Henry Wood.

The castle's heir : a novel in real life online

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is, that I tore out of the ruins, and
back here, screaming."

" Why did you not state this ?"
sharply demanded Lord Dane.

" Oh, I was too frightened," she
shivered. ■" I was sick with fear. I
thought if the men should come after
me, and kill me for watching them."

"Did you recognize one to be
Harry ?"

"No, no. How could I recognize
them in that short moment ?"

"My lady," interrupted Mr. Ap-
perly, "did the other seem to bear
any resemblance to the prisoner here ?"

"Not that I saw or thought of,"
she answered. " It did not strike me
that either of them was Ravensbird."

" If she could not recognize my son,
she could not recognize Ravensbird,"
observed Lord Dane.

" My lady,^' struck in the inspector,
" did no idea, ever so faint, convey to
your mind who either of them might
be ?"

The question — from him — seemed
to excite her anger, and she turned
her face haughtily upon him.

" Did you not hear my replies to
Lord Dane and Mr. Apperly ? ■» Had
I recognized Captain Dane or his ad-
versarv, should I be likely to say I
did not ? To what end ? What had
the affair to do with me ?"

It takes a great deal to stop a police-
inspector. And this one proceeded
as deliberately as though he had re-
ceived no reproof.

" Nor the voices either, my lady ?
Did you not recognize them ?"

" I recognized nothing," she impa-
tiently answered. " I was too terri-
fied. May I retire ?" she added, turn-
ing to Lord Dane. " If I stop here
forever, I can say no more."

"An instant yet, my lady," inter-
rupted the inspector. " Did the other
. — the one who did not go over the
cliff — attempt to follow you, when
you ran away ?"

" Not that I saw — not that I know
of. I did not look round to see."



" My 1 ady, " continued the undaunted
inspector, " I must ask you one more
question ; and you will pardon me
for reminding you that you arc upon
your oath, before you answer it. Have
you told all ? Is there nothing that
you are keeping back ?"

But the question was never an-
swered. For Lady Adelaide, over-
come by emotion, caused perhaps by
past remembrance, perhaps by present
perplexity, turned deadly white, and
fell back on a chair.

" She knows no more," said Lord
Dane. " Take her up-stairs to my



Lord Dane grew impatient in his
chair of state. The warrant, commit-
ting Richard Ravensbird for the wil-
ful murder of his son, was already
made out ; it wanted only the sig-
nature, and that waited but for the
formality of Mitchel's evidence. Mr.
Apperly busied himself with his pa-
pers, the prisoner leaned against the
wall, the inspector was in a brown
study, his arms folded, while the ser-
vants collected outside in groups, to
express their horror and aversion of
their late comrade, Ravensbird.

" Here's Mitchel, here's Mitchel,"
briskly cried out Mr. Apperly, seeing
the approach of the man. " Now,
then, we shall soon have it over."

The preventive-man came in, under
the wing of Supervisor Cotton. He
looked pale and ill still, and Lord
Dane ordered him a chair, while he
gave his evidence. He testified to
hearing the disputing sounds, to see-
ing indistinctly the struggle, and to
the fall of Captain Dane.

" Thrown over by Ravensbird," said
hot-tongued Lawyer Apperly.

" Yes," responded Mitchel.

" Were there no signs of life what-
ever in my son ?" inquired Lord Dane,
struggling with his inward feelings.

" None, my lord : he was as dead
as ever I saw anybody. I wish I
could have carried him away with me
in my arms, my lord, instead of leav-
ing him to be washed away with the
tide ; but it was beyond my strength.
I wish I had not fell into that fit :
there'd have been time to get to him."

"You could not help it, Mitchel,"
replied Lord Dane, in a sad, kind tone.
" Did you recognize him to be my son
on the heights before he fell ?"

Mitchel shook his head.

" Impossible, my lord. It was only
moonlight, and the scuffle did not seem
to last a moment hardly before he was
over. It was only when I got to him,
trying to lift him up, that I saw it was
Captain Dane."

An interruption came from the
prisoner. He had fixed his stern,
black eyes on Mitchel when the man
first entered, never removing them ;
they seemed to devour every turn of
his countenance, every word that fell
from his mouth.

" My lord," said he, turning to Lord
Dane, " the worst criminal brought to
the bar is allowed an advocate, by the
English law ; but I have been hurried
here without one. Having none, I
should like to ask the witness a ques-
tion myself."

"Ask it," assented Lord Dane.

