Poor Alured! his waking was sad enough! He had loved Trevor with all his heart, and the wonder that anyone could be so wicked oppressed him almost as much as the grief. The remnants of the opiate hung upon him, too, and he lay about all day, hardly rousing himself to speak or look, but giddily and drowsy.
Not till the inquest was it perceived how cleverly Perrault had taken his measures, so that had he not made the mistake between the two boys, he would scarcely have been suspected: certainly not but for Brand’s having watched him.
The report of the wild swans was traced to him. No doubt it was as an excuse for a heavier charge, for poor Trevor was wounded with shot that would not have been used merely for ducks, and besides, the other shooters it attracted would be likely to make detection less easy. Indeed, Fulk had seen that there were enough men about to spoil their sport, and but for the boys’ eagerness, would have turned back.
Moreover it was proved that Perrault had in the course of the morning met Billy Blake, and asked him if he meant to bag the swan—if he followed the young lord’s party and fired when they did, he would be sure to bring something down. He did not know that the Blakes never let the poor fellow load his old gun with anything but powder.
Then his joining the horrified group, as if he had been merely after the ducks, and had been attracted by the cry, had entirely deceived us; and but for Hester’s accusation, Brand’s evidence, and his own flight, together with all the past, might have continued to do so.
He had gone to his own house, as it afterwards turned out, entered so quietly that the listening, watching servants never heard him, collected all the valuables he could easily carry away, changed his dress, and gone off before the search had followed him thither.
A verdict of wilful murder was returned against him at the inquest, but it is very doubtful whether he could have been convicted of anything but manslaughter; for even if the intention could have been proved, without his wife, whose evidence was inadmissible, the malice was not directed against his victim, but against Trevorsham. We could not but feel it a relief day by day, that nothing was heard of him; for who could tell what disclosures there might be about the poor thing who lay, delirious, needing perpetual watchfulness. Arthur devoted himself to the care of her, and never left us, or I do not see how we could have gone through it all.
Alured was well again, but inert and crushed, and heartless about doing anything, except that he walked over to Spinney Lawn, and brought home Trevor’s dog, to which he gave himself up all day, and insisted on having it in his room at night.
The burial was in the vault—nobody attended but Fulk and Alured, not even Arthur, for though the poor mother was not aware of what was going on, it was such a dreadful day with her, that he durst not leave us alone to the watch. It was enough to break one’s heart to stand by the window and hear her wandering on about her Trevor coming to his place, and not being kept from his position; while we watched the little coffin carried across the field by the labouring men, with those two walking after it. Our boy’s first funeral was that of the friend who had died in his stead.