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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Forest Ranger - Chapter 8
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The Forest Ranger - Chapter 8 Post by :andrewtan94 Category :Long Stories Author :Hamlin Garland Date :May 2012 Read :3127

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The Forest Ranger - Chapter 8

CHAPTER VIII

The valley had wakened early in expectation of an exciting day. The news of the capture of Busby and his companions had been telephoned from house to house and from ranch to ranch, and the streets were already filled with farmers and their families, adorned as for a holiday. The entire population of Shellfish Canyon had assembled, voicing high indignation at the ranger's interference. Led by Abe and Eli, who busily proclaimed that the arrest of Henry and his companions was merely a trick to divert suspicion from the Kauffman woman, they advanced upon the coroner.

Abe had failed of getting a warrant for the ranger, but boasted that he had the promise of one as soon as the inquest should be ended. "Furthermore," he said, "old Louis Cuneo is on his way over the range, and I'll bet something will start the minute he gets in."

Carmody, who was disposed to make as much of his position as the statutes permitted, had called the hearing in a public hall which stood a few doors south of his office, and at ten o'clock the aisles were so jammed with expectant auditors that Throop was forced to bring his witnesses in at the back door. Nothing like this trial in the way of free entertainment had been offered since the day Jim Nolan was lynched from the railway bridge.

Hanscom was greatly cheered by the presence of his chief, Supervisor Rawlins, who came into the coroner's office about a quarter to ten. He had driven over from Cambria in anxious haste, greatly puzzled by the rumors which had reached him. He was a keen young Marylander, a college graduate, with considerable experience in the mountain West. He liked Hanscom and trusted him, and when the main points of the story were clear in his mind he said:

"You did perfectly right, Hans, and I'll back you in it. I'm something of a dabster at law myself, and I'll see that Kitsong don't railroad you into jail. What worries me is the general opposition now being manifested. With the whole Shellfish Valley on edge, your work will be hampered. It will make your position unpleasant for a while at least."

Hanscom uneasily shifted his glance. "That doesn't matter. I'm going to quit the work, anyhow."

"Oh no, you're not!"

"Yes, I am. I wrote out my resignation this morning."

Rawlins was sadly disturbed. "I hate to have you let this gang drive you out."

"It isn't that," replied Hanscom, somberly. "The plain truth is, Jack, I've lost interest in the work. If Miss McLaren is cleared--and she will be--she'll go East, and I don't see myself going back alone into the hills."

The supervisor studied him in silence for a moment, and his voice was gravely sympathetic as he said: "I see! This girl has made your cabin seem a long way from town."

"She's done more than that, Jack. She's waked me up. She's shown me that I can't afford to ride trail and camp and cook and fight fire any more. I've got to get out into the world and rustle a home that a girl like her can be happy in. I'm started at last. I want to do something. I'm as ambitious as a ward politician!"

The supervisor smiled. "I get you! I'm sorry to lose you, but I guess you are right. If you're bent on winning a woman, you're just about obliged to jump out and try something else. But don't quit until I have time to put a man in your place."

Hanscom promised this, although at the moment he had a misgiving that the promise might prove a burden, and together they walked over to the hall.

The crowded room was very quiet as the ranger and his chief entered and took seats near the platform on which the coroner and his jury were already seated. It was evident, even at a glance, that the audience was very far from being dominated, or even colored, by the Shellfish crowd, and yet, as none of the spectators, men or women, really knew the Kauffmans, they could not be called friendly. They were merely curious.

Hanscom was somewhat relieved to find that the jury was not precisely the same as it had been on the hillside. An older and better man had replaced Steve Billop, a strong partisan of Kitsong's; but to counter-balance this a discouraging feature developed in the presence of William Raines, a dark, oily, whisky-soaked man of sixty, a lawyer whose small practice lay among the mountaineers of Watson's type.

"He's here as Kitsong's attorney," whispered the ranger, who regretted that he had not made greater efforts to secure legal aid. However, the presence of his chief, a man of education and experience, reassured him in some degree.

Carmody, rejoicing in his legal supremacy, and moved by love of drama, opened proceedings with all the dignity and authority of a judge, explaining in sonorous terms that this was an adjourned session of an inquest upon the death of one Edward Watson, a rancher on the Shellfish.

