"'I shall write to Prince to come home.'"
"What do you know concerning the contents of your client's will?"
"The original will was drawn up by my father in 187-, but last May, Gen'l Darrington required me to re-write it, as he wished to increase the amount of a bequest to a certain charitable institution. The provisions of the will were, that with the exception of various specified legacies, his entire estate, real and personal, should be given to his stepson Prince; and it was carefully worded, with the avowed intention of barring all claims that might be presented by Ellice Brentano or her heirs."
"Do you recollect any allusion to jewelry?"
"One clause of the will set aside a case of sapphire stones, with the direction that whenever Prince Darrington married, they should be worn by the lady as a bridal present from him."
"Would you not deem it highly incompatible with all you know of the Gen'l's relentless character, that said sapphires and money should have been given to the prisoner?"
"My surmises would be irrelevant and valueless to the Court; and facts, indisputable facts, are all that should be required of witnesses."
"When and where did you next see the prisoner?"
Cold, crisp, carefully accentuated, his words fell like lead upon the ears of all present, whose sympathies were enlisted for the desolate woman; and as he stood, tall, graceful, with one hand thrust within his vest, the other resting easily on the back of the bench near him, his clear cut face so suggestive of metallic medallions, gave no more hint of the smouldering flame at his heart than the glittering ice crown of Eiriksjokull betrays the fierce lava tides beating beneath its frozen crust.
"At 10 o'clock on the same night, I saw the prisoner on the road leading from town to 'Elm Bluff', and not farther than half a mile from the cedar bridge spanning the 'branch', at the foot of the hill where the iron gate stands."
"She was then going in the direction of 'Elm Bluff?'"
"She was sitting on the ground, with her head leaning against a pine tree, but she rose as I approached."
"As it was at night, is there a possibility of your having mistaken some one else for the prisoner?"
"None whatever. She wore no hat, and the moon shone full on her face."
"Did you not question her about her presence there, at such an hour?"
"I asked: 'Madam, you seem a stranger; have you lost your way?' She answered, 'No, sir.' I added: 'Pardon me, but having seen you at "Elm Bluff" this afternoon, I thought it possible you had missed the road.' She made no reply, and I rode on to town."
"She betrayed so much trepidation and embarrassment, that your suspicion was at once aroused?"
"She evinced neither trepidation nor embarrassment. Her manner was haughty and repellent, as though designed to rebuke impertinence. Next morning, when informed of the peculiar circumstances attending Gen'l Darrington's death, I felt it incumbent upon me to communicate to the magistrate the facts which I have just narrated."
"An overwhelming conviction of the prisoner's guilt impelled you to demand her arrest?"
"Overwhelming conviction rarely results from merely circumstantial evidence, but a combination of accusing circumstances certainly pointed to the prisoner; and following their guidance, I am responsible for her arrest and detention for trial. To the scrutiny of the Court I have submitted every fact that influenced my action, and the estimate of their value decided by the jurymen, must either confirm the cogency of my reasoning, or condemn my rash fallibility. Having under oath conscientiously given all the evidence in my possession, that the prosecution would accept or desire, I now respectfully request, that unless the prisoner chooses to exercise her right of cross-examination, my colleagues of the prosecution, and his Honor, will grant me a final discharge as witness."
Turning toward Beryl, Judge Parkman said:
"It is my duty again to remind you, that the cross-examination of witnesses is one of the most important methods of defence; as thereby inaccuracies of statement regarding time, place, etc., are often detected in criminal prosecutions, which otherwise might remain undiscovered. To this invaluable privilege of every defendant, I call your attention once more. Will you cross-question the witness on the stand?"
Involuntarily her eyes sought those of the witness, and despite his locked and guarded face, she read there an intimation that vaguely disquieted her. She knew that the battle with him must yet be fought.
"I waive the right."
"Then, with the consent of the prosecuting counsel, witness is discharged, subject to recall should the necessities of rebuttal demand it."
"By agreement with my colleagues, I ask for final discharge, subject to your Honor's approval."
"If in accordance with their wishes, the request is granted."
The clock on the turret struck one, the hour of adjournment, and ere recess was declared, Mr. Churchill rose.
"Having now proved by trustworthy and unquestioned witnesses, a dark array of facts, which no amount of additional testimony could either strengthen, or controvert, the prosecution here rest their case before the jury for inspection; and feeling assured that only one conclusion can result, will call no other witness, unless required in rebuttal."
Desiring to be alone, Beryl had shut out even Sister Serena, and as the officer locked her into a dark antechamber, adjoining the court-room, she began to pace the floor. One tall, narrow window, dim with inside dust, showed her through filmy cobwebs the gray veil of rain falling ceaselessly outside, darkening the day that seemed a fit type of her sombre-hued life, drawing swiftly to its close, with no hope of rift in the clouds, no possibility of sunset glow even to stain its grave. Oh! to be hidden safely in mother earth—away from the gaping crowd that thirsted for her blood!—at rest in darkness and in silence; with the maddening stings of outraged innocence and womanly delicacy stilled forever. Oh! the coveted peace of lying under the sod, with only nodding daisies, whispering grasses, crystal chimes of vernal rain, solemn fugue of wintry winds between her tired, aching eyes and the fair, eternal heavens! Harrowing days and sleepless, horror-haunted nights, invincible sappers and miners, had robbed her of strength; and the uncontrollable shivering that now and then seized her, warned her that her nerves were in revolt against the unnatural strain. The end was not far distant, she must endure a little longer; but that last battle with Mr. Dunbar? On what ground, with what weapons would he force her to fight? Kneeling in front of a wooden bench that lined one side of the room, she laid her head on the seat, covered her face with her hands, and prayed for guidance, for divine help in her hour of supreme desolation.
"God of the helpless, succor me in my need. Forbid that through weakness the sacrifice should be incomplete. Lead, sustain, fortify me with patience, that I may ransom the soul I have promised to save."
After a time, when she resumed her walk, a strange expedient presented itself. If she sent for Mr. Dunbar, exacted an oath of secrecy, and confided the truth to his keeping, would it avail to protect her secret; would it silence him? Could she stoop so low as to throw herself upon his mercy? Therein lay the nauseous lees of her cup of humiliation; yet if she drained this last black drop, would any pledge have power to seal his lips, when he saw that she must die?
The deputy sheriff unlocked the door, and she mechanically followed him.
"I wish you would drink this glass of wine. You look so exhausted, and the air in yonder is so close, it is enough to stifle a mole. This will help to brace you up."
"Thank you very much, but I could not take it. I can bear my wrongs even to the end, and that must be very near."
As he ushered her into the court-room, Judge Dent met her, took her hand, and led her to the seat where Dyce and Sister Serena awaited her return.
"My poor child, be courageous now; and remember that you have some friends here, who are praying God to help and deliver you."
"Did He deliver His own Son from the pangs of death? Pray, that I may be patient to endure."
One swift glance, showed her that Mr. Dunbar, forsaking his former place beside the district attorney, was sitting very near, just in front of her. The jurymen filed slowly into their accustomed seats, and the judge, who had been resting his head on his hand, straightened himself, and put aside a book. There was an ominous hush pervading the dense crowd, and in that moment of silent expectancy, Beryl shut her eyes and communed with her God. Some mystical exaltation of soul removed her from the realm of nervous dread; and a peace, that this world neither gives nor takes away, settled upon her. Sister Serena untied and took off the crape veil and bonnet, and as she resumed her seat, Judge Parkman turned to the prisoner.
"In assuming the responsibility of your own defence you have adopted a line of policy which, however satisfactory to yourself, must, in the opinion of the public, have a tendency to invest your cause with peculiar peril; therefore I impress upon you the fact, that while the law holds you innocent, until twelve men agree that the evidence proves you guilty, the time has arrived when your cause depends upon your power to refute the charges, and disprove the alleged facts arrayed against you. The discovery and elucidation of Truth, is the supreme aim of a court of justice, and to its faithful ministers the defence of innocence is even more imperative than the conviction of guilt. The law is a Gibraltar, fortified and armed by the consummate wisdom of successive civilizations, as an impregnable refuge for innocence; and here, within its protecting bulwarks, as in the house of a friend, you are called on to plead your defence. You have heard the charges of the prosecution; listened to the testimony of the witnesses; and having taken your cause into your own hands, you must now stand up and defend it."
She rose and walked a few steps closer to the jury, and for the first time during the trial, looked at them steadily. White as a statue of Purity, she stood for a moment, with her wealth of shining auburn hair coiled low on her shapely head, and waving in soft outlines around her broad full brow. Unnaturally calm, and wonderfully beautiful in that sublime surrender, which like a halo illumines the myth of Antigone, it was not strange that every heart thrilled, when upon the strained ears of the multitude fell the clear, sweet, indescribably mournful voice.
