Agatha Webb HTML version

dismissed his new suspicion with more heartiness even than he had
embraced his former one. He did not wish to believe Frederick guilty. He
would have purchased an inner conviction of his innocence almost at the
price of his own life, not because of any latent interest in the young man
himself, but because he was Charles Sutherland's son, and the dear, if
unworthy, centre of all that noble man's hopes, aims, and happiness. But he
could come upon no fact capable of shaking his present belief. Taking for
truth Amabel's account of what she had seen and done on that fatal night--
something which he had hesitated over the previous day, but which he now
found himself forced to accept or do violence to his own secret convictions--
and adding to it such facts as had come to his own knowledge in his self-
imposed role of detective, he had but to test the events of that night by his
present theory of Frederick's guilt, to find them hang together in a way too
complete for mistake.
For what had been his reasons for charging Amabel herself with the guilt of a
crime she only professed to have been a partial witness to?
They were many.
First--The forced nature of her explanations in regard to her motive for leaving
a merry ball and betaking herself to the midnight road in her party dress and
slippers. A woman of her well-known unsympathetic nature might use the
misery of the Zabels as a pretext for slipping into town at night, but never
would be influenced by it as a motive.
Second--The equally unsatisfactory nature of the reasons she gave for
leaving the course she had marked out for herself and entering upon the
pursuit of an unknown man into a house in which she had no personal
interest and from which she had just seen a bloody dagger thrown out. The
most callous of women would have shrunk from letting her curiosity carry her
thus far.
Third--The poverty of her plea that, after having braved so much in her desire
to identify this criminal, she was so frightened at his near approach as to fail
to lift her head when the opportunity was given her to recognise him.
Fourth--Her professed inability to account for the presence of the orchid from
her hair being found in the room with Batsy.
Fifth--Her evident attempt to throw the onus of the crime on an old man
manifestly incapable from physical causes of committing it.
Sixth--The improbability, which she herself should have recognised, of this old
man, in his extremely weak condition, ignoring the hiding-places offered by
the woods back of his own house, for the sake of one not only involving a