The Murder at Jex Farm
by George Ira Brett
The facts of the case were simple enough. A young
woman had been found lying at the orchard gate of
the farm, 37 1/2 yards from the house, dead, with a
bullet in her head. Suicide was out of the
question, for there was no pistol about, and it was
not in evidence that the girl had any cause for
despondency. There was no reason for her taking
her life. But then again, she was not known to have
I like to put down my impressions on paper,
pretty fully and quite freely, as I go on. I am
doing so now, not as a report for my chief, nor for
any sort of publication, but just as a help to
myself. I am not exactly a literary man, as my
mates in the force will have it that I am, but I
have received a liberal education. I have been
taught the use of my own language, and I have
always considered that in our profession, which
is a very complicated one, the more clearly an
officer can put his thoughts into words and his
words on to paper the better chance he has of doing
good work in the detective line.
Crime detection is not a secret art; anybody can
do it if he has the wits, and the time, and
patience to get at all the facts, and if he knows
enough of the ways of men and women. It sounds
like boasting to say so much, but it isn't; we all
fail too often to be vain, and, when I fail, I
always say, "I couldn't get at the facts," or "I
didn't know enough about the sort of people
I don't seem like getting to the bottom of this
Jex Farm crime yet; the facts are too provokingly
few and simple. I have been here two days already
and have learnt little more than I have written
Here I paste in a paragraph from a county paper
which pretty nearly tells the story with all its
circumstances so far as we have got at present.
"MURDER IN SURREY.--Jex Farm, two miles from
Bexton, in Surrey, was the scene of a terrible
and mysterious crime on the evening of
Wednesday last. A young unmarried lady of the
name of Judson, a niece of Mrs. Jex, the
widowed owner of Jex Farm, was found murdered
late on Wednesday night just inside the orchard
gate of the farm, and within a stone's throw of
the house. There were no signs of a struggle,
but Miss Judson's gold watch and chain were
missing. The crime must have been committed at
late dusk on Wednesday evening, 17th inst.
(October). It is singular that no sound of
firearms was heard by any inmate of the house;
and the crime was not discovered till the
family were about to meet at supper, when Miss
Judson's absence was noticed.
"After waiting awhile and calling the name
of the young lady in vain, the night being very
dark and gusty, young Mr. Jex and the
farm-labourers started out with lanterns. They
almost immediately came upon the dead body of
the unfortunate young girl, which was lying on
the walk just inside the orchard gate, and it
is stated that the first discoverer of the
tragedy was Mr. Jex himself. It adds one more
element of gloom to the fearful event when we
add that it is rumoured in the neighbourhood
that Mr. Jex, the only son of the lady who owns
the farm, was engaged to be married to the
victim of this terrible tragedy.
"No clue has yet been obtained. It is clear
that the motive of the crime was robbery, and
it is supposed in the neighbourhood that, as
the high road runs within twenty yards of the
scene of the tragedy, the perpetrator may have
been one of a very rough set of bicyclists who
were drinking at the Red Lion' at Bexton in
the afternoon, and who were seen at nightfall
to retrace their journey in the direction of
Jex Farm. We understand that Inspector Battle,
the well-known London detective, has been
despatched from Scotland Yard to the scene of
the murder. Inspector Battle is the officer
whose name has recently attained considerable
prominence in connection with the successful
discovery and conviction of the perpetrators of
the great jewel robbery at Leonard Court."
Rather penny-a-lining and wordy, but, barring the
too flattering allusion to myself, on the whole a
fair enough account of the facts.
It was young Mr. Jex himself who supplied the
information about the bicyclists. He had been
shooting rabbits at an outlying farm of his own a
mile beyond Bexton, and stopping to get a glass of
beer at the chief inn, found himself surrounded
in the bar by a group of rowdy bicyclists. The
Surrey countryman generally dislikes the cycling
Londoners who travel along the roads of his county
in extraordinary numbers. Mr. Jex had noticed that
these men, instead of continuing their journey
towards London, had turned again in the direction
of Jex Farm. If they repassed the "Lion" at Bexton
they must have done so at night, for they were not
Mr. Jex is a fine young man with good looks,
twenty-eight years of age, six foot one in height,
a sportsman, and popular in the neighbourhood. He
is giving me every assistance in his power, and is
resolved, he says to bring the villains to justice.
He is naturally much distressed and overcome at the
sudden ending of all his hopes and prospects.
His mother is a kind and motherly woman
nearly seventy years of age. I understand from
herself that she fully approved of the approaching
marriage of her son. I gather in the neighbourhood
that Mr. Jex, like so many of his class, has been
very hard hit by the prevailing agricultural
depression, and that his proposed marriage with his
cousin, Miss Judson, an orphan, with property of
her own, was something of a godsend to himself and
My written orders from head-quarters had been to
install myself in the house, if I could obtain an
invitation, in order the better to unravel the
facts as to the crime, and I was to take my full
time in the investigations. I showed my
instructions on this head to Mrs. Jex and her
son, and was by them at once cordially invited to
consider the farm my home for the time being.
It was a somewhat delicate situation, and I put
it plainly to each of them, to Mr. Jex, to his
mother, and to a young lady on a visit to them,
Miss Lewsome. I was a detective officer, I told
them, on a mission to detect a great crime. Though
I was a guest at the farm, I was bound as a police
officer to a minute and suspicious inquiry into
everybody's conduct since and before the murder.
They must not take it amiss if I was particular and
even impertinent in my questions, and vexatious in
my way of putting them.
The reasonableness of all this was apparent to
them all, and I at once began my investigations at
the farm and outside it.
The first person I interviewed was young
Mr. Jex himself. On the 29th he had returned from
shooting at his farm on the other side of Bexton,
and he stopped on his way home for a drink at the
"Red Lion." "At what time?" I asked. "It was
growing dusk," said Jex. "I should say it was
within a few minutes of half past five; three men
were drinking at the bar, bicyclists; I was
thinking they would be overtaken by night; I did
not like the look of those men." "Never mind the
bicyclists for the present, Mr. Jex. You stayed
some time in the bar?" "An hour or more." "Did
you meet any one you knew at the Lion'? Any
neighbours?" "Yes, I met James Barton and----"
"Don't trouble yourself with their names just now!
You met friends who can speak to your being at the
inn?" "I did." "That will do. I want to get to
the dates. At about five-thirty you started for
home?" "It was exactly on the stroke of six by the
clock of the Lion.'" "You had no doubt taken a
glass or two of ale?" "No, I took a glass of
whisky and water." "Or two ?" "I took two
glasses." "You took two glasses of whisky and
water, good; and then you set off for the farm?
Was your man with you?" "What man?" "The man who
carried your game, or was it a boy?" "I had no man
or boy with me. I had brought three rabbits in my
pocket, and these I left as a present to Mrs. Jones
of the 'Lion.'" "You had your gun with you?" "Of
course I had." "Was it loaded?" "Yes, but I drew
the charges as I neared home." "You noticed
nothing unusual as you came in?" "Nothing." "Yet
you passed within a yard of the orchard gate where
the poor girl must have been lying dead?" "I must
have, but it was pitch dark under the trees. I saw
nothing but the lights in the parlour windows from
the time I opened the gate out of the road." "And
coming along the road you did not notice or hear
anything?" "Yes, I saw the lanterns of three
cyclists coming towards me when I had got a few
hundred yards from the 'Lion.' I never saw men
travelling faster by night; they nearly got me down
in the road between them." "Did they speak to
you?" "One cursed me as he passed; I had gone near
to spill him, he said. They never slackened speed:
I just felt the swish and wind of their machines as
they shaved past me." "You noticed nothing else?