"New witnesses have been secured and new evidence has developed," he said in closing, "and Mr. L. J. Hanscom, the forest ranger, who has important testimony to give, will first take the stand."

Though greatly embarrassed by the eyes of the vast audience and somewhat intimidated by the judicial tone of Carmody's voice, Hanscom went forward and told his story almost without interruption, and at the end explained his own action.

"Of course, I didn't intend to help anybody side-step justice when I took the Kauffmans to the station, because I heard the coroner say he had excused them."

"What about those raiders?" asked one of the jurors. "Did you recognize the man who shot Kauffman's horse?"

Carmody interrupted: "We can't go into that. That has no connection with the question which we are to settle, which is, Who killed Watson?"

"Seems to me there is a connection," remarked Rawlins. "If those raiders were the same people Hanscom arrested in the cabin, wouldn't it prove something as to their character?"

"Sure thing!" answered another of the jurors.

"A man who would shoot a horse like that might shoot a man, 'pears to me," said a third.

"All right," said Carmody. "Mr. Hanscom, you may answer. Did you recognize the man who fired that shot?"

"No, he was too far away; but the horse he rode was a sorrel--the same animal which the Cuneo girl rode."

Raines interrupted: "Will you _swear to that?"

"No, I won't swear to it, but I think--"

Raines was savage. "Mr. Coroner, we don't want what the witness _thinks_--we want what he _knows_."

"Tell us what you know," commanded Carmody.

"I know this," retorted Hanscom. "The man who fired that shot rode a sorrel blaze-faced pony and was a crack gunman. To drop a running horse at that distance is pretty tolerable shooting, and it ought to be easy to prove who the gunner was. I've heard say Henry Kitsong--"

"I object!" shouted Raines, and Carmody sustained the objection.

"Passing now to your capture of the housebreakers," said he, "tell the jury how you came to arrest the girl."

"Well, as I entered the cabin the girl Rita was sitting with her feet on a stool, and the size and shape of her shoe soles appeared to me about the size and shape of the tracks made in the flour, and I had just started to take one of her shoes in order to compare it with the drawings I carried in my pocket-book when Busby jumped me. I had to wear him out before I could go on; but finally I made the comparison and found that the soles of her shoes fitted the tracks exactly. Then I decided to bring her down, too."

A stir of excited interest passed over the hall, but Raines checked it by asking: "Did you compare the shoes with the actual tracks on the porch floor?"

"No, only with the drawings I had made in my note-book."

Raines waved his hand contemptuously. "That proves nothing. We don't know anything about those drawings."

"I do," retorted Carmody, "and so does the jury; but we can take that matter up later. You can step down, Mr. Hanscom, and we'll hear James B. Durgin."

Durgin, a bent, gray-bearded old rancher, took the stand and swore that he had witnessed a hot wrangle between Kauffman and Watson, and that he had heard the Dutchman say, "I'll get you for this!"

Hanscom, realizing that Durgin was Kitsong's chief new witness, was quick to challenge his testimony, and finally forced him to admit that Watson had also threatened Kauffman, so that the total effect of his testimony was rather more helpful than harmful.

"Is it not a matter of common report, Mr. Coroner," demanded the ranger, "that Watson has had many such quarrels? I am told that he had at least one fierce row with Busby--"

"We'll come to that," interjected Carmody, as Durgin left the chair. "Have you Rita's shoes, Mr. Sheriff?" Throop handed up a pair of women's shoes, and Carmody continued: "You swear these are the shoes worn by Margarita Cuneo when you took charge of her?"

"I do."

"Mr. Hanscom, will you examine these shoes and say whether they are the ones worn by Rita Cuneo when you arrested her?"

Hanscom took them. "I think they are the same, but I cannot tell positively without comparing them with my drawings."

The jury, deeply impressed by this new and unexpected evidence, minutely examined the shoe soles and compared them with the drawings while the audience waited in tense expectancy.

"They sure fit," said the spokesman of the jury.

Raines objected. "Even if they do _seem to fit, that is not conclusive. We don't know _when the tracks were made. They may have been made after the murder or before."

"Call Rita Cuneo," said Carmody to the sheriff.

