Hand and Ring, by Anna Katharine Green

32. Hickory.

Hickory, dickory, dock!

The mouse ran up the clock!

The clock struck one,

And down he run!

Hickory, dickory, dock!

Mother Goose Melodies.

HICKORY’S face was no new one to the court. He had occupied a considerable portion of one day in giving testimony for the prosecution, and his rough manner and hardy face, twinkling, however, at times with an irrepressible humor that redeemed it and him from all charge of ugliness, were well known not only to the jury but to all the habitués of the trial. Yet, when he stepped upon the stand at the summons of Mr. Orcutt, every eye turned toward him with curiosity, so great was the surprise with which his name had been hailed, and so vivid the interest aroused in what a detective devoted to the cause of the prosecution might have to say in the way of supporting the defence.

The first question uttered by Mr. Orcutt served to put them upon the right track.

“Will you tell the court where you have been to-day, Mr. Hickory?”

“Well,” replied the witness in a slow and ruminating tone of voice, as he cast a look at Mr. Ferris, half apologetic and half reassuring, “I have been in a good many places ——”

“You know what I mean,” interrupted Mr. Orcutt. “Tell the court where you were between the hours of eleven and a quarter to one,” he added, with a quick glance at the paper he held in his hand.

“Oh, then,” cried Hickory, suddenly relaxing into his drollest self. “Well, then, I was all along the route from Sibley to Monteith Quarry Station. I don’t think I was stationary at any one minute of the time, sir.”

“In other words ——” suggested Mr. Orcutt, severely.

“I was trying to show myself smarter than my betters;” bowing with a great show of respect to the two experts who sat near. “Or, in other words still, I was trying to make the distance between Mrs. Clemmens’ house and the station I have mentioned, in time sufficient to upset the defence, sir.”

And the look he cast at Mr. Ferris was wholly apologetic now.

“Ah, I understand, and at whose suggestion did you undertake to do this, Mr. Hickory?”

“At the suggestion of a friend of mine, who is also somewhat of a detective.”

“And when was this suggestion given?”

“After your speech, sir, yesterday afternoon.”

“And where?”

“At the hotel, sir, where I and my friend put up.”

“Did not the counsel for the prosecution order you to make this attempt?”

“No, sir.”

“Did he not know you were going to make it?”

“No, sir.”

“Who did know it?”

“My friend.”

“No one else?”

“Well, sir, judging from my present position, I should say there seems to have been some one else,” the witness slyly retorted.

The calmness with which Mr. Orcutt carried on this examination suffered a momentary disturbance.

“You know what I mean,” he returned. “Did you tell any one but your friend that you were going to undertake this run?”

“No, sir.”

“Mr. Hickory,” the lawyer now pursued, “will you tell us why you considered yourself qualified to succeed in an attempt where you had already been told regular experts had failed?”

“Well, sir, I don’t know unless you find the solution in the slightly presumptive character of my disposition.”

“Had you ever run before or engaged in athletic sports of any kind?”

“Oh, yes, I have run before.”

“And engaged in athletic sports?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Mr. Hickory, have you ever run in a race with men of well-known reputation for speed?”

“Well, yes, I have.”

“Did you ever win in running such a race?”

“Once.”

“No more?”

“Well, then, twice.”

The dejection with which this last assent came forth roused the mirth of some light-hearted, feather-headed people, but the officers of the court soon put a stop to that.

“Mr. Hickory, will you tell us whether on account of having twice beaten in a race requiring the qualifications of a professional runner, you considered yourself qualified to judge of the feasibility of any other man’s making the distance from Mrs. Clemmens’ house to Monteith Quarry Station in ninety minutes by your own ability or non-ability to do so?”

“Yes, sir, I did; but a man’s judgment of his own qualifications don’t go very far, I’ve been told.”

“I did not ask you for any remarks, Mr. Hickory. This is a serious matter and demands serious treatment. I asked if in undertaking to make this run in ninety minutes you did not presume to judge of the feasibility of the prisoner having made it in that time, and you answered, ‘Yes.’ It was enough.”

The witness bowed with an air of great innocence.

“Now,” resumed the lawyer, “you say you made a run from Mrs. Clemmens’ house to Monteith Quarry Station to-day. Before telling us in what time you did it, will you be kind enough to say what route you took?”