"When a magnolia blossom or a white camellia just fully open, is snatched by violent hands, bruised, crushed, blackened, scarred by rents, is it worth keeping? No power can undo the ruin, and since all that made it lovely—its stainless purity—is irrevocably destroyed, why preserve it? Such a pitiable wreck you have made of the young life I am bidden to stand up and defend. Have you left me anything to live for? Dragged by constables before prejudiced strangers, accused of awful crimes, denounced as a female monster, herded with convicts, can you imagine any reason why I should struggle to prolong a disgraced, hopelessly ruined existence? My shrivelled, mutilated life is in your hands, and if you decide to crush it quickly, you will save me much suffering; as when having, perhaps unintentionally, mangled some harmless insect, you mercifully turn back, grind it under your heel, and end its torture. My life is too wretched now to induce me to defend it, but there is something I hold far dearer, my reputation as an honorable Christian woman; something I deem most sacred of all—the unsullied purity of the name my father and mother bore. Because I am innocent of every charge made against me, I owe it to my dead, to lift their honored name out of the mire. I have pondered the testimony; and the awful mass of circumstances that have combined to accuse me, seems indeed so overwhelming, that as each witness came forward, I have asked myself, am I the victim of some baleful destiny, placed in the grooves of destroying fate-foreordained from the foundations of the world to bear the burden of another's guilt? You have been told that I killed Gen'l Darrington, and stole his money and jewels, and destroyed his will, in order to possess his estate. Trustworthy witnesses have sworn to facts, which I cannot deny, and you believe these facts; and yet, while the snare tightens around my feet, and I believe you intend to condemn me, I stand here, and look you in the face—as one day we thirteen will surely stand at the final judgment—and in the name of the God I love, and fear, and trust, I call you each to witness, that I am innocent of every charge in the indictment. My hands are as unstained, my soul is as unsullied by theft or bloodshed, as your sinless babes cooing in their cradles.
"If you can clear your minds of the foul tenants thrust into them, try for a little while to forget all the monstrous crimes you have heard ascribed to me, and as you love your mothers, wives, daughters, go back with me, leaving prejudice behind, and listen dispassionately to my most melancholy story. The river of death rolls so close to my weary feet, that I speak as one on the brink of eternity; and as I hope to meet my God in peace, I shall tell you the truth. Sometimes it almost shakes our faith in God's justice, when we suffer terrible consequences, solely because we did our duty; and it seems to me bitterly hard, inscrutable, that all my misfortunes should have come upon me thick and fast, simply because I obeyed my mother. You, fathers, say to your children, 'Do this for my sake,' and lovingly they spring to accomplish your wishes; and when they are devoured by agony, and smothered by disgrace, can you sufficiently pity them, blind artificers of their own ruin?
"Four months ago I was a very poor girl, but proud and happy, because by my own work I could support my mother and myself. Her health failed rapidly, and life hung upon an operation and certain careful subsequent treatment, which it required one hundred dollars to secure. I was competing for a prize that would lift us above want, but time pressed; the doctor urged prompt action, and my mother desired me to come South, see her father, deliver a letter and beg assistance. As long as possible, I resisted her entreaties, because I shrank from the degradation of coming as a beggar to the man who, I knew, had disinherited and disowned his daughter.
"Finally, strangling my rebellious reluctance, I accepted the bitter task. My mother kissed me good-bye, laid her hands on my head and blessed me for acceding to her wishes; and so—following the finger of Duty—I came here to be trampled, mangled, destroyed. When I arrived, I found I could catch a train going north at 7.15, and I bought a return ticket, and told the agent I intended to take that train. I walked to 'Elm Bluff,' and after waiting a few moments was admitted to Gen'l Darrington's presence. The letter which I delivered was an appeal for one hundred dollars, and it was received with an outburst of wrath, a flood of fierce and bitter denunciation of my parents. The interview was indescribably painful, but toward its close, Gen'l Darrington relented. He opened his safe or vault, and took out a square tin box. Placing it on the table, he removed some papers, and counted down into my hand, five gold coins—twenty dollars each. When I turned to leave him, he called me back, gave me the morocco case, and stated that the sapphires were very costly, and could be sold for a large amount. He added, with great bitterness, that he gave them, simply because they were painful souvenirs of a past, which he was trying to forget; and that he had intended them as a bridal gift to his son Prince's wife; but as they had been bought by my mother's mother as a present for her only child, he would send them to their original destination, for the sake of his first wife, Helena.
"I left the room by the veranda door, because he bade me do so, to avoid what he termed 'the prying of servants.' I broke some clusters of chrysanthemums blooming in the rose garden, to carry to my mother, and then I hurried away. If the wages of disobedience be death, then fate reversed the mandate, and obedience exacts my life as a forfeit. Think of it: I had ample time to reach the station before seven o'clock, and if I had gone straight on, all would have been well. I should have taken the 7.15 train, and left forever this horrible place. If I had not loitered, I should have seen once more my mother's face, have escaped shame, despair, ruin—oh! the blessedness of what 'might have been!'
"Listen, my twelve judges, and pity the child who obeyed at all hazards. Poor though I was, I bought a small bouquet for my sick mother the day that I left her, and the last thing she did was to arrange the flowers, tie them with a wisp of faded blue ribbon, and putting them in my hand, she desired me to be sure to stop at the cemetery, find her mother's grave in the Darrington lot, and lay the bunch of blossoms for her upon her mother's monument. Mother's last words were: 'Don't forget to kneel down and pray for me, at mother's grave.'"
The voice so clear, so steady hitherto, quivered, ceased; and the heavy lashes drooped to hide the tears that gathered; but it was only for a few seconds, and she resumed in the same cold, distinct tone:
"So I went on, and fate tied the last millstone around my neck. After some search I found the place, and left the bunch of flowers with a few of the chrysanthemums; then I hastened toward town, and reached the station too late; the 7.15 train had gone. Too late!—only a half hour lost, but it carried down everything that this world held for me. I used to wonder and puzzle over that passage in the Bible, 'The stars in their courses fought against Sisera!' I have solved that mystery, for the stars in their courses' have fought against me; heaven, earth, man, time, circumstances, coincidences, all spun the web that snared my innocent feet. When I paid for the telegram to relieve my mother's suspense, I had not sufficient money (without using the gold) to enable me to incur hotel bills; and I asked permission to remain in the waiting-room until the next train, which was due at 3.05. The room was so close and warm I walked out, and the fresh air tempted me to remain. The moon was up, full and bright, and knowing no other street, I unconsciously followed the one I had taken in the afternoon. Very soon I reached the point near the old church where the road crosses, and I turned into it, thinking that I would enjoy one more breath of the pine forest, which was so new to me. It was so oppressively hot I sat down on the pine straw, and fanned myself with my hat. How long I remained there, I know not, for I fell asleep; and when I awoke, Mr. Dunbar rode up and asked if I had lost my way. I answered that I had not, and as soon as he galloped on, I walked back as rapidly as possible, somewhat frightened at the loneliness of my position. Already clouds were gathering, and I had been in the waiting-room, I think about an hour, when the storm broke in its fury. I had seen the telegraph operator sitting in his office, but he seemed asleep, with his head resting on the table; and during the storm I sat on the floor, in one corner of the waiting-room, and laid my head on a chair. At last, when the tempest ended, I went to sleep. During that sleep, I dreamed of my old home in Italy, of some of my dead, of my father—of gathering grapes with one I dearly loved—and suddenly some noise made me spring to my feet. I heard voices talking, and in my feverish dreamy state, there seemed a resemblance to one I knew. Only half awake, I ran out on the pavement. Whether I dreamed the whole, I cannot tell; but the conversation seemed strangely distinct; and I can never forget the words, be they real, or imaginary: "'There ain't no train till daylight, 'cepting it be the through freight.'
"Then a different voice asked: 'When it that due?'"
"'Pretty soon I reckon, it's mighty nigh time now, but it don't stop here; it goes on to the water tank, where it blows for the bridge.'"
'"How far is the bridge?'"
"'Only a short piece down the track, after you pass the tank.'"
"When I reached the street, I saw no one but the figure of an old man, I think a negro, who was walking away. He limped and carried a bundle on the end of a stick thrown over his shoulder. I was so startled and impressed by the fancied sound of a voice once familiar to me, that I walked on down the track, but could see no one. Soon the 'freight' came along; I stood aside until it passed, then returned to the station, and found the agent standing in the door. When he questioned me about my movements; I deemed him impertinent; but having nothing to conceal, stated the facts I have just recapitulated. You have been told that I intentionally missed the train; that when seen at 10 P.M. in the pine woods, I was stealing back to my mother's old home; that I entered at midnight the bedroom where her father slept, stupefied him with chloroform, broke open his vault, robbed it of money, jewels and will; and that when Gen'l Darrington awoke and attempted to rescue his property, I deliberately killed him. You are asked to believe that I am 'the incarnate fiend' who planned and committed that horrible crime, and, alas for me! every circumstance seems like a bloodhound to bay me. My handkerchief was found, tainted with chloroform. It was my handkerchief; but how it came there, on Gen'l Darrington's bed, only God witnessed. I saw among the papers taken from the tin box and laid on the table, a large envelope marked in red ink, 'Last Will and Testament of Robert Luke Darrington'; but I never saw it afterward. I was never in that room but once; and the last and only time I ever saw General Darrington was when I passed out of the glass door, and left him standing in the middle of the room, with the tin box in his hand.