The girl came to the stand, looking so scared, so pale, and so small that some of the women, without realizing the importance of her testimony, clicked their tongues in pity. "Dear, dear! How young she is!" they exclaimed.

Carmody, by means of a few rapid questions gently expressed, drew out her name, her age, and some part of her family history, and then, with sudden change of manner, bluntly asked:

"How did you happen to be in that cabin with those two men?"

Pitifully at a loss, she finally stammered out an incoherent explanation of how they were just riding by and saw the door standing open, and went in, not meaning any harm. She denied knowing Watson, but admitted having met him on the road several times, and hotly insisted that she had never visited his house in her life.

"Where have you been living since leaving home?"

"In the hills."

"Where?"

"At the sawmill."

"How long had you been there when you heard of Watson's death?"

"About two weeks."

"Were you in camp?"

"No, we were staying in the old cabin by the creek."

"You mean Busby and Kitsong and yourself?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, now, which one of these men did you leave home with--Busby or Kitsong?"

Her head drooped, and while she wavered Raines interposed, arguing that the question was not pertinent. But Carmody insisted, and soon developed the fact that she was much more eager to defend Busby than Kitsong. She denied that he had ever cursed Watson or threatened to do him harm, but the coroner forced her to admit that Busby had told her of having had trouble with the dead man, and then, thrusting a pair of shoes at her, he sternly asked:

"Are these your shoes?"

"No, sir," she firmly declared.

Her answer surprised Hanscom and dazed the sheriff, who exclaimed beneath his breath, "The little vixen!"

Carmody's tone sharpened: "Do you mean to tell me that these are not the shoes you wore in town yesterday?"

"No, I don't mean that."

"What _do you mean?"

"I mean they're not my shoes. They belong to that Kauffman girl. I found them in that cabin."

Hanscom sprang to his feet. "She's lying, Your Honor."

"Sit down!" shouted Raines.

The entire audience rose like a wave under the influence of the passion in these voices; the sheriff shouted for silence and order, and Carmody hammered on his desk, commanding everybody to be seated. At last, when he could be heard, he rebuked Hanscom.

"You're out of order," he said, and, turning to Raines, requested him to take his seat.

Raines shook his fist at the ranger. "You can't address such remarks to a witness. _You sit down."

Hanscom was defiant. "I will subside when you do."

"Sit _down_, both of you!" roared Carmody.

They took seats, but eyed each other like animals crouching to spring.

Carmody lectured them both, and, as he cooled, Hanscom apologized. "I'm sorry I spoke," he said; "but the ownership of those shoes has got to be proved. I _know they belong to this girl!"

"We'll come to that; don't you worry," said Carmody, and he turned to Rita, who was cowering in the midst of this uproar like a mountain quail. "Who told you to deny the ownership of these shoes?"

"Nobody."

"Just reasoned it out yourself, eh?" he asked, with acrid humor. "Well, you're pretty smart."

The girl, perceiving the importance of her denial, enlarged upon it, telling of her need of new shoes and of finding this dry, warm pair in a closet in the cabin. She described minutely the worn-out places of her own shoes and how she had thrown them into the stove and burned them up, and the audience listened with renewed conviction that "the strange woman" was the midnight prowler at the Watson cabin, and that Rita and her companions were but mischievous hoodlums having no connection with the murder.

Hanscom, filled with distrust of Carmody, demanded that the sheriff be called to testify on this point, for he had made search of the cabin in the first instance.

"We proved at the other session that Miss McLaren was unable to wear the shoes which made the prints."

"We deny that!" asserted Raines. "That is just the point we are trying to make. We don't _know that this Kauffman woman is unable to wear those shoes."

Carmody decided to call young Kitsong, and Throop led Rita away and soon returned with Henry, who came into the room looking like a trapped fox, bewildered yet alert. He was rumpled and dirty, like one called from sleep in a corral, but his face appealed to the heart of his mother, who flung herself toward him with a piteous word of appeal, eager to let him know that she was present and faithful.

The sheriff stopped her, and her husband--whose parental love was much less vital--called upon her not to make a fool of herself.

