
my heart and won for her and through her the sympathies of the whole
people, had overthrown every specious reason which I and those interested
in me had been able to advance in contradiction of the natural conclusion
to be drawn from the damning fact of my having been seen with my fingers
on Adelaide's throat.
Mr. Moffat's words rang in my ears: "Some one entered that room; some one
stilled the fluttering life still remaining in that feeble breast; but
that some one was not her brother. You must look further for the guilty
perpetrator of this most inhuman act; some one who had not been a witness
to the scene preceding this tragedy, some one--" he had not said this but
every mind had supplied the omission,--"some one who had come in later,
who came in after Carmel had gone, some one who knew nothing of the
telephone message which was even then hastening the police to the spot;
some one who had every reason for lifting those cushions and, on meeting
The horror stifled me; I was reeling in my place on the edge of the
crowd, when I heard a quiet voice in my ear:
"Steady! Their eyes will soon be off of Arthur, and then they will
look at you."
It was Clifton, and his word came none too soon. I stiffened under its
quiet force, and, taking his arm, let him lead me out of a side door,
where the crowd was smaller and its attention even more absorbed.
I soon saw its cause--Carmel was entering the doorway from the street.
She had come to greet her brother; and her face, quite unveiled, was
beaming with beauty and joy. In an instant I forgot myself, forgot
everything but her and the effect she produced upon those about her. No
noisy demonstration here; admiration and love were shown in looks and the
low-breathed prayer for her welfare which escaped from more than one pair
of lips. She smiled and their hearts were hers; she essayed to move
forward and the people crowded back as if at a queen's passage; but there
was no noise.
When she reappeared, it was on Arthur's arm. I had not been able to move
from the place in which we were hemmed; nor had I wished to. I was hungry
for a glance of her eye. Would it turn my way, and, if it did, would it
leave a curse or a blessing behind it? In anxiety for the blessing, I was
willing to risk the curse; and I followed her every step with hungry
glances, until she reached the doorway and turned to give another shake
of the hand to Mr. Moffat, who had followed them. But she did not see me.
"I cannot miss it! I must catch her eye!" I whispered to Clifton. "Get me
out of this; it will be several minutes before they can reach the sleigh.
Let me see her, for one instant, face to face."
Clifton disapproved, and made me aware of it; but he did my bidding,
nevertheless. In a few moments we were on the sidewalk, and quite by
ourselves; so that, if she turned again she could not fail to observe me.
I had small hope, however, that she would so turn. She and Arthur were
within a few feet of the curb and their own sleigh.
I had just time to see this sleigh, and note the rejoicing face of Zadok
leaning sideways from the box, when I beheld her pause and slowly turn
her head around and peer eagerly--and with what divine anxiety in her
eyes--back over the heads of those thronging about her, until her gaze
rested fully and sweetly on mine. My heart leaped, then sank down, down
into unutterable depths; for in that instant her face changed, horror
seized upon her beauty, and shook her frantic hold on Arthur's arm.
I heard words uttered very near me, but I did not catch them. I did feel,
however, the hand which was laid strongly and with authority upon my
shoulder; and, tearing my eyes from her face only long enough to perceive
that it was Sweetwater who had thus arrested me, I looked back at her, in
time to see the questions leap from her lips to Arthur, whose answers I
could well understand from the pitying movement in the crowd and the low
hum of restrained voices which ran between her sinking figure and the
spot where I stood apart, with the detective's hand on my shoulder.
She had never been told of the incriminating position in which I had been
seen in the club-house. It had been carefully kept from her, and she had
supposed that my acquittal in the public mind was as certain as Arthur's.
Now she saw herself undeceived, and the reaction into doubt and misery
was too much for her, and I saw her sinking under my eyes.
"Let me go to her!" I shrieked, utterly unconcerned with anything in the
world but this tottering, fainting girl.
But Sweetwater's hand only tightened on my shoulder, while Arthur, with
an awful look at me, caught his sister in his arms, just as she fell to
the ground before the swaying multitude.
