Hide Articles List

1 article on this Page

STORIES OF WALES.

News
Cite
Share

STORIES OF WALES. BY W. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS, Author of Gzvilym a Benni Bach," "Gwr 11 Dolau," &c. IX.—THE GHOST OF JACOB P UGH—(continued). [Copyright 1905 by W. Llewelyn Williams in the United States of America.] A few days later Jonah Pugh was brought before the justices and committed to the Assizes. The evidence was pretty much the same as at the coroner's inquest. Jonah was now represented by a solicitor, and, acting upon his advice, he declined to give evidence, but reserved his defence. Up to the committal, a good many people in the parish thought that Jonah still had a chance of his freedom. "Doesn't Twmi Price see the toilul" they asked. And did he not foretell the curate's death? And if Twmi can see the spirits of those who are going to die before they have left their shell of clay, why can't Jonah see the spirit of his brother after it has left his body ?" But the action of the magistrates silenced the doubtersl A cold douche of common sense damped the fervour of their imaginings. How could Jonah have known about Pwll Du if he had not thrown the body there ? Or if he had not, why should Jacob's ghost appear to him, and not to the police, or the magistrates, or one of the neighbours ? But even when Jonah's good faith was doubted, a good deal of sympathy was felt for him. "Jacob was a stark man," it was said, "and bis tongue was enough to aggravate a saint." Jonah himself grew cheerful in his confine- ment. The regularity of the prison discipline, the scanty plain food, the hard plank bed, the abstention from drink and tobacco soothed his nerve and allayed his excitement. It almost seemed as if, by informing the police, he had brought peace to his soul at the expense of liberty to his body. Jonah was grateful for the long, undisturbed rest which he enjoyed every night, and scarcely seemed to realise that at the coming Assizes he would be tried for his life. His solicitor detained John Trevor to defend him. Trevor was a comforting counsel who always believed implicitly in his client's case. He had never before paid much attention to physical research; indeed, he had been inclined to scoff at ghost stories and tales of the supernatural. But he grew to believe absolutely in Jacob's ghost, and his confidence in the case for the defence increased for the time the cheer- fulness of Jonah. A few days before the Assizes, however, it was noticed that a change had come over Jonah's spirit. He sat gloomy and silent in his cell, hardly exchanged a word or a look with the warder, started apprehensively at every sound, and generally seemed to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. This was the con- clusion come to by the prison doctor. The close confinement and long anxiety, he said, were telling their tale on a strong constitution which had been used to active exercise and open air. Jonah vouchsafed no explanation of his illness, and paid no attention to the doctor's talk. He eyed his visitor suspiciously, as if he were a mere ally of the police, and therefore his enemy. The night before the commission day of the Assizes, the warder was startled to hear hideous screams from Jonah's cell. He hurried there, but upon opening the door he found only Jonah crouching in the corner, his eyes filled with an almost insane terror. "Take him away!" shrieked Jonah to the astonished warder. "Take him away! He's after me again Who's after you ? asked the warder. "Jacob," answered Jonah, in a hoarse whisper, glancing furtively around as if afraid he !was still there. "He has been coming every night for a week or more. He wants to hang me! He hated me when he was alive, and now he wants to hang me when he is dead." The warder was case-hardened in the study of criminality, but Jonah puzzied him. Do you mean to tell me that you have seen your brother's spirit to-night ? he asked. Yes, yes," exclaimed Jonah, eagerly, anxious now to convince the warder of the truth of his statement, as he had before been anxious to convince Jane Williams. He has been coming every night, but I would not have any- thing to do with him. But to-night he came again. He looked very angry,-and he spoke to me." Spoke to you ? echoed the warder. Yes; spoke to me," replied Jonah, im- pressively. What did he say ? asked the warder. "I shall not say!" cried Jonah, excitedly. I told Jane Williams what he told me before, and I was put in gaol. If I tell this again I shall be hanged! But I won't listen to the devil again Why should he worry me like this ? I never touched him, I swear to God." Don't you get excited said the warder, soothingly. Forget all