The boy gave his name and age, and stated his relationship to the dead man, but declared he had not seen him for months. "I didn't know he was dead till the ranger told me," he said. He denied that he had had any trouble with Watson. "He is my uncle," he added.

"I've known relatives to fight," commented the coroner, with dry intonation, and several in the audience laughed, for it was well known to them that the witness was at outs not only with his uncle, but with his father.

"Now, Henry," said the coroner, severely, "we know this girl, Rita, made a night visit to Watson's cabin. We have absolute proof of it. She did not go there alone. Who was with her? Did you accompany her on this trip?"

"_No_, sir."

"She never made that trip alone. Some man was with her. If not you, it must have been Busby."

A sullen look came into the boy's face. "Well, it wasn't me--I know that."

"Was it Busby?"

He paused for a long time, debating what the effect of his answer would be. "He may of. I can't say."

Carmody restated his proof that Rita had been there and said: "One or the other of you went. Now which was it?"

The witness writhed like a tortured animal, and at last said, "He did," and Mrs. Eli sighed with relief.

Carmody drew from him the fact that Watson owed Busby money, and that he had vainly tried to collect it. He would not say that Rita left camp with Busby, but his keen anxiety to protect her was evident to every one in the room. He admitted that he expected Busby to have trouble with Watson.

Mrs. Kitsong, who saw with growing anxiety the drift of the coroner's questioning, called out: "Tell him the truth, Henry; the whole truth!"

Raines silenced her savagely, and Carmody said: "So Busby had tried to collect that money before, had he?"

"Tell him 'yes,' Henry," shouted Eli, who was now quite as eager to shield his son as he had been to convict Helen.

Carmody warned him to be quiet. "You'll have a chance very soon to testify on this very point," he said, and repeated his question: "Busby had had a fight with Watson, hadn't he--a regular knockdown row?"

Henry, sweating with fear, now confessed that Busby had returned from Watson's place furious with anger, and this testimony gave an entirely new direction to the suspicions of the jurors, several of whom knew Busby as a tough customer.

Dismissing Henry for the moment, Carmody recalled Margarita. "You swear you never visited Watson's cabin?" he began. "Well, suppose that I were to tell you that we know you did, would you still deny it?" She looked at him in scared silence, trying to measure the force of his question, while he went on: "You mounted the front steps and went down the porch to the right, pausing to peer into the window. You kept on to the east end of the porch, where you dropped to the ground, and continued on around to the back door. Do you deny that?"

Amazed by the accuracy of his information and awed by his tone, the girl struggled for an answer, while the audience waited as at a crisis in a powerful play.

Then the coroner snapped out, "Well, what were you doing there?"

She looked at Henry, then at Mrs. Eli. "I went to borrow some blankets," she confessed, in a voice so low that only a few heard her words.

"Was Watson at home?"

"Yes."

"Did you see him?"

"Yes."

"What did he say?"

At this point she became tearful, and the most that could be drawn from her was a statement that Watson had refused to loan or sell her any blankets. She denied that Busby was with her, and insisted that she was alone till Carmody convinced her that she was only making matters worse by such replies.

"Your visit was at night," he said. "You would never have walked in that flour in the daytime, and you wouldn't have gone there alone in the night. Busby wouldn't have permitted you to go to Watson's alone--he knew Watson too well." The force of this remark was felt by nearly every person in the room.

Hanscom said: "Mr. Coroner, this girl is trying to shield Busby, and I want her confronted by him, and I want Eli Kitsong called."

By this time many admitted that they might have been mistaken in accusing the Kauffmans of the deed.

Busby, a powerful young fellow, made a bad impression on the stand. His face was both sullen and savage, and the expression of his eyes furtive. He was plainly on guard even before Raines warned him to be careful.

"My name is Hart Busby," he said, in answer to Carmody. "I'm twenty-six years old. I was born in the East. I've been here eight years." Here he stopped, refusing to say where his parents lived or when he first met Margarita. He flatly denied having had any serious trouble with Watson, and declared that he had not seen him for almost a year.

"What were you doing in the Kauffmans' cabin?" demanded Hanscom. "You won't deny my finding you there, will you?"

He told the same story that Rita had sworn to. "We were riding by and saw that the place was deserted, and so we went in to look around."

"When did _you first hear of Watson's death?" asked Carmody.

