Chapter 147091904

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter TitleTHE HOUR AND THE CRIME.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article147091904
Full Date1895-09-20
Page Number1
Corrections0
Word Count1817
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Narracoorte Herald (SA : 1875 - 1954)
Trove TitleA Mistaken Man. A Short Detective Story
article text

A MISTAKEN MAN.

A Short Detective Story.

CHAPTER I.

THE HOUR AND THE CRIME*

I telephoned to Nick Garter's honee about noon on the day after the Pendleton murder, to aeoertain Nick's whereabouts, in the hope that he might be near enongh to permit oi our Innohing together.

"You'll find him at the Pendleton inquest," was the answer that came over

the wire.

This was the first intimation Z had that

my friend had taken a hand in that affair.

It was good news, for the e »sa had interested . me deeply ; in fact, my desire to learn what Nick thought about it had been the cbiei cause of my anxiety to find him.

I went orer to Jersey City at once, and was fortunate enough to reach the scene oi the inquest just as Coroner Hamlin opened the proceedings. He held his inquiry that day in a stuffy littie room'in the connty court building, It was crowded to snoh a degree that I had to use not Only the power of Nick's name, bat the fruits of my old time f -otball 'experience in order to forco my way in.

'" Gentlemen of the jury," the coroner was saying, just aB'I dropped into a seat which Nick gut for main somo mysterious manner.

"I need not say-'a word to-emphasise the importance of thisinvestigation. We r p resant the -people in this matter, and it is our duty to take the first formal step toward the deteotion and punishment of a criminal whose detestable act has made him the

enemy of all society.

" The' victim of. this brutal murder was

known to yen all by reputation. He was an exemplary man, oonspiouous for integrity, serviceable in publie office, beloved for his good will and open-handed charity.

--" He« was-struck -down in hia own house by one -who' must->possess the heart of a savage and the recklessness of a maniao,

" Only the most extraordinary ch&nee in terposed to save the murderer from detection, in the act. Edmund Pendleton was slain in

his library, at a time when all his servants, the members of his regular household, and several guests were beneath his roof, and almost any one of these persona might have entered the room at tha very moment when the blow was struct.

."He was found there while he skill

breathed, though his wound must, have bereft him of life within a very few minutes. It was his young wife, now so cruelly bereaved, - who found him, and her just demand for vengeance npon his murderer is in our ears as we come together htre to answer it, so far as we are able.

"As te the other circumstances of the crime, I will not speak. You will hear the witnesses, and you will weigh their words. Having done so, yon will declare your ver dict in accordance with the law, with the rights of the aggrieved, and with justice to the prisoner whoatsnds accused of so dread

ful a crime."

The juryman looked at the prisoner, and every mother's son of them convicted him.

It may be set down as a safe rule that any I jury believes in the guilt of the accused at | the outset of the cue, for the heart of man j is prone to suspicion, and ever-ready to

think evil.

Where a pretty woman is concerned, especially if she be well dressed and able to shed tears without making her nose red, the rule doesn't work, In this case, every tiling

was in the rale's favor.

The prisoner waB Mr Pendleton's ooach man, and his face looked like a composite photograph taken in Sing Sing, and crossed by the gallows-sign of eyebrows which met in the middle of th? forehead.

My study of the newspapers had predis posed me in hie favor; In fact, I had been inclined to ridicule the evidence against him, but the sight of his saturnine counten ance changed all that.

He was farther damaged in my opinion by the fact that hiB interests were in the hands of Joe Howell, of New York, who his had more clients hanged than any other lawyer iu the United States.

Doctor Biaisde'l was the first witneEB. He described the fatal wound. It was npon the right side of Mr Pendleton's head just over the temple.

The skoil had been fractured—driven

right in npon the brain, so that hits of bone had penetrated an inch or more. A spas

modic, meohanical life lingered in the bodyj for some minutes, but all that life means to a human being had ended for that juBt and admirable man when the vi Iain's blow fell.

The weapon was .a glass paper-weight, shaped like a watch, and abont four inohes in diameter. It had lain upon Mr Pendle

ton's desk for years. Covered with tell-tale stains., it had been found beside the body.

Doctor Blaisdell knew nothing abont the crime except what he could infer by a pro fessional examination of the corpse. He hazarded the opinion that a tall and strong man, who w s left-handed, had done the

deed. He had reached across the desk at whioh Mr Pendleton seemed *o have been

sitting, and had etruok him from the chair.

