The Hampstead Mystery eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 406 pages of information about The Hampstead Mystery.
curiosity.  And now the end of the case had been reached, except for the climax, which was in their control.  To arrive at an immediate decision in a case that had occupied the court for three days would indicate they had no proper realisation of the responsibilities of their position.  A verdict was a thing that had to be nicely balanced in relation to the evidence.  Where the case against the prisoner was weak or overwhelmingly strong, the jury might arrive at a verdict with great speed as an indication that too much of their valuable time had already been wasted on the case.  But where the evidence for and against the prisoner was fairly equal it behoved the jury to indicate by the time they took in arriving at their verdict that they had given the case the most careful consideration.

Two hours and twenty minutes after the jury had retired, the prisoner was brought back into the dock.  This was an indication that the jury had arrived at their verdict and were ready to deliver it.  The prisoner looked worn and anxious, but he received encouraging smiles from his friends in the gallery.  A minute later the judge entered the court and resumed his seat.  The jury filed into court and entered the jury-box.  Amid the noise of barristers resuming their seats and court officials gliding about, the judge’s Associate called over the names of the jurymen.  The suspense reached its climax as the Associate put the formal questions to the foreman whether the jury had agreed on their verdict.

“What say you:  guilty or not guilty?” asked the Associate in a hard metallic voice in which there was no trace of interest in the answer.

“Not guilty,” replied the foreman.

There was a muffled cheer from the gallery, which was suppressed by the stentorian cry of the ushers, “Silence in the court!”

“A pack of damned fools,” said the exasperated Inspector Chippenfield.

Rolfe understood that his chief referred to the jury, and he nodded the assent of a subordinate.


“Hill has bolted!”

Rolfe flung the words at Inspector Chippenfield in a tone which he was unable to divest entirely of satisfaction.  “Fancy his being the guilty party after all,” he added, with the tone of satisfaction still more evident in his voice.  “I often thought that he was our man, and that he was playing with you—­I mean with us.”

Inspector Chippenfield had betrayed surprise at the news by dropping his pen on the official report he was preparing.  But it was in his usual tone of cold official superiority that he replied: 

“Do you mean that Hill, the principal witness in the Riversbrook murder trial, has disappeared from London?”

“Disappeared from London?  He’s bolted clean out of the country by this time, I tell you!  Cleared out for good and left his unfortunate wife and child to starve.”

“How have you learnt this, Rolfe?”

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The Hampstead Mystery from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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