The witness hesitated. A look of doubt, of evasion, in his eyes. "Why, the ranger told us."

"Which of you owns that sorrel horse?" asked one of the jury.

Raines again interposed. "You needn't answer that," he warned. "That's not before the court."

Carmody went on. "Now, Busby, you might as well tell us the truth. Henry and Rita both state that Watson had refused to pay you, and that you had a scrap and Watson kicked you off the place. Is that true?"

Raines rescued him. "You don't have to answer that," he said, and the witness breathed an almost inaudible sigh of relief.

A violent altercation arose at this point between the coroner and the lawyer. Carmody insisted on his right to ask any question he saw fit, and Raines retorted that the witness had a right to refuse to incriminate himself.

"You stick to your bread pills and vials," he said to the coroner, "and don't assume a knowledge of the law. You become ridiculous when you do."

"I know my powers," retorted Carmody in high resentment, "and you keep a civil tongue in your head or I'll fine you for contempt. I may not know all the ins and outs of court procedure, but I'm going to see justice done, and I'm going to see that you keep your place."

"You can't steam-roll me," roared Raines.

The argument became so hot that Throop was forced to interfere, and in the excitement and confusion of the moment Busby mad a dash for the door, and would have escaped had not Hanscom intercepted him. The room was instantly in an uproar. Several of Busby's friends leaped to his aid, and for a few minutes it seemed as if the coroner's court had resolved itself into an arena for battling bears. Busby fought desperately, and might have gained his freedom, after all, had not Rawlins taken a hand.

At last Throop came into action. "Stop that!" he shouted, and fetched Busby a blow that ended his struggles for the moment. "Let go of him, Hanscom," he said. "I'll attend to him."

Hanscom and Rawlins fell back, and Throop, placing one huge paw on the outlaw's shoulder, shoved the muzzle of a revolver against his neck.

"Now you calm right down, young man, and remember you're in court and not in a barroom."

Raines, still unsubdued, shouted out, "You take your gun away from that man, you big stiff!"

"_Silence!_" bellowed Carmody. "I'll have you removed if you utter another word."

"I refuse to take orders from a pill-pusher like you."

"Sheriff, seat that man," commanded Carmody, white with wrath.

Throop, thrusting Busby back into his chair, advanced upon Raines with ponderous menace. "Sit down, you old skunk."

"Don't you touch me!" snarled the lawyer.

"Out you go," said Throop, with a clutch at the defiant man's throat.

Raines reached under his coat-tails for a weapon, but Rawlins caught him from behind, and Throop, throwing his arms around his shoulders in a bearlike hug, carried him to his chair and forced him into it.

"Now will you be quiet?"

The whole room was silent now, silent as death, with a dozen men on their feet with weapons in their hands, waiting to see if Raines would rise.

Breaking this silence, Carmody, lifted by excitement to unusual eloquence, cried out: "Gentlemen, I call upon you to witness that I am in no way exceeding my authority. The dignity of this court must be upheld." He turned to the jury, who were all on end and warlike. "I call upon you to witness the insult which Mr. Raines has put on this court, and unless he apologizes he will be ejected from the room."

Raines saw that he had gone too far, and with a wry face and contemptuous tone of voice muttered an apology which was in spirit an insult, but Carmody accepted the letter of it with a warning that he would brook no further displays of temper.

When the coroner resumed his interrogation of Busby, whose sullen calm had given place to a look of alarm and desperation, he refused to speak one word in answer to questions, and at last Carmody, ordering him to take a seat in the room, called Mrs. Eli Kitsong to the chair.

She was a thin, pale little woman with a nervous twitch on one side of her face, and the excitement through which she had just passed rendered her almost speechless; but she managed to tell the jury that Busby and Watson had fought and that she had warned her son not to run with Hart Busby.

"I knew he'd get him into trouble," she said. "I told Henry not to go with him; but he went away with him in spite of all I could say."

"Did you actually _see the fight between Busby and Watson?"

"No, I only heard Ed tell about it."

"Did he say Busby threatened to kill him?"

"Yes, he did, but he laughed and said he was not afraid of a fool kid like him."

