Part 2 out of 11
failed to destroy the value of land; and the emancipation of Russian
serfs may have stimulated agricultural activity, but that political
and social Communism which the Pandora of "reconstruction" let loose
throughout the conquered States of the South, accomplished all that
the victors could have desired.
Abandoned by the laborers God had fitted to endure toil under
climatic conditions peculiar to the soil, vast silent fields of
weeds stared blankly, and the richer a man found himself in
ancestral acres, the more hopelessly was he manacled by taxes.
"Reconstructionists" most thoroughly inoculated with "Loyal" rabies,
held in lofty disdain the claims of widows and orphans, and the
right of minors was as dead as that of secession. In the general
maelstrom, Colonel Gordon's large estate went to pieces; but after a
time, Judge Dent took lessons from his new political masters in the
science of wrecking, and by degrees, as fragments and shreds
stranded, he collected and secreted them. Certain mining interests
were protected, and some valuable plantations in distant sugar
belts, were secured. As guardian of his sister's daughter, he
changed, or renewed investments in stocks which rapidly increased in
value, until an unusually large fortune had accumulated: and
verifying figures justified his boast, that his niece and ward was
the wealthiest heiress in the State.
Reared in a household which consisted of an elderly uncle and aunt,
and a middle-aged governess, Leo Gordon had never known intimate
association with younger people; and while her nature was gentle and
tranquil, she gradually imbibed the grave and rather prim ideas
which were in vogue when Miss Patty was the reigning belle of her
county. Although petted and indulged, she had not been spoiled, and
remained singularly free from the selfishness usually developed in
the character of an only child, nurtured in the midst of mature
relatives. When eighteen years old, Leo, accompanied by her
governess, Mrs. Eldridge, had been sent to New York and Boston for
educational advantages, which it was supposed that her own section
of the country could not supply; and subsequently the two went
abroad, gleaning knowledge in the great centres of European Art.
During their sojourn in Munich, Mrs. Eldridge died after a very
brief illness; and returning to her southern home, Leo found herself
the object of social homage.
Thoroughly well-bred, accomplished, graceful and pretty, she
commanded universal admiration; yet her manner was marked by a
quiet, grave dignity, and a peculiar reticence, at variance with the
prevailing type of young ladyhood, now alas! too dominant; whose
premature emancipation from home rule, and old-fashioned canons of
decorum renders "American girlhood" synonymous with flippant
pertness. Moulded by two women who were imbued with the spirit of
Richter's admonition: "Girls like the priestesses of old, should be
educated only in sacred places, and never hear, much less see, what
is rude, immoral or violent"; the pate tendre of Leo's character
showed unmistakably the potter's marks.
She shrewdly surmised that the knowledge of her unusual wealth
contributed to swell the number of her suitors, and she was twenty-
four years old when Lennox Dunbar, for whom she had long secretly
cherished a partiality, succeeded in placing his ring on her fair,
slender hand. In character they differed widely, and the deep and
tender love that filled her heart, found only a faint echo in his
cold and more selfish nature, which had carefully calculated all the
advantages derivable from this alliance.
He cordially admired and esteemed his brown-eyed fair-haired
fiancee, considered her the personification of feminine refinement
and delicacy; and congratulated himself warmly on his great good
fortune in winning her affection; but tender emotions found little
scope for exercise in his intensely practical, busy life, which was
devoted to the attainment of eminence in his profession; and the
merely dynamic apparatus which did duty as his heart, had never been
disturbed by any feeling sufficiently deep to quicken his calm,
There were times, when Leo wondered whether all accepted lovers were
as undemonstrative as her own, and she would have been happier had
he occasionally forgotten professional aspirations, in the charm of
her presence; but her confidence in the purity and fidelity of his
affection was unshaken, even by the dismal predictions of Miss
Patty, who found it impossible to reconcile herself to the failure
of her darling scheme, that Leo should marry her second cousin,
Leighton Douglass, D.D., and devote her fortune to the advancement
of his church.
To-day, as she sought pleasant work in arranging the ferns and
carnations of her conservatory, her thoughts reverted to the
previous evening, which Mr. Dunbar had spent with her; and she could
not avoid indulging regret, that he should have allowed business
affairs to interfere with their engagement for horseback riding, but
her reverie was speedily interrupted by the excited tones of her
"Leo! Leo! Where do you hide yourself?"
"Here, Auntie, in the conservatory."
"Oh! my child, such dreadful news! Such a frightful tragedy!"
Pale and panting, Miss Patty ran down the arcade, and stumbled over
a barricade of potted plants on the threshold of the door.
"What is the matter? Is it my Uncle, or--or Lennox?"
Leo sprang to her feet, and caught her aunt's arm.
"Horrible! horrible! General Darrington was robbed, and then most
brutally murdered last night!"
"Murdered! Can it be possible? Murdered--by whom?"
"How should I know? The whole town is wild about it. My brother is
at Elm Bluff, with the body, and I shall take the carriage and drive
over there at once. Dear me; I am so nervous I can't stand still,
and my teeth chatter like a pair of castanets."
"Perhaps there may be some mistake. How did you hear it?"
"Your Uncle Mitchell sent a boy to tell me why he was detained.
There has been a coroner's inquest, and of course, as an old and
intimate friend of General Darrington's, Mitchell feels he must do
all he can. Poor old gentleman! So proud and aristocratic! To be
murdered in his own house, like any common pauper! Positively it
makes me sick. May the Lord have mercy on his soul."
"Amen!" murmured Leo.
"Will you go with me to Elm Bluff?"
"Oh, no! Not for worlds. Why should I? Women will only be in the
way; and who could desire to contemplate so horrible a spectacle? It
will merely harrow your feelings, Aunt Patty, and you can do no
"It is my Christian duty as a neighbor; and I was always very fond
of the first Mrs. Darrington, Helena Tracey. What is this wicked
world coming to? Robbery and murder stalking bare-faced through the
land. It will be a dreadful blow to Mitchell, because he and Luke
Darrington have been intimate all their lives. I see the carriage
coming round, so I must get my bonnet and wrap."
"I presume Mr. Dunbar is engaged in the same melancholy details
which occupy my uncle."
"Doubtless he is, because his father was General Darrington's
attorney until his health failed; and Lennox is now his lawyer and
business agent. It is a thousand pities that Prince is away in
Two hours after the carriage had disappeared on the road leading to
Elm Bluff, Leo crossed the grassy lawn, and sat down near the gate,
on a rustic bench under a cluster of tall lilacs, which gave their
name to her uncle's home.
A keen north wind whistling through neighboring walnut tree tops,
drove the dying leaves like frightened flocks before it, and ever
and anon the ripened nuts pattered down, hiding themselves under the
drift of yellow foliage, that had sheltered them in cool greenery
during summer heats. Overhead a red squirrel barked and frisked, and
across the pale-blue sky, feathered nomads, teal or mallard, moved
swiftly en echelon, their quivering pinions flashing like silver, as
they fled southward. On a distant hillside cattle browsed, and sheep
wandered; and the drowsy tinkle of bells, as the herd wended
homeward, seemed a nocturne of rest, for the closing day.
How serene, harmonious and holy all nature appeared; and yet a few
miles distant, into what a fierce seething whirlpool of conflicting
passions, of hatred and bloodthirsty vengeance, had human crime
plunged an entire community. We plume ourselves upon nineteenth
century civilization, upon ethical advancement, upon Christian
progress; we adorn our cathedrals, build temples for art treasures,
and museums for science, and listen to preludes of the "music of the
future;" and we shudder at the mention of vice, as at the
remembrance of the tortures of Regulus, but will the Cain type ever
become extinct, like the dodo, or the ichthyosaurus? When will the
laws of heredity, and the by-laws of agnation result in an altruism,
where human bloodshed is an unknown horror?
The apostles of Evolution tell us, that in the genealogical ages
during which man has struggled upward, from the lower stages of
vertebrate and mammal to the genus of catarrhine apes, he has
gradually thrown off bestial instincts, and that the tiger taint
will ultimately be totally eliminated; that "original sin is neither
more nor less than the brute inheritance which every man carries
with him, and that Evolution is an advance toward true salvation."
Meanwhile what becomes of the "Survival of the Fittest", which is
only a euphemism for the strangling of the feeble by the strong? We
can understand how perfection, or permanence of type, individual and
national, demands carnage, and entails all the dire catalogue of
human woes, but wherein is altruism evolved? How many aeons shall we
wait, to behold the leopard and the lamb pasturing together in
Pondering this problem, as he rode along the public road outside the
boundary of Judge Dent's lawn, Mr. Dunbar caught a glimpse of his
betrothed, sitting behind the hedge of lilacs, and he lifted his
hat, hoping that she would meet him at the entrance; but although
she bowed in recognition, he was forced to open the gate and admit
himself. Throwing the bridle rein over one of the iron spikes of the
fence, and taking off his gloves, he approached the bench.
"Dare I flatter myself, that my queen deigns to meet me half way?"
He took her outstretched hand, and kissed it softly, while his
glance noted every detail of her handsome fawn-colored dress, with
its jabot of creamy lace, and the cluster of crimson carnations in
her belt. The touch of his lips on her fingers, deepened the flush
in her cheeks, and, making room for him beside her, she replied:
"Sit down, and tell me if this dreadful news about General
Darrington be indeed true? I have hoped there might be some mistake,
"Some horrors exceed the possibility of verbal exaggeration, and
last night's tragedy is one of that class. General Darrington was
most brutally murdered."
"Poor old gentleman! How incredible it seems that such awful crimes
can be committed in our quiet neighborhood? who could have been so
guilty; and what motive could have prompted such a fiendish act?"
"The one all-powerful evil passion of mankind--greed of gold; lust
of filthy lucre. He was first robbed, then murdered by the thief, to
avoid detection and punishment. There is unmistakable evidence that
the General was chloroformed while asleep; but he must have awakened
in time to discover the robber, with whom he struggled desperately,
and by whom he was struck down. The coroner's inquest developed some
"Has any clue been discovered which would indicate the murderer?"
"A handful of clues."
"Then you have a theory concerning the person who perpetrated this
"My dear Leo, not a theory, but a conviction; I might almost say an
"Would it be pardonable for me to ask whom you suspect; would it be
a violation of professional etiquette for you to tell me?"