"I can call no witnesses; for it is one of the terrible fatalities of my situation that I stand alone, with none to corroborate my assertions. Strange, inexplicable coincidences drag me down; not the malice of men, but the throttling grasp of circumstances. I am the victim of some diabolical fate, which only innocent blood will appease; but though I am slaughtered for crimes I did not commit, I know, oh! I know, that BEHIND FATE, STANDS GOD!—the just and eternal God, whom I trust, even in this my hour of extremest peril. Alone in the world, orphaned, reviled, wrecked for all time, without a ray of hope, I, Beryl Brentano, deny every accusation brought against me in this cruel arraignment; and I call my only witness, the righteous God above us, to hear my solemn asseveration: I am innocent of this crime; and when you judicially murder me in the name of Justice, your hands will be dyed in blood that an avenging God will one day require of you. Appearances, circumstances, coincidences of time and place, each, all, conspire to hunt me into a convict's grave; but remember, my twelve judges, remember that a hopeless, forsaken, broken-hearted woman, expecting to die at your hands, stood before you, and pleaded first and last—Not Guilty! Not Guilty!—"
A moment she paused, then raised her arms toward heaven and added, with a sudden exultant ring in her thrilling voice, and a strange rapt splendor in her uplifted eyes:
"Innocent! Innocent! Thou God knowest! Innocent of this sin, as the angels that see Thy face."
As a glassy summer sea suddenly quivers, heaves, billows under the strong steady pressure of a rising gale, so that human mass surged and broke in waves of audible emotion, when Beryl's voice ceased; for the grace and beauty of a sorrowing woman hold a spell more potent than volumes of forensic eloquence, of juridic casuistry, of rhetorical pyrotechnics, and at its touch, the latent floods of pity gushed; people sprang to their feet, and somewhere in the wide auditory a woman sobbed. Habitues of a celebrated Salon des Etrangers recall the tradition of a Hungarian nobleman who, apparently calm, nonchalant, debonair, gambled desperately; "while his right hand, resting easily inside the breast of his coat, clutched and lacerated his flesh till his nails dripped with blood." With emotions somewhat analogous, Mr. Dunbar sat as participant in this judicial rouge et noir, where the stakes were a human life, and the skeleton hand of death was already outstretched. Listening to the calm, mournful voice which alone had power to stir and thrill his pulses, he could not endure the pain of watching the exquisite face that haunted him day and night; and when he computed the chances of her conviction, a maddening perception of her danger made his brain reel.
To all of us comes a supreme hour, when realizing the adamantine limitations of human power, the "thus far, no farther" of relentless physiological, psychological and ethical statutes under which humanity lives, moves, has its being—our desperate souls break through the meshes of that pantheistic idolatry which kneels only to "Natural Laws"; and spring as suppliants to Him, who made Law possible. We take our portion of happiness and prosperity, and while it lasts we wander far, far away in the seductive land of philosophical speculation, and revel in the freedom and irresponsibility of Agnosticism; and lo! when adversity smites, and bankruptcy is upon us, we toss the husks of the "Unknowable and Unthinkable" behind us, and flee as the Prodigal who knew his father, to that God whom (in trouble) we surely know.
Certainly Lennox Dunbar was as far removed from religious tendencies as conformity to the canons of conventional morality and the habits of an honorable gentleman in good society would permit; yet to-day, in the intensity of his dread, lest the "consummate flower" of his heart's dearest hope should be laid low in the dust, he involuntarily invoked the aid of a long-forgotten God; and through his set teeth a prayer struggled up to the throne of that divine mercy, which in sunshine we do not see, but which as the soul's eternal lighthouse gleams, glows, beckons in the blackest night of human anguish. In boyhood, desiring to please his invalid and slowly dying mother, he had purchased and hung up opposite her bed, an illuminated copy of her favorite text; and now, by some subtle transmutation in the conservation of spiritual energy, each golden letter of that Bible text seemed emblazoned on the dusty wall of the court-room: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
When a stern reprimand from the Judge had quelled all audible expression of the compassionate sympathy that flowed at the prisoner's story—as the flood at Horeb responded to Moses' touch—there was a brief silence.
Mr. Dunbar rose, crossed the intervening space and stood with his hand on the back of Beryl's chair; then moved on closer to the jury box.
"May it please your Honor, and Gentlemen of the Jury: Sometimes mistakes are crimes, and he who through unpardonable rashness commits them, should not escape 'unwhipped of justice'. When a man in the discharge of that which he deemed a duty, becomes aware that unintentionally he has perpetrated a great wrong, can he parley with pride, or dally, because the haunting ghost of consistency waves him back from the path of a humiliating reparation? Error is easy, confession galling; and stepping down from the censor's seat to share the mortification of the pillory, is at all times a peculiarly painful reverse; hence, powerful indeed must be the conviction which impels a man who prided himself on his legal astuteness, to come boldly into this sacred confessional of truth and justice and plead for absolution from a stupendous mistake. Two years ago, I became Gen'l Darrington's attorney, and when his tragic death occurred in October last, my professional relations, as well as life-long friendship, incited me to the prompt apprehension of the person who had murdered him. After a careful and apparently exhaustive examination of the authenticated facts, I was convinced that they pointed only in one direction; and in that belief, I demanded and procured the arrest of the prisoner. For her imprisonment, her presence here to-day, her awful peril, I hold myself responsible; and now, gentlemen of the jury, I ask you as men having hearts of flesh, and all the honorable instincts of manhood, which alone could constitute you worthy umpires in this issue of life or death, do you, can you wonder that regret sits at my ear, chanting mournful dirges, and remorse like a harpy fastens her talons in my soul, when I tell you, that I have committed a blunder so frightful, that it borders on a crime as heinous as that for which my victim stands arraigned? Wise was the spirit of a traditional statute, which decreed that the author of a false accusation should pay the penalty designed for the accused; and just indeed would be the retribution, that imposed on me the suffering I have entailed on her.
"Acknowledging the error into which undue haste betrayed me, yet confident that divine justice, to whom I have sworn allegiance, has recalled me from a false path to one that I can now tread with absolute certainty of success, I come to-day into this, her sacred temple, lay my hand on her inviolate altar, and claiming the approval of her officiating high-priest, his Honor, appeal to you, gentlemen of the jury, to give me your hearty co-operation in my effort to repair a foul wrong, by vindicating innocence.
"Professors of ophthalmology in a diagnosis of optical diseases, tell us of a symptom of infirmity which they call pseudoblepsis, or 'false sight.' Legal vision exhibits, now and then, a corresponding phase of unconscious perversion of sight, whereby objects are perceived that do not exist, and objects present become transformed, distorted; and such an instance of exaggerated metamorphosia is presented to-day, in the perverted vision of the prosecution. In the incipiency of this case, prior to, and during the preliminary examination held in October last, I appeared in conjunction with Mr. Wolverton, as assistant counsel in the prosecution, represented by the Honorable Mr. Churchill, District Solicitor; the object of said prosecution being the conviction of the prisoner, who was held as guilty of Gen'l Darrington's death. Subsequent reflection and search necessitated an abandonment of views that could alone justify such a position; and after consultation with my colleagues I withdrew; not from the prosecution of the real criminal, to the discovery and conviction of whom I shall dedicate every energy of my nature, but from the pursuit of one most unjustly accused. Anomalous as is my attitude, the dictates of conscience, reason, heart, force me into it; and because I am the implacable prosecutor of Gen'l Darrington's murderer, I COME TO PLEAD IN DEFENSE OF THE PRISONER, whom I hold guiltless of the crime, innocent of the charge in the indictment. In the supreme hour of her isolation, she has invoked only one witness; and may that witness, the God above us, the God of justice, the God of innocence, grant me the inspiration, and nerve my arm to snatch her from peril, and triumphantly vindicate the purity of her noble heart and life."
Remembering the important evidence which he had furnished to the prosecution, only a few hours previous, when on the witness stand, people looked at one another questioningly; doubting the testimony of their own senses; and VOX POPULI was not inaptly expressed by the whispered ejaculation of Bedney to Dyce.
"Judgment day must be breaking! Mars Lennox is done turned a double summersett, and lit plum over on t'other side! It's about ekal to a spavinned, ring-boned, hamstrung, hobbled horse clearin' a ten-rail fence! He jumps so beautiful, I am afeered he won't stay whar he lit!"
Comprehending all that this public recantation had cost a proud man, jealous of his reputation for professional tact and skill, as well as for individual acumen, Beryl began to realize the depth and fervor of the love that prompted it; and the merciless ordeal to which he would subject her. Inflicting upon himself the smarting sting of the keenest possible humiliation, could she hope that in the attainment of his aim he would spare her? If she threw herself even now upon his mercy, would he grant to her that which he had denied himself?
Dreading the consequences of even a moment's delay, she rose, and a hot flush crimsoned her cheeks, as she looked up at the Judge.
"Is it my privilege to decide who shall defend me? Have I now the right to accept or reject proffered aid?"
"The law grants you that privilege; secures you that right."
"Then I decline the services of the counsel who offers to plead in my defence. I wish no human voice raised in my behalf, and having made my statement in my own defence, I commit my cause to the hands of my God."
