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Chapter 10
Justice Malam was naturally regarded in Tarley and Raveloe as a man of
capacious mind, seeing that he could draw much wider conclusions without
evidence than could be expected of his neighbours who were not on the
Commission of the Peace. Such a man was not likely to neglect the clue of the
tinder-box, and an inquiry was set on foot concerning a pedlar, name unknown,
with curly black hair and a foreign complexion, carrying a box of cutlery and
jewellery, and wearing large rings in his ears. But either because inquiry was too
slow-footed to overtake him, or because the description applied to so many
pedlars that inquiry did not know how to choose among them, weeks passed
away, and there was no other result concerning the robbery than a gradual
cessation of the excitement it had caused in Raveloe. Dunstan Cass's absence
was hardly a subject of remark: he had once before had a quarrel with his father,
and had gone off, nobody knew whither, to return at the end of six weeks, take
up his old quarters unforbidden, and swagger as usual. His own family, who
equally expected this issue, with the sole difference that the Squire was
determined this time to forbid him the old quarters, never mentioned his absence;
and when his uncle Kimble or Mr. Osgood noticed it, the story of his having killed
Wildfire, and committed some offence against his father, was enough to prevent
surprise. To connect the fact of Dunsey's disappearance with that of the robbery
occurring on the same day, lay quite away from the track of every one's thought--
even Godfrey's, who had better reason than any one else to know what his
brother was capable of. He remembered no mention of the weaver between them
since the time, twelve years ago, when it was their boyish sport to deride him;
and, besides, his imagination constantly created an alibi for Dunstan: he saw him
continually in some congenial haunt, to which he had walked off on leaving
Wildfire--saw him sponging on chance acquaintances, and meditating a return
home to the old amusement of tormenting his elder brother. Even if any brain in
Raveloe had put the said two facts together, I doubt whether a combination so
injurious to the prescriptive respectability of a family with a mural monument and
venerable tankards, would not have been suppressed as of unsound tendency.
But Christmas puddings, brawn, and abundance of spirituous liquors, throwing
the mental originality into the channel of nightmare, are great preservatives
against a dangerous spontaneity of waking thought.
When the robbery was talked of at the Rainbow and elsewhere, in good
company, the balance continued to waver between the rational explanation
founded on the tinder-box, and the theory of an impenetrable mystery that
mocked investigation. The advocates of the tinder-box-and-pedlar view
considered the other side a muddle-headed and credulous set, who, because
they themselves were wall-eyed, supposed everybody else to have the same
blank outlook; and the adherents of the inexplicable more than hinted that their
antagonists were animals inclined to crow before they had found any corn--mere
skimming-dishes in point of depth--whose clear-sightedness consisted in
supposing there was nothing behind a barn-door because they couldn't see