“I can bear this suspense no longer,” exclaimed Esther. “If father don’t come soon, I shall go and look for him. I’ve tried to flatter myself that he’s safe; but I’m almost convinced now that something has happened to him, or he’d have come back long before this—he knows how anxious we would all be about him. I’ve tried to quiet mother and Caddy by suggesting various reasons for his delay, but, at the same time, I cannot but cherish the most dismal forebodings. I must go and look for him.”
“No, no, Esther—stay where you are at present—leave that to me. I’ll order a carriage and go up to Garie’s immediately.”
“Well, do, Mr. Walters, and hurry back: won’t you?” she rejoined, as he left the apartment.
In a few moments he returned, prepared to start, and was speedily driven to Winter-street. He found a group of people gathered before the gate, gazing into the house. “The place has been attacked,” said he, as he walked towards the front door—picking his way amidst fragments of furniture, straw, and broken glass. At the entrance of the house he was met by Mr. Balch, Mr. Garie’s lawyer.
“This is a shocking affair, Walters,” said he, extending his hand—he was an old friend of Mr. Walters.
“Very shocking, indeed,” he replied, looking around. “But where is Garie? We sent to warn them of this. I hope they are all safe.”
“Safe!” repeated Mr. Balch, with an air of astonishment. “Why, man, haven’t you heard?”
“Heard what?” asked Mr. Walters, looking alarmed.
“That Mr. and Mrs. Garie are dead—both were killed last night.”
The shock of this sudden and totally unexpected disclosure was such that Mr. Walters leaned against the doorway for support. “It can’t be possible,” he exclaimed at last, “not dead!” “Yes, dead, I regret to say—he was shot through the head—and she died in the wood-house, of premature confinement, brought on by fright and exposure.”
“And the children?” gasped Walters.
“They are safe, with some neighbours—it’s heart-breaking to hear them weeping for their mother.” Here a tear glistened in the eye of Mr. Balch, and ran down his cheek. Brushing it off, he continued: “The coroner has just held an inquest, and they gave a most truthless verdict: nothing whatever is said of the cause of the murder, or of the murderers; they simply rendered a verdict—death caused by a wound from a pistol-shot, and hers—death from exposure. There seemed the greatest anxiety on the part of the coroner to get the matter over as quickly as possible, and few or no witnesses were examined. But I’m determined to sift the matter to the bottom; if the perpetrators of the murder can be discovered, I’ll leave no means untried to find them.”
“Do you know any one who sat on the inquest?” asked Walters.
“Yes, one,” was the reply, “Slippery George, the lawyer; you are acquainted with him—George Stevens. I find he resides next door.”