She had gone pale, but it took her but an instant to regain her equanimity and hold out her own hand for the weapon.
With what purpose? What did she expect to see in it which others had not seen many times? She did not know, herself. She was simply following an impulse, just as she had felt herself borne on by some irresistible force in her dream. And so, the three stood there, the men’s faces ironic, inquisitive, wondering at the woman’s phlegm if not at her motive; hers, hidden behind her veil, but bent forward over the weapon in an attitude of devouring interest. Thus for a long, slow minute; then she impulsively raised her head and, beckoning the two men nearer, she directed attention to a splintered portion of the handle and asked them what they saw there.
“Nothing; just stick,” declared the sergeant. “The marks you are looking for are higher up.”
“And you, Mr. Black?”
He saw nothing either but stick. But he was little less abrupt in his answer.
“Do you mean those roughnesses?” he asked. “That’s where the stick was whittled. You remember that he had been whittling at the stick—”
The word shot from her lips so violently that for a moment both men looked staggered by it. Then Mr. Black, with unaccustomed forbearance, answered gently enough:
“Why, Scoville, madam; or so the prosecution congratulated itself upon having proved to the jury’s satisfaction. It did not tally with Scoville’s story or with common sense I know. You remember,— pardon me,—I mean that any one who read a report of the case, will remember how I handled the matter in my speech. But the prejudice in favour of the prosecution—I will not say against the defence—was too much for me, and common sense, the defendant’s declarations, and my eloquence all went for nothing.”
“Of course they produced the knife?”
“Yes, they produced the knife.”
“It was in his pocket?”
“Have they that here?”
“No, we haven’t that here.”
“But you remember it?”
“Was it a new knife, a whole one, I mean, with all its blades sharp and in good order?”
“Yes. I can say that. I handled it several times.”
“Then, whose blade left that?” And again she pointed to the same place on the stick where her finger had fallen before.
“I don’t know what you mean.” The sergeant looked puzzled. Perhaps, his eyesight was not very keen.
“Have you a magnifying-glass? There is something embedded in this wood. Try and find out what it is.”
The sergeant, with a queer look at Mr. Black, who returned it with interest, went for a glass, and when he had used it, the stare he gave the heavily veiled woman drove Mr. Black to reach out his own hand for the glass.
“Well,” he burst forth, after a prolonged scrutiny, “there is something there.”