"You have just sworn that it was
impossible you could recognize Cap-
tain Dane upon the heights, that it
was only moonlight, and the scuffle
lasted but a moment," proceeded the
prisoner to Mitchel, availing himself
of the permission. " If you could not
recognize him, how could you recog-
nize me ?"

" I did not recognize you," returned

A pause. The prisoner spoke out
again eagerly, passionately.

" Then why did you say you did ?"

"I didn't say it."

"^^udid. As I am told."

"Wg, I did not say it. My eye-
sight did not carry me so far," was
Mitchel's rejoinder ; but he was inter-
rupted by the police-inspector.

"Do you mean to deny, Mitchel,



now you are on your oath, that it was
Ravensbird who flung over Captain
Dane ?"

" I couldn't say that it wasn't, or
that it was, sir. It might have been
him, or it might have been anybody
else in this room, for all I saw."

The inspector looked at Lord Dane.

" I understood your lordship, last
night, that Mitchel had seen and re-
cognized Ravensbird as the offender."

"/understood so," returned Lord
Dane, " I was so informed. You, for
one, Apperly, certainly said so."

Mr. Apperly brought his spectacles
severely down upon the countenance
of Mitchel and spoke in a sharp quick

" You know you said last evening
in the guard-house, that it was Rav-

" I said it was sure to have been
Ravensbird, because of the quarrel he
had with his master in the morning,"
answered Mitchel. " As I was com-
ing-to, after my attack, and telling
what I had seen, somebody exclaimed
—and I do believe it was yourself,
Mr. Annerly — that it must have been
Ravensbird, and I agreed, saying
there was no doubt of it. But I never
said it was Ravensbird from my own
knowledge ; from my own eyesight."

" Then are we to understand, Mit-
chel, that you do not positively know
who it was that was engaged in the
conflict with my son ? — that you did
not recognize the person ?" asked Loi'd

" I did not, my lord. I surmised
it to be Mr. Ravensbird, on account
of the quarrel, but I could not see who
the people were scuffling on the
heights. Had Captain Dane not fallen,
I could not have known him to be one.
The other might have been a woman,
for all I could see."

The party felt rather nonplussed.
Every one present, including the usu-
ally keen and correct inspectjj^ had
fully understood that Mitche^ould
swear to Ravensbird. The misappre-
hension had gone abroad, carried from
one to the other.

" It makes little difference," cried

Lawyer Apperly, who was the first to
speak. " It could have been nobody
but Ravensbird. He owed his mas-
ter a gi'udge, and he paid him out : he
may not have intended a fatal termin-
ation — "

" But it makes every difference,"
interrupted the prisoner, in agitation.
" If a credible witness says he saw a
man commit murder, he is believed ;
but, if it turns out that he never saw
it, it makes all the difference. My
lord," he added, " I swear I was not
the assailant of your son : I swear
I never saw him after I left here this

Lord Dane looked annoyed at the
appeal. His belief that Ravensbird
was the guilty man was firm as a
rock. Mr. Apperly spoke up author-

" Assertions go for nothing, pris-
oner. Perhaps you'll account for your
time yesterday, hour by hour, up to
ten o'clock at night."

" Yes, I can," somewhat doggedly
returned the prisoner. " After I quit-
ted the castle I went straight to the
Sailor's Rest, and the landlord can
tell you so."

" But you may not have stopped at
the Sailor's Rest."

" I did stop at it ; and twenty peo-
ple, going in and out, saw me there ;
and I dined and had tea with the
landlord and his wife."

"Well— after tea?"

Ravensbird hesitated.

" After tea I sat in the parlor with
the landlady till it was hard upon
seven, and then I went out for a

The inspector pricked up his ears
and exchanged glances with Mr. Ap-
perly. The latter continued, his dry,
hard tone speaking volumes.

" Where did you stroll to ? Which
road ?"

" I don't know that that matters to
anybody," was the somewhat sullen

" Perhaps it was up this road ?"

" Perhaps it was, perhaps it wasn't,'*
returned the prisoner. But all present
felt that it was.



" Why, bless my heart 1" uttered
the lawyer, nearly jumpiiif^ from his
chair with the suddenness that the
recollection flashed upon him, " I met
you myself, Ravensbird ; I was on my
way home from a client's, and en-
countered you coming up this way.
It was about seven o'clock. You can-
not deny it."

" I have not attempted to deny it,
Mr. Apperly."

" Well, now, the question is, What
time did you get back again to the
Sailor's Rest ?"

Ravensbird answered the question
by asking another, looking at Mitchel
as he did so.

" What time was it that you saw
the scuffle, and the fall ?"