"Certainly, my dearest, you can ask me anything, only--" he paused a
moment; and she put her hand quickly on his arm.
"I see. Do not tell me mere suspicions; they might cruelly wrong an
innocent person; and I ought not to have asked the question."
"My hesitation arose from a totally different source, and I was
merely wondering whether you, my sweet saint, could believe that a
woman committed the bloody deed."
"Oh, Mr. Dunbar, impossible! A woman guilty of taking that old man's
life? The supposition is as horrible as the crime itself."
Passing his hand lightly over her crimped fair hair, and looking
down into her eyes, as brown as the back of a thrush, her lover
"I find that the nobler and purer a woman's heart is, the less she
credits the existence of vice and the possibility of crime among her
own sex. You doubtless consider the Brinvilliers, Fredegonds,
Fulvias and Faustinas, quite as fabulous as Centaurs, Sirens and
Were-wolves; and I feel as reluctant to shake your fair faith in
womanhood, as to dash the dew from a rose-bud, or rudely brush the
bloom a cluster of tempting grapes; but the grim truth must be told,
that our old friend was robbed and murdered by a woman."
"One of his servants? They all seemed devotedly attached to him."
"No, by his granddaughter, a young and very beautiful woman; Beryl
Brentano, the child of General Darrington's daughter Ellice, whom he
had disowned on account of her wretched marriage with a foreigner,
who taught her music and the languages. Of course you have heard
from your aunt and uncle all the details of that family episode.
Yesterday this girl Beryl suddenly presented herself at Elm Bluff,
and demanded money from her grandfather; alleging that her mother's
life was in danger for want of it. I learn there was a stormy
interview, part of the conversation having been overheard by two
persons; and the General, who was as vindictive as a Modoc, or a
Cossack, drove the young lady through a door leading down to the
rosery. This occurred in the afternoon, immediately after I left Elm
Bluff, where I went to obtain his signature to a deed to some lands
recently sold in Texas. I saw the girl sitting on the front steps,
and when she rose and looked at me, her superb physique impressed me
powerfully. She is as beautiful and stately as some goddess stepping
out of the Norse 'Edda', and altogether a remarkable looking person.
It will appear in evidence, that the General harshly refused her
pleadings, and made a point of assuring her that his will, already
prepared, would forever debar her mother and herself from any
inheritance at his death; as he had bequeathed his entire estate to
his adopted son Prince. Unfortunately, she learned where the will
was kept, as during the interview, persons in the next room
distinctly heard the peculiar noise made by the sliding door of the
iron vault, where General Darrington kept all his valuable papers.
She disappeared from Elm Bluff about sunset, going toward town; and
last night at ten o'clock, when I left you and rode home, I saw her
lurking in the pine woods not very far from the bridge over the
branch, near the park gate. She was evidently hiding, as she sat on
the ground half screened by a tree; but my horse shied and plunged
badly, and when she rose, the full moon showed her face and figure
distinctly. There was something so mysterious in her movements, that
I asked her if she had lost her way; to which she curtly replied
that she had not. I learn from Burk, the station agent, that her
actions aroused his suspicion, and that instead of leaving town, as
she said she intended, by the 7:15 train, she hung about the
station, and finally took the 3:05 express this morning. He said she
had begged permission to stay in the waiting-room, but that at 2:30
A.M., when he went back to open the ticket office, she was nowhere
to be found; and that later, he saw her coming down the railroad
track. She must have gone back to Elm Bluff after I passed her on
the road, and effected an entrance through the window on the front
piazza, as it was found open; and the awful work of robbery and
murder was accomplished during the storm, which you know was so
frightful that it drowned all minor sounds. This morning when the
General did not ring for his hot water at the usual time, it was
supposed that he was sleeping late, but finally old Bedney knocked.
Unable to arouse his master, he opened the door, and found our old
friend lying on the floor, near the fireplace. He had been dead for
hours, and close to his head was a heavy brass andiron, which
evidently had been snatched from the hearth by the murderess, who
must have dealt the fatal blow with it, as there was a dark spot on
his temple, and also on the left side near the heart. The room was
in disorder, and two glass vases on the mantel were shivered, as
though some missile had struck them--probably a heavy ledger which
was found on the floor."
"How horrible! But no woman could have overpowered a man like
"Physically, his granddaughter was more than a match for him,
especially since his last illness; and I assure you she looks like
some daughter of the Vikings. She certainly is a woman of grand
proportions, and wonderfully symmetrical."
"What is her age?"
"About eighteen, I should think; though her size and a certain
majestic bearing might convey the impression that she was older."
"How can you connect so dreadful a crime with a young and beautiful
woman, of whom you know absolutely nothing?"
"My theory is, that she intended merely to get possession of the
will, the contents of which had been made known to her--and of the
money, that she knew or surmised was kept in the vault. When the
effect of the chloroform wore off, and the General waked to find her
at the vault; a struggle evidently took place, and in desperation at
the thought of being detected, she killed him. You do not understand
all the bearings of even slight circumstances in a case like this,
but we who make a study of such sad matters, know the significance
of the disappearance of the will; the destruction of which could
benefit only her mother and herself. The vault was open; the gold,
silver, some valuable jewelry, and the will are missing from the tin
box. All the other papers were left, even a package of bonds,
amounting to thousands of dollars. She seemed to know that the bonds
might lead to detection, hence she did not take them. On the floor,
and in the bottom of the tin box were found two twenty-dollar gold
pieces. We are collecting all the evidence, and it constitutes a
powerful array of proof."
"We? Do you mean that you are hunting down a woman?"
Miss Gordon withdrew her hand from her lover's, and instinctively
moved farther from him.
"I am most diligently hunting down the author of a foul and awful
crime; and it is my duty to my friend and client to use every
possible exertion, in discovering and bringing to punishment the
person who robbed and murdered him--be it man, woman or child.
Feminine youth and beauty are no aegis against the barbed javelins
of justice and the District Solicitor (Mr. Churchill) and I, have no
doubt of the guilt of the woman, who will soon be put on trial here
for her monstrous and unnatural crime."
In a deep, narrow "railway cut," through Virginia hills, a south-
bound freight train had been so badly wrecked in consequence of a
"washout," that the southern passenger express going north was
detained fourteen hours; thereby missing connection at Washington
City, where the passengers were again delayed nearly twelve hours.
Tired and very hungry, having eaten nothing but a sandwich and a cup
of coffee for three days, Beryl felt profoundly thankful when the
cars rolled into Jersey City. In the bustle and confusion incident
to arrival in that Babel, she did not observe the scrutiny to which
she was subjected by a man genteelly dressed, who gave her his hand
as she stepped down from the train, and kept by her side while she
hastened in the direction of the ferry.
Reaching the slip where the boat awaited passengers, she was vexed
to see it backing out into the stream, and leaned against the chain
which barred egress until the next trip.
"You have only five minutes to wait for the boat. You seem to have
had a long and trying journey, madam?"
Glancing at him for the first time, Beryl perceived that he held a
slip of yellow paper from which he looked now and then to her face.
His features were coarse and heavy, but his eyes were keen as a
ferret's; and without answering his question, she turned away and
looked across the water which teemed with craft of every
description, laden with freight animate and inanimate, passing to
and from the vast city, whose spires, domes and forest of masts rose
like a gray cloud against the sky, etching there their leaden
"You live at No.--West--Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue?"
"You are a stranger, and your questions are offensive and
As she turned and confronted him haughtily, he stepped closer to
her, threw back his blue overcoat, and pointed to the metal badge on
"I am an officer of the law, and have a warrant for your arrest. You
are Beryl Brentano."
"I am Beryl Brentano, yes; but there is some blunder, some mistake.
How dare you annoy me? Arrest me? Me!"
"Do not make a scene. My instructions are to deal with you as gently
as possible. Better come quietly into the station near, and I will
read you the warrant, otherwise I shall be obliged to use force. You
see I have two assistants yonder."
"Arrested for what? By whom?"
"I am ordered to arrest you for the murder of General Darrington."
"Murder! General Darrington is alive and well. I have just left him.
Stand back! Do not touch me. I will call on the police to protect
Laying his fingers firmly on her arm, he beckoned to two men clad in
police uniform, who promptly approached.
"You see resistance is worse than useless, and since there is no
escape, come quietly."
"You are insulting me, under some frightful mistake. I am a lady. Do
I look like a criminal?"
"General Darrington has been robbed and murdered, and I have
telegraphic orders to arrest and hold a woman named Beryl Brentano,
who corresponds in every respect with the description of the person
suspected of having committed the crime."
Hitherto she had attributed the insult of the interview to some
question of mistaken identity, but as she slowly comprehended the
possibility that she was the person accused, and intended for
arrest, a sickening horror seized and almost paralyzed her,
blanching her face and turning her to stone. As he led her along the
street, she staggered from the numbness that possessed her, and her
eyes stared blankly, like those of a somnambulist. When she had been
ushered into a room where several policemen were lounging and
smoking, the intolerable sense of shame and indignation shook off
"This is a cruel and outrageous wrong, and only base cowards could
wantonly insult an unprotected and innocent woman. You call
yourselves men? Have you no mothers, no sisters, whose memory can
arouse some reverence, some respect for womanhood in your brutal
Electric lamps set in the sockets of some marble face, might perhaps
resemble the blaze that leaped up in her eyes, as she wrenched her
arm from the officer's profaning touch, and her voice rang like the
clash of steel.
"Madam, we are allowed no discretion; we are only the blind and deaf
machines that obey orders. Read the warrant, and you will understand
that our duty is imperative."
Again and again she read the paper, in which the sheriff of the
county where Elm Bluff is situated, demanded her arrest and return
to X---, on the charge of robbery and murder committed during the
night which she had spent at the station. Then several telegrams
were placed before her. The description of herself, her dress, even
of the little basket and shawl, was minutely accurate; and by
degrees the horror of her situation, and her utter helplessness,
became frightfully distinct. The papers fell from her nerveless
fingers, and one desperate cry broke from her white lips:
"O just God! Will you permit such a shameful, cruel outrage? Save me
from this horrible injustice and disgrace!"
Seeing neither the men, nor the room, her strained gaze seemed in
her great agony fixed upon the face of Him, who, silvering the
lilies of the field and watching the flight of sparrows, has tender
care for all who trust Him. Even in this terrible trial, the girl's
first thought was of her mother; and of the disastrous effect that
the misfortune would produce upon the invalid.
