Mr Fyler began by reconstructing, so far as was possible, the history of the crime from the evidence already adduced, into the particulars of which it is unnecessary to follow him. In summarising the known facts, he made no especial point, it was observed, of bringing them to bear on the presumptive guilt of the prisoner, but used him rather as a convenient model or framework about which to shape his story. Indeed, when he sat down again, it might have been given as even odds whether the conviction or acquittal of the accused man was the thing foreshadowed. And what then? After two attempts, was the whole business to end in a fiasco ? Incredible ! Some one must have killed the girl.
The very atmosphere of the Court, moreover, fateful, ominous--derided such a conclusion. 'Attend and wait!' it seemed to whisper.
Counsel was no sooner down than he was up again, and calling, now upon his witnesses to appear. They came one by one, as summoned-Mrs Bingley, Jane Ketchlove, Jessie Ellis, Kate Vokes, Mabel Wheelband; and there the order was broken. The examination of these five was in all essentials a replica of that conducted at the Inquest, but, to the observant, with one significant note added. For the first time Counsel showed, as it were, a corner of the card up his sleeve by suggesting tentatively, insinuatively, a propos the question of a guilty intrigue, that one or other of them might possibly have her suspicions as to the identity of the second party implicated in it. The hint was disowned as soon as rejected; but it had left a curious impression here and there of more to come, of its having only been proffered to open and prepare the way to evidence, the stronger, perhaps, for some such moral corroboration. Not one of the women, however, would own to the subtle impeachment, and the question for the moment was dropped.
But it was dropped only tactically, in accordance with a pre-arranged plan, as became increasingly apparent with the choice of the next witness. This was Dr Harding, who had made the post-mortem examination, and whose evidence repeated exactly what he had formerly stated. It added, moreover, a detail which, touching upon a question of time, showed yet a little more plainly which way the wind was setting; and it included an admission, or correction, no less suggestive in its import. The question was asked witness : ' At the Inquest you stated, I believe, that death must have occurred at 3.30 o'clock, or thereabouts. Is that so?
A. I said ' approximately,' judging by the indica*-tions.
Q. Just so." I am aware that, in these cases, a certain latitude must be granted. It might then, in fact, have occurred somewhat earher or somewhat later?
A. Yes. By preference, somewhat earher. Q, How much earher?
Witness, refusing to submit to any brow-beating on the question, finally, at the end of a highly technical disputation, conceded a half hour as the extreme limit of his approximation; and with that the matter ended. As he stepped from the box the name of a new witness-a witness not formerly included in the inquiry-was called, and public interest, already deeply stimulated, grew intensified.
Margaret Hopkins, widow, deposed on oath. She was landlady of the Brewer's Dray inn at Long-bridge. The inn was situated to the east of the town and a httle outside it on the Winton Road. One afternoon, about five weeks ago, a lady and gentleman had called at her inn, wanting tea, and a private room to drink it in. They were shown up to a chamber on the first floor, where the gentleman ordered a fire to be lighted. Tea was brought them by witness herself, and they had remained there shut in a long time together--a couple of hours perhaps. They were very affectionate with one another, and had gone away, when they did go, very lovingly arm in arm. The gentleman was Mr Hugo Kennett, whom she now saw in Court, and whom she Had recognised for the male stranger at once. The name of the lady accompanying him she had had no means of ascertaining, but her companion had addressed her as Annie.
Mr Redstall, rising to cross-examine witness, put the following questions :-
Q. Will you swear to Mr Kennett having been the gentleman in question ?
A. Yes, on my oath, sir.
Q. You already knew Mr Kennett by sight, eh?
A. No, I did not, sir. I had never seen him before, and have never seen him since till to-day. I hadn't been settled in Longbridge not a two-month at the time he come.
Q. You say the two appeared to be on affectionate terms. On companionable terms would perhaps be the truer expression, eh?
A. As you choose, sir, if that means behaving like lovers together. (Laughter.)
Q. What do you mean by hke lovers? They would hardly have made a display of their sentiments before you.
A. Not intentional perhaps, sir; but I come upon them unexpected when I brought in the tea; and there they was a'sitting. on the sofy together, as close and as fond as two turtle-doves. (Laughter.)
Mrs Bingley, recalled, reluctantly admitted having given deceased an afternoon off about the date in question. The girl had returned to the house before six o'clock.
Reuben Henstridge called, repeated his evidence given on the day of the Inquest, omitting only, or abridging, such parts of it as bore on the movements of the Frenchman, and excluding altogether--by tacit consent, it seemed--those references to the butler's approach which had brought such a confusion of cross-questioning about his ears. The following bodeful catechism then ensued :-
Q. You say it was ten minutes past two when you saw Cabanis break from the copse and go down towards the road?
Q. And that, having hung about after seeing him, you eventually returned to the Red Deer inn, reaching it at about 3.30?
A. That's it.
Q. At what time did you start to return to the inn?
A. Three o'clock, or a bit after. Q. What had you been doing in the interval? A. (Sulkily) That's my business. Q. I ask you again. You had better answer. A. (After a scowling pause.) Setting snares, then. (Defiantly.) Weren't it the open downs? Q. I'm not entering into that question. We'll assume, if you like, that the downs and your behaviour were equally open. You were setting snares, that's enough. Did anything suddenly occur to interrupt you at your task?'