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till George, who seems the last of the family, stood in this periL"
"Suppose we grant that the curse, or prophecy, or whatever it was, originated before the event was known, that doesn't show that it was entitled to any respect. Some idle fancy, probably," put in Mr Parkins.
"Perhaps so, sir; perhaps so," answered Mr Arom. "I just wanted to hear what opinion you give about it. But it is odd. George's great-grandfather it was that came back from India, and either he himself told, or somebody told for him, how he had got a great plunder somewhere in the East, and an old woman from whose family he took it cursed him and told him that he should not die peaceably in his bed, and that every one of his descendants should come to an untimely end until the race was extinct."
"And poor George, you say, is the last of them," observed Mrs Parkins.
"George is the last, and George is the only one that has not died according to the prediction. The old Indian—the Nabob, as my father used to nickname him—got crazy, used to walk up and down the house with a drawn sword on his shoulder, and put everybody about him in bodily fear. He went madder and madder, and at last destroyed himself with a razor. I myself mind when his only son was killed in battle: I saw the two lads, George's father, and the dear, good man that was murdered last spring, in their black clothes, and heard everybody pitying them. 'Twasn't many years before George was left an orphan by his father's death in the hunting-field All this happened before you came to these parts, Mr Parkins; but you know how poor Mr Bateman of Hillside lost his life: and now, if George should come to a bad end and finish his line, it will be hard to make people believe that the curse was all stuff and nonsense."
"George is not dead yet," answered Mrs Parkins, "and we may still hope that this confession is the effect of mental excitement."
"If Eoberts didn't do the deed, anybody may have done it," said Mr Arom. "According to the evidence on the trial, George is no more connected with it than any other person in Gritvale. I can't think how he could be. No man could be kinder to his own son than Mr Bateman was to George. He paid for his education when he could scarce afford to do so; and in spite of the boy's bad behaviour
in later days, I have reason to know that Mr Bateman grieved over his follies, and continued always in his heart tender and loving towards him. Ay, there's many an unfortunate person in Gritvale that lost a good friend when that excellent man was put to death. He was a'most the only man I ever knowed that didn't seem to have an enemy nowhere." Then they talked about the religious and moral character of Gritvale, and of the vast improvement in it since their persuasion had made so many converts and grown so strong. Being early people, they had not a long evening to dispose of, and they were startled by hearing the clock strike ten while they were still in the full enjoyment of their chat. Hereupon Mr Arom took his leave, and returned home, pondering as he went whether the real murderer might not have been hanged after all (for somehow he inclined to Mrs Parkins's view rather than to that of her husband)—in which case his brother's peace of mind would remain undisturbed. The Parkinses, with the assistance of their one handmaiden, carried in their table and supper-ware, and made the few fastenings that were to secure their cottage for the night; then as the servant went forward to prepare the table for evening worship, B
Mrs Parkins, in the passage, took hold of her husband's hands, and looking up into his solemn face, which was still surmounted by the shallow skull-cap, said—
"Let us not omit a prayer for George Bateman in his trouble, whatever it may be."
"Ahem, yes; we will pray for him, certainly," answered Mr Parkins.
The evening on which were spoken or acted the sayings and doings above recorded, belonged to the fourth decade of the present century. Mr Parkins fulfilled his promise by giving his brother Arom a careful written account of what had come to light concerning the murder and subsequent execution, which so exercised the minds of all Gravelshire that summer of 183-. But the narrative which here follows has been obtained from a surer source than that of Mr Parkins (which has nevertheless been consulted); and the testimony of people still living in Gravelshire, old letters, and old newspapers, have supplied information which now links the whole into the form in which it is presented.
BACK TO SCHOOL DAYS.
Geitvale appears to have been a place of some importance, for it once had a priory, and it still had at the date of this narrative a grammar school, moderately endowed. This school was a greater advantage than the majority of the neighbours were aware of It was inexpensive, and, of course, not exclusive; but the governors had been faithful in managing their trust, and had generally selected competent masters. At this time the head-master was a very able man; but because some wealthy people in the neighbourhood preferred—and perhaps judiciously preferred—to send their sons to a public school, now that communication was becoming easy all over the country, other people, who might well have been contented with the education their own town could furnish, thought it neces