A Lack Of Evidence

February 16, 1897
Edith Bowen

“What evidence do you have?” The sheriff asked.

The question should have been asked two days ago. If Elizabeth Bassett were a first year student it would have been because first years have a habit of leaving suddenly and unexpectedly. Miss Bassett, of course, is no first year but her family’s troubles are hardly a secret despite her attempts to keep them as such. My first and immediate conclusion when I heard she was gone, was she had left. Miss Waters had a different opinion.

Over the course of the weekend, Carrington Manor was turned upside down searching for clues as to where our wayward peer had gone. The assumption was she had been taken against her will, but all evidence was to the contrary. On the word of Miss Waters, the sheriff had pursued an illogical investigation doomed to failure. I made my thoughts clear early on and surprisingly found myself in total agreement with the Carrington’s; students leave Primrose all the time for hundreds of reasons and they never say goodbye or give any explanation for those of us left behind.

So, there we stood in Mr. Carrington’s study. Miss Waters, Mister and Misses Carrington, and the sheriff. The five of us were exhausted, but at last it was time for truth and explanations. Miss Waters stared at the ground and shook her head. I think perhaps she was doubting herself for the first time since it all began on Friday afternoon. I have respect for her, make no mistake, but she was wrong and for that, there is always a price to be paid.

“Nothing.” Miss Waters said.

Her voice was little more than a hoarse whisper, but it was clear enough. I am certain she knew something, heard something, but whatever it was, she was unwilling to divulge it. Without finding anything to support her claims, it left us with little choice.

“Then on what basis, have you wasted all our time?” I demanded.

Perhaps it was cruel, but if it was not said by me, it would have been said by someone.

“Elizabeth would not have left without a word to anyone. It is not in her nature.” Miss Waters said.

“Keeping secrets is precisely Miss Bassett’s nature. It has been the single most consistent trait in her behavior since she first arrived here. You clearly do not know her as well as you think.” Mr. Carrington said.

“Why would she leave and where would she go?” Miss Waters asked.

“Only she could answer why but as to where, she undoubtedly went home, wherever that might be for her now.” The sheriff said.

“But…” Miss Waters began.

“Enough, Miss Waters. You have wasted enough of the sheriff’s time and there is nothing to support your wild theory. If you know something to alter the situation, now is the time to speak. Otherwise, you would be wise to apologize to the sheriff and keep your head down.” Mrs. Carrington said.

All eyes were on Miss Waters. She bit at her lip and fidgeted her hands for a moment while staring at the floor. She raised her head for a moment to look at me and when she did not find the support she expected, she looked back at the floor.

“I am sorry to have wasted your time. I must have been mistaken.” Miss Waters said.

The words sounded strained and I can only imagine how difficult it was to say them. Miss Waters is not in the habit of apologizing nor doing what others have told her to do. I am proud of her for swallowing her pride for once. Perhaps even she has learned a thing or two in the weeks since our return.

The sheriff nodded.

“Quite alright, Miss Waters. I hope at the very least our diligence has set your mind at ease.” The sheriff said.

“Thank you sheriff. You have done ample to set all our minds at ease.” Mr. Carrington said.

Miss Waters, wisely remained silent and merely nodded her head in agreement with Mr. Carrington.

“If there is nothing else then, I will be off.” The sheriff said.

Mr. Carrington nodded and offered his hand to the sheriff. The two men shook hands and then walked out toward the front door. Mrs. Carrington turned to Miss Waters and I could see there was anger in her eyes. I decided it would be best for all if I spoke first.

“Miss Waters you will wait for me in the hall outside my room.” I ordered.

She looked up at me in surprise.

“Now, Miss Waters.” I said.

She decided not to argue and left quietly. Mrs. Carrington looked at me and shook her head like a disappointed mother.

“Why do you protect her?” She asked.

“I am not.” I replied.

“That girl needs to a learn a serious lesson here.”

“I agree and she will, I promise.”

“A lecture will not be sufficient.” Mr. Carrington said.

He returned alone.

“I will take care of it.” I said.

“You had better, because if you do not I will and it will not just be Miss Waters to whom I will be attending. Are we clear?” Mr. Carrington said.

“Yes, sir.” I replied.

Our eyes met. Mr. Carrington’s stern expression softened as he realized I was as serious as he. Miss Waters will soon learn just how serious that is.

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