" It had gone the half-hour past
eight," was the immediate reply of
Mitchel, " it was hard upon the quar-
ter to nine."

Ravensbird coolly folded his arms
and drew back.

" That settles it, then," said he, with
the air of a man who has done with
contention ; "I was back inside the
Sailor's Rest at twenty minutes past
eight, and I did not stir out again."

It, however, by no means " settled"
it. For not one believed him. They
could not have been more fully per-
suaded that he was the culprit had
they actually seen him with their own
eyes pitch over Captain Dane.

" I gather," said Lord Dane, " that
you were — according to your own ac-
count — absent from the inn some-
where about an hour and a half.
Where did you pass that interval ?"

" My lord, I must decline to an-
swer," promptly replied the prisoner.

" You refuse to state, sir ?"

" Yes, my lord. I was at the
Sailor's Rest at the time the crime is
stated to have been committed, and
could have had nothing to do with it;
therefore I would respectfully submit
to your lordship, that my movements,
preceding it, have no right to be in-
quired into."

" Now don't you go drifting against
rocks, prisoner, or may be you'll split
upon them," interposed the inspector.

" When a man's arrested on a capital
charge, it is the business of the law to
work up and bring to light, not only
his movements and doings, but every
particular respecting him. So you
will do well to answer his lordship."

" I decline to answer," was the only
response reiterated by the prisoner.

However convinced Lord Dane, the
solicitor, and the police, might feel,
that Ravensbird was guilty, it was yet
necessary to show justifiable grounds
for the opinion, ere the warrant was
acted upon. Ravensbird was detained
in custody at the castle, while the in-
spector went to make inquiries in the
town. And he brought back news
which completely baffled Lord Dane.

Hawthorne and his wife, in conjunc-
tion with two or three other respect-
able witnesses, declared that Ravens-
bird ivas back at the Sailor's Rest by
twenty minutes past eight, and that
he did not quit it again. He sat in
the parlor, common to the guests, till
eleven, when the house shut up, and
then retired to his chamber. The in-
spector confessed himself " floored "
by the news.

. But what about the warrant ?
Why, it was of no use, and had been
made out for nothing ; for it could
not be put in force against Ravens-
bird. Neither was there any plea for
detaining him in custody in the face
of so distinct an alibi ; and he was

" Only to be retaken," observed
Lord Dane, as the man quitted the
hall. " I do not clearly, at present,
understand how it could be ; either
thei'e is an error in the stated time, or
some other false plea has been set up ;
but that Ravensbird is the guilty man,
I feel a positive conviction. And he
will soon be retaken on the charge."

" Not he," angerly dissented Mr.
Apperly, who was more vexed than
anybody at the termination ; not that
he \^La malicious man, but his mind
alscM|fe fully made up. " Now that
he has got his liberty, my lord, he'll
be putting distance between himself
and this place with the seven-leagued
boots of Jack in the fairy tale ; and



when any thing fresh turns up to re-
take him upon, he'll be non est."

" I could not do otherwise," re-
turned Lord Dane. " I could not
commit him in the teeth of evidence.
Nevertheless, I am certain the man is
guilty ; and the very fact of his re-
fusing to state where he was, or how
he passed his time during a portion of
the evening, would almost condemn
him. An innocent man has nothing
to conceal."

Near the gate before mentioned,
stood Herbert Dane, when Ravens-
bird was released from the castle.
Not perched upon it, as was his wont
in gayer times, but leaning against it
in pensive sadness. That the untime-
ly fate of his cousin gave him much
concern, was evident. He looked ex-
ceedingly surprised to see Ravensbird
approach, released from the handcuffs,
and unattended by the guardians of
the law.

"What! have they let you off,
Ravensbird ?" he uttered, as the man
neared him.

" Could they do otherwise, Mr.
Herbert?" was the response of Ra-
vensbird, stopping short before him,
as though he disdained to shun in-

" Do otherwise !" echoed Herbert.
" Why, the whole place is sa5'"ing
that there never was a clearer case.
Mitchel testifies that be saw you push
him over."

"No, he does not, Mr. Herbert,"
steadily answered the man, bringing
his piercing black eyes to bear fully
on the face of Herbert Dane.

" Has he eaten his words, then, be-
fore my lord ?"

" No, sir. He never spoke the
words ; it was a misconception alto-
gether. When you see Mitchel* you
had better inquire for yourself, and
you will find that he did not dis-
tinguish who the strugglers were. He
would not have known the cactain,
but for his falling at his feet." (Hk

"And so, on the strength of ^re un-
certainty, they have given you your
liberty 1 I suppose you will hasten
now to put the sea or some equally

effective barrier, between you and

" Why should I ?" returned Ravens-
bird. " An innocent man does not fly
like a craven."

