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Chapter 25 NO FURTHER EVIDENCE

  • While Mallalieu lay captive in the stronghold of Miss Pett, Cotherstone wa_xperiencing a quite different sort of incarceration in the detention cells o_orcaster Gaol. Had he known where his partner was, and under wha_ircumstances Mallalieu had obtained deliverance from official bolts and bars,
  • Cotherstone would probably have laughed in his sleeve and sneered at him for _ool. He had been calling Mallalieu a fool, indeed, ever since the previou_vening, when the police, conducting him to Norcaster, had told him of th_ayor's escape from the Town Hall. Nobody but an absolute fool, a consummat_diot, thought Cotherstone, would have done a thing like that. The man wh_lies is the man who has reason to fly—that was Cotherstone's opinion, and i_is belief ninety-nine out of every hundred persons in Highmarket would shar_t. Mallalieu would now be set down as guilty—they would say he dared not fac_hings, that he knew he was doomed, that his escape was the desperate act of _onscious criminal. Ass!—said Cotherstone, not without a certain amount o_alicious delight: they should none of them have reason to say such things o_im. He would make no attempt to fly—no, not if they left the gate o_orcaster Gaol wide open to him! It should be his particular care to hav_imself legally cleared—his acquittal should be as public as the proceeding_hich had just taken place. He went out of the dock with that resolve stron_n him; he carried it away to his cell at Norcaster; he woke in the mornin_ith it, stronger than ever. Cotherstone, instead of turning tail, was goin_o fight—for his own hand.
  • As a prisoner merely under detention, Cotherstone had privileges of which h_ook good care to avail himself. Four people he desired to see, and must se_t once, on that first day in gaol—and he lost no time in making known hi_esires. One—and the most important—person was a certain solicitor i_orcaster who enjoyed a great reputation as a sharp man of affairs.
  • Another—scarcely less important—was a barrister who resided in Norcaster, an_ad had it said of him for a whole generation that he had restored mor_riminals to society than any man of his profession then living. And the othe_wo were his own daughter and Windle Bent. Them he must see—but the men of la_irst.
  • When the solicitor and the barrister came, Cotherstone talked to them as h_ad never talked to anybody in his life. He very soon let them see that he ha_wo definite objects in sending for them: the first was to tell them in plai_anguage that money was of no consideration in the matter of his defence; th_econd, that they had come there to hear him lay down the law as to what the_ere to do. Talk he did, and they listened—and Cotherstone had th_atisfaction of seeing that they went away duly impressed with all that he ha_aid to them. He went back to his cell from the room in which this intervie_ad taken place congratulating himself on his ability.
  • "I shall be out of this, and all'll be clear, a week today!" he assure_imself. "We'll see where that fool of a Mallalieu is by then! For he'll no_et far, nor go hidden for thirty years, this time."
  • He waited with some anxiety to see his daughter, not because he must see he_ithin the walls of a prison, but because he knew that by that time she woul_ave learned the secrets of that past which he had kept so carefully hidde_rom her. Only child of his though she was, he felt that Lettie was no_ltogether of his sort; he had often realized that she was on a differen_ental plane from his own, and was also, in some respects, a little of _ystery to him. How would she take all this?—what would she say?—what effec_ould it have on her?—he pondered these questions uneasily while he waited fo_er visit.
  • But if Cotherstone had only known it, he need have suffered no anxiety abou_ettie. It had fallen to Bent to tell her the sad news the afternoon before,
  • and Bent had begged Brereton to go up to the house with him. Bent was upset;
  • Brereton disliked the task, though he willingly shared in it. They need hav_ad no anxiety, either. For Lettie listened calmly and patiently until th_hole story had been told, showing neither alarm, nor indignation, no_xcitement; her self-composure astonished even Bent, who thought, having bee_ngaged to her for twelve months, that he knew her pretty well.
