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BY THOMAS COBB, ATTTHOB OF "THE HOUSE BY THE COMMON," WILL," THE WEST- LAICES," ETC., ETC. 5HAPTER XIX.—THE CORONER'S IN- QUEST. HE schoolroom walls were hung with large-type texts and maps, and a desk had been shifted to the front of the for the coroner, a sallow- faced man, with a heavy black mous- tache and a shiny bald pate. Un iiis left, "upon two uncomfortable forms, one behind the other, sat the good men and true, but of rustic appearance, who formed the jury. They had just returned from vieAv- ing the corpse at The Rookery. Facing the jury, a small desk was reserved as a kind of externuorary witness box; and for the rest, the room was already becoming croweded. Everybody who could leave his business or pleasure had come to the in- quest; amongst others, Mr. Joseph Bod- ger, who took care to keep well out of In- spector Holt's sight. The first person Florence recognised was Owen Fa.irford, taller than most of tnose present, apparently watching the door for her entrance. This was followed by a momen- tary hush, and then by a rustle, as many spectators turned to look at her pale, tired face. After the coroner had opened the proceed- ings, the first witness was Mogford, look- ing ungainly in his Sunday clothes. He described his earliest suspicions on seeing Mrs. Derwent's coffin, and its subsequent opening, all with much realistic detail. Then Dr. Virefc entered the box, and was examined )y Mr. Edwards. He stood with his shoul- ders bent, an uncouth figure, his black coat hanging in creases from his spare shoulders, a narrow wisp of black necktie sticking cut on one side of his grey shirt. But his customary economy of words made him an adm irable witness. "You have seen the body, Dr. Virefc?" asked Mr. Edwards and be it observed that this purports to be no verbatim report of the evidence such as appeared] the following week in the coloumns of the "Wisborough Advertiser." "Yes; it is that of Mr. Derwenfc." "When did you see Mr. Derwent last fclive ?" "On Tuesday, the 4-th of March." "Kindly state the circumstances." "He had attended his wife's funeral. I also. t returned to his house till seven o'clock." "Were you induced to accompany the de- ceased to his house, in any degree, because you feared to Ise.ve him alone?" "No,t in the slightest degree." "You had no suspicion that he was in a mood to injure lilmseil "Certainly not." 1 "You were on terms of intimacy with the ileceased. Have you ever heard him refer to anyone whom he regarded as an enemy?" "Never ho hadn't an enemy in the world." "You have identified the corpse; d-^ you examine it carefully?" "You have identified the corpse; d-" you examine it carefully?" "Sufficiently to identify it. Not to ex- press an opinion as to the cause of death." I The coroner here interposed a. remark. An autopsy had been made by a. medical gentleman "who was present, whom the jury would presently have the satisfaction of bearing. There was utter silence when Florence pre- sently stepped into the improvised witness box, her head bowed, so that her chin touched her bosom, her clearly modelled face pale and sad, her fair hair conspicuous beneath her black hat. She was evidently Jinking a strenuous effort at self-control, (hough at the best her low-voiced answers failed to reach the ears of Joe Rodger. "Will you tell us," said Mr. Edwards, when fche had formally identified the body as Mr. jf)c;rwent's, "what took place at The Rookery after Dr. Viret's departure at seven o'clock on the evening of March 4?" ( "I accompanied my father to his study." "I am afraid I must trouble you for de- tails, Miss Derwent." "He sat silemt awhile, then he wept. At I fcbte o'clock I rose from mv stool at his Side, and read some lines from 'In Momoriam.' &iy father took his Bible and began to read from the Back of Job. His emotion stopped him. Shortly after ten I bade "m goou- night." "Yes ?" "Nearly an hour later I hear his voice, and left my room. He stood at the bottom of the staircase, and called upon my dead mother's name. I induced him to go to his bedroom, and then lighted his lamp and left him." "Was that the last time you saw your father alive?" asked Mr. Edwards. She did not reply at once, she could net; I and when the answer came it was scarcely audible:-— was the last time," ■ "Now, Miss Derwent, I want you to tell us what took place on Wednesday, the fol- kwmg mormng. "I came downstairs nine. There was co sign of my father. Presently I went to his room; the door was shut.. I knocked, but obtaining no. answer, opened it and ontered. The lamp had been turned down; it had not burned itself out." "You are sure of that?" "Quite sure," she answered. "The bed not been disturbed." '-Well?" "I believed that., being unable to rest in h; room, he had gone out." "Did you inquire of the servai,.ti. "Of one of them—of Lizzie Mogfo-d." "Is Lizzie Mogford present?" "Yes." Florence was told that she might stand down, and immediately returned to her seat between Dr. Viret and Mr. Edwards, where- upon Lizzie filled her place. She remembered the morning of Wednes- day, the 5th of March rememoered also bolt- ing the hall door the previous night as usual. When she came downstairs at half-past six, the bolts were drawn back, and the chain j was hanging down. "What did you do?" a.sked the solicitor. ''Nothing, sir. Mr. Derwent so .often took a walk before breakfast." "You were not in the least alarmed?" "Oh, no, sir I" "How long have you held your present Bifrnataon ?" 