And on that same morning the new Lord Hartledon received a proof of the kindness of his brother. A letter arrived from Messrs. Kedge and Reck, addressed to Edward Earl of Hartledon. By it Percival found—there was no one else to open it now—that his brother had written to them early on the Tuesday morning, taking the debt upon himself; and they now wrote to say they accepted his responsibility, and had withdrawn the officer from Calne. Alas! Val Elster could have dismissed him himself now.
He sat with bent head and drooping eyelids. None, save himself, knew how bitter were the feelings within him, or the remorse that was his portion for having behaved unkindly to his brother within the last few hours of life. He had rebelled at his state of debt becoming known to Dr. Ashton; he had feared to lose Anne: it seemed to him now, that he would live under the doctor’s displeasure for ever, would never see Anne again, could he recall his brother. Oh, these unavailing regrets! Will they rise up to face us at the Last Day?
With a suppressed ejaculation that was like a cry of pain, as if he would throw from him these reflections and could not, Lord Hartledon drew a sheet of paper before him and wrote a note to the lawyers. He briefly stated what had taken place; that his brother was dead from an accident, and he had inherited, and should take speedy measures for the discharge of any liabilities there might be against him: and he requested, as a favour, that the letter written to them by his brother might be preserved and returned to him: he should wish to keep it as the last lines his hand had traced.
On this day, Thursday, the inquest was held. Most of the gay crowd staying at Hartledon had taken flight; Mr. Carteret, and one or two more, whose testimony might be wished for, remaining. The coroner and jury assembled in the afternoon, in a large boarded apartment called the steward’s room. Lord Hartledon was present with Dr. Ashton and other friends: they were naturally anxious to hear the evidence that could be collected, and gather any light that might be thrown upon the accident. The doors were not closed to the public, and a crowd, gentle and simple, pressed in.
The surgeon spoke to the supposed cause of death—drowning: the miller spoke to his house and mill having been that afternoon shut up. He and his wife went over in their spring-cart to Garchester, and left the place locked up, he said. The coroner asked whether it was his custom to lock up his place when he went out; he replied that it was, when they went out together; but that event rarely happened. Upon his return at dusk, he found the little skiff loose in the stream, and secured it. It was his servant-boy, David Ripper, who called his attention to it first of all. He saw nothing of Lord Hartledon, and had not very long secured the skiff when Mr. Percival Elster came