about what you think he said to you and go to sleep." Sleep ? shrieked Jonah. "How can I sleep, when that devil disturbs me all the time. I have not slept for a week." Early next morning John Trevor and the solicitor had an interview with the prisoner for the purpose of completing the case for the defence. Trevor was shocked to find the change that had come over Jonah since he had last seen him. "You must not give way, Jonah," he said, reassuringly. "I don't believe for a moment you did it, and I think the jury will say the same." "Thank you, Mr. Trevor," replied Jonah, in his listless, leaden manner, but I know I shall hang for it, though I swear before Heaven I am innocent." Don't worry too much," said Trevor, though I know how difficult it must be not to. No wonder your nerve is a bit gone, but you should do your best to pull yourself together for the trial to-morrow." I know, I know," wearily moaned Jonah, I have said the same thing to myself, and up to a week ago I kept up my spirits all right. But then he came again." "He?" interrogated Trevor. Yes, he," replied Jonah, with savage emphasis. That ghost, that devil, or what- ever he is." You mean to say that the ghost .has appeared to you again?" asked Trevor, with subtle incredulity in his voice. "Yes; every night for a week," replied Jonah. "I know you don't believe me. I know nobody will. But he has, and he means to hang me, the devil." This new revelation was too much even for Trevor. One ghostly appearance he was pre- pared to accept,-was ready to urge the jury to accept,—but another would be a sorry anti- climax which he could not, as a true artist in advocacy, defend. Are you sure ? he asked at last. "Sure?" angrily exclaimed Jonah. "Of course I am, and so would you be if your sleep had been spoilt for a week. Sure ? Do you think I say this out of fun or joke? Why should I have told the police ? Why should I tell you now ? Sure ? I am as sure that I saw and heard him speak last night as that I saw and heard him at Towy Villa weeks ago." "You heard him speak?" breathlessly ex- claimed Trevor. Jonah's face clouded with passion. "Yes," he said, in a voice of concentrated anger, "the devil wants to drive me to the gallows, but he shan't! He has driven me to gaol through his commands, but I shall not listen to him any more." "Did he command you to do something more last night, then ?" asked Trevor, in surprise. Now, don't you think you can get anything out of me," burst out Jonah. I have had quite enough of this, and I shall not say a word more. I am innocent, I swear in the sight of God and man. I never saw him since I left him at the Red Cow. I knew nothing of his body till he told me it was at the bottom of Pwll Du. I knew nothing of his cursed money till Jonah came to a full stop. Trevor looked at him suspiciously, as he filled in the incom- plete sentence. Till last night? There you go again roughly cried Jonah. Who said he told me about the money last night ? Why should you try and catch me up like that, and you my mouthpiece, too ? Trevor remained silent, lost in thought. His confidence in Jonah's innocence had received a rude shock, and he was debating within himself whether he ought to pursue the matter further or let sleeping dogs lie. Jonah grew uneasy under this treatment. I know you are not believing in me any more, Mr. Trevor," he said, "and I know the jury will be against me, too." "It is not for me to judge, Jonah," said Trevor, at last, but it is my duty to tell you that you have said either too much or too little. You will have to. give evidence, in order to show how you came to tell the police about Pwll Du. You will be cross-examined, and if the prosecu- tion have an inkling about what you have told me-" "Oh, but they have," interrupted Jonah, because I told the warder last night." Trevor became still more dismayed. wfhen," he said, "you will be cross-examined, and if you only tell as much as you have told me, it will have a very bad effect on the jury. You will be pressed to say what the ghost said about the money, and if you don't answer it will go against you." "Was ever man so hunted before?" cried the wretched Jonah. "What have I done that I should be tortured like this ? I swear I never touched him. I did not want his money. I did not want to know where it was, but he insisted on telling me." "Well, good-bye, Jonah," said Trevor, dejectedly, I shall do my best for you, but as I have only part of your confidence I can't do as much as I should like." Jonah realised at last that he had indeed said too much or too little. He saw that Trevor's friendly face had become over-cast with vague suspicion, and he determined to make a cleaa breast of it.