Page:Braddon--The Trail of the Serpent.djvu/310

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The Trail of the Serpent.

the town as fast as ever she could tear. 'Ho!' I ses, 'you are a nice lot, you are; but I'll see who's dead, in spite of you.' So I crawls up to vere ve'd left the body, and there it vos sure enuff, but all uncovered now, the face a-starin' up at the black sky, and it vos dressed, as far as I could make out, quite like a gentleman, all in black, but it vos so jolly dark I couldn't see the face, vhen all of a sudden, vhile I vos a-kneelin' down and lookin' at it, there comes von of the longest flashes of lightnin' as I ever remember, and in the blue light I sees the face plainer than I could have seen it in the day. I thought I should have fell down all of a-heap. It vos Jim! Jim hisself, as I knowed as well as I ever knowed myself, dead at my feet! My first thought vos as how that young man as vos so like Jim had murdered him; but there vorn't no marks of wiolence novheres about the body. Now, I hadn't in my own mind any doubts as how it vos Jim; but still, I ses to myself, I ses, 'Everythink seems topsy-turvy like this night, so I'll be sure;' so I takes up his arm, and turns up his coat-sleeve. Now, vy I does this is this 'ere: there vos a young voman Jim vos uncommon fond ov, vhich her name vos Bess, though he and many more called her, for short, Sillikens: and von day vhen me and Jim vos at a public, ve happened to fall in vith a sailor, vot ve'd both knowed afore he vent to sea. So he vos a-tellin' of us his adventures and such-like, and then he said promiscus, 'I'll show you somethin' pretty;' and sure enuff, he slipped up the sleeve ov his Garnsey, and there, all over his arm, vos all manner ov sort ov picters done vith gunpowder, such as ankers, and Rule Britannias, and ships in full sail on the backs of flyin' alligators. So Jim takes quite a fancy to this 'ere, and he ses, 'I vish, Joe (the sailor's name bein' Joe), I vish, Joe, as how you'd do me my young voman's name and a wreath of roses on my arm, like that there.' Joe ses, 'And so I vill, and velcome.' And sure enuff, a veek or two artervards, Jim comes to me vith his arm like a picter-book, and Bess as large as life just above the elber-joint. So I turns up his coat-sleeve, and vaits for a flash ov lightnin'. I hasn't to vait long, and there I reads, 'B.E.S.S.' 'There ain't no doubt now,' I ses, 'this 'ere's Jim, and there's some willany or other in it, vot I ain't up to.'"

"Very good," said the counsel; "we may want you again by-and-by, I think, Mr. Withers; but for the present you may retire."

The next witness called was Dr. Tappenden, who related the circumstances of the admission of Jabez North into his household, the high character he had from the Board of the Slopperton Union, and the confidence reposed in him.

"You placed great trust, then, in this person?" asked the counsel for the prosecution.

"The most implicit trust," replied the schoolmaster; "so