But he was not the only one to kneel there. With a sound of love and
misery impossible to describe, Zadok had leaped from the box and had
grovelled at those dear feet, kissing the insensible hands and praying
for those shut eyes to open. Even after Arthur had lifted her into the
sleigh, the man remained crouching where she had fallen, with his eyes
roaming back and forth in a sightless stare from her to myself, muttering
and groaning, and totally unheedful of Arthur's commands to mount the box
and drive home. Finally some one else stepped from the crowd and
mercifully took the reins. I caught one more glimpse of her face, with
Arthur's bent tenderly over it; then the sleigh slipped away.
An officer shook Zadok by the arm and he got up and began to move
aside. Then I had mind to face my own fate, and, looking up, I met
It was quietly apologetic.
"I only wished to congratulate you," said he, "on the conclusion of a
case in which I know you are highly interested." Lifting his hat, he
nodded affably and was gone before I could recover from my stupor.
It was for Clifton to show his indignation. I was past all feeling.
Farce as an after-piece never appealed to me.
Would I have considered it farce if I could have heard the words which
this detective was at that moment whispering into the district
"Do you want to know who throttled Adelaide Cumberland? It was not her
brother; it was not her lover; it was her old and trusted coachman."
"AS IF IT WERE A MECCA"
--I have within my mind
A thousand raw tricks of these bragging Jacks
Which I will practise.
_Merchant of Venice_.
"Give me your reasons. They must be excellent ones, Sweetwater, or you
would not risk making a second mistake in a case of this magnitude and
"Mr. Fox, they are excellent. But you shall judge of them. From the
moment Miss Carmel Cumberland overthrew the very foundations of our case
by her remarkable testimony, I have felt that my work was only half done.
It was a strain on credulity to believe Arthur guilty of a crime so
prefaced, and the alternative which Mr. Moffat believed in, which you
were beginning to believe in, and perhaps are allowing yourself to
believe in even now, never appealed to me.
"I allude to the very natural suspicion that the act beheld by your man
Clarke was a criminal act, and that Ranelagh is the man really
responsible for Miss Cumberland's death. Some instinct held me back from
this conclusion, as well as the incontrovertible fact that he could have
had no hand in carrying that piece of broken bottle into the Cumberland
stable, or of dropping his engagement ring in the suggestive place where
it was found. Where, then, should I look for the unknown, the
unsuspected third party? Among the ten other persons who dropped
something into that casket.
"Most of these were children, but I made the acquaintance of every one. I
spent most of my Sunday that way; then, finding no clouded eye among
them, I began a study of the Cumberland servants, naturally starting with
Zadok. For two hours I sat at his stable fire, talking and turning him
inside out, as only we detectives know how. I found him actually
overwhelmed with grief; not the grief of a sane man, but of one in whom
the very springs of life are poisoned by some dreadful remorse.
"He did not know he revealed this; he expressed himself as full of hope
that his young master would be acquitted the next day; but I could see
that this prospect could never still the worm working at his heart, and
resolved to understand why. I left him ostensibly alone, but in reality
shadowed him. The consequence was that, in the evening dusk, he led me to
the cemetery, where he took up his watch at Miss Cumberland's grave, as
if it were a Mecca and he a passionate devotee. I could hear his groans
as he hung to the fence and spoke softly to the dead; and though I was
too far away to catch a single word, I felt confident that I had at last
struck the right track, and should soon see my way more clearly than at
any time since this baffling case opened.
"But before I allowed my fancy to run away with me, I put in an evening
of inquiry. If this man had an absolute alibi, what was the use of
wasting effort upon him. But I could not find that he had, Mr. Fox. He
went with the rest of the servants to the ball--which, you know, was held
in Tibbitt's Hall, on Ford Street and he was seen there later, dancing
and making merry in a way not usual to him. But there was a space of time
dangerously tallying with that of the tragic scene at the club-house,
when he was not seen by any one there, so far as I can make out; and this
fact gave me courage to consider a certain point which had struck me, and
of which I thought something might be made.