Busby was deeply disturbed. He sat staring at the floor, moistening his lips occasionally with the tip of his tongue as the coroner called one after another of his neighbors to testify against him. The feeling that Carmody was on the right track spread through the audience, but Abe insisted that the Kauffmans be called to the stand, and to this Hanscom added:

"I join in that demand. Call Miss McLaren. I want the ownership of these shoes settled once and for all."

In the tone of one making a concession, Carmody said, "Very well. Mr. Sheriff, take Busby out and ask Miss McLaren to step this way."

As the young ruffian was led out Rita sprang up as if to follow him, but Carmody restrained her. "Stay where you are. I want you to confront Miss McLaren."

A stir, a sigh of satisfaction, passed over the room, and every eye was turned toward the door through which Helen must approach. Not one of all the town-folk and few of the country-folk had ever seen her face or heard her voice. To them she was a woman of mystery, and for the most part a woman of dark repute, capable of any enormity. They believed that she had been living a hermit life simply and only for the reason that she had been driven out of the East by the authorities, and most of them believed that the man she was living with was her paramour.

Every preconception of her was of this savage sort, and so when the sheriff reappeared, ushering in a tall, composed, and handsome young woman whose bearing, as well as her features, suggested education and refinement, the audience stared in dumb amazement.

Hanscom and Rawlins both rose to their feet, and Carmody, moved by a somewhat similar respect and admiration, followed their example. He went further; he indicated, with a bow, the chair in which she was to sit, while the jurors with open mouths followed her every movement. They could not believe that this was the same woman they had examined at the previous session of the court.

Hanscom, without considering her costume as designed to produce an impression--he was too loyal for that--exulted in its perfectly obvious effect on the spectators, and glowed with confidence over the outcome.

She looked taller, fairer, and younger in her graceful gown, and her broad hat--which was in sharpest contrast to the sunbonnet which had so long been her disguise--lent a girlish piquancy to her glance. Mrs. Brinkley expressed in one short phrase the change of sentiment which swept almost instantly over the room. "Why, she's a _lady_!" she gasped.

Carmody, while not so sure the witness's costume was unpremeditated, nevertheless acknowledged its power. He opened his examination with an apology for thus troubling her a second time, and explained that new witnesses and new evidence made it necessary.

She accepted his apology with grave dignity, and in answer to questions by Raines admitted that Kauffman had told her of his clash with Watson over some cattle.

"But he never threatened to shoot Watson. He is not quarrelsome. On the contrary, he is very gentle and patient, and only resented Watson's invasion of our home."

Upon being shown the shoes which Rita Cuneo had worn she sharply answered:

"No, they are not mine. I could not wear them. They are much too small for me."

This answer, though fully expected by Hanscom and the coroner, sent another wave of excitement over the audience, and when Carmody said, almost apologetically, "Miss McLaren, will you kindly try on these shoes?" the women in the room rose from their seats in access of interest, and loud cries of "Down in front!" arose from those behind them.

Seemingly without embarrassment, yet with heightened color, Helen removed one of her shoes--a plain low walking-shoe--and handed it to Carmody, who received it with respectful care and handed it to the foreman of the jury, asking him to make comparison of it with the footprints.

The jurors, two by two, examined, measured, muttered, while the audience waited in growing impatience for their report. Most of the onlookers believed this to be a much more important test than it really was, and when at last the foreman returned the shoe, saying, "This ain't the shoe that made the tracks," the courtroom buzzed with pleased comment.

Raines was on his feet. "Mr. Coroner, we demand that the witness try on that other pair of shoes. We are not convinced that she cannot wear them."

Carmody yielded, and the room became very quiet as Helen, with noticeable effort, wedged her foot into the shoe.

"I cannot put it on; it is too small," she said to Carmody, and Rita, who sat near, bent a terrified gaze upon her.

Raines then called out: "She's playing off. Have her stand up."

Hanscom, furious at this indignity, protested that it was not necessary, but Helen rose and, drawing aside the hem of her skirt, calmly offered her foot for inspection.

"I can't possibly walk in it," she said, addressing the jury.

One by one the jury clumsily knelt and examined her foot, then returned to their seats, and when the foreman said, "That never was her shoe," a part of the audience applauded his utterance as conclusive.