  • "I understand exactly," said Lettie, when, between them, they had told he_verything, laying particular stress on her father's version of things. "It i_ll very annoying, of course, but then it is quite simple, isn't it? O_ourse, Mr. Mallalieu has been the guilty person all through, and poor fathe_as been dragged into it. But then—all that you have told me has only to b_ut before the—who is it?—magistrates?—judges?—and then, of course, fathe_ill be entirely cleared, and Mr. Mallalieu will be hanged. Windle—of cours_e shall have to put off the wedding?"
  • "Oh, of course!" agreed Bent. "We can't have any weddings until all thi_usiness is cleared up."
  • "That'll be so much better," said Lettie. "It really was becoming an awfu_ush."
  • Brereton glanced at Bent when they left the house.
  • "I congratulate you on having a fiancée of a well-balanced mind, old chap!" h_aid. "That was—a relief!"
  • "Oh, Lettie's a girl of singularly calm and equable temperament," answere_ent. "She's not easily upset, and she's quick at sizing things up. And I say,
  • Brereton, I've got to do all I can for Cotherstone, you know. What about hi_efence?"
  • "I should imagine that Cotherstone is already arranging his defence himself,"
  • said Brereton. "He struck me during that talk this morning at Tailington's a_eing very well able to take care of himself, Bent, and I think you'll fin_hen you visit him that he's already fixed things. You won't perhaps see why,
  • and I won't explain just now, but this foolish running away of Mallalieu, who,
  • of course, is sure to be caught, is very much in Cotherstone's favour. I shal_e much surprised if you don't find Cotherstone in very good spirits, and i_here aren't developments in this affair within a day or two which wil_mpress the whole neighbourhood."
  • Bent, visiting the prisoner in company with Lettie next day, found Brereton'_rediction correct. Cotherstone, hearing from his daughter's own lips what sh_erself thought of the matter, and being reassured that all was well betwee_ent and her, became not merely confident but cheerily boastful. He would b_ree, and he would be cleared by that day next week—he was not sorry, he said,
  • that at last all this had come out, for now he would be able to get rid of a_ncubus that had weighted him all his life.
  • "You're very confident, you know," remarked Bent.
  • "Not beyond reason," asserted Cotherstone doggedly. "You wait till tomorrow!"
  • "What is there tomorrow?" asked Bent.
  • "The inquest on Stoner is tomorrow," replied Cotherstone. "You be there—an_ee and hear what happens."
  • All of Highmarket population that could cram itself into the Coroner's cour_as there next day when the adjourned inquest on the clerk's death was held.
  • Neither Bent nor Brereton nor Tallington had any notion of what line was goin_o be taken by Cotherstone and his advisers, but Tallington and Brereto_xchanged glances when Cotherstone, in charge of two warders from Norcaster,
  • was brought in, and when the Norcaster solicitor and the Norcaster barriste_hom he had retained, shortly afterwards presented themselves.
  • "I begin to foresee," whispered Tallington. "Clever!—devilish clever!"
  • "Just so," agreed Brereton, with a sidelong nod at the crowded seats close by.
  • "And there's somebody who's interested because it's going to be devilis_lever—that fellow Pett!"
  • Christopher Pett was there, silk hat, black kid gloves and all, not afraid o_eing professionally curious. Curiosity was the order of the day: everybod_resent—of any intelligent perception—wanted to know what the presence o_otherstone, one of the two men accused of the murder of Stoner, signified.
  • But it was some little time before any curiosity was satisfied. The inques_eing an adjourned one, most of the available evidence had to be taken, and a_ coroner has a wide field in the calling of witnesses, there was mor_vidence produced before him and his jury than before the magistrates. Ther_as Myler, of course, and old Pursey, and the sweethearting couple: there wer_ther witnesses, railway folks, medical experts, and townspeople who coul_ontribute some small quota of testimony. But all these were forgotten when a_ast Cotherstone, having been duly warned by the coroner that he need not giv_ny evidence at all, determinedly entered the witness-box—to swear on oat_hat he was witness to his partner's crime.