I mean on the road home?" "Yes, I thought I heard
some shots far away--poachers I thought at the
time--in Squire Watson's woods." "How many shots?"
"Three." " Close together?" "As close as I speak
now: one--two--three." "Was this long after you
met the cyclists?" He took a moment to think.
"Come, Mr. Jex, you can't want time to answer a
simple question?" "It was some time before I met
them." "How far might it have been from the Lion'
when you heard the three shots?" "A matter of half
a mile." "Then it was after you met the cyclists?"
"No, it was before." "It was after, for you told
me just now you met them a few hundred yards, and
now you say you heard the shots when you were half
a mile on your way home. Half a mile is not a few
hundred yards; half a mile is 880 yards." Mr. Jex
seemed puzzled. "You are too sharp on a fellow,"
he said. "I had need to be, Mr. Jex," I answered.
"Now, Mr. Jex," I said, "there is another point
on which I am afraid I must question you." "I
guess what it is," said he, "go ahead. You mean
about me and Miss Judson?" "That is so, about Miss
Judson and yourself. You were engaged to her?" "I
was." "Had the engagement lasted long?" A month."
"And she had been two months your mother's guest at
the farm?" "Going on for three." "And there was
nothing to stand in the way of your wishes?" "I
don't understand what sort of thing you mean?"
"Well, any misunderstanding between you--quarrels,
you know." "Oh, lovers' quarrels! They don't
amount to much, do they? We had the usual number,
I suppose." (This is a queer, indifferent sort of
a lover, I thought.) " Well, even a lovers'
quarrel has a cause, I suppose--and its mostly
jealousy; perhaps there was some neighbour you did
not fancy the look of?" "God bless you, no! She
didn't know the neighbours--hardly." "Or some old
London friend the young lady may have had a liking
for once?" "Couldn't be," said Jex positively.
"Because Mary only had one friend. She had been
engaged to him, and she threw him over. She
fancied me better, you see. She told me all about
him. She told me everything, you know." "Ah,
women always do!" "They do when they care for a
fellow," said Jex warmly. "Well, perhaps they do,
but you see, here's a mysterious crime, and I want
to find a motive for it." "Who could have a
motive?" "Possibly a disappointed rival--from
London." "Why, man," said Jex, "I tell you it
couldn't be; the man I spoke of is in New
Zealand--thousands of miles away. I tell you the
motive was robbery. Why, wasn't the girl's fold
watch taken?" "That might be a blind, Mr. Jex,"
said, I looking him straight in the face: "it's a
common trick, that." "Oh, nonsense; we all agreed
at the inquest it was robbery, and we fastened it
on to those three cyclists I saw at the 'Lion,' and
coming back along the road, hot foot, just in the
nick of time to do the trick. Don't you go wasting
your time, Mr. Battle, over rivals, and rot of that
sort!" I let my gentleman run on, but I thought
well presently to throw a little dash of cold water
over his cock-sureness.
"Mr. Jex," I said, "do you remember that at the
inquest the county police put in plaster casts of
all the footprints found next morning round about
where the body had lain?" "Well, what if they
did?" "I've just compared those footprints with
the bootprints of the inmates of this house, and
every single mark corresponds with the boots worn
by the three labourers at the Farm, and--by
yourself." This staggered him a bit. "Of course,"
he said, "we made these marks when we carried the
body in." "I know that," I said. "And one country
boot," said Jex, "is just as like another as one
pea is like another." "Not quite so like as that.
But Mr. Jex, did you ever know a cyclist to ride
his machine in hobnailed boots? So you see, the
murderer could not be one of your bicyclists." Jex
kept silence for a minute, and he went rather pale
as I watched him. "The man who committed this
murder, Mr. Jex, never wore a cyclist's boot."
"I'll tell you what," he said after a longish
pause, "we'd trampled down the ground a good bit
all round; we must have trampled out the murderer's
footprints." "It's just possible," said, "but not
likely that you shouldn't have left a square inch
of shoeprint anywhere. However, that is of no
matter to me at present. I've another bit of
evidence that I'll work out first." "A clue?"
asked Jex eagerly, "what is it?" "Well, Mr. Jex,
you'll excuse me for not mentioning it just at
present. You'll know soon enough." I gave him a
moment to think over the matter, then I went on--
"Now, sir, I should like to ask you one or two
more questions, if you're quite agreeable." "Fire
away," said Jex, regaining his assurance. "I'm
here to answer you." "I'm told you used to meet
Miss Judson on your return from shooting, or what
not, at the orchard gate?" "That's so." "At
nightfall?" "Yes as it grew from dusk to dark."
"Might she be expecting you there on the 17th just
as night fell?" "Likely she might." "But about
that time you were drinking in the bar parlour of
the Lion?'" "Well, if you call two goes of whisky
and water after a long day's walking, drinking, I
was." "The landlady is an old friend of your
mother's, I'm told." Jex laughed. "Whoever told
you that, told you wrong; my mother does not
particularly cotton to Mrs. Jones." "What! the two
old ladies don't hit it off, don't they?" "Who
told you that Mrs. Jones was an old lady?" said
Jex, "she's a young one and a very pretty one into
the bargain." "Then that accounts," said I, "for
the present of rabbits, eh?" Jex winked.
I have mentioned a fourth inmate at Jex Farm at
the time of the murder in the person of Miss Maud
Lewsome, a young lady friend of Miss Judson's, and
a distant cousin of hers, but no blood relation of
the Jex family. Miss Lewsome had come as a friend
of Miss Judson, and had resided at the Farm some
five weeks. She is a tall, dark, handsome girl,
gentle and reserved in manner, but as I should
judge, extremely intelligent. I hear that the
profession in life is the literary one, but whether
in the way of book-writing or journalism I am not
told. She had also been for a short time on the
stage. I have as yet had hardly any conversation
with Miss Lewsome, so overcome is she with nervous
shock of the tragedy of which her dearest friend
has been the victim.
I need not reproduce here at any length the
evidence of the country surgeon who made the post
mortem, as given at the inquest. It was to the
effect that death had not resulted as at first
reported in all the papers from a single bullet,
but from three bullet wounds in the side of the
head, one just behind the ear and two just above
it. The shots must have been fired from the
distance of a few yards, for there was no burning
or discolouration of the skin. That they must have
been fired in rapid succession was evident from the
fact of the three wounds being within a circle
whose radius was not more than three inches in
length. The charges of powder, in the doctor's
opinion, must have been light, for after passing
through the walls of the skull, there was little
penetration. The bullets, three, had been
extracted--very small round leaden bullets of the
size of large peas, not of the conical shape used
in revolvers of the more expensive kind. Death
must have been instantaneous for the bullets were
all three found buried in the brain, one still
spherical, the others flattened by contact with
Now it is obvious that this increases the
difficulty connected with the fact that no one at
the Farm, neither Mrs. Jex nor Miss Lewsome nor any
of the labourers or female servants who were
indoors and at supper at the time, had heard the
sound of firearms. It is true that on the evening
of the 17th half a gale of wind was blowing from
the north-west, and the orchard, where the fatal
shots were fired, is nearly south-east of the
house; all doors and windows were closed, the night
being cold and rainy but the sitting-room faces the
south-east, and though a tall yew hedge interposed,
it was difficult to see how three pistol shots
fired less than forty yards away should not be
audible by the inmates of the room. Was Mrs. Jex
hard of hearing? I asked. She was not, she
declared. Had she heard positively nothing?
