“Miss Monro was my informant—at least at first—it was in the Times the day before I left. Miss Monro says it could only have been done in a moment of anger if the old servant is really guilty; that he was as steady and good a man as she ever knew, and she seems to have a strong feeling against Mr. Dunster, as always giving your father much unnecessary trouble; in fact, she hints that his disappearance at the time was supposed to be the cause of a considerable loss of property to Mr. Wilkins.”
“No!” said Ellinor, eagerly, feeling that some justice ought to be done to the dead man; and then she stopped short, fearful of saying anything that should betray her full knowledge. “I mean this,” she went on; “Mr. Dunster was a very disagreeable man personally—and papa—we none of us liked him; but he was quite honest—please remember that.”
The canon bowed, and said a few acquiescing words. He waited for her to speak again.
“Miss Monro says she is going to see Dixon in—”
“Oh, Mr. Livingstone, I can’t bear it!”
He let her alone, looking at her pitifully, as she twisted and wrung her hands together in her endeavour to regain the quiet manner she had striven to maintain through the interview. She looked up at him with a poor attempt at an apologetic smile:
“It is so terrible to think of that good old man in prison!”
“You do not believe him guilty!” said Canon Livingstone, in some surprise. “I am afraid, from all I heard and read, there is but little doubt that he did kill the man; I trust in some moment of irritation, with no premeditated malice.”
Ellinor shook her head.
“How soon can I get to England?” asked she. “I must start at once.”
“Mrs. Forbes sent out while you were lying down. I am afraid there is no boat to Marseilles till Thursday, the day after to-morrow.”
“But I must go sooner!” said Ellinor, starting up. “I must go; please help me. He may be tried before I can get there!”
“Alas! I fear that will be the case, whatever haste you make. The trial was to come on at the Hellingford Assizes, and that town stands first on the Midland Circuit list. To-day is the 27th of February; the assizes begin on the 7th of March.”
“I will start to-morrow morning early for Civita; there may be a boat there they do not know of here. At any rate, I shall be on my way. If he dies, I must die too. Oh! I don’t know what I am saying, I am so utterly crushed down! It would be such a kindness if you would go away, and let no one come to me. I know Mrs. Forbes is so good, she will forgive me. I will say good-by to you all before I go to-morrow morning; but I must think now.”
For one moment he stood looking at her as if he longed to comfort her by more words. He thought better of it, however, and silently left the room.