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GUILTY, OE NOT GUILTY?

CHAPTER I.

GOSSIP ABOUT THE CRIME.

It was a hot, sultry evening in August. The sun had not set, but was sending his teams from a point near the horizon, so that the shadow of a cottage, which stood on a slight eminence and in a garden, was a long caricature which dashed obliquely across its own modest premises, jumped clean and sharp over the fence, and trespassed without hesitation on the property of a neighbour. The few tall shrubs, and all the flower-stalks in the well-kept garden, extended their shades in the same direction, but did not show pride in the achievement—rather, they drooped and seemed overcome. Indeed, they and the brownish grass on the plot indicated that A

there might be too much of a good thing, and that, spite of their known liking for the sun, and dependence on him for their beauty, they were not altogether sorry to part with him for a season, and would not much mind if they should be deprived of his direct gaze through a wet day or two. That might be their sentiment; but human creatures, if they desire to witness sometimes "one unclouded blaze of living light," such as was then apparent, must put up with fainting roses and rusty grass. The cottage—although by favour of the formation of the ground it looked out upon only open country —was really but a short walk from the little town of Gritvale. Gritvale is a few miles from Sandyford —which, as all the world knows, is the chief town of Gravelshire.

The man who was walking slowly towards the cottage seemed very sensible of the heat, for he carried his hat in his hand, and frequently wiped his brow. Possibly, too—although he would have been less apt to speak of that than of the heat—the peaceful, bright evening affected him; for he paused occasionally as he ascended the little hill on which the cottage stood, and surveyed by turns the parts of the panorama with complacency. He had walked out from Gritvale, where he followed the calling of a shopkeeper. Nay; why should there be many words to introduce him?—he was Mr Arom, the grocer, a person very well known in that place and neighbourhood, and he was going to visit the preacher of his fraternity, Mr Parkins, who lived in the pretty cottage.

Mr Parkins looked through his open window when he heard the click of the little gate; and, seeing his acquaintance approach, came out to meet him.

"Mr Parkins! how do you do, sir? I am glad to find you at home. My mind misgave me you might be abroad somewhere; and it's a hot eve to walk up here for nothing, ain't it?"

"Welcome, brother! I am glad to see you, Mr Arom," responded Mr Parkins. "Yes; I returned a short time since, and have been divesting myself of my walking garments—broadcloth is very trying in weather like this—and hoping to get a little cool before my evening meal. You'll take a little refreshment with me, brother Arom, I hope? Well said! Then let me conduct you to my favourite seat in the shadow of the house; it's pleasanter than the parlour."

No doubt the thin garment—hardly more than a loose jacket—which Mr Parkins had assumed, may have been very comfortable; so, too, may have been the little skull-cap which he had stuck on the top of his head; but, if he fancied they were at all becoming, he was mistaken. When a man wears a long, severe, not to say sour, face, cuts his hair straight across his forehead, and is of a rather thick, ungainly make, he seems more fitly clad in a heavyskirted coat, with broad pocket-flaps, and a low hat with a rather extravagant brim, than in a jacket and cap. To be sure, Mr Parkins did not expect any one to see him except his cheerful, wellfavoured wife, and so perhaps it is hardly fair to take advantage of Mr Arom's visit, and to criticise this nigligi get-up.

"Dear me, the warmth is something shocking!" observed Mr Arom, as he once more rubbed his brow; "very trying to those as has to be fussing and working all day."

"It is oppressive and exhausting, undoubtedly," answered his pastor; "but we must not think of our own little inconveniences from the warm weather, when it is so favourable to the harvest, which will benefit millions."

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