Nothing but the roaring of the wind in the chimney
and every now and then the rattling of the windows.
Was she absorbed in reading or talk? No, she was
knitting by the fireside. Miss Lewsome had been
writing at the table all the evening. From time to
time she had talked with Miss Lewsome who had
remained with her in the room from before sundown
till supper time.
I then examined Miss Lewsome by herself as I had
already examined Mrs. Jex. She corroborated what
that lady had said. The wind was loud that night,
said Miss Lewsome. It rattled the windows and made
a great noise in the chimney. She was writing all
the evening, she said. "Forgive my curiosity," I
said, "was it something that took up your attention
and would have prevented your hearing a noise
outside?" She hesitated. "I was writing up my
diary," she answered. "You keep a diary?" "Yes."
"May I see it?" "Oh no!" she said. "That would be
quite impossible. I could not show it to anyone.
You must really not ask to see it." "I am very
sorry," I said, "but I am afraid you must let me
read it." "Why?" "Because I am a police officer,
and am here to enquire into the death by violence
of Miss Mary Judson, and because your diary may
throw some light upon the circumstances of the
crime." "How can it help you? It is
all--personal; it is all about myself." "I am not
in a position to say how the diary can help me till
I have seen it; but see it I must." She still
hesitated; after a pause she asked, "Do you really
insist?" "I must." "She walked to her desk,
opened it, and gave me red leather-covered book
with a lock and put it with the key into my hands.
That night I read the diary. The entries were,
as Miss Lewsome had told me, scanty, that is at
first referring to such trivial events as her
arrival at the farm, for the diary began with the
beginning of her visit. As it went on, however,
the entries became fuller, and the occurrences of
the six or seven days previous to the murder were
narrated with considerable fulness; and before I
had ended my perusal of the book certain vague
suspicions that I had already formed in my mind
began to gather in strength and to acquire full
EXTRACTS FROM MISS LEWSOME'S DIARY.
October 3.--The more I see of what is going on
between Charles and Mary the more I blame myself
for my fatal weakness. Had I only known of their
engagement!... why, oh why, did they keep it a
secret from me? He never should have earned my
passion for him--never should have... oh fool, fool
that I have been! Poor Charles, I hardly blame
him. In honour he is bound to poor Mary, and yet I
see day by day that he is getting colder and colder
to her and more and more devoted to me. In honour
he can't break off his engagement. Poor fellow
too, he needs his cousin's money. Without it I
know ruin stares him in the face. Were it not for
that, as he says, he would break with Mary
to-morrow. I believe him.
October 5.--What am I to do? The situation
becomes more and more difficult every day. I see
that I must leave Jex Farm, but it will break my
heart, and I fear it will break Charles's too.
October 6.--Mary suspects nothing, though Charles
grows daily colder to her.
October 11.--Charles and I have had an
explanation. I have told him that I can bear it no
longer. He said he could not break off the
engagement; if he could he would. He spoke almost
brutally. I must have Mary's money, he said.
Without it my mother, I, my sisters and brothers
and the farm must all go to the devil. I hate the
woman, he cried out. "Don't, don't say that,
Charles; it is so dreadfully cruel and wicked.
What has poor Mary done to you?" "She has come
between me and the only woman I ever loved. Is not
that enough?" "But you have told me that your
cousin's money must come to you some day or other?"
"Yes, but only on her death." "Don't, Charles it
is too dreadful." "Yes, isn't it? Just awful!"
"Well, but..." He laughed. "Oh, women never
understand business, but I see what you are driving
at, my dear, a post obit or a sale of the reversion
of Mary's estate, eh?" I nodded, just wishing to
see what his meaning was, but of course never
dreaming of anything so mercenary and hateful. He
went on. "Then you think, I suppose, that with the
cash in hand I could break off with Mary and make
amends for the wrong I have done you? Is that your
little game?" At that moment I almost hated
Charles. Tears of mortification came into my eyes.
"Oh, Charles, don't think so meanly of me!"
"Meanly! Why, hang it, it was in my own head, why
should it not be in yours too? You are the
cleverest girl I know, for all you are so quiet; of
course you thought of it! So did I, only that cock
won't fight, my girl. Oh no; I consulted a lawyer,
and he upset all my little plans. You could not
raise a penny, says he, for Miss Judson might
marry, and if she does and dies, her estate goes to
her children, if she has any. Anyhow you can't
touch the reversion till she dies single, or dies
childless." "Then, Charles, there is nothing for
me to do but to go out into the wide world, poor,
abandoned and miserable, with all the weight of my
sin and shame on me!" He looked at me a long time
with a curious look in his eyes, frowning. Then he
kissed me suddenly on the mouth. "Maud," he said,
"you love me--really? really? really?" "I love
you," I said, "with all my heart and soul and
strength." "And what?" he asked, "what would you
do to gain my--my company for ever...?" I made him
no answer for I did not understand him. I do not
understand him now. Then he said suddenly, "If you
look at me like that with those great brown eyes of
yours and kiss me with those lips I would... there
is nothing, by Jove, nothing I would not----" Then
without another reasonable word and with an oath,
he broke from me and left the room.
The last entry in Miss Lewsome's diary was on the
evening of the murder, and it was no doubt written
at the very moment when the tragedy was being
enacted within a few yards of the farmhouse
windows. This gave her written words a strange
impressiveness to me. The handwriting of this last
entry, I noticed, was as firm as it had been
throughout--such a hand as and have expected from
what I knew and had heard of this young lady's
character and temperament; a strikingly beautiful
dark-skinned girl she is, quiet and reticent in
manner, impulsive and headstrong, perhaps where her
passions led her--the diary show this only too
clearly--but gentle, repressed in all her ways and
speech; a woman, in short, with such powers of
fascination as few men can resist. It is just such
a girl as this for whom men commit untold follies,
and just such a girl as would hold an obstinate,
dull-witted, overbearing and vain young fellow as I
judge Charles Jex to be, in the hollow of her hand.
These lines that follow are the last in the
I have had a long talk with Mary to-day. Charlie
has at last spoken to her about his feelings
towards her, and his feelings towards me. He has
told her plainly that he no longer cares for her,
but that he will marry her if she insists upon
holding him to his promise. The communication has
come upon her as a shock, she said. She was
overwhelmed. She could give him no answer. She
could not believe that I had encouraged him. did I
really love him, she asked me. Did he really love
me? Was it not all a horrible dream? I told her
the truth, or as much of it as I dared without
giving away the secret of my shame. I told her he
had made me care for him long before I knew or even
guessed there was anything between him and her. I
would go at once. To-morrow I could take the train
to town and never trouble him, or her, or anyone
connected with Jex Farm again. Poor Mary
cried--she behaved beautifully. She said, "Maud,
you love him, he loves you. You can make him
happy, I see now that I cannot. His happiness is
more to me than my own. I will go away, and you
shall be his wife. I will never marry." We did
not speak for several minutes. I could not at
first believe in such a reversal of misery. Then
all the difficulties of the situation flashed upon
me. My poverty; the financial ruin he had to face;
the wealth that would save him. "No," I said,
"Mary, it cannot be; you are generous, and I love
you, but it cannot be. I cannot allow you to make
this sacrifice." We talked long together, and we
both of us cried a great deal. I do not think the
world holds so sweet and unselfish a woman as Mary
Judson. Whatever our lots are in life, hers and
mine, we shall always be as sisters one to the
other. To-morrow I leave Jex Farm.