Herbert Dane very nearly laughed.

" Innocent !" he exclaimed, his tone
savoring of ridicule. "You know,
Ravensbird, it is of no use to be on
the exalted ropes before me. The
words you spoke in my presence,
yesterday morning, in this very spot,
the threats of vengeance you uttered
against your master, would be enough
to hang you. But — "

" Do you believe me guilty, Mr,
Herbert?" interrupted the man, draw-
ing nearer with his fixed, penetrating

" I w^as about to say, Ravensbird,
that you are safe for me," proceeded
Herbert Dane. " I make no doubt
that you dropped the words in the
heat of passion, almost unconscious
(if I may so express it) that I was
within hearing, to take cognisance of
them. I felt sorry for you at the time,
feeling that my cousin, in his passion
(whatever may have called it forth),
must have been unjustifiably harsh,
and I will 'not put myself forw^ard
against you. Moreover, were you
gibbeted on the nearest tree this day,
it could not bring your master back
to life."

" Sir," repeated Ravensbird, in the
same calm, matter-of-fact voice, " I
asked if you believed me guilty."

" What a superfluous question !"
was the retort. " Do you suppose
there's a soul in the place but must
believe it ? — although you have con-
trived to escape bonds. You ask me
if I believe you guilty, when I say
that I could hang you !"

" Then why don't you hang me ?"
returned Ravensbird.

" I have told you why. I do not
care to go out of my way to do you
harm ; and it could not benefit the
dead. But guilty you certainly are."

The way in which Ravensbird stood
his ground before Herbert Dane, stony,
self-possessed, not a muscle of his face
changing, not a tremor in his voice,



and his searching eyes never moving
from Herbert's face, astonished the
latter not a little.

" Then let me tell you that I am
not guilty, Mr. Herbert," spoke Ra-
vensbird. " Let me tell you some-
thing more, shall I ?"

" Well !" responded Herbert, lifting
his questioning eyes.

" That I could this hour put my
finger out upon the guilty person. As
certain as that you and I, sir, are
standing here, face to face, I know
the one who did the deed. "

" What absurd treason are you ut-
tering now ?" demanded Herbert, af-
ter a pause of blank astonishment.

" No treason, and nothing absurd,"
was the undaunted reply. " I could
lay my hand upon the party who
murdered my master, as readily as I
now lay it upon this gate. But I
don't choose to do it ; I bide my time."

Herbert Dane stared at the speaker
from head to foot; wondering, pos-
sibly, whether the man was not giv-
ing utterance to a most audacious

" Will you venture to assert — al-
lowing that you were not one of the
actors in it — that you witnessed the
scuffle on the heights ?" he inquired.

" No, sir, I did not witness it ; I
was not there. I was in the public
room at the Sailor's Rest at the time
it took place, which proved fact has
baffled my lord and the police, and
compelled them to release me. But I
know who was on the heights, though
I was not."

" And what may be your reasons
for holding it secret, if you know so
much ?"

" That, sir, you must excuse me if
I keep to myself," was Ravensbird's
reply. "But I hope, Mr. Herbert,
you will not again accuse me of being
the guilty man. Good-day, sir."

Ravensbird turned off towards
Daneshold as he concluded, and Mr.
Herbert Dane stood watching him,
deep ,in puzzled thought. Not until
the former was out of sight did he
awake from his reverie, and then he
bent his steps towards the castle.

" I'll know, at any rate, what
grounds they had for kitting the fel-
low off," cried he, in soliloquy.

He had reached the castle-gate
when it Avas suddenly opened by
Bruff, who was showing out Mr. Ap-
perly. In another minute Herbert
was in possession of the facts testi-
fied — that Ravensbird had been in the
Sailor's Rest as the time of the catas-

" But, let be a bit, Mr. Herbert,"
continued the lawyer, in excitement,
" I can't question the good faith of
the witnesses, for I believe them to
be honest, and Hawthorne and his
wife, at all events, would be true to
the Dane family ; but some trickery
is at work, something is up ; the
hands of the clock were surreptitiously
put back, or some other deviltry.
Ravensbird's the guilty man, and it
will turn out so."

"What do you think, Bruff?"
questioned Herbert, as Mr. Apperly
marched hastily away, and they stood
looking after him.

