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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 51. The Grinder And His Comrade
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The Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 51. The Grinder And His Comrade Post by :robbud Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :2361

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The Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 51. The Grinder And His Comrade

CHAPTER LI. THE GRINDER AND HIS COMRADE

As the day drew near for the final examination at Heytesbury of the suspected murderers,--the day on which it was expected that either all the three prisoners, or at least two of them, would be committed to take their trial at the summer assizes, the Vicar became anxious as to the appearance of Carry Brattle in the Court. At first he entertained an idea that he would go over to Salisbury and fetch her; but his wife declared that this was imprudent and Quixotic,--and that he shouldn't do it. Fenwick's argument in support of his own idea amounted to little more than this,--that he would go for the girl because the Marquis of Trowbridge would be sure to condemn him for taking such a step. "It is intolerable to me," he said, "that I should be impeded in my free action by the interference and accusations of such an ass as that." But the question was one on which his wife felt herself to be so strong that she would not yield, either to his logic or to his anger. "It can't be fit for you to go about and fetch witnesses; and it won't make it more fit because she is a pretty young woman who has lost her character." "Honi soit qui mal y pense," said the Vicar. But his wife was resolute, and he gave up the plan. He wrote, however, to the constable at Salisbury, begging the man to look to the young woman's comfort, and offering to pay for any special privilege or accommodation that might be accorded to her. This occurred on the Saturday before the day on which Mary Lowther was taken up to look at her new home.

The Sunday passed by, with more or less of conversation respecting the murder; and so also the Monday morning. The Vicar had himself been summoned to give his evidence as to having found Sam Brattle in his own garden, in company with another man with whom he had wrestled, and whom he was able to substantiate as the Grinder; and, indeed, the terrible bruise made by the Vicar's life-preserver on the Grinder's back, would be proved by evidence from Lavington. On the Monday evening he was sitting, after dinner, with Gilmore, who had dined at the vicarage, when he was told that a constable from Salisbury wished to see him. The constable was called into the room, and soon told his story. He had gone up to Trotter's Buildings that day after dinner, and was told that the bird had flown. She had gone out that morning, and Mrs. Stiggs knew nothing of her departure. When they examined the room in which she slept, they found that she had taken what little money she possessed and her best clothes. She had changed her frock and put on a pair of strong boots, and taken her cloak with her. Mrs. Stiggs acknowledged that had she seen the girl going forth thus provided, her suspicions would have been aroused; but Carry had managed to leave the house without being observed. Then the constable went on to say that Mrs. Stiggs had told him that she had been sure that Carry would go. "I've been a waiting for it all along," she had said; "but when there came the law rumpus atop of the other, I knew as how she'd hop the twig." And now Carry Brattle had hopped the twig, and no one knew whither she had gone. There was much sorrow at the vicarage; for Mrs. Fenwick, though she had been obliged to restrain her husband's impetuosity in the matter, had nevertheless wished well for the poor girl;--and who could not believe aught of her now but that she would return to misery and degradation? When the constable was interrogated as to the need for her attendance on the morrow, he declared that nothing could now be done towards finding her and bringing her to Heytesbury in time for the magistrates' session. He supposed there would be another remand, and that then she, too, would be--wanted.

But there had been so many remands that on the Tuesday the magistrates were determined to commit the men, and did commit two of them. Against Sam there was no tittle of evidence, except as to that fact that he had been seen with these men in Mr. Fenwick's garden; and it was at once proposed to put him into the witness-box, instead of proceeding against him as one of the murderers. As a witness he was adjudged to have behaved badly; but the assumed independence of his demeanour was probably the worst of his misbehaviour. He would tell them nothing of the circumstances of the murder, except that having previously become acquainted with the two men, Burrows and Acorn, and having, as he thought, a spite against the Vicar at the time, he had determined to make free with some of the vicarage fruit. He had, he said, met the men in the village that afternoon, and had no knowledge of their business there. He had known Acorn more intimately than the other man, and confessed at last that his acquaintance with that man had arisen from a belief that Acorn was about to marry his sister. He acknowledged that he knew that Burrows had been a convicted thief, and that Acorn had been punished for horse stealing. When he was asked how it had come to pass that he was desirous of seeing his sister married to a horse-stealer, he declined to answer, and, looking round the Court, said that he hoped there was no man there who would be coward enough to say anything against his sister. They who heard him declared that there was more of a threat than a request expressed in his words and manner.

A question was put to him as to his knowledge of Farmer Trumbull's money. "There was them as knew; but I knew nothing," he said. He was pressed on this point by the magistrates, but would say not a word further. As to this, however, the police were indifferent, as they believed that they would be able to prove at the trial, from other sources, that the mother of the man called the Grinder had certainly received tidings of the farmer's wealth. There were many small matters of evidence to which the magistrates trusted. One of the men had bought poison, and the dog had been poisoned. The presence of the cart at the farmer's gate was proved, and the subsequent presence of the two men in the same cart at Pycroft Common. The size of the footprints, the characters and subsequent flight of the men, and certain damaging denials and admissions which they themselves had made, all went to make up the case against them, and they were committed to be tried for the murder. Sam, however, was allowed to go free, being served, however, with a subpoena to attend at the trial as a witness. "I will," said he, "if you send me down money enough to bring me up from South Shields, and take me back again. I ain't a coming on my own hook as I did this time;--and wouldn't now, only for Muster Fenwick." Our friends left the police to settle this question with Sam, and then drove home to Bullhampton.

The Vicar was triumphant, though his triumph was somewhat quelled by the disappearance of Carry Brattle. There could, however, be no longer any doubt that Sam Brattle's innocence as to the murder was established. Head-Constable Toffy had himself acknowledged to him that Sam could have had no hand in it. "I told you so from the beginning," said the Vicar. "We 'as got the right uns, at any rate," said the constable; "and it wasn't none of our fault that we hadn't 'em before." But though Constable Toffy was thus honest, there were one or two in Heytesbury on that day who still persisted in declaring that Sam was one of the murderers. Sir Thomas Charleys stuck to that opinion to the last; and Lord Trowbridge, who had again sat upon the bench, was quite convinced that justice was being shamefully robbed of her due.

When the Vicar reached Bullhampton, instead of turning into his own place at once, he drove himself on to the mill. He dropped Gilmore at the gate, but he could not bear that the father and mother should not know immediately, from a source which they would trust, that Sam had been declared innocent of that great offence. Driving round by the road, Fenwick met the miller about a quarter of a mile from his own house. "Mr. Brattle," he said, "they have committed the two men."

"Have they, sir?" said the miller, not condescending to ask a question about his own son.

"As I have said all along, Sam had no more to do with it than you or I."

"You have been very good, Muster Fenwick."

"Come, Mr. Brattle, do not pretend that this is not a comfort to you."

"A comfort as my son ain't proved a murderer! If they'd a hanged 'im, Muster Fenwick, that'd a been bad, for certain. It ain't much of comfort we has; but there may be a better and a worser in everything, no doubt. I'm obleeged to you, all as one, Muster Fenwick--very much obleeged; and it will take a heavy load off his mother's heart." Then the Vicar turned his gig round, and drove himself home.

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