The immediate effect upon my mind of the reading
of this evidence was to supply me with what had
been wanting: a motive for the crime. Everything
pointed in my estimation to treachery in the
household; everything seemed to be against the
possibility of the crime being committed by an
Assuming thieves and murderers not connected
with the household, what possible reasons could
have brought them to run such a risk as to shoot
down an innocent unoffending girl within forty
yards of a dwelling-house, where probably several
men were within call, and certainly within earshot
of the sound of firearms? Then again, if a
stranger had done this thing for the sake of
robbery, how could he be sure that the girl would
have money or a watch about her? A third and
stronger reason against any stranger criminal, was
the fact that no stranger had left the imprint of
his steps within five yards of the gate on the
further side of which the girl had fallen. Her
head, as she lay, all but touched the lower bar of
the orchard gate. She had been shot down at her
accustomed trysting-place with her lover, in the
dusk, and with the shade of the trees, the deep of
darkness of late evening. What stranger could
guess she would be there? What stranger could know
so well where and how she would stand as to be able
to fire three following shots, through the shadows
of falling night, with such deadly aim as to take
effect within an inch of each other on the poor
I abandoned the idea of a murder for the sake of
robbery; it was untenable. I scouted the theory
suggested by Charles Jex, and persevered by him
with curious insistence,
that the murderers
were the bicyclists whom he had seen in the bar at
the "Lion." The murderer was an inmate of Jex
Farm; of that there could be no manner of doubt;
the evidence of the footprints was proof enough of
Who, then, was the murderer?
Before I answer that question I put in another
document, a very important piece of evidence. It
is the report--the very concise but careful report
of one of the most conscientious, painstaking and
intelligent provincial officers I have ever had the
pleasure of doing business with, Sergeant Edwardes
of the Surrey Constabulary.
"Sergeant Edwardes' report on the footprints
near the spot where the body of Miss
Judson was found at 9:35 P.M., on
October 17, 189-."
(To be concluded in the Number for June.)
"I have counted 43 distinct human
footprints and 54 partial imprints.
"Of the 43, 24 are made by the left foot
and only 19 by the right.
"Of the 54 faint or partial impressions I
found 17 of the left foot and only 12 of the
right, the rest are not distinctive enough to
"Of the total number of the fainter
footprints 18 are deeply marked in the soft
clay, the others are less strongly impressed.
Of the 18 that are deeply marked, 11 are made
by the left foot, 7 by the right.
"This accords with what I was told
subsequently--that Mr. Jex's three labourers,
and Mr. Jex himself, on finding Miss Judson's
dead body, at once took it up in their arms and
bore it into the house.
"Bearers of a heavy weight, such as a dead
body, walking together, invariably bear heavily
upon the left foot, both those who are
supporting it on the left and those who are
supporting it on the right side.
"Distinguishing the bootprints by their
length, breadth, and the pattern of the nail
marks upon them, I find that they are the
footprints of five separate persons, all of
them men. I also found, clearly impressed, the
footprints of the victim herself.
"There had been heavy rain in the morning
of the 17th, and the soil is a sticky clay. I
examined it at daybreak on the morning of the
18th, and, as it had not rained during the
night, the impressions were as fresh as if they
had just been made. By my orders no one had
been allowed to come near the spot where the
body was found during the night. Just inside
the gate of the orchard the grass has been long
trodden away by passers-by, leaving the earth
bare; and this patch of bare earth forms an
area rather broader than the gate. On this
area the body had fallen, and round about the
spot where it had lain I found all the
footprints on which I am reporting.
"I have compared the boots worn by the
labourers wit the impressions near the gate.
They correspond in every particular.
"I therefore conclude that all three men
came upon the spot only to carry away the body
of the girl, and had no hand in her death.
"I argue the same from the footprints made
by Mr. Jex. He also had borne more heavily
with the left than with the right foot. He
also, therefore, must have come on the spot
only to bear off the body and could have taken
no part in the girl's murder.
"There are almost an exactly equal number
of impressions plain or faint, of the
footprints of the four persons.
"There remain the footprints of a fifth
person. They are the impressions of a man's
foot, but the hobnailed boots that made them,
though full-sized, are of a lighter make than
the others, and the nail marks are smaller, the
boots are newer, for the sides of the
impressions have a cleaner cut, and what is
important, the impressions of the left foot are
in no case deeper than those of the right.
"This person, therefore, clearly did not
assist in the carrying of the body.
"The person who made these footprints is,
in my opinion, the man who, on the night of the
17th of October last, murdered Miss Mary
* * * * * * * *
The experiences of Inspector Battle.
(Of the Criminal Investigation Department.)
BY GEORGE IRA BRETT.
(from Chapman's magazine of fiction, 1895-June)
THE MURDER AT JEX FARM
The conclusion, so clearly and logically arrived at
by Inspector Edwardes, at once narrows the field of
investigation. My own inquiries bring out a still
more startling discovery. The footprints of the
murderer--the almost self-convicted murderer--
correspond in length and breath, and in the number
of nail marks, twelve in the print of the left
foot, ten (there being two gaps, which also
correspond) in that of the right, with a pair of
boots in the possession of Mr. Charles Jex.
This very damning fact must not be driven home in
proof of Mr. Jex's guilt too hastily. It is
absolutely necessary, in inquiries of this very
grave character, to proceed with caution and
deliberation. Another man might have worn the
boots with the intent to deception on the night of
the murder. A murderer, with the devilish cunning
of one who seeks to compass the death of a fellow-
being without risk of detection, frequently uses
wily precautions such as this.
Let us take the women inmates of the house first.
There was Miss Lewsome--but it could not have been
her, for first there was the direct evidence of old
Mrs. Jex, that the young lady had not left her side
in the sitting-room since sundown. There is the
almost stronger indirect, undesigned and internal
evidence of Miss Lewsome's diary, with the entry of
this very date calmly and fully set out at the very
time the murder must have been effected.
Then, again, there are the two maids, well-behaved,
innocent rustic girls. It could be neither of them,
for their presence in the kitchen the whole evening
was vouched for by the evidence of the other servants.
The same applied to the three farm labourers. Not
one of the servants, male or female, had left the
kitchen or scullery that night. From sundown to
supper-time is the hour of rest and recreation at a
farm, and the day, which has been spent in work and
silence, generally ends, for rustic folk, in talk
and laughter. The whole five of them had been enjoying
themselves noisily round the kitchen fire. Their loud
talk and the blustering wind, that roared about the farm
chimneys on this tempestuous evening, had, doubtless,
prevented any one of them from hearing the three revolver
shots on the night of the murder.
There remains Mr. Jex. Let us impartially
examine the facts that throw suspicion upon him.
