Skin o' my Toothby Emmuska Orczy
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We all called him "Skin o' my Tooth": his friends, who were few; his clients, who were many, and I, his confidential clerk, solus-- and very proud I am to hold that position. I believe, as a matter of fact, that his enemies--and their name is legion--call him Patrick Mulligan; but to us all who know him as he is, "Skin o' my Tooth" he always was, from the day that he got a verdict of "Not guilty" out of the jury who tried James Tovey, "the Dartmouth murderer." Tovey hadn't many teeth, but it was by the skin of those few molars of his that he escaped the gallows; not thanks to the pleading of his counsel, but all thanks to the evidence collected by Patrick Mulligan, his lawyer.
Of course, Skin o' my Tooth is not popular among his colleagues; there is much prejudice and petty spite in all professions, and the Law is not exempt from this general rule.
Everyone knows that Skin o' my Tooth is totally unacquainted with the use of kid gloves. He works for the best of his client; let the other side look to themselves, I say.
Funny--looking man, too, old Skin o' my Tooth--fat and rosy and comfortable as an Irish pig, with a face as stodgy as a boiled currant dumpling. His hair, I believe, would be red if he gave it a chance at all, but he wears it cropped so close to his bulky head that he looks bald in some lights. Then, we all know that gentle smile of his, and that trick of casting down his eyes which gives him a look that is best described by the word "coy"; that trick is always a danger--signal to the other side.
Now, in the case of Edward Kelly, everyone will admit that that young man came nearer being hanged for murder than any of us would care for.
But this is how it all happened.
On Tuesday, September 3rd, Mary Mills and John Craddock-- who were walking through the Saltashe Woods--came across the body of a man lying near the pond, in a pool of blood. Mary, of course, screamed, and would have fled; but John, manfully conquering the feeling of sickness which threatened to overcome him too, went up to the body to get a closer view of the face. To his horror he recognised Mr. Jeremiah Whadcoat, a well--known, respectable resident of Pashet. The unfortunate man seemed to John Craddock to be quite dead; still, he thought it best to despatch Mary at once for Doctor Howden, and also to the police--station; whilst he, with really commendable courage, elected to remain beside the body alone.
It appears that about half an hour after Mary had left him, John thought that he detected a slight movement in the rigid body, which he had propped up against his knee, and that the wounded man uttered a scarcely audible sigh and then murmured a few words. The young man bent forward eagerly, striving with all his might to catch what these words might be. According to his subsequent evidence before the coroner's jury, Mr. Whadcoat then opened his eyes, and murmured quite distinctly--
"The letter...Kelly...Edward...the other." After that all seemed over, for the face became more rigid and more ashen in colour than before.
It was past six o'clock before the doctor and the inspector, with two constables and a stretcher from Pashet police--station, appeared upon the scene and relieved John Craddock of his lonely watch. Mr. Whadcoat had not spoken again, and the doctor pronounced life to be extinct. The body was quietly removed to Mr. Whadcoat's house in Pashet, Mary Mills having already volunteered for the painful task of breaking the news to Miss Amelia, Mr. Whadcoat's sister, who lived with him.
The unfortunate man was cashier to Messrs. Kelly and Co., the great wine merchants; so Mr. Kelly, of Saltashe Park, also Mr. Edward Kelly, of Wood Cottage, were apprised of the sad event.
At this stage the tragic affair seemed wrapped up in the most profound mystery. Mr. Jeremiah Whadcoat was not known to possess a single enemy, and he certainly was not sufficiently endowed with worldly wealth to tempt the highway robber. So far the police had found nothing on the scene of the crime which: could lead to a clue--footsteps of every shape and size leading in every direction, a few empty cartridges here and there; all of which meant nothing, since Saltashe Woods are full of game, and both Mr. Kelly and Mr. Edward Kelly had had shooting parties within the last few days.
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