“What kind of a case is it?” she inquired.
“A murder case. Some Irishmen were engaged in a row, when one of the party received a knock on his head that proved too much for him, and died in consequence. My client was one of the contending parties; and has been suspected, from some imprudent expressions of his, to have been the man who struck the fatal blow. His preliminary examination comes off to-morrow or next day, and I must be present as a matter of course.”
At an early hour of the morning succeeding this conversation, Mr. Stevens might have been seen in his dingy office, seated at a rickety desk which was covered with various little bundles, carefully tied with red tape. The room was gloomy and cheerless, and had a mouldy disagreeable atmosphere. A fire burned in the coal stove, which, however, seemed only to warm, but did not dry the apartment; and the windows were covered with a thin coating of vapour.
Mr. Stevens was busily engaged in writing, when hearing footsteps behind him, he turned and saw Mr. Egan, a friend of his client, entering the room.
“Good morning, Mr. Egan,” said he, extending his hand; “how is our friend McCloskey this morning?”
“Oh, it’s far down in the mouth he is, be jabers—the life a’most scared out of him!”
“Tell him to keep up a good heart and not to be frightened at trifles,” laughingly remarked Mr. Stevens.
“Can’t your honour come and see him?” asked Egan.
“I can’t do that; but I’ll give you a note to Constable Berry, and he will bring McCloskey in here as he takes him to court;” and Mr. Stevens immediately wrote the note, which Egan received and departed.
After the lapse of a few hours, McCloskey was brought by the accommodating constable to the office of Mr. Stevens. “He’ll be safe with you, I suppose, Stevens;” said the constable, “but then there is no harm in seeing for one’s self that all’s secure;” and thus speaking, he raised the window and looked into the yard below. The height was too great for his prisoner to escape in that direction; then satisfying himself that the other door only opened into a closet, he retired, locking Mr. Stevens and his client in the room.
Mr. Stevens arose as soon as the door closed behind the constable, and stuffed a piece of damp sponge into the keyhole; he then returned and took a seat by his client.
“Now, McCloskey,” said he, in a low tone, as he drew his chair closely in front of the prisoner, and fixed his keen grey eyes on him—“I’ve seen Whitticar. And I tell you what it is—you’re in a very tight place. He’s prepared to swear that he saw you with a slung shot in your hand—that he saw you drop it after the man fell; he picked it up, and whilst the man was lying dead at his tavern, awaiting the coroner’s inquest, he examined the wound, and saw in the skull two little dents or holes, which were undoubtedly made by the little prongs that are on the leaden ball of the weapon, as they correspond in depth and distance apart; and, moreover, the ball is attached to a twisted brace which proves to be the fellow to the one found upon a pair of your trousers. What can you say to all this?”