0 i "Five yeaxs, air. 't "And during those five years have you ever heard any one express ill-will towards the deceased 7" Lizzie's cheeks became as red as her hair; she was obviously confused. "Kindly speak out," Mr. Edwards urged; and throughout the room there was a rustle, as if the spectators were shifting their atti- tudes to listen more attentively. 0 "Weil, sir Inspector Holt's eyes were fixed upon her face, Mr. Edwards bade her again to speak out. "Of course, she didn't mean anything," Lizzie answered, "but she did go on-" "Who went on?" "Ann, sir—Ann Thursday, what was buried yesterday." "Who was Ann Thursday?" "One of the servants, sir. A kind of lady's maid. She had been at The Rookery years and years." "What Ù!LQ she go on about? Please be explicit." "It was all because master wouldn't let her nurse Mrs. Derwent any more. She came down to us m the kitchen and said as L-oi-, hod treated her cruel, and he'd be made to suffer for it, him and the doctor. They was both of 'em brutes," she said. Lizzie's evidence was? co.d«:rihed yr the other servant from The Rookery, and jre sent-Iy Florence was re-called. '"Ann Thursday had lived with your parents for man- years, Miss Derwent?" asked the solicitor. "Before I was born. Before my mother's mairriage. SId wornJ -aye, Sacrificed hM life for any of us," said Florence, warmly. "About her dissatisfaction with Mr. er- went ?" "At first Ann nursed my mother, assisted only by myself. But when Dr. V:ret took charge of the case he replaced us by two hospital nurses. My father broke: the news to Ann in mT presence. She was exceed- ingly annoyed." "Please describe what passed." "I do not remember her words. She was naturally of an excitable temper. She be- came violent: paced about the room. Her manner was offensive." "Did she employ threats?" "It is true she said my father would repent the day, but I a.m sure she only meant •" I am afraid we must not take that, "Miss Derwent," said Mr. Edwards, stopping ner intended explanation. "At what hour aid you see Ann Thursday on the morning of the 5th of MflTcIl 7" "Not until I went to her room at half- past ten. She was ill that morning." "From what complaint?" "She said she had been seized by giddi- ness on rising, and fallen against the marble- topped washstand. There was a long cut on her forehead." "Did she require medical attendance for this fa-intness ?" "Dr. Viret attended her at my request," Florence answered. When she returned to her seat at the desk, Mr. Edwards re-called Dr. Viret, who said that he was called in to Ann Thursday on Thursday, the 13th of March. "The cardiac affection from which she sub- sequently died," he explained, "would ac- count for her faintness. From her conoition when I first examined her, I do not doubt that such faintness occurred." "Did you observe a wound on her fore- head?" "Yes. It was cicatrised, and might have been caused in the manner described. 1 have no doubt it was so caused." "You knew it was caused on the morning of Mr. Derwent's disalJIJearanCe i" "She made no secret of the circumstance." "And it did not strike you as peculiar that the first attack of faintness should occur that mornincr, Dr. Viret?" "Not more peculiar than if it had occurred any other morning. Everything must have 1 -1 ut, -P a beginning. Tleexctment attending her mistress's funeral would encourage such a seizure." "You knew nothing of this woman's anti- pathy to Mr. Derwent?" Going down upon his knees, he carefully inspected each individual board." "Nothing but what Miss Derwent told me subsequently." Joe Bodger, st,anding fl., few yards to the rear of Owen Fairford, felt a thrill of ex- citement, shared by many others, when Dr. Brown, of Wisborough, entered the witness box. His evidence was chiefly of a tech- nical description. He had made an autopsy that morning, and was of opinion that death occurred about six weeks ago. It was im- possible to speak with actual certainty. "Now, Dr. Brown," said Mr. Edwards, "as to the cause of death?" "The cause was a wound over the right temple, probably delivered with a sharp steel instrument, about half an inch wide. "Such as what?" Dr. Brown reflected a few moments. "A carpenter's chisel, perhaps of course a small one. It must have struck the head with terrible force. The incision is almost clean; about half an inch long, and the wound penetrates the skull, entering the brain to a depth of two inches. Death I would have been instantaneous." "Are you able to form any opinion as to the .relative positions of the deceased and his assailant?" 