"I am sorry to tell you, that we are required to search all persons
arrested under similar charges, and in the next room a female
detective will receive and retain every thing in your possession,
except your clothing. You are suspected of having secreted money,
jewelry and some very valuable papers."
"Suspected of being a common thief! I am as innocent as any angel
beside the throne of Christ! Save me at least from the degradation
of being searched. Here is my basket, and here is my purse."
She handed him the worn leather pocket-book, which contained only
the few pennies reserved to pay her passage across the ferry, and
turned the pocket of her dress inside cut.
At the tap of a hand-bell, a tall, angular woman opened the door of
an adjoining room.
"Mrs. Foster, you will very carefully examine the prisoner, and
search her clothing for papers, as well as valuables."
"Spare me at least this indignity!" cried the shuddering girl.
"Come with me, madam. We have no choice."
When the door closed behind her, the constable walked up and down
"How deceitful appearances are! That woman looks as pure and
innocent as an angel, and I half believed her protestations; but
here in the basket, sure enough, hidden at the bottom, are the
jewelry and the gold. No sign of the papers, but she may have
"Thief or not, she is a grand beauty; and if her heart was not in
that prayer she put up just now, she is a grand actress also. This
is a beastly trade of ours, hunting down and trapping the unwary.
Sometimes I feel no better than a sleuth-hound, and that girl's eyes
went through and through me a while ago like a two-edged dirk."
As he vented his views of his profession, one of the policemen
lighted his pipe and puffed vigorously.
Mrs. Foster came back, followed by her victim.
"I find absolutely nothing secreted on the prisoner."
"No papers of any description?"
"Madam, your basket contains the missing jewelry and money, at least
a portion of it, and I shall place it in the hands of the sheriff."
"The money and jewels are not mine. They belong to my mother, to
whom they were given by her father; and she needs the money at this
"Let me advise you to say as little as possible for your own sake;
because your words will be weighed against you."
"I speak only the truth, and it will, it must, vindicate me. What
papers are you searching for?"
"General Darrington's will. It was stolen with the money. Here is
yesterday's paper, with an account of the whole affair, telegraphed
from X----. If you need to learn anything, you will understand when
you read it."
The sight of the capital letters in the Telegraphic Despatches,
coupling her name with a heinous and revolting crime, seemed to stab
her eyes with red-hot thrusts; and shivering from head to foot, she
slowly realized the suspicious significance of the disappearance of
the will, which was the sole obstacle that debarred her from her
grandfather's wealth. Although sustained by an unfaltering trust in
the omnipotence of innocence, she was tormented by a dread spectre
that would not "down" at her bidding; how could she prove that the
money and jewels had been given to her? Would the shock of the
tidings of her arrest kill her mother? Was there any possible way by
which she might be kept in ignorance of this foul disgrace?
Beryl hid her face in her hands, and tried to think, but the whole
universe appeared spinning into chaos. She had opposed the trip
South so steadily and vehemently: had so sorrowfully and reluctantly
yielded at last to maternal solicitation, and had been oppressed
with such dire forebodings of some resultant evil. So bitter was her
repugnance to the application to her grandfather, that she had set
out on her journey feeling as though it were a challenge to fate;
and this was the answer? The vague distrust, the subtle sombre
presentiment, the haunting shadow of an inexplicable ill, had all
meant this; this bloody horror, dragging her fair name down to the
loathsome mire of the slums of crime. Had some merciful angel leaned
from the parapets of heaven and warned her; or did her father's
spirit, in mysterious communion of deathless love and prescient
guardianship, stir her soul to oppose her mother's scheme? Sceptical
and heedless Tarquins are we all, whom our patient Sibylline
intuitions finally abandon to the woes which they sought to avert.
In the maddening rush and whirl of Beryl's reflections, her mother's
image was the one centre around which all things circled; and at
length, rallying her energies, she turned to her captor.
"You intend to take me to prison?"
"I am obliged to detain and deliver you to the officer who has come
from X---with the warrant, and who will carry you back there for
trial. He knew from the detentions along the route, that he could
easily overhaul you here, so he went straight to Trenton with a
requisition from the Governor of his State upon Governor Mansfield,
for your surrender. It is but a short run to the Capital, and he
expects to get here in time to catch the train going South to-day.
We had a telegram a while ago, saying the papers were all right, and
that he would meet us at the train, as there will be only a few
moments to spare."
"But I must first see my mother. I must give her the money and
"The money will be claimed by the officer who takes charge of you."
"Have you no mercy? My mother is ill, destitute; and she will die
unless I can go to her. Oh! I beg of you, for the sake of common
humanity, carry me home, if only for five minutes! Just let me see
mother, let me speak to her!"
In the intensity of her dread, she fell upon her knees, and lifted
her hands imploringly; and the anguish in her white quivering face
was so piteous that the man turned his head away.
"I would oblige you if I could, but it is impossible. The law is
cruel, as you say, but it is intended as a terror to evil-doers.
Things look awfully black for you, but all the same I am sorry for
you, if your mother is to suffer for your deeds. If you wish to
write to her, I will see that she receives your note; but you have
very little time left."
"O God! how hard! What a foul, horrible wrong inflicted upon the
She cowered on the floor, unconscious that she still knelt; seeing
only the suffering woman in that dreary attic across the river,
where sunken feverish eyes watched for her return.
Accidentally Beryl's gaze fell on the bunch of faded chrysanthemums
which had dropped unnoticed on the floor, and snatching them she
buried her face in their petals. Their perfume was the potent spell
that now melted her to tears, and the tension of her overtaxed
nerves gave way in a passionate burst of sobs. When she rose a few
moments later, the storm had passed; the face regained its stony
rigidity, and henceforth she fronted fate with an unnatural
"Will you give me some paper and a pen?"
"You can write here at the desk."
Mrs. Foster approached her, and said hesitatingly:
"Would it comfort you at all, for me to go and see your mother and
explain why you could not return to her? I am very sorry for you,
"Thank you, but--you could not explain, and the sight of a stranger
would startle her. In one way you can help me; do you know Dr.
Grantlin of New York?"
"Only by reputation; but I can find him."
"Will you deliver into his hand the note I am writing?"
"I certainly will."
"Before nine o'clock to-night."
"Thank you--a thousand times."
After a while she folded a sheet containing these words:
"DEAR DR. GRANTLIN:
"In the extremity of my distress, I appeal to you as a Christian
gentleman, as a true physician, a healer of the suffering, and under
God, the guardian of my mother's life. You know why I went to my
grandfather. He gave me the money, one hundred dollars, and some
valuable jewels. When in sight of home, I have been arrested on the
charge of having murdered my grandfather, and stolen his will. Need
I tell you that I am as innocent as you are? The thought of my
mother is the bitterest drop in my cup of shame and sorrow. You can
judge best, how much it may be expedient to tell her, and you can
devise the kindest method of breaking the truth, if she must know
it. Have her removed to the hospital, and do not postpone the
operation. O Doctor! be pitiful, be tender to her, and do not let
her need any little comforts. Some day I will pay you for all
expenses incurred in her behalf, but at present I have not a dollar,
as the money has been seized. I am sure you will not deny my prayer,
and may God reward and bless you, for your mercy to my precious
"In grateful trust,
"P.S.--If you approve, deliver the enclosed note."
On a separate sheet she wrote:
"MY DARLING MOTHER:
"Finding it necessary to return to X---, I have requested Dr.
Grantlin to take particularly good care of you for a few days. Your
father will never forgive, never receive you, but he kindly complied
with your request and gave me one hundred dollars. Try to be patient
until I can come and tell you everything, and believe that God will
not forsake us. With these hurried lines, I send you a few
chrysanthemums--your favorite flowers--which I gathered in the rose
garden of your old home. When you smell them, think of your little
girl who loves you better than her own life, and who will hasten
home at the earliest possible moment, to take you in her arms.
Mother, pray for me, and may God be very merciful to you, my
dearest, and to--
"Your devoted child,
She had bound the withered flowers together with a strip of fringe
from her shawl, and now, with dry eyes and firm white lips, she
kissed them twice, pinned the last note around them and laid the
whole in Mrs. Foster's hand.
"I trust you to deliver them in person to Dr. Grantlin before you
sleep to-night; and if I survive this awful outrage, perpetrated
under the name of law, I will find you some day, and thank you."
Looking at the lovely face, pure in its frozen calm, as some marble
lily in the fingers of a monumental effigy, Mrs. Foster felt the
tears dimming her own vision and said earnestly:
"Keep as silent as possible. The less you say, the safer you will
be; and run no risk of contradicting your own statements."
"I appreciate your motive, but I have nothing to conceal."
Beryl laid her hand on her shawl, then drew back.
"Am I allowed the use of my shawl?"
"Oh, certainly, madam."
The officer would have opened and put it around her, but with an
indescribable movement of proud repulsion, she shook it out, then
wrapped it closely about her, and sat down, keeping her eyes fixed
on the face of the clock ticking over the fireplace. After a long
and profound silence, the man who had arrested her, said gravely and
"Time is up. I must deliver you to Officer Gibson at the train. Come
She rose, gave her hand to Mrs. Foster, and stooping suddenly
touched with her lips the withered flowers, then followed silently.
In subsequent years, when she attempted to recall consecutively the
incidents of the ensuing forty-eight hours, they eluded her, like
the flitting phantasmagoria that throng delirium; yet subtle links
fastened the details upon her brain, and sometimes most
unexpectedly, that psychic necromancer--association of ideas--
selected some episode from the sombre kaleidoscope of this dismal
journey, and set it in lurid light before her, as startling and
unwelcome as the face of an enemy long dead. Life and personality
partook in some degree of duality; all that she had been before she
saw Elm Bluff, seemed a hopelessly distinct existence, yet
irrevocably chained to the mutilated and blackened Afterward, like
the grim and loathsome unions enforced by the Noyades of Nantes.