" That's in the prisoner's - favor,'' whispered Niok to me.

" What is J" I asked.

" The ieft-haoded business. O'Mara {the coachman) isn't left-handed,"

"Is that so?'

" Is it so ? Look at the man."

I looked, but I am not Nick Carter. I cannot measure the mnselea in a man's hands by simply glanolng at him, at a dis tance of fifteen feet. However, I was per fectly willing to take Niok's word for it.

Mrs Pendleton appeared upon the stand ne^t. She was a pretty woman, under thirty, with the finest mass of red hair that I ever saw. There are several sorts of red hair, and one of them is beautiful,

I remembered that she was the second Mrs Pendleton, and the marriage had been opposed by the aristroeratio relations of the

husband.

She took the oath with reverence, and began to speak immediately. She had a voice of velvet, deep and rich, and the tremor of emotion made it doubly charming.

Very few questions were necessary. She told her story in the simplest manner, and with a consecntiveness most remarkable in a

woman.

" Preceding the dreadful moment when I found my husband dying," she said, " I had last seen him at five o'clock that afternoon, when he returned from his office in New York.

" He oame alone. I happened to be in the hail as he entered. After greeting me, he went at once to the library, saying that he had work to do, and that he must hurry

in order to finish it in time for dinner.

"There was absolutely nothing unusual in his manner. I am perfectly certain that the fear of violence wbb not upon him then,

nor had It ever been, so far aB I know.

" After seeing him enter the library, I went to give seme direotions about dinner. We had several gnests in the house, and were to dine with more formality than

usual.

"Among my gnests was the Reverend Henry Seabnry, of Tarrytown, New York Mr Sasbory sent word that he desired to

see me.

"I found him in the drawing-room, whioh is on the opposite aide of the house from the

library, it extends the entire depth of the house, while the library is only half as long

and iB at the rear.

" 1 found Mr Seabury standing with a telegram in his hand. It was a message

calling him home because of hiB wife s ill ness. He was to go at once, and he desired to explain the reason to me and to say good bye.

" I was grieved to bear hiB news. Of course, 1 oould not urge him to remain. He immediately went to his room to pack hie travelling bag.

" I ordered a servant to assist him, and it was my intention to see him again for a moment, but 1 was called away, and did not know when he left the house.

" I presume that he said good-bye to my r! husband. If so, he must have been almost 1! the last person to see him alive."

i I She then described the finding of her 31 wounded husband. TheeiroumBtanoes were

.1 fnost simple, She went to notify him that

he mast dress for dinner, and found him dying upon the door.

It was then exactly sixteen minutes past six. - She had glanced at the library clock on entering the room, and had noted the exact minute because she wanted to' know jest how much time remained befohe the honr which ehe set for dinner, which was half-past six,

Mrs Pendleton could suggest no motive for the orime. There was no evidence of robbery, so far as she knew. It was not from her that the suspicions emanated

which led to the arrest of the coaohman.

There was but one fact which, to her mind, suggested the identity of the1 mur derer. This was the unexplained absence of a servant named Miohael Bennett, who had been on duly in tire front hall, for the pur pose of answering the door-bell. Bennett had been in her service several years. He was of so mild a disposition as to be called effsminate, and to be langhed at on that

aoconnt.

In person, he was inslgnifiuent, being not much above five feet in height, and slender as a girl. Such a man, said the witness, won'd be entirely unable to cope with Mr Pendleton, who, despite hie advanced ago, possessed great strength and remarkable

activity.

The witness was subjected to some ques tioning concerning Bennett. She admitted that her confidence in his honesty was not j equal to that which she reposed in his tem per. Saspicion of small thefts had fallen upon him several times, but his defence had ; been such that she would'have accused her-1

self of injustice if she had discharged him j

from her service.

I pass over what she had to say about summoning assistance at the time of the dreadful disoovery. It was unimportant, except that two of those who responded were known to be able to corroborate her as to the honr.

In the interval before the calling of the next witness, I asked Kick what he thought

about Bennett.

Oat of the question," he replied. " Tip

man couldn't have struck that blow if heV

had an axe to do it with, L)bk for a bi^

man in this oase."

*' There's O'Mara," said I.

"Yes, and you 11 ran across two mar' before it's over," he rejoined, significantly.