“In that case, my dear fellow, I must go no further than the door with you. To the best of my belief he will not live more than eight hours, and I must have other opinion and advice in his case. I think it would be as well to have the clergyman and a lawyer without loss of time. He may have something of importance to communicate to you or Miss Effingham ere he dies, for I have some indistinct notion that I have heard something very unfavorable spoken about the said Baronet, now I hear the name again. Let him be got to bed as soon as possible. What is the name of your nearest town, and the distance to it?” enquired Draycott of the farmer.
“Fallowfield is about two miles from here, sir. There is a good road and no one could miss it,” was the reply.
“Let me have a horse and I will go myself and get what I require; Captain Carlton will remain until I return,” and the young surgeon was soon on his way at a hand gallop. In the meantime the good people of the farm were doing all in their power to render the sufferings of their wounded guest as little painful as possible; and every attention was shown him. He spoke but little; but several times asked for Carlton, and on seeing him only repeated, “Do not leave me yet, Arthur, I may have something to say concerning you and Miss Effingham.”
In less time than could have been expected, Draycott returned, accompanied by the best surgeon in Fallowfield, the rector, and a lawyer of good standing in that town. Again the patient was examined, after which a consultation was held in the farmer’s parlour, which lasted about a quarter of an hour; the medical men then returned to the bed-chamber.
The Baronet scrutinized their features narrowly as they re-entered the room. “Oh!” said he, breathing with intense difficulty, “I see there is no hope for me; but tell me frankly, how long is it your opinion that I can live?”
“Doctor Draycott and myself,” replied the surgeon from Fallowfield—who being much the senior took the lead—“deem it expedient that you should send for your man of business as soon as possible,” thus evading the direct question.
Ralph passed his hand across his brow and remained silent a few moments. “You may do so, but it is too late I am afraid. Get the nearest lawyer you can, but be quick for my strength is failing fast, and send Captain Carlton to me at once.”
“Arthur,” he continued, as the young man advanced, “I have deeply wronged Edith and yourself: in the breast pocket of that coat yonder is a paper packet, bring it to me.” Arthur obeyed and placed it on the counterpane. Ralph laid his hand upon it and said, “There is yet time to make restitution. This is the will of the late Sir Jasper Coleman, stolen from his desk on the morning of his death. Has the lawyer sent for yet arrived? If so, I will give my deposition on oath, ere it is too late: I am not a principal, but an accessory. After the fact—” Here Sir Ralph fell