6
THE GODLIKE MAN ARRIVES IN MASSACHUSETTS

One morning, soon after Webster had quit Washington for the comfort of his Beacon Hill home in Boston and the security of his own law office, he was visited by a group of men who sought his services in a highly publicized criminal action about to be tried in nearby Essex County. The case involved a Major Goodridge of Maine who claimed to have been assaulted, robbed, and shot on the highway between Exeter, New Hampshire, and Newburyport, Massachusetts. The accused were a pair of brothers named Kenniston, toll-keepers on the Exeter-Merrimack Bridge. There were no witnesses to the robbery, but the major exhibited a gunshot wound in his hand and some pieces of marked gold presumably found in the Kenniston's cellar as evidence of their guilt. Although the evidence was convincing enough on the surface, some of the people in Essex County had begun to ask questions. Goodridge seemed like an eccentric stranger; why had he marked his own money before coming into their law-abiding neighborhood? What motive would inoffensive citizens like the Kennistons have for committing such a crime? When these doubts began to appear in public, Goodridge responded by discovering alleged accomplices to the Kennistons. Invariably in searching a suspect's house the major would poke into an obscure hiding place and come up with one of his marked gold pieces or a paper wrapper in which he said he had kept his money. By the time of the trial many people had begun to suspect that the Kennistons were innocent and that Goodridge, for reasons of his own, was no more than a mischief maker.

Webster had heard about the case even before he reached Boston, but he

-70-

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