" Well, sir, we don't — us upper
servants — know what to think. If
appearances — that is, the quarrel with
his master, and his revengeful threats
— hadn't been so much against him,
we should not have suspected Ravens-
bird, for he never seemed that sort of
bad man. Then, again, the evidence
just given has posed us ; for if Ra-
vensbird was at the Sailor's Rest, he
couldn't^ave been hcre'on the heights."

" Very true," responded Herbert,
in a mechanical tone, as though his
thoughts were elsewhere. " There
appears to be some mystery over it."

" They had my Lady Adelaide be-
fore them in the hall this morning,"
proceeded Bruff, dropping his voice.
" And put the oath to her."

" Lady Adelaide !" quickly repeat-
ed Herbert. "Why, what does she
know ?"

" It seems she saw the scuffle, sir,
or j^kally saw it — as, of course, we
ser^Jros suspected before, and that it
was what frightened her — and the in-
spector thought she might have re-
cognized the assailant."



" And did she ?" asked Herbert

" Neither him nor the captain, sir.
She was too frightened, she says, and
knows nothing."

" Open the door, BruflF. I am going
in to my lord."

Lord Dane was alone when Herbert
entered the hall. His lordship gave
his nephew the heads of what had
transpired, dwelling much upon the
testimony of the witnesses which
tended to establish the alibi, but avow-
ing his positive belief, in spite of it,
that Ravensbird had been the man.
Herbert agreed ; and quitting the hall,
went up-stairs to the drawing-rooms.

Lady Adelaide was alone. Herbert
began speaking, in a low and cautious
tone, his eyes ranging round the room,
as though he feared the walls might
have ears, of the catastrophe of the
previous night. He was proceeding
\o ask what she had seen, what had
caused her to scream, in the manner
reported, when she vehemently inter-
rupted him.

" Don't enter upon it ! don't speak
to me ! If ever you so much as
touch upon it to me by the faintest
allusion, I will never willingly sufiFer
you to come into my presence again."

He gazed at her in utter surprise :
he could not understand either her
words or her vehemence.

"What do you mean, Adelaide?
This to me ?"

" Yes, to you or to any one. I will
not be questioned, or reminded of the
horrors of last night. I could not
bear it."

Herbert Dane felt vexed, consider-
ably chafed, and he showed it in his

" Does this indicate grief, inordinate
grief, for the loss of your declared
lover ?"

" Never mind what it indicates,"
she answered, bursting into tears.
" Now that he is gone, I feel how un-
justifiable was my deceitful treAaent
of him. And if a promise of^nne,
to marry him the next hour, would
recall him to life, I would joyfully
give it."

" You are unhinged, my dear,"
whispered Herbert Dane, thinking it
better to bury his annoyance and sur-
prise, and to soothe her : but that she
really was so unhinged as to be
scarcely responsible for what she said,
he believed. "What a pity it is," he
more impetuously broke forth, "that
you went near the ruins last night."

" I went there, hoping to meet you,"
she reproachfully interrupted.

" My dearest, I know it," he hast-
ened to put in, in an appeasing tone.
But she would not let him continue,
drowning his words with her own.

" You told me in the day you should
not be there, if some friends came,
whom you were expecting : but you
were alone, after the train came in,
and I judged that they had not come.
Moreover, I saw some one, as I stood
at this window, going towards the
ruins in the moonlight : I thought it
might be you. And you reflect upon
me for having gone !"

"Adelaide, what is the matter?
What have I said or done to offend
you ? Are you angry because I did
not go to the ruins ? The two Eccing-
tons had given me a half promise to
come over yesterday and dine, but
they did not keep it : I did not much
think they would. Of course I could
have gone to the ruins — and should,
had I known you would be there. I
did not suppose you would go, not
expecting me, and I had a reason for
stopping at home. Harry Dane had
said he would call in and smoke a
manilla : nine o'clock was the hour
he mentioned, but he was proverb-
ially uncertain, and might have made
his appearance earlier. I did not
deem it expedient to be out when he

Lady Adelaide vouchsafed no an-
swer. She sat with her pale face cast
down, playing with the ornaments
attached to her chain. Mr. Herbert
Dane resumed.

" You speak and look as though
you had a reproach to cast to me,
Adelaide. What is the cause ? How
have I offended you ?"

She rose up from her chair, and



Herbert noticed, as she raised one
band to push her hair from her brow,
that the hand was shaking. She fol-
lowed the bent of his eyes, and saw
that he observed her tremor.

" I am — as you remarked but now —
unhinged to-day, not fit for the so-
ciety of any one," she said. " I did
not intend to cast a reproach to you
for not meeting me at the ruins."

And, sweeping past him, she was
quitting the room, when he laid his
hand on her arm, to detain her.

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