  • Nothing could shake Cotherstone's evidence. He told a plain, straightforwar_tory from first to last. He had no knowledge whatever of Stoner's havin_ound out the secret of the Wilchester affair. He knew nothing of Stoner'_aving gone over to Darlington. On the Sunday he himself had gone up the moor_or a quiet stroll. At the spinney overhanging Hobwick Quarry he had see_allalieu and Stoner, and had at once noticed that something in the shape of _uarrel was afoot. He saw Mallalieu strike heavily at Stoner with his oa_tick—saw Mallalieu, in a sudden passion, kick the stick over the edge of th_uarry, watched him go down into the quarry and eventually leave it. He tol_ow he himself had gone after the stick, recovered it, taken it home, and ha_ventually told the police where it was. He had never spoken to Mallalieu o_hat Sunday—never seen him except under the circumstances just detailed.
  • The astute barrister who represented Cotherstone had not troubled the Corone_nd his jury much by asking questions of the various witnesses. But he ha_uietly elicited from all the medical men the definite opinion that death ha_een caused by the blow. And when Cotherstone's evidence was over, th_arrister insisted on recalling the two sweethearts, and he got out of them,
  • separately (each being excluded from the court while the other gave evidence),
  • that they had not seen Mallalieu and Cotherstone together, that Mallalieu ha_eft the quarry some time before they saw Cotherstone, and that when Mallalie_assed them he seemed to be agitated and was muttering to himself, whereas i_otherstone's manner they noticed nothing remarkable.
  • Brereton, watching the faces of the jurymen, all tradesmen of the town,
  • serious and anxious, saw the effect which Cotherstone's evidence and th_urther admissions of the two sweethearts was having. And neither he no_allington—and certainly not Mr. Christopher Pett—was surprised when, in th_athering dusk of the afternoon, the inquest came to an end with a verdict o_Wilful Murder against Anthony Mallalieu_.
  • "Your client is doing very well," observed Tallington to the Norcaste_olicitor as they foregathered in an ante-room.
  • "My client will be still better when he comes before your bench again," dril_nswered the other. "As you'll see!"
  • "So that's the line you're taking?" said Tallington quietly. "A good one—fo_im."
  • "Every man for himself," remarked the Norcaster practitioner. "We're no_oncerned with Mallalieu—we're concerned about ourselves. See you whe_otherstone's brought before your worthies next Tuesday. And—a word in you_ar!—it won't be a long job, then."
  • Long job or short job, the Highmarket Town Hall was packed to the doors whe_otherstone, after his week's detention, was again placed in the dock. Thi_ime, he stood there alone—and he looked around him with confidence and wit_ot a few signs that he felt a sense of coming triumph. He listened with _uiet smile while the prosecuting counsel—sent down specially from London t_ake charge—discussed with the magistrates the matter of Mallalieu's escape,
  • and he showed more interest when he heard some police information as to ho_hat escape had been effected, and that up to then not a word had been hear_nd no trace found of the fugitive. And after that, as the prosecuting counse_ent over to exchange a whispered word with the magistrates' clerk,
  • Cotherstone deliberately turned, and seeking out the place where Bent an_rereton sat together, favoured them with a peculiar glance. It was the glanc_f a man who wished to say "I told you!—now you'll see whether I was right!"
  • "We're going to hear something—now!" whispered Brereton.
  • The prosecuting counsel straightened himself and looked at the magistrates.
  • There was a momentary hesitation on his part; a look of expectancy on th_aces of the men on the bench; a deep silence in the crowded court. The fe_ords that came from the counsel were sharp and decisive.
  • "There will be no further evidence against the prisoner now in the dock, you_orships," he said. "The prosecution decides to withdraw the charge."
  • In the buzz of excitement which followed the voice of the old chairman wa_carcely audible as he glanced at Cotherstone.
  • "You are discharged," he said abruptly.
  • Cotherstone turned and left the dock. And for the second time he looked a_ent and Brereton in the same peculiar, searching way. Then, amidst a dea_ilence, he walked out of the court.