A strange hubbub arose in court. Richard Hare, the exile—the reported dead—the man whose life was in jeopardy! The spectators rose with one accord to get a better view; they stood on tiptoe; they pushed forth their necks; they strained their eyesight: and, amidst all the noisy hum, the groan bursting from the lips of Justice Hare was unnoticed. Whilst order was being called for, and the judge threatened to clear the court, two officers moved themselves quietly up and stood behind the witness. Richard Hare was in custody, though he might know it not. The witness was sworn.
“What is your name?”
“Son of Mr. Justice Hare, I believe, of the Grove, West Lynne?”
“His only son.”
“The same against whom a verdict of wilful murder is out?” interposed the judge.
“The same, my lord,” replied Richard Hare, who appeared, strange as it may seem, to have cast away all his old fearfulness.
“Then, witness, let me warn you that you are not obliged to answer any question that may tend to criminate yourself.”
“My lord,” answered Richard Hare, with some emotion, “I wish to answer any and every question put to me. I have but one hope, that the full truth of all pertaining to that fatal evening may be made manifest this day.”
“Look round at the prisoner,” said the examining counsel. “Do you know him?”
“I know him now as Sir Francis Levison. Up to April last I believed his name to be Thorn.”
“State what occurred on the evening of the murder, as far as your knowledge goes.”
“I had an appointment that evening with Afy Hallijohn, and went down to their cottage to keep it—”
“A moment,” interrupted the counsel. “Was your visit that evening made in secret?”
“Partially so. My father and mother were displeased, naturally, at my intimacy with Afy Hallijohn; therefore I did not care that they should be cognizant of my visits there. I am ashamed to confess that I told my father a lie over it that very evening. He saw me leave the dinner-table to go out with my gun, and inquired where I was off to. I answered that I was going out with young Beauchamp.”
“When, in point of fact, you were not?”
“No. I took my gun, for I had promised to lend it to Hallijohn while his own was being repaired. When I reached the cottage Afy refused to admit me; she was busy, and could not, she said. I felt sure she had got Thorn with her. She had, more than once before, refused to admit me when I had gone there by her own appointment, and I always found that Thorn’s presence in the cottage was the obstacle.”
“I suppose you and Thorn were jealous of each other?”
“I was jealous of him; I freely admit it. I don’t know whether he was of me.”
“May I inquire what was the nature of your friendship for Miss Afy Hallijohn?”
“I loved her with an honorable love, as I might have done by any young lady in my own station of life. I would not have married her in opposition to my father and mother; but I told Afy that if she was content to wait for me until I was my own master I would then make her my wife.”