'They must have been face to face, that is all I can say, and sufficiently far apart to allow the blow to be delivered with tre- mendous force. It is not possible that it could have been dealt from behind." "Could it have been self-inflicted 1" "Certainly not," was Dr. Brown's em- phatic answer. A little later the coroner began to fumble with his papers, and after fixing his eye- glasses more securely, to sum up tne evi- dence. He expressed the sympathy he was sure they all felt for the deceased gentleman's daughter, who had undergone the painful ordeal of giving her evidence this morning. It was the duty of the jury to weigh the evidence, and to arrive at a vero/iet in ac- cordance with it As to the cause of death, there could remain little doubts in their minds They had the evidence of Dr. Brown, who told them that death was caused by a violent- blow with some instrument resem- bling a carpenter's chisel. Now as to the mysterious circumstances connected with the case, and which he might say focussed the attention of the nation, even of the civilised world, or at least that portion world, or at least that portion the English tongue, upon their proceedings in this room; and for all their sakes he wished it was better ventilated. The de- ceased had be.en well-known and deeply re- spected by them all. His literary reputation extended far and wide. Except the servant, Ann Thursday, he did not appear to have possessed an enemy in the world. He had been the object of general sympathy in his recent bereavement. The jury had been told how Miss Derwent bade him good-night finally at eleven o'clock, on March 4, how she entered his room at nine the following morning and found it vacant. Did they think that, unable to rest, the deceased had sej forth to visit his wife's grave? What occurred beside that grave? They had the evidence of Mogford, who had described the manner in which suspi- cion wa first awakened, am;' the opening of the coffin. There could exist no doubt that whan the coffin was first interred it contained the body of Mrs. Derwent, but it I was no part of their duty to inquire what had become of that body. What they were Then Dr, Viret entered the box, and was examined by Mr. Edwards. called upon to decide was not, and he con- gratulated them that it not, sxow Derwent's corpse was removed, "and by whom, J but simply concerning the cause of Mr. Der- t event's death. Nothing had been brought out to show who assailed the deceased, or what motive possessed the criminal to se- crete one dead bodv at the risk of re- moving the other. This portion of the in- quiry was left in mystery complete and im- penetrable, but he should not, therefore, adjourn the present inquiry. The matter had been placed in the proper hands, and would not be "oermitt-ed to rest. The coroner then looked at his watch, and began his peroration, and, without ing their seats, the jury returned a verdict of "Wilful murder against some person un- known." CHAPTER XX.—INSPECTOR HOLT AT WORK. Later on the afternoon of the inquest, Inspector Holt called at The Rookery, and finding Arnold Derwent reclining upon the dining-room sofa, introduced himself with an apology for the intrusion. "Oh, don't mention that," cried Arnold, who appeared to have recovered from the first effects of his broken arm "I am very glad to see vou. Mr. Edwards hasn't long been gone. He came direct from the. inquest, you know. I'd have been there, only crowds and broken limbs don't agree very well. What can I do for v,-),a?" "If there's no objection," said the detec- tive, "I should like to look at Ann Thurs- day's bedroom." "Any room you like," was the answer. "That harvoens to be the only one I have not been into," said Inspector Holt; and Arnold left the sofa, and himself led the way to Ann's room. First each of the two cupboards was opened, and not content with a careful glance at the miscellaneous contents, Holt must needs empty everything out, and tap the wood- work, as if in search of a secret chamber be- hind it. Leaving the cupboards, he walked- round the room, sounding the walls with his knuckles, examined every box, and finally asked permission to take up the carpet. Going down upon his knees, he carefully inspected each individual board. "Anyone would think you exiixiateu to find mv aunt's body here," exclaimed Arnold, standing by the door, his left hard Helping to support the shiny leather envelope that encased his wounded arm. "I understand the servant had an extra- ordinary affection for Mrs. Derwent ?" said Holt, still on all-fours. "She would have done any mortal thing I for Aunt Alice," was the answer. "At least, she would have done when I used to run to and fro