Here is a man who clearly no longer loves, probably
never did love, the girl whom he is about to marry
for her money; who certainly does care for another
woman; who has entangled himself in an intrigue
until this second woman, which he may reasonably
expect to come to light at any moment and endanger
his prospects of a rich marriage; who, by the
impartial evidence of that woman's diary, has
indulged in vague threats against the murdered
girl. Lastly, he is the only person who will
benefit by her death, and who will, in fact, enjoy
a welcome and immediate relief, by this event, from
impending bankruptcy. On the other hand, Mr. Jex
at the moment when the crime was probably
committed, was at Bexton, or on the road homeward;
but we have no knowledge of the hour at which Mary
Judson met with her death. It might be, for all we
know, a good half hour later than Mr. Jex's return
to the farm. We know nothing of Mr. Jex's
movements from the time of his coming home till his
entry at nine o'clock into the sitting-room where
his mother and Miss Lewsome were awaiting him. No
servant opened the door for him; he let himself in.
No one saw or heard him enter. What was he doing
during all the time that elapsed between his coming
home and the discovery of the murder? By his own
statement, there were nearly two whole hours to be
accounted for. He says he was taking off his wet
things and putting on dry ones, lounging about in
his bed-room, resting. It may be so, but the time
so occupied seems unnecessarily long.
Whatever my prepossessions were towards the young
farmer, under whose roof I had made my temporary
home, in whose company I had lived on familiar
terms for days, I could not resist the suspicions
that were gathering more strongly, day by day,
round the man. To speak frankly, I had got to like
Charles Jex; his rough, downright, hearty ways had,
at first, quite disarmed my suspicions. I admit
that likes and dislikes are unprofessional things
in a service where a man should keep his personal
predilections to himself; but I will confess that
it takes a cooler brain and a calmer temper than
mine to keep clear of them. This is one of the
miserable drawbacks of a detective's life; duty
compels him too often to turn upon the man he has
broken bread with; to slip the handcuff over the
hand that has passed him drinks and helped him to
his meat. I struggled to the very last against the
damning facts that were accumulating against
Charles Jex, and fastening upon him the guilt of
this base and cruel murder.
This man too was, I saw now, a fool as well as
(assuming his guilt) and cruel murderer. It was
the very extremity of his stupidity indeed, that
drew me to hope him innocent. It was almost
unthinkable that such a shrewd fellow as Jex had
the character of being in the country-side--keen at
a bargain, quick at a joke, a hearty, jovial
companion at board and bar, knowing and clever in
all the signs of coming change in weather and
market, should have proved so clumsy a fool in this
deadly affair; leaving traces enough and supplying
motives enough to hang a dozen men. Of all men,
one would suppose that a man of the fields and a
sportsman, used to the marks and tracking of game,
would be careful how he left the print of his
footprints on the sort clay. Why, that evidence
alone, with time fitting and motive thrown in was
enough to bring him to the gallows! As if this was
not enough, further most damning evidence was
Let me trace out step by step, the history of the
murder, on the assumption that Jex is the actual
murderer. As to motive I have said enough. No one
but Jex had a pecuniary motive for the murder of
the girl whom he certainly did not love. The
evidence of the footprints is very strong, but I
have said enough of them. To touch upon the
immediate cause of death. There were three small
bullets found in the brain. I have already stated
that these bullets were not of the conical kind
usually found in revolver cartridges. They were
round, and of the size that are used in the
dangerous toys known as drawing-room pistols. They
were, in short, slugs, bullets of the size of a
very large pea. During one of Jex's absences on
the farm, I had carefully overhauled the
saddle-room, where the young farmer kept his guns
and ammunition. I found all his guns,
cartridge-fillers, wads, shots of different sizes,
arranged with the neat order that a good sportsman
uses. The guns, carefully cleaned and oiled, were
slung on the wall. Two were of the ordinary
kind--12-in. bore and double-barrelled. A third
was a heavy, single-barrelled duck gun, no doubt
meant for use in the neighbouring marsh.
Half-a-dozen of the old-fashioned shot pouches hung
along the wall, full or half full of shot.
These receptacles, as every one knows, were
formerly employed for muzzle-loaders, when men put
in first the powder, then the wadding then the
shot, and a wad over that. One of these pouches
caught my eye. It was of larger size than the
others. I took it from the wall, held it mouth
downward over my left hand, and pressed the spring
which releases a charge of shot. No shot fell into
my hand, but three slugs. I snapped the spring
again, and three slugs again fell out. I repeated
the experiment again and again, every time with the
same result. The brass measure, meant to hold an
ordinary charge of shot that would weigh about one
ounce, held just three of the slugs, neither more
nor less, every time. It was a revelation, for the
slugs were identical in size and weight with those
found in the brain of the unfortunate young lady.
The obvious conclusion was that the murderer had
loaded his gun from this leather pouch!
There was another corollary to be drawn. The
theory of three shots from a revolver was no longer
tenable; it seemed clear that the fatal shot had
been fired at one discharge, and from a gun. It
was also certain from other evidence that the
person who fired the shot had been one well
acquainted with firearms and their use. He would
have been anxious that the discharge of his gun
should make as little noise as possible. A man
knowing in gun-firing knows that to do that he must
use a minimum of powder, with a soft paper wadding
in place of the usual tightly-fitting circular wad.
So fired, the report of a gun is little louder than
the clap of a man's two hands when he holds them
half curved. It was in evidence that the bullets
had made but little penetration, only just enough
to kill, and that therefore the charge was light.
It is true that no such paper wadding as I believed
had been employed to further muffle the sound of
the discharge, had been found near the scene of the
It was well, though not absolutely indispensable,
in order to bring home the perpetration of the
crime to Jex, and in order to show that it was the
deed of an expert--in order to show that his story
of his hearing the three shots was a lie--in order
to find a reason for the gun report, fired so close
to the house, having been unheard by its
inmates;--it was well, I say, to show that the
noise had actually been deadened by the use of
I walked straight to the orchard gate. I placed
myself where the murderer must have stood, within
two or three yards of it; he must have fired
point-blank at the girl, who stood, probably, with
her hands resting on the top rail. The paper
wadding, or any wadding would have flown out at an
angle more or less acute to the line of fire, right
or left of it, some four or five yards from the
muzzle of the gun, and would have fallen, and must
now be lying hidden in the grass on one side of the
I searched the long wisps of grass, and in two or
three minutes had the satisfaction of finding,
half-hidden among the roots, first one, then a
second piece of crumpled paper, charred and
blackened with gunpowder. Inspector Edwardes had
overlooked this important piece of evidence. By
the time I had spread the papers out upon a board,
they were little but damp film, but enough was left
of their original appearance to show that they were
pieces of the county paper, the Surrey Times, the
paper taken in regularly by Mr. Jex.
The man who fired that shot therefore was a
proved expert. He was one who had strong reason
for not wishing the shot to be heard; and, with
half a load of powder, a light one of shot, and
loose wadding, he had taken the very best means to
effect this purpose. Who in the household was thus
expert in firearms? Who, alone, could have known
of the existence of the slugs in the saddle-room?
Clearly, no one but Charles Jex. He had loaded the
gun, too, with paper obtainable in his own house.
I had now more than evidence enough to justify
Jex's arrest for the murder of Mary Judson, but I
was willing to accumulate still more. I therefore
contented myself with obtaining a warrant for his
arrest from the magistrates at Bilford, prepared to
execute it the moment circumstances should make it
expedient. Jex had, for some time, shown himself
uneasy. He shunned me; it was clear he suspected
me of having got on the trail of the crime. I
began to get anxious lest he should think the game
was up, and try to escape from justice. I wired
for two of my men, whom I had left at Bilford, and
instructed them to watch the farm by night, and lay
hands on the farmer if he should attempt to break
away in the darkness. By day I could keep my own
eye upon him. I did not let him get far out of my
sight, but, careful as I was, he showed signs of
knowing he was watched.