For a moment her eyes dwelt upon the lawyer's, and as she resumed her seat, she saw the spark in their blue depths leap into a flame. Advancing a few steps, his handsome face aglow, his voice rang like a bugle call:
"May it please your Honor: Anomalous conditions sanction, necessitate most anomalous procedure, where the goal sought is simple truth and justice; and since the prisoner prefers to rest her cause, I come to this bar as Amicus Curiae, and appeal for permission to plead in behalf of my clients, truth and justice, who hold me in perpetual retainment. In prosecution of the real criminal, in order to unravel the curiously knitted web, and bring the culprit to summary punishment, I ask you, gentlemen of the jury, to ponder dispassionately the theory I have now the honor to submit to your scrutiny.
"The prisoner, whom I regard as the victim of my culpable haste and deplorably distorted vision, is as innocent of Gen'l Darrington's murder as you or I; but I charge, that while having no complicity in that awful deed, she is nevertheless perfectly aware of the name of the person who committed it. Not particeps crimmis, neither consenting to, aiding, abetting nor even acquainted with the fact of the crime, until accused of its perpetration; yet at this moment in possession of the only clue which will enable justice to seize the murderer. Conscious of her innocence, she braves peril that would chill the blood of men, and extort almost any secret; and shall I tell you the reason? Shall I give you the key to an enigma which she knows means death?
"Gentlemen of the jury, is there any sacrifice so tremendous, any anguish so keen, any shame so dreadful, any fate so overwhelmingly terrible as to transcend the endurance, or crush the power of a woman's love? Under this invincible inspiration, when danger threatens her idol, she knows no self; disgrace, death affright her not; she extends her arms to arrest every approach, offers her own breast as a shield against darts, bullets, sword thrusts, and counts it a privilege to lay down life in defence of that idol. O! loyalty supreme, sublime, immortal! thy name is woman's love.
"All along the march of humanity, where centuries have trailed their dust, traditions gleam like monuments to attest the victory of this immemorial potency, female fidelity; and when we of the nineteenth century seek the noblest, grandest type of merely human self-abnegation, that laid down a pure and happy life, to prolong that of a beloved object, we look back to the lovely image of that fair Greek woman, who, when the parents of the man she loved refused to give their lives to save their son, summoned death to accept her as a willing victim; and deeming it a privilege, went down triumphantly into the grave. Sustained, exalted by this most powerful passion that can animate and possess a human soul, the prisoner stands a pure, voluntary, self-devoted victim; defying the terrors of the law, consenting to condemnation—surrendering to an ignominious death, in order to save the life of the man she loves.
"Grand and beautiful as is the spectacle of her calm mournful heroism, I ask you, as men capable of appreciating her noble self-immolation, can you permit the consummation of this sacrifice? Will you, dare you, selected, appointed, dedicated by solemn oaths to administer justice, prove so recreant to your holy trust as to aid, abet, become accessories to, and responsible for the murder of the prisoner by accepting a stainless victim, to appease that violated law which only the blood of the guilty can ever satisfy?
"In order to avert so foul a blot on the escutcheon of our State judiciary, in order to protect innocence from being slaughtered, and supremely in order to track and bring to summary punishment the criminal who robbed and murdered Gen'l Darrington, I now desire, and request, that your Honor will permit me to cross-examine the prisoner on the statement she has offered in defence."
"In making that request, counsel must be aware that it is one of the statutory provisions of safety to the accused, whom the law holds innocent until proved guilty, that no coercion can be employed to extort answers. It is, however, the desire of the court, and certainly must accrue to the benefit of the prisoner, that she should take the witness stand in her own defence."
For a moment there was neither sound nor motion.
"Will the prisoner answer such questions as in the opinion of the court are designed solely to establish her innocence? If so, she will take the stand."
With a sudden passionate movement at variance with her demeanor throughout the trial, she threw up her clasped hands, gazed at them, then pressed them ring downward as a seal upon her lips; and after an instant, answered slowly:
"Now and henceforth, I decline to answer any and all questions. I am innocent, entirely innocent. The burden of proof rests upon my accusers."
As Mr. Dunbar watched her, noted the scarlet spots burning on her cheeks, the strange expression of her eyes that glowed with unnatural lustre, a scowl darkened his face; a cruel smile curved his lips, and made his teeth gleam. Was it worth while to save her against her will; to preserve the heart he coveted, for the vile miscreant to whom she had irrevocably given it? With an upward movement of his noble head, like the impatient toss of a horse intolerant of curb, he stepped back close to the girl, and stood with his hand on the back of her chair.
"In view of this palpable evasion of justice through obstinate non responsion, will it please the Court to overrule the prisoner's objection?"
Several moments elapsed before Judge Parkman replied, and he gnawed the end of his grizzled mustache, debating the consequences of dishonoring precedent—that fetich of the Bench.
"The Court cannot so rule. The prisoner has decided upon the line of defence, as is her inalienable right; and since she persistently assumes that responsibility, the Court must sustain her decision."
The expression of infinite and intense relief that stole over the girl's countenance, was, noted by both judge and jury, as she sank back wearily in her chair, like one lifted from some rack of torture. Resting thus, her shoulder pressed against the hand that lay on the top of the chair, but he did not move a finger; and some magnetic influence drew her gaze to meet his. He felt the tremor that crept over her, understood the mute appeal, the prayer for forbearance that made her mournful gray eyes so eloquent, and a sinister smile distorted his handsome mouth.
"The spirit and intent of the law, the usages of criminal practice, above all, hoary precedent, before which we bow, each and all sanction your Honor's ruling; and yet despite everything, the end I sought is already attained. Is not the refusal of the prisoner proof positive, 'confirmation strong as proofs of Holy Writ' of the truth of my theory? With jealous dread she seeks to lock the clue in her faithful heart, courting even the coffin, that would keep it safe through all the storms of time. Impregnable in her citadel of silence, with the cohorts of Codes to protect her from escalade and assault, will the guardians of justice have obeyed her solemn commands when they permit the prisoner to light the funeral pyre where she elects to throw herself—a vicarious sacrifice for another's sins? For a nature so exalted, the Providence who endowed it has decreed a nobler fate; and by His help, and that of your twelve consciences, I purpose to save her from a species of suicide, and to consign to the hangman the real criminal. The evidence now submitted, will be furnished by the testimony of witnesses who, at my request, have been kept without the hearing of the Court."
He left Beryl's chair, and once more approached the jury,
A negro man, apparently sixty years old, limped into the witness stand, and having been sworn, stood leaning on his stick, staring uneasily about him.
"What is your name?"
"Isam Clay Hornbuckle."
"Where do you live?"
"Nigh the forks of the road, close to 'Possum Ridge."
"How far from town?"
"By short cuts I make it about ten miles; but the gang what works the road, calls it twelve."
"Have you a farm there?"
"Yes'ir. A pretty tolerable farm; a cornfield and potato patch and gyarden, and parsture for my horgs and oxin, and a slipe of woods for my pine knots."
"What is your business?"
"Tryin' to make a livin', and it keeps me bizzy, for lans is poor, and seasons is most ginerally agin crops."
"How long have you been farming?"
"Only sence I got mashed up more 'an a year ago on the railroad."
"In what capacity did you serve when working on the road?"
"I was fireman under ingeneer Walker on the lokymotive 'Gin'l Borygyard,' what most ginerally hauled Freight No. 2. The ingines goes now by numbers, but we ole hands called our'n always 'Borygyard'."
"You were crippled in a collision between two freight trains?"
"Yes'ir; but t'other train was the cause of the—"
"Never mind the cause of the accident. You moved out to 'Possum Ridge; can you remember exactly when you were last in town?"
"To be shore! I know exactly, 'cause it was the day my ole 'oman's step-father's granny's funeral sarmont was preached; and that was on a Thursday, twenty-sixth of October, an' I come up to 'tend it."
"Is it not customary to preach the funeral sermons on Sunday?"
"Most generally, Boss, it are; but you see Bre'r Green, what was to preach the ole 'oman's sarmont, had a big baptizin' for two Sundays han' runnin', and he was gwine to Boston for a spell, on the next comin' Saddy, so bein' as our time belonks to us now, we was free to 'pint a week day."
"You are positive it was the twenty-sixth?"
"Oh, yes'ir; plum postiv. The day was norated from all the baptiss churches, so as the kinfolks could gether from fur and nigh."
"At what hour on Thursday was the funeral sermon preached?"
"Four o'clock sharp."
"Where did you stay while in town?"
"With my son Ducaleyon who keeps a barber-shop on Main Street."
"When did you return home?"
"I started before day, Friday mornin', as soon as the rain hilt up."
"At what hour, do you think?"
"The town clock was a strikin' two, jes as I passed the express office, at the station."
"Now, Isam, tell the Court whom you saw, and what happened; and be very careful in all you say, remembering you are on your oath."
