“I do not trust her, yet there is much to confirm her story. Those sandwiches, now. She says she dropped them in Mrs. Webb’s yard under the pear tree, and that the bag that held them burst open. Gentlemen, the birds were so busy there on the morning after the murder that I could not but notice them, notwithstanding my absorption in greater matters. I remember wondering what they were all pecking at so eagerly. But how about the flower whose presence on the scene of guilt she challenges me to explain? And the money so deftly reburied by her? Can any explanation make her other than accessory to a crime on whose fruits she lays her hand in a way tending solely to concealment? No, sirs; and so I shall not relax my vigilance over her, even if, in order to be faithful to it, I have to suggest that a warrant be made out for her imprisonment.”
“You are right,” acquiesced the coroner, and turning to Miss Page, he told her she was too valuable a witness to be lost sight of, and requested her to prepare to accompany him into town.
She made no objection. On the contrary her cheeks dimpled, and she turned away with alacrity towards her room. But before the door closed on her she looked back, and, with a persuasive smile, remarked that she had told all she knew, or thought she knew at the time. But that perhaps, after thinking the matter carefully over, she might remember some detail that would throw some extra light on the subject.
“Call her back!” cried Mr. Courtney. “She is withholding something. Let us hear it all.”
But Mr. Sutherland, with a side look at Frederick, persuaded the district attorney to postpone all further examination of this artful girl until they were alone. The anxious father had noted, what the rest were too preoccupied to observe, that Frederick had reached the limit of his strength and could not be trusted to preserve his composure any longer in face of this searching examination into the conduct of a woman from whom he had so lately detached himself.
The next day was the day of Agatha’s funeral. She was to be buried in Portchester, by the side of her six children, and, as the day was fine, the whole town, as by common consent, assembled in the road along which the humble cortege was to make its way to the spot indicated.
From the windows of farmhouses, from between the trees of the few scattered thickets along the way, saddened and curious faces looked forth till Sweetwater, who walked as near as he dared to the immediate friends of the deceased, felt the impossibility of remembering them all and gave up the task in despair.
Before one house, about a mile out of town, the procession paused, and at a gesture from the minister everyone within sight took off their hats, amid a hush which made almost painfully apparent the twittering of birds and the other sounds of animate and inanimate nature, which are inseparable from a country road. They had reached widow Jones’s cottage in which Philemon was then staying.