"Mr. Fox, after the fiasco I have made of this affair, it costs me
something to go into petty details which must suggest my former failures
and may not strike you with the force they did me. That broken bottle--
or rather, that piece of broken bottle! Where was the rest of it? Sought
for almost immediately after the tragedy, it had not been found at the
Cumberland place or on the golf-links. It had been looked for carefully
when the first thaw came; but, though glass was picked up, it was not the
same glass. The task had become hopeless and ere long was abandoned.
"But with this idea of Zadok being the means of its transfer from The
Whispering Pines to the house on the Hill, I felt the desire to look once
more, and while court was in session this morning, I started a fresh
search--this time not on the golf-links. Tibbitt's Hall communicates more
quickly with The Whispering Pines by the club-house road than by the
market one. So I directed my attention to the ground in front, and on
the further side of the driveways. _And I found the neck of that bottle_!
"Yes, sir, I will show it to you later. I picked it up at some distance
from the northern driveway, under a small tree, against the trunk of
which it had evidently been struck off. This meant that the lower part
had been carried away, broken.
"Now, who would do this but Zadok, who saw in it, he has said, a
receptacle for some varnish which he had; and if Zadok, how had he
carried it, if not in some pocket of his greatcoat. But glass edges make
quick work with pockets; and if this piece of bottle had gone from The
Whispering Pines to Tibbitt's Hall, and from there to the Hill, there
should be some token of its work in Zadok's overcoat pocket.
"This led me to look for those tokens; and as I had by this time
insinuated my way into his confidence by a free and cheerful manner which
gave him a rest from his gloomy thoughts, I soon had a chance to see for
myself the condition of those pockets. The result was quite satisfactory.
In one of them I found a frayed lining, easily explainable on the theory
I had advanced. That pocket can be seen by you.
"But Mr. Fox, I wanted some real proof. I wasn't willing to embarrass
another man, or to risk my own reputation on a hazard so blind as
this, without something really definite. A confession was what I
wanted, or such a breakdown of the man as would warrant police action.
How could I get this?
"I am a pupil of Mr. Gryce, and I remembered some of his methods.
"This man, guilty though he might be, loved this family, and was
broken-hearted over the trouble in which he saw it plunged. Excused
to-day from attendance at court, he was in constant telephonic
communication with some friend of his, who kept him posted as to the
conduct of the trial and the probabilities of a favourable verdict.
"If the case had gone against Arthur, we should have heard from his
coachman--that I verily believe, but when we all saw that he was likely
to be acquitted, I realised that some other course must be taken to shake
Zadok from his new won complacency, and I chose the most obvious one.
"Just when everything looked most favourable to their restored peace and
happiness, I shocked Miss Carmel and, through her, this Zadok, into the
belief that the whole agony was to be gone over again, in the rearrest
and consequent trial of the man she still loves, in spite of all that has
happened to separate them.
"He was not proof against this new responsibility. As she fainted, he
leaped from the box; and, could I have heard the words he muttered in her
ear, I am sure that I should have that to give you which would settle
this matter for all time. As it is, I can only say that my own
convictions are absolute; the rest remains with you."
"We will go see the man," said District Attorney Fox.
THE SURCHARGED MOMENT
For Justice, when triumphant, will weep down
Pity, not punishment, on her own wrongs,
Too much avenged by those who err. I wait,
Enduring thus, the retributive hour
Which since we spake is even nearer now.
The moment I felt Sweetwater's hand lifted from my shoulder I sprang into
the first hack I could find, and bade the driver follow the Cumberland
sleigh post-haste. I was determined to see Carmel and have Carmel see me.
Whatever cold judgment might say against the meeting, I could not live in
my present anxiety. If the thunderbolt which had struck her had spared
her life and reason she must know from my own lips that I was not only a
free man, but as innocent of the awful charge conveyed in Sweetwater's
action as was the brother, who had just been acquitted of it by the
verdict of his peers.