“The one, sir, which has been pointed out by the prosecution as that which the prisoner undoubtedly took — the path through the woods and over the bridge to the highway. I knew no other.”

“Did you know this?”

“Yes, sir.”

“How came you to know it?”

“I had been over it before.”

“The whole distance?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Mr. Hickory, were you well enough acquainted with the route not to be obliged to stop at any point during your journey to see if you were in the right path or taking the most direct road to your destination?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And when you got to the river?”

“I turned straight to the right and made for the bridge.”

“Did you not pause long enough to see if you could not cross the stream in some way?”

“No, sir. I don’t know how to swim in my clothes and keep them dry, and as for my wings, I had unfortunately left them at home.”

Mr. Orcutt frowned.

“These attempts at humor,” said he, “are very mal à propos, Mr. Hickory.” Then, with a return to his usual tone: “Did you cross the bridge at a run?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And did you keep up your pace when you got to the highroad?”

“No, I did not.”

“You did not?”

“No, sir.”

“And why, may I ask?”

“I was tired.”

“Tired?”

“Yes, sir.”

There was a droll demureness in the way Hickory said this which made Mr. Orcutt pause. But in another minute he went on.

“And what pace do you take when you are tired?”

“A horse’s pace when I can get it,” was the laughing reply. “A team was going by, sir, and I just jumped up with the driver.”

“Ah, you rode, then, part of the way? Was it a fast team, Mr. Hickory?”

“Well, it wasn’t one of Bonner’s.”

“Did they go faster than a man could run?”

“Yes, sir, I am obliged to say they did.”

“And how long did you ride behind them?”

“Till I got in sight of the station.”

“Why did you not go farther?”

“Because I had been told the prisoner was seen to walk up to the station, and I meant to be fair to him when I knew how.”

“Oh, you did; and do you think it was fair to him to steal a ride on the highway?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And why?”

“Because no one has ever told me he didn’t ride down the highway, at least till he came within sight of the station.”

“Mr. Hickory,” inquired the lawyer, severely, “are you in possession of any knowledge proving that he did?”

“No, sir.”

Mr. Byrd, who had been watching the prisoner breathlessly through all this, saw or thought he saw the faintest shadow of an odd, disdainful smile cross his sternly composed features at this moment. But he could not be sure. There was enough in the possibility, however, to make the detective thoughtful; but Mr. Orcutt proceeding rapidly with his examination, left him no time to formulate his sensations into words.

“So that by taking this wagon you are certain you lost no time?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Rather gained some?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Mr. Hickory, will you now state whether you put forth your full speed to-day in going from Mrs. Clemmens’ house to the Quarry Station?”

“I did not.”

“What?”

“I did not put forth any thing like my full speed, sir,” the witness repeated, with a twinkle in the direction of Byrd that fell just short of being a decided wink.

“And why, may I ask? What restrained you from running as fast as you could? Sympathy for the defence?”

The ironical suggestion conveyed in this last question gave Hickory an excuse for indulging in his peculiar humor.

“No, sir; sympathy for the prosecution. I feared the loss of one of its most humble but valuable assistants. In other words, I was afraid I should break my neck.”

“And why should you have any special fears of breaking your neck?”

“The path is so uneven, sir. No man could run for much of the way without endangering his life or at least his limbs.”

“Did you run when you could?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And in those places where you could not run, did you proceed as fast as you knew how?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Very well; now I think it is time you told the jury just how many minutes it took you to go from Mrs. Clemmens’ door to the Monteith Quarry Station.”

“Well, sir, according to my watch, it took one hundred and five minutes.”

Mr. Orcutt glanced impressively at the jury.

“One hundred and five minutes,” he repeated. He then turned to the witness with his concluding questions.

“Mr. Hickory, were you present in the court-room just now when the two experts whom I have employed to make the run gave their testimony?”

“No, sir.”

“Do you know in what time they made it?”

“I believe I do. I was told by the person whom I informed of my failure that I had gained five minutes upon them.”

“And what did you reply?”

“That I hoped I could make something on them; but that five minutes wasn’t much when a clean fifteen was wanted,” returned Hickory, with another droll look at the experts and an askance appeal at Byrd, which being translated might read: “How in the deuce could this man have known what I was whispering to you on the other side of the court-room? Is he a wizard, this Orcutt?”

He forgot that a successful lawyer is always more or less of a wizard.

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Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 22:17