"I was atoting a bundle so—slung on to a stick, and it gaided my shoulder, 'cause amongst a whole passel of plunder I had bought, ther was a bag of shot inside, what had slewed 'round oft the balance, and I sot down, close to a lamp-post nigh the station, to shift the heft of the shot bag. Whilst I were a squatting, tying up my bundle, I heered all of a suddent—somebody runnin', brip—brap—! and up kern a man from round the corner of the stationhouse, a runnin' full tilt; and he would a run over me, but I grabbed my bundle and riz up. Sez I: 'Hello! what's to pay?' He was most out of breath, but sez he: 'Is the train in yet?' Sez I: 'There ain't no train till daylight, 'cepting it be the through freight.' Then he axed me: 'When is that due?' and I tole him: 'Pretty soon, I reckon, but it don't stop here; it only slows up at the water tank, whar it blows for the Bridge.' Sez he: 'How fur is that bridge?' Sez I: 'Only a short piece down the track, after you pass the tank.' He tuck a long breath, and kinder whistled, and with that he turned and heeled it down the middle of the track. I thought it mighty curus, and my mind misgive me thar was somethin' crooked; but I always pintedly dodges; 'lie-lows to ketch meddlers,' and I went on my way. When I got nigh the next corner whar I had to turn to cross the river, I looked back and I seen a 'oman standin' on the track, in front of the station-house; but I parsed on, and soon kem to the bridge (not the railroad bridge), Boss. I had got on the top of the hill to the left of the Pentenchry, when I hearn ole 'Bory' blow. You see I knowed the runnin' of the kyars, 'cause that through freight was my ole stormpin-ground, and I love the sound of that ingine's whistle more 'an I do my gran'childun's hymn chunes. She blowed long and vicious like, and I seen her sparks fly, as she lit out through town; and then I footed it home."
"You think the train was on time?"
"Bound to be; she never was cotched behind time, not while I stuffed her with coal and lightwood knots. She was plum punctchul."
"Was the lamp lighted where you tied your bundle?"
"Yes'ir, burnin' bright."
"Tell the Court the appearance of the man whom you talked with."
Mr. Dunbar was watching the beautiful face so dear to him, and saw the prisoner lean forward, her lips parted, all her soul in the wide, glowing eyes fastened on the countenance of the witness.
"He was very tall and wiry, and 'peared like a young man what had parstured 'mongst wild oats. He seemed cut out for a gintleman, but run to seed too quick and turned out nigh kin to a dead beat. One-half of him was hanssum, 'minded me mightly of that stone head with kurly hair what sets over the sody fountin in the drug store, on Main Street. Oh, yes'ir, one side was too pretty for a man; but t'other! Fo' Gawd! t'other made your teeth ache, and sot you cross-eyed to look at it. He toted a awful brand to be shore."
"What do you mean by one side? Explain yourself carefully now."
"I dun'no as I can 'splain, 'cause I ain't never seed nothing like it afore. One 'zact half of him, from his hair to his shirt collar was white and pretty, like I tell you, but t'other side of his face was black as tar, and his kurly hair was gone, and the whiskers on that side—and his eye was drapped down kinder so, and that side of his mouth sorter hung, like it was unpinned, this way. Mebbee he was born so, mebbee not; but he looked like he had jes broke loose from the conjur, and caryd his mark."
For one fleeting moment, the gates of heaven seemed thrown wide, and the glory of the Kingdom of Peace streamed down upon the aching heart of the desolate woman. She could recognize no dreaded resemblance in the photograph drawn by the witness; and judge, jury and counsel who scrutinized her during the recital of the testimony, were puzzled by the smile of joy that suddenly flashed over her features, like ilie radiance of a lamp lifted close to some marble face, dim with shadows.
"Do you think his face indicated that he had been engaged in a difficulty, in a fight? Was there any sign of blood, or anything that looked as if he had been bruised and wounded by some heavy blow?"
"Naw, sir. Didn't seem like sech bruises as comes of fightin'. 'Peared to me he was somehow branded like, and the mark he toted was onnatral."
"If he had wished to disguise himself by blackening one side of his face, would he not have presented a similar appearance?"
"Naw, sir, not by no manner of means. No minstrel tricks fotch him to the pass he was at. The hand of the Lord must have laid too heavy on him; no mortal wounds leave sech terrifyin' prints."
"How was he dressed?"
"Dunno. My eyes never drapped below that curus face of his'n."
"Was he bareheaded?"
"Bar headed as when he come into the world."
"He talked like a man in desperate haste, who was running to escape pursuit?"
"He shorely did."
"Did you mention to any person what you have told here to-day?"
"I tole my ole 'oman, and she said she reckoned it was a buth mark what the man carryd; but when I seen him I thunk he was cunjured."
"When you heard that Gen'l Darrington had been murdered, did you think of this man and his singular behavior that night?"
"I never hearn of the murder till Christmas, 'cause I went down to Elbert County arter a yoke of steers what a man owed me, and thar I tuck sick and kep my bed for weeks. When I got home, and hearn the talk about the murder, I didn't know it was the same night what I seen the branded man."
"Tell the Court how your testimony was secured."
"It was norated in all our churches that a 'ward was offered for a lame cullud pusson of my 'scription, and Deacon Nathan he cum down and axed me what mischief I'de been a doin', that I was wanted to answer fur. He read me the 'vertisement, and pussuaded me to go with him to your office, and you tuck me to Mr. Churchill."
Mr. Dunbar bowed to the District Solicitor, who rose and cross-examined.
"Can you read?"
"Where is your son Deucalion?"
"Two days after I left town he want with a 'Love and Charity' scurschion up north, and he liked it so well in Baltymore, he staid thar."
"When Deacon Nathan brought you up to town, did you know for what purpose Mr. Dunbar wanted you?"
"Was it not rather strange that none of your friends recognized the description of you, published in the paper?"
"Seems some of 'em did, but felt kind of jub'rus 'bout pinting me out, for human natur is prone to crooked ways, and they never hearn I perfessed sanctification."
"Who told you the prisoner had heard your conversation with the man you met that night?"
"Did she hear it? Then you are the first pusson to tell me."
"How long was it, after you saw the man, before you heard the whistle of the freight train?"
"As nigh as I kin rickolect about a half a hour, but not quite."
"Was it raining at all when you saw the woman standing on the track?"
"Naw, sir. The trees was dripping steady, but the moon was shining."
"Do you know anything about the statement made by the prisoner?"
As Isam withdrew, a middle-aged man took the stand, and in answer to Mr. Dunbar's questions deposed: "That he was 'bridge tender' on the railroad, and lived in a cottage not far from the water tank. On the night of the twenty-sixth of October, he was sitting up with a sick wife, and remembered that being feverish, she asked for some fresh water. He went out to draw some from the well, and saw a man standing not far from the bridge. The moon was behind a row of trees, but he noticed the man was bareheaded, and when he called to know what he wanted, he walked back toward the tank. Five minutes later the freight train blew, and after it had crossed the bridge, he went back to his cottage. The man was standing close to the safety signal, a white light fastened to an iron stanchion at south end of the bridge, and seemed to be reading something. Next day, when he (witness) went as usual to examine the piers and under portions of the bridge, he had found the pipe, now in Mr. Dunbar's possession. Tramps so often rested on the bridge, and on the shelving bank of the river beneath it, that he attached no importance to the circumstance; but felt confident the pipe was left by the man whom he had seen, as it was not there the previous afternoon; and he put it in a pigeon-hole of his desk, thinking the owner might return to claim it. On the same day, he had left X—to carry his wife to her mother, who lived in Pennsylvania, and was absent for several weeks. Had never associated the pipe with the murder, but after talking with Mr. Dunbar, who had found the half of an envelope near the south end of the bridge, he had surrendered it to him. Did not see the man's face distinctly. He looked tall and thin."
Here Mr. Dunbar held up a fragment of a long white em elope such as usually contain legal documents, on which in large letters was written "LAST WILL"—and underscored with red ink. Then he lifted a pipe, for the inspection of the witness, who identified it as the one he had found.
As he turned it slowly, the Court and the multitude saw only a meerschaum with a large bowl representing a death's head, to which was attached a short mouth-piece of twisted amber.
The golden gates of hope clashed suddenly, and over them flashed a drawn sword, as Beryl looked at the familiar pipe, which her baby fingers had so often strained to grasp. How well she knew the ghastly ivory features, the sunken eyeless sockets—of that veritable death's head? How vividly came back the day, when asleep in her father's arms, a spark from that grinning skull had fallen on her cheek, and she awoke to find that fond father bending in remorseful tenderness over her? Years ago, she had reverently packed the pipe away, with other articles belonging to the dead, and ignorant that her mother had given it to Bertie, she deemed it safe in that sacred repository. Now, like the face of Medusa it glared at her, and that which her father's lips had sanctified, became the polluted medium of a retributive curse upon his devoted child. So the Diabolus ex machina, the evil genius of each human life decrees that the most cruel cureless pangs are inflicted by the instruments we love best.
Watching for some sign of recognition, Mr. Dunbar's heart was fired with jealous rage, as he marked the swift change of the prisoner's countenance; the vanishing of the gleam of hope, the gloomy desperation that succeeded. The beautiful black brows met in a spasm of pain over eyes that stared at an abyss of ruin; her lips whitened, she wrung her hands unconsciously; and then, as if numb with horror, she leaned back in her chair, and her chin sank until it touched the black ribbon at her throat. When after a while she rallied, and forced herself to listen, a pleasant-faced young man was on the witness stand.
