Q. You are on very intimate terms, I believe, Mr Bickerdike, with Sir Calvin and his family?
A. With Sir Calvin's permission, I think I may say yes.
Q. You have seen the prisoner before?
A. Many times.
Q. Could you, as a guest, speak to his general character ?
A. It has always appeared to me quite unexceptionable.
Q. Not a violent man? A. O ! dear, no.
Q. At dinner, on the night before the murder, did you notice anything peculiar about him?
A. He appeared to me to be upset about something.
Q. And you wondered, perhaps-having only arrived that afternoon, as I understand'-what domestic tribulation could have discomposed so stately a character? (Laughter.)
A. I may have. I had always considered Cleghorn as immovable an institution as the Monument.
The laughter which greeted this sally appeared to reassure witness somewhat, as did the unexpected lines on which his rather irregular examination seemed to be developing. But his confidence was of short duration. The very next question brought him aware of the true purpose of this preliminary catechism, which was merely to constitute a pretext for getting him into the witness-box at all.
Q. Was your arrival that afternoon, may I ask, in response to a long invitation or a sudden call?
A. (With a sudden stiffening of his shoulders, as if rallying his energies to meet an ordeal foreseen.) A sudden call. I came down in response to a letter from my friend Mr Hugo Kennett, inviting me to a few days' shooting.
Q. Mr Hugo Kennett is a particular friend of yours, is he not?
A. We have known one another a long time.
Q. Intimate to that degree^ I mean, that you have few secrets from one another?
A. That may be.
Q. And can depend upon one another in any emergency? A. I hope so.
Q. There was a question of emergency, perhaps, in this case?
A. I am bound to say there often is with Mr Kennett.
Q. Will you explain what you mean by that?
A. I mean--I hope he will forgive my saying it-that his imagination is a little wont to create emergencies which nothing but his friends' immediate advice and assistance can overcome. He is apt to be in the depths one moment and on the heights the next. He is built that way, that's all.
Q. Was this a case of an emergency due to his "imagination?
A. I won't go quite so far as to say that.
Q. Then there was really a reason this time for his having you down at short notice?
A. I may have thought so.
Q. We will come to that. Had he mentioned the reason in his letter to you?
A. No. The letter only said that he badly wanted 'bucking,' and asked me to come down at once.
Q. He gave no explanation? A. None whatever.
Q. In the letter, or afterwards when you met? A. No.
Q. You found him in an uncommunicative mood ? A. Somewhat.
Q. Kindly say what you mean by 'somewhat'.
A. I mean that, while he told me nothing definite about his reason for having me down, he did seem to hint that there was trouble somewhere.
Q. What were his exact words?
A. I can't remember.
Q. Were they to the effect that he was in a devil of a fix with a girl, and could only see one way out of it? (Sensation.)
A. (Aghast.) Nothing of the sort. Now I recall, he described himself as sitting on a barrel of gunpowder, smoking a cigarette and waiting for the explosion that was to come.
Q. Thank you. Another effort or two, Mr Bickerdike, and your memory may need no refreshing. Bid you find your friend's manner, now, as strange as his talk ?
A. It might often have seemed strange on such occasions to those who did not know him.
Q. Answer my question, please.
A. (Reluctantly.) Well, it was strange.
Q. Stranger than you had ever known it to be before?
A. Perhaps so.
Q. I suggest that it was wild and reckless to a degree--the manner of a man who had go! himself into a hopeless scrape, and saw no way out of it but social and material ruin ?
A. It was very strange: I can say no more.
Q. Would you have considered his state compatible with that of a young man of good position and prospects^ who had entangled himself with a girl greatly his social inferior, and was threatened by her with exposure unless he, in the common phrase, made an honest woman of her?
Mr Redstall rising to object, the Bench ruled that the question was inadmissible. It had created, however, a profound impression in Court, which from that moment never abated. Counsel, accepting their worships' decision, resumed :-
Q. Had you any reason to suspect a woman in the case?
A. It was pure conjecture on my part.
Q. Then you did enter tain such a suspicion ?
A. Not at that time. Later perhaps.
Q. After the murder?
A. Yes, after the murder.
A. The moment I heard it had been committed. I was told by a groom. Q. About the woman or the murder? A. About the murder. Q. When was that?
A. When X returned from shooting that day.
Q. You returned alone, I believe? A. Yes.
Q. Mr Kennett having left you shortly before three o'clock?
A. I fancy about that time.
Q. And at the moment you heard there had been this murder committed, that conjecture, that association between your friend and the murdered girl came into your mind?
A. It was whoUy preposterous, of course. I dismissed the idea the moment it occurred to me.
Q. You dismissed the idea of Mr Kennett's having been involved with the girl?
A. No, of his having committed the murder. (Sensation.)
Q. But you still thought the entanglement possible ?
A. 'thought it might account for his state.
Q. Why did the first idea, associating Mr Kennett with the crime, occur to you? (Witness hesitating, the question was repeated.)
A. (In a low voice.) O! just because of something--nothing important-that had happened at the shoot-that, and the extraordinary state I had found him in.