On the morning of the 22nd of October it was my
third day on this job--he came down early, dressed
rather more smartly than usual, and, before
breakfast, he went round to the stables. I
affected not to have observed this suspicious
movement, and, in the course of the morning, I
accepted Miss Lewsome's invitation to accompany her
on a walk to Bexton. We both went to make ready.
Jex left the room at the same moment. He went
towards the stables; I was watching him from my
bedroom window. I ran downstairs, prepared for
what was coming, and, making my way quickly into
the road, stood behind the tall, quickset hedge.
Presently I heard the hurried steps of the groom
in the avenue; in a moment more he had opened the
gate wide, and as he did so, the dog-cart appeared
with Jex driving his grey mare very fast. He
called to his servant to look sharp and hardly
stopped for the man to climb up behind. I moved
quickly in front of the mare.
"Hulloa, Mr. Jex, you're in a hurry this
"Yes, confound you, I am; get out of my way or we
shall do you a mischief," and he whipped the mare
and tried to drive past me.
"Softly, sir--softly, if you please." I took
hold of the bridle and kept a firm hold.
"Well, what is it?"
"Going to catch a train, Mr. Jex?"
"You're in a fair time for the 12:10 up, you
know. Going to town, mayhap."
"N-no--I'm not. Going to meet a friend at
Lingham Junction that's all."
"Will you take me with you, Mr. Jex?"
"No room, Inspector. My friend and his things,
and my fellow will take all there is to spare."
"Oh, leave Sam behind. I can hold your mare at
the station, you know."
He muttered an oath, stupidly, but there was no
way for him out of the scrape.
"Jump up, then," he said sulkily. "Sam," he
called to his man, "you can go back to your
I sat by his side in the cart, and we drove at a
fair pace to the station without half-a-dozen words
passing between us.
No doubt he was thinking the matter out; so was
I. I knew just what was passing in his thick head.
He was devising how he might slip into the train
while I stood outside holding the horse. He forgot
the telegraph. Dealing with these rustic criminals
and their simple ways, is bad practice for us
London officers, who have to set our wits, in town,
against some of the sharpest rogues in creation.
We got in good time to the station. The up-train
signal went up as we drove to the gate.
"Now, Mr. Jex, you'll be wanting to meet your
friend; shall I walk the mare about?"
"Ay, do so, Mr. Battle," said Jex, "that's a good
fellow. You might take her two hundred yards or so
up the road. Keep her behind that outhouse, where
she can't see the engine passing, will you? She's
a bit shy."
I laughed in my sleeve at the fellow's
shallowness. They don't take in Inspector Battle
from Scotland Yard quite so easily as that.
"All right, give us the ribbons. Hullo, you've
got a bag!"
"Only a parcel for the up-train."
"Oh, I see; only a parcel for the up-train. Look
sharp then and get the label put on it."
I looked up and down the line; the train was not
in sight; there was no need for hurry. I turned
the mare round and drove her slowly towards the
buildings Jex had pointed to. I saw him watch us
for a bit from the station gateway before he went
in. As he did so I beckoned to a boy standing by.
"Here's a sixpenny job, my lad. Just you walk
the mare up to that outhouse, and keep her there
out of sight of the train till I come back. D'ye
Then I slipped into the station, and, keeping out
of sight, saw, as I expected I should see, Jex
taking his ticket. I waited till the train was in,
and just as the young farmer, bag in hand, had
stepped on to the footboard of a second-class
carriage, I laid my hand upon his shoulder.
"Charles Jex," I said, clear out, for him and the
others around to make no mistake, "I arrest you for
the murder, on the 17th instant, of Miss Mary
There was a crowd of ten to fifteen porters,
guards, farmers, and others round us in a minute.
Jex just swore once. Most criminals that I have
taken this way lose their pluck and turn pale, but
Jex behaved differently. It was clear that my move
had not taken him by surprise.
"I expected as much," he said. He looked round
at the people on the platform--his friends to a
man, for the young farmer is a known and popular
character in the neighbourhood. "Half a minute
more," said he under his breath, "and I'd have done
I slipped one of my pair of bracelets over his
wrist and clicked the catch, keeping fast hold of
the other iron.
"Anyhow, the game's up now, my man," I said.
"Ay, you're right, Battle, the game's up now,
The crowd of his friends became rather
obstreperous. I called on the stationmaster and
his guards to stand by me, telling him and the
people about who I was.
There was a bit of a hustle, and rough talk and
threats, and I tried to get the other handcuff on,
but my prisoner and I were being pushed about in
spite of what the station people did to help us,
and I should not have managed it but for Jex
He held his free hand out alongside of the
manacled one. "Oh, damn it, Battle, if that's what
you want, get done with it and let's be off out of
I put the second handcuff on and locked it. The
sight angered his friends, the farmers standing
about, and one of them shouted--
"Now, then, boys, one more rush to goal and we'll
"Hold on, gentlemen, if you please," I cried. "I
warn you in the Queen's name! This is my lawful
prisoner; I'm an Inspector of Police, and I hold a
warrant for the arrest of the body of Charles Jex,
They held back at this for a moment and I hurried
my prisoner through the station entrance, and the
guards and stationmaster closed round and shut the
gate in the faces of the crowd.
I never yet knew a man take it so coolly as Jex.
When we got to the dog-cart he held up his two
hands with the handcuffs on them. I guess you'll
have to drive yourself, Mr. Inspector."
We got in, and I took the reins and drove off
fast. When we had travelled some half a mile from
the station, and he had not opened his lips, I
"So you were going to town, were you, Mr. Jex?"
"Mr. Inspector" he said quietly, "haven't you
forgot to caution your prisoner before you ask him
any questions? Isn't that the rule?"
He had me there, sure enough. It was a clear cop
"I warn you," I said, coming in with it rather
late, I must admit, "that any statement you make
may be used against you on trial."
"That's just what I had in my mind, Inspector,"
said Jex, and he never uttered another word till we
neared the farm. Just as we sighted the farm
buildings I made out on the road in the distance a
woman's figure. It was Miss Lewsome. She stood in
the middle of the road, and I should have driven
over her if I had not pulled up.
"What is this, Mr. Battle? Why is it you who are
driving? Tell me---tell me quick."
"You'll know soon enough, Miss. Stand aside, if
"Oh, what is it? Charles, speak, for God's sake,
Jex had kept his hands under the apron; he did
not say a word, but presently held out his two
wrists manacled together for the girl to see.
She gave a loud scream.
"O God, you have arrested him, Mr. Battle! No,
no, you can't--you--c----"
As she was speaking a faintness came over her;
she turned from red to very pale, muttering
incoherent words which we could not catch, and
staggered back against a road gate, but for the bar
of the gate to which she clung she would have
"Help her," said Jex. "Get down and help the
girl. You know I can't."
"It's all right, she'll get over it. We'll let
her be, and send the women to her presently," and I
drove the cart the forty or fifty yards that took
us into the stable-yard.
I had wired from the station for my two men from
Bilford, and it was my intention to lodge my
prisoner, after dark that evening, in the keeping
of the county police, but events were to happen
before nightfall that put a quite different face
upon the matter. As soon as I had given my
prisoner into my men's charge, with orders that one
or the other was to be with him till we should give
him over to the police at Bilford, I called to two
of the women of the farm and went with them to the
help of Miss Lewsome. We found her lying by the
roadside in a dead faint. A farmer's wife--a
passer-by--was kneeling by her side, and trying to
recall her to her senses.