I must declare this, and she must believe me. Nothing else
mattered--nothing else in all the world. That Arthur might stop me, that
anything could stop me, did not disturb my mind for a minute. All that I
dreaded was that I might find myself too late; that this second blow
might have proved to be too much for her, and that I should find my
darling dead or passed from me into that living death which were the
harder punishment of the two. But I was spared this killing grief. When
our two conveyances stopped, it was in the driveway of her old home; and
as I bounded upon the walk, it was to see her again in Arthur's arms, but
this time with open eyes and horror-drawn features.
"Carmel!" rushed in a cry from my lips. "Don't believe what they say. I
cannot bear it--I cannot bear it!"
She roused; she looked my way, and struggling to her feet, held back
Arthur with one hand while she searched my face--and possibly searched
her own soul--for answer to my plea. Never was moment more surcharged.
Further word I could not speak; I could only meet her eyes with the
steady, demanding look of a despairing heart, while Arthur moved in every
fibre of his awakened manhood, waited--thinking, perhaps, how few minutes
had passed since he hung upon the words of a fellow being for his
condemnation to death, or release to the freedom which he now enjoyed.
A moment! But what an eternity before I saw the rigid lines of her white,
set face relax--before I marked the play of human, if not womanly,
emotion break up the misery of her look and soften her youthful lips into
some semblance of their old expression. Love might be dead--friendship,
even, be a thing of the far past--but consideration was still alive and
in another instant it spoke in these trembling sentences, uttered across
a threshold made sacred by a tragedy involving our three lives:
"Come in and explain yourself. No man should go unheard. I know you will
not come where Adelaide's spirit yet lingers, if you cannot bring hands
clean from all actual violence."
I motioned my driver away, and as Carmel drew back out of sight, I caught
at Arthur's arm and faced him with the query:
"Are you willing that I should enter? I only wish to declare to her, and
to you, an innocence I have no means of proving, but which you cannot
disbelieve if I swear it, here and now, by your sister Carmel's sacred
disfigurement. Such depravity could not exist, as such a vow from the
lips guilty of the crime you charge me with. Look at me, Arthur. I
considered you--now consider me."
Quickly he stepped back. "Enter," said he.
It was some minutes later--I cannot say how many--that one of the
servants disturbed us by asking if we knew anything about Zadok.
"He has not come home," said he, "and here is a man who wants him."
"What man?" asked Arthur.
"Oh, that detective chap. He never will leave us alone."
I arose. In an instant enlightenment had come to me. "It's nothing," said
I with my eyes on Carmel; but the gesture I furtively made Arthur, said
A few minutes later we were both in the driveway. "We are on the brink of
a surprise," I whispered. "I think I understand this Sweetwater now."
Arthur looked bewildered, but he took the lead in the interview which
followed with the man who had made him so much trouble and was now doing
his best to make us all amends.
Zadok could not be found; he was wanted by the district attorney, who
wished to put some questions to him. Were there any objections to his
searching the stable-loft for indications of his whereabouts?
Arthur made none; and the detective, after sending the Cumberlands'
second man before him to light up the stable, disappeared beneath the
great door, whither we more slowly followed him.
"Not here!" came in a shout from above, as we stepped in from the night
air; and in a few minutes the detective came running down the stairs,
baffled and very ill at ease. Suddenly he encountered my eye. "Oh--I
know!" he cried, and started for the gate.
"I am going to follow him," I confided to Arthur. "Look for me again
to-night; or, at least, expect a message. If fortune favours us, as I now
expect, we two shall sleep to-night as we have not slept for months." And
waiting for no answer, not even to see if he comprehended my meaning, I
made a run for the gate, and soon came up with Sweetwater.
"To the cemetery?" I asked.
"Yes, to the cemetery."
And there we found him, in the same place where we had seen him before,
but not in the same position. He was sunken now to the ground; but his
face was pressed against the rails, and in his stiff, cold hand was
clutched a letter which afterwards we read.
Let it be read by you here. It will explain the mystery which came near
destroying the lives of more than Adelaide.
* * * * *
No more unhappy wretch than I goes to his account. I killed her who had
shown me only goodness, and will be the death of others if I do not
confess my dreadful, my unsuspected secret. This is how it happened. I
cannot give reasons; I cannot even ask for pardon.
