THE HAND ON THE PANEL.
‘ Yes, the mark is probably there yet, below the paint, as you saw the stain still is on the boards where the body lay. The old man was rich, and eccentric; he distrusted banks and kept his money at home. As it happened no suspicion rested upon anyone in the house; the maids could all account for themselves, indeed it could have been no woman’s work, from the evidence of force used. The manservant had slept out of the house, as he frequently did unknown to his master. The policeman on duty in the square that night had heard nothing, but as his beat was extensive nothing could be said of that; but mark me, though he heard nothing, he had seen something—a young man had, so he said, nearly run him down as he was turning into the square, between two and three o’clock in the morning. As to who the young man was, he could not positively swear at first, but that he would know him again, he was certain. The old gentleman had an illegitimate son, whom he treated in a manner conformable with his character, at one time with lavish indulgence, at another with the most virulent severity. Naturally the young man became reckless, got into a bad set, lost heavily, came to his father for help, and was turned out of the house This quarrel took place a few nights before the murder. Yet so great was the compassion felt for the young fellow, and so keen their sense of the father’s harshness, that not one word hinting at any dispute transpired until it was forced from them at the son’s trial Fcr eventually he was arrested, the policeman on duty identifiying him as the man whom he had encountered upon the night of the murder. ‘ I was his junior counsel, but the evidence was overpowering, and he was brought in guilty. ‘ He committed suicide the night after his trial. The policeman was complimented for his zeal and promoted ; he went as inspector to a midland town, but shortly after left the force, and went abroad. So I lost sight of him until to-night.’
* Good heavens 1 That was the man.’ ‘ Yes, that is the man, and the murderer, as I expected. I knew ray client was innocent, and suspected the policeman. He was over zealous ;he went out of his way to collect evidence, and was rich enough afterwards to throw up a good office. My plan in corning here was simply to see him first. When you described him at Lady Gordon’s I was convinced I should recognise him, and the actions you described showed me he was mad, but with method in his madness. Your clever by-play helped me wonderfully, giving me a tole I should never have thought of. What suggested it to you ?’ * i don’t know, myself; it was one of those sudden inspirations or impulses, which sometimes occur in a case of emergency, and compel a form of action unthought of, and frequenently adverse to our better sense.’
‘ But this was the sharpest thing I’ve seen done. You made the man expose his madness, though it was pretty plain before; but more, convict himself. That mutilated arm clinched all. A determined villain to cut off the guilty hand. Verily, a strong case of folio ving up Scripture to the letter.’ ‘ Poor wretch, he roust have repented bitterly.’ ‘ Pooh,’ said the legal authority; “a fanatic —mad, now —if you like, but the coldest blooded brute while sane, my experience has shown me.’ ‘ You don’t hang madmen ?’ I said.
* No : but we shut them up ; and you may congratulate yourself in having escaped some deadly injury ; the lust of blood brought out by insanity gives ground for the old superstition of the wehr wolf. ....
Mr Barrington cleared up the memory of the poor dead son, and our policeman was put in safe keeping. My landlord was in z great taking ; of course he knew of the man haunting the house; and also, of course, had been glad to let it at any price; the reputation of being ‘ uncannie ’ having clung to the place ever after the murder.
The mystery of the light on the panel was never explained. We had it taken out; Barrington took it away as a memento, had the paint scraped off, and there, deep in the wood, was the stain, clear enough. I ought to say the landlord took up the stained boards, expressing surprise he bad never thought of doing so before. 1 But then,’ he said, ‘ most likely his mind was darkened for a purpose ; but now the real murderer was discovered the ghost would rest. That,’ in his opinion, ‘ stood to nature. We should be troubled no more, and had a fine house dirt cheap.’ I do not think Ellen agreed with him, but she behaved with her usual good sense, and in time the impression of her extraordinary vision, or dream, or whatever it was, wore off; and we grew, as it were, into the house, so much so that after a few years of unclouded happiness and worldly success, I paid the purchase money, and am now owner of the notorious, and ‘ dirt cheap,’ number 3, Barlow square. (Concluded.)
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THE HAND ON THE PANEL., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 323, 20 April 1881
THE HAND ON THE PANEL. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 323, 20 April 1881
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