|Chapter Title||THE STORY OF THE MAD GARDENER.|
|Newspaper Title||Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Third Volume|
THE 8T0BI OK THE HAD QABDENEB.
Having made this startling announcement,' DiokPsotal drew back to. observe the effeot on bis hearer." Humouring the man's vanity, Tait expressed due surprise, and requested him to narrate the oirenmstanoe to whioh he referred.
" It is about twenty-five yean ago, it is," said Dick, oommenaing-hie tale in a great hurry; "and I was the. gardener here to Captain Laroher. You don't know him, Sir; it ain't to be expected as you should. He was a grown gentleman before you were, and a kind 'un he was; took We out of the aByluin, he did. They said I was mad,.you know, and put me into a strait waistooat; but I wasn't a bit wrong in my head, Sir, not I; Captain Laroher be eaw that, eo he took me ont and made me hie gardener. And ain't I done a lot for the plaoe; just you look round, and
" Your work ie admirable, Diok."
"It is that," replied the. man, with naive vanity, "and yon ain't the first as has said that, Sir. Oh, I'm fond of the garden, I am; flowers are much nioer oompany than human
beings, I think, Hot so cross with Dioky, you ! know, Sir." ? ? - !
" No doubt," said Tait, seeing thst the
oreature was following the wandering of j bis poor wits, "Out about this murder you"
" I didn't know anything was wrong,"inter ruptfid the gardener, earnestly. "I'd have kept out of the way if I'd known that, but I came here one night when I shouldn't have
been here." - I
How was that?
"Hot rum and water,"confessed Dick with great aimplioity. "I drank it—too much of it, and it went to my head. It isn't a strong bead, eo I oame here to sleep it olear again. That was about 12 o'olook as near as loan
tell, but, Lord bless you, my head made so
aooount of time when the hot rum and water
was in it. I. woke up and I was frightened finding myself in the dark—I hate the dark, don't you, Sir?—bo I finished some rum that I bad with me and went to sleep again. Then I woke up sudden, I did,and saw it."
" The murder being committed ?"
" No, not quite that I But I saw a man lying on the ground just over there, and he didn't move a bit. Another man was holding him in his arms, and Denis Bantry was standing by with a lantern."
" Who was the other man ?"
"It was a gentleman oalled Mr. Jeringham. Oh, yes I My head was queer, but I knew bim by 1ub olothes, I did. I was at the grand ball of the gentry, you know. It was there I got drunk—and I saw Mr. Jeringbam there in blaok olothes with gold trimmings. He bad them on when he bent over Captain Laroher."
" How did you know the man on the gound was Captain Laroher ?"
"Ididn't then," confessed Diok, ingenu ously ; " but when I heard as they found him in the river I knew it was him, I did. I saw them drop him in !"
"Denis Bantry and Mr. Jeringham?" ex olaimed Tait, astonished at the minuteness of tbeBo details.
" Yes. They talked together for a bit, but my head was so queer that I couldn't make out what they said. But they picked up Cap tain Larcher, one at the head and the other at the heels, and they dropped bim in—splash, he went, he did. I was behind a tree and they couldn't see me. Ugb!"said the man, with a shiver, " how I did feel afraid when he went splash into the cold water. Then I went away aud held my tongue."
" Why did you do that? It was your duty to have oomo forward and told the truth.
Dick Fental put on a cunning look, and shook his bead. " Not me, Sir," he said, art fuily. "they'd have said my head was queer and put me in the asylum again. No, no, Diokey was too clever for them,lie was."
"But you eay it was Denis Bantry who killed Captain Laroher," said Tait, after a moment's reflection. "How do you know that, when you did not sea the blow struck ? It might have beeD Mr. Jeringbam."
Looking lovingly at the pieoe of gold which was now in his possession, Diok shook his bead with great vigour. "It wasn't Mr. Jeringbam/' he protested. "He was a good, kind gentleman. He gave Dioky half a crown
the day before. He was fond of Captain Larcher's wife, so he couldn't have killed Cap tain Laroher."
Against this insane reasoning Tait bad nothing to urge, as Dioky was evidently con vinced that Denis Bantry was guilty, to the exclusion of Jeringbam. Had the former given him money instead of the latter he would doubtless have aocused Jeringham and sworn to tho innooence of Denis. The man's brain was too weak to be depended upon ; but Tait recognised that tbe report be gave of the
ooourr-nce of that fatal night was true and j faithful in all respeots. Dioky was not suffi- I oiently imaginative to invent such a story. j
Satisfied from the importance of the know- | ledge he bad gained that his time had not i been wasted, Tait wished to be alone to think out the matter. There was some diffi culty in getting rid of Dicky, who was still greedily expectant ol further tips ; but in the end he induoed the man to return to his work,
and Bet ont for Horriston at a brisk walk. He always thought better when exeroiaing bis limbs, and before he reaobed the town he had
arrived at several oonolusions respecting the I oase as seen nnder tbe new light thrown on it
hy the gardener. !