The sun did not forget to shine, nor the moon to keep her
appointment with the throbbing stars that signalled all along her
circuit. Men whistled, children laughed; the train thundered through
tunnels, and flew across golden stubble fields, where grain shocks
and hay stacks crowded like tents of the God of plenty, in the
Autumnal bivouac; and throughout the long days and dreary lagging
nights. Beryl was fully conscious of a ceaseless surveillance, of an
ever-present shadow, which was tall and gaunt, wore a drab overcoat
and slouched hat, and was redolent of tobacco. As silent as two
mummies in the crypts of Karnac they sat side by side; and twice
when the officer touched her arm and asked if she would take some
refreshments, she merely shook her head, and tightened the folds of
her veil; shrinking closer to the window against which she leaned.
Not until they approached X---, and she recognized some features of
the landscape, were her lips unsealed:
"What persons are responsible for my arrest?"
"Our District Solicitor, Mr. Churchill, and Mr. Dunbar, the lawyer,
who made the affidavit under which the warrant was issued. I am only
a deputy, acting under orders from the sheriff."
"You are taking me to prison?"
"Perhaps not; it depends on the result of the preliminary
examination, and you may be allowed bail."
A ray of hope silvered the shrouding gloom; there was a possibility
of escaping the stain of incarceration.
"When will the examination take place?"
"About noon to-day. You will have time to eat something and freshen
up a little. Here we are. What a crowd to welcome us! Don't stir. We
will just wait a while, and I will get you into a carriage as
quietly as possible."
He whispered some directions to the conductor of the train, and
standing in the aisle with his arm across the seat, screened her
from the gaze of a motley crew of men and boys who rushed in to
stare at the prisoner, whose arrival had been impatiently expected.
On the railway platform and about the station house surged a sea of
human heads, straining now in the direction of the first passenger
coach; and when in answer to some question, the conductor pointed to
the sleeping car which was at the rear of the train, the mass swayed
down the track.
"Quick! Now is our time!"
The deputy sheriff hurried her out, almost lifted her from the
steps, and pushing her forward, turned a corner of the street, and
handed her into a carriage which awaited them.
To Beryl many hours seemed to have crept away, since she had been
left alone in a small dusty apartment, adjoining the office where
the chief magistrate of X---daily held court. Too restless to sit
still, she paced up and down the floor, trying to collect her
thoughts, and at last knelt by the side of a table, and laid her
weight of dread and peril before the Throne of the God she trusted.
The Father of the fatherless and Friend of the friendless, would
surely protect her in this hour of intolerable degradation.
"O, Thou that hearest prayer; unto Thee shall all flesh come."
The door opened, and a venerable, gray-haired man approached the
table, where her head was bent upon her crossed arms. When she
lifted her white face, with the violet circles under her dry eyes,
making them appear preternaturally large and luminous, and the
beautiful mouth contracted by a spasm of intense pain, a deep sigh
of compassion passed the stranger's lips.
"I am Mitchell Dent, an old friend of General Darrington's, and of
your mother, who has often sat upon my knee. Because of my affection
for your grandfather, I have asked permission to see you for a few
moments. If you are unjustly accused, I desire to befriend you, and
offer you some advice. I am told you assert your innocence of the
great crime of which you are suspected. I hope you can prove it; but
for your own sake I advise you to waive an examination, and await
the action of the Grand Jury, as you have had no opportunity of
consulting counsel, or preparing your defence."
"You knew my mother? Then you should require no other proof that her
child is not a criminal. I am innocent of every offence against
General Darrington, except that of being my father's daughter; and
my unjustifiable arrest is almost as foul a wrong as his murder."
She drew herself proudly to her full height, and as his eyes dwelt
in irrepressible admiration upon her, his manhood did homage to her
grace and dignity, and he took off his hat.
"I earnestly hope so; and the law holds every person innocent until
her guilt be fully proved and established."
"Of the significance of law terms I know nothing; and of the usages
of courts I am equally ignorant. If, as you suggest, I should waive
an examination, should I escape imprisonment?"
"Then I must be tried at once; because I want to hurry back to my
mother who is ill, and needs me."
"But you have no counsel as yet, and delay is your best policy."
"Delay might cost my mother's life. I have no money to pay a lawyer
to stand up and mystify matters, and my best policy is to defend
myself, by telling the simple truth."
Again Judge Dent sighed. Could guilt be masked by this fair
semblance of childlike guilelessness?
"Can you summon any witnesses to prove that you were not at Elm
Bluff on the night of the storm?"
"Yes, the ticket agent knows I was in the waiting-room during that
He shook his gray head.
"He will be one of the strongest witnesses against you."
"Then I have no witnesses except--God, and my conscience."
The door opened, and with his watch in his hand the deputy sheriff
"Sorry to shorten your interview, Judge, but you know we have a
martinet in yonder, a regular Turk, and he splits seconds into
As Judge Dent withdrew, Beryl realized that her hour of woe had
arrived, and she began to pin her veil tightly over her face.
"Come along--You can't keep your veil on. Try to be as non-committal
as possible when they ask you crooked questions. Of course I want
justice done, and I hope I am a faithful servant of the law; but if
you are as innocent as a flock of ring-doves, the lawyers will try
to confuse you."
He attempted to lead her, but she drew back.
"I will follow you; but please do not hold my arm; do not touch me."
A moment later, a door opened and closed, a glare of light showed
her a crowded room; a monotonous hum like the swell of the sea fell
on her ear; then stifled ejaculations, to which succeeded a sudden,
deathlike hush. The officer placed a chair for her in front of the
platform where the magistrate sat, and retired to the rear of the
room. With some difficulty Judge Dent made his way through the
throng of spectators, and seated himself beside Mr. Dunbar.
"Well, sir, how did the prisoner impress you?" asked the latter, as
he folded up a paper.
"Dunbar, you have made a mistake. I have spent the best of my life
in the study of criminals; and if that woman yonder is not innocent,
I am in my dotage."
"Pardon me, Judge, if I dispute both propositions. I made no
mistake; and you are merely, in the goodness of your heart, and the
fervor of your chivalry, dazzled momentarily by the glamour of
extraordinary beauty and touching youth."
When Beryl recovered in some degree from the shock of finding
herself actually on trial, she endeavored to collect her faculties;
but the violent palpitation of her heart was almost suffocating, and
in her ears the surging as of an ocean tide, drowned the accents of
the magistrate. At first the words were as meaningless as some
Sanskrit formula, but gradually her attention grasped and
comprehended. In a strident incisive voice he read from a paper on
the desk before him:
"At an inquisition held at X---, T---county, on the twenty-seventh
day of October, before me, Jeremiah Bateman, Coroner of said county,
on the body of Robert Luke Darrington, there lying dead, by the
jurors whose names are hereto subscribed; the said jurors upon their
oath do say that Robert Luke Darrington came to his death on the
night of Thursday, October twenty-sixth, by a murderous assault
committed upon him by means of a heavy brass andiron. And from all
the evidence brought before them, the jury believe that the fatal
blow was feloniously given by the hand of his granddaughter, Beryl
"In testimony whereof, the said jurors have hereunto set their
hands, this twenty-seventh day of October, A.D., 18--.
"JEREMIAH BATEMAN, Coroner."
"In consequence of this verdict, and by virtue of a warrant issued
at the request of the District Solicitor, Governor Glenbeigh made a
prompt requisition for the arrest and detention of the said Beryl
Brentano, who has been identified and returned to this city, to
answer the charges brought against her. The prisoner will unveil and
"Beryl Brentano, you are charged with the murder of Robert Luke
Darrington, by striking him with a brass andiron. Are you guilty, or
"Not guilty." Her voice was unsteady, but the words were distinct.
Mr. Dunbar, Mr. Burk, and a middle-aged woman lean as Cassius, came
nearer to the platform, and after a leisurely survey of the girl's
face and figure, pronounced her the person whom they had severally
accused of the crime of causing the death of General Darrington.
The canons that govern psychical phenomena are as occult as the
abstraction of the "fourth division of space"; and they defy the
realism of common-place probability, mock all analysis, and
annihilate distance. When Beryl had first met the keen scrutiny of
Mr. Dunbar's glittering blue eyes, their baleful influence made her
shiver slightly; and now at the instant in which he approached, and
inspected her closely, she forgot that she was on trial for her
life, became temporarily oblivious of her dismal entourage, and
stood once more before a marble image in the Vatican, where the
light streamed full on the cold face, that for centuries has been
the synonym of blended beauty and cruelty. In her ears rang again
the words her father had rend aloud at her side, while she sketched:
"But he does not inspire confidence, by the smile that would like to
express goodness. The finely cut underlip that rises from the
strongly marked hollow over the chin ought to sharpen with a dash of
contempt the conscious superiority that lies upon his broad,
magnificent forehead. His smile is in strong contrast with the cold
gaze of the large open eyes; a gaze that hesitates not, but without
mercy verifies a judgment fixed in advance, that gives up every one
The dusty crowded court-room appeared to swim in the rich aroma
distilled from the creamy hearts of Roman hyacinths; and the velvet
lips of purple Roman violets suddenly babbled out the secret of the
mysterious repulsion which had puzzled her, from the hour in which
she first looked into Mr. Dunbar's face; his strange resemblance to
the Chiaramonti Tiberius, which she had studied and copied so
carefully. In days gone by, the subtle repose, the marvelous beauty
of that marble face, where as yet the demon of destruction had cast
no stain, possessed a singular fascination for her; and now the
haunting likeness which had perplexed her at Elm Bluff, became
associated inseparably with old Bedney's description of Mr. Dunbar's
merciless treatment of witnesses, and Beryl realized with alarming
clearness that in her grandfather's lawyer she had met the
incarnation of her cruel fate.
Standing quite near her, he gravely related, with emphatic
distinctness and careful detail, his first meeting with the prisoner
on the piazza at Elm Bluff, and the vivid impression she left on his
mind; his return to Elm Bluff about half-past nine the same evening,
in order to get a deed which he had forgotten to put into his pocket
at the first visit. Learning that General Darrington had not yet
retired for the night, he sent in to ask for the deed, and was
summoned "to come and get it himself." On entering the bedroom, he
found his client wrapped in a cashmere dressing-gown, and sitting in
an easy chair by the window, which opened on the north or front
piazza. He appeared much perturbed and harassed, and in reply to
inquiries touching his health, answered that he was "completely
shaken up, and unnerved, by a very stormy and disagreeable interview
held that afternoon with the child of his wayward daughter Ellice.
