Jasper Vermont had also left Barminster, but had sent a note in which be stated that he was working in his friend’s interest, and hoped to unearth the mystery of the conspiracy. This sounded plausible and meant nothing—which was thoroughly characteristic of Mr. Vermont.
The cases at the Central Criminal Court were fortunately light ones, and did not take long to settle, so that the interval between the acceptance of bail and the date of the trial was a short one. There was, of course, great excitement in the fashionable world over Adrien’s sensational arrest, but this the young man wisely ignored; taking refuge at Barminster Castle from the curiosity and sympathy of friends and reporters alike, and resolutely refusing to be interviewed.
One thing—so characteristic of him—Adrien did at once. Notwithstanding his own cares, he remembered his promise to Ada Lester at the ball, and instructed the solicitors to prepare a deed by which the money and the rights of the Casket Theatre should be made over to her, and settled on her at once; at the same time, ordering that the papers should be handed to her personally, thus providing against any mistakes or interference on the part of Jasper.
This kindly thought completely turned the scale of Ada’s gratitude in his favour. Rejoicing at the blow which she knew this would be to Mr. Vermont, and in ignorance of his last treachery to Adrien, she determined to show him up in his true colours at the first opportunity.
Meanwhile, as the day of the trial approached, Lord Barminster and Mortimer Shelton became more and more anxious.
The solicitors had briefed the finest and best known barristers for the defence; but one and all agreed that unless Adrien could prove an alibi, only a miracle could save him from conviction.
On the actual day Adrien Leroy took his place in the dock, listening through the day with unwearied calm to the long speeches made by the counsel on both sides.
Witness after witness was called; but none could shake the evidence of Harker’s clerk, who swore to seeing Leroy actually sign the bill in question, on the twenty-second of the preceding month.
Towards the end of the case, when both judge, jury and counsel were tired out by the conflicting statements, a note was sent to the barrister for the defence by a veiled lady, who had sat in the back of the court during the whole day’s proceedings.
He opened it carelessly, but after a swift glance at the few lines which it contained, his face brightened. Resuming his usual confident tones, he desired that a new witness might be called, namely Lady Merivale.
At the name Adrien started forward, but it was too late. A lady in black, pale but composed, entered the witness box, and was duly sworn. Calmly she gave her evidence, stating that she had visited her aunt, Lady Rose Challoner, at Hampton Court on the twenty-second of the previous month, and while there had met Mr. Adrien Leroy. He had rowed her up the river, and as an additional witness she could produce one of the boatmen to whom she had spoken while at Hampton, and who had watched them start.