THE trial went swiftly forward after that. Mr. Jenkyns told the Doctor to ask Bob what he saw on the “night of the 29th;” and when Bob had told all he knew and the Doctor had turned it into English for the judge and the jury, this was what he had to say:
“On the night of the 29th of November, 1824, I was with my master, Luke Fitzjohn (otherwise known as Luke the Hermit) and his two partners, Manuel Mendoza and William Boggs (otherwise known as Bluebeard Bill) on their gold-mine in Mexico. For a long time these three men had been hunting for gold; and they had dug a deep hole in the ground. On the morning of the 29th gold was discovered, lots of it, at the bottom of this hole. And all three, my master and his two partners, were very happy about it because now they would be rich. But Manuel Mendoza asked Bluebeard Bill to go for a walk with him. These two men I had always suspected of being bad. So when I noticed that they left my master behind, I followed them secretly to see what they were up to. And in a deep cave in the mountains I heard them arrange together to kill Luke the Hermit so that they should get all the gold and he have none.”
At this point the judge asked, “Where is the witness Mendoza? Constable, see that he does not leave the court.”
But the wicked little man with the watery eyes had already sneaked out when no one was looking and he was never seen in Puddleby again.
“Then,” Bob’s statement went on, “I went to my master and tried very hard to make him understand that his partners were dangerous men. But it was no use. He did not understand dog language. So I did the next best thing: I never let him out of my sight but stayed with him every moment of the day and night.
“Now the hole that they had made was so deep that to get down and up it you had to go in a big bucket tied on the end of a rope; and the three men used to haul one another up and let one another down the mine in this way. That was how the gold was brought up too—in the bucket. Well, about seven o’clock in the evening my master was standing at the top of the mine, hauling up Bluebeard Bill who was in the bucket. Just as he had got Bill halfway up I saw Mendoza come out of the hut where we all lived. Mendoza thought that Bill was away buying groceries. But he wasn’t: he was in the bucket. And when Mendoza saw Luke hauling and straining on the rope he thought he was pulling up a bucketful of gold. So he drew a pistol from his pocket and came sneaking up behind Luke to shoot him.
“I barked and barked to warn my master of the danger he was in; but he was so busy hauling up Bill (who was a heavy fat man) that he took no notice of me. I saw that if I didn’t do something quick he would surely be shot. So I did a thing I’ve never done before: suddenly and savagely I bit my master in the leg from behind. Luke was so hurt and startled that he did just what I wanted him to do: he let go the rope with both hands at once and turned round. And then, Crash! down went Bill in his bucket to the bottom of the mine and he was killed.
“While my master was busy scolding me Mendoza put his pistol in his pocket, came up with a smile on his face and looked down the mine.
“‘Why, Good Gracious!’ said he to Luke, ‘You’ve killed Bluebeard Bill. I must go and tell the police’—hoping, you see, to get the whole mine to himself when Luke should be put in prison. Then he jumped on his horse and galloped away.
“And soon my master grew afraid; for he saw that if Mendoza only told enough lies to the police, it would look as though he had killed Bill on purpose. So while Mendoza was gone he and I stole away together secretly and came to England. Here he shaved off his beard and became a hermit. And ever since, for fifteen years, we’ve remained in hiding. This is all I have to say. And I swear it is the truth, every word.”
When the Doctor finished reading Bob’s long speech the excitement among the twelve men of the jury was positively terrific. One, a very old man with white hair, began to weep in a loud voice at the thought of poor Luke hiding on the fen for fifteen years for something he couldn’t help. And all the others set to whispering and nodding their heads to one another.
In the middle of all this up got that horrible Prosecutor again, waving his arms more wildly than ever.
“Your Honor,” he cried, “I must object to this evidence as biased. Of course the dog would not tell the truth against his own master. I object. I protest.”
“Very well,” said the judge, “you are at liberty to cross-examine. It is your duty as Prosecutor to prove his evidence untrue. There is the dog: question him, if you do not believe what he says.”
I thought the long-nosed lawyer would have a fit. He looked first at the dog, then at the Doctor, then at the judge, then back at the dog scowling from the witness-box. He opened his mouth to say something; but no words came. He waved his arms some more. His face got redder and redder. At last, clutching his forehead, he sank weakly into his seat and had to be helped out of the court-room by two friends. As he was half carried through the door he was still feebly murmuring, “I protest—I object—I protest!”