A few words can tell the happiest or the saddest news life ever brings us; all that Harry knew could be told in two sentences, and, half announced as they were by his looks, Mr. Bellairs instantly understood the message, and why it was brought to him. He took his hat, and before Harry was quite sure whether he had made him understand what had really happened, he was halfway to his own house.
An hour later, the dray, now more carefully arranged and covered, brought its load to the door of the house which had been so lately prepared for the bride’s coming home. For convenience’ sake they carried the body into a lower room, and laid it there until its burial, while Bella sat in her chamber above, silent and tearless, not understanding yet what had befallen her, but through her stunned and dreary stupor listening from habit for the footsteps which should have returned at that hour—the footsteps which death had already silenced for ever.
It is easy to imagine how, in so small a community as Cacouna, the news of a frightful crime committed in their very midst, would spread from mouth to mouth. How groups of listeners would gather in the streets, round every man who had anything of the story to tell. How the country people who had been in town when the murdered man was brought home, hurried along the solitary roads with a kind of terror upon them, and carried the news out to the villages and farms around. As to the murderer, there was a strange confusion in the minds of many of the townspeople. Doctor Morton’s feud with Clarkson had been so well known that, if there had been any signs of premeditation or design about the crime, suspicion would have turned naturally upon him. But there was no such appearance, nor the smallest reason to suppose that Clarkson had been within half a mile of the spot that day. On the contrary, no reasonable doubt could exist that the real murderer was the Indian who had been found among the bushes. The men who knew him spoke of him as passionate, brutal, more than half-savage—there was perfect fitness between his appearance and character, and the barbarous manner of his crime. And yet while everybody spoke of him as undoubtedly guilty, almost everybody had a thought of Clarkson haunting his mind, and an uneasy desire to find out the truth, entirely incompatible with the clearness of the circumstantial evidence.
It was already nearly nine o’clock when Margery going from the Cottage to Mr. Leigh’s, on some errand to his housekeeper, brought back with her the story which a passing acquaintance had carried so far. She came into the parlour full of the not unpleasant sensation of having a piece of strange and horrible news to tell.
Mrs. Costello had left the room for a moment and Lucia was alone, sitting rather drearily looking into the fire, with her work fallen into her lap, when Margery came in.