That night, just as I was preparing to leave the stable to join the other
servants on their ride to Tibbitt's Hall, the telephone rang and I heard
Miss Cumberland's voice. "Zadok," she said--and at first I could hardly
understand her,--"I am in trouble; I want help, and you are the only one
who can aid me. Answer; do you hear me and are you quite alone in the
stable?" I told her yes, and that I was listening to all she said. I
suspected her trouble, and was ready to stand by her, if a man like me
could do anything.
I had been with her many years, and I loved her as well as I could love
anybody; though you won't think it when I tell you my whole story. What
she wanted was this: I was to go to the ball just as if nothing had
happened, but I was not to stay there. As soon as I could, I was to slip
out, get a carriage from some near-by stable, and hurry back up the road
to meet her and take her where she would tell me; or, if I did not meet
her, to wait two houses below hers, till she came along. She would not
want me long, and very soon I could go back and have as good a time as I
pleased. But she would like me to be secret, for her errand was not one
for gossip, even among her own servants.
It was the first time she had ever asked me to do anything for her
which any one else might not have done, and I was proud of her
confidence, and happy to do just what she asked. I even tried to do
better, and be even more secret about it than she expected. Instead of
going to a stable, I took one of the rigs which I found fastened up in
the big shed alongside the hall; and being so fortunate as not to
attract anybody's attention by this business, I was out on the road and
half way to The Whispering Pines, before Helen and Maggie could wonder
why I had not asked them to dance.
A few minutes later I was on the Hill, for the horse I had chosen was a
fast one; and I was just turning into our street when I was passed by Mr.
Arthur's grey mare and cutter. This made me pull up for a minute, for I
hadn't expected this; but on looking ahead and seeing Miss Cumberland
peering from our own gateway, I drove quickly on and took her up.
I was not so much astonished as you would think, to be ordered to follow
fast after the mare and cutter, and to stop where it stopped. That was
all she wanted--to follow that cutter, and to stop where it stopped.
Well, it stopped at the club-house; and when she saw it turn in there, I
heard her give a little gasp.
"Wait," she whispered. "Wait till she has had time to get out and go
in; then drive in, too, and help me to find my way into the building
And then I knew it was Miss Carmel we had been following. Before, I
thought it was Mr. Arthur.
Presently, she pulled me by the sleeve. "I heard the door shut," said
she--and I was a little frightened at her voice, but I was full of my
importance, and went on doing just as she bade me. Driving in after the
cutter, I drew up into the shadows where the grey mare was hid, and then,
reaching out my hand to Miss Cumberland, I helped her out, and went with
her as far as the door. "You may go back now," said she. "If I survive
the night, I shall never forget this service, my good Zadok." And I saw
her lift her hand to the door, then fall back white and trembling in the
moonlight. "I can't," she whispered, over and over; "I can't--I can't."
"Shall I knock?" I asked.
"No, no," she whispered back. "I want to go in quietly; let's see if
there's no other way. Run about the house, Zadok; I will submit to any
humiliation; only find me some entrance other than this." She was shaking
so and her face looked so ghastly in the moonlight that I was afraid to
leave her; but she made me a gesture of such command that I ran quickly
down the steps, and so round the house till I came to a shed over the top
of which I saw a window partly open.
Could I get her up on to the shed? I thought I could, and went hurrying
back to the big entrance where I had left her. She was still there,
shivering with the cold, but just as determined as ever. "Come," I
whispered; "I have found a way."
She gave me her hand and I led her around to the shed. She was like a
snow woman and her touch was ice itself. "Wait till I get a box or board
or something," I said. Hunting about, I found a box leaning against the
kitchen side, and, bringing it, I helped her up and soon had her on a
level with the window.
As she made her way in, she turned and whispered to me: "Go back
now. Carmel has a horse, and will see me home. You have served me
I nodded, and she vanished into the darkness. Then I should have gone;
but my curiosity was too great. I wanted to know just a little more. Two
women in this desolate and bitterly cold club-house! What did it mean?
