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首页 » 经典英文小说 » A Strange World » CHAPTER XI. 'WHAT, THEN, YOU KNEW NOT THIS RED WORK INDEED?'
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CHAPTER XI. 'WHAT, THEN, YOU KNEW NOT THIS RED WORK INDEED?'
Justina lived through the day and acted at night pretty much as she had been accustomed to act; but she saw her audience dimly through a heavy, blinding cloud, and the glare of the footlights seemed to her hideous as the fires of Pandemonium. People spoke to her in the dressing-room where she dragged on her shabby finery, and dabbed a little rouge on her pale, wan face, and she answered them somehow, mechanically. She had lived that kind of life among the same people so long that the mere business of existence went on without any effort of her own. She felt like a clock that had been wound and must go its appointed time. She sat in a corner of the green-room, looking straight before her, and thought how her bright new world had melted away; and no one took any particular notice of her.

180

Mrs. Dempson had been kind and compassionate, and, after Justina's fainting fit, had dabbed her forehead with vinegar and water, and sat with her arm round the girl's waist, consoling her and reasoning with her, reminding her that they had only known poor Mr. Penwyn a day and a half, and that it was against nature to lament him as if he had been a near relation or an old friend. Who, in sober middle age, when the sordid cares of every-day life are paramount; who, when youth's morning is past, can comprehend the young heart's passionate mystery—the love which, like some bright tropical flower, buds and blooms in a single day—the love which is more than half fancy—the love of a lover of no common clay, but the fair incarnation of girlhood's poetic dream—love wherein the senses have no more part than the phosphor lights of a rank marsh in the clear splendour of the stars?

Justina kept the secret of her brief dream. She thought Mrs. Dempson, and even her father, would have laughed her to scorn had she told them that the generous young stranger had asked her to be his wife. She held her peace, and shut herself in her181 garret chamber, and flung her weary head face downward on the flock pillow, and thought of her murdered lover—thought of the bright, handsome face fixed in death's marble stillness, and cursed the wretch who had slain him.

Mr. Elgood and his daughter were both subp?naed for the adjourned inquest. The actor, who rather rejoiced in the opportunity of exhibiting his powers in a new arena, and seeing his name in the papers, appeared in grand form on the morning of the examination. He had brushed his coat, sported a clean white waistcoat and a smart blue necktie, wore a pair of somewhat ancient buff leather gloves, and carried the cane which he was wont to flourish as the exasperated father of old-fashioned comedy.

Justina entered the room pale as a sheet, and sat by her father's side, with her large dark eyes fixed on the coroner, as if from his lips could issue the secret of her lover's doom. She had the most imperfect idea of the nature of an inquest, and the coroner's power.

The jury were seated round the coroner at the upper end of the room. Mr. Pergament, the solicitor,182 stood at the end of the table ready to put any questions he might desire to have answered by the witnesses.

On the right of the coroner, a little way from the jury, sat Maurice Clissold, with a constable at his side. Nearly opposite him, and next to the lawyer, stood the new master of Penwyn Manor, ready to prompt a question if he saw his solicitor at fault. Churchill and Mr. Pergament had gone into the case thoroughly together, with the Spinnersbury detectives and the local constabulary, and had their facts pretty well in hand.

The jury answered to their names, and the inquiry began, Mr. Pergament interrogating, the coroner taking notes of the evidence. Mr. Elgood was one of the first witnesses sworn.

'I believe you were in the company of the deceased on the night, or rather morning, of the murder?' said the coroner.

'Yes, he supped at my lodging on that night.'

'Alone with you?'

'No. Mr. Dempson and his wife, and my daughter were of the party.'

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'At what hour did Mr. Penwyn leave you?'

The actor's countenance assumed a look of perplexity.

'It was half-past twelve before we sat down to supper,' he said, 'but I can't exactly say how long we sat afterwards. We smoked a few cigars, and, to be candid, were somewhat convivial. I haven't any clear idea as to the time; my daughter may know.'

'Why your daughter, and not you?'

'She let him out through the shop when he went away. Our apartments are respectable but humble, over a chandler's.'

'And your daughter was more temperate than you, and may have some idea as to the time? We'll ask her the question presently. Do you know if Mr. Penwyn had any considerable sum of money about him at the time he left you?'

'I don't know. He had entertained us handsomely at the "Waterfowl" on the previous night, and he stood a carriage and any quantity of champagne to the races that day, but I did not see him pay away any money except for the standing-place for his carnage.'

184

'Did you see him receive any money on the racecourse?'

'No.'

'Was he with you all day?'

'From twelve o'clock till half-past six in the evening.'

'And in that time you had no knowledge of his winning or receiving any sum of money?'

'No.'

'Do you know of his being associated with disreputable people of any kind—betting men, for instance?'

'I know next to nothing of his associations. There was an old gipsy woman who pretended to tell his fortune by the river side the day before the races, when he and the rest of us happened to be walking together. He gave her money then, and he gave her money on the race day, when she was hanging about the carriage, begging for drink.'

Churchill Penwyn, who had been looking at the ground, in a listening attitude hitherto, raised his eyes at this juncture, half in interrogation, half in surprise.

185

'Is that all you know about the deceased?' continued Mr. Pergament.

'About all. I had only enjoyed his acquaintance six-and-thirty hours at the time of the murder.'

'You can sit down,' said Mr. Pergament.

'Justina Elgood,' cried the summoning officer, and Justina stood up in the crowded room, pale to the lips, but unfaltering.

Again Churchill Penwyn raised those thoughtful eyes of his, and looked at the girl's pallid face.

'Not a common type of girl,' he said to himself.



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