"When witness asked: "Did not the great beauty of the embassadress
accomplish the pardon and restoration of the erring mother?" General
Darrington had struck his cane violently on the floor, and
exclaimed: "Don't talk such infernal nonsense! Did you ever hear of
my pardoning a wrong against my family name and honor? Does any man
live, idiotic enough to consider me so soft-hearted? No, no. On the
contrary, I was harsh to the girl; so harsh that she turned upon me,
savage as a strong cub defending a crippled helpless dam. They know
now that the last card has been played, and the game ended; for I
gave her distinctly to understand that at my death, Prince would
inherit every iota of my estate, and that my will had cut them off
without a cent. I meant it then, I mean it now. I swear that lowborn
fiddler's brood shall never darken these doors; but somehow, I am
unable to get rid of the strange, disagreeable sensation the girl
left behind her, as a farewell legacy. She stood there at that glass
door, and raised her hand like a prophetess. 'General Darrington,
when you lie down to die, may God have more mercy on your poor soul
than you have shown to your suffering child.'"
Witness advised him to go to bed, and sleep off the unpleasant
recollections of the day, but he said it was so oppressively hot,
he wanted to sit at the window, which was wide open. Witness having
secured the deed, which was on the table in the room, bade his
client good-night, and left the house.
He was riding toward town, and thought it was about ten o'clock,
when he saw the prisoner sitting under a pine tree near the road,
and not more than a half a mile from the bridge over the "Branch"
that runs at the foot of Elm Bluff. His horse had shied and plunged
at sight of her, and, the moonlight being bright as day, witness
easily recognized her as the same person he had seen earlier in the
afternoon. Thinking her appearance there at that hour was rather
mysterious, he asked her if she had lost her way; to which she
replied "No, sir." On the following morning, when the mournful news
of the murder of General Darrington had convulsed the entire
community with grief and horror, witness had smothered his
reluctance to proceed against a woman, and a solemn sense of duty
forced him to bring these suspicious circumstances to the knowledge
of the District Solicitor.
While he gave his testimony, Mr. Dunbar watched her closely for some
trace of emotion, but she met his gaze without the movement of a
muscle, and he detected not even a quiver of the jet lashes that
darkened her proud gray eyes.
Antony Burk next testified that he had given the accused
instructions about the road to Elm Bluff, when she arrived at X--;
and that after buying her return ticket, she told him it was
necessary she should take the 7:15 train, and that she would be sure
to catch it. The train was a few minutes late, but had pulled out of
the station twenty minutes before the prisoner came back, when she
appeared much annoyed at having missed it.
Then she had sent a telegram (a copy of which was in the possession
of the Solicitor), and requested him to allow her to remain in the
ladies' waiting-room until the next train at 3:05. He had directed
her to a hotel close by, but she declined going there. Thinking she
was fatigued and might relish it, he had, after supper, carried a
pitcher of iced tea to the waiting-room, but though he remained
there until nine o'clock she was nowhere visible. He went home and
went to sleep, but the violence of the storm aroused him; and when
he took his lantern and went back to unlock the ticket office, he
searched the whole place, and the prisoner was not in the building.
This was at half-past two A.M., and the pitcher of tea remained
untouched where he had placed it. It was not raining when he
returned, and a few minutes after he had hunted for the prisoner, he
was standing in the door of his office and he saw her coming down
the railway track, from the direction of the water tank and the
bridge. She was breathing rapidly as if she had been running, and
witness noticed that her clothes were damp, and that some drops of
water fell from the edge of her hat. A lamp-post stood in front of
the station, and he saw her plainly; asked her why she did not stay
in the room, which he had left open for her? Prisoner said she had
remained there. Witness told her he knew better; that she was not
there at nine nor yet at half-past two o'clock. The accused did not
appear inclined to talk, and gave no explanation, but got aboard the
3:05 train. Witness considered her actions so suspicious, that he
had related all he knew to Mr. Dunbar, who had summoned him before
the magistrate. He (witness) was very loath to think evil of a
woman, especially one so beautiful and noble looking, and if he
wronged her, he hoped God would forgive him; but he never dodged
telling the truth.
Here the female Cassius rose, and gave her name as Angeline Dobbs.
"She had for several years attended to the sewing and mending at Elm
Bluff, being summoned there whenever her services were required. On
the afternoon previous to General Darrington's death she was sitting
at her needlework in the hall of the second story of his house. As
the day was very hot, she had opened the door leading out to an iron
balcony, which projected just over the front hall door downstairs;
and since the piazza was open from the roof to the floor, she had
peeped over, and seen the prisoner when she arrived and had watched
her while she sat on the steps, waiting to be admitted. After the
accused had been inside the house some time, she (witness)
recollected that she had seen a hole in one of the lace curtains in
the library downstairs, and thought this would be such a nice time
to darn it. The library was opposite the drawing room, and adjoined
General Darrington's bed-room. The door was open and witness heard
what she supposed was a quarrel, as General Darrington's voice was
loud and violent; and she distinctly heard him say: 'My will is so
strong, no contest can touch it! and it will stand forever between
your mother and my property.' Soon after, General Darrington had
slammed the door, and though she heard loud tones for some time, she
could not make out the words. The impression left on witness's mind
was that the prisoner was very impudent to the old gentleman; and
not long afterward she saw accused standing in the rose garden,
pretending to gather some flowers, but really looking up and down at
the front windows. Witness knew the prisoner saw the vault where the
General kept his papers, because she heard it opened while she was
in the bed-room. The door of the vault or safe did not open on
hinges, but was iron, and slid on a metal rod, which made a very
peculiar squeaking sound. When she heard the noise she thought that
General Darrington was so enraged that he got the will to show
prisoner it was all fixed forever, against her and her mother."
When Miss Dobbs sat down, a lame man, disfigured by a scar on his
cheek, learned upon a stick and testified:
"My name is Belshazzar Tatem. Was an orderly sergeant attached to
General Darrington's staff dtiring the war; but since that time have
been a florist and gardener, and am employed to trim hedges and
vines, and transplant flowers at Elm Bluff." On the afternoon of the
prisoner's visit there, he was resetting violet roots on a border
under the western veranda, upon which opened the glass door leading
out from the General's bed-room. He had heard an angry altercation
carried on between General Darrington and some one, and supposed he
was scolding one of the servants. He went to a shed in the barn yard
to get a spade he needed, and when he came back he saw the prisoner
walk down the steps, and thought it singular a stranger should leave
the house that way. Wondered whom she could be, and wondered also
that the General had quarrelled with such a splendid looking lady.
Next morning when he went back to his work, he noticed the glass
door was shut, but the red curtain inside was looped back. He
thought it was half-past eight o'clock, when he heard a loud cry in
the bed-room, and very soon after, somebody screamed. He ran up the
steps, but the glass door was locked on the inside, and when he went
around and got into the room, the first thing he saw was General
Darrington's body lying on the floor, with his feet toward the
hearth, and his head almost on a line with the iron vault built in
the wall. The servants were screaming and wringing their hands, and
he called them to help him lift the General, thinking that he had
dropped in a fit; but he found him stone cold and stiff. There was
no sign of blood anywhere, but a heavy, old-fashioned brass andiron
was lying close to the General's head, and he saw a black spot like
a bruise on his right temple. General Darrington wore his night
clothes, and the bed showed he had been asleep there. Some broken
vases were on the floor and hearth, and the vault was wide open. The
tin box was upside down on the carpet, and some papers in envelopes
were scattered about.
Witness had picked up a leather bag carefully tied at the top with
red tape, drawn into hard knots; but in one side he found a hole
which had been cut with a knife, and at the bottom of the bag was a
twenty-dollar gold piece. Two more coins of the same value were
discovered on the floor, when General Darrington's body was lifted;
and on the bolster of the bed lay a bottle containing chloroform.
Witness immediately sent off for some of General Darrington's
friends, and also notified the coroner; and he did not leave the
room again until the inquest was held. The window on the front
piazza was open, and witness had searched the piazza and the grounds
for tracks, but discovered no traces of the burglar and murderer,
who had escaped before the rain ceased, otherwise the tracks would
have been found. Witness was positive that the prisoner was the same
person whom he had seen coming out of the bed-room, and with whom
General Darrington had quarrelled.
The sheriff here handed to the magistrate, the gold pieces found on
the floor at Elm Bluff, by the last witness; then the little wicker
basket which had been taken from the prisoner when she was arrested.
The coins discovered therein were taken out, and careful comparison
showed that they corresponded exactly with those picked up after the
murder. The case of sapphires was also shown, and Mr. Dunbar rose to
say, that "The prosecution would prove by the attorney who drew up
General Darrington's will, that these exceedingly valuable stones
had been bequeathed by a clause in that will to Prince Darrington,
as a bridal present for whomsoever he might marry."
A brief silence ensued, during which the magistrate pulled at the
corner of his tawny mustache, and earnestly regarded the prisoner.
She stood, with her beautiful white hands clasped before her, the
slender fingers interlaced, the head thrown proudly back. Extreme
pallor had given place to a vivid flush that dyed her cheeks, and
crimsoned her delicate lips; and her eyes looking straight into
space, glowed with an unnatural and indescribable lustre. Tadmor's
queen Bath Zabbai could not have appeared more regal in her haughty
pose, amid the exulting shouts that rent the skies of conquering
Rome. The magistrate cleared his throat, and addressed the accused.
"You are Beryl Brentano, the granddaughter of General Darrington?"
"I am Beryl Brentano."
"You have heard the charges brought against you. What have you to
say in defence?"
"That I am innocent of every accusation."
"By what witnesses will you prove it?"
"By a statement of the whole truth in detail, if I may be allowed to
Here the Solicitor, Mr. Churchill, rose and said:
"While faithfully discharging my official duties, loyalty to justice
does not smother the accents of human sympathy; and before
proceeding any further, I hope your Honor will appoint some counsel
to confer with and advise the prisoner. Her isolation appeals to
every noble instinct of manhood, and it were indeed puerile tribute
to our lamented General Darrington, to bring his granddaughter
before this tribunal, without the aid and defence of legal advisers.
Justice itself would not be welcome to me, if unjustly won. My
friend, Mr. Hazelton, who is present, has expressed his desire to
defend the prisoner; and while I am aware that your Honor is under
the impression she refuses to accept counsel, I trust you will
nevertheless commit her, until she can confer with him."
