Chapter 39432517

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Url
Full Date1887-12-17
Page Number4
Word Count1897
Last Corrected2016-09-01
Newspaper TitleCairns Post (Qld. : 1884 - 1893)
Trove TitleHand and Ring
article text

Hand and Ring.




" By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes."-MACBETH.

The town clock of Siblery had just struck twelve. Court had adjourned, and Judge Evans, with one or two of the leading lawyers of the country, stood in the doorway of the court-house disclosing in a friendly way the eccentricities of criminals as developed in the case then before the

court. Mr. Lord had just ventured the assertion that crime as fine art was happily confined to France; to which District

Attorney Ferris had replied :

" And why ? Because atheism has not yet acquired such a hold upon our upper classes that gentlemen think it possible to meddle with such matters. It is only when a student, a doctor, a lawyer determines to put aside from his path the secret stumbling

block to his desires or his ambition that the true intellectual crime is developed. That brute whom you see slouching along over the way is the type of the average criminal of the day."

And he indicated with a nod a sturdy, ill favoured man, who; with a pack on his back, was just emerging from a grassy lane that opened ont from the street directly opposite

the court house.

" Such men are often seen in the dock," remarked Mr. Orcutt, of more than local

reputation as a criminal lawyer. "And often escape the penalty of their crimes," he added, watching, with a curious glance, the lowering brow and fugitive look of the man who, upon perceiving the attention he had attracted, increased his pace till he

almost broke into a run.

Looks as if he had been up to some mis chief," observed Judge Evans.

" Rather as if he had heard the sentence

which was passed upon the last tramp w ho paid his respects to this town," corrected

Mr. Lord.

" Revenous a nos moutons," resumed the district attorney. " Crime, as an investment, does not pay in this country. The regular burglar leads a dog's life of it ; and when you come to the murderer, how few escape suspicion, if they do the gallows. I do not know of a case where a murder for money has been really successful in this region "

" Then you must have some pretty cute detective work going on here," remarked a young man who had not lief are sinken.

" No, no-nothing to brag of. But the brutes are so clumsy-that is the word, clumsy. They don't know how to cover up their tracks."

"The smart ones don't make tracks," inter- posed a rough voice near them, and a large, red-haired, slightly hump-backed man, who from the looks of those about was evidently a stranger in the place, shuffled forward from the pillar against which he had been leaning,

and took up the thread of conversation.

" I tell you," he continued, in a gruff tone somewhat out of keeping with the studied itbstmction of his keen, cray eye, " lliat half the criminals are caught because they

do make tracks and thou retort to such extra-

ordinary means to cover them up. Thc true secret of success in this line lies in (triking your blow with a weapon picked up on the spot, and in choosing for the scene of your tragedy a thoroughfare where, in the natural conree of events, other men will come and go and unconsciously tread out your traces, provided yon have made any. This dissipâtes suspicion, or starts it in so many directions that justice is ut once con- fused, if not ultimately Ladled. Look at that house yonder," the strange! pursued, pf inting to a plain dwelling ou the opposite corner. "While we have been stauding he.e, several persons of one kind or anoMier, «nd-among them a'pretty rough-looking

tramp, have gone into the fido »ate and io around to thu kitchen door und bm-k. f don't know who lives there, but say it is n solitprv old woman above keeping help, «nd that tm hour fn nj now someone, not finding her in the house, searches through the garden and comes upon her lying dead bthind the wood-pile, struck down by her own axe. On whom are you going to lay your hand in suspicion? On the stranger, of course-the rough-looking tramp that everybody thinks i: ready for bloodshed ut the least provocation. Hut suspicion is uot conviction, and I would dare wager that no court, in the face ot a persistent denial on his pavt that he even 'saw the old woman when he went to her door, would bring in a Terdict of murder against hiui, even though silver from her private drawer were found concealed upon his person. The chance that he spoke the truth, and that she was not in the house when he entered, and that his crime had been merely one of burglary or theft, would be enough to save him from the hangman."

. ' That is true,'1 assented Mr. Lord, " unless .ll thc other persons who had been seeu to go into the yard were not reputable.. men, but were willing to testify to having seen the woman alive up to the time he iuvaded her premises."

But the humpbacked stranger had already lounged away.

" What do you think of this. Mr. Byrd ?" inquired the district a tierney, turning to the young tuan before alluded to. " You are an expert in these matters, or ought to I*. What would you give for the tramp's chances if the detectives took him in h md ?"