For one thing be oonoluded that Faynton was Jeringham. The reason for Denia being in hiB servioe bad been explained by Dick Pental, ae the two men were bound together by a common bond of guilt. Tait waa iu olined to think that Jeringham was innocent, for if be had killed Larober there would have been no need for Denis to have screened him. On the other band, oironmatantial evideuoe was ao strong against Jeringham that if Denis had struok the blow he would be forced to acquieaoe in tho eilenoe of the real oriminal—to become, as it were, an acoessory to the crime. Denia could have sworn that Jerningbain was guilty, and ao plaoed him in danger of bis life. Thus the two men bada .hold on one another—Jeringham because cir cumstances were against him; Denis beoause he had killed Laroher. The motive for the orimewaa not difficult to discover after the story told by Mrs. Bezel—Bantry had killed his master as ths destroyer of bis sister's honour. Under the names of Paynton and Kerry the two men were dwelling together at Thoraton in loathed oompanionship, eaah afraid to let the other out of his sight. Tait could imagine no more terrible punishment than that enforoed oomradeship. If reminded him of a similar situation in a novel of Zola's, where husband and wife were equally culpable, equally afraid, and 61!ed with equal hatred
the one towards the other.
Still this oonolusion, supported as it was by faots, did not explain theattitudeof Hilliston. Assuming the guilt of Denis Bantry, the com plicity of Jeringham, there appeared to be no reason why Hilliston Rhould protect them at Thorston, and throw obstaoles in the way of the
truth's discovery. ' Tait was completely non pluieed, .mod oould think.of no explanation. And then he remembered Mr*. Besel's letter, and thejnentionof Louisa Sinolair. Hilliston, aooording to Mrs.Bezal.knBwtbis woman, and ahe knew who had committed the crime. ' But how oould the know indue ahe had been oonoesled like Diok Peutal in the garden on that night? Tait vrae.quite oer tain that Denis Bantry was guilty, but the hint of hire. Basel threatened .to disturb this view; and yet what better evidenoe was' obtainable than that of an eye-witness. Still, Tait remembered that Dioky confessed he had not' teen the blow struck. What if Louisa Siholair bad? That was the question he asked himself.
Under these oiroumstanoes it was necessary to find out who this woman was. Tait did not judge it wise to ask Hilliston, for the simple reason that the lawyer would not
admit the truth. There was no obvious
reason ^Jjy he should'not, but Tait had suffioient experience of Hillieton's triokery and evasion in the past to know that hie ad missions were untrustworthy. There only re mained for him to searoh for Louisa Sinclair in Horriston, question her if she were alive, or learn all that he oould if ahe were dead.
And 'now occurred a ooinoidenoe vrhioh unwittingly. pat Tait on the right traok. When within half a mile of Horriston he met a clergyman swinging along at a good paoe, and in him reoognised a former oollege companion. The recognition and the delight
- "My dear Brandon, this is indeed a surprise," exclaimed Tait, holding out bia baud. " I had no idea that you were in these parts."
i nave only/been Vioar here (or a year,
answered Brandon cordially, " but what are ycu doing; at Horriston, my friend ?"
* " Oh, I.have come down partly on business and partly on pleasure." . .
"Then dismiss bueineBB for the moment, and oome to luncheon with me. I am iusb going to my house. Where are you staying ?"
" At the Royal Viotoria." ?
" A dismal place. You must oome fre quently to see us while you stay hero, and we will do what we oan to cheer you up. Mrs. Brandon will be delighted to see you."
" Oh! So you are married ?"
"For the last five years. Two children. Well, I am glad to see you again. Do yon stay here long ?"
"A few days only," replied Tait, care lessly, " but it entirely depends on my busi
" Anything important?"
"Yes and no. By the way, you may be able to help me, Brandon. Do you know any
one in this parish called Miss Louisa Sin ola=r?"
The Vioar reflected for a few moments and shook bis head. "No, I never heard the name. She must have boen here before my time. Have you any reason for wanting to see her ?"