Mr. Hazelton rose and bowed, in tacit approval.
Beryl advanced a few steps, and her clear pure voice thrilled every
heart in the crowded room.
"I need no help to tell the truth, and I want to conceal nothing.
Time is inexpressibly valuable to me now, for a human life more
precious than my own is at stake; and if I am detained here, my
mother may die. May I speak at once, and explain the circumstances
which you consider so mysterious as to justify the shameful
indignity put upon me?"
"Since you assume the responsibility of your own defence, you may
proceed with your statement. Relate what occurred from the hour you
reached Elm Bluff, until you left X---next morning."
"I came here to deliver in person a letter written by my mother to
her father, General Darrington, because other letters sent through
the mail, had been returned unread. It contained a request for one
hundred dollars to pay the expense of a surgical operation, which we
hoped would restore her health. When I reached Elm Bluff, I waited
on the steps, until General Darrington's attorney finished his
business and came out; then I was led by an old colored man to the
bed-room where General Darrington sat. I gave no name, fearing he
might refuse to admit me, and he was very courteous in his manner
until I laid the letter before him. He immediately recognized the
handwriting, and threw it to the floor, declaring that no human
being had the right to address him as father, except his son Prince.
I picked up the letter, and insisted he should at least read the
petition of a suffering, and perhaps dying woman. He was very
violent in his denunciation of my parents, and his voice was loud
and angry. So painful was the whole interview, that it was a bitter
trial to me to remain in his presence, but knowing how absolutely
necessary it was that mother should obtain the money, I forced
myself to beg him to read the letter. Finally he consented, read it,
and seemed somewhat softened; but he tore it into strips and threw
it from him. He drank several glasses of wine from a decanter on the
table, and offered me some, expressing the opinion that I must be
tired from my journey. I declined it. General Darrington then
questioned me about my family, my mode of living; and after a few
moments became very much excited, renewing his harsh invectives
against my parents. It was at this stage of the interview that he
uttered the identical words quoted by the witness: 'My Will is so
strong, no contest can touch it, and it will stand forever between
your mother and my property.'
"Immediately after, he went to the door leading into the library and
called 'Bedney!' No one answered, and he shut the door, kicking it
as it closed. When he came back to his chair, he said very bitterly:
'At least we will have no eavesdroppers at this resurrection of my
dead.' He told me all the story of my mother's girlhood; of her
marriage, which had infuriated him; that he had sent her a certain
proportion of property, and then disowned and disinherited her.
Afterward he described his lonely life, his second marriage which
was very happy, and his adoption of his wife's son, who, he
repeatedly told me, had usurped my mother's place in his affections.
Finally he said:
"'Your mother has asked for one hundred dollars. You shall have it;
not because I recognize her as child of mine, but because a sick
woman appeals to a Southern gentleman.'
"He took a bunch of keys from his pocket, and with one of them
opened a safe or iron closet on the wall near the chimney, and from
that vault he brought a square black tin box to the table, where he
opened it. He took out a leather bag, and counted into my hand five
gold pieces of twenty dollars each. The money was given so
ungraciously that I told him I would not accept it, save as a loan
for mother's benefit; and that as soon as I could earn it I would
return the amount to him. I was so anxious to get away, I started
toward the library door, but he called me back, and gave me the
morocco case which contains the sapphires. He said my mother's
mother had bought them as a gift for her daughter, to be worn when
she was graduated at school; but as she married and left school
without his knowledge, the jewels had never been seen by her. He
told me he had intended to give them to his son Prince, for his
bride, but that now he would send them to mother, who could sell
them for a handsome sum, because they were valuable. He showed so
much sorrow at this time, that I begged him to give me some message
of pardon and affection, which she would prize infinitely more than
money or jewels; but he again became angry and bitter, and so I left
him. I came away by the door leading out on the iron veranda,
because he directed me to do so, saying that he did not wish me to
meet the servants, who would pry and tattle. When I closed the glass
door I saw him standing in the middle of the room, leaning on his
cane, and he had the black tin box in his hand. The sun was setting
then, and now--"
She ceased speaking for some seconds, then raised her hands toward
heaven, and with uplifted eyes that seemed in their strained gaze to
pierce beyond the veil, she added with solemn emphasis:
"I call God to witness, that was the last and only time I ever saw
General Darrington. That was the last and only visit I ever made to
There was a general movement among the spectators, and audible
excitement, which was promptly quelled by the magistrate.
"Silence there in front, or I shall order the room cleared."
Turning toward Beryl, he said:
"If you left Elm Bluff at sunset, why did you not take the 7:15
"I tried to do so, but missed it because I desired to obey my
mother's injunctions as strictly as possible. She gave me a small
bunch of flowers, and asked me to be sure to lay them for her on her
mother's grave. When I reached the cemetery, which you know is in
sight of the road from Elm Bluff, the gate was locked, and it
required some time to enable me to climb over the wall and find the
monument. It was growing dark, and when I arrived at the station, I
learned the train had just gone."
"Why did you not go to a hotel, as you were advised to do?"
"Because after sending the telegram to my mother, I had no money to
pay for lodging; and I asked permission to stay in the ladies'
"State where and how you spent the night."
"It was very hot and sultry in that room, and as there was a bright
moon shining, I walked out to get some fresh air. The pine woods had
appeared so pretty and pleasant that afternoon, that I went on and
on toward them, and did not realize how far they were. I met people
passing along the road, and it did not seem lonely. The smell of the
pines was new to me, and to enjoy it, I sat down on the straw. I was
tired, and must have fallen asleep at once, for I remember nothing
till some noise startled me, and there I saw the same man on
horseback in the road, whom I had met at Elm Bluff. He asked me if I
had misled my way, and I answered 'No, sir.' The height of the moon
showed me it was late, and as I was frightened at finding myself
alone in the woods, I almost ran back to the railway station, where
I saw no one, except a telegraph operator, who seemed to be asleep
in his chair. I cannot say what time it was, because I could not see
the clock. Soon after, it began to thunder, and all through that
terrible storm I was alone in the waiting-room. So great was my
relief when the wind and lightning ceased, that I went to sleep, and
dreamed of a happy time when I lived in Italy, and of talking with
one very dear to me. Just then I awoke with a start, and heard a
voice talking outside, which seemed very familiar. There were two
persons; one, a negro, said:
"'There ain't no train 'till daylight, excepting the through
"The other person asked: 'When is it due?' The negro answered:
"'Pretty soon, but it don't stop here; it goes to the water tank
where it blows for the railroad bridge; and that is only a short
distance up the track.'
"I think I must have been only half awake, and with my mind fixed on
my dream, I ran out in front of the station house. An old negro man
limping down the street was the only person visible, and while I
watched him he suddenly vanished. I went along the track for some
distance but saw no one; and when I came back, the ticket agent was
standing in the door of his office. I cannot explain to you the
singular impulse which carried me out, when I heard the dialogue,
because it is inexplicable to myself, save by the supposition that I
was still dreaming; and yet I saw the negro man distinctly. There
was a lamp-post near him, and he had a bundle on his shoulder. When
the 3:05 train came, I went aboard and left X---."
A smile parted Mr. Dunbar's lips, and his handsome teeth glittered
as he whispered to Judge Dent:
"Even your chivalrous compassion can scarcely digest this knotty
solution of her movements that night. As a fabrication, it does
little credit to her ingenuity."
"Her statement impresses me differently. She is either entirely
innocent, or she had an accomplice, whose voice she recognized; and
this clue should be investigated."
The District Solicitor rose and bowed to the Magistrate.
"With your Honor's permission, I should like to ask the prisoner
whom she expected to see, when she recognized the voice?"
"A person who is very dear to me, but who is not in the United
"What is the name of that person?"
Her lips moved to pronounce his name, but some swift intuitive
warning restrained the utterance. Suddenly a new horror, a ghastly
possibility, thrust itself for the first time before her, and she
felt as though some hand of ice clutched her heart.
Those who watched her so closely, saw the blood ebb from cheeks and
lips; noted the ashy pallor that succeeded, and the strange groping
motion of her hands. She staggered toward the platform, and when the
Magistrate caught her arm, she fell against him like some tottering
marble image, entirely unconscious.
* * * * *
So prolonged and death-like was the swoon, and so futile the usual
methods of restoration, that the prisoner was carried into the small
ante-room, and laid upon a wooden bench; where a physician, who
chanced to be in the audience, was summoned to attend her. Finding
restoratives ineffectual, he took out his lancet:
"This is no ordinary fainting fit."
He attempted to roll up one of her sleeves, but seeing this was
impracticable, would have unfastened her dress, had not Judge Dent
arrested his hand.
"No, doctor; cut out the sleeve if necessary, but don't touch her
"Let me assist you; I can easily bare the arm."
As he spoke, Mr. Dunbar knelt beside the bench, and with a small,
sharp pen-knife ripped the seam from elbow to shoulder, from elbow
to wrist, swiftly and deftly folding back the sleeve, and exposing
the perfect moulding of the snowy arm.
"Just hold the hand, Dunbar, so as to keep it steady."
Clasping closely the hand, which the physician laid in his palm the
attorney noted the exquisite symmetry of the slender fingers and
oval nails. He bent forward and watched the frozen face. When the
heavily lashed lids quivered and lifted, and she looked vacantly at
the grave compassionate countenances leaning over her, a certain
tightening of the hold upon her fingers, drew her attention. Her
gaze fastened on the lawyer's blue eyes as if by a subtle malign
fascination. The veil that shrouded consciousness was rent, not
fully raised; and as in some dream the solemn eyes appeared to
search his. A strange shivering thrill shot along his nerves, and
his quiet, well regulated heart so long the docile obedient motor,
fettered vassal of his will, bounded, strained hard on the steel
cable that held it in thrall.
"You feel better now?" asked the physician, who was stanching the
flow of blood.
Still her gaze seemed to penetrate the inmost recesses of the
lawyer's nature, calling into sudden revolt dormant elements that
amazed and defied him.
A shadowy smile curved her pale lips.
"At the mercy of Tiberius. At the mercy of Tiberius."
Those present looked inquiringly at each other.
"Her mind wanders a little. Sheriff, give her some of that brandy.
She is as weak as a baby."
Judge Dent raised her head, and the officer held the tumbler to her
mouth; while the former said gently:
"My poor girl, drink a little, it will strengthen you."