"Poor thing! It's only a bit of a faint. She'll
come to if you wait a little."
In two or three minutes Miss Lewsome opened her
eyes, and presently stood up, and, with our help,
she walked to the house. She said nothing, in her
seemingly bewildered condition, of what had
happened, and presently afterwards she was induced
to lie down in her bedroom, and for the time I saw
no more of her.
In little more than an hour, however, I had a
message from her through one of the farm girls.
She desired to see me at once, and alone.
I found her sitting up in an armchair, pale and
excited in looks, but at first she did not speak.
I drew a chair near her and sat down. She did not
notice the few phrases of condolence I uttered.
Suddenly she spoke, and I judged of what she must
have felt by the strained tones of her voice.
"He is innocent, Mr. Battle."
I said nothing. Poor girl! My heart bled for
"Innocent, I tell you! Innocent, and you must
release him at once!"
"You mustn't excite yourself about this matter,
Miss Lewsome. It is not a thing for a young lady
to meddle with."
"Yes, but I must meddle with it! I must, I must,
She raised her voice to a scream.
"Yes, yes, my poor girl, I know how shamefully
you have been treated."
"I shamefully treated? No, no! He has treated me
so well. No one could be so good as he has been."
"Your diary, Miss Lewsome?"
"Lies, all lies, all wicked, cowardly lies, to
save myself and hurt him. Yes, to hurt the only
man I ever loved. Oh, I am a devil, a malignant,
horrible, hateful devil! No woman, since the world
began, ever schemed so hellish a thing as I have
She covered her face with her hands and sobbed.
What should I do? I was wasting my time in
listening to the raving of a love-sick, hysterical
girl. I rose to leave her.
"You are doing your health no good, dear Miss
Lewsome. You must see the doctor, not me; he shall
give you a sleeping-draught, and you will be all
right again in the morning."
"By the morning you will have gone away, and you
will have taken Charles with you to disgrace,
perhaps to death. No, they can't, they can't! the
law can't convict him, can it?"
"It is not for me to say. The evidence is very
"Very strong? But there is none! there can be
"If that man did not murder Mary Judson," said I,
getting impatient with her hysterical nonsense,
She did not answer for a space of time in which I
could have counted twenty slowly, but she kept her
eyes on me with a look in them that almost
"Ah, no! young lady, I see what you're driving
at, but it won't do. No, Miss Lewsome, it's a
forgivable thing; your trying this on to save your
friend, but I tell you at once it won't do."
"I murdered Mary Judson!"
I shook my head and smiled.
"I tell you I shot Mary Judson at half-past six
o'clock on Wednesday night. I did it because I was
a jealous, malignant devil, and hated her, and
"Quite impossible. You never left Mrs. Jex's
side all the evening, from before sundown till
supper-time. It's in evidence."
"She says so--she believes I did not. She dozes
for an hour every evening, and doesn't know that I
went from the room. I slipped out the moment she
dozed off, and came back before she woke. Oh, I
had plenty of time."
"But your footprints were not there, and Jex's
"I put on his boots. I had often done it in fun.
I did it that day in earnest."
"Did you want to hang him?"
"I did. I hated him so--then."
"Why, in your diary you say you loved him!"
"I did; oh, I do now! But then, when she was
alive, I hated them both--her and him. But you
can't understand. Men can never understand women.
I was mad."
"You are mad now, Miss Lewsome, if you think to
save your lover by telling me these falsehoods--for
you know they are falsehoods. Mind, I don't blame
you for trying it on but don't expect me or anyone
to believe you."
"I shot her in the dusk at the gate, with his gun
I put three little balls in it that I took from a
shot-pouch in the saddle-room."
"You couldn't load the double-barrel with powder
and balls without a cartridge, and none was used
for none was found."
I thought to catch her tripping in her invention
"I did not use the double-barrel. I used the
single-barrel. I loaded it as I had seen Charles
load it. I put a bit of paper over the powder, and
another over the bullets, and rammed them down as I
have seen Charles do, and I put a cap on as he had
shown me how."
"Come now, that gun with a full charge would have
knocked you down."
"I know it would, but I put in only half a
"Stop a bit now, Miss Lewsome, and I will catch
you out. I found the paper wadding in the grass.
What sort of paper was it you put in--brown paper?"
"No, a bit of newspaper; the county paper. I
tore off a bit of the Surrey Times."
This was beginning to puzzle me.
"Stop now, Miss Lewsome. You say Mr. Jex is an
innocent man. Then why does he attempt to run
away? He tried this very day to throw dust in my
eyes and go by the express to London."
"I guessed he would, and that is why I wished to
get you out of his way this morning."
"Had you told Mr. Jex, then, what you tell me
"No, but he suspects me--oh, I am sure he knows
it is I who have done this dreadful thing!"
"Then if he knows that you are the real murderer
and himself innocent, why did he try to escape?
You see your story won't hang together, Miss
"Mr. Jex tried to escape, I tell you, to save
"But why should he put his own neck in the halter
to save a guilty woman--if guilty you are?"
"Because he loves me. He would be suspected, not
She was certainly in one story about it all.
"Yes, he loves me so that he has run this great
risk to save me from being found out and hanged."
"He has told you this?"
"No, he has told me nothing, nor have I told him
anything; but these last days I have guessed by his
face that he knows. I have seen it in his eyes.
Oh, he loathes and despises me now!"
I said nothing for a few moments.
"Now, Miss Lewsome, I will ask you once more
deliberately, and mind you, your story will be
sifted to the utmost, and what you say now may be
used against yourself in court. You tell me you
shot Miss Mary Judson at half-past six o'clock on
the night of the 17th of October?"
"You used Mr. Jex's gun, and you charged it
"You wore Mr. Jex's boots when you went out in
the dark to kill your dearest friend, and you
committed this black crime in order to throw
suspicion upon Mr. Jex who was your lover--the man
to whom, according to your own diary, you had given
"That part is true. I had. It was because of
that I shot her. Oh, I was quite mad! I can't
understand it. But there was only hatred and
bitterness in my heart, and I saw nothing but
blood--there was blood in my eyes."
"And what was your object? What did you think
would come of it?"
"Nothing, I think, only I hated her so. I was
too miserable because the time was coming near when
he would marry her and I be left alone."
"But, according to your first story, you were
writing your diary, if not at the time of the
murder, at least immediately after it was done. Do
you wish me to believe that a murderess,
hot-handed, can sit down and write long entries in
"It was a lie I told to take you in. I wrote
that entry in the diary--all those lies, to throw
dust in your eyes--in the forenoon."
"You expected nothing, then, from the murder?"
"I think I expected that perhaps Charles would
inherit her money and be able to marry me, when it
had all blown over."
"But why did you say just now that you hated him,
and had committed this cruel crime to spite him?
You must have guessed that you would bring him in
peril of his life."
"Ah, you don't understand women. Women
understand women; men never do. I tell you I felt
a devil. Why did he want to make her his wife and
leave me in the cold? Oh, I hated him for that; I
should never have killed her if I had not so hated
"Surely you could not have expected him to marry
a woman who had committed a murder?"
"I never thought he would guess. I never thought
of all these discoveries. No one would have known
if you had not taken him up."