"My name is Edgar Jennings, and I live at T——, in Pennsylvania. I am ticket agent at that point, of——railway. One day, about the last of October (I think it was on Monday), I was sitting in my office when a man came in, and asked if I could sell him a ticket to St. Paul. I told him I only had tickets as far as Chicago, via Cincinnati. He bought one to Cincinnati and asked how soon he could go on. I told him the train from the east was due in a few minutes. When he paid for his ticket he gave me a twenty-dollar gold piece, and his hand shook so, he dropped another piece of the same value on the floor. His appearance was so remarkable I noticed him particularly. He was a man about my age, very tall and finely made, but one half of his face was black, or rather very dark blue, and he wore a handkerchief bandage-fashion across it. His left eye was drawn down, this way, and his mouth was one-sided. His right eye was black, and his hair was very light brown. He wore a close-fitting wool hat, that flapped down and his clothes were seal-brown in color, but much worn, and evidently old. I asked him where he lived, and he said he was a stranger going West, on a pioneering tour. Then I asked what ailed his face, and he pulled the handkerchief over his left eye, and said he was partly paralyzed from an accident. Just then, the eastern train blew for T——. He said he wanted some cigars or a pipe, as he had lost his own on the way, and wondered if he would have time to go out and buy some. I told him no; but that he could have a couple of cigars from my box. He thanked me, and took two, laying down a silver dime on top of the box. He put his hand in the inside pocket of his coat, and pulled out an empty envelope, twisted it, lit it by the coal fire in the grate, and lighted his cigar. The train rolled into the station; he passed out, and I saw him jump aboard the front passenger coach. He had thrown the paper, as he thought, into the fire, but it slipped off the grate, fell just inside the fender, and the flame went out. There was something so very peculiar in his looks and manner, that I thought there was some mystery about his movements. I picked up the paper, saw the writing on it, and locked it up in my cash drawer. He had evidently been a very handsome man, before his 'accident', but he had a jaded, worried, wretched look. When a detective from Baltimore interviewed me, I told him all I knew, and gave him the paper."
Again Mr. Dunbar drew closer to the jury, held up the former fragment of envelope, and then took from his pocket a second piece. Jagged edges fitted into each other, and he lifted for the inspection of hundreds of eyes, the long envelope marked and underscored:-"LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ROBERT LUKE DARRINGTON." The lower edge of the paper was at one corner brown, scorched, somewhat burned.
An elderly man of noble presence advanced, and Mr. Dunbar met and shook hands with him, accompanying him almost to the stand. At sight of his white head, and flowing silvery beard, Beryl's heart almost ceased its pulsation. If, during her last illness her mother had acquainted him with their family history, then indeed all was lost. It was as impossible to reach him and implore his silence, as though the ocean rocked between them; and how would he interpret the pleading gaze she fixed upon his face? The imminence of the danger, vanquished every scruple, strangled her pride. She caught Mr. Dunbar's eye, beckoned him to approach.
When he stood before her, she put out her hand, seized one of his, and drew him down until his black head almost touched hers. She placed her lips close to his ear, and whispered:
"For God's sake spare the secrets of a death-bed. Be merciful to me now; oh! I entreat you—do not drag my mother from her grave! Do not question Doctor Grantlin."
She locked her icy hands around his, pressing it convulsively. Turning, he laid his lips close to the silky fold of hair that had fallen across her ear:
"If I dismiss this witness, will you tell me the truth? Will you give me the name of the man whom I am hunting? Will you confess all to me?"
"I have no sins to confess. I have made my last statement. If you laid my coffin at my feet, I should only say I am innocent; I would tell you nothing more."
"Then his life is so precious, you are resolved to die, rather than trust me?"
She dropped his hand, and leaned back in her chair, closing her eyes. When she opened them, Doctor Grantlin was speaking:
"I am on my way to Havana, with an invalid daughter, and stopped here last night, at the request of Mr. Dunbar."
"Please state all that you know of the prisoner, and of the circumstances which induced her to visit X——."
"I first saw the prisoner in August last, when she summoned me to see her mother, who was suffering from an attack of fever. I discovered that she was in a dangerous condition in consequence of an aneurism located in the carotid artery, and when she had been relieved of malarial fever, I told both mother and daughter that an operation was necessary, to remove the aneurism. Soon after, I left the city for a month, and on my return the daughter again called me in. I advised that without delay the patient should be removed to the hospital, where a surgeon—a specialist—could perform the operation. To this the young lady objected, on the ground that she could not assist in nursing, if her mother entered the hospital; and she would not consent to the separation. She asked what amount would be required to secure at home the services of the surgeon, a trained nurse, and the subsequent treatment; and I told her I thought a hundred dollars would cover all incidentals, and secure one of the most skilful surgeons in the city. I continued from time to time to see the mother, and administered such medicines as I deemed necessary to invigorate and tone up the patient's system for the operation. One day in October, the young lady came to pay me for some prescriptions, and asked if a few weeks' delay would enhance the danger of the operation. I assured her it was important to lose no time, and urged her to arrange matters so as to remove the patient to the hospital as soon as possible, offering to procure her admission. She showed great distress, and informed me that she hoped to receive very soon a considerable sum of money, from some artistic designs that she felt sure would secure the prize. A week later she came again, and I gave her a prescription to allay her mother's nervousness. Then, with much agitation, she told me that she was going South by the night express, to seek assistance from her mother's father, who was a man of wealth, but had disowned Mrs. Brentano on account of her marriage. She asked for a written statement of the patient's condition, and the absolute necessity of the operation. I wrote it, and as she stood looking at the paper, she said:
"'Doctor do you believe in an Ahnung?' I said, 'A what?' She answered slowly and solemnly: 'An Ahnung—a presentiment? I have a crushing presentiment that trouble will come to me, if I leave mother; and yet she entreats, commands me to go South. It is my duty to obey her, but the errand is so humiliating I shrink, I dread it. I shall not be long away, and meanwhile do please be so kind as to see her, and cheer her up. If her father refuses to give me the one hundred dollars, I will take her to the hospital when I return.' I walked to the door with her, and her last words were: 'Doctor, I trust my mother to you; don't let her suffer.' I have never seen her again, until I entered this room. I visited Mrs. Brentano several times, but she grew worse very rapidly. One night the ensuing week, my bell was rung at twelve o'clock, and a woman gave me this note, which was written by the prisoner immediately after her arrest, and which enclosed a second, addressed to her mother."
As he read aloud the concluding lines invoking the mother's prayers, the doctor's voice trembled. He took off his spectacles, wiped them, and resumed:
"I was shocked and distressed beyond expression, for I could no more connect the idea of crime with that beautiful, noble souled girl, than with my own sinless daughter; and I reproached myself then, and doubly condemn myself now, that I did not lend her the money. All that was possible to alleviate the suffering of that mother, I did most faithfully. Under my personal superintendence she was made comfortable in the hospital; and I stood by her side when Doctor—operated on the aneurism; but her impaired constitution could not bear the strain, and she sank rapidly. She was delirious, and never knew why her daughter was detained; because I withheld the note. Just before the end came, her mind cleared, and she wrote a few lines which I sent to the prisoner. From all that I know of Miss Brentano, I feel constrained to say, she impressed me as one of the purest, noblest and most admirable characters I have ever met. She supported her mother and herself by her pencil, and a more refined, sensitive woman, a more tenderly devoted daughter I have yet to meet."
"Does your acquaintance with the family suggest any third party, who would be interested in Gen'l Darrington's will, or become a beneficiary by its destruction?"
"No. They seemed very isolated people; those two women lived without any acquaintances, as far as I know, and apared proudly indifferent to the outside world. I do not think they had any relatives, and the only name I heard Mrs. Brentano utter in her last illness was, 'Ignace,—Ignace.' She often spoke of her'darling,' and her 'good little girl'."
"Did you see a gentleman who visited the prisoner? Did you ever hear she had a lover?"
"I neither saw any gentleman, nor heard she had a lover. In January, I received a letter from the prisoner enclosing an order on S—& E—, photographers of New York, for the amount due her, on a certain design for a Christmas card, which had received the Boston first prize of three hundred dollars. With the permission of the Court, I should like to read it. There is no objection?"
"PENITENTIARY CELL, JANUARY 8TH
"In the name of my dead, whom I shall soon join—I desire to thank you, dear Doctor Grantlin, for your kind care of my darling; and especially for your delicate and tender regard for all that remains on earth of my precious mother. The knowledge that she was treated with the reverence due to a lady, that she was buried—not as a pauper, but sleeps her last sleep under the same marble roof that shelters your dear departed ones, is the one ray of comfort that can ever pierce the awful gloom that has settled like a pall over me. I am to be tried soon for the black and horrible crime I never committed; and the evidence is so strong against me, the circumstances I cannot explain, are so accusing, the belief of my guilt is so general in this community, that I have no hope of acquittal; therefore I make my preparations for death. Please collect the money for which I enclose an order, and out of it, take the amount you spent when mother died. It will comfort me to know, that we do not owe a stranger for the casket that shuts her away from all grief, into the blessed Land of Peace. Keep the remainder, and when you hear that I am dead, unjustly offered up an innocent victim to appease justice, that must have somebody's blood in expiation, then take my body and mother's and have us laid side by side in the Potter's field. The law will crush my body, but it is pure and free from every crime, and it will be worthy still to touch my mother's in a common grave. Oh, Doctor! Does it not seem that some terrible curse has pursued me; and that the three hundred dollars I toiled and prayed for, was kept back ten days too late to save me? My Christmas card will at least bury us decently—away from the world that trampled me down. Do not doubt my innocence, and it will comfort me to feel that he who closed my mother's eyes, believes that her unfortunate child is guiltless and unstained. In life, and in death, ever
"Most gratefully your debtor,
A few moments of profound silence ensued: then Doctor Grantlin handed some article to Mr. Dunbar, and stepping down from the stand, walked toward the prisoner.
