Page:Braddon--The Trail of the Serpent.djvu/311

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

The End of the Dark Road.

307

much so, that he was frequently employed by me to collect subscriptions for a public charity of which I was the treasurer—the Slopperton Orphan Asylum. I think it only right to mention this, as on one occasion it was the cause of his calling upon the unfortunate gentleman who was murdered."

"Indeed! Will you be so good as to relate the circumstance?"

"I think it was about three days before the murder, when, one morning, at a little before twelve o'clock—that being the time at which my pupils are dismissed from their studies for an hour's recreation—I said to him, 'Mr. North, I should like you to call upon this Indian gentleman, who is staying with Mrs. Marwood, and whose wealth is so much talked of——"

"Pardon me. You said, 'whose wealth is so much talked of.' Can y ou swear to having made that remark?"

"I can."

"Pray continue," said the counsel.

"'I should like you,' I said, 'to call upon this Mr. Harding, and solicit his aid for the Orphan Asylum; we are sadly in want of funds. I know, North, your heart is in the work, and you will plead the cause of the orphans successfully. You have an hour before dinner; it is some distance to the Black Mill, but you can walk fast there and back.' He went accordingly, and on his return brought a five-pound note, which Mr. Harding had given him."

Dr. Tappenden proceeded to describe the circumstance of the death of the little boy in the usher's apartment, on the very night of the murder. One of the servants was examined, who slept on the same floor as North, and who said she had heard strange noises in his room that night, but had attributed the noises to the fact of the usher sitting up to attend upon the invalid. She was asked what were the noises she had heard.

"I heard some one open the window, and shut it a long while after."

"How long do you imagine the interval to have been between the opening and shutting of the window?" asked the counsel.

"About two hours," she replied, "as far as I could guess."

The next witness for the prosecution was the old servant, Martha.

"Can you remember ever having seen the prisoner at the bar?"

The old woman put on her spectacles, and steadfastly regarded the elegant Monsieur de Marolles, or Jabez North, as his enemies insisted on calling him. After a very deliberate inspection of that gentleman's personal advantages, rather trying to the feelings of the spectators, Mrs. Martha Jones said, rather obscurely—

"He had light hair then."

"'He had light hair then.' You mean, I conclude," said the