CAPTAIN BRANSCOME’S CONFESSION—THE MAN IN THE LANE.
He opened the gate and came across the turf to me. I observed that his hand trembled on his walking-cane, and that he dragged his injured leg with a worse limp than usual; also—but the uncertain light may have had something to do with this—his face seemed of one colour with the grey dust that powdered his shoes.
“Good morning, Harry!”
“Good morning, sir,” I answered, crushing the oilskin into my pocket and waiting for his explanation.
“You are surprised to see me? The fact is, I have something to tell you, and could not rest easy till it was off my mind. I have travelled here by Russell’s waggon, but have trudged a good part of the way, as you see.” He glanced down at his shoes. “The pace was too slow for my impatience. I could get no sleep. Though it brought me here no faster, I had to vent my energies in walking.” His sentences followed one another by jerks, in a nervous flurry. “You are surprised to see me?” he repeated.
“Why, as to that, sir, partly I am and partly I am not. It took me aback just now to see you standing there by the gate; and,” said I more boldly, “it puzzles me yet how you came there and not to the front door, for you couldn’t have expected to find me here in the garden at this time in the morning.”
“True, Harry; I did not.” He paused for a moment, and went on—“It is truth, lad, that I meant to knock at your front door, by-and-by, and ask for you. But, the hour being over-early for calling, I had a mind, before rousing you out of bed, to walk down the lane and have a look over your garden gate. Nay,” he corrected himself, “I do not put it quite honestly, even yet. I came in search of something.”
“I can save you the trouble, perhaps,” said I, and, diving a hand into my breech-pocket, I pulled out the gold-rimmed eyeglasses.
He made no offer to take them, though I held them out to him on my open palm, but fell back a step, and, after a glance at them, lifted his eyes and met mine honestly, albeit with a trouble in his face.
“You found them?”
“To whom have you shown them?”
“Yet there has been some inquiry?”
“At which you were present?”
I nodded again.
“And you said nothing of this—this piece of evidence? Why?
“Because”—I hesitated for a couple of seconds and then gulped hesitation down—“because I could not believe that you—that you were really—”
“Thank you, Harry.”
“All the same, sir, your name was mentioned.”
“Eh?” He was plainly astonished. “My name mentioned? But why? How? since no one saw me here, and if, as you say, you hid this only evidence—”
“It came up, sir, when they examined me about Captain Danny. You know—do you not?—that they have found his body, too.”