“I have been wanting to talk to you,” said the girl to Jimmy, “ever since this terrible thing happened. Somehow I can not believe that you are guilty, and there must be some way in which you can prove your innocence.”
“I have been trying to think out how I might,” said Jimmy, “but the more I think about it the more damning the circumstantial evidence against me appears.”
“There must always be a motive for a crime like that,” said Harriet. “I cannot believe that a simple fear of his discharge would be sufficient motive for any man to kill his employer.”
“Not to kill a man who had been as good to me as Mr. Compton was,” said Jimmy, “or a man whom I admired so much as I did him. As a matter of fact, he was not going to discharge me, Miss Holden, and I had an opportunity there for a very successful future; but now that he is dead there is no one who could verify such a statement on my part.”
“Who could there be, then, who might wish to kill him, and what could the motive be?”
“I can only think,” said Jimmy, “of one man; and even in his case the idea is too horrible—too preposterous to be entertained.”
Harriet Holden looked up at him quickly, a sudden light in her eyes, and an expression of almost horrified incredulity upon her face. “You don’t mean—” she started.
“I wouldn’t even use his name in connection with the thought,” Jimmy interrupted; “but he is the only man of whom I know who could have profited by Mr. Compton’s death, and, on the other hand, whose entire future would have been blasted possibly had Mr. Compton lived until the following morning.”
The girl remained for half an hour longer, and when she left she went directly to the home of Elizabeth Compton.
“I told you, Elizabeth,” she said, “that I was going to see Mr. Torrance. You dissuaded me for some time, but I finally went today, and I am glad that I went. No one except yourself could have loved your father more than I, or have been more horrified or grieved at his death; but that is no reason why you should aid in the punishment of an innocent man, as I am confident that this man Torrance is, and I tell you Elizabeth if you were not prejudiced you would agree with me.
“I have talked with Torrance for over half an hour to-day, and since then nothing can ever make me believe that that man could commit a cold-blooded murder. Harold has always hated him—you admit that yourself—and now you are permitting him to prejudice you against the man purely on the strength of that dislike. I am going to help him. I’m going to do it, not only to obtain justice for him, but to assist in detecting and punishing the true murderer.”
“I don’t see, Harriet, how you can take any interest in such a creature,” said Elizabeth. “You know from the circumstances under which we saw him before father employed him what type of man he is, and it was further exemplified by the evidence of his relationship with that common woman of the streets.”