She had covered her face with her hands, while he gave his testimony: striving to hide the anguish that his presence revived. He placed his hand on her shoulder, and whispered brokenly:
"My child, I know you are innocent. Would to God I could help you to prove it to these people!"
The terrible strain gave way suddenly, her proud head was laid against his arm, and suppressed emotion shook her, as a December storm smites and bows some shivering weed.
Friday, the fifth and last day of the trial, was ushered in by a tempest of wind and rain, that drove the blinding sheets of sleet against the court-house windows with the insistence of an icy flail; while now and then with spasmodic bursts of fury the gale heightened, rattled the sash, moaned hysterically, like invisible fiends tearing at the obstacles that barred entrance. So dense was the gloom pervading the court-room, that every gas jet was burning at ten o'clock, when Mr. Dunbar rose and took a position close to the jury-box. The gray pallor of his sternly set face increased his resemblance to a statue of the Julian type, and he looked rigid as granite, as he turned his brilliant eyes full of blue fire upon the grave, upturned countenances of the twelve umpires:
"Gentlemen of the Jury: The sanctity of human life is the foundation on which society rests, and its preservation is the supreme aim of all human legislation. Rights of property, of liberty, are merely conditional, subordinated to the superlative divine right of life. Labor creates property, law secures liberty, but God alone gives life; and woe to that tribunal, to those consecrated priests of divine justice, who, sworn to lay aside passion and prejudice, and to array themselves in the immaculate robes of a juror's impartiality, yet profane the loftiest prerogative with which civilized society can invest mankind, and sacrilegiously extinguish, in the name of justice, that sacred spark which only Jehovah's fiat kindles. To the same astute and unchanging race, whose relentless code of jurisprudence demanded 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life,' we owe the instructive picture of cautious inquiry, of tender solicitude for the inviolability of human life, that glows in immortal lustre on the pages of the 'Mechilti' of the Talmud. In the trial of a Hebrew criminal, there were 'Lactees,' consisting of two men, one of whom stood at the door of the court, with a red flag in his hand, and the other sat on a white horse at some distance on the road that led to execution. Each of these men cried aloud continually, the name of the suspected criminal, of the witnesses, and his crime; and vehemently called upon any person who knew anything in his favor to come forward and testify. Have we, supercilious braggarts of this age of progress, attained the prudential wisdom of Sanhedrim?
"The State pays an officer to sift, probe, collect and array the evidences of crime, with which the criminal is stoned to death; does it likewise commission and compensate an equally painstaking, lynx-eyed official whose sole duty is to hunt and proclaim proofs of the innocence of the accused? The great body of the commonwealth is committed in revengeful zeal to prosecution; upon whom devolves the doubly sacred and imperative duty of defence? Are you not here to give judgment in a cause based on an indictment by a secret tribunal, where ex parte testimony was alone received, and the voice of defence could not be heard? The law infers that the keen instinct of self-preservation will force the accused to secure the strongest possible legal defenders; and failing in this, the law perfunctorily assigns counsel to present testimony in defence. Do the scales balance?
"Imagine a race for heavy stakes; the judges tap the bell; three or four superb thoroughbreds carefully trained on that track, laboriously groomed, waiting for the signal, spring forward; and when the first quarter is reached, a belated fifth, handicapped with the knowledge that he has made a desperately bad start, bounds after them. If by dint of some superhuman grace vouchsafed, some latent strain, some most unexpected speed, he nears, overtakes, runs neck and neck, slowly gains, passes all four and dashes breathless and quivering under the string, a whole length ahead, the world of spectators shouts the judges smile, and number five wins the stakes. But was the race fair?
"Is not justice, the beloved goddess of our idolatry, sometimes so blinded by clouds of argument, and confused by clamor that she fails indeed to see the dip of the beam? If the accused be guilty and escape conviction, he still lives; and while it is provided that no one can be twice put in jeopardy of his life for the same offence, vicious tendencies impel to renewal of crime, and Nemesis, the retriever of justice, may yet hunt him down. If the accused be innocent as the archangels, but suffer conviction and execution, what expiation can justice offer for judicially slaughtering him? Are the chances even?
"All along the dim vista of the annals of criminal jurisprudence, stand grim memorials that mark the substitution of innocent victims for guilty criminals; and they are solemn sign-posts of warning, melancholy as the whitening bones of perished caravans in desert sands. History relates, and tradition embalms, a sad incident of the era of the Council of Ten, when an innocent boy was seized, tried and executed for the murder of a nobleman, whose real assassin confessed the crime many years subsequent. In commemoration of the public horror manifested, when the truth was published, Venice decreed that henceforth a crier should proclaim in the Tribunal just before a death sentence was pronounced, 'Ricordatevi del povero Marcolini! remember the poor Marcolini;' beware of merely circumstantial evidence.
"To another instance I invite your attention. A devoted Scotch father finding that his own child had contracted an unfortunate attachment to a man of notoriously bad character, interdicted all communication, and locked his daughter into a tenement room; the adjoining apartment (with only a thin partition wall between) being occupied by a neighbor, who overheard the angry altercation that ensued. He recognized the voices of father and daughter, and the words 'barbarity,' 'cruelty, 'death,' were repeatedly heard. The father at last left the room, locking his child in as a prisoner. After a time, strange noises were heard by the tenant of the adjoining chamber; suspicion was aroused, a bailiff was summoned, the door forced open, and there lay the dying girl weltering in blood, with the fatal knife lying near. She was asked if her father had caused her sad condition, and she made an affirmative gesture and expired. At that moment the father returned, and stood stupefied with horror, which was interpreted as a consciousness of guilt; and this was corroborated by the fact that his shirt sleeve was sprinkled with blood. In vain he asserted his innocence, and showed that the blood stains were the result of a bandage having become untied where he had bled himself a few days before. The words and groans overheard, the blood, the affirmation of the dying woman, every damning circumstance constrained the jury to convict him of the murder. He was hung in chains, and his body left swinging from the gibbet. The new tenant, who subsequently rented the room, was ransacking the chamber in which the girl died, when, in a cavity of the chimney where it had fallen unnoticed, was found a paper written by this girl, declaring her intention to commit suicide, and closing with the words: 'My inhuman father is the cause of my death'; thus explaining her dying gestures. On examination of this document by the friends and relatives of the girl, it was recognized and identified as her handwriting; and it established the fact that the father had died innocent of every crime, except that of trying to save his child from a degrading marriage.
"Now, mark the prompt and satisfactory reparation decreed by justice, and carried out by the officers of the law. The shrivelled, dishonored body was lowered from the gibbet, given to his relatives for decent burial, and the magistrates who sentenced him, ordered a flag waved over his grave, as compensation for all his wrongs.
"Gentlemen of the jury, to save you from the commission of a wrong even more cruel, I come to-day to set before you clearly the facts, elicited from witnesses which the honorable and able counsel for the prosecution declined to cross-examine. An able expounder of the law of evidence has warned us that: 'The force of circumstantial evidence being exclusive in its nature, and the mere coincidence of the hypothesis with the circumstances, being, in the abstract, insufficient, unless they exclude every other supposition, it is essential to inquire, with the most scrupulous attention, what other hypothesis there may be, agreeing wholly or partially with the facts in evidence.'
"A man of very marked appearance was seen running toward the railroad, on the night of the twenty-sixth, evidently goaded by some unusual necessity to leave the neighborhood of X—before the arrival of the passenger express. It is proved that he passed the station exactly at the time the prisoner deposed she heard the voice, and the half of the envelope that enclosed the missing will, was found at the spot where the same person was seen, only a few moments later. Four days afterward, this man entered a small station in Pennsylvania, paid for a railroad ticket, with a coin identical in value and appearance with those stolen from the tin box, and as if foreordained to publish the steps he was striving to efface, accidentally left behind him the trumpet-tongued fragment of envelope, that exactly fitted into the torn strip dropped at the bridge. The most exhaustive and diligent search shows that stranger was seen by no one else in X—; that he came as a thief in the night, provided with chloroform to drug his intended victim, and having been detected in the act of burglariously abstracting the contents of the tin box, fought with, and killed the venerable old man, whom he had robbed.
