Hunt with the Hounds
Hunt with the Hounds
T HERE HAD been, as Ruby said later, no other kill that day. That was Wednesday, the ninth of October, an unseasonably cold and rainy day, the day of the Dobberly meet, the day Ernestine was murdered. She was murdered about twilight with the shadows of fog and coming night blurring trees and shrubbery together in an amorphous mass that seemed to advance and watch and then retreat, like unwilling witnesses who would not come forward.
It had not been a good hunting day; a small gray fox had eventually given them a thirty-minute run and gone to earth on the far side of Hollow Hill; so Ruby had been characteristically literal and accurate.
The day Jed Baily's trial ended was much the same kind of day, except it was in the spring, in March. There was red bud and white dogwood along the misty blue hills, and the meadows were vividly green; it was, however, again unseasonably cold and rainy. By chance also it was again the day of the Dobberly meet but probably never in its many years of existence had that particular meet had so sparse a field. The trial took place in the Bedford county courthouse; it was a narrow, cramped white clapboard building with a clock tower.
The aspect of the little town of Bedford was changed very little by the trial; there were more cars along the street; the two garages charged, for the short period, three dollars a day instead of fifty cents for parking, but that was for strangers, people brought there by the trial, not for natives. The courtroom itself was full but it was a small room. Two extra telephones were rigged up, temporarily, in a coat room. The inn, whose low, red-brick walls had once sheltered General Lee, had a short period of unaccustomed activity. None of the hunts was well attended, but it was near the end of the season; the fields were thinning out as those who came for the winter, merely to hunt, were beginning to leave again. The difference was not remarkable except in the case of the Dobberly meet, with which Ernestine had hunted since she was a child, tagging the field along with her sister Camilla, Sue Poore, Ruby Luddington, on ponies. It was the hunt to which Jed Baily subscribed, the hunt which was the breath of life to Caroline Poore, who, in fact, had been M.F.H. for some years-to all of the little, closely knit circle of intimates whose fathers and grandfathers had also been intimates, who had also followed the Dobberly packs over the green meadows and blue hills and woodlands of the lovely Piedmont country.
Most of these people attended the trial mainly to show their sympathy for Jed Baily; some of them would have attended whether they wished to or not, as they were witnesses, not of the murder-there was only one witness of that-but of a network of small facts that in the end only served, however, to corroborate a very few main and salient facts.
The state rested its case on those facts; the defense had, however, convincingly refuted their significance. At least so everyone felt; whatever else was emerging slowly but with accumulating power, from that trial, there was certainly a growing conviction that Jed Baily had not murdered his wife. Even the judge in summing up did not overlook any just claim but seemed to lean toward the side of the defense. But then the jury retired and did not come back.
The trial had lasted only three days, a short time for a man on trial for murder, on trial for his life; it had seemed much longer and probably it would have lasted longer had the process of selecting a jury lasted longer. In the whole county probably there was not a person who had not heard of, discussed and formed an opinion of the murder, so the point of previous prejudice was not much stressed. The county was comparatively a small one; it was a land and county where feelings ran rather high, a land of complicated family relationships, of old-time friendships which were as strong as blood bonds. T