"That will do, Miss McLaren," said Carmody; "you may step down." And, turning sharply to where Rita sat with open mouth and dazed glance, he demanded: "Do you know what the court calls your testimony? It's perjury! That's what it is! Do you know what we can do to you? We can shut you up in jail. These shoes are yours. Are you ready to say so now?"

She shrank from him, and her eyes fell.

Raines intervened. "You are intimidating the witness," he protested.

Carmody repeated his question, "_Are these your shoes?_"

"Yes, sir," she faintly answered; a sigh of relief, a ripple of applause, again interrupted the coroner.

Hanscom rose. "Mr. Coroner, in view of this testimony, I move Miss McLaren be excused from further attendance on this court."

The unmistakable rush of sympathy toward Helen moved Carmody to dramatize the moment. "Miss McLaren," he said, with judicial poise, "I am convinced that you are not a material witness in this case. You are dismissed."

The hearty handclapping of a majority of the auditors followed, and Helen was deeply touched. Her voice was musical with feeling as she said:

"Thank you, sir. I am very grateful. Is my father also excused?"

"Unless the jury wishes to question him."

The jurors conferred, and finally the spokesman said, "I don't think we'll need him."

"Very well, then, you are both free."

Mrs. Brinkley, a round-faced, fresh-complexioned little woman, who had been sitting near the front seat, made a rush for Helen, eager to congratulate her and invite her to dinner. Others, both men and women, followed, and for a time all business was suspended. It was evident that Helen had in very truth been on trial for murder, and that the coroner's dismissal was in effect her acquittal. Hanscom, on the edge of the throng, waited impatiently for an opportunity to present Rawlins. Raines and Kitsong excitedly argued.

Meanwhile the jury and the coroner were in conference, and at last Carmody called for the finding: "We believe that the late Edward Watson came to his death at the hands of one Hart Busby, with Henry Kitsong and Margarita Cuneo knowing to it, and we move that they be held to the grand jury for trial at the next term of court," drawled the foreman and sat down.

No one applauded now, but a murmur of satisfaction passed over the room. Eli and Abe sprang up in excited clamor, and Raines made violent protest against the injustice of the verdict.

"It's all irregular!" he shouted.

Carmody remained firm. "This finding will stand," he said. "The court is adjourned."

Raines immediately made his way to Hanscom and laid a hand on his shoulder. "In that case," he said, "I'll take you into camp. Mr. Sheriff, I have a warrant for this man's arrest."

Hanscom was not entirely surprised, but he resented their haste to humiliate him before the crowd--and before Helen. "Don't do that now," he protested. "Wait an hour or two. Wait till I can get Miss McLaren and her father out of the country. I give you my word I'll not run away."

Carmody, seeing Raines with his hand on the ranger's arm, understood what it meant and hurried over to urge a decent delay. "Let him put the girl on the train," he said.

"I'll give him two hours," said Raines, "and not a minute more."

Hanscom glanced at Helen and was glad of the fact that, being surrounded by her women sympathizers, she had seen and heard nothing of the enemy's new attack upon him.

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The Forest Ranger - Chapter 9 The Forest Ranger - Chapter 9

The Forest Ranger - Chapter 9
CHAPTER IXHelen and the ranger left the room together, and no sooner were they free from the crowd than she turned to him with a smile which expressed affection as well as gratitude. "How much we owe to you and Dr. Carmody, and what a sorry interruption we've caused in your work." He protested that the interruption had been entirely a pleasure, but she, while knowing nothing of his impending arrest, was fully aware that he had undergone actual hardship for her sake, and her plan for hurrying away seemed at the moment most ungracious. Yet this, after all, was precisely
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The Forest Ranger - Chapter 7 The Forest Ranger - Chapter 7

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CHAPTER VIIDr. Carmody, who had held the office of coroner less than a year, had a keen sense of the importance which this his first murder case had given him. His procedure at the cabin had been easy and rather casual, it is true, but contact with the town-folk and a careful perusal of the State Code had given him a decided tone of authority and an air of judicial severity which surprised and somewhat irritated Hanscom, fresh from his encounter with Kitsong. "What was the cause of that row out there?" demanded the doctor, resuming his seat behind his desk
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