|Chapter Title||LIGHTNING OUT OF A CLEAR SKY.|
|Newspaper Title||The Narracoorte Herald (SA : 1875 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||A Mistaken Man. A Short Detective Story|
IAGHTN1SG OUT OF A CLEAR SKY.
It was the next person called wh6 wa> principally responsible for the- accusation against O'Mara, the coachman.
This -witness was a very fair specimen oi the human animal—tall, well- buiitj and possessing the sort of face that women cab handsome—large, dark eyes, a somdwha pallid skin, and a curling dark monstaohe,
I should say that his portrait on the hover of a love-story would be worth severs' hundred pounds to the publisher.
His name was Harold Benedict, and hf -was the chief beneficiary under a will which
named Elmund Pendleton as trustee.
I never had the pleasure of meeting the elder Benedict, but 1 wen d wager Some thing that he was a good judge of charac ter, for he showed it when he left his estate to bis eon in trust. Harold looked like a a man who could be depended upon to buy
a pound's worth of pleasure for a five ? pound note, and do it ss often as the temp tation presented itself.
However, this may be prejudice. I' c a-1
fees that men who look like Harold Bene
dict do not appeal to me.
His manner was admirable as he -took
the stand. He was grave, calm_ and' ear-'
" I called up m Mr Pendleton," said he, "at half-past 5 o'clock on the afternoon when he met his death. We were to dis
cuss certain matters relating to my father's, estate. |
" I was admitted to the house by the servant, Bennett, already mentioned,- acd he and O'Mara (the prisoner) were* the only persons whom I saw there, except- Mrs
*' M rs Pendleton and myself conversed
in the library for about a quarter of an j hour. I left him alone there. j
" That any danger threatened him war j not then in my thought, though after
wards I recalled something which Mr Pen- j dletcn had said to me on the previous j
" Now we're getting down to it," whis pered Nick.
Questioned as to the ri muk to which, he! referred, Benedict said that Mr'Pendleton had told him "that he had resolved to dis charge O'Mara.
The reason was tbat the man was cf a violent disposition, and that he had a bad record, which bad just come to Mr Pendle ton's knowledge.
It appeared that O'Mara hsd been charged with CBsault on two < cessions though he bad escaped convictions both times. He had also been arrested for beating a horse.
" When I left Mr Pendlet in," continued Benedict," I ebcerved O'Mara in the hall, and I must say that he looked uncommonly ugly even for him.
• Afterwards when news cf the awful
tragedy came to me, I recalled what Mr Pendletcn had- srid, and also O'Mara's ugly look and mentioned it. This, I un derstand, led to his arrest."
It must not be supposed that this had pissed without objection by Howell, the prisoner's eounsel. He was on his feet all the time, but his objections were overruled —improperly, in some cases, as Nick in
'When did you leave'Mr Pendleton?" was the coroner's question to the witness.
"At ten minutes to six o'clock, precisely. I noted the time by the clock in the library, and also observed that it agreed with my watch, which waB right."
" That leaves only half an hour for the commission of the crime," remarked the coroner, as Harold left the stand. ."I be lieve that there 1b no witness who can bring us down to a later moment."
JnBt then there waB a stir at the door. It
was oaused by the arrival of the Reverend Henry Seabnry, a very large and powerful man, who easily forced a path for himBelf through the crowd.
He mar e his way to the side of the assis tant district attorney, who was present in the interest of the State. There was a whis pered conference, in which the-ooroner was included, and then Mr Seahury took the
" It is soaroely credible," he said j " yet it is true tbat my first knowledge of this awful orime is not two hours old. I was summoned from Mr Pendleton's house to my wife's side, and found her dead."
His voice broke witb*a pitiful accent as he
"Yon will readily understand, gentle men," he continued, tnat I had no thought of any other grief than my own. Yet even under so heavy a burden, it is required of us to do many things. I was ocoupted during the entire night.
" This forenoon it beoame absolutely necessary for me to go to New York. While there I heard a newsboy shout * the Pendle ton murder.' Though I had hardly a sus picion that it could refer to any one of that name whom I had known, I bought a paper in order to satisfy myself on that point.