With a gesture of loathing, she rejected it; and as she attempted to
raise herself, all the dire extremity of her peril rushed back upon
her mind, like a black overwhelming tide from the sea of the past.
"Lie still, until I have bandaged your arm. Here, Dunbar, you
acquitted yourself so dexterously with your knife, just lend a hand.
Hold the arm until I secure the bandage."
To find herself surrounded by men, helpless in the grasp of
strangers, with no womanly touch or glance to sustain her, served to
intensify her misery; and wrenching herself free, she struggled into
a sitting posture, then staggered to her feet. The heavy coil of
hair loosened when they bore her from the court-room, now released
itself from restraining pins, and fell in burnished waves to her
knees, clothing her with a glory, such as the world's great masters
in art reserve for the beatified. Had all the blood that fed her
heart been drained, she would not have appeared more deadly pale,
and in her wide eyes was the desperate look of a doomed animal, that
feels the hot fangs of the hounds, and the cold steel of the
"Be persuaded for your own sake, to swallow some stimulant, of which
you are sadly in need. You will require all your strength, and, as a
physician, I insist upon your taking my prescription."
"If I might have some water. Just a little water."
Some one brought a brown stone pitcher, and she drank long and
thirstily; then looked for a moment at the faces of those who
crowded about her.
"What will be done now?"
Every eye fell to the floor, and after a painful silence Judge Dent
said very gently:
"For the present, the Magistrate will retain you in custody, until
the action of the Grand Jury. Should they fail to indict you, then
you will at once be released."
"I am to go to prison? I am to be thrust among convicts, vile
criminals! I--? My father's Beryl? O, righteous God! Where is Thy
justice? O, Christ! Is Thy mercy a mockery?"
She stood, with her chin resting on her clenched hands, and twice a
long violent shudder shook her from head to foot.
"I hope your imprisonment will be only temporary. The Grand Jury
will be in session next week. Meantime diligent search may discover
the persons whose conversation you overheard at the station; and if
you be innocent, we are all your friends, and the law, which now
seems so stern, will prove your strongest protector and vindicator."
Judge Dent stood close beside her, as he essayed these words of
comfort, and saw that she caught her breath as though in mortal
agony. Her face writhed, and she shut her eyes, unable to
contemplate some hideous apparition. He suspected that she was
fighting desperately an impulse that suggested succor; and he was
sure she had strangled it, when her hands fell nerveless at her
side, and she raised her bowed head. If the finger of paralysis had
passed over her features, they would not have appeared more
hopelessly fixed. Mechanically she twisted and coiled her hair, and
took the hat and shawl which the officer held out to her.
"If I can assist you in any way, you have only to send for me."
She looked at Judge Dent intently, for an instant, then shook her
"No one can help me now."
She tied her veil over her face, and silently followed the deputy
sheriff to a carriage, that stood near the pavement.
When he would have assisted her, she haughtily repelled him.
"I will follow you, because I must; but do not put your hands on
In ante bellum days, when States' Rights was a sacred faith, a
revered and precious palladium, State pride blossomed under Southern
skies, and State coffers overflowed with the abundance wherewith God
blessed the land. During that period, when it became necessary to
select a site for a new Penitentiary, the salubrity and central
location of X---had so strongly commended it, that the spacious
structure was erected within its limits, and regarded as an
architectural triumph of which the State might justly boast. Soon
after this had been completed, the old county jail, situated on the
border of the town, was burned one windy March night; then the red
rain of war deluged the land, and when the ghastly sun of
"Reconstruction" smiled upon the grave of States' Rights, Municipal
money disappeared in subterranean channels. Thus it came to pass,
that with the exception of a small "lockup" attached to Police
Headquarters, X--had failed to rebuild its jail, and domiciled its
dangerous transgressors in the great stone prison; paying therefor
to the State an annual amount per capita.
Built of gray granite which darkened with time and weather stains,
its massive walls, machicolated roof, and tall arched clock-tower
lifted their leaden outlines against the sky, and cast a brooding
shadow over the town, lying below; a grim perpetual menace to all
who subsequently found themselves locked in its reformatory arms.
Separated from the bustling mart and busy traffic, by the winding
river that divided the little city into North and South X--, it
crested an eminence on the north; and the single lower story
flanking the main edifice east and west, resembled the trailing
wings of some vast bird of prey, an exaggerated simulacrum of a
monstrous gray condor perched on a "coigne of vantage," waiting to
swoop upon its victims. Encircled by a tall brick wall, which was
surmounted by iron spikes sharp as bayonets, that defied escalade,
the grounds extended to the verge of the swift stream in front, and
stretched back to the border of a heavily timbered tract of pine
land, a bit of primeval forest left to stare at the encroaching
armies of Philistinism.
Within the precincts of the yard, the tender conservatism of our
great-hearted mother Nature, gently toned the savage stony features;
and even under the chill frown of iron barred windows, golden
sunshine bravely smiled, soft grasses wove their emerald velvet
tapestries starred and flushed with dainty satin petals, which late
Autumn roses showered in munificent contribution, to the work of
In a comfortably furnished room situated in the second story of the
main building, sat a woman apparently thirty-five years old, who was
singing to a baby lying face downward on her lap, while with one
hand she rocked the wicker cradle beside her, where a boy of four
years was tossing. Her hazel eyes were full of kindly light, the
whole face eloquent with that patient, limitless tenderness, which
is the magic chrism of maternity, wherewith Lucina and Cuba
abundantly anoint Motherhood. The blessed and infallible nepenthe
for all childhood's ills and aches, mother touch, mother songs, soon
held soothing sway; and when the woman laid the sleeping babe on her
own bed, and covered her with a shawl, she saw her husband leaning
against the partly open door.
"Come here, Susie. The kids are snug and safe for the present, and I
"For shame, Ned! To call our darlings such a beastly name. Kids,
indeed! My sweetest, loveliest lambs!"
"There! Hear yourself! If I can see any choice of respectability
between kids and lambs, may I turn to a thoroughbred Southdown, and
take the blue ribbon at the next Fair. Beasts of the field, all of
them. The always-wide-awake-contrariness of womankind is a curious
and fearful thing. If I had called our beloved towheads, lambs, you
would have sworn through blue ruin that they were the cutest,
spryest pair of spotted kids, that ever skipped over a five-railed
"So much the worse for you, Ned Singleton, that you are such a
hopeless heathen; you do not even know where the Elect are appointed
to stand, at that great day when the sheep come up on the right hand
of the Lord, and the goats go down to the left. If you read your
Bible more, I should have less to teach you."
"Oh! but let me tell you, I thought of all that before I made up my
mind to marry the daughter of a Presbyterian preacher. I knew your
dear little blue-nose would keep the orthodox trail; and being one
of the Elect you could not get the points of the celestial compass
mixed. Don't you forget, that it is part of the unspoken marriage
contract, that the wife must not only keep her own soul white, but
bleach her husband's also; and no matter what a reprobate a man may
be, he always expects his better-half, by hook or by crook, to steer
him into heaven."
He put his hands on his wife's shoulders, shook her, in token of
mastery, and kissed her.
"What do you want of my 'always-wide-awake-contrariness'? I have
half a mind not to help you out of your scrape; for of course you
have mired somewhere. What is the matter now, Ned?"
"Yes--stuck hard and fast; so my dear little woman, don't you go
back on your wedding-day promises, but just lend a helping hand. I
don't know what is to be done with that poor young woman in No. 19.
One of the under-wardens, Jarvis, sleeps this week right under her
cell, and he tells me that all night long she tramps up and down,
without cessation, like some caged animal. This is her third day in,
and she has not touched a morsel; though at Judge Dent's request I
ordered some extras given her. Jarvis said she was not sullen, but
he thought it proper to report to me that she seemed to act very
strangely; so I went up to see after her. When I opened the door she
was walking up and down the floor, with her hands locked at the back
of her head, and I declare, Susie, she looks five years older than
when she came here. There are great dark hollows under her eyes, and
two red spots like coals of fire on her cheeks. I said: 'Are you
sick, that you reject your meals?' To which she replied: 'Don't
trouble yourself to send me food; I cannot eat!' Then I told her I
understood that she was restless at night, and I advised her to take
a mixture which would quiet her nerves. She shook her head, and I
could not bear to look at her; the eyes seemed so like a wounded
fawn's, brimful of misery. I asked her if there was anything I could
do, to make her more comfortable; or if she needed medicine. All
this time she kept up her quick walk to and fro, and she answered:
'Thank you. I need nothing--but death; and that will come soon.' Now
what could I say? I felt such a lump in my throat, that if Solomon
had whispered to me some kind speech, I could not have uttered it,
so I got out of the room just as fast as possible, to dry the tears
that somehow would blur my eyes. When they are surly, or snappish,
or violent, or insolent, I know exactly what to do, and have no
trouble; but hang me, if I can cope with this lady--there it is out!
She is a lady every inch, and as much out of place here as I should
be in Queen Victoria's drawing-room. Men are clumsy brutes, even in
kid gloves, and bruise much oftener than they heal. Whenever I am in
that girl's presence, I have a queer feeling that I am walking on
eggs, and tip-toe as I may, shall smash things. If something is not
done, she will be ill on our hands, and a funeral will balk the
"O, hush, Ned! You give me the shivers. My heart yearns toward that
beautiful young creature, and I believe she is as innocent as my
baby. It is a burning shame to send her here, unless there is no
doubt of her guilt. Judge Dent is too shrewd an old fox to be baited
with chaff, and I am satisfied from what he told you, that he
believes her statement. There is nothing I would not do to comfort
her, but I would rather have my ears boxed than witness her
suffering. The day I carried to her a change of clothes, until her
own could be washed, and sewed up her dress sleeve. I did nothing
but cry. I could not help it, when she moaned and wrung her hands,
and said her mother's heart would break. I have heard all my life
that justice is blind; I have learned to believe it, for it
stumbles, and gropes, and lays iron claws on the wrong person. As
for the lawyers? They are fit pilots: and the courts are little
better than blind man's buff. Don't stand chewing your mustache,
Ned. Tell me what you want me to do, while baby is asleep. She has a
vexatious habit of taking cat naps."
"Little woman, I turn over the case to you. Just let your heart
loose, and follow it."
"If I do, will you endorse me?"