"Under cover of storm and darkness he escaped with his plunder, to some point north of X—where doubtless he boarded (unperceived) the freight train, and at some convenient point slipped into a wooded country, and made his way to Pennsylvania. Why were valuable bonds untouched? Because they might aid in betraying him. What conceivable interest had he in the destruction of Gen'l Darrington's will? It is in evidence, that the lamp was burning, and the contents of that envelope could have possessed no value for a man ignorant of the provisions of the will; and the superscription it was impossible to misread. Suppose that this mysterious person was fully cognizant of the family secrets of the Darringtons? Suppose that he knew that Mrs. Brentano and her daughter would inherit a large fortune, if Gen'l Darrington died intestate? If he had wooed and won the heart of the daughter, and believed that her rights had been sacrificed to promote the aggrandizement of an alien, the adopted step-son Prince, had not such a man, the accepted lover of the daughter, a personal interest in the provisions of a will which disinherited Mrs. Brentano, and her child? Have you not now, motive, means, and opportunity, and links of evidence that point to this man as the real agent, the guilty author of the awful crime we are all leagued in solemn, legal covenant to punish? Suppose that fully aware of the prisoner's mission to X—, he had secretly followed her, and supplemented her afternoon visit, by the fatal interview of the night? Doubtless he had intended escorting her home, but when the frightful tragedy was completed, the curse of Cain drove him, in terror, to instant flight; and he sought safety in western wilds, leaving his innocent and hapless betrothed to bear the penalty of his crime. The handkerchief used to administer chloroform, bore her initials; was doubtless a souvenir given in days gone by to that unworthy miscreant, as a token of affection, by the trusting woman he deserted in the hour of peril. In this solution of an awful enigma, is there an undue strain upon credylity; is there any antagonism of facts which the torn envelope, the pipe, the twenty-dollar gold pieces in Pennsylvania, do not reconcile?
"A justly celebrated writer on the law of evidence has wisely said: 'In criminal cases, the statement made by the accused is of essential importance in some points of view. Such is the complexity of human affairs, and so infinite the combinations of circumstances, that the true hypothesis which is capable of explaining and reuniting all the apparently conflicting circumstances of the case, may escape the acutest penetration: but the prisoner, so far as he alone is concerned, can always afford a clue to them; and though he may be unable to support his statement by evidence, his account of the transaction is, for this purpose, always most material and important. The effect may be to suggest a view, which consists with the innocence of the accused, and might otherwise have escaped observation.'
"During the preliminary examination of this prisoner in October, she inadvertently furnished this clue, when, in explaining her absence from the station house, she stated that suddenly awakened from sleep, 'she heard the voice of one she knew and loved, and ran out to seek the speaker'. Twice she has repeated the conversation she heard, and every word is corroborated by the witness who saw and talked with the owner of that 'beloved voice'. When asked to give the name of that man, whom she expected to find in the street, she falters, refuses; love seals her lips, and the fact that she will die sooner than yield that which must bring him to summary justice, is alone sufficient to fix the guilt upon the real culprit.
"There is a rule in criminal jurisprudence, that 'presumptive evidence ought never to be relied on, when direct testimony is wilfully withheld'. She shudders at sight of the handkerchief; did she not give it to him, in some happy hour as a tender Ricordo? When the pipe which he lost in his precipitate flight is held up to the jury, she recognizes it instantly as her lover's property, and shivers with horror at the danger of his detection and apprehension. Does not this array of accusing circumstances demand as careful consideration, as the chain held up to your scrutiny by the prosecution? In the latter, there is an important link missing, which the theory of the defence supplies. When the prisoner was arrested and searched, there was found in her possession only the exact amount of money, which it is in evidence, that she came South to obtain; and which she has solemnly affirmed was given to her by Gen'l Darrington. We know from memoranda found in the rifled box, that it contained only a few days previous, five hundred dollars in gold. Three twenty-dollar gold coins were discovered on the carpet, and one in the vault; what became of the remain ing three hundred and twenty dollars? With the exception of one hundred dollars found in the basket of the prisoner, she had only five copper pennies in her purse, when so unexpectedly arrested, that it was impossible she could have secreted anything. Three hundred and twenty dollars disappeared in company with the will, and like the torn envelope, two of those gold coins lifted their accusing faces in Pennsylvania, where the fugitive from righteous retribution paid for the wings that would transport him beyond risk of detection.
"Both theories presented for your careful analysis, are based entirely upon circumstantial evidence; and is not the solution I offer less repugnant to the canons of credibility, and infinitely less revolting to every instinct of honor able manhood, than the horrible hypothesis that a refined, cultivated, noble Christian woman, a devoted daughter, irreproachable in antecedent life, bearing the fiery ordeal of the past four months with a noble heroism that commands the involuntary admiration of all who have watched her—that such a perfect type of beautiful womanhood as the prisoner presents, could deliberately plan and execute the vile scheme of theft and murder? Gentlemen, she is guilty of but one sin against the peace and order of this community: the sin of withholding the name of one for whose bloody crime she is not responsible. Does not her invincible loyalty, her unwavering devotion to the craven for whom she suffers, in vest her with the halo of a martyrdom, that appeals most powerfully to the noblest impulses of your nature, that enlists the warmest, holiest sympathies lying deep in your manly hearts? Analyze her statement; every utterance bears the stamp of innocence; and where she cannot explain truthfully, she declines to make any explanation. Hers is the sin of silence, the grievous evasion of justice by non-responsion, whereby the danger she will not avert by confession recoils upon her innocent head. Bravely she took on her reluctant shoulders the galling burden of parental command, and stifling her proud repugnance, obediently came—a fair young stranger to 'Elm Bluff.' Receiving as a loan the money she came to beg for, she hurries away to fulfil another solemnly imposed injunction.
"Gentlemen, is there any spot out yonder in God's Acre, where violets, blue as the eyes that once smiled upon you, now shed their fragrance above the sacred dust of your dead darlings; and the thought of which melts your hearts and dims your vision? Look at this mournful, touching witness, which comes from that holy cemetery to whisper to your souls, that the hands of the prisoner are as pure as those of your idols, folded under the sod. Only a little bunch of withered brown flowers, tied with a faded blue ribbon, that a poor girl bought with her hard earned pennies, and carried to a sick mother, to brighten a dreary attic; only a dead nosegay, which that mother requested should be laid as a penitential tribute on the tomb of the mother whom she had disobeyed; and this faithful young heart made the pilgrimage, and left the offering—and in consequence thereof, missed the train that would have carried her safely back to her mother—and to peace. On the morning after the preliminary examination I went to the cemetery, and found the fatal flowers just where she had placed them, on the great marble cross that covers the tomb of 'Helena Tracey—wife of Luke Darringtun.'
"You husbands and fathers who trust your names, your honor, the peace of your hearts-almost the salvation of your souls—to the women you love: staking the dearest interest of humanity, the sanctity of that heaven on earth—your stainless homes—upon the fidelity of womanhood, can you doubt for one instant, that the prisoner will accept death rather than betray the man she loves? No human plummet has sounded the depths of a woman's devotion; no surveyor's chain will ever mark the limits of a woman's faithful, patient endurance; and only the wings of an archangel can transcend that pinnacle to which the sublime principle of self-sacrifice exalts a woman's soul.
"In a quaint old city on the banks of the Pegnitz, history records an instance of feminine self-abnegation, more enduring than monuments of brass. The law had decreed a certain provision for the maintenance of orphans; and two women in dire distress, seeing no possible avenue of help, accused themselves falsely of a capital crime, and were executed; thereby securing a support for the children they orphaned.
"As a tireless and vigilant prosecutor of the real criminal, the Cain-branded man now wandering in some western wild, I charge the prisoner with only one sin, suicidal silence; and I commend her to your must tender compassion, believing that in every detail and minutiae she has spoken the truth; and that she is as innocent of the charge in the indictment as you or I. Remember that you have only presumptive proof to guide you in this solemn deliberation, and in the absence of direct proof, do not be deluded by a glittering sophistry, which will soon attempt to persuade you, that: 'A presumption which necessarily arises from circumstances,—is very often more convincing and more satisfactory than any other kind of evidence; it is not within the reach and compass of human abilities to invent a train of circumstances, which shall be so connected together as to amount to a proof of guilt, without affording opportunities of contradicting a great part, if not all, of these circumstances.'
"Believe it not; circumstantial evidence has caused as much innocent blood to flow, as the cimeter of Jenghiz Khan. The counsel for the prosecution will tell you that every fact in this melancholy case stabs the prisoner, and that facts cannot lie. Abstractly and logically considered, facts certainly do not lie; but let us see whether the inferences deduced from what we believe to be facts, do not sometimes eclipse Ananias and Sapphira! Not long ago, the public heart thrilled with horror at the tidings of the Ashtabula railway catastrophe, in which a train of cars plunged through a bridge, took fire, and a number of passengers were consumed, charred beyond recognition. Soon afterward, a poor woman, mother of two children, commenced suit against the railway company, alleging that her husband had perished in that disaster. The evidence adduced was only of a circumstantial nature, as the body which had been destroyed by flames, could not be found. Searching in the debris at the fatal spot, she had found a bunch of keys, that she positively recognized as belonging to her husband, and in his possession when he died. One key fitted the clock in her house, and a mechanic was ready to swear that he had made such a key for the deceased. Another key fitted a chest she owned, and still another fitted the door of her house; while strongest of all proof, she found a piece of cloth which she identified as part of her husband's coat. A physician who knew her husband, testified that he rode as far as Buffalo on the same train with the deceased, on the fatal day of the disaster; and another witness deposed that he saw the deceased take the train at Buffalo, that went down to ruin at Ashtabula. Certainly the chain of circumstantial evidence, from veracious facts, seemed complete; but lo! during the investigation it was ascertained beyond doubt, to the great joy of the wife, that the husband had never been near Ashtabula, and was safe and well at a Pension Home in a Western State.