" My horror was extreme. Prom the
somewhat confused account which I read, it
appears that I had soaroely left the home when the orime occurred.
" It was natural that I should wish to knew tall as eoon as possible. The news
paper informed me of the inquest, so I came
"When did yon last see Mr Pendleton alive ?" asked the ooroner, after a pause.
" At ten minutes past six," responded the clergyman.
Tnis reply produced a tremendous senaa
tion, which the witness seemed to fail to comprehend.
" I beg your pardon," he Baid,confuBedly, addressing the coroner. " Have I said any thing extraordinary f'
" Are you sure of the time f demanded the coroner, earnestly.
" Absolutely," was the reply. " I looked at the clock in the library as I stood at th< door, and I denoted the ininnte carefully beoause I »isbed to be sure about allowing i myself sufficient time to oatoh my train,"
" Did yoa speak to Mr Pendleton ?' " No; he was busy." "At work!"
" No ; in conversation." " With whom !"
" Young Mr Benedict, who is now present."
This beat the ether sensation by a mile and a half.
The jur; men leaned forward, snd some of the as even got out of their chairs. The coroner rapped for order, which showed the condition of excitement that he was in, for after an instants murmuring, the room bad become as quist as the tomb.
Benedict, who had been in tbe act of whispering to the district attorney, stopped, with his mouth open, and seemed to be unable to close it.
It was a great scene. Here was a man who had been the cause of the only arrest yet rni'e in tbe case, whose testimony had been flatly contradicted by a Christian minister, and who was thOB proven to have been in conversation with Mr Pendleton within six minutes of the time when his
murdered body had been discovered.
?' This is getting it down pretty fine,"
said Nick, and he rubbed his hands with j
The coroner had, apparently, succeeded in rapping order into his own disordered thOUgutB.
Did yru enter the room P' he asked:
"No; 1 saw that Mr Pendleton was very much engaged. Toe conversation seemed Bo be highly important; it——"
He hesitated, aa if uuwiliing to ataie his actual impressions. Of course, every one anew mhat waB coming when tbe coroner
*' Was tbsre any evidence of a dispute between the two men P"
" Tacy were evidently excited," replied the clergyman, slowly. "1 lend Mr Pendleton refuse, ia the meat positive cirms, to do somithing—1 can't say just what, but it seemed to refer to a sum oi money.
" Perceiving that I was intruding, I softly closed the aeor and withdrew. I think neither of the gentlemen saw me.
"it is possible that Mr. Pendleton did, for he almost faced me, but I am sure that MrBanedioc a back was turned. I opened the door only a little way."
" You say," questioned the coroner," that the sorap of conversation which yon over heard referred to money !"
"I judged so; principally from the fact that Mr Pendleton had a large sum in bank notes fin .bio hand, and was in the act ol putting it into his pocket."
This testimony was scarcely lesB- im portant taan what had preoeded it, for it seemed impossible that tne presence of so much money in the dead man's pookes ahou d have escaped definite mention. It hadheen in evidenoe that his watch and money were found, bnt the latter had netn referred to as if virtually insignificant.
Harold Benedict waa on his feet during the latter part of this scene, ready on tne Instant to take Mr Beauury s place on the stand. It was hard wtrk to prevent him from breaking in npon the witness.
HiB self-restraint was gene, though it had
seemed to me marvellous at first. When Mr Seabnry's evidence began to point to Benediot,he took it more coeily tnan any body else in the room; bnt i saw his >eyes turn towards Mrs Pendleton, and when ho perceived suspicion mmgied with horror upon her face, he lost his head.
it occurred to me tout he loved1 the
woman; and just as this sinister thought went liiirougn my mind, 1 heard Nick whisper—
Curious coincidence that Mr Seabury's
wife add Mr Pendleton's husband should die suddenly on the same day."
I turned quickly towards the witness, His eyes were fired npon Mrs Pendleton with an intensity which it seemed *waB hardly justified even by these exceptional
Had he given his soul for her f
(To be continued )