here. Of course, I have been out of England some months." "So I understand. You returned on board the Stirling Castle." "No, no. I returned to Southhampton on the Radnor. The Stirling Castle left me behind at Teneriffe. Of course, I was all infernal juggins." "Yet if you had remained aboard the Stirling Castle, sir," said Holt, rising to his feet, "you would have reached England be- fore the beginning of March. In that cas&, Mr. Derwent might be still alive. By the bye, it was an extremely happy thought that of burying Ann Thursday in Mrs. Der- went's grave. Your own suggestion, I be- v Mefve "It was a lucky shot, wasn't it?" an- swered Arnold. "It shows a good action does get rewarded sometimes. I wanted to save expense, you see. There was the grave, and it seemed a pity not to pop old Ann into it." "It would have been; in. fact," the in- spector added, "years might have passed without furnishing the proof, you so much wai.ted." Holt stopped to flick some dust off the knees of his dark grey trousers. "A curious name—Thursday. Was Ann Eng- lish, Mr. Derwent?" "Born, in England, I suppose. I never exactly heard. Anyone could see there was African blood in her veins." "She loved her mistress better than her master 1" Inspector Holt suggested. "Oh, well," said Arnold, "she wasn't a bad sort. Awfully good to me as a kid. They say she turned rusty towards the finish but, you see, for one thing, she was ill." "Curious customs, I believe some of these Africans have, Mr. DenveJnt." renrarked Holt, with a final glance rc-und the room. "I dare say. But I'll give you the tip, inspector. If you want to get at the "Don't you?" Inspector Holt faced Arnold with startling abruptness as he put the ques- tion. "Of course, I should like to clear it all up," was the answer. "But I'm not an inquisitive kind of Johnny—not as a usual thing; and well—well, you see, inspector, I've got pretty well all I care for. I was going to give you the tip. If you want to find the culprit, cherchez la femme—the woman next door, I mean." 'Is there a woman there?" asked Holt. "I'll take my oath of it." "That would be reckless, Mr. Derwent. I have had some conversation on the subject with Dr. Viret, and I understand the only witness is a weak-minded servant. She in- sists she saw a figure dressed in black il "Veiled "So she believed. But it was in the middle of the night, pitch-dark: and no doubt the girl ran away without a second glance. Your own experience directly contradicts hers. No, no, Mr. Derwent; next to the actual murderer—or murderess—-the most impor- tant person to find is the burglar. But I am taking up your time, and I was going to ask to be allowed to look at the coffin." He followed Arnold across the wide jand ing, and entering Mr. Derwent's bedroom, stopped beside the coffin, and carefully re- moved the lid. "Cadman said he still carried his watch," said Holt. "Ah, here it is; I suppose he never wore a chain, Mr .Derwent?" "Never that I can remember." Presently Inspector Holt turned his reten- tion to the coffin itself, examining its sides and edges, as if to ascertain the method employed to remove the lid. "I don't know whether you're anything of a carpenter?" he asked suddenly; and Arnold, on the other side of the coffin, seemed startled. "I used to be as a boy. What on earth made you ask?" he exclaimed. "Because, if you pass your thumb along this rim, you'll feel it's as smooth as when it left the workshop." "What of that?" "Only this. No bungler has been at work here. In fact, Mr. Derwent, there's been no attempt to force the lid. The more ignorant a man the more violent his methods. That's my experience. Whoever opened this coffin just went quietly to work without any flurry. He lifted the boards off the grave, jumped into it, took out his screwdriver, and simply removed one screw after another. Then he got out again and leaned down and stretched out his hand till he gripped the edge of the lid, and after that "Oh, cut it cried Arnold. "You make me sick." And walking to the door, he made his way downstairs-, leaving Inspector Holt to re-placs the lid upon the coffin and follow alone. "I suppose you are going to remain at home now?" he said, entering the dining- room for his ha-L. "It depends llpon circumstances," answered Arnold. "Excuse my leaving you, but I'm not up to my usual strength yet, and upon my word you- "A little too realistic, eh, Mr. Derwent? Well, good afternoon, sir." Once o-utside, Inspector Holt rubbed his Å Oh, cut it! cried Arnold, you make me sick," and walking- to the door, he made his way downstairs, leaving- Inspector Holt to replace the lid upon the coffin and follow alone. hands briskly, and set out with jaunty steps towards The Laurels, and there, being shown into tha drawing-room, was soon joined by Dr. Viret and Florence, whom no amount of persuasion could keep away. She looked very worn and tired after the ordeal of the morning, but