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have said, sir, upon the jury. I thought it
best, safest to be, despite the thing I had to
deal with. When all the evidence, which
was chiefly medical, had been given, I was
with the minority for ' Wilful murder against
some person or persons unknown,' against
the rest, who were for ' Death by apoplexy;'
and we starved the others out. O, sir, the
shifts and lies I had to invent, the terrors
that racked me by night and by dayand all
begotten by my cunning dishonest ways,
would have been punishment for a murderer
indeed! About this great reward here, of
two hundred pounds, there was a ceaseless
talk; and the wildest surmises as to how it
would be gained, amongst our neighbours.
They came into our little back parlour just as
usual, and wounded us with every word.
'Now, mark my words,' said one, 'the fellow
will be discovered in the end and hanged;'
and 'Ay, ay, murder will out, sooner or
later,' said the rest. ' Sooner or later! '
Great heaven, how those words haunted us!
for now indeed we had played a part which,
if discovered, would have proved us at once,
guilty: my wife took to her bed, and fairly
sickened from sheer anxiety. She had fever,
and was delirious for weeks; and I never
dared to leave her, or let another watch by
her bedside, for fear of what she might rave
upon. When the end came at last, my poor
wife wanted to see the clergyman; but I said
' No.' It was for the same reason that I
would not send for Mr. Roland here, myself;
he was a magistrate. You're not a
magistrate ? " demanded poor Charlton, suddenly,
with the damps of terror mingling with those
of death upon his forehead. I quieted him
as well as I was able, and begged him to see
his mind at ease as to any earthly tribunal.
After a little time, and without noticing
the warning contained in my last words, he
continued

"Amongst the folks in our parlour, one
man in particular, a tailor, by name Deckham,
seemed never weary of talking of Spigat's
murder. He was a miserably poor ill-favoured
person, who had drilled his way into our
company by means of a sharp tongue. One
night I told him flatly enough I did not like
such mournful talk, and was quite tired of
that theme . ' Why, one would really suppose
that you killed the man yourself ? ' he retorted.
It seemed as if an arrow had darted through
my brain for a moment, and I could hardly
keep upon my legs; but laughed it off as
well as I could. He stayed, however, to the
very last; and when we too were alone, he
drew a small strap, such as fastens trousers
at the foot, from an inner pocket, and asked
me whether it was mine; ' for I found it,' said
he, 'inside your house, betwixt the back
of the door and the wall.' ' No, it is not,' I
replied, but rather hesitatingly, for I saw he
had some purpose in the question. 'I thought
so,' he went on, 'for it is the fellow to that
found upon John Spigat, the man who was
murdered fifty yards from here, in the Swaffham
Road.'

I could not speak at first, nor do anything
beyond making deprecating and pitiful motions
with my hands; but afterwards I made shift
to tell this Deckham the whole truth:
"Likely enough, Master Charlton," he said,
quite coolly; "atween friends, however,
such things look better than before a judge
and jury; I'll put a padlock on this here
tongue, safe enough, if you'll fit it, as I'm
sure like a sensible man you will, with a
golden key." I felt the halter already round
my neckthis friend jerking it loosely or
tightly as he would; but there seemed to be
then no help for it. I paid five pounds that
eveningmiserable dolt that I wasas a
retaining fee to a villain for working my
total ruin. Many and many a time did my
children and myself go without the barest
necessaries that that man might have the
means to indulge in debauchery and extravagance.
I sold the shop, and removed with my
motherless bairns to another part of the town;
but Henborough itself my tyrant would not
permit me to leave. Loss of custom, loss of
health, and almost loss of reason followed,
of which you now know the cause. This
incubus bestrode me day and night, and wore
my very life out. Often and often have I
been a murderer at heart because of that
mocking fiend; once, indeed, he confessed to
me, that a vague suspicion had alone induced
him to try me in the matter, and that the
strap story was only an ingenious touchstone
of his own. Cunning as I was then, I had
been overreached, and anxious to efface the
very breath of slander I had given a gratuitous
proof of guilt. Here, in this workhouse,
friendless, penniless, I am safe from his
persecutions; but I tremble for my children,
lest he use them also as his tools." I strove
to comfort him, and to represent the folly of
having submitted to such a treatment at
first; but I was speaking to ears that could
not listen. The wifeless, childless man was
dying fast, an awful lesson to the crafty and
untruthful. What a little leaven of
dishonesty had leavened all this lump! How
the path of life had been darkened to it for
ever by the merest shadow! While I almost
doubted whether he was alive or dead, he
sprang up once again into a sitting posture,
and pressed the paper, which he had concealed
so carefully, into my hand. A sudden dread
of awakening suspicion, even after death, had
nerved dissolving nature for that effort, and
hardly did the grey head touch the pillow
before his worn heart ceased to beat. Near
twenty years, as long as most burn on in fruitless
hope, it had throbbed in groundless fear!

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