"Naturally, or I should not have asked," said Tait, with faint saroasm. "However, I must make a confidant of you, as 1 wish for your odvioe and assistanoe."
" I shall be delighted to give both," said hie friend, briskly. "But here we are at my house, and there is my wife in the porch. My dear, this is an old College friend of mine, Spenser Tait. We must make him weloome for the days that have boen."
MrB. Brandon, a oomfortable, rosyoheeked matron, with two tiny Brandons clinging to her skirts, heartily welcomed Tait, and led the way to tbe dining-room. Here an extra knike and fork was hastily produoed fur tbe guest, and they all sat down to lunoheon in tbe'best of spirits. For the moment Tait banished all thought of the case from his mind, and laid himself out to be agreeable to the Vicar's wifo. Io this he succeeded, as she subsequently pronounced him to be a singu larly charming man; while he pronounced her to be one of tbe most intelligent women it had
been bis fortune to meet.
After lunobeon Brandon conducted Tait to hiB study, and there over an excellent cigar the little man related the story of the Laroher affair from the time that Claude beoame possessed of the papers. Needless to say the clergyman was much astouiehed by the reoital, and agreed with Tait that it was diffioult to know which way to turn in .the present dilemma. He thought that DeniB was guilty and Jeriogham an acoomplise by foroe of circumstances ; bus doubted whether the evidenoe of Louisa Binolair might not alto gether alter the complexion of the case.
"Of course, the difficulty will be to find Louisa Sinclair," lie said thoughtfully, "fivo and twenty years is a lung time to go baok to. the may be dead."
"So she may," rejoined Tait a trifle tartly, "on the other band she may be alive. I found that waiter, and that gardener, who were at Horriston then, both remember the caee, so it is probable that I shall find this woman, or at least gain sufficient information to trace her whereabouts."
" I oannot reoall her name, Tait. She has not been here in my time: Fortunately 1 oan help you in this much ; that an old parishioner of mine is calling to-day, and, aa ehe has lived here for the last forty yearB and more, it is likely ehe will remember if such a person dwelt here."
" Who ia this old lady ?"
" My dear fellow, you must not call her an old lady. It ia true the ia over forty, but— well ehe ia always young and oharming in ber own eyea. Miea Belinda Pike ib ber name, and I abouldu't like to come under the lash of ber tongue."
" Ia she auoh a Tartar ?"
" Sheia—my dear fellow, yon must not aek me to talk acandal about my parishioners; moreover, I eee the lady in question ia coming up the garden path. Once aet her tongue going, and you will learn all the history of Horriaton for the last hundred years. '
"I only want to go baok twenty-fire," re joined Tait, smiling; and at that moment Misa Belinda Pike was announced.
She was a tall bony female with a book cose, a false front, and an artificial amile. Dressed in voluminous raiment, she bore down on Brandon like a frigate in full Bail, and pro ceeded to talk. A.11 the time she remained in the study ehe talked of heraalf, of paneh work, of Doroas meetings, of eoandalB new. and old; and ao astonished Tait by the extent of ber patty information and the volubility of ber tcngaethat he oould only etare and wonder. Introduced to him, abe was graoioualy pleased to observe that she bad beard.of him and hia onquiries.
"The waiter, you know, Mr. Tait," she said, smiling at hia astonishment. " Sngden ia hia name; he told me all about you. Now, why do you wish to learn all about that
"For amusement merely," replied Tait, rather eoandalizing the Vicar by this answer. " The waiter began to Bpeak of it, and I en couraged him; later on I heard the story from a gardener."
"From Dicky Pental," interrupted Miss Pike, vivaciously. "Ob, he can tell you no thing—he is mad."
" Mad or not, he told me a great deal."
"A11 false, no doubt. My dear Mr. Tait
oontinued the lady, impressively, "only one person can tell you the truth of thnt onto. Myself 1"
• • Or liouiea Sinclair1 "Louisa Sinolair. What do you know about bet?"' .
. ''Nothing, nave her name," replied Taft,
"but t want to'know more. Can you give, me the required information V
'?'-"Yea. Come and have afternoon tea with me to-day, and 2'11 tell you all. Oh, yea," eaid Mies Pike, witbaeelf-eatia'fied nod, "I know .who killed Captain Iiarober.".
" Jeriiigham—Denis the valet—Hilliaton." •' "No. Thoseihree people are innocent. I
Oan swear to it. I know it."
" Then who it guilty V
' '•Why!" eaid Miaa Pike, qiiietly, "Mrs. Larober a maid—Mona Bantry."