"I, sir?" was thc response. "I a Ci so comparatively young ami inexperienced in such ' affairs that I scarcely dare presume to express an opinion. But I hare heard it said by Mr. Gryce, who, you know, stands foremost among the detectives of New York, that thc only case of murder in which he utterly failed to net any chi! to work upon, was that of a Jew who wa3 knock id down in his own shop in broad daylight. But this will not appear so strange when you learn the f»U particulars. The store was situated between two nlley-wnys in Harlem. It had an entrance back and an entrance front.

. lUttH worw.iu «oufctait- iwnv.Tlni ,m»o.»~

found («hind his couuter, having evidently been nit on the head by a slug-shot while reaching for a box ot hosiery. But though a succession of people were constantly passing by both doors, there was for that very reason no one to tell which of all the men who were observed to enter thc shop, cauieoutagainwithblood upon biseonscienee. Nor were the circumstances of the Jew's life . inch *? to assist justice. The nioEt careful

iuvesiigatiou failed to disclose the existence of any enemy ; nor was he found to possess, in thu country at least, any relative who could have hoped to be benefited by the few dollars he had saved from a late bankruptcy. The only conclusion tó be drawn" ii that the utan was secretly in the way of someone, and was aa secretly put out of it, but for what purpose, or by whose hand, time bas

never disclosed."

" There is one, however, who knows both," affirmed Judge Evans,' impressively.

" The man himself ?" " God !"'

The solemnity with which this was uttered caused a silence, during which Mr. Orcutt

. looked at bis watch.

"I must go to dinner." he announced, withdrawing, with a tlight nod, across the


The reit stood for a- tew minutes ab ttractedly contemplating his retreating figure, os, with an energetic pace all his own, he paBseil down the little street that opened. opposite to whet« they stood, and entered the unpretending cottage of a widow lrUv, with whom he was in the habit of hiking his mid-day meal whenever he had a

vase before the court. -,

A lull was over the whole village, and the few remaining persons on the court-houEe step« were about to separate, when Mr. Lord uttered an exclamation, and pointed to the

cottage into which they had just seen Mr. Orcutt disappear. Immediately all eyes looked that way, and saw the lawyer stand- ing on the step, having evidently issued, with the utmost precipitation, from the


" lie is waking signs," cried Mr. Lord to Mr. Ferris ; and, scarcely knowing what tb.3y fenred, both gentlemen crossed the way. and hurried down the street towards their friend, who, with unusual tokens of disturbance in his manner, ran forward to meet them.

'. A murder !" he excitedly exclaimed, as soon as he came within speaking distance. " A strange and startling coincidence. Mw. Clemmens has boen struck on thc head, and is lying, covered with blood, at thc foot of her dining-room table."

" Wait a moment," the latter suddenly cried, stopping short and looking back. " Where is the fellow who talked so learnedly about murder, and the best way of making a success of it ? Ile must be found at once. I don't believe in coincidences." And he

beckoned to the person they had called Byrd, who, with very pardonable curiosity, was hurrying their way. " Go find Hunt, the constable," he cried. " Tell him to stop and retain the .hutupliack. A woman here has been found murdered, and that fellow must have, known something about it." ?"

" 'fhe 'yóuníf"dann stated, flushed with sudden intelligence, and d-vted off. Mr. Ferris turned, found Mr. Orcutt still nt his side, and drew him forward to rejoin Mr. Lord, who by this time was at the door of the cottage.

They all wnt in together, Mr. Ferris, who was of an adventurous' disposition, lending the way. into which they first stepped was empty. It was evidently thc widow's sitting-room, and was in perfect order, with the exception of Mr. OrcutV* bat, which layon the centre table; where he had laid it on entering. Neat, without being prim, the entire aspect of the place was one of comfort, ease, and modest luxury. Fer, though the Widoui Clemmens lived alone, and without help, she was by uo mean: an indigent person, as i single glance at her house would show. The door leading into the further room was open, and tiward this

they hastened, led by thc glitter of the fine old china service which loaded the dining


" She is there," said Mr. Orcutt, pointing to the other side of th« room.

They immediately passed behind the table, and there, sure enough, lay the pros- trate figure of the widow, her head bleeding, her arms extended ; one hand grasping her watch, which she had loosened from her belt, the other stretched toward a stick of fire- wood that, from the marks of blood upon itv side, liad evidently been used to fell her to the floor. She was motionless as stone, and was, to all appearance, dead.

" Sickening, sickening !-horrrible !"' ex- claimed Mr. Lord, recoiling up:-n the District Attorney with a gesture, as if he would pnt »he frightful object out of his sight. " What

motive could anyone have for killing such an inoffensive woman ? The devilry of man i; beyond belief !"