"Till the stars fall."
"Can you stay here awhile?"
"Yes, if you will tell Jarvis where he can find me."
"Mind you, Ned, you are not to interfere with me?"
"No--I swear I won't. Hurry up, or there will be much music in this
bleating fold; and you know I am as utterly useless with a crying
child, as a one-armed man in a concert of fiddlers."
The cell assigned to the new prisoner was in the centre of a line,
which rose tier above tier, like the compartments in a pigeon house,
or the sombre caves hewn out of rock-ribbed cliffs, in some lonely
Laura. Iron stairways conducted the unfortunates to these stone
cages, where the dim cold light filtered through the iron lattice-
work of the upper part of the door, made a perpetual crepuscular
atmosphere within. The bare floor, walls, and low ceiling were
spotlessly clean and white; and an iron cot with heavy brown
blankets spread smoothly and a wooden bench in one corner,
constituted the furniture. Scrupulous neatness reigned everywhere,
but the air was burdened with the odor of carbolic acid, and even at
mid-day was chill as the breath of a tomb. Where the doors were
thrown open, they resembled the yawning jaws of rifled graves; and
when closed, the woful inmates peering through the black lattice
seemed an incarnation of Dante's hideous Caina tenants.
When Mrs. Singleton stopped in front of No. 19, and looked through
the grating, Beryl was standing at the extremity of the cell, with
her face turned to the wall, and her hands clasping the back of her
neck. The ceiling was so low she could have touched it, had she
lifted her arms, and she appeared to have retreated as far in the
gloomy den as the barriers allowed. Thinking that perhaps the girl
was praying, the warden's wife waited some minutes, but no sound
greeted her; and so motionless was the figure, that it might have
been only an alto rilievo carved on the wall. Pushing the door open,
Mrs. Singleton entered, and deposited on the iron bed a waiter
covered with a snowy napkin. At the sound, Beryl turned, and her
arms fell to her side, but she shrank back against the wall, as if
solitude were her only solace, and human intrusion an added torture.
Mrs. Singleton took both hands, and held them firmly:
"Do you believe it right to commit suicide?"
"I believe in everything but human justice, and Divine mercy."
"Your conscience tells you that--"
"Am I allowed a conscience? What ghastly mockery! Thieves and
murderers are not fit tenements for conscience, and I--I--am accused
of stealing, and of bloodshed. Justice! What a horrible sham! We--
her victims--who adored the beneficent and incorruptible attribute
of God Himself--we are undeceived, when Justice--the harpy--tears
our hearts out with her hideous, foul, defiling claws."
She spoke through set teeth, and a spasm of shuddering shook her
from head to feet.
"Listen to me. Suspicion is one thing, proof something very
different. You are accused, but not convicted, and--"
"I shall be. Justice must be appeased, and I am the most convenient
and available victim. An awful crime has been committed, and
outraged law, screaming for vengeance, pounces like a hungry hawk on
an innocent and unsuspecting prey. Does she spare the victim because
it quivers, and dies hard?"
"Hush! You must not despair. I believe in your innocence; I believe
every word you uttered that day was true, and I believe that our
merciful God will protect you. Put yourself in His hands, and His
mercy will save, for 'it endureth forever.'"
"I don't ask mercy! I claim justice--from God and man. The wicked
grovel, and beg for mercy; but innocence lays hold upon the very
throne of God, and clutches His sword, and demands justice!"
"I understand how you feel, and I do not wonder; but for your own
sake, in order to keep your mind clear and strong for your
vindication, you certainly ought to take care of your health.
Starvation is the surest leech for depleting soul and body. Do you
want to die here in prison, leaving your name tarnished, and
smirched with suspicion of crime, when you can live to proclaim your
innocence to the world? Remember that even if you care nothing for
your life, you owe something to your mother. You have two chances
yet; the Grand Jury may not find a true bill--"
"Yes, that tiger-eyed lawyer will see that they do. He knows that
the law is a cunning net for the feet of the innocent and the
unwary. He set his snare dexterously, and will not fail to watch
"You mean Mr. Dunbar? Yes, you certainly have cause to dread him;
but even if you should be indicted, you have twelve human hearts
full of compassion to appeal to--and I can't think it possible a
jury of sane men could look at you and condemn you. You must fight
for your life; and what is far more to you than life, you must fight
for your good name, for your character. Suspicion is not proof of
crime, and there is no taint on you yet; for sin alone stains, and
if you will only be brave and clear yourself as I know you can, what
a grand triumph it will be. If you starve yourself you seal your
doom. An empty stomach will do you more harm than the Grand Jury and
all the lawyers; for it utterly upsets your nerves, and makes your
brain whirl like a top. For three days and nights you have not
tasted food: now just to please me, since I have taken so much
trouble, sit down here by me, and eat what I have brought. I know
you would rather not; I know you don't want it; but, my dear child,
take it like any other dose, which will strengthen you for your
battle. It is very fine to rant about heroism, but starvation is the
best factory for turning out cowards: and even the courage of old
Caesar would have had the 'dwindles,' if he had been stinted in his
She removed the napkin, and displayed a tempting luncheon, served in
pretty, gilt-banded white china. What a contrast it presented, to
the steaming tin platter and dull tin quart cups carried daily to
the adjoining cell?
Beryl laid her hand on Mrs. Singleton's shoulder, and her mouth
"I thank you, sincerely, for your sympathy--and for your confidence;
and to show my appreciation of your kindness, I wish I could eat
that dainty luncheon; but I think it would strangle me--I have such
a ceaseless aching here, in my throat. I feel as if I should
"See here! I brought you some sweet rich milk in my little boy's
cup. He was my first-born, and I lost him. This was his christening
present from my mother. It is very precious, very sacred to me. If
you will only drink what is in it, I shall be satisfied. Don't
slight my angel baby's cup. That would hurt me."
She raised the pretty "Bo-Peep" silver cup to the prisoner's lips,
and seeing the kind hazel eyes swimming in tears, Beryl stooped her
head and drank the milk.
The warden's wife lifted the cup, looked wistfully at it, and kissed
the name engraved on the metal:
"You know now I must think you pure and worthy. I have given you the
strongest possible proof; for only the good could be allowed to
touch what my dead boy's lips have consecrated. Now come out with
me, and get some pure fresh air."
Beryl shrank back.
"These close walls seem a friendly shelter from the horrible faces
that cluster outside. You can form no idea how I dread contact with
the vile creatures, whose crimes have brought them here for
expiation. The thought of breathing the same atmosphere pollutes me.
I think the loathsomeness of perdition must consist in association
with the depraved and wicked. Not the undying flames would affright
me, but the doom of eternal companionship with outcast criminals.
No! No! I would sooner freeze here, than wander in the sunshine with
those hideous wretches I saw the day I was thrust among them."
"Trust me, and I will expose you to nothing unpleasant. Take your
hat and shawl; I shall not bring you back here. There is time enough
for cells when you have been convicted and sentenced; and please
God, you shall never stay in this one again. Come."
"Stay, madam. What is your purpose? I have been so hunted down, I am
growing suspicious of the appearance of kindness. What are you going
Mrs. Singleton took her hand and pressed it gently.
"I am going to trust, and help, and love you, if you will let me;
and for the present, I intend to keep you in a room adjoining mine,
where you will have no fear of wicked neighbors."
"That will be merciful indeed. May God bless you for the thought."
Down iron staircases, and through dim corridors bordered with dark
cells, gloomy as the lairs of wild beasts whom the besotted inmates
resembled, the two women walked; and once, when a clank of chains
and a hoarse human cry broke the dismal silence, Beryl clutched her
companion's arm, and her teeth chattered with horror.
"Yes, it is awful! That poor woman is the saddest case we have. She
waylaid and stabbed her husband to death, and poisoned his mother.
We think she is really insane, and as she is dangerous at times, it
is necessary to keep her chained, until arrangements can be made to
remove her to the insane asylum."
"I don't wonder she is mad! People cannot dwell here and retain
their reason; and madness is a mercy that blesses them with
Beryl shivered, and her eyes glittered with an unnatural and ominous
The warden's wife paused before a large door with solid iron panels,
and rang a bell. Some one on the other side asked:
"What is the order? Who rang?"
"Mrs. Singleton; I want to get into the chapel. Let me out, Jasper."
The door swung slowly back, and the guard touched his hat
Through an open arcade, where the sunlight streamed, Mrs. Singleton
led her companion; then up a short flight of stone steps, and they
found themselves in a long room, with an altar railing and pulpit at
one end, and rows of wooden benches crossing the floor from wall to
wall. Even here, the narrow windows were iron barred, but sunshine
and the sweet, pure breath of the outside world entered freely.
Within the altar railing, and at the right of the reading desk where
a Bible lay, stood a cabinet organ. Leaving the prisoner to walk up
and down the aisle, Mrs. Singleton opened the organ, drew out the
stops, and after waiting a few moments, began to play.
At first, only a solemn prelude rolled its waves of harmony through
the peaceful sunny room, but soon the strains of the beautiful Motet
"Cast thy burden on the Lord," swelled like the voice of some divine
consoler. Watching the stately figure of the prisoner who wandered
to and fro, the warden's wife noticed that like a magnet the music
drew her nearer and nearer each time she approached the chancel, and
at last she stood with one hand on the railing. The beautiful face,
sharpened and drawn by mental agony, was piteously wan save where
two scarlet spots burned on her cheeks, and the rigid lips were gray
as some granite Statue's, but the eyes glowed with a strange
splendor that almost transfigured her countenance.
On and on glided the soft, subtle variations of the Motet, and
gradually the strained expression of the shining eyes relaxed, as if
the soul of the listener were drifting back from a far-off realm;
the white lids quivered, the stern lines of the pale lips unbent. At
that moment, the face of her father seemed floating on the sunbeams
that gilded the pulpit, and the tones of her mother's voice rang in
her ears. The terrible tension of many days and nights of torture
gave way suddenly, like a silver thread long taut, which snaps with
one last vibration. She raised her hands:
"My God! Why hast Thou forsaken me?"
The cry ended in a wail. Into her burning eyes merciful tears
rushed, and sinking on her knees she rested against the railing,
shaken by a storm of passionate weeping.
Mrs. Singleton felt her own tears falling fast, but she played for a
while longer; then stole out of the chapel, and sat down on the