Poor Miss Finch HTML version
The Perjury of the Clock
WE looked at one another in silence. Both alike, we were obliged to wait a little and
I may occupy the interval by answering two questions which will arise in your minds in
this place. How did Dubourg come to be tried for his life? And what was the connection
between this serious matter and the false testimony of a clock?
The reply to both these inquiries is to be found in the story which I call the Perjury of the
In briefly relating this curious incidental narrative (which I take from a statement of the
circumstances placed in my possession) I shall speak of our new acquaintance at
Browndown--and shall continue to speak of him throughout these pages--by his assumed
name. In the first place, it was the maiden name of his mother, and he had a right to take
it if he pleased. In the second place, the date of our domestic drama at Dimchurch goes
back as far as the years 'fifty-eight and 'fifty-nine; and real names are (now that it is all
over) of no consequence to anybody. With "Dubourg" we have begun. With "Dubourg"
let us go on to the end.
On a summer evening, some years ago, a man was found murdered in a field near a
certain town in the West of England. The name of the field was, "Pardon's Piece."
The man was a small carpenter and builder in the town, who bore an indifferent
character. On the evening in question, a distant relative of his, employed as farm-bailiff
by a gentleman in the neighborhood, happened to be passing a stile which led from the
field into a road, and saw a gentleman leaving the field by way of this stile, rather in a
hurry. He recognized the gentleman as Mr. Dubourg.
The two passed each other on the road in opposite directions. After a certain lapse of
time--estimated as being half an hour--the farm-bailiff had occasion to pass back along
the same road. On reaching the stile, he heard an alarm raised, and entered the field to see
what was the matter. He found several persons running from the farther side of Pardon's
Piece towards a boy who was standing at the back of a cattle-shed, in a remote part of the
enclosure, screaming with terror. At the boy's feet lay, face downwards, the dead body of
a man, with his head horribly beaten in. His watch was under him, hanging out of his
pocket by the chain. It had stopped--evidently in consequence of the concussion of its
owner's fall on it--at half-past eight. The body was still warm. All the other valuables,
like the watch, were left on it. The farm-bailiff instantly recognized the man as the
carpenter and builder mentioned above.
At the preliminary inquiry, the stoppage of the watch at half-past eight, was taken as
offering good circumstantial evidence that the blow which had killed the man had been
struck at that time.
The next question was--if any one had been seen near the body at half-past eight? The
farm-bailiff declared that he had met Mr. Dubourg hastily leaving the field by the stile at
that very time. Asked if he had looked at his watch, he owned that he had not done so.
Certain previous circumstances which he mentioned as having impressed themselves on
his memory, enabled him to feel sure of the truth of his assertion, without having