I could not restrain myself from following her in and listening, for a
few minutes, to what they had to say. But I did not catch much of it; and
when I heard other sounds from some place below, and recognised these
sounds as a man's heavy footsteps coming up the rear stairs, I got a
fright at being where I should not be, and slipped into the first door I
found, expecting this man to come out and join the ladies.
But he did not; he just lingered for a moment in the hall I had left,
then I heard him clamber out of the window and go. I now know that this
was Mr. Arthur. But I did not know it then, and I was frightened for
the horse I had run off with, and so got out of the building as quickly
as I could.
And all might yet have been well if I had not found, lying on the snow at
the foot of the shed, a bottle of whiskey such as I had never drunk and
did not know how to resist. Catching it up, I ran about the house to
where I had left my rig. It was safe, and in my relief at finding it, I
knocked off the head of the bottle and took a long drink.
Then I drank again; then I sat down in the snow and drank again. In
short, I nearly finished it; then I became confused; I looked at the
piece of broken bottle in my hand, took a fancy to its shape, and
breaking off a bit more, thrust it into one of my big pockets. Then I
staggered up to the horse; but I did not untie him.
Curiosity seized me again, and I thought I would take another look at the
ladies--perhaps they might want me--perhaps--I was pretty well confused,
but I went back and crawled once more into the window.
This time the place was silent--not a sound, not a breath,--but I
could see a faint glimmer of light. I followed this glimmer. Still
there was no sound.
I came to an open door. A couch was before me, heaped with cushions. A
long ray of moonlight had shot in through a communicating door, and I
could see everything by it. This was where the ladies had been when I
listened before, but they were not here now.
Weren't they? Why did I tremble so, then, and stare and stare at those
cushions? Why did I feel I must pull them away, as I presently did? I was
mad with liquor and might easily have imagined what I there saw; but I
did not think of this then. I believed what I saw instantly. Miss
Cumberland was dead, and I had discovered the crime. She had killed
herself--no, she had been killed!
Should I yell out murder? No, no; I could be sorry without that. I would
not yell--mistresses were plenty. I had liked her, but I need not yell.
There was something else I could do.
She had a ring on her finger--a ring that for months I had gloated over
and watched, as I had never watched and gloated over any other beautiful
thing in my life. I wanted it--I had always wanted it. It was before me,
for the taking now--I should be a fool to leave it there for some other
wretch to pilfer. I had loved her--I would love the ring.
Reaching down, I took it. I drew it from her finger; I put it in my
pocket; I--God in heaven! The eyes I had seen glassed in death were
looking at me.
She was not dead--she had been witness of the theft. Without a thought of
what I was doing, my hands closed round her throat. It was
drink--fright--terror at the look she gave me--which made me kill her;
not my real self. My real self could have shrieked when, in another
instant, I saw my work.
But shrieking would not bring her back and it would quite ruin me. Miss
Carmel was somewhere near. I heard her now at the telephone; in another
minute she would come out and meet me. I dared not linger.
Tossing back the pillows, I stumbled from the place. Why I was not heard
by my young mistress, I do not know; her ears were deaf, just as my eyes
were half-blind. In a half hour I was dancing with the maids, telling
them of the pretty stranger with whom I had been sitting out an hour of
fun in a quiet corner. They believed me, and not a particle of suspicion
has any man ever had of me since.
But others have had to suffer, and that has made hell of my nights. I
restored the ring to my poor mistress; but even that brought harm to one
I had no quarrel with. But he has escaped conviction; and if I thought
Mr. Ranelagh would also escape, I might have courage to live out my
miserable life, and seek to make amends in the way she would have me.
But I fear for him; I fear for Miss Carmel. Never could I testify in
another trial which threatened her peace of mind. I see that, instead of
being the selfish stealer of her sister's happiness, as I had thought,
she is an angel from whom all future suffering should be kept.
This is my way of sparing her. Perhaps it will help her sister to forgive
me when we meet in the world to which I am now going.