brightened considerably on Seeing Inspector Holt, who, in spite of his previous mistake, still inspired confidence. The inquest had not in the least degree lightened her darkness, and she was still, as she had been when Owen first brought the news, overcome with horror at this snatch- ing of her mother's body. "I was afraid you had gone back to Lon- don," she said, when the detective greeted her, "and I have been longing to speak to you. Inspector Holt," she added, beseech- ingly, "pray find my mother's body I What can have become of it ? I wo aid give any- thing in the world to get it back again." It was her manner rather than her words It was her manner rather than her words which touched the hearts of her hearert; though Holt showed its effect less than D Viret. "I'll db my best," he answered; "I can't say more than that. What we've got to un- ravel is one of the deepest mysteries it's ever been my lot to deal with. The first thing is to find out who murdered Mr. Derwent. "That is nothing in comparison!" cried Florence. "They have stolen away my dar- ling mother. Tell me where; bring her back again- For pity's sake, let her rest in the grave Dr. Viret gently forced her into a chair, and whilst Inspector Holt took another, him- self remained standing with his eyes fixed on the girl's sad, beautiful face. "You see, Miss Derwent," Holt explained, "I hope one discovery implies the other. Not that the person who killed Mr. Der- went necessarily stole your mother's body. That doesn't follow at all. Someone may have opened her coffin to begin with—— "But," Florence interrupted, "it seems.. so I; purposeless. There could be no possible motive." "The motive wasn't robbery," answered the inspector. Derwent's watch is still in his pocket. It ran down at I have just left The Rookery." "You've no clue?" asked Dr. Viret. "I won't say I've exactly got a clue, doc- tor, but I've one or two notions running in my head. By the bye, I understand this Ann Thursday was a negress." "No no exclaimed Dr. Viret, with hIS customary intolerance of a sweeping asser- tion. "Say her great-great-grandmother was an octoroon, and you will be nearer the mark." "At all events, there was black blood in her veins. She was deeply attached to your mother, Miss Derwent?" "Passionately devoted to her." 'Did 'she see Mrs. Derwent after déft.th" "Oh, yes. For the previous three weeks she had not entered her room-" "A good woman, but a bad nurse," Dr. Viret ejaculated- "Then," Florence continued, "she threw herself upon my mother's body before I could hinder her, just as, if life still re- mained in it. She kissed the poor white face, covered it with her tears, stroked the hands, and spoke as if my mother was a child again. I was obliged to fetch one of the nurses to take her away." "Just so," said Holt complacently- fact, she showed as much affection for the body-" "Almost more than she did for my moHer dfuring her life," Florence replied. "She was always waiting about by the hedrodn door, and striving to gain amission to Ie room." "Without success?" "Yes, she never entered it again, not Iik3 it. Of course, it was entirely lle "i t-i ng to her deep love, but it seemed revolting- For 8, few moments there ensued silefice> but Inspector Holt's face was very sXpreSj sive. He evidently had more in his than he cared to utter, although >lOJ that he could say would have Florence of Ann's complicity with ti crime. to "There's one thing you really ought le have done, Mies Derwent," he said pre: sently. "I asked you to inform me of thing fresh that bore upon the case, yet failed to advise me of Mr. Arnold Derwe»t return to England." She looked quickly into his face. „ "That did not appear to bear upon case," she answered. t "He was the only person with an interes^ in Mr. Derwent's death," the detective cSl plained. "Confessedly, he sailed on a vesse which was due in England four days before it occurred." "But he left it at Teneriffe "When did he tell you that ?" "Before he had been'in the house hours," she said. "Surely you cannot s1lS* pect ■" "Easy; as I reminded you yesterday) set your suspicions at rest," exclaimed Viret, "or to confirm them. Not that believe it for a moment." s "And," Florence continued, "Arnold so anxious to find out the truth his anXiW led him t-o act unjustifiably." "Not his anxiety to discover the J Miss Derwent; at'least, not for the sake truth. All he cared about was to prove 111: Derwent's death. And it must be. bered that but for his suggestion cor.ceTB-1 e this Avom-an's burial, that"'proof- migM; £ have been forthcoming, for years. he added, rising, and taking his hat ft** the table, "it's time I was getting to station if I want to see London Good-bye, Miss Derwent; good-bye, i°c g Before many days I rather hope to you some more definite information-" (Te ce continued. Commenced July 1, 189 ¿di.o£"'


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