“I say, Carlyle, what on earth’s this?” cried he, in a tone that, for him, was wonderfully subdued and meek. “I was not on the bench this afternoon, but Pinner has been telling me—of an application that was made to them in private. It’s not true, you know; it can’t be; it’s too far-fetched a tale. What do you know about it?”
“Nothing,” said Mr. Carlyle. “I do not know what you are talking of. I have been privy to no application.”
“It seems they want to make out now that Dick never murdered Hallijohn,” proceeded the justice, in a half whisper, glancing round as if to be sure that there were no eaves-droppers amidst the trees.
“Oh,” said Mr. Carlyle.
“But that Levison did. Levison!”
Mr. Carlyle made no reply, save by a gesture; his face more impassive than before. Not so another face beside him, a fair face; that turned white again with emotion as she listened.
“But it can’t be, you know. It can’t, I say.”
“So far as Richard’s innocence goes, of that I have long been convinced,” spoke Mr. Carlyle.
“And that Levison’s guilty?” returned the justice, opening his eyes in puzzled wonderment.
“I have no opinion upon that point,” was the cold rejoinder.
“It’s impossible, I say. Dick can’t be innocent. You may as well tell me that the world’s turned upside down.”
“It is, sometimes, I think. That Richard was not the guilty man will be proved yet, justice, in the broad face of day.”
“If—if—that other did do it, I should think you’d take the warrant out of the hands of the police and capture him yourself.”
“I would not touch him with a pair of tongs,” spoke Mr. Carlyle, his lips curling again. “If the man goes to his punishment, he goes; but I do not help him on his road thither.”
“Can Dick be innocent?” mused the justice, returning to the thought which so troubled his mind. “Then why has he kept away? Why did he not come back and say so?”
“That you might deliver him up, justice. You know you took an oath to do it.”
The justice looked green, and remarkably humble.
“Oh, but Carlyle,” impulsively spoke he, the thought occurring to him, “what an awful revenge this would have been for you on—somebody—had she lived. How her false step would have come home to her now!”
“False steps come home to most people,” responded Mr. Carlyle, as he took William by the hand, who then ran up. And, lifting his hat to Mrs. Hare in the distance, he walked on.
She, Lady Isabel, walked on, too, by the side of the child, as before, walked on with a shivering frame, and a heart sick unto death. The justice looked after her, his mind unoccupied. He was in a maze of bewilderment. Richard innocent! Richard, whom he had striven to pursue to a shameful end! And that other the guilty one! The world was turning upside down.