"But you brought that about by wearing his boots
and firing with his gun and his ammunition."
"Ah, yes, there is the pity. I did not reason; I
wanted to punish him for his jilting of me. He
would be in my power. Oh, I did not reason. I
only felt--I only felt a vindictive devil. Have no
mercy on me; I deserve everything. I hate myself!"
I got up.
"We will talk of this again to-morrow," I said,
"when you are calmer."
"Yes," she said, quietly, "when I am calmer."
"You will let me send for the doctor?"
"To give you a sleeping draught."
"Yes, send for him; but you won't tell Mrs. Jex.
She is very old and feeble."
"No, I will tell her nothing to-night, at any
rate--nothing of what has happened. She need not
even know that her son has been arrested. He will
not go from here to-night."
"Can you manage that?"
"Yes, I can manage that."
The farm servants, of course, knew that their
master was in custody. I told them they were to
keep it from the old lady. I sent one of them for
the doctor, and when he came I bade him give a
strong sleeping dose to Miss Lewsome.
I went into Jex's bedroom. He was lying on the
bed with handcuffs still on. My two men were with
him. I motioned them to leave me.
I took out my key and unfastened the handcuffs
and removed them.
"What's up?" he asked.
"I've some fresh evidence, that's all."
"Am I no longer under arrest, then?"
"Please to consider yourself in custody for the
present. I have said nothing to your mother about
all this. She knows nothing. Isn't that better
"Much better. I'll come down to supper to keep
"I was going to ask you to."
"How is Miss Lewsome?"
"Very excited and disturbed. I've sent for the
doctor to give her a sleeping draught. Miss
Lewsome has made a communication to me."
"Ay, ay." He showed no further curiosity in the
The doctor came, gave Miss Lewsome a pretty
strong dose of chloral and departed, having learned
nothing, by my express orders to the servants, of
what had taken place that day at Jex Farm.
One of my men remained that night in Mr. Jex's
bedroom and the other had orders to watch the house
from the outside.
Miss Lewsome's absence was easily accounted for
to Mrs. Jex, who was too old and feeble to be
easily roused to curiosity by a story of a chill
and a headache that had obliged her guest to retire
to her bedroom.
The hours after breakfast next morning passed
slowly. No fresh developments of any kind
occurred. Jex asked no questions, and I cared to
answer none. I waited for Miss Lewsome's awakening
and deliberated as to my next step. Was her
confession to be seriously acted upon? It had
shaken me, but not convinced me, curiously
supported though it was by a whole chain of
circumstantial evidence. Was I bound to arrest
this evidently hysterical girl, on the strength of
a story which might after all be nothing but a
tissue of cunning lies to save her lover?
I have not often been so puzzled. I have not
often found the facts and probabilities for and
against so equally poised in the balance. Midday
came and there had been no sign or sound of
stirring in Miss Lewsome's bedroom. I sent in one
of the servants and waited outside. Presently the
maid screamed and ran out, pale and speechless.
"What is it?" I asked, rather fearful myself.
"What's up now, my girl?"
"Go to her, sir; go in to her quick! Oh, I don't
know--I can't tell, but I'm afraid it's... Her
hands are cold, stone cold, and her face is set. I
can't waken her!"
"My God! The jade's given me the slip after
all!" She was dead--had been dead for hours--and
on the dressing-table, propped against the
pincushion, was a closed letter addressed to
"I, Maud Lewsome, make this dying confession. I,
of my own will, no one knowing, no one advising, no
one helping me, shot my friend Mary Judson at the
orchard gate of Jex Farm. I had on Mr. Jex's boots
over my shoes in order that the crime might be
shifted from my shoulders to his. I shot her
across the orchard gate, in the dark, just at
nightfall, when she could not see me. She was
waiting for him. Perhaps I could not have done it,
though I had resolved I would, but that as I came
up she said, Is it you, dearest?' Then I raised
the gun and fired--seeing her against the little
light still in the evening sky.
"The gun made no noise hardly, but I was afraid
they might somehow guess indoors it was me and I
waited a long time not daring to go in. Presently
the gate from the road was opened. I knew it was
Charles Jex coming from Bexton to her, and I was
glad then that I had done it. I thought he would
see me if I ran into the house so I opened the
orchard gate very softly and crouched down beside
the body. He came up to the gate and called 'Mary'
twice, but he could see nothing and went away.
Then I felt quite hard and callous, but my mind was
very clear and active and I thought I would take
her watch so that people might think she had been
robbed. I took it and her chain and coming in
again I buried them with my hands two or three
inches deep in the flower-bed near the porch and
smoothed the mould down over it. Then I was afraid
he would see me in the passage and I took off the
thick boots and carried them in my hand. I could
hear him in his bedroom overhead and I took the gun
to the saddle room and the boots I rubbed dry with
a cloth and laid them in a row with the others.
Then I felt I must see him and I went up very
lightly and knocked at his door and he came out in
his shirtsleeves and said in a whisper, 'How pale
you are, Maud,' and he kissed me and I kept my
hands behind me lest he should see the garden mould
on them, but he did not notice that, and he said
again, How pale you look to-night; have you seen a
ghost?' And I ran back to my room and washed my
hands and looked at myself in the glass and
thought, that is not the reflection of Maud
Lewsome, that is the reflection of a murderess.
And in my ears there is always the report of the
gun as I fired it at Mary Judson and in my nostrils
the smell of the gun-powder smoke, and since then I
have heard and smelt these two things day and
night; but Mary's face, when I killed her, I did
not see, and I am glad I did not. The doctor has
given me chloral, and presently I shall take
another double dose from a bottle of it I have, and
before morning I shall be dead for I cannot live
after this that I have done. I thought I could
forget it, but I cannot and I must die. I tell the
exact truth now in the hope that God may listen to
my confession and my repentance, and forgive me for
the awful wickedness that I have committed. I shot
her with Charles's large gun; I had watched him
loading it often, and I did as he did, and I put
three little bullets in it that I took from the
shot pouch that hangs third in the row on the
The first thing I did after reading this was to
call one of my men and bid him turn over the soil
in the flower border close to the porch. He did,
and in my presence he found Mary Judson's watch and
chain. Taking it in my hands I carried it to Jex.
"We have found this, Mr. Jex."
I told him. He nodded but said nothing.
"Will you please to read this paper, sir?" and I
handed him that on which Miss Lewsome had written
her confession. He read the first few lines and
started up. "Good God! Has she----?"
"She took her own life last night."
He sank down on a chair and covered his face with
his hands, but his emotion lasted but a moment.
"Poor girl!" he said sadly. "I expected it."
"Then you knew she had done the murder?"
He made no answer, but read calmly through the
confession he held in his hand, then he gave it
back without comment.
"After this, Mr. Jex, you are of course at
liberty. I have only to apologise to you for the
inconvenience I have put you to, but the evidence
against you was strong, you must admit."
"You could not do otherwise, Inspector Battle,
than you have done," and he held out his right hand
to me. I made some pretence of not seeing his
action. I did not take Charles Jex by the hand.
Except for certain formalities that I need not
set down, the interest of the case was over.
With such evidence before us as Miss Lewsome's
confession it was, of course, impossible to charge
Mr. Charles Jex with any part in this murder; but
remembering all the circumstances since, I have
sometimes asked myself, was the girl alone guilty,
or was